Who Dominates the Pacific?

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colormapChina has been accused of attempting to dominate the Pacific Ocean by proclaiming an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that extends about 200 miles off the China coast. The Chinese ADIZ is “provocative,” U.S. and Japanese officials have declared, because it overlaps an ADIZ established by Japan and because it covers the uninhabited rocky islands that Japan and China have been arguing about. The Japanese ADIZ covers those islands too, but that is not provocative, of course, because Japan….well, because Japan is… well, Japan is not China, that must be why.

If all this geography is not giving you a headache, there is another island in the neighborhood that I invite you to consider. This one is only about 100 miles east of China’s ADIZ, it’s a lot bigger than those uninhabited rocks and it’s got more than a million people living on it.  It has not been mentioned in any of the news reports on the ADIZ that I have seen, or in any of the stern remarks out of Washington, but the policy makers in Beijing, Washington and Tokyo are certainly aware of it.

The name of this suddenly unmentionable island is Okinawa. It is part of Japan (no dispute on that point although there used to be) and it is home to about 30 American military bases, including Kadena Air Base, one of the largest United States Air Force bases outside of the U.S.

Okinawa has been an American military area since it was invaded and captured from Japan during the final months of World War Two. All through the Cold War it remained an anchor of American military power in the Far East. Bombers from Kadena attacked North Korean targets during the Korean War, and during the Vietnam War, B-52s flew  bombing missions from Kadena. The big bombers (with their nuclear capability) have apparently been pulled back to Guam, but although the Cold War is said to be over just about every other type of American military aircraft is still based at Kadena, and still flying patrols and “training missions” and surveillance flights all around the western Pacific.  The U.S. Army and Navy and CIA and NSA also are represented on Okinawa. Missiles too. Altogether more than 20,000 American military personnel are stationed on the island.

Where is this U.S. bastion again?  From China’s ADIZ, about 10 minutes jet fighter flying time; from the coast of China, about 400 miles; from Hawaii, across the Pacific, about 4,800 miles.

So let’s describe things accurately. China is not the country dominating the Pacific.  Perhaps the Chinese are just trying to draw a red line of their own as the U.S. talks about a “pivot” to Asia.

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Truth in Government

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Image VickychandaniAll governments lie some of the time.

Some governments lie most of the time.

Most governmental lies are about other governments and countries—lies that are harder to challenge.

Governments are often judged not by how truthful they are but by how eagerly their people accept their lies. That is unfortunate.

Teachers and writers and journalists and bloggers should be judged by whether they lazily repeat a lie or seek the truth behind it.

Good luck.

The Iran Deal

I haven’t said anything about the Iran nuclear deal because, frankly, I  have loving followers on all sides of the debate and I’m not in the mood for arguments right now. So I refer everybody to this recent Op Ed piece by Roger Cohen, in the New York Times.

Come back here to comment if you like, but I don’t promise a detailed response

The Other Horseman

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It’s Halloween, and the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow is galloping around our TV screens and frightening the kiddies, right on schedule as he does every year.Andre2

Forget him for a minute, if you can. There was another horseman who came trotting out of Sleepy Hollow a long time ago. This was during the American Revolution, and this guy was real. His head was attached to his body, and he had nothing to do with Halloween, but he was even scarier than the fictional rider who terrified Ichabod Crane.

During much of the Revolutionary War, the east bank of the lower Hudson River was a lawless buffer zone, a no-man’s land between the British forces occupying Manhattan and the American Army north of Croton, defended by the stronghold at West Point. On the morning of September 12, 1780, the solitary horseman was proceeding southward through this buffer zone, along the Albany Post Road, what is now U.S. Route 9. He passed the old Dutch burial ground in Sleepy Hollow and just as he entered the largely deserted village of Tarrytown he encountered three local farmers who also happened to be armed militiamen—part-time, unpaid volunteers in Andre5George Washington’s army.

At riflepoint, the militiamen ordered the horseman to dismount. He tried to bribe them to let him pass. They stripped him and searched him, and inside his socks they found some handwritten papers. Fortunately for the future of the United States, one of the three farmers knew how to read and he quickly understood that the papers were the military plans for the defense of West Point and instructions on how it could best be attacked. “This man is a spy,” John Paulding is said to have exclaimed.

The militiamen brought their prisoner and the documents to a nearby American Army post, and the rest is history. The West Point defense plans were in the handwriting of American General Benedict Arnold, commandant of the fort, who fled to an English ship in the river when he learned of the horseman’s capture. The horseman, wearing civilian clothes, was British Army Major John André, who was trying to bring Arnold’s documents to the British headquarters in New York. Three weeks later André was hung as a spy.

Thanks to Paulding and his friends, Benedict Arnold’s traitorous plot to deliver West Point to the British failed. If André had reached British lines, the British would have taken West Point and occupied the Hudson Valley, driving a wedge between the American forces in New England and those to the south in New Jersey and beyond; the American Revolutionary War would probably have turned out quite differently. A scary prospect indeed.

A stone monument and statue now mark the spot where the three farmers stopped the spy on horseback. And on a hill a few hundred feet to the east of that point stands an even more fitting, living memorial to the triumph of literacy and to the simple farmer who had learned to read: the John Paulding Elementary School.

A Lazy Day

At Heartbreak I was going to write about some nefarious skullduggery going on around us right now but I’ve just been given an invitation to be lazy. Instead of writing something new today I refer you to some war reporting of mine from 62 years ago that has just been posted on another blog.

The other blog is Pacificparatroopers, hosted by GPCOX. Over the past couple of months it has been telling the half-forgotten story of the Korean War. Today it got to Heartbreak Ridge, and posted a story I wrote from that battle for International News Service.  You can find that by clicking here.

A few days ago Pacificparatoopers posted a couple of earlier Korean War stories of mine, which you can find here.

I like to stay linked to history, but that will be enough about the Korean War for now. I’ll get back to the present in my next post.

A History Question

President Wilson

President Wilson

Government shutdown aside, we Americans are proud of our economic and military power and tend to believe that the rest of the world should follow our advice. Let’s see if we know enough world history to give advice to other countries.

Here is an alphabetical list of fifteen countries that have been in the news this year. One hundred years ago, in October, 1913, when Woodrow Wilson was the U.S. president, which of these countries were independent, self-governing sovereign nations?

