Economics explained while standing on one foot

There is a Talmudic legend about a pagan approaching Hillel the Elder, offering to convert to Judaism if Hillel could explain the Torah to him while standing on one foot. (In “an elevator speech” might be a modern idiom.)

Hillel answered: “That which is hateful unto you, do not do unto any other. That is the whole Torah: all the rest is commentary/corollary. Now go forth and study that.

Similarly, if anybody were to ask Steven Levitt/Shlomo HaLevy to explain all of economics while standing on one foot, his answer might well be something like:

People respond to incentives. This is the essence of economics: all the rest follows from that. Now go forth and study it.

On “Protestant” and “Catholic” Jews

An American Jewish visitor to our Israeli (NCT Base East) home wondered why, if there are so many non-Orthodox Jews in Israel, there are so few Reform ‘temples’ (sigh).

In fact, an immigrant from Antwerp came up with the best response: “American Jews are protestant Jews — Israeli Jews are Catholic Jews”.

What?! You say. No, his response made perfect sense. Allow me to elaborate.

In Catholic countries, there is one church — the Roman Catholic (literal meaning: universal) church. There is no competing ‘Liberal Catholic Church’ (okay, on the other side of the spectrum there are small traditionalist breakaway groups you could compare to the chareidim). The population spans a spectrum in observance from those who piously and diligently attend to every daily and weekly observance, via those who come to church once a week and otherwise may say some prayers, via those who come on a semi-regular basis, to the “twice-a-year Catholics” (Christmas and Easter), to those who only show up for life-cycle events. All of them are considered ‘Catholics’, good, bad, or indifferent.

In Protestant countries, if you had a fundamental disagreement with the established church (C of E, Lutheran,… depending on the country) and you found enough people who agreed with you the default option was to start a new prayer house of your own, which might grow into another denomination. At one level, this ‘unity in diversity’ has been a fount of strength for protestantism; at another level, it has been a source of fragmentation.

About half of the Jews in Israel (or their immediate ancestors) immigrated from Muslim countries. (They are often misleadingly named ‘Sephardic’ — as many of these communities are closer in ritual to the Jews of the Spanish Expulsion than to Ashkenazi Jews’ — but a more accurate term would be Yehudei Artzot haIslam [Jews from Muslim Countries].) These communities always operated on the ‘Catholic’ model: there was one  ‘denomination’, it was religiously Orthodox, but was very tolerant of less-than-perfect observance on a personal level. As long as you respected the rabbi and the community elders, driving to the soccer game after Saturday synagogue services was/is no big deal — but nobody would think of packaging this as a new form of Judaism. Tell Jews like that about Reform Judaism — be it in Israel or in France — and the response will be basically ‘huh?’

In contrast, the birthplace of Reform Judaism was a very different country: Germany. It arose there in the early 19th Century as one response to a phenomenon that largely passed by the Islamic countries: the Enlightenment and its (mostly Ashkenazi-)Jewish counterpart, the Haskala. In response to its perceived early excesses, two new movements arose: on the one hand, modern-Orthodoxy — which combines Torah Judaism with an openness to secular learning — and on the other hand, Conservative Judaism, which as a movement tries to steer a middle course between Reform and Orthodoxy. While Reform- and Conservative-like congregations sprang up in other countries (e.g. the Neolog movement in Hungary, which in Israel would be called Masorti, see below), by far their biggest success story was the United States. Why? The first major Jewish immigration wave (post-1848) came from German-speaking lands, and thus (although a few Orthodox synagogues have existed in the USA since Colonial days) the “establishment” congregations became first Reform, later a mix of Reform and Conservative. When the Great Jewish Migration from Eastern Europe hit American shores 30-40 years later, the newcomers did set up their own Orthodox and chasidic congregations, but especially the Conservative ones quickly gained a following among immigrants eager to acculturate.

In other words, just as the US diaspora is a sui generis  success story, so is the blossoming of Reform and Conservative Judaism in the USA a unique success story born out of circumstances and ‘being in the right place at the right time’. But just like the predominant non-Jewish religion in the USA, protestantism, American Judaism is a multidenominational affair, even though the differences between Jewish denominations are more about observance than about points of theology.

