Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Polygamy and Pilegesh

I was at a conference on Monday at the HBI with the topic: "Polygamy, Polygyny, and Polyamory: Ethical and Legal Perspectives on Plural Marriage." Now I naturally went to the conference expecting that a massively feminist organization like the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute would *oppose* polygyny (multiple wives), polyandry (multiple husbands) maybe, but definitely not polygyny. I based this on my own knowledge of the practice which basically treats women as property and was eliminated from Western and Jewish tradition through the combined force of the otherwise disenfranchised women. It's in fact the best proof that women had 'unofficial' power over the past few centuries.

Well, was *I* in for a surprise. I was only able to go to the first and third sessions (see the above link for the schedule) but that first session was the weirdest, most disturbing, academic panel I'd ever heard. It was filled with pro-polygamy weirdos and the audience, filled with feminists, didn't grab pitchforks and torches - rather they seemed to find the whole thing awesome.

How?! Well, in the airy academic world of anti-empiricism, all that's necessary is to have a compelling *idea* plus one or two anecdotes, and you're all set with a policy proposal! These doofi don't seem to bother with thinking about what the future would look like once the plans are implemented; I guess that's why communism is alive and well in the academy even though it's dead in every country it's been attempted.

There were some sane people in the crew. Prof. Elimelech Westreich, gave a detailed talk on polygamy in halakha, and the best stuff was from Prof. Alean Al-Krenawi who has published studies on the psychological impact of polygamy. His work shows that there's severe unhappiness and anomie in polygamous families. His was the last talk and I could see that he was nearly quivering with frustration and how all these progressives were seriously accepting what he knows to be a retrograde, and even evil, practice.

Yet, the biggest repudiation needs to be given to Prof. Zvi Zohar who spoke about his advocacy for pilagshut, a.k.a. Biblical concubinage (see above for "weird and disturbing"). His article, and a bunch of other wickedness, is found here.

Zohar's point is that there are many current social problems - a singles crisis, an agunah crisis, and his main focus: the crisis of liberal Orthodox Jews who wait until their 30s to get married but want to have sex in their 20s - that can be solved by re-instating 'pilegesh.'

To put it simply, Zohar's idea is both pernicious and ignorant. Pernicious because it will cause many more social problems than it would possibly solve, and of those it cares about, the only thing that will be helped is guiltless sleeping around. It will actually prolong the singles crisis, it won't help agunahs because he acknowledges that people will eventually get married anyway. So all he wants to do is allow nominally-frum Jews to sleep around. Yipee. It's basically the equivalent of saying "people are driving to shul, so let's just make driving OK on Shabbat!" And boy did that work out.

It's ignorant because he actually read the "Pilegesh at Giva" story as somehow advocating pilagshut instead of it being a CLEARLY OBVIOUS ATTACK ON PILAGSHUT. Its kinda like reading the golden calf episode as a support for golden idols.

Anyway, I will end my trashing of his idea with one of my favorite Onion stories: "Desperate Vegetarians Declare Cows Plants"

Weird Thought of the Day: The 90s vs 00s

My brother and I have light-hearted kerfuffles over the value of 70s music (me) versus 80s music (me). We both agree, as guys in their late 30s will do, that all music in recent years doesn't match up. However, it got us thinking about the nostalgia recreation of those two decades and whether there's an actual taste/feel of the 90s versus the 00s? Is there any difference? Probably there is, given that my taste has been blunted by the fact that I can't remember much about those two decades as I was busy living life, but it's something that I'm going to investigate further. As far as I can tell, the two decades feel indistinguishable in terms of fashion, music, and taste. Sure, one decade was filled with peace, prosperity and joy (Clinton Years) and the other was war, hatred and death (Bush years) but did that effect movies and music?

