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Eye on America iPhone 6S Golden, Colorado Saturday, October 14th, 2017.

Sunflower & Bumblebee
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Sunflower & Bumblebee iPhone 8 Sunday, September 25th, 2022.

A Nice Street in Denver
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A Nice Street in Denver iPhone 6S Denver, Colorado Sunday, October 15th, 2017.

Hillside Angles
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Hillside Angles iPhone 6S Golden, Colorado Saturday, October 14th, 2017.

Vivid
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Vivid iPhone 6S Denver, Colorado Saturday, October 14th, 2017.

Eye on America
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Eye on America iPhone 6S Golden, Colorado Saturday, October 14th, 2017.

Idyll
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Idyll iPhone 6S Golden, Colorado Saturday, October 14th, 2017.

Ready Cars
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Ready Cars iPhone 6S Golden, Colorado Saturday, October 14th, 2017.

The Way to Golden
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The Way to Golden iPhone 6S Golden, Colorado Saturday, October 14th, 2017.

Saturday Afternoon
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Saturday Afternoon iPhone 6S Denver, Colorado Saturday, October 14th, 2017.

Children of the Sun
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Children of the Sun iPhone 6S Golden, Colorado Saturday, October 14th, 2017.

Who am I?
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Who am I? iPhone 6S Denver, Colorado Thursday, October 12th, 2017.

Before the Conference
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Before the Conference iPhone 6S Denver, Colorado Wednesday, October 11th, 2017.

Clay Decoration
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Clay Decoration iPhone 6S Surrey, England Tuesday, May 30th, 2017.

Down to a Frank Lloyd Wright public toilet
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Down to a Frank Lloyd Wright public toilet iPhone 4S Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Florida Sunday, April 21st, 2013.

Visitors Center at Florida Southern College
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Visitors Center at Florida Southern College iPhone 4S Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Florida Sunday, April 21st, 2013.

Welcome to Campus by Frank Lloyd Wright
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Welcome to Campus by Frank Lloyd Wright iPhone 4S Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Florida Sunday, April 21st, 2013.

Thomas Edison’s Back Garden Jetty
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Thomas Edison’s Back Garden Jetty iPhone 4S Fort Meyers, Florida Saturday, April 20th, 2013.

Around the Back with Frank Lloyd Wright
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Around the Back with Frank Lloyd Wright iPhone 4S Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Florida Friday, April 19th, 2013.

Moving through Frank Lloyd Wright’s Florida Southern College in the late afternoon
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Moving through Frank Lloyd Wright’s Florida Southern College in the late afternoon iPhone 4S Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Florida Friday, April 19th, 2013.

College passageway by Frank Lloyd Wright
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College passageway by Frank Lloyd Wright iPhone 4S Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Florida Friday, April 19th, 2013.

Hot Pipes
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Hot Pipes Olympus C5050 Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Sunday, May 18th, 2008.

Forlorn Sundown Strip
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Forlorn Sundown Strip Nokia N95 8GB Fort Lauderdale, Florida Sunday, May 11th, 2008.

Indiana Jones and the Krispies of Coco
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Indiana Jones and the Krispies of Coco Nokia N95 8GB Fort Lauderdale, Florida Sunday, May 11th, 2008.

Across the Universe
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Across the Universe Nokia N95 8GB Key Largo, Florida Saturday, May 10th, 2008.

Sanctuary’s Path
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Sanctuary’s Path Nokia N95 8GB Key Largo, Florida Saturday, May 10th, 2008.

•••

About

“Ev’ry time that flag’s unfurled…” I first made landfall at the age of 17 and like so many of us, for me this polity, people, land, culture is omnipresent and probably the deepest wellspring.

Briefs

Sunday, November 20th, 2022

Episode #105 of the All-In Podcast is a bumper one, covering the Musk-led collapse of what David Sacks refers to as the excess elites jobs program, wherein high-status people who cannot be particularly economically productive after their training in sycophancy at a woke madrassa are nonetheless absorbed.

Saturday, October 8th, 2022

Himars, highly mobile precision missile launchers, is a revolutionary military technology that has changed the balance of war in Ukraine’s favour against Russia.

Friday, October 7th, 2022

Oh my, Walter Russell Mead joins Tyler Cowen for a rich brief hour, and they barely mention WRM’s new book Arc. While in print WRM can seem a bit mealy-mouthed, often it seems throat-clearing to not alienate those with whom he basically disagrees, here he comes out strong and hearty. And TC’s idiosyncratic method of firing off questions works with WRM because each one prompts such a rich answer that there’s little need for normal back and forth.

Thursday, October 6th, 2022

Jonathan Haidt speaks with Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly on democracy in the next cycle of history and the fragility problem of Gen Z. What a line-up!

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.

Sunday, October 2nd, 2022

The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People

Walter Russell Mead

♦♦♦♦

Mearsheimer and Walt — three words that do not appear once in this 1045-page book but are clearly its raison d’etre. John Mearsheimer is Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago; Stephen Walt is Professor of International Relations at Harvard Kennedy School; together they are the respectable face of American anti-Semitism, reputable enough that Walter Russell Mead seems unwilling to criticize them by name, despicable enough that their book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy infuriated our southern-born dean of foreign relations to work on this book for a dozen years or so.

The Wikipedia article on the Lobby book illustrates Mead’s Southern Gentleman approach; whereas Israeli historian Benny Morris says “their work is riddled with shoddiness and defiled by mendacity,” Mead applauds the authors for “admirably and courageously” initiating a conversation on a difficult subject, but more in sorrow than in anger laments that while their intentions are surely strictly honorable, they commit “easily avoidable lapses in judgment and expression.”

Making multiple approaches from multiple angles, Mead demolishes their central notion, giving it the withering moniker of Vulcanist thinking. (Actually I take issue a little with this label, because since the book is so long I forgot the elegant historical anecdote that originates it — a theory of astronomy that attempted to explain celestial workings by means of an undetected planet that doesn’t actually exis. Instead I mentally defaulted to popular culture, where Star Trek’s Vulcan is a stand-in for excessive logic — a characterization quite antithetical to his notion of Vulcanist thinking. This is a shame because the term therefore probably won’t catch on, which it could have perhaps as a shorthand for tendentious yet respectable and therefore ultimately even more ridiculous thinking.)

