Codfish's blog

Bronx Revisited: You Can Never Go Home Again

By Greg O'Brien,  Codfish Press

I watched Friday night with typical horror, in full sports Tourette's, from the safety of my living room in Brewster, a short jog from Cape Cod Bay, as the Yankees hit the Red Sox upside the head in the American League East division race—a hunt Boston sportswriters declared was over two months ago when the Bombers were firing blanks. Someone apparently forgot to take the gun away.

Made me realize again that September is the longest month of the year, and that in spite of all appearances—a kinder, gentler chemistry this year between Boston and New Yuk—life could get ugly six weeks before Halloween. And if one night last summer is any indication, best to duck. I'm still staggered from the experience, and I didn't have a beer all night.

I returned a year ago last July to the belly of the beast, the house that brute built, and my daughter, Colleen, and I caught a school of index fingers and a boatload of obscenities. A cross between Kevin Costner’s Waterworld and Planet Of the Apes: The Forbidden Zone, Yankee Stadium—to Red Sox fans proudly displaying the second letter of the alphabet—is a place where civilization is in retreat. The dialect here is limited mostly to four letter words, and the primates, a blended mix of humanity, bathe in frothing cups of Bud.

George SteinbrennerI scored tickets to what Yankee observers now call one of the greatest regular season games in pinstripe legend, a sentence akin to death by stoning. Having been raised in New York twenty minutes outside the Bronx and once a Yankee fan before Steinbrenner took over the planet, I wanted to treat my 18-year-old daughter to the New York experience. Instead we got the New York attitude. While stars like Jeter and A-Rod have the passion of champions, often missing at Fenway, Yankee fans make Beantowners look like a boatload of nuns. New Yorkers love to talk with their hands, and when Red Sox supporters are around, they use the single digit.

We were treated to a pre-game show at Stan’s, a local hangout on River Avenue just outside the stadium. Like Ellis Island, it is a gathering of Italian and Irish immigrants about to be admitted to the land of the free and the brave. Refusing to take off our hats, we thought we’d be safe, but within seconds we were confronted with a rush of sweaty egos. “You lost?” said a man in a muscle shirt with a waist the size of the tires on my Jeep.

“Love to stay,” I said, “but gotta go. See you in October.”

Once inside the stadium, we were herded to Monument Park, an in-your-face reminder for a Sox fan—a wake of sorts—of opportunities lost and ghosts of the past. Headstones aside, Yankee Stadium is sterile, a morgue of a ballpark compared to Fenway—a shadow of the elegant facades of the Mantle and Maris era.

Thirteen innings is a long time to sit in a funeral home, wondering when they will shut the casket. Faceless John Flaherty’s pinch-hit single told us it was time to go.

On the way out, thousands of Yankee fans, dragging their knuckles up the elevated subway and yelling down at a few Fenway faithful through the metal bars, chanted in a haunting tone: “Bos-ton Su*ks…Bos-ton Su*ks!”

As Jeter once said, if you stick around here long enough, sooner or later the ghosts will rise.

Let's hope this October they are sleeping with the fishes!

Looking West From Boston: An American Hiroshima

By Greg O'Brien,  Codfish Press

Lost in recent newspaper headlines touting the 60th anniversary of the dropping of nuclear bombs over two Japanese cities that brought World War II literally to a screeching halt are the “downwinders” of this country—the forgotten victims of our atomic testing program in the 1950s and 60s, the road kill of this American Hiroshima, the scores who have died from radiation exposure and their families who were left to cope with this numbing loss.

The prettiest radioactive wasteland in Nevada. The government had told the downwinders it needed to test these fireballs to stay ahead of the Soviets, who had detonated their first atomic device on Aug. 29, 1949; in the years to follow, the Soviets ignited 266 surface and air nuclear bombs in the Kazakhstan region of Semi Palatinsk. And so no one in the remote downwind corridor of southern Utah and northwest Arizona blinked when over the course of two decades more than 100 nuclear weapons were exploded above and below the ground at the Nevada Test Site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Residents—many of them patriotic Mormons who seldom questioned the government’s authority—were not dissuaded in the early days from viewing the explosions at a distance. (On right; The prettiest radioactive wasteland in Nevada.)

