Hurricane Joaquin: Latest Poster Boy for Uninformed AGW Alarmists

Hurricane Joaquin. Pretty scary, eh?

Hurricane Joaquin. Pretty scary, eh?( Source: Daily Beast)

Well, sure enough, as I guessed they would, the Global Warming alarmists are out touting their newest poster boy, Hurricane Joaquin,-as here in the Daily Beast. At this writing, the storm seems most unlikely to make landfall in the CONUS, making it close to a decade since a category III or larger hurricane hit the coastal US. The last one was in 2005, when there were three Cat III’s, one of which was Katrina. “Super Storm” Sandy was Category I at landfall. High tide and a cold front turned it into a very bad time for millions. The last Category V, was Andrew in 1992.

How do I know this stuff?

Another view of Joaquin. Nah. It's something or other from

Another view of Joaquin. Nah. It’s something or other from “The Day After Tomorrow,” 2004. A year before the very active hurricane season of 2005, followed by the 10-year “Hurricane Drought.”

Well, gosh, I checked the NOAA historical data website. Have a look and you will see no pattern of increased storm activity, nor strength that in anyway correlates to increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. And the last decade has been very quiet, despite predictions to the contrary from NOAA itself.

But, as we’ve been told now for a very long time, it will get really bad. IN THE FUTURE. SWEARSIES.  NatGeo was speculating about this ten years ago.  Still waiting.

The writer of the Beast piece, Michael Shank, is a Phd, as his byline tells us. I smelled a rat when I saw that he is “Director of Media Strategy” at Climate Nexus. The polite term for a media strategist is PR flack; the accurate definition is propagandist.

But hey, he has a doctorate, so maybe he’s a scientist?


PhD, Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University
M.A, Conflict Transformation & Peacebuilding, Eastern Mennonite University
B.F.A Theater, Kent State University
Graduate Certificate, Maryknoll Institute of Language and Culture

Also, Adjunct Faculty at S-CAR, George Mason University. So, no tenure. Getting poppycock like this published helps put (most likely organic, or perhaps vegan) groceries in the larder.

Shank’s PhD is in “Climate Conflict.”  Kurt Vonnegut had this kind of doctorate figured out:  “I’m a doctor of cowshit, pigshit, and chickenshit…When you doctors figure out what you want, you’ll find me out in the barn shoveling my thesis.”

For all his sheepskins, he seems to have missed instruction on the most basic research techniques.

This guy is no more qualified to comment on this stuff than I am. Frankly, I’d say I’m more qualified: I have an MA in creative writing and could easily come up with more plausible bullshit. (OK, anyone with a mastery of high school English Composition could do so.  My degree is bullshit, too.)

Serious proponents of the AGW hypothesis do themselves no favors by giving any credence to such poppycock

Encounters With Islam: Conclusion: 2000 – 9/11/2015

National Mosque, Jakarta

National Mosque, Jakarta

(To read  the series from the beginning go here )


I began this months ago. Readers of earlier segments will see the inevitable conclusion. Nothing that has occurred across the world since I began series has done anything but reinforced my sense that Islam is fatally flawed. So it’s time to finish, and fitting that I do so on another 9/11, as the reports of  the Islamic invasion of Europe come in, towards the end of another year of escalating Islamic violence in nearly all quarters of the globe.

September 11, 2001

I had grabbed my coffee and turned on the computer. The start page was Yahoo. I took in the top headlines.

“Hey,” I called out to my older daughter,” somebody’s hacked Yahoo!”


The older girl and I were now in Bandung, where she was in her junior year of high school. Suffice it to say that the radical move from the States had not produced much in the way of favorable outcome. Her mother and younger sister remained in Bali for a time, then returned to the U.S. Eventually we divorced. I had gone back to work, as an English instructor.

Stupefied, I went off to work, riding the public minibus. Indonesians are a gregarious lot, and regular commuters and and even one off riders will quickly strike up conversations. Today they were silent.

I was the only American at the school, and the British lady who ran the place, on learning I had family in New York and DC, let me call Stateside on the company dime. I was unable to get through anywhere (It’s parenthetical, but I cannot resist the near miss stories that so many of of us have. My sister worked in Midtown, but had a regular downtown meeting canceled that day; brother in the Pentagon had taken the day off to go to a daughter’s soccer game; and at the same time, most fortunate, but saddest, my NYFD cousin, a company commander, was off that day, and both towers had fallen by the time he got there.)

The minute I knew those headlines were real, I knew what kind of people had done it. There was no point hoping it wouldn’t be Muslims. This was after the East Africa embassies, the Khobar towers, the U.S.S. Cole, and others.

Al Qaeda wasn’t until that day a household name, but it was no secret.

Yet, aside from the school head, if you listened to the to other foreign staff that day, you’d have thought that America did it to itself. This was my first exposure up front and personal to the familiar litany: Israel, imperialism and oh yeah, Israel. Worse than their perfunctory and patently insincere expressions of sympathy that prefaced these diatribes was their manifest cowardice.

What would America do, they wailed, and how would it effect them there in Bandung? There was talk of sewing British and Australian flag patches on their clothes. This cravenness in the face of Islamic violence is drearily familiar now, but it was new to me then.

As the names of the hijackers came out, I was for putting some hurt to Saudi Arabia, but in the end we invaded Afghanistan, missed Bin Laden and later, invaded Iraq as well.

Shortly after the Bush ultimatum to the Taliban and the countdown to the invasion when they failed to produce Bin Laden, an army unit, with some APCs and light crew served weapons, showed up in my neighborhood, home to many foreigners and my daughter’s international school. The commander came to my door and assured me that he, his men, and the nation guaranteed my safety. This was quite refreshing after the reaction from my colleagues.

For many years, it’s been common for those in opposition to Islam, radical Islam, or jihad to say “I learned everything I needed to know abut Islam on 9/11. This was not the case for me.

Signs and Portents

Perhaps I had simply not looked around me until Islam was in the worldwide news, but the Increasing Islamization in Indonesia that I had noted over previous decades seemed to have accelerated.

Bandung remains the most Dutch of Indonesian cities.

Bandung remains the most Dutch of Indonesian cities.

Right away, there were Bin laden T-shirts for sale . A small boy wore one to my class and I sent him home. His parents complained and I found myself in a sit down with the mother – hijab – and father, dressed normally in Western clothes but with what looked like a fairly recent scraggle of chin beard.

I got an earful of how evil America was, but held my tongue, and explained that this had hurt people I knew, and nearly killed some of them.

We smiled, shook hands – well not the mother – and I went away with hate in my heart.

Which, in time, subsided.

I taught there for two years. Religion, I found, played a huge role in the young students’ lives. Ask “What’s the best book you’ve read” and the answers were the Bible, or the Koran, according to confession. I found such discussions mind-numbingly dull. However, Christians and Muslims seemed to get along well, and while many girls wore the hijab, they were not a majority.

The kids loved to hang out with their teachers, and one day during Ramadan, we went out for pizza. After a text message telling them the fast had lifted, we dug in. I’m not sure when I first heard the word Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, but in my childhood I have no memory of it being used, but instead the Malay, ”bulan puasa,” fasting month. Now it was ubiquitous, with special sales in the malls, deals on iftar(fast breaking) buffets, and Arabic music.

Bandung prides itself on being a university city, a place for the young, artistic and hip, and so it is. It was early oughts and “gap” was in style, with hip hugging jeans and bare tummies. Around the universities, one might even see coeds wearing a hijab but showing belly button.

Outside town, things changed quickly.

Early one morning, on the first day of Eid ul Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, we drove out of town early., bound for Bali. The roads were jammed with people making their way to the mosques, torrents of them pouring in from the small villages up in the hills, thousands, all in Muslim dress. My daughter remarked that she didn’t remember this from previous years, and her boy friend, a life long resident, said he too thought that the crowds were far larger than before.

Dieng, Central Java, 2002.  There was no mosque there when I visited in 1975.

Dieng, Central Java, 2002. There was no mosque there when I visited in 1975.

I had occasion in the next couple of years to take other trips across Java, and it was apparent that Islamic observance was far more strict than it had been when I had first traveled the island as a young man. Women working in the fields still wore the conical “coolie hats” that reflected an ancient migration from southern China, but now wore head scarves underneath, surely adding to the heat and discomfort.

Islamic schools and other institutions, with their Arabic signs, were in the smallest villages. One day, not far from the great Buddhist monument Borobudur, on a country road winding through the rice terraces, I came upon a sight I will never forget.

An open truck full of young men lumbered a long in front of me. They were waving banners, which said, “Front Anti-Yahudi,” the “Anti-Jewish front.” They wore once piece black costumes, painted with white skeletons, as if for Halloween. Waving, and cheering as I overtook, some then donned skull masks.

There, in the green valleys of Java, with the volcanoes rising to clear blue sky, scenery that had long inspired postcards and landscape painters, was raw hatred from the desert lands

This wall in the former Sultan's compund  shows both Hindu-Javanese and Chinese decorative styles

This wall in the former Sultan’s compound shows both Hindu-Javanese and Chinese decorative styles.  Java has absorbed one culture after another, but will it survive Whaabbism?

I had left so many years before.

My daughter graduated and went back to the States; I moved to Jakarta,where there was better pay and considerably more fun. The old regime under Soeharto had kept Islamists under tight control, imprisoning, or outright snuffing any who looked to be a problem.

Now, the new president, not directly elected but voted in by a legislature that was put in place by clean elections, was all for letting people express themselves. While a Muslim himself and a cleric, he was a of a liberal cast of mind. Physically frail, and nearly blind, his “why can’t we all be friends” outlook(He spoke for a while of recognizing Israel) led him to myopia towards the forces being unleashed.

I taught at a school in a shopping office complex in Central Jakarta. There were plenty of nice restaurants and nightclubs nearby. Many of my classes were off site, at major businesses, and my students were well educated and well dressed. It was rare to see woman in a hijab.

Yet even in this milieu, I would at times catch a whiff of something going on. I remember our personnel manager, a married woman, very good looking, always in well fitted suits and heels, remarking that Bin Laden was “hebat,” an Indonesian word that in that context would be best translated as “bad ass.” There was considerable admiration for Saddam as well, but as in this was often in the context of tirades about American hegemony and regurgitated Chomsky, so chose not to see it in as related to religion.

On the streets, beyond the highrises, deeper trouble was brewing. An organization called

View from my terrace, Jakarta, 2002.

View from my terrace, Jakarta, 2002.