Especially enriching are his fleshing out of the geopolitical maneouverings among the US, Britain and Russia at the time of Israel’s founding. Important here for Mead’s thesis is that the legend of Truman’s Jewish friend from back in Missouri inveighing on the flummoxed President to recognize Israel be relegated to Queen Esther-echoing myth. For it is WRM’s contention in his chapter “Cyrus Agonistes” that American support for Israel is endemic to the United States, rather than due to the influence of the American Jewish lobby qua Walt and Mearsheimer — moreover it’s despite American Jews, whose leaders have for most of Israel’s history been actively working against a Jewish state, their energies only turning once America as a whole pursued full-throated support for Israel after it became the Middle East’s unambiguous Six Day War strong horse.

It’s also a helpful historical insight that WRM groups 19th century American support for Jewish return to Israel with support for the birth of the Italian and Greek nationstates:

In the ancient world, as Americans saw it, the Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews had been much like Americans of the nineteenth century. They were mostly agrarian people, nations of family-owned farms. They had free institutions and their societies were grounded in virtue. But corruption, urbanization, and monarchy had wreaked their ugly work; in time, all three of the ancient peoples fell from their virtue and freedom into slavery, superstition, and oppression.

As the nineteenth century progressed, and the Greek and Italian independence movements advanced, the possibility of a restored Jewish commonwealth also began to gleam on the horizon.

In fact the discussion of nationalism’s birth pangs from the empires of eastern Europe, the chapter entitled “Maelstrom”, is perhaps the richest part of the book.

As a columnist I have been irritated by what I perceive as WRM’s intellectual mealy-mouthedness. But as a full-throated podcast guest I realize this is merely his print persona, a tic I suppose similar to what he probably views as his Straussian icy politeness regarding Mearsheimer and Walt. That said, I took umbrage when in the book he referred to the Second Intifada, a wave of despicable terror attacks against Israel in the wake of the Oslo Agreements, using the BBC-like passive even-handed term: “violence flared”. I instantly recalled eyewitnessing the shellshock in the hours after the Dolphinarium suicide bombing that killed and maimed dozens of partying teenagers. I was only somewhat mollified later in the book when he mentioned this particular bombing by name, without mentioning that the victims were teenagers.

This is a book about America not Israel, and as well as constituting a scathing retort to Mearsheimer and Walt, is a continuation by other means of his 2001 book Special Providence that classifies the various streams of America’s foreign policy; in portraying America’s relationship with Israel, Arc explicates the fullest expression of the Jacksonian stream, a Meadian classification that, unlike Vulcanism, does seem to be sticking.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

The American model appeared to demonstrate that capitalism plus democracy led to mass prosperity and deep social stability.

Walter Russell Mead, The Arc of a Covenant

Sunday, September 25th, 2022

If “the Jews” ran America, immigration would not have been restricted and Israel would likely not exist.

Walter Russell Mead, The Arc of a Covenant (p. 251)

Friday, September 16th, 2022

At Nat Con 3, Peter Thiel argues in a speech entitled “The Tech Curse” that while the Democrats have nothing to offer but the California model of gutting the middle classes except state employees, the Republicans nonetheless need something more than simply a negation of it.

One heuristic he offers in order to measure societal success in contrast to California is cheap real estate, but offers no path to get there.

My monomaniacal suggestion: flying cars/eVTOLs, which increase the human daily commute distance from about 50 to 250 miles, multiplying our practicable habitable area by likely an order of magnitude. As well as other unforeseeable boons, surely this would radically lower the cost of homes.

But it requires government support. “If the U.S. doesn’t take a leadership role, either someone else will do it or it won’t get done at all,” said Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-California), co-chair of the Congressional AAM Caucus, along with Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-California), at Honeywell’s Air Mobility Summit. “We are really at an inflection point in the industry. It’s such a critical time for Congress to get involved.”

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).

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022

Telegraphy made relevance irrelevant.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

Ventriloquism, dancing and mime do not play well on radio, just as sustained, complex talk does not play well on television.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

Wednesday, July 27th, 2022

Brave of Tablet to publish this inflammatory Hunter Biden laptop story by Lee Smith:

There is so much data on Hunter Biden’s laptop that it’s hard to keep straight the sequence of images and information that have come from it since the New York Post started sourcing stories to the personal computer in October 2020. The most recent release includes 80,000 images that a Switzerland-based cyber expert recovered from deleted iPad and iPhone accounts backed up on the laptop.

There are more pictures, texts, and emails about the younger Biden’s business deals, drug use, sex life, and family relations. Hunter referred to his stepmother, first lady Jill Biden, as a “vindictive moron.” There’s a contact nicknamed “Pedo Peter,” which appears to refer to his father: Joe Biden often used the alias “Peter Henderson,” the name of a character in a Tom Clancy novel, when he traveled.

Thursday, July 21st, 2022

On Israeli Policy Pod, Ehud Yaari for the (more or less) hour. When asked who is the greatest of the many great men he met, he is unequivocal: Sadat.

Sunday, July 3rd, 2022

While working on things that aren’t prestigious doesn’t guarantee you’re on the right track, it at least guarantees you’re not on the most common type of wrong one.

Paul Graham, What I Worked On

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, June 16th, 2022

So Marc Andreessen’s interview with Tyler Cowen is making some waves because he seemed unable to justify Web3 (see tweets from Ian Bremmer, and, more predictably caustically, Nassim Nicholas Taleb). Personally I think Andreesse ha’s made the case better elsewhere, for instance, saying that if the internet had originally had a money layer then we’d never have had spam. But for me, as the developer of a new RSS reader, I was more interested in Tyler’s question about RSS:

Tyler Cowen: Do you still use an RSS reader?

Mark Andreessen: I do. This is actually an exciting moment on that topic for those of us who love these things. I use Feedly, which I like a great deal. It’s a guy. The guy who does it is a guy who used to work for us, a wonderful guy. I think it’s a great product and the inheritor of the now-lost Google Reader, the ruthlessly executed Google Reader.

This is talking about books, but Substack — one of our companies — has a new reader. It’s primarily for reading Substack. It basically is recreating, in my view, the best of what Google Reader had. That’s the other one that is getting a lot of use right now. I use both of those.

TC: Why does RSS at least seem to be so much less important than before?

MA: RSS is one of those things. I would say this gets into a broader, overarching, huge debate-fight happening in the tech industry right now. Internet got built on two models, which are diametrically opposed.

