Commentary on sports, current events, and politics

For Memorial Day, America’s Honor

This article is from It is worth reading. 

Once we knew who and what to honor on Memorial Day: those who had given all their tomorrows, as was said of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, for our todays. But in a world saturated with selfhood, where every death is by definition a death in vain, the notion of sacrifice today provokes puzzlement more often than admiration. We support the troops, of course, but we also believe that war, being hell, can easily touch them with an evil no cause for engagement can wash away. And in any case we are more comfortable supporting them as victims than as warriors.

Former football star Pat Tillman and Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham were killed on the same day: April 22, 2004. But as details of his death fitfully emerged from Afghanistan, Tillman has become a metaphor for the current conflict–a victim of fratricide, disillusionment, coverup and possibly conspiracy. By comparison, Dunham, who saved several of his comrades in Iraq by falling on an insurgent’s grenade, is the unknown soldier. The New York Times, which featured Abu Ghraib on its front page for 32 consecutive days, put the story of Dunham’s Medal of Honor on the third page of section B.

Not long ago I was asked to write the biographical sketches for a book featuring formal photographs of all our living Medal of Honor recipients. As I talked with them, I was, of course, chilled by the primal power of their stories. But I also felt pathos: They had become strangers–honored strangers, but strangers nonetheless–in our midst.


In my own boyhood, figures such as Jimmy Doolittle, Audie Murphy and John Basilone were household names. And it was assumed that what they had done defined us as well as them, telling us what kind of nation we were. But the 110 Medal recipients alive today are virtually unknown except for a niche audience of warfare buffs. Their heroism has become the military equivalent of genre painting. There’s something wrong with that.

What they did in battle was extraordinary. Jose Lopez, a diminutive Mexican-American from the barrio of San Antonio, was in the Ardennes forest when the Germans began the counteroffensive that became the Battle of the Bulge. As 10 enemy soldiers approached his position, he grabbed a machine gun and opened fire, killing them all. He killed two dozen more who rushed him. Knocked down by the concussion of German shells, he picked himself up, packed his weapon on his back and ran toward a group of Americans about to be surrounded. He began firing and didn’t stop until all his ammunition and all that he could scrounge from other guns was gone. By then he had killed over 100 of the enemy and bought his comrades time to establish a defensive line.

Yet their stories were not only about killing. Several Medal of Honor recipients told me that the first thing they did after the battle was to find a church or some other secluded spot where they could pray, not only for those comrades they’d lost but also the enemy they’d killed.

Desmond Doss, for instance, was a conscientious objector who entered the army in 1942 and became a medic. Because of his religious convictions and refusal to carry a weapon, the men in his unit intimidated and threatened him, trying to get him to transfer out. He refused and they grudgingly accepted him. Late in 1945 he was with them in Okinawa when they got cut to pieces assaulting a Japanese stronghold.

Everyone but Mr. Doss retreated from the rocky plateau where dozens of wounded remained. Under fire, he treated them and then began moving them one by one to a steep escarpment where he roped them down to safety. Each time he succeeded, he prayed, “Dear God, please let me get just one more man.” By the end of the day, he had single-handedly saved 75 GIs.

Why did they do it? Some talked of entering a zone of slow-motion invulnerability, where they were spectators at their own heroism. But for most, the answer was simpler and more straightforward: They couldn’t let their buddies down.

Big for his age at 14, Jack Lucas begged his mother to help him enlist after Pearl Harbor. She collaborated in lying about his age in return for his promise to someday finish school. After training at Parris Island, he was sent to Honolulu. When his unit boarded a troop ship for Iwo Jima, Mr. Lucas was ordered to remain behind for guard duty. He stowed away to be with his friends and, discovered two days out at sea, convinced his commanding officer to put him in a combat unit rather than the brig. He had just turned 17 when he hit the beach, and a day later he was fighting in a Japanese trench when he saw two grenades land near his comrades.

He threw himself onto the grenades and absorbed the explosion. Later a medic, assuming he was dead, was about to take his dog tag when he saw Mr. Lucas’s finger twitch. After months of treatment and recovery, he returned to school as he’d promised his mother, a ninth-grader wearing a Medal of Honor around his neck.


The men in World War II always knew, although news coverage was sometimes scant, that they were in some sense performing for the people at home. The audience dwindled during Korea. By the Vietnam War, the journalists were omnipresent, but the men were performing primarily for each other. One story that expresses this isolation and comradeship involves a SEAL team ambushed on a beach after an aborted mission near North Vietnam’s Cua Viet river base.

After a five-hour gunfight, Cmdr. Tom Norris, already a legend thanks to his part in a harrowing rescue mission for a downed pilot (later dramatized in the film BAT-21), stayed behind to provide covering fire while the three others headed to rendezvous with the boat sent to extract them. At the water’s edge, one of the men, Mike Thornton, looked back and saw Tom Norris get hit. As the enemy moved in, he ran back through heavy fire and killed two North Vietnamese standing over Norris’s body. He lifted the officer, barely alive with a shattered skull, and carried him to the water and then swam out to sea where they were picked up two hours later.

The two men have been inseparable in the 30 years since.

The POWs of Vietnam configured a mini-America in prison that upheld the values beginning to wilt at home as a result of protest and dissension. John McCain tells of Lance Sijan, an airman who ejected over North Vietnam and survived for six weeks crawling (because of his wounds) through the jungle before being captured.

Close to death when he reached Hanoi, Sijan told his captors that he would give them no information because it was against the code of conduct. When not delirious, he quizzed his cellmates about camp security and made plans to escape. The North Vietnamese were obsessed with breaking him, but never did. When he died after long sessions of torture Sijan was, in Sen. McCain’s words, “a free man from a free country.”

Leo Thorsness was also at the Hanoi Hilton. The Air Force pilot had taken on four MiGs trying to strafe his wingman who had parachuted out of his damaged aircraft; Mr. Thorsness destroyed two and drove off the other two. He was shot down himself soon after this engagement and found out by tap code that his name had been submitted for the Medal.

One of Mr. Thorsness’s most vivid memories from seven years of imprisonment involved a fellow prisoner named Mike Christian, who one day found a grimy piece of cloth, perhaps a former handkerchief, during a visit to the nasty concrete tank where the POWs were occasionally allowed a quick sponge bath. Christian picked up the scrap of fabric and hid it.

Back in his cell he convinced prisoners to give him precious crumbs of soap so he could clean the cloth. He stole a small piece of roof tile which he laboriously ground into a powder, mixed with a bit of water and used to make horizontal stripes. He used one of the blue pills of unknown provenance the prisoners were given for all ailments to color a square in the upper left of the cloth. With a needle made from bamboo wood and thread unraveled from the cell’s one blanket, Christian stitched little stars on the blue field.

“It took Mike a couple weeks to finish, working at night under his mosquito net so the guards couldn’t see him,” Mr. Thorsness told me. “Early one morning, he got up before the guards were active and held up the little flag, waving it as if in a breeze. We turned to him and saw it coming to attention and automatically saluted, some of us with tears running down our cheeks. Of course, the Vietnamese found it during a strip search, took Mike to the torture cell and beat him unmercifully. Sometime after midnight they pushed him into our cell, so bad off that even his voice was gone. But when he recovered in a couple weeks he immediately started looking for another piece of cloth.”


We impoverish ourselves by shunting these heroes and their experiences to the back pages of our national consciousness. Their stories are not just boys’ adventure tales writ large. They are a kind of moral instruction. They remind of something we’ve heard many times before but is worth repeating on a wartime Memorial Day when we’re uncertain about what we celebrate. We’re the land of the free for one reason only: We’re also the home of the brave.

Thank God For The Atomic Bomb

This article is from 1981. It discusses the  immediate benefits of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The benefits go further as it stopped the Soviet army that was attacking japan from the north and, of course, prevented another European war. The presence of the atomic bomb prevented the Soviet invasion of post-war Europe.

There were the decades of Cold War, but, thankfully, it was cold. The Atomic bomb, and the hydrogen bomb, has saved tens of millions of American, Japanese and European lives. 

Thank God for it. Any other view is hopelessly naive and dangerous. 

