The Vortex

[Please note: The word “Featured” on the left side above was NOT inserted by this blogger, but apparently was inserted by WordPress, and it cannot be removed. NO post in this blog is sponsored.]

The Book of the Week is “The Vortex, A True Story of History’s Deadliest Storm, an Unspeakable War, and Liberation” by Scott Carney and Jason Miklian, published in 2022. This multi-faceted story involved a massive number of deaths due to (cue the dramatic music): the Great Bhola cyclone (what would be called a hurricane in the Western Hemisphere), a cholera epidemic, dictatorial political shenanigans, atrocities and genocide; plus heroic international aid workers who were horribly hindered in their disaster-relief efforts. Sorry, no romantic subplot– this wasn’t a movie; all of this actually happened within the space of about three years. But at the end, there was the founding of a new nation, called Bangladesh.

Even decades after geographic separation of various religious and ethnic groups into: A) India, and B) a sovereignty of two discrete land masses (East and West) that comprised newly formed Pakistan in 1947– hostility still reigned. In Pakistan, anger and resentment simmered between the Muslim Punjabis in West Pakistan who spoke Urdu, and the Hindu Bengalis in East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh), who spoke their own language.

In the mid-1960’s, general Ayub (“Yahya”) Khan, who became Pakistan’s leader in 1969 [For more information, see this blog’s post, “The Rape of Bangla Desh”], ordered Pakistan’s military to attack India. The United States imposed economic sanctions on both Pakistan and India for childishly fighting. Pakistan allied with China. India allied with the then-USSR.

In August 1969, American president Richard Nixon tapped Yahya to be the contact to introduce him to China’s leader Mao Tse Tung. In exchange, Yahya wanted to purchase arms for Pakistan. Nixon violated the then-arms embargo against Pakistan to sell it armored personnel carriers and B-57 bombers.

In 1970, there occurred a quantum leap in hurricane-forecasting technology what with a new satellite called ITOS 1 that gathered real-time data on the Northern Hemisphere for the National Hurricane Center. Nevertheless, because they had no clue a storm was coming (the new forecasting technology had yet to reach Central Asia), almost all local residents drowned when the Great Bhola cyclone hit the delta near Manpura island in November 1970. A month later, fifty million Pakistanis were voting for the first time in their lives.

A few months later, American weapons were killing the Bengali people. Nixon was supporting Yahya. The latter’s military leader whipped up a Nazi-level frenzy of hatred against the Hindus, massacring them with .50 caliber machine guns and destroying– via American M-24 Chaffee tanks, jeeps and F-86 jets– key communication, political, educational and law enforcement structures in the city of Dacca in East Pakistan.

Unsurprisingly, all of the above was accompanied by a boatload of radio propaganda put out by Yahya’s side. But later, radio broadcasts helped the Bengalis. Anyway, Nixon aided and abetted Yahya in various additional ways to achieve his own political aims. Refugees fled to India, and where, counterintuitively, military camps trained Bengalis (technically Pakistanis) to resist the Pakistan Army. Indians had always been sworn enemies of Pakistanis. Still, it was in India’s best interest to see the Bengalis win the war and break up Pakistan.

There have occurred countless historical tapestries such as the aforementioned in which a complex bunch of circumstances resulted in millions of deaths; one thing led to another. The authors argued that the especially severe cyclone played a major role in giving scheming politicians an excuse to abuse their power even more. They asserted that more severe storms are occurring due to the earth’s changing atmosphere, and such natural disasters in turn trigger a series of events that increase global conflicts.

BUT, arguably, global conflicts have waxed and waned throughout history, regardless of natural disasters. There are four major causes of global conflicts (that are present in different combinations):

  • fighting over limited (and /or exploited) resources;
  • tribal hatreds;
  • religious hatreds; and
  • territorial disputes.

Present-day events (!) have shown that humanity is making slow, slow, slow progress towards a total net amount of good versus evil on earth– even with all the advances in early-warning systems for disasters and the striving for more widespread humanitarian activities. Cases in point: once-Communist countries have changed for the better in certain ways in the last thirty years, and there is less colonialism in the world than there used to be.