Egypt
Indonesia
Iran
Iraq
Jordan
Kenya
Korea
Lebanon
Liberia
Libya
Pakistan
Philippines
Syria
Thailand
Yemen
 

Write down your answers, then click on “Answers” up there on top of this blog page to see how you did.  Comments welcome, but don’t spoil it for the next reader by giving away the answers here.

Now What?

So what do I do now?

Just as I was about to put aside blogging for a while in order to get back to work on  the massive novel I have been writing for too many years,  I find myself Freshly Pressed with hordes of new followers who I’m sure are just waiting out there refusing to eat, drink, sleep or copulate until they can read the latest brilliant hoots from Night Owl.Image from Dreamstime

First, I know, I must congratulate the editors at Word Press for the superb taste they exhibited in conferring this honor upon me.  Well done, MW. you are a genius of both the divine and secular.

Next, welcome and sympathy to you new followers who have signed up to see more of my stuff.   I hope you haven’t come here for laughs, or for an unbiased view of events. I’ve earned my opinions and I don’t try to hide them.  What you’ll find here is honesty, and literacy, and some emotion, and maybe some understanding of what is going on around us.

So I suppose I continue.  But I have a request. Comment.  I appreciate all your clicks on the “Like” button, but don’t stop there. The comment button is up there on the northeast corner of every post.  Give me a word or two about WHY you liked something. or why you did NOT like something. Let’s have conversation.

Is that asking for trouble? Possibly. But I don’t suffer fools. I will simply delete any comment that I think is inappropriate, irrelevant, idiotic,  or just plain dull.

Not that any Night Owl followers could be dull.

The World Series and War

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mickeyThe World Series season approaches and baseball fans are remembering the games of the past. I like to watch a good ball game too, but if you ask me who won the World Series in any particular year I will not be able to tell you.

Unless you are asking about 1941 or 1951.

All Brooklyn Dodger fans remember the 1941 Series, and I was one of them that year (don’t ask me why; I lived in Manhattan). That was the year that Dodger catcher Mickey Owen dropped the ninth-inning third strike on the Yankees’ Tommy Henrich. The strike, if caught, would have won the game for Brooklyn right there, but instead, (see photo above) Henrich scooted to first and the damn Yankees went on to win the game and, the next day, the Series. I lost a ninth-grade fortune, twenty-five cents, on that Series, and for years I insisted Mickey Owen owed me a quarter.

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Heartbreak Ridge

The 1951 Series haunts me for a different reason; ten years can change a young person. I was a war correspondent in Korea and in October, 1951, I was covering the battle for Heartbreak Ridge. That was a month-long struggle that killed or wounded 3,700 U.S. and French troops and more than 20,000 Chinese and North Koreans.

At a medical station near the front one night I saw two American soldiers, walking wounded, sitting on a bench, waiting to be told whether they would be treated there or sent to the rear. Their silence, glazed eyes, and blank expressions testified to what they had been going through out there on the blasted ridge, and to what, it seemed, they were still fighting inside their heads.

A medic near them turned on a radio for an Armed Forces Network newscast. One of the wounded men on the bench heard it and said quietly to his buddy, “Hey, the Yankees won the World Series.”

It took a full minute for the second man to comprehend, to extract the concept of baseball from the bloodshed and battlefield confusion still gripping his mind. Finally he nodded, ever so slightly.  “The World Series,” he said slowly. “The Yankees.”

And then, after another long silence: “Who did they beat?”

A Geography Lesson

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middle-east-political-mapIran and its nuclear ambitions are again on center stage this week.

In the belief that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, the United States has been applying harsh economic sanctions on Iran in an attempt to force it to stop that development.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is designed for peaceful purposes only, that it has no intention of producing an atom bomb, and that the sanctions violate international law.

International inspectors were unable to find definite proof that Iran intends to build nuclear weapons, but they reported that they had not been allowed to inspect all possible nuclear sites.

As the U.S. Secretary of State and the Iranian Foreign Minister and ministers and ambassadors from other interested countries try to solve this deadlock at the United Nations,  the nuclear geography of the Middle East becomes relevant.

Look at the map above. To the east of Iran, that bit of green on the right edge of the map is Pakistan. Pakistan has nuclear weapons.  To the north of Iran that big red area is Russia, with hundreds or thousands of nuclear missiles left over from the Cold War.  To the west, near the left edge of the map, is Israel, which has its own nuclear weapons. And to the south, in the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, United States Navy aircraft carriers are on patrol, with nuclear armaments.  And less than a thousand miles further to the east, off the map, are India and China, each with nuclear weapons of its own.

I don’t think that anyone outside of Teheran knows for sure whether the leaders of Iran intend to join the “nuclear club.” But if they are building a Bomb,  the map can tell us why.

FRINFORMSUM 9/12/2013: NSA Misusing Phone Records, Allowed to “search deliberately for Americans’ communications” Anyway, and More

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This is more of the worrisome stuff we’ve been talking about.

UNREDACTED

The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) won the release of a trove of important documents detailing the National Security Agency’s (NSA) phone log record program this week. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence was compelled to release hundreds of pages of documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. The disclosed documents demonstrate “that the NSA had been misusing its phone records surveillance program for years,” to the point that it was rebuked by the Federal Intelligence Security Court (FISA), responsible for assuring the legality of NSA’s programs. FISA chastised the NSA for “violating its own procedures and misleading the nation’s intelligence court about how it used the telephone call logs it gathers in the hunt for terrorists.”

Despite the reprimand, in 2011 the Obama administration won permission from the FISA court to allow the NSA to “search deliberately for Americans’ communications in its massive databases.” The…

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Syrian Poker

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The U.S. will not attack Syria. Syria will agree to turn over its chemical warfare weapons to international control. No one has announced this and I am not privy to any inside information. This is a prediction, educated guesswork from an old  poker player.

I’m writing this late Monday night, September 9th, and it will be posted in the early hours of Tuesday, September 10th. If I’m right, remember that you heard it here first. If I’m wrong, if an attack takes place, I won’t mind if you go to some other blog because we will all have lots of other things to worry about anyway.

Here’s my thinking. The big news all day today, Monday, was the notion that the threatened U.S. attack on Syria could be averted if Syrian President Assad agreed to “turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week.” Secretary of State John Kerry said that early in the day, in what was described as a casual, off-hand answer to a press conference question in London.

