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Briefs

Friday, September 18th, 2020

“Recognizing that the Arab and Jewish peoples are descendant of a common ancestor…” — Let us savor the text of the Treaty of Peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Blessed are the peacemakers…

Monday, August 31st, 2020

Dore Gold explains that Arab nations have long held common cause with Israel. This is part of Mosaic Magazine‘s symposium on the Israel-UAE peace accords, and contains links to the other essays.

Sunday, August 16th, 2020

“A juggernaut of creativity, innovation and high-tech:” US national security advisor Robert O’Brien provides Hugh Hewitt with inside baseball on the American angle of the magnificent Israel-UAE Abraham Accords.

Saturday, August 15th, 2020

“From left field, a world-changing moment executed by the executive branch…” The Commentary Magazine podcasters speak to the historic Israel-UAE deal.

Friday, August 14th, 2020

Saturday, July 25th, 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Nixon Library to a new posture regarding China.

If we bend the knee now, our children’s children may be at the mercy of the Chinese Communist Party … securing our freedoms from [the CCP] is the mission of our time.

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

INSS responds to the Deal of the Century — they don’t like it, believing it to create more trouble than it solves. Instead they push for their own Strategic Framework for the Israeli-Palestinian Arena.

I think though they take this thing too seriously; surely it was only meant as a reframing, a shot across the bow to Palestinians that they better come to the table because the narrative they’ve constructed may not always be there.

Saturday, October 19th, 2019

A Beginner's Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations

Pico Iyer

♦♦♦

Written aphoristically, long-time Kyoto resident travel writer Pico Iyer provided me with a new view of a major people: that the Japanese exemplify Oscar Wilde’s catechism that style is substance, surface depth. One telling anecdote from his pal the Dalai Lama: when speaking to Western audiences, they perk up at the philosophy and tune out for the rituals; with the Japanese it’s the opposite. There are many more such reflections. One reviewer says the book is profound, and I guess that is the case, yes.

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

Succession as comedy. Obvious, given its producers, but still, nicely written.

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Meir Kraus, a fellow at the research center at the Shalom Hartman Institute, sets out challenges, lessons, options and insights for a balanced and feasible option on Jerusalem as part of a wider solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Monday, October 7th, 2019

Sunday, October 6th, 2019

Erdoğan’s Turkey, once again neither winning friends nor influencing people, this time trying it on around the Eastern Med gas fields.

Monday, September 16th, 2019

George Friedman is impressed by Iran’s recent attack on Saudi oil infrastructure, which “imposed a price on the Saudis for their alliance structure that, if it continues, they cannot pay. The attack also drove home to U.S. allies that their interest and the United States’ interest on oil diverge.” Yes but conversely while they lash out violently and the US responds only economically, they appear increasingly desperate, a not-good look with real-world consequences.

Sunday, September 8th, 2019

Israel should finally be a part of CentCom, Caroline Glick argues. “A future [increasingly hostile to Israel] Democratic president faced with a reality in which Israeli officials cooperate openly with their Sunni Arab counterparts under the aegis of the US Central Command, and in which Israel serves as a key partner in the development of offensive and defensive systems that are critical to the US, will not rush to abandon the US alliance with Israel.”

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Recordings of Reagan on the phone with foreign leaders — Thatcher, Assad, Begin. Very cool [from 2014].

What a dreamteam of Übermenschen now leading my three countries: Trump, BoJo and Bibi. Not since Reagan, Thatcher and Begin have we seen the like. It demonstrates that these societies still function in that the leader is found.

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Friday, April 19th, 2019

Monday, December 31st, 2018

How great to see some persuasive pundit prophecy: At the Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Jordan-born translator Abe Haak argues that the Palestinian Authority’s collapse is coming and in the ensuing violent anarchy Palestinians will rush to safe haven with friends in family in Jordan — and soon enough Jordan will instead come to them.

A Jordanian return to the population centers of the West Bank may seem merely wishful thinking, though it does seem to me the most likely long-term scenario (though perhaps will remain so indefinitely). By holding Area C and being patient for two generations Israel will have widened its narrow waist to a more defensible size without having to swallow a couple of million hostile people; shame Israel and Jordan couldn’t have come to such an arrangement during the aftermath of the Six Day War.

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

“Shouting ‘Peace, peace’ may actually push peace away,” argues game theorist and Nobel Economics laureate Prof. Yisrael Aumann, New York-born head of the Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality at Hebrew University.

