Tired of All the Winning

Yuval Noah Harari Explains it All, Weekend Whats, Feel Good Friday

Among other works, Yuval Noah Harari is the author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. He’s recently turned his attention to perhaps the most complex and conflicted recent history of humankind; the Middle East crisis. Unsurprisingly, he’s written a clear, evenhanded, absolutely must-read piece for WaPo (Gift Article): Is Hamas winning the war? Below are a few key excerpts.

+ On Hamas, Harari explains what many in America (including college presidents) don’t seem to understand. The terror group is not after peace or a two-state solution or a better life for residents of Gaza. “Hamas launched this war with a specific political aim: to prevent peace … Hamas slaughtered hundreds of Israeli civilians, in the most gruesome ways it could devise. The immediate aim was to derail the Israeli-Saudi peace deal. The long-term aim was to sow seeds of hatred in the minds of millions in Israel and across the Muslim world, thereby preventing peace with Israel for generations to come.” (You can dislike the current Israeli government, you can be pro-Palestinian, like so many victims on October 7, you can be pro-peace and want a two-state solution, you can and should mourn for the innocent lives being lost, but you can’t be pro-Hamas.)

+ We’re all justifiably worried about the civilians paying a price for the crimes of Hamas. What does Hamas think about their human shields? “Doesn’t Hamas care about the suffering this war inflicts on Palestinian civilians? While individual Hamas activists surely have different feelings and attitudes, the organization’s worldview discounts the misery of individuals. Hamas’s political aims are dictated by religious fantasies … For Hamas, Palestinians killed by Israel are martyrs who enjoy everlasting bliss in heaven. The more killed, the more martyrs.”

+ On the response of the far left in America, especially on college campuses: “They absolve Hamas of any responsibility for the atrocities committed in Be’eri, Kfar Azza and other Israeli villages, or for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Instead, these organizations place 100 percent of the blame on Israel. The link between the radical left and fundamentalist organizations such as Hamas is the belief in absolute justice, which leads to a refusal to acknowledge the complexity of realities in this world.” (With all of today’s sensitivities on college campuses, you’d think they’d be triggered by terrorism.)

+ On the damage done by Netanyahu (in addition to being the leader of the biggest security failure in Israel’s history): “For more than a decade, Israeli governments led by Netanyahu abandoned all serious attempts to make peace with more moderate Palestinian forces, adopted an increasingly hawkish policy regarding the occupation of disputed territory and even embraced the right-wing messianic ideas of Jewish supremacy.”

+ On the dangers of BiBi playing into the hands of Hamas: “As the bodies keep piling up, who will win this war? Not the side that kills more people, not the side that destroys more houses and not even the side that gains more international support — but the side that achieves its political aims. Hamas launched this war with a specific political aim: to prevent peace … If Hamas’s war aims are indeed to derail the Israeli-Saudi peace treaty and to destroy all chance for normalization and peace, it is winning this war by a knockout. And Israel is helping Hamas, largely because Netanyahu’s government seems to be conducting this war without clear political goals of its own.”

+ Of course Israel must defang Hamas, not just for revenge, but because it’s a requirement of “any chance of future peace, because as long as Hamas remains armed, it will continue to derail any such efforts.” (Again, if you are pro peace, you are anti-Hamas. Period.) On the Israeli side, the biggest impediment to a peaceful, post-Hamas world is the terrible, extreme government that Netanyahu has pieced together to remain in power. As Harari explains: “Having been deeply involved in Israeli politics for the past year, I fear that at least some members of the current Netanyahu government are themselves fixated on biblical visions and absolute justice, and have little interest in peaceful compromise.” (I didn’t say the piece was optimistic, but it really is a must read.)

+ Tom Friedman on the conflict being felt by so many pro-peace Israelis right now, who need protection and security, but have contempt for the person leading the effort. “Bottom line: Netanyahu has a completely incoherent strategy right now — eliminate Hamas in Gaza while building more settlements in the West Bank that undermine the only decent long-term Palestinian alternative to Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, which Israel needs to safely leave Gaza.” NYT (Gift Article): To Win the War, Defeat Hamas and Stop Settlements.

+ As opposed to how unlucky Israel is with their current leader, America is fortunate in theirs. In his speech on defending Ukraine and defeating Hamas, Joe Biden was pitch perfect; from explaining what’s at stake abroad, to restating what’s required from us here at home, to warning against repeating mistakes America made in our post 9-11 rage. “History has taught us that when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction. They keep going, and the cost and the threats to America and to the world keep rising. If we don’t stop Putin’s appetite for power and control in Ukraine, he won’t limit himself just to Ukraine.” Here’s Biden’s full Oval Office speech: We’re facing an inflection point in history.

+ Want a glimpse of just how difficult it is to negotiate in the region. Here’s an example from Hussein Ibish in The Atlantic (gift article): The Reckoning That Is Coming for Qatar. “Doha faces the looming risk of being called to account over its record of support for such radical Islamist groups, and especially for Hamas … At the same time, Qatar has long been a key U.S. partner in the Middle East.”

