Can the Unvaccinated Be Convinced?

Many health authorities think that we will never beat Covid unless a significant majority of the population gets vaccinated. Can those who are skeptical of vaccines or politically opposed be persuaded? A new Axios-Ipsos poll suggests not.

Most Americans who still aren’t vaccinated say nothing — not their own doctor administering it, a favorite celebrity’s endorsement or even paid time off — is likely to make them get the shot, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

California has already tried prizes and game show-style events to encourage people to get vaccinated. But 41% of Californians of all ages have yet to be inoculated. And two troubling and related trends are bringing calls for fresh thinking.

In a polarized landscape with widely distrusted institutions, a more patient approach seems much more civically healthy: a mix of local outreach, public health guidance that consistently promises normalcy as a benefit of vaccination (and doesn’t withdraw it arbitrarily), and actually arguing with skeptics.

Is the Ben & Jerry’s Israel Boycott a Big Deal?

Many Israelis and Jews reacted in dismay and anger to the announcement that Ben & Jerry’s would cease distribution of its ice cream in “occupied Palestinian territories” while continuing to distribute in Israel. Is it really worth the upset?

When a beloved brand joins the anti-Israel parade so loudly and forcefully, it concentrates the mind. It reminds us, first, of the power of the anti-Israel movement to intimidate, and, second, that regardless of our political disagreements, sometimes it’s worth uniting for a specific cause.

Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop distributing its products in West Bank settlements has unleashed a head-swirling discourse about BDS, ice cream and antisemitism that is quite disproportionate to the effect the Vermont-based company will actually have.

A few years ago, in a similar clueless act of virtue-signaling, Airbnb announced an action similar to Ben & Jerry’s… Airbnb soon recognized that their action was not smart. Hopefully, Ben & Jerry’s will come to the same conclusion. My arteries will not love it, but the rest of me will be quite happy.

Should Jews Be Allowed to Pray on the Temple Mount?

The status quo in Israel is that while Jewish Israelis are allowed to visit the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and also site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, they are not allowed to pray there. Some think that Prime Minister Bennett has been hinting at a change to this status quo on the horizon.

Many rabbis, and almost all ultra-Orthodox ones, prohibit their followers from ascending the Mount due to concerns over ritual purity. Meanwhile a growing number of modern Orthodox rabbis encourage pilgrimages so long as visitors go with a guide who know which parts of the site are permitted.

The world’s tolerance for Palestinian intolerance and anti-Semitism that finds expression in a denial of Jewish rights to the Temple Mount has helped enable the conflict over Israel’s existence to linger on long after it should have been abandoned by its foes. By taking a position on the Temple Mount, Bennett has done something that should have been done by his predecessors decades ago.

Israeli governments, of all political hues, have nonetheless declared their commitment to the status quo, concluding that the fragile balance of forces in this region requires its maintenance.

What Did We Learn from Bezos’ Trip to Space?

Just days after Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson jetted to space in a private vessel, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos did the same.

Bezos’s and Branson’s space travel is a reminder that space is no longer only a place where national governments set out to explore and to learn more about the universe, but a terrain that private businesses are capitalizing on.

We live in the world Bezos built. In that sense, as he floated over the Earth, taking in the beautiful view, he was surveying his kingdom, and adding one more dimension to his realm.

It’s easy to dis­miss this as a joy ride, which in part it was, or as the in­dul­gence of a rich man with at­ten­tion-deficit dis­or­der. But as bil­lion­aires’ hob­bies go, this is more pro­duc­tive than, well, own­ing the Wash­ing­ton Post. “The ar­chi­tec­ture and the tech­nol­ogy we have cho­sen,” Mr. Be­zos said, “is com­plete overkill for a sub­or­bital tourism mis­sion.” That’s be­cause the mis­sion isn’t lim­ited to ex­pen­sive thrills.

Has the Delta Variant Put Newsom’s Future in Peril?

Has the return of mask mandates in California put CA Governor Gavin Newsom’s chances of beating the recall initiative in jeopardy?

Even though Newsom is a strong favorite to defeat the recall on the ballot’s first question, nothing in politics is certain. If the pandemic continues to surge, or if the current wildfire threat continues to worsen, an upset in which Newsom is defeated is still a distinct (albeit small) possibility.

Any decision could prove to be politically volatile for Newsom, given the politicization of COVID-19 vaccinations and restrictions largely driven by Republican leaders, including former President Trump, and conservative media.

… it’s not impossible to see Newsom being ousted. How? The economy could abruptly tank amid a statewide Covid-related shutdown. Our Wildfire Season From Hell could grow worse and widespread blackouts could have voters sweating in their homes amid the stink of rotting, unrefrigerated food. (Though history shows voters tend not to punish our governor for natural disasters.)

Was It Wrong to Fake Bourdain’s Voice in New Doc?

People are upset by director Morgan Neville’s decision to use an AI-generated replication of late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s voice in the new documentary about his life, “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain.”

The controversy reawakens a longstanding debate about how journalists quote their subjects. Celebrated writer Gay Talese, for instance, reconstructs quotes as he remembers them, believing that the tape recorder is “the death knell of literary reportage.”

… if the issue on the table is how documentaries represent and manipulate and distort reality, there has been too much inauthentic water under the bridge already. When it comes to swapping in fake reality, documentaries have been sliding down a slippery slope for years.

Bourdain would relentlessly cross out and rewrite his own voice-over, in part to purge from it any of the clichés of TV narration that wouldn’t feel true to himself—or at least to the version of himself he was presenting. The intensely personal connection with that voice may be one reason why some of Bourdain’s admirers reacted so strongly to the news that Neville had used a digital simulation of it…

Today’s Hot Issues

Can the Unvaccinated Be Convinced? Is the Ben & Jerry’s Israel Boycott a Big Deal? Should Jews Be Allowed to Pray on the Temple Mount? What Did We Learn from Bezos’ Trip to Space? Has the Delta Variant Put Newsom’s Future in Peril? Was It Wrong to Fake Bourdain’s Voice in New Doc?