November 30, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 PM


Life, Death, and Total Football : My Dutch friend Lars taught me to appreciate the most radical team in World Cup history--and how their tactics could be meaningful far beyond the pitch.   (ROSECRANS BALDWIN, November 29, 2022, gQ)

Holland has a unique place in soccer history. In the late 1960s and '70s, the country developed perhaps the most radical brand of football ever played. It was intensely cerebral. It was unconsciously artistic. You read about fans achieving a kind of orgasmic death-rebirth, high on football, just by watching the system work. It was called "total football" and it imbued the Dutch with an outsider identity. A version of it infused Lars's life at an early age. And what he taught me about it, years later, helped me grasp soccer much better. Moreso, three years after his passing, I can honestly say it helps me understand my work better, my relationships better, even death. Maybe call it "total life" instead. 

First of all, total football, totaalvoetbal, Lars told me, was perhaps the most beautiful style of soccer ever played. The system is mainly credited to the Netherlands, defined by crisp passing and churning runs that produced a pressing, frenzied, strobic wheel of aggression that had never been seen on the pitch before the Flying Dutchmen seized the football world's heart in the 1970s and started to squeeze. 

Versions of the system had been played elsewhere prior to that, in minor forms. But the system came to flower in Amsterdam with Ajax, the city's football club and the Netherlands' most successful, after it won the European Cup, among other accomplishments, from 1971 to 1973.

Lars was basically born into the Church of Cruyff--Johan Cruyff, the Dutch superstar and the form's high priest--and the religion that is total football. He and his brother Kees often spent summers in Holland, where Lars learned to read and speak the language; his incapacity for small talk likely derived from growing up around the Netherlanders' distinctive blunt straightforwardness. He also learned to appreciate soccer in the Dutch mode. So much, he said, that when he got back to North Carolina, to soccer programs in town, the game simply paled. 

Here is a total football primer, as Lars might tell it. At the time of its development, Holland's totaalvoetbal stood alone for its onslaught. Before, European soccer had been ruled by the champions of Italian defense: Juventus, Inter Milan, A.C. Milan. Then the Dutch side showed up, everyone on attack. The central idea was to foment an intensely supple flexibility. Basically, in total football, any player could decide to play virtually any role at any time. An attacker could suddenly choose to become a midfielder, or a defender could decide to go on attack. And while they made those transformations, reordering themselves, sprinting into space, a teammate would slide into the player's prior function to cover his spot. 

It was controlled chaos--unpredictable to opponents, thrilling for fans. But it demanded a lot, Lars would explain, for the men at work, with players flying in and out of positions. First of all, everyone on the field needed to be attuned to what everyone else was doing. Also, they needed to be able to play any position at any time, and play it tough. Also, they needed to run and run, just run nonstop.

Basically, it was a version of soccer that seemed, though elegant and clever, ultra aggro. Before total football, players didn't roam the pitch freely, but here came Cruyff, maestro of them all, suddenly making an opponent's defense seem full of holes. Total football, reduced to elementals, was about physics, Lars's father's specialty: It was about finding and claiming space, essentially creating space; when executed perfectly, it was about making space where previously there was none. Players like Cruyff, Johnny Rep, Ruud Krol--later, they'd say the system was subliminal, almost unconscious, partly because they'd played together so long and knew what each other were thinking, and where, any second, they might run next. 

Today, total football is history. It passed away, perhaps, when Holland lost the 1974 World Cup final to West Germany. Or when zonal defense became the norm, when defenders started worrying more about pitch physics than marking a single man. The system did continue somewhat, at least genetically, in Spain, as one strain in the pass-heavy "tiki taka" system, aided by Cruyff's successful tenure, post-playing career, as a Barça manager in the 1990s. But it's mostly gone, an innovation out-innovated, and Cruyff is gone too, dead from cancer in 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


Hakeem Jeffries launched his bid to be Nancy Pelosi's successor. Some see him as a positive force for racial justice, but others are concerned about his silence toward left-wing progressive issues. (Yoonji Han, Nov 19, 2022, Business Insider)

Jeffries, a Brooklyn native, would make history by becoming the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress. And, at 52, Jeffries would represent a generational change from the current House Democratic leaders, who are three decades his senior (Pelosi is 82 years old). [...]

Jeffries has been accused of remaining silent on some progressive issues his Democratic colleagues have endorsed.

When all New York City House Democrats sent a public letter to Pelosi urging her to protect $80 billion for public housing in the Build Back Better Act in 2021, Jeffries was the only member not to sign the letter.

Jeffries has similarly refused to sign the Green New Deal, which younger progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have espoused, but which other centrist Democrats like Pelosi have dismissed as "the green dream, or whatever they call it."

"The extreme left is obsessed with talking trash about mainstream Democrats on Twitter, when the majority of the electorate constitute mainstream Democrats at the polls," Jeffries told the New York Times last year.

Jeffries has said that he believes that activists are too caught up in thinking about changing society through environmental goals, rather than the systemic racism that he contends are higher-priority issues, according to the Atlantic.

In 2021, Jeffries started Team Blue, a PAC formed specifically to protect Democratic incumbents from primary challengers. His co-founder was Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a conservative Democrat who also staunchly opposed the Build Back Better Act.

The congressman has also made statements declaring pro-Israel beliefs and has supported legislation that would penalize companies and Americans that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

Posted by orrinj at 2:40 PM


McCarthy's math problem (Andrew Solender, 11/30/22, Axios)

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) told Axios on Tuesday he's a firm "no" on McCarthy after previously leaving wiggle room: "I will be voting for an alternative candidate. I will not be voting for Kevin McCarthy."

Good said in a follow-up interview he will vote for Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who told Politico he is voting for himself.

State of play: McCarthy will need a majority of voting members to elect him speaker. With a House Republican majority of just five or six seats, he will only be able to afford a handful of defections.

In addition to Good, Biggs and Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Ralph Norman (R-N.C.) have said they are hard "no's." Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) has also voiced firm opposition.

That may not be the extent of McCarthy's troubles: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), one of his key allies in the Freedom Caucus, estimated that privately there "could be as many as 10" no votes. Good said 20 is "in the ballpark."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Maskless World Cup scenes spark anger in zero-Covid China (France 24,  23/11/2022)

Authorities have put more than a quarter of the Chinese population under some form of lockdown as of Tuesday, according to Nomura analysts -- a contrast with the raucous World Cup crowds that have infuriated many Chinese social media users.

"Some people are watching World Cup matches in person with no masks, some have been locked at home for a month, locked on campus for two months without even being able to step out the door," a Guangdong-based user on the Twitter-like Weibo platform wrote on Wednesday.

"Who has stolen my life? I won't say."

Another Weibo user from Shaanxi province said they were "disappointed" in their country.

"The World Cup has allowed most Chinese people to see the real situation abroad, and worry about the economy of the motherland, and their own youth," the user wrote.

An open letter questioning the country's Covid-19 policies and asking if China was "on the same planet" as Qatar spread on the popular WeChat messaging app on Tuesday, before censors removed it from the platform.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Senate votes to protect same-sex marriage, with crucial backing from some Republicans who helped install conservatives on Supreme Court (Jim Puzzanghera and Shannon Coan, November 29, 2022, Boston Globe)

"I think this is largely driven by the reversal of nearly 50 years of precedent and the acknowledgment that the constitutional and legal grounds on which Roe v. Wade was decided were very similar to Loving v. Virginia and Obergefell," Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, a Democrat who partnered with Collins in crafting the bill, said in an interview.

"I know that people in both interracial marriages and same-sex marriages are very concerned about the security of their marriages," said Baldwin, the first openly gay senator.

