Pundit Wire

Faulkner Trending

Carl_Van_Vechten_-_William_FaulknerThere’s a note trending now among forty former practitioners of public diplomacy, each one narrating zany experiences in the field from the glory days from when the United States “did” culture overseas.  Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, and others went at great personal and financial sacrifice to serve their country by charming publics in hostile nations, and freeing the human spirit in ways that transcended political differences.  They were great heroes, yet to be replaced as we seek to tweet ourselves out of the Islamic State and Putinism.  Long may our efforts live, and all power to the tweet if that is what strikes people’s consciousness, really.

We know that William Faulkner used to chart out his drinking binges on the calendar.  Faulkner was America’s Proust. His Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1950 was possible only through the connivance of his family, who X’d out dates on the calendar and deceived him to think it was a week later than it really was.  This is good urban myth but I take it as true.  December 10 he gave one of the most memorable of Nobel speeches, speaking of “the ding-dong of doom” in an age of nuclear proliferation bringing humans to the brink of annihilation.

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This Happened March 20, and It Could Happen to You

stealing-294489_640Land line rings at 3:00 p.m.  Usually I’m out at that hour, but I happen to be on a brief pass-through at my house, and I take the call on the fourth ring.

“The Internal Revenue Service is filing a lawsuit against you for non-payment of $6000 in taxes.  You must call the following number…”

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“What essential right can you deny to an alien?”

Portrait_of_William_Bourke_CockranTo celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this post will honor the memory of a neglected Irish-American statesman and orator: William Bourke Cockran (1854-1923).
Cockran was born in Country Sligo, Ireland. He emigrated to America at age 17, settling in New York. There, he became a successful lawyer, a member of Congress, and a friend and confidant of some of the leading men of the time, including inventor Thomas Edison, publisher Joseph Pulitzer and Presidents Grover Cleveland and Teddy Roosevelt. He also became known as America’s greatest living orator. (No less a rhetorical titan than Winston Churchill would call Cockran his “model.”)

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“Worse than a crime…”

Tom_Cotton_113th_CongressCurrent calls to prosecute the 47 Republican senators who signed the “Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” under the Logan Act are just so much hot air.

The Logan Act reads as follows: “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

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When Actors Talk about National Health Systems

rexfeatures_1523447dActor Michael Sheen makes a ‘blistering’ speech about the UK National Health Service. Hurrah! If only our milksop politicians would have a bit of that passion and sincerity!

Or not.

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The True Believer, Revisited

15916The New York Times ran a front page article on February 18, chronicling the lives of three Egyptian youths, one of whom turned jihadist and went to fight for ISIS in Syria.

The three young men were friends. All of them came from middle-class backgrounds. All of them were devout Muslims, and all of them struggled to square the strictures of puritanical Islam with the attractions of the secular world—in particular, the sexual impulses they shared as normal young men. All of them had difficulty finding work in Egypt’s uncertain economy, and all of them were disillusioned when Egypt’s army took power and suppressed the militant Islamic Brotherhood.

Photo: Harper & Brothers

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Sun Tzu in a Cubicle (Part Two)

Unknown-15I was trained to manage within rules rather than accepting them unquestioningly.  Gravity, for example, doesn’t always work in my favor, but I see there isn’t much point in trying to defy it.  At least without some sort of plan, like Bernoulli’s Principle, which keeps airplanes up there. This is above my pay grade.

So when I wrote a book later, in 2003, about U.S. policy in Haiti, the point was not to challenge any system.

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PULLING OUR PUNCHES IN PARIS AND BEYOND

images-6The circulation numbers for the first issue of Charlie Hebdo since the Paris massacre have reached 7 million, according to news reports — which means the next group of jihadists will have to buy a helluva lot more ski masks.

I wouldn’t put it past them, though. Jihadists hate leaving a job unfinished, as we learned in 2001. And now that 7 million people have a cartoon image of the prophet Mohammed resting on their coffee tables and toilet tanks, they have a lot more work to do.

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