Category Archives: Watergate

1000 Words: Generals and Plumbers

And so, Daniel Ellsberg has died. He announced he was dying back in early March. Inoperable pancreatic cancer. A lousy way to go.

Ellsberg closed his eyes on June 16th in his Kensington, California home.

His eyes, metaphorically, were opened in the late 1960s when he worked for the RAND Corporation, a research and think tank that has served as the ego to the Pentagon’s id, as well as the American military’s crystal ball, Ouija board, Yoda and, occasionally, conscience. Around that time, Ellsberg gradually became aware that this holy land’s excellent adventure in Southeast Asia was built on a tissue of lies, exaggerations, public relations messaging and massaging, and the irresistible demands of empire and uber-masculinity.

Ellsberg then proceeded to commit a felony that, he hoped, might open all of America’s eyes to the sham that underpinned our almost 10-year-long war in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia that resulted in as many as 750,000 deaths, including civilians and soldiers. Nobody really knows how many people died in our Vietnam War — undeclared, technically — from the date in 1955 when we took over the fight from the French after its colonial mastery of the region was involuntarily ended. One of France’s top military commanders in its Vietnam war killed himself after the Viet Minh humiliated French forces at Dien Bien Phu in the spring of 1954. Then France high-tailed it out of Southeast Asia.

Collage: Josh Coe/Ground Truth

Collage: Josh Coe/Ground Truth

The communist insurgent Vietnamese from the north of the thin, crescent-shaped country on the lower right edge of the Asian landmass were dedicated, tough, disciplined and were fighting on familiar terrain. The French were no match for them. America’s military brass, rather than seeing that as a cautionary lesson, decided Hey, we can do better. We’re the world’s most powerful fighting force!

Too often, uniformed fighting men don’t take kindly to cautionary lessons. You’d think the professors in war colleges — the US Military Academy at West Point, for instance — would look at all the failed sieges and attacks of history and then teach future army brass to avoid those mistakes like doves, Quakers, and conscientious objectors. Maybe they do. All I know is the brass that pushed for and executed our Vietnam expedition either forgot or ignored those lessons.

It’s more “manly” to say Damn the torpedos, let’s go in and kick the shit of of those guys than it is to say Let’s think about this for a minute. Here’s an over-the-top example of that kind of thinking: from 1943 through April of 1945, Adolph Hitler forbade his generals and other top war advisors, generally, from criticizing proposed attacks, overanalyzing potential pitfalls of strategy, and even not being upbeat enough despite Germany’s dire military prospects through those years. They were “defeatists,” Hitler said. He fired generals for their defeatism. And so, hundreds of thousands more people died because the German high command  was purged of “defeatists.”

I’m not comparing US military strategists to Germany’s. Well, not totally. Hitler’s Germany was evil to the core. Our evil is far less ubiquitous but it’s there, in spots, rather like little malignant tumors just beginning to grow. We usually can’t even sense their presence but the damage they can do is profound.

As in Vietnam.

Daniel Ellsberg photocopied some 7000 pages of a Department of Defense study ordered by Lyndon Johnson’s Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. The study was a detailed history of America’s involvement in Vietnam. Formally entitled the Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force, it laid bare our country’s bullshit. McNamara himself wrote that he ordered the study so that future strategists might learn from our mistakes.

Some 36 DoD analysts, including Ellsberg, worked on the eventual Pentagon Papers. They did so under extremely tight secrecy. They produced 3000 pages of text backed up by 4000 pages of official documents. The study was completed in late 1968. Fifteen copies of the study were printed. McNamara had resigned as Defense Secretary in February of that year. His replacement, Clark Clifford, received the study only five days before he was to leave office on Inauguration Day, 1969. Clifford claimed he never had the chance to read it. The RAND Corp. got two copies of the study.

Ellsberg took the photocopies he’d made and tried to share them with potential 1972 Democratic candidates for president and other anti-war US senators. None would take the documents from Ellsberg because they understood he’d committed a serious federal crime by taking Top Secret-Sensitive classified materials out of the Pentagon. Had they taken the Papers, they too would be committing a crime. Instead, Ellsberg persuaded New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan to look at the Papers. Sheehan recognized they were dynamite. The Times’ lawyers were split on whether the paper should publish Sheehan’s series of articles. Its outside counsel firm told the Times not to do it. The Times‘ in-house lawyer said it had a 1st Amendment right to do so. The paper decided to print the first of Sheehan’s stories about the Pentagon Papers on June 13, 1971.

The story further invigorated the already explosive anti-war movement.

Now here’s the irony about it all. At first, President Richard Nixon wanted to ignore the whole thing. The Pentagon Papers, he reasoned, only would embarrass his predecessors, Johnson and John F. Kennedy. But his top foreign affairs guru, Henry Kissinger, feared the Papers might put his own top lieutenants at risk (at least one of them had approved Ellsberg to work on the Papers) and therefore embarrass him, Kissinger.

Kissinger then hammered on Nixon the idea that the release of the Papers might endanger the country’s ability to keep secrets in the future and that Ellsberg was part of a cabal of Leftists who wanted to tear the country down. Nixon bought the argument and ordered the creation of a secret White House operation that would discredit leakers, spy on them, and commit dirty tricks to thwart them (homicide was even considered). That operation became known as The Plumbers, a number of whom broke into the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate complex on June 17, 1972.