There is a flip side to the phenomenon of non-Orthodox denominations. In countries where these were strong,  Orthodox communities felt conflicting impulses: ‘go with the flow’ to keep their flock, or rather become more rigid to offer a clear alternative? By and large, the second won out, and typically American Orthodox congregations will expect you to actually be observant at their level to join, or make a good-faith effort to be so. Even in the age of the ba’al teshuva (‘born-again Jews’) movement, the latitudinarian approach of a Moroccan- or Algerian-born Orthodox rabbi (mixing fairly strict ‘official’ doctrine with great personal indulgence) will typically not be theirs. Which is only natural: after all, if people want to live as Reform or Conservative Jews, they have those other places to go to?

Back to Israel now. So we have a bit under half the Jewish population that  was either born in, or descended from, Islamic countries with a ‘Catholic’ Jewish community. Most of the recent Russian immigrants had no religious exposure at all (and a purely ethnic/cultural conception of Jewishness). Israel’s “founding fathers” by and large all immigrated from the former Pale of Settlement (spread over present-day Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Russia, …) — places where effectively religious pluralism was not between Reform and Orthodox, but between competing streams of Orthodoxy. The “yekkes” (German Jews) and “anglo” immigrants were the only two major(-ish) groups that came out of a ‘Protestant’ Jewish ambit.

As a result, Jewish religious life in Israel quickly acquired its ‘Catholic’ character: denominationally orthodox, in varied shades of observance. Significantly, an Orthodox Jew is not said to be ortodoksi (a loan word to begin with) but dati (religious) or shomer mitzvot (observing the commandments), with chareidi (lit: “trembling” [in awe of G-d]) reserved for the ultra-Orthodox (“blackhats”). A Jew who mostly keeps the ritual commandments but not all the way will self-identify as masorti  (“traditional”): in practice, in an Israeli context (with often still a 1-day weekend), that means somebody who keeps the dietary laws quite strictly (at least at home) but may engage in recreational use of electronics and motor vehicles on the Sabbath. But even somebody who self-identifies as chiloni (secular) may in practice still be more observant of Jewish law than 90% of US Reform Jews: they just may never set foot in a synagogue except for a family event. As an Orthodox wag had it: tell an Israeli secularist to come to an Orthodox synagogue, and he’ll say ‘no!’; tell him to come to the Reform synagogue, to the Russian Orthodox Church, or to a Hare Krishna center, and the answers will be the same: ‘huh?’.

The first Reform congregation (Har-El in Jerusalem) was founded in 1958, and despite massive efforts by the World Union for Progressive Judaism (the Reform federation), Reform has remained a marginal movement in Israel that is (among those who even know it exists) widely regarded as a foreign import.  The degree to which the Israeli Reform movement has allowed itself  to be politically identified with the far-left Meretz party (which represents mainly the Haaretz readership, enough said) does not exactly help matters. From what I have seen of Reform services in Israeli, they are more traditional than US ones (admittedly a very low standard).

Masorti Judaism (which is what Conservative Judaism calls itself in Israel) has had somewhat greater success attracting “native” Israeli congregants. In part this is due to (deliberate?) semantical confusion with the broader meaning of masorti (see above), but another main factor is its indeed decidedly traditional orientation. By US standards, the Israeli Masorti movement would be ‘conservadox’, and at least one such synagogue which I attended semi-regularly was using the mainline Orthodox prayer book (Siddur Rinat Israel) as recently as 10 years ago, and the corresponding High Holiday prayer books as recently as last year. Masorti Judaism has some following among Israelis who seek a more (gender-)egalitarian experience than is possible in a mainline Orthodox congregation (a few experimental congregations like Shira Hadasha in Jerusalem aside). Still, it has shown no signs of ever becoming anything other than a niche player here.

As an aside, it should be remarked that both the Hebrew Union College (Reform) and Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative) maintain satellite campuses in Jerusalem where they expect their rabbinical students to spend at least one year.

