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The Inspector iPhone 6S Kiryat Ono, Israel Sunday, October 2nd, 2016.

The Inspector
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The Inspector iPhone 6S Kiryat Ono, Israel Sunday, October 2nd, 2016.

•••

About

Briefs

Thursday, October 5th, 2023

From the Center for Peace Communications, a thinktank led by Dennis Ross, this amazing litany of regional grassroots cooperation with Israel.

Thursday, March 2nd, 2023

A State at Any Cost: The Life of David Ben-Gurion

Tom Segev

♦♦♦♦

Just as author Tom Segev relates that Ben-Gurion increasingly harked back to the episodes that shaped him in his earlier life, so too are these episodes more vivid to us than later ones. This would be fine and even impressive as a literary gambit, having the reader feel about Ben-Gurion’s life the way Ben-Gurion himself did, but at least for this reader it was somewhat disappointing in that it’s the later events — founding and leading the State of Israel — that we are reading for. But again, this too may be a literary achievement, suggesting that for the subject of this biography, it was the younger man’s experiences that were important — and that by extension this is the case for all lives. But I’m not sure that’s accurate; surely the ambitious younger Ben-Gurion would have been overjoyed at the eventual achievements of his later self.

It’s a strange complaint to make, but I feel this book wasn’t long enough; each of the many episodes, particularly the later more historic ones, I felt could have withstood more detail.

I was pleased to learn of Ben-Gurion’s erratic behavior and attitude towards his family, and of his penchant for travel and mild but somewhat constant womanizing, and his growing intellectualism alongside faddishness. Segev concludes that Ben-Gurion’s philosophical disposition is basically that of Anglo-American liberal; all to the good. Almost. The implication is that this temperate poise made him the wise indispensable man, but also open him to more exciting dead-end intellectual enthusiasms.

Friendships, sex, religious relations, despair — the richness of the subject matter’s life encourages in the reader a life in politics as it’s a life in full.

Wednesday, August 31st, 2022

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Neil Postman

♦♦♦

Entertainingly caustic albeit a tad ad nauseumly, Neil Postman’s famous book regales us with at least one important historical fact and one historical idea.

The fact: that before showbusiness, Americans were by far the world’s most literate, informed, engaged population, whereas today it must be said have a reputation abroad for ignorance.

The idea: that even while powerful technologies are mindless and agnostic, each nonetheless has its own nature that pushes society in particular directions. Postman argues mostly convincingly that print is healthy for society, television not.

Just like the self-help gurus pointing out that it’s better to totally goof off than do busywork because at least leisure doesn’t feel like work and thereby misguide the mind, so Postman prefers straight-up entertainment shows like Hart to Hart to those that pretend to inform like 60 Minutes.

Now, the book was written in 1985 and is about TV; the big question is what Postman would have thought of the Web and social media. He does write that the potential influence of computers is overrated, which reminds us that nobody’s infallible (which does undermine the book’s credibility, so kudos on the publishers of later editions in not cutting out these throwaway few words).

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

Jonathan Haidt is wise enough to note that it is mainly America, not necessary the rest of the world, that has gone particularly mental the past decade. Haidt blames social media. But the word “marriage” does not occur even once in the article, despite the decade having seen same-sex marriage transformed from oxymoronic absurdity to self-evident cudgel. If a human institution so deep — deeper than the nationstate, than monotheism, even than history itself — can be so decidedly upended, then what chance has anything else of standing, the collective subconscious must wonder.

Monday, February 14th, 2022

Marc Andreessen has just tweetstormed a section of an Ayn Rand lecture on the contrast between the tribes of Apollo 11 and of Woodstock. Whilst I commend his pro-Deplorables stand, I do feel that as one of the fathers of the age he could be utilizing his mystique to do more, starting perhaps with banging heads in San Francisco. During a recent podcast interview with I forget whom, he dismissed laughingly the prospect of running for office; perhaps he should reconsider. Also, just for some rounding, he might want to read Mailer’s Of a Fire on the Moon, surely an Apollonian who yearns for the Dionysian.

Thursday, February 3rd, 2022

I’ve been hoping to read a headline like this: “Ministers urge Boris Johnson to rethink net zero plans as cost of living crisis bites” in The Telegraph.

It’s great to be pushing towards renewable energy sources, not because of the climatist calumny but because of the wonderful fact that renewable energy will eventually become a lot cheaper than fossil fuels ever were. As J. Storrs Hall writes in the his transformative Where is My Flying Car, “Counting watts is a better way to measure a people’s standard of living than counting dollars.”

I do understand that sometimes a fire must be lit underneath our collective feet to get things moving, in this case the tarring and feathering of fossil fuels (an unfortunate phrase to be sure). Without this cultural move little might have happened in renewal energy innovation due to the massive interests of energy incumbents.

Meanwhile national leadership’s responsibility is to get this balance right. Deliberately fostering energy poverty is folly, not to mention sadistic — and has real deleterious geopolitical consequences. Nothing is free, especially that seemingly cost-free thing we increasingly swim in, ie, bullshit, rife with opportunity costs. As pleased as people are to wave utopian ideals and do our little bit, we prefer the political party that enables us to heat our homes.

Wednesday, December 8th, 2021

The Man with the Golden Gun

Ian Fleming

♦♦♦

Surely I’ve read The Man with the Golden Gun before, given that this mangy old paperback has been on my bookshelves since 2006? Perhaps, but I remember nothing.

