This feature is a collaboration, with contributions from all of us.

Republican candidates seem ready “to provoke a constitutional crisis over abortion.”

NJ gets serious about school bullying.

What happened to Sarah Palin‘s political glamour?

British fashion designer, John Galliano, was convicted of “public insults for reasons of religion, race or ethnicity” for “dirty Jews” comment. While we may personally relish the conviction, freedom of speech is a better antidote for antisemitism and hatred generally, all things considered.

Federal court blocks Florida law preventing doctors from questioning patients about guns.

Also in Florida, representatives of the teachers union sues over the constitutionality of the recently passed merit pay bill.

The New Yorker‘s Reeves Wiedeman and Nick Paumgarten discuss the fall of Federer and the rise of Djokovic and Nadal.

R. Aharon Lichtenstein reflects on the anniversary of 9/11.

Let us know what you’ve been reading in the comments.


The King is Hanging

The Torah explains (Deut. 21:22-23) that if a person is found guilty of a capital offense and is executed, his corpse must be impaled on a stake but it may not remain there overnight. The body must be buried on the same day “for an impaled body is an affront to God.” Since Man is created in God’s image, even the corpse of one guilty of the most heinous crime may not be disgraced.

Rashi cites a midrash from Sanhedrin 46b that offers the following parable. Twin brothers lived in the same city. One became a king; the other became a criminal and was hanged. All who saw the hanging corpse would exclaim, “The king is hanging.” So similar is the human body to the divine image that we are concerned a passerby will mistake the former for the latter.

But is this really the Torah’s concern? One who sees the corpse probably won’t conclude that the King of Kings is hanging, but perhaps he should. If we recognize that each and every individual is created in the image of God and take that point seriously, then we may very well confuse the hanging corpse with God Himself, even if just for a moment.

Often, the Torah reflects the imperfect reality in which we find ourselves. An example of this is the eshet yefat to’ar, discussed earlier the same parashah. In such a case, the Torah teaches us how to respond when we find ourselves in a less than ideal situation. Here though, the Torah does the opposite. Burying the corpse on the same day as the execution prevents a passerby from mistaking the hanging body with the image of God. This mistake is reasonable, but only if we fully appreciate the relationship between the human being and the image of God. The two are, of course, not the same thing but are rather like twin brothers, (should be) easily confused with one another.

Would you like to…

“Would you like to donate to breast cancer?”

That’s what the cashier asked as I was checking out at Duane Reade the other day. Of course I understand that she was asking me for a donation to fight breast cancer and not for a donation that would give someone cancer.

Similarly, there are programs at hospitals for “Domestic Violence Advocates” – these laudable individuals rush to the hospital, often late at night, when a victim comes in having been attacked or raped and help see her (usually it’s a her) through the unfamiliar, and scary, hospital process.  But no one really thinks the title of “Domestive Violence Advocate” is someone who advocates for domestic violence. That would be absurd.

There’s value to society in figuring out norms and means for communication. We shrink “would you like to donate some money in order to conduct research that is focused on finding a cure for breast cancer” to “would you like to donate to breast cancer.” We lose some specificity, and if an alien came from outer space they might wonder why we’re so demented as to promote cancer, but that’s not really such a concern.

At the same time, figuring out what those shortcuts are can often lead you to an area ripe for disruption, a new product, startup, or a new way of looking at things. Communication shortcuts are just assumptions, examples of “this is always how it’s been done,” and often you can unleash great power and value when you question those very assumptions. And that’s what went through my head on the way from Duane Reade back to my office.

PS: Donate to the American Cancer Society  or DOVE (Domestic Violence Ended), two very worth organizations, today.

This feature is a collaboration, with contributions from all of us.

NYT’s John Tierney illustrates “decision fatigue” with an Israeli parole board.

Rebecca Traister’s excellent piece in the New York Time’s magazine criticizing the WWHHD (What Would Hillary Have Done) crowd.

The (hopefully) sarcastic musing on an abortion clinic “Hosing” obnoxious protestors.

An interesting take on the United States’s primary military rivals – China, India, and the Soviet Union?  Yeah, that is what I was afraid of too.

Watch hurricane tweets out-running Hurricane Irene in realtime.

This week’s NYT Magazine has a fascinating article on the unique intensity of professional tennis rivalries.

Slate‘s Terry Turnipseed thinks the president’s using an autopen to sign bills is unconstitutional.

Guest-blogging at Volokh Conspiracy, Mitch Berman discusses his recently published article, “Let ‘em Play”: A Study in the Jurisprudence of Sport.”

NPR has this wonderful county-by-county map of Florida’s average teacher salaries.

Florida’s legislature doing the people’s will by forcing kids (in school) to pull up their pants.  The only question is what is more important, banning sagging pants or bestiality – a question for the ages.

This New York Times op-ed about the problems of college athletics completely ignores that we are using and abusing the players themselves.

Let us know what you’ve been reading in the comments.

This post is a follow-up to my recent post on the significant potential for Israel’s recent natural gas discovery to do long-term harm to Israel’s economy.  This post draw inspiration from a recent Planet Money podcast – Norway has Advice for Libya – which was in turn based on this very interesting Financial Times article.  In that podcast Planet Money’s reporters visited with Farouk al-Kasim, an Iraqi born geologist who was key in advising Norway on the development of its North Sea Oil wealth. Significantly, both Planet Money and the Financial Times assert that Norway may be the only country to date that has not suffered adverse affects due to the natural resource curse.
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A few weeks ago, Texas governor and presidential front-runner Rick Perry staged “The Response,” an all-day event of Christian-centered prayer in Houston. He “called on Jesus to bless and guide the nation’s military and political leaders and ‘those who cannot see the light in the midst of all the darkness.'” In the weeks leading up to The Response, Perry and his supporters predictably received criticism from liberal religious leaders, particularly Jews, and civil liberties groups.

There’s plenty to criticize about The Response, for example, its emphasis on piety and Jesus over our more this-worldly injustices and dangers. But criticizing the public display of religiosity, as many groups did, is dangerous for both religion and secularism.
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Israel has been in the news lately for record natural gas reserves off its western shoreline.  Some of my friends are what I would describe as super-zionists – seeing things like “free money” for Israel through natural gas resources as unabashedly wonderful.  Much like the American gas and natural resource boosters, these Israeli natural gas boosters tend to ignore potential costs of exploitation of natural gas resources.  The New York Times had a recent article discussing this issue at more length.  One of the significant issues in exploiting natural gas is the “resource curse” – a frequently overlooked, but significant, phenomenon in resource rich countries.
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