September 9, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM

THANKS, SONIA:

US Supreme Court blocks ruling requiring Yeshiva University recognize LGBTQ club (LUKE TRESS, AGENCIES and TOI STAFF, 9/09/22, Times of Israel)

The US Supreme Court temporarily blocked a lower court's ruling requiring Yeshiva University in New York City to recognize a campus LGBTQ pride group.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted an emergency request on Friday, filed last week by the modern Orthodox university that cited its rights under the First Amendment, which protects the free exercise of religion. The university argued that such recognition would be contrary to its beliefs.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM

THAT'S WHAT RUBES ARE FOR:

Steve Bannon's indictment reveals the truth about Trumpism (Andrew Gawthorpe, 9/09/22, The Guardian)

Although donors to the group were assured that 100% of their money would be used on construction, large sums were siphoned into the pockets of those running the group. And who as chairman of the board allegedly took the greatest sum of all? None other than Steve Bannon.

This affair - in which two people have already pleaded guilty - is a very direct example of a prominent figure in the Maga movement lining their pockets with the money of unsuspecting marks. But it also stands as a metaphor for the movement as a whole. Far from standing up for the interests of "ordinary Americans", Maga exists to funnel money, power and prestige to a small elite while not lifting a finger to improve the lives of anyone else.

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM

THE rIGHT WORSHIPS WEAKNESS:

The Weakness of Xi Jinping: How Hubris and Paranoia Threaten China's Future (Cai Xia, September/October 2022, Foreign Affairs)

I have long had a front-row seat to the CCP's court intrigue. For 15 years, I was a professor in the Central Party School, where I helped train thousands of high-ranking CCP cadres who staff China's bureaucracy. During my tenure at the school, I advised the CCP's top leadership on building the party, and I continued to do so after retiring in 2012. In 2020, after I criticized Xi, I was expelled from the party, stripped of my retirement benefits, and warned that my safety was in danger. I now live in exile in the United States, but I stay in touch with many of my contacts in China.

At the CCP's 20th National Party Congress this fall, Xi expects that he will be given a third five-year term. And even if the growing irritation among some party elites means that his bid will not go entirely uncontested, he will probably succeed. But that success will bring more turbulence down the road. Emboldened by the unprecedented additional term, Xi will likely tighten his grip even further domestically and raise his ambitions internationally. As Xi's rule becomes more extreme, the infighting and resentment he has already triggered will only grow stronger. The competition between various factions within the party will get more intense, complicated, and brutal than ever before.

At that point, China may experience a vicious cycle in which Xi reacts to the perceived sense of threat by taking ever bolder actions that generate even more pushback. Trapped in an echo chamber and desperately seeking redemption, he may even do something catastrophically ill advised, such as attack Taiwan. Xi may well ruin something China has earned over the course of four decades: a reputation for steady, competent leadership. In fact, he already has.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM

SCRATCH A TRUMPIST...:

Drunken Rudy Giuliani went on Islamophobic rant, new book claims (MEE, 9 September 2022)

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and confidant of US President Donald Trump, lashed out with Islamophobic comments during a dinner party, according to a new book. The outburst likely contributed to his being overlooked for the position of Secretary of State.

At a 2016 dinner, an inebriated Giuliani mistook a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke for a Muslim and called out: "I'm sorry to have tell you this, but the founder of your religion is a murderer," according to a new book by Geoffrey Berman, a former US attorney for the southern district of New York (SDNY).

Giuliani went on to share a "wholly inaccurate, alt-right history of the creation and development of Islam, stating that it was an inherently violent religion from its origins to today", Berman writes.

The former New York mayor pulled his phone out to guests and "showed the group drawings of violent acts purportedly committed by Muslims".

"It was unbelievable," Berman said. "Rudy was unhinged. A pall fell over the room."

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM

THE PATH TO INDEPENDENCE:

Solar power saved Europe €29 billion in this summer's energy crisis (Paweł Czyżak, 9 September 2022, Renew Economy)

In a tough summer for Europe that brought record-high energy prices and sweltering heatwaves, solar power has provided some much-needed relief.

Our analysis published today reveals that record levels of solar power across the EU this summer avoided the need for 20bn cubic metres (bcm) of gas, which would have cost €29bn (£25bn) to import.

