🗯️ Do You Own My Heart, or Is It Just a Long Term Lease?

A 🎩tip to my friend Howard for finding this article for me: Americans own less stuff because of the internet, and that’s a worry. Alas, it is paywalled, so I’ll excerpt some of its concerns, which focus on “the erosion of personal ownership and what that will mean for our loyalties to traditional American concepts of capitalism and private property.”:

The main culprits for the change are software and the internet. For instance, Amazon’s Kindle and other methods of online reading have revolutionised how Americans consume text. Fifteen years ago, people typically owned the books and magazines they were reading. Much less so now. If you look at the fine print, it turns out that you do not own the books on your Kindle. Amazon.com does. […] We used to buy DVDs or video cassettes; now viewers stream movies or TV shows with Netflix. Even the company’s disc-mailing service is falling out of favour. Music lovers used to buy compact discs; now Spotify and YouTube are more commonly used to hear our favourite tunes. The great American teenage dream used to be to own your own car. That is dwindling in favour of urban living, greater reliance on mass transit, cycling, walking and, of course, ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.

This is true even with devices you purportedly “own”, like your cell phone or computer, it notes:

What about your iPhone, that all-essential life device? Surely you own that? Well, sort of. When Apple decides to change the operating software, sooner or later you have to go along with what they have selected. Gmail is due to change its overall look and functionality, maybe for the better, but again eventually this choice will not be yours either: It’s Google’s. The very economics of software encourage standardisation, and changes over time, so de facto you rent much of what you use rather than owning it. I typed the draft of this column using Microsoft Word, and sooner or later my contract to use it will expire and I will have to renew. […]  As for that iPhone, it is already clear that you do not have a full legal right to repair it, and indeed more and more devices are sold to consumers without giving them corresponding rights to fix or alter those goods and services. John Deere tractors are sold to farmers with plenty of software, and farmers have to hack into the tractor if they wish to fix it themselves. There is now a small but burgeoning “right to repair” political movement.

I’ve had some similar concerns. Usually, it hits me with respect to music. After all, I own an iPod Classic with lots of music (approaching 45,000 songs). Some of these are recorded from LPs, some are from CDs, and some are digitally source. I take care to use a source that gets me the files without their controlling them, but I’m still being held hostage to the format of the files (MP3, M4A) and having a device that can translate them, and having a player that can play them — which Apple could invalidate quite easily. The only sure things are my LPs and CDs (if the latter don’t rot away).

We’re seeing an increased emphasis from the younger generation (hey, you, get off of my lawn) on downsizing and getting rid of stuff. Whereas we amassed large collections of books, they are being digitized — and that puts them in the hostage category to digital formats and readers. Paper wasn’t subject to that.

We’re being pushed away from personal vehicle ownership. Companies want us to lease our cars and replace them. Kids in urban areas even eschew cars, going for shared rides.

Housing is similar. High housing prices push people to lease instead of buy; this is the norm in New York where people are long term renters of apartments. Services like AirBNB take that to a new level. You’ve never owned your home on the Internet: Domain names have annual fees and are essentially leased — there is no perpetual domain names.

Now ask yourself: What does this do to the American notion of private property and its ownership? Are we moving to a model of shared services and shared ownership? The economic divide seems to be pushing things that way, with the top economic individuals and companies owning more and more, and we’re just leasing it from them. After all, for the person selling something, private ownership is horrible. You sell it once, get your price, and make no more income from it. But if you lease it or license it, you have a continuing income stream.

I’ve seen this in moving my wife’s computer to Windows 10. Whereas before I would buy the software, now I’m subscribing and getting the annual fees.

So what are your thoughts? Should we be worried about the erosion of private ownership and the move to subscription, streaming, licensing, and leases?


🗯️ Urban Privilege

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on adding maps to my highway pages (I just finished). As I do this, I’ve been essentially seeing both urban and rural corridors in the state, and my mind has been thinking about the entire state. I mention this because of an interesting phrase that popped into my head recently while on the van to work: “urban privilege”. The notion arose when I was thinking about all the building of freeways, and all the proposals for freeways in all these rural areas that had no need for them. It popped into my head as I thought about all the moves away from individual cars and car ownership, into shared ride systems, commuter trains, and pushing people to bicycles and other forms of personal transportation that are perfect for dense, urban areas. It popped into my head when I thought about the state routes and the road system, and how much of a lifeline that is to rural areas of the state. It popped into my head as I thought about the push for electric vehicles, which have a limited distance they can go on a charge: great for dense urban commuting, not so great for longer rural distances.

