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Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Tillman Tragedy, Ten Years On

Marking the 10th anniversary of the death/killing of Pat Tillman,  I thought I'd re-publish a piece I wrote on March 6, 2006, on "How the Press Was Spun" at Editor & Publisher, where I was the editor.
*

The Pat Tillman case is back in the news, with the Army’s belated announcement that it is launching a criminal probe into the “friendly fire” killing of the former pro football star in Afghanistan in April 2004. It’s a long way, indeed, since those days immediately after the tragic incident when Tillman's death was promoted by the Pentagon as a symbol of American goodness in the war on terrorists.

While the criminal matter takes center stage, we should not forget that the military not only lied to Tillman’s friends and family about the episode, but also--in the tradition of the Jessica Lynch affair—to the press. Eventually, the media played a key role in helping to get the truth out. As far as anyone knows, none of the Army officials who misled the world have been punished.

Tillman's mother, Mary, told The Washington Post on Saturday that she believes evidence of a crime has existed all along, and that the family's repeated calls for a criminal investigation were ignored until now. Her husband, Patrick Tillman Sr., commented, "if you send investigators to reinvestigate an investigation that was falsified in the first place, what do you think you're going to get?"

The Tillman tragedy was last in the news in a major way last May, thanks to an account in The Washington Post, which has taken the lead on this story from the beginning.

The Post's Josh White reported in May that Tillman's parents were now ripping the Army, saying that the military's investigations into their son's 2004 "friendly fire" death in Afghanistan was a sham based on "lies" and that the Army cover-up made it harder for them to deal with their loss. They were speaking out because they have finally had a chance to look at the full records of the military probe.

"Tillman's mother and father said in interviews that they believe the military and the government created a heroic tale about how their son died to foster a patriotic response across the country," White reported.

While military officials' lying to the parents gained wide publicity then, hardly anyone mentioned that the press had dutifully carried one report after another based on the Pentagon's spin.

Tillman was killed in a barrage of gunfire from his own men, mistaken for the enemy on a hillside near the Pakistan border—perhaps, we will soon learn, criminally. "Immediately," the Post reported, "the Army kept the soldiers on the ground quiet and told Tillman's family and the public that he was killed by enemy fire while storming a hill, barking orders to his fellow Rangers." Tillman posthumously received the Silver Star for his "actions."

The military investigation, exposed by the Post, "showed that soldiers in Afghanistan knew almost immediately that they had killed Tillman by mistake in what they believed was a firefight with enemies on a tight canyon road. The investigation also revealed that soldiers later burned Tillman's uniform and body armor."

Tillman's father said he blamed high-ranking Army officers for presenting "outright lies" to the family and to the press. "After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this," he told the Post. "They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy.”

Mary, the mother, complained to the Post that the government used her son for weeks after his death. She said she was particularly offended when President Bush offered a taped memorial message to Tillman at a Cardinals football game shortly before the presidential election last fall.

It is worth recalling that Steve Coll, then with the Washington Post, in December 2004 described the early weeks of the Pentagon spin on Tillman, before his paper helped reveal the truth.

"Just days after Pat Tillman died from friendly fire on a desolate ridge in southeastern Afghanistan," Coll wrote, "the U.S. Army Special Operations Command released a brief account of his last moments. The April 30, 2004, statement awarded Tillman a posthumous Silver Star for combat valor and described how a section of his Ranger platoon came under attack&hellip.

"It was a stirring tale and fitting eulogy for the Army's most famous volunteer in the war on terrorism, a charismatic former pro football star whose reticence, courage and handsome beret-draped face captured for many Americans the best aspects of the country's post-Sept. 11 character.

"It was also a distorted and incomplete narrative, according to dozens of internal Army documents obtained by The Washington Post that describe Tillman's death by fratricide after a chain of botched communications, a misguided order to divide his platoon over the objection of its leader and undisciplined firing by fellow Rangers.

"The Army's public release made no mention of friendly fire, even though at the time it was issued, investigators in Afghanistan had already taken at least 14 sworn statements from Tillman's platoon members that made clear the true causes of his death.

"But the Army's published account not only withheld all evidence of fratricide, but also exaggerated Tillman's role and stripped his actions of their context. ... The Army's April 30 news release was just one episode in a broader Army effort to manage the uncomfortable facts of Pat Tillman's death, according to internal records and interviews."

Now the Army is going after soldiers who presumably pulled the triggers at the scene. There is no evidence that it is looking at its own high-level cover-up.

"Maybe lying's not a big deal anymore," Tillman’s father told the Post last year. "Pat's dead, and this isn't going to bring him back. But these guys should have been held up to scrutiny, right up the chain of command, and no one has."

