Filtering by Tag: booknotes

The Spoiled Children of Liberty

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Liked this bit from an interview with Midge Decter in October 2001:

I think we're living as people have never lived before. Never. And we don't know our way. We don't know how to do this. We don't know how to live into our 90s. We don't know how to live without physical suffering. We don't know how to accept hardship, and when it comes, it feels like an injustice. The things that people lived with always throughout history, we--we find ourselves cut off from the sources of human wisdom and experience because this life is so new and we are bewildered. I think we are.


Added on by C. Maoxian.

From this interview with Barbara Crossette:

“… but what is Americanization? You know, I'd say to people--they'd say, `Well, you know, Coca-Cola, you know, rock,' whatever. It--you know, it's not. It's--it is, but it isn't. And some of these things are--come from--it's human rights, it's the rule of law, it's the fact that the education system--we run it down all the time, but basically it works. Why do so many people want to come here? Because they know that when they come--if September comes around, the school's open and the children go to school, you turn the tap and the water comes out, electricity works, that the police have problems, but that there is a police force that, if your house is burglarized, you don't have to go down to the police station and bargain for how much money you have to pay for them even to register the case, people don't steal the stamps off your envelopes--I mean, the sense of civil society that works.”

I spent ten straight years in China, which made my love for America, and everything it stands for, that much stronger.

I also liked this line from her Singaporean friend, which is a folky version of 仓廪实而知礼节:

“When the tummy gets full, the mind gets hungry.”

Daily Civics Lesson

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Liz Trotta in 1991, pre-Internet

“[News] won't have to be packaged within 22 minutes anymore by seven or eight guys who think this is what your civics lesson should be for the day.“

And on Madame Nhu:

“The Dragon Lady, yes. She represented a sort of female Eastern viciousness and mystery and chicanery and betrayal and all the rest of it and they kind of focused all the animosity towards our allies in Madame Nhu.“

Praise in Public, Rebuke in Private

Added on by C. Maoxian.

From George Wilson's appearance on Booknotes in 1989:

"I think that American soldiers are American soldiers whether they be marines or infantrymen. And I have no worries about them running and letting us down. I have some worries about whether they are well enough lead. It seems to me we've gotten into this management syndrome where you give a guy a Rifle Company for a year or year and a half and then you put him in a Staff job then you send him to charm school you can't get get good leading troops and winning battles with all this turbulence at the top."

Invidious Urbanity

Added on by C. Maoxian.

From Roger Kennedy's appearance on Booknotes in 1989:

"LAMB: Monitor Radio -- there's some in our audience, like me, who remember Monitor Radio. Whatever happened to that? Why didn't it survive?

KENNEDY: Because in a commercial system, the notion that you could talk about a story as long as the story merits simply is unacceptable. Some things are worth talking about for, my goodness, four minutes or even six.

LAMB: Or even an hour.

KENNEDY: Yes, miraculously. Well, it's crazy. How are you going to get the commercial bites in there?

LAMB: When did it die?

KENNEDY: We fell off that train. Gosh, I don't remember because the management changed and we all departed in about '58. It may have gone on after that.

LAMB: Oh, it did. I remember.

KENNEDY: We didn't feel it was exactly the same."

The Deadly Combination of Atwater and Ailes

Added on by C. Maoxian.

From Jeanne Simon's appearance on Booknotes in 1989: 

"I cared about [civil rights] because as a Catholic, a Roman Catholic, I belonged to the Catholic Interracial Council on the North Shore -- before I was in politics. I could see for myself that we were not getting anywhere very fast. And long before I was elected I was working for interracial integration. But to meet Paul [Simon], who was really actively doing something at it, again was a marvelous combination. He was working with Lutheran Human Relations in his area before I met him. And when we both came to Springfield we thought that this was an ideal way to put some of our faith into practice by working for the Fair Employment Practice Commission -- for working for fair housing. Some of these phrases seem very old fashioned now, but in 1956, 1958, those were very important, and we needed them."