In the urban areas, there’s a lot of talk and a lot of thought about “white privilege“: the implicit, inherent benefits one gains by being white in American society. Examples abound, from the shampoo that is given out in hotels that is perfect for Caucasian hair, but less so for ethnic hair, to the fact that there’s no question when a white jumps ahead in line, but not for someone whose black. We’re well aware by now about the “white privilege” in the interaction with law enforcement. For this post, I’m concentrating less on the “white”, and more on this notion of implicit privilege based on a characteristic.

So here’s the premise: Is there such a thing as “urban privilege”? How much of this notion of “urban privilege”, and the unconscious resentment it engenders, be a contributing factor in the rise of Donald Trump?

Think about it: Under the Obama administration (translation: Under an administration perceived as liberal and progressive), there were loads of actions that encouraged things that worked well for those in urban environments. Pushes towards increase ride density and housing density. Pushes towards services in cities. Pushes towards the Internet. Even the Affordable Care Act worked better for people in cities with larger sets of providers and insurers. And because those who have the privilege don’t see it, we were blind to how this played in the rural areas — who were feeling forgotten, neglected, and that no one was listening to their concerns.

And, just like the “Black Lives Matter” movement was an expression of: WE ARE NOT BEING LISTENED TO. Just like Occupy was an expression of WE ARE NOT BEING LISTENED TO. … the rise of Trump was the rise of an electorate and a constituency that was no longer being heard to say: WE ARE NOT BEING LISTENED TO. Donald Trump, for all of his faults, was listening to them and they responded. They, in turn, and responded to being loyal to a fault. [And, by the way, one might argue the same is true for Bernie-crats, who were being ignored by the Clinton wing of the party, and the party was giving an implicit bias towards the Clinton wing]

I’m not writing this to try to apologize for Trump, or excuse his behavior. Rather, this is what we might call “a learning opportunity”. With our eye on the prize — getting Donald Trump and his offensive ideas and behavior out of office — we must learn from this. Here’s what I see we must learn:

  • We must take off our urban privilege blinders. We must think about how our progressive ideas play throughout the country.
  • We must listen. We can’t think that just because we might be urban and better educated, that we are some how smarter or better than the rest of the country. We must hear the concerns of all, and design solutions that work for all.
  • We must realize segments that feel wronged or ignored can choose to work for us, or they can choose to work against us. We’ve seen what happens when they work against us; we must figure out how to turn that energy in a different direction.

The “12 Steps” teach that the first step is recognizing the problem. Then you work on changing your behavior, and making amends for what you’ve done wrong in the past. That is what we as liberals and progressives must do. We can’t, with blinders on, think that we weren’t (at least partially) a contributor to this mess. We have to recognize that to start down the path of fixing it.

So (to bring this back to highways): How do we address this issue? How do we ensure that tax dollars and other funds raised for transportation purposes benefit not only the urban commuter, but the rural transportation user? Is it more effective trucking of goods to lower costs? Better design and maintenance of rural roads to prevent closure during adverse weather conditions? Is it figuring out how to make the notion of ride sharing work in a less-dense environment, or an environment with more on-demand vs. regular usage.

I don’t have the answer. But the question is worth asking.


🗯️ Flaws in the American System

While eating lunch the other day, I was reading an article about the rolling back of EPA regulations, and it got me thinking. Specifically, it got me thinking about how the current Republican administration has shown the danger of governing through regulation and executive order: it is far too easy for a subsequent administration to roll things back. The administration has also uncovered a number of other flaws in our systems — ways that the rules are being exploited in ways that do harm, or ways that allow manipulation of the system in ways that are… less than good. Here are some stream of consciousness thoughts on this:

  • Governing by executive order or regulation is proving far too easy to undo, or too easy to institute. It is also particularly one sided. There should be a requirement (likely a constitutional amendment) that Congress needs to consent to the Executive Order — or reject it within a specified number of days — for it to take permanent effect. Regulations currently require publication and review before they go into effect; there should be similar requirements before they are removed or modified.
  • Recent elections have highlighted flaws in the current Electoral College approach. Our current system has become a cascade of winner takes all — from districts to electors to the White House, and the voice of the people (i.e., the majority) gets lost through manipulation of the process. The system needs to move — at least at the Presidential level — to the winner of the popular vote. Smaller states can still make their voice heard through the Senate.
  • Gerrymandering has gotten ridiculous, and has seen district boundaries drawn to benefit parties, not the people. The requirements for district determination should change to require them to be drawn by an independent, politically balanced board, with the goal of having compact districts. One would like to have commonality of interests, but that can be easily exploited to serve one group and disadvantage the other. However, diversity can and should be a goal within compactness — and that diversity includes political diversity to have competitive districts.
  • The 14th Amendment promotes equality, but has been problematic with the categories of equality. It must be clear that equal protection under the law — equality — covers a broad swatch of protected categories: skin color, sex, gender, religion, orientation, size, and other characteristics out of control of the individual.
  • The 1st Amendment has shown itself to be badly written in a number of ways. Looking at Freedom of Speech in particular, it has been used to achieve freedom of hate speech. There needs to be some specific categories of speech with limitations — specifically, speech advocating violence or hatred based on “protected categories” needs to be limited. The flip side of this, alas, is that haters will always find a way to exploit the rules. Hate, unfortunately, is like water — it always finds a path.
  • The 1st Amendment expression of Freedom of Religion needs to be similarly clarified. It needs to be clear that the government must not establish a national system of beliefs, nor give preference to one form of belief expression (or lack thereof) over another. Citizens must explicitly be free to practice their belief system as individuals, but that freedom only extends to them, and cannot impinge on someone else’s practice of their belief system. In other words: I cannot impose my belief system upon you, even thought I believe I’m doing it for your own good. That also means we need to learn to not judge others based on our beliefs; reserve judgement for whatever higher power you believe in.
  • The 2nd Amendment has proven equally ambiguous. It must be clear that gun ownership is allowed, but that gun ownership is subject to reasonable regulation to protect other citizens. In general, the type and quantity of guns permitted must be appropriate for their intended use, there should be requirements for training and securing of weapons, and the weapon owner must be responsible for any crimes committed by someone using their weapons. Only legal gun owners and registered gun ranges should be able to purchase ammunition. Yes, this won’t stop criminals, illegal weapons, or weapons already out there (although ammunition restrictions might), but risk reduction is better than doing nothing.
  • The Supreme Court has become politicized. The intent of life-time terms was that justices might become independent of politics and judge based on the law alone (similar to academic tenure), but that hasn’t happened. To address that, justices should have term limits that don’t cleanly align with Presidential terms — I’d suggest 21 years.
  • The Constitution has shown itself to be far too weak when faced with a deranged President. There are also Constitutional issues with respect to disputed elections, and elections that are subsequently determined to have been subject to tampering. The Electoral College was supposed to be able to address this, but the power of party politics have destroyed that. There needs to be a recall and reconsideration process instituted other than impeachment or the 25th Amendment. My thinking in this area has two prongs: First, the ability for a joint session of Congress to examine the past election, declare it void, and select new temporary executive officers from the remaining candidates of that election (who were running in the primaries) until a special election can be held within a specified time frame. Second, the ability for the people to initiate a recall through a cascade of recall requests from some greater-than-majority percentage of the states, using state procedures; again, this would invoke temporary leadership until a special election.

All of these would likely require constitutional amendments. I’d rather these changes go through the amendment process; opening up the entire document to revision would be disastrous. But this administration has highlighted some areas that truly need addressing in light of the changes in society.


Signs that You are Old

The world is changing — fast — and you don’t often realize it until it slaps you in the face. That happened this week. I’m starting to plan for an office move, and that means figuring out a new office layout. I’m going to a smaller office, and that means getting rid of the table and keyboard tray I use for my computer. As I needed to get a smaller computer table, I asked our office assistant. She pointed me to a website where I could get a new table (or I could go to the warehouse and rummage around). It was at this point, I realized I was living in a different era.

I wanted a simple table with a keyboard tray, possibly with a riser for the monitor so that I could have good ergometrics. What I could order, however, were standing desks with motors to rise or lower them; keyboard trays were an options. Standing desks. You mean I need to do something other than sit at my desk all day.

I also asked about boxes for the move; I was told that we no longer do that. Now we get reusable plastic bins.

As for whiteboards: Now, when I started, we had real chalkboards. But then we went to whiteboards, which were, well, white. Now we have these Quartet Boards, which are glass things all fancy. My old whiteboard? Going into the trash.

