Must-listen (partial summary): Joel Kotkin on the rise and fall of Silicon Valley

This 1-hour podcast interview of Joel Kotkin by Brendan O’Neill is a must-hear. A few highlights:

• the 1st generation venture capitalists of Silicon Valley were engineers who wanted “to build a better mousetrap”. An amazing ecosystem of startups who became major companies.

• today, Silicon Valley is run by the same people who’ve destroyed economies everywhere: MBAs and other bean counters. Startup companies are built to be acquired by the big 5-6

• it is no longer about life-changing technology but about ephemera and selling your privacy to advertisers. Not building products people need but that they hate or fear

• Silicon Valley bank was “partying like it was 1985”: today’s companies aren’t even profitable. Live on easy money and easy virtue.

• the new SV overclass is often 2nd or 3rd. “A weird facsimile of the Big 3 in Detroit in the 1970s”.

• CA thinks it can impose whatever regulatory burdens and taxes it wants because “you have to be there” —- well, you no longer have to be there. The more ephemeral, the less need to be in a particular location

• people in the 1970 and 1980s could afford a suburban house, nowadays you either are stuck in a shoebox apartment for live and spend a ton of money on private schools, or you move to a more affordable state and can do the same work anyhow. Tech jobs are growing in FL, TX, AZ, and even NV and UT. There is even a small tech hub in a corner of AK

• actually, the whole BS about not building certain factories (such as chip fabs) in SV is a net negative for the climate, because building the same chip fab in Texas means a lot more energy required for HVAC (in Silicon Valley you can get by without heating or air conditioning much of the year). “If you’re so worried about global warming, remember it is global.”

* there are generic and specific problems. The generic phenomenon has been seen throughout history: 2nd, 3rd,… generation of entrepreneurs get fat, happy, and would-be aristocrats, and a lean and hungry upstart displaces them. You can see this first with Venice getting displaced by Antwerp and Amsterdam, London,… in the Industrial Revolution Manchester became the place to be… 1st generation of entrepreneurs were children of yeomen farmers or craftsmen, then after a few generation the industry barons wanted to marry into the aristocracy and become toffs, embraced socialist policies

The specific issues are insane and counterproductive wokebaggery and reverse-racist policies (which disproportionately hit Asians). As a result, Asian engineers have every reason to move elsewhere

* there is an unprecedented population loss in the 35-54 age brackets. Baby boomers who bought houses 40 years ago are doing fine with inflation. Young people are looking at a life of glorified serfdom

• the support for far-left, über-woke causes: (a) as a form of “protection money” (not his term) as they are so afraid of their HR staff etc.; (b) the new economic oligarchy have theirs and want to pull up the ladder behind them

• Silicon Valley has become anti-aspirational for all but a handful of people

• the real economic model the SV aristocracy embraces is actually neither socialism nor free-trade capitalism but the “corporatist” [*] economic model of Mussolini: statist cronyism

• if a coalition of left-wing populists and right-wing populists were to come together, Silicon Valley’s aristos would be in very deep trouble

And that’s just half of it summarized. Go listen to the whole thing —- it’s very much worth your while

Let me sign off with a little musical delight for the Sabbath. “I’m moving through some changes… I’ll never be the same…”

Have a great weekend and Shabbat shalom!

[*] The “Corporations” in classical fascism were the estates or classes. Fascist Italy had a “Chamber of Corporations” that functioned like a tame lower house of parliament. The most useful thing it ever did was deposing the Duce in its last meeting and dissolving itself

Trump indicted; the US ruling class and the PRC

With all the goings-on here about the judicial emasculation plans — now hopefully giving way to a more modest reform that a broad swathe of us can live with — I haven’t discussed goings-on in the US much. The recent Nashville school shooting proved primarily that there are no depths the “liberal” US MSM won’t plumb. (Newsweek, interestingly, is bucking that trend.)

But now we have this bombshell: the “Soros Of Puppets” appointed DA indicting Donald Trump on flimsy trumped-up charges.

Insty reminds us of his legal essay: “Ham Sandwich Nation: due process when everything is a crime”. The title refers to the law school quip that if a prosecutor looks hard enough, they can find grounds to indict a ham sandwich.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis, hardly a Trump buddy, has this to say:

Note the speculation further down the post that the antiDemocratic – MSM complex is deliberately trying to set up Trump as a martyr to boost him with GOP voters and ensure he gets the nomination, as they are “sure” he’ll be easier to knock down in the general election than a Ron DeSantis, say. But this might backfire spectacularly with Trump following in the footsteps of Grover Cleveland (thus far the only POTUS to have served two non-consecutive terms).

In tangentially related news, the “Jan. 6 QAnon shaman” was suddenly released from prison. “The Bureau of Prisons gave no explanation for the decision, but it is impossible not to think that it is related to the release of a video that showed Chansley being escorted peacefully and helpfully by Capitol Police, suggesting that the prosecutors misled the jury on the circumstances of his arrest. That video was not available to Chansley and his lawyers when constructing his defense, violating Chansley’s constitutional rights. As you recall from earlier posts, the prosecutors failed to make a ‘Brady disclosure’ of exculpatory evidence.”

Insty comments: “People need to be held accountable. And in time they will be.” He also compares and contrasts.

And thinks Commander Salamander’s assessment of the US ruling class’s relationship with the ChiCom regime is too charitable: “If you don’t wake up every morning cursing those responsible for defense and China policy in the 1990s … the gobsmackingly short sighted arrogance of it all – then what use are you, actually? […] With a few exceptions, from partially completed CV rusting in Ukraine, to teaching the Communist Chinese how to MIRV ICBM warheads, to opening up our best research institutions to spies an assets, the USA was beset internally by unserious people with the attention span of a hamster and the historical perspective of a newborn in serious jobs requiring long-term thinking and decision making.”

What, the US was run then by a stereotype of Generation Z? I’m a very firm believer in Hanlon’s Razor (actually Heinlein’s Razor): Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained as stupidity or incompetence. But at least some of what has been going on, I suspect, is a combination of certain Brahmandarins’s desire they had as much unchallenged power as Chinese mandarins, with “taking care of our friends” through all sorts of covert bribery[*] and access to a supposedly huge market[**], and some key people (such as Abu Hunter) being outright on the take.

Joel Kotkin has a somewhat different take in a must-read and must-hear interview on how Silicon Valley lost touch with reality. “The tech elites are very out of touch with the country they’re in. They feel very little loyalty to it. Some of the biggest backers of China are Silicon Valley companies. Apple has already signed an agreement to share its computer technology with China and to start buying some of its chips from China. If you read things from people at Apple and other tech companies, they may think it’s nicer to live in Silicon Valley than in China. But I don’t think they see the future being here. They feel no visceral connection to the culture of the vast majority of America. That’s at the root of a lot of this. [/par] The great thing about America, for all our many problems, is the idea of aspiration, the idea that somebody can come from nowhere and become someone and can build a good life and own a house. That’s not the trajectory in Silicon Valley anymore. And even worse, the tech elites support policies that make it impossible for anybody who isn’t in the privileged classes to ever move upwards. Not only are they not providing opportunities, they’re also trying to squash opportunities for other people. They may say they’re doing it in the name of saving the planet or in the name of ‘equity’, or whatever reason they want to give you. But the reality is that Silicon Valley has become a centre of almost everything that is now assaulting the middle and working classes in the West.”

[*] One covert bribery method that is technically legal is to invite your “mark” to come give an all-expenses-paid lecture for a huge honorarium. Make sure to make it big enough that even if taxes duly paid, a nice chunk of money remains.

[**] The entertainment industry learned the hard way that the Chinese market was flooded with illegal copies of their product. I’ve also covered here the hilarious way in which Uber was literally taken for a ride in China. Uber, China, and a scam Mel Brooks would have been proud to invent

Here, there, everywhere: First compromise talks in Israel; survey on patriotism, family values in USA; perpetual teenagers and the downside of “sorting by age”

(A) At the residence of Israel’s president, the first night of talks on hammering out a judicial compromise took place.

Centrist Yesh Atid, center-right-ish National Union, and Netanyahu’s own Likud each sent delegations of four people. The once-mighty, now-tiny Labour will send a delegation later. Right-wing, secular Israel Our Home’s leader Avigdor Liberman says they will join only on condition that the coalition withdraws the 2nd and 3rd reading of the Judicial Appointments Law from the Knesset docket. (It was quietly filed there yesterday, allowing it to be brought to a vote in as little as 24 hours. As Liberman started his career as Netanyahu’s cabinet chief, he’s intimately familiar with his former boss’s “tricks and shticks”. Foreign readers: have you wondered why the ranks of Netanyahu opponents are rife with his former ministers, allies, underlings?)

The main reason I am not entirely cynical about these talks being window dressing is that Netanyahu sent Ron Dermer, a former ambassador to the US and veteran campaign advisor, and one of the few people whose advice Bibi still trusts.

(B) Ringside at the Reckoning discuss a survey on American attitudes that has been sold as indicating precipitous drops in patriotism, in willingness to have children,… Compared to a mere four years ago.

They point out, however, that the comparison is of apples and oranges. Previous surveys were done by phone interview, this one by browser. (No, not as a push poll.) They argue: people who consider something ‘somewhat important’ are more likely to ‘upgrade’ their answer to ‘very important’ if speaking to an actual person (and the second answer will make them look better): this factor is not at play in the more impersonal setting of a web browser form.

In fact, they point out that if you aggregate “very important” and “somewhat important”, some of the questions actually show an uptick.

(C) Insty mulls the downsides of socially sorting people by age cohorts, and the positive sides of the older arrangement in which age groups co-mingled more freely.

[blockquote] If you look around our society, many of our more dysfunctional institutions are sorted by age: Homes for the elderly, public schools, even colleges. This age-segregation is artificial, something that never happened naturally in human society and barely happened at all until fairly recently in historical terms. Age segregation separates people from society, perhaps stigmatizes them, and, I think, harms society too.

