The Kennan Diaries


10 Feb 1966, Washington, DC, USA --- Washington D.C.: Former Ambassador George F. Kennan tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that the U.S. "Should do everything possible" to avoid further escalation of the war in Vietnam. Kennan is former Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and a longtime Senate Department Policy Maker. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

10 Feb 1966, Washington, DC, USA — Washington D.C.: Former Ambassador George F. Kennan tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that the U.S. “Should do everything possible” to avoid further escalation of the war in Vietnam. Kennan is former Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and a longtime Senate Department Policy Maker.

  • Author: George Kennan (1904 – 2005)
  • Editor: F. Costigliola  Lecture about G. Kennan by Frank Costigliola
  • Title: The Kennan Diaries
  • Published: 2014
  • Trivia: I read the book on Kindle while listening to the audio book.
  • Audio book  also reads the ‘footnotes’ out loud.


  1. George F. Kennan was the most celebrated ­diplomat-intellectual of the 20th century.
  2. He was the author of the strategy of containment that
  3. …the United States adopted and that won the Cold War.
  4. He spent much of his life thinking about political philosophy.
  5. His instincts and insights were deeply conservative.
  6. Where would he feel comfortable in 2016 political scene?
  7. Trump supporter?  I think not.


  1. Introduction = very good
  2. Chapters 1 – 3 were not very interesting.
  3. The book picks up a little steam in chapter 4 (WW II) continuing to the last chapter.
  1. Weak point: Kennan make NO mention of some major events in history
  2. even though he was in USA  and Germany when they occured
  3. Wall Street Crash of 1929 –  09/10 November 1938 Kristallnacht in Germany
  4. …even the assassination of JFK was not mentioned!
  5. I found this very strange.
  6. I expected a political animal as Kennan would have
  7. …some thoughts about the causes and effects.
  1. Advice given by Kennan that he  MOST regretted:
  2. ….urging  CIA to undertake covert ‘political warfare’.
  1. Weak point: the book is ‘stuffed’ with travelog descriptions
  2. …of trains, boats, cafés and countryside.
  3. This marred the  attractiveness or appeal of the book as a quasi ‘political document’.
  1. Strong point: Kennan the man ‘is a hard nut to crack’.
  2. But when he did put some very personal
  3. thoughts on paper he sketched a very sad portrait.
  4. His mother died 2 months after his birth. This scarred him for life
  5. Boredom....”nothing good can come out of modern civilization…”
  6. These are heavy thoughts for a man who is about to be married at 27 years old!
  1. Narrator: January 1933 Kennan suddenly changes narrator to 3rd person.(pg 76 – 78)
  2. Kennan narrates events and characters from the outside.
  3. He asks the reader to confront what they see.
  1. Tone:  changes on these pages to cold, analytical thought about a man (himself)
  2. …rather than feelings of empathy for this lost soul.
  1. Turning point: 1933:  Recently married to a young girl who was kind but not an intellectual.
  2. Kennan also had difficulty with monogamy. “I’m bored with myself and with everyone around.”
  1. BEST QUOTE: (pg 78)
  2. ‘But the demands of marriage were inexorable…
  3. …to recognize that you had been caught and to make the best of it:
  4. not beat frantically against the bars of the cage.
  5. …On might well watch life outside, through the bars
  6. But one could not participate in this life.”
  1. Trend: Throughout the book….Kennan describes his bouts with depression.
  2. He asks himself: “What are the real things you can’t have? (Kennan is 38 yrs old).
  3. Women, there’s one thing. Liberty is another. Peace of mind is a third. Isn’t that enough?
  4. This is a very unhappily married diplomat…but he stayed with his wife for 73 years!
  1. Trend: You can feel that Kennan is ‘holding back’ in his diaries.
  2. He knows they will be read in the future and as a seasoned diplomat he did not
  3. …mention sensitive details about foreign policy or his personal life.
  4. If you keep that in mind you won’t be disappointed.
  5. This is NOT a tell-all book.
  1. Strong point:
  2. information from  Kennan fills in yet a few more gaps in my knowledge of 20th C history.
  1. Strong point: comments  in 1940-50’s by Kennan about
  2. …American intervention  in Iran, Iraq and Indochina are still relevant.
  3. Policy makers are still NOT listening.

