Monday, September 29, 2008

Is eating meat the same as cannibalism?

“Why are you in this war?”
“For me rats!”
“Your what?”
“Me rats!”
“I think he means: his rights.”
“Oh… Never could understand anyone south of Maryland.”
Gettysburg, 1993
Do animals have rights? Is eating meat wrong and barbaric? “No,” says Ingemar Nordin in this article.

The main idea is: humans have equal rights with other humans; animals don’t, because they are, well, not humans. Otherwise, their rights would have to be protected against each other — if I cannot kill a cow to eat it, neither can a wolf.

Some people answer that a wolf cannot be judged for following his nature; he does not have a choice about eating a cow. If by that they mean that he cannot make a rational choice — well, that is exactly the point! To have rights apply to you, you need to be a moral subject which requires rationality. (What about children and mentally ill? The articles addresses that too.) If by not having a choice they mean that the wolf is a carnivore — what if people were carnivores? Would animals magically lose their rights? What if someone cannot digest fruits and vegetables or simply needs meat for medical reasons (otherwise, he cannot survive) — do animals lose their rights regarding him, but not others?

The author agrees that animal cruelty “does not belong in any civilized society”, but doesn’t propose how to deal with it (if at all) — I think it is outside the scope of this article.

* * *

The idea of rights is a peculiar one. Where do humans get their rights? Three arguments can be made: from their Creator, from the Nature, from pragmatic convention included in the agreement to live together in a society (if I am going to live in a society with you, I am going to have certain liberties — the same as you or anyone else — that cannot be violated; the only time my liberty to do X can be violated is when it is violating another person’s liberty to do Y, which is considered by the society as more important).

Following the “Creator” argument: well, my religion says nothing about animals having rights. One cannot treat animals cruelly and must ease a struggling donkey’s burden (in fact, even your enemy’s donkey’s burden!), but eating animals is not forbidden — in some cases it’s even required. If your religion says otherwise, you’ll have to prove to me that your religion makes more sense than mine (considering that mine is Judaism, I find that unlikely).

I don’t think the “Nature” argument can be made cohesively: I am yet to be shown how exactly our rights derive from Nature — but even if they did so from our special status as sentient beings in the Nature, animals would lack them precisely because of their different nature from ours (which, I think, is the main focus of the article). If a rational species were to be discovered (or existed alongside with humans — e.g., elves, dwarves, hobbits), I don’t think anyone would argue that eating its members is wrong (although we probably would have to deal with some racism...).

Finally, the pragmatic argument simply has no place for animals in it: human rights exist within the scope of the society to which these humans belong. Animals are not a part of our society.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Advantages of a private healthcare system over a government-funded one

It is often believed by those that feel bad for poor people with no means for paying for their medical bills and insurance that universal government-funded healthcare is the answer. The article by Joe Peacott dispels this myth — as well as the one stating that in the world of privately-payed healthcare, the poor would be left sick and dead “on the roadside”.

Turning healthcare into a free-market, unregulated business would create normal competition, which would drive prices down, thus making healthcare more affordable. Lack of government regulation would further cut majority of expenses and reduce many problems in the system. Forcing people to take responsibility for their health — as they are forced to take responsibility for caring for their cars — would improve the general health of people in the country by changing their attitudes and behavior (both short- and long-term) regarding their own health. Obviously, this would reduce people’s dependency of the healthcare system and necessity to seek help if they still couldn’t afford it.

I don’t know if all this would completely eliminate dependency of very poor people on financial assistance — but that would be provided by private funds, much better controlled and directed (thus, less likely to be abused). I know someone who got cancer and could not afford visits to doctors — much less the surgery and post-surgical care, check-ups, medications, etc. (This was not cancer from smoking, lack of exercise, bad diet, or anything else in person’s control.) Even considering that many of the expenses were reduced in a healthy market situation, the person would still be unable to afford much of this. Well, she received “free care” coverage from one of the local private hospitals — which paid for all expenses. She did not get government-funded MassHealth; she already received private assistance.

