Category Archives: War on Terror

Quick thoughts on . . .

Transpanency: The Trib adds to the story of an unhappy school board. I offered the video and some context here.

Tonya Sconiers

I must admit that the summary of Tonya’s crimes seems a bit inflated by the District. You would never know that Tonya once slavishly supported Keith Dixon and the early reign of Bill Gronseth.

Stauber, National Crisis, parking lots

Yes Congressman Stauber’s spouse was a warrior in Iraq. But its not just money for a parking lot in West-point that is being diverted to protect America from Mexican “rapists.” It’s billions of dollars from national security to save us from rape. That is a crises and Pete is happy to stoke it. If we really cared about rapists we might have been a little more careful about who we appointed to the Supreme Court. Or maybe Congress would help fund 200,000 untested rape kits sitting on evidence room shelves all over America.

“Sankofa” at Duluth’s AME Church

I was invited to attend St. Marks AME (African Methodist Episcopal) church on Saturday. I haven’t decided whether to attend but after reading this article I calculated that the church was built in 1888. That was the year after my Grandfather George Robb’s birth. My grandfather’s next door neighbor was Larry Lapsley who escaped from slavery in Texas during the Civil War. When the Trib story says St.Marks was built by ex slaves its true. The Civil War had ended only twenty-seven years before construction began.

I particularly liked the description of the Ghanaian word “Sankofa” because only a few days ago I was accused of looking backwards at the School District’s misadventures. According to the folks who cherish this word it “symbolizes a sense of needing to look back in order to move forward.” To that I say, “Hallelujah!”

Our sore footed Sleazebag’s War

The chikencrap who wasn’t sold on the inconvenient Vietnam War and who courageously badmouthed Bush years later for the Gulf War has now turned a de-nuclearization deal into a pre-war with Iran. God D….%&*$%Y)&^$#@$%^& that Son-of-a-Bitch. The Trump folly will, if it comes to pass, be the gift wrapping on the Depression he’s preparing the world for.

Now that that’s off my chest I can go on to other posts for the day.

You Have my Sympathy Ilhan (includes the seven paragraphs missing from today’s Reader)

You Have My Sympathy Ilhan

Ilhan Omar, Minnesota’s new Islamic Congresswoman, has offered her “unequivocal” apology for twitting the fiercely pro-Israel Political Action Committee AIPAC in a tweet. Some of her fellow Congressmen are not satisfied. Full abasement is called for and perhaps Congressional censure. Nevermind that traditional Republican condemnation of “Hollywood” for unraveling our moral fabric echoes similar calls from earlier politicians that paired amoral Hollywood with the slur “Jew controlled.”

Three years ago, I submitted the following column after accompanying a peace studies class to the Holy land. I suggested that it be the first of several to follow covering my two-week tour of Israel and Palestine. I’d grouse about how the reputedly corrupt Prime Minister Netanyahu insulted President Obama. I’d gasp about the belligerent drunk who hectored my liberal Jewish
guides. I’d describe how I wept at Yad Vashem as an archival movie showed two small shivering brothers sitting on curb in Warsaw, the little one listless and near death; both boys the age and image of my grandsons. The Reader didn’t get back to me back then so I resubmit the column today to register my own impatience with the one-sided debate allowed in today’s America over an issue almost as important as guns, gays and gynecology.

Harry Welty’s Holy Land Haj, Part 1 – Bookends Continue reading

The tenth buddy

It was bagpipes and Scotland at our Presbyterian Church today. My Dad would have loved it. Our graying choir did OK and we had the job of making and serving cookies and treats after church in the basement after the service. I poured coffee, regular and decaf. But one ongoing drama had my attention though the morning.

The Mother of one of the kids who followed mine up the Sunday School chain reported that her son’s tenth buddy from our most recent conflicts had killed himself. She looked ahead and I could see from the choir loft that she was suffering intense pain. I’m sure she was wondering if her son could be next. She was surely reflecting his pain. She has faithfully reported this body count at our services for the past couple years since his return to civilian life.

