Have You Heard of Hugh Thompson

Hugh Thompson, Larry Colburn, Glenn Andreotti. You probably don’t know their names. I didn’t know their names, off hand, until just recently.

Hugh Thompson was a warrant officer and helicopter pilot in Viet Nam in 1968. He happened to be flying over My Lai at the time of the massacre. When he realized what was going on, he lowered his helicopter between William Calley and several women and children and demanded that he stop the killing. Calley was a Lieutenant, and Thompson a mere warrant officer. Calley stopped, for the moment, and Thompson was able to evacuate several women and children. When Thompson returned to his base, he demanded the someone intervene to stop the slaughter. Nobody did much of anything.

It’s human nature that today we all know the names of Mark Spitz and Jessica Simpson and Michael Jackson and Regis Philbin…. but I’ll bet most people could never tell you who Hugh Thompson is.

The Remarkable Lt. William Calley apparently massacred more than 500 civilians all by himself. No one else has ever been convicted of participation in the My Lai massacre.

Calley, nevertheless, was only charged specifically for the deaths of 109.

What is the punishment for 109 counts of murder? This is America, the land of law and order, remember? This is the bible-believing Godly nation of belt-buckle blustering bible-thumping believers… The nation that believes justice should be swift and true…. the nation that sentences drunk drivers to life in prison, and video-tape thieves to 30 years, and charlatans to 144 years…

So what should be the sentence for 109 cold-blooded murders?

Three and one half years of house arrest.

And then there was an outcry from the “Pro-Life” Christian community and our evangelical leaders that this sentence made a mockery of the lives of those innocent Viet Namese civilians….

Well, no, not that I remember.

I think most of our evangelical leaders were actually calling for Calley to be pardoned. After all, you know, boys will be boys.

I’ll bet you didn’t know

  • Calley is 5′ 4″ tall
  • He’s still alive today.
  • Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, as a 31-year-old Major, was part of the cover up. He investigated complaints about U.S. behavior towards Viet Namese civilians in the region and came to the conclusion that “relations were excellent”. In fact, they were a slam-dunk of good relationships.

So I went home and talked to my friends and my relatives and all of my people who I thought had been my mentors. They all, almost to the person, said, ‘Shut up. Shut up. This is none of your business—leave it alone.'” – Ron Ridenhour.

We think we are a moral people, a nation with principles and integrity. But Ron Ridenhour came home from Viet Nam aware of an awful atrocity that had been committed by U.S. soldiers and he asked his friends and relatives what to do and they did not say: speak up, report it, let justice be done. They had been to the parades and monuments and speeches and dedications, and they all knew that all of it was a lie. Freedom? Democracy?

Ridenhour ignored his friends’ advice and followed his own conscience and reported what he had heard to his congressman, among others. Eventually, at the insistence of Morris Udall, an investigation was initiated and the My Lai Massacre was exposed.

How does a soldier decide if the orders he has received are lawful or not lawful? From the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, 1971, the United States vs. William Calley:

[16] The acts of a subordinate done in compliance with an unlawful order given him by his superior are excused and impose no criminal liability upon him unless the superior’s order is one which a man of ordinary sense and understanding would, under the circumstances, know to be unlawful, or if the order in question is actually known to the accused to be unlawful.

[19] Colonel William Winthrop, the leading American commentator on military law, notes: … Where the order is apparently regular and lawful on its face, he [the subordinate] is not to go behind it to satisfy himself that his superior has proceeded with authority, but is to obey it according to its terms, the only exceptions recognized to the rule of obedience being cases of orders so manifestly beyond the legal power or discretion of the commander as to admit of no rational doubt of their unlawfulness. … Except in such instances of palpable illegality, which must be of rare occurrence, the inferior should presume that the order was lawful and authorized and obey it accordingly. … Winthrop’s Military Law and Precedents, 2d ed., 1920 Reprint, at 296–297.

The Sand Creek Massacre

Sometimes people who read about events like the Sand Creek Massacre become passionate about the injustice they have read about and make overly broad generalizations about American history that make it easy for jerks like James Dobson to assert that such commentary only comes from the “fringe” and that America is fundamentally a good nation that consistently — until “Leave it to Beaver” got cancelled — seeks to do the will of God.

This is the story about an act of terrorism committed by our noble forefathers, by soldiers under the direction of their commanders, of whom one, that we know of, refused his orders.