The success of solar could help shine a pathway out of the energy and climate insecurity that the EU is currently facing.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM

...AND CHEAPER...:

SolarBotanic Trees Launches Revolutionary Solar-Powered Tree (Off Grid Energy Independence)

SolarBotanic Trees today announces the arrival of its game-changing 'solar tree' designed to offer aesthetically pleasing and sustainable energy, ideally suited to large scale commercial environments such as flagship office sites and sports stadia.  [...]
 
This first-generation SolarBotanic Tree will eventually spawn a family of products, primarily aimed at the rapid Electric Vehicle charging market for homes, businesses and commercial car parks, where solar power can be captured and stored for charging points. It will also encompass a sophisticated AI-driven energy storage and power management system (PMS), where trees can be linked and form part of a local grid, or feed into the main grid, essential to optimise an increasingly electrified future. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:19 PM

THE TIGHTENING NOOSE:


Posted by orrinj at 12:19 PM

VLAD WEPT:


Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM

NOW GET RID OF THE SKYSCRAPERS:


Posted by orrinj at 9:00 AM

K.I.S.S.:

Why Chileans rejected a new 'progressive' constitution: The left-wing government's proposed alternative would have made a mockery of democracy. (JAMES HEARTFIELD, 9th September 2022, spiked)

In 2018, Social Convergence, a new left-wing coalition led by Gabriel Boric, emerged. Amid widespread civil unrest breaking out in 2019, Boric's campaigning paved the way for the 2020 referendum, in which the public agreed a new constitution was needed. In 2021, a constitutional convention was set up to draft the new constitution. The convention's members were mostly elected, though it also contained several independent representatives from civil society and there were also seats reserved for indigenous representatives. In March 2022, Boric was elected as Chile's president, which seemed to give further momentum to the constitutional process.

But the constitutional convention quickly lost its way. The process was captured by left-wing activists. And conservatives were largely frozen out or alienated by the process.

The fundamental error made by the convention was that it behaved as if it were drafting policy, rather than a constitution. The representatives in the convention imagined Chile as they would like it to be, for now and for eternity, instead of drafting a constitution that would allow Chileans the freedom to decide for themselves what policies they should adopt in future.

The convention included an extraordinary number of new social rights, which ought really to have been policies rather than constitutional clauses. For instance, there were clauses guaranteeing gender quotas for public offices and the right of indigenous people to veto aspects of national policy. It also tried to enshrine certain 'rights' on behalf of nature and to recognise animals as sentient beings.

Some of these policies may be laudable on their own terms - some less so. But if enshrined in a constitution, they would undermine the very purpose of a democratic constitution, as they would bind future Chilean parliaments to a certain set of policies. In other words, the proposed new constitution would have actually restricted the democratic rights of citizens.

At some point, the constitutional convention lost sight of what it was supposed to be doing. Most of the left-wing participants failed to notice (or did not care) that they were not carrying much of the country with them through the process. They mistook the widespread public dissatisfaction with the political right (caused by years of economic turmoil) for popular support for left-wing social policies. Conservatives generally looked on the convention as either a bit of a joke or as something sinister, thanks to its support for liberal social policies on abortion and the family.

There was a sense that President Boric and the convention thought that they might be able to change the character of the country through the constitution. They wanted to bake in their ideas of progressive social change, by making them a part of the constitutional make-up.

Underlying this was a sentiment that the people were not really to be trusted with democracy. Ironically, in this sense, the proposed constitution was something of a left-wing mirror image of the old Pinochet-era constitution. Boric and his allies ended up proposing that their own political ideals should become fundamental laws that would be put beyond democratic contestation.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM

THE IMAGE VS IDENTITY:

THE PRO-LIFE LEGACY OF FRANCIS SCHAEFFER (Christopher Talbot, 9 . 5 . 22, First Things)

When the Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs decision in late June, Christians of various traditions began to reflect on the incredible amount of work that had led up to this historic moment. Thousands of pregnancy centers throughout the United States and many pro-life organizations deserve our praise. Countless individuals over the past fifty years have worked tirelessly toward securing the right to life for the unborn--many of whom will only be fully recognized in eternity for their influential roles. Yet, there is one man in particular who made so much of this possible. 

Francis Schaeffer is very much the "father" of the pro-life movement among protestants. Without his work and influence, Dobbs may never have come to pass. Garry Wills, in his book Under God, rightly notes that regarding the increase in pro-life activism, "One man deserves more credit than anyone else--Francis Schaeffer." It was Schaeffer who developed the vision and framework for the pro-life movement as we understand it today. And yet, he was the exception during the early post-Roe years. Shortly after Roe was decided, former SBC president and pastor W. A. Criswell "felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person." Evangelicals in the middle of the last century were largely unconcerned about the atrocities of abortion, and were ambivalent toward activism on the matter. Advocacy for the unborn was deemed a "Catholic issue," unimportant to many protestants.

