Zion Island 4.

צייַטונג לאַכוואַ נייַ (New Lakhva News, my translation) October 1952.

Readers of this newspaper will admit that we have seen many an unusual sight since we left our home countries.  Among the most unusual sights of late has been the work of the New Lakhva model airplane club.  These are not simply reproductions of famous aircraft meant to decorate a little boy’s bedroom.  They are diminutive “real” airplanes, although the designers grumpily admit that they are not “real” engineers.  Club members have moved from simple gliders to planes powered by rubber bands to planes with tiny gas engines.  In the most recent demonstration, two of our local enthusiasts demonstrated how a small plane could be controlled from the ground.  It’s all done with a small radio set.  A tiny receiver on the plane then adjusts the controls on the airborne model.  Club members demonstrated their skills in a pasture outside of the village this past week-end.  They made their little plane, which they have named ברייט ליכט (“Bright Light”—my translation) take off, climb, dive, and circle the pasture.  Children and adults alike were amused by the tricks.  The only mishap occurred when the two “pilots” tried to land their plane.  Some unforeseen problem or error caused the model to nose into the ground.  Well, practice, practice, practice.  Mordechai A and Menachem B insist that the idea could have many practical applications.  We’ll keep watching.

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Zion Island 3.

“Nightlife Calendar,” TheresienZeitung, 28 July 1951.  (My translation.)

Graf Guy de Marcheret d’Eu has arrived from Paris on his first concert tour outside Europe.  Graf Guy mixes classical standards with current pop favorites (“Ne pas s’asseoir sous le pommier”) and adds in his own compositions inspired by the verse of Alexander Pushkin.  The highly-regarded pianist will be appearing four nights a week at Rick’s Club Besame.

Zion Island 2.

TO: J. Edgar Hoover, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation.

 

FROM: FBI Criminal Branch.

 

DATE:  25 December 1952.

 

RE: Query from the Police Department of Cleveland, Ohio.

 

The Investigations Division of the Police Department of Cleveland, Ohio has contacted the Bureau regarding one of its current operations.  They have requested any information on “Alexander Berg.”

The Cleveland police have been surveilling a local organized crime figure, Alexander “Shondor” Birns.[1]

On 7 November 1952, the Cleveland police surveilled Birns when he made a telephone call from a phone booth in a neighborhood drugstore.  Subsequently, the telephone company provided information on that call.  It was made to another phone booth located in the lobby of “The Desert Inn,” a casino and hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.  While one Wilbur Clark is the original owner and public face of “The Desert Inn,” Las Vegas police believe that the real owner now is Morris “Moe” Dalitz.[2]

On 14 November 1952, the Cleveland police surveilled Birns at one of his restaurants, where he uses a back office for business.  Here he met two other men.  One was easily identified as “Moe” Dalitz.  Subsequently, police identified the other man as Alexander Berg, an accountant living in Cleveland.

The Bureau assesses that “Berg” is an alias used by Lev Lazarevich Feldbin, b. 1895 in Babryusk, Russian Empire.  Feldbin served as an intelligence officer of the Soviet Union from 1918 to 1938.  He had many foreign postings (including in the United States, where he has relatives).  His career peaked in the Spanish Civil War when he served as chief of NKVD operations in the Spanish Republic.  Most of his work involved organizing the murders of non-Communist leftists.  In addition, he managed the transportation of the Spanish Republic’s gold reserve to the Soviet Union “for safe-keeping.”  Feldbin also has experience in “guerrilla” warfare, both in the Russian Civil War and in Spain.

In 1938, as the “Great Purge” spread into the Soviet special services, he abandoned the Soviet Union and fled abroad.  Eventually, we believe, he went underground in this country.

Feldbin is an expert at the clandestine movement of things and people across national borders.  Also, he is an experienced and remorseless killer.

The purposes of the meeting between the three men is not known.

 

EVALUATION.

The obvious explanation for the meeting is that two American organized crime figures have–by some means–identified a renegade Russian intelligence officer living in their area of operations.  They may be recruiting him to their service.  If this is the case, then any rivals to Birns and Dalitz in the Cleveland area can be expected to meet an unhappy fate.

Feldbin’s expertise in the clandestine movement of people and goods might also be useful to Birns and Dalitz.  Thus, Feldbin’s expertise could facilitate the movement of drugs from Mexico to the United States.  The market for such drugs remains limited to marginal populations (Mexican laborers, jazz musicians, and third-tier Hollywood actors like Robert Mitchum).  It does provide a profit stream.

