Thursday, November 2nd, 2023


Flower and Water

If the Middle East crisis is emblematic of the past once more cycling back to haunt us, then the crisis in South Sudan is, for many, a vision of the global future. Added to war is a new and seemingly permanent foe. Climate. "Climate disasters are often perceived as finite events — with an emergency and a recovery, a beginning and an end. But as these disasters grow in magnitude and frequency, striking poor countries dependent on a stretched humanitarian system, some are no longer just passing crises, but permanent states of being." WaPo (Gift Article): Years into a climate disaster, these people are eating the unthinkable. "Nyaguey grabbed a plastic bucket and an empty sack and set off from her village surrounded by floodwater. Those waters had upended her life, but also provided a food option — not a desirable one, but one of the few left.
Water lilies. They'd been keeping her family alive for two years."


Christian Nationalism’s Mike Drop

"Mike Johnson is the first person to become speaker of the House who can be fairly described as a Christian nationalist, a major development in American history in and of itself. Equally important, however, his ascension reflects the strength of white evangelical voters' influence in the House Republican caucus, voters who are determined to use the power of government to roll back the civil rights, women's rights and sexual revolution." To many of us, Mike Johnson's religious views are extreme. But that extreme has worked its way into to the top echelons of American power. Religion is a driving force from SCOTUS to the House to many corners of American society. And increasingly, those corners are on Main Street for the GOP. Thomas Edsall in the NYT (Gift Article): ‘The Embodiment of White Christian Nationalism in a Tailored Suit.' "What is Christian nationalism? Christianity Today described it as the 'belief that the American nation is defined by Christianity, and that the government should take active steps to keep it that way. Popularly, Christian nationalists assert that America is and must remain a ‘Christian nation' — not merely as an observation about American history, but as a prescriptive program for what America must continue to be in the future.'"

+ It Be Lies Belief: And strange as it may seem, this movement is directly tied to Donald Trump and election lies. He's a transactional politician who will trade policy and judicial picks for support. His individual behavior is a footnote. We know Johnson pushed to overturn the 2020 election. Now he's filling out his team with likeminded folks. "Raj Shah, a former Fox Corp. executive who urged the network to stave off far-right competitors by promoting Donald Trump's election lies, has been chosen to lead the communications effort for Speaker Mike Johnson."


Gov and War

Sadly, the poor House leadership is one element that connects America and the Middle East. Tom Friedman in the NYT (Gift Article): The Two Things Worrying U.S. Military Officials About Israel and Hamas. "If it sounds like an utterly incoherent worldview that would undermine the American global leadership that has shaped a world we've thrived in for the past century, it's because it is. And if it feels as if House G.O.P. leaders are small thinkers in a big time, it's because they are. They are shameless, shameful and dangerous. Please do our country a favor and audition for Fox News on some other issue." And Israeli politicians present a dilemma of their own (many, actually, but here's one). "It looks as if Israel's army is reoccupying Gaza to eventually turn it over to some kind of legitimate Palestinian Authority — while Israel's extreme right-wing politicians and settlers are working overtime to delegitimize that authority and drive Palestinians out of the West Bank."

+ Israel aid drama is the latest failure of American governance.

+ NYT: How a Campaign of Extremist Violence Is Pushing the West Bank to the Brink.

+ "A growing list of Israeli officials have accepted responsibility for failing to prevent Hamas' brutal attack on Israeli communities during the Oct. 7 incursion that triggered the current Israel-Hamas war. Conspicuously absent from that roll call is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu." For this war to lead to anything other than more wars in the future, Israel needs to get the settlers under control and to get a new Prime Minister.

+ "As U.N. officials say hospitals in Gaza are running dangerously low on fuel, Hamas is maintaining a stockpile of more than 200,000 gallons of fuel for the rockets it fires into Israel and the generators that provide clean air and electricity to its network of underground tunnels." And from NY Mag: The Tunnel War: "From the air soldiers breathe to the guns they fire, everything is different underground."

