From The Associated Press:
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The ecstatic sailor shown kissing a woman in Times Square celebrating the end of World War II died Sunday. George Mendonsa was 95…
Friedman said in a 2005 interview with the Veterans History Project that it wasn’t her choice to be kissed. “The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed,” she told the Library of Congress…“It was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn’t a romantic event.”
The other day our so-called “president” lurched from his customary verbal ramblings down into total, baffling incoherence. He seemed to have poured those “best words” of his into a pot and stirred the resulting mess with his eyes closed. You’ve heard snippets on TV (one is below), but I urge you to puzzle your way through the whole transcript. And be afraid. Be very afraid.
They say walls don’t work. Walls work 100 percent. Whether it’s El Paso — I really was smiling, because the other night I was in El Paso — we had a tremendous crowd, and — tremendous crowd. And I asked the people — many of whom were from El Paso, but they came from all over Texas. And I asked them. I said, “Let me ask you, as a crowd: When the wall went up, was it better?” You were there, some of you. It was not only better; it was like 100 percent better. You know what they did.
But that’s only one example. There are so many examples. In El Paso, they have close to 2,000 murders right on the other side of the wall. And they had 23 murders. It’s a lot of murders, but it’s not close to 2,000 murders right on the other side of the wall, in Mexico.
So everyone knows that walls work. And there are better examples than El Paso, frankly. You just take a look. Almost everywhere. Take a look at Israel. They’re building another wall. Their wall is 99.9 percent effective, they told me — 99.9 percent. That’s what it would be with us, too.
The only weakness is they go to a wall and then they go around the wall. They go around the wall and in. Okay? That’s what it is. It’s very simple. And a big majority of the big drugs — the big drug loads — don’t go through ports of entry. They can’t go through ports of entry. You can’t take big loads because you have people — we have some very capable people; the Border Patrol, law enforcement — looking.
You can’t take human traffic — women and girls — you can’t take them through ports of entry. You can’t have them tied up in the backseat of a car or a truck or a van. They open the door. They look. They can’t see three women with tape on their mouth or three women whose hands are tied.
…and Dick Cheney, of course, is free at the moment. From the New York Times:
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka, intent on reviving the death penalty after a 42-year moratorium, first has to find a hangman.
To that end, the government has placed advertisements in local newspapers, seeking male candidates between 18 and 45 years old with “excellent moral character” and “a very good mind and mental strength.”
This piece of mine ran in the New York Times of Sept. 20, 1973. Change a name or two ––Yemen for Cambodia, say –– and it could run tomorrow. After all, we still bother:
WEST CORNWALL, Conn. — The Pentagon's most recent lies about bombing Cambodia bring back a question that often occurred to me when I was press attaché at the American Embassy in Vientiane, Laos.
Why did we bother to lie?
When I first arrived in Laos, I was instructed to answer all press questions about our massive and merciless bombing campaign in that tiny country with: “At the request of the Royal Laotian Government, the United States Is conducting unarmed reconnaissance flights accompanied by armed escorts who have the right to return fire if fired upon.”
This was a lie. Every reporter to whom I told it knew it was a lie. The Communist Pathet Lao knew it was a lie. Hanoi knew it was a lie. The International Control Commission knew it was a lie. Every interested Congressman and newspaper reader knew it was a lie.....
This from Truthout:
In 1920, Davenport wrote to Madison Grant, a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History, and a fellow eugenicist: “Can we build a wall high enough around this country … so as to keep out these cheaper races, or will it be a feeble dam … leaving it to our descendants to abandon the country to the blacks, browns and yellows.”
Such a remark needs to be understood within the history of eugenics. Davenport’s suggestion here wasn’t merely a comment about a physical structure. It was a suggestion that stemmed from a eugenic worldview that the “unfit” were taking over the nation and putting in jeopardy the survival of the “fit.” Immigration policy wasn’t enough. Even forcefully sterilizing thousands wasn’t enough. To keep out the “unfit,” the nation needed a structure that signified that “defectives” from “shit-hole countries” were not welcome.
In our present moment, Trump’s perpetual insistence to build a wall mirrors these ideas. Indeed, according to this mindset, a wall must be built to “keep out these cheaper races,” lest the country be abandoned “to the blacks, browns, and yellows.” To understand the gravitas of such a claim, we must place Trump’s xenophobia in the context of a nation that, for decades, advocated for similar policies while sterilizing those deemed “unfit” within its borders.
