Fate played a cruel, unwanted hand in Diane Feinstein’s political rise:
On Nov. 27, 1978, at the end of her tether, Ms. Feinstein [then a member of the San Francisco city Board of Supervisors] told City Hall reporters that she intended to quit political life. Two hours later, shots exploded down the hall from her office. She ran toward the gunfire and, moments later, knelt beside a dying mayor. Mr. Moscone and Harvey Milk, the city’s first openly gay supervisor, who was shot in another office, had been killed by Dan White, a disgruntled former supervisor, who was quickly captured and eventually imprisoned.
[ NOTE: Dan Ellsberg, born in April 1931, started out as a laser-bright Harvard grad, a Marine, and was a Pentagon whiz kid under Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara, when the Vietnam War heated up.
He rose to fame when his conscience moved him to copy and release a secret report, called the Pentagon Papers, which showed that the government had been lying about the war, and its prospects, for years. The Nixon administration wanted to jail him forever; but in a story marked by his courage and a long line of federal screwups and crimes that mixed Kafka with the Keytone Kops, the charges were thrown out.
Ellsberg has never since stopped campaigning against nuclear weapons and wars. But if he beat the federal rap, he couldn’t beat the clock. This week he sent out letter about that, joining Jimmy Carter on a list of generational heroes in their closing days. ( My putting them side by side might make Jimmy, or both, uncomfortable; but I’ll stand by it, and them.)]
From Daniel Ellsberg, originally in Twitter:
Dear friends and supporters,
I have difficult news to impart. On February 17, without much warning, was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer on the basis of a CT scan and an MRI. (As is usual with pancreatic cancer–which has no early symptoms–it was found while looking for something else, relatively minor). I’m sorry to report to you that my doctors have given me three to six months to live. Of course, they emphasize that everyone’s case is individual; it might be more, or less.
And he said this very calmly. I hadn’t known that he was about to be sentenced for draft resistance. It hit me as a total surprise and shock, because I heard his words in the midst of actually feeling proud of my country listening to him. And then I heard he was going to prison. It wasn’t what he said exactly that changed my worldview. It was the example he was setting with his life. How his words in general showed that he was a stellar American, and that he was going to jail as a very deliberate choice—because he thought it was the right thing to do.
There was no question in my mind that my government was involved in an unjust war that was going to continue and get larger. Thousands of young men were dying each year. I left the auditorium and found a deserted men’s room. I sat on the floor and cried for over an hour, just sobbing. The only time in my life I’ve reacted to something like that.
Decades later, reflecting on Kehler’s decision, Ellsberg said:
Randy Kehler never thought his going to prison would end the war. If I hadn’t met Randy Kehler it wouldn’t have occurred to me to copy [the Pentagon Papers]. His actions spoke to me as no mere words would have done. He put the right question in my mind at the right time.
In a 2002 memoir, Ellsberg wrote about the Vietnam War, stating that:
It was no more a “civil war” after 1955 or 1960 than it had been during the U.S.-supported French attempt at colonial reconquest. A war in which one side was entirely equipped and paid by a foreign power – which dictated the nature of the local regime in its own interest – was not a civil war. To say that we had “interfered” in what is “really a civil war,” as most American academic writers and even liberal critics of the war do to this day, simply screened a more painful reality and was as much a myth as the earlier official one of “aggression from the North.” In terms of the UN Charter and of our own avowed ideals, it was a war of foreign aggression, American aggression.
Ellsberg Letter, Cont.: I have chosen not to do chemotherapy (which offers no promise) and I have assurance of great hospice care when needed. Please know: right now, I am not in any physical pain, and in fact, after my hip replacement surgery in late 2021, I feel better physically than I have in years! Moreover, my cardiologist has given me license to abandon my salt-free diet of the last six years. This has improved my quality of life dramatically: the pleasure of eating my former favorite foods! And my energy level is high.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve done several interviews and webinars on Ukraine, nuclear weapons, and first amendment issues, and I have more scheduled.