These young troops are patted on the back when they return from conflict unlike the troops from Vietnam. The dirty secret is that most of us don’t want to follow them into service. We no longer harass them for defending the foreign missions our nation’s leaders deems necessary. But these young people go back again and again and again, as soldiers ever will, so as not to let down their buddies still in the field. And when they come back after years they are not the same; can not be the same, again.

My Grandfather fought for a year in France in World War I. He was shot to hell and like these young people today was hailed as a hero upon his return. But his year of fighting was only about four of five months at or near the front. He did not eat up his twenties going back and going back again. The nations of Europe did not have that Luxury. Their soldiers fought at the front for four years until they were lucky enough the have a leg blown off so that they could return to normal life. Look how well that served Europe’s future.

Its hard for me to put any credence in the faux patriotism from those in power who wave the bloody flag and send soldiers into the night or into a place like Niger with inadequate support and who then do little to insure that our soldiers don’t commit suicide upon their return or clumsily offer condolences to families who’s sons and daughters did what they made damn sure they never had to do themselves when they were young.

16 years ago on

I found this old image courtesy of the Wayback machine.

In 1999 Claudia and I had decided to take a little trip to New York to overlap a visit there by Duluth East’s a Capella choir which our daughter Keely was a member of. I got the chance to take a picture of them on Liberty Island with a great shot of the World Trade Towers behind them and directly above my daughter’s smiling face. Shortly after 9/11 I posted the picture as a small memorial to the lives lost in the beginning of what is now called the “War on Terror.”

Paranoia Pt 3 Sacco and Vanzetti

Last night I read something new about an old legal case that had liberals undies in a bunch back in my college days. Sacco and Vanzetti were two anarchists who were found guilty of murder and executed in 1927. Their convictions raised hackles then and on until today with many advocates saying one of them at least was almost certainly innocent. A similar advocacy for with wife of Julius Rosenberg continued until recent years.

Chapter 9 of 1920 was all about the excesses of the nation’s police in deporting dangerous foreigners from America during our enthusiasm for making the world safe for democracy. While I was looking up news stories for my grandfather from the years he enlisted to fight in World War I kept smiling at a series of stories about the patriotism of the Swedish community of Lindsborg near my Grandfather’s home in Kansas. It was painfully obvious that the Kansas Swedes were taking great pains to prove they weren’t disloyal Germans. It was doubly ironic to me because my Grandfather’s German-American mother had said she didn’t wan’t her sons to marry any dirty Swedish girls from Lindsborg. Obviously it was my Grandfather’s lineage that should have come under closer scrutiny when he volunteered. His soon to be Sister-in-law had to give up teaching German in deference to America’s surge toward nationalism.

It would be impossible for me not to think of today’s America while reading about my Grandfather’s America. And yet…

The “new information” about Sacco and Vanzetti in David Pietrusza’s 2007 book was from a book written by Paul Avrich published in 1991. In a nod to another historian Pietrusza said of Avrich that he was the “foremost expert” on the case. He then said that Avrich had determined who placed the humongous bomb on Wall Street that killed thirty people including banking magnate J.P. Morgan’s secretary. The last I’d heard that identity was still unknown after a hundred years.

In fact, the entire chapter was eye opening when it came to the ruthlessness of our government’s rooting out suspect people and detailing the extent of anarchist’s (that Era’s terrorists) bomb throwing extravagance. As is the case today, it made American’s paranoid in an all too familiar way.

I’m now persuaded to believe that Sacco and Vanzetti were bad guys. I am heartened that even then, 97 years ago, such luminaries as eventual Supreme Court Justice, Felix Frankfurter, argued that the government’s heavy-handedness was wrong. The days of Trump will be limited too. Yes, their will be Breitbarts calling out the dogs of war and yes, there will be bad guys who aren’t caught. This is history come to life, or at least to reincarnation.

