31 July 2018

NKVD uniform circa 1943, for children - why do you wait?

A personal disclosure: I have little sympathy for the Stalin's prime butchers of NKVD. My reasons are, with all else, rather personal. In 1939 one of my late and beloved uncles, being of the socialist persuasion, illegally crossed the border to get to the socialist heaven of USSR, was promptly arrested, accused of spying and spent more than 15 years in the worst parts of GULAG. The folks in blue and red hats have done their considerable best by him.

Anyhow, we are in the blessed XXI century now, and Mother Russia was celebrating the Victory Day (May 9), as it does every year. This time, some enterprising Internet-based outfit decided to spice the celebration with a special gift for kids:

NKVD officer defending the Motherland
"The uniform is intended for military reconstructions, role games, Victory Day celebrations, theatrical productions, photo shoots," it says in the product description. It is noted that, in addition to the uniform, you can buy a belt, a holster, a sword belt, leather boots and epaulettes.

So, enough time has passed that some elements in Russia, nostalgic for the days of the murderous dictator, decided to start whitewashing the murderous vermin at the beck and call of the 'roach mustaches.
We are living, but can’t feel the land where we stay,
More than ten steps away you can’t hear what we say.
But if people would talk on occasion,
They should mention the Kremlin Caucasian.

His thick fingers are bulky and fat like live-baits,
And his accurate words are as heavy as weights.
Cucaracha’s moustaches are screaming,
And his boot-tops are shining and gleaming.

But around him a crowd of thin-necked henchmen,
And he plays with the services of these half-men.
Some are whistling, some meowing, some sniffing,
He’s alone booming, poking and whiffing.

He is forging his rules and decrees like horseshoes –
Into groins, into foreheads, in eyes, and eyebrows.
Every killing for him is delight,
And Ossetian torso is wide*.
This is the man NKVD served so loyally, and the bones of their victims are scattered all over the country in their silent millions.

Adds a blogger tverdyi_znak:
It might be good to hand all buyers a memo - from whom and how the soldiers of the NKVD protected the Motherland. Among the terrible enemies of the Motherland was, for example, Misha Shamonin, who was shot at Butovo landfill at the age of 13. And not just by mistake, but by law, which allowed the NKVD to incarcerate and kill children from the age of 12.
Misha Shamonin, executed at age 13.
The Russians are obviously trying to forget their past, as do many others. And some (too many) of them will not rest until the past is safely buried. Here is a response from an arch-patriotic Bell of Russia. It is a long screed, most of it in defense of the heroic soldiers of NKVD that were the first to defend the Motherland against the Nazi hordes. It is full of scorn and hate directed at the "libruls" who dare to show their indignation by the revolting marketing ploy. The hateful rhetoric raises to its peak at the end:
What the Russian liberals are doing, mocking the heroes of the Great Patriotic War, looks like rehabilitation of fascism, for which the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation provides for up to three years of imprisonment. Perhaps, when the Russian liberal public finally realizes that punishment for such things is inevitable, their desire to engage in sacrilege will begin to wane. Such kind of people, unfortunately, do not understand kind persuasion...
So much for kindness.

(*) Osip Mandelstam, 1933. The epigram that became his death sentence.

26 July 2018

MK David Bitan, esq. - and this is how it rolls in our Knesset

In an radio interview several topics were discussed with the illustrious member of Knesset David Bitan, until last year* the coalition chair in the Knesset.

One of the topics was the newly hatched Nationality Bill that caused (deservedly or not) an eruption of responses from all shades of the Israeli and international political spectrum. One of the factions that really feel injured by the law is the Druze population. Openly and traditionally supportive of the Jewish state, Druze community in Israel is fiercely loyal to the state and its sons serve in IDF and die together with us, protecting the country. Lack of the clause ensuring equality of all non-Jewish communities in the new law, even if that equality is protected by other existing laws, caused anger and protests that are easy to understand. And here is what he had to say on the subject (partial translation only):

