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April 26, 2013 2:54 pm

Boston, Cameras, and Civil Liberties

avatar by Jeremy Rosen

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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Photo: FBI.

America is a crazy land of contradictions, and yet if ever there was an argument in favor dysfunction, the USA is it.

Enough of its senators could not agree to require its citizens to be checked before being allowed to buy guns. Or put it another way, this is a democracy where the National Rifle Association can buy enough senators to carry out its wishes. And which normal healthy state could possibly object to limiting the size and arsenals of guns readily available to the ordinary man and woman in the street? No state except for the United States of America. And this regardless of how many mentally unstable mass murderers have already killed so many innocents, how many tragedies have occurred, or that the death from gun-inflicted wounds is so massively higher than anywhere else on earth. As they say, “You cannot be serious.”

OK, so the Right is crazy. What about the Left? A few weeks ago, two brothers set off bombs at the Boston Marathon that killed three and caused some of the most horrific injuries to innocent bystanders it has been my unfortunate lot to see on television (and outside Israel). They were apprehended before they could execute their planned campaign of violence only because security cameras caught them on video. In Boston, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) had successfully blocked the city from placing cameras in the city center public places and had prevented others from being activated because, they argued, it was in breach of civil liberties. Fortunately, private stores had their cameras turned on and it was thanks to those of Lord & Taylor that the terrorists were identified and so quickly. Yet still the ACLU continues to campaign against cameras in public places. They too are either misguided or naïve ideologues. How can we deal with evil, amoral enemies with our hands tied behind our backs? Surely safety overrides libertarian considerations. Indeed according to Hobbes (whom the Founding Fathers admired), this is the very basis of society. We give up freedoms. We accept taxes and limitations precisely as the price for protection and safety. OK, so they don’t agree with Hobbes, but I do! Besides, if you are doing nothing illegal in a public place what have you got to fear? No one has suggested putting cameras in the homes and bedrooms of American citizens (without a court order).

The ACLU mentality is of the same breed as the refusal of so many sections of US society to accept that this kind of violence is indeed a product of Islam. What Islam was intended to be, or was once, is not what huge swathes of it are now. Similarly in Judaism, what was intended and how many practice it or don’t, is a far cry from its ideal past. Are we to pretend all is healthy and rosy in our garden and not admit what is distorted? Should we say that the religious anti-Zionists who demonstrate with our enemies are not really Jews? I might like to, but it won’t help. I thank the Lord they don’t explode bombs. But political correctness prevents dealing with issues and only prolongs the agony.

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Western states are irrational and all but ungovernable. They encompass so many radically different ideologies, ethnic and religious groups, so many contrasting ways of life. Somehow they find ways, through trial and error, of coping. They are more popular places to live in those countries which are controlled and commanded, whether by religion or political ‘isms’ which stand in the way of progress and resolution and only delay transformation.

Yet I believe good governance requires a spiritual, ethical dimension. If I had to put my finger on why the USA has been relatively successful, it is precisely because its founding ethical utilitarianism was combined with a spiritual persuasion, even if it was antinomian and separated officially from state.

To return to civil liberties, nothing better illustrates the difference between a Jewish religious standpoint and the values of the ACLU. Once I believed it had a vital role to play, like the unions. But now, like the unions, they have betrayed their mandate, and they stand in the way of progress rather than for it. Its prevailing spirit is to enthrone individuality over all other else. And while I agree with the importance of individuality, it cannot be the overriding principle in a communitarian world.

Our religious culture assumes we do need checks and balances, a restraining principle. This is provided not just by our moral system, but also by the idea that we are always being watched. As the Mishna in Avot says, “Think of three things and you’ll never go wrong; an eye is looking, an ear is hearing and everything is being recorded.” Now they were not thinking of the FBI but they were thinking of God and of course the obvious difference between them is corruption.

In our tradition, having someone look over your shoulder is a good thing. In my Musar Yeshiva (Musar is the ethical religious movement introduced into Lithuanian yeshivot to raise the moral and spiritual level of yeshivah students, started by Rav Israel Salanter 1810-1883), we were all allocated a senior student to keep an eye on us during the day and to tell us in the evening what we had done that was inappropriate or whether there was anything, any characteristic, that could be bettered. We called that moral training. It is no bad thing to imagine that everything is being recorded.

