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John Graham
2,237 followers -
adventurer, former diplomat, author, activist
adventurer, former diplomat, author, activist

2,237 followers
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I was interviewed last night on Russia Television's (RT's) global news show on the subject of the West's vigorous response to the nerve gas attack on a former Russian double agent in the UK. This time, in the middle of the joust, the anchor cut me off. But I think I said what had to be said—to a million people. You judge.
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https://www.theheroforge.org/podcast/2017/8/16/episode-036-john-graham

This podcast is the first of a two-part interview with me done by Heroes Forge, a well-known organization based in the UK.
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Nevado de Colima, Mexico. Photo by Arguer.
Get in the car, kids. This one is about to blow. #johnontheedge
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The new Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War is very good and I urge all to watch it, Maybe more importantly, I urge all to urge the younger people you know to watch it. I worry that not many will (it is 18 hours long). But its lessons are crucial for America’s present and its future.

I remember the hand-written notice tacked up at the 25th reunion of my Harvard class in 1989,, advertising an exploratory meeting any who had served in Vietnam. I went, expecting maybe 4-5 people (this was Harvard, after all) but there were 20, including me, who never wore the uniform but for 18 months was stationed in Hué, in a very difficult and violent part of the country.

What was supposed to be an “exploratory meeting” that day went on for two hours. It seemed that very few of us had ever found “safe” venues to talk about our experiences–until that meeting at Harvard. So, haltingly at first, we talked. Some people cried. Some raged.

I doubt any of us had ever sought help in dealing with our experiences. PTSD had not been “officially“diagnosed” when most of us got back. I remember walking on the shadow side of the streets in Palo Alto California after the war, to avoid sniper fire. And the hair on my neck standing up every time I heard a traffic helicopter. I remember the sound a bullet made when it whistled past my ear.

As I type this I’m looking at a handwritten letter framed on my wall. It is a note of thanks from a young woman named Cai Thi Nhu Quynh. I stuck my neck out to save her from torture and death in the “tiger cages” of Con Son Island because I knew from my own counterintelligence efforts that she was not the VC spy the ARVN said she was.

So far I find the Burns documentary a brilliant, gutsy, unvarnished story of how idealism can lead to bad outcomes, how good people can get sucked into the worst of ventures, how the “best and brightest” can get everything so wrong, how foolish it is to ignore the lessons of history…Such huge opportunities missed in the late 40’s. If only Truman had had the guts to tell deGaulle to take his dream of regaining empire and shove it.

And the domino theory?? I thought about that one as my wife Ann and I walked through the Gucci shop in Ho Chi Minh City last year. Right next to the Bank of America ATM and down the boulevard from McDonalds. Tell me again what we were so afraid of then?

58,000 of our people dead. 1,300,000 of theirs.
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Of course I care about the dangers and travails faced by many people in Houston.
But I also believe that the situation in Houston is far worse because of foolish planning and zoning decisions the City has made for a century.
I used to visit Houston often on business and I was always aghast to see what happens when such a large city tries to operate with an absolute minimum of zoning and other restrictions on the use of private property.
Successions of Houston's Republican and Libertarian leaders have resolutely worshipped at the alter of Private Property Rights and foolishly assumed that you can cram four million people into a small space without adequate restrictions on how they build things and transport themselves. They've trusted that the famous Invisible Hand will somehow make everything turn out just swell. For many Houstonians, the only good regulation was/is a dead regulation.
A visitor to downtown Houston, for example, sees lifeless windowless nonretail office space allowed at the street level of large buildings, so there is an amazing lack of retail shopping space, cafés etc. that would be common in the urban core of any other city. Ugly. Dispiriting.
But other decisions that allow builders maximum freedom to build where and how they want to build have led to far worse outcomes. Like today.
Now Houstonians have a city with way too much impervious (paved) surface and way too little drainage capacity because, well, thoughtful attention to runoff is expensive so why should I do it if nobody's making me? Excessive impervious surfaces with insufficient drainange now are a major factor in turning Houston's streets into rivers. And thoughtless transportation planning has created such a mishmash of streets and freeways that an evacuation order would have created a gridlocked nightmare.
Houston is what happens when Libertarian ideology replaces common sense in land use planning.
So yes, I hope the pain passes quickly for Houstonians— especially the poor ones who had nothing to do with decades of foolish city government policies that made so little effort to intelligently balance individual rights with community rights, and short-term gains with long-term benefit.
it's perfectly fair to say that Houston has been asking for a debacle for decades.
And will there be any soul-searching and re-orientation of policies when the City dries out? Don't bet on it. Admitting the bankruptcy of a core philosophy is a lot harder than saving people from rooftops.
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Nanga Parbat
One of the first big Himalayan summits to be climbed. Way before plastic boots, GPS, GoreTex, satellite phones—and $85K guided climbs! In other words, back in my glory days on the heights. It’s so un-Buddhist to be this attached, but I sure do miss big, scary summits and what it took to get to them.#johnontheedge
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Boy did I have a great view of the last total solar eclipse -- on July 20, 1963. I and six other members of a Harvard team had just made the first (and to this day only) direct ascent of the North Wall of Mt. Mckinley. We were just below the South Summit at 20,310 feet when it suddenly got dark in the middle of the Midnight Sun and for a moment, we couldn't figure out why. At least one of us had the wits to take a picture. We were just a few miles north of the path of totality.
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An unusual shot of Mount Whitney, California
I've always resented the fact that, because it is 30 feet higher, Mt. Whitney is officially the tallest mountain in the continental US and not Mt. Rainier. Rainier, near where I grew up, is much taller from base to summit than Whitney, but do the geographers take that into account? No! One of life’s manifold injustices. #johnontheedge
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It is not North Korea we should be worrying about. It's the ridiculous game now being played by the US and Russia over over a nuclear weapons in Europe—a game which could easily get out of control. Anybody remember what happened in Sarajevo in 1914? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGCN5fW7AB0
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Jeff Flake's book, Conscience of a Conservative, is a bold, slashing critique of the GOP. Read my HuffPo article at http://tinyurl.com/ybtjrck9
JEFF FLAKE'S CHALLENGE
JEFF FLAKE'S CHALLENGE
huffingtonpost.com
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