Saturday, August 08, 2020

Why no Hollywood movie on Nagasaki A Bombing?


In the 1952 movie ‘Above and Beyond’, movie idol Robert Taylor played handsome Col. Paul Tibbetts, straight out of Central Casting, who piloted Enola Gay to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima 75 years ago this Thursday. We all grew up in awe of Tibbetts, Enola Gay and the perfect mission which incinerated Hiroshima from the first A Bomb dropped in anger. My awe eventually turned to revulsion from a horrendous war crime.

But who piloted what plane that dropped the second A Bomb on Nagasaki just 3 days later? The American Story has largely erased the saga of the Nagasaki mission for good reason. It was a colossal screw up that almost got the pilot court martialed; indeed, nearly detonated Fat Man over the Pacific en route.

Trouble began early on. Paul Tibbetts, fresh from his Hiroshima success, picked his friend Charles Sweeney to pilot the drop plane ‘Bockscar’ instead of its regular pilot Fred Bock. Sweeney was unfamiliar with both combat and the plane. Preparing for takeoff, Sweeney was unable to operate the reserve tank containing 640 gallons of fuel needed to get Bockscar safely back to its Tinian takeoff point. Bock may have had the familiarity with the plane to accomplish that. Regulations required the mission be scrapped so Sweeney and crew exited Bockscar. But Tibbetts overruled them and the mission was on with insufficient fuel.

Three hours in, worse trouble. Fat Man’s red detonation lights began blinking wildly. Chief weaponeer Dick Ashworth frantically searched the blueprints and realized 2 switches had been reversed in the pre flight assembly. Solving that problem, everyone relaxed till Bockscar failed to rendezvous with the second of two back up planes, one for photography and one for instruments. The instrument plane, The Big Stink, was 9,000 feet above Bockscar. Instead of pushing on to original target Kokura, Sweeney wasted 45 minutes of precious fuel trying to link up. Big Stink pilot Hoppy Hopkins broke radio silence frantically calling Tinian asking “Is Bockscar down?” Mission officials only heard “Bockscar Down” and freaked out believing Bockscar, Fat Man and the 13 member crew were in Davy Jones Locker.

Ashford was frantic that all was lost. As tension mounted between the weaponeer and the pilot, he finally persuaded Sweeney to proceed to primary target Kokura. But a smokescreen put up by Japanese defenders responding to the Hiroshima attack caused Sweeney to go around for a second and third bomb run, wasting fuel. More trouble. Flack and approaching Japanese Zeros forced Sweeney to abandon Kokura to flee 100 miles to alternate target Nagasaki.

The drop made, Sweeney made a desperate dive to avoid the mushroom cloud that nearly engulfed them. But his previous delays made the return trip to Tinian impossible. Low on fuel, Sweeney began a treacherous 450 mile flight on dwindling fuel for Okinawa. All aboard Bockscar prepared to ditch. Approaching the Okinawa airfield unable to radio the tower of their emergency, Bockscar had to drop in to a forced landing amid numerous other flights without control tower clearance. Bockscar bounced 25 feet in the air landing at 30 MPH over the maximum landing speed, nearly colliding with a row of fuel laden B-24’s. One engine quit on the approach and another upon touchdown. Thinking Bockscar was lost, airport personnel inquired who this strange plane was that descended out of the sky unannounced. ‘We just dropped an atomic bomb’ was the reply.

There were no celebrations for the crew of Bockscar. Officials considered a courts martial for Sweeney for his life and mission threatening delays but considered the embarrassment it would cause and decided against. Why mar the mission-perfect first nuking of civilians by Paul Tibbetts and Enola Gay?

While we’ll never get a Hollywood treatment of the Bockscar A Bomb mission, it would be a lot more exciting than ‘Above and Beyond’. An appropriate title? ‘Nearly Down and Out Over Nagasaki’.
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Note: this post is based on a question I posed to nuclear historian Ellen Bradbury during a weeklong trip to study the Nuclear Age at Alamogordo, NM in 2018. Bradbury, daughter of a Manhattan Project director, lived there during the bomb's development as a child. I asked her why we never hear about the Nagasaki nuclear mission. Her knowledge stems from her interview with Dick Ashworth, the weaponeer on Bockscar, shortly before he died in 2005. Her answer lasted a half hour and should be as widely known as the Hiroshima bombing story


161,000 dead makes it manslaughter


In a just America, President Trump would be arrested, tried and convicted of manslaughter; recklessly responsible for tens of the 161,000 deaths from covid-19. Anyone going 90 MPH the wrong way down a one-way street posted at 30 MPH, who killed a pedestrian, would suffer that fate. But Trump, going 90 MPH the wrong way done the one-way street of pandemic protection, gets to continue his criminally negligent behavior till his possible removal from office next January 20. Maybe.

Repeatedly claiming our infection numbers are high because of testing that should be curtailed is like telling persons with cancer symptoms to not seek medical attention. Calling pandemic a Democratic hoax represents seeking re-election over the bodies of untold thousands. Publically labeling your best pandemic medical advisors ‘pathetic’, ‘out of touch’ and ‘mis-informed’ is helping fill up cemeteries and crematoriums with bodies otherwise destined for additional life. Dismissing the 161,000 dead from 5,000,000 infections is just 7 months as something that will “just go away like other things go away” is the horrifying response to a populous seeking moral and intellectual sanity from its leader.

With 167 days till Inauguration Day, 2021, the death toll, at a thousand of largely unnecessary deaths daily, will more than double to 328,000. Americans should not have to wait till January 20, 2021, to end the criminally negligent behavior of the president. Republican leaders must, like Sen. Barry Goldwater and others did in 1974 to Richard Nixon, make that fateful trip to the White House to tell the president he must resign forthwith. It’s not an indictment, trial and conviction for manslaughter. But for the sake of those hundreds of thousands being given a death notice every 80 seconds in Trump America, it will suffice.

