Covid Mandates and Firms Restricting Employee Speech Led Democrat to Invest in Tucker Carlson Media Venture

(p. A18) Five years ago, Omeed Malik was a self-described “run-of-the-mill corporate Democrat,” with a seat on the Council on Foreign Relations, a summer house in the Hamptons, and stints at Bank of America and white-shoe law firm Weil, Gotshal under his belt.

Then Covid happened. Chafing under government mandates he found illogical and corporate limits on speech that felt to him like censorship, he moved from Manhattan to Florida and began hanging out with Republican donors. He discovered a business opportunity in a so-called parallel economy of conservative-friendly companies.

Now, he is one of their financiers. Malik this year launched 1789 Capital, which aims to capitalize on the opportunities that it sees left open by the “wokeness” of more traditional sources of capital.

Its first fund, with a modest $150 million, made its initial investment Monday [Oct. 16, 2023], leading a $15 million seed round with other private investors into Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel’s new media company.

For the full story, see:

Keach Hagey. “1789 Invests in Carlson’s Media Firm.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023): B1-B2.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 17, 2023, and has the title “Tucker Carlson’s Media Company Secures Investment Led by ‘Anti-Woke’ Firm.”)

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Wrote that the Source of Modern Black Anti-Semitism Is a Post-MLK Generation of Academics Who Oppose Black Integration

(p. A13) More than 1,000 black pastors are pressing President Biden to restrain Israel in its war with Hamas and threatening that if he doesn’t do so, it will cost him black support in November [2023].

. . .

What makes the Palestinians more worthy of sympathy—especially since, unlike these other groups, they have turned down numerous offers of statehood and have made terrorism their tactic of choice?

Perhaps it is that their antagonists are Jews. In a 1992 article, the historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. pondered the causes of rising antisemitism in the black community. He considered the influence of “Christian anti-Semitism, given the historic importance of Christianity in the black community.”

. . .

He cited the “brutal truth” that the “new anti-Semitism arises not in spite of the black-Jewish alliance, but because of it.” The alliance had been formed by a previous generation of black ministers, led by Martin Luther King Jr., who sought integration. The new generation of Afrocentric leaders, including pastors, needed to keep blacks isolated to establish their own power.

Mr. Gates noted that “it is among the younger and more educated blacks that anti-Semitism is most pronounced” and that this bigotry “belongs as much to the repertory of campus lecturers as community activists.” More than 30 years later, these words seem prophetic.

For the full commentary, see:

Alan Dershowitz and Andrew Stein. “Why Do Black Pastors Oppose Israel?” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, February 1, 2024): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date January 31, 2024, and has the same title as the print version.)

The article by Gates mentioned above is:

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. “Black Demagogues and Pseudo-Scholars.” The New York Times (July 20, 1992): A15.

“Linguistic Diversity Is Precious” Because Languages Are “Natural Experiments” in “Ways of Seeing, Understanding, and Living”

(p. A13) Linguistic variety is “often seen as a problem, the curse of Babel,” but for a linguist, New York City is a riotous collection of living specimens—a “greenhouse, not a graveyard.”  . . .  Mr. Perlin, who has a doctorate in linguistics, helps run the Endangered Language Alliance, which works to document such minority tongues.  . . .

The heart of “Language City” is portraits of individual New York-based speakers. Mr. Perlin writes about their work as well as his, capturing the grind of immigrant life with empathy, balance and wit.  (. . .)  “If the country was rich we would never leave,” says Husniya, a Wakhi speaker from bleak post-Soviet Tajikistan. But she savors the city’s entrepreneurial energy: “New York opened my eyes. It shapes you to be a human being, not dividing based on religion, face, or race, or anything.”

. . .

Wonderfully rich, “Language City” is in part an introduction to the diverse ways different languages work. Seke and other “evidential” languages, for example, have different grammatical forms to indicate how the speaker knows what she’s asserting—whether from observation or inference, hearsay or hunch. Other languages syntactically “tag the speaker’s surprise at unexpected information” or have a special temporal marking “just for things happening today.”

. . .