If taxes were lower and hospitals’ and other organizations’ profits higher (and health expenses reduced due to eliminating most of government and in-hospital bureaucracy), they would be more likely to donate money for the needy — the really needy — patients.

Central control of homeostasis

(Turrigiano and Nelson, 2004: Nat. Rev. Neurosci., 5, 97–107)

Conversation on Friday between a sixth-year (I think) graduate student and me:
— The idea is that without centralized regulation, the market will be healthier, and the people will be better off.
— Well, yeah, that’s what conservatives believe in.
— And what’s wrong with that? Why does the government have to control it?
— It doesn’t need to control everything, and to some degree, the market must be free, but... what needs to happen is like in synaptic scaling: there has to be a homeostasis.
— Exactly! The neuron follows its individual properties and program, leading to homeostasis. But in synaptic scaling, there is no central structure controlling each neuron’s behavior.
— Maybe there is...
— ???
Now, of course, there is something like that. It’s called “soul”. But it’s not observable; it exists in a separate reality to such degree that its influence is undetectable. From the brain’s point of view (or somebody trying to cure the brain), its functioning is the result of 100 billion neurons working simultaneously, each in its own interest. And within each neuron, the same thing happens: each synapse follows its own interest resulting in global homeostasis. If one group of neurons delegates anything to another, it’s only more specialized computation, not centralized control.

It may be interesting for philosophers and pseudo-scientists to think of the brain in terms of an “emergent entity” with its emergent properties — but for somebody trying to cure the brain, he needs to think in terms of 100 billion neurons working together. On an individual level, not grand-scale centralized one. Emergent principles are important, but only in terms of them emerging from individual neuronal properties and function. Now, for someone trying to cure economy…

(I still need to write about how emergent properties are nullified when one focuses on their source — the same as when something in this world becomes bottul to its shoiresh.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Liberal media: giant propaganda machine

From illustrated Road to Serfdom (Tanya of libertarianism, according to Alan):

We’re half-way there. Maybe more...

(Of course, there is competition. But everything non-left, even something centrist, like Fox, is called “far-right”, and people are indoctrinated to the point that they don’t see any reason to read, watch or listen to anything but far-left or moderate-left.)

The media in general has also become a new kind of mob, providing service to other mobs, argues this op-ed.

In the medieval Western world, the most dangerous organization limiting social and intellectual progress was the Catholic Church. Today, the media took its place.


During the debate between Obama and McCain: “I think Senator McCain will agree that Russia and China are not democracies [...].”

It’s so obvious, even the socialists see it...

Apple and liberals

I always had a suspicion coming from personal experience: most of Mac users (and, more generally, Apple product users) by choice are liberals — at least in the US. When I write “by choice”, I mean: when they had an educated choice between a PC and a Mac — not when they had to use a Mac for professional reasons (being in graphic design, for example) or because they were computer-illiterate, and a Mac seemed easier to use.

Now I finally understood why. American liberals are emotional thinkers and wannabe socialists. To them, “looks/feels better” is equivalent to “better”, and they love the idea of a central controlling agency imposing this “better” on everyone. This is what liberal models of government and economy are all about, and this is what Apple is all about.

The story of iPhone, for example, is a classic story of socialism: central control introduces something that looks shiny and pretty (and has crappy inner functionality; its usefulness is inversely proportional to its shininess), something that has “all-in-one” principle; something whose particular use is forced upon the customers (you are limited to the companies, with which iPhone will work; you’re not allowed to download custom-made software — i.e., typical socialism), and all this centralized regulation results in a “black market” attempting to go around the regulations (the great number of people trying to “unlock” the iPhones — for which they are punished by Apple — to which the people respond by designing ways to overcome the punishment — and so on).