This is just about common sense — by that I mean it’s only a single twist of what Edward Luttwak calls the paradoxical logic of strategy. Yet perhaps there are further twists; I suggested one back in 2003 in “Allah Help the Jackals”:

Perhaps Israel is following a subconscious national strategy of the strong, in which it behaves too meekly for a decade or so, emboldens its vicious but feeble enemies until they go too far, then lashes out in a now-obviously-justifiable response and gains untold assets in the process.

Not to mention that the more time goes by, the more Israel strengthens and the Palestinians weaken.

This subconscious national strategy of delay by dint of wanting too hard, if it ever were effective, seems to have played itself out now, as demonstrated by Israel’s shift of focus towards undermining UNWRA, which plays such an underlying role in prolonging the conflict.

What with the Sunni warming to Israel and the supremely sympathetic Trump Administration, Israel it seems believes that allowing the conflict to fester for gradual gain has now become counterproductive, and so seeks a new path to end it.

All that notwithstanding, nothing ends until the Palestinians begin educating their children towards co-existence alongside Israel.

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

Prince William will make the first ever official tour of Israel by a member of the British royal family (Jordan first though).

I think this is quite a big deal; Britain has complicated feelings towards Israel — to wit, the country’s non-appearance to date in 25 James Bond movies.

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

In the wake of America’s withdrawal from the Iran deal, an Israel-Iran war is unlikely but still…

Friday, April 27th, 2018

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un enters South Korea for a summit with President Moon Jae-in. They jointly plant a tree and sign a friendly declaration.

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Two pieces that capture the current state of play in the tinderbox that is Syria: “The Extraordinarily High Stakes in Syria” by Noah Rothman in Commentary (whom I usually find hard to read for some reason); and “How Putin’s Folly Could Lead to a Middle East War” by Jonathan Schanzer in Politico.

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn interviews Avi Gil, senior aide to Shimon Peres on his forthcoming book, The Peres Formula: Diary of a Confidant.

Gil: “Peres is a bitchonist. He sees first and foremost Israel’s interest, its existence, its survival. In terms of his life mission, to which he gave expression in no few conversations, he saw two mileposts: Dimona and Oslo.”

Sunday, April 1st, 2018

Michael Rubin at aei.org: Yes, Turkey has definitely become a rogue regime.

From my brief travels I came across the standard blue/red divide, but it’s more virulent in Turkey due to the revolutionary power of the local religion.

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

In the wake of the White House conference on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which the Palestinians did not attend, Noah Feldman masterfully lays out the land regarding Jared Kushner’s diplomatic push between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Noah on Abbas’s leverage: “In the end, the Arab states can’t actually sign a peace agreement without a Palestinian state signing it, too.”

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

On February 19th, Israeli natural gas companies announced a $15b contract with Egypt. These interlocking infrastructure interests enmesh Israel with her neighbors and provide for further possibilities.

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

Everything for the ride, the game, the thrill, perhaps the rugs. Paul Manafort, American Hustler in The Atlantic.

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Watching Mike Pence’s speech to the Knesset [transcript and video at Haaretz], Prime Minister Netanyahu can’t jump to his feet fast enough.

The US Vice President draws parallels between America’s and Israel’s stories. He sets a 2019 deadline for moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. And he recites Shehechianu in Hebrew.

This historic speech furthers the momentum of the new American way in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To paraphrase the Grateful Dead: More than this I will not ask.

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

The next step in the Trump shibboleth-marauding strategy for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal appears to have just happened: The President has threatened the Palestinians with withholding aid if they continue to refuse to come to the negotiating table.

These were merely tweets, a new lower level of presidential statement, but nonetheless they’re another demonstration to the Palestinians that they do in fact have things to lose by maintaining the conflict indefinitely. It seems a softening up before negotiations begin so that this time they will finally actually end with a deal.

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

In Mosaic, Martin Kramer tells the tale, set over lunch in Ein Kerem, of the closest Jerusalem ever got to internationalization. (At one point I found the internationalization of Jerusalem a heady and exciting notion—providing of course that the UN move its HQ there.) A most vivid history op-ed piece.

Monday, December 18th, 2017

This investigative piece by Josh Meyer in Politico depicts a DEA investigation into global Hezballah criminal activity undercut by an Obama Administration hell-bent on a deal with Iran.

Monday, December 11th, 2017

There has never been a West European post-Second World War policy in [the Middle East] except to await the American position and then stake out something more favourable to the Arabs.

