Sabbath musical delight: Thomas Schwan performs J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier

Thomas Schwan is the product of a new generation. He is billed as the winner of the 2020 World Bach Competition in Boulder, CO (not to be confused with the Bach competition that has been held in Leipzig since 1950, the 200th anniversary of Bach’s joining the Great Gig In The Sky).

Schwan playing seems more ‘straight up’ than the highly individualistic renditions of my usual go-tos: Glenn Gould (!), Angela Hewitt, Grigory Sokolov, Sviatoslav Richter, and Tatiana Nikolayeva. If/when Vikingur Olafsson (of the same generation as Schwan) will record a complete WTC, it will likely be even more individualistic than Gould’s interpretation — n

These are live performances without any editing (!) from one of my former hometowns. Enjoy, have a nice weekend, and shabbat shalom!

Book I:

Book II:

Auschwitz liberation day post: did Germans ever “democratically” elect Hitler?

On January 27, 1945, the advancing Red Army reached the concentration camp complex outside the Polish town of Oswiecim [German name: Auschwitz]. The remaining inmates were mostly those too sick or infirm to be sent on death marches toward camps inside the shrinking Reich.

This is as good a chance as any to discuss a question I get asked regularly: did the National Socialist German Workers Party of Adolf Hitler [y”sh] ever win an election fair and square? And if not, why were they put in power?

Let us look at the July 1932 general elections, which took place in an atmosphere of chaos and street violence, as well as deep economic depression. There were 608 seats in the Reichstag — of which a majority of 319 seats to two competing anti-democratic parties.

230 NSDAP (“the Nazis”)

89 KPD (Communist Party of Germany), at the time openly Stalinist

So all the democratic parties combined could not even muster a majority. They consisted of many parties, which can be grouped into a few blocs.

133 SPD (Social Democrats)

97 “Catholic bloc”, of which

Zentrumpartei 75

BVP (Bavarian People’s Party) 22 [cf. today’s CSU, Bavarian sister party of the CDU]

3 Christian Social People’s Service (Protestant)

37 DNVP (German National People’s Party), national-conservatives

12 Liberals and national-liberals, of which

DVP (German People’s Party) 7

DSP (German State Party) 4

VRP (People’s Rights Party) 1

5 Farmers’ Parties (German Peasants Party 2, Agricultural League 2, German Countryside People 1)

2 Miscellaneous (Reich Middle Class 2, anti-inflation list 1)

The election of November 1932, now with only 585 seats, actually saw the NSDAP lose 34 seats (while the Communists gained 11). Still, out of now 585 seats, the two competing anti-democratic parties again accounted for the majority of the seats (296 this time).

196 NSDAP

100 KPD (Communists)

121 SPD (Social Democrats)

90 Catholic parties, split 70-20

5 CSVP (Protestant)

51 DNVP (national conservatives)

13 Liberals and national-liberals

6 Farmers’ Parties

1 Regional party (“German-Hanoverian League”)

Chancellor Franz von Papen (a diplomat turned Center Party politician) thus for two elections in a row was unable to muster a majority in the Reichstag. President Paul von Hindenburg [yes, the one after whom the airship is named] dismissed him and appointed his defense minister instead, General Kurt von Schleicher.

Schleicher set about negotiating with Gregor Strasser, leader of the NSDAP’s left faction, in an apparent attempt to split them off as a separate party or at least an independent faction, which then could join the government in what Schleicher called a ‘Querfront’ (freely: cross-front, front across the divide). [*] In the meantime he started a massive public works program involving 2 million workser (for which Hitler would later wrongly be credited). His relations with the ministers in his cabinet (all holdovers from Papen) were quite poor.[**]

Papen then sold Hindenburg on an NSDAP-led coalition, claiming that the DNVP and the Center Party would together be able to keep the National Socialists in check. We all know how that turned out — especially after the Reichstag Fire gave Hitler the pretext to seek plenipotentiary powers through the Ermächtigungsgesetz (Enabling Act).

Even then, during the March 1933 rigged election (the last election until the fall of the Third Reich), the best the NSDAP could do was 288 seats out of 647. Four months later, the Enabling Act left only the NSDAP standing — all other parties having been banned, intimidated out of existence, or forcibly amalgamated into the NSDAP.

Papen, “the Ephialtes of the Center Party” as party leader Mgr. Ludwig Kaas referred to him, would come to rue his actions — but when he tried to turn the tide in 1934 (cf. his Marburg Speech), it was well past midnight.

Papen was acquitted at Nuremberg, largely because he had no power or influence after 1934 and had just served as ambassador first to Vienna, then to Ankara. Yet without his “help”, it is possible that Schleicher would have been able to keep Hitler out of power, and hence Papen can be held indirectly responsible for the Third Reich — even though he likely could not foresee in his worst nightmares what that would turn out to be…

[*] The term is today sometimes used for attempts to create tactical alliances between radical-left and radical-right groups, tied together by common hatred for democracy, capitalism, and often “The Juice”.

[**] Interestingly, given the title of this blog: Schleicher’s chief of staff was one Erwin Planck (1893-1945), son of the great physicist Max Planck. Erwin would later be sentenced to death by the infamous People’s Courts for his involvement in the anti-Hitler conspiracy: he participated in drafting a post-Hitler constitution as well as in the preparations for Operation Valkyrie.

Schleicher himself had been assassinated by the SS eleven years earlier, as part of the Night of the Long Knives.

Pakistan can’t keep the lights on?!

Very hectic at work, but one story i had completely missed:

“Joe Blogs” lays out how Pakistan’s spiraling debt has reached the point it is out of money to pay for fuel. The gv’t tried shutting down power plants at night… But certain industrial processes don’t take to. This kindly, and with Pakistani manufacturing now seriously effected, there will be even less income…

A failing state with nuclear weapons… (shudder). And of course, China will do to Pakistan what it’s already done to Sri Lanka…

Israel judicial “reforms” update; bye, bye Felicia Deri; “Whispered in Gaza”, part 2

(a) There is massive pushback against the maximalist plans of Justice Minister Yariv Levin for a judicial “reform” that goes well beyond any justifiable means of reining in an overly powerful Supreme Court and takes us to the other extreme of making it a lapdog of the coalition majority.

The idjits playing with fire do not seem to ever consider that these selfsame “dictatorship of the 51%” laws might one day be used against them. What if we have another secularist coalition which then decides to abolish the subsidy to the chareidi schools “because that is what the majority [of the hour] wants”? What if they decide that anyone who has a problem with homosexual “marriages” now needs sensitivity training? Far-fetched? Talked with anyone in Canada lately?

If they were so confident they were speaking for a solid majority of the country, they would have no problem with a requirement of 70 or even 80 MKs for a law overriding a Supreme Court ruling. The very fact that they want to make it possible with a simple majority of 61 MKs should tell you enough about how confident they are. (One other country enables this: Canada, enough said. Others require special majorities, usually 2/3.)

The latest to raise their voice are Ver”a (vaad rashei universita’ot, the Committee of University Presidents), presently led by Prof. Arie Tzaban, Rector of the religious Bar-Ilan University (generally considered a right-wing hotbed).

The organization includes chiefs of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, the University of Haifa, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Bar-Ilan University, the Weizmann Institute, the Technion, Ariel University and the Open University (which holds observer status.) It is chaired by Prof. Arie Zaban, the president of Bar-Ilan.

The petitioners urged the government not to rush to make huge changes to the judicial system without a broad public discussion on the security, economic, and societal consequences of such alterations.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu himself is blowing hot and cold on the reforms. On the one hand, he is reportedly asking Jewish Home and Kachsuckers-R-UsItamar Ben-Gvir’s faction to tone it down on settlements because “we need to focus on judicial reform”; on the other hand, he told the visiting US national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, that “that he seeks broad consensus”, and that changes ‘will not pass as currently presented’.

It appears that President Herzog (his is a mostly ceremonial position in Israel) is trying to broker the establishment of a panel composed of coalition and opposition figures in the hope of fostering “a more balanced reform”.

