Thursday, August 3rd, 2023
Wednesday, January 4th, 2023
I recommend this tour de force on Israel’s recent election by the excellent Haviv Rettig Gur in The Times of Israel.
[The left and Balad] spoke of Netanyahu’s imminent return to power as a vast danger, but then did everything required to make that outcome more likely.
The Israeli left didn’t collapse in a sudden, recent rightist lurch of the electorate. It has been in a tailspin for three decades. And three decades of failure suggest a simple, unsparing conclusion that hovers over the anxiety about the election results and the patina of moral panic that accompanies it: The left that just collapsed, in terms of raw political strategy, doesn’t deserve to exist.
If the left does not fundamentally redraw the Israeli political map — that is, fundamentally reconceive itself — then Tuesday’s result will be more than a single painful failure. It will be a harbinger of the foreseeable future. It is this reality that drives the “end of the country as we’ve known it” panic.
From here, Rettig Gur starts to build a case for a revived Israeli Left. What a piece!
Tuesday, October 4th, 2022
As Descarte completed his Discourse on the Method I wonder if he had an inkling it would come to this, from “What Trans Health Care for Minors Really Means” by Tyler Santora at mainstream medical reference website WebMD:
For adolescents who are assigned female at birth, top surgery can be performed to create a flat chest. The Endocrine Society states that there is not enough evidence to set a minimum age for this type of gender-affirming surgery, and the draft of the updated SOC recommends a minimum age of 15. “Usually, for a [person] assigned female at birth, the chest tissue continues to mature until around 14 or 15,” Inwards-Breland says. “What I’ve seen surgeons do is after 14, they feel more comfortable.” If, though, a person is started on puberty blockers followed by hormone therapy from a relatively early age – around 13 – they will never develop breast tissue and wouldn’t need surgery to remove it.
Steve Jobs said: “Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic; it is learned and is the great achievement of Western civilization.” Implicit in his statement is that it can be unlearned. As an intellectually inquisitive teenager in the 1980s I would have scoffed at the notion that religion serves to keep us rational. But the evidence suggests that it does, and without its drumbeat the fever dream of linguistic chimeras can drive us surprisingly mad surprisingly quickly.
Monday, October 3rd, 2022
For the first time, Iranian protests are nationwide, multi-ethnic, political and non-clerical, so much so that this could finally be the end for the mad mullahs.
Saturday, September 24th, 2022
Saturday, July 30th, 2022
Nice on Nietzsche. And nice that reviewer John Gray mentions La Gaya Scienza as one of his best books. Time for a reread.
Wednesday, June 29th, 2022
In The Atlantic, a beautifully—if overly politely—written piece on family estrangement, the sting is in the head; no doubt to get it past the young
censors editors, the author has expunged all mention of religion and therefore duty from his discussion, save in this first line, which encompasses all that follows: “Sometimes my work feels more like ministry than therapy.” Author Joshua Coleman is a practicing therapist and prolific author. Looking around, his fee per webinar on the topic is $25. And he’s also a tv composer!
Anyhoo, the plot thickens, and my suspicions are correct: while he squeezed them out of the text body, he shoehorned in his convictions at the very edges as frames; look at this 1-star Amazon review of his book by one Acer Girl:
He fails to recognise how the nuclear family itself is being redefined and gay/lesbian parents are becoming more accepted, so it is rather inevitable that people will start to place less emphasis and importance on blood ties alone – so I really don’t understand the alarmism he tries to create around this. Above all, what I found really demoralising is his attack on one of the founding principles of western civilisation – autonomy and individual liberty. People’s right to live their lives in whatever way they wish and to associate and disassociate with whomever they wish. He claims this right should be policed.
And the final piece in the puzzle: he himself has been cut off by his own daughter! Estrangement is an underly-noted fault-line in the post-religious West; whether to honor or cast off the 5th commandment to honor one’s father and one’s mother — that has become a question.
Thursday, April 14th, 2022
In an interview on Israel’s national broadcaster Kan, this is a fair-minded well-informed backgrounder on Temple Mount tensions.
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.