From “The New Republic” 1981 by Paul Fussell

Many years ago in New York I saw on the side of a bus a whiskey ad I’ve remembered all this time. It’s been for me a model of the short poem, and indeed I’ve come upon few short poems subsequently that exhibited more poetic talent. The ad consisted of two eleven-syllable lines of “verse,” thus: In life, experience is the great teacher. In Scotch, Teacher’s is the great experience. For present purposes we must jettison the second line (licking our lips, to be sure, as it disappears), leaving the first to register a principle whose banality suggests that it enshrines a most useful truth. I bring up the matter because, writing on the forty-second anniversary of the atom-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I want to consider something suggested by the long debate about the ethics, if any, of that ghastly affair. Namely, the importance of experience, sheer, vulgar experience, in influencing, if not determining, one’s views about that use of the atom bomb. The experience I’m talking about is having to come to grips, face to face, with an enemy who designs your death. The experience is common to those in the marines and the infantry and even the line navy, to those, in short, who fought the Second World War mindful always that their mission was, as they were repeatedly assured, “to close with the enemy and destroy him.” Destroy, notice: not hurt, frighten, drive away, or capture. I think there’s something to be learned about that war, as well as about the tendency of historical memory unwittingly to resolve ambiguity and generally clean up the premises, by considering the way testimonies emanating from real war experience tend to complicate attitudes about the most cruel ending of that most cruel war. “What did you do in the Great War, Daddy?” The recruiting poster deserves ridicule and contempt, of course, but here its question is embarrassingly relevant, and the problem is one that touches on the dirty little secret of social class in America. Arthur T. Hadley said recently that those for whom the use of the A-bomb was “wrong” seem to be implying “that it would have been better to allow thousands on thousands of American and Japanese infantrymen to die in honest hand-to-hand combat on the beaches than to drop those two bombs.” People holding such views, he notes, “do not come from the ranks of society that produce infantrymen or pilots.” And there’s an -1- eloquence problem: most of those with firsthand experience of the war at its worst were not elaborately educated people. Relatively inarticulate, most have remained silent about what they know. That is, few of those destined to be blown to pieces if the main Japanese islands had been invaded went on to become our most effective men of letters or impressive ethical theorists or professors of contemporary history or of international law. The testimony of experience has tended to come from rough diamonds–James Jones’ is an example–who went through the war as enlisted men in the infantry or the Marine Corps. Anticipating objections from those without such experience, in his book WWII Jones carefully prepares for his chapter on the A-bombs by detailing the plans already in motion for the infantry assaults on the home islands of Kyushu (thirteen divisions scheduled to land in November 1945) and ultimately Honshu (sixteen divisions scheduled for March 1946). Planners of the invasion assumed that it would require a full year, to November 1946, for the Japanese to be sufficiently worn down by land-combat attrition to surrender. By that time, one million American casualties was the expected price. Jones observes that the forthcoming invasion of Kyushu “was well into its collecting and stockpiling stages before the war ended.” (The island of Saipan was designated a main ammunition and supply base for the invasion, and if you go there today you can see some of the assembled stuff still sitting there.) “The assault troops were chosen and already in training,” Jones reminds his readers, and he illuminates by the light of experience what this meant: What it must have been like to some old-timer buck sergeant or staff sergeant who had been through Guadalcanal or Bougainville or the Philippines, to stand on some beach and watch this huge war machine beginning to stir and move all around him and know that he very likely had survived this far only to fall dead on the dirt of Japan’s home islands, hardly bears thinking about. Another bright enlisted man, this one an experienced marine destined for the assault on Honshu, adds his testimony. Former Pfc. E. B. Sledge, author of the splendid memoir With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, noticed at the time that the fighting grew “more vicious the closer we got to Japan,” with the carnage of Iwo Jima and Okinawa worse than what had gone before. He points out that what we had experienced [my emphasis] in fighting the Japs (pardon the expression) on Peleliu and Okinawa caused us to -2- formulate some very definite opinions that the invasion . . . would be a ghastly bloodletting. It would shock the American public and the world. [Every Japanese] soldier, civilian, woman, and child would fight to the death with whatever weapons they had, ride, grenade, or bamboo spear. The Japanese pre-invasion patriotic song, “One Hundred Million Souls for the Emperor,” says Sledge, “meant just that.” Universal national kamikaze was the point. One kamikaze pilot, discouraged by his unit’s failure to impede the Americans very much despite the bizarre casualties it caused, wrote before diving his plane onto an American ship “I see the war situation becoming more desperate. All Japanese must become soldiers and die for the Emperor.” Sledge’s First Marine Division was to land close to the Yokosuka Naval Base, “one of the most heavily defended sectors of the island.” The marines were told, he recalls, that due to the strong beach defenses, caves, tunnels, and numerous Jap suicide torpedo boats and manned mines, few Marines in the first five assault waves would get ashore alive—my company was scheduled to be in the first and second waves. The veterans in the outfit felt we had already run out of luck anyway…. We viewed the invasion with complete resignation that we would be killed—either on the beach or inland. And the invasion was going to take place: there’s no question about that. It was not theoretical or merely rumored in order to scare the Japanese. By July 10, 1945, the prelanding naval and aerial bombardment of the coast had begun, and the battleships Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, and King George V were steaming up and down the coast, softening it up with their sixteen-inch shells. On the other hand, John Kenneth Galbraith is persuaded that the Japanese would have surrendered surely by November without an invasion. He thinks the A-bombs were unnecessary and unjustified because the war was ending anyway. The A-bombs meant, he says, “a difference, at most, of two or three weeks.” But at the time, with no indication that surrender was on the way, the kamikazes were sinking American vessels, the Indianapolis was sunk (880 men killed), and Allied casualties were running to over 7,000 per week. “Two or three weeks,” says Galbraith. Two weeks more means 14,000 more killed and wounded, three weeks more, 21,000. Those weeks mean the world if you’re one of those thousands -3- or related to one of them. During the time between the dropping of the Nagasaki bomb on August 9 and the actual surrender on the fifteenth, the war pursued its accustomed course: on the twelfth of August eight captured American fliers were executed (heads chopped off); the fifty-first United States submarine, Bonefish, was sunk (all aboard drowned); the destroyer Callaghan went down, the seventieth to be sunk, and the Destroyer Escort Underhill was lost. That’s a bit of what happened in six days of the two or three weeks posited by Galbraith. What did he do in the war? He worked in the Office of Price Administration in Washington. I don’t demand that he experience having his ass shot off. I merely note that he didn’t. Likewise, the historian Michael Sherry, author of a recent book on the rise of the American bombing mystique, The Creation of Armageddon, argues that we didn’t delay long enough between the test explosion in New Mexico and the mortal explosions in Japan. More delay would have made possible deeper moral considerations and perhaps laudable second thoughts and restraint. “The risks of delaying the bomb’s use,” he says would have been small—not the thousands of casualties expected of invasion but only a few days or weeks of relatively routine operations.” While the mass murders represented by these “relatively routine operations were enacting, Michael Sherry was safe at home. Indeed when the bombs were dropped he was going on eight months old, in danger only of falling out of his pram. In speaking thus of Galbraith and Sherry, I’m aware of the offensive implications ad hominem. But what’s at stake in an infantry assault is so entirely unthinkable to those without the experience of one, or several, or many, even if they possess very wide-ranging imaginations and warm sympathies, that experience is crucial in this case. In general, the principle is, the farther from the scene of horror the easier the talk. One young combat naval officer close to the action wrote home m the fall of 1943, just before the marines underwent the agony of Tarawa: “When I read that we will fight the Japs for years if necessary and will sacrifice hundreds of thousands if we must, I always like to check from where he’s talking: it’s seldom out here.” That was Lieutenant (j.g.) John F. Kennedy. And Winston Churchill, with an irony perhaps too broad and easy, noted in Parliament that the people who preferred invasion to A-bombing seemed to have “no intention of proceeding to the Japanese front themselves.” A remoteness from experience like Galbraith’s and Sherry’s and a similar rationalistic abstraction from actuality, seem to motivate the reaction of an anonymous reviewer of William Manchester’s Goodbye Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War for The New York Review of Books. The reviewer naturally dislikes Manchester’s still terming the enemy Nips or Japs, but what really -4- shakes him (her?) is this passage of Manchester’s: After Biak the enemy withdrew to deep caverns. Rooting them out became a bloody business which reached its ultimate horrors in the last months of the war. You think of the lives which would have been lost in an invasion of Japan’s home islands—a staggering number of Americans but millions more of Japanese— and you thank God for the atomic bomb. Thank God for the atom bomb. From this, “one recoils” says the reviewer. One does, doesn’t one? And not just a staggering number of Americans would have been killed in the invasion. Thousands of British assault troops would have been destroyed too, the anticipated casualties from the almost 200,000 men in the six divisions (the same number used to invade Normandy) assigned to invade the Malay Peninsula on September 9. Aimed at the reconquest of Singapore, this operation was expected to last until about March 1946—that is, seven more months of infantry fighting. “But for the atomic bombs,” a British observer intimate with the Japanese defenses notes, “I don’t think we would have stood a cat in hell’s chance. We would have been murdered in the biggest massacre of the war. They would have annihilated the lot of us.” The Dutchman Laurens van der Post had been a prisoner of the Japanese for three and a half years. He and thousands of his fellows enfeebled by beriberi and pellagra, were being systematically starved to death, the Japanese rationalizing this treatment not just because the prisoners were white men but because they had allowed themselves to be captured at all and were therefore moral garbage. In the summer of 1945 Marshal Terauchi issued a significant order: at the moment the Allies invaded the main islands, all prisoners were to be killed by the prison-camp commanders. But thank God that did not happen. When the A-bombs were dropped, van der Post recalls, “This cataclysm I was certain would make the Japanese feel that they could withdraw from the war without dishonor, because it would strike them, as it had us in the silence of our prison night, as something supernatural.” In