Pascha 2014

    1. Christian life in Israel
    2. Media Lenten sniping misfires
    3. Putin’s Game: One serious telling
    4. “Long weekend”?
    5. Another spinoff benefit from endless war
    6. The Media, PA burglary
    7. 1054, 1204
    8. Worst. Idea. Ever.

Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

1

The Wall Street Journal has a reminder of what Christians are experiencing in much of the middle east currently. The exception is Israel, according to a Greek Orthodox Priest there – according to the author, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N.

I don’t doubt that’s true. Whatever indignities Palestinian Christians in Israel suffer seem to be because they’re Palestinian, and presumptively a danger to the State. The longer I live, the more I’m convinced that’s not much different than the best any place in the world has to offer.

2

Speaking of indignities Christians suffer, it’s heartening that American media, thriving as they do on breathless claims about stunning new anti-Christian discoveries in archeology or history, this Holy Week (the usual time for publishing provocations) came up with nothing more potent than Bart Ehrman’s latest rehash of arguments long beloved of Christian apostates.

3

Walter Russell Mead wouldn’t have needed so many words if “fair use” excerpts could sum up his recent American Interest piece, Playing Putin’s Game. But here goes, anyway:

The West has a Russia problem, and we need to think clearly about our overall strategic relationship with Russia as the first step in formulating a response to Putin’s aggression against a peaceful neighboring state. There are two issues here; America’s generic attitude to Russia as a great power independent from the question of who wields power there and what his policies are, and America’s specific attitude toward Vladimir Putin’s regime.

It is on the question of America’s generic relationship to Russia considered abstractly that the ‘realists’ who would like to reconcile with Putin as quickly as possible have the strongest case … [A] strong Russia is or at least can be a good thing from an American point of view …

[S]ome are already constructing the case for appeasement … But life isn’t that easy. Putin, as I have said before, is no Hitler. But neither is he an Adenauer or Brandt, ready to stand in partnership to build a liberal world. As Lilia Shevstova notes on this site, Putin has chosen the path of repression at home and war abroad because these in his view offer the best hope of preserving his power. Because of the logic of his domestic situation, he has chosen the dark path of fascism, and is out to change the way the world works in ways that the United States must, out of its interests as well as its values, resist.

Victories like those Putin has notched up in Ukraine will awaken rather than slake his ambition. He needs triumphs abroad to vindicate and justify his rule and his repression at home, and foreign policy victories are like cocaine when it comes to their impact on public opinion: the buzz of each hit soon wears off, leaving only the craving for another and larger dose. Putin has grown and will grow hungrier and more reckless with each gain notched, each victory achieved …

Russia may have legitimate grievances and it certainly has interests that ought to be taken into account, but as long as Vladimir Putin stands at the head of affairs, Moscow must expect no favors from the West. Our message should be that the West will concede nothing to Putin, but is prepared to work constructively with a different Russian government to make Russia powerful and respected at home and abroad. Through continuing study and reflection in the West combined with track two exchanges and back channel conversations, we should develop a joint vision for an attractive and realistic Russian future so that Putin will be seen more clearly as what he is: an obstacle to rather than an instrument of Russian national power and prestige.

Daniel Larison dismisses Mead as usually reaching the wrong conclusions. I’m out of my depth trying to mediate between them, but I must acknowledge that Mead has made a good faith attempt here, at considerable length, to chart a course for our badly misguided foreign policy.

4

Apparently, Good Friday is still a holiday in Louisiana, from whence issues the iPhoneJD blog:

It is a short work week, so here is a special Thursday edition of In the news.  I hope that you enjoy the long weekend!

Somehow, “enjoy the long weekend!” didn’t seem le mot juste (is that proper Cajun French?).

5

For a number of reasons, I find the ability to master additional languages fascinating, because in my experience, it’s not particularly correlated to general academic prowess. I feel enriched by my foreign language studies, as the prior item might intimate, but don’t consider myself a language Adept.

Well, it turns out there’s a test for whether one could “end up with the vocabulary, accent, and grammatical sensibilities of a near-native speaker.” The military has had it for a while, but it’s now coming to the civilian world, too.  (H/T The Browser)

6

The Browser, by the way, now has a “content partnership” with Foreign Affairs magazine, whereby the Browser offers subscribers the full text of selected Foreign Affairs articles.