From These Truths, by Jill Lepore:
Before the Civil War, however, the federal government raised revenue and regulated commerce almost exclusively through tariffs … tariffs appeared to place the burden of taxation on merchants, which appealed to Jefferson. “We are are all the more reconciled to the tax on importations,” Jefferson explained, “because it falls exclusively on the rich.” The promise of America, Jefferson thought, was that “the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone.”
I really just don’t care about the Super Bowl. I don’t care about it any more than I care that Testiculus Maximus beat Biggest Dickus in the Roman Coliseum in 90 A.D. It’s just one more empty reality TV show, and it’s so sickeningly drenched in commercialism and military worship you feel like you need to take a shower afterwards.
Go on YouTube and find clips from any Super Bowl from, say, the seventies and eighties, and compare them to the hypertrophied cartoon spectacle you’ll see today. They’re low-key and down-to-earth. They’re actually about the game, not the effing Tostidos commercial at half time or the tedious personal mini-dramas involving this or that player. The announcers, for the most part, didn’t come across like the three loudest, most obnoxious salesmen on the lot, jostling and elbowing past each other to get in the last word. The screen wasn’t cluttered with graphics. It was just a football game, a big one, but just a game. Go figure.
P.S. I’ve been living in self-imposed exile in the Arctic for the last seven months, hence my silence on the blogs. I wanted to get as far away from civilization as I could while remaining in the United States. I wound up in Barrow, Alaska, where I teach U.S. government to indifferent Eskimo kids. Oh, well. It’s a living, a weird one, but a living (teachers do quite well up here because of the, uh, challenges of the job, to put it mildly.) I’ll provide the gritty details in a future post. Do tell your climate denying friends that while its freakishly cold down there, it’s unusually warm here. The average temperature in Barrow, Alaska in February is minus 30. Last Monday it was 28 degrees. Today it is 15, and the highs are forecast to be above zero all week.
Consider this revolting bit of news from Pro Publica:
Not content with billions of dollars in profits from the potent painkiller OxyContin, its maker explored expanding into an “attractive market” fueled by the drug’s popularity — treatment of opioid addiction, according to previously secret passages in a court document filed by the state of Massachusetts.…which calls to mind a filthy old poem of the people, slightly adapted here:
In internal correspondence beginning in 2014, Purdue Pharma executives discussed how the sale of opioids and the treatment of opioid addiction are “naturally linked” and that the company should expand across “the pain and addiction spectrum,” according to redacted sections of the lawsuit by the Massachusetts attorney general. A member of the billionaire Sackler family, which founded and controls the privately held company, joined in those discussions and urged staff in an email to give “immediate attention” to this business opportunity, the complaint alleges.
There once was a whore named Purdue
Who filled her vagina with glue.
Said she with a grin,
“They paid to get in,
And they’ll pay to get out again too.”
Back when the world was young and Jimmy Carter was president I was chief of public affairs for the Federal Aviation Administration. Once I gave a talk to a classroom full of air traffic control trainees at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, for reasons that escape my memory. What I do remember, though, is that each desk was equipped with a small button.
What gives? Well, I was told, if a student doesn’t understand something you just said, he hits his private button and that little light on your podium there tells you to go over it again. Couldn’t the student just raise his hand, though? Well, no, he might be afraid of looking stupid or maybe he’s shy. Whatever. The point is that every single trainee has got to understand every single thing we’re trying to teach him. Up in that tower they only give out two grades. Zero or 100.
The so-called “president” might want to think of that before he dumps any more shit on our unpaid air traffic controllers.
Just when you thought good news had vanished from the face of the earth, along comes this from The Associated Press:
The Kilauea volcano eruption did not critically damage sea turtle populations on the Big Island, according to a survey conducted by a Hawaii wildlife conservation group.
The Hawaii Wildlife Fund determined this month that lava did not harm turtle populations despite the persistence of unsubstantiated claims warning of turtle deaths during the eruption that began in May, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Sunday.
The wildlife organization conducted two helicopter flights above the lava-impacted coastline, observing 50 live turtles and other sea life. Turtle experts also were consulted for the survey, who agreed that sea turtles were likely able to escape lava en masse, said Kallie Barnes, the organization’s education coordinator.
