Thursday, March 01, 2018

Arizona Regent: ESPN Sean Miller report used 'frankly unacceptable' journalism standards

, The Republic
February 28, 2018

Image result for sean miller

A member of the Arizona Board of Regents is calling the ESPN report on wiretaps involving head basketball coach Sean Miller "frankly unacceptable" when it comes to journalistic standards.

Regent Jay Heiler said his instincts from the start were that the story was "less than solid journalism."

He told The Arizona Republic on Wednesday he has become more convinced of this as additional criticisms about the story have emerged during the week.

"I found the complete lack of context around the reported content to be frankly unacceptable when measured against journalistic standards that I’ve always believed in," said Heiler, an attorney who majored in journalism at Arizona State University.

The immediate firestorm and criticisms lodged against Miller "was not warranted based on the story alone," he added. Heiler's comments indicate support for Miller from at least one person who approved his contract.

Heiler, along with other members of the regents, will meet on Thursday to receive legal advice about Miller and his contract. The regents are responsible for overseeing the multiyear contracts with college coaches.

The Wildcats' basketball program has been in disarray since ESPN reported last week that FBI wiretaps heard Miller talking with a sports agent about paying $100,000 to ensure star player Deandre Ayton signed with the Wildcats.

Miller and the university agreed he would not coach Saturday's game against the University of Oregon. The 49-year-old coach hasn't been at practice so far this week.

Ayton, a 7-foot-1-inch forward who is likely to be a top NBA draft pick, was cleared by the university to play.

An outside attorney for the university said there is not a "shred of evidence" to suggest that Ayton or his family received money in exchange for his commitment to the Wildcats. 

Since the ESPN report was published, "people have been working very, very hard on this ... to do right by the university and to do right by coach Miller. It’s been a challenging process, and I think it’s probably nearing some sort of resolution," Heiler said. 

Heiler praised Miller, saying he has always found the coach to be a credible and impressive person. He added that he hopes the coach will "step forward and help himself in this environment" by saying more to address the allegations.

Miller has so far issued only a short statement that said, in part, "I continue to fully support the university's efforts to fully investigate this matter and am confident that I will be vindicated." That was on Saturday.

ESPN reported Friday that FBI wiretaps captured Miller talking with sports agent Christian Dawkins, who is a key figure in the federal investigation, about paying $100,000 to ensure star player Deandre Ayton signed with the Wildcats.

When the sports agent asked Miller if he should work with assistant coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson to finalize their agreement, Miller told the agent he should deal directly with him when it came to money, ESPN reported.

During Saturday's College GameDay, ESPN college-basketball analyst Jay Bilas called the report "a career-ending thing for Sean Miller. Career-ending. I can't imagine him ever coaching in college again."

While the ESPN report received national media attention, some other sports writers have since questioned aspects of the story.

The telephone conversations initially were reported as occurring in 2017, which would have been after Ayton had signed a letter of intent to play with the Wildcats. 

ESPN later corrected the timeline of telephone conversations to spring of 2016 and then 2016 generally.

As a report from Deadspin pointed out, "Sean Miller’s involvement and current job status depend on a report that cites a source but no transcript or audio evidence."

CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish on Twitter cast doubt about whether the sports agent, Dawkins, even had much of a relationship with Ayton. This would make it unlikely he would be in a position to bargain with the Wildcats for Ayton.

The ESPN reporter who wrote the story, Mark Schlabach, did not respond to interview requests from The Arizona Republic on Wednesday. 

Reach the reporter at 602-444-8072 or


Fire Sean Miller? Wildcats coach's fate dominating college-basketball discussion

Could Miller wiretap report be wrong? Seeds of doubt arise with ESPN recruiting story

