December 27, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 5:04 PM


Netanyahu's self-inflicted multiple defeats (Alon Ben-Meir, 12/27/12, Times of Israel)

In the past two months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suffered four defeats that undoubtedly will have serious repercussions on Israel's global standing, especially if he succeeds in forming the next Israeli government. President Obama's reelection humiliated Netanyahu, who openly supported Mitt Romney; he suffered a second defeat when the Palestinian Authority secured an observer Palestinian state at the UN General Assembly. It was also a slap in the face for Netanyahu when much of the European community overwhelmingly voted in support of the Palestinians' UN bid while the rest abstained, sending an ominous signal to Israel signifying where the EU stands in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His string of defeats continued with the flare-up in Gaza, from which Hamas emerged with a stunning political victory.

...he's never been stronger domestically.

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM


Obama should grant amnesty to immigrants (Antonia Montes, December 27, 2012, The Progressive)

Before the end of the year, presidents often consider grants of pardon and amnesty. This year, Pres. Obama should grant amnesty to the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, excluding those guilty of heinous crimes like murder, rape, armed robbery and child abuse.

Undocumented immigrants work hard, make great sacrifices, save their earnings and rely primarily on themselves and their personal networks to survive in this country. [...]

[W]hile many undocumented immigrants incur payroll deductions and pay into the Social Security system, they aren't able to receive economic or medical benefits once they reach retirement age, such as Social Security or Medicare.

Essentially, these hard-working individuals put more into the system than they receive or consume -- the exact opposite of their "free rider" depiction that conservatives so often use.

Posted by orrinj at 12:30 PM


E.P.A. Chief to Step Down, With Climate Still Low Priority (JOHN M. BRODER, December 27, 2012, NY Times)

Lisa P. Jackson is stepping down as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency after a four-year tenure that began with high hopes of sweeping action to address climate change and other environmental ills but ended with a series of rear-guard actions to defend the agency against challenges from industry, Republicans in Congress and, at times, the Obama White House.

Posted by orrinj at 9:44 AM


Flournoy for SecDef : Ten reasons the president should ditch Chuck for Michèle. (ROSA BROOKS | DECEMBER 26, 2012, Foreign Policy)

6. She has a vision of where the department needs to go. 

Unlike Secretary Panetta, a generalist who was brought in as a transitional secretary to help the department through an election year and a tough budget season, Flournoy would come to the job as someone who has spent her whole career in defense policy. She has a deep understanding of how the security environment has changed over the past decades and the ways in which the United States will need to adapt. We'll be facing high-end asymmetric threats at the same time we'll be dealing with the "low end" consequences of state weakness and instability. We'll need to invest in increasing our agility: We'll need to be able to respond to advanced anti-access and area denial technologies, and we'll need to help partner states counter terrorist insurgencies. We'll also need to respond to the challenges that will be produced by climate change and similar dispersed, inchoate phenomena, and this will require us to build the capacity of allies, partners, and the international system.

Flournoy also understands that change will need to occur during a period of extreme fiscal constraint. She knows where the department's lean and where there's fat. She knows what can safely be cut and where we need to invest. Under Flournoy, strategy would drive budget, not the other way around.

Posted by orrinj at 9:37 AM


Our Failed Approach to Schizophrenia (PAUL STEINBERG, 12/25/12, NY Times)

TOO many pendulums have swung in the wrong directions in the United States. I am not referring only to the bizarre all-or-nothing rhetoric around gun control, but to the swing in mental health care over the past 50 years: too little institutionalizing of teenagers and young adults (particularly men, generally more prone to violence) who have had a recent onset of schizophrenia; too little education about the public health impact of untreated mental illness; too few psychiatrists to talk about and treat severe mental disorders -- even though the medications available in the past 15 to 20 years can be remarkably effective.

Instead we have too much concern about privacy, labeling and stereotyping, about the civil liberties of people who have horrifically distorted thinking. In our concern for the rights of people with mental illness, we have come to neglect the rights of ordinary Americans to be safe from the fear of being shot -- at home and at schools, in movie theaters, houses of worship and shopping malls.

It is not an act of love to treat people who are mentally deranged as if they were normal.  Nevermind whether they are a risk to us, it requires us to stand idly by as they damage themselves.
Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


The Freedom of Faith: A Christmas Sermon (SIMON CRITCHLEY, 12/23/12, NY Times)

Dostoevsky in no way wants to defend the position that Ivan Karamazov outlines in his poem. But Dostoevsky's great virtue as a writer is to be so utterly convincing in outlining what he doesn't believe and so deeply unconvincing in defending what he wants to believe. As Blake said of "Paradise Lost," Satan gets all the best lines. The story of the Grand Inquisitor places a stark choice in front of us: demonic happiness or unbearable freedom?