Yet linguistic diversity is precious, Mr. Perlin stresses, and should be celebrated, not just tolerated.  . . .  . . ., languages “represent thousands of natural experiments” that encode wildly different “ways of seeing, understanding, and living.” Constructed by generations of collective effort, they are invisible cathedrals bigger and more democratic than any building.

For the full review see:

Timothy Farrington. “BOOKSHELF; The Words On the Street.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Feb. 23, 2024): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date February 22, 2024, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Language City’ Review: The Words on the Street.”)

The book under review is:

Perlin, Ross. Language City: The Fight to Preserve Endangered Mother Tongues in New York. Washington, D.C.: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2024.

How Does Larry David “Brilliantly” Use “Stereotype” and “Caricature” to “Mock Deadly Serious Issues” Without Getting Cancelled?

(p. 24) On “Curb,” David starred as “Larry David,” simultaneously the world’s most comfortable and uncomfortable man, registering his complaints to a cast of sounding boards: . . .

. . .

. . ., David has . . . played with material that could explode on a lesser comic. In a classic episode, Larry becomes addicted to a Palestinian chicken restaurant that raises a furor when it opens a branch next to a Jewish deli. (While the plot might seem uncomfortably prescient during the Gaza war in 2024, when it premiered in 2011 it alluded to the controversy over a planned Islamic center in Lower Manhattan that was mislabeled a “ground zero mosque.”)

Larry is unsettled, as a Jew, by the militant posters on the restaurant’s walls. He is seduced, as a mortal, by the delicious poultry and by a Palestinian woman he meets there, who turns him on with antisemitic dirty talk.

Does the episode stereotype? Does it caricature? Does it mock deadly serious issues? Yes — brilliantly. It blows straight through offense into transcendence, guided by the comic philosophy that all people are debased, fallen and governed by low passions, above all Larry David. He ends the episode in a parking lot between two furious crowds: a group of Jewish protesters, including many of his friends, and the Palestinian counterprotesters, including his girlfriend — tribe vs. tribe, socialization vs. appetite, the camera pushing in on Larry’s anxious, indecisive face.

For the full commentary, see:

James Poniewozik. “CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK; ‘Curb’ Spun Something Special Out of Nothing.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, February 4, 2024): 1 & 24.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 20, 2024, and has the title “CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK; ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Made Something Out of Nothing.” The online version says that the print edition has the title “‘Curb’ Spun Gold Out of Gripes and Grievances” but my national version of the print edition had the title “‘Curb’ Spun Something Special Out of Nothing.”)

“Audacious” Filipinos “Push Back Against” Chinese Communist “Bully”

(p. A18) The tiny crew had a risky mission: Sail to a contested coral atoll in the South China Sea, cut a barrier blocking Filipino fishermen and get out before Chinese ships catch on.

. . .

They would try to slip past the four Chinese coast-guard ships in the area without attracting attention and cut it, said Commodore Jay Tarriela, spokesman for the Philippine coast guard.

. . .

A diver plunged in and swam just below the surface of the water to the line anchored at one end of the buoys. A video released by the Philippine coast guard on Monday shows him severing the rope after briefly sawing it with a knife. The crew heaved aboard the anchor securing the barrier—and left.

The buoys had been set adrift, no longer blocking the entrance to the atoll, Tarriela said.

It was a small, audacious act that, in some ways, had no real practical effect for Filipino fishermen. They couldn’t enter the atoll, which is guarded at all times by Chinese ships.

But it was an act of defiance against a powerful rival, showing a new effort by the Philippines to push back against China’s claims in the South China Sea.

The goal was “to show the Filipino people, to show the world, that we’re now going to stand up against the bully,” said Tarriela. “This is the main message of what we did.”

For the full story, see:

Niharika Mandhana. “How a Tiny Boat Buoyed Resistance to Chinese Barriers.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Sept. 29, 2023): A18.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date September 28, 2023, and has the title “How a Tiny Crew Struck a Blow Against China With a Wooden Boat and a Knife.”)

“MSNBC’s Business Model . . . Is Flaying Trump 24 Hours a Day”

Maureen Dowd, a leading opinion columnist at The New York Times, is left-wing but sometimes refreshingly blunt, as in some of her comments from right after the Iowa Republican caucuses.

