Wednesday, February 29, 2012






♫Hey, hey, we're the...♫ (um, actually not anymore)... So Davy Jones, lead singer of The Monkees died today of a heart attack in Florida at the age of 66. While I was never a fan of the band, I do remember watching the tv show as kid as the corny humor was right at home with the zany, wacky slapstick that also fit in with the landscape that was The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, The Addams Family and I Dream of Jeannie (some taste, huh)? What stuck out most about them for me was how much they were heavily slagged off for being a manufactured & lamer version of The Beatles (at best, pale imitators & at worst, weak knockoffs). In some ways, too much wholesomeness kinda hurt them and there always seemed to be accusations of them lip-synching or having to face dismissiveness for not being credible enough musicians. And of course there was the ridicule for their reunions - seemingly a cheesy novelty allowed to go on for too long. But for all the dissing thrown at them, they had their loyal fans who stuck like glue, forever viewing the little British frontman as their beloved pop idol. Perhaps the best thing about The Monkees was their surreal 1968 movie 'HEAD' produced by Jack Nicholson (and no shortage of LSD) which definitely had people scratching their heads. Not surprisongly, it flopped at the box-office. It's a weird, almost deliberately drug-induced, stream of consciousness film that seems to be strung along by an explosion of crazy ideas, many old film clips, gags & disjointed vignettes making some type of commentary about then-present war & violence in society that scars the psyche. Yet quite noticably, it still contains an overall element of the band not taking themselves too seriously while for the very first time, simultaneously taking on the roll of jaded cynicism. It's further unusual mix of guest stars like Dennis Hopper & Frank Zappa appeared to be a means to maybe jolt the band away from the cultivated teenybopper/bubblegum image, but the unlikely Hollywood cameos certainly helped however with the predictable negative misunderstanding that followed. With musical numbers from Broadway song n' dance to psychedilica (some of the happy bounce infact just a layering for dark lyrical matter), HEAD is a bizarre n' trippy, post-modernist, devoid of plot, incoherent mess (with a cult following, no less) that definitely should be seen if for no other reason than it was truthfully innovative & ahead of its time. I'll say this for Jones: hurtled to fame in the aftershock of the Fab 4's massive success, if the man could emerge from controversy & criticism (as a free form product of the hype n' hysteria amongst others surrounding & synonymous with the decade) as upbeat or bitter-free from being beholden to the adorable goofball persona, then hats off to him. To embrace the easy-going fun that came from that era & still carry it on (where others struggle for years to escape a plaguing typecast & have difficulty turning the joke on themselves) - even as the counterculture seemed to pass the band by - and to go onto living peacefully content (as opposed to an uneasy settling), then certainly one has to consider that as being a life where the good outweighed the bad by considerbale distance. And so the day trudges on with the radio playing the hits in tribute... R.I.P.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ONE SMALL SIP FOR MAN, ONE BIG GULP FOR MANKIND


Time is silent & eons pass. Mind & matter come together only to explode. Civilization. Africa. The Middle East. Greece. China. The founding and development of philosophy, art, agriculture, law, religion, sicence, medicine. The power of the collective - of society - takes hold around much of the world. The Shang & Zhou dynasties. The Roman Empire. Confucius. Democracy in Athens. The written sacred story spins the wheel of history. Hippocrates, Democritus, Socrates, Plato & Aristotle. Buddhism, Hindu scripture. Ancient & archaic giving way to new authority and newer struggles. Ptolemaic cosmology, Galenic healing. And finally at every level - hate, violence, conflict, war, then decadence & military excess. The bubble closes. The idea crumbles. The original premise fades. the collapse of empire begins. Again, a new kind of silence arrives. A great period of gestation. A harsh conformity to religious hierarchy weighs on the individual spirit. Turning & turning, time slows down. As consciousness dims, the memory of past existence drifts into oblivion. With little sense of oppurtunity, life becomes a circle with repetition built upon a rotating cycle of repetition. Then with all possibilities forgotten, a match strikes. A glow appears, faint at first. From the darkness, we step into the Renaissnce. Whoosh. And in the whirlwind of a single year, 2 great modern physicists exit & enter: Galileo Galilei dies while Isaac Newton is born. Enlightenment has erupted. A celebration of potential allows for the building of a towering utopia in which people are free from the punishing forces of nature & superstition. Imagination is heralded. They sky is the limit. Rebellion & revolution shakes Western Europe and America. The sheer power of the acceleration strips the moment of its vestiges of tradition. Progress is unshackled. Science is fused with adventure. Benjamin Franklin's lightning rod; Eli Whitney's cotton gin; George Stephenson' locomotive; Samuel Morse's telegram; Richard Gatling's machine gun; Thomas Edison's lightbulb; Alexander Graham Bell's telephone; Karl Benz's automobile; George Eastman's camera; Edwin Prescott's roller coaster. A sudden shift in art & literature follows a growing unease that the world - brilliant but brutal - is built of chaos. Carl Friedrich Gauss's non-Euclidian geometry threatens the unity of math & science; Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" prompts riots; Albert Einstein crushes time & space; James Joyce drags the novel into the river of subjectiveness. New freedoms are demanded & reaped. From an astonishing height, in July 1969, the Greek God Apollo is transformed into a modern hero as an astronaut takes the most famous walk for all of humanity. The pinnacle & zenith of capability and outstanding achievement. There we were. Is it all downhill from here? Then & now, where does the breakdown begin? Atomic bombs over Japan? Several million Jews killed bya democratically elected regime? Ethnic leansing? In some forgotten moment, the answer is lost & modernism withers. A new era of recognition begins. Observing the ceremony of hybrids and pluralties, ambiguity and doubt, fragmentation and irony. marking the meaning in multiple meanings. With a present familiar haste, society embraces the many parallel worlds through which reality forms & is experienced. There's a man behind the curtain & he wears no clothes. The lies are big & they are legion for truth is not truth but power. Instability is oppurtunity. Time is ether. Objectivity is internal perspective. Knowledge is being. Essence is sentience. Reality is story. Stories are language. Language is a game. Science is ideology. Ego is DNA. Humanity is flesh. Flesh is disposition (or inherent surrounding). Nature is technology. Technology is us. Evolution flips a switch everytime. Such is the creation, advancement & destruction of species. We & everyone are machines... The dream dies but the dreamer awakens.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

JANUARY 15, 1947 (REQUIEM FOR ELIZABETH SHORT)

65yrs ago today, one of the most infamous crimes in all the annals of American murder occured... On Jan 9, 1947 - almost as if scripted directly from underworld film noir with her enduring nickname & sometimes difficult circumstances - Elizabeth Short left the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles for the nearby low-rent Olive Street bar & vanished, only to be found (by a local resident walking her 3yr old daughter) severed in two, heavily mutilated, nude, completely drained of blood & posed in a vacant Crenshaw District lot 6 days later. Since the horrific discovery with its inflicted trauma, this one iconic murder mystery has lingered unsolved at the forefront of the American imagination with dozens of books, documentaries n' films dedicated to solving the gruesome slaying of the Massachusetts girl who came to Hollywood (via Florida) with actress aspirations, hoping to make it big (the popular narrative of her being portrayed as a troubled runaway turned call girl has been vehemently discounted) only to flounder through empty promises of a screen career never developed. The ensuing case filled with widespread speculation & sordid rumors, was sensationalist headline news for weeks with the believed killer (calling himself the 'Black Dahlia Avenger') having at one point phoned the editor of the L.A. Examiner newspaper & later mailing items (her birth certificate, business cards, photographs, names written on pieces of paper & an address book) belonging to Short. Along with taunting cut n' paste letters came links between the notorious Cleveland Torso Murders of 1935-38 (also involving an unidentified killer) and the Red Lipstick Murder of 45yr old ex-nurse Jeanne French on Feb 10, 1947. (The press had dubbed the killer 'Werewolf' as he was suspected in several previous unsolved slayings. French's body was found nude, beaten & mutilated with the phrase 'Fuck You BD' written on her midsection & although the coroner said the writing was infact PD, the possible reference to Black Dahlia had been cast).

Many historians & crime experts have cited varying opinions for the investigation stalling with reasons including interfering self-agenda reporters trampling evidence - prior to now modern forensic techniques, withholding information, relying on sketchy sources that clouded judgements & roaming freely in department offices meddling with files. By complicating matters in their rush to get scoops or with greedy biased oppurtunism that would advance careers, these factors arguably contributed to the prevention of police (hundreds of officers borrowed from other agencies) taking control immediately. More disturbing however are the LAPD themselves proving to be perhaps their own liability. With reputations already steeped in corruption & often even brutality, the most hindering flaw of the force to solve the mystery may have been the inability to accept a new kind of psychological profiling --- detectives didn't believe in 'stranger-on-stranger' killings (even though they had been in existence & prevalent long throughout). The term "serial murder" didn't exist in the police lexicon & infact was more of an emerging latent theory in the field of psychiatric clinical study. Ahead of its time, when offered to law enforcement as a procedural outline to catch criminals, it was rejected as "nonsense science." Atleast 50 men n' women confessed to the crime while dozens of citizens swamped the police with tips. Suspects in the 'Black Dahlia' murder have included L.A. Times publisher Norman Chandler, atleast 2 surgeons, crazed lesbians, twisted drifters, a nightclub n' theater owner, gangster Bugsy Siegel, folk singer Woody Guthrie & more than one writer’s father. Still (most certainly & overwhelmigly because of her tragedy), the fascination remains and as the key to understanding her life continues, Short looms large in pop culture as evidenced from renewed interest with her recent mention in a 2011 video game, a memorable episode of tv show 'American Horror Story' & lastly, her unusual proto-goth make-up which was so different from the typical 'popular girl next door' look of the 1940's.


















TOUCH OF EVIL?
The Black Dahlia is Hollywood's most infamous & shocking unsolved murder. Orson Welles is one of Hollywood's most celebrated filmmakers. Could the larger-than-life auteur have been responsible for the grisly killing? EMPIRE investigates.
(by Simon Braund / Mar 2010)


The Biltmore Hotel, the grande dame of Los Angeles hostelries, has weathered downtown's changing fortunes almost completely unscathed. A solid, brick-built fortress of luxury & opulence, it stands as an old-school rebuke to the chic eateries and hip loft conversions that are gradually reviving what was until a few years ago, an uninhabited ghost town. The lobby of the Biltmore, which opens onto Olive Street & Pershing Square Park, is a splendid affair. Like a miniature baronial banqueting hall it has a high, steeply vaulted ceiling hung with magnificent, faux medieval chandeliers. Heavily ornate yet with its blond marble floor & rich floral rugs, light & airy, it's the perfect place for a spot of afternoon tea or a drink from the tiny bar which nestles in one comer. Apart from a lick of paint here and there on the heraldic embellishments, it has changed hardly at all from the night of January 9, 1947 when 22yr old aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, better known as 'The Black Dahlia', stopped in to use the phone. Short remained in the lobby for roughly an hour. After making her calls, she left the hotel by the front entrance into Pershing Square back then a pleasantly landscaped park with trees & flower beds (a notorious gay pick-up point) rather than the concreted monstrosity it is today. The doorman, a man who obviously appreciated a shapely rump, watched her turn right on Olive & then right again onto 6th Street, an area famous for its dive bars, leeming with returned servicemen, zoot-suiters, B-girls & slumming swells. It was the last time she was seen alive.

When Short's hideously mutilated body was discovered 6 days later - washed clean, cut in half with near-surgical precision & artfully posed - in an empty lot near the intersection of S. Norton Avenue and 39th Street, 5 miles & a world away from the lobby of the Biltmore, The Black Dahlia became a part of LA mythology, written into the fabric of the city as indelibly as the names lining the Walk Of Fame or the handprints on Grauman's Chinese Theater forecourt. The story of The Dahlia is a Hollywood story - even though Elizabeth Short never appeared in a single frame of film. The details of the case or those that are known, and the fact that it remains unsolved could have been drawn from the bleakest of noirs; Short's portentous sobriquet was inspired by the Veronica Lake movie "The Blue Dahlia". And, in her most famous photograph with head thrown back, smiling off camera with her pale, haunting eyes, jet-black hair & porcelain skin, she is the dark mirror image of the Hollywood dream. It was not The Dahlia's fate to be spotted by a talent agent, sipping milkshakes at Schwab's. Hers was to be picked up in a downtown dive, tortured & horribly murdered, her body dumped in the weeds on S. Norton Avenue for all to see. In the cruellest of ironies, Elizabeth Short found fame in death beyond her wildest dreams, even as it had eluded her in life.

In 1999, a book called Childhood Shadows, one of many tomes generated by The Dahlia cult, hit the shelves. It was written by Mary Pacios, a writer who distinguished herself from the plethora of other Dahlia obsessives by virtue of having known Elizabeth Snort in Medford, Massachusetts. Said the 74yr old Pacios from her home in Wyoming: "Bette Short went to school with my brother. She used to come over to our house & she befriended me when I was a child. She made me feel wanted & I admired her. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. She used to take me to the movies and my most vivid memory of her is the day we went for a walk & I watched her try on a pink-flowered dress in a shop." Pacios claims she wrote Childhood Shadows to set the record straight on who exactly Elizabeth Short was. According to Pacios she was not the runaway drifter & whore of popular imagination but the proverbial nice girl from a nice family. Pacios says she was particularly distressed by the ugly portrayal of Short in James Ellroy's novel The Black Dahlia, adapted into a movie by Brian De Palma in 2006. At one point she along with surviving members of the Short family contemplated suing Ellroy presumably over slander, defamation & emotional distress, saying: "[Ellroy's book] was fiction but it was fiction with a wink, more like Ellroy calling it fiction but implying it was the real story. He used pseudonyms for the police but he used Bette's real name & her mother's real name. He distorted her personality with false claims & made no attempt to discover the real person. I felt Ellroy was destroying our memories, those of the family & friends." Through meticulous research & numerous interviews, Pacios does a fine job of rescuing her friend's reputation. Naturally, she also delves into the bizarre circumstances of Short's death and like every other armchair detective before & since, comes up with her own startling theory on who committed the crime. In doing so, she attempts to tie Elizabeth Short to Hollywood with something far more substantial than the bonds of mere myth. According to Pacios, The Black Dahlia murderer was none other than Orson Welles(!) As in, writer-director-star of the greatest film ever made (Citizen Kane), maverick genius, noted wit, raconteur & cheap sherry pundit Orson Welles. On the face of it, this might - and in fact does sound about as plausible as accusing Elvis of the Kennedy assassination. But if Pacios doesn't make an entirely convincing case for Welles being the culprit, she certainly makes a thorough & thoroughly entertaining one. And you have to admit, as harebrained theories go, it's only as outlandish as the notion that Edward VII was Jack The Ripper.

