WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? – BY TOM CURLEY

This was the cover of the March 5th, 2017 “New York Daily News.”


It wasn’t newsworthy when it became the cover of the Daily News. Everyone knew our ”Commander In Chief“ was nuts and most of us had known it for as long as he had been in office. Many of us knew before the election, which is probably why we never believed he would be elected.

His nuttiness didn’t matter when he was on “reality TV,” but when he somehow got elected, it mattered. A lot. So what was newsworthy was that the story was on the front page. The incident that caused everybody to notice he was nuts wasn’t the story.  The story was that the President of the United States is wingding wacko.

I wrote a post pointing out that this ought to be the story on which the media focuses. Since I wrote that post, exactly what I expected has happened.  The press is covering his insanity more and more. They can’t stop. Even if they wanted to stop, the news business would never let them stop. Trump’s craziness sells the news.

quickmeme.com

Whether you like him or hate him, he is suffering from a severe mental illness. The diagnoses vary, but he is ill.  You can be as sympathetic as you like about people who have a mental illness, but that doesn’t mean you want one running our country.

We all have family and friends who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s, narcissism, and much more. When they reach a certain point, someone with a clearer mind needs to take control of the situation.

You might have to put them in a safe place and make sure they get help.
You might have to take away the car keys.
You need to make sure they take their medication.
You might need to turn off the household gas.
You may have to put special locks on the door so they can’t wander off.
Or you may just need to keep an eye out to make sure they don’t do something dangerous.

But there’s one thing you don’t do.

YOU DON’T MAKE HIM OR HER THE FRIGGING PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!!!

reddit.com

In almost all TV cop shows and movies, the bad guy, usually a mad psychotic, a mad genius or a mad psychotic genius, is always one step ahead of the good guys.

sdsouthard.com

sdsouthard.com

For at least the first half of the show, the good guys keep getting caught in the bad guy’s traps.

fantendo.wikia.com

fantendo.wikia.com

Or (and?) the bad guy keeps escaping at the last minute.

imgur.com

imgur.com

Inevitably, at some point (usually about halfway through the show) the chief good guy says: “We’re constantly playing catch up. We gotta get ahead of this guy.”

This is when someone on the team, usually the brilliant but nerdy computer expert, finds a tidbit of information that enables the good guys to capture or kill the bad guy. The end. Stay tuned after the break for scenes from next week’s episode.

countercurrentnews.com

countercurrentnews.com

Three years after his inauguration, we’ve learned a few things:

  • As bad as we all thought 45 would be, it’s a thousand times worse.
  • His “illness” is contagious. We should have known that from all the other deranged leaders who’ve led their followers to suicide. Somehow, we forgot when it went national.

He is the one writing all these insane executive orders even when every sane member of his cabinet (are there any sane ones left?) screams “NO NO, don’t DO that!”  Naturally, he has dumped all the nay-sayers as soon as they said nay. You just don’t say “NO” to El Gigantico Egotist.

tudors.wikia.com

tudors.wikia.com

We are living in a very bad Reality Show and are in the final quarter of what is either the final quarter of the show or the closing of the first half. The media are constantly playing catch up. They continue to react to every insane tweet and blatant lie. Every horrific executive order. This is not going to work. The press has to get ahead of him. We don’t need a brilliant but nerdy computer genius to do it.

dogtime.com

dogtime.com

He obsessively watches cable news.  He then goes off on a twitter rant over whatever it is that he sees. This includes his own impeachment. Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, I doubt he even understands what it’s all about having never read the constitution or anything else.

The point: “Is The President of the United States Mentally Ill?”

That by itself should be sufficient to take him out of office. Crimes and lies aside, he is not capable of running this country.

brietbart.com

brietbart.com

The current resident of the Oval Office is a textbook case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder (yes, you can have multiple personality disorders at the same time). He might well also be a socio (or psycho) path. Who can tell?

kathyescobar.com

kathyescobar.com

This is something both my wife and I are intimately familiar with. Both of our exes suffered from the former. Here is a test sample question from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM-V.

DSM-V

Any of that sound familiar?

If THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES IS MENTALLY ILL, he should be removed from office. Going under the assumption that impeachment won’t work, whoever is nominated needs to make it very clear that this insane man should not be president of this or anything else.

We gotta get ahead of this guy.

LYNN NOVICK: “BASEBALL” – Marilyn Armstrong

This piece was published in Planet Vineyard in September 1998. It was a short-lived magazine. Long on great writing, short on paid advertising. I realized that hardly anyone ever saw this piece. It is based on my interview with Lynn Novick who was the co-producer of “Baseball” with Ken Burns. Since we are watching the series again, I thought, “Gee, why not publish it where someone might actually read it?”

So, here it is. Because before I was a blogger, I was a writer.


Lynn Novick Profile

by Marilyn Armstrong


Take a passion for American history and mix it with a handful of Hollywood star-dust. Add a generous pinch of altruism. Spice the batter with a measure of luck. Bake for three and a half years in the oven of hard work. Voilà, meet Lynn Novick, co-producer (with Ken Burns of Civil War fame) of the upcoming 18-1/2 hour PBS mini-series, Baseball.

It’s a breezy, crystal clear day on Martha’s Vineyard. As she unwinds with her husband Robert and daughter Eliza in their summer home overlooking the sea, Lynn Novick emits bursts of energy you can virtually see as well as feel. The enthusiasm is contagious, even if you think that baseball has nothing to do with you. Though Baseball is “in the can and ready to go,” she remains a passionate advocate of America’s Pastime and what it means to the people of this nation. Making this mini-series was arduous, but it was a labor of love.

It’s difficult to get Lynn to talk about herself. She wants to talk about Baseball. She wants to tell you how the game encapsulates America’s history and cultural development. She wants you to know how well it illustrates our changing values and shows as we really are, both good and bad.

“Baseball,” she says, “is our link to a collective past. It connects all of us, no matter where we come from, to the American experience. It’s our common ground, a historic thread woven into the fabric of our culture. The history of baseball is our history.”

Strong words, you think. She must have grown up a dedicated baseball fan.

