Heroism

Bon voyage! (Courtesy Matson Navigation Company) A few days ago I spotted a funny story on Facebook that reminded me of something a very brave man, Aba Taratuta, told me back in 1978 or thereabouts, when I was on the staff of the U.S. consulate-general in Leningrad (today again known by its original name, St. […]

The Unthinkable Happened … Now What Do We Do?

Mob invades U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021 I am appalled. We should all be appalled. But regrettably, that feeling is not universal. What am I appalled at? Two big unthinkables. Unthinkable No. 1: The mob’s assault on the U.S. Capitol. Even worse — the fact that the mob’s Cheerleader-in-Chief was the guy in the White […]

Bernie’s ‘Woke’ Fans Need Awakening

Mayor Bernie Sanders in Yaroslavl, USSR, in 1988 Now that Super Tuesday is behind us, voters in the upcoming Democratic Party primaries will have to choose between the two remaining viable candidates, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. In this post I’d like to make a small contribution to the effort to keep the nomination out […]

How to Ace a Job Interview — Part 1

Back in the spring of 1968 I had a big job interview — the oral portion of the U.S. Foreign Service exam. It was a long shot, and I was not expecting to pass. Still, I hoped I’d succeed, since work as a U.S. diplomat in embassies and consulates around the world would give me […]

Creating a ‘Newspaper’ for an Audience of One

Visualization of Soviet fighters intercepting KAL 902 I’ve begun reading a fascinating book, Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended, by Jack Matlock, who, as the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, 1987–91, had a bird’s-eye view of history in the making. I’m still in the early chapters of the book, but a few days ago […]

It’s a Turkey

Turkey With Thanksgiving just over the horizon, you can almost taste the turkey. Thanks to my having lived and worked in several countries in the first part of my career, I have a bit of personal history with the word for that bird. Peru It began in 1971 in Brazil. On my first Thanksgiving there […]

“Diplomatic” letters

Trump’s letter to Erdogan Among the flotsam and jetsam washed up on my computer screen by this week’s deluge1 of Trump-related news was a letter that the U.S. president wrote to his counterpart in Turkey, the bloody-minded, bloody-handed Recep Tayyip Erdogan.2 Much-criticized not only for its threatening content but also for its distinctly unpresidential tone […]

What I Learned in Pennsylvania About Saving Hawaii’s Whales

World’s first oil well, drilled in 1859 by Edwin Drake in Titusville, Pennsylvania Reflecting on my visit to Pennsylvania1 last month, I had an epiphany — that there is a special connection (though of course not a geographical one) between the Keystone State2 and the Aloha State. Let me begin with the conclusion I’ve reached about the […]

A Little-Heralded Footnote to Apollo 11

All the attention to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, reminds me of my own peculiar little footnote to this historic event. At the time, I was a Peace Corps volunteer living in the north-central Indian village of Rajnagar (rough translation: Kingston) where I was working, together with […]

Who Said History Is Boring?

Ilya Yefimovich Repin: Zaporozhian Cossacks Write a Letter to the Turkish Sultan Advisory: Despite this blog’s ordinarily being family-friendly, this post is not appropriate for readers under the age of 18 (no nudity, just language). The painting above is one of the strongest possible refutations of the notion that the study of history is dull […]