March 10, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 10:01 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:28 PM


Posted by orrinj at 11:46 AM


Litzman says Women of the Wall 'need to be kicked out' of prayer plaza (Times of Israel, 3/10/19)

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman on Sunday assailed Women of the Wall, saying the liberal Jewish group had to be "kicked out" following Friday clashes with thousands of ultra-Orthodox protesters at the Western Wall.

Women of the Wall on Friday held a special anniversary prayer service, celebrating 30 years since its establishment. Their gathering drew protests from some quarters of the ultra-Orthodox community, with several prominent rabbis calling on students to flock to the Western Wall plaza in order to disrupt the event and demonstrate against their worship.

Posted by orrinj at 11:31 AM

How to Make Chicken Stock in the Pressure Cooker (Sara Bir, /10/19, Simply Recipes)

1 chicken carcass (from a cooked 2- to 3-pound chicken), or 1 pound bones
1 onion, halved or quartered, optional
1 rib celery, roughly chopped, optional
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped, optional
1 bay leaf
1 to 2 quarts water, enough to cover
Special equipment:
6- or 8-quart electric pressure cooker

1 Add the bone and vegetables to the pressure cooker: Put the chicken bones and vegetables (if using) in your pressure cooker. Add water to almost come level with the bones, making sure not to fill the cooker more than 2/3 full. Remember, your cooker can't come to pressure if it is too full.

2 Bring the pot up to pressure: Place the lid on the pressure cooker. Make sure the valve is set to the "Sealing" position. Select the "Manual" or "Pressure Cook" program, then set the time to 30 minutes to an hour at high pressure. (30 minutes gives you a cleaner-tasting stock; 1 hour gives you a darker stock with a stronger flavor. When in doubt, go 45 minutes.)

The pot will take about 20 minutes to come up to pressure, and then the cook time will begin. (Frozen bones will take longer to come to pressure.)

3 Let the pressure release naturally. This can take up to 30 minutes.

4 Strain the stock: Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a stockpot or large bowl. Either skim off the fat and use the stock immediately, or let cool to room temperature before refrigerating.

5 Store or freeze: Stock will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, or transfer to freezer containers and freeze for up to a year.

Posted by orrinj at 9:35 AM


PM to star who rapped anti-Arab rhetoric: Israel 'not state of all its citizens' (Times of Israel, 3/11/19)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday engaged in a social media argument with a popular reality TV host who criticized his Likud party's anti-Arab rhetoric, after Likud Culture Minister Miri Regev in a Saturday TV interview repeated a frequent Likud claim that rival Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz will try to form a government with Arab parties.

In the course of his spat with model and actress Rotem Sela, Netanyahu stressed that Israel is "not a nation-state of all its citizens," but rather "the nation-state of the Jewish people."

Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


Company founded by Ocasio-Cortez in 2012 still owes $1,870 in taxes (Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein, March 9, 2019, NY Post)

Brook Avenue Press, a company she founded in 2012 to publish children's books in The Bronx, owes the state $1,870.36 in corporate taxes, public records show.

The state slapped the company with a warrant on July 6, 2017, two months after Ocasio-Cortez announced her candidacy to run against Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley for the district that encompasses parts of Queens and The Bronx.

We had a history professor at Colgate who was married to a British aristocrat.  He taught us that Marx hated capitalism because he was such a failure.  Funny how those who are bad at capitalism hate the free markets they could not compete in.

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


Household net worth falls by largest amount since Great Recession, new Fed data show (CHRISTOPHER INGRAHAM, 3/11/19, The Washington Post)

Total household net worth in the fourth quarter of 2018 dropped by the largest amount since the fourth quarter of 2008 when the country was in the midst of a steep recession, according to data released last week by the Federal Reserve.

To his credit, Donald does keep warning us about the dangers of the sort of Command Economy he's running. The Right's quarrel with the Left is over who gets to command Socialism.

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 AM


Inside DARPA's Ambitious 'AI Next' Program (JACK CORRIGAN, 3/11/19, , NEXTGOV)

Last year, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency kicked off the AI Next campaign, a $2 billion effort to build artificial intelligence tools capable of human-like communication and logical reasoning that far surpass the abilities of today's most advanced tech. Included in the agency's portfolio are efforts to automate the scientific process, create computers with common sense, study the tech implications of insect brains and link military systems to the human body.

Through the AI Exploration program, the agency is also supplying rapid bursts of funding for a myriad of high-risk, high-reward efforts to develop new AI applications.

