Tuesday: John Wayne Gacy, Freudian Slips, “the Liberal Bulldozer,” and other Valentine’s Day Reads

Rosalynn Carter and John Wayne Gacy

Good Morning!! I’ll have a few political links for you later, but first I want to share an interesting story I came across yesterday. Remember John Wayne Gacy? He was a supposedly upstanding member of the Chicago business community and active in Democratic politics, even having his photo was taken with first lady Rosalynn Carter when she visited Chicago in May, 1978. In his spare time, Gacy dressed as “Pogo the Clown” and entertained at charity events and kids’ birthday parties.

All that ended in late 1978, when it was revealed that Gacy had 26 bodies buried in the crawlspace under his house and 3 others under the concrete floor of his garage. The gregarious businessman and clown was a serial killer. In March of 1980, Gacy was sentenced to death for 12 of the murders. He was executed on May 10, 1994. It’s too bad Gacy is dead, because two Chicago attorneys have convinced Cook Country Sheriff Tom Dart to do some further investigating on the case. It might be helpful for investigators to be able to interview Gacy about new evidence.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said Friday that he will ask his investigators to look into a theory that serial killer John Wayne Gacy had one or more accomplices.

Criminal defense attorneys Robert Stephenson and Steven Becker recently examined Gacy’s work and travel records and suspect he was out of town when victims Russell Nelson and Robert Gilroy disappeared in 1977.

They also think Gacy didn’t have enough time to abduct and kill victim John Mowery because he disappeared about 10 p.m. in Chicago and Gacy’s work records show he showed up at a job in Michigan at 6 a.m. the following day.

There is more detail on these victims in an article at Time Magazine.

So far, the lawyers believe Gacy may have had accomplices in at least three of the notorious killings of 33 young men and boys, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. This supports an earlier claim from Jeffrey Rignall, a victim who survived, who said another man was in the room while Gacy raped him, WGN notes.

One of the murders raising questions is that of Robert Gilroy. Apparently, the convicted murderer had been in Pittsburgh when the 18-year-old disappeared on Sept 15, 1977. Allegheny Airlines tickets indicate Gacy had been out of town from Sept. 12 to 16, making it unlikely he could have snatched and killed Gilroy, the Sun-Times reports. This also echoes claims Gacy had made while in prison, saying he was not in Illinois during 16 of the disappearances.

Gilroy also died in a completely different way than most of Gacy’s victims. He was apparently suffocated by having a cloth shoved down his throat. Many of Gacy’s victims were strangled by a rope.

Russell Nelson, the Minneapolis architecture student kidnapped while with a friend outside a bar in October of the same year. Stephenson told the Sun-Times he doesn’t believe Gacy could have seized the 21-year-old without the friend noticing. And like Gilroy, Nelson had been suffocated with a similar cloth stuffed in his throat. Thirteen victims died the same way, according to WGN.

The friend who was with Nelson at the time of his disappearance is also allegedly suspect. According to WGN, the friend demanded money from Nelson’s mother in exchange for helping the family search for him. Nelson’s mother had also reported a striking coincidence. Following her son’s disappearance, Nelson’s brothers went to Chicago to look for him. They met with the friend, who offered the siblings contracting jobs with Gacy.

All three victims were found in Gacy’s crawlspace.

Last fall, eight Gacy victims who had never been identified were exhumed for DNA testing, in hopes of discovering their identities. Since then, two men who were believed to have been murdered by Gacy have been found alive.

Harold Wayne Lovell was found in Florida.

“He was high on the list,” said Sheriff Tom Dart. “If not one, two, or three, in someone’s mind, of the most likely person that was one of the eight down in the crawl space.”

As Sheriff’s detectives began their renewed search, they quickly learned there had been recent activity by Lovell in Florida. It was about that time that the family came across a booking photo of a Harold Wayne Lovell, 53, from South Florida. It was him.

“I almost gave up hope in the late 90s,” said Lovell’s brother, Tim, 48. “I dreamed about it. I’ve only had maybe a one percent inkling that I’d ever, ever see my brother again, and here we are. It’s just amazing.”

