Left Justified


Milken Institute Addresses the Hard Issues of Our Times

May 21, 2014 by Dan Kazan in Culture
Milken Institute Panel Discussion

Milken Institute Panel Discussion

Santa Monica-based Milken Institute is once again asking some of the hardest questions of our times- and looking to some of our greatest leaders for the answers.

The Milken Institute Global Conference took place this past April in Beverly Hills, California. On hand to discuss some of the most pressing and hard-to-solve problems of our day and age were quite a number of the world’s greatest leaders and thinkers. Among those leaders present were former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

Kagame and Blair shared the stage in a panel discussion entitled “Where Does the Growth Come From?” Blair also took part in a discussion on “Progress versus Pessimism in the Middle East.” In a panel which examined today’s “Global Risk,” retired US General Wesley Clark, former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistan ambassador to the United States together voiced their ideas.

The Milken Institute not only organizes and sponsors conferences, but it also produces reports on vital issues. Not long ago Milken published a report suggesting unique solutions to the global problem of looting of artifacts, which is today having a devastating effect on the science of archeology with an equally negative impact on national heritage treasures.

This report, entitled “Financial Innovations for Developing Archeological Discovery and Conservation,” was written by Caitlen MacLean and Glenn Yago of the Milken Institute. This 36-page report outlines “market-based solutions” to be used in the fight against looting. The authors received input from a large number of “economists, representatives from museums and the archaeological community, attorneys, and antiquities dealers and collectors.” Among these experts were Ali Aboutaam and Hicham Aboutaam, owners of Phoenix Ancient Art, S.A; Neil Brodie, Social Science Research Associate, Stanford Archaeology Center and former Research Director at the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre, University of Cambridge; and Lynn S. Dodd, curator and lecturer, Department of Religion, University of Southern California.

For further information about the many projects the Milken Institute engages in, visit their website.

Gangs Invading the Happiest Place on Earth

March 9, 2014 by Gail Nussbaum in Culture
Social Clubs Make Disneyland Even Happier for Many

Social Clubs Make Disneyland Even Happier for Many

Now, for many people, simply visiting Disneyland is just not enough. There is a growing trend, visible to Disneyland guests, to become part of a club whose purpose is to unite people of all different backgrounds who share a bountiful love for everything Disney.

Strolling through the Orange County, California iconic theme park, it is becoming increasing clear that like-minded guests are joining forces to show their pride in their hobby along with their love of Disney. These people wear denim jackets embroidered with the name of their particular club. Those names usually take their cue from specific places in the park, like “The Jungle Cruisers,” named after a popular ride; or the “Main Street Elite,” named after the crowded thoroughfare all visitors must through to get to the rest of the park. Other names are more general winks at Disney icons, like the “Hidden Mickeys” and “Walt’s Misfits.”

Disneyland has traditionally not been known before for its avant garde atmosphere. But strangely, these clubs seem to be defying, while at the same time honoring, the message of Disneyland, which has, at least until the advent of these groups, been the apple pie wholesomeness of the ‘American Way.’ In addition to the denim vests and jackets, the gang, I mean club members, nurture a unique look which could include body piercing, tattoos, pompadours, or other outward manifestation that Walt himself would probably not approve of. Their look is “unconventional” while Disneyland is probably the birthplace and capital of conventionality.

So what’s going on here? One member of the Main Street Elite, L. Aggro Harrington explained,

“We wanted to meet people who wanted to go to the park as much as we did. People who were like us: young parents into movies, music, fashion, tattoos and body mods.”

The clubs appear to be open and tolerant. The few requirements for membership include respect for other members, other clubs, and Disneyland itself. They don’t seem to be exclusive or clique-y: members can come from any age group, gender, or even sexual orientation. Yet, there are many Disneyland guests or are suspicious of these clubs, which feel like a kind of gang to them.

“They definitely make other guests uncomfortable when they’re groups of younger ones,” explains a Disney cast member who works in Fantasyland and Toontown. “But there are also families that come. [The clubs] have gotten so big that they have every kind of guest you can imagine now.”

Despite frightening rumors of typical gang behavior such as turf wars and the like, talking to a club member or two and it is clear there is nothing frightening or dangerous here. The bottom line for this new breed of gang member is that it’s all about friendship, having fun at Disneyland, and looking ‘cool’ while you’re doing it.  Leaders of the clubs insist that they are highly appreciative of all the other clubs popping up and it’s not about competition or exclusiveness. How could it be and still be Disney?

Roosevelt Holds on to First First Lady Position

February 16, 2014 by Alyssa Anderson in Culture
Beloved First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

Beloved First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

For the past 32 years Siena College has asked selected Americans how they feel about their First Ladies, and each time Eleanor Roosevelt has come out on top. The latest poll, which questioned 242 historians, political scientists and published scholars, and released on Saturday, shows Abigail Adams in her traditional spot in second place, and Jacquie Kennedy retaining third place compared with the last poll which was held in 2008.

