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Michael McFaul: So Cool!

‘Former Amb. Michael McFaul absolutely destroyed a BBC anchor on air for interviewing a Russian official who he said spewed “ridiculous” propaganda about the invasion of Ukraine — and asked if the BBC would have given Nazis airtime during World War II.

‘AMB. MCFAUL: I want to ask a question. The BBC, if it was September 1st, 1939, would you put on the air a member of the Nazi Party to try to explain this ridiculous, absolute falsification of history and information that we just heard from Mr. Milonov? Because this is complete, utter nonsense what he just said, and I’m wondering if we’re doing a service to the world by giving him a voice on the BBC?

‘JAMES MENENDEZ: Do we need to hear, though…? And I don’t speak for the BBC, of course, but do we need to hear what the justification is in those elite circles, in the Kremlin and among parliamentarians, even if it’s not true? Put some of what he said to rest then.

‘AMB. MCFAUL: Well, it’s utter nonsense, and I really want to ask the question, let’s go back and find out was the BBC putting on Nazis on September 1st, 1939? Because I think it’s an ethical question for those that are in the business. You put him on and then you put me on. It’s here’s one view. Here’s another view, and I don’t like that. There are not flowers being thrown in front of tanks riding in Ukraine, the people of Ukraine voted, including in the Donbas, except for the occupied territories where there were no votes. They voted overwhelmingly for President Zelensky. So the gentleman you just had on was speaking under false facts.’


Between this, and their choosing Alan Dershowitz for objective commentary on the Epstein sex trafficking story, the BBC’s looking really really shitty.

Know Hope.

Russians around the country, at huge risk to themselves, are in the streets protesting the war. Many are being dragged off in police vans.

UD’s Buddy Peter Says What UD’s Been Saying for Some Time on This Blog: Separate ISIS children from their mothers, and give them a chance at life, while decreasing the risk to the rest of us.

In yesterday’s New York Times:

The Kurdish authorities, with the blessing and financial support of the United States and its coalition partners, should remove the children from the prison camps. That’s the only way to give them a better shot at life and eventually making it back home.

This might sound harsh — removing children from their mothers, who would ostensibly not have a say in the decision. Some argue it’s a violation of rights. But the status quo — leaving them in miserable conditions to grow up radicalized — is worse for the children and the rest of us…

While some countries, as mentioned, have taken in women and children, most of these mothers are doomed, unlikely ever to be repatriated. The children need not share their fate — most are still too young to have been indoctrinated…

Forced separation in some cases “layers trauma on top of acute trauma,” according to the United Nations. While a few mothers may welcome the idea of their children having the opportunity to live a life outside of prison, most would undoubtedly resist losing them.

And this would certainly be cruel and painful for the children. But I believe it is even more cruel to condemn a child to a life in prison because a parent made the decision to go to Syria to join a terrorist organization…

This is not an argument I make lightly. There are sure to be objections from human rights and humanitarian organizations who condemn separations as harmful and insist that the solution is for governments to repatriate all their citizens — but we know that this largely will not happen.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will — unless separation is deemed to be in the best interest of the child.

It’s clearly not in any child’s best interest to be surrounded by terrorist ideology or face a lifetime in prison, having committed no crime.


Meet the In-Laws.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, I think of my in-laws.

Jerzy Soltan, “spindly and peppery ex-cavalry officer who … spent the war as a [Polish prisoner of the] Germans,” and his wife Hanka, who, with her parents, in their apartment near the Warsaw ghetto, hid a little Jewish boy until the war was over.

(“Borucinski, Michal and his wife Zofia and their daughter Hanna Soltan“)


It was George Patton’s 3rd Army that liberated Jerzy’s camp, Murnau.

I could fill this blog up with stories of obnoxious billionaires giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the Harvard Business School (Harvard endowment: $42 billion) to get their name on a building.

And indeed I have covered some of the most obnoxious; but let us consider more pleasant things. Curtis Institute, the school that educated the unearthly Yuja Wang, just got an anonymous $20 million donation.

