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9 years ago @ Commentary Magazine - Hagel and the "Israel ... · 1 reply · +5 points

Jonathan Swift:

"[R]easoning will never make a man correct an ill opinion, which by reasoning he never acquired"; from Letter to a Young Clergyman [January 9, 1720]. The context of the passage is the great difficulty involved in convincing "freethinkers" of the truths of Christianity.

Another favorite of mine:

"One enemy can do more harm than ten friends can do good"; Journal to Stella [1711].


"Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through"; A Critical Essay upon the Faculties of the Mind [1707.]

And of course:

"He was a bold man that first ate an oyster"; Public Discourse: Dialogue Two [1738].

There are many, many more.

9 years ago @ Commentary Magazine - War on Woodward May Be... · 0 replies · +6 points

It's about six months too soon to declare a "tipping point." I'll say it again: The media will have their way so long as their efforts are (a) concerted enough and (b) continue long enough.

The second condition is just as important as the first. The critical reason that the so-called Plame Affair or the Abu Graihb Scandal became "affairs" and "scandals" depended critically on the press refusing to let go until its political goals were achieved, absolutely refusing. In this country, indeed in any polity much larger than, say, Belgium, unusual tenacity is required if a political tipping point is to be reached and then surpassed; moreover that determination must be seeded broadly throughout all sectors of the media, from broadcasting to film to the Web. Watergate was not much more serious than what happened at Benghazi, but Watergate coverage continued without letup or respite for 26 months! The hatred of the media for Richard Nixon was a quarter-century old in 1972, which interval provided ample reservoirs of investigative endurance, a depth of human resources that, had it involved any Democratic president, would have been depleted long before anyone in Congress would ever have considered drawing up a bill of impeachment. How long, I ask, did NBC look into the fiasco in Libya?

The Plame Affair, a true nothing of a zero of a scandal, received nearly daily coverage for 18 months. How much interest and for how long did the media devote to Fast and Furious, a far more serious matter than Valerie Plame's non-outing? Libby went to jail. What happened to Holder? To anyone in the Adminstration?

The New York Times banged on about Abu Graihb, a story that the Defense Department press office itself broke three months earlier and with respect to which the Department was well along in its prosecution of, for nearly six months, over one stretch giving the matter 70 front-page stories in a row, a record that not even the hallowed Watergate campaign approached.

And of course, what the Times or Post deem newsworthy is all that about a thousand robots in the rest of the media need to know about the day's lede before firing up their laptops every morning.

By now Contentions readers really should grasp all of that and be plain allergic to awaiting anything else. Since 2009 we have seen one reeking bit of Administration criminality after the other, literally dozens of them emerge, draw a week or so of attention—if that— from a fraction of the media—if that—and then simply, well, go away, with any attempt to revisit them, for example, during the 2012 campaign, literally ignored by the Democrats' Praetorian Guards in the media. Tipping point? Good grief, gentlemen, why expect anything different to ensue now just because it's Bob Woodward?

The irony here is that it is Bob Woodward we're talking about, the liberal reporter who, along with his editor, Ben Bradlee, perfected the loud enough–long enough tactics I have described.

9 years ago @ Commentary Magazine - Why the GOP Opposes Ta... · 0 replies · +2 points

As a means of funding the Affordable Care Act, coming down the pike is a brand spanking new 3.8% tax on investment income for those earning $250,000 or more. How many morons out there think that, even for a relatively short time, the tax will stay at 3.8% and remain applicable only to those earning $250,000 or more? Who is stupid enough to credit that? Taxes increase, spending increases. The data are overwhelming on that point. That is why Republicans are opposed to raising taxes in this case.

Let us see, say, a decade of no spending increases (adjusted for population growth). Then we may contemplate raising anybody's rates in obeisance to a protean and wholly notional concept of fairness.

9 years ago @ Commentary Magazine - Schumer’s Dishonest ... · 1 reply · +4 points

I am neither Jewish nor Arab, so I tend to view a controversy very legalistically, i.e., who signed what and was he credentialed to do it. Accordingly, I am as unimpressed by Jewish claims rooted in Torah as I am Arab hot air that Jerusalem is an inalienable Muslim Waqf.