The bill would not codify the federal right to same-sex marriage, but supporters said it provides enough protection without infringing on religious freedoms for people and groups who oppose such unions. Several religious organizations, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Orthodox Union, a Jewish organization, have publicly backed the legislation.

"Passing the bill is our chance to send a message to Americans everywhere: No matter who you are or who you love, you too deserve dignity and equal treatment under the law," said Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer of New York, who sported the same purple tie Tuesday that he wore to the wedding of his daughter and her wife.

The House approved the Respect for Marriage Act 267-157 in July, with 47 Republicans joining every Democrat in voting for it. The bill now must be approved again in the House after it was revised in the Senate to address religious liberty concerns, changes that helped secure more Republican support. The revisions included specifying that nonprofit religious organizations are not required to provide "any services, facilities, or goods" for same-sex marriages and will not risk their tax-exempt status if they don't recognize such unions.

Republican failure on this issue stems from not adopting Howard Dean's idea for civil union, a purely legal construct that would have secured these rights without decimating the institution of marriage.  Now it is incumbent on religion to craft a new institution to re-differentiate moral unions from merely legal ones. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Boston mRNA startup raises millions to test its targeted cancer therapies (Ryan Cross,  November 28, 2022, Boston Globe)

Investors in the nearly five-year-old startup have topped off a previously announced financing with an additional $45 million, bringing the total to $97 million, Strand told the Globe. The funds will help Strand start a clinical trial of its first experimental medicine, a cancer immunotherapy, likely in the second half of 2023.

The new money comes as anticipation builds for companies to prove that the COVID-19 vaccines were not one-hit wonders for mRNA technology. More than a dozen Massachusetts companies are developing mRNA-based medicines, which use the short-lived genetic molecule to produce a therapeutic protein.

The potential applications are vast. Cambridge-based Moderna already has more than 40 mRNA programs underway for cancer, genetic conditions, and infectious diseases. Yet several smaller and newer companies, Strand included, believe that a second generation of mRNA technologies is needed to broaden the genetic molecule's reach.

"Messenger RNA has the potential to revolutionize medicine," Becraft said.

One step closer to a universal flu vaccine? (Apoorva Mandavilli, 11/28/22,  New York Times)

Imagine a single dose of vaccine that prepares your body to fight every known strain of influenza -- a so-called universal flu vaccine that scientists have tried to create for decades.

A new study describes successful animal tests of just such a vaccine, offering hope that the country can be protected against future flu pandemics. Like the COVID vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the experimental flu vaccine relies on mRNA.

It is in early stages -- tested only in mice and ferrets -- but the vaccine provides important proof that a single shot could be used against an entire family of viruses. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Party Of Fear Is Becoming The Party Of Losers (Lucian K. Truscott IV, November 30 | 2022, National Memo)

Ralph T. suggested that I consider writing about "the layers and layers of fears driving a majority of Republican voters." Helpfully, he provided a list, which I will quote from selectively here:

Afraid of vaccines.

Afraid of voters.

Afraid of drop boxes.

So afraid of Democrats that they're willing to believe they're killing abducted babies in the basements of pizza joints.

Afraid to go out in public without an arsenal strapped to their flak jackets.

Afraid of LGBTQ folks.

Afraid of Black folks.

Afraid of Latin folks, especially the ones across our southern border who we desperately need in our workforce.

Terrified of Jewish folks.

Afraid of immigrants, although that's what 98% of us are, having pretty much killed off the local natives when we got here.

Afraid of women, especially smart women.

Afraid of respectfully facing our past.

Afraid of the future.

Afraid of change.

Afraid of books, which I suppose comes from being afraid of reading, or simply not being able to read.

Ralph T. went on to list more fears many Republicans share, but that one stopped me in my tracks, and not because I've written books, write a column, and for more than 50 years have depended on readers in order to make a living.

Have you been in a house that has no books? No magazines, no reading material of any kind, with the possible exception of a cookbook or two? I have.

I've been in houses of people who were poor, perhaps too poor to afford books and magazines, but I've also been in houses of middle-class people who just did not read. Out in L.A., I was even in a beach house in Malibu owned by a very wealthy person in the movie business that contained no books at all. There were some very nice, and very expensive, pieces of art on the wall, but no books, not a one, not even a cookbook, and the owner was not a Republican. People in the movie business like the person from Malibu had what they called "readers," assistants whose job it was to read books and screenplays that were being considered to be bought to make movies. I didn't understand why these executives wouldn't, or couldn't, read the material they spent so much money on until I realized it was the prospect of failure that made them afraid. They needed to be told what they were supposed to have read was "hot," that other executives in the business were after the same property so they could contend with their fear that they would spend all that money and the project would end up as a failure.

What all of the people who lived in those houses shared, including the person from Malibu, was fear. They were afraid of different things. In the deep South, I found people afraid of the future, of change, of outsiders, of people of other races and creeds, people who were simply unlike themselves. The phrase "ignorance is bliss" comes to mind, but not as a truism. Ignorance on that level is anything but blissful, bringing with it a closed off-ness that causes such a vacuum of knowledge and surrounding darkness that it's impossible to deal with on any level whatsoever. To be without accurate and learned information is to be alone with yourself - alone with your fears, as it were.

When I lived in the deep South, I once asked a man who was overtly, openly racist why he was that way. I probed, and not very gently. Did something happen to him as he was growing up? Had he been mugged or beaten up by a Black person or Black people? Did he even know anyone who was Black in a way beyond thanking a server in a restaurant for a refill of his coffee? The answer to every one of my questions was no. It was revealed that there was no reason behind his racism. It just was. He had been raised in what you would call a culture of racism, and so it infected him in the way a virus gets into you. It was in the air he breathed. It was all around him in the lives of his friends and family members and the people he worked with and hunted with and spent holidays with. They were racist, so he was racist. There was a kind of comfort in their community of racism and the fears they shared. The rest of them were afraid to breach the barrier they had built around themselves, and so was he.

Their fears encompassed other things on Ralph T.'s excellent list. Another person in the deep South I spoke to came right out and told me he thought Black people should not have the right to vote. He was afraid of their votes, because they weren't his votes or the votes of his white friends and neighbors. It didn't take but a moment or two to see that he was afraid not just of Black people themselves, and Black people voting, but of living in a world in which he felt surrounded by things he did not understand, people he didn't trust, ideas he was afraid of because to start with, he was unfamiliar with them. He didn't want to acknowledge the legacy of slavery that was all around him where he lived in the South - the Black side of town had unpaved streets, no sidewalks, no streetlights, shack-like houses - hell, the town didn't even run its sewage system into the Black section.

The only public thing the Black people in his town had, really, was the right to attend the public schools, and that right, in his opinion, was forced on the town and its people, its white people, by a Supreme Court and a Congress that he felt did not represent people like him, people whom the laws and the culture and the rest of the nation, in fact, had left behind. He was afraid of people who were unlike him; their ideas were unlike his, and crucially, there was nothing he could do about it, at least in part because Black people could vote.

Republicans have come up with a new catchphrase to appeal to voters like this man, and to the people in whose houses I had been who did not have books. Critical race theory.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


November 29, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, 11/29/22, Letters from an American)

That a jury has now found two people guilty of seditious conspiracy establishes that a conspiracy existed. Former federal prosecutor Randall D. Eliason, who teaches law at George Washington University, told reporters Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman, and Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Now the only remaining question is how much higher did those plans go, and who else might be held criminally responsible." While federal prosecutors sought only to tie Rhodes to the other Oath Keepers, both sides agreed that Rhodes communicated with Trump allies Roger Stone, Ali Alexander, and Michael Flynn after the election. 