But then look what happened. Almost immediately, the Russian foreign minister came up with a more formal version of the same idea. And the Syrian foreign minister, who happened to be in Moscow, quickly “welcomed” the Soviet move. Within hours the British, French and German heads of government, among others, agreed that the proposal was worth study. Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations Secretary-General quickly joined the chorus. Later in the day Obama promised to “engage with” the Russians on the idea, even as he kept lobbying Congress to agree on a military strike. And a number of U.S. lawmakers and officials, some who have been in favor of the strike and some not, agreed before nightfall that the idea is worth exploring, as indeed it is.

Seldom if ever has a new diplomatic notion on such an important question been endorsed so quickly by responsible national leaders who disagree on the basic issue. That in itself seemed too good to be true. And then, on Monday evening, in his interview with the PBS NewsHour, President Obama let something slip: when he was in St. Petersburg Russia, last week, he did have “conversations” with President Putin about putting Syrian chemical weapons under international control. In fact, he said, “this is a continuation of conversations I’ve had with President Putin for quite some time.”

So it wasn’t just Kerry’s casual remark Monday that set off this diplomatic flurry, as we were led to believe. The idea has been under discussion for days or weeks. And that means that President Assad of Syria has been considering it for just as long. And I think that’s why, after making a serious threat, Obama puzzled everybody by putting the action on hold, asking Congress to authorize the military strike, and declining to say what he would do if Congress refused. He was pressuring the Syrians, giving them a few days to make up their minds with the threat of attack hanging over their heads.

In other words, we are witnessing the showdown moment of a high-stakes poker game. President Obama has made a huge bet by threatening to attack Syria, and we don’t know whether he is bluffing. The world is waiting for President Assad of Syria to fold his hand, by agreeing to turn over his poison gas stocks, or to call the bet by refusing to do so and hunkering down for an attack that might or might not arrive.

And it is my opinion that we are hearing about this “new” diplomatic initiative only because Assad has agreed, has decided to fold his chemical warfare hand. And I believe we are hearing about it at this particular moment because President Obama is going on television Tuesday night, ostensibly to argue for the attack on Syria, but really because he hopes to announce that thanks to his firm stance Syria has agreed to turn over its chemical weapons to international control.

A good poker player winning a bluff never shows his cards if he wants to play at the same table again. So we will never know whether Obama is bluffing with just this outcome in mind.  Sometimes, depending on what’s in the pot, you want the other guy to fold even if you think you have the better hand.

The Other NSA

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All of us know something about the National Security Agency. Not as much as the National Security Agency knows about all of us, of course, but still, something.

We know now that the NSA, where that fugitive Edward Snowden used to work,  is that huge governmental intelligence organization that has been eavesdropping electronically on our friends and our enemies for about fifty years. We know that besides helping our government disrupt a terrorist plot or two it could also tell us, if asked, how long you spoke to Aunt Nellie on her birthday back in 1996.

(Why the NSA was not listening in the other day when President Assad of Syria gave the order to kill some of his citizens with poison gas is a matter beyond my  security clearance.)

We can disagree on whether the protection the NSA gives us by keeping tabs on some of our enemies is worth more than the threat it poses to our democratic system by keeping tabs on us and on some of our friends.

Whether you believe that the folks at the National Security Agency are good guys or bad guys, there is another NSA you should know about, and on this one there is no argument: they are Good Guys all the way around.

The Good Guy NSA is  the National Security Archive.  Archive, not Agency. Archive, as  in repository of historical documents, as in library that’s open to the public. The NSArchive is a remarkable resource for information on every aspect of national security going back many decades. Almost any bit of information that once was secret and has now been released, can be found at the National Security ARCHIVE.

Here is the Archive’s brief description of itself:

“THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals. ”

The NSArchive runs a blog, Unredacted, and also sends out an email release to anyone interested every time it acquires some new document or information. Recent subjects include the CIA’s role in the 1953 coup in Iran,  the history of the U-2 spy plane, the 1983 war scare, cold war diaries of Soviet leaders. And just yesterday, The Snowden Affair, an up-to-date compilation with analysis of everything available on the big NSA’s surveillance operations.

All of the NSArchive’s reports are available on its website. Anyone interested in these vital matters should check it frequently.  (No, I am not connected with it except that I’m on its electronic mailing list.)

Having  clarified the national security acronyms I’ll confuse you with another archive acronym. There is a something called the National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA.  It’s the official governmental repository of records. And the NSArchives can tell you a thing or two about some recent unhelpful activities of  NARA.

Read ’em and weep.

Syria Simplified

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The big question for the pundits this weekend is whether our Congress will “authorize” President Obama to launch military strikes against Syria—actions that Obama has implied he will take regardless of what Congress says. We are told that these strikes will punish the Syrian government for using poison gas against its own people, or, more precisely, for violating international treaties and accords that prohibit poison gas.

There is a bigger question that is not being asked very much. Who, outside of the U.S., has appointed the U.S. as the policeman of the world? Who or what has “authorized” us to arrest and punish international malefactors? No international organization has stepped up to issue the U.S. a badge, and Great Britain and Canada, our closest allies, are not joining in this Syrian action. President Obama is preparing to go it alone.

Some say that he must do this because no one else is willing to do it, because we are the good guys, because it is our moral obligation to save the world from evil, because we know best what’s good for Syria, for the Middle East, for the world.  Such a rationale attains the height of arrogance and defies decades of foreign policy errors, but many of our leaders and citizens embrace it.

They embrace it and support the looming Syria adventure because “we can do it,” because of the indisputable fact that we are—militarily—the most powerful nation in the world.  No one can stop us. They think that makes us the best and the smartest. Are we becoming something like the big kid in the schoolyard who uses his fists and strength to dominate everyone else and run things his way?

In the schoolyard we call that kid a bully. On a national stage we call such an individual a tyrant. Internationally, such nations are known as aggressors.

The End of Bias

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Photo Credit: AP

Merkel at Dachau           Photo credit: AP

We all have biases. Honesty requires that we recognize our own.

As an American Jew who grew up during World War Two, I long harbored a subtle, quiet bias against Germany and its people. Not just because of the horrors of the Holocaust, but because of the “über alles” master-state evils of the Nazi dictatorship itself, the destruction of human freedom, the lies and violence and repression of opponents and innocents of all persuasions. And the knowledge that many Germans of that time, if not most of them, went along contentedly with Hitler’s policies.