So Marc Andreessen uses Feedly and Substack! I wonder why both. I also want to know which reader TC uses — I seem to recall him saying that he does use one. The man seems to reply to hoi polloi — maybe I’ll ask him.

Incidentally I was surprised that this was not one of the better Conversations with Tyler. It didn’t really warm up into a good actual converation. For instance, I’d have thought MA would have asked TC, the world’s most renowned information omnivore, which RSS reader he uses. MA came across as a bit robotic, whereas I hadn’t gotten that impression from him before.

Wednesday, June 8th, 2022

To paraphrase Shakespeare’s Mark Antony in Julius Ceasar speaking of Brutus: “And in 2022 the United States is a serious country.” Upon receiving a Bradley Prize, Wilfred M. McClay, Professor of Classical History and Western Civilization at Hillsdale College, begins (as published in the redoubtable City Journal):

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to have dinner with a very wise friend, here in Washington, at his favorite seafood restaurant near Dupont Circle. I remarked that he seemed to be spending more and more of his time in a certain foreign country. He acknowledged the fact, paused for a moment, and then said: “I want to live in a serious country.” It may be relevant to point out that the foreign country in question is Israel, where seriousness is an existential requirement. But it is equally important to point out that the gentleman in question is an American patriot of the highest order, the author of distinguished books on the subject. For him to say such a thing was therefore, for me, a very serious matter.

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

Hispanics: the new world-historic anchor whilst America’s Whites flounder.

Religious liberty, always. Parental rights, always. Right to life, always. Free markets, always. Compassionate but firm on immigration, always.

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

What a penetrating look at an earlier Israel by the recently-departed neoconservative scion Midge Decter. A paragraph chosen truly at random:

How was I to be prepared for the discovery that a kibbutz, salvation or damnation, transcendent new society or dustbin of failed transformations, was . . . a farm? I was, to be sure, quite aware that the kibbutzim engaged primarily in farming—that, too, was crucial to their ideology and mine—but from such awareness I had not even come near the image of those flat monotonous fields, unbroken by any visual mark of the drama that had created them, stretching to their termination at a dusty road or property line—the same as must be required anywhere in the world for the growing of cotton or corn or wheat. Degania Aleph, weeping Rachel of the whole movement, sits somnolently by the side of the road (for some reason, I can never envision History as taking place alongside an ordinary thoroughfare, accessible to any passing mortal; History must be climbed up to or stumbled down upon) near the Sea of Galilee, giving no physical hint of anything but a usually drab farm life—with neither marker nor monument to set her apart.

Saturday, April 30th, 2022

Blue Moon

Lee Child

♦♦

The great Reacher TV series led me to try a Kindle sample, which read well. Feeling in safe hands, I searched the local public library for whichever they had in stock. They had three, and I picked Blue Moon. I began with enjoyment, reflecting on the fictional dream created as we move from little setpiece to little setpiece (a Greyhound bus, a bar, a rundown suburban home). I so enjoy that imaginative experience of fun fiction and love inducing it in others. But after a while this story becones preposterous. The waitress he meets turns out to be a superwoman, and her friends become Reacher’s special forces army as the book climaxes with attacks on the gangsters’ lairs, the body count like that of a one-person shooter. It ends up being… daft, so I think that’s it for me.

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.

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

Niall Ferguson’s important and much-quoted Bloomberg piece of March 22nd on the cynical/optimistic Biden strategy for Ukraine:

It is, when you come to think of it, archetypal Realpolitik to allow the carnage in Ukraine to continue; to sit back and watch the heroic Ukrainians “bleed Russia dry”; to think of the conflict as a mere sub-plot in Cold War II, a struggle in which China is our real opponent. … The optimism, however, is the assumption that allowing the war to keep going will necessarily undermine Putin’s position; and that his humiliation in turn will serve as a deterrent to China. I fear these assumptions may be badly wrong and reflect a misunderstanding of the relevant history.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2022

Russia, as parlance goes, is too big to fail; we need to forge it an off-ramp from this horrific self-inflicted disaster, as Commentary’s Noah Rothman argues in “What if Russia loses”, Sam Altman of YCombinator tweets, and presumably plenty of other smart people are saying.

Putin though is probably not quite ready to take it, thinking he may yet regain the military upper hand, as attested by the lengthy convoys headed today to Kyiv. He may then as Putin biographer Anita Hill fears, savvily offer the delectable compromise of partitioning Ukraine, wherein he gets the east and others can divvy up the rest. Joe Biden has after all a predilection for territorial break-up — he thought it right for Iraq.

Fortunately it seems we are well beyond Europe countenancing such temptations; Germany has reoriented around the danger emanating from Russia, the UK is acting on what it called it “a catastrophe on our continent” [emphasis mine], and a myriad of surprising others are joining the fray each in their way (Switzerland, Finland, etc).

Also, it does seem self-evident that Vlad the Mad has lost some of the faculties he’s had up to now, so that such diplomatic savvy might never be forthcoming from him. As of now, Russian diplomatic efforts in such forums as the United Nations are of the Baghdad Bob sort even as the Ukrainians are performing masterfully, not just spreading the word but showing Westerners (and probably everyone else): we’re your sort of people — more, we’re the sort of people you hope you are.

Once again, the West must win firmly, though this time — unlike after the collapse of its Soviet Union guise — there should be effective stroking of Russia’s vanities.

Monday, February 28th, 2022

At last, Mark Steyn is writing again.

I take faint glimmers of a new seriousness in the chancelleries of Europe not as a sign of Nato “unity”, but as the dawning realization that the US has blown the last thirty years and they’re now in a post-American world, and, absent course-correction, ultimately on the same grim trajectory as Ukraine.

In Tablet, Lee Smith writes lists the plethora of wickedly poor decisions that led to the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in 1994 in exchange for U.S. security guarantees in the event its neighbors, Russia in particular, turned hostile. What kind of strategy dictates that a state hand over its security vis-a-vis local actors to a country half the world away? No strategy at all. Ukraine was not able to transcend its natural geography as a buffer state — and worse, a buffer state that failed to take its own existence seriously, which meant that it would continue to make disastrously bad bets.

By tying itself to an American administration that had shown itself to be reckless and dangerous, the Ukrainians made a geopolitical blunder that statesmen will study for years to come: A buffer state had staked its future on a distant power that had simply seen it as an instrument to annoy its powerful neighbor with no attachment to any larger strategic concept that it was willing to support.

To sum it up in few words: “10% for the big guy”.

