May 19, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 4:53 PM


Paul Simon gets religion (Jeffrey Salkin, 5/19/23, RNS)

Paul Simon grew up in Queens. The Simon family belonged to a synagogue, but they were not especially religious. Simon once told an NPR reporter, "I was raised to a degree, enough to be, you know, bar mitzvahed and have that much Jewish education, although I had no interest. None."

And yet, there had been glimmerings of Jewish identity in his music.

Consider  "Silent Eyes," on his 1975 album, "Still Crazy After All These Years."

Simon longs and weeps for Jerusalem, in prayer-like phrases: "She is sorrow, sorrow/She burns like a flame / And she calls my name." It envisions a time when all will be called to account -- "We shall all be called as witnesses / Each and every one / To stand before the eyes of God / And speak what was done."

So, today, Paul Simon's musical elegy has dropped. 

And, why now?

The clue comes in the first words of the new work. "I've been thinking about the great migration..."

He is not referring to a geographical migration, nor an enforced exile.

He is singing about that great migration into old age.

Paul Simon will turn 82 years old this autumn. This puts him in the upper age echelon of aging popular artists: Ringo Starr, 83; Bob Dylan, 82; Paul McCartney, 81; Carole King, 81; the Stones, all pushing 80; James Taylor, 75; Bruce Springsteen, 74.

Paul Simon epitomizes the plea of the psalmist: "Do not cast us off when we are old." At an age when many peers in his age cohort would have settled back into retirement, he is still growing creatively.

But, nevertheless, you sense a flirtation with the Angel of Death, and your thoughts turn to eternity.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 PM


Far-right MK threatens to vote against budget if 'Jewish identity' unit not formed (Times of Israel, 5/19/23)

Far-right MK Avi Maoz on Friday threatened to vote against the government's budget if funds are not allocated to establish a "Jewish identity" unit, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged when he agreed to join the coalition. [...]

The MK, an outspoken homophobe who has made misogynistic statements about women's role in society and non-Orthodox streams of Judaism, was also slated, as part of the coalition deal, to be given control over an Education Ministry department that oversees external programming vendors for public schools. 

The rewrite of the Basic Law made the state one.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


White Christian Nationalism vs. American Civil Religion (Philip Gorski, May 13, 2021, Currents)

America is at a crossroads. One path leads forwards towards a multiracial democracy, a nation of nations and a people of peoples. Another leads backwards towards Herrenvolk democracy: a nation of nativists and a people without pigment. 

America has been here before: in 1787, 1877, and 1968. Each time it took a step forward, then a step backward. Each time, racial equality was sacrificed on the altar of white power: by slaveowners (1787), so-called "Redeemers" (1877), and proponents of "law and order" (1968).

Which path will it choose this time? The answer is open. 

But much will depend on the choices white Christians make in the years to come. Will they join together with their Christian brothers and sisters--and with secular Americans committed to democracy and equality? Or will they once again confuse liberty with power and Christianity with whiteness? 

It's not confusion; they chose whiteness. That's why they're Nationalist.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Tensions persist after Israeli nationalists march into east Jerusalem (MENA, 19 May, 2023)

Tens of thousands of Israeli nationalists marched to Jerusalem's Old City on Thursday in an annual controversial flag-waving march commemorating Israel's occupation, as tensions on the Gaza border remained high. [...]

The United States, Israel's main ally, on Thursday, condemned demonstrators' "racist" chants calling for the killing of Arabs.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Post-Liberal Authoritarians Want You To Forget That Private Companies Have Rights (STEPHANIE SLADE | 5.18.2023, reason)

Vance here is channeling the neoreactionary blogger Curtis Yarvin, a.k.a. Mencius Moldbug, who has popularized the idea that "all the modern world's legitimate and prestigious intellectual institutions, even though they have no central organizational connection, behave in many ways as if they were a single organizational structure" with "one clear doctrine or perspective." He calls this decentralized entity "the Cathedral" and argues that the only way to combat it is by replacing America's liberal democratic regime with an absolute monarchy or (benevolent, one hopes) dictatorship.

