Category Archives: Middle East

My big read today –

This is very long but, for those interested in the Middle East, very worth the reading.

Mohammed bin Zayed’s Dark Vision of the Middle East’s Future

It took half hour to finish. Trump would want a quick 30 second summary so his eyes wouldn’t glaze over. (I’m snarking about the startling Pearl Harbor anecdote in the previous post about Emperors and Tsars.)

I just sent this Times Story to a high school classmate who lives in Oman to the south of the United Arab Emirates on the Arabian Peninsula. There is so much more to Arabia than Mecca.

I just saw my friend at my 50th high school reunion. I mentioned that she greeted two surprised and delighted Somali girls at a pep fest by greeting them with a traditional Islamic salutation. She is an educator in Oman is a very different Arabic paradise that has tried to stay out of the area’s politics but is nonetheless in the cross-hairs of history. I asked my friend for her thoughts on the Time’s story. While I was at it I mentioned another high school classmate that was stationed in both Peshawar, Pakistan and Kabul, Afghanistan by the State Department. Those are two red hot assignments that you don’t find Presidential Contributors, like Trump’s Mr. Quid Pro Quo Sondland, being assigned to.

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

Why I haven’t succumbed to paranoia – a last thought

Its because of Seth Meyers, Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, Colbert etc.

For the time being late night television and many other sources give me confidence that we will weather the Trump administration as it continues to distinguish itself by bullying the Public Broadcasting System and Meals on Wheels. Comedy in China can’t be directed at the Communist Party but it can be directed at President Trump. Until Chinese citizens can do the same America will still have a leg up no matter the balance of trade.

Which reminds me of Egyptian exile Bassem Yousef. He was a funny man in another dictatorship.

Check out his interview on Samantha Bee.


More Un-Vetted Refugees Coming to Minnesota?

After ISIS terrorists killed 130 people and injured 352 more in Paris in coordinated attacks just this month, serious questions are being asked about Syrian refugees now being welcomed to the United States. One of the organizers of the Paris attacks entered the European Union under refugee status and another had fought with ISIS in Syria according to The London Telegraph.
President Obama has committed to resettle 10,000 more Syrian refugees in the United States, despite serious concerns about the vetting process of those being relocated.
FBI Director James Comey has said that it’s “impossible to vet every single Syrian Refugee.”
While 27 state governors have so-far voiced objection to resettling un-vetted (or poorly vetted) Syrian refugees in their home states, Governor Mark Dayton calls that “grandstanding” and appears prepared to welcome them to Minnesota with open arms. US Senators from Minnesota, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar agree.
At a recent NAACP event, Governor Dayton said to those attending who questioned bringing more Syrian Refugees to Minnesota at this time, “If you are that intolerant, that much of a racist and a bigot, then find another state, [you] really should go somewhere else.”
And Senator Franken said that we must “do part of our job like the rest of the international community to take in refugees.
Senator Klobuchar said, “I will say these are legally vetted, screened refugees that would come in. And they can actually fill some of the jobs that we have available in states like mine, where we have lower unemployment rates.”

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I can’t head into the Christmas season without thinking about the challenges to peace on Earth. I have avoided pleas to blog about the Duluth Schools in hopes of the dawning of a new Era but my mind is always roving over the news events of the day beyond Duluth’s borders. Sometimes, as with this unwelcome email request for me to donate to a Republican cause it comes right into my computer inbox.

My Buddy recently “twitted” me about politicians (which would also include elected school board members) being “crapweasels.” The comment was pulled from one of the legion of “conservative” pundits, Michelle Malkin, who said 99% of all politicians are “crapweasels.” I replied by asking if a pundit like Michelle, who bent over backward not to offend her readers by avoiding the whole truth, couldn’t be considered a crapweasel too. My Buddy agreed that a pundit, even one coining such an expressive pejorative, could be a crapweasel. I thanked my Buddy for his agreement and said we crapweasels wore Michelle’s designation with pride. (not unlike lawyers who like to tell lawyer jokes) Didja hear the one about why Lawyers never sue sharks? Professional courtesy.

I certainly think the Republicans grubbing for money to protect us from Syrian refugee/jihadists have earned Michelle’s appelation. Why, it was only a few weeks ago that Republican congressman were waving the picture of a drowned child, Aylan Kurdi, in front of television cameras to condemn President Obama. Now they want to turn their backs on the Syrians during the Christmas Season.

