Where is my Tardis?

Anyone for a Tardis?

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The wisdom of mountaineers

“The next time you curse the fact that it’s Monday, just think of it as proof that you made it through another weekend without killing yourself by doing something stupid.”


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The bombing of Laos, Obama and an American War Crime

The Ho Chi Minh Trail

America became a full partner in the Vietnamese civil war in 1963 and north Vietnam took the strategic decision to supply the south through Laos. The CIA, without congressional approval, unilaterally decided to bomb this supply route. Their action was illegal in US and international law. The nine year bombing campaign was a merciless war crime.1 The CIA believed the route, which they called the Ho Chi Minh Trail, had a fixed infrastructure which was destroyable. This was revealed to be wrong within months. Their metaphysical belief explains the insanity of the campaign. CIA brutality hardened the resolve of the Laotians, leaving the Pathet Lao communists triumphant.

The CIA thought this was a ‘highway’

The campaign was a constitutional outrage and war crime. A congressional inquiry in 2010 (addendum one) left no one in any doubt as to the criminality of the CIA, though they didn’t condemn it as a war crime. President Obama’s visit to Laos in 2016 had the world expectant as to his response to this outrage.

President Obama in Laos, 2016

President Obama was warmly greeted. He explicitly acknowledged US bombing and in his speech said:

Countless civilians were killed. And that conflict was another reminder that, whatever the cause, whatever our intentions, war inflicts a terrible toll, especially on innocent men, women and children. Today, I stand with you in acknowledging the suffering and sacrifices on all sides of that conflict.2 [my emphasis]

President Obama didn’t have a mea culpa, mea maxima culpa moment.3 American presidents don’t admit criminal behaviour. Obama’s empathy extended to offering help clearing up murderous unexploded ordnance.

Obama’s press secretary Ben Rhodes accompanied him to Laos and wrote Obama’s speech. As part of the tour Rhodes set off a single unexploded bomb.

We moved back across the field. They had tied a long wire to this bombie (sic) and attached it to an orange device under our tent. I thought of the time and effort that went into finding and exploding this single bombie, with eighty million still buried out there in the vast (sic) country.* They asked me to turn a handle several times to blow it up. I expected something akin to a large firecracker; instead, an enormous blast shook the ground underneath my feet, echoing across the river valley, sending a towering plume of smoke into the air. It was possible, in that moment, to envision the river valley filled with explosions, smoke covering the Mekong, planes overhead.4 [my emphasis]

(* The USA is 41.3 times bigger than Laos)

Chillingly when Rhodes returned to base he reported it was a much larger explosion than he’d expected. A comment by a member of his press staff devastated him: “Yeah,” he said. “None of the kids even looked up.”5 For the people of Laos unexploded ordnance was a continuing daily reality. The actuality of the illegal CIA bombing is almost beyond belief:-

2 million tons – the amount of ordnance dropped on Laos between 1964 and 1973… This amounts to a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours per day, for nine years.

270 million – the number of cluster bombs that were dropped on Laos during this period.

80 million — the estimated number of cluster bombs that did not detonate, most of which are still buried in farmland…. Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.

20,000 — the number of people who have been killed or injured by unexploded ordnance in Laos.

50 — the number of casualties per year, down from 310 per year in 2008. Forty percent of the victims are children.6

The USA was ideologically driven by fear of communism. American involvement was fuelled by the Domino Theory doctrine first formulated by President Eisenhower.7 The Domino Theory asserts communism is a contagion which contiguous countries inevitablycatch’. Once communism has momentum the entire world will be engulfed, therefore America must defend itself by stopping communism even in faraway tiny countries like Laos. That ideological belief coupled with racism drove the CIA’s illegal action. President Obama, a black-American president, couldn’t repudiate the bombing and denounce it because it’s bad domestic politics.

The attempted destruction of the Ho Chi Minh Trail failed utterly. From the beginning of the campaign the CIA knew bombing was a failure but they continued because they only understood brute force. President Obama condemned the Iraq War as a ‘dumb war’8 and from the vantage of 2016 knew that the Laos bombing campaign was the dumbest of dumb wars. He knew it was an illegal war and he knew it was a war crime. Yet he allowed Rhodes to put into his mouth the words, suffering and sacrifices on all sides, claiming moral equivalence for a criminal act: a war crime. Obama lost his moral compass in Laos.

