Wednesday, April 28, 2010

book notes

The War Lovers by Evan Thomas

Colorful uniforms went away with the advent of smokeless gun powder, which bright colors conspicuous on the battle field.

Roosevelt's father didn't serve in the Civil War (in part because his wife was a frail Southerner whose brother were fighting for the Confederacy) -- fueling TR's need to prove himself in battle.

Roosevelt in 1889 letter to Cecil Spring Rice -- "Frankly, I don't know that I should be sorry to see a bit of a spar with Germany; the burning of New York and a few other seacoast cities would be a good object lesson on the need of an adequate system of coastal defenses"

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

book notes

Havana Nocturne by T. J. English

The 1942 apprehension of (7?) German saboteurs in the Harbor of New York was made possible by a deal with Lucky Luciano in which Luciano gets released from prison in exchange for ordering his port mobsters to turn government informants.

Batista's overconfidence really played into Castro's hand (as Kennedy's would later) -- first letting Castro free from a 30 year prison sentence and then claiming that he had been killed in a battle, setting the stage for Castro to re-emerge in the famous New York Times 3-part profile.

The multi-racial music scene in Havana was making it the international cool place of the 50's -- a potentially powerful reposte to North America's racial segregation.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

magazine notes

"An individual with a story is on higher ground than an individual with an argument" -- Morris Mott quoted in 4/19/10 New Yorker by Peter Hessler (Go West)

Sarah Palin's ignorant imperialism. - By William Saletan - Slate Magazine

Sarah Palin's ignorant imperialism. - By William Saletan - Slate Magazine: "The British hawks, like Palin, saw self-restraint as wimpy and dangerous. If Britain retreated from the tax policies that had provoked the Tea Party, they warned, the colonists would take this as 'Proofs of our Weakness, Disunion and Timidity.' Miller writes, 'Few Englishmen believed that the mother country could retain its sovereignty if it retreated in the face of such outrage: it was now said upon every side that the colonists must be chastised into submission.'

Palin thinks American power is above apology because it's 'a force for good throughout this world.' But Britain saw itself the same way. In their own eyes, Miller explains, Englishmen,
the terror of the evildoers of the world, could no longer sit still while a knot of agitators and firebrands in their own colonies sought to destroy the empire. If England were to continue to hold up her head in Europe as a great power, she could not permit 'a petty little province, the creature of our own hands, the bubble of our breath,' to hurl defiance across the Atlantic with impunity."

The Terrorist We Keep Killing - Page 1 - The Daily Beast

The Terrorist We Keep Killing - Page 1 - The Daily Beast: "But al Qaeda was quick to see where Bush was going. Zarqawi moved into Iraq after he and the rest of al Qaeda’s network of terrorists were expelled from Afghanistan in late 2001. He worked carefully and successfully to prepare and build an infrastructure to attack the American occupation force once it overran Iraq in 2003—including networks of supporters in the Muslim diaspora in Europe and all over the Islamic world to funnel volunteers, many of them suicide bombers, into Iraq once the occupation began. In short, al Qaeda prepared for the occupation of Iraq far more effectively and efficiently than did the Pentagon.

On February 11, 2003, Osama bin Laden sent an open letter to the Iraqi people warning them that Bush was getting ready to attack their country. Bin Laden blamed the conspiracy on the Crusaders and Zionists who wanted to “install a stooge regime to follow its masters in Washington and Tel Aviv to pave the way for the establishment of Greater Israel.”"

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tim Leifield suicide

My letter to the Daily Camera on covering up Tim Leifield's suicide and Daily Camera's response

By Rick Cendo

On April 5, the Daily Camera reported,

"Timothy Leifield, well-known for his work on behalf of Boulder's nonprofit and gay communities, died last Tuesday at his Boulder home. He was 55.

"The Boulder County Coroner's Office hadn't ruled Sunday on his cause of death, although no foul play is suspected."

In fact, no one really knows for sure what day Tim Leifield died. He was found dead in his home on Saturday, April 4, and, presumably, the coroner estimated his day of death to have been the previous Tuesday. He left an extensive suicide letter, widely shared on the Internet, which is probably why "no foul play is suspected."