This is a classic template for the treatment of native peoples by the U.S. government. A treaty is negotiated in which the native peoples concede vast quantities of valuable land to the white settlers and move off to a new reservation on lands the whites consider worthless and undesirable. Then something of value– gold, in this case– is discovered on the reservations, and a new treaty is “negotiated”. In this case, the Cheyenne were generously offered a new reservation 1/13th the size of the land they were given originally, and slightly out of the way of the stampeding settlers headed for the gold rush.

Some militants among the Cheyenne thought they had been tricked and cheated. That seems a reasonable assumption. Nevertheless, some native leaders felt they had no choice but to accept the new treaty– or be massacred. In this instance, it didn’t matter. Shortly after the new treaty was signed, on November 29, 1864, the Colorado Militia attacked an undefended encampment and slaughtered 150-200 old men, women, and children. Many of the soldiers committed rapes and atrocities.

Some of them took genitals and scalps for souvenirs, which they proudly displayed to admiring crowds in Denver.

“to admiring crowds…”

Is the average American complicit, in any way, with the genocide that was the basis of the rapid expansion of the American frontier in the 19th century? What about those “admiring crowds”– masses of people who clearly approved and encouraged the slaughter though most of them never lifted a finger, personally, against native peoples. They admired. They received the murderers kindly. They embraced them morally and literally. Just as the citizens who forgave William Calley thereby revealed their complicity in the Viet Nam atrocities.

I personally haven’t read any American history books lately– and I’m curious about whether they pay any attention to stories like this. They would be wise to. If you find out about these things when you are older, you almost have to come to the conclusion that your parents and teachers and government have been deceiving you all along– maybe those big tax breaks for oil companies don’t make sense after all….

Even the government was shamed by this one.

The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War concluded:

Whatever influence this may have had upon Colonel Chivington, the truth is that he surprised and murdered, in cold blood, the unsuspecting men, women, and children on Sand Creek, who had every reason to believe they were under the protection of the United States authorities, and then returned to Denver and boasted of the brave deed he and the men under his command had performed.

Jis’ to think of that dog Chivington and his dirty hounds, up thar at Sand Creek. His men shot down squaws, and blew the brains out of little innocent children. You call sich soldiers Christians, do ye? And Indians savages? What der yer s’pose our Heavenly Father, who made both them and us, thinks of these things? I tell you what, I don’t like a hostile red skin any more than you do. And when they are hostile, I’ve fought ’em, hard as any man. But I never yet drew a bead on a squaw or papoose, and I despise the man who would.

— Kit Carson to Col. James Rusling[37]

Dobson’s Choice

Dr. Dobson — your unelected Supreme Court Decider, has four body guards. I think this is fascinating. Capo James– the Godfather of the American Civil Religion– has bodyguards.

Who, I wonder, would want to kill Dr. Dobson? I mean, aside from all those liberals and progressives and environmentalists and any individuals who were tortured as a result of Bush Administration policies that Dobson endorses. Oh no. I mean, seriously, someone who really wants to stop him?

When a poor kid from the ghetto with special talent makes it to the big leagues, basketball, baseball, football, the first thing he does is hire a bodyguard.  Not because someone is threatening to kidnap or murder him, but to demonstrate that he is now important. Nobody is out to kill the dude. Nobody plans to assassinate a basketball player. The body guard, besides holding reservations for dinner or finding a parking spot for the Rolls, functions primarily as a status symbol.

Dobson claims he has received death threats. Oh yes, the forces of Satan are out to get him. But of course, if the forces of Satan were really out to get him, his body guards would be of absolutely no avail. In fact, this foolish trust he places in human efforts would endanger him, because we know that God would not approve. Think of all the times in the Bible that Israel put their trust in military might instead of God– they would be soundly defeated. Then they would repent, accept God’s new appointed leader, and charge on to victory.

God would be more faithful to James Dobson if he knew that Dobson trusted only in Him for his protection.

James Dobson wants you to vote Republican because he really, really, believes that that is what God wants you to do. He wants you to forget about science and physics and technology and teach your kids Creationism or Intelligent Design.

But as for his personal safety– there are those body guards.

On the contrary, I personally believe that Satan, if he is really as smart as they claim, would do everything within his power to keep James Dobson out there preaching and hectoring and advising Bush on Supreme Court appointments and so on, with his body guards, convincing millions of followers that being a chest-thumping militaristic materialistic patriotic American is as close as it comes to being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

In answer to my own question, Dobson believes you should stop spanking your children on the buttocks with a switch or a paddle by the time they are, oh, 10 or 11. Never spank teenagers. And if you secretly enjoy spanking– stop now. (Of course, the whole point of “secretly” enjoying spanking is that you know you should stop but don’t.) And never even attempt to spank the leaders of foreign countries like Iran or North Korea.