Finally, there is a native-grown “secular yeshiva” movement where secular Jews meet in groups that study biblical and rabbinical source texts together. While a parallel can be seen to the havura phenomenon in the USA, it also reminds me of groups at the edge of the established  church in some historically Catholic European countries.

So, are Israeli Jews setting up altars and burning candles to saints? Heck no! But are they, sociologically more similar to the observance continuum in Catholic countries than to the denominational quilt of the USA or Canada? Sure, I’d say so.

Israel votes, part 2: winners and losers [updated]

With now 99% of votes counted, here are the results, courtesy of Times of Israel:

  • 31 Likud – Israel Our Home cartel (center-right + Russian immigrant party)
  • 19 Yesh Atid (new centrist party)
  • 15 Labour (moderate left)
  • 11 Shas (ultra-Orthodox, Jews from Arab countries)
  • 11 Jewish Home (fusion of National Religious Party and other right-wing group)
  • 7 United Torah Judaism (ultra-Orthodox, Askhenazi)
  • 6 HaTnua/The Movement (effectively the Tzipi Livni Party)
  • 6 Meretz (looney-left)
  • 5 United Arab List
  • 4 Chadash (“former” communists, mostly Arab)
  • 3 Balad (Arab nationalists)
  • 2 Kadima (remnant of the old centrist party)

In Israel, who actually gets to sit in the Knesset/Assembly is totally determined by ranking on the party lists. At the website of the Central Elections Committee, here are partial lists in English, and full lists in Hebrew.

The clear winner: Yesh Atid, which was catapulted from nowhere to the second largest party. Ideologically, it is pro-market economically and centrist on the Arab-Israeli conflict, while advocating a new approach to synagogue-state relations. Sectorially speaking, it markets itself (with apparent success) as the voice of Israel’s middle class. In fact, in many regards it seems more like the moderate wing of the Likud than the “center-left” party some in the media claim it is. The Likud leader, outgoing PM (and PM-presumptive) Binyamin Netanyahu already reached out to their leader about coalition negotiations.

Said leader, veteran journalist and TV anchor Yair Lapid, is the son of the founder of another meteoric (albeit short-lived) centrist party, the late anticlerical firebrand Yosef “Tommy” Lapid. (In fact, Tommy’s “Shinui”/Change was the second party of that name, an earlier [Democratic Movement for] Change having merged into Meretz many years ago and consequently having faded into irrelevance.) In part in response to concerns about the “antireligious”  character of the slate, Lapid placed a fairly well-known modern-Orthodox rabbi (Shai Piron) as his number 2 and another (TImes of Israel blogger Dov Lipman) in a borderline electable position (which turned out to be electable after all). Others on the slate include mayors of various towns such as Herzliya’s Yael German, media commentators like Ofer Shelach, a former police chief (Michael “Mickey” Levy) and a former head of the Shin Bet (Israel’s domestic security/intelligence service), Yaacov Peri. Notably absent are national political figures: there may have been a “throw them all out” factor at work, even if only on a secondary level.

Clear loser #1: The main opposition party in the outgoing Knesset, Kadima/”Forward”, was originally founded by none other than Ariel Sharon (who is technically still alive but has been in a vegetative state following his 2005 massive cerebral hemorrhage) . It fell victim to, essentially, the inflated egos of party leader, onetime foreign minister Tzipporah “Tzipi” Livni and her rival, former IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz. They went to the polls with rival slates, his retaining the Kadima name, hers marketed as both HaTnu`a/”The Movement” and “The Tzipi Livni Party”. Together they pulled a paltry fraction of Kadima’s old Knesset representation: 7 seats for HaTnua (including such decidedly noncentrist figures as longtime Haifa mayor, Amram Mitzna, Labour’s 2003 candidate for the prime ministership,  and former trade union leader and defense minister Amir “A-clown” Peretz), 2 for the remnant Kadima (Mofaz himself and former Likud MK Israel Hasson). The only reason why the joke named Amir Peretz was able to return from the political wilderness may have been the one good thing he did: while defense minister, he decided to fund the Iron Dome system against ‘expert’ advice. (Even this writer, who defers to none in his contempt for the Histadrut trade union, is willing to grant him that.)

