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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Jewish Star on the Greenbaum Ruling

At left is the Jewish Star's article covering the Greenbaum lawsuit, which includes an interesting quote by Ms. Greenbaum herself: (click to enlarge):

I am disappointed with the decision,” she said, “to the extent that those who posted disingenuous comments about me will not be held accountable this time.
I hope that as this community moves forward, divisiveness, personal attacks and unthinking language will not be tolerated.

So where do I even begin. First of all, way to move the goalposts, Pam. You may have waited up until the judge emphatically ruled against you, but then it took you no time at all to go from calling the comments in question "defamatory" to calling them "disingenuous". Perhaps Ms. Greenbaum is looking to be a trailblazer in the emerging tort of "disingenuity lawsuits". And while she's at it, maybe she can innovate claims for unwarranted saracasm and poor hygiene. It's actually hard for me to believe that Ms. Greenbaum can justify wasting the court's time and the taxpayers' money over what she has just admitted to being nothing more than disingenuity. Regarding the second half of her comment: Hah. Ms. Greenbaum would have us believe that she is suddenly the poster child for a campaign to wipe out divisiveness in SD#15? That's amusing, considering Ms. Greenbaum's lawsuit seemed to have prodded this community into a fever pitch of divisiveness. The division between Pam supporters and Pam detractors in the wake of the lawsuit was as sharp a rift as I've ever seen in this district. And here we see Ms. Greenbaum preaching unity. Talk about disingenuity.

I also found this quote, from Paul Alan Levy, the attorney who so ably represented me in this case, to be quite interesting:
“Greenbaum's biggest problem is that she now has a judge's opinion that she perjured herself, so she's now in a worse place than when she started,” said Paul Alan Levy, an attorney for Public Citizen Litigation Group, who represented Orthomom pro bono. “The perjury argument was a cute idea — and it is defamatory to accuse someone of perjury, I suppose. The argument could be made that she was accusing her [Greenbaum] of false swearing. The problem is that it was false swearing.”
I guess Ms. Greenbaum should have considered being a little less sensitive to the criticisms of her policies as she saw them on these pages. It would seem to me that her attempts to muzzle me and my commenters from disagreeing with her actions as an elected official have potentially bought her a far bigger headache that any of the original comments in question may have brought on.

Also, I penned my own column for the paper in response to last week's ruling. Click here for an image of the piece.

Church Endorses Message of Hate?

This is a bit disturbing:
Outraged Jewish groups are demanding Edward Cardinal Egan speak out against Nazi-glorifying rockers set to take the stage Friday night in a Catholic Church-owned concert hall.

Croatian singer Marko Perkovic and his band Thompson extol ethnic cleansing - and their fans often greet them with the Nazi salute.

Now they're taking that message to a stage in the community center adjoining the Croatian Church of St. Cyril & Methodius on 10th Ave. in midtown.

...Thompson frontman Perkovic is hugely popular in his native Croatia, where thousands turn out for his shows, many wearing the black caps of the country's vicious Nazi-era military regime, the Ustasha.

Critics say Perkovic's ultranationalist act glorifies those Nazi ties, and both the Netherlands and Canada have banned him.

That he's been permitted to appear at a Catholic church in the heart of New York City left several prominent Jewish leaders fuming Tuesday.

"They should know better," said Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League. "People should not go to a church to hear hatred or the glorification of Nazism. No place of worship should host it or welcome it."
Well, yeah. I don't expect or want the band to be banned outright in this country - as has occurred in Canada and the Netherlands. But the fact that a church can be so clueless as to host an act that glorifies Nazism is stunning. I am holding on to hope that the church booked the act not knowing anything about their sympathies, and that now that it has been brought to their attention, they will do the right thing. It's one thing for this country to allow this band a forum that allows this group to freely express themselves, no matter how offensive I might find their views. It's another thing entirely for that freedom of expression to take place in a house of worship, with what seems like tacit approval from at least some members of the Catholic Church. Here's hoping the church has the good sense to politely ask the group to find a new, non-religious venue.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Are Our Kids Getting Enough Sleep?

Think your kids are getting enough sleep? I know I did. Think again.

