Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

We and millions around the world were captivated by the apparent re-discovery of this spectacular bird in the Cache River area of Arkansas last year*. This month's issue of "National Geographic" has a follow-up article. Alas, it says here that the Lord God bird is gone forever, that the intensive efforts to provide conclusive proof of the bird's existence in the last year having come to naught, the most reasonable conclusion is that the 2004-5 sightings were in error, a product of hope and emotion, rather than fact. God damn it and God bless the Ivory-bill, now gone forever. This is Public Occurrences.

*Public Occurrences, August 5, 2005.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What a Wonderful World Department

What a Wonderful World Department

The best Bloody Mary's in the world are those made at the News Cafe. I am Benjamin Harris.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

On Song Binbin

On August 18, 1966 an ecstatic nineteen year old girl pinned a Red Guard armband onto an approving Mao Zedong. The occasion was the first mass rally of the Red Guards in Tienanmen Square. The pinning was Mao's imprimatur for the Cultural Revolution which lasted for ten years. Millions were to die.

The photograph of that moment is an icon of the twentieth century. The beaming girl with the Dentyne smile was Song Binbin, the daughter of an alternate Politburo member. She had already received the honor of being chosen to share the reviewing platform with Mao that day. The pinning made Song a part of history, an accidental historical figure, a (perhaps) insouciant participant in one of the most murderous movements of the incomparably murderous twentieth century. When Mao asked Song the meaning of her given name she replied "suave." Mao suggested that a name more fitting the times would mean "more martial." Song then changed her name to Yaowu, "want violence."

She got it. The Cultural Revolution almost destroyed China. There was a mini-war with the Soviet Union which threatened to go nuclear. The Chinese economy was devastated. All schools closed for a year. On the level of the individual--so unimportant to the Chinese--virtually no one was untouched. Those who weren't murdered were purged, those not purged were sent into internal exile. The families of those murdered, purged, or exiled were ostracized. At the end of it all, after Mao's death, the State held those, principally the "Gang of Four," responsible.

Somehow Song Yaowu survived this preternatural Chaos, the whole period and beyond. She immigrated to the United States in 1980, the same year that the trial of the Gang of Four began. She prospered. Having already secured an education at the elite Middle School for Girls Attached to Beijing Normal University, Song continued her career trajectory by earning a Ph.D in geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Reportedly she is living under an assumed name in Boston now and working as an environmental researcher.

In 2005 a film documentary was made of the Cultural Revolution and distributed in the West. In a rare interview on her past, Song, looking suave indeed in turtle-neck sweater and well-coifed hair, agreed to be interviewed for the film. Well..."interviewed" is such an..."interactive" word. More accurately, Song was allowed to state without follow-up questioning that she had been a victim of the Cultural Revolution, that her name had been exploited, that when she had learned of the violence of the Red Guards--whose emblem she had so proudly worn and so proudly pinned on one of the Big Three of twentieth century mass murderers--she had changed it back to "suave."

So then use thine real name, Song. So then don't insist, as thou did for Morning Sun, that thy face be blackened out as if thine were a Mafia informer.

At least one other Internet wretch besides the undersigned has expressed dissatisfaction with the explanation for Song's anonymity, that she feared repercussions from the Chinese government. That is laughably preposterous. No subject could be more closed for the Chinese government than the inconvenient details of the Cultural Revolution.

This page does not engage in insinuation. It engages in bluntness. Song should be investigated by the United States authorities to see if she participated directly, as principal, or accessory in the deprivation of human rights during the Cultural Revolution.

You don't have to be Kenneth Starr to "connect the dots" here. Song was already a member of the Red Guards when she pinned Mao. The Red Guards were the shock troops of the Cultural Revolution. Before Song pinned Mao the Red Guards had engaged in violence. She was at the heart of the Cultural Revolution at the beginning, in the universities and schools of Beijing. She knew of the violence. After pinning Mao she changed her name to "want violence." Certainly nothing suspicious there! When did she have her epiphany and become "suave" again?

Song, how exactly were you a victim of the Cultural Revolution? Tell us. What was done to you? And what did you do?

Why did you leave China only in 1980? The Cultural Revolution was already dead four years when you left? The trial of the Gang of Four began in 1980. Was your decision to immigrate influenced by the commencement of that trial? Are those two events totally coincidental?

To the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, what investigation did YOU do into Song's background? M.I.T., you are so exclusive, your admissions policy is based so much on character because all of your applicants have such stellar academic credentials. Did you vet Song's character to your satisfaction, or not vet her at all? Tell us. What did you know and when did you know it, about this applicant who subsequently received one of the most coveted degrees in American higher education? To the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who reportedly hired Song, did you know anything about her background? Did you care? Do you still employ her? Do you care now? This is Public Occurrences.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On Song Binbin

China's Cultural Revolution, one of the 20th centuries greatest catostrophes, began in the late spring and summer of 1966. When Chairman Mao had the arm band of the Red Guards pinned on his arm at the first Red Guard rally in Tiananmen Square he symbolically conferred his imprimatur to the purges and violence that had just begun and would sweep the country for the next ten years until his death.