The warnings at first were casual. Families were told there would be a test, and hours later the ash would fall—at first light, then heavy—as pink clouds of fallout, carried by downwind air currents, drifted over Arizona and Utah. The ash tingled the skin, almost stung. Children brushed it off. The debris covered playgrounds, homes and fields where milk cows ate the grass coated with radioactive ash.

It wasn’t long before children and their parents began getting sick. Many died, and soon the downwiders began to feel that they had been deemed “expendable” by their government in its quest for nuclear superiority. Government officials privately specified that “if it turns out that we have killed children, as we were clearly doing in the 1950s, lie about it,” Stewart Udall, Interior Secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, and a lawyer for some of the downwinders, said several years ago in an interview for a documentary, “Downwind of Morality,” produced by Bill Turpie. I served as associate field producer on the project and co-wrote the script.

The government lies would hide a multitude of sins: at the Nevada Test Site and the Los Alamos (New Mexico) Lab where the bombs were designed; at Hanford reservation in southwest Washington where the government processed plutonium during World War II and the Cold War, and secretly released radioactive iodine up the stack of a plutonium processor in 1949; and at government laboratories throughout the country, like Oak Ridge Laboratory in Tennessee where a number of terminal patients were injected without consent many years ago with plutonium (the critical isotope needed in a nuclear chain reaction) to determine how much exposure humans could endure. Not only is radiation that is injected or burns the skin deadly, but equally lethal is the absorption into the body of plants and animals that have been contaminated.

“We have killed off or maimed millions of people without any war at all,” Rudi Nussbaum, an expert on the nuclear issue who then taught at Portland State University in Oregon, noted in Downwind of Morality.

“In our fear, we sacrificed whole parts of this country by the creation of these weapons,” William Lanouette, biographer of Leo Szilard, the Hungarian scientist who first contemplated a nuclear chain reaction, said in the documentary. “We sacrificed a generation of people—through the radiation affects of producing these weapons.”

The litany of suffering and death in the wake of atomic test explosions in the Nevada desert is stunning. It defies any coincidence suggested by defenders of the testing program, or statements by nuclear energy officials, that evidence of radiation poisoning is anecdotal. One woman interviewed for the documentary said she had a brother whose entire class, with the exception of one, ultimately died from cancer. A retired Air Force worker said that after Nevada test blasts Geiger counters were often placed on cars in the area, and “they buzzed like rattlesnakes!” And in nearby Utah, a hardware store owner lost 14 members of his family to cancer. “The government lied to us,” said a downwinder in Northern Arizona. “That’s the greatest travesty. They told us we were safe, and they knew that we were not.”

More than 50 years later, the tragedies continue. Entire family trees have been seared, and the toll, passed down through heredity, sadly keeps rising.

Bill Belichick: A Coach For All Seasons

Greg O'Brien, Codfish Press

Bill Belichick Mike Barnicle once said it best about Bill Belichick. The man makes young children want to do their homework. Preparation, focused study, quiet but unshakable confidence, perfect execution, and humility are the cornerstones of success at any age. Belichick embraces and embodies these traits, holding to them as if they were critical, life-sustaining provisions—the difference between showing up and shining, between doing what’s expected of you and exceeding all expectations.

Three Super Bowls in four years, the fitting comparisons with Vince Lombardi’s Packers of the 60s, the Steelers of the 70s, the 49ers of the 80s, and the Cowboys of the 90s, invoking the “D” word are all imposing and impressive, but it is the inner spirit and moral fiber of Belichick that is most inspiring and will endure long after the confetti was swept last January from the banks of St. John’s River in Jacksonville and from the proud streets of Boston, and long after the 2005 season huddled up Thursday with a loud victory over Oakland, extending an unbeatable home streak.

The antithesis of brash, look-at-me worldly success, Belichick, a paradigm of reserve, is a true world champion—for both his accomplishments and for what he has taught us along the way. The lesson is inescapable. As John wrote in the Book of Revelations: “He who has an ear, let him hear.”

On the field and off, Belichick is the unchanged—most notably on Nantucket where he owns a modest, two-story, four-bedroom vacation home in quiet ‘Sconset, the type of gray-shingled, white trim structure that looks like it belongs to a high school principal or the owner of a small plumbing business.