Some scenes that seem somewhat vivid for now:

  • The middle: James Bond meets kind-hearted Tiffy, the manageress of a Jamaican cathouse, before finding Scaramanga, who promptly does something totally awful
  • The end: As Scaramanga’s temporary assistant, James Bond machinates and maneuvers around the underfunded hotel that the assassin is building
  • The beginning: M ruminates over his decision to send Bond after Scaramanga

Right now the best part seems to me M’s internal monologue after a brainwashed James Bond, back in London after imprisonment in Russia, fails to assassinate him at his desk (a glass screen plummeting down from the ceiling to block the poison Bond has fired, foreshadowing the spirit of gadgetry to come in the movies).

In wake of this domestic excitement, as M calls it, he decides to send Bond after Scaramanga, who has killed some British agents, figuring the Double-O will either succeed in killing the fellow and thereby redeem himself, or conveniently die trying.

Chief of Staff Bill Tanner thinks this cold-hearted, as Scaramanga is so dangerous. M takes a solitary lunch at his club Blades, troubled presumably over both the event and his subsequent decision, but we are only privy to his thoughts once on the ride back to the office, when he reassures himself that his decision really was wise — indeed he almost can’t believe that his instant instinctual choice stands up so well to scrutiny. This is our glimpse at leadership. The rest of the novel — and the entire series — is our exploration of manliness.

In the movie we lose this brief inner turmoil from M, but we gain a more impressive (though not sufficiently so) Scaramanga in Christopher Lee, who is as suave as Fleming’s assassin is lunky; and we get fabulous Thailand instead of, yet again, Fleming’s Jamaica. To make a long story very short, we’re rather missing Nick Nack.

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

At Starter Story, Ed Baldoni, founder of Concrete Countertop Solutions, tells the story of how his business has reached $1.1m in monthly revenue.

I was a developer/ home builder for over 40 years. As a builder, I was always looking to stay ahead of the curve and offer new ideas to my clients … Our Z Counterform System for countertops and Z Poolform System for concrete pool coping are the go-to solutions for cast-in-place concrete forms. With a small but dedicated team, we grew this business from an idea to over $12M in revenue in 10 years.

Exciting story, exciting product.

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021

The proper dosage of hierarchy is just barely enough to vitalize a very large collective.

Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable

Monday, July 19th, 2021

Via Hacker News, “The Eleven Laws of Showrunning” by Javier Grillo-Marxuach is so beautifully written and serves as a primer for management of anything

As special and wonderful as creativity and process may be, they are assets that can be channeled, managed, made to work on call, and sent to bed at a decent hour.

Since I’m currently watching Disney Gallery / Star Wars: The Mandalorian, showrunners Jon Favreau and David Filoni appear to exemplify the virtues.

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

The Guardian posts an excerpt from Gillian Tett’s Anthro-Vision. Regarding working from home, a senior trader at JP Morgan observed:

The really big problem was incidental information exchange. “The bit that’s very hard to replicate is the information you didn’t know you needed,” observed Charles Bristow, a senior trader at JP Morgan. “[It’s] where you hear some noise from a desk a corridor away, or you hear a word that triggers a thought. If you’re working from home, you don’t know that you need that information.” Working from home also made it hard to teach younger bankers how to think and behave; physical experiences were crucial for conveying the habits of finance or being an apprentice.

Monday, June 14th, 2021

Friday, June 11th, 2021

Via Hacker News, and in the grand spirit of Charlie Munger’s edict to “Invert, always invert,” this is Julio Merino on “Always be Quitting”.

So what does it mean to always be quitting? It means “making yourself replaceable”; “deprecating yourself”; “automating yourself out of your job” … The key lies in NOT being indispensable … Paradoxically, by being disposable, you free yourself. You make it easier for yourself to grow into a higher-level role and you make it easier for yourself to change the projects you work on.

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Top 20 racing cheats by Preston Lerner at Hagerty, a reminder that rules are made to be… stretched.

Saturday, March 6th, 2021

Cal Newport takes on GTD in the run-up to his new book against email as the world’s abysmal task management system.

The piece does start like a Tad Friend-esque hatchet job on Merlin Mann but that’s just a way to appeal to your squalid New Yorker reader.

Friday, December 11th, 2020

I’ve been surprised and disappointed by just how many people are hesitant to take up the COVID-19 vaccines now coming online. In this concerned Nautilus article “How to Build Trust in Covid-19 Vaccines”, the authors take on the issue with sober good sense, eg:

Mandatory vaccination policies should be avoided because they could backfire. More acceptable would be tying vaccination status to travel or access to public places.

Sunday, November 15th, 2020

“How to Get Your First Customers So Your Company Doesn’t Die” by Matt Munson, a startup founder coach and investor. Some nice nuggets here, such as hiring salespeople in pairs so that you can compare them and be sure any issues are with individuals rather than the system.

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

♦♦♦♦

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

Monday, July 13th, 2020

Measure What Matters: OKRs: The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth

John Doerr

♦♦

I stopped reading John Doerr’s Measure What Matters some halfway through because I couldn’t take any more of the stilted archaic business-speak in the case studies. And because the ideas presented — barring the occasional mild insight — seemed too obvious.

The two insights of value to me: that sub-goals, what Doerr terms the Key Objectives (I think — I still have to keep referring back — nope, it’s Key Results), should be an artful balance between quality and quantity. And that despite the importance of results tying in to objectives and thereby be set top-down, some lassitude should be allowed for results to be set bottom-up.

The book could have benefited from having its ideas framed in terms of the Tao, since everything here is in complementary pairs — even the duality of overarching goal and its constellation of objectives. Instead we have an acronym OKR that still didn’t help me remember the two simple constituent terms.

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Amalgamated from a dialog in the comments at a Marginal Revolution post “How to Live in a World Gone Mad?”:

The mob is saying silence is violence. Funnily enough, the mob also says speech is violence. They also say violence is not violence.