It’s probably worst for teens. Putting kids together and sorting by age also created that dysfunctional modern creature, the “teenager.” Once, teen-agers weren’t so much a demographic as adults in training. They worked, did farm chores, watched children, and generally functioned in the real world. They got status and recognition for doing these things well, and they got shame and disapproval for doing them badly.

But once they were segregated by age in public schools, teens looked to their peers for status and recognition instead of to society at large. As Thomas Hine writesin American Heritage, “Young people became teenagers because we had nothing better for them to do. We began seeing them not as productive but as gullible consumers.” Not surprisingly, the kinds of behaviors that gain teenagers status from other teenagers differ from the kinds of things that gain teenagers status from adults: early sex, drinking, and a variety of other “cool” but dysfunctional characteristics—once frowned upon—now become the keys to popularity. When teenagers are herded together and separated by from adults, those behaviors gain in salience, and at considerable cost.

[…] Today’s teenagers, on the other hand, are largely consumers, not producers, something that now continues through college and even afterward. The resulting immaturity, they say, makes age 25 look like the new 15. Is that good? No, they report. This extended disconnection from the real world, at a time when people are, in many ways, at the height of their physical and mental powers, creates stress. “The average college student now reports as much anxiety as did the average psychiatric patient forty years ago.” And although schoolwork can be demanding, students know that it’s, in an important sense, not real.

[…] My daughter […] left her suburban Knoxville high school after a single semester in 9th grade because she said it was wasting her time. She went to Kaplan’s Online College Prep School, did her schoolwork at night, and worked at a TV production company in Knoxville during the day. She was surrounded by high-functioning adults, and as part of her job got to sort the incoming resumés, a kind of experience few teenagers get. She graduated at 16 and went off to college, far more secure and confident in the adult world than most of her peers. (When she was 19 I asked her what she’d be like if she’d stayed in her fancy suburban high school: “Pregnant or on drugs or both, probably,” she said, based on many of her peers.)


Go read the whole thing: it’s long but worthwhile. He also discusses how online addiction and the attendant isolation and echo chamber has exacerbated this (the essay was written before the terrible Nashville shooting). Then he goes into the benefits of older people staying active and away from nursing homes, where they end up “jockeying for status tokens in the walled-off society of Boca Vista Face III”. [Note: Interestingly, that is pretty much the Swedish approach: one reason the first COVID wave hit Swedish nursing homes so hard is that they typically are only populated by people who already have one foot in the next world, everybody else trying to live independently, with home care as necessary, subsidized by the government.]

Israel: Netanyahu freezes judicial reform to allow for dialogue with opposition; President Herzog tries to broker talks, centrist Gantz eagerly responds

After unprecedented public pushback, Netanyahu went on TV yesterday and, the usual mendacious and self-serving BS aside, said two things of substance:

• the controversial law that would effectively let the government appoint the Supreme Court President and an additional judge each term will not yet be brought to a final vote in the Knesset, but frozen for now

• he professes to be ready for “sincere dialogue” with the opposition and acknowledged the offer of former Alternate Prime Minister (and Minister of Defense) Benny Gantz to sit down with a team from Gantz’s National Union (in Hebrew literally: the Statesmanship List, haReshima haMamlachtit)

The main opposition head, Yair Lapid (or as I call him, Yahir Vapid), doubts Netanyahu’s sincerity (LOL) and now says “dialogue for an agreed reform must end with a consitution”

I do not think this is realistic, but crises can be turned into opportunities. And if the deal were sweetened by somehow quashing the corruption cases against Netanyahu (frankly, I think they’re a lot weaker than they have been made to look) he might actually welcome the opportunity to make this part of his legacy.

But yesterday somebody was referring to “Dr. Bibi and Mr. Netanyahu” — him alternating between a wily but rational persona with fundamentally moderate instincts, and being the “avatar for unhinged Sara and his extremist son Yahir Meturlalhu (freely: arrogant nutcase).

So the question is which persona we get to deal with, Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.

More later — work calls. (All strikes have been called off in the wake of Netanyahu’s announcement.)

One more thing: Netanyahu’s claim that “the majority supports reform” is, in fact, half true — it all depends on how you define reform. An opinion poll I saw yesterday (I lost the source link) revealed that a majority does support reforming the Supreme Court to some extent, but that the radical Levin-Rothman-Smotrich proposals were deeply unpopular. Only a relatively small minority supports the status quo, which borders on kritarchy (rule by judges).

ADDENDUM: some opinion polls (sample size 2,000, stated error margin 2.1%) in the Hebrew-language business paper GLOBES

Do you support the judicial reform of the government?

  • 43% not at all
  • 25% yes, in part
  • 17% yes, completely
  • 15% don’t know

Did you go demonstrate?

  • 81% no
  • 8% yes, once
  • 7% yes, twice to four times
  • 2% more than five times
  • 2% yes, every week

What would cause you to stop going to demonstrations? (Note: this was published 4 days ago.)

  • 37% only complete withdrawal from the reforms
  • a compromise outline of which the majority of principles are acceptable :
  • 29% to me [i.e., the respondent] personally
  • 27% to the heads of the opposition
  • 15% to the President [NB: Herzog’s position is mostly ceremonial]
  • 5% nothing, I will continue to demonstrate as long as Netanyahu is in power

And in a separate opinion poll published yesterday

FOr supporters of the reform only, on which aspects must the coalition not compromise?

  • 31% none of them
  • 30% override clause (i.e., Knesset can override a Supreme Court ruling)
  • 26% majority control by coalition of judicial appointments committee
  • 25% restricting authority of Attorney-General
  • 22% canceling the “reasonableness test” for administrative decisions

Of the whole sample (supporters and opponents of the reform)

  • 45% say compromise is possible on at least one aspect
  • 36% say no compromise is possible
  • 18% don’t know
  • 54% of the “right” are willing to compromise on at least one aspect
  • 55% of the left are unwilling to compromise on any aspect
  • 21% compromise possible on judicial appointments
  • 20% on the majority required for an override
  • 17% legal counsel of ministries and the government (a.k.a. attorney-general)
  • 17% the “reasonableness test”

Things happening fast and furiously here: Gallant’s firing was the last straw for many [UPDATED]

Keep scrolling the feed of the Times of Israel. [Those reading from abroad: we live a metaphorical stone’s throw from one of the “epicenters” and can watch some of these demonstrations from our balcony. Unlike some commentators from abroad, we are living this.]

After Netanyahu’s firing of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for having broken ranks with him, protests spontaneously escalated. Nothing violent —- but people in downtown Tel-Aviv dropped whatever they were doing and on foot headed down the on- and off-ramps of the Ayalon Highway and blocked it. Some even lit bonfires.

At previous demonstrations, blocking highways was pretty much the only thing guaranteed to bring on a swift and forceful police response. (A colleague of mine was arrested at one of these events, then quickly released.) This time, the police made no effort, likely in view of the mass of people.

Universities declared a national strike, then joined by other parts of the educational system. Mayors of several cities, including the hi tech hub Herzliya, about 10 km north of here, went on hunger strikes.

And now are coming multiple reports that key elements in the coalition are having second thoughts. All the while protesting their fealty to Netanyahu and the support for reform in general, such people as Economics MInister Nir Barkat and Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli are now saying that perhaps a pause until after Independence Day (i.e., for about a month, including the week-long Passover holiday) is in order. There is also an unconfirmed report that Aryeh Deri is supporting a pause, with of course Yariv Levin threatening to leave the gov’t.

developing …

UPDATE: President Herzog has called for an immediate halt and a process of dialogue following it.

Netanyahu is set to address the nation “in the coming hours”.

YNet (in Hebrew) noted that while the firing of Gallant was announced by a terse message from the Prime Minister’s Office, Gallant has not been directly notified.


UDPATE 2: Arnon Ben-David, the head of the country’s trade union federation (the “Histadrut”), speaks to unprecedented joint assembly of his union heads and of various captains of industry and other representatives of the employers in public and private sectors. I am listening to his speech live in my earphones.

“This is the time we all together will return Israel to the path of sanity. This is not a question of left or right.”
“Enough! No more polarizing and setting one sector against another.”
“Under my leadership, the union has tried to distance itself from partisan politics.”
“But we cannot be silent any longer. If this passes, we will call a general strike.”

“We will continue to fight. We together have fought corona and it is behind us.”

“I call upon my friends, the prime minister, the ministers: STOP! The economy is tanking, enemies at the gates, and what are we fighting about? Appointments of two judges? ENOUGH!”

“Israel will come to a standstill, in cooperation between trade unions and employers.” (This is totally unprecedented.)

“It was not a simple decision, and I did eveyrthing to avoid it, but we no longer have a choice. Together, we will put the [train of the] nation back on the tracks it has slipped off.”

Netanyahu is supposed to speak in 20 minutes. He is rumored to announce a halt, but I will believe it when I see it.

And… Netanyahu speech again postponed.

Ram Ben-Barak MK (a former deputy head of the Mossad) is speaking on YNet: Not Netanyahu is the PM anymore, but his son who is dictating him what to say and do.

(10:55 am local) Netanyahu’s speech postponed again because apparently unable to convince faction heads, and “Religious” “zayin-ism” [sic] is threatening to leave the coalition and thus bring down the government.

(11:55 am local) Still no speech. YNet quotes former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin: “Netanyahu proved that he is unfit, he should go home.”

(12:59 pm local) Still no speech. Shopping centers closed, new roadblocks on Ayalon,… Unconformed reports that Ben-Gvir will quit the government but support it from outside.,

Labour submitted a motion to disperse the Knesset (i.e., to hold new elections).

YNet correspondent Attila Somfalvi, a Hungarian immigrant and self-defined “social liberal, otherwise right-winger” notes the contrast between the rational, focused Netanyahu he recently accompanied (as a correspondent) to Germany, and the delusional nonsense he spouts for public consumption — and speculates that his unhinged son Yair is effectively running his father. He rejects the notion that wife and children should be off-limits to public criticism “if the son is all the time on Twitter calling everybody a traitor to his father” because “he has nothing better to do with his time”.

