Pundit Wire

Homicide Fine, Fax Not so Good

Yaoundé_ambaixada_EUAThe day came for the NEC opening. Our inspired ambassador thought to stage a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the old building site, symbolically showing that the closed off street downtown would revert back to the city, and traffic could flow once again. We got TV cameras ready, lined up taxis at both ends of the old embassy block. As the master of ceremonies, on cue I said into a loudspeaker, “Gentlemen, you may now pass.” Three taxis from each side of the street proceed through a previously closed area, showing it was now liberated for public use. It wasn’t much of a cymbal crash, but anyway it was on video tape for the local TV.

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Potato, Potahto, Monogamy, Polygamy

cohaset_narrowsFive of us sat at a lunch restaurant at a fishing village in Massachusetts, I think Cohasset. You can’t find a more congenial setting.

Three of them came from Sub-Saharan Africa, one from Tunisia. All were jurists on a study tour of the American court system. The Tunisian had been haranguing the three others for two weeks, proselytizing monogamy for their countries. They would have none of it. Polygamy suited them just fine. No woman was present to argue the other side. Nor, said one of the Sub-Saharan Africans, would they if they had the chance.

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Cable to Nowhere

Palacio_presidencial_de_HaitiContrary to a generosity of spirit in America, both our political parties have shown disdain for the underdog in foreign policy, kicking them in the teeth when empathy might be more in character. Bipartisan annoyance at the suffering of foreigners seems to twin our Left and Right.

Faced with the slaughter of a million Biafrans in 1967-70, Lyndon Johnson sided forcefully with Nigeria’s central government, saying of the Biafrans, “Get those [n…] children off my television set.”

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The Great James Baker

Baker JamesLots of Middle East peace meetings had failed, but this was “post-Oslo,” so there was some hope something might come of it this time.  There was cautious optimism all around.  We knew that none of the parties wanted to be there, but also that James A. Baker had forced them, one by one, into the room by persuasion and a little intimidation behind the scenes.  I think all the negotiators wanted the talks to fail, but no one wanted to be the one to blame if they did.

The Great Baker had gotten them together, and clutched them in his bullying embrace.  I remember him with his hands stretched out on the table in front of him, head poised like a reptile about to strike, glaring at every delegate individually with intense eye contact.  He looked like a pterodactyl about to pounce and kill.  A fearful silence took over the room.  Only Baker could pull this off.

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Overnight to Ystad

1The fate of Denmark’s Jews in October, 1943 was an anecdote in a sea of‎ malice. My Danish friend Michael was on one of those boats, the ones wandering around in the Øresund on a dark night in October, lights out lest the Nazi patrols find them, and also lost in an autumn storm, headed possibly for Sweden, but also possibly to Poland or Germany itself.

I asked Michael how it was that night, and he said, “I was two months old.”

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Also posted in Health | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

There They Go Again

unnamed-3This thing called the “international community” rises to clown-like behavior when Haiti has elections. They always did, and I hope they’ll give it up one day.

After six murders, scores of beatings, and one third of the ballots trashed in the streets, Haiti’s legislative elections August 9 were pronounced “a success” by the UN, Brazil, France, Canada, Spain, the United States, the EU, and the OAS. Read: “Good enough for Haitians.”

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Sometimes He Wondered

It’s hard not to pick favorites when a satisfying novel gets you intoworlds you haven’t inhabited. When a good one comes along, it seems to bring its own logic, “proof” of a mathematical process. A zero head in math, I am an easy victim of fictive manipulations. Show me a clever, false reality and I’ll fall for it.

In And Sometimes I Wonder About You, Walter Mosley takes us on a gallop through the range of human struggles, which collectively seem like nature’s senseless competition for survival. The hilarious and dense haste of it makes you say, “Now, what more is needed? Nothing much.” Good fiction gives you both questions and answers, but doesn’t tell you how they came.

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Voice of…Reason

vintage-radiosThere wasn’t much to do in Brazzaville in 1980. The little People’s Republic of the Congo faces the immense Zaire (the other, capitalist “Congo”), its capital Kinshasa visible in the distance
across the mighty Congo River.

I was supposed to be teaching English at the Université Marien Ngouabi, which disdainful expats called “Le Lycée…”

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