Sunday, January 23rd, 2022
Just a reminder of Walter Russell Mead’s wise words from 2012 regarding anti-Semitism:
The rise of anti-Semitism is a sign of widespread social and cultural failure. It is a leading indicator of a loss of faith in liberal values and of a diminished capacity to understand the modern world and to thrive in it. Societies that tolerate anti-Semitism take a fateful step toward the loss of both freedom and prosperity.
Wednesday, January 12th, 2022
If religious faith is the most important determinant of fertility, public policy can have only a modest impact on birth rates.
David P. Goldman, “Import Americans”
Tuesday, October 26th, 2021
Hijinks for the practicing intellectualoid: Mansfield on Machiavelli, acknowledging the Florentin’s modernity paternity.
Thursday, October 7th, 2021
Human egalitarianism was a social revolution within the primate order.
Sarah Chayes, Everybody Knows: Corruption in America
Tuesday, August 31st, 2021
In googling what appears to me the flimsiness of the Jewish edict to not eat milk with meat, I came across Michael Harvey’s Times of Israel blog post “Why Separate Milk and Meat?” in which he argues it’s all a misreading of the word “milk” in “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.”
The word for milk features certain vowels underneath to make the sound of chalev, distinguishing the word from others. Why is this important? Well, there happens to be another Hebrew word with the exact same letters, Chet, Lamed, Vet, but is pronounced, instead of chalev, chaylev. And that is the word for fat, as seen in such passages as Leviticus 7:23: “You shall eat no fat of ox or sheep or goat.” Could this commandment have actually been referencing fat instead of milk?
Friday, July 9th, 2021
A voice new to me, David E. Bernstein, gives a fresh and concise viewpoint on the tired topic of why so many love to hate on Israel, providing separate reasons for the disparate groups. For Christians:
Christian critics of Israel so often accuse Jews of not learning anything from the Holocaust; in their mind, the Holocaust is a story about Christian sin and possible redemption via the actions of the victims; the fate of the Jewish people as a people is at best irrelevant.
Mohammed started his empire with limited territory and a small army, only to expand throughout the Middle East and North Africa. There is undoubtedly some latent fear that Israel is a camel’s nose under the tent for Jewish expansionism. This of course misunderstands Zionism and Judaism, but the average Muslim knows little about Judaism.
Tuesday, December 15th, 2020
Ross Douthat in his typical perfect way essays on American childbearing in the really nice magazine Plough.
Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020
In a rather fine essay for Commentary Magazine, Hussein Aboubakr writes:
Palestine was never merely a disputed geographical territory, it was a claim to the absolute fulfillment of the Islamic political vision, an eternal moral truth, secularized in Arab nationalism and sanctified in Islamism.
He then proceeds to show us a hopeful vision for what the post-Palestine Middle East might look like senza this murderous Arab dream.
Saturday, August 15th, 2020
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
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.
Friday, April 3rd, 2020
Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life
Nusseibeh’s central thesis (well, secondary thesis, the primary implicit one being that the Palestinian people should all along have appointed both his Dad and then him their oh-so-reluctant leaders) I too have felt almost in my bones: that Israelis and Palestinians are natural allies. Or, more accurately, that there’s a natural affinity which will enable us to be powerful allies if and when we ever get over our admittedly fundamental conflict.
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
A Beginner's Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations
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.
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.
Saturday, October 5th, 2019
A conversation on Jewish concepts of sin ABA failure with David Bashevkin that could have gone on a lot longer. Very good stuff for those needing to augment their awareness that we are in the Days of Awe.
Wednesday, September 25th, 2019
Mototaka Nakamura, who has published a score of climate-related papers on fluid dynamics, has written a small book in Japanese and English entitled Confessions of a Climate Scientist: The Global Warming Hypothesis is An Unproven Hypothesis arguing that we lack the tools to forecast temperature. He writes:
In climate research and modelling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.
Sun, ice, oceans, clouds: none are being modelled with any approximation to reality, he writes.