Once you start lying, you can never stop.

 

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” — Albert Camus

HAVE YOU VOTED YET?

Why not? Okay, but you only have one week left to do it! Here’s where you can vote today and tomorrow:

The Curry Building, 214 W. Seventh St.; 8am-6pm

IU Assembly Hall, 1001 E. 17th St.; 10am-6pm

POG PANIC

So, the Republicans are pulling out one last pie to throw in the face of Barack Obama with a week to go before the November election.

According to them, Obama conspired with Muslim extremists to murder four Americans during the attack on this country’s diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya a couple of weeks ago. Then Obama covered up his administration’s complicity in the affair.

The whole shebang, says everybody from John McCain to Newt Gingrich, is worse than Watergate.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Of course, I’m exaggerating when I say they’re actually accusing Obama of participating in the attack. About as much as they’re exaggerating about it and Watergate.

And, by the way, the GOP has been salivating for a “Democratic Watergate” for some 40 years now. It hasn’t happened yet.

ANOTHER ENDING

This day comes every year around this time.

Baseball is finished for 2012.

Boo.

Their Joy; My Loss

The San Francisco Giants completed a sweep of the Detroit Tigers in the World Series last night. I’ve been listening to the games on live stream. Not only do I love baseball, I love radio (even radio on my laptop.) So I get to combine two of my loves at once.

It’s like having a pizza and spaghetti party.

A Kind Of Heaven

But it’s over.

I wanted the Giants to win. But not just yet. Not now. Not this soon. Couldn’t they have drawn it out for a few more games or, better, a few more weeks? Baseball’s done. So is summer. So is another year.

My boys, the Chicago Cubs, had one of the worst years in their long and storied history. They’re as far from the World Series as they’ve ever been in my lifetime — and that includes a lot of absolutely rotten teams.

But I’m hoping. The new brain trust led by Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and John McLeod has gutted the organization, ridding it of deadwood, ne’er-do-wells, and — for all I know — Satan worshippers. That’s a good start. Now they have to gather real ballplayers.

I don’t believe in god or magic or life after death. But the thing I do believe in makes all those things seem rational. I believe the Cubs will win a World Series while I’m still alive.

Anthony Rizzo Will Lead Us To The Promised Land

Call me a crackpot.

FACTS, HAH!

Big Think took on climate change skeptics yesterday.

You know, without Fox News, these people would be babbling on a street corner somewhere. Of course, in a sane world, so would the Fox News people.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago The Daily Mail of London ran this ludicrous headline:

Everybody with a functioning cerebrum ignored it. Except, natch, Fox News.

The Party of God’s house organ ran with it big time:

Turns out that the Daily Mail piece was completely erroneous.

Doesn’t it scare the crap out of you that a huge percentage of this holy land’s population eats up Fox News on a daily basis?

It makes me want to throw my hands in the air and moan, “I give up!”

On the other hand, maybe Fox is coming around. Their screen headline implies that there was global warming, once. That’s better than denying it ever existed, right?

SO NICE

How about one last blast of summer from Brazil’s Astrud Gilberto?

This song is also known as “Summer Samba.” Light and airy, hopeful and exciting — it’s the perfect metaphor for what I hope every summer will be. They never really turn out that way yet I still dream of those ideal summers in the dark of every winter.

The only events listings you need in Bloomington.


Monday, October 29th, 2012

VOTE ◗ Two locations for early voting in Monroe County today and tomorrow:

  • The Curry Building, 214 W. Seventh St.; 8am-6pm
  • Indiana University Assembly Hall, South Lobby, 1001 E. 17th St.; 10am-6pm

STUDIO TOUR ◗ Brown County, various locationsThe Backroads of Brown County Studio Tour, free, self-guided tour of 16 local artists’ & craftspersons’ studios; 10am-5pm, through October

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallMaster’s Recital: Adam Brown on guitar; 5pm

TOWN HALL MEETING ◗ IU Memorial Union6th Annual China Town Hall: Local Connections, National Reflections, Speakers include: Zhao Shaung, Scott Kennedy, Abassador Gary Locke; 6pm

MUSIC ◗ Muddy Boots Cafe, NashvilleBarbara McGuire; 7-9pm

FILM ◗ IU Cinema — “Juan of the Dead“; 7pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallPercussion Ensemble, John Tafoya & Kevin Bobo, directors; 7pm

MUSIC IU Musical Arts CenterMAC Lobby Concerts Series: Jazz Combo; 7:15pm

MUSIC ◗ Max’s PlaceRockin’ Roots: Brownbird Rudy Relic, Los Basttardos Magnificos, Tilford Sellers & the Wagon Burners; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ The Player’s PubSongwriter Showcase; 8pm

HALLOWE’EN ◗ IU Department of Folklore & Ethnomusicology, Begin at the Performance & Lecture Hall — Ghost Walk, Tour haunted spots on campus; 8pm

MUSIC IU Musical Arts CenterJazz Ensemble, Jeremy Allen, director; 8pm

MUSIC IU Musical Arts Center, Recital HallDoctoral Recital: Chappell Kingland, composition; 8:30pm