+ ""When I see a Palestinian child, a boy or a girl pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building, that hits me in the gut as much as seeing a child in Israel or anywhere else. So this is something that we have an obligation to respond to, and we will." So said Antony Blinken on his way to Tel Aviv, the IDF has surrounded Gaza City, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says Israel has plans for Hamas' tunnels, water and fuel shortages making a dire humanitarian crisis worse, more foreign nationals cross into Egypt. Here's the latest from CNN, NBC, Times of Israel, and BBC.

+ If you missed it yesterday, I shared some quick thoughts on the rise of antisemitism. A Return to the Familiar.


Take a Ride into the Ranger Zone

After the SF Giants brutally disappointing season, I decided to adopt the Texas Rangers in the playoffs. After all, their manager is the great Bruce Bochy who led the Giants to three World Series, and their associate manager Will Venable is the son of a former Giant and graduated from my high school. So basically, I won the World Series. SI: Rangers' Improbable World Series Triumph Was Built on Trust. (Honestly, as diehard Giants fan, the best thing about the World Series is that it's over which officially means it's next season...)

+ 7 things to know about the Texas Rangers' first World Series win.

+ "There are two things for which Bochy will be best remembered in baseball. The first is that he is among the preeminent managers in baseball history ... The other is that Bochy has an outsize skull, something teammates and friends have long teased him about." ESPN: Why Bochy might be the greatest manager ever.

+ Maybe the only controversial thing about this Rangers team is their near obsession with the band Creed. That carried right through the World Series celebration.


Extra, Extra

Meanwhile, Back at the Kremlin: Putin is loving that the world's attention has shifted to the Middle East, and he's using the moment to bomb more than ever. Someone should protest in the streets about this unprovoked, ongoing civilian massacre. Ukraine reports most extensive Russian shelling of the year.

+ Human Wrongs: The U.N. can get a little weird. How weird? Try this on for size. Iran to Chair UN Human Rights Forum on Thursday. At the same time, a new U.N. report finds that executions in Iran are up 30%. (And then there's the small detail of the backing of all the terror groups wreaking havoc in the Middle East.)

+ Brothers in Harms: The Trump brothers are testifying in the NY fraud trial. As per usual, they don't seem to be helping the business much. Here's the latest.

+ Steaming Hot Tuberville: Even Republicans are mad as hell about Tommy Tuberville's military stranglehold.

+ Oh What a Knight: "He could be cruel, and he could be downright mean. There were times, though, when he was as loyal of a friend as you could have. I saw both sides." Even in death, Bobby Knight is a divisive, and yet endlessly interesting, person. And like in life, he's still inspiring some excellent writing. John Feinstein: The Bob Knight I knew mixed greatness and brilliance with self-sabotage. Dan Wetzel: "He was brilliant. He was a bully. He coached some of the most perfectly disciplined basketball ever played, and then acted undisciplined in his own life. He was an American original and a cultural touchstone with oversized impact, in ways good and, yes, sometimes less so." And Seth Davis: "He was brilliant, but he did a lot of dumb things. He demanded the most from his players, but accepted too many shortcomings from himself. His loyalty was fervent, but if he felt someone had slighted or disrespected him, he would cut them out of his life forever. He performed countless acts of kindness, many without any fanfare, but he could be petty, demeaning, misogynistic and cruel. He was a loving husband, a dedicated father, the kind of friend most people could only wish they had. But if he disliked you — and he disliked a lot of people — he made damn sure you knew it. His legacy is complicated, full of contradictions and controversies. But there is one thing we know for sure: There will never be another Robert Montgomery Knight."

+ The Voice: After using AI to isolate John Lennon's voice and pull it from a tape, the Beatles have released one more single: Now And Then.


Bottom of the News

Netflix will soon throw in an ad-free episode if you watch three episodes in a row. (I wonder what I can earn if I just sit on the coach watching TV forever. So far, I've gotten nothing for it.)

+ At long last, someone has set a new record for solving a Rubik's cube while skydiving.

+ The "famous banana pudding is being whipped up in a new version that triggers elation in a different kind of way." Magnolia Bakery is turning its most iconic desserts into cannabis edibles. If you've ever had this ridiculously good banana product, you'll realize that this is a match made in (high) heaven.