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|Friday, September 23rd, 2016|
|Today's Mussar Drash: Why We Must Teach Women Halacha to Prevent Avodah Zarah
Or: Charedi Rebbis are screwing everything up for us.
This is written in my Yaakov Hamizrachi style. I'll try to provide suitable interpretation of the nuances.
Baruch haMakom Baruch hoo. Blessed be the Lord, blessed be He. Until today I was not worthy to understand that which is written in Kohelet: Al tihiyeh Tzadik harbeh, v'al titchakam, lamah tishomaim. (trans: Do not be overly righteous, nor make yourself too wise, why would you destroy yourself.") (Ecl. 7:16) But by the wicked it says: Al tihiye rasha harbeh, v'al tihiye sichlut, lama tamut b'lo itecha. ("Do not be overly righteous, nor be a fool, why would you die before your appointed time?") (Id. 7:17) For why should it be that if one is overly righteous or makes oneself too wise you will destroy yourself, but if one is wicked or foolish you will merely die before your time? Even if we understand how one can be "overly rightteous" or make oneself "too wise," how can it be that the outcome of such a thing is far worse than the outcome of wickdness or foolishness? For while the wicked or foolish merely die early, the overly righteous will destroy themselves.
Then I read this article: http://www.timesofisrael.com/ramat-gan-statue-attracts-women-hoping-to-conceive/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=2ef8db260b-2016_09_17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-2ef8db260b-54549337( Collapse )
|Monday, September 19th, 2016|
|Ted Cruz's Ridiculous Bill on The IANA Transition
It can be hard to stop something you don't understand.
Here is a link to the bill Ted Cruz is pushing to prevent the transfer of the IANA function to ICANN.https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/3034/text
It instructs NTIA not to let the IANA contract lapse. It has one flaw, what if IANA says "no thanks, we're not interested in renewing?"
In theory, the NTIA can then rebid the contract and find someone else to perform the "IANA function." But who cares? The recognized IANA will go with ICANN. Everyone will point to that. No one will give a crap about NTIA does, including NTIA.
This requires a longer blog post, but it is an illustration of how some things are based on a mutually assumed set of circumstances. The IANA contract worked, and ICANN worked, because it provided a way to resove a bunch of thorny political issues without everything falling apart. Those issues are resolved. Done now.
|Wednesday, September 14th, 2016|
|Tuesday, September 6th, 2016|
|As I keep saying, the fundamentals of political science in the US are changing
This Washington Post piece
outlines how political prognosticators are having such an incredibly difficult time predicting how things will come out this election year.
As I have been saying for some time, the underlying fundamentals on which the various predictive models are built are changing dramatically. And even for people like me who have been predicting this for years and trying to track the trends, we don't have nearly enough data on the new fundamentals (which are complicated, and intereact with a wide variety of other factors in ways no one has really gotten a handle on) to make solid predictions.
Start with what should be a basic question -- who turns out to vote this year? In what numbers? Why? If you simply recite about how older people vote more often than younger people, you are ignoring the huge swings between POTUS years and non-POTUS years. Further, now that the 70 year olds are from the first generation of voter participation decline, will we see the same trend of enhanced voter turn out for older Americans?
In some states, like North Carolina, the 4-4 Supreme Court decision allowing the stay of North Carolina's election law to stand has significant potential impsct. Same for TX. Does that mean models should enhance non-white participation? Or were the previous models failing to take voter supression into account.
By all conventional measures, the current election should not be happening. But it is. For those of us who study such things, it's a fun time. For those who make their living as professional prognosticators, it is quite unsettling. As I remarked on FB, it is rather like in Dune at the Battle of Arakeen, when prescience failed. The Guild spokesman looks at the Emperor and says: "We cannot tell how this will end."
|On the Death of Phyllis Schlafly
One of my favorite authors wrote: "Some attitudes couldn't be changed, they could only be outlived." Schlafly was a spokesperson for a particular time and era. Schlafly -- as far as I know -- never strayed outside the bounds of recognized debate in this country. She fought for her social views -- which at the time were more mainstream -- using the tools available in our democracy.
And, as we who defend the First Amendment and democracy hope, from this crucible of debate, a better truth emerged. For while she participated in several successful campaigns, such as to prevent passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, ultimately she emerged as on the wrong side of history. The principles that were taken as an unspeakable given when she was born: that homosexuality was a perversion and mental illness, that women were inherently different from men in a way that should convey to men greater formal economic and social power, are now only the opinions of self-styled conservatives who complain that the rest of society has left them behind.
