Thursday, July 24, 2008

Gay in Iraq

Horrifying piece on about the systematic abuse of gays and lesbians in Iraq.

Where is the outrage in the international community? Where is the outrage among American leaders? Is their silence related to their willingness to write discrimination into state constitutions? Surely a behavior that some consider morally reprehensible does not justify silence in the face of rape and murder.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Honor Killing in the US

Another honor killing, this time not far from Atlanta. A man "strangled his 25-year-old daughter San- deela Kanwal with a Bungee cord in her bedroom because she wanted to end her arranged marriage."

This is beyond domestic violence. It is, as prominent moderate Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali says, a systematic way of punishing Muslim women who refuse to along with the sexist rules of their society.

Where is the outrage from America's political and moral leaders? Where are the efforts from national women's organizations to create hotlines to help women in trouble? Where are their priorities? Isn't standing up for women being systematically murdered by their own families an important cause?

Seamless Web

Just wanted to mention, and excellent way to order restaurant food online. Its features include:
  • Only showing restaurants that deliver to your address, so you never have to figure out whether you're in a delivery zone or not
  • Ability to tip your delivery individual with your credit card
  • Frequent discounts, up to 20% off
  • Ability to save repeated orders
It's a great site - I highly recommend using it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Republican VP Prediction

Senator John McCain will pick: Former MA Gov. Mitt Romney.

Romney has:
  • Economic experience - former CEO of Bain & Company, founder of Bain Capital, savior of the Olympics, Havard JD/MBA. To get wonkier than this you'll have to get into Ben Bernanke territory
  • Vigor. Romney may not be much younger than McCain, but he looks much younger, and so provided youthful looks without looking inexperienced.
  • Money. Romney's personal fortune could come in handy if McCain and his public financing wind up way behind Obama's machine.
  • Vetting. The country's seen Romney, and the most scandalous thing was that he once tied the family dog to the roof of the car. That's it.
  • Michigan. Romney's family has deep roots there, which could help McCain win the state.
  • Mormons. While Romney's religion may hurt McCain with evangelicals, many of them were unhappy with him as it is. On the other hand, adding Romney to the ticket insures Mormon financial and political support, which could help in swing states like Nevada and Colorado.
While AK Gov. Sarah Palin or LA Gov. Bobby Jindal would be exciting picks, McCain is not going to give up his experience argument with a neophyte pick. It'll be Romney.

Goldwasser, Regev, and Kuntar

Last week, Israel traded convicted murderer Samir Kuntar for the remains of Sergeant Major Ehud Goldwasser and State Sergeant Eldad Regev. There are a few points of note about this exchange:

1. Israeli doctors hypothesize that Seg. Goldwasser and Seg. Reven likely died before most of the major combat operations in July 2006. However, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah did not inform the Israeli that his POWs were deceased. This is a violation of all international conventions on POWs. Israel (and America) release at least the names and well beings of its prisoners, so that families at least know that they are safe. To without such information is gross human rights violation. However, the international community has been completely silent about this.

2. Israel released Samir Kuntar, convicted of murdering multiple Israelis, including brutally bashing the head of a 4 year old girl. Kuntar is not an innocent Arab caught hanging out with the wrong people. He's a brutal murderer. There are many innocent people sitting in Israel's jails who deserve to be released. Kuntar is not one of them.

3. This is also more frightening because Kuntar was given a hero's welcome. When would Israel (or America) ever give a hero's welcome to a combatant who gruesomely murdered a child?

4. Given that Nasrallah likely knew that the Israelis were dead, he still allowed thousands of Lebanese civilians to die and hundreds of thousands to be displaced. If he had informed the Israelis that the soldiers had died and returned their remains, he could have prevented the deaths and hardships to so many people. Instead, Nasrallah used them a pawn to build support for his group and hatred against Israel. Where is the outrage from the international community?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Democratic VP Prediction

Senator Barack Obama's VP pick will be Indiana Senator Evan Bayh.

Bayh is (in no particular order);
  • Young
  • From a red state
  • An experienced executive (as governor of Indiana)
  • A foreign policy wonk on the hill for almost a decade
  • An early and fervent Clinton supporter
Way back in the fall of 2006, Bayh had some of the most sensible rhetoric on Iraq. Furthermore, there's nothing like an Obama/Bayh ticket to make McCain look old and out of date. Bayh is the best possible mix of youth, bipartisanship, change, and experience (both executive and foreign policy) that Obama needs. It's time to put him on the ticket.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fannie and Freddie

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson announced on Sunday that it would guarantee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-sponsored public home mortgage purchasers. (Read Paul Krugman on it here.)

This is a smart move on Paulson's part for the following reason: the mortgages, for the most part, are money good. Fannie and Freddie do not have any subprime mortgages, by definition. Despite the fact that the ABX AAA (a rough measure of the probability of default of mortgage backed securities of that rating) is trading a 50, it's extremely unlikely that 50% of those mortgages will default. Therefore, while Fannie and Freddie may need some injection of government capital (raising valid questions about the bizarre mix of capitalism and socialism that govern the two organizations), they are not likely to lead massive government bailouts.

The timing of this announcement is interesting as well. Conventional wisdom is that the rate cuts of the past year will take about 12-18 months to take effect. This means that the equity markets will likely turn the corner within the next year. Paulson's actions are therefore a stop gap measure to boost confidence at a time when the equity markets are bearish, until they begin to recover.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Excellent dessert bar

ChikaLicious is to dessert what Una Pizza is to pizza: a chance to enjoy the highest quality of a particular type of food (dessert in this case), and to share in the experience of its creation.

It is only open Thursday-Sunday, takes no reservations, and only serves dessert. Patrons can choose from one of seven desserts (from a daily changing menu), with each come with a first course (chamomile ice cream with blueberry paste), and a third course (petifores, chocolate truffles, and pistachio shortbread cookies). ChikaLicious also offers wine pairings for each dessert, ranging from port with the liquid chocolate tart to a fruity, fizzy wine with mint ice cream and strawberry sorbet (which comes with brown sugar cookies).

The best part, though, it that half restaurant are front-row seats to the dessert assembly process. Chika and her assistant assemble each dessert in perfect harmony, take the appropriate pieces from each oven, fridge, and freezer, and then alternating steps of the algorithm for that dessert. It was truly amazing to watch.

A final note - for those of us who do not eat animal gelatin, Chika was happy to accommodate.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Kosher Restaurants in Toronto: Gladstone's

Gladstone's is a good Kosher restaurant. The food is well prepared - try the special mushroom soup if they have it, the Sardina steak (pronounced with a long "i", as in "someone's in the kitchen with sar-DINA"), or the sweet potato fries.

However, as with many kosher restaurants, the service is something between lethargic and comically incompetent. No spilled food or massacred orders, just run of the mill largocity.

How to end suicide: Remove easy methods

Fascinating piece in yesterday's New York Times magazine about how to prevent suicide. The piece cites three data-based examples that lower suicide rates:

  • Shifting British ovens from poisonous coal gas to less harmful natural gas
  • High guard rails on the Golden Gate bridge
  • Fewer guns in homes
The article argues that most suicides are impulsive, and removing easy methods gives individuals more time to think through their actions.

It's worth a read.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

"Fair and Balanced" Photos

Unbelievable story about Fox News doctoring the photos of two New York Times reporters to make them appear more ominous

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bulldozer plows into crowded bus on Jaffa Street

A Palestinian deliberately drove a bulldozer in an Egged bus near the old Central Bus Station, with at least four dead and dozens wounded.

May G-d heal all those wounded in today's attack, and may G-d help the Israeli government decide on the appropriate response.