Thursday, March 27, 2008

A short history of our war on germs

A few years ago the World Health Organization published this anonymous bit of doggerel titled “The History of Medicine.”

  • 2000 B.C. – Here, eat this root.
  • A.D. 1000 – That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer.
  • A.D. 1850 – That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion.
  • A.D. 1920 – That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.
  • A.D. 1945 – That pill is ineffective. Here, take this penicillin.
  • A.D. 1955 – Oops . . . bugs mutated. Here, take this tetracycline.
  • 1960-1999 – 39 more “oops.” Here, take this more powerful antibiotic.
  • A.D. 2000 – The bugs have won! Here, eat this root.
From: Drug Resistance Explained

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Jewish soul is yearning

Last year I visited Israel for the first time through Hasbara Fellowships. My friend Abby who encouraged me to apply said visiting Israel and learning about the modern political issues facing the country would be a life changing experience.

Now, I work in politics so I'm typically skeptical about such statements, but I decided to go on Hasbara rather than Birthright because at heart I am an academic and wanted a trip with a strong educational component.

It turned out that for all the knowledge I gained about Israeli politics, what affected me most about the trip was not what I saw in the classroom, but instead what I saw in the reaction of one of my friends.

Leon was the only Russian Jew on the trip, and had been searching for some link between his version of Judaism and what he saw in Israel. It came in the form of a small Russian restaurant we found after a long search through the streets of Tel Aviv.

We walked in, sat down, and were handed the menus. They were not in English, and they were not in Hebrew. Leon's pride at being able to order in his native tongue and then show me the proper way to eat the foods he was raised on cemented why all the classroom knowledge was so important.

I came away from Israel knowing its history, knowing all the facts about the current political situation, but most important, feeling, deep in my soul, that Israel was a place where any Jewish soul could belong.

I want to come back this summer to learn more about the spiritual side of that great connection. Over the past year I have become even more interested in the spiritual side of my Jewish identity. It seems that out of my political learning in Israel last summer, I have begun to care more about my religious learning; to paraphrase Hatikvah, with an eye toward Zion, my Jewish soul yearns more and more each day.

If all goes to plan I will be studying in Israel later this summer and fall at the University of Haifa, to improve my Hebrew and learn more about Israeli history as I experience it. I will be finishing my college career in the spring at Hebrew University as part of a study abroad program through USC, having spent an entire year in Israel by the time I graduate. That is my hope, to be a student in my own land, ארץ ציון וירושלים (The land of Zion and Jerusalem).

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

One Glass of Dr. Pepper

Caffeine...our national addiction. I made the stupid mistake this evening of having a glass of Dr. Pepper with the pizza I ordered and am now paying the price.

I can imagine certain activities for which this would be an ideal mood, but at the moment I have reading to do and a very shallow ability to focus on doing it. Hopefully I'll get something done before I go to bed...thankfully I don't have any midterms tomorrow.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Rembering Our Brothers

Every night until I can no longer remember to do so, I will think of them as I say their names. I will remind myself of what they were doing when this terrible tragedy struck them. Their memory, for me at least, will serve as a reminder to follow in their footsteps, to learn more about my religion and in doing so, more about my own soul. Their memory will remind me of how important it is for Israel to work for peace, but never to negotiate out of fear.

These students died not because they were in a classroom, not because they were Israeli, and not because they were living in Jerusalem. They died because in their hearts they believed in something so strongly that even the most evil of acts could not for a second make them falter. These students died because they were Jews, and every night we should remember them, just as we would eight of our own brothers.

They are Yochai Lipschitz, 18, of Jerusalem; Yonatan Yitzchak Eldar, 16, of Shiloh; Yonadav Chaim Hirschfeld, 19, of Kochav Hashahar; Neriah Cohen, 15, of Jerusalem; Roey Roth, 18, of Elkana; Segev Pniel Avihayil, 15, of Neveh Daniel; Avraham David Moses, 16, of Efrat; and Maharata Trunoch, 26, of Ashdod.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

8 high school students are dead in jerusalem when terrorists, likely part of hamas, shot up a jewish school about an hour ago

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A little intellect goes a long way

After somewhat carefully reading Stephen Mack's entries in his blog on the public intellectual (here and here) I was left with one overriding sentiment: You're never going to convince people of anything if they fundamentally disagree with you. Case in point, Mack and I had a discussion as to whether or not Sean Hannity is a public intellectual. My argument was that he makes political statements, supported by facts, and has a wide audience who pays attention to what he says.

