A happy belated New Year to all the loyal readers out there! Here’s my recap of some favorite stories I read in the last year. For those craving aging items to read, check out my recaps of 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008. Thanks for reading and I look forward to what 2014 brings.
5) New York Times: Uproar Over Netanyahu’s Ice Cream Is Welcome in One Parlor
His foreign minister had to resign after being accused of fraud. He was sharply criticized for his government’s handling of Prisoner X, who committed suicide in prison. And now this, which made front-page news in Israel over the weekend: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands accused of dipping into state coffers for an ice cream budget of $2,700 a year.
Pistachio, it was revealed by the proprietors of a gourmet ice cream parlor a couple of blocks from the premier’s official residence, is his favorite (presumably not made with an Iranian variety of the nut). Mrs. Netanyahu, they said, appears to prefer French vanilla.
4) Lapham’s Quarterly: Bombs, Burning Sheets, and Cocaine
“Bomb the shit out of them!” was reportedly a drunken President Richard Nixon’s conclusion as to what should be done about Cambodia. Henry Kissinger recalled in an interview in 1999 that “two glasses of wine were quite enough to make him boisterous, just one more to grow bellicose or sentimental with slurred speech.”
3) The New Yorker: Taken – The Use And Abuse Of Civil Forfeiture
“Where are we?” Boatright remembers thinking. “Is this some kind of foreign country, where they’re selling people’s kids off?” Holding her sixteen-month-old on her hip, she broke down in tears.
Later, she learned that cash-for-freedom deals had become a point of pride for Tenaha, and that versions of the tactic were used across the country. “Be safe and keep up the good work,” the city marshal wrote to Washington, following a raft of complaints from out-of-town drivers who claimed that they had been stopped in Tenaha and stripped of cash, valuables, and, in at least one case, an infant child, without clear evidence of contraband.
2) The New Republic: A 31-Year-Old Is Tearing Apart the Heritage Foundation
Instead of fleshing out conservative positions, says one Republican Senate staffer, “now they’re running around trying to get Republicans voted out of office. It’s a purely ideological crusade that’s utterly divorced from the research side.” (“If Nancy Pelosi could write an anonymous check to Heritage Action,” adds the House aide bitterly, “she would.”)
As a result, the Heritage Foundation has gone from august conservative think tank revered by Washington’s Republicans to the party’s loathed ideological commissar. “It’s sad, actually,” says one Republican strategist. “Everybody forgets that Heritage was always considered the gold standard of conservative, forward-looking thought. The emergence of Heritage Action has really transformed the brand into a more political organization.”
1) New York Times: The Myth of Nuclear Necessity
The first is the myth that nuclear weapons altered the course of World War II. Leaving aside the morality of America’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, new research by the historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa and other scholars shows that Japan surrendered not because of the atom bomb but because the Soviets renounced neutrality and joined the war. Sixty-six Japanese cities had already been destroyed by conventional weapons — two more did not make the difference. Attributing surrender to the bomb was also convenient for Japan’s leaders, allowing them to blame defeat on a “miracle” weapon.
Second is the myth of “decisive destruction.” Mass destruction doesn’t win wars; killing soldiers does. No war has ever been won simply by killing civilians. The 1941-44 siege of Leningrad didn’t deter Soviet leaders from pressing the fight against Hitler. Nor did the 1945 firebombing of Dresden force Germany to submit. As long as an army has a fighting chance at victory, wars continue. Building ever more destructive weapons simply increases the horror of war, not the certainty of ending it.