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022

I just had to read this one entitled “Why Putin didn’t invade Ukraine during the last U.S. administration”. The question should be a discomfiting one indeed for people of the author’s ilk. His response, prefaced by a prudent “perhaps”: “because Putin was so pleased to see Trump pursuing goals in line with Moscow’s agenda”. Steve Benen is a producer for The Rachel Maddow Show.

Sunday, February 20th, 2022

America today: the fractious school board meeting. I blame, well, so many things. Corn subsidies? No-fault divorce? The lack perhaps of a dietary component in Protestantism? But despite the madness this video shows that the will to civility still remains, which is a tendril for hope.

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.

Friday, February 11th, 2022

Goldman is moved by Reacher:

Radical Protestantism leads the pilgrim from the “howling wilderness” and the “enchanted ground” of the Old World and leads him to the Canaan of the spirit. The question is addressed to, and answered by, the individual pilgrim. The Jew is born into the people of Israel; the Christian seeks adoption into the Israel of the Spirit. American Christianity retains the radical individualism of its Protestant forebears, who chose as individuals to become Americans. We have become Americans by adoption, and we have adopted the history of Israel as our national common memory. A profound parallelism is involved. The biblical Election of Israel was not a prize that God awarded to an unlikely nation of shepherds, but rather the outcome of Israel’s free choice to accept the Torah and the responsibility of election. It is our free choice to become Americans that is the cornerstone of our culture.

Friday, January 28th, 2022

The New York Post appears to be cruisin’ for another cancellin’, what with their Peter Schweizer reporting that the Biden family has done five deals in China arranged by individuals with ties to Chinese intelligence. Such poor taste, reporting on this sort of distraction from the real issues.

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

JINSA pleads with Biden to accept the gift of much Middle East peace bequeathed him:

Now is the time for Biden to up his game and remove all doubt that widening the circle of Arab-Israeli peace is one of his highest priorities. How? Name a special presidential envoy for normalization. Next, convene a summit meeting at Camp David with the leaders of Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan to establish an ongoing forum for building a new regional security architecture with Israel as an integral member.

Militarily, take advantage of the almost limitless opportunities now available to slowly but surely build Arab-Israeli defense ties as the result of Trump’s decision a year ago to move Israel into U.S. Central Command’s area of operations, alongside the armed forces of almost all of the United States’ Arab partners. Make last November’s naval exercises in the Red Sea the first in a regular series that draws in more Arab states over time and involves air, sea, land, and cybersecurity domains. Integrate Israeli forces and capabilities as much as possible into the multinational task forces that the U.S. Navy already leads to uphold freedom of navigation in the region, defend its vital maritime chokepoints, and combat the malign activities at sea of Iran and its network of terrorist proxies.

Friday, January 14th, 2022

There’s the story — a Salena Zito New York Post joint — of one Former Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, losing weight because he wants to be around for his grandkids. And a Tara Palmeri Politico Playbook story that the Clintons see Democratic concern over the upcoming midterm election “as an opportunity to insert themselves back into political life”.

Where Is My Flying Car?

J. Storrs Hall

♦♦♦♦

Where is My Flying Car, what author and nanotechnologist J. Storrs Hall refers to as his intellectual memoir, is the first book I can remember hoping that everyone would read. Graceful, witty, we cut through the blather to the chase of social good: technology, always and forever, and where and how we got off this crystal ship, and how we can get back on it. Consider this the truer, more resonant, more actionable big brother of Tyler Cowen’s Great Stagnation. A random excerpt from 40% in:

Gyros of perfectly usable specs are being built now. This is mostly in Europe, because the EU has an approved rotorcraft classification that is similar to the light-sport fixed-wings you can buy here, but the US does not. That means that in Europe, you can buy a gyro built in a factory, but if you want one here you have to build it yourself. A typical gyro goes for about a third the price of a helicopter and can use a 200-foot runway. The Dutch company PAL-V is in the process of launching a new design roadable autogyro. It has the same advantages as the Pitcairn designs of the 1930s, but updated with modern materials and technology. It also has to face a lot more regulatory hurdles, as a car as well as an aircraft, than there were in the 30s. As a result its roadable configuration is three-wheeled so that it comes under motorcycle regulations instead of car ones. The rotor, tail, and propeller retract and/or fold up and it becomes an enclosed trike-style motorcycle on the road. It’s listed  at better than 100mph both on the road and in the air.

This is fascinating and exciting — especially today when one can simply search the the company name (PAL-V) and instantly see the company’s news and promotional materials. But the book is not just a catalog, it’s a manifesto. And it’s not just a manifesto, it’s a history. I’m not doing it justice. I’ll come back and write more and differently on it.

[Update 2022 Jan 27: The book has been out a couple of years, so it’s suprising that just a month ago we have The Wall Street Journal’s review by Philip Dewlves Broughton.

Thursday, January 13th, 2022

Having already had the worst thrown at him (not without some reason), Lord Black of Crossharbour need make no bones about it:

In an election of 156 million voters and more than 40 million harvested ballots (i.e. those of unverifiable validity and cast by people other than those to whom the votes ostensibly belonged), where a shift of 46,000 votes in Pennsylvania and any two of Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin would have flipped the election to Trump in the Electoral College, 2020 takes its place along with the highly contested contests of 1876 (Hayes-Tilden), 1960 (Kennedy-Nixon), and 2000 (George W. Bush-Gore).

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

In the very-nicely-titled online review Crooked Marquee, Jason Bailey does justice to Wes Anderson’s fabulous new The French Dispatch:

Charmingly, this film that loves writers is also one of Anderson’s most lavishly directed – which is, I know, saying something … Anderson’s films have also become a welcome opportunity for serious actors to let their hair down – Tilda Swinton is clearly having a blast.

Yes indeed, The French Dispatch is a box of supercandy for grownups. Modern works seem to take it as part of their mission to be the supreme work; even if doomed to fail, there’s an understanding that a serious attempt elevates everything. (Or, as Frank Lloyd Wright said, “I don’t design a house without reimagining the social order.”) The French Dispatch is a contender for one thing it is an ode to other mediums: typography, cooking, France, the written word. All that and the title triggers “The French Mistake”…).