(B. - David Bitan, I - the intervieiwer).
  • B. I am sorry that they [Druze MKs!] were allowed [sic!] to vote against the bill, and now [they appealed to] High Court of Justice... this is something unacceptable. 
  • I. This wouldn't have gone this way during your time [as a coalition chair]?
  • B. No, it wouldn't have.
  • I. What you would have done?
  • B. There are all kinds of thing that it's possible to do...
  • I. Sanctions are to be applied to them?
  • ...
  • I. Can't you understand them a little bit?
  • B. No, I can't understand them, because in general we are guarding the rights of the Druze in a special way. We have a covenant of blood with them, we... they receive all they need. There is no reason that a group... a minority of 120,000 will receive special rights in the Nationality bill. It is not all these millions, it is only 120,000 people. Druze are all in all only 120 - 160 thousands... they get a preferential treatment... 
  • I. So they should be thankful, you say... 
  • B. I didn't say that, I say that it doesn't go as they want... Druze too have to respect the majority, it is not like the majority should respect the Druze...
  • I. [changing the subject]
And no, just in case you have asked: he is not the only one on that level of mental prowess, lucidity etc. This is how it rolls - but I have already mentioned it.

Too bad.

(*) Quit that post due to police investigation of alleged bribery. But still remains a member of Knesset. Unfortunately.

24 July 2018

Forward, to a gentler and progressive Israel! Er... how?

Another stumbleupon situation that caused me to argue with another Jew. Two Jews arguing is usually a lose/lose game, but in spite of this we have never been able to desist. This time it was a Facebook encounter with Nathan Friedman Hersh*, who penned an article Israel's Only Policy on Gaza Is to Beat the Drums of War in (you guessed right) Haaretz.

Before I get to the fisking, let me say that I agree with the headline. It is nothing more and nothing less than a statement of fact. This is exactly what is going on for quite a few years. While the beating of the mentioned drums is never as belligerent as in the picture below, the threats aimed at Gazan leaders in particular and Hamas in general are an almost daily occurrence, so far never carried out to their full extent.

Let's start with the most important point: the article, heavy on criticism and denigration of the government, doesn't offer any solution to the hellishly difficult situation with Gaza. Nothing, zilch, gurnisht. One would have hoped that an article with such a bombastic headline and of such epic length will have at least two thirds of it dedicated to a solution that will stop the strife. But no, that hope fell flat.

There are two points the author offers to our attention as potential steps to a solution:
The first is a 2011 Israeli initiative designed to alleviate the blockade of Gaza with an offshore seaport. The plan would help improve the plummeting Gaza economy while also helping ensure security for Israel.
Another plan to ease the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is a solar energy field Israel would build, perhaps with Gulf funding, to supply Gaza with continuous electricity.
Let's assume that Hamas agrees to a seaport with our military oversight and that Hamas/Islamic Jihad rocket scientists don't destroy such an easy target as a solar energy field, in one of their fits of freedom fighting zeal (as they have repeatedly done with border crossings that provide their vital supplies, electricity, gas and water lines etc.). But what exactly is new with the proposal? I am getting tired to remind people to look at what was agreed with Palestinians toward the disengagement with Gaza, to recall the airport that was build and had to be destroyed, the seaport plan that had to be scrapped etc. We all know how it started and how it ended, don't we?

The other fault with the idea of improvement of Gazans' (indeed largely pitiful) conditions is the assumption that the leaders of Gaza care about their lot. So far, all we have seen shows the opposite. People who build their shelters under hospitals and launch rockets from schoolyards don't really care, that much is crystal clear. People who use all available metal to build Qassam rockets and the available cement to build tunnels (not the drainage ones, to our sorrow) don't really care.

Now to this short and unequivocal statement:
The blockade isn’t working.
I know what Nathan thinks about the purpose(s) of the blockade - he sees the blockade as a measure undertaken to break the spirit of the Hamas' freedom fighters:
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert initiated the blockade to strangle the Palestinians of Gaza until they voted out or overthrew their Hamas leaders...
But in fact blockade had one purpose only: to prevent smuggling of more and more sophisticated weapons that are so helpfully provided by Iran and other state actors unhappy with the mere fact of our existence. And it is working - not a full proof measure, but it works. Nothing more, nothing less.