Livni has been running a hysterical campaign claiming that only she (a onetime Mossad agent) can save Israel from international isolation and  worse. If she had any sense of reality, she would retire from politics at this point; of course, the next one in line  (Mitzna) might well take part of his faction back to Labor.

The failed gamble: When Netanyahu decided to merge his list with the (mostly) Russian-immigrant list of outgoing foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman,  my first thought was “what are they thinking”? It was obvious to me that a merger would actually drive people away rather than draw people, but perhaps these two men knew something I didn’t. Lieberman is a complex figure: a mix of right-wing posturing with some genuinely out-of-the-box ideas that defy conventional left-right classification (such as a land swap between settlements and the Arab Triangle in the Galilee — an idea originally proposed by geographer Arnon Sofer), but who has never shed the “shtarker” image from his days as Netanyahu’s bureau chief, and has several past and pending (possibly politically motivated) corruption investigations against him. To Russian immigrants he (an immigrant from Moldova) was an electoral magnet, to many veteran Likudniks a turnoff. My guess is Netanyahu handed Yesh Atid votes on a silver plate with this merger. Then again, cunning politician as he is, he may have planned exactly that in the hope of pulling Yesh Atid into his coalition as a counterweight against the increasingly vocal radical faction within his party. And who knows, Lieberman (his onetime protégé) may have been a willing partner in this.

High hopes: The Jewish Home list, heir to the National Religious Party (modern-Orthodox and pro-settlements) of old, as well as newer nationalist elements, did well (increasing their representation from a combined 7 seats to 11), but not nearly as well as they has hoped — indeed, it was widely expected to emerge as either the 2nd or 3rd largest party, and ends up as fifth. Some FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) propaganda on the part of the Likud may have contributed to this result, although this tarnished the Likud probably as much as it hurt the Jewish Home. An even more radical breakaway faction Otzma leYisrael/”Strength to Israel” led by right-wing veteran Aryeh Eldad MD did not make the electoral threshold.

Otherwise: Of the ultra-Orthodox lists, Shas held steady (which they tried to spin into a “victory”) while UTJ somewhat surprisingly gained two seats. Why ‘surprisingly’? Shas, through playing the ‘ethnic card’ on behalf of Jews of non-Ashkenazi origin, has an electoral base outside the ultra-Orthodox community, while the Ashkenazi UTJ’s following outside the ultra-Orthodox community could probably comfortably meet in my living room 😉 Perhaps — but this is speculation — some chareidim that voted for other parties in the past or did not bother to vote may have been motivated by the ‘threat’ of having to serve their country like everybody else. Rabbi Chaim Amsalem, a Shas maverick who was ousted from his party for daring to say something blatantly obvious (namely, that chareidim need to go to the army or perform alternative civilian national service, then work for a living like everybody else rather than be supported by the taxpayer), ran on his own ticket but did not make the electoral threshold. Which is a pity — his presence in the Knesset might have been the beginning of an adult dialogue with the chareidi community.

The looney-left Meretz had hit rock-bottom in the last elections, barely making the electoral threshold. Now they pulled six seats, which the insufferable Zehava Gal-On has of course been crowing about. The last more or less sane person on their list, kibbutznik and Knesset veteran Avshalom Vilan, will not be around this Knesset, as he was seventh on the list.

The “former” Communists of Chadash (“New”, but also Hebrew letterword for Democratic Front for Equality — heirs to the Israel Communist List) is functionally an Arab party, even though they have one technically Jewish MK (Dov Khenin). It pulls its usual 3-4 seats, with another four going to the United Arab List and two to the utterly despicable Balad — whose founder fled abroad following credible accusations of treason and espionage.