Addendum One: Congressional Hearing, 22nd April 2010

At issue was the causation of refugees and impact of U.S. Air Force bombing operations in Laos. The Departments of Defense and State suggested that U.S. bombing operations had been carefully directed and that very few inhabited villages were susceptible to being hit by U.S. air power. But as Senator Kennedy learned that day [22nd April 1971], and as we now know, the Departments of State and Defense submitted testimony that was incorrect and misleading. The truth is, widespread bombing had taken place and Lao refugees were succinct in describing the destruction of their homes, as well as the use of the CBU cluster bombs and white phosphorus. (source https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-111hhrg56094/html/CHRG-111hhrg56094.htm)

1 1964-73: for civilian casualties from the bombing of Laos post-1973 https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/asia-pacific/death-from-below-in-the-world-s-most-bombed-country-1.3078351

2 4 https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/09/06/remarks-president-obama-people-laos This mealy-mouthed caveat stands alongside the infamous Trump remark about the outcome of the Charlottesville protest when the so-called alt-right killed a demonstrator. You also had some very fine people on both sides…https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/trump-defends-white-nationalist-protesters-some-very-fine-people-on-both-sides/537012/

3 ‘my fault, through my most grievous fault’

4 Rhodes, Ben. The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House Kindle Locations 5238-5243 Random House. Kindle Edition.

5 ibid Kindle Locations 5251-5253

6 https://abcnews.go.com/International/bombing-laos-numbers/story?id=41890565

7 https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/eisenhower-gives-famous-domino-theory-speech

8 For Obama’s speech go to https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99591469

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An inquisitive five year old

Russell: How old are you grandad?

Grandad: I’m 83 years old.

Russell: (After a long pause) Did you start at one?


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Book Review: David Eagleman ~ The Brain: the story of you

I bought this as a make weight on the infamous ‘Buy one get one half price’ desk in Waterstones book shop. Unwanted, unloved and abandoned it was on my shelf for quite a few months before I picked it up for a long train journey. I took an instant dislike to it. The font size is large, the spacing is generous and there are amusing line drawings to illustrate the text. Additionally whole pages are designated as explanatory text in a nice box. I assumed that all of this was condescending and patronising. I also assumed that it was an ‘idiots guide’ and as I have virtually no knowledge of ‘The Brain’ and as it was a long journey I read it.

Eagleman’s book was ‘An acclaimed BBC TV series’ which somehow or another failed to register with me. Short snappy passages, which rarely go beyond five pages make for a pacey read. But I was worried at his use of case studies. Many of them appeared to deny free will- though he goes to great lengths to repudiate that. One example (pp 100-1) Ken Parks murdered both his wife’s parents because he had a sleeping disorder. He was found not guilty of murder. A more spectacular event happened in 1966 when Charles Whitman slaughtered 13 people and injured a further 33 in Texas (pp 20-22). He’d written a suicide note prior to the killing spree asking for an autopsy (as he was convinced, rightly, that he’d be shot dead at the scene) the autopsy revealed that a tumour pressing on the amygdala had changed his behaviour. There are other examples.

An interesting book written in a pacey way, which you might well find interesting

Why you should buy this book: It’s a quick fascinating read by very good author

Why you shouldn’t buy this book: It probably attempts too much

Buy it here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brain-Story-You-David-Eagleman-ebook/dp/B00VKAZENW/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1541620104&sr=1-1&keywords=Eagleman+brain


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The Nags Head, Covent Garden

In early November 2018 my wife’s uncle came over from Canada. He’d emigrated 54 years ago and obviously was very much ‘Canadian’. He wanted a family day out with Jan, my wife, me and Jan’s sister and her husband. He had come to London with his son Stephen and Jan said that she’d organise a venue, which was suitable for all of us.

Covent Garden is nice an central for all of us as we could all get there quite easily from the suburbs. The pub we went to was the Nags Head, which is excellent. Even though it is in a plum tourist spot it’s still really quite old-fashioned with loads of character. There are photographs of the old Covent Garden (which is now long gone). It was nice to see the costermongers with baskets of fruit and veg on their heads. It might be old-fashioned but here was nothing old-fashioned about their prices which were very much central London. The food was also quite pricey and so we didn’t push the boat out too much.

The pub soon filled up with young men who were quite boisterous. They seemed to be Dutch no doubt out for a quick holiday in London. More and more of them came in and it was soon clear that they were football fans from the team PSV over here for a match against Spurs (Tottenham Hotspur) in the Champions League. They were wearing distinctive red and white striped shirts and drinking very large amounts of beer. Two police officers barged into the pub for no real reason and the atmosphere changed instantly. Banter became shouting and we discretely left being too old to ‘enjoy’ a pub brawl.

In some ways the day was spoilt but we soon got a cab back to Liverpool Street station and returned happy as could be to Romford.




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I’d never considered this downside

Heaven has a down side


Richard M

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