Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Death Of The Simple Life

I was thinking about my great-uncle Dave recently, and thinking about how people like that simply don't exist anymore.

Uncle Dave worked in the post office for many years, making a modest living. He retired many years ago, and supported by a pension, lives a simple life. He's got a small apartment, no car, and no luxuries. The only thing he's passionate about? Gemara. He wouldn't miss his shiur for the world, and even throughout the day, he's got jus gemara by his side.

And it's not like Uncle Dave is a big talmid chacham. He's not a moron, but intellectually I would say the guy is pretty smart, but nothing special.

The sad thing is, people like that simply don't exist anymore. Why? I think there are two huge factors at stake:

1) Anyone who's even remotely passionate about learning is pressured to learn all day, and feel like a shaygetz otherwise. And many, many people would appreciate learning much more if it were something they did for an hour or two per day, rather than something they're (hopefully) doing for 7-8 hrs a day. And that's a discussion in and of itself.

2) The bigger factor here? Money. The cost of living has gone up so much, as have the general standards of living. So to live even somewhat comfortably, you've gotta make a lot of money. And there's a lot of pressure for frum guys to go to law school or med school, where there's more potential for quick money.

How many guys out there would go for teaching? If any guy would work in the post office, he'd be laughed at. So you want a job with less pressure, so you can learn more? Then why don't you just go to Lakewood? And for the shidduch resume, forget it. If a guy wanted to be a plumber because the hours are flexible, well, good luck getting a girl to say "yes" to that.

And even a guy who's a good, sincere guy, has to stress over paying the bills. There's the physical stress of putting in heavy hours, and the emotional stress of thinking about it all the time. Such stress gets in the way of spiritual growth. Foremost on the guy's mind is money, how to make it, and how to survive day-to-day.

The only ones who have it easy here? The sons and sons-in-law of the richies. They work for their father or shver, and that stress of making a living isn't there. But so many of these people are more passionate about poker than learning, and growing up in a spoiled environment doesn't help the cause. And to be rich and spiritual? VERY hard to pull off.

What can I say. Times have changed. A lot.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Warren Buffett: Chosid Umos HaOlam

Big news this week was that Warren Buffett pledged over $30 billion of his fortune to Bill Gates' foundation.

In my elementary school, one of my rabbeim was once discussing how much more generous the Jews are than the goyim. Well, in Buffett's case, while he definitely went against the Gemara of "al yivazvez yoser michomesh," his generosity (and Bill Gates's, while we're at it) definitely puts us to task.

What also amazes me about Buffett is that the guy lives simply. He has a small house in Omaha, Nebraska, and we all know the guy can afford more. I don't know how religious the guy is, but I have to respect him for exerting self-control and choosing to live a low-key lifestyle. There are quite a few Jewish communities that can learn from him.

And the fact that Bill Gates wants to step down after 2008 to focus on charity work? It's a beautiful thing. I'm sure the guy could go on and try to make more money, but he's choosing not to. Gotta give him credit for that.

When I hear about people like Buffett and Gates, it makes me mad how so many of my rabbeim had nothing but bad things to say about goyim. Sure the guy's not perfect, but then again, who is? There's a lot to learn from Buffett, that's for sure.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

An Alternative Fat Tax

The politicians are in the news again, trying to curb fast food joints. Their latest shtick? Trying to redo zoning laws to limit fast food joints, especially in low-income neighborhoods.

This is a disturbing and unfair precedent. After all, the only reason there are so many fast food joints is that there's lots of demand for it! People have very little free time, and need a quick and cheap meal. All these laws would do would make the poor poorer, and give these politicians another lame excuse to pry away our hard-earned income.

Also, it's unfair to the skinny folks out there. I know many guys who could have 3 steaks a night and not gain a pound. And then there are people out there who "fill quickly" and thus stay thin as a wire. Why should they be deprived of their McDonald's fix?

To me, the only fair solution would be that for everyone over x number of pounds, they should be charged double for using city buses and subways.

After all, their weight doesn't affect me or anyone else otherwise. I have nothing against fat people, especially the jolly ones, like Norm from Cheers. It's when I'm commuting and they take up three seats on the train (or all the standing room) that they get under my skin. When I was in 8th Grade, there was a heavyset women that got on the bus every day and took up an entire two-seater. Chutzpah!