MUSIC ◗ The BishopMargot and the Nuclear So & Sos, Gentleman Caller; 9pm

MUSIC ◗ The BluebirdWhite Denim; 9pm

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ONGOING:

ART ◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “New Acquisitions,” David Hockney; through October 21st
  • “Paragons of Filial Piety,” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi; through December 31st
  • “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers,” by Julia Margaret, Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan; through December 31st
  • French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century;” through December 31st
  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Film: Pop-art by Joe Tilson; through December 31st
  • Threads of Love: Baby Carriers from China’s Minority Nationalities“; through December 23rd
  • Workers of the World, Unite!” through December 31st
  • Embracing Nature,” by Barry Gealt; through December 23rd
  • Pioneers & Exiles: German Expressionism,” through December 23rd

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • Ab-Fab — Extreme Quilting,” by Sandy Hill; October 5th through October 27th
  • Street View — Bloomington Scenes,” by Tom Rhea; October 5th through October 27th
  • From the Heartwoods,” by James Alexander Thom; October 5th through October 27th
  • The Spaces in Between,” by Ellen Starr Lyon; October 5th through October 27th

ART ◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibit:

  • Buzz Spector: Off the Shelf; through November 16th
  • Small Is Big; Through November 16th

ART ◗ IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibits:

  • A Place Aside: Artists and Their Partners;” through December 20th
  • Gender Expressions;” through December 20th

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibit:

  • “CUBAmistad” photos

ART ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits:

  • “¡Cuba Si! Posters from the Revolution: 1960s and 1970s”
  • “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”
  • “Thoughts, Things, and Theories… What Is Culture?”
  • “Picturing Archaeology”
  • “Personal Accents: Accessories from Around the World”
  • “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”
  • “The Day in Its Color: A Hoosier Photographer’s Journey through Mid-century America”
  • “TOYing with Ideas”
  • “Living Heritage: Performing Arts of Southeast Asia”
  • “On a Wing and a Prayer”

BOOKS ◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit:

  • Outsiders and Others: Arkham House, Weird Fiction, and the Legacy of HP Lovecraft;” through November 1st
  • A World of Puzzles,” selections from the Slocum Puzzle Collection

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Soup’s OnExhibit:

  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Culture: “CUBAmistad photos; through October

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

  • Bloomington: Then and Now,” presented by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

ARTIFACTS ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibits:

  • Doctors & Dentists: A Look into the Monroe County Medical Professions
  • What Is Your Quilting Story?
  • Garden Glamour: Floral Fashion Frenzy
  • Bloomington Then & Now
  • World War II Uniforms
  • Limestone Industry in Monroe County

The Ryder & The Electron Pencil. All Bloomington. All the time.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Well, the future for me is already a thing of the past.” — Bob Dylan

A PEEK INTO THE FUTURE

When I was a kid I would have this scifi-like fantasy that I’d been transported into the past, say, into my mother’s Little Sicily neighborhood on the Near West Side of Chicago or my father’s Polish enclave on the Northwest Side.

There, I’d be celebrated as The Kid from the Future, the one who knew all the answers, whom other kids and even adults would visit to learn about the wonders of the Space Age 1970s.

“Aw sure,” I’d say casually as my wide eyed audience would hang on my every word, “we sent guys to the moon. Nothin’ to it. We saw it on TV.”

Gasp

Or, “Everybody has a refrigerator and air conditioning, right in their homes. And our cars are low and sleek.”

This little conceit presaged “Back to the Future” by fifteen years or so. Only, unlike Marty McFly, I didn’t have to hide my true origins. I’d be a big shot. Newspaper reporters would flock around me, grilling me about events to come.

“Be prepared,” I’d warn dolefully, “there’s a horrifying world war on the way.” Reporters and kids alike would glance at each other in apprehension. I’d calm them. “But we survived it,” I’d say, as if I had experienced its horrors myself.

Gasp

So play along with me. Let’s pretend we’re the people from the future. We find ourselves in Bloomington in the year 1973. It’s January. It’s drizzly and the temperatures are hovering in the high 40s. We’re sitting at a table in a new little vegetarian diner called The Tao, surrounded by locals. They have a ton of questions.

The political science professor asks, “What’s going to happen with all this Watergate business?”

The campus ROTC officer asks, “Now that President Nixon has ordered a halt to offensive action in Vietnam does that mean the war is over?”

Newly-appointed Hoosiers football coach Lee Corso stops by. He asks, “Does George Foreman have a chance against Joe Frazier?”

A woman wearing a blue “ERA Now!” button asks, “What will the Supreme Court rule in the Roe v. Wade case?”

A soft-spoken philosophy major wearing long hair and a tie-dyed T-shirt asks, “Have the people of 2012 achieved a state of higher consciousness?”

We, of course, have all the answers. “Nixon’s going to resign in a year and a half,” we say. People’s jaws drop.

We continue. “Sorry to say, the war’s going to go on for a couple of more years.” The folks in our audience shake their heads.

“Put your dough on Foreman,” we advise the coach. He says, “Not so fast, my friend!” and points out that Frazier is a 3:1 favorite. “Trust us,” we assure him.

We turn to the woman wearing the blue button. She shifts in her seat excitedly.

“The Court,” we say, “will rule in favor of Roe.”

