December 23rd, 2007

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Interesting news from the Reform Movement

My thanks to kmelion for the link.

The article discusses a trend around a concern in the Reform movement: how can Reform Judaism offer men spirituality and spiritually fulfilling lives without (in the opinion of many) retreating from the drive for gender equality which drove the initial reforms.

Part of the question of course is the nature of gender equality and the problem of ownership of ritual and community ritual. Leaving aside a personal grain of Cassandra-ish schadenfruede (I have long questioned ritual reform with what I felt was an imperfect understanding of the underlying ritual), I will observe that the problems in the Reform movement are in fact broadly shared. A bit of speculation below.

Update: This NY Times Article from February 2006 indicates that the article linked to above is not the sole source that this is a matter of concern within the Reform movement, although it does not substantiate how widespread the issue is.

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Another "Mission Accomplished" From the Bush Administration

On universal access to affordable broadband:

“This country needs a national goal for broadband technology, for the spread of broadband technology. We ought to have a universal, affordable access for broadband technology by the year 2007, and then we ought to make sure as soon as possible thereafter, consumers have got plenty of choices when it comes to purchasing the broadband carrier. See, the more choices there are, the more the price will go down. And the more the price goes down, the more users there will be. And the more users there will be, the more likely it is America will stay on the competitive edge of world trade.”
-- President George W. Bush, March 26, 2004

“I think we've met the goal.”
-- Acting NTIA Administrator Meredith Baker, November 2007

More detail and discussion here:

I wonder if this is how Brits felt in the turn of the century after the Boer War? Actually, yes, if my research for my college thesis was correct.
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Has the U.S. become a "moral hazard" to reconciliation in Iraq

This article from the Washington Post describes the results of polling conducted by Gallop at the request of the U.S. army. The conclusion: most people (a) blame the U.S. for current problems, (b) believe their political leaders are not working toward shared power or political reconciliation, but (c) most Iraqis in numerous cross-sections of society believe that they have the capacity to resolve their differences and come together as a unified nation.

It has long been argued that withdrawal of U.S. troops would destabilize Iraq and the region. It would be seen as a defeat for the U.S., and would trigger invasion or proxy-invasion by neighboring countries (Iran for the Shia, Syria and Saudi Arabia for the Sunni). Even those supporting withdrawal do so primarily from a feeling that our presence is only puting off the inevitable. There is no solution, and risking American lives and squandering American resources to no purpose makes no sense.

I will now make the affirmative case for withdrawal as follows: continued U.S. occupation is a moral hazard for the Iraqi political elite. If the U.S. announced withdrawal by a date certain, and took active steps to that effect, it would encourage national reconciliation.

Argument below cut.
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Final religious blatering of the day: How do the Evangelicals do it?

An interesting contrast to my discussions of Reform Judaism is the rise of Evangelical Christians among men and women.

It is common in non-religious or liberal religious circles to see traditional and Evangelical Christianity as oppressive of women. But this does not explain its massive attraction to strong, educated women. As a policy wonk in DC during the Bush Administration, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a Monica Godling-type, a well educated female Republican apartchick with a traditional Evangelical faith that thinks abortion is murder, the Equal Rights Act unconstitutionaly infringes on people's right to free association, and that anyone "selfish" enough to "chose" to be gay or lesbian does not deserve special protection in the form of outlawing hate crimes.

These people are not outliers. They are a significant percentage of the population and a growing demographic. Those genuinely interested in such matters, either in terms of seeking to revitalize their own faith or to understand the psychology of others, would do well to spend serious time considering what motivates such folk rather than reaching for facile answers.