The World Cup Comes to NYC

From R&K:

On a recent February night at the Irish Consulate in Midtown Manhattan, members of the New York Irish soccer community assembled in the chill for the inaugural Irish-American Soccer Hall of Fame awards. Diminutive pieces of smoked salmon on brown toast, mini shepherd’s pies, and bottles of beer flowed freely alongside conversations marked by thick Cork and Armagh accents. Peter Ryan, the Irish Deputy Consul General, spoke eloquently about the Irish immigrant community’s ambassadorial role in making New York a great soccer city while simultaneously introducing other communities to Irish culture.

The celebratory tone of the evening was buoyed by a special announcement by the President of the Football Association of Ireland, via video link from Dublin, that a pre-World Cup friendly between Ireland and Portugal was set to take place on June 10th in New York. It was a bittersweet announcement, of course, since Ireland has failed to qualify for yet another World Cup. During the actual World Cup later in June, the tens of thousands of Green Army fans who live in the Irish neighborhoods in the city—Woodlawn in the Bronx, and Sunnyside and Woodside in the Queens—will be left to root for their traditional ethnic NYC rival, Italy, against their historical occupier, England, when those teams meet in Manaus on June 14th for their opening Group D match.

Amazon’s Next Move

From The Guardian:

British authors have condemned as “deeply worrying” reports that Amazon is now pressing for improved terms from publishers in the UK, as its showdown with Hachette in the US continues to be played out in public.

According to book industry bible the Bookseller, to whom UK publishers spoke on condition of anonymity, Amazon is putting publishers under “heavy pressure” to introduce new terms. The Bookseller reports that these include the proviso that “should a book be out of stock from the publisher, Amazon would be entitled to supply its own copies to customers via its print-on-demand facilities”, and that “books cannot be sold for a lower price than Amazon’s anywhere, including on a publisher’s own website”.

The End of the NCAA?


There was one moment last Wednesday during the morning session in the trial of O’Bannon v. NCAA in which my head popped up like a Dalmatian in the backseat of a car. James Heckman, a Nobel laureate economist who was testifying on behalf of the defendants, was asked by Judge Claudia Wilken, the remorselessly efficient federal jurist who is presiding over the trial, to clarify something he’d said. Heckman had just answered a question about the central issue of the case: whether NCAA athletes like the plaintiff, former UCLA All-American Ed O’Bannon, have signed away the rights to their names, images, and likenesses to the NCAA based on its purported code of amateurism, and whether, by enforcing that purported code — even after athletes’ eligibility has ended — the NCAA has been acting in restraint of trade and in violation of antitrust laws. Wilken was curious about one point.

“Are you saying,” she asked Heckman, skepticism edging every word like a razor, “that being paid for your name, image, and likeness is the same as being paid for the activity itself?”

The Witches of Ukerewe

From Roads and Kingdoms:

In the shade of the mganga’s clinic, a mud-walled rondavel with two dead kingfishers drying from the eaves, the usual crowd of bedraggled patients waits for the medicine to take hold. Some have been here for weeks undergoing a course of treatment, sleeping on the floor at night in a tin-roofed hut donated by a grateful patient. Others stop by to make an appointment, which the healer logs in an A4 notebook alongside patient records, a menu of services, and a price list.

Dina Charles began to ply her trade as a traditional healer only three years ago, but under the guidance of her now-retired father she has already built a loyal following in her village on the southern shore of Ukerewe, a small island in the Tanzanian half of Lake Victoria. A diminutive, bright-eyed woman in her 50s with a green headscarf and a mobile phone dangling in a plastic orange pouch from her neck, her career began, she tells me, when she went crazy one morning and ran to the top of a nearby hill. After staying on its summit alone for two weeks, she ran down to the lake and immersed herself for a day in its waters. On emerging she climbed another hill, this one topped by a cross commemorating the murder of the island’s first European missionaries in 1877. Under the cross she found a Bible, which she picked up and carried back down the hill to her village to begin her new vocation.

The Power of Russian TV

This is interesting:

Staunton, June 21 Despite increasing use of the Internet, Moscow television has “a practically unlimited monopoly on the formation of the social-political agenda” for Russians, according to a Novaya Gazeta commentary on the findings of the latest investigation of media use by the independent Levada Center.

Many commentators have suggested or perhaps more accurately expressed the hope that rising rates of Internet use among Russians would break television’s dominance, but that is not the case generally and, what is more important, is not the case during times of crises in which their country is involved, Diana Khachatryan says.

The Novaya Gazeta journalist summarizes the report on “The Russian Media Landscape” prepared by sociologists Denis Volkov and Stepan Goncharov that was released earlier in the week on the basis of surveys conducted between 2009 and 2014.