Anonymous: How about that? And given so that the world can be more musical. How about that.

The imperfect English of some of Phillip Kawin’s grieving piano students lends greater poignancy to the untimely death of their Manhattan School of Music teacher.

His death is announced here; and here are many tributes, with perfect and imperfect English. A few that caught UD‘s eye follow.


‘I can’t forget that when I was admitted to Manhattan School of Music, you cared for me and taught me like a father. You always leave the school very late, and I always can see you downstairs in the school in the midnight . I can’t describe my pleasantly surprise when you appeared in the concert hall and listened to my performance in the final recital of the Bach class and the harpsichord class. After that, you summed up all the problems in my performance for me, and I deeply feel your great support for your students. You have paid so much attention for us, you always devote all your energy to music and teaching. In the future, I will also teach many students. As your student, I‘m determined to learn and pass on your dedication and rigorous teaching attitude, as well as the spirit of selfless care for students.’


‘Today is your funeral day. Even till now, it’s still too hard for me to believe that this thing had happened. The date 9th of September in America which is 10th of September in China is my country’s Teacher’s Day. I wanted to say Happy Teacher’s Day to you but didn’t have chance. But I know someday I will meet you again, at the end of my life.’


‘But what made Mr. PK great wasn’t just his amazing insight in the classroom; it was also his above-and-beyond support for everyone he cared about. There were so many moments we shared outside of the classroom. I’ll always remember our trip to Italy where he said that he came up with the idea for me to play Prokofiev’s 1st Piano Concerto in a dream… He would always go to my performances whenever he could, no matter … where they were or how important they were. I specifically remember he went to one of my gigs, and he asked to be dropped off at his studio in MSM at 1:30 AM instead of at his apartment because he had to practice a Beethoven Piano Concerto for an upcoming concert in Moscow!’


‘One of the most enduring memories from my lessons with Prof. Kawin was his insistence that I use the weight of gravity to “sink” into the last two chords of Brahms’ g minor Rhapsody. I never quite managed to create the wonderfully rounded sound that he could.’


‘I can’t imagine you are gone. Just a few days ago I was still imagining what the first class of our new semester should look like. I have a lot to say to you, but I never have a chance again. I still remember what you said to me, your voice is always full of passion for music and you always encourage me. May you rest in peace.

Your stupid student


‘I am still not ready for saying good-bye.
You will be in my heart forever as my most wonderful teacher, my mentor, my friend, and beautiful musician like as your warm heart.
I learned from you not only music but also life which has to be beautiful and wise.
Thank you for being my teacher and I will miss you and love you. Don’t forget you were always be loved.’


‘He attended my bar mitzvah in 1998, and years later, my 12-year-old photo was amongst the collection on his studio wall. There were never one-hour lessons; there were only 2, 2.5-hour lessons, however long was necessary. Time stopped in his Room 228 studio, and the music ruled.’


‘I felt guilty of not spending enough time to talk with you casually when you were always there for me. All I knew was to focus my attention more into work, technical skills, while not willing to open myself up to you for a casual talk. I owe you and myself a deepest apology for not knowing you truly as a person rather than a tutor when you were still alive.’


‘He once asked: “do you see that picture of Rachmaninoff’s hand and my own, aren’t they alike!” His way of teaching Russian music was unlike anyone else. He taught me the importance of fingering ( Beethoven 111, Ravel’s Scarbo)- During one of his classes a Gym Promoting number called him, he picked up and hanged up ( He said to me I’m doing the fingering for Beethoven Op.111 that’s enough exercise for the whole day).’


‘I know you needed the cup of iced coffee always because you were always lacking of sleep from long lessons after midnight or thoughts about your students. Even if you blamed me that our lessons get too long because we talk too much, I know you truly believed that without life, there is no music. Your life was art itself, and music was your life.’