(p. 2) . . . MSNBC refused to carry Trump’s victory speech at all and CNN cut away from the 25-minute remarks after 10 minutes. Fox News, of course, played it all.

Rachel Maddow said her network’s decision was “not out of spite.” It’s not personal — it’s strictly business, as Michael Corleone said. MSNBC’s business model, after all, is flaying Trump 24 hours a day.

For the full commentary, see:

Maureen Dowd. “Can the MAGA Shrew Be Tamed?” The New York Times, SundayOpinion Section (Sunday, January 21, 2024): 2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 20, 2024, and has the same title as the print version.)

“Adoption of Singular ‘Gold Standard’ Models” Closes “Off Other Important Avenues of Inquiry”

(p. A15) Ubiquitous and persuasive, models . . . drive decisions—one reason why, in Ms. Thompson’s view, they require our urgent attention. She tells us that, as a graduate student studying North Atlantic storms, she noticed how different models predicted different overall effects and produced contradictory results.

. . .

The problem is that Model Land is easy to enter but difficult to escape. Having built “a beautiful internally consistent model,” Ms. Thompson writes, it can be “emotionally difficult to acknowledge that the initial assumptions on which the whole thing is built are literally not true.”

There are all sorts of ways that models can lead us astray. A small measurement error on an input can lead to wildly inaccurate forecasts—a phenomenon known as the Butterfly Effect. Fortunately, this type of uncertainty is often manageable. Far more problematic are what Ms. Thompson calls “unquantifiable unknowns”—things that are left out of a model’s calculation because they can’t be anticipated, such as the unexpected arrival of a transformative technology or the abrupt collapse of a robust market. It is not always true, she observes, that the data we have now will be relevant to the future—as traders discovered in the stock-market crash of 1987, when their models catastrophically failed.

. . .  We may be inclined to regard models as objective expressions of truth, yet they are deliberately constructed interpretations, imbued with the values and viewpoints of the modelers—primarily, as Ms. Thompson notes, well-educated, middle-class individuals. During the pandemic, models “took more account of harms to some groups of people than others,” resulting in a “moral case” for lockdowns that was “partial and biased.” Modelers who worked from home—while others maintained the supply chain—often overlooked “all of the possible harms” of the actions their models were suggesting.  . . .

The promise and peril of models, Ms. Thompson recognizes, has deep resonance in biomedicine, where so-called model organisms, like yeast and zebrafish, have led to foundational insights and accelerated the development of therapeutics. At the same time, treatments that work brilliantly in Model Land often fail in people, devastating patients and disappointing drug developers. The search for improved disease models can be complicated when proponents of one model suppress research into alternative approaches, as the late journalist Sharon Begley documented in a powerful 2019 report. Ms. Thompson perceptively critiques the adoption of singular “gold standard” models, noting that the “solidification” of one set of assumptions can lock us into one way of thinking and close off other important avenues of inquiry.

For the full review see:

David A. Shaywitz. “BOOKSHELF; Seduced By Numbers.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 27, 2022, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Escape From Model Land’ Review: Seduced by Numbers.”)

The book under review is:

Thompson, Erica. Escape from Model Land: How Mathematical Models Can Lead Us Astray and What We Can Do About It. New York: Basic Books, 2022.

Sharon Begley’s “powerful” 2019 report, mentioned above, is:

Begley, Sharon. “The Maddening Saga of How an Alzheimer’s ‘Cabal’ Thwarted Progress toward a Cure for Decades.” STAT; Reporting from the Frontiers of Health and Medicine, Posted June 25, 2019. Available from https://www.statnews.com/2019/06/25/alzheimers-cabal-thwarted-progress-toward-cure/.

Did Robbie Fail to Be Oscar-Nominated for Barbie Due to a Powerful Patriarchy, or Might It Be Random, or Even Based on Merit?

(p. A24) And now there is a new Barbie cause to rally around: the Great Oscar Snub and what it all means — and why it is wrong. Neither Margot Robbie nor Greta Gerwig was nominated for her most prominent role: best actress or best director, respectively.

. . .

