My late mother was only 19 when my father asked her to marry him, young even by the standards of the 1950s. They’d known each other only a very few months. She answered him, “If you’re sure, I’m sure.” Through his lifetime of 81 years, my father’s extraordinary sureness became a rock upon which everyone who knew him rested and trusted.
That rock cracked Monday May 27, at a little past six o’clock in the evening. After a struggle of a little less than seven weeks, my father—a lifelong nonsmoker—died of metastatic lung cancer.
At the beginning of April, he had been in Florence on one of his famous art-sleuthing expeditions. Seven years before, my father had scored one of the great coups of his art-collecting career. He had bought a Baroque bronze of a crucified Jesus. The bronze, heavily overpainted in black, was dismissed by art historians as a product of the “Italian School,” meaning a sculptor too insignificant to merit a name. My father’s friend, the art historian Andrew Butterfield, conclusively proved that the piece was the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the great builder of papal Rome—indeed that it was Bernini’s own personal devotional icon. The piece now overhangs a central gallery of the Art Gallery of Ontario, my father’s gift to his beloved native city of Toronto.
Immigration is always a very difficult social stress to manage. We don't make it any easier when we refuse to acknowledge those stresses. Many American commentators speak of last week's rioting in the Stockholm suburbs as some inexplicable social mystery. Yet a look at the numbers suggests that tensions between immigrants and natives should be about as surprising as snow in a Swedish winter:
Firemen extinguish burning cars in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby after youths rioted in several different suburbs around Stockholm, Sweden for a fourth consecutive night on May 23, 2013. (FREDRIK SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
* In 2012, Sweden accepted 44,000 asylum seekers, making Sweden relative to its size the world's most open destination for refugees.
* The 2012 asylum level represented a 50% jump over the rate of asylum acceptance just the year before.
As a child of Tornado Alley myself, I endorse the sentiment in this American Prospect piece by Monica Potts.
Tornado Watches, the meteorology term for “Hey, watch out a bad storm might come,” [are] akin to saying “It is a spring day,” in Tornado Alley, which sits, of course, right over Oklahoma.
It doesn’t register as danger, really—just another rotation around the sun. In the Ozarks of northern Arkansas, we get fewer tornadoes, but ‘fewer’ is still plenty. Bad weather brings a little map to the bottom right corner of the TV screen on local networks, and when I was growing up the piece of map representing each county would change from yellow to red to signal a change from a Tornado Watch to a Warning, the term for, “Hey, a Tornado is probably going to happen.” Technically, you’re supposed to take cover, but most still wait for more specificity. The Warnings are issued for huge swaths of land, and span hours. Usually, the storms just get a little worse. If I was home, I’d grab my little white dog, Puppy, and a golf club to kill snakes with in case I had to crawl into the tiny, dirty space beneath my house. I was lucky enough to have a foundation. If you’ve ever been in a mobile home during a storm, and felt it sway and bend, you know what kind of luck those poor souls are going to have. And I’ve yet to see a structure that could withstand a two-mile-wide EF5 tornado like the one that hit Moore.
I requested proof that David does indeed drive that pirate car. Here it is:
Andrew slices and dices Greenwald:
The reason we invaded Afghanistan was not because we decided to launch a war on Islam. It was because wealthy, Islamist, hypocritical bigots launched an unprovoked Jihadist mass murder of Western innocents from a cell based in a country run by a regime that specialized and specializes in the mass murder of other Muslims.
Before 9/11, America had saved Muslims in the Balkans from Christianist fanatics. We helped liberate Muslims in Afghanistan from Soviet oppression. We continue to give vast amounts of money to Muslim countries like Egypt, and, because of our economic development and need for oil made multi-billionaires out of Saudi clerics. And the war against Saddam, though a criminal enterprise and strategic catastrophe, nonetheless removed one of the most vicious mass murderers of Muslims on the planet. And the sectarian murder of Muslims that followed, however the ultimate responsibility for the occupying forces, was not done by Westerners. It was done by Muslims killing Muslims. The West, moreover, is committed to removing its troops from Afghanistan by next year and is fast winding down drone strikes.
Every time I wish our government were more effective, I remember exactly what we're up against. Quoth James Poulos at Forbes:
The claim that anti-intellectual Republicans are sabotaging government and willfully crippling our national functions is so vein-popping and so plausible that some forget it is only half of the wonkocracy’s argument in its own favor. The second, and most important, half, of course, is that without Republican obstruction, the wonkocrats would lead us unimpeded into a new Golden Age.
The beliefs behind this audacious wager are even more presumptuous than they first appear. Initially, it seems reasonable to suggest that, relative to doing nothing, our biggest problems would be better addressed by letting our smartest experts direct our activity toward a solution. On closer inspection, however, that’s not the way the wonkocracy is apt to let a policy conversation develop. Rather than a free-ranging exercise in constant, pragmatic self-revision, the wonkocracy tends to celebrate and enforce policy consensus — the kind that “transcends partisan divides” and “gets beyond politics” — achieved as swiftly as possible and focused as strictly as possible
We may not see a House immigration bill until the middle of June.
