Bridge over troubled bids

By way of follow up to my Bridge crossing post, I have found a website focusing exclusively on this massive bridge scandal. Called bridgecheaters, it’s presented by Boye Brogeland, a former team mate of Lotan Fisher and Ron Schwartz, and one of those who blew the whistle.

If you are at all interested in bridge, this is a fascinating site, well worth visiting. There are sample hands, commentary, video, history, and more.

The site has a strapline of “The greatest scam in the history of bridge!” which is probably an exagerration, but only a slight one.

I’ll repeat: I do hope these guys have not been cheating.

[ appears to be back up and running. There’s other information about the situation, as well as general bridge articles that have nothing to do with cheating.]


Digging ever deeper

Here’s an AP article as headlined in the Guardian today:


Put to one side whether the report is accurate. Assume you are responsible for the people of Gaza, and that it truly is the case that:

“…Gaza could be “uninhabitable” in less than five years if current economic trends continue.”

What do you do?

If you are Hamas, you dig deeper. You keep preparing for war. Because everyone knows that the best way to achieve safety, security, peace, prosperity, and quiet for your people, is to launch missiles and encourage terrorism.

And condemnation came there none.


I can see clearly now

I’m not sure if I will ever understand Obama and his foreign policies. As I have said before, even excluding Israel (where I obviously have a vested interest) it seems difficult to me to suggest that Obama’s policies have put the USA in a stronger place in the world than it was when he took power. Indeed, most would argue the USA is in a weaker position. But, on the assumption that was not Obama’s goal, where was he getting his planning, positioning, and opinions from? Thanks to Hillary and her email server, we have some new clues:

Hillary and her team are fans of Max Blumenthal, Peter Beinart, J-Street

The Hillary Clinton emails that were just released show that she and her team are far more to the left, and far more interested in promoting the leftist J-Street view of Israel, than she lets on publicly.

The Elder of Ziyon has the story, here.

Note his conclusion:

Based on the relatively narrow timeframe of last night’s email dump the overall tone is that Israel is obstinate and not interested in peace, the Zionist American Jewish community must be marginalized, the Palestinians are victims and not responsible for any of their actions, and that Hillary must still publicly cultivate the AIPAC crowd while working behind the scenes to undermine it. Haaretz is liberally quoted but no conservative analysis about Israel ever reached Hillary’s eyes through her handpicked, trusted advisers.

Does that sound like anyone else? Someone in an even more powerful position?

The problem may not (only) be with Obama. The problem may be with the advisers.

The bigger problem? Obama is on his way out. Hillary may be on her way in. I hope Bibi is paying attention.


Back to the future

Today is the first day of school for most Israeli kids, as the summer break officially ends. Here, it’s front page news. From Israel HaYom:


The middle headline and text is:

Good luck!

After the threat of a strike was lifted last night, 2,194,931 pupils will this morning start the academic year 5776. 157,477 will enter school gates for the first time, and 118,721 will be finishing twelfth grade. The bell ringing is for them.

And the story is continued on pages 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9…

Kids and the future are a central part of Israeli society and the culture. And long may that continue.

[The Israel HaYom English language website is here, but is normally a day behind the Hebrew print version of the paper. The Jerusalem Post has a bit more, here.]



Blinded by conceit

The BBC has a problem.

First, check out this report from BBC Watch.

Then, note the following, being part of the BBC’s response to a complaint:

“The BBC would never include what it considered to be anti-Semitic material in its comedy programmes; here the production team and Radio 4 took great care in reviewing the programme’s content to ensure this, especially in the satire concerning actions of Israeli governments past and present. No offence was intended by the jokes and satirical observations in the programme.”

As BBC Watch points out:

The key words in that sentence are obviously “what it considered to be”. As we learned from the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit’s response to complaints about remarks made by Tim Willcox during a broadcast from Paris in January 2015, the BBC does not use the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism…

As you can see from the full piece, the issue is that nobody knows what the BBC considers antisemitism (or antisemitic material) to be.

A cynic might argue that the lack of a definition gives the BBC wriggle room, so they can always argue – should they so desire – that a particular item is not antisemitic. On the other hand, perhaps a definition – any definition – would be too restrictive for the BBC.