In my opinion, as a legal matter, the State of Israel's existence owes more to all the British Tommys and French Poilus who died in Flanders, where their bones are undoubtedly mingled with those of Otto von Bismarck's famous Pomeranian grenadier, than to the Holocaust, a crime of which Balfour could have known nothing in 1917.

Balfour and the British government in general did understand and care deeply about how the Turks had betrayed Britain and France, who had saved Turkey's bacon from the Russian bear in 1854, during the Crimean War. There was absolutely no sane reason why Turkey should ally herself with Imperial Germany in 1914. As I mentioned above, until the arrival of the German cruisers that September, Ottoman Turkey was still a neutral nation and sentiment in the Turkish government was, on balance, against involvement on either side (a policy they did pursue in the Second World War). Sadly, yet all too typically for the Middle East, the Turks despised the Russians, with whom they had waged on again–off again war for two centuries—losing most of the time, mind you—more than they loved common sense. They hated the Russians so deeply in fact that they could not resist jumping into the fire with both feet when Capt. Souchon, to save his own skin (his ships were at the point of breaking down after a week of fighting and fleeing from Algiers to Istanbul and in no condition to sortie against the pursuing British), offered Turkey his shiny new heavy cruisers as instruments of revenge.

Mistakes simultaneously so colossal and rooted in so trivial an affair are not easy to point to in history. Joining the Central Powers cost Turkey its entire empire, which, I repeat, was more than fitting. Because the British were unable to resupply the Czarist armies, the Eastern Front descended into a stalemate instead of the serious liability that it should have been for Germany; the war dragged on years longer than it should have; and, as an added and completely unexpected bonus, the Russian government collapsed because of the war and the Bolsheviks came to power! Believe me, the Allies were not going to let the Turks keep a square inch of territory outside of Turkey itself.

So, as I see it, as far as the legality of the matter is concerned, it's still July, 1923, in Lausanne, Switzerland. The provisions of that agreement, never revoked in whole or in part in nearly 90 years, which anticipate "a Jewish homeland in Palestine," have yet to be implemented legally, though I can understand that many Israelis will disagree with me vehemently.

The world came close in November, 1947, with the approval by the UN of a plan to partition Palestine in 1948, a plan that specifically cited Lausanne as the source of its authority in the matter and could have yielded a second binding agreement had it been accepted (obviating any need for Resolution 242 in 1967); but which of course absolutely required acceptance by Arabs and Jews to have legal force, leaving us with the crummy armistices of 1948/1967, no peace treaty, and more or less continual conflict. All the non-binding resolutions authored by the General Assembly since then condemning Israel are legally less enforceable than a mechanic's lien, in my opinion.

9 years ago @ Commentary Magazine - Schumer’s Dishonest ... · 6 replies · +9 points

At the conclusion of a successful war, the Romans would cry Vae victis! or "Woe to the vanquished!" (ironically, a maxim they first learned to appreciate when it was recited to them by the Celts after a war Rome lost in the 4th century B.C., for which they forfeited literally all the gold in the city). It's meaning is really very simple: If you get into a war, best not to lose it. Tempers will be running a bit high by then, and who can say what may follow.

The League of Nations, which emerged at Versailles from the victorious side of World War I, a conflict that cost at least nine-million lives and led to untold devastation, had, by the age-old laws of war, every right to dispose of conquered territory as they saw fit. The privileges and responsibilities of the League in turn devolved upon the United Nations during the next war, who saw fit to interpret the vague phrases of Balfour and Lausanne in a concrete partition of Palestine in 1948. All Arab parties concerned rejected that solution out of hand, so we still don't know what "a Jewish homeland in Palestine" means. The only legally binding agreement in existence plainly states that there must be one. For ought anybody knows, it might very well end up meaning a Jewish state in the entire British Mandate, the Greater Israel you are so incensed about. I for one am not advocating such an outcome, only pointing out that by all known precedent there's nothing illegal about it apriori, so there is also no basis for your hysteria over what land does or does not belong to whom.