I googled for some of the pictures of the crapweasels who recently waved pictures of the drowned Syrian child, Aylan Kurdi, in front of television cameras. I found this short note from the Albany Times Union showing how pols of both parties spoke out of both sides of their crapweasely mouths regarding Syrian refugees.

Here’s a Democratic politician being a crapweasel. I could have posted a picture of a Republican waving little Aylan Kurdi’s picture around but my Buddy might have accused me of being bigoted toward my old political party.


America, America

On our last night of the recent vacation Claudia and I were watching a PBS presentation on Elia Kazan. He’s one of the handful of great directors who produced a handful of great films, On the Waterfront, East of Eden, Face in the Crowd among others.

He was a controversial figure in 1960’s Hollywood because he had named names. His movies often hinted at his reaction to the disapprobation by his liberal colleagues. Double A may have too by providing an explanation for his naming names. The protagonist in his movie suffers such deprivation that he’ll stop at very little to achieve his goal of reaching America. Perhaps Kazan wanted to show that sometimes you can’t let niceties like not ratting out your friends get in the way of your life’s goals. I’m glad I was never in Kazan’s shoes. Oops! That’s almost a spoiler.

I told Claudia that I’d seen America America when my folks took us to see it when I was in junior high school. It was apparently his favorite and something of a family biography. I only recalled the part where a rich woman took him as a lover on shipboard as he finally sailed to America. That turned out to be a very small part of a movie which was not unlike the book Warmth of Other Suns which we’ve been reading.

It reminded me of the movie Zorba the Greek which was made the following year 1964 black and white with bouzouki music and even a few dance scenes. It was long. It was also the best depiction of the travails of immigration to America. I don’t remember much about the Bergman film the Immigrants either, other than the tortured death of the hungry Swedish child who ate the unleavened bread before it has risen. Death and sex. Just the kinds of things adolescents obsess about. Too bad I haven’t grown out of that phase.

“I ain’t much of a hand at makin’ speeches”

Thinking about Israel’s starting a war with Iran kept me up for an hour stewing about the stupidity of our pit bull in the Middle East.

Israel, “tiny and defenseless” stole the technology to build thermo-nuclear bombs from us decades ago and have been the only Middle Eastern nation with them ever since. We looked the other way as we still do when they “borrow” our military technology. I think its foolish or even suicidal to look at tiny, land hungry Israel as a victim of its geography.

Today Republican neocons are salivating at the Israeli threats to bomb Iranian nuclear sites that might allow Iran to join the growing nuclear bomb club. I’m with Ron Paul on this. Iran’s having the bomb is not terribly worrisome. Its far less troubling than the spread of nuclear materials with the fall of the Soviet Union. I think Iran has every right as a sovereign nation to build a bomb although I’m with NATO and President Obama on putting an economic tourniquet on Iran should it proceed with such development.

Israel’s threats to Iran are really a threat to drag America into a war they want to start. The Israeli political party Likud is like our Republican Party squared when it comes to deranged international politics. Israeli neocons are terrified of the democracy movements spreading across the Middle East. They loved the autocratic and dictatorial world that used to surround them. They know that bombing Iran will unite the democracy movements of the Arab world with Iran and they would be happy as clams to suck the US into an international nightmare that makes Iraq and Afghanistan look like a picnic.

Why would they do it? To make sure President Obama is not reelected. At least that’s my guess although it is surely more complicated than that. Dr. Strangelove must have been cloned recently to advise them.

From the movie’s dialogue:

Well, boys, I reckon this is it – nuclear combat toe to toe with the Roosskies. Now look, boys, I ain’t much of a hand at makin’ speeches, but I got a pretty fair idea that something doggone important is goin’ on back there. And I got a fair idea the kinda personal emotions that some of you fellas may be thinkin’. Heck, I reckon you wouldn’t even be human bein’s if you didn’t have some pretty strong personal feelin’s about nuclear combat. I want you to remember one thing, the folks back home is a-countin’ on you and by golly, we ain’t about to let ’em down. I tell you something else, if this thing turns out to be half as important as I figure it just might be, I’d say that you’re all in line for some important promotions and personal citations when this thing’s over with. That goes for ever’ last one of you regardless of your race, color or your creed. Now let’s get this thing on the hump – we got some flyin’ to do.

I’d like one of the namby-pambies who are challenging Cravaack to comment on foreign policy before Major Kong rides his mount out of the bomb bay door.