Many top military leaders opposed atomic bombings


Every year the four day period August 6 – 9 brings to mind the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. This year is especially poignant. It marks the 75th anniversary of those horrific acts. Given recent U.S. withdrawal from several nuclear treaties and U.S. boasting about spending a trillion dollars to upgrade our nuclear stockpile, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock to 80 seconds to midnight. That’s the symbolic closest we’ve come to nuclear winter in the entire nuclear age.

I learned of the atomic bombings 69 years ago at age 6 and have been haunted by them ever since. For the first decade afterward I swallowed whole the US fairytale that the military and political elite were unified in dropping the bombs to prevent a U.S. invasion and its estimate of a million U.S. casualties.

Few if any reputable historians buy that version today. They point to a number of top military leaders who opposed the nuclear attacks, for good reasons. Most prominent was U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall who argued not using the Bomb would strengthen America’s prestige and position in post war Asia. He even advocated for inviting the Russians to view its July 16, 1945 test. Navy Secretary and later Defense Secretary James Forrestal argued the bombings would impede our post WWII relations with the Soviet Union. Fleet Admiral William Leahy, senior US military officer on active duty in WWII, called the proposed bombings “barbaric”. Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy told Truman that neither invasion nor atomic bombings were necessary. Japan would surrender if we avoided terminology ‘Unconditional Surrender’ since any surrender would amount to that without saying so. McCloy even advocated telling Japanese leaders we had the Bomb as additional incentive to quit the war.

Tho not involved in the Bomb decision process, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was furious we dropped them, telling Secretary of War Harry Stimson shortly after the attacks “I voiced my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of “face.”

Ike, McCloy, Leahy, Forristall, Marshall and others were right; Truman and his supporters were wrong. Seventy-five years on America is still the only country to explode nukes in anger. Current belligerency against maintaining nuclear agreements, routinely threatening imagined enemies with “all military options are on the table”, spending a trillion dollars to upgrade our nukes, all bode ill we’ll make another 75 years nuclear attack free.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Dems should hop aboard U.S. German troop withdrawal train

WWII ended 75 years ago. The Soviet Union imploded 29 years ago. In return for Russia, a shell of the former Soviet behemoth, agreeing not to oppose  
German reunification, the U.S. agreed not to expand NATO up to Russia's doorstep. Russia kept their pledge. The U.S. didn't. That has soured U.S.-Russian relations for three decades, continuing to today. The U.S., not Russia, is more responsible for the new Chilly, if not full-blown Cold War between the two former WWII allies. 

Withdrawing just 12,000 of the 36,000 U.S. troops in Germany is a good first step. It should inspire a re-evaluation of the 150,000 plus U.S. military in 150 countries worldwide. Democrats should be leading on the issue of the bloated U.S. worldwide presence gobbling up precious treasure that could be utilized to address a myriad of seemingly intractable problems here at home. Pandemic, requiring trillions to combat both the health and economic fallout, is being vastly underfund to our detriment. 

Sadly, the Democrats have seized upon the meager German troop withdrawal to conger up the ghost of the former Russian Bear who left the scene decades ago. Democrats are framing a sensible first step troop withdrawal to paint Trump as soft on Russia and endangering European and U.S. security. Democrats don't need to promote endless U.S. troop occupation of Germany and the other 149 countries currently housing over 150,000 military personnel to defeat an irresponsible, wannabee tyrant worsening pandemic and every other critical domestic issue. . 

Reducing America's worldwide military footprint, ending our perpetual wars and crippling economic sanctions killing tens, if not hundreds of thousands yearly, requires bi-partisan support freed from electoral partisanship. Step up Democrats and take the lead. 


Quote of the Day

"It's a bitter day. Unfortunately, this decision by the U.S. administration will mean a loss of German jobs. The German employees don't deserve this".
-- German politician Roger Lewentz commenting on U.S. plans to withdraw 12,000 of 36,000 troops currently protecting Germany against imagined Russian aggression.
Clearly, Germany more worried about a drawdown of the U.S. job creation program in Germany than the Russian bear, a shadow of its former threat following WWII seventy-five years ago.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

John Kass demotion and the need to add value to the public debate



After 37 years with the Chicago Tribune, including 23 as main Page 2 columnist, the Mike Royko slot, John Kass has been demoted down to opinion section. His recent column on Chicago lawlessness prompted David Goldenberg, Midwest Regional Director of the Chicago Anti-Defamation League, to charge it perpetuates anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. He’s referring to Kass using an alleged anti-Semitic trope regarding Jewish billionaire and progressive cause donator George Soros. Kass’ column puts the blame for increased lawlessness in Chicago and other big cities on Democrats, especially Soros’s contributions to prosecutorial candidates focusing on criminal justice reform.

To me, the problem with the Kass column is not alleged anti-Semitism. As a public figure contributing to causes that offend conservatives like Kass, Jewish Soros is just as subject to be criticized as the Christian Koch brothers are subject to be criticized by progressives for contributing to conservative causes. The true issue is that Kass’ column adds no value to alleviating the vast areas of near third world poverty, hopelessness and crime infesting all American urban centers. They are the sad legacy of centuries of institutional racism that has denied investment, jobs, peace and hope for the millions locked into their despair. Laying the blame on Democratic mayors, prosecutors and one wealthy political donor is nonsense. It furthers an agenda of demonizing Democrats and any on the ‘left’ who keep their focus on reform and progress.

John Kass is a gifted wordsmith. Unfortunately, he uses his gift to distract from serious discussion of critical social issues. If George Soros went bankrupt and Republicans magically became Chicago’s mayor and chief prosecutor, crime would continue to surge in areas with little opportunity but unlimited guns. And for twenty-three years John Kass still hasn’t figured out how to add value to alleviating those problems.


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Head coach should go to head of line


“If you can’t respect our national anthem, get the hell out of the country".
- ‘Da Coach’ Mike Ditka to TMZ Sports
Peaceful protest, even during the national anthem, is as American as Ditka’s beloved football. Methinks ‘Da Coach’ is the one showing disrespect and should be the first to leave.

