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Monday, October 24, 2016

Samurai, I Am

New film out next month on one of the true greats, Toshiro Mifune, who needs no introduction here, I hope.  I met him very briefly once at the Japan Society in NYC, about the time I got one of the rare U.S. interviews in that era (1970s-1980s) with my hero, Akira Kurosawa.  Here is the trailer:

Tom Hayden and The Chicago 'Police Riot'

Tom Hayden, who helped create SDS and other 1960s political movements, married Jane Fonda, served many years in the California state legislature, and wrote numerous books, has died after a long illness.  You will see many obits and personal reflections today.  Here is one at the New York Times.  I only met Tom a couple of times, although I did interview him for a New York Times Sunday Magazine piece, chatted with Jane Fonda when they were together, and assigned and edited a lengthy feature for Crawdaddy by his old pal Stew Albert when Tom ran for the U.S. Senate against John Tunney in 1976 (he lost).

But our closest association, you might say, came at the 1968 protests and police riot in Chicago for the Democratic Convention, which he helped organize (and for which he famously faced trial).  I happened to be there at the age of twenty.   Here's a post, below, I wrote not long along ago about how I witnessed that at close hand.  I've also posted a piece at the blog for my new book The Tunnels--which covers escapes under the Berlin Wall and JFK's suppression of CBS and NBC media coverage--re: Tom's view of the coming of the Wall in his famous 1962 "Port Huron Statement."
Forty-eight years ago my trip to Chicago for the Democratic National Convention would culminate in the crushing of Sen. Eugene McCarthy's anti-Vietnam crusade inside the convention hall and the cracking of peacenik skulls by Mayor Richard Daley's police in the streets. Together, this doomed Hubert Humphrey to defeat in November at the hands of Richard Nixon.

I'd been a political-campaign junkie all my life. At the age of 8, I paraded in front of my boyhood home in Niagara Falls, N.Y., waving an "I Like Ike" sign. In 1968 I got to cover my first presidential campaign when one of Sen. McCarthy's nephews came to town, before the state primary, and I interviewed him for the Niagara Falls Gazette, where I worked as a summer reporter during college. I had been chair of the McCarthy campaign at my college. So much for non-biased reporting!

My mentor at the Gazette was a young, irreverent City Hall reporter named John Hanchette. He went on to an illustrious career at other papers, and as a Pulitzer Prize-winning national correspondent. Hanchette was in Chicago that week to cover party politics as a Gazette reporter and contributor to the Gannett News Service. I was to hang out with the young McCarthyites and the anti-war protesters and Yippies. To get to Chicago I took my first ride on a jetliner.

To make a long story short: On the climactic night of Aug. 28, 1968, Hanchette and I ended up just floors apart in the same building: the Conrad Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago.    I'd been out among the protests earlier that week, which had already turned bloody, but avoided any harm to myself, which was my way.  Just after the peace plank to the DNC platform was defeated that evening,  and with many of those around me in tears, TV coverage switched to shocking scenes of young folks getting beaten with nightsticks on the streets of Chicago, but we didn't know where.  Then we smelled tear gas and someone  the curtains along a wall of windows and we looked out  to see police savagely attacking protesters with nightsticks at the intersection directly below.

Soon I headed for the streets. By that time, the peak violence had passed, but cops were still pushing reporters and other innocent bystanders through plate glass windows at the front of the hotel, so the danger was still real. I held back in the lobby, where someone had set off a stink bomb. Some Democrats started returning from the convention hall -- after giving Humphrey the nomination even though McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy won most of the primaries -- as protesters inside the Hilton chanted, "You killed the party! You killed the party!"  And: "You killed the country." And, of course, "Dump the Hump!"

Finally, I screwed up my courage and crossed to Grant Park where the angry protest crowd gathered, with military troops in jeeps with machine guns pointed directly at us. And there I stayed all night, as the crowd and chants of "pig" directed at the cops increased. Many in the crowd wore bandages of had fresh blood on their faces. Phil Ochs (later a friend)  arrived and sang, along with other notables, including some of the peacenik delegates and a famous writer or two.  This was Zuccotti Park but with heavily armed soldiers ready to swoop in, not simply NYC cops. Somehow we survived the night. 

When I returned to Niagara Falls that Friday, I wrote a column for that Sunday's paper. I described the eerie feeling of sitting in Grant Park, and thousands around me yelling at the soldiers and the media, "The whole world is watching!" -- and knowing that, for once, it was true.  Months later organizers of the protest such as Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, faced charges at the notorious trial of the Chicago 8.   Abbie and the attorney, Bill Kunstler, later became regular writers for me at Crawdaddy.  I interviewed Tom for a New York Times Magazine piece and edited a major feature on him at Crawdaddy when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1976 (he lost but later served many years in the California state legislature).

