Tag: Obituaries

Giants Used to Walk Among Us

Neil Sheehan, who covered the Vietnam war almost from the beginning, got Daniel Ellsberg to leak him the Pentagon Papers, and then wrote a searing book on the Vietnam war, A Bright and Shining Lie, has died at age 84:

Neil Sheehan, the Vietnam War correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winning author who obtained the Pentagon Papers for The New York Times, leading the government for the first time in American history to get a judge to block publication of an article on grounds of national security, died on Thursday at his home in Washington. He was 84.


Mr. Sheehan, who covered the war from 1962 to 1966 for United Press International and The Times, was also the author of “A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam,” which won a National Book Award and a Pulitzer in 1989. Reviewing it in the Times, Ronald Steel wrote, “If there is one book that captures the Vietnam War in the sheer Homeric scale of its passion and folly, this book is it.”

Intense and driven, Mr. Sheehan arrived in Vietnam at age 25, a believer in the American mission. He left, four years later, disillusioned and anguished. He later spent what he described as a grim and monastic 16 years on “A Bright Shining Lie,” in the hope that the book would move Americans finally to come to grips with the war.

“I simply cannot help worrying that, in the process of waging this war, we are corrupting ourselves,” he wrote in The New York Times Magazine in 1966. “I wonder, when I look at the bombed-out peasant hamlets, the orphans begging and stealing on the streets of Saigon and the women and children with napalm burns lying on the hospital cots, whether the United States or any nation has the right to inflict this suffering and degradation on another people for its own ends.”

Mr. Sheehan’s readiness to entertain the notion that Americans might have committed war crimes prompted Daniel Ellsberg, a former Defense Department analyst who had turned against the war, to leak the Pentagon Papers, a secret government history of American decision-making on Vietnam, to him in 1971. The papers revealed that successive administrations had expanded U.S. involvement in the war and intensified attacks on North Vietnam while obscuring their doubts about the likelihood of success.

You don’t find reporters like this at the Times any more, or at the mainstream media.

It’s all stenography now.

Dumb Ass

Luke Letlow, a Republican congressman-elect, after consistently campaigning without a mask, has died of Covid-19.

Thoughts and prayers, I guess.

As the saying goes, “バカにつける薬はない”.*

*Pronounced in Japanese, “baka ni tsukeru kusuri wanai”, which means, “There is no medicine for stupidity.” Apologies for any inaccuracies in the text, I do not know Japanese.

I Need to Read His Books

I’m embarassed to admit that that I have never read a book by John le Carré. With the news of his death at age 89, I am feeling rather guilty about this. 

His spy novels were a marked contrast to the cartoonish James Bond:

John le Carré, who forged thrillers from equal parts of adventure, moral courage and literary flair, has died aged 89.

Le Carré explored the gap between the west’s high-flown rhetoric of freedom and the gritty reality of defending it, in novels such as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Night Manager, which gained him critical acclaim and made him a bestseller around the world.

On Sunday, his family confirmed he had died of pneumonia at the Royal Cornwall Hospital on Saturday night. “We all deeply grieve his passing,” they wrote in a statement.

Given the whole pandemic thing, I have some additional time to read.

Tommy Heinsohn 1834-2020

How I Will Remember HIm

Boston Celtics Legend Tommy Heinsohn has died at age 86.

I really don’t recall his days as a Celtics player, but I do recall his time as Celtics coach, and I remember how he seemed to regularly blow his stack and get ejected from the game. (Hence this classic beer ad)

It was at this time that I became a life long Celtics fan, and I remember his walking in front of the bench in an almost constant state of near apoplexy.

My dad remembered a forward during the Celtics glory days who had a rather unique flat shot that he developed playing in a gym with a low roof.

Another part of my childhood gone:

Tom Heinsohn, the Hall of Fame forward who played on eight N.B.A. championship teams with the Boston Celtics, coached them to two titles and became their passionate broadcaster for more than 40 years, died on Monday at his home in Newton, Mass. He was 86.

Jeff Twiss, a spokesman for the Celtics, confirmed the death. He said Heinsohn had multiple illnesses, including diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

Playing on the parquet floor of the old Boston Garden from 1956 to 1965, Heinsohn brought a superb shooting touch to the dynasty engineered by Coach Red Auerbach. He loved to shoot, most famously hitting flat-trajectory jumpers, and he had a deadly running hook.


Coaching a rebuilt team after the retirement of Bill Russell, who had become a player-coach with the Celtics after revolutionizing the game with his defensive prowess at center, Heinsohn took Boston to N.B.A. championships in 1974 and ’76.