an exchange of views not long ago in The New York Review of Books, Joseph Alsop and David Joravsky set forth the by now familiar argument on both sides of the debate about the “ethics” of the bomb. It’s not hard to guess which side each chose once you know that Alsop experienced capture by the Japanese at Hong Kong early in 1942, while Joravsky came into no deadly contact with the Japanese: a young combat-innocent soldier, he was on his way to the Pacific when the war ended. The editors of The New York -5- Review gave the debate the tendentious title “Was the Hiroshima Bomb Necessary?” surely an unanswerable question (unlike “Was It Effective?”) and one precisely indicating the intellectual difficulties involved in imposing ex post facto a rational and even a genteel ethics on this event. In arguing the acceptability of the bomb, Alsop focuses on the power and fanaticism of War Minister Anami, who insisted that Japan fight to the bitter end, defending the main islands with the same techniques and tenacity employed at Iwo and Okinawa. Alsop concludes: “Japanese surrender could never have been obtained, at any rate without the honor-satisfying bloodbath envisioned by … Anami, if the hideous destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had not finally galvanized the peace advocates into tearing up the entire Japanese book of rules.” The Japanese plan to deploy the undefeated bulk of their ground forces, over two million men, plus 10,000 kamikaze planes, plus the elderly and all the women and children with sharpened spears they could muster in a suicidal defense makes it absurd, says Alsop, to “hold the common view, by now hardly challenged by anyone, that the decision to drop the two bombs on Japan was wicked in itself, and that President Truman and all others who joined in making or who [like Robert Oppenheimer] assented to this decision shared in the wickedness.” And in explanation of “the two bombs,” Alsop adds: “The true, climactic, and successful effort of the Japanese peace advocates … did not begin in deadly earnest until after the second bomb had destroyed Nagasaki. The Nagasaki bomb was thus the trigger to all the developments that led to peace.” At this time the army was so unready for surrender that most looked forward to the forthcoming invasion as an indispensable opportunity to show their mettle, enthusiastically agreeing with the army spokesman who reasoned early in 1945, “Since the retreat from Guadalcanal, the Army has had little opportunity to engage the enemy in land battles. But when we meet in Japan proper, our Army will demonstrate its invincible superiority.” This possibility foreclosed by the Emperor’s post-Abomb surrender broadcast, the shocked, disappointed officers of one infantry battalion, anticipating a professionally impressive defense of the beaches, killed themselves in the following numbers: one major, three captains, ten first lieutenants, and twelve second lieutenants. David Joravsky, now a professor of history at Northwestern, argued on the other hand that those who decided to use the A-bombs on cities betray defects of “reason and self-restraint.” It all needn’t have happened, he says, “if the U.S. government had been willing to take a few more days and to be a bit more thoughtful in opening up the age of nuclear warfare.” I’ve already noted what “a few more days” would mean to the luckless troops and sailors on the spot, and as to being thoughtful when “opening up the age of nuclear warfare,” of course no one was focusing on anything as portentous as that, which reflects a historian’s tidy hindsight. The U.S. government was engaged -6- not in that sort of momentous thing but in ending the war conclusively, as well as irrationally Remembering Pearl Harbor with a vengeance. It didn’t know then what everyone knows now about leukemia and various kinds of carcinoma and birth defects. Truman was not being sly or coy when he insisted that the bomb was “only another weapon.” History, as Eliot’s “Gerontion” notes, . . . has many cunning passages, contrived corridors And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions, Guides us by vanities. . . . Think Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes. Understanding the past requires pretending that you don’t know the present. It requires feeling its own pressure on your pulses without any ex post facto illumination. That’s a harder thing to do than Joravsky seems to think. The Alsop-Joravsky debate, reduced to a collision between experience and theory, was conducted with a certain civilized respect for evidence. Not so the way the scurrilous, agitprop New Statesman conceives those justifying the dropping of the bomb and those opposing. They are, on the one hand, says Bruce Page, “the imperialist class-forces acting through Harry Truman” and, on the other, those representing “the humane, democratic virtues”—in short, “fascists” as opposed to “populists.” But ironically the bomb saved the lives not of any imperialists but only of the low and humble, the quintessentially democratic huddled masses—the conscripted enlisted men manning the fated invasion divisions and the sailors crouching at their gun-mounts in terror of the Kamikazes. When the war ended, Bruce Page was nine years old. For someone of his experience, phrases like “imperialist class forces” come easily, and the issues look perfectly clear. He’s not the only one to have forgotten, if he ever knew, the unspeakable savagery of the Pacific war. The dramatic postwar Japanese success at hustling and merchandising and tourism has (happily, in many ways) effaced for most people the vicious assault context in which the Hiroshima horror should be viewed. It is easy to forget, or not to know, what Japan was like before it was first destroyed, and then humiliated, tamed, and constitutionalized by the West. “Implacable, treacherous, barbaric”—those were Admiral Halsey’s characterizations of the enemy, and at the time few -7- facing the Japanese would deny that they fit to a T. One remembers the captured American airmen—the lucky ones who escaped decapitation—locked for years in packing crates. One remembers the gleeful use of bayonets on civilians, on nurses and the wounded, in Hong Kong and Singapore. Anyone who actually fought in the Pacific recalls the Japanese routinely firing on medics, killing the wounded (torturing them first, if possible), and cutting off the penises of the dead to stick in the corpses’ mouths. The degree to which Americans register shock and extraordinary shame about the Hiroshima bomb correlates closely with lack of information about the Pacific war. And of course the brutality was not just on one side. There was much sadism and cruelty, undeniably racist, on ours. (It’s worth noting in passing how few hopes blacks could entertain of desegregation and decent treatment when the U.S. Army itself slandered the enemy as “the little brown Jap.”) Marines and soldiers could augment their view of their own invincibility by possessing a well-washed Japanese skull, and very soon after Guadalcanal it was common to treat surrendering Japanese as handy rifle targets. Plenty of Japanese gold teeth were extracted—some from still living mouths—with Marine Corps Ka-Bar Knives, and one of E. B. Sledge’s fellow marines went around with a cut-off Japanese hand. When its smell grew too offensive and Sledge urged him to get rid of it, he defended his possession of this trophy thus: “How many Marines you reckon that hand pulled the trigger on?” (It’s hardly necessary to observe that a soldier in the ETO would probably not have dealt that way with a German or Italian—that is, a “white person’s”— hand.) In the Pacific the situation grew so public and scandalous that in September 1942, the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet issued this order: “No part of the enemy’s body may be used as a souvenir. Unit Commanders will take stern disciplinary action. . . .” Among Americans it was widely held that the Japanese were really subhuman, little yellow beasts, and popular imagery depicted them as lice, rats, bats, vipers, dogs, and monkeys. What was required, said the Marine Corps journal The Leatherneck in May 1945, was “a gigantic task of extermination.” The Japanese constituted a “pestilence,” and the only appropriate treatment was “annihilation.” Some of the marines landing on Iwo Jima had “Rodent Exterminator” written on their helmet covers, and on one American flagship the naval commander had erected a large sign enjoining all to “KILL JAPS! KILL JAPS! KILL MORE JAPS!” Herman Wouk remembers the Pacific war scene correctly while analyzing ensign Keith in The Caine Mutiny: “Like most of the naval executioners of Kwajalein, he seemed to regard the enemy as a species of animal pest.” And the feeling was entirely reciprocal: “From the grim and desperate taciturnity with which the Japanese died, they seemed on their side to believe that they were -8- contending with an invasion of large armed ants.” Hiroshima seems to follow in natural sequence: “This obliviousness of both sides to the fact that the opponents were human beings may perhaps be cited as the key to the many massacres of the Pacific war.” Since the Jap vermin resist so madly and have killed so many of us, let’s pour gasoline into their bunkers and light it and then shoot those afire who try to get out. Why not? Why not blow them all up, with satchel charges or with something stronger? Why not, indeed, drop a new kind of bomb on them, and on the un-uniformed ones too, since the Japanese government has announced that women from ages of seventeen to forty are being called up to repel the invasion? The intelligence officer of the U.S. Fifth Air Force declared on July 21, 1945, that “the entire population of Japan is a proper military target,” and he added emphatically, “There are no civilians in Japan.” Why delay and allow one more American high school kid to see his own intestines blown out of his body and spread before him in the dirt while he screams and screams when with the new bomb we can end the whole thing just like that? On Okinawa, only weeks before Hiroshima, 123,000 Japanese and Americans killed each other. (About 140,000 Japanese died at Hiroshima.) “Just awful” was the comment on the Okinawa slaughter not of some pacifist but of General MacArthur. On July 14, 1945, General Marshall sadly informed the Combined Chiefs of Staff—he was not trying to scare the Japanese—that it’s “now clear . . . that in order to finish with the Japanese quickly, it will be necessary to invade the industrial heart of Japan.” The invasion was definitely on, as I know because I was to be in it. When the atom bomb ended the war, I was in the Forty-fifth Infantry Division, which had been through the European war so thoroughly that it had needed to be reconstituted two or three times. We were in a staging area near Rheims, ready to be shipped back across the United States for refresher training at Fort Lewis, Washington, and then sent on for final preparation in the Philippines. My division, like most of the ones transferred from Europe, was to take part in the invasion of Honshu. (The earlier landing on Kyushu was to be carried out by the 700,000 infantry already in the Pacific, those with whom James Jones has sympathized.) I was a twenty-one-year-old second lieutenant of infantry leading a rifle platoon. Although still officially fit for combat, in the German war I had already been wounded in the back and the leg badly enough to be adjudged, after the war, 40 percent disabled. But even if my leg buckled and I fell to the ground whenever I jumped out of the back of a truck, and even if the very idea of more combat made me breathe in gasps and shake all over, my condition was held to be adequate for the next act. When the atom bombs were dropped and news began to circulate that “Operation Olympic” would not, after all, be necessary, when we learned -9- to our astonishment that we would not be obliged in a few months to rush up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being machine-gunned, mortared, and shelled, for all the practiced phlegm of our tough facades we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live. We were going to grow to adulthood after all. The killing was all going to be over, and peace was actually going to be the state of things. When the Enola Gay dropped its package, “There were cheers,” says John Toland, “over the