January 3, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 PM


Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


Vivid action-packed espionage thriller (Justine Carbery, January 03 2021, Independent.ie)

Set against the backdrop of this highly charged political scene, Walter Ellis's Franco's Map takes us behind the scenes to Madrid, where Englishman Charles Bramall, newly recruited by MI6, is sent to help drive a wedge between Franco and Hitler. His brief is to gather as much information as possible about German plans to enlist Francoist Spain's support. The city is rife with espionage, counter-intelligence and intrigue, and it's hard to separate friends from enemies.

Franco was the wedge.

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Life imitates art as Ó Cadhain's voice heard from beyond the grave (Lorna Siggins, January 03 2021, Independent.ie)

Cré na Cille, which is regarded as comparable to James Joyce's Ulysses or the work of Samuel Beckett, is set in a graveyard where the corpses gossip endlessly about each other and life above ground and has the famous opening line: "I wonder am I buried in the Pound Plot or the Fifteen Shilling Plot?" [...]

The recording of Ó Cadhain reading from the book is part of a tape made by Egon Felder, a student at Trinity College, Dublin (TCD).

"Ó Cadhain had been appointed professor of modern Irish at TCD at the time, and was on a visit to Germany in the summer of 1964," Irish language scholar Dr Feargal Ó Béarra said.

"When he was there he met up with Felder, and agreed to be taped by him."

Writer and republican Ó Cadhain - who taught himself many languages, including Russian when he was interned in the Curragh Camp during World War II - had been very popular with the TCD students for his use of wit and humour.

He once asked his students to translate Mao Tse-tung for an exam, and on another occasion asked them to write a dialogue between the statue of British admiral Horatio Nelson in Dublin's O'Connell Street and the person who blew the monument up in 1966.

Felder passed his tapes on to Professor Barbara Wehr, who kept a copy for many years and digitised them.

She offered them to Dr Arndt Wigger, a colleague of Dr Ó Béarra's at the SKSK, a Celtic language institute associated with the University of Bonn.

"When we played them, what we thought was a recording of Irish tuition took on another dimension when we heard Ó Cadhain's voice reading his own text," Ó Béarra said.

The writer's nephew, also Máirtín Ó Cadhain, of Iontaobhas Uí Chadhain, the Ó Cadhain Trust, said it was the only recording he knew of his uncle reading from his classic.

The recording has been included in a CD with a new book on the writer's methods of teaching Irish, compiled by Ó Béarra and Wigger.

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM


Trump Shares Clip Promoting January 6, D.C. Protests That Proud Boys Will Attend Incognito (CHRISTINA ZHAO, 1/2/21, Newsweek)

President Donald Trump shared a video on Saturday encouraging supporters to join protests in Washington D.C. on January 6, which will be attended by members of the far-right Proud Boys group.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Trumpism has never been about policy. It still isn't. (Josh Kraushaar,  Jan. 3, 2021, National Journal)

The final week of 2020 offered clarity into the Republican Party's future relationship with President Trump, because he's about to lose the power that drove the GOP's self-interested decision-making. While in the Oval Office, Trump has controlled the direction of his party, so it has made little strategic sense for congressional Republicans to break with him when working together would advance conservative policy goals. By contrast, as the sun sets on his presidency, Trump can now only shape the mood of GOP voters. Soon enough, he'll be unable to cause any damage beyond polluting the political discourse with his Twitter feed.

In this transition period, Trump has advanced three key tests of his fellow Republicans' continued loyalty: whether they would support his push to raise the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 (a move that nearly scuttled the bipartisan government-spending package and COVID relief deal); whether they'd back his veto of the defense-funding bill; and whether they'd challenge Joe Biden's electors during Congress's certification of the results on Jan. 6. A fourth test, this week's Senate runoffs in Georgia, will also be a measure of the political cost Republicans bear when unequivocally embracing Trump in a battleground state.