2020 Sucks

My favorite film of Connery’s

Sean Connery, best known for his hard-edged portrayal of British spy James Bond, has died at age 90.

While I enjoyed his turn as 007, my favorite movie of his is the space-western Outland.

Following his turn as Bond, he spend a lot of time trying to move beyond that, and toward the end of his career, it seemed that all too often he was playing Sean Connery more than he was playing a character.

In Outland he was far enough removed from Bond, but had not become an icon that directors under-used.

His role in the movie as a marshal was restrained and understated, and I particularly liked his interplay with Frances Sternhagen, and Peter Boyle, as always, gave a solid performance.

He will be missed:

Sean Connery, the Scottish actor best known for his portrayal of James Bond, has died aged 90. His son, Jason, said he had died peacefully in his sleep, having been “unwell for some time”.

He was admired by generations of film fans as the original and best 007, and went on to create a distinguished body of work in films such as The Man Who Would Be King, The Name of the Rose and The Untouchables.

Born Thomas Sean Connery in 1930, he grew up in the tough Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh and left school at 14 to work as a milkman for the Co-op. In 1948, he joined the Royal Navy, but was later discharged on medical grounds. He began bodybuilding aged 18, and got work as a life model, among many jobs, and entered the Mr Universe contest in 1953, though he did not win. Having been interested in acting for some time, Connery used his Mr Universe visit to London to audition for a stage version of South Pacific, and landed a role in the chorus.


But it was his casting, at the age of 30, in the first film adapted from Ian Fleming’s series of James Bond novels that cemented his screen status. Reportedly at the insistence of producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli’s wife, Dana, Connery got the role in Dr No over better known actors due to his “sex appeal”. Despite initial misgivings, Dr No was a huge success, not least because it had been produced, cautiously, on a comparatively low budget. Released in 1962, it was a hit in Britain, but also did well commercially in the US.

Connery went on to appear in four more Bond films in succession, between 1963 and 1967: From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice. His dramatically increased star status also allowed him to take films outside the series, notably the psychological thriller Marnie, for Alfred Hitchcock, and The Hill, a military-prison drama directed by Sidney Lumet. However, his increasing disenchantment at playing 007 saw him drop out of the next Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and he was replaced by George Lazenby. However, the Australian actor’s tenure lasted only for a single film, and Connery was lured back for Diamonds Are Forever in 1971 with an enormous fee.


Throughout his career, Connery made no secret of his support for Scottish independence, and became a high-profile member of the Scottish National party, taking part in party political broadcasts in the 1990s and appearing alongside then-leader Alex Salmond. His politics reportedly led to the Scottish secretary Donald Dewar blocking plans for Connery’s knighthood in 1997, but the honour finally came three years later. However, as Connery had moved away from the UK in the mid-1970s, his substantial financial contributions to the SNP were ended after legislation disallowed funding from overseas residents.

So many of the figures from my youth seem to be leaving us these days.

Makes one think about one’s own mortality.

Mom’s Yahrzeit Today

She died in 1976 in a car accident.  She was 39.

It was a drunk driver.

I don’t know the driver’s name, or what happened to him in court, but I hope that he did something useful with his life.

My mom was a serious bad-ass, at least to the degree that a 4’11” tall woman with juvenile onset rheumatoid arthritis can be. (Trust me, that’s a LOT)

I really wish that I had inherited her singing voice.

We Have Lost a Giant

Skeptic, magician, and exposer of frauds James Randi, aka “The Amazing Randi”, has died at age 92.

He was central to the skeptic community, which debunked phony claims about ghosts, ESP, and aliens.

One of his most important accomplishment was that he showed that the skill set of scientists was inadequate to exposing deliberate fraud, because the frauds use the techniques of stage magic:

James Randi, a famed magician known as “The Amazing Randi” and a scientific investigator who debunked sensational claims of paranormal and occult occurences — has died. He was 92.

The James Randi Foundation announced his passing in a tweet, saying he died of “age-related causes” on Tuesday.

Randi was remembered on Wednesday by magician Penn Jillette in a pair of tweets as an “inspiration, mentor and dear friend.”


By age 60, Randi had retired from magic and was one of the co-founders of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, or CSI. The committee responded to a rise of interest in the paranormal in the ’70s and promoted scientific inquiry and critical thinking in the investigation of extraordinary or controversial claims.

Among one of Randi’s more famous instances as a debunker — a word he said he disliked in favor of “investigator” — was of the religious televangelist Peter Popoff, who became famous in the mid-’80s for televised healing sermons in which he seemed to know intimate details of random attendees. Randi discovered that Popoff was using an electronic transmitter to get information about his subjects broadcast to him by his wife behind the scenes, and he then exposed the preacher on “The Tonight Show.”