KENNAN 51If0koPiaL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_


Posted by on July 23, 2016 in Uncategorized


Poem: Ammons, A.R. “Extrication”

Ammons a-r-ammons-3

A.R. Ammons (1926 – 2001)

  1. A. R. Ammons was born in rural North Carolina.
  2. His experiences growing up on a cotton and tobacco farm
  3. during the Great Depression inspired a great deal of the poet’s work.
  4. Ammons won the annual National Book Award for Poetry  in 1973 and 1993.
  5. In 1964, Ammons joined the faculty of Cornell University
  6. (Professor of English and Poet in Residence)  and retired in 1998.
  7. Ammons combines the experience of nature with
  8. …the first  feeling of an ‘inner response’
  9. He  uses ‘words to wrestle’ with his thoughts.
  10. In the last stanza he expresses
  11. the ‘quick’ fluid current  (inner response)
  12. …between the ‘slow’ flow of stone. (experience of nature)
  13. …between the river and the rock.
  14. This poem is rural poetry written in simple language…except for the title!
  15. The title ‘Extrication’ does grab the reader’s attention….
  16. (releasing from a snarled or tangled condition)
  17. But it does not draw the reader into the poem
  18. ….it scared me away!
  19. Punctuation: no periods… just one colon and comma.
  20. The word movement is NOT across the page…but vertically, down the page.


I tangled with
the world to
let it go
but couldn’t free

it: so I made
to wrestle in my
stead and went

off silent to
the quick flow
of brooks, the
slow flow of stone


Posted by on July 21, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tuchman: The March of Folly

TUCHMAN 9780345308238

  • Author: Barbara Tuchman
  • Title: The March of Folly
  • Published: 1984
  • TriviaMore than half of the book deals with US intervention in the Vietnam War.
  • Trivia: I was a teen-ager during the Vietnam War.
  • I watched the nightly news on CBS with Walter Cronkite.
  • I only remember the daily body count during the news item.
  • Now it’s time to learn what was really going on.


  1. The book is about one of the most compelling paradoxes of history:
  2. ….the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests.
  3. It details major instances of government folly in human history:
  • Pursuit of policy contrary to self-interest
  • Prototype: Trojans take the wooden horse within the walls
  • Renaissance Popes provoke the Protestant secession (1470-1530)
  • Very good – corruption and nepotism is dripping off  the pages.
  • Pope Innocent VIII  (1484-1492) (shameless nepotism, ineffectual)DEZE INNOCNT MV5BMjM4MzEzMzU2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTA0MDYyMjE@._V1_
  • becomes pope because the movers and shakers
  • Cardinal Borgia (later Pope Alex VI (think Jeremy Irons) (1492 – 1503)IRONS tve8528-20110403-2384
  • and
  • Cardinal Della Rovere ( later Pope Julius II ( think Rex Harrison) (1503 – 1513)JULIUS 1000
  • want to block the election of a Cardinal Barbo (strict principles, reformist)
  • Pope Leo X ( De Medici)LEO index
  • Meanwhile a young German theologian named Martin Luther became disgusted with the whole idea of indulgences being sold. He posted his 95 theses on the door of a local Cathedral, a copy  was sent to Pope Leo
  • Luther’s ideas continued to spread across Germany, reaching people from all walks of life
  • Leo then decided to excommunicate the German monk and order his works be burned.Luther MV5BMzQwMWYwYTYtYzBiOC00ZWRmLThjNmYtOTc1NWFmYmM5MmJmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDkzNTM2ODg@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1537,1000_AL_

Comments: chapter 3 Renaissance Popes

  1. The chapters about the six Renaissance Popes between 1484 – 1534 was very interesting.
  2. Having just read The Prince by Machiavelli I could easily imagine
  3. …Machiavelli being shocked at the chaos in Italy and especially Florence and Rome.
  4. The higher a prelate rose in the church’s
  5. …hierarchy, the less interest he had in all things spiritual.
  6. The church was the ‘pork barrel’  of this period.
  7. Make money and at times enemies was the
  8. …motto of important families that produced many of these popes:
  9. Borgia (Pope Alexander VI), Della Rovere (Pope Julius II) and
  10. …de Medici (Pope Leo X and Clement VII)