As I just told my son Robert: he’s long known (as my editor) that I work better under a deadline. It turns out that I live better under a deadline!
I feel lucky and grateful that l’ve had a wonderful life far beyond the proverbial three-score years and ten. ( I’II be ninety-two on April 7th.) I feel the very same way about having a few months more to enjoy life with my wife and family, and in which to continue to pursue the urgent goal of working with others to avert nuclear war in Ukraine or Taiwan (or anywhere else).
When I copied the Pentagon Papers in 1969, 1 had every reason to think I would be spending the rest of my life behind bars. It was a fate I would gladly have accepted if it meant hastening the end of the Vietnam War, unlikely as that seemed (and was).
Yet in the end, that action-in ways I could not have foreseen, due to Nixon’s illegal responses- did have an impact on shortening the war. In addition, thanks to Nixon’s crimes, I was spared the imprisonment I expected, and I was able to spend the last fifty years with Patricia and my family, and with you, my friends.
What’s more, I was able to devote those years to doing everything I could think of to alert the world to the perils of nuclear war and wrongful interventions: lobbying, lecturing, writing and joining with others in acts of protest and non-violent resistance efforts.
As I write, “modernization” of nuclear weapons is ongoing in all nine states that possess them (the US most of all). Russia is making monstrous threats to initiate nuclear war to maintain its control over Crimea and the Donbas–like the dozens of equally illegitimate first-use threats that the US government has made in the past to maintain its military presence in South Korea, Taiwan, South Vietnam, and (with the complicity of every member state then in NATO ) West Berlin. The current risk of nuclear war, over Ukraine, is as great as the world has ever seen.
China and India are alone in declaring no first use policies. Leadership in the US, Russia, other nuclear weapons states, NATO, and other US allies have yet to recognize that such threats of initiating nuclear war — let alone the plans, deployments, and exercises meant to make them credible and more ready to be carried out — are and always have been immoral and insane: under any circumstances, for any “reasons,” by anyone or anywhere.
It is long past time–but not too late!–for the world’s publics at last to challenge and resist the willed moral blindness of their past and current leaders. I will continue, as long as I’m able, to help these efforts. There’s tons more to say about Ukraine and nuclear policy, of course, and you’ll be hearing from me as long as I’m here.
As I look back on the last sixty years of my life, I think there is no greater cause to which I could have dedicated my efforts. For the last forty years we have known that nuclear war between the US and Russia would mean nuclear winter:
more than a hundred million tons of smoke and soot from firestorms in cities set ablaze by either side, striking either first or second, would be lofted into the stratosphere where it would not rain out and would envelope the globe within days. That pall would block up to 70% of sunlight for years, destroying all harvests worldwide and causing death by starvation for most of the humans and other vertebrates on earth.
So far as I can find out, this scientific near-consensus has had virtually no effect on the Pentagon’s nuclear war plans or US/NATO (or Russian) nuclear threats. (In a like case of disastrous willful denial by many officials, corporations, and other Americans, scientists have known for over three decades that the catastrophic climate change now underway–mainly but not only from burning fossil fuels–is fully comparable to US-Russian nuclear war as another existential risk.)
I’m happy to know that millions of people–including all those friends and comrades to whom I address this message–have the wisdom, dedication, and moral courage to carry on with these causes, and to work unceasingly for the survival of our planet and its creatures.
I’m enormously grateful to have had the privilege of knowing and working with such people, past and present. That’s among the most treasured aspects of my very privileged and very lucky life. I want to thank you all for the love and support you have given me in so many ways. Your dedication, courage, and determination to act have inspired and sustained my own efforts.
My wish for you is that at the end of your days you will feel as much joy and gratitude as I do now.
[Blogger’s P S: As late as 2021, Ellsberg wa s still up to his whistleblower mischief. I wonder if the plans he leaked then, about ultra-secret Pentagon plans for a pre-emptive nuclear attack on China, had anything to do with the secret photo reconnaissance missions my late Air Force pilot father was called on to fly in those same years, blogged about here. take a look, see what you think:
On May 22, 2021, during the Biden administration, The New York Times reported Ellsberg had released classified documents revealing the Pentagon in 1958 drew up plans to launch a nuclear attack on China amid tensions over the Taiwan Strait.