Pacios began her research into the Dahlia case in 1987. Her interest in Welles was, she says, first piqued by reading Otto Friedrich's excellent book on '40s Hollywood, City Of Nets. In it, Friedrich describes Welles performing a magic act for US servicemen in a circus tent on Cahuenga Boulevard. Billed as 'The Mercury Wonder Show', it culminated in Welles appearing to cut his then-wife, screen goddess Rita Hayworth, in half. The Dahlia's corpse had been sliced cleanly through at the midsection & placed several inches apart; the killer deliberately displaying his handiwork. Harry Cohn, tyrannical head of Columbia Pictures, outraged over Welles using one of his top contract stars as a prop, put a stop to Hayworth 's involvement but Welles continued the routine with a series of high-profile volunteers, among them later talkshow legend Johnny Carson. (He also performed it with Marlene Dietrich during a scene in the 1944 musical revue "Follow The Boys"). To hang the most infamous murder in Los Angeles' entire history on a man for performing an illusion that has been a staple of vaudeville stage magic for over a century, would of course be ridiculous. Even using it as the starting point for an investigation is somewhat suspect but Pacios was sufficiently intrigued to dig deeper, saying: "My approach with Welles was not to try to prove he did it but to try to eliminate him as a suspect, to look for evidence that proved he couldn't have done it. That evidence, remarkably enough however, proved somewhat hard to find. The more I searched, the weirder it became. And as someone in law enforcement said to me, when the coincidences mount up, maybe it's time to investigate a little further."

Scouring all the available information on Welles including several biographies and a great deal of his personal & business correspondence, Pacios at first hypothesises that he suffered from a mental illness known as a diphasic personality. A condition often found in serial killers, this involves the sufferer developing 2 distinct phases of existence -- one an often violent fantasy life where the id reigns supreme; the other a fabricated, outwardly normal public persona. Says Pacios: "Welles displayed many characteristics of the diphasic personality. He had a short fuse, was quick to anger & overreacted when his authority was challenged. The deep-seated anger which drives the diphasic personality can manifest itself as a form of psychological abuse - routinely degrading & instilling fear in others which Welles was wont to do. The diphasic person can function with a support system that allows him to escape the consequences of his actions. But if that support system collapses perhaps through death, divorce or loss of status, it can be the trigger mechanism which unleashes the fantasies. [At the time of the murder] Welles' life was falling apart as Hayworth was divorcing him, the IRS were after him, he had huge debt problems & his professional career was failing." Pacios believes that Welles' condition drove him to channel creative frustrations into aggression; a condition furthermore exacerbated by heavy drug n' alcohol abuse. (Welles' drinking was legendary and he was also a known user of barbiturates & cocaine). As evidence for this, Pacios cites Welles' propensity for ferocious temper tantrums & violent, often misogynistic behaviour both on stage & off. As a child he once manically shredded a nanny's dress with a pair of scissors and acting opposite Eartha Kitt on one occasion, he bit her lip so hard during a kiss she bled profusely. While playing Othello on Broadway, Welles was compelled to apologize to the autdience after attacking actress Gudrun Ure (playing Desdemona) with such force, he almost knocked her unconscious slamming her head repeatedly into a wooden bedpost. Most alarming of all is an incident that took place while Welles was playing Brutus in a production of Julius Caesar. Apparently, he insisted on wielding a real knife in the assassination scene & one night during the performance, he actually stabbed the actor playing Caesar (Joseph Holland) in the chest, severing an artery near his heart. The cast were seen sliding around in pools of blood while the curtain was hastily brought down. Holland survived but was in hospital for 3 months.

Welles' mentor, theatre producer John Houseman, described him in his autobiography as "a monstrous boy... obscene & terrible with an irresistible interior of violence". Pacios also makes much of the fact that author Barbara Learning once claimed that during an interview with Welles, he admitted to paying a woman who had accused him of raping her $20,000 in hush money. This happened in 1945, 2 years before Elizabeth Short's murder. Piling on the so-called 'evidence', Pacios further claims that a decade or more before method acting came into favour, Welles would immerse himself in his roles with almost obsessive fervour. It was a tendency that worried even him. The blurring of fact & fiction was, he believed, a potentially dangerous loss of control. Further corroboration of Welles' turbulent mental state arrives in the shape of an older brother, Richard. 10 years his senior & a diagnosed schizophrenic, he spent much of his adult life in a secure mental institution. Orson detested & feared Richard in equal measure seldom ever discussing him. He regarded him as his mad alter ego & sometimes referred to "The Other Orson", the monster that lurked beneath the surface. Throughout his life, haunted by the spectre of Richard, Orson harboured a deep-seated terror of losing his mind & being incarcerated. All of this sounds very fascinating but it is not only highly circumstantial it's second-hand to boot. Welles had a violent temper & a mentally ill brother; that doesn't make him a homicidal maniac. Then again, Welles' fame does not automatically rule him out as a suspect. Pacios' case is no less compelling than those made against a slew of other suspects by a plethora of other writers. And she has an ace up her sleeve -- at time of the Dahlia murder, Welles was directing & starring in "The Lady From Shanghai", a strange psychological thriller in which Welles plays a tormented sailor fatally obsessed with his boss' wife. It was a characteristically torturous process made all the more so by the fact that his leading lady, Rita Hayworth, was also his co-star in an ongoing & very messy divorce. The stress Welles was under can well be imagined and his drug n' alcohol use at this point was gargantuan, often leading to blackouts. For the finale of the film, Welles, in this precarious emotional n' psychological state, had helped design & build a set for a carnival crazy house. An outlandish affair in any context, the set was decorated with troubling, explicitly violent imagery - the most startling of which involved effigies of naked women severed in half...

Elizabeth Short was born into poverty on July 29, 1924, in Hyde Park, Massachusetts, the 3rd of 5 girls. Her father Cleo built miniature golf courses for a living before going broke during the Wall Street Crash of October 1929. In 1930, he disappeared a presumed suicide when his empty parked car was found on a bridge. (He showed up alive & well some years later living in California). In the meantime, Short was raised by her mother, Phoebe Mae Sawyer, who worked as a bookkeeper in Medford. At the age of 16, to alleviate her asthma & bronchitis, Short was sent to live in Florida during the winter months. 3 years later, she moved to Vallejo, California, to live with her father who worked nearby at a Naval Shipyard on San Francisco Bay. Following a quarrel, she left & found work at a post office near Lompoc then moved to Santa Barbara where she was arrested on September 23, 1943, for underage drinking. She was sent back to Medford but for the next few years, lived mostly in Florida supporting herself by working as a waitress. She made occassional visits back to Massachusetts. While in Florida, she met a young Air Force commando named Major Matthew Michael Gordon Jr., who was training for a posting in the Eastern theatre. According to Short, Gordon wrote her a letter from India proposing marriage. At the time, Gordon was recovering from a plane crash, the result of his attempt to rescue a downed flier. Short accepted the offer but before Gordon could return to the States, he was killed in another crash on August 10, 1945 (a day after the Nagasaki bombing). According to his obituary, Gordon was a highly decorated war hero, recipient of a Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star, the Air Medal with 15 oak-leaf clusters and a Purple Heart. What psychological effect Gordon's death had on Short is impossible to gauge but she later embellished the story, telling friends that she & Gordon had actually been married and that they'd had a child who died in infancy. Gordon's friends in the air commandos did confirm that the couple were engaged, but after Short's murder, Gordon's family denied any connection that the couple had ever even known each other.

Short returned to Los Angeles in July 1946 to see an old boyfriend, Lt. Gordon Fickling, who was stationed in Long Beach. Because of her notable penchant for wearing black, some believe it was apparently here that a drugstore pharmacist coined her nickname (either that or the Dahlia name being attributed to newspaper reporters covering the murder). According to photographs, Fickling was a dashingly handsome man but nevertheless, Short continued her dalliances with other men. Hers & Fickling's was a stormy relationship from the start and eventually fed up with Short's infidelities, Fickling moved to North Carolina to work as an airline pilot. They stayed in touch however & he continued sending her money. Fickling received his last letter from Short one week before she was killed. She told him she was moving to Chicago in the hope of becoming a model. There is something wrenchingly sad in that. Not just because she never made it to Chicago but also because if she had, you sense she'd have spent her time there much as she did in Hollywood, drifting between cheap hotels, shabby apartment buildings & seedy rooming houses in pursuit of another elusive dream.
Short once told friends she had fallen for a man she called only "Red" & after her murder, police tracked down & held Robert 'Red' Manley. At first he denied knowing Short but then admitted he did know her but that nothing had happened between them, having been the last person to be seen with her on Jan 8, before she disappeared the next day. He identified her handbag purse & one of her shoes after they were discovered in a trash can. After passing 2 polygraphs & providing a sworn alibi that checked out, he was released. Suffering from a mental disability, Manley was discharged from the army and experienced a series of nervous breakdowns also claiming to hear voices. In 1954, his wife had him committed to an asylum (a year after the Dahlia case inspired the 1953 film "The Blue Gardenia" with its title song sung by Nat King Cole). He died on Jan 9, 1986, almost 20yrs on the exact date which for Short was the last day of her life.
Los Angeles kicks over traces of its history quickly & without sentimentality. The Hollywood of The Black Dahlia is barely a memory these days. The overgrown lot where her body was dumped is now the manicured front lawn of a non descript suburban home, one of millions like it in Southern California. The only monument is a fire hydrant, 54 feet from which according to the coroner's report, Short's body was found on that chilly January morning by a young woman pushing a pram. Still, some of her haunts still stand, not that she'd know them. In the '40s, Boairmers bar on Cherokee Avenue, a block south of Hollywood Boulevard was a no-frills dive that offered cheap drinks & easy company. Today it's a hipster hangout, gussied up like a neo-Goth New Orleans bordello. Likewise the Figueroa Hotel, a 15 minute walk from the Biltmore at S. Figueroa Street & Olympic Boulevard. When Short stayed there it was a dollar-a-night flophouse. Now it's a boutique palace with an opulent Moroccan theme. Brittingham's restaurant, which once stood in Columbia Square near Columbia's Hollywood studios, is long gone. It was once a popular eatery as Short dined there often and was well known to the staff. Another regular customer was Orson Welles who would pop in during breaks in shooting on 'The Lady From Shanghai'.

There's no proof that Short & Welles ever knew each other (a prominent Hollywood figure who once worked at Brittingham's as a waitress told Pacios there were rumours that Short was "going with" someone at the studio) but it is quite likely she caught his eye. In another interview with Barbara Learning, Welles describes Betty Chancellor, a young actress whom he became obsessed with while performing at Dublin's Gate Theatre early in his career: "She was one of those absolutely black-haired girls with skin as white as Carrara marble, you know, and eyelashes you could trip on." It's a description that fits Short to a T. In the play, Welles was required to rape Chancellor off-stage. He said: "I came on practically unbuttoned having had my way with her." Pacios believes Short & Welles could have met as she would have been striking enough to catch his eye. But as to whether they really did, her response: "That can only be conjectured." On the day of Short's murder, production on 'The Lady From Shanghai' was shut down due to a strike caused by Welles (contrary to union rules) working on construction of the carnival funhouse for the set. The coincidence of that hardly needs commenting on but the macabre parallels between aspects of the set and Short's murder are to say the least, unsettling. In a sequence, cut from the film at Columbia President Harry Cohn's insistence, Rita Hayworth is shown standing in a chamber of horrors surrounded by grotesquely dismembered mannequins. The walls are daubed with disturbing, violent images & anatomical drawings, one of them a partially flayed cow with a woman, cut clean in half, lying on top of it. Elsewhere there are several clowns' faces with one imprisoned in a metal birdcage. One of the images painted on the Wall is of a bisected skeleton whose arms & legs are posed in positions eerily similar to Short's corpse. In a production still, Welles & make-up artist Bob Schiffer are shown applying make-up to the face of a mannequin, giving the impression that its cheeks have been slashed into a wide, gory smile. Short's face was mutilated in the same way, her cheeks lacerated from the corners of her mouth to form a ghastly, rictus grin. Said Pacios: "I was shocked when I saw that. I couldn't believe my eyes." In the months following the murder, while the massive police investigation was in full swing, Welles exhibited some decidedly odd behaviour. First of all, he applied for his passport on the same day as a package of materials relating to the killing including a mocking 'catch me if you can' letter & Short's birth certificate, was delivered to LAPD headquarters. There's nothing particulary unusual in that - apart from it being another eerie coincidence except that Welles had no reasons to leave the United States at that time. Quite the contrary, in fact.

A powerful part of the Welles mythology is that following the furor over Citizen Kane, his bitter feud with newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (on whom Kane was based) and the indifference shown to his next picture, "The Magnificent Ambersons" (not least by RKO, who had it clumsily re-edited in his absence), he was hounded out of Hollywood and thereafter drifted in the wilderness trying & often failing to raise money for his various, vainglorious endeavours. There is some truth to that of course; by 1947 Welles was a virtual pariah at the major studios. But that didn't stop him working & when he did leave Los Angeles for Europe in the fall of 1947, he was in the midst of editing his adaptation of Macbeth, the quintessential tale of guilt n' murder, for Republic Studios. In her book, Pacios charts the increasingly terse, then full-blown furious correspondence between Welles & Republic brass over his steadfast refusal to return to Hollywood to complete the job be was contractually obliged to do. In the end, as Pacios tells it, producer Richard Wilson was exasperated beyond measure & dispatched film editor Lou Lindsay to Europe to assist Welles in finishing the film. The result was a debacle as locally available equipment wasn't remotely up to the task in hand and the ferrying of film stock from one side of the world to the other was a logistical nightmare. The experience proved so traumatic for Lindsay, the poor man was not only driven to the verge of a nervous breakdown by Welles' irrational behaviour, he never edited another movie and became a William Morris agent instead. (Conflicting reports claim that much against his will, Welles did return to L.A. to trim 20 minutes from Macbeth). Welles remained in largely self-imposed exile for 10years, only returning to Hollywood in 1956 to direct "Touch Of Evil" and pursue various other acting & directing projects. There's no doubt that Welles had good reason to turn his back on Tinseltown - his contract with Republic notwithstanding - but Pacios unearths another detail of his behaviour that aside from his naturalfy capricious nature, surpasses all understanding. In October 1947, shortly before he left for Europe, Welles contacted the California College Of Mortuary Science requesting a list of requirements for admission, details on securing an embalmer's licence & prospects for employment as an apprentice in a mortuary. Before it was dumped. The Black Dahlia's body had been completely drained of blood. Just as it would have been in preparation for embalming.

