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.)
From the New York Times:
Mr. Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him that his cellphone calls are not secure, and they have told him that Russian spies are routinely eavesdropping on the calls, as well…
But hey, no prob…
Administration officials said Mr. Trump’s longtime paranoia about surveillance — well before coming to the White House he believed that his phone conversations were often being recorded — gave them some comfort that he was not disclosing classified information on the calls. They said they had further confidence he was not spilling secrets because he rarely digs into the details of the intelligence he is shown and is not well versed in the operational specifics of military or covert activities.
“They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly and the cover-up was the worst in the history of cover-ups, very simple,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “They had the worst cover-up ever. Where it should have stopped is at the deal standpoint, when they thought about it. Because whoever thought of that idea, I think is in big trouble. And they should be in big trouble."
. . . . and if they just hadn’t brought along that damned bonesaw our arms sale wouldn’t be in big trouble either.
What US national security adviser John Bolton said:
Speaking on the Echo Moskvy radio station on Monday, Bolton said: “The point I made to Russian colleagues today was that I didn’t think, whatever they had done in terms of meddling in the 2016 election, that they had any effect on it.”
What VladimirPutin heard:
“We’d better damn well double down on the meddling. We can’t count on the electoral college next time.”
Recent research indicates that sleep deprivation drains glucose in the prefrontal cortex. In other words, a lack of sleep robs the fuel for self-control from the region of the brain responsible for self-control, whereas sleep restores it. Building from this research, my colleagues and I investigated the effects of sleep on unethical behavior. Across a set of four studies in both laboratory and field contexts, we found that a lack of sleep led to high levels of unethical behavior. Moreover, we found that this was because a lack of sleep depleted self-control, which in turn led to unethical behavior...
Other researchers have found that a lack of sleep leads to deviant behavior at work, similarly because of decrements in self-control. They found that similarly small amounts of sleep matter; those who slept six hours or less were more likely to engage in deviant work behaviors than those who slept more than six hours. Many of the deviant work behaviors they examined, such as falsifying receipts, would also be considered unethical behavior. Thus, their research findings support the idea that sleep is crucial for ethics in the workplace....
This growing health crisis may very well have the side effect of creating an ethics crisis as well. And often, it is the people who are in the most important or most influential jobs in a given firm who are most sleep deprived. Consider that, in contrast to the 30% of Americans in general who get less than six hours of sleep, over 40% of managers sleep less than six hours per night. Thus, people entrusted with the most consequential decisions, and given most leeway to exercise judgment, are in demanding roles that cut into their sleep, which depletes their self-control and leaves them vulnerable to caving to temptations to behave unethically.
This from The Daily Beast.
President Trump’s latest addition to White House decor is a kitschy fantasy painting that shows him relaxing with Republican presidents of the past—an update to a best-selling image commonly found in tourist gift shops and online galleries...The painter solved his problem by softening the Trump sneer into a smile, and turning all the other presidents orange too.
The painting is the latest in a well-known series by Thomas that depicts past presidents from each party hanging out together. Thomas’ first, which was finished in 2008, included Republicans—minus Trump—playing poker. A subsequent portrait showed Democratic presidents playing pool.
When Thomas decided to add the current president, he said, he found “Trump hard to paint” because of his skin tone and smile.
From Our Times, the United States 1900 - 1925, by Mark Sullivan:
It is a worthwhile speculation about our American national psychology whether the instinctive emotions of the simpler old-fashioned Americans of the South and West may have gone deeper and may have accounted for, or at least been associated with, some of the social and political phenomena of the time…
In any event, this was precisely the period, in the rural parts of the country especially, of a passionately defensive native Americanism that found expression in the immigration restriction law; in insistence on political isolation for America; in susceptibility to suspicion against institutions charged with having foreign origins or affiliations; in such phrases as “hundred-per-cent American”; in readiness to join a secret society based on intolerance of aliens (including, paradoxically, intolerance toward the Negro); and, as a minor but real manifestation, in suspicion against New York City and ideas emanating from it, on the theory that New York, in its attitude on some matters, was more nearly alien than representative American.
Gerard Manley Hopkins’ journal entry of November 18, 1874:
Walking with Wm. Splaine we saw a vast multitude of starlings making an unspeakable jangle. They would settle in a row of trees; then, one tree after another, rising at a signal they looked like a cloud of specks of black snuff or powder struck up from a brush or broom or shaken from a wig; then they would sweep around in whirlwinds — you could see the nearer and farther bow of the rings by the size and blackness; many would be in one phase at once, all narrow black flakes hurling around, then in another; then they would fall upon a field and so on. Splaine wanted a gun; then ‘there it would rain meat’ he said.