Not to Francis Schaeffer.

Because human beings are made in the image of God, they possess inherent dignity. This principle influenced Schaeffer's apologetics as much as it did his public theology. He embodied this doctrine in the way he conversed with skeptics and cared for the most vulnerable. He believed each and every individual--regardless of their age, status, race, nationality--had immeasurable worth as a human being.

Because of this, Schaeffer challenged the heinous practice of abortion, which he regarded as an assault on the imago Dei. Without the imago Dei, he argued, human life is cheapened and lacks value, leading to an increase not only in abortion, but also in infanticide, euthanasia, child abuse, pornography, torture, crime, and violence. Schaeffer understood that abortion did not operate in isolation; it opened the doorway to other evils.

And Nationalism/Nativism

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM

SIT BACK AND ENJOY IT:

Save the Children's Children: a review of What We Owe the Future: A Million-Year View by William MacAskill (Julian Baggini, September 2022, Literary Review)


Some things will happen anyway. The transition to renewable energy, for example, is almost inevitable, given its efficiency. Action today will only affect the pace of change. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 AM

THE DIFFERENCE "SKIN IN THE GAME" MAKES:

On Christianity: An essay as a foreword for Tom Holland's Dominion (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 8/25/22, Incerto)

[T]his entire book revolves around one simple, but far-reaching thesis. By a mechanism dubbed the retrospective distortion, we look at history using the rear view mirror and flow values retroactively. So one would be naturally inclined to believe that the ancients, particularly the Greco-Romans, would seem like us, share the same wisdom, preferences, values, concerns, fears, hopes, and outlook, except, of course, without the iPhone, Twitter, and the Japanese automated toilet seat. But, no, no, not at all, Holland is saying. These ancients did not have the same values. In fact, Christianity did stand the entire ancient value system on its head.

The Greco-Romans despised the feeble, the poor, the sick, and the disabled; Christianity glorified the weak, the downtrodden, and the untouchable; and does that all the way to the top of the pecking order. While ancient gods could have their share of travails and difficulties, they remained in that special class of gods. But Jesus was the first ancient deity who suffered the punishment of the slave, the lowest ranking member of the human race. And the sect that succeeded him generalized such glorification of suffering: dying as an inferior is more magnificent than living as the mighty. The Romans were befuddled to see members of that sect use for symbol the cross -the punishment for slaves. It had to be some type of joke in their eyes.

Clearly pagans were not totally heartless -there are records of pagan cities in Asia Minor assisting other communities after a disaster but these are rare enough to confirm the rule[2].

There is also the presence of skin in the game in the new religion. Christianity, by insisting on the Trinity, managed to allow God to suffer like a human, and suffer the worst fate any human can suffer. Thanks to the complicated consubstantial relation between father and son, suffering was not a computer simulation to the Lord but the real, real thing. The argument "I am superior to you because I suffer the consequences of my actions and you don't" applies within humans and here in the relationship between humans and God. This extends, in Orthodox theology, to the idea that God, by suffering as a human, allowed humans to be closer to Him, and to potentially merge with Him via Theosis.

Once in, Christianity proved impossible to remove, and the Nazarean mindset and its structure directed its opponents, its heresies, and its replacement -starting with Julian and ending with the most recent accretions of secular humanism.

For Christianity had a sweet vindication when Julian The Apostate, falling for the retrospective distortion, decided to replace of the Church of Christianity by the Church of Paganism along similar organizational lines, with bishops and all the rest (what Chateaubriand called the "Levites"). Julian did not realize that paganism was a soup of decentralized and overlapping individual or collective club-like affiliations to gods.

What has been less obvious is that while we are inclined to believe that Christianity descends from Judaism, some of the reverse might be true. For even the mother-daughter relationship between Judaism and Christianity has been, as of late, convincingly challenged. " If there had been no Paul, there would have been no Rabbi Akiva" claims the theologian Israel Yuval[3] as we can see in Rabbinical Judaism the unmistakable footprints of Christianity.