How the mighty have fallen: Labour’s ancestor parties, the Eretz Israel Laborers Party of Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion and the Unity of Labour faction with which Yitzhak Rabin z”l was later associated, basically ran the country continuously from 1948 until the Great Upheaval of 1977. In the last elections, an increasingly rudderless and out-of-touch Labour hit a historical nadir of 8 seats, to which arguably the 5 seats of former Labour PM and outgoing defense minister Ehud Barak’s “Independence” list should be added. Barak is leaving politics after a militarily very distinguished but politically mixed career: his one political achievement, which nobody can gainsay him, was tearing the mask off Yasser Arafilth during the Camp David negotiations.

Labour went into the elections led by former state-run media “journalist” Shelly Yechimovich, ran a campaign nearly as hysterical as Tzipi Livni’s, and is now trying to spin an increase from 13 to 15 seats into some sort of mandate to replace Bibi. Somewhere in the Negev desert town of Sde Boker (Morning Field), David Ben-Gurion is spinning in his grave.


Elections in Israel, part 1

Today I voted – in Israel. Having lived there part-time for a long time as a temporary work gig turned into a quasi-permanent one, eventually I became a dual citizen.

There is no need for a campaign to motivate people to vote here — voter turnouts are generally quite high. Ascribe it to the argumentative character of the Jewish people (yours truly included), or to the “something for everybody” slate of over 30 parties, or to the inability to “take a vacation from reality” in a country that still cannot take its very existence for granted — Israelis vote, even as they grumble.

But while the voter turnouts might be a Deemocrat [sic] ward-heeler’s dream, the vote integrity measures would be his nightmare. We showed up with our blue national ID cards and our individual official voter’s summons, at the designated polling station indicated there. There, our faces were checked against out ID cards and our names and ID numbers against the roster of voters — then, as we were handed our ballot envelopes, the entries struck through to indicate that we voted.

Despite Israel being an early-adopter country, generally speaking, when it comes to technology, the voting procedure is decidedly old-fashioned. The voter is directed to a booth which has piles of printed slips with the various party’s ballot letters (in huge print) and full names (in still-large print). One picks the one for the party of one’s choice, inserts it in the envelope, and seals it — then, again in full view, deposits the sealed envelope in the ballot box.

The system is not fully bullet-proof. Some fraud is known to exist — typically in the ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors where identity cards of deceased people are sometimes not returned but recycled by voters that, to an outsider’s eye, “all look the same”. Also, a person that cannot read the country’s two official ballot languages (Hebrew and Arabic) and/or is not “all there” can be manipulated by giving them preprinted slips of a party and telling them to put those in the ballot envelope. Furthermore, people who read Hebrew haltingly may get confused between the about three dozen different letter codes — this is one reason why all parties display theirs very prominently on all their campaign materials. A number of the veteran parties have de facto permanent codes: אמת for Labour (although שקר or כזבwould be more apt ;-)), מחל for the Likud, ג for United Torah Judaism, and the like. 

Yet, on balance, the vote in this country reaches a level of integrity that US elections can only dream of. 

THere is no longer a direct election of the prime minister, who is the head of government here — the president’s position, as head of state only, is largely ceremonial. Typically the head of the largest party becomes the prime minister if (s)he can cobble together a coalition that can muster a majority in the Knesset. THere is no realistic chance, for better or worse, that the next prime minister will be anybody other than Binyamin Netanyahu.

And “coalition” — aye, there’s the rub. Israel has  full proportional representation and no electoral districts of any kind, and only very recently was an electoral threshold of 2 (two) percent introduced. This means in practice a highly fragmented parliament, as well as that the kind of lobbying and horse-trading by special interests that goes on inside the two major parties in the US here takes place right in the open, between competing sectorial parties. 

Yet a smorgasbord of options still does not guarantee a party that truly fits. The last US elections offered a stark choice that, somehow, is absent here. Leaving the far-left, far-right, and sectorial parties aside, all of the options had one fatal flaw or another for me. The option of putting in a blank slip with “mihu John Galt?” written on it sounded appealing, but struck me as an act of self-defeating electoral self-gratification. In the end, as no “Tea Party of Israel” was running, I ended up voting for the least bad fit with my own beliefs.

