In Memoriam: John Coster-Mullen


Illustration of John Coster-Mullen and the Little Boy bomb

by Alex Wellerstein

I don’t know off-hand exactly when I started talking to John. A look through old e-mails suggests that in 2006 we had been talking, but that those e-mails reference earlier conversations. My guess is that we had been in touch in 2005, when I was working on my paper on how people draw atomic bombs…Around that time I probably bought John’s book and got in touch with him, and we began exchanging documents as well…

Over the next 15 years or so, we exchanged quite a bit of documents, I acquired three versions of his book, Atom Bombs, and we got to spend some time together in person at the Atomic Heritage Foundation’s conference for the 70th anniversary of the Manhattan Project. He was always generous and excited. He clearly really enjoyed that he, a truck driver (among other things), was producing research that academics from places like Harvard and Princeton thought was important and valuable

I enjoyed John as a friend, correspondent, and as a subject of study. John is what I call a “secret seeker” in my book, someone who — for whatever reason — is driven towards learning “nuclear secrets.”…With John, I never got the sense that he was strongly motivated by the politics of secrecy, though he sometimes could sound like that when he got irritated with the Department of Energy…Sometimes he would give the old Ted Taylor line, that the surprising thing about the atomic bombs is that they aren’t that hard to build (if you have the fuel, etc…

I think discovering “the secret” for him was more about proving himself as a researcher than probably any big statement about secrecy. Over the years I’ve gotten various documents from him trying to explain himself, and to my eye they come down to a sort of love for the work, the topic, and the people — one that only grew over time and he had more exposure to all three…

The Cold War mentality was premised in part on hiding science and technology from your competitors. The easiest part of that for American politicians was – and remains – casting all serious competitors as somehow inherently EVIL. That justified reliance on secrecy about absolutely everything…and still does. Including the banal which have already made it to the back pages of local, regional newspapers.

But, the tale, the personality of John Coster-Mullen grows through this dedication to the history of his work and achievements. I hope that recognition of his research will continue to grow, as well.

Judge orders Minnesota coppers to stop using chemical weapons on the press … this followed!


AFP photo journalist Eléonore Sens and another member of the press is maced by Minnesota Police after an unlawful assembly is declared in Brooklyn Center, MN

Journalists covering a protest in a Minneapolis suburb Friday night were forced on their stomachs by law enforcement, rounded up and were only released after having their face and press credentials photographed.

The incident occurred hours after a judge issued a temporary order barring the Minnesota State Patrol from using physical force or chemical agents against journalists, according to court documents. It also barred police from seizing photographic, audio or video recording equipment, or press passes.

We’ve returned to a time and circumstances where calling coppers like these “PIGS” is appropriate. Unless you think “FASCIST SCUM” is more accurate. (Not wasting time or space on a poll)

Our constitution and Bill of Rights protects journalists and a free press … not criminals in blue uniforms!

Sad But True

Music has always been part of my life. I became a student of classical piano when I was 5 years old. When I was 13, I switched to jazz trombone. My piano instructor never spoke to me, again.

7 or 8 years later, I picked up on strings…finalizing taste; but, not style, with a 12-string guitar. And singing. I loved it…loved performing. By then, I already had stage presence from performances of poetry and jazz. My poetry and a band I drove nuts because the music I heard in my head behind my poetry was Monk. Thelonius, that is. The band I presented with most often liked Monk; but, never played his music, his style. One more reason I had to make my own music.

I enjoyed about 17 years, singing and playing. This is all in aid of explaining my devotion to music. That’s all. I stopped performing. Nothing especially interesting about that. My love of all (well, almost all) forms, styles, traditions in music never stopped.

Have to say, in general, I can relate, feel a kinship with being driven in a performance. Being wholly immersed in performing. This is a song I would have loved 20 or 30 years before it was written. Yes, singing and playing unaccompanied 12-string.

Time to end the “FOREVER WAR” in the Middle East

For two decades now, our government has sent U.S. military service members to fight in an ever-expanding, global conflict.

Thousands of Americans and countless civilians have died, trillions of dollars have been wasted, and entire regions of the world have been destabilized. Instead of making us safer, this reckless conflict has militarized our society, fed xenophobia and hate here in the U.S., and created more extremism abroad. The frustrated Veterans who fought call this the “Forever War” — but together, we have the power to end it.

We need to bring our troops home. We need to stop bombing other countries. And we need to spend the trillions of dollars that we’re wasting on the Forever War here at home instead, making investments that benefit working Americans like COVID relief, green jobs, healthcare, and more.

There’s more to this plea for sanity…and a petition over here.

