A few more thoughts about last night's gathering - what was really missing in the Conservative and Reform positions (conservative more than reform) was a sense that there's a consistent theory of how mitzvot and obligations can be changed/interpreted for modern times. This is presumably a different thing from publishing a responsa in that the latter presumably interprets without changing the essense/most obvious interpretations, while the former may annul either tradition or formerly accepted essence. The reform position only felt like a gross hack to the extent that they accepted mitzvot as obligatory rather than traditional/identity-defining (of which they did a bit, but then went the other way a few times). Apparently Rabbi Gibson (Reform) is one of the very few people in his congregation that keeps kosher, and as a result he can't usually eat most of the food from his own temple or ceremonies they hold - the fact that they're Reform doesn't (necessarily) mean that they don't take things seriously, but it does leave me with questions as to how self-consistent their positions are. Also, the most interesting question asked of Rabbi Miller was someone asking why when members of his branch of Judaism were asked by friends to come to Conservative or Reform ceremonies (Bar/Bat Mitzvot and the like) they often refused - his answer (which I will inadequately summarise from memory) was really very respectable - that while they don't disapprove of the other people involved (these often being close friends or sometimes family) and don't even usually think that these things are wrong for everyone involved on some deep level, given how seriously they take what they believe, they may choose not to participate in things that seem wrong to them (even if it is not obligatory to do so). I think the basic idea there is beautiful, and it applies to anyone with a philosophy or set of ideals about morality, whatever the basis, and the acceptance that there will be sacrifices and social costs to maintaining one's values is a very mature and worthy position.
- NYC Mayor Bloomberg switched his party affiliation (again!), this time from Republican to Democrat. He's described as a personal libertine with fiscal conservativism, maybe making him a bit like Giuliani.
- The Palestinian situation continues to move rapidly - Abbas under Fatah formed a separate government without any Hamas members, which has the support of the Arab league. Hamas's control over Gaza has led to consequences like sealed borders, and some people worry that a two-state solution may become a three state solution if Hamas manages to keep Gaza. Gaza isn't going to be a pleasant place to live for people who don't want to be ruled by Sharia - while I don't mind their ban on Christian missionary work (a deviation from liberalism that I've slowly adopted over the last few years - I am comfortable with preventing missionaries of any sort from doing their job, deporting or jailing them for a bit as needed), alcohol bans, coverings for women, music bans, and closing of bars/internet cafés, etc seem like a disaster. A number of Gazans are doing their best to leave the area, with Israeli tanks crossing the Gaza border as a show of force to allow some evacuations. Hamas's agression may be a great gift to Fatah - with Europe, Israel, and the United States unifying around Abbas's government, combined with countries in the Arab league aiming to contain their own anti-government islamist portions of society, it seems possible that progress towards a lasting peace may be made. This is especially true because for the time the most ideologically opposed to peace are separated from representation in the PA.
- I'd write more about Rushdie, but it's all pretty predictable.
- On a different note, the continuing struggle over product identity/purity in Europe led to a failure to tighten the legal definition of vodka. One quote from the article that I found amusing came from a Finnish MEP: "This is a battle of the vodka belt against the wine belt, and in between lies the beer belt, which will get to decide", the vodka belt presumably being the Nordic/Baltic countries, the beer belt being the Germanics, and the wine belt being France, England, Italy, and Spain.
- Sri Lanka sunk some Tamil Tiger naval forces.
- Taiwan is considering an application for UN Membership as Taiwan (as opposed to ROC). I find it disgraceful that Taiwan is excluded from international organisations by China's economic carrot-and-stick games.
A few days ago I removed all x86 compatibility from my laptop's FC7 install. No harm done... The FC7 upgrade for one of the servers at work also went smoothly.