The only question is, practically speaking, the implementation of such a scheme would be a logsitical nightmare. How do we enforce it? Do we let station agents and bus drivers make their own judgment calls as to who should pay double? Do we spend thousands of dollars on scales at each turnstile? And let's say someone has a lot of luggage with him? I say pay double also, I hate people who get on to the subway with tons of stuff! And some morons will probably go to court and file some silly lawsuits. It would be a disaster.

To me, it only makes sense to pass anti-fast food laws when it comes to kids. When a kid sees Ronald McDonald and a Happy Meal with free toys, of course he'll come running to eat that crap. And that kid doesn't know how artery-clogging that stuff is. So the same way that the "Camel" camel had to go in the early '90's, I would send the Happy Meals packing. And maybe don't let them advertise on kids channels, while we're at it.

But if I want my greasy burger, I don't want anyone giving me a hard time about it. And if there are some people who will gorge themselves on that stuff and never do a stitch of exercise, well - NMP - Not My Problem.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Brooklyn And "The Basics"

My good friend Michelle has a piece discussing how a rabbi, in a speech about derech eretz, made a big deal about some senators drinking directly from a water bottle, rather than from a cup. Her piece brought to mind a thought I've had for a long, long time, so I guess it's appropriate to discuss it now.

I find that in Brooklyn, most rabbis and rabbeim will almost never discuss a "basic" halachic or mussar issue. Instead of talking about tznius and covering your knees, rabbis will discuss whether hagbah is done with a 180 angle or a 360. It also reminds me of a story that happened when I was in high school. A rabbi came to speak before rosh hashana, and was talking about making kabalos. The rabbi said not to go overboard with kabalos, and that we should simply make a kabala to learn 5 extra minutes a day. The rabbeim in the high school got all upset. What do you mean, you're telling them to learn ONLY 5 minutes extra!? They should be encouraged to learn much more than that! Never mind that R' Schach ZTL once was mekabel to bench from inside a bencher till Chanukah, but I guess we're better, right?

Why shun the basics? Two theories:

a) Many Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs are obsessed with image. They're competing with each other to be the best so they can get all the richies to give them dough. So only the yeshivos and sems that focus on the most arcane and extreme elements of halacha and hashkafa have a shot at being the Harvards of Brooklyn. If a kid came home and said "my rebbi gave a shmuz about how we should be respectful to our parents," people would say, yeah, I knew that in first grade. What kind of morons are in that yeshiva, that they have to hear the basics? But when you talk about water bottles, you give the impression that, "our bochurim are so great and so refined, that the only thing left for them to focus on is drinking from a cup instead of a bottle!"

b) This one's more pertinent to shul rabbis. Congregants who hear about the basics feel like their intelligence is being insulted. "Why is the rabbi talking about being careful with hilchos shabbos? What does he think I am, an Am Ho'Oretz?" So the focus on the arcane, to me, is a form of the rabbis trying to score points with the congregants, and to give them that feeling like "wow, I know all the basic halachos, so now we can focus on the hypotheticals that happen once every 50 years!" How else do you explain these discussions about hagbah, when many people are struggling with basics in areas like brachos, shabbos, lashon hora, tznius, etc.?

One person who didn't shun the basics? The Ramchal, ZTL, who said that Mesilas Yesharim was not full of earth-shattering chiddushim. Rather, it was merely a reminder of the basic tenets of mussar, which we all too often forget about. Many people could take a lesson from him.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Chassidus in 2006

If you read the papers, it seems like the chassidic movement is past its prime. Whether it's the ongoing civil war in Satmar, the Boro Park riots, or the occasional financial scandal, it seems like the chassidim get nothing but bad press. And it seems like everyone out there knows a chassid or two who has cable, watches movies, and generally seems apathetic towards yiddishkeit.

When I was in yeshiva, the age-old issue of working for a living vs. kollel came up. I argued that perhaps we should follow the "Torah Im Derech Eretz" approach advocated by R' Samson Raphael Hirsch, ZTL. But someone said, "no, what Rav Hirsch had in mind was only meant for that generation, to help combat the influence of the haskalah. But his mehalech was not intended to be applicable for all-time."