How institutional racism fuels urban violence



In 1935, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB) directed the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) to look at 239 cities, including Chicago, to develop ‘Residential Security Maps’ identifying levels of security for real estate investment. HOLC came up with a 4 color scheme. Green was for affluent suburbs and outer city areas, blue for ‘still desirable city neighborhoods, yellow for declining neighborhoods and red for areas too dilapidated for loans. Thus was born America's infamous 'Redlining'. These ‘redlined’ areas were virtually all poor minority communities. Private banking and home loan institutions took their cue from the Fed, resulting in nine decades of disinvestment which turned Chicago’s South and West Sides into violent urban wastelands. Whites living there also took the Fed’s cue, moving west toward green and blue lined areas where housing loans were readily available to those with the right color.

American capitalism had a couple more surprises for the residents left behind. Virtually no jobs or vital community resources but unlimited guns. There’s no Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing employment, a decent food store or nearby hospital, but there is one allowing guns galore to flood into the hands of dispossessed youngsters and confirmed criminals to ignite a daily shooting gallery claiming over 2,000 annual victims in Chicago alone.

Institutional racism that fuels a slaughter on 7th Avenue and every other street for that matter in Chicago and elsewhere, is not hard to discover. It’s been written into federal legislation; indeed, enshrined in Constitution. It remains at the heart of the protests, mostly peaceful, but occasionally destructive, aimed at addressing that scourge. All of us of good will must take note and act.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Trump alters clarion call to America


Now it's "Are you tired of dying yet"?

Taft death recalls cartoonist weatherman P.J. Hoff


Tributes abound for longtime Chicago weatherperson Jerry Taft who died Thursday at 77. Tho not a big fan of weather reports which drone on endlessly with overwhelming high tech graphics, I did avidly follow Chicago's first weather superstar P.J. Hoff, who gave us the weather straight with whimsical humor during the Golden Age of Television. Hoff was primarily a cartoonist who peppered his five minute reports (that's all anyone needs) with hilarious cartoons. When it came to next day's weather, Hoff drew his alter ego, the Vice President In Charge of Looking Out The Window (below left). If the VPICOLOTW eyeballed raindrops, one knew to to pack an umbrella tomorrow. Upset by bad weather? Hoff congered up another foil, Mr. Yell-and-Cuss to vent our frustration. I'm up for the wonders of technology half way thru my eighth decade. But for weather I all ever needed was P.J. Hoff and his daffy drawings.

Harris, Duckworth cave to war party to secure VP nod


Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and my own Illinois Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth voted to defeat Bernie Sanders’ proposal to reduce the defense budget by 10% in the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act. They joined 21 other Democratic Senators and all Republicans to keep $74 billion of a gargantuan $740 billion from being used instead to fund pandemic relief, infrastructure, health care, education, clean energy and a host of other human priorities being shortchanged in our war obsessed nation.
Why would they do that? Simple. Both are on Biden’s short list for VP. Both realize you cannot mount a serious campaign for president or vice president by promoting any reduction in military spending or abandoning near total support of the defense industry. With tens of billions at stake, the defense industry wing of the U.S. war party pours millions into presidential and congressional campaigns. Without that dough drenched in the blood of the thousands of innocents our war juggernaut inflicts each year, election to any high office is problematical.
Harris and Duckworth learned that lesson early and adhere to it like virtually every other person seeing high office. Both likely breathed a sigh of relief when senatorial colleague Bernie Sanders failed again to achieve the defense reduction he’s been championing for years as well as the Democratic presidential nomination. They know you can support most progressive policies except ending perpetual wars and transferring horrendous military spending to humane priorities. There is no electoral upside to that position since perpetual war and runaway defense spending is off the table of presidential debate.
But they ignore the upside that counts: humanity.

Head coach should go to head of line


“If you can’t respect our national anthem, get the hell out of the country".
- ‘Da Coach’ Mike Ditka to TMZ Sports
Peaceful protest, even during the national anthem, is as American as Ditka’s beloved football. Methinks ‘Da Coach’ is the one showing disrespect and should be the first to leave.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Bolsonaro struggling against Trump in Pandemic Death Race 2020


U.S. President Donald Trump loves winning; hates to lose. That’s why he’s pulled out all stops to win Pandemic Death Race 2020 against his protégé, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Trump left Bolsonaro in the dust early on, as virus from Asia and Europe poured in with U.S. and foreign travelers while largely isolated Brazil remained way down the list of the world’s 195 countries. Trump delayed, denied, denigrated there was even a problem, claiming it was 15 cases going down to one, when it was skyrocketing to several million with over a hundred thousand dead. His signature tactic was claiming the facemask as a Democratic meme to defeat his November 3 re-election. ‘Don’t wear it’ he hinted to his red state base…and they didn’t, resulting in a second rosy tinted infection wave while the first wave was still smoldering. Economic Closedown 2.0 is now under way.
Not to be outdone, Bolsonaro governed Brazil in a reckless fashion that might shock even The Donald. He joked about pandemic, partied hardy, even greeting constituents without a mask saying, “That’s life…we all die”. Bosonaro’s reward: a Covid STD (Stupidly Transmitted Disease). Brazil vaulted from also ran to also deadly, grabbing second place in a race to the death. Now, 214,000 Americans and Brazilians lay dead from over 5,482,000 infections. That represents 41% or the worlds’ infections and 37% of the dead, from two grotesquely governed lands that represent just 7% of the earth’s souls.
Even adjusting for population Bolsonaro can’t compete against Trump. U.S. infection rate is 10,715 per million to Brazil’s 9,095. Death rate is 420 per million in the U.S., 350 in Brazil. The Trump of the Tropics (Trump’s moniker for Bolsonaro) will never catch the original and best. America’s Trump wins Pandemic Death Race 2020.