No Sense of Coherence

Added on by C. Maoxian.

From James MacGregor Burns' appearance on Booknotes in 1989:

"LAMB: [In your book you write] 'In the late 20th century, many Americans sense an intellectual, cultural, and political fragmentation and trivialization that pervades our public and private lives.' ... Is it in fact true that we're getting this?
BURNS: Yes. I think we're trivialized and fragmentized first of all governmentally and politically. We have that kind of system. But secondly our thinking tends to be, again as I was saying a moment ago, very specialized. We don't seem to have today the kinds of broad thinkers in so many different fields. You take a Walter Lippmann. I often disagreed with the guy, but you had a sense of a man who was thinking across a great body of thought. And some of the great philosophers of earlier days. To put this more broadly, Brian, I like to play a kind of a parlor game with people and that is to ask them if they are in a particular specialty -- whom do you remember? ... whom do you think will be remembered from this era 50 years from now in your field as we remember people from say 50 years back? As we remember, say, Lippmann, John Dewey in philosophy and architecture Frank Lloyd Wright; in musical comedy some of the great music ... you can go right across the board. It's quite fascinating and it's very hard to think of the people who will stand that test of time today."

Alan Greenspan's Happy Ending

Added on by C. Maoxian.

From Nathaniel Branden's (Blumenthal's) appearance on Booknotes in 1989:

"[Alan Greenspan] was a member of our circle brought in by another member of our circle. He was reading 'Atlas Shrugged' as it was being written. I kind of love the story of Alan because it was -- all in its own terms -- a happy story. Because what made it interesting is that when Ayn first met him in an elevator, or met him through this other person, she was kind of negatively impressed. I liked him initially a good deal more than she did. There were reasons she didn't like some of his ideas. He was a Keynesian economically. He wasn't what he is today politically or economically. And he also at that time was a supporter of a then fashionable philosophy called 'logical positivism,' which taught that you can be certain of nothing. You can know nothing for sure. You can't even be certain that you existed. 

So he and I would have rather hilarious conversations in which he would try to convince me that one couldn't know for a certainty that one existed. And my task was to see how irrational this was and to prove philosophically that one could have such knowledge for a certainty. Ayn thought I was quite mad to even waste my time talking to a person who would be saying he doesn't know if he exists or not. I kept saying -- listen, this is a very intelligent man. He is a good guy. You're going to see this story is going to have a very happy ending. And eventually he did change his ideas on these various subjects. He did become a very close friend of Ayn Rand. I think that she really cared for him a lot. And they were devoted until Ayn Rand died in 1982."

The Hard Driving Type

Added on by C. Maoxian.

From Robert Byrd's appearance on Booknotes in 1989:

"[Senator Mansfield had] kind of a laid back style. I served under both Mr. Johnson when he was Majority Leader and Mr. Mansfield. Mr. Johnson -- the hard driving type. The type who would twist arms, cajole, threaten, plead and drive. Mr. Mansfield was just the opposite. He believed in letting every Senator go his own way, make up his own mind. He didn't attempt to twist arms. I did the floor work. Mr. Mansfield was back in his office reading the press, papers, and books and so on. So they had their different styles. Both were good leaders."

Funny how Byrd ducks the question of what he thought about Joseph McCarthy. 

Unintended Fruits of the G.I. Bill

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Funny bit from the transcript of Robert Christopher's appearance on Booknotes in 1989: he lives in "Old Lawn, Connecticut" (not Old Lyme). He has a great smoker's voice ... and died three years later of emphysema. 