From my frontal lobe, Wikipedia:
Under the separation of powers created by the United States Constitution, the United States Congress has the sole power of the purse and responsibility for appropriating government funds. Like other bills, appropriations must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Upon passage of a final version by both houses, they go to the President of the United States. If the President signs the bills, they become law. If instead the President vetoes them, they go back to Congress, where the veto can (in rare instances) be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses.
Just ran across a 1993 New York Times story quoting Norman Ture, head of the Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation and a Treasury official in the Reagan administration. It fits nicely with yesterday’s post:
"The top 1 percent are the most productive people in the country. If you think this will have no effect on their contribution to the economy’s progress, then you have to assume they are very peculiar human beings.”Most productive? Their contribution, if it goes beyond spending inherited money, amounts to manipulating other people’s energy for their own profit. A few of the one-percenters may, like Bill Gates, produce something. Most will be parasites like Ross Perot, taxing the flow of paper and dollar instruments produced by the 99 percent.
There’s hardly a millionaire CEO in the country who wouldn’t argue that high wages are necessary to attract the very best type of CEO, such as his own self. Paying less would leave the stockholders at the mercy of a less competent and less efficient steward entirely.
But not a one of these CEOs, obscenely overpaid or merely grossly so, would extend that argument to the workers on his shop floor. Only a fool would think that higher wages might attract better employees, more efficient, diligent and reliable. Somehow the laboring classes do not respond to the motivation of larger paychecks, while managers would hardly exist without it.
Jan 9, 2019 09:36:05 AM the leader of the free world tweeted:
Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest fires that, with proper Forrest Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!
Jan 9, 2019 10:25:43 AM the leader of the free world tweeted:
Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!Can you spot the difference? Who did?
From the so-called “president’s” ghost-written effusion, The Art of the Deal:
Mayor Koch has achieved something quite miraculous. He’s presided over an administration that is both pervasively corrupt and totally incompetent . . . . No fewer than a dozen Koch appointees and cohorts have been indicted on charges of bribery, perjury, and accepting kickbacks, or have been forced to resign in disgrace after admitting ethical transgressions . . . . The irony is that Koch made his reputation by boasting about his integrity and incorruptibility. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that if the people he appoints prove to be corrupt, then in the end he must take the responsibility. To the contrary, at the first hint that any of his friends might be in trouble, Koch can’t run fast enough the other way.
I dare you to resist opening this link. (Bonus: There's also a shot of a toad humping a mango.)
From Stu Eizenstat’s President Carter: the White House Years:
As part of an effort to restore confidence in the Oval Office, he established the ethics guidelines of 1997, which required senior presidential appointees to disclose and disgorge assets for any potential conflicts of interest. It also placed strict limits on gifts received while in office and set limits on the “revolving door” of lobbying by limiting former government employees’ lobbying of their previous departments. These critical limits remain highly relevant today.
I spent many years in journalism, from the Middletown (N.Y.) Times Herald to the Washington Post. And for the many years since I’ve continued to read the papers nearly every day. I don’t remember ever coming across a better specimen of reporting than the one from which the following excerpts come. I hope they will lead you to the full text here.
Jeffrey E. Stern's essay is a masterpiece of journalism, beautifully written and desperately needed --- particularly by that majority of Americans who have not yet grasped the point that we are the most warlike nation on earth. Do pass it along to your friends, to your congressman. Even to your “president,” for all the good that would do.
In 2015, the United States sent an aircraft carrier, a guided-missile cruiser and seven other warships to help the Saudis enforce the blockade. As the Saudis began running sorties into Yemen, United States Central Command began flying American Stratotankers on refueling missions every day, until last month, allowing Saudi jets to loiter in the sky for longer in search of targets, rather than having to plan strikes in advance. Perhaps most crucial, America has sold the Saudis billions of dollars’ worth of high-tech weapons to help them counter Iranian influence to their south....
Jagged pieces of bomb flew thousands of miles per hour outward, and Rabee’a — still celebrating his success — was almost fully decapitated. The top half of his face was removed, leaving just an open lower jaw; the heat of the blast burned most of his clothes off and charred his skin, so he was left naked, his genitals exposed, his body actually smoking. Next to him, his cousin Al-Qadi, the judge, was burning alive, his blood vessels expelling water and his body inflating. He began to scream....