Every time you update an OS on a Mac, you need to do a complete revolution: by a new computer, i.e., change all of hardware at once. If you want to install Vista on an older computer, you have a choice about which hardware to upgrade: usually, the memory and maybe the video-card (although, not necessarily). Same when you want a brand-new computer: you have a choice of buying a PC from some company like Dell (or HP... or Asus... or many other companies, competing with each other) or building it yourself after buying parts. You can custom-build Macs too. In theory. It’s called “Hackintosh” — i.e., hacking the system by going around the regulations again.

It is always funny when people criticize Vista for not working on older systems. Did you try to install Leopard on an older Mac? This reminds me of those Russians that argue that they want to have democracy and capitalism but preserve “the authentic Russian way” — which means, apparently, having a mentality of tsarist and Soviet Russia (ruled by a despot; nobody takes personal responsibility for anything). Then they complain that they don’t work together: well yes, you need to update the hardware before you install the software that allows for greater functionality. The question is: will you have a choice on how to update it?

By the way, the decision to use Intel processors on new Macs is interesting: it reminds me of how Chavez introduces socialism in his country.

Finally, the propaganda campaign by Apple against Microsoft reminds me of Soviet propaganda against the West. “It works just as well; you can do everything here you can do there, and it looks shinier. And we will provide everything you need for you without burdening you with responsibility of making a choice. What? You can’t play games? You can’t use custom-made solutions? What do you need that for? More work, less play!”

How did this realization come about? Today I was re-reading Douglas Adams: an atheist, an intellectual who likes to talk and write about things outside of his area of expertise, and a Mac user — in other words, a liberal. In his essay “Frank the Vandal” (published in his posthumous book, Salmon of Doubt), he writes: “The Mac started out as a wonderfully simple and elegant idea (give them so little memory they won’t be able to do anything anyway) [...]”. In a different essay he writes that in his opinion, reducing possibility of choice is better: e.g., producing “snap-shot” cameras (called “soap-boxes” by Russians) that lack zoom and thus don’t allow people to take bad photos. In other words, let’s treat people as idiots and give as little control as possible, regulating their behavior instead — what socialism is all about.

* * *
On a separate note, the conversation between somebody who switched to a Mac from PC and a traditional PC user reminds me of a conversation between a Jew who turned (r”l) to Christianity and an Orthodox Jew:
— Why did you switch?
— For years I knew there was something wrong with it. Now, when I switched, I realized: this is what I was looking for to begin with and stuck with the old thing only because it was forced on me by tradition when I was younger.
— What was wrong with it?
— For starters, too many moving parts. The new thing is much easier to use, and it looks more shiny.
— Those parts serve a purpose. They are put there for a reason by the designer. Among other things, they give you flexibility, allowing you to use the system in all situations.
— Yeah, but it took too much energy to figure out how to use them.
— So, let’s see: you switched because you never took the time to read the manual and understand how to use the system properly?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

About abortion

Wait, so I don’t get it: is somebody allowed to kill his Siamese twin or not?

(This is regarding an argument that you’re allowed to kill somebody dependent on your body even if you recognize that he is a human being.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Perpetually depressed vs. perpetually happy

A conversation in the E.R. show between Susan Lewis and Abby Lockhart:
— Luka looks depressed today.
— He’s European, it’s their baseline.
Today, in a hospital, a conversation between two American nurses:
— It’s Wednesday!
— I know!..
— Doesn’t it make you happy?
— Every day makes me happy...
The fact that it is a Wednesday (already!) makes me depressed, because now I have only three days (including Sunday) left to finish what I planned for this week. I guess I am more European than American...

According to Chabad Chassidus, a Jew is supposed to be always joyous — but “joyous” does not mean “happy” (as Rabbi Paltiel explains in one of his lectures). You’re supposed to be joyous because you realize that G-d continuously creates the world from nothingness, and all the world is filled with His Presence. You’re not supposed to be mindlessly happy like many Americans (especially West-coasterners) seem to be.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who is responsible?