Union’s first naval victory of the Civil War

Did you know the first African-American hero of the Civil War was both cook and steward? Now that is a sea story.

His name was William Tillman, and his story has only been recently told. I discovered him by accident when buying at auction what may be his only known photograph. He is known as the “Union’s First Black Hero.”…

The Civil War began in April 1861. Tillman was serving as cook aboard the American schooner S.J. Waring. It was en route to a Confederate port when the ship was captured at sea off the U.S. East Coast on July 7, 1861 by a five man prize crew from the Confederate privateer Jefferson Davis.

Tillman had every reason to fear for his future in Southern hands. At first Tillman was treated well, but it did not take long for him to discover a plan for him to be sold into slavery. He would have none of it. Tillman used a hatchet to kill three of the five confederates, threw their bodies into the sea, and recaptured the vessel.

Tillman sailed the S.J. Waring successfully back north, arriving first to Sandy Hook, New Jersey and then New York. First placed in custody as a witness, Tillman soon became an instant celebrity and, to many, a hero…

Article originally written by Rear Admiral Daniel W. McKinnon, Jr.

Chemical Weapon the United States dropped on the people of VietNam maims and kills, decades later


NY Times

A French court will…hear a case against more than a dozen multinationals, accused by a French-Vietnamese woman of causing grievous harm to her and others by selling the Agent Orange defoliant to the US government which used it to devastating effect in the Vietnam War.

Tran To Nga, born in 1942 in what was then French Indochina, worked as a journalist and activist in Vietnam in her 20s.

She filed the lawsuit in 2014 against 14 firms that made or sold the highly toxic chemical, including Monsanto, now owned by German giant Bayer, and Dow Chemical…

So far, only military veterans — from the US, Australia and Korea — have won compensation for the after-effects of the chemical whose toxic properties…were “absolutely phenomenal” at around 13 times the toxicity of herbicides in civilian use such as glyphosate.

Four million people in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were exposed to Agent Orange, according to NGOs, over a decade when the US military sprayed an estimated 76 million litres (20 million gallons) of the herbicide and defoliant chemical to halt the advances of communist North Vietnamese troops and deprive enemy combatants of food sources.

“Conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure” (Delaware Gazette 2/11/21) https://www.delgazette.com/opinion/columns/88753/conditions-linked-to-agent-orange-exposure Part 3 of a four part series on agent orange see https://muckrack.com/harold-b-wolford/articles
“Agent Orange Wasn’t the Only Deadly Chemical Used In Vietnam : The “Rainbow Herbicides” left a lethal legacy.” https://www.history.com/news/agent-orange-wasnt-the-only-deadly-chemical-used-in-vietnam

If Nazi Germany had done this in World War 2, chemical war on civilian populations would likely be a leading war crime remembered for centuries. When the GOUSA does it…when most of us still study history books written by English-speaking apologists for crimes like this…it takes decades just to find a court that will listen to the complaints of civilians and the survivors of those maimed and murdered by our war criminals.

GOP is a death cult!

It is now long past time to cast off highfalutin’ Latinisms and simply call the Republicans and their religious and secular conservative allies what they are, and in unadorned English: a death cult. As the country reels from the coronavirus pandemic, our national government might just as well be run by the infamous People’s Temple of Jonestown.

By now we are benumbed by the all-pervasive arguments over relaxing workplace shutdowns and stay-at-home orders due to coronavirus. In any sane society, the issue would be how to institute the most efficient measures to defeat the pandemic in the shortest time and with the lowest loss of life. Instead, Trump and his merry band of lunatics have hijacked the national debate into a faux-serious discussion of when, oh, please, how soon, can we “reopen the economy?” Naturally, the media gamely continue to play along with this calculated bit of dezinformatsiya…

There is no longer the slightest doubt in any sane person’s mind that not only are the GOP’s fundamentalist-extremist religious allies a death cult disguised as 501(c)3 tax-exempt charitable organizations. The whole extremely well-funded edifice of “economic conservatism” is equally a death cult, worshiping Mammon so fervently that it is eager to make human sacrifice upon its altar, just like the Mayans and Carthaginians.

Let those of us who do not accept the joining of Mammon and phony bishops like Trump, sit back and watch this medieval beast devour itself, starting from the tail, again and again.

I come and stand at every door…

No unique occasion. On my sunset walk, this afternoon, I was remembering times past, those who are gone. I remembered opening for Dr. King some time back in the 1960’s when I was singing a lot, everywhere. It was a street corner rally in New Haven, Connecticut. We had a wooden platform up on a corner so folks could see and hear. And, as well as I recall, this was one of the last songs I sang before introducing MLK.

Learned it from Pete’s recording.