Conrad Black, “The Palestinians should take what they can get while they can”

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

On the eve of US recognition of Israel’s capital, very much in-the-loop Ambassador Ron Dermer speaks (three paragraphs at a time!) to the Global Politico podcast.

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Yes, yes, yes — another nice one by Evelyn Gordon. Unusually, Trump’s UN speech did not even mention the Palestinians. The omission is the first diplomatic suggestion to them that they may have something to lose by intransigence. To date, the only policy I can think of that has served this purpose is settlements.

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

InspireConversation is the parenting blog of, together with his wife, Jason Greenblatt. He is the presidential envoy who accompanied Israel’s Head of Security Services to Jordan to defuse the recent Israeli embassy crisis there.

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Efraim Inbar provides the background to the hugely significant first-time-ever visit to Israel by an Indian Prime Minister.

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

Scimitar

Peter Niesewand

♦♦

In a bookstore this thriller paperback jumped out at me due to its familiarity; I had read it or author Peter Niesewand’s previous thriller Fallback decades ago as an early teenager and remembered it positively.

It’s Americans versus Russians towards the end of the Cold War, and disarmament talks are going on, but the Soviets have been cheating and using secret weapons in Afghanistan. Turns out this author did indeed spend time in Afghanistan, hence the persuasive veracity of the book’s second half. He was a white Rhodesian, a political prisoner, who became a rather glamorous and celebrated foreign correspondent for The Guardian. Sadly he died at the very young age of 39 — Wikipedia says from a disease he contracted in Afghanistan.

It’s fun to read this sort of thing once in a while, even if the protagonists are a bit plasticky. The passage of time arguably gives it more value, as it captures the concerns and conflicts of a particular period.

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

The Dispensability of Allies by George Friedman — probably the only required reading on President Trump’s upcoming visit to the Middle East, even if it is rather dismal.

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

Albeit behind Iran, Israel squeaks onto Walter Russell Mead’s list of the Great Eight Powers of 2017. It’s amazing that only one European country makes it here.

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Good point, yes. If under Trump it’s between the symbol of a U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem or the reality of continued building throughout the city—as it may well come down to—then the choice is clear, writes Nadav Shragai.

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

The world’s most (only?) prescient columnist takes a step back to show us where Russia and China are similar and different to America. This article is one for these new times, to be sure.

Ian Buruma on Brussels. I found it a pretty exciting city so when I saw this article I jumped on it (plus I vaguely remember being impressed by something else this fellow wrote) and it’s pretty sweeping and fun.

Saturday, December 17th, 2016

The New York Times attempts to embarrass Trump’s new appointment by linking to eight of incoming American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s columns in Arutz Sheva as if his words alone are enough to horrify. I for one though agree with everything he writes in these, except perhaps in “Time to Regroup on Iran” where he suggests hitting Hamas harder — not sure about that. I’m with him on J Street, and there’s great stuff on what he dubs the two-state narrative.

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

New British prime minister Theresa May’s first major decision was the nuclear plant at Hinckley Point and it seems she took the easy way out.

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

index topics diplomacy diplomacy

Denver Met

My intent here is not only to participate in a conference but to suck up myriad Americana as a thirsty exile catapulted back in for a primer.

Yes

It’s a Somewhat Rauschenberg World

I don’t like this use of animals, like Damien Hirst’s. The artist could not have asked the goat for permission so should not have assumed it was granted.

Black Tracks the Presidents

The great virtue of Conrad Black’s Flight of the Eagle is its steady track across the entirety of the nation’s history, treating each president equally under its own law and order.

Homepage Design 2016

No matter the screen size, a web site should feel like itself, even if it doesn’t look it. So do “mobile first” second.

Yes

From iPhone 4S to 6S: An Appreciation

The increased size, something I was so hesitant about, feels fine to me now. And because it’s thinner it feels less obtrusive in my pocket.

Spectreview

With the villain’s quasi-sibling bond to the hero, 2015’s 007 movie deflates to an incestuous Möbius Strip.

In Gaza, Israel Should Own its Terrible Tactic

Although such excoriating labels as “collective punishment” and “state terrorism” aren’t entirely wrong regarding Israel’s application of the Dahieh Doctrine in Gaza, history does suggest that the method is effective in fighting a fundamentally defensive war.

Go Deny Yourself

This four-letter little word undermines our modern values of tolerance and presumption of innocence.