Front Pembela Islam(Islamic Defenders Front) took upon itself the role of a civil auxiliary in suppressing vice. They attacked night clubs and bars, starting out in the seamy dance clubs and semi-brothels of North Jakarta, where eventually the largely Chinese owners came to a modus vivendi in a protection racket that would be familiar to the Mafia, but then striking Kemang, home to diplomats, multinational executives, fine dining establishments and quite legitimate music clubs.

Nothing at all was done to stop them.

It was then that I saw a trend that has only continued. Radical Islamic elements push, engaging in mob action, while the civil apparatus of an ostensibly non-confessional state, not only does not punish offenders, but accommodates them.

Ramadan came, and for the first time, the City government decreed that late night venues must close early, and the sale of alcohol in such places was suspended during the fasting month. That this meant a month without paychecks for tens of thousands was of no import. Nor did anyone point to the underlying absurdity that alcohol and fornication are forbidden to Muslims at all times, not just one month in a year.

This attempt to put the city’s residents in a pious state of mind appropriate to the season lead to some quite absurd accommodations. The hot tub at my health club was drained, as apparently being in the water with ladies was an affront during Ramadan.

A popular hangout with a classical theme, put pasties on its faux-Greco-roman statuary. There, as at other places, the bar was cleared of bottles, but you could get some beer in a coffee mug. We grumbled that no good Muslim would be in such places anyway, so why couldn’t they just leave us alone.

As I was learn in the coming years, that wasn’t the point. Islamic behaviors, even practiced by unbelievers is an affront to Islam, as are the unbelievers themselves.

In late 2003, I went back to the States for a while, to work with my younger daughter on her college applications. I had left just after the Iraq War began, and I saw its effects when I was substitute teaching in Phoenix. Many kids were enlisting after graduation. They seemed to be disproportionately Hispanic, Black and Native American. Another war in the Middle East, anther conflict among Muslims, yet it still wasn’t something that would direct to me to examine Islam closely.

I was offered a job in Surabaya, East Java, where I stayed for seven years, where I again taught English, living with my partner, an Indonesian Chinese, and an atheist as I was. And am.


Dutch era buildings, Surabaya, 2003

Surabaya is and has long been a center of industry and commerce, known as the “City of Work,” because largely that is what there is to do there. I had first seen it n 1970, when it remained a somewhat cobwebbed display of faded grandeur from the Dutch East Indies. Later in the decade, when I was working in Kalimantan, I often had occasion to come down to Surabaya to procure goods and services, and the place had clearly picked up. I dealt largely with Chinese businesses, and the Chinese are today still quite prominent in the city.

Yet, while it is in some ways fairly cosmopolitan, it fronts on a vast agrarian hinterland, and it is in these small towns an villages that the struggle between traditional syncretic Javanese religion, a meld of Islam and older beliefs, against Orthodox Islam, continues, after a very bloody start in 1965.

Synagogue, Surabaya, 2003.  Long disused, but maintained with a grant from overseas,  it was the site of demonstrations when anyone was angry at Israel.    It has since been demolished.

Synagogue, Surabaya, 2003. Long disused, but maintained with a grant from overseas, it was the site of demonstrations when anyone was angry at Israel. It has since been demolished.

This is a long stretch of time, and I could here provide a string of anecdotes to buttress my case, but I’ll instead provide a general outline of those years.

After 9/11, it was the consensus among Western governments that much of the problem was due to misunderstanding between cultures. Thus, a concerted effort was made to reach out, identify and select young Muslims for education in Western nations. Indonesia, bastion of “moderate” Islam was key to the program, and the school where I worked, was involved in many programs financed with American,British,Australian and New Zealand money

One day, we were warned to keep a low profile. Hizbut Tharir, a world wide organization( banned in UK, legal in the US) was demonstrating in favor a of a universal Caliphate. Completely covered women in black held up signs condemning the US and Israel, and demanding global Islamic rule.

In 2005,many of my students were in an uproar about Israel’s “Cast Lead” operation in Gaza. The world, I thought, has many examples of pain and oppression. Why was it that these young people, so far from the Middle East, were so concerned? And as I read more about Islam, and Islamic history, I came at last to the conclusion that the Arab Israel conflict was, in fact, the Islam-Israel conflict. Territory once Islamic, simply cannot be given over to non-believers, and that the Jews, reviled in the Koran and other foundational texts, had taken Muslim land was an affront past bearing.

I said nothing about these things, and if anything, were pleased with my knowledge of Islamic belief and practice. I wanted to be liked, and as my doubts grew, I still dissembled.

Yet the atrocities and violence across continents continued, never relenting.


The spin was “Chechen Nationalists,” nationalists who called, “Allahu akbar!”

Soccer Field, Darussalam University, Aceh 2006.  Since I was there, sharia has sitigtnd and unrelated men and women may not ride together, or be alone anywhere

Soccer Field, Darussalam University, Aceh 2006. Since I was there, sharia has tightened, and unrelated men and women may not ride together, or be alone anywhere

For some years we had a large contingent of Achenese students, beneficiaries of study abroad programs established in the wake of the 2004 Tsunami. They were fine students, hard workers, but fun-loving, coming from a linguistic tradition that valued poetry and oration. It was, and still is a source of great pleasure for me to see how well they have done.

Still, all the women wore the hijab. The rebels let a few errant locks peep out. One fellow, a secret free thinker, was reduced to hiding when drinking coffee and having a smoke during Ramadan. At one point the program took me to Aceh to do some preparatory work with students before they came to Surabaya.

It wasn’t so bad. There was a lively coffee house scene, and it was common to see couples double dating. Of course, around ten, the boys would take their girl friends home, then come back and watch the footie. Rather charming, perhaps like small towns in America in bygone days

Outside town was a newly constructed governmental complex, and one large building was devoted to the administration of sharia law. It was not yet in force, but notices said it was coming. One would not need to be a forensic accountant to state that the building was at least in part paid for by the charitable citizens of the West who donated to tsunami relief.

Now, in Aceh, offenders are whipped publicly. Amputations and beheading have yet to arrive, but one wonders. A number of my students asked me to return to Aceh to attend weddings, but I am never going back.

With some of my Aceh students, Surabaya, 2006.  My late mother was astonished at this picture, as she had never herself seen Indonesia women so dressed.

With some of my Aceh students, Surabaya, 2006. My late mother was astonished at this picture, as she had never herself seen Indonesia women so dressed.

Looking back, I can find no road to Damascus moment. I read the Koran, I various translations,learned about the hadith and the sira, delved deeply into the history of Islamic expansion, so that around2009, when I first started hearing of Boko Haram, I spoke of these matters one evening to my partner.

She asked, seriously, “are you an Islamophobe?”

I spoke of somewhat to what I have written here,and she began her own journey of discovery.

And my distaste only deepened.  Sometimes people refused to sit next to me on the minibus I took to work everyday. Indonesians generally assume that foreigners don’t speak their language, but I understood the word, “najis,” unclean, as are all unbelievers. This did get me shotgun all by myself, where normally two passengers were crammed in.

I simply couldn’t take it anymore, so retired earlier than I had thought I would.

It’s been a little more than four years since I retired to Hindu Bali. I conceived of the project that became this “Encounters” series before I even got here. Yet I have tarried, and I tarry now,

My father-in-law, the late Haji Kamal, 2005, Bandung.  Dutch educated, civli servant in both the conolnial and independe regimes, Natioalist Party actvist, at teh endof his life, besides his beloved coffee and cigarettes, there was only Islam.

My father-in-law, the late Haji Kamal, 2005, Bandung. Dutch educated, civil servant in both the colonial and independent regimes, Nationalist Party activist, at the end of his life, besides his beloved coffee and cigarettes, there was only Islam.

Because in the end, I know the conclusion, and even after all these many years,it’s hard to just spit it out.

I’m done.

With Islam and with Muslims.

I’ll continue my study of the issues, and of course will be civil when meeting Muslims. I enjoy hearing from some of my former students. But as for all the efforts and blather at outreach, understanding, bridging the divide, and on, and on.

It’s useless.

This is to use a Marxist term, a world historical process. Islam is what it is. The Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS, this is Islamic reform.

Those who await some kind of Islamic Episcopalianism are fools. A millennial conflict will not be resolved by church suppers.

This is my stand. I have come to it through long experience and study. Others will make their own journeys of understanding, in their own way, in their own time.

Mine has ended.

3 Dudes on a Train: The Thalys Smackdown as Written by the Guardian: A Progressive Take on the TGV Terrorist Takedown

Bros befo MOs

Bros befo’ Moes

While many in Europe, and particularly in the U.S. celebrate the actions of three young Americans, as well as a Briton and a Frenchman, in averting what was likely to be a massive loss of life as a jihadi prepared to attack train passengers en route from Amsterdam to Paris, others might not feel so festive.  The progressive outlook has an uncanny ability to look at what has traditionally been seen as good and noble, and turn it into a dark narrative. It’s always  gloomy in progressive land, where the sky is dominated by an overcast of cisnormative oppression, with a threat of fascist thunder showers.

You can bet your pork pie hat and hipster glasses that the KOS kids and Guardianistas are already spewing pixels as they break out their tedious memes so as to find white privilege hubris in heroism.  Hell, I’ll throw in a case of Pabst.

Here’s how they might see it:

Aggressive American  SUV Lovers Assault  Religious Minority on French Public Transportation.

Ironically the cowardly attack began when 26 year old Ayoub el Khazzan, of Moroccan heritage, and an aficionado of collectible guns, hearing American voices, thought to share his enthusiasm.
One of the Americans, Spencer Stone, an American airman, began pummeling the Frenchman.  The USAF has of course been assaulting   civilians for many decades, most notably at Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.  A second friend, Alec Skarlotos, no doubt desensitized by his time serving in the American Occupation of Afghanistan, upon seeing a man of Middle Eastern appearance  – and  one exercising what many Americans stridently proclaim is their right to bear arms – gleefully joined the assault.

Sadly, the third friend, Anthony Sadler,  of African heritage, was unable to see the sick contrariness of his joining in the brutality towards a fellow person of color.  Mr. Sadler is described only as a college student, but whichever institution he is attending needs to ensure that it students are better informed as to privilege, colonialism, and the post colonial othering of marginal communities.

A despicable but predictable codicil to this sorry account was that  Chris Norman, a 62 year old Briton, in true Blairite lackey tradition, joined the assault.


Reports say the three Americans are middle school friends.  They should have remained in kindergarten until they learned to fight fair.