Mack, who suffice it to say is not a regularly listener to Mr. Hannity, was not convinced. Paraphrasing here, he said something to the effect of, "Just because many people listen to you doesn't mean your a public intellectual." This is where he and I disagree.

The value of a public intellectual is found in his ability to inform and convince me to agree with him. Now let me defend my definition. I think Mr. Mack would have a hard time disagreeing with me that a public intellectual who cannot change the mind of his audience is of much value. Thus, just being informed may make you an intellectual, and just being published may make you public, but you can hardly be called a public intellectual if you're just preaching to the converted all the time.

That being said, I think it's unfair to argue that the polar opposite of the ivory tower type I just described is not a public intellectual. Our friend over at Politosaurus Rex helped me with my research here: "Ralph Waldo Emerson described the public intellectual as an active force in society. They should be knowledgeable in history, but only because of its relevance in today’s world." Sean Hannity clearly fits that description. It's his job to tell it like it is, to convince his viewers, listeners and yes, readers to see the world the way he does. The only difference between Hannity and Ralph Waldo Emerson is what they're trying to convince me of.

Now, that may sound glib, and it is. But here's the catch, and here's where this gets fun. The value of a public intellectual is in their ability to affect change in the republic. "The measure of a public intellectual is not whether the people are listening, but whether their hearing things worth talking about."

What Mack's essentially saying is that a public intellectual should critique what need critiquing. That it's the role of a good public intellectual to criticize the wisdom of others to make sure it's sound. "It is only because learning the processes of criticism and practicing them with some regularity are requisites for intellectual employment. It’s what we do at our day jobs." If there was ever someone whose day job it is to practice criticism, it's Sean Hannity.

Hannity role as a public intellectual is to examine what he thinks needs to be looked at, to poke and prod it to his viewer's delight. Talk radio hosts don't gain an audience cause they're always nice guys. They get paid the big bucks because they go after the other guys, and yes, it's fun to listen to. But here's the key. Every once in a while, every once in a while, they say something useful.

Every once in a while they show the millions of people who would otherwise not care about an issue of public concern. Something Mack's "public intellectuals" would also talk about. But without Hannity, without Rush, without Michael Savage, people who otherwise wouldn't be paying attention at all hear about what Mack wants them to pay attention to. Dittoheads they may be, but we're better off because these public figures make average Americans just a little bit more intellectual.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Talk About Getting a Grant

So a mall in Glendale, New York has decided to take its own steps to improve consumer confidence and convince people to start spending money again. In what is probably one of the more entertaining ways of injecting money into a sagging economy the Atlas Park Shopping Mall is handing out 400 $50 bills for a total of $20,000. If only they'd do that at the Grove....

Monday, February 18, 2008

A short poem: Sderot

alone, surrounded, by six million ears
at home, but hounded, by everyone's fears,
a tone is sounded, but nobody hears,
the ground is pounded, and washed clean with tears.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Humor from Israelity/israelity bites

From (though they found it on israelity bites). If you don't get it, you haven't been to Israel yet:
A nerdy guy is sitting in the bar in departures at Ben Gurion Airport. A gorgeous woman walks in and sits down at the table next to him. He decides because she’s that pretty, she’s probably an off-duty flight attendant. So he decides to have a go at picking her up by identifying the airline she flies for, thereby impressing her greatly.

He leans across to her and says the Delta Airlines motto ‘We love to fly and it shows’. The woman looks at him blankly. He sits back and thinks up another line.

He leans forward again and delivers the Air France motto ‘Winning the hearts of the world’. Again she just stares at him with a slightly puzzled look on her face.

Undeterred, he tries again, this time saying the Malaysia Airlines motto ‘Going beyond expectations’.

The woman looks at him and says ‘What the f**k do you want?’ ‘Ah!’ he says, sitting back with a smile on his face. ‘El-Al’.
I miss Israel...