The woman thrusts her fists in the air, throws her head back, and shouts “Yes!”

The semi-circle of people around us begins to talk among themselves. The woman is giddy. So is Lee Corso. The ROTC officer speculates that with two more years of fighting, maybe — just maybe — the United States can pull out a victory in Southeast Asia. We haven’t the heart to set him straight.

“What else can you tell us,” someone asks.

“Let’s see. Oh, Ronald Reagan will be elected president in 1980.”

“Ronald Reagan?” the political science professor says, shocked.

“Yep. Not only that, he’ll be reelected in one of the greatest landslides in history. And get this: we’ll re-fight the Vietnam War in the ‘Rambo’ movies and we’ll win!”

Our National Do-Over

The young woman’s shoulders slump. “You’ve got to be kidding,” she says.

“Nope.”

On the other hand, the ROTC officer’s mood improves considerably.

“Cheer up,” the political science professor says to the young woman, “Nixon’s going to quit.”

We interrupt him. Nixon, we reveal, will transform himself into an elder statesman. He’ll write books about world affairs. When he dies, his successors in the White House, both Republican and Democrat, will eulogize him.

“That’s odd,” the political science professor observes. “The future looks awfully baffling.” He turns again toward the young woman. “Still, at least the divisive issue of abortion will be settled. You’ve won.”

Not So Fast

“Um, hold on a second there, Professor,” we say. “The abortion issue not only won’t be settled, it’ll be hanging over the country like never before. States will curtail access to abortions. Candidates will run on planks of little more than rolling back Roe v. Wade. In fact, as we left 2012 to come visit you here in 1973, the State of Indiana is fighting with the federal government over abortion. Governor Mitch Daniels and Republican legislators want to cut off Medicaid payments for low income women’s abortions. The feds say the state can’t do that but Indiana’s Attorney General Greg Zoeller has promised to fight for the cut off.

“In fact,” we add, “if states like Mississippi have their way, abortion will be outlawed, period.”

“But I thought you said the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Roe,” the young woman says, plaintively.

“Um, uh…, well, yeah,” we say. Then we shrug.

The people forming the semicircle around contemplate all this for a moment. Finally, the soft-spoken philosophy major  breaks the silence. “You haven’t answered my question,” he says. “Have the people of 2012 achieved a state of higher consciousness?”

You and I glance at each other. Someone’s got to break the news to him. “Well kid,” I say at last, “you really don’t want to know.”

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

People’s ParkLunch Concert Series, Scott Frye, acoustic country blues; 11:30am

Lower Cascades Park, Sycamore Shelter — Bloomington Serious Mac Users Group annual picnic; 5:30-8:30pm

The Venue Fine Art & GiftsThe Art & Poetry of Shana Ritter; 6pm

Jake’s NightclubKaraoke; 6pm

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Ken Wilson; 6-8:30pm

◗ IU Ford-Crawford Hall Summer Music Series, The Steve Houghton Trio; 7pm

◗ IU Auer HallSummer Music Series, Chamber music by the Cecilia String Quartet; 8pm

Cecilia String Quartet

The Root Cellar at Farm Bloomington — Team trivia; 8pm

The Player’s PubBlues Jam hosted by King Bee & the Stingers; 8pm

The BluebirdBloomington’s Got Talent, hosted by Leo Cook; 9pm

Ongoing:

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • John D. Shearer, “I’m Too Young For This  @#!%”; through July 30th
  • Claire Swallow, ‘Memoir”; through July 28th
  • Dale Gardner, “Time Machine”; through July 28th
  • Sarah Wain, “That Takes the Cake”; through July 28th
  • Jessica Lucas & Alex Straiker, “Life Under the Lens — The Art of Microscopy”; through July 28th

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • Qiao Xiaoguang, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts” ; through August 12th
  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th
  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th
  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th
  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th
  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st
  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012
  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st
  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits:

  • Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show; through July 21st
  • Bloomington Photography Club Annual Exhibition; July 27th through August 3rd

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World Cultures — Closed for semester break

Monroe County History Center Exhibits:

  • “What Is Your Quilting Story?”; through July 31st
  • Photo exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I got my head bashed in at a demonstration against the Vietnam War. Police were losing control because they were up against a world they really didn’t understand.” — Terry Gilliam

AND THEN THERE WERE TWO

Gotta tell ya, folks, I hate to see Little Rickey Santorum go, for the loss of his entertainment value alone.

Now the presidential race is down to two politico-economic fraternal twins, each of whom is about as exciting as a can of beige paint.

Definitely Not Beige

If it wasn’t for guys like Santorum, I’d have to actually take the Republicans seriously and you know how disconcerting that prospect would be for me.

Digging the Santorum campaign was like having a daredevil hobby — bungee jumping off tall bridges, say, or rowing across an ocean. Exciting, sure, but if things go wrong, you’re screwed.

In this case, the worst-case scenario would have been a Santorum presidency

So, bye-bye Rickey. We knew you all too well.

A SIMPLE QUESTION

Does it surprise anyone that the first media creature George Zimmerman has spoken with is Fox News’ Sean Hannity?

Sympathetic Ear

DANIEL ELLSBERG, PATRIOT

I missed this. Saturday, April 7th was Daniel Ellsberg‘s birthday.

You want a hero? You got him.