Friday, November 05, 2010

Do the Chinese Understand

That this makes the Nobel people look like they made the perfect choice?: "China Urges Europeans to Snub Nobel Ceremony":
China is pressing European governments to boycott the ceremony awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, warning that the award interferes in China’s internal affairs and that Mr. Liu is a criminal
That's one reason why I'm not entirely afraid of China, because they are terrible members of the international community, and that stuff does matter. Just like in ordinary micro-economics, you may have the best product, but if people don't respect you, they will choose every excuse not to deal with you.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Reaction to Tuesday's Midterms

Some quick reactions from Tuesday's Midterm Elections. Note, when I say "we" that refers to "Democrats" and/or "(Normal) Jews" and/or "(Normal) Americans". This is because, as I said Monday, the current Republican party is bizarrely more evil in intention than the ideas backing the Bush Years:
  1. This could have been much much worse. As the dust settles, the Democrats lost only 1 House. Many of the lost seats in the Senate should have been quite safe (PA, Ill-a-freakin'-Noise) and that's a depressing sign. But considering that Teabaggers were defeated in many places, that California stayed Blue, and that Harry Reid's Faustian deal is still under warranty, means that it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

  2. The irony about Reid is that if anyone is responsible for the current failure of the Democrats, it's Reid. As I said in the intro, it's a given that the current GOP is freakishly evil (see below), but the only places where their evil could reign was SCOTUS (which is a lost cause until Scalia and Thomas get incapacitated by their own hatred of humanity), and the Senate. Despite the Dems having a historically high 60 seats, Reid allowed the Senate Republicans to destroy most attempts to repair the economy and help America. It's that bad. And because of the deadlock in congress, more people are out of work than should be, the health care plan is flaccid, and Obama's appointees are stalled in committee. All this evil was hated by the American people who returned their ire on... House Democrats. Who were by and large heroes these past 2 years. If there was any justice, Reid should have lost, the Dems should have kept the Senate - and House.

  3. Which leads to the most infuriating result of Tuesday. While it's bad enough that the disturbing and malevolent John Boehner will be the new speaker, and that the Teabaggers have renewed vigor, what I'm especially angry about is that the GOP tactic of legislative anarchy worked for their benefit. The GOP is better at "playing the ref" than the Dems, mainly because the GOP is ideologically anti-government! Even when the Dems were trying to stop Bush's evil, in general their party is in favor of legislation. GOPers can take it or leave it. They may have claimed that they were trying to stop laws that hurt the American people, but only morons or fanatics actually believe that was true. Seriously. The proof is that the GOP supported everything they claim Obama stands for when Bush was the president. Every (non-alcoholic/moron) in Congress knew that we needed economic stimulus, health care, and bank reform - the GOP just didn't want those vitally important things to happen under a Democratic president. Which makes them a special type of evil.

    Note, this proof is the same one behind the Teabaggers: (1) if you don't like deficit spending, then why did you support Bush's epic/disgusting ballooning of the deficit? Because you want tax cuts and crazy wars? OK, yeah, you do. But it's because they're bigoted fiends; (2) if you hate health care reform, why did you support the Medicare Prescription Drug Boondoggle? I could go on but the pattern is obvious.

  4. The Republicans spent 2 years blocking vitally important legislation - that they supported and knew would help get people jobs, medicine, life - in order to help their electoral chances... and it worked. And the American people fell for it. And I just threw up in my mouth.

    And because it worked, the GOP will do it again and it will work again. It's bad enough to know that evil has gone unnoticed, it's worse to know that it will keep happening.

  5. It's possible that Obama should be blamed for not strongly broadcasting the GOP evil before Nov 2. It is my biggest cavil with the president: that I want him to fight more. Yeah, it's nice to be 'non-partisan' but evil is evil and must be stopped. However, in retrospect, I have to blame the House/Senate democrats - and thus the DNC - for the responsibility of carrying out that message. It was their gooses about to be cooked and their legislature to be explained, and thus I blame their loss on themselves.

  6. The big silver lining about the election is that - based on the GOP Evil Analysis above - that the hidden enemy of Republican Obstructionism now has a face. Ya see, as I've experienced in my own life, it's part of the American psyche to dismiss the excuses behind loss and failure. Bush lied, stole 2000, so what - he crossed the finish line and now we can move on to the next horse race. So too in Congress - so what if the GOP committed legislative fraud and grand evil over 2 years - it's not visible therefore its not provable. Yet now Bone-nert/Bay-nert/Boonert is the orange face of Congress. And we have a clear, easily spotted - even at night - enemy of Democracy.

