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Archive for January, 2011

What a community store really is

Friday, January 28th, 2011 by Ari

The next time someone asks what a business really means by “serving their community”, I’m going to point them to this note I just got from my shul, a mention of which was also made on a community email list:

Magruder`s [of kemp mill] has offered to store items in their freezer for those who are still without power. Items must be in packed in boxes, sealed and clearly labeled.

No disrespect to any other companies out there, but how many large national chains can you see doing this?

Flying cars

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 by Ari

Flying cars are finally here, and at the surprisingly reasonable price of $250,000.

the real reason I had children

Friday, January 14th, 2011 by Ari

I’ve been pretty much wanting to do this since the day Rebecca announced she was pregnant.

children’s books and gender roles

Thursday, January 13th, 2011 by Ari

I have made 269 posts to this blog since I became a parent, and yet somehow I’ve never actually blogged about anything directly relating to being a parent or raising children. (The only things that come close are two blog posts, each announcing the birth of one daughter). Part of it is that most parenting relating stories are about as interesting as watching someone else’s vacation slides. The other reason is that initially I kept anticipating my first parenting post, and as it got delayed longer and longer, I also mentally built up the post more and more in my head until it has to be something so momentous and earth shattering that I could never actually write anything to live up to expectations. However, instead of writing something deep and meaningful, I’ve decided to just going to complain about children’s books. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

A friend of mine who is an artist said that when she was contracted to do illustrations for children’s books she was told to make the drawings more old-fashioned – for example draw a phone with a cord and not a cordless or (gasp) cellular phone. (This was around 3 years ago for the record). Unfortunately this old fashioned thinking seems to pervade the plots and characters as well. The gender roles in every children’s book I’ve read look like they’re straight from the 1950s. True, it doesn’t help that many of the books we force upon our children are the ones we remember from our childhood, so we’re still reading many books from the 50s, but even the newer ones do this. Daddy always works, mommy always takes care of cooking, cleaning, and the kids. Daddy is often seen in an easy chair in front of a television with a newspaper at his side. (For the record, neither of my children are likely to ever see a newspaper in printed form). Girls play with dolls ad jump rope, boys play with cars and play sports. Families live in single family houses with picket fences in small quiet suburban towns where everyone knows everyone, and bear more resemblance to Mr. Rogers neighborhood than any real neighborhood that has ever existed. Don’t believe me? Read the character bios from about the Berenstain Bears on their homepage. Admittedly the bears are among the worst offenders, but the pattern holds true for just about every one of the literally hundreds of children’s books I own. Just once I’d like to see a mother be the primary worker in the house, or dad cook without setting off the smoke alarm. These books all support a clear and consistent message which has far reaching effects on our children -

One more thing: I hate curious George. Seriously. He teaches children that you can act recklessly, never apologize, and everything will magically work out in the end. No one is ever mad at him, he never learns a lesson, and he never says sorry. He deals with all his problems by running away, and it somehow works for him. If he were a real person, you would hate his arrogant little guts, constantly be mad at him for never owning up to his mistakes, and avoid being around him. For some reason we read his adventures to our kids. I know he’s supposed to represent childhood innocence, but the main lesson he teaches is that actions have no consequences. (On a related note congress teaches that same lesson, and I make sure to kids away from C-Span). Seriously – frak that little monkey.

children's books and gender roles

Thursday, January 13th, 2011 by Ari

I have made 269 posts to this blog since I became a parent, and yet somehow I’ve never actually blogged about anything directly relating to being a parent or raising children. (The only things that come close are two blog posts, each announcing the birth of one daughter). Part of it is that most parenting relating stories are about as interesting as watching someone else’s vacation slides. The other reason is that initially I kept anticipating my first parenting post, and as it got delayed longer and longer, I also mentally built up the post more and more in my head until it has to be something so momentous and earth shattering that I could never actually write anything to live up to expectations. However, instead of writing something deep and meaningful, I’ve decided to just going to complain about children’s books. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

A friend of mine who is an artist said that when she was contracted to do illustrations for children’s books she was told to make the drawings more old-fashioned – for example draw a phone with a cord and not a cordless or (gasp) cellular phone. (This was around 3 years ago for the record). Unfortunately this old fashioned thinking seems to pervade the plots and characters as well. The gender roles in every children’s book I’ve read look like they’re straight from the 1950s. True, it doesn’t help that many of the books we force upon our children are the ones we remember from our childhood, so we’re still reading many books from the 50s, but even the newer ones do this. Daddy always works, mommy always takes care of cooking, cleaning, and the kids. Daddy is often seen in an easy chair in front of a television with a newspaper at his side. (For the record, neither of my children are likely to ever see a newspaper in printed form). Girls play with dolls ad jump rope, boys play with cars and play sports. Families live in single family houses with picket fences in small quiet suburban towns where everyone knows everyone, and bear more resemblance to Mr. Rogers neighborhood than any real neighborhood that has ever existed. Don’t believe me? Read the character bios from about the Berenstain Bears on their homepage. Admittedly the bears are among the worst offenders, but the pattern holds true for just about every one of the literally hundreds of children’s books I own. Just once I’d like to see a mother be the primary worker in the house, or dad cook without setting off the smoke alarm. These books all support a clear and consistent message which has far reaching effects on our children -