Discuss Immigration? Shut up, because Nazi

‘Let the hag burn’: Rise in attacks on refugees fuels German debate on racism (Washington Post 16 August 2015)

If you’ve been following international news at all, you’ll be aware of the massive migrant movement of Africans from Libya across the Mediterranean to Italy and then beyond, as well as from Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan via Turkey and onward to Greece or the Balkans.

This hardly is occurring in a void; immigration, largely legal, has been an issue in Europe for decades. Now, the flow of “asylum seekers” seems unstoppable, unopposed and unstoppable. One would then, expect vigorous discussion of what, among others, Angela Merkel has termed a crisis.

Yet, discussion of this historic movement north is under severe constraints of Orwellian vocabulary restrictions, and the risk of stigmatization of dissent by academic, media, and governmental elites.

We Right Wingers are fond of referring to the media as the MSM(Mainstream Media), LSM(Lame Stream Media), MFM(Mother Fucking Media), and the State Media. And of course, the predictable response is “conspiracy theorist, “Tin Foil Hat” wearer, and “Winger.” These are venerable institutions, with distinguished histories, staffed by able professionals. Why should we question them?

This article is a clear demonstration on a vital area of concern that the media will frame a issue so that those who dissent are beyond the pale, and “journalists” will not refrain from slander and falsehood to do so.

A surge in xenophobic attacks and hate speech targeting asylum seekers in Germany is igniting a firestorm in the nation where the Nazis taught the dangers of intolerance.

Godwin’s law does not apply to liberal opinion. Those who question a massive demographic shift are of course xenophobic ( And phobias are irrational, so therefore, crazy) and like Nazis, which is a nice way of saying they are Nazis.

German public broadcaster anchorwoman Anja Reschke, is apparently leading the charge in Germany:

“If you’re not of the opinion that all refugees are spongers who should be hunted down, burned or gassed, then you should make that known very clearly,” she said in her commentary.

I can Godwin, too. How died and made him king, anyway?

Wartime New Yorker cartoon, caption “I think I may say without fear of contradiction…”  I can Godwin, too. Who died and made him king, anyway?



She’s managed to evoke both the einsatazgruppen and the extermination camps, and if you don’t get on board and welcome “immigrants” and “asylum seekers” you are not only a Nazi, but a member of the SS, and by default if you don’t stand up and salute.

“I received e-mails saying, ‘Let the hag burn’ and calling me a ‘negro-gypsy-whore,’ ” said Reschke, a white ethnic German. “And then there were the people who said, ‘Look, I’m afraid our race is getting polluted by all those evil people from the whole of Africa, but no, I’m not a Nazi.’ ”

Well, maybe. I’d like a screenshot or two.

And before we move on, go back to the headline. “Attacks on refugees” was the focus of the lede. So, one would expect to see accounts of beatings, or at least someone getting egged.

Ah, no.

The most important “attacks” in this story are the verbal attacks to which Ms Reschke says she was subject. I have seen this time and again: headlines completely unsupported by the story, and at times even completely contradictive. Media types are well aware that most news consumption these days is a cursory glance at headlines on mobile devices. Anyone complaining of this deceit will be pointed to paragraph twenty whatever, which few will have read.

Here we find, much later in “attacks” on refugee homes, but not refugees. This article in the Stars and Stripes provides more details, and despite the usual loaded terms, does provide a sense that many Germans are disturbed by this migrant surge, as well they should be.

Says the Stripes,


“Germany unnerved by scores of xenophobic attacks against refugees”


It’s liberal  bed wetters and far left Europe haters who are, or pretend to be, unnerved by these largely exaggerated, or imaginary attacks. Ordinary Germans, startled by tent cities arising overnight in their public spaces, and one more massive unfunded liability ( see Greece) should indeed be unnerved.

The numbers are astonishing.  The German  government has revised its forecast of 450,000 arrivals to 750,000.  This being a government forecast, I’d bet on a million plus.

The word “refugee” itself is a catchall term deliberately misused so that any border jumper assumes victim status.  Here is the definition form the U.N.’s 1951 declaration, as amended in 1967.

Article 1 of the Convention, as amended by the 1967 Protocol, defines a refugee as:

“A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it

That these “asylum seekers” do not seek refuge in neighboring countries but instead head for European countries with the most liberal benefit regimes, is prima facie proof that most are not in fact asylum seekers.  Last year, in the U.S. summer ” border surge,” the same dishonesty was seen in media reports describing the plight of “refugees” from the “war torn” countries of Central America.  The Guardian described the situation there as “tantamount to war.”   If you say so.

Were Central America in a state of war, real refuges would move to camps in Mexico (were they allowed in), just as Cambodian refugees fled to neighboring Thailand in the 70’s, and as various famines and upheavals in Africa has seen millions flee to next door countries. ( I would posit that the Vietnamese boat people were in a different situation as they were surrounded by hostile communist regimes and had no choice other than to flee by sea to more distant havens.)

And equally astonishing is the general forbearance in the face of what is in essence an invasion. Since the 1980s at least, the European intelligentsia has been obsessed with “skinheads” and “neo-Nazis,” who, in their tiny numbers, were, and remain beyond the pale of bourgeois society, but if finally the fascist resurgence that the left has squealed about for years( and in my view, secretly desires) it will be on them.

Politicians, academics, and media can stigmatize, marginalize, and ignore the masses they so despise for only so long.   Just as Jimmy Kimmel can weep for Cecil the Lion with no regard for African workers who earn badly need cash for hunters,

Claus Kleber of ZDF television, welled up as he told the story of a Bavarian bus driver who, when a group of 15 refugees boarded his bus, made the following announcement in English:

“I have an important message for people from the whole world in this bus: Welcome!” Kleber’s voice cracked while translating the driver’s message into German, adding: “Sometimes, it can be so simple.”

Kleber later tweeted apologetically: “Sometimes I react more emotionally to small positive details than to big stories. Not very professional. But okay? The next show is waiting.”

No, it’s not very professional, but entirely typical. Fewer and fewer are listening. There will be a reckoning.  Let’s hope it’s at the ballot box, and not in the streets.

And finally, Ms. Reschke, you got nasty emails, you say. You are a public figure. I’m a nobody and I get beheading threats on twitter now and then.

Suck it up.

Encounters With Islam: Part 4: 1980-1999

(To read this series from the beginning, go here )

This, the penultimate installment will cover around two decades, and as I set out to write it, I can see no narrative thread that follows the topic, Islam. So, I’ll commence, and see what develops.

I left Saudi Arabia, went back to San Francisco where I and my wife found work, and settled in. An old friend, who worked in movies and TV, in a minor but interesting position, came to me with an idea. Like everyone on the fringe down there, he wanted to make a score, and thought my experience in Saudi Arabia might yield some fictional gold. First a novel, then a screenplay.

The protagonist would be a young American educated Saudi man, love interest a Jewish American woman he met in the States, with, at first unknown to him, ties to Israeli intelligence. He stumbles on, and then infiltrates, a fundamentalist plot to take over the Kingdom and use its resources to finish off Israel, once and for all.

Ikhwan troops, 1911, prior to their revolt.

Ikhwan troops, 1911, prior to their revolt. via Vox

This required a lot of research, because as I found when my friend asked various questions, having lived in the Kingdom without access to English language books and press on the place, was by itself not all the informative. I was astonished to read that almost from the beginning of the Kingdom there had been elements that considered the House of Saud to be traitorous to Islam, in particular for not continuing the jihad that had unified the country onwards beyond its borders. These were the Ikhwan(Brotherhood), who revolted in the late 20’s and were only suppressed a couple of years later with British help. It was to their descendents I then ascribed the plot in the novel.

Also informative was Raphael Patai’s “The Arab Mind,” which if you look at the reviews on Amazon is condemned by many as “racist,” usually, and certainly here, in my opinion a sign that the work makes uncomfortable points.

Thus I first encountered the Islamic concept of a binary world: Dar-ul –Islam, the House of Islam, and Dar ul Harb, the House of War, that part of the world which has yet to accept Islam, and which in its very unbelief is an affront and an aggression in itself that must eventually be subdued.

In any event, we got a certain way into the project, and my friend sold a couple of scripts to a show he was working on, while I started to quail at the extent of research I would have to do into espionage and security trade craft. So we never finished. Yet, one could take my concept and start fresh right now.

My father-in-law came to visit. Then I learned that my conversion was not at all expected to be pro-forma. This is when I first had to conjure up excuses and sometimes comical ( running around comedy terms) to conceal what an utter fraud I was. Kamal wanted to go to the mosque. We told him there wasn’t one, which was technically true at the time, but we did know people who met for Friday prayers. So, we prayed at home, and there would be an after you Alphonse Gaston routine, in which he suggested I be the imam and lead the prayer, and I deferred to his age and dignity. It was a dispute that I had to win, because as Imam he would face forward, and sit in front of us.

Older Roman Catholics may remember the Latin version of Nicene Creed, recited after communion. I served mass – certainly not my idea – and never learned the whole thing. Somewhere half way through I was reduced to “mumble,mumble, somethingque et otherbus.”

Having never again recited the Islamic prayers again after an initial demonstration to the father in law before the wedding, similarly here, I was reduced to something on the order of “Obble, Allah, gobble, Allah.” It was a charade I was to master in later years. Or, perhaps not. I may have fooled none, but was never called on it.

For much of the 80s I was busy with work, and the two daughters born during that time. Yet I did follow the news as always, and while events in the Middle East and the greater Islamic world were framed within the Arab Israel conflict, and that also within the ongoing Cold War.

There was the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 to Beirut, where passengers with Jewish sounding names were segregated and an American navy diver murdered and his body dumped on the tarmac. Here was a clear sign of Islamic Jew hatred, yet I had been programmed to process it as part of the Israel issue, with Arabs wrongly but perhaps understandably conflating Jews with Israel. And I suppose this implanted algorithm kicked in when poor Leon Klinghoffer was dumped into the sea from the Achille Lauro.

Much of the violence was Iranian inspired: The Berlin disco bombing, the Beirut Marine Barracks bombing, the many kidnapped Western hostages held for years,  but there was also Lockerbie. Television news had horrifying, yet also inspiring stories of the resistance to the Soviets in Afghanistan. After so many decades of appeasement and indifference, Reagan supplied weapons and, less spoken about, advisors, so that American policy was killing Soviets. This was refreshing after the hand wringing during the Viet Nam War that we might accidentally sink a Soviet ship moored in Haiphong.

One day In 1989, that same friend with whom I had worked on the abortive novel, called me.

The Red Army that day had withdrawn its last units.

“Victory!” my buddy shouted, so hard I had to hold the receiver away.