Who is the Council for National Policy? And why are they secretive?

Why does Dobson, who trusts in the Lord, have four bodyguards?

There’s some suspicion that Dobson may be quietly sucking up to McCain. If this is like a high-stakes game of chicken, Dobson just twitched.

[Confirmed later.  Once McCain won the nomination, they basically sucked up to each other.]

Number of Abortions
George Bush has prevented: 0

It’s like magic– take a pro-war militaristic Republican who wants to send your sons and daughters out to risk their lives on behalf of big oil and Walmart, look at his personal history, and, voila: no military service! James Dobson dodged the draft by signing up with the National Guard — de rigueur for these righteous dudes!

What if John McCain wins in November? Oh oh! James Dobson has stated emphatically that he would rather not vote at all than vote for John McCain. The leading Agent of Intolerance in the U.S. will certainly stick to his principles now, even if he never, ever gets invited to the White House again, or gets to brag on his website about chatting with the prez over which pro-torture appointee should get to be on the Supreme Court.

I’ll stick my neck out: if it ever begins to look like McCain has the slightest chance of winning, Dobson will frantically signal to the McCain campaign that he is willing to let bygones be bygones and help get out the vote– and if the election looks close, McCain will have to bite his tongue– or somebody else’s tongue– hard to tell lately– and accept the assistance. And if he wins, he’ll have to invite Dobson over to the White House and let him drop his name on the website and brag about his political influence again.

And those of us who used to think McCain had some independent spirit will shed a tear or two over lost illusions.

Now here’s a bet: McCain could win in November if, among other things, he announced that no self-proclaimed unaccountable religious leader is going to tell him who gets to be on the Supreme Court.

[Moments after writing the above, I googled the issue and was shocked to find that part one has already happened: Dobson has been making overtures to McCain to come meet him at his “Focus on the Fascist” headquarters in Boulder, Colorado. McCain has so far declined.]


American Gangster

Most movies that claim to be based on a true story fudge at least a little. There is an understandable need to compress events, or create composite characters to represent numerous real life individuals. They need to placate the egos of surviving family members and estate owners by offering a more flattering picture than, perhaps, is justified. “I Walk the Line” and “Ray”, for example.

Some fudge a lot. They add events or details that don’t correspond to any real events or details. They leave out rather significant events in order to give a far more flattering portrait than is deserved: “Marie Antoinette” and “Evita” for example.

And then there are movies like “American Gangster” that exist in a fantasyland of Hollywood “true story”, in which gangsters look like supermodels, and one heroic cop is so honest he wouldn’t take a light from stranger, and gee, gosh, you’re so glad that Denzel Washington– I mean Frank Lucas– got out of prison after only five years even though the movie shows him committing several cold-blooded murders, because he was just such a darn gosh nice guy and, after all, he ended up helping the government by turning in corrupt police officers. Didn’t he?

I’ve had people look at me and say, do you think Hollywood could get away with lies that big? Are you crazy?

Perhaps the worst offense of this film is the selection of Denzel Washington to play Lucas. There isn’t an ounce of evil in this portrait, even when he shoots people. It’s not impossible to play a drug lord or mafia kingpin as a three-dimensional character who might even be admirable in some ways– see “Goodfellas” or “The Godfather” to see how it’s done. But I doubt I’ve ever seen a worse performance in such a role ever. Washington doesn’t even come off as hard or mean enough to manage a car wash, let alone a network of drug dealers, corrupt cops, and junkies.

By the way, in real life, when his house in New Jersey was searched, among other things (including $500,000 in cash) that were found were about 200 pairs of ugly, ostentatious shoes belonging to… Frank Lucas.

Even worse, the movie suggests– well, actually, it slathers it across the screen– that there was something heroic in the deals Lucas cut in order to reduce his sentence in which he helped turn in his competition, and the corrupt cops that were taking money out of his profits. Allegedly.

The film wants it both ways. It wants you to believe that he was really, really bad, and actually murdered people. And then it wants you to admire Lucas so that you cheer for the reductions in his sentence so that he is released after serving five years! The movie pays lip service to the fact that the product that made Lucas rich, heroin, destroyed hundreds if not thousands of lives but it does it in such a way that those events remain, in the viewers mind, disconnected from the hero, Denzel Washington, who spends a good part of the film watching over events reasonably, calmly, why, even humbly.