And this choice conceals another, deeper one: truth or falsehood? The truth that sets free is not, as we saw, the freedom of inclination and passing desire. It is the freedom of faith. It is the acceptance -- submission, even -- to a demand that both places a perhaps intolerable burden on the self, but which also energizes a movement of subjective conversion, to begin again. In disobeying ourselves and obeying this hard command, we may put on new selves. Faith hopes for grace.

To be clear, such an experience of faith is not certainty, but is only gained by going into the proverbial desert and undergoing diabolical temptation and radical doubt. On this view, doubt is not the enemy of faith. On the contrary, it is certainty. If faith becomes certainty, then we have become seduced by the temptations of miracle, mystery and authority. We have become diabolical. There are no guarantees in faith. It is defined by an essential insecurity, tempered by doubt and defined by a radical experience of freedom.

This is a noble and, indeed, God-like position. It is also what Jesus demands of us elsewhere in his teaching, in the Sermon on the Mount, when he says, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you or persecute you." If that wasn't tough enough, Jesus adds, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect." This is a sublime demand.  It is a glorious demand. But it is, finally a ridiculous demand. Inhuman, even. It is the demand to become perfect, God-like. Easy for Jesus to say, as he was God. But somewhat more difficult for us.

Don't fret, Christ gets his comeuppance on the Cross, when the going gets hard and He despairs, leading God to the realization that even He can't be perfect if human. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


1 large head broccoli (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 to 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 pound whole-wheat capellini pasta
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Position one of the racks in the top third of the oven.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Cut the broccoli, including the stems, into 2-inch pieces. Peel any thick stem pieces to remove the thick skin.

On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange the broccoli in a single layer. Drizzle with the oil, then sprinkle with salt to taste and toss well. Place on the top oven rack and roast for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is crisp tender and slightly brown at the edges. Transfer the broccoli to a large skillet, add the pepper flakes and the chicken broth, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

When the water in the large pot comes to a boil, add a hefty pinch of salt and the pasta. Stir and cook for 2 minutes, or until the pasta is limp but not quite cooked through. Drain the pasta and transfer it to the broccoli pan. Simmer for 2 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and salt to taste. Ladle into shallow soup bowls and serve with crusty bread. Makes 4 servings.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


Pecans find their way into all sorts of baking (LEE SVITAK DEAN, 12/26/12, STAR TRIBUNE)

Kathleen Purvis has heard all the pronunciations. And they don't bother her a bit. It's not the word but the flavor that has made the nut a favorite of hers. She tells the story of the pecan -- and her love of it -- in a charming new book by the University of North Carolina Press. Pecans: A Savor the South Cookbook ($18) is part of a new single-subject series that pays homage to the regional foods of the South. Hers is a joyful -- and very tasty -- tribute to the ubiquitous Southern nut. [...]

If there's one pecan recipe to master, what would it be? "Pecan pie. It always makes people happy,"

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Posted by orrinj at 9:03 AM


The new face of religion in New England (G. Jeffrey MacDonald, 12/26/12, The Christian Science Monitor)

The Ark is symbolic of a transforming religious landscape in New England. Long defined by dominant Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant institutions, the terrain is undergoing a fundamental shift as traditional denominations cope with steep declines in membership and shutter churches and seminaries.

At the same time, evangelical and Pentecostal groups are doing just the opposite. They're expanding their footprint in what statistics show are America's four least religious states: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. And because more and more Americans today identify with no particular religion, what happens in this land of spiritual free agency could offer insights into the future of religion across the country. The recent changes in New England have been significant:

•Between 2000 and 2010, the Catholic church has lost 28 percent of its members in New Hampshire and 33 percent in Maine. It has closed at least 69 parishes (25 percent) in greater Boston.

•Over the same period, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) established 118 new churches in northern New England, according to the 2010 Religion Census. About 50 of them inhabit buildings once owned by mainline churches.

•Other denominations are growing, too, including Pentecostals: Assemblies of God (11 new churches in Massachusetts) and International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (13 new churches in Massachusetts and Maine). The Seventh-day Adventists, an evangelical group, opened 55 new churches in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine between 2000 and 2010, according to the Religion Census. Muslims and Mormons are experiencing membership gains as well.

More change looms on the horizon. In 2013, northern New England will lose its only mainline Protestant seminary and accredited graduate school of religion when the Bangor Theological Seminary closes in May. Three months later, Southern Baptists will open Northeastern Baptist College - the first SBC-affiliated pastor-training college in northern New England - in Bennington, Vt.

Posted by orrinj at 8:59 AM


Why Obama Fled His Hawaii Vacation in Shadow of the Fiscal Cliff (Lauren Ashburn, Dec 27, 2012, Daily Beast)

It would be one thing if he was cutting his vacation short for actual work, but we know better.

He headed back in town for one reason only: to join in the political posturing.

Never mind that the man can work anywhere, anytime, thanks to all of the gizmos on Air Force One, a sizable entourage, and secure telephone lines. Nope, he has to be seen landing his chopper on the South Lawn, propping his leather loafers on his mahogany desk in the Oval.

As they say in La-La Land, it's all about optics, baby.