Today is the day. Fifty-three years after the event. I remember it. Do you?

It’s weird watching the documentaries commemorating events I remember. It’s the Kennedy assassination this month. Just about every station, network and cable, are doing specials on John F. Kennedy. For us, it’s a trip down memory lane. Or nightmare alley.

I was 13 when Kennedy was elected. I watched the inauguration on television, the first of many inaugurations I would watch. It was the greatest inaugural speech. I was naïve enough to believe he wrote it himself. And I was impressed by his hair, the best hair of any President before or since. Especially after 8 years of President Dwight D. Eisenhower who was very bald.


In 1963 I turned 16 and started college. Kennedy was shot in November and the world changed. I’m sure every person old enough to know what was going on remembers where they were the day they heard the news. The assassination of John F. Kennedy was a landmark event, a turning point in history, a turning point in our personal histories.

I was in the cafeteria at school. I had a cup of tea in my hand and was about to sit. The public address system in the cafeteria went on. There was a lot of noise, but gradually it grew quiet. A news report. It took a few minutes to recognize what they were saying, to form a context. Someone had shot the President.

A few minutes later, everyone fell silent. Hundreds of undergraduates, sitting, standing. No one moving, no one talking. I stood at the table. Frozen. I never sat. I stood in the same spot for over an hour. Clutching that cup of tea, cooling in my hand. Until the voice on the loudspeaker said “President Kennedy is dead. The President is dead.”

Gradually, everyone drifted away. Subdued or silent. I found my boyfriend and we wandered around for a few hours. We didn’t do anything. Just roamed the campus, dazed. This kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen, not in the United States. Eventually, when it was dark, I went home. My mother wanted to know where I’d been and I said “Just wandering around.” She didn’t believe me. She should have.

LBJ Sworn In As President

Kennedy was “our” president. He looked good. Young, attractive, different. I hadn’t been old enough to vote for him, but I was old enough to know what was happening. I watched the debates. My friends and I discussed it. It was exciting. My mother kept referring to him as “such a young man.” At thirteen, a 43-year old guy didn’t seem so young. Those were the days, eh?

For the better part of the next week, all the channels on television — there were only seven — 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 — had wall-to-wall coverage of the funeral. Endless replays of the assassination. The subsequent shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald. The beginning of the conspiracy theories that still swirl around this piece of history, though at this point I don’t care whodunnit 50 years ago. There are a many unsolved crimes in history. Just add this to the long list.

I went to hang out with a friend. We took long walks to get away from the endless, morbid reiteration of the life and death of John F. Kennedy.

Gradually, life returned to normal, whatever that is. Lyndon Baines Johnson was in office. It was all about civil rights and Vietnam. I finished college, got married, wound up in the hospital and had my first near-death experience. There would be a lot more assassinations in the near future. Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X. I never got used to them, but I stopped being shocked. Which is shocking.

The 1960s were not about sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. This was the decade of war, the draft, anti-war protests and civil rights. When flunking out of college meant you were going to Vietnam and maybe you wouldn’t come back. Strange how quickly we forget, replacing history with mythology.

November 22, 1963 was the end of political innocence for everyone, Democrats, Republicans, everyone. An abrupt turning part. The beginning of the road we find ourselves on today.

A president — our president — had been assassinated. Kennedy wasn’t the only U.S. President to be assassinated, but he was the first in modern times. The first TV president. A young, handsome guy. Especially important to my generation, a symbol that the torch really had passed to a new generation. We took that call to arms seriously.

It’s hard for me to look at politics today, see how petty we’ve become. Kennedy’s assassination was an end and a beginning. He was the last President to get a pass on his personal life. The first president to use electronic media to win an election. It was the beginning of a political divide that keeps getting deeper with each passing year.

Politics isn’t about real issues anymore. It’s insinuation, innuendo, and rumor. How narrow-minded and hateful we’ve become. It will pass I suppose. All things do. But when? For more than half a century, we’ve been marching down this ugly road to which I see no end.


Some Old World Wisdom, by Rich Paschall

When thinking of blog topics, there is no shortage of subject matter. Some general areas offer a lot of topics.  With a bit of extra thought, there’s an endless supply. Consider well how many areas you can pursue if you are willing to delve into sports, politics, or religion. Each is bound to set some readers ablaze. Would surely bring lots of comments. You do want lively discussion, don’t you?

How lively do you want it?