More on Tillman and other Iraq and media outrages and controversies in my book, So Wrong for So Long.

Roll Away the Stone

A different sort of Easter message from early Leon Russell.

Patti's "Easter"

"Easter Sunday, we were walking...."

Friday, April 18, 2014

Another for "Good Friday" from Sam Cooke

From our greatest modern singer, with Soul Stirrers, mid-1950s.  And another.

From '1971' to '1984'?

You may recall that a few weeks back I covered the important new book about the infamous 1971 "citizens committee" break-in at an FBI office in Pennsylvania that revealed the notorious COINTELPRO domestic spy program and more.  Of course, I followed the story back then in 1971 and even had strong connection to some COINTELPRO victims (I was probably surveiled myself).  Tonight, a film based on the same episode debuts at he Tribeca Film Festival in New York, and AP just posted interviews with director and a producer--none other than Laura Poitras of NSA/Snowden fame....So, natch, we get valid connections to the NSA scandal today.  Trailer:

Blues for Breakfast

UpdateNYT just posted blog piece by the chief researcher on this story, Caitlin Love, on one of her chases.  Don't miss.

Earlier: Some may be looking at their newly-delivered NYT right now and notice that the Sunday magazine's cover story is "The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie."  It's a lengthy and remarkable story of two black women who recorded a total of six blues numbers, vocals and guitar, around 1930, that have knocked out listeners when they were re-discovered quite a few years back, and posed a mystery re: who they were, how the records (few of which survive) came to be, and what the heck happened to the two women.  But make sure you that the Times has done what their cool multimedia things online with video and a lot of audio and extra photos.  And here's one of those classics, in minor key but oh so major, which promoted the mystery when used the Crumb doc back in the 1990s.




'NYT' Admits to 'Gag Orders' in Israel

Big controversy on this--although, one has to admit, not a total surprise, given the paper's history in that country--which has been building, and NYT finally admits, amazingly, that it agreed to gag orders in Israeli in exchange for credentials.  The Times' public ed. Margaret Sullivan covers here but does not go quite far enough (and see update below).
The Times article mentions a court-imposed gag order that was lifted on Thursday. What it doesn’t mention is that The Times, too, is subject to such gag orders. According to its bureau chief in Jerusalem, Jodi Rudoren, that is true.
In an email, Ms. Rudoren told me that in order to get press credentials in Israeli, The Times agrees to abide by such court-imposed orders...

The Times is “indeed, bound by gag orders,” she said. “Apparently we agree to this when signing up for government press cards, which are required to operate here, for access to public officials among other things.” She said that two of her predecessors in the bureau chief position affirmed to her this week that this is the case.
Two ranking editors at The Times – the managing editor, Dean Baquet, and an assistant managing editor, Susan Chira (who was the foreign editor for eight years) – told me that they were unaware of The Times ever agreeing to abide by gag orders in Israel.
Meanwhile, an online publication called The Electronic Intifada published a number of articles about Mr. Kayyal’s detention over the past several days.
The author of those articles, Ali Abunimah, said in an email that “readers have a right to know when NYT is complying with government-imposed censorship.”
UPDATE  Sullivan has added this clarification to her column:
The Times is “indeed, bound by gag orders,” Ms. Rudoren said. She said that the situation is analogous to abiding by traffic rules or any other laws of the land, and that two of her predecessors in the bureau chief position affirmed to her this week that The Times has been subject to gag orders in the past.  (An earlier version of this post said that The Times agrees to abide by gag orders as a prerequisite for press credentials, but Ms. Rudoren told me today that that is not the case, although it was her initial understanding.)
She added link to a 2010 story that was written from the U.S. as a possible example of how the paper has handled this ban in the past.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lap Cat Meets Laptop

If you ever wondered what my every day life at home is like, writing and blogging and tweeting...this is basically it.  Explains some of the typos.


My Biggest Movie Role

For "Throwback Thursday":   My one and only appearance in a Hollywood/indie movie.  I even co-starred with Jeff Goldblum.  Well, in a way.

It was back in the mid-1970s, and the set photographer for a film called Between the Lines, directed by Joan Micklin Silver--a rare female director at the time--called me at Crawdaddy to ask if I could round up a few other vanishing longhairs to appear in the movie, which was set at a Boston alt-paper, similar to The Real Paper or the Phoenix.   The photog was Lorey Sebastian, ex-wife of Spoonful John (she was the "you" in "you and me and rain on the roof" etc.). But I digress.

