Droid Doesn’t (always have the most helpful ads)

With so much recent attention on the now-infamous Israeli advertising debacle, I would like to draw your attention to another campaign, presumably not as offensive but no less insidious.

Yes, I’m talking about the barrage of Verizon/Droid ads that have hit the airwaves in recent weeks and months. I’m not going to discuss the sillier iterations – like the woman who kills three robots in under sixty seconds, or the movie trailer – in any detail. Those are just advertisements. Instead, I’d like to briefly call attention to two that make pseudo-factual claims regarding Verizon’s phone and service offerings.

The first, for Droid Razr, is out to prove ‘thin is no longer frail’. You don’t  really need to watch the ad, but in case you’re interested, here it is:

Those of you who did watch may have noted its claim that the phone is made with ‘diamond-cut spun aluminum’. Diamonds!

This certainly sounds impressive, aesthetically pleasing, and perhaps even scientifically significant. But what does the fact that the Razr’s spun aluminum was cut with diamonds actually tell us about the phone’s physical makeup? To give you an idea of how helpful the information is, here’s a list of things that – like spun aluminum – can also be cut by diamonds:

Continue reading Droid Doesn’t (always have the most helpful ads)


Mazel Tov, Mr. Goldberg

The genesis of this post was a ‘BREAKING NEWS’ email that hit my inbox fresh off the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) Newsdesk: Netanyahu pulls ad campaign for Israeli expats in US.

To give you an idea of where this ranks on the JTA Scale of Concern, the last BREAKING NEWS emails I could find in my archive were about the Gabrielle Giffords assassination attempt and the passing of Debbie Friedman (though I acknowledge more may have been routed to spam or the trash). So this must be a Big Fucking Deal. Let’s take a look.

Continue reading Mazel Tov, Mr. Goldberg

Official apology to Jon Stewart

Welcome to December. While many people may be preparing for our upcoming celebration of the Miracle of Chanuka (or Christmas, if that happens to be your thing), I would like to draw your attention for a moment to the Miracle of Purim.

Specifically, to the events that transpired on this past Wednesday’s episode of The Daily Show.

Continue reading Official apology to Jon Stewart

Why the title of Jeffrey Goldberg’s post is, at best, irresponsible

I primarily created this blog to document things that amuse me, not to document things that annoy me. But for the second day in a row, I find myself addressing Jeffrey Goldberg’s takedown of the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption in his post Netanyahu Government Suggests Israelis Avoid Marrying American Jews.

This second post stems from a conversation I had with someone who sent me Goldberg’s post. He had read my original response – and if you haven’t, I suggest you take a look at that first – but took issue with my claim that Goldberg would not have garnered the same level of attention had he chosen a less-provocative, albeit more-accurate title for his post. I wrote:

Going out of his way to allege that the boyfriend is an American Jew is spurious, groundless, and ultimately serves as the basis for Goldberg’s inflammatory blog post title – which, I imagine, is the reason it has bounced across my laptop screen all day.

While I stand by my assertion that the campaign has little to say about American Jews, and that Goldberg is essentially making an issue of a poor advertising campaign, I would like to take the opportunity to discuss the influence an author has to shape the tone of a debate.

Since Goldberg’s post went live, it has been picked up by a number of other sites around the internet. Some, like Andrew Sullivan in Netanyahu’s War on Christmas, simply repeat Goldberg’s core unsubstantiated assertion:

The latest craziness from Jerusalem is an ad campaign directed at Israeli ex-pats not to marry American Jews.

Others, like Allison Yarrow in Israeli Government Tells Israelis Not to Marry American Jews, not only take Goldberg at face value, but take their protest one shrill note further.

Continue reading Why the title of Jeffrey Goldberg’s post is, at best, irresponsible

Actually, the Israeli ads don’t have much of anything to say about Israelis marrying American Jews

After spotting Jeffrey Goldberg’s post with the attention-grabbing title Netanyahu Government Suggests Israelis Avoid Marrying American Jews all over Facebook, Twitter, and my inbox – if you clicked on this link, you’ve probably seen it – I feel it requires some sort of response. So here we go.

We’ll start at the beginning:

The Netanyahu government’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption is sponsoring advertisements in at least five American communities that warn Israeli expatriates that they will lose their identities if they don’t return home.

