March 18, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:03 PM


The Leader of the Free World Gives a Speech, and She Nails It (Justin Davidson, 3/18/20, New York)

Angela Merkel doesn't do drama and she doesn't give speeches on TV. So the mere fact that the German chancellor faced the camera across a desk and spoke to the nation Wednesday evening made the gravity of the situation clear. "Es ist ernst," she said--"This is serious"-- and those three bland words had more power than a hellfire sermon. Then she pivoted from statement to plea: "Take it seriously." Quickly, she moved on to historical context, the reason for her unprecedented impromptu appearance: "Since German unification--no, since the Second World War--no challenge to our nation has ever demanded such a degree of common and united action."

Merkel made no specific announcements and called for no nationwide curfews or additional closures. Yet what gave her address its force was her tone, which was direct, honest, and searingly empathic. She laid bare not just the test we all face but also the solace that leadership can provide. Without accusations, boasts, hedges, obfuscations, dubious claims, or apocalyptic metaphors she did what a leader is supposed to do: explain the gravity of the situation and promise that the government's help would flow to everyone who needed it. She gave full-throated thanks to front-line medical workers, assured Germans that there is no need to hoard, and paused to offer gratitude to a group of workers who rarely get recognized by heads of state on national TV: "Those who sit at supermarket cash registers or restock shelves are doing one of the hardest jobs there is right now."

This is a war without a human enemy, and Merkel lay no blame. She asked for the sacrifice of discipline, for heroic acts of kindness. She acknowledged the paradox in calling for solidarity and apartness at the same time. She understood how painful it is that just when people desperately want to come together, families and friends have to endure separation. To Americans, Merkel's appeals to democracy, and her sadness at having to use the full weight of her authority, come as a welcome shock.

Having had to rebuild after losing three world wars must add some perspective.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


What does 'Jew down' mean, and why do people find it offensive? (MARCY OSTER, SEPTEMBER 25, 2019, JTA)

What does the term actually mean, and why is there such a gap in the understanding of it?

It comes from an anti-Semitic trope.

The term to "Jew down" was born out of stereotypes formed during medieval times about Jews being cheap or prone to hoard money. Often they were forced into financial occupations and thus were best known as money lenders, leaving them vulnerable to anti-Semitic misrepresentations. Think of portrayals such as Shylock, the villainous lender in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice."

The term itself means to haggle or bargain for a lower price than originally agreed upon. The Oxford English Dictionary notes the earliest usage of the term came in 1825 and that it was used in 1870 on the floor of the U.S. Congress to describe a bill setting salaries in the military. The legislation supposedly prompted someone to say that Congress is "ready to Jew down the pay of its generals."

The comparable term "gyp" also was born out of a negative stereotype, in this case about Roma -- often derogatorily referred to as "gypsies" and stereotyped as cheap. To gyp someone out of something is essentially to steal it away.

Same deal with the term "Welsh" -- a verb substituted for swindle or cheat -- derived from a stereotype about Welsh people.

But is it always anti-Semitic?

Trenton's Muschal is correct -- the expression probably has been used a million times. Are all the users anti-Semites if they don't know its history?

Historian Deborah Lipstadt's latest book, "Anti-Semitism: Here and Now," includes a chapter on what she calls the "clueless anti-Semite," which is, she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, "the person who engages in anti-Semitism but doesn't even know it."

"Anti-Semitism has gone so deep into the roots of society that people don't recognize that they are engaging in it when they engage in it," said Lipstadt, the Dorot pro­fes­sor of Mod­ern Jew­ish His­to­ry and Holo­caust Stud­ies at Emory Uni­ver­si­ty. This, she hastens to add, does not excuse such behavior.

She calls clueless anti-Semites just as dangerous as extremist anti-Semites, who know exactly what they are saying when they say it. Expressions of anti-Semitism from both "feeds into the society's perception of Jews."

"It is not meant to be made light of," Lipstadt said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:30 PM


Oil plummets 26% to 18-year low as global price war escalates (Carmen Reinicke, Mar. 18, 2020, Markets Insider)

Oil prices plunged yet again on Wednesday, shedding as much as 26% and falling to an 18-year low. The losses came as the resource battles a coronavirus-driven demand slowdown, as well as the continued escalation of a global price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

West Texas Intermediate crude fell as much as 26%, to $20.06 per barrel. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:20 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Saudi Arabia suffers from plummeting oil prices, as US Republicans chafe MbS over production gamble (New Arab, 18 March, 2020)

Saudi Arabia is bracing for a coronavirus-led economic dip on top of possible austerity measures as crude prices go into free fall, as Republican Senators sent a letter to Mohammed bin Salman over his decision to increase oil production. 

Huge losses are expected after the Arab world's biggest economy shut down cinemas, malls and restaurants, halted flights, suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage and locked down the eastern Qatif region - home to around 500,000 - in a bid to contain the deadly virus.

