Pundit Wire

A Class Act from Bangui

President Catherine Samba-PanzaWith worthy competition, the Central African Republic may be the most miserable place on earth. Twelve per cent of its population is displaced, eight per cent are refugees in other countries, 54 per cent urgently need humanitarian assistance, 30 per cent of its schools and hospitals have been destroyed in recent conflicts, 7000 children kidnapped, and the per capita income has fallen from $461 in 2008 to $294 in 2014.

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The news summer from hell and the end of optimism

globe By this point in the summer, a sane person could reasonably conclude that the world is going nuts.  Spiraling out of control, descending into darkness, making optimism a delusional last recourse – that kind of feeling.

“What fresh hell is this?” – the question Dorothy Parker asked when her doorbell rang – now applies to the news.  If you’re staying informed, you’re licking the razor.  Unfortunately, not following what’s happening in the world isn’t really an option.  These horrors seize our lizard brains; we’re hard-wired to pay attention to danger.

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Brat — The protesting Protestant?

dave brat There’s an early Philip Roth story about a bunch of Jewish kids in Hebrew school trying to figure out whether Jesus lived or not.

“The Catholics,” Itzie Lieberman says, “they believe in Jesus Christ, that he’s God.”

Lieberman, Roth adds, “used ‘the Catholics’ in its broadest sense — to include the Protestants.”

I confess, when I was a kid in a largely Jewish town, I was similarly confused. I think I have it straight, now. But I was confused again this week, reading about Dave Brat’s surprising primary election win over Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA)…

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Five doubting dudes and the holy relics of Mount Mortality

800px-Mount_Athos_(7698222302) The trip was Sandy’s idea. His 95-year-old father is Greek, and though Sandy was baptized in the Orthodox faith, he would be the first to call himself an atheist. Two of us – Tim, an Englishman, and Adam, half English and half Swedish – are Christian, but only nominally. Geza, whose parents were Hungarian Catholics, is also an unbeliever, and vocally appalled by the historic carnage committed in God’s name. I’m Jewish. Though Adam dubbed us five the Mount Atheists, I hesitate to call myself that because of my ineluctable awe at the ineffable, at what Abraham Joshua Heschel calls “the inconceivable surprise of living”

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The ironic ma nishtana

passover If you’ve been to a seder, you know that the Four Questions are about things like why do we eat matzah instead of bread, and what’s up with this biting into a horseradish; they also prompt the telling of the Exodus story, which is the purpose of the holiday: to pass the once-we-were-slaves-in-Egypt legacy to the next generation.

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Discrimination isn’t part of religious freedom. Never was. Still isn’t.

JanBrewer_PresObama The “Religious Right” may characterize this as a matter of religious freedom. But where in any religion, especially Christianity, does it even suggest that treating some people as less than others is okay?

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Iran No-Spoiler Alert

iranSo where are we in the Iran narrative?

I mean no disrespect to the victims of Iran’s terrorist clients, or the existential fears of Israelis and world Jewry, or U.S. security interests in the Middle East by calling it a narrative. Real events do happen in the real world, but people can’t help trying to fit them into larger stories.  We love to connect the dots.  Storytelling isn’t some atavistic remnant of our pre-scientific past; it’s how our brains are hardwired.

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The Tea Party Luddites

dont tread Ask Tea Party adherents what inspires them most and many will say their reverence of history. Indeed it’s not unusual at Tea Party rallies to see bands of self-referential patriots dressed up in Revolutionary War garb, wearing tricorn hats and carrying their defiant Don’t Tread on Me flags.

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