Venture into a sports bar well into the evening and you are likely to find plenty of spirited discussions regarding sports.  These ideas should help you out.  Will the Cubs ever win a pennant?  Will the White Sox ever get the love the Cubs get?  Will the Blackhawks win another Stanley Cup?  Will the Bears defeat the hated Green Bay Packers?  Will the Bulls beat the hated ____________ (fill in New York team here)?  There is little reason get into crosstown rivalries. Dissing out-of-town teams only works locally.


We could always take off after the Yankees and A-Rod, the Patriots and _______ (name your alleged scandal here), or Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. But why alienate readers in New York, Boston or Dallas? Perhaps we should just write about the ridiculous BCS Bowl series or the commissioner of _________ (name your least favorite here).

A good informational, yet rather neutral article might find favor.  Others might concede that you are trying to make some point of view, like promoting someone’s stats for the hall of fame. A discussion of gays in sports or an Olympic diver coming out of the closet, might get up into your politics, so we may have to think carefully about those.  Yes, we will leave the political area of sports alone.


Speaking of your politics (or mine), perhaps we can find common ground there. I could write short stories with a political theme, or write about a run for office that brings victory, but no win for the candidate. Too improbable?

How about the death of democracy through campaign spending?  Imagine buying an election. Maybe this hits too close to home … or do you think it merely fiction or satire?  Political satire is sure to get people thinking and arguing, especially if you throw in climate change as the kicker. Then again, maybe no one will bother to read this stuff. Maybe a bad idea after all?

How about hitting the topics head-on in a nice well-researched article? We can talk about Democrats, Republicans, capitalists or socialists. On second thought, that could split the audience from the get-go. Better to look at the subjects of the debates and write a well-reasoned essay.

women's suffrage-2

Where to begin? Abortion? Immigration? Gay Rights? Civil Rights? Gun Control? Campaign reform? Welfare Reform?  Any reform?? National defense?  Can’t we all consider that without alienating people? There’s always alienating the aliens. Can’t go wrong with that, right? Well, maybe not.

If politics is too risky, how about the world’s great religions? They’re all rooted in love, are they not? We could discuss the philosophies that ignite the passions behind our beliefs and thus find common ground. Peace and harmony at last.

Except that so many people believe their god is the only way. Some believe their god is calling them to harm others which sets religion against religious … and alas, there’s nothing new about that. Belief is supposed to bring hope and joy … not more war.

God in on every side of every war, or so they say. Who goes into battle without the blessing of their particular deity? How can I expect to have a civil discussion in such an emotionally charge arena?  I have innocently had to extract my foot from my mouth before … maybe I should let the Dalai Lama write on this topic.

The "Dodge City Peace Commission", June 1888. (L to R) standing: W.H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, W.F. Petillon. Seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Frank McLain and Neal Brown.

The “Dodge City Peace Commission”, June 1888. (L to R) standing: W.H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, W.F. Petillon. Seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Frank McLain and Neal Brown.

Years ago, when one of our favorite innkeepers was still alive, we used to drop by his establishment.  It was a great place for lively discussion. If anyone got a little over-heated, the owner walked over with a wink to say, “No Sports, no politics, no religion!”

Seemingly a strange thing to say when a sports channel was almost always playing nearby, but he meant arguments, not discussions. If arguments got out of hand, he’d say “No Sports, no politics, no religion — or you’re out of here!”

That seemed a good approach to barroom politics. These were the areas of discussion that often ended with unpleasantness. Especially when dialogue was fueled by alcohol. Maybe it short-circuited a few lively discussions, but no doubt he cut off some brawls, too.

Let’s avoid them in the blog-o-sphere and cyberspace too. If Facebook is any indicator, that sounds like a plan!


America, land of the brave and the free. Photo by Turtsman.

My father was not a wise man, but a smart one who knew how to make money. He was a lifelong Democrat, small businessman and other things I would prefer not to delve into right now. A big part of his salesman’s repertoire were one liners and jokes. This was a favorite of mine.

It isn’t what you don’t know that will get you. It’s what you DO know that’s wrong.

Albert Friedman
Self-Made American (1917 – 2010)

How true it is, and also, how sad. So many people knowing with complete certainty so much that is so wrong. For them, the motto will forever be thus:

Don’t confuse me with facts! My mind is made up.

If you want to maintain your bona fides as a Real American, you should continue to watch only Fox News. It will help to reinforce your unfounded opinions by presenting pseudo facts and speculation in lieu of real information and you will believe every word. Rupert Murdoch is laughing all the way to his offshore accounts.

Don’t read anything that contains facts unless they comply with your preconceptions. In fact, it might be best to avoid reading entirely. Make a flag of your ignorance. Wave it proudly. Tell the world you know nothing and don’t want to learn nothin’ neither.