Some Consumer Affairs

I’ve tried to enjoy schlepping water, thinking that it serves to keep us to some human roots.

Yes

From Nokia N95 to iPhone 4S

Annoyances and upsets with the iPhone 4S have been more than offset by its screen, the silkiness of its surfaces, the camera, and the third-party market for both software and hardware.

2001: A Space Odyssey: Dry, Juicy, Linear, Luminous

The dancers in the ape-suits; how they move is an incredibly energetic output for us. Contrast their physical reaction when witnessing the monolith to that of the astronauts in the newly-minted 21st century.

The Mouse and the Cantilever

Steve Jobs we lost at the age of 56; when Frank Lloyd Wright reached that age it was 1923, the time of merely his second comeback with Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel.

Friendship is for Weenies

It’s amazing, given the adulation he enjoyed elsewhere, that the Israeli public knew from the start not to trust US President Obama.

Before the Setup

It’s 1983: Go for the Apple IIe with 64k that could be opened up as a hobbyist machine? Or the smaller, sleeker and newer IIc with double the memory but a closed case?

At Modi’in Mall

There’s nothing else around here except empty desolate pretty hills. The Israel Trail passes by a bit to the west. The shops are mostly franchises, almost all homegrown: Super-Pharm, Aroma, Tzomet Sfarim, Cup O’ Joe’s, LaMetayel, Mega, Fox, Castro, H&O.

Yes

The Israel I Love, the Bad So Far

If the signage were a bit more effective, the staff’s diction and demeanor more professional, then we might have avoided this testy altercation.

Shanghai Europe

So, finally, we stopped yesterday; the Israeli assault on Gaza of late 2008/early 2009 is over. With it, Israel lost moral purity and made vital strategic gains.

Yes

Panning for MacBook Pro

Even if it did nothing, was just a prop in a futuristic movie, the MacBook Pro would be impressive; it’s like a sculpture of my previous computer, the MacBook, except it’s actually an improved computer!

Stop Yesterday

Is the goal of Israel’s current assault on Gaza to discourage Hamas from firing rockets or to render them incapable of doing so? These are two quite different projects.

Short-circuiting Place-based Longing

If there’s one tangible benefit to having lived in a variety of places it’s that it furnishes evidence of the futility of longing to be elsewhere.

A Crawl Across Crawley, Part 1

Irit, the Jam and I walk from Brighton to Gatwick Airport.

Clash of the Midgets

I was annoyed to have my sauna moments despoiled and dominated, reverberating with this old geezer’s most naff yap.

Yes

Israel’s Greatest Victory Since Osirak?

If Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was part of a masterplan to staunch the damage done by the victory of the Six Day War in 1967, then today we see another step in its unfolding.

The Small Adventures, Part 2

There in the empty restaurant by the water at Dieppe I had toast with foie gras, a carafe of red wine, a huge plate of mussels and chips, and finally a crème brûlée. Somehow, though I’ve eaten in restaurants hundreds of times, I felt grown up.

Yes

The Small Adventures

Late for the 11pm train to Milan, we enquired frantically among the taxis for one who’d accept the two dogs and take us to Termini Station so I could begin our journey to Britain.

Tony Blair and the Four-State Solution

Ariel Sharon’s disengagement policy reflected an understanding that ownership of the Palestinian issue is shared with Egypt and Jordan. If Tony Blair were to acquire this view, perhaps he really could help facilitate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A Restoration and Return

There she was, sitting outside the apartment block! How did she do it? Dogs—or at least Jam—must have some sort of navigational sense we don’t understand.

Curs to Fate

Yesterday I lost Jam in Villa Borghese, the central park here in Rome, some five miles from Talenti, the neighborhood where we’re staying. She has not turned up since.

Yes

Jam and Bread, Jam and Bread!

My dog Jam has spent over a third of her time here in Italy as her fixtures have fallen away—first Maddie, then me. But now I’m back!

Yes

This Trip’s Last Day

I went to Astor Place Haircutters. I crossed Manhattan Bridge on foot. I walked west along Canal St, seeking a bamboo steamer.

I, Thou and Pastor Bob

At the Calvary Church here in Fort Lauderdale the Biblical locations feel so far away that they can be abstracted and spiritualized. There is religious energy here.

Yes

The Big and Easy

The American stage is grand, as are the achievements and ambitions, but daily life seems lamed by a compulsive denaturing.

A Drop in Time

The camera hit the ground lens first, bashing it in so that it would no longer wind in and out, and couldn’t switch on. Without it, my perception of an important personal era was degraded.

