Monday, October 9th, 2023


Goodbye Shalom

Scheduling Note: Delivery will be sporadic this week.

As Israel continues building its counterattack following Hamas' horrific slaughter and kidnapping of civilians, Israelis (and the world) are left wondering how a country known for its elite intelligence capabilities could have been so wholly shocked by the unprecedented incursion, and so unprepared to defend its own citizens once all hell broke loose. One lesson for Israel and America: Strongman authoritarians build their own power, not their country's. In the face of unthinkable tragedy, Israel is racing to form a unified government that can manage the fight that its divided government didn't see coming. Unifying after an attack is too late. Governments must be unified and functioning ahead of the worst of times and any moment could fit that description. It should worry you that America's government is so broken by extremists that it can't even effectively offer aid to an ally because of the GOP house dysfunction that shows no sign of abating.

+ Juliette Kayyem in The Atlantic (Gift Article): "How did Israel's extensive counterterrorism efforts fail to pick up an attack waged by land, sea, and air? How did its defenses fail so extensively? This wasn't just an intelligence failure. It was an everything failure."

+ One big geopolitical question: Aside from its longterm backing of Hamas, what involvement did Iran have in the attack and could this spill over into a broader war? Hamas attack bears hallmarks of Iranian involvement, former U.S. officials say.

+ The US is taking steps to support Israel and deter others in the region from joining the fight. US sends aircraft carrier group to eastern Mediterranean in response to Hamas attack on Israel. (But again, the US is not at full capacity: Tuberville will continue block on US military nominees despite Hamas attack on Israel.)

+ Of course, the geopolitical issues are almost the easier topic to consider compared to the human cost of the attacks, the more than 100 hostages, and the mass destruction we can expect over the coming weeks. (For me, it's all an easier topic to consider than my concern for my own family members in Israel.) Nowhere was the human cost more clear than at The Tribe of Nova trance music festival, near Kibbutz Reim, where hundreds were killed and many kidnapped. WaPo (Gift Article): How a night of dancing and revelry in Israel turned into a massacre.

+ "The first inkling Yoni Asher had that his family were inside Gaza was by tracking his wife's mobile phone." Dozens of people, including foreign nationals, have been taken as captives into Gaza. Here are some of their stories.

+ Hamas is threatening to kill hostages in response to Israel's bombing of Gaza targets, the death toll in Israel is past 900 and expected to rise, Israeli officials have ordered a complete siege of Gaza. Here's the latest from CNN, NYT, Times of Israel, and Haaretz.


Rules of the Road Ahead

"The Hamas terrorists paid no attention to any modern laws of war, or any norms of any kind: Like the Russians, Hamas and its Iranian backers (who are also Russian allies) run nihilistic regimes whose goal is to undo whatever remains of the rules-based world order, and to put anarchy in its place. They did not hide their war crimes. Instead, they filmed them and circulated the videos online. Their goal was not to gain territory or engage an army, but rather to create misery and anger. Which they have—and not only in Israel. Hamas had to have anticipated a massive retaliation in Gaza, and indeed that retaliation has begun. As a result, hundreds if not thousands of Palestinian civilians will now be victims too." Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic (Gift Article): There Are No Rules. (There are also no signs of this trend reversing.)


Money Talks (And Walks)

"Imagine trusting your life savings to a group of strangers you know only via WhatsApp. Some affluent Chinese people are willing to make that gamble to get part of their wealth out of the mainland." Bloomberg (Gift Article): China's Rich Entrust Total Strangers to Sneak Cash Out of the Country.


Betting the Under the Covers

"I had never before attended a business conference with a 28 percent chance of an orgy." Kevin Roose in the NYT (Gift Article): The Wager That Betting Can Change the World. "These people believe the world is full of bad information — biased news, out-of-touch punditry, loony conspiracy theories. Much of this information is spread by people without skin in the game. (Or worse, people with incentives to lie.) And many people have lost faith in the experts and institutions, such as the government and the media, that once served as trusted referees. Prediction markets, they believe, offer a better way to search for truth — rewarding those who are good at forecasting by allowing them to make money off those who are bad at it, while settling on the facts in an unbiased way."


Extra, Extra

Gap Year: "Harvard University's Claudia Goldin has won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Economics for her research on women in the labor market. She studies the changing role of working women through the centuries, and the causes of the persistent pay gap between men and women."

+ From Bad to Nurse: "They got caught in the middle between anti-maskers and maskers and anti-vaccine and pro-vaccine parents, and were the point of contact whenever students had to quarantine. 'School nurses are used to interacting with parents who are angry ... that anger just got to levels we had never seen before.'" A third of schools don't have a nurse.

+ Gavel Pit: Jim Jordan, "a leading contender for the speakership, does differ from his GOP colleagues in an important way: his unique role in helping Trump try to steal the 2020 election and launch the January 6 riot." (Plenty of his colleagues see this is a positive.) Meanwhile, Kevin McCarthy seems to be getting back into the race for the job he just lost. (It would be funny if it weren't deadly serious: Army to Congress: Do your job so we can help Israel and Ukraine.)

+ Space Jammed "Props to humanity: It isn't easy to make an infinite expanse observable across 94B light-years feel like a cluttered mess." There's just so much space junk.

+ Marathon Man: "Kiptum averaged 4:36 per mile but ran much faster over the second half, which included a 4:21 mile." It's impossible to even wrap one's head around someone running this fast for this long. Kelvin Kiptum Shatters Marathon World Record in Chicago.

+ But Never At Musk: "As false information about the rapidly changing war between Gaza Strip militants and Israel proliferated on the social media platform X over the weekend, owner Elon Musk personally recommended that users follow accounts notorious for promoting lies." Maybe, just maybe, it's time for him to shut the eff up about things he knows nothing about? (It's definitely long past time for people to stop posting on his site.)


Bottom of the News

"A new speaker can rearrange its seven 'self-deploying' microphones to partition a room into so-called 'speech zones,' allowing it to track and identify different voices, even as they move." Scientists Say They've Invented a Speaker That "Mutes" Annoying People. (Ironically, science might liberate us from hearing from people who don't believe in science.)

+ Children's picture book flagged at Alabama library because author's last name is Gay.