The Good Donald Trump

I had every intention of watching President Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress last evening. Instead, I got Trumped by the School Board. We altered our February schedule so we could meet on the last Tuesday of February rather than the third Tuesday. And, as I’ve explained, our new more amicable Board pulled a Trump on me without warning. They rehired our oily, Machiavellian attorney, Kevin Rupp, whose practice has pioneered the removal of school board members who ask too many questions and bother their Superintendents.

So, I’m only catching up on Trump’s speech that today’s commentators are explaining was a traditional stick-to-the-teleprompter affair. (I gave a couple of those myself last night sans teleprompter.) But I haven’t changed my mind about our new President or the staff he has surrounded himself with – a staff that I think Attorney Rupp would find very agreeable.

An an old highschool acquaintance of mine and I recently “friended” each other on Facebook. Sue sent me a post this morning from the Guardian Newspaper that helps cement my contempt for our new “Common letcher and Chief.” Coincidentally, it involves an author whose book I plan to read at Lakewood Elementary next week. Its author is Australian, Mem Fox.

Last year when I read at Lakewood they asked me to read a book on forestry and suggested Dr. Seuss’s the Lorax. This year they are talking about recipes and asked if I had anything that might fit that topic for which I could bring a recipe for the students. I thought of Pavlova.

I love visiting book stores in other nations to see what local authors are writing for children. In England decades ago I discovered the charming book Five Minutes Peace. Four years ago in Australia I discovered Mem Fox among others.

My old classmate, Sue, sent me this disspiriting story about Mem’s latest trip to America and the moment she “loathed” America.

Thank you Mr. President. You have more than made up for the awful Nobel Peace Prize that those ditzy Norwegians gave President Barack Obama when he was beginning his administration.

Lapel Flag patriots

This NPR story about the thousands of “general discharges” handed out to veterans in recent years irked me this morning. These discharges protect the Military from the godawful medical costs of tending for the soldiers who fought our “War on Terror” while saddling them with a stain that prevents many from getting decent work after they leave the military.

I have little use for cheap patriotism which is symbolized by politicians who always can be found wearing American flag lapel pins. Its sort of like holding out a crucifix to keep vampires at bay. The recent tweet by President Elect Trump saying we ought to jail and strip the citizenship from flag burners is a good example of this. He could have been one of the radical Republicans who wanted to execute and jail the leaders of the Confederacy. This is the same guy who went skiing after he got a medical deferment from the draft during the Vietnam War. He may not have been paying attention when he vowed to replace Antonin Scalia with a like minded jurist because Scalia was a strong advocate for free speech even to the extent of flag burning.

A few years ago I was infuriated by a billboard on I-35 just north of the Twin Cities that showed black hands on the Constitution and lamenting its destruction. It was obvious who the patriots buying the sign considered a threat. Today those hands would be tiny white hands.

I discovered on my recent trip to Topeka a wealth of ties between my Grandfather, George Robb, and the American Legion which ballooned after World War 1. He was an officer, made speeches and attended a great many of its conventions. One speech, which I have yet to fully read covered a bonus being considered for veterans of the Great War. I also have a dozen letters to and from the War Department concerning his war related disability. At first he was rated as 10 percent disabled but over time he is informed that his rating has been pushed up. The last I remember he was considered to be about 23% disabled.

The Congresses after World War II filled up with veterans many of whom, like my Dad, took advantage of the GI Bill. After the Korean War they expanded deferments for things like college educations which became a handy four-year escape for potential draftees when the draft was reinstated for the Vietnam War. Other draft evaders like George W Bush joined the National Guard which was generally not deployed to war zones. Then there were the Trumps, well-to-do kids whose doctors told the military they were unfit physically to serve the nation in combat even when like Trump they had no difficulty skiing. Trump’s calling John McCain a loser for letting himself be captured has almost no equal for rhetorical infamy in the American record. I hope he has a lapel pin on his suits to cover up the stain.