The Black Dahlia continues to haunt Hollywood, but these days less as symbolic martyr. Elizabeth Short, the patron saint of every aspiring starlet ever to have her spirit crushed (not to mention her face slashed, her breasts burnt with cigarettes, rope burns on her wrists & ankles, 'BD' carved deeply into her left thigh, her body cleaved in 2 and most repugnantly of all: grass, pubic hair & a cut piece of flesh - with either a rose tattoo or red birthmark on it - inserted into her vagina with the final vulgar indignity of being sodomized post-mortem) is now a kitsch cultural icon served by a cottage industry of tacky memorabilia vendors, enterprising tattoo artists, website obsessives, armchair detectives & guided tour operators. It is unlikely that we'd remember her name if not for the appalling circumstances of her torture & death. Even the venerable Biltmore has cashed in, offering a suitably queasy concoction called 'The Black Dahlia martini' (a mix of Grey Goose Citron Vodka, Chambord & Kahlua, with an orange-peel garnish) in its cloistered Gallery Bar. As for Orson Welles, he suffered his own long lingering death which, if not as horrific as Short's, was in its way just as pitiable. Was he The Black Dahlia murderer? Almost certainly not. But it's testament to how powerful a hold on the imagination Short still has that anyone would even attempt to make such a case. So famous is her murder that there is a natural temptation to credit her killer with equal notoriety. Asks Pacios: "Was Welles the killer? I don't know. And the one piece of evidence that could have contained the killer's DNA - the packet of items from her purse, has been lost from the police files. But yes, I think Welles is a viable suspect. If he were alive today, I'd ask him if Bette's was his handiwork." It seems crazy to think it was. Nevertheless, here tantalizingly, are the words of the eulogy Welles spoke at Darryl F. Zanuck's funeral in 1979: "If I did something really outrageous, if I committed some abominable crime - which I believe is in most of us to do under the right circumstances - if I were guilty of something unspeakable and if all the police in the world were after me, there was one man & only one man I could come to and that was Darryl. He would not have made me a speech about the good of the industry or the good of the studio. He would not have been mealymouthed or put me aside. He would have hidden me under the bed. Very simply, he was a friend." According to Pacios, Zanuck had assisted Welles in his move to Europe...


1. RESTLESS SPIRIT



2. HAZY AROUND THE EDGES & HALF PAST DEAD
3. FATHER OF THE SINS?
"Supposin' I did kill the Black Dahlia. They couldn't prove it now. They can't talk to my secretary anymore because she's dead... They thought there was something fishy. Anyway, now they may have figured it out. Killed her. Maybe I did kill my secretary..."
-George Hodel, recorded Feb 18, 1950.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 IN REWIND



A splattering of some of the news n' names that rounded out this year: Rob Ford; Toronto cop Sgt. Ryan Russell; Jack Leyton; Arab Spring in the MidEast with Egypt & Syria; Muammar Gaddafi; earthquake, tsunami & nuclear meltdown crisis in Japan; African famine; flooding in the Phillipines; tornadoes in Mississippi & Alabama; U.S. woes over the retail slumps, budget, unemployment, deficit & recession; Gabrielle Giffords & Jared Lee Loughner; Anthony 'Weinergate'; Arnold Schwarzenegger; Angry Birds; iPad 2; SlutWalk; flashmobs; London riots n' looting in the UK; Athens riots over Greek debt & defaulting; financial problems in Ireland, Spain & Portugal; (self indulgent?) worldwide "We are the 99 percent" Occupy movement; overhyped Royal Wedding trumped by Pippa Middleton's ass & Beatrice's hat; reality whore & talentless Kim Kardashian's stupid 72-day publicity-stunt marriage to Kris Humphries; 85yr old Hugh Hefner ditched at the altar by 25yr old fiancee Crystal Harris; Toronto Zoo elephants & Bob Barker; Maple Leaf Gardens re-opens as a Loblaws; Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver; NHL concussions and enforcers Derek Boogarde, Rick Rypien & Wade Belak; Lokomotiv Yaroslavl; last day of the pro baseball regular season; NBA labour dispute; Penn State & Syracuse Univ. sex scandals; Osama Bin Laden; Anders Behring Breivik; Dr. Conrad Murray; Donald Trump vs. Barack Obama birth certificate controversy; Charlie Sheen; Lindsay Lohan; Dominique Strauss-Kahn; final launch of Space Shuttle 'Atlantis'; meddling Parents Television Council; Peter Kent's (hypocritical?) Kyoto Accord announcement; TTC subway sex; Roller Derby World Cup; Casey Anthony; Amanda Knox; Gerard Depardieu's airline pissing douchebaggery; Andy Rooney; Steve Jobs; Amy Winehouse joins the '27 Club'; Christopher Hitchens; Vaclav Havel; Kim Jong Il & Kim Jong Un; Metallica & Lou Reed team up; REM calls it quits; Harry Potter comes to an end; official end of the war in Iraq...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

NOVEMBER 27, 1911 (HOOK 'EM FROM SIDE STAGE AND BRING DOWN THE CURTAIN)


100yrs ago today, the 1st recorded occurrence of a US audience throwing vegetables at actors took place. Predating vaudeville, the custom was once described by noted author Washington Irving (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) as audiences expressing displeasure by "stamping, hissing, roaring, whistling and occasionally groaning in cadence to throw apples, nuts & ginger-bread at the stage." These were actually sold to the audience & while the intention of the real weapon meant may have been 'the mass protest of ridicule', the food products soon turned to eggs, rotten produce & tomatoes making for a much harsher attack. As far back as Shakespearean plays during the Elizabethan era, those who would pelt the actors or for that matter, anyone connected with theatre was considered unsavory. Theatre audiences in the early 19th century were boisterous, loud & unattentive. Prostitutes plied their trade pretty openly in the balcony & patrons in the crowd routinely heckled the actors so much that the stage performers would drop character to fire back at the harassing criticism. People often paid more attention to others & unruliness in the audience than the performances as belligerence often led to fighting. Thrown objects were derived from oppurtunity: People brought what they had to eat & if they turned their items into sudden aerial projectiles, it was out of disapproval. If they were planning on booing & hissing (a much common occurence), they would naturally bring food - now garbage - and sometimes rain such a shower of debris, that actors were forced to run quickly for the sides to shield themselves from the blows. Balconies (before microphones & opera glasses) were typically the cheap seats & worst in a theatre catering to the lower classes -- even rowdier than those in the orchestra sections. With their clearest view of the stage, those in the upper levels naturally had the best shot for their propensity to throw from the decks what was the most common snack of the time: peanuts (hence the term 'peanut gallery'). Audiences quieted down by the end of the century but the tradition had been established.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembering the armistice & when the guns fell silent. Never forget how a lost generation marched off into madness.




Saturday, September 24, 2011

SEPTEMBER 24, 1991 (DWARFING THE SCREAMING UNKEMPT)

THE ALBUM THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING
from NME by Dan Martin



1991. In a world dominated by weak pop & coked-up hair metal, 3 small-town misfits 'sold out' and released a record that redefined mainstream culture. The band was Nirvana. The record was 'Nevermind' released 20yrs ago today. 2 decades on & reliving the legend...

Anyone can make a great album. Honestly, they can. You'd need years and suitable blackmail material for the world's most on-trend songwriters & producers but it's possible - all those things can be acquired. What's harder is to make a seismic album. One that leaves the world irrevocably different; a fixed point in time around which all other experience will pivot. An entire course of history set thanks to an event - like John meeting Paul, or Robert Johnson selling his soul to the Devil (which didn't happen anyway). It isn't really possible to plan it. Neither is it really possible to work out quite what that event was that caused 'Nevermind' to inform every aspect of pop music - and so by proxy - the lives of people who love it. As much as anything else, born into a pre-internet age where an artist's every move wasn't tweeted, evidence itself is sparse. Was it drummer Chad Channing leaving Nirvana to make way for the ambitious Dave Grohl, ex- of Virginia hardcore outfit Scream? The meeting where a Geffen A&R dude convinced his boss to poach the band from Seattle label gem Sub Pop? The day Kurt Cobain's parents separated? Whatever it was, the event led Cobain, bass player Krist Novoselic and Grohl into producer Butch Vig's Devonshire Studios in North Hollywood in spring 1991 where they would resume work on the album they had initially begun with Channing & demoed at Smart Studios in Wisconsin while still with Sub Pop. Of these early musical results, NME's Keith Cameron wrote of Nirvana that the band sprang from the same pool as their ex-label colleagues Mudhoney - a raw-boned mix of '60s garage pop & '70s punk n' metal - but they infused it with an unsettling intensity far removed from the Mud boys' tongue-in-cheek rifling of the history books. Cameron further added how Nirvana's music shuddered with frustration born out of insulated small-town ennui & disgust at the reactionary nature of mainstream American culture.

It had been Kurt's intention to break out of the often stifling restrictions of the earnest Seattle grunge scene that had birthed them, channelling the psycho nursery rhymes of his beloved Pixies & Melvins. This move to a more inclusive singalong is just one facet of his yearning, playful side that in the years that have passed, has been written largely out of history. Yet even he couldn't have predicted what was to come - the album's lead single, the crisp n' energetic to eventually bloodcurdling 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. Strange to think that nothing much was expected of a song now so ingrained as the anthem of a generation; a staple for disaffected youth. People thought it might garner alternative acclaim before the more radio-friendly follow-up 'Come As You Are' - which maybe, the logic went - could puncture the mainstream. That 'Teen Spirit' became the enormous hit it did, at such speed & scale' would change the face of popular music forever. Punk rock - that bastard son of revolt - had earned legitimacy. Yes, the impact 'Nevermind' had was instant & titanic. Before, music had existed in some sort of order that would make little sense to a post-Nevermind world. Radio stations were exclusively playing as a random sample from that year, sunshine soul standard 'I Love Your Smile' by Rhianna prototype Shanice. In the masculine money-making sphere known as rock music, glam n' hair metal reigned, popularized by Guns N' Roses but more adequately represented by an oversaturated slew of generic L.A. bands snorting through the last days of declining Rome. And it was a curiously muted form of hedonistic rebellion. As Kurt told NME as the gasket was about to be blown: "I'm sure once Guns N' Roses got as big as they did, the government checked up on them & realized they didn't have the brains to be a threat to anyone."

Then there was the alternative heralded most famously in Europe by The Smiths & in the USA by a handful of conscientious bands on UK labels like 4AD. A culture populated mainly by men embracing their femininity - as Kurt, a vocal defender of women's rights only did after his initial macho rock obsessions were diverted. In November 1991 he said: "I was always more of a feminine person when I was young. I just didn't know it. Then when my hormones started swinging around and I started getting some facial hair, I had to let off my male steam somewhere so I started smoking pot and listening to Black Sabbath & Black Flag. It took the Pixies to put me back on the right track and off the whole macho punk rock trip." If these different styles of pop had already been bleeding into each other long before 'Nevermind', this was the album that blew the old regime apart completely. The album & the movement it created turned rock & indie into one entity and it ate mainstream radio - for so long the predictable norm. Even our listening & cd purchasing habits would change. This might be a pretentious over-analytical way of looking at things 20 years on when the man who wrote the album has died & been deified but apparently it was obvious at the time as well. In November '91, NME's Mary Anne Hobbs wrote of the band that 'Nevermind' cut the masturbatory elements out of hard, insane guitar music with the record instead haemarrhaging with an almost female sense of calamity & vulnerability of sweet abandon. And that was something new. 10 years later, Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue would say he never understood [other] bands saying Nirvana had anything to do with derailing their career and that while maybe those bands just didn't have the goods, one can't pee like a puppy if they want to run with the big dogs. But the truth was the cultural change was brutal as plenty of those glam n' hair metal outfits who were dominating rock, went from being Top 10 artists with huge commercial clout & credibility to being flat out dropped. Rock could not stride around with quite so much boorish machismo again; indie could never be so insular or pop never so blind to the power of subversion - even years later when Britney, Christina, Justin & the rise of the rest of the Mickey Mouser's worked hard to undo a lot of 'Nevermind' & the spawned movement's work. And it can't be overstated how suddenly that happened.


Geffen had initially pressed 400,000 copies of 'Nevermind' & within a mere 6 weeks it had sold a million. Geffen halted production of all their other releases so their pressing plants could meet the demand. The label's then president Ed Rosenblatt told The New York Times that they the record company hadn't done anything for it was just one of those overpowering "get out of the way and duck" albums that took off. In the first few months that had tacked on, word-of-mouth buzz about the scruffy trio had turned from running trickle into full-on flood and whoever was left still unfamiliar with even the smallest snippet of their music, was atleast quite probably able to easily identify Nirvana as "that band with the swimming pool baby on the front cover" - an innocently whimsical & highly memorable frozen image with its hint of commentary from the dangling dollar bill that would equally further help to cement the band in time. A little history everyone knows: the '60s were about grand illusion & the '70s were arguably the crash from that decade's excesses (which still saw life in the greedy yuppiedom of the '80s) but by 1990, a new gap was forming as the baby boomers of that generation became the establishment. A new kind of angst was bubbling under. Nirvana biographer Michael Azerrad wrote how 'Nevermind' came along at exactly the right time and that this was music played by & meant for a whole new group of young people who had been overlooked, ignored, patronized or condescended. To quote the song 'Drain You', the album "taught [me] everything about a posion apple". The new decade was wafted in in as some kind of of new epoch with the word 'caring' bandied about but in the UK as Thatcherism stretched beyond its creator & the first Gulf War unfolded, a generation chose not to react but to retract. If the awkwardness & freak-glorification of the slacker era brought about a generation known for its apathy, then they sure found some damn energetic, creative clever ways in which to channel that apathy. Pop culture was allowed to become smart (and pre-internet), it was devoured, obsessed & internalized in monumental ways it simply never had been before; hello to the incorporation of geekmania... not so much as Rage Against the machine emphasizing "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me" but more like 'Fuck you, I'm gonna hide in this cupboard & read Less than Zero (ala Christian Slater in 'Pump up the Volume'). It seems more than very likely Kurt could tell what had been going on & whether willingly or not, he was instrumental in what was to change - perhaps what needed to. Of the world 'Nevermind' was born into, he said: "MTV really does try & be as subversive as it can, especially [with] the news. They're constantly exposing all the rights that are being taken away from Americans. But no one gives a fuck! They just wanna see that damn Warrant video!""