The Supreme Court considers it a first amendment violation to limit how much a man may spend on his own campaign. It is not a first amendment problem, however, for the state to limit how much I can give to that man. If money equals free speech, then, the rich man has more free speech than I do, at least as long as he spends it on himself. This is an open encouragement to rich men to run for office, and it has worked very well. We cannot buy votes outright, but we can do so with a condom on, by buying the TV ads without which no one can be elected, and which no one but rich men or their agents can afford.
In effect the Supreme Court has ruled, by its imaginative misreading of the constitution, that money trumps freedom of speech. Rich men or servants bought by them regularly overwhelm the rest of us on election day. Not a thing we can do about it either. They’re just exercising their constitutional rights to free speech. If they do it with a megaphone and all we can do is whisper, it's not the Court's fault.
It's just nature's way that certain people should wind up having more freedom of speech than others. When the articulate and the inarticulate debate, for instance, the articulate tend to have the edge. The inequality is caused by nature, which is notoriously unfair. Nature keeps short men out of the NBA, and there is nothing, constitutionally, to be done about it.
But allowing money to amplify a single voice until no one else can be heard is an inequality of class, not one caused by nature. Not only does it exercise the rich man’s freedom of speech; it smothers the poor man’s. The Supreme Court has served the cause of democracy only if we believe, as the billionaire H.L. Hunt did, that the richer you are, the more votes you should have.
This is the sort of swamp that an idiot insistence on consistency can lead a person into. On the right you see it in the NRA’s support for machine guns; on the left in the ACLU’s defense of pornography and the right of the rich to buy elections. In both cases, the problem comes from reliance on the slippery slope fallacy. But the truth is that most of us, individuals and societies, spend our entire existence on slippery slopes and somehow manage to escape falling in. Freedom from governmental oppression is possible without automatic weapons; political freedom is possible without kiddie porn; democracy is possible without reserving the U.S. Senate for millionaires and their servants.
( I just checked the H.L. Hunt reference with Google, discovering that he wasn’t as dumb as I thought — sometimes, in fact, brilliant. Take this for instance.)
The perfect society would bar political discussion from TV, from radio and from all meetings of more than 200. By confining rhetoric to print, a society would protect the unstable masses from demagoguery.
In my files I find that in 1996 the brother of a former Mexican president, having salted away $80,000,000 abroad out of his government salary of $190,000 a year, was being investigated for the crime of “inexplicable enrichment.” Unhappily this is is not a crime in the United States, but let’s suppose. Manafort? Trump? Et ceteras beyond count. Think how dry the swamp would suddenly get, and not just in Washington.
I was on Trump’s case back in 1994 when one of my Tom Bethany mysteries, Strangle Hold, was published. Unfortunately it was fiction. The excerpt below describes a bit of improvisational theater. For the full literary experience, go here.
“A sperm bank! Who said that.” Ned pointed me out, making sure everyone would know where the idea had come from. “Let me just say, sir, that you have a genuinely sick mind.” Three or four other suggestions came from the audience, and then the players huddled off to one side as if they were discussing which one to build on. Then a frizzy-haired blonde left the huddle with a chair in hand, and sat down facing us. From rehearsals, I knew her name was Audrey Herman. Audrey made as if she were working at an imaginary desk, while the actor named Harvey came through an imaginary door and stood in front of her. It was all going according to the script:
DONOR: This the First National Sperm Bank?
NURSE: You the ten o’clock? (Looking down at schedule) The Donald?
DONOR nods. NURSE drains the last of an imaginary coffee cup and hands it to him.
NURSE: Fill ’er up.
DONOR: Right here?
NURSE: Go ahead and whip it out. I’m a nurse.
DONOR starts to do so, when ROBBER bursts in and grabs him around the neck while threatening the NURSE with an imaginary gun.
ROBBER: Hand it over!
NURSE and DONOR obey, although the DONOR is in obvious distress from the strangle hold the ROBBER has on him. As the other two speak, he fights silently for breath and his hands lower slowly to his sides.
NURSE: Are you crazy? This is the First National Sperm Bank!
ROBBER: I don’t give a rat’s ass what you call it, sister. Hand the dough over in unmarked tens and twenties or this guy gets it. (Presses gun to DONOR’S head.)