It is said that the two standard Russian questions are: “Who is responsible?” and “What are we going to do?” It seems, not only Russian. It is also said that Russia is full of two things: roads and idiots. Maybe not only Russia.

To continue the question of the earlier post, who is really responsible for the current economic state of affairs? One opinion says: those that encouraged people to borrow against their means, and when those people screwed up, encouraged them some more.

This series of cartoons says the same thing (without pointing out the source of the situation... you guessed it: the liberals who felt bad for people with low income and bad credit history who couldn’t afford to take mortgage). Click “Следующая” at the top to move to the next page. In Russian and English.

Monday, September 22, 2008

West vs. East

From the Western point of view, the Holocaust was a crime. From Eastern — colossal waste of human resources.

(С Западной точки зрения, Холокост был преступлением. С Восточной — бесхозяйственностью.)

An overheard conversation

“Be vigilant!”

Something I accidentally overheard:

Apparently, the economy is “collapsing” because of “that fucking war”, which Bush just “had to stick his nose in”. (I am not even sure what that means. We started the war — for a particular reason. We “stuck our nose” in it in the same way that a surgeon sticks his nose in a cancerous mole.) But of course, all this time, rich people were getting richer (this is what the war was really all about, apparently), having vacations on their yachts.

The rich people are not paying for the war, however. Look at your tax return: that’s who is paying (obviously, when liberal president comes to power, the taxes will be lower — right?).

The result of all this is that we should start learning Chinese (I kid you not — he said that). We may need it very soon.

(So, let’s see: the economic crisis on the real estate market was caused by Republicans starting a war in Iraq, not by Democrats forcing companies to encourage people borrow money when there was a good chance those people couldn’t repay it. Yes, this makes sense...)

First of all, my question is: are they stupid or are they ignorant?

Second, this is amongst two people working in an academic institution, one of them directly involved in science process, the other — circumstantially. What the hell happens to critical thinking when these people step out of a lab or a lecture room? If somebody presented a scientific idea like this, these same people would tear him apart, systematically, piece-by-piece showing how he is full of crap.

I don’t have a problem with stupidity amongst “the masses”. I have a problem, when stupid masses rule. The reason why American electoral system is representative is that the Founding Fathers were suspicious of masses’ ability to make long-ranging intelligent decisions (plus, federalism). When you allow uneducated, uncritical, emotional masses rule, you get the Soviet Union (read Bulgakov, for example). Unfortunately, this is what we are getting in this election. Stupid masses (↔ media) → president. I don’t care about the political aspect of it so much. I care about the increasing entropy of intelligence around me.

Political motives for not raping

The height of liberal thought: why are cases of Israeili soldiers raping Palestinian women less numerous? Hebrew U. study finds: because of dehumanization of the Palestinians in the eyes of Israelis. So, not raping your enemy’s women is a sign of racism now.
Aруц Шева пишет — учитывая, что Палестинцы всегда обвиняют Израильтян в том, что мы насилуем их женщин, как же мы теперь выстоим против двойного обвинения — в том, что мы их еще и не насилуем? И они правы. Я так думаю, можно ждать появления плакатов — «Сионисты хотят поработить нас, захватить нашу землю, и побрезговать нашими женщинами!»
[Arutz Sheva writes: considering that Palestinians always accuse Israelis that we rape their women, how will we now withstand a double accusation — that we also do not rape them? And they are right. I think we are safe to expect posters saying: “Zionists want to enslave us, capture our land and ignore our women!”]
One of the comments said: “One cannot even joke about something like this. The article itself is the best self-parody.”

Then, when people tell me that academic environment fries your brains instead of making them better, what can I say? That it’s only among humanities and social sciences? (By the way, Dr. Harl is a conservative and a supporter of Israel.) Most people in the science departments are liberals too.