NY Magazine writes about some groundbreaking studies being done that tie our children's performance in just about every arena to the amount of sleep they are getting at night. And the results are pretty eye-opening.

One study, done by a doctor at Tel Aviv University, showed just how detrimental missing that hour of sleep actually can actually be to our kids' cognitive abilities:
The effect was indeed measurable—and sizable. The performance gap caused by an hour’s difference in sleep was bigger than the normal gap between a fourth-grader and a sixth-grader. Which is another way of saying that a slightly sleepy sixth-grader will perform in class like a mere fourth-grader. “A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development,” Sadeh explains.

Sadeh’s findings are consistent with other researchers’ work, all of which points to the large academic consequences of small sleep differences. Dr. Monique LeBourgeois of Brown University studies how sleep affects pre-kindergartners. Virtually all young children are allowed to stay up late on Fridays and Saturdays. Yet she’s discovered that the sleep-shift factor alone is correlated with performance on a standardized school-readiness test. Every hour of weekend shift costs students seven points on the test. Dr. Paul Suratt of the University of Virginia studied the impact of sleep problems on vocabulary-test scores of elementary-school students. He also found a seven-point reduction in scores. Seven points, Suratt notes, is significant: “Sleep disorders can impair children’s I.Q.’s as much as lead exposure.”

Every study done shows a similar connection between sleep and school grades—from a study of second- and third-graders in Chappaqua to a study of eighth-graders in Chicago. The correlations really spike in high school, because that’s when there’s a steep drop-off in kids’ sleep. Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom of the University of Minnesota surveyed more than 7,000 high schoolers in Minnesota about their sleep habits and grades. Teens who received A’s averaged about fifteen more minutes sleep than the B students, who in turn averaged eleven more minutes than the C’s, and the C’s had ten more minutes than the D’s. Wahlstrom’s data was an almost perfect replication of results from an earlier study of more than 3,000 Rhode Island high schoolers by Brown’s Mary Carskadon. Certainly, these are averages, but the consistency of the two studies stands out. Every fifteen minutes counts.
Equally persuasive is this report from some school districts who chose to give their kids an extra hour of sleep based on the emerging data that points to importance of a good night's sleep:
Convinced by the mountain of studies, a handful of school districts around the nation are starting school later in the morning. The best known of these is in Edina, Minnesota, an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, where the high school start time was changed from 7:25 a.m. to 8:30. The results were startling. In the year preceding the time change, math and verbal SAT scores for the top 10 percent of Edina’s students averaged 1288. A year later, the top 10 percent averaged 1500, an increase that couldn’t be attributed to any other variable. “Truly flabbergasting,” said Brian O’Reilly, the College Board’s executive director for SAT Program Relations, on hearing the results.

Another trailblazing school district is Lexington, Kentucky’s, which also moved its start time an hour later. After the time change, teenage car accidents in Lexington were down 16 percent. The rest of the state showed a 9 percent rise.
Studies also show that another side effect of too little sleep would seem to be a slowed metabolism:
Five years ago, already aware of an association between sleep apnea and diabetes, Dr. Eve Van Cauter at the University of Chicago discovered a “neuroendocrine cascade” that links sleep to obesity.

Sleep loss increases the hormone ghrelin, which signals hunger, and decreases its metabolic opposite, leptin, which suppresses appetite. Sleep loss also elevates the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is lipogenic, meaning it stimulates your body to make fat. Human growth hormone is also disrupted. Normally secreted as a big pulse at the beginning of sleep, growth hormone is essential for the breakdown of fat.

It’s drilled into us that we need to be more active to lose weight. So it spins the mind to hear that a key to staying thin is to spend more time doing the most sedentary inactivity humanly possible. Yet this is exactly what some scientists seem to be finding. In light of Van Cauter’s discoveries, sleep scientists have performed a flurry of analyses on children. All the studies point in the same direction: On average, children who sleep less are fatter than children who sleep more. This isn’t just in the U.S.; scholars around the world are considering it, as they watch sleep data fall and obesity rates rise in their own countries.