9 years ago @ Commentary Magazine - Schumer’s Dishonest ... · 7 replies · +6 points

I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the results of the First World War, although I can understand why someone with your opinions might want to, because they bear directly on who legally controls what territories. I emphasize legally because in the entire sorry history of the region since 1918, there have been only two internationally binding agreements on which all parties concerned signed off. Those would be United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.

Resolution 242 simply says that all territorial disputes are to be resolved by negotiations rather than force of arms.

The treaty of Lausanne is more pertinent. That agreement, signed by the Republic of Turkey, legal successor to the Ottoman Empire, reinstated the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres, signed by the Ottoman Sultan's representatives but which Ataturk had repudiated because, he claimed, Turkey had yielded too much of Anatolia to Greece. That led to further war and revision of Sèvres to placate the Turks but left unchanged those portions of the agreement pertaining to what was then known as Ottoman Southern Syria, which included the land now under dispute and then some.

The Treaty of Sèvres incorporated the language of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which anticipated the establishment of a "Jewish homeland in Palestine." What that might mean was left deliberately vague, and Balfour added the famous provision that the rights of non-Jewish Palestinians were not to be compromised. Again, what those "rights" were was deliberately left undefined.

In 1917 of course, Britain and Turkey were at war, so the question of the applicability of the Balfour Declaration was still in the balance and was to be decided by force of arms. The British offered numerous enticements to all subjects of the Sultan in Asia if they would revolt against Ottoman Empire. The only ones who actually took them up were the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula. Their then leader, Hussein, Sherif of Mecca, as anyone who has seen Lawrence of Arabia must know, launched the famous Revolt in the Desert that ended in Damascus and the rout of all Turkish forces outside of Anatolia. Furthermore, because of his cooperation and a memorandum of understanding known as the McMahon–Hussein Agreement, the British awarded Hussein with his own Hashemite Kingdom, which, alas, he was unable to hold onto against the Wahabist Saudis, but that is another story. It should be noted, however, that Saudi Arabia is an independent kingdom to the present day.

The important point is that he cooperated with the victors in a war and was rewarded. The Palestinian Arabs, on the other hand, who were also offered their freedom in exchange for cooperation with the Allies opted to remain loyal subjects of the Sultan, which they had been since 1516 (prior to that Palestine had been a province of Egypt). One feels sorry for them, but they made their bed and have been sleeping in it for nearly a century now.

Of course that is not the end of the story. Thje question at once arose as to what to do with the Ottoman territories that had not revolted, which was most of them. Well, the answer was the Treaty of Lausanne, which ratified both the Treaty of Sèvres and various League of Nations conferences in converting Ottoman Southern Syria into so-called Mandates, with Palestine and Jordan going to the British, Syria and the Lebanon to the French.

It is pointless to complain about the interference of foreigners here where they don't belong. Turkey freely, some say disastrously, sided with the German and Austrian empires in 1914.

Turkey did so out of a centuries long enmity towards Russia, a reason wholly neurotic that was not only opposed by most Turks until the fantastically crazy arrival in Constantinople of two German warships (the cruisers Breslau and Göben), hotly pursued by the Royal Navy, allies of the Russians. Wilhelm Souchon, who commanded the German cruisers, offered to reflag them as Turkish vessels and to use them to drive the Russians from the Black Sea, an empty gesture that nonetheless provoked a unexpected flareup of Turkish chauvinism, leading them, insanely, to declare war on Russia, Britain, and France. Churchill never forgave the Turks for their incredible foolishness. By blockading the Dardanelles, he opined, the Turks prolonged the war by at least two years and cost the Allies millions of dead and wounded. It also led to the ill-fated Gallipoli expedition to unblock the channel.

The point is, the Turks owed the British, the French, and the Russians a reckoning of stupendous magnitude. They were legally in charge of Palestine and only they could legally surrender it. They did so at Lausanne without looking back or shedding a tear. the Palestinians have had to suffer the consequences. They had their chance to benefit from Turkey's foolhardy gamble but chose not to take it. (cont.