My appearance would amount to this:  Lorey would take a picture of Jeff, other stars (Lindsay Crouse, John Heard, Bruno Kirby, Stephen Collins), and the folks I could gather,  in front of a loft building in Soho,  looking like we were all back in 1970.  It was summer but we had to wear winter clothes for some reason. The picture would then appear in the movie as some of the characters gazed at it and reflected on the good old days before the paper got kind of corporate.  Yes.  Even back then.

Goldblum played the smart-ass record reviewer. (I later got him to write a review for Crawdaddy and we hung out a bit.)  So, if you watch the film, you will see me--with the rest of the "staff."  For a few seconds.  R.I.P. my film career.

Louis Louis

Update, April 17NYT just out with interesting analysis of how the play treats Armstrong, and another new play on Lady Day.  I have to agree that the one fault in "Satchmo" was not quite enough sense of his true genius and influence as the century's most important American musical figure.

Earlier:  I've been following this amazing new play about the life of Louis "The King" Armstrong since its out-of-town tryouts and now it's just opened in NYC.  Here's NYT rave recently.   Got tickets for tonight.  Front row.  UPDATE:  And it was fantastic.  Rush to see it. Even has a key segment on when he spoke out against Eisenhower (cursed him, even) for his initial failure to act during the Little Rock school integration fight.  Reminded me of when my wife interviewed newspaper guy involved in story for Editor & Publisher when I edited that magazine a few years back.

And below, when he started making the most important music in our history--the first cut below with his own group, the second his "St. Louis Blues" version backing Bessie Smith (virtually his first appearance on record in 1925).  Both cuts go into the Hall of Fame.   

A Fuller Love for Beethoven

In my many readings on Beethoven for our current film and book, I was struck by mentions of virtual love letters that the influential writer, feminist and transcendentalist Margaret Fuller wrote to Ludwig--long after he died.  I'm reminded of it this week, with the Pulitzer Prize win for biography to Megan Marshall for her Fuller book.  Here's Fuller's letter to Beethoven on November 15, 1843, after returning from a concert in Boston:
My only friend,
How shall I thank thee for once more breaking the chains of my sorrowful slumber? My heart beats. I live again, for I feel that I am worthy audience for thee, and that my being would be reason enough for thine.  I have no art, in which to vent the swell of a soul as deep as thine, Beethoven, and of a kindred frame. Thou wilt not think me presumptuous in this saying, as another might. I have always known that thou wouldst welcome and know me, as would no other who ever lived upon the earth since its first creation.
Thou wouldst forgive me; master, that I have not been true to my eventual destiny, and therefore have suffered on every side ‘the pangs of despised love.’ Thou didst the same; but thou didst borrow from those errors the inspiration of thy genius. Why is it not thus with me? Is it because, as a woman, I am bound by a physical law, which prevents the soul from manifesting itself? Sometimes the moon seems mockingly to say so,—to say that I, too, shall not shine, unless I can find a sun. O, cold and barren moon, tell a different tale!
But thou, oh blessed master! dost answer all my questions, and make it my privilege to be. Like a humble wife to the sage, or poet, it is my triumph that I can understand and cherish thee: like a mistress, I arm thee for the fight: like a young daughter, I tenderly bind thy wounds. Thou art to me beyond compare, for thou art all I want. No heavenly sweetness of saint or martyr, no many-leaved Raphael, no golden Plato, is anything to me, compared with thee. The infinite Shakspeare, the stern Angelo, Dante,—bittersweet like thee,—are no longer seen in thy presence. And, beside these names, there are none that could vibrate in thy crystal sphere. Thou hast all of them, and that ample surge of life besides, that great winged being which they only dreamed of....
If thou wouldst take me wholly to thyself——! I am lost in this world, where I sometimes meet angels, but of a different star from mine. Even so does thy spirit plead with all spirits. But thou dost triumph and bring them all in.
Master, I have this summer envied the oriole which had even a swinging nest in the high bough. I have envied the least flower that came to seed, though that seed were strown to the wind. But I envy none when I am with thee.

Ballots Over Broadway

The NYT has a preview of wide-open races for Tony Award nominations, coming April 29, for the best of Broadway, and glad to see that the favorite to grab a Best Musical nod (and no doubt other nominations) is "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder."  This is the play by the two talented guys--Robert L. Freedman and Steve Lutvak--whose next musical is (believe it or not) based on my book about Upton Sinclair's race for governor of California, The Campaign of the Century.  It's had stagings of one sort or another in San Jose, Chicago, L.A. and New York.

What, a witty musical about a leftwing grassroots campaign that almost put a socialist in control of California during the depths of the Depression?  Well, it does (as did the book) feature Hollywood's first all-plunge into politics, not to mention FDR and Eleanor and W.R. Hearst, Aimee Semple McPherson and more, and the wild race did inspire a change in how all top campaigns would be run ever after. 