A Ride to Gatwick Airport

Airports. They’re so charged, so symbolic, and so empty once you’re at one; I dream of them so often.

Only the Rustle in the Trees

Grief, loss — these are the great teachers surely. What one has will pass.

A Cabaret, Old Chum

It’s a last bastion of civility, being allowed to drink at Penn Station, Brian mused ruefully as we carried our beers to his train home to Great Neck.

Fatahland and Hamastan

Now Israel has a dog in a real Palestinian fight: the nationalists rather than the Islamists.

Yes

Stars, Stripes & Superlatives

Here in Los Angeles I am bombarded with superlatives. Daniel’s record collection. The Bikram Yoga College of India world headquarters. Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. All mixed in with the most ravaging mediocrity.

Shite on Brighton

“Like many provincial towns,” the Private Eye reviewer stabs, “Brighton, as depicted in this hacked-together tribute, defines itself more by what it isn’t than by what it is. It’s not London, for one thing.”

Daily Yin

For my first test of the day as day, I open the back door and step outside to the little patio to see the sky and feel the air. I realize not everybody does this, so if people tell me I’m a miserable bastard then perhaps this little habit will correct their impression.

Mind the Dream

Dreaming about our passed companions as if they are alive requires tricks to the dreaming mind to overcome what it believes and knows to be true.

The Dharma Tits

Buddhism is the philosophy and psychology closest to Cognitive Therapy and vice versa.

Yes

Still Got the Jam

Jam was one of Maddie’s nine puppies, the one who remained after the others were all taken. That was always my plan, to keep the runt.

Such a Tramp

Maddie, who died 18 months ago today, was a mangy mutt and stank, but she was also among the most beautiful dogs I’ve ever seen and for me the longest, richest, widest, deepest streak of feeling lucky.

So You Noticed

I have had something very flattering: a request. Juan Carlos has asked me for comments on Casino Royale.

Reminds Me of Tel Aviv

You get to a stage in life where you are already formed by the past. Thoughts and dilemmas about place are either central questions or a distraction from real issues.

Fly the Blag

Ryanair has brought wretchedness to the skies. Rather than existing on a privileged plane, you stew in a poisoned atmosphere.

Approaching Infinite Justice

Immediately after 9/11, the burgeoning war on terror was named “Operation Infinite Justice”. Within days it was renamed “Operation Enduring Freedom”, but is the new name a mere cloaking of the first?

On the Seventh Day

The Mrs is skeptical of David Allen’s Getting Things Done self-management system because it eschews the rigors of time management in lieu of what feels right. But GTD is about informed feeling.

Don’t Panic!

An academic romp through Jewish American comedy starts out as a veritable rollercoaster ride, but grinds to halt with its obsession with one Bob Dylan.

Photographing a Handsome Old Man

I want to get people in my pics, but it’s tougher when you’re no longer a wide-eyed teenager, because people generally don’t like to think they are a spectacle.

The Beauty of Rain

Rain makes the rocks shine. It puts in motion things that are otherwise static. It illustrates gravity most prettily.

Ode to Salame

It’s supposed to be the arsehole of Tel Aviv, Salame Street, running east-west at its southern tip, but it always does me darn good.

I Love Laundry

How pleasing it is to have my own washing machine. If all isn’t right with the world, not even in my world, at least the laundry cycle is functioning.

Lovely Scenery, But Walks Getting Boring

Unless I drive somewhere new, it’s not much fun to just step out the door and wander. But driving to go for a walk seems a tad ridiculous.

For Love of Economy

It disturbs me to be driving a car that gets fewer kilometers to the shekel than did my previous.

Shinui and the Seven-Year Itch

How refreshing to see Asian faces out shopping in Tel Aviv, or Africans riding the bus to Ra’anana. With them Israel is given fresh wellsprings of culture.

Allah Help the Jackals

While it’s obvious that overplaying your power can result in a downfall, it’s less obvious that underplaying it also leads to trouble. America did this in the 1970s under Carter. Israel seems to have done it almost perennially.

Yes

For Tel Aviv, Better a Skylift Than a Subway

Rather than copycatting a transportation system from the 19th century, Israel could inject into its civic planning the same audacity and resourcefulness that it has historically brought to agriculture and defence.

Yes

Canada Obscura

There’s not a patch of water to be seen—the most liquid thing is the word “Coffee” on one of the low-slung strip-mall buildings. It’s a scene more artful than art itself.