To my generation, Naziism was not an evil moment that has been properly dealt with and put away on the history shelf, as it appears to younger people today. To us, Nazi Germany was a living, powerful threat to our existence, to our freedom, to the world as we knew it. I followed the battle news. I said goodbye to my older cousins and friends going off to war–some of whom did not come back. I collected scrap paper and metal for the war effort: I volunteered as an Air Raid messenger (yes, we had blackout drills in New York City, but that’s a story for another  time). And when I graduated high school I joined the Navy. Sure, we were patriotically confident that we would win, but confidence does not equal certainty. This was life-and-death stuff, not a movie with a happy ending, to enjoy with popcorn.

The real happy ending was marred by the greatest horrors as Hitler’s concentration camps and gas chambers were liberated and we learned in gruesome detail the full extent of what he had done—more than six million people put to death simply because of who they were.

So I came by my bias honestly: it was based in reality. Although the Germans surrendered and renounced Hitler and his atrocities, it was impossible to believe that people who had committed such crimes, or who had allowed such crimes to be committed all around them, could suddenly, overnight, become good neighbors we should deal with as if nothing had happened in their back yard.

As the years went on, as the truly guilty German generation died off, I did my best not to let these feelings affect my journalistic or business or social relationships with Germans I met. I reminded myself that this particular German was not an SS officer or death camp guard, and might not even have been alive when all that happened, and I got along fine with that particular German—who often was also treading carefully around an American Jew. By and large I think I succeeded in keeping a lid on my bias, in preventing it from becoming an active prejudice that would distort my conscious words or deeds.

Nevertheless, the illogical, unfair, emotional bias survived. I’ve bought eight or nine cars since World War II and never considered buying a German one. I never felt terribly sorry for the Berliners divided by the Wall. I still feel uncomfortable when my own family name, which reflects the centuries my ancestors lived in northwest Germany, is pronounced starting with the German “Sh” sound instead of the plain “S.”  And even when reading about the history of earlier times I have found myself subconsciously rooting for anyone opposed to the Germans. Hooray for Napoleon.

The bias survived, that is, until now. I’m finally getting rid of it. It began to wither two months ago after the revelations of the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities. In blog posts on June 21 and June 30 I explained that our European friends were more upset than Americans about the NSA revelations because most Europeans have lived under police state repression, while we lucky ones in America don’t know what to be afraid of. And I quoted Malte Spitz, a member of the German Green Party, as follows:

“Given our history, we Germans are not willing to trade in our liberty for potentially better security. Germans have experienced first hand what happens when the government knows too much about someone….  We have not forgotten what happens when secret police or intelligence agencies disregard privacy.”

The world has changed, I noted; Germany can now teach us the value of liberty and privacy.

And then this past week, for the first time, a German Chancellor visited Dachau, the original concentration camp, the prototype for the others. Chancellor Angela Merkel deposited a wreath, stood in silent memorial to the tens of thousands who suffered and died there, and in a speech to Dachau survivors emphasized the need to learn from Germany’s terrible history. In the face of a rising tide of ultra-right violence in her country and elsewhere, Merkel delivered a telling and symbolic moment.

“The fate of the victims here fills me with deep sadness and shame,” she said, as quoted by a New York Times correspondent. “How could Germans go so far as to deny people human dignity and the right to live based on their race, religion, their political persuasion or their sexual orientation?  Places such as this warn each one of us to help ensure that such things never happen again.”

Thank you, Malte Spitz and Chancellor Merkel. The bias is dead.

Hiroshima — Myth and Reality

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A myth is a story that we want to believe, regardless of its truth.

The most enduring myth of recent history concerns the atom bomb that obliterated Hiroshima 68 years ago today. The myth holds that Hiroshima (and Nagasaki three days later) were atom-bombed in order to end World War II and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians who would have perished in the planned invasion of Japan.

The war did end nine days after Hiroshima, and no invasion was necessary, so the notion that the Bomb made the Japanese give up became enshrined in our collective memory. For decades thereafter any criticism of the use of this weapon of mass destruction was met with the assertion that the Bomb had ended the war and therefore had saved more lives than it took.

According to the myth, one of those saved lives might have been mine. I was in Navy boot camp in August ‘45 and I could have been part of an invasion, had there been one. So my buddies and I welcomed and celebrated the Bomb as the means to victory and peace; we embraced the myth.  But of course we were not told everything that was going on.

One of the things we were not told was the background of the Soviet Union’s sudden entry into the war against Japan. The U.S.S.R. had been neutral in the Pacific War, and then, two days after Hiroshima, had declared war on Japan and attacked Japanese forces in Manchuria.

We all assumed at the time that the Reds were just trying to get in on the kill at the last minute, but that was not the case. Eight months earlier, U.S. military leaders urged President Roosevelt to persuade the Russians to enter the war against Japan after the defeat of Germany. Unless the Red Army could tie down the 700,000 Japanese troops in Manchuria, the military thinking went, the U.S. would suffer huge casualties in the planned invasion of Japan. And indeed, at the Yalta conference, in exchange for significant territorial concessions in the Far East, Stalin let himself be persuaded to do what he probably would have wanted to do anyway to get in on the spoils of war: he agreed in writing to attack the Japanese within three months of the fall of Germany.

To Japan, the Soviet attack on August 8, three months to the day after the surrender of Germany, represented more than a huge military threat: it doomed the Japanese Government’s attempts to get Moscow to mediate an “honorable” end to the war. Since that June, aware that the war could not be won, desperate to keep their sacred Emperor on the throne, and hopeful of avoiding an Allied occupation, the Japanese had been trying to get the Soviet Union to negotiate a peace. The Russians were already sending their armies eastward, however, so Moscow stalled the Japanese envoys. On August 8, as Russian troops attacked, the Japanese knew that their effort to reach a negotiated peace had failed.

But even after two atomic bombs, and with Soviet forces advancing in Manchuria, the Japanese Emperor and war council were not ready to surrender.  There was something else going on that most of us in America didn’t know as we celebrated the atomic bomb. And that was the debate over whether the Japanese Emperor could remain on the throne.

President Truman and his top advisers had been aware for some time that the Japanese might never agree to stop fighting if they feared that their Imperial system would be dismantled and that their Emperor might be tried as a war criminal. The issue had been debated in Washington, and the original text of the Potsdam Declaration–the July 25 ultimatum to Japan to surrender or face destruction–had contained wording that protected the Emperor’s status. But President Truman, citing the policy of “unconditional surrender,” had removed that promise. The final version of the ultimatum was unclear on the future of the Emperor, and the Japanese, still hoping for Soviet intervention, had ignored it.

