Sunday, August 11, 2013

Twitter Links -- August 11

Sunday reading about the Reza Aslan flap. 
This paragraph is, like a picture, worth a thousand words.  
In 1906, Albert Schweitzer—yes, that Albert Schweitzer—published a book-length review of dozens upon dozens of lives of Jesus produced from the eighteenth century through the very beginning of the twentieth, Von Reimarus zu Wrede: Eine Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung [From Reimarus to Wrede: A History of Research on the Life of Jesus], which appeared a few years later in English as The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede. A work at once erudite and mind-numbingly boring—I warn my students not to drive or operate heavy machinery while reading it, should they decide to spend in this manner hours of their lives they will never get back—Schweitzer’s Quest makes the decisive and incontrovertible point, through careful analysis of dozens of lives of Jesus written over a 200-year period, that efforts to reconstruct the life of Jesus are bound to fail both because the historical archive is so irreparably fragmentary and because every life of Jesus inevitably emerges as a portrait with an uncanny resemblance to its author. Schweitzer didn’t use these terms, but his point is that lives of Jesus are theological Rorschach tests that tell us far more about those who create them than about the elusive historical Jesus.

This is my bookmark to read the whole piece later. 
Five Post writers present over four thousand words. 
I guess they all want to keep their jobs. 
One summer day as a kid riding in the back seat of his grandparents’ car, the young Jeff Bezos, a natural at math, made a morbid calculation. How much was his grandmother’s life expectancy diminished by her cigarette smoking? 
As he had heard it, every puff took two minutes or so off your life.  Multiply that by the number of puffs per cigarette.  Multiply that by the number of cigarettes per day.  Divide the minutes to get hours, and then days, and then years. He tapped her on the shoulder.
“At two minutes per puff, you’ve taken nine years off of your life!” 
He expected appreciation for his arithmetic. But his grandmother burst into tears, and, in his own telling, an excruciating silence followed.  His grandfather pulled the car off the highway. 
“Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever,” he said.

The president would have us believe the gubmint was gonna do what Snowden was trying to get it to do, but he spilled the beans too soon. 
Yeah. Right. 
(But Juan Cole gives him credibility.)
Money quote -- 
"I actually think we would have gotten to the same place [without Mr Snowden's leaks]," Mr Obama added, "and we would have done so without putting at risk our national security". 
How that would have happened, without the intervention of Mr Snowden, is unclear. In a speech in May Mr Obama suggested that a review of surveillance policy was necessary "so we can intercept new types of communication, but also build in privacy protections to prevent abuse." But when senators asked for details about the breadth of NSA surveillance, they were stonewalled by the administration. When the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, was asked if the NSA collected "any type of data at all" on a large number of Americans, he simply lied.

Excellent thoughts.
Read them from bottom to top. 
I don't have time to curate them in order.
Teju Cole ‏@tejucole22m
I state the obvious not because you're slow but because I am. I write in order to misunderstand less.

7 The wish to help the poor must express itself as political understanding. Politics is the fire from which poverty rises like smoke.

6 Much is written about the emotional needs of those who help, but these articles say little about the political situation of the poor.

5 "Their" politics like "ours" is local, intricate, pervasive, involving habitus, argument, kinship, resources, religion, and economics.

4 Any effort to help the poor that disregards their political situation will be helpful only to the helper. And could hurt the poor further.

3 To be poor is not simply to lack money. Forgetting your wallet at home doesn't make you poor. Poverty is political.

2 The wish to help another who suffers is not only good, it is one of the best instincts a human being can have.

1 Listen. The poor suffer.

Seven thoughts on poverty.

Semi-long read here. 
Again, this is my bookmark for later close reading.... June 2009, six months before Congress would have to vote to reauthorize Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the Obama Administration claims gives the NSA the authority to collect records on basically every American citizen -- whether they have ever or will ever come in contact with a terrorist -- Senators Wyden, Feingold and Durbin sent Attorney General Eric Holder a classified letter "requesting the declassification of information which [they] argued was critical for a productive debate on reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act." 
In November 2009, they sent an unclassified letter reiterating the request, stating:
"The PATRIOT Act was passed in a rush after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Sunsets were attached to the Act's most controversial provisions, to permit better-informed, more deliberative consideration of them at a later time. Now is the time for that deliberative consideration, but informed discussion is not possible when most members of Congress - and nearly all of the American public - lack important information about the issue."
Did President Obama jump at the opportunity to embrace the democratic process and have an open debate then? No. Congress voted the following month to reauthorize the Patriot Act without debate.


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