March 31, 2008
Dith Pran, September 27, 1942 – March 30, 2008
I was a young, fairly directionless punk in high school when I first watched The Killing Fields. It was the first film I saw that shocked me into realizing that we live in a fucked-up world and that it takes people of courage beyond my comprehension to overcome the worst aspects of it, which are also incomprehensible. Dith Pran's true story, along with the fictional Apocalypse Now, Coming Home and The Deer Hunter, helped light a fire of conscience and pacifism within me. I recall being at a house party once where a group of us was watching the latter movie, now considered the more right-wing view on Vietnam, in the wee hours. Most of the others cheered when Robert DeNiro's and Christopher Walken's characters end up blowing away their captors in the first Russian Roulette scene, but I was repulsed. The cement hardened a bit more when I had to walk out on a discussion of Coming Home in which a loud and inebriated older cousin of a friend, 4-F in the draft, couldn't be persuaded to stop harping about Hanoi Jane. Along with the burgeoning conscience came forth a previously unknown acerbic wit, as I recall my parting shot to the drunk as "Cry me a river, flatfoot. You weren't over there."
The unassuming Pran is now immortalized in history and on the personal hero lists of millions, including myself.
From dithpran.org :
On April 17th, 1975 the Khmer Rouge, a communist guerrilla group led by Pol Pot, took power in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. They forced all city dwellers into the countryside and to labor camps. During their rule, it is estimated that 2 million Cambodians died by starvation, torture or execution. 2 million Cambodians represented approximately 30% of the Cambodian population during that time.
The Khmer Rouge turned Cambodia to year zero. They banned all institutions including stores, banks, hospitals, schools, religion, and the family. Everyone was forced to work 12-14 hours a day, every day. Children were separated from their parents to work in mobile groups or as soldiers. People were fed one watery bowl of soup with a few grains of rice thrown in. Babies, children, adults and the elderly were killed everywhere. The Khmer Rouge killed people if they didn’t like them, if didn’t work hard enough, if they were educated, if they came from different ethnic groups, or if they showed sympathy when their family members were taken away to be killed. All were killed without reason. Everyone had to pledge total allegiance to Angka, the Khmer Rouge government. It was a campaign based on instilling constant fear and keeping their victims off balance.
After the Vietnamese invaded and liberated the Cambodian people from the Khmer Rouge, 600,000 Cambodians fled to Thai border camps. Ten million land mines were left in the ground, one for every person in Cambodia. The United Nations installed the largest peacekeeping mission in the world in Cambodia in 1991 to ensure free and fair elections after the withdrawal of the Vietnamese troops. Cambodia was turned upside down during the Khmer Rouge years and the country has the daunting task of healing physically, mentally and economically.
Here are two good remembrances from Pran's colleagues.
March 26, 2008
"In remembrance of the 4,000 brave men and women who sacrificed everything for us -and the two men who would continue this great tragedy, despite the cost to our soldiers, our military, and our nation. "
- Nico Pitney at Huffington Post
Senator John McCain looks to be the Republican Party's nominee for president, so in the interest of helping undecided voters who may be considering a pull for the GOP this November, let’s examine some facts* about the Senator’s record on the Iraq war. While McCain has presented himself as a maverick and a critic of the war, a close read shows that his position has consistently matched that of the Bush administration.
Before The War:
McCain said that a policy of containing
“I know that as successful as I believe we will be, and I believe that the success will be fairly easy, we will still lose some American young men or women.” [CNN,
McCain co-sponsored the Use of Force Authorization that gave President George W. Bush the green light - and a blank check - for going to war with
McCain has constantly moved the goal posts of progress for the war—repeatedly saying it would be over soon. “But the point is that, one, we will win this conflict. We will win it easily.” [MSNBC,
McCain argued Saddam was “a threat of the first order, and only a change of regime will make
McCain echoed Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld’s rationale for going to war. McCain: “It’s going to send the message throughout the
During The War:
McCain echoed Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld’s talking points that the
McCain praised Bush’s leadership on the war. McCain: “I think the president has led with great clarity and I think he’s done a great job leading the country...” [MSNBC, Hardball,
McCain voted against holding Bush accountable for his actions in the war. McCain opposed the creation of an independent commission to investigate the development and use of intelligence leading up to the war in
McCain defended Bush’s rationale for war. Asked if he thought the president exaggerated the case for war, McCain said, “I don’t think so.” [Fox News,
McCain praised Donald Rumsfeld two weeks after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal broke in April 2004. Asked if Rumsfeld can continue to be an effective secretary of defense, McCain: “Yes, today I do and I believe he’s done a fine job. He’s an honorable man.” [Hannity and Colmes,
McCain repeatedly supported President Bush on the Iraq War - voting with him in the Senate, defending his actions and publicly praising his leadership.
