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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

George W. Bush Also Entered the White House Illegally (In 2001)

'March of Dumbs' Shutdown Coverage

"Daily Show" one year ago put much of rest of TV coverage of GOP shutdown to shame.

New Nitwitz Series

One year ago today the GOP-forced government shutdown began. NY Daily News even topped the Post.

Newsreel Footage on A-Bomb Aftermath Seized by U.S. 69 Years Ago

In the weeks following the atomic attacks on Japan in 1945, and then for decades afterward, the United States engaged in airtight suppression of all film shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings. This included footage shot by U.S. military crews and Japanese newsreel teams. In addition, for many years, all but a handful of newspaper photographs were seized or prohibited not only in the United States, but also in occupied Japan.

Meanwhile, the American public only got to see the same black and white images: a mushroom cloud, battered buildings, a devastated landscape. The true human costs–a full airing of the bomb’s effects on people –were kept hidden. The writer Mary McCarthy declared that Hiroshima had already fallen into “a hole in history.”  The public did not see any of the newsreel footage for 25 years, and the U.S. military film remained hidden for more than three decades. (The story is told in full in my book Atomic Cover-up.)

In fact, the Japanese footage might have disappeared forever if the newsreel team had not hidden one print from the Americans in a ceiling. The color U.S. military footage was not shown anywhere until the early 1980s, and has never been fully aired. It rests today at the National Archives in College Park, Md. When that footage finally emerged, I spoke with and corresponded with the man at the center of this drama: Lt. Col. (Ret.) Daniel A. McGovern, who directed the U.S. military film-makers in 1945-1946, managed the Japanese footage, and then kept watch on all of the top-secret material for decades.

McGovern observed that, "The main reason it was classified was...because of the horror, the devastation." I also met and interviewed one top member of his military crew, who had fought for years to get the footage aired widely in America, and interviewed some of the hibakusha who appear in the footage.  Those accounts form the center of Atomic Cover-Up.   You can read about that a view some of the color footage here.  But let's focus on tjhe Japanese newsreel footage for the moment.

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb over the center of Hiroshima, killing at least 70,000 civilians instantly and perhaps 70,000 more in the months to follow. Three days later, it exploded another atomic bomb over Nagasaki, killing 40,000 immediately and dooming tens of thousands of others. Within days, Japan had surrendered, and the U.S. readied plans to occupy the defeated country -- and documenting the first atomic catastrophe. But the Japanese also wanted to study it.

Within days of the second atomic attack, officials at the Tokyo-based newsreel company Nippon Eigasha discussed shooting film in the two stricken cities. In early September, just after the Japanese surrender, and as the American occupation began, director Ito Sueo set off for Nagasaki. There his crew filmed the utter destruction near ground zero and scenes in hospitals of the badly burned and those suffering from the lingering effects of radiation. On Sept. 15, another crew headed for Hiroshima.

When the first rushes came back to Tokyo, Iwasaki Akira, the chief producer (and well-known film writer), felt "every frame burned into my brain," he later said. At this point, the American public knew little about human conditions and radiation effects in the atomic cities. Newspaper photographs of victims were non-existent, or censored. Life magazine would later observe that for years "the world...knew only the physical facts of atomic destruction."

On October 24, 1945, a Japanese cameraman in Nagasaki was ordered to stop shooting by an American military policeman. His film, and then the rest of the 26,000 feet of Nippon Eisasha footage, was confiscated by the U.S. General Headquarters (GHQ). An order soon arrived banning all further filming. At this point Lt. Daniel McGovern took charge.

In early September 1945, McGovern had become one of the first Americans to arrive in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was a director with the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, organized by the Army the previous November to study the effects of the air campaign against Germany, and now Japan.

As he made plans to shoot the official American record, McGovern learned about the seizure of the Japanese footage. He felt it would be a waste to not take advantage of the newsreel footage, noting in a letter to his superiors that "the conditions under which it was taken will not be duplicated, until another atomic bomb is released under combat conditions." McGovern proposed hiring some of the Japanese crew to shoot more footage and edit and "caption" the material, so it would have "scientific value."

About the same time, McGovern was ordered by General Douglas MacArthur on January 1, 1946 to document the results of the U.S. air campaign in more than 20 Japanese cities. His crew would shoot exclusively in color film, Kodachrome and Technicolor, rarely used at the time even in Hollywood.

While all this was going on, the Japanese newsreel team was completing its work of editing and labeling their black and white footage into a rough cut of just under three hours. At this point, several members of the Japanese team took the courageous step of ordering from the lab a duplicate of the footage they had shot before the Americans took over the project. Director Ito later said: "The four of us agreed to be ready for 10 years of hard labor in case of being discovered." One incomplete, silent print would reside in a ceiling until the Occupation ended in 1952.