Belichick’s ties to Nantucket date back to high school when he first visited the island and was captured by its simple, self-effacing natural beauty. “It’s sort of home to me,” he told Rob Duca of the Cape Cod Times months ago in an interview, noting that he, his wife Debby, and their three children—Amanda, Stephen and Brian—spend as much down time here as possible.

Belichick guards his island privacy so much so, Duca reported, that when a national magazine reporter came here to interview him, he met the reporter at the cramped Nantucket airport to talk, rather than escort him to his home. Belichick, Duca wrote, has befriended legendary Nantucket High School coach Vito Capizzo, who regularly queries the Patriots coach about defensive maneuvers. “As I told Vito, I’d love to have his record,” Belichick confided to Duca.

Dressed casually in khakis and often in his signature-hooded sweatshirt, Belichick can also be seen on off days roaming the links at Sankaty Head golf course where he usually insists on carrying his bulky bag, rather than riding a cart. And he takes in high school lacrosse games, Duca reports, watching like everyone else behind the fence. “He keeps to himself; he’s very grounded,” coach Santos said of Belichick.

Grounded, humble, introspective, always prepared, Bill Belichick is a role model we should all embrace.

Super Bowl rings sparkle, but the good character of a person glistens. One can't look at Belichick without squinting.

An Open Letter To The President

By Greg O?BrienCodfish Press Mr. President: Your war in Iraq, if you don?t already know it, is over! You know, the war where you said Saddam had all those hidden nukes and weapons of mass destruction to annihilate us. Our troops, praise God, are coming home soon?among them, more than a third of the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard that could otherwise have been on the front lines of a more vital campaign. You?ll get the word soon, I?m sure, in the next opinion poll after the final body count is taken along what was once the Gulf Coast?apparently the political backwaters of your administration. I don?t get it, Mr. President. How come we can oust the mother of all evil in three days of ?shock and awe,? and yet the richest nation on earth can?t pluck scores of desperate Americans, most of them black men, women and children, off a stinking, steamy bridge in New Orleans before they dehydrate and life around them degenerates into anarchy and apocalypse? It took five days for a distant George Bush to find New Orleans, and six days for besieged Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to declare the military had landed, only to brace us (in the wake of dead bodies bobbing the streets, lashed to sign posts, and trapped in the basements, bedrooms and attics of homes that will never see life again) for as ?ugly a scene? as you can possibly envision. Hard to imagine, Mr. President, and thank you, Sir, for your timely and thoughtful observation the other day that ?the results are not acceptable.? Look, you can point all the fingers you want in this sleight of hand: you can blame local officials, some of them pathetic; you can blame the languid state of Louisiana; an abstracted Congress; or anyone else you want. But last time I checked, Mr. President, you were still the man. The buck?in this case the foul rising surge of Lake Pontchartrain?stops with you. And if you can?t take care of business at home, you?re grounded. So go to your room and stay in the Oval Office until you can ease the collective shame and humiliation we all feel over ?how quickly the thin veneer of civilization can be stripped away,? as the Daily Mail of London put it. Stay there until you prevail upon your buddies in the oil industry, some of whom will pocket as much as $30 billion in profits this year, to stop their iniquitous corporate looting. Sit at your desk until you patch our failed Homeland Security apparatus, as porous as a Big Easy levee. Many of us who voted for you, moderates without party affiliation, are nauseated. We don?t care what it takes to fix this. End the tax cuts. Trickle down, Mr. President, only trickles down into the pant cuffs of the wealthy. We have developed a deplorable caste system in this country of fat cats and untouchables. It?s time you got some religion on this.**See comments on Codfish Press blog