Trump whacks three to further re-election bid


The President has come up with a new campaign meme with 100 days to go till the election. It’s MAKA, Make America Kill Again. While only half of Americans support capital punishment, Trump’s conservative base is mostly up for state sponsored murder. When Trump learned the Fed was still in the killing business he gave the go ahead to restart federal executions which were almost as extinct as dinosaurs. None since 2003 and only 3 in the previous 54 years prior to his Inauguration. ‘Crank up the life snuffing drugs’ he directed the Darth Vader of Attorneys General Bill Barr. But humane federal appeals courts kept obstructing Trump’s effort to throw blood red meat, the live human variety, at his base to keep them in line. With the clock running out, Barr pulled out all stops, maneuvering the Trump friendly Supreme Court which, in 5 to 4 decisions, declared ‘Let the fun begin’. Barr wasted no time, ignoring concerns over pandemic, and use of a single lethal drug, rather than three, which causes agonizing suffocation before life is snuffed out. Last Tuesday, Daniel Lee, 47, murdered by the State. Last Thursday, Wesley Purkey, 68, murdered by the State. Last Friday, Dustin Honken, 52, murdered by the State.
Trump checks 3 more boxes on his re-election bid. And Humanity checks 3 more boxes on the depravity of Man.

Time for Trib to step up…and demand Trump’s resignation


The Trib Editorial Board is certainly within its purview to demand Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan step down for likely, but not proven complicity in the Com Ed political corruption scandal. ‘Time to step down Mr. Speaker’, July 17. But the Trib’s righteous indignation rings hollow when compared to its refusal to confront the existential threat facing America from a president who has broken virtually every standard of decent leadership, degrading life, if not taking life, on a level unprecedented in U.S. history.
When Trump promoted the repeal of Obamacare without a replacement for the tens of millions it would harm, where was the Trib’s call for resignation?
When Trump separated children from their parents at the border, throwing them into deplorable conditions, where was the Trib’s call for resignation?
When Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement and assassinated an Iranian general on Iraqi soil along with five other Iranians and four Iraqi nationals, where was the Trib’s call for resignation?
When Trump called the racists who rioted in Charlottesville, VA ‘good people’, where was the Trib’s call for resignation?
When Trump squandered six months pretending there was no pandemic to goose his re-election chances, adding untold thousands to the death toll, where was the Trib’s call for resignation?
Time for the Trib Editorial Board to step up and call for Trump’s resignation, indeed.

An OP (Obama Plan), not TT (Trump’s Troops) needed to quell Chicago violence


For years I’ve been plugging federal help in dealing with national urban gun violence. With many thousands of guns in the hands of many thousands of jobless, hopeless young people, our country has created a public health catastrophe that has no local or state solution. Neither Chicago nor Illinois can stem the flow of guns used by the dispossessed shooters, nor rebuild devastated communities with miniscule job opportunities. With pandemic the slaughter ticks upward from its usual 40 shot, 10 killed each Chicago week.
It greatly dismays that the upcoming federal response will worsen rather than alleviate epidemic gunfire. Trump’s proposal to send 150 ununiformed troopers to Chicago’s streets to bring peace may be the most cynical political ploy to salvage re-election ever. Rolled out in Portland to rave reviews from conservatives fearing electoral defeat November 3, Trumps Troopers conger up the most anti-democratic impulses in our near unraveling society.
Four years ago my vision was not TT but OP, an Obama Plan, modeled on the Marshall Plan, named for Gen. George Marshall, that rebuilt Europe after WWII. Europe then, like Chicago today, was incapable of extricating itself from its dilemma, war ravaged collapse. The Marshall Plan invested $12 billion ($120 billion in today’s dough) to rebuild 18 European countries. The dividends a U.S. led renaissance achieved were incalculable, echoing down to today.
A new federal effort, named in honor of the man who gave us hope for enlightening change 12 years ago, would be an appropriate way to honor his vision as we struggle to vanquish a federal, not a local or state problem. It’s not troops on the street that is needed. It is federal will to stem the flow of guns and rebuild America’s devastated inner cities. As I said back in 2016, “That is not reparations, not welfare, not free stuff, not paternalism. It is, in the best tradition of the Marshall Plan, American self interest rightly understood.”

144,958 dead prompts Trump: “We’re developing a strategy that will be very, very powerful”.


How many of those 144,958 dead were the result of Trump’s delusional delay, denial, distraction about the severity of the crisis for 6 months to promote his re-election we’ll never know. But there is an ocean of pandemic blood on Trump’s soul.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Mother Earth sucker punched seventy-five years ago today.



Mother Earth has been around a long time…over 4 billion years. But she never was dealt as heinous a blow as she got from some scientists and military men 75 years ago today, the first atomic blast detonated at Trinity Site, New Mexico, July 16, 1945. Tho miles from civilization, the radioactive dust and sand kicked up by the blast traveled afar, contaminating every person and animal in its path. How many died excruciating deaths from the cancer caused we’ll never know. The U.S. government said everything was fine and no records were kept to say differently. In the ensuing 75 years, man, who has only roamed Mother Earth for 6 million of her 4 billion years, set off an additional 2,055 atomic blasts, on land, in the air and underground.

Couple years back I got to stand on the exact spot of that first blast. All that was left was a small, flat piece of melted steel, that remains of the 300 foot tower that the ‘Gadget’ was hoisted up for its big bam. It was a creepy feeling as I pondered that my life spanned the nuclear age, being just 128 days old when Nuke No. 1 went skyward. It’s astonishing to me we haven’t self-destructed in the ensuing 75 years. We’re not very good….but we’ve been very, very lucky.

Trump alters clarion call to America

Now it's "Are you tired of dying yet?"