There are two more seditious conspiracy trials scheduled for December. One is for five other Oath Keepers; the other is against the leaders of the far-right gang the Proud Boys, led by Henry 'Enrique' Tarrio. 

Yesterday, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election are not covered by presidential immunity as his lawyers argued. The judge noted that he was acting not as a president in defense of the Constitution, but rather in a different role as a candidate when he tried to overturn the election. Sullivan said: "Persuasive authority in this district specifically recognizes that there is no immunity defense for Former President Trump for 'unofficial acts' which 'entirely concern his efforts to remain in office for a second term.'"

The South Carolina Supreme Court today unanimously ordered Mark Meadows, who was Trump's last White House chief of staff, to testify before the Fulton County, Georgia, grand jury investigating Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Meadows was on the phone call Trump made to Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger on January 2 to demand he "find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have," making his testimony key to the investigation. Meadows lives in South Carolina, where he tried to argue that he could not testify because of executive privilege. Lower South Carolina courts disagreed, and now the state's supreme Court has said that Meadows's arguments are "manifestly without merit." 

In Washington, Trump advisor Stephen Miller testified today before the grand jury investigating the events of January 6, 2021. The Justice Department subpoenaed Miller in September. He also testified before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

November 29, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Elite Conservatives Have Taken an Awfully Weird Turn: As it leaves behind American values, has the right gotten too strange to win elections? (Graham Gallagher, November 25, 2022, New Republic)

An inkling of the Republican Party's shocking underperformance in the midterms could be seen in a literal, not figurative, crusade. Allen West, former congressman and Texas Republican Party chairman, decided in September that the time was ripe to join the Knights Templar, the infamous sect of medieval soldier-monks. Photographed standing in a white robe emblazoned with a red cross draped jauntily over his tuxedo, West--a close ally of Donald Trump--tweeted that he had taken "an oath to protect the Christians in the Holy Land."

The real Knights Templar, of course, were dissolved in 1312. The organization West joined is an American-based "chivalric order" that grants its members "knighthood" and, aside from its name, shares nothing with the actual Knights Templar.

West's bizarre fascination with the imagery of medieval Europe does not exist in a vacuum: The right is getting weirder. That might begin to cost Republicans elections in years to come and undermine their own appeals to American patriotism in a way policy extremism alone could not. American voters see the political parties as equally extreme in policy, ignoring evidence that Republicans have moved right much faster than Democrats have moved left. However, a party fixated on genital sunning, seed oils, Catholic integralism, European aristocracy, and occultism can alienate voters not because of its positions but because of how it presents them--and itself. Among the right's intellectual avant garde and media elites, there is a growing adoption of habits, aesthetics, and views that are not only out of step with America's but are deliberately cultivated in opposition to a national majority that the new right holds in contempt.

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM

JEB 2023:

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM


Jury convicts Oath Keepers leader of seditious conspiracy (KYLE CHENEY, 11/29/2022, Politico)

A jury has convicted Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes of masterminding a plot to violently subvert the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden, finding that he entered into a seditious conspiracy against the U.S. government.

The jury also convicted Rhodes ally Kelly Meggs, leader of the Florida Oath Keepers, of seditious conspiracy. But the jury acquitted three co-defendants -- Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell -- of joining Rhodes in that conspiracy. All five, however, were convicted on additional felony charges, including obstruction of Congress.

...and I said nothing, for I support the Republic...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Meet the powerful rabbi who once called for killing innocent Palestinians (Shir Hever, 11/29/22, Middle East Eye)

[Rabbi Dov] Lior, a proponent of the ethnic cleansing of Arab Muslims, is the spiritual leader for the entire far-right Religious Zionism coalition, which includes three parties: Religious Zionism, Jewish Power and Noam.

The political alliance won 14 seats in the Israeli parliament earlier this month, more than any religious-nationalist party in the history of the state, making it the second largest bloc in the governing coalition after Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu. Currently, the parties are locked in government-forming negotations with Netanyahu's Likud, reportedly winning control over several key state institutions.

Lior had urged Israelis to cast their votes for the coalition and spoke at its press conference after the election results were published. 

Lior is outspoken on political matters, and repeatedly promoted the theory that the "Western Land of Israel" (meaning all of historical Palestine) belongs to the Jews only.

He claims that the "Eastern Land of Israel," today the Kingdom of Jordan, which in his view also belongs to Jews, is less holy and may be compromised. Withdrawal from any part of the "Western Land of Israel", according to Lior, is a sin.

Lior supports the construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian territory and does not recognise the right of Palestinians to own land.

After Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995, Lior's name was listed among the rabbis who had allegedly issued a ruling condemning Rabin as a traitor worthy of death.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, the leader of the Jewish Power party, threatened to hurt Rabin in a television interview but was not charged because he was a minor at the time. Subsequently Lior and Ben-Gvir formed a lasting friendship.

Lior was the rabbi of the Kiryat Arba illegal settlement within the occupied city of Hebron between 1987 and 2015. One of his disciples, Baruch Goldstein, shot and murdered 29 Palestinians in the Abrahamic Mosque in Hebron in 1994. Rabbi Lior referred to Goldstein afterwards as "holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust."

In 2011, he expressed written support for the book "The King's Torah," a racist and genocidal book by the rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur, which, among other things, endorses the killing of non-Jewish babies before they grow to adulthood and pose an alleged risk to Jews.

No one hates Judaism more than those who describe opposition to this as anti-Semitism. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'The Godfather, Saudi-style': inside the palace coup that brought MBS to power (Anuj Chopra, 29 Nov 2022, The Guardian)

Shortly before the palace coup, on 5 June 2017, tensions between the princes reached boiling point after MBS and other regional autocrats imposed a punishing blockade on neighbouring Qatar. The tiny, gas-rich emirate has long rankled its bigger Arab neighbours with its provocative moves, such as giving airtime to regional Islamists and dissidents on its influential news channel Al Jazeera. Nayef, too, had issues with Qatar, but he preferred quiet diplomacy over MBS's combative approach. Behind his cousin's back, Nayef opened a secret channel with Qatar's ruler Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. "Tamim called me today, but I did not answer," Nayef texted his adviser at the peak of the crisis. "I want to send him an encrypted phone for communication."

On 20 June 2017, in the midst of that crisis, Nayef was called for a meeting in King Salman's palace in Mecca - a marble-walled colossus overlooking the cube-shaped Ka'bah, the holiest shrine in Islam. According to sources close to Nayef, when he arrived, his security detail was instructed to wait outside. To prevent any leaks, all mobile phones, including those of the palace staff, were seized by guards loyal to MBS. One senior member of the royal family, who tried to enter the palace after Nayef, was turned away at the gates. The prince was allegedly ushered into a room with Turki al-Sheikh, a close MBS confidante with a gruff, intimidating manner and a predilection for expensive Richard Mille watches. (Sheikh would later be promoted to head the General Entertainment Authority - an agency that seeks to soften Saudi Arabia's image by, among other things, hosting giant raves in the desert.)

Sheikh allegedly confined Nayef to the room for hours, pressuring him to sign a resignation letter and pledge allegiance to MBS. At first, Nayef refused. According to one source close to the prince, he was told that if he did not give up his claim to the throne, his female family members would be raped. Nayef's medication for hypertension and diabetes was withheld, and he was told that if he did not step down willingly, his next destination would be the hospital. He was so afraid of being poisoned that night, said another royal family source, that he refused to drink even water.

Nayef was permitted to speak with two princes in the Allegiance Council, the royal body that ratifies the line of succession. He was shocked to hear that they had already submitted to MBS. By daybreak, it was all over. Anxious and exhausted, Nayef surrendered. He was made to step into an adjoining room, where MBS was waiting with television cameras and a guard carrying a gun. Footage released by Saudi broadcasters showed a brief glimpse of Sheikh hurriedly slipping a gold-trimmed robe on the back of the detained prince. As the cameras rolled, MBS crept closer to his cousin and theatrically stooped down to kiss his hand and knee.