‘Mr. Kawin was a concert pianist, recording pianist, educator, accomplished turtle collector. A very sloppy person who couldn’t find a charger at his home but knew every inch of [the Manhattan School of Music]. A strange man who spelled gute Nacht with umlaut but read every Asian student’s name accurately.’


‘Art was his religion and he truly dedicated himself to it!
I can not write about him, because every-time I start writing or see his pictures my eyes fill up with tears. He will always be remembered with his child-like, naive smile!’


UD’s old friend Peter Galbraith…

… will appear today on The Lead with Jake Tapper, to talk about Afghanistan.

I’ve been chronicling his recent activities in ISIS prisoner camps, identifying and seeking to release/repatriate some women and children.


Here tis.

“The word for all this is ‘aristocrat.'”

For the granddaughter of a Russian-born, Jewish, general store owner in Port Deposit, Maryland, our UD has certainly rubbed noses with a lot of aristocrats. For starters, there’s Mr UD, descended from an old, pedigreed Polish family; and then there’s her friend of many years, Peter Galbraith, described as American aristocracy (see this post’s headline) in this rather insightful New York magazine piece about him.

UD, to be sure, grew up in Bethesda, where her father was a high-ranking NIH scientist; but as you know if you read this post, she didn’t even know what a private school was until her Goucher College roommate (who went to one) explained it to her. Her parents were clueless – and indifferent – in matters of class, and so was UD, for whom a writer like Tom Wolfe, who believed everything came down to status, was a kind of revelation. She recalls deciding that his satire in Bonfire of the Vanities was just that – an absurd, surreal, impossibly exaggerated account of humanity… Had to be…

But, you know, I had a lot o’ livin’ to do. And eventually UD took on board the fact that yeah a lot of people care a whole lot about status, which means, in America, gaining admission to the upper middle class. Here’s Paul Fussell on the subject, in his book Class:

If people with small imaginations and limited understandings aspire to get into the upper-middle class, the few with notable gifts of mind and perception aspire to disencumber themselves into X people. It’s only as an X, detached from the constraints and anxieties of the whole class racket, that an American can enjoy something like the LIBERTY promised on the coinage. And it’s in the X world, if anywhere, that an American can avoid some of the envy and ambition that pervert so many. De Tocqueville saw as early as 1845 what was likely to result from the official American reprehension of the aristocratic principle. “Desires still remain extremely enlarged,” he wrote, “while the means of satisfying them are diminished day by day.” And thus “on every side we trace the ravages of inordinate and unsuccessful ambition kindled in hearts which it consumes in secret and in vain.” The society of Xs is not large at the moment. It could be larger, for many can join who’ve not yet understood that they have received an invitation.

Now X’s are people who, in Fussell’s terminology, do not find reprehensible the aristocratic principle, which here clearly refers to people who do not care or know about the latest model Mercedes and who may indeed (as Fussell notes) be seen driving around (but they don’t drive much) in the same beat up old Saab (Peter’s father, John Kenneth Galbraith, drove a not-shiny Saab, as I recall) they’ve owned for twenty years. What they tend to care about is the pursuit of something meaningful that engrosses them – it could be Etruscan pottery or global diplomacy, but something meaningful and engrossing, pursued with personal passion and not because it impresses anyone or makes them rich.

Anyway, Peter and Karol carried, with thoughtless ease, all the goods the upper-middle strivers tend to be after – accomplished families, iconic private schools, the Ivy League, fancy friends, fancy international travel, etc. But what people missed about them was that they were – and are – Xs. Peter, as the New York article makes clear, is a moralist, consumed by the imperative to rescue a suffering corrupt world from suffering and corruption. This does not mean that Peter himself always behaves morally; it does mean that at seventy years of age he can be found day after day tramping through squalid ISIS prisoner camps, looking for people to rescue. That is what Peter’s doing with his retirement.

A US-born 8-year-old girl who grew up with her ISIS parents has been rescued from a Syrian camp — and is now awaiting word to see if she can return to the US, according to a report… The girl’s rescue was made possible by [Peter] Galbraith and a Canadian woman who met her mother while living under ISIS, which she has since denounced…

Aminah’s mother, Ariel Bradley, was an evangelical Christian who converted to Islam and later married Yasin Mohamad, a Swedish Muslim, through an arranged marriage.