Five Best: Jason Matthews

on secret agents of the Cold War

By Jason Matthews
February 23, 2018

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The Spy Who Saved the World
By Jerrold L. Schecter & Peter S. Deriabin (1992)
1. OleG Penkovsky is widely considered the most consequential spy of the Cold War. He was a colonel in Soviet military intelligence who, in 1960, volunteered himself to Western intelligence and was jointly handled by MI6 and the CIA. Penkovsky had become disillusioned by Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and fearful of war between the superpowers. Described in this fascinating book as a driven idealist, he resolved to act. He produced 5,000 photographs of classified military documents, along with information about Soviet missile systems and, most famously, about the Russian deployment of nuclear missiles to Cuba, including detailed plans and descriptions of launch sites. Penkovsky’s intelligence reporting during the Cuban Missile Crisis enabled President Kennedy to stare Khrushchev down and avert war. Despite signs that the KGB was watching him, Penkovsky continued passing secrets to the West. He was arrested in 1962 and, reportedly, executed in 1963 by being rolled alive into a crematorium oven as a warning to would-be spies.
A Secret Life
By Benjamin Weiser (2004)
2. Ryszard Kuklinski was a colonel in the Polish army who in the 1970s worked in the strategic command planning division coordinating Warsaw Pact war plans. Increasingly incensed at Moscow’s pervasive meddling in his country, Kuklinski volunteered, in 1972, to work with the CIA. Over the next nine years he passed 35,000 pages of classified documents on Soviet nuclear-weapons-use doctrine; the locations of Red Army command-and-control bunkers; Soviet techniques for hiding military assets from surveillance satellites; and Moscow’s plans to crush Poland’s burgeoning Solidarity movement. This gripping spy tale ends in 1981 when Polish counterintelligence agents began a mole hunt. Kuklinski’s handlers managed to get him safely to the U.S., where he died peacefully in 2004. He lies buried today in the row of honor in the Powazki Military Cemetery in Warsaw.
By Sergei Kostin & Eric Raynaud (2009)
3. Vladimir Vetrov was a lieutenant colonel in the KGB’s shadowy Line X, the division whose sole mission was to steal technology from the West, which it did on a massive scale in the 1980s. An engineer by training and morose by nature, Vetrov was a Francophile. Passed over for promotion and stuck in Moscow, a vengeful Vetrov volunteered—improbably—to the DST, the French internal security service, a law-enforcement agency utterly unschooled in handling spies in the counterintelligence cauldron of Moscow. This wry history, drawn from the files of the DST and the KGB, careers between the insouciance of the French handlers (in two years they never were caught) and their mercurial agent Vetrov. Vetrov gave the French the names of 250 Line X officers posted abroad, the names of 100 Line X sources, and 4,000 pages of documents that exposed the entire Soviet technology-transfer infrastructure. This information inspired the CIA to begin a covert action in which the Soviets were enticed into stealing technology designed to fail. Vetrov’s adventures came to a bizarre close. Having stabbed his mistress, he was sent to prison in 1982, where he bragged to a cellmate about his spying. The KGB having thus discovered his past, he was executed in 1985.
Circle of Treason
By Sandra Grimes & Jeanne Vertefeuille (2012)
4. Written by two members of the small team of CIA officers who eventually uncovered CIA traitor Aldrich Ames, this book includes the tragic story of the Russian who was reckoned to be the best source ever recruited by any intelligence service and who was reverently called “the crown jewel.” He was Dmitri Polyakov, a major general in Soviet military intelligence who, in 1961, volunteered to spy for the U.S., not for money or ego but “for his country.” Disgusted with Soviet corruption, he also nursed a grudge. During an early assignment to the United Nations, Polyakov had been denied permission by Moscow to take his sick son to a New York hospital. The child later died. Throughout his military career, Polyakov provided a stream of intelligence on Soviet strategic doctrine, the names of Americans and Britons spying for Moscow, and details of the Sino-Soviet split. Six years after his 1980 retirement, he was invited to GRU headquarters, ostensibly for a medal ceremony. He was arrested, tried and executed in 1988. Aldrich Ames had passed his name to Moscow.
The Billion Dollar Spy
By David E. Hoffman (2015)
5. Taken from the case files of the CIA, this story reads like a high-tech thriller. Adolf Tolkachev, an electronics engineer who worked at a Soviet radar-design bureau, tried for two years to volunteer to the CIA in Moscow. He finally made contact and in 1979 began providing hundreds of rolls of film of technical documents describing top-line Soviet fighter electronics and radar systems. Analysts characterized his reporting as of “incalculable” value, and the U.S. Air Force radically revised a number of projects based on the intelligence, claiming that he saved the country $1 billion. Aldrich Ames passed his name to the KGB, probably in 1985, and Tolkachev was stopped on a rural road and arrested. He was executed in 1986.


By Ann Coulter
February 28, 2018

nikolas cruz
Nikolas Cruz (Instagram)

Nikolas Cruz's psychosis ended in a bloody massacre not only because of the stunning incompetence of the Broward County Sheriff's Department. It was also the result of liberal insanity working exactly as it was intended to.