Holding Back The Sea On A Prayer

By Greg O?BrienCodfish PressCape Cod, we are fond of saying, is a dead-end street?a blessing and a curse at times. It is a natural jetty, jutting out into the Atlantic and Nantucket Sound, a maritime barrier that often absorbs the punch of violent storms roiling up the eastern seaboard. These meteorological imbroglios are expected to increase in regularity and intensity in coming years. The destructive power of hurricanes in the North Atlantic has doubled in the past 30 years and will continue to increase, according to a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study. An MIT hurricane specialist, Kerry Emanuel, has suggested a warming of the ocean?s surface temperatures provide hurricanes with more energy to stir higher wind speeds. Writing on the subject years ago, another storm expert suggested hurricanes in the future might throw off winds in excess of 200 miles an hour, a speed that would virtually flatten Cape Cod?in this case, literally a sitting duck. It?s not if, but more a matter of when. The storm surge of a Category 4 or 5 storm would reduce the peninsula for a time into a series of islands, particularly on the Outer Cape.The horror unfolding in Louisiana and Mississippi, in terms of damage and loss, may be a prelude?up-close and personal?of what to expect here some day. We had a taste in 1991 with spiteful Hurricane Bob. And we are no better prepared today at the national, regional, state and local levels. No one seems to want to respond until the lights are out, but that?s when we start tripping over each other, as they are along the Gulf Coast, with the government leading the way.Last Sunday as killer Katrina?then a Category 5 storm packing 160-mile-an-hour winds with the threat of a 28-foot storm surge?roared toward New Orleans, many in the region found religion. ?Have God on your side,? warned a woman, who sat gridlocked in fleeing traffic. ?Definitely have God on your side! It?s very frightening,? she told the Associated Press.In the turbulent and tragic wake of Katrina?with hundreds, possibly thousands feared dead, looters roaming free in the streets (not to mention the corporate looters like the oil companies and some retailers), and an estimated $25 billion and climbing in property damage, making the hurricane one of the worst natural disasters in the nation?s history?the Almighty seems to have taken a long weekend, and during those critical hours of first response, the Bush Administration also appears to have been missing in action, a lapse that may prove to be a political high water mark for the maxim: too little, too late. Television and newspaper coverage of the event, from both liberal and conservative sources, has been stunning: horrific footage, photos and anecdotes of scores waiting helplessly in the cruel southern sun to be rescued as if trapped on an isolated planet, while the bodies of friends and family members bobbed in the surge of Noah proportions.?Help us,? was the futile cry, as a bloated and sluggish bureaucracy responded after an official sigh of relief that the region had dodged a bullet?the full, ugly force of this weapon of mass destruction. It was as if our Commander-In-Chief George Bush had re-appeared on the deck of an aircraft carrier to declare prematurely that another war was over. The delayed and fatal blast the following day was an aging levee system that predictably couldn?t hold back the rising and rocking tide of Lake Pontchartrain. While television and newspapers now report the flood of National Guardsmen, financial aid, food, water, pumping equipment and all the concomitant spin, where was all this outpouring in the first 72 hours, a time when lives could have been saved? It is a chilling reminder of our measured and derisory early response to Tsunami relief.As na?ve as it sounds, one supreme command from the Oval Office, declaring this to be the highest national priority, no matter what the cost or effort, ought to be enough in this day of instant communication to get sufficient help on the street to respond to a disaster that was always a possibility. The key is good, long-range planning, and there wasn?t much here. Earlier this summer, for example, Louisiana ?pleaded for federal help to protect the state?s rapidly eroding coastline?but the state was rebuffed by an administration and a Congress bent on budget-cutting,? according to a Boston Globe report.Bush last Sunday from his Crawford, Texas ranch declared a ?massive relief effort? was in the works. ?We cannot stress enough the danger this hurricane poses,? he said, sounding the alarm. But it will take more than a declaration of war on hurricanes. Hollow words alone fall short, if essential emergency infrastructures are not in place. With more powerful storms predicted in the years to come, perhaps we ought to spend less time and money tilting at windmills in Iraq, and focus more on defending our vulnerable shorelines, our exposed flank.Neptune is awaiting our next move in this conflict.

Welcome to Boston Cod

Welcome to Boston Cod, an affiliate of Codfish Press, which will comment on the politics,  issues and human interest of Boston and the world beyond. Boston Cod writes from an independent perspective, neither liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. About as down the middle as a Curt Schilling fastball. No need to duck. Take your swings!

