Turkey’s not ready

From the Jerusalem Post:

ANKARA/ISTANBUL – Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan declared victory in local polls that had become a referendum on his rule and said he would “enter the lair” of enemies who have accused him of corruption and leaked state secrets.

“They will pay for this,” he said.

It doesn’t sound like Mr Erdogan has quite grasped some of the essentials of modern democracy, like separation of the state and the judiciary. And the responsibility of the elected party for all constituents, not just their supporters. It doesn’t sound like Turkey deserves to be called a modern democracy.

This Turkey is not ready.

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Dry Bones Haggadah

Click the graphic for the full review

Click the graphic for the full review

We are proud owners of the first edition. It’s a terrific Haggadah that will enhance the seder night experience. Highly recommended. See here.

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Five for Friday

The clocks went forward an hour last night. All I can say is I look forward to getting that hour’s sleep back, sometime. It means Shabbat comes in a little later, so Friday is less of a rush to get ready. But, it also means Shabbat goes out an hour later, so there’s less of Saturday night now. Still never quite as late as Shabbat went out in Glasgow, but it’s all a question of what you are used to. Some people here complain about ‘late Shabbat’, but they haven’t really experienced one as far as I am concerned, till they have done one in Scotland.

Meantime, in the rest of the world, here’s a selection of links I hope you find worthy of your time.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Ballroom blitz

My Linn record player (see here) was one of the few casualties of our aliyah. It never worked after coming out of the container. I never got around to fixing it, and kept putting it off. But Susan made the appropriate arrangements as a birthday present, and last night was the first outing. The neighbors know my hi-fi is working…

bblitz

It’s a 1983 (!) purchase from the then mighty Virgin Record Store in Union Street, Glasgow, still in its plastic packaging. I played the B side (!) with two tracks apiece from Gary Glitter, T Rex, and Slade. The sound was superb. The memories even richer. Thank you, Susan.

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No Jews allowed?

From the Jerusalem Post:

White House expresses ‘deep disappointment’ after Saudis deny visa to ‘Post’ journalist

The White House expressed “deep disappointment” on Tuesday over Saudi Arabia’s decision to deny an entry visa to The Jerusalem Post’s Washington bureau chief who was planning to cover President Barack Obama’s visit to the desert kingdom this week.

Riyadh on Monday denied a visa to Michael Wilner, The Jerusalem Post’s Washington bureau chief. Wilner, who was the only journalist denied access to the president’s trip, despite firmly-worded requests from US National Security Advisor Susan Rice and assistant to the president Tony Blinken to Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir.

“We are deeply disappointed that this credible journalist was denied a visa,” US National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said on Tuesday. “We will continue to register our serious concerns about this unfortunate decision.”

Rice and Blinken separately expressed extreme displeasure at the delay and the prospect of a denial, The Jerusalem Post has learned. Members of the National Security Council were made aware of the matter after US officials coordinating the trip failed to reach their Saudi counterparts.

Journalists attending the trip were required to submit visa forms to the White House, and not directly to the Saudi embassy. The Kingdom held Wilner’s passport for two weeks, though their embassy’s website claims turnaround for visas within 24 hours…

It’s important to stress that Mr Wilner is Jewish. He is not Israeli. He holds citizenship from the USA. The whole report is here.

As sharp commentator Brian of London at IsraellyCool pointedly asks:

I have two questions for President Barak Hussein Obama:

Would you visit a country with a sign on the door saying “No Blacks Allowed”?

Why do you choose to visit a country with a sign saying “No Jews Allowed”?

And answer there was none.

They did express ‘deep disappointment‘ after all. I suppose that’s better than ‘shallow disappointment‘ or ‘we couldn’t give a toss‘. I mean, there is a difference, isn’t there? Wait till they are really angry and they express ‘really deeper than deep disappointment‘ – that’ll show them!

When will these powerful people appreciate that allowing stuff like this to happen, may make things easier for them in the short term, but makes it harder to deal with the issue. And the issue, Mr President, needs to be dealt with. It’s not going away. You may be, but the issue isn’t. I think you’re a coward.

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Not on the BBC

A small example of the subtle, or not so subtle, media bias that the BBC and others perpetuate. This is from BBCWatch:

BBC reports on Hamas rally in Arabic – but not in English

Whilst visitors to the BBC Arabic website on March 23rd were informed that a Hamas rally attended by tens of thousands had taken place in Gaza City earlier in the day, those visiting the main English language BBC News website found no report on that topic and hence would have no idea of the rhetoric against Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority which was part and parcel of the event.

With the BBC lately having taken to sedately describing Hamas as the body “which governs the Gaza Strip” and with audiences having been told on several recent occasions that Hamas has “refrained” from attacking Israel since the ceasefire of October 2012, it would of course have been useful to audiences to have an up to the minute appraisal of the terrorist organisation’s stance regarding its neighbours.

Via Channel 10, readers can view footage (in Arabic and Hebrew) of some parts of Ismail Haniyeh’s speech at the event – translated below.

“Today Gaza says to our brothers in the [West] Bank we are with you, we will not abandon you.

All of Jenin and all of the [West] Bank is resistance. Resistance, resistance, resistance, resistance! […]

Both from the tunnels beneath the ground and also above the ground, you – the conquerors [occupiers] – will [be driven] out. You have no existence on the soil of Palestine.

We have the ability to create terror from nothing and to shake the earth of Tel Aviv. […]

I tell you and I will continue to say time after time; we will not recognise, we will not recognise, we will not recognise Israel.”

[snip…]

Haniyeh also called on the PA’s Mahmoud Abbas to “quit this pointless track and not to extend negotiation” and reproached Egypt for its recent stance towards the Gaza Strip’s ruling regime.