Recently, I've been speculating whether the same logic holds true for chassidus. A quick disclaimer: I'm not here to discuss the general issues of chassidus such as davening late, blindly following rebbes, etc. I'm just discussing whether, assuming chassidus is "legit," is it still a solid movement these days?

When the Baal Shem, Baal HaTanya and other early rebbes started the chassidic movement, you can see why it made a lot of sense at the time. Culturally, it was a totally different world. People lived in ghettos, and it was still possible to stay away from the goyish influence. The media wasn't all over the place. Financially, things were much different than they were now. Very few people had money. And very few Jews were "professionals."

In 2006, things have changed drastically. The chassidish focus of avoiding the media, newspapers, and anything goyish can't work anymore. Even in Boro Park or Williamsburg, you can't avoid it. There's a whole world out there, a world full of temptation, and a life that looks a lot freer than the confines of chassidus. Maybe the chassidim that are engrossed in learning and who find their movement meaningful won't feel deprived. But many of them, especially those in the business world, can be much more tempted than their counterparts at the turn of the 18th Century.

Besides, think about how, during the riots, they chanted "No justice, no peace." They must've gotten that from somewhere, and chances are it wasn't from the rebbe's tisch. And I'm sure the rebbe didn't teach them to punch out the chassidim who are for the other rebbe. Instead of an approach telling them to shun all tumah, perhaps an approach for dealing with the inevitable clash with the media would be more sensible. And the fact that they can't even play basketball because it's goyish. I think that's a little crazy. Most kids need an outlet. Either it'll be basketball, or smashing police cars.

In 2006, the costs of living are astronomical. I've heard there are many chassidim in Touro, and it's definitely a step in the right direction. For all the stories of nissim in business, the fact is that a college education is an important part of hishtadlus these days. And I'm only speculating here, but perhaps if more chassidim were professionals there would be fewer business ethics issues in those communities.

Additionally, perhaps more than any other sect of Orthodox Jewry, Chassidim give women the fewest opportunities to learn or have any job with an intellectual aspect to it. There's teaching, and that's about it. Again, when chassidus began, very few women worked. In 2006, they see a society where women have many more opportunities. So for the more shallow women who couldn't give a damn, their yiddishkeit is devoid of meaning regardless. But even for the ones who are smarter and more ambitious, how can they enjoy yiddishkeit if they see it as stifling their opportunities to grow and accomplish?

- Maybe there aren't thousands of chassidim going off the derech. Maybe many of them seem to be happy and content with their lot. But again, do we know how meaningful their yiddishkeit is? Do we know how many of them commit egregious sins secretly? Do we know how many of them are unhappy and feel stuck in a rigid culture?

Let's not forget that chassidus is a relatively new movement. (If Judaism started at mattan torah, that was over 3300 years ago. Chassidus is only about 250 years old.) It started as a response to what was happening in the world around them. And as such, it only makes sense for the movement to be further cognizant of our current culture and how it can adapt to be as successful as possible in today's world.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Making Of The Apathetic

There are a lot of frum Jews in my community that, at first glance, don't seem to fit any of the common categories of Orthodox Jewry. The men play poker, see plenty of movies, and the women often straddle the fine line of tznius. So maybe they're MO? Chas V'Shalom! On Shabbos, they're walking the street with their big black hats covering their velvet (no srugies!!) yarmulkas. The kids can only go to yeshivos where the rabbeim are chareidi, lest the children be tainted with krum hashkafos. So now they sound chareidi, right? Yeah, but the movies and the cable don't go with that.

Some call these people "Centrists." Others call them "Chareidi Lite." My moniker for them? "Frum apathetic." I think they, more than other group out there, simply go through the motions of frumkeit. Sure the men may daven and go to a daf shiur, they only eat kosher and will never, ever use the Flatbush eiruv, but they feel no passion for yiddishkeit. No spirituality, none at all. And they seem pretty unhappy.

How does that happen? How does a kid who only went to the best yeshivos turn out to do all the mitzvos, but feel no passion about yiddishkeit.

It's a complicated topic, probably a two-parter, but I blame the doom-and-gloom rabbeim. The ones that make God out to be a tyrant. The ones that tell you that once you do certain aveiros, you're screwed for life and going straight to hell. (Oddly enough, many of those rabbeim don't tell you that one of the reasons for the tochacha was due to not serving God with simcha.) The ones who say that working for a living is a backup plan.