“Actually,” confesses Lynn. “I was just a casual fan. My parents enjoyed baseball. My father was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan … he never quite got over the Dodgers’ move to the West Coast. I grew up believing that Ebbets Field was sacred ground. My dad taught me to throw and catch, but I wasn’t a little league player or even a committed fan. I started out with an affection for baseball and a belief that the Yankees are the enemy. Everything else I picked up in progress. Now, I could go head-to-head with any baseball expert. Just try me.”

Lynn Novick with Ken Burns

Lynn Novick with Ken Burns

Lynn has had a total immersion baseball experience. Since 1990, she has lived Baseball. She dreamed it, planned it, read about it. She met heroes out of legend. The editing process alone consumed two and a half years. She was the architect of all sixty-five interviews and conducted more than half of these herself. She spent endless days and weeks on research, filming, and organizing every detail of the production.

Baseball has given Lynn Novick an encyclopedic knowledge of the sport.

“It’s had some interesting side effects,” she muses. “Baseball has turned out to be the key to the men’s room, so to speak. I find myself having serious discussions with all kinds of men, all ages, all professions. When they realize that I know my stuff, it’s instant acceptance. It’s a misconception that sports are a ‘guy’ thing, though. I’ve met plenty of women and girls who are serious fans, too.”

Lynn did not grow up yearning to be a film-maker. She never thought of herself as especially visual and had no pretensions of becoming the next John Ford. Until the day she decided she wanted to make documentaries, Lynn Novick never considered film-making as a career. From Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where she grew up, she earned a bachelor’s in American Studies at Yale in 1983. The child of two academics, Lynn intended to follow in their footsteps. Her first job was at the Smithsonian Institute. But museum work didn’t “do it” for her.

“I needed something more hands-on, more engaging. Academia was too theoretical, too out of touch. I’m not sure how I decided I wanted to make documentary films. I think it was a combination of things. I’ve always loved the movies. I study history. I need my work to have social value. Making documentary films brings all the strands together. I can bring history to life.“

With the Giants in San Francisco

With the Giants in San Francisco

Once she decided what she wanted, she didn’t waste any time. She moved back to New York, interviewed at PBS. Shortly thereafter she began working on the Joseph Campbell series.

“That’s where I learned the basics of production,” she says. “How did I move on from there? Fate. Luck. Both probably. I knew someone who was working with Ken Burns on the Civil War project. She wanted to quit but didn’t want to leave him in the lurch. So she introduced me to him, told him she was leaving and said. “but look, here’s someone to take my place.” Ken was in the middle of the project. He didn’t have time to go looking for someone else, so he hired me as an associate producer.”

Luck may have played a part in her first collaboration with Ken Burns, but talent earned her the co-producers slot on Baseball. Tapping into her extraordinarily high energy level, she worked flat-out for the duration of the project. She supervised a million details. She viewed hundreds of hours of film over and over again throughout the seemingly endless editing process.

In the middle of the project, Lynn became pregnant. She continued working throughout her pregnancy. After giving birth to Eliza, she took four months leave.

baseball-boxed-setHer personal choices made the transition from new mother to film producer less stressful. Rather than give Eliza over to caretakers, Lynn chose to bring the little one to work with her. Eliza made a delightful addition to the Baseball staff. If early environment is an indicator of future development, look for Eliza among the next generation of filmdom’s luminaries.

Right now, Lynn Novick and family are enjoying a well-earned time-out on a Chilmark hilltop. The home originally belonged to her husband Robert’s parents and is now owned jointly by Robert and his sister. The two families share the premises with ease.

“I’ve been coming here for eleven summers,” says Lynn. “Even though the place belonged to Robert’s family, it’s a very special place for me. I can’t imagine summer anywhere else. Even more than Robert, this is where I want to be. There’s something about the air here,” she smiles.

What’s next? “I don’t know yet,” says Lynn. “This is my time to get to know my daughter, reconnect with my husband and myself. There’s a kind of ‘postpartum’ down period after a production finishes. One day you’re working full tilt, the next day, suddenly, there’s free time. It’s quite a shock.”


You can often stream Baseball on Amazon Prime. You can buy the series on DVD from PBS and other places. The Major League Baseball Channel is running it right now and it shows up reasonably often on various cable channels.

If you have not seen it, whether or not you are a baseball fan or any kind of sports fan, this series so beautifully written and produced, it’s worth your time.

WHY I SIGNED THE HISTORIANS’ STATEMENT ON THE IMPEACHMENT OF PRESIDENT TRUMP By SEAN MUNGER

SIGNING THE IMPEACHMENT STATEMENT – SEAN MUNGER

This week I was asked by a professional contact in the history community to add my name to this statement, called the Historians’ Statement on the Impeachment of President Trump. It was an easy call for me to do so. But, as has become evident over the last few days, this statement was much more than just another “online petition.” The historians who have signed this statement, now more than 2,000 of them, have had a measurable impact on the events that occurred in Washington, D.C. this week. Indeed, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi referenced the statement in her floor speech beginning debate on the impeachment of Trump. As you know, the House of Representatives voted to impeach him. We historians have joined numerous other professionals whose expertise is relevant to the impeachment process, such as Constitutional legal scholars and public prosecutors, in stating that impeachment is warranted under the standards of the Constitution.

Some of the historians I joined in signing include Ken Burns (documentary historian), Robert Caro (biographer of LBJ), Ron Chernow (author of the biography of Alexander Hamilton that was the basis of the Broadway musical), John Fea (fellow history podcaster and author of the wonderful Way of Improvement Leads Home blog), Alan Taylor (Pulitzer Prize-winning historian), Matthew Dennis (my former academic advisor), and many, many more.

While the statement speaks for itself, I thought I would add a few words to explain why I signed it.

I marched in favor of women’s rights and solidarity on the day after President Trump was inaugurated in 2017. That action was political. My signing of the Historians’ Statement goes beyond politics.

Reason one: Trump’s actions are unquestionably impeachable.

The Constitution’s standard for impeachment is deliberately vague: “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The fact that it’s vague doesn’t mean it’s always difficult to tell when the standard has been reached. The impeachment inquiry has proven beyond all doubt that Trump committed bribery by conditioning aid to the government of Ukraine on their investigation of the Biden family. That’s bribery. As for other “high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” it seems difficult to argue that this standard hasn’t been reached either. If we could go back in time to the stuffy room in Philadelphia where the Founders met in the summer of 1787 to create the Constitution and give them the example of Trump’s actions, it’s abundantly clear that they would agree, probably to a man, that this is the kind of behavior they had in mind when they wrote the impeachment clause. The evidence is uncontroverted. I say that both as a historian and as a lawyer.

