Chasing Endeavour

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October 1, 2012 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on Chasing Endeavour 


I stood on the banks of the Los Angeles River in order to get a glimpse of Endeavour flying over the southeast end of the Santa Monica Mountains on its way to Griffith Park Observatory.

It would have been much better, of course, to get up to the observatory, a mile or two west of the river bank. Endeavour was scheduled to fly as close to the observatory as it safely could. Whereas here by the river, the precipitous southeastern mountains blocked a direct view of the action around the observatory. Read more

The Strange Career of Ahmad Kamal and How He Helped the CIA Invite Radical Islam into Europe

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Leslie Evans

A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA, and the Muslim Brotherhood in the West. Ian Johnson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. 318 pp.


Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
– Sir Walter Scott


Ahmad Kamal in 1935

Everyone is familiar with the disastrous after effects of the American effort to mobilize radical Islam to defeat the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, a project that gave birth to Al Qaeda. Ian Johnson’s A Mosque in Munich is an account of a much older, less violent, and smaller-scale chapter in Western attempts to co-opt Islam in the battle with Communism, tracing ill-considered U.S. help to radical Islam in establishing a base in Western Europe. It opens with Nazi use of Soviet Muslim defectors and prisoners of war to try to incite revolt against Soviet rule among the Turkic peoples of Soviet Central Asia. During the war the center of this operation was Berlin; in the postwar period it moved to Munich in West Germany, where, as the Cold War blossomed, both the West German government and the American CIA took over the group of aging Soviet Muslims who had fought on the Nazi side, as well as their German handlers, to use as propagandists to the world’s Muslims, exposing Soviet oppression of Central Asian peoples. Read more

Mark Twain on the Mormons

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Mark Twain says what he thinks of Joseph Smith

[The following is the full text of Chapter 16 of Mark Twain’s Roughing It (1872), his account of his experiences in Salt Lake City, the Mormon capital, on his way west. As we have in Mitt Romney our first serious Mormon contender for the U.S. presidency it would seem that this controversial religion would generate far more comment than it has. It seems that in matters of religious doctrine the founders of each sect can make up anything they want and with a straight face expect the outside world to nod and be respectful. The major media have been more than squeamish in treading on this convention in Romney’s case. Only as we get to the fringes of this process with groups such as Scientology does the press generally dare to make a few snide remarks and express some doubt that anything like their scriptures ever happened. Happily Mark Twain was less easily buffaloed. In our current age, when the Republican Party has gone theocratic on us and no longer feels bound by fact checkers or an external reality, at least those of us who have not bought into the cult might look askance at some of the things our potential president takes as literal truth and wonder how this might affect his grip on issues of great moment to our future.] Read more

The Death Of Honey’s Unusual Cousin, Peter

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October 1, 2012 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground · Comments Off on The Death Of Honey’s Unusual Cousin, Peter 

By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste.)
Honey van Blossom

I didn’t really meet my cousin Peter until I was 32.   I had met him when I was a baby and he was nine.   I know I was a baby because my grandfather drove car with running boards. When I had to pee, he slowed down and my grandmother pulled down my pants and made me stand on the running board.  She held both my hands.  “I hate diapers,” she said.

We camped in a forest and a squirrel sat on Peter’s shoulder.

I slightly met Peter when my aunt drove my mother, my evil little brother and me to Berkeley.   The family used to live in Berkeley, at 66 Panorama Terrace, but they sold the house in 1938 when my father got his degree at the university and went to Mexico and camped in state parks.   Around 1940, another uncle and his family and my grandparents shared a run-down duplex in Hollywood.   That uncle taught at UCLA and was a member of the John Birch Society.   My grandfather had a medical office on Kenmore.  My father was a copywriter downtown.   By the time I was born, they lived in two regular houses next to Forest Lawn.   When my pregnant mother was taking a bath in the larger house, a truck came up the almost invisible path behind the house and crashed into the house. Read more