According to the documents, US military leaders supported a first-use nuclear strike even though they believed China’s ally, the Soviet Union, would retaliate and millions of people would perish. Ellsberg told The New York Times he copied the classified documents about the Taiwan Strait crisis fifty years earlier when he copied the Pentagon Papers, but chose not to release the documents then.
Instead, Ellsberg released the documents in the Spring of 2021 because he said he was concerned about mounting tensions between the U.S. and China over the fate of Taiwan. He assumed the Pentagon was involved again in contingency planning for a nuclear strike on China should a military conflict with conventional weapons fail to deliver a decisive victory. “I do not believe the participants were more stupid or thoughtless than those in between or in the current cabinet,” said Ellsberg, who urged President Biden, Congress and the public to take notice.
In releasing the classified documents, Ellsberg offered himself as a defendant in a test case challenging the Justice Department’s use of the Espionage Act of 1917 to punish whistleblowers. Ellsberg noted the Act applies to everyone, not just spies, and prohibits a defendant from explaining the reasons for revealing classified information in the public interest.
Okay, I was told that a file folder was blown out of a dumpster near Joe Biden’s beach place in Delaware, and somehow it made its way into my inbox.
I figured it was a gag, but opened it anyway. Across the top of the single page inside it said:
”Supremely Confidential— Eyes Only February 4, 2023”
SUBJECT: The Chinese Balloon & Critical National Security interests at or near Myrtle Beach.
FROM: National Security Staff
Sir: FYI, we strongly recommend the following key features of the Atlantic coastal area around Myrtle Beach South Carolina, which the Chinese balloon is now approaching, be seriously considered as the basis for decisive action to take down this intruder.
Numerous sources confirm that the region is heavily populated by an allegedly endangered species of corpulent bipeds, who some say feel themselves at grave risk from enhanced IRS enforcement, Medicaid expansion, prescription drug caps and other environmental toxins.
The Weather Service reports that coastal winds aloft remain highly variable, and could send the balloon veering back over this beach region at any moment. In assessing options, we urge careful attention to the data below. It was gathered by our confidential humint sources on the scene, and phoned in between holes on secure lines. Note that in such reports, the species is referred to by the slang term “golfers”:
— Annual household income of $125,000 — Golfers are middle to high income people — 44% invest so they can retire early — 90% of Fortune 500 CEO’s are golfers — 1 in 3 golfers are in top level management — 91% of golfers are homeowners — 38% are interested in purchasing a luxury leisure property — Average home value: $480,000 — Avid PGA Tour viewers are 2x as likely to own 2nd homes — 32% of golfers own at least 3 vehicles — 28% spent over $40,000 on their last vehicle —The Average golfer plays 60 rounds each year, practices 1 hour 11 minutes each week, and plays for 4.5 hours each week. That’s 300 hours each year at a golf course . . . .
Sir, we still stand by our earlier advice to ignore the balloon’s passage over Montana; as one humint source said, “Even if they drop a few bombs, why scramble the jets and make an international incident over what would most likely be a few extra well-done burgers?” We believe that worked out well, despite local political complaints.
But Myrtle Beach is different.
The golfer species there clusters on at least 80 courses (other unconfirmed sources say the number is 100-plus, though we suspect some disinformation here).
We’re also aware that the local species skews strongly MAGA. But in private many are known to hedge their donation bets and swing both ways. Not to mention their early presidential primary next year.
All this we believe makes protection of this rare habitat, also known as The Golf Coast, a national security action priority. . . .”
The last couple of lines were smudged, but I could make out the words, “I concur, Jill”in ball point.
I think the Archives people will be here any minute to pick up the sheet; they can decide whether it’s really legit. But I wanted to share it in the meantime.Now, for a non-satirical view:
GWYNNE DYER: The Great Game of the superpowers showed its hand, but has America’s ‘floaty-bag’ problem been solved?