We’re being encouraged to downsize and get rid of paper. I’m getting rid of two four-drawer file cabinets and a 3′ bookcase. We’re being encouraged to print less and review on the screen more. Many are moving to open offices, or offices where you camp and share your space.

I understand why this is all being done. We need to use less paper and cardboard, and standing is much better for your health than sitting all day. Cognitively, I know this is a good thing. But it is also wasteful. Think of all the perfectly serviceable furniture and boards that are being tossed and not reused; manufacturing energy going to waste. We used to have Steelcase desks that lasted 50-80 years. Now tables less than 10 years old are considered obsolete and are being toss. Everyone wants the newest and greatest; the whole notion of “reuse” is disappearing. It makes me think of an article I read recently about trying to move to a new apartment without using anything new. You used to be able to do that when you changed offices. But upgrade mania has overtaken the workplace.

Emotionally? It’s making me feel old. I’ve gone 30 years in the workplace with traditional desks, and traditional computer tables. I’ve gone 30 years reviewing documents on paper and marking them up. I’ve gone 30 years of having historical files of paper that I could go through. As they sing in Working, “It worked for me then, what’s wrong with it now.”

I am increasingly feeling old, and am increasingly understanding how seniors feel the world is moving too fast and passing them by. I know that I must keep up with it, but it is shocking when you think you’ve been keeping up, and discover you’re out of date for the modern workplace. This could very well be one reason why older workers find it harder to fit into new tech.

It’s very disconcerting, but I’ll eventually figure it out (and probably grow to like it). Inertia is a hard thing to overcome.


I’m Tired

I’m tired. So tired. Here’s what I’m tired of:

  • I’m tired of Trump. I’m tired of dealing with his hate and intolerance, especially of anyone who holds a different view, or didn’t vote for him..
  • I’m tired of the Trump followers — and the Trump haters — who feel that screaming at each other or that making fun of each other will accomplish anything. It might make you feel better in the moment, but it won’t change any minds. It could even do harm, cementing the view of intolerance of the one doing the screaming. Just shut up, and use your energy to actually change the situation. Yes, this goes for both sides.
  • I’m tired of memes. Taking an arbitrary quote, pasting it on top of a picture from a completely different time, and spreading it around the world is meaningless. The picture is out of context and often intentionally misleading. The quote is often out of context. It is, to use an overused term, fake. I want real news, with real context.
  • I’m tired of Whataboutism. If an action is wrong, it is wrong no matter which side of the political spectrum is doing it. Just because “the other side did it” doesn’t make it right. Just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t make it right. Going along with that, however, is understanding the context of the action. Just because sound bites or memes make something seem similar that doesn’t mean the context is the same, or that they are actually similar.
  • I’m tired of oversimplification. The political world is intensely complicated. Things that seem the same may be completely different, depending on context. Social media pushes us to oversimplify for sound bites, tweets, or memes. Resist the urge to do so, and actually study and understand the differences.
  • I’m tired of people seeing other people as a single, one word label. Life is complicated. People are complicated. Rarely can a person’s views be summed up in one word. Note, however, that if you insist on seeing me as a single label; the same may be true.
  • I’m tired of people calling each other names, like we were children in a schoolyard making fun of someone’s big ears. Grow up. How someone looks or dresses or even how they speak makes not one whit of a difference. It is their actions and behavior — what they do and what they say — that matter.
  • I’m tried of Trump: what he does, what he says, how he views as acceptable behavior that was unacceptable before the election (and vice-verse), how he oversimplifies, how he views people as labels, and his calling people names.

I’m also getting fearful:

  • I’m fearful of the hatred that this President has encouraged to come to the surface. Hatred based on origin. Hatred based on skin color. Hatred based on orientation. Hatred based on religion. Hatred based on political orientation. Enough already. This country has had enough hatred over its history. It was shameful then, and it is shameful now. It is time to accept others, in the spirit of freedom that this nation was built upon.
  • I’m fearful of the hatred that hasn’t come to the surface, and what it will do.
  • I’m fearful of the growing anger in this nation.
  • I’m fearful of the fear of the immigrant. I’m not, however, fearful of the immigrant, because almost all are good hardworking people, looking for a better life for their family, safety and security, and to be a part of this great nation. The percentage that are not is quite small, and is likely smaller than the percentage of citizens that wish others harm.
  • I’m fearful that the exhaustion that is setting in from this President will lead people to give up, and not fight to bring this nation back to its ideals of fairness and justice and equality for all. It is easier, after all, to give into the mob and not fight for what is right.

