A RACE OR A RELIGION?:

For many American Jews protesting for Palestinians, activism is a journey rooted in their Jewish values (Atalia Omer, 5/21/24, Religion News Service)

When I asked Rebekah – a pseudonym for a college student in the American South whom I interviewed for my book – how she understood her Jewishness, she told me: “I have always maintained that the basis for my activism was my Jewish ideals, the radical equality I had absorbed at home.”


For Rebekah and many other American Jews, the cultural memory of the Holocaust, and the common refrain “Never Again,” inspires their activism for Palestinian rights.

“Growing up in Hebrew schools, you grow up with the nightmarish Holocaust films,” she stressed. “The conclusion of this education should have been clear: ‘You can’t do it to another group of people!’”

This lesson is reflected in the cry “Never again to anyone,” heard at demonstrations over the past few months.

THERE’S NOTHING REVOLUTIONARY ABOUT iDENTITARIANISM:

Reflections on Revolutions: a review of Age of Revolutions by Fareed Zakaria (Max J. Prowant, 5/21/24, Law & Liberty)

According to Zakaria, we are living in a revolutionary age, both in our domestic politics and in the world at large. Domestically, the traditional left-right divide is changing. For decades, the dividing line between left and right was economic in nature; conservatives wanted tax cuts, deregulation, and a smaller federal government whereas liberals wanted to preserve and expand a host of entitlement programs. Both, however, operated within a broad liberal framework that located the ends of government in the protection of individual rights. That is no longer the case. The divide now concerns the “open” versus “closed” societies where moral and ideational issues are more determinant of a person’s vote than tax cuts and spending. Internationally we are seeing a similar “revolution” against the US-backed liberal order uniting the world through free trade, collective action, and easy immigration. This revolution, led by an array of demagogues and populists, prefers tighter borders and national identity instead of globalism.

Resistance to the moral obligations that are imposed by our having been Created is understandable, but futile. It’s particularly hard to convince young people, who are brought up in our diverse society, that some of their friends are qualitatively lesser.

WE ARE THE dEEP sTATE:

Shogun and the Universal Truths of Fusionism (Matthew Malec, May 2024, Fusion)

One of conservatism’s great virtues is that it understands that human nature is flawed and no one is infallible. Plans that come from the top down should be debated and even viewed skeptically. At its best, conservatism starts with the family, then builds out to civil society, and only then to a limited government that gives these smaller units the space they need to thrive. There is no (earthly) savior lying in wait. Whether coming from populists or post-liberals, we should be wary of any calls for regime change or working outside of the constitutional system that has served us well for nearly 250 years. When conservatism loses its skepticism and begins to look toward utopia, it has already lost.

The only answer to the challenges conservatism faces is a revitalized fusionism that focuses on limiting government and objective morality while working within our constitutional framework. Fusionists must cling tight to first principles, including distrust of human nature, and maintaining the ever-precarious balance between respecting individual rights and ensuring people have the communities they need for true fulfillment. If we do not step up, something else will fill the void, and it may well be a Toranaga-esque figure with little respect for rights and a thirst for power.

ALIVE?:

‘My songs spread like herpes’: why did satirical genius Tom Lehrer swap worldwide fame for obscurity?: In the 1950s and 60s, his songs stunned and delighted listeners with their irreverence, wit and nihilism. Then he gave it all up to teach mathematics. Lehrer is still alive at 96 – so I went in search of answers (Francis Beckett, 22 May 2024, The Guardian)

I didn’t know then that Lehrer had started out, six years earlier, by paying to have his own record cut because the record companies were shocked by his songs, and selling the LP to fellow students at Harvard. This early samizdat recording was the underground success of the decade with almost no publicity effort from Lehrer – “My songs spread slowly, like herpes, rather than Ebola,” he later recalled.

At that time, Lehrer’s principal accomplishment was that he was a mathematics prodigy who had entered Harvard aged 15, in 1943, taken a first class degree aged 18 and a master’s a year later. Born into a New York Jewish family in 1928, Lehrer had, he has said, every advantage: piano lessons, an expensive school that could get him into Harvard, and “the Broadway of Danny Kaye and Cole Porter”.

