I have just realised that the messianic idea in Judaism is actually a way of deflecting unanswerable questions that agnostic Jews like me find hard to deal with. The answer that 'this will be decided when Moshiach comes", allows religious adherents to avoid complex theological issues and get on with their daily lives.
This revelation could be the result of (a) years of textual analysis or (b) the New Zealand Pinot Noir in the bar of the Langham Place Hotel, Mong Kok, Hong Kong.
The third candidate in the first round of the Zimbabwean presidential 'election', Simba Makoni has called for the second round to be scrapped and for the MDC, Zanu PF and other political stakeholders to form a five-year transitional government to end the crisis in the country.
Makoni told journalists in the capital yesterday that the country could not afford a run-off given the flagging economy and that an election alone could not resolve the conflict in Zimbabwe.
"The country cannot afford another election at this time," Makoni said. "The national fiscus cannot finance another election, indeed could not finance the last one."
He said due to budgetary constraints, government functions were paralysed since January this year when the March 29 elections campaign commenced.
"The people have been under immense political pressure since the beginning of the year, which is now pressured by the violence and the talk of a presidential run-off," Makoni said.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is reportedly seeking US$60 million to finance the proposed run-off between President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC to be held on June 27.
Makoni said a run-off could be best avoided through establishing "a national authority" that would take care of governance until a solution was found.
However, he said, his movement preferred a five-year term in which the transitional government would be in power followed by elections run "by a credible electoral body".
"We need to establish an authority that will take care of business up until we are able to run an election with a sound body that has respect from all the political players as well as civic society," the former Finance minister said. "That authority should be allowed to run for five years before the elections are held. We believe that by then, things will be in their rightful order."
He also reiterated earlier criticisms of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission as incompetent.
Now there are plenty who criticise Makoni for (1) not explicitly backing Tsvangirai for the second round, (2) waiting so long before deciding to leave ZANU(PF) in the first place to launch his presidential bid (3) trying to engineer a future for himself in the electoral aftermath, or (4) refusing to condemn the real perpetrators of the violence and chaos bedevilling Zimbabwe.
I think, however, that he has a point. His proposals may be phrased in an excessively technocratic way – probably as he is trying to avoid alienating any potential participants in a potential transitional dispensation – but there is no easy way for Zimbabwe to emerge from its dire state. Whatever government comes to power after Mugabe will have to take some tough decisions that will make it unpopular with large sections of its battered and fractured citizenry. I think these decisions should be taken by the broadest possible political coalescence.
Of course there is a political and social context for any major change and I am with King Cnut on the limits of oceanic wave control. Nevertheless, it seems to me that, such broader forces notwithstanding, major national transformations of a radical nature (revolutionary or not), often involve a transitional authority that establishes the conditions for more fundamental change, usually without being credited for having done so. The midwife can come from either the establishment or the opposition (Kerensky? Bakhtiar? Gorbatchev? FW de Klerk?).
I don't think any aspirant for the Zimbabwean presidency in the near-to medium-term wants to be associated with those guys. To have any chance of political longevity, they need to be the next leader but one. At the same time, the MDC, like a lot of opposition movements to tyranny, is a broad church. What holds it together is its opposition to a hated regime, rather than its electoral programme. Its ability to remain united in government is not assured. There is also some evidence that Makoni, Dabengwa and Mandaza – the public faces of the Mavambo-Kusile-Dawn movement that was set up to back Makoni's presidential bid – represent a broader seam of dissatisfaction within ZANU(PF) that could play a useful role in a transitional arrangement.
I certainly do not contest the moral and legal right of the MDC to form the next government in the unlikely event that the thugs-in-chief from Camp Mugabe (The Joint Operations Command) somehow let that happen. But the conditions for a demonstrably free and fair election in Zimbabwe clearly do not exist at the moment. Nor is the country in a state to support simple efforts by the majority of the population to support themselves and their families in a way that is consistent with elementary human dignity. The broadest effort to create these conditions, supported and monitored by the appropriate international bodies, should be a priority.
I think the five years proposed by Simba Makoni may be too long, but the next time the people of Zimbabwe are called on to vote, they should be confident that the result will be respected and that they won't be killed for doing so. (Of course this may still happen in the run-off if SADC manages to send in 18,000 accredited observers tomorrow to monitor the run up, voting and counting of this second round on 27 June. It's only an additional 17,880 to the first-round SADC observer team.)
In a week or two, Israel turns 60. The text of the declaration of independence is here.
Key paragraph from my point of view:
THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
There were 37 signatories, ranging in age from late 20s to early 80s. Some, like David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir are well known. Here are a few of the others:
Meir Vilner The youngest and the last surviving signatory until his death in 2003, Vilner was secretary of the Israel Communist Party.
Eliyahu Meir Berligne The oldest signatory, born in Berarus, ran an olive oil and soap factory in Haifa, one of the founders of Tel Aviv.
Sa'adia Kobashi Born in Yemen in 1902, he immigrated to Palestine in 1909, where he became one of the leaders of the Yemenite community in Israel. In 1922, he founded Degel Hazvi, a charitable association for Yemenite Jews in Jerusalem. In 1970, he became rabbi to the Yemenite community in New York.
Rachel Cohen Grew up in Odessa, became a leader of the Womens' International Zionist Organisation (WIZO).
Zerah Warhaftig Rabbi; credited with establishing a constitutional compromise between synagogue and state.
What is moral hazard and why is everybody talking about it?
Robert Reich, Secretary for Labour during the Clinton Administration explains (actually, he explained eight months ago, but I missed it):
Letting children bear the consequences of their risky behavior -- what some parents call "tough love" -- is equally applicable to adults, and conservatives have made something of a fetish out of it....
It’s true that people tend to be less cautious when they know they’ll be bailed out. Economists call this "moral hazard." But even when they’re being reasonably careful, people cannot always assess risks accurately. Many of the mostly poor home buyers who got into trouble did NOT in fact know they couldn’t afford the mortgage payments they were signing on to. The banks and mortgage lenders that pulled out all the stops to persuade them to the contrary were in a far better position to know; after all, they had lots of experience at this game. So did the credit-rating agencies that gave these loans solid credit ratings, as did the financiers who bundled them with less-risky loans and sold them to other financial institutions, and the hedge fund managers who quietly tucked them into their portfolios.
....When it comes to risky behavior in the market, America has a double standard. We’re told that economic risk-taking is the key to entrepreneurial success, but when big entrepreneurs take big risks that fail it’s amazing how often they get bailed out.