In 1943, Walter Lippmann penned the classic treatise U.S. Foreign Policy. This is a must-read for any foreign policy wonk.  The pivotal message of this work is that America must always act in its national interest. If there is no national interest, then there need be no action (or “taking the bait“).

When it comes to Syria – or other trouble spots – just what is our “national interest“?  Is there merit to telling Europeans that “Syria is in your back yard. You guys handle it“?   Would it be better to sit back like we are watching a football game and let matters take their course?  What should America do?  America readies action against Syria — in spite of strong objections from Russia, China, the Arab League and a great many others.  In spite of a disjointed (many say “nonexistent”) foreign policy and without clear policy objective – we prepare to march off as the world’s moral authority.  Risking everything.  

In 1975, we extricated ourselves from Viet Nam and Southeast Asia. What happened? There was genocide on a cosmic scale.  In Cambodia 1.7 million people (20% of the country’s population) were slaughtered by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.  And America did nothing.  After we left Viet Nam, as many as 2 million civilians were murdered by the Hanoi government.  America did nothing.  During a horrific 100 days in 1994, over 500,000 Tutsis were massacred by rival Hutus in Rwanda.   And America twiddled its thumbs.   In a situation like Syria where the casualties number in the thousands is it in America’s national interest to send in the missiles?  Or troops?  To bomb?  Support rebels?  Should we get involved at all?  In Egypt, we grandly supported the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.  Mohammed Morsi was elected President.  And within one year, he was out in a violent overthrow.  And Egypt still reels from violence and uncertainty.        

I’m not sure of the answer but unless our national interest is directly at stake, I’m inclined to watch from the sidelines.  In the upper balcony. . . . . 


When I go on vacaction, I’m looking for a place like . . .well, like Shangri-La.  Heck – maybe I’d like to move there.  When I was little,  my father would sing a song that included the term “Shangri-La.”  He would do a lot of humming and then belt out “Shangri-La.”   You hear the term every once in awhile so I thought this might be an interesting post.   

The term “Shangri-La” is a actually fictional location first mentioned in the book Lost Horizon (1933) by British author James Hilton.  The place is described as a mystical paradise – isolated and insulated from the rest of the world.  Everyone in Shangri-La is permanently happy and the people live beyond their lifespans — aging slowly and joyfully.   

Shangri-La is reputed to be situated on the western end of the Kunlun Mountains in China.  Many villages and locales have claimed to be THE Shangri-La but so far there is nothing definitive.  Hilton said he was inspired to invent – and write about – “Shangri-La” after reading articles in National Geographic Magazine about the travels of botanist/ethnologist Joseph Rock.  But Hilton died in 1954 so he’s not talking. 

There are dozens of contemporary references to “Shangri-La.”  President Franklin Roosevelt, who was fond of Hilton’s novel, named the Presidential retreat (now “Camp David”) “Shangri-La” in 1942.  After the Doolittle raid on Tokyo in 1942 (“Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo”), when asked where the bombers came from, he quipped “Shangri-La.”  Later in the War, the U.S. Navy launched an aircraft carrier of that name thanks to FDR’s reference.  It would sure be nice if Washington could become a Shangri-La but I wouldn’t count on it. . . .         

Stop & Frisk

Years ago, when I was an Assistant States Attorney, I occasionally rode along with Chicago Police. One day, we were driving on West 18th Street. Suddenly, the officer in the front seat pointed at a car going in the opposite direction and hissed “They’re dirty.” We squealed a U-turn, going boots and saddles (lights and siren). The car stopped, officers hopped out – guns drawn. In the car were two gang bangers (both with records), drugs and two sawed off shotguns.  I often wonder whose life was saved that day.

New York City’s murder rate has fallen from the thousands to a few hundred thanks to stop & frisk “with reasonable suspicion.”  The bad guys don”t know when they’ll be stopped so they’re not packing.  Chicago on the other hand is the murder capital of the (un)civilized world. Thousands of shooting victims. Many innocent.  Many spontaneous.  Explosions of gunfire.  Especially in poorer neighborhoods.  But of course Chicago doesn’t have stop & frisk.  As it “may offend.”  Result?  Gangs rule.  Senseless violence.  Mayhem.  Butchery.  Death.  And Chicago continues sliding into the abyss.