The negative of the finished Japanese film, nearly 15,000 feet of footage on 19 reels, was sent off to the U.S. in early May 1946. The Japanese were also ordered to include in this shipment all photographs and related material. The footage would be labeled SECRET and not emerge from the shadows for more than 20 years.

During this period, McGovern was looking after both the Japanese and the American footage. Fearful that the Japanese film might get lost forever in the military/government bureaucracy, he secretly made a 16 mm print and deposited it in the U.S. Air Force Central Film Depository at Wright-Patterson. There it remained out of sight, and generally out of mind.  On Sept. 12, 1967, the Air Force transferred the Japanese footage to the National Archives Audio Visual Branch in Washington, with the film "not to be released without approval of DOD (Department of Defense)."

Then, one morning in the summer of 1968, Erik Barnouw, author of landmark histories of film and broadcasting, opened his mail to discover a clipping from a Tokyo newspaper sent by a friend. It indicated that the U.S. had finally shipped to Japan a copy of black and white newsreel footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese had negotiated with the State Department for its return. From the Pentagon, Barnouw learned that the original nitrate film had been quietly turned over to the National Archives and went to take a look.

Soon Barnouw realized that, despite its marginal film quality, "enough of the footage was unforgettable in its implications, and historic in its importance, to warrant duplicating all of it," he later wrote. Attempting to create a subtle, quiet, even poetic, black and white film, he and his associates cut it from 160 to 16 minutes, with a montage of human effects clustered near the end for impact.

Barnouw arranged a screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and invited the press. A throng turned out and sat in respectful silence at its finish. "Hiroshima-Nagasaki 1945" proved to be a sketchy but quite moving document of the aftermath of the bombing, captured in grainy but often startling black and white images: shadows of objects or people burned into walls, ruins of schools, miles of razed landscape viewed from the roof of a building.

 In the weeks ahead, however, none of the (then) three TV networks expressed interest in airing it. "Only NBC thought it might use the film," Barnouw later wrote, "if it could find a 'news hook.' We dared not speculate what kind of event this might call for." But then an article appeared in Parade magazine, and an editorial in the Boston Globe blasted the networks, saying that everyone in the country should see this film: "Television has brought the sight of war into America's sitting rooms from Vietnam. Surely it can find 16 minutes of prime time to show Americans what the first A-bombs, puny by today's weapons, did to people and property 25 years ago."

This at last pushed public television into the void. What was then called National Educational Television (NET) agreed to show the documentary on August 3, 1970, to coincide with the 25th anniversary of dropping the bomb. "I feel that classifying all of this filmed material was a misuse of the secrecy system since none of it had any military or national security aspect at all," Barnouw told me. "The reason must have been -- that if the public had seen it and Congressmen had seen it -- it would have been much harder to appropriate money for more bombs."

The Barnouw film first (below), then my trailer for my book on the color U.S. footage.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Over the Alps

When we did a flyover some October a few years back.

Travelin' Man

Reduced blogging again Tuesday, back at school (wow, haven't said that in awhile). 

David Bowie Counts the Number of Actual 'Moderate' Rebels in Syria

"Rebel, Rebel."

Flash Mobbing Beethoven

In light of protests in Hong Kong this week, I'm re-posting this:  Over the past year, I've chronicled here the global phenomenon of flash mob musicians (and often singers) performing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," to wild reactions in, for example, Spain, Lithuania, and Hartford, CT.   One of best I've found (see below) possibly the best of all, so far, in Hong Kong, under the banner of "Ode to Change."  But the flash mobs also take place in more modest venues such as a farmer's market in Austin, TX.   Or a high school.   Or a college, with dancers. All of this, of course, closely tied to our new film, Following the Ninth.

Moyers Retiring, for Real, in January

Bill Moyers tried to quit earlier this year but we kept pulling him back in.  He did cut his public TV show from an hour to half-hour but now he says he's walking away for good in January.  I've been on his shows two times in the past decade or so, related to Iraq, and he blurbed my book on the subject, advising folks to read it "twice."  He also did an amazing segment on our Beethoven Ninth film last December.  Here's hoping our loss will be his gain.

When Bill Moyers Probed Media and Iraq

Eight years ago--that is, five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq--the first major TV special hitting the press performance appeared.   No surprise, it came from Bill Moyers in April 2007.  Here's how I wrote ahout it at the time, as drawn from my new e-book on media malpractice and the war, which, by the way, was hailed by Moyers, who advised reading it "twice."  (Photo left: Bill, yours truly, John Wolcott, Jonathan Landay)

The most powerful indictment of the news media for falling down in  its duties in the run-up to the war in Iraq will appear on April 25, a 90-minute PBS broadcast called "Buying the War," which marks the return of "Bill Moyers Journal."  While much of the evidence of the media's role as cheerleaders for the war presented here is not new, it is skillfully assembled, with many fresh quotes from interviews (with the likes of Tim Russert and Walter Pincus) along with numerous embarrassing examples of past statements by journalists and pundits that proved grossly misleading or wrong. Several prominent media figures, prodded by Moyers, admit the media failed miserably, though few take personal responsibility.

