Notebook: A Kill Team and a HST killer quote

Rolling Stone has produced the journalism other haven’t — or won’t. They’ve tackled the worst known war scandal since Abu Ghraib with their coverage of “The Kill Team.”

The mag published the photos of soldiers posing with their random kills. The photos I haven’t seen in any other U.S publication. The mag wrote about the Pentagon’s efforts to confiscate the photos — an effort to  quell the fallout, which came anyway, and looks worse with the cover-up.

Well, the fallout and great narrative came at the hands of this magazine journalism and a list of muckrakers including the author, Mark Boal, and dating back to Hunter S. Thompson.

Read it.

Unquote” the Good Doc

Reading a punch of prose from Hunter S. Thompson is like downing shots of Wild Turkey. His style wakes you up, makes you feel a bit more alive.

Here’s an Unquote” of his pitch to write for the Vancouver Sun circa 1958:

“The enclosed clippings should give you a rough idea of who I am. It’s a year old, however, and I’ve changed a bit since it was written. [Benign enough start, but keep reading.] I’ve taken some writing courses from Columbia in my spare time, learned a hell of a lot about the newspaper business, and developed a healthy contempt for journalism as a profession.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you’re trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I’d like to write for you.”

An Unquote” worth a drink

The disconnect from this fact in the Libyan war coverage makes The Tank want to pour another shot of Wild Turkey.

In Time, where complacence often reins, this upcoming Unquote” fact was in a story about energy, and probably not alluded to in the old guard’s war “reporting.”

“Libya: The site of the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, the nation remains largely underexplored.”

It’s a fact which makes the Tank think about John Perkins’ “Confessions of an Economic Hitman.” He would say this U.S.-led effort wreaks of an ulterior motive to grab at the country’s resources. A strategy he documented from his first-hand experience in the book how similar tactics occurred in Indonesia, Panama, Ecuador, Columbia, and later, Iraq, and others.

Somewhere, the World Bank, the IMF, the Rand Corp., Bechtel and Halliburton prepare business operations and light up for profits in Libya.

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Looking for a bigger picture

One news story this week has captured my attention more than any other — and it isn’t the war in Libya or the continuing fallout from the triple disaster in Japan.

It’s the U.S. court-martial of Spc. Jeremy Morlock for the indiscriminate killings of three unarmed Afghan civilians last year. He said, “the plan was to kill people.” But that isn’t really it.

What’s grabbed my attention was how the U.S. newspapers I read avoided publishing the photos the unit took of the “disconcertingly satisfied” soldiers posing with their kills.

The New York Times wrote about how the photos could divide the Afghan and U.S. governments at a crucial time in the war, but didn’t link the photos online. The St. Paul Pioneer Press picked up the Times’ story, but no photos either. The Minneapolis Star Tribune didn’t pick the photos or the story.

The German news magazine Der Spiegel published the photos on March 20. The Times’ story said “it was not clear how Der Spiegel obtained the images.” It also said, “a military judge had prohibited the release of the photos.”

But newspapers have shown they aren’t beholden to the directives of the U.S. government with their extensive coverage of the Wikileaks documents this winter.

The Tank just read about a book that included some 1970s history about how the editor of the New York Times refused to stop publishing the Pentagon Papers after Nixon’s administration threatened the newspaper with a violation of the Espionage Act. (Ironically, that’s the same charge the Obama administration is purportedly exploring the use of with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange.)

Morlock was sentenced to 24 years in prison Wednesday. The Pioneer Press continued to cover it; the Star Tribune again had nothing. The largest newspaper in Minnesota failed to include what the Associated Press called “some of the most serious criminal allegations to come from the war in Afghanistan.”

There is a precedence, however, with main newspapers ignoring damaging photographs. In 2004, when photos of U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison went public, London’s newspapers displayed them across their front pages and continued in full color on inside pages. The Tank saw this coverage on London’s Tube. Back in the U.S. the next day, only below-the-fold follow-ups from the U.S. papers.

Why is this? If Der Spiegel has the photos, U.S. news organizations could probably get them from Der Spiegel if they credit where they came from. There has to be more here. But since we’re not in the newsrooms of the major papers, the Tank will hope for answers later.

But if you don’t want to be beholden to the sometimes limited coverage of our nation’s newspapers, click here to see the photos. They aren’t pretty, but they help tell the story and they should have been run with the articles.

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My 5: Abandoned Farm and Chengwatana

The year anniversary of the South American soiree came and went last weekend. No hubbub, just ho-hum — with a slight sigh about how quickly six months can pass in a blink.

In the spirit of the trip, Pessa and I went on a day hike. A new place. A map. A pack with snacks. We stopped by an abandoned roadside farm on our way to snowshoe in the Chegwatana State Forest in Pine County.

With pealing paint, slate skies, a rare sights of a red hat , here are two My 5s:

My 5: Chengwatana

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Respect your Hair-itage

My current obsession with facial hair might need a clinical diagnosis, but the boys and girls at Nike get me. They really get me.

They have introduced a line of T-shirts dedicated to Hall of Fame baseball players with outstanding ‘staches, fu manchus, beards, afros and dreads.

The best include Reggie Jackson, Ozzie Smith, Manny Ramirez and, of course, Rollie Fingers.

I don’t buy new clothes, but I need something to wear during the Twins World Series run this year. Overlooking the coming Casilla crash, melancholy over Morneau’s melon and being on the brink of bullpen blunders, I’m optimistic. So, here’s what I’m going to wear over a long-sleeve shirt in late October and early November.

KIIIIRRRBBBBYYYY PUCKETT. That’s right.

That’s good, but these three are better.

The aviators make Mr. October’s the best T.