Reason two: The Constitution and its processes must be protected.

America was created with the notion that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Flawed, yes; imperfect, yes; subject to change in interpretation by future generations who are entrusted with it, certainly. But some things about it are absolute. If the Constitution’s standard for a President’s removal from office is reached, not taking the Constitutionally-required action to set that process in motion does violence to the primacy of the Constitution and its principles. Letting Trump’s unconscionable behavior slide, giving it a pass, is itself an affront to the Constitution and everything it stands for.

The action of impeachment entails considerable political risk. While it’s true that I voted for the other lady (you know, the one who got more votes than Trump did), I’m certainly not happy with the idea that, if Trump were to be convicted, his successor would be Mike Pence, a man whose bedrock principle is that I, as a member of the LGBT community, do not deserve basic human and civil rights, and once in office he’ll likely mobilize the power of the government to strip me of those rights–because he’s done it before. But that’s a political calculation. The risk to the Constitution in turning a blind eye to Trump’s crimes transcends politics, and it should. That’s what the primacy of the Constitution means.

The men who met in this room in the summer of 1787 believed they were serving principles larger than themselves. I think we have to honor that commitment, however imperfect the Constitution was (and still is).

Reason three: Trump must be taught that his wrong actions have consequences.

Even if the Senate takes the cowardly way out and does not convict him, the impeachment of Trump has considerable value on its own. One of them is to teach him something he apparently hasn’t learned during his nearly two years in office: he can’t just do anything he wants, and his bad actions have consequences. Apparently, he has learned that lesson. There is a report out of the White House this week that Trump was surprised, astonished and furious that he was impeached, and that he’s gone through violent mood swings as a result. Indeed, an aide is quoted as saying, “He’s very angry. It’s made a deep impression.” Trump is a man impervious to facts (such as the proven scientific reality of human-caused climate change) and incapable of empathy (such as when he ordered children to be placed in concentration camps). But if impeachment can get through to him on such a deep level, and tell him that his actions will receive push-back, from the Constitution if from no other source, then the impeachment is worth it on that score alone.

Reason four: Historical precedent shows impeachment has the effect of reining in a wayward President’s actions.

If you look back at the two Presidents who have previously been impeached, Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, you’ll see that, although neither was removed from office, impeachment had a profound effect on both of them: they took care to stop doing the actions that got them impeached in the first place. Andrew Johnson, in particular, was every bit as pugnacious and defiant about his impeachment as Trump is about his own. Yet, after the impeachment and Senate trial in May 1868, Johnson suddenly went quiet: he stopped trying to interfere with Congress’s power over Reconstruction and he took no significant action for the rest of his term.

Clinton, similarly, toned down his act in his last two years in office. And you can bet that, at long last, for once in his life, he stopped running around with young women and lying about it. Both Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were/are deeply flawed men who did monstrous things. But impeachment did put brakes on their reckless behavior. Even as defiant and vengeful as Trump is, I seriously doubt he’ll ever call up a head of state and ask them to interfere in our elections again. There’s no telling what other more subtle effects it will have that can serve the public good.

Andrew Johnson was, like Trump, a racist man, a white supremacist, and deeply incompetent at his job as President of the United States. But, his impeachment in 1868 did have an effect on his behavior.

I don’t like to see our Constitutional system tested and tarnished by the actions of President Trump. Our government has many important things that it could be doing right now, like taking immediate and drastic action on climate change. But the Constitution must be protected, and sometimes its enemies are within the walls rather than without.

I stand by the Historians’ statement. I only hope it’s not too late for our republic to be saved from the damage being done to it by self-serving people like Donald J. Trump.

All images in this article were either taken by me or are in the public domain.

Please check out Sean’s blog at: https://seanmunger.com/

MARCHING FOR THE CAUSE? NOT EXACTLY. – Marilyn Armstrong

So the question was:

“If your day-to-day responsibilities were taken care of and you could throw yourself completely behind a cause, what would it be?”

You mean other than loathing our current president? The answer is I wouldn’t. I can and do write about it, the evil minions in our capital. When I have a spare $5, I try to make some kind of minimal contribution. Otherwise, in the immortal words of Phil Ochs, “I ain’t marchin’ anymore.”

I marched against war and for peace.

I marched for civil rights.

I campaigned for universal health care and free care for anyone who needs it.

I marched against evil and for justice all my life and now, it’s time for a younger generation with better feet and hips to do the marching. I’m not sure, after all that marching whether or not I even accomplished anything … other than to make denim a fashion fabric. Now, with my spine a mangled wreck of arthritis and just plain falling-apartness, my marching days are done.

So far, at least, the world spins and night follows day whether or not I can get my feet moving.

If you are marching, good luck. Take a few sandwiches and something to drink. And wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be glad you did.

A TINY CHURCH – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s a tiny church hidden behind houses in Amherst. If you don’t know to look, you would never find it. About the size of my living room and dining room combined, the cross on top is a bit crooked. Such a small church, such a long history.

The Goodwin Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is a historic church on Woodside Avenue in Amherst, Massachusetts.

The church, built in 1910, is located down a narrow lane in the otherwise residential neighborhood. It is about 25 feet by 50 feet, styled in the Craftsman style popular at the time of its construction. It remains essentially the same since being built.

The church is named for Moses Goodwin, a local resident and parishioner. It was the second building for the African-American congregation that occupies it. The first — built in 1869 on a nearby lot — was demolished in 1917. It continues to be a social and religious center for Amherst’s African-American community.

Zion Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

THE HOW AND WHY OF IMPEACHMENT – Reblog – THE SHINBONE STAR

As much as you may view this as politics, it is also education. Impeachment is a complicated business with a single motive: to protect the American Constitution.

I can see all the sides of this impeachment. I understand why Nancy Pelosi wanted to wait and I can see why she changed her mind. I agree with the three scholars who feel that if Trump doesn’t warrant an impeachment, no one does. On the other hand, I also completely understood the one who felt we needed to give the people time to absorb the data and get on board.