‘The details will quickly fade from the American public’s memory, but the impression will remain that somebody, and probably somebody Chinese, has been spying on them in their own homes’
The United States has been having “a bit of a floaty-bag problem over its airspace,” as South Africa’s Daily Maverick news site put it.
Indeed, it has.
Four balloons or other flying objects shot down by the U.S. Air Force over American or Canadian territory in eight days got everybody’s attention and made the already fragile state of U.S.-Chinese relations a good deal worse.
But it all turns out to be an innocent mistake. Sort of.
The first unknown flying object, a big Chinese balloon — 70 metres high, with an instrument payload the size of several buses — was obviously in the wrong place. It was clearly designed to gather ‘sigint’ (signals intelligence), but flying it across the United States, even 20 kilometres up, was just asking for trouble.
Are the Chinese really that stupid?
No, they aren’t. Mumbled explanations to the Washington Post by embarrassed American officials who must remain nameless have now revealed that the U.S. intelligence services saw the balloon launched from Hainan island off the southern Chinese coast in late January — and it was headed straight east for the U.S.-owned island of Guam.
Guam is the major U.S. air and naval base in the western Pacific and an obvious target for a military reconnaissance balloon. National airspace only extends 12 nautical miles from a country’s coasts, so a steerable balloon could monitor all communications and other electronic emissions from an island like Guam without crossing the legal boundary.
The Chinese balloon had propellors and a rudder, so it was steerable within limits. China has actually sent balloons past Guam before and the U.S. didn’t complain because it does the same sort of thing with its own reconnaissance aircraft, skimming along the edge of Chinese airspace.
It’s all part of the Great Game.
However, this time was different. On Jan. 24, when the balloon was passing directly south of Japan, it veered north and began speeding up. Exceptionally cold air over northern China and Japan had drawn the high-altitude jet stream south and it scooped up the balloon, also high in the stratosphere, and carried it north and east across the Pacific.
The winds were too strong for the Chinese balloon’s limited propulsion system to counter, so, on Jan. 28, it entered Alaskan airspace and continued east into Canada, where it was then blown south by more strong winds, entering U.S. airspace again over Montana.
At this point, the Chinese also picked up a share of the blame because, when the now manageable wind took their balloon past the American missile fields in Montana, they stopped and hovered for a while to have a longer look and listen.
The U.S. authorities were initially reluctant to shoot the balloon down because they knew the whole story. But they wouldn’t say what they knew because that would reveal U.S. surveillance capabilities, so the political pressure to do something grew. Finally, President Biden gave the shoot-down order — waiting until the balloon was safely over the Atlantic.
So, it’s just a simple story of everyday superpower folk getting it wrong and apologies are due all around. But the Chinese won’t elaborate on their original story that it was just an errant weather balloon and the U.S. won’t apologize at all. Like the four-year-olds they so often resemble, the Masters of the Universe find it almost impossible to make a real apology.
Meanwhile, what about the other three other objects that were shot down? They were much smaller and came in a variety of shapes and shades: “cylindrical, silver gray, with no sign of visible propulsion;” “a small, metallic balloon with a tethered payload below it;” “octagonal, with strings attached.”
They were shot down too, said John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, “out of an abundance of caution.” But, on Tuesday, he had to go out on the White House stage again and confess that those three had probably been completely harmless. “Benign,” as he put it.
“These could be balloons that were simply tied to commercial or research entities and, therefore, benign,” he said. In fact, this was the “leading explanation” under consideration.
The entities involved will face very serious legal problems if they are ever identified, but we can consider the ‘floaty-bag problem’ to be solved.
Was there any lasting damage? Yes, of course there was.
These incidents have held the U.S. media’s attention for more than a week. The details will quickly fade from the American public’s memory, but the impression will remain that somebody, and probably somebody Chinese, has been spying on them in their own homes.
This will not help in the task of calming the growing hostility between the world’s two greatest powers.
Gwynne Dyer’s new book is “The Shortest History of War”