Still the gold standard

A crusty old sports reporter the Tank knows laments the fall of Sports Illustrated from top-notch sports journalism to little more than pop culture drivel.

While they have pop culture graphics and blurbs, they still produce great reporting, including recent stories about Aliquippa (Pa.) High School football, Jake Plummer and the investigation into crime in college football.

SI led me to this pop culture. The video is good, but not near the greatness of other Nike commercials/shorts.

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Bearded

A full beard is a sight I praise; proper documentation of a full beard is a sight I envy.

This video is from Carlton College student Corey Fauver and his posterity prowess. He’s just sharing the greatness of facial hair growth.

Two Noxious Numbers

37

The number of deaths of U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, according to a Star Tribune letter writer.

It’s easy to forget about the wars — and the Tank can be as guilty as the rest — but we should try and fight those omissions.

1,000,000,000

The estimated number of undernourished people in the world, according to the World Bank.

That’s about 1 in 6. A shocking number on the dire needs of this planet.

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Drum beats louder

Nearly a year  has passed since the Tank made Ecuador a routine dateline, and the former reforestation project we worked at has announced some exciting developments.

Planet Drum, a non-profit based in San Francisco, has been reforesting the coastal ridges of Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador, and a site we worked on has been completed with more than 500 native trees. These species will help the hillsides fight the erosion that devastated Bahia de Caraquez during El Nino more than a decade ago.

They also have a steady flow of volunteers, and this guy still running the show in the field.


Orlando! Todo lo que es el  hombre, err, all that is man.

Orlando and the rest of Planet Drum are planting 4,000 trees this rainy season. 4,000! That’s manly — and womanly.

Feels good to have contributed; feels good to know they are continuing and improving. To read more, go here.

Unquote” Plummer

A great Sports Illustrated article about former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer included his moving quote from his eulogy of former teammate and deceased U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman.

“I was in the store the other day and I saw People magazine, and it had the cover of the 50 most beautiful people in the world, or America, and there was a picture of Pat,” Plummer said. “It was kind of ironic because I really looked and said, What is beauty? Is beauty a pretty face, a nice smile, flowing hair, nice skin? Not to me, it’s not. To me beauty is living life to higher standards, stronger morals and ethics and believing in them, whether people tell you you’re right or wrong. Beauty is not wasting a day. Beauty is noticing life’s little intricacies and taking time out of your busy day to really enjoy those little intricacies. Beauty is being real, being genuine, being pure with no facade — what you see is what you get. Beauty is expanding your mind, always seeking knowledge, not being content, always going after something and challenging yourself.”

Blogroll update

When the Tank’s links include a connection to a conservative commentator — Robert Novak — who died 18 months ago, the time is ripe to update the list.

People might not click on them, but the Tank is proud to have included Wikileaks years before it reached the front pages and top stories of mainstream news. And Al Jazeera as U.S. cable companies were (and still are) denying the Qatar-based news organization from airing its English TV station on its programming packages.

It’s been a while since the Tank has clicked on them, and was saddened to see Cagle’s best political cartoons through MSNBC either gone or moved. Other casualties include alternative news sources such as Guerrilla News Network and Real News as well as a blog from talented foreign journalist Dahr Jamail.

The Tank was pleasantly surprised to see Owl Farm Blog from Hunter S. Thompson’s wife, Anita, still alive and well. As I listen to new sounds of Chris & Thomas, Bonnie “Prince” Billy and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Anita posted some Gonzo journalism from its founder, HST:

“Music has always been a matter of energy for me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel.”

It’s ironic because when I’m not transcribing interviews for stories during the day, I’m listening to music. I’m with HST, it’s fuel. It was also ironic this evening. While I was checking out “Entertain Me or Else,” a blog from my friend Will A, also still alive and well,  Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks” played through my headphones. It was fitting because we got fuel from that tune in Duluth circa 2009.

Some other blogroll updates include John Rash, a Star Tribune editorial writer, who had this nice observation, “The CNN identity crisis could also be seen in recent appearances of its current star Anderson Cooper. In the course of two weeks, he got beaten up by Pee Wee Herman in a “Saturday Night Live” skit, then took real punches from pro-Mumbarak mobs in Egypt.”

Rash had this too, “USA Today has five foreign correspondents, according to American Journalism Review, and 27 entertainment reporters, according to a leaked staffing chart.”

Another new link is to “The Enlightenment of Gray,” a blog from college friend Blake Hendrickson. He resides in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and it’s certainly enlightening to get his non-ethnocentric comments.

Another final newbie is Basetrack, the Web site the Tank wrote about two weeks ago. It was from journalists embedded with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan before the U.S. government shut them down a few weeks ago. Although it’s stagnant now, I wouldn’t have known about the lack of success of drone attacks without their Facebook link to a Washington Post story.

The story, which brings up some noxious numbers, said 119 drone attacks, costing $1 million each have killed only two senior-level terrorists.

That’s scary, and with a diversified information list — err, blogroll — we now know such things.

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Mum(ford) is the word

The day the music died for me was when my iPod hard drive froze last spring in Patagonia, Argentina. From that point, this already music laggard ceased to listen to anything much less anything “new.”

That was beginning to change — or so I thought — when Keith Stone of fame from our road trip out west sat down and ripped me Mumford and Sons.

Listening to them in the car felt somewhat like an epiphany. Like I was in on something. (It was easily my first new disc in about a year.)

A quick search turned up the fact that these four Brits have been together since 2007, and two of their hits have a combined 20 million YouTube hits.

OK. Fine. I’m painfully still a laggard, but at least there’s some new (to me) music to be had.

I believe it’s important to listen to this song alone, at night, in your car. Scream along. It’s cathartic.

This is a much better video. …

This one’s pretty good, too. …

More banjo, please!

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