“The punishment of the people of Gaza must end. Why punish Gaza? Was it because it achieved victory against the Occupier? Why punish Gaza? Was it because it took up the rifle against Israel?”

Given that in the past we have seen extensive BBC reporting of similar rallies organized by Hamas, it is unclear why BBC News should have chosen not to report on this particular one to English-speaking audiences and instead to confine its limited coverage to the Arabic-language site.

I am sure there will be a justification. However, the reason matters not so much as the impact. It’s as if these words in Arabic were never said. Nice, moderate Hamas. You can do business with these guys. And all that crap.

Think about that piece, and then look here: Israel is just too darn democratic for the Left. Worth reading in its entirety, but I will offer this sneak peek extract:

They don’t just want their own policies imposed on the body politic that has rejected them. They want it to hurt, too. They want Israel’s electorate humiliated, degraded, and violated for the sin of rejecting them and their pipe dream of peace.

Suddenly the BBC’s omission is seen as part of the greater picture: we won’t change opinion in Israel, but we can outside of Israel. So let’s stick to the program.

I wonder how many blindly follow the line they promote?

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Canadian Crucible

ccrcbl

Canadian Crucible is Larry Brien’s game in the Gamers’ Tactical Combat Series (TCS) about the Canadian defense of its D-Day objectives against the attacks led by units of the 12th SS Panzer Division. The scales are 125 yards per hex, turns of 20 minutes (longer at night) and mostly platoon sized units. The package has 1 map, 560 1/2″ counters, series rules, game rules, and a set of tables and charts.

Physically, the components are excellent save for two annoyances. On the plus side, the counters are gorgeous, the rules include a decent amount of notes and historical material, and the map looks good at first blush. On the down side, the map has a couple of areas that I do not like. The contour lines are clear enough, but each level is the same background color. I prefer where the levels are color coded, as I find that is a big help in visualizing Line of sight. (Line of sight is a major part of the rules you need to grasp to play the game passably well.) And, for some strange reason, the artist used two different symbols for the same terrain type – orchards. Given that you are supposed to use the actual terrain graphic for LOS, that’s a real puzzle. House rule time. And finally, some stupid bastard forgot to include minefield counters…

How does it play? Slowly. This is a rich rules system, complete with a fully working written orders command module that is crucial for the longer scenarios and the campaign games. But the actual movement and combat is no walk in the park. You have to deal with modes (fire and movement) different types of firers, different types of targets, different sequences of opportunity fire, different types of artillery barrage, morale, airpower, random events, and much, much, more. So, it’s hard going, but it can be worthwhile. I suspect it is slower solitaire because of the increased decision making you have to do for both sides, while trying to remain impartial. (Incidentally, sticking to the command rules is a help to the solitaire player.)

I have the first scenario on the table now, and have played it through to a conclusion three times. But I am persevering with it to try and sharpen my skills. Although I have played many of the earlier TCS games, I am not so familiar with the current rules set. Playing it is the only way to get the rules right, as there is so much detail lurking in the system.

The first scenario features dug in defenders trying to repel a larger force of attackers, through grit, determination, and a barrel load (ahem) of artillery. The Allied artillery is awesome to behold. The German artillery is largely missing here, unless changed by random event.

I am enjoying this because I like the system, the scale, and the feeling of chaos and authenticity the game delivers. A high level attack can fail, and a low odds attack can succeed. Elite troops can wither on the vine. These are unusual events, but they can happen. You do get surprises.

All of that having been said, I wonder whether I will ever have the stamina to attempt one of the campaign games.

Definitely a game for the hardcore gamer. I guess that’s me…

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Board adventures

Eilat, Laurie, Roy, and Yehuda joined Susan and me for this week’s regular gaming session during which we managed  to complete games of 7 Wonders and Puerto Rico.

First up: 7 Wonders. Everyone had played this before, though it had been a while for Eilat and Roy. It was quite a tight game, primarily because Laurie sacrificed her own position when she saw Yehuda threatening to stream ahead. That allowed me to match Yehuda’s score for a rare – in this game – tie. The rest were just a little bit behind.

Susan dropped out to catch up on some essential TV viewing, leaving five of us to tackle Yehuda’s favorite game: Peurto Rico. Again, everyone was familiar with the game, so we had no excuses for losing. Yehuda proceeded to pound us into the ground with a masterly display of skill at the game. He finished so far ahead, it would have taken two of us to add our scores together to match his. What’s heartening to me is that this is a game that I have had little or no success playing, but still enjoy. It’s just got something that makes it a pleasure. Even when being slaughtered.

A good night. Thanks to everyone who came along.

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Police – Jo Nesbo

In the latest outing for one of my favorite defective detectives, Harry Hole, he is slow to make an appearance, with a good chunk of the first half of the book taken up with other characters and setting of the scene. It’s a credit to Nesbo’s talent that he manages to create such an enthralling tale – all the while having some fun at our expense with some misdirection – and develop the plot so strongly before his best character turns up. But I should not be surprised, as this author’s output has been consistent in its high quality. So, to begin with, this a wonderful read.

We are, as usual, in Oslo. Harry is off the force, working as a lecturer at a police college. (There is a cracking sub plot with a student who is infatuated with him.) Meanwhile, the Chief of Police is in a political fight for his life, because there’s a killer out there targeting policemen. Harry’s old colleagues are struggling without him, and you can guess what results.

Saying more might gave away too much of the plot, and that would spoil a good part of the novelist’s craft. There are several plot threads going all over the place, and Nesbo weaves them superbly. It really is a joy to read. Another page turner which ends with the sinking sensation when you finish reading it and realize there is no more.

Brilliant.

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Bottle holder

Cyclists the world over are familiar with the role of the simple metal clip bottle holder attached to the frame of a bike, designed to hold a water bottle. Judging by the following picture, there are other uses:

bike_bottle

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