In many cases, it's an approach to frumkeit that's very frum, but without any margin for error. It's devoid of any joy, happiness, or feeling. And if you screw up once, there has to be an overwhelming feeling of guilt.

So let's say you don't have the self-control to avoid doing aveiros and the discipline to sit and learn all day? Well, you're guilty! And the best way to deal with the guilt? Just stop giving damn. Don't worry about this stuff. Have a good time, go to minyan so you get a good shidduch, and do what you enjoy.

I often heard people jokingly say, "I'm gonna go to hell anyway, so why should I care about...?" Yeah it's a joke, but unfortunately, the corny cliche of "there's truth to every joke" sadly applies here.

The counter-argument is, what's wrong with the rabbis laying it all on the table? Besides, is it better to have the kids feel happy about yiddishkeit, but at the same time embracing their taavos and not being taught to be careful about various halachos?

I have what to say about that, and that's for another time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


As promised, here's a follow-up post on the issue of deference. I don't know a whole lot about the halachic process (is there even such a thing anymore?), but I just wanted to express my thoughts on the matter.

To me, the issue of deference came up after the Slifkin ban. What I heard was that many gedolim saw that R' Elyashiv had signed, and once they saw that, it was enough for them. And like a bunch of dominos, they all placed their names on the ban.

Now, even assuming that R' Elyashiv is the #1 gadol hador and entitled to such deference, two things bother me:

a) Isn't it a bit disingenuous to sign something solely on the basis of someone else's opinion? When I see a Rav's signature, I'd like to assume that means he thoroughly analyzed the facts and relevant halachos of the issue, and came to x conclusion. But I don't think most people would assume that the signature was merely a reflexive move following someone else's opinion.

b) Who said R' Elyashiv was presented with the case correctly? This was true especially in the Slifkin case, where the kanoim put together a booklet of out-of-context statements from Slifkin's book. Would R' Elyashiv have said the same thing had he read the whole book? Or had he understood English? In other words, is Daas Torah still Daas Torah even when it's based on inaccurate facts and possibly incorrect presumptions?

The issue has also come up in the Flatbush eruv controversy. Many people out there have said that R' Moshe was not presented with accurate facts regarding the situation in Flatbush. It's one of those classics which bring out the chareidi/ MO divide.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Gedolim Top 25?

In a comment thread, Lakewood Yid was asked why American charedim follow the Israeli gedolim, when they have their own gedolim to follow, and without the cultural divide issues. He responded by saying: "And besides, tell me who in US compares to R' Elyashiv and R' Kanievsky."

And in his most recent post, Bari VeShema rips the rabbis in the Halachic Donor Society, claiming that they're not qualified to pasken , saying that "But the overwhelming majority of these Rabbanim feel that they have a right to an opinion, when they are eminently unqualified to render one. They may have learned the Sugyos and responsa involved, but - if you haven't learned through all of Shas with Rishonim, Shulchan Aruch and Nosei Keilim, you're not a 'player'. Sorry to disappoint you."

When chareidim pull out arguments like these, it reminds me of a couple of third-graders fighting about "my daddy is better than your daddy." Do we know who's better and who's not among today's gedolim and rabbonim? Is there any way to measure anyone's ability and bekius? Besides, how does Bari VShema know how much those rabbis know? Did he test them?

Perhaps we should develop a system similar to the one found in NCAA football. Instead of ranking USC, U of Miami, Nebraska, etc. we can rank the gedolim. For all of the MO's and yeshivish out there who are unsure who's number one, we can develop a ranking system that will rank the gedolim in order of greatness, so we know who to follow.

And maybe we should have different divisions for the different gedolim, the same way that the NCAA has some schools in Division I, some in Division II, and some in III. So if a gadol knows shas and poskim, maybe he's in the top division. But if he only knows sugyos, then I guess he's in Division II. And what if he knows kaballah? What if his midos are exemplary? Now you see how silly this is getting.

And besides, even if a gadol is #1, does that mean we have to follow him? Is he the posek for all of klal yisroel, whether they're litvish, chassidish, sephardic, whatever? Nobody doubts, or should doubt, the greatness of R' Chaim Kanievski SHLITA or YBL"C Rav Shach, ZTL. But if I followed their piskei halacha, I'd have to drop out of college and throw out my shaver. Should we respect their gadlus? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean we have to follow them.

