Friday, 17 October 2014

Money Weighing Machines – Beware!

I was standing in line at an HSBC branch, as the man in front of me wrote out and cashed a cheque for £2,500. The cashier took a pack of £50 notes, put them on a money-weighing machine, told the customer that the amount was right and asked him whether he also wanted them manually counted. Yes, was the customer’s response.

And… surprise, surprise… it was £500 short.

There was a short apology by the cashier, who added that this had never happened before.

SO: are these money-weighing machines unreliable or was it a case of an unreliable cashier? Neither alternative is very attractive.


A few days ago, I arranged to meet a friend at Sotheby’s, where they seemed to have a preview for a coming contemporary art auction.

Two items in the hall, in which I was waiting, caught my attention:

The first item was indeed included in the auction at £150,000 - £200,000, whilst the second item… was taken away by the cleaner, just as I took the photo.

Not only, because I do not have a five year old son, I don’t normally go for the “my five year old son could have painted that”, when I see some high-priced squiggle by an artist who happens to be in. However, these obsolete plane noses, could just as well have been donated by the aircraft manufacturer to a children’s’ playground. Instead, they are now ART. 

And just in case we don't appreciate it, we are informed that "this work is unique":

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

British Parliament recognises Palestine

1. Congratulations to the British parliament for voting (274 against 12) in favour of a motion recognising a Palestinian State. The debate – as parliamentary debates often go – was not very impressive, the outcome, however, is positive.

The motion is not binding on the British government and may therefore just be symbolic  - but symbolic acts, with the right luck, can be powerful too.

2. Shame on the Israeli Labour Party that tried to use its – evidently non-existent – influence over members of the British Labour party in a last minute hysterical attempt to block the vote. Leading the opposition means not acting like a government poodle. Try to remember that Mr. Herzog!


At a reception, a few days ago, a younger friend – doubtlessly trying to be kind – introduced me to a senior banker and his wife and said “David is a real intellectual.”  And the result ... during the ensuing conversation, the banker’s wife asked me , “David, so you don’t do anything?” 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Are they crazy... or is there a Conspiracy?

These days when we learn that the United States Secret Service seems to almost offer President Obama up for target practice – I cannot be the only one thinking of the many times we have all been put through absurd as well as unfriendly “security” when entering the USA. They are spending billions for the security of the President alone and yet it seems very easy to get to him. 

Combining arrogance with inefficiency is always bad and can be deadly.

Time after time one is surprised by the enormity of American inefficiency. We tend to think of Silicon Valley – who may not be that efficient either – and make assumptions about the rest of America. Let us not forget what a disastrous, badly prepared, carried out and mismanaged war the US has led in Iraq. And not for lack of funds…

Samantha Cameron Moved to Tears

At the current Conservative Party conference, British Prime Minister David Cameron, referred to the fact that his deceased son (2009) was treated by the National Health Service (NHS) as proof that the NHS is close to his heart and was therefore safe in the hands of the Tories. (Which I doubt.)

Cameron’s use of his own son’s death for political purposes is tasteless but not surprising. I remember how in 1990, the British Secretary of State for Agriculture, John Gummer, tried to allay public fears about the safety of British beef by… publicly feeding his 4 year-old daughter with a hamburger. (Was that actually a form of child abuse?)

This week’s British press was full of headlines such as “Samantha Cameron Moved to Tears”. I am interested to know whether Mrs. Cameron “was moved to tears”, because

1.     She was reminded of her dead son?
2.     She was disgusted by her husband’s cheap ploy?
3.     Her tears were part of the Cameron orchestration, which will give her a few more years in Downing Street?
4.     She is always moved to tears when her husband is on stage?

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Scottish Nationalism (or any other) - Pfui

There is one more week to Scottish referendum day and the polls seem too close to call. The British government (and opposition!) is panicking and are now offering last minute inducements to the Scottish electorate, with ever more powers to the Scottish parliament, if only they remain part of the Union.
Much has been said about the economic viability of an independent Scotland. Many have criticised England for not making it clearer how much they “love Scotland” and how much they wish for the Scots to stay in the fold. What I am missing in this discussion is the disdain, even disgust, for the jingoistic, nationalistic sentiment that is driving this whole campaign for “independence”. It is totally unnecessary and sad. Politicians who develop such feelings in their population and ride them to power should have no place in our society. 

The Dilemma of Diaspora Jews

My article Das Schweigen der Diaspora
appears in today's Süddeutsche Zeitung... in German... :)

British Intelligence Pushing Arabs to War

Five months ago, the British National Archives released newly declassified documents, according to which, British Intelligence “predicted war – and Arab defeat – in Palestine in 1948.” According to today’s Israeli media, Syrian files that reached French Intelligence prove that British Intelligence agents actively encouraged the Arab countries to invade the “to be established” new Jewish State, Israel.

So much for the impressive “forecasting” of British Intelligence.

What must now be asked is whether the almost frenzied attempts of the SIS -  or was it Military Intelligence – took place by instruction of the British government or behind its back?  If the British agents acted because they did not agree with their own government’s policy in the region and worked to counteract it – they are in fact traitors. 

This question ought to be answered.

Friday, 5 September 2014

ISIS and Language

-  British Prime Minister David Cameron: “ISIS will be squeezed out of existence”
-  President Obama: “Our objective is clear and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL* so it’s no longer a threat”
-  Vice President Joe Biden: “We will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice. Because hell is where they will reside. Hell is where they will reside.”

Why do our leaders, leaders of Western democracies in the 21st century, have to resort to such language? Who are they talking to? Do they or their advisers believe that vocal threats will frighten the Islamists to lay down their machetes? OR is this solely a verbal macho show impress their own people? 

*ISIS = Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, first rebranded as ISIL – Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and then turned IS = Islamic State]