Pundit Wire

Remembering Todman

todman The August 17 Washington Post carries a fine obit on Terence A. Todman, deceased August 13. No quibbles with Emily Langer’s synthesis of this remarkable man, my first boss in 1986 in the Foreign Service.  Just a few footnotes to add:

I was Ambassador Todman’s press officer the day he gave his fateful news conference in Copenhagen, denying that his future posting would be South Africa…

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Save Elves Chasm!

Elves Chasm Last Sunday, as I was reading the New York Times, I came across an opinion piece by writer Kevin Fedarko called, “A Cathedral Under Siege.” It was about two proposed developments that threaten the integrity and the beauty of America’s Grand Canyon.

One of these developments is the erection of 2,200 homes and an accompanying three million square feet of shops, hotels and other tourist attractions on the South Rim plateau, less than two miles from the park’s entrance. This development, which has been approved by the local community of Tusayan, will tap into the aquifer that feeds many of the springs deep inside the canyon.

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Who will govern England if the Scots split?

Parliament All kinds of questions are being asked about what will happen if Scotland votes to leave the United Kingdom on September 18. How will the national debt and the North Sea oil and gas reserves be divided? What about fishing rights? Will Scotland be allowed to keep the pound? Where will the Royal Navy base its nuclear submarines, since they are not welcome in Scotland? What will the remainder of the United Kingdom do for a flag if the white cross of St. Andrew on a blue field is ripped from the Union Jack?

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War, Liberalism, Trust in Government: The Many Casualties of LBJ’s Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

Johnson Fifty years ago, on August 10, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed what is known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. It is a day that should live in infamy.

On that day, the President gave himself the power “to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed forces,” to fight the spread of communism in Southeast Asia and assist our ally in South Vietnam “in defense of its freedom.”

Or as former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara put it decades later, it gave “complete authority to the president to take the nation to war.”

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Turning 50: The tragedy of Tonkin Gulf

Tonkin Gulf They came in from the west: three North Vietnamese patrol boats, halting five miles from the USS Maddox. The Maddox fired first. One Vietnamese boat launched a torpedo. Then the boats raced away, strafed by U.S. jets. One boat sank.

So, at least on the first day there was a battle. A few nights later President Lyndon Johnson was on TV, describing two attacks, reassuring Americans we “seek no wider war,” and asking Congress for the power to take “all necessary measures” against “open aggression on the high seas against the United States of America.” A year later, we had almost 200,000 troops in Vietnam.

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How to Stop Students Peeping at Their Mobile Phones?

cell phone in class One of the worst things about being a teacher or trainer these days is the fact that the joys of the classroom have to compete with Rival Attractions.

Back in the 1960s when I was at school in St Albans in England, our Maths teacher kept steely control. When (as he invariably did) he spotted you fiddling with something beneath the level of your desk instead of paying attention, he would stroll across the classroom to where you were sitting. He would then daintily pick up the offending object between thumb and forefinger, give you a nod of thanks, walk across to the window, drop the article out of the window.

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Please manipulate me

opi_fb-marty_71414_539_332_c1 What do you call it when media try to manipulate your feelings without first asking for informed consent?

Tuesday.

Example: The average Facebook user sees only 20 percent of the 1,500 stories per day that could have shown up in their news feed. The posts you receive are determined by algorithms whose bottom line is Facebook’s bottom line.

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Liberty, Equality and Barbarity

Bastille Day July 14 is Bastille Day, the day on which the people of France celebrate the storming of the Bastille and the revolution that gave the world “liberty, equality and fraternity.”  That, at least, is the version we get in the history books.  But the French Revolution was a good deal more complex than that.  And so I am going to devote today’s post to an episode from the Revolution that most history books either gloss over or omit altogether.  It’s something called the War of the Vendée.

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