The Spindle

Woman spinning flax using a drop spindle and distaff. MS Fr. 599, f. 40, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris 15th c. France

The ancient Greeks believed that life was like to a thread, and that the three Moirai, or Fates, spun it, measured it, and cut it. The destination in all cases is the same: an empty spool. And the rest? Story of our lives: how well or badly they are spun, in colors pale or bright; and in the end, what we make together: a tapestry or a rag.

Spin, thou Spindle, tell thy tales —
Of gaiety and sadness, inexplicably entwined;
Of threads and curtains, sweat and blood;
Though threads be cut, the Spindle spins anon
Another yarn or tall tale for the cat to play with.

Published in: on Thursday, September 18th, 2008 at 18:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wake up, True Believers

Once in every four years we have a little show
We do it often so everyone would know
How free we are to lightly throw away
What we have earned; and to unthinkingly obey

The verdict of the mob that can’t be seen,
That can’t be heard; it’s a mean machine
That turns a human being ‘nto a wheel
Spins its lies and casts its steel.

For a people deceived, there can never be a choice
Those who toil in bondage rarely have a voice
Wake up, true believers, things are not okay,
Wake up, and throw your chains away.

Published in: on Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 at 11:07 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,


A Platitude

Humor means
different things
to different people
at different times.

Published in: on Monday, May 18th, 2009 at 2:12 am  Leave a Comment  

The Twilight Zone

Amnesty International, one of the most reliable Cassandras of our age, has once again demonstrated its utter insensitivity to geopolitical reality, has called for an arms embargo on Israel and Hamas, following the recent Gaza massacre

Amnesty International has released a report accusing Israel and Hamas of war crimes, which both have denied. To accusations of the use of phosphorus weapons against the Gazan population, Israeli spokesman Mark Regev said, in a remarkable display of Jewish wit,that Israel “did not use any such munition as an anti-personnel weapon,” adding that “we are investigating ourselves.” One cannot but wonder why Israel investigates, when the results are already known to Mr. Regev. In fact, Mr. Regev seems to know better than the IDF itself, which is investigating at least one specific incident of phosphorus use against populated areas.

It seems that the issue is not whether Israel (or Hamas) committed war crimes, but whether such standards apply at all. The Palestinians say that they are vindicated because Israel has enormously more firepower, while Israelis say that they are merely acting in self-defence. Hamas does not even represent a state! Thanks in part to US abettment, the land between the Jordan and the Sea is a strange place, a twilight zone where normal standards of law do not apply, making this almost a biblical conflict in its insulation from the modern international system. An arms embargo? In my dreams.

Published in: on Monday, February 23rd, 2009 at 2:24 am  Comments (3)  


In light of the recent actions of the State of Israel in the Gaza Strip, and, of course, of its conduct for decades, voices have recently continued to be raised to compare it to Nazi Germany and its treatment of the Palestinians to the Holocaust. In response, those critics have, as before, been branded antisemites.

I can hardly be called an antisemite; I am as Jewish as they come without the black suit and hat, or, in the immortal words of the sadly mortal Graham Chapman, “I’m a Kike! A Yid! A Hebe! A Hook-nose! I’m Kosher, Mum! I’m a Red Sea Pedestrian, and proud of it.” I have also lived in Israel for sixteen years, and when all is said and done it was a good childhood. Nonetheless, having established my credentials, I am impelled, by the force of my conscience, to “betray” my co-nationals and join the chorus. As with everything Jewish, to see why one must first take a look at History.

Israel is a young nation; one only has to look back about 60 years to find a time when it was a province of an empire, groaning under the infamous heel of the British Mandate. In that period, the province in which the Israeli Nation was incubated was called Palestine/Eretz Yisrael, the slash symbolizing the divide-and-conquer approach championed by its overlords.

