Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Shame on Illinois Democrats

Yesterday, scandal-ridden Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich did what many feared he would do - he appointed someone, (Roland Burris) to serve out Obama's US Senate term. The hue and cry is enormous - everyone on both sides of the aisle are condemning this appointment as illegitimate. There are threats by the state attorney general to refuse to certify the appointment and threats by the Democrats who control the US Senate to refuse to seat Burris. But it's far from guaranteed that they will be able to legally exercise that authority and the courts may overrule them and Burris will be seated anyway. And by deliberately picking an African American, Blagojevich has cynically put race into the equation as well. This environment is the last thing the new Obama administration needs as they come to Washington.

But the Illinois state legislature had a chance to do the right thing, and the majority Democrats balked. They had the chance to strip the governor of the power to appoint someone to vacant US Senate seats and organize a special election instead. Legislation was brought forth to do just that. But Democrats, fearing that a special election, right after this scandal, would possibly grant victory to a Republican, balked at the move and defeated the bill.

My politics are decidedly left of center, and generally, I prefer a Democratic controlled Senate. But they already have that control and this is only one seat. The Illinois legislature Democrats all condemned Blagojevich and vowed to stop him from appointing anyone to Obama's Senate seat. But when they had the chance to do so, they allowed petty partisan politics to enter the equation.

If they had supported the legislation, they, and any Democratic Senate hopefuls could have claimed the moral high ground. Their rejection of Blogojevich and his legacy would have been beyond reproach and the Democratic candidates would have had a better chance of winning. Instead, they played games and shot themselves in the foot.

And beyond that, they put petty politics over doing the right thing. Shame on them!

Monday, December 29, 2008

My first meme – 7 facts about me

I was tagged by Jessica with this meme - my first one :-)

The Rules:

a) Link to your blogger and list these rules on your blog
b) Share 7 facts about yourself, some random, some weird
c) Tag 7 people (if possible) at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs

d) Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs


I have a really good voice (I’ve been told), love singing and used to sing in a choir. But I have no talent for art whatsoever. If you ask me to draw a picture, it’ll look like a kindergartner drew it.

I am a cyborg. I have a metal plate and 9 pins in my ankle as a result of a hiking accident at the aptly named Breakneck Ridge in 1996. (And am glad it wasn’t my neck!) I still set off some metal detectors.

I travelled to France with some friends to see a total solar eclipse in 1999. Unfortunately, clouds rolled in just before totality and we missed it. But it was still eerie to see day turn into night so abruptly. Next convenient chance: August 21, 2017, across the continental US.

I have an obsession with counting US states I’ve been to. There are even some arbitrary rules I made up, for instance, you have to stop in that state – you can’t just drive through a corner of it. Rest stops with stores count, but a porta-potty on the side of the road doesn’t. I’m up to 27 states so far. Most out of the way of them so far? Utah.

I didn’t plan my career in IT. I sort of just fell into it when I was working as an administrative assistant back in the early 90’s and kept having to fix the code of a balky database. After the first few times on the phone with tech support, I didn’t need their help anymore. I still wonder what I’ll do “when I grow up.”

Distressed by the massively increasing premature gray in my goatee I dyed my beard before my nephew’s wedding a few months ago. Nobody seemed to notice (maybe because, living far away, my family doesn’t see me that often) and a few days later it washed out. I don’t think I’ll be doing it again – too much trouble. At least I have all my hair.

I’m a strict vegetarian. I haven’t eaten any meat, fowl, or fish, or derivatives of them (knowingly), since 1991.

Bloggers I've taggeed with this meme:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Latkes vs. Sufganiyot

The Jerusalem Post has this amusing article about the lack of latkes (or levivot) in Israel in favor of sufganiyot (fried jelly doughnuts). Some of the comments are funny too.

The author quotes someone's story on how sufganiyot became popular in Israel:

"It was the Histadrut guys, you know the ones from way back... They were bothered by levivot being homemade and not something that was sold in grocery shops or kiosks, and felt that something was needed to keep workers busy - particularly during the slow months between the hagim and the time dried fruits start moving. So they began to look for an alternative, you know, something that you need oil for but also something that people - and especially kids - would spend money on. Someone real smart came up with the idea of making sufganiyot a Hanukka treat, and bingo, a star was born."