Ynet headline: Minister of Immigration Ofir Sofer of the Religious Zionism party (i.e., Smotrich’s crowd): “Our failure to carry forward the reform obligates us to take responsibility”.

Now PM speech announced for 3PM

Labour leader Meirav Michaeli[*], for whom I have little respect, is now calling on people not to fall for tricks.

(2:30pm) Netanyahu calls on demonstrators in Jerusalem, both against the reform and in favor of reform (later tonight a support demonstration is expected) to refrain from violence and act responsibly.

Netanyahu meets with Ben Gvir; overhaul pause could be delayed to gauge right-wing rally turnout

Four hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to address the nation, he has yet to appear. Reports say he has summoned National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir for a meeting amid the latter’s threat to quit the government if the judicial overhaul is halted, as is expected to happen.

Channel 12 news says some in the premier’s circle are advising him to wait to see if a right-wing rally called for 6 p.m. in Jerusalem garners a substantial turnout.

Several Likud MKs have been tweeting a poster for the rally — declaring “State of emergency… They will not steal the elections from us” — to encourage supporters to attend.

The ultra-conservative Har Hamor yeshiva has reportedly declared support for the rally and hundreds of its students are planning to attend.

As usual, they miscall “euro-right” radicalism “conservatism”. I am a conservative, and oppose the reform in its current extremist and hasty form because I’m a (Burkean) conservative, and believe in gradual, well-considered change.

3pm: no Netanyahu speech in sight — speculation that he is hoping that a “right”-wing support demonstration scheduled for tonight

meanwhile: update that he is currently meeting with Itamar the TikTok Clown.

3:07pm: Ynet quotes senior figures around Netanyahu to the effect that Washington has been updated that the controversial appoint pet judges law“judicial appointments law” will be stopped. If of course he makes another U-turn now, that will cost us dearly…

[*] Interestingly, a granddaughter of the controversial WW II figure Rudolf (Rezsö) Kästner

16:41 So is Netanyahu playing andandino (“Eenie-meenie-miney-moe”) or what? Meanwhile Yariv Levin has said he will respect the decision of Netanyahu, since he does not want a repeat of what happened to the last Shamir government — the downfall of which brought on the Rabin-Peres administration and the disastrous/misguided [depending on your POV] Oslo Process.

I suspect they would be singing a different tune if opinion polls (unreliable as they here often are) didn’t predict a drubbing for the current coalition parties…

16:51 Israel Our Home chair Avigdor Liberman tweets that all this announcing and delaying a speech is a tactic to weaken the protest and lull us asleep. Well, Liberman started his political career as Netanyahu’s cabinet chief, so he knows the dirty tricks he gets up to.

BREAKING: Ben-Gvir has agreed to a freeze of the “judicial overhaul” until the next Knesset session, which starts in May — citing promises by Bibi that the plan will be advanced through negotiations. As a sweetener, a civil “national guard” to boost public safety (we’ve had this in the past) will be approved and placed under his National Security Ministry.

ANALYSIS from Chaviv Rettig Gur.

20:05 Netanyahu now speaking

Comes with self-serving bull feces about how the extremists are all on the “anti” side.

But the vast majority on both sides does not want to cut the baby in two.

I will take a pause to give true dialogue a chance

I have decided to suspend the 2nd and 3rd readings of the law until the next Knesset session [i.e., after the Passover and holidays recess]

He praises the pro-reform camp and calls upon them to behave responsibly and not to give in to provocations

Wishes best for Passover and holidays

End of speech.

Histadrut calls off general strike

Opposition co-leader Benny Gantz (a former IDF Chief of Staff) welcomes suspension, “better late than never”

He calls on Netanyahu to sit with him at the President’s Residence and start a true dialogue, not make-believe

Breaking: Defense Minister Gallant calls for pause in the judicial “reform” process, joined by fellow Likudniks Edelstein, Bitan, Dichter

Once again, huge demonstrations in downtown Tel-Aviv against the hasty push led by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, Knesset Judicial Affairs Committee chair Simcha Rothman, and Finance Minister Betzalel Smotrich to transform our arguably overly powerful Supreme Court into the other extreme of becoming a complete lapdog of the executive.

In a not entirely unexpected development, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has now called for a pause, citing ‘tangible danger to state security’.

Now he has been joined by Knesset Foreign Affairs committee chair Yuli Edelstein (formerly Speaker of the Knesset and Health Minister) and by a rank-and-file Likud MK, David Bitan.

Edelstein, who is the chair of the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, says he thanks Gallant for “joining the path I’ve been leading for weeks.”

“The majority of the people want and understand the need for changes in the judicial system, but this must be done with patience, dialogue, and broad discourse in order to reach a broad consensus,” he says in a statement.

Moreover, Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter earlier called on Netanyahu for a pause — note that Dichter is not some hack politician but a former chief of the Shaba”k=General Security Service, which operates in Israel and the disputed territories. (The Mossad’s area of recognizance is the rest of the world.)

Predictably, “ha-leitzan TikTok” (the TikTok clown) Itamar Ben-Gvir has yelled for Gallant to be fired and for all to prostate [sic] ourselves before the holy “zayin” of Meir Kahane. From the other side of the fence, opposition leader Yair Lapid equally predictably praised Gallant’s decision. His deputy, former Defense Minister (and IDF Chief of Staff) Benny Gantz, appears to have been in contact with Gallant beforehand and certainly approves.

There were other Likudniks who expressed reservations in recent days, such as Economics Minister (and former Jerusalem mayor) Nir Barkat, who (being a former hitech executive turned venture capitalist) was warning of potentially catastrophic economic impact.


UPDATE: Netanyahu apparently considering replacing Gallant with Dichter (the only “general” other than Gallant in his cabinet); Dichter has said he will vote in favor of the reform despite his personal reservations. (12:33 update here, in Hebrew

UPDATE 2 : and that dangerous postmodern leftist and “anarchist” (/sarc) Prof. Moshe Koppel, head of the Kohelet Policy Forum that has been the architect of the corrent “reform” proposals, now is calling the most controversial aspect of the “reform”, the “override law” that allows the Knesset to set aside a Supreme Court ruling with a simple majority, “idiotic” (indeed).

In leaked comments aired by Channel 13 news, Prof. Moshe Koppel, head of the Kohelet Policy Forum, says ultra-Orthodox political interests were responsible for the inclusion of a court override mechanism in the controversial package, and predicts the measure will not become law.

“Our advice to [Justice Minister] Yariv Levin and to [Religious Zionism MK] Simcha Rothman was that the override is completely idiotic,” Koppel is heard telling a small crowd. “We never wanted the override. It was a political matter.”

[…] Koppel told the group that he did not see the override bill making it into law, indicating that the governing coalition would have been happy to offer it up in a bargain with the opposition.

“There’s not going to be an override; nobody ever thought there was going to be an override,” he said in the recording. “I am telling you, listen to me, read my lips: There is not going to be an override.”

“Had [National Unity party head] Benny Gantz come the next day and said ‘Get rid of the override, fix up some of the other problems with the other things and we’ll be willing to make a deal with you,’ the override would have been gone in an instant,” Koppel said.

The Prime Minister’s Office announces that Yoav Gallant “has been reassigned” from the Defense Ministry. In the last few years, I have gone from being a qualified admirer of Netanyahu to ambivalence, but the last few weeks have made me lose whatever respect for him I still had left.

UPDATE 3: Reactions via the Jerusalem Post:

In a tweet, opposition head Yair Lapid said that Gallant’s firing, “just because he warned of a threat to Israel’s security, is a new low for this anti-Zionist government. Netanyahu can fire Gallant, but he can’t fire reality and he can’t fire the Israelis who are standing up against this coalition’s insanity.”

“The prime minister is a danger to Israel’s security,” Lapid alleged.

Netanyahu proved on Sunday that Israel’s security is not his chief priority, [stated] former IDF chief of staff MK Gadi Eisenkot. “Gallant’s dismissal is a disgrace to Netanyahu’s legacy and a dangerous bet on all of our lives.”

“We face a clear and immediate danger to Israel’s security,” former defense minister MK Benny Gantz wrote in reaction to Gallant’s dismissal. “This evening, Netanyahu put politics and himself above security.”

Beethoven’s cause of death: complications of hepatitis B? Sabbath musical delight: Beethoven, Sonata in Ab major Opus 26

“Plaudite, amici, la commedia e finita” (Italian: applaud, dear friends, the comedy is over.) Thus I remember reading Beethoven’s possibly apocryphal last words.

But I had always wondered about his true cause of death — retrospective medical diagnosis always being a speculative business.

Now (multiple hat tips) a new study was published that offers new data (not speculation) from genomic analysis on hair locks attributed to Beethoven:

(1) Begg, T. J. A.; Schmidt, A.; Kocher, A.; Larmuseau, M. H. D.; Runfeldt, G.; Maier, P. A.; Wilson, J. D.; Barquera, R.; Maj, C.; Szolek, A.; Sager, M.; Clayton, S.; Peltzer, A.; Hui, R.; Ronge, J.; Reiter, E.; Freund, C.; Burri, M.; Aron, F.; Tiliakou, A.; Osborn, J.; Behar, D. M.; Boecker, M.; Brandt, G.; Cleynen, I.; Strassburg, C.; Prüfer, K.; Kühnert, D.; Meredith, W. R.; Nöthen, M. M.; Attenborough, R. D.; Kivisild, T.; Krause, J. “Genomic Analyses of Hair from Ludwig van Beethoven”. Curr. Biol. 2023, 1–17 DOI:

The abstract:

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) remains among the most influential and popular classical music composers. Health problems significantly impacted his career as a composer and pianist, including progressive hearing loss, recurring gastrointestinal complaints, and liver disease. In 1802, Beethoven requested that following his death, his disease be described and made public. Medical biographers have since proposed numerous hypotheses, including many substantially heritable conditions. Here we attempt a genomic analysis of Beethoven in order to elucidate potential underlying genetic and infectious causes of his illnesses. We incorporated improvements in ancient DNA methods into existing protocols for ancient hair samples, enabling the sequencing of high-coverage genomes from small quantities of historical hair. We analyzed eight independently sourced locks of hair attributed to Beethoven, five of which originated from a single European male. We deemed these matching samples to be almost certainly authentic and sequenced Beethoven’s genome to 24-fold genomic coverage. Although we could not identify a genetic explanation for Beethoven’s hearing disorder or gastrointestinal problems, we found that Beethoven had a genetic predisposition for liver disease. Metagenomic analyses revealed furthermore that Beethoven had a hepatitis B infection during at least the months prior to his death. Together with the genetic predisposition and his broadly accepted alcohol consumption, these present plausible explanations for Beethoven’s severe liver disease, which culminated in his death. Unexpectedly, an analysis of Y chromosomes sequenced from five living members of the Van Beethoven patrilineage revealed the occurrence of an extra-pair paternity event in Ludwig van Beethoven’s patrilineal ancestry.

