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[ 1 ] November 28, 2014 |

Robert Wright explains some of the finer points of Bloggingheads:

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Death to America

[ 7 ] November 28, 2014 |

I wonder if Iran is accepting American entries to its Death to America festival:

As part of the campaign, Ouj also launched the “Death to America Grand Award” festival, sponsored by themselves and other similar organizations. The festival took place for the first time last year and gave away considerable cash prizes to its contestants. Now that the Vienna nuclear talks have ended inconclusively, the second festival is in the pipeline and billboards have gone up across the city to promote it.

According to reports, its sponsors also include Hezbollah Cyber, Saraj Cyberspace Organization, Tasnim news agency, Fars news agency and Nasr TV Network—all of which are affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards.

Winning contestants at the festival last year were awarded their prizes by the likes of Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, a commander in the Revolutionary Guards, and Hossein Shariatmadari, the managing editor of the hardliner daily Kayhan, the day before the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

According to Mohammad Hasani, the festival secretary, the event will start on December 7 and people taking part must incorporate themes such as, “Why death to America?” “America and Human rights” “America and Islamophobia” “America in the Embrace of World Zionism” “America and Nurturing Terrorism” and many more, into their artwork.

According to festival organizers, the “Death to America” Grand Prize will have a main competition for pictures, posters and cartoons and a side competition for documentaries, video clips, songs, articles, blogs, software and mobile apps. The winning prize in the main competition is $3,700, with a runner-up prize of $1,800 and a third prize of $750. While in the smaller competition, the first prize is $1,100, the second prize is $550 and the third prize is $260.

The festival’s finale will take place on February 11, 2015 on the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

Wouldn’t pictures of Black Friday be enough to win?

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“We must all remember how Our Lord and Savior suffered when the Romans stabbed Him in the McRibs.”

[ 46 ] November 28, 2014 |

The “church branding agency” probably should’ve went with Chick fil A — what with the in-built demographic crossover — but I can see “the McMass project” working out just as well.

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B-52s for Israel, Because Why Not?

[ 21 ] November 28, 2014 |

This asinine little proposal apparently appeals to one of the finest minds in the land:

Congress could augment Israel’s capacity to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities by passing legislation that would sell Israel 30,000-pound Massive Ordinance Penetrators (MOPs)—bunker-busters that can penetrate 200 feet below ground—as well as spare B-52s, currently unused by the U.S. Air Force, to deliver them. This would boost our leverage with Iran, send a strong signal of support for Israel, and improve the chances for a successful Israeli strike if that proves necessary.

What I wrote here and here still applies. The proposal to send B-52s to Israel is abject idiocy. Anyone with professional knowledge of airpower understands this. It is dreadfully irresponsible for a senior USAF commander (even one in retirement) to say things about his area of professional expertise that he knows to be untrue, simply in an effort to “move the debate.”

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How Often Do “Disruptive” Business Practices Actually Mean “Illegal” Business Practices?

[ 63 ] November 28, 2014 |

Uber, once again proving the “sharing” economy capitalists are as bad as any traditional economy capitalists you could create:

Security researcher GironSec has pulled Uber’s Android app apart and discovered that it’s sending a huge amount of personal data back to base – including your call logs, what apps you’ve got installed, whether your phone is vulnerable to certain malware, whether your phone is rooted, and your SMS and MMS logs, which it explicitly doesn’t have permission to do. It’s the latest in a series of big-time missteps for a company whose core business model is, frankly, illegal in most of its markets as well.

Taxi-busting ride share app Uber might have an operating model that suits customers better than traditional, regulated taxi services – but the company’s aggressively disruptive (and frequently illegal) business practices don’t seem to stop at harming the taxi industry.

Its vicious attacks on competitors have included ordering and cancelling more than five and a half thousand rides through its chief competitor Lyft. Its senior Vice President of Business, Emil Michael, casually mentioned at a dinner that maybe Uber could start digging up personal dirt on journalists critical of the company.