More than 35 years later, after I had written two books on other infamous political campaigns, I returned to Chicago for a staged performance of a musical based on one of them. As I got out of a cab to make my way to the theater, I had an eerie feeling and, sure enough, looking up the street I noticed Grant Park a block away -- and the very intersection in front of the Hilton where skulls were cracked that night in 1968.

P.S. Norman Mailer's terrific book, Miami and the Siege of Chicago, is still in print.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Dancing in the Dark, With Leonard

As I've mentioned two or three times before, Leonard Cohen at 82 has a new album, just out this week, and now there's a highly pro but highly odd dance re-mix of the single that's been out for awhile.   Not my cup of tea but kind of works, with the chorus adding haunting angle.

Friday, October 21, 2016

New Poll Finds Half Trump Supporters Say He Should 'Not Accept' Results

The first full national poll after the third presidential debate from Politico/Morning Consult joins all the others in finding Clinton the winner and also gives here a 6% national lead.  But it again finds that virtually half of all Trump supporters seems to agree with him that he should be ready and willing to challenge the results.   Here from their release just sent:
  • 68% of Voters Say Losing Candidate Should Accept Results: Just 14% said the losing candidate should challenge them. Almost nine in 10 (87%) of the Clinton's supporters said the loser should accept the result, compared with just under half (49%) of Trump voters. (Graphic Below)
  • Clinton Remains +6 Over Trump: Clinton's lead over Trump remains unchanged from the previous POLITICO/Morning Consult survey, with Clinton at 42% and Trump at 36%. Gary Johnson takes 9% and Jill Stein comes in at 4%. (Graphic Below)
  • Clinton Wins Third Debate In A Row: 43% of registered voters said Clinton won, compared with 26% who opted for Trump.
  • The Chris Wallace Moment: 50% of voters believed Fox News' Chris Wallace fair and impartial. That's several points higher than CNN's Anderson Cooper (43%) or ABC News' Martha Raddatz and CBS' Lester Holt (40% each, respectively). (Graphic Below)
  • 46% of Voters Are Concerned About Voter Fraud. Here's How They Think It Might Happen:
    • 47% - Voter intimidation by groups or individuals
    • 41% - Individuals voting at the wrong voting precincts
    • 39% - Non-citizens voting
    • 37% - Individuals casting ballots on behalf of dead or deceased people
    • 36% - Misreporting of votes by state or local officials
    • 35% - Computer hackers tampering with voting machines
    • 33% - Individuals impersonating other individuals at the polling place
    • 32% - Throwing away or destroying ballots by state or local officials
    • 31% - People voting multiple times

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Click Here for Early Reviews of My Book--and My New Blog

Just a reminder that Crown has launched a cool site devoted to my upcoming book The Tunnels, and I have been blogging there, related to that, while continuing on other subjects here.  It includes videos, photos, excerpts from the book and posts derived from it (including U2 and Springsteen and an MGM drama), and naturally the latest early acclaim for the book and blurbs from well-known writers.   So far there's a "starred" review from Publishers Weekly, a rave from Kirkus, and blurbs from Bill Moyers, Alan Furst, Frederick Forsyth and others.

 Fourteen very positive reviews now up at Amazon, but perhaps my favorite--because written by someone in Berlin the day the Wall went up--just posted at Library Thing.
I was pleased when I received a pre-publication review copy of Greg Mitchell's book "The Tunnels: Escapes under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill" for very personal reasons: I arrived in Berlin from the eastern Idaho family farm as a nineteen year old missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) on July 6, 1961, a month and a week before the Wall went up.
On Sunday morning, August 13, 1961, I and my companion spent the day riding our bikes along the perimeter of East Berlin, watching with amazement and consternation as the Wall of Shame was being built. We ended the day at the Brandenburger Tor and witnessed the anger, the frustration, the bewilderment of the citizens of West Berlin as they demonstrated in front of the Tor, screaming at the VoPos, the water cannons, the gun implacements on top of the Tor beneath the Quadrigga -- and yes, at the lack of action by the Allies.

I left Berlin on December 21, 1963, having witnessed the impact of the Cuban Missle Crisis on West Berlin, the famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech given by President Kennedy in front of the Shoeneberger Rathaus, and the sorrow of West Berlin when Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963.

In reading Mitchell's book, it all came back to me in a rush. Mitchell's focus was on the tunnels under the Wall during the first two or three years after the Wall was built, with specific details about what he refers to as the CBS Tunnel and the NBC Tunnel. But he adds to the narrative a richness of detail, much historical background and insightful character sketches of the main players in such a way that the reader can't help but feel he is reliving a human tragedy. Wall of Shame it was indeed!