 

[1] Birns was born in 1907 as Alexander Birnstein in Lemes, the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  His parent immigrated to the United States that same year and settled in Cleveland.  By 1925 Birns had become a professional criminal involved in bootlegging and vice, while also working as a much-feared “enforcer.”  Now, he also owns several celebrated restaurants.

[2] Dalitz was born 1899 in Boston, MA, to parents who had immigrated from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but lived his early life in Michigan.  He became involved in bootlegging during Prohibition, and developed extensive contacts with suppliers in Canada and Mexico.  He also entered illegal gambling, running several important “protected” games in the Mid-West.  For the last half-dozen years he has been a powerful behind-the-scenes figure in Las Vegas, NV.  However, he retains an extensive range of contacts among organized crime figures throughout the country.

Zion Island 1.

“Who’s Who at the Upcoming United Nations Meeting?”, New York Times, 21 November 1953, 7a.

 

The meeting of the United Nations later this month will be unusually well-attended by world leaders.  What follows is a brief guide to the main foreign participants.

It is symbolic of these troubled times that so many current Continental European leaders emerged from the police services.

 

Lavrentiy Beria: b. 1899, Georgia, Russian Empire.  Beria began his career as a “Chekisti” (as Russians still call members of their oft-renamed security police) at age nineteen.  He rose through the ranks at a fast clip, especially after he hitched his wagon to Josef Stalin.  At the same time, and curiously, he surrounded himself with rootless cosmopolitans.  He became the Curator of the “Organs of State Security” under the Khan Josef of Great Russia (as Josef Stalin called himself after the defeat of the Soviet Union in 1941).  He became Khan in his own right upon the death of Khan Josef in the “Doctors’ Plot” of 1953.

 

Joseph Darnand: b. 1897.  War hero in the First World War; involved in national revival movement between the two wars; war hero again in the Second World War; strong supporter of Marshall Philippe Petain; leader of the paramilitary “Milice” domestic security force; Secretary of State for the Maintenance of Order in French Indochina, 1946-1949; Minister of the Interior, 1949-1951, during the Algerian “troubles”; Prime Minister of the French State since the death of Marshall Petain in 1951.  Many people suspected, on the basis of his fighting against the Germans in two wars, that Darnand was anti-German in his own beliefs.  Nothing in his post-war political career has supported this belief.

 

Reinhard Heydrich: b. 1904.  A member of the Nazi Party and of the SS from 1931, he entered the Party’s security service.  From here, he made a meteoric ascent by combining a combination to great intelligence with a tremendous work ethic.  From 1939 he headed the national police.  He became Reichschancellor of Germany upon the deaths of Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, and Hermann Goering during the failed “putsch” of 20 July 1944.  (Many rumors surround this event and we shall probably never know the truth.)  Since 1944, Heydrich has been a principle architect of a “United Europe.”  Very much the dispassionate technocrat, Heydrich has pushed forward a series of initiatives for the standardization of European regulations on the German model.

 

Still, not everyone in power these days once wore a badge.

R. A. Butler (called “Rab”): b. 1902. Butler is what the British call a “Tory reformer.” Commonly this means a person of inherited wealth and position who has a powerful sense of the common welfare and the need to use government to promote it.  Before the late war, he stood in the front ranks of those who desired a peaceful accommodation with Germany.  In 1941 he became Foreign Secretary in the cabinet of Lord Halifax and government leader in the House of Commons.  As Foreign Secretary, he negotiated the peace settlement.  Butler then turned his attention to his other policy concerns.  He negotiated the independence of Britain’s Indian Empire (1945).  He succeeded Lord Halifax as prime minister in 1947.  As prime minister, Butler launched important reforms of the British education system.

 

Subas Chandra Bose: b. 1897.  Bose led the younger-generation within the Indian National Congress before the war, then went to Germany in 1940.  Germany’s victory made him the chief interlocutor with R.A. Butler.  The two men worked easily together in arranging the separation.  Subsequently, Bose became the “Netaji” (Respected Leader) of the Indian State.  Although India is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Bose’s personal affinity for both Germany and Japan has challenged Anglo-Indian relations.

 

Shigeru Yoshida: b. 1878.  Yoshida came from a background of political activism and wealth.  He spent two decades in the Diplomatic Service, splitting his time between postings in China and in the West.  In 1938, the military clique that dominated the government blocked Yoshida from becoming foreign minister.  After a decade “in the wilderness,” Yoshida became prime minister in 1948.  At this point Japan wished to legitimize its territorial gains and to reform its economy in light of new conditions.  Yoshida is rumored to be a secret Catholic.

 

I am running for President in 2020 1.