Fun, fun, fun!

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

The comfort of having an organization is largely illusory; it still comes down to one programmer in the end.

Jordan Mechner, The Making of Prince of Persia

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

The eleven days in question are 12th–23rd March. Eleven days in which the [UK] government decided to give up with contact tracing and do, well, nothing. Mass gatherings were still allowed (because “science”). Concerts and racing and Champions’ League football. Pubs. Public transport. Everything. The over-70s, it must be conceded, were advised to avoid cruises.

Sunday, March 1st, 2020

Venkatesh Rao’s Into the Yakverse is just too disgustingly awesomely good. Think the tone of David Goldman’s visits to Cardinal Richelieu, along with the cynical wit of top Armando Iannucci satire, and the light momentum of an Eliyahu Goldratt business novel.

Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of an Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader

Brent Schlener and Rick Tetzell

♦♦♦

Although the simple thesis gets repeated interminably, nonetheless it’s a nice one: that Steve Jobs’s greatness stems muchly from his constant becoming, constant learning, constant trying to overcome himself (hence the title, which can be read as descriptive).

It’s great to be in his company, which you feel you are, as one of the authors was himself repeatedly so for decades.

One thing new to me was Pixar’s role in maturing Jobs; we don’t often read about who and what shaped the shaper.

Friday, February 28th, 2020

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Peter Drucker

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

Quite the overview: “The Real Class War” by Julius Krein, editor of American Affairs.

The real class war is between the 0.1 percent and (at most) the 10 percent—or, more precisely, between elites primarily dependent on capital gains and those primarily dependent on profes sional labor.

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

Starting from WeWork, Matt Stoller coins “counterfeit capitalism” as the Amazon model: “take inputs, combine them into products worth less than their cost, and plug up the deficit through the capital markets in hopes of acquiring market power later or of just self-dealing so the losses are placed onto someone else.” It is, he argues, terrible for society as a whole.

Monday, August 5th, 2019

Saturday, April 6th, 2019

Venkatesh is a treasure, what with his “Jonathan Livingstone Corporation” on solving not for money but aliveness.

Saturday, September 8th, 2018

Friday, August 24th, 2018

“Modelling Process Intensive Scenarios for the Smart City” [PDF]. In this paper by professors at the computer science department at the University of Camerino in Italy, the authors discuss BPMN (and bpFM, which I’d never heard of before) in the context of municipal services, specifically bike-sharing.

Another perspective on bike-sharing, this time re usability, by mobile-first thought leader Luke Wroblewski.

“Service Design 101”, a primer by the Nielsen Norman Group.

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

From 2014: The Economist introduces us to Sebastian de Grazia’s 1962 Of Time, Work and Leisure. Increasingly, leisure is not for the rich but for the poor.

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products

Leander Kahney

♦♦♦♦

In what seems a common pattern, Jony Ive started early, eschewing the liberal education of say Oxbridge, instead selecting the most renowned college in the field in which he was already winning prizes: industrial design. And this great achiever of our times grew up under the happy and mighty influence of his father, an educator who rose to prominence due to character and a drive to bring design literacy to British education.

The bulk of this book about Ive constitutes one of the stronger, more detailed histories we have of Apple itself, told mainly from the perspective of the IDg, the internal design group he leads. We learn for instance that in order to meet Steve Jobs’ deadline for creating the iMac — the first product upon Jobs’ return and which revived the company — they needed to streamline the product process by making the files of the design software interoperable with those of the manufacturing software.

Someone says Ive is even less replaceable at Apple than Jobs. This isn’t quite fair because Jobs worked to make himself replaceable. Let’s hope Ive does as well.

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

Inside Apple

Adam Lashinsky

♦♦♦

Engagingly written albeit disappointingly somewhat thin, the useful angle here is how Apple differs from conventional wisdom.

Secrecy, even internally, is paramount; it helps alleviate internal politics and keep people focused. There is little internal promotion, taking seriously the Peter Principle. Unlike the rest of Silicon Valley, perks are minimal; working at Apple is the perk.

A product of its time (2012) and of the author’s lack of access, the book is marred at the end by pessimistic obsession with Apple’s viability post-Jobs, but is nonetheless ultimately worth reading because it does convey an impression of what Apple is like.

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

When Google analysed their hiring, they were surprised to find that “among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last.” Instead, “The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills.” One smart commenter points out that since everyone will have the STEM skills anyway, these other things are the only differentiators.

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

Value-Driven Business Process Management

Peter Franz & Mathias Kirchmer

♦♦♦

Enlarging on their idea that 80–85% of process improvements come from just 15–20% of processes, the authors argue that organizations must institutionalize BPM like other now-standard departments such as accounting and human resources.

They explain the mission of such a department (effective organization-wide process improvement), the goals (to determine which processes to focus on and which techniques to use for each) and the method (a series of rubrics for evaluating).

Important though the book clearly is in the field, for me it was a slog; the prose is not crisp and the examples seem vapid — though it’s likely that for a reader more versed in the practice they would come more alive. The book does get more quotable and unabashedly enthusiastic towards the end.

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Real-Life BPMN: With introductions to CMMN and DMN

Jakob Freund, Bernd Rücker

♦♦♦♦

With their years of experience as business process management consultants—and now vendors—the authors choose “real-life” as their approach, explicating their own methodology for delivering BPM projects. This book serves as invaluable guidance for newer practitioners.

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Trump: The Art of the Deal

Donald Trump with Tony Schwartz

♦♦♦

This chatty, self-serving, very likeable book is arguably necessary reading today, now that the man has climbed to the pinnacle of life.