Lovell said he left home because of a “family situation.” He took a train to Florida because he “couldn’t stay around the house any longer.”

Lovell may have been fortunate, because he did yard work at Gacy’s before leaving for Florida. He says Gacy tried to get him to come in the house, but Lovell refused. In addition, Gacy had apparently taken some belongings of Lovell’s and they were found in Gacy’s house. Lovell’s mother had identified them.

A second missing man, Theodore “Ted” Szal, turned up in Oregon.

Szal admits that he simply vanished. There were family issues. A troubled marriage, coupled with a belief that his mother had assisted his wife in getting an abortion.

“I didn’t have too much money. I didn’t have a job. So I drove to the airport, threw my keys down a sewer drain so I wouldn’t change my mind and got on an airplane. That was 35 years ago.”

Thirty five years without a single word to his family. Szal travelled first to Colorado Springs, then California, and finally to Oregon, where he settled down and eventually remarried. He admits that the memory of his family had haunted him, especially on holidays.

“Christmas has been hard. But this year, Christmas is going to be different.”

One of the unidentified bodies is now known to be William George Bundy

For years, Laura O’Leary has visited the graves of her family members in southwest suburban Justice, but she didn’t know her brother was buried in the same cemetery — as an unidentified victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

O’Leary recently learned her missing teenage brother, William George Bundy, was one of Gacy’s eight unidentified victims more than three decades ago. He was buried in Resurrection Catholic Cemetery where his grandparents and an aunt were also laid to rest.

On Tuesday, O’Leary hugged Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to thank him for a DNA initiative that led to her brother’s identification on Nov. 14.

“Today is a terribly sad day for my family. But it is also a day that provides closure,” she said at a news conference with Dart.

Another mother, Sherry Marino, has always wondered if the body buried in the grave she visits frequently is really her 14-year-old son Michael Marino and if he was really a Gacy victim. She plans to have the body exhumed for DNA testing as soon as she can raise the money.

Now that I’ve indulged my fascination with true crime, I’ll give you a few news headlines. Everyone is laughing about Mitt Romney’s Freudian slip at the CPAC conference. He told the audience he was “severely conservative” as Governor of Massachusetts. I say it’s a Freudian slip, because it makes being conservative sound like a disease–that’s probably what Romney really feels in his subconscious mind.

At the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza provides A “Severely Conservative” Lexicon, with examples of the use of the odd expression. Here are a few examples:

“Like so many alcoholics, or criminals, or sexually promiscuous people who reform, Janet had flipped to the opposite extreme, to severely conservative behavior. At some level, Janet was doing penance for her past destructive behavior. She was full of self-hatred and was operating out of fear. ”

“Mastering Your Moods: How to Recognize Your Emotional Style and Make It Work for You,” by Dr. Melvyn Kinder (1994)

“As philosopher James Rachels has observed, ‘the opposite is true: the rule against causing unnecessary pain is the least eccentric of all moral principles, and that rule leads straight to the conclusion that we should abandon the business of meat production and adopt alternative diets. Considered in this light, vegetarianism may be thought of as a severely conservative moral stance.’ ”

“Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog?,” by Gary Lawrence Francione (2000)

“Only severely conservative jewelry is worn by the bride. She may wish to wear pearls or other simple jewelry given her as a gift by the groom or her parents.”

“Planning LDS Weddings and Receptions,” by Lois F. Worlton and Opal D. Jasinski (1972, revised edition 1999)

Hmmmm….maybe that’s where Romney picked up the expression.

As everyone knows by now, Rick Santorum is ahead of Mitt Romney in Romney’s home state of Michigan. Santorum is also running neck and neck with Romney in the national polls.

Via Charlie Pierce, right wing Catholics are thrilled that Rick “the Dick” is “fighting the liberal bulldozer.”

Rick Santorum was impossible thirty years ago. If Rip van Winkle woke up today he would be dumbfounded. How could such an overtly religious and socially conservative politician have so much traction on the national scene?