What's been fascinating is how most Republicans have broken with Trump on policy grounds, feeling little commitment to back him on legislation that defies conservative principles. Republicans are still the party of a strong national defense and opposing free giveaways, despite Trump's Twitter pressure. Only 66 of 195 House Republicans (and seven of 53 GOP senators) voted to sustain Trump's veto of the defense authorization bill. And just 44 House Republicans supported more-generous stimulus checks, as even plenty of Trump's most slavish allies in Congress broke with him. In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn't even allow a standalone vote on the larger checks. (Notably, most of the GOP support for the $2,000 stimulus checks comes from more-moderate lawmakers, many hailing from swing districts.)

There are no footprints in the sand.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


How Biden can future-proof America's immigration system (Shikha Dalmia, January 3, 2021, The Week)

For the last four years, the headlines focused on the administration's more sensational anti-immigration initiatives including the "Muslim" travel ban; scrapping the DACA program that gave deportation relief to those who were brought to the United States without authorization as children; the Great Wall of Trump; a zero-tolerance border policy that ended up snatching babies from migrant moms seeking asylum and viciously separating families. In addition, the Migration Policy Institute has identified more than 400-plus behind-the-scenes executive actions and rule changes that have received less attention but have been even more effective in walling out immigrants.

Consider immigrant visas for the overseas family members -- spouses, minor children, parents and siblings -- of American citizens and permanent residents. Even before the pandemic, Cato Institute's David Bier calculated that immigration under this category had declined by about 24 percent compared to 2016 because the administration slowed processing and doubled the denial rate. But things came to a near complete halt during the pandemic. In May, the administration allowed a measly 782 immigrants in this category compared to the monthly average of 55,000 four years ago. How did Miller accomplish this feat? He used the pretext of the pandemic to shut down consular offices so that they could no longer conduct the mandatory in-person interviews. However, he did not allow them to switch to online interviews, putting applicants in a complete bind. All in all, under this administration, about 738,000 fewer overseas family members of Americans will be admitted into the country -- the other family separation policy that no one talks about.

But it's not just foreigners abroad whom Miller has thwarted. He also made it infinitely more difficult for foreign professionals and others already in the U.S. to upgrade temporary visas to green cards or permanent resident status. Compared to 2016, the Trump administration is approving less than half of their applications and by January, if the current rate persists, about 246,313 fewer such applicants will be able to get green cards.

It took Miller a few years to implement his diabolical plans to slam these two categories of immigrants. Not so with respect to refugees. Right off the bat he slashed the annual refugee cap from 110,000 under Obama to 15,000 now, a historic low. And he subjected them to such "extreme vetting" that the U.S. isn't even going to hit that ceiling. All in all, during Trump's tenure, America will end up admitting nearly 300,000 fewer refugees than if 2016 levels had been maintained.

Refugees of course settle permanently in the U.S. as do others seeking green cards. But Miller hasn't even spared tourists and business travelers who want to just visit America for a short time. Bier estimates that the Trump administration has issued nine million fewer visas than would have been the case had it maintained the 2016 rate. Some of this drop can be attributed to coronavirus-related travel restrictions, but much of it happened before that.

The upshot is that the backlog of applications for any kind of immigration benefit -- green cards, temporary work visas, tourist visas, you name it -- has skyrocketed. Before Trump assumed office, this backlog was two times the quarterly number of new applications, which was shameful enough. But now this backlog has almost doubled. Currently, seven million people wishing to come to the U.S. for any reason are cooling their heels.

America's immigration system is restrictive but it is not this restrictive. Congress has created all these programs to give immigrants functioning pathways to come to the country. But Miller and Trump have jammed literally all of them. Moreover, Bier and his Cato colleague Alex Nowrasteh point out, Miller's actions have contradicted every principle that Congress has enshrined in immigration law including family reunification, equal treatment by nationality, and humanitarian relief for those escaping persecution or political turmoil.

