Some stories recur and recur — you hear of them all of your life. I’ll give you an example.
All of my life, there’ve been stories about Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and how some people refuse to acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. They refuse not only in their thought or their conversation — they refuse in the directories they make, and so on.
Recently, I’ve been reading about the iPhone, that famous, near-universal Apple product. The phone has a “World Clock.” It enables you to get the time in just about any city you can think of. There is a list of cities, with the country listed after the city. The list begins with “Abidjan, Ivory Coast,” and ends with “Zurich, Switzerland.”
But there are three cities without a country — one of them is Jerusalem. (I’ll tell you about the other two in a bit.) Jerusalem is contested, of course, but what is uncontested is that some part of Jerusalem will be Israel’s capital for as long as there’s an Israel.
You may remember something hilarious, and disturbing, from the run-up to the 2012 Olympics in London. Olympic officials listed Jerusalem as the capital of “Palestine” — a country that does not exist (yet). For Israel, they simply omitted a capital.
Maybe Israelis should feel lucky that the Olympic people acknowledged the existence of Israel at all?
These issues — directories, etc. — may seem trivial, but, in their essence, they’re deadly serious: because they have to do with Israeli legitimacy and Israeli permanence. Is Israel to be just a brief inconvenience, to be dealt with sometime soon?
#ad#The other two cities on the World Clock that don’t have countries are Vatican City, which is perfectly appropriate — Vatican City is a city-state — and Taipei, the capital of Taiwan (or the Republic of China, if you like). Three guesses why the word “Taipei” appears alone: No doubt, Apple fears to offend the dictatorship in Beijing, which regards Taipei, and Taiwan, as its.
I have written about Taiwan and Israel, together, before. For example, I wrote about this issue in a report from Taipei last year: “Questions on Taiwan.” Forgive a lengthy excerpt, because it may be kind of interesting:
Charles Krauthammer has said that Israel’s survival depends on two things: the will of the people to live and the support of the United States. Some Taiwanese tell me that their own country’s survival, as a liberal democracy, depends on the support of the United States. The Taiwanese certainly have a will to live: Taipei is one of the most vibrant cities you will ever see. There are important differences between Taiwan and Israel, not least in military standing: Israel is stronger against its (many) enemies than Taiwan is against China. But the similarities are worth pondering.
Both countries wish for normality in a world that won’t give it to them. Both countries find themselves isolated in the “world community.” There are American scholars and analysts who say — not so bluntly, of course — “Let’s throw Taiwan to the wolves, because our relationship with the PRC is so much more important. Why should this one little island disrupt relations with a coming superpower? The tail must not wag the dog.” There are many who would be happy, or at least willing, to throw Israel to the wolves too — a tiny country in the vast Middle East, bringing on headache after headache.
Taiwan and Israel are small and vulnerable democracies, not able to count on other democracies to back them up. They are potential Czechoslovakias: feedable to the tiger, in the hope that the tiger will get full.
These are dark thoughts, but Taiwan is too booming, too boisterous, and too wonderful to allow dark thoughts for long. . . .
There are all sorts of concessions one has to make to the PRC, and to the Arab governments, and to Iran. The world is a messy, dangerous place. But I myself would insist on “Jerusalem, Israel,” and “Taipei, Taiwan.” There are some things in the world worth defending: Israel and Taiwan are two of them.
‐I hope you have your new issue of National Review. (For the digital version, go here.) Among other offerings, we have a story about Harold Hamm. Do you know him? You’ll want to. Let me quote the opening paragraph, please:
Harold Hamm is a major oilman, the biggest in the United States. He’s also a significant contributor to our national debate over energy policy. But beyond those things, he’s an amazing story. Horatio Alger would blush to include him in one of his novels. Hamm was born the 13th and last child of sharecroppers in Oklahoma. Today, according to Forbes magazine, he’s the 90th-richest person in the world. (Remember, there are more than 7 billion of us.) Even foes of oil, and of capitalism generally, must smile a little, if only inwardly.
#page#In our interview, Hamm spoke of the “renaissance” that’s going on today — a renaissance in oil and gas. This development owes a lot to a relatively new technique, horizontal drilling. (“Fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, is a better-known technique. But it’s a relatively old one: Erle P. Halliburton performed the first frack jobs in the 1940s.)
The renaissance also owes something to federal distaste for, or indifference to, North Dakota. Because the federal government controls very little land in that state, citizens are free to conduct their own affairs, and they have an oil boom going on there. (To read a report I did on this boom last year, go here.)