NURSE: You can’t kill that man!
ROBBER: Why not?
NURSE: He’s already dead.
ROBBER notices this is so, and lets DONOR fall to the floor.
ROBBER: Shit, what am I supposed to do for a hostage?
NURSE: You idiot! You’ve killed the most brilliant businessman in America. His sperm was worth a fortune.
ROBBER: Huh? Who is he?
NURSE: Donald Trump. He used to get two million bucks a wad.
ROBBER: Jeez, what kind of broad would pay that kind of money for somebody else’s sperm?
NURSE: Women married to rich morons. Speak of the devil, here comes Mrs. Quayle now.
MARILYN: Hi. I’ve come to pick up my order of Trump sperm. Wait a minute. Isn’t that the Donald on the floor?
ROBBER: He’s just resting. (Aside to NURSE) Keep your mouth shut, sister, and I’ll split with you fifty-fifty. (Back to MARILYN) If you could just step into the other room with my nurse for a minute, give Mr. Trump a little privacy—
MARILYN: Of course. (They turn their backs while the ROBBER retrieves the fallen coffee cup from the floor, turns away from the audience, and goes to work.)
ROBBER: Okay, ladies. All set. (They turn around again.)
MARILYN: Sorry to interrupt your nap, Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump?
ROBBER: He went right back to sleep, I’m afraid. It took a lot out of him.
MARILYN: (Looking into the cup the ROBBER has handed her.) Doesn’t look like much to me.
NURSE: Hey, you know what they say about the Donald, don’t you?
MARILYN: No, what?
NURSE: (Breaking into the old Brylcreem song—) Trumpcreem, a little dab’ll do ya. Trumpcreem, a little dabbledo—
ROBBER: Yeah, I know it don’t look like much, but there’s millions of them little suckers in there. So if you’ll just hand over the dough—
MARILYN: Not so fast. I’ve got to check it first.
ROBBER: (Looking into the cup) Looks okay to me.
MARILYN: (Shoving an imaginary purse protectively under her arm.) Yeah, well, you’re not getting my wad till I’m sure this is the Donald’s wad. I’m taking it to the Cambridge police for a DNA test.
ROBBER: Okay, lady, have it your own way.
(He shoots MARILYN dead and grabs her purse as she crumples, then shoots the NURSE dead, then shakes the purse upside down. Empty. He shoots himself dead.)
And that was the end of our skit. All four players popped back up to their feet, bowed, and exited to applause that did my producer’s heart good.
From Robert Paxton’s interpretation of fascism in The Journal of Modern History, March of 1998:
Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion…
In my usually hopeless quest for good news, I just came across this on Flagler Live. Full story here.
On August 16, Alphonso Brooks was pulled over as he drove through Bunnell for a traffic violation. Then a K-9 unit was brought in and allegedly alerted deputies to the presence of drugs in Brooks’s car. There would turn out to be no drugs. But Brooks was asked to exit the car so it could be searched. As he did so he appeared to reach for a gun. A deputy immediately rushed him and immobilized him against the car as other cops drew their weapons in a brief but extremely tense moment.
As they had on numerous previous occasions in the past five and a half years, sheriff’s deputies held their fire and defused the situation. What could have been a police-involved shooting turned into a basic arrest. A .32-caliber American Arms gun and five rounds of ammunition, kept separately, were recovered at the scene…
Today former President Barack Obama spoke to students at the University of Illinois. Read it.
And let me tell you something, particularly young people here, better is good. I used to have to tell my young staff this all the time in the White House, better is good. That’s the history of progress in this country—not perfect, better. The Civil Rights Act didn’t end racism, but it made things better. Social Security didn’t eliminate all poverty for seniors, but it made things better for millions of people.
Do not let people tell you the fight’s not worth it, because you won’t get everything that you want. The idea that, well, there’s racism in America, so I’m not going to bother voting, no point—that makes no sense. You can make it better. Better’s always worth fighting for…
…we had, not often but occasionally, politicians like George Norris of Nebraska, America’s greatest senator. (You could look it up.) He was a Republican for much of his career, long before that party had been hijacked by proto-fascists, and was the father of the Tennessee Valley Authority. (Also the grandfather, full disclosure requires me to add, of my wife.)
I think of George Norris often these days, with each new revelation from Trump’s squalid swamp. Whenever the senator had a buck or two to spare he invested it in U.S. Treasury bonds, for fear that investing in any private securities, might someday, somehow, unconsciously influence his vote. When the senator died in 1943, his estate consisted principally of a small house in McCook, Nebraska, and an old Buick.
