Down at the Crossroads

Middle East Heats Up, Trump Told to Cool Down

Over the weekend, I attended a bat mitzvah during which the presiding rabbi had the unenviable task of leading what should be a joyous event during a time of deep mourning. During the ceremony, she described a Jewish teaching that explains if a funeral procession and a wedding procession meet at an intersection and one has to go first, the wedding takes the lead. This Talmudic lesson is meant to demonstrate that even in times of extreme sadness and mourning, we need to make room for life and joy. The teaching is right of course. There are times when joy and laughter can be acts of defiance, and any child stepping to the bema to read from the torah for the first time deserves, at least for a moment, to be shielded from the hate and ugliness of another of history’s sad moments. So we let the joy have the right of way during the bat mitzvah, but once it was over, we went back to mourning. Mourning for the dead and the kidnapped, so many of whom were working for peace and a two-state solution. Mourning for the fact that even an act of unbridled barbarism can’t be mourned by Jews without a, Yeah but… Given that they tortured, raped, and killed innocent people from the elderly to babies, and that they specifically targeted children at school, knowing full well the attack would drive a response resulting in countless deaths of their own people who they’ve done nothing to protect and who they use as human shields, one would assume it would be Hamas whose morals were being most vociferously called into question. Yeah but… Mourning the fact that we’re being led into a broader conflict by Netanyahu’s government that was so fixated on destroying Israel’s democracy from the inside that it left the country vulnerable to threats from the outside. And, yes, of course, mourning the loss of innocent Palestinian civilians, who have been the region’s pawns and victims for far too long. If a joyous procession and funeral procession come to an intersection, we’re taught to let the joyous one proceed. But maybe it’s just a simple matter of traffic, since the funeral procession is lined up as far as the eye can see.

+ In the NYT, Tom Friedman does a good job explaining the latest twists in the conflict, why many Israelis feel even more conflicted due to the Netanyahu government, and why Hamas acted now. (Hint, it wasn’t to promote peace in the Middle East. It was to prevent it.) “The bigger reason it acted now, which Hamas won’t admit, is that it saw how Israel was being more accepted by the Arab world and soon possibly by the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia … Israel has suffered a staggering blow and is now forced into a morally impossible war to outcrazy Hamas and deter Iran and Hezbollah at the same time. I weep for the terrible deaths that now await so many good Israelis and Palestinians. And I also worry deeply about the Israeli war plan. It is one thing to deter Hezbollah and deter Hamas. It is quite another to replace Hamas and leave behind something more stable and decent. But what to do?” NYT (Gift Article): Why Israel Is Acting This Way. “Finally, though, just as I stand today with Israel’s new unity government in its fight against Hamas to save Israel’s body, I will stand after this war with Israel’s democracy defenders against those who tried to abduct Israel’s soul.”

+ “Hamas wasn’t being pacified; it was preparing. The group was less committed to national liberation than to Jewish elimination. Its violence was rooted not in strategy, but in sadism … What Hamas did was not out of character, but rather the explicit fulfillment of its long-stated objectives. The shocking thing was not just the atrocity itself, but that so many people were shocked by it.” Yair Rosenberg in The Atlantic (Gift Article): What Hamas Wants.

+ You can support the Palestinians and be in favor of a two-state solution. Unlike Hamas, many, many of those killed and kidnapped held that position. But, really, you can’t be pro-Hamas. Noam Bardin with his latest update from Israel (and what his daughters are experiencing back in the US on college campuses). There are no Hollywood endings in the Middle East.

+ “I’m in this endless loop of hope and despair, hope and despair. I need some proof of life. I need to know where my wife and daughter are. It’s driving me crazy.” There are 199 known hostages being held by Hamas. NYT (Gift Article): For Hostages’ Families, an ‘Endless Loop of Hope and Despair.’

+ Vanity Fair: Sealed Off and Under Siege, Gaza Journalists Bear Witness for the World.