In buying the Commodore Hotel in midtown Manhattan, his first major success, he had to juggle getting the money from the bankers and permission from the city (though the book’s account glosses over the help he received from his father calling in favors). Each step forward with one party in the deal encouraged progress with another party. This iteration seems to me a fundamental part of the art of the deal: aiming higher than seems reasonable, bringing multiple parties to something they would never have come to otherwise, then inching forward by presenting progress with one party to another party to create confidence, iterating until everyone is aboard.

A must-read coda to the book is the July 2016 New Yorker article with the equally-billed ghostwriter Tony Schwartz wherein Schwartz expresses huge concern about the man he knows well.

Monday, June 19th, 2017

Words of wisdom from Jacques Mattheij: How to Improve a Legacy Codebase (for the computer geeks only).

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Anti-fragile: Things that Gain from Disorder

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

♦♦♦♦♦

I’ve been listening to the Commentary Magazine podcast lately, enjoying John Podhoretz’s knowledgeable and intelligent monologues, even if regularly exasperated by their ideological blinkers. This week their discussion reeked of black swan events but they fumbled around for the logic that applies. It was obvious that none of the three speakers had read any Nassim Nicholas Taleb, otherwise they would have had the framework and could have moved on. That made them seem ignorant. Which makes you realize these books are seminal. Yes there are irritations, but perhaps these will fade from a more distant perspective. There are echoes here of the iconoclastic spirit of Nietzsche — can there be higher praise?

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

The illusion that we understand the past fosters overconfidence in our ability to predict the future.

Daniel Kahneman

Monday, April 11th, 2016

There’s nothing worse than organized disorder.

Irit Levy

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

The Practice of Management

Peter F. Drucker

♦♦♦♦

Talk about a dent in the universe! This classy Cold War tome cuts it open to demand space for a new thing: management. The universe complied.

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

According to Michael Schrage in “Whether You’re Qualified Depends on How You’re Quantified”, being a paid-up participant in the Quantified Self movement will soon be a requirement for getting a decent job. “Best-in-class performers are relentlessly dedicated to measurable self-improvement,” he writes. “Consequently, they relentlessly self-quantify.”

index topics management management

Israel–Iran Proxy War, Day #50

Midway through the hostage deal and ceasefire are two concerns: will the ceasefire become permanent, letting Hamas remain in place? And on what basis does US support for the war rest and will it continue?

Simchat Torah War, Day #17

The US sent an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, Israel postponed its ground incursion, and the Western media acknowledged its erroneous reporting.

Arab Insanity Pull-up

What shame, to have degraded with one’s own madness such benevolent standards as civil aviation, human rights — even non-combatant status in war.

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

Even if a web site appears differently at different screen sizes, it should still feel like itself. On a larger canvas more expression abounds; distill this into the smaller screen and get more personality; 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)

Tuesday, July 9th, 2024

Thank you Rusto Reno, editor of Feisty Things, for this articulation towards the end of this podcast episode:

The liberation project is a utopian project that doesn’t have any limits. And moreover, if you can redefine husband and wife, why can’t you redefine men and women? I mean, if we can redefine marriage, the primordial institution of society that is more fundamental than any particular form of government, it’s universal across all cultures, then if you can redefine that, then I don’t see how you can object to people redefining what it means to be a man and a woman, or for that matter, to redefine anything.

Thursday, July 4th, 2024

There is not one UK political party that expresses the main stances I value:

  • Get back into Europe: Brexit is a silly nonsense; Britain’s historic role is offshore balancer to Europe, and how better than deep within its regulatory institutions.
  • Be economically sensible: Look back at and reapply what worked in the 20th century: top-notch educational opportunities for less privileged people paired with business-friendliness.
  • Support Israel properly: I mean not “staunchly” like the Conservatives say but barely do; I mean get ahead of the USA and Germany and be Israel’s most reliable ally as a fellow smaller world-historic democracy always working for true liberalism. And I also mean: find an independent way to be relevant and helpful in the Middle East. Both Jordan and the Gulf states look to Britain I believe as a senior partner; these are hugely important players who would do more if Britain had their backs; and France might see that and in turn play its part, maybe even in new Anglo-French joint initiatives with yes some boots on the ground.
  • Jettison the bollocks: Rigorously and vigorously dispatch with the medievalist self-mutilation that is political post-modernism, including both the extreme rights-based Orwellianism eroding actual liberalism, and the climate apoplexy eroding actual science (there are less oppressive and destructive ways to foster energy innovation).

Theoretically the party closest to all this are the Conservatives, but in practice not so much; moreover they are the cause of the top mess with their Brexit business — Britain is a European nation, not a semi-continent unto itself like a USA or an India, and now that the Britain-led industrial revolution and resulting empire is long gone, it’s folly to presume and proceed otherwise.

Saturday, June 29th, 2024

Archly-written summary of the Trump-Biden debate by Jenny Holland in Spiked:

Call me naïve, but I don’t think sister-on-sister rape – and the resulting offspring – is the national problem that Biden seems to think it is.

But she concludes more darkly:

The media’s complicity in the disaster that America now finds itself in must never be forgotten. Or forgiven.

Sunday, June 23rd, 2024

1948

Benny Morris

♦♦♦♦

First bought and read a dozen years ago, and mostly forgotten, I returned to Benny Morris’s 1948 now during the post-October 7th Israel-Gaza conflict, for which 1948’s War of Independence serves in a number of ways as a distant mirror. Although 1967’s Six Day War seems to loom larger in consciousness, 1948 was the big one, the epoch-definer.

