Why the Russians are backing Assad

Azaz,_SyriaSecretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is in Moscow for negotiations, has said that Russia needs to choose between Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad and the United States.
One would think that Vladimir Putin would rather have good relations with the United States than Syria.  And what’s in it for Russia to help with the bombing of hospitals and other atrocities?John Hopkins International Affairs expert Vali Nasr explains Russia’s ties to Syria and to Assad, after the jump. [Read more…]

Why your shoelaces come untied

Shoelaces_02On April Fool’s Day, not at the time being able to think of anything better, tried the old gag on two of my granddaughters:  “Your shoe is untied!”

One said, “Nice try.  But I’m wearing sandals.”  With the other, her shoe really was untied.

I report my failed joke to introduce a fascinating bit of research.  Engineers have determined why and how people’s shoelaces become untied.

The action of the foot striking the ground loosens the knot and the swinging of the leg acts much like a hand pulling on the strings.

This discovery, detailed at a physics website after the jump, contributes to the field of “knot mechanics,” which turns out to be an important topic.
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The new Martin Luther movie

downloadMartin Luther:  The Idea That Changed the World is a film funded by Thrivent to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  First Lutheran Church in Ponca City secured a local movie theater and opened it up for free to anyone who wanted to see the movie.  (Go here to learn how to host a screening and for further information.  It will reportedly be shown on PBS.  I suspect its longer life will be on DVD eventually.)  So we attended the screening.

The movie is not a drama about the life of Luther, as earlier Luther movies have been.  This is a documentary with dramatic re-enactments.  There is a narrator throughout (Downton Abbey‘s Hugh Bonneville), with experts discussing the different facets of Luther’s life and career.  Meanwhile, we see these episodes acted out, with the requisite settings and effects.  I’m not a huge fan of this hybrid of documentary and drama, but this one works as well as I’ve seen.  Luther’s life is so interesting and so inherently dramatic that the narrative is gripping and entertaining, even though it is continually interrupted by the scholars.  (Review continued, plus trailer, after the jump) [Read more…]

Our superlegislature

Supreme_Court_of_the_United_StatesNeil Gorsuch was sworn in, informally, and has joined the Supreme Court.  A more ceremonial swearing in will take place later.  But he is already on the job, in time to hear some important cases.

In a column on the “nuclear option,” Charles Krauthammer observes that the Supreme Court has been turned into a “superlegislature.”  Liberals especially are looking to the court to achieve their political ends.

Liberal judicial theory says that the courts should honor “evolving social norms.”  But surely, Krauthammer says, elected representatives are in a better position to reflect evolving social norms.  Constitutionally, the judicial branch should instead be keeping all of these evolving social norms within the parameters of the Constitution. [Read more…]

The middlemen that survived the internet

abode-987096_640The internet has damaged travel agents, taxi drivers, retailers, and other industries.  But one set of middlemen have not been damaged at all:  real estate agents.

Though there is lots more real estate information online–e.g., Zillow–when people sell and buy houses, they still go to real estate agents, 5-6% commissions and all.

Either this is a niche that needs filling–if you can do so, remember me when you come into your billions–or this particular industry demonstrates the commercial limits of the internet.

Which is it?  What makes real estate agents immune from competition from the internet?

 

Illustration from Pixabay, Creative Commons, Public Domain

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The Jewish argument for “closed” Passover meals

Seder_PlateMany churches during Holy Week hold a “Seder” meal, a version of the Jewish Passover celebration that was the context for Christ’s “Last Supper” in which He established Holy Communion.

Those Christian seders are interesting in their symbolism.  But there are problems with Christians celebrating a Jewish ritual.  Not only are there Christian reasons not to celebrate the Passover, but there are also Jewish reasons.

This is explained by two Jewish rabbis writing in Christianity Today.  Their fascinating article shows an impressive understanding of both Christian and Jewish theology.  They point out that Jesus did not, in fact, eat a Seder meal.  He ate the Passover, but not the ritual as practiced by Jews and now some Christians today, which was started long after the destruction of the Temple.  They also explain why it is disrespectful for one religion to take over the rituals of another.

Their argument is sort of a Jewish version of what Lutherans take heat for in their practice of “closed Communion,” that those who commune together should be unified in their ecclesiastical community and in their confession of faith.  Call this “closed Passover.”

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