The war continues today, now in its fifth year, with the death toll for Americans and Iraqis rising again -- yet Moyers points out, "the press has yet to come to terms with its role in enabling the Bush Administration to go to war on false pretenses."

Among the few heroes of this devastating film are reporters with the Knight Ridder/McClatchy bureau in D.C. Tragically late, Walter Isaacson, who headed CNN, observes, "The people at Knight Ridder were calling the colonels and the lieutenants and the people in the CIA and finding out, you know, that the intelligence is not very good. We should've all been doing that."

At the close, Moyers mentions some of the chief proponents of the war who refused to speak to him for this program, including Thomas Friedman, Bill Kristol, Roger Ailes, Charles Krauthammer, Judith Miller, and William Safire.  But Dan Rather, the former CBS anchor, admits, "I don't think there is any excuse for, you know, my performance and the performance of the press in general in the roll up to the war. We didn't dig enough. And we shouldn't have been fooled in this way."                                                         

Bob Simon, who had strong doubts about evidence for war, was asked by Moyers if he pushed any of the top brass at CBS to "dig deeper," and he replies, "No, in all honesty, with a thousand mea culpas, I don't think we followed up on this." Instead he covered the marketing of the war in a "softer" way, explaining to Moyers: "I think we all felt from the beginning that to deal with a subject as explosive as this, we should keep it, in a way, almost light – if that doesn't seem ridiculous."

Moyers replies: "Going to war, almost light."

Walter Isaacson is pushed hard by Moyers and finally admits, "We didn't question our sources enough." But why? Isaacson notes there was "almost a patriotism police" after 9/11 and when the network showed civilian casualties it would get phone calls from advertisers and the administration and "big people in corporations were calling up and saying, 'You're being anti-American here.'"

Moyers then mentions that Isaacson had sent a memo to staff, leaked to the Washington Post, in which he declared, "It seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan" and ordered them to balance any such images with reminders of 9/11. Moyers also asserts that editors at the Panama City (Fla.) News-Herald received an order from above, "Do not use photos on Page 1A showing civilian casualties. Our sister paper has done so and received hundreds and hundreds of threatening emails."

Walter Pincus of the Washington Post explains that even at his paper reporters "do worry about sort of getting out ahead of something." But Moyers gives credit to my old friend,  Charles J. Hanley of The Associated Press,  for trying, in vain, to draw more attention to United Nations inspectors failing to find WMD in early 2003.

The disgraceful press reaction to Colin Powell's presentation at the United Nations seems like something out of Monty Python, with one key British report cited by Powell being nothing more than a student's thesis, downloaded from the Web -- with the student later threatening to charge U.S. officials with "plagiarism."

Phil Donahue recalls that he was told he could not feature war dissenters alone on his MSNBC talk show and always had to have "two conservatives for every liberal." Moyers resurrects a leaked NBC memo about Donahue's firing that claimed he "presents a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war. At the same time our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."

Moyers also throws some stats around: In the year before the invasion William Safire (who predicted a "quick war" with Iraqis cheering their liberators) wrote "a total of 27 opinion pieces fanning the sparks of war." The Washington Post carried at least 140 front-page stories in that same period making the administration's case for attack. In the six months leading to the invasion the Post would "editorialize in favor of the war at least 27 times."

Of the 414 Iraq stories broadcast on NBC, ABC and CBS nightly news in the six months before the war, almost all could be traced back to sources solely in the White House, Pentagon or State Dept., Moyers tells Russert, who offers no coherent reply.

The program closes on a sad note, with Moyers pointing out that "so many of the advocates and apologists for the war are still flourishing in the media." He then runs a pre-war clip of President Bush declaring, "We cannot wait for the final proof: the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." Then Moyers explains: "The man who came up with it was Michael Gerson, President Bush's top speechwriter.
"He has left the White House and has been hired by the Washington Post as a columnist."
NOTE:  Moyers recently did a full segment on the new film that I co-produced, Following the Ninth, on the amazing political and cultural influence of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and "Ode to Joy."

Greg Mitchell’s new edition of So Wrong for So Long includes a preface by Bruce Springsteen, a new introduction and a lengthy afterword with updates right up to Bradley Manning’s hearing last month. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

In Our Drone Time

John Oliver's main segment last night on those objects that are ruining blue skies forever for kids in certain foreign lands.  Oliver also covered Ayn Rand--and porn in...Kansas.