Even back then, Israel labored under a diplomatic situation where it was held back from victory. This time around the Palestinians have different weapons: no Arab armies, but lopsided savagery, projectile warfare, a dedicated sponsor and participant in Tehran, Western cultural cognitive decline, and lawfare from a corrupted globalist establishment. The book, with its encyclopedic ambitions, suffers from one sin of history: it does not elicit mental images of many of the events it describes, such as the battles around Gaza between Israel and Egypt. That said, it’s a vital primer.

Saturday, June 22nd, 2024

I used to be an intellectual but now I’m a conservative.

Mike Doran

Tuesday, June 18th, 2024

Niall Ferguson’s inaugural Free Press column: Are We the Soviets?

Monday, June 17th, 2024

“I, for one, have had my fill of the old Bard of Stratford on Avon,” writes Joseph Epstein in Commentary. In the piece he relies on Tolstoy’s complaints of Shakespearean nullity — this as counterpoint to his quasi-review and ultimate dismissal as parlor game of a recent book comparing current political figures to Shakespearean monarchs.

I too have struggled to read such plays as The Tempest. But Shakespeare does two things: 1) what Tolstoy accuses him off, yet thereby solidifying the epoch-making shucking off of medieval piety and heralding modernity, taking his place among in the pantheon of modernity’s fathers along with Machiavelli and Hobbes and others; and 2) making us step back a little in admiration of and delight in the very method — language, our language — that we use in order to have all the ideas that Tolstoy accused him of lacking.

Sunday, June 16th, 2024

At a meeting between US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and a group of senior Arab officials about a month ago, a shouting match reportedly ensued between the UAE and Palestinian delegates. I find it so encouraging that there is a body in the Arab world that seems insistent on calling a spade a spade and treating people equally and with respect no matter who they are, and not instrumentalizing the Palestinians to some nonsensical end, nor fatally coddling them no matter their viciousness. The UAE’s path-beating instills me with hope.

Tuesday, June 11th, 2024

MacRumors summarizes Apple’s announcements at WWDC 2024 in 9 minutes. Onboard AI and ChatGPT integration. More configuration and multiple screens in Control Center. Sending even regular messages via satellite. And so much more, for real. A huge raft of announcements!

Maybe the single killer feature of the Apple Vision Pro: entire home not desk as office:

Walking around my entire apartment with Vision Pro on my head, strolling between large windows that cover different walls in each space, with specific rooms dedicated to certain kinds of work activities, felt like a radical extension of the standing desk.

Especially useful for those who work at home and have it to themselves for the workday.

I’ve heard people such as Dan Senor not understand the electoral logic behind President Biden’s pandering to Hamas supporters in Michigan. Like others, Senor cannot even imagine the only logical conclusion: it comes not from cynicism and expedience but rather ideology and belief (as much as this ethics-challenged pol can muster at any rate). In a devastating list-like article akin to a mordant Victor Davis Hanson column, Morton Klein reminds that Biden is not an Israel-friendly president. If he is not the architect of our current woes he is at least the midwife.

Biden has been hostile to Israel since day one of his administration before Michigan was a twinkle in his eye. Moreover, Biden stands to lose more Jewish and pro-Israel votes than he gains from anti-Israel communities, as 80% of Americans support Israel over Hamas. I thus believe that the real reason for Biden’s anti-Israel policies is Biden’s longstanding and sinister hostility to Israel.

In the last few days John Podhoretz has been coming to this conclusion, but sees it as the ranting of a senile old man, rather than long-held tendencies.

Thursday, June 6th, 2024

Salem Alketbi in The Jerusalem Post on Arab do-nothing-ism vis-a-vis Gaza. It’s great to hear this pragmatic, humanist voice coming from the UAE.

What remains unspoken about the Arab role in Gaza is the lack of a collective political vision for a solution to the crisis, despite the fact that it has been ongoing for over seven months. Instead, they have settled for official face-saving statements, while refraining from calling a spade a spade and without playing any real role in saving the Palestinian people from the ruthlessness of the Iran-backed Hamas faction.

Gaymen and ladies in San Francisco, your true colors shining through…

Gadi Taub hosts Gabi Siboni [Hebrew]. Total common sense that seems in short supply. With the North empty and on fire, an invasion of South Lebanon is very overdue. I think the country understands that. I am long along the road of losing faith in Netanyahu, who pays way too much mind to the Biden Administration’s inanity.

Monday, June 3rd, 2024

Only now, after calling an election, do the Conservatives say a woman is a woman. And that is why they will lose: because they have not been governing as conservatives. The only caveat to this prediction is that they are the worst except for all the rest. Or, as Allistair Heath writes in “Nigel Farage has driven the Tories to a state of near-total psychological collapse”, also in The Telegraph:

Aending out strong Right-wing vibes at one minute to midnight in a desperate bid to deflect the oncoming Nigel Farage tsunami isn’t enough: after 14 years of talking as conservatives but governing as social-democrats, the Tories have run out of excuses. They broke their promises on migration, legal and illegal, and never had the guts to pull out of the ECHR. They increased taxes, and are planning to do so again as a share of GDP.

This is why I blame the Tory wets, in charge for almost all of the past 14 years, for the Starmer-ite calamity that is about to befall Britain.

It is the wets who jettisoned free-market economics, deregulation, tax cuts and supply-side reforms, who crippled the City, who increased immigration, who ignored the collapse of community and family and the baby-bust, who failed to fix the Civil Service, who refused to scrap the BBC licence fee, who had no interest in properly reforming the public sector, including the NHS (and who promoted even more cultish reverence for a failing system), who vetoed prison building and a real crackdown on crime, who embraced net zero and the neo-Blairite quangocracy, and who wanted to surrender to the woke stormtroopers.

Tuesday, May 28th, 2024

Anything with eggplant, you can’t lose, ok?

