New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - December 2, 1980, New Braunfels, Texas
Tuesday, Dec. 2,1980 4A
Claude Scruggs, Publisher George Runge, EditorJoseph C. Harsch
' __________Mr. Reagan's foreign problems easing
Surprising as it may sound the chances are that Ronald Reagan will discover soon after taking office that his domestic problems will be more difficult than his foreign problems — and by a wide margin.
He campaigned on the assumption that Washington faces a mounting Soviet expansionism which will require sudden and heavy increases in U.S. defense spending which in turn would increase the difficulty of handling the American inflation. But right now the chances that the men in Moscow will do something new of a disturbing and threatening nature are remote.
Of course the situation in Poland might get out of hand and lead to military repression by Soviet armed forces. But that is in itself a major reason why Moscow is too strained and stretched by existing commitments to be free to launch new adventures.
One measure of Moscow’s troubles is the way the voting went in the United Nations the other day on the resolution calling for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Moscow got the support of all those countries which have no choice. Where Soviet troops are present a country votes with Moscow. That accounts for all the East European countries under actual Soviet occupation. But Romania, which has managed so far to avoid the presence of Soviet troops on its soil, actually abstained from voting although a member of the Warsaw Pact.
Outside Eastern Europe Moscow got the support of three important countries — Cuba, Ethiopia, and Vietnam — for the obvious reason that they are totally dependent on Moscow both for weapons and for economic survival. They are heavily subsidized. Add two Indian Ocean countries, Madagascar
and the Seychelles islands, and Grenada in the Caribbean and Sao Tome and Principe off Africa’s west coast which voted for the Kremlin in payment for economic support. As for Syria, which has an increasingly unpopular government, it depends on Moscow for its arms supply.
All together Moscow counted 22 countries voting its way. That included its own three votes. Of the 19 others not a one was truly free to vote against the Soviet Union. India, which has long been pursuing a pro-Soviet foreign policy, actually abstained. Algeria did the same. Libya did not vote. Finland, which lives under the Soviet shadow and hence under powerful pressure from Moscow, showed remarkable courage by abstaining. A lot of countries one normally expects to find on the Soviet side in a U.S. vote managed to keep aloof on that one.
The number voting against Moscow was 111. Seldom has Soviet diplomacy and influence been shown to be so threadbare as on that vote.
Another measure of Moscow’s present condition is the count of Soviet army divisions which are substantially committed and hence unavailable for new adventure. There are 46 divisions deployed along the Chinese frontier — and pinned there by continuing tensions along that frontier. There are 24 divisions in the southern part of the U.S.S.R. of which about IO are actually in Afghanistan. Most of the others must be earmarked as a strategic reserve for that active front. There are 31 divisions in Eastern Europe sitting on top of East Germans, Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles. Considering the restlessness of Poland none of these could with safety be moved away from present positions.
That makes a total of IQI divisions
which are occupied by Moscow’s unfinished war in Afghanistan, by restlessness in Poland, and by Moscow’s inability to get along with China.
There are 173 divisions in the Soviet Army. Hence more than half of its ground strength is immobilized. This is perhaps not quite as serious for Moscow as the condition the U.S. was in during the Vietnam war when over half of total American armed strength — ground, sea and air, including strategic bombers — was tied down on the far side of the world. Yet it comes close to being the same thing in reverse. The U.S. has no current active operations which subtract from its available military posture. Soviet forces are heavily committed on three fronts.
Which means that when Mr. Reagan takes over from Mr. Carter he will hold the stronger hand in the great game of
power politics. The Soviets have more reason to want to negotiate with him than he has for wanting to negotiate with them. He can take his time, and play it coolly. And that in turn will be of some help to him when he faces his domestic problems — but not by much. It only means that he does not have to start any massive military buildup at once.
But he will still need to make headway against inflation, and soon, because that is what the voters expect of him above all else. And how does he do that? The conventional Republican formula of the moment is tight money, fiscal prudence, and tax cuts. But that is precisely what Margaret Thatcher is trying in Britain — and the result is a rising tide of unemployment and bankruptcies. Can the Thatcher formula actually be used in the U.S.?