"When I pledged allegiance, there was a gun to my back," Nayef later wrote in a text to his adviser.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Granite Staters Have High Credit Scores and Low Unemployment (Damien Fisher, 11/28/22, NH Journal)

Frugal Yankees in New Hampshire hold an average 719 credit score, second only to Minnesota's 724, Wallethub reports. The national average is 695, which means most Americans are just below the 700-score considered good credit, according to WalletHub's findings.

Vermont, Massachusetts, and South Dakota round out the top five with average scores above 700. Alabama at 672, Louisiana at 668, and Mississippi at 662 are the three states with the worst average credit scores.

Patrick A. Cozza, who teaches business at Fairleigh Dickinson University, said the best way to build good credit is to pay your bills on time. Minimizing the use of credit cards is important as well.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Christian Cosmology of C.S. Lewis (Stratford Caldecott, November 28th, 2022, Imaginative Conservative)

In A Secular Age (p. 60), the Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor, contrasts the ancient notion of cosmos with the modern secular universe:

I use "cosmos" for our forebearers' idea of the totality of existence because it contains the idea of an ordered whole. It is not that our own universe isn't in its own way ordered, but in the cosmos the order of things was a humanly meaningful one. That is, the principle of order in the cosmos was closely related to, often identical with, that which gives shape to our lives.

Thus Aristotle's cosmos has at its apex and centre God, whose ceaseless and unvarying action exemplifies something close to Plato's eternity. But this action, a kind of thinking, is also at the centre of our lives. Theoretical thought is in us that which is "most divine." And for Plato, and this whole mode of thought in general, the cosmos exhibits the order which we should exemplify in our own lives, both individually and as societies.

Taylor adds that for medieval Christians, as for many of the ancients,

This kind of cosmos is a hierarchy; it has higher and lower levels of being. And it reaches its apex in eternity; it is indeed, held together by what exists on the level of eternity, the Ideas, or God, or both together - Ideas as the thoughts of the creator.

C.S. Lewis, who knew and loved the medieval "cosmos", describes it as "tingling with anthropomorphic life, dancing, ceremonial, a festival not a machine" (cited in Ward, Planet Narnia, p. 24). It was an organic whole, ordered from within, animated by a hierarchy of souls, perhaps even by a "world soul." This is not pantheism, although it could become so once the transcendence of God had been forgotten. It meant that nature possessed a sacred and spiritual value, by virtue of its creation by God and the immanent presence of God within it. The world was a book, pregnant with meanings that God had placed there. All things, even the conjectured world soul, were creatures. The stars and planets in particular were angelic creatures, participating in their own way in the cosmic intelligence, the movements of their high dance helping to determine the pattern of events unfolding below.

Each of the seven planets-by which is meant the seven heavenly bodies that can be perceived by the naked eye to move-was thought to sing a certain note, together expressing the harmony of the universe; a harmony that may be transmitted through music to the human soul. According to Lewis (cited in Ward, p. 21), this music of the spheres

is the only sound which has never for one split second ceased in any part of the universe; with this positive we have no negative to contrast. Presumably if (per impossibile) it ever did stop, then with terror and dismay, with a dislocation of our whole auditory life, we should feel that the bottom had dropped out of our lives. But it never does. The music which is too familiar to be heard enfolds us day and night and in all ages.

One of the most telling moments in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader comes when Eustace meets the retired star, Ramandu. Rather puzzled, he remarks that, "In our world, a star is a huge ball of flaming gas." Ramandu replies: "Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rolls-Royce tests hydrogen-fueled aircraft engine in aviation world first (SYLVIA PFEIFFER, 11/28/22, FINANCIAL TIMES)

British engineer Rolls-Royce has successfully used hydrogen instead of conventional jet fuel to power a modern aircraft engine in a world first for the aviation industry, according to the company.

November 28, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 PM


Democrats could win more seats if Cochise County refuses to certify election:  If Cochise County refuses to certify election results in time, it could hand close congressional and statewide offices to Democrats (Helen Purcell and Tammy Patrick, 11/28/22, Arizona Republic)

As former Arizona election officials, we know well that Arizona law is clear: once the voters have spoken, it is the duty of the board of supervisors in each county to canvass the election results within 20 days of the election (this year, Nov. 28) and to send the certified results to the secretary of state so that the statewide canvass can be completed by the fourth Monday following the election (this year, Dec. 5).

This duty is not optional − it is mandatory. The law gives the board of supervisors no authority or discretion whatsoever to refuse this mandate. In fact, Arizona law plainly states that the supervisors board "has a non-discretionary duty to canvass the returns as provided by the County Recorder or other officer in charge of elections and has no authority (emphasis added) to change vote totals or reject the election results." And a refusal to comply can even expose members of the board to criminal liability. [...]

Board members who voted against certification would face the very real prospect of civil and criminal penalties. And in all likelihood, they would achieve nothing, as Arizona courts would almost certainly step in and order the board to abide by its legal obligations and certify the results. 

But in the unlikely event that the courts didn't intervene, the board's gambit would only hurt the voters of Cochise County and the candidates that they support.

If the board has still refused to certify by the Dec. 5 deadline for state certification (which can be extended to Dec. 8, but no later), the law requires that the secretary of state still move ahead with the statewide canvass of results. In that case, the statewide canvass would not include the results from Cochise County, which is heavily Republican. 

This mass disenfranchisement of Cochise County voters − at the hands of their own board of supervisors − could result in flipping the final results in a number of tight races, with Republican candidates and voters paying the price. For example, Republican Juan Ciscomani would likely lose his congressional race to Democrat Kirsten Engel.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 PM


It Is Fauci's Accusers -- Not The Good Doctor -- Who Are Guilty (Froma Harrop, November 28, 2022, National Memo)

You devoted more than 50 years to public health. As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, you led us through HIV/AIDS, Ebola, COVID, respiratory syncytial virus and, every year, seasonal flu.

You say your "proudest moment" was your work with President George W. Bush on the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. PEPFAR is credited with having saved 20 million lives. (START ITAL)Twenty million lives.

That doesn't include the lives saved from your work in the late '70s and early '80s developing treatments for inflammatory and autoimmune-related diseases. Several that would have previously been death sentences are now in high remission.

And there was, of course, your guidance on dealing with COVID-19. Many who followed your advice during the initial outbreak with hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing are alive because of it. Many who mocked you are not.

When the COVID vaccine came along, you never tired of urging Americans to obtain it. Over a million Americans died from COVID, but an estimated 234,000 of those deaths could have been prevented if everyone had gotten their shots.

We wonder how many people died because Donald Trump and assorted lowlifes downplayed the disease, peddled phony cures and cast doubts on the vaccine. They may have had fun owning the libs, but they were also killing many of their followers. Why was never clear.

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Buffalo gunman pleads guilty in racist supermarket massacre (CAROLYN THOMPSON, 11/28/22, AP) 

The white gunman who massacred 10 Black shoppers and workers at a Buffalo supermarket pleaded guilty Monday to murder and hate-motivated terrorism charges, guaranteeing that he will spend the rest of his life in prison. [...]

White supremacy was Gendron's motive. He said in documents posted online just before the attack that he'd picked the store, about a three hour drive from his home in Conklin, New York, because it was in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

He said he was motivated by a belief in a massive conspiracy to dilute the power of white people by "replacing" them in the U.S. with people of color.

