Bridge crossing

I saw this earlier in the week at the Times of Israel:

Thee normally sedate game of bridge was hit by a scandal this week when two world class Israeli players were accused of cheating by their teammates, who have handed back three of the prestigious titles they won together.

Lotan Fisher and Ron Schwartz were named and shamed by teammates Boye Brogeland, Allan Graves, Espen Lindqvist and Richie Schwartz, with Brogeland writing on the website earlier this week that they “believe in a clean game.”

“If you have a cheating pair on your team, I believe you should lose whatever master points, seeding points and titles you have won together,” he wrote. “The Schwartz team from the two previous cycles… has decided to give up the Spingold Trophy, the Reisinger Trophy and the North American Swiss that we ‘won’ in 2014 and 2015. We believe in a clean game and we love bridge.”

Fisher and Schwartz have denied any foul play, and Fisher has accused the foursome of acting out of envy at their superior skills. “Jealousy made you sick,” he said, according to the Daily Telegraph. “Get ready for a meeting with the devil.”

The full story is here.

I checked out some of the stories at yesterday, including detailed analysis of some of the hands played by the two alleged offenders. Interesting.

Today, this is what I get at



Presumably there is more to come about this story. I do hope these guys have not been cheating.

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.

Cock-up by Argyll and Bute Council

From the Scotsman:

Bute renamed ‘Penis Island’ in Gaelic sign blunder

VISITORS to a popular Scottish holiday spot have unwittingly been welcomed to “Penis Island” for nearly a decade because a council’s Gaelic grammar error went unnoticed until now.

The large sign greeting ferry passengers as they step on to the Isle of Bute has been in place for around nine years but it has only recently come to light it was missing a crucial punctuation mark.

And later in the piece, there is this cracker:

Àdhamh Ó Broin, a native dialect campaigner and Gaelic coach for the TV series Outlander, said: “It’s meant to be the genitive case, not the genital case. A genitive case is when one noun follows another and its form changes. Bhòid is Bute but Bhoid is penis. You would need the accent over the ‘O’. It says ‘Welcome to the doorway to the beauty of Penis Island’.”


Read the whole sordid tale, here.

Just remember to be careful out there with your accents!

[First seen at the Register.]


After having thrashed out several enjoyable sessions of Quatre Bras, from Didier Rouy‘s Le Retour de l’Empereur boxed set (from Pratzen Editions), it’s time to move on to the main event: Waterloo.

Setup and ready to go. Now what do I do?

Setup and ready to go. Now what do I do?

The game is set up, and all ready to go. I do, however, need to have another read through the optional rules (to decide what ones I want to use) and the special rules for the Waterloo battle.

I was glad to see a specific restriction on the French use of the guard, as my last outing as an Allied player in this battle (Grognard SimulationsWaterloo at ConsimWorld) might have been more successful had this or something like it been in place.

So far as the optional rules are concerned, I really like those for Voltigeurs. (I just wish there were more skirmish counters available.) I want to impose some form of command and control, and will probably use a bastardized and simplified version of the most complex optional rules for this. Part of me wishes I had the space to run Wavre at the same time, but the realist in me knows it would be too much.

Close up of the front lines

Close up of the front lines

The more I have played this system, the more I have grown to like it. Getting the combined arms effect is a joy when it works out, but sometimes fate and enemy action intervene. I use the log sheets, partly because I find it quicker, and partly because I want to avoid as many markers as I can. Besides, I really like the counters.

I recently read Alessandro Barbero‘s book on the topic, and there might be a slight delay in the game start while I top that up with some further reading.


The Governor will see you now


This week, Nechamiah, Peleg, Rosalynn, and Sheer joined me for a two game session.

We started with a warm up by way of R:Eco, a card (hand management) game built on a recycling theme. Sheer and Peleg were the contyenders in this one, with Sheer pulling ahead in the last couple of rounds for the win.

It did the job, making us flex our gaming muscles before the main event.

And what a main event it was. We played Puerto Rico, which all of us except Nechamiah had played before. However, he had played San Juan, so was well versed in some of the basics, and he quickly assimilated the rest.  (I was especially impressed by how quickly he got to grips with the different building powers. This was unusually so for a first time player.)

One challenging aspect of Puerto Rico, especially with five players, is that the choices other players make can well and truly sink your bid for victory.

For example, there were several occasions when Peleg lost out because somebody else chose the Craftsman role (to produce goods) in a way that left him short of goods. As another example, there were also several occasions when I lost out, because somebody else chose the Captain role (to ship goods and claim VPs) that scuppered my plans to sell the goods for lots of money. Finally, there were occasions when Sheer lost out, though in his case it was for several different reasons. His usual high level of playing skill just was not delivering the goods, as it were.

You will notice that in the preceding narrative about people losing out, I have omitted Nechamiah and Rosalynn. That’s because, on the whole, they brilliantly avoided being adversely affected by the play going on around them. That translated to a fine second place finish by Nechamiah, and a smashing, crushing win by Rosalynn. Quite an impressive result. Well done to Rosalynn. And commiserations to the rest of us!

Another good night of gaming. Thanks to all who came to help make it so.

Cold gold


Hockey Blast is Keith Avallone‘s tabletop dice and chart game about professional ice hockey, available through his PLAAY website. Although released in 2010 (and bought around then) it has lain at the back of one of my game cupboards, making only fleeting appearances while I considered whether to get it on the table and give it a decent workout. I dabbled, and was impressed by initial experiences, but I needed to spend more time with the game. Recently, it finally made it to the table for a proper series of extended sessions, so I could get properly familiar with how the game worked, complete some matches, and even complete a couple of solitaire series. Continue reading

Color of his skin

I saw this CBS interview with documentary film maker Ken Burns at Little Green Footballs, and thought it very much worth posting here. Unfortunately, the embedded link on offer does not like my location. So follow this link to see it.

Sometimes, it may be appropriate to remind Americans that not everything in the good old USA garden is rosy.

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.