The latter sentence refers to living bearers of the (Flemish) surname Van Beethoven. “Extra-pair paternity event” is a nice, prim scientific term for something that begins with a b and rhymes with mustard. Well, that b’stard grew up to be not merely a great but a transcendental composer, whose nine symphonies and thirty-two piano sonatas define their respective genres the way J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier defined the prelude-and-fugue pair. (If there was any composer Beethoven considered greater than himself, it was Bach.)

The Beethoven sonata embedded (with scrolling score) below has always been a favorite of mine. Opening with a typically Beethovenian series of variations as the first movement, then followed by an impish scherzo as the second. Then, in the dark relative minor key of Ab minor (seven flats!) comes a “funereal march for a hero”, its mournfulness momentarily relieved by a martial-sounding interlude in the relative major key — almost like a military band offering its last salute — before returning to the darkness. And then — as if to say in music, “life endures” — follows the sparkling optimism of the final movement.

Have a great weekend and Shabbat shalom!

Breaking: Netanyahu addresses the nation. UPDATE: analysis

Just heard him speak: he spoke nice phrases in beautiful Hebrew about how he understands the fears of the other side, etc. And the need for each side to listen to the other, says “people who oppose the reforms are not traitors, and people in favor are not fascists”, but mostly makes hollow promises except one thing:

* “explains” why the changes in the judicial appointments committee are essential

* makes a vague promises that he will not let it happen that the Knesset can ride roughshod over the Supreme Court with 61 votes

* makes vague promises that his coalition will not only not violate the rights of minorities etc. But will anchor individual rights into law

* the only concrete item: that he was until now forced to recuse himself (further to a legal opinion of the Attorney-General) from directly intervening in the judicial issue (as his corruption trials represent a conflict of interest) but from now on will not stand aside anymore and intervene directly

Attila Somfalvi of YNet, himself right-leaning: “He’s trying to be half-pregnant”.

UPDATE: Ben-Dror Yemini on YNet (in Hebrew), hardly a pomo leftist: “it is clear that the country can fall apart as far as Netanyahu is concerned, as long as his narrow personal interest [i.e., staying PM] is satisfied”

Carrie Keller-Lynn in the Times of Israel:

The prime minister attempted to strike a conciliatory tone in his speech, acknowledging that both proponents and opponents of the legislation have valid concerns and saying he would take actions to address both. But he also confirmed that his government will not pause its legislative sprint and will seek to pass next week on one of the most important elements of the plan — a bill to put key Supreme Court appointments directly in coalition control.

“The law that will pass next week in the Knesset is a law that does not control the court — it balances and diversifies it,” he asserted. “It opens the doors of the court to views and publics and vast sectors that hitherto were excluded from it.”

Law professor Bryan Schwartz disagrees:

But the mistake that old generals often make is “fighting the last war”.

The right wing has been in power, almost without interruption, for a long time.  A quote for Ayelet Shaked, after she succeeded in 2017 in having three of her preferred candidates appointed to the High Court:  “ In the past, there were sectors [of the public] who did not feel that the Supreme Court represented them. Today, it represents everyone. It is more diverse, it is more conservative”.

In any event, the way to deal with any previous excesses in one direction is not to “balance” them with excesses in the other direction.

The quality of the High Court will not be improved by giving the current executive the ability to effectively determine the next two appointees, and then determine the next chief justice.   Even the  Coalition proposals implicitly acknowledges that this “two plus one”  system for the next two appointments is suspect.   How is that? Because even the  “two plus one” proposal is presented as an interim measure only.  […] t what legitimacy will the first two appointees have if they are widely seen as plants of the current government?

What credibility could the next chief justice have?

It is never enough that the exercise of judicial authority simply be correct from a technical perspective.   Justice must also be “seen to be done”.   People in Israel – and a suspicious and often hostile international community – have to be given strong reason to believe that the courts in Israel are truly independent rather than a tentacle of executive power.

Back to Keller-Lyinn:

In apparent defiance of the attorney general, the prime minister indicated he would henceforth ignore his conflict of interest deal to jump deep into the overhaul legislation hitherto shepherded by Justice Minister Yariv Levin in the cabinet and Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman in the Knesset.

The 2020 deal forbade Netanyahu from involving himself in the overhaul due to his ongoing corruption trial. Netanyahu’s announcement came hours after the Knesset passed a law to shield him from being removed from office for breaking its boundaries.

Making overtures to critics of the coalition’s curtailment of judicial authority, the prime minister said a planned bill to allow the government to override High Court rulings will be amended to require a somewhat higher — but unspecified — threshold of votes than the previously announced 61.

He also vowed to include in the plan action to enshrine protections for individual rights, many of which are currently set to remain unprotected if the court’s powers are curtailed.

Note: she refers to a number of these rights currently being protected by jurisprudence (precedents, etc.) but not by statutory law.

“I plan to defend individual rights, I will guarantee the rights of every citizen of Israel,” he said, vowing that “all legislation will be obligated to these [individual right] principles,” and that “we plan to bring detailed legislation on this, I personally will see to it happening.”

But if Netanyahu’s speech had been intended to calm or appease the opposition to his government, it quickly became clear it had done nothing of the sort.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid assailed the premier, tweeting shortly after Netanyahu’s remarks that the speech was “disconnected” [from reality, NA] and “full of lies.”

“Netanyahu chose tonight to ignore his defense minister, important intelligence that arrived at his table, tens of thousands of reserve soldiers and an economic crisis,” Lapid wrote, adding that Netanyahu’s actions constituted “a lack of national responsibility” and “a blow to state security.”

Anti-government protest organizers said demonstrations would only “intensify.”

“Today we saw a bizarre display by a dictator-in-the-making who, instead of stopping and shelving the legislation, is rushing to appoint judges and engage in a hostile takeover of the Supreme Court,” the organizers said.

“The way to prevent a rift in the nation is to abolish all the laws of the dictatorship. Any calls for negotiations while the legislation advances are illegitimate. ”

National Unity leader Benny Gantz said Netanyahu was failing to “rise to the occasion.”

“But the barrier of silence [in Likud] began to crack today,” he added. Gantz has been holding talks with coalition MKs in Likud and ultra-Orthodox parties, including with Gallant, in a bid to convince them to oppose the legislation in its current form.

“Stop, and we will talk. There are no losers in holding a dialogue, there is only one winner: the State of Israel,” he said.

TOI editor-in-chief David Horowitz sees Netanyahu crushing a potential mini-revolt in his own ranks through damage control, but not offering any concession of substance:

But ultimately, Netanyahu, who assembled this unprecedentedly hardline Israeli coalition, and appointed [Yariv] Levin to lead this unprecedented legislative offensive against Israeli democracy, opted to hold to his extreme course. He showed himself undeterred by the mounting protests, the warnings from within and without of economic chaos, and, most dangerously, the concern conveyed by his defense minister that the cohesion, solidarity and shared sense of purpose in Israel’s security forces are being shattered.

If he had wanted a ladder to climb down, this was it — championing national security above a radical, destructive agenda; heeding his defense minister’s warning at the expense of his centerpiece legislation. But yet again, Netanyahu showed how skewed his priorities have become.

Now let me add my own two cents (or seven agorot, at current exchange rates): yes, I was deeply disappointed, and hysteria aside, I do have a feeling that Netanyahu’s only priority at this point is hanging on to his chair at all cost, hoping his skill at extinguishing short-term fires will somehow allow him to carry on.

However, at this point which aspects of the hasty “reform” he prioritizes, and which he regards as sacrificial (the thrice-damned “override clause”).

Before the speech, both Shas (the “Sephardic” ultra-Orthodox party) and the non-Chasidic “Torah Flag” faction of its Ashkenazi counterpart UTJ had announced they would follow Netanyahu in whatever he decides. In their case, the “holding by the beitzim” may be less one-sided than with what I call “the pyromaniacs” (Yariv Levin, Smotrich, Ben-Gvir, Struck): Shas and UTJ know that if Netanyahu is forced into new elections by a revolt of Likud moderates, they may end up with a secularist government that will further “cramp their style”, now with an added element of vindictiveness.

I can see Netanyahu ram through this judicial appointments law, hail this as a major victory, and then let everything else — including the individual rights legislation he vaguely promised — be buried in endless committee discussions.

UPDATE: Yair Lapid, whom I’m not a great fan of, provocatively called Yariv Levin “the true Prime Minister”.

“That’s it, the masks are off. The gun is on the table,” Lapid tweeted. “The real prime minister, Yariv Levin, is drawing us into total chaos and a constitutional crisis we won’t be able to come back from. If the justice minister is calling on the government not to obey the law, why should the citizens of Israel obey the government?”

The same article quotes a law professor saying thsi crisis could be turned into a opportunity — for Israel to create a full written constitution rather than a patchwork of basic laws and Supreme Court jurisprudence, as it has now.

Some more personal remarks: with hindsight, there are two people from the previous government who have a lot to answer for, one from the left, and one from the right.