Red Army withdraws from Aghansitan, February 18, 1989

Red Army withdraws from Afghanistan, February 18, 1989  Via RT

Indeed. Victory, something we had never in our lifetimes known, and this win was only a prelude to the final triumph when the wall came down. Where I lived, San Francisco, there were a few long faces among old time reds, and there wasn’t the dancing in the parks that I remembered from the day Nixon resigned, and again, which had disgusted me, when Saigon fell, but generally, across the board there was a sense of jubilation, a great weight lifted. The garrison state into which I had been born had done its duty, stood fast, and now so long after 1945, we had truly won the peace.

The Reagan, and the Bush years, had also been good for me personally. After futilely waiting out the doldrums in the energy business, around 1984 I moved to a major defense company with a big bump in pay. My wife and the older daughter had gone back to Indonesia to visit family but I had felt insecure and financially stretched, so from 1981 to 1987, I went without a vacation.

Finally, I felt secure and prosperous enough for all of us to make the trip.

President Soeharto, the general who had pushed aside Soekarno in the late 60s was still in charge. The Indonesia I had known in the 70s was still recovering from the socialist excesses of the 60s, with onerous interest rates after the hyperinflation of Soekarno’s last years, and little prospects for those who did not not work for International organizations, as had my wife, or in energy.

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National Mosque, Jakarta 1987.  National Cathedral in the distance.  Those who showed us around were eager to point out that the mosque’s architect had been a Christian

Now, despite the crash in oil prices a middle class seemed to be developing rapidly. Friends and family were prospering, some with foreign employers in manufacturing others in their own businesses, and some in the rapidly developing tourism and hospitality sector.

There was another change, small at first, which I noted: some family members had begun wearing the hijab. This was an article of dress I had never seen in Indonesia before, and could only name because I had read of changes occurring in Egypt. You saw them here and there in Indonesia that year, and it looked kind of weird. Still, to each his own, I told myself and gave it no more than a passing thought.

We were traveling with another American family, that of a work buddy, who had heard my tales of the islands and decided to have a look. They enjoyed themselves immensely, and in the following years we evolved a routine wherein I traveled in remoter islands with them, as my kids were too young for such adventures, and in any case more interested in hanging out with their cousins.

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Muslim women singing as they prepare for a wedding in Bandaneira, 1989. No one wore Islamic dress. In 1999, the entire Christian community, about 10% of the population, was evacuated.

Over the next few years we came to focus on the Moluccas, the Spice Islands, an island group with a storied history from the Age of Discovery, and one in which we found mixed Muslim and christian populations living in harmony and tolerance, as they were quick to tell us. It was a lovely story, one which we bought gladly, and which was to unravel with astonishing speed and brutal results a decade later.

April 19, 1995

My older daughter and I were traveling to visit relatives in Texas were between planes in Dallas, and like everyone else, transfixed as the monitors showed the horror in Oklahoma City. After some minutes we spontaneously looked at each other and said, “I hope it’s not Muslims.”  It was barely more than two years since the first World Trade Center bombing.

Indeed,this was my standard response to any such outrage, and when it was Muslims who were the perpetrators, I was an early adopter of the “anti- backlash” fear, which while still never having occurred anywhere in the West that I am aware of, is the standard media and political response in the West, even as the wounded are being given first aid, and the body bags zipped closed.

For, you see, these were people, indeed, by marriage,my people, and as tedious and annoying as I found their religiosity, people for whom I cared, and in whom I found enjoyment for their other traits. And sticking by them was critical to my own self image. From my earliest encounters with world geography, I  had wanted to roam the world, and it was its peoples, not the exotic beasts of National Geographic, whom I wished to meet and know.

My older daughter was now in Middle School, and had a unit on Islam, or was it just Arabia?. I don’t remember, but her assignment was one of those collaborative exercises where she and her friends imagined themselves running a caravan service to Mecca. I supervised, made suggestions, thought the who idea was fun. The whole history of conquest is now elided, and I think it must have been then as well, because neither of my daughters, as adults had any idea of this until I brought it up.  Just the other day, reading about the terrible situation in Syria,I thought of my trip there in 1980, and the Christian villages around the Krak des Chevaliers, a crusader fortress.   I distinctly recalled my thoughts that day, how I said to myself, these Christians must have been  there since the Crusades.

Which is utterly false. They had of course been there since Roman times.  How could I have thought such a thing, when, by the time I finished elementary school I had a basic grasp of both classical times and the middle ages?

This is a testimony to the power of pro-Islam, anti- Western propaganda, which has been building for decades, and these days is disseminated everywhere, and not even discernible as such to most.

Sometime in the late 90s local TV in the Bay Area started broadcasting Ramadhan greetings.  I thought that was nice.

It is hard to remember how and when things changed in that part of the Islamic world familiar to me, and in the hearts of the Muslims I knew.. This was a large span in a life, and the changes were gradual. I don’t remember when it was no longer proper to buss my sister-in-law on both cheeks in the Dutch style, and instead, hold my right hand over my heart in the Muslim style. Nor do I remember when she began wearing a hijab. Her children did not, but by the end of the 90s, married and with children, they all did, as did the granddaughters. I noticed that people I had known who used to keep a bar at home no longer drank. The empty bottles stayed for a while as decorator items, then vanished entirely. Those who had ignored the fast entirely now fasted, and their very young children joined them.

No do I remember when my brother-in- law became admirer of Khomeini. There were many more changes to come, and those I saw in family in friends only mirrored what was shaping the world at large.

Children in Minangkabau(West Sumatra) costumes, Indonesia National Day.  San Francisco, 1990s

Children in Minangkabau(West Sumatra) costumes, Indonesia National Day. San Francisco, 1990s

We joined the local Indonesian community for national days, and events aimed at raising the profile of the country in the US. Many of these took place at the Indonesian consulate in San Francisco. Earlier there had been heaps of liquor, then a new consul and the place was dry and convocations began with Islamic invocations, despite the fact that a large part of the community, who had attended for years, were part of a long established settlement of Christian, mixed Dutch Indonesians, centered in San Jose.

I returned a number of times to the Moluccas. These were storied isles indeed. H.L. Tomlinson, in “Tide Marks,” (1924) quoted a sea captain who had spent his life sailing them: “They are like stars in the sky, these islands. Some are great kingdoms; others are one coconut. And you could not see them all in a thousand lifetimes.”

The pull for me was as much as – if not more than – than their astonishing beauty, but their

The Muslim settlement of Wahai, North Ceram, 1991. Note the schoolgirls do not wear Muslim dress.

The Muslim settlement of Wahai, North Ceram, 1991. Note the schoolgirls do not wear Muslim dress.

place in history and the  cultures that remained to testify to those who had come from all quarters of the Old World(And the New for that matter: I have read an account of Spanish adventurers,who arriving inn Peru too late to join the Peru, took off for the Moluccas, and washed up shipwrecked at Wahai, a town we visited) Spain made a try for the spice wealth of the great Sultanates of Ternate and Tidore, but lost out to Portugal, and later the Dutch took them all, after giving the upstart English a drubbing.  And well before them had come the Arabs, those great seafarers who learned the secret of the monsoon, tying these distant dots to the Red Sea and Africa, and the greater world of Islam, as the dynasties they established built states – the “great kingdoms” of Tomlinson’s words  – that traded with all who came – from China, India, and even pre-Tokugawa Japan. Here, in one place were all those currents that had entranced me as a boy.  India, China, far Araby, and the island peoples themselves.

Aboriginal Nuaulu man, North Ceram Island, 1993. This group maintains its animistic beliefs.

Aboriginal Nuaulu man, North Ceram Island, 1993. This group maintains its animistic beliefs.

Mauslea, Central Ceram, 1991. Tearerails  build thechurch had been brought over an 8000m pass, carried on men's backs.

Manusela, Central Ceram, 1991. Materials for the church had been brought up  over an 80000m pass, carried on men’s backs.

Christianity came with the Europeans, and as in most such contacts, the Muslim populations were largely impervious to evangelizing, but some animist groups, a few of which survive today, remained unconverted.  Thus one might find a cluster of villages, all with the same name, but with a sobriquet: Islam, Catholic, or Protestant, evidence that various branches of an ancient clan had embraced different religions.

One such was Hitu, on the north shore of Ambon, capital and largest island in the south Moluccas. Ancient ties of blood and obligation knit the separate communities. The Western New year is a major feast day in the Moluccas,and in fact, the celebrations go on pretty much throughout January, ending when  the booze runs out,

In HItu, during this time,  Muslims will join  Christians in painting and repairing the church, and Christians return the favor to the mosque.  When the work is finished, there is a great feast, but the two confessions eat separately, so the Muslims might avoid pork, but gather together after, for an all night boozer. As Muslims drink less, they help the staggering Christians home.

Early in 1999, fighting broke out in Ambon, capital of the South Moluccas. First reports showed Christian and Muslim youth groups armed with spears and bows and arrows screaming at each other in the downtown area. The BBC and CNN had some film, but the area soon went dark, and the conflict went on for another four years, strangely under reported. The origins remain obscure, but the Muslim side drew in support from across Indonesia,and beyond, with the army supplying some weapons to the Muslim side, and more coming in from the southern Philippines.

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“…isles Of Ternate and Tidore, whence merchants bring Their spicy drugs…(Milton, “Paradise Lost.”) Here Tidore, seat of an ancient Sultanate, one of the original Spice Islands.

My brother in law was from Halmahera,an island north of Ambon, populated by Muslims and Christians, as well as tribal animists in the interior. Halmahera natives in and around Bandung had a mutual aid society that served both social and business networking needs. A relative had headed the association for many years. He had been born Christian, seen which way the wind was blowing and converted to Islam. He prospered in West Java, owning a fleet of small trucks and distributing consumer goods to smaller villages throughout the province.

He was an an impressive man, and I had always liked him. And he was on to me. When we visited, he always saw that one of his sons found something interesting to show me on his extensive property when the rest of the family was gathering for prayer.

Thus I was shocked and appalled when, as it  turned out, the last time I saw him, he berated one of his sons before a house full of relatives and neighbors. The boy had gone to Ambon to fight, lost heart, and come home.

“I would be a kshatriya(a Sanskrit word translated as knight in Indonesian, and in India the warrior caste) were I your age. I would, fight jihad, drive the kaffir away, but you., you…”

This was the first time I ever remember an Indonesian using the Arabic word that we would translate as infidel, or unbeliever. Nowadays, sadly, Indonesian Muslims are so arabized that they use the plural kuffar, correctly. And these days, jihad needs no translation.