* * *
By the way, the Hebrew U. professor (the author of the study) was arrested for “suspected rape and sexual abuse of his students”. At least he is not a hypocrite (or racist) — he practiced what he believed in.

...and I have a beard

Infinitely stupid

(click on the snapshot to enlarge)

One of the new professors sent everybody this article. This caught my attention (editing in bold is mine):
My Ph.D. project was somewhat interdisciplinary and, for a while, whenever I ran into a problem, I pestered the faculty in my department who were experts in the various disciplines that I needed. I remember the day when Henry Taube (who won the Nobel Prize two years later) told me he didn’t know how to solve the problem I was having in his area. I was a third-year graduate student and I figured that Taube knew about 1000 times more than I did (conservative estimate). If he didn’t have the answer, nobody did.

That’s when it hit me: nobody did. That’s why it was a research problem. And being my research problem, it was up to me to solve. Once I faced that fact, I solved the problem in a couple of days. (It wasn’t really very hard; I just had to try a few things.) The crucial lesson was that the scope of things I didn’t know wasn’t merely vast; it was, for all practical purposes, infinite. That realization, instead of being discouraging, was liberating. If our ignorance is infinite, the only possible course of action is to muddle through as best we can.
In Chabad Chassidus, a similar feeling (and process) is called bittul. The word is loosely translated as “self-nullification”, but it is also realization that you’re nothing in comparison to the infinity and omnipresence of G-d. Once you realize this, you can start to learn: you allow G-d to enter you. The difference between holiness (kedushah) and unholiness (klippah) is that the former allows G-d to “rest” upon it, while the latter does not. How does something allow G-d to rest upon it? Through bittul, through understanding that it is nothing. The moment the arogant I disappears, something can enter.

To be sure, this is not self-nullification of the outer form (here Chabad Chassidus differs from Mussar movement). The form of I must exist, but in essence it becomes nullified to G-d. The union of the infinite (rather: unbound, undefined) with the finite (defined) — that’s what the creation and existence of the world are all about.

What’s the practical consequence of this nullification? Structuring your life in such a way that your every act is connected to Torah. If it is not connected — why are you doing it, as a Jew? So, to reach to the point where everything you do has inner purpose, defined by Torah, from waking up to going to work to eating ice cream, one must first have bittul.

* * *
About the article itself: good stuff. I like this part:
I don’t think students are made to understand how hard it is to do research. And how very, very hard it is to do important research. It’s a lot harder than taking even very demanding courses. What makes it difficult is that research is immersion in the unknown. We just don’t know what we’re doing. We can’t be sure whether we’re asking the right question or doing the right experiment until we get the answer or the result. Admittedly, science is made harder by competition for grants and space in top journals. But apart from all of that, doing significant research is intrinsically hard and changing departmental, institutional or national policies will not succeed in lessening its intrinsic difficulty.
All graduate students find this out by their third year. It takes a lot for this realization not to break you. This part, however, is what the article is all about:
Productive stupidity means being ignorant by choice. Focusing on important questions puts us in the awkward position of being ignorant. One of the beautiful things about science is that it allows us to bumble along, getting it wrong time after time, and feel perfectly fine as long as we learn something each time. No doubt, this can be difficult for students who are accustomed to getting the answers right. No doubt, reasonable levels of confidence and emotional resilience help, but I think scientific education might do more to ease what is a very big transition: from learning what other people once discovered to making your own discoveries. The more comfortable we become with being stupid, the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries.
When I just started coming to the Computational Neuroscience journal club, I realized that I like the “leap into unknown”. Sometimes it is nice just to sit in the middle of information most of which you do not understand and just get a “preview” of how it all looks once you do understand. Rather like peeking into the middle of a book. I advice anyone to take such “peaks” when learning any new area: just go to a really difficult lecture, talk, open a really difficult text, watch a full-length movie in a language you’re just starting to learn. Enjoy the cold and empty vacuum of the unknown — at least for a while.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Power of makkif

Soviet video with Finnish subtitles. I’m guessing, made during the Winter War (1939). Taken from [info]arbat.