School and law enforcement officials knew Cruz was a ticking time bomb. They did nothing because of a deliberate, willful, bragged-about policy to end the "school-to-prison pipeline." This is the feature part of the story, not the bug part.

If Cruz had taken out full-page ads in the local newspapers, he could not have demonstrated more clearly that he was a dangerous psychotic. He assaulted students, cursed out teachers, kicked in classroom doors, started fist fights, threw chairs, threatened to kill other students, mutilated small animals, pulled a rifle on his mother, drank gasoline and cut himself, among other "red flags."

Over and over again, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School reported Cruz's terrifying behavior to school administrators, including Kelvin Greenleaf, "security specialist," and Peter Mahmood, head of JROTC.

At least three students showed school administrators Cruz's near-constant messages threatening to kill them -- e.g., "I am going to enjoy seeing you down on the grass," "Im going to watch ypu bleed," "iam going to shoot you dead” — including one that came with a photo of Cruz’s guns. They warned school authorities that he was bringing weapons to school. They filed written reports.

Threatening to kill someone is a felony. In addition to locking Cruz away for a while, having a felony record would have prevented him from purchasing a gun.

All the school had to do was risk Cruz not going to college, and depriving Yale University of a Latino class member, by reporting a few of his felonies -- and there would have been no mass shooting.

But Cruz was never arrested. He wasn't referred to law enforcement. He wasn't even expelled.

Instead, Cruz was just moved around from school to school -- six transfers in three years. But he was always sent back to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in order to mainstream him, so that he could get a good job someday!

The moronic idea behind the "school-to-prison pipeline" is that the only reason so many "black and brown bodies" are in prison is because they were disciplined in high school, diminishing their opportunities. End the discipline and ... problem solved!

It's like "The Wizard of Oz" in reverse. The Wizard told the Scarecrow: You don't need an education, you just need a diploma! The school-to-prison pipeline idiocy tells students: You don't need to behave in high school, you just need to leave with no criminal record!

Of course, killjoys will say that removing the consequences of bad behavior only encourages more bad behavior. But that's not the view of Learned Professionals, who took summer courses at Michigan State Ed School.

In a stroke of genius, they realized that the only problem criminals have is that people keep lists of their criminal activities. It's the list that prevents them from getting into M.I.T. and designing space stations on Mars. Where they will cure cancer.

This primitive, stone-age thinking was made official Broward County policy in a Nov. 5, 2013, agreement titled "Collaborative Agreement on School Discipline."

The first "whereas" clause of the agreement states that "the use of arrests and referrals to the criminal justice system may decrease a student's chance of graduation, entering higher education, joining the military and getting a job."

Get it? It's the arrest -- not the behavior that led to the arrest -- that reduces a student's chance at a successful life. (For example, just look at how much the district's refusal to arrest Nikolas Cruz helped him!)

The agreement's third "whereas” clause specifically cites "students of color" as victims of the old, racist policy of treating criminal behavior criminally.

Say, in the middle of a drive to cut back on the arrest or expulsion of "students of color," how do you suppose the school dealt with a kid named "Nikolas Cruz"? Might there be some connection between his Hispanic last name and the school's abject refusal to do anything about Cruz's repeated criminal behavior?

Just a few months ago, the superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, Robert W. Runcie, was actually bragging about how student arrests had plummeted under his bold leadership.

When he took over in 2011, the district had "the highest number of school-related arrests in the state." But today, he boasted, Broward has "one of the lowest rates of arrest in the state." By the simple expedient of ignoring criminal behavior, student arrests had declined by a whopping 78 percent.

FOOTBALL COACH: "When I took over this team a year ago, we were last in the league in pass defense. Today, we no longer keep that statistic!"

When it comes to spectacular crimes, it's usually hard to say how it could have been prevented. But in this case, we have a paper trail. In the pursuit of a demented ideology, specific people agreed not to report, arrest or prosecute dangerous students like Nikolas Cruz.