(b) Yesterday Netanyahu reluctantly fired the corrupt Shas leader Aryeh “Elmer Gantry” Deri from the Interior and Health portfolios, following a near-unanimous Supreme Court ruling that Deri’s appointment was “blatantly unreasonable” in light of previous prison sentence for accepting bribes as a public official plus a suspended sentence for tax evasion where he was let off prison time in exchage for promising to quit politics.

[picture courtesy of Mrs. Arbel. The Hebrew says Aryeh putar — Aryeh was fired.]

This article lays out the many tricks and dirty shticks of Deri — going back three decades to his time as interior minister in the left-wing Rabin government. He was then also forced to step down byThe Supreme Court — led at the time by the right-leaning Meir Shamgar (meanwhile z”l), before he was succeeded by the with the activist Aharon Barak.

As a result, Yitzhak Rabin no longer had a majority to get the Oslo Accords through the Knesset, except when he pried loose defectors from a hard-right party with deputy ministerial positions. I remember people saying Oslo passed “thanks to Alex Goldfarb’s Mitsubishi”: [Corrected] his fellow defector Gonen Segev[/corrected] later showed himself to be an even more unsavory character than Deri — ranging from ecstasy smuggling to allegedly spying for Iran.

(c) Speaking of terror states and the terror polities they sponsor, Part 2 of “Whispered In Gaza” is a must-read and must-see.

Last week, in the first installment, Gazan men and women described their professional disenfranchisement by Hamas and the repression of their personal freedoms. They told of arbitrary arrests, shakedowns of small-time merchants, and the silencing of journalists. Voicing staunch support for Palestinian self-determination, they also denounced Hamas as harming that cause by starting wars with Israel it cannot win while hiding in bunkers and leaving civilians to suffer casualties. They conveyed an understanding of Hamas warfare, moreover, as a play for aid money that the movement goes on to plunder.

In this [second] installment, we learn more about local grievances, as well as a homegrown attempt to do something about them: the effort waged by approximately 1,000 Gazans in 2019 to challenge Hamas authority through street demonstrations. Four veterans of that protest movement recount their experience and explain how it reshaped their lives and outlook.

Massive protests against judicial “reforms” in Israel; the legal doctrine of “estoppel”; Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain rumored to step down; Is RNC more interested in enriching consultants than in winning elections?

(a) For the 3rd weekend in a row, we are seeing massive demonstrations in my hometown against the hare-brained “judicial reforms” of Yariv Levin. These are the biggest so far: organizers claim 150,000, police estimated 110,000. (For perspective, that would be like a protest of 2-3 million in the US.)

Thousands showed up at additional protests in various other cities.

This can no longer be dismissed as a bunch of disgruntled secularist leftists and “alternative lifestylers”.

(b) The Times of Israel points out that the 10-1 Supreme Court ruling disqualifying Aryeh “Elmer Gantry” Deri from a ministerial post did not just cite doctrine of “blatant unreasonableness” (given Deri’s prior prison sentence for accepting bribes and suspended sentence for tax fraud) but also another legacy from the British common law system that was inherited by Israeli law: “estoppel” (in Hebrew: heshteq).

Judicial estoppel (the word is derived from the verb “estop”) is a legal doctrine whereby an individual cannot take a position in one legal proceeding which runs contrary to a position they took in a separate legal proceeding, and benefit from both outcomes.

In other words, the High Court justices ruled that the commitment to withdraw from public life that Deri made to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court a year ago was binding. As a result, he therefore cannot benefit from the lenient plea bargain he received from that court because of the false impression he gave, and hold ministerial office as well, in direct contravention of that impression.

[…] [Judge Alex] Stein, in his ruling, neatly summarized the doctrine by quoting a ruling of the US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in which the judge wrote, “The offense is not taking inconsistent positions so much as it is winning, twice, on the basis of incompatible positions.”

[…] Five of the eleven justices on the panel asserted the principle of estoppel to invalidate Deri’s appointment, while seven ruled that the principle of “reasonableness” disqualifies him, including two of those who also asserted estoppel.

But although only a minority of the panel invoked estoppel, even in the unlikely situation in which the government annulled the court’s ability to use the principle of reasonableness and then reinstate him as minister, several of the other justices would likely join their colleagues in asserting estoppel were the matter returned to the court, and would again block Deri from returning to government.

[…] In a political career that has been renowned, or perhaps infamous, for numerous schemes, intrigues and political maneuvering, it is striking that a principle such as estoppel might be the one that prevents Deri from serving in high office again.

Indeed.

(c) Developing story: Abu Hunter/F. Joe Biden chief of staff (and longtime fixer) Ron Klain reportedly has been telling intimates after the midterm elections he will step down in the coming weeks, staying on just long enough to ensure a smooth transition to his successor.

(d) I have been mystified for some time by the poor quality of IT operations of the GOP’s “get out the vote” campaign. Some serious accusations here:

“The RNC is responsible for two technology platforms that it makes available to state parties and campaigns: voter data, which is managed by their designated vendor, Data Trust, and online fundraising, which is managed by another designated vendor, WinRed.

It became clear to me that the primary goal of Data Trust and WinRed isn’t to help Republicans at all but to enrich RNC-connected consultants.”

I ran this article by somebody in the Midwest who is an expert on such matters, and he said the broader points of the article are fundamentally correct, and that the RNC is its own worst enemy in such matters.

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern suddenly resigns; how “free shipping” from Chinese companies is actually paid by Westerners

(a) “ Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

The “woke left’s poster child” as Andrew Bolt calls her below — New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern — suddenly resigned ahead of the elections, saying “she didn’t have enough in the tank” for another 4 years of disastrous misgovernment.

But on the same channel, Bernardi suspects there is more going on than meets the eye — more than an expected drubbing at the ballot box.

Lots of coverage in the Telegraph: let me just single out Fraser Nelson: “St. Jacinda’s global cheerleaders can’t acknowledge the truth about her fall” (paywalled; cached copy).

(b) Ever wondered how Chinese companies can not only sell you trendy but crummy products for cheap, but ship them to you for free? Winston Sterzel explains below:

It isn’t enough that China has suborned every international organization it can, but it is simultaneously a “developed country” where that status suits it, and a “developing country” where that status gives it an advantage — such as (in this case) international postage fees, which are kept artificially very low for developing countries by making the rich countries subsidize them.

It’s turtles (and turtle-“lovers”) all the way down…

Bonus item (h/t: littleoldlady):

ADDENDUM: for anyone who believes that only Israeli leftists have a problem with the serial crook and influence peddler Aryeh Deri serving as a minister, read this article from a right-wing religious perspective: Go Away: Arye Deri should quit Israeli politics forever and go home.

In a bombshell 10-1 ruling, Israel Supreme Court nixes interior and health minister appointment of Aryeh Deri

https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-bombshell-ruling-high-court-nixes-shas-head-deri-from-serving-as-minister/

“During a hearing on the petitions against Deri earlier this month, Deri’s attorney claimed that the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court had misunderstood his statement that he was retiring from the Knesset and would henceforth perform public service from outside the parliament.”

Several of the High Court justices took exception to this claim during the hearing itself, including Justice Alex Stein, who said during the hearing, “One cannot say one is retiring [from public life] and get the benefit of a convenient plea bargain for oneself, and after a little while say the opposite and get appointed as an MK and minister.”

Justice Yosef Elron dissented from the majority opinion, writing instead that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should request a ruling on Deri’s appointment from the head of the Central Election Committee to determine whether Deri’s tax fraud conviction bears the designation of moral turpitude and thus whether he can serve as a government minister.”

[Chief Justice] Hayut also pointed out that when the court was asked to decide on Deri’s appointment as interior minister in 2015, it had at that point said his appointment was even then “on the boundaries of what is reasonable” given his bribery conviction in 1999.

Deri received a suspended sentence for his tax fraud convictions in 2022, meaning that the appointment now exceeded the boundaries of reasonableness, she said.

In 1999, Deri received a 4-year sentence, of which he served 22 months in Ramle Prison before being released for good behavior. Accepting bribery as a public official is one of the offenses classified in Israel as having kalon, freely: the stain of moral turpitude, which bars somebody from serving as a public official or running for national office for seven years.