Unfortunately, advances in technology and charitable aid still trigger profiteering and political exploitation with their attendant propaganda. Alpha males with hubris syndrome with their greed and power-hunger still rule most of the world. Bottom line: human nature doesn’t change, but globally, human beings overall, are evolving.

Anyway, read the book to learn many more story-details, involving: how Nixon (and his evil sidekick Kissinger) came extremely close to instigating a nuclear war against the USSR in the Bay of Bengal; the fates of various political and military leaders; and the hapless common people of Pakistan, and the aid workers who passionately tried to help them.

The Six Days of Yad-Mordechai – BONUS POST

The Bonus Book of the Week is “The Six Days of Yad-Mordechai” by M. Larkin, originally published in 1965.

Passionate, mostly Polish Holocaust survivors who were able to make their way to the Gaza Strip in Palestine in late 1943 worked tirelessly to establish a new kibbutz called Yad-Mordechai. The socialistic ideal of their farm collective was this: “Since economic dependence upon the father was what gave him power, such dependence was abolished in their society.”

Still, the community fell short of total gender equality, as the males did the hard manual labor on the infrastructure; an all-male militia except for one female fought against attacking Egyptians, and females did all the food preparation and childcare.

In November 1947, a majority of United Nations (UN) members voted in favor of partitioning Palestine between an Arab state and a Jewish state. The situation was to become official in mid-May 1948, when the British were to withdraw its officials from Palestine. Arab countries broadcast propaganda that gave their fellow tribesmen the impression they were only temporarily evacuating their homes by that same deadline, and would eventually conquer the Jews and return to take over the entire strip of land that was slightly larger than the state of New Jersey.

The Yad Mordechai kibbutz just happened to be located in the Arab state. The Arabs refused to recognize the UN vote, and decided to fight the Jews for the entire territory. The villains of WWII– ex-Nazis and Italian Fascists, plus Lebanese, Egyptians, Syrians and Trans-Jordanians fought on behalf of the Arabs. The Jews had poorly equipped militias and intelligence cells called the Hagana, Palmach, Irgun and the Stern group.

Nevertheless, as of this writing, Wikipedia says this kibbutz still exists today, and its population is 737. It might be recalled that pure socialism thrived for a short time when the State of Israel was born. That was an extremely special exception, for the following major reasons; the kibbutzniks:

  • were forced to work together in order to survive in the desert, geographically surrounded by enemies;
  • were like-minded– oppressed for their religion– seeking a safe place in the world;
  • had a common goal bigger than themselves– building a country for themselves from the ground up– creating the political, social and cultural systems and infrastructure when everything was simple and their population was low;
  • had in common the shared, traumatic experience of WWII and/or the Holocaust; and
  • had substantial financial and military help from the United States.

Lo and behold, Yad Mordechai has since turned to capitalism to survive, selling certain brands of foods. However, the dangers of capitalism become apparent when financial scandals and crashes plague the nation due to EXCESSIVE DEREGULATION.

As is well known, there was consolidation through the 1980’s and 1990’s of the corporate auditing industry, and “Big Six” became the “Big Four” eventually, prompting businesses across the country to become even more incestuous (corrupt) in their relationships with their auditors.

In 1994, the big-name auditor Ernst & Young fired their in-house legal department and hired outside legal counsel. They must have been hiring employees from the competition, who brought a certain corporate culture to their legal department. In 2002, the Enron / Arthur Andersen scandal broke.

Certain wise folks can see a scandal coming. Like Ernst & Young. They don’t know exactly when it will hit the fan, but they know they don’t want to be there when it happens. James Baker of the Reagan administration was one of those sharp individuals. He switched positions with Donald Regan so that he would be far away when the Iran-Contra scandal became publicized.