«За бабло такое не сделать. В это надо верить.»
(“Can’t make something like this for money. Gotta believe in it.”)

Lyrics here (in Russian). “Welcome us, pretty Suomi.”

Can you imagine Americans making something like this for Vietnamese or Iraqis (not that I am comparing the two countries’ agendas)? I can’t…


Улыбнуло. Вспомнил, как делал точно так же (как сын [info]scholar_vit’а). :)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Journalists — ischapcha

In Talmud, it says that if one has an inclination to be a murderer, he should become a butcher.

In our times, the one who has an inclination to lie should become a journalist. [info]arbat (in Russian) shows a few examples of both Russian and US media lying through its teeth (more examples of how liberal media has been twisting facts for years to fit its agenda — I will translate more of this later). Nowadays, it seems, reportáge became synonymous with creative writing.

This reminds me of Byzantine History class² in my undergaduate school, in which we used so-called “blue books” for exams. They were regular composition books used in Universities; on their front page was written, “Use your imagination”. We used to joke about how your imagination is the last thing you want to use on a history exam. On the other hand, using imagination is what I seemed to do most on Organic Chemistry exams. I was too lazy to study boring combinations of reactions and stupidly memorize them, so in the end, I just “filled in” missing details. This seems to be what half of journalist lying is all about — just laziness to check one’s facts and get acquainted with the topic. The other half is about purposely twisting the truth to make it fit one’s agenda.
Ischapcha: in the teachings of Chabad Chassidus, an act of transforming something from negative to positive without breaking its form, as opposed to iskafiya, which involves subjugation of something and nullification of it to a higher will. Forcing a slave to work or breaking a knife so it wouldn’t be used for murder is iskafiya. Transforming the slave into a hired hand who works through his own will or using the knife to cut bread instead of killing is ischapcha. Of course, in my example, the nature of a journalist is not transformed.

² Taught by one of the best history professors.


A disease looks different when it occurs in each individual: obviously, its appearance depends not only on the etiology (the pathogen, the mutation, the poison, the chemical imbalance, the injury), but also on the individual’s body and its environment. Yet we are able to classify diseases, because for the most part, two cases of schizophrenia, although differing in details, will follow similar course and have similar symptoms.

It is interesting how antisemitism manifests itself through very similar symptoms every time. One of them is blaming Jews and Judaism for things like Communism. Tzemach Atlas’s antisemitism seems to have progressed to this stage. Yet he started from going slightly off the derech (it all starts when you give up the structure — more about this later). Which makes me wonder: can we trace active antisemitism¹ to a deeper level of self-hatred and frustration? (If so, later Christian Bible authors seem to have been suffering from it.)
¹ As opposed to passive one. Active antisemitism is a deeper, more intellectual (kivyachol) form. People who rationalize their antisemitism with pseudo-intellectual historical or social hypotheses are active antisemites. Passive ones, on the other hand, hate Jews simply because they are different: speak different language, wear different clothes, live together and don’t mix with others (or are richer and successful). Usually, they don’t know anything about Jews and would equally hate other nationalities were they in the Jews’ position.    ddd

Jews obsessing over politics (and watching sports)

Hesh writes in FrumSatire about “Jewishness of the Obama and McCain campaigns”. This Jewish obsession with politics very much annoys me.
Another example of this political [censored]:

A campaign button on her lapel says, in Hebrew, “Barack Obama ‘08” and Soifer explains the agenda this way: “We are here today to talk about Sen. Barack Obama and Joe Biden’s record, and to ensure that Baruch Obama is elected the next president of the United States. 
Her use of the Hebrew name Baruch brings applause and laughter. The heavy turnout showed Democratic enthusiasm, but several of those on hand said they were former Hillary Clinton supporters and some of their friends were still slow to warm to Obama.

The first time I read this, I almost puked.