And my Buddy gets upset with me when he thinks I’m getting hyperbolic:

“Order a hit on a president in order to preserve Israel’s existence. Think about it. If I have thought of this Tom Clancy-type scenario, don’t you think that this almost unfathomable idea has been discussed in Israel’s most inner circles? Another way of putting “three” in perspective goes something like this: How far would you go to save a nation comprised of seven million lives … Jews, Christians and Arabs alike? You have got to believe, like I do, that all options are on the table,”

Andrew Adler, publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times. He has now apologized.

When this ass talks about murdering Obama it doesn’t sound to me like he thinks its so “unfathomable.” Maybe I shouldn’t take his apology too seriously either.

One case where Ron Paul makes more sense than Obama

Its Iran. And both of them are righter than the rest of the GOP:

Fifty years ago, [China] was the Iran of its day, a rising regional power that was radical, ideological, boldly antagonistic. It fought the U.S. in Korea, attacked India and Taiwan, supported violent insurgencies and more. Its leader, Mao Zedong, mused that killing half of mankind might be a price worth paying to make the world socialist. Understandably alarmed, some of President Eisenhower’s advisers urged a pre-emptive nuclear attack. (Ike wisely forbore.) President Kennedy said a nuclear China would dominate Southeast Asia and “so upset the world political scene” as to be “intolerable.”

Notice the classic Kennedy recklessness in foreign policy (he was George W Bush avant la lettre), and the characteristic Eisenhower sanity. Now look at the history. Since China’s adoption of nuclear status, it has actually behaved more responsibly abroad, not less. Jon makes a very persuasive case that nuclear weapons really don’t give countries much of an edge, and, if anything, tend to calm them down, especially if they are in a region where they have foes who do have such weapons.

My Buddy is after me again

After months of ignoring my Buddy so that I can spend my time on something useful I’ve started emailing back and fourth with him again. That has led to new emails twitting “liberalism” of one sort or another. No. Its not my Buddy twitting liberals. Its the posts of Righty pundits and bloggers. I suppose I deserve it because I love beating up the Grand Old Party that threw me over for flat Earth types but really. I need something better than Powerline’s snit over John Maynard Kenyes

Here’s what my Buddy sent me:

On Sat, Dec 31, 2011 at 8:19 AM, Victor D. Ulmer wrote:
Beware the authorities that you cite for your arguments?

If I’m going to use up half an hour writing my Buddy a riposte then I’ll go back to offering it to my blog readers as well. This was my reply to my Buddy:

[Buddy], Can you give me any evidence that this statement of Powerline’s is correct?

“…anti-Semitism has become almost wholly the province of the Left today.”

Keynes was arrogant. From what I’ve read of him he was an elitest. During his time there were lots of British upper crust types who disdained the Jews. It seems to be much more a condition of their milieu than partisanship. Some like Keynes were lefties. Many of them gravitated toward Lord Haw Haw. If, as I suspect, Powerline wants to discredit something persuasive like Keynes’ economic theories by pointing out that his racism was crude Powerline might also consider panning Democracy because Thomas Jefferson was a slave owning hypocrite. Do you think Jefferson’s lefty fans of Democracy have tried to sweep Sally Hemmings under the rug of history? Maybe I should be grateful that Powerline didn’t try discrediting Kenysian economic policies because John Maynard was a homosexual.

I think that economic truths lie midway between Hayak and Kenyes. How about you? Do you think that everyone should give up the Keynes part because of John Maynard’s 100 year old racial views? I’m not sure he even meant that as anything other than the kind of snide put down you hear from dishy high school girls.

Powerline is treating this historical tidbit like a great gotcha proving that liberals are all dipshits. Other than his economic theories what does Keynes mean today? I’d suggest that anything other than his economic theories are only footnotes, interesting though they may be.

As for Right wingers being champions of the Jews isn’t there a distinction between being unhappy with Israel and Jew baiting? I know the Right would like to conflate the two. But its worth remembering that the backbone of the GOP today are the Christian right which believes Jews must control all of King David’s Biblical lands to make the prophesy of the rapture come about. Unrepentant Jews would all die and go to hell when that happens. With friends like that …


This is the nation that most of the GOP presidential candidates…

…want to bomb Iran: Modern Israel.