Your Daily Vonnegut

A quote a day from Kurt Vonnegut, usually witty and/or political in nature.  My new e-book, Vonnegut and Me details (often in a fun way and just $2.99 for iPad, Kindles, etc.) my "conversations and close encounters of a weird kind" with the famed novelist, starting in 1970 and then over the years.  And see excerpt from book here, "When Vonnegut Met Kilgore Trout."

Another for Easter week from Slaughterhouse-Five:  "What the Gospels actually said was: don't kill anyone until you are absolutely sure they aren't well connected."

Classic:  “If what Jesus said was good, what can it matter whether he was God or not?”

Vonnegut from late in his life:  "I know now that there is not a chance in hell of America becoming humane and reasonable. Because power corrupts us, and absolute power corrupts us absolutely. Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many lifeless bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.”

For Christmas, Kurt wrote a poem for In These Times awhile back, concluding with this:

I wish I could wave a magic wand
this Christmas,
and give every desperately lonesome
and hungry and lost American
man, woman, or child
the love and comfort and support
of an extended family.
Just two people and a babe in the manger,
given a heartless Government,
is no survival scheme. 


On one of his most famous characters, the  philanthropist Eliot Rosewater... "There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind."

"Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."

For Wednesday, a character in Happy Birthday, Wanda June, named Looseleaf Harper wonders what happened while he was lost in the jungle in the 1960s for a few years:  "You know what gets me? How everybody says 'fuck' and 'shit' all the time. I used to be scared shitless if I'd say 'fuck' or 'shit' in public, by accident. Now everybody says 'fuck' and 'shit', 'fuck' and 'shit' all the time. Something very big must have happened while we were out of the country."

For Tuesday, from interview at McSweeny's, 2002:  "The telling of jokes is an art of its own, and it always rises from some emotional threat. The best jokes are dangerous, and dangerous because they are in some way truthful."

And for Monday:  "Our government is conducting a war against drugs, is it? Let them go after petroleum. Talk about a destructive high! You put some of this stuff in your car and you can go a hundred miles an hour, run over the neighbor's dog, and tear the atmosphere to smithereens."

For Sunday, from a 2003 interview:  "The polls demonstrate that 50 percent of Americans who get their news from TV think Saddam Hussein was behind the Twin Towers attack. Man, have they got ways for getting half-truths out right away now, thanks to TV! I think TV is a calamity in a democracy."

Friday's pick: "The two most radical ideas, inserted in the midst of conventional human thought, are E=MC2—matter and energy are the same kind of stuff—and 'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.'”

For Wednesday, a classic from Cat's Cradle so applicable today:  "The words were a paraphrase of the suggestion of Jesus:  Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's.   Bokonon's paraphrase was this:  Pay no attention to Caesar. Caesar doesn't have the slightest idea what's really going on.”

The Tuesday Pick, from Bluebeard:   "Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?"

For Monday, on his political philosophy: "It’s perfectly ordinary to be a socialist. It’s perfectly normal to be in favor of fire departments. There was a time when I could vote for economic justice, and I can’t anymore. I cast my first vote for a socialist candidate—Norman Thomas, a Christian minister. I used to have three socialist parties to choose from—the Socialist Labor Party, Socialist Workers Party, and I forgot what the other one was."

For Saturday, from Slaughterhouse-Five: "You'll pretend you were men instead of babies,  she said, and you'll be portrayed in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful, so we'll have a lot more of them. And they'll be fought by babies like the babies upstairs.

"So then I understood. It was war that made her so angry. She didn't want her babies killed in wars. And she thought wars were partly encouraged by books and movies."

Can't believe I'm just getting around to posting this, from the same 2003 interview (see below), which I use in my book Atomic Cover-up "The most racist, nastiest act by this country, after human slavery, was the bombing of Nagasaki. Not of Hiroshima, which might have had some military significance. But Nagasaki was purely blowing away yellow men, women, and children. I’m glad I’m not a scientist because I’d feel so guilty now."

Thursday's selection, from 2003 interview with The Progressive "It’s incumbent on the President to entertain. Clinton did a better job of it—and was forgiven for the scandals, incidentally. Bush is entertaining us with what I call the Republican Super Bowl, which is played by the lower classes using live ammunition."

For Wednesday, from his late Man Without a Country "Albert Einstein and Mark Twain gave up on the human race at the end of their lives, even though Twain hadn't even seen the First World War. War is now a form of TV entertainment, and what made the First World War so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, barbed wire and the machine gun.  Shrapnel was invented by an Englishman of the same name. Don't you wish you could have something named after you?"