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Black Friday Strikes

[ 2 ] November 28, 2014 |

While you are engaging in America’s most consumerist day of the year, a real feat given the competition, remember the workers struggling to make ends meet that serve you. Especially remember the Wal-Mart workers. Some are engaging in Black Friday strikes, the 3rd consecutive year of these protests:

Kicking off the third consecutive year of protests, Walmart workers in six states have formally submitted strike notices to their bosses ahead of the Black Friday shopping frenzy, calling for higher wages and better hours, according to OUR Walmart, the group representing the workers.

OUR Walmart did not provide an estimate on how many workers planned to take part in the strikes this year. It did, however, say that workers in Wisconsin, Louisiana, Florida, California, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., have already delivered notices, and it anticipates workers in Illinois, Minnesota, Texas and Pennsylvania will do so as well.

Charles Brown, an OUR Walmart member who unloads trucks at a Walmart in Newport News, Virginia, said he plans to miss three shifts this week to take part in the demonstrations. Brown said he joined the group in September to demand a greater say in scheduling as well as “more respect” from management.

“Some [other workers] may want to do a strike as well but are hesitant,” said Brown, 27. “They need to know they don’t have anything to be afraid of. If we don’t stand up, no one else is going to stand up for us.”

Black Friday has become an annual rallying cry for the anti-Walmart crowd, with labor activists and other progressives pillorying the world’s largest retailer over its wages and scheduling practices for store employees. It also marks the most contentious week of the year between the Arkansas-based retail giant and OUR Walmart, which is backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers, a union that’s been working to organize Walmart employees for years.

The $15 minimum wage and full-time work are among the major demands, although it depends on the worker and the store.

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It’s Tough Out There on a Merkel

[ 26 ] November 28, 2014 |

I’m just gonna leave this here:

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Non-believing clergy

[ 92 ] November 28, 2014 |

An interesting but flawed and limited take on a phenomenon I’ve long been fascinated with. I’ve met a few such people, over the years, and they’ve suggested to me the ranks of clergy who fit that description are far greater than anyone realizes. Clergy have a set general tasks–counselor, community organizer, etc.–and their and their parishioners religious beliefs and commitments are one of the primary tools they’re expected to use in these tasks. This gives them a perspective on their faith lay people are considerably less likely to have–they see how it can work, but also how and when it doesn’t. There are a variety of ways to cope with that, and some of them, it seems to me, could have a significantly corrosive effect on faith.

It’s limitations and flaws are largely a function of viewing the phenomenon through the eyes of evangelical atheism. Such a perspective treats non-believing clergy instrumentally and teleologically. There’s no evidence any critical energy was directed at the coincidence that the outcome best for Cristina’s political movement is also, exactly and precisely, what is best for such individuals. Now that they’ve abandoned religious belief they rightfully and properly belong on team public atheist; they merely need help to find the resources, psychologically, financially, and otherwise, to make that next big step and become what they’re supposed to be. (The silliest part of the article is the breathless fantasy of a mass public conversion to atheism by clergy triggering the collapse of organized religion.)

But conversion stories are old and familiar. I’m much more interested in those who chose to stay in their positions. Not the megachurch grifters and profit-takers, but the ordinary and decent people making a modest living and trying sincerely to do good and help people. Some of them, no doubt, are like Rumpole’s father: “a Church of England clergyman who, in early middle life, came to the reluctant conclusion that he no longer believed any of the 39 articles” but “as he was not fitted by character or training for any other profession” he soldiered on. Some of these people might appreciate the rescue Christina wishes to offer; others may simply be comfortable where they are. But it’s a third group that interests me the most: those who have ceased to believe but don’t see that as a reason they should leave their position. How do they view the positive value of the religious beliefs they teach and reinforce? How do they counsel or approach fellow doubters? For obvious reasons, such a perspective is very rarely stated forthrightly. Christina closes by quoting and endorsing the position that if churches would merely abandon religious dogma and ritual and become community centers, the good work they do would just continue but would be enhanced. There’s no argument offered for this position, which should provoke some skepticism from anyone as empirically minded as evangelical atheists like Christina purport to be; I’d be far more interested in hearing the perspective of a practicing but non-believing religious leader on the subject.