Dr. Abotaleb has seen his own son. Just 20 years old, he was brought to the hospital blackened almost beyond recognition, after the car he was in was hit by an airstrike. Abotaleb found some grace in the severity of the burns — as he operated, he was able to imagine that the young man wasn’t his son. The illusion fell apart when he saw a scar he recognized on the patient’s big toe. Abotaleb couldn’t save him. He operated on his own brother, hit in a different strike, one that killed his other brother and his father, too. So now Abotaleb tries to banish feeling when he’s at work. He thinks of it as making his heart like stone. And when he’s done, he goes home and cries with his surviving children....
That morning in September 2016, when he arrived at the emergency department, he found the corridors lined with dying patients and desperate family members from a different airstrike, one that happened closer by in Sana. People yelled for him as he walked by, trying to hold his attention. Abotaleb tries to resist these appeals. He tries instead to focus on the patients he has a chance of saving. He does not count on miracles; even miracles require equipment, and because of the American-backed blockade, he was running low on pretty much every critical resource and diagnostic tool that a normal hospital needs to function, let alone one that sees regular mass-casualty events from bombs designed to dismember people hundreds of yards in every direction....
When the Saudis buy weapons, they prefer to use the Foreign Military Sales program (F.M.S.), meaning that the United States Department of Defense serves as their broker. For a 2 percent administrative fee tacked on to the purchase price, the Pentagon handles the logistics and liaises with the private companies to fulfill the order. F.M.S., the mission of which is to “strengthen the security of the U.S. and promote world peace,” is actually overseen by the State Department, which reviews all requests....
Fahd moved his head closer, and then my hand was against his face, and I could feel hard bits of metal rolling around beneath the cartilage of his jaw. He guided my hand up to his temple, where some misshapen thing slid around beneath the skin, as if trying to escape my fingers. He pulled his eyelid down to show where the steel still was. And it struck me that this was a surreal way to encounter American ordnance, at the end of journey that began in the American Southwest and brought it all the way here, in this remote part of a desperately poor country, to the face of a man who, for just a moment two years and one month ago, thought he had something to celebrate.
. . . because he knows from draft dodging:
Watched Da Nang Dick Blumenthal on television spewing facts almost as accurate as his bravery in Vietnam (which he never saw). As the bullets whizzed by Da Nang Dicks head, as he was saving soldiers....Left and right, he then woke up from his dream screaming that HE LIED. Next time I go to Vietnam I will ask “the Dick” to travel with me!
Back in 1995, my notes tell me, Mickey Spillane was the guest of honor at a Mystery Writers of America banquet. In his acceptance speech he said that after he wrote his huge best seller, I, the Jury, “People kept coming up to me and saying, ‘How could Mike Hammer possibly have shot that beautiful naked blonde in the navel with a forty-five?’
“Simple,” I always told them. “He missed.”
Here is an excerpt from the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision ruling that corporations are actually persons. Just folks, like you and me, with the same Constitutional right to buy politicians.
[W]e now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.Here is an excerpt from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist:
"If the law supposes that," said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, "the law is a ass --- a idiot."But how can it be a idiot, when Chief Justice John Roberts himself says:
"We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges....What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for."Particularly if we’re incorporated.
The German word ‘Kadavergehorsam’ means blind obedience: following orders while shutting down your own powers of judgment and, if necessary, sacrificing yourself. It stems from the Jesuit Vow, which commands obedience even from your corpse (‘kadaver’ in German).
I copied the following excerpts long ago from somebody or other’s White House memoirs, but neglected to write down whose. Change the names, though, and these might have come from tonight’s news. Unfortunately.
Once a senior Agency officer, while briefing the Senate Armed Services Committee, was asked a question out of the blue about casualties inflicted on North Vietnam’s civilian population during USAF bombing attacks. The CIA officer provided such figures as he could. Several days later Helms happened to be walking through the White House arcade between the Mansion and the President’s Oval Office. Lyndon Johnson, walking along side, took Helms by the arm and said in a fatherly tone, “Now, if you feel any urge to go up and testify in Congress on this whole question of civilian casualties in Vietnam, I just hope you’ll pass by and have a drink with me the afternoon before.” Helms, of course, promised he would. He later said of the incident, “This was his way of conveying a message to me that he wanted to have something to say about this. It was done pointedly but not vociferously.”‘ At his morning meeting the next day, Helms told the DDI of the President’s sensitivity to North Vietnamese civilian casualty figures and instructed all elements in the Agency to avoid the subject . . .