Police are not the problem.  Criminals are the problem.  The bad guys.  Chicago gun laws are the most stringent in the country yet the bad guys have guns.  But in Chicago, there’s no deterrent for the bad guys who carry them.  And then use them. 

Obviously it’s a tough situation.  There are no easy solutions to this problem but ignoring stop & frisk as an option is madness.  I cannot fathom the mindset of those misguided souls who oppose stop & frisk with reasonable suspicion.  If they want to debate the statistics or the Fourth Amendment issues, they will lose.  

Avocados for Breakfast

This sounds like the title of a steamy romance novel set in Northern California.   “Hey Martha, would you like an avocado for breakfast?”  “Oh Henry, you sweet talker. . . . ”  

I have breakfast every morning.  But for my breakfast, you’d probably make a face – shake your head – and say “You gotta be kidding.”

I try to eat a healthy breakfast.  Oh I know – if there’s leftover pizza or spaghetti carbonara in the fridge, I may grab that and some coffee.  But that stuff doesn’t make for a sparky day.  My breakfast usually consists of high fiber (bran) cereal, blueberries or banana and coffee. Maybe once or twice a week, I will have an avocado (with a little Newman’s salad dressing) and a banana. And the obligatory coffee.  More and more though I’m drifting toward avocados for breakfast. . . . . 

Avocados are a magnificent food.  One of the healthiest you can eat.  And avocados are among the least contaminated so there’s really no need to buy organic (see post of July 12, 2012, for the “Dirty Dozen” foods which you do not want to buy “conventional”).  And avocados are simply delish.  I often make my own guacamole (smooshed avocado, finely-chopped cilantro and lime juice – that’s it) and have it for a meal.  Heck – guacamole for breakfast?  It doesn’t get any better.   

They Dwell Among Us . . . .

I’ve seen silly emails circulated with this title.  I always delete them as I’ve felt the stories are so farfetched as to be unbelievable.   Until Monday. 

Scout’s Honor. I was on the train on Monday. Heading home after a long day.  The train was crowded with a few folks standing in the aisles.  This 30’ish woman sits down next to me. She takes an orange VISA credit card from her purse and – holding it in her hand – pulls out her cell phone and dials a number. And then in a voice loud enough to be heard 3 or 4 rows away, she says she has a question on her credit card.   She needs detail on the last dozen or so transactions.  And she repeats the card number into the receiver. THEN (as if that’s not enough) after a pause, she repeats a family name and a calendar date (presumably security codes). Then (of course) she read off the three digit security code on the back of the card (“uhmm lemme see. . . two three eight . . . no THREE eight“). For the next 15 minutes, with phone shouldered to her ear, she proceeded to dialogue on the telephone in this highly public place about questioned purchases (one charge was – I kid you not – 9 cents).  She’s writing them down.

I do not believe we should have educational tests or intelligence tests or any other criteria (than citizenship) for a person to vote.  But maybe there is something to having a “Stupid” test.  This woman would be the poster girl.  Not that it would matter with the characters we have in our government. 

By the way, I bought a great bunch of new books on line, some shoes for Donna, a new Martin guitar, I booked us a trip to Europe and I . . . . . OOOOPS  . . . never mind. . . .    


In my post of October 4, 2012, I talked about how the four blood types vary in terms of vulnerability to certain foods. O (the oldest blood type) is robust and needs animal protein; A is more fragile and has some issues with animal protein (especially the 4-legged variety); for B, chicken is a red flag which can cause health complications; and AB has diminished stomach acid and thus should avoid certain foods.

One of the interesting adjuncts to studies on blood type is the effects of wheat and gluten.  For type A, gluten is usually just fine but for types O and B, gluten can cause inflammation of joints and exacerbate arthritis.  This gluten intolerance is not a result of celiac disease – the autoimmune disorder of the small intestine which causes severe inflammation resulting from gluten (wheat).  It is just that gluten-intolerance can result in aggravation of arthritis and a painful increase in joint and muscle issues.

Donna is type O.  And she has had issues with joint and muscle issues (as well as arthritis).  So she has been steering away from gluten for a while.  However one weekend – after a gluten overload of pasta, breads and other grains, she could barely walk.  The pain neared a ten.  Off gluten again, the pain receded and things were good.  Today, Donna – a type O – is just fine with all manner of proteins, potatoes, vegetables and such but she is on the wagon when it comes to gluten.  And she is feeling better. 