Ellsberg

Here’s the story of Ellsberg’s heroism as told by Howard Zinn in his compelling graphic narrative book, “A People’s History of American Empire.”

Zinn and Ellsberg became friends in 1969 during the anti-war movement. Ellsberg earlier had worked for  the RAND Corporation, which was assigned by the US Department of Defense in 1967 to write up a history of the Vietnam War. Ellsberg actually did much of the grunt work researching this nation’s involvement there.

He learned that President Harry Truman authorized the funding of France’s colonial war against Vietnam independence fighters as far back as  the 1940s. President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s threw US support behind Vietnam strongmen who opposed free elections in that country.

Throw in a pile of other falsehoods, exaggerations, forgeries, and intentional inaccuracies on the parts of generals and politicians executing the slaughter in Southeast Asia, and Ellsberg understood that our stated aims there were a colossal sham.

Thanks to the study, Ellsberg saw that President Lyndon Johnson’s assertion that the North Vietnamese had started a war just for kicks in the summer of 1964 was an out and out lie.

Johnson, see, had said some North Vietnamese in a little motorboat had attacked a couple of American cruisers just sitting in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin and minding their own business. Johnson parlayed this whopper into getting Congress to sign him a blank check and the next thing you knew, a half million American soldiers were fighting for who knows what in Southeast Asia.

Johnson, Finally Grasping What Vietnam Had Become

Ellsberg and some other RAND researchers privately agreed that they had to say something to the American public about our country’s shenanigans in Vietnam.

They figured Middle American folks would trust them, sub-contractors to the Pentagon with 7000 pages of damning documents in their hands, rather than wild-eyed hippies carrying peace placards.

So they sent a letter to major newspapers around the country calling for an end to the war. The New York Times and the Washington Post both published the letter, but nobody really gave a damn about it.

Meanwhile, the United States military went on happily killing and bombing in Vietnam. Then there was a Green Beret murder scandal and the My Lai Massacre. Ellsberg already was wracked with guilt for his country over what he knew and these atrocities only pushed him over the edge.

Destroying The Town In Order To Save It

He contacted another former RAND colleague and together they photocopied the 7000 pages with the goal of releasing the classified documents. The two agreed it was worth going to jail for exposing government secrets if it might shorten the war somehow.

Their hope was the release of the papers would turn even the most die-hard patriots against the war. They contacted the offices of a few congressmen and found no one willing to touch their hot docs.

Finally, they went to the New York Times with their bundle of papers. After a few months, the Times went ahead and published what would become known as the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg was charged with theft and violations of the Espionage Act. He faced 115 years in prison. He turned himself in to the FBI in Boston on June 28, 1971, after having run off many more copies of the Papers and distributing them to other newspapers.

Setting The Type For The New York Times Pentagon Papers Edition

While Ellsberg was on trial, it was learned that the Nixon White House had ordered mugs to burglarize his psychiatrist’s office in hopes of finding incriminating notes against him there, and other mugs to harass him at public appearances. The federal judge declared a mistrial in Ellberg’s case due to these government interferences.

He was lucky.

He was also, as I mentioned earlier. a hero.

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH

The Buffalo Springfield played this song on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, February 26th, 1967.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Like its politicians and its war, society has the teenagers it deserves.” — Joseph Priestley

WANTING TO REBEL IN THE WORST WAY

Let’s look at something from the viewpoint of a dopey kid who’s burning up with the desire to piss people off.

It’s an easy task for me because that’s precisely the kind of dopey kid I was. That urge to thumb my nose at grownups and society at large was so overpowering that I got myself busted. It wasn’t until a couple of tough guy detectives pounded on the back door of my family’s home and slapped the cuffs on me when I was 17 that I realized the whole F.U. I was shouting at the world might not be a strategic success.

Believe me, having my belt and shoelaces confiscated, sitting in a cell where the toilet has no seat because inmates can kill themselves with it (I still don’t know how they can do it), and being offered the traditional bologna sandwich and a glass of water for dinner profoundly changes one’s attitude toward senseless rebellion.

Anyway, a couple of Bloomington teenagers presumably faced that same reality check this week. The two high school students, a boy and a girl, were hauled in on suspicion of drawing a swastika and writing the word Hitler on a poster at the Jewish studies program office in Goodbody Hall.

Apparently, the kids were hanging around the IU campus, bored, and decided to liven up the decor. The IU police say crude drawings of female parts were also found around Goodbody, drawn with the same type of black marker that the anti-semitic stuff was scrawled in.

I could have been that boy (if I had a girlfriend at that age). So I ask myself, Why would I have done it?

When I was 15, 16, and 17, the Vietnam War was just winding down, Watergate was just gearing up, and the country was just emerging from the chaos of assassinations and race rioting. I concluded this was a sick nation, that I was one of the select few souls perceptive enough to grasp that elementary fact.

Sick Nation

My parents were the two stupidest people to walk the face of this Earth. How they survived the mere act of getting to work in the morning baffled me. My teachers were idiots — all they were concerned about was the length of my hair. The cops were fascists. Politicians were crooked. Corporations were run by greedy pigs who’d sell out their grandmothers for a profit. And even the music on the radio was execrable — I mean, honestly, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree”? And what about “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia”?