'Nevermind' created a landscape where angst-ridden yet fearlessly intellectual pop artifacts like Radiohead's 'The Bends' and seminal teen disillusion drama 'My So-called Life' could rise to prominence. 'Creep' wasa 'Teen Spirit' for the UK whereas it could have been a fetid curiosity without that groundwork. Outsiders could suddenly become the mainstream and no longer consigned to automatically being forgotten or lost in the tapestry of the scene surrounding them. Today, Pitchfork bands are on Leno, Fallon & Conan and this was the point of what was changed by 'Nevermind' - how being serious about rock music stopped being the ratified pursuit of the record collector. Some people treat rock n' roll like a museum but not so many of them love 'Nevermind' and it's a testament to the record's sweeping vivacity that disciples of that warped smiley face logo still appear every year since its first inception. It's a testament that 20 years on, this album remains alive & not trapped in formaldehyde. Yes, the album created a prose-y tundra where Radiohead could cross over with the rough-hewn pulverizing yet tender 'Creep' & thus use that platform to grow into an extra abstract force that would dominate the musical conversation until the present day. Maybe if someone else had been the catalyst, Nirvana might have had the chance to do something similar. But just as crucial as the things that happened because of 'Nevermind' were the things that occured as a reaction against it. Both band & album were amazingly phenomenal for '90s music. The pair helped put fellow Seattle home-growns Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney & Alice in Chains on the permanent map. And made the next wave of Screaming Trees, Tad, Love Battery, Skinyard & Gruntruck and still a host of lesser others - if just in fleeting mention & curiosity alone - still more visible. Grunge was in & took the music world by storm. The impending explosion that did blast forth was a detonation that spread far n' wide across the USA, so much so that New York heavy noise-crew Helmet was poised by the undergound to be the chosen 'next big thing'; a commercial success that didn't elude them yet a breakout superstardom for the quartet of unquestioningly talented musicians that never materialized. But 'Nevermind' sprked off a chain of events that we know all too well ended in April 1994.


BUT NOT EVERYONE WAS QUICK TO SING THE SONGS OF PRAISE


Some online criticisms I found.
1
Has Nevermind has been so over-praised for so long, that the original adrenaline has become its own cliché? Have these top-drawer tunes been leeched of their power through over-exposure? It's a weirdly time-bound record which can be argued, exposes an inherent shallowness in the songwriting. It's puzzling to look at the slick sheen production as phoney & yet Kurt's detracting complaints may seem hypocritically & profoundly disingenuous: Butch Vig recalls him practically cart-wheeling with joy across the studio floor when he heard the final mix of Smells Like Teen Spirit. Call it a symptomatic desire to be worshipped both by the punk-rock underground & mainstream America. Did this rockstar inner conflict ultimately contribute to his suicide, or at least shape the self-lacerating mindset that made it inevitable? Was his obsessive terror of being branded a sell-out based on a self-serving, junkie logic of wanting a hit record, airplay & money that says: "Fine. Go for it. Just don't try & pretend afterwards that you were strong-armed into it by The Man?" For all the roar of studio effects & digital samples came the criticized sullen, visceral, pseudo-medical, lyrical mode gibberish occasionally shading into outright fraudulence. A deliberate 'neglect to deflect' what perhaps didn't merit scrutiny? Sure, there are plenty of woeful indie-copyists but where are the real Nirvana-influenced bands today (after all of their history changing) when all we see touring right now are dinosaurs? With the sad state of music today, isn't it strangely fitting & currently representative - if not appalling or just flat out lame - that Kurt's image has been exploited in 'Guitar Hero' for gamers to unlock his character and make him sing Bon Jovi songs? Not such a titanic gulf after all.

2
Forget the sacred cow reverence with its ass-kissing at the altar: Nevermind is not even Nirvana’s best album. Cobain’s finest hour came almost exactly 2 years after with what was tragically his final work (and the album he wanted to make on his terms) – In Utero. The dark themes, the raw sound & overall lyrical superiority showcase the best of what the man had to offer. The minimal production on the album from Steve Albini reflected the band’s desire to shake off the radio-friendly image that Nevermind had earned them. Upon a first listen to In Utero you will agree that the rawness certainly remained captured. Kurt’s untamed screams define the album; in particular on tracks Scentless Apprentice, Rape Me and Tourettes. With it's gloomy themes leaking right off the record, the speed & unpolishedness of the album would have appealed to his punk rock influences. Even the more commercial exponents of the album (Heart-Shaped Box) are cloaked in darkness. The musical aggression & loudness will blow Come As You Are right down your top played iTunes list. The sheer volume & coarseness of Milk It separates it from the indie-disco staples that make up its predecessor. (Don’t tell me I’m the only one sick of hearing Smells Like Teen Spirit played every week nicely nestled between The Smiths and Blur)? But if it is the rough and ready loudness of the music that makes this album more exciting than Nevermind, it’s the depth & emotion of the lyrics that illustrate its substance & quality. This is seen nowhere better than in the rare moments of calm offering sensitive, surprising, tantalising, individual little masterpieces. Fast & slow, amongst the intense loud onslaught, genius also rests in the subtle quiet. And no doubt any conspiracy theory lovers will relish the irony of the “Married/Buried” line in the dying minutes of Cobain’s last release. Nevermind has some great moments, but what got lost with the hype & worship at the time is the fact that they made more than one album.

3
Isn't it bizarre how a single release in 1991 & its repercussions destroyed the very genre it had helped to create? The consequence of Nirvana & the rise of Grunge shone a spotlight on Seattle scene stalwarts Mudhoney, Tad, Green River, Screaming Trees & Soundgarden – as well as Scratch Acid & Sonic Youth from further afield and even Alice in Chains with their L.A. strains. Sonically, the Sub Pop sound owed everything to resident producer Jack Endino who produced Nirvana's first record, Bleach. Every track on each song is as harsh and torn as Cobain’s larynx. Once Nirvana moved to Geffen, the grime & grit was lost in the polish of clean compression. Paradoxically, this new gentrified, stylized sound (which saw the band defined as the personification) came to define Grunge to the masses, yet is as far removed as it can be from its gloomy skied, pacific northwest, white-trash logging town roots. When Pearl Jam (the band honoring its lineage through Green River) took off like a rocket easily filling stadiums & with Nirvana packing festivals alike, Sub Pop & its roster of bands who had paved the way for PJ's gargantuan royalty cheques, chugged along in their wake while corporate A&R men sniffed around Seattle's dive bars for the next big thing to explode onto the 'scene'. As Mudhoney noted, suddenly they & the first wave majority were becoming a footnote - eclipsed by an album, sold as a sound in a movement, that was not Grunge. In Utero was the proof. Cobain hired legendary punk producer and frontman for Big Black, Rapeman & Shellac - Steve Albini – resumably to bring out the best in his sickly beautiful, emotional outpourings but instead Scott Lit – the man who turned R.E.M’s oddball pop into MOR dirgery – was brought in to ’save’ the mixes. And thus was the final nail in the coffin & within 6 months, Grunge was declared dead. The death knell having been alluded to by writing on the wall & bitter veterans speaking of time-elapsing shelf-life. However phenomenal a body of work Nevermind is, it's worth rethinking whether it was ever true "grunge" in the first place.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 (FROM OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKY)


The United States is in a state of shock after being rocked by attacks (the worst such foreign attack since Pearl Harbor & the largest ever on American soil) which have left thousands dead & New York's World Trade Center destroyed. The Pentagon was also severely damaged by 1 of the 3 commercial airliners which hijackers turned into flying suicide bombs. A 4th plane crashed in a field near Pittsburgh. A state of emergency has been declared in Washington D.C. and the US has closed its airspace & borders with Mexico and Canada. American forces are on one of their highest states of alert with a naval battle group having been deployed off the country's east coast to bolster air defences. American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked at 8:25AM and 18 minutes later crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. United Airlines Flight 175 - which had been hijacked within minutes of the 1st plane - was flown into the south tower at 9:03AM causing another devastating explosion. The 2nd crash was captured live on news cameras trained on the burning north tower, horrifying already stunned viewers. At 9:40AM, a 3rd hijacked airliner - American Airlines Flight 77 - was flown into the side of the Pentagon in Washington. An hour after the Boeing 767 slammed into the south tower of the WTC, the 110-storey building collapsed. The north tower followed minutes later, compounding the destruction & loss of life. Witnesses reported seeing people jumping from the towers just before they both crashed down in a shower of raining glass, steel, concrete & choking dust. President George W. Bush was reading to children at a Florida school when his Chief of staff, Andrew Card, whispered news of the terror to him. He was flown to the US Strategic Command Centre at Nebraska - a heavily fortified bunker where the country's nuclear weapons are controlled - and then made his way back to Washington with the expectation of addressing the nation later this evening. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said the final number of dead "may be more than any of us can bear".

10yrs ago today, 9/11 occured. Nothing again would be the same & the world changed forever (not the least of which beginning with travel & security). The final death was nearly 3000 people & it took almost 9 months to clear the millions of tons of rubble at 'Ground Zero' where the World Trade Center had stood. The image of the twin towers - from being hit by the 2 planes, burning & then crashing down has been called the most televised day in history. It's impossible to forget those pictures burned permanently into our memories. The biggest criminal investigation in history quickly identified the terrorist hijackers & linked them to Al-Qaeda - the Islamic militant group set up by Osama Bin Laden based in Afghanistan ---

TIMELINE OF TERROR

Aug 1988 - late 1989
The Soviet Union's "Vietnam". With the Russian-Afghanistan war winding down, a new breeding ground for terrororism is taking shape... The Russians had invaded in Dec 1979 with 75,000 troops after they backed 2 coups to install a Communist government. Despite early gains, the Soviet army was ground down by the unanticipated resistance from Muslim guerillas (armed by the US, Britain & other Muslim nations) launching jihad. After heavy casualties and failure to suppress the guerillas, the high cost of war on Russian lives & resources caused significant discord in Moscow (both within the Party & society) and after years of demoralizing stalemate with no victory in sight (further helping to lead to the eventual political dissolving of the USSR), Gorbachev signed a peace accord in Geneva in Apr 1988 after successful talks between Afghan foreign ministers & Pakistani diplomats, to begin withdrawing Soviet troops one month later in May (which commenced as promised). The last Russian soldier left Afghanistan in Feb 1989 & remnants of the resistance (now the Taliban) split into warring factions vying for control of Kabul. Saudi-born and mujahideen resistance organizer & financier - Osama Bin Laden - would soon found Al-Qaeda. The son of a billionaire, he had commanded an amalgam of Arab fighters and along with weapons & funneled money provided by the West, he established training camps for volunteers (heavily dosed with Islamic fundamentalist indoctrination) that would figurely prominently in later years. Controversially, he is long-believed to have had CIA affiliations.

Feb 26, 1993
A huge truck bomb is detonated in the parking basement below the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The explosion fails to bring down the structure but the blast kills 6 people & injures over 1000 more. The plan for the North Tower to collapse, thus falling into the South Tower so both would come crumbling to the ground & killing hundreds, only failed because a van in the underground garage which delivered the bomb was parked in the wrong place. The perpetrators have links to Al-Qaeda. The media reported the destruction as the first attack on American soil and a letter sent to the New York Times demanded that the USA stop meddling in Middle East affairs & pull US troops from the region. During the investigation, authorities traced vehicle fragments to a Ryder truck outlet in New Jersey. The van carrying the bomb was driven and rented by co-conspirator, Mohammad Salameh, and when he reported the van stolen & returned to the outlet to get his deposit back on Mar 4, he was promptly arrested. In Mar 2004, 4 of the conspirators are convicted of the bombing & all are sentenced to life in prison without parole including the accused ringleader, Egyptian Muslim leader, the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman. In Nov 1997, 2 more men including the mastermind, Ramzi Yousef are both convicted with Youself given 2 life sentences.

Jun 25, 1996
The Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia which is home to foreign military personnel and located near the national Saudi Aramco oil company headquarters of Dhahran is bombed in a terrorist attack with Al-Qaeda described by some sources as the likely culprit (with Bin Laden believed to have co-operated with the terrorsits) but an official American statement later identified members of Hezbollah Al-Hejaz (Party of God in the Hijaz) as the responsible party -- after still, Iran originally being blamed (to which a decade would pass until they would be absolved of involvement). A rigged gas-tanker truck (believed to have contained 3000-5000lbs. of explosives) was exploded causing devastation to the 8-story building which injured 19 US airmen, 1 Saudi & another 372 of various nationalities. In Jun 2001, 14 people (9 alone were Saudis) were charged with murder & conspiracy with another 5 named for charges related to the bombing.

Aug 7, 1998
On the 8th anniversary of US troops entering Saudi Arabia in the 1st Gulf War, at 10:30AM, 2 American embassies in the African capital of Kenya (Nairobi) & the largest city of Tanzania (Dar es Salaam) - both within minutes of each other - are simultaneously bombed. 224 people (mostly locals with over 200 alone in Kenya including a dozen Americans) are killed in the carnage & over 4000 total were injured, trapped under rubble after 2 parked trucks packed with explosives (each massive device weighing 2000lbs.) were detonated. The bombers had begun buying their supplies earlier that year in May. It took an Israeli search n' rescue team to retrieve the last bodies and Bin Laden's connection in Africa (with his & his organization's name and funding having been brought to international attention for the first time), heightened fears that he was dealing with Sudan to obtain weapons-grade uranium or plutonium. In retaliation for the powerful blasts, President Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes on targets in Sudan & Afghanistan on Aug 20. The FBI investigation eventually indicted 21 people (bleonging to Egyptian Islamic Jihad, active in Africa since the 1970's) for their role in the attacks - with some held at Guantanamo Bay naval base detention/interrogation facility in southeast Cuba & others yet to be captured. One theory proposed that the embassies were targeted out of revenge for the CIA's alleged torture of previous apprehended EIJ members, while another suggested the direct strike at the 2 American diplomatic stations with the scale of destruction, would provoke the USA into invading Afghanistan. In May 2001, 4 men were convicted of the double bombings & later that Oct, they were each sentenced to life without parole. Bin Laden was immediately placed as public enemy # 1 on the FBI's '10 Most Wanted' list. Surviving victims of the embassy bombings tried & failed to sue the US Government for compensation. In Jun 2011, the mastermind of the Embassy bombings (Al Qaeda’s leader in East Africa) was killed in a late-night shootout at a security checkpoint in Mogadishu.