I wonder if there is a film to be made in the life story of a petty drug dealer who, at the behest of his charming and fabulously wealthy domo, killed someone, got caught, convicted, sentenced to life in prison, only to see the guy who hired him get out after five years. Only to see the guy that hired him fink on his fellow dealers. Only to the see the guy that hired him meet the mayor, write a book, and attend a Hollywood premiere.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the finking. In fact, maybe a rational, sensible person would conclude that finking, on drug dealers, was the right thing to do, even if you were the king of the drug dealers. But the film doesn’t show Lucas doing it when there is abundant documentary evidence that he did, and Lucas, in interviews, claims he never finked on his own dealers– only on corrupt cops.

That is a relief. For a minute, I thought he was a crook.

Then we have Lucas’ rival and competitor, Nicky Barnes.

It would never do for a prosecutor to announce that he was recommending leniency for a drug dealer because, well, he’s just such a swell guy, and he’s good friends with Joe Louis and Frank Sinatra and throws fabulous parties (to which I have been invited, and at which I get to meet celebrities, and high-ranking cops, and other government officials), and when we talk about getting tough on crime, hell, we meant the dirty crime on the streets, the kind that gets its hair mussed, not this classy, refined, tasteful crime….

No, no. So instead you say, he cooperated. He helped the police. He gave them good information on other criminals. He became indispensable to our efforts to battle organized crime. I can’t show you an exact case in which he actually provided useful testimony in court, but I can assure you, blah, blah, blah….

I had to read this twice to believe it. It’s from Wikipedia:

Due to the efforts of Rudolph W. Giuliani and others he was released from prison in August, 1998 as a reward for his cooperation.

Then I realized– wait, wait– this is after all the real Rudy Giuliani, not the mythical Giuliani of his own imagination. In real life, Republican Giuliani is just helping out another corporate profiteer, a man much like himself, who benefits through the sufferings of others, the others who actually fight in Viet Nam, or work in a factory, or face criminals on the streets!

If you asked Nicky Barnes or Frank Lucas about Giuliani, they would tell you that he was a great guy, a straight talker, and an honest cop. Okay– you have two very, very serious criminals tell you that Giuliani is a great cop to them. Okay. Don’t raise any suspicions? But then you have Giuliani telling us that Barnes and Lucas are good guys now. Everything’s okay.

You may have seen interviews with Ritchie Roberts and Frank Lucas on the DVD in which they vouch for the accuracy of the film. In separate interviews later, Roberts lambasted the film for making Lucas out to be much nicer than he really was, and numerous other individuals from the film, including the wife of Bumpy Johnson, have also attacked the honesty of the film.

Why do they even waste our time with the bullshit “based on true story”?

Other Inaccuracies:

Ritchie Roberts did not have any children, so the court battle over custody obviously never happened. Frank Lucas, on the other hand, had “more than five” children, most of whom he completely neglected. He had one child with “Miss Puerto Rico”, who was not actually “Miss Puerto Rico” but homecoming queen. Those shots of Lucas presiding over those all-American Thanksgiving Dinners right out of Norman Rockwell? Frank Lucas used his family to run drugs for his personal material benefit. Why this scene suggesting paternalism, when the relationship was clearly one of exploitation.

Ike Atkinson, Lucas’ link to Southeast Asia, claims that he never put any heroin in military caskets– he only used furniture. Others have claimed that Lucas had the heroin stuffed into body bags with the bodies of dead soldiers– not as glamorous as the alternative shown in the movie. In any case, the stories about the caskets is weak, and not corroborated by anything other than Frank Lucas’ colourful imagination.

Ritchie Roberts actually played only a minor role in the takedown of Frank Lucas. The DEA did most of the work. The raid on Lucas’s house in New Jersey was the result of informants within the Mafia, not Roberts’s brilliant detective work.

Who did Frank Lucas turn in? According to the film, over 150 corrupt police officers. There doesn’t seem to be any public record of even a single police officer convicted of corruption based on testimony from Frank Lucas. However, according to articles in the New York Times, he turned in over 100 drug dealers– he was a snitch– and was placed in the witness protection program, along with his wife and daughter. And of course, had his sentence reduced!

Now, one more thing about that: the movie shows Lucas committing at least two cold-blooded murders, including one in which he has someone doused with gasoline and then sets him on fire. Amazingly, he is never charged with murder. Ritchie never brings it up. It is never discussed. It is never investigated, apparently. Lucas is released from prison after five years. (In real life, he went back in for seven years after that.)