But Vance goes further even than Yarvin, who defines the Cathedral as consisting of the mainstream media and the universities; Vance insists that government officials are also implicated. This step is critical, because the New Right, rejecting the classical liberal commitment to limited government and rule of law, openly calls on conservatives to wield state power against their domestic political "enemies," among whom it counts lefty corporations, universities, and nonprofits. 

I've made this point almost ad nauseam by now, but if you need a refresher, look no further than this illustrative quote from Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts: "This is our moment," he recently told The American Conservative, "to demand that our politicians use the power they have. This is the moment for us to demand of companies, whether they're Google, or Facebook, or Disney, that you listen to us, rather than ram down our throats and into our own families all of the garbage that you've been pushing on us. This is our time to demand that you do what we say. And it's glorious." 

For an even more concrete example, consider the time Vance went on live TV and proposed targeting left-wing institutions such as the Ford Foundation and Harvard for their political views. "Why don't we seize the assets," he asked, "tax their assets, and give it to the people who've had their lives destroyed by their radical open borders agenda?" 

This is obviously contrary to the laws of our land. The American constitutional system "protects private actors," says Notre Dame law professor Richard W. Garnett, while constraining how government officials can exercise their power. "Private actors have free speech rights. The government doesn't. Private actors have freedom of religion. Government doesn't. Private schools can train kids for their sacraments. Government schools can't. The whole landscape of our constitutionally protected freedoms depends on this conceptual distinction between state power and the nonstate sphere."

But that distinction is an obstacle preventing post-liberals such as Vance from using the government to punish private entities who express views or implement policies that they, the post-liberals, dislike. And so, to give themselves permission to do what they want, they have to get people to believe that the distinction is already obsolete. 

It's not. In fact, the "collusion" that Vance would use as justification to strip private actors of their rights consists of some of the very activities named in the First Amendment: voicing political opinions and advocating for changes to public policy. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Key exchanges highlight dicey GOP 'weaponization' hearing (Aaron Blake, May 18, 2023, Washington Post)

Another witness Thursday was Marcus Allen, an FBI staff operations specialist who, like Friend, had his security clearance revoked this month ahead of his testimony.

The FBI said this was done because of concerns about Allen's personal conduct and "allegiance to the United States." It said he urged caution to others about investigating Jan. 6 and failed to provide relevant information about a Jan. 6 defendant. This allegedly led to the case's being closed before another agent discovered "readily available" evidence that the defendant assaulted police officers on Jan. 6.

Allen was asked repeatedly Thursday whether it was appropriate for an agent to express support for those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. He at one point offered a brief "no" in the context of his answer, but he otherwise declined requests to state "yes or no," even asking for the question to be rephrased. Ultimately, he said, "You should not be voicing support for criminal conduct."

The final FBI witness was Garret O'Boyle, a suspended special agent. O'Boyle has allegedly liked tweets claiming the 2020 election was stolen and compared coronavirus vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Tribal, and Philosophical, Basis of the Left and Right in American Politics (Andrew Busch, May 19, 2023, Public Discourse)

Today, the Lewises argue, "Left" and "Right" are competing bundles of unconnected and sometimes incompatible issue commitments held together by tribalism. The authors bring to bear a wealth of social science research that shows that people's issue commitments are more heavily influenced by group loyalties than by philosophical consistency. They also catalogue a history of various political stances that, for example, began as Right, then were considered Left, and sometimes back again, depending on the  the coalitions' needs. Trade protectionism, for example, was "Right;" then "Left;" now "Right" again (or maybe "Right" and "Left"). Foreign interventionism took the reverse course. Today what counts as "Right" and "Left" has become conflated with party, and party with the views of individual leaders. All of this, the Lewises contend, cuts strongly against the "essentialist" concept of ideology and in favor of their "social theory."