The next curious paragraph:
Instead of listening to those voices, however, the government was satisfied to allow the army to set Israel’s policy toward Gaza. By yielding to the army the mandate to form solutions for Israel’s Gaza problem, government ministers avoid accountability.
What are the voices that should be listened to is totally hidden, the article so far doesn't mention any. The point about letting the army to set Israel's policy toward Gaza is factually wrong - it is the army and Shin Bet that support and push for an improvement of Gazans' living conditions. The point about accountability mentioned is quite absurd: there is a minister that is responsible and accountable for the military and there is a PM responsible for that minister. The buck doesn't stop an the CoS' table. Meaningless and confused.

And the next one, which is not only curious but rather stupid:
Ultimately, this lack of accountability not only led to thousands of innocent Palestinians killed...
Thousands (multiple) of innocent people - right, Nathan? - no matter how many of those killed were rank and file of Hamas troops? No more comments on this one.
As with the occupation of the West Bank, there is no alternative policy to the Gaza blockade. This is by design.
What kind of a dark design it is, remains unexplained in the rest of the article.

Well, the rest of the article I said. That rest is so long and rambling and so unconnected to the quandary of Gaza that I shall leave it alone. Aside of this curious ending:
Both Israelis and Palestinians deserve the possibility of freedom from occupation and blockade. Israelis deserve a government that can offer them long-term, multi-faceted protection from their enemies.
What is omitted from this passage is whether we deserve an end to the attempts to kill us in many different ways. Because the only thing Nathan mentions is "multi-faceted protection", whatever it means. Not peace.

(*) Nathan Friedman Hersh is a writer and the former managing director of Partners for Progressive Israel**. He has written for the New York Times and the Washington Post. He served in an unnamed IDF combat unit, as follows from the article discussed here and is studying medicine in US. Much to respect, even if his views are somewhat or sometimes confused and his responses when in a tight corner tend to "it is all hasbarah" knee-jerk reaction.

(**) A group that seems to be affiliated with (or very close to otherwise) Israeli Meretz party. Nothing to be ashamed of, some of my closest and dearest are members, but defines one's political allegiances quite well. Boycott the settlements' produce, strive for real peace etc.

18 July 2018

The censor - soon in your home too

The censor will call itself "Content Filtering" these days. If you have used something similar in your cable or other TV provider's set top box to prevent your kids from viewing inappropriate context,  you might guess where it is going.

Only now it is done on a completely another level and it is you who are being protected by the omniscient, benevolent and omnipotent eye of your betters. The ones in Brussels this time.

Here it comes, from one of my British friends who will remain unnamed, just in case. The friend is subscribed to Virgin as an Internet provider. This is what appeared on the screen, after the friend tried to get into Breitbart.com:

I am not a great fan of Breitbart, not in its current incarnation, I haste to declare (in case of the above mentioned Big Brother listening in). But this sucks. It sucks in all major ways and should be fought.

So you better fight.

Update: And something similar almost happened here too.
A radically unprecedented and far-reaching proposal that would have given the government the ability to block Israeli web users’ access to parts or the entirety of any website was stopped in its tracks Wednesday morning, hours before it was set to be voted into law by Knesset members who had “no idea” of its far-reaching implications.
People like Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked are a clear and present danger to democracy. That much is clear, unfortunately.

Update 2: OK, more on the internet filters as implemented in UK.

The Guide to ISP web filters is quite a good explainer:

Since 2013 all new customers to the four biggest ISPs - along with many of the smaller providers - were automatically opted in to web filtering. In 2014 this was extended to all existing subscribers too. If you haven't previously chosen to opt out of the filtering, it's likely your connection will be affected.

The Guide talks about 8 categories of verbotten content, one of which at least (Hate Speech) allows the internet provider a great freedom of decision. The article presents porn as the main issue that was resolved thanks to the filters, but in reality it isn't the only one. Virgin, for instance, calls its filtering "Child Safe", which is quite deceptive, obviously, since they use the Hate Speech on political sites as well.

And yes, you can opt out of the filtering, it is an option, not a mandatory one. When you sign up to service, filtering is switched on automatically, so it needs your intervention to remove it.

But make up your own mind.

17 July 2018

Gaza again - it is coming

The four years preceding the last few months' events on the Gaza borders were relatively quiet. Yes, from time to time the silence was interrupted by a few rocket or grenade launches, but nothing too bad. However, ceasefire wasn't to the full satisfaction of the Gazan ruling clique, especially with the new blood in the top management:

That beast will never change its spots, that for sure. So here are some pictures and no predictions of the obvious and, seemingly, inevitable, soon to come.