With President Johnson I finally came to the conclusion that what I had to say I should get into the first 60, or at least 120 seconds, that I had on my feet. Because after that he was pushing buttons for coffee or Fresca, or talking to Rusk, or talking to McNamara, or whispering here or whispering there. I had lost my principal audience. . .
Nor were the temperament and personal style of Richard Nixon the only obstacles Helms faced under the new regime. The new President surrounded himself with a staff that combined an intensely personal loyalty to its boss with a vindictive capacity for seeing presidential adversaries in every quarter.
Anthony Piel is a neighbor of mine, and also a former director of the World Health Organization, and also pissed off. At the specimen Trump chose for his national security advisor:
During my time with WHO, there were six major outbreaks of Ebola in the Sub-Sahel Africa, which were all well controlled by case management, quarantine measures, drug treatment, tracing contacts, and ultimately a reasonably effective preventive vaccine. The ability to provide these control services, however, is severely crippled by local civil conflicts, and sometimes by idiotic false accusations about the motives of health workers and the effects of immunization.
The ability to fight international tropical diseases can sometimes be equally crippled by brainless politicians and diplomats. The worst I ever had to contend with was an American named John R. Bolton, who was later recess-appointed by President George W. Bush, if you can believe it, to be US Ambassador to the United Nations, and is now National Security Adviser to President Donald Trump.
Bolton was impossible to work with as he seemed to know nothing, didn’t want to learn anything, had no compassion for others, and was opposed to the very purposes of the UN and WHO. In fact, he tried to get the US to cut back on funding of USAID and WHO for any work related to the control of international communicable diseases. His efforts played a role in the surge of Ebola in 2014.
It was as if Bolton were fundamentally retarded---- born with an extreme form of “right wing” ideology that overrode every humanitarian consideration, morality, democratic value, or respect for the rule of law. His sole motivation was pure self-interest. Health workers around the world were glad to see the back end of him, so we all could get on with the business of controlling Ebola and other communicable diseases. Here for example are views Bolton expressed about the United Nations:
"Bolton has been a strong critic of the United Nations for much of his career. In a 1994 Global Structures Convocation hosted by the World Federalist Association (now Citizens for Global Solutions), he stated,
There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that's the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along. He also stated that "The Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost ten stories today, it wouldn't make a bit of difference." (Actual quote.)
It is difficult to believe that any President would appoint Bolton to any position of responsibility, but Trump is not just any President. Both seem equally inhumane and strangely retarded. Bolton is not even fit to serve as coffee boy, as the only time I saw him serve himself from a coffee dispenser in Geneva, Switzerland, he spilled the coffee --- on himself.
Damned if I know, not really. But at least I have a vague idea now, after puzzling through this explanation given by Edward Snowden to ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner. Read the whole thing here.
ES: It’s basically just a new kind of database. Imagine updates are always added to the end of it instead of messing with the old, preexisting entries — just as you could add new links to an old chain to make it longer — and you’re on the right track. Start with that concept, and we’ll fill in the details as we go.
BW: Okay, but why? What is the question for which blockchain is the answer?
ES: In a word: trust. Imagine an old database where any entry can be changed just by typing over it and clicking save. Now imagine that entry holds your bank balance. If somebody can just arbitrarily change your balance to zero, that kind of sucks, right? Unless you’ve got student loans.
Click on thumbnail to read the worst correction the New York Times never made.
. . . mostly backwards. This from Jimmy Carter’s memoir, A Full Life:
It was during the weekends that I had a chance to catch up on back reading and prepared for the week ahead, frequently studying voluminous briefing books from my staff. During the first few months our families and a number of staff members took a speed-writing course every Friday night, which made it much easier for me to read what my secretary informed me was an average of three hundred pages of official documents each day.
Below are excerpts from Trump’s interview in Wednesday’s Daily Caller. Some of his babble made the news, but the totality of the interview itself is more terrifying than any selection of its parts. Read it all and be afraid, be very afraid. If he ever had it, he has lost it.