The criterion of svirut, “reasonableness”, is not some invention of a leftist activist court but a legacy of the British administrative law system from the Mandate era.

It should be noted that also right-leaning judges concurred with the “unreasonableness” verdict.

It was not surprising that the High Court of Justice’s activist wing nixed Shas leader Arye Deri from remaining a minister within the government following his two convictions.

What was surprising was that moderate conservatives Yitzhak Amit and Yael Wilner and hardcore conservatives Alex Stein and David Mintz ruled against Deri and that even conservative Yosef Elron left the door open to the Election Commission to nix Deri.

In particular, Stein’s words to Deri were devastating, “his words were empty words.” Put differently, Stein, who has repeatedly found reasons to rule in favor of the policies of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu based on ideology, tossed ideology out the window.

He told Deri: you are a liar, end of the story.

Stein, Mintz, Wilner and Amit were livid that Deri promised in detail to stay out of a public service role, committing to only being involved indirectly from the Shas party.

For them, Deri’s attempts to use mental gymnastics to parse his words so that his promise was only limited to the former Knesset and not future Knessets, was too much to swallow for a thinking person.

According to most of these justices, the High Court of Justice probably has no right to veto the new Basic Law passed to save Deri from being disqualified by the prior basic law preventing a person sentenced to jail time (including a suspended sentence.)

Being ideologically right-wing, they also would be against disqualifying Deri using the “reasonableness test.” These justices, certainly Stein, Mintz and Elron, are card-carrying conservatives who do not believe the court should supplant the reasonableness of the government.

They just could not accept Deri lying directly to the court to get a lenient plea deal.

This response and one-sided vote caught the coalition off guard who expected a far more split vote than 10-1 (with even [the only dissenter] Elron being open to the Elections Commission disqualifying Deri instead of the court.)

Look, Deri is not an idiot — I have never met him in person, but some people in my circle who have did tell me he is unusually bright and charismatic, especially compared to his fellow Shas MKs (a.k.a.”Shilgia ve-aseret ha-gamadim” — Snow-White and the ten dwarves). I have heard him make societal observationHe is clearly somebody who believes that his brilliance and working “for the Great Cause” exempt him from the constraints set upon mere mortals. As the Romans would have put it, quod licet Iovi/Deri, non licet bovi — what is permitted to Jove/Deri is not permitted to the lowly ox.

But there is a point beyond which nec plus ultra (no further), or in Hebrew ad kan (up to here) or simply dai! — enough!

Of course, Deri and Netanyahu are locked in a hora beitzim — an Israeli metaphorical “dance” in which each dances the hora while holding the other by the beitzim. Netanyahu can’t stay in power (and thus keep his own conviction at bay) without the 11 Shas MKs (no opposition party will trust him enough to cross the aisle at this point), and Deri’s party needs Netanyahu to stay at the troughlevers of power.

Here, there, everywhere: what’s life like under Ḥamas; prostitutes in Davos; the societal price of extended adolescence; Israeli constitutional crisis in the making

(a) The Times of Israel published the first part of a fascinating series based on (anonymized) first-person narratives of Gazans about their life in the Hamasstan.

Aside from the narrative text, it’s split up in eight two-minute videos, original Arabic audio with English subtitles, and visuals replaced by hand-drawn cartoons.

Whatever these people may think of my country and its former occupation of Gaza (one goes as far as to say those were the good old days), they all agree on one thing: they are living under what amounts to a mafiocracy, where those at the top enrich themselves exploiting the misery of the populace, skimming off the generous aid given by gullible Western countries [and the “banu sittim alaf sharmuteh” of Qatar], extorting “taxes” and more overt protection money from residents (especially small entrepeneurs), reserving plum jobs or lucrative businesses for family members and cronies (while intimidating or administratively harassing competitors out of business),… And above all, denying people a glimmer of hope or “non-approved” recreation.

Nobody interviewed wanted more rockets fired at Israel: “the leaders sit in their bomb shelters while we get to suffer”.

Last August, on a rare occasion when Hamas refrained from firing rockets into Israel during a period of escalation, 68 percent of Gazans supported the decision. Gazan mother Halima Jundiya, noting the trauma her children still endure from the 2014 conflict, told The New York Times, “We don’t want Hamas to fire rockets. We don’t want another war.” Another 2022 poll found that 53 percent of Gazans agree at least somewhat that “Hamas should stop calling for Israel’s destruction, and instead accept a permanent two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.”

[…] According to Palestinian pollingfrom 2022, 62 percent of Palestinians believe “people in the Strip cannot criticize Hamas authorities without fear.” This fear is justified: a 2017 Human Rights Watch investigation concluded that “[s]ince it seized control of Gaza in June 2007… [Hamas] authorities have harassed critics and abused those in its custody.” The report noted that after one Gazan journalist asked Hamas leaders on Facebook, “Do your children sleep on the floor like ours do?” he was arrested, charged with “misuse of technology,” and instructed by Hamas officers that “it’s forbidden to write against Hamas; we will shoot you.”

[…]

Since taking power, Hamas has reportedly clamped down on women’s basic freedoms and artistic expressions deemed un-Islamic. In July 2022, Hamas banned street concerts. “[Hamas has] imposed unjust measures,” one musician told Al-Monitor, “as it deemed art and music to be against Islamic law.” In 2021, Hamas ruled that women require the permission of a male guardian to travel. In 2018, Hamas blocked the launch of a women’s television channel and banned the opening of a ballet school for girls. In 2017, it banned dog walking “to protect women and children.” In 2013, a marathon organized by the United Nations was canceled after a Hamas decision to ban women from competing.

The organization shows no sign of changing course.

[…] Billions in foreign aid have poured into Gaza. But as far as Isma’il is concerned, the sea might as well have swallowed it. “Gaza is like the Bermuda Triangle,” he says. “Everything that enters, vanishes.” […] Hamas alleges that it does not “touch a single cent” of international aid, despite the active role it plays in its distribution. Most of the population is skeptical, however. A recent survey found that 73 percent of Gazans believe Hamas-run institutions are corrupt. On occasion, Hamas has been caught in outright theft. In 2009, the UN was briefly forced to halt aid shipments after Hamas gunmen stole several hundred tons of flour, blankets, and other aid. An UNRWA spokesman told the New York Times, “They were armed and we were not.”

[…] “Back in the days of the first and second intifadas, we used to believe in something called resistance,” says Othman. “But today, the ‘resistance’ has become a business.” Every tobacco stand and coffee shop is forced to pay Hamas protection money, he says, and when war breaks out, “[Hamas] sit in their bunkers while we have to bear the brunt. And at the end they tell us it’s a victory.”[…]

[Despite their promises,] Hamas proceeded to build an economy based on patronage and political favoritism, exacting a heavy toll on essential services including healthcare and education. It then exploited Gaza’s isolation under closure to build and institutionalize a network of smuggling which it exclusively controlled. According to a report by The International Crisis Group, five years after taking power, Hamas’s network of smuggling tunnels was transferring half a billion dollars in goods annually, and exacting “import duties” in excess of 14.5 percent. As one smuggler put it, the choice is to pay Hamas “or get shot in the legs.” Meanwhile, despite Gazans’ impoverishment, Hamas imposes a range of taxes to fund an opaque budget, even the purpose of which is secret. The AP reportedthat Hamas “offers few services in exchange [for these taxes], and most aid and relief projects are covered by the international community.”

Unsurprisingly, Palestinian opinion polling found that 73 percent of Gazans believe Hamas-run institutions are corrupt.

When Hamas wages war, ordinary Gazans pay an even steeper price. As one young Gazan told the Financial Times, “When the Israelis came, Hamas went and hid in the tunnels, and left us outside.” A participant in the 2019 “We Want to Live” protest movement told +972 magazine, “None of us young people actually voted for Hamas… [it] glorifies itself as the resistance to the occupation, but they sit in their palaces with their Qatari passports while we pay the price.”

None of this is surprising to anyone paying attention. This is a total mafiocracy running a protection racket under cover of a “liberation struggle”. If Israel didn’t exist, they’d have to invent another excuse. Go read or watch the whole thing.