Meanwhile the 20,000 vets discharged in recent years and left hanging without educational help and with a stain on their resumes and depression and addiction issues are helping save the military from paying out a great expense. No bonus for them. One of the young veterans in my church has had seven of his buddies commit suicide after coming back from their wars.

What have the Business oriented republican Congressmen given our troops? Easy access to pay day loans and the destruction of their credit.

It would take a pretty damned big American flag on a lapel to cover up this sort of ingratitude. We’ll be raising it over the White House come January.

Generosity and trust 2016 and on Aug. 29, 1942

I mentioned the magnanimity and solidarity of Duluth’s students yesterday particularly at Denfeld with its post-it note campaign started by its student rep on the Duluth School Board Johanna Unden. Today the DNT has another wonderful story confirming the class and thoughtfulness of our students, this time at East High. Shanze Hayee, a freshmen, found other students to join her in wearing a hijab an Islamic scarf that makes many Westerners nervous.

I’ve made much of my Grandfather, George Robb, in this blog. I’d like to share a letter I just received from his old Alma mater, Park College, in Missouri yesterday. It comes from the time following Pearl Harbor when American-Japanese were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. My grandfather was asked by the college’s president if it would be wise to enroll some of the Nisei as students during this time of war. Here is what he wrote:

Here’s an enlarged image:

A little bit of Post-Trump here in the Northland

In my view America elected a demagogue rather than a scold. In fairness to Hillary Clinton, the unprecedented calls of “lock her up” at Trump rallies trumped First Lady Obama’s call “When they go low we go high.” Maybe Hillary should have responded in kind. After all Trump is facing charges of fraud in a court presided over by a rapist sympathizer – the judge being a Mexican-American).

This election is like two black holes colliding and sending gravity waves though our universe. Its having the effect in our public schools of loosening the tongues of adolescent jerks who are mimicking their elder’s public excrescences. (If you don’t recognize my fifty scent word its fancy for “excrement” or its plural “excrements.” Its got a more common four letter equivalent.)

“Liberal” window smashers hiding in mobs and anonymous “conservative” spray can wielding graffiti writers and Internet trolls are both tomorrow’s brown shirts if we let them have their way. Even so I take little comfort with the comments of the Duluth School Board chair at the pitifully attended unity meeting called together by DFLer Mayor Emily Larson and Republican County Commissioner Peter Stauber.

In response to the anonymous racist graffiti scrawled in our school bathrooms Annie had this to say:

Annie Harala, chairwoman of the Duluth School Board, spoke about racial slurs and other intolerant language that were found in a city school bathroom last week, promising the district investigate and punish the culprits.

Racism “roared up this week in Duluth schools” after the election, she said.

“We want to be clear that intolerance and hatred is absolutely not accepted in our schools,’’ Harala said, urging parents and the entire community to encourage respectful behavior at home so that flows into the schools.

Presumably the vandals are kids. Railing about punishing them seems Trumpian to me. In this case Michelle Obama’s call to “go high” seems like a better strategy than making threats that are largely empty because of the furtive nature of the offense. That would be a better way to achieve some kind of unity.

Mongering, Fish, War, Clinton, take your pick

I have meant to say a lot more about this year’s sorry election spectacle. Half of America will have to move to Canada whatever the outcome. Good thing they haven’t put up a fence yet.

Hillary is taking it on the chin over her emails. After Snowden released everything under the sun on purpose I am not sure why were are raising so much hell about a secretary of state erasing email that is supposed to be secret. Oh yeah. I almost forgot. Its because Hillary Clinton was driven paranoid by the “Vast Republican Conspiracy” to get rid of Bill Clinton before he appropriated too many Republican ideas and got popular as a result. Bill called it triangulation and now Hillary is doing the same darned thing.

Anywho…..The Trumpster caught my attention at the Commander and Chief Forum last night when:

He said our officer corps had been turned to “rubble” by Obama and then asserted he’d get a bunch of new generals as though promotions wern’t the military’s job.

