Dec 28, 2022·edited Dec 28, 2022

How do the warmongers around the world live with themselves?

In the President Carter era, his top speechwriter wrote about the essential truth of human rights, essential to success in foreign policy. How everyone looked to America as the leader in human rights, an ideal that can be the highest human achievement...

Maine author Stephen King addresses how each person can save the world, one at a time.

Think of the lonely, freezing Ukrainian refugees, displaced, war victims, and soldiers, their President, the speech at the Capitol at least gives them hope in war. A little light like a warming fire in the brutal winter. (every small donation helps: https://www.rescue.org/topic/ukraine-crisis International Rescue Commitee IRC)

international nonprofit Heifer International editorial :

“No man was ever endowed with a right without being

at the same time saddled with a responsibility.” Gerald

W. Johnson

Bestselling author, Stephen King, is most famous as the writer of horror novels. Sometime back he spoke to the graduates of Vassar College and offered some profound advice:

" What You Pass On," Stephen King

“A couple of years ago I found out what ‘you can’t take it with you’ means. I found out while I was lying in a ditch at the side of a country road, covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans like a branch of a tree taken down in a thunderstorm. I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in a ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard. We all know life is fleeting, but on that particular day and in the months that followed, I got a painful but extremely valuable look at life’s simple backstage truths. We come in naked and broke. We may be dressed when we go out, but we’re just as broke. Warren Buffet? Going to go out broke. Bill Gates? Going out broke. Tom Hanks? Going out broke. Steve

King? Broke. Not carrying a dime.

All the money you earn, all the stocks you buy, all the mutual funds you

trade—all of that is mostly smoke and mirrors. It’s still going to be a

quarter past getting late whether you tell time on a Timex or a Rolex. No

matter how large your bank account, no matter how many credit cards

you have, sooner or later things will begin to go wrong with the only

three things you have that you can really call your own: your body, your

spirit and your mind.

So I want you to consider making your life one long gift to others. And

why not? All you have is on loan anyway. All that lasts is what you pass

on....We have the power to help, the power to change. And why should

we refuse? Because we’re going to take it with us? Please. Giving is a

way of taking the focus off the money we make and putting it back where

it belongs—on the lives we lead, the families we raise and the

communities that nurture us.”

(Heifer International helps the poorest of the poor around the world with livestock donations for struggling farmers, tribal peoples, and rural communities.)

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Dec 28, 2022·edited Dec 28, 2022

put war and Russia's crimes in perspective: the brilliant Carl Sagan

photo is of a tiniest dot of light in a sunbeam, taken from satellite as it exits the solar system, our blue rock in space, adrift in an endless, seemingly empty universe

"A Pale Blue Dot"

"The following excerpt from Carl Sagan's book Pale Blue Dot was inspired by an image taken, at Sagan's suggestion, by Voyager 1 on 14 February 1990. As the spacecraft was departing our planetary neighborhood for the fringes of the solar system, it turned it around for one last look at its home planet. Voyager 1 was about 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) away, and approximately 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane, when it captured this portrait of our world. Caught in the center of scattered light rays (a result of taking the picture so close to the Sun), Earth appears as a tiny point of light, a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size."

Carl Sagan: "Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home.

That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you

know, everyone you ever heard of, every human

being who ever was, lived out their lives. The

aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of

confident religions, ideologies, and economic

doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and

coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization,

every king and peasant, every young couple in love,

every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and

explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt

politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader,"

every saint and sinner in the history of our species

lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a


The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic

arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a

fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties

visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel

on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some

other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings,

how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent

their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the

delusion that we have some privileged position in

the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale

light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great

enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this

vastness, there is no hint that help will come from

elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor

life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near

future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes.

Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the

Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and

character-building experience. There is perhaps no

better demonstration of the folly of human conceits

than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it

underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly

with one another, and to preserve and cherish the

pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

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The subject matter of VZ's speech does not (as I can see) event hint at the foundational conflict between the variants of Orthodoxy, let alone Christianity, each side of which sends its soldiers off to kill "the enemy". Shades of Carl Schmitt, maybe, but puzzling in the absence of recourse to the Scriptures for those who accept the veracity of the account of how & why Cain murdered Abel, his brother.

Maybe VZ is alive to the hypocrisy & has read Max Weber (Politics as vocation) and definitively places his task as politician centre-stage for the sake of the State.

Are we alive to the atrocities committed for the foundation of the USA? If so, "what is in their hearts" may not bear close scrutiny.

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Yes, fair points.