Okay, so did he actually murder people? I have to conclude that Lucas makes these claims in his biography and while bragging aloud to people at parties, and then confides to the police that he is just bragging.

Need to sell books, you see.

Need to sell that Hollywood movie.

Another twisted hero: Joey Gallo, immortalized by Bob Dylan in the song “Joey” from the album Desire. Turns out Joey connected with Nicky Barnes in prison, because he wanted a conduit into Harlem for his heroin. He saw all those potential customers… people squandering their welfare checks on food and clothing and shelter… he just had to help them.

This gets better. When the New York Times decided to run a story on Barnes as “Mr. Untouchable”, they asked him to come in and pose for a picture. If he didn’t, they told him, they would run one of his ugly mug shots. Barnes showed up and the resulting picture conveyed a rather shocking level of arrogance for a criminal gang leader. It so offended President Jimmy Carter when he saw it that he ordered his attorney general to investigate.


So the Democrat gets tough on crime and the Republican goes soft. That’s easy to understand, actually: the Republicans have more in common even with the criminal rich than they do with the working class.

Debunking Lucas

The gross inaccuracies of this film reflect a more recent trend in Hollywood to take stories “based on fact” and then absolutely shamelessly alter them beyond all recognition because nobody seems to give a damn for the truth anyway. If you watch an older “based on a true story” film like “Dog Day Afternoon” or “Serpico”, you realize just how flagrant the fudging has become. The earlier films were positively dogmatic in comparison. Even “The French Connection”, which insisted it was only “inspired” by the story of “Popeye” Doyle, had more respect for the facts than “American Gangster”.

Sanitized Johnny Cash

We all know that the cleverest biopics don’t blatantly whitewash their subjects. They offer us a patina of honesty, showing only the sins that their subjects or their families or promoters want us to see. We see only the faults that are already well-known, and which are carefully excused for us on film– there is always some childhood trauma or deprivation that drove them to drug addiction or alcohol or violence. But when they finally confronted their demons, all of these stars were able to translate their sufferings into great art, for which we, as generous patrons of worthy art, pat ourselves on the back.

Johnny Cash said about his father: “I don’t ever remember a really cross, unkind word from my father. He was a good, strong man who provided for his family. That was his sole purpose in life when I was growing up.” Now, someone is going to tell me that he was merely being polite, and the movie decided to tell everyone the real truth (as opposed to the fake truth). You can believe that, especially if you believe that the movie would rather tell the truth than let a good, juicy exaggeration help move the story along dramatically.

More importantly, you could believe that the Cash people would miss an opportunity to offer the public a very attractive explanation for all those years of substance abuse and violent rages. And then, you might notice that the movie moved the tragic death of Johnny’s brother, Jack, from the high school wood shop to an isolated shed so it could appear that Johnny should have been there helping him when the accident happened instead of off at the olde fishing hole, just to be more dramatic. (In real life, Cash was indeed fishing, but he was not supposed to be helping his brother at the time. His daughter claims that Cash’s father always blamed him in some way for his brother’s death. I’m guessing that the writers took liberties with a passing reference Cash might have voiced about a general feeling of guilt about his brother’s accident.)

How accurate was the film’s portrait of Cash’s first wife, Vivian Liberto? Well, keep in mind that the producer of this film is Johnny Cash’s son by June Carter, the woman he left Vivian for. One of the children of the first marriage, Kathy, stormed out of the screening for the family.

But hey, he’s an artist.

We all want to feel good about Cash hooking up with Carter, so it would be unseemly to dramatize too authentically the hurt suffered by his first wife.

The Scariest Song Ever Recorded

Which is it? “Monster Mash”? Theme from “The Exorcist” (Tubular Bells)? “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”? “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”? “Sympathy for the Devil”?

Nah. The scariest lyrics I have ever heard are those in the sidebar to the right: “You Don’t Own Me”. And you can draw a line from that song through the 60’s and 70’s to Lindsay Buckingham’s “I’m So Afraid”, or, more indirectly, “The Chain”, and you would have the darkest, fiercest, most frightening lyrics imaginable. And unique. Can you think of another song like it?

And please, please, please, in the name of all that is decent and respectful and witty, don’t cite “I am Woman”. (Helen Reddy claimed that she wrote the lyrics while Ray Burton wrote the music; his recollection is that she gave him some scraps of ideas but he is the one who turned it into a set of lyrics and a song. Reddy performed the song at– get this!– the 1981 Miss World competition. Reddy used the money she earned from the song– while repeatedly claiming she “wrote” it– to buy mansions, speedboats, limousines, and jewelry. She squandered almost all of the money and went through an acrimonious divorce in 1982.)