intercom; it meant the end of the war.” Down on the ground the reaction of Sledge’s marine buddies when they heard the news was more solemn and complicated. They heard about the end of the war with quiet disbelief coupled with an indescribable sense of relief. We thought the Japanese would never surrender. Many refused to believe it. . . . Sitting in stunned silence, we remembered our dead. So many dead. So many maimed. So many bright futures consigned to the ashes of the past. So many dreams lost in the madness that had engulfed us. Except for a few widely scattered shouts of joy, the survivors of the abyss sat hollow-eyed and silent, trying to comprehend a world without war. These troops who cried and cheered with relief or who sat stunned by the weight of their experience are very different from the high-minded, guiltridden GIs we’re told about by J. Glenn Gray in his sensitive book The Warriors. During the war in Europe Gray was an interrogator in the Army Counterintelligence Corps, and in that capacity he experienced the war at Division level. There’s no denying that Gray’s outlook on everything was admirably noble, elevated, and responsible. After the war he became a much-admired professor of philosophy at Colorado College and an esteemed editor of Heidegger. But The Warriors, his meditation on the moral and psychological dimensions of modern soldiering, gives every sign of error occasioned by remoteness from experience. Division headquarters is miles—miles—behind the line where soldiers experience terror and madness and relieve those pressures by crazy brutality and sadism. Indeed, unless they actually encountered the enemy during the war, most “soldiers” have very little idea what “combat” was like. As William Manchester says, “All who wore uniforms are called veterans, but more than 90 percent of them are as uninformed about the killing zones as those on the home front.” Manchester’s fellow marine E. B. Sledge thoughtfully and responsibly invokes the terms drastically and totally to underline the differences in experience between front and rear, and not even the far rear, but the close rear. “Our code of conduct toward the enemy,” he notes, “differed drastically from that prevailing back at the division CP.” (He’s describing gold-tooth extraction -10- from still-living Japanese.) Again he writes: “We existed in an environment totally incomprehensible to men behind the lines . . . ,” even, he would insist, to men as intelligent and sensitive as Glenn Gray, who missed seeing with his own eyes Sledge’s marine friends sliding under fire down a shell-pocked ridge slimy with mud and liquid dysentery shit into the maggoty Japanese and USMC corpses at the bottom, vomiting as the maggots burrowed into their own foul clothing. “We didn’t talk about such things,” says Sledge. “They were too horrible and obscene even for hardened veterans…. Nor do authors normally write about such vileness; unless they have seen it with their own eyes, it is too preposterous to think that men could actually live and fight for days and nights on end under such terrible conditions and not be driven insane.” And Sledge has added a comment on such experience and the insulation provided by even a short distance: “Often people just behind our rifle companies couldn’t understand what we knew.” Glenn Gray was not in a rifle company, or even just behind one. “When the news of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came,” he asks us to believe, “many an American soldier felt shocked and ashamed.” Shocked, OK, but why ashamed? Because we’d destroyed civilians? We’d been doing that for years, in raids on Hamburg and Berlin and Cologne and Frankfurt and Mannheim and Dresden, and Tokyo, and besides, the two A-bombs wiped out 10,000 Japanese troops, not often thought of now, John Hersey’s kindly physicians and Jesuit priests being more touching. If around division headquarters some of the people Gray talked to felt ashamed, down in the rifle companies no one did, despite Gray’s assertions. “The combat soldier,” he says, knew better than did Americans at home what those bombs meant in suffering and injustice. The man of conscience realized intuitively that the vast majority of Japanese in both cities were no more, if no less, guilty of the war than were his own parents, sisters, or brothers. I find this canting nonsense. The purpose of the bombs was not to “punish” people but to stop the war. To intensify the shame Gray insists we feel, he seems willing to fiddle the facts. The Hiroshima bomb, he says, was dropped “without any warning.” But actually, two days before, 720,000 leaflets were dropped on the city urging everyone to get out and indicating that the place was going to be (as the Potsdam Declaration had promised) obliterated. Of course few left. Experience whispers that the pity is not that we used the bomb to end the Japanese war but that it wasn’t ready in time to end the German one. If only it could have been rushed into production faster and dropped at the -11- right moment on the Reich Chancellery or Berchtesgaden or Hitler’s military headquarters in East Prussia (where Colonel Stauffenberg’s July 20 bomb didn’t do the job because it wasn’t big enough), much of the Nazi hierarchy could have been pulverized immediately, saving not just the embarrassment of the Nuremberg trials but the lives of around four million Jews, Poles, Slavs, and gypsies, not to mention the lives and limbs of millions of Allied and German soldiers. If the bomb had only been ready in time, the young men of my infantry platoon would not have been so cruelly killed and wounded. All this is not to deny that like the Russian Revolution, the atom-bombing of Japan was a vast historical tragedy, and every passing year magnifies the dilemma into which it has lodged the contemporary world. As with the Russian Revolution, there are two sides—that’s why it’s a tragedy instead of a disaster—and unless we are, like Bruce Page, simple-mindedly unimaginative and cruel, we will be painfully aware of both sides at once. To observe that from the viewpoint of the war’s victims-to-be the bomb seemed precisely the right thing to drop is to purchase no immunity from horror. To experience both sides, one might study the book Unforgettable Fire: Pictures Drawn by Atomic Bomb Survivors, which presents a number of amateur drawings and watercolors of the Hiroshima scene made by middle-aged and elderly survivors for a peace exhibition in 1975. In addition to the almost unbearable pictures, the book offers brief moments of memoir not for the weakstomached: While taking my severely wounded wife out to the river bank . . ., I was horrified indeed at the sight of a stark naked man standing in the rain with his eyeball in his palm. He looked to be in great pain but there was nothing that I could do for him. I wonder what became of him. Even today I vividly remember the sight. I was simply miserable. These childlike drawings and paintings are of skin hanging down, breasts torn off, people bleeding and burning, dying mothers nursing dead babies. A bloody woman holds a bloody child in the ruins of a house, and the artist remembers her calling, “Please help this child! Someone, please help this child. Please help! Someone, please.” As Samuel Johnson said of the smothering of Desdemona, the innocent in another tragedy, “It is not to be endured.” Nor, it should be noticed, is an infantryman’s account of having his arm blown off in the Arno Valley in Italy in 1944: I wanted to die and die fast. I wanted to forget this miserable world. I cursed the war, I cursed the people who were responsible -12- for it, I cursed God for putting me here … to suffer for something I never did or knew anything about. (A good place to interrupt and remember Glenn Gray’s noble but hopelessly one-sided remarks about “injustice,” as well as “suffering.”) “For this was hell,” the soldier goes on, and I never imagined anything or anyone could suffer so bitterly I screamed and cursed. Why? What had I done to deserve this? But no answer came. I yelled for medics, because subconsciously I wanted to live. I tried to apply my right hand over my bleeding stump, but I didn’t have the strength to hold it. I looked to the left of me and saw the bloody mess that was once my left arm; its fingers and palm were turned upward, like a flower looking to the sun for its strength. The future scholar-critic who writes The History of Canting in the Twentieth Century will find much to study and interpret in the utterances of those who dilate on the special wickedness of the A-bomb-droppers. He will realize that such utterance can perform for the speaker a valuable double function. First, it can display the fineness of his moral weave. And second, by implication it can also inform the audience that during the war he was not socially so unfortunate as to find himself down there with the ground forces, where he might have had to compromise the purity and clarity of his moral system by the experience of weighing his own life against someone else’s. Down there, which is where the other people were, is the place where coarse self-interest is the rule. When the young soldier with the wild eyes comes at you, firing, do you shoot him in the foot, hoping he’ll be hurt badly enough to drop or mis-aim the gun with which he’s going to kill you, or do you shoot him in the chest (or, if you’re a prime shot, in the head) and make certain that you and not he will be the survivor of that mortal moment? It would be not just stupid but would betray a lamentable want of human experience to expect soldiers to be very sensitive humanitarians. The Glenn Grays of this world need to have their attention directed to the testimony of those who know, like, say, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher, who said, “Moderation in war is imbecility,” or Sir Arthur Harris, director of the admittedly wicked aerial-bombing campaign designed, as Churchill put it, to “de-house” the German civilian population, who observed that “War is immoral,” or our own General W. T. Sherman: “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it.” Lord Louis Mountbatten, trying to say something sensible -13- about the dropping of the A-bomb, came up only with “War is crazy.” Or rather, it requires choices among crazinesses. “It would seem even more crazy,” he went on, “if we were to have more casualties on our side to save the Japanese.” One of the unpleasant facts for anyone in the ground armies during the war was that you had to become pro tern a subordinate of the very uncivilian George S. Patton and respond somehow to his unremitting insistence that you embrace his view of things. But in one of his effusions he was right, and his observation tends to suggest the experimental dubiousness of the concept of “just wars.” “War is not a contest with gloves,” he perceived. “It is resorted to only when laws, which are rules, have failed.” Soldiers being like that, only the barest decencies should be expected of them. They did not start the war, except in the terrible sense hinted at in Frederic Manning’s observation based on his front-line experience in the Great War: “War is waged by men; not by beasts, or by gods. It is a peculiarly human activity. To call it a crime against mankind is to miss at least half its significance; it is also the punishment of a crime.” Knowing that unflattering truth by experience, soldiers have every motive for wanting a war stopped, by any means. The stupidity, parochialism, and greed in the international mismanagement of the whole nuclear challenge should not tempt us to misimagine the circumstances of the bomb’s first “use.” Nor should our well-justified fears and suspicions occasioned by the capture of the nuclear-power trade by the inept and the mendacious (who have fucked up the works at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, etc.) tempt us to infer retrospectively extraordinary corruption, imbecility, or motiveless malignity in those who decided, all things considered, to drop the bomb. Times change. Harry Truman . . . knew war, and he knew better than some of his critics then and now what he was doing and why he was doing it. “Having found the bomb,” he said, “we have used it. … We have used it to shorten the agony of young Americans.” The past, which as always did not know the future, acted in ways that ask to be imagined before they are condemned. Or even simplified.