As the Talmudic giant Rebbi Yossi once said, “All my life I have never said anything and then had to turn round to see if anyone was listening.” How many of us can say that! Indeed, how many regret half the comments and photos they allowed to go up on Facebook and now feel embarrassed or ashamed! It would be no bad thing to have a friendly heavenly voice telling us when to watch out. In our tradition we have security cameras. God is watching. We live with it! But for others the mechanical kind is better than nothing.

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  • Mark Jay Mirsky

    Dear Rabbi Rosen,

    I have been thinking about your remarks about the Boston Marathon bombings since reading your incisive article, which provoked a back and forth of questions to myself. I have always considered myself, as the son of my father (a member of the Massachusetts Legislature in the late 1940’s and 1950’s) a liberal. As a novelist, freedom of the imagination and individual freedom, including freedom from an overweening scrutiny, is a cherished ideal. I have watched what seemed to me at first, an incredible expansion of individual possibilities to explore, including the secret, unwholesome, even disgusting and appalling aspects of the world through the internet; begin, often for very good reasons, to come under the eye of the government. Everything we say, every place we visit through the internet, is subject to review, collection, dissemination. Whereas our mail, previously, required the intervention of the judiciary, to examine, it seems as if almost all electronic communication (I remain a primitive in this respect, relying almost solely on e-mail, unlike my children) can be collected, sorted, searched. I not only agree with you, Rabbi Yossi, and Mussar, that “God is watching” but feel the presence of the Omniscient Unknown of Jewish tradition watching my life, judging, though I could never claim to have lived as Rabbi Yossi does. ( My mother in more homely terms repeatedly gave me the advice to conduct myself so). The Holy One’s watching however, has always seemed to me a deep, private if unescapable and unambiguous reckoning. You may recall the saying from Avot, “Don’t make yourself known, to those in power.” I quoted in once in a Hesped for a friend who passed away far too early, but who in his profession as the national editor of the Washington Post kept his distance from the Administrations, whether Republican or Democrat, in order to criticize and to publicize what he felt was wrong. Inevitably he was accused of compromising the security of the American Government, but in fact, he was serving as an independent security camera. Could he and other reporters have exposed some of the dangers to American civil society if the government had been able to watch their every move? The abuse of power that J. Edgar Hoover committed as head of the F.B.I. is a case in point. The Watergate controversy is another.
    It is not only corruption that makes government scrutiny questionable, but the fact that the laws of society that governments enforce change. One decade’s definition of criminal activity, is not necessarily another’s. Murder and robbery are always crimes, but social behavior, not to mention religious practice, pose many difficult questions. The ability of Jews, practicing Judaism, to avoid scrutiny in certain historical eras has been crucial to the survival of Jewish life.
    I cite these only as instances of caution, because like you, I think that there the decision not to install security cameras in public places, given the demonstrated will of religious zealots to wreak mass havoc on American society, is now a mistake. Without the private cameras you mention would the bombers, unrecognized, have gone on to New York City? In the future, public events that bring large groups of people together are obviously subject to threats. Just as banks are always subject to being robbed, and no one questions the use of cameras, we must now regard marathons, baseball games, public festivals, as zones of danger. Some places like New York’s Times Square seem to hold a continuous fascination for demented radicals. How to protect our privacy, our personal space, in this new world, must be the subject of continual debate. The American right to privacy is one of the marks of truly democratic society. We need new laws to sift the information that is collected so as to protect individual privacy as far as possible without losing the ability to sift it when there is an obvious threat to public safety.
    I hope I don’t come to regret, however, posting this, since the phenomenon of listening, is endemic to the Web. This is really just a note to you, to thank you for provoking me to think about the issues.

    • Jeremy

      Mark
      Thank you so much for that considered response. I completely accept your thesis.

      Yes you are right. There is always the danger of “authority” or in your quote “Reshut.”The examples you gave of Hoover and Watergate are I think examples of where Government has an unfair hand and the odds are stacked in its favor. The upside of the internet is that so much is now available and easily accessible that it is now much harder to pull the wool over people’s eyes ( that’s why autocracies like China feel the need to control it).