Any type O or B who is having issues with joint inflammation and pain might consider going cold turkey on gluten.  Just to try.  There’s no cost, no risk and it just might help.   But don’t take my word for it.  Google the operative words gluten inflammation or gluten arthritis and reach your own conclusions.     

My Brother was Killed in the Civil War

Let’s say you meet a chap (his name is “Frank”) who tells you that his brother was killed in the Civil War.  Possible??  The quick answer is sure.  This was a question I recall hearing in grade school or high school though at that time, the brother was killed in the Revolutionary War. 

Frank is 90 years old (born in 1923).  When Frank was born, his father was 90 years old (born in 1833).  Frank’s father first married in 1850 and promptly had a son who became a drummer boy during the Civil War (1861-1865).  In 1863 at the terrible Battle of Gettysburg, the young man – age 12 – was killed in an explosion.  Frank’s father had a few more children, his wife died in 1915 and he remarried to a young woman and in 1923, Frank was born.  Thus if you meet Frank and he says “My brother was killed during the Civil War,” you’d best believe it.   🙂    

Nikes – and I ain’t talkin’ shoes. . . . .

When I was very young, I would sometimes visit the Museum of Science and Industry at 57th and Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.  As we rounded the last turn of LSD, we would pass Promontory Point.  And I would stare as we passed.  Because there they were — large radar units and imposing batteries of Nike missiles pointed skyward.   Site C-41 was part of the Army Air Defense Command (ARADCOM).  C-41 was just one of many Nike batteries in Chicago’s Cold War missile defense shield from 1953 to 1971.   There were Nike missile batteries and radar units literally ringing the Chicago area (and surrounding every major city in America).   Waiting.  Watching.  Vigilant.  Prepared to dispatch hordes of missiles skyward at the first sign of a Russian attack.  

I also remember a similar installation across from Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights.  This military compound (C-80) was opened in 1942 to hold about 75 German prisoners of war.  It debuted as a Nike site in 1955.  Today, there are few remnants left of this part of America’s history.  A few old buildings.  Some concrete slabs.  A few photos like the one below.  And the memories of those who remember. . . . .        


You meet someone you know in a faraway place. Wow! What a coincidence. You meet someone that has your name. Wow! What a coincidence.  We’ve all had that moment of coincidence when we slap our forehead and go “that’s pretty cool.” 

I’ve had my share of coincidences but none more profound than happened when I was dating this girl I’d met on a blind date.  Donna.  I was in law school and she in grad school.  Donna had a subscription to the Lyric Opera.  One seat in the upper balcony.   I asked her where she sat.  “Maybe I’ll come join you one of these evenings” I offered.  She handed me an old ticket stub and I stuck it in my pocket.  A few weeks later, a night class was canceled and I had the evening off.   I thought tonight’s Donna’s opera night.  I’ll go to the opera.  So I walked over to the Lyric’s box office and was directed to the 7th floor (as I recall) where there was a ticket office.   I pulled out the dog-eared ticket stub and handed it to the woman behind the counter.  “I’d like to get the seat next to this one for tonight.”  The woman looked at me like I was an idiot.  “Sir, tonight is Rigoletto.  We’ve been sold out for six months.  And we have a loooong waiting list.”   At that moment, the stars and planets fell into alignment.  All of the sages of the ages seemed to nod in somber agreement.  At that very moment as I was about to turn away, a woman walked from behind a partition and said “here’s a cancellation.”  And handed the woman I’d been talking to a piece of paper.  The woman looked at it.  And then at my ticket stub.  “Oh my. . . .” was about all she could say.  The cancellation happened to be precisely, exactly, the seat next to Donna’s seat. 

The woman looked at me.  “I know we have a waiting list but I’m not sure I could give this to anyone else. . . under the circumstances.”  And she sold me the ticket for Rigoletto.   I arrived late.  The lights were out.  And I sat down, waited a brief moment and grabbed her leg.   She jumped and let out a whoop like Gilda, the soprano.  And the rest – as they say – is history.  What a coincidence. . . .