Left: Then-Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz whose know-it-all insistence that bringing non-kosher-for-Passover food into hospitals during Passover was more important than retaining the coalition’s flimsy majority.

Right: Jewish Home co-leader Ayelet Shaked, who blocked the passing of a term limits law on the grounds that it was “a personal law against Netanyahu”. Some of my colleagues speculated at the time that she was setting herself up for a plum position in a future Netanyahu government; in fact, she quit politics altogether, and is now the chairman of the board of a large real estate company.

UPDATE 2: Elliot Abrams and Eric Cohen from the Tikvah fund weigh in in the Jerusalem Post.

UPDATE 3: on a tangentially related (via “TikTok clown” Ben-Gvir) subject: it’s hardly news to me that TikTok is CCP spyware, but now The Federalist listing just three reasons emerging from yesterday’s hearings why to avoid the app like the bubonic plague. (Hat tip: editor-in-chief Mollie Ziegler Hemingway’s twitter feed.)

UPDATE 4: “Will Netanyahu’s Darwinian survival instinct kick in?” wonders Tal Shalev.

And Yedidia Stern, a law professor from the religiously Orthodox Bar-Ilan University, takes the words out of my mouth

Israelis tend to be conservative. Unlike large swathes of the Western world, Israel celebrates family, community, and tradition. Israeli society ranks high up on the World Happiness Index (fourth place in 2023), among other things, because of these qualities. The Israeli is not an isolated atom rattling around a neutral public space, but rather “part” of a greater whole in which he feels “at home” – part of the ongoing “story” of an ancient people that transmits its legacy to the entire world.

According to its website, the Israeli conservative movement professes that its aim is to “translate the conservative, wise, and sober insights of Israelis into a clear language, and an intellectually coherent teaching translatable into a calculated public policy.” 

These are things that speak to the heart, but do they speak to the revolutionary reality that is robbing us all of sleep? Is this jaw-dropping revolution a “calculated public policy?”

My fellow conservatives, if you are sincere in your beliefs, you must immediately denounce the governmental plan. Even if you think that the millions of citizens in opposition (including a quarter of Likud voters) misunderstand the initiative known as the “Levin Reform,” you must respect the fact that this is how your brothers feel.

Even if you believe that the tsunami approaching our shores is to be blamed on the opposition, which has shaken the earth beneath our feet to satisfy political ambitions, it does not matter. Your very conservatism should dampen the self-confidence that justifies this radical change to the Israeli status quo – this headlong “rush to the spoils.”

Looking around, Bach baptism day edition

Today is March 23. On March 23. 1685 in Eisenach, the youngest son of town piper Johann Ambrosius Bach was baptized into the Lutheran faith and given the name Johann Sebastian Bach. [Like the other “Johann Somename Bach”s in his family, he would go by his middle name “Sebastian” with family and close friends.]

Image from, the website of the Evangelical [Lutheran] Church of Germany

Lots of goings on in the world (and here). A few highlights:

• the much-ballyhooed Trump indictment did not take place, likely because (whatever your personal feelings about DJT) the case was built on quicksand by the Soros stooge box-ticker A-hole Bragg.

Below is a Monty Python-voiceover take on it (via Insty).

• the DEI tool at Stanford who took the side of a clique of extremist wokebag students in shouting down a visiting conservative judge, and actually ended up berating him (an invited speaker!) for six minutes, has apparently been suspended. My favorite solution would be to eliminate her position altogether

• so now some derpseals have decided that drinking coffee is racist. Growing up, the joke about old-school Dutch Calvinists was that everything that tastes good was sinful. (Belgians, whose national cuisine is basically the folksier version of French cuisine, used to blame “terrible” Dutch food on that.) But even the straw-Calvinists of the joke had nothing on the humorless neo-Puritans of today

I cannot repeat it often enough: greenism and wokeism are G-dless religions, just like Communism and National Socialism were.

• speaking of which, a bipartisan bill banning so-called ESG (Environmentalist Socialist Garbage) investment of pension funds has been vetoed by Abu Hunter Biden (or rather, whoever is pulling the strings of that marionette)

• today will be a massive day of national protest here in Israel, including a strike at the universities (hence I’m at home — will go accompany Mrs. Arbel to a recording session later). For extensive coverage, go to the Times of Israel home page (http://www.times of —- I can’t read Haaretz without anti-emetics, and the JPOST has become a shadow of its old self.

The G-dforsaken “judicial appointments bill” which would effectively give the government power to appoint its own pet judges to the Supreme Court is being subjected to a typical Israeli-style filibuster: opposition MKs have submitted something like 5,300 reservations and amendments. In principle, each of which is accorded a certain amount of discussion and voting time: even though (controversially) the Judicial Committee has been ‘batching’ such amendments, it looks like they won’t finish until next week, where any amendments retained (thus far, two) will be brought to a vote in the plenum. Captains of industry, the chiefs of all five retail banks, … all are sounding the alarm.

It is increasingly clear to me that Netanyahu is no longer in control of his coalition or the situation: pyromaniacs like Shmuckrich, Itamar the Kachsucker, and now Orit Struck[-in-the-head] seem to be engaged in a game of competitive craziness, causing one international embarrassment after another and requiring Netanyahu to spend much of his time on damage control.

In fact, he has been prohibited from dealing directly with the “judicial reform” because of conflict of interest (given the corruption cases against him). I suspect that his personal position is not that different from my own: some reform of the judicial system is overdue, but the extremist “lapdogification” package pushed by Yariv “azijnpisser” Levin et al. Is a cure ten times worse than the disease.

And, public rhetoric aside, I am not even sure that all the massive domestic and international pushback against the “reform” is all that unwelcome to Netanyahu.

Ending this post with the intersection of (the lighter side of) J. S. Bach and the now supposedly “racist” caffeinated beverage.

Looking around, springtime edition: Greta Thunberg gets an honorary doctorate in theology?!; Insty on why it should be safe to be impopular; The lapdogification of the Likud

(a) Whatever doubts anyone would still have that environmentalism is a religion should be dispelled by the fact that the University of Helsinki just awarded an honorary doctorate in theology (!) to… yes, Saint Greta of the Great Mountain of Tuna (as Sarah Hoyt has been calling her).

(b) speaking of religions masquerading as ideologies — and trying to subvert established religions — Insty on his substack has thoughts on wokeism, religion, evolution, and liberty — and why the real litmus test of a free society should be whether it is safe to hold impopular views. Go read it all — selective quotes won’t do it justice.

(c) And what’s the deal with this bizarre idea of arresting Trump?!?

(d) In another article that needs to be read in full, Chaviv Rettig Gur lays out how the once raucous, freewheeling, and (ideologically) diverse Likud[*] has become almost totally transformed into an amen chorus for the man at the top — and indirectly, for the political and diplomatic pyromaniacs inside and outside the party who have the said man by the beitzim. (The lyrics of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” could have been written about Netanyahu: in the original the master is the chemical drug [**]the man’s addiction makes him a puppet to, in Netanyahu’s case he paradoxically became a puppet because of his addiction to power and its trappings.)

Not for one thing or another, but I can see a degree of US-style “fauxversity” at work here: the Likud makes a big deal about how it is the party that gives “the second Israel” (read: Jews of non-European background) a voice (historically, that was one of the great merits of Begin) — but this phony diversity of ancestry masks a dreary homogeneity of opinions, where even senior people who dissent refrain from breaking ranks until (like David Bitan now, with his own corruption case against him) they have nothing to lose anymore.

(e) And in a related blog post, retired Hebrew U. law professor David Kretzmer lays out why the “constitutional revolution of [Chief Justice] Aharon Barak” (the bug-bear of the judicial reformers) actually began under his predecessor Moshe Landau, whom the reformers are now holding up in positive contrast.

Not being a constitutional law scholar myself but a somewhat informed layman, I can only observe that nature abhors a vacuum. Israel had and has no written constitution, and this created a legislative void that the Knesset starting filling only in the early 90s with the Basic Law: Human Rights and Dignity. In the meantime, the Supreme Court started filling the vacuum, and Aharon Barak only (depending on your point of view) said the quiet part out loud, or took things to the next level, when he declared “ha-kol shafit!” (freely: everything is open to judicial review).

[*] The name Likud (freely: bloc) refers to the party’s politically heterogenous origin as a merger, in several stages (at first “Gachal”, Hebrew acronym for Cherut-Liberal bloc) with centrist and independent liberal factions. (In Israel like historically in Europe, “Liberal” parties meant “pro-free market” combined with a respect for individual rights.)

[**] the phrase “chop your breakfast on a mirror” presumably refers to cocaine

A rare image of a bifurcation point in history: March 21, 1943 and the Arsenal Bomb Plot

80 years ago to this day… if only he’d used (as in my novel series) an immediate trigger rather than a time fuse, world history would have looked very different…

Spin, strangeness, and charm

British historian Mark Felton posted this video about the events of March 21, 1943 in Berlin.

On that day, a memorial ceremony took place at the old Arsenal building in Berlin, with nearly the entire Nazi top in attendance. Right afterwards, they were given a private showing of an exhibition of captured Red Army weaponry. Colonel Rudolf Freiherr [=Baron] von Gersdorff, chief intelligence officer (Ic) of Army Group Center, was to be their guide.

Unbeknownst to them he was carrying two bombs in his uniform pockets. He had been maneuvered into this role by his direct superior, AGC First Staff Officer (Ia) Col. Henning von Tresckow, who had made his own attempt on Hitler’s life just a week earlier. The bombs’ 10-minute time fuses — British-manufactured ones that made no sound — would run out well before the scheduled 30-minute tour was over.

At 5:12 into the video, you…

View original post 330 more words

Bach Day: Martin Garcia Garcia plays Partita no. 1 in Bb major, BWV 825

From the channel of the Chopin Competition, on the first day of spring and the 338rd birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach, this somewhat quirky performance by a young Spanish pianist who won First Prize at the Cleveland International Piano Competition and Third Prize at the Chopin Competition itself.