In 2019, BB&T, a government bond broker, merged with Sun Trust Banks. Excessive deregulation can do wonders for the bottom lines (when they go hog-wild) of any profit-making organizations in the short term. BUT– it seems as though as the decades pass, financial-industry-players gain more and more experience in preventing lawsuits brought against them from their customers and clients by:

having the latter sign legal documents they never had to sign before, and placing disclaimers galore on all of their communications. The latest disturbing trend is for (previously low-risk) government-bond(!) brokers to do this.

Anyway, read the book to learn of the spirited beginnings, independence-warfare death toll and traumas suffered by the Yad Mordechai kibbutzniks, and their eventual fate. [And stay tuned for more traumas in the government bond market.]

Extreme – BONUS POST

The Bonus Book of the Week is “Extreme, My Autobiography” by Sharon Osbourne with Penelope Dening, published in 2005.

Born in October 1952 in the United Kingdom, Osbourne grew up in a dysfunctional family. In this volume, she revealed how her father– Don Arden– a music-industry executive got away with committing an excessive number of financial crimes. Basically, he never signed legally-binding contracts, but had his daughter and other members of his entourage sign them, so when it hit the fan, they were on the hook, not him. His contacts in high places did his bidding until his bullying and contentiousness wore thin and they abandoned him.

Arden bribed a U.S. senator to help Osbourne acquire a green card. She thus became a permanent resident of America and got a Social Security number so that he could commit tax evasion. Of course, he also hid his assets in offshore bank accounts, which the United States cannot outlaw. Her formal education ended when she quit high school in her sophomore year. So her limitations led her to join the family business. In her early twenties, she was so flattered that her father trusted her with important documents that she happily signed everything put in front of her.

Osbourne met her future husband Ozzy in the late 1970’s. He was the lead singer of the rock band, Black Sabbath. “The music business in those days was a boys’ club, fueled by cocaine and sexual favors. These were the days of payola and Mafia involvement…” But Osbourne would sooner get violent with the boys than give in to their advances or threats.

Read the book to learn many more details about the lives of Osbourne and her family, trials, tribulations and triumphs.

Sandstorm

[Please note: The word “Featured” on the left side above was NOT inserted by this blogger, but apparently was inserted by WordPress, and it cannot be removed. NO post in this blog is sponsored.]

The Book of the Week is “Sandstorm, Libya in the Time of Revolution” by Lindsey Hilsum, published in 2012.

Just prior to WWI, Libya was colonized by Italy in three sections, when the Ottoman Empire was in its death throes. Pursuant to where they live in Libya, various rivalrous tribes exhibit traits of the Middle East and Europe, or Africa. The country is located on the continent of Africa, but has major trade routes that go to the Middle East. Its population is about six million, and oil and gas supports its economy. Many of its people go overseas to attend university.

Beginning in 1959, big-name Italian, British and American companies negotiated agreements that allowed them access to newly discovered fossil fuels, and military training and weapons-testing grounds in the desert in Libya. In September 1969, Muammar Gaddafi became the new leader. He continued to impose one political-party rule (in place since 1952) and instituted one religion (Muslim). He punished political dissidents more harshly than Libya’s previous autocrat, King Idriss. But he made Libyans proud to be Arab. He took a swipe at the British by banning the English language in his country.

By the early 1970’s, Gaddafi’s actions were prompting brain drain and capital flight. His nation did need water, but he could have acquired it much less expensively and with a lot less trouble than he did. “It was one of man’s extravagant dreams, come true because no one dared counter him and too many were profiting from his grandiose visions.” In 1982, Gaddafi formed a political group that was allegedly going to fight against Imperialism, Zionism, Racism, Reactionism and Fascism.

As is par for the course for men such as Gaddafi, his enemies (such as the CIA and the king of Morocco) plotted assassination attempts against him. Smuggling guns and grenades into Tripoli and Benghazi were for nought, as the 1984 plotters were discovered and were killed. Through the last few decades of the twentieth century, the United States vacillated between allying with Qaddafi, and railing against him.

The Reagan administration railed against him. Qaddafi was strongly suspected to be the mastermind of the December 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103. That turned out to be a major historical incident that had worldwide repercussions. However, the tide turned through the 1990’s. George W. Bush wooed Qaddafi.