But hold on. Didn’t another woman, Justine Triet, get nominated for best director (for “Anatomy of a Fall”)? As for “Barbie,” didn’t Gerwig herself get nominated for best adapted screenplay and the always sublime America Ferrera get nominated for best supporting actress? A record three of the best picture nominees were directed by women. It’s not as if women were shut out.

Every time a woman fails to win an accolade doesn’t mean failure for womanhood. Surely women aren’t so pitiable as to need a participation certificate every time we try. We’re well beyond the point where a female artist can’t be criticized on the merits and can’t be expected to handle it as well as any man. (Which means it still hurts like hell for either sex — but not because of their sex.)

For the full commentary, see:

Pamela Paul. “‘Barbie’ Is Bad. There, I Said It.” The New York Times (Friday, January 26, 2024): A24.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 24, 2024, and has the same title as the print version.)

Israeli Who Identifies as “Peaceful Hippie” Applies for Gun License; Minister of National Security Says “Weapons in the Right Hands Save Lives”

(p. A8) GIV’AT ADA, Israel—Since the Oct. 7 attacks in southern Israel, Liran Kaminer has been sleeping with an ax, a knife and a first-aid kit within arm’s reach. He has stashed away empty beer bottles and gasoline for Molotov cocktails. And he has applied for a gun license.

“I am a hippie. I am peaceful, I don’t like this whole gun thing,” said Kaminer, 50, who lives near the village of Giv’at Ada in the coastal plains of central Israel. “But if the army cannot protect me, I have to protect myself.”

Many Israelis who never thought about owning a weapon are now applying for one. Israel’s right-wing government is encouraging civilians to arm themselves and relaxing rules to make it easier to own one. Across the country, volunteers are forming self-defense units after the Hamas attacks killed 1,200 Israelis in communities along its southern border, took the army by surprise and left civilians helpless for hours.

Applications for a gun license have gone up 600% since the attack, a huge increase in a country where there are strict gun-control laws. It is a trend that reflects the deep anxiety over personal safety in the wake of the attacks and of the army’s failure to protect Israeli civilians that day.

“Weapons in the right hands save lives,” said Itamar Ben-Gvir, the country’s minister of national security, who has made the arming of Israeli Jews his flagship policy.

. . .

Since Oct. 7, the government has relaxed gun-ownership rules, sped up the application process for new licenses and supplied military-style rifles to new, rapid-response units staffed by local volunteers. It has also expanded the criteria for who can carry private firearms, including residents in additional geographical areas and people who received basic-combat military training.

According to government data, over 265,000 Israelis applied for a gun license between Oct. 7 and early December [2023], compared with around 36,000 earlier in the year. Around 85,000 licenses and conditional permits have been issued in the recent period.

. . .

In Kibbutz Regavim—a farming community in central Israel where residents share child care and volunteer in a communal avocado plantation—keeping residents safe became the priority after the Hamas attacks. Around 30 residents volunteered to set up a rapid-response unit, whose members staff the entrance gate and go on patrols inside and outside the kibbutz. The perimeter fence was reinforced, and broken closed-circuit cameras fixed.

“People felt that what happened in the kibbutzim in the south could happen to our kibbutz, and started getting weapons,” said Shahar Butbul, a resident who helped set up the armed unit.
Members of the unit are mostly men who have completed their mandatory military service and reserve duty, such as 66-year-old Eyal Nabet, a former truck driver.

For the full story, see:

Margherita Stancati. “Security Fears Spur Israelis To Buy Guns.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, December 12, 2023): A8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date December 11, 2023, and has the title “Israelis Flock to Buy Guns as Sense of Security Shatters.”)

Democratic Politicians Are More Tolerant of Illegal Immigration Than Are Democratic Voters

(p. A10) Before Trump ran for president, Democrats tended to combine passionate support for many forms of immigration with a belief in strong border security. But Trump’s harsh anti-immigration stance pushed the party toward the opposite end of the spectrum.

Today, many Democratic politicians are willing to accept high levels of undocumented immigration and oppose enforcement measures that the party once favored. Some Democrats, especially on the left, argue that the government doesn’t even have the power to reduce migration much.

This shift has created political vulnerabilities for Democrats — because most Americans are closer to the party’s old position than to its new one.

. . .