Dec 14, 1999
Algerian immigrant, Ahmed Ressam aka the 'Millenium Bomber' is arrested in Washington state by the US Border Patrol. trained by Al Qaeda & living in Montreal, he plotted to bomb Los Angeles' LAX International Airport on New Year's Eve 1999 (as part of a series of other foiled attacks for 2000 including 4 targets in Jordan & American naval destroyer USS The Sullivans in Yemen). he was the leader of a sleeper cell and hid his identity from his new wife & child, who believed he was the head of an international charity. Customs officials found an enormous cache of explosives hidden in the trunk of his rental car. Ressam & 3 other Algerians stood trial on terrorist conspiracy charges and although he began co-operating with investigators in 2001, his sentencing was delayed for 4yrs (because counter-intelligence sources wanted to use him as a source for classified information) but in Jul 2005, he received 22yrs in prison. In Jan 2007, a Seattle Court of Appeals reversed the conviction which in turn was overturned by the US Supreme Court in May 2008 who restored the original sentence. In Feb 2010 however, the same Appellate Court ruled the 22-year sentence was too lenient & didn't fit the then-mandatory sentencing guidelines stating that time served should fall between atleast 65-130 years behind bars. In Oct 2012, an extension was imposed & Ressam was re-sentenced to 37yrs imprisonment.

Oct 12, 2000
Suicide bombers attack the USS Cole navy destroyer in a Yemen port (docked for re-fuelling)killing 17 American sailors. The massive blast badly gashing the left side of the warship, left a gaping hole & injured atleast 40. The ship was on its way to the Gulf to help support UN operations impose sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. A small inflatable raft packed with high explosives rammed the USS Cole as it was apparently being moored to a buoy. The 2 Yemeni men responsible were deemed able to carry out their action without arousing suspicion probably because it was assumed they were helping to attach ropes to a platform. The force of the detonation charge was so strong that buildings around the harbour shook. Both culprits were given death sentences (as was another, a Saudi tried in absentia, who was Al-Qaeda's chief of operations in the Gulf) but the other conviction was later commuted on appeal to serve 15yrs instead. Another 4 defendants were given jail sentences of 5-10yrs. The Saudi had previously been handed over to the USA where he remains in Gunatanamo Bay. The warship was saved & towed out 2 weeks later. It has since been repaired & is back in service. In the aftermath, there was a widely held view that Sudan's government had helped the terrorists resulting in a civil lawsuit launched by the relatives of the victims. In Mar 2007, a US Federal COurt ruled that Sudan was liable for the bombing attack, culminating in around #13.4 million of Sudanese assets frozen in the USA & awarded to the families in compensation.

POST-9/11, 2001
Sept 12: Vowing to avenge the WTC catastrophe & hunt down Bin Laden, Bush declared a worldwide 'war on terror' on those bent on destroying democracy & freedom. 9/11 brought some unexpected sympathy from countries well-known to be hostile to the USA as the leaders of Libya & Palestine both strongly (and uncharacterictically) condemned the attacks. The Iraqi leadership however endorsed the atrocity when they issued an inflammatory statement saying it was "a lesson for all tyrants & oppressors and the fruit of American crimes." Even in the face of overwhelmingly superior American military might & then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell saying the struggle would be a long-term conflict, Bin Laden proved stubbornly elusive & remained at large for a decade...

Sept 17: Workers (many draped in American flags & wearing face masks) returned to Wall Street as a symbolic gesture to show life can go on. The devastated business district in the heart of Manhattan still looked like a warzone but people were determined to prove their defiance as one lawyer likened Americans to imitating the British way of dealing with years of attacks by the IRA. The search fro survivors in the wreckage continued as Red Cross workers mingled with the crowds to offer counselling - many still reeling from trauma. The stock markets eventually returned to their pre-attack levels in about 1 month but the recession which financial analysts had been predicting long before 9/11, took hold at the end of Nov 2001 with many experts stirring up some controversy by saying companies whose profits were already declining, had infact decided to just "blame it on Bin Laden" thus using him as a scapegoat for all losses.

Sept 22: BBC World Affairs editor, John Simpson became the only Western reporter to broadcast from Taliban-held Afghanistan as the country prepared for American attack. Heavily disguised by armed smugglers, Simpson & a cameraman were snuck into a province bordering with Pakistan. He reported a heavy Taliban presence along large stretches of the frontier but spoke of eerie emptiness in the region he visited due to people having fled & Taliban popularity declining because of corruption by power. Simpson went on to report from northern Iraq when the US & Britain invaded in Mar 2003. In April 2003, he was injured in a 'friendly fire' attack by a US Navy jet which killed his Iraqi translator.

Oct 7: In the 1st retaliatory response to 9/11, the USA launches air strikes against the Taliban & Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan where Bin Laden was believed to be hiding. Particularly targeted are the airports of Kandahar & the capital Kabul and terrorist training camps near Jalalabad. President Bush (later to call Bin Laden a "parasite") promised a "sustained & relentless" campaign and warned that any govts who sponsor terrorism do so at their own peril. British PM Tony Blair unequivocally contributes an aircraft carrier & a small number of submarines further pledging his country's commitment to fight on 3 fronts being military, diplomatic & humanitarian. Iran & Iraq condemn the attacks and Al-Jazeera tv delivers a Bin Laden message denouncing the bombing as a war against faith by infidels.

Oct 8: The USA & Britain with further bombardments against air fields (as well as dropping leaflets), commit their ground troops. Soon after collateral damage occurs when a Red Cross warehouse is bombed by mistake & the deaths of innocent civilians mount. For the rest of the month, an anthrax scare occurs in Washington,DC when letters containing spores were mailed to news media offices & atleast 2 Democratic Senators. Capitol Hill and the House of Representatives were hit and in all, 5 die & 17 are infected. 10,000 Postal workers were believed to have been exposed and the prime suspect focused on one-time government biodefense lab scientist, Bruce Edwards Ivins who kills himself on Jul 27, 2008 with an overdose of acetaminophen. Later that Aug - despite having no direct evidence of his involvement - federal prosecutors declare Ivins to be the sole culprit (after Al-Qaeda & Iraq had been blamed) and in Feb 10, the FBI formally closes the investigation.

Dec 7: The Taliban surrender Kandahar. Beginning in Nov 2001, American Special Forces troops entered Afghanistan to help the shaky Northern Alliance (a tribal army of fragile rebel factions) capture vital Taliban-held cities. By Nov 12, the Taliban Forces had withdrawn from Kabul with uprisings in Kandahar & Jalalabad resulting in the last enemy remnants fleeing. Former captured foreign workers were rescued & the holdout city of Kunduz was laid seige on Nov 15 with US propaganda urging the city to surrender & hand over Bin Laden. On Nov 26, Kunduz fell to the Northern Alliance & with American Marines having taken up positions near stronghold Kandahar, that city was heavily bombed. In as little as 3 months, the Taliban were effectively ousted. With help from the shaky Northern Alliance (a tribal army of fragile rebel Afghan factions), coalition forces & the Pakistani military (who had their own hands full having to quell national riots) had been hunting down Al-Qaeda militants. Bin Laden remained on the run as opposition forces focused almost all of their objective resources on the hunt for him in the Tora Bora mountains south of Jalalabad where a cave complex/fortress hq-center was believed to exist with Bin Laden's 2nd-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also suggested to be in hiding but the important reiteration was made that the harboring enemy regime was toppled. After weeks of carpet-bombing Tora Bora to no avail, a deal brokered by Hamid Karzai, the head of Afghanistan's new interim administration (endorsed by the UN Security Council), helped secure the surrender of the hardline Taliban's spiritual home and eventually vowed to crack down on warlords & their private militias after winning the country's landmark election in Oct 2004.

Dec 21: Acting on information from Scotland Yard, British police in a joint security operation with the Royal Navy & Customs, storm a cargo ship - linked to Al-Qaeda - in the English Channel off the Sussex coast after an intelligence tip-off it may contain terrorist material. It had sailed from Mauritius with reports of a Djibouti stop (next to Somalia) & was bound for a sugar refinery in east London. An initial search (lasting 5 days & looking for possible anthrax) found nothing & determined the Djibouti stopover was to unload American grain as part of a food aid shipment.

Dec 22: British-born Richard Reid aka 'The Shoe Bomber' was arrested after trying to blow up an American Airlines trans-atlantic flight from Paris to Miami through the use of explosives stuffed in his shoes. He was overpowered by flight attendants & passengers who prevented him from igniting a protruding fuse and tied up with belts & headphone cords as the plane made an emergency landing in Boston under escort from fighter jets. Authorities later said that his shoes contained enough powerful plastic explosives which could have blown a hole in the fuselage & killed all 197 people aboard. On Jan 30, 2003 he was sentenced to life in prison on 3 of 8 charges including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. In addition, he also racked up 20yrs each for another 4 offences including attempted murder and 30yrs for using a device in relation to a violent crime totaling 110yrs. Before his fate, a defiant Reid (declaring his love of Islam & loyalty to Bin Laden) made a brief statement lashing out at the US government he blamed for sponsoring the capitalist torture of Muslims in the Arab world. Several other suspects were arrested over the attempterd bombing conspiracy, but only 1 - a 24yr old Gloucester UK man - was sentenced after police & MI5 surveillance, receiving 13yrs in prison in Mar 2005.

2002
NATO begins peacekeeping duties & maintaining a heavy presence in Afghanistan. Infighting between local commanders over power & territory became a feature of the post-Taliban period as authorities in Kabul prove to be incapable of exerting control beyond the capital resulting militant violence to continue. A US-friendly Afghan administration stays in place until 2004. NATO helps to keep order in Kabul but warlords maintain powerbases in the regions with human rights abuses rising higher along with heroin production. Estimates of civilian deaths vary between several hundred & several thousand.

Jan 10, 2002
The US flies suspected Al-Qaeda & Taliban fighters captured in Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay. 10 days later on Jan 20, photos of prisoners being held in one of the military detainment compounds (Camp X-Ray) sparked outrage leading to concerns of human rights abuse. The publication of the pictures showed shackled detainees kneeling & subjected to sensory deprivation on their arrival. They were handcuffed and wearing goggles, ear muffs, surgical masks & heavy gloves. Kept in temporary 8x8 feet cells made of wire mesh & corrugated metal roofs (left subject to adverse weather), Amnesty International objected to the conditions saying they were degrading to the men, comparable to the old Soviet gulags & fell below US standards for ordinary prisoners. Anti-torture proponents said the measures could be responsible for panic attacks, mood changes & terrible nightmares but Washington quickly responded saying the pictures were not representative of daily life there and that arriving prisoners (extremely dangerous 'high value targets') were treated humanely & given adequate provisions. Hundreds of detainees remaining in custody in Afghanistan awaited transfer to the camp and a team from the Red Cross eventually visited to evaluate conditions & interview prisoners to later conclude with a report whether their treatment was in accordance with the Geneva Convention's rules on prisoners of war. The US insisted the men were not POWs but illegal combatants meaning they could be interrogated (like 'waterboarding' - simulated drowning) without legal representation. Critics charged that under the Geneva Convention, prisoners could be tried for war crimes through court martials or civilian courts but not by secretive military tribunals (which many said Guantanamo Bay was an extension to begin with) which could impose the death penalty. In Apr 2003, Camp Delta replaced Camp X-Ray & at its peak, Guantanamo held 680 prisoners from around 40 countries (under the equally troubling practice of 'rendition') with more than 100 who would be released (the majority being held without charge). In 2004, hearings began so detainees could challenge the rules of their imprisonment to determine if their jailing was legal.

Indonesia 2002-05
Al-Qaeda forges ties to the violent Islamist group, Jemaah Islamiyah - headed by a radical cleric. On Oct 12, 2002, 2 nightclubs in a densely packed popular tourist district on the island of Bali catering to Western clientele (especially Australians), and the US Consular office are car bombed. The 3 explosions (one a parked white Mitsubishi van) are all detonated by backpack mounted devices triggered by cellphone. (The bomb ouside the Consulate was filled with human excrement). 202 people are killed & 240 injured. One overwhelmed local hospital was so ill-equipped & unable to cope with the scale of some patients with particularly bad burns, that they had to be flown to Australia for treatment. A week after the blasts Arab satellite channel 'Al-Jazeera' aired an audio-cassette purportedly carrying a recorded voice message from Bin Laden saying that the Bali bombings were in direct retaliation for support of the United States' war on terror & Australia's Sept 1999 role in the liberation of East Timor. He warned that more distressing attacks would be forthcoming. The police investigation led to the arrest of Amrozi Nurhasyim who named 6 accomplices. In Apr 2003, authorities charged the group's spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Ashir (who denied his organization's involvement even though they had already claimed responsibility) with treason & Amrozi with murder. That Sept, Bashir was acquitted of conspiracy but convicted of other charges & jailed for 4yrs. In Dec 2006, Indonesia's Supreme Court overturned his conviction & he was freed. (However, in Dec 2010, Bakar was arrested & charged with inciting others to commit terrorism which he denied at the start of his trial in Feb 2011. Later that Jun, he was convicted of supporting a jihadi training camp & sentenced to 15yrs which the Jakarta High Court then reduced to 9yrs. Finally, the Supreme Court rejected Bakar's appeal & reinstated the original 15yrs). All through his own trial, Amrozi grinned incessantly & in Aug 2003, he was found guilty. He then smiled & gave a thumbs-up as his death sentence was passed. Amrozi & 2 others were executed by firing squad just after midnight on Nov 9, 2008. Their deaths resulted in rioting in East Java & a number of suspects remain at large. On Aug 5, 2003, a suicide bomber detonates a car bomb outside a Marriott Hotel lobby in South Jakarta on the island of Java. 12 people are killed & 150 injured. Police arrest atleast 11 mean involved & 2 are sent to Guantanomo Bay. Al-Jazeera again praises the attacks. On Sept 9, 2004, a small 1-ton car bomb packed into a delivery van explodes outside the Australian embassy, killing 9 & injuring over 150. Damage to the nearby Greek & Chinese embassies are also reported. On Jul 17, 2009, Jakarta is yet again the site of hotel suicide-bombings when the JW Marriot & Ritz-Carlton are hit 5 minutes apart. 7 are killed & 50 injured. On Oct 1, 2005, a series of suicide & car bomb attacks occured at a food court near a main square and 2 sites in a beach resort village 19 miles away. The detonations were again by backpack devices set off by cellphone in which all 3 bombers died in the blasts. 20 people were killed & over 100 injured. Police found another 3 unexploded bombs (intended for Australians as an estimated 7500 were believed to have been visiting) which failed to go off after security forces shut down the island's telephone network following the first blasts. Noordin Mohammad Top was accused of being a mastermind in all 4 of the 2002-05 incidents. He was killed in a police raid on Sept 17, 2009.

