April 14, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 PM


Trump peace package for Middle East likely to stop short of Palestinian statehood (Anne Gearan and Souad Mekhennet April 14, 2019, wASHINGTON pOST)

President Trump's proposal for a "deal of the century" to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict promises practical improvements in the lives of Palestinians but is likely to stop short of ensuring a separate, fully sovereign Palestinian state, according to people familiar with the main elements of the effort. [...]

"He seemed to have been surprised when he learned that the majority of people in the room were critical of his plan and told him that King Salman emphasized the rights of the Palestinians," the person said.

When the Salafi is more interested in self-determination than you are it's best to give up.

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:38 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:44 PM


Health-care law more popular despite Trump's repeated attempts to destroy it (Paige Winfield Cunningham April 13, 2019, Washington Post)

[T]rump and Republicans face a major problem: The 2010 law known as Obamacare has become more popular and enmeshed in the country's health-care system over time. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid -- including more than a dozen run by Republicans -- and 25 million more Americans are insured, with millions more enjoying coverage that is more comprehensive because of the law.

Even Republicans who furiously fought the creation of the law and won elections with the mantra of repeal and replace speak favorably of President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement.

"Quite obviously, more people have health insurance than would otherwise have it, so you got to look at it as positive," Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a recent interview.

Ten years ago, Grassley was at the forefront of GOP opposition to the law, ominously pushing the debunked claim that it would allow the government to "pull the plug on grandma" by creating "death panels."

Today, Grassley is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the panel that would be responsible for drafting a new health-care law, and he has shown little enthusiasm for Trump's call for congressional Republicans to produce a replacement for the ACA.

Republicans from states that embraced the law's Medicaid expansion also concede that it has benefited large portions of the low-income population, many of whom were previously uninsured.

Posted by orrinj at 10:45 AM

60-40 NATION:

Politics and the Practice of Warm-Heartedness: A review of Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt by Arthur C. Brooks (Matthew Lesh, 4/14/19, Quillette)

Brooks blames America's bitter politics on the "outrage industrial complex": the media, politicians and commentators who entice voters, attract television viewers, and sell books and event tickets premised on hatred of the other side. These individuals take advantage of "motive attribution asymmetry": the belief that you are motivated by love and your opponent is motivated by hate. This moral righteousness makes for aggressive conflict. Shockingly, research suggests that Democrats and Republicans in America display similar levels of motive attribution asymmetry to Israelis and Palestinians. In Britain, the conflict between Remainers and Brexiters appears to be reaching similar levels of fury.

The tendency to believe in the righteousness of your own side links closely with New York University professor Jonathan Haidt's "moral foundations theory," which identifies how political views are motivated by divergent moral appetites. Haidt found that progressives exclusively prioritize care and fairness, and while conservatives consider these first two moral foundations important, they also value loyalty, authority and sanctity. So it's not that conservatives don't care about refugees, they just place greater importance on protecting the nation from perceived danger. Meanwhile, it's not that progressives want to steal your money and spend it on useless government, it's that they genuinely care about the poor and believe more government is the solution. In sum, both sides believe they have their views for the morally correct reasons--but those on the Right are marginally better at understanding their opponents because they attach some value to care and fairness, whereas those on the Left often struggle to see the point of loyalty, authority and sanctity altogether.

This sense of righteousness and the associated conflict grows when we only interact with, and therefore only understand, people similar to ourselves. Brooks points to the growing tendency to cocoon ourselves in like-minded social groups and the herding effects of Facebook and Twitter. The lack of exposure to different viewpoints--other than when they are presented in the most negative light--allows us to dehumanise the other side.

Brooks does not just bemoan the state of political debate in America, he explains how to reduce tensions and improve the quality of public debate. The solution, he says, is to remember that your political opponent is not evil and that you and she have quite a lot in common--we are certainly more similar than we are different. 

It's also worth remembering that even the most supposedly divisive issues in our politics--immigration; abortion; universal health; gun control--are 60-40 to 80-20. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


The Division of Labor Is the Meaning of Life (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, April 14, 2019, National Review)

I  would like you to entertain, for a moment, an idea that might sound a little eccentric, or maybe as plain and obvious as a thing can be. It is this:

The division of labor is the meaning of life.

