The Jewish Experience in the American Revolution (Andrew Porwancher, October 14, 2023, Real Clear Politics)

The fractious debate about Jewish rights playing out in numerous states formed the backdrop of the Constitutional Convention. Notably, the only American who appealed to the Convention to protect religious liberty was a Jew – Jonas Phillips – who had served in the Revolution. He lamented to the delegates that Jewish-Americans “have bravely fought and bled for liberty which they cannot enjoy.” What Phillips did not yet know was that the delegates had already taken an extraordinary step that most states would not: they included a constitutional clause banning religious tests for federal office. A Jew may not have been free to serve in the Pennsylvania state assembly, but that self-same Jew could be president of the United States. It was an extraordinary triumph punctuating the tragic history of the Jewish people.

The question of Jewish belonging in America has periodically resurfaced throughout the nation’s history. In each of those moments, voices have arisen to erroneously claim that Jews are newcomers who somehow threaten the original character of the country. Those today who would doubt that Jews have a rightful stake in this republic would do well to remember that the trees rooted in the Revolution’s battlefields draw their nutrients from soil tinged with Jewish blood.


Debate Performances Fuel Haley’s Rise in GOP Nomination Race (Molly Ball, Dec. 7, 2023, WSJ)

Deft yet serious, quick-witted yet substantive, Nikki Haley’s debate performances are feats of political athleticism that few can match. Surrounded by men trying to shout and tear her down, she skewers foes, exhibiting a specifically female form of calm yet gleeful aggression. She floats like a fighter jet and stings like a missile. […]

If viewers didn’t already know Haley has become the one to beat, her rivals’ barrage of attacks on her made that abundantly clear. Ramaswamy called her unscrupulous and a “fascist.” DeSantis called her ineffective. Christie called her inconsistent.

“I love all the attention, fellas,” Haley said with a tight smile. “Thank you for that.”


Up from the Liberal Founding: a review of The Classical and Christian Origins of American Politics: Political Theology, Natural Law, and the American Founding By Kody W. Cooper and Justin Buckley Dyer (JAMES M. PATTERSON • DECEMBER 04, 2023, Religion & Liberty)

In recent decades, however, scholars have reconsidered this view of the American founding. The ground was first laid by the 1984 landmark content analysis of Donald S. Lutz in his American Political Science Review article “The Relative Influence of European Writers on Late Eighteenth-Century American Political Thought.” Here Lutz compiled revolutionary and founding literature—while intentionally excluding sermons for obvious reasons—from 1760 until 1805, and searched for references to authorities ancient and modern. He discovered that the so-called Lockean liberal founding was nothing of the sort. Rather, revolutionary literature contained more references to the Bible than to all other thinkers combined, and the most popular book was that of Deuteronomy. Locke appears somewhat often in the earliest years Lutz examined but rapidly tapers off in favor of appeals to Montesquieu, Blackstone, Hume, Pufendorf, Coke, and Cicero. Far from a Lockean liberal founding, Lutz concluded that “the debate surrounding the adoption of the U.S. Constitution reflected different patterns of influence than the debates surrounding the writing and adoption of the state constitutions, or the Revolutionary writing surrounding the Declaration of Independence.” In short, Lutz had proved that reducing the founding to liberalism badly oversimplified a complicated series of events with a wide array of influences and statesmen at work.

Lutz’s view remained something of a minority one; Michael Zuckert published The Natural Rights Republic in 1997 and Matthew Stewart Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic in 2015. By that year, however, the thesis of a “liberal founding” was already on shaky ground. A new generation of specialists in the field, like Daniel Dreisbach and Mark David Hall, had already labored to illustrate the significance of both Christian ideas and Christian interpretations of modern ideas during the founding era. Eric Nelson, David Bederman, Francis Oakley, Paul DeHart, and others have illustrated the significance of classical thought, medieval natural law theory, and “political Hebraism” as major intellectual contributions on the founding. Historians of Protestant political thought, such as Glenn Moots, have charted its significance as well. Joining political Hebraism and Protestant political thought, as I have shown, was a now mostly forgotten tradition of the “American Nehemiad,” or interpreting pious but tough patriotism in terms of the Jewish governor of Palestine under the Persian Empire, the biblical Nehemiah. None of this is to say that Locke did not play a role in the American founding but rather that he did not play a central role. The Founders simply were not captured by the Lockean imaginary.

Indeed, they rejected his political theorizing precisely because it was imaginary and their republicanism was practical and historical.


The Man Who Could Finally Solve the Geothermal Puzzle: The huge potential of geothermal energy to meet the climate and energy crises has always been outweighed by its problems. With Eavor, John Redfern believes he’s found the solution. (JOSH SIMS, December 7, 2023, Inside Hook

Their idea is deceptively simple. Traditional geothermal technology has to target an aquifer, and then use a form of fracking, forcing water into and then out of the very hot permeable rock underground, creating steam to drive a turbine to generate electricity, but losing about 50% of the energy in the pumping process.