      To give one relevant example in Judaism; you know the scandalous degree to which in the Charedi world anything not politically or religiously correct has in recent years been censored. Inconvenient Teshuvot, contrarian attitudes examples of ‘The Great’ doing things no longer allowed like reading secular books or holding currently unfavorable religious or political views have simply been left out of editions of response or biographies of major authorities from the past. Now we all have access to originals on the internet and we can see for ourselves what is being censored, as courageous men like Marc Shapiro and others beaver away to reveal.

      Censorship never works. Never has. Freedom of access, knowledge and opinion is the safeguard and technology is helping this as much as it is endangering it. I well recall the arguments over Television in Jewish homes and then the Internet. Technology will not disappear. We will not return to the past. But we have to learn how to use it responsibly and that is the challenge facing all parents and teachers nowadays. Technology increases access but also opens up so much more to abuse on both sides if the political and governmental divide.

      There are no perfect solutions. Never have been. Life is concerned with compromises and accommodations.
      I hear the arguments in this country about the terrible dangers about to befall us. The prophets of doom are exaggerating as they always did. I simply cannot take the conspiracy theorists seriously either on privacy or guns for that matter. Do we really think the Government will turn on its citizens en masse? Are the British coming back ? Do we need David Crocket or the Montana Backwoodsmen to protect us from Government slavery???

      I prefer the USA to Europe despite its lunacies precisely because (at this moment at any rate) it is still less controlling than Europe. And I am glad there are conflicting lobbies and interest groups. We always need to be reminded of the other side’s concerns. But even if Government swings further into debt, dependency, entitlement, big government and the nanny state, neither guns nor banning cameras will turn it back. Free and informed citizenship will. Checks and balances!!!

      Jeremy

  • Rabbi Moshe Pesach Geller

    I pray your not Mickey Rosen’s, z”l brother. He’d be turning over in his rave. I understnd why your a rabbi in a ‘small’ commnity. You know what SHlomo sai about rabbi’s? They’re RAh, but they get BI!

    • Jeremy

      I am afraid your prayers have not been answered and I am indeed Mickey z”l’s elder brother. I very much doubt he is turning in his grave but you are very welcome to your point of view.
      J
      PS I choose ‘small’ because I do not much care for ‘big’!

  • Rabbi Moshe Pesach Geller

    It says there 4 comments. But only 3 appear.

    • Judya

      Rabbi Geller,

      that is because they have a software glitch and just threw out a comment of mine, saying “you are posting comments two quickly, please slow down” ,
      Yes that is the error msg I got, is 48 hours too quickly?

    • GAON

      Rabbi Geller,

      Algemeiner has a software glitch. They cancelled a comment with “you are posting comments too quickly please slow down”. Is 48 hours too quickly?
      Not to talk about that extremely annoying sign up for our newsletter box which is a constant pop-up, no matter how many times one signs up for the newsletter. Ner Tamid, LOL.
      This is a “beta” version it says on first page, A programmer with an IQ of 100 could fix the pop-up for them. As for, “you are posting comments too quickly, slow down, and bouncing my coment, well, there is no excuse for that. I am sure they have a comment queue, for comments awaiting moderation. Any software programmers out there willing to volunteer. I am retired programmer, and BKLYN is too far away.

  • Rabbi Moshe Pesach Geller

    I can’t believe you wrote what you wrote! You actually trust the American Government to operate on Torah standards? Remember Ben Franklin who said: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    And try this on for size: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/130456/the-real-threat-to-america?utm_source=tabletmagazinelist&utm_campaign=890785d39e-4_24_2013&utm_medium=email

    And this: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=477238632358373&set=a.362561847159386.84375.361783440570560&type=1&theater

    And this: http://www.policymic.com/articles/22837/ndaa-what-obama-hoped-you-wouldn-t-notice-about-this-bill

    • Jeremy

      You can turn Ben F round and say that giving up a little liberty for a lot of safety is certainly worth it.
      No of course I do not expect America or any other State to follow halachic guidelines. Religious choice is the hallmark of a free society and I prefer free societies with all their dangers and temptations to controlled ones.

      But I do expect Torah values to inform and to guide my personal actions and my attitide to life.

      Ever since Shmuel’s dictum of Dina DeMalchuta our lives have always been a modulation and interaction between different systems, albeit of different weight and priority.