The first, which I assume you’ll be unable to see without a Browser subscription, is a book review suggesting that leaks (think Edward Snowden) are an important if informal part of checks and balances. And while many of the sources I read vilify Snowden, and I’m a bit ambivalent myself (if only because I haven’t focused carefully on the whole thing but it seems to me that self-aggrandizement may be mixed into Snowden’s motives), books like The Burglary, recommended by a thoughtful colleague, make me think that an early-warning leaker system is pretty important:

The never-before-told full story of the history-changing break-in at the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, by a group of unlikely activists—quiet, ordinary, hardworking Americans—that made clear the shocking truth and confirmed what some had long suspected, that J. Edgar Hoover had created and was operating, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, his own shadow Bureau of Investigation. It begins in 1971 in an America being split apart by the Vietnam War . . . A small group of activists—eight men and women—the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, inspired by Daniel Berrigan’s rebellious Catholic peace movement, set out to use a more active, but nonviolent, method of civil disobedience to provide hard evidence once and for all that the government was operating outside the laws of the land. At the heart of the heist—and the book—the contents of the FBI files revealing J. Edgar Hoover’s “secret counterintelligence program” COINTELPRO, set up in 1956 to investigate and disrupt dissident political groups in the United States in order “to enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles,” to make clear to all Americans that an FBI agent was “behind every mailbox,” a plan that would discredit, destabilize, and demoralize groups, many of them legal civil rights organizations and antiwar groups that Hoover found offensive—as well as black power groups, student activists, antidraft protestors, conscientious objectors. The author, the first reporter to receive the FBI files, began to cover this story during the three years she worked for The Washington Post and continued her investigation long after she’d left the paper, figuring out who the burglars were, and convincing them, after decades of silence, to come forward and tell their extraordinary story.
The Burglary is an important and riveting book, a portrait of the potential power of non­violent resistance and the destructive power of excessive government secrecy and spying.

My colleague says that the book reveals, in addition to Cointelpro, that Hoover maintained a list of people to be swept up in a dragnet if there was any major outbreak of civic unrest. (Regrettably, the book is said to have nary a word about the more pressing question of whether the late J. Edgar Hoover, protofascist and serial perjurer, was gay.)

I see no reason, really, to think that list isn’t still there, or that I’m not on it because of my conscientious objection 40+ years ago, my “pox on both their houses” political stance and my seditious suggestions that Putin isn’t the devil and that we have plenty of illegitimi in our own government.

7

It has been 810 years this month since the sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders. “Sack of Constantinople” sounds like a pretty routine act of war, I suppose.

But I listened to an account on Good Friday, with details like priests whipping the Crusaders up, and leading the charge, wielding swords against Christians with hands that a day earlier had held the body and blood of Christ. And Pope Innocent exulting in the victory.

The Crusaders were looking forward to Pascha at Hagia Sophia, supposedly, but they desecrated it – thoroughly – and looted other Christian Churches, burning them to the ground.

Thus did the western schism of 1054 become The Great Schism, and darned near irreparable.

It kind of puts a damper on my ecumenical spirit this weekend. Sorry, Catholic friends. I suppose I’ll get over it.

8

The Atlantic has a neat Big Question forum, asking various business leaders to identify the Worst Business Decision Ever Made… I was talking the other day to a friend about a particular situation. She said, “That’s just the way the world is.” I replied, “No, that’s the world as we’ve made it.” My point was that it was not inevitable that things turned out the way they did in this particular situation. It rarely is. Yes, some things cannot be helped, but mostly, our problems are caused by the exercise of our own free will, or the refusal to exercise it.

With that in mind, let me put a question to the room: What’s the worst cultural decision ever made? That is, which poor decision at the level of culture (religion, art, philosophy, and so forth) was the most regrettable, in hindsight?

My entry would be the same as Richard Weaver’s, in Ideas Have ConsequencesNominalism.

(Rod Dreher) I’ve blogged about this enough to have created a category for it, but I’m still not sure I’ve appreciated the full gravity of the error Occam’s Razor wrought.

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.