Maybe It's not Within the President's Power to Fix

Promises

Who Needs Vaccines?

Polio

Land of the Free--with Censorship

Roth censorship

Deplatforming is Censorship

Daesh

Don’t Pull the Plug

The risk that someone will yell “Fire!” is no reason to pull the plug on the projector.

Girl, Taken

Arlington Heights is a tranquil place. World events seldom disturb the peace of the Northwest suburbs of Chicago until they do. On September 11, 1973, General Pinochet staged a coup against the president of Chile. Supporters loyal to the regime were rounded up and executed. One of these supporters was an American aide worker from Des Plaines named Frank Teruggi. After the coup, The Arlington Herald newspaper published a picture of his father on the front page, sitting in the kitchen, newspapers spread out before him wondering about the fate of his son.

The U.S. Government didn’t help the Teruggi family; nor did they help the family of Frank’s friend, Charles Horman. The film Hollywood made about their murder was called Missing, starring Jack Lemon. The film told the story of a family betrayed by U.S. political concerns. Both men were among Pinochet’s victims, collateral damage in a coup supported by Nixon and Kissinger.

Almost half a century later nothing has changed. This month, ABC’s 20/20 told the story of ISIS’ kidnapping and execution of Kayla Mueller, an aid worker from Arizona, whose grandfather, Joe Lyon, lives in Arlington Heights.1

Kayla was helping Syrian refugees in Turkey and one day made the mistake of accompanying a friend, who had been hired by Doctors Without Borders, to work on hospital computer systems inside Syria. They crossed the border using transportation and help provided by Doctors without Borders. After completing the work for the Doctors, they were on their way back to Turkey when they were ambushed and kidnapped by the Islamic State. 

Doctors Without Borders abandoned her

Despite being a humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders abandoned them. Even though Doctors without Borders had helped Kayla and her contractor friend enter Syria, they washed their hands. Their excuse was that Kayla was not an employee so Kayla wasn’t their problem. Shame on them. This is not the first time that an organization working in the Middle East has hid behind “independent contractor” label in order to evade responsibility. Their abdication of responsibility directly led to Kayla’s death. 

Kayla’s parents in Prescott, Arizona were not told immediately of Kayla’s capture. Like good Americans, they turned to their government for help. Presumably they had not seen the movie, Missing. Long-term American expats know that in case of trouble, the last place you want to go is the American Embassy. In 2001, when a group of British hospital workers was accused of terrorist bombings inside Saudi Arabia, an American Embassy official told me, “if they were our guys we wouldn’t lift a finger.“ 

The U.S. government did lift a finger, but not much more. They organized a SWAT-team like raid which failed. They wrote messages to send to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. Their pleas to a religious leader were devoid of Islamic religious content. This is like writing to the Catholic pope and avoiding any mention of Christianity. 

I have no doubt that the FBI hostage negotiators are experts. I doubt very much if they know the difference between shari’a and Shakira. Tactics which might be wholly appropriate for dealing with an American hostage-taker are of little use in dealing with an Islamic warlord, especially a warlord who is a graduate of our torture chamber in post-invasion Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. Al-Baghdadi reasoned that such messages were merely an effort to stall for time while the U.S. planned another SWAT team raid. 

When these good American parents visited the State Department they had their hands held as American officials threatened them with prosecution were they to pay ISIS the ransom it wanted for Kayla. Meanwhile, Doctors without Borders ransomed its own “employees,” leaving the fate of the “independent contractors” to others. While officially condemning negotiations with the Taliban, the United State turned a blind eye to Qatar’s successful efforts to ransom an American serviceman held by the Taliban Afghanistan. These good American parents even went to Qatar to seek similar mercy, and, if 20/20 is accurate, were threatened by our government again. 

No one at the State Department bothered to direct Kayla’s parents to our allies in the region, allies who in the past have used their good offices to free prisoners being held in other countries.

I cannot understand why the Saudis were never asked. The Saudis have a religious tradition of intervening to mediate payments made to victim’s family. They are no strangers to the labyrinthine web of Middle East connections. Like both the United States and ISIS, they view Iran as an enemy. Even if the Saudi government were to officially decline help, individual Saudis might have been asked on a confidential basis. This was never done. 

Even as Doctors without Borders officially refused Kayla’s parents help, could they have informally helped? Of course they could have, but they were never asked.  

Tired of the stalling, ISIS executed Kayla. After her death, there were crocodile tears at the State Department and Doctors without Borders hypocritically sent their condolences. President Obama even met with the family for another meaningless session of hand-holding. Kayla died, we are told, so that Americans overseas do not become targets.

News flash: Americans overseas are targets. We were targets before Iraq and we most certainly are targets of the alumni of Abu Ghraib. Ask the Israelis what they do when their citizens are captured. They negotiate. They do not leave their people behind. 

The American government’s policy of failing to help American families hasn’t changed since 1973. Our refusal to negotiate is naive. This policy must be changed.