Defense One's sister publication Nextgov sat down with Valerie Browning, director of DARPA's Defense Sciences Office, to discuss the government's AI research efforts, the shortcomings of today's tech and the growing tension between the tech industry and the Pentagon. [...]

Nextgov: Looking at the AI Exploration program, what are the benefits to doing that kind of quick, short-term funding?

Browning: We have limited resources, and sometimes we find an area that we think may be ripe for investment but there's some key questions that need to be answered. We really don't want to scale up a very large [program], but we want to get some answers pretty quickly. The very act of trying to bring in a new performer through the sort of conventional acquisition cycle can be very long and tedious. [For this program], the time from posting a topic announcement to actually getting people doing work is 90 days or less, and that's fairly unprecedented in government contracting. AI Exploration allows us to go after some of the more high-risk, uncertain spaces quickly to find out whether they're on the critical path toward reaching our ultimate vision.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


The Real Horror of the Anti-Vaxxers: This isn't just a public health crisis. It's a public sanity one. (Frank Bruni, March 9, 2019, NY Times)

How many studies do you have to throw at the vaccine hysterics before they quit? How much of a scientific consensus, how many unimpeachable experts and how exquisitely rational an argument must you present?

That's a trick question, of course. There's no magic number. There's no number, period. And that's because the anti-vaccine crowd (or anti-vaxxers) aren't trafficking in anything as concrete, mundane and quaint as facts. They're not really engaged in a debate about medicine. They're immersed in a world of conspiracies, in the dark shadows where no data can be trusted, nothing is what it seems and those who buy the party line are pitiable sheep.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Sixty years on from historic uprising, Tibetan spirit of resistance is 'as strong as ever' (JENNIFER SCHERER, JESSICA WASHINGTON, 3/11/19, SBS)

In 1959, thousands of Tibetans took to the streets, protesting Chinese rule. The demonstrations would later become known as the Lhasa Uprising.

March 10 marked the start of a dramatic change in the lives of Tibetan people - the then 23-year-old Dalai Lama secretly fled into exile in India.

Sixty years later, in cities around Australia, hundreds of Tibetans and Tibet supporters marched to show their solidarity against China's occupation.

Marching from Martin Place to the Chinese embassy in Sydney, demonstrators told SBS News China's crackdown against Tibetan culture continues.

"China wants the Tibetan people to owe their allegiances to the Chinese Communist Party, and not the Dalai Lama," Ms Dhongdue said.

In 2011, the Dalai Lama transferred his political power to a democratically elected leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Ms Dhongdue believes this move was significant for the Tibetan resistance.

"It was to make sure that when the Dalai Lama dies, the Tibet issue doesn't die too," Ms Dhongdue said.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Algerian government plane heads north, destination unclear (Reuters, 3/11/19) 

The Algerian government plane that brought President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to Geneva for medical treatment last month left Algerian airspace and headed north early on Sunday, flight radar applications showed.

The ailing 82-year-old Bouteflika has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, and his bid to extend his 20-year rule has prompted tens of thousands of Algerians to join the biggest protests in Algiers in 28 years.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


Amid Likud's 'Bibi or Tibi' campaign, ADL slams 'demonization' of Israeli Arabs (MICHAEL BACHNER, 3/11/19, Times of Israel)

The Anti-Defamation League on Sunday lambasted political rhetoric "vilifying" Israeli Arabs, referring to frequent alarmist accusations by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing allies that their rivals supposedly intend to form a government with Arab Knesset parties.

"The role of Arab parties in the Israeli Knesset is increasingly emerging as a key wedge of the current election campaign, with several party leaders and politicians vowing not to include them in any future coalition, while accusing their political foes of a willingness to do so," Carole Nuriel, director of the ADL's Israel office, said in a statement that didn't explicitly mention Netanyahu.

"In some cases, even the distinction between Arab parties and the Arab population is blurred and these parties are simply referred to as 'the Arabs.'"

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 AM


The Genesis of the Tech Industry, and Vice Versa: Humankind's obsession with technology and economics can be traced to the first book of the Bible. (Tyler Cowen, March 5, 2019, Bloomberg)

In the Book of Genesis, the underlying model of economics is a pretty optimistic one, and that is another way in which Western history draws upon its Judeo-Christian roots.

That said, Genesis is by no means entirely positive about the impact of technology. While the Egyptians are relatively wealthy and have a strong state, they end up enslaving the Hebrews, hardly a virtuous outcome. God, rather than telling people to build technology in the style of the Egyptians, gives instructions for building the ark of Noah, and later in Exodus there are instructions for the ark of the covenant. Those technologies are more pointed toward carrying along the will and later word of God, rather than the mastery of nature per se.