I do not defend Schlafly. Her views were wrong and reprehensible and she defended them to the very end. But I would not make her worse than she was, and I recognize what she did is part of the process by which societies change. Just as virtue requires vice to become visible as virtue, the evolution of society requires visible debate to continue to form new consensus. Some attitudes cannot be changed, they can only be outlived. Let us hope we are at last outliving the attitude that sex or sexual orientation are relevant to competence or character.,
|Monday, September 5th, 2016|
|Review: Star Trek Beyond (Spoilers)
I am extremely annoyed by this film.
Why? Because until the last half hour or so, I could ignore all the "CinemaSin" type problems because the movie was fulfilling it primary function -- being a fun summer movie. Then, with about 30 or so miniutes left, it's like the "Boys (and I mean boys) in the C Suite" phoned down and said: "Hey, this is a big summer block buster and we're releasing it in 3D as well. We want you to change the ending so it makes absolutely zero sense, but gives us a huge space battle."
"But that makes no sense, and everyone has already seen a big space battle ending for the last two movies. Couldn't we have an intelligent ending."( Collapse )
|Tuesday, August 30th, 2016|
|Sunday, August 28th, 2016|
|A not very subtle allegory on sending Aaron off to Israel today
Once upon a time, I had a terrible headache. A very bad and distracting headache.
So I miniaturized myself and slipped into my ear. Making my way to my brain, I found the problem. A great big beautiful diamond was lodged in my brain.
It was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. It had thousands of little facets that caught and reflected the light. And every single one of those facets was razor sharp. It was unique. It was beautiful. And it was absolutely driving me crazy from the pain. Of course, I went up to grab hold of it and pull it out. But the tighter I held it and the harder I pulled it, the more it cut and hurt.
A peculiar thing. The diamond didn't seem too happy about it either. I know, diamonds don't have feelings. But this one did.
So I sat for awhile. The diamond getting more and more antsy and wiggly, cutting deeper and deeper into my brain and being more and more unhappy being stuck in my head and causing me more and more pain in the process. We sat glaring at each other for awhile, with my brain squarely between us.
Then I had an idea. I very gently, very tentatively, began to pull and wiggle the diamond. Not a hard grab like before. Not a massive full body hug. Just a gentle tug. The diamond was initially resistant. But after awhile it began to actually work with me. Gently rocking the diamond back and forth; the diamond rocking gently back and forth in my hand. After awhile, it hurt a lot less. The diamond seemed to be happier too.
Finally, with an audible pop. The diamond came free. Or freed itself. Either way, it no longer was cutting a giant hole in my brain. I took the diamond back out me ear and grew back to normal size. But this time, the Sun was setting. I held up the diamond and admired it in the sunset. It was, indeed, the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Unique among all the other gems of the Earth. Uncounted thousands of facets cast back the dying Sun's rays in rainbows of color, illuminating unexplored depths within the stone. I could spend hours holding it in my hand and admiring the shifts of brilliance every little shift of position or change of light would bring forth.
And as the Sun set and the Moon rose, I saw the stars emerge and understood. It wasn't a diamond. It was a baby star. A baby star had gotten stuck in my brain and, now that it was out beneath the sky, it needed to go back up to the Heavens.
Of course I didn't want it to go. Who would? If you held such a beautiful, perfect thing in your hand would you want to let it go.
But I knew if I held onto it to keep it from flying away, it would cut me again. I knew that I could hold it down for awhile in my fist, but then I wouldn't be able to see it. And trying to hold it back in my fist would be very painful for both me and the diamond. Also, I knew it belonged up there in the sky. I knew it would outshine all the other stars and give lots of light and joy to the rest of the world. I knew I really ought to let it go, and in the end I would have to let it go no matter what. But I still didn't want to let it go.
Then the diamond spoke to me. It thanked me for keeping it safe and showing it how to shine -- even the parts when it was cutting into my brain. It told me I wasn't really
letting go, because I would always be able to see it in the sky. And wherever I went, whenever I looked up, I would see the diamond. It would shine brighter and more beautiful than all the stars in the Heavens. And no matter how bright and how beautiful it shined for everyone else, it would always shine extra bright and beautiful for me.
I opened my hand and watched it rise, slowly but surely, into the sky.
|Saturday, August 27th, 2016|
|Thursday, August 25th, 2016|
|Link Harvest: ABA Proposed Rule Change
The ABA has proposed a change to its ethics rules that is creating a buzz.http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/professional_responsibility/scepr_report_to_hod_rule_8_4_amendments_05_31_2016_resolution_and_report_posting.authcheckdam.pdf
The actual language of the proposed rule change, which would make it an ethics violation to: "harrass or discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or socio-economic status in matters related to the practice of law" is not unreasonable (although I'm not clear on "socio-economic status"). What is troubling is to read the official comments (which are not themselves law, but are "guidance") and the accompanying essay of justification.