For pity’s sake, can you blame me for wanting to overthrow the world?

The Last Straw

I was too much of a dope to understand that I could have channeled my rage in some constructive way. I hadn’t the slightest idea what I could have done to, say, force the executives of Ford Motor Company to mend their ways, or convince the Illinois governor not to slurp at the public trough.

The only thing I could think of was to roar.

Yeah, I was dopey, but I didn’t really mean anybody any harm. I wasn’t about to take a gun (which I had access to, thanks to some of my associates in small-time crime) and go out blasting for the lark of it.

Hell, I could hardly muster the bile to punch a guy in the face, although that talent was considered requisite in my neighborhood.

So what was I to do to inform the citizens of this holy land that I considered them consummate boobs?

I fell back on the old reliables: busting windows, splattering paint on walls, petty theft, flashing the finger at passing squad cars (all the while making sure they wouldn’t see me doing it), and other teen boy annoyances.

“Yeah, This’ll Show ‘Em!”

Those two Bloomington kids might well be harboring some of the same grievances I did. Hell, cops are still dousing protesters with pepper spray these days. Corporations are still run by greedy pigs. Pointless wars are still being fought. And Illinois governors are still going to prison.

Work Hard, Study, Mind Your Elders And You, Too, Can Grow Up To Be Governor

The two kids may not know exactly who Otto Kerner was or Rod Blagojevich is, but rest assured they know pols still are adept at digging their hands in our pockets when we aren’t looking. It’s a safe bet to assume, as well, that the two Bloomington teens feel their parents are spectacularly uninformed and incapable of tying their own shoelaces.

And maybe — just maybe — they needed the world to know just how contemptible they think it is.

So, pretend you’re a kid with a half-formed sense of morality. What’s the worst thing you can draw on a wall that illustrates how despicable you think the adult nation is?

A good starting point might be a penis or a vagina, no? That’ll shake ’em up. They’ll realize what idiots they are when they catch sight of that, huh?

Okay, now that we’ve made our point clear on that score, how about politics? Let’s see now, who was the most evil politician of all time?

Duh! Adolf Hitler!

“This Is What I Think Of You.”

Man, nothin’s gonna show these pigs what we think of ’em better than writing the name of history’s most evil man on a poster and drawing a swastika.

You think you’re gonna pull me into your bullshit world, man? Take that! Hitler. Hah!

You may counter that I’m being too forgiving here. Perhaps these two kids have had their brains turned to mush by the rantings of neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Perhaps one or both of the kids really hates Jews.

I doubt it. My guess is that neither of the kids knows exactly what a Jew is.

They most likely only know that writing Hitler’s name on a wall pisses people off, big time. And it’s a sure-fire way to make the announcement that we are not you.

I hope the kids had an epiphany when they had their belts and shoelaces taken away.

BIRTHERS NEVER DIE

Can you believe it? Birthers are still around and still making bleating noises.

Birthers.

Jerome Corsi is one of them. You’ve heard of him. Several of his books have made the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list.

Corsi

Which is ironic because they’re as far from nonfiction as the number one bestseller called “Heaven Is for Real” by that Nebraska preacher named Burpo about his kid’s fever dream fantasy that he died and came back from paradise.

Corsi, of course, is the fabulist who popularized the Swiftboat canard against 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, and has since thrown his lot in with the likes of Orly Taitz, who is to sanity what the hot dog station at the Circle K is to gourmet cooking.

Taitz

Corsi earned a doctorate in political science from Harvard, which proves only that even Ivy League institutions make mistakes.

Taitz, meanwhile, roams the streets freely, always one step ahead of the men with butterfly nets.

Corsi’s latest flight of psychotic fancy is called “Where’s the Birth Certificate: The Case that Barack Obama Is not Eligible to Be President,” published last year even as Barack Obama produced his long-form birth certificate.

Per Corsi’s peculiar logic, that is not the birth certificate.

Whatever the hell ever that means.

Anyway, New Jersey Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco, a Republican (duh!) from Morris, has jumped on the Manchurian Candidate bandwagon. The state legislator says Corsi, who gave an SRO speech at the Morristown Masonic Lodge that Bucco attended Tuesday, piques his interest.

Corsi, according to Bucco, raised “interesting points I wasn’t aware of, and it made me believe this thing isn’t going away.”

Bucco, by the way, is an alternate spelling of the Italian word for hole. As in the things in both his and Corsi’s heads. Taitz’s cranium is a sieve.

Osso Bucco — Literally, Bone With A Hole

Bucco is the deputy Republican leader in the New Jersey House. Corsi’s speech was sponsored by a gaggle of Tea Party groups as well the Morris County Republican Party.

So this is fairly mainstream stuff. Within my lifetime, the cranks of this holy land have become respectable — which says absolutely nothing about them but everything about us.

See, there’ve always been those who fixate on marginalia. There were guys I used to see at City Hall, for instance, who rode their rusty three-speed bikes to every single City Council Zoning Committee meeting, convinced they were the average citizen’s bulwark against corruption. You know the type — they loiter in the county building halls and mumble hello to passing county board members and whoever is foolish enough to acknowledge them immediately becomes the object of the loiterer’s mantra-like anecdote for the next few weeks: “I was talking to so-and-so at the county building and she says….”