Greg O'Brien
Codfish Press

An Open Letter To The President From A Cape Codder Who Voted For Bush

By Greg O?BrienCodfish PressMr. President: Your war in Iraq, if you don?t already know it, is over! You know, the war where you said Saddam had all those hidden nukes and weapons of mass destruction to annihilate us. Our troops, praise God, are coming home soon?among them, more than a third of the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard that could otherwise have been on the front lines of a more vital campaign. You?ll get the word soon, I?m sure, in the next opinion poll after the final body count is taken along what was once the Gulf Coast?apparently the political backwaters of your administration. I don?t get it, Mr. President. How come we can oust the mother of all evil in three days of ?shock and awe,? and yet the richest nation on earth can?t pluck scores of desperate Americans, most of them black men, women and children, off a stinking, steamy bridge in New Orleans before they dehydrate and life around them degenerates into anarchy and apocalypse? It took five days for a distant George Bush to find New Orleans, and six days for besieged Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to declare the military had landed, only to brace us (in the wake of dead bodies bobbing the streets, lashed to sign posts, and trapped in the basements, bedrooms and attics of homes that will never see life again) for as ?ugly a scene? as you can possibly envision. Hard to imagine, Mr. President, and thank you, Sir, for your timely and thoughtful observation the other day that ?the results are not acceptable.? Look, you can point all the fingers you want in this sleight of hand: you can blame local officials, some of them pathetic; you can blame the languid state of Louisiana; an abstracted Congress; or anyone else you want. But last time I checked, Mr. President, you were still the man. The buck?in this case the foul rising surge of Lake Pontchartrain?stops with you.And if you can?t take care of business at home, you?re grounded. So go to your room and stay in the Oval Office until you can ease the collective shame and humiliation we all feel over ?how quickly the thin veneer of civilization can be stripped away,? as the Daily Mail of London put it. Stay there until you prevail upon your buddies in the oil industry, some of whom will pocket as much as $30 billion in profits this year, to stop their iniquitous corporate looting. Sit at your desk until you patch our failed Homeland Security apparatus, as porous as a Big Easy levee. Many of us who voted for you, moderates without party affiliation, are nauseated. We don?t care what it takes to fix this. End the tax cuts. Trickle down, Mr. President, only trickles down into the pant cuffs of the wealthy. We have developed a deplorable caste system in this country of fat cats and untouchables. It?s time you got some religion on this.