“Bach ist Anfang und Ende aller Musik” (Max Reger – “Bach is the beginning and end of all music”)

Credit Suisse sold for distress price to Union Bank of Switzerland: what’s going on?

There’s been a lot to do about the latest banking crisis, and some people started panicking when it “spread” to one of the GSIB (global systemically important banks ?) namely Credit Suisse (est. 1859).

However, for those following financial news in Switzerland, that one has been a story of systemic mismanagement for years. There is an element of “get woke, go broke” there — when your senior players are more into their ‘nonbinary’ identities or whatever than managing the risk of the bank, you have a serious problem — but its troubles goes back to way before this fad started: it is more a symptom of the company having forgotten what it is all about, than a cause.

Yesterday, Credit Suisse was bought up by its archrival, UBS (itself the product of a 1998 merger between Union Bank of Switzerland and Swiss Bank Corporation) for a mere 3 billion Swiss francs (about the same in US$). “The Plain Bagel” has more on the background of the deal, and why it is different from the SVB collapse.

And with that, greetings on the vernal equinox/first day of spring!

Lipstick on a pig edition: Israeli coalition “voluntarily softens” judicial takeover; how Apple is becoming an ads company

(a) The increasing pressure from inside and outside for a compromise on the Israeli judicial emasculation, er, “reform” laws — most recently a ‘candid’ phone call from Abu Hunter Biden his-bl**dy-self to Netanyahu [*] — would at first sight seem to have some effect, as the coalition is “unilaterally softening the proposals”.

However, a legal scholar from Reichman University [formerly: the Interdisciplinary Center] in Herzliya (Israel’s lone private university) is quite unimpressed.

Prof. Yaniv Roznai, a constitutional scholar at Reichman University, expressed heavy skepticism toward Rothman’s idea, arguing that it lacked adequate safeguards and was disingenuous. He noted that the coalition is also planning legislation that would allow it to name the Supreme Court president, changing the existing situation in which the presidency is based on seniority.

“What about if in the first committee meeting, they appoint a Supreme Court president? Will they be the representative of the judiciary [on the selection committee]? Why do you think we are gullible?” Roznai tweeted.

Should the current Knesset last its entire four-year duration, as many as four Supreme Court justices would reach the current mandatory age of retirement of 70. Removing a judge from office would require the vote of nine out of 11 committee members.

Asked Roznai: “What happens if they reduce the mandatory retirement age to 65? Will they appoint more judges with a six out of 11 majority?”

In other words: these cosmetic changes are “lipstick on a pig”, not genuine concessions.

(image credit: official portrait of Sara Netanyahu )

(b) And now for something completely different:

I never believed that when Apple pushed back against the shady practices of Facebook, Google et al. concerning ads and privacy, that they did so out of altruism: it just seemed to make business sense for them as a company that made most or all of its money from selling you hardware at premium prices, not from turning you into a product.

This video by Logically Answered, however, lays out how this is changing as Apple’s margins on hardware are shrinking and markets are reaching saturation, and they are forced to combat the latter by keeping older-generation products around at bargain prices. The latter allows them to attract consumers that want the premium allure at a bargain price (as my father-in-law z”l would call them: “with a champagne taste on a beer budget”) — but makes a much smaller profit from them.

So the first step was to offer all sorts of subscription services — iCloud, Apple Music, … — that parallel existing generic offerings but would be vertically integrated with the Apple ecosystem — and thus be able to monetize also bargain or legacy hardware. (I notice a recent trend of some “eco-conscious” Gen Z consumers to keep using legacy hardware well beyond its design life — like a 10-year old Macbook or an iPhone 6.[**])

The next step, however, was in two phases. First to make it more difficult for Facebook and Google to track you across devices — a decision widely hailed by consumers, decried by FB and Google. Then second… to start selling app data itself, albeit with some anonymisation and encryption tweaks.

Just as a swine, when it lies down, sticks its split hooves in the air, and says “see, I’m clean!” (Leviticus Rabba 13:5)

UNRELATED ADDENDUM: this comment on Gad Saad’s latest video is a winner:

Ephraim Winslow

5 hours agoIt’s very surreal how an entire segment of the population now figures that the best way to win arguments is to entrench yourself in a factually incorrect position, and then redefine words until you become technically correct per the terms of your newly minted language.

[*] Prof. Ruth Wisse last month noted the irony that the same people in the US who most want to protect Israel’s Supreme Court are most eager to rein in its US counterpart, because with its conservative majority, it represents a major obstacle to the [anti-]”Democratic” party agenda…

[**] Then, of course, I get to deal with complaints that they can’t open this file, run that simulation code, or connect to the other network.

Israel constitutional crisis: of goats and golden calves

Once again there were massive demonstrations in my hometown — and around the country.

Now Bibi’s son Yair Netanyahu — or Yahir Meturlalhu [freely: an arrogant nutcase he is] as I call him — is claiming the demonstrators are using “brownshirt tactics”. I will not even dignify this with a response other than that he’s clearly as delusional as his mother.

I did see, at an earlier demonstration, your typical small shopkeeper who’s a 1st- or 2nd-generation immigrant from a Muslim country [*] yell at us “Only Bibi!” or even “Only Bibi and Ben-Gvir”. Or yelling “Israel-haters carrying the Israeli flag” [I’d blame the effects of quasi-legal cannabis, except that potheads tend to be mellower]. Decades-long Jerusalem Post columnnist Amotz- Asa-El, whose column is titled “Middle Israel”, and who in 2019 published a book called Mitz`ad ha-Ivelet ha-Yehudi [the Jewish March of Folly, the title a nod to popular historian Barbara Tuchman’s famous work] calls them “monarchists” (a comparison that holds some water) and “worshipers of the Golden Calf”. Let me offer an alternative definition for the latter: the G-d of Israel was all essence and deeds without physical form, while the Golden Calf was the exact converse: beautiful form devoid of deeds and content. Those who prate about the institutions of a democracy, while hollowing it out in favor of an unelected supranational oligarchy [e.g., the European Union] or a neo-feudal class of billionaires and near-billionaire crony capitalists fanning the flames of woke neo-racism and neo-sexism the better to cement their rule…. while simultaneously hand-wringing about our threatened democracy — they seem to be the modern-day Golden Calf worshippers to me.

Neil Rogachevsky, responding to an earlier article by Evelyn Gordon that is well worth reading too, sees the court reform clash as a symptom of a deeper problem (or meta-problem?): the outsize political leverage of small sectorial minority parties in our fractious proportional representation system.

But perhaps the most interesting read on the subject was this interview with Prof. Moshe Koppel, head of the Kohelet Policy Forum which was the chief intellectual engine behind the reform proposals. Soft-spoken and reasoned, he’s the polar opposite as a person of the MKs pushing the judicial blitz in the Knesset. I cannot do the interview justice by selective quoting, so I suggest you read it in its entirety, but a few standout points for me (my paraphrases):

  • Reform is long overdue, but not every particular of the proposals now before the Knesset
  • In particular, he considers the “override law” a terrible idea “with 61 or any other number of MKs”, that should be scrapped in its entirety. The courts should never become subservient to the government.
  • He understands that “putting in some goats” is an accepted negotiating tactic in Israel (a reference to a famous traditional Jewish story[**]), but thinks the coalition exaggerate and did not play this game wisely
  • One point he insists on is that any Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of a law must be with a full bench of all 15 judges, so the Chief Justice cannot “game” the outcome by assigning specific judges to the case. However, the demand that only a unanimous “no” vote can override is one of those “goats”: he says whether it should be 10 or 12 votes is negotiable, but that the full bench votes is not.
  • He says that now the process has started, completely abandoning it will lead to a hardening of positions on both sides, convincing “the second Israel” that the system is hopelessly rigged against them. At the same time, ramming everything through with too much force will make “the first Israel” feel alienated.
  • He sees Yair Lapid (or Yahir Vapid, as I call him) as not really interested in a compromise, since his real goal is bringing down the government and returning as prime minister. A number of friends to the left of Lapid have told me the same.

Work calls, more later perhaps…

[*] out of intellectual laziness, many people in and outside Israel refer to all non-Ashkenazi Jews as “Sephardim”, even those whose ancestors were never even near Spain [Sepharad], such as the ancient Edot ha-Mizrach [communities of the East] from Iraq, Iran, and Yemen. True Sephardim that I know, but who grew up in European countries, sociologically resemble Ashkenazim more than the EH”M; on the other hand, Moroccan Jews who do have substantial Sephardi ancestry sociologically more closely resemble other Jewish communities who lived under Muslim rule. Hence I personally favor the term Yehudei Artzot ha-Islam [Jews from Muslim lands] as distinct from Yehudei artzot ha-Natzrut [Jews from [historically] Christian lands].


In context, “putting in a goat” as a negotiating tactic means deliberately putting in an intolerable demand that you don’t expect to be accepted — just to make the other side feel good about “getting rid of the goat” (le-hotzi et ha-ez) and be more forthcoming on other items.

Image from “The Day A Goat Got Into My Apartment”

What is “false fingering” in music? Guitar example by Nuno Bettancourt

[Cue the sophomoric Beavis and Butthead snicker. “False fingering, huh, huh.”]

But seriously, I just learned the term from Rick Beato in his video on the new single by long-dormant band Extreme. I remember their best-known album “Extreme II: Pornograffiti”, not just for its (ironically?) lewd and suggestive lyrics, but for the unusual prowess of the lead guitarist Nuno Bettancourt.

In his analysis (and reproduction) of the solo, Rick used the term “false fingerings” which I’d never heard. (Once he explained what it meant, I realized of course what it meant.) What is it?

In a nutshell: for a given note/pitch, pianists have exactly one options to play it.

In contrast, string and woodwind players across much of their range often have two (or more) options to realize the same pitch. For example, the B below middle C on a guitar in standard tuning can be played as an open B string, by fretting the G string on the 4th fret, the 9th fret on the D string…. you get the idea.