Obama has evolved into a realist

The arrow of history: Despite his apology tour, Obama has evolved into a realist


Charles Krauthammer

By Charles Krauthammer

Published May 27, 2016

How do you distinguish a foreign-policy “idealist” from a “realist,” an optimist from a pessimist? Ask one question: Do you believe in the arrow of history? Or to put it another way, do you think history is cyclical or directional? Are we condemned to do the same damn thing over and over, generation after generation — or is there hope for some enduring progress in the world order?

For realists, generally conservative, history is an endless cycle of clashing power politics. The same patterns repeat. Only the names and places change. The best we can do in our own time is to defend ourselves, managing instability and avoiding catastrophe. But expect nothing permanent, no essential alteration in the course of human affairs.

The idealists believe otherwise. They believe that the international system can eventually evolve out of its Hobbesian state of nature into something more humane and hopeful. What is usually overlooked is that this hopefulness for achieving a higher plane of global comity comes in two flavors — one liberal, one conservative.

The liberal variety (as practiced, for example, by the Bill Clinton administration) believes that the creation of a dense web of treaties, agreements, transnational institutions, and international organizations (such as the U.N., NGOs, and the World Trade Organization) can give substance to a cohesive community of nations that would, in time, ensure order and stability.

The conservative view (often called neoconservative and dominant in the George W. Bush years) is that the better way to ensure order and stability is not through international institutions, which are flimsy and generally powerless, but through the spread of democracy. Because, in the end, democracies are inherently more inclined to live in peace.

Liberal internationalists count on globalization, neoconservatives on democratization to get us to the sunny uplands of international harmony. But what unites them is the belief that such uplands exist and are achievable. Both believe in the perfectibility, if not of man, then of the international system. Both believe in the arrow of history.

For realists, this is a comforting delusion that gives high purpose to international exertions where none exists. Sovereign nations incessantly pursue power and self-interest. The pursuit can be carried out more or less wisely. But nothing fundamentally changes.

Unfortunately, with “justice” did not come peace. The policies that followed — appeasing Vladimir Putin, the Iranian mullahs, the butchers of Tiananmen Square, and lately the Castros — have advanced neither justice nor peace. On the contrary. The consequent withdrawal of American power, that agent of injustice or at least arrogant overreach, has yielded nothing but geopolitical chaos and immense human suffering. (See Syria.) Barack Obama is a classic case study in foreign-policy idealism. Indeed, one of his favorite quotations is about the arrow of history: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” He has spent nearly eight years trying to advance that arc of justice. Hence his initial “apology tour,” that burst of confessional soul-searching abroad about America and its sins, from slavery to the loss of our moral compass after 9/11. Friday’s trip to Hiroshima completes the arc.

But now an interesting twist. Two terms as president may not have disabused Obama of his arc-of-justice idealism (see above: Hiroshima visit), but they have forced upon him at least one policy of hardheaded, indeed hardhearted, realism. On his Vietnam trip this week, Obama accepted the reality of an abusive dictatorship while announcing a warming of relations and the lifting of the U.S. arms embargo, thereby enlisting Vietnam as a full partner in the containment of China.

This follows the partial return of the U.S. military to the Philippines, another element of the containment strategy. Indeed, the Trans-Pacific Partnership itself is less about economics than geopolitics, creating a Pacific Rim cordon around China.

There’s no idealism in containment. It is raw, soulless realpolitik. No moral arc. No uplifting historical arrow. In fact, it is the same damn thing all over again, a recapitulation of Truman’s containment of Russia in the late 1940s. Obama is doing the same, now with China.

He thus leaves a double legacy. His arc-of-justice aspirations, whatever their intention, leave behind tragic geopolitical and human wreckage. Yet this belated acquiescence to realpolitik, laying the foundations for a new containment, will be an essential asset in addressing this century’s coming central challenge, the rise of China.

I don’t know — no one knows — if history has an arrow. Which is why a dose of coldhearted realism is always welcome. Especially from Obama.


Native Americans Approve Redskins Name


Nine in 10 Native Americans say they are not offended by the Washington Redskins name, according to a new Washington Post poll. This is basically the same result produced by the last major survey on this matter, conducted by Annenberg Public Policy Center in 2004.

Thus, the national movement to force the Redskins to change their name, though successful with many white liberals, has utterly failed to move the needle when it comes to Indians — the allegedly aggrieved group.

Here was the question:

The professional football team in Washington calls itself the Washington Redskins. As a native American, is that name offensive, or doesn’t it bother you?

90 percent answered “does not bother me.” 9 percent said “offensive.” 1 percent had no opinion.

According to the Post, responses were broadly consistent regardless of age, income, education, political party, and proximity to reservations. Even among those who self-identified as liberal, 80 percent were not offended.

I love the quotations from Indians in the Post’s article. They include:

*I’m proud of being Native American and of the Redskins. I’m not ashamed of that at all. I like that name.

*I really don’t mind it. I like it. . . . We call other natives ‘skins,’ too.

*The name is nothing to me.

*For me, it doesn’t make any difference.

*Let’s start taking care of our people and quit worrying about names like Washington Redskins.

*It’s 100 people okay with the situation, and one person has a problem with it, and all of a sudden everyone has to conform,. You’ll find people who don’t like puppies and kittens and Santa Claus. . . .

The name-change project has been driven by left-winger Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Nation. Halbritter and certain others associated with the Oneida Nation have become rich thanks to casinos.

Their wealth and involvement in Democratic politics have gained them the influence they deploy in the effort to force the Redskins to change their name. However, as the Washington Post’s poll shows, Halbritter and his fellow casino-enriched tribe members are out of touch with ordinary American Indians.

Halbritter and others who make it their business to get worked up over very little will continue their crusade against the Redskins. They will argue that it is inappropriate for the name of a professional sports team to offend even a small percentage of a population that historically has been badly mistreated in America.

But the poll demolishes the only good argument for a forced name change. That argument isn’t that the name “Redskins” offends some people — as the last Indian quoted above says, nowadays you can find people who are offended by just about anything.

The potentially winning argument is that “Redskins” is a racial slur. But if 90 percent of those said to be victims of the alleged slur aren’t offended, this argument evaporates. How can a word that’s inoffensive to the supposed target be a slur?

Hail to the Redskins!

MLB: The PED Problem Expanded

When I was an MLB executive, I was involved in player relations. Of primary concern was player health and safety and the use of “recreational drugs,” alcohol, marijuana and cocaine was examined in detail. The effort became one of establishing a method for identifying and treating those with drug abuse problems. 

Where the use of illegal drugs, marijuana, and cocaine involved potential law enforcement issues, the abuse of alcohol was paramount and the most common. MLB and the MLBPA established a player support program for alcoholic players and other drug abusers.

In the 1980’s, the use of performance enhancing drugs in the steroid class became very apparent by the changing physique of certain players and dramatic improvement in performance. Homerun production increased to levels never seen before.

MLB and the union instituted a drug testing program that has resulted in significant reduction is such drug use, but positive tests show that it is still a problem. 

The problem of recreational drugs has also declined as players realize that there is no performance, hence, career-enhancing effect. The problem of alcohol continues, but the discovery of this problem is  difficult and often goes undetected.    

This article discussed these problems. They are real, threaten the long-term health of players  and must be dealt with more thoroughly. 


PEDs Not The Only Drugs Affecting Performance

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Just how much responsibility does the league have in treating substance abuse?

Right now, the baseball world is reeling from the recent suspensions of Toronto’s Chris Colabello and Florida’s Dee Gordon. There will no doubt be plenty of buzz around the validity of the current MLB drug policy, and for good reason. However, amidst the renewed interest in PED use, it may be a good time to remember that they’re not the only type of drugs that are being abused.

Bret Boone, former MLB second baseman, recently announced the release of his new book, which comes out May 10. In the book, he details his struggles with alcoholism and how his dependency derailed his career.

From the outside, Boone’s steep drop in performance could easily be attributed to aging, and most people did exactly that. After all, it isn’t uncommon for players to begin to decline as they get older. As it was, though, Boone reveals the fall-off in his level of play was due to his dependence on alcohol, which brings to light an issue that isn’t discussed nearly as often as PED’s — substance abuse that has absolutely nothing to do with steroids or similar drugs.

Boone’s struggle is reportedly well-documented in his upcoming book, but his case isn’t the only high-profile one in recent years. Just last season, C.C. Sabathia shocked the baseball world when he checked himself into rehab before the New York Yankees’ final game of the regular season.

In terms of baseball, the decision may have been a costly one: The Yankees went on to lose the wild card game to the Astros. Of course, even if Sabathia had been on the mound that evening, a game can’t be won without scoring runs — and the Yankees didn’t, getting shut out by Dallas Keuchel.

Wild card game loss or not, it’s difficult to blame Sabathia for taking care of himself. In his essay for The Players’ Tribune, Sabathia offered up a poignant quote. “So many of the major choices in my life, going back to when I was just a kid, have been baseball decisions. But this was a life decision.”

To the credit of the entire Yankees organization, everyone, from players to coaches to management, was supportive of Sabathia’s decision. However, Sabathia’s highly visible situation raised an interesting point: Is the league doing enough to help players who are struggling from substance abuse?

The Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, agreed upon by the MLBPA and the league, will end its term in December 2016 and presumably be renegotiated or revised for the next collective bargaining agreement (CBA). This current iteration covers protocol for evaluating and treating players who have a problem with drugs of abuse in addition to PED’s. Alcohol falls under the “drugs of abuse” category, as do other recreational drugs (including but not limited to cocaine, LSD, opiates, and marijuana).

It’s difficult to gauge the effectiveness of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program when it comes to drugs of abuse, in part because players who take part in a treatment program are entitled to confidentiality. The treatment programs vary by case and may include any combination of counseling, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and follow-up testing. In cases of drugs of abuse, unlike in cases of positivePED results, players’ names are not released to the public.