This Douthat riff on tech leaders like Mark Zuckerberg is quite illuminating:
Just because powerful people support a policy doesn’t make it a bad idea. But given his (appropriately) jaundiced view of Silicon Valley liberaltarianism overall, it’s striking how little skepticism Packer shows about Zuckerberg and Co.’s promise that on this issue, Silicon Valley’s self-interest just happens to finally align with equal opportunity and upward mobility and various other good things. Especially since it’s relatively easy to see mass immigration as a prime example of the phenomenon that Packer elsewhere find troubling — a post-1960s trend that’s made America more diverse and inclusive but also more stratified and less solidaristic. In which case, the elite, bipartisan support for accelerating current immigration trends looks like a prime example of the phenomenon Goldman describes in his response — the way the new upper class embraces the “more diversity, less solidarity” bargain because it serves their own self-interest, and any costs are absorbed by people further down the socioeconomic ladder.
(Indeed, if you’re a tech mogul, the bill that the Senate is currently considering isn’t just a proposition that requires no sacrifice on your part; it’s a policy shift that arguably reduces your incentive to worry about other domestic social problems, because it makes it easier to look abroad for productive workers if America’s families and schools and neighborhoods aren’t buoying enough young people upward.)
The Senate Majority Leader is laying the groundwork for the next Republican administration:
Mitch McConnell had a problem. He needed to give President Obama, the man he had publicly vowed to make a one-term president, a nominee for the Legal Services Corporation. By law, the LSC, a Nixon-era 501(c)(3) tasked with providing legal aid to low-income Americans, had to be bipartisan; no more than six of its eleven members could belong to one party. By tradition, it fell on McConnell, as the senior member of the opposition in the Senate, to provide the president with a list of Republican names.
The trouble was that, as is often the case with putatively bipartisan bodies, the posts required nominees to meet certain ostensibly nonpolitical criteria that by their nature all but rendered the posts partisan carve-outs. In this case, McConnell needed to find a Republican who was “income eligible” for the available seat, meaning someone who earned less than 130 percent of the federal poverty line, which came out to a little over $14,000 a year.
As of 2014, gay members will be permitted in the Boy Scouts of America:
Over 61 percent of Scouting's National Council of 1,400 delegates from across the country voted to lift the ban, BSA officials said. The final tally was 757 yes votes, to 475 no. The ban on gay leaders was not voted on and will remain in place.
"This resolution today dealt with youth. We have not changed our adult membership standards. They have served us well for the last 100 years. Those were not on the table," said Tico Perez, BSA national commissioner.
Below is the text of Danielle Crittenden Frum's beautiful tribute to her step-father, Peter Worthington.
In Four Quartets TS Eliot wrote:
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
And this is where I want to start from: with Pete's end.
Of course the Civil War was about slavery
In October 1864, Robert E. Lee sent a proposition to Ulysses Grant.
In May and June of that year, Grant had chased Lee across Virginia in the murderous Overland Campaign. Union forces had suffered about 50,000 casualties; the Confederates, about 32,000. Yet that smaller Confederate total represented a higher proportion of Confederate strength, 46%.
Now, Lee's force were besieged inside the Richmond-Petersburg fortifications. Lee needed every man he could get to defend the lines, and he didn't have enough. He proposed to Grant that the two armies resume the prisoner exchanges that had ceased in the first half of 1863.
Despite his reputation as a ruthless practitioner of attrition warfare, Grant was amenable to Lee's request. By the fall of 1864, word of the horrific conditions at Southern prisoner of war camps - especially Georgia's Andersonville - had spread through the North. More than 100,000 men were held in camps on both sides, but more in the South than in the North. A presidential election was approaching, and anything that could be done for the benefit of the soldiers would redound to the benefit of the administration party. Grant imposed only one condition: black soldiers must be exchanged on the same terms as whites.
My son Nathaniel delivered this eulogy to his grandfather at Peter Worthington's funeral in Toronto yesterday.
When I was a young boy, I noticed on on our family visits to my grandparents’ house in Toronto that my grandfather Pete often sat in the living room to watch the Blue Jays game alone. Not by choice – but because no other member of the family was interested. One afternoon he noticed me sheepishly looking at the screen. I was not a baseball fan – I had never even watched a game before. Pete wanted to change that.
He called me over and pointed to the screen. “Nathaniel, you see that player on the screen? That’s Shannon Stewart. He’s up to bat. And you see that thing on his head? That’s a batting helmet. Do you know that Shannon Stewart has a phone in his helmet? Well I have that helmet's number – should I give him call?” I nodded.
Pete picked up his phone, dialed, and spoke into the phone. “Hi Shannon, it’s Peter, Peter Worthington, yes that Peter Worthington. If you can hear me tap your bat on home plate.” He did, as he did before every at bat. “I have my grandson here and I would really appreciate it if you got a hit for him. I know you can’t talk right now but if this next hit is for Nathaniel, take a practice swing with the bat.” Again, Stewart complied. He smiled and put his hand over the phone. “He owes me a favor," Pete said.
Your feel-good story of the day.
For years, the Jews and Muslims of Bradford [U.K.] have lived in close proximity to each other: Bradford's only remaining synagogue sits just 500 meters from the city's main mosque in the inner city neighborhood of Manningham. But the two groups kept to themselves. That is, of course, until the synagogue's roof started to leak and Bradford's Muslim community stepped in as a surprise donor for the repairs.