Mar 20, 2003
Operation Iraqi Freedom. President Bush extends his global campaign against terror to Iraq (predicated on false intelligence of that country's supposed Al-Qaeda link & weapons of mass destruction) when a coalition, again dominated by US and UK forces, invaded. Amidst deep controversy & massive aerial assaults, by Apr 15, the first meeting to talk about a new democratic regime was held & the coalition succeeded in overthrowing dictator Saddam Hussein by May. In Nov, just 6 months after the victory, Bush travelled to Britain under heavy security for a 4-day visit with Prime Minister Tony Blair which was marred by mass protests everywhere the President went. Some gatherings were said to have numbered as high as 200,000 demonstrators but the trip overall went without incident & would be overshadowed by 2 truck bomb attacks in Turkey carried out by Al-Qaeda ringleaders (the 1st wave of 2 explosions having taken place 5 days earlier) that killed 27 & wounded some 450. Inspite of the rising Muslim insurgency, Sunni vs. Shiite violence & ever-increasing ambushes from IED's (improvised explosive devices), the US formally handed over power to the Iraqis on Jun 28, 2004. Saddam Hussein was captured on Dec 13, 2003. On Nov 5, 2006, his trial by an Iraqi court found him guilty of crimes against humanity & sentenced him to death. He was hanged on Dec 30, 2006.

Dec 28, 2003
The British govt gives the go-ahead to place armed undercover 'sky marshals' on some of its passenger planes in the US (to be deployed where appropriate) in response to the American heightened state of alert. The UK move would follow the Americans, Israelis & Germans who also employ the officials. Although the plan was meant to be part of a general tightening of airport & airline security in the wake of 9/11, it was opposed by the British Airline Pilots Association who commented that guns on planes would be dangerous & the protection measures should be taken at ground level. The UK announcement followed a similar move by the Austrailian govt just 2 days before to place sky marshals on Qantas flights to Singapore & came following a number of recent threats to attack Air France flights. The following day on Dec 29, the Bush administration ordered all foreign airlines to deploy armed sky marshals on flights to the USA deemed by Washington to be a risk, or face having their flights banned from American air space. Some EU countries - in particular Italy, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden & Finland - strongly opposed the use of sky marshals, preferring to cancel flights that the US felt were a threat & to concentrate on tightening security through preventitive anti-terror measures also at ground level. In Jan 2004, after talks in Brussels with EU officials, the US softened its stance insisting there was no 'blanket policy' to stop airlines without marshals entering America. In Dec 2005, a US sky marshal shot dead a man claiming to have a bomb on board an American Airlines plane. It was the first time since 9/11 that a passenger had been shot by an armed security official on a flight.

Mar 11, 2004
Al-Qaeda hits Europe. In Madrid,Spain between 7:37-7:40AM during morning rush hour (and 3 days before the country's general elections), 10 explosions (from 13 loaded bag bombs) occured aboard 4 commuter trains all travelling on the same line killing 191 people & injuring over 1800. Triggered by cellphones, 3 of the trains were at stations (with one blast captured on CCTV) while the 4th was just outside. Eyewitnesses reported debris thrown into the air & bodies being trapped in twisted iron. Corpses lay on the tracks and the walking wounded of dazed n' bloodied commuters, had to step over them on their way to receive medical attention. The Basque separatist 'ETA' were initially blamed (with some of its members arrested) as just 12 days earlier, police had intercepted a van bound for the capital which was packed with explosives. The culprits were infact an inspired terrorist cell (a loose collective of Algerian, Syrian & Moroccan Muslims with vague relationship to ideology) who had taken their cue from Bin Laden & purchased the explosives from retired miners who still had access to dynamite blasting equipment. Days after the train bombings, 3 more unexploded bombs were found & safely detonated. Voters turned out in record droves spurning the Conservative People's Party govt (accused of misleading the public) & brought in the Socialists who quickly pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq. On Apr 4, 2004, a security raid closed in on atleast 7 suspected militants in a Madrid apartment (amongst whom was a Tunisian thought to be the main perpetrator). Surrounded by police, they committed suicide by setting off bombs, killing themselves and 1 policeman & injuring another 11. Media & witnesses reported that 5-8 more suspects escaped. On Mar 25, 2005, a prosecutor asserted the train attacks happened exactly 911 days (precisely 2 and a half years) after the WTC collapse. (Back in Oct 2003, a message purporting to be from Bin Laden, threatened reprisals against Spain for providing the 6th largest contingent of allied forces during the early stages of the second Iraq War). A trial of 29 men began on Feb 15, 2007 (14 of whom went on a hunger strike but quickly ended their fast when the court refused to suspend proceedings) & ended on Oct 31, 2007 (with 21 found guilty & 3 of whom were sentenced to 40,000yrs in prison - with the law limiting time served to 40yrs).

Apr 22, 2004
WHO KILLED PAT TILLMAN?
(by Michael I. Niman / ArtVoice)


The American mass media are like tired old dogs, dutifully fetching official lies on command, dropping them like bones at the feet of an unsuspecting public. We in turn reward them by buying both the products & the myths that they sell to us. Eventually however, the products fail & the myths unravel. When despite the support of a compliant press, the government’s popularity wanes sufficiently & even old dogs can come up with new tricks, reviving the lost art of investigative reporting. Take the Pat Tillman
case. Remember him? He was the star NFL Defensive Back who, after the 9/11 attacks, walked away from his $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist as an elite Army Ranger & go off to Afghanistan to whip some terrorist ass. No matter what your opinion on the U.S. Invasion of Afghanistan, or your theory on who was ultimately responsible for the 9/11 attacks, Tillman was clearly acting as a selfless hero in the traditional sense of the word. The media sang only one song at the time – dirtbags in Afghanistan did this to us & “deterrence” through violent retribution was the only discussable response. Both Tillman & his brother Kevin, like most every American, took the bait – only unlike most supporters of George W. Bush’s wars, they actually volunteered to fight. After signing up however, they were shipped off not to Afghanistan, where they believed terrorists were holed up but to Iraq – to fight in a newly minted war that didn’t exist when they signed away control of their lives. Here’s where the recruiting poster image deviated from the script. There was a lot more depth to Tillman (who was pursuing a Master’s degree in history) than one would normally expect of an NFL gladiator. Afghanistan was an easier sell. Tillman never bought into the official line on Iraq and at one point, according to a San Francisco Chronicle article published nearly a year & half after his death, told fellow Rangers fighting in Iraq that the war was “so fucking illegal”. A close friend told The Chronicle, “That’s who he was – he totally was against Bush.” Tillman’s mother, Mary, clarified, explaining that her son believed the Afghanistan war was justified by 9/11, but added, “Pat was very critical of the whole Iraq War.” He was also critical of the deceptive Bush agenda. A close friend told The Chronicle, “That’s who he was – he totally was against Bush.” Another friend, who served with him, recalled how Tillman admonished fellow Rangers to vote Bush out of office in the upcoming Nov 2004 Presidential election.

The Chomsky Factor

Tillman as we now know was also in contact with one of his favorite authors – America’s leading intellectual dissident, Noam Chomsky. According to The Chronicle, Tillman had set up a meeting with Chomsky to take place when he returned from Afghanistan, where he eventually finally wound up after serving his tour in Iraq. This image of an anti-Bush, anti-Iraq war (at a time when most of the U.S. population supported the war), Chomsky-loving hero flew in the face of the official Bush administration portrait of Tillman, painted by dutiful media whores such as Ann Coulter, an ultra-conservative political commentator who once described him in near-racialist terms as “An American original – virtuous, pure & masculine, like only an American can be” (Max Blumenthal, blogging for the online Huffington Post, cited Coulter’s line, asking if we could have it in the original German). As both wars droned on, Tillman, the picture perfect recruiting poster boy, evolved into somewhat of a wild card. With a Chomsky meeting on the horizon, there existed a very real possibility that Tillman might go public with his anti-war anti-Bush stance in the weeks leading up to the Presidential election, dealing a fatal blow to the very foundation of the Bush administration’s propaganda pyramid. That day however, never came. On Apr 22, 2004, Tillman was killed on patrol in Afghanistan by 3 American bullets to the head.

Jessica Lynch Redux

When Tillman died, the Bush administration’s professional liars spun one of their tallest tales with their cohorts in the Pentagon explaining how the hero Tillman was killed in an enemy engagement. Bush chimed in and announced that Tillman was “an inspiration on & off the football field, as with all who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror.” As they did with the Jessica Lynch story, the Pentagon spewed forth so many lies as to bury themselves under an obvious pile of bullshit. In the Tillman case, the Army issued Tillman a postmortem Silver Star for bravery, explaining in the process, how, “through the firing, Tillman’s voice was heard issuing fire commands to take the fight to the enemy on the dominating hill ground.” And this is the story the media reported to the world. Files from 3 Army investigations into the killing obtained by Mary Tillman however, document a different set of last words. According to testimony issued by a fellow Ranger who was at Tillman’s side when he died, the last words he shouted before being shot in the head were, “Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat Fucking Tillman dammit!” Evidence surrounding the killing began to disappear. One day after his death, someone burned his body armor. 2 days later, someone burned his uniform. At some point, his journal which he wrote in religiously, went missing. With the journal, disappeared Tillman’s voice.

Reports of Fratricide

The day after his death, according to The Chronicle, Ranger commanders received a report stating that Tillman died in a suspected act of fratricide (or 'fragging'), the crime of killing members of your own group. The more they were confronted with the truth of what happened, the harder Army officials stuck to the official lies. One week after his death, they pulled the Silver Star move, successfully milking the hero dying in action myth in a compliant media environment. 2 weeks after his death, the Army’s official casualty report stated that he was killed by enemy forces. 6 weeks later however, with the mythic version of Tillman’s killing firmly embedded in the American conscious & with the Tillman story safely buried in the ashbin of 'old news', the Army finally told Tillman’s family that the official cause of death was “fratricide”. By all accounts, Tillman was popular & loved by the troops he served with – supporting the theory that his death was in fact a tragic accident by friendly fire. One of the Army investigations however, suggested leveling charges of criminal intent against the killer or killers, prompting Mary Tillman to ask, “I want to know what kind of criminal intent there was.” Instead, all she is able to glean from over 2000 pages of official reports are contradictions, continuously changing stories & countless blacked out lines.

Putting it all Together

What we have with the Pat Tillman case is a cover-up and a fabrication (with some more sinister theories suggesting a murder conspiracy). What was covered up was the embarrassing reality surrounding the futility of his death – the wasting of an iconic American hero. More importantly, what was buried was the complex story of Tillman’s opposition to the Iraq war & the Bush administration. What was fabricated was a fairy tale story of a heroic battle that would support the Bush cabal's manipulative stage-managing global war effort while not undermining its military recruiting. Silenced in this fabrication & cover-up was Pat Tillman’s voice. According to Tillman’s father, Pat Sr., “The administration clearly was using this case for its own political reasons. This cover-up started within minutes of Pat’s death & it started at high levels.” Only now as a tsunami of public opinion is forcing the media to report critically about the Bush regime (and its propaganda), will we possibly see a real investigation that unearths the truth into how Pat Tillman died. And if we are persistent enough, we might even see a proper investigation into why Pat Tillman, and thousands of other Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis & Afghanis died.