(b) This is the perfect metaphor for what is going on at a much larger scale in Davos: Prostitutes gather at annual Davos meeting as demand skyrockets.

The article quotes extensively from an interview (on a German-language Swiss site) with high-priced escort and writer Salomé Balthus. She mentions there that she makes the most money not from those at the very top, but from their underlings.

Doch sie macht klar: Spitzenpolitiker sind es nicht. «Die haben weder Zeit noch Lust, es fehlt die Besinnung auf das Körpergefühl. Man muss sich wohl für eine ‹Droge› entscheiden: Sex oder politische Macht. Letztere ist die stärkere, sie lässt keinen Raum für andere Interessen und frisst den Menschen völlig auf», meint sie.

[My translation:] But she clarifies: it’s not top politicians. “They have neither time nor desire, the awareness of bodily feeling is lacking. One has to pick one drug or the other: sex or political power. The latter is the stronger one, it leaves no space for other interests and wholly consumes people,” she thinks.

(c) At The Free Press (formerly Common Sense), Bari Weiss’s Substack, Katherine Boyle has a thought-provoking piece on how the extended adolescence of today’s Gen Z, through their twenties and into their thirties, is a form of learned helplessness (my term) that leaves (outside Big Tech) the movers and shakers to be a gerontocracy.

The tens of millions of Americans that are, like me, millennials or members of the generation just younger, Gen Z, have been treated as hapless children our entire lives. We have been coded as “young” in business, in politics, and in culture. All of which is why we shouldn’t be surprised that millennials are the most childless and least home-owning generation in modern American history. One can’t play house with a spouse or have their own children when they’ve moved back into mom’s, as 17 percent of millennials have

Aside from the technology sector—which prizes outliers, disagreeableness, creativity and encourages people in their twenties to take on the founder title and to build things that they own—most other sectors of American life are geriatric.

The question is why. 

There are many theories—and many would-be culprits. Some believe it’s the fault of the Boomers, who have relentlessly coddled their children, perhaps subconsciously, because they don’t want to pass the baton. Others put the blame on the young, who are either too lazy, too demoralized or too neurotic to have beaten down the doors of power to demand their turn.

Then again, life expectancy is growing among the healthy and elite in industrialized nations, so perhaps this is all just progress and 70 is the new 40. But one can take little solace in the growing life expectancy of the last 200 years when comparing ourselves to more productive generations that didn’t waste decades on extended adolescence. 

Every Independence Day, we’re reminded that on July 4, 1776, the most famous founders of this country were in their early 20s (Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr) and early 30s (Thomas Jefferson). Even grandfatherly George Washington was a mere 44.

These days much of our political class, from Bill Clinton (elected president 30 years ago at age 46) to financial leaders like Warren Buffett (92), and Bill Gates (67) who launched Microsoft 48 years ago, are still dominant three and four decades after seizing the reins of power. CEOs of companies listed on the S&P 500 are getting older and staying in their jobs longer, with the average CEO now 58 years old and staying in his or her role 10.8 years versus 7.2 a decade ago. And our political culture looks even more gray: Twenty-five percent of Congress is now over the age of 70 giving us the oldest Congress of any in American history.

The Boomer ascendancy in America and industrialized nations has left us with a global gerontocracy and a languishing generation waiting in the wings. Not only does extended adolescence—what psychologist Erik Erikson first referred to as a “psychosocial moratorium” or the interim years between childhood and adulthood— affect the public life of younger generations, but their private lives as well.

[…] So in 2023, here we are: in a tri-polar geopolitical order led by septuagenarians and octogenarians. Xi Jinping, Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin have little in common, but all three are entering their 70s and 80s, orchestrating the final acts of their political careers and frankly, their lives. That we are beholden to the decisions of leaders whose worldviews were shaped by the wars, famines, and innovations of a bygone world, pre-Internet and before widespread mass education, is in part why our political culture feels so stale. That the gerontocracy is a global phenomenon and not just an American quirk should concern us: younger generations who are native to technological strength, modern science and emerging cultural ailments are still sidelined and pursuing status markers they should have achieved a decade ago.

I should be very clear that endlessly drawn-out adolescence of “freedom” without its flip side “responsibility” is not just an American phenomenon. Ask any Italian what “mammone” means in their language 😉

It is no accident that in Hebrew, the letters to write cheirut (חירות, freedom) are those needed to write achraiut (אחראיות, responsibility) except for one: you still need the aleph, the first letter of the alephbet. It can stand for ani (“I”, the first person singular), or of course for Elohim (G-d, specifically in His attribute of justice). Or, if you want no reference to The Guy Upstairs, you could write ein-sof (אין סוף , infinity).

(d) No, the opposition to the half-arsed “judicial reform” plans of Israel’s justice minister Yariv Levin is not just a bunch of blue-haired gender studies majors: stalwarts of the political right, longtime associates of Netanyahu (including his own longtime Attorney General) all consider the package disastrous, even as some concede there is room for more modest-scoped, targeted reforms. Israel’s past President, Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin, a lifelong Likud stalwart himself, says the plan reeks of “a settling of scores, not a reform”.

In fact, there is an interesting “Möbius Dick” scenario here where a Basic Law curtailing the judicial review powers of the Supreme Court would itself be subject to Supreme Court review (for one last time). It’s one reason why I’m not as doom and gloom as most of my colleagues: that I suspect some compromise will emerge in the end that gives each side half a loaf.

It is depressing, however, that we are in this fix largely because of a PM under corruption investigation (who wants to avert a conviction), and another party leader a convicted felon who wants to be a senior minister. Ze gorem li le-haki/It makes me vomit.

Looking around, hosted on one’s woke petard edition: higher ed, cartoons, “Latinx”

(A) Insty in the NYPost on how the push for DIE (discrimination, iniquity, and exclusion — sorry, “diversity”, “inclusion”, and “equity”) is biting expensive colleges in the back in an unexpected way… as newly DIE-obsessed corporations and consulting groups are doing things like:

  • tell applicants to only list the degree, not the name of the college
  • In order to get more hires from underrepresented groups, hire people without college degrees

Add to this that tuition has risen to the point that only the best-paid professional degrees still generate enough income to justify dropping $200K or more for a college degree… And the most expensive colleges are seeing enrollment drop precipitously.

I don’t think Harvard or Stanford are going to go broke anytime soon, but expensive colleges that don’t have such big endowments or research impact footprints to compensate will be “hoist on their own woke petards”. It takes a heart of stone not to laugh if you’re a former US academic yourself.

(B) I’ve never been into cartoons or comics, but I’ve heard from friends who are about the extreme wokebaggery push in the genres. Now apparently, with a recent woke reboot of Scooby-Do as “Velma”, the results have gotten so over the top bad that lefties are wondering whether it was a conservative psy-op.

I very much doubt it was, but: the very fact that people have to wonder should give you pause about whether you’ve become a self-parody.

(C) The woke push against “cultural appropriation” of words like aloha, hola, and shalom backfires nicely in the language arena., “Yid With Lid” reports.

[blockquote] when a Gentile greets a Jew with the word shalom, it’s one step toward answering our prayer for peace.

My Hispanic friends never objected when I greeted them with the word Hola. But all of my Latino and Latina friends hate the dual-gender word created by liberals such as David Oliver—Latinx.

Per the Huffington Post;

Many opponents of the term have suggested that using an un-gendered noun like Latinx is disrespectful to the Spanish language, and some have even called the term ‘a blatant form of linguistic imperialism.

[/blockquote]

If it isn’t linguistic imperialism, then at least bloody linguistic condescension. The word “Latinx” should die in a fire, everybody is welcome to use “shalom” to me, and I personally think anybody who addresses non-Hawaiians or non-Arabs, respectively, by “aloha” or “ahlan” is just a tosspot, not a “linguistic appropriator”.

BONUS: ah, Abu Hunter (a.k.a. F. Joe Biden), the gift that keeps on giving. As a junior senator back in the 1970s, he apparently helped sink Carter’s nominee for national security advisor for, drumroll… mishandling of classified documents. (Via Insty)

Also, apparently Hunter was paying Abu Hunter $50K/month in “rent” to live in his house. Did Abu Hunter report that income to the IRS? (You can guess the answer.) Seriously, does anybody not drinking bong water believe this was anything other than a way to funnel bribes to Biden?

