Your Brain is Green
Of all the brain types, yours has the most balance. You are able to see all sides to most problems and are a good problem solver. You need time to work out your thoughts, but you don't get stuck in bad thinking patterns. You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the future, philosophy, and relationships (both personal and intellectual).

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hold the Canonization, Please

Nelson Mandela has died, zichrono l'tovah.  To listen to the press and various heads of state, the man made Albert Schweitzer and Mahatma Gandhi look like amateurs in the business of being a saint.

There's no doubt that Mandela was in the right time and place when apartheid crumbled in South Africa.  No one else had the credentials, both as a freedom fighter [and/or terrorist, depending on who was describing him] and as a symbol of the sacrifices of that fight, and the good sense to openly eschew bitterness and revenge and so be a shining example of what he wanted his people to be, and as a result the transition occurred almost without violence from a brutal to a democratic regime.

But while he had the sense to be on good terms with South Africa's Jewish community, who had been in the forefront of the white anti-apartheid protest movement [the founder of the Black Sash, the women's organization, was a Jewish woman], the reality is that he enthusiastically supported Arafat and the PLO, even during the first intifada, which was hardly non-violent.  Moreover, his comments regarding Israel were definitely tinged with anti-Semitism, although he was nowhere as vitriolic as Desmond Tutu.

Mandela was, in other words, a man and not a saint.  He did his country a great deal of good, and for that he should be remembered with approbation.  But he had a less pleasant side as well, and that should be remembered, too.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Gary Varvel
Indianapolis Star
Nov 17, 2013
If it ever actually begins to work, of course.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Lies and Damned Lies

Bob Gorrell
Creators Syndicate Inc.
Nov 1, 2013
*"I didn't really mean it. There's a sucker born every minute!"

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Way Out in Left Field...or Out of The Ballpark Altogether

Gary Varvel
Indianapolis Star
Aug 7, 2013
And less than 24 hours after it was announced that Obama would carry on with his plan to visit Putin, he changed his mind. One presumes that it was pointed out to him that, after Putin gave Snowden asylum, it would give a negative impression to cozy up to the Russians. He doesn't seem to have realized that himself. His reality testing seems somewhat off, to say the least.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


I think I've come to the end of the road with Netanyahu.  It's taken a long time.  I've supported him because I think he has been the only viable candidate for the post of Prime Minister, and there's no doubt his almost accentless English and understanding of America has been a great help.  Begin spoke an elegant English, but he had the accent of the little Yiddishe tailor from the Lower East Side, and Americans gave him about as much respect as a tailor would get.  Shamir was almost unintelligible.  For better or worse, this damaged their attempts to get the Israeli position across to the mass US media repeatedly.  But Bibi was different.

He now appears to have lost his backbone.  It's no secret that he and Obama don't get on. There's a saying that you dislike in others what you see in yourself, and both men have outsized egos and arrogance.  Obama also doesn't like either Jews or Israel although he and his staff scramble to try and hide it.  [He is basically disinterested in foreign issues generally, unless he can lecture someone on how to improve things]

When Kerry announced that talks with the Palestinians would resume, there was a flurry of reports in international news that it was all conditional on certain preconditions [absolutely impossible preconditions] that Kerry promised the Palestinians that the Israelis would agree to, such as withdrawal to the pre-Six Days' War ceasefire lines, before even sitting down to talk. It was pretty much the usual hot  air, and the "shuk mentality" -- begin the bargaining by asking for 200%;  settle for much less.  America does not understand this form of preliminaries at all, and has a distressing tendency to think everybody is on the up and up and really means what they say.   We've been here before: each attempt at negotiations has been preceeded by much arm-twisting by the US on Israel to make "concessions" and the net result has been that never have the Palestinians budged from their original position -- that they won't even recognize the existence of Israel -- by so much as an inch while Israel has conceded things which weaken it strategically for no gain whatsoever.  This time, Kerry initially not only did not put any pressure on Abu Mazen, he attempted to give the Palestinians a massive bribe [which they contemptuously rejected, already getting massive amounts of money from the EU and elsewhere and probably fearing the US would want some accounting of where the money actually went], and only, on the orders of his Jew-hating boss, no doubt, put the thumbscrews on Israel.  And Bibi succumbed.