In addition, there is no routine testing for drugs of abuse. A player is tested for drugs of abuse only when there is reason to believe that such a test is necessary. Players are entitled to their privacy, and no doubt testing for drugs of abuse on top of PED’s would introduce a whole new set of problems (not least of which is the legality of some of drugs of abuse — alcohol is legal, and so is marijuana in certain regions).

Of course, some drugs of abuse are illegal. If a player tests positive for an illegal substance like cocaine, they may be suspended. The length of suspension depends on both the substance and whether the player has a history of drug abuse. Alcohol isn’t illegal, though, and suspensions for alcohol abuse would be based on a blatant refusal to adhere to a treatment plan.

In any case, the lack of regular testing for drugs of abuse means that players can potentially slide under the radar for as long as they can keep signs of drug or alcohol addiction to a minimum. Boone did, and everyone attributed his slide to other causes. Only now, well after the end of his career, are we hearing about his battle with alcoholism. Sabathia did, and only his own admission of his struggle alerted the public to his alcohol problem at all.












The Baseball Code Is Tired

6:12 PM, MAY 16, 2016 | By LEE SMITH

Rougned Odor (Credit: Keith Allison)

Yesterday, Texas Rangers’ pitcher Matt Bush hit Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista with a pitch. Running from first on a groundball to third, Bautista slid hard, late, and illegally into Rangers’ second baseman Rougned Odor. The infielder threw wildly on the double play, but didn’t miss when he lined up Bautista and clocked him squarely in the jaw.

As if to demonstrate exactly how ridiculous and out of place fighting is in baseball, journalists and commentators clearly thrilled by the violence had trouble describing what kind of punch Odor threw at the Toronto slugger. It was a right jab, said some; no, opined other scribes, ’twas a mighty right hook. Actually, it was a regular right cross, a well-timed, well-placed punch thrown by someone who clearly knows what he’s doing. However, it barely dazed Bautista. The chin, as Canelo Alvarez’s knockout of Amir Khan two weeks ago reminded us, is humanity’s on-off switch. Hit someone there right, and it shuts down the nervous system. But Bautista, obviously surprised by the punch, didn’t even buckle. Sports sites featured the punch like it was the biggest thing that happened in baseball all weekend, which is a shame because it overshadowed a really good baseball story—Matt Bush’s big-league debut after 12 years in the wilderness.

Odor will almost surely be suspended for several games, and likely Bautista, too, for a nasty slide. But they’re getting off lucky because they could have been hurt badly, perhaps even with career-ending injuries. But, say some, that’s the way baseball should be played—hard and in observance of baseball’s unwritten rules. After all, Bautista flipped his bat in a playoff game against the Texas club last year—and in this perverse, pseudo-macho understanding of baseball, he got what was coming to him seven months later with a 98 mph fastball in the back.

It was Bautista’s three-run homer in the seventh inning of game five of the ALDS last year that put the Blue Jays ahead for good and sent them to the ALCS—but it was the bat flip that fans seem to remember, most of them favorably. It wasn’t as momentous as all that—as the actual home run, for instance—but it punctuated the moment, like a mic drop. “I didn’t plan anything that I did,” Bautistasaid at the time of his bat flip. “And so I still don’t even know how I did it.”

The person who was most upset with Bautista’s show of emotion? Yep, the pitcher who gave up the blast, Sam Dyson. “I told [on-deck batter Edward Encarnacion] Jose needs to calm that down, just kind of respect the game a little more,” Dyson said. “He’s a huge role model for the younger generation that’s coming up playing this game, and I mean he’s doing stuff that kids do in Wiffle ball games and backyard baseball. It shouldn’t be done.”

What nonsense. Dyson got beat. He got beat by another man in front of tens of thousands of people in the ballpark and millions more watching on TV. And that is precisely what makes baseball a great human drama—two people challenging each other, with success and failure on the line, on either side of which is shame, shame in front of others for losing. Loss and the prospect of loss is part of the event. Bautista wasn’t rubbing Dyson’s face in it, he deserved to exult. In that moment, Bautista was out of his body, enjoying the homer, the spectacle, the event as much as anyone watching.

Cut to yesterday. Matt Bush wasn’t even on the Rangers roster last year. He was still in prison, serving a 51-month term for DUI with great bodily harm. Bush was the first overall pick in the 2004 amateur draft, drafted by the San Diego Padres out of a San Diego high school as an infielder, with a good bat, good hands, good speed and range, and a rocket for an arm. The 18-year-old Bush didn’t hit much in the minor leagues—some reports say he was too hung over to hit. Drinking was a big problem, so was his lousy, entitled attitude, and his careless violence, like beating up a high school freshman, and throwing a baseball at a woman who messed with him at a party.

The Padres moved Bush to the mound in 2007, then dealt him to the Blue Jays organization in 2009. Bush played in the Tampa Bay Rays system from 2010 until spring training 2012 when he ran over a 72-year-old man and was sent to jail. Here’s ESPN’s account of Bush’s prison term, his comeback, how he was scouted in the parking lot of a Golden Corral, how the Texas organization has taken chances on other hard-luck cases with talent, like Josh Hamilton. It’s a really moving story, especially the concern Bush’s dad feels for his troubled but gifted boy. Maybe finally he is really learning how to become a man and accept responsibility, and he will become a man before the father dies and leaves his son alone in the world.

Maybe that’s why Bush threw at Bautista yesterday—perhaps he was trying to prove he’s a big leaguer, a solid teammate. A man who knows he has responsibilities and fulfills them. Or maybe someone told him that Bautista had to eat a fastball, because that’s what the big league code of honor dictated. After all, he flipped his bat last October.

The last guy you want to confuse with a stupid code that requires athletes to throw baseballs at their colleagues’ bodies and heads is a kid who because he was unable to manage his reckless self-pity nearly killed a man. Baseball, like Bryce Harper says, is supposed to be fun, and he’s right that the code is tired. But there is something serious about the game, too, which is the drama staged between the pitcher and hitter, because it’s about failure and success, embarrassment and shame, humility and pride, and how adults are to manage these things in public and private, too. I hope Matt Bush succeeds.

Top Ten Spies of All Time

Spies have been an invaluable tool for Generals from Julius Ceasar to the present day. Here is a list of the ten most famous. My favorite is the last listed, the Russian spy in Japan from 1933 on. He told the Russians that the Japanese were not attacking in the East which allowed the Russians to move troops to the defense of Moscow in 1941. And that made a critical difference.  


Top 10 Famous Spies



In and out of wartime, spies play an essential role in information gathering for their nations (and, on occasion, as double-spies for other nations). The spies listed here are the most famous in history.

1. Mata Hari Born: 1876; Died: 1917

Spy Mata Harimed.Jpg
Mata Hari in a dancing costume

Spied For: Germany (and Possibly France)

Mata Hari was the stage-name for Dutch-born Margaretha Geertruida (Grietje) Zelle who was an exotic dancer and high class prostitute in Paris. In 1905, after divorcing her husband, she began her career as an exotic dancer, taking the name Mata Hari (meaning “sun” or “Eye of the Dawn”). She posed herself as a princess from Java. Posing as an exotic person was possible in those days because the lack of telecommunications. During this period of her life she was often photographed in scant clothing or nude.

She mixed with the upper class and became a courtesan to many important high-ranking military men and politicians. This put her in a very good position to gather information. During World War 1, the Netherlands remained a neutral nation, enabling Mata Hari, a Dutch national, to cross national borders freely. At one point she was interviewed by British Intelligence and she admittedly to being a spy for the French. The French later denied this. It is still unknown whether this was true.

In January, 1917, the German Military Attache in Madrid sent an encoded radio signal to Berlin, stating that they were receiving excellent information from a German spy codenamed H-21. French intelligence intercepted the messages and were able to identify H-21 as Mata Hari. On February 13, 1917, Mata Hari was arrested in her Paris hotel room. She was subsequently tried for espionage and found guilty. She was executed by Firing Squad on the 15th of September, 1917 at the age of 41.

2. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Born: 1915, 1918; Died: 1953

The Rosenbergs

Spied For: The Soviet Union

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were American Communists who were executed for passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. They met in the Young Communist League in 1936, where he was a leader. They had two sons. Julius was recruited by the KGB in 1942 and was regarded as one of their top spies. He passed classified reports from Emerson Radio, including a fuze design which was later used to shoot down a U-2 in 1960.

Julius also recruited many people sympathetic to the cause to assist the KGB. He provided the KGB with thousands of documents from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics including a complete set of design and production drawings for the Lockheed’s P-80 Shooting Star. A former machinist at Los Alamos (the US Nuclear Development Area), Sergeant David Greenglassconfessed to having passed secret information on to the USSR, and in doing so, implicated his brother-in-law: Julius Rosenberg. He initially denied any involvement by his sister Ethel. The Rosenbergs were arrested.

In 1951 the case against the Rosenbergs began. Greenglass, the prosecution’s main witness, told the court that his sister Ethel had typed nuclear secrets he gave her at a meeting in their home, and that he gave Julius a sketch of a cross-section of an implosion type nuclear bomb. Both Rosenbergs were found guilty and sentenced to death. Their conviction gave fuel to Senator McCarthy’sinvestigations into anti-American activities. They were both executed by electric-chair in Sing Sing Prison in 1953.

3. Aldrich Ames Born: 1941

250Px-Aldrich Hazen Ames 488
Ames in FBI custody (1994)

Spied For: The Soviet Union

Ames is a former CIA Counter-intelligence Officer who was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union in 1994. On his first assignment as a case officer, he was stationed in Ankara, Turkey, where his job was to target Soviet intelligence officers for recruitment. Due to financial problems in his personal life as a result of alcohol abuse and high spending, Ames began spying for the Soviet Union in 1985, when he walked into the Soviet Embassy in Washington to offer secrets for money.