Looking around, MLK Day edition

Today is MLK Day. This advocate of racial equality and nonviolent civil disobedience would be utterly horrified to see today’s wokeism advocate the very opposite of what he believed in: they want to judge people not by the content of their character but by the color of their skin (or their “self-identification”), and advocate re-segregation. They are in fact like the self-same racists MLK used to fight —- just with the polarity reversed. Below are several related items:

(A) Glenn Reynolds has started a new Substack for long-form pieces and interviews that don’t fit the “Instapundit” format. It’s off to a great start with this interview with David Bernstein about his new book on the absurdity of the US official racial classification system. Go read it all — I can’t do it justice by selective quoting.

https://instapundit.substack.com/p/the-idiocy-of-americas-racial-classification

(B) This is deservedly making the rounds of the internet: comedian Konstantin Kisin (of “Triggernometry”) at the Oxford Union, defending the motion that wokebaggery “has gone too far”. In eight minutes, he shows the fatal flaw in extremist climate activism even from its own perspective.

Spoiler alert: he’s pointing out that the whole “save the planet by going zero carbon” stratagem hinges on poor people in China, India, and developing countries agreeing to remain poor. That just ain’t gonna happen — and shouldn’t.

But, of course, as an op-ed in the increasingly maverick Newsweek points out, “climate activism isn’t about the planet — it’s about the boredom of the bourgeoisie”.

https://www.newsweek.com/climate-activism-isnt-about-planet-its-about-boredom-bourgeoisie-opinion-1773846

[blockquote] The downfall of capitalism will not come from the uprising of an impoverished working class but from the sabotage of a bored upper class. This was the view of the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1942. Schumpeter believed that at some point in the future, an educated elite would have nothing left to struggle for and will instead start to struggle against the very system that they themselves live in.

Nothing makes me think Schumpeter was right like the contemporary climate movement and its acolytes. The Green movement is not a reflection of planetary crisis as so many in media and culture like to depict it, but rather, a crisis of meaning for the affluent.

[/blockquote]

Read the whole thing. And relatedly, there is this long, rambling essay by Freddie DeBoer about how so much of internet rage and “cancel culture” is driven by over-credentialed, under-educated “creative types” unable to achieve the status they believe they are entitled to.

https://freddiedeboer.substack.com/p/the-creative-underclass-is-still?r=3pjl8&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email

(C) In honor of MLK Day, a statue in his honor was unveiled in Boston. I really have no idea what the artist creating this “Burnside Fountain” level monstrosity was thinking.

Seneca Scott is not amused:

https://compactmag.com/article/a-masturbatory-homage-to-my-family

[blockquote] By now, I’m sure you’ve seen it. The new Boston sculpture “honoring” Dr. Martin Luther King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, looks more like a pair of hands hugging a beefy penis than a special moment shared by the iconic couple. Created by the organization Embrace Boston, the sculpture has inspired mad jokes on Twitter, and rightly so. But for my family, it’s rather insulting. You see, Coretta was my first cousin, my grandfather’s niece, and the daughter of my great uncle Obediah Scott.

Martin married up. Coretta came from a distinguished family, with a significant legacy in her own right. There is a reason she kept the Scott name. We were a black family that owned land, lots of it. Martin knew what he was doing when he pursued her, signaling intentions to marry from the outset. After his assassination, Coretta created a legacy of her own, fighting for health-care workers and against Apartheid in South Africa.

Ten million dollars were wasted to create a masturbatory metal homage to my legendary family members—one of the all-time greatest American families. Still, the Boston debacle could be a blessing in disguise, by exposing the insidiousness of astroturfed woke movements that have come to dominate black America: How could anyone fail to see that this was a major dick move (pun intended) that brings very few, if any, tangible benefits to struggling black families?

“Consider this our Declaration of Interdependence,” declares the Embrace Boston website. What does that even mean? Black families in America who need help don’t care for more woke slogans. They need jobs that pay the bills and keep up with food and energy costs that are rising faster than ever before for most of us. Building expensive, stupid new statues with no faces on them—and tearing down others for no good reason—are part of the same performative altruism and purity pageants that are mainstays of the woke left.

So now Boston has a big bronze penis statue that’s supposed to represent black love at its purest and most devotional. This is no accident. The woke algorithm is racist and classist. Therefore, its programming will always produce things that harm black and poor people. This sculpture is an especially egregious example of the woke machine’s callousness and vanity. Hopefully, it will show more black people that these progressives just aren’t in this for our benefit.

[/blockquote]

Arbel’s Rule of music and arts: if the ‘artist’ needs to explain the ‘concept’ behind their piece for anyone to even recognize the piece as art or music, chances are it isn’t.

(Allow me to elaborate: yes, I know Bach’s Art of Fugue or his fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier only reveal their full genius if you understand counterpoint. However, nobody would need to be told they are music. The other day, I was introduced to a modernist composer teaching at a top-tier US university, where a layman would not have been able to tell the difference between the orchestra tuning up and the actual piece.)

So let me finish with a musical tribute to MLK that wasn’t high art, but still (deservedly) ranks as one of that band’s best-known compositions.

Here, there, everywhere: the would-be Iran deal and the Mar-A-Lago raid; the Ukrainian Jewish Hitler who fought in the Red Army

(A) So it appears there may have been another motivation behind the Mar-A-Lago raid than “Orange Man Bad!” And “It’s OK for us but not for them!”. (Via Instapundit.)

Counselor or consiglieri? 😉

Via Instapundit, who also reminds us that Iran has threatened in the past to reveal names of politicians who took bribes from it.

(B) Meanwhile, in my home town Tel-Aviv, some 80,000 people protested against the judicial emasculation “reform” bills of Yariv Levin. Even if, as I do, you believe that our Supreme Court has arrogated too much power to itself, Levin’s proposals go way too far.

Do keep in mind, however, that staking out maximalist positions while only expecting to get half a loaf is a common negotiating tactic here, in business as well as politics.

Note also, by the way, that in the areas of defense and foreign affairs, particularly in the all-important security cabinet, Netanyahu has chosen to surround himself with moderate old hands. The price for that, of course, was for him to give even more ground to the unhinged radicals in other areas.

(C) “The universe is not only [stranger] than we suppose, but [stranger] than we can suppose.” (J. B. S. Haldane, who used the “q” word in the original.) Mark Felton shares the story of Semën Konstantinovich Hitler [in Russian pronunciation: Semyon Konstantinovich Gitler], an Ukrainian Jewish Red Army soldier who got a medal for his heroic actions during the defense of Odessa, then fell in Sebastopol.

Not covered in Mark Felton’s video is the linguistic story behind it, similar to how many people from India have first names that sound vaguely Hebrew [Amit, Manish,..] If there’s also similarity in meaning, linguists call such words or names “pseudo-cognates”.

You see, “Gittel” (the Yiddish equivalent of the Hebrew Tova or the Scottish and later generic Anglo-Saxon Bonnie) was a very common first name for girls (still is in Yiddish-speaking chareidi circles). A surprising number of Eastern European Jewish surnames are matronyms (from the mother’s name): Perlman (from Perla), Tziperman (from Tzipora), Estrin (from Esther), Rivlin (from Rivka/Rebecca),…

Thus also Gittelman and Gitler. (I remember a biochemistry professor named Carlos Gitler.) Now the same letter in the Cyrillic alphabet corresponds to “g” in Russian and “h” (or really h) in Ukrainian, as part of a generic consonant shift from East to West Slavic languages.

Francis Bacon, whose Nova Atlantis was perhaps the foundational document for the discipline we now call “philosophy of science”, warned against the “First Idol of the Mind”: the human tendency to see more order in the universe than there really is, and [by extension] to look for connections where none exist.

“Joe’s Garage”, not the Frank Zappa album

Insty’s law of projection: whatever the [anti-]Democrats accuse GOP politicians of doing is what they’ve been up to themselves.

Peter Doocy: “Classified documents in your garage, next to your corvette. What were you thinking?”