At the 2004 Republican National Convention, McCain, focusing on the war in
“The terrorists know that this is a very critical time.” [CNN,
“Overall, I think a year from now, we will have a fair amount of progress [in
“We’re either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months.” [NBC, Meet the Press,
McCain opposed efforts to end the overextension of the military that is having a devastating impact on our troops.
McCain voted against requiring mandatory minimum downtime between tours of duty for troops serving in
McCain was one of only 13 senators to vote against adding $430 million for inpatient and outpatient care for veterans. [Vote #98,
McCain has consistently opposed any plan to withdraw troops from Iraq, repeatedly voting against a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq [Vote # 322, 11/15/05; Vote #182, 6/22/06; Vote #181, 6/22/06; Vote #182, 6/22/06; Vote #182, 6/22/06; Vote #252, 7/18/07; Vote #345, 9/21/07; Vote #346, 9/21/07; Vote # 362, 10/3/07; Vote # 437, 12/18/07; Vote #438, 12/18/07]
McCain called proponents of a congressional resolution opposing the troop surge in
McCain has consistently demonized Americans who want to find a responsible way to remove troops from
“I believe to set a date for withdrawal is to set a date for surrender.” [Charlotte Observer,
McCain continues to maintain that the occupation of
McCain has been President Bush’s most ardent Senate supporter on
Asked if the war was a good idea worth the price in blood and treasure McCain said, “It was worth getting rid of Saddam Hussein. He had used weapons of mass destruction, and it’s clear that he was hell-bent on acquiring them.” [Republican Debate,
McCain now says he sees no end to the presence of
“Make it a hundred” years in
“A thousand years. A million years. Ten million years. It depends on the arrangement we have with the Iraqi government.” [Associated Press,
* source: VoteVets.org
So please, fence-sitters, don't be responsible for bringing four more years of this nightmare to bear. A hat tip to Archer for the link to the mosaic.
March 25, 2008
Weather or not
There's a saying popular in just about any region of the U.S. that I've ever traveled, that being, "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes." With the certain exception of the dog days of summer, this could be said of the South. I provide here photographic evidence for the slightly more patient:
March 23, 2008
The blackjack meme
Inspired by Miz UV and Sour Grapes:
O' Tim answers twenty-one questions
1. What was the last blog you left a comment on?
2. Favorite black and white movie?
3. What’s in your freezer right now?
Oh man: frozen veggies & fruit, veggie burgers, veggie chicken nuggets, waffles, lasagna, spinach & feta ravioli, two beer glasses, Stouffer’s alfredo stir-fry stuff, ice, and two really old popsicles
4. How many pillows do you have on your bed?
Five. The extras work great for blocking out the sun on those days I sleep until .
5. Do you regularly share your bed with anyone?
6. Do you sleep in Pajamas, undies, nude, or other?
Undies – I toss a lot so tops are uncomfortable
7. If you won $50,000, what would you do with it?
Upgrade one of our vehicles, get new flooring, carpet, some (baby) furniture, new deck, hot tub and save the $15,000 that’s left. Or forego most of that and look for a new house because it is a buyer’s market right now.
8. Something nice you did for someone today?
I let my wife go back to bed this morning to sleep off a bad headache.
9. Something bad you did to someone today?
Said that MIL’s boyfriend’s Jell-O salad looked like it had worms in it because of the thin slices of orange peel (it was really tasty and I said so later).
10. Hardest class you took in school?
Junior year algebra
11. Ever been in a car accident?
Yes – I was in junior high and mom was taking us to school on a snowy morning. A woman with her kids ran a stop sign and smacked us really hard, and she died at the scene.