The story of the Tower of Babel is the clearest instance of the possible dangers of technology. On one hand, it is striking how much potential productive efficacy is ascribed to mankind. People with a single language are building a tower with a top reaching up to the heavens and "now nothing they plot to do will elude them." God then scatters the humans and takes away their common language, to limit their productive capacity. There is a hint that people are seeking to become the rivals of God, who needs to keep their ambitions in check.

So:  the Egyptians should have developed technology instead of relying on labor; the ark saved Creation from climate change; and Man has it within his power to become a rival of God via IT.  

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


James Davison Hunter and the Inadequacy of Naturalism (M. D. AESCHLIMAN, March 2, 2019, National Review)

The distinguished sociologist James Davison Hunter and his philosopher-colleague Paul Nedelisky of the University of Virginia have written a fine, patient, thorough, judicious, carefully argued exposé of the new reductionists called Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality. Their book is a most valuable and welcome addition to a distinguished body of recent anti-reductionist literature: the medical doctor and award-winning science writer James LeFanu's Why Us? How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves (2009), the philosopher Alvin Plantinga's Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (2011), the philosopher Thomas Nagel's Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False (2012), and the political scientist Jason Blakely's Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, and the Demise of Naturalism (2016), as well as the works of MacIntyre and Taylor themselves.

This is not to speak of literary works such as Sir Tom Stoppard's recent play, currently on Broadway, The Hard Problem (2015), a dramatization of the effects of reductionist ideology on the private lives of researchers, or the distinguished American novelist Marilynne Robinson's Terry Lectures at Yale, published as Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self (2010).

Since the deaths of Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, and Peter Berger  (Hunter's teacher), James Davison Hunter of the University of Virginia is perhaps America's most distinguished sociologist. His award-winning book Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America (1991) had unusual range and effect, usefully introducing the conception of an ongoing war of ideas or culture struggle (kulturkampf) in American life, behind and beneath American political struggles, between broadly traditional people (especially religious people) and their "progressive" opponents (putting their faith in science, technology, and political change). Hunter has followed up with several other books, including The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age without Good and Evil (2000), and founded and directs the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, in which his collaborator Paul Nedelisky is a fellow. The Institute publishes an outstanding scholarly journal, The Hedgehog Review: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Culture.

Hunter's line of intellectual descent comes through his great teacher Peter L. Berger, who mediated to him the high, German, non-Marxist sociological tradition of Max Weber and developed and applied it himself in profound ways (see my "A Contemporary Erasmus: Peter L. Berger," in Modern Age, 2011). Hunter has also been influenced by Tocqueville and Philip Rieff and has sociological-ethical concerns similar to those of contemporaries such as Gertrude Himmelfarb, the Englishman David Martin, Charles L. Glenn, and W. Bradford Wilcox (a former student).

Science and the Good gives a careful historical and logical analysis of what its subtitle rightly calls  "the tragic quest for the foundations of morality" over the last four hundred years. The tragedy of the quest is rooted in the continuing failure of philosophical and scientific naturalism to provide grounds or credibility for ethics (and thus for justice and just law). It was again the great philosopher Whitehead who saw and said this clearly. Speaking of naturalists such as David Hume and Thomas Henry Huxley (initially "Darwin's bull-dog," subsequently repentant for the moral implications and effects of Darwinism), Whitehead asked what reason could such naturalists give for any moral views they held "apart from their own psychological inheritance from the Platonic religious tradition?" (i.e., Christianity; Adventures in Ideas, 1933). Lester Crocker's comprehensive study of such attempts in 18th-century France, Nature and Culture: Ethical Thought in the French Enlightenment (1963), showed that they ended in what he called "The Nihilist Dissolution" of the Marquis de Sade, whose audacious immoralism foreshadowed Nietzsche. In none of its numerous incarnations can "Nature" legitimate ethics; thus the "tragic quest" and the astounding intellectual and political history of the world since 1914, at best a restless intellectual hunger for the new ("neophilia" or "cupiditas rerum novarum"), at worst a political chamber of horrors.

In their painstakingly fair-minded analysis, Hunter and Nedelisky ultimately document the truth argued by a distinguished contemporary philosopher whom they do not quote, Charles Larmore: "Basically, Plato was right," he argues; "moral value is something real and non-natural."

