Talk -- No Action

In the news this week, ladies and gentlemen, our President-elect:

"Donald Trump, the former host of Celebrity Apprentice and president-elect of the United States, referred to Georgia congressman John Lewis, one of the Big Six civil-rights leaders of the 1960s, who was once assaulted as a Freedom Rider testing a federal law banning segregation on public transportation, and who, along with Martin Luther King, Jr., organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to push for the passage of the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or sex, as 'talk--no action.' Trump called NATO 'obsolete,' referred to Brexit as 'a great thing,' and said it was a 'catastrophic mistake' for German chancellor Angela Merkel to accept refugees from the five-year civil war in Syria that has killed at least 400,000 people."
-Harper's Review

Also of interest: Trump's Errors on Europe and Kompromat vs. Maskirovka

An Expert in the Works of Spinoza

From the Harper's Weekly Review today, some amusing news:

"A Portland, Oregon, resident filed a complaint against a marijuana dispensary for displaying a mural of a monkey in an astronaut suit smoking marijuana in outer space; the town of Zalec, Slovenia, announced plans to build a $400,000 public beer fountain; and a Wisconsin man arrested for the tenth time for driving under the influence blamed his high blood-alcohol content on eating beer-battered fish. In Spain, it was discovered that the supervisor of a wastewater treatment plant had not attended work for at least six years, but had reportedly spent that time becoming an expert in the works of seventeenth-century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza."

Yes, it's all true.

Human Dignity

Given the ongoing events in Boston, it's hard to know what else to post about. I keep hearing sirens outside my window as I do everyday, but this afternoon I keep thinking something terrible is happening or is about to happen in New York, too. I also keep thinking back to an Israeli case we read in our law and religion class this semester, written by Justice Barak. In it he argues that people who engage in terrorist activities keep unlawful combatant status even when they are not taking a direct and active part in hostilities. Considering the nature of terrorism, that makes sense. But the most interesting part of the opinion focuses on human dignity. He emphasizes that unlawful combatants are not beyond the law: "They are not 'outlaws.' God created them as well in his image; their human dignity as well is to be honored; they as well enjoy and are entitled to protection. . . by customary international law."

I find it very difficult to forgive on a personal level. Half lies and small cruelties make me angry and resentful. They are so hard to forgive. But when I see that two young boys from a volatile region in Russia decided to fill pressure cookers with shrapnel and set them off at the finish line of a marathon with the intent to maim and kill, all I feel is sympathy for them and for their victims. I search for reasons to explain why they would do something so terrible because I want to forgive them.

Morality is often black and white in our personal lives but it is so complicated elsewhere. Terrorism can never be justified, but its roots often lie in the wrongs others see in the world. Perhaps they were motivated by American imperialism or Western values or drone warfare, things that are so personal to some terrorists but abstract for us. Maybe these boys were just angry. Maybe they were tired of not fitting in. Maybe they thought it would be fun to wreak havoc on a city. Maybe they're not guilty at all. The manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will eventually end and we will get the answers in the weeks ahead. As that happens, I think we should keep Justice Barak's words in mind: human dignity applies to every person.

Flying Orthodox Church-in-a-Box

While looking for stories for my "law and religion news roundup" I came across this gem:

The Russian military unveiled an unlikely new weapon in its arsenal this month – an army of parachuting priests . . . While the Russian army insists this is the first ever flying chapel in the world, Orthodox Christianity is not the first to bring mobile worship to the battlefield. The Israeli Defense Force launched a mobile synagogue initiative in 2011 to allow troops to pray more comfortably as they operate the Iron Dome anti-missile system in southern Israel. The UK Friends of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers (UKAWIS) has provided such mobile synagogues – which contain an ark, reader's platform and washbasin – as "a source of spiritual sustenance [for the soldiers] as they carry the weight of Israel's security on their shoulders."

Also in a box: A Jew in Berlin. Yes, really.

Retiring From Piracy

Some international news is too good to pass up. Intrigued as ever by pirates, I was surprised to learn that Mohamad Abdi Hassan, the very successful pirate known as "Big Mouth," is quitting the game. To quote him, "After being in piracy for eight years, I have decided to renounce and quit, and from today on I will not be involved in this gang activity." He announced his retirement at a press conference in Somalia on Wednesday. I suppose we should also be very happy that he's trying to persuade his colleagues to quit as well.


I haven't had time to read the paper or watch the news this past week, but I keep catching bits and pieces of the Newtown shooting which only make me sad and angry. Sad, of course, because it's an absolutely devastating tragedy, and angry because of the hateful and self-serving "journalism" that's pouring out all over the place. I think the best statement that can be made is simply: the world needs more love, more kindness, and more compassion.

Many of the op-eds I've read are steeped in self-righteousness, written by people whose purported bias-free "rationality" makes those who disagree with them "complicit in the murder of children." I disagree strongly with those who would reduce a complex problem to a single issue. And I leave you with this:

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
-Martin Luther King