Ending excessive sports violence
HK 7803 is a bill being proposed in Congress to control excessive sports violence. If passed, a professional player could get up to a year in prison and could be fined up to $1,000 for engaging in excessive violence.
Since owners realize violence sells tickets they have not been willing to curb excessive violence. Unfortunately, the financial self-interest of these people may prove the principal obstacle to enactment of a bill to regulate sports.
Dr. Aidan Dunleavy, a professor of kinesiological studies at Texas Christian
University and a specialist in sports, says ice hockey and professional football are the main culprits. He observes that “one professional ice hockey team advertises its games as ‘War on Ice.’ ” He adds, that in professional football the lure of big-money contracts and the tremendous financial rewards given to successful plays often lead to unneeded violence.
Violence has been carried to the extreme. Passage of HK 7803 is necessary not only to put a lid on violence, but on excessive financial contracts.Virginia PayetteThe creativity pill
If this column doesn’t strike you as a literary gem, it’s because my druggist hasn’t yet received his shipment of creativity pills — and I can’t afford a computer that will zing up my writing style.
I plan to ask Santa for a double dose of both for Christmas.
And if you think I’m kidding that just shows you haven’t been paying attention to the latest break-throughs on the science front. They put a man on the moon, didn’t they? Why not an Ernie Pyle behind every typewriter?
It was bound to happen. Now that chemistry and computers control our lives, it was only a matter of time before somebody came up with a pill that w ould make “writer’s block’’ obsolete. Or a machine that would check out our spelling and grammar, right down to the last split infinitive.
Now, they say, they’ve done it.
According to science writer Gene Hylinsky (is that Russian for ‘ byline”?), there’s a man who claims he has developed a creativity pill that will sharpen our perceptions, inspire us to greater literary heights and shift our brains into overdrive, enabling us to crank out IO years of work in IO weeks.
In his new book, “Mood Control,”
Bylinsky quotes an unnamed biochemist who says creativity is “surprisingly easy” to stimulate. He conducted this controlled experiment, see, and reports that the subjects who took the pill not only w rote more than those on a placebo did, they w rote it faster and better.
If this is true, it will liberate hundreds of us ink-stained wretches who spend our days wrestling with blank sheets of paper that don’t w ant to be w ritten on.
Hankering for a Pulitzer? Pop a pill, plug in the typewriter and peck away.
It may not happen tomorrow. The biochemist says he can’t find a way to market his discovery. Leaving us to wonder why he doesn’t just swallow one of his own pills and “create” a way.
But the computer that corrects copy is here right now. It’s the creation of a group of linguistic experts from the Writer’s Workbench, and what it does is edit, and even analyze, the writing quality of any kind of manuscript it’s programmed for. (You can be sure it would holler over ending a sentence with a preposition.)
The folks from the Writer’s Workbench, with the help of the Computing Science Research Center at the Bell laboratories in Piscataway, N.J., have dreamed up 23 different programs to keep writers on their toes.
Punch in “proofr” (sic) and it rattles off five different proof-reading programs. Ask it to check your spelling and it automatically compares every word to a dictionary stored in its electronic brain.
Hit the “prose” key and it really goes to work on your stuff. It can be most critical of rambling sentences, ten-dollar words and flights of rhetoric that force a reader to untangle your sentences to decipher what you’re trying to say.
Properly programmed, a command of “double” will head you off at the printout for repeated use of words or phrases. Ask it for a “diction” reading and you’ll get a lesson in simple writing and a lecture about how the non-mflated “finish” is preferable to “bring to a conclusion.”
This computer hisses disapproval at phrases like “in order to,” reminding you that “to” is sufficient...it sneers at “very unique” and “little booklet” and “at this point in time”...and, when you really get carried away, it sputters out a peremptory “omit.”
What it can’t do is make what you write more interesting. Until they can program that into its bubble memory, you’re on your own. And let’s all start praying for the creativity pill.
Snooping made legal
The secret tapping of the telephones of innocent Americans supposedly came to a crashing halt with reform legislation which was enacted five years ago. But it didnt.