Tuesday's pick is one of his most famous lines from Cat's Cradle (he could be talking about, say, cable news today):  "People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order, so they'll have good voice boxes in case there's ever anything really meaningful to say."

For Monday:  "Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead."


Sunday's pick, from The Sirens of Titan:  "The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart."

For Saturday: "I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, ‘The Beatles did.'"

Friday's pick, from Hocus Pocus:  "Beer, of course, is actually a depressant. But poor people will never stop hoping otherwise."

For Thursday, one of his favorite subjects,  from Cold Turkey:  "I am of course notoriously hooked on cigarettes. I keep hoping the things will kill me. A fire at one end and a fool at the other."  (Note: He would not get his wish.)


For Wednesday, the macho hunter from his play Happy Birthday, Wanda June (which I write about in my book), speaks:  "Don't lecture me on race relations. I don't have a molecule of prejudice. I've been in battle with every kind of man there is. I've been in bed with every kind of woman there is -- from a Laplander to a Tierra del Fuegian. If I'd even been to the South Pole, there'd be a hell of a lot of penguins who looked like me."

For Tuesday, after another U.S. gun massacre, from Slaughter-house Five:   "My father died many years ago now — of natural causes. So it goes. He was a sweet man. He was a gun nut, too. He left me his guns. They rust.”

For Monday,  from Vonnegut's Blues:  "If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:
THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC."

For Sunday, we get Kurt on evolution from his 2005 appearance on The Daily Show:   "I do feel that evolution is being controlled by some sort of divine engineer. I can't help thinking that. And this engineer knows exactly what he or she is doing and why, and where evolution is headed. That’s why we’ve got giraffes and hippopotami--and the clap."

For Saturday, on guns (from Timequake):  "That there are such devices as firearms, as easy to operate as cigarette lighters and as cheap as toasters, capable at anybody's whim of killing father or Fats [Waller] or Abraham Lincoln or John Lennon or Martin Luther King, Jr., or a woman pushing a baby carriage, should be proof enough for anybody that, to quote the old science fiction writer Kilgore Trout, 'being alive is a crock of shit.'"

For Friday, from Slapstick:  "I still believe that peace and plenty and happiness can be worked out some way. I am a fool."

For Thursday, short and sweet and one of his most famous, from Cat's Cradle:  "Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are 'It might have been.'"

For Wednesday, from  Cold Turkey: "For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.  'Blessed are the merciful' in a courtroom? 'Blessed are the peacemakers' in the Pentagon? Give me a break!"

For Tuesday, a character from Mother Night responds to question, does he hate America?  He replies: "That would be as silly as loving it.  It's impossible for me to get emotional about it, because real estate doesn't interest me. It's no doubt a great flaw in my personality, but I can't think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies. I can't believe that they mark the end or the beginning of anything of real concern to the human soul. Virtues and vices, pleasures and pains cross boundaries at will."

Today: "A great swindle of our time is the assumption that science has made religion obsolete. All science has damaged is the story of Adam and Eve and the story of Jonah and the Whale. Everything else holds up pretty well, particularly lessons about fairness and gentleness. People who find those lessons irrelevant in the twentieth century are simply using science as an excuse for greed and harshness. Science has nothing to do with it, friends."

For Friday, from Cold Turkey:  "Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas."

For Thursday, as war threatens, Kurt on the arts vs. the military science, from Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons:  "The arts put man at the center of the universe, whether he belongs there or not. Military science, on the other hand, treats man as garbage— and his children, and his cities, too. Military science is probably right about the contemptability of man in the vastness of the universe. Still— I deny that contemptability, and I beg you to deny it, through the creation of appreciation of art."

For today, Kurt on where his ideas came from, with a comparison to my man Ludwig:  "Where do I get my ideas from? You might as well have asked that of Beethoven. He was goofing around in Germany like everybody else, and all of a sudden this stuff came gushing out of him. It was music. I was goofing around like everybody else in Indiana, and all of a sudden stuff came gushing out. It was disgust with civilization.”

For Tuesday, from Mother Night: "There are plenty of good reasons for fighting," I said, "but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where's evil? It's that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side."

A quote for Monday:  "Plato says that the unexamined life is not worth living. But what if the examined life turns out to be a clunker as well?"

Today's offering:  "Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum."

Friday, from an interview:  "What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured."

A famous quote by Bokonon from  Cat's Cradle for today: "Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder 'why, why, why?'   Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land; Man got to tell himself he understand."

Our Wednesday quote, from Slaughterhouse-Five:  "The visitor from outer space made a serious study of Christianity, to learn, if he could, why Christians found it so easy to be cruel. He concluded that at least part of the trouble was slipshod storytelling in the New Testament. He supposed that the intent of the Gospels was to teach people, among other things, to be merciful, even to the lowest of the low. But the Gospels actually taught this:  Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn't well connected. So it goes."