Tour of Kitchen Duty

There was yelling and spray and I raced to keep up. One can enjoy, briefly, the company of men.

Shiny Bright Toadstool

In Israel’s case, burgernomics don’t add up because significant factors contribute to the 30%-odd surcharge on a Big Mac.

The Fresh Jewels of Spring Mound

Quality of life in Tel Aviv is fundamentally enhanced by two simple factors: trees are everywhere, and so are apartments.

Independence Park Up for Grabs?

To this day men of many ages walk these bushes, they delicately lurk these bushes, and stand in places odd to choose.

We Tri Harder

A land could be governed not only by the three separate arms of government, but by three sovereign states.

Yes

Tira Saunters

The one-lane road is empty; down below is the Sharon Plain, looking vast. Israel may be a small country but we’re still speaking here of land.

A Call to Thumbs

When you hitchhike it’s out of your hands, and that’s therapeutic. Paradoxically, you also see how much control you do have.

 

Briefs (cont’d)

Sunday, September 20th, 2020

It’s obvious but still worth reading a quick piece about: the people for whom Israeli-Gulf relations is a boon most of all are Arab Israelis.

In due time, they stand to serve as excellent mediators for any further economic and tourism ties between the UAE and Israel.

I considered Jonah Goldberg overrated until now. On the US DoE calling out Princeton’s woke bullshit, he nailed it:

Princeton: Take our confessions of systematic institutional racism seriously but not literally.

Friday, September 18th, 2020

“Recognizing that the Arab and Jewish peoples are descendant of a common ancestor…” — Let us savor the text of the Treaty of Peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Blessed are the peacemakers…

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

Sunday, September 13th, 2020

This piece in The Federalist articulates how the American Left is projecting its own insurrectionism, nicely comparing their rhetoric to Southerners’ threats in the 1860 election should Lincoln win.

As author John Daniel Davidson writes, what they say “tells us less about what is likely to happen in the real world and more about the mendacious worldview, toxic prejudices, and treasonous imaginings of the elites themselves.”

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

Parathyroid surgeon Dr Deva Boone informs us on Vitamin D.

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

Friday, September 4th, 2020

With “Beyond the Face of Race: Emo-Cognitive Exporations of White Neurosis and Racial Cray-Cray” co-authored by Robin DiAngelo of White Fragility, I’m reminded of the totally nutty 1991 book The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing (5 stars with 1,109 ratings on Amazon!).

That said, this paper reads altogether more sanely than that earlier work, though its self-described parables are pretty darn vicious; perhaps it’s telling that they’re explicitly not by DiAngelo but instead credited solely to co-author Cheryl E. Matias.

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

Israel and UAE sign their first agreement in the normalization talks: on banking and finance.

Monday, August 31st, 2020

UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan signs an order cancelling the boycott of Israeli goods. May they acquire a taste for Osem soup almonds and Beit Hashita pickles!

Dore Gold explains that Arab nations have long held common cause with Israel. This is part of Mosaic Magazine‘s symposium on the Israel-UAE peace accords, and contains links to the other essays.

After a friend forwarded me a crazy conspiratorial post by a mutual acquaintance, I turned for solace to Richard Hofstader’s 1964 essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”.

I’m also reminded of Steve Jobs on the topic:

Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic; it is learned and is the great achievement of Western civilization.

Sunday, August 30th, 2020

A solitary voice suggesting Vitamin D, Matt Ridley in The Spectator:

The bottom line is that an elderly, overweight, dark-skinned person living in the north of England, in March, and sheltering indoors most of the time is almost certain to be significantly vitamin D deficient. If not taking supplements, he or she should be anyway, regardless of the protective effect against the Covid virus. Given that it might be helpful against the virus, should not this advice now be shouted from the rooftops?

I do believe that the Western media — and therefore Western society in general — is actively uninterested in a biological reason for why darker-skinned people are suffering more from the novel coronavirus; such a materialistic and addressable cause does not fit the fashionable angle of systemic racism. So who suffers?

Thursday, August 20th, 2020

There are many utilities for macOS window management (looks like the most hackable and maybe powerful is Jigish Patel’s Slate) but what I personally rely on is a combination of TotalSpaces2 to keep the Spaces functionality that came and I think went with OS X Leopard; SizeUp for the snap functionality most easily found elsewhere (Moom, Spectacle, Cinch, Divvy, Amethyst); and Zooom/2 for moving and resizing windows and toggling sloppy focus, which I’ve not found anywhere else.