These were the parties to the Nov. 5, 2013, agreement that ensured Cruz would be out on the street with full access to firearms:

Robert W. Runcie, Superintendent of Schools

Peter M. Weinstein, Chief Judge of the 17th Judicial Circuit

Michael J. Satz, State Attorney

Howard Finkelstein, Public Defender

Scott Israel, Broward County Sheriff

Franklin Adderley, Chief of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department

Wansley Walters, Secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice

Marsha Ellison, President of the Fort Lauderdale Branch of the NAACP and Chair of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board

Nikolas Cruz may be crazy, but the parties to that agreement are crazy, too. They decided to make high school students their guinea pigs for an experiment based on a noxious ideology. The blood of 17 people is on their hands. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Palestinians: Israel is One Big Settlement

February 26, 2018

Hamas official, Dr Ismail Radwan
Hamas official, Ismail Radwan in 2016

No doubt Ismail Radwan is a terrorist, but, unlike other Palestinian leaders and spokesmen, he is at least an honest one.

At a time when most Palestinian leaders are telling the world that settlements are the real "obstacle" to peace, Radwan, a senior Hamas official, last week made it clear that the conflict with Israel is not about Jews living in a settlement in the West Bank. The truth is that the Palestinians see Israel as one big settlement that needs to be uprooted from the Middle East.

The Palestinians do not differentiate between a Jew living in a settlement on the outskirts of Bethlehem, in the West Bank, and a Jew living in the cities of Haifa, Tel Aviv or Eilat. All the Jews, they say, are "occupiers" and "settlers" who need to "go back to where they came from."

For the Palestinians, the real "occupation" began with the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Let us be clear about this: When Palestinians -- and some of their supporters in the international community, including Europe -- say that they want an end to the "occupation," they mean they want to see an end to Israel's existence, full stop. They do not want to throw the Jews out of their homes in the settlements; rather, they want Jews to be expelled from the whole country.

The conflict, as far as the Palestinians are concerned, did not begin in 1967, when east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip came under Israeli control. In the eyes of the Palestinians, all Jews are "settlers" and "colonialists." All the land, they argue, stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, is Muslim-owned land, and no Muslim is entitled to give up any part of it to a non-Muslim.

In other words, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a Muslim himself, will be considered a kaffir," an "apostate" and a traitor if he ever agreed to cede control over "Muslim owned" land to Jews.

That is why it is naïve to assume that Abbas would ever sign any deal with Israel.
Neither Abbas nor any other Palestinian leader can accept anything less than 100 percent; and 100 percent means all of Israel. It does not mean a 100 percent of the "'67 borders" or of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Yes, the Palestinians want "peace," but that that means peace without Israel, not peace with Israel. Real peace, the Palestinians argue, will be achieved only when Israel is eliminated and the Jews disappear.

For the Palestinians, accepting Israel's "right to exist" with Jews is seen as an act of treason. Muslims are not supposed to accept the presence of Jews on Muslim-owned land.

Each time Abbas states his commitment to a two-state solution, he is immediately condemned by his people and other Arabs and Muslims. For them, a "two-state solution" means accepting Israel's presence in the Middle East; it also means allowing Jews to live on "Muslim-owned" land -- a "crime," according to Islamic teachings, punishable by death.

Now back to the Hamas official, Ismail Radwan.

Why is it fair to say that, although he is a terrorist and Jew-hater, he is still honest? To his credit, he speaks the truth and does not hesitate to conceal what most Palestinians merely think. There are many Palestinian terrorists and terror groups who never miss an opportunity to remind us that their real goal is to destroy Israel, not make peace with it.

During a Hamas rally in the Gaza Strip on February 23, Radwan told the thousands of supporters of his terror group that there is no such thing as east and west Jerusalem. "The whole city belongs to Palestinians and Muslims," he said. "The united city of Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Palestine."

Why is this an important statement that needs to be brought to the attention of the US administration and the rest of the international community? Because it basically sums up the essence of the entire Israeli-Arab conflict: namely, that many Arabs and Muslims have still not accepted Israel's right to exist inside any borders.

Radwan's statement came in response to US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The Palestinians, revealingly, are totally opposed to the relocation of the embassy -- even though it will be established in the western, and not eastern part of the city. Why would any Palestinian who supported a two-state solution (with east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state) oppose the transfer of any embassy to west Jerusalem? Do the Palestinians really accept Israeli sovereignty over west Jerusalem? Do they accept Israeli sovereignty over any land, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River? Do they accept Israeli sovereignty over Tel Aviv?

The answer is clear and simple: No.

Radwan is refreshingly frank about this issue. His views do not represent those of a minority of Palestinians: such views have long become part of the mainstream thinking among the Palestinians.

The last time Hamas, which openly seeks the destruction of Israel, ran in a free and fair Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006, its candidates won the vote handily. If elections were held tomorrow, Hamas would win the vote again.

