Does the Creation of the world necessitate its destruction?

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This is not the first time I’ve shared something I once wrote for DBH, but I’ll kick off with a short explanation of what’s about to happen for anyone unfamiliar: Over the course of a Jewish year, the entire Torah is read in sequence. Many people study the weekly portion, and sometimes relate what they have learned in the form of a Dvar Torah – literally, a word of Torah.

This post consists primarily of a Dvar Torah related to Bereishit, or Genesis (edited for having been originally written five years ago — but not for content). Those who keep track of such things will surely note that this past week’s portion was Lech Lecha, which followed Noah, which followed Genesis. In other words, this post appears to have arrived three weeks late.

Don’t worry, I have a good explanation: The week of Genesis, the YIHY (Young Israel House at Yale) listserv mistakenly announced it would read Noah. The week of Noah was Noah. And the week of Lech Lecha (i.e. this week), Manhattan pulled its best Noah (i.e. it flooded). And so, by the transitive property of weekly Torah portions, I can safely write about Genesis for another few days without incurring the Wrath of God:

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The dumbest thing ever said about ‘You didn’t build that’

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Almost exactly two years ago, when Moment Magazine featured an interview with conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer, the magazine’s cover described him as ‘One of the nation’s most loved/hated pundits’.

This post stems not from a feeling of love, nor from a feeling of hate. I feel no great need to defend Mr. Obama’s remarks – though I agree with them and believe they have been willfully misinterpreted – and I feel no great need to bury Mr. Krauthammer.

But I can say with absolute certainty that Krauthammer wrote the dumbest thing ever written about You didn’t build that not because I’ve read every word ever written on the subject, but because it was so certifiably stupid that it would be literally impossible to surpass. Without further ado, the relevant excerpt:

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Mr. Ahmadinejad goes to Walgreens

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Welcome to national security amateur hour.

I’m almost a month behind on this one (or six years, depending on your count) but that shouldn’t come as a surprise, since I’m almost a month behind on everything… including The Colbert Report, through which the following information — first broadcast on October 1 — was brought to my attention earlier this week.

When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited New York in late September, delivering a speech to the UN on Yom Kippur wasn’t the only item on his to-do list. The Iranian President’s 140-person entourage was also spotted “at Payless Shoesource, Costco, Walgreens and Duane Reade [stocking] up on items ranging from wholesale shampoo to a pair of $40 kids’ shoes.”

The only more delicious list of shopping destinations would have included B&H Photo and H&H Bagels.

But where Colbert focused on radioactive yellowcake mix at Costco, the real aim of the shopping spree has gone unreported — even while the clues hide in the open. Specifically, in that quote from the Huffington Post: the Iranian delegation hit the town, and came back with a large quantity of shampoo.

This purchase begs the obvious: how did they plan to transport it all back to Iran? Traveling with liquids in your checked bag is just asking for them to explode and ruin those $40 kids’ shoes. And getting more than 3 ounces of shampoo past TSA ‘security’ is obviously a fool’s errand.

Then again, I haven’t heard about any big shampoo bust out of JFK over the past month. Which brings me to a sobering reality: if Iranian agents have tested the limits of US airport security and come away victorious — that is, managed to smuggle shampoo aboard a plane — who knows what they’ll manage to carry-on next time? In this post-9/11 world, you have to be ready for anything.

Sadly, it is readily apparent that the TSA is not.

All this is to say that New York Times reports indicating Iran may finally be ready to sit down and negotiate — reports denied first by the White House, then by Barack Obama — might make some sense: Armed with the ability to evade TSA, Iran may have come to the realization that further development of nuclear technology is not only damaging to its economy, but an unnecessary step in the neverending war against Big Satan.

After all, just how big can a Satan be if you can threaten it with a bottle of wholesale shampoo?

Refining the TSA dirty thievery results

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There’s a reason you never check a bag with something valuable in it.

ABC recently released information obtained from the Transportation ‘Security’ Administration (TSA), listing the number of employees fired for theft at various airports. Using the information, ABC put out a list of ‘The top airports across the U.S. for TSA employees fired for theft.’ And while that title might not perfectly encapsulate what the list actually communicates, the headline of the article including that list is even more misleading:

The Top 20 Airports for TSA TheftABC News

There are two problems here. For one, the list tallies only the raw number of firings from 2002-2011, not rates, which skews its results in favor of small airports with fewer employees, and fewer passengers from whom they can steal. As a passenger, you’re more interested in how likely a given passenger is to be robbed than in how often it happens, period. And for two, the list tallies employee firings, without accounting for the fact that not every luggage thief is apprehended.

I can’t really address this second point without additional information, but I thought it would be worth trying to refine ABC’s results to at least account for airport traffic.

So here’s a list of 20 airports that have fired employees for theft, ranked by number of annual passengers per theft. The first column lists the airport, the second how it did in ABC’s primitive estimation, the third adjusts for traffic, and the fourth indicates how much better or worse the airport’s ranking looks when traffic volume has been taken into account. For a concrete example, New Orleans ranked 15th in the number of employees fired for theft, but second when its low traffic volume was taken into account – a drop of 13 spots:

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Windows 8 to spawn a warranty nightmare

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Listen, Microsoft. I’m one of the few people excited for Windows 8 to come out later this week. To be honest, the operating system looks like it was built for phones and tablets and only shoehorned onto a laptop, but it looks new/fresh/hip/what the kids are into, so until I’ve tried it on a PC, I’m happy to give you the benefit of the doubt.

That said, I’m a little concerned about the physical shells you’ve concocted to go with it. The Seattle Times technology blog describes

crazy new Windows 8 hybrids and convertibles PCs that flip, fold and slide into different shapes.

‘Crazy’ is not a word often associated with staid, conservative PC ‘design’, so let’s take a quick look at what you have in store (literally):

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Poor Mitt Romney

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Last week, we explored Mitt Romney’s use of socialist media to spread his message.

This week, it looks like Romney’s advertising campaign has revealed some information he may have preferred to keep a secret:

219 people like Outriggers Restaurant. 1,096,008 like Captain Morgan USA. And exactly 1 person thinks Mitt Romney won last night’s debate.

Poor Mitt Romney. (And I mean that in the most figurative sense possible.)

Well, that was a silly thing to say

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Debate number 2 of 3. Lots of dumb things said, but this one’s quick and easy. Romney says:

I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget.

Good job, Mitt. Remind me, how did you manage such an impressive feat?

Oh right, with “enormous spending and services of the federal government.” (Romney’s words.) More specifically, “with $342 million in direct federal funding and an additional $1.1 billion in indirect financing from Washington.” (Huffington Post and CNN’s words.)

So what’s the plan when the budget you’re trying to bail out is the federal government’s?