Our Tuesday quote, from Cat's Cradle, as the U.S. promises another missile attack:  "Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns."

Our Monday quote, from his early Sirens of Titan:  "There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia."

Our Sunday quote: "The two real political parties in America are the Winners and the Losers. The people don't acknowledge this. They claim membership in two imaginary parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, instead."

Another quote comes from one of his late in life columns for In These Times, in 2004:  “One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.”

From my 1974 interview with him, re: why he had grown so popular. "Well, I'm screamingly funny.  I really am in the books. And I talk about stuff Billy Graham won't talk about, for instance, you know, is it wrong to kill?”

One of his most famous, relating to his character Howard W. Campbell, the American double-agent who too gleefully helped Hitler:  "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be."

From my 1974 interview with him:  "When you get to be my age, you all of a sudden realize that you are being ruled by people you went to high school with.  You all of a sudden catch on that life is nothing but high school -- class officers, cheerleaders, and all.”

My new e-book, Vonnegut and Me.

Marquez and Kurosawa

One of the greatest novelists of the past century, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, died today at the age of 87.  I join, what, hundreds of millions in declaring his One Years of Solitude one of my all-time 20 favorite novels.  He was, of course, extremely outspoken about American wars in his part of the world, the Pinochet coup, and much more,  displeasing many Americans, of course.  And he had a long interest in one of my pet subjects--controlling nuclear weapons, and exposing truths about Hiroshima.  His famous speech marking one of the anniveraries of the Hiroshima attack was titled "Cataclysm of Damocles."

Here is part of a transcript from a dialogue he conducted with my favorite director, also at times obsessed with The Bomb, Akira Kurosawa.  It was at the time of his very late film, Rhapsody in August, set in Nagasaki.  They even refer more than once to the focus of my recent book, Atomic Cover-up.  The full interview is here.
Marquez: What does that historical amnesia mean for the future of Japan, for the identity of the Japanese people?

Kurosawa: The Japanese don't talk about it explicitly. Our politicians in particular are silent for fear of the United States. They may have accepted (President Harry) Truman's explanation that he resorted to the atomic bomb only to hasten the end of the World War. Still, for us, the war goes on. The full death toll for Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been officially published at 230,000. But in actual fact there were over half a million dead. And even now there are still 2,700 patients at the Atomic Bomb Hospital waiting to die from the after-effects of the radiation after 45 years of agony. In other words, the atomic bomb is still killing Japanese.

Marquez: The most rational explanation seems to be that the U.S. rushed in to end it with the bomb for fear that the Soviets would take Japan before they did.

Kurosawa: Yes, but why did they do it in a city inhabited only by civilians who had nothing to do with the war? There were military concentrations that were in fact waging (war).

Marquez: Nor did they drop it on the Imperial Palace, which must have been a very vulnerable spot in the heart of Tokyo. And I think that this is all explained by the fact that they wanted to leave the political power and the military power intact in order to carry out a speedy negotiation without having to share the booty with their allies. It's something no other country has ever experienced in all of human history. Now then: Had Japan surrendered without the atomic bomb, would it be the same Japan it is today?

Kurosawa: It's hard to say. The people who survived Nagasaki don't want to remember their experience because the majority of them, in order to survive, had to abandon their parents, their children, their brothers and sisters. They still can't stop feeling guilty. Afterwards, the U.S. forces that occupied the country for six years influenced by various means the acceleration of forgetfulness, and the Japanese government collaborated with them. I would even be willing to understand all this as part of the inevitable tragedy generated by war. But I think that, at the very least, the country that dropped the bomb should apologize to the Japanese people. Until that happens this drama will not be over.

Marquez: That far? Couldn't the misfortune be compensated for by a long era of happiness?

Kurosawa: The atomic bomb constituted the starting point of the Cold War and of the arms race, and it marked the beginning of the process of creation and utilization of nuclear energy. Happiness will never be possible given such origins.

Marquez: I see. Nuclear energy was born as a cursed force, and a force born under a curse is a perfect theme for Kurosawa. But what concerns me is that you are not condemning nuclear energy itself, but the way it was misused from the beginning. Electricity is still a good thing in spite of the electric chair.

Kurosawa: It is not the same thing. I think nuclear energy is beyond the possibilities of control that can be established by human beings. In the event of a mistake in the management of nuclear energy, the immediate disaster would be immense and the radioactivity would remain for hundreds of generations. On the other hand, when water is boiling, it suffices to let it cool for it to no longer be dangerous. Let's stop using elements which continue to boil for hundreds of thousands of years.