Personally, I think both are a recipe for indigestion. Instead, I'll be making some zuchinni levivot later fried in olive oil spray. Actually quite good!

Whatever you choose to eat, have a Chag Chanukah Sameach!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

NY Times article on how YU is dealing with the Madoff scandal philisophically

Interesting article on how faculty & students at YU are dealing with the scandal.

One non-sequiter: The picture of students in the beit midrash is labelled "Students in the library." I guess that's close enough - does anyone use the term "study hall" these days?

Monday, December 15, 2008

A giant Fonzie scheme?

So it seems that Bernard Madoff invested all his clients' money in his own wealth and depended on his being as cool as "the Fonz" to get him through it. But unfortunately, he was caught by Mr. Cunningham. Joanie was so disappointed in Bernie, that he decided to turn himself in...

Well, someone I know really did think it was called a "Fonzie Scheme".

In actuality, Madoff's crime is his pulling off a giant "Ponzi scheme", named after Charles Ponzi, who pulled the wool over his investors' eyes in the early 20th century. For more, see the Wikipedia entry here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Anti-Semitism under every rock

Noam Shpancer writes a column in my local Jewish paper. He's an Israeli living in my city and he has strong opinions, usually to the extreme left of Israeli politics, and more often than not, I think he's gone off the deep end. But his latest piece is excellent, albeit written in his confrontational style. He decries the tendency to see antisemitism around every corner. I agree. sometimes it seems like fighting antisemitism has replaced the richness of our actual tradition for some organizations.

Here's his article on the local paper's website or on his blog.

I once knew a guy named Ze'ev Maghen. I haven't seen him in many, many years but a quick google search found him teaching at Bar-Ilan. Anyway, way back when, I think around 1990, he wrote an article on how to fight anti-semitism. Its main point was that we shouldn't moan and wail about anti-semitism but go ahead and live rich Jewish lives and that's the best answer. I found a link to the article but the link is broken. However, this site quotes part of the article:

"Surely none of you will tell me that down four millennia, and through the wrenching vicissitudes and savage depredations of exile, it was our appeals, protests and screams for equitable treatment that sustained us, kept us in life, and brought us to this season. No, my friends, our history teaches us a different lesson: that those who, rather than appealing and screaming, choose to build, to educate toward cultural and national revival, to defy anti-Semitism not with Jewish pleas and Jewish hand-wringing but with Jewish learning, Jewish observance, Jewish strength and Jewish achievement-such are those who bring our people survival, salvation, a future."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Orthodox single mothers by choice

I have several female friends who are Orthodox and single, all near the age of 40, (give or take a couple of years,) who had babies, are pregnant, or are trying to get pregnant.

It’s a tough decision to become a single parent, but I see no reason why that decision should be stigmatized by Orthodox Judaism. These women are opting for artificial insemination. While there may be some halachic issues, they’re not an insurmountable barrier. These women felt their biological clocks ticking and decided to go for it. They're successful professionals who can afford to do this financially and they have support systems of friends.

Instead of this being something that is talked about in hushed tones, the Orthodox community should relax its obsession with the supposed “singles crisis” and create an environment where such decisions are celebrated rather than looked down upon.

While there are many reasons aside from community pressure that a single woman might shy away from this path, community pressure and stigmatization shouldn’t prevent those who are ready to become single mothers.

How about an organization to help older single Orthodox women with this decision? If bringing children into the world is such a Jewish ideal, why not assist women to do so rather than closing off all choices other than perhaps marrying the wrong men because they’re so panicked about their biological clocks? This organization can help them financially, create support systems so they don’t have to do this alone, and guide them through any halachic problems and the process of artificial insemination.

I know a number of Modern Orthodox women who have mentioned over the years that if they reached, say, age 40, they would take this route. But now that they have reached this age, they’re not taking that step. It’s one thing to talk about it when you're years away from making that decision, but another entirely to make a move that they know will be looked down upon by most of their communities and even many of their friends.

One of these friends, whose baby I was admiring recently, said to me, with a look of happiness: “Best decision I ever made!”

Why should irrational community pressure keep potential mothers from enjoying that aspect of existence and bringing Jewish children into the world? I think it’s time for the Orthodox Jewish community (or at least the Modern Orthodox community) to make a sea change in the way this issue is approached.


Update: TikunOlam, on DovBear's blog, references this post and examines an aspect of this discussion: whether having children is an altruistic act.