In the next year or two, Ed Monaghan introduced me to other comedians who were turning the complacent world of American comedy on its head: Mort Sahl, Shelley Berman, Dick Gregory, Lenny Bruce. “What these so-called ‘sickniks’ dispense,” wrote Time magazine in July 1959, “is partly social criticism liberally laced with cyanide, partly a Charles Addams kind of jolly ghoulishness, and partly a personal and highly disturbing hostility toward all the world.”

But in 1960, the year after I discovered him, Lehrer stopped writing and performing, although he briefly re-emerged in 1965 to write new songs for the US version of the satirical British show That Was the Week That Was.

TAMP ‘EM UP SOLID:

How to win in Ukraine: pour it on, and don’t worry about escalation: The Biden administration has been too cautious. There’s still time to change that. (ANDREW RADIN | MAY 22, 2024, Defense One)

Shifting U.S. policy in several areas would improve Ukraine’s military situation with minimal risk of Russian escalation. First, the United States could rescind its insistence that U.S.-provided munitions only be used on Ukrainian soil, and stop pressing Ukraine to refrain from attacks on Russian territory. Given that Ukraine suffers daily casualties from attacks on purely civilian targets, retaliation against Russian infrastructure is more than fair game and can help to even Ukraine’s odds by degrading Russia’s logistical capacity. Ukraine would bear the brunt of any Russian response, but Kyiv is prepared to take that risk.

Second, the United States could expand its visible U.S. military presence in Ukraine. Western advisors need to be in Ukraine to understand the status and needs of Ukraine’s forces to provide the necessary qualitative superiority. Increases in U.S. advisors or even trainers can be distinguished from any kind of combat role. If, tragically, U.S personnel were to be killed in a Russian attack, the Biden administration would have significant latitude to control its response.

Third, the United States should look to expand its operations in space and cyberspace in response Russia’s cyber attacks against U.S. space providers and jamming against NATO allies. In a recent RAND report on strategic stability in space, we argue that reversible actions like jamming are useful options for the United States because can signal to an adversary and provide an additional threat of punishment without increasing the scope of conflict. Given Russia’s use of space communications, for example, such actions also can have a temporary operational benefit. Russia could escalate with increased cyber attacks or other activities in response but would risk exposing their exploits and losing the opportunity to use such attacks in the future.

Additional U.S. action could also catalyze other allies to increase their support, as allies traditionally look to the United States for leadership. Germany would not provide Leopard tanks until the United States provided Abrams. Perhaps further U.S. support would lead to Germany to provide Taurus, its own long-range cruise missile. From a narrow U.S. perspective, greater U.S. involvement is an opportunity to test new capabilities and gain experience helping a partner facing a numerically superior foe. Such experience could be very relevant for helping Taiwan resist Chinese aggression.

To be sure, avoiding direct military conflict with Russia is of paramount interest.

No, it isn’t. That’s the mistake we made in the Cold War. Destroy the oil fields and challenge Vlad to respond. He’d last as long as Saddam.

WHY THE lEFT/rIGHT HATES THE fOUNDING:

Beyond Schmitt (John Ehrett, 5/20/24, Ad Fontes)


Unlike Vermeule, these Protestant thinkers are not drawn to Schmitt because of his fascination with executive administration. Instead, many Protestant commentators on Schmitt take up a theme far more basic to his thought: his claim that the essence of the “political” is the distinction between “friend” and “enemy.”

There is, of course, a sense in which this definition is trivially true. If there were no disagreements between people, there would be no “politics” in any familiar sense of the term. But it is the sheer bleakness of Schmitt’s characterization of the “enemy” that distinguishes his paradigm. In his best-known work, The Concept of the Political, Schmitt argues that the distinction is not just descriptive of, but constitutive of, politics as such.[6] That is to say, in the strictest sense politics is not merely about the organized human pursuit of some common good or other. It requires, at its root, an other destined for destruction.

Schmitt makes the matter quite clear: the “enemy” is one whom one seeks to annihilate. Concepts of “friend” and “enemy,” on Schmitt’s model, “receive their real meaning precisely because they refer to the real possibility of physical killing. War follows from enmity. “War is the existential negation of the enemy.”[7] An irreducibly violent agonism, which must inform how leaders and citizens alike relate to external “others,” lies at the very heart of politics as such.