  7. Other good news - Massachusetts stayed Blue. The Scott "Nudie Model" Brown debacle of 2009 did not repeat.

  8. On the unknown/bad news front: one piece of info I was looking for in the news organs is probably the most crucial factor of the Midterms - the makeup of State legislatures in those states that will gain/lose Congressional seats because of the new census. As Obama said on the Daily Show, the two biggest anti-Constitutional enemies to the Republic are (1) the filibuster, especially in the hands of the anarcho-nihilistic burglars of the GOP, and (2) gerrymandering of House districts. The GOP has succeeded in the former and may now succeed in the latter.

  9. The last reaction for now has to do with newspapers. I sought out a (free) New York Times on Tuesday morning because I felt that I needed to have a good analysis and breakdown of the effects of the Midterms. Yet, I didn't get one. Not only was the newspaper frozen in time while reporting on a constantly shifting fact landscape, what information they did contain was fluffy and pedestrian. I wanted numbers! I wanted facts about losses and wins and causes and effects. Instead the paper was filled with reaction pieces about mood and feelings. It was useless. The internet wins again - not only because its up-to-the-second in news, but because the possible info is BETTER.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Tea Party Republicans

Frank Rich yesterday claimed, correctly, that: "What made the Tea Party most useful was that its loud populist message gave the G.O.P. just the cover it needed both to camouflage its corporate patrons and to rebrand itself as a party miraculously antithetical to the despised G.O.P. that gave us George W. Bush and record deficits only yesterday."

Very true. The Teabaggers, aka The Fort Sumpterists, are the latest in the group of dupes who fall for the cynical robber-barons of the current GOP. The tea-partiers who have genuine grievances should seriously be directing their energy against the GOP, and their perpetuation of the Bush years of disgrace and plunder. They won't because, bottom line, they are bigots. It's funny how this simple fact should still be in dispute. Why is their ire creepily directed against the Black President and the Lady Speaker?

Is it relevant that the Teabaggers are bigots? So what, you may ask. Well it's crucial because:
  1. The GOP has embraced these sick fools, and that shows that the GOP is happy fellow-traveling with the scum of America. One sad lesson I get from this semester's study of the Holocaust is that the conservatives in Europe in the 1930s felt they could control the wacko radical right in their countries and while they succeeded in Italy, Romania, Hungary etc this gambit failed in Germany. And Germany was able to then take over all the conservative governments, ain't that funny. Radical Rightists are bad news no matter the era or nationalist-bugbear. And the Teabaggers are the radical right.

  2. The teabaggers will come after the Jews with the same fervor they reserve for their Nigerian Presidential delusions. Another lesson I learn from the Holocaust is that the crazies actually mean what they say. Listen to their rhetoric.

  3. There can be no Jewish Tea Party as a result, and I'd claim there should be no Jewish support for a political party that embraces Tea Partiers. Then again, the fact that a Republican candidate for Congress in Ohio happily dresses up like an SS officer should cement this conviction. Yet there are Jewish Republicans still because Obama is perceived as not a friend to Israel. Look, his state department has definitely screwed up, but as I've said many times before, there has not been one single 'fact on the ground' as a result of this - as opposed to the Bush years which gave us a Shiite Iraq, a Hamas controlled Gaza, and two failed Mideast wars - greatly reducing the American ability to contain Iran.

    Jewish republicans: don't get blinded by racism or greed! - the GOP is not our friend!
  4. One last lesson from the Holocaust for now: that in every country where the Jews felt they were safe because they were rich, or part of the ruling class, we were quickly tossed to the wolves when the Nazis came knocking. Just being Jewish is a death sentence to the radical rightists of the world. You may think this is hyperbole, or a generalization, or even a cliche, but I've been going through the historical record in detail and it's nauseating how often it happened.
Pic from here of the GOP scumball in his SS uniform. Note, according to the Wiki: "He supports Israel's right to self defense and the American obligation to support it; he opposes a Palestinian state formed by taking land from Israel, a divided Jerusalem, and believes that the UN has become irrelevant." A lesson for you holdout GOP Jews: Actions speak louder than words. Dressing as a Nazi is a red line, no? Or does it matter when your hatred of blacks and/or greed for low taxes come into play?