9 years ago @ Commentary Magazine - Schumer’s Dishonest ... · 0 replies · +16 points

The Nazis had the SA, the Sandinistas their turbas. For their part, the Democrats can turn out an ugly crowd of union goons and race-rioteers on a dime, as they did here in Wisconsin last year.

Schumer knows very well that he's finished in New York if minorities are instructed to turn on him en bloc (who could threaten him with that . . . hmm?). There are not enough Jews in the five boroughs and on Long Island to re-elect him. (Why they would in the first place is, to be sure, as mysterious and incomprehensible as supersymmetric-string theory, but that's a tale for another day.) Personality cults always feature prominently goon squads and pants-peeing, nothin'-to-see-here-boss-but-us dancing chickens like Chuckie for the thugs to intimidate by simply hanging around. It's a matter of the proper division of labor, and no respectably functioning cult is possible without such cooperation

It's been abundantly clear since the Democratic primaries of 2008 that Obama desires nothing so much as all praise all the time no matter what imbecility he perpetrates, which is normally a tricky status quo to maintain, requiring dedicated self-abasement on the part of thousands as well as improbable events that one normally would not credit outside a volume of the looniest science fiction, believing them simply impossible, grotesqueries like, for instance, someone being awarded the Nobel Prize in advance!, for absolutely nothing in particular, surely one for the books if there is such a thing as one for the books. A person could get an unrealistic sense of his own capabilities if that sort of sycophancy goes uncorrected for too long, for most of his adult life, say. He might even begin to grow easily annoyed, irritated by opposition, and prone to issuing threats. Hmmm . . . .

9 years ago @ Commentary Magazine - More on the GOP’s In... · 1 reply · +1 points

Forget California. Mark Steyn recently had a piece in which he described a fairly populous area of Maryland—and I don't mean Baltimore— where there are many Latin American immigrants, legal and illegal. The downtown reminded him greatly, he said, of numerous places he had seen in the plazas of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Large numbers of people lolling about in the sun doing nothing in particular besides getting muy borracho, playing cards, and fighting as though they were at a Dia de los Defuntos celebration in Tijuana. All the scene lacked were dog fights.

Think of it: Maryland!

9 years ago @ Commentary Magazine - Schumer’s Dishonest ... · 3 replies · +22 points

Schumer's disgraceful shape-shifting is a frightening indication of the degree of fear that must now exist in a Democratic Party overwhelmed by a new Führerprinzip: Obama worship.

Gorillas in business suits have taken over the party quite. The Van Joneses and Valerie Jarretts of the party, not to mention the scoundrel at the top, must thoroughly enjoy the spectacle of a New York Jewish minstrel show. It reminds me a little of Khrushchev's "Confessions," in which he describes how Stalin enjoyed ordering his most senior lickspittles (for example, Nikita himself, Beria, et al.) to start dancing vigorous Cossack dances. The stooges would dance until they were at the brink of coronaries because Uncle Joe would not tell them to stop. He sometimes simply walked out of the room, the sadist, leaving them terrified of what to do.

9 years ago @ Commentary Magazine - The GOP’s Intellectu... · 0 replies · 0 points

(cont.) Of course it is insane to pursue policies that cripple the actually existing family's ability to raise the next generation without let or hindrance from the government on behalf of a piece of collectivist fiction called the "human family." But that is the trajectory we are on. The authors cited by Mr. Wehner offer nothing but weak tea as a cure for social cholera. Republicans, we read, must "encourage," must "support," must "strengthen" the family, as though such goals have been the farthest thing from anyone in the GOP's mind for decades. The encouraging, supporting, and vapid so-forth-ery is to be accomplished via the Federal government by a new and with-it Republican Party, which might seem more than puzzling to some.

Compared with such puerile daydreams, Obama's "Life of Julia" is as hardbitten and brutally realistic as Hubert Selby's "Last Exit to Brooklyn."