And looking around again at reviews, actually again it’s David Brody who treats it most appropriately, so bloody enthusiastic that he retells parts of it, which seems rather a faux pas for his critical stature. Brody reminds us at the end that yes, it is a screenplay that flows with noble emotion, exquisitely portrayed. And in the end he compares Anderson with Hemingway. See, what did I tell you…

Nice to see David Goldman finally with a simple plan to save the world. I mean, I’ve been thinking this for years, and Matt Yglasias got a book out of it, One Billion Americans. So here’s Goldman the Wise in one sentence on the USA in “Import Americans”:

Our capacity to integrate human capital is our only natural advantage and it may prove to be our decisive strength.

I’m not sure about only natural advantage — the USA has probably the most natural advantages among all the world’s nation-states, but still.

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”

Sunday, January 9th, 2022

Don’t Look Up — to the flaming comet or one’s sorry betters? Two of the worst things I read about this movie phenomenon were the risible Guardian collectivist sharing and the lazy Financial Times piece (why do they even bother, it just lowers the tone of an expensive subscription) and there’s plenty more drivel in this wide vein. Yet paradoxically it is two American outlets usually so generous in spreading the infection of orthodox moronicism who published two of the best: in The New York Times, no surprise that it’s Ross Douthat:

Art … has a way of escaping the intentions of its creators. McKay’s tweets notwithstanding, his comet scenario is a lousy allegory for the climate challenge, for reasons painstakingly elaborated by New York Magazine’s Eric Levitz in one of the best responses to the movie as a would-be policy intervention. But the pandemic that arrived before production started turned out to be a better fit for the allegory.

Who would have thought that an apparently intentionally pro-climate-alarmist movie would produce a sober backlash in such pro-climate-alarmist publications. That is why America win: it contains multitudes. And that’s what makes this movie worth talking about: it escapes the artist’s apparently feebly pious intentions. Why has Adam McKay, no stranger to exposing boondoggles given that he made such a great movie out of The Big Short, not read J. Storrs Hall?

Oh yes, and the other piece: film critic Richard Brody in The New Yorker:

The movie lives by its place in the discourse, such as that discourse is. It satirizes the trivializing flow of celebrity gossip and light-toned frivolity, of clickbait pushing aside investigative reporting and of tech moguls not only usurping government power but commandeering public discourse. Yet its own anti-aesthetic of neutral images and predigested narrative efficiency, its celebrity feast of star turns and flashy performances, and its simplistic anger-stoking and pathos-wringing mask the movie’s fundamental position of getting itself talked about while utterly eliding any real sense of politics or political confrontation.

All that said, I appreciated the movie quite a lot, and I think both these guys did as well.

Sunday, December 19th, 2021

Can the USA stay checked-in long enough to deliver Israel the required refueling tankers? Michael Makovsky of JINSA hopes so.

Saturday, December 18th, 2021

In this excerpt from his new book The Elect: Neoracists Posing as Antiracists and their Threat to a Progressive America, the great John McWhorter lists 10 self-contradictory catechisms of woke/anti-racist ideology. Among them:

You must strive eternally to understand the experiences of black people. But you can never understand what it is to be black, and if you think you do you’re a racist.

And:

Show interest in multiculturalism. But do not culturally appropriate. What is not your culture is not for you, and you may not try it or do it. But — if you aren’t nevertheless interested in it, you are a racist.

Most of us are fumbling around trying to articulate if only to ourselves just what is so Kafkaesque and bonkers about all this. McWhorter has, as the parlance goes, done the work.

[Update 2022 Jan 12: The Chronicle of Higher Education has published what appears to be a take-down of the book by Eduardo Peñalver, linked to from aldaily.com, which I believe the Chron now owns.

The California Teachers Association held an event in Palm Springs on October 29-31, 2021 entitled “2021 LGBTQ+ Issues Conference, Beyond the Binary: Identity & Imagining Possibilities”. There they held workshops to “have the courage to create a safe environment that fosters bravery to explore sexual orientation, gender identity and expression”, reports Abigail Shrier:

“Because we are not official — we have no club rosters, we keep no records,” Buena Vista Middle School teacher and LGBTQ-club leader, Lori Caldeira, states on an audio clip sent to me by a conference attendee. “In fact, sometimes we don’t really want to keep records because if parents get upset that their kids are coming? We’re like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe they came?’ You know, we would never want a kid to get in trouble for attending if their parents are upset.”

Just how did such entrenched swathes of America become so wackadoodle? I’d be curious as to whether Ms Caldeira has kids herself. Regardless, that’s likely part of the answer: America, now experiencing its lowest birth rates ever, has proportionately more childless — pardon me, child-free — adults, which naturally suggests increasingly non-child-prioritizing policy leanings.

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

Social media is the opium of the 21st century, and the young tech wizards who infest Silicon Valley are the moral successors of the young Etonians who forced India to grow the drug and forced China to buy it.

David P. Goldman, How the Virtual Empire Corrupted America: My January 2000 Warning

Thursday, December 9th, 2021

An interview with Vivian Gornick, distinguished New York essayist.

I spend my life trying to produce sentences, as a pair of academics once put it, as “clear and simple as the truth.” The emotional truth, that is. For me, only the accumulation of lucid sentences will deliver on that. Now every writer—poet, novelist, essayist—is aiming for the same thing, putting emotional truth on the page, only each does it using language differently. In the end, I believe, all are aiming for what I am calling clarity.

New York is still the city of letters, and there are still letters.

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

All the keyboard-powered culture wars bullhonky is merely a distraction from the world’s most important problem: the impoverishment of the American blue-collar worker. Because without a prosperous American nation, there is no Pax Americana. In Newsweek, Hazmat truck driver Cyrus Tharpe writes:

Our jobs are essential because they are rooted in manufacturing and delivering goods, the underpinning of every major economy on the planet. And unlike politicians, we materially improve the lives of the American people.

And yet, this “essential” job pays a garbage wage. The median annual income for a truck driver in this country is less than $40,000 a year. For many of us, 50 percent of our take-home pay immediately disappears to cover rent.

Thursday, November 25th, 2021

Happy day: rivals British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flew synchronized flights from London to New York to mark the end of Covid-based travel restrictions to the USA, reports Airline Geeks.

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021

RIP Ray Kappe, creator for himself of arguably the world’s second-greatest home.

The house is open yet staggered, as set by the Los Angeles hills on which it sits. The resulting complexity provides repose for civilized minds. I pray it becomes a museum — though perhaps it would be better for the greatest of homes to divide their time between serving as museums and short-term rentals, so that the more dedicated can experience them fulfilling their original purpose.