In 1996 he founded the James Randi Educational Foundation, a non-profit group that encouraged and educated the public and media on vetting unverified and outlandish claims, later launching the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge for people who could demonstrate paranormal abilities under agreed-upon scientific testing conditions. While over 1000 people have applied, no one has proved their supernatural strength. The New York Times described the trials in detail in an article republished back in 2014.


Randi is survived by his husband, Deyvi Peña.

Re wad devastating, and very entertaining, when he exposed frauds.


Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Supreme Court Justice, has died at age 87.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a pioneering advocate for women’s rights, who in her ninth decade became a much younger generation’s unlikely cultural icon, died at her home in Washington on Friday. She was 87.

The cause was complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer, the Supreme Court said.

By the time two small tumors were found in one of her lungs in December 2018, during a follow-up scan for broken ribs suffered in a recent fall, Justice Ginsburg had beaten colon cancer in 1999 and early-stage pancreatic cancer 10 years later. She received a coronary stent to clear a blocked artery in 2014.

Needless to say, Mitch McConnell is studiously ignoring what he did when he blocked Obama’s nominee in 2016, because he is an evil man who has no ideology beyond a quest for power.

Also, we have reports that Trump will be nominating a replacement, which is not a surprise. 

Both stacking the court, and violating the norms of governance are core branding for Trump and his administration, so I would expect to see a nomination in the next few weeks, with an actual vote on the candidate in the lame duck session, where the Senators, particularly those who have lost their bid for reelection, will be able to vote with little, if any repercussions.

F%$# 2020

He looks exactly as I expected

Dave Graeber, heterodox and iconoclastic anthropologist who authored Bullshit Jobs, and Debt: The First 5,000 Years, has died at age 59:

David Graeber, anthropologist and anarchist author of bestselling books on bureaucracy and economics including Bullshit Jobs: A Theory and Debt: The First 5,000 Years, has died aged 59.

On Thursday Graeber’s wife, the artist and writer Nika Dubrovsky, announced on Twitter that Graeber had died in hospital in Venice the previous day. The cause of death is not yet known.

Renowned for his biting and incisive writing about bureaucracy, politics and capitalism, Graeber was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement and professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics (LSE) at the time of his death. His final book, The Dawn of Everything: a New History of Humanity, written with David Wengrove, will be published in autumn 2021.


Born in New York in 1961 to two politically active parents – his father fought in the Spanish civil war with the International Brigades, while his mother was a member of the international Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union – Graeber first attracted academic attention for his teenage hobby of translating Mayan hieroglyphs. After studying anthropology at the State University of New York at Purchase and the University of Chicago, he won a prestigious Fulbright fellowship and spent two years doing anthropological fieldwork in Madagascar. In 2005, Yale decided against renewing his contract a year before he would have secured tenure. Graeber suspected it was because of his politics; when more than 4,500 colleagues and students signed petitions supporting him, Yale instead offered him a year’s paid sabbatical, which he accepted and moved to the UK to work at Goldsmiths before joining LSE. “I guess I had two strikes against me,” he told the Guardian in 2015. “One, I seemed to be enjoying my work too much. Plus I’m from the wrong class: I come from a working-class background.”


An anarchist since his teens, Graeber was a supporter of the Kurdish freedom movement and the “remarkable democratic experiment” he could see in Rojava, an autonomous region in Syria. He became heavily involved in activism and politics in the late 90s. He was a pivotal figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 – though he denied that he had come up with the slogan “We are the 99%”, for which he was frequently credited.

“I did first suggest that we call ourselves the 99%. Then two Spanish indignados and a Greek anarchist added the ‘we’ and later a food-not-bombs veteran put the ‘are’ between them. And they say you can’t create something worthwhile by committee! I’d include their names but considering the way police intelligence has been coming after early OWS organisers, maybe it would be better not to,” he wrote.


Why couldn’t it have been some dime a dozen conventional economists?

Herman Cain Dies of Covid Caught at the Trump Rally

At Tulsa, No Mask

Where the former Presidential candidate actually caught the virus is not certain, but the timing of his infections strongly implies that he caught the virus at Trump’s Tulsa campaign rally:

Herman Cain, who rose from poverty in the segregated South to become chief executive of a successful pizza chain and then thrust himself into the national spotlight by seeking the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, has died. He was 74.

