Archive for March, 2012

A short film Oscar winner. Beautiful use of metaphor.

Afghanistan Boy (photo: UN Photos/flickr)

Afghanistan Boy (photo: UN Photos/flickr)

Jason Ditz at has a report this morning linking to an AP article in The Australian that U.S. soldiers lined up against a wall all of the adult males in the village of Mokhoyan after an IED blew up a tank injuring American soldiers at a location near the village.

According to the report, the villagers said the Americans told them they knew they were responsible for the IED and they were going to kill at least 20 villagers, including children, to avenge the attack.

According to the villagers, the incident occurred on March 8th. Mokhoyan is in the vicinity of the two villages (Balandi and Alkozai) where Staff Sergeant Robert Bales allegedly murdered 16 civilians, including 9 children, setting some of the bodies on fire during the predawn hours of March 11th.

Jason Ditz also reports today that Bales’s attorney, John Henry Browne, said his client has no memory of the incident and he denies drinking more than a sip or two alcohol that night.

Mr. Browne also said that Bales told him that a friend lost a leg in an IED explosion while on a patrol on March 9th.

The U.S. military has neither confirmed nor denied that the IED explosion reported by the villagers of Mokhoyan is the same incident that Staff Sergeant Bales mentioned to his attorney.

The villagers in Balandi and Alkozai claim that a group of U.S. soldiers committed the murders. The military insists that Staff Sergeant Bales was the only soldier involved.

Appears that the bodies may have been buried before autopsies could be performed to determine specific facts, such as,

(1) the time of death for each victim;

(2) whether more than weapon was involved;

(3) whether the fatal shot or shots were fired from close range;

(4) what was the trajectory of bullet or bullets;

(5) whether there were any exit wounds;

(6) whether there was any evidence (i.e., ligature marks) that the bodies were bound (e.g., wrists tied behind the back);

(7) whether there were any puncture or slashing type wounds consistent with the use of a sharp piercing or cutting instrument like a knife; and

(8) whether there was any evidence of physical torture prior to death.

We also do not know if the houses in which the murders took place were investigated as crime scenes. For example, were any slugs and casings recovered and, if so, how many weapons and what type were involved. Another question I have is whether any bloody fingerprints or footprints were found. (more…)

A powerful short film on vimeo from the director of the short film The Butterfly Circus, Joshua Weigel.

Do Not Read:

I Did It!

This essay is a personal account that was written by Jo Goodwin Parker. It was published in 1971. Here is an excerpt:

You ask me what is poverty? Listen to me. Here I am, dirty, smelly, and with no “proper” underwear on and with the stench of my rotting teeth near you. I will tell you. Listen to me. Listen without pity. I cannot use your pity. Listen with understanding. Put yourself in my dirty, worn out, ill-fitting shoes, and hear me.

Poverty is getting up every morning from a dirt- and illness-stained mattress. The sheets have long since been used for diapers. Poverty is living in a smell that never leaves. This is a smell of urine, sour milk, and spoiling food sometimes joined with the strong smell of long-cooked onions. Onions are cheap. If you have smelled this smell, you did not know how it came. It is the smell of the outdoor privy. It is the smell of young children who cannot walk the long dark way in the night. It is the smell of the mattresses where years of “accidents” have happened. It is the smell of the milk which has gone sour because the refrigerator long has not worked, and it costs money to get it fixed. It is the smell of rotting garbage. I could bury it, but where is the shovel? Shovels cost money.

The rest of the essay is here:

I would like to thank the editors at for retrieving the code for the photo of the USS Lacerta.

USS Lacerta (AKA-29). The Lacerta was decommissioned in March, 1946, upon her return from the Pacific theater. (photo: wikipedia)

1945: It Wasn’t Just The Poverty

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
– Mark Twain

There was a time in our history when everything changed. People did not know what to do. There were no classes on how to raise children. Everything in the world had vanished and no one knew what to replace it with.

There was a time when right and wrong all got changed, a time when the rules of war and the international laws all went up in the air and generals fought with one another about how to fight.

There were no rules, no guidelines, for the farmers, for the industrial workers or even for the newly rich. There were no norms. No one fit in anywhere.

Poverty was everywhere. But it wasn’t just the poverty. It was the confusion.

Prior to this and during the Great Depression, a man, a poor man, approached my grandfather, another poor man, at a farmers’ gathering. Radio was a recent invention. The man asked a question. It was not a question about finance. The man asked simply, “Can you help me understand the world?”

Family At Last: 1946-1949

by Letty Owings

With the USS Lacerta back from the Pacific, Ray’s discharge could only be a matter of when and where. His parents thought it would be neat if he reenlisted, but I did not consider that an option. I had waited quite long enough for us to begin life as a family. The Lacerta went all the way down the West Coast from Seattle, through the Panama Canal and up the East Coast to Norfolk, Virginia. Ray’s trip through the canal convinced him that someday we would do that together, which we did a few years ago.

Ray had one health issue he wanted to have taken care of before he left the Navy and that was tonsil removal. When he was a kid, some family doctor removed his tonsils in such a botch job that they grew back. Free surgery in Norfolk would delay him a few days. I was not about to wait. With June in my arms, I talked my brother into a drive to Kansas City to the train station. Again the family considered me impatient and foolish, but again their worries did not deter me.

Service people coming home from the Pacific and Europe jammed every train car. They were dead asleep in the aisles and even on the floor in the women’s restroom. Many of them were coming home to wives and new babies, so June became a star attraction. They looked at her and wondered what their own babies might be like. In Cincinnati, I left one train for another and had some time to wait. I lay down on a bench, dead from fatigue and holding June next to me. Next thing I knew a man was shaking me. He assumed I was between trains and that mine might be leaving the station. His assumption was correct, so eternally grateful to him for shaking me out of my deep sleep, I ran for the departing train.

Our meeting in Norfolk I remember little about except that spring was in the air in February, and June took her first steps reaching for daffodils in a park. For our return trip, Ray was able to get me on a service aircraft. Of that trip back to Missouri, I remember how miserably cold it was in Chicago where we were shifted here and there. Also I recall June crawling up and down the aisle in the small plane with service men holding her and playing with her. She was dirty as a pig when we arrived. Back in Kansas City I stayed with Ray’s Aunt Beulah and Uncle Alfred for a few days. June had not one stitch of clothes that were sanitary to wear, so we pinned Alfred’s undershirt on her. He was about a size 46, and she was a tiny size one.

Ray went through Great Lakes Naval Station to muster out. That is when our life as family began in earnest. He had only three years of college and needed to get back to the university forthwith. The problem was that so did thousands of other returning service men. Since the GI Bill provided some benefits, returnees who never considered higher education went to universities and colleges by the droves. We could not find a place in Columbia, so we rented a farmhouse in the country outside of Wellington. Ray took a job as principal and math teacher at a tiny high school in Henrietta, Missouri.

We bought an old pickup truck to get to and from. The house we rented had no indoor bath or anything that fancy, but we were glad to have it. We planted a garden and raised some chickens. Soon I was pregnant again and we felt even more of an urgency about Ray’s finishing his degree.

End Note: The woman sharing this excerpt of her story is my mother, Letty Owings.

The quote, “It wasn’t just the poverty. It was the confusion” belongs to her.

She emphasizes this clarification and identifies this theme as central to the Great Depression, the war, and the post-war eras. She believes that we are currently in a time of great confusion where the question “Can you help me understand the world” is appropriate.