So to me, to even contemplate the question of "who's a greater gadol?" is silly.

Two exceptions, though. One, I'm only limiting my point to the question of two contemporaries in the same generation. We live with the maxim of "niskatnu hadoros," so I would say it's safe to assume that, for example, R' Chaim Soloveichik was greater than anyone around today.

Also, there's something to be said for deference when it comes to psak. Any posek deciding a shailah today ought to factor in the opinion of other gedolim. But how far should that go? That's to be discussed in my next post.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Top Ten Overrated Jewish Songs

It's a shame that jewish music has jumped the shark. It's too bad that people only put out tapes to get their names out so they can make real dough singing at weddings. And even though I barely follow the Jewish music scene anymore, I still like to reminisce on my childhood days of MBD, Fried, Journeys, and all that other good stuff.

Anyway, I'm sure many of you have been to a wedding or kumsitz or something and thought, "not that song again?" Or "what's wrong with everyone? Why does everyone like this song? It's not THAT good." So with that in mind, I present my top ten overrated Jewish songs:

10) "Onoh Hashem" - Carlebach; I don't think the song itself is that bad; it's just that when people try to sing it and can't reach the high part, it just sounds awful.

9) "Tov Lehodos" - Shalheves Boys Choir - This Jewish one-hit wonder put out a song that has been sung in yeshivos and camps for years now. Maybe it's not that good. Or maybe it was once good, but the overkill got to me. Whatever it is, I can't stand this song anymore. I'll give it one thing - it's probably better than the Rabbis' Sons version, although my grandparents would disagree.

8) "Yaaleh V'Yavoh" - Miami - The song itself is okay. I don't know; for some reason, I just get really creeped out when I'm in a room with grown men singing a song I associate with 30 prespubescent kids' voices. I just find it very weird. I guess that logic applies to any Miami song.

7) "Ya Ma Mai" - Chaim Dovid - I never got into this one. I find it annoying and uninspiring, except after a few shots of hard liquor. And then, of course, anything is inspiring, especially if it has a catchy beat.

6) "Naar Hoyisi" - Dveykus III - One of my least favorite Rottenberg songs. I find the tune cheesy, and the words just don't get me going. As an aside, Dveykus jumped the shark with this album. I really don't like it. (Another possibility for a JTS moment: when Scharfman has to catch his breath on "Shalom Aleichem" on V. Volumes I and II are two of the best Jewish albums ever, except for the fast songs. But III has too many duds. Volume IV was a slight improvement, but Volume III was a turning point, without question.)

5) "Lmaan Achai" - Carlebach - A kumsitz staple for years, I never liked this one. The tune is too dirgey. The low part takes forever.

4) "Mimkomcha" - Carlebach. I'm talking about the chazzonish one, not the other one (which isn't much better). So slow, so long, it has no tune, and it's the same thing as anything the professional chazzonim do. It's great for comic relief. Let's just say that, far too many times over the past few years, I've had to hold back from cracking up during kedusha. If you can't sing the nigun, don't use it! Is it that hard to understand?

3) "Atoh Sokum" - Carlebach - I never got this one. Cheesy tune. Plus, I associate that pasuk with slichos. I always found it bizarre to take a pasuk from slichos and put a fast tune to it. Even on Yom Kippur, every year, I always think about the chassidish "Avini Makeini" during davening. Great song, really lightens me up on Yom Kippur. But something about it feels very wrong.

2) "Hamalach" - Dveykus IV - I think Nachum Segal called this the best song of the '90's. Heck, I'll even take the Shloime Dachs version over this one. In fact, I once tried using the Dachs version for L'cha Dodi in an old man's shul. Let's just say it didn't go over too well. Next time, I'll stick to a nigun that's at least 100 years old, just to be safe.

1) "Acheinu" - Lev V'Nefesh - I think some people in Uzbekistan were inspired by this song. Maybe if all I had grown up with were Russian polka songs, I'd find it interesting. But after Fried's powerful Acheinu on "Forever One," I can't listen to this one. Too cold, too dirgey, and I really don't like Abie' s voice. Abie cannot belt it out anywhere nearly as powerfully as Fried, or even Abish Brodt.