Further East, Shiite Islam shares many features with Christianity, e.g. the same dodecadic approach, with twelve apostles, the last of whom will be associated with Jesus Christ, plus self-flagellation rituals around the memory of all-familiar martyrdom. These can be possibly attributed to a shared Levantine origin, but the Christian influence wholly accepted by Islamic scholars since Islam is backward compatible[4]. But it is clear that the latest position of Supreme Leader has been largely inspired by the Catholic hierarchy.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM

AMERICAN MUSIC:

100 years of charles mingus: A compilation of the writer's favorite Charles Mingus tracks (MATT HANSON,  09/08/2022, Smart Set)

An unavoidable issue that Mingus struggled with all his life, and a very timely concern in our hyper-political times, is the indignities and complexities of race and racism in America. Race is a fiction that nevertheless writes the script of too much of American life. Mingus did his best to flip it. The story of Mingus's actual ancestral roots tends to change depending on who you ask, but Mingus was evidently part Black, part Chinese, part white, and possibly any number of other things.   

Being mixed race was evidently one of the reasons why he often felt on the outside of whatever group that was around. If you watch the documentary Triumph of the Underdog, he remembers what the schoolyard bullies called him, and suffice to say that it's unprintable. He sometimes described himself as always being too Black to be white and too white to be Black. This anguished mental state was clearly not an easy space to inhabit, especially in the tightly normative world of midcentury America, but that mélange of experiences and intersecting narratives is exactly what makes Mingus as American as anyone. 

It may be apocryphal, but I tend to believe the story that young Mingus was getting picked on all the time at school for being different and fighting so much that he was eventually taken to the school psychologist. The results of an IQ test informed him that apparently he was a genius and so don't let the other kids get him down. If anything, I think the story illustrates the essential contradictions that fueled the vision: his immense skill contending with his volatility, deep vulnerability balancing roiling anger, and sarcastic wit wrapped in an iron pride.    

Life ain't easy for any musician (just ask, they'll tell you) but it's notoriously tough for jazz musicians. The often long, wordless, complex music doesn't have the easy absorption of your average three-minute singalong pop tune. Mingus certainly intended to rouse and captivate his audiences, but that became increasingly harder to do as rock and roll started to take over the airwaves in the '50s and '60s. Every performer wants to get people to listen. And it isn't always the easiest thing to do when playing a complex, intricate tune amid the bustle of a crowded, smoky nightclub with drinks clinking and talk circulating, made worse when the paying audience (which is, needless to say, tends to be predominantly white) is expecting to be entertained rather than challenged or confronted. 

Jazz's vital reliance on improvisation and teamwork makes it harder to phone it in, as plenty of successful pop bands tend to do whenever they want the easy money of a legacy tour. You've got to be totally present, utterly in the pocket, with all synapses firing fully and precisely to play good jazz, let alone court exquisitely orchestrated chaos with a mercurial Mingus as ringmaster night after night. This is probably why his musicians tended to stick with him despite all the macho bullshit: all that berating, the smashed stuff, the punchouts, and all the rest of it. Mingus played an already demanding music to its fullest extent, and this made the people around him better, upping their game by keeping them on edge. That's a test that only a few can pass; many are called but few are chosen   

Genius that he was, Mingus did the first crucial thing that all artists must do and mastered the forms that he inherited from his musical ancestors, especially Duke Ellington. Then he proceeded to take them apart with dissonance, free improvisation, poetry, and genre-bending. A natural if temperamental leader, the number of gifted musicians he collaborated with is remarkable. In true jazz style, their story cannot be told without his story, and his story is inseparable from theirs. Mingus often willfully confronted his audiences, demanding the tribute of fully paid attention, ("Isaac Stern doesn't have to put up with this s[***]") and, in return, he and his crew gave them everything they had, which was big helpings of everything. 

So now that we've had some time to let his legend grow and his reputation develop and we take his greatness for granted, let's give him the attention he deserves, shall we? Friends, newbies, fans, and the idly curious are all invited to pull up a chair, light something up and/or pour yourself a drink and lend the mighty Mingus your ears. Here follows a selection of some of my favorite Mingus tunes, with a few supplemental texts offered as guides to the perplexed.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM

ALWAYS BET ON THE dEEP sTATE:

Died: Queen Elizabeth II, British Monarch Who Put Her Trust in God: In her seven-decade reign, she spoke regularly of the importance of her personal faith. (DUDLEY DELFFS,  SEPTEMBER 8, 2022, CT)

[T]he Queen's faith was more than the product of polite deference to historical tradition. Throughout her reign, she articulated the importance of her faith and recommended it to her subjects.