But if you said “I’ve Never Been to Me” is it’s evil twin– it’s polar opposite– damn right!

Now– you may have noticed that this proto-feminist lyric was written by… yes, two men. Turns out that one of them, John Madara, is also associated with the ridiculous “Dawn of Correction”, a song that testifies to the absurdity of it’s own message. Look it up sometime– it’s an answer to “Eve of Destruction”. But don’t mistake it for a right-wing response like Barry Sadler’s “Ballad of the Green Berets”. “Dawn of Correction” points out that things aren’t so bad– we have the Peace Corps, and the United Nations!

So, unsurprisingly, the writer of the most feminist lyric of the 60’s is a liberal.

So what’s so scary about “You Don’t Know Me”? It’s the affront to the most fundamental of all human needs. We often think of it as the need to love. But in it’s naked form, isn’t it really a lot more like the desire to be loved, to be needed, to be indispensable to someone we badly want to be indispensable to?

There is the shock of “don’t say I can’t go out with other boys”– an attack on one of the most fundamental assumptions we hold about love relationships: it’s exclusivity. I don’t need you– so our relationship depends on whether or not I want you. And if I want someone else, I’m not going to allow anything in our existing relationship– the poor boy– to be an impediment to my pursuit of those other relationships.

It gets worse! “Don’t try to change me in any way”. Yes, yes, we all claim that we love our beloved just as they are, and almost none of us mean it. In fact, the ability to manipulate someone goes right to the essence of our relationships, as much as we all passionately deny it. And once again– if you won’t change because I want you to change, doesn’t that really mean that my power over you– because you love me so much– is really limited? That my fantasy of you suffering because you have lost my affection and approval is deflated and empty?

But the pinnacle of horror isn’t even expressed until we get to “I don’t tell you what to say/Oh [I] don’t tell you what to do”. To some people, that sounds a lot like “I don’t care what you do”, and that is the last, fatal statement on a relationship that has entered the terminal phase. But doesn’t it really mean that I accept you as you are, and that I love the qualities you have, not the ones I imagine you have after I have fixed you up? I think so. But that’s not where most of us are at. It’s not what — if we were honest– most of us really want from a relationship.

The sitcom “Cheers” had one thing right– Diane and Sam like each other but both recoil in horror at the prospect of admitting that either of them needs the other. When Diane succeeds in teasing even a modest admission from Sam, that he does kind of like her, she immediately mocks and humiliates him. It’s all very high schoolish– craving the power to refuse. To be “old enough to repay/ but young enough to sell” as Neil Young put it.

You Don’t Own Me
by John Madara and Dave White Tricker.

You don’t own me,
I’m not just one of your many toys
You don’t own me,
don’t say I can’t go with other boys

And don’t tell me what to do
And don’t tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don’t put me on display, ’cause

You don’t own me,
don’t try to change me in any way
You don’t own me,
don’t tie me down ’cause I’d never stay

Oh, I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you

I’m young and I love to be young
I’m free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want
To say and do whatever I please

A-a-a-nd don’t tell me what to do
Oh-h-h-h don’t tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don’t put me on display

I don’t tell you what to say
Oh-h-h-h don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you

I’m young and I love to be young
I’m free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want

I’m pretty fed up with the Internet song lyric sites telling you that this is Leslie Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me”, or Elvis Presley’s “Suspicion”, or Madonna’s “Don’t Cry for me Argentina”.

The songs belong to the composers and writers, not the singers. The songs will return again and again as other artists cover them, and the constant tag should be the name of the composer.

By the way, in terms of female empowerment, “I Will Survive” is not only a crummy song, but it was also actually written by a man. So much for all that audacious self-satisfaction. But then again, as I said, truthfully, it’s a horrible song. [Added 2018-11]

Another horrifying extraordinary song of personal autonomy “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard it Should be” (written by Carly Simon and… wait for it… yes. A man: Jacob Brackman, 1971):

You say we can keep our love alive
Babe – all I know is what I see –
The couples cling and claw
And drown in love’s debris.
You say we’ll soar like two birds through the clouds,
But soon you’ll cage me on your shelf –
I’ll never learn to be just me first
By myself.

You owe it to yourself to listen carefully to this song, with the lyrics before you: it’s one of the finest songs of the 1970’s, and one of the most powerful statements about the realities of women and men and romantic love, ever.

