Satan, Transformers, Poker, Iraq, Michael Lewis, Theft


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Prince Of This World

Patrick Blanchfield | Revealer | 25th July 2017

Conversation with philosopher and theologian Adam Kotsko, tracing the genealogy of the Devil from the Hebrew Bible to modern times. “In the early centuries of Christianity, there was a durable minority position to the effect that the Devil would be saved. Ultimately that view was condemned as heretical. And the argument, such as it is, always boils down to the same thing: if the Devil can be saved, that misses the whole point of having the Devil in the first place” (5,020 words)

Transformers: Superheroes Of Electrical Inventions

Vaclav Smil | IEEE Spectrum | 25th July 2017

In praise of the humble transformer, unsung hero of power transmission, on which our grids and our gadgets depend. The Stanley transformer of 1876 remains the standard design. “It puts to shame all mechanical attempts at regulation, it handles with ease, certainty, and economy vast loads of energy that are instantly given to or taken from it. It is reliable, strong, and certain. In this mingled steel and copper, extraordinary forces are so nicely balanced as to be almost unsuspected” (700 words)

The Greatest Poker Player Of All Time

Liel Leibovitz | Tablet | 26th July 2017

Born 1953 with a photographic memory, died 1998 broke. “Over the course of his short and thunderous life, Stu Ungar, the greatest poker player in history and one of two people to win the World Series three times, made more than $30 million, and blew it on drugs, cars he rarely drove, and meals he consumed quickly and furiously. His personal hygiene was questionable. His understanding of monogamy even more so. Before too long, he was divorced, addicted, and strung up on blow” (1,060 words)

Military Coup In Iraq Ousts Monarchy

James Morris | Guardian | 26th July 2017

From the Guardian of 1958: Jan Morris reports from Baghdad on the military coup against the Hashemite royal family. “The British Ambassador sits calm but anxious in a suite in the Grand Hotel. A troop of Iraqi soldiers guard the scarred British Embassy. The dear old London buses still lurch down Rashid Street and the British still drink their gin happily enough in its bars; but behind the familiar façade of the city, that mercurial mixture of the sleazy and the brilliant, all is changed and all is blurred” (820 words)

The Scariest Nuclear Threat

Michael Lewis | Vanity Fair | 26th July 2017

Pleading in favour of the US Department of Energy, which maintains and guards America’s nuclear arsenal, and hunts down weapons-grade plutonium at loose in the world. The Trump administration has shown no interest in the department save to appoint a cabinet secretary who wants to abolish it. “Does anyone in the White House really understand what the Department of Energy actually does? And what a horrible risk it would be to ignore its extraordinary, life-or-death responsibilities?” (12,000 words)

Multi-Party Kleptocracy And Illiberal Democracy

Branko Milanovic | Global Inequality | 22nd July 2017

Illiberal democracies are run by régimes which allow some limited political competition but profess anti-liberal values. Putin’s Russia and Erdogan’s Turkey are prime examples. Observation strongly suggests that the “values” are required mainly to fool the voters. “Values are invented to provide voters with a feeling that they are indeed voting for some distinct national program, while the real objective of the party of power is to control the state in order to steal” (1,000 words)

Video of the day: Franco Pascali

What to expect:

Portrait of a young magician specialising in card tricks, full of astonishing moments (3’51”

Thought for the day

Every decision is liberating, even if it leads to disaster
Elias Canetti

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