  1. My sister was married to Joe Lyon’s son Jim. [return]

Invitation to a Book-burning

In today’s topsy-turvy world the liberals are in favor of censorship and the conservatives are the ones being censored. The High Ayatollah of Iran can post whatever he likes on Twitter–unless he mentions QAnon, claims that the election was stolen from Trump or that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for Covid-19. Meanwhile, the former president, having mentioned all three, is banned from the platform. For life.

In this world, giving the High Ayatollah a platform that reaches millions is permissible. Denying that platform to a former president is permissible as well. As far as I am concerned, they both should be allowed to post, as should their political opponents. The High Ayatollah jails his opponents for speaking out, but he has no problem posting his own political commentary, thanks to his access to Twitter. There is something seriously wrong with this picture.

The latest book to be added to the pyre–Blake Bailey’s biography of Philip Roth–was consigned because Bailey groomed middle and high school girls, then waited for them to turn 18 and them tried to have sex with them, assaulting at least one. In at least one case, Bailey gave a fourteen year-old a copy of Nabokov’s Lolita. R.M. Koster’s comment was prescient: “If Nabokov submitted the manuscript of Lolita today, someone in the mail room would call 911.”

Still, I read more than one review–one in the Atlantic stands out–where the reviewer counted herself lucky to have had a chance to have read Bailey’s book before it was censored. Because the reviewer’s own moral character is so high that she can withstand the evil of the text? No, she was happy to read the book before it was thrown on the pyre, as Bailey’s—and Roth’s—punishment. The prelates of the Catholic church have, it is said, the world’s most comprehensive collection of pornography in the Vatican library. How could the List of Condemned Books be compiled, after all, unless someone wiser than thou had access to read them?

Meanwhile, the original manuscript of the One Hundred Days of Sodom sold most recently for over six million dollars; was then declared a French national treasure and enshrined at the French National Library. No one would dare suggest that the work of le divin Marquis be consigned to the flames: it is a national treasure. This, despite the fact that the good Marquis was, in his lifetime, condemned for this and his other books. And why not? De Sade wrote approvingly of pederasty, cannibalism, murder and of course, sodomy, a once condemned practice. The Marquis was freed from prison in the tumult of the Revolution. Today, he is viewed as one of the giants of French and dare I say world, literature.

I have so far read about half of Blailey’s condemned biography of Roth and have found nothing as bad as is found on almost every page of De Sade, not to mention Bukowski1 The closest Bailey comes to an objectionable statement is when he quotes Roth praising the bliss obtained from the transgressive sin of incest. Strong stuff certainly, but trivial compared to DeSade. Have we not learned that burning books is not the best way to show our disapproval of them? And why should we blame Roth for the sins of Bailey? Is there proof that Roth knew of Bailey’s sins? Roth may not be a sympathetic character, but millions bought Portnoy’s Complaint. Should that book be consigned to the flames as well? Should we similarly condemn those who read the now-condemned text?

You can drop by your local Barnes & Noble and pick up a Bukowski or a copy of Sodom but Blake’s bio? Unavailable.

What books would you like to add to the pyre?


  1. With Post Office being the sole exception. Maybe his poetry too. [return]

Two Houthi Drones

They’ve been throwing these at Riyadh lately.

Don’t Pull the Plug

The risk that someone will yell “Fire!” is no reason to pull the plug on the projector.

10 x 1/2

Saudi Arabia has roughly half the number of Active Covid-19 cases as Bahrain, but it has at least ten times the population of the island kingdom. Bahrain shut its borders quickly and isolated itself from March, 2020.

How is it possible that Bahrain has so many more Covid-19 cases?

Lined Up

Karen National Union.

Shan State Army.

Now Kachin Independence Army.

all lined up against the rebel Tatmadaw

No Press, Please

Perhaps they want to hide the efficient way the Suez Canal Authority is managing the crisis.

Civil War in Myanmar

The Shan State Army, along with the Karen National Union, lines up against the rebel Tatmadaw.

The Dangers of Word for Word Translation

Wordforword

The Satisfaction of Typing a Letter

Typing

Trump on Trump

Trump

Push Harder

Suez 2

Coward Cops Back on the Beat

Coward cops

Get Your CV Read

Containercv

ContainerContainer

Biden's Promises

(From the Chicago Reader)

Chicagoreader

Did you Cash your $2000 Check Yet?

Check2000check

Censorship

Censorship

Biden Says

Bidensays

Twitter’s Algos/AI

Twitter has banned discussions of committing the ultimate harm to oneself, so the usual words for the act in the English language trigger a spanking, that is, a temporary ban.

As it turns out, ancient legal language hasn’t yet been added to Twitter’s algorithms, hence a discussion of felo de se is perfectly acceptable.

As American lawyers say, res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself).

Ivermectin Joins Hydroxy

Ivermectin joins Hydroxychloroquine as a once highly-touted drug for the treatment of the Sickness now found to be ineffective.

While there has been much news on the vaccination front, there has been little news about possible treatments for the disease. The shortage of ventilators crisis is no longer an issue, though it is not exactly clear why.

Have treatments gotten that better over the past year? At the beginning, patients seemed to be dropping like flies, inspiring much fear. Have we become now simply blasé about the deaths? Has the virus become attenuated and less deadly?

No one knows.