If the PA can demand total withdrawal from half of the State of Israel, then Israel should counter by demanding an explicit statement from the PA recognizing the existence of the State of Israel within secure boundaries, AND the total cessation of violence against Israel as a precondition to attending the talks.  The talks themselves should be negotiations on where boundaries should be placed, not on whether there should even be a Jewish State.  [Of course, the PA, dedicated to the extermination of Israel, would no more agree to this than Israel would agree to return to the 1948 cease fire lines].  But it would demonstrate [1] just how bankrupt the whole concept of talks is at the present time, and [2] Israel would be negotiating from a position of strength.

Instead, Bibi has given a clear sign that Israel is weak, and caused the families of victims of terror, still reeling from the exorbitant price paid for Gilad Shalit,  great distress, and has given the enemies of Israel a huge present. It is so unnecessary right now.  One has to wonder what in hell Netanyahu was thinking about.  Someone in the PA is kicking himself and wondering why they didn't demand even more, since the Israeli idiots were so willing to give in to their exorbitant posturing.

 Obama has one more year in which to swagger; the midterms, I am convinced, will lose the Democrats both Houses of Congress, and if the GOP can only get its house in order, have a very good shot at 2016.  Hillary has lost a considerable amount of her luster [I predicted that being Obama's lackey at State would do her no good].  Obama is going to be the lamest of lame ducks very soon -- Obamacare is increasingly obviously not going to work; Afghanistan will become a Taliban stronghold immediately after the last US troops leave in a year; Iraq is on the simmer, the "economic recovery" in the US is no recovery at all, really -- and the Islamic world is dissolving into civil war in ways no one thought about even 5 years ago.  The struggle between the Sunni and Shi'a began over a thousand years ago, and is rapidly heating up again, and what the outcome will be is uncertain [I personally am convinced the US will not be able to remain on the sidelines entirely, although they probably will have little real idea of what is going on as they seem not to have anyone in State who has learned history]  Bibi has little, if anything, to fear from Obama -- and he knows that Congress is steadfastly supportive of him.

Yair Lapid is looking better by the minute, even though I think that he's an economic tyro with a lot to learn on that front.  The Likud is in trouble.

Book Elegy -- or Is It Eulogy?

I read a book yesterday.

Actually, I read a LOT of books, but it's been a while since I picked up an honest-to-goodness physical, dead-tree book.  For the past couple of years, just about all the books I read are on my Kindle.

The Kindle has been immensely liberating for me, because I no longer have to wait up to 6 weeks for a book I've ordered via the internet to arrive, nor fight with Customs and/or the VAT folks after I've shlepped to the Post Office to pick it up.  The British Council, which ran the only English-language lending library worth visiting, packed up all its Israeli branches a few years ago, which left the local literary giant, Steimatsky's, in firm control of the English book market.  It charges very high prices for a very narrow range of books, mostly of the best seller or romance varieties.  There are also a couple of second-hand book stores downtown, but my reading tastes are usually at odds with the stuff they offer.  Further, adding ebooks to my Kindle avoids the shipping costs which can double the price of a book ordered from overseas.

My reading patterns have been affected by both the audiobook and the ebook.  I look for good dramatic readings of stories in audio -- strict narratives, such as most nonfiction, I find boring in audio, even in the hands of the best readers [and most tend to read books without dialogue in a monotone, and often much too rapidly to absorb the material].  It is also difficult to go back to a portion that you particularly want to remember.  But audio allows me to do other things, such as housework or handicrafts without visual interference.  As time goes by, I find myself watching less and less TV.  There's less worth watching, in spite of there now being so many channels I can't keep track of them all.