Posted by orrinj at 12:09 AM


Marilynne Robinson's Celebration of Humanity Is Brilliant but Incomplete :  Insights from some of her heroes, like John Calvin and the Puritans, would help round out the picture. (Wesley Hill, 4/06/18, Christianity Today)

But much more of the book is taken up with Robinson's criticisms of a different sort of reductionism. It's not only Christians who are guilty of forgetting the splendor of the human. Scientists too--whose research has opened up windows onto dazzling, dizzying complexity in the heavens above and the equally unfathomable intricacies of the body and its microbial residents below--exhibit the same blindness. "The understandings of human nature that have been proposed to us as scientific diminish us," Robinson laments, "even as science itself is amazed by our complexity, even as science itself is a demonstration of our brilliance." That qualifier--"proposed to us as scientific"--is crucial, since Robinson does not think that real science gives reductionism any quarter. It is only a kind of misguided religious zeal that allows scientists to go beyond the evidence of their own discipline and declare that the human soul is nothing but a material process.

To combat these various assaults on human dignity, Robinson turns to some of her heroes: the 16th-century Reformer John Calvin and the English and American Puritans, Calvin's heirs. "Very characteristic of recent theories about humankind is the assumption that we are the creatures of our race or genes or the traumas we have suffered or the shape of our brain," says Robinson, pinpointing yet more forms of determinism. But the 18th-century American Puritan Jonathan Edwards, among others, "taught me how to understand that something much richer and stranger is going on than any of these schemes can begin to suggest."

To Robinson, it is no accident that New England, dominated as it was by Puritan immigrants from old England, quickly distinguished itself as more humane--more directly responsible for American democracy and progressivism--than the Anglican-dominated South, whose penal codes were far harsher. Puritans like Jonathan Edwards celebrated human dignity because they believed we were created in the image of God. And that belief, in turn, became the bedrock of their ethics, because "[h]ow we think about ourselves has everything to do with how we act toward one another." The more they cultivated awareness of the mystery of their own humanity, the more the Puritans were prepared to shelter and dignify the humanity of others. Their writings can help us do the same today, Robinson thinks. [...]

It is also striking how little Robinson's celebration of humanity is qualified with an emphasis on humanity's fallenness. She appreciates Calvin's great insistence on humanity's capacity for learning, self-consciousness, and responsibility, but she omits almost entirely the side of Calvin that says things like this:

[W]e know that, by the fall of Adam, all mankind fell from their primeval state of integrity, for by this the image of God was almost entirely effaced from us, and we were also divested of those distinguishing gifts by which we would have been, as it were, elevated to the condition of demigods; in short, from a state of highest excellence, we were reduced to a condition of wretched and shameful destitution. [...]

It's unfortunate that Robinson omits this, because--paradoxically--laying more stress on human depravity might actually advance, rather than detract from, the humanism she wants to promote. As counterintuitive as it seems, recognizing the human capacity for cruelty and injustice has the potential to make us more compassionate toward others, more forgiving of human frailty, and more ready to acknowledge that others share the same mixture of good and bad motives, the same cocktail of noble and base behavior, that we know to be characteristic of our own souls. Belief in original sin, as Alan Jacobs has argued in his book on the subject, "serves as a kind of binding agent," bringing the human family together. In a strange twist, the deterministic scientists and angry Christians that Robinson repeatedly denounces may have latched onto something to which Robinson herself is blind: For all of our glories, human beings remain trapped in vicious circles of self-infatuation, self-preservation, and self-sabotage, and only something stronger than art, scholarship, and democracy can finally rescue us.

Human dignity only becomes more astonishing when we view men in full, as even God was eventually forced to.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


ME AND THOSE CANOES (SPARSE GREY HACKLE, 9/02/57, Sports Illustrated)

Canoeists are different from ordinary people. In some cases the difference probably is a matter of courage, resolution, endurance or fortitude, but in my case it was what my old top sergeant said about a rookie who tackled all the dangerous horses. "He ain't brave," snorted the hard-boiled top. "He just don't know no better."

The fact that every time a canoeist embarks he runs a measurable risk of drowning or coronary thrombosis and a greater one of hernia or heat prostration indicates that there are things basically wrong with canoeing; it is, in fact, the most inadvisable means ever conceived for the transportation of man by his own efforts.

Take paddling. If you wanted to move a bureau, you'd stand behind it and shove it with the big muscles of your back and legs. If you had a boat instead of a bureau, you'd dig in your oars and do the same thing. But what would you think of a man who moved a bureau by sitting alongside it, a foot away, and twisting around to give it a feeble shove? If he had a canoe instead of a bureau, he'd use a paddle the same way.

