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Last Straw

Posted by acdtest on January 30, 2004

Last Straw

[I most heartily apologize for posting the following article on this weblog. Not because I’m in any way ashamed of having written it, but because when, several months ago, I refocused the purpose and content of to concern itself exclusively with matters cultural it was my specific intent to eschew posting or referencing any article of a political nature. There’s already far too much of that sort of idiot crap infesting the blogosphere. But the latest murderous Palestinian bombing of a Jerusalem bus yesterday cocked my last-straw trigger, so to speak, and reading this post by weblogger J.W. Hastings of Forager 23, and the comments attached thereto, tripped it.]

With each passing year of the almost fifty-six-year-old “conflict” between the Israelis and Palestinians the real bottom-line nature of that conflict, as well as why the conflict has been so resistant to any lasting solution, becomes more and more clear. That is, more and more clear to me. To those in positions of power world-wide, even some in positions of power within the governments of the combatants themselves, the bottom line nature of the conflict seems to have become more and more clouded and fraught with myriad and impenetrable subtleties and difficulties that defy even clear definition, hence the perennial putting forward of doomed-to-failure “peace plans,” and the earnest engagement in impossible and equally doomed-to-failure Pollyanna “peace processes.”

And what’s become more and more clear to me concerning the bottom-line nature of the conflict is the manifest and incontestable circumstance that the Palestinians (as well as the Arab world generally) will accept as lastingly satisfactory no solution to the conflict that includes the continued existence of a sovereign State of Israel. No matter what concessions to Palestinian demands the Israelis are willing to make, no matter what they’re willing to give up for the sake of peace, the Palestinians (and, again, the Arab world generally) will not be lastingly satisfied if, at the end, the State of Israel remains a sovereign and powerful entity in the region. Every Israeli concession, every partial surrender, will be (has been) looked upon by the Palestinians not as a step toward a peaceful coexistence with Israel, but as one step farther taken in the resolute march toward the Palestinians’ (and once again, the Arab world’s) ultimate, intractable and uncompromising goal: the State of Israel’s total dissolution.

If I’m right about that (and it’s manifest I am), then it becomes immediately clear that every apparently successful step toward a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that at bottom leaves Israel sovereign and powerful is merely just that, apparently successful, and in reality little more than a for-the-moment-satisfying stopgap at best, and at worst, an insidious progression in the process of a slow suicide for Israel.

So, what then is the answer to the question of a genuinely lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? One thing that for certain is not an answer is sitting down at bargaining tables. After all, one cannot bargain in good faith with an opponent who will be satisfied only if you end up dead. Bargaining conferences have been (and are) nothing but charades used by the Palestinians in an attempt to jockey for a better position in their march toward their ultimate real goal. And if I’m also right about that (and, again, it’s manifest I am) that would seem to leave but a single effective strategy for Israel: an unambiguous and loudly declared promise of an overwhelming military response to any act of deadly aggression against her sovereignty or her people, ending, if necessary, in all-out war with the Palestinians (and with the Arab world as it could not help but be) with but one of only two possible outcomes: 1) Israel loses, in which case the State of Israel will cease to exist as every Israeli man, woman, and child will end up dead either at the hands of the Arabs, or, Masada-like, at the hands of the Israelis themselves; or 2) Israel wins, in which case the Palestinians and the Arab world will have no choice but to accept a sovereign State of Israel in the region on Israel’s terms, hate it though they (and, I suspect, much of the rest of the world) surely would.

And what part the United States in such a war threat, and war itself if it came to that? Unambiguously determined. We back Israel to the hilt against all her enemies with whatever is necessary. We could do no less and still preserve even a shred of our moral or practical authority. In the entire world the United States has but two genuine friends: Britain and Israel. All our other “friends” — many of whom (all of whom, in the Arab world) actively but secretly hate and/or are contemptuous of us — are contingent friends only, and would without compunction turn on us in a heartbeat if they saw any gain to be secured by doing so.

But all this is unthinkable, is it not? World War III for certain, and therefore something not to be entertained or even imagined, right?

Not right.