I tend to buy non-fiction for my Kindle.  I'm a history buff anyway; always have been.  But, over time, nonfiction "holds up" better than most fiction, I find.  I can reread a history book where a single reading of a fictional work usually leaves me with such a good memory of it that rereading is superfluous [I've never understood how people can read certain favorite books umpteen times -- by the third time I'd read Lord of the Rings, I'd memorized large sections without meaning to]  Besides, it may be a crass consideration, but when one has a limited budget, and reads fast, one wants more "bang for the buck".  I confess I check the length of both an audiobook or a "normal" book because why pay a considerable sum for something that I'll finish fast?

The first thing I noticed when I hefted the first volume of Jonathan Sumption's history of the 100 Years' War was how heavy it was [it was in trade paperback].  I'd forgotten that, and since I broke my wrist about 5 years ago, I feel the weight more.  A Kindle, or an iPad, is light.  The next "surprise" was when I realized I couldn't enlarge the typeface.  I've been wearing glasses for over 20 years, but I used to pride myself on not minding small type [again, a thick book with small type contains more than a book of the same page length with big type, so longer to finish and savor.  I've always been a "big book person"].  Then, I had to remember to use a bookmark.   I had to turn on the porch lights, thereby making myself a prime target for everything flying and biting.  There wasn't any search function to find a reference I suddenly wanted.  Yeah, there was an index, but it wasn't as comprehensive as the Kindle search.  How odd, I found myself thinking.  And, at that point, I realized how much I'd changed because of the change in technology.  Recently, I'd begun emptying my overstuffed bookshelves because either I'd decided a book would never be read again, or I had it in Kindle form.  Gone are the days when I dithered for long minutes, prior to leaving the house for a doctor's visit, etc. trying to decide which book to take with me, or adding kilos to suitcases when going on vacation.

There are still books not available in ebook form that I have no choice but to read in their physical form, such as Vikram Seth's "A Suitable Boy".  But the future has arrived, and I for one, am not sad to see it.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Bob Gorrell
Creators Syndicate Inc.
Jul 25, 2013
Convinced, as I am, that Obamacare's good intentions are smothered in badly written law, I just hope I survive long enough to see the Act in full implementation. And then, repealed. I've written before that health care reform is essential in the US, but it needs to be divided up into a number of different topics, and each aspect tackled separately. For example, there's no point in insuring an additional 40 million people if there aren't enough people working in health care to take care of them. Even now, there are areas of the country without enough doctors, and the nurse shortage is pretty universal. Tort reform is another essential if we want costs to decline; doctors are now forced to practice defensive medicine and that costs mucho $$$, a good deal of it unnecessary.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

"Train Wreck"

Gary Varvel
Indianapolis Star
Jul 8, 2013
Frankly, I hope someone goes to court to force implementation of the law, so Obama can't get out of seeing what he's done. US healthcare needs reform, but Obama's juggernaut isn't the way to do it.

But Morsi was "Democratically Elected"!

Bob Gorrell
Creators Syndicate Inc.
Jul 8, 2013
Of course, that depends on how you define "democracy".

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

We Need This Like a Lok in Kop [Hole in the Head]

This has been a perfectly horrible week for Jerusalem residents, and it's not over yet. Nothing to do with terrorism [fut,fut, fut!]  so it probably won't hit the news.  First, the Under-21 UEFA tournament game last night at the Teddy Stadium. The entire area surrounding the stadium is currently a labyrinth of temporary traffic arrangements, due to the ongoing construction of the southern part of the Begin Highway. This includes bridges and access ramps and underpasses and all the construction is going on while a major traffic thoroughfare has to be kept open. The merchants in the adjoining Malcha Mall are trying to be discreet in their anger, but business has fallen off ever since this stretch of the highway began, and it doesn't help that thousands of fans have the bright idea to use the mall's free parking lot to park for the game, since stadium parking is currently where the building materials for the highway and the new basketball stadium [also under construction] are being kept. 