Abu Hunter: “My Corvette is in a locked garage, OK?”

Good grief. Tim actually speculates that the [anti-]Dem machine is getting ready to dump Abu Hunter and hence is not giving his agitprop wing, a.k.a. the Mainstream Media, to suppress the news.

Their pet-AG Merrick Garland has actually appointed a Special Counsel. Whitewash or zugzwang (chess term for a forced move)?

It is them who released the djinn of impeachment proceedings for purely partisan purposes from the bottle. Will the GOP say, “turnaround is fair play”? Or will they give the other side a chance to get one walking, talking gaffe machine to step down “for health reasons” in favor of another? Or apply the 25th Amendment if he won’t go willingly?

Tim Pool actually wonders if “President Kamala Harris” may appoint Pelosi as her VP… There is been only one recent case where such an appointment happened: from the WP entry on Gerald Ford (who was House Minority Leader at the time):

On October 10, 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned and then pleaded no contest to a single count of tax evasion over his failure to report $29,500 in income received while he was governor of Maryland.[67] According to The New York Times, Nixon “sought advice from senior Congressional leaders about a replacement.” The advice was unanimous. House SpeakerCarl Albert recalled later, “We gave Nixon no choice but Ford.”[38]Ford agreed to the nomination, telling his wife that the vice presidency would be “a nice conclusion” to his career.[31]

Ford was nominated to take Agnew’s position on October 12, the first time the vice-presidential vacancy provision of the 25th Amendment had been implemented. The United States Senatevoted 92 to 3 to confirm Ford on November 27. On December 6, 1973, the House confirmed Ford by a vote of 387 to 35. After the confirmation vote in the House, Ford took the oath of office as vice president.[25]

Of course, Ford became president a year later when Nixon stepped down, faced with “quit or be impeached”. Hmm, could this be in the cards — muscle out Kamala next?

RIP Jeff Beck (1944-2023)

The guitar legend has joined the Great Gig In The Sky. The cause of death was reported to be bacterial meningitis. Excerpted from Variety’s obituary:

A fleet, imaginative soloist, Beck brought formidable instrumental firepower to British band the Yardbirds, which he joined in 1965 as a replacement for Eric Clapton. Entirely at home with the group’s blues roots, he burnished their pop hits with an adventurous and virtually unprecedented use of feedback, sustain and fuzz.

After a precipitous exit from the Yardbirds — where he had been joined by another future guitar star, Jimmy Page — he established his own band, the Jeff Beck Group, which was fronted by vocalist Rod Stewart, soon to become a solo star. The unit proved as unstable as it was powerful, and lasted for just two albums.

During the ’70s, Beck assembled a second, more R&B-oriented edition of his group, and briefly formed a short-lived power trio with bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge and Cactus.

He reached the probable apex of both his critical and commercial success with a pair of mid-’70s all-instrumental albums, “Blow by Blow” and “Wired,” that found him moving into jazz-fusion terrain. The latter LP was recorded with keyboardist Jan Hammer, formerly of the top fusion act the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

From the early ’80s onward, the temperamental Beck — a notorious perfectionist in the studio and a prickly band mate — would sporadically reappear, retrench, retire and reappear again. His latter-day work ranged from an homage to rockabilly singer Gene Vincent to instrumental sets reflecting the influence of techno, electronica and ambient music.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. Acknowledged as a member of the Yardbirds in 1992, he said in a brief speech, “They kicked me out…f[—] them!” He entered the hall as a solo performer in 2009.

Beck was born in Wallington, Surrey. He began playing guitar in his teens, on a homemade model (which he constructed in emulation of one of his heroes, the American guitarist-inventor Les Paul). His idols included Gene Vincent’s lead guitarist Cliff Gallup and American bluesmen Buddy Guy and Otis Rush. In a striking coincidence, three of the greatest guitarists of the rock era, [Eric] Clapton, Beck and [Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy] Page — the latter two became friends in their early teens after being introduced by Beck’s sister — grew up within 15 miles of each other.

Here is producer, multi-instrumentalist, and music education personality Rick Beato’s tribute:

Below follows one of his greatest albums, “Blow By Blow”, in its entirety. May his memory be blessed.

Looking around, “one rule for thee, another rule for me” edition: Biden classified documents; Stanford has one admin per student; Cringe Jean-Pierre; Biden confuses Salvation Army with Secret Service?!; Fed chair says “we will not be a climate policymaker”; even Ahmadinejad thinks the mad mullahs are losing it

So much insanity, so little time. A few highlights/lowlights in US politics:

(a) It has been revealed that Abu Hunter, when he stopped being 0bama’s VP, took classified documents home — the very same offense for which Mar-A-Lago was raided. (More here. Via Instapundit:)

(b) Stanford now officially has more employees than students, with nearly one administrator per student.

“Specifically, there were 15,750 administrators, 2,288 faculty members, and 16,937 students. The paid help of 18,038 (administrators plus faculty) outnumbered the customers (students) by 1,101. That gave me an idea for a stunning administrative reorganization: give each student a paid concierge—an academic butler, if you will—to help navigate the pain of collegiate living in Palo Alto.”

And then you wonder why I left US academia.

(c) The footage at 24:13 of F. Joe Biden’s visit to a Salvation Army site in El Paso is just… I can’t even. He appears to be confusing the Salvation Army with the Secret Service (did the big “S” confuse him), and talks about “spending time in Poland and Ukraine with the Secret Service”.

Bonus points for Dave Rubin referring to the box-ticking, stupendously incompetent WH secretary as “Cringe Jean-Pierre”.

(d) Now the FJBiden regime wants to ban gas stoves, because climate bullsh*t change. Nobody told Jill Biden

Or in the original Latin: Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi. What is permitted to Jupiter is not permitted to the [lowly] ox. Kudos to Ed Driscoll for referring to “if Biden’s brain weren’t made up of rotting guacamole”…

(e) Meanwhile, signs of intelligent life at the Fed?

[W]e should “stick to our knitting” and not wander off to pursue perceived social benefits that are not tightly linked to our statutory goals and authorities. . . [W]ithout explicit congressional legislation, it would be inappropriate for us to use our monetary policy or supervisory tools to promote a greener economy or to achieve other climate-based goals. We are not, and will not be, a “climate policymaker.”

The Powerline article linked above notes that Jerome Powell’s underlings didn’t get the memo.

(f) And finally, when the mad mullah’s regime is so bat guano insane and out of touch that, thus MEMRI reports, even Mahmoud Ahmadinnerjacket is calling them out:

“I hope that they listen to the public and act soon. The energy that they are investing in oppressing the people — I hope they invest it in resolving their problems. Many problems can be resolved this way. The officials must listen to what the public has to say. They must stand by the public, see things for themselves and get reports from reliable people. They should not pay too much attention to what the corrupt gang of the security [agencies] has to say. They wish to distort everything and incite, oppress, and humiliate the public. They wish to implement the will of Satan in this country.

“[People] have real problems and they are expressing them. Stand by them. Instead of oppressing them, listen to what they have to say. You cannot accuse all the people of being anti-revolutionary. Most of the people are unhappy with the way the country is being run. Fix things. Change things. Organize things. Join the public. I am sure that you will not lose. This is for your own good and for the good of the country. Tomorrow, we may no longer have an opportunity to amend things.”

Israel’s Supreme Court reform and “override law”: both sides of the story

The current controversy with the new Netanyahu government is the new Justice minister Yariv Levin pushing:

* reforms to the appointment procedure for Supreme Court judges

* a proposed “override law” under which any decision by the Supreme Court that annuls a law or government decision can be overruled by the Knesset with an absolute majority of 61 MKs (half the chamber plus one, not half those present)

Opponents of the reform are calling this “the end of democracy” or “turning Israel into Hungary”. Proponents are calling it “the end of judicial tyranny”.

Let me explain why I believe both sides are half right and half wrong.