Instead, Eavor’s plan is to drill two eight-inch-wide wells down several miles, then drill laterally some more miles and connect them, thus making a huge closed loop. Then, through conduction, they’ll let the water flow through it, the large surface area of the bores being super-heated by the surrounding rock. That’s one loop of maybe 10 loops in a major plant.

“It’s just like a big radiator,” as Redfern describes it, making the hard-to-do sound very simple.

In another sense, he says, it’s the reverse of one of the oil industry’s ways of extracting oil sands, in which drilled wells allow heat to be injected underground to loosen the sands and allow the oil to be removed.

Eavor’s “closed-loop’ system — the Eavor-Loop — has been working towards full-scale operation for a few years. The company launched Eavor Lite, a small-scale proof-of-concept plant in 2019, and followed that with Eavor Deep in New Mexico late last year, which proved the technology could be used in, for example, granite rock and super-high temperatures, environments that the traditional oil and gas industry avoid.

Now, among several Eavor projects in the works, the most advanced is a $325 million Eavor-Loop under construction in Bavaria, Germany, on the site of a decommissioned power plant and funded in part by a grant from the EU Innovation Fund. Drilling began this July, and it’s expected to take three years to produce four loops — amounting to 150 miles of wells in total, 2.5 miles deep and coping with temperatures around 302 degrees Fahrenheit — though power is expected to come online in October 2024 when the first loop is complete. With that, Eavor expects its idea to be commercially proven.

“That’s a lot of drilling,” notes Redfern. “Never since Bruce Willis and Armageddon has there been the potential for the world to be saved by a bunch of drillers drilling holes.”

Drill, baby, drill.


Fatah in freefall as Hamas and Israel wage war (Hossam Ezzedine, December 7, 2023, Al-Monitor)

Fatah, the largest Palestinian party, has seen its popularity plunge during the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, from where the Islamists violently ousted rivals Fatah in 2007.

Fatah’s chosen path of negotiations has not brought about the Palestinian state promised by the Oslo Accords of 1993, and Hamas — after choosing violence instead — has seen its popularity soar.

Fatah chief Mahmud Abbas has led the Palestinian Authority — which has partial administrative control in the Israeli-occupied West Bank — since its creation in 1994.

But the PA is now weakened like never before, and Palestinian political divisions run deeper than ever since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7.

Democracy is why the war on Palestinian has become genocidal: Israel wants a secular regime that the voters will reject. The people are Hamas.


Blue-collar jobs might be the best jobs (ELLE GRIFFIN, DEC 4, 2023, The Elysian)

Technology is ethereal. You might have a feeling that something’s going on behind the scenes, but you can’t see it or touch it. Similarly, the “product” sold by most tech companies is immaterial. You might be able to use it on a phone or computer, it might make work more convenient or life a little easier, but for the most part, it only physically exists on a server out in the ether.

That’s exactly the sort of thing that could spur on an existential crisis. “Those of us who sit in an office often feel a lack of connection to the material world, a sense of loss, and find it difficult to say exactly what we do all day,” says Matthew Crawford in his book, Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into The Value of Work.

When we can see the work we’ve done, when we can actually feel the heat of a blast furnace singing the hairs off our skin, we are more invested in what we’re doing. “You’re making something,” says Saskia Duyvesteyn, chief R&D advisor at Rio Tinto Kennecott. “And I think sometimes that’s missing from other jobs. We are actually making a product in the end, and that’s one of the things that’s different about what we do than a lot of other industries.”

Bhavana Mukunda is an electrical engineer at the copper mine, and she actually considered a job in tech before deciding to study power systems instead. “In the tech industries, you have your code, you wrote your code, it may be used, it may not be used, but [at Kennecott], the challenge is there, it’s solved, and I see the effects of it… I got to see a plant go back online because of what I did, which is pretty cool.”


Mike Johnson’s Office Walks Back Reason For Blurring Insurrectionists’ Faces (Josh Fiallo, Dec. 5th, 2023, Daily Beast)

Just hours after House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) declared Tuesday that rioters in the Jan. 6 insurrection would have their faces blurred in security footage so they’d avoid prosecution by the DOJ, a spokesperson walked back the Republican leader’s statement.

“We tried to obstruct justice but failed…”


New England stone walls lie at the intersection of history, archaeology, ecology and geoscience, and deserve a science of their own (Robert M. Thorson, 12/04/23, The Conversation)

The abandoned fieldstone walls of New England are every bit as iconic to the region as lobster pots, town greens, sap buckets and fall foliage. They seem to be everywhere – a latticework of dry, lichen-crusted stone ridges separating a patchwork of otherwise moist soils.

Stone walls can be found here and there in other states, but only in New England are they nearly ubiquitous. That’s due to a regionally unique combination of hard crystalline bedrock, glacial soils and farms with patchworks of small land parcels.