The answer comes from the Left. Since the Sixties our liberal elites have become increasingly anti-religious, increasingly opposed to traditional moral norms, and increasingly aggressive. As a result they have made our national politics much more extreme.

To a great extent, post-sixties American politics has been shaped by liberal aggression. As Lyndon Johnson knew, the Civil Right Act of 1964 would trigger a fundamental shift in national politics. The South would no longer be in the hip pocket of the Democratic Party.

I don’t know how the author of the piece, R.R. Reno, knows this, but he or she says that Johnson didn’t predict “liberal overreach.”

Mandatory school busing—modern liberalism always tends toward coercion—as well as crudely imposed quotas in the 1970s led to a great deal of unhappiness among white ethnic and blue collar voters who had for decades been pillars of the Democratic Party. They weren’t (for the most part) in favor of Jim Crow, but they didn’t like being moved around like chess pieces by liberal elites. It was during those years that the term “limousine liberal” gained currency as a new and telling term of abuse in American political culture.

The Equal Rights Amendment would have encoded gender equality into the Constitution. It seemed a sure thing in the early 1970s. But opposition mounted and it failed to secure ratification. That’s not because most Americans were opposed to women’s liberation. Instead support for the Equal Rights Amendment dwindled because John Q. Voter was coming to see how modern liberals use rights—not as instruments of freedom but as new warrants for social control.

And so on. It’s like going through the looking glass with Alice.

House Republicans have agreed to extend the payroll tax holiday without accompanying cuts.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and his top lieutenants said they do not want to be held responsible for the tax increase on 160 million workers that would happen if the tax holiday were not extended.

The two sides have been negotiating for weeks but have been unable to strike a deal. Republicans want to continue negotiations over financing the rest of the original legislative package, including an extension of un­employment benefits and a key tweak to maintain Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors, while ensuring that taxes will not rise on workers.

“Because the president and Senate Democratic leaders have not allowed their conferees to support a responsible bipartisan agreement, today House Republicans will introduce a backup plan that would simply extend the payroll tax holiday for the remainder of the year while the conference negotiations continue,” Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a joint statement.

Awwwww…that’s big of you boys. Now you can devote full time to the war on women’s health care.

A famous portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln has turned out to be a fraud.

A long-celebrated portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln which hung for decades in the Illinois governor’s mansion has been deemed a fake.

James Cornelius, the curator of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum, described the painting as part of an elaborate fraud that befell President Abraham Lincoln’s descendants in the 1920s, the Chicago Tribune reports.

“It was supposedly a gift Mary Lincoln planned to give to her husband, but then he was assassinated and she became a widow before she could present it to him,” Cornelius told the Tribune Saturday of the painting’s alleged backstory.

But the truth of the matter, as the Daily Journal reports, is that the portrait supposedly painted as a “secret” present for the president actually depicts an unknown woman who was later doctored to look more like Lincoln. Barry Bauman, a conservator, discovered that the “artist’s” signature had been added to the portrait later, while he was cleaning it.

That’s it for me, except to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day! Are you getting the feeling it isn’t one of my favorite holidays? What can I say? I’m getting old, and I’m jaded about romance.

What are you reading and blogging about today?


Late Night: A Helicopter Named after a Serial Killer

In the wake of the Osama bin Laden killing, the media seems to have pretty much given itself up to “war porn” or at least something very close to it. I have to admit it’s starting to creep me out.

There is one article after another describing the bin Laden takedown and tons of articles glorifying the Navy Seals who pulled it off. This breathless piece at CBS News gives a blow by blow account of the raid on the home where bin Laden had been living. According to this account the Seals turned off their video cameras (on their helmets apparently) during the most intense violence.

The raiders trying to get into the house breached three or four walls, Panetta said, not specifying whether they scaled them or blew holes.

On the first floor, the SEALs killed the courier and his brother, and the courier’s wife died in crossfire. They shot open some doors.

They then swept upstairs and burst into a third floor room, entering one at a time, said Carney. There all the U.S. intelligence, the surmising and the guesswork paid off.