Walt Zlotow
Glen Ellyn

Taft death recalls cartoonist weatherman P.J. Hoff


Tributes abound for longtime Chicago weatherperson Jerry Taft who died Thursday at 77. Tho not a big fan of weather reports which drone on endlessly with overwhelming high tech graphics, I did avidly follow Chicago's first weather superstar P.J. Hoff, who gave us the weather straight with whimsical humor during the Golden Age of Television. Hoff was primarily a cartoonist who peppered his five minute reports (that's all anyone needs) with hilarious cartoons. When it came to next day's weather, Hoff drew his alter ego, the Vice President In Charge of Looking Out The Window. If the VPICOLOTW eyeballed raindrops, one knew to to pack an umbrella tomorrow. Upset by bad weather? Hoff congered up another foil, Mr. Yell-and-Cuss to vent our frustration. I'm up for the wonders of technology half way thru my eighth decade. But for weather I all ever needed was P.J. Hoff and his daffy drawings.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Dope no more, Illinois reaps dope revenue..and minority justice


OK, cannabis is dope, but on the scale of dopes, relatively harmless compared to illegal dope like heroin and cocaine; even the legal dope alcohol and prescription pain killers that have killed hundreds of thousands this century. The direct cannabis death toll is zero. In addition, hundreds of thousands Illinoisans find it an effective stress reliever, and in times of pandemic, racial polarization and a deranged president, its demand is skyrocketing. Up till this year all of that hundreds of millions, possibly a billion in Illinois, has been spent with off-the-books street entrepreneurs, following in the footsteps of Prohibition moonshiners.
But wise, newbie Illinois Governor Pritzker legalized it January 1 to accomplish two critical policy improvements: divert much of that billion to licensed businesses and Illinois’ coffers. Possibly more important, was completion of the decriminalization of cannabis which has horribly degraded mostly minority communities with mass legal entrapment and incarceration. Pritzker’s words deserve repeating: “Illinois has done more to put justice and equity at the forefront of this industry than any other state in the nation, and we’re ensuring that communities that have been hurt by the war on drugs have the opportunity to participate”.
How financially significant is legitimizing cannabis sales? Pritzker estimated the first six months take would be $28 million. That was nearly doubled to $52 million. Not one dollar of that new revenue came from me. I learned half a century ago pot was not my cup of tea. But I fervently support wise public policy that improves society desperately needing improvement.
Illinois: a dope on dope no more.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

5.4 million losing insurance in pandemic not enough for Trump


An estimated 5.4 million Americans have lost their health insurance in pandemic. The real number is 27 million but 21.6 million became eligible for free Medicaid programs or subsidized private insurance under Obamacare. But in Trumpworld no good government program goes unpunished. Trump continues his ghoulish lust to destroy Obamacare, his signature 2016 campaign pledge, by again going to the Supreme Court in another attempt to overturn it.
Filing to overturn Obamacare during pandemic, which could add another 20 million uninsured, is cruel beyond comprehension. Trump’s brief arguing for repeal didn’t even mention pandemic. Hey, why inject a critical reason to not overturn Obamacare into the argument for repealing it. Apparently, the only thing Trump considers injecting….is disinfectant.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Murder, she wrote


From 1984 to 1996, Dame Angela Lansbury portrayed mystery writer Jessica Fletcher, whose fictional pursuits were overshadowed by her penchant in solving real life murders on ‘Murder, She Wrote’. As good as Fletcher was, we didn’t need her fictional expertise to pin premeditated state sponsored murder of a foreign official on President Trump and his loyal Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But it did take a woman, Agnes Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. She had responsibility for investigating the January 3 drone attack at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and nine others as they departed the airport for a meeting called by our Iraq ally to broker peaceful relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
It took Callamard six months, somewhat longer than the fictional Fletcher’s one hour to solve the killing. But her verdict, which breaks new ground on the international law of war is stark:
“The targeted killing of General Qasem Soleimani is the first case of a drone attack against the representative of the armed forces of a state. Until now, all drone kills that I am aware of have targeted non-state targets, particularly individuals associated with acts of terror.”
How might the U.S. react if Iran, not at war with the U.S., launched a drone attack which, like the Soleimani murder, incinerated the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and nine others he was meeting with to discuss peace? My guess? Iran would be bombed back to the Stone Age.
The extrajudicial murders of Gen. Soleimani and his nine member entourage compared to the 268 murders solved by Lansbury’s fictional Jessica Fletcher, reveal once again that truth is stranger than fiction…and a lot more grisly.

Carlson's Blake Neff no Ted Sorensen


Brilliant writer Ted Sorensen joined newly elected senator John Kennedy’s staff in 1953. Together, the two formed one of the most important and historic presidential partnerships. Sorensen sacrificed his marriage and health to write some of the most memorable presidential speeches ever: the 1961 inaugural, the August 22, 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis Speech, the June 9, 1963 Peace Speech and the Civil Rights Speech just a day later. He never recovered emotionally from JFK’s assassination.
We learned this weekend of another brilliant writer deeply attached to a highly influential figure. Blake Neff served as chief writer for top rated Fox News host Tucker Carlson for four years till his abrupt resignation Friday. Neff also wrote for Carlson’s opinion site The Daily Caller. He boasted about his influence over the influential Carlson, whose views touch, and sometimes stray over the line of promoting White Nationalism.
Now we know why Neff was so effective as Carlson’s chief writer exploiting racial animus on Fox News. Neff was outed as an anonymous, scurrilous author spewing extreme racist and misogynous hate on the online forum AutoAdmit. Posing as CharlesXII, no minority group was safe from CharlesXII’s vitriol. It took some time but CNN, Carlson’s frequent target as being a left leaning ‘fake news’ agency, pieced together five years of Neff’s anonymous hate speech to reveal CharlesXII was Neff.
Those of us fortunate to have grown up listening to Sorensen’s mellifluous and heartfelt words pouring from JFK’s mouth can dismiss Blake Neff with, “You’re no Ted Sorensen”.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Red state govs flunk Trump's pandemic Jerk Test


It takes two to tango....and also to have the worst country response to pandemic in the world. In America those two are the president the governor in red states leading the pack on covid infections. Eighteen of the twenty states with the worst infection rate are red. Only purple Nevada and blue California make the top twenty.
It’s bad enough to have a president acting as a jerk on pandemic. The lack of a unified federal response has been catastrophic, from lack of testing, lack of PPE, lack of ventilators, to cheerleading the early and misguided re-opening of the economy while pandemic rages. But even a jerk at the top would not have worsened pandemic had every governor refused to follow the lead of a president determined to bring jerkiness to a new level of mendacity.
One governor who refused to take the Trump pandemic Jerk Test was our own Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker. Illinois’ infection rate ranks 37 of 50, allowing Illinois to re-open in a sensible, orderly fashion; proving a jerk in the White House can’t overcome a wise governor whose Jerk Test came up negative.