And also fair (as you realize) to acknowledge the difference between, on the one hand, a Direct Message exchange, very late at night in Kyiv, about how they produced the speech— and, on the other, these larger civilizational issues. Also I imagine that their whole team looks forward to the time when they can address issues like this more seriously.

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Dec 27, 2022·edited Dec 27, 2022


A Massively Collaborative Open U.S. History Textbook

*2021-2022 Updates*

Stanford University Press Edition


"I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable / I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world."—Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself," Leaves of Grass

"The American Yawp is a free, online, collaboratively built American history textbook. Over 300 historians joined together to create the book they wanted for their own students—an accessible, synthetic narrative that reflects the best of recent historical scholarship and provides a jumping-off point for discussions in the U.S. history classroom and beyond.

Long before Whitman and long after, Americans have sung something collectively amid the deafening roar of their many individual voices. The Yawp highlights the dynamism and conflict inherent in the history of the United States, while also looking for the common threads that help us make sense of the past. Without losing sight of politics and power, The American Yawp incorporates transnational perspectives, integrates diverse voices, recovers narratives of resistance, and explores the complex process of cultural creation. It looks for America in crowded slave cabins, bustling markets, congested tenements, and marbled halls. It navigates between maternity wards, prisons, streets, bars, and boardrooms." yawp website

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Thank you! This is a real find (American Yawp), which yet again I had not been aware of.

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at your service!

May you and your family have the best New Year ever! greetings from 0 degrees in the great north woods New England !

it looks like Stanford has a great project, I am looking forward to seeing it as well

Thank you for such an interesting read and a great substack site. What fun to read your articles and all the comments too.

Here's a cool quote I just came across today: sharing! Wishing for peace and understanding in our world, hoping for peace in the many wars around the world incl Ukraine. A profile in courage.

"Traveling; it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. "

- Ibn Battuta

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Thanks! And love the final quote.

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about american yawp: how did this miss being a bigger story in nonprofit circles ?

networking and information sharing is so important in the nonprofit/social change movement

in my experience, advocates and activists need more networking, more information-sharing so large intiatives like the Yawp Project are shared with all.

So many activist groups are toiling away in the trenches and the foundations/funders need to provide more networking in order to motivate, share, educate, and also avoid having to reinvent the wheel...

Our Towns is a superb tool for this type of info sharing and glad to share my new find of the Yawp Project with all!

hoping everyone is back to full health, that is most important :)

Happy New Year 2023, may Ukraine be at peace...

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Dec 27, 2022·edited Dec 27, 2022

Wow! This Fallows topic will go down in history as one of the great threads, thank you!

The gift to your readership of fine journalism.

As we stand on the precipice of world war, again.

I think we are all responding to the incredible grace of President Zelensky in the face of monstrous genocide, happening inside and outside of Russia. We feel deeply for the people of all countries who must suffer the cruelties of war. In our advanced planetary society, the only reason now to prosecute war is for the leader's money and power. For the ultimate ego of the individual politician or moneybags. Watching George C. Scott's portrayal of Scrooge recently, he conveys the anti-humanitarian, anti-humanity nature of the beast that lives among us.

Russia attacks Ukraine:

Mark Twain: "Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out...and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel. ..And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for "the universal brotherhood of man"--with his mouth." What Is Man?

The New York Times, December 7, 1914

Unpublished Article by Author Read in St. Louis.
Special to The New York Times.

ST. LOUIS. Dec. 6. - An unpublished article by Mark Twain, called "The War Prayer," was recalled by Dr. Henry Neuman, leader of the Ethical Culture Society in Brooklyn, this morning in his address on "Mark Twain" before the Ethical Society of St. Louis.

The story tells how a regiment on its way to the front assembles at a church and prays for victory. When the prayer is concluded a white-robed stranger enters to say he has been sent from "On High" with a message that the petition will be answered if the men care to repeat it after understanding its full import. Their prayer, he tells them, asks for more than they seem to realize. Hence he bids them listen while he repeats aloud these unspoken implications of their desire.

...Because he was told that this article would be regarded as sacrilegious, Mark Twain, who, according to Dr. Neuman, was a free thinker, did not permit it.

The Samuel Clemens Society:

The War Prayer

"Written by Mark Twain during the Philippine-American War in the first decade of the twentieth century, The War Prayer tells of a patriotic church service held to send the town’s young men of to war. During the service, a stranger enters and addresses the gathering. He implies to the patriotic crowd that their prayers for victory are double-edged – that by praying for victory they are also praying for the destruction of the enemy…for the destruction of human life."