Anyway, let me get to my point: which is that the United States has now passed Russia and Saudi Arabia as the top producer of oil and natural gas in the world. The Left, including the Obama administration, has done a lot to strangle this “renaissance.” But they have not succeeded. Oil and gas are supposed to be energy of the past, yesterday’s business, to give way to newer and “greener” technologies. Something like that will undoubtedly happen.
In the meantime, what a blessing the oil-and-gas renaissance is — for jobs, economic growth, and much else.
#ad#When Harold Hamm was in high school, he was in a “distributive education” program. That meant that you got credit for working. Hamm worked 50 or 60 hours a week at a truck stop. For “D.E. class,” as they called it, young Hamm wrote a paper about oil exploration. He wrote about the leading “explorationists”: J. Paul Getty, Harry Sinclair, E. W. Marland, Bill Skelly, H. H. Champlin, Frank Phillips. They found oil, and pumped it. They not only did well for themselves, they built up the state of Oklahoma, through their businesses and their philanthropy.
Hamm thought to himself, “That’s what I’m going to do.” It may have been an audacious thought for the 13th, or any, child of poor sharecroppers. But think it he did, and he followed through to a T.
An amazing story. Many kids want to be astronauts, but never become one. They want to be NFL quarterbacks, and never become one. Harold Hamm wanted to find oil and gas, strike it rich, and better the lives of the people around him. That is exactly what he’s doing.
I think you will enjoy this story. You’ve got to be a pretty dedicated left-winger not to, I think.
‐A little language? When I was in Oklahoma City, to see Hamm, I heard a pronunciation I had never heard before: A man pronounced favorite “fave-or-ite.” There were three syllables. And the last rhymed with “kite.” “Fav-or-ite.”
I liked it, a lot.
The context was this: The man said he wanted to show me his favorite hat. It was an Oklahoma Sooners hat, featuring Barry Switzer, the erstwhile coach. The hat had a slogan on it: “Hang half a hundred on ’em.” That’s what Switzer said when he wanted to score 50 points against an opponent, or beat them by 50 points. (Interpretations vary.)
(Let me say that I detest running up a score.)
‐I walked through a neighborhood called the JFK Neighborhood. Periodically, there were signs with the late president’s silhouette on them. A handsome silhouette it was, too.
For a long time, I’ve been rather amazed by the celebrity of this president. Believe me, I understand that he was murdered, and that this means all sorts of emotion. But I have to ask — maybe you’ll forgive me — What if he had been fat, homely, and Republican?
‐I was pleased to see a Frederick A. Douglass High School — there should be more institutions named after that sterling American (and Republican, by the way).
‐Outside an elementary school — I didn’t see the name — a man was putting his charges through some kind of drill. He was a big, burly man, and he barked at these kids like a drill sergeant. They were obeying, perfectly attentive. I thought how lucky those kids were.
‐The YWCA says, “Eliminating Racism, Empowering Women.” You can eliminate racism? Lessening and mitigating would be ambition enough . . .
‐I had never been to Oklahoma before, and I found that the song is no lie: The wind really does come sweepin’ down the plain. It blows hard, regardless. I’m sure that the good Oklahoma golfers, like their Texas counterparts, can keep the ball low.
‐The employees of the James E. Stewart Golf Course — a nine-holer near the JFK neighborhood — could not be nicer. But I have to mention this: A sign outside the clubhouse says, “No Firearms Allowed.”
You see that? Even Oklahomans can get squishy. (That was a joke.)
‐A filling station bears a proud sign: “100 Percent Gas, No Ethanol.” That’s a little unkind to Iowans, I think.
‐I wish to inform you about a bit of heaven: the buttermilk pie at Bedlam BAR-B-Q (warm and with vanilla ice cream, of course). “See Naples and then die,” the Italians used to say. Have some buttermilk pie at Bedlam, and go ahead and ascend.
‐Care for some music? I did not have a chance to hear any in Oklahoma City, but I have back home in New York. For a review of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, go here. The review is on The New Criterion’s website. James Levine was the conductor, and Joyce DiDonato, the mezzo-soprano from Kansas, was the soloist.
‐I was talking about heaven. Let’s continue with this subject. Mahler wrote a song called “The Heavenly Life,” which he incorporated into his Fourth Symphony. This leads me to share with you a letter from a reader:
I’ve been retired since May of last year. I love it. I’m working (?) toward a single-digit handicap and reading NRO at my leisure.
Thanks for joining me, everyone — retirees and non-retirees, golfers and non-golfers — and see you soon.