The Daily Camera chose to not report the death as a suicide, presumably in deference to the wishes of his friends and family, and instead decribed him as "the life of the party," in the words of a "longtime friend".
Daily Camera
This is an ironic deceit. It harkens back to the days when young men died from complications due to AIDS, and newspapers censored this information in deference to the wishes of friends and family. The irony is that Tim dedicated his life to bringing AIDS out of the closet, encouraging its open confrontation as director of the Boulder County AIDS preoject and STOP AIDS NOW.

Furthermore, Tim's long suicide letter expressed no shame in his decision to kill himself nor any admonishment to sweep this under the rug. His only admonishment is to "be kind, be kind, be kind."

And that's a good one! Most people want to be kind, including me.

But then there's the question of what is truly kind. An immediate impulse is to shield one's friend from the cruel, gossipy world (Was he gay? Did he have AIDS? Is he mentally ill? Did he commit suicide?).

But in doing so one creates the implication that what this person is, or has, or did, is shameful -- something unspoken.

There are two problems:

First is the violence visited upon the individual deemed to be shameful, whether for homosexuality (me and Tim), or mental illness and suicide (Tim), or AIDS.

Tim expressed no shame in his mental illness nor in his decision to commit suicide. To quote Tim's suicide letter:

"I have sought out help, and been on any number of drugs. Most scripts were for the wrong reasons, SSRIs for depression. It wasn’t until 2007, when I saw a new psychiatrist who diagnosed me as having Atypical Bipolar Disorder, that I started on a new combination of drugs and felt better than I had in a long time. I went back to work and was doing pretty good. But I couldn’t sustain the energy needed to be happy and productive fulltime. For the past two years it’s just been a matter of running out the clock. And the bank.

(Please do not for an instant think that the drugs have led to this decision. They kept me alive three years past my five year plan.)"

Treatment did not work, ultimately, for Tim. But it does work for millions of other Americans who suffer from mental illness, including 10's of thousands who have suffered severe trauma serving our nation in Iraq and Afganistan. If you feel you may suffer from a mental illness, don't deny it. Get help. The phone number for the Boulder County Mental Health Center is (303) 443-8417.

Second is the stigma impressed upon everyone else.

Let's say you read in the Daily Camera that a 55-year-old just happened to have died, suddenly, cause unknown. And then you learn through the grape vine or Internet that this was not so much a mysterious death as a suicide, brought on by a lifetime of struggling with a bipolar disorder.
The message I receive is that suicide is shameful.

Ditto mental illness.

That is exactly the message people inferred 25 years ago about AIDS or 50 years ago about homosexuality.

Homosexuality. AIDS. Mental Illness. Suicide. These are all part of the human condition -- things we should acknowledge without shame. If you are hiding these things, you are not helping.

Shame can be useful (Tiger Woods and Jesse James come to mind). But it is counterproductive for AIDS and homosexuality (we know) or mental illness and suicide (we're learning).

In the words of the early AIDS movement, which Tim championed, "Silence = Death".

boulder weekly


Mr. Cendo:
Kevin Kaufman the editor of the the Camera here.

First, I wanted to thank you for your submission, however, I'm not inclined to run it at the moment. Here's why, which I hope also will explain some of our decision making in covering Mr. Leifield's death and the facts as reported to date. We certainly didn't conspire to keep anything secret or to deceive.

Our general policy is to not report on suicides, except in a few cases, such as it being in an extremely public place, witnessed my many. While some may not feel suicide carries a stigma, many in our society and community still do. And we particularly wish to be sensitive to the families of the deceased, who often are overcome with grief, which also often is exacerbated by the fact that their loved one committed suicide.

We only covered Mr. Leifield's death because he was such a well known person in our community. Had he not been so known, there would not have been any mention of his death unless the family placed an obituary or death notice. In those notices, which are paid notices, families then decide how they wish to address or not address cause of death..

Regardless, we felt Mr. Leifield life and contribution to the community rose to the level that we needed to report that he had died.