I also understand that since the President’s office has categorically refused to provide any of the documents or testimony required by subpoenas, is there any value in waiting when — even if the Supreme Court nods in the Democrat’s direction — it does not necessarily mean the President or his coterie of evil-doers will comply. It would not be the first time an American President refused to obey an order from the Supreme Court.

So what are we to do? If it were possible — if the election weren’t so close — I would slow it down and allow more Americans to understand why impeachment is critically important to us. 

Is it possible to slow it down? I don’t think so. But I don’t have answers. Just many more questions.


The Constitution gives Congress the authority to impeach and remove “the President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States” upon a determination that such officers have engaged in treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

The last word in this sentence is very important in today’s political world.

Without doubt, Donald J. Trump and members of his entire crew aboard and piloting his Ship of Vipers have amassed enough misdemeanors by their refusal to abide by the numerous subpoenas they are ignoring at his order.

The charge of high crimes and misdemeanors covers allegations of misconduct by officials, such as perjury of oath, abuse of authority, bribery, intimidation, misuse of assets, failure to supervise, dereliction of duty, unbecoming conduct, refusal to obey a lawful order, chronic intoxication, and tax evasion. Tax evasion is a key phrase here and the reason Trump is fighting so fiercely to prevent the House or anyone else from accessing his returns.

The Constitution does not define bribery. It is a crime that has long existed in English and American common law. It takes place when a person gives official money or gifts to influence the official’s behavior in office. For example, if defendant Smith pays federal Judge Jones $10,000 to find Smith not guilty, the crime of bribery has occurred. It seems to fit Trump to a T. Only this time, he withheld money from Ukraine for a political favor against his political opponent, Democrat Joe Biden, and son Hunter.

It should be remembered that the impeachment process is political, not criminal.

According to the rules of impeachment:

  1. The House Judiciary Committee holds hearings and, if necessary, prepares articles of impeachment. These are the charges against the official.
  2. If a majority of the committee votes to approve the articles, the whole House debates and votes on them.
  3. If a majority of the House votes to impeach the official on any article,  the official must then stand trial in the Senate.
  4.  For the official to be removed from office, two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict the official. Upon conviction, the official is automatically removed from office and, if the Senate so decides, may be forbidden from holding governmental office again.

Rule 3 doesn’t give Mitch McConnell or Lindsey Graham — or anyone else the right to block the impeachment.

The oath used today has not changed since 1966 and is prescribed in Title 5, Section 3331 of the United States Code. It reads:


“I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”


In contrast to the presidential oath, where it’s used only by tradition, the phrase “so help me God” has been part of the official oath of office for non-presidential offices since 1862.

Each and every one of them swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

When the subject of an oath arose during the Federal Constitutional Convention in 1787, the founders were divided. Should an oath be required in a free country at all? And should state officials swear allegiance to the federal Constitution, or should federal officials swear to uphold state constitutions as well as the U.S. Constitution?

According to the History, Art And Archives web page of the House of Representatives: “Delegate James Wilson of Pennsylvania viewed oaths as ‘left-handed security only’ and that ‘a good government did not need them and a bad one could not or ought not to be supported.’ The lexicographer and political writer Noah Webster called oaths ‘instruments of slavery’ and a ‘badge of folly, borrowed from the dark ages of bigotry.’ Both Wilson and Webster argued that people would be naturally inclined to support just governments, so oaths were unnecessary.  Many others thought such concerns were overwrought. In his 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote that requiring oaths for government officials ‘would seem to be a proposition too clear to render any reasoning necessary in support of it.’”

The web page continues: “The current practice for swearing-in Members is an innovation of Speaker Nicholas Longworth of Ohio, who abandoned the practice of Members taking the oath by state delegations in 1929. Longworth altered the practice because he hoped the mass swearing-in would better ‘comport with the dignity and solemnity’ of the ceremony and, according to some historical accounts, to avoid a potential attempt to challenge the seating of Oscar De Priest of Illinois, the first African- American elected to Congress in the 20th century.

“While subsequent Speakers went back to the original method, in 1937 Speaker William B. Bankhead chose to return to the en masse swearing-in and this has remained the practice. Since the 80th Congress (1947–1949), Members have also been required to sign an oath, which is held by the Clerk of the House.”

During the Constitutional Convention, James Madison of Virginia successfully argued that an election every four years did not provide enough of a check on a president who was incapacitated or abusing the power of the office. He contended that “loss of capacity or corruption . . . might be fatal to the republic” if the president could not be removed until the next election.

This is an excellent defense to the oft used mantra of “let the voters decide.” George Mason of Virginia proposed adding “maladministration.” He thought treason and bribery did not cover all the harm a president might do.

As we can sadly see, Mason’s fears were well-founded.

If the Founding Fathers could see how our entire governmental process has been stolen by the Republican Party, they would likely suffer apoplexy.

Likely if the Democrats were the target of impeachment charges, they would vote party line to quash the impeachment. It’s how every presidential impeachment attempt has ended.

In a perfect, ethical and moral political world one can only dream that the Democratic Party would stand erect and purge their embarrassment. Obviously, the Trumplican Party will cling to their crooked, vile captain and vote nay. Like Captain Queeg in “The Caine Mutiny,” Donald Trump, Captain of his Ship of Vipers, sits and juggles his marbles — as it were.


Check out the original on The Shinbone Star. They have written some brilliant material that can answer a lot of questions. No, they are not a neutral voice, but they are also right.

DEATH OF A PRESIDENT – Marilyn Armstrong

THE END OF INNOCENCE, THE BEGINNING OF THE NIGHTMARE

Last Friday was the day. Now, fifty-six years later, I feel like that was the beginning of our national nightmare. At the time, everyone remembered exactly where they were and what they were doing when President Kennedy was assassinated. Then came 9/11 and now, 18 years afterward, kids don’t remember it and their parents don’t tell them. And of course, we’re grandparents and no one listens to us.

That day in November was the beginning of a nightmare. We didn’t see it then. We thought things were looking good, but really, they were getting worse. We didn’t know that the little scuffle that started while Kennedy was President and continued through Lyndon Baines Johnson who, had he avoided Vietnam, might have been one of our best presidents.

Then there was Nixon. All of this has coiled around and begun to choke us.

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. 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.