 Tomorrow and Friday, Jerusalem will host its first "Formula 1" race. [ See ]. Jerusalem is not a city for marathons or a "peace road show", as this is billed. Paralysis road show would be more like it. Jerusalem, even its new part, is not designed for getting anywhere fast.  For one thing, Jerusalem sits on top of a number of low mountains, and to accommodate the gradients of the hills and valleys, no street runs straight for more than a few dozen meters. I can't imagine any of the competing cars driving at more than 40 mph unless they want to crash into somebody's garden.   Secondly, Jerusalem is actually quite a small town [750,000 residents] and there aren't a lot of major thoroughfares, although the streets which are,  are essential to getting around.  Residents can't really take any alternative routes to get from one side of town to the other, without going 'round Robin Hood's barn, as the saying goes.   Every route seems to funnel into the town center, which will be off limits for most of two days.  I know some shop owners who have decided it isn't worth the time or effort to even open up.  Security means that even adjacent streets to the race route will be closed, too.  Whenever a major diplomat or dignitary comes to town, traffic disruption is extreme, so we are well-versed in the sheer inconvenience and economic damage this publicity stunt -- for that is what it is -- will cause.  This is never included in estimates of costs.

And, last but not least, there is a festival of lights at the Old City, until Thursday evening, with all kinds of illuminations projected onto Jerusalem's walls and buildings.  We should all be grateful, I suppose, that it's only at night, although I wonder if the Old City's residents are happy about it, having tourists and just about everyone else, peering at them.  I'm sure the police, racking up huge amounts of overtime besides making the government oodles of money from ticketing illegally parked cars, are thrilled.

I am not going to go ANYWHERE for two days, except to the local makolet [mini-grocery] for milk.  Today I bought the fixin's for Vietnamese spring rolls, and tomorrow I will make a large quantity, and freeze them, and I'll also, inshallah, cut the fabric for the awning to go on the roof of our new pergola on the porch.  The forecast, for the day of the race, is for hamsin [very hot and dry wind] and up to 31 degrees Celsius, so maybe I'll fill the huge wading pool we bought for granddaughter Shir and spend a long time in it...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What's Mass Mayhem Compared with a Caravans or Prefab Houses?

Here are some headlines from the Times of Israel, via Google Reader, at about 9 p.m.   Note that amongst some quite serious things happening in our vicinity, such as Saudi Arabia breaking up an Iranian spy ring, Egyptian troops, in increasing numbers, in conflict with "gunmen" [Al Qaeda? Hamas?] in Sinai, and so on, Kerry is obsessed with criticizing Israel for settling its own land.

Dare I think priorities are somewhat confused here?

Hamas shuts tunnels to keep kidnappers from sneaking in
Saudi Arabia arrests 10 from Iranian spy ring
Kerry reportedly raps Israeli ambassador over outposts
Egyptian troops clash with gunmen in Sinai
IDF chief issues stern warning to Assad over rapidly heating border
More troops push into Sinai over hostages

Saturday, May 04, 2013

An Orgy of Operas

During my recent two week stay in NYC with my son I got to go to 4 operas at the Met: Das Rheingold and Die Walkure, both matinees, Rigoletto and a much lesser-known work, Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto.  Three very different types of opera in a brief period.

First, let me say that going to the Met, even when one is way, way up in the "gods" ["nigger heaven" it used to be called in my childhood in the Southern city of Washington DC, but you'd be crucified if you used that expression nowadays, and for once, I think "gods" is nicer] is still a wonderful experience.  Prices [which will come down a bit next year -- more on that below] are reasonable [$55 per seat for the Wagnerian operas, $25 for the others, plus small handling charges], the seats are comfortable, the atmosphere is friendly [quite amazing the conversations one can strike up in the intermissions], and in spite of the elegant decoration of Lincoln Center, there were plenty of patrons in jeans along with the evening gowns and tuxedos on display.  The buffets were overpriced, but heck, you know the money goes to support the institution [I filled my water bottle from a fountain dedicated to Ezio Pinza.  Not bad water ]

I hadn't seen any of the operas performed live before, and I was completely unfamiliar with the Handel.  In fact, I'd only bought a ticket because none of my other major favorites was being performed during my visit.  Actually, I had a ticket for Gounod's Faust on the evening I arrived, but traffic from Newark airport got me into the city too late, and later I was assured that the production hadn't been a good one.