400,000 opioid deaths sad legacy for Sackler


Never heard of Jonathon Sackler till his death at 65 announced today. Turns out the Sackler family holds position 19 in America's billionaire elite, worth a cool $13 billion. But that wealth in money mad America sometimes comes at a cost; in this case over 400,000 opioid deaths since 2000 from the morphine pill trademarked Oxycontin Sackler peddled as co-owner of Perdue Pharma. Jonathon's Poppa Sackler and his brothers founded it in 1952. For many years it avoided scrutiny selling harmless pharmaceuticals such as earwax remover and laxatives. But pain management from wildly addictive and deadly Oxycontin propelled the Sackler clan to billionaire status, the hundreds of thousands killed by it be damned. Most of us live out our lives doing little or no damage to mankind. Jonathon Sackler's epitaph? 'Lived large as hundreds of thousands died'.

Red state govs flunk Trump's pandemic Jerk Test


It takes two to tango....and also to have the worst country response to pandemic in the world. In America those two are the president the governor in red states leading the pack on covid infections. Eighteen of the twenty states with the worst infection rate are red. Only purple Nevada and blue California make the top twenty.
It’s bad enough to have a president acting as a jerk on pandemic. The lack of a unified federal response has been catastrophic, from lack of testing, lack of PPE, lack of ventilators, to cheerleading the early and misguided re-opening of the economy while pandemic rages. But even a jerk at the top would not have worsened pandemic had every governor refused to follow the lead of a president determined to bring jerkiness to a new level of mendacity.
One governor who refused to take the Trump pandemic Jerk Test was our own Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker. Illinois’ infection rate ranks 37 of 50, allowing Illinois to re-open in a sensible, orderly fashion; proving a jerk in the White House can’t overcome a wise governor whose Jerk Test came up negative.

Sad anniversary approaching...and even sadder approaching test


We’re approaching 75 years next week to mark one of the worst days in human existence, the July 16, 1945 explosion of the first atomic bomb at Trinity Site, New Mexico. Since then there were 2,055 more such explosions, two of which killed hundreds of thousands in Japan. The U.S. has led the way, detonating 1,030 of those blasts, including the two lethal ones over Japan. Eight other countries accounted for the other 1,025. But the U.S. has not detonated a nuke since 1992, an enviable record now under threat from the Trump administration. Two months ago administration officials crafting strategy for a new nuclear arms control agreement with Russia (current one expires February, 2021), proposed a U.S. nuclear test to exert leverage over Russia and China in the talks. Such a test would put the U.S. in bad company this century with….North Korea.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) even inserted a Republican sponsored amendment authorizing $10 million for such a test if requested by Trump. Fortunately, the Democratically controlled House inserted a measure in its draft of the Energy Department’s appropriation bill forbidding the use of any funds for nuclear tests. Administration arms control envoy Marshall Billingslea said the U.S. is ready to spend Russia and China “into oblivion” to win a new arms race. Neither Billingslea or his boss Trump seem to comprehend such ‘oblivion’ includes all mankind.

Fed mendacity: From involuntary manslaughter to premeditated murder



In a just world, President Trump and his top enablers would be indicted for involuntary manslaughter. Anyone who studies this pandemic understands that some of the 3,179,597 infections, and 135,208 U.S. deaths were caused by ongoing criminal negligence by the Trump administration. Involuntary manslaughter does not involve the intent to kill. It stems from negligent failure to perform a legal duty required to safeguard human life. The president has no higher priority than to protect life. When we needed presidential leadership to unify the country against pandemic, we got instead, denial, delay, division, even demands states reopen against medical advice. Those states are now suffering a new wave of infections and deaths. Need specific negligent conduct? Dr. Bruce Dart, head of the Tulsa City-County Health Department has charged the record spike in Tulsa infections, including some deaths, resulted, in part, from Trump’s reckless indoor rally several weeks earlier.

As bad as involuntary manslaughter is, premeditated murder is worse. Yep, the Fed determined to do just that, gearing up to execute three men in Indiana next week that it has decided must die for heinous behavior. Executions are a remnant of our medieval past. They don’t bring back victims. They don’t deter heinous crimes. They don’t enable society; they debase society. And just as the president won't be indicted for involuntary manslaughter, no one will be indicted for the premeditated murder of three hapless souls next week in Indiana.

Involuntary manslaughter or premeditated murder. The Fed has got both covered.

Duckworth should ditch war party

My senator Tammy Duckworth penned a 1,155 word op ed defending herself from atrocious name calling spewed at her by Fox News superstar Tucker Carlson. The new right wing darling called her a “fraud, moron and a callous hack who hates America” simply for implying we should have a national discussion on possibly re-evaluating the records and monuments dedicated to early American leaders such as George Washington. Carlson is simply the latest charismatic Fox bomb thrower, making millions coarsening U.S. discourse.
But the Carlson-Duckworth brouhaha was totally irrelevant to the real issue we should raise with Duckworth’s leadership: her near total support of U.S. interventionism around the world. Having fought and been grievously wounded in the murderous and criminal Iraq war, one would hope she’d abandon the glorification of wartime service and U.S. exceptionalism that enables the U.S. war party to continue its deadly warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Niger and others of which we’re kept in the dark. Instead we get Duckworth saying to us “Even knowing how my tour in Iraq would turn out, even knowing that I’d lose both my legs in a battlefield just north of Baghdad in late 2004, I would do it all over again. Because if there’s anything that my ancestors’ service taught me, it’s the importance of protecting our founding values”. Duckworth somehow confuses criminal war that killed hundreds of thousands, forced out millions and squandered trillions as protecting our founding values.
Last December 7, the 79th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, Duckworth warned of the growing peace movement pushing back against endless U.S. wars saying, “We don’t want to go back to where we were on Pearl Harbor day, with an isolationist policy and being dragged into foreign conflicts. We have to oppose those tendencies”. That is straight out of the U.S. war party’s talking points promoting perpetual war.
Sadly, Senator Duckworth learned the wrong lesson in Iraq.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Dems beat war drums to beat Trump



There may 101 reasons for Dems to defeat Trump November 3. But promoting perpetual U.S. warfare around the Middle East and Africa should not be among them. Trump gained a fair number of his 63,000,000 votes in 2016 charging our forever wars were stupid and should be ended. Instead of leading on ending such murderous wars, Dems ceded that worthy goal to Trump. While his overall foreign policy has been dreadful, even garnering him a House impeachment, he did two things deserving notice: didn’t start a new US military incursion (Obama disastrously intervened in Libya and Syria) and began troop withdrawals in Syria, Germany and most importantly in Afghanistan, scheduled for completion next May.