The Levada report demonstrated, Khachatryan says, that “the Internet as a source of information cannot replace traditional media,” even in the Russian capital where Internet use is the highest. Instead, 90 percent of Russians rely on television for news, with only 24 percent using the Internet, and 19 percent relying on newspapers.

The Christian Church and Progress


The great achievements of the High Medieval Church, not only the cathedrals, but the university (a Catholic invention!) and the great monastic orders, took it for granted that to be the Church was to be at the vanguard of Progress, or at least at the vanguard of intellectual inquiry and innovation. Christians tend to look askance at “Progress”, but that is only because we no longer guide it. The monastics were nothing if not innovators, and the orders were the great startups of the day. The technological and other accomplishments of the great monastic orders are simply staggering.

One of the points that Wright made during the panel and makes frequently in his public speaking is that the Gospel preached by the New Testament Church was not so much about a moral philosophy or, worse, a way-to-get-to-Heaven, but rather, the announcement of a fact, the fact not only of the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ, but of the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the here and now and the existence of His Kingdom, which is not merely a future Heaven, but rather this very Universe, which will be utterly transformed in the Eschaton, but this eschatological future is anticipated and built in the here and now by the Church, and the Kingdom of Jesus Christ already exists, albeit in a mysterious way, in the here and now. This means that what Christians have to do in the here and now is, in Wright’s words, “Kingdom-work”, building the Kingdom.

The kind of bold, society-transforming, technologically-innovative endeavors that Thiel is talking about used to be seen as self-evidently part of “Kingdom-work” for the Church–but no longer.

The Wonder of the Russian Sword

HT to Tristyn Bloom for this one:

Due to its higher carbon content and special forging process, a Damascus steel sword had a distinctive surface pattern and particular strength. It could hack through iron and would not break even if severely deformed.

But since the steel did not react well to low temperatures it was unsuited to Russia’s climatic conditions. To solve the problem, Russian blacksmiths twisted together steel rods that were then hammered. Repeated ten times, the process yielded a Damascus steel sword with extra strength and flexibility. Long strips of iron were then welded to them to produce a blank blade to finish. Practically corrosion proof, these blades would go blunt but not break and would quickly resume their form if bent. A quality blade was judged by ear, a slight tap resonating long and clear. The sword was also expected to cleanly cut strips of thin fabric in mid-air.

Meet Britain’s White Working Class

From the Financial Times:

Sixty-odd years ago, May Snowden moved into the comfortable, green, working-class neighbourhood of Higher Blackley, in north Manchester. She had two sons and, after her husband died, she raised them herself. She used to know everyone in the neighbourhood. Aged 96, she’s still here – albeit now mostly in her armchair, with tea, biscuits and books at arm’s length. She doesn’t even cook any more, she complains. “You still cook in the morning,” corrects her neighbour, a retired bus driver, here since 1970. “I came in the other morning, and the gas was still on.” He and his wife are always checking on May. “We’d like to think someone would do it for us,” he shrugs.

Higher Blackley (pronounced “Blakeley”) is mostly inhabited by the white working class, a poorly understood group across western Europe. It’s a class hit by deindustrialisation, economic crisis and the crumbling of the welfare state. It’s the class that supposedly backed the anti-immigration populists who dominated last month’sEuropean elections. It’s a class typically depicted either as a joke or a threat. The caricature: half-witted racist scroungers in tracksuits milking the welfare state from their sofas.

Dreher comments:

Good luck trying to get the American left to talk about cultural breakdown as a prime contributor to the plight of the working classes of whatever race. Good luck trying to get the American right to talk about the free market (e.g., trade agreements) as a prime contributor to the plight of the working classes of whatever race. When you only want to hear what you already believe is true, you become like the man whose only tool is a hammer, and who therefore sees all problems as nails.

The End of Iraqi Christianity

From Foreign Policy:

I’ve been reading the headlines from northern Iraq over the past two weeks with an intensifying sense of dread. It’s a feeling very much like the one I have whenever I read about the disappearance of some huge ice sheet in the Antarctic or the extinction of yet another rare species of animal. It’s the feeling that one more valuable ingredient of life on Earth is about to vanish, in all likelihood, forever.

The takeover of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, by the jihadist troops of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is a catastrophe for the people of Iraq, who now face a revival of full-blown sectarian warfare, and a strategic and psychological nightmare for the United States, which sacrificed vast amounts of blood and treasure to topple Saddam Hussein and build a viable government — the latter, it would seem, in vain.

But over the past few days I’ve found myself mourning a more specific disaster: the flight and dispersal of the last remnants of Iraq’s once-proud community of Christians.