Many Jews don’t realize that we are primarily citizens of the Jewish State — no, not the modern Israel, but the Jewish theocratic state established by Yehoshua and then re-established after the first golus. Yes, it doesn’t exist today physically, but that merely means that we are a state in exile (ever heard of golus?), with government in exile (the rebbeim from the times of Mishna till now, who are spiritual and legal descendants of the Sanhedrin, the real Jewish government body) and still legally bound to obey its laws (ever heard of halacha?).

It is just like Poland during WWII: they too had people in exile and government in exile. While returning to Poland was impossible (since it was occupied by a hostile government — like Eretz Yosroel has been for the duration of the last golus), Poles in exile with their government-in-exile were residing in England. As a result, they had a situation of dual citizenship: Polish and British — which meant that while living in the UK they had to follow its laws (obviously) and have minimal level of participation in the society to repay UK for its hospitality (pay taxes, learn English, participate in local business, when possible contribute to overall welfare of the society). But why would a Pole in exile become emotionally invested into who gets elected to the UK Parliament and become really involved in the election campaign?

Hello, people? We are here temporarily, while our home is destroyed and we are waiting for it to be rebuilt. We appreciate the hospitality of this nation, we repay it by being minimally involved and contributing to the overall stability of society — but this is not our home!

This is just from historical point of view. Obviously, from yiddishkeit point of view, it is not a Jew’s business to be involved in the goyishe society’s affairs at all — except when minimally necessary: to support oneself and one’s family, for example. Our main goal and essence of existence is serving Hashem.

The possible exception to this is when Jewish lives (physical or spiritual) are clearly and obviously at stake and depend on a particular government being elected (or not elected). For example, today in Israel. Or in Russia during the election, in which Frierdiker Rebbe urged Jews to vote against Bolsheviks. Or when the Alter Rebbe supported Alexander I over Napoleon. Today, however, election of the particular president — though it may be important for the economy, long-term stability of the country and the world, etc., will not have an immediate effect on Jews. So, unless one believes that Obama (or McCain — although, I am not sure, why) being elected will clearly increase the rate of assimilation or will lead to Jewish lives being lost in a direct way (G-d forbid), I don’t see how one can justify obsession with politics.

Also, if someone tells me: “I am actively supporting McCain because Obama being elected will increase chances of nuclear war [or international terrorism, major war against Israel, more Jews succumbing to liberalism, etc.]”, I will not have such a major problem. I also will not have a problem if people are interested in politics as an academic interest, in passing. Yet, most people who support Obama and McCain in the above example do so because they are emotionally involved in the American politics (“Baruch Obama”, [censored]), because they identify with the particular candidate not from Jewish point of view, or because they intellectually agree with him, but because they are emotionally invested. This is a major problem.

The same thing is true about sport. Especially baseball. Liking to play sport is a good thing: Jews are supposed to stay healthy; “healthy mind in healthy body” and all that — and a Jew certainly needs a healthy mind; a good way to blow off steam and stress; a good way to take a break, etc. Enjoying an occasional sports game (especially soccer :) is bittul Torah, but I can live with it (the same way I can live with a Jew enjoying ice cream). Having a favorite soccer, football or basketball team, however, is already a problem: now you’re getting involved in this emotionally.

Now, in case of baseball, it is impossible to be interested in a baseball game, unless you know who is batting, making a run, etc. — the game in itself has no dynamics, no flow (football has little flow too, but it has more of it than baseball, and at least there is some strategy there, for those who know what is going on). So, I have no problem with a Jew playing baseball — it is no different from any other sport in that sense. A Jew watching baseball, however, is definitely problematic. He is similar to a Pole refugee living in the UK during WWII suddenly starting to have a favorite cricket team. An embarrassment, in other words.

(By the way, the owner of the web-site Hesh wrote about that sells those politicized kippas wrote this article in support of Rubashkins. A real chossid.)