But you look at the stories, many of the stories on the front page are about me. You know, all my life I told this story, had stories on the front page. A few, not a big deal. Which wasn’t bad, you know, maybe seven, but, you know, a few. And, you know, now if I have a few each day it’s surprisingly low. . .
I think it’s horrible what’s happening and, you know, building the wall, it’s in smaller stages, we can build it very quickly. I’m building the wall in smaller stages and we moved the military there, we put up barbed wire, we did all sorts of things. You have to have a barrier. You have to have a barrier. Look, we have a chance of, they can do presidential harassment, put very simply, and I’ll be very good at handling that and I think I’ll be better than anybody in the history of this office. And in a certain way I look forward to it because I actually think it’s good for me politically, because everyone knows it’s pure harassment. Just like the witch hunt, the Mueller witch hunt. It’s pure harassment. It’s horrible. It’s horrible that they’re allowed to get away with it. . .
But voter ID is a very important thing. If you look at what happened in New Hampshire, where thousands of people came up and voted from a very liberal part of Massachusetts and they came up in buses and they voted. I said, ‘what’s going on over here,’ my people said, ‘you won New Hampshire easily except they have tremendous numbers of buses coming up.’ They’re pouring up by the hundreds, buses of people getting out, voting. Then they’re supposed to go back within 90 days. And of the people that are supposed to go back, almost none of them do. In other words, they go back after the vote is over. They go back — and I think it’s like three percent — I mean, almost nobody goes back to show that, you know, that they were allowed to vote. And so what do you do? Recall the election. Recall the election. I mean, there, you should be able to recall the election.
Back in 1969 I was assigned to our embassy in Laos to be our press attache — the official spokesman for a murderous, illegal, pointless, undeclared, unwinnable and therefore unwon “secret” war in which we dropped more bombs on that tiny country than in all of World War II. I told some of that story in a novel called The Bombing Officer, so go read it. $1.95, how can you go wrong?
Back to the railroad, though. In those days there were about four miles of paved road in the entire country of Laos, from the capital down to the Thailand ferry. A four-story hotel was the tallest building in town. It had the city’s only elevator.
Drivers on Vientiane’s dusty dirt streets seldom blew their horns. They figured that the car in front of them would get out of the way once its driver could deal with whatever was holding him up.
I remember visiting a village six or eight miles down the Mekong for the dedication of a school we had financed. Before the ceremony the USAID director met informally outdoors with village leaders. Improvements were planned for the footpath leading to Vientiane, he told them, so that motorcycles could get there much more quickly.
Why would anyone want to go to Vientiane?, one of the elders asked. Well, you could get your pigs to market. But then what would I give the neighbor I get my bananas and mangoes from? Well, you could sell your pigs for money in Vientiane, couldn’t you? Okay, but what do I need money for? Well, maybe you could buy a radio. Okay, but what would I do with a radio . . .
The provincial governor finally stepped in and led us all to the new school, which consisted of a tin roof supported by posts and beams, open on all sides. Everyone sat on folding chairs while the governor, certainly the highest official any of the villagers had ever seen, launched into his speech.
Seated a couple of rows in front of us were three of four Lao ladies of a certain age, that age when it no longer makes sense to pretend you’re still hot stuff. Consequently you say the hell with it, and whack your white hair into a crew cut because who cares?. And when some big shot starts to get boring one of you calls out, loud enough for everybody to hear, “He’s not too bad-looking a guy, you know it? I wonder what kind of pecker he’s got. If I was thirty years younger I’d take him out back and find out.”
The governor cracked up. Everybody did.
The point I’m making is that Laos was once the most civilized country on earth. And when I read the first two paragraphs of this article in Foreign Policy in Focus, I feared for the worst. I needn’t have. If China can’t do it, nobody can.…Read on
. . . except when it does. This from Seymour Hersh’s recent memoir, Reporter:
The pieces revealed highly classified evidence reporting that Iraq had used a nerve agent in its war with Iran. The intelligence, gathered from satellite coverage, had been presented three times within a week to President Reagan without any indication that he had read it, forcing CIA officials to redline the most pressing issues in the President’s daily intelligence brief that they prepared, which he apparently was not reading. (I was told at the time, but did not verify, that the White House’s national security aides eventually found a way to engage the President — by having the daily CIA intelligence brief recorded on a videotape and screened on TV for him.)