During this time, that lovely village, Hitu, turned on itself, and both its 17th century mosque and 18th century church were destroyed.

Imanuel church, Hitu village, Ambon Island, 1991. Destroyed in intercommunal fighting.

Imanuel church, Hitu village, Ambon Island, 1991. Destroyed in intercommunal fighting.

So as my account moves to the millennium, little seems to have change in my attitude towards Islam. My knowledge of its theology was no deeper than it had been when I was a schoolboy, and still the avid news consumer I had always been, as I read of each large scale Islamist attack, I still placed them in a long internalized context of inter -state(Israel and the Arabs) and communal conflict.

When I was in Indonesia I would note increasing fundamentalism, but still see much of Islam, as it had long been practiced there, as part of the country’s fascinating cultural mosaic, with many aspects actually quite charming.  1995 had marked

These young women wear tradtional clothing from across Indnoesia.  The oe coverig her face wears a drees from interior Kalimantan, where inhabitants are either animist or Christian.  Teh others are in costumes from Muslim r3egions.  I have been correcting epole for decades whenthe efer to the hijab as traditonal muslim dress.  It is not.

These young women wear traditional clothing from across Indonesia. The one covering her face wears a dress from interior Kalimantan, where inhabitants are either animist or Christian. The others are in costumes from Muslim regions. I have been correcting people for decades when they refer to the hijab as traditional Muslim dress. It is not. (Sumenep, Madura, 1995)

the 50th anniversary of Indonesia’s independence and on a bus trip through Java and Madura there were celebrations everywhere,the smallest villages putting on shows of both national pride and love of their traditions. Along with the red and white bunting of the national colors, there was yellow, from the land’s ancient Hindu and Buddhist past. Children and young people dressed in traditional costumes, and wore garlands of jasmine. Islamic green was absent.

Independence celebration parade, Sumenep, Madura, 1995. The bare legs would be totally unacceptable today.

Independence celebration parade, Sumenep, Madura, 1995. The bare legs would be totally unacceptable today.

Yet, in the back of my mind synapses were firing, and connections being made, for its only now, fifteen or twenty years after the fact, that I recall a late afternoon, early evening conversation at work. The office was quiet and only I and one other guy, an Indian – a Parsee- remained.  I cannot recall how we came to speak of such things, but a shared antipathy to Islam surfaced and I said, in reference to the Iran Iraq War, that one bunch of Muslim motherfuckers killing another was all to the good.  We high fived.

Yet somehow, I packed this inchoate sense of enmity away.

Sumenep, Madura, 1995. Headmaster of a pesantren(Islamic boarding school) and drum line director. Many such schools were later to become hotbeds of extremism. His wife, earlier in the sequence of photo wore a kind of mantilla,but here leaves her hair uncovered. Just couldn't resist, I reckon.  She is a handsome woman.

Sumenep, Madura, 1995. Headmaster of a pesantren(Islamic boarding school) and drum line director. Many such schools were later to become hotbeds of extremism. His wife, earlier in the sequence of photos wore a kind of mantilla,but here leaves her hair uncovered. Just couldn’t resist, I reckon. She is a handsome woman.

Shortly after this, a confluence of events – a reorganization at work that sidelined me, the retirement of a beloved boss who had been my mentor, the fall of Soeharto and an economic crisis that made Indonesia a bargain basement, my wife’s longstanding discontent in the United States, and my own middle aged yearning to do something entirely different -, not to mention an inflated sense of wealth from the dotcom boom – led us to sell up and move to Bali, Indonesia.


But we did it, and in the event, this

brought me closer to Islam than I had even been.

Encounters with Islam, Part 3: 1975-80

Al Khobar 2

Old town, al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, 1978


Executed Iranian generals, 1979

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Old City, Lahore, Pakistan, 1978

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Shalimar gardens, Lahore Pakistan, 1978

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Mughal fort, Lahore, Pakistan 1978


Plains Indians Ghost Dancers, 1880s

(Read part One here, and Part 2 here)

It was late 1978. I pulled my truck up on an embankment to watch the spectacle. For three days, white C-130s with the Iranian tricolor had been roaring in to the American airbase at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Every fifteen minutes, one came in, and another took off, heading back north. The Shah was tottering, and this was a sure sign of the end. Scuttlebutt was that these planes were clearing out technical assets from CIA listening stations in Iran. Iran had been a bulwark in CENTO (Central Treaty Organization), an arc extending from Turkey to Pakistan. A few months before, on the recommendation of a coworker, I and some buddies had bought tickets for Shiraz in Iran. They had Israeli beer, a few discos, the ruins of Persepolis, beautiful ancient mosques and gardens. Iran Air went on strike and Saudia was full, so we didn’t go. I got my money back, and given a last-minute choice between Oktoberfest in Munich, and Pakistan.  I’d been to Munich as a child, so I went to Lahore on  the recommendation of my Pakistani travel agent.  There, one could – with a police permit – have a drink, and explore a city that combined a jumble of slums, markets, the British cantonment, and some of the finest examples of Islamic architecture anywhere.  It beat Saudi all hollow. The change in Iran was spectacularly swift. And yet, although the old regime fell to the Ayotollah, the events were still couched in the familiar vocabulary of nationalism and Cold War alignments. Pundits ascribed the anti –Americanism to memories of the coup against Mossadegh, hence the prominent role of the Tudeh(Iranian Communists) in supporting the Revolution, and some geo-strategists saw it as a wash. While Iranian leftists were celebrating the end of American influence, it was unlikely the Ayatollah would align with the godless Soviets. The Tudeh, of course, are long gone, mostly murdered by the regime. At the time, I did see a little beyond this, thinking and writing that this was in a sense, “Ghost Dancing,” in that just as the Plains Indians on the verge of defeat and near extinction had put their faith in spirits, so here was Islam, lashing back at Modernism, in a violent death throe. I still think I was right, but at the time I would never have thought such issues would still be foremost in discourse today.


Indonesian movie poster from the 70s

My road to Saudi Arabia had led through Indonesia. In 1975, the San Francisco based construction company for which I worked won a contract for an LNG project on the east Coast of Kalimantan(Borneo) My background put me up on the shortlist of candidates for an open position in logistics, and May of that year found me back In Indonesia after an absence of five years. Soekarno was gone, a general ruled, and for our reposes here, I could almost elide these years, as Islam, while present, was not ascendant. It was the 70s, and bell bottoms, short skirts, and big hair were as popular in here as anywhere else. There was still only one television station, state-owned, black and white, and it broadcast a prayer call in the evenings, but the local cinema ground out comedies that were thinly plotted efforts on which to hang chicks in short skirts and showcase local rock bands.

Jalan Thamrin, Jakarta 1974.  Photo: Thomas J. Strei

Jalan Thamrin, Jakarta 1974. Photo: Thomas J. Strei

Jakarta was a roaring town. Oil and gas ruled. There were slot machines in the bars, and there were a lot of bars. Along the new thoroughfares, high rises went up, but from the roof top lounges, one still looked out over a vast, poorly lit sea of shanty towns. There was far more going on than I imagined. (V.S.Naipaul describes repressed Islamist sentiment in 1970s Indonesia in his “Among the Believers.”) Indonesia then, as now, was a supremely religious country. Nor were questions we would find cultural offensive of the table. “How old are you” “What is your religion?” I had long since taken up agnosticism, but I knew better than to answer that I had no religion. After 1965, Communism, and the entire left, by extension had been discredited and were beyond the pale, but this was not due to matters of economic policy or political organization, but rather the atheism considered fundamental to Marxism. So I answered, simply, Catholic, as I had been raised, and of which there were quite a few in the country, with the national Cathedral in Jakarta just across from the National Mosque. With the Indonesians with whom I associated, religion was hardly an issue. I was young, and so were they. Mostly we talked about the job, and of course, girls. A group might meet in a Chinese restaurant, where the westerners and Chinese Indonesians had pork, the Muslims chicken, and we all drank the excellent local beer ( now sadly diminished as successive hikes in the excise tax have forced the brewers to lower the alcohol content.)

Me with local staff, Balikpapan, 1977. One of these ladies was Muslim, the other Christian.  Which was which wasn't obvious back then.

Me with local staff, Balikpapan, 1977. One of these ladies was Muslim, the other Christian. Which was which wasn’t obvious back then.


Big hair and bell bottoms, Palu, Central Sulawesi, 1977. For the last twenty years this area has been a hotbed of Islamist violence, with may gruesome murders, inter communal mayhem, and volunteers going off to fight jihad abroad.

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Muslim Malay villagers, Sengatta, East Kalimantan, 1977.

After some months, the project build took off and I moved up to Balikpapan, an oil town not far from the job site, and later, towards the end of the project to the site itself. In all this time, working with local staff, no one ever broke off from his duties saying he had to go and pray. No doubt many managed to meet their devotional obligations, but it was never an issue. At evening one heard the call for prayer from the old town below the oil company compound, but as it had been in Sumatra for me, years before, it was a pleasant reminder that I had gotten out in the world and was someplace different, and exciting. At the site, the mess hall provided both Western and Indonesian food. There were separate lines, but all came from the same kitchen. The chef was German, and there was pork. And I was utterly delighted when as the operational team formed for the plant start-up but who should show up but Abu Bakar, from Sungai Gerong, famous for his wild boar barbecues. He was soon off in the forest banging away and put on a great pig roast for all, and as before, while not eating the porker, happily swigged on the bourbon that was his secret barbecue sauce ingredient. We had Sundays off, access to speed boats and free fuel, so we ranged up and down the coast, exploring the rivers and estuaries, stopping at small towns little changed from Conrad’s time( he had mucked about these parts)

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Bugis settlers, from across the strait of Makassar. Renowned as sailors and traders, the Bugis have been Muslim for many centuries, but here, in 1978, no head scarves.

These were Muslim settlements, each with its tin-domed mosque, but there were no head covers on the women and if we had run out, it was easy to find more warm beer to throw in the igloo coolers. There were thousands of Muslim workers on site, but no prayer times, and work continued through the fasting month, with no acknowledgment. When the work was done, and the plant dedicated, oil industry grandees, along with the President of the Republic, General Suharto showed up . It was quite a party. Two major headliners from Jakarta, stars of stage and screen. The late Benyamin S. the still revered Muslim son of West Sumatra, and Grace Simon, a Christian from North Sulawesi (Celebes) put on a show, singing duets half way to dawn, at a well lubricated party.