The Wagner will be dealt with in another post because the Mezzo TV channel will be broadcasting the full Ring from the Met in another couple of weeks so I can see Siegfried and Gotterdammerung in the same production I saw.  Not the same impact, or sound quality, I'm sure, but then, I don't have a particularly good ear.

But Giulio Cesare and Rigoletto were big contrasts in themselves.  Baroque opera, with long intervals of recitative interspersed with arias and duets or trios [or more] has never been my favorite.  I'd rather listen to a "highlights" of a Mozart opera than see the whole thing, and Giulio Cesare is looong [3 1/2 hours].  But it was delightful, except that tradition was followed and the two main male roles, Cesare and Ptolemy, were taken by countertenors.  I know the roles were written for the leading castrati of the day, and they were as celebrated as Domingo or Pavarotti now, but it sounds strange to hear men singing in such a high register.  It is also confusing at times, since some of the soprano roles were nearly as low. [Pompey's adolescent son is sung by a woman, davka]  But what made it fun was that ancient Rome was transposed, loosely, to the Raj and the Twenties.  Cleopatra does a Bollywood number and also shows up in a little slip of a black dress and vamps everyone and later in jodhpurs and solar topee.  In a scene of negotiation, Cesare and Pompey actually perform a sort of minuet, pirouetting around each other as they give and take points.  The production was borrowed from Glyndebourne, and retains some of the Glyndebourne flavor.  The singing was excellent.

Rigoletto was set in 1960s Las Vegas.  The backdrop was very full of neon [the stormy night of act III was with flashing blue and white neon], the carpeting was loud, the men in dinner jackets except for Rigoletto, who looked [from a distance] quite a bit like Tony Soprano. The courtier who curses him was dressed as an Arab sheik.  The translation was updated to be rather slangy -- one person, a music critic, no less, to whom I talked during intermission, disparaged this, but Verdi's name, in English, is only Joe Green, after all, and was probably known to his friends as Joey Rigoletto is a very Italian opera.  I understand this production got mixed reviews, but I liked it.

At the end of my trip I felt sad.  This is food and drink for me, just as the Cloisters and the Metropolitan Museum are.  Yes, the Israel Museum is nice, for the size of a country like Israel, but it can't compare.  Hopefully, the son will invite me again before the year is out...

What's in A Name

Recently there has been considerable talk about changing the name of my hometown football team, the Washington Redskins, to something more Politically Correct.  Fortunately, it now seems that about 80% of DC fans don't want to do so.  Apart from the complete inanity of it, folks in the Capital have better things to do.  The cynic in me says someone in the production of sports gear carrying the team logo is behind this, as it would require a lot of new purchases [and those hanging on to the old stuff could sell it for millions on eBay]

I never knew why the Redskins were called that, since there haven't been any Native Americans in the region for nearly 200 years.  But the logo is known, and distinctive.  I don't know if there are any buccaneers in the the Tampa Bay region, but it certainly sounds a lot better than the "Beach Boys" [which would be more accurate for San Diego too, than "Chargers", now that I think of it]

However, if the name MUST be changed as part of the current insane PC zealotry, how about calling Washington's NFL team the "Reds"?  Make the baseball team the "Blues", and our NHL team [does Washington even have a hockey team?] the "Whites" which seems appropriate for a game played on ice.  DC's NBA team, of course, would be called the "Stars and Stripes".  See?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Ship of State is Rudderless [Surprise!]

In about 4 more days Israel will have been one month without a government, which is about the worst situation -- even worse than having a coalition -- it can be in.  I'm very glum.  The Israeli system is really bankrupt.