Then came the atom bombs and the Soviet attack. The Japanese leaders realized they had to do something. After a series of contentious meetings with his high command, the Emperor himself decided to accept the Declaration, with just one “but.” On August 10 the Japanese sent a message to the Allies that they accepted the Potsdam Declaration but would not accept any conditions that would “prejudice the prerogatives” of the Emperor “as a sovereign ruler.”

That message, in turn, sparked some contentious discussions in Washington, between those who insisted on unconditional surrender and others who realized that they would need the Emperor to assure that the  Japanese armies throughout East Asia would lay down their arms. At Truman’s instructions, Secretary of State James Byrnes drafted a masterly reply that eventually satisfied all sides. “From the moment of surrender,” it said, “the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers. . . . The ultimate form of the Government of Japan shall, in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration, be established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people.”

That reply reached Tokyo on the 12th and after another day of argument, and attempts at a military coup aimed at prolonging the war, the Emperor once more had to tell his divided cabinet what to do. “I have studied the Allied reply and…I find it quite acceptable,” he told the cabinet on the 14th. That night he signed the Imperial surrender rescript and recorded the surrender speech that was broadcast to his stunned subjects at noon the next day.

Clearly the Bomb did not convince the defeated Japanese to surrender; if there had been no promise regarding the survival of the Imperial system, the war would have continued, despite the Bomb.

Or if, instead of dropping the Bomb, the U.S. and its Allies had granted that promise earlier, perhaps in the Potsdam Declaration itself, Japan would probably have accepted the declaration as soon as the Soviets attacked, and the war could have ended without the atomic devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

That would have created a much different postwar world. For the Bomb projected American diplomatic, geopolitical and strategic power into Asia in a way that nothing else could have done. Empowered by the bomb, President Truman could block Russian attempts to share in the occupation of Japan, could prevent the Soviets from occupying all of Korea.

Despite the horrors of the Bomb, some Japanese were able to find some value in it. “The American Atom Bomb kept the Russians out of Japan,” a senior Japanese journalist once told me. “The price was terribly high, but it saved us from being carved in two after the war the way Germany was.”

Maybe that is a myth too, but it’s closer to the truth than ours.

How We Denied Racism

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In the national debate triggered by the George Zimmerman verdict I’ve heard people deny that racism is still a problem in America. That reminds me of an even greater denial we white New Yorkers indulged in when I was growing up in Manhattan in the 1930s and ‘40s.

We were taught racial equality; it was drummed into us, and our teachers were sincere. We held smug views about our own values compared to those murderous Southern bigots who enforced complete racial segregation and put on white hoods and beat up and lynched blacks who looked at them the wrong way. We could not understand such degradation of another human being, and if anyone had dared to suggest that we white New Yorkers were guilty of any measure of racism ourselves, we would have reacted in bewilderment if not anger.

It took me years to wake up to the fact of Northern discrimination, which was no less pervasive and oppressive for being invisible to us whites. In the Manhattan of my childhood and adolescence, the only black faces to be seen south of 97th Street belonged to maids, janitors, garbage collectors, dishwashers–and perhaps a few jazz musicians. A walk through Times Square of an evening–white faces only. Restaurants, bars, theaters–white customers only. In the 1945 graduating class of my small high school, one black, about thirty whites, and in the next class two blacks, including one who “didn’t count,” as he was the son of a famous jazz pianist. In the subways, yes, especially on the “A” train, we saw blacks traveling to and from Harlem to their jobs as house servants or laborers.

Segregation was not mandated or required in New York but it was not prohibited until much later. Therefore blacks were not legally barred from eating in “white” restaurants, as they were in the South, but it almost never happened. In many restaurants blacks would be told that they needed a reservation, and in establishments that could not make that claim the blacks would be seated in a corner near the kitchen or the restrooms and given rude service. So they didn’t try. They stayed in Harlem.

We saw all this segregation and it did not register, or we ignored it, denied it, despite our loud espousal of racial equality. I can only imagine how it felt to the blacks who lived in the city at the time because I never heard them speak of it and there were no protest marches or speeches against it. Our white liberal anti-Jim Crow rage was directed at the much worse atrocities in the south.  I still remember the shouted slogans about freeing the “Scottsboro boys,” nine teen-aged Alabama blacks accused falsely of raping two white women; they would have been executed if not for the northern protests and the white lawyers sent from New York to defend them.

I also remember everyone in my lefty household rejoicing at every victory of heavyweight champion Joe Louis–not just because he defeated the Nazi Schmeling, but because he was a black, thus somehow vindicating our advanced views about the equality of the races. At the same time we ignored the absence of any blacks in major league baseball. The blacks had their own leagues, the Negro National League and the Negro American League, so that apparently made it all right.

Then something funny happened on our way to a lily-white future: the wave of southern blacks migrating north for jobs in the labor-hungry World War II industries. Black neighborhoods in the city became overcrowded, the geographic color lines began to break down, and white attitudes began to shift. Or perhaps true white attitudes emerged from the rosy fog of denial. More blacks were attracted to the city after 1945, when job discrimination became illegal in New York. Equal housing laws were still years away so as blacks sought housing in formerly all-white areas, white landlords and residents abandoned their abstract ideals and resisted in every way they could.

And that’s when I finally woke up to the falsehood around me.  My parents, paragons of equality and social justice, owned a brownstone row house on the upper west side of Manhattan; they lived on two floors and rented out apartments on the top two levels. I was there one day when a young black couple rang the doorbell and said they had come to see an apartment that had been advertised for rent.

“Oh,” I heard my mother say, “it’s been rented. I’m sorry.” The couple smiled politely and left.

The apartment had not been rented and I could not at first believe what I had just witnessed.  “Why did you say that?” I asked. “The apartment is empty.”

“I know,” my mother said, “but we can’t do that. There are none on the block . The property values would go down.”

I was old enough to appreciate the real estate equation but still young enough to be shattered at the betrayal of my ideals by the parents who had so powerfully proclaimed them. We argued about it for hours.  My father agreed with my mother, although he recognized the hypocrisy; I fought them both. Eventually I realized it was not just the real estate values that worried them but the social pressure as well: the fear that if they were the ones to break the color line they would be ostracized by their neighbors, the other homeowners on the block. They were probably right about that. White New York would have punished them.

Blacks soon came in to the neighborhood, but Lincoln Center did too, so property values soared. Irony, proving nothing. The only lesson I can draw from all this is that attitudes and biases are not always visible, not even our own.