Three foreign studies showed strikingly similar results. One analyzed Japanese elementary students, one Canadian kindergarten boys, and one young boys in Australia. They all showed that kids who get less than eight hours of sleep have about a 300 percent higher rate of obesity than those who get a full ten hours of sleep. Within that two-hour window, it was a “dose-response” relationship, according to the Japanese scholars.

In Houston public schools, according to a University of Texas at Houston study, adolescents’ odds of obesity went up 80 percent for each hour of lost sleep.
Sooo. That extra cup of water, the extra few minutes watching the game, the late hour at which they actually settle down and get their homework done, the early rising to catch minyan at school (for those boys who are Bar Mitzvah) - all could potentially be setting our kids' cognitive functioning and physical health back in a very real, very measurable way. The reason that is such a bitter pill for me - and likely many fellow parents of of school-age or older children - to swallow, is the simple fact that it just does not seem possible for my kids to manage all that needs to be done on a school night, plus a bit of downtime before the deadline rears its ugly head for what this study seems to consider a reasonable bedtime. Consider the long school hours Yeshiva kids put in (pretty much dawn to dusk this time of year), add numerous subjects' worth of homework (at least an hour's worth nightly for some kids), throw some extra-curricular activities into the mix (I am not taking away their only shot at getting some decent exercise when winter comes around), and as it is you have a day with far too few hours in it. Add an earlier bedtime to the mix? I would venture to guess that for many households, it almost feels like it just can't be done.

Obviously, with studies as compelling as these, I'm not giving up just yet - but how in the world does one get teenagers to settle in at a reasonable hour? Or force a wired school-age child to actually fall asleep at bedtime - and not just lay in bed? Cut back on studying for tests so that kids can go to sleep earlier and potentially reap those cognitive gains?? Uh, but what if there simply isn't enough time to actually review all the material? Which is more important to better test performance - more hitting the pillow, or more hitting the books? And is anyone really willing to bet that it's indisputably healthier for our kids' - many of whose physiques are, let's face it, sorely in need of some physical activity - to cut back on any extracurricular sports that might push back their bedtime for fear of them...getting fat??

As I said, these studies all seem very persuasive, and I will admit that I already announced to the Ortho offspring that from here on in, everyone must be in bed at his or her appointed bedtime (can't blame a mom for trying). But who's to say that said bedtimes will even be early enough? And how many hours exactly make up the elusive gold standard that constitutes "enough sleep"? I don't see any guidelines in the article as to how much sleep is enough - only some hints as to how little is too little. Anyone?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Almost Funny...But Not Quite

And people say our district's school board has problems. From Newsday:
Tensions among feuding factions of the Brentwood Board of Education intensified this week when a former district clerk filed a complaint to the state alleging a special board meeting was illegal. As a result, the former clerk said, all actions taken that night should be voided.

Kathleen Hoey, 46, district clerk until July, said a special board meeting Monday violated the state regulation that requires at least 24 hours notice to board members about a planned meeting.

Hoey argued that the board violated community members' voting and civil rights by not notifying three of the seven board members. They included Tomas Del Rio, Joseph Fritz and Gail Kirkham.

Hoey said the majority faction - board president George Talley, along with Stephen Coleman, Lorraine Pace and Suzanne Belanger - did not act in the interest of the district.

"They cannot pick and choose who they want to come to a meeting," Hoey said.

Talley said Del Rio, Fritz and Kirkham were not informed of Monday's special meeting because they had all responded to an e-mail message earlier asking for their availability in October by stating they were unavailable for special meetings during the month.

"Why would I notify them if they already notified me they were not available?" he said.

Del Rio said that although he had responded earlier that he would be unavailable for special meetings this month, the law requires that he be notified nonetheless. "They don't want us to participate," he said. Fritz agreed, saying, "you're expected to be notified."

The special meeting was called primarily to hire a lawyer to represent the board in response to an earlier complaint by Del Rio and Fritz to the state against the majority faction calling for their ouster. Talley and the majority have also filed a complaint calling for Del Rio's and Fritz's removal. All three complaints await a legally binding decision from the state education commissioner.
What a lousy example to set for district schoolchildren. Thank goodness our board's issues and internecine battling have not sunk to the lows of those in Brentwood. I do, however, think the Brentwood board's extreme outlandish behavior should make members of SD15 realize how such skirmishing benefits no one at all - least of all the children of this district.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Orthomom Lawsuit: VICTORY!