It’s sad but American national institutions are crumbling — that is to say, I’m not sure I fully trust David Brooks any more. In his report from his experience at the National Conservatism Conference he concludes:

There is something extremely off-putting about the NatCon public pose. In person, as I say, I find many of them charming, warm, and friendly. But their public posture is dominated by the psychology of threat and menace. If there was one expression of sympathy, kindness, or grace uttered from the podium in Orlando, I did not hear it. But I did hear callousness, invocations of combat, and whiffs of brutality.

His piece is for The Atlantic, which, while not as far into illiberal territory as The New York Times or The New Yorker, is on the way. So I can’t help but feel that he is toeing their editorial line, and that if the piece was say for the New Criterion, his tone would be friendlier towards the event.

This is sad to say, because if you can’t trust uncle Dave Brooks, who can you? Well, at least the title isn’t his; the word “terrifying” doesn’t appear even once within the article (though this is a talent who surely has the clout to have editorial control or at least strong influence over the titles of his pieces).

Update: More straightforwardly, Arnold Kling reaches a similarly worried conclusion and actually explains himself.

Update #2: 2021 Dec 19: Here’s Ross Douthat with mealy-mouthed support for NatCon2 and an excited Adam Ellwanger.

To my mind, the New Right needs to focus on and build upon modernity’s bedrock value: tolerance.

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.

index topics usa usa

Arab Insanity Eroding

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

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)

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

Fool me once. This piece, a rather disparaging article on Avatar at DNYUZ, and redeemed by the fact that the author did actually visit the Avatar theme park at DisneyWorld, is nonetheless the second time (I forget the first article) I’ve enjoyed a pretty good longish read only to come across, about 2/3 of the way through, what in my defensive paranoia seems like the woke raison d’etre of the whole piece:

What were the odds that, galaxies away, a society not only had two genders, but those genders were “male” and “female” — and the females were stacked?

I sputter at attempting to explicate the wanton stupidity here, but will try: Of all the previous sci-fi shows with females and males, suddenly this is an issue in this movie? Of all the liberties taken with physics and reality with these sci-fi tentpole movies, this biologically-grounded fact of life is the complaint? What of the mammalian model for life all around us? Anonymous DNYUZ author, I see you and I CMD-W you.

Update: OK I didn’t quite immediately close my browser tab, I skimmed to the end, and there is indeed a byline:

Jamie Lauren Keiles is a contributing writer for the magazine. They are currently working on a book about the rise of gender-neutral pronouns and nonbinary identity in America.

Fair enough, they have an agenda, and in my skimming I see:

Here is probably a good place to disclose that when I first started working on this article, I had never seen “Avatar.”

Aha, my agenda sense was working. Yet some good parts are still to come: after watching it on their laptop, the author is disappointed, but then goes to see it in 3-D and is enraptured:

The action did not just come forward as one frame, but instead wove me into the movement onscreen, the tendrils of plants and falling drops of water each reaching out from a different point in space. The Na’vi bodies appeared to have mass. It was hard to discern what was real or C.G.I., which led me to wonder, “Why even distinguish?” This, in turn, produced a twisted surge of delight at the prospect of man’s becoming God.

The author’s deeper reveal, perhaps — and a surprising antepenultimate word choice.

You need a grinder to make life delicious.

James Hoffman on coffee

Saturday, November 26th, 2022

Stratechery on Microsoft: So Teams is the new Windows. Ah, as so many movie villains have said, Why won’t you just die?!

Sunday, November 20th, 2022

Episode #105 of the All-In Podcast is a bumper one, covering the Musk-led collapse of what David Sacks refers to as the excess elites jobs program, wherein high-status people who cannot be particularly economically productive after their training in sycophancy at a woke madrassa are nonetheless absorbed.

Good post and comment thread by Tyler Cowen on the future of London as a city:

… London, which indeed is currently the best city in the world but in a modestly populated country. However this central role for the city makes the UK as a broader nation richer to only a limited degree. So the extreme wonders of London lead to a partial (permanent) atrophy for the rest of the country, which is precisely what we observe.

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022

On researching Prokofiev; Princeton musicologist Simon Morrison uncovers more works by my favorite composer.

The biggest change Prokofiev and his collaborator Sergei Radlov made to Shakespeare’s familiar story was to add a happy ending: Their Juliet wakes up from her potion-induced slumber just as Romeo is reaching the awful conclusion that she is dead. But when Prokofiev presented his score to the Soviet cultural authorities, who had been growing ever more conservative, they balked at the ending. The Shakespeare purists among them did not like the idea of changing the familiar ending. Prokofiev had a logical answer to their objections, saying, “Living people can dance, the dying cannot.” Grasping at ways to preserve the integrity of his vision, he even suggested hanging a red flag outside the theater on nights when the sad ending was to be performed, a green flag when the happy one was planned.

Wednesday, November 9th, 2022

An awed shoutout to Raycast, which I presume the cool kids have been using for years. I had given up finding a contemporary equivalent for SizzlingKeys, a way to control the Apple Music app simply from the keyboard regardless of which app I’m using. With Raycast it’s a breeze to set keyboard hotkeys for many Music app operations, including all the ones I’ve ever thought of using.

Tuesday, October 18th, 2022

A tweetstorm on tagging by Hillel, with issues I’ve been mulling over myself.

Sunday, October 16th, 2022

At the Washington Institute, Rahim Hamid and Ruth Riegler argue that the Iranian uprising must have a plan for the various ethnicities.

Friday, October 14th, 2022

Tony Badran explicates the terrible maritime deal that Israel signed with the Lebanese. It seems to me they just locked in Bibi’s reelection.

Monday, October 10th, 2022

To form an opinion on the wedge of maritime territory wedged between Israeli and Lebanon, some googling revealed:

Saturday, October 8th, 2022

Himars, highly mobile precision missile launchers, is a revolutionary military technology that has changed the balance of war in Ukraine’s favour against Russia.

Friday, October 7th, 2022

Oh my, Walter Russell Mead joins Tyler Cowen for a rich brief hour, and they barely mention WRM’s new book Arc. While in print WRM can seem a bit mealy-mouthed, often it seems throat-clearing to not alienate those with whom he basically disagrees, here he comes out strong and hearty. And TC’s idiosyncratic method of firing off questions works with WRM because each one prompts such a rich answer that there’s little need for normal back and forth.