Ames was assigned to the CIA’s European office where he had direct access to the identities of CIA operatives in the KGB and Soviet Military. The information hesupplied to the Soviets lead to the compromise of at least 100 CIA agents and to the execution of at least 10. He ultimately gave the USSR the names of every CIA operative working in their country; for this they paid him 4.6 million dollars. Ames used the money to live well beyond his means as a CIA agent, buying jewelry, cars, and a $500,000 house.

In early 1985, the CIA began to notice that they were losing their “assets” at a very rapid rate. For unknown reasons they were not willing, in the early stages, to believe that they had been infiltrated by the KGB, instead presuming the leak to be via bugging devices. When the FBI were finally brought in to investigate, Ames became the primary suspect. Fearing he would defect on a CIA trip to Russia, The FBI arrested him at the airport with his wife. He was given a life sentence and is incarcerated in the US Penitentiary in Allenwood, Pennsylvania.

4. Giacomo Casanova Born: 1725; Died: 1798

Casanova, the great lover

Spied For: Venetian Inquisitors

Casanova, born in Venice, is most well known for his womanizing and his book The Story of My Life which gives the best account of life in the eighteenth century that we have. Due to the financial support for many patrons of his mother (an actress) he was able to go to school to receive a very good education. This enabled him to become a lawyer. Over many years his romantic affairs with women in power made him a very powerful man. He gained and lost riches at a rapid rate (in one case he lost the equivalent of over 1 million Euros in one night).

Between the years of 1774 and 1782, he worked as a spy for the Venetian Inquisitors of State. It is not known what his role involved as his famous diary ended the year he began his work. In 1782 he was exiled from Venice for spreading libel against one of the City patricians.

After his exile he became a librarian and lived out his life in the service of the Chateaux of Dux in Bohemia.

5. Klaus Fuchs Born: 1911; Died: 1988

ID photo of Klaus Fuchs

Spied For: The Soviet Union

Fuchs was a German-born theoretical physicist who worked in Los Alamos on the atom bomb project. He was responsible for many significant theoretical calculations relating to the first fission weapons and early models of the hydrogen bomb. Whilst attending university in Germany, Fuchs became involved with the Communist Party of Germany. After a run-in with the newly installedNazi government, he fled to England where he earned his PhD in physics. For a short time he worked on the British atomic bomb project.

It was while he was working for the British that he began to give information to the Soviets. He reasoned that they had the right to know what the British and the Americans were developing. In 1943 he was transferred to the United States to assist on the Manhattan project. From 1944 he worked in New Mexico at Los Alamos.

For two years he gave his KGB contacts theoretical plans for building a hydrogen bomb. He also provided key data on the production of uranium 235, allowing the Soviets to determine the number of bombs possessed by the United States. On his return to the United Kingdom in 1946, he was interrogated as a result of the cracking of some Soviet ciphers. He was tried and sentenced to fourteen years in prison, the maximum term under British law for passing military secrets to a friendly nation. he was released after nine years and immediately moved toGermany where he lived out the remainder of his life.

6. Major John Andre Born: 1750; Died: 1780

British Officer John Andre

Spied For: The British

John Andre was a British officer hanged as a spy during the AmericanRevolutionary war. At the age of 20 he joined the British Army and moved to North America to join the occupying forces. He was a great favorite in society, both in Philadelphia and New York during their occupation by the British Army. During his nearly nine months in Philadelphia, André occupied Benjamin Franklin’s house, where it is said he took items from Franklin’s home when the British left Philadelphia.

In 1779, he became adjutant-general of the British Army with the rank of Major. In April, he was placed in charge of the British Secret Intelligence. By the next year (1780) he had begun to plot with American General Benedict Arnold, who commanded West Point, and had agreed to surrender it to the British for £20,000 — a move that would enable the British to cut New England off from the rest of the rebellious colonies.

Using common clothes and a false passport, Andre traveled toward New York with documents supplied by Arnold. He was stopped by three men at gunpoint. During the following conversation in which both parties were confused over the allegiance of the others, Andre admitted he was British. The three men searched him and found the papers he was hiding. He was put on trial before a board of senior officers. On September 29, 1780, the board found Andre guilty of being behind American lines “under a feigned name and in a disguised habit”, and that:

“Major Andre, Adjutant-General to the British army, ought to be considered as a Spy from the enemy, and that agreeable to the law and usage of nations, it is their opinion, he ought to suffer death.”

He was hanged as a spy at Tappan on October 2, 1780.

7. Nathan Hale Born: 1755; Died: 1776

The execution of Nathan Hale

Spied For: The Continental Army

Nathan Hale was a captain in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He is Widely considered to be America’s first spy after he volunteered for an intelligence-gathering mission, but was caught by the British. He is best remembered for his speech before his hanging, in which he said: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country”.

Hale was born in Connecticut and went to Yale University where he graduated with first class honors. After leaving University he became a teacher until the break-out of the Revolutionary war in 1775. He immediately joined a Connecticut militia, becoming a first Sergeant. During the Battle of Long Island, Hale volunteered to go behind enemy lines to monitor the movements of the British. He disguised himself as a Dutch teacher and made his way to New York. He was captured in a tavern after he was tricked into betraying himself as a patriot. He was apprehended near Flushing Bay in Queens.

He was reportedly questioned and found with physical evidence. According to the traditions at the time, he was found guilty of being an illegal combatant – a crime carrying the death penalty. He was taken to what is now 66th Street and Third Avenue and hanged. He was 21 years old. A British officer wrote this of Hale at the execution:

“He behaved with great composure and resolution, saying he thought it the duty of every good Officer, to obey any orders given him by his Commander-in-Chief; and desired the Spectators to be at all times prepared to meet death in whatever shape it might appear.”

8. Belle Boyd Born: 1844; Died: 1900

Confederate Spy, Belle Boyd

Spied For: The Confederates

Bella Boyd, born Maria Isabella Boyd, was a confederate spy in the American Civil War. She operated from her father’s hotel and gave valuable information to Confederate generals. Her career in espionage had a rather startling beginning: when a group of Union soldiers broke into her parents home with the intention of raising the US flag, one of them insulted Belle’s mother. Belle pulled out a pistol and shot one of them. She was 17 years old. A board of inquiry acquitted her but she was placed under surveillance. She profited from this by charming military secrets out of at least one of the Union sentries guarding her. She later wrote of him:

“To him, I am indebted for some very remarkable effusions, some withered flowers, and a great deal of important information.”

Belle passed the secrets she learned to the generals through her slave Eliza Hopewell. One evening in mid 1862 she overheard a general laying out plans for a move that would temporarily lower the Union military presence at Front Royal. That evening Belle rode to a confederate general and confided the details to him. When the confederates rode on Front Royal, Belle ran through bullets to greet the captain. For her contributions she was awarded the Southern Cross of Honor.

Belle was arrested after her lover gave her up on July 29, 1862. She was held for a month in the Old Capitol Prison in Washington but was freed one month later. She was arrested again but was set free on that occasion also. After a short time living in England, she returned to the united States and toured the country giving talks on her time as a Civil War spy. She died, during her tour in Wisconsin, ofTyphoid at the age of 56.

9. The Cambridge Five Born: 20th Century; Died: 20th Century

Cambridge Five Wanted Poster

Spied For: The Soviet Union

The Cambridge Five was a ring of Soviet spies in the UK who passed information to the Soviet Union during World War II and into the early 1950s. It has been suggested they may also have been responsible for passing Soviet disinformation to the Nazis. Whilst they are called the Cambridge Five, the fifth member is still unknown. Here is a short profile of each of the four known members:

Kim Philby: Of the five, Philby is believed to have done the most damage to British and American intelligence, providing classified information to the Soviet Union that caused the deaths of scores of agents. He was born in India to St. John Philby, a British officer and eventual advisor to the King of Saudia Arabia.

Donald Duart Maclean: Donald was recruited as a straight penetration agent while still an undergraduate at Cambridge. His actions are widely thought to have contributed to the 1948 Soviet blockade of Berlin and the onset of the Korean War. Maclean was brevetted a colonel in the Soviet KGB.

Guy Burgess: Burgess and Anthony Blunt contributed to the Soviet cause with the transmission of secret Foreign Office and MI5 documents that described Allied military strategy. He was most useful to the Soviets in his position as secretary to the British Deputy Foreign Minister, Hector McNeil.

Anthony Blunt: Blunt was an English art historian, formerly Professor of the History of Art, University of London and director of the Courtauld Institute of Art. After visiting Russia in 1933, Blunt was recruited in 1934 by the NKVD (forerunner of the KGB). A committed Marxist, Blunt was instrumental in recruiting Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean.

They were originally known as the Cambridge Spy Ring because all became committed communists while attending Cambridge University in the 1930s. There is some conjecture as to when they were actually recruited to Soviet intelligence, but Anthony Blunt claimed that it did not happen at Cambridge. Rather, they were recruited after they graduated.

10. Richard Sorge Born: 1895; Died: 1944

Soviet Spy in Japan

Spied For: The Soviet Union

Richard Sorge is considered to have been one of the best Soviet spies in Japan before and during World War II, which has gained him fame among spies, and espionage enthusiasts. Sorge was born in Azerbaijan during the reign of the Czars. His great uncle was an associate of Karl Marx. In October 1914 Jorge volunteered to serve during World War I. He joined a student battalion of the 3rd Guards, Field Artillery. During his service in the Western Front he was severely wounded in March 1916 when shrapnel cut off three of his fingers and broke both his legs, causing a lifelong limp. During his convalescence he read Marx and adopted communist ideology.