Marquez: I owe a large measure of my own faith in humanity to Kurosawa's films. But I also understand your position in view of the terrible injustice of using the atomic bomb only against civilians and of the Americans and Japanese colluding to make Japan forget. But it seems to me equally unjust for nuclear energy to be deemed forever accursed without considering that it could perform a great non-military service for humanity. There is in that a confusion of feelings which is due to the irritation you feel because you know Japan has forgotten, and because the guilty, which is to say, the United States, has not in the end come to acknowledge its guilt and to render unto the Japanese people the apologies due to them.

Kurosawa: Human beings will be more human when they realize there are aspects of reality they may not manipulate. I don't think we have the right to generate children without anuses, or eight-legged horses, such as is happening at Chernobyl. But now I think this conversation has become too serious, and that wasn't my intention.

Marquez: We've done the right thing. When a topic is as serious as this, one can't help but discuss it seriously. Does the film you are in the process of finishing cast any light on your thoughts in this matter?

Kurosawa: Not directly. I was a young journalist when the bomb was dropped, and I wanted to write articles about what had happened, but it was absolutely forbidden until the end of the occupation. Now, to make this film, I began to research and study the subject and I know much more than I did then. But if I had expressed my thoughts directly in the film, it could not have been shown in today's Japan, or anywhere else.

Marquez: Do you think it might be possible to publish the transcript of this dialogue?

Kurosawa: I have no objection. On the contrary. This is a matter on which many people in the world should give their opinion without restrictions of any sort.

Marquez: Thank you very much. All things considered, I think that if I were Japanese I would be as unyielding as you on this subject. And at any rate I understand you. No war is good for anybody.

Kurosawa: That is so. The trouble is that when the shooting starts, even Christ and the angels turn into military chiefs of staff. 

Marquez: What does that historical amnesia mean for the future of Japan, for the identity of the Japanese people?

Kurosawa: The Japanese don't talk about it explicitly. Our politicians in particular are silent for fear of the United States. They may have accepted (President Harry) Truman's explanation that he resorted to the atomic bomb only to hasten the end of the World War. Still, for us, the war goes on. The full death toll for Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been officially published at 230,000. But in actual fact there were over half a million dead. And even now there are still 2,700 patients at the Atomic Bomb Hospital waiting to die from the after-effects of the radiation after 45 years of agony. In other words, the atomic bomb is still killing Japanese.

Marquez: The most rational explanation seems to be that the U.S. rushed in to end it with the bomb for fear that the Soviets would take Japan before they did.

Kurosawa: Yes, but why did they do it in a city inhabited only by civilians who had nothing to do with the war? There were military concentrations that were in fact waging (war).

Marquez: Nor did they drop it on the Imperial Palace, which must have been a very vulnerable spot in the heart of Tokyo. And I think that this is all explained by the fact that they wanted to leave the political power and the military power intact in order to carry out a speedy negotiation without having to share the booty with their allies. It's something no other country has ever experienced in all of human history. Now then: Had Japan surrendered without the atomic bomb, would it be the same Japan it is today?

Kurosawa: It's hard to say. The people who survived Nagasaki don't want to remember their experience because the majority of them, in order to survive, had to abandon their parents, their children, their brothers and sisters. They still can't stop feeling guilty. Afterwards, the U.S. forces that occupied the country for six years influenced by various means the acceleration of forgetfulness, and the Japanese government collaborated with them. I would even be willing to understand all this as part of the inevitable tragedy generated by war. But I think that, at the very least, the country that dropped the bomb should apologize to the Japanese people. Until that happens this drama will not be over.

Marquez: That far? Couldn't the misfortune be compensated for by a long era of happiness?

Kurosawa: The atomic bomb constituted the starting point of the Cold War and of the arms race, and it marked the beginning of the process of creation and utilization of nuclear energy. Happiness will never be possible given such origins.

Marquez: I see. Nuclear energy was born as a cursed force, and a force born under a curse is a perfect theme for Kurosawa. But what concerns me is that you are not condemning nuclear energy itself, but the way it was misused from the beginning. Electricity is still a good thing in spite of the electric chair.

Kurosawa: It is not the same thing. I think nuclear energy is beyond the possibilities of control that can be established by human beings. In the event of a mistake in the management of nuclear energy, the immediate disaster would be immense and the radioactivity would remain for hundreds of generations. On the other hand, when water is boiling, it suffices to let it cool for it to no longer be dangerous. Let's stop using elements which continue to boil for hundreds of thousands of years.