Essentially, it is clear that the majority of the committe which voted out the report, and the President of the ABA, would like to use ethics code to police conduct that cannot be policed in other ways. This includes a very broad definition of "related to the practice of law" to situations ranging from networking opportunities through social events sponsored by bar organizations, law schools or other "law related" events, to making work place harassment (including types not covered by state law) an ethics violation.
However much one may like the idea of purging jerks out of the practice of law, that is not the role of the ethics code -- and the intellectual justifications employed are, to be blunt, rather flimsy. When you are citing as precident for an expansive view of "the practice of law" the Clinton/Lewinsky disciplinary action by the AR Bar Association (which was widely regarded in the legal field as a travesty for its violation of precident and clear political motivation), then you are not standing on particularly firm ground (but I will give you points for irony for using Ken Starr to justify your anti-harassment policy).
In law, and in society generally, process really does matter. I grant there is a bunch of fuzziness about law and process. But the notes and report make it clear that this is not fuzzy.
|Monday, August 22nd, 2016|
|Another Tea Leaf In The Egypt/Saudi/Israel relationship.
So the Egyptian foreign Minister defended Israel's security practices to a bunch of Egyptian school children. Televised.http://www.timesofisrael.com/egypt-fm-defends-israel-says-policies-not-terrorism/
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and East Africa continue to drift toward a rapproachment with Israel. That will open the door for more explicit ties between Israel and the North African countries with which it has existing quasi-diplomatic relations.
At this point, the most steadfast anti-Israel countries in Africa are South Africa, whose ruling ANC party will not forgive Israel for maintaining relations with Apartheid SA until 1988, and Sudan. Other African nations (which have functioning governments) either have direct relations with Israel or quasi-recognition status.
The reasons why this change is going on are quite interesting and complicated, so of course no one is noticing. But if the trend continues, it may well be that there will be an Israel/Egypt/Saudi/East Africa national block opposed to an Iran/Iraq/Syria/Lebanon block with Jordan and Turkey acting as neutrals. As for the PA?
I expect that at some point in 3-5 years the Arab League, lead by Egypt and SA, will impose on the PA a peace deal similar to what Olmert offered Abbas back in '08 (which was similar to what Barak offered in '99), and will impose a unification on the PA by helping the PA retake Gaza.
Why? Again, somewhat complicated to explain. I may be getting too far ahead of myself. But the alternative is such a nasty, brutal mess in the Middle East that I'm hopeful.
|Friday, August 19th, 2016|
|Link Harvest: "Why Do Black Activists Care About Palestine?"
Good article from the Atlantic, although much of the money quote is buried in the middle.http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/why-did-black-american-activists-start-caring-about-palestine/496088/?utm_source=atltw"While many Jewish leaders disagree with this framing of history and the current situation on the ground in Israel and Palestine, what seems to matter to them almost as much is being singled out. While the platform names a number of nations, claiming they’ve been victimized by the United States’ colonial-style foreign policy, it condemns only one foreign government: Israel. The platform does not express sympathy with the Kurds in Iraq or the Rohingya in Burma; it does not condemn Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers or Saudi Arabia’s oppression of Shiite Muslims. Perhaps, just like the landlords and grocers and pawnshop brokers of New York, Israel is held to a different standard by black activists—because Jews, they think, should know better. Or perhaps the special focus on Israel traces back to the pan-African movement, or owes a debt to the prominence of pro-Palestinian activism on American campuses. Whatever the origin, the result is the same."
I will add a personal observsation. One of the more annoying things about trying to have nuanced discussions about what is happening in the middle east is that most people interested in it have little interest in even vaguely trying to understand what other people are saying because they are convinced they already know. Anyone from the AIPAC side of the argument or further right wing boils down to a rather simple line of reasoning: "They hate us. They all hate Jews and want to chase us into the sea." Anyone from J St. or further left on the spectrum has an equally simplistic line of reasoning: "Israel are oppressors, and simply oppress the Palestinians because, well, they are oppressors." Arguments between the two sides generally start with charges and counter charges and devolve from there into slogan shouting.
Mind you, such simplistic dichotomies are all too common these days. But it does make life rather frustrating for those of us who believe that good policy comes from recognition of the messiness of reality and trying to actually understand the real motivations of opponents.
I also like the fact that what irritates a number of us (me in particular) is that the progressive left (a) pretty much talks about Israel and Jews in the same way most white people talk about POC, and with the same angry defensiveness most white people show when you call them on it; and, (b) that this extends to the general lack of any contact with the Jewish community except for the safe circle of friends who totally agree with them about Israel. I just adored this bit from the article:"But it’s impossible to know how to listen to another group’s hurt when you don’t know any of its members; Bonsu [A #BLM Activist] said she does not know a single Jewish person who supports the state of Israel, although, as she pointed out, she is just one person."