Finally, proclaim that you are the prototypical American, unlike the rest of us snobbish book-reading socialist anti-Christian liberals who don’t agree with you. After that, you can wonder why the world is losing respect for the United States. Maybe it has something to do with “true Americans” like you with your passion for ignorance, bigotry, hatred, and stupidity.

You vote against your own best interests because you vote not for people who will help you, but for those who share your hates. Anyone can have you by preying on what you hate. You hate so many things that you are easily had. You are America’s fools and losers, the people about whom H.L Mencken spoke when he said:

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

H. L. Mencken
US editor (1880 – 1956)


An entirely uninteresting new story? Right now, that pretty much sums up the news, not counting the stories that are merely depressing, aggravating, demoralizing, and/or infuriating.

The "Dodge City Peace Commission", June 1888. (L to R) standing: W.H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, W.F. Petillon. Seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Frank McLain and Neal Brown.

The “Dodge City Peace Commission”, June 1888. (L to R) standing: W.H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, W.F. Petillon. Seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Frank McLain and Neal Brown.

We don’t have a newspaper delivered. Garry usually goes out to buy one. Sometimes he misses a day and makes do with the Internet, but he likes having a paper to hold and peruse.

As a former TV news reporter for a network affiliate in Boston, he used to read three newspapers every morning, looking for items that might make a good story for him. Now, he studiously avoids the daily reports of violence and human misery … and politics … and goes directly to sports. It’s baseball’s playoff season and the Cubs are in it for the first time in many long decades. That’s about as good as the news gets these days.

Doesn't this seem strangely familiar?

Doesn’t this seem strangely familiar?

We watch The Daily Show in the evening. Though technically it’s comedy, there’s more real news on it than we find on the so-called “Real News.” Mostly it is all politics. Republican politics, since it is they who are hosting the circus. I suppose we can look forward to the second act when the Democrats get into stride. How depressing.


I’m not a Republican and I would probably vote Democratic anyway …. but I’d like to have a meaningful choice. We are supposed to have two parties. I do not have to agree with a party in order to respect its representatives. The bunch of clowns and opportunists supposedly in the running for the GOP nomination are an embarrassment. To me, to the nation, to the world.

Gee. It looks like nothing much has changed, eh?

Gee. It looks like nothing much has changed, eh?

The party of Lincoln has turned into a joke and it makes me sad. Are these men and women truly the best and brightest the Grand Old Party has to offer? Of course, we aren’t the only country where this has or is occurring, but it’s here that it really hits me where it hurts.

Uncle sam political cartoon 1899

I had thought things couldn’t get any worse, politically speaking … but I was wrong. Garry says it’s my fault for thinking things couldn’t get worse, for allowing that random thought to pass through my brain. I apologize. I never thought it could get this bad and although I would like to believe that party politics has bottomed out, I fear that there may be even worse to come.

We fought. We died. Please get out there and vote!

We fought. We died for the right to vote. Please vote!

How does that effect me? How could it not affect me? And you and you and you and you and you and you …


I don’t know the name of all the candidates trying to run for president of the U.S. in 2016. I recognize some names. I even know what some of them are reputed to have said. But I haven’t been paying close attention. It’s early yet. I doubt any candidate has shown his or her true colors.

So far, they seem a rather sad lot. When the field thins out, I’ll get more serious. Politics is the grandest sport of all, and the U.S. Presidential election is the Olympic games of politics.


Then, there’s The Donald. Trump.

He’s the top of the list of candidates who scares the daylights out of me. Not because he is outrageous or ridiculous, or is such a clown, but because he plays the fool so well. He has most people — including some opponents — believing his act.

It is an act. Trump is nobody’s fool.

donald trump make america great

He’s a smart guy. Powerful. Rich. He is not owned by any party or lobby group. He plays by his own rules, whatever that means. Since he has never revealed the rules by which he plays. I’m not sure he has any. I know he wants power and I’m sure he’d be very happy to wield it. But what he believes in … if he believes in anything … is anybody’s guess.

No matter how hard you listen, he never says anything. At least not anything you can pin down. He deflects questions by saying outrageous — nonsensical — stuff. The press eats it up.

What a rich harvest for the media! A cornucopia of sound bites! A bonanza of headlines! Film at 11!


Donald Trump is the jackpot for stand-up comedians, news departments, bloggers, and comedians. He knows it. Plays to it. As long as he keeps everyone talking about his latest gaffe, no one forces him to answer hard questions like “What do you stand for?” and “Why do you want to be president … really?” In this 10 second sound-bite world, he has mastered the art of giving them what they want.