It's about time

No, unfortunately this post isn't about clocks or watches or anything to do with measuring time (though I promise to use this title again when eventually I find a good article on such a topic).

I'm referring to something entirely more practical. In this case Israel's decision to finally (thus the title) stage a real incursion into Gaza. I'm tired of reading stories like the one referenced, learning about another young Israeli protecting his homeland "seriously wounded by a gunshot wound to the shoulder during an operation in the southern Gaza Strip." What's worse is he was one of the best of the IDF a member of the elite General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal).

The problem in Gaza is exactly what Defense Minister Barak says it is, namely the lack of any real exit strategy after a major incursion. At the same time however, he's been honest from the start that "a major incursion in Gaza is inevitable."

The article goes on to talk about the comments of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (who I wish was running the whole country) who has "called for the deployment of such a force numerous times in recent months."

Olmert, as usual, is downplaying the situation.
"I think that this is being done correctly, prudently and responsibly," Olmert said. "This may not always be loved but it is an important part of counterterrorist activity."
Saying such action "won't be loved" is putting it lightly. I don't think anyone reading the J-Post needs to be reminded what most of the world's citizens, especially those not constantly under siege think of Israel's only realistic option in fighting terror.

The final bit of the article actually surprised me at first, but thinking about it, the way in which it's put conveys the true tragedy of the situation.
Also Sunday, a rocket hit next to a home in Sderot. No one was injured but several people were treated for shock.
Think how differently that would be written if the same thing happened in Los Angeles and it was the L.A. Times and not the Jerusalem Post writing about it.

Good artists borrow...

I liked this post over at Of Ignorance so much I figured I'd link to it so the three of you who actually read this would check it out. It's about a major art theft in Switzerland last week.

Response: "An Undemocratic Democrat Candidate?"

In an attempt to get an ongoing dialog between myself and the other bloggers whom I regularly keep up on, I decided that when I wanted to respond in detail to someone else's post, I'd leave a short comment and a link to my own.

My friend over at Politosaurus Rex seems to think superdelegates are a new invention designed to thwart the will of the voters:
I will be personally outraged if the party that ideally represents the common man in America turns to the politically elite to choose their candidate. And if they do vote against the winner of the popular vote, they obviously do not know "what it takes to get elected" in this country and we could very well end up with a Republican president yet again.

First off, as I said in my comment on Rex345's blog, superdelegates have been around since 1980, and so when Rex345 says:
The Democratic Party recently instituted the notion of superdelegates...
it's clear Rex has a different definition of recent than I do. Superdelegates were a response to the mess of the 1968 convention, and have been around since 1980.

My own intellectual snobbery aside, what I'm curious about is how much of a margin Rex345 would need either candidate to have in order for it not to be kosher for the "political elite" to make up their own minds.

There are three sets of numbers that everyone will be talking about as we get closer to June 7th and Puerto Rico's caucuses: states won, delegates won, and votes won. Obviously, the candidate running first in pledged delegates will have a strong argument that he or she is the most deserving of the nomination. The problem arises if that person is not the winner of the popular vote, or is, but won less states. Now, all of this is irrelevant if the margin in delegates is large enough that people overlook the other two categories.

But if Obama and Clinton are virtually tied (less than 25 apart) in terms of pledged delegates, does the winner go to who got more popular votes, who won more states, or, as it should in my mind, who the delegates at the convention believe will best represent their party?

This is the issue I have with the whole notion Rex345 raises. The conventions have been a way for parties to choose their nominees since the 1800s. True, we've gotten more democratic about the process, but when push comes to shove, especially in the Democratic delegate selection process, should the will of party insiders count less than that of independent voters who were a huge factor in choosing the pledged delegates? The point of a party is that it's supposed to stand for something. It has a platform, which, while some candidates do their best to run away from, still expresses the basic beliefs of that group of people.

The superdelegates are not chosen by a random process. They are the democratically chosen Democrats who serve as leaders in the Democratic party throughout the country. Their job is to represent us in government, and if they're competent enough to make those decisions for us every day, it makes little sense to me why Rex345 wouldn't trust them to make a political decision when it really counts. If you don't like how California's superdelegates made their choice, do what you'd do normally...don't vote for them next time.