One more thing: I hate curious George. Seriously. He teaches children that you can act recklessly, never apologize, and everything will magically work out in the end. No one is ever mad at him, he never learns a lesson, and he never says sorry. He deals with all his problems by running away, and it somehow works for him. If he were a real person, you would hate his arrogant little guts, constantly be mad at him for never owning up to his mistakes, and avoid being around him. For some reason we read his adventures to our kids. I know he’s supposed to represent childhood innocence, but the main lesson he teaches is that actions have no consequences. (On a related note congress teaches that same lesson, and I make sure to kids away from C-Span). Seriously – frak that little monkey.

congress

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011 by Ari

Since today marks the first day of the 112th congress, I have following question to ponder.

If all of congress were to leave earth in a rocketship filled with money, would that be good or bad for the country?

hat tip of awesomeness: smbc theater.

the divorce system

Monday, January 3rd, 2011 by Ari

The last post and all the knee-jerk reactions it caused (of all the comments it got, a shockingly small number actually addressed the issues I raised in the initial post) has gotten me thinking about the divorce system in general. Back when batei din were the only courts of the land, the get system probably made a lot of sense. Batei Din were the courts of the ruling authorities – they had the power to enforce civil and criminal penalties, and all judicial proceedings went through the beit din. Nowadays we (American Jews) live in a secular country. Marriage for us usually has two tracks – we get married by an officer of the state for our legally binding marriage, and get married halakhically for our Jewish marriage. (Sometimes these can be the same person, but it’s two separate processes).

When it comes to divorce, officers of the state are the only ones with the ability to mete out criminal or civil penalties, however the state has no jurisdiction over the halakhic process. A beit din has no real authority or enforcement power. Rabbi Chaim Jachter reports a person who simply threw his summons in the trash upon delivery, and another who attacked him with a baseball bat. In Israel where the batei din are a judicial authority their rulings are enforceable. They also have accountability, there is a clearly defined judicial hierarchy, clearly defined roles, rules, guidelines, and the system is transparent. In this country all Batei din are ad-hoc, their rulings are unenforceable, and there is neither accountability nor transparency. American batei din are not even required to explain their reasoning for making a ruling. There are two parallel courts with jurisdiction over a divorce. They have overlapping jurisdiction in some areas, and exclusive responsibility in others, and their styles are wildly divergent. Is it any wonder there is friction between these two? The system is inherently flawed, leaving many people caught in the middle.

There have been many attempts to fix this problem, and inherently any solution to fix a broken system will be imperfect. While the Rambam’s solution (have the beit din beat the husband) is the most well known, it is far from the only one. Rabbi Jachter actually has a five part article entitled Unaccepted Proposals to Solve the Aguna Problem where he covers dozens of suggestions from over the centuries that have been suggested or tried to resolve divorce cases. By nature of their being labeled “unacceptable” none of them can be considered “good” solutions. The New York state get law which has also been implemented in Canada is an interesting concept, although it’s not without its controversy. I don’t know how effective it’s been, so if anyone has seen any recent discussion of its effectiveness please let me know. The latest and greatest attempt is of course the BDA prenup. While advocates have repeatedly pointed out that not a single couple who had the prenup has ended in an agunah situation, it’s lack of universal adoption does point out an inherent flaw in its efficacy. ORA is another extremely imperfect attempt to fix the system. They attempt to bring community pressure to make beit din rulings enforceable by the power of the mob. I once heard someone call ORA the bet din’s goon squad, although he actually meant it as a compliment.

Is there a good solution? I have no idea. I would like to think that where there is a rabbinic will there is a way, but I have no concrete suggestions. Some people seem to think that expanding the authority of the beit din would give them more leverage, but I think many are reluctant to give power to an entity which is ad-hoc and has little transparency or accountability. I think the NY/Canadian get law is not a bad idea, but weakening the separation of church and state is never without risk. Perhaps the solution is to reduce the power of the beit din as an arbitrator in divorce so that all they can rule on is the get and everything else is handled by the secular court. While this does prevent people trying to overturn one court’s ruling in another court, it doesn’t stop someone who is withholding a get due to malice, and the only solution left then would be to resort to ORA’s mob tactics.

Unaccepted Proposals to Solve the Aguna Problem