Why I Learned French

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Nineteen sixty-four, and I was flunking French. I don’t mean “doing badly,” but as in, getting straight Fs. The first assignment that freshman year was to read 70 pages of Le Rouge et le Noir of Stendhal, and to do it within 48 hours. They might as well have put me in an advanced Indonesian, for the preparation I had.

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Arounothay’s Tux

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Arounothay was a survivor of the Laotian holocaust of the 1970s. An economist, he was my upstairs neighbor at the university apartments in Brazzaville, the capital of the Little Congo. It’s hard to imagine a more misplaced individual, but he was teaching economics in a Marxist country. Marxist in name only. Of the horrors of the twentieth century, the Pathet Lao in Vientiane were up at the top in cruelty and murderous social engineering.

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An Appreciation of Pat Nixon

Pat_Nixon_1973Pat Nixon, stuck in the hell of public attachment to this American monster, carried herself with style and candor throughout. We now know that Pat Nixon trailed along her repellent husband even while discreetly maintaining separate living arrangements at the “Winter White House” in Key Biscayne. Continue reading An Appreciation of Pat Nixon

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

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. Continue reading Turning 50: The tragedy of Tonkin Gulf