Bin Laden’s wife charged at the SEALs, crying her husband’s name at one point. They shot her in the calf. Officials told AP that one SEAL grabbed a woman, fearing she might be wearing a suicide vest, and pulled her away from his team. Whether that was bin Laden’s wife has not been confirmed….

The first bullet struck bin Laden in the chest. The second struck above his left eye, blowing away part of his skull.

Oooooh….just like in the movies!

There are countless video reenactments of the raid floating around, like this one from The New York Post.

And then there are the stories about the supercool equipment the Seals used to get public enemy number one. Here’s an example: 9 Tools That Probably Helped the U.S. Military Take Down bin Laden, including the drone that spied on the bin Laden compound, the assault rifle and submachine gun used to kill him, the image sensors, the grenades, and coolest of the cool, the previously super-secret Stealth Black Hawk Helicopter the Seals arrived in. According to Gizmodo:

MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters played a key role in the success of the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, especially ones that were heavily modded for stealth movement through Pakistan. Designed for use in special forces missions, these Night Stalker helicopters can carry 11 soldiers, come with three types of guns (mini, chain, gatling), and come equipped with infra-red jammers to mislead missiles.

Yes, the Seals’ method of transportation and surprise attack shares a nickname with a serial killer–actually two serial killers.

Isn’t that inspiring? Here is some more information about these killer machines, plus the Chinook helicopters that were also used in the raid. It’s from AP, so I’m not going to link.

The two choppers evidently used radar-evading technologies, plus noise and heat suppression devices, to slip across the Afghan-Pakistan border, avoid detection by Pakistani air defenses and deliver two dozen Navy SEALs into the al-Qaida leader’s lair. Photos of the lost chopper’s wrecked tail are circulating online — proving it exists and also exposing sensitive details.

See what I mean? War porn.

The reason one of the helicopters crash landed at the bin Laden compound has not been disclosed, but Daniel Goure, a defense specialist at the Lexington Institute think tank, said Friday it might be explained by the unusual aerodynamics resulting from the aircraft’s modifications….

Night Stalker pilots also fly other, publicly acknowledged versions of the Black Hawk that are specially equipped with advanced navigation systems, plus devices allowing for low-level and all-weather flight, day or night. Those are rigged to permit occupants to “fast rope” from the helicopter as it hovers just off the ground — a technique used in the bin Laden assault.

Now watch the “Night Stalker” in action and tell me these videos aren’t designed to turn on people who fantasize about violence.

It appears that the Obama administration hasn’t yet slaked it’s thirst for blood, because a drone strike was used today in a failed attempt to kill Anwar Al-Awlaki, an American citizen whom the President has targeted for assassination.

According to a Yemeni account of Thursday’s strike, the U.S. launched two separate attacks within 45 minutes aimed at Mr. Awlaki in the southern province of Shebwa, which is considered an AQAP stronghold….

In the first strike, the U.S. fired three rockets at a pickup truck in which Mr. Awlaki and a Saudi national and suspected al Qaeda member were traveling outside the village of Jahwa, located some 20 miles away from the Shebwa provincial capital, said local residents and the Yemeni security official. Those missiles didn’t hit their target.

Two Yemeni brothers, who were known by local residents for giving shelter to al Qaeda militants, rushed to the scene of the attack. Mr. Awlaki switched vehicles with them, leaving the two Yemenis in the pickup. A single drone then hit the pickup truck, killing the Yemenis inside.

Mr. Awlaki escaped in the other vehicle along with the Saudi. A Yemeni defense ministry official identified the two dead men as Musaid Mubarak Al-Daghari and his brother Abdullah.Unlike the bin Laden raid, which was carried out without Pakistani knowledge, the Yemeni government was a participant.

All this detailed information about the recent violent events hasn’t made them feel any more real to me. On the contrary, the media treatment makes it all feel like a big fantasy. I guess that’s why I want to call it war porn. Several real people were killed in these attacks–people who have families and children who aren’t vicious criminals. But what I see in the media is something akin to a Rambo movie or a video game. It’s all making me feel very uneasy.

What do you think?