The Crown

I have just finished watching the two series of “The Crown,” an original Netflix production created by Peter Morgan.  The first series covers the time from the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947, thru the death of King George VI and the ascension of Elizabeth II as Queen in 1952, when Winston Churchill was still Prime Minister.  It ends in 1955 after her falling out with her sister Princess Margaret over her refusal to sanction her marriage to Group Captain Peter Townsend.  Both Claire Foy as Elizabeth and John Lithgow as Churchill are excellent in their roles and have won awards for their acting.  Matt Smith as Phillip in my judgement portrays Philip as rather too feckless and lacks gravitas.  The series won an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series.

The second series continues the coverage of the reign of Elizabeth from the Suez crisis of 1956, and shows the strains in her marriage, and her continuing problems dealing with the spirited Princess Margaret and her ill-fated marriage to Anthony Armstrong-Jones.  Her relationship with PMs Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan show them both as weak and indecisive men, “a confederacy of elected quitters” as she described them.  They were brought down by the Suez crisis and the Profumo affair, respectively.  In both cases they lied to Parliament and the country, Eden about collusion with the French and Israelis before the Suez attack, and Macmillan who was misled by Minister of War Profumo over his relationship with Steven Ward and Christine Keeler.

Overall I found the series entertaining and brilliantly produced and I highly recommend it.  I should at this point confess my bias, as a convinced anti-monarchist and this series confirmed my opinion.  I have always viewed the monarchy in Britain as an archaic and obsolete anachronism.  When growing up in Britain I was in a small minority.  I never felt any loyalty to the Crown as such, although I did have loyalty to the country of England (that is part of the UK), and to its culture and history (i.e. not “King and Country”, just “Country”).  I was later happy to declare my allegiance to the Republic of the USA and subsequently to the State of Israel.

In that context, I should mention that my father knew someone who had told him that the Duke of Kent had accidentally killed a woman when opening the door of a train while it was still in motion and he was drunk.  But, as with all such stories, it was hushed up and no mention appeared in the press.  Much of the action in “The Crown” consists of back-room attempts by the Palace lackies to “manage the situation” and quash stories that might reflect badly on the Monarchy.  Similar to Stalinist Russia, no negative stories shall appear in the controlled press.  The only apparent action taken during this whole period by Elizabeth was to fly off to visit Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana in 1961 to persuade him not to go “Soviet.”  Apparently a foxtrot with the Queen did it.  But, in any case a constitutional monarch is not supposed to act spontaneously against the advice of her government. According to “The Crown” she did it because she was insulted by Jackie Kennedy.

Perhaps  the most fascinating topic that came up in the series was the issue of the Duke of Windsor, who had abdicated the Crown as Edward VIII in 1936, due to his intention to marry the divorcee Wallace Simpson, in favor of his younger brother Bertie, who became King George VI, Elizabeth’s father.   Windsor wanted to return to England from his exile in France and resume some role in British governance.  Elizabeth was at first sympathetic.  But, once the true background to Windsor’s support for Hitler and Nazism was exposed she retracted.  How is it that she did not know this background?  My father and most Britons knew of Edward’s sympathy for fascism and Nazism long before WWII and it was known that after his abdication while he was living in Portugal he visited Hitler in Germany, had meetings with him and shook his hand.  It doesn’t take much imagination to realize that Hitler made a deal with Edward to reinstate him as King of England after the Nazis invaded England, which fortunately they failed to do.

There were many other aspects of this series deserving comment, including the horrible mistreatment of Prince Charles by sending him to Gordonstoun, the school run by a German Jewish headmaster who trained his pupils to be little fascists.  But, one scene was iconic, when Queen Elizabeth is tracking a large stag on the moors of Scotland.  In the movie “The Queen,” admirably played by Helen Mirren, she admires the stag and decides not to shoot it, but in the series ‘The Crown” Elizabeth shoots it without any compunction.  That characterizes Elizabeth for me, unfeeling, insipid, patronizing, irrelevant and costly.



Some time ago I bought two lights (made in Japan) that are led lights with a motion detector that automatically turns them on when someone enters the room or moves.  They stay on for 15 secs if there is no movement and they also won’t turn on if there is other light.  I installed them in both our toilets, in case my wife enters and forgets to switch the light on.

I noticed that one of them was not working and on inspection found that it had been switched to be permanently on.  That means I had turned it on and forgot to turn it back to auto.  But, because it was on all the time the batteries ran out.  I took it down and opened it to replace the batteries and found that one of them had gone bad, it was leaking acid.  I took it to the sink and washed the acid away.  Bad mistake, the water somehow got inside the sealed compartment and I could see droplets in there.  I left it for a few days to dry out, but it did not.