Judge Marcy Friedman has handed down a decision in the Orthomom defamation lawsuit, and it has come back as a complete victory for myself as well as for the commenters on this site. More importantly, this is a huge victory for the First Amendment, and for the right of private citizens to express themselves freely.

I also view this as a personal victory, as the judge has flatly stated that none of the statements I or my commenters have made regarding Ms. Greenbaum were actionable - either due to the fact that they are statements of clear opinion, or due to their being true.

The judge upheld the assertions of my attorney, Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen, that the statements in which Ms. Greenbaum claimed I called her an "anti-semite" and a "bigot" were untrue - as only the statement of "bigot" was made in reference to Ms. Greenbaum, and was in actuality made by anonymous commenters to my blog. Further, Judge Friedman ruled that those statements, even as made by said anonymous commenters, are clearly statements of opinion, and thus not actionable as defamatory.
Significantly, also, Orthomom’s statements, as well as those of the anonymous
commentators, are protected opinion. Whether a statement expresses fact or opinion is a question of law for the court, to “be answered on the basis of what the average person hearing or reading the communication would take it to mean.”

...The statements of both Orthomom and the anonymous commentators are based on the single disclosed fact, the truth of which Greenbaum does not contest, that Greenbaum opposes the use of public school funds for programs for Yeshiva students and others who receive their full-time education at private schools. As such, the statements are readily identifiable as protected opinion.
Even more interesting is the fact that the judge dismissed Greenbaum's claims that I defamed her when I suggested that she perjured herself in signed court documents by falsely asserting that I had made certain statements. Though it seems that claims of perjury might not fall under the rubric of protected opinion, Judge Friedman failed to find for Greenbaum because my claim, that Greenbaum had made false claims under oath, are "incontrovertibly true". Which means, of course, that the judge found that Ms. Greenbaum actually did, as I assert in this post, make a false claim under oath:
A claim of defamation may be based on an accusation that a person has committed the crime of perjury. (See Immuno A.G., 77 NY2d at 244.) However, the statements in these postings about the allegations of the petition are incontrovertibly true, as Orthomom never defamed Greenbaum by stating or implying that she was a bigot or anti-semitic and, in fact, never used the words. This claim therefore is clearly not actionable.
The bottom line here is that this failed attempt to quell free speech has instead served to reaffirm the First Amendment right or each one of us to speak freely without fear of retribution or ramifications. The fact that a public official attempted to muzzle vocal critic of her policies by filing a meritless suit that included false claims and smears against my truthfulness is appalling - and the judge's decision clearly shows that the law is against such attempts. The fact that in the process, Ms. Greenbaum succeeded only in publicly smearing her own reputation and integrity is gravy.

I would like to thank my attorney, Paul Alan Levy, and his local counsel, Donald Rosenthal, for all their efforts on behalf of this cause. Their work has helped protect our constitutional rights as citizens of this country.

Public Citizen's press release can be found here. The PDF of the decision can be found here.

Background: (I, II, III, IV, V, VI)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hate Crimes in the Five Towns

With anti-Semitic hate crimes on the rise in NYC, apparently some of that has spilled over the Eastern border of the city - and right into my backyard:

Nassau police are investigating the appearance of swastikas on four stop signs at a Cedarhurst intersection, officials said.

According to police, a resident reported the small swastikas written onto the back and front of the stop signs at the intersection of Roselle and Fifth avenues around 2 p.m. Saturday.
Here are some pictures of the swastikas in question (click on images to enlarge). And though, as the article notes, they may be quite small, the swastika is still an image of hate. As has been covered in the news of late, instances of these types of hate crimes seem to be increasing, but we must not allow ourselves to become complacent to the truly offensive nature of the symbol - one that has been used to express hate, violence and anti-Semitism.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bad Behavior

Utterly appalling behavior over in Israel:
Five assailants believed to be Ultra-Orthodox Jews assaulted a woman and an Israel Defense Forces soldier Sunday for sitting next to each other on a bus bound for Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem.