Blogger + Google Reader = Happy Commenting

So to my fellow bloggers who haven't yet mastered the art of using all the wonderful tools available for keeping track of what others are writing and snarking at them in response, Google Reader is extremely helpful. Using Google Reader, I can catch up on new posts as they happen, and use Reader's widgets to show on Political Math all the new comments made by my friends.

If you're using Blogger then you've got a Google Account, and if so, you can go straight to and add each of the blogs you want to keep track of. Just put in the web address of the blog, and Reader will figure out how to correctly spider it to give you updates as they happen. For those of you who want easy access to just the Roundtable posts, feel free to use this link, which will take you to a shared page I set up through Google Reader with just the Roundtable posts.

Also, you may notice I've added Adsense at the top of my blog in a futile attempt to begin paying off my college loans. If you want to go through the hassel of signing up (I'm honestly doing this just to see how long it takes me to make a buck off this site) feel free to ask for help in the comments section.

Finally, I've added Trackbacks support thanks to (Credit to Andrew Beacock for a primer on this) It's quick, painless, and for non-blogger blogs, makes it possible to let people know when you've snarked them.

Just like getting into Gaza

So as my friends and I were waiting to get into the Subliminal concert last night, I, in what was probably the worst possible joke of the night (save for any made by the headliner, since it was Israeli rap and I don't speak a word of Hebrew), made a remark about the long wait to get into the hall.

And while my remark that "Checkpoints take time" was probably in bad taste, it was still pretty funny.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Kristol Klear: Obama’s Path to Victory

Once again, a short commentary on Bill Kristol's op-ed in the Monday NY Times (thanks to my friend Micah for giving me the text to work off of, my browser for reasons passing understanding can't access the site)

Kristol's absolutely right in his analysis of what's about to come on Tuesday (not that he's the only one saying it):
Obama leads Clinton by roughly 70 delegates among about 2,000 chosen so far in primaries and caucuses. (There are still about 1,200 delegates outstanding.) Among the superdelegates, Clinton is ahead by about 100 superdelegates among the 300 who have declared a preference (though any of them can change their mind, so a count of them now is in large measure premature). All in all, Clinton seems to be slightly ahead.

She won’t be for long. On Tuesday Obama is expected to prevail in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. So around 9 p.m. Tuesday night, television networks probably will be announcing, for the first time, that Barack Obama holds an unambiguous delegate lead.

The bigger question is where does that leave Clinton, who in spite of the money she bragged about raising after her five million dollar loan became public is still likely strapped for cash?
Clinton’s campaign believes Ohio and Texas will constitute her firewall. Will it hold?

I suspect not.
My friend Micah, who's a Clinton supporter is telling me that Kristol is wrong, that he thinks Clinton's comeback will be in Wisconsin, though he admits:
if she can win wisconsin and use that momentum to take ohio and texas, she's the frontrunner going into spring break
if obama sweeps through march 10, this race is probably over.
Kristol agrees.
Obama will have momentum. He will likely have more money than Clinton for advertising. His ballot performance among Hispanics and working-class whites has generally been improving as the primary season has gone on. He intends to push a more robust economic message that could help him further narrow the gap among lower-income voters.

And an interesting regression analysis at the Daily Kos Web site ( of the determinants of the Democratic vote so far, applied to the demographics of the Ohio electorate, suggests that Obama has a better chance than is generally realized in Ohio.
Either way, this next week should be a lot of fun.

On a personal side note, the USC Undergraduate Student Government election is going on, and i'm working for the Presidential ticket of Jens Midthun and Tony Jercinovich. Voting is the 19th - 21st of this month, and if one Presidential race isn't exciting enough, for the next ten days or so, i've got two going on...

from stress management

quote from an interview I did: (prospective hire) absolutely, I would never ever allow students to have cell phones on in my class...five minutes later his cell goes off

Heard in the elevator (mobile post)

girl on her cell: He's a walking google...he knows every fucking thing in the world.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A not so creative discussion

So I decided last week to start checking out the blogs of my classmates, (Google Reader is especially useful for keeping up to date), and I came across this post talking about why one writer was going to "Grudgingly Vote for Obama." His explanation caught my attention:

(Question from a previous comment):Why do you view Obama as evil? (as in "lesser of the evils"). Also if you don't mind, could you explain to me what the general political trend of Muslim Americans is?
There is one key issue in particular that Muslims are constantly thinking about...that of the Palestinians. In short, the horrible humanitarian crisis that has been caused by Israel's collective punishment type of thinking is unacceptable.