If a certain fingering is preferred over another for player’s convenience or articulation, it is generally known as just “alternate fingering”. (Slightly related: pianists might use a fingering that seems ‘unnatural’ for a certain passage when it helps them articulate an important phrase exactly how they want it.)

But often there is a difference in tone color between the different fingerings, or even a microtonal pitch difference. When these are deliberately exploited for sonic effect, this is known as “false fingering”. The opening riff of Metallica’s “The Small Hours” is one example; I couldn’t figure out what the eerie microtones came from until somebody demonstrated the riff to me. One hallmark of Alex Lifeson’s rhythm guitar style in Rush (not really of his soloing) is to alternate strings fretted fairly high on the neck with open strings, leading to more intricate arpeggio patterns than the usual up-down motion; he would also sometimes (e.g. under the chorus of “Subdivisions”) have the same note fretted and open on alternate strings.

Which is as good an excuse as any to post the very first Rush tune I ever heard, here in a cover by the New World Men. Enjoy, have a nice weekend, and shabbat shalom!

PS: another good example is the opening riff of Metallica’s “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)“, still my favorite song ever by the band. The verse riff starts out by arpeggiating Emadd9 like this (0240, sounds E B f# g), then moves the shape up one step to 0350, sounds E c g g — note that the two g’s have subtly different tone color, even though nominally at the same pitch, as the first is fretted and the second open. Here is tab and a demonstration if you want me to “show work”.

Dutch farmer protest party: from nowhere to shared largest party in the Senate; meanwhile, France, Italy

In a shocking upset in the Dutch elections for the Senate (known there as Eerste Kamer or First Chamber, the lower house of parliament being the Tweede Kamer or Second Chamber), the BBB (BoerBurgerBeweging, Farmers Citizen Movement), catapulted from out of nowhere to 16 and possibly 17 seats out of 75. This would make it either the largest or shared-largest (with GroenLinks, the Green Left) party in the Senate.

[photo from]

This comes in the wake of massive protests against the plans of the “center-right” government of Mark Rutte to severely hamstring farming for the sake of meeting EU climate targets.

A farmers’ protest party angered by new green laws triumphed in shock Dutch election results, prompting its leader to ask: “People, what the f— happened?” […]

Mr Rutte’s government plans to meet EU climate targets by reducing livestock and through compulsory farm buyouts to reduce nitrogen emitted by manure and fertilisers.

The protests have drawn global attention, and garnered the support of the former US president Donald Trump, as well as conspiracy theorists who claim the farmers are victims of a “globalist” plot to steal their land.

The BBB’s victory means the farmers can form alliances with other parties in the senate and block green legislation, in a country that is the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter after the US.

“It is not just about nitrogen,” Ms van der Plas said on Wednesday night, adding that people in the Netherlands were “fed up”.  

The BBB’s meteoric rise is particularly astonishing because it was only founded in October 2019 and won a single seat in the Dutch parliament in 2021’s general election.

But the latest elections turned into a de facto referendum on Mr Rutte, who is the longest-serving prime minister in the Netherlands’ history and has been in office since 2010.

The Dutch broadcaster NOS published an Ipsos poll that showed 60 per cent of voters wanted to express their views on the government and 46 per cent of them were against its policies.


UPDATE: it’s even more of a blowout. The First Chamber is actually delegated by the States-Provincial, and the election was really for that. In the States-Provincial, BBB got more than twice the seats of the 2nd party (Rutte’s own VVD)…

(b) Meanwhile in Italy, “hard-right” PM Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy movement is confounding critics, combining mainstream positions abroad with a domestic attack on gender ideology. The Telergraph has a detailed overview (paywalled; cached copy)

(c) And in France, Macron is facing popular outrage and a poafter his minority government rammed through without a vote… a raising of the retirement age from 62 to 64. (paywalled; cached copy)

Mr Macron has staked his reformist mettle on passing the reform to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030.

The seemingly innocuous change, which the Macron camp insists is essential to avoid the pay-as-you-go system collapsing, has sparked massive public and union backlash.  

Two-thirds of the French have backed a string of massive strike protests since early January that have failed to sway government resolve.

The majority-Right Senate adopted the legislation on Thursday morning, but a vote in the lower house National Assembly scheduled for the afternoon was so uncertain that Ms Borne chose to circumvent it.

“We cannot take the risk of seeing 175 hours of parliamentary debate collapse. We cannot take the risk of seeing the compromise built by the two assemblies dismissed,” she told MPs.

The bill’s fate was in the hands of around 60 MPs from the opposition Republicans (LR) party, who were kingmakers. But dozens remained determined to oppose the reforms, despite the fact they practically mirror those that the Republicans have long called for.

Defeat for the government would have been a massive setback for Mr Macron, less than a year after he secured a second term as president. He ran on a manifesto with a central pledge to raise the retirement age in order to keep the country’s generous social welfare model afloat.

Good heavens. Our own retirement age was raised from 62 to 67 some time ago (gradually phased in based on date of birth), while I myself can request ‘extension of service’ until 70. I’m not a huge fan of Macron, but with people routinely living into their nineties and increasingly beyond, some adjustment is inevitable.


The Macron government has already trigged [Article] 49.3 a dozen times to pass the budget and other laws in recent months but constitutionalists point out that it is highly unusual – not to say irregular – not to put a reform of this magnitude to a vote.

What is this mysterious Article 49.3 of the French Constitution? Wikipedia:

Article 49 Subsection 3 deals with an administration engagement de responsabilité (commitment of responsibility), which allows the executive branch to force passage of a legislative text unless the opposition introduces a vote de censure (motion of no confidence), which has little chance of passing, since it may it also entails the dissolution of the legislature pending new elections.

(d) Bonus item: real Kamala Harris or fake?

ADDENDUM: Happy St. Patrick’s Day to my readers of Irish heritage. Via, here is an article on who the real St. Patrick was.

Breaking: President Herzog presents ‘the people’s outline’ on Israeli judicial reform

Listening to live broadcast.

Says his discussions over the past weeks have shocked him by how close to civil war some factions are. But also learned how broad agreement on some basic issues is.

He (himself a legal expert by background) calls the document “mitve ha`am”, which one could translate as “The People’s Outline” or (in context) “The People’s Compromise”. The full Hebrew text is here.

Subtitle: From crisis to constitutional opportunity. Stay tuned for a brief summary in English…

SECTION 1: Basic Laws will require 4 readings, not the usual 3. The 3 first readings will require 61 MKs, but the 4th and final reading will either require 80 MKs if in same Knesset, or 70 MKs if at least 3 mo. Into new Knesset. Basic Laws specifically concerning the right to vote or run for office will require 80 MKs at all four readings.

SECTION 2: The HCJ [High Court of Justice] can strike down laws for violating the Basic Laws only with a bench of at least 11 judges (out of a total 15), and with at least a 2/3 majority of the bench. If a majority less than 2/3, then can only issue a legally non-binding advisory of incompatibility with the Basic Laws. [Current situation: simple majority of HCJ suffices, and in theory even a bench of 3 — in practice, of 5.]

SECTION 3: Judicial Appointments Commission will have 11 members [not 9 as now, with a majority from the legal profession]. Composed of

* Minister of Justice

* Two additional ministers designated by the government

* The Chief Justice and two additional HCJ judges chosen by the court

* three MKs, one chosen by the coalition and two by the opposition

* two representatives of the public, who otherwise are suitable to serve on the HCJ, with extensive experience in either judging or representing clients in court, or in academia. They will be agreed upon between the Chief Justice and the Justice Minister, and will only serve for one Knesset term

At least one each of the ministers, judges, MKs, and public representatives will be female.

The JAC will require at least a 7/11 majority to appoint a judge

Number of judges and retirement ages remain as now

Panel can dismiss a HCJ judge by a 9/11 vote, including the Chief Justice

SECTION 4: anchoring fundamental rights (amendments to the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom):

Human dignity; individual freedom; right to equality; prohibition of discrimination; freedom of expression, opinion, demonstration and assembly

SECTION 5: Reasonableness [as a judicial criterion — an inheritance from English administrative law]

* the HJC will not be able to strike down cabinet decisions in matters of state and the appointment of ministers on grounds of unreasonableness alone.

* ministerial decisions can only be struck down on unreasonableness alone if it involves arbitrariness or excess

* otherwise the criterion remains in force

SECTION 6: clarifies appointment procedures and authority of the Attorney-General [in Israel: the legal advisor to the government, not to be confused with the US where this is a synonym for Justice Minister]

SECTION 7: [multi-year plan to reduce the backlog of the courts]

SECTION 8: [transitional arrangements]

UPDATE: well, reactions weren’t long in coming (JPost; Times of Israel). The (mis)government rejects the compromise in a joint statement as “one-sided” and ‘no striking an adequate balance”; Itamar Ben-Gvir adds his own statement saying “All must worship the Golden Calf named Kach!”. [OK, that is my paraphrase. ]

The opposition was cautiously positive. Quotes below from the ToI article:

National Unity’s Gideon Sa’ar, the former justice minister and a member of the opposition, said the coalition’s outright rejection of the plan was “evidence of a failure of leadership and historic short-sightedness.

“The president’s plan in its entirety is broad, balanced and fundamentally decent,” said Sa’ar. “Full responsibility will be placed on those who miss the opportunity to prevent a severe rift in the people at this fateful hour.”

[…] Reporting on alleged behind-the-scenes talks, Channel 12 said that Netanyahu had in fact considered accepting the president’s proposal, but Justice Minister Levin flatly rejected it and threatened to resign, leading the premier to concede to his position.


The TV report speculated that Herzog may have decided to unveil his proposals despite Likud’s objections, in the hope that they will be widely endorsed by experts and the public, and thus prompt coalition and opposition politicians to compromise.

In a first such endorsement, Herzog’s plan was backed by Arnon Bar-David, chief of the powerful Histadrut labor federation, and Dov Amitai, head of the Israeli Presidency of Business Organizations, who met with the president earlier in the week to offer their support.