The above link to Zooom/2 is not however to its homepage but to a disk image I just posted because Zooom/2 is no longer available, as I realized when setting up a new Mac. You’re welcome.

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

Sunday, August 16th, 2020

In his report of what we know so far on the Beirut explosion, David Wurmser unsurprisingly surmises that what exploded was a Hizbollah weapons cache. Perhaps the whole terrible tale will come to be known as FatimaGate and that we are witnessing, as Wurmser concludes, what “may indeed be the beginning of the end for Hizballah and the Syrian-Iranian Quisling government.”

“A juggernaut of creativity, innovation and high-tech:” US national security advisor Robert O’Brien provides Hugh Hewitt with inside baseball on the American angle of the magnificent Israel-UAE Abraham Accords.

Saturday, August 15th, 2020

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

Jordan Peterson

♦♦♦♦

Jordan Peterson has huge charisma, period, and his recent travails serve to render him even more human. His efforts to ground our current unmoored times (the chaos referred to in the title) in the fertile garden of our intellectual and spiritual heritage (the curative order) are the work of the angels.

The first of his 12 Rules for Life is Nietzschian, an evolutionary biological backgrounder for the maxim to fake it till you make it. The second is Rousseauian: we must love ourselves with amour de soi rather than amour-propre. But the whole thing — and particularly this second rule — is peppered with discussion of founts fundamental to me — Genesis, Taoism, Jung — so that the book feels like it fell out of my own mind, albeit a more disciplined, erudite, deeper version.

Either because of this over-familiarity or because the book is in fact junk food, I cannot remember anything of it as I revisit a few weeks later to write this. Is Peterson merely an Alain de Botton of the Right, a popularizer / informal codifier of what every self-respecting Westerner already knows? Either I need to pick up the book and start again, or perhaps stop reading everything else and get back to the Bible, Plato and Aristotle.

Commentary Magazine‘s Abe Greenwald speaks to the current revolutionary moment:

Because the United States is fundamentally good, most Americans may, in time, become circumspect about tearing it all down.

Here’s hoping.

“From left field, a world-changing moment executed by the executive branch…” The Commentary Magazine podcasters speak to the historic Israel-UAE deal.

Friday, August 14th, 2020

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

2020: an isolation odyssey by (in case you miss her name in the credits) Lydia Cambron. [Via DF]

It’s been a while since I’ve found use for the New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman. But this latest one is like the Friedman of yore, before degenerating into partisanship and pandering: he warns the United States that a polity such as Lebanon where everything is political cannot hold (never mind that the politicality of everything is a philosophical touchstone of the side to which he panders).

Wednesday, August 12th, 2020

Monday, August 10th, 2020

Friday, August 7th, 2020

Shamefully kowtowing to China, Israel has withdrawn a Ministry of Health public service video that humorously refers to the coronavirus as “Made in China (yet works properly)”. This isn’t going well is it?

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

Bahaa Hariri: “It is crystal clear Hezbollah are in charge of the Port and the warehouse where the ammonium nitrate was stored.”

Dave Seminara writes “When Your Favorite Companies Go Woke” in The Wall Street Journal (paywall).

I feel similarly regarding the homepage banners at Node.js (“#BlackLivesMatter”) and Linode (“Black Lives Matter. Linode is committed to social justice and equality.”), both of which I rely on for my work. There are substitutes for Linode, but none for Node.

Given what this American Spectator article contains — the transcript of the exchange between George Floyd and the arresting policemen before he was even on the ground and the toxicology report stating George Floyd’s death was in all likelihood due to an overdose — the shit gonna hit the fan whether the courts find police innocent or guilty.

On Vitamin D and Covid-19 [via Marginal Revolution]. If there’s any truth in the conclusion here — that vitamin D deficiency worsens Covid-19 deadliness by an order of magnitude — then surely it is criminally negligent to not be running public awareness campaigns encouraging people to take vitamin D supplements — especially for darker-skinned citizens, adapted to block out sunlight and consequently vitamin D, and especially in sunlight-challenged locales.

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

In wake of Phil Schiller’s ascent, Cult of Mac lists all the Apple Fellows.

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

This is gold. For Bar-Ilan University’s BESA Center, Kenneth S. Brower pens a blunt bracing comprehensive assessment “Israel Versus Anyone: A Military Net Assessment of the Middle East” with conclusions aplenty. Here’s one:

The Israeli political-military leadership has over-responded to the current tactical threat posed by Iran and its non-state forces and has all but ignored the looming potential strategic threat of renewed hostility with Sunni Arab nations.