Mark Wolters, Tel Aviv: The Don’ts of Visiting Tel Aviv, Israel

Sunday, May 26th, 2024

Friday, May 24th, 2024

Yossi Klein-Halevi: We have to own the strangeness of our story. I’ve been having similar thoughts; there is no comparable nation to Israel. Right from the get go we endemically punch way above our weight — this small nation sandwiched between bigger empires declared its god to be the only one, negating everyone else’s! It’s a world religion that — unlike any other world religion — doesn’t proselytize because it’s the religion of a nation, so grows through the womb not the meme. Always being small in one’s arena means always being a target.

Thursday, May 23rd, 2024

The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board cuts through the miasma:

Though Israeli liberals won’t like to hear it, Israel probably will need to fill the vacuum in Gaza for a time. Though Israeli right-wingers won’t like to hear it, the purpose would be to make way for local governance. The politics, there and here, explain why it has been easier to pretend there’s no plan at all.

Monday, May 20th, 2024

“Helikopter, Helikopter”. As someone says in the comments, it’s the new Iranian anthem.

Saturday, May 18th, 2024

Sense from John Spencer as reported by CNN of all outlets.

By going slowly, I can argue through history and through metrics, it gives your enemy more time to defend, more time to prevent your plans, more time to prevent you from achieving surprise. We, as in the world, are also responsible for some of the destruction that’s happened in Gaza.

Friday, May 17th, 2024

We are at a moment where what’s morally indefensible is becoming socially acceptable.

Tal Becker, “Call Me Back”, May 16th

Classy Abe Greenwald’s “Woke Jihad” in Commentary makes no bones about the commonality of social justice and Islamist movements: they both want to tear it all down. There are many quotable bits, here’s one paragraph:

The love between the two camps, however, is not reciprocal. Leftists love the jihadists. They love them for their ferocity and exoticism as much as for their bottomless self-pity. Those are the constituent elements of social justice. It’s why we see protesters trying to shape-shift into war-ravaged Palestinians, asking for humanitarian aid, claiming chemical attacks on students, grasping to bask in the reflective glow of the nobly oppressed. But no properly chauvinistic jihadist could feel anything but disgust for the unchecked females, sexual libertines, heathens, and even Jews he’s been forced to instrumentalize in the cause of Islamist domination.

It also dives into the source of their money, which I’m less interested in though it’s very important. Does Bill Gates actually support any of this? Why is he helping fund it if not?

A revolutionary cannot live on microaggressions alone.

Abe Greenwald, “Woke Jihad” in Commentary Magazine

Tuesday, May 14th, 2024

David Wurmser at the Center for Security Policy, the first I’ve come across to synthesize Israel’s Eurovision popular vote win:

Israel seems to be casting some light that is shining onto populations and peoples far away, triggering in them a rediscovery of themselves and what made those distant lands and cultures great.

He notes the dichotomy between the popular vote and the judges:

Many of the nations in which Israel won the popular vote by wide margins had their judges award Israel zero points. Western European elites led the trend: the UK, Switzerland, Luxembourg, San Marino, Spain, Finland, Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Andorra, Belgium, and Sweden all had been won by Israel with 12 points on the popular vote, but all had the judged award Israel zero points. Four of the five UK judges had ranked Israel as the worst song of the 35.

Eric Cohen’s Exodus project: American Jews need to contribute to renewal.

Monday, May 13th, 2024

Brendan O’Neill in The Telegraph:

[Green agitation and radical Islam], at root, represent a disgust with modernity. Both the privileged Western weepers over industrial society and the Islamist haters of Israel share an aversion to the modern world, to progress, to Enlightenment itself.

Climate Justice for Palestine! Mental. Though there’s precious little more in this piece linking the two deranged movements, both of which start from a place of ostensible decency yet veer almost immediately into the weeds of venality and beyond, I’ve been waiting for someone to at least touch on the shared ideational foundations. Here they fuse in one charismatic which might alone shed some light on their commonality. One thing they share is hate, demonstrating wilful disregard for actual causes and workable solutions in favor of vilification of the chosen villain and a desire to dismantle existing structures (modernity; Israel) which if ever actually successful would be imagined catastrophe.

John Bolton in The Telegraph:

Piling on publicly in the middle of a war is imprudent, even juvenile, damaging the respect and trust allies must sustain during times of crisis and tension. The propaganda opportunities handed to hostile powers are immeasurable. And if Biden is prepared to cut loose one of America’s most valued partners, what does that foretell for those more-distant, less-favoured than Israel? How does Ukraine feel? Or Taiwan?

A few days in to the announcement of withholding weapons and the Biden Administration is in contortions trying to walk it back a bit, at least rhetorically. Oh dear they are in a mess. And why? Venality. A belief in something, anything, could fortify them with the intestinal fortitude required to stay the course.

Sunday, May 12th, 2024

Just when you think Bidenite kindergarten diplomacy couldn’t get any worse, can it be true that they are withholding intelligence from Israel on Hamas leaders’ whereabouts? No, if I had to wager I’d say this Washington Post story is not true; it’s just too egregious.

The Daily Mail seems to cover all angles of Eurovision 2024 in this sprawling report. Politics aside, I thought the Irish entry was pretty amazingly performed. I missed the Swiss song as too many bland numbers had forced me away from the screen, and my faith in Eurovision songwriting is not up to searching for it to listen to it. But mainly: I was totally taken aback by the number of votes for Israel; I know there’d been a campaign to do so and supporters probably went out and bought extra SIMs — Jews vote — but surely not in enough numbers to achieve the level reached; the mostly-European public spoke and it was briefly intensely heartwarming. As was seeing Eden Golan’s return to Israel at Benny-G arrivals.