Comments: chapter 4 England loses America

  1. I tired my best to follow  the period of history 1760 – 1780 but I failed.
  2. Tuchman floods the pages with the names of members of the English gentry, Parliament, House of Commons
  3. during the  per-American Revolutionary period.
  4. I walked and listened.
  5. Tuchman saved the chapter for me as soon as she focused on the grievances that sparked the revolution.
  6. The Stamp Act, No taxation without representation,
  7. …refusal to import goods from England (defying Townshend Acts 1767 on imports).
  8. Next the Boston Massacre  1770 and eventually the Boston Tea Party 1773 (defying Tea Act)
  9. …and the Battles of Lexington and Concord
  10. By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
    Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
    Here once the embattled farmers stood,
    And fired the shot heard round the world.

    Emerson, “Concord Hymn”

  11. If in Boston…don’t miss walking along the ‘Freedom Trail‘.
  12. It brings history to life!
  13. Strong point: explanation how Lord Chatham, W. Pitt
  14. tried to find a solution to the ‘American Colonies’ problem.
  15. His peers demonstrated brazen folly!
  16. The House did not want to listen to Chatham’s reality
  17. Let us retreat when we can….not when we must’
  18. NO, The House wanted to WHIP the rebellious New England into obedience.
  19. 1776-1783 Why did England lose the American colonies?
  20. It was not for greed of personal gain...just tragic folly.
  21. The British felt superior to the colonial rabble.
  22. It was inconceivable to treat them as equals.
  23. Now those 13 colonies have developed into a world power!

William Pitt 1708-1778 English statesman

PITT 250px-William_Pitt,_1st_Earl_of_Chatham_by_Richard_Brompton

Comments chapter 5: America betrays herself in Vietnam

  1. Folly: Pursuit of a goal in ignorance of the obstacles
  2. …but in persistence in the pursuit DESPITE  evidence that the goal was  UNATTAINABLE.
  3. Symptom of folly: policy-makers close
  4. ….their minds to the evidence and its implications
  5. addiction to the counter-productive.
  6. Here are a few items….I did not know!
  7. News: One of FDR’s principle war aims was to liberate Indochina from France!
  8. News: Who was General Leclerc? He laid out in one sentence (1946) what would be valid 20 years later when 500.000 American soldiers were actually in the field: (reconquest Indochina)
  9. “It would take 500.000 men to do it and even then….IT COULD NOT BE DONE!
  10. News: Who was John Ohly?  Deputy Director Defense Ass. Dept of State 1949-1950
  11. His advice was characterized by foresight, prescient…almost prophetic.
  12. But no one his plea to take a second look at where the US was going in Indochina.
  13. “Not only might we fail, wasting resources in the process,
  14. …but we would become a scapegoat for the French and
  15. …be sucked into direct intervention.”
  16. News: The Pentagon view the Vietnamese as only pawns.
  17. The chiefs warned that  ‘once the US forces and prestige have been committed, disengagement will not be possible short of victory.”
  18. The Fall of Saigon.… (30 April 1975) would prove that the US was not invincible.
ST-A26-23-62  29 October 1962 Meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EXCOMM). President Kennedy, Sec. of Defense McNamara, Dep. Sec. Defense Gilpatric. White House, Cabinet Room. Please credit "Cecil Stoughton, White House / John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston" for the image.

October 1962
Meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EXCOMM). President Kennedy, Sec. of Defense McNamara, Dep. Sec. Defense Gilpatric.