John-F.-Kennedy

In 1963 I turned 16. I started college. Kennedy was shot in November and somehow, the world tilted slightly and it all changed. I’m sure every person old enough to know anything would remember where they were when they heard the news. It was a landmark event, a turning point in American history. For many of us, it was as if we’d bungee jumped and the elastic snapped. Then there was a long fall downward. I think it was the beginning of our national depression. Note that now we have a national case of high blood pressure. No, really. It’s true.

I was in the cafeteria at Hofstra University. 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. It was a news report and it took a few minutes to recognize what they were saying, to form a context and understand that this was real. Someone had shot our President.

A few minutes later, everyone fell silent. Hundreds of students, sitting or 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, holding 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. Silent.

I found my boyfriend. 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 but after a few hours of news, she did.

Kennedy was “our” president. He was young, attractive. So different from who we’d had before. I hadn’t been old enough to vote for him, but I was old enough to know what was happening. I watched the debates — the first ones on television. 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 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 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.

The assassination

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. It’s like getting used to people shooting children at schools. You get numb after a while.

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. This is when flunking out of college meant you were going to Vietnam and maybe wouldn’t come back. Strange how quickly we forget and replace history with mythology.

November 22, 1963, was the end of our political innocence, Democrats, Republicans, everyone. An abrupt turning point. 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.

LBJ Sworn In As PresidentIt’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.

Politics isn’t about real issues anymore. It’s all about character assassination, insinuation, innuendo, lies, and rumors. How narrow-minded and hateful we’ve become. I want to believe it will pass. Supposedly, all things do. But when? Will I be alive when it does?


POSTSCRIPT: HOW LBJ INHERITED VIETNAM BUT GOT ALL THE BLAME

The history of Vietnam is enormously complicated. It actually began with the French who invaded it and were tossed out. At that point, Eisenhower was president and he sent “advisors” in and then came Kennedy who sent in a lot more advisors who were more like troops, but it wasn’t officially a war. Actually, it was never officially a war.

It was a military “intervention” which is a war without the title. LBJ inherited the war from Kennedy and he didn’t like it, didn’t want it, wanted to get out, but all the military guys told him he couldn’t do that, so he stayed and politically, it destroyed him. Which was a pity because he was a brilliant president — everything our current Bloated Orangehead isn’t. But the good stuff – Medicare and Medicaid and the Civil Rights amendment — got lost under the gigantic mess in Vietnam.

Nixon basically won the next election by telling everyone HE would end the war, but he didn’t. In the end, he did exactly what Trump did in Syria: he declared a victory and pulled our troops out leaving thousands of Vietnamese who had fought with us to be slaughtered by the North Vietnamese — which was exactly what my mother had predicted would happen. She said that’s what we always do. We go in, and when it’s obvious we can’t “win,” we declare a victory and leave. The difference between what Nixon did and what Trump did is that there were years of pointless negotiations before we pulled out the troops and left. Otherwise, it was the same story.


There were many thousands of refugees desperate to get out of there. Israel took in a few thousand and we got our first really good Asian restaurants as a result. They were such nice people. I’m sure they still are.

I remember when we first went into Vietnam and my mother, who was politically very sharp, said “The French just got whipped there and left. What the Hell do we think WE are doing there?”

Garry actually talked to LBJ about this when he was in Vietnam. See these two stories:

https://teepee12.com/2019/11/27/the-rest-of-the-story-garry-armstrong/

https://teepee12.com/2016/02/18/1967-campfire-with-lbj-in-vietnam-garry-armstrong/

He was a great president, but he buried himself in a war in which he didn’t believe. He was right. We didn’t win it or even come close to winning — and used up every bit of political clout he had to get the Civil Rights Amendment, Medicare and Medicaid passed through congress. Other than Vietnam, he was probably the first really great president since FDR. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. No one was noticing the good stuff he was doing … just Vietnam. Since then, we’ve had endless pointless unwinnable wars and I swear, no one really cares anymore except for the guys who have to fight them and the parents who get to bury their kids. There’s much more to it.

Ken Burns did what I’ve heard is a brilliant documentary about Vietnam (PBS). I have not watched it. Too close to the reality I lived. Maybe one day I will, but not right now. I think it would just remind me of how we turned into the disaster we’ve become.

This piece started as a comment, but I’ve always felt that Vietnam is presented without any context. I don’t think most people realize LBJ didn’t start the war. No one reads history. We think everything we do is unique. Which is what happens when you don’t know the history.

WHAT A DAY FOR NEWS JUNKIES! — Marilyn Armstrong

I admit it. By the end of about six hours of impeachment testimony, I knew I’d never survive the Democratic debate. Also, Garry said he’d leave home if I didn’t change the channel — which I was intending to do anyway — but he supplied the final push. I just handed him the remote and said: “Go at it!”

I’m pretty sure that even the anchors were exhausted by then. There’s only so much bombshell testimony (Was it bombshell testimony? I no longer know what that means) anybody can take. And I missed the beginning — what I gather was the really hot testimony, but they talked about it constantly, so I really didn’t miss anything.

Is this enough?

But now, it was post-dinner and the idea of watching however many people are running for president on the Democratic ticket snipe at each other was over the top. I need a very long night’s sleep before I reconnect.

And since they delayed the debate, bet we’ll catch the last hour of it anyway.

I do not know how anyone remembers anything on these shows. I can’t even remember the names of the senators or testifiers. Moreover, when someone is going to drop a bombshell, that is when I have to go to the bathroom.

Carry on, America!

ALL WRAPPED UP IN IMPEACHMENT — Marilyn Armstrong

I have to admit that we are hooked. We are both news junkies and though Garry tried denying it, one day he just broke down and it’s been news ever since. He is particularly incensed at the way the press is getting beat up.

The news was his life. This isn’t casual chatter to him. He has three Emmy’s and dozens of other awards for his work in the business. To Garry, this is personal. Very. Personal.


So, that’s what we are doing. We are watching. The last time I was this enthralled politically was Watergate. I was working as a writer and editor at Doubleday Publishing in New York. I carried a little radio and earplug with me so I wouldn’t miss a moment of testimony. Then, when I got home, on went the television.

I was thrilled when Nixon resigned, but I missed the hearings. It was as if they had canceled a favorite drama.


I think this is probably what I’m going to be doing as long as these hearings last. I thought we were the rare Americans watching this, but these hearings are getting huge ratings. Apparently, everyone is glued to their televisions.