How did he accomplish this? Essentially by abusing grants of executive power in immigration law when he could. And when he couldn't, he grabbed these powers from other laws.

Because Donald could not get anything through Congress for four years, it's easy enough to undo all this damage.  But Joe should go further and issue immigration pardons every six months until Congress reforms immigration law. This would not only clear the queues but build in the expectation that the existing immigration regime will not be enforced, thereby  encouraging everyone who can get here physically to come. Americans consistently approve of immigration but oppose illegality.  Make immigration legal again. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


How a Fictional Soccer Coach Showed What the World Should Be: Ted Lasso and the simple power of forgiveness. (David French, 1/03/21, The Dispatch)

And that brings me to the Apple TV dramedy Ted Lasso, why it briefly took the internet by storm, and how it reflects and models profound redemptive values--values that directly contradict our present toxic moment.

It's not giving away much to say that the conceit of the show is basically an updated and revised version of the 1989 movie Major League. It's set in the English Premier League rather than in Major League Baseball, and the owner, Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham), is trying to ruin the team as an act of vengeance against her estranged husband (who left her for a younger woman) rather than to engineer a franchise move. And how does the new owner try to ruin the team? She hires an American football coach, Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis), to coach an elite English soccer team. Hilarity ensues.

I started watching the show because I like Sudeikis, Nancy and I were looking for something new to stream, and I'd heard some buzz that it was far, far better than you had any right to expect. I'm not ashamed to say that it was not just marvelous, it had a moment that brought tears to my eyes. Ted Lasso isn't just a fun show to stream. It's a countercultural masterpiece.

Ted Lasso is the antidote for everything that's wrong with America (GREG GARRETT, DECEMBER 30, 2020, Baptist News)

At year end, as always, I am reflecting on the books, movies, music and TV that shaped me. During the week that my wife, Jeanie, and I finished watching the acclaimed 2020 Apple TV series Ted Lasso, thousands of Americans died of Covid-19, millions of Americans dealt with hunger insecurity, eviction, and the loss of their jobs or businesses, and the president of the United States pardoned dozens of criminals and obsessed over losing an election.

Many critics have spoken about Ted Lasso as the antidote for 2020, and they're absolutely right, but I believe this smart, funny and surprisingly moving show about an American college football coach from Kansas who moves to London to coach Premier League soccer is also the antidote for everything that's wrong with America moving forward. It's a show about amazing grace, about the importance of community and about the necessity for curiosity about those we would usually judge. I can't recommend it highly enough.

As we were falling asleep the night after finishing the series, Jeanie told the ceiling -- and me, mostly unconscious at that point, "I think it's about grace." And so it is. Ted Lasso is a show about a person who sees the best in people instead of the worst, who believes that everyone, no matter how difficult or awful, can be better.

In the process of Ted (Jason Sudeikis) extending grace to everyone -- which is such a hopeful and ridiculous idea -- one character after another begins to change. In the Christian tradition we talk about how in response to amazing grace we hope for what in New Testament Greek is called metanoia -- the 180-degree turn that represents our becoming what God calls us to be instead of what our fear and selfishness often make us.

Coach Ted Lasso says that what he cares about is transformation instead of wins and losses -- how counter-cultural is that? -- and he extends grace and forgiveness to people who most of us would write off.

Ted Lasso Nails Brits and Americans (KYLE SMITH, November 30, 2020, National Review)

Which is why Ted Lasso is cunningly engineered for our peculiar cultural moment, right here on the best side of the Atlantic. It isn't exactly a family show -- there is a lot of R-rated language -- but its wonderful first season makes for the kind of easygoing, big-hearted watch that constitutes ideal viewing among adults seeking something to watch with their parents, especially around the holidays when we're all in need of something cheery that brings us together and steers clear of divisive stuff like explicit sex, gory violence, and politics. In this season of discord, disease, and dismay, Ted Lasso reminds us of a powerful unifying force: Thank God we're not English.