All Fools’ Day

April 1, 2016

O judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts

And men have lost their reason

Julius Caesar, Act Three, Scene Two


This is not an April Fools column. The world is in much too deep trouble for pranks and jokes. Put differently, when the lunatics take over the asylum, you have to be careful whom you call crazy.


If we relate only to this country, and only to things that occurred just this week, and then only to some of those things, it nevertheless becomes apparent that lunacy is rampant, every day, across the spectrum of the public agenda.


On Sunday, the Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, told the government that it cannot make a commitment to commercial entities that future governments and Knessets cannot legislate on specific issues. Maybe that’s a valid principle of democratic government, or maybe it’s an exceptionally egregious case of judicial activism. What is certain is that the hysterical reaction to the decision on the part of both sides in the Israeli domestic debate over the development of the Leviathan field demonstrates total detachment from reality. Netanyahu and his people fumed about “hundreds of billions of dollars” that would have flowed from beneath the Mediterranean to the coffers of the State of Israel and the bank accounts of the Israeli people. Yachimovitch and Co. foamed about the said State of Israel and Israeli people having been saved from enslavement to evil robber barons who were scheming to subvert the democratic system and steal the country’s wealth along with its soul.


The decision also ensures that both sets of extremist crazies will continue to perform their self-defined roles in the long-running farce called “Leviathan’s Labours Lost or, A Comedy of Nothing: Much Ado About Errors”, itself based on the book “20 trillion cubic feet Under the Sea” and which many critics believe to be a revised version of Samuel Beckett’s classic “Waiting for Godot”.


Then we have the sight and sound of an anguished mother publicly berating the Chief of Staff and the Defence Minister and wailing to the media that she “wants her child home”. However, said child has been detained for questioning so as to help the military police with their enquiries as to why he shot dead a disarmed Arab terrorist who was lying on the ground.


A three-front war


The IDF is now fighting a three-front war: first, against Arab teenagers who run at soldiers and civilians with knives and, when they are shot dead, are hailed as heroes by their people and have squares named after them; second, against Israeli soldiers who make their own rules, and their families, friends and supporters who hail them as heroes; third, against foreign politicians and organizations, who accuse Israeli soldiers who shoot Arab kids running at them with knives and murderous intent of war crimes – the Israelis, that is, with respect to both the murderous intent and the war crimes.


Back in the Knesset, a law was passed this week placing a cap on the salaries paid to top bankers and other corporate executives. This also generated self-righteous grandstanding by both supporters and opponents, the former congratulating and the latter expostulating, all for the benefit of the media, who titillate the sheeple with this idiocy. The sheeple duly applaud, because their minds have been dumbed down to the level of goldfish, so that they don’t remember anything from one news cycle to the next. If they did, they would know that several previous efforts by governments  and regulators to impose constraints on executive pay have all failed. Indeed, had any of them succeeded, the current one would be unnecessary. Why, then, should this one be expected to work?


The definition of insanity


There is an urban myth, spread relentlessly by social media, that Einstein was the author of the dictum that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over – and expecting a different outcome from the latest attempt”. Albert didn’t say it, but it’s a useful idea just the same. The kind of insanity evidenced in the Knesset and among the Palestinians is actually prevalent everywhere.


How else is one to explain Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen backtracking from the interest rate rises she virtually promised a few months ago, and preparing the ground for additional Quantitative Easing (QE)? This monetary policy has failed to achieve its declared goals and is now viewed even by mainstream economists as a mechanism for maintaining an increasingly tenuous status quo. In Japan, which pioneered this approach and where it has failed more often and more spectacularly than anywhere else, the latest data show the economy again going off the rails – Einstein rules, OK?


That’s the state of the world today – every day. In Israel, as I noted here two weeks ago, it’s permanently Purim. Elsewhere it’s All Fool’s Day, all day, every day.

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