      J

      • Rabbi Moshe Pesach Geller

        Why wuld I want to turn Franklin’s statement. It’s a profound truth. Oh! I forgot! You’re a Galut Jew; sold out, inside out. Anyone who learns from you are putting their lives in danger. You speak of Yiddishe values? How about Amalek? Or his grand-father, Esav. That’s who you’re putting you trust in. Just let it be clear to you: Someone asked Reb Shlomo: “Do you buy products from Germany?” Remember, Shlomo was born in Berling. He saw before, the rise and after and lost so much of his family in the Churban. He answered: “Why? Do you think America’s any better?” What was he saying? There was Greece and there was Rome. America started out Greece, and it will end up Rome.

        • Jeremy

          If I understood what the heck you were talking about I might be better able to respond.
          J

          • Rabbi Moshe Pesach Geller

            Well you’ve succeeded. You have arrived at small. And Mickey would be appalled at the willingness to trust in government. Reb Shlobo said: “Ever see anyone calling themselves an intellectual? Ever see anyone walk around with just a head?” Reb Shlomo cut through the obtuseness of intellectual dependency to the kishkes of an inyan. So the quote above was about seeing America beyond the levush. He also said: “The worst evil in the world is the evil disguised as goodness.”

            Boston was an exersize in Martial Law, essentially asking, ‘Can we get away with it and will the people willingly invite it?’ See the forward to the 1946 edition of Huxley’s “Brave New World.” He wrote: “There is, of course, no reason why the new totalitarianism should resemble the old. Government by clubs and firing squads, by artificial famine, mass imprisonment and mass deportation, is not merely inhumane (nobody cares much about that nowadays); it is demonstrably inefficient and in an age of advanced technology, inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost. A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors and schoolteachers.”

            America has found a way to get their people to love their slavery, consequently, totalitarianism will arrive ex post facto.

            But from a small community one can’t see the forest, only the local trees. Myopia is endemic. Imagine sitting on the moon and having ‘Nevua’dik’ eyes and watch the assault of the Constitution, the slow repeal of civil liberties and the progression to totalitarianism.

            BTW I HATE GUNS. I don’t even swell with pride anymore seeing Israeli read: Jewish tanks and fighter jets and Chayalim. And I would love in principle to see no more guns. But America fosters violence. If the 1% own 90%, that doesn’t leave much for anyone else. Yet it also fosters the illusion that anyone can get to be part of the 1%. That engenders frustration and anger and the lack of justice and the bottom most of the 90% will indeed, resort to violence.

            However, now the violence is coming from the middles class in ever increasing degrees. Mark my words: One day, all too soon, they will come to the homes to confiscate the guns. And the revolution will be on. And you know who always get it first.

            I spent 5 years travelling the U.S. – 47 States. I’ve been to places that Jews have never been before and will never be again. Imagine a circle, with Bloods and Cripts, Native Americans, Militiamen, Aryan Racers, Conservative, Libertarians, standing on the extremes of the circle. They all believe in conspiracy theories and all thinking they’re against them. Te one unifying fact? It’s us. The Jews that are behind it all. Who do you think they’re going to come after?

            Now you get it?

          • Rabbi Moshe Pesach Geller

            Here’s the link: Read it. It borders on Nevua. You know: Being able to see?

            http://www.mrtom.com/quotes/huxley_essay.htm

    • GAON

      Rabbi Geller:
      A voice of reason. If nothing else works there is aways a new executive order. The amount of hollow core shells (ammo) being purchased on an ongoing basis by the DHS, Dept of Homeland Security is frightening, even the SSA (social security administration purchased 175K versus the over 2 billion rounds by DHS. These numbers may be obsolete. (i do not check them daily).
      Pass anti-gun laws, while the DHS is preparing for terrorists? They (expletive deleted) could not even prevent the Boston massacre, by two youngsters currently under investigation by the FBI. Since 9/11 there have been at least five terrorist attacks perpetrated by terrorists being then currently investigated by the FBI.
      Thinking about the consequences makes one want to consider joining the Charedi Talibanim in “eretz yisrael”, AKA Medinat Yisrael. Excuse my black humor.
      Call me paranoid. watch the daily, weekly purchase of hollow core by DHS. They are not intended to be used against illegal aliens crossing the borders, oops illegal alien is now politically incorrect (PC). they have two new terms, acronyms.
      And finally, kivyachol, saying anything at all against the government, even criticizing taxes can get one on the anti-terrorist list. I do not have documentary proof of that statement, but last I read, again, non-substantiated was that it was 300K strong and growing. And the TSA has hired felons, not to talk about sexual abusers.