I do not mean this metaphorically or analogically, but literally. [...]

The division of labor among human beings is not a purely economic phenomenon--it is also a social and emotional one. The human need for other human beings is so deep as to be fundamental. This should, properly understood, complicate our understanding of individualism and our rhetoric about it.

In 21st-century human society, the mode of social life is so closely identified with the particularities of the division of labor that the two are practically identical. Even many of the so-called social issues are ultimately questions of the division of labor, for instance within marriage and family life, where changing attitudes toward sex (gender is a grammatical term) in relation to marriage, child-rearing, homosexuality, and other questions challenge ancient divisions of labor between men and women.

Which is to say, changes in the division of labor are by necessity changes in the mode of social life; radical, far-reaching, and sudden changes in the division of labor are, in the favorite term of Silicon Valley, "disruptive." [...]

What we call "globalization" is a sudden radical expansion in the worldwide division of labor--a miracle of human cooperation that, as such miracles so often are, goes mostly unappreciated and unloved, and often hated. Our globalization is hated for the same reason that Renaissance globalization was hated: It disrupts existing status arrangements and introduces new elements of insecurity and anxiety into communities whose members had believed their situations to be fixed, if not ordained--and who believe that they have a natural right to the fixity of those situations, and that the duty of the state is to secure them. Our Silicon Valley billionaires are denounced as "rootless cosmopolitans" (the phrase itself derives from the anti-Semitic socialist purges of the 1940s and 1950s) and are resented for their transnational lives and transnational interests, as well as for their preference for self-regulation and their slipperiness in the face of merely national mandates. Like the merchant princes of Florence, they lead lives that seem impossibly indulgent and patronize cultural and political forces that perplex, irritate, and offend the partisans of peasant conservatism.

At the other end of the economic spectrum, special vitriol is reserved for a new kind of division of labor: the casual "gig" work associated with firms such as Uber. This opportunistic work provides important income to many people who could not otherwise get it as conveniently, and it performs the important function of allowing people of more modest means to convert their property into capital. But this comes with none of the old assurances: health insurance, pensions, the gold watch at the end of a long tenure of service, etc. It is easy to be sentimental about those old assurances, and to forget that almost nobody in 2019 really wants a 1950 standard of living (you can have it--cheap!), but we should keep in mind that the economy has evolved the way it has because people have made certain choices that comport with their preferences in the face of the unalterable reality that is scarcity.

That makes some of us uneasy, if not enraged.

And just as the alienated Europeans of the Renaissance turned to new sources of identity and meaning, so do we, in everything from the slightly comical turn to neo-Paganism in the quest for a unified "European" identity (which is not entirely distinct from the white-nationalist tendency, even if not quite subsumed by it) to more serious forms of political and cultural radicalism. Of course the feudal way of life was not as ancient as its practitioners imagined, and if God had a stronger preference for it, He has not made Himself heard on the issue. But neither was the immediate postwar economic and social order of the United States divinely ordained, or even normal, being, as it was, based on extraordinary economic and political conditions related to the destruction of Europe and its productive capital by the war.

By any meaningful standard of measurement, these are, materially speaking, the best years the human race has ever experienced--and the best years the American people have ever experienced, too. Health, wealth, safety, freedom, opportunity--never better. When Calvin Coolidge was president of the United States of America and hence the most powerful man in the world, his son died because of a blister on his toe acquired during a game of tennis. It's a different and better world.

The division of labor giveth, but it also taketh away. The pains we are feeling in the developed world are growing pains, but they are painful nonetheless. We may like the fruits of disruption--forget that "may," we like and love the fruits of disruption--but the process itself is uncomfortable and bewildering, and it imposes real losses on some people, too, mainly those who are not well-positioned to adapt themselves to a new mode of work and hence a new mode of life.

Globalization is building a bigger beehive. It is recruiting new cells into the organism, with new and very fine modes of specialization. In that sense, it is growth, literally: smaller political economies growing into a larger one.

There is no alternative to the division of labor, because there is no alternative to life.

Except the obvious one.

The history of the economic division of labor is a tale of declining labor and increasing wealth.  At first blush, this would seem an unalloyed good.  As we progressively overcome the curse of Cain, how can we not be enjoying the mindless labor-free Eden we're achieving? Well, the truth is we didn't enjoy it when it was given to us in the first place, thus, The Fall. So it can come as no surprise that we are restless now.