The shame is also on the side of the Allies of the time - the British, the French and, most especially, the Americans. After Kennedy made significant changes in the plan to invade Cuba, developed under the Eisenhower administration, and thus guaranteeing its total failure, and then being spanked by Russia in the Vienna conference, he allowed Khruschchev to rightly guess that Kennedy, the liberal idealist, would not know how to, nor have the desire to, play hard ball in the Cold War.  Sabre rattling, threats, then the Wall, then the Cuban Missile Crisis -- all were invited by Kennedy's weak foreign policy. Granted, he has received much praise for bringing the Cuban Missile Crisis to an end without war and without sacrificing West Berlin, but long after the American People learned of the secret side deal Kennedy had made to accomplish this - the removal of nuclear arms from Turkey. Mitchell brings all of this into play and demonstrates how it all had an effect on West Berlin.

And all the while, a few brave and determined Fluchthelfer were devoting their lives to bringing freedom seekers from East Berlin and East Germany to the West through tunnels, in automobiles, across the Wall in broad daylight - any way that seemed possilbe. And MItchell captures it all well in his new book. ( )

The Parts Left Out of the Springsteen Memoir

Mother Jones just published my piece on how Springsteen (and Bowie) helped bring down the Berlin Wall, derived from my new book, The Tunnels.  So allow me to reflect further:

Forty-four years ago this December I got a phone call at my office at the legendary Crawdaddy, where I served as #2 editor for nearly the entire 1970s, that would change my life, for several years, anyway.  It was from a fast-talking dude named Mike Appel, inviting me to catch his top (and only) act in a press event/concert upstate,  the following day, December 7, 1972,  in notorious...Sing Sing Prison.  The act was a total unknown whose debut album had not yet been released, by the name of Bruce Springsteen. 

With editor Peter Knobler,  I drove up to the prison with Bruce--we were the only two from the NYC press who bothered to show up.  Then after two weeks of hanging out with Bruce and the band, and attending half a dozen club gigs (as one of the very few audience members),  I helped create the very first magazine piece about Brucie--and 8,000 words, at that--written by Peter for Crawdaddy.  We even put his name on the cover.  Then, a year later,  I hailed his second album in a major review.  What was significant about all of this:  Most in the press were reacting to Bruce in a lukewarm (at best) fashion at that time and his record company was considering dropping him--until Crawdaddy doubled down, and then Jon Landau offered his crucial "I've seen the future of rock 'n roll" blurb.

Many other Crawdaddy pieces--and dozens of concert  dates--would follow and Bruce would become a friend for a number of years.  He even let me write a book at his house when he was away.  The self-described non-driver helped drive me to a gig in my hometown of Niagara Falls.  Before the fabled Time and Newsweek examples, Crawdaddy gave him his first magazine cover, again a profile written by Knobler.

For whatever reason, Bruce does not mention any of this in his new memoir.  (His only reference to Sing Sing is in a long list of odd places Appel had him play the following year.)   Still, a gold record for Born to Run hangs on my wall.  He did write the preface to my book on Iraq and the media, So Wrong for So Long, in 2007.   And just this past June, his management gave me four free tickets for his concert in Berlin. 

Bruce even figures in my new book on escape tunnels under the Berlin Wall, where he performed to his largest crowd ever a year before the Wall fell.  It's an amazing story in all regards.

Here's (below) a little video about the day I met Bruce in December 1972--in Sing Sing--which also includes excerpts from his very early live performances, including the acoustic  "Growin' Up".   Photo above from December 1972, days after the Sing Sing gig, with me across the table (photo by Ed Gallucci). 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Poll Finds Trump Not Destroyed by Video

A WSJ/NBC poll released yesterday,  covering the period just after the release of the Trump "grab pussy" video, showed Clinton surging to an 11% lead over the Donald.  This seemed to indicate, to many in media, that she really had the race locked up.  But a poll released today by Politico/Morning Consult, of 1700 voters, and also covering the post-debate period, found HRC--despite all this--only leading by 5%.  And that was despite finding that the same sample said she easily won the debate, by 42% to 28%.

On Sunday I reported that an earlier poll from the same outfit found the vast majority of Trump backers sticking by him--and he had only lost 2% in the race with Clinton.

This firm support for Trump comes despite this, from the pollsters: "More voters agreed than disagreed that Trump is Sexist (60%), Racist (51%)...."   And only 13% want him to drop out of the race. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Silence of the Lambs

I've been through this movie before, after many previous debates since 2000, but here we go again:  the cable TV pundit class (regular hosts and panelists) overpraising the GOP candidate's performance, only to be humbled minutes later by scientific polls showing the Democrat won easily.   We saw it again last night with an hour of claims--even on Dem-heavy MSNBC--that Trump "did well" and the debate was a "draw" or a "wash."  This was especially absurd given the previous 48 hours of hype from the same people that, after the Trump sex assault tape, he would have to offer up a boatload of contrition or his candidacy was over.