(to be continued)

On why we don’t learn from history

A commenter on Powerline had the following priceless comment:

What is driving us to ignore history and repeat these same mistakes?

  • Lesser Hubris: We could probably make it work this time.
  • Greater Hubris: Only our genius holds chaos at bay.
  • Complacency: Hey, it kind of works, and the pay and perks are good.
  • Cynicism: It’s going to blow up eventually anyway, might as well get something out of it.
  • Simple Greed: There’s always a way to pluck the pigeons.
  • Machiavellian Design: There are paths to great power through chaos.

I suspect that it is mostly lesser and greater hubris followed by complacency, then cynicism, simple greed, and least of all by Machiavellian design.

It would behoove us all to remember not just Santayana’s Law, but indeed, Antonov’s Observation on Santayana’s Law.

On Yes (the band), technological evolution, and not missing the bus

While I have a pretty eclectic taste in music, I’ve been on a Yes re-listening binge lately (I literally wore out my copy of “Close to the Edge” while a teenager), and I am stunned at how fresh their classic albums still sound.

In my day job I recently dealt with something where the history of the band offers an interesting object lesson. Their first keyboardist, Tony Kaye, was a pretty talented musician in his own right, and I actually like his playing on the two first Yes albums a lot. However, even as the music of the band took on an ever more pronounced symphonic character, he resisted all pressure from the rest of the band to add synthesizers and other electronic keyboards to his rig (and the band’s sonic palette), stubbornly sticking with his Hammond organ and a piano. It is very obvious on The Yes Album (their 3rd) — virtually all of which is still in their setlist to this day — that Kaye’s sound just needs that extra something. 

A (likewise classically trained) session musician of their acquaintance called Rick Wakeman not only had no such qualms but enthusiastically tried out every new instrument he could lay his hands on, and after they heard him in concert with The Strawbs, he got a “3 AM phone call” (ahem) if he would like to join the band. He hung up citing a 7 AM recording session, but eventually agreed to come to their rehearsal studio, and on the very first day the band wrote rough versions of two Yes classics, “Roundabout” and “Heart of the Sunrise”. The rest is history, as the “Fragile” and “Close to the Edge” albums became defining ones of the entire progressive rock genre.

Wakeman of course did not neglect his piano or Hammond organ, but M&Ms became a bedrock of his keyboard sound — the Minimoog synthesizer for lead lines and a pioneering tape-based sampler called the Mellotron for string and choir parts. Eventually he would leave the band (following disenchantment with the grandiosity and unfocused writing process of the next album Tales of Topographic Oceans) to focus on a then very successful solo career as an instrumental rock composer, but his legacy was assured — both as a part of Yes’s most creative incarnation and (together with ELP’s Keith Emerson and Genesis’ Tony Banks) as a pioneering rock multi-keyboardist.

Eventually Tony Kaye caught up with the times for lack of an alternative, but by that time he was just one of many good synthesizer players, and the best he was able to do later was appear as a hired hand with Yes during their 90125 tour. (While he’s credited on the album, essentially all the actually recorded parts were played by one of the two Trevors — producer Horn and then-guitarist Rabin.) He could still deliver the goods live but, as a creative force, time had passed him by.

Another musician around that time did adopt emerging keyboard technology piecemeal but always centered on the Hammond organ: this is of course Deep Purple’s Jon Lord. Lord had, however, something that nobody else had: a clue on how to effectively fit keyboards into a hard rock sound, even if it meant modding the organ guitar amp outputs so he could produce a crunchy, distorted, quasi-rhythm guitar sound when called for. 

What is the moral of the story? Fighting technological change, or being in denial about it, is ultimately a career-killing move. Adopt, adapt, or co-opt — or by the time you have made peace with the inevitable it will be too late.