So why, oh why, oh why, are the lyrics by a man (Jacob Brackman, a friend of Simon’s from high school)? Why!? Can’t a woman eager to proclaim her need for independence and self-realization at least write her own lyrics about it? Jeez! The best I can hope for is that she told him how she felt and he put it into very, very elegant words. But it’s still disappointing.

And one more, from The Mamas and the Papas (John Philips)

You gotta go where you wanna go
Do what you wanna do
With whoever you want to do it with
…you don’t understand
that a girl like me can love
just one man…

There is something uncannily poignant in that — she’s young and naïve, and at that moment, he’s the only man she will ever truly love. And she may be right– she may find someone else, but it will never be the same. Written by…. a man.

And, okay, one more yet– from “The Chain” by Lindsey Buckingham

And if you don’t love me now
You will never love me again
I can still hear you saying
You would never break the chain.

I almost forgot. This one might be the scariest of all– Lindsey Buckingham, again, whipped into a despairing frenzy at the thought of being unable to express or receive love, thereby condemning himself to solitude. You have to hear this one to receive the full effect– like John Philips, Buckingham works a lot of his magic around the arrangements and performance, rather than the lyrics: (From “I’m So Afraid”)

I been alone
Always down
No one cared to stay around
I never change
I never will
I’m so afraid the way I feel

And yet one more– Lucinda Williams “Side of the Road”

If only for a minute or two
I wanna see what it feels like
to be without you
I wanna know the touch
of my own skin
Against the sun, against the wind

It must be said: at least Lucinda wrote her own lyrics.

But then again, isn’t she a lesbian?

Theory of Conspiracy Theories

There are about 20 or so good reasons to believe that John F. Kennedy was killed as the result of a conspiracy, and about a thousand reasons to believe that the conspirators should be comforted by the plethora of crack pot conspiracy theories out there dedicated to discrediting the whole idea of a conspiracy. These are straw men just waiting for reasonable, logical men like Dale Myers to come along and demolish them. Here he demolishes a theory he attributes to conspiracy buffs, but which, in fact, was actually the result of the government’s own errors in it’s initial investigation. (The government initially said that the first shot hit Kennedy in the neck, the second Connelly, the third Kennedy in the head. Then it tried to explain the entrance wound in the neck by a claim that Kennedy had turned around to see where the shots were coming from…. )


Why or why oh why are people like Dale Myers not content to do their good work and then leave it alone. Oh no– Myers tackles one particular detail of the conspiracy theory, solves it to his own personal satisfaction, and then concludes that there must not have been a conspiracy. He attacks one small aspect of the many conspiracy theories and then concludes that all aspects of all theories are, therefore, false. He doesn’t even address the issue of the “pristine” (stretcher) bullet that allegedly did all the damage he describes. In fact, that bullet had to have done all that damage or his theory collapses.

What he has demonstrated with some weight is that Kennedy and Connelly were probably hit about the same time by a bullet or bullets fired by somebody. Well, no, he actually can’t really demonstrate that either because Kennedy is already reacting to a shot by the time he emerges from behind the Stemmons Freeway sign. We don’t know when he began to react, so we don’t know when exactly he was shot. It’s quite possible, given the evidence Myers shows us, that Kennedy and Connelly were hit by two different shots fired at about the same time by two different gunman. He succeeds in making the theory of multiple gunmen less plausible, but it doesn’t rule it out.

Myers doesn’t explain here the Teague fragment– the shot that missed the car and hit the over-pass, sending a fragment of concrete into the face of Mr. James Teague– a shot ridiculously wide of the car. A shot ridiculously inaccurate for a shooter who was able to hit Kennedy in the head on his third try.

Myers doesn’t prove that Oswald fired any shots at all. Only that a shot came from behind and above. Myers claims that his reconstruction shows that the shots had to come from the sixth floor window– that’s an amazing conclusion given the variables involved. It is impossible to believe that Myers arrived at that conclusion from the objective evidence he puts before you. It is impossible to believe that he is justified in asserting anything more than that the shots came from that approximate location. It is impossible to believe that he has not already assumed the shots came from exactly that windows because he already knows that that is where Oswald was supposed to be. Then he acts as if he has uncovered an amazing fact in support of the lone gunman theory.

A little less smugness is called for. He has helped disprove the theory that there had to be two gunman. But he hasn’t solved the murder. He hasn’t proven that the shots came from Oswald. He hasn’t even proven that Oswald at the window at the moment the motorcade drove by.