CyberViewX v5.11.00 Model Code=58 F/W Version=1.12When it was time to go a couple of months later, I joined a buddy and I embarked on a long-planned trip across the interior of Kalimantan and into Malaysia. This was an epic in itself, but has little bearing on this narrative other than that we were surprised at how far up the river the reach of Islam extended. It was week and more before we came ashore at a long house settlement of the native Dayak people, and finally a town, without a mosque. Months later, we stumbled across the border into Malaysia and made our way to Singapore. So,I left Southeast Asia, and returned to California, where I stayed only briefly. I had left a girlfriend in Jakarta. It was far too early to make a commitment, but I needed time and money to go back and forth to Indonesia.

Dayak longhouse, Long Pahangnai, East Kalimantan, 1977.  Dayaks are largely Christian, but many remain animist.  Those that enter Islam must perforce leave all their traditions behind.

Dayak longhouse, Long Pahangnai, East Kalimantan, 1977. Dayaks are largely Christian, but many remain animist. Those that enter Islam must perforce leave all their traditions behind.

Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia 1978

Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia 1978

There was work in Saudi Arabia. So it was that in May 1978, from 25,000 feet, I looked out into the night and saw as far as the eye could see, the gas flares of the Saudi fields. It was as a small cog in the vast Aramco effort to capture those flared resources that I was employed. Saudi Arabia. No women, no whiskey, but so what, I thought. I had known Muslims the better part of my life. No problem. I bought Lawrence’s “Seen Pillars of Wisdom,” Douty’s “Arabia Deserta,” and “Thesigers “Arabian Sands.” These famous men had found adventure and fulfillment there; so might I. Arabia!! Like China and India, one of those fanciful lands from childhood tales.

In the event, Saudi was, as you might expect, awful. The visible population was overwhelmingly male. The Aramco television station showed “Love Boat” Reruns, which we watched assiduously, just for the pool scenes. There were some echoes of the sleepy kingdom in those slides my father’s friend had shown us back in the 50’s In downtown Al_Khobar , where the old whitewashed houses had jalousies in the upper stores, from which women might look out. Down the road was the town of Qatif, with winding alleys, a mud-walled Ottoman fort, and dhows at the quayside.

Qatif, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia,1978

Qatif, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia,1978

The strange and anti-human segregation of the sexes was difficult, indeed, for me, impossible to adjust to. Friends of mine in Riyadh told me of getting random phone calls from women, who passed around expatriate telephone numbers among themselves. They would talk yearningly, for hours, but never meet.

A Safeway opened in Dhahran, and it was soon thronged by veiled women who made a great show of examining produce and reading ingredients on cans. For this they had to throw back the veil over their faces, and one saw, as they glanced away from the lettuce, towards you, great dark eyes, perfectly made up, deep pools in which hid shadowed souls. It was here that I saw what remains the single most erotic vision in my life. Late one day driving along a road crowded on both sides with mid-rise apartments, the street empty, and the sun sinking in the east filled the corridor with orange light. Then a woman, all in black, but clearly young, for the light pierced her dark cloak and illuminated the full curves of her body, as if she were naked., She was faceless, and magnificent.

There was a train line from Dammam to Riyadh, and once I rode with some friends as a lark. Sitting opposite us was a jolly fellow, in his thobe and dishdasha.  He was a trader of some sort, had traveled extensively, and spoke his own variety of expressive and quite amusing English. As he regaled us with stories of his travels, he continuously cracked a variety of nuts, and passed the meats s around. A stand up guy. Next to him was , I presume, his wife, all in black and with a leather mask, something one saw among the Bedouin. She might as well have been a piece of uninteresting luggage. Yet, while I knew this was a consequence of Islam, I saw it as Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. I was not at all ready to write off Muslims in general, or even Saudis, although I learned they weren’t all that popular among Arabs.

There were still those touching human interactions that are part, or even the main reason, that some people seek out time in other cultures. The kind of contact that says, yes, we are, in the end all just people, and such differences as we have,are worthwhile in themselves. Shortly after I arrived in Kingdom, I realized I was going the wrong way while out working one day, pulled off a very a narrow road and got bogged down on a deceivingly solid shoulder. A Caprice slowed down and stopped. The locals loved these behemoths: they were hardy and up to all the crap the desert could throw at them. A portly fellow in Arab dress got out, smiled, pointed to the tow hitch on the back of his car, hitched me up and pulled me back to the road. Then he gave me a cake. An enormous chocolate wonder in one of those pink cardboard boxes. His card said he was a baker, from Kuwait. We shook hands and he took off.

Then there were the middle-aged and elderly merchants who dealt from their stores in the old towns, while their MBA sons ran huge warehouses on the outskirts. It was a pleasure to sit with them, exchange intricate pleasantries, and sip tea and coffee, before getting down to business. One of these guys was a cat fancier. Islam prohibits dogs

Old commercial district, Al-Khobar, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia, 1978

Old commercial district, Al-Khobar, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia, 1978

but the human love of companion animals will out. He would had me a cup of cardamon infused coffee and – a cat. While exchanging praises to god for he good weather and our fine health we would sip our drinks and pet our purring friends.

And this I shall never forget.

Salim was the proprietor of a busy machine shop.  Black, he had been born into slavery, and when slavery ended in the kingdom, he had gotten work in the oilfields and eventually set up on his own. His crew was also black, from similar backgrounds One day, I was dropping off some drawings, when a commotion broke out.  A worker had been injured – I don’t remember how exactly –  but as his crew gathered around anxiously around for the ambulance to come, Salim cradled the moaning man cooing to him,  and kissing his shaven skull.  Salim was an excellent and reliable supplier, and he was also a good man.

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Bahrein, 1979

Saudi Arabia was full of foreigners, from high paid executives to laborers, and many of them were Muslims .. I hung out with French-speaking Tunisians who made their own wine, and Pakistani guys who cooked up amazing curries and biryanis in their quarters. While I spent most of my leaves in Jakarta, I did see a little of the Middle East. Bahrain had alcohol, old British hotels, and souks filled with Arabs, Europeans and Indians. Syria, while under the thumb of Assad Pere,

Palmyra, Syyria, 1979

Palmyra, , 1979

was nevertheless a wonderful place to visit, Damascus a jumble of classical ruins, stunning mosques from the first Caliphate and an Oktoberfest at the Hilton. Jordan was a friendly, open place, with television in Arabic, English, French and Hebrew. Like Saudi Arabia, these were Muslim lands, but there the similarity ended.

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Damascus, 1980. This engine was part of the order to Krupp for the Baghdad-Berlin railway. Lawrence blew some of them up in the Hijaz.

Looking back, it’s bemusing – and discouraging -to see forerunners of today’s strife in the area. The Grand Mosque in Mecca was seized by rebels who thought the royal family corrupt and un-Islamic, and there were uprisings in the majority Shia Eastern Province where I was. The Press was tightly controlled and we learned the truth of such things via letters from abroad, although rumors and unease abounded in 1979.

One night I was driving home after a day visiting friends up north. Suddenly the light traffic piled up. The Army was checking everyone. Some vehicles were waved though after brief conversations, others searched. I had a load of homemade wine stashed behind the seat, and I thought I was in big trouble. Fortunately, my night class in Arabic paid off, as I was able to understand a demand for my license, and produce it with the usual polite pleasantries.

Old city center, Homs, Syria. Now almost completely destroyed.

Old city center, Homs, Syria. Now almost completely destroyed.

As the soldier and I talked, I heard distant fire, and looking back as I drove on, saw flashes of light to the East. Months later, I learned that gunships had been putting down a revolt in Qatif.

Plus ca change.

Jerash, Jordan, 1980

Jerash, Jordan, 1980

I was in the Kingdom for a little over two years( Well, two years, there months and six days. If you took extra days off to travel, without pay, it was added to your sentence, erhm, contract) I often took extra time, because I was going back and forth to Jakarta. The girlfriend and I decided to marry. She was a secretary at one of the UN affiliated international organizations in town, had friends among the embassies and foundations, and also knew quite a few people in music and film. Jakarta was in a certain way, a small town back them. In short, she was quite sophisticated for the time and place. We had never at all discussed religion. I had met her sister who was married to a hotel manager in a nearby city, but her father was a distant figure. She had always said they didn’t get along. My fiance’s mother had been his first wife, and had died young. He had had quite a few since then.

One day he showed up in Jakarta, on a mission. If we were to marry, I must become Muslim. So this man, in his floppy trousers and Muslim skull-cap, was the father of my fiancée, who had excellent English, some French and Dutch, and was an accomplished stenographer. He was from West Java,and his native language was Sundanese, but of course he spoke Indonesian. Nevertheless, I had great difficulty understanding him, at least in regards to the matter at hand, since a good deal of what he was saying was Arabic. This was a bombshell. I had not attachment to the religion I had been raised in, and had gleefully stopped going to church as soon as nobody made me do so. Nevertheless, I didn’t like anyone telling me what to do, and Islam, the religion of those difficult raghead over in the Sand Box, was not at all something I wanted to take up. I said no, and there was an enormous scene. I called the movers to pack up my stuff, Then, I backed down. I had sent out the invitations, liked the idea of being married, and well love and all that stuff. I went back to Dhahran with an Indonesian language booklet on Islam that told me how to pronounce the Shahada(the Islamic profession of faith), how to pray and so on. I chanted the payers until I knew them, and in the end not so resentfully. Just anther cultural exploration, I thought. So it was, on my next leave from Saudi, I went down to the mosque and recited the Shahada. First I had had to go tot a doctor, drop trou, and show that my junk was regulation. Wen I was born, circumcision was seen nearly universally as a hygienic necessity. ‘Nice work.” said the doc. The imam congratulated me,and we all exchanged a lot of “Alhamdullah,” Arabic for Praise the Lord. I was then able to marry in the Islamic rite. Then I shredded the conversion certificate, and no doubt the mice have since eaten the carbons. Some months after the religious wedding, we married at the civil registry and had a big reception with enormous amounts of booze: I returned to Saudi to finish out my contract. At the Jakarta airport,there were a large number of young Indonesians, dressed in a manner I had never seen before, the boys in skull caps and thobes, and tho women in white, faces visible,  hair covered. They were boarding a Saudi flight, and they told me they were on the way to the Kingdom for religious education. I thought then, what kind of ideas will they bring back?

(To continue to Part 4, go here )

Signs, Portents…and Squirrels: Our Times: At Once, Dire and Inane

portentsAs I write the date is 27 February, 2015.

If one needed any proof that the United States, and a good deal of the rest of the world has simply abandoned any pretense of being serious, the top stories of today and a few days prior are convincing proof.