But what about technologies that look promising but eventually don’t deliver the goods? Here too, Rick Wakeman offers an object lesson. The Mellotron being a notoriously difficult instrument to handle live (being both very heavy and delicate) and having some limitations (such as the play-and-return tape mechanism’s inability to deal with rapid-fire playing, mostly limiting its uses to quasi-orchestral chording or lyrical melodies), Wakeman was eager to adopt a new instrument called the Birotron, which was based on endless-loop 8-track tapes, and in fact so eager that he sank nearly his whole net worth into the company. The Birotron never worked well enough, and while the designers tried to work out the kinks, the arrival of the first digital samplers (Fairlight, E-mu) made the Birotron obsolete overnight, and bankrupted its chief investor. Fairlight itself went under later due to production cost scalability issues, but evolved versions of their technology (thanks especially to Raymond Kurzweil) are now part and parcel of virtually all modern keyboard instruments.


Thoughts on Chuck Hagel and the Jewish vote

As expected, 0bama has nominated one of his narcissist “enablers”, the Republican Chuck Hagel, as Secretary of Defense.

Hagel, while a Vietnam veteran, is not exactly known as a bright light on the defense firnament, and cleaves to some truly dangerous foreign policy notions, notably his softness concerning Iran in particular and islamofascism in general. That in itself should have Americans worried.

A number of Jewish organizations have raised concerns about Hagel being a cold fish about Israel at best, and harboring antisemitic prejudices at worst.In response, some of the usual D party ‘court Jews’ have started spinning that what appears black is really white, while a number of the usual suspects have been claiming the usual canard that ‘Jewish voters do not care about US interests, but only about Israel’. More about this in a moment.

But it is actually peculiar that 0bama would support a candidate with so much ballast unless he stood for what 0bama himself stands for. This becomes even more intriguing once you consider that Hagel has major baggage from a left-lib point of view as well: not only has he made a number of statements about homosexuality that would immediately get you ostracized in such circles, but he was actually instrumental in scuttling US adoption of the Kyoto protocol — which is the lib-left equivalent of not only having slaughtered a sacred cow but having first cooked it alive in its mother’s milk.

Back to the voting canard. I will shock you by saying the truth is not as bad: it is worse. And in fact, there is nothing Jewish about it. Allow me to explain.

Half a lifetime’s experience in a stereotypical New Class profession, and interaction with a great many  Jewish (and non-Jewish) academics, lawyers, government bureaucrats, people in the “helping” professions, and journoscribblers  has convinced me of one thing: members of the New Class tend to vote the short-term interest of the New Class, regardless of whether they are nominally Jewish, Episcopalian, or Buddhist. If you are a govenment bureaucrat, you are likely to vote for the party that stands for an ever bigger and more bloated government — even if this in the long run will bankrupt everybody including you. If you are a university professor or administrator, you will tend to vote not only for those promising more goverment funding of higher education and research but also for an administration that encourages everybody to go to college whether they belong there or not and whether there is any demand for more degrees in precious snowflake studies. (There is still robust demand in the STEM fields but, as they demand not only IQs well above average but actual work that increasingly fewer “native” students are willing to put in, their benches are increasingly populated by first-generation immigrants.

And if you are a tort lawyer or regulatory compliance officer: need I say more? Or somebody who makes their living off “bilingual education”?

From that perspective, the only thing “typically Jewish” about that voting pattern flows from the fact that a disproportionately high percentage of American Jews works in typical “New Class” professions. Many members of the New Class tend to project their own class desires and sensibilities onto others to such a degree that they may indeed believe that policies that further their narrow sectorial interests and prestige are actually in the best interests of the country. Others simply suffer from such a collective superiority complex that they believe they, as a class, are ipso facto entitled to substitute their superior wisdom as the ‘educated elite’ (in fact, more a credentialed gentry) for individual policy preferences of the rest of us. Yet others, the more cynical ones, may actually realize they are killing off the host in the long term, but persist anyway as they perceive the system to be in pre-collapse mode. (I was told this is a well-known phenomenon in game theory that people in such situations ‘catch what they can while they can’.)

The gods of the copybook headings, however, eventually request their due, if not sooner then later. That which cannot go on forever, won’t.