The photograph of that moment is the iconic image of the Cultural Revolution. The honor of pinning Mao was bestowed on a fervent Red Guard member, a pretty nineteen year old student and daughter of a prominent Party offical with the beautiful name of Song Binbin. Mao asked the girl the meaning of her name and when told it meant "gentle and polite" the forward-looking Mao suggested that she change it to something "more martial." So the girl did, to Song Yaowu ("want violence"). An idolatrous, impressionable young woman had been made cruelly an unknowing pawn in an enveloping catastrophe.

Or at least that's her story and she's sticking to it. Song has kept an extremely low profile since August 18, 1966. In 2004 an acclaimed documentary on the Cultural Revolution, Morning Sung, was filmed. In a "rare," perhaps unique, brief interview for the film Song emotionally related how she had quickly grown disillusioned with the carnage that she unwittingly had helped unleash and changed her name back to "gentle and polite." Curiously, and irksomely to some since she certainly had nothing to fear from the Chinese authorities at that late date she refused to have her face shown on the film.

Millions of Chinese were destroyed professionally, beaten, killed, or driven to suicide during the Cultural Revolution. Fortunately, Song escaped all of that. Although grown disillusioned she remained in China throughout and beyond the end of the Cultural Revolution. After Mao Zedong's death in 1976, the Cultural Revolution ended. Immediately the Old Guard began consolidating power and isolating those responsible for the catastrophe of the preceeding ten years. The Red Guards were turned on, disbanded purged, and in many cases killed. Luckily, Song, the very symbol of the Cultural Revolution, escaped unscathed. In October 1980 Premier Hua Guofong and other Central Committee members staged a military coup and arrested the "Gang of Four" officials who had been instrumental (with Mao's encouragement) for the start and continuation of the Cultural Revolution.

Continuing her seeming divine fortune Song emigrated to the United States at just this time. Here she made a new, and quite successful, life. She earned a PhD in geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The last we have been able to trace her she is living in Boston and working as an enviornmental engineer, possibly for the Commonwealth. Such an amazing success story.

It does not take the rabidity of a Kenneth Starr however to look with jaundiced eye on Song's spectacular story.

Today is November 22

Today is November 22

A very bad day and the start of a very bad weekend forty-three years ago.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Murder Case Photographs- #26

Murder Case Photographs- #26

This is the best quality photograph in this series. Enlarge it to see the detail. It is there both in the foreground and background. Crime scene techs now and then used really good cameras and film which is why these photographs are so good.

This is the inside of a bar or club. It was a particularly important photo in the trial because it was enlarged (the crease in the middle is from being folded to fit into a manilla envelope) and matted on cardboard. The red marks were made by the witness(es) to place where they and the other players were. It would be reasonable to assume that the murder happened in here but there's no body, no blood, no bullet holes. Maybe it started here and spread outside.

Curiously this photograph is from the same case as the one immediately below, the outside of a church. Not an impossible, but an unusual, juxtaposition. The church photo is also marked with a witness's X and the spot is further emphasized by the staring policeman. Seems like maybe that's where the deceased fell but again there's no blood, no clothes, etc.

Love the old-fashioned police car. Enlarge and check out the spelling of the church, "Triumpth."

Triumph Church of God 1955

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Murder Case Photographs- #25

Murder Case Photographs- #25


All that one knows about the cases from which these photographs are taken is what is in the Clerk's office file, which means only those items that were introduced into evidence at trial. One of the intriguing things about going through these old files is trying to piece together the whole from that part. Sometimes there is a confession which pretty much solves any mystery about the general outlines of the case. Even then there is occasionally a photograph that you can make no sense of whatsoever.

This is one of those. What the hell is this? It is some piece of heavy machinery but I can't make out anything beyond that. It doesn't look like any piece of farm or road-grading equipment that I've ever seen. It vaguely looks like the innards of a tank but it certainly is not that. There were some objects in the movie Alien that this reminds me of. That it's also a crummy photo doesn't help things. And why would it have been introduced into evidence in the murder case? Where's the deceased? Is there a gun hidden there somewhere? What possibly could have been the evidentiary value of this? LOVE this job.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Murder Case Photographs- #24