It's always the Trumpists.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How Did a State Known for Its War on Immigrants Approve In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students?Arizona's voters decided to reverse years of discrimination in higher ed. (ISABELA DIAS, 11/28/22, MoJo)

Jose Patiño remembers how his mother cried when the acceptance letter from Arizona State University arrived in the mail in late 2006. There it was, the ultimate reward for her son's hard work and the reason why they had sacrificed so much by leaving Mexico when he was six years old. He had not just been accepted, he received a full scholarship offer. Patiño was on the way to becoming the first member of his undocumented family to get a college degree. "I had never seen her that happy," Patiño says.

But their happiness proved short-lived. A few months later, Patiño received a different letter from the university stating that his tuition had tripled, and he no longer qualified for the scholarship. That abrupt change was a direct result of Proposition 300, a successful ballot measure that made university students in Arizona who were not US citizens or permanent residents and those lacking legal status ineligible for in-state tuition and federal and state financial aid. The referendum was approved with 72 percent of votes in November 2006. "I'm going to figure out a way," Patiño told his mother at the time. "It will be difficult, but I'll figure it out."

Patiño, now the education and external affairs director of the Arizona-based immigrant youth-led group Aliento, did figure it out. He went on to attend ASU on a private scholarship set up by university administrators sympathetic to the plight of undocumented students in Arizona. He received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, and then a master's degree in secondary education from Grand Canyon University. But the impact of Proposition 300 was profound. A 2011 analysis by ASU's Cronkite News found that between the Spring of 2007 and the Fall of 2010, the number of students without proof of citizenship in public universities in the state plummeted from 1,524 to 106. Proposition 300 effectively made college education unattainable for many of Arizona's low-income undocumented youth. 

Sixteen years later, that could change. The majority of voters in Arizona during the recent midterm elections were in favor of Proposition 308, a ballot measure that repealed provisions from Proposition 300 and opened the way for any high school graduate, regardless of immigration status, living in Arizona for at least two years, to access in-state tuition rates at state universities and community colleges. By some estimates, as many as 3,600 students might benefit from the policy every year. The successful ballot measure received 1,250,319 "yes" votes--or about 51 percent--a little shy of the 1,287,890 votes received by Gov. Katie Hobbs. That result puts Arizona alongside 22 other states and the District of Columbia that allow undocumented students to pay tuition on par with their US-born peers. 

"The beauty and the pain of this campaign," says Patiño, who worked on the legislative proposal referring Proposition 308 to the ballot, "is that the people advocating, finding sponsors for the bill, getting the legislature to pass it, and talking to voters were the same people [Proposition 300] was intended to bury." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The next Congress will be the most racially diverse ever, and an evolving Republican Party gets some of the credit (Shannon Coan,  November 27, 2022, Boston Globe)

[W]hile the Hispanic and LGBTQ congressional delegations will be the largest in history, the representation of other demographic groups -- including women, Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders, and Indigenous people -- stayed relatively steady and remain vastly underrepresented in Congress.

Ensuring that Congress matches the nation's diversity will require that political parties support diverse candidates and then give them the resources to succeed once they reach Capitol Hill, Reynolds said.

"This is sort of like a supply and demand problem," she said. "I think that [these steps] will then have follow-up effects where more prospective members from diverse backgrounds want to run and hopefully win."

Chavez-DeRemer saw those principles at play in her own election and believes that the GOP can use them to catch up to the Democrats in terms of diversity.

"You're seeing, I think, a reflection of what the Republican Party is today, and that's going to be directly relatable to our constituencies. They see somebody that is like them," she said. "We're excited as a Republican freshmen class to be that diverse in representing all of our districts well."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How Fundamentalism FailsUltimately, the closed fist can't overcome the open hand. (David French, Nov 27, 2022, The Dispatch)

By "fundamentalism," I'm not referring to any specific theology. Fundamentalism instead refers to a mindset, a kind of fierce existential certainty that's echoed in the old religious maxim, "Error has no rights." [...]

In the early stages, fundamentalism can be invigorating. It's an antidote to a life devoid of purpose and dedicated to selfish pursuits. In free and prosperous nations, it doesn't take long to understand that consumer goods provide merely momentary pleasure. In libertine cultures, millions soon learn that sex divorced from love and commitment is ultimately a source of profound loneliness and deep pain. 

And then there's the presence of persistence in injustice. The word "woke" has meaningful roots. What happens when you suddenly become aware of atrocities past and present? If you've never heard of, say, the Tulsa Race Massacre, doesn't something stir inside of decent people when they read that story? Could that be called an awakening?

But there's always a time when the awakened man or woman--no matter the righteous idea they're awake to--faces a defining choice. We'll call it the choice between the open hand or the closed fist. Do you verbally, emotionally, and sometimes even physically punch your way into the public square, or do you approach with compassion, grace, and humility--often knowing that you are speaking to people who were just like you days, weeks, or years ago?

And if you changed once, how do you know that you're finally righteous now? Shouldn't you be open to changing again?

When fundamentalism arises in your own community, it can be profoundly painful and disorienting. People who were friends will call you enemies. They'll warn others not to associate with you. In the church tradition I grew up in, there was even a practice called "chain disfellowshipping." It worked like this: If I believed the right things but did not end my friendship with an apostate in the church, then I could face my own church discipline. 

Combine these attacks with the constant repetition of the righteous idea, and fundamentalism quickly becomes conflated with the idea itself. This is what it means to be Christian. This is what it means to be Muslim. This is what it means to be anti-racist. And when you have questions or concerns, you feel as if you're not just being punched straight out of your community, you're being punched out of your faith, your party, or your very life's purpose. 

Because fundamentalism is very good at capturing institutions, it's then easy to feel both wounded and homeless at the same time. And while you're reeling in pain, other people are sneering in contempt. You were never a Christian. You were never one of us. You are weak, they say--even when the hardest and most dangerous thing you've ever done in your life might be to say no to your own community when you know they've gone awry. 

But if this is the reality, how does fundamentalism fail? Because the bruised reeds and the wounded souls find each other. The community of the closed fist ultimately creates a community of the open hand. We were not created to be despised, to be hounded, and to be hectored into righteousness. Instead, our souls long for actual love and true fellowship.

The Left is the Right.
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The far right is losing. That's why America has never been so dangerous. (Will Bunch,  Nov 27, 2022, Philadelphia Inquirer)

The antisemitism, the homophobia, the violence ... this isn't the American right flexing its muscles out of strength. Quite the opposite. The forces of 400 years of white supremacy culture are like a wounded bear right now -- lashing out, and extremely dangerous because its proponents know they are a seriously endangered species.

Is it any wonder that things have gotten so much crazier since Nov. 8, the date of the midterm elections? That was the day that the folks I dubbed in a recent column as "the Biden coalition" -- college students who lined up hours to vote, suburban college grads who cared more about democracy than inflation, Black and brown voters who see the racism that still lurks behind the GOP's pitch to the working class -- held together to give Democrats the upper hand in the 2022 midterms. It's that stunning defeat that's making the far right so batty, from the inner sanctum of Mar-a-Lago to Gate D10 at Sea-Tac.

In an insightful commentary on Twitter this weekend, the progressive writer and activist David Atkins noted that a series of defeats for the right -- the 2018 midterms and Trump's 2020 defeat here at home, and growing global setbacks like Bolsonaro's recent loss in Brazil, as well as the loosening hold of conservatives on the wider culture and an increasingly multicultural and educated U.S. society -- is sparking this dangerous reaction.