The incident began when the five men asked the religious woman to move to the back of the bus to prevent males and females from sitting together in public. When she refused, they beat her and the male soldier who sat next to her.

Police forces that arrived at the scene to arrest the men were attacked by dozens of ultra-Orthodox men who punctured the tires of their vehicles, allowing the assailants to escape.
I posted about a similar story last year, and I was equally outraged then. That incident, quite correctly, was blogged about and buzzed about all over the internet, with most who weighed in siding with the victim. There did, however, seem to be a running commentary at that time by some who felt that somehow the incident was mitigated by the possibility that the victim had "staged" the event, or was "raring for a fight", or had somehow brought the abuse upon herself by virtue of being an activist for the cause of keeping women at the front of the bus. Well, any suggestion that last year's incident was an isolated one, or that it was not an indication of a slide into zealotry by at least a subset of the Charedi community can now be put to rest.

And though the usual caveats apply about these renegades being only a small minority of their religious group, the fact that five perpetrators who happened to be riding the bus all stepped up so willingly to the task of abusing a woman who did nothing more than remain in her seat, and the fact that these five men were aided and abetted by "dozens" of their neighbors, all seems to point to the reality that this mindset is shared by more than a fringe group in the Charedi world. I'm sure I am not the only one who finds that thought distressing.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Merit Pay for NYC Teachers

This is a welcome development:
The nation's largest school system and its teachers union have agreed on a form of merit pay, which links teacher compensation to student achievement.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers president, Randi Weingarten, agreed to a $20 million-a-year merit pay program at 200 of the city's highest-need schools.

The bonuses will be linked to school-wide gains measured by the city's new progress report system, not to individual student or classroom performance. The criteria for winning the extra funds are still being determined.

To me this is a no-brainer. It's all well and good to pay teachers solely based on seniority or degrees and not based on their hard work, but how is that in the best interests of our kids - or in the best interests of our hardest working teachers? It seems to me that giving teachers raises based only on how many years they have been doing the same exact job with no incentives whatsoever to increase their students' performance will only increase complacency, not productivity. It's good to see that Mayor Bloomberg has pushed this agenda, and that he has gotten the United Federation of Teachers - who have long been opposed to merit pay - to actually agree to it. I would hope to see some sort of similar incentive plan floated in our troubled school district.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Discriminatory Policy from the USPS?

This seem like an odd ruling:
A Jewish postal worker made to work on Sabbath because of staff cutbacks lost an appeal claiming his work schedule violated his civil rights.

Mail carrier Martin Tepper joined the post office in Chagrin Falls, about 20 miles southeast of Cleveland, in 1980 and became a Messianic Jew a few years later.

For ten years he was excused from working Saturdays, but the letter carriers’ union voted to rescind that accommodation amid pressure from fellow postal workers upset at having to work more weekend shifts because of staff reductions.

Tepper sued the U.S. Postal Service in federal court in Cleveland. He lost and a subsequent appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was denied, with the appeals court ruling Tepper could not prove he was discriminated against or that the post office failed to accommodate his beliefs.

“The removal of the accommodation did not result in a change of title, job status, pay or job responsibilities and conditions,” a three-judge panel ruled. “While Tepper now has to work on Saturdays, this is simply a requirement of the job for which he was hired; it is not an adverse change in employment.”
I'm not sure how forcing a Sabbath observer to work on Saturday isn't a failure to accommodate the man's religious beliefs. I find it surprising to see this from a government agency, no less.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Governor Spitzer Pledges to Support Private Schools

In the news:
Gov. Eliot Spitzer revealed today his next budget will feature a return to his pitch to give $1,000-per-student income tax deductions for parents who send their children to religious and private schools.

The governor's commitment came in a speech to the New York State Coalition of Independent & Religious Schools. His plan drew applause from the 200 representatives at a conference here.

Spitzer said the budget he unveils in January will be "difficult" to plan because of a looming $4 billion deficit.