Well, guess what.  He did not.  In fact, he continued to call his comments merely "locker room talk" and pivoted, in the same answer, to how he would move like a bitch on Isis!  Yet few focused on that at all.  It was as if they had never made such predictions.  They had even been closely covering chances of the GOP booting him off the ticket and what would happen next.  Again: little on this afterward. 

Similarly,  many had, for two days,  warned that Trump would surely lose if he "went nuclear" and mentioned Bill Clinton's affairs and Hillary's alleged actions in relation to them.  So: not only did Trump go there--he also held a presser with three of Bill's alleged victims AND outrageously gave them front-row seats at the debate AND then blasted Bill and Hillary over this during the debate.  Yet after:  most of the TV pundits did not score this much against him.   Again: suffering from amnesia, or was it temporary insanity?

Chuck Todd even claimed Hillary looked "rattled." Trump, he argued, seemed more "in control."

I flipped continually between CNN and MSNBC and it was astounding how little attention was paid, for many minutes, to Trump's jaw-dropping promise to prosecute and jail Hillary (in a Nixon-like abuse of power) as they continued to give him high marks in the debate.  I was watching what seemed to be turning points at both cable channels when Van Jones and James Carville finally went ballistic on this.  Almost in shame, some of the others starting talking about it.  Or perhaps they had checked their Twitter feeds and saw what so many others were saying about this.  (Jesus, even children around the country probably responded quicker, asking their parents, "Why does that horrible man want to lock up that nice lady?")  This morning the Trump display of fascism made the top of newspaper front pages all over Europe.  Yet most of our own TV commentators shrugged it off for too long. 

Other Trump actions or comments that apparently did not bother most of them:  His dozens of outright lies; his interruptions and snorting that were sure to alienate many watchers;  his zombie-like lurking, as if sizing up Hillary's brains;  his proud admission that he had, indeed, not paid federal taxes for many, many years; and on and on.  Yet:  a wash!  a draw!  And then as the first poll result came in--a landslide for Hillary via CNN--they began to temper that.  But only then. Then the YouGov poll also gave it to HRC.  Update Tuesday:  And now Politico/Morning Consult scientific poll gives debate to Clinton by whopping  42%-28%.

And few even mentioned that Trump had claimed early in the debate that the moderators were against him, shouting bitterly that it was "three against one."  He seemed ready for a strait jacket at that point.  Every time he closed his eyes:  lies....lies.    

(Note:  Speaking of Presidents and the media--my new book on another attempt to "lock up" a threat--please go here for more on THE TUNNELS: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill.)

Sunday, October 9, 2016

From "America's Mayor" to American Disgrace

Rudy Giuliani just now appeared with Jake Tapper on CNN, an emergency fill-in on Sunday morning shows as other Trump surrogates dropped out.  Rudy last night emerged from meetings with Trump to say the candidate would not drop out.   Rudy today confirmed that and admitted the Trump remarks on the tape were "horrible"--but "when you reflect on it" it was not the way he feels today and he apologized, and will again tonight no doubt.  Then he pivoted to other issues and wondered if voters would base election on this one issue instead of HRC actions "equally bad" and "in fact criminal."

Tapper then pointed out most people didn't think the apologies seemed sincere.  Rudy said that in talking to Trump he knows it was sincere and reflects his views "today."  A "different man" has emerged after campaigning around the country.   Tapper, clearly angry, kept pressing on sexual assault claims.  Rudy said it was "just talk."  Men "talk like  that," Rudy replied.  Then he moved to Hillary "leading attack" on those women who made sexual claims against Bill.  Rudy added, "I don't expect him to go after Bill Clinton," but will vs. Hillary.  Tapper then said he's not sure that it's true that Hillary "led attack" against those women.  Rudy disputed that--you can read it in books, he said. 

Poll Finds Trump Losing Little Support After Tape Release

Don't say I didn't warn you. A Politico/Morning Consult poll released this morning shows Donald Trump losing only 2% (and that could just be margin of error) in his race with Hillary Clinton since the release of his now famous "grab pussy" tape: He had trailed 41-39 there, and now 42-38.

The reason, again as I predicted: While Trump may lose some backing from indies, his GOP base remains firm--I'm looking at you, evangelicals--which fulfills his own claim that he could shoot someone on Main Street and not lose votes. One telltale sign: by 66% to 17% the GOPers believe that the lewd comments, desire for adultery and pride in sexual assault do not reflect Trump's real views but just locker room banter.

 Only 12% of Republicans--just 13% of Republican women--and 35% of indies want him to leave the race. And 74% of GOPers want party leaders to keep backing him. Then there's this: "Half (48%) say most men talk like this in private, compared to 36% who said they did not. Republicans were more than twice as likely as Democrats to say most men talk like Trump did in private, 67 percent to 31 percent. Independent voters were split, with 46 percent saying most men talked as Trump did in private."