To put it simply: a majority of Palestinians continues to see Israel as a foreign entity and an alien body that was imposed on the Arabs and Muslims by Western superpowers, despite the Jews having lived there for four thousand years, as evidenced every by archeological findings, which corroborate material in the Bible. The Palestinians want to liberate "all of Palestine" – meaning all of current-day Israel. This is what the entire Palestinian "national struggle" is about. It is not about "liberating" a certain part of "historical Palestine." Instead, it is about "liberating every inch of Palestine" and driving the Jews out of the land and out of the region.

Image result for abbas speech palestinian council january 2018
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting with the Palestinian Central Council, a top decision-making body, at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Mahmoud Abbas is a known liar who has not only questioned the Holocaust, but also specializes in distorting history. In a speech before the Palestinian Central Council in January this year, Abbas said that Israel was a "colonialist project that has nothing to do with Judaism." Behind him appeared a large placard with a map of "Palestine" that made no reference to Israel.

This time Abbas, like Hamas, is being honest. His talk about a "colonialist project" shows that he, like many Palestinians, has a problem with Israel's very existence.

For Abbas, the problem is not settlements or borders or the status of Jerusalem. He sees Jews as an occupying force and as settlers, regardless of where they live. The map behind him tells the story, namely that Abbas and most Palestinians are fighting to drive the Jews out of the land and replace Israel with an Islamic Arab regime.

Such maps are not new in the Palestinian landscape; they can be found in school textbooks and various media outlets. Anyone who watches the weather forecast on Palestinian television stations will see that Haifa, Tel Aviv, Tiberias and Jaffa are "occupied" cities.

Anyone who follows the news on Palestinian media outlets will see how all Jews, whether they are living in a West Bank settlement or in Tel Aviv, are referred to as "settlers."

To sum up, it is not Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital or to move the US embassy to the city that is behind the current Palestinian outrage.

What is really bothering the Palestinians is that Israel, with Jews, exists, period. The Palestinians want all of Jerusalem. They want all of "Palestine." They want Israel removed from the planet. It is time to listen carefully to what the Palestinians are saying -- in Arabic -- to understand that the conflict is not about Jerusalem and not about settlements.

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.

Book Reviews: Chicago by David Mamet

Hard-drinking newspapermen and tough-talking brutes populate David Mamet's novel 'Chicago'

February 23, 2018

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It's hard to think of a writer of his generation who has more defined the American male's perception of himself, for better or worse, than David Mamet. This is perhaps not the best period in our history to be that person, but it makes his writing particularly noteworthy. The 1992 film adaptation of his play, "Glengarry Glen Ross," has become the fountainhead of so much male bonding vocabulary that we've wearied of the "Coffee's for closers," "Third place is you're fired," and, of course, "Always Be Closing," that each generation of fraternity boys and young financial service professionals seems to discover anew. By now, aided by the ascension of a salesman absurdum to the highest office in the land, generations of young men speak these lines as gospel instead of satire. Mamet's new novel, "Chicago," is as linguistically rich as "Glengarry Glen Ross" — in fact, as any of his previous work in any medium.

In its scope and ambition, "Chicago" feels like one of the great American male novelists of the late 20th century — Updike, Mailer, Bellow, Roth — trying his hand at writing a genre novel. But unlike those novelists' somewhat less sure-footed lunges —Mailer's "Tough Guys Don't Dance" and Updike's "Terrorist" come to mind — Mamet lands this with aplomb. This is high genre, a 1920s gangster story, that manages to entertain and engross. That the story is occasionally complex to a fault is an irrelevance. "Glengarry Glen Ross," remember, was about a break-in at a real estate agency.

It's hard going from writing for the screen or stage back to the page. Most of those who succeeded started out writing books — Mario Puzo, Richard Price, Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne — and then return. "Narrow margins," my father, Josh Greenfeld, who went from novelist to Oscar-nominated screenwriter and back, used to say when asked what he was working on. "Screenplays were, in the self-depracatory code of his conversation," Didion wrote of my father, "either 'the tab key' or 'wide margins.' " (This was decades before screenwriting software obviated the need to set your own margins.)