But he promised to propose the $1,000 income tax deduction, and said the state will come up with at least $40 million to help private schools pay for administration costs such as taking attendance when students are taking state tests.
In the blogs:
Governor Spitzer Reaffirms Support for Parochial School/Yeshiva Education

Speaking today in Albany Governor Spitzer reaffirmed publicly his support for Non-Public Schools and promised innovative help them in whatever way possible from a legal and public policy perspective. His address to the Conference of Administrators of independent and religious schools was warmly received by the hundreds of attendees from across the religious spectrum. The crowd was full of Yeshiva administrators and representatives there in Albany for a show of support to the Governor’s address and for the informative educational sessions that followed. Askonim pleaded for additional assistance to Yeshivos in the form of tuition tax credits, computers, security monies to protect mosdos and additional State aid for reimbursement of State mandated services.
Please call your elected officials to affirm your support for Governor Spitzer's pledge to assist New York State's private school parents.

NYT on SY's

Caught up on some reading today and I finally read the NYT magazine article on Syrian Jews. The article goes into great detail regarding the edict that prohibits the community from recognizing any converts to Judaism, commonly known in the Syrian community as "the Takanah" (some background here). While I would have to say that the tone of the article was a bit nasty, my feelings on the Takanah have not changed at all. I simply don't see how the Syrian community can explain their policy on not recognizing any Gerim at all - even the most sincere of Gerim. So though I am sympathetic to the community for having had to endure a hatchet job at the hands of what seems to be a reporter with an intent to smear, I just can't get past my own feelings that the Takanah is just...indefensible.

You can tell me all you want that this has "saved" the community (check the comments of my previous post on the subject for a taste of that argument), but I still don't know how it justifies shunning someone who has already converted according to Halacha. It's one thing if the Syrian Rabbanim would refuse to actually perform conversions as a rule, but how can they ban all Gerim even after the fact - as well as all children of Gerim!? It just seems wrong.

So pardon me if I don't cry tears for the way the Syrian community was treated in this article. If a community stakes out a position like it has done with the Takanah, it should be prepared to defend its position convincingly. And I will note that when I say "convincingly", I don't mean by saying what this Syrian Rabbi said to the NYT reporter:
“Never accept a convert or a child born of a convert,” Kassin told me by phone, summarizing the message. “Push them away with strong hands from our community. Why? Because we don’t want gentile characteristics.”
Was Rabbi Kassin misquoted? Did he misspeak? Or did he actually just say, in the New York Times, that the Takanah is about keeping "gentile characteristics" out of his community? I really hope that wasn't what he meant to say. Even though he did say it. Someone, please. Tell me he was misquoted. Please?

Why Does Al Gore Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?

I totally understand that he has done wonders for the cause of saving the earth and I am grateful to him for that. But I still don't understand why furthering the cause of environmentalism is a matter of world peace - even after reading this. Twice. This didn't help either. Can someone explain it to me?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Orthomom on Ann Coulter

As many of my readers know, I have never particularly cared for the woman - or her views, political or otherwise. That said, her latest doesn't offend me as much as some of her past shrill declarations did. Maybe I just don't need to hear Ann Coulter voice her approval of my religion - being as I already have no respect for the woman. Or maybe I don't even really care what the average Christian feels about whether Jews need to be "perfected" before going to heaven. I can think she's dead, dead wrong - and still not think her views are anti-Semitic per se.

I mean, consider this: I can imagine there are quite a few Hindus who would be offended that I was told, a few years back, to stop wearing my Sheitel until it is ascertained that the hair was not used in Hindu ceremonies before being sewn into a wig. I presume that some Christians might take issue with the fact that some of my children have been taught in school to avert their eyes when passing a church so as not to inadvertently look at Christian symbols of worship. My son came home talking about how Avraham "broke all of his fathers Getchkas because his father worshiped idols instead of Hashem and Avraham didn't want him to [sic]". Are those views worthy of denunciation by the ADL, as Ann Coulter's views apparently were? I don't think so.