The family lived in Sweden but eventually relocated to ISIS-controlled territory in the Middle East, where they lived under the terror group’s rigid guidelines.

According to Buzzfeed, Mohamad was killed in an airstrike in June 2015, and [Aminah’s] mother remarried a devout ISIS follower, an Australian named Tareq Kamleh.

When both Bradley and Kamleh were killed in 2018, Aminah was turned over to another of her stepfather’s wives, a Somali woman who remained devoted to the terror group.”

Aminah is only the latest of Peter’s rescues; he seems committed to continuing the work. (That last link is to an extremely detailed account of Aminah’s dramatic rescue, and includes a photograph of Peter.)


I try to imagine the military raid that freed Aminah from the fanatics hiding her in the camp (Peter convinced a Syrian Democratic Forces general to carry out the raid); I try to picture my friend of forty years gingerly approaching this thoroughly traumatized and abused child (I guess someone would first have removed the niqab they swaddled her in). My mind’s eye attempts to conjure a scene in which one of the most privileged people on the planet leans down to greet one of the planet’s most downtrodden — and I don’t want to sentimentalize it, because in my rendering the child is wailing since after all she has just violently been taken from the only facsimile of a “mother” she may ever have had much awareness of… And how could she not have tried loving this latest mother facsimile, since in her experience mothers are all shrouded fanatics, and fathers distant and then dead apparitions? And so, she says to herself, here’s the latest iteration of Aminah’s Childhood – all these nice Americans and Canadians and consular officials. And if she’s lucky and we take her back there will be the maternal grandparents, people who have been mourning the unaccountable life and death of their daughter, the daughter who they see in the eyes of the granddaughter who they have never met and who they will now love and raise…

Bravo, Biden.

President Joe Biden announced Friday that he was appointing Khizr Khan, a Gold Star father who drew then-candidate Donald Trump’s ire when he spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Fuckface threw unusually vile shit at Khan, an icon of sacrifice and citizenship; and UD recalls the heartbreak and indignation she felt on his behalf. What a perfect recuperative gesture, Biden appointing him to this commission!

Update on my friend Peter’s activities in the ISIS camps.

See this post for background.

And note that I’ve gotten new information since the first draft of this post, which I’ve incorporated into it.


Peter Galbraith, long a champion of the Kurds, has been able to use those connections to free (so far; his activities are ongoing) 47 women and children out of Kurdish-controlled Syria. This is substantially more than what most Western governments have been able to do. And thousands of those governments’ citizens— most of them children— still languish in Kurdish-run prison camps.

Most recently, Peter brought out a Canadian woman who had rejected the Islamic State and cooperated with US law enforcement. In March, he freed the woman’s four year old daughter from Roj prison camp in Northeast Syria. The child now lives with her aunt in Canada and will soon reunite with her mother. In November 2019, Peter brought out a German woman, her three children, and an American orphan. This woman too rejected the Islamic State and now studies at a university in Germany.

Peter has reunited fourteen Yazidi women with their twenty children. ISIS abducted these women—teenagers at the time—in 2014 and sold them to ISIS fighters as slaves. When ISIS fell in 2019, the children born of the rapes were forcibly taken from their mothers and placed in an orphanage in Syria. No one— not the UN, not the local governments, not NGOs—was willing or able to help these women. Peter got the children, signed for them at the Syria/Iraq border, and delivered them to their mothers. He brought out two more mothers (with four children) who, because they refused to give up their children, had been kept under de facto house arrest in Syria.

Peter rescued a three year old boy from a German woman who was abusing the child. The child was not the German’s but the child of her husband’s Yazidi slave.

The Canadian woman whom Peter was able to bring out provided a huge amount of valuable information to US law enforcement that will support the prosecution of US citizens (or persons in US custody), and assist in the recovery of kidnapped American children.