Even with all their current concerns, Americans are not opposed to immigration. Most say that legal immigrants strengthen the country, and many believe the U.S. should remain a haven for people fleeing repression. But most Americans also think that the country’s immigration laws should mean something and that citizens of other countries should not be able to enter this country simply because they want to.

For the full commentary, see:

David Leonhardt. “Democrats Are Out of Step With Public Opinion on Immigration.” The New York Times (Friday, January 19, 2024): A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 17, 2024, and has the title “A 2024 Vulnerability; The Democrats are out of step with public opinion when it comes to immigration.”)

A Miraculous Machine in the Middle-Ages That Did Nothing to Improve the Lives of the Masses

Before the industrial revolution clever inventors sometimes devised elaborate and amazing machines. The Antikythera mechanism is a famous example. Though these machines amaze us, they usually did little to improve the lives of those who lived at the time of invention. Why? Maybe the answer is that just before the industrial revolution, entrepreneurs were encouraged and enabled (through property rights and patents) to apply amazing inventions to the betterment of the people.

(p. C9) What kind of a book do we have in “Miracles and Machines: A Sixteenth-Century Automaton and Its Legend”?

. . .

The authors call the book a “clockwork”; its many disparate parts are joined in scrupulous devotion to a 16th-century automaton—an object, they write, which is at once “a sculpture, a machine, an icon, and a messenger.”

The figure is of a Franciscan friar, about 16 inches tall, carved out of wood, cloaked in a modern replica of the garb he once wore. His 5-pound weight is due to an intricate iron mechanism that fits inside his wooden body; it is wound with a key.

. . .

Imagine, Ms. King and Mr. Todd suggest, what it would have been like to see this automaton at the time of its creation. He is placed upon a candlelit table. His feet take steps under his tunic—but he actually glides on three wheels, making his movement seem ethereal. He is deliberately slow. This is not a mechanism meant to thrill us with speed and virtuosity. His movements are graceful, solemn.

As he moves, the friar raises and lowers a cross in his left hand and strikes his chest with his right, as if declaring “mea culpa.” He also lifts the cross to his lips and fixes his gaze steadily, perhaps at an observer at the opposite end of the table. He looks down at the cross, up at the observer, and begins to turn: “You let out half a breath,” the authors tell us, “but as his full body pivots on the table, feet in motion, head forward, his eyes slide left in their sockets to stay fixed on you!” Then he changes direction, staring at what might be another observer. There is no doubt about his seriousness; the impact on believers, in the half-light, would have been considerable.

. . .

In seeking to learn more about the friar’s provenance, Ms. King contacted Servus Gieben, a Dutch-born Franciscan who served as the director of the Franciscan Museum in Rome. In his correspondence with Ms. King, Gieben, who died in 2014, reaffirmed his theory that it may have been commissioned by Philip for his son Carlos. In 1562, at the age of 17, Carlos fell down a flight of stairs and so gravely injured his skull that he was not expected to survive (either the injury or the era’s “treatments”).

. . . The corpse of a Franciscan friar, Diego de Alcalá (ca. 1400-63), had remained free of decay after his death that it was thought to have healing powers. And behold: Once it was laid upon the dying prince, Carlos soon began to recover. Philip II spent 26 years petitioning four consecutive popes to recognize the miracle and declare Diego a saint. (He ultimately was, as the city of San Diego now affirms.)

Gieben suggested that the facial resemblance between the automaton and Diego was evident. And what better way, he thought, for Philip to honor Diego than by providing his often wayward son with an admonitory reminder in the form of the penitential friar himself, created by the most brilliant clockmaker in the empire. As Don Carlos was brought back to life, so an inanimate automaton would turn animate.

Even today, the authors suggest, the friar remains “a small miracle. Or the image of a small miracle. Or the metaphor of a large miracle. Or an artificial miracle.”

For the full review see:

Edward Rothstein. “A Wonder of Another Age.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, December 23, 2023): C9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 22, 2023, and has the title “‘Miracles and Machines’ Review: Mystery of the Clockwork Man.”)

The book under review is:

King, Elizabeth, and W. David Todd. Miracles and Machines: A Sixteenth-Century Automaton and Its Legend. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2023.