In such a case, we rely on the county coroner to determine when the person died. That determination is the official date reported on the person's death certificate. It really is the only way we can know date of death, which is a relevant fact that we need in our basic reporting. I do not know what all facts or tests the coroner did to determine that date, but I'm confident they did their best to be as accurate as possible -- our coroner, while he indeed has his weaknesses, is a real stickler for detail and accuracy.

Regarding the cause of death, we were not at all attempting to deceive and surely you know that.
At this point, we still have not yet received a definitive cause or if it was suicide. While we did indeed have friends of Mr. Leifield tell us they believed that it was suicide or that they'd heard it was a suicide, we must rely on an official determination.

And while you suggest that Mr. Leifield had no shame in his suicide -- I have read the purported suicide note you speak of and no it doesn't appear to me Mr. Leifield felt his act was anything to be ashamed of -- I do not know the authenticity of the note, if in fact his death was a suicide, or if it was how family feels about that fact being publicly reported. And, frankly, I am more concerned with what his family wishes than his friends' desires. (Also of note, Mr. Leifield seemed very deliberate in his act, to the point of supposedly providing his note to family and key friends to distribute. He apparently chose not to include the Camera or other media as a recipient of that, so I can only assume that in doing that he meant the knowledge of his suicide and his thinking leading to it to be kept among them, although that's only my assumption.)

Anyway, since we do not as a policy routinely report suicides, because such an official ruling has not been issued and because I don't know the family's feelings about that being made public, I don't feel it would at this time be appropriate to publish your piece.
Should some of those circumstances change, then I'd be more apt to consider it.

Hopefully that will work for you at this point. Also, if you have family contact information we'd certainly appreciate it.
... kk


Suicide Letter

30 March 2010

Dear Friends and Family,

I imagine there are many among you who are shocked and saddened and angry. How could he do this? What happened? Could I/we have stopped this? I will try to explain and elaborate and hopefully lessen the pain that I know I will have caused. I also hope that I have avoided any birthdays or personal holidays, so future events won’t be clouded with this anniversary.

First of all, let me say that my suicide has nothing to do with Stephen Henderson’s. (For those of you who do not know of Stephen, he was a good friend who died on November 27th.) However, his suicide did affect my timing and plan. He delayed my action; I had originally planned to kill myself in early December. I know that this would have saddened holiday plans, but I thought that it would also have kept folks from having to travel twice. Families would already have been together for Christmas.

From Stephen’s death, and his lack of having left a more detailed note, I learned that I had to try to describe what has been going on with me and how I came to this conclusion. I would guess that the existing consensus would be that I was a happy, healthy individual. The truth is that I’ve been unhappy and sick for quite some time. Which is not to say there haven’t been good times.

But for as long as I can remember, I’ve had times when I just felt too sad to get out of bed. I assumed these were normal, that everyone had these periods of melancholia. And they are normal, except perhaps for the frequency. I imagine everyone thinks about suicide, probably once a month or so. But for the past 25 years I’ve been thinking about suicide on a weekly basis. For the past 15 years, probably on a daily basis. For the past five years it’s been hourly. I’ll find myself at a dinner party thinking this will be that last one with this group. I’ll be on a hike, thinking this will be the last time I see the Continental Divide. It’s not with sadness that I’ll have these thoughts, more just a notation. For as long as I can remember this has been inevitable.

I’m enclosing/attaching a column I wrote for my college paper in February of 1977. It’s titled “Dark Thoughts” and deals with depression and thoughts of suicide. My summary at the time was to concentrate on the good times to get through the bad. And yes, there are still many good things: dinners with friends, walking the trails with our dogs, a round of bridge. But for me the darkness has been just too heavy. I’d go home and collapse and want to be done with it. The utter hopelessness of everything would just wash over me.

I know it will be hard to understand what I’ve been going through, and how it intensifies. Outward appearances can be deceiving, and you don’t want to be a buzzkill, so you often mask what’s going on in your brain. I think growing up gay laid the foundation for excellent over compensation skills. In my case, I never wanted to be “found out,” so I became quite proficient at having girlfriends and doing just enough sports, of watching my gestures and speech, of wearing the right clothes.