Most of all, I fear that society is getting a collective case of PTSD, although I don’t know how much “Post-” there is. There is certainly a traumatic stress disorder that is growing with every day of the continued partisanship and hatred, and the continued attack on our senses and sensibilities. Recovery for society — once we eventually move past the mishegos — will be slow and painful.

When you get the urge to lash out and scream, to share a meme, or to do any of this, ask yourself the simple question: Am I just doing it to make me feel better? Will it change any minds to help my position? If you are only doing it for yourself, and it won’t advance your cause, don’t do it. Take that energy and redirect it into something that would actually make a difference: fundraising, getting out the vote, and so on. Just imagine how much more good work the non-profits you support could do if you donated the price of a cup of coffee each time you got angry reading something, or wanted to lash out.


Life in the Classroom

What is the purpose of school? An article today from NPR on the fading away of “Home Ec” classes, combined with another article about LA Unified establishing the goal of preparing every grad for CSU or UC, got me thinking: Should we be preparing students for college, or for life? I think both, m’self.

When I was back in Junior High (and yes, we called it that), there were still shop classes for boys — wood, metalworking, electrical, drafting — and home ec — sewing, cooking — for girls. By the time I was in high school, the classes were still there but mixed sexes, plus there was auto shop and photography. We also had courses available in Driver Education and what was called “Health”, but it was really Sex Ed and teaching you what drugs were on the street.

Today that has changed, and there appear to be courses called life skills, but based on the NPR article, I’m not sure they are teaching the right stuff, however. I believe, that by the time you get out of high school, you should know the following life skills:

  • Basic cooking
  • Basic clothing repairs and sewing
  • Basic electrical and plumbing
  • Basic wall repair and painting
  • Basic car repair
  • Basic financial skills: balancing a checkbook, what a loan is, how interest works, what impacts your credit score, what insurance is and how it works
  • Basic legal skills: how to read a loan contract, how to read a rental contract
  • Basic driver education

In general, you should come out of high school with sufficient skills to “adult” on your own. But that’s not enough.

I agree that schools should prepare you for college. That doesn’t mean you should go, but they should not preclude the option beforehand. This goes well beyond the academic course prerequisites that UC or CSU require. It also includes “collegeing” skills — which are appropriate even for those going the vocational route. These include:

  • How to manage your time
  • How to write papers with convincing arguments
  • How to get up and speak and present findings
  • How to think critically, examine issues critically, and argue issues.
  • How to navigate the academic process: not only financial, but exploring the wide variety of post-high school education options

We’re just now seeing the impact of a generation that cannot critically think. It occupies an office that is neither rectilinear nor circular, but something that has two focii.


Breaking Up is Hard To Do

The news today is filled with discussions around a proposition that will be on the November ballot. Quoting the LA Times:

If a majority of voters who cast ballots agree, a long and contentious process would begin for three separate states to take the place of California, with one primarily centered around Los Angeles and the other two divvying up the counties to the north and south. Completion of the radical plan — far from certain, given its many hurdles at judicial, state and federal levels — would make history. […] Northern California would consist of 40 counties stretching from Oregon south to Santa Cruz County, then east to Merced and Mariposa counties. Southern California would begin with Madera County in the Central Valley and then wind its way along the existing state’s eastern and southern spine, comprising 12 counties and ultimately curving up the Pacific coast to grab San Diego and Orange counties. Los Angeles County would anchor the six counties that retained the name California, a state that would extend northward along the coast to Monterey County.

Of course, this proposal will never go all the way: it has to pass Congress at the national level, and they would be loath to create something that might topple the balance of power in either the House or Senate. That’s why neither Puerto Rico nor DC have achieved statehood: they’d come in a strongly Democratic. But there are so many other problems with this proposal. One can easily see why the last successful state split was West Virginia, during the Civil War, in an era where there wasn’t much state level infrastructure.