He said, for the umpteenth time, that he had a secret plan to crush ISIS in much the same way Richard Nixon boasted of his secret plan to end the Vietnam War when he was running in 1968.

He said if it had been up to him he would have taken all of Iraq’s oil. Ironically stopping the same kind of theft is why we invaded Iraq in the first place – to stop them from taking oil out of Kuwait after invading them. Surely doing what Trump wants would require a more super power to invade the United States and put an end to our theft.

He reiterated that Putin was great and a signifant improvement over Obama……..even though Putin’s critics are all assassinated. Putin’s a role model all right.

Where HL Mencken when we need him?

Meanwhile our incompetent President (and my favorite for the past thirty years) visited Laos and shook his head over all the bombs we dropped on them during the Vietnam War. It was more bombs, two million ton’s worth, than we dropped on the Axis Powers during World War II. One of their key industries today is making prostheses for people who keep blowing off their legs in rice paddies.

Coincidentally, last week I watched the Australian movie The Rocket about an enterprising young Lao boy who should never have been born according to his tribal customs. (He had a twin) Everywhere his family travels, after an Australian conglomerate and the Laotion government build a massive reservoir which displaces them, is littered with old American ordnance much of it still live. It was nice to hear our Commander and Chief offer financial help to Laos to remove it. Trump would just charge Laos the same way he plans to charge Mexico for our wall.

Forgetting Orlando…… antidote……Blackish

Ditto re: the opening of the last post. Damiano comes first.

This morning as I listened to the gruesome details of the rampaging truck in Nice, France on NPR a commentator mentioned its similarity to events in Orlando. For the life of me I couldn’t put my finger on just what tragedy had happened there but I knew there had been one and that it had been bad. Instead I remembered that my grandsons had just returned from Orlando a week before to visit Universal Studios.

Claudia reminded me about the dance club massacre and I decided that we had had so many recent horrors that they had crowded out the Pulse Nightclub. It has been a summer of ugly headlines.

I found an antidote to some of this summer’s ghastly events last night. Claudia and I have been trying out various television series for the past few years. Some have proven sufficiently binge worthy to watch and even to pay for. Last night it occurred to me to watch “Blackish.”

I’d first heard the program mentioned a couple years ago before it was anything more than some short “teasers” which had been put on you-tube to generate investor interest. Somehow after all the black white conflict it seemed I should be watching it. I had heard a few weeks ago that they had set comedy aside to portray how a prosperous black family would explain the events of Ferguson, Missouri to their children. On Netflix this was the latest episode that we could have watched without charge. But I wanted to meet the family first and catch up with it from the beginning of its 2014 season. We watched six in a row and the first three in particular had both Claudia and I roaring with laughter.

Its full of self deprecation by blacks about black life. As a white guy I couldn’t have pulled it off. As my Mother told me years ago as a Kansas girl she loved to make fun of Kansas but she hated it when outsiders did the same. In this case I’m grateful to the creators of “Blackish” for sharing their humor about their situation with me. I don’t know if I’ll watch the rest of the season but I will make a point of watching the recent Ferguson episode.

My [Buddy] just won’t cut me any slack

From: “Your Buddy”
Sent: Mon, 23 May 2016 10:23:49 -0500
Subject: Re: Andrew Sullivan thinks Donald Trump may defeat Hillary Clinton.

Jeez, Harry:

“what Kennedy et al did re: Vietnam at least they didn’t have contempt for the system.” That isn’t even a half-assed attempted rationalization. The lives of more than 50,000 American military persons squandered in Vietnam, but the honchos “didn’t have contempt for the system”? Fuck the system. The venture was a disaster.

[Your Buddy

My Buddy thinks I’m prissy about language because I usually xxx out Fxxx or turn it into an “ef” or “effing.” I began cleaning up my act in fifth grade after I copied my Dad and spewed out lots of &#%@xx#()xx$%&. He told me no one would pay attention to me if I always cut loose and then added that swearing was a good way to get people’s attention if it was doled out in miserly portions. I think my Buddy’s “fuck” up there meets that test. Please excuse me if it exceeds your tolerance.