Monday, July 22nd, 2019
Monday, May 13th, 2019
We must be facing this: David Gelertner on giving up Darwin. Like Smith’s invisible hand and even Newton’s laws of physics, these glorious, newly-algorithmic cosmologies — the precursors to our wonder-world of bitty digitalism — aren’t the full explanation.
Sunday, November 11th, 2018
It All Adds Up
Bellow is meaty to pick up on any topic; we’re confident in the arms of a leading novelist. His tributes to old friends read the richest, even though impressionistic, more journalistic pieces such as his coverage of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty signing are also satisfying.
Tuesday, October 30th, 2018
Species eradication and wiping out animal populations seem to me a more dire problem than mere climate change. It should be our environmental priority.
Wednesday, September 26th, 2018
More incredibleness: sefaria.org, a beautiful bountiful platform of the Jewish texts. What an accomplishment.
Monday, September 10th, 2018
When Judaism curls into something surely bonkers and even deleterious: Orthodox Jewish women shamed for long wigs. Ah, to cover one’s hair with… hair.
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018
Pinhas Inbari sheds new (to me) light on the roots of Palestinian nationalism, arguing that the similarities to Syria’s schisms are more than parallels but in fact the same issue: pan-Arabism (Fatah, Ba’athists) vs pan-Islamism (Hamas, ISIS).
Sunday, August 19th, 2018
On nationalism old and new. In Tablet, the prophetic columnist David P. Goldman discusses Yoram Hazony’s new book ??The Virtue of Nationalism??.
Tuesday, July 10th, 2018
Tuesday, June 5th, 2018
Justice Anthony Kennedy: “The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.”
Thursday, May 31st, 2018
The Dawn of Day
This is a delicious book to pick up in spurts — BMW punchy as Emerson is Rolls-Royce bubbly — but I couldn’t say what it’s chiefly about, where it starts, where it ends, how it fits in with Nietzsche’s other books, nor whether I’ve even read it before (I do remember particular points but perhaps they’re also mentioned in the other books). As usual this 19th-century giant sounds as if he writes… this morning.
Thursday, May 24th, 2018
Michael Pollan’s everywhere-on-the-internet excursion into psychoactives is excerpted in The New York Times Magazine.
“I” now turned into a sheaf of little papers, no bigger than Post-its, and they were being scattered to the wind. But the “I” taking in this seeming catastrophe had no desire to chase after the slips and pile my old self back together.
Friday, April 27th, 2018
This review of The Jewish Joke: An essay with examples (less essay, more examples) has examples.
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.
What did Jews tend to die of? The entry on morbidity in the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906.
Friday, March 30th, 2018
When Galileo looked up at the night sky with his new-fangled teslescope one profound effect was the dislodging of the nonsensical metaphysical notion from Aquinas of the perfection of the stars.
Tuesday, February 27th, 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, December 14th, 2017
Who showed up, who stayed home, and who broadcast a weather program while Erdoğan spoke at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit condemning America’s recognition of Israel’s capital. Jordan was there but Saudi, Egypt and the UAR weren’t.
Friday, September 8th, 2017
Where man could not unravel he learned to create.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Dawn of Day
Saturday, June 24th, 2017
He had me with his first-paragraph mention of Trattoria Da Enzo, my favorite. I’ve forwarded to visitors this panegyric to Rome by the incoming New York Times’ bureau chief. A lot of attractive restaurants mentioned and described. [via Juan Carlos Bronstein, who was unimpressed by the tone, as are many others in the comments]
Wednesday, June 21st, 2017
At the Borei Choshech blog about depression and Jewish prayer, a brief discussion on an important part of the Jewish morning prayer, Elohai Neshama.
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016
An inviting tour of the Hebrew writer’s oeuvre as Shai Agnon is translated into English. [via aldaily.com]
Saturday, July 16th, 2016
“The Kemalist era in Turkish history lasted for almost 100 years, but finally came to an end in the last 18 hours.” A great balance between up-to-the-minute reports and historical background, Walter Russell Mead live-blogs the failed Turkish Coup.
“Belief” has been at all times—for example in Luther—only a cloak, a cover, a curtain behind which the instincts played their game.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo
Thursday, July 7th, 2016