“How can people go sit at a table with a regime that bombs hospitals and drops chlorine gas again and again and again and again and again and again, and acts with impunity? Are you supposed to sit there and have happy talk in Geneva under those circumstances when you’ve signed up to a ceasefire… Read More »
The Call to Be Pro-Truthers
The Economist (September 10, 2016) noted that politicians have always lied, but current trends suggest that in today’s world, truth has been left behind entirely. We see it in political campaigns, not only in the United States but in other democracies, as in Britain during the vote to leave or stay in the European Union.… Read More »
Sicily, Early 2000’s, Before the Trickle of Boat People Became a Wave
Before the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts, I wandered through a market place in Sicily, the Mediterranean island nestled off the coast of Italy. A few of the sellers appeared to be recent immigrants from sub Saharan Africa and stood out in that European culture. Years before, I listened to a speaker in a U.S. State… Read More »
Has the Current Presidential Campaign Discussed Military Policy in Depth? Or Discussed Any Policy in Depth?
According to a recent interview with General Martin Dempsey, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the answer is “no.” (“Notes from the Chairman,” Foreign Affairs, September/October 2016.) “I think that the discussions have been superficial and emotional,” Dempsey said. “What we need are conversations that have real depth to them. Talking about… Read More »
Between Literary and Commercial, Religious and Secular, Plot and Character, and Other Conundrums
In “Literary Lust vs Commercial Cash” (Writer’s Digest, December 2006), the successful author, Jodi Picoult, commented on her struggle between writing commercial or literary fiction. “At some point in your career, you’ll be forced to choose either the commercial path or the literary one.” The reason, she said, has less to do with writing and… Read More »
If the Nation Goes to War, Everybody Goes to War
The draft for service in the United States military ended in 1973. Since then, the nation has relied on a volunteer force, despite fighting the longest war in U.S. history, the double Afghan/Iraq conflicts. U.S. military personnel were severely strained, leading to damaging multiple tours of duty for a tiny minority of Americans. “By rescinding… Read More »
Why Has Democracy Slowed in Africa?
An article in The Economist (August 20, 2016) discussed the perceived slowing of democracy in Africa. Some African nations, like Nigeria, are more democratic than they were a few years ago, but others have backtracked. The president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, changed the country’s constitution so he could run for a third term. Other leaders… Read More »
Revisiting the Melungeons, Spur to a Story
When I was growing up in Tennessee, I was fascinated by legends about the Melungeons. The legends told of a mysterious people, with European practices, already in the Appalachians when the earliest white settlers arrived. Speculation abounded, even as the group was shunned, a dark people, looked down on by many of the newcomers. Were… Read More »
Hope for a New National Story?
David Brooks, a columnist for The New York Times, recently offered hope for a new national story. Brooks chided himself for not listening to those outside of his own bourgeois circle. He promised to listen to those Americans who see the American dream as out of their reach and have cast their protest votes accordingly.… Read More »
Five Favorite Books
My list of favorite books varies according to what I’m currently reading, but here I list, in no particular order, five books that gave me new insights. Gary Sick, All Fall Down. Gary Sick was part of Jimmy Carter’s presidential team. He outlines in detail the thinking and events that led to the Iranian student… Read More »
Dancing with the Candidates
We want to fall in love with our candidates, idolize them, and take selfies with them. Unfortunately, star power has little to do with governing ability. Henry Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon, spelled out a cynical view of political candidates: “the typical political leader . . . is a man with… Read More »
Why I Loved THE AMERICAN MISSION
The American Mission, by Matthew Palmer, is the story of a young U.S. diplomat in Africa. The diplomat, Alex, suffers from post traumatic stress disorder after witnessing a massacre he was unable to stop, in Darfur, one of the troubled regions of Sudan. The disorder has damaged Alex’s career. In his new assignment, he deals… Read More »