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Archive for January 18th, 2015

Fundamentalists seem bad in every faith

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Take fundamentalist Jews, for example. Ruth Margalit writes in the New Yorker:

Among the many powerful images that circulated the week after the attacks in Paris, one was notable for its absurdity. A photograph, which ran in the Israeli ultra-Orthodox daily newspaper Hamevaser, showed the world’s heads of state, marching arm in arm in solidarity. Or rather, the male heads of state: female leaders, most notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel, had been digitally removed from the photo in the name of religious modesty. The move was swiftly condemned. Here was flagrant religious intolerance, in the depiction of an event intended to protest such intolerance. By the next day, spoofs of the doctored image had started to circulate: one removed all the men from the photo; another turned everyone into Merkel.

This scrubbing-out was understood to be a pathetic story about a fringe sector taking ridiculous measures to try to preserve its counter-reality. (We had seen this story before. In 2011, the Brooklyn-based newspaper Di Tzeitung was shown to have removed Hillary Clinton and another woman from the historic photo of the White House Situation Room during the raid on Osama bin Laden.) Even within the ultra-Orthodox community, which numbers some eight hundred thousand in Israel, Hamevaser is a niche publication, read by only seven per cent of ultra-Orthodox people, or Haredim. But to laugh off the image, to treat it as a curiosity, would be to disregard a serious fight being waged in Israel over the representation of women in the public sphere.

Israel has a history of greater gender equality than many Western countries. Since the turn of the twentieth century, women have been working alongside men in the kibbutz movement. Female soldiers have served in the Israel Defense Forces since its founding, with the country, in 1948. In 1969, the year Gloria Steinem threw down the gauntlet of second-wave feminism in the United States—“After Black Power, Women’s Liberation”—Israelis elected a woman, Golda Meir, as their prime minister.

Over the past decade, however, as the Haredim have grown in numbers and influence, women’s equality has significantly declined. In 2011, a female pediatrics professor was forbidden from going onstage to collect an award given by the Health Ministry; she was instructed to send a male colleague to accept it on her behalf. The same year, in the city of Beit Shemesh, where almost half the population identifies as Haredi, a group of Haredi men routinely hounded and spat at an eight-year-old girl for not being dressed “modestly enough.” When four hundred women protested the introduction of segregated buses in the city, they were pummeled with stones. There have been other recent instances of the custom known in Hebrew as hadarat nashim, or the exclusion of women, such as the chief rabbi of the air force ordering religious soldiers to walk out of events where female soldiers sing. But perhaps the most visible dispute has been taking place on the streets of Jerusalem, where a quarter of the residents now identify as Haredi.

In 2008, a thirty-year-old religious woman named Rachel Azaria headed a slate of candidates for city council. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 January 2015 at 4:05 pm

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Interesting view of market and history—Different memes, different results

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After I recommended The Pursuit of Power a few posts back, I of course picked it up and started rereading it. I opened it at random, in the first half, and read:

Perhaps the fundamental contrast between European experience in the early modern centuries and that of Asia might be expressed by saying that in Asia command mobilization reinforced and was in turned sustained by the preservation of primary patterns of human interaction. Obedience, after all, is always best rendered to persons already known to the follower by long familiarity of deference and precedence; all these fitted as subordinate elements within the political command structure. Despite personal rivalries of the most diverse sort among local magnates, the principle that social behavior should conform to hierarchically patterned roles undergirded and sustained the entire system. This meant, among other things, that only a tiny fraction of the entire population could be mobilized for military action. But Asian rulers acquiesced readily enough since any more general mobilization would have put arms in the hands of persons and classes who could then be expected to challenge existing social hierarchies and patterns of government.

Market relations, on the contrary, tended to dissolve and weaken traditional, local, and primary patterns of human interaction. Response to market incentives allowed strangers to cooperate across long distances, often without realizing it. Mobilization of a larger quantity of goods and a greater number of men became possible the kinds of economic specialization and technological elaboration that market relationships could sustain. Power and wealth, in short, however much rulers and the majority of their subjects may have deplored the greed and immorality that was thus let loose upon the world.

Breakdown of established patterns of conduct always appears deplorable to a majority of those who witness it. The European public, as much as European rules of the early modern centuries, disliked and distrusted the handful of monied men who enriched themselves by constraining rulers and their subjects to conform to the dictates of the market. But rulers and subjects found there was little they could do about it. In Asia similar sentiments were effective because the market for goods and services remained relatively weak, being confined to an artisan level. In Europe, once a few self—governing cities in Italy and the Low Countries had demonstrated the enhanced wealth and power that a more enthusiastic unleashing of market incentives could create, market articulation of human effort gained the upper hand. By the sixteenth century, even the mightiest European command structures became dependent on an international money and credit market for organizing military and other major undertakings. Phillip II’s hapless financial record is proof of this proposition.

That’s an interesting passage, given what is happening in the US today. For how the interests of the wealthy and powerful can diverge from the interests of the general public, and at that point it becomes important where the power lies. Take a look at Kansas today and at the direction the state is going. Cui bono?

It’s probably not irrelevant that William H. McNeill spent his teaching career at the University of Chicago (and an illustrious career it was, too: by all means also read Plagues and Peoples and The Human Web, written with his son.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 January 2015 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Books, Business, Memes

Man shoots an Oklahoma police chief four times and is released without being arrested or charged. Q: What race is the shooter?

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I wonder how many answer “African-American” or “Hispanic.” But if you did, you were wrong: the shooter is a white “survivalist.” Here’s the story by Judd Legum in ThinkProgress:

In Oklahoma, a white “survivalist” shot a police chief three times in the chest and once in the arm. The shooting did not result in an arrest or charges and the man, identified by local media as 29-year-old Dallas Horton, has been released.

In a press release, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said, “Facts surrounding the case lead agents to believe the man was unaware it was officers who made entry.” But Louis Ross, the Sentinel, Oklahoma police chief who was shot, said that he entered the home after “Washita County 911 received two calls from a man who identified himself as Dallas Horton, and claimed to have a bomb inside the head start school.”

Ross cast doubt on the credibility of Horton’s claim that he didn’t know officers were present, noting that there was “screaming from five officers of the law announcing our presence, requesting to see hands.” Ross only survived the shooting because he was wearing a bulletproof vest. He has “massive bruises and welts on his body” and the shot that hit his arm “went clean through.”

In a second statement released yesterday the Oklahoma State Bureau Of Investigationsaid Horton was “fully cooperating with the on-going investigation” and “no traces of explosives were found.”

A Facebook profile identified by Raw Story, that purports to be from a Dallas Horton of Sentinel, contains numerous racist images.

A sign on the front door of Horton’s home says he’s a “Certified zombie killer.” The mayor of Sentinel, Sam Dlugonski, described Horton as a “gun enthusiast” and survivalist. Dlugsonski was familiar with Horton, saying, “I’ve known that kid all of his life.”

For a contrast, check out this story.


Written by LeisureGuy

18 January 2015 at 11:44 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

Paul Krugman speculates on history: Mongols of the sea

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Very interesting column and very interesting comments. And in this connection let me highly recommend William H. McNeill’s fascinating history, The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society Since A.D. 1000. Quite absorbing. Link is to inexpensive secondhand hardbound editions.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 January 2015 at 2:51 am

Posted in Daily life

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