If Schmitt is right, then anyone engaged in the business of politics must ask a fateful question: Who, then, is my enemy?

The very question—an inversion of the parable of the Good Samaritan—rings odd to Christian ears. What about Jesus’s command to love your enemies? It seems strange to identify individuals (functionally) excluded from the horizon of Christian concern.

Identitarianism is anti-Christian.

WE ALL KNOW HOW IT ENDS:

Israel Does Not Know How To End the Gaza War: Military and political analysts now say the conflict is unwinnable, but no one has an exit plan (Lisa Goldman, May 21, 2024, New/Lines)


Israel is in a “plonter.” The Hebrew word, which translates as a knot that defies untangling, is often used to describe an intractable situation. It’s a word one hears frequently from Israeli political commentators these days, as the army grinds through its seventh month of war in Gaza without having achieved the two goals stated at the outset of the campaign — the destruction of Hamas’ military capacity and the release of the captives. Now the prevailing opinion of establishment experts — journalists, policy specialists, senior military veterans — is that those goals are unachievable and the war unwinnable.

But neither the political leadership nor the army’s high command has thought of an exit strategy, let alone a plan for the day after — assuming there will be a cease-fire at some point. From the Israeli perspective, all the options are bad. A return to the status quo ante, with Hamas resuming its governance of Gaza, is not on the table. Even if the reinstatement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party as the governing body in Gaza were desirable, the obstacles are practically insurmountable (in 2007 Hamas engineered a violent putsch to oust Fatah’s leadership from Gaza). Among Palestinians, the PA is widely considered to be corrupt and ineffective, with no authority to govern. Israel’s far right wants to reestablish the military bases and settlements that were evacuated in 2005; the army’s senior command has vociferously rejected this idea. But no Israeli leader has offered a practical suggestion that would fill the power vacuum created by the war. Nor has the United States or any other outside body offered a workable, practical solution. And so the world watches as the war drags on and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza grows more acute.

You can’t exterminate Hamas without exterminating the Palestinians, since it is the political party they support. (Abraham Lincoln did not get rid of the Democrats, just the Confederacy.)

The Palestinians, like every other people, are endowed with the right to self-determination. Recognize the nation and let them elect Barghouti president with a Hamas legislature.

AND THE LIVIN’ IS EASY:

Household Debt in Perspective: Delinquency rates are rising, signaling some stress—but overall, they remain historically low. (Fisher Investments, 05/16/2024)


On Tuesday, the New York Fed dropped its Q1 Household Debt and Credit Report—a gauge garnering tons of attention with inflation running high in recent years. Many presume rising living costs are forcing ever-more households deeper into unserviceable hock—a narrative that reemerged this week. But the data don’t support the harangue.

Liberalism just keeps failing upwards.

THERE IS NO PRO-LIFE PARTY:

New research shows gas stove emissions contribute to 19,000 deaths annually (VICTORIA ST. MARTIN, 5/19/24, INSIDE CLIMATE NEWS)

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, found that gas stoves contribute to about 19,000 adult deaths each year and increase long-time exposure to nitrogen dioxide to 75 percent of the World Health Organization’s exposure guideline.

That last figure was one of the most significant findings by the research team, said the study’s lead author, Yannai Kashtan.

“This study’s main contribution is quantifying how much of that pollution really makes it to your nose, if you will,” Kashtan said in an interview.

Kashtan said that the study found that the most pressing dangers to gas stove owners—estimated to be as much as 40 percent of the population—stemmed from long-term exposure to harmful gases.

“The exposures that we’re estimating, they’re not going to cause immediate, terrible health outcomes tomorrow,” Kashtan said. “So we certainly don’t want to be alarmist. On the other hand, day after day, year after year, using a stove that the exposure really does build up and does increase the risk of all these respiratory diseases.

“It’s most important that people are aware of the risks and on the one hand, don’t freak out tomorrow, but also think seriously about indoor air pollution when they’re thinking about, ‘OK, you know, what’s my next appliance going to be?’” he added.

Researchers also found that people of color are disproportionately affected by the stoves.