Novel versus screenplay

Which is harder? There are certain facts that cannot be disputed. A novel, usually, is many more words than a screenplay or stage play. More words mean more typing. More typing usually means more work, but in the many drafts and revisions of a dramatic work, it could all even out. (As for those who argue that revision is as hard as facing a blank page, I call b.s.) As a novelist who is just now making the transition to writing for television, I can say this: Somehow, you feel much more alone writing a novel than you do a dramatic work, if for no other reason than the implication of collaboration in the latter. With a novel, if you're lucky, there's an editor somewhere who will suggest fixes for egregious errors. The purpose of a screenplay, on the other hand, is to elicit collaboration from directors, actors, producers, etc.

And I'll say it again, more blank pages mean more chances to lose your nerve, to face writer's block, which Mamet dismisses in "Chicago" with cynical flourish: "I don't understand writer's block," an editor at the Chicago Tribune says to his reporter, "I'm sure it's very high toned and thrilling, like these other psychological complaints. I myself ... could never afford it." The men in Chicago don't have much time for "psychological complaints." Nor do the women, who, by the way, sound just like the men. That's the noir convention. The dames in Raymond Chandler's books were also as dictionally indistinguishable from their gumshoe colleagues.

Mamet's ear for the dark poetry of the American male id fuels "Chicago." His dialogue here is as sharp as any of his stage plays, and he is unique in that he finds or creates the lyricism that we all like to imagine exists in the patois of every class. I don't know if cops, criminals, florists, lawyers and hookers spoke in the Woody Guthrie-esque American verse that Mamet writes for them, but it is a perquisite of high genre writing to give a cop, a Sgt. Doyle of the Chicago Police Department, this couplet with reporter Mike Hodge, of the above mentioned Tribune.

"The Chinese," he said, "invented gunpowder. And used it, just as we do now, to foil the evil spirits."

"The question is, then," Mike said, "what is evil?"

"Well, that is decided," Doyle said, "by the fellow holding the gun."

If I'm going to quibble, it takes a few pages too many for the stakes to reach the table. The story, however, is almost incidental, it's a laundry line for great prose. For purposes of being fair to those who read book reviews seeking the utilitarian: "Chicago" is a murder mystery, in which newspaper reporter Hodge uncovers who killed the love of his life. Hodge serves as cicerone through 1920s Chicago, as the killing has him making inquiries to both the Irish and Italian mobs — there's an Al Capone cameo — cops and numerous hookers with black hearts of gold. This results, ultimately, in a frame up and insurance fraud of such complexity that I imagine Mamet himself got tired keeping track of it. At a certain point in the book, like a runner exhausted after a few miles, he just walks the narrative blocks in easy-to-read exposition, kindly keeping score for the reader, if you are so inclined to care about the resolution.

Mamet is openly nostalgic for that era of newspapermen in cahoots with gangsters and cops, reporters spending more time at the local speak-easy than in the newsroom, and when they were in the newsroom were drinking from bootleg bottles of rye. (And, none of them were women.) Before joining the newspaper, our protagonist flew for the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. The Great War flashbacks are lovely, e.g. Hodge's memory of a shot-down, captured German officer sitting by the stove of a barn: "All the American fliers recognized his state; and all knew not that it might be, but that it most likely would one day be them, their disgrace and captivity the marginally better of the two outcomes of their continued flights." The German pilot calls Mike over, and, ashamed, gives him his concealed Luger pistol. Mike understands: The pilot was planning to kill himself but now lacks the courage.

The pistol, it turns out, is what matters, years later, to the story.

Mamet's Chicago is a brutal world, lovingly described, where the cure for alcohol-induced delirium tremens is opium — another addiction — and the cure for a broken heart is to kill the man who caused the leak, and then discover you feel no better for having done the deed. It's as if Cormac McCarthy had decamped from Southwest to Midwest. Here's an African American madam describing to Mike how her brother met his end (Skip this quote if you're weak-stomached), "The thing in those days was stump hanging. They would take and nail a man's privates or, as we say, 'dick and balls' to a stump. Using, it came to hand, rusty spike, A railroad spike ..." and it gets worse from there. These are damaged people, from that downed German fighter pilot all the way to the poor bounder who finally takes the bullet that proves no salve for the vengeful. And the protagonist is a hero as flawed as the villains, taking punches, emotional and physical, and getting up again. Heroism, ultimately, in Mamet's Chicago, coming down to sheer will.