I believe that life begins at conception.  (If it didn’t, then women wouldn’t want abortions.)  Let me state plainly: I would never have an abortion.  OK, I’m a 64 year-old guy, so that’s an easy position to take.  At the same time, I’m not willing to shove my personal opinion down the throat of a fifteen year-old black girl in West Philadelphia, living with her mom and grand-mom in some tumbledown row house, and attending what the City of Brotherly Love is pleased to call the public “schools.”  Moreover, with Prohibition and the War on Drugs having been such great successes, I don’t see how a War on Abortion is any more likely to succeed.  Unless, you know, heart-break and misery across multiple generations is what you really want to produce.  Then go ahead, knock yourself out.

 

The same goes for a War on Guns.  Yes, there are things we can do.  We could strictly regulate the sale and possession of all firearms through the Defense Department.  This is what our friends in Mexico do.  Virtually no one in Mexico is allowed to own a firearm of any sort.  This step would could reduce our gun-death rates to Mexican levels.  Furthermore, many deaths are linked to the drug trade.  We should forbid the use of or trade in drugs.

OK, sounding like the mayor on “The Simpsons.”  More realistically, we could end the War on Drugs and we could try to revise the National Firearms Owners Protection Act.  The former promotes a “war for the corners.”  It also promotes a macho “step to him” code of behavior that leads to violence not directly related to the drug trade.  The National Firearm Owners Protection Act restricts the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to closely regulate federally-licensed gun-dealers.  While the vast majority of such dealers are responsible and honest people dealing in a Constitutionally-protected commodity, a tiny minority facilitate straw purchases and suffer “robbery.”  So, let’s knock-off the stuff about the “gun-show loop-hole” and not allowing father-to-son gun transfers without a background check.

 

We should RICO the Catholic Church.  Pennsylvania’s attorney general recently released a report on the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy.  Here’s the thing, the AG got the information for the report by gaining access to Church records and then interviewing a lot of parishoners who had been abused.  Well, this scandal has been running for a while now.  Long ago, the Church could have done what the AG later did without breaking a sweat.  If they wanted to know.  Apparently, they didn’t.  Why not?

I suspect that, at some point back in the day there, the American priesthood became a place for gay Irish men to go and hide.  Fine by me.  They were doing God’s work.  If they go sylphing-off to have sex with other gay men, I don’t care.  However, given the anti-gay stance of both the Church and larger society, it exposed them to a terrible vulnerability.  They could be black-mailed by pedophile colleagues.  Pedophiles appear to be a very small segment of any sexual orientation.[1]  But they may have been just as ruthless and predatory toward their fellow-priests as they were toward their child-victims.

So, treat the Church as a criminal conspiracy.

[1] You ever noticed how few girls from Catholic schools have come forward to say “Sr. Mary Elephant copped a feel on my then-almost-non-existent tit”?

My Weekly Reader 19 December 2018.

What we think of as the British Empire of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries did not yet exist in 1763.  It was aborning, however.  Britain had defeated France in the Seven Years War (1756-1763).  Britain then took possession of French North America between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.  British North Americans saw their long-standing hopes of expanding beyond the Appalachian Mountains fulfilled.  These hopes failed at first.  The British Empire’s managers in London saw themselves juggling a diverse American community.   British “America” contained largely Protestants, mostly of Anglo-descent; Canada contained Catholic former French subjects; and in the Wilderness, the Native Americans offered access to the riches of the fur trade.  Containing the British North Americans offered the best path to peace and prosperity, especially after Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763) showed how difficult it might be to conquer the Native Americans.

The conflict crystalized in two remarkable figures.[1]  George Croghan (1718-1782), an Irish immigrant fur trader and land speculator, had become the vastly influential deputy to Sir William Johnson, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs.  James Smith (1737-1813), a Pennsylvania farmer, had been an Indian fighter and then became  a charismatic figure.  Both had lived among the Indians, and knew their languages and culture.  Their fundamental dispute gave human faces to the essential difference between the Anglo-American colonists and the British government.  Croghan saw the path to prosperity for himself and for the Empire running through peaceful trade with the Indians.  Smith saw the path running through driving away the Indians and expanding farming settlements.

To seal the deal with the Native Americans, in February 1765 the British dispatched a huge column of gifts to a peace treaty ceremony with Pontiac in the Ohio country.  Croghan added in many of his own trade goods from a desire to revive trade after the war and Pontiac’s Rebellion.  The Pennsylvania settlers[2] saw the presents—including rum and gunpowder–as the basest form of appeasement and as likely to provoke another Indian war as to forestall one.