Rowing with two oars drives a boat as straight as a bricklayer heading for a saloon, but paddling with a single blade zigzags a canoe like a bricklayer leaving a saloon. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nietzsche and the Cynics: How Friedrich Nietzsche used ideas from the Ancient Cynics to explore the death of God and the nature of morality (Helen Small, 2/28/19, Aeon)

Ancient Cynicism was an eccentric model for practising a philosophical life. Diogenes of Sinope (c404-323 BCE) and his followers claimed independence from conventional material desires and the normal turmoil of emotional life. They were notoriously without shame - pissing and satisfying their sexual needs in public, like the dogs (kynes) from which their name partly derived. 

Diogenes himself was said to have slept in a tub or a shack in the Athenian marketplace. Seeing a youth scoop up water in the hollow of his hand, he threw away the wooden cup he had been using, pleased to see that he did not need it. When Alexander the Great announced himself: 'I am Alexander the great king,' Diogenes replied: 'I am Diogenes the dog.'

For Friedrich Nietzsche - steeped in the Classics - the Cynics, and the much later account of them in the gossipy collection of anecdotes The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius (no relation to Diogenes of Sinope), were attractive material long before he parted company with an academic career to practise a more abrasive public philosophy of his own. 'Diogenes Laertiades' was how Nietzsche signed himself in a letter to a friend in his late 20s: 'son of Laertius', or literally 'sprung from Laertius', ie from Diogenes Laertius. In the wake of a great deal of critical work in recent years, excavating Nietzsche's Cynicism, two questions are worth asking afresh: how far did the identification go? And what did his philosophy hope to gain, and risk losing, by it?

The Cynic Diogenes of Sinope appears in Nietzsche's The Gay Science (1882) as der tolle Mensch ('the crazy man') who proclaims the death of God; it is a canonical scene of modern philosophy:

Haven't you heard of that madman who in the bright morning lit a lantern and ran around the marketplace crying incessantly: 'I'm looking for God! I'm looking for God!' Since many of those who did not believe in God were standing around together just then, he caused great laughter. Has he been lost, then? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone to sea? Emigrated? - Thus they shouted and laughed, one interrupting the other. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. 'Where is God?' he cried; 'I'll tell you! We have killed him - you and I! We are all his murderers.'

The drama of the madman performs a serio-comic riff upon The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers: 'He [Diogenes of Sinope] lit a lamp in full daylight and walked around with it, saying: "I'm searching for a man".' Sometimes more loosely translated as 'searching for an honest man', the words are a challenge and potentially an affront to all who hear them. Tapping into the radicalism of the ancient example, Nietzsche echoes its original cynicism - the sorry absence of anyone capable of living in the knowledge of what it means to be human - and gives it updated point. A new Diogenes declares the death of God, the collapse of the belief system that underpinned Judaeo-Christian morality and provided the culture's sources of valuation for hundreds of years. Or rather, the crazy man demands attention to what should have followed from that realisation, since the realisation itself is hardly news.

Later in The Gay Science, Nietzsche clarifies what is at issue. By 'God is dead', we should understand that 'belief in the Christian God has become unworthy of belief': the time has come for human beings to live truthfully, in accordance with their situation. The neo-Cynic affront lies not in the debasement of long-lost metaphysical certainties, but in a fresh insistence that destruction of the old basis for morality raises urgent consequences about how to live now.

The choice between dog and God is and can only be a function of faith--a choice between different conceptions of what it means to be human.  And, because we can not know the correct answer, the sole bases for making the decision are either emotional or aesthetic. Judeo-Christian morality is onerous, so a reaction against it is perfectly understandable.  Meanwhile, the desire to lower the standards of behavior to the merely animal level seems liberating, so it has obvious emotional appeal. To live in a world with no meaning, where our every act is excused, where our basest instincts can be indulged without guilt; how could there ever be fellow beings who do not choose this escape from responsibility? 

Of course, the problem always follows that no Cynic ever wants this "freedom" for anyone other than himself.  Take food away from Diogenes, as dogs do from one another, take him sexually, consume his young, etc., etc., etc. and his tune quickly changes. We all recognize that the way of the animals is ugly.

So the way of God is difficult, as it summons us to our higher selves, imposing moral obligations that we know ourselves unable to attain with perfect consistency, as even God showed Himself. However, we also recognize that the existence of a universal morality and the insistence that it is worthwhile for us all to engage in the striving renders a beautiful conception of what it means to be human. And a God who was even willing to become one of us in order to try to comprehend the meaning of mortal life and who loves us despite our conspicuous inability to meet His standards has a beauty that is entirely worthy of faith.

So, we choose beauty over ugliness.