Israel has no written constitution. Neither, BTW, does the United Kingdom. (Israel’s legal tradition is a mixture of British Mandate-era legislation, remnants of Ottoman law, and some Jewish religious law, plus continental [read: Napoleonic] influences.) Even before the official founding of the state, then-chair of the Jewish Agency Executive David Ben-Gurion [soon to be the State’s founding Prime Minister] concluded a status quo agreement with the leadership of the fervently-religious (“chareidi”) public that ensured the cooperation of that sector with the founding of the state, in exchange for four concessions:

  • Shabbat (Friday night to Saturday night) would be the official day of rest
  • State institutions would keep kosher
  • The communities could administer their own education as they say fit
  • [Crucially:] the “status quo” from the Ottoman Empire and British Mandate would be preserved that each religious community would wield authority over its adherents in matters of “Personal status” (marriage, divorce, burial, membership,…)

As historian Howard Sachar explains in “A History of Israel”, the latter is the main reason why the draft constitution of Dr. Leo Kohn (more here https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/isr.2010.15.1.1) was shelved.

Later, a set of “Basic Laws” (choqei yesod) were enacted over the years that, some legal scholars claim, amount to a de-facto constitution of sorts. Still, that leaves lots of holes. Moreover, a bare absolute majority of 61 MKs is sufficient for a Basic Law, quite unlike the two-thirds majorities usually required for constitutional amendments in democracies (like Belgium or Germany) or constitutional republics (like the USA).

Nature abhors a vacuum, in which an increasingly activist Supreme Court stepped. Former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak famously (and controversially) stated: “ha-kol shafit!” — everything [!] is subject to judicial review. Even such dyed-in-the-wool liberals as Prof. Amnon Rubinstein took issue with this radical position, and US judge Richard Posner — personally an admirer of Barak — wrote a lengthy op-ed in The New Republic with the telling title “Enlightened Despot“.

Like SCOTUS in the US, but unlike (say) the Bundesverfassungsgericht in Germany, our Supreme Court has a dual function as both a constitutional court and the final court of appeals in civil and criminal cases. Peculiarly, it has two names: Beit ha-Mishpat ha-Elyon [The Supreme Court] generally, but when ruling on constiutional cases, baga”tz (for beit gavoha le-tzedek, literally High House of Justice). The latter even gave rise to the neologism bagitz, freely “able to pass Supreme Court review”.

In other countries with such a powerful Supreme Court, its judges are subject to confirmation by the elected legislature — in the US, by the Senate; in Germany, before 2015 by the Judicial Committee of the Bundestag, since 2015 additionally subject to a confirmation vote by the plenum.

At the same time, the mechanisms these countries have to override a decision from SCOTUS or the Bundesverfassungsgericht, respectively, are much more demanding than “half plus one”. [I’m sidestepping the separate issue of the administrative state becoming effectively the fourth branch of government, as has happened especially blatantly in the US.]

Yes, our Supreme Court needs to be reformed: I would suggest confirmation hearings in the Knesset plenum. At the same time, Yariv Levin seems to confuse democracy with ochlocracy, or “dictatorship of the 51%/of the ’wee won’”. He thinks the current coalition (such as it is) constitutes some sort of sweeping mandate. In fact, it would have taken a relative handful of votes to change the outcome from 64-56 to a 60-60 hung parliament (which would have been the fifth such electoral stalemate in a row!) by making Meretz or the United Arab List cross the electoral threshold of (de facto) 4 MKs. [I would sooner cut off my hand than vote for either, but that’s irrelevant to the question at hand.] That is a roughly evenly divided country, not a sweeping mandate. 

A written constitution is at present not a practical option — but if an override law is to be enacted at all, its threshold should be such that the override reflects a broad consensus. In an interview last Shabbat, Aharon Barak calls for a 75% majority of the sitting members; I would personally say ideally two-thirds, are at the very least 70 MKs (making allowance for the fragmented nature of our Knesset, which is elected by proportional representation and routinely contains a baker’s dozen parties).

It’s quite possible that Levin’s proposals are deliberately maximalist and that he’s only expecting a partial victory. However, with Netanyahu completely obsessed with staving off his own conviction for corruption (not all of it bogus) and hanging on to the Prime Minister’s Residence at any price… he (against his own political instincts, which contrary to the left-wing propaganda line are actually fairly moderate) might just be hoping for a maximalist outcome himself. 

Yes, I fear for my country. But no, it’s not just one side to blame here. I oppose kritarchy (rule by [philosopher-king] judges) no less than I oppose ochlocracy (rule by the mob; dictatorship of the fleeting majority).

And who says that the ones who currently want to change the law in their favor will not one day decry when they are out of power and these tools turned against them? Remember this priceless scene in Robert Bolt’s “A Man For All Seasons”:

“William Roper: “So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!”

Sir Thomas More: “Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”

William Roper: “Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”

Sir Thomas More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?

This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not G-d’s!

And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?

Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law – for my own safety’s sake!”

Sabbath musical delight: Rick Beato on Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman”

While I have an atypically broad musical taste, country is not a genre I ever cared for much.

I was quite surprised, however, when Rick Beato discussed Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman”, with its (very atypically for the genre) amazingly cool harmonies.

Below is the lead sheet (screenshot from the video):

Turns out Glen Campbell wasn’t your average country player: he had been a member of the informal L.A. studio musicians collective who ironically called themselves “The Wrecking Crew” (a.k.a. the First Call Gang), which has played on literally hundreds of hits in all genres of popular music . Wikipedia:

At the time, multi-tracking equipment, though common, was less elaborate, and instrumental backing tracks were often recorded “hot” with an ensemble playing live in the studio.[4] Musicians had to be available “on call” when producers needed a part to fill a last-minute time slot.[5] Los Angeles was then considered the top recording destination in the United States—consequently studios were constantly booked around the clock, and session time was highly sought after and expensive.[6]Songs had to be recorded quickly in the fewest possible takes.[3][7] In this environment, Los Angeles producers and record executives had little patience for needless expense or wasted time and depended on the service of reliable standby musicians who could be counted on to record in a variety of styles with minimal practice or takes, and deliver hits on short order.[3][5][8]

The Wrecking Crew were the “go to” session musicians in Los Angeles during this era.[3][9] Its members were musically versatile but typically had formal backgrounds in jazz or classical music, and were exceptional at sight reading.[10] The talent of this group of “first call” players was used in almost every style of recording, including television theme songsfilm scores, advertising jingles and many genres of American popular music from the Monkees to Bing Crosby.[11][12

Glen Campbell played guitar on many Beach Boys hits and also was a member of their touring band before he himself hit the big time as a country star. His old buddies accompanied him on this single.

Enjoy, have a great weekend, and Shabbat Shalom!

PS: I noticed that Kevin McCarthy was finally elected Speaker of the House on the 15th ballot, 216-212 with six “present” votes (the last anti-McCarthy holdouts in the GOP faction). Apparently, for US Congress purposes, a “present” vote is not counted for determining whether an absolute majority has been reached.

In order to sway the holdouts, he apparently had to agree to nearly their entire list of demands.

Sam Aronow on the origin story of Theodor Herzl’s “The Jewish State”

This amazing video dropped just before the Sabbath, so I just have to share it.

That Theodor Herzl wasn’t “the first Zionist” I knew quite well: he was standing on the shoulders of Moses Hess (“Rome and Jerusalem”, 1864), Leon Pinsker (“Auto-Emancipation”, 1882), and to a lesser extent Asher Ginsberg (better known by his Hebrew pen name Achad HaAm, “one of the people”).

I also knew he had been a radical assimilationist before his eyes were opened as the Paris correspondent for the Viennese newspaper Neue Freie Presse — when he was reporting on the Dreyfus trial, and realized that legal emancipation could not mandate social acceptance.

In his intro to Der Judenstaat (literally: “The State of the Jews” — Hebrew: medinat ha-yehudim — but conventionally translated as “The Jewish State”), he claims that his witnessing the trial and hearing French protestors yelling, not “la mort au traitre”, but “la mort au juif!” (death to the Jew), is what caused his epiphany.

Actually, Sam Aronow reveals, nothing in his diaries points in that direction — he appears to have written an early draft as a prospectus before meeting with Edmond de Rothschild and Maurice de Hirsch — rich patrons of proto-Zionist settlement groups.[*] The immediate impetus was his reaction to the election of Vienna mayor Karl Lueger of the Christian Social Party — which had openly antisemitic party planks (despite Lueger’s sub rosa maintaining social relation with rich Vienna Jews).