But splitting California would have so many problems:

  • What would be the state postal code? After all, both NC and SC are taken. CN and CS and CA?
  • You think the state bureaucracy is bad now? Splitting means duplicating and recreating all of the government bureaucracy: Three governors, Three Lt. Governors, Three of every executive, Duplications of staffs and such. Where does the money to pay for all of that come from?
  • How will you divide infrastructure and infrastructure maintenance, especially when Caltrans districts straddle and cross state lines?
  • Think about all costs associated with resignage. Almost every sign on state highways would need to be replaced if they referenced the state name or used the state highway shield.
  • What do you do about funding of multiyear infrastructure improvement projects? How do you split the bonded indebtedness of projects that straddle state lines?
  • How do you handle water, especially when all of the major urban areas are importing their water from new California states?
  • How do we divide the costs of prisons, when they aren’t evenly distributed across the new states?
  • Think about the mess this creates for Cal State and UC, as they now become multiple systems? How would USC react to there being another USC (and note that both SCU and CSU are also taken)? How will UNC react to their being another UNC (and note that both NCU and CNU are also both taken)?

Most importantly, would I have to do the Californias Highway Pages?

Seriously, if you want to break up a state, break up Texas. They already have the Congressional approval to do so. Malcolm Gladwell of the Revisionist History podcast has a great episode on the subject; even the Texas Law Review cites it. Hint: No matter how you do it, the Republicans will lose, and lose big.


Yerushalyim Shel Shalom

Yesterday, the US officially moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It has brought up a number of discussions, so I thought I would share my thoughts this morning before I start the day. I refer people to my statement of core values from a few days ago.

Why was the embassy moved? Ostensibly, it was in recognition of Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capitol, but as that had been on the table for a long time before, it wasn’t the real reason. The timing behind it being done now was to please Trump’s evangelical base: it fulfills a biblical prophesy that supports Covenent Theology and hastens the end of days. If you read my core values, you know my thoughts on that: I think it is presumptuous for humans to take the place of God and to do things to fulfill prophecies of a particular religion. Let God fulfill God’s prophecies in God’s time.

I saw others seeing yesterday as a “dark day for the US” because no Democratic Congresscritters attended. Given the Congress normally doesn’t attend embassy openings, I’m glad they didn’t waste the money. In the long run, who attended the ceremony won’t matter one bit. Unless is it the catalyzing action for a war, even moving the embassy won’t matter 100 years down the road. All that is significant is US support for Israel, through monetary support and military and trade alliances. For some segments of Judaism, moving the embassy is vitally important (again, often for prophetic reasons). For most American Jews, however, it is more problematic. It is likely good that it is in Jerusalem, but the timing is problematic. Right now, there was loads of violence and death as protests erupted; and unsurprisingly, the Israeli government may have responded in a way that hurt their image. Did the Israeli government overreact? Probably, but I don’t always agree with what the Israeli government does, nor do I have to. I do predict there will be chaos over this for a while, but eventually things will settle back to the normal level of hatred between the parties. After all, it’s just an embassy. In fact, one article I read noted an interesting side effect: It might lead to the opening of an embassy for the Palestinians, also in Jerusalem, which they consider as their capitol.

Finding peace in the region is a difficult goal, and it ultimately depends on the parties agreeing to compromise with each other — and that means formally recognizing each other. Palestinians must recognize that Israel must be allowed to exist in peace in some form; that to achieve their nation means not wiping Israel from the map. Israel must agree that that Palestinians have the rights to some land and some level of reparations, and that how their government has been treating them has been wrong. Both are hard recognitions to make. Trump may stumble into a solution (just has he has in Korea), not through any particular action other than pandering to his base and being batshit crazy and having a much more personal style. Being crazy and focusing on personal relations is normal operations in the Middle East, and I’ve at least one article suggesting the Palestinians work with Trump. Consider that his pulling out of the deal with Iran has not only given Iran the power to look like a good guy by staying in the pact with the Europeans, but has put fear into the Saudis and gotten them talking … to Israel. Who knows what will happen because of the unpredictability of Trump, and the fear of the unpredictable may push parties together. If in the long term the balance of powers shifts in the Middle East so that the US’s power is diminished, well, at least the US is taking care of itself, right? After all, that’s worked with China and Russia? Right? Bueller? Bueller?

However, the point of this is that the opening ceremony for the embassy in Jerusalem is noise in the larger geopolitical issues. It may seem a big deal now, but it will be overshadowed by other things quickly. Despite evangelicals seeing it as important and the fulfillment of prophecy, it ultimately is at most a sentence in a history book (if indeed there are history books — the world is coming to an end, right?).