I replied to the post, objecting to the idea that Israel believes we should punish the people in Gaza and the West Bank for the actions of terrorists. As I explained:
Israel lacks any good options in dealing with guerrilla terrorism, and so, left only the only bad ones, it chooses to err on the side of keeping its people alive. When palestinians stop sheltering people they know to have committed terrorist acts, and when the PA stops paying the families of suicide bombers who are killing innocent Israeli citizens, then we can talk about whose side is really trying to avoid promoting collective punishment.
I got an anonymous reply (the irony was palpable) explaining what the true reason for our current situation was:
For the record, nothing is going to move forward in that region until the Jews learn the real lessons of the Holocaust and they quit electing bloodthirsty war criminals like Ariel Sharon to the post of prime minister.

The first Senator since 1960

With Romney's withdrawal from the race, the next president will be the first since 1960 who was not a Governor or VP (current or former). Now, Hillary Clinton was First Lady, and sure, that may throw off the whole "a senator can never get elected because of their voting record" logic, but considering she'll be saddled with eight years of presidential policies as well as eight years of senate votes, it's probably a wash. Either way, it looks like a member of the most exclusive club in American is finally gonna become president.

Meet The Press: Huckabee is here to stay (sorta)

Well, it looks like Mike is going to stick it out after all. Unlike Romney who said after he imploded on Super Tuesday said he was still thinking it over, Mike made it clear then, and confirmed today, that until JMC gets the magic number, he's going to give the voters of Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania a choice. He did well yesterday, lets see how he does this coming week in Virginia and Maryland...
Can Obama sweep the chesapeake contests? If he does, is he the nominee?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Romney Suspends Campaign

Ha ha ha, Ha ha ha! Here's to a McCain-Huckabee ticket! I'm listening to Rush now...I had to steal my roommate's alarm clock to listen to the radio cause I lent mine to a friend...goes to show that in an age of laptop computers, wifi, and the internet, the $10 alarm clock is the only way I can listen to the radio...
Correction, I found a stream from 640 AM on their website:
It seems the consensus after conservative talk radio's recovered from their morning political hangover that McCain will offer Huckabee the nod, get this over early, and leave time for Hill-dog and Obama to bloody eachother all the way to the convention...

Addition: 11:20 AM
"I'm a grown up, I'll support McCain at the end of the day..." -Bill Kristol on Fox News, Feb. 7th.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

McCain, Huckabee, and Rush

The CW from last night is that Senator McCain will be the Republican nominee after he sews up the next few contests. Bill Whalen, a former speech-writer for Governor Wilson and now a fellow at the Hoover Institution (personal note: Whalen was a consultant on a campaign I worked on in 2004) in a piece on the race, described the rather foul mood of most mainline GOP commentators with the prospect of McCain being the nominee, but went farther in discussing what certain pundits will think of Huckabee's resurgence, especially if Romney drops out:
After the delegate dust settles, Whalen said that if it is no longer a McCain-Romney race but a McCain-Huckabee race, then "somewhere, Rush Limbaugh's head is probably exploding."
Can somebody send me a picture when it happens?

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Classroom Revolt

Apparently the rank and file of the California Teachers Association stormed the Bonaventure (so to speak) when the board, holding their annual meeting at the hotel in Los Angeles tried to ram through an endorsement for Hillary Clinton.
Word is leaking out that CTA’s membership staged an outright mutiny at Los Angeles’ Bonaventure Hotel and bucked its own Board’s attempt to railroad through an early endorsement for Hillary. CTA’s elites apparently got a big wake up call when their effort to crown Hillary as the official choice of California’s teachers was upended by overwhelming resistance from rank and file Obama supporters.