Murder Case Photographs-#24


This scene is the inside of an African-American bar (note the Joe Louis and the Caucasian-ified woman advertisements on the wall). Prohibition is Exhibit #1 for our society's attempt at "legislating morality." Fair enough but if we could have successfully outlawed booze there would be a lot--a LOT--more people alive today. I would estimate--and this is just off the top of my head now--that 75% of the murders that I have handled in the past twenty-one years had something to do with alcohol or drugs: using and getting buzzed or selling and getting killed, somehow. Or if we outlawed men. That I can recall right now I only have had one female murder defendant among hundreds that I've handled. Maybe there's a couple more I'm forgetting but murder--and violent crime generally--is a guy thing. It amuses me sometimes and infuriates me others when someone says violent crime is largely an African-American thing. If we're going to make generalizations let's use the most impressive one: if there weren't guys there would be virtually no violent crime. I am Benjamin Harris.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bo Schembechler Dies

Bo Schembechler Dies

If this minnow of a website can commemorate Milton Friedman's death, it is not too hooty-tooty to commemorate the death of a Leviathan in Sports, the Toy Department of Life, Bo Schembechler, the former coach of the University of Michigan "Wolverines," and on the eve of perhaps the biggest game in the history of Michigan-Ohio State college tackle football. For tonight only this is Public Occurrences.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Milton Friedman Died Today

Milton Friedman Died Today

Wednesday, November 15, 2006



Thought I would lighten up this page a little, filled as it is with all these morbid posts on morbid topics like crime and Islam and war. Yuck.

Islamic poobahs don't have much of a sense of humor when it comes to themselves. Tyrants never do. Fidel Castro reportedly has a wonderful, playful way of poking good-natured fun at his closest advisers. But he loses his sense of humor when he is the butt of the joke. So we will use humor against Islam (then we will destroy Tehran, Islamabad, Riyahd, Damascus. Huh-huh-huh, just kidding Islam!).

I have a theory. Employing the anthropologist's construct of hermeneutics and common anagrams my theory is that we can come to a deeper understanding of things.

Take Mohammed (please!), for example: Prophet, founder of the religion, yada yada yada. Everybody knows that. But if we rearrange the letters in Mohammed we can get,

"Oh, me mad"

Huh, how about that? Wouldn't we have fucking liked to have known that before 9/11!

And I have one other one for you. Taj aldin al hilali, Australia's top Islamic cleric who recently implied that if women don't want to be raped they should be locked up in the house and covered up head-to-toe in that Islamic thing they make women wear. If you rearrange that guy's name you can get,

"All tail in jail"

Damn straight you can and don't tell me that don't mean nothin'. Fuck you.

-I am Benjamin Harris.

On Sheik Taj Aldin al Hilali

Miss November

On Sheik Taj Aldin al Hilali

By now the entire world knows about Sheik al Hilali's comments that western-dressed women are like uncovered pieces of meat who invite rape. As was said here recently* it should be the strategy of those of us who believe that the threat we face today is Islam--not a radical, fringe interpretation of it, not a small band of terrorists, it is mainstream Islam as it is preached and practised today that is the threat--for those of us who believe this it should be our strategy to keep incidents like this in the minds of those who we have influence with--our family, our friends, our coworkers, our elected representatives--as long as possible.

We should not argue with other Americans who think differently, we should not get angry with them, we should not condescend to them. Those things make people dig in their heels and less likely to change their opinions. We should view them as...the pre-enlightened.

We should ask them their opinion and the basis for it. Sometimes we will have to let it go at that to avoid hard feelings. We have still accomplished something, we have gotten them to think. To the less defensive we can go a little further, quote the Koran or In the Shade of the Koran or the Islamic evil de jour. We can tell them about some of the Islamic states, like Syria and Iraq, who patterned their governments after that of Nazi Germany. We should ask them respectfully not to be beguiled that Islam is a religion. It is that but it is preached and practiced today as a fascist philosophy too.

We should not hate and as importantly not give other Americans the impression that we hate, especially not them. We do not hate Muslims or Sheik al Hilali either, but we must not prevaricate. We call this a war and we mean it. President Bush calls this a war but has prosecuted it as a police action on steroids with a warm and fuzzy nation-building final chapter. We believe that we should bomb out of existence the governments of, for example, Syria, Iran, and Pakistan. We should use conventional bombs if we can but nuclear and thermonuclear weapons if we must. That is hard even for us to swallow, and we should admit it. We are not callous and don't want anyone to think that we are. It is not something one even thinks without feelings of sorrow, so imagine the impact on people who hear this for the first time from us. We must tell them that we have an open mind--and mean it. We should ask them what they would do, and why. But we have to state clearly where we stand. We will be reasonable but firm, open-minded but decisive.

Today was a good day. Like Islam's attacks on the Pope, like Islam's reaction to the Danish cartoons, today gave worldwide publicity to the true face of Islam as it is preached and practised today: hateful, vile, medieval. Sheik al Hilali has changed some people's minds in our favor. Islam will do our work for us, if we just listen, and get others to listen. This was a good day. This is Public Occurrences.

*See For Verbal Provocation of Islam, Publocc, September 17, 2006.