Indeed, the aboriginal divisions characteristic of the land known in various times and places as Cna’an, Palaestina, Judea and Israel, Israel, and Falastin proved a boon for the British, who needed to secure the occupation of their dearly bought colony (acquired as it was from the previous empire by the might of British arms as well as the celebrated Lawrence of Arabia and his unwashed followers) and to keep their mandate on it justified. It is said, that in a British Police station there was an Arab, a Jew, and a Briton. The Jew would watch the Arab, the Arab would watch the Jew, and the Briton would keep an eye on both of them.

Then it all sort of went out of control.

The canvas is short to paint the subsequent history in any kind of detail, and few painters would dare to undertake the task of fairly representing it; but the general gist is well known: War, refugees, occupation and repression.

The irony is inescapable and vicious: Israel was, after all, built by the refugees of other wars, who sought to escape the camps and graveyards of Europe, where they were considered vermin, to contain if not to exterminate. Perhaps them and their descendants could not get rid of the camps in their minds; the fact remains that once armed and powerful, the eternally dispossessed and persecuted set about dispossessing and persecuting other people.

They escaped war only to find it waiting for them, but now the roles were reversed: years later and thousands of miles away, the prisoners have become the guards. Now there are Jewish soldiers standing at checkpoints, pointing guns at kids forcing young men to play their violin. Now there are Jews sitting in tall towers behind high walls, shooting at people who walk funny. Now there are Jews clamoring for “living space” and the subjugation or “removal” of an entire people. Living in Israel, I once saw a poster inviting the public to attend a lecture at a Jewish center, entitled: “The Final Solution for the Palestinian Problem.” All that for the Homeland.

And who can blame them? During an online conversation with a relative, I was reminded of the reason why my family ended up in Israel in the first place: Like countless others, My family left the collapsing Soviet Union in 1990, fleeing hardship and prejudice; in Russia, few hesitated to remind us what we were. So we ran, or flew, to the only place that would accept us. Weren’t we in for a surprise!

The first thing they let me know I was, was “Russian.” That was when I was still small and adaptable, and in the fullness of time it became reserved for my parents. Despite that, Israel has no shortage of venomous ethnic epithets: Russians and Moroccans, Yemenites and Ethiopians, of all ages, not to mention “Arabs;” but even for those lucky ones, who manage to largely evade ethnic categorization, there is no shortage of other labels. The ones I got was “Leftie” and “Traitor,” not to mention “a failure of the Education System.” I must admit that I wear those epithets as badges of pride.

So much for the Melting Pot; instead we must return to the famous irony of the prisoners-turned-guards. I was called a traitor in Israel because it stands against every value and tradition I have ever embraced, as a human being and as a Jew. Humanity, solidarity, humility, learning, and wisdom have been replaced by cruelty, prejudice, violence, greed, and machismo. Led by a crew of utterly unscrupulous megalomaniacs and bewitched by fear and force, Israel is a fascist entity and anything but what a Jewish state has a right to be.

Published in: on Saturday, January 31st, 2009 at 3:19 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Only in the USA: Man in Santa Suit Shoots Girl In Face,0,6505439.story
This story isn’t funny, but this is, sort of:

“It was thought to be the worst single killing spree in the county this year. Overall, homicides have remained at relatively low levels compared to previous years.”

Published in: on Friday, December 26th, 2008 at 6:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Big Spender

Washington Post:

“Of the first $350 billion in rescue money provided by Congress, the Treasury has only $15 billion left, not enough to save a major financial institution if it were to collapse.”

Already? Wow.
I wonder where all that money went,  and I can’t also help but be incredulous that I don’t know.

Published in: on Saturday, December 6th, 2008 at 19:26 pm  Leave a Comment  


From the Washington Post:

“The [monthly] new job losses pushed the unemployment rate from 6.5 percent to 6.7 percent, the highest rate since the recession of the early 1990s. The figure was tempered by the fact that 422,000 workers left the labor market, many of them discouraged by their inability to find a job. The unemployment rate only includes people actively looking for work.”

