BOOK REVIEW: Peter Watson’s “Fallout” shows how the nuclear world we got didn’t have to be this way—and doesn’t

As the Justice Department investigations and Congressional hearings into Watergate closed in, Richard Nixon—as a brag—once said something to the effect of, “I can go into my office and pick up the telephone and in 25 minutes, millions of people will be dead.”

That was when he was sober. In the depths of his stress and depression, the U.S. president was also mixing alcohol and sleeping pills, and his natural paranoia became even worse.

“He really got paranoid when he got three drinks in him. There are things I’m not even going to discuss that were said, but they were the result of drinking. He could not handle drink,” one of Nixon’s political strategists said.

Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Peter Watson’s “Fallout” shows how the nuclear world we got didn’t have to be this way—and doesn’t”

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‘Panzram: A Journal of Murder’ & light in the darkness

‘There is nothing to history. No progress, no justice. There is nothing but random horror.’
The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling

Carl Panzram is one of the worst human beings ever to have lived.

If I were asked to name the face of evil, probably I’d say something like Adolf Hitler or if I were feeling more clever, Joseph Stalin or someone else universally considered a despicable human being who was responsible for the deaths of millions or tens of millions of people.

Stalin seemed to have been deeply, genuinely in love with his first wife. Hitler seemed to have a place of sincere kindness in him for dogs and secretaries.

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Torture is awful and we should never do it — unless we have to

It might have been more topical to write a column about the swine/Mexican/North American/H1N1 flu, but I’m sick of it. At this point, the panic seems to be more virulent than the virus, but then again, overreactions can only exist in retrospect.

That’s as close to a segue as I think I can manage, so I’ll just go with it. Some people are now looking back on the anti-terrorism policies and actions of 2001 and 2002 as excessive at best and literally criminal at worst, and at the center of all of it is the supposed torture of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and elsewhere.

Justifiably, it’s a very contentious and complicated issue, even when discussed civilly and with intellectual honesty. Mutually exclusive good principles sometimes butt heads, and this is unavoidable. Most of the time, the conversation is cast to make the opposing views look evil or ridiculous, but this isn’t helpful.

Continue reading “Torture is awful and we should never do it — unless we have to”