The top crude exporter also faces plummeting oil prices, which slipped below $30 a barrel this week for the first time in four years, on the back of sagging demand and a price war with Russia.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What is Neoliberalism, Anyway? (Galen Watts, 3/18/20, Areo)

In the age of neoliberalism, all competing social spheres are being  gradually colonized by the market mentality.

And this serves to explain neoliberalism at the policy level. Neoliberal thinkers believe that the market mentality--which receives its most sophisticated treatment in the language of economics--should reign supreme. Thus, they talk of a political market, a marriage market and a religious market, for, in their view, these sites of social life are fundamentally identical, insofar as they all feature individuals operating as rational maximizers and espousing the market mentality. [...]

This cultural definition of neoliberalism--as the colonization of the market mentality--serves to highlight both why the left is correct to worry about neoliberalism and why the term is so often applied haphazardly.

If we accept that what makes neoliberalism distinct is less its content--the market mentality has been a staple of capitalism since its inception--than the degree to which it expands the scope of the cultural logic of capitalism, then identifying precisely what is and isn't neoliberal can never be an exact science. Yet this should not disguise the fact that sweeping change is already underway.

Signs of neoliberal policy are evident across liberal democracies and have been for some time. But the real transformation is taking place at the level of consciousness. Unless we become aware of and reverse the trend, we will soon wake up to find that the sole language we have to describe our relationships, our dreams and the world around us is that of economics. And, I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like a nightmare.

The application of market ideals (capitalism) came to economics last, after politics (democracy) and religion (protestantism).  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Christian Response to Racism in the Year of CoronavirusFear and emotions can also be drivers for unhelpful behaviors, such as panic and self-destruction. (ALLEN YEH, MARCH 2020, Christianity Today)

One unfortunate side-effect of this global pandemic is racism. Rather than something like this bringing the world together to unite against a common enemy, it is easy to make some people the scapegoat; in this case, people of Asian descent.

True, the coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, but the virus is not a discriminator of persons. Anyone could have it and anyone can transmit it. There have been documented cases (even captured on video and photos) of people spraying Febreeze on Asians in a New York subway to "disinfect" them; people posting memes (this even happened at my university) on social media of people making disgusted faces at Asians when they sneeze or cough; people avoiding Asian-owned businesses or restaurants; Dutch students wearing Chinese clothes and conical hats and pulling up the corners of their eyes, posing for a Instagram photo with a sign that read "Corona Time"; and the hashtag #kungflu trending; among many others.

"But for many people, having someone specific to blame, or an action specific to do, helps them make sense of this world or give them a sense of control, even if the fear is unwarranted or irrational.  [...]

Third, recognize the humanity of everyone.

Asians are just as scared of coronavirus as everyone else, just as many Muslims are fleeing the terrorism of ISIS. And Asians, like other people, need to be respected. We often hear of just the "big three"--blacks, women, and LGBTQ--and too often it feels like those get the most press while other groups don't get nearly the amount of representation or defenders. In fact, groups which do not historically stand up for themselves are needing more recognition. Everyone is made in the imago Dei.

Finally, learn history: all this is not new.

Remember the "yellow peril" meme in the late 1800's, which charged Asians of being unsanitary and spreading disease (or SARS in 2003)? We've seen this thing before. "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat its mistakes," said Spanish philosopher George Santayana. Racism does not protect anyone from disease, but does perpetuate disinformation. This not only harms People of Color, it actually can spread the disease further by focusing on the wrong thing.

We as Christians can do better. We are commanded to do better. 1 John 4:20 says, "Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen."

God help us--as we need his perspective in this world to minister to people not just physically and spiritually, but also emotionally and socially.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Immigration judges, ICE attorneys, and experts are calling on the Trump administration to close the courts to stop the novel coronavirus from spreading (Charles Davis, 3/18/20, Business Insider)

An Atlanta attorney who was in immigration court on Monday just self-reported a positive test of COVID-19, and an immigration judge in Denver is out sick with symptoms of the novel coronavirus. But the Trump administration -- and, namely, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees the United States' 68 immigration courts -- is thus far resisting demands to shutter the courtrooms.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


De Blasio was 'furious' as library heads planned to close for coronavirus (SALLY GOLDENBERG and DANA RUBINSTEIN, 03/17/2020, Politico)

Mayor Bill de Blasio was so intent on keeping city libraries open during the coronavirus outbreak that he went as far as making veiled threats about cutting their funding if they closed, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations.


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Joe Biden romps over Bernie Sanders in Florida, Illinois and Arizona in Tuesday balloting (Michael Scherer, Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan, March 17, 2020, Washington Post)

Former vice president Joe Biden swept to decisive wins in Florida, Illinois and Arizona on Tuesday, extending his run of victories on a primary election day in which the growing national response to the coronavirus pandemic complicated voting as it threatened to disrupt future contests.

The emphatic wins raised further questions about the viability of the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). 

Between the Democrats nominating the candidate with the strongest appeal nationally and Donald's own inept and racist response to the coronavirus, they can see the end in sight and have accomplished none of their dreams.  We can understand--if not excuse--their increasing hysteria. Imagine how John Wilkes Booth felt.