Smith formed many of the settlers into an impromptu militia called “The Black Boys” after their use of bunt cork to disguise their faces.  The “Black Boys” tried to stop the caravans.  The 42nd Highlanders provided the hard core of the British escort, so the rebel settlers tended to steer around them.[3]  For a time, the rebels even blockaded Fort Loudon.  The British, short of supplies, abandoned the fort in November 1765.  Then peace with the Indians came and the “Black Boys Rebellion” died down.

In “Patriot,” Mel Gibson’s character announces that “the [coming] war [with England] will be fought not on the frontier or on some distant battle-field, but here among us…”  In truth, it was fought everywhere.  The wars on the frontier played a vital role in determining the American victory.  However, the frontier fights began well ahead of the formal “Revolution.”

[1] What follows is a part of the story told by Patrick Spero, Frontier Rebels: The Fight for Independence in the American West, 1765-1776 (2018).

[2] Now in central Pennsylvania near Gettysburg, but then the far West.

[3] The 42nd had seen a good deal of service in North America, having fought at the first—disastrous—and second battles of Fort Ticonderoga, in the siege of Montreal, and in the bloody Indian fight at Bushy Run during Pontiac’s Rebellion.

Civil War in Yemen.

The Prophet Muhammad preached a Muslim world undivided by politics.  This meant that there would be a single “caliphate that governed all Believers, and that politics and religion would be inseparable.  Despite the compelling power of his beliefs, he did not get what he wanted.  After Muhammad’s death (632 AD), Sunni contested with Shi’ites, and the “umma” fractured into rival states.  This unhappy condition continued from the 8th Century to the 21st.

After the Second World War, Muslim states gained true independence, but as separate nations.  The rivalries between them continued.  In particular, dictatorial republics contended with authoritarian monarchies.  From 1952 to 1970, Egypt’s populist dictator Gamal Nasser tilted with Saudi Arabia.  Nasser inspired unrest where he could; conservative monarchies fought back as best they could.  The larger struggle came to be called “The Arab Cold War.”[1]

Yemen provided one spot where this “Cold War” turned hot.[2]  In 1962, followers—or agents—of Nasser overthrew the hallowed-by-time imamate in North Yemen.  Supporters of the traditional monarchy fought back.  The ensuing civil war ran until 1970.  Roughly, tribesmen in the north supported the monarchy, while people in the slightly-more-urban south supported the Nasserites/republican rebels.  Nasser’s Egypt sent forces—especially bombers—to support the rebels forces, although 70,000 Egyptians ended up serving in Yemen at the height of the Egyptian intervention.   The Egyptian forces proved no more effective at counter-insurgency warfare would Western troops in Afghanistan or Vietnam.[3]  Britain, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran joined in the war—albeit clandestinely—against the Nasserites.  All had their motives.  Britain. For example, was obsessed with Nasser’s defiance of Britain in the 1956 Suez Crisis, and hoped to reduce Egyptian influence in the Middle East.  Israel, for its part, saw getting Egypt bogged down in southern Arabia as a good means of reducing Egypt’s support for cross-border raids in the Sinai and elsewhere.  At the same time, the Israelis were alarmed by Egypt’s development of a “weapon of mass destruction”—poison gas—and this may have contributed to the decision to attack the surrounding Arab vulture states in 1967.

As a result, the war dragged on—inhumanely, but little noticed in the West–for eight years.  In the meantime, international humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like the International committee of the Red Cross and the Southern Baptist Convention in the United States involved themselves in humanitarian aid.  The need was great.  Wars fought in less developed countries tend to wreck the feeble infrastructure and medical support.

In the end, backed by Egypt, the republican Yemenis won the civil war.  They constructed the façade of a “modern” nation.  However, many of the tribesmen in northern Yemen remained unreconciled to that new state.  They bided their time in preparation for a new round of conflict.  This week-end, the New York Times ran a story on famine in Yemen, where a new civil war has provided a proxy for the on-going Saudi Arabian-Iranian struggle for power.[4]

[1] See: Malcolm Kerr, The Arab Cold War: Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasir and His Rivals, 1958-1970 (1971).  It is a brief, but well-informed journalistic account.  It was new when I was in grad school.

[2] Asher Orkaby, Beyond the Arab Cold War: the International History of the Yemen Civil War, 1962-1968 (2017).

[3] It was asserted that Egyptian troops used poison gas against their foes.

[4] The story itself was excellent, but the headline elided the reality that “it takes two to tango.” As in Syria, the wars and suffering would end if the “good guys” (in Western eyes) stopped fighting wars they cannot win.