HONORABLE MENTION - Anything by Lipa. I really don't get the hype over this guy. He has one song that sounds like a ripoff of "Peanut Butter" from an old Olson Twins CD (it was my sister's, I promise! She listened to it every day for a year). And there's one song that sounds like "Hey Dum Diddle Dee Dum," the Uncle Moishy classic. Plus he does that cheesy Lion King song, which pissed off a lot of chassidim. Maybe people like him because of his cool glasses. What does that make him, the Jewish Lisa Loeb? Whatever.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Ripping the Shidduch System

Well, Chananya Weissman is at it again, ripping apart the shidduch system, instead calling for a system of "natural meeting."

I've been through the shidduch system for a few years now, and I have a few beefs with it, but overall, it's a very effective system.

After all, for all the talk of the "shidduch crisis," the fact is that the system works for most people. People like Weissman focus only on all the horror stories and all the problems with the system, but they don't give a fair and balanced picture of it. You go to onlysimchas on an average night, and many of the engagements there were a result of shidduchim.

Like every system out there, it has its flaws. And I'll admit that it's not for everyone. Plus, like everything else out there, it's subject to abuse. So there are people out there who ask ridiculous questions and who dump guys for not wearing a suit. But if the system is used with some common sense, then shidduchim don't have to be as crazy as they often are.

And for those who complain that shidduch meetings are awkward- just loosen up! Life is full of awkward moments. When you get a new job and meet everyone for the first time - it's awkward. Using a pick-up line on some girl at a bar - awkward. Just chill out, develop some confidence, and get over it.

- And the argument I always make is, okay, you have a problem with the shidduch system? Find me a better alternative.

The majority of people on the shidduch scene are guys and girls who have gone to separate-sex yeshivos, (and some even having gone to seperate colleges like Touro) and have zero experience talking to a member of the opposite sex. That alone makes things awkward. Plus, the heterophobia taught by the yeshivos and sems doesn't help the cause. So to expect these same people to meet a girl on their own is simply unrealistic.

That's my biggest beef with Weissman's piece. He has no plan of how to implement a practical method of "natural meeting," especially for the right-wingers.

If I had to give one piece of advice to a prospective dater, it would be "have fun, and don't take this crap too seriously." And that's something that can work for anyone, no matter what circle of frumkeit they're in.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Taking Action

Last week, one of my neighbors came over for Shalosh Seudos. Mike has always had beefs with the chareidi/yeshivish system, their schools, etc. and last week was no exception. He was ripping the yeshivos for telling everyone to become learning guys, saying that the system benefited the richies while it screwed the poor, who can't get any shidduchim because they can't support the young kollel couple. In the past, Mike has ripped the local yeshivos for being obsessed with money and image rather than focusing on properly being mechanech the kids.

Yet Mike would fall into the "do as I say, not as I do" category. He sends his kids to the same yeshivos that he's been ripping apart for years. Plus, two of his kids are the same "learning guys" that he has a problem with. Why isn't the guy consistent?

I think it comes down to the fact that almost nobody out there wants to take action. Obviously, Mike alone couldn't do anything. With his chassidish background, he's not about to convert to MO. Aside from all the difficulties in switching frum cultures, he's probably got his share of beefs with the MO system, too.

But let's say Mike wanted to join with like-minded people and form a group or put together some sort of protest. First off, many people drink the kool-aid and have no problem with the yeshivos and their mehalchim. Second, even if people have beefs similar to Mike, do they care enough to do anything about the situation? Most of them are too busy running their businesses and dealing with the stresses of everyday life. And many of them are more interested in sports or the latest gossip going around the neighborhood.

You do have some people out there who take action by themselves, such as Jeff Kirschblum (with the life insurance for rabbeim) and Marvin Schick taking on the high price of tuition. But to deal with some of the messier issues, you've gotta stay anonymous.

Interestingly, perhaps this is where the blogosphere comes in. I keep thinking back to UOJ, who could not have done what he's currently doing 5 or 10 years ago. Sure, he could've sent his mass mailing and filed his lawsuit. But how else could he have publicized his articles? How else could he have created a forum where others could share their experiences and opinions on the system?

Of course, I don't agree with much of what UOJ says or believes, but you've gotta admit that he's had a strong influence on the community. This just might be the best way to take action with some of the thornier issues among us.