Nearly all were built by European settlers and their draft animals, who scuttled glacial stones from agricultural fields and pastures outward to fencelines and boundaries, then tossed or stacked them as lines. Though the oldest walls date to 1607, most were built in the agrarian century between the American Revolution and the cultural shift toward cities and industry after the Civil War.

The mass of stone that farmers moved in that century staggers the mind – an estimated 240,000 miles (400,000 kilometers) of barricades, most stacked thigh-high and similarly wide. That’s long enough to wrap our planet 10 times at the equator, or to reach the Moon on its closest approach to Earth.

Natural scientists have been working to quantify this phenomenon, which is larger in volume than the Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall in Britain and the Egyptian pyramids at Giza combined. This work began in 1870 and generated the U.S. government’s 1872 Census of Fences. Today, scientists are using a technique called LiDAR, or light detection and ranging, to measure and map stone walls across New England.

…but that they also cleared all the trees that surround them.


A Cursed Blessing: Søren Kierkegaard’s theory of despair. (CLARE CARLISLE, December 11/18, 2023, The Nation)

You’ve probably had the experience—perhaps while listening to music, seeing an old friend, or walking in nature—of feeling as though you’ve reconnected with some deep part of yourself. These moments might not be outwardly dramatic, but inwardly they feel significant, even profound. They remind you that, for some time, an important part of yourself had gone missing, and you’d forgotten that it even existed. “The greatest danger, that of losing one’s self, can occur so quietly that it is as if it were nothing at all,” wrote Søren Kierkegaard. “Every other loss—an arm, a leg, five rixdollars, a spouse, etc.—is noticed, however.”

Kierkegaard called this loss of the self “despair”: a spiritual sickness that, he believed, afflicts us all. The way he describes it, despair sounds like bad news, and in a way it is. Yet for Kierkegaard, despair reveals the spiritual reality of our being. It is a sign that we are more than just bodies, thoughts, and emotions—since all these things were still there after we’d lost touch with our deeper, truer self. […]

Kierkegaard’s analysis of despair rests on the distinction between a human being and a self. A human being, he explains, is a synthesis of opposites: “of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity.” But this he continues, “is not yet a self.” To be a self, a human being—who is already a composite of relations—must develop a relationship to itself. This involves both consciousness and desire. Relating to ourselves means being aware (or unaware) of ourselves and wanting (or not wanting) to be ourselves. It also means recognizing that we did not cause or create ourselves. We are brought into being and sustained in existence by something other than ourselves—and this “something other,” at least in Kierkegaard’s view, is God.

A metaphor might help here. Take a sheet of paper, write “infinite” on the left-hand side of the page and “finite” on the right-hand side, then fold it in half. Repeat this process with two more pieces of paper, the second reading “eternal” and “temporal” and the third “freedom” and “necessity.” Put the folded sheets in a neat pile: Here is the human being. Then fold that pile in half again, to make a thicker wedge: Here is the self, a relation of the relations. But that paper didn’t fold itself, did it? It was folded by God, who holds us in his hands. If God lets go, the pages fall apart and scatter on the ground.

So how does this relate to despair? For Kierkegaard, people who fall into despair are spiritually disconnected from themselves: There is nothing in their lives that holds together that entire composite of relations that makes them who they are. Though he was writing in a Protestant culture, there is nothing specifically Christian, or even biblical, about this notion of godly connection and disconnection. For Kierkegaard, being a self means needing and longing to find yourself, to become yourself—and this means reaching out, across the abyss, in search of God. That search, even in a secular sense, is potent. “God” may mean many different things, even if it only names a mystery, and in Kierkegaard’s work, this concept is seldom nailed down.


Curing cancerphobia: How the psychology of fear distorts our view of cancer (David Ropeik, 11/29/23, Big Think)

Fighting the entrenched misbelief that “everything causes cancer” is hard. The highly respected Cancer Research UK tried, calling the study factually incorrect and misleading, as well as directly addressing the psychological factors of control and less fear of what is natural than what is human-made, saying, “It can be tempting to worry about our cancer risk from external things like pollution and chemicals more than from things we can control, like our lifestyles. But decades of research have shown that lifestyle factors — such as not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, limiting alcohol, getting enough exercise, and avoiding sunburn — have an important effect on cancer risk. In contrast, the evidence that pollution and industrialization has a widespread role in UK cancer rates is weak.”

The belief that cancer is mostly caused by human-made substances explains why any mention of the word “chemicals” or “radiation” sets off alarms. (Magnetic resonance imaging was originally called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging. The “nuclear” was dropped to avoid the frightening allusion to weapons and radiation.) And it explains why scientists frustrated by “chemophobia” and “radiophobia,” corollaries of cancerphobia, try to reduce those fears by arguing, “All of nature is made out of chemicals,” and, “If we’re worried about nuclear power we should also worry about natural sources of radiation like the sun and bananas.”