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Forum, Nov. 23: A Fitting Commemoration 


Friday, November 24, 2017
A Fitting Commemoration 

When my wife and I visited Budapest, Hungary, a few years ago, we were surprised to learn that there was a museum devoted to Soviet Russia. During the Soviet era, all sorts of patriotic statues had been placed in town squares and parks, Lenin mostly, but also other Soviet heroes. There were also lots of plaques glorifying the Communist Party, many with slogans intending to inspire confidence in the system.

We made plans to visit the museum. It turned out to be located well out of the city, hard to get to by public transportation, hard even to find. It was an open air museum behind a chicken wire fence, with no admission fee. The statues had not been placed but seem to have been put there haphazardly. A fitting place, a fitting statement. The Hungarians had not forgotten their past but they were commemorating it in their chosen manner — thrown aside where the memory of oppression could be witnessed and stand as a statement to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of a shameful period of history.

It occurs to me that perhaps the Confederate statues could be treated in a similar spirit.

Richard P. Morse

Plainfield

Undermining U.S. Diplomatic Power 

“‘No hitting, Johnny”; “Use your words, Mary.” Such good-parenting admonitions should be applied in nearly exact parallel to U.S. foreign policy. They translate, in effect, to, “Don’t budget 15 percent more in billions of dollars for the defense contractors who press their wares on the Pentagon, while you cut the State Department budget by 31 percent.” 

As a Foreign Service wife, I was part of my late husband’s State Department career for 38 years, from an early posting in Bombay in 1950 through his career-culminating posting as ambassador to Chile in 1985. In the midst of that career, my husband, Harry Barnes, served a tour in Foggy Bottom as director general of the Foreign Service, a senior career diplomat position with the power to block political interference in diplomatic appointments. That position has been now offered to Stephen Akard, an associate of Vice President Mike Pence whose only State Department service was over a decade ago and who has never served as an ambassador himself. The American Academy of Diplomacy likens Akard’s nomination to “making a former Army Captain the Chief of Staff of the Army, the equivalent of a four-star general."

This is but one example of the shredding of our country’s capacity to “use our words,” and instead making our foreign policy increasingly dependent on the Pentagon’s technologies of destruction. Over 100 senior diplomats have left the State Department, applications to join the diplomatic ranks are down by half from two years ago, senior positions are still unfilled, and morale has plummeted. This, while North Korea threatens, China rises, Russia interferes, Syria and Iraq are unstable, and the Saudi-Iranian caldron boils.

New Hampshire’s senior senator, Jeanne Shaheen, deserves accolades for joining Sen. John McCain in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, raising alarms that “America’s diplomatic power is being weakened internally as complex global crises are growing externally.” Sen. Shaheen serves on both the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Forces Committees. Granite-Staters have reason to be proud of her leadership in this perilous situation. We must hope that it’ll really make a difference.

Betsey Barnes

Lebanon

Benefits of a Carbon Tax

We learn from the editorial “Tax Cuts Revisited,” reprinted from TheCharlotte Observer in the Nov. 21 Valley News, that Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., was one of the 13 from his party who voted against the House version of the tax bill. He did so because it would add up to $2 trillion to the nation’s debt. 

Tax cut proponents say that the plan will generate rapid growth and will pay for itself.  Jones disagrees. He understands, as do experts on taxation history of the U.S., that tax cuts should not be counted on to stimulate the economy. Previous tax cuts have had disappointing results and have increased the national debt. When Michael Mullen was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he warned that debt was the country’s greatest single threat to national security.

The country needs to replace high-paying jobs that have been lost to automation or have gone overseas. The middle-income workforce needs help, not the high-income cohort that gets the major benefit from the current tax-cut legislation. Right now, the best growth of good-paying middle-income jobs is found in the renewable energy field. We need to grow more of these jobs, now, and get off of fossil fuels before global warming and the resulting violent weather makes it impossible to do so. How do we pay for these jobs?

Last February, three former Republican Treasury secretaries, James Baker, Henry Paulson and George Shultz, visited the White House and proposed that the U.S. adopt a carbon tax to avoid additional regulatory action regarding clean fuels. This overture was quashed by climate change deniers. I hope that this trio and many green energy supporters will return to the White House and Congress and refuse to take no for an answer. A carbon tax with the proceeds dedicated to reduction in global warming would jump-start jobs of the sort that  middle-class Americans wish for. I suggest that Republicans and Democrats try to imagine working together on a tax plan that links green jobs growth, fiscal responsibility and economic opportunity.

O. Ross McIntyre

Lyme