Here’s my reply to him:


I think you have a point and a pretty good one. Lots of wars are started by folks who are simply following the conventional path which leads them to go to war. Barbara Tuchman made that point about World War 1 in her book Guns of August that JFK was reading at the outset of the Cuban Missile Crises. And yet despite bringing that powder keg to a sane solution he kept sending advisers to Vietnam. We had to stop the dominoes you know.

We will never know what Kennedy would have done. We only know that Johnson let himself be drawn down the primrose path to disaster for the 57,000 troops who died. My Grandfather felt the same way about Woodrow Wilson.

So, the question I should ask myself is will Donald Trump spare us another Vietnam? His ego gives me no comfort on that point even if Hillary has copied the Neo Cons to triangulate her way to the center.

Obama has done a pretty good job of trying to extricate us from the Bush Wars and he gets no credit for it. In fact, it may be true that Syria and Iraq and the US might all have been better off if Obama had been a little less passive.

I don’t have any love for Hillary and her pandering to the conventional so that she could keep her options open for future political advancement. On the other hand I am in awe of her success. Of course, that success is due in large part to the Republican Party and its self fulfilling prophecy that she could become President. Had they ignored her she would have likely faded into obscurity.

To me the most remarkable irony was the Limbaugh gambit in 2008 of telling the nation to vote for Barack Obama. [NOTE: in my email I originally told my Buddy that Rush was calling Obama a “fantastic candidate:” Not quite] Limbaugh was parroted by all sorts of Limbaugh wannabes. At the time I saw their endorsement as a crass way to saddle Democrats with a black candidate who according to convention would get slaughtered in the Presidential Race. Too bad for the Limbaughites that Bush had soured the public on his wars and was blamed with the mortgage mess and that the public actually took to heart all the supportive words for Obama from the Republican pundits. Combined with the desire of American voters to get over the Civil Rights Era in a single election America found itself with President Obama.

The GOP’s next job was to backpedal and discover that Obama was the most “ultra” liberal President of all time (not if you ask my son who thinks he’s a neocon) and a Muslim and a terrorist sympathizer and a desecrator of the Constitution and generally the most incompetent President of all time. Hell from the moment he took office he was to blame for the damned oil leak in the Gulf, his State of the Union speech was interrupted by a Republican Congressman shouting that he was a liar and Mitch McConnell telling America from Day one that the Republican’s first job was to see that Obama wasn’t reelected. I meet otherwise perfectly rational people who believe all this garbage.

And now I’m supposed to fall in line with these nimrods behind Donald Trump? Hell Putin supports him too. What a class act cheering section.

No, I’ll stick with a conventional candidate and hope that the Norwegians don’t saddle her with one of their damned Nobel Peace Prizes so that she feels the need to kick sand over it like a cat hiding its doodie in a litter box.


Give Peace a Chance

I am a cat. If there is a closed door I keep hanging around it waiting for someone to open it. There are so many closed doors.

This post is a flight of fancy before the one I must write today which is coming up next. But, before I could steel myself to write the next one I tarried to listen to NPR’s morning edition. There are three news segments I will mention but I’ll save the one that has pushed me to the blog today for last. First up…..

I listened to Obama’s continuing interview with Steve Inskeep. He gave a subdued argument for the nuclear arms agreement that’s been fashioned with Iran. I’m in the minority that supports it. I tend to discount every criticism of it emanating from Republicans because from the beginning of his Presidency they have howled like wolves that he is the Antichrist. What he’s aiming at is what is so needed; some rapprochement between Sunni (Arab) and Shia (Persian) Islam.

I’ve mentioned a fantastic book that I’m 97% finished reading to Claudia, My Promised Land. (Kindle keeps track of where you are in a book by percents not pages). I selected it to read to Claudia in anticipation of our pilgrimage to Israel while taking a course on peace keeping.