How many Jews do you think would trust the BBC as judges of whether something is antisemitic?

But the BBC knows better, apparently. And that is because it is blinded by conceit.


Five for Friday

This week went a little more slowly than usual. That’s because, at the end of it, Susan returned from her travels, and boy was I looking forward to that. The house is no longer deadly quiet, and the smile I can see doesn’t come from the mirror!

But, in the established fashion, I still wish to offer a Friday selection of links. There sure have been some terrible events out there in the big, bad world, and I have tried to avoid temptation of dwelling on those aspects. May you find something of interest here:

Shabbat Shalom!


No, minister!

By way of follow up to my Yes, minister? post, here’s the almost inevitable outcome as reported by Times of Israel:

Deputy Health Minister Litzman to become full minister

In response to landmark court ruling, ultra-Orthodox lawmaker becomes the first to receive rabbis’ approval to enter cabinet

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party on Thursday said that he had received rabbinical approval to serve as health minister in the cabinet.

“I accept the decision by the Council of Torah Sages and have answered positively the request of the prime minister, and will thus soon serve as health minister,” he said.

His announcement came following a ruling by the High Court of Justice preventing deputy ministers from fulfilling the role of ministers. Litzman, while nominally a deputy minister, held a minister’s authority in the Health Ministry. Lawmakers from his party have previously avoided ministerial positions due to their community’s reluctance to grant full legitimacy to a secular Jewish state.

On Thursday, Litzman said that he “respects” the demand of the High Court of Justice that he become a minister, saying, “As far as I’m concerned there is no change in my position.

“I served and will continue to serve the citizens of Israel exactly as I did in the past. In my view, a deputy minister in the capacity of minister is a health minister in every respect,” he added.

The court’s decision to ban the practice of granting a minister’s authority to a deputy minister came following a petition by the Yesh Atid party, which held the health ministership in the previous coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The petition demanded that the court prevent Netanyahu from taking on any cabinet roles beyond the premiership. In addition to being the nominal health minister, Netanyahu has also been serving as health minister, foreign minister, communications minister and the minister for regional cooperation.

On Sunday, the High Court of Justice ruled that Yaakov Litzman cannot continue to serve as deputy health minister with no presiding minister, and gave the government 60 days to fill the post.

In their decision, the five justices ruled that the current setup was “unlawful.”

“If you ask any hospital or citizen, they will tell you that the person governing the Health Ministry is Litzman and not Netanyahu,” Supreme Court Vice President Elyakim Rubinstein said during the hearing.

Let’s be clear. First it wasn’t right to be a minister. Now, faced with the option of staying true to their principles, and losing the post, or changing their principles, the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party and Yaakov Litzman changed their principles. What a bunch of hypocrites.

And what is worse, is that they knew it was illegal because the court had already ruled against the charade in a previous government. (See my earlier post.)

Yesh Atid hailed the court’s decision as a “triumph of the public interest over the political interest.

“The healthcare system is one of the most complicated and problematic in Israel, and it deserves a full minister with all the authority and responsibility required of a minister in the State of Israel,” the party said in a statement on Sunday. “Of course this is not meant as a war against the ultra-Orthodox, but rather against the culture of backroom deals.”

On this, I am 100% with Lapid. He called it right. Well done to Lapid and Yesh Atid.

Litzman on Thursday afternoon mocked the Yesh Atid petition, telling Channel 2 that “the only achievement of [Yesh Atid leader] Yair Lapid is that he added a little money to my paycheck.”

And that is rather nasty, isn’t it? It’s almost as if Litzman doesn’t like Lapid. Or fears him. Why might he fear Lapid?

Well, I suspect that part of it is that Lapid has long campaigned for a sharing of the burden, and UTJ and Litzman are opposed to that. What is worse, from Litzman;s point of view, is that Yair Lapid has principles. And he will stick to them. So the threat is not going away.

Besides, Yaakov Litzman, whatever happened to lashan hara? I may not be keeping up with the mitzvah, but you are not setting much of an example!

In any event, on the facts, Litzman is also wrong.

No, minister, it is not that your salary has been enhanced; instead it is that you and your party have been shown up to be hypocrites and a dreadful example of how not to behave.

Judaism? Not mine, it isn’t.