But that most worthy of foreign policy goals won’t happen, thanks to presidential politics. Dems figure, if Trump wants to end a 19 year long failed and immoral war, our campaign strategy must be to oppose it. A number of House Dems, led by Jason Crow (D-CO), joined hands with virulent Republican warmonger Liz Cheney (R-WY) to put up a wall stopping the Afghan troop pullout; indeed, ensuring that war goes on forever. Crow’s amendment to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) consigns Trump’s pullout to the ashcan of failed Trump policies, albeit this one saving thousands of Afghan lives and a few Americans as well.

Dems could focus on those aforementioned Trump foreign policy failures to ensure his defeat. Let us count the ways.
1. Trump’s dropped over 20,000 bombs on Afghanistan in 41 months, more than Bush Jr. or Obama in their first 48 months. Trump killed untold thousands of civilians, making good on his promise to “bomb the shit out of Islamic State”.
2. Trump ratcheted up endless war secrecy, hiding actual troop deployments for three years and dropping the monthly Air Power Summary last February. When it comes to endless war, we’re on a ‘need to know’ basis.
3. Trump has vetoed several Congressional measures to end our support of Saudi Arabia’s catastrophic destruction of Yemen and its 24,000,000 souls. His reasoning? We need Saudi Arabia’s weapons purchases.
4. Trump backed a coup in Bolivia and several in Venezuela.
5. Trump kills thousands in Venezuela, North Korea, Iran and Cuba, among others, with dastardly economic sanctions.
6. Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement, likely the most war saving measure of this century, and came within minutes of bombing Iran over a frivolity downing of a U.S. drone.

The Dems are AWOL on all these Trump failures begging to be addressed. Nope, they’d rather stow fear that ending endless war is the mark of an unfit president. That is a tragedy that ensures the downward spiral of the American Experiment.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Trump's wall is finished...and so are we all


It only took 6 months of Trump creating the worst pandemic response in the world for his ballyhooed wall to be completed. Alas, it wasn't a southern border wall to keep his imagined horde of rapists and murderers out. It was a wall around the entire 11,000 miles of the US perimeter keeping us cooped up in the coronavirus petri dish Trump has created. Other countries have a rightful fear of letting us into their relatively covid free bastions of responsible governance.

Use Russian Taliban bounties story to exit Afghanistan


The timing of unsubstantiated reports of Russian bounties paid to the Taliban last year to kill US soldiers is curious. It comes as we’re in the midst of a troop withdrawal leading to a complete end to US presence there next May. That exit from Afghanistan is twenty years in the making. It recognizes Afghanistan has no connection to America’s national security interests. It even represents the truth that the Afghan war begun October 7, 2001, should never have been fought and the hundreds of thousands killed, including 2,382 US soldiers, were unwarranted and needless.
The media, the congresspersons, the military and the intelligence services pushing this questionable narrative, appear determined to derail the urgent, long overdue end to our Afghan war. If they really are concerned about saving US lives and treasure they should use Russian bounty reports, even if true, to admit it’s time to end our two decade war to control a desolate but geopolitically prized country that can never be conquered.
While the Russian Taliban bounty reports are unsubstantiated, US military support for Osama bin Laden’s Mujahedeen, which helped kill 15,000 Russians during Russia’s failed 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, is absolute fact. We gloried in the billions we funneled to bin Laden, until he turned on America, knocking down the World Trade Center, killing 2,800 US civilians.
There is no upside to US wars of revenge and conquest except for the proponents of those wars who become rich and powerful waging them. Horrified that the end is near, they’ve seized on an old, unverified report of Russian interference to distract America from the task at hand…ending our senseless, failed and utterly wasteful Afghan war. Don't let them do that.

Hawk named Crow derails Afghan pullout


The folks running around with their hair on fire over Trump’s desire to get every last soldier out of Afghanistan have a friend in Congressman David Crow (D-CO). Crow introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which puts up numerous requirements before Congressional funds be used to end our 19 yearlong, immoral and failed Afghan war. Passed 45 – 11, the Crow amendment would block funding if troop levels fall below 8,000 and then again 4,000, unless the administration certifies doing so:
1. Doesn’t compromise U.S. counterterrorism efforts in
Afghanistan
2. Doesn’t increase risk to remaining U.S. personnel
3. Is done in consultation with U.S. allies
4. Is in best interests of United States
5. Contains an analysis of remaining threat from the Taliban,
effects on Afghan human rights, the Afghan peace process
and bad actors seeking to undermine Afghan sovereignty
The Crow amendment essentially slams shut the door on the two proposed reductions which would reduce troop levels from 8,600 to 4,000 to zero in 10 months. Coming at the peak of hysteria over unsubstantiated reports Russia offered the Taliban bounties to kill US soldiers, the amendment was likely timed to exploit that hysteria to keep our longest war, our failed war, our murderous war…going on forever. Who needs Russian bounties to get U.S. soldiers killed when we’ve got hawks named Crow who can do it with legislation?

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Embers or conflagration?

"We’re aware that there are embers that need to be put out"
- Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany explaining the extraordinary surge in pandemic infections leading 16 states to re-impose self and public isolation restrictions. If what's occurring now is 'embers', I'd dread to fathom what an actual conflagration is like.

