As Russia devolves . . .

An outspoken rival of Vladimir Putin was assassinated in the heart of Moscow on Friday evening — just two days before he was scheduled to lead a massive protest against the Russian president.

And from the Dark and Perverse Humor Dept.: Putin says he'll head the investigation into Nemtsov's death.

Justice done

Justice was done in Texas Tuesday night, as Chad Littlefield and Chris Kyle's murderer was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

I am glad that justice was done,

But the verdict offers no real solace. The vast void left by their deaths remains. The verdict does not fill it. There is no way to make up for the loss of those two men - not for the families, not for their friends, not for the many people they would have helped had they lived.

It is up to those of us who remain to fill that void by following the examples set by Chad and Chris: helping our friends, reaching out to strangers. They will endure in our actions; if there is solace, it will be had in the lives we enrich in their names.

Parlez-vous American Sniper?

American Sniper is a worldwide phenomenon. To see what they think in French, check out this link:

Le film a visé juste
(We did the interview English; I can barely find my way around the Paris Metro in French.)

On PTS and Chris Kyle's murderer

With the trial of Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield’s killer now winding down, it should be amply clear to all that Post Traumatic Stress was NOT a factor in the murder.

I wonder if everyone who reported that it was will issue an apology to sufferers of PTS.

I won’t hold my breath for that.

PTS is a serious ailment that affects many who have suffered trauma. We know many things about it, but not everything. Like much of medicine, doctors have made major advances in treatment recently thanks to our experiences with war, but PTS is not a condition that comes solely from combat. Its mechanisms have still to be fully understood.

One thing we do know: PTS does NOT turn people into killers. Nor does it relieve them from personal responsibility. If sufferers of PTS are a danger to anyone, it is to themselves – PTS is suspected of being a factor in many suicides.

One of the greatest barriers to its treatment is the stigma still attached to what are commonly believed to be mental conditions. The pre-trial publicity here unfortunately reinforced that stigma; hopefully that will be corrected in its wake.

Now that the case is almost concluded, I also wonder if Chris and his family will receive an apology from those who wrote the ridiculous stories that made far too much of the random parallels between his life and that of the murderer. I can’t conceive of two more different men.

Earlier this week, the Navy released part of Chris’s military record. Anyone who has any doubt about what he accomplished on the battlefield and does not want to take his book as proof, can read it here.

If he were alive, Chris would be angry that I supplied that link; he was a humble man. But he can chew me out when – if – I get to heaven, where I know he surely is. In the meantime, it would be a good idea for people to actually consider the facts before they make facile assessments.

On commas

From the New Yorker:-

The comma as we know it was invented by Aldo Manuzio, a printer working in Venice, circa 1500. It was intended to prevent confusion by separating things. In the Greek, komma means “something cut off,” a segment. (Aldo was printing Greek classics during the High Renaissance. The comma was a Renaissance invention.) As the comma proliferated, it started generating confusion. Basically, there are two schools of thought: One plays by ear, using the comma to mark a pause, like dynamics in music; if you were reading aloud, the comma would suggest when to take a breath. The other uses punctuation to clarify the meaning of a sentence by illuminating its underlying structure. Each school believes that the other gets carried away. It can be tense and kind of silly, like the argument among theologians about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. How many commas can fit into a sentence by Herman Melville? Or, closer to home, into a sentence from The New Yorker?

I'm a 'by-the-ear' guy myself. I've yet to meet a copy editor who isn't a structuralist, which has led to many a battle of STETs.

The excerpt is from an article about the life of a copy editor, or as she puts it, "Confessions of a Comma Queen." It's always interesting to see how the other half lives.

Cimino on Deer Hunter . . .