Thursday, October 6th, 2022

Jonathan Haidt speaks with Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly on democracy in the next cycle of history and the fragility problem of Gen Z. What a line-up!

Reuel Marc Gerecht is back, now opining fruitfully on the Iranian protests in The Wall Street Journal [subscription required]:

What is most striking about the regime’s response so far is its relative lack of violence … Like all declining dictatorships, the clerical regime has had a failure of imagination—in this case, about how to handle protesting women.

You find some good shit when you search YouTube for reviews by other people who really detest No Time to Die. This is the redoubtable young Batcho.

Wednesday, October 5th, 2022

Tuesday, October 4th, 2022

Some Twitter accounts posting frequent videos of the courageous protests by young women in Iran:

This, it seems to me, is inspiring, world-historical stuff.

Thrilling, emotional coverage by Israel’s Channel 12 on Iran’s street protests, including secret footage from a local stringer.

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.

Sunday, October 2nd, 2022

The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People

Walter Russell Mead

♦♦♦♦

Mearsheimer and Walt — three words that do not appear once in this 1045-page book but are clearly its raison d’etre. John Mearsheimer is Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago; Stephen Walt is Professor of International Relations at Harvard Kennedy School; together they are the respectable face of American anti-Semitism, reputable enough that Walter Russell Mead seems unwilling to criticize them by name, despicable enough that their book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy infuriated our southern-born dean of foreign relations to work on this book for a dozen years or so.

The Wikipedia article on the Lobby book illustrates Mead’s Southern Gentleman approach; whereas Israeli historian Benny Morris says “their work is riddled with shoddiness and defiled by mendacity,” Mead applauds the authors for “admirably and courageously” initiating a conversation on a difficult subject, but more in sorrow than in anger laments that while their intentions are surely strictly honorable, they commit “easily avoidable lapses in judgment and expression.”

Making multiple approaches from multiple angles, Mead demolishes their central notion, giving it the withering moniker of Vulcanist thinking. (Actually I take issue a little with this label, because since the book is so long I forgot the elegant historical anecdote that originates it — a theory of astronomy that attempted to explain celestial workings by means of an undetected planet that doesn’t actually exis. Instead I mentally defaulted to popular culture, where Star Trek’s Vulcan is a stand-in for excessive logic — a characterization quite antithetical to his notion of Vulcanist thinking. This is a shame because the term therefore probably won’t catch on, which it could have perhaps as a shorthand for tendentious yet respectable and therefore ultimately even more ridiculous thinking.)

Especially enriching are his fleshing out of the geopolitical maneouverings among the US, Britain and Russia at the time of Israel’s founding. Important here for Mead’s thesis is that the legend of Truman’s Jewish friend from back in Missouri inveighing on the flummoxed President to recognize Israel be relegated to Queen Esther-echoing myth. For it is WRM’s contention in his chapter “Cyrus Agonistes” that American support for Israel is endemic to the United States, rather than due to the influence of the American Jewish lobby qua Walt and Mearsheimer — moreover it’s despite American Jews, whose leaders have for most of Israel’s history been actively working against a Jewish state, their energies only turning once America as a whole pursued full-throated support for Israel after it became the Middle East’s unambiguous Six Day War strong horse.

It’s also a helpful historical insight that WRM groups 19th century American support for Jewish return to Israel with support for the birth of the Italian and Greek nationstates:

In the ancient world, as Americans saw it, the Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews had been much like Americans of the nineteenth century. They were mostly agrarian people, nations of family-owned farms. They had free institutions and their societies were grounded in virtue. But corruption, urbanization, and monarchy had wreaked their ugly work; in time, all three of the ancient peoples fell from their virtue and freedom into slavery, superstition, and oppression.

As the nineteenth century progressed, and the Greek and Italian independence movements advanced, the possibility of a restored Jewish commonwealth also began to gleam on the horizon.

In fact the discussion of nationalism’s birth pangs from the empires of eastern Europe, the chapter entitled “Maelstrom”, is perhaps the richest part of the book.

As a columnist I have been irritated by what I perceive as WRM’s intellectual mealy-mouthedness. But as a full-throated podcast guest I realize this is merely his print persona, a tic I suppose similar to what he probably views as his Straussian icy politeness regarding Mearsheimer and Walt. That said, I took umbrage when in the book he referred to the Second Intifada, a wave of despicable terror attacks against Israel in the wake of the Oslo Agreements, using the BBC-like passive even-handed term: “violence flared”. I instantly recalled eyewitnessing the shellshock in the hours after the Dolphinarium suicide bombing that killed and maimed dozens of partying teenagers. I was only somewhat mollified later in the book when he mentioned this particular bombing by name, without mentioning that the victims were teenagers.

This is a book about America not Israel, and as well as constituting a scathing retort to Mearsheimer and Walt, is a continuation by other means of his 2001 book Special Providence that classifies the various streams of America’s foreign policy; in portraying America’s relationship with Israel, Arc explicates the fullest expression of the Jacksonian stream, a Meadian classification that, unlike Vulcanism, does seem to be sticking.

Wednesday, September 28th, 2022

He of the Cottage Cheese protests, now sitting in the Prime Minister’s chair, finally did it, as Israel applies EU standards for foodstuffs. Lapid’s statement: “The move will lower the cost of living and open the market to competition” — and what a great pic in his office with the Israeli flag and an array of foodstuffs.

Lilium’s electric aircraft demonstrator takes off and lands vertically, achieving mid-flight transition. The first and last moments of the video are I guess the most important. Lilium stock rises 6%, seemingly as a result.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

The American model appeared to demonstrate that capitalism plus democracy led to mass prosperity and deep social stability.

Walter Russell Mead, The Arc of a Covenant

Sunday, September 25th, 2022

If “the Jews” ran America, immigration would not have been restricted and Israel would likely not exist.

Walter Russell Mead, The Arc of a Covenant (p. 251)

Saturday, September 24th, 2022

Thursday, September 22nd, 2022

A good ol’ rant by everyone against Microsoft in this Hacker News thread, this time about Teams. When o when will this monstrosity of a corporation die already. “Developer-friendly”; may the GitHub guys get what they deserve for selling out to the Borg.

Israel’s patience and humility is rewarded first by Trump and now by Truss: the UK may follow the US in relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv the seafront metropolis to Jerusalem the capital.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2022

Very ambitious people probably need colleagues more than anyone else, because they’re so starved for them in everyday life.