"As generational replacement continues and the failures of authoritarianism become more obvious, they will lose even harder," Atkins wrote. "The desperation for control will increase. Times will get more dangerous. But as long as the rest of society resists, we will win."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Blank sheets of paper become symbol of defiance in China protests (Martin Quin Pollard and Brenda Goh, 11/28/22, Reuters) 

In Shanghai, a crowd that started gathering late on Saturday to hold a candlelight vigil for the Urumqi victims held up blank sheets of paper, according to witnesses.

Similar sheets of paper could be seen held by people at separate Sunday gatherings on the grounds of Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University and along the Chinese capital's 3rd Ring Road near the Liangma River.

"The white paper represent everything we want to say but cannot say," said Johnny, 26, who took part in one of the Liangma River gatherings. [...]
One widely shared video said to be from Saturday, which could not be independently verified, showed a lone woman standing on the steps of the Communication University of China in the eastern city of Nanjing with a piece of paper before an unidentified man walks into the scene and snatches it away.

Other images showed dozens of other people subsequently taking to the university's steps with blank sheets of paper,illuminated against the night sky by flashlights from their mobile phones. [...]

Widespread in-person protests are rare in China, where room for dissent has been all-but eliminated under President Xi Jinping, forcing citizens mostly to vent on social media where they play cat-and-mouse games with censors.

In Hong Kong in 2020, activists also raised blank sheets of white paper in protest to avoid slogans banned under the city's new national security law, which was imposed after massive and sometimes violent protests the previous year. Demonstrators in Moscow have also used them this year to protest Russia's war with Ukraine. [...]

Several Internet users showed solidarity by posting blank white squares or photos of themselves holding blank sheets of paper on their WeChat timelines or on Weibo. By Sunday morning, the hashtag "white paper exercise" was blocked on Weibo, prompting users to lament the censorship.

"If you fear a blank sheet of paper, you are weak inside," one Weibo user posted.

Being unable to innovate, they should have bought our vaccines.

November 27, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Netanyahu puts extremist homophobic politician in charge of Israel's Jewish identity (CARRIE KELLER-LYNN, 11/27/22, Times of Israel)

One of the Knesset's most far-right politicians, who holds non-pluralist Jewish views and anti-LGBT, sexist, and anti-Arab positions, will be the next government's head of "Jewish identity," following an agreement signed Sunday with presumed prime minister-to-be Benjamin Netanyahu. [...]

Among Maoz's radical positions, he has said that he wants to constrain eligibility for Jewish immigration to Israel by removing the ability for grandchildren of Jews who are not Jews themselves to qualify under Israel's Law of Return. Many immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union obtain their citizenship under the so-called grandfather clause, and transferring the office that handles their applications to Maoz's purview may affect their processing. [...]

In addition to circumscribing the grandfather clause, Maoz and religious political allies are pushing to carve out non-Orthodox conversion to Judaism from acceptable proofs of Jewishness for immigration.

Maoz has also said that he wants to increase Jewish education in Israeli public schools and wants to scrap unspecified "progressive study programs," including undefined "gender studies."

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Manchin's side deal on brink as GOP seeks his 2024 ouster (ALEXANDER BOLTON - 11/27/22, The Hill)

Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, said getting the Mountain Valley Pipeline authorized, a key piece of Manchin's permitting reform bill, would be a big win in West Virginia, where fossil fuel is the "life's blood" of the state economy. 

Manchin is already under attack from likely Republican challengers for voting for the Inflation Reduction Act. Getting permitting reform passed as a reward for that tough vote would give him political cover. 

"This is an opportunity to actually win his seat in 2024," O'Connell said, adding that "it would be political malpractice" to give Manchin a victory on permitting reform.  

The motives are obviously dubious, but killing permitting would be the best thing the GOP has done for the environment in at least a decade.

Posted by orrinj at 2:57 PM


To those Jews who still support him (Jeffrey Salkin, 11/27/22, RNS)

It should have been enough when his name first came into the public eye, in the early 1970s, when his family's realty company was sued for discriminating against Blacks.

When he mocked the reporter with disabilities, any self-respecting Jew -- or anyone who claims to believe in God -- should have quit him, right then and there. Finis.

When he boasted that he could grab women by their private parts, you should have shaken your head in disgust. "This is not what my faith says about how we speak of and to women," you should have said.

When he urged violence against reporters, you should have said something. "This is not what my faith says about how we behave in the world."

When he characterized Mexicans as rapists, drug dealers and animals, you should have raised your hand. "Excuse me, but you do know that once you start insulting one group of people, there is no end to it."

When he called for a ban on Muslims entering this country, you should have closed your checkbook. "If my grandparents could not have gotten into this country in the 1930s -- and many could not, because of these kinds of policies -- I would not be here."

But, no.

When he commented on the neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, chanting "The Jews will not replace us," and he said that there were "very good people" on both sides: Did you stand up? Where was your Jewish pride?

When he said that he only wanted Jews and not Black people to count his money, why didn't you say: "Wait one minute..."

When he retweeted an image of a Jewish star superimposed over a pile of cash, why didn't you say: "That's my symbol! What are you saying?"

If, back in 2019, you were present at the Israeli-American Council Summit at the Diplomat in Hollywood, Florida, and you heard him say about Jews: "A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well. You're brutal killers, not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me, you have no choice," why didn't you rip off your napkin, and stand up, right then and there?

If you were paying attention when he said: "You're not gonna support me because I don't want your money. You want to control your politicians, that's fine," why didn't you reach for your valet parking claim check?

When he addressed an audience of American Jews and referred to Israel as "your country," why didn't you say, "Yes, we love Israel, but we are citizens of the United States of America..."?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


On the Fall of Fated Men: a review of The Anglo-Saxons. A History of the Beginnings of England: 400-1066 by Marc Morris (Timothy D. Lush, Nov 27, 2022, University Bookman)

A miasmic progressivism choked the life out of academia long ago. Scholars, the great Anglo-Saxonist J.R.R. Tolkien might have observed, are passing into shadow. Rambaran-Olm and Wade have plenty of company. The ponderously named International Society for the Study of Early Medieval England--formerly known as the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists--changed its name in 2019 due to "problematic connotations that are widely associated with the terms 'Anglo-Saxon' and 'Anglo-Saxonist' in public discourse."

As with all organizational statements of this sort, it offers no substance or clarity. If people really were standing around talking about the Anglo-Saxons and connoting problematic things all over the place, well, then, perhaps Rambaran-Olm might have a point. But then I might also be encouraged by the fact that people were talking about something other than Chris Rock getting slapped at the Academy Awards.

Narrative historians are smirking at all this because it will translate into better sales for popular history. Who wants to read a book by the intellectually pompous trying to prove ideological purity? We want good stories told well. Marc Morris's latest book is just that. Ranging over six centuries of invasion, immigration, and royal intrigue, Morris recounts the fascinating tale of that elusive bunch known, quite rightly, as the Anglo-Saxons.

For his part, he will have none of the progressive renaming project. Morris concedes that the Germanic peoples who inhabited Britain from roughly the 5th century onward did not think of themselves as Anglo-Saxons. Rather, they thought of themselves as Angles or Saxons or Jutes.

We Jutes (Judds) are down with that. 

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A rising star in the Biden administration faces a $100 billion test (Ana Swanson, 11/26/22, New York Times)

Raimondo, 51, has emerged as one of Biden's most trusted Cabinet officials. Company executives describe her as a skillful and charismatic politician who is both engaged and accessible in an administration often known for its skepticism of big business.

Raimondo's work has earned her praise from Republicans and Democrats, along with labor unions and corporations. Her supporters say she could ascend to another Cabinet position, run for the Senate or perhaps mount a presidential bid.

But she is under close watch by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and some other left-wing Democrats, who have criticized her as being too solicitous of corporate interests. Some progressive groups have accused Raimondo of being under the influence of big tech firms and not thoroughly disclosing those ties.