Tel Aviv (training)

14 July 2018

Is football the universal religion or is BBC off its collective gourd?

It started for me with looking at the reports on this night's skirmishes on the Gaza border, after a series of rocket and mortar shells barrages from the neighbors. Somehow it evolved in getting to the BBC site. And this is part of what I have found in their World section of the news:

Surely you understand that it is a rare client what clicks on the World section of their site. And even there, all the coverage the murder of "over 100" Pakistanis got is the following:
A suicide bomber has killed at least 128 people at a campaign rally in south-western Pakistan - the deadliest attack in the country since 2014.

A local candidate was among the dead in the Mastung town, police say. So-called Islamic State (IS) claimed the attack.

Earlier, a bomb attack on a similar rally in the northern town of Bannu killed four people. The attacks come ahead of general elections on 25 July.
It must be clear to anyone that vying with Scarlett Johansson isn't all that easy.
And here comes the front page of BBC of that same day (click to enlarge):

What, indeed,  could compete with the crucial question of football vs religion? Or with the way Thai cave smells?

Yeah... and this is the way it goes.

P.S. And regarding the skirmishes mentioned: this is the closest BBC got to any mention of those:

So there.

13 July 2018

Fixing Gaza...Permanently

Rob Miller aka Joshuapundit has written a post that may appear controversial to many of its readers.
However, the level of desperation with the unending strife and unending hate from our Gazan neighbors lead Israelis increasingly thinking about this way of solving the problem. Not yet there, but thinking of it.


Related image

Related image

Since March 30th, much of the world's press and a chunk of the so-called 'international community' has been focusing on a series of what can only be called violent riots emanating from Gaza against Israel's border.

10 July 2018

And now, from the murky depths of the 'net...

It is not a big story, all in all. Just a fairly random example of the crap that floats in quantities on the surface (and beneath it) of the endless ocean of bits and bytes we let into our houses.

A small (probably Israeli) Russian language outfit Mignews published an unremarkable short article, titled (translated):

Israeli doctors found out that whiskey protects against cancer

I am calling it unremarkable, because for many years media is inundated by articles about similar discoveries about any and all alcoholic beverages. For all I know, there might be even a grain (no pun intended) of truth in this claim.

08 July 2018

Review of “Hitler’s Children” by William Grim

This post is mostly a copy/paste of a response to a long article about the apparent nostalgia for the old times that is titled “Hitler’s Children”, written quite a long time ago by one William Grin. But first of all a short preface. The response is written by my penfriend Benjamin Goldstein, a German Jew who is immensely qualified to analyze and criticize the Germany-related content, especially of such a disturbing manner.

The article he is dissecting was sent to me by a friend and, after reading it, I had some doubts about its veracity and a possibility of exaggeration. I have spent only a limited time in Germany by myself, met a limited number of Germans and, being a strict follower of the famous "Don't mention the war" doctrine, have seen mostly good in the people I have encountered. But here comes a man...

01 July 2018

The Master and Margarita, a random quote

— Тьма, пришедшая со Средиземного моря, накрыла ненавидимый прокуратором город. Исчезли висячие мосты, соединяющие храм со страшной Антониевой башней… Пропал Ершалаим, великий город, как будто не существовал на свете… Так пропадите же вы пропадом с вашей обгоревшей тетрадкой и сушеной розой! Сидите здесь на скамейке одна и умоляйте его, чтобы он отпустил вас на свободу, дал дышать воздухом, ушел бы из памяти!

- The darkness that came from the Mediterranean Sea covered the city hated by the procurator. The hanging bridges connecting the temple with the dread Antonia Tower disappeared ... Yershalaim — the great city — vanished as if it had never existed in the world ... So you, too, can just vanish away along with your burnt notebook and dried-up rose! Sit here on the bench alone and entreat him to set you free, to let you breathe the air, to go from your memory!

Michail Bulgakov, he whose manuscripts don't burn.

And if, reading this, you don't feel the infinity passing by and the air in your lungs pushing out, you really have to read this book. Possibly again.