+ Blinken continues his tour of the Middle East, the US is working to keep the fighting from spreading, Gaza hospitals ration water as crisis mounts, Israelis are evacuating northern cities as Hezbollah strikes, food shortages hit Gaza as negotiations to open a escape route into Egypt await a breakthrough. Here’s the latest from CNN, BBC, and AP.


Trump Told to Partially STFU

“Mr. Trump may still vigorously seek public support as a presidential candidate, debate policies and people related to that candidacy, criticize the current administration and assert his belief that this prosecution is politically motivated. But those critical first amendment freedoms do not allow him to launch a pre-trial smear campaign against participating government staff, their families and foreseeable witnesses. Judge issues partial gag in Trump federal election interference case. “‘I cannot imagine any other criminal case’ in which a criminal defendant could call prosecutors deranged or a thug, Chutkan added. ‘No other defendant would be allowed to do so and I’m not going to allow it in this case.'” (This guy can’t even be a decent defendant and one of America’s political parties thinks he’d be a decent president.)


Fertilize and Truth

“The crisis started with the Covid-19 pandemic, which increased the cost of transporting fertilizer ingredients. Then came the war. Finally, over the last 18 months, the U.S. Federal Reserve aggressively lifted interest rates to choke off domestic inflation. That has lifted the value of the American dollar against many currencies. Because fertilizer components are priced in dollars, they have become vastly more expensive in countries like Nigeria.” The NYT (Gift Article) with a very interesting look at how global events a half a world away can cause hunger and strife. How a Fertilizer Shortage Is Spreading Desperate Hunger.


More Than Just the Tip

“Rivas had just finished serving pancakes and eggs to a party of 16 on a busy Saturday morning in Norwood, Mass., when one of the customers at the table called him over. ‘We have something for you,’ the customer, Richard Brooks, told Rivas. ‘The only reason we came to breakfast today was to give you this tip.’ Brooks pulled out a pile of $100 bills and counted them into Rivas’s hand, explaining that he and his friends were members of the $1,000 Breakfast Club. Each person had contributed $100 to leave for the server, $1,600 in all.” WaPo (Gift Article): At breakfast, this group always leaves at least a $1,000 tip.


Extra, Extra

Carbon is Taxing: “Offsetting has been hailed as a fix for runaway emissions and climate change—but the market’s largest firm sold millions of credits for carbon reductions that weren’t real. The New Yorker: The Great Cash-for-Carbon Hustle. (Removing money from the system is a lot easier than removing carbon from it.)

+ Kid Gloves Off: “Intervenors can file motions, enter evidence and call and cross-examine witnesses to argue that a child would be better off staying with them permanently, even if the birth parents — or other family members, such as grandparents — have fulfilled all their legal obligations to provide the child with a safe home.” ProPublica: When Foster Parents Don’t Want to Give Back the Baby.

+ Terrible: Leave it to an insane, radicalized American to make a terrible situation even worse. Palestinian-American boy killed and his mother injured after landlord stabs them because they were Muslim.

+ Pole Position: Poland bucks the authoritarian trend. “Polish opposition leader Donald Tusk declared the beginning of a new era for his country after opposition parties appeared to have won enough votes in Sunday’s parliamentary election to oust the governing nationalist conservative party.”

+ Broad a Peel: “Daniel Noboa, an inexperienced politician and an heir to a fortune built on the banana trade, won Ecuador’s presidential runoff election Sunday held amid unprecedented violence that even claimed the life of a candidate.”

+ The Skinny on Denmark: “If Ozempic and Wegovy fall out of fashion or are eclipsed by competitors, not just Novo Nordisk’s stock price would suffer. All of Denmark would.” The Atlantic (Gift Article) on just how big these new drugs have become, and just how much of Denmark’s economy now depends on them. Something Is Golden in the State of Denmark.


Bottom of the News

“Netflix Houses will be a mix of entertainment and retail experiences, where customers can eat, drink, and buy merchandise.” Netflix is planning to open its first permanent retail locations by 2025. (Isn’t the whole point of Netflix that you don’t have to leave your couch?)

+ It’s not just Paris. There’s a global resurgence of bedbugs.

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