Oh. I see. Interesting. I wonder where it would be possible to find data on all those guys (and gals) who are not ‘actively looking for work” in the official channels. I guess those would be all those gang members, homeless people, and all manner of other people who don’t exist. Now that would be some interesting data.

And for a nice finish —

“So far this year, 220,506 jobs have been cut in the financial services industry, 120,742 in the automotive sector and 63,838 in retail, Challenger said. The only sectors that have been immune to layoffs have been health care and energy (my emphasis).” Just add in education and you’ve got it.

Published in: on Friday, December 5th, 2008 at 17:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

A President to Speak With

So, Bush was the President you could drink a beer with, right? Check this out:

“The final question Hart asked was what each participant would tell Obama if he called to wish them a happy Thanksgiving. Their thoughts were predictable—keep your promises, etc.—but none of them argued with the premise, which is to say: They all could imagine speaking easily to their new president.”

Barack Obama is the President you can speak with.

That’s quite a bit better, isn’t it?

Published in: on Thursday, December 4th, 2008 at 2:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Ballad of a Prince

(Work in Progress)

Once there was a prince who liked to gallop on his horse
Among the grassy hills and fragrant valleys;
One morning he rode early to the river all alone,
To look at his reflection in the water.
And there he met his princess and there she took his heart in thrall,
And on the river’s bank they lay together.

Her skin was brown like nutmeg and her hair was black as space,
Her eyes were green like meadows in the summer;
They lay and watched the blue sky and the sunset and the stars,
And the moon, she cast no shadow behind them.
And then he knelt and begged her to come with him and be his bride,
She knelt down by him and looked in his eyes and embraced him.

The sun was pink and rising over distant rolling hills
He picked her up and sat her in his saddle;
They galloped over hill and over dale and under tree,
Their hair streamed ever brightly in their wake.
And then they reached the great gates of the keep where he was born,
They halted and he cried for the gates to open.

Courtiers watched in wonder from the castle’s looming walls,
With narrow eyes they looked down on the figures
Of their noble prince who stood tall beside his horse,
And of the strange girl sitting in the saddle.
The old men sighed and shrugged — oh, they have seen such things before,
And long ago they learned also how to solve them.

The marriage went ahead amid the trumpets and the flutes,
The fiddlers whined and dancers made their figures;
The sun shone many smiles upon the prince and his fair bride,
As they waited breathless at the altar;
In front of them the priest stood with his ancient magic words,
Behind them slunk the murmur of retainers.

Published in: on Friday, November 28th, 2008 at 1:20 am  Leave a Comment  

Jailhouse Surprise

The British Broadcasting Corporation has been recently surprised by the Iraqi Interior Ministry, which allowed them to visit Rusafa Prison in Baghdad. The report reports, in a beautifully written, archetypal human scene, that Iraq’s prison system is extremely overcrowded, with a hundred people to a shower, five to a bunk and thirty-three point three to a toilet, so you take turns to sleep, have a chance at the shower once every three days, and I can’t imagine what you do about the restrooms.

The guards invoke Saddam Hussein, saying that in his time the jails were worse; the street has it that not much has changed.

It seems that the problem is caused by too many people getting arrested in a fashion somewhere between rational and random, overwhelming the too few jails and judges (Sounds familiar?), and in a final hemi-potent thought-provoker suggests that “as the United States and Britain gradually make their exit from Iraq, they are due to transfer thousands of prisoners into the custody of the Iraqi prison system,” making it even worse.

What can we do? As a group of nations, rich in infrastructure, human resources, and civic tradition, what can the West do to help? That is a question not usually asked about actual problems, being instead reserved for overarching generalities or, even better, something completely imaginary. As for answers, it is not my responsibility to provide them; but I suggest we could start by handing over some of those damn big bases to the Iraqis to use as extra prison space, and by taking a good few thousands of young ones to make lawyers out of them. Then we can start thinking about how to get less people arrested.

And what then? Then we can start doing the same thing right here at home.

Published in: on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 at 15:50 pm  Leave a Comment