. . . and American Sniper, from the Hollywood Reporter:

What did you think of American Sniper?It's Clint's best work as a director. By far. For all the reasons that people like it. I don't think other directors, including myself, could have gotten the same result given the same resources. Clint got an extraordinary result because he is an extraordinary man. There's no pretension about him. He could be Bradley Cooper, he could be the character. Clint inspired Bradley by virtue of who he is, a principled guy. Clint has remained my friend for over 40 years.
How does Sniper compare with The Deer Hunter?It's not, in my view, much like Deer Hunter. Though it was characterized [as such], Sniper's not a political movie. It's not about the rightness or wrongness of the war. It deals with the impact of trauma on people who go to war and people who stay behind.

More of the interview here.
Remember Chad

While most of the attention in the trial of Chris Kyle's alleged murderer has been on Chris, we should take a moment to remember the second victim, Chad Littlefield.

Chad was a family man and an exemplary friend, the kind of guy you could always count on no matter whether you were working out, straightening your garage, or just hanging out. It was typical of his unselfish ways that he helped Chris that day. His was the ultimate sacrifice and testament to friendship.

Here's a link to a longer tribute.

Post-Traumatic Stress

With the trial of Chris Kyle's alleged killer beginning today, I'm sure there will be a lot of stories about post-traumatic stress and its alleged connection to this case.

PTS (or PTSD) is a serious mental ailment that afflicts a significant number of people; it's not just a combat-related problem, though lately it's been associated with the stresses of war. Whether it is an appropriate diagnosis in this case and what relevance, if any, it has, remains to be proven.

We don't know enough about mental ailments in general, let alone how to treat them. Because of that, there is still a heavy stigma associated with PTS. It would be unfortunate if that stigma were to be magnified because of the trial.

PTS does NOT turn people into killers. From what I understand, if people suffering from PTS are harmful to anyone, it is to themselves. I don't know what the outcome of this trial will be, but I do know that Chris felt strongly that people in need of assistance - be it medical, job-related, or whatever - deserved respect and a hand up.

A hand-up, not a hand-out; respect, not excuses. We are all responsible for our actions.

I trust that the jury in Texas will be able to deal with the evidence and the complications of law, and determine the truth in this case.

How I spent Sunday


Thank you, Rabbi Ovi and Temple Beth El - you were wonderful hosts.

And the weather was warmer there than in NYC.


Item: ISIS burns to death captive

From the NY Times:

In a new show of brutality for a group already known for displays of violence, the Islamic State released a video on Tuesday purporting to show the execution of a captive Jordanian pilot by burning him alive.

Tell me again what word you would use to describe these people.
On the radio

I'm doing another radio blitz Tuesday, this time to talk about Code Name: Johnny Walker as well as American Sniper. Here’s the lineup so far:

(All times are Eastern, so you’ll have to adjust to hear him):

9 a.m. WJR Detroit with Paul Smith
9:10 a.m. WTPT-FM – Greenville SC, The Rise Guys
9:20 a.m. KWQW – Des Moines, Morning Drive w/ Robert Rees
9:30 a.m. – WOCM-FM The Morning Show w/Bulldog
9:40 a.m. – WWWV – Charlottesville & Richmond, VA – the Big Greasy Breakfast
10 a.m. WBGG, WZZR, WXZR, WAIL – the Paul & Young Ron Show
10:10 a.m. – WJQM – Madison, Wisconsin – Fish in the morning
10:20 a.m. – KEVT, Tucson, AZ, with Jim Parisi
10:30 a.m. – WKSZ FM Green Bay with Doug and Mary
10:40 – KTRS-FM, St. Louis

Hopefully there’s a bathroom break in there . . .
The First Lady likes it

Michelle Obama on American Sniper:
"More often than not, this film touches on many of the emotions and experiences I have heard first-hand from military families over these past few years," she told the crowd. 
"This movie reflects those wrenching stories I've heard, the complex journeys that our men and women in uniform endure, the complicated world, the decisions they are tasked with every day, the stresses of balancing love of family with love of country, and the challenges of transitioning back home." 

Full story here, and here, and here . . .you get the idea.