If things ever came to such a pass, and if the position of the United States were made unambiguously clear and in earnest, the intention and show of force would be more than enough. The rest of the world would stand back, much of the Arab world included, and offer no more than loud, aggrieved and condemnatory clucking noises at the U.N. and in the world press. Realistically, they could not do much more than that. They would, of course, hate us for our show of power in behalf of Israel, certainly, but they couldn’t hate us more than they already do, or be more contemptuous of us, and so we would not only lose nothing by taking such a position, but would actually stand to gain in terms of respect and/or fear from other nations (in the geo-political arena, the two are the same in practical terms).

It’s surely uncivilized, and a not attractive thing to contemplate, I confess. But if the history of mankind has taught anything it is that in the intercourse of both individuals and nations, when nagging push comes to ineluctable shove, there’s but a single language which all understand, and to which all respond predictably: overwhelming physical force or the real threat of same. He who carries and shows a willingness to wield the biggest stick wins.



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Something Completely Different II

Posted by acdtest on January 15, 2004

And Now For Something Completely Different II

Faithful John

A New But Unmodern Translation of The Tale
From The Collection of The Brothers Grimm


here was once upon a time a king who had fallen mortally ill and knew he was about to die, and so he called for his favorite servant who was named Faithful John because his whole life long he had been in the king’s service and was as true to the king as one man could ever be to another.

And when Faithful John came to the bedside of the king, the king said to him, “My most faithful John, I feel my end is fast approaching, and my only concern is for my son and only child. He’s still young and does not always know the best way to guide himself. I ask you to give me your solemn oath to be as a father to him and teach him what he must know so that he may become a courageous, just and noble king.”

And Faithful John replied, “On my oath, I swear to do what you ask and serve the prince as truly as I have served you, and I will never forsake him should it cost me my own life.”

At this the king was well pleased and thanked his faithful servant from the depths of his noble heart.

And then the king said to him, “It’s my wish that after my death you show my son all that is his, all the rooms and chambers in the palace, and all the vaults and the great treasures that lie within. But on your oath swear to me you will never permit him entrance to the chamber which lies at the end of the great gallery, for within that chamber is the picture of the princess of the Golden Dwelling, and should he see it he will be so smitten by her beauty that he will faint dead away and go through great dangers for her sake, and from this he must be protected.”

And Faithful John said, “On my oath, I will do all that you ask if it be in my power to do so.”

The king then once more thanked his faithful servant and said, “Now I may die in peace,” and with that he laid his head on his pillow and died.

Within the week the old king was laid in his grave, and there was great sorrow and mourning throughout the kingdom for he was a good king and was well-loved by all his subjects. And when the period of mourning came to an end Faithful John told the young king all that he’d sworn to his father, and said to him, “On my oath, I swear to serve you as truly as I served your father, and I will never forsake you should it cost me my own life.” But of the old king’s wish concerning the chamber at the end of the great gallery he said nothing.

And then Faithful John said to the young king, “It’s now time for you to see your inheritance,” and he took him through the palace and showed him all the rooms and chambers, and all the vaults with the great treasures that lay within, but he did not show him the chamber which lay at the end of the great gallery. The king, however, took notice of this, and said, “Why is it that you show me all the apartments in the palace, all the vaults, together with the great treasures that lie within, but pass by the door of the chamber which lies at the end of the great gallery?”

And Faithful John answered, “It’s forbidden me to show it to you, for on his deathbed I swore an oath to your father whose wish it was that the chamber remain unopened.”

But the king would have none of this answer and pressed Faithful John to unlock the chamber saying that if he could not see what was within he would have no rest day or night. He then tried to break open the door by force, and Faithful John pulled him away, saying, “My king, leave off, for within the chamber is something so dangerous and terrifying it would cause you to faint dead away, and bring the greatest misfortune on you.” And by saying this, he hoped to deter the young king. But the king would hear none of it and swore he would stay by the door of the chamber day and night until he was given entrance.