Most progressives are as interested in genuine engagement with Jews who disagree on their harsh perspective on Israel as most conservatives are interested in engaging with black people who disagree with them. Listening to Ben Carson and voting in 2012 for Herman Cain in the primary does not magically refute the arguments of African Americans about the Republican Party and its impact on Black America. Likewise, the embrace of Neturei Kartah and Jews who agree with you about how Israeli is a colonial power that perpetrates genocide on Palestinians doesn't really give you insight into Jews that believe that Israel is the historic homeland of the Jews and that the mass return to Israel of Jews from around the world (including the majority of Israeli Jews, who are descended from Jewish Israelis who lived in Israel before the Zionist movement or are descended from Middle Eastern, Indian, or African Jewish communities) is a return to our ancestral home -- even if we oppose Israel's polcies toward the Palestinians, support a two-state solution, and condemn racist Israeli polcies wrt to either Jews of Color or non-Jews.
|Wednesday, August 17th, 2016|
|Monday, August 15th, 2016|
|Link Harvest: Yotam Marom on Being Secular Jewish Progressive
And discovering that, yes, being Jewish means coming from a historically oppressed and marginalized people with all the baggage that brings and how to deal with the rapidly emerging ugliness on the left.https://medium.com/@YotamMarom/toward-the-next-jewish-rebellion-bed5082c52fc#.jn1xrdi13
I confess, as a religious Jew my reaction has been somewhat different. Indeed, I have in most conversations with my coreligionists played the role of Rabbi Akiva, rejoicing to see a fox doing its business among the Temple ruins.
I look on my people and I see all the things that God has warned shall prompt him to make the nations of the world turn on us. I see rising anti-Semetism, from the right and from the left. Bitter as it is to see, shall I not rejoice to the see the Word of the Lord fulfilled? And if the Lord's promise of punishment is made manifest, is not His promise of delvierance also to be made manifest -- if we prove ourselves worthy?
|Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016|
|Rant: What Does It Mean To Be "The Party That Believes In Science."
This is becoming a very significant issue for progressives. And not simply in the hard sciences, but the social sciences as well.
Hard science and social science have always been critically important to advancing progressive policies. By contrast, we have pointed to the failure of science and pseudo-science as supporting racist policies, misogyny, or advancing pro-industrial policies. The environmental movement provides many examples where hard science was dismissed time and again until the weight of real scientific evidence became overwhelming. The same with consumer protection for carcinogens. And everyone should remember the value of the "Clark Experiment" as applied social science in Brown v. Board of education. By contrast, social theories justified with little evidence such as "broken windows policing" have caused immeasurable harm until debunked and disproven by rigorous social science research.
Which is why I am becoming very concerned that legitimate suspicion of self-interested research or agency capture is morphing in some cases to objection without substance.( Collapse )
I do not want the Democratic Party to claim the mantle of "belief in science," and then use bad science to advance pro-corporate policies. I want progressives to embrace the mantle of believing in science, and modeling that behavior.
|So There's a Clinton Convention Bounce. Does It Matter?
More evidence comes in that, now that both political conventions are over, Clinton is regaining ground she lost to Trump in July.http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/poll-clinton-trump-after-dnc-2016-226548
My issue is that I'm still not confident that the underlying conditions that created the correlations over the last 50+ years of analysis still hold.
As I was saying all thorugh the primary season, there is lots of reason to believe that the underlying factors that have made politics more predictable over the years are fraying. Huge population shifts, dramatic changes in how these populations abosrb news and views, the fact that the system is terribly complex (by which I mean lots of variables that are mutually dependent) all push us into an increasingly unknown country.
So sure, getting a post convention bounce is better than not getting a post-convention bounce. And we will see what happens when we have the debates and have the two candidates side-by-side. The impact of eliminating the voter i.d. rules in the three most restrictive states may also have significant impact (even in TX).
All this is to say that we will actually have an election, and it is the election that will decide who gets to be President, who are the members of Congress, and who are the members of your state legislature. And whatever ballot issues you care about.
What you chose to do with that information is entirely up to you.
|Wednesday, July 27th, 2016|
|Tuesday, July 26th, 2016|
|Link Harvest: 90% of Sanders Supporters Now Supporting Hillary
This PEW poll shows that, contrary to what one sees on TV, the Democrats have pretty much pulled together.http://www.people-press.org/2016/07/25/in-clintons-march-to-nomination-many-democrats-changed-their-minds/
In fact, that 90% understates things. It is 90% of the 20% who were consistent Sanders supporters from March 2015 until April 2016.
So we have a core of "Never Hillary" who are not going to be persuaded. That's fine. They have their reasons and I am not going to try to persuade them otherwise. But from a productive standpoint, Dems (and anti-Trumps voting for Hillary) would get much more bang for the buck focusing on getting out the vote, keeping the left wing that has come into the fold happy, and avoiding pitched fights with Never Hillarys wherever possible.