12. What is one food you won’t eat?
Liver or kidney (organs in general, I suppose)
Because they filter crap from the blood
14. Would you ever eat dog meat?
Not if I could help it
15. What is something as a child you wanted to grow up to become, but didn’t?
A baseball player
16. Name one place in the
17. Name one place outside the
Any place in the European
18. Favorite smells?
Eucalyptus, patchouli, skunk (just a whiff from a distance), grilled steak, fresh gasoline, orange, the upper palate of a good porter, the loamy earth of a hemlock forest, the air above a mountain stream, campfires and (inspired by Sour Grapes) a baby’s head.
19. If you could pick any game show to compete on, which would it be?
Jeopardy or One vs. 100 because it seems really easy.
20. Where did you go on your last real vacation and who did you go with?
21. Your best birthday was for which age?
I'm passing this meme along to the following four:
March 22, 2008
After being skunked in last year's competition, I was happy to hear of my being bestowed with two Georgia Press Association Awards this year. For our division (like 'Q' or something way down the alphabet for tiny twice-weeklies) I received third place for feature writing, which I consider my strong suit, and first place for investigative reporting, by which I was pleasantly surprised but also feel a bit awkward - more on that in a minute.
First, a small paper doesn't usually have the kind of budget to pay its reporters for long hours on a deep story, but I had the responsibility for covering one subject that was major news in our area for months (and still has a way to go toward resolution and possible closure, if at all). The story, and I hate using that term for someone's real life tragedy, is about a local 911 dispatcher who disappeared and how her cop husband (soon to be ex) became the prime suspect. He was indeed recently charged with her murder despite authorities not having found her body. Lots of intrigue, including another cop buddy charged with lying to authorities and hacking into the woman's computer, and the hubby losing his job after they found C-4 explosive in his work locker. I wrote several articles throughout the months following her disappearance on search efforts, family and friends holding community vigils, and a renowned forensic psychologist who analyzed a very unsettling television interview that the husband gave. The case drew national attention for a while and I appeared (or my voice did) on both CNN's Nancy Grace Show and Fox's On The Record with Greta Van Susteren. Heady times for an ex-welder who had tossed his hat into the journalism game a mere two years prior.
But the accolade comes bittersweetly, and even more so with the fact that I was informed of my achievement one year to the day that the missing and likely murdered woman was last seen by her family. It has been the most difficult assignment in my short career to talk, on several occasions, with members of that grieving family, and frankly it's been impossible to remain neutral in the face of such grief coupled with much strong circumstantial evidence against the husband. I do not aspire to be an investigative reporter - I only submitted the three articles required for the competition because they were eligible and I had worked hard on them. Congratulations seem a bit off-kilter in the light of what the woman's family is going through. It was especially poignant that my own sister passed away rather suddenly during the peak of all this, because I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go see her one last time. This family that I came to know, and the community she lived and worked in, didn't get that chance. And by all accounts their daughter, sister, aunt and friend was a wonderful, kind and caring person that certainly deserved better than being rubbed out and discarded in some unorthodox, anonymous grave. I will hang the plaque on my wall like it is designed to be - a recognition. But it will also act as another reminder of just how fleeting life can be in this all-too-often mean and cold world, one that I cannot say as a reporter that I am glad to be a part of.
March 12, 2008
The Monthly Max
March Movie Madness Maxie Milestone Edition:
March 10, 2008
We be FREAKIN ! ! !
The event of the season has arrived! March Movie Madness 2008 is upon us! This year it's a fethtival of 64 comedy classics, with yours truly again providing the hard-hitting commentary that freaks need to know the score. Get your Big Lebowski (not an endorsement, though it could be) over to Film Freaks Film Club and see what all the hoopla is aboot.
To set the mood, a clip from my dark horse candidate:
March 04, 2008
The inimitable* D-Cup...
...has a wonderful flurry of favorite Rethuglican hypocrisies flying in her comments section over at Politits. Go - listen - learn - contribute. Now.
* Would that she were not so inimitable, for then we would have a world of bigger breasts, clean(er) living and kick-ass blogs. I'm doing my part, mostly on the former.