Now, the picture within the chamber was of such great beauty and charm that there was nothing like it in the whole world, and it was so admirably painted that it seemed to have breath and life of its own, and was so placed within the chamber that when the door was opened it was immediately visible. Faithful John knew of this, and as he saw that the king was determined to gain entrance to the chamber and there was no help for it, he contrived a plan whereby he would enter the chamber ahead of the king and stand in front of the picture so that the king could not see it.

And so, with misgivings and heart heavy as lead, Faithful John sought out the key to the chamber on the great ring of keys which never left his side. He then unlocked the door, went in front of the king, and stood before the portrait to block the king’s view of it. But the king was not to be denied, and he peered over Faithful John’s shoulder and beheld the picture. And when he gazed on the image of the princess of the Golden Dwelling, whose beauty was even more radiant than the great quantity of gold and jewels that surrounded her, he was indeed smitten as his father had foretold, and fell to the ground in a faint.

Faithful John lifted him up and carried him to his bedchamber and refreshed him with wine until he was himself again. And the king’s first words were, “Whose image is it that has so smitten me?” And Faithful John replied, “It’s that of the princess of the Golden Dwelling.” Then the king declared that his love for her was so great that if all the leaves on all the trees in all the world were tongues they would not be able to proclaim it. “I would give my life to win her,” he cried, “and you, my most faithful John, must help me.”

When he spoke thus, Faithful John knew the young king’s heart was as noble and courageous as his father’s, and that nothing he could say would deter the king from his quest, and so he gave himself up to the king’s wish, for he had sworn to guide and protect him from all harm, even should it cost him his own life.

Faithful John considered long and hard with himself how best to accomplish the task the young king had set before him, for he knew that to catch but a glimpse of the princess was a difficult matter. After some time he decided on a way that the task might be accomplished, and he said to the king, “Everything around the princess of the Golden Dwelling is made of gold — dishes, glasses, bowls, even the household furniture. Among the great treasures in your vaults are five large trunks of gold. Summon all the goldsmiths in the kingdom and have them fashion all the gold in one of the trunks into all manner of objects — vessels, household goods, and the shapes of beasts of all kinds — such that they may be pleasing to the princess, and we will travel to her with these and see what luck we will have.”

Then the king summoned all the goldsmiths in his kingdom and commanded them to fashion all that Faithful John had instructed him. And they worked day and night until, at last, a great number of magnificent golden things had been wrought, and the treasure was ordered to be placed aboard a ship, and the king and his faithful servant sailed with the ship far across the sea to the land wherein lived the princess of the Golden Dwelling.
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Simple Pleasures

Posted by acdtest on December 20, 2003

Simple Pleasures That Make Life Worth Living

irst French Toast of the Winter

Two thick (3/4″) slices of challah (that’s a “sweet” Jewish egg bread for all you ignorant goyim out there), dipped both sides in a batter made of heavy cream and whole egg, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and a good pinch of salt, then fried in butter until both sides are a beautiful mottled golden-brown, and served drenched with Vermont Grade A Dark maple syrup and a side dish of bacon slices, and cuppa French-roast coffee.

Fifteen minutes of heaven on earth.

(And, yes, I know it’s one day before the official start of winter, but I just couldn’t hold off any longer.)

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22 November 1963

Posted by acdtest on November 22, 2003

22 November 1963

fter reading through (OK, skimming, mostly) a number of predictable articles remembering that horrific day forty years ago today, I was disappointed but not surprised by the lack of any attempt at an at least capsule assessment of what, beyond the obvious, was so important about JFK and his murder. Typical was the perfectly idiot assessment by William F. Buckley who, after going tediously and irrelevantly on about the failures and lack of political substance of the Kennedy White House years, concluded that “the legacy of John F. Kennedy is his sheer . . . beauty.” That’s it. The whole of Mr. Buckley’s assessment of JFK’s importance and the importance of his murder. But then, what would one expect of a political ideologue, especially of an opposing ideology, other than something that idiot.

For my own thought on the matter, and for the limited purpose of this brief weblog entry marking that terrific event forty years ago, let me say simply that one of its effects of lasting importance to this nation is that it robbed America of that rarest of persons: A politician of more than merely political substance; one who by his intelligence, vision, character, demeanor, and force of personality raised the perception of that corrupt and squalid profession to the level of one worthy of the best and brightest of men and women. By his example JFK made politics seem not only a respectable profession, but a desirable, worthy, even noble one; a profession to which to aspire; one capable of achieving great and enduring things.