JohnLast night, the story broke that “Jihadi” John, the masked killer of at least five in Iraq and or Syria had been identified. Along with this came a presser by CAGE, a “human rights” organization in the UK, which attempted to blame the nation’s security services for “radicalizing” Mohammed Emwazi, who


Cage directer Asim Qureshi in a diptych with the “beautiful young man” who went on to practice halal butchery on humans. Qureshi’s zabiba(prayer bump) should be a dead giveaway that he’s just another of the lying Islamic shills to whom Westerners give so much credence. The Qureshi were the tribe of the “Prophet” Muhammad, and half the swinging dicks in Muhammad land claim to be descended from them.  Liars all.

turned out to be a degreed computer programmer raised in comfortable circumstances. A week before, the Obama administration had re-floated the idea that “violent extremists” are fueled by poverty and exclusion, a moronic, Marxist inspired, and easily debunked trope that has been around since Dubya.


Since I was a child, I've loved antiquity.  However, I remember many of my classmates hating those museum field trips.  This, though, is a bit much

Since I was a child, I’ve loved antiquity. However, I remember many of my classmates hating those museum field trips. This, though, is a bit much

ISIS took a break from releasing snuff films to putting out a video of the lads having a blast smashing statues from Ancient Assyria.


Nothing to do with Islam, of course. Bangladeshi-American atheist blogger Avijit Roy’s wife, Rafida Ahmed Banna, who survived, but lost a finger.

In Dhaka, a Bangladeshi atheist blogger, who also held American citizenship, was hacked to death on the street, with his wife also attacked but surviving. While the White house had nothing to say, a reporter did manage to coax a statement out of Jen Psaki, who was careful to note that at this point the attackers’ motive is unknown.

U.S. State Department spokesbimbo, Jen Psaki.  While lacking empirical evidence, I'd say she's a genuine ginger, and I bet those hooters are real as well, unlike anything that comes out of her mouth.

U.S. State Department spokes-bimbo, Jen Psaki. While lacking empirical evidence, I’d say she’s a genuine ginger, and I bet those hooters are real as well, unlike anything that comes out of her mouth.

The United States government, with zombie FDR nodding approval, decided to regulate the internet under a statute written in 1933. All data packets are equal. Down the road, some will be more equal than others. On the BBC, of all places, a commenter shook his head and said the US government has decided it wants the internet or free. Someone on state owned British media gets economics better than Mr. Obama.

In the same category of unaccountable Federal agencies we have the BATF talking about banning ammunition for the AR-15, a big scary looking rifle that anti-gun legislators have been unable to touch. It’s basically a .22, well .223.

A gang of Uzbeks from Brooklyn are

indicted on terrorism charges. What would Adam Yauch say?

In the United States Congress, the Republican majority, in its strongest position since the 1920s decides that funding DHS, the security super agency that has yet to catch a terrorist, is more important than keeping its promise to the electorate to fight and defund the President’s unilateral amnesty for illegal immigrants.

The president and functionaries of the regime, I’m sorry, government, natter on about “Climate Change,” (Nee Global Warming; isn’t it nice to see her all grown up?) as a foot of snow falls in Alabama. Winter Storm

In other times, people looked to the heavens for signs and portents of evil days to come.

My necromancer didn’t return my texts.


We have the United Sates, guarantor of the peace for some seven decades, in a constitutional crisis, a centuries old civilization conflict bathing vast areas in blood, the ancient nations of Europe suborned by Islamic fifth columns, and much more than I need go into here.

What is to come?

I have no idea, the best minds of our time are trying to determine the color of THE DRESS.

What color is this dress? Beats me.  It's  an internet thing.

What color is this dress? Beats me. It’s an internet thing.

What color is it?

Ask the llamas.

A Mexican guy driving by uses a lariat to lasso a llama.  All these words are Spanish. What the hell, I like Mexicans, and I'll sure take them over Muslims.

A Mexican guy driving by uses a lariat to lasso a llama. All these words are Spanish. What the hell, I like Mexicans, and I’ll sure take them over Muslims.

The Iconography of Terror: How ISIS Taps into Our Fears

For some time, I have been convinced that ISIS is tapping in to Western fears, using an intimate knowledge of our history, art and myth to stir night terrors for an entire civilization.

ISISSquadThis first occurred to me when I saw this picture, which I and many compared to the einsatzgrupen on the Eastern Front. The helpless victims with their backs to death, the collective nature of the method of of executions so all the killer share equally in the act tie the two scenes  together across time.

Gruppen                                                                 Contrast this to Goya’s rendering of a similar scene. The Spaniards in this painting will all surely die, but they face their killers and defy them. They have not been robbed of all agency. They die, but we know others will live. Beyond the horror is hope. It is if Goya could look across more than a century and see liberty arise from a sea of corpses. Whereas, the equally iconic picture of the the German killers presents no hope, only hopelessness, and shame at that helplessness. We have long thought -or hoped – that Goya’s was, in the end, the clearer vision.

"Third of May"  Francisco Goya.  Napoleon's troops shoot civilians. An archetype for countless atrocities over the next century and a half.

“Third of May” Francisco Goya. Napoleon’s troops shoot civilians. An archetype for countless atrocities over the next century and a half.

ISIS has been described as “sophisticated” in their media output, but the latest from Libya, is in my view, brilliant. Lets have a look at this still from the video of the mass murder of 21 Copts on a Libya shore.


21 Copts murdered. New reports of 21 captives held in cages. A reference to a 21 gun salute? I wouldn’t put it past this bunch.

First we see a line of obviously cowed, despairing men in orange jumpsuits, each escorted by a masked figure who towers above his captive. The use of orange jump suits in beheading videos goes back to at least Nick Berg, and is in part a riposte for the humiliations visited to some prisoners in Abu Ghraib. Beyond that, it is a mockery of our Western notions of justice. Unlike western prisoners, like those you sometimes see out clearing verges along highways, these men will have no lawyers, no work release, no parole. Only death. And this is as decreed in a multitude of Islamic sources. Allah’s law prevails, and the statutes of Pharaoh, Caesar and Parliament are as nothing. Note how the line recedes form the foreground into the distance. No matter how many  “Crusaders” there are, there is a limitless supply of executioners. The setting along the shore is no accident. The shore in question is the southern Mediterranean, a Latin term meaning at the center of the earth, the sea that bound the Roman world together, Mare Nostrum, Our Sea. A sea that Islam cleft in twain for more than a millennium. This is to let us know that the sea is ours no longer, and will once again be theirs.

A shore is the limit of the human inhabited earth, a dead end.  There are no waiting ships, and no escape. Only a brooding sky over an iron sea. A storm is coming.

axeman It is the back cloaked figures who tap most deeply in to our subconscious. The axeman is a familiar archetype. For how many centuries did Europeans live under rulers who could at a whim, send their subjects to the block, where a masked man in black would send them to eternity? In fact, beheading was reserved for the nobility, while the common man was more likely to go via the rope. Certainly, the hangman’s noose, remains a symbol of death, while the hangman is remembered in folklore, but who we see in our nightmares, is the axeman, perhaps because he figured in the last moments of so many famous historical figures. ISIS and others use knives, not axes. This is the tool of halal slaughter, a clear message that the victims are as beasts.


The Execution of Lady Jane Grey. Paul de la Roche, 1834

In this painting of the execution of Lady Jane Gray one sees a similar sort of obscene intimacy as that in the lSIS Libyan video, where the executioners each guide their victims with a hand on the shoulder. They proceed in step, both part of the choreography.( Surely this was rehearsed.) While I’m not a cinematography nerd, as a long time consumer of horror movies, the technique in the ISIS short seems familiar. There are a couple of tricks I’m sure I’ve seen in the kind of second tier scare flicks you see on Thirll TV.

Open on an empty beach. Which quickly rushes up to the viewer, then back again, a kind of whiplash view accompanied by  reptilian chattering. Same again, but the line of men is now on the beach. Again, and the beach is empty. Then the men return and the narrative becomes more conventional There is a declaration, the usual tale of victimization and retributive aggression.

See Video: ISIS executes 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya

We are given time to learn their faces, so that we will recognize them in death.

The camera lingers briefly over each face that we will remember them. When the moment comes, the men are shoved on to the sand in a wave action beginning at the far end of the line. Continuity disappears. There is a brief montage of violence, blood, body parts ,screams and exultant shouts. I have seen this before. The violence is such that we comprehend its nature, but so brief that a gag reflex isn’t triggered.  The dialogue may well sound better in Arabic and perhaps a more competent translator might have given it greater power. Nevertheless, it bares examination as some of it has been much in the news.

The beheaded Copts are referred to as Crusaders, which may be read as any Christian in Muslim lands. In this instance,and many others, pundits have referred to the enduring wounds of the Crusades, which is utterly nonsensical. Islam won the Crusades and they were of little import until anti-Catholic historians made much of them and their victimization of idealism Islamic societies, beginning with Edward Gibbon. Another Edward, Edward Said, was notable among many others in the last century who recast the Crusades as the first assault of Western Colonialism upon non-Western peoples.

Equally laughable is the speculation of some that the Jihadi pointing his knife towards Rome is an attempt to enlist Libyan nationalists resentful of Italian domination. The Italians have been gone from Libya since Montgomery kicked them out in 1943. Indeed, the knife wielder makes a point of his geographic proximity to today’s Rome, but Islam has a long history with both the city,and the idea of Rome. Islam arose in th 7th Century decades after the official end of the Western empire, but the City of Constantine, the New Rome, endured until 1453. Beyond, the city, Rum, the polity, and Rumi, the people were for Islam the entire West.

The speaker says that they will take Rome, and Jesus will return to “overthrow the cross.” This demented eschatology is orthodox in Islam. In 1984, Orwell` posited an end to history in which a boot stamped a human face, forever. With Islam, it is a knife to a human neck.

This short film thus uses Western mass communication techniques to at once feed on our ancient terrors and to rally Islam to an interrupted conquest, with the aid of anti-colonial Marxist derived tropes perpetuated by the West itself.