  • Noam

    Your article makes sense! WEll said.

  • BlueShadowII

    Your use of the word ‘governance’ and, indeed, your entire essay, demonstrate a lack of understanding of or just disagreement with our American reason for government. While you seem to think governments exist to control the population, we believe that government exists only to protect the population.

    • GAON

      BlueShadowII

      I am in total agreement with you: you nailed the essence of the distortion. I am not as articute. And, unfortunately, we seem to be progressing (sic) farther and farther towards that control.
      In fact is occurring on every level of government, all the way down to the Mayor of NYC.
      What is that they say about the fish?

    • Jeremy

      On the contrary. I think Governments exist primarily to help and protect people. The massive number of gun deaths ( and I include suicides) indicate that Government is not doing a good job. By nature I am a libertarian until I see liberties damaging other humans. Too many and easily available guns lead to more damage not less invasion of personl freedoms. A child killed in cross fire has no liberty left.
      J

      • GAON

        Jeremy:
        This response is limited to your comments about suicide. Most suicides are not enacted by guns. A late 20’s Jewish young women, initials SB with many similar on paper credentials to mine, jumped from the 30th floor roof of her lower Manhattan bldg. early in the morning a few months ago. Beautiful, Jewish.
        March 15, the Forward carried a story about a 44 year old Jewish lawyer earning an excellent living, who jumped from the 8th floor of her Harlem apt. with her 10 month old baby attached to her., baby, agav, survived. Nes. I foresee 50 years on a therapeutic couch.
        More recently a 9 year old hung herself from the shower rod in her house, depressed that her parents had had a new baby. She had expressed the desire to kill herself and was in therapy.
        Per New York Magazine several weeks ago, approximately 150 or so people are hit by subway cars each year in NY, and 55 of those died last year. (how many were accidents??).
        A very excellent Jewish internist I used many years ago, drank a bottle of scotch and jumped out the window. It appears that despite all sorts of warnings, it is really difficult to commit suicide with pills, no matter the quantity. And you think people are committing suicide with guns? To be sure, it would be less bloody, and easier for the chevra kaddisha or hatzola or whoever, to scrape up all of the remains. Please do get informed before making clearly incorrect statements. Frankly, I am not in the habit of arguing with people, who otherwise merit much respect. And I do not enjoy doing this. but emet is emet, and wishful thinking or knee-jerk delusions are just not acceptable. I am not a “person of community respect” although I assure you that on paper, I am impressive, educationally. I do not enjoy taking you to task for your errors. And, I had not initially intended to do that.
        I will let someone else respond to some of your other points. This does not give me any pleasure, I assure you,
        GAON

        • Jeremy

          Gaon

          I assure you I welcome disagreement. Its the only way one can make intellectual progress and examine ones own ideas, so please don’t hold back.

          I also understand that on certain issues such as guns, feelings run high and there is a cultural disconnect. I know there are statistics and statistics and each side is convinced his or hers are the right ones. But if you check our Wikipedia you will find the following

          “In 2009, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 66.9% of all homicides in the United States were perpetrated using a firearm.[5] There were 52,447 deliberate and 23,237 accidental non-fatal gunshot injuries in the United States during the year 2000.[6] Two-thirds of all gun-related deaths in the United States are suicides. In 2010, there were 19,392 firearm-related suicide deaths, and 11,078 firearm-related homicide deaths in the United States.[7] In the United States, firearms remain the most common method of suicide, accounting for 50.7% of all suicides committed in 2006.[19]”

          Jeremy

          • GAON

            Jeremy:
            Re your suicide statistics from Wikipedia, they certainly are accurate as you quoted for the given years. (At least per the sources used).
            Statistics are a strange malleable entity.
            From Wikipedia, also just some random additional “facts”:
            “Law Center to prevent Gun violence” April 2013 (and notice that this is written after the Connecticut school massacre), “This report as others before it demonstrate a strong link between state gun laws and gun violence,,,.. they added that “THIS LINK DID NOT IMPLY CAUSE AND EFFECT”.

            next, still wiki, different source, ONLY (my word) “eight of the states with the highest level of gun violence were among the 25 with the weakest gun laws”

            next, In Hong Kong and Singapore, where as many as 90% of population live in hi-rise buildings or have easy access to them, jumping is by far the method of choice. Easily accessible and assuredly lethal. Also common among youths whose suicides are often impulsive. Jumping represent 80% of suicides in Hong Kong, and only 50% in Singapore due to competition from other methods perceived as more appealing (er… seems like charcoal burning is desirable (?).