On the issue of "Jewish dominance of the American media" he had this to say:

"That's one of the oldest lines in the book. Henry Ford was convinced of that and so was Henry Adams. It simply isn't true. There are some of the powerful media that are owned by Jewish families. The New York Times and the Newhouse chain. But there are a number of others that are owned by WASPs. The whole Los Angeles Times company -- the controlling family there is WASP. Dow Jones which owns the Wall Street Journal is owned by a WASP family. First of all, you can't honestly state that any particular ethnic [or religious] group ... controls the bulk of the nation's most important publications. But more importantly you can't demonstrate that there's any real connection between the ethnicity [or religion] of publishers and the way their papers handle the news. In many cases it's interesting -- Dow Jones is a good case, and the Wall Street Journal is an interesting case in point. The owners are WASP. As it happens right now the Chairman of the Board and the Editor of the Journal are both Jewish."

No Such Thing as an Expert on Asia

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Some selected bits I liked from Stanley Karnow's appearance on Booknotes in 1989: 

"... [a writer is] a bit like a sculptor with this enormous piece of granite ... you've got to chip away at that granite in order to mold that sculpture, and that is a very hard process. 

I don't know any writer who thinks that writing is fun. It's hard work, and the way I do it is just as if I'm doing any other job. I get up in the morning and I have breakfast and read the newspapers and shave and shower and get dressed, but I go down in my cellar, where I have my study, and work. I try to get to my machine by 8 or 9 o'clock in the morning. Sometimes I'll run out of steam in the afternoon, but sometimes I'll go until midnight. But you have to treat it as a job; you have to be disciplined. You don't sit around waiting for inspiration. If you do, you're never going to get anything done because it's much more fun taking the dog out for a walk along the canal than sitting down there and writing."

"[MacArthur and Eisenhower] hated each other. They had terrible fights. Eisenhower was later asked, Did you ever know Gen. MacArthur? He said, 'Yes, I studied dramatics under him for seven years.' 

Years later when Eisenhower was president, somebody asked MacArthur if he had known Eisenhower, to which MacArthur replied, 'Best clerk I ever had.' There was something incompatible about their characters. MacArthur was a monumental egotist, a talented man, a skilled man in many ways. Eisenhower was essentially a rather modest man, and they disagreed over policy. "

"The interesting thing about the Asians -- the Chinese, the Japanese, the Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Cambodians, Indians, Pakistanis -- coming to the United States is they're coming in with all the old American virtues -- family, hard work, risks and endurance, stamina. I think they're making a positive contribution to this country."

Majoring in Jeffrey Hart

Added on by C. Maoxian.

From Greg Fossedal's appearance on Booknotes in 1989:

"... we have this image of the Voice of America as sort of simply being the counterpart to Soviet propaganda. That it's sort of supposed to repeat democratic slogans and tell people how much superior democracy is ... the interesting thing is that the radios seem to have the most impact when they are concentrating on conditions within those countries. It doesn't do somebody in Hungary much good to hear that Americans are more prosperous. What they need is ideas and facts about how to incrementally reform the communist system ... our radio very aggressively and in some detail and with some thought behind it reported on those [incremental economic reforms in Poland and elsewhere]. And reported on how people were organizing in other countries and within Hungary how alternative parties were forming to the communist party. And this information was critical to the formation of those democratic movements."

Making America Great Again

Added on by C. Maoxian.

From James Fallows' appearance on Booknotes in May 1989, discussing his book, More Like Us: Making America Great Again:

"If there's someone [in the audience] who is ... an unmarried person or a childless couple especially in your 20's or 30's that has some freedom, go to Japan because you can get a job in a short time teaching English. And while you are making money teaching English you can learn Japanese. And then when you've done that there are a million things you can do there. And you will have a sense of knowing what the future is like because America will be dealing with Japan. So go."

The Nikkei 225 peaked at 38,957 in December 1989, so I think he left almost exactly at the top. I was in college studying Chinese in 1989, having wisely? anticipated that Japan was peaking, and Japanese wasn't the language a young man should be studying then. 

Fallows lived in China for some of the years that we were there (2005-2015) and I remember enjoying a talk he gave at the Bookworm. Thoughtful guy, hyper-articulate, we're lucky that he has been interested in Asia and writing about it for the last thirty years.   