Things that have gotten to me: McCaine’s daughter saying how deeply shocked and horrified she is by the spineless Republican party and how ashamed she is of people she believed were family friends … interviews on the street and on the late-night comedy shows of people who were Republicans and now say they don’t even understand what has happened to their party and how humiliating it is.

I’ve never been a Republican, but I never thought that being a Republican meant being a traitor. We disagreed, sometimes angrily, sometimes with humor, but they were Americans. They believed in this country as I did, but their ideas of how to manage this country were different.

Now, they don’t even act like Americans. They don’t care about the  American people. They have lost touch with what has made this country great. Now it’s entirely about money and greed.

Shame on them, and shame on anyone who voted for them. They are everything we have deplored through our years on this earth.

Aside from having a bloated moron as our president, this is the most shocking part of this entire process. That all these supposed honorable men have become spineless jellyfish, unwilling to stand up to this idiot president or their own beliefs, is nauseating.

THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE – Marilyn Armstrong

Jonestown_entrance_welcome

Koolaid anyone?

I run this every year because people forget. We should not forget where blindly following a leader can take you. This happened. I remember it. Everyone who was alive and able to read or watch TV remembers.


On this day, the 41st anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre grew a saying everyone uses. “Drink the Kool-Aid” or “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.” I feel sort of like those people these days, though no one is trying to poison me. Yet. I wonder how many people who say it so casually, referring to products, buying into a corporate culture, or political philosophy, or realize to what they are referring?

I’ve written this before, but this is a major revision and it bears repeating. It’s true. It happened. We need to make sure it never happens again.

Drink (or don’t drink) the Kool-aid

The popular expression “drink the Kool-Aid” has become a common verbal shorthand in American business and politics. Roughly translated, it means “to blindly follow or accept a set of beliefs.” At work, it means you endorse what your bosses tell you. In politics, it means you fully buy into the platform.

It carries a negative connotation, but not as negative as it ought.

Kool-Aid was the drink for children on summer afternoons in the 1950s. The saying is now just bland rhetoric, stripped of its context and thus the horror it ought to evoke.

The Peoples Temple

Jim Jones, cult leader, and mass murderer was a complex madman. A communist, occasional Methodist minister, he founded his own pseudo-church in the late 1950s. He called it the “Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church,” known in short as the “Peoples Temple.”

The lack of a possessive apostrophe was intentional. The name supposedly refers to “the people of the world.” Jones called it a church, but it was a twisted version of a Marxist commune. At first, it combined with miscellaneous Christian references Jones used in his diatribes, er, sermons.

jim_jones

It was not a church. The Peoples Temple was a straight-up cult requiring total personal commitment, financial support, and absolute obedience. The characteristics which define a cult.

Jones was the leader. A homicidal maniac, but he had positive qualities. Jones and his wife, Marceline, favored racial integration. They adopted kids from varying racial backgrounds and were the first white family in Indiana to adopt an African-American boy. They also adopted 3 Korean children, a Native American child, and a handful of white kids. They had one child of their own.

Jones called his adopted kids the “Rainbow Family.” He made a name for himself desegregating institutions in Indiana. Before you get all dewy-eyed, note that this climaxed in murdering these children.

The Peoples Temple expanded through the 1960s. Jones gradually abandoned Marxism. His preaching increasingly focused on the impending nuclear apocalypse. He specified a date — July 15, 1967 — and suggested after the apocalypse, a socialist paradise would exist on Earth. Where would the new Eden be?

Jones decided on Redwood Valley, California. Before the expected Big Bang, he moved the Temple and its peoples there.

When the end-of-the-world deadline came and went, Jones abandoned his pretense of Christianity and he revealed himself as a madman using religion to lend legitimacy to his views. He announced, “Those who remained drugged with the opiate of religion must be brought to enlightenment — socialism.” Prophetic words in view of the fact that Jones was a drug addict.

As media attention increased, Jones worried the Peoples Temple’s tax-exempt religious status was in danger. He was paranoid about the U.S. intelligence community — with good reason.

Jonestown aerial view

In 1977, Jones moved the Temple and its people again. This was a major relocation. He took them out of the United States and resettled everyone in Guyana, a poor South American nation. He modestly named it “Jonestown.”

It was a bleak, inhospitable place. On 4000 acres of poor soil with limited access to fresh water, it was too small for the number of people it had to support. Jones optimistically figured “his” people could farm the new utopia. He had put together several million dollars before getting to Jonestown but didn’t share it with his followers. He barely used any of the money at all and lived in a small, bare-bones shack.

All Hell Breaks Loose

U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan visited Jonestown in November of 1978. Rumors of peculiar goings-on were leaking out of Jonestown. Ryan decided to investigate the allegations of human rights abuses in Jonestown.

Jonestown headline Milwaukee

Ryan didn’t go alone. He took a contingent of media representatives including NBC News correspondent Don Harris and other reporters, plus relatives of Jonestown residents. During his visit, Congressman Ryan talked to more than a dozen Temple members, all of whom said they wanted to leave. Several of them passed a note saying: “Please help us get out of Jonestown” to news anchor Harris.

If the number of defectors seems low (there were more than 900 people in Jonestown), but the congressional party was unable to talk to most of the “fellowship.” It’s impossible to know how many might have wanted to leave.

Ryan began processing paperwork to repatriate Temple members to go back to the States. In the middle of this, Ryan was attacked by Don Sly, a knife-wielding Temple member. This would-be assassin was stopped before injuring Ryan. Eventually, the entire Ryan party plus the group of Jonestown defectors drove to a nearby airstrip and boarded planes, intending to leave.

Jim Jones had other plans. He sent armed Temple members — his “Red Brigade,” after the Congressional party  These creepy “soldiers of the Temple” opened fire, killing Ryan, a Temple defector, 3 members of the media, and wounding 11 others. The survivors fled into the jungle.

jonestown massacre anniversary

When the murderers returned to Jonestown and reported their actions, Jones promptly started what he called a “White Night” meeting. He “invited” all Temple members. This wasn’t the first White Night. Jones had hosted previous White Night meetings in which he suggested U.S. intelligence agencies would soon attack Jonestown. He had even staged fake attacks to add realism, though it’s hard to believe anyone was fooled by the play-acting.