            Easy access seems to be the key, and large cities with many hi-rise bldgs attract jumping. Which may explain what appears to be an increasing phenomenon in NYC.

            One study in US DID NOT find a statistically signicant association between household firearms and gun suicide rates, except among children,
            ages 5-14.

            FINALLY, I think most telling are two separate studies in Canada and Australia conducted in conjunction with more restrictive firearms legislation, which showed a decrease in firearm suicides, BUT AN INCREASE IN OTHER METHODS such as hanging. In Australia, the overall rate of suicide, post institution of stricter gun laws, continued along an increasing trend, and did not decrease until major measures aimed at suicide prevention were implemented. So add Canada and Australia to Chicago and DC.

            I will stop. It seems that where there is a will to commit suicide, people find a way, be it pesticides, hanging, self immolation, whatever. Hanging is the most common method in many Asian coutries and also in many western countries.
            (as an aside, men use guns far more often than women). Women seem to prefer pesticides and other toxic substances.
            ——————————————
            LET US PRAY THAT THE SUPER CHAREDIM in Israel, who are being called upon to commit suicide rather than be drafted do not follow their cult leader, and let us pray that the Charedi leader calling for civil law due to changes in laws re Women at the Wall, and let us pray that the “downtown” SATMAR Rabbi (sic) who just in Yerushalayim in last day or so called upon 10,000 cult followers not to participate in the elections in Israel because the Zionists are SATAN, AMALEK and must be fought, let us pray that they all take there meds. Luvox (only SSRI appproved for OCD) in the water system in Charedi shecunot. If they follow their leaders, and commit suicide rather than be drafted per the new guide published, which also calls for a mesirah phone line if another bocher is planning to agree to the draft (this is Judaism???) then how will they conduct that Civil War being called for by Shmuel Rabinowitz of the wall, and who will fertilize the huge numbers of marriagable age Charedi ‘LEFT=OVER” women whose potential shidduchim have either committed suicide or died in a civil war fighting their fellow Jews. (certainly not those who prefer pre-pubescent boys). And one is forced to conclude that these cults believe that civil war with their fellow Jews is preferable to the draft where they might actually have to PROTECT THEIR FELLOW YIDDEN and potentially kill the real enemy, the real Rodfim the Moslems intent on wiping Israel off the face of the earth (and all Christians as well). WHEW.

  • GAON

    http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/crime-rates-in-chicago-and-dc-drop-after-gun-control-laws-are-struck-down-2/

    Rabbi Rosen,
    This is a very intelligent very well thought out essay, and I certainly am not erudite enough to discuss many of it’s aspects with you. However, I do believe that much of the anti-gun knee-jerk reactions in this country are emotionally based and not based on hard statistics.
    Crime in DC and in Chicago dropped significantly after gun control laws were struck down. I am not a cognescenti on the subject, but I do suggest that much of the anti-gun sentiment is misguided, empirically. And based on false misguided wishful thinking or brainwashing, Just food for thought.
    With all due respect.

    • Jeremy

      Dear Gaon
      You may be right, a lot of the response on both sides is visceral, cultural and often ignores statistics, though I dont see how you can argue with the astronomical number of gun deaths of all sorts in the USA compared to almost anywhere else.

      I confess I just dislike tools of violence. Indeed isnt that why no metal was allowed in building the Mizbeach and then the Temple and why we have a custom cover the knife at the Shabbes table?

      I accept the self defence argument but we do now have reasonably effective Law and Order agencies in many places and I assure you I felt no less safe when I lived in the UK with its very very strict gun laws.

      Jeremy

      • GAON

        “I just dislike tools of violence”. Well, yes, any rational moral person does. Halevai that the criminals and terrorists would feel similarly. In your utopian world, they would. And they always have access to “tools of violence.” And chas v’chalila (sic) they can’t find a gun, there are always bombs.