Tuesday, May 7th, 2024

Potholes are a great heuristic for evaluating national decline, and Britain’s here has been especially egregious. In this excellent bit of reporting in The Telegraph, the main culprit seems to be, like at least with one other major problem, legislation from the 90s:

Part of the issue is a little-known change in the law in 1991. Prior to this, companies had to pay highway authorities to repair roads after they’d been dug up. Westminster council charged £120 per square metre for this work. But under the New Roads and Street Work Act of 1991, utilities could reinstate their own openings. Costs dropped to an estimated £40 per square metre. In theory the savings should have resulted in lower bills (or fatter margins for the utility companies). But the change in the law clearly had a number of unintended consequences.

Hussein Aboubakr Mansour writes on Middle Eastern history, Arab intellectual life, philosophy, Jewish history, and Middle Eastern politics. He calls his Substack “The Abrahamic Critique”.

Monday, May 6th, 2024

The Wall Street Journal’s Letters Editor Elliot Kaufman lays out Biden’s series of errors regarding Gaza, in particular his lack of pressure on Egypt to step up.

How did the president get here? Mr. Biden isn’t “Genocide Joe” any more than he is “pro-Hamas.” He has been boxed in and brought low by his own mistakes.

To my mind it all stems from cowardice; leaning on reasonable friends is less scary than on iffy partners, let alone adversaries.

Sunday, May 5th, 2024

I cannot (yet) follow Lee Smith to his conclusion that the Biden Administrations’ goal is American decline and defeat (though there was a strong strain of this in its precursor Obama Administration); rather than conspiratorial and malevolent, it seems more likely due to the more common weaknesses of delusion and cowardice.

Moreover Israel shares some blame for being weak-willed enough in recent months to go along with the Administration’s tacit protection of Hamas.

Benny Morris, prescient in 2008:

Many Israelis feel that the walls — and history — are closing in on their 60-year-old state, much as they felt in early June 1967, just before Israel launched the Six-Day War.

Saturday, May 4th, 2024

Friday, May 3rd, 2024

In The Telegraph, Allister Heath spells it out:

West-hating pro-Palestinian protests are a harbinger of much worse to come.

Israel must stop faffing.

Wednesday, May 1st, 2024

How heartwarming is this exchange between Hugh Hewitt and Yossi Klein-Halevi. Who better to thank HH for his steadfastness and engagement since Oct 7.

[Update 2024 May 7]: Hewitt is even reading out the names of the young Israeli fallen after the rocket attack on Keren Shalom. I hope when Hewitt gets over to Israel he is appropriately feted; how many people his erudite common sense must be reaching as they commute to and from mid-sized cities throughout the American heartland.

Tuesday, April 30th, 2024

This is how the Associated Press presents the US intifada encampments:

The outcry is forcing colleges to reckon with their financial ties to Israel, as well as their support for free speech. Some Jewish students say the protests have veered into antisemitism and made them afraid to set foot on campus.

What a topsy-turvy whitewash.

There is also:

The protests have even spread to Europe…

What’s interesting is why they haven’t mainly been in Europe.

Thursday, April 25th, 2024

In contrast with the Jonathan Freedland piece I linked to earlier, Armin Rosen’s survey “The Israel-Gaza war has changed everything: The norms of war are being rewritten in real-time” in Unherd is simultaneously more detailed yet more humble.

Much of what’s happened since October 7 is without any real precedent … we are deep into the unknown, and were there long before this past week. The sides have notched accomplishments that are both novel and gruesome enough to demand real analytic humility…

I just used the term “midwit” in a post, I’m pretty sure for the first time, but some tendril of editorial integrity made me look it up and it is discomfiting. One nice definition:

An internet term that ironically, is something only an actual midwit would try to use on in the internet to look vErY sMaRt.

Yes — there should be a term for a derogatory term the very use of which classifies you as an instance of it. At any rate, since I had to hold back from using it myself, I am inclined to think I am indeed a midwit, or if not one, only slightly not one.

Someone who is around average intelligence but is so opinionated and full of themselves that they think they’re some kind of genius.

And:

Generally found in the 105-120 IQ range. These are the people who are considered “gifted” in primary school and perhaps “honors” in high school.

I notice myself trying to think but cannot; I can merely react.

Jonathan Freedman, a Jewish columnist for The Guardian, which in itself tells a tale, pens a column “In this shadow war between Iran and Israel, the outline of a different future is visible”. I can understand Palestinians’ disgusting murderous thuggery better than I can understand such sickly magpies within the nest. And he may not even be wrong in his conclusions! It’s the myriad of little things that bug me, the Olympian chin-rubbing despite being Jewish himself. First, the subtitle, which perhaps he didn’t write, but nonetheless reflects his conclusion:

Both seem keen to limit hostilities, and key Arab states are ready to resist Tehran. But real change will require new Israeli leadership

Israel is required to change its government! (No need for any change in Iran.)

It doesn’t help that the leaderships in both Iran and Israel are under constant pressure from elements that are even more bellicose.

Some insane and insulting parallels are being drawn here.

The hitherto crypto-alliance of Israel and those Sunni states that fear Tehran more than they fear Tel Aviv has stepped into the light.

Fear Tel Aviv? Firstly, that’s Jerusalem to you bub, though given that The Guardian is a British publication, which still shamefully does not recognize Israel as Jerusalem’s capital — I mean Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — no doubt “Tel Aviv” is editorial policy, but you are complicit in this policy, your name is in the byline. Secondly: fear? Hate I would say is more accurate; the Arabs never feared that Israel was going to invade or overthrow them.