Holding Back The Sea On Cape Cod: A Lesson From Down South

By Greg O?BrienCodfish PressCape Cod, we are fond of saying, is a dead-end street?a blessing and a curse at times. It is a natural jetty, jutting out into the Atlantic and Nantucket Sound, a maritime barrier that often absorbs the punch of violent storms roiling up the eastern seaboard. These meteorological imbroglios are expected to increase in regularity and intensity in coming years. The destructive power of hurricanes in the North Atlantic has doubled in the past 30 years and will continue to increase, according to a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study. An MIT hurricane specialist, Kerry Emanuel, has suggested a warming of the ocean?s surface temperatures provide hurricanes with more energy to stir higher wind speeds. Writing on the subject years ago, another storm expert suggested hurricanes in the future might throw off winds in excess of 200 miles an hour, a speed that would virtually flatten Cape Cod?in this case, literally a sitting duck. It?s not if, but more a matter of when. The storm surge of a Category 4 or 5 storm would reduce the peninsula for a time into a series of islands, particularly on the Outer Cape. The horror unfolding in Louisiana and Mississippi, in terms of damage and loss, may be a prelude?up-close and personal?of what to expect here some day. We had a taste in 1991 with spiteful Hurricane Bob. And we are no better prepared today at the national, regional, state and local levels. No one seems to want to respond until the lights are out, but that?s when we start tripping over each other, as they are along the Gulf Coast, with the government leading the way. Last Sunday as killer Katrina?then a Category 5 storm packing 160-mile-an-hour winds with the threat of a 28-foot storm surge?roared toward New Orleans, many in the region found religion. ?Have God on your side,? warned a woman, who sat gridlocked in fleeing traffic. ?Definitely have God on your side! It?s very frightening,? she told the Associated Press. In the turbulent and tragic wake of Katrina?with hundreds, possibly thousands feared dead, looters roaming free in the streets (not to mention the corporate looters like the oil companies and some retailers), and an estimated $25 billion and climbing in property damage, making the hurricane one of the worst natural disasters in the nation?s history?the Almighty seems to have taken a long weekend, and during those critical hours of first response, the Bush Administration also appears to have been missing in action, a lapse that may prove to be a political high water mark for the maxim: too little, too late. Television and newspaper coverage of the event, from both liberal and conservative sources, has been stunning: horrific footage, photos and anecdotes of scores waiting helplessly in the cruel southern sun to be rescued as if trapped on an isolated planet, while the bodies of friends and family members bobbed in the surge of Noah proportions. ?Help us,? was the futile cry, as a bloated and sluggish bureaucracy responded after an official sigh of relief that the region had dodged a bullet?the full, ugly force of this weapon of mass destruction. It was as if our Commander-In-Chief George Bush had re-appeared on the deck of an aircraft carrier to declare prematurely that another war was over. The delayed and fatal blast the following day was an aging levee system that predictably couldn?t hold back the rising and rocking tide of Lake Pontchartrain. While television and newspapers now report the flood of National Guardsmen, financial aid, food, water, pumping equipment and all the concomitant spin, where was all this outpouring in the first 72 hours, a time when lives could have been saved? It is a chilling reminder of our measured and derisory early response to Tsunami relief. As na?ve as it sounds, one supreme command from the Oval Office, declaring this to be the highest national priority, no matter what the cost or effort, ought to be enough in this day of instant communication to get sufficient help on the street to respond to a disaster that was always a possibility. The key is good, long-range planning, and there wasn?t much here. Earlier this summer, for example, Louisiana ?pleaded for federal help to protect the state?s rapidly eroding coastline?but the state was rebuffed by an administration and a Congress bent on budget-cutting,? according to a Boston Globe report. Bush last Sunday from his Crawford, Texas ranch declared a ?massive relief effort? was in the works. ?We cannot stress enough the danger this hurricane poses,? he said, sounding the alarm. But it will take more than a declaration of war on hurricanes. Hollow words alone fall short, if essential emergency infrastructures are not in place. With more powerful storms predicted in the years to come, perhaps we ought to spend less time and money tilting at windmills in Iraq, and focus more on defending our vulnerable shorelines, our exposed flank. Neptune is awaiting our next move in this conflict.

Top Golf Essays To Win Free Golf Clinics At Ocean Edge!

Want to swing like Tiger Woods and putt like Vijay Singh?Probably not possible. But you can learn how to play the game and be good at it. If you live in Brewster, the best and most cost-effective way to learn is to enter the Ocean Edge Resort and Conference Center essay contest, open to all age groups, extolling the joys of golf and why you want to play. Authors of the top 12 essays will be treated to three free clinics at the championship Ocean Edge course in September.?Our goal is to introduce more people to the game,? said club professional Dale Morrison, a golf instructor for 21 years and a pro at Ocean Edge for 17 years. Morrison and writer/editor Greg O?Brien of Codfish Press will judge the essays. The top winners will be invited as guests on Mr. O?Brien?s Capewide cable television show, Country Journal.?Anyone can learn to play,? said Ocean Edge Assistant Pro Brian Chapman. ?You just have to have the desire.?So sit at your keyboard with your head down and arms locked in place, and belt out an essay on the beauty of golf and why you want to learn how to play. Essays can be e-mailed to Morrison at [email protected] or mailed to Ocean Edge Golf Course, attn: Dale Morrison, 832 Villages Drive, Brewster, Ma. 02631.The contest is open to Brewster residents only. Essays should be no longer than 250-to-500 words. Deadline is Sept. 22.