After being fired from a teaching and mining job, he fled to the Soviet Union where he was recruited as a spy for the and using the cover of being a journalist was sent to various European countries to assess the possibility of communist uprisings taking place. In 1922 the Communists relocated him to Frankfurt, where he gathered intelligence about the business community.

In May 1933 the Soviet Union decided to have Sorge organize a spy network in Japan. On 14 September 1941 Sorge advised the Red Army that the Japanese were not going to attack the Soviet Union until a) Moscow was captured, b) the size of the Kwantung Army was three times that of the Soviet Union’s Far Eastern forces and c) a civil war had started in Siberia.

Sorge was arrested on October 18, 1941 in Tokyo, in the house of his lover after a policeman picked up a note that he threw on to the road instead of destroying, warning him that he was being watched. Even under torture, he denied all ties with the Soviets. Sorge was not exchanged for Japanese prisoners of war, because the Soviet government as well as Sorge himself denied that he was spying for USSR. He was hanged on November 7, 1944, 10:20 a.m. Tokyo time. The Soviet Union denied all knowledge of him until 1964.


NCAA weighs risky court filing that could shape organization’s future

May 12, 2016

The decision looming for NCAA president Mark Emmert and his top lawyer, Donald Remy, results from the ongoing court case that first pit former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon against the NCAA in 2014. O’Bannon won the initial court decision when a federal judge ruled that the NCAA violated antitrust laws because it restricted benefits to college athletes beyond providing them scholarships.

Remy and the NCAA appealed, though, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which gave the NCAA a bittersweet victory: Its schools didn’t actually have to pay athletes $5,000 each, as the initial court decision required, but the NCAA remained in violation of antitrust laws.

O’Bannon and his lawyers pushed forward and asked the U.S. Supreme Court in March to consider reinstating the cash payments to athletes. That request pushed Emmert, Remy and the NCAA into a dicey position, which will lead to a critical court filing on Friday:

  • Should the NCAA accept the Court of Appeals decision, grateful that its schools will not be paying $5,000 per season to athletes but, in accepting the decision, actually end up acknowledging that its rules violate antitrust laws? If so, the NCAA could be subject to court scrutiny on all rules it enacts that regulate college athletics. If that’s the approach the NCAA wants to take, its legal team will file a court brief Friday resisting the O’Bannon request for a Supreme Court review.
  • Or should the NCAA fight the Court of Appeals decision and join O’Bannon in seeking a final and conclusive ruling from the Supreme Court but one that makes the organization immune to antitrust attacks from athletes? The risk for the NCAA in this option revolves around the fact that if the Supreme Court were to rule in favor of O’Bannon, the court could decide the NCAA must pay players an unlimited amount of money. If the NCAA lawyers, though, want to roll the dice and seek a final ruling, they would file on Friday a petition asking for the court to take the case.

The decision has not been an easy one for the NCAA leadership. Since Remy took over as the NCAA’s top lawyer in January 2011, he has been timely, decisive and effective in defending a mass of litigation filed by current and former athletes against the organization. Remy and the law firms he hires have rarely asked for extensions on deadlines for filing long and complex briefs. But for this decision, Remy has twice asked Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for extra time to decide whether to appeal the decision. Kennedy granted both requests. The second extension expires Friday.

The extra time gave Remy and his lawyers a chance to ponder the risks they face.

The O’Bannon decision, described as “momentous” by the Ninth Circuit, was the result of “the first trial ever devoted to amateurism in college sports,” according to Rutgers Law School professor Michael A. Carrier, an expert on antitrust litigation who has authored three major law review articles on these issues. In 15 days of trial in 2014 before U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken, two dozen witnesses testified, producing thousands of pages of dense and occasionally difficult descriptions of the economics of college sports.

Although antitrust laws had previously been applied to NCAA attempts to govern the televising of college football and to set a salary cap for assistant basketball coaches, the O’Bannon decision marked the first time antitrust rules were applied to athletes.

Few petitions to the Supreme Court are granted each year, but the notion of athletic amateurism could be of such sufficient importance that justices accept it as one of the 60 to 70 they decide annually. Only four votes from the current eight justices are needed to accept the case. In addition to examining amateurism, the Supreme Court might decide to take the case because of a legal doctrine called the Rule of Reason. The Ninth Circuit made its decision under a bizarre use of this doctrine, which is a highly important one that affects large segments of the American economy.

The doctrine requires a four-step analysis of any rule that restricts market freedoms.

The first step is to determine whether there is a restriction that limits competition. The NCAA’s ban on cash payments to athletes obviously restricts competition, preventing schools from offering players money in recruiting. The second step requires the NCAA to offer a justification for the restriction. The NCAA’s justification is its commitment to amateurism and its argument that amateurism is responsible for the popularity of college football and men’s basketball. The third step requires O’Bannon to prove that the ban on pay is not reasonably necessary. And the final step is a balancing of the effects of amateurism and leads to a determination of whether the ban on pay is a legal restriction.

Most experts who have studied the Ninth Circuit’s O’Bannon ruling agree that the court swung and missed on the fourth step — the balancing of the good and bad effects of the NCAA’s principle of amateurism.

Carrier, the Rutgers professor who has studied 700 Rule of Reason cases and is a leading authority on the doctrine, believes the Ninth Circuit “completely ignored the balancing stage” of the required analysis. In a recent article in the University of Michigan Law Review analyzing the O’Bannon decision, he concluded that the “Ninth Circuit’s omission of the balancing stage prevents the consideration of the anticompetitive (bad) and procompetitive (good) effects at the heart of the matter.”

If Carrier is correct, it might open the door to Supreme Court consideration.

The attorney representing O’Bannon in his petition to the Supreme Court, Jonathan Massey, focused his effort on the failure to complete the fourth step of the process. In a masterful petition, Massey explained that instead of balancing the good and bad effects of amateurism, the Ninth Circuit justified the nonpayment of athletes by saying that not paying them is what makes them amateurs. As Massey observed, the Ninth Circuit’s attempt at reasoning resulted in a “tautology,” a meaningless repetition of an idea instead of a use of logic.

Remy has been aggressive and steadfast in his defense of amateurism in the five years of the O’Bannon litigation and in similar antitrust attacks on the NCAA. It would not be a big surprise if the NCAA and Remy decided on the high-risk alternative in their filing Friday by seeking a Supreme Court decision that could exempt the NCAA from further antitrust scrutiny. But it would also not be a surprise if the NCAA suggested to the high court that it refuse to consider the O’Bannon petition and instead consider only the NCAA’s petition instead.


New York Times: How Could It Get This Wrong

From the New York Times of Monday May 8, 2016.

Because of an editing error, an article on Monday about a theological battle being fought by Muslim imams and scholars in the West against the Islamic State misstated the Snapchat handle used by Suhaib Webb, one of the Muslim leaders speaking out. It is imamsuhaibwebb, not Pimpin4Paradise786.

So, the Imam Suhaib Webb uses his name for his handle, and the Times can’t get that right!!  More importantly, and there is a story here, where did Pimpin4Paradise786 come from? This may be a member of the Times Editorial Board’s “Handle.” It seems to comport with the intellectual vigor of that board.    


Facebook Edits Trending Articles

There has long been  a sense that Facebook uses political criteria to edit its “Trending” list.  Here is proof that conservative “trending’ articles are suppressed and non-trending “liberal” articles are promoted. The effect of this is that a misleading impression of liberal issues is created.

Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.

Several former Facebook “news curators,” as they were known internally, also told Gizmodo that they were instructed to artificially “inject” selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending at all. The former curators, all of whom worked as contractors, also said they were directed not to include news about Facebook itself in the trending module.

In other words, Facebook’s news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation. Imposing human editorial values onto the lists of topics an algorithm spits out is by no means a bad thing—but it is in stark contrast to the company’s claims that the trending module simply lists “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.”

These new allegations emerged after Gizmodo last week revealed details about the inner workings of Facebook’s trending news team—a small group of young journalists, primarily educated at Ivy League or private East Coast universities, who curate the “trending” module on the upper-right-hand corner of the site. As we reported last week, curators have access to a ranked list of trending topics surfaced by Facebook’s algorithm, which prioritizes the stories that should be shown to Facebook users in the trending section. The curators write headlines and summaries of each topic, and include links to news sites. The section, which launched in 2014, constitutes some of the most powerful real estate on the internet and helps dictate what news Facebook’s users—167 million in the US alone—are reading at any given moment.

“Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending,” said the former curator. This individual asked to remain anonymous, citing fear of retribution from the company. The former curator is politically conservative, one of a very small handful of curators with such views on the trending team. “I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz.”

The former curator was so troubled by the omissions that they kept a running log of them at the time; this individual provided the notes to Gizmodo. Among the deep-sixed or suppressed topics on the list: former IRS official Lois Lerner, who was accused by Republicans of inappropriately scrutinizing conservative groups; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; popular conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report; Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who was murdered in 2013; and former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder. “I believe it had a chilling effect on conservative news,” the former curator said.

Stories covered by conservative outlets (like Breitbart, Washington Examiner, and Newsmax) that were trending enough to be picked up by Facebook’s algorithm were excluded unless mainstream sites like the New York Times, the BBC, and CNN covered the same stories.

Other former curators interviewed by Gizmodo denied consciously suppressing conservative news, and we were unable to determine if left-wing news topics or sources were similarly suppressed. The conservative curator described the omissions as a function of his colleagues’ judgements; there is no evidence that Facebook management mandated or was even aware of any political bias at work.


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