VIETNAM k-vietna


Vietnam image


  1. Tuchman asks a question about about SE Asia policy of 1950’s
  2. that  could be asked about Iraq 2003!
  3. “What fiction or fantasy enters into policy making?
  4. Spread of Communism in SE Asia = fact or fantasy?
  5. …China would control western Pacific and much of Asia.
  6. Regime of Saddam Hussein must fall to to secure Iraq’s oil fields and resources
  7. = fact or fantasy? W.M.D.’s.
  8. 1780’s British refused to view the American Colonies
  9. …as nothing more than rabble = no settlement possible.
  10. 1950’s: John Foster Dulles viewed sitting with
  11. …the Communists unacceptable (rabble) = no settlement possible.
  12. Strong point:  Tuchman explained clearly the  folly of
  13. Renaissance Popes, British grasp on the American Colonies and
  14. America’s domino theory in SE Asia that became dogma.
  15. I was not aware of the importance of the ‘Dulles Brothers”.
  16. As the nation’s top diplomat, John Foster
  17. established implacable hostility toward the communist bloc
  18. …as an unshakable tenet of U.S. foreign policy.
  19. His brother Allen laid the groundwork for the CIA.
  20. My next books will certainly be:
  21. The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War
  22. by Stephen Kinzer.
  23. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the
  24. Rise of America’s Secret Government…David Talbot.
  25. …and The Quiet American (G. Greene).

Last thoughts:

  • For anyone interested in learning more about history
  • ….Barbara Tuchman’s books are  extraordinary reads!
  • I highly recommend  The March of Folly!

Barbara Tuchman:

  • Barbara Wertheim Tuchman (1912 – 1989) was an  American  historian and author.
  • She won the Pulitzer Prize twice, for The Guns of August (1962) and
  • …Stilwell and the American Experience in China (1971) (biography of General Joseph Stilwell).

TUCHMAN Tuchman-portrait





Posted by on July 20, 2016 in Uncategorized


Marcus Aurelius: Meditations

MARCUS 9780140449334

  • Author: Marcus Aurelius  (121-180 AD)
  • Title: Meditations
  • Published: 170-180 AD (written while on campaign)
  • Trivia: Meditations was written  as a source for the author’s own guidance and self-improvement.
  • Trivia: The title of this work was added posthumously—originally he titled his work simply: “To Myself”.
  • Trivia: Read this book for #20BooksOfSummer Challenge = COMPLETE  20/20
  • Trivia:  Read for Greek and Roman Challenge


  • With all the news this week
  • ...attack in Nice, France and a failed coup d’état in Turkey.
  • I had difficulty concentrating on my reading.
  • I decided to listen/read  Meditations  by Marcus Aurelius.
  • Perhaps I can find some good advice for these troubled times.
  • PS: 17.07.2016
  • Ex President Bush: new declassified papers show how the USA left the start of all our Middle East conflicts in the hands of a ‘cartoon cowboy’ . ” president, who was cocky and impervious. W. told Blair he was “ready to kick ass.” He dismissed Hans Blix, the U.N. weapons inspector who could not find any W.M.D. in Iraq, as “that no-count.”
  • It seems leaders (170 AD) were people we could have used after 9/11.
  • Meditations…Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius…
  • We can still learn from him!

Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius:

  1. That which is not good for the bee-hive
  2. cannot be good for the bee.
  1. Is my reason and understanding sufficient for this, or no?
  2. Let not future things  trouble thee…
  1. Is any man so foolish as to fear change….?
  1. Let thy mind penetrate both into the effects and into the causes.
  2. Our life is reaped like a ripe ear of corn….one is yet standing and another is down.
  1. Look within; within is the fountain of all good. Such a fountain,
  2. where springing waters can never fail, so you dig still deeper and deeper.
  1. Keep thyself to the true bonds and limits of reason, and give not way to opinion.
  1. Man has attained to the estate of perfection in his life and conversation,
  2. when he so spends every day as if it were his last day.
  1. Fame? This life is short. Both he who praises and he who is praised
  2. …will soon be dust and ashes.
  1. Receive temporal blessings humbly
  2. …and you will be able to part with them easily.
  1. All things have their proper time to bear.
  2. Though by custom, the word itself is in a manner become proper unto the the vine.
  1. This day I came out of all my trouble.
  2. I have cast out my trouble within my own opinions from whence
  3. it must be cast out before you can truly and constantly be at ease.
  1. Things that affect us, they stand without doors.
  1. Many things that trouble you, it is in your power to cut off,
  2. …and then you shall have room enough.
  1. Will this complaining and dissembling never end?
  2. There is not anything but your duty towards the Gods
  3. …release yourself of it with more goodness and simplicity.
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Posted by on July 16, 2016 in Uncategorized