Or how about the insomniacs who listened to all-night syndicated talk radio shows? They knew that the government was sitting on alien visitation evidence in Roswell.

Proof!

They reside at the flange of the sanity’s bell curve.

For most of our history, the ramblings of these folks have been the aural equivalent of the croak of a toad in a wetland ten miles from the nearest outpost of civilization.

Now, though, that toad croak must be breathlessly covered by TV, radio, and newspaper reporters across the nation.

How did that happen?

Is it the inevitable result of me-generation huffing and puffing from the 70s?

You know, everybody’s opinion counts? Feelings are paramount? Facts are fascist? If you believe it, it’s true?

Self-help authors made millions pontificating in this manner. Remember Robert Bly and John Bradshaw? Later practitioners included Marianne Williamson and, more recently, Rhonda Byrne, she of “The Secret.”

Believe And It Will Be So

They all preached that you create your own reality.

And no matter how much the Right derides the touchy-feely, post-hippie, 70’s generation, most of them grew up in that era. If they didn’t care for est training and I-am-woman-hear-me-roar, they surely dug the patronizing message that whatever you think or believe is valid.

Well, guess what folks — it ain’t.

No matter how passionately you feel, the world is not flat. The Apollo moon landings were not staged. Alien bodies were not hidden in a hangar at Area 51. And Barack Obama was born in Hawai’i.

 

 

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“The law does not pretend to punish everything that is dishonest. That would seriously interfere with business.” — Clarence Darrow

BZZZZZZZZZZZ!

Steve the Dog and I just had a major drama. I was in the process of typing up the entries below when Steve started getting unusually curious about something in a corner of the garage (where I keep my office).

Suddenly, Steve screech-barked and jumped back. I went over to see what was up and I saw a gigantic bumble bee staggering and lumbering around on the concrete floor.

The hair on my arms turned to tiny needles.

A Cute Little Bunny — I Refuse To Post A Picture Of A Bee

Apparently, the bumble bee took exception to Steve’s sniffing and gave him a shiv to the snoot. Bumble bees, I understand, essentially commit suicide when they sting. I would normally look something like this up to verify it but I’m not gonna do it.

See, I have a bee phobia. Wasps and hornets, too. Merely typing the words makes me shudder. I can’t even look at pictures of the brutes or else I’ll spend the rest of the day glancing over my shoulder in a panic.

You think I’m neurotic about these guys? Take my sister Charlotte and snakes. She can bear them no more courageously than I suffer yellow jackets. Swear to god, Charlotte one day cut the picture illustrating the entry for the word snake out of her family’s dictionary. That’s nuts.

Wanna know what’s more nuts? I wouldn’t even have the cagliones to cut the picture of a bee or wasp out of my dictionary. When I was a kid I read my family’s set of the World Book Encyclopedia voraciously — all except the B volume. I didn’t want to take a chance on seeing a picture of a bee.

See? No Bees

This reminds me of an incident that happened in the Book Corner last summer. I was straightening out the half-price book table near the big front windows. Suddenly I heard what I originally thought was the drone of a World War II fighter plane. It turned out to be one of those titanic carpenter bees.

They stand about six-foot-three and have a wingspan of some three yards. This particular one was hurling himself against the window trying to get out of the place. Honestly, he was smoking a cigarette. I’m not certain but I think he might have been carrying a gun.

I almost lost control of my bodily functions. I dashed to the other end of the store.

Right at this time, my pal Mary Damm, a soil biology researcher at IU, walked in. She could see the terror on my face.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

I pointed toward the window where, by this time, the carpenter bee was picking up a large volume and preparing to fling it at the glass.

“You’re afraid of a bee?” she marveled. “It won’t hurt you.”

I looked closely at the bee; he glared back at me and drew one of his fingers across his throat in a threatening manner.

“Look,” I said, almost mewling, “I’m scared to death of these things. I don’t know what to do.”

At this point, Mary started telling me what terrific citizens of the Earth bees are. How they keep to themselves and help propagate countless floral species and how they won’t attack you as long as you don’t molest them.

The bee in the window gave me a terrifying glance and made a shushing gesture in my direction. I think I squeaked.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said, “but they still petrify me.”

Almost As Terrifying As Bees

“Well,” Mary observed, “that’s not rational.”

“No, it’s not,” I said, my voice shaking. “That’s why they call it a phobia.”

“Well, do you want me to get it out of here?”

Oh! Had I the courage to get within 50 feet of the carpenter bee, I would have run up and hugged her. As it was, I could only shout out, “Yes, please!”

Then I offered to fetch her a cardboard box and a push broom and a snow shovel. “Whatever you need to do the job, I’ll get,” I said. I remembered seeing an axe in the basement and so I made a move in that direction before Mary stopped me.

“I won’t need those things,” she said. “I work in the fields all summer long. I’m used to bees. They don’t bother me at all.”

She directed me to bring her a soft drink cup and a piece of paper. She carefully and calmly crept up on the bee as he stood there, trying to figure out his next strategy. She gently placed the cup over the bee and slipped the paper between it and the glass. Then she took the bee outside and released him over a planter on Kirkwood Avenue.

The bee buzzed off without a single word of gratitude, the hoodlum.

“That’s that,” Mary Damm said. “See. They won’t hurt you.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said.