There's a detail he lays in, a historical fact, that though the Armistice to end World War I was signed on Nov. 10, due to some officer caste preference for symmetry over human lives, hostilities were to cease the next day, at the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th hour. A further directive was amended, Mamet writes, "No unit or individual is to cease from combat until the hour of the Armistice." Men died in that one day between the signing of the peace treaty and the commencement of peace. Many men. For no reason. Or, even less reason than the day before. That's an absurd brutality as great as any Mamet could conjure in his Dante-esque Chicago of the blue-collared, verbally adroit. And his point in including that detail, if I may take this liberty, is to say that imagine any cruelty you can, and the world has already outdone you, many, many times over. So I doubt generations of future angry white men are going to find in "Chicago" much to inspire their capitalistic avarice. But I did find myself pouring a glass of whiskey while I was writing this review, for Chrissake.

Karl Taro Greenfeld is a writer on "Ray Donovan." His next novel, "True," will be published in June.

David Mamet's new book belongs on your shelf of Chicago classics
February 28, 2018

Image result for david mamet chicago

Today, March 4, is our birthday, for it was on that day in 1837 that Chicago was incorporated as a city. So, happy birthday, and we can all celebrate by making room on the bookshelf of great Chicago novels.

Squeeze together whatever is already there — you surely have “Sister Carrie” by Theodore Dreiser, “The Man With the Golden Arm” by Nelson Algren, “The Adventures of Augie March” by Saul Bellow, “Native Son” by Richard Wright, “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros and your particular others — to allow space for the 330-some pages of “Chicago.”

This is the new novel — his first in 20 years — by David Mamet, best known for his creations on stage in such plays as “American Buffalo” and “Glengarry Glen Ross,” and on screen in such films as “The Untouchables,” “The Verdict” and “House of Games.”
He is in this new book on his home turf, comfortably and imaginatively, since the novel takes place long before he was born in 1947, set in the bloody, raucous 1920s.
His lead characters are a couple of suitably cynical and classically hard-drinking newspaper reporters named Mike Hodge and Clement Parlow, who both served in WWI and are now in the employ of the Chicago Tribune.
They and the other members of their ink-stained ilk are suitably hard-boiled, about life and death. “It was the reporter’s job to be brash and unfeeling,” Mamet writes. They share lies and stories and dreams in the office and also at a nearby speakeasy named the Sally Port, where, Mike thinks, “the stories told at the bar were far superior to those printed in the rag.”
Rag is what it is to them; it reflects their collective low impression of their profession: “News is that which makes its consumer self-important, angry, or sufficiently whatever the hell to turn to page twelve, and, turning, encounter the ad for the carpet sale.”
But Mike is much distracted from his job, because Mike is in love, having fallen for the daughter of a florist who supplies the final floral tributes for the funerals of gangsters.
Her name is Annie Walsh. It is a slow courtship, secretive, too, so that neither her father nor brothers will learn of it. She is barely described — “impossibly beautiful” is about it — and hardly utters a word. But that lack of detail enables her to remain as pure and angelic for us as she is for Mike.
And then she is dead, shot by a “large man in a heavy coat, holding a large revolver,” who bursts into Mike’s place after he and Annie had “warmed each other in the frozen apartment” in the most intimate fashion.
Mike is knocked cold in more ways than one, and when he comes to he is filled with questions: Who killed her and why? Why was he left alive?
Finding the answers to those questions fuel the mystery that is the heart of the plot. There is more bloodshed — before and after Annie’s demise — gun running, opium and booze, lots of booze, in large part because “the answer to (Mike’s) grief became clearer to him as he drank himself into a coma.”
Mamet’s Chicago is a harsh and unforgiving place but captured with knowing affection and peopled by a colorful cast, from cops to illegal nightclub owners and their wives and mistresses, safecrackers, crooks, mobsters and hookers.
Most of these characters come hopping from Mamet’s imagination, but we also get some real people, among them Al Capone in passing and his bookkeeper Jake Guzik more fully; the African-American aviatrix Bessie Coleman performing at an air show; and mention of Leopold and Loeb’s “Crime of the Century” and a tale of their attorney, Clarence Darrow.
Of the characters of Mamet’s own making, none is more compellingly complex than Peekaboo, an African-American madam of a brothel called the Ace of Spades.
Also of note is police Sgt. Doyle, who offers this advice, “Don’t ask too many questions. And certainly don’t know the answers,” as well as this bit of philosophy: “The problem with the dead is not that they are dead, but that they stay dead.”
After Mike gets seriously lost in the bottle — “the cycle of regret, self-pity, longing, and guilt could be interrupted only by alcohol; the alcohol was killing him and he was grateful” — he pulls himself out and gets serious about finding and killing Annie’s murderer.
What Mamet gives us here is more a dreamscape of the 1920s than any sort of accurate sequential rendering. He acknowledges this upfront, writing that the novel’s “chronology, having been at some points, an impediment to narrative, has been jostled into a better understanding of the dramatic responsibilities.”
I’ve read clearer explanations, but I get his point. It will be only the most knowledgeable Chicago historians who call him out for calendar hanky-panky. The rest of you readers? If you know when Ruth Snyder was executed — do you even know who Ruth Snyder was? — you may be modestly vexed. Otherwise, carry on through the admirably ambitious book, satisfying on many levels, even offering flashbacks to Mike’s time as a flyer in WWI. Here, for instance, are his thoughts upon seeing a captured German officer sitting in a barn: "All the American fliers recognized his state; and all knew not that it might be, but that it most likely would one day be them, their disgrace and captivity the marginally better of the two outcomes of their continued flights."
As you might expect, the novel’s language is energetically linguistic and sure to draw favorable comparisons to the work of Elmore Leonard and George V. Higgins.
There are no heroes here. Everyone is flawed. But there are real people here, so real as to be unforgettable and thus fully deserving of that spot on your Chicago bookshelf.
Twitter @rickkogan
David Mamet talks about his new book 'Chicago,' all about gangsters and Tribune reporters