Faced with this hypothetical invasion scenario, Jones told Temple members they could stay and fight imaginary invaders, or they could take off for the USSR. Another tempting alternative would be to run off into the Guyana jungles. Finally, they could commit mass suicide as an act of political protest.

On previous occasions, Temple members had opted for suicide. Not satisfied, Jones had tested their commitment and gave them cups of liquid they were told contained poison. They were asked to drink it. Which they did. After a while, Jones told them the liquid wasn’t poison — but one day it would be.

Jonestown Koolaid

Indeed Jim Jones had been stockpiling cyanide and other drugs for years. On this final White Night, Jones was no longer testing his followers. It was time to kill them all.

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

After the airstrip murders outside Jonestown, Jim Jones ordered Temple members to create a fruity mix containing a cocktail of chemicals that included cyanide, diazepam (Valium), promethazine (Phenergan — a sedative), chloral hydrate (a sedative/hypnotic sometimes called “knockout drops”), and Flavor Aid — a grape-flavored powdered drink mix similar to Kool-Aid.

jonestown_massacre

Jones urged his followers to commit suicide to make a political point. What that point was supposed to be is a matter of considerable conjecture.  After some discussion, Temple member Christine Miller suggested flying Temple members to the USSR.

Jones was never interested in escape. There was only one answer he would accept. Death. Lots of it. He repeatedly pointed out Congressman Ryan was dead (and whose fault was that?) which would surely bring down the weight of American retribution. An audiotape of this meeting exists. It is as creepy as you’d expect.

30-years-jonestown

Then it was time for the detailed instructions which the followers followed. I will never understand why. Probably it means I’m not insane.

Jones insisted mothers squirt poison into the mouths of their children using syringes. As their children died, the mothers were dosed too, though they were allowed to drink from cups. Temple members wandered outside — where eventually more than 900 lay dead, including more than 300 children. Only a handful survived — primarily residents who happened to be away on errands when the mass suicide/massacre took place.

Jones, his wife, and various other members of the Temple left wills stating that their assets should go to the Communist Party of the USSR.

Jones did not drink poison. He died from a bullet to the head. It’s not clear if it was self-inflicted. Jones likely died last or nearly so. He may have preferred a gun to cyanide, having seen the horrendous effects of death by cyanide.

Why Kool-Aid?

In the wake of the tragedy at Jonestown, the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” became a popular term for blind (or not-so-blind) obedience. Temple members had apparently accepted their cups of poison without argument or objection. Various accounts say the beverage used at Jonestown was mostly Flavor Aid, sometimes “Flav-R-Aid”). It doesn’t matter, does it?

Kool-Aid was better-known than Flavor Aid. It was introduced in 1927 in powdered form, so when Americans thought of a powdered fruity drink mix (other than “Tang”), “Kool-Aid” sprang to mind.

Jonestown-Tomb-Flower

Kool-Aid and Flavor Aid were at Jonestown, but the phrase “(don’t) drink the Kool-Aid” is popular lingo. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Does it help sell Kool-Aid?

I never touch the stuff.

MORE THAN EVER, THIS MATTERS

I’ve written about Jonestown before, but it bears repeating. I write it on the same day each year. Fewer and fewer people even know about it, but everyone should know.

It’s a cautionary tale for our times, reminding us where fanaticism and hatred can lead. Over the course of history, fanatics and those who blindly follow them have caused millions of deaths. Untold misery. Incalculable harm.

When you follow your “leader” into the darkness, there is no “good” side, and nothing positive will ever come of it.


This is where blind obedience leads. This is the result. This was the biggest horror story, but it has not been the only one. When you follow blindly, beware of cliffs.

IMPEACHMENT FOLLIES – Garry Armstrong

Marilyn asked me to write a piece.  This as I was swapping comments with others on Facebook as we watched today’s Impeachment Hearings and the comments that followed. I internally blanched but said, “Yes, dear.” I quickly dashed out this first paragraph. Time out. Nature was calling.

(Insert commercial here)

Okay, I’m back. Nature’s call answered. Showered, shaved and CNN is on with the evening recap of today’s Impeachment hearing. Maybe I missed some important stuff while attending my own business. Throne room biz gets top priority here.

It seems there is hard evidence of the call that never was — or that PERFECT phoner without any quid pro quo.  Donzo’s disciples are in spin overdrive while Democrats are like Felix the cat who nabbed a feline whistleblower.

Do we take time out for the weekend? Maybe watch some college and pro football?  Or do we put the Impeachment on hold? Will the hearings keep us in a mental brain lock until they resume, presumably on Monday?

Rest assured,  the weekend talk shows, especially the Sunday Pol Staple Shows, will review and regurgitate everything we’ve seen and heard during the past few days.  Was it good for you? Didn’t Wolf Blitzer look like he was barely able to keep from grinning?

These are good days for Facebook, the social media giant dealing with well-earned criticism for its many breaches of privacy.

Facebook’s cyber party line is perfect for many folks who are sharing their reactions, opinions, and emotional takes on the impeachment hearings. The comments and responses to comments are clearly partisan.


I think it’s a healthy way to unload your exhilaration, anger, and frustration over the mulligan’s stew of interrogation and testimony. Yelling at the television doesn’t get the reactions we need.

I can’t be the only one shouting profanities at some of Donzo’s coat-holding Pols who are insulting and demeaning witnesses testifying about the existence of the phone call and the hinky business surrounding what he said he said.  Today, we heard first-hand testimony of Donzo’s call to his Ukraine liaisons. It was a call taken in a restaurant and clearly heard by a myriad of people. Probably including the Russians who are very good at snooping in Ukraine, not to mention right here in the good ole’ U.S.A.

How loud WAS he talking? Did they put the call on speaker? We wouldn’t want the waiters or busboys to miss anything. Tune in tomorrow for further updates, revelations, and the throbbing excitement of our democracy falling apart while the world watches with a mixture of dismay and glee.

Look across the river,  Lennie. See the rabbits, Lennie? I get all sentimental remembering the glory days of Watergate.


Speaking of the Tricky One, they’ve been constantly running an audio clip of Milhouse’s rant on the media, “…and, ya know,  there’s not a good one of them on all three of the damn Networks.”