Kristol Klear

In what has now become my favorite weekly op-ed, Bill Kristol annoys New York Times readers with his conservative insights on the 2008 race. This week's column addressed Bill's effect on Hillary in SC:
Hillary was ahead in South Carolina polls as recently as early December. And in fact, women made up 61 percent of the Democratic electorate in South Carolina, blacks 55 percent. If Obama was getting votes because of race and Hillary because of gender, Hillary had a perfectly good chance to win. Bill Clinton’s excuse is unconvincing and unseemly.
He's repeating the CW of the week, but his prediction for this week's action is interesting:
Right now, Hillary Clinton is ahead in the polls in almost all the big states voting. She is a tough and capable campaigner, and she may be able to hold on to those leads. But it is now clear that putting her in the White House brings a hyperactive Bill back in with her. Who needs it? Liberals and Democrats can get basically the same policies without the Clinton baggage, and in choosing Obama, they can nominate a more electable candidate.
So Hillary’s advantage in the polls will, I suspect, erode. The erosion could be hastened by the expected endorsement of Obama by Ted Kennedy on Monday. It could be helped further along if Al Gore hops aboard the Obama bandwagon later in the week. Meanwhile, Tom Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader during most of the Clinton presidency, is actively supporting Obama. Talk to Democrats in D.C., and it’s amazing how many who know the Clintons well — many of whom worked in the Clinton administration — are eager that they not return to the White House.
This week, the Clinton team will dump every bit of opposition research it has on Obama. We’ll see how Obama responds.
But the moment of truth could come at the Democratic debate Thursday, in Los Angeles. Edwards may have dropped out by then. If so, it will be a one-on-one showdown. Even if he’s there, he’ll be effectively a bystander. Will Obama hold his own?
I’d say that even if you’ve (understandably) skipped the previous debates, this is one to tune into. I had a dinner scheduled Thursday night. I’m canceling it. The Giants probably won’t beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. But this could be the week Obama upsets the Clintons.
There's no way Edwards drops out before Super Tuesday, but Kristol is right, Thursday is Custer's last stand. I'll definitely watch the debate, but I won't be canceling dinner...more likely, I'll order the pizza in advance...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Southern Strategy

Well it seems like just about everyone has their eyes focused on the south this weekend. While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been chasing after every last vote heading into tonight's primary, the Republicans have branched out, with Mike Huckabee looking for some Super Tuesday votes in Alabama and Georgia:
"A quick email from the campaign trail in Florida. Two new polls released today show us in 1st in Georgia and tied for 1st in Alabama with Senator McCain. We are working hard to win these delegate rich, Super Tuesday primary states."
For Romney, Florida is a must win state, and the most recent poll I have shows Romney in striking distance of McCain:
From Subscriber Pages on The Polling Report
(use the link above to get the same data from for free)

Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby tracking poll. Jan. 23-25, 2008. N=814 likely Republican primary voters statewide. MoE ± 3.4.

Republican Primary Trial Heat:


John McCain 31

Mitt Romney 28

Rudy Giuliani 15

Mike Huckabee 10

Ron Paul 5

Other 2

Unsure 9

If Romney pulls it out, we've still got a race on our hands. If McCain holds on, he's basically the nominee. Tonight should be a lot of fun...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Inevitability 2.0?

With McCain and Hillary's wins today, the question going into Florida is whether our original front-runners are once again on top. If Hillary can win next Saturday, at least among my unrepresentative sample of friends, all agree she'll be our first female nominee of a major party. If not, who knows.

On the Republican side, the comeback kid took his gains in New Hampshire, reminded South Carolina why some of them liked him the first time around, and eeked out a win against populist Mike Huckabee. I'm a Huckabee fan, but this is definitely the end of the line for him. Again, the unrepresentative sample agrees, Florida is about McCain and Romney. John has the momentum and Mitt the money. If Florida repeats South Carolina, all the talk of a brokered convention is off, and we've got our candidates. If I had to put my money anywhere, it's on those two.

Isn't it a little ironic that if the same question was asked a year ago today, you'd get the same answer... I understand why Hillary turned out the way she did, but McCain's comeback needs a better look from a numbers perspective. Exit polls analysis to come, later...