Barthes: Preparation of the Novel

Incontro con Italo Calvino


  1. This is a collection of lectures  given between 1978-1980
  2. by Roland Barthes at Collège de France.
  3. It was established in 1530 by King Francis I.
  4. Each professor is required to give lectures
  5. ….where attendance is free and open to anyone.
  6. The school’s goal is to “teach science in the making”.
  7. Professors are chosen from a variety of disciplines,
  8. in both science and the humanities.
  9. The Collège does not grant degrees.
  10. It has one of the best  research libraries of Europe.


  1. This was a difficult book to read.
  2. Weak point:
  3. Barthes is verbose.
  4. He fills the lectures with anecdotes and thoughts in ‘parenthesis’.
  5. I expected a ‘concise document’ and got conversations.
  6. I worked through many pages and ended up
  7. …with 3 or 4 lines of ‘ true inspiring information.
  8. I struggled  and decided after reading 50 % of the book….it was time to stop.
  9. I spent too much of my reading time on this book…
  10. …result:    low ‘return on investment’.
  11. Strong point: 
  12. Lectures about the Japanese haiku.
  13. I learned so much about this form of poetry.

Last thoughts:

  • These kind of books are a gamble.
  • I try …sometimes I fail…
  • ..but  ‘Je ne regrette rien’ !


  • Haiku is bound by constraints:
  • brevity – discretion – desire  – subtlety
  • Haiku is enchantment.
  • Something that falls into place …just once.
  • The haiku can trigger a ‘mental awakening’ (satori)


  • In each haiku there is an allusion to a season,
  • …Summer, Spring, Autumn or Winter.
  • This is the Kigo.
  • In haiku you always sense the season
  • …be it only the whiff or a sign.

Instant vs Memory:

  • Haiku is… for an instant.
  • It jingles for a moment  so that you will remember it.
  • You consume it immediately.
  • The immediate will become a treasure tomorrow.
  • The contradiction in haiku is the instant  vs  the memory.

Here is a treasure:

vereine aloysia

  • Les fleurs de verveine blanches (white flowers of verbena)
  • Aussi en pleine nuit ( even in the middle of the night)
  • La Voie lactée           (The Milky Way)
  1. The flower is the sensual object, perfume and  color.
  2. La verveine blanche is an example of a hypotypose…
  3. an image painted so vividly that it is
  4. put before our eyes…a living scene (scéne vivante)


  1. Haiku is discrete.
  2. It is lyrical yet silent about love.
  3. Haiku alludes to couples…..but always at a distance.
  4. Couples never address each other.


  1. Haiku does not describe something
  2. … goes  beyond description.
  3. Haiku is in the area of a mental experience.
  4. The following haiku presences  two elements:
  5.  memory –  snow.
  • Étre sans mémoire  (having no memory)
  • Neige fraîche   (blanket of fresh fallen snow)
  • Écureuils bondissants (squirrels hopping around)


BARTHES la-preparation-du-roman-1


Posted by on July 15, 2016 in Uncategorized


‘My body is in an injury the world’


SHAPERO Natalie-shapero-448

The Author:

Natalie Shapero (1982)  is the Professor of the Practice of Poetry at Tufts University and an Editor at Large of the Kenyon Review. Her first poetry collection, No Object, was published by Saturnalia Books in 2013, and her second collection is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press. Natalie’s writing has appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, Poetry, The Progressive, and elsewhere.

What was my first impression of the poem?

  1. The title irritated me.
  2. I kept wanting to insert  IN the World”  to make sense of it.
  3. Shapero succeeded in using the title as ‘grab power. ‘
  4. I read the poem at least 10 times.
  5. Even after all that reading my most important ‘light bulb moments’
  6. …came to me just before falling asleep.
  7. They say if you meditate on a poem
  8. …something deep rises in your consciousness.