"For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life," she said in 2000. "I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ's words and example."

In 2002 the Queen endured a painful year of personal losses with the deaths of her sister, Princess Margaret, and the Queen Mother. In her annual Christmas address that year, she spoke of how her faith had sustained her.

"I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad," she said. "Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God."

The Queen consistently extended her influence to acknowledge and celebrate religious diversity and tolerance in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of Nations, and throughout the world. Her Majesty's Christmas and Commonwealth Day messages often addressed the theme of interfaith harmony and respectful tolerance. Leaders of various faiths and denominations regularly attended royal ceremonies, including weddings and services of thanksgiving, at the invitation of the Queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Celebrating her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the Queen attended a multifaith reception at Lambeth Palace, hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, featuring the leaders of eight faiths in the United Kingdom including Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism. At this event, the Queen said, "Faith plays a key role in the identity of millions of people, providing not only a system of belief but also a sense of belonging. It can act as a spur for social action. Indeed, religious groups have a proud track record of helping those in the greatest need, including the sick, the elderly, the lonely and the disadvantaged. They remind us of the responsibilities we have beyond ourselves."

The Queen's efforts were recognized in 2007 by the Three-Faiths Forum, an organization dedicated to building understanding and lasting relationships between people of all faiths and beliefs. It presented Her Majesty with the Sternberg Interfaith Gold Medallion, awarded to individuals who have helped promote peace and tolerance among people of different faiths.

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM

SMITHING:

How Christianity Influenced the Development of Capitalism in Medieval Europe: Jacob Soll on Piety and Profits in the Middle Ages (Jacob Soll, September 9, 2022, Lit Hub)

Franciscan poverty posed a real threat to the Church. While most Franciscans preached peace, other groups of radical mendicant friars, such as the Northern Italian Dolcinian sect of the early 1300s, periodically led powerful and violent movements to overthrow the social order and destroy the Church as an institution of private property. The Church sent armies against them, and in 1307, the leader of the movement, Fra Dulcino, was captured and burned at the stake.

The Scottish Franciscan monk and Scholastic philosopher John Duns Scotus took a more nuanced view of pricing than Aquinas, proposing that prices came neither from balanced exchange nor from moral rules. Rather, he believed they came from a freely working secular market process. Private property was not the purview of the Church, which was ill equipped to understand all the market activities that went into creating value.

As Duns Scotus saw it, prices came from quantity and from the value of labor and expertise. To understand a price, one had to take into account "diligence, prudence, care, as well as the risk one accepts in doing such business." Therefore, it was very difficult for churchmen to calculate market prices.

Capitalism/democracy/protestantism
Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM

THE CULTURE WARS ARE A ROUT:

The Rings of Power: The Necessity of Vigilance and the Limits of Beauty (Marc LiVecche, September 9, 2022, Providence)

[I]n place of a full-throated review I want to reflect instead, on what I take to be a pair of central themes developing through the first two episodes and to consider how they might be viewed through the lens of Christian realism.

The first theme grounds the second. Except for a brief introduction, The Rings of Power plays out in Middle Earth's seismic Second Age, which began following the successful termination of the War of Wrath and the defeat of Morgoth, the satanic antagonist of the First Age. Morgoth's chief lieutenant, Sauron, was himself greatly weakened. He fled and hid, slowly reconsolidating his power over more than a millennium. Our story begins here, with Galadriel, known to LOTR fans as the Lady of the Woods of Lothlórien, leading a company of elven fighters in search of Sauron, who she rightly believes remains a threat to Middle Earth . As she puts it in a voiceover, "For though Morgoth fell an age ago, some feared a new evil would rise from his shadow." Not everyone agrees with Galadriel's dire assessment that Sauron is still alive. She laments:

The trail grew thin. Year gave way to year. Century gave way to century. And for many elves, the pain of those days passed out of thought and mind. More and more of our kind began to believe the Sauron was but a memory, and that the threat at last was ended.

Galadriel knows such lulls might prove deadly. "Evil does not sleep. It waits," she warns. "And in the moment of our complacency, it blinds us." In this, she voices a principle that runs through much of Tolkien: the need to maintain constant vigilance against the advent or rekindling of evil. Considering his beloved hobbits, for instance, it is emphasized at several points in LOTR that the hobbits' insular lifestyle of quiet normality is made possible only because of the watchfulness of valorous men who stand guard outside their borders, entirely unbeknownst to the hobbits themselves. It's reasonable to think this sentiment was fortified by Tolkien's own combat experience. Shortly after being married in 1916, Tolkien was sent into action at the Battle of the Somme, during which he lost several close friends and was himself invalided to a hospital for trench fever. [...]