Fourth place went to Dolly Madison and Michelle Obama took position five in her first appearance on the list. Hillary Clinton fell from fourth place in 2008 down to sixth. During the years Clinton spent as First Lady the Siena poll, taken in 1993, placed her in second place.

The scholars put Clinton in the top spot, however, as the First Lady who they could see most suited to being President. Sixty-nine percent thought Clinton could take the nation’s highest office, while only 39 percent saw Roosevelt as such. Obama was rated highest as far as which First Lady ran her family life best, with 43 percent thinking so. Kennedy came in second place as a family woman with 22 percent and Edith Roosevelt third with 17 percent.

The poll was held between October 10 and November 25 in 2013. Online interviews were conducted and questionnaires were sent through the mail. The poll was conducted by the Siena College together with C-SPAN, and released last Saturday in conjunction with C-SPAN’s “First Lady” TV series, whose last episode will be shown on Monday.

Rabbi Tully Bryks, Pope Francis and Barbara Zigmund Speak on Women’s Role and Religion

October 2, 2013 by Danielle Stoneman in Culture
Rabbi Tully Bryks

Women’s Role in Religion: What do the experts say?

Women have been fighting for their rights in the West for over one hundred years. Beginning with the suffrage movements of the early 20th century, to the bra-burning 60s and the “equal pay for equal work” movements throughout the 70s, 80s and beyond, women have been struggling with improving their place in society. The struggle for equal rights for women has been widely acknowledged and discussd in the spheres of economics and politics, but what about the world of religion? What attitudes exist in the three major faiths represented in the United States towards the woman’s role within each religion?

No religion is monolithic, of course, and there will certainly be a large number of opinions and points-of-view when it comes to women’s role and rights. The following quotes from the representatives of Judaism, Protestantism and Catholicism will be main-stream and will avoid extremist perspectives, whether to the right or to the left.

Rabbi Tully Bryks, author of the informative website, “The Rabbi with Answers,” addresses the issue of why Jewish women are exempted from many of the commandments which men are compelled to follow. Here is part of Rabbi Bryks answer as published on his website:

“Ironically, it is precisely because Judaism holds women in such a high esteem that they are exempt from many of the commandments. Keep in mind that an exemption from time-bound commandments does not mean that women are prohibited from performing them. Rather, it just means that they are not obligated to do so. But should women choose to perform these optional commandments, they are even rewarded for them. It is sort of like a teacher who announces that students who already have a B+ average are exempt from the final, but they may still take the exam if they choose, and raise their score even higher. Girls start off with a B+. Boys, on the other hand, start off life with a circumcision, showing that they have a longer way to go to achieve that “A”. Another example of a girl’s head start is that she is ready to become a woman and accept the associated responsibilities at age 12, while a boy is not ready until age 13.”

Barbara Brown Zigmund is dean at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. In the following exerpt she addresses the question of why more women have been choosing the ministry than ever before, especially when it is a field historically dominated by men.

“People are always asking why this change has come about so quickly. Why do women choose ministry? Why would a woman today seek out a career so obviously dominated by men? Yet it makes sense. As women have moved outside the home to seek employment, the church has offered great appeal. Many women have received excellent educations. In the economy of American Protestant values, when one has a talent or a resource, it is wasteful not to use it. Women are seeking meaningful ways to use the benefits of education. Women are newly aware of their talents. Furthermore, the inflationary spiral has forced many women into the marketplace to supplement shrinking family incomes.

“Historically, women have been the backbone of American churches; their volunteer efforts have kept many mainline churches going. Consequently, when women begin looking around the society for employment outside the home, the church is very appealing. Women know the church. They know that they can carry on its ministries effectively, because they have been serving the church as volunteers for years. And when the church preaches a theology that celebrates the gifts of all people, regardless of race and sex, women feel comfortable openly seeking more direct leadership. Women who have never claimed their sense of calling are coming forward to do what they have thought about for years.

“Although women are challenging the sexist patterns of the past, most women who choose to prepare for ministry are not on a crusade. They are responding to a genuine call to service. While they are hurt and angry that the church has limited the exercise of women’s talents in the past, they are hopeful that a new era for women’s ministries is emerging.”

Who is a better representative of the point of view of Catholics than the Pope. The following is taken from an address given by Pope Francis during his weekly general audience in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on April 3, 2013.

“In the Church, and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord. In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role … The evangelists simply narrate what happened: the women were the first witnesses. This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria.”

In a different context Pope Francis related to the question of women’s role in the church. He began by admitting that he is suspicious of what he called “female machismo,” because “women have a different make-up from men”. But he then goes on to say that he wants to “investigate further the role of women in the church … The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions.”