What Myers does not prove:

  • that the bullets came from Oswald’s rifle: the ridiculous pristine bullet found on the stretcher is a very weak connection, especially (but not only) because of the controversy of which stretcher the bullet actually came from. Furthermore, the FBI now admits that it’s “scientific” analysis of bullets has always been flawed and unreliable, and will no longer provide that service to law enforcement.
  • that Oswald fired the shots: the FBI found no usable finger prints on the rifle at all. The Dallas Police later claimed to find a fragment of a palm print on the disassembled rifle. That’s a little weird and dubious at best.
    that there was actually an entry wound on the back of the head– the autopsy was botched so badly that there will never be a satisfactory answer to this question, especially given that none of the Parkland doctors saw this entry wound.
  • that the wound in the throat came from a bullet exiting Kennedy’s body. Most of the Parkland doctors initially identified this wound as an entry wound. Myers explains how it might have been a bullet exiting, but, again, the autopsy was botched and that remains questionable.
  • And a whole lot of other things, including the strange stories about Oswald’s relationships in New Orleans (including his contacts with David Ferrie), his adventures in Russia, the speed with which he was identified as the prime suspect, and so on and so on.

The state of conspiracy theory about Kennedy’s assassination is in a hopeless mess. That doesn’t mean all the conspiracy theories are wrong, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the Warren Commission was right, or even that the Warren Commission was not ridiculous. (Just look at who was on the Warren Commission: a bunch of fat old white politicians and judges who represented, exquisitely, the class of politician the Kennedys had just elbowed aside in John’s drive to the presidency.)

It has recently been shown that a great deal of FBI testimony in murder cases concerning the similarities and differences between bullets coming from different batches from a manufacturer…. was utterly unfounded. One of the reasons Oswald was held to be guilty was that the bullets found in the limousine and in Connelly were allegedly from the same batch as bullets found in Oswald’s possession, at his house.

The FBI now admits that this “proof” was based on junk science, with no grounding in fact whatsoever.

We also know that most people will continue to believe that the FBI “proved” that the bullets were from the same batch. It takes a long time for the truth to upend an embedded lie.

I do call it a lie because this untrue belief was not a disinterested belief– it was used over and over again in many U.S. courts to prove guilt. It was virtually never used to prove innocence.

Defenders of the Warren Commission have long argued that there was no evidence that Oswald knew David Ferrie, the pilot for the anti-Castro Cubans operating in Florida with links to the CIA. Eureka: a photograph surfaced just a few years ago showing Oswald and Ferrie at the same gathering of Cadets in Florida, I believe.


It is one thing for defenders of the Warren Commission to assert that the evidence of a connection was thin and unreliable– it was quite another for them to insist that there was no relationship, and then be proven wrong.

Dale Myers does not understand that you cannot prove a negative.  He can prove that a certain conspiracy theory has not been proven– but he can’t prove, therefore, that all other conspiracy theories are false.

more debunking of the the single bullet theory

More on Assassination Theories

Youtube Video debunking Myers

Cat Stevens

Of all the young, passionate, over-wrought idealists, who was more beautiful than Cat Stevens? Like Dylan, Stevens, in his youth, saw a world deeply troubled by hatred and war, and believed that if everyone came to a know a song about how evil racism and violence was, they would embrace peace and justice. And when the world didn’t change on demand, when everyone didn’t hop aboard the peace train, and when he began to realize that issues might be more complex than he had first imagined, and that, indeed, it was possible to “become my enemy/in the instant that I preach”, he retreated into a kind of melancholy introspection, and when that nearly drove him to suicide, to religion. Dylan embraced Judaism and Christianity. Cat Stevens embraced Islam.

What makes Steven’s story more interesting is that there was a phase before earnest protest singer-songwriter: budding pop star. Here’s a glimpse of the pop star Cat, before he realized just how shallow life as a pop star could be:

Stevens’ father is Cypriot and his mother Swedish. They divorced when he was about 10, though they continued to operate a restaurant near Piccadilly Circus together. At age 19, he contracted Tuberculosis and spent months recuperating, and it was this experience that led him to begin questioning the direction and meaning of his life. He emerged from the experience a changed man. He began to study religion, and became a vegetarian. He began to meditate.

In 1977, Cat Stevens converted to Islam and renounced his worldly career as folk singer and devoted his life to Islamic causes, including, it seems, supporting things like the fatwa against Salmon Rushdie. Of course, he didn’t quite renounce his previous career to the extent of repudiating all the profits from the continued sales of his recordings.