And, oh yeah, the Rural Electrification Act, the Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the direct election of U.S. Senators, and the Norris Dam.
Some thirty years ago I warned one of my classes at Harvard not to put off something or other, since "at my back I always hear time's wingèd chariot hurrying near."
They looked puzzled, as if I had broken into demotic Greek. Did what I just said sound like me? I asked. No. Did you think it might have been a quotation? Probably. Has anyone ever heard of a poem called "To His Coy Mistress?" Of Andrew Marvell? No and no.
The next day I handed out the easiest poetry quiz I had been able to put together. The students were to fill in the missing word or words from lines that I figured every high school over-achiever would surely know…
I figured wrong. None of the freshmen got, "The boy stood on the burning _____." None got, "Half a league, half a league, half a league _____." One got, "Beneath the spreading chestnut tree the village _____ _____." One got, "I met a traveler from an antique _____." Only one got, "You're a better man than I am, _____ _____." (Two others guessed, "Charlie Brown.") The highest score was 14 right out of 20 questions; the lowest was two right; the average was seven.
The only question everybody got right was a freebie I had thrown in: "This Bud's for _____." Actually I thought I had thrown in another freebie, "Winstons taste good, like a _____ _____," but only four students got it. Cigarette ads, I remembered too late, had disappeared from TV when they were barely out of diapers. Nor was my class an exception. When a colleague, the poet Felicia Lamport, gave the same quiz to her students, they did no better.
Stupidity can hardly have been the reason. Harvard undergraduates are by no means as brilliant as the world imagines, but most of them are above average and a few are very bright indeed.
Nor were my students likely to have neglected their poetry homework in high school. They didn’t make it to Harvard by neglecting homework. If they hadn't learned poetry, no one had given it to them to learn.Nor were my students likely to have neglected their poetry homework in high school. They didn’t make it to Harvard by neglecting homework. If they hadn't learned poetry, no one had given it to them to learn.
I have added a few words to this CNN story in the interest of clarity. See if you can spot them.
The bomb used by the Saudi-led coalition in a devastating attack on a school bus in Yemen was sold as part of a US State Department-sanctioned arms deal with Saudi Arabia, munitions experts told CNN.
Working with local Yemeni journalists and munitions experts, CNN has established that the weapon that left dozens of children dead on August 9 was a 500-pound (227 kilogram) laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US defense contractors.
The bomb is very similar to the one that wreaked devastation in an attack on a funeral hall in Yemen in October 2016 in which 155 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. The Saudi coalition blamed "incorrect information" for that strike, admitted it was a mistake and took responsibility.
In March of that year, a strike on a Yemeni market --- this time reportedly by a US-supplied precision-guided MK 84 bomb --- killed 97 people.
In the aftermath of the funeral hall attack, former US President Barack Obama banned the sale of precision-guided military technology to Saudi Arabia over "human rights concerns."
The ban was overturned by the Trump (a mass murderer's) administration's then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a murderer, in March 2017.
As the US-backed Saudi-led coalition scrambles to investigate the strike on the school bus, questions are growing from observers and rights groups about whether the US bears any moral culpability. The US says it does not make targeting decisions for the coalition, which is fighting a Houthi rebel insurgency in Yemen. But it does support its operations through billions of dollars in arms sales, the refueling of Saudi combat aircraft and some sharing of intelligence.
"I will tell you that we do help them plan what we call, kind of targeting," said US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a mass murderer. "We do not do dynamic targeting for them...."
The bomb's impact as it landed on the bus full of excited schoolchildren on a day trip was devastating. Of the 51 people who died in the airstrike, 40 were children, Houthi Health Minister Taha al-Mutawakil said last week. He added that of the 79 people wounded, 56 were children.
Eyewitnesses told CNN it was a direct hit in the middle of a busy market. "I saw the bomb hit the bus," one witness said. "It blew it into those shops and threw the bodies clear to the other side of those buildings. We found bodies scattered everywhere, there was a severed head inside the bomb crater."
Some of the bodies were so mutilated that identification became impossible. Left behind were scraps of schoolbooks, warped metal and a single backpack.
From ‘“Woe Unto You, Lawyers,” (Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939) by Fred Rodell, a Yale Law School professor:
The law not only can be bought, but most of the time it has to be bought. And since it has to be bought, its results tend to favor those who can afford to buy it . . . The law is constantly for sale, and generally to the highest bidder.”