So far so good… and that’s where he should have thought about wrapping up the post. Instead, Goldberg goes on to dissect two of those advertisements in detail. Here’s the first:

And here’s Goldberg’s summary:

Continue reading Actually, the Israeli ads don’t have much of anything to say about Israelis marrying American Jews

Really with Zeke and Amy

Readers of the New York Times were recently treated to Ezekiel Emanuel’s four-part series on how to rein in the cost of health care. I’m not an expert on health care; this post is not about his proposals. That said, the coming paragraphs are a crash course in Ezekielcare. If you read the series, feel free to skip ahead to the jump, or consider this a refresher.

In the first of four parts, Emanuel lays out the problem:

In 2010, the United States spent $2.6 trillion on health care, over $8,000 per American… our health care spending is the fifth largest economy in the world.

But he also recognizes that the issue is not the absolute dollar value spent on health care – it is the results those dollars buy. If we chose to spend exorbitant sums on health care, life expectancy skyrocketed, and disease disappeared, that cost would reflect a funding priority, a policy or market decision to exchange resources for a specific form of quality of life.

Instead, there is almost no correlation between the amount spent and health outcomes, relative to other developed countries. Simply put, Americans waste a lot of money at a time when they don’t have much to waste:

Almost no matter how we measure it — whether by life expectancy or by survival for specific diseases like asthma, heart disease or some cancers; by the rate of medical errors; or simply by satisfaction with health services — the United States is actually doing worse than a number of countries, like France and Germany, that spend considerably less.

In Part 2 of his series, Emanuel describes certain solutions – from tort reform to transforming health insurance companies into nonprofits – he says would do too little to solve the problem. Part 3 describes how 21st-century information systems could lower health care costs by $32 billion a year – a conservative estimate ‘just’ over the $26 billion threshold Emanuel believes useful solutions must cross. But most importantly, he closes his third installment with a promise:

Next week, I’ll write about broader, more systemic and bigger ways to save

For about one moment, I thought the author might deliver on his promise.

Continue reading Really with Zeke and Amy

Error 501 Original

The New York Times ran an article Sunday – What’s in a name? Ask Google – about expecting parents who use Google to vet potential baby names. Apparently only 64% of them do it, which is surprising since most expecting parents aren’t grandparents, and studies consistently show that ‘not being a grandparent’ enjoys a strong positive correlation with ‘knowing about the google’.

The highlight of the article came embedded in this nugget:

Continue reading Error 501 Original

The Kindle* of Blog Posts

I usually have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the websites I visit regularly.

So I was surprised to spot an article on Haaretz describing the funeral of, and eulogizing, Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel. That Haaretz wrote about a Haredi Rabbi is not inherently noteworthy. But the newspaper’s editorial decision to describe Rabbi Finkel as ‘inspirational’ – in its headline,  no less – along with the generally positive tone of Raphael Ahren’s article, struck me as atypical, to put it mildly.

I was also interested to note Haaretz’s inclusion of the following clause:

Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the head of the capital’s Mir Yeshiva, which is considered the Harvard of the Haredi world

Ahren is providing his reader with a basis for positioning the Mir within a heirarchy of its peers, and he is using ‘Harvard’ to denote the pinnacle of a given system of education. Forget for a moment that any sort of objective comparison between Harvard and the Mir is intrinsically specious. I understand what Ahren is trying to say. You understand what Ahren is trying to say. Joe Biden understands what Ahren is trying to say: the Mir is a Big Fucking Deal.

But enough about the Mir. That phrase – “the Harvard of” – reminded me of something that has always amused me about Israel. We’re talking about a country of 7.8 million people (כן ירבו), with a grand total of nine universities, and to hear Israelis – and other Zionists – tell it, every institution of higher education in the country is basically in the Ivy League.

Off the top of my head, I knew I had often heard people describe Hebrew University as “the Harvard of Israel”, and Technion as “the MIT of Israel”. But I was curious to learn just how deep the rabbit hole goes. So I busted out my copy of the US News & World Report, 2012 Edition, and set out to investigate the ties between Israeli universities and their American counterparts.

Most importantly, I intended to discover just which American institutions of higher education could use some help with international branding.


My methodology was simple and straightforward. Here is a representative sample:

Continue reading The Kindle* of Blog Posts