Question: who is the narrator?

  1. ‘My body is an injury the world can’t seem to heal from — ‘
  2. has a feeling of a social injustice experienced by many.
  3. The poet brings this social tragedy to us through her images.

Question: What is the structure?

  1. Part 1: is a question…. what did it (my body) do to deserve all this pain?
  2. Part 2: is a question…. what did the world do  to change?

What is the word I overlooked?

  1. warrant: A judicial writ authorizing the search or seizure of property,
  2. arrest of a person, or the execution of a legal judgment.

What is the poem about?

  1. I came to the conclusion the poem is about discrimination.
  2. The narrator is the voice of many who have been abused.
  3. In part two there is a vertical ‘drilling-down’ of images.
  4. Shapero mentions the:
  5. sites of abuse‘ and I think big picture, millions of victims – concentration camps WW II
  6. slave house’  and I think time in history, thousands of victims – slave trade
  7. slatted cell‘ and I think one man, Nelson Mandela – bold resistance to an opposing force or authority.
  8. What is the most powerful moment in the poem?
  9. Shapero’s  ending leaves the greatest impression because of its ambiguity.
  10. She  gives the reader the chance to understand her work in a variety of ways.
  11. The word FREE has two or more possible meanings:
  12. the cell is free to visit…..or another person (not you) …is truly free
  13. …the cell is ready for you, just step in!
  14. In my opinion this gives the poem the depth and complexity
  15. ….that took me so long to understand.
  16. I hope I have done this poem justice.
  17. Interpertation depends on who reads the poem and how he or she reads it.
  18. Chapeau au bas…. à Natalie!

Score 5


My Body is an Injury the World

My body is an injury the world
can’t seem to heal from —
You would expect it gone by now
and yet each next day it persists,
still implementing
its same staunch pain, atrocious,
railed against, assumed
by the world to be an ingenious
comeuppance, a vengeance
against it — what did it do

what did the world do

to warrant my body within it,
smarting, to warrant each of our bodies
within it, crowding,
the sites of abuse, assessing ticket
prices, asking how much to
see the slave house, how much
to touch the indented names
of the killed, how much to enter
the slatted cell and size it, close
behind us its wrought door, oh

actually that one’s free


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Posted by on July 11, 2016 in Uncategorized


St. Thomas Aquinas: ‘On Kingship’


AQUINAS s447186058278879304_p7_i3_w453

  • Author: St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Title:  On Kingship, to the King of Cyprus
  • Published: 1267
  • Table of contents: 130 pages
  • Trivia: Read this book for #20BooksOfSummer Challenge


  1. St. Thomas argues that  the only rule which is directed
  2. “towards the common good of the multitude is fit to be called kingship”.
  3. I read On Kingship as a comparison to The Prince.
  4. St Thomas directs his thoughts to the King of Cyprus.
  5. Machiavelli, having just lost his job in Florence,
  6. …went home and wrote his book for the Medici.
  7. He wanted to tell them “I know how government works…..listen to me!”
  8. St Thomas Aquinas uses many quotes from the Bible,
  9. Aristotle’s Ethics, Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations,
  10. St. Augustine’s De Civitate Dei and St. Gregory to name just a few.
  11. Machiavelli uses direct quotes only a few times, Tacitus, Virgil and Livy.
  12. The most obvious difference is Machiavelli’s advice ‘crush or be crushed’ ….
  13. while St. Thomas’s  advice is love and be loved.
  14. Machiavelli believes in a pragmatic and flexible policy
  15. …that changes to the needs of the situation.
  16. This type of policy making can be seen in the current
  17. ….American administration led by President Barack Obama.
  18. St. Thomas Aquinas’s advice is be admired
  19. …and reminded me of St. Louis IX of France.
  20. His actions were inspired by Christian values and catholic devotion.
  21. Times have changed…and I think leaders of the world have…
  22. The Prince  on their night table  next to the  ‘hot line’.


AQUINAS St.-Thomas-Aquinas


Posted by on July 7, 2016 in Uncategorized


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