+ “Diminutive, her gray hair cropped short, she is known among activists in Israel and abroad for her seemingly never-ending energy, commitment, and creative efforts to promote peace with Palestinians and equality between Jews and Arabs within Israel.” Time: A Family’s ‘Terrible Hope’ for a Peace Activist Taken Hostage.

+ Two American hostages (a mother and daughter) have been released, Israel says a majority of hostages are still alive, conditions in Gaza are getting more dire as humanitarian aid remains stuck at the border. Here’s the latest from CNN and BBC.


Fani Willis Cuts the Chesebro Deal

Another day and another defendant cops a plea in the Georgia rico case against those who conspired to overturn the election. Yesterday, it was Sidney Powell. Today, we’re adding some cheese to that kracken. Kenneth Chesebro takes last-minute plea deal, agrees to testify in Georgia election case. (The teflon is being chipped away, folks.) Both Powell and Chesebro demanded speedy trials. This went faster than they, and their co-defendants, thought.

+ In one of the several other court cases: Judge fines Donald Trump $5,000 after post maligning court staffer is found on campaign website. (According to Trump’s math, that $5,000 is actually worth about $85,000…)



After losing a third attempt to become speaker (by a larger margin than his first two attempts), Jim Jordan is toast. He “dropped out of the speaker’s race Friday after he lost a vote of confidence during a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, just moments after the Donald Trump-backed candidate was defeated on the House floor for a third time this week.” This is all the Feel Good Friday news I need. But it’s important to keep in mind that Jordan tried to overthrow the 2020 election and wouldn’t publicly accept the results as recently as this morning, and he still got 200 of his colleagues to vote for him.

+ Suffice it to say, the effort was not noble. Republicans are facing death threats as the election for speaker gets mired in personal feuds. Meanwhile, a lot of GOP House members are now running for speaker. Here’s the laughest, I mean latest…


Weekend Whats

What to Watch: I don’t want to tell you too much about the charming series Nada on Hulu. It takes place in Argentina. It’s got colorful and delightful cinematography. There’s a great focus on food preparation and consumption. And it’s got one of the most perplexing and (at least through four episodes) useless cameos of all time. But it’s a really nice show.

+ What to Doc: Big Vape on Netflix is a multipart documentary on the rise and fall of Juul. It’s also about startup culture, the smoking industry, and how quickly well-meaning plans can turn to crap.

+ What to Jack: What do striking horror movie writers do when it’s their season and there are no movies to be made? They create a 7.5 minute Halloween horror short for Jack in the Box. It’s fun, but I’d skip the popcorn and get fries with that.


Extra, Extra

Wheels of Justice Grind: “It’s all academic. I don’t have a million dollars. My company has a few million, but that’s just to pay the bills and my product in the future. So we are literally on empty … At the end of the day, they won’t take my free speech away. I’m still going to be on the air one way or another.” Judge rules Alex Jones can’t use bankruptcy protection to avoid paying Sandy Hook families. (But until he actually pays, the spreading of one of the sickest conspiracy theories imaginable goes unpunished.)

+ More Than a Few Bad Apples: Big changes in climate can cause massive damage. But even brief, unexpected climate-change related events can be brutal for farmers. A bad apple season has some U.S. fruit growers planning for life in a warmer world.

+ Playing Favorites: “French police on Thursday raided the headquarters of the Paris 2024 Olympics Committee in yet another probe in connection with an ongoing investigation into alleged favoritism in awarding contracts for the Games.” (This is one of those investigations that will still be ongoing about 12 Olympics from now…)

+ The Don’t Talk Show: “Stewart’s intended discussions of artificial intelligence and China were a major concern for Apple.” Jon Stewart’s Apple TV Plus show ends, reportedly over coverage of AI and China.

+ Leaves Us Alone! “As hordes of photographers began descending on a small, rural community to capture its vibrant autumnal colours, local residents fought back – and won.” The fall foliage town that banned influencers.

+ Ciao Bella: Italy’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, says she has separated from her long-time partner Andrea Giambruno. “She announced the split on social media hours after a TV show broadcast explicit comments made off-air by TV host Giambruno to female colleagues.” (I don’t want to get into gossipy details, and besides, I don’t know how to say threesome in Italian.)


Feel Good Friday

WaPo (Gift Article): “When her checkup was over, he handed her a printed summary of the appointment, with instructions to get a high-dose flu shot in October and a coronavirus shot in November. Then Sipe’s eyes lingered at the item at the top of the list: ‘Get a cat,’ the doctor wrote.”

+ Young driver fatality rates have fallen sharply in the US, helped by education, technology.

+ Biden administration announces ‘largest ever’ investment in US electric grid.

+ A fun look at how long it takes for top NFL quarterbacks to earn the annual salary made by Brock Purdy.

+ The Stories Behind 8 Famous Photos.

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