I wasn’t sure, in my last post, whether Canada would take this woman back, but it probably will. It has said that it will provide consular services – including repatriation – to any citizen who reaches an embassy, and Peter has apparently arranged for her to be in contact with the Canadian Embassy office in Erbil . The Syrian Kurds have investigated her and found no evidence of crimes or of her committing terrorist acts. 


Peter has also weighed in on Shamima Begum, with whom he has met and talked, and about whom I’ve had what to say on this blog. “I’ve talked to Shamima – she is part of the group of women who have absolutely rejected the Islamic State – I know enough about her to feel quite confident that she’s not a dangerous person.” In this, Peter is at odds with the British intelligence services, who have called for her repatriation to be blocked because they believe she indeed does continue to pose a threat to their country. It’s possible Peter has better sources than the Brits.


University Diaries readers got there before Globe and Mail readers.

UD has watched her friend Peter’s global philanthropy and courage for years, with…

… amazement and admiration, and here he goes again. After arranging, last March, the release of a Canadian child from a camp in Syria holding ISIS women and children, Peter Galbraith has arranged the release of her mother from the same camp. The woman is in Iraq, and it’s not clear that she’ll be allowed into Canada.

What’s most important, I think, is that Peter goes to some trouble to justify the woman’s release:

“This was a special case,” said Galbraith, “because [she] was one of a group of women who had very much broken with the dominant Islamic State ideology in the camps, wearing Western clothes and rejecting it, so she was at risk.”

He also said she’d been instrumental in helping officials locate a missing Yazidi child in one of the camps. 

These are the sorts of conditions which UD (who has been unsympathetic to some internees as they ask for repatriation) expects to see when, special case by special case, releases from the camps begin to accelerate. This woman put the interest of her child before her own; she cooperated in important ways with officials; and she has been very overt about her rejection of ISIS doctrine. We can never know for sure, of course, that any given adherent or former adherent won’t go back to ISIS; but we can certainly demand an extremely high level of evidence that they won’t.

People Measure America’s Process of De-Fuckfacification in Many Ways.

The reemergence of Tony Fauci, for instance, is one way. For UD, though, you see it even more compellingly in the reinstatement and promotion of people like Yevgeny Vindman.

… Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman, who was the senior ethics official at the National Security Council and its deputy legal adviser from July 2018 to February 2020 … [was] fired from the NSC a year ago by Trump, escorted out of the White House and sent back to the Pentagon.

Yevgeny Vindman is now on a list of colonel promotions that has been approved by the White House and is going to the Senate for formal confirmation…

Vindman chose to hit back hard against the motherfuckers.

Vindman filed a complaint last August with the Pentagon inspector general alleging he was retaliated against by his former White House counsel’s office bosses, John Eisenberg and Michael Ellis, for reporting misconduct by Trump. He also lodged allegations of ethics violations by former national security adviser Robert O’Brien for allegedly using NSC staff’s official time for personal errands and “demeaning and demoralizing sexist behavior against … female NSC professionals.”

Of course the Pentagon has more consequential stuff to worry about now. Complaints and ethics violations are all well and good; allowing domestic terrorists to attack the Capitol of the United States sounds like real trouble.

UD’s old friend Peter Galbraith gives a little girl a future.

Making use of his deep Kurdish ties, Peter found a Canadian child at one of the Kurdish-run ISIS prisoner camps and repatriated her. Agonizingly, the child’s mother (an ISIS adherent; one assumes she no longer is, but the Canadians at the moment will not have her) had to agree to give her up, and she did so. This selfless gesture makes commendable an otherwise pitiable fanatic, and will perhaps stand her in good stead in case of a Canadian judicial review.

Another intriguing angle on this: Peter’s father, John Kenneth Galbraith, grew up in southern Ontario (he wrote a book – The Scotch – about it); bagpipes and Auld Lang Syne figured at his funeral. Perhaps Peter’s father’s deep Scottish-Canadian ties also helped.

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