Israel would have to do what the US and others are asking: offer the Palestinians a political horizon, one that holds out the prospect of an eventual Palestinian state.

Which others are these? Westerners project their desire for a Palestinian state onto Middle Easterners, who only pay lip service to this notion, because they are close enough to know that Palestinians are part of the problem not the solution. Resolving to being just like the Ayatollahs where it matters, Palestinians’ modus operandi is mass murder and the destabilization and overthrow of any polity they can, so that responsible Middle Easterners prefer to see them contained not empowered.

Normally I would just skip over such pap as this, especially if in The Guardian, which I only look at occasionally for movie reviews and design inspiration. But Israel’s Channel 12 hosts the Unholy podcast with Freedland to which people I know listen to devotedly, and who know him personally slightly as he sends his kids to the same Jewish school in northwest London. Why oh why does he not know better.

Wednesday, April 24th, 2024

Every paragraph with its little bombshell: Edward Luttwak is in full elegant force in “Iran is weaker than we think” in Unherd. The opening paragraph:

It is only now, almost 16 years since Obama first entered the White House with the private determination to end Iran’s “death to America” hostility at all costs, that his Iran policy has achieved the exact opposite of what he had wanted: direct warfare, with US fighters intercepting Iran’s bombardment drones. All along, it was a policy that had two different faces: one perfectly reasonable, and the other perfectly delusional.

Such casual rhythm before the zing at paragraph’s end! Later we get a Luttwakian paradox of strategy:

The [Iranian] Revolutionary Guards finally failed strategically because their Arab recruitment policy was so successful that it overshot the culminating point of success: seeing the historic Sunni capital of Damascus under Shia domination, and Baghdad the very seat of the Sunni Arab Caliphate ruled by Iran’s agents, Sunni Arab states from Morocco to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which had repeatedly fought Israel from 1948, moved to abandon their hostility, openly or discreetly.

And we end with striking, real-world evidence that demonstrates the strategic theories posited within. I won’t quote this evidence so as not to spoil the end of this masterful op-ed.

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024

Monday, April 22nd, 2024

In The Wall Street Journal, this geopolitical news article on Finland is the first one I can recall reading anywhere. Swimming into focus are renewed tensions with the new Russia. Th

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, Finland has ramped up its military spending, boosting its defense budget to above 2% and snapping up U.S. rocket systems, as well as Israeli antitank and air-defense systems. The country is preparing to base F-35 jet fighters it will receive from the U.S. just over 100 miles from its border with Russia.

I wish for Finland and Israel to explore each other much more.

Sunday, April 21st, 2024

War and warming. What are the chances this bonkers piece is a hoax designed to embarrass its publisher The Nation. People took time and effort to ensure it is written in full sentences and well copy-edited.

Friday, April 19th, 2024

Great lengthy interview with Giora Eiland, always with cogent orthogonal ideas on important Israeli geopolitical realities.

The Israeli story was, Hamas is like ISIS, and ISIS is like Hamas. No! That’s not the case. ISIS was a bunch of crazies from Baghdad who, unopposed, gained control of western Iraq and those who lived there. But it didn’t represent the people, not in Mosul or elsewhere. Gaza more resembles 1930s Germany, where an extremist party won elections, with the support of most of the people, and quickly unified the military and civil government into one entity. What happened on October 7 is that the State of Gaza went to war against the State of Israel. State against state. Now, the state of Gaza does have vulnerabilities. It doesn’t have sufficient fuel, food and water of its own. You can impose a legitimate boycott on that state until the state returns all of your hostages. Humanitarian for humanitarian.

I’m not sure whether to be disappointed or relieved that Eiland is granted the levers of power.

Wednesday, April 17th, 2024

Cool, calm, collected, and with casually brilliant staging. IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi provides the official Israeli miltary speech in response to the massive Iranian missile attack.

Amidst all this it’s a happy thought that Germany sold Israel a doomsday device (Dolphin subs) and a couple of decades later Israel is selling Germany an anti-doomsday device. Ben-Gurion and Adenhauer.

 
 

•••

Newsroll

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

  • A Golden State Realignment?

    As Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of a bill barring parental notification of children’s gender transitions makes clear, progressives still dominate California—but signs point to a potential shakeup.
  • Biden’s Rent Control Gambit

    The president’s proposal for a nationwide rent cap is unlikely to pass Congress, but its radicalism is noteworthy.
  • Protecting Presidents

    10 Blocks podcast
  • “I Represent Science”

    Anthony Fauci’s autobiography unwittingly reveals his transformation from an open-minded scientist to an imperious, unaccountable public-health bureaucrat.
  • A Bet Against the “Energy Transition”

    Modern civilization depends on abundant, affordable, and reliable energy. Policies that ignore this won’t turn out well.

Where the design community meets.

experiments in refactored perception

  • Imagination vs. Creativity

    I like to make a distinction between imagination and creativity that you may or may not agree with. Imagination is the ability to see known possibilities as being reachable from a situation. Creativity is the ability to manufacture new possibilities out of a situation. The two form a continuous spectrum of regimes in simple cases, […]
  • Covid and Noun-Memory Effects

    Ever since I got a bout of Covid a couple of years ago (late 2022), I’ve noticed memory problems of a very specific sort: Difficulty remembering names. Especially people names, but also other sorts of proper nouns. This is especially marked when it comes to remembering names of actors or authors, or not-too-close friends and […]
  • Bangalore Meetup Report

    Did a ribbonfarm meetup in Bangalore last night, the first ever in India. Thanks to Abhishek Agarwal for organizing. I think this is the first meetup I’ve done since the last Refactor Camp in 2019. It was kinda last minute, which is why I only posted on Substack rather than here (some sort of signal […]