Remembering the Forgotten War

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Sixty years ago, when the gunew jeep (2)ns of war stopped firing in Korea, I was a staff writer for Time magazine in New York. I had spent two years as a Korea war correspondent, so Time’s foreign news editor asked me to write about what the American G.I. had seen and heard and felt in the war. My article appeared in the August 3, 1953 issue of Time and it earned me a nomination for an Overseas Press Club award. With the permission of Time Inc., I re-publish it here on the anniversary of the Korean armistice.

How the Ball Bounced

More than a million Americans, many still in their teens, fought, and survived, the Korean War. The G.I. never quite understood what this particularly bewildering war was all about. But he fought well, and  reached his own understanding of Korea by personal, painful, ugly experience.

For one thing, he understood death. There was the first mound of corpses by the roadside, caked with dried blood, open mouths frozen in a scream. His sergeant said: “Don’t get shook up. They’re just Koreans.” Or  there were muddy U.S. Army boots protruding awkwardly from under a blanket as a litter jeep bounced  down the road from the front. Or in the rain, as he climbed his first Korean hill, there was the glistening poncho stretched over the two men sleeping near the trail—and then he realized that they were asleep  forever.

Death reached closer. He had to tell the captain: “He was lying in his hole, all curled up. I guess the round just dropped in on top of him.” Afterwards, he and the rest of the squad had to decide what to do with the last letter the man had written before the round dropped in on him. “Send it home,” said the chaplain, “his  Mom will want to know what he was thinking before he died.”

The Why. The G.I., like any other soldier, was afraid of death, which came suddenly, and always at the wrong time. A man in his company was blown up just after he got a telegram that told him he had a new son, his first. “The American soldier has only one fault,” said a platoon leader. “He has too much to live for.”  Many men said: “I don’t want to be a hero, I just want to be alive.” Nevertheless, there were plenty of heroes before it was over. Not wanting to die, the G.I. newly on the line took a while to discover what made a man  risk death.

But eventually, he understood why a medic threw himself between a patient and a grenade. He understood  the private who could have abandoned his hole, but stood up throwing back Chinese hand grenades before  they exploded—until he misjudged one. And the corporal, with four bullets in his chest, who was told: “Take  a stretcher; you’ll die if you walk down.” “Yeah,” he replied, “send four guys back to carry me and they’ll all  get clobbered. I’ll make it.” And he did. Those were the cool heroes, sacrificing themselves, not to “halt aggression” or “fight Communism,” but out of elemental loyalty to the outfit, and to the other men around  them.

There was another kind of hero forged by the heat and pressure of battle. There was the private, foot all but  blown off, chest punctured with machine-gun bullets, face mangled by a mortar chunk, who kept going until  he got nearly to the top of the ridge. There, he died, and only then fell down. There were the two Kentuckians who rushed up a hill screaming hillbilly songs and dived into a North Korean bunker with their hand grenades, blowing it up. There were also men who went to pieces in the strain of battle, and dashed  forward, screaming and crying, to be cut down by the enemy. Other panic-stricken men “bugged out,” or groveled in their foxholes, clawing at the earth. He turned away and hoped that would not happen to him.

The Koreans. The courage of the South Koreans was a different kind: to G.I.s it seemed not sacrificial, not  fanatical, but resigned. One bearded old “Papa-san” of the Korean Service Corps “choogied” mortar  ammunition up one hill, then caught a bullet in his chest as he was starting back down the trail for more. He lay by the mortar position, blood leaking from his chest, and passed shells to the shorthanded mortar crew as he died. Each time the tube fired, the old man muttered a Korean word, but the Americans on the mortar never knew what it was.

The Korean language is difficult, and the G.I. did not have the time and energy to pick up more than a few  words. So he learned about the Koreans from what he saw, and through the Pidgin English the Koreans  themselves put together. In the back of a truck, choking on the fine, powdery Korean dust, wondering how the Koreans could live in it, he suddenly saw a Korean coughing too, and he realized that the armies had stirred up the dust and the Koreans suffered from it “same-same” as he.

In the cities, the children clustered around him, waist-high and squalling, grimy fists tugging at his sleeve. “Hey, sah-jint, you want buy? You want numbah-one shoeshine? You want change-ee money, sah-jint? You  want nice girl, maybe? Hey, sah-jint, you want numbah-one nice virgin girl?” Sometimes they snatched a pen  or wallet from his pocket and scampered off down an ill-smelling alley. Sometimes the crippled ones, scabrous and foul with dirt, hunched themselves into his path and clawed frantically at his trouser leg. “Money, skoshi money, little money! Three days, eat have-a-no, sah-jint.”

He walked through the muddy, stinking, raucous market areas, holding his hand on his wallet, buying cheap souvenirs. There were fur caps and fur-lined boots, little carved figures, thousands of leather holsters and wallets, brass ashtrays and gaudy silk antimacassars, embroidered with the word “Korea,” and the year.  Behind the main streets, in the narrow alleys, he could purchase—with “no sweat”—scarce Army supplies, like light bulbs and radio batteries. There were piles of leather jackets from U.S. mail-order houses,  gleaming rows of cheap watches smuggled in from Japan, gay shelves of Japanese cosmetics, even stacks of  C-ration cans. “You want buy, sah-jint? Numbah one.”

That was in the cities. In the country, he held his breath when he passed farmers fertilizing their paddies with excrement from the “honey buckets.” “Mama-sans” squatted on riverbanks, pounding their washing  with sticks on the wet, flat stones, while their black-haired infants slumbered on their backs. Old men with  black “birdcage” hats and two-foot-long pipes squatted, low down on their haunches, in front of ruined  huts. Refugees, haggard and desperate, journeyed a long road, furniture and bedding piled high on  “A-frame” and head, bound for a filthy cardboard shack which they would then call home. Before entering  it, they would remove their shoes.

The prospect of death he learned to accept, and he seldom talked about it. But he could gripe about the  hardships. Each echelon claimed that the men to the rear were “fat” with luxuries. The man on the line envied the man at battalion because he usually slept on a cot and lived in a tent and had three hot meals a  day. Battalion thought regiment “had it made” because there the men rode around in jeeps. The soldier assigned to regiment wished he was farther back at division, where it was safer, where there were showers, Korean houseboys to do the laundry, and movies almost every night. The man at division figured the corps  headquarters soldier “had it knocked” with his PX, his girls, and “tak-san” (much) beer. At corps, they  envied Army’s warm buildings, big PX, recreation programs, coffee and doughnut canteens, and “Stateside”  Red Cross girls. The G.I.s at Army headquarters would rather have been in Japan, or else close to the front collecting four rotation points a month. But everybody wanted to go home.