Mark Twain quotes:

"I feel for Adam and Eve now, for I know how it was with them....The Garden of Eden I now know was an unendurable solitude. I know that the advent of the serpent was a welcome change--anything for society." 
- Mark Twain, a Biography


"...heaven for climate; hell for society.
" - Tammany and Croker speech.


We may not doubt that society in heaven consists mainly of undesirable persons.
" - Mark Twain's Notebook, 1902-1903.


There are no common people except in the highest spheres of society." 
- quoted in Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field

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Thank you. I agree with you that the grace and stoicism of Prez Zelensky and his country have struck a chord around the world.

The works of Mark Twain are a seemingly infinite source of insights into American (and human) nature that remain relevant more than a century after his time.

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From @ProfTimJackson in his 'Post Growth: Life after capitalism' a pretty good example of another speech that lived on - Robert F Kennedy's "first formal speech for the [Presidential] campaign" at Kansas State University on 18th March 1968. "It had been scripted carefully for the occasion by his speechwriter, Adam Walinsky." Jackson laboured to track down the origins of the elements in that speech.

"The journey itself is entangled in the history of thought. That history was created by some extraordinary people. Their lives and struggles provide a way of grounding theory in story. Listened to with respect, they become our guides. In this chapter, self-evidently, our principal guide was Robert F. Kennedy, former US Attorney General and aspiring Presidential candidate in the 1968 campaign. As the book unfolds, the cast begins to multiply. <p> I am not entirely sure whether I chose these characters or whether they chose me. Nor could I reliably say that I guided the direction of their narrative. As I wrote, their voices teased me relentlessly away from my original, more simplistic aims and forced me into complexities I hadn’t intended to address. These women and men became my intellectual companions. I would lose myself over and again in their lives and their struggles. Not too much, I hope. But enough to arrive occasionally in that liminal space where something unexpected can happen. More often than not it did."

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Interesting, thank you. I had not known about this and will check it out.

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I get the sense that the speech writers and the president are all speaking from profound beliefs that they share with each other and with the majority of the Ukrainian people--they're all in this together--and that's why Zelensky's speeches work so well.

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Well put. As we all know from millennia of history, and from Shakespeare, and from 'Moral Equivalent of War,' and Frank Capra movies, and all the rest, there can be a common purpose in wartime — a "positive" aspect of the overwhelmingly negative fact of war. At least for now, nearly all involved in the Ukrainian cause appear to feel that connection.

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The best book on this phenomenon is Sebastian Jungar's Tribe. But it goes beyond war.

A few years after I read Tribe, I read Endurance, by Alfred Lansing, about Shackleton and his men (all 27 or 28 of them, every last one, including the one who had the heart attack) returning to civilization. A month or so again, Peter Segal referred to Shackleton as a failure, for failing to reach the South Pole. In my opinion he's one of the biggest successes ever, getting all those men back to civilization, despite 15 months without real shelter in the antarctic, despite sailing lifeboats through the worst waters on the planet, etc. (Part of his personal success in the matter was bringing men into his expedition whom he felt would work well with others.)

But I realized it was partly this phenomenon described in Tribe, which has its most familiar manifestation in war, but appears under a variety of other circumstances.

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Yes, thanks, I have read and learned from those books.

One of my themes, which I have mentioned roughly every other week through my writing career, is the centrality of Williams James's 1910 essay 'The Moral Equivalent of War' on exactly this point. (As you must know.)

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I actually wasn't aware of that essay. But given the frequency of your mentions, I'm putting that on my list immediately!

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Jim What marvelous insights into how President Zelensky’s speech to Congress was crafted. This interview could only have been conducted by a superb presidential speech writer—YOU!.

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That is very nice, thank you. Despite the *enormous* difference in circumstances — an American president, no matter how beleaguered, vs a Ukrainian president fending off full-scale invasion — there is a similarity-of-function in thinking about how a leader explains national goals. I was grateful for the quick explanations he gave.

Only a few times in my Carter era was there extra attention to "how will this go over, in another language." Some times on Latin American trips Carter was say some intro paragraphs in Spanish, which he knew to a functional but not fluid/ fluent level. (In contrast to Lloyd Bentsen, who grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and appeared to be very much at ease in Spanish). Also everything about the Camp David peace agreements depended on exactly the way specific terms would be rendered in Hebrew and Arabic.

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I really like the point to "never lie in speeches" and the formula to make the message "simple, candid, and audible." This seems like a very good set of guidelines for effective speaking, for any topic or audience.

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Yes, thanks. Mr. Lytvyn was operating quickly, and by electronic message, when he was juggling a lot else, so these weren't meant as full-scale essay-exam answers. But I thought he points he boiled things down to were pithy and important.

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