If Trump didn’t exist, the media would have to invent him. I don’t think the American people are dumb enough to actually elect him … are we?


Not long ago, I read a post detailing how America fares when stacked against other countries.


We aren’t the richest or the most productive country . We have relatively high unemployment. Purchasing power per capita is unimpressive. We get salaries that sound good, but the cost of living overran our paychecks long ago. We’ve lost more jobs to automation than outsourcing. One machine, one robot replaces a dozen or two workers.

US_Income_Distribution_1968 (1)There are few jobs for unskilled laborers that can support a family. We manufacture too little, depend too much on service-based work.

Americans are convinced their government is awful. Corrupt. Really, our government is merely inefficient and mired in oppositional politics. Funny how after morons are in office, nobody voted for them. How did that happen?

Statistics are fragments, not a story. We’re having hard times and I doubt we’ll see the end of them quickly. We have work to do. Rethinking where people will work and what they’ll be paid.

Figuring out what we want from our government. Without the hyperbole and entrenched party positions. For all that, we don’t exactly live in Hell.

Statistics need context. We are not even close to a seriously corrupt nation, regardless of perception. I’ve seen corruption. We’re amateurs.

I wonder if Americans would really like living in one of those top-rated countries, like say Finland. Where 90% of your salary goes to taxes. You get great services and a safety net. You won’t wind up living in a crate and you’ll never die because you can’t afford surgery or medication. But there’s payback.

Socialism isn’t a terrible way to live, not even close to the nightmare portrayed by the GOP. It’s not heaven, either.

US_Income_Distribution_2009Mostly, it means working harder or better doesn’t get you a promotion, more money or even recognition. You are whatever your G rating is and move up  by seniority. It’s secure, but sort of dull.

Mind you, plenty of people can’t imagine living any other way. Lots of others would rather be here and would happily take their chances on capitalism. They think we complain too much. They have a point.

A friend of mine lived in Belgium for 15 years. He described it this way: “In Europe, if they don’t say it’s allowed, you can safely assume it’s forbidden. In the U.S., if they don’t tell you it’s forbidden, you know it’s allowed.”

That’s a huge difference.

Like every country, we have strong points and problems. We’ve made some progress, but not enough. Unlike small homogeneous countries — like Finland — we’re a conglomeration of people from everywhere. We’re never going to be like those other countries. We like our freedom too much.

We are what we are. Good and bad. But I am sure we will all live happily ever after. Because what other choice is there?


“If only we could get a clean candidate, we could have a government without corruption.”

Please, show me an example of an un-corrupt government. Anywhere, anytime in the history of the world. From the first known government (Egypt? China?) to today. Any form of government, even a town council. Because as far as I know, there is no such thing.


I finished re-reading “Imperium,” a fictionalized biography of Cicero. It whacked me with a reality check on government corruption and I realized (again) that Americans don’t “get” real corruption.

In Rome, those guys understood corruption. They were serious about their corruption. We are just dilettantes compared to them! More on this later.


Never in this world, has there ever been a government free of corruption. It is the nature of government to be subject to … uh … um … what shall I call it? Oh, okay. Got it.


What do you mean by that?

Well, let’s see. Money. That’s a classic. Locally, we favor nepotism, a type of corruption whose popularity never wanes. Otherwise known as doing favors. Hey, they just need jobs, you know? It’s not a big deal, is it?


Find me a small town where the government isn’t composed of entrenched old families, their friends, friends of family, cousins of the friends of the families, their brothers and sisters in-and-out-of-laws.

What about constituents? You know, when we tell our pols what we want them to do or else we’ll throw them out. The stuff you and I want and demand, the stuff we think our government owes us because we are the people who elected them.

“What?” you say? “Isn’t that what government is all about?”

Right you are! A little question for you.

Does the fact that we want it mean it is moral? Just? Righteous? Legal? Fair? If you believe that, I have a bridge you can buy cheap.


We want what we want. We don’t really care if it is for “the greater good.” We want what we want. We want it now. We deserve it. We voted for you and you are supposed to make it happen.

Pols who deliver the goods get re-elected. That’s the way it works. That’s the way it has always worked and always will. If you don’t think the electoral process itself is a form of corruption, you are missing the point.

It doesn’t matter who is applying the pressure — or why. The process of gaining and retaining power guarantees corruption.


Personally, I would like my officials to do something good while they hold office. Preferably without getting caught, killed, impeached, indicted, imprisoned or exposed. Cynical? Moi?

I propose a movement for better corruption to require corrupt politicians to use their power — however ill-gained — to pass laws that make the world better. In my opinion. Because my opinion is the only opinion which counts.