R & R. The G.I. was homesick the minute he hit Korea. Around the sputtering Coleman lanterns in the bunker, on the long, dusty truck rides that bruised his bones, he talked of “The Big R” (rotation) and “The  Little R” (rest and rehabilitation leave in Japan). He knew to the day when he could expect to go home —”if  too much stuff doesn’t hit the fan and use up all the replacements,” or if the brass didn’t “push the panic  button” and freeze rotation for a while.

He served his time and left Korea. His outfit stayed on. There was no “duration” to limit or extend his stay. The veterans of World War II went home by the hundreds of thousands in the ranks of their outfits, with a sense of accomplishment and the prospect of a big welcome—maybe a parade. They had suffered and won. The veterans of Korea trickled back individually, with a sense of relief at being alive. They have merely suffered.

The returning veteran of 1945 was a man of hope; his enemy was beaten, his target—Tokyo or Berlin—was  reached. He was ready for a brave new world of peace and plenty. His younger brothers, resigned to the ugly old world of war and greed, shout no message. They argue about whether the war should have been started, whether it should have been carried into China or stopped at the 38th parallel, whether Van Fleet or MacArthur or the White House had the right solution—and they don’t pretend to know all the answers. All  that binds them is their common understanding of the steep ridges and the stinking paddies and the swift  night attacks from the north.

In gathering places across the U.S. they recognize each other when they hear such terms as “bahli-bahli”  (“hurry up”), or “no sweat.” Their password is a mangled version of Arirang, the Korean folksong taught them on a quiet night by ROK soldiers in the bunkers. The badge of their fraternity is the fatalism by which they say, when things go wrong: “That’s the way the ball bounces.”

Those “Senior Moments” and the Big A

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For a dozen years after I watched my father vanish into the black hole of Alzheimer’s dementia I feared I too would end up with the Big A, as a frightening and frightened empty shell of a man.

I can admit to this fear now because I’m pretty much over it. I don’t think it’s likely that I will go that way; there is more than one path to the exit.  Well past the age at which my father’s decline became noticeable, I have my own set of annoying health issues; they do not seem to impair my ability to write a blog, recognize an old friend, fill out a tax form, or research aging memory on line.

But I do occasionally forget where I put my glasses, or whether I turned off the tea kettle before I went to bed. It’s on that kind of “senior moment” memory lapse that I have something to say.  Dementia is relevant here only to remind us what normalcy is not.

Gerontologists tell us that the momentary failure to recall something is a normal part of aging, not necessarily a harbinger of dementia.  Agreed.  Some doctors also tell us that increasing forgetfulness is normal because our powers of memory, the synapses and brain cells that do the work, naturally weaken as we age.  Not exactly.

Okay, how can senior moments be normal if increased forgetfulness is not?  Simple.  Senior moments are not forgetfulness.  To explain that apparent paradox I turn to A White Paper on Aging from Johns Hopkins Medical Center:

“The mental processes required to remember newly acquired information are the same as those needed to retrieve memories from long ago, something most older people do well. This implies that older people retain the capacity to recall recent events, but the new information is not being recognized as important or is being discarded instead of stored.  Some researchers interpret this to mean that occasional memory lapses may result from a failure to pay close attention to the information rather than an inability to remember. Thus, it appears that forging new memories depends in large part on staying interested, active and alert.”

In other words, our memory does not get weaker as we age; we simply don’t bother to record trivial information. And as any mature adult knows, there’s a lot of trivial information out there.

Even young people discard unneeded data. In my twenties I could forget (that is, not bother to remember) the names of four people I casually chatted with at a party, but I would probably remember the name of the idiot I argued with and certainly the name of that stunning woman who listened to the argument.

We do not forget how to walk or ride a bicycle or recite the alphabet or tie our shoes or speak our mother tongue because learning each of these things was the most important event going on in our lives at the time and we gave it our full attention.

We remember the names and faces of our high school classmates because socializing, making friends, was a key element of our maturing process at that period of our lives.

And we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing at moments of great national trauma—the beginning of a war, a terrorist attack, an assassination—because the event gripped us completely, grabbed our attention and therefore registered it in memory.

People in mid-life, working, studying, commuting, earning money and spending it, raising children, are plugged in to the world and are compelled to pay attention.  Then most of us retire and relax; one day becomes the next; and as the years go on, the total amount of everyday information we encounter piles up, repeated events and routine automatic tasks we’ve performed thousands of times are regarded as trivial, not worth a thought and therefore not worth a memory—until we need to remember one of them an hour later.

To avoid the senior moments we can obey the doctors and engage in some kind of activity that demands input from a wide-awake brain. But we don’t need to worry about those moments. It’s only if we forget new and important information that really interested us need we wonder whether a more sinister process may be going on inside.

Now I will put my glasses on my desk. Pay attention.

The Bored and the Cynical

My blog is a month old now and two dear friends whose opinions I value have weighed in with some private comments.

Friend One thinks the blog is boring because it just repeats the same concerns about the threats to our democracy.

Friend Two shares the concerns but points out that most people are only interested in their own comfort and well-being and won’t pay attention to these threats until it is too late.

The two friends don’t know each other but their timing was impeccable. Having just heard from Friend Bored I could not argue with Friend Cynical.  

This blog is not going to save the world, and I’m not going to shut up about the dangers I see.  So it’s obviously my job to alleviate the boredom and awaken the comfortable .  I’ll try to do that immediately by broadening the subject matter.  Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I refer Bored and Cynical and everyone else to my Quote For The Week, over there on the sidebar.

The Zimmerman Verdict

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Bruce DeSilva, an old A.P. hand I know, has provided the following succinct summary of the Zimmerman-Martin case. Only a journalist could lay it out so clearly.

“George Zimmerman was found not guilty because it was never clear who screamed for help, who threw the first punch, and whether Zimmerman was ever truly in fear for his life. No one could say for sure what occurred in the four minutes between the time Zimmerman got out of his car and the moment he fired his gun. What IS clear is that Zimmerman decided Trayvon Martin was a criminal based on nothing but his skin color, followed him in his car and then on foot in defiance of the police, and ended up shooting him dead. Zimmerman’s profiling and reckless behavior led directly to Martin’s death, and he deserves to be punished for it. Here’s hoping that this isn’t over — that the U.S. Justice Department will charge him with violating Martin’s civil rights and that the boy’s family will file a wrongful death suit.”