The last chapter is a disappointment. Its far too much like some of my long winded rants in Lincolndemocrat. I did check to see what its’ author, who frets about a nuclear Iran, thought about Obama’s negotiations with Iran. Apparently he’s deeply skeptical of anyone’s being able to wrestle good sense out of the Ayatollahs. I disagree. I think a new generation of young people will change Iran for the better.

The next piece that heartened me was this remarkable story about North (yes I said North) Korean entrepreneurs. The millenial generation may change that Kafkaesque land. An old public service ad formed the basis for my continuing hopefullness:

When I was in grade school I saw this Voice of America Ad over and over on television. I had faith at a tender age that this ads’ contention that leaking western music and news behind the Iron Curtain would lead to the end of the Cold War. And that is almost exactly what happened. I believe that the same thing is now happening in North Korea. BTW I still love this song.

I suppose that this ad helps explain my confidence in free enterprise over the Cold War era closed economies. My Dad was always convinced that communism would fall of its own accord. I think more broadly that given the siren song of freedom most autocracies will fall as new generations tired of the same old – same old strike out to escape the mental fence imposed on them. I’ve always been sorry that the Berlin Wall fell just after my Dad died because his faith predicted it.

And that leads me to the final story about the book written by Elizabeth Alexander in memory of her husband a refugee from Ethopia’s Eritrea. Her husband of 16 years survived the war that my high school roommate Bedru Beshir most likely did not live to see. It was actually part of a succession of wars the first described in the book Surrender or Starve. It led eventually to the liberation of Eritrea from Ethiopia and then to a never ending war between the two nations which still sputters on.

The thing about the story that caught my ear was Alexander’s description of her husband who had endured years of hell. He was light hearted, cheerful and optimistic. We were told before Bedru arrived at our home in 1968 that Ethiopians were taciturn severe and no nonsense. In some respects this was true of Bedru but I have to wonder now if that wasn’t more a result of growing up in a repressive society which would exact terrible penalties on those who would not conform to its strictures. I suspect Bedru died in prison.

When he arrived I took what I knew of Ethiopia and projected it onto him enthusing about his Emperor, Haile Selasie. Bedru reacted to my enthusiasm rather awkwardly. I’d learned that the Emperor was regarded as a hero by the West for his brave, futile defense of Ethiopia in the 1930’s when Hitler’s ally Mussolini invaded it. Little did I know that Selassie’s regime got hold of Italy’s old province Eritrea after World War II and ruled it as gently as Mussolini had ruled them. Eritrea was largely Muslim while Ethiopia was largely Coptic Christian. Bedru was a Muslim. His treatment upon his return has always been a powerful lesson to me about how the world should not work.

When Bedru came to the US he was proud to show us pictures of Eritrea’s great city Asmara. Ms. Alexander’s husband was a resident of Asmara.

Bedru could speak five languages Trigianian, His native language with something like a 275 letter alphabet, Amharic, Arabic, English and Italian. Its a pity that so many nations waste talented people just to hang on to power.

Pol Pot’s boys

The second half of a story on NPR got me thinking today as I drove in the dark to McDonalds for an oatmeal and coffee. It was about the recent slaughter of forest elephants in the Central African Republic. It was produced by the same NPR reporter who visited the forest twelve years ago to record the sounds of these elephants for a report I well remember.

The killings were for the ivory trade which is rapidly reducing elephants to those hidden behind bars in the world’s zoos. Its a surprising story and in some ways a heartening one but it illustrates the disquieting fact that there is nowhere in the world now that nature is safe from mankind.

I was thinking about the unknown elephant killers. Apparently they were from the Sudan no the Central African Republic. That would be a little like folks from New York traveling to Nebraska to poach. Photos of African child soldiers are all over. These soldiers were likely kids who were kidnapped or who were orphaned and drummed into local insurgencies. Such soldiers probably account for the 300 Nigerian school girls whose only fault was choosing to go to school and being rapeable. There is a ridiculously thin veneer of religion used to justify this crime. The kind of justification a child might use for pushing his littler brother over a cliff.