The Rise of the Corporate General

Added on by C. Maoxian.

From David Hackworth's appearance on Booknotes in 1989:

"This tragedy that occurred started in 1946 when we took our Officer Corps and started this business of making everybody a diplomat and a warrior which ended up under Maxwell Taylor when he became Chief of Staff. Our Generals became corporate generals rather than the fighting generals of type that won World War II. The Ridgeways and the Pattons and so on."

Hackworth on military decorations:

"... take Admiral Crowe who is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On his jacket it's ablaze with medals. 31 of them. But there's not one for a combat deed. They're all having-been-there awards. You're-a-good-guy award. You-moved-some-paper-across-your-desk-in-a-neat-way award....

Just like when Admiral Crowe perhaps appears in front of Congress, those are his credentials, and those Congressmen don't know they are just having-been-there awards. When he says we need this they believe that he knows what he's talking about from the standpoint of being on a battlefield. So I think that we've kind of put our award system at a cross purpose. Grenada -- there were 7,000 men on that island. They gave 8,000 awards. There were 200 enemy Cuban soldiers or so on that island. And they gave 200 awards for valor. One per enemy soldier. 

... I think we need to go back and clean up our act on awards and just give awards to soldiers. The final line on awards is to me the only award ... that really means something to warriors is the Purple Heart and above that, the Combat Infantry Badge. That means I've been there."

Disciplined By Deadlines

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Henry Brandon shares his opinion of Jimmy Carter in this 1989 appearance on Booknotes:

"I had a feeling that Carter suffered from an inner insecurity. If you watched him on television there was an expression of anxiety usually in his face. We were ... talking about [what] a leader needs and he needs to project inner self confidence and Carter did not. I think Carter would have made a very good Secretary of State because he was a good negotiator. He proved that in the Camp David negotiations for instance. But I don't think he had the stature for the Presidency."

Authors' Closing Words

Added on by C. Maoxian.

A running collection of closing words from the authors interviewed on Booknotes … this also serves as a record of all the episodes of Booknotes that I have viewed:

  • Zbigniew Brzezinski -- "I enjoyed it. Thank you."

  • Judy Shelton -- "My pleasure. Thank you for having me."

  • Bruce Oudes -- "You're quite welcome."

  • Susan Moeller -- "Thank you, sir."

  • Henry Brandon -- "Thank you for asking me."

  • David Hackworth -- "My pleasure."

  • James Fallows -- "Thank you. It's been a great pleasure."

  • Gregory Fossedal -- "Thanks for having me."

  • Stanley Karnow -- "Thank you, Brian."

  • James MacGregor Burns -- "Thank you."

  • Robert Christopher -- "It was a lot of fun. Thank you."

  • Robert Byrd -- "Thank you very much. Thank you."

  • Nathaniel Branden -- "I really enjoyed this. It was absolutely, from my point of view, wonderful. Very relaxed, very easy, very natural, I don't know how it even sounded to you, but whatever your personal agenda was, I had a very good time."

  • Roger Kennedy -- "Thank you."

  • George Wilson -- "Thank you."

  • Jeanne Simon -- [interview cut off]

  • Gina Kolata — “Thank you.”

  • Clifford Stoll — “Many thanks to you. I appreciate it.”

  • Hilary Hinton ‘Zig’ Ziglar — “Thank you very much.”

  • Jennifer Toth — “Thank you.”

  • Robert Wright — “Thank you.”

  • Ted Yeatman — “Thank you.”

  • Ellen Joan Pollack — “Thank you.”

  • Roy Morris, Jr. — “Thank you for having me.”

  • Peter Charles Hoffer — “Thank you.“

  • Linda Greenlaw — “Thank you.”

  • Jill Jonnes — “Thank you so much for having me.”

  • Simon Worrall — “Thank you, Brian. It was a pleasure. Thanks.”