Apr 28, 2004
CBS Program '60 Minutes II' airs an episode showing appalling pictures of American military police personnel (aided by additional US govt agencies like the CIA & private subcontractors) abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in the Baghdad-area in Iraq. 2 days later another report in The New Yorker magazine by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh (posted online) came to public attention (followed by a publishing in the May 10 issue) which questioned n' criticized the systemic use of coercive methods & stress applications as so-called 'standard procedure' largely administered by American guards. The CBS news segment had infact been delayed by 2 weeks at the request of the Department of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The graphic & disturbing photos (often personal souvenir shots likened to porn) told a story of a liberation gone of the rails and deepened into an international scandal to expose routine human rights violations by physical violence, torture, psychological deprivation, sexual abuse including rape & sodomy and even murder (Manadel al-Jamadi). US media had initially showed little interest when the military first reported abuse & cruelty on Jan 16 and that an official investigation had begun involving further claims of prisoners being humiliated. US authorities quickly moved to distance themselves from the disgraced perpetrators & by Feb 24, it was reported that 17 soldiers had been suspended & announced again on Mar 21 that the 1st charges had been filed against 6 soldiers. 11 in all (no officers) would be charged & eventually convicted with dereliction of duty, maltreatment and aggravated assault n' battery in court martials - The 2 most notorious implicated being 21yr old SPC (Specialist) Lynndie England, seen prominently in photos of her grinning, giving the 'thumbs up' & pointing at naked prisoners - one of whom is being held attached to a leash and 36yr old SPC Charles Graner (England's fiancée - allegedly impregnated by him during their tour of duty) said to be the ringleader of the abuse and seen in photos posing behind a human pyramid of naked prisoners & over the corpse of a prisoner dead by homicide. On Jan 15, 2005, Graner was sentenced to 10yrs in prison & dishonorably discharged but released on Aug 6, 2011, having served 6 and a half yrs. On Sept 27, 2005, England was sentenced to 3yrs in prison & dishonorably discharged but paroled on Mar 1, 2007, having served approximately 1 yr & 5 months. When interviewed in Mar 2008 by German magazine Stern & again in Jan 2009 by UK newspaper The Guardian, she appeared unrepentant - either unwilling or incapable - to accept any wrongdoing and refused to take any oppurtunities to apologize for her role saying she was goaded into the photos (doing it for the man she loved) & that the media was responsible for damaging her image. She later wrote a biography in Jul 2009 & told of having PTSD. The most infamous image symbolizing the scandal became that of Satar Jabar, wearing a black hood & cape, standing atop a box, arms outstreched in a Jesus Christ-type pose. It was featured on the cover of newsmagazine The Economist with the worldwide condemnation having become so overwhelming, it resulted in critics charging that US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, authorized the controversial harsh techniques & therein called for his resignation. The Pentagon in turn was accused of an attempted cover-up & indifference when blame would fall merely to the inexperience of troops who were frequently described as "a few bad apples". Right-wing radio host, Rush Limbaugh and conservative talk show host, Michael Savage on the other hand, both staunchly defended & approved of the tactics. Their detractors likened them to morons & said they were just as sick as the perpetrators. President Bush's apology over the scandal as an isolated incident & expressing shame was received with mixed reviews and memos released later, revealed that authorization indeed came from the highest levels of the White House. The army feared that the photos were a serious blow to their image & objectives and along with attacks of hypocrisy, would only inflame Muslims & breathe new life into radicalism for terrorists to deliberately carry out more egregious atrocities in direct retaliation - as that of a video released by Islamic militants on May 11, 2004, of the beheading of an American civilian in Iraq, Nick Berg, in which the executioners said his death was in response to the Abu Ghraib abuse. On Mar 29, 2006, the US govt released a new set of photographs & again Rumsfeld was criticized for authorizing the interrogation techniques. In Nov 2006, the Australian SBS tv network aired previuosly unreleased pictures documenting the more sexually depraved of the offenses (a disturbing amount of sodomy) & again on May 28, 2009, aired still more shocking pics. On Feb 3, 2010, an allegation was made by a California elected official alleging that under the Bush Administration, prisoners detained at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay & undisclosed secret "black sites" were being used as involuntary research subjects for human biomedical experimentation, behavior modification research & drug-testosterone delivery in a manner similar to past CIA Project MK-ULTRA activities investigated in 1977. The claim supported information contained in a Red Cross report relative to the expanded role of CIA medical personnel in torture & interrogation. In 2010, the last of the prisons were turned over to the Iraqi government to run. Ironically, despite Abu Ghraib (or perhaps because of reforms in its wake) prisoners have more recently said they received far better treatment in American custody than in Iraqi jails & by Sept 2010, Amnesty International had warned in a report that up to 30,000 prisoners, including many veterans of the US detention system, remain detained without rights in Iraq and were frequently tortured or abused in a detention system described as having not evolved since Saddam Hussein's regime. On Oct 22, 2010, nearly 400,000 secret US army field reports and war logs detailing torture, rape, sleep deprivation, mock electrocutions, summary executions, murder by Iraqi police & failure to investigate war crimes, were passed on to the The Guardian & several other international media organizations through the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. On Jun 27, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of lawsuits from a group of 250 Iraqis who wanted to sue 2 private contractor companies over claims of abuse by interrogators & translators at the prison. The suits were dismissed by the lower courts on the grounds that the companies held derivative sovereign immunity based on their status of having government exception pursuant to a battlefield pre-emption doctrine. Despite powerful evidence leading to convictions of misconduct & formal reprimands for their deploarable actions, no one has been convicted for the murders of any detainees.

Jul 7, 2005
4 bombs are detonated in the centre of London (the deadliest act of bombing in the city since WWII) in the morning rush hour targeting civilians. 3 exploded simultaneously in packed underground subway stations across the city & the 4th an hour later on a double-decker bus. 56 people (including the 4 suicide bombers whom were the first such perpetrators in Western Europe) are killed & more than 700 injured. It was believed a 4th subway line was also an intended target but abandonned due to a defective train. The terrorist meant to set off that explosion was the bus-bomber who had been captured on CCTV earlier that day at King's Cross station. (From Mar-May 2007, some 7 arrests would be made in connection with the bombings on the 7th in a 2nd but failed copycat plot). Exactly 2 weeks later on Jul 21, 2005 there were 4 more attempted attacks on the city's public transport system but this time only the detonators of the bombs went off (again around underground stations) resulting in no fatalities. The very next day on Jul 22, jumpy police in a heightened atmosphere of paranoia, shot dead 27yr old Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian man - hoping to be an electrician - whom was misidentified as a terrorist fugitive & tragically gunned down without any warning as he sat on a train. 2 officers (neither of whom would be brought up on charges due to an independent Commission declaring "insufficient evidence" to prosecute) fired a total of 11 bullets with 7 landing in the victim's head. The undercover officer who first spotted De Menezes leaving his apartment failed to take a picture & transmit it back to a Police Command HQ for proper identification because he had to urinate -- an ill-timed call of nature which proved fatal. The Metropolitan Police then tried to justify the accidental killing when they lied by falsely claiming that a surrender warning had been shouted. When they finally admitted their mistake, the Met Police were only fined under Health & Safety legislation but scorned by many commentators for their over-reaction bordering on hysteria. The death sparked an intense public debate on shoot-to-kill policy and had induced a kind of panic in UK security agencies & a sobering but disturbing realization in Britain of how civil rights in a surveillance society are effectively removed with such ease. The De Menezes family refused to accept an apology from PM Tony Blair and reaction in Brazil was overwhelmingly negative with protests & demonstrations held. On Jul 29, police arrested 4 main suspects in the bombings on the 21st and on Jul 9, 2007 they were found guilty of conspiracy to murder, each sentenced to a minimunm of 40yrs imprisonment. Strangely enough, during London’s bid for the 2012 Olympics (which had been awarded on a few days before 7/7), one of the arguments in London’s favour was its multicultural & cosmopolitan character but in the immediate aftermath of the bombing attacks, this diversity became a target for some individuals who used the religious background of the Muslim terrorists as an excuse for racist attacks & abuses against members of minority communities.

Apr 30, 2007
A group of 5 Al-Qaeda-linked terror suspects in the UK (some of whom secretly trained in radical Pakistani military camps while others had met the Jul 7, 2005 London bombers) headed by 28yr old Omar Khyam are sentenced to life in prison and another 2 are acquitted after MI5 & more than 700 undercover police from 5 agencies uncover their multiple plot to co-ordinate explosions on Britain's gas-distribution network, poison London's water supply, target a shopping center, seize an airliner to crash it, attack the Prime Minister in Parliament & blow up 'loose women' in the nightclub districts. 25 homes & businesses were searched and 600kg of ammonium nitrate fertilizer had been confiscated from a storage locker. The jury deliberations in convicting the men took 27 minutes - a record in British criminal history.

May 23, 2007
7 insurance companies that had been refusing to pay out claims related to the WTC site, agreed to hand over $2 billion with the money split between owners and the Port Authorities of both New York & New Jersey. Developer Larry Silverstein who took over a 99yr lease on the buildings weeks before their destruction on 9/11, had been accused of profiteering to which he lambasted the insurers for ducking their duty. Ironically, Silverstein himself won a total of a cool $4.68 billion in lawsuits (around two-thirds of what he originally had sought) after abandonning his claim that he was owed more than $500 million in interest accrued from the squabble.

Jun 1, 2007
A group of 4 people (one a former cargo worker & another a former MP for the Caribbean nation of Guyana) are charged with plotting to blow up New York City's JFK airport - hoping to outo the 9/11 attacks. The plot involved blowing up the airport's fuel tanks & 40-mile pipeline and according to the FBI, luckily didn't get past the planning stages inspite of the cell's alleged persistence in consistently refinig their scheme and taking extensive measures to seek expert advice, finances & explosives. The suspects apparently conducted surveillance, videotaped targets & downloaded satellite images from the internet. They were exposed by an FBI informant whom they tried to recruit and U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf was derided by some media outlets for delivering bombastic hyberbole in describing the plan as catastrophic when critics said it was infact amateurishly inept. The arrests were the latest in a series of terror-plans targeting American facilities & landmarks - such as the Jun 2006 charging of 7 suspects who set out to destroy the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Jul 2006 arrest of 3 people (out of 8 & all Arab foreigners) for their attempt to suicide-bomb the tunnel under the Hudson River connecting Manhattan with New Jersey and the May 2007 arrest of 6 men conspiring to attack Fort Dix army base in New Jersey. In Aug 2010, 2 of the JFK-plotters were found guilty of conspiracy charges.

Jun 30, 2007
Just 3 days after the appointment of Glasgow-born Scottish MP Gordon Brown as Prime Minister of the UK, 2 Muslim men (Bilal Abdullah & Kafeel Ahmed) set themselves ablaze and drive a dark green Jeep Cherokee loaded with propane canisters into the glass doors of the main entrance terminal of Scotland's Glasgow International Airport at 3:15PM. The vehicle's driver was severly burnt in the ensuing fiery inferno & 5 people were minorly injured. Both the failed suicide-attackers were apprehended at the scene by police (who were assisted by members of the public) when both tried to put up a fight but were overpowered. They were also believed to have been the same men who parked 2 Mercedes car bombs (filled with fuel containers, gas cylinders & nails) in London - one outside a West End nightclub, the other less than 5 blocks away - the day before on Jun 29 which didn't detonate. Security pillars stopped the men from driving fully into the airport building but the doors were damaged. Within 3 days, Scotland Yard confirmed another 8 men (all with links to the medical profession) had been taken into custody in connection with this incident and Britain raised its security-alert level to critical (the highest on its scale). The attack was the first in Scotland since the Lockerbie Pan Am flight 103 bombing in Dec 1988 & the first ever to target the country. On Aug 2, 2007, Ahmed died of his injuries. On Dec 17, 2009, Bilal was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder & sentenced to 32yrs in prison.

Nov 26, 2008
Islamist terrorists from Pakistan (Lashkar-e-Taiba) co-ordinate more than 10 shooting & bombing attacks in Mumbai, India's largest port city, over a 3-day span methodically killing atleast 166-173 people (many of the bodies showing signs of beatings & torture) and injuring over 300. Included among the targets in their rampage through the commercial hub were 2 hotels (one of which - the prestigious luxury Taj Mahal - was set ablaze), a railway station, a Cafe, College, Cinema, a Women n' Children's hospital & a Jewish community center. The 10 terrorists had planned the attack several months ahead and had made their way ashore in inflatable speedboats, armed to the teeth & reportedly telling suspicious fishermen asking who they were to mind their own business. The 10 split up and the fishermen's report to police was ignored (even though with state elections approaching, security services were well aware of a possible display of violence connected to Muslim fanatacism intent on the liberation of Kashmir from India's governance). During their deadly mission of raining bullets from AK-47's, hurling grenades & holding hostages, the 10 had been in continuous contact with their controllers in Karachi by cellphones. They knew of the authorities actions from tv broadcasts & radio reports and it was some time until the feeds were blocked. Commandos eventually seized the venues, freeing many hostages & killing 9 of the terrorists. The only one captured alive - 21yr old Ajmal Kasab - apparently was a poor village boy & first became a petty criminal because his parents couldn't afford to send him to school. He joined Lashkar not out of any religious convictions but because he thought it would be exciting to learn how to use a gun. He later claimed his group had been helped by the Pakistani ISI (intelligence service) & once in custody, he shocked his interrogators by his willingness to switch sides saying: "If you give me regular meals & money, I will do the same [for you] that I did for them." On May 6, 2010 Kasab was sentenced to death (and secretly executed by hanging in Nov 2012). The incident only served to heighten ethnic enmity & border tensions between the 2 countries and highlighted a long violent background of explosions in Mumbai (Mar 1993 - 13 co-ordinated explosions [believed to have been a retaliation for a Mosque demolition] that killed 257 people & injured 700; Dec 2002 - bus station blast; Jan 2003 - bicycle bomb one day before a visit from the Indian PM; Mar 2003 - train compartment bomb one day after the 10th anniversary of the 1993 attacks; Jul 2003 - bus blast; Aug 2003 - 2 bombs in the South killing 44 & injuring 150; Jul 2006 - 7 bombs exploded within 11 minutes on a railway in Mumbai killing 209 & injuring over 700). One of the chief operators of the Nov 2008 attack was an American - David Coleman Headley (born Daood Saleem Gilani in Pakistan). For 2yrs he had been undercover casing Mumbai developing a blueprint for his 2 handlers and alleged masterminds of the 'gun n' grenade' seige (Sajid Mir & a Major Iqbal). After moving to the USA, Gilani was a small-time drug smuggler & bigamist who lived in Philadelphia then New York. After some drug arrests, he spent time as a DEA informant to give information on his Pakistani sources. At the same time, he immersed himself in radical Islam & joined Lashkar later attending training camps. After 9/11 he gathered intelligence on extremists to which he has been controversially accused of being a double agent himself. The FBI has been criticized for dropping the ball on failing to look into his life with an investigation after Gilani's Canadian-born 2nd wife accused him of domestic abuse & revealed his background to them. His 3rd wife warned the US embassy in Islamabad also about his activities just as the Mumbai plot was gathering momentum but again, American officials did nothing. Although India was warned about a possible hotel attack, immediate security alerts produced nothing. Having slipped through the cracks, Gilani changed his name to 'Headley' for more covert travel and over a 20-month period, had visited India 5 times staying weeks or months at a stretch conducting reconnaissance & insinuating himself amongst many locals - each time advancing the impending deadly assault. His final instructions were to map the GPS routes for the co-ordinated targets. After the deaths of the civilians, Indians & Westerners, Headley was sent to Denmark twice to figure out a retaliation/destruction plan of the Jyllands Posten newspaper building in Copenhagen for its controversial publishing of the Mohammad cartoons which had caused outrage across the Muslim world. By this time however, he had changed allegiances & when his Pakistani sponsors grew suspicious, they called off the plan. His new backing came from Al Qaeda with notoriously fearsome terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri (who would be killed in a US drone strike) saying the postal attack should include the beheading of hostages. Shadowed by Danish intelligence & under FBI surveillance, Headley was finally arrested at Chicago's O'Hare airport in Oct 2009. Facing the death penalty for his role in Mumbai & the Denmark plot (which was thwarted in Dec 2010 resulting in 4 men each sentenced to 12yrs in prison in Jan 2012), he co-operated and gave unprecedented evidence about the ISI, Lashkar & Al Qaeda. He tried luring Mir out of Pakistan but to no avail & after 2 weeks of interrogation, turned on an old high school friend (Tahawuur Rana) whom he accused of being an accomplice having provided a business cover. Headley agreed to a plea bargain to escape the death penalty by pleading guilty to multiple terror charges. He's still in Federal custody at an undisclosed location where he awaits sentencing. Theories abound as to what kind of spying/espionage (if at all) he was engaged in. Mir & Iqbal have never been arrested and are believed to be living in Pakistan.