Go watch the whole thing. Shabbat shalom!

[*] The Israeli towns of Rishon le-Tziyon (est. 1882), Zikhron Yaakov [“memory of Jacob”, i.e., Edmond’s father], and Mazkeret Batya [“souvenir of Batya”, i.e., Edmond’s mother] were all initially bankrolled by Edmond de Rothschild

McCarthy loses speaker vote for the fifth (!) time, despite Trump endorsement; Jordan Peterson told to report for re-education (no satire); useful capsule summaries of Twitter files so far; a look at newly-elected Latina congresswoman, “the Left does not value us for anything more than our votes”

(1) Unreal. For the fifth (!) time, despite now getting Trump’s endorsement:

(2) LOL, the Babylon Bee has a good one: Jordan Peterson is being told to report to a re-education camp for sensitivity training…

Say what? This is not the Babylon Bee but actual newsin the Castreauist Republic of Canada?!? Real enough news that the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board comes out in Peterson’s defense?!?

You would think Canadians had learned by now not to tell Jordan Peterson what to say. The psychology professor became an internet sensation in 2016 after arguing that Canadian legislation amounted to “compelled speech” on gender pronouns. Now the College of Psychologists of Ontario is demanding that Mr. Peterson acknowledge he “lacked professionalism” in public statements and undergo a “coaching program” of remedial education.

Maybe the new commissars missed Mr. Peterson’s videos praising Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the man who said: “Live not by lies.” Mr. Peterson won’t comply, and he says he’ll now face a disciplinary committee that could revoke his license to practice.

The College of Psychologists, the profession’s governing body in Ontario, appointed an investigator in March to examine complaints about Mr. Peterson’s comments on Twitter and the popular Joe Rogan podcast. On Nov. 22, the College’s panel released a decision. Per images provided by Mr. Peterson, the panel ruled: “The comments at issue appear to undermine the public trust in the profession as a whole, and raise questions about your ability to carry out your responsibilities as a psychologist.”

What are these comments? Calling Elliot Page, the transgender actor, by his former name, “Ellen,” and the pronoun “her,” on Twitter. Calling an adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “prik.” A sarcastic crack at antigrowth environmentalists for not caring that their energy policies lead to more deaths of poor Third World children.

Calling a former client “vindictive.” Objecting to a Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover of a plus-size model: “Sorry. Not Beautiful. And no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that.” In Canada even offenses begin with “sorry.”

“The impact risk in this case is significant,” the panel found, because the comments “may cause harm.” It counseled Mr. Peterson that coaching would help “mitigate any risks to the public.”

Mr. Peterson responded sensibly: “Who exactly was harmed, how, when, to what degree, and how was that harm measured”? He says there have been about a dozen formal complaints since 2017, each one demanding a formal reply. One complainant cited Mr. Peterson’s Twitter response to a critic worried about overpopulation: “You’re free to leave at any point.” Mr. Peterson thinks the investigations aren’t about mitigating harm but preventing free expression, and that “the process is the punishment,” giving online detractors an effective way to badger him.

Professional bodies are supposed to ensure that practitioners are competent, not enforce political orthodoxies or act as language police outside the office. But that’s the trend in Western medical associations and beyond. 

(3) If you’re losing track of all the Twitter files revelations, Matt Taibbi (via Insty) has a useful one-stop page with capsule summaries and links to the different Twitter Files installments.

(4) The woke left fetishizes “brown people” as mascots and electoral cannon fodder (I’m always reminded of the patron-client relationship in ancient Rome), but doesn’t actually care about them qua people. More and more, the said “brown people” are seeing through the scam-racket and crossing the aisle. Such as newly elected Latina congresswoman Anna Paulina Luna. From her website bio:

Anna Paulina Luna is a strong independent leader, earning her stripes by serving her country, not by serving herself. Raised by a single mother in Southern California’s low-income neighborhoods, Anna learned that she must work hard and be independent to succeed.

Although never married, Anna’s mother and father separated when she was very young. Anna’s father suffered from severe drug addiction and, early on, had asked her mother to have an abortion.  But Anna’s mother chose life.  

As a result, Anna and her mother were on their own.  During Anna’s childhood and teen years, her father struggled and spent time in and out of incarceration. Most of how her communication with him during these times was through letters to jail and collect calls. Her grandmother died of HIV/AIDS contracted from heroin use. 

By age nine, Anna had experienced an armed robbery and survived.  While Anna was on campus at one of the six high schools she attended, a fatal gang shooting occurred.  Her young cousin was murdered while Anna was a teenager.  And as a young adult, Anna was the victim of a home invasion. 

These types of stories are all too common in America’s low-income, inner-city communities, like where Anna grew up. 

Anna’s way out was joining the military. While serving in the United States Air Force, Anna met her husband, Andy. He is a Bronze Star recipient who earned a Purple Heart when enemy combatants shot him in Afghanistan. After recovering, Andy redeployed to fight ISIS in the Middle East. 

After his injury, Anna and Andy became involved with several veteran-focused and veteran-led non-profit organizations, including one whose mission is to end child trafficking through rescue and recovery operations.  

As she became more deeply involved in that work, Anna began to use her social media platform to speak out against the problem of human and child trafficking across the southern border. And she was shocked to be immediately be attacked as a racist and called “white-washed” due to her light skin – despite being a 2nd generation American and a descendent of Mexican immigrants on her mother and father’s side. 

She resolved to speak out even more about the humanitarian crisis enabled by porous borders.  And people began to take notice.

[…]

As her profile rose, Anna was somewhat surprised that the elitists who run most of America’s big media outright refused to let her share her right-leaning views on border security, the failings of the welfare system, and many other issues.  She was particularly shocked at their treatment of her as a mixed-race minority herself. 

That was Anna’s “aha” moment.

Anna decided to run for Congress because she recognized that the media had to cover what was going on in Capitol Hill.  As someone who has lived experience with the problems that plague many of America’s communities, especially low-income and minority ones, Anna is committed to showing people that there is another way and that big government is primarily the problem, not the solution. 

Anna believes the far-left wing that now controls Congress, along with its elitist media enablers, does not truly value Americans – impoverished minorities – for anything more than their votes. 

House Speaker election drama: 19 to 20 GOP Representatives refused to back Kevin McCarthy

Yesterday saw a rather bizarre/wrily amusing spectacle in Circus Capitol: in three successive voting rounds, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy failed to get the required majority for Speaker of the House. Depending on which round, 19 to 20 GOP representatives cast protest votes for other Republicans, as they either consider him a hopeless squish or are trying to squeeze additional concessions from him in terms of committee assignments or tighter house rules. Three members (Boebert, Gaetz, and Perry) supposedly said in a private meeting with him they wouldn’t mind or care if far-left “Democrat” whackjob Hakeem Jeffries got the nod instead. Sure, this ain’t going to happen unless a few Republicans vote for him — the odds of that happening are comparable to.. OK, it’s the crazy years. But I have definitely seen similar stuff here in “down to the wire” negotiations — the question is whether it works as a tactic, or the other side calls your bluff.

Steven Hayward of Powerline points out that in the second round, all 19 dissident votes went to Jim Jordan — who actually gave a nominating speech for McCarthy himself! [In the 3rd round, newly elected Byron Donalds dramatically switched his vote from McCarthy to Jordan.] Hayward comments:

This looks like a classic game theory exercise in which the GOP renegades are trying to force McCarthy to withdraw, and then have a compromise candidate emerge. (Steve Scalise perhaps?)

Observations: McCarthy made a mistake in the last couple of days stressing that the new Republican House majority would focus on an “economy that’s strong, a nation that’s safe, a future that’s built on freedom,” and a government that is “accountable.” This is weak stuff—hardly even business as usual in normal times. We do not live in normal times. McCarthy clearly doesn’t read the mood of the grassroots of the party that is furious with the state of things, and wants leadership that articulates this fact first and foremost.

The House has meanwhile adjourned and will reconvene in another 8 hours or so.