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Cowards of Broward County

February 26, 2018
Image result for cnn scott israel

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel (left) and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch during a CNN town hall meeting in Sunrise, Fla.

CNN put on an atrocious spectacle last week, hosting a “town hall” production that was, as Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass both remarked, a re-enactment of the Two Minutes’ Hate scene in George Orwell’s classic novel 1984. It was a remarkable example of shameless exploitation and ideological hate-mongering put on by the failing news network directed at the National Rifle Association.
Among the worst actors in CNN’s disgraceful play was Scott Israel, the partisan Democrat political hack masquerading as the sheriff in Broward County where the Parkland massacre took place. Israel engaged in a ridiculous back-and-forth with National Rifle Association spokeswoman (and stand-in for Emmanuel Goldstein) Dana Loesch, in which Israel offered one of the stupidest and most demagogic statements in recent memory, notable mostly for its having captured the zeitgeist of the gun-grabbing Left in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School carnage.
“You just told this group of people that you’re standing up for them,” Israel scolded Loesch. “You are not standing up for them until you say, ‘I want less weapons.’”
Loesch was attempting to explain that the NRA is for improving the federal system of background checks which failed to identify Parkland killer Nikolas Cruz as a dangerous psychopath when Cruz attempted to spend a chunk of the life insurance payout from his adopted mother’s death on a personal firearms arsenal, and that a better-functioning government implementing the laws already on the books, which the NRA has long argued for, would do more to stop the next Parkland from happening than any leftist gun-control fantasy. For her statements she was hooted at and called a murderer by the unhinged children in the audience.
But as Kass noted, Israel may have had his big moment playing to the crowd on CNN — but things have gone south from there…
What the public didn’t know at the time of Israel’s speechifying was that on the day of the shooting, a Broward deputy sheriff was stationed at the school.
When the shooting began, Israel’s armed deputy hid outside in safety and remained there.
But if the good sheriff — a political cat — had explained that business about his frightened deputy, he’d have ruined the show. So he kept his mouth shut.
That wasn’t the half of it. By the weekend it came out that Scot Peterson, the school resource officer who neglected to engage the shooter as he was duty-bound to do, wasn’t alone
Not one but four sheriff’s deputies hid behind cars instead of storming Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS in Parkland, Fla., during Wednesday’s school shooting, police claimed Friday — as newly released records revealed the Broward County Sheriff’s Office had received at least 18 calls about the troubled teen over the past decade.
Sources from Coral Springs, Fla., Police Department tell CNN that when its officers arrived on the scene Wednesday, they were shocked to find three Broward County Sheriff’s deputies behind their cars with weapons drawn.
Peterson resigned Thursday once it became national news that he failed to run to the sound of the guns.
And the upshot is that Israel, who unquestionably knew his people had abjectly failed to protect the young people of Broward County, spent the week after the shooting pushing a political narrative that is irrelevant — demonstrably irrelevant — to solving the problem of school shootings.
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