"Secretary Raimondo's job is to help grow an economy that works for everyone, not to be the chief lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce," Warren said in a statement to The New York Times. "I have real concerns about the department's approach, whether it's approving assault weapon sales, negotiating trade deals or supporting big tech companies."

Those criticisms have been fanned by rumors in recent months that the White House is considering Raimondo to serve as the next Treasury secretary if Janet Yellen, the current occupant of that post, eventually steps down. Joe could resign in her favor.

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House Republicans don't really have a plan to lower inflation, but economists say that could be a good thing (Jim Puzzanghera, November 26, 2022, Boston Globe)

[I]t's the Republicans who made reducing inflation the centerpiece of their midterm campaign, and in the short term, they might have a greater chance of making the economy worse instead of better.

The only political leverage for House Republicans comes on must-pass bills to fund the government and raise the national debt limit for borrowing money to help pay for federal spending. Stalemates on that legislation could trigger a government shutdown or default on federal debt that would roil financial markets and damage an economy that already is expected to be teetering on the edge of recession next year.

But if those impasses can be avoided, the broader stalemate caused by divided government in Washington should help the inflation fight, economists said. It would keep politicians out of the battle, leaving the task to Federal Reserve officials who have the best tool -- interest rate hikes -- to bring down prices in the short term.

"I think realistically there's going to be very little that the next Congress can do on the inflation front, or the administration," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the conservative-leaning American Action Forum think tank and a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. "They would all be well-advised not to make it worse ... and don't try to fix it because they really don't have the tools for doing that."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Society: A Community of Souls (Frank Filocomo, 11/27/22, University Bookman)

We are now living in an America plagued by a libertarian ethos; this is the downward slope in Putnam's U-curve. Total libertarianism, which sees the individual as the only important variable, is a fundamentally un-American idea. Russell Kirk, in his prescient essay, Libertarians: the Chirping Sectaries, rightly posits that fusing conservatism and libertarianism is akin to "advocating a union of ice and fire."  

The question remains: Why do conservatives today continue to conflate these two clearly contradictory ideologies? Furthermore, why aren't conservatives actively advocating for a return of American community? Though these are difficult questions to answer succinctly, I propose that the lines have been blurred due to a shift in understanding the role of the conservative. The Edmund Burke Foundation's National Conservatism Project, for example, in trying to correct neoconservative tendencies toward internationalism, has itself drifted from conservatism's communitarian moorings by elevating the nation state--as opposed to local associations and state governments--as the guarantor and goal of conservatism. National goals, of course, will always remain essential to the American people. But a disproportionate "nation first" emphasis entices conservatives to look beyond the particular communities they inhabit toward a universal idea to which it is much more difficult to contribute.

An individual who defines conservatism as nothing more than freedom from a totalist state mistakes the forest for the trees. While opposition to totalism is certainly important, it is a consequence, not the essence, of what it means to be a conservative. Many today who fancy themselves as conservatives are lacking in the fundamental works of literature, history, philosophy, and theology that both shape and reflect Western civilization. In his 1958 Modern Age essay entitled "Cultural Debris," Kirk advocates for a return to classical literature that, for centuries, has acted as the bedrock of Western civilization. Kirk argues that the undoing of a cohesive Western community is due to our indifference toward tradition:

Whether our civilization really retains coherence sufficient for restoration to be possible may be made clear to all thinking men within a few years. If the fabric of our ancient society has declined to the condition of a mere scattering of debris, all the tailors in the world cannot put it aright--nor all the beachcombers live by raking the sand for its vestiges. The totalists say that the old order is a corpse, and that man and society must be fashioned afresh, upon a grim plan. Yet there survive among us some people of intellectual power who hold that the wardrobe of our moral imagination is not yet altogether depleted.

Through the gloomy horizon Kirk points us to a shining light. Conservatives who love and revere Burkean traditionalism can save the day. The problem, though, is that many conservatives remain ideologically confused.

Often, those who deem themselves conservatives will echo certain familiar buzzwords: civil liberty, individualism, constitutional rights, freedom of speech. While there is nothing wrong with these terms per se, there is an essential piece of the pie missing here: community. The doctrine of rugged individualism, it seems to me, is incompatible with community. The Gadsden flag, which reads "Don't tread on me," is erroneously called a conservative symbol; rather it is an exclusively libertarian one. Kirk emphasized that conservatives and libertarians can both agree that bureaucratic overreach forces a straightjacket over individuals and municipalities. But where is the sense of community in "Don't tread on me?" Libertarianism, at least in its most fundamentalist form, is a rebuke of community. 

The Right is the Left.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Avoid People Who Have No Hobbies (Ixtu Díaz, November 27, 2022, European Conservative)

Of all the moral epidemics of our time, perhaps the most pernicious is the silent plague afflicting people who have no hobbies. They are people who live to work. Nothing else. Every single moment of their lives is pure obligation, pure transcendence; even if they have managed to find a certain pleasure in fulfilling their routine duties--perhaps in a slightly less unpleasant job than usual, or a new client, or tearing pages out of a calendar--this twinge of satisfaction can scarcely be called 'happiness.' The man with hobbies often fails to understand just how incredibly rich his life is in comparison with the fabulously anodyne existence of those who consider all forms of leisure a waste of time.

G. K. Chesterton, a king among those who find deep enjoyment in the smaller things of life, had no doubts: "Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a colored pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling." He was perpetually searching for fun with the childlike gaze he always wore, and he was grateful for the small pleasures he found. "You say grace before meals," he wrote. "All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink."

What we call hobbies are not a thing of our time, but of all times. When researchers found, deep in the tomb of the pharaoh Reny-Seneb, a board game (Hounds and Jackals), carved in ebony and dating from about 1800 BC., what bothered them most was not that their discovery was a vulgar pastime, but that they did not know the rules. On the island of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, archeologists uncovered several Scandinavian chess pieces from the 12th century, intricately made of walrus' and whale's teeth. In the Middle Ages--so dark and dull according to contemporary commentators--people had a great time playing dice, chess, and backgammon. 

Besides criticizing our neighbors, the world's oldest known pastime involved 49 tokens, found at the Bronze Age burial site of Basur Höyük near the Turkish city of Siirt. Made of stone, these tokens are of different colors: some are spheres, some are pyramids, others evoke dogs and wild boars. The same site also gave us rudimentary dice, and if archeologists had looked more closely, they probably would have found bottles of whiskey, a wad of banknotes, and a few half-smoked cigars.

We can be certain that since prehistoric times, mankind has played games, found hobbies and pastimes, and has reasonably balanced work--hunting mammoths and cleaning the cave--with leisure--going out for a drink or a game with friends. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Laughing at libertarians as crypto burns (Michael Warren Davis, 11/26/22, Spectator)

Our laissez-faire friends were the first crypto enthusiasts. The US dollar, they say, is a "fiat currency." Since we dropped the gold standard, it is no longer based on real wealth -- unlike Bitcoin, which is generated in huge warehouses full of computers known as blockchain mines (you can't make this stuff up).

Libertarians also like crypto because it's not issued by the government. Crypto-based transactions are harder to trace and tax. Naturally, this also makes it harder for the government to protect consumers if (say) a crypto exchange chief decides to take their money and flee to the Bahamas.

Now, for the principled libertarian, that's all fine. He takes a Darwinian view of economics. Anyone stupid enough to fall for a Ponzi scheme deserves to lose their money. But the FTX scandal has shown that crypto itself is a Ponzi scheme. And libertarians fell for it -- hook, line, and sinker.