In economic terms, the haredi revival in Israel has been disastrous. Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community is ever more dependent on the state and, through it, on other people’s labor. Exploiting political patronage, ultra-Orthodox clerics have largely taken over the state’s religious bureaucracy, imposing extreme interpretations of Jewish law on other Jews. By exempting the ultra-Orthodox from basic general educational requirements, the democratic state fosters a burgeoning sector of society that neither understands nor values democracy. And to protect their own growing settlements, haredi parties are now essential partners in the pro-settlement coalitions of the right.

They spit on Greek Orthodox priests who try to worship at the Wailing wall. They are out reproducing every one else yet they do not add to the economy because they do not work while they live off the Israeli welfare system. When war comes their sons will not fight it. They are egging on the Islamic nations that outnumber and surround them by displacing the rightful onwers of Palestine from their land and expect America to pay the bill for any coming war.

Sounds a little like Christian Michelle Bachmann spitting on the Obama policy of ending torture through water boarding.

Israel as America’s Serbia

One of the things I remember liking about the George Herbert Walker Bush administration is that he kept Israel on a tight leash. He had a coterie of smart Jewish advisors, if I recall correctly, who helped craft our foreign policy.

Those days are long gone. Today both political parties try to outbid each other to placate the most unreasonable Israeli settlers like those who burned down a Palestinian Mosque a couple days ago. This, of course, has the effect of angering the vast majority of people living in the Middle East who are Muslims.

It reminds me of the beginnings of World War I which seemed to come as a major surprise to those nations caught fighting it. There were all sorts of secret agreements that led each to declare war on the others when an ally was attacked. Many of the major players had governments that did not survive the war including Tsarist Russia. Russia had a secret agreement to protect tiny Serbia should it be attacked. It was an alliance largely based upon religious loyalties. When Serbia was attacked by Habsburg Austria all the other secret agreements kicked into effect.

On the eve of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis John Kennedy was reading Barbara Tuchman’s masterpiece the Guns of August about the unwitting march to war. It was very much on his mind as he prepared to deal with the still secretive and paranoid USSR.

Israel is America’s Serbia and the GOP in particular gives almost unanimous carte blanche to the hardest of Jewish hardliners who think nothing of displacing Arabs from their homes so that Jews can move in. I don’t think this will lead to World War III but its unsettling that an unbending core of Republicans believe the end of days is imminent and are rooting for Republicans to bring it about more hastily. If an when it happens it won’t just be Russia that comes to an end. It will be the end of the world. These are my kind of patriots.

Folks like Karl Rove have called these folks “crazies” then worked their butts off to get them to the polls. Now the crazies are running one house of Congress and the Republican Party.

I blame the GOP

I’ve stolen this from the Daily Dish which brings us this news from another blogger. The gist is this. Ambitious Israelies who are not fundamentalists are leaving Israel in droves to the fundamentalists whose own children are excused from the Israeli military that is expected to harass Palestinians and keep them in their place (which isn’t in Israel). To this increasingly religiously bigoted government the US annually sends billions of dollars which use our money indirectly to susidize more Jewish settlement of the West Bank. I guess America’s Christian millennialists who are helping fund the breeding of a pure red heifer calf to guarantee the Apocalypse should be happy they are helping fund the end of the World through the good offices of Republican dogma.

Peter Beinart measures the fallout from various nations recognizing Palestinian statehood:

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the number of Israelis applying annually for permanent residence in the United States doubled between 2000 and 2009. Former Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak both have adult children living here. And it’s not just the U.S. An Israeli friend recently told me that there are so many young Israelis in Berlin (Berlin!) that when he goes there and runs into acquaintances from Tel Aviv, they don’t even act surprised.

These young, cosmopolitan, educated Israelis are exactly the ones you can’t afford to lose. They’re leaving for graduate school, and jobs in finance and high-tech and a thousand other things, but they’re also leaving because they want to be connected to the world, not only economically, but politically and culturally as well. And they’re not thrilled about spending a month a year as army reservists manning checkpoints in the West Bank. Offer them a future of mounting international isolation and no prospect for peace, and watch them flood into Williamsburg and West L.A.

Maybe you can console yourselves that their ultra-Orthodox counterparts—who don’t work, don’t serve in the army, have an average of seven children per family, and drain the government coffers dry—aren’t going anywhere. Luckily for you, one of their parties, Shas, controls the ministry charged with fighting the fires that last week ravaged Israel. Shas’ spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, helpfully volunteered that the fires were God’s punishment for Israelis who didn’t keep the Sabbath.