Yes, Minister?

Source: Wikimedia

Yaakov Litzman Source: Wikimedia

United Torah Judaism (UTJ) is an Israeli political party that, like all others, craves power. However, because its rabbonim do not want its members to vote on matters like the IDF and security – which they would have to do as full ministers – no UTJ member has served as a full minister. Instead, somebody came up with a trick: “deputy minister acting as minister.” Deputy ministers do not get a vote. (So, in the wonderful world of UTJ, their hands are clean. Like hell they are! What a dirty, hypocritical, immoral, trick.)

As I understand it, in previous governments Prime Minister Netanyahu allowed one such member of UTJ, Yaakov Litzman, to be in charge of the Ministry of Health, twice, using this trick. The High Court previously ruled that this was illegal, but Bibi ignored the court and nobody followed up. Litzman remained in charge. So much for the rule of law. UTJ was not part of the next coalition government, though, and the issue went away.

This time around, following the last elections, Bibi ran the same trick – for the benefit of UTJ and not Bibi, it has to be said. Litzman was appointed as deputy minister acting as minister.

Enter Yesh Atid. Leader Yair Lapid took the matter to court. The good news is that the High Court followed its earlier ruling. From YNET:

Supreme Court orders health minister appointment

The Israeli Supreme Court, in its capacity as High Court of Justice, ruled that Deputy Minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party cannot continue to serve as Deputy Minister with Minister powers.

In a dramatic decision handed out by a five-judge panel, the Supreme Court ruled Sunday that Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the haredi United Torah Judaism party must cease to be a deputy within two months.

The court added that Mr. Litzman can legally be appointed as a full minister, which is the most likely course of action, though it would be a first for United Torah Judaism.

I’d rather we had no need to involve Litzman and UTJ (see here and here for further background) but at least there is some progress on reinstating the rule of law, and more normal civilized behavior. For now.

And if Litzman does become the full minister? Well, yes minister, it will underline how much hypocrisy there is the world of UTJ.

Well done to Yesh Atid.


Foot in mouth outbreak

This, from the Times of Israel, is dreadful:


I am not referring to the fact the government were discussing military options against Iran. Obviously they were. I am referring to the inability of Barak to keep his mouth firmly shut.

It seems that Barak was not intending the material to be disclosed:

The material apparently comes from conversations related to a new biography of Barak being written by Danny Dor and Ilan Kfir. The former defense minister, who was also previously prime minister and chief of staff, attempted to prevent the broadcasting of the recordings, but Israel’s military censors allowed Channel 2 to play them.

However, that is no excuse. He should not have been blabbing about bombing Iran to a biographer, a journalist, or anyone not constrained by official secrecy laws.

I do want to point out that, as somebody opposed to censorship, I’m pleased there was none exercised here. Pleased, but surprised. Presumably the military censors saw nothing that would harm Israel – militarily – in the disclosures. Or, is there some kind of game being played by the spooks? After all, a sensational set of soundbites like this will undoubtedly appear in the western media, and not in a way that puts Israel in a positive light.

Barak may have other troubles, but this episode does nothing for his image. Would you put your faith in a set of loose lips like his?

[Click the image to go to the TOI story.]


Five for Friday

This was supposed to be a quiet week. It wasn’t. Too much to do in too little time, and the rumblings of an oncoming cold or flu or something-or-other, all combined to make me happy to crash out earlier than usual on Thursday night. But sleep refused to come. I even tried reading some Hebrew, but that didn’t work; instead I got a headache.

So, I was feeling slightly sorry for myself when I struggled out of bed this morning. I looked at my list of things to do, and sighed. But somebody was looking after me, because I got my stuff done in record time, and even managed to get the car cleaned. (As an aside, while I never worried about using water to wash my car, back in Scotland, for some reason, it doesn’t feel right in Israel. No, I cannot fully explain it.)

Now, it’s the calm before the calm, and I have some time to offer up the usual weekly selection of links. I hope you find something for you in them:


I saw the following video at Anne’s Opinions, and thought it deserved sharing. There’s a certain Roger Cohen who comes out of this looking like an idiot.

And here’s the other excellent video from the creator, Ezri Tubi.

Shabbat Shalom!