By the single-digit 2000’s in Libya, nepotism and tribalism had become crucial to survival. Families are comprised of multi-generational networks with tens of people on every level of the family tree. Disaffected, jobless young males became jihadists in Iraq, killing Americans in suicide bombings, as the terrorists had been brainwashed into expressing extreme hatred for the West.

Nevertheless, after 9/11, various nations such as Russia, Turkey and China were drooling over the money to be made in Libya in banking, accounting, construction, hotels, shipping, and of course, oil. But the U.S. held back (Bush was very conflicted) due to its complicated relationship with Israel.

As is well known, in February 2011, ordinary Libyans jumped on the “Arab Spring” bandwagon after Tunisia and Egypt. They used the worldwide forum of social media to publicly express their displeasure with their leader. Also, protesters personally gathered in Benghazi and Tobruk, and then farther east.

Gaddafi, distrustful of his own military, hired mercenaries from Algeria, Niger, Mali, Morocco and Burkina Faso to violently disperse crowds of youths standing around shouting slogans, as Internet access became unreliable. Gaddafi’s own military, angry at his disloyalty, turned against him. In Tripoli, attorneys formed a group to publicize human rights abuses, represent political prisoners, and start an underground resistance movement. Through the four decades Gaddafi stayed in power, he knew how to exploit discontent: bribing Muslims to build mosques and go on pilgrimages to Mecca.

Read the book to learn many more details about Gaddafi’s reign, including those relating to: shenanigans of his son Seif, and Bahrain, Qatar and Iran (hint: Everyone knew the UN arms embargo that applied to fighters on both sides was a joke.); his Green Book, Stalin-style purges, oil-industry machinations, propaganda campaigns and governmental policies; his contradictory stance on his nation’s female citizens; his providing of military training and arming of certain groups; and the reaction of certain countries of the world at his downfall.

Open Skies – BONUS POST

[Please note: The word “Featured” on the left side above was NOT inserted by this blogger, but apparently was inserted by WordPress, and it cannot be removed. NO post in this blog is sponsored.]

The Bonus Book of the Week is “Open Skies, My Life as Afghanistan’s First Female Pilot” by Niloofar Rahmani with Adam Sikes, published in 2021.

Born in December 1991 in Afghanistan, the author deserves major bragging rights. For, she possessed the courage to serve as a liberated female role model (given her culture) by risking her own life and her family members’ lives in serving her beloved homeland. She joined the air force in December 2010. According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index) this was at a time when the Americans and NATO were running the show.

The Taliban and other devout Muslims were less than thrilled that she was the first Afghan female ever to learn to fly a fixed-wing aircraft. Pursuant to the Koran, a female’s priorities were: submissive girlhood, wifehood, motherhood, and womanhood (and usually, the first three were forced on females simultaneously), and taking care of a household; only then, might she work outside the home if her oldest living male relative allowed her to.

The author spent her early childhood in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Anomalously, but fortunately for her, both of her parents believed in educating her and her siblings (mostly sisters), and encouraging them to pursue the career of their choice. The family eventually moved to Kabul. Unsurprisingly, the author’s career choice provoked angry reactions from the male-dominated air force and males in her country. The most fanatical ones began to smear, spy on, and threaten her and her family.

Nevertheless, the author’s parents martyred themselves in so many ways for their children’s futures. Her father continued to encourage the author to keep flying, even when her family was under siege and suffering many hardships due to her focusing on her dream job.

A barbaric incident that occurred in March 2015 was just one indicator that in Afghanistan, the tide was turning toward the dark side yet again: a huge flash-mob of outraged, radical Muslim men tortured and killed a devout Muslim woman wrongly accused of burning the Koran.

The victim was set upon because a mullah (a credible, influential religious leader) was her accuser. Just a few of the vicious untruths spread about her were that she was a prostitute, a blasphemer of Islam, and was an agitator sent by the Americans (perceived as the evil occupiers). The author herself was subjected to roughly equivalent, ugly utterances.

Read the book to learn how the author cheated death in this wordy, redundant yet suspenseful volume.