Old Tricks

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Some things never change.

A story in the Washington Post this week, Lack of candor on surveillance, explains how administration officials use classified briefings to hide domestic spying operations from the public and from Congress.

One Senator called the classified briefings of Congressional intelligence committees “a rope-a-dope operation.”  The committee members are given some information and then forbidden from discussing it with anyone else, thus rendering it useless for oversight or legislation.

It’s an old, familiar trick.  When I was a news correspondent in Asia during the Vietnam War era, American military, diplomatic, and intelligence officials used it regularly to try to prevent news organizations from reporting unpleasant or embarrassing–or downright scandalous–information.  Instead of “classified briefing,” the words to the press were “off the record.”

In an open press conference, with cameras and tape recorders rolling and all reporters invited, everything said could of course be quoted and attributed to the speaker.  But in smaller, more private sessions, often just for “trusted” American correspondents, the rules became more complicated.

“Background” was information you were given to help you “understand” the story, or at least to understand the story the way the official wanted you to understand it.  That was the “little bird told me” ploy.  You were not supposed to report that as coming from anywhere near your source though you could discuss it and refer to it obliquely in your story as something you just happened to know.

“Not for attribution” meant you could report everything that was said without identifying who had said it.  That was often useful to both sides after a measure of trust had been established: the official trusted the reporter to protect his source, the reporter trusted the source not to hide behind the gimmick to broadcast phony or distorted information.

Finally, “off the record” information was not to be used at all.  Bear in mind, this was not “Classified” or “Secret” material, which was never supposed to be given to us anyway. Most of the time it was simply information that the official did not want publicized, sometimes for good and honorable reason, often not. By telling us about it “off the record” the official was trying to keep the lid on it. Once we heard an off-the-record story we were stuck; even if we subsequently learned it somewhere else, we could not publish it without appearing to violate the agreed-upon rules, thereby endangering future access to useful sources and opening our story up to official denials.

Correspondents in those days seldom complained about that annoying trick.  We were supposed to dig for information and if we depended only on generals and ambassadors to tell us what was going on we were not doing our jobs.  Furthermore, if we suspected that the prohibited information was important we could preserve our freedom to act on it by interrupting and walking out of the room as soon as those three words were uttered.

But when the executive branch of government uses such tactics to hide the extent of its activities from the legislative branch, that threatens the separation of powers, the basis of our constitutional system of government. The members of the intelligence committees cannot just walk out of those briefings.  They need accurate and complete information.  If they cannot get the truth from the executive branch they are in trouble.  And so are we.

Race Hate Around the Corner

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I was stunned the other day to discover the depths of racial and religious hatred in a friendly neighbor who has been a casual guest in my home.

I’m not talking about the subtle prejudice we sometimes feel when dealing with a stranger of another race. Distrust or fear of the “other” is part of our evolutionary heritage.  It cuts each way, across all racial divides, and most of us modern folks can recognize it and put it aside and try not to let it affect our judgment or actions.

No, I am talking about something else: a stark, bitter racial hatred that I have not heard articulated since traveling through backward parts of the country 50 years ago.  This hatred is so much a part of the character of this person (whom I’ll just call “Bigot” here) that it is expressed openly, with conviction, certainty and passion.  To Bigot, blacks are “savages” and “criminals” who should all be put in jail.  Bigot taunts and makes off-color jokes about Moslems–even in the presence of a Moslem.  Bigot insists that our president, like all blacks, hates America–proven by his following of Jeremiah Wright.  Gays get it too.

I could go on, but you get the picture.  I am chagrined that during several hours of conversation over the last couple of months I did not pick up on Bigot’s hatred–until the other day when a news broadcast was on the TV and the mention of Obama set Bigot off.

Why am I so surprised by this?  I know race hatred exists.  Is it just that I am insulted to hear it in my own living room, in a part of the country not known for racial animosity?  Or have I lost something I used to have, a journalist’s ability to quickly pick up clues about another person’s attitude?  Or am I no longer paying enough attention to what’s going on around me?

More to the point, what do I do now about this “friendly” neighbor? Certainly Bigot is no longer welcome in my home.  Beyond that, do I just cut Bigot dead?  Do I just say hello when I see Bigot and walk right by?  Should I try to enlighten the hater?

Or should I just throw the hatred right back with a joke or two about Bigot’s own ethnic background? That one sounds like fun but I’m sure it’s not a good idea.

Fourth of July Quiz

Barbecues and fireworks aside, how much do we Americans remember about what we are celebrating on the Fourth of July?

Here’s a a short Independence Day quiz you can try out on yourself first, and then use it to test your friends. Americans who get more than one of these wrong should be ashamed of themselves.

Our friends from other countries are invited to play, but they won’t be punished for wrong answers.

1.Name the 13  colonies, the original states.

2. Where and when were the first shots of the War of Independence fired.

3 Which state was the 14th state.

4. The Declaration iof Independence as a document was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. When did the Continental Congress officially decide on and declare independence?

5. The Declaration lists the injustices that England’s King George inflicted on the colonies.  One injustice included in Thomas Jefferson’s original draft was deleted by vote of other delegates and thus does not appear in the Declaration. What was that deleted section about?

6. Which one of the following founding fathers did NOT sign the Declaration of Independence, and why not?
John Adams, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington.

‘”Answers to Quiz” up there on top

Let’s Cut to the Real Story

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The fate of Edward Snowden is again the Big Story.  I don’t know whether that is Snowden’s fault, or the media’s fault, or Wikileaks’ fault.  Or whether It may even reflect a deliberate campaign to distract us from what we should be talking about instead of debating whether the former NSA contractor goes to prison for breaking the law, or what government somewhere might grant him asylum. We should be talking about and debating the facts that Snowden revealed, not whether he is a whistle-blower or a traitor for revealing them.

Is it legal and proper for the NSA to maintain a huge database containing the telephone and internet records of everyone? Has that massive invasion of our privacy actually prevented any terrorist attacks?  If it has, is that a trade-off that we as a nation can afford? Are there adequate safeguards that prevent serious abuse of that information?  And should the American people and their representatives be kept in the dark about these matters?

Questions like those should be in the forefront of our discourse. The answers to them are much more important–to the future of the U.S.–than whether Snowden will spend the rest of his life in the transit lounge of a Moscow airport.