Oct 28, 2009
Even by heinous terrorist standards, the massive car bomb explosion in a shopping bazaar - predominantly the preserve of women & children - in Pakistan's Northwest frontier province of Peshawar was an unconscionable act. The cultural melting-pot border city (only a few miles from Taliban-held mountains near Afghanistan) is full of smugglers, spies, traders, refugees, tribal factions & naturally, political intrigue boiling with turmoil. Since 2007, a wave of terror bombings had become so commonplace engulfing the country, that they scarcely registered in the Western media (18 in 2007; 25 in 2008; over 40 in 2009; and 9 alone in Jan 2010). the Peshawar blast (the deadliest in its history) was heard throughout the region & ripped through alleys of the congested district, killing some 137 and injuring over 200 - mostly housewives & infants. The ensuing fire was fed by highly inflammable artificial fabrics in the garment stalls, a number of buildings collapsed or were badly damaged and the dead & injured were strewn about in the rubble; an apocalyptic scene rife with the stench of burning flesh thick in the air. The immediate aftermath was defined by horrendous desperation: Emergency services failed to respond; the wounded had to be transported to hospitals in taxis & rickshaws as there were no ambulances in sight; and when police finally arrived, they started firing into the already panicked innocent crowd to 'restore order'. The attack was blamed on the Taliban & Al-Qaeda who both denied involvement and in turn, countered with accusations that it was the handiwork of American or undercover government agencies (with links to the West) designed to generate disgust with Islamists. One belief held that the bombing could even have been a personal vendetta that went dreadfully awry.

Nov 5, 2009
39yr old US Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan stationed at Fort Hood near Killeen,TX armed himself with 2 semi-automatic handguns, plenty of ammunition, reportedly shouted "Allahu Akbar!" (God is great) and opened fire on his base at fellow American personnel, killing 13 & wounding 30. After exchanging shots with civilian officers, he fell to the ground unconscious from 4 bullets & was quickly handcuffed. When he regained consciousness in hospital (paralyzed from the waist down), he was charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder & 32 counts of attempted murder leaving investigators (whom he refused to talk to) stumped over his motivation. -- (Killeen has been no stranger to tragic shooting sprees: In Oct 1991, 35yr old George Hennard rammed his pickup truck straight through a plate-glass window of a Luby's restaurant & with pistols in either hand, methodically killed 23 patrons. Another 20 were injured in the massacre. After 15 minutes - wounded & cornered by police - Hennard committed suicide by putting a bullet in his head. Luby's was the deadliest mass shooting in American history until Virginia Tech in Apr 2007). -- A practicing Muslim of Palestinian origin, Hasan had apparently expressed interest in suicide bombings, kept close email contact with his Imam (Anwar al-Awlaki) from a Virginia mosque (which was attended by 2 of the 9/11 hijackers), attempted to contact Al-Qaeda & radical clerics and while his actions were closely monitored, a fateful decision was taken by intelligence to watch rather than reel him in, hoping to land bigger fish. Various theories have suggested the gun rampage was the result of Hasan's reluctance to accept an imminent Afghanistan posting (an upcoming deployment set for Nov 28) to fury that his superiors refused to prosecute soldiers who in the course of psychiatric sessions, had admitted to committing atrocities against Muslims. In Apr 2010, Army prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty through proceedings (called an Article 32) akin to a grand jury & setting the stage for trial appeared at times to be a ridiculous rollercoaster: That Sept, Hasan's appointed civilian attorney (John P. Galligan) stated he intended to seek a closed court hearing during those proceedings... That Nov, the hearing ended with a recommendation that Hasan be court-martialed & face capital punishment... In Jul 2011, the Fort Hood post commander referred the case to a general court-martial & later that month, Fort Hood Chief Circuit Judge, Colonel Gregory Gross, set a March 2012 trial date... Hasan declined to enter any plea, dismissed his attorney & then chose to be represented by 3 military lawyers... That Nov, a lawsuit was filed by Hasan's victims & family members alleging the government's failure to act against him before his attack, amounted to willful negligence by political correctness. The 83 claimants seek $750 million in compensation from the Army... In Feb 2012 the trial was delayed until that Jun for more pre-trial preparation... That Apr, defense lawyers reuested another continuance to move the Jun date to Oct. The motion was granted & the trial was rescheduled for Aug 2012... That Apr, Hasan was formally arraigned & instructed to shave his beard thus adhering to military dress code which the Army said he was violating. Hasan refused on the grounds of religious reasons further protected by freedom of expression. The Army contended the beard was grown to delay the court-martial, mock the US military & deliberately make it more difficult for witnesses to identify him. Judge Gross warned that Hasan can be forcibly shaved... By Aug 2012, proceedings were halted due to Hasan's objections to being shaved against his will & his subsequent appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces regarding the matter. The Appeals Court announced the trial could continue, did not rule on the forcible shaving & rejected attempts by Hasan to receive "religious accommodation" from Army Regulation to wear his beard... That Sept, Judge Gross again ruled that Hasan can be forcibly shaved after detrmination that the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act did not apply to this case. However the finding will not be enforced until all of Hasan's appeals are exhausted - potentailly further delaying the trail by many more months or even years. Twice, Hasan offered to plead guilty by US Army rules prohibit the Judge of accepting a guilty plea in a death penalty case... By Nov, the Department of Defense continued to classify the Fort Hood attack as an act of workplace violence, despite the suspect's ties to Al-Qaeda. 148 plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed a wrongful death claim against the US Government, Hasan, and the estate of Anwar al-Awlaki; the lawsuit includes allegations including due process violations; intentional misrepresentation; assault & battery; gross negligence; and civil conspiracy. A group of 160 victims & family members asked that the attack be officially declared an act of terrorism, which would mean that injuries would be treated as if they were in a combat zone... By Dec, Judge Gross was removed from the case by the Appeals Court (due in part to what it called a "duel of wills" between Judge and Defendant) on the basis his order for Hasan to shave wasn't justified & amounted to bias as military command and not a military judge has responsibility for grooming standards. Gross' previous shaving order along with 6 prior counts of contempt of court he issued to Hasan were wiped out by the ruling... To date, Hasan remains incarcerated, uses a wheelchair, continues to receive paychecks & has his medical expenses paid for by the military.

Dec 25, 2009
24yr old Nigerian-born Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab aka 'The Underwear Bomber' is arrested after his unsuccessful attempt to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while on board an airliner en route from Amsterdam to Detroit. He had spent about 20 minutes in the bathroom as the destination neared & then covered himself with a blanket after returning to his seat. Other passengers then heard popping noises, smelled a foul odor and saw his pant leg & the wall of the plane on fire. The flames were doused with fire extinguishers. Once apprehended, he explained he had an explosive device and in custody, told authorities he had been directed by an Al-Qaeda affiliation from Yemen. With 2nd degree burns to his hands, legs, right inner thigh & genitalia, he was subsequently charged on criminal counts including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction & attempted murder of 289 people. On Oct 12, 2011 he plead guilty to 8 charges including inspiring to commit terrorism. In Feb 2012, he was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

May 2010
The Park51 project (originally named Cordoba House & first announced in Dec 2009) - a planned $100 million 13-story Muslim community center/prayer space to be located 2 blocks from the WTC site (controversially referred to as 'The Ground Zero Mosque') and meant to promote interfaith tolerance & understanding through dialogue and to counterbalance radicalism, stirs a firestorm. Enraged criticism from Lower Manhattan residents & 9/11 victims' families, charge they were not properly consulted about the proposed development and that the building itself - replacing a former Burlington Coat Factory that was damaged by debris in the twin tower attacks (and designed to contain a theater, auditorium, art school, gym, swimming pool, basketball court, bookstore, food court & commemorative 9/11 memorial for the victims) near sacred ground, is in extreme bad taste & insultingly dishonors the dead. Since 9/11 more people live with their families in the centralized area of the site than ever before in the previous history of the neighbourhood but inspite of the development's support of a downtown community board & being unanimously endorsed (Mayor Michael Bloomberg being in favor), loud n' booing protesters (from public debates frequently breaking out into shouting matches) and harsh right-wing media remain incensed over what they deem the shameful insensitivity of the intentional mosque standing as a despicable slap in the face tarnishing the area & calling Islam a "religion of hate". By late Sept 2011, the project developer opened a 4000 sq.ft. Islamic center in the renovated location space with hopes to build the larger planned project within several years.

Jul 2010
First appearing on Facebook, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida declared he would burn 200 Korans on the 2010 anniversary of 9/11 & the ensuing media-frenzy coverage quickly resulted in international outrage sparking pleas from the leaders of several countries including Canada, France, Germany, Pakistan, Iran, Cuba, Indonesia and world bodies such as The Vatican City, NATO & the UN. President Barack Obama condemned the ceremonial stunt as an act not only of religious intolerance & bigotry but warned it could put American soldiers overseas at risk with Al-Qaeda & terrorist sympathizers retaliating for the defilement of their holy book. For his announced act of desecration, Jones received numerous death threats and spawned riots in the Middle East & parts of Asia all the while igniting deep debates about freedom of speech, expression & censorship. After Gainsville refused to grant his church a burning permit, a bank holding a $140,000 mortgage loan on the property demanded immediate repayment of the balance then cancelled the insurance. A web hosting service for his church disconnected the site & the city said it would charge $200,000 for the cost of providing him security. All of these disuading factors led to Jones cancelling the burning on Sept 9, 2010. On Mar 20, 2011, Jones held a mock-trial of the Koran finding it guilty of crimes of humanity & sentencing it to execution. The book was burned in the church sanctuary. Upon hearing this news on Apr 1, 2011, angered protesters in Afghanistan attacked a UN Mission killing atleast 30 people (7 of whom were UN workers) & injuring 150. Jones denied any responsibility.

May 2, 2011
9yrs, 7 months & 20 days after 9/11, Osama Bin Laden at long last is finally killed after a gunbattle with US Navy SEAL & CIA paramilitary forces at a compound in Abbottabad,Pakistan. The elite commandos were launched from Afghanistan & dropped by 4 helicopters in a secret raid (one of the choppers crashed & was destroyed by the US team as the mission went forward). The men were on the ground for 40-45 minutes as the entire operation was watched in real-time by members of the Obama administration, intelligence n' national security officials. Bin Laden guards opened fire as the SEAL team blasted their way floor-to-floor in the assault finally cornering him on a 3rd floor room to which 2 of his sons, 2 of his most trusted couriers & a bewildered Bin Laden himself were shot dead. Also killed was an unidentified woman (said to be a wife) apparently used as a human shield. 2 more wives & another 4 of his children were captured. The troubling discovery that he was living in an expensive 2-storey house 100-yards (less than a mile) from a military academy (described as an equivalent to West Point) housing soldiers & police units (less than 100km drive from the capital Islamabad) raised serious questions as to how he managed to evade capture and if his whereabouts where known all along as well as a having protection, a support system & the shelter provided for him. It was suggested that he had been in the residence for 5yrs. Pakistan's government categorically denied all the allegations, promising a full inquiry while having to explain how their own intelligence servies failed to find Bin Laden. After the raid, the American forces took Bin Laden's body to Afghanistan for identification, then buried it at sea within 24hrs (to the consternation of many Muslims around the world who felt that inspite of their religion, he was unworthy of the strict ritual). Understandably with Bin Laden's death was an emotion of justice delivered, there was great elation & revelling in the bloodlust and just as quickly (because of the initial unconfirmed news n' rumors spreading like wildfire), conspiracy theories began flying as to whether the world's most wanted terrorist was infact really dead -- especially stemming from the White House refusal to issue video or photos of the corpse (thus fuel for the paranoid skeptics & lunatic fringe spewing denials n' denouncements for years to come citing disbelief without authentic proof of a lifeless body).

Jul 13, 2011
3 co-ordinated bomb explosions in Mumbai which caused the jamming of phone lines and put metro cities like Dehli, Bangalore & Hyderabad on high alert, kill 26 people & injure 130. Victim compensation from 50,000-500,000 rupees was announced for the kin & families of the dead and survivors who were seriously wounded. Speculation of responsiblity for the blasts ranged from the Indian Mujahideen, Mumbai gangsters connected to the murder of a journalist & the possibility of Kashmiri groups plotting to derail the Indo-Pakistani peace process. Along with accusations of lax security concerns, the police were heavily criticized when they detained several men (one of whom died in custody sparking allegations of brutality when the deceased man's family members charged he was subjected to torture) and the investigation provided no real viable suspects. Several countries offered their sympathies & expressed outrage over the terrorist acts.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE


Was the WTC an act of controlled demolition? Was the Pentagon really hit by an airliner or was it a missile? Was the American govt in cahoots with the terrorists on 9/11? I like conspiracy theories as much as the next person: notions of clandestine corporations, shadowy operatives, secret oraganizations, corrupt collusions & cover-ups… all acting against our better interests with a sinister agenda. However far-fetched, my curiosity is captured in this 'all bets are off' arena but the real friction/schism between believers & skeptics is credibility. In the assertion of bold, shocking claims there has to be more than just a modicum of proof & strong suspicions but a solid foundation with a basis of supported evidence to outweigh being outright dismissed. Without absolute certainty, how will/can we ever know/trust what is supplied as definitive when we are filled with doubt? I’m all for hearing 2 sides of the story (and granted, all viewpoints have a slant) but if real backing has no documentation or fact & is instead replaced by bias, then all that is produced is wild unfounded speculation in which thin argument ironically allows for a mass to run with the ball. To knowingly go this angle is too easily asking for trouble so maybe stirring the pot, hornet’s nest or opening cans of worms is to deliberately spark spotlight for the sake of investigation. Either way, in the search for answers, blind acceptance instead of proper examination appears to be evermore an accessory against the quest for truth.

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