But this emphasis on vigilance seems merely the ground for The Rings of Power's more significant point of focus. While being watchful is essential, knowing what to watch out for can be harder than it seems.

In an early dialogue in the beginning of the premier episode, a youthful Galadriel is speaking with her older brother about good and evil. He says to her:

Do you know why a ship floats and a stone cannot? Because the stone sees only downward, the darkness of the water is vast, irresistible. The ship feels the darkness as well, striving moment by moment to master her and pull her under. But the ship has a secret. For unlike the stone, her gaze is not downward, but up. Fixed on the light that guides her. Whispering of grander things than darkness ever knew.

On the one hand, the image has much to say about resisting temptation--a perennial issue in Tolkien's universe. But Galadriel offers an important insight: "But sometimes the lights shine just as brightly reflected in the water as in the sky. It's hard to say which way is down. How am I to know which lights to follow?"

How indeed? Fans of the LOTR know that what might seem like light is actually darkness. The Ring of Power itself is like the darkness of Galadriel's brother's invocation. It beguiles its victims into believing that it is a desirable thing, drawing them down beneath its power--possessing them until they abandon all good things in life to devout themselves to this false divine.

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM

hISTORY JUST KEEPS eNDING:

Why Ukraine Will Win: The country's military is advancing on the battlefield. If Ukraine defeats Russia's massive army, the ripple effects will be felt across the globe.  (Francis Fukuyama, September 2022, Journal of Democracy)

First is the question of why the war occurred in the first place. [...]

The real threat perceived by Putin was in the end not to the security of Russia, but to its political model. He has asserted that liberal democracy didn't work generally, but was particularly inappropriate in the Slavic world. A free Ukraine belied that assertion, and for that reason had to be eliminated.

The second critical point concerns Western solidarity in support of Ukraine. Up to now, the continuing supply of weapons and economic sanctions have been absolutely critical to Ukraine's ability to resist Russian power. Most observers have in fact been surprised by the degree of solidarity shown by NATO, and particularly by the turnaround in German foreign policy. [...]

Thirdly, a Russian military failure--meaning at minimum the liberation of territories conquered after 24 February 2022--will have enormous political reverberations around the world. Russia and China prior to the war argued that liberal democracies, particularly the United States, were in decline. They argued that their authoritarian systems were better at accomplishing big tasks and acting decisively. What has happened instead is that the Russian model of centralized decision-making, centered around one man, has committed one of the gravest political blunders in recent history. Putin, isolated during the pandemic and out of touch with the reality both of his own military and of public opinion in Ukraine, believed that he would be greeted there as a liberator. China, for its part, is seeing its rate of growth tanking as the result of a "zero-Covid" policy that its paramount leader, Xi Jinping, seems determined not to waver from. Western democracies, by contrast, have appeared united and determined in the face of this challenge.

If the Ukrainians don't simply hold out against Russia but actually defeat Russia's massive army and force it to retreat, the positive reverberations will be felt across the globe. Populist nationalists around the world, from Viktor Orbán to Matteo Salvini to Marine Le Pen to Donald Trump, have expressed admiration for Putin's style of strongman rule. A Russian defeat and humiliation will puncture this narrative of the advantages of authoritarian government, and might lead to a rekindling of democratic self-confidence. It has been easy for publics in Western democracies to take for granted the peace and prosperity brought about by the liberal world order. It may be the case that every generation needs to relearn the lesson that the alternatives to liberal democracy lead to violence, repression, and ultimately economic failure. Such a lesson will be driven home if the world sees brave Ukrainians fighting for their country succeed beyond all expectations.

Ukraine will win. Slava Ukraini!

Now to trick Xi into attacking Taiwan so we can crush him too.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM

SO MUCH FOR GUNS, GERMS AND STEEL:

Donkey domestication happened 7,000 years ago in Africa: DNA study (Agence France-Presse, September 8, 2022)

Despite transforming history as beasts of burden essential for transporting goods and people, the humble donkey has long been woefully understudied.

But scientists on Thursday took a big step towards clarifying the species' origins with a comprehensive genomic analysis of 238 ancient and modern donkeys, finding they were likely domesticated in a single event in eastern Africa some 7,000 years ago.

The domestication of animals is a function of the desire to domesticate animals.