Anyway, the bumble bee today. I grabbed the longest broom I could find and positioned myself as far from the bugger as I could. I stretched and craned and flicked him toward the now-open garage door.

I flicked, that is, if flicking is the proper term one would employ to describe moving something the size of a wrecking ball.

Victory! I got the bumble bee out of the garage.

Safe At Last!

Only I’ll be glancing over my shoulder in a panic occasionally for the rest of today.

HOORAY!

I’m the first guy to howl when the Reagan/Bush/Bush Supreme Court issues one of its baffling decisions — say, the Citizens United imprimatur for big money interests to take over the electoral process in this holy land.

So, when the Court does something praiseworthy, as it did yesterday, I’ll have to give it its props.

Usually aligned with the tories and royalists, Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, ventured into the world of the sane when he voted with the “liberal” minority to guarantee criminal suspects the right to decent representation.

Kennedy

The gist of the main case before the Court in this question was that prosecutors had offered a suspect’s lawyer a nice plea bargain deal. The client would have served a 90-day sentence for a petty infraction.

The lawyer, though, forgot or neglected to tell the client. The plea bargain offer expired, the client pleaded guilty without the deal in place, and he was sentence to three years in prison.

Only later did the client find out he could have accepted a three-month sentence.

Oh, just in case you’re thinking that murderers and rapists and terrorists will now waltz out of prison or never even serve time because of this decision, well, you’re wrong.

This decision was based on the case of a man who was — brace yourself — driving without a license.

Kennedy wrote that America’s criminal justice system is no longer a procession of trials but a virtual assembly line of plea bargains. Ergo, when a guy is denied a possible plea bargain because his attorney is a knucklehead, he’s being denied justice.

Kennedy was tabbed for the Supreme Court post by President Reagan in late 1987. In fact, Kennedy was Reagan’s third choice to replace retiring Justice Lewis Powell. Old Dutch first named Robert Bork to the Court but Bork’s history as a collaborationist in Watergate as well as the fact that his views on American justice were formed by his attendance at the Cro-Magnon School of Law torpedoed his nomination. Reagan came back with a fellow named Douglas Ginsburg, who, it was learned — horrors! — had occasionally smoked a joint while he was a law student.

Bork Abetted Nixon

So Kennedy, a less reptilian judge than Bork and a man whose lungs were virginal, was named and confirmed.

Since then, Kennedy has been considered a sort-of swing vote in the Court, although he generally pendulates (I just made that word up!) between Right and Far Right as opposed to Right and Left.

The Court since the days of Reagan has become about as Right Wing as a country club locker room. Here’s the current lineup of the Court:

By the way, Kennedy was confirmed 97-0 by the Senate a quarter of a century ago. Doesn’t that kind of bipartisanship seem rather quaint?

Anyway, the Court often rules 5-4 in cases that reflect any cultural or moral divide in these Great United States, Inc. The five, of course, being the quintet of Reagan/Bush/Bush boys.

It’s a court whose core essentially gave us George W. Bush as president. Thanks, guys (and one gal).

“I Owe It All To Sandy O’Connor.”

The lesson? Even though it appears there’s barely a fine hair of distinction between President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, would you really want Romney to start paying off his political debts by naming a sixth conservative to the Court?

And what if this great nation fully tumbles into the Twilight Zone this summer and fall and somehow winds up with Rick Santorum as president? Who’s he gonna name to the Supreme Court? Michele Bachmann?

“No, Really. My Husband’s Straight. No Lie. He’s Into Women. Really.”

All I’m saying is your vote matters this November.

AM I ALIVE?

With all the Big Questions swirling around these days, isn’t it disconcerting to realize we don’t even know exactly what life is?

Oh, I don’t mean all those clever answers like “Life is a long lesson in humility” (James M. Barrie) or “Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act” (Truman Capote).

No, I mean what is life?

As in, what’s the difference between a rock and a human being? We all agree a human being has life, right? And the rock does not.

Not Alive

Now tell me why we know that.

You can’t.

Nor can the greatest life scientists on this weird planet.

Lisa Pratt, Provost’s Professor of Geological Sciences here at IU, for one, can’t tell us what life is. And, hell, she’s a specialist in something called biogeochemistry. Yee-oww.

Pratt told a panel of life scientists at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures yesterday that no one has developed an agreed-upon definition of life so far. “To accept the fact that scientists can’t seem to reach an agreement on the most basic ideas is troubling,” she said.

Alive

It may be troubling to her but I find it rather comforting. Nature humbles us. The imams and priests and lamas of the world tell us they have the answers. The scientists, though, say Search me.

Count me on the side of the scientists.

WHAT’S OUT THERE?

Hey, the weekly Kirkwood Observatory open houses started up again last night.

Kirkwood Observatory, This Past Christmas Day

From now until mid-November the little domed structure just off Indiana Avenue near the Sample Gate will be open to the public. You can peer planets and stars through the Astronomy Department’s telescopes each Wednesday night, provided the sky is clear. Hours are from 9-11pm until mid-April. Every couple of weeks thereafter the facility will open and close a half-hour later due to Daylight Savings Time. After the June solstice, open hours will begin creeping back earlier as the summer wears on.

WHAT IS LIFE?

My favorite Beatle, George Harrison.

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