This time around, the negotiations between the parties have not made a lot of headlines, so it is very difficult to determine just what is happening [if indeed anything is].  Bibi will continue as Prime Minister.  Whether he will be able to govern in any meaningful way or be held hostage by competing interests is unclear.

And apart from the coalition infighting, Lieberman is going on trial: the joker in the pack.  Whatever agreements are carved out now between the parties with the largest electoral blocs, it will all be moot when the verdict on Lieberman comes in.  Watch his party bolt the coalition if he doesn't get his job as FM back; watch Yesh Atid or Bayit HaYehudi bolt if he does.

My Problem with Hagel

To be honest, I'd never heard of him until Obama put his name forward, so I don't have any premeditated feelings one way or the other about him.  Maybe he's an anti-Semite, or anti-Israel [points of view which often overlap].  Maybe he doesn't like homosexuals. He is apparently on record as being willing to believe anything the ayatollahs say, and completely unwilling to force confrontation with them.   Maybe he steals ice cream from children.  I don't know.

But what is obvious to me is that he is currently tailoring his opinions to suit whatever Congress wants him to say, just in order to get confirmation.  He apparently will take ANY position which will get him into the Cabinet.  What's to say that tomorrow, as Secretary of Defense, he changes like a weathercock with every twist and turn Obama wants him to perform?  This does not seem to be a person anyone can trust, and THAT makes him unsuitable to be in the Cabinet.  IMO, it's not a partisan issue at all.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Question

Adam Zyglis
The Buffalo News
Jan 26, 2013
But why would any woman want to? It's true that Israeli women -- some of them -- serve in the IDF, and there are a few [very few] in combat units, but Israel's situation is not the same as the US's, and the vast majority of Israel's women soldiers serve in support capacities. The Curly-Haired Monster, for example, was in charge of kitchen hygiene and water purification in a Palestinian detainee camp on the Egyptian border, and once the camp commandant realized that she was not only pretty but had reasonable English and could be very charming, he put her in charge of taking the Red Cross representatives on their twice-monthly tours of the camp. [the other daughter chose to do national service instead, and worked in an HMO clinic where she had her rump pinched and got indecent proposals from the ancient geezers who came for daily blood sugar and blood pressure checks. The old ladies tried to make shidduchim for her with their grandsons. Eventually my daughter said she probably would have found Palestinian terrorists more entertaining]

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Bringing You Up to Date, part 1

The Husband and I got back to Israel on November 18, I being firmly resolved to sit down and chronicle our cruise, and my reactions to the US Presidential election, and the current Israeli situation, and reply to Friar Yid's several posts on Jewish identity...

And guess what?  It is the 12th of January already.  It is only a tiny excuse that the Redskins went on a winning streak, and my granddaughter finally let go and is now toddling around, without holding on to anything, at something approaching the speed of light.  Her mother, my youngest daughter, and her husband began to be very busy by the middle of December, with the yearly inventory of the family auto parts supply business owned by his father [is there a generic term, like "father-in-law" for the father-in-law of my daughter, like "grandparents-in-law" maybe?], for whom they both work, due to be completed by Dec.31.  Granddaughter Shir contributed to the sense of chaos by developing a high fever and cutting her last two molars.  So it was SuperSavta to the rescue!  I slept over at their house and she came to visit with me for a night or two.   I have real difficulty realizing that, physically, I ain't what I was 30 years ago.  That might seem obvious, but since my head is only 35, I often forget that my body is about 100.  And anyway, although my replaced hip is fine, my knees are getting stiffer and stiffer -- enough so that keeping up with the guides on the tours at the various sites we visited on the cruise was not easy.  Good thing Shir is walking; hoisting her into her high chair or the bathtub just about devastated my back, and she's not a fat child.