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Leftover Links!

[ 24 ] November 28, 2014 |

Devour thy leftovers:



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I Love The Smell of Georgia Burning in the Morning

[ 21 ] November 27, 2014 |

Here’s something not to be thankful for in American history: treason in defense of slavery. Rebecca Onion has a review of what looks to be a very interesting new book on the sensory impact of the Civil War, exploring how the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the war were experienced by people.

Hancock, intent upon serving as a nurse in the aftermath of the battle, brought that average nose to Gettysburg, where she was too late to smell the flowering peach blossoms and the saltpeter of expended gunpowder, but in plenty of time to smell the dead. She wrote home:

“A sickening, overpowering, awful stench announced the presence of the unburied dead upon which the July sun was mercilessly shining and at every step the air grew heavier and fouler until it seemed to possess a palpable horrible density that could be seen and felt and cut with a knife …”

Hancock, Smith writes, was so overcome by the smell that she viewed it as an oppressive, malignant force, capable of killing the wounded men who were forced to lie amid the corpses until the medical corps could reach them. Hancock’s account, vivid in its horror, proves the limitations of the visual record of war. No photograph of the aftermath of the battle, writes Smith, could “capture the sounds, the groans or the rustle of twitching bodies”—and no image could ever capture that smell.

And the meanings of these sensory experiences was complex:

The senses also had social meaning to mid-19th-century Americans, marking differences between types of people. A 19th-century woman like Cornelia Hancock might process the smell of Gettysburg differently than we do because of the contemporary belief that cultivated people had sensitive noses and should guard themselves from unpleasant odors. The besieged citizens of Vicksburg weren’t merely turned off by the poor provisions during the long siege by Grant’s army; they were horrified at the idea of eating the same kinds of foods as the enslaved people around them. In the South, a sophisticated sense of taste was a marker of social status. Black people’s mouths and palates, by contrast, were considered by Southerners to be “physically unrefined and aesthetically immature,” Smith writes, a stereotype “justifying the allocation of plain, functional, and flavorless food to slaves on plantations.” White residents eating a monotonous cornbread and bacon diet inside the crowded city or in their cave shelters felt their social boundaries collapsing, even as they grew hungrier and hungrier.

I love the smell of Georgia burning in the morning.

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Happy Carbonara Day!

[ 16 ] November 27, 2014 |

Obligatory Calvin Trillin link, supplemented by a Kosher version. But whether you have turkey or choose something that tastes good instead, happy Thanksgiving!

Also, I’ll have more on this later this weekend, but hopefully this is a literal but not figurative #slatepitch.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

[ 169 ] November 27, 2014 |


Let’s learn a bit the lovely people we are remembering today:

On May 26, 1637, a Puritan force fortified by Native allies massacred a Pequot fort in Connecticut, killing as many as 500 men, women and children and burning the village to the ground.

McBride called the Pequot a “complex society” and the Pequot War one of the most controversial and significant events in Colonial history. The attack at Mystic Fort, which was the first of three massacres that occurred during the war, changed the way Native forces looked at warfare.

The massacre, led by English Captain John Mason, was the first documented use of “total war” against American Indians, meaning the English force slaughtered all Pequot they came in contact with, making no distinction between armed warriors or helpless women and children.

“By any standards, it was a massacre,” McBride said. “The English did intend to kill everyone there, but they did not do it to steal land or to control trade. They did it out of fear that the Pequot and their Native allies would perpetuate a region-wide attack on the English.”

Justifying his conduct, Captain Mason declared the attack was an act of God, he wrote in his Brief History of the Pequot War, published posthumously in 1736.

God “laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to scorn making [the Pequot] as a fiery Oven… Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling [Mystic] with dead Bodies.”

Native peoples in North America understood war. They didn’t understand genocide, at least not until the Puritans brought it to them in 1637.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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