So I decided to take it apart and dry it.  I opened it up with care and wiped it with a tissue and then left it to dry.  Then I went to put it back together again. As I was doing so I noticed a wire sticking up with no connection.  By inspection I realized that this was a major connection to the battery compartment that had come loose.   I needed to re-solder it.  But, I had thrown my soldering iron away (I had brought it from the US and kept it for years, but of course when I needed it it did not work here, different voltage).  So I asked my son-in-law Jeff to borrow his soldering iron.

With trepidation I heated it and then soldered the thin wire back to the connector. It held, so elated I started to reassemble the device.  But, there was a large O ring seal inside the sealed compartment, that I had to manipulate around the circumference.  But, I could not get it to stay.  So I used a few tiny dabs of glue to hold it in place.  Then I reattached the top and  screwed it down, et voila.  But, not so fast.

As I was replacing the batteries, I discovered that the one that had leaked acid had corroded the spring that sits at the bottom and holds the battery in place and makes contact.  The new battery would not fit, it was loose.  As I was trying to release the spring it simply broke off, it was so corroded.  What to do?  I searched for a small spring among my collection of screws and trivia and in fact found one, but it was about 5 times too big.

At that point our Filippina carer Sahlee, who was watching me, casually remarked, “why not try foil.”  She said she had been advised to use this to make battery contacts when she worked in Taiwan.  So we took a strip of silver foil and folded it to fit the space between the battery and the contact and lo and behold it worked.  The light turned on, and when I tested the automatic switch it turned on in the dark with the motion detector and then turned off.  So once again human ingenuity had triumphed over the forces of evil and chaos.

Blow to Palestinian Unity

Palestinian unity, that was much-heralded and thought to be a factor in helping to achieve peace, has received a major and perhaps irreparable blow.  The convoy of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah was bombed last week as it was entering Gaza for the first time.  This was clearly an assassination attempt, although it failed and Hamdallah was unharmed.  The ruling Hamas authority in Gaza denied any knowledge of the attack and claimed that they are searching for the culprits.  However, this seems unlikely since nothing happens in Gaza without the foreknowledge and/or tacit approval of Hamas.  It is after all a militant terrorist organization.

Now no leader of Fatah or the PLO from the PA will enter Gaza for fear of their life, and the prospect of Palestinian unity is a sham.  This is a shame since only this week Presidential adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East representative Jason Greenblatt convened the first acknowledged meeting between representatives of Israel and the Arab countries, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Jordan, as well as Canada and several European countries.  There were no Palestinian representatives present because they are boycotting all contacts with the US.  The first item on the agenda was in fact Gaza and the need to implement political and economic reforms there to avoid a humanitarian disaster, not in any way due to Israel, but rather to the way in which Hamas treats its own people.  Now that situation has grown even more insoluble.

Meanwhile there are reports that the Trump Administration is close to finalizing its plan for peace between Israel and the Arabs.  Whether or not this can include the Palestinian Arabs remains to be seen.  While the PA is a totally failed entity and Gaza is a disaster, the rift between them does not make a two state solution seem achievable.

Murder in Salisbury

Salisbury, England, is a sleepy market town.  Nothing much happens there…until last Sunday when two people were found unconscious on a park bench.  Then all hell broke loose and it became a major international incident affecting the major powers in the world.  That is because the two people were Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.  He was a former spy for the UK in Russia, and the means of their attempted assassination was a toxic nerve agent.

By now everyone knows that the attempted assassination was “most likely” by the Russians, as stated by British PM Theresa May in her speech to the House of Commons.  She said it could have been by a rogue group within Russia who got hold of the particular nerve agent that is a military product of the Russian State, or the Russian State itself, in other words by Pres. Vladimir Putin. In this case it was evidently an assassination ordered by Putin and probably carried out either by Russian agents or indirectly by some paid assassins.  The fact that the nerve agent is known to be a Russian military grade product makes it most likely that the Russian State was directly involved in this incident.

Remember that this is not the first such assassination carried out in Britain by the Soviets/Russians.  In 1978 Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident, was murdered by the injection of a tiny ball coated with the deadly nerve agent ricin that was in the tip of an umbrella with which he was stabbed as he got off a bus; in 2013 Boris Berezovsky, an oligarch who fell out with Putin, was found hanged in this bathroom in London; in 2006 Alexander Litvinenko was assassinated using highly radioactive polonium, and there are other mysterious deaths and “suicides.”  After the Litvinenko murder the UK took severe political actions against Russia, including sanctions and expelling several diplomats (actually KGB agents).  They also indicted the man responsible for the murder, although he is still at large in Russia.

PM May gave Putin a few days to come up with an explanation of the incident and when he didn’t she expelled 23 members of the Russian Embassy from the UK and imposed sanctions.  You just can’t allow agents from another country to come into your country and kill someone, and particularly not with such a dangerous substance that has endangered the lives of ordinary British citizens.  In fact one constable is in grave danger from contact with the agent and a restaurant and a pub where traces were found have been closed and the number of people visiting Salisbury have dropped significantly.

