To France, with love. Signed Australia, Great Britain and the US

Sitting on the black leather couch in the salon doré in his gilt office in the Elysée Palace, France’s president Emmanuel Marcon isn’t happy. He’s furious and — quit smirking — is a very French kind of fury: Rooted on the unshakable belief that France is special among nations, fated for glorie. It’s possible that the office décor is part of the disconnect, it invites delusions of grandeur. The only reason the building is still standing is because France surrendered before the Germans had a chance to bomb it. The only reason they got it back was due to his…


Would you drink with this man?

In 1939, Winston Churchill said, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in mystery inside of an enigma.” It was more bewilderment than sneer, although he was as famously as anti-Bolshevik as pro-American. President Roosevelt liked Churchill, but not enough to keep him from throwing the man over for Russian politics the he thought he understood, and a practical reality that he absolutely didn’t. If FDR was the first president to be blindsided by the Russians, it is too early to tell if Joe Biden will be the latest.

Last week Biden took…


It’s a name you need to know, if for no other reason that it works so well. A Cold War innovation from behind the Iron Curtain that has found new life. Unlike that other enduring socialist innovation of mass famine (which really is only possible with lots of central planning) Zersetzung can be exported. And boy is it.

For all our focus on China — Russia is missing the love: Its glory days are over. Without that mountainous Eastern Bloc buffer-zone, its borders are wide open — far too wide to defend with the army it’s got. Given the drug-addled…


On 24 February 1902 at least one of Cuba’s revolution actually achieved its goals and got stamped as Cuban Independence Day. It didn’t last and by any practical definition of the word, they lost it 50 years later. Like salsa dancing, Cuban history isn’t exactly straightforward to the gringo. They Remember the Maine more vividly than we do, and have managed to get mad at us after we won their war against Spain for them. More topically, why is the US State Department convinced that an island nation that is incapable of producing sea-food is also able to produce a…


Brandy — the liquor, not the short-lived singing sensation — has two seeming incompatible image problems. Most people think of it as either the favorite of either a) the stodgy British upper class or b) a decidedly more urban hip hop sorts or their hangers on. Two demographics not normally grouped together.

As such, it never occurs to the great swathes of people who don’t think that they are either to try a snort. That’s a shame, because not only is good brandy great, it looks really cool in a great whacking snifter.

In reality, Brandy is not a product…


Even in Iraq’s Shi’a south, the local Arabs mock the Persians across the Shatt al-Arab waterway for worshipping fire. It’s a little pre-Muslim dig at Zoroastrianism’s central symbol. To the frustration of Iran’s mullahs, old habits die hard — Zoroastrian style wedding ceremonies involving prayers around a fire are so popular in Iran that they were banned in 2019. Still, given the way that Tehran is carrying on about re-entering the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) which President Trump walked away from in 2018, you could argue that the government still worships fire from above.

In an article in…


Every night for the last week — the nights have been clear — they come out at precisely 8:00 o’clock to bang the pots and pans, the traditional method for driving out evil spirits. Less traditionally, young women are parading in the streets of Yangon in Disney princess dresses. There are too many, too spread out, and disperse too quickly for the army to do much about it. They hear the noise, though, and the subtext is as unmistakable. In this exorcism, they are the devils.

Why should we care about a coup d’état in Myanmar? A country most Americans…


The Arab Spring Ten Years On

The Hotel Juliana in Benghazi is a modern, clean place with western toilets (always check this before-hand) and enough hot water if you don’t linger. The Wi-Fi is good, which explains the nightly crowd in the lobby smoking, drinking fruit juice, checking smart phones and speaking in the time-honored Arab manner of all at once. Get a room in the back of the hotel, away from the crowd, where you can open your window at night and listen to the sea lapping against the beach. My room was so close to the water that if I pitched an empty orange…


They called the festival the Bacchanalia, which originally was annual “girls only” party. In Livius’ massive history of Rome, he writes that when things were getting out of hand with the Bacchanalias, a free Roman woman named Hispala Fecenia testified as to the orderly nature of the rites before the men got involved. Apparently the rites were held for three days a year, and by Hispala’s account, did nothing more objectionable than some ancient version of Margaritas, three-bean salads, and girl talk.

The High Priestess of Bacchus was selected by rotation and when it was Paculla Minia’s turn, she announced…


Still, if you live in the South, it’s hard to reach for that bottle of during the sweltering summer. Or spring. Or fall. While there is precious little of what we’d call heat to it, there is a lot of peat smoke to this whisky. If you pick up Laphroaig’s “Triple Wood” you’ll add an addition dimension to what ought to be one of your go-to winter whiskies.

Those cold nights are the best time of the year to grab a good, peaty scotch whisky. If you’ve got a fireplace, build one; if you have a leather chair, sit in…

Richard Murff

Creative Director: Burnaby, Editor: the 4717 Murff has reported from across Hell's half acre. Author of Haint Punch, and Pothole of the Gods. Good egg

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