Paul Graham, What I’ve Learned from Users

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022

So ifixit are really excited by the repairability of the new iPhone 14, the internals of which have been totally redesigned. This was barely mentioned at the launch, and interestingly did not carry over to the 14 Pros.

Friday, September 16th, 2022

At Nat Con 3, Peter Thiel argues in a speech entitled “The Tech Curse” that while the Democrats have nothing to offer but the California model of gutting the middle classes except state employees, the Republicans nonetheless need something more than simply a negation of it.

One heuristic he offers in order to measure societal success in contrast to California is cheap real estate, but offers no path to get there.

My monomaniacal suggestion: flying cars/eVTOLs, which increase the human daily commute distance from about 50 to 250 miles, multiplying our practicable habitable area by likely an order of magnitude. As well as other unforeseeable boons, surely this would radically lower the cost of homes.

But it requires government support. “If the U.S. doesn’t take a leadership role, either someone else will do it or it won’t get done at all,” said Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-California), co-chair of the Congressional AAM Caucus, along with Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-California), at Honeywell’s Air Mobility Summit. “We are really at an inflection point in the industry. It’s such a critical time for Congress to get involved.”

Thursday, September 15th, 2022

Wednesday, September 7th, 2022

In Mosaic, Philologos discusses the Biblical use of “and”. The crux of the matter is this:

One reason that the prefixed vav is so ubiquitous in the Bible is that, as everyone familiar with biblical Hebrew knows, it can have a second function that is not a conjunction’s. This is the marking of tense—or more precisely, the reversing of tense, since it is a peculiarity of biblical Hebrew that a prefixed vav, when attached to a verb, can change its tense from past or perfect to future or imperfect, and vice versa.

And:

Biblical Hebrew has no punctuation (the cantillations it is chanted to in the synagogue are a later development) and is a language poor in conjunctions. Although it has its own ways of expressing logical and temporal relationships between parts of sentences, something that is largely done in English by means of commas and periods, dependent clauses, and conjunctions like “when,” “while,” “as,” “though,” “despite,” and so forth, biblical Hebrew rarely puts together sentences by such means. It prefers coordinate clauses joined by a vav—or, in more technical language, paratactic rather than hypotactic constructions in which the vav can do the work of various English conjunctions and mean other things beside “and.”

Tuesday, September 6th, 2022

The Mufti, Qadaffi, King Hussein — I’m vastly enjoying season 2 of the Israeli TV documentary series Enemies (streaming requires an Israeli IP). One thing I can’t help but notice is the impressive living rooms in which the interviewees — mostly military intelligence vets — sit. None of them are in apartments, all have leafy window views, there’s a lot of wood, and most of them aren’t furnished like typical Israeli dwellings. I guess these aren’t military men, they’re men and women of the world.

I can’t tell if I enjoy Israeli docs because they’re so good, or merely because I’m the target audience. If it’s the former, and I think it is, they really should be selling them subtitled to wider audiences, say to Netflix and Amazon Prime.

It’s great, this pounding away at Israeli history, each episode a different prism.

Monday, September 5th, 2022

The reward is that if you give, even at the times when you think you have very little, you’ll teach your brain that there is more than enough.

Tony Robbins, Money: Master the Game

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).

Tuesday, August 30th, 2022

For those not yet cognizant of the fact that eVTOLs are coming soon and coming fast, Jeff Scallop writes up the rationale at “Still No Flying Cars? eVTOLs Might be the Answer” in Market for Ideas.

The main attractiveness of eVTOLs is their ability to reduce transit times in metropolitan areas, especially those routes subject to heavy traffic jams. Given current battery autonomy, ideal distances for eVTOLs range from 15 to 150 miles.

eVTOLs also offer many advantages when compared to helicopters, such as a lower cost per seat per mile (currently at $3.00, which is comparable to ride-hailing apps even). They also have much lower noise levels, allowing them to fly at lower altitudes and significantly reducing the necessary infrastructure costs (vertiports vs helipads), which could help boost adoption.

Saturday, August 27th, 2022

Friday, August 26th, 2022

Great interview at Berkeley with alum and local Oakland boy Craig Federighi [Dec 2019].

Friday, August 12th, 2022

Tuesday, August 9th, 2022

I agree with the sentiment in this Haaretz op-ed piece “It’s Time for Israeli Media to Start Calling Gaza Victims by Their Names”, an issue I blogged about during a previous Gaza altercation back in 2014 and haven’t changed my mind. What regular folks here in Israel care about are the disruptions caused due to incoming rocket fire — and that’s totally legit. But for the record the media should be noting whom Israel kills in order to ameliorate the aggression — especially when they are non-combatants. Perhaps one argument against doing so is that we must rely for the facts on the Palestinians themselves, for whom facts seem to be malleable instruments. If credibility is truly Israel’s issue, then we should enlist the aid of credible third-parties organizations for corroboration.

Friday, August 5th, 2022

Yippee, Conrad Black is back, juicy and crunchy as ever. From “The Triumph of Davos Man”:

Our [hard Left] enemies leapt from the jaws of bitter and total defeat, hijacked the careening gadfly of esoteric conservationism, and transformed it surreptitiously into a well-camouflaged battering ram that has inflicted immense costs and opprobrium on the corporate world and great sadness and inconvenience on the laboring proletariat on whose behalf the Marxist Left has supposedly been crusading these past 150 years.

The second most important country in the Western Alliance is almost detached from it, all by the apparently innocuous and meliorist actions of Germany’s peppiest environmentalists.

Conrad Black, Triumph of Davos Man

News I can use: to be published in the academic journal Experimental Gerontology, “Frequent sauna bathing offsets the increased risk of death due to low socioeconomic status” — a prospective cohort study of middle-aged and older men.

Thursday, August 4th, 2022

At last, a British publication (The New Statesman, with muchos kudos for the great rebranding) addresses the bonkers British practice of placing washing machines in kitchens and consequently lacking space for dishwashers (or vice versa, the causality is mysterious):

Non-Brits find having a washing machine in the kitchen hilarious (as well as unhygienic, which it is). But the idea of bringing smelly socks near food preparation surfaces apparently pales in comparison to the shady plastic tub in the sink, its fleet of mugs bobbing in the oily foam.

The article even addresses that other bugbear: “UK residents commonly have separate hot and cold taps, whereas single mixer taps have long been the norm in Europe.”

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022

Britons should be honored by this Palestinian diatribe against them.

 
 

•••

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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