They called on the government to “stop the economic and social chaos and bring hope back” by launching negotiations based on the framework.

[…] Opposition leader Yair Lapid warned that Israel was being “torn to pieces” by the government’s legislative push, excoriating it for not approaching the president’s framework “with respect for his position, the seriousness with which it was written and the values on which it is based.”


The opposition’s National Unity party said it “accepts the president’s framework as one piece” and “as a basis for legislation, instead of the existing dangerous legislative outline.”

Led by Benny Gantz, the party urged Netanyahu to adopt the framework.

“We call on Netanyahu and all the elements in the political system to behave responsibly, at this fateful hour, to adopt the outline, and to start promoting it immediately.”

Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman praised Herzog and said the proposal could serve as “a true basis for honest dialogue between the sides.”

“The moment the coalition stops plowing ahead with the current legislation, we will join direct dialogue on the basis of the framework that was presented,” he said.

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett urged the sides to adopt the proposal “to prevent a civil war.”

“There are no winners or losers here,” he said in a statement.

ADDENDUM: YNet (in Hebrew) reports that Netanyahu charged one of his closest confidants, the American-born former ambassador to the US Ron Dermer (currently Minister for Strategic Affairs), with an attempt to find a way out of the confrontation. Dermer is reportedly one of the very few people on the planet whose judgment Netanyahu respects: the paper regards his “recruitment” as evidence that Netanyahu, bluster aside, is realizing he has a serious problem on his hands.

Dermer co-authored the 2004 landmark book “The Case For Democracy” with onetime “Prisoner of Zion” Natan Sharansky (lately head of the Jewish Agency). Sharansky himself says the Herzog outline “is imperfect, but I support it“.

There was another demonstration near my workplace. I spoke to numerous participants: no, no matter what some Americans in my FB circle have claimed, this is not a “color revolution” sponsored by the US. I was here when the 0bama regime made a pathetic attempt at just that in 2015 (the “V15” campaign): it was heavily bankrolled, but so blatantly out of touch with the national esprit that on balance it gained Bibi votes (including “davka” my own).

This time around is completely different: left, center, and moderate right are all spooked, and take to the streets spontaneously. And a surprising number of people I spoke to at the demo realize the truth: that it’s not “all Bibi’s fault”, but that at this point he is being held hostage by deranged extremists.

Israeli judicial “reform”: a golem that arose against its maker?

Defenders of the judicial “reform” proposal have been claiming that the extremist proposals the coalition is presently ramming through the Knesset are just a maximalist opening bid — the way things are done here so often — and that the real goal is much more modest and palatable.

Haviv Rettig Gur, in the Times of Israel, analyzes this possibility: Anatomy of a self-sabotaging reform. He concludes that the “reform” proposals did indeed start out this way, but that they have meanwhile taken on a dynamic of their own as extremist factions latched on to them, each for their own selfish or ideological reasons. Thus — Gur does not use the phrase — one could call it “the Golem that arose against its maker” (ha-golem she-kam neged yotzro).

Now I just read a piece that essentially confirms this analysis. The conservative think tank that generated the original proposals — the Kohelet[*] Policy Forum —is now effectively calling for compromise after the head of its economic department expressed his own opinion to that effect last week. (Highlights mine below.)

In a statement published on its social media channels, the conservative organization said it continued to believe that deep reform to the legal and judicial system was necessary, but that achieving broad consensus over “the necessary changes” was an important component for longer-term constitutional change.

The organization suggested that the extremely controversial High Court override law could be removed entirely from the legislative package, and that compromise over concerns regarding the abusive use of Basic Laws could be overcome, although it appeared less open to serious compromise over the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee.


Addressing specific points of the government’s legal and judicial overhaul, Kohelet said that “agreement could be reached over conceding on the ‘[High Court] override clause,’ while finding a solution for specific issues through using the principle of non-justiciability.”

The organization was likely referring to the long-running controversy of blanket IDF service exemptions for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, which the High Court has struck down on three occasions as discriminatory.


The ultra-Orthodox political parties are believed to be the major driving force behind the demand for an override clause precisely to stop the High Court from invalidating new legislation granting such blanket exemptions.

Founding chairman of the Kohelet Policy Forum Prof. Moshe Koppel recently described the override clause as “a stupid idea,” saying there was “an understandable concern that it will be exploited.”


Kohelet also said it understood that the lack of judicial review over Basic Laws and the ease by which they could be passed and amended created concerns about their abuse by a governing coalition.

Therefore, it said, passing Basic Laws could be made more difficult, such as by demanding a fourth reading in a new Knesset for the approval of such a law, and with a majority of 61 MKs at every reading.

Will cooler heads prevail and be able to rein in the alliance of crooks, Kahanists, and Khomeinists to pull us back from a major constitutional crisis?

Today is of course the Ides[*] of March, the day on which in 44 BCE Julius Caesar was assassinated. English students of a generation where we still learned something in high school will remember the scene from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” where the soothsayer warns Caesar, “Beware the Ides of March.”

Heavy metal aficionados may only know the phrase as the title of a brief Iron Maiden instrumental that they used to open their shows with.

[*] Three days of the month had special significance in ancient Rome: the 1st (Calendae), the 9th (Nonae), and the 15th (the Idus, or in English Ides).

[**] Kohelet is the Hebrew name for the Book of Ecclesiastes of the Bible. Its literal meaning is one who speaks to an audience (kahal), hence the German resp. Dutch names for the same book, Prediger and Prediker (preacher).

Puppet show masquerading as democracy

As I am anguished about the perils to our own democracy, I must say that I find the handwringing on the part of some abroad a bit ironic — or, to put it more charitably, reflecting an obsession with form over substance.

There is of course the European Union, which does have a parliament that is effectively a glorified debating society — all the real power being vested in the European Commission made up of unelected bureaucrats. This is quite bad enough: the UK did wisely with Brexit (as even my elder brother, a onetime socialist and EU-booster turned Euroskeptic in his retirement, now admits), and Israel was wise to keep the EU at the metaphorical arms’ length of joining the Enlarged Economic Area but nothing further.

In the USA, we have something even worse going on, as Daniel Greenfield lays out here. Two of the “majority” senators are mentally incapacitated — Fetterman in a psychiatric hospital, 89-year old Dianne Feinstein ostensibly hospitalized for “shingles” but clearly suffering from dementia —but “they” still cosponsor bills from their hospital beds (including one that would “Protect Women’s Health” by permitting abortion until right before birth). Or rather, their staffers do — the same ones that announced Feinstein’s not running for re-election without her knowledge.

The New York Times claims that Senator Fetterman “runs his Senate operation” from a psych ward. Photos have been released of him vaguely looking at pieces of paper. No satirist could have come up with a bleaker metaphor for the country than that one of the Senate’s deciding votes has been hospitalized in a psych ward for his own safety, but is still running everything.

The paper tells us that, “since Mr. Fetterman checked in to the hospital, he has co-sponsored a bipartisan bill designed to help prevent future train derailment disasters, opened new district offices across Pennsylvania and hired four new staff members. On Wednesday, Mr. Fetterman sent a letter to the agriculture secretary.” With productivity like that, maybe we should stick all of Congress in a mental institution. Fetterman was so badly off that couldn’t feed himself in a city filled with eateries, but is now in a position to write legislation that will change the country.

Every morning, Fetterman’s chief of staff arrives with a briefcase “full of newspaper clips, statements for him to approve, legislation to review.” And so the government is run. According to the New York Times, the Senator from Pennsylvania even touchingly shares “with the nurses some of the sweets that have been sent to him by fellow senators.” But “his staff is marching on in his absence”, much as they were doing in his presence. Fetterman out of the way makes it even more convenient. The staffers run things while Fetterman munches on some candy.

The Times, in the great tradition of the three phases of a liberal scandal (1. denial, 2. minimization, 3. announcing that it’s the new normal), told its readers that “in the Senate, a staff-run institution even in the best of times, that is hardly atypical. It is not unusual for lawmakers to be told by members of their staff, sometimes after the fact, what bills they are co-sponsoring.”

If this is democracy (in substance, not name), I’m a ball bearing. But more than that:

Not only does the Senate Democrat majority consist of the D.C. staffers in two offices trying to work around the elected officials whose names are on the door, but the Senate’s proudest son is sitting in the Oval Office (when he’s not vacationing every other day in Delaware) and appears to have trouble completing sentences or remembering that his son didn’t die in Iraq.

Who’s actually running the White House? More of the same folks who are running the Senate.

[…] Two of the three branches of government are not being run by the people elected to do that job. That isn’t representative government, it’s a monarchy with titular figureheads who are there to give the public the illusion of democracy over the reality that D.C. runs itself. If the Senate is a “staff-run institution”, as the Times puts it, in which the status of the actual elected officials is a mere technicality over their ability to cast votes, and the White House is currently occupied by a former Senate member whose statements are routinely corrected or walked back by officials, who is actually running the country and has our system of government become illegitimate?

Not a monarchy but an oligarchy. Using Emmanuel Goldstein’s “The Theory And Practice of Oligarchic Collectivism” [the book-within-a-book in George Orwell’s “1984”] as a howto manual.

The Constitution requires that a senator be at least thirty years old, but if he or she is irrelevant to the process, then we might as well have a twelve year old or Caligula’s horse in the Senate.

As the old quip goes: in the name of good old American efficiency, it does the same with half the horse.

So, “democratic” transnational oligarchic collectivists: if you want to go fight actual enemies of democracy, good. I have a device that will help you find it: a reflecting metal layer behind glass, what’s it called again 😉

ADDENDUM: Everything, everywhere, all at once.

ADDENDUM 2: Flying pig moment of the day: “Pope Francis called today’s fashionable gender madness “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations” of our age. “Why is it dangerous? Because it blurs differences and the value of men and women.” For those who might not see that as actually dangerous, the pope explained, “All humanity is the tension of differences. It is to grow through the tension of differences. The question of gender is diluting the differences and making the world the same, all dull, all alike, and that is contrary to the human vocation.”