  • Liz Trotta — “Thank you, Brian.”

  • Malcolm Wilde Brown — “Thank you very much for having me.”

  • Fitzhugh Green — “….“

  • Adam Bellow — “Thank you, Brian.” | 2019 Jan 28

  • Walter Berns — “…” | 2019 Jan 30

  • Carl Cannon — “Thank you.” | 2019 Feb 6

  • Robert Conquest — “…” | 2019 Feb 7

  • Barbara Crossette — “Thank you.” | 2019 Feb 8

  • Midge Decter — “…” | 2019 Feb 13

Duty and Destiny

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Here are some of the bits I liked best from Susan Moeller's appearance on Booknotes, discussing her cleverly titled book, "Shooting War: Photography and the American Experience of Combat."  [emphasis mine

[Talking about a photo printed in Life Magazine in September 1943]
"MOELLER: The reason it's pivotal is that it was one of the first three photographs that were released of the American dead. So it's the first time in 50 years that Americans saw Americans who had been killed in combat. Up to that 1943 date, censorship for World War II was the same as for World War I. You couldn't show graphic pictures of any kind."
"World War II was the war that everyone felt needed to be fought. It was a good war. But the Korean War people had much more ambivalent feelings about -- so the photographs that came back mirrored the ambivalence."
[Discussing the controversial photograph of a South Vietnamese general using a revolver to shoot an alleged Viet Cong lieutenant in the head, in the street.]
"MOELLER: Well, it was very controversial for all kinds of reasons. It raised questions about how far photography go. How much should the media show us. But more importantly than the journalistic issues, it raised questions about was this a war that condoned that kind of action. Was that a war that Americans wanted to participate in?
LAMB: I can even remember -- and this is 20 years later -- that it was General Loan.
MOELLER: It was General Loan.
LAMB: I mean, did it have that kind of an impact on all us?
MOELLER: Yes. It really did."

There's video footage of that execution, which I have unfortunately seen, not just still photos. It's probably on YouTube, if you're inclined to search for it.

Nixon and the Carrot and Stick Technique

Added on by C. Maoxian.

From an interview with Bruce Oudes in 1989 [emphasis mine]:

"Lou Harris, of course, is a pollster and he was putting out some polls in '70 and '71, I believe it was, that were very -- that Nixon thought were rather unfair, didn't cast Nixon in as fair a light as possible. So what happened was a campaign to put a bit of political arm on Mr. Harris. He was stroked on the one hand. The trip to Moscow, invitation to the White House, that kind of thing. But by the same token, it is very clear in these memos and materials that he was also threatened by the loss of the contracts that he held with some government agencies. And it is certainly for Mr. Harris himself to say how much he was or was not influenced by all this pressure. But you see from the documents themselves the fact that there was considerable pressure. And that he certainly in his responses to the White House seemed to change his attitude quite substantially before the '72 campaign."

Suckers Give Succor to the Soviet Union

Added on by C. Maoxian.

Judy Shelton tells a story about her trip to Russia in 1987:

"Things were worse than I expected [in Russia]. My study was based on numbers and looking at government figures and statistics. When you see economic problems on paper, it doesn't hit you as hard as when you go out and see decrepit buildings and lousy roads. Most telling was we had wonderful guides both in Moscow and Leningrad, and the young lady who took care of us in Moscow, she accompanied us to dinner and at the end of the meal sitting on the table was a little stand with some bad peaches. I mean, visibly rotting-with-holes-on-them peaches. 

And we had had a sumptuous meal and our guide wasn't interested in having any, but she looked around at the end of the meal and she whispered, 'Are you going to eat that fruit?' And we said, 'No, no we're not.' She said, 'Would you mind if I had some?' 'Of course, help yourself.' And she looked around and she opened her big bag and she dumped it into her bag and the next morning told us her son thanked us, her mother thanked us, her father thanked us, and it was the first fruit they'd had that year."