Young Aretha

Frankly, didn't know she made a number of Shindig appearances, well before she was well-known, below from 1964 in a great tune, and yes that's Darlene Love in back-up group The Blossoms.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

El Khorasan (Not)

Well, I said from the start that The Khorasan Group sounded more like a private equity firm than a terror unit.  Now Glenn Greenwald and an associate claim in a new piece that it was nothing but hype to justify bombing Syria.
After spending weeks depicting ISIS as an unprecedented threat – too radical even for Al Qaeda! – administration officials suddenly began spoon-feeding their favorite media organizations and national security journalists tales of a secret group that was even scarier and more threatening than ISIS, one that posed a direct and immediate threat to the American Homeland. Seemingly out of nowhere, a new terror group was created in media lore...
There are serious questions about whether the Khorasan Group even exists in any meaningful or identifiable manner. Aki Peritz, a CIA counterterrorism official until 2009, told Time: “I’d certainly never heard of this group while working at the agency,” while Obama’s former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford said: ”We used the term [Khorasan] inside the government, we don’t know where it came from….All I know is that they don’t call themselves that.” As the Intercept was finalizing this article, former terrorism federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy wrote in National Review that the group was a scam: “You haven’t heard of the Khorosan Group because there isn’t one. It is a name the administration came up with, calculating that Khorosan … had sufficient connection to jihadist lore that no one would call the president on it.”

Secret Beethoven Man

This makes my day.  Two of the greats!  P.F. Sloan, writer of "Eve of Destruction" (which I bought nearly 50 years ago) and "Secret Agent Man" (he also played the famous guitar riffs on the original) and so many other hits, now out with an album titled "My Beethoven."  You can click on the song titles, with references to Ludwig or the "Joy of the Ninth," and hear snippets.  Not sure where he's coming from, but he did sit down for lunch with director of the new film "Following the Ninth" (which I co-produced) in California this month.  The film, by the way, just had its sold-out Germany premieres in Berlin and Munich.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ferguson Cop Shot

Twitter reported it first, and turned out to be true.  Cop, a woman, still alive (may have been shot in arm only).  Twitter folks also claim a suspect, or another young man, shot by a cop.  Very unconfirmed.  Press report sketchy. Capt.  Johnson says no suspect shot--he fled into the woods.   Asks protesters to leave but tensions high.  UPDATE:   Police say cop came upon two men in closed center who fled, shooting at officer.

Shooting Up the White House

Amazing Wash Post account reveals that the shooting up of the White House in 2011 far more dangerous than depicted at time--with several shots entering the residence, Obama's daughter and mother-in-law there and other daughter nearby.  But more than anything--the bungled Secret Service response.   They were ordered to stand down when falsely told gunshots were just backfire.
That command was the first of a string of security lapses, never previously reported, as the Secret Service failed to identify and properly investigate a serious attack on the White House. While the shooting and eventual arrest of the gunman, Oscar R. Ortega-Hernandez, received attention at the time, neither the bungled internal response nor the potential danger to the Obama daughters has been publicly known. This is the first full account of the Secret Service’s confusion and the missed clues in the incident — and the anger the president and first lady expressed as a result.

Hymn and You

The two leading hymns--there are at least two classic on every album--from Leonard Cohen's new one.

In the Land of Merton

Had a great first week teaching and subverting young journalists' minds back at St. Bonaventure U on a Lenna Fellowship, now back home briefly for weekend, with another week to go, including public lecture, radio and TV and film, more classes, and so on.   Also was given a tribute dinner and the high honor of being added to what I call their journalism "Wall of Fame" (joining everyone from Dan Barry to, ahem, Neil Cavuto). Great folks and experience.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Beheading in...Oklahoma

Already even bigger news on Fox etc.  Typical story of guy who loses job and comes back to work place and wrecks havoc.  In this case, random woman beheaded with knife--a grim new twist.  Attacker is career criminal who had recently converted to Islam.  NYT has new details on him and attack.   I have an email from MPAC: 
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is horrified by the recent murder in Oklahoma and condemns this heinous act.

We send our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Colleen Hufford and our thoughts and prayers are with Traci Johnson. We are in close communication with law enforcement agencies and government officials. We will provide updates as new details arise.

MPAC’s mission is to improve public understanding of Islam and shape policies that impact American Muslims by engaging our government, media and communities. Our vision is that America flourishes through the vital contributions of American Muslims.

From the Reality Show Hall of Fame

It was my next-to-last year at Crawdaddy but somehow we missed this 1978 classic "rock and roll sports" reality competition featuring (hold your breath):  Michael Jackson and Joan Jett (running 100 yard dash), Rod Stewart, Ed McMahon, Phyllis Diller, ELO, Seals & Crofts, Michelle Phillips, other Jacksons, Kenny Loggins, ShaNaNa, Sandy Duncan, Anne Murray, Susan Anton, and the list goes on and on!