His death was announced on Thursday on his website and on social media accounts. It did not say precisely when or where he died. Dan Calabrese, the website’s editor, attributed the death to the coronavirus, which President Trump, in a White House briefing, later referred to as the “China virus” and a “horrible plague” in affirming it as the cause.

Mr. Cain had been hospitalized in the Atlanta area this month after testing positive for the virus on June 29.


Mr. Cain had attended President Trump’s indoor rally in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20 and had done “a lot of traveling” recently, Mr. Calabrese said.

“I don’t think there’s any way to trace this to the one specific contact that caused him to be infected,” he said at the time. “We’ll never know.”

I am not a fan of Mr. Cain, and the opportunity for meming this tempting, but I’m not going to go there.

Just wear your f%$#ing mask, OK?

So Many Graves, So Little Urine

I spend a couple of years working at GE, so it goes without saying that I am not a fan of the recently dead “Neutron Jack”* Welch, who just died at age 84.

I literally refuse to buy their light bulbs to this day.

In 1999, Fortune called him the manager of the decade.

His basic business strategy, financialize a manufacturing company for a quick bump in profits, along with making the ordinary people who actually do the work miserable, has not aged well.

*He was called “Neutron Jack” because the people were gone, but the buildings remain standing.

R.I.P. Issur Danielovitch Demsky

“All children are natural actors, and I’m still a kid. If you grow up completely, you can never be an actor.”

Kirk Douglas, the son of a rag man and an iconic actor, has died at 103:

Kirk Douglas, one of the last surviving movie stars from Hollywood’s golden age, whose rugged good looks and muscular intensity made him a commanding presence in celebrated films like “Lust for Life,” “Spartacus” and “Paths of Glory,” died on Wednesday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 103.

His son the actor Michael Douglas announced the death in a statement on his Facebook page.

Mr. Douglas had made a long and difficult recovery from the effects of a severe stroke he suffered in 1996. In 2011, cane in hand, he came onstage at the Academy Awards ceremony, good-naturedly flirted with the co-host Anne Hathaway and jokingly stretched out his presentation of the Oscar for best supporting actress.

By then, and even more so as he approached 100 and largely dropped out of sight, he was one of the last flickering stars in a Hollywood firmament that few in Hollywood’s Kodak Theater on that Oscars evening could have known except through viewings of old movies now called classics. A vast number filling the hall had not even been born when he was at his screen-star peak, the 1950s and ’60s.

We will not see his like again.


Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana has died at age 80.

She, and Gene L. Coon were major formative figures in Star Trek who never got the credit that they deserved:

D.C. Fontana, the famed TV writer best known for Star Trek: The Original Series and who blazed a trail for storytelling and women in science fiction, died Monday after a brief illness. She was 80.

The American Film Institute announced today the news of Fontana’s passing.

Fontana, whose full name was Dorothy Catherine, wrote several episodes of Star Trek (some under the pseudonym Michael Richards) and was most noted for creating Spock’s backstory and expanding Vulcan culture. In the episode “Journey to Babel,” she established the characters of Spock’s father Sarek and mother Amanda. In the “Yesteryear” episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series, for which Fontana served as story editor and associate producer, she created Spock’s childhood history.


She is survived by her husband, Oscar-winning visual effects cinematographer Dennis Skotak. In lieu of flowers, her family asks that donations be made to the Humane Society, Best Friends Animal Society, or the American Film Institute in her memory.

We have lost a giant.


Elijah Cummings, who was my Congressman from 2001 through 2004, has just died.

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings — the son of sharecroppers who rose to become a House committee chairman and Baltimore icon — often spoke of the need to leave a legacy for “generations unborn,” but said he was unsure how his own contributions might be remembered.

“I’m here for a season and a reason,” the veteran Democratic lawmaker said this summer in his Capitol Hill office, sitting below framed photographs of civil rights leaders Nelson Mandela and Coretta Scott King. “I don’t know why I’m here, I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I’m here. And I’m going to make the best of it.”

Colleagues defined Cummings’ legacy as his devotion to Baltimore and civil rights, and his adherence to civility in a fractured political climate, even as he pursued an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump from his role as chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Cummings, 68, died about 2:45 a.m. Thursday due to complications from longstanding health problems. He was a patient of Gilchrist Hospice Care, a member of his staff said.

Seeing as how his committee, House Oversight and Reform, is one of 3 taking point on the impeachment investigation, his successor could make a big difference in what happens in the next few months.

On an interim basis, it will be Carolyn Maloney (NY), and given the nature of the House, she is the odds on favorite to replace him.

I have no clue as to what this means in terms of the impeachment though.