Koran 3.151

Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority: their abode will be the Fire: And evil is the home of the wrong-doers!seventhSeal

Encounters With Islam: Half a Century of Connection, and a Final Separation (Part 2: 1961-65)

(Read Part One here)

We landed in Talang Betutu Airport, Palembang, South Sumatra, on a fine day. Scatter ranks of towering cumulo-nimbus at the edge of a cobalt sky promised rain later on. A company van took us to the ferry where we would cross the Musi River to Sungai Gerong, the refinery site. We made our way along a barely macadam-ed road, threading our way through pedestrians, bicyclists and bullock carts. Rice fields stretched out the horizon either side. In the small ramshackle villages now and then, the onion dome of a mosque, fabricated from sheet metal, blazed reflected sunlight. I noted to myself that just has I had seen other exotic sights on the way out – The Buddha of Kamakura, a water buffalo, the fantastic entwined idols at a Hindu temple in Singapore –  now I was seeing mosques. It gave me a small glow of satisfaction to add one more sight to my globetrotter resume.

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Supri, our housekeeper. Her dress is typical of Indonesian Muslim women at the time. Photo: Thomas J. Strei

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Wayang Golek, ca 1965. The performers are Muslim, the puppets and stories, Hindu. Photo: Thomas J. Strei

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Traditional Malay wedding, Palembang, ca. 1964. The groom may be dressed up as Ibn Saud, but the floral tributes come from Hindu tradition. Photo: Thomas J. Strei

My father worked there for more than five years. Islam was present, but barely more than background noise. I went to seventh and eighth grade there, and returned for two summers while away at boarding school. Looking back, admittedly from a post 9/11 vantage, it is astonishing how little Islam, in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, touched our lives. When it did, it was simply one more exotic attribute of our surroundings, and could at times be amusing.  I remember one cook, terrified of coming in contact with pork, attempting to open a can of Spam holding it with a pair of pliers, and working the key with another. She herself wore her hair uncovered,and dressed in a kebaya, a lacy blouse with a fair amount of cleavage, and a sarong, which while concealing flesh, emphasized curves. . The household staff came from Central Java, and while nominally Muslim, were really adherents of traditional Javanese beliefs, a mixture of vestigial Hinduism and mystical practices. Most seemed to pray only in the evening.  If they performed all the five daily prayers, they did so discreetly. Never was one absent for religious observance. I can remember the butler taking his leave, saying he wished to “sembhayang,” an Indonesian word derived from the Sanskrit for meditation, but meaning any one of the five mandatory prayers. Today, Indonesian Muslims use the Arabicc, salaat.

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1965. At the time only haji wore these caps, but many non haji do now as a sign of piety. Photo: Thomas J. Strei

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Pilgrim ship, Musi River, ca. 1964. Photo: Thomas J. Strei

The exoticism was there. My father had pictures of a wedding where the groom rides in an open car dressed as a Hijazi prince, and older men, hajis, with skull caps. He took those shots because even there in that land of Islam, at that time those people stood out. President Obama famously said that there is nothing so lovely as the evening Muslim call to prayer. There was no mosque our compound, but on evenings, people gathered along the riverside at sunset, and from across the river from the village on the other bank, came that cal, and it was indeed lovely. Every year, around a month before the annual haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, a fleet of passenger ships would arrive and stand off for days as they waited for the faithful from the hinterlands to board.  Then they sailed, and may weeks later returned.  The markets filled with dates and Arab spices for a while. Muslim boys are circumcised around age thirteen, and the expatriate employers of Javanese domestic workers customarily would pay for the ceremony. The imam flashed his his blade, and Koranic recital was very brief. Then all night long, shadow puppet plays, the Javanese Wayang Kulit, based on ancient Hindu epics, enthralled the crowd.

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Fully veiled women, Aden 1963. Photo: Thomas J. Strei

After two years in Indonesia it was time for home leave, and we went to Europe by sea. The ship touched at Aden, still a British crown colony, albeit tottering as rebels attacked the outskirts of town, but we were assured it was safe in the center city. This was a heat unlike any  I had felt since living in the Mojave as a small boy. The streets were bustling with British soldiers, Indians, Arabs, and Europeans. And then I started to notice them: Women completely draped in black, even their eyes covered by dark gauzy stuff. Wow! I didn’t think of Islam, or misogyny, but only that once again I was thrilled at seeing something I had only known from geography books.

Two years later, while at school, in 1965, and shortly before my parents left Sungai Gerong in 1965,  I read with great interest my mother’s account of how the events that overthrew Indonesian strong man Sukarno reverberated in our oil town. There were rumors of death lists drawn up by the communists, and pits in the waste ground beyond the perimeter fence, ready for the Reds’ victims. In the event it was the communists who lost, and the whole series of events is still debated. What my mother did see with her own eyes, out walking the dog, was groups of Indonesian men, prominent in the company, dressed as if going to the mosque – checkered sarongs and the black felt caps called songkok, converging at the home of one high level company official, on a number of nights, some weeks before the coup/counter coup. Among them were men who had privately expressed their anti-communist and pro-American views to her and my father, even as they denounced them in public. She speculated that they were organizing resistance. Mom was convinced of the Communists’ guilt. The Army “martyrs,” (generals and a lieutenant who were first kidnapped, and then killed, it was said by the women’s cadre – had according to the official account, their genitals hacked off and placed in their mouths. “Muslims don’t do such things,” she wrote. I do not know on what she based this belief, but it did reflect her generally good opinion of Muslims, one that I shared for many years.

My mother died in 2008, some years before jihadi beheading and torture videos were so widely available on the Internet. Our geopolitical view -that Muslims would be valuable allies in the struggle with communism – was something that had long had a place in diplomatic and intelligence circles in Washington, and would see its fullest implementation in Afghanistan.

End Part Two

SOS Kerry In Paris: The Mendacity of Ahistoricity: Without History, Truth Dies


Lurch trots out his prep school French(Which must be pretty shitty because I can understand it.) to talk about liberty and stuff, with no mention of Islam.

Speaking of the lethal Islamist attack on the French satirical newspaper, #CharlieHebdo, John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, said this:

“No country knows better than France that freedom has a price, because France gave birth to democracy itself.”

Good Lord.

I was immediately moved to send the SOS a tweet, which I can’t find, but briefly mentioned some sorry aspects of the painful French journey towards democracy, and concluded with “You fucking moron.”.

Intemperate, I admit, but accurate.


Pericles giving funeral oration for the dead of the Peloponnesian War. He spoke in the Agora, the political heart of Athens. I first learned about Ancient Greece and Rome somewhere in 4th through 6th grade, and in greater detail in high school.

No one country gave birth to democracy and it would be a fair point to say that it is still evolving. However, it is, or was, common knowledge, that the earliest instances of some form of self rule were in the Classical world, first in the city States of Ancient Greece, and later, the Roman Republic.

While the Middle Ages saw the evolution of parliaments and assemblies, and oligarchic republics in Italy, the foremost of which was Venice, democracy with universal male suffrage did not appear until the Nineteenth Century.

France was significantly late to the party.

The American Declaration of Independence came in 1776 as we all know( Well, maybe not) and the French revolution in 1789, marked by the storming of the nearly empty Bastille and the slaughter of its jailors at the hands of a mob..


The Death of Marat, killed by Charlotte Corday, avenging the mass slaughter of the Girondistes. Say what?  Never mind, the revolution always eats its own.

Thereafter followed factional fighting and various massacres conducted in the name of a National Assembly, the members of which were elected by no one. Danton, Marat, Robespierre: these names were and should still be by words for cold blooded revolutionary ferocity.

A National plebiscite with universal male suffrage for all workers (Thus, the aristocrats, and those living on investments were excluded) established the First Republic in 1792.


Executioner displaying the head of Louis XVI.   Many more were to follow.


“The Bath of Nantes” in which Christian Royalists, men women and children, were loaded on leaky barges. Those that could swim were shot as they made for shore. The operation was supervised by “Committees of the Revolution.” Sound familiar?

1793-4 saw the Reign of Terror, in which first aristocrats including the royals went to the guillotine for the crime of being who they were. Ordinary people soon became implicated as counter revolutionaries, and thousands died at hands of the executioners

Those today who cringe at the horrors carried out by ISIS should remember that the French revolution saw bleeding heads held up before baying mobs lusting for more.


Then of course came Napoleon, followed by a restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, who were in turn overthrown by the House Of Orleans, and a second Empire ruled by a nephew of Napoleon’s. He had been President of the Second Republic established in 1848, but by 1851, he’d decided he’d rather be emperor.  The Germans captured him in the Franco- Prussian War. Now we are in 1870 and the Establishment of the Third Republic, which lasted until 1940.


Dead Communards, 1871. Revolutionary socialists took over Paris for a bit. Didn’t end well for them.

All along, plenty of turmoil, street fighting, and general confusion. If you just skimmed this part, I don’t blame you.

In the war time hiatus, France managed to demonstrate its commitment to liberte, egalite, and fraternite by assisting quite ably in the deportation of the majority its Jews to the east and their deaths.


General de Gaulle in Algiers 1958. Subsequently, he opened the way for Algerian Independence, to this day seen as a betrayal by aging irredentists.

The post war Fourth Republic lasted until 1958, when it was ended with the accession of General De Gaulle to the Presidency. While ostensibly not an actual military coup in Metropolitan France, the change was forced by the threat of armed force, after a coup in Algeria, and seizure of the Island of Corsica by French paratroops based in Algeria.

So far, the Fifth Republic has endured, so maybe the French have finally gotten it right.


During the American Revolution, the Iroquois Federation split over whether to support one side o the other, or just stay out. Here, Mohawks join Loyalists in battle against Continental regulars.

The American Revolution saw some vicious conflict, particularly where irregular forces were engaged, notably in Western New York and the Carolinas. After the war royalist sympathizers were forced to leave, not by government order, but by an impossible social situation. Most poignant of all, black slaves who saw no point in supporting a Revolution in which many of the principals were slaveholders, were in some cases re-enslaved, in others found themselves in Canada, or even Sierra Leone.

Nevertheless, after a steady expansion of the franchise and movement towards direct elections, the United States today lives under the original constitution of 1783, albeit much amended. Since 1789, nicely coincident with the French Revolution, the United States has continuously enjoyed peaceful transfers of power.

That a high official of the United States would in a foreign capital, ignore this history, for reasons I cannot fathom, is both disgusting and dismaying. Mr. Kerry is of an age and education, I am certain, long ago as it may have been since he studied history, that he knows these facts.

Our leaders in the West have no compunction in twisting and ignoring history in pursuit of their agendas. The perennial portrayal of the Islamic world as a passive victim, with no reference to the conquests that formed it, is a prime example of ahistoricity in support of power and manipulation.


Should France surrender to Islam, I doubt things will be quite so relaxed.

Mr. Kerry’s Paris remarks are further proof that ruling elites, confident in the collaboration of the,the media, and the ignorance of deliberately mis-educated electorates, will continue to distort the past in service  of the future they envision for all of us.