Donzo can smile because he has more than three networks “harassing” him. He has more media dissidents than any President in U.S. history. Even more than George Washington, a president who could tell you something about political detractors. He didn’t take a third term in office because he could not tolerate more press attacks — and that was long before mass media.

Donzo has gone from being a star on “The Apprentice” to being a living legend in his own mind. He is the man waiting to be carved onto Mt. Rushmore and the man who claims he shot Liberty Valance. Now, finally, he’s the guy with the highest TV ratings in town. It’s the brightest spot on his resume.

Print that legend!

TWAS THE NIGHT ‘FORE IMPEACHMENT – NOT BY TOM CURLEY

OK, I have to be honest. I didn’t write this. I wish I did. I found it in the comments section of some article I was reading. I don’t remember the article, I read so many. But I loved this. It was posted by someone called “Zoltan Kamarchuk.”  If he wrote it, kudos to him. If he didn’t, I’m glad he posted it.

I’m currently watching the impeachment hearings against Boss Tweet and thought it would be a  good time to share this.


Twas the night ‘fore impeachment and all through the House
The only thing stirring was Lindsey the Louse.
He placed flowers and notepads in the Chamber with care
and hoped that gosh darn it, the trial would be fair.

McConnell was nestled all smug in his head
With dreams of dismissal and more states turned red
While Trump in his bathrobe hands Melania a box
And then settles in for nine hours of FOX.

When suddenly Grisham burst in on the scene
Startling LIndsey, who he thought quite mean.
Her hands were both shaking, she was white as a sheet
As she held in her hand you-know-who’s latest tweet.

” The trial is a hoax. There was no collusion”
Forget what you saw, it was all an illusion.
The whole things a witch hunt, there’s nothing to find,
That Nancy Pelosi is out of her mind.

Graham jumped into action, he had to be quick
To show his support and not miss a trick
He speed-dialed the number, the signal was sent
But with caller ID, off to voicemail, it went.
Going back to his office, he happened to see
CNN down the hall and decided to flee.
But he wanted to look, so he quickly turned ’round.
And there was Jim Jordan, a publicity hound.

As soon as the camera had half caught his eye,
Jordan tore off his jacket and loosened his tie.
He carefully answered each question he got
With some previous talking point, he had been taught.
The fault wasn’t Donald’s, he said with a sniff
It was Biden and Clinton, Pelosi and Schiff.
The President hasn’t done anything wrong.
He stood up to China. Made America strong.
He gave trillions to farmers and that isn’t all.
He built everyone an un-climb-able wall.
But no moat filled with gators, piranhas or snakes.
That would have stopped ’em. Oh well, them’s the breaks.

Ivanka and Jared were at the train station.
Having both felt the need for a sudden vacation.
They wanted to leave without rocking the boat,
but to stay in the will, they did each leave a note.

Jared’s was quiet, Ivanka’s was sweet.
Donald Junior decided to just send a tweet.
Tiff was in Europe but she had to stay on.
Eric did send a card…that was written in crayon.

Again, to who ever wrote this, well done.
And to all a good night.

TODAY IS ARMISTICE DAY–THE 11TH HOUR OF THE 11TH DAY OF THE 11TH MONTH – Marilyn Armstrong

veterans_day_2016

Veterans Day, originally Armistice Day, initially celebrated the end of the first world war. The fields in Europe where the war was fought were full of wild red poppies and for many years, red poppies were the symbol of World War I.

The fighting ended between the Allies and Germany at 11 AM on 11/11 — November 11, 1918. This is accepted almost universally as the end of “the war to end all wars.” Sadly, this barely interrupted the progression of the rest of the wars we have been fighting — almost continuously — ever since.

The day was originally titled “Armistice Day” since it was the time of the Armistice for World War I — the Great Way. Which is what I still call it.

After the police action in Korea concluded in 1954, “Veterans” was substituted for “Armistice.” The holiday became Veterans Day and honors veterans of all the wars we have ever fought. Which are a lot of wars and a great many veterans.

The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed amid considerable confusion on October 25, 1971. On September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford returned Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, starting 1978.

The ultimate movie about World War I!

From the Veterans Administration:

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

All honor to all our veterans, of all the wars we have throughout the years and around the world. Let’s hope in future years, we will have fewer battles to fight.

VISIT TO THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM, PART 3 – BY ELLIN CURLEY

This is the third installment of photos from my trip to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. We only covered the furniture and decorative arts section of the American Wing. Here are more photos, this time of miscellaneous things that caught my eye.

Ceramics from the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th Century

I loved this early 20th century piece

Very contemporary looking vase

An assortment of old clocks

Early American doll and doll accessories. I love the coach!

More doll furniture and an adorable toy horse for the dolls!

Painted wood chest from colonial times

Another example of a painted wood chest

Plates painted in the American style

Plates painted in a more typical Oriental Style

Ceiling from the recreated Frank Lloyd Wright room

Door and wall lamp designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, in the Frank Lloyd Wright room

Ornate street lamp just outside the American Wing of the Met

Silver vase with gemstones

Odd work desk with bag hanging underneath to store work materials, like for sewing.

Unique piece pairing wood and stained glass

Recreated room with wallpaper on all the walls with different views of a single scene

Another wall of wallpaper with no repeat patterns, just a continual scene going around the room

Wall over the fireplace continuing the rustic scene

 

IT STARTED BY A CAMPFIRE IN VIETNAM – Garry Armstrong

Lyndon Baines Johnson was the 36th President of the United States, from 1963 to 1969. As President, he designed “Great Society” legislation, including civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, aid to education and the arts, urban and rural development, and a “War on Poverty”.

Location: A campfire in Vietnam near Saigon.

Year: 1967.

1967 and 1968 were very intense years for me. I had jumped directly from college and small-time commercial radio to ABC Network News. The time was right and the opportunity was there, but I was a kid thrust suddenly into the big leagues. My journalistic baptism started with the 6-day war in the Middle East which began on my first day at ABC. My professional life continued with the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, the volatile 1968 Presidential campaigns and a long visit to Vietnam, the first of several.

At headquarters in New York, my assignment was to receive reports from ABC’s field correspondents. I’d speak with them over static-riddled phone lines. Difficult to hear for anyone, harder for me. The daily MACV — or war front reports — were often significantly different from what the Pentagon reported. It was disturbing, worrying. Then