107 years too long to acknowledge Wilson’s racism


Woodrow Wilson became president March 4, 1913. He comes to mind 107 years on due to Princeton University’s decision to excise his name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges over documented racist governance. Wilson rose to fame and the presidency during his 8 year tenure as history professor and president of prestigious Princeton. He parlayed that tenure to the New Jersey governorship, then the presidency in three short years.
Throughout his career Wilson developed an almost cult like worship as a reformer, progressive champion and world peace visionary, culminating in the reverential biopic ‘Wilson’ in 1944. Throughout most of the century after his leaving office in 1921, Wilson ranked in the top ten of our 44 presidents. Rumblings of his long papered over racism finally dropped him to eleventh spot last year.
Wilson deserves further downgrading when the poll of historians is held again. Virginia borne Wilson’s racist views were forged early on as 8 year old Wilson watched in horror his beloved Virginia’s defeat to the North in 1865. As president Wilson not just held racist views, he acted upon them. During the ‘Red Summer’ of 1919, when white mobs viciously attacked Blacks throughout the US, Wilson was silent, except for maliciously claiming the riots were started by Blacks influenced by communist agitators. Worse, Wilson re-segregated the Federal bureaucracy. Long term Black managers were given a choice: accept lower pay subordinate jobs or quit. Wilson believed Black managers were bad for white bureaucrats’ moral.
I’m against removal of historical statutes and other tributes such as the Wilson named Princeton school except for those of Confederate traitors. Instead, use their existence to tell the complete history of the flawed men who added important benefit to the American Story at the same time they disgracefully ripped at our delicate social fabric.

Good god…Mississippi replacing racism with religion on state flag


It’s not easy being a non-theist (the term we prefer to the pejorative ‘atheist’). Seven states still have laws banning us from seeking elective office (tho unenforceable). No openly non-theist in our 244 years has run for president. Why? When a voter poll shows that overall, the electorate is more comfortable with a Black, Hispanic, gay, female or socialist presidential candidate, than a non-theist, we know we’ve got a long slog ahead to respectability.
The American Experiment that heralded separation of church and state in the Constitution of 1787, also has a long slog ahead, this one to decency regarding that hallowed concept. After 180 years, the terrific US motto ‘E Pluribus Unum’ (Out of many, one) was replaced in 1956 with ‘In God We Trust’. That was likely a sop to the McCarthyite wing of the electorate obsessed with godless communism.
Today brought joyous news that Mississippi’s state flag, the last to display the white supremacist, pro slavery confederate battle flag, would be removed after 126 years. But the news was a tad bittersweet as the law mandates the battle flag be replaced with, yep…’In God We Trust’. No doubt the legislature is throwing a bone to the dead-ender white majority in Mississippi being deprived of its last remaining gasp of the old, gallant South. Now, besides our currency and the Florida state flag, we’re stuck with Mississippi joining in to thumb its nose at separation of church and state, disparaging us 10 million non-theists. The new law sets up a procedure to complete the flag revision. How bout if they incorporate humorist Jean Shepherd’s famous take on the offensive motto with ‘In God We Trust…all others pay cash’?

Trump's wall is finished...and so are we all


It only took 6 months of Trump creating the worst pandemic response in the world for his ballyhooed wall to be completed. Alas, it wasn't a southern border wall to keep his imagined horde of rapists and murderers out. It was a wall around the entire 11,000 miles of the US perimeter keeping us cooped up in the coronavirus petri dish Trump has created. Other countries have a rightful fear of letting us into their relatively covid free bastions of responsible governance.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Forget bounties, US just drops bombs to kill in Afghanistan


Americans are outraged, and rightly so, over reports Russia offered bounties to Afghan Taliban fighters to kill American soldiers there. That dead soldier could be someone’s spouse, sibling, child, besides just an anonymous fellow citizen. But it’s unclear if any of the 22 US service personnel killed in 2019 were the result of a bounty. The Taliban doesn’t kill for money. They kill to take back their country from the American invader, who has killed with guns and bombs, tens, if not hundreds of thousands, since we immorally invaded Afghanistan 19 years ago. And they are surely winning as the US just announced a second round of troop withdrawals, which will drop US presence to a paltry 4,600 troops by fall. Besides that avalanche of dead Afghans, the US invasion brought back 2,382 dead Americans, all killed for nothing in a war that should never have been fought.
Yes, let’s express outrage that Russia would act to get Americans killed in Afghanistan. But our focus must remain on withdrawing remaining US soldiers from a land that should never have been invaded and can never be conquered. Where’s the outrage, indeed?

107 years too long to acknowledge Wilson’s racism


Woodrow Wilson became president March 4, 1913. He comes to mind 107 years on due to Princeton University’s decision to excise his name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges over documented racist governance. Wilson rose to fame and the presidency during his 8 year tenure as history professor and president of prestigious Princeton. He parlayed that tenure to the New Jersey governorship, then the presidency in three short years.
Throughout his career Wilson developed an almost cult like worship as a reformer, progressive champion and world peace visionary, culminating in the reverential biopic ‘Wilson’ in 1944. Throughout most of the century after his leaving office in 1921, Wilson ranked in the top ten of our 44 presidents. Rumblings of his long papered over racism finally dropped him to eleventh spot last year.
Wilson deserves further downgrading when the poll of historians is held again. Virginia borne Wilson’s racist views were forged early on as 8 year old Wilson watched in horror his beloved Virginia’s defeat to the North in 1865. As president Wilson not just held racist views, he acted upon them. During the ‘Red Summer’ of 1919, when white mobs viciously attacked Blacks throughout the US, Wilson was silent, except for maliciously claiming the riots were started by Blacks influenced by communist agitators. Worse, Wilson re-segregated the Federal bureaucracy. Long term Black managers were given a choice: accept lower pay subordinate jobs or quit. Wilson believed Black managers were bad for white bureaucrats’ moral.
I’m against removal of historical statutes and other tributes such as the Wilson named Princeton school except for those of Confederate traitors. Instead, use their existence to tell the complete history of the flawed men who added important benefit to the American Story at the same time they disgracefully ripped at our delicate social fabric.