And now Pres. Trump is said to be reassessing his response to Pres. Putin.  The US imposed its own sanctions and the US, France and Germany issued a joint statement with the UK deploring Russian actions in this case.  So far Trump has shown a rare degree of sympathy for Putin, as a strong fellow-leader.  But, now he is beginning to understand how dangerous Putin is, as a former KGB Colonel, as a ruthless murderer of his opponents and an enemy of democracy.  As is well-known, they have a certain way of doing things in Russia (as it was under the Czars and under Stalin), if you can’t beat your enemy, you kill your enemy!

Trump Fires Tillerson

Pres. Trump fired Secty. of State Rex Tillerson in a peremptory and undiplomatic manner, by announcing the firing on Twitter.  It has been clear for some time that the two men did not see eye-to-eye on several issues.  Tillerson favoured a more nuanced diplomatic approach, for example to N. Korea and Iran, while  Trump favors a more direct approach, using sanctions and threats.  Trump also fired one of Tillerson’s aides for criticizing the firing of Tillerson.

Mike Pompeo, the current CIA Director, will be taking over at State, while a long-time CIA operative, Gina Haspel, will take the helm there.  If she is confirmed by Congress she will be the first woman director of the CIA.  Pompeo is more in line with Trump’s policies (or biases).  He is more anti-Islamic and pro-Israel and opposes the Iran nuclear deal much more strongly than Tillerson did.   He is also in favor of being more confrontational with the European allies and with China and also Russia.

These changes represent a further destabilization at the Trump White House, with many appointees resigning or being fired.  Recently Trump’s Senior Economic Adviser Gary Cohn resigned and the latest is Trump adviser John McEntee, who has been accused of domestic abuse.  But, in the longer run this replacement of Tillerson with Pompeo may mean a more coherent foreign policy for the USA, with the President and his Secty. of State reading from the same page.

Israeli Election Crisis Averted

It now appears unlikely that there will be early elections in Israel before the current government’s tenure is up in 2019.  In Israel, because of the electoral system, all governments are coalitions, and like the present one, there are disputes between coalition partners with different policies.  The current crisis erupted over the issue of whether or not haredi (ultra-orthodox) men should be drafted into the IDF like other secular Israelis.  The argument of the haredi activists is that the IDF is a secular organization where men and women mingle and where their religious beliefs will be compromised.  The IDF response is that they have established haredi-only brigades where the religious concerns of this group are fully accommodated.

PM Netanyahu pleaded with his coalition partners to avoid early elections.  This was largely because the majority of Likud supporters, by a margin of 54% to 30% were against early elections.  Remember that British PM Theresa May called early elections thinking that she would improve her majority and the results were disastrous.  One never knows.  In the end, the religious parties (Shas and United Torah Judaism) and the secular right wing party Israel Beitanu (Israel our home) of Min. Avigdor Liberman compromised, so the coalition crisis was averted.

The Opposition, led by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, tried to introduce a bill to disperse the current Knesset, and they also opposed the compromise haredi conscription bill (that is yet to be finalized) but their efforts were defeated.  There were many other factors involved, such as the 2019 State Budget, and that a new election would have coincided with the 70th anniversary celebrations of the State of Israel and the visits of many foreign dignitaries.  PM Netanyahu is the longest serving PM in Israeli history.  But, his record might be sullied and the situation could still get a lot worse, requiring his resignation and new elections, if he is indicted in any of the 4 (or 5) cases against him that are being considered by AG Avichai Mandelblit.


Fighting Anti-Semitism

A campaign to rid the world of anti-Semitism has been initiated in the Israeli Knesset.  While this is a laudable effort, it is not likely to succeed.  Anti-Semitism, that is hatred of Jews, is as old as prostitution, and that too is never likely to be eradicated.

I compare anti-Semitism to a medieval knight in armor.  Shooting arrows of truth at the knight will not penetrate his armor of irrationality.  One cardinal belief of anti-Semites is that the Jews are planning to take over the world.  As demonstrated in the Holocaust of WWII, the Jews were defenceless and hardly able to survive.  As the constant wars for the defense of Israel demonstrate, the Jews are hardly able to defend one little slip of land, let alone conquer the world.  Yet, anti-Semites will continue to believe their ludicrous conspiracy theories.

It may be true that Jews have an ability for finances, since the international banking system was developed by Jews, for example the Rothschilds.  Usury was banned for Catholic Christians, so the Catholic rulers relied on their Jews, for whom it was not illegal or immoral to earn profit.  But, the Catholics soon changed their tune when they realized that they were missing out on a lot of profit, although they still continued to steal from the Jews.  This was one of the main motivations for the Inquisition and the Holocaust.

Anti-Semites believe that Jews have larger noses than Christians (tell that to De Gaulle).  Jews may be generally more intelligent than Christians (e.g. Marx, Einstein, Freud).  The inevitable conclusion is that their extra brain power is contained in their noses.  And if you believe that you are no better than any anti-Semite.