        And re “reasonably effective Law and Order agencies in many places” have you calculated the number of various law and order agents, from a variety of different agencies who were at the Marathon? Including private firms like Blackwater. Have you watched frame by frame videos of the events, I assure you that there are a plethora of videos online, and it would be difficult to make the case that they were all photoshopped.
        I would love to live in your dream world, emess. And finally at least you didn’t tell us, that Hashem won’t let anything happen to his people. One point for that.

        • Jeremy

          Yes Gaon, I do understand your position. I just prefer mine.
          Similar arguments could be used in Britain. And although I am no uncritical fan of Britain, their gun death rate is 0.25% of the population but Americas is 10.20%
          J

          • GAON

            Jeremy,
            You have some very very major error, maybe in decimal point, 10.2 percent of the American population dying by guns????????? You are not serious, are you?
            According to the FBI betwen 2006-2010, 47,856 people were murdered in US. If you even double that for suicide, you are eons away from 10.2 percent of the population. And that was over 5 years or so. Current population (well mid 2011, I’m being lazy) is around 311.8 million. The 47,856 murders and double it if you like actually add more, and that is over 5 years. Maybe go back and figure out the decimal points?
            You know, the only class I ever took in the philosophy dept at UPENN was symbolic logic which for some reason was in the Phil. dept. it was a blast. Intended for mathphobes, I took it for fun having done 3 semester of calculus. Please figure out how you arrived at your number. I hope if you happen to place online orders for stocks that you are more cautious.

          • GAON

            Jeremy: YOU HAVE a MAJOR ERROR IN THE ABOVE POST, April 29, 2013 @12:55PM

            The table in wikipedia where you found the 10.2 number for the US, specifically states that these are numbers per 100,000 population. THAT DOES NOT REPRESENT A PERCENT, The current population of the US is roughly 316,000,000, or 316 million in words.. The death rate of 10.2 is per 100,000 population not a percentage but a number of deaths (individuals) per a specific population base. The total deaths from firearms in 2010 in the UNITED STATES was approximately 31,672. One must always be alert if numbers on a chart are percentages or absolute numbers per some base number, (100,000) in this case, which is often used as a baseline for comparisons. The gun death rate of the population in the US annually is many magnitudes lower than 10.2% of the population.
            Now, I will leave you to do the math, 10.2 deaths per 100,000 population. Total population in 2010 was approximately, as I wrote 316 million. Actually, the total population has no bearing on the percentage but does, of course, correlate with the total gun deaths for the year, as one would expect, mathematically
            And you are correct re the UK having one of the lowest rates in the world.
            Have a Good Shabbos.
            GAON

    • Jeremy

      Whew indeed!
      The first part reinforces my contention that you can marshal statistics to support any point of view.

      The second part I would agree with entirely but for your rather cavalier and perhaps excessive use of derogatory language. But then maybe religious leaders who express themselves so ludicrously deserve their fate.
      J

      • Jeremy

        Thank you for the correction.
        J

      • GAON

        Jeremy:
        I was unnecessarily cavalier and even sarcastic, I admit, mea culpa, however a careful rereading reveals no derogatory language
        whatsoever. None, Please reread .

        I am always interested in learning from scholarly people who are erudite in areas that interest me, and and as such, I started reading your blog last night. Fascinating article on Shabtai Zvi, who I of course know of, as a false messiah, but basically nothing more. I was a bit appalled to see in your first paragraph, “anyone who thinks Zionism is a response to the Holocaust is just an “IGNORANT FOOL”!! And that coming from a Rabbi. To say that i was aghast is an understatement.

        I did not use derogatory language AT ALL PLEASE REREAD, but I was unnecessarily sarcastic. I was going to withdraw that comment or cut it in half, particularly after I had written the second one, which was published a bit later, which specifically explains the source of your error. After reading your “drasha” I thought that my minor (yes, but unnecessary, mea culpa) sarcasm paled in significance. And I just let it stand preprint, premoderation, unmodified.
        PLEASE REREAD, I regret the sarcasm but there is NO derogatory language.
        OTOH, “ignorant fool” used in a drasha or blog is unnecessarily mean-spirited but I do not know who your audience is/was; perhaps you have no respect for the readers of your blog??

        • Jeremy

          No offence takem I assure you.
          My comment about “Ignorant fools” was directed at Obama for his speech in Cairo in which he gave the Holocaust as the ONLY justification for Israel’s existence.
          I am glad to say that since then he has publicly accepted the ancient and historic ties!
          Shabbat Shalom
          J

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