This is hilarious, because the movement's whole brand is based on the idea of the libertarians as shrugging Atlases. They're on the cutting edge of finance and technology. They could take over the world! But the state holds them back. It kills their creativity with red tape and forces them to support lesser men through heavy taxation.

In reality, libertarians are selfish and dumb. I'd hazard to guess that they're dumb because they're selfish.

From Krugerrands to Randcoin...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


November 26, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, 11/26/22, Letters from an American)

Fuentes has openly admired Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and authoritarian Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is currently making war on Russia's neighbor Ukraine. A Holocaust denier, Fuentes is associated with America's neo-Nazis.

In February 2020, Fuentes launched the America First Political Action Conference to compete from the right with the Conservative Political Action Conference. In May 2021, on a livestream, Fuentes said: "My to keep pushing things further. We, because nobody else will, have to push the envelope. And we're gonna get called names. We're gonna get called racist, sexist, antisemitic, bigoted, whatever.... When the party is where we are two years later, we're not gonna get the credit for the ideas that become popular. But that's okay. That's our job. We are the right-wing flank of the Republican Party. And if we didn't exist, the Republican Party would be falling backwards all the time."

Fuentes and his "America First" followers, called "Groypers" after a cartoon amphibian (I'm not kidding), backed Trump's lies that he had actually won the 2020 election. At a rally shortly after the election, Fuentes told his followers to "storm every state capitol until Jan. 20, 2021, until President Trump is inaugurated for four more years." Fuentes and Groypers were at the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, and at least seven of them have been charged with federal crimes for their association with that attack. The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol subpoenaed Fuentes himself.

Accounts of the dinner suggest that Trump and Fuentes hit it off, with Trump allegedly saying, "I like this guy, he gets me," after Fuentes urged Trump to speak freely off the cuff rather than reading teleprompters and trying to appear presidential as his handlers advise.

But Trump announced his candidacy for president in 2024 just days ago, and being seen publicly with far-right white supremacist Fuentes--in addition to Ye--indicates his embrace of the far right. 

MAGA always tell you who they are--just listen.

November 26, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


Far-right extremist Ben-Gvir to be Israel's national security minister (AP, 11/26/22)'

The awarding of the sensitive role to Ben-Gvir raises concerns of a further escalation in Israel's occupation and control over Palestinians in the country. Ben-Gvir and his allies hope to grant immunity to Israeli soldiers who shoot at Palestinians, deport rival lawmakers and impose the death penalty on Palestinians convicted of attacks on Jews.

Ben-Gvir is the disciple of a racist rabbi, Meir Kahane, who was banned from Parliament and whose Kach party was branded a terrorist group by the United States before he was assassinated in New York in 1990.

Ahead of Israel's November 1 election, Ben-Gvir grabbed headlines for his anti-Palestinian speeches and stunts, including encouraging police to open fire on Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, who were throwing stones during a confrontation with Israeli settlers and police, as well as pulling a pistol on the residents of the neighbourhood.

Look who gets to wield the sjambok...

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


November 25, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Easing supply chain disruptions drag down shipping rates (Dirk Kaufmann, 11/25/22, Deutsche-Welle)

Martin Kröger, chief executive of the German Shipowners' Association (VDR), says the situation has eased "almost back to normal."

"The backlogs of ships along European coasts have been overcome," he told DW, adding that shipping capacity wasn't so tight anymore as at the end of last year. Another piece of good news, he said, was that ocean freight rates are falling significantly. "Shipping conditions are similar to what they were before the pandemic."

German business daily Handelsblatt has published data showing that shipping rates have come down to pre-pandemic levels, with a 20-foot container from China to Northern Europe, for example, now costing $1,479 (€1,420) on average, compared with around $8,000 at the beginning of 2022. Shipping a container from Shanghai to the US West Coast "is even cheaper than in 2019," the newspaper reported.

Meaning it is once again cheaper to put all your stuff in a shipping container and leave it at sea than to rent a storage unit locally.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Mercantilist Follies, Then and Now : Discredited mercantilist notions shape many of our present economic debates. (Samuel Gregg, 9/22/22, Law & Liberty)

At the 2022 American Economic Forum organized by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, I had occasion to listen to an after-dinner speech about trade--more precisely, an economic nationalist view of trade--by former US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer. Chatting afterwards with students attending the Forum, one of them asked me what I thought of Ambassador Lighthizer's remarks. My response was: "It was mercantilism, updated for the twenty-first century." "What's mercantilism?" she inquired.

What indeed is mercantilism? It's not a word used commonly today, but mercantilism is shorthand for a set of economic, political, and legal ideas and practices that dominated the European world between 1500 and 1800. "The Mercantile System," as Adam Smith called it, was also the target of Book IV of his Wealth of Nations. It was, as Smith himself later wrote to a Danish correspondent, "a very violent attack . . . upon the whole commercial system of Great Britain." Smith's broadside, however, drew back the curtain to show what mercantilism really entailed. The picture that emerged was not a pretty one, but it illustrates why free trade abroad and free markets at home are far preferable to the neo-mercantilist alternatives on offer today.

Yeah, but trade with foreigners gives you cooties...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Many religious 'Nones' believe in God or a higher power, study finds (Chris Ward,  25 November 2022, Christianity Today)

A new report by Theos finds a broad mix of spiritual beliefs even among those who claim not to have any faith - commonly known as religious 'Nones'. 

Theos' latest report, The Nones: who are they and what do they believe?, found that only 51% of Nones agreed with the statement, "I don't believe in God," and 42% believe in some form of the supernatural.

Fourteen per cent said they believe in a higher power and 9% "believe in God more or less firmly", but only one in 10 (11%) believe in Heaven. 

Over a quarter (27%) agreed with the statement: "I don't know whether there is a God, and I don't believe there is any way to find out."

The report found that many religious Nones have New Age beliefs. While nearly two in five (17%) believe in the power of prayer, 16% were found to believe in reincarnation, 14% in the healing power of crystals, and 14% in the supernatural power of ancestors.

A fifth said that they they definitely or probably believe in life after death and over a quarter (27%) believe in ghosts. 

November 24, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


God and Mr. Lincoln (Joseph Bottum, 11/21/18, American Mind)

And what was Lincoln's theological imagination? In the Second Inaugural, he expresses a profound thought about how providence could have allowed slavery to come into existence and then initiate its abolition. The Civil War's slaughter was punishment for both sides for their part in that story.

What Lincoln saw was the humility necessary to live in a world with God. The war proved not a triumphant march to glorious and bloodless victory but proof that Americans were that most theologically-fraught of beings: an almost-chosen people. God's power belongs solely to God, and we must be tentative and aware of our own sins, even while pressing determinedly toward victory. Only thus can Lincoln ask from us his great peroration: malice toward none, charity toward all.

Lincoln chose his words carefully and theologically. In First Corinthians 5:8, Paul speaks of the "leaven of malice," and "leaven" here is a perfect word for what malice does, in Lincoln's sense of the word: it inflates disagreement and bloats every judgment. For this Thanksgiving, like the one in 1863, there remains the deep meaning worth remembering when we contemplate our political opponents: not malice, but charity.

Posted by orrinj at 3:26 PM


Religious groups with immigrant members grew fastest over past decade (Yonat Shimron, 11/11/22, (RNS)

The study finds that the Catholic Church in the U.S. is the largest religious body, with 61 million adherents in more than 19,000 churches, comprising close to 19% of the U.S. population. That's a modest growth of 2 million adherents from 2010, when the church had nearly 59 million adherents. 

Sociologist who worked on the census said growth is almost entirely made up of Hispanic immigrants.

"If you took away the Hispanic population in the Catholic Church, it would look as bad as mainline denominations," said Scott Thumma, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, who counted independent