From The Outer Beach Looking West To An American Hiroshima

By Greg O?BrienCodfish PressThe closest Cape Codders have ever come to witnessing war firsthand?or the direct affects of war?was in 1918 when Orleans residents were stunned to see a German U-Boat surface just offshore and fire on an unarmed tugboat and four barges it was pulling. The moment was surreal; as if it were an eerie out-take from a 1960s classic, like The Russians Are Coming!?Torpedoes set the tug ablaze and injured its crew, while constant shelling sank the barges,? notes the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities history of the event. ?Thanks to the skill and courage of Coast Guardsmen, everyone was rescued. Some of the shells fired from the sub landed on the beach, making this the first time the U.S. mainland had been attacked since the War of 1812, and the only time the country was attacked during World War I. Massachusetts had been producing arms, vehicles, and supplies for the war effort and sending soldiers abroad, but no one expected what occurred that Sunday in Orleans.? Cape Codders since have regularly stood on the eastern shore and pondered wars, conflicts and weapons worlds away, sensing the tragedies of its victims.But lost in the recent newspaper headlines of the 60th anniversary of the dropping of nuclear bombs over two Japanese cities that brought World War II literally to a screeching halt are the ?downwinders? of this country?the forgotten victims of our atomic testing program in the 1950s and 60s, the road kill of this American Hiroshima, the scores who have died from radiation exposure and their families who were left to cope with this numbing loss. The government had told the downwinders it needed to test these fireballs to stay ahead of the Soviets, who had detonated their first atomic device on Aug. 29, 1949; in the years to follow, the Soviets ignited 266 surface and air nuclear bombs in the Kazakhstan region of Semi Palatinsk. And so no one in the remote downwind corridor of southern Utah and northwest Arizona blinked when over the course of two decades more than 100 nuclear weapons were exploded above and below the ground at the Nevada Test Site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Residents?many of them patriotic Mormons who seldom questioned the government?s authority?were not dissuaded in the early days from viewing the explosions at a distance. The warnings at first were casual. Families were told there would be a test, and hours later the ash would fall?at first light, then heavy?as pink clouds of fallout, carried by downwind air currents, drifted over Arizona and Utah. The ash tingled the skin, almost stung. Children brushed it off. The debris covered playgrounds, homes and fields where milk cows ate the grass coated with radioactive ash. It wasn?t long before children and their parents began getting sick. Many died, and soon the downwiders began to feel that they had been deemed ?expendable? by their government in its quest for nuclear superiority. Government officials privately specified that ?if it turns out that we have killed children, as we were clearly doing in the 1950s, lie about it,? Stewart Udall, Interior Secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, and a lawyer for some of the downwinders, said several years ago in an interview for a documentary, ?Downwind of Morality,? produced by Bill Turpie. I served as associate field producer on the project and co-wrote the script. The government lies would hide a multitude of sins: at the Nevada Test Site and the Los Alamos (New Mexico) Lab where the bombs were designed; at Hanford reservation in southwest Washington where the government processed plutonium during World War II and the Cold War, and secretly released radioactive iodine up the stack of a plutonium processor in 1949; and at government laboratories throughout the country, like Oak Ridge Laboratory in Tennessee where a number of terminal patients were injected without consent many years ago with plutonium (the critical isotope needed in a nuclear chain reaction) to determine how much exposure humans could endure. Not only is radiation that is injected or burns the skin deadly, but equally lethal is the absorption into the body of plants and animals that have been contaminated. ?We have killed off or maimed millions of people without any war at all,? Rudi Nussbaum, an expert on the nuclear issue who then taught at Portland State University in Oregon, noted in Downwind of Morality. ?In our fear, we sacrificed whole parts of this country by the creation of these weapons,? William Lanouette, biographer of Leo Szilard, the Hungarian scientist who first contemplated a nuclear chain reaction, said in the documentary. ?We sacrificed a generation of people?through the radiation affects of producing these weapons.? The litany of suffering and death in the wake of atomic test explosions in the Nevada desert is stunning. It defies any coincidence suggested by defenders of the testing program, or statements by nuclear energy officials, that evidence of radiation poisoning is anecdotal. One woman interviewed for the documentary said she had a brother whose entire class, with the exception of one, ultimately died from cancer. A retired Air Force worker said that after Nevada test blasts Geiger counters were often placed on cars in the area, and ?they buzzed like rattlesnakes!? And in nearby Utah, a hardware store owner lost 14 members of his family to cancer. ?The government lied to us,? said a downwinder in Northern Arizona. ?That?s the greatest travesty. They told us we were safe, and they knew that we were not.? More than 50 years later, the tragedies continue. Entire family trees have been seared, and the toll, passed down through heredity, sadly keeps rising.

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