In addition, Rav Soloveitchik made it very clear in Confrontation, his 1964 essay on interfaith dialogue, that he felt we should not attempt to interfere with the tenets of other religions, as we are certainly not willing to revise any tenets of our own:
Third, we members of the community of the few should always act with tact and understanding and refrain from suggesting to the community of the many, which is both proud and prudent, changes in ritual or emendations of its texts. If the genuinely liberal dignitaries of the faith community of the many deem some changes advisable, they will act in accordance with their convictions without any prompting on our part. It is not within our purview to advise or solicit. For it would be both impertinent and unwise for an outsider to intrude upon the most private sector of the human existential experience, namely, the way in which a faith community expresses its relationship to God. Non-interference with and non-involvement in something which is totally alien to us is a conditio sine qua non for the furtherance of good will and mutual respect.

Fourth, we certainly have not been authorized by our history, sanctified by the martyrdom of millions, to even hint to another faith community that we are mentally ready to revise historical attitudes, to trade favors pertaining to fundamental matters of faith, and to reconcile "some" differences. Such a suggestion would be nothing but a betrayal of our great tradition and heritage and would, furthermore, produce no practical benefits. Let us not forget that the community of the many will not be satisfied with half measures and compromises which are only indicative of a feeling of insecurity and inner emptiness. We cannot command the respect of our confronters by displaying a servile attitude. Only a candid, frank and unequivocal policy reflecting unconditional commitment to our God, a sense of dignity, pride and inner joy in being what we are, believing with great passion in the ultimate truthfulness of our views, praying fervently for and expecting confidently the fulfillment of our eschatological vision when our faith will rise from particularity to universality, will impress the peers of the other faith community among whom we have both adversaries and friends. I hope and pray that our friends in the community of the many will sustain their liberal convictions and humanitarian ideals by articulating their position on the right of the community of the few to live, create, and worship God in its own way, in freedom and with dignity.
It seems he felt that there should be an across-the-board policy of non-interference with each religion's right to maintain its doctrines. By extension, I think it would follow that we should not be addressing the propriety of the details of Ann Coulter's religious beliefs, even if we find them personally offensive or just plain wrong.

Now, all that having been said, is Ann Coulter a complete idiot for running off at the mouth? Always was. Really, what's the dif?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Longer Living Through Bickering?

I found this quite interesting to read:
Recent studies show that how often couples fight or what they fight about usually doesn’t matter. Instead, it’s the nuanced interactions between men and women, and how they react to and resolve conflict, that appear to make a meaningful difference in the health of the marriage and the health of the couple.

A study of nearly 4,000 men and women from Framingham, Mass., asked whether they typically vented their feelings or kept quiet in arguments with their spouse. Notably, 32 percent of the men and 23 percent of the women said they typically bottled up their feelings during a marital spat.

In men, keeping quiet during a fight didn’t have any measurable effect on health. But women who didn’t speak their minds in those fights were four times as likely to die during the 10-year study period as women who always told their husbands how they felt, according to the July report in Psychosomatic Medicine. Whether the woman reported being in a happy marriage or an unhappy marriage didn’t change her risk.
So a woman who holds back from speaking her mind while arguing with her husband seems to be courting death. What's even more interesting is the fact that it didn't seem to matter if the women who held their tongues considered themselves to be in a happy marriage. Which means, at least according to this study, that even a woman in what she herself considers to be a happy marriage is not served well by holding back - even for the sake of peace. What's strange is the fact that men do not seem to have their health affected by similarly bottling up their feelings. Why is that? Is the fact that women suffer more ill effects from the stress of holding back their feelings completely physiological? Are women's constitutions really so much more delicate that they suffer more than men do from bottling up their feelings? Or is it that a vestige of the old patriarchal system - regardless of how far women seem have come on the equality front - has many men feeling superior deep down and thus unthreatened even when holding back their true feelings? Whereas no matter how equal a woman feels in a relationship, when withholding her feelings, she somehow feels abused and taken advantage of? I'm not sure, but I would love to hear some readers' ideas.

One more note: this study doesn't address whether couples would be better off trying not to bicker at all - it seems to concern only those couples already in the throes of bickering. One would have to imagine that there might be some better advice for a couple dealing with problems than to simply tell the woman to give as good as she gets.