Marquez: I owe a large measure of my own faith in humanity to Kurosawa's films. But I also understand your position in view of the terrible injustice of using the atomic bomb only against civilians and of the Americans and Japanese colluding to make Japan forget. But it seems to me equally unjust for nuclear energy to be deemed forever accursed without considering that it could perform a great non-military service for humanity. There is in that a confusion of feelings which is due to the irritation you feel because you know Japan has forgotten, and because the guilty, which is to say, the United States, has not in the end come to acknowledge its guilt and to render unto the Japanese people the apologies due to them.

Kurosawa: Human beings will be more human when they realize there are aspects of reality they may not manipulate. I don't think we have the right to generate children without anuses, or eight-legged horses, such as is happening at Chernobyl. But now I think this conversation has become too serious, and that wasn't my intention.

Marquez: We've done the right thing. When a topic is as serious as this, one can't help but discuss it seriously. Does the film you are in the process of finishing cast any light on your thoughts in this matter?

Kurosawa: Not directly. I was a young journalist when the bomb was dropped, and I wanted to write articles about what had happened, but it was absolutely forbidden until the end of the occupation. Now, to make this film, I began to research and study the subject and I know much more than I did then. But if I had expressed my thoughts directly in the film, it could not have been shown in today's Japan, or anywhere else.

Marquez: Do you think it might be possible to publish the transcript of this dialogue?

Kurosawa: I have no objection. On the contrary. This is a matter on which many people in the world should give their opinion without restrictions of any sort.

Marquez: Thank you very much. All things considered, I think that if I were Japanese I would be as unyielding as you on this subject. And at any rate I understand you. No war is good for anybody.

Kurosawa: That is so. The trouble is that when the shooting starts, even Christ and the angels turn into military chiefs of staff. - See more at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2012/03/gabriel-garcia-marquez-birthday.html#sthash.Mb3Yy7yL.dpuf

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bush's Ghost

My wish comes true when The Onion goes there--where mainstream would not--claiming George W. Bush should be painting dead Iraqi children, or some such.  Here, he does:


George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him Everywhere

That Rape Inquiry, or Lack Of

Important NYT major piece by highly-respected Walt Bogdanich into that very flawed inquiry into rape charges against star footballer Jameis Winston.  With videos and timelines. 
In his announcement, the prosecutor, William N. Meggs, acknowledged a number of shortcomings in the police investigation. In fact, an examination by The New York Times has found that there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.
The police did not follow the obvious leads that would have quickly identified the suspect as well as witnesses, one of whom videotaped part of the sexual encounter. After the accuser identified Mr. Winston as her assailant, the police did not even attempt to interview him for nearly two weeks and never obtained his DNA.
The detective handling the case waited two months to write his first report and then prematurely suspended his inquiry without informing the accuser. By the time the prosecutor got the case, important evidence had disappeared, including the video of the sexual act.
“They just missed all the basic fundamental stuff that you are supposed to do,” Mr. Meggs said in a recent interview. Even so, he cautioned, a better investigation might have yielded the same result.
The case has unfolded as colleges and universities across the country are facing rising criticism over how they deal with sexual assault, as well as questions about whether athletes sometimes receive preferential treatment. The Times’s examination — based on police and university records, as well as interviews with people close to the case, including lawyers and sexual assault experts — found that, in the Winston case, Florida State did little to determine what had happened.

One Year After Boston: Our Own Terror Attacks Go On

One year ago this morning Glenn Greenwald, Juan Cole, Gary Younge and others expressed outraged and sympathy over the Boston Marathon bombings--along with criticism that few Americans voice any concern over the numerous innocents killed in our terror drone attacks abroad.   From Greenwald, still at The Guardian
The widespread compassion for yesterday's victims and the intense anger over the attacks was obviously authentic and thus good to witness. But it was really hard not to find oneself wishing that just a fraction of that compassion and anger be devoted to attacks that the US perpetrates rather than suffers. These are exactly the kinds of horrific, civilian-slaughtering attacks that the US has been bringing to countries in the Muslim world over and over and over again for the last decade, with very little attention paid....
Juan Cole this morning makes a similar point about violence elsewhere. Indeed, just yesterday in Iraq, at least 42 people were killed and more than 250 injured by a series of car bombs, the enduring result of the US invasion and destruction of that country. Somehow the deep compassion and anger felt in the US when it is attacked never translates to understanding the effects of our own aggression against others.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Jonah and the Wail

Jonah from "Veep" featured in Funny or Die "equal time" Cosmos for creationists.



Rust Never Bleeps?

New site mashes up "True Detective" and "The Family Circus," with Rust Cohle quotes.  Naturally, it's titled, "Times is a Flat Circus."

My anti-death penalty e-book

My anti-death penalty e-book
Click cover to read more on history, and current debate, in America.