Friday, July 31st, 2020

Soderbergh’s Raiders, so that we can marvel at Spielberg’s craft in staging.

The Smithsonian posts a nice little piece on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Laurent House, designed for the wheelchair-bound client who clearly adored his wonderful home, which is now thankfully a museum.

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

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It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work may be a business book but, like Peter Drucker’s best, I found it profound. We can forget that business itself is profound, the intended happy medium of most modern collective endeavor. For authors Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of the Basecamp organizational management software-as-a-service, business is the expression of philosophy. They counsel practicing it humanely, moderately and deliberately.

They establish authority with a first shock, an obvious idea you’ve almost certainly not thought of yourself: that a company should be considered a product, its employees the users. In fact this is a framing analogy for the entire book; like Nietzsche’s preface to Beyond Good and Evil positing that we suppose Truth be a woman, it throws wide open our thinking on our subject.

Another shock: they advise eschewing goals: “You don’t need something fake to do something real.” How shatteringly refreshing is that! Especially since my previous book was John Doerr’s Measure What Matters, which is all about goals. I had been excited for the Doerr book, but couldn’t finish it due to the sterile-speak of the case studies, which — unwarrantedly perhaps — undercut my faith in the concept. In contrast, Fried and DHH have the clear bracing style of successful coding entrepreneurs. This helps overcome the natural worry that going goal-less means a descent into hedonic anarchy, instead what they seek is appropriateness and authenticity. That said, I wonder whether this is the idea they’re most likely to step back from in future.

A third novelty seems downright crazy: they advocate not selling licenses by the seat, but by the organization. “It doesn’t matter if you have 5 employees, 50, 500, or 5,000 — it’s still just $99/month total. You can’t pay us more than that.” They leave this money on the table as part of deliberately designing the culture of their company (see the first idea); they don’t want to be dependent on a few large customers, nor create an internal cultural schism between serving small business and enterprise.

Similarly, they decided to stop accepting checks for payment just because it was a hassle, which did lose them some customers. This however is a less controversial notion, akin to Apple removing older technologies from new products despite their still being in widespread use and absorbing the hue and cry.

The authors also believe that the American-inspired work ethic of long hours is counterproductive and inhumane. Having worked at an Israeli software services giant I’m in agreement here too; at Amdocs if you went home after a mere 9 hours in the office you were perceived to be not pulling your weight (and, in my case, eventually laid off). And when I was temporarily attached to teams for international business trips, it seemed that all the team leaders were either divorced or in the process of becoming so.

Some of the authors’ values only apply to their particular industry. They make a claim for good enough rather than perfectionism — this is fine when your product is web-based software where one can churn out a fix at little cost, but not for many other high-value products such as cars.

In my small own small way I already practice much of what the authors preach. My only qualm is that while I love their philosophy, I’ve never much liked Basecamp itself.

Sunday, July 26th, 2020

Saturday, July 25th, 2020

Paul Graham is on the case and thank goodness. As an uber-geek he reduces the current cultural moment into a clear and bracing 2×2.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Nixon Library to a new posture regarding China.

If we bend the knee now, our children’s children may be at the mercy of the Chinese Communist Party … securing our freedoms from [the CCP] is the mission of our time.

Friday, July 24th, 2020

If we stopped testing now we’d have very few cases — or any.

US President Donald J Trump

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020

We’re humans; fun matters.

Derek Sivers

In their respective theatres of the Middle East, Europe and Eurasia, the prime strategic directive for liberal bulwarks Israel, Britain and the United States is to block aspiring authoritarian hegemons.

ASK

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

In an artificial world, only extremists live naturally.

Paul Graham, “You Weren’t Meant to Have a Boss”

The essence of programming is to build new things.

Paul Graham, “You Weren’t Meant to Have a Boss”

A normal job may be as bad for us intellectually as white flour or sugar is for us physically.

Paul Graham, “You Weren’t Meant to Have a Boss”

All races are equal but some are more equal than others. The Associated Press will not be capitalizing the word “white” when referring to race, but will do so for “black” and “indigenous”. This was quite the decision. I wonder if they’d do similarly within the Jewish context, ie “ashkenazi” vs “Sephardic” Jew.

 
 

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Newsroll

A quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian C. Anderson.

experiments in refactored perception

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