I have sought out help, and been on any number of drugs. Most scripts were for the wrong reasons, SSRIs for depression. It wasn’t until 2007, when I saw a new psychiatrist who diagnosed me as having Atypical Bipolar Disorder, that I started on a new combination of drugs and felt better than I had in a long time. I went back to work and was doing pretty good. But I couldn’t sustain the energy needed to be happy and productive fulltime. For the past two years it’s just been a matter of running out the clock. And the bank.

(Please do not for an instant think that the drugs have led to this decision. They kept me alive three years past my five year plan.)

I know that some of you have known of my suicidal ideations and tried to come to my aid. I appreciated your efforts, but I really just wanted to be dead. For all, I apologize for not having said goodbye. The trouble is, in our current society, you cannot announce your plans for suicide without people feeling an obligation to do something to stop it.

I’ve never been one to have a “life is all” approach; that we must rally to fight off death with every ounce of our being. I don’t know why this is. Perhaps it’s because I don’t fear death. (I do fear dying; the pain, the possibility that I’ll screw it up and be crippled or wind up in a coma.) I don’t have a clear belief about what comes next. I certainly don’t buy the heaven and hell scenario. I feel there’s energy and energy doesn’t just stop. Beyond that, who knows.

This may seem to be a rather cavalier, nonchalant attitude, and an affront to those who are struggling to stay alive. I would willingly trade my body for theirs, keeping my mind, but it doesn’t work that way. I’ve considered shooting myself in a parking lot of a hospital that takes organ donations, but the risk of being “saved” is too great.

In reviewing my life I have to acknowledge so many blessings. I believe I grew up in the last golden age of the United States. I’ve had a happy, healthy family with seven siblings and twelve nieces and nephews. I’ve wanted for nothing. And I’ve been surrounded by dear friends my whole life.

I hope that I have left my little corner of the world in a better place than when I arrived. I hope that I didn’t hurt anyone’s feeling through words or actions. I hope that I will be remembered as a guy who showed up for his friends. Please forgive me for the pain I am causing; please let your current anger – over time – be replaced by joy at the memories of our times together.

Be kind, be kind, be kind,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Willie Nelson stoned on Larry King

Cleese takes half-day cab ride for $5,100 | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Headline | International News

Cleese takes half-day cab ride for $5,100 |
News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News
| Headline | International News
: "British actor John Cleese of Monty Python fame opted for a daylong cab ride halfway across Europe after the dust plume from an Icelandic volcano left him stranded.

Cleese paid $5,100 for a Mercedes taxi Friday from the Norwegian capital, Oslo, to Brussels, said Kjetil Kristoffersen, managing director of Publicom, his agent in Norway. Cleese was in Oslo to appear on the talk show Skavlan."

Monday, April 12, 2010

'Ratzinger is the Perfect Pope' by Richard Dawkins - The Washington Post -

'Ratzinger is the Perfect Pope' by Richard Dawkins - The Washington Post - "'Should the pope resign?' No. As the College of Cardinals must have recognized when they elected him, he is perfectly - ideally - qualified to lead the Roman Catholic Church. A leering old villain in a frock, who spent decades conspiring behind closed doors for the position he now holds; a man who believes he is infallible and acts the part; a man whose preaching of scientific falsehood is responsible for the deaths of countless AIDS victims in Africa; a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence: in short, exactly the right man for the job. He should not resign, moreover, because he is perfectly positioned to accelerate the downfall of the evil, corrupt organization whose character he fits like a glove, and of which he is the absolute and historically appropriate monarch."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

book notes

The big picture: money and power in Hollywood‎ by Edward Jay Epstein

The Hollywood added subtitles at Talkies in the 30's, most Europeans were illiterate or didn't have glasses.

Godzilla was originally an anti-nuke monster, emerging from the same area in the 1950's Pacific where the U.S. was testing nukes, and then, of course, destroying Japanese cities.