A loophole in the law, designed to give the Good Guys a break in the continuous game of espionage with the Russians, permits Uncle Sam’s spooks to listen in on any phone conversations the Kremlin’s agents have tapped.
As a result, thousands of phone calls to and from government officials, businessmen and other Americans have been clandestinely recorded by both U.S. and Soviet snoopers. And thanks to the loophole, this eavesdropping — by the American tappers, that is — was perfectly legal.
It was also totally unproductive.
The operation, code-named “Project Aquarium,” has been traced to the early days of the Carter administration, intelligence sources told my associate Dale Van Atta. And one of the unwitting targets was President Carter’s good friend and attorney general, Griffin Bell.
For reasons that make sense to the convoluted reasoning of the espionage community, the government has done little to stop the Russians’ electronic monitoring of phone calls in this country. Since 1977, the bugging has been done from the Soviet Embassy in Washington, the Russian consulate in San Francisco, two of their offices in New York and several other secret locations.
The CIA wanted to crack the New York operation. The reason is that two-thirds of all long-distance calls travel by microwaves, and much of that traffic is beamed through transmitting towers in New York. The Russians simply rent a hotel room and tap into one of the tow ers with sophisticated equipment.
They use a scanning device to zero in on the few hundred phone numbers they’re interested in — government officials privy to state secrets, business executives discussing confidential matters, perhaps the mistress of an important man who would then be susceptible to blackmail.
Unfortunately, the CIA just didn’t have the electronic expertise to horn in on the Russian snoopers. After trying for months with no success, they finally turned to the National Security Agency for help.
For the NSA — which once, in “Project Canute,” reconstructed messages from the acoustical tape of someone typing — the monitoring was like shooting fish in a barrel. Within a week the agency’s wizards were tapping the Russians’ radio monitors and hearing everything they heard.
One early result was a surprise: The NSA tapped the Soviets tapping Attorney General Bell, who was overheard discussing classified information on an unsecured line. Bell was quickly informed, though the leak was “more of a joke than a serious thing,” in Bell’s words.
Thousands of phone calls by hundreds of individuals were subjected to Project Aquarium’s double U.S.-Soviet eavesdropping, long after the furor over Watergate-era domestic surveillance had subsided. But intelligence sources say the project never turned up so much as a nugget of significant information.
The most the NSA monitors learned was the identities of Americans who excite the Russians’ interest — which in most cases is obvious. “I’ve never seen the need for that kind of intelligence,” said one CIA official. “It’s wasted.”
Footnote: To its credit, the NSA resisted Bell’s efforts to get hold of its tapes. He particularly wanted any that
might have shed some light on the Koreagate scandal. In a showdown at the White House, the president ordered the NSA director to inform Bell if any of the taped conversations had relevance to the investigation. The director said none did.
But some experts are concerned that the loophole allowing federal tapping of innocent citizens — so long as the Russians tap them first — could be used as a means of returning to the bad old days of indiscriminate domestic snooping that was discredited by the Watergate excesses.
Diplomatic digest: laughter in Foggy Bottom Dept.: Some secretaries in the State Department’s East Asian Bureau, evidently bored by the recurrent talk of drastic budget cuts, prepared an official-looking memo on their supply needs for the coming year. It begar innocently with desk calendars, but then excalated to house plants, a 25-inch TV with Home Box Office capability for the reception area, an avocado-color no frost refrigerator and “last but noi least, six Cartier crystal stem vases t( be filled weekly with longstem roses” b) the secretaries’ bosses. The memo wa: circulated among the higher-ups, wh< enjoyed a well-modulated chuckle ovei their afternoon tea.
Meanwhile, out in the diplomatic foxholes, Ambassador Mortoi Abramowitz and his wife, Sheppie, hav< been drawing high praise for theii teamwork in Thailand. The country ha: been all but overwhelmed by thousand of Vietnamese, laotian and Cambodia! refugees, and the American Embassy i doing its best to help the Thais cope. A one point, I’m told, Mrs. Abramowit and other embassy wives tore up thei own sheets and pillowcases to mak bandages for the needy refugees.
^ME AU' OL' \ Jimmy Ju?T BODIED OUR HATCHET^.,. RIGHT, JiMMY?