We proved ourselves great at producing better and cheaper widgets, altering the reality of scarcity of which Mr. Williamson speaks.  Through a better redistribution of that wealth we can alleviate the real material losses of the some people and smooth out the merely financial disruption.  But what then? 

Happily, we have a great advantage over the first men, we have a culture, societies, communities, and institutions into which we can direct our social and emotional labor. Indeed, this labor can/must replace the economic labor that we are decreasingly called to provide.  Society must value it and we must engage in it. The hard part is that we must do so in the terrifying face of a world without scarcity to drive us. We must self-motivate to be good, which all of human history and the Bible tells us is not our strong suit.

As Francis Fukuyama warned, the End of History is no guarantee of human happiness.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


The Gospel According to Game of Thrones (JENNIFER C. BRACERAS, April 14, 2019, National Review)

Jon's Christ allegory and Jamie's redemption story are the most obvious Catholic themes in Game of Thrones, but there are many others. The phrase Valar morghulis, for example, is a Braavosi greeting frequently used on the show. In the "Common Tongue," it means "All men must die." Valar dohaeris, the customary response, means "All men must serve."

These phrases call to mind the Catholic practice of memento mori, Latin for "remember your death." As part of this practice, which dates from medieval times, some Catholics keep small clay skulls or other symbols of death as a reminder of life's fleeting nature. The intent is not to be morbid but rather to inspire reflection and acceptance. As Saint Ambrose noted, death is "due to us all." It is life's only certainty and part of our common humanity. Memento mori teaches us to treat each day not only as a gift from God but as an opportunity to serve others in the hope of achieving salvation.

So, what does the trailer for Season 8 of Game of Thrones tell us about death? Arya Stark says that death has "many faces" and that she looks "forward to seeing this one." And while fans have long wondered who will survive the long night and rule Westeros, perhaps the answer was there all along: Valar morghulis. All men must die.

Something to think about during Holy Week -- because Easter is coming.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 AM


Donald Trump's Idea to Ship Illegal Immigrants to Sanctuary Cities Is Ridiculous and Wrong (DAVID FRENCH, April 12, 2019, National Review)

First, to the extent that the order applies to immigrants seeking asylum, we have to remember that they're exercising a legal right. The relevant statute is broad and clear:

Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including analien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien's status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where applicable, section 1225(b) of this title.

The idea that we will then punish people who are exercising legal rights granted by our own government by shipping them to domestic locations chosen for purely partisan and punitive purposes is plainly wrong. Depending on the circumstances, it can even be cruel.

If a person who lacks resources has a place to stay with, say, an aunt in Waco, is it right or reasonable to ship them to Silicon Valley?

Moreover, if the actual goal is to deport an illegal immigrant rather than use him or her to punish your enemies, then why send them to sanctuary cities that make deportation more difficult? And if Trump truly believes his hyperbole about illegal immigrant crime, how can we interpret his tweet as anything other than floating an intentional effort to sow chaos in specific American cities?

From a purely political standpoint, how does this not backfire? It's remarkable the extent to which he seems to think that if he's just mean enough, his foes will fold. San Francisco will not cry "uncle" if Trump starts bussing migrants to the city. Instead, I can predict what will happen. Compassion will become an act of resistance, and the city (and broader Bay Area community) with perhaps the most formidable private philanthropic resources in the world would certainly rally to publicly support the men and women involuntarily removed to their town.

Imagine the media circus when the first bus arrives, and it's greeted by a constellation of activists, church leaders, and regular citizens.

Just use Donald to get them to safety and Americans willl figure out the rest.

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 AM


Iraq unearths mass grave of Kurds killed by Saddam  (Reuters, 4/14/19)

The grave, found in the desert about 170 km (106 miles) west of the city of Samawa, contained the remains of dozens of Kurds made to "disappear" by Saddam's forces, Salih's office said.

They were among up to 180,000 people who may have been killed during Saddam's "Anfal" campaign that targeted Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s when chemical gas was used, villages were razed and thousands of Kurds were forced into camps.

"He killed them because they did not accept the continuation of this regime, because they wanted to live a free and dignified life," Salih, a Kurd, told a news conference at the grave site.