OK, I'll get finished with the election first.  Things transpired pretty much as I expected; I hadn't much hope that Romney would win, but I did hope that the Democrats would lose control of both Houses.  Obama with his hands tied is really the worst case scenario, because the US can't afford total paralysis, but Obama unchained is maybe even worse.  The damage to the US, both domestically and in foreign policy, will only become apparent after 2016, IMO.  He can probably stave off the worst of the bills until he's out of the White House.  Presidents usually spend the first part of each first term dealing with the financial situation left them by their predecessor.  Maybe he'll come down with antibiotic-resistant pneumonia from exposure to Washington's winter weather at the Inauguration.  No, maybe better not.  If Obama snuffs it, the US will have Joe Biden for President.

As far as his foreign policy goes -- as far as I can figure out that he even has one -- it will be more of the same, leading to an even greater decline in the status of the US as a world power.  The Islamic threat will increase the more it is perceived that the US is weak and unwilling to spend more than some conciliatory words.  And the Islamic threat is worldwide, not just directed against Israel.

That leads in to our upcoming elections.  I'd really rather ignore them, because I think that our politicians are no better or worse than any other country's but our system is horrible.  Proportional representation guarantees coalitions, and no one votes for a coalition, so in effect, Israel has never had a democratically elected government.  [We do have democratically elected -- sort of -- MKs.  You can join a party and participate in the primaries, which return a slate of potential Knesset members, based on the percentage of votes that particular party gets in the general election. However, only an inner circle decides who will have which seat on that slate.  In reality, very few Israelis bother with party membership, so the average voter has no idea who he's voting for on the individual level, there is no one like a Congressional Representative or a British MP, who has a regional constituency.  And of course, the voter has no control over the compromises, etc. his party of choice will make in order to get into the coalition.  That, in a nutshell, is how the haredim have prostituted themselves ever since 1948 -- their allegiance [and it is very considerable] is contingent on massive amounts of money and perks extorted from either Labor or Likud [they prefer the latter but they'll go with whomever promises the most].  Their children have a long school day, hot lunches, transportation to and from school, and don't have to worry about going to the army -- as a result, secular children sit, in classes of 40, in unheated classrooms, must pay for meals if they get them at all, use public transport, and go to the army to keep the malingering, cowardly haredim comfortable.  I reiterate, it's the system that's to blame.  If Likud loses substantial support to the new, Rightist "Jewish Home" party, as looks likely, Bibi will still be the Prime Minister [he is really the only viable candidate running], but he will have to devote himself to pandering to the special interests of his coalition partners rather than dealing primarily with national issues.  This happened to him in his very first term as Prime Minister and led to his ultimate downfall.  Considering the relationship with Obama, which I think will only get worse, this is not good for Israel.

At least this is turning into the rainiest winter in 20 years, and we've just had our heaviest snowfall in that time, too [roughly 4 inches of slush in Jerusalem; gone entirely within hours]  This, of course, is entirely due to the fact that a number of desalinization plants are due to begin functioning this coming summer, as the water situation was becoming very dire indeed.  We cannot rely on Turkey to sell us water in future droughts.

And so we get into local politics.  Syria seems no closer to any resolution apart from total anarchy; Assad can probably keep bombing his own people for a long time yet, and there's little real unity amongst the rebels, with certain definitely scary Islamic radical, both Sunni and Shi'a, groups who will slug it out once Assad is toppled [I am not in fact convinced he will be, btw]  Lebanon, as a result, is even more unstable than usual.  Turkey seems to be determined to march forward toward the Ottoman empire, which means confrontation with Syria now and Iran later.  "Peaceful" Iran is not only developing The Bomb, it's developing missiles which can hit Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, or Vienna.  I still contend that Israel is only a secondary target for the Iranians; although they might hold Israel "hostage" if they want to threaten Europe.  Egypt is tragic, alas, and stability there is far away.  It doesn't look too good for the secular intelligensia and especially for the Copts.  We sit by and wonder how world Christendom can just sit by with Islamic countries maltreating their Christian citizens -- it is so alien to the Jewish view of collective responsibility.  "Not our kind of Christian".  Huh?

Next: The Cruise.  Keep tuned to this station