Africa is full of abandoned children. All throughout sub Saharan Africa there is a sentiment that explains kids that can’t be taken care of by their families as being possessed by demons. You can find shades of this wherever children are neglected. Why are one third of America’s black boys fated to be sent to prison or jail sometime in their lives?

One thing I was confident of as a child learning about the Holocaust was that a civilized world would never let such a thing happen again. Imagine my shock when as a climax to the Vietnam War a shadowy group claiming ties to communism as tenuous as Boko Haram’s are with Islam rounded up the entire population of Cambodia and marched everyone under armed guard to the jungles and made them “farm.” Rather than let everyone starve Pol Pot’s soldiers, many of whom were war orphans who had grown up with guns in the forest, gave their Kalashnikovs to city raised children with orders for them to shoot their parents. A gun was trained on the murderers-to-be’s heads so they had little choice.

William Golding’s remarkable little novel “Lord of the Flies” portrays civilized children left to their own devices on a desert island becoming dangerously feral. I’d suggest that abandoning children to adults in war is a surer path for them to become disciples of Hell. I’m sure this was true in China in the time of the war lords and at every other Era in the world History where mayhem ruled.

Civilization is a fragile tissue easily torn. Abandoned children are a tear (rip) ready to happen. They will join gangs rather than starve, shoot elephants, kidnap school girls, you name it. But its not just abandoned children that we have to watch out for. Recent analysis of rapes on college campuses, hardly the province of abandoned children, suggest that most of the thousands of reported rapes are the work of about 6 out of every 100 college men. These fellows must be the kind of people, who during war, know how to put abandoned children to good use or run concentration camps or maybe, in peacetime, who become prison guards, corporate CEO’s or sometimes ministers.

How does one wade through such a world of Pol Pots boys or their mentors? The carpenter’s son from Nazareth reportedly advised: “Be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves.”

When we put one-third of all black American men in jail I don’t think that advice is being heeded. It would probably require a “Christian” nation to put that advice into practice.

3000 Red Plans

The red plan has been a major focus of this blog for 6 years. The election this year has been a major focus through the summer and fall. But there are so many other things on my mind. For instance, yesterday I heard a remarkable story on NPR that is almost as remarkable for its not being that remarkable. It was the story about the Defense Department’s latest fighter plane, the F-35. Its years behind schedule for completion. It is supposed to replace the fighter planes of all the service branches Army, Navy, Marines. And it cannot be killed because parts of it were designed to be built in every congressional district in America to guarantee that no Congressman will ever vote to put the taxpayers out of their misery. So far it has cost of one and a half trillion dollars. That’s trillion with it T.

I’ve rounded up the costs of Duluth’s Red Plan, which is slowly killing our schools, at half a billion dollars. This Defense Department airplane has cost the equivalent of 3000 red plans and is nowhere near completion. It’s so easy to become a cynic when you hear a story like this.

A little well deserved Schadenfreude

Tammy Duckworth turns the knife very artfully. (To my overseas readers – Duckworth is a double amputee veteran of our recent wars who was elected to Congress in a middle finger salute to the nation’s self-righteous neo-cons.)

Robert Bateman says of this…

Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs and had her arm sewn back on, mostly, lays it down. A businessman is called out. It seems his company got something like $500 million in contracts from the government, primarily because his company was a “small business, disabled veteran owned.” His disability? When he was in prep-school, he twisted his ankle playing football. The prep school was the one at Monmouth, which is the feeder for West Point, but if you come in from civilian life, it has no military obligation at all. …

The GOP’s 80 billion, oops – 2 trillion, oops – 6 trillion war

Back in 2002 Newsweek’s economist Robert Samuelson shrugged at the estimated $80 billion cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I’ve never forgotten that poor prediction which helped assure me we could handle Iraq. He was very wrong and he admitted this in 2007 in a column I’ve only now just discovered.

But even his 2007 mea culpa was off by 100 or 200%.