Which is not to say JFK was above slick, even underhanded, political maneuvering whenever necessary in order to secure and sustain his position. But that’s a built-in part of the American political system even when engaged in for the most noble of motivations and purposes. What was different about JFK was that one always sensed that he engaged (and engaged expertly) in all the less noble aspects of politics not because they were the most expedient way to his goals, but solely because they were things inescapably part and parcel of the game as it’s played in this country. Absolutely necessary things. Sine qua non things impossible to avoid or give short shrift without imperiling mortally the entire enterprise.

I’ve no doubt whatsoever that had JFK served a full two terms as president of this country, whatever else his tenure of that office may have accomplished (or not accomplished), it would have changed, at every level, the face and substance of American politics forever and to this country’s huge and enduring benefit, and have made a political horror such as, say, the Nixon White House a thing absolutely inconceivable.

On 22 November 1963 a lone gunman, acting on a lunatic impulse, robbed this nation of that legacy and that future.

Such is the indifference of Providence.

UPDATE (1 December at 1:10 AM Eastern): Weblogger Greg Hlatky of A Dog’s Life takes exception.

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Something Completely Different

Posted by acdtest on September 19, 2003

And Now For Something Completely Different

The Goose Girl At The Spring

A New But Unmodern Translation of The Tale
From The Collection of The Brothers Grimm

very long time ago there lived a king and queen who dwelled together contentedly, and they had two beautiful daughters.

One day it happened that the queen was delivered of a third daughter, and on the very day of her birth there appeared, uninvited, a crinkled and bent old woman who blessed the child, and said, “I give you a gift, most beautiful child. Whenever you weep, you shall weep tears of purest pearl, for princess though you may be, you will surely suffer much hardship and sorrow,” and with that, the old woman vanished as suddenly as she’d come. And thereafter, true to the old woman’s word, whenever the princess wept it was not tears that dropped from her eyes, but tiny tear-shaped pearls of matchless purity.

With each passing year the princess grew ever more beautiful, and she filled with delight all who beheld her. Her limbs were white as snow, her cheeks rosy as apple-blossom, and the radiance of her golden hair made even the very sun itself envious. Moreover, she was gentle of spirit and good of heart and the favorite of her father the king.

One day, when the princess had turned twelve, the king summoned his three daughters to come before his throne, and he said to them, “I know not when my last day will come; therefore I will today decide what each of you shall receive at my death. That all three of you love me I know full well, but by your own words, the one who loves me most shall receive most.”

The eldest princess said, “I love my father more than sweetest sugar.” And the second eldest said, “I love my father more than richest honey.” But the youngest said nothing, for her love for her father was so great she could think of nothing to which to compare it.

The king said to her, “Come, my dearest child, and tell me how much you love me,” and she replied, “I know not how to say it, and can compare my love to nothing.” But her father the king insisted she name something, and so she said at last, “The finest food does not please me without salt, therefore I love my father like salt.”

When the king heard this he was greatly angered, and said, “As you love me like salt, your love shall be repaid with salt.”

He then divided the kingdom between the two elder daughters, but ordered that a sack of salt be bound to the back of the youngest, and that she be led into the depths of the great forest, and there left to survive as best she could.

The queen, pale with horror, begged her husband the king to reconsider, but his anger was so great that he was deaf to her pleas. And so that night the young princess, a sack of salt bound to her back, was led into the great forest and there abandoned, and she wept so bitterly and abundantly that her path through the woods was strewn with a river of tiny tear-shaped pearls that shimmered in the moonlight like a ribbon of quicksilver.

A short time afterwards the king’s anger cooled, and he at last understood how deep was his youngest daughter’s love for him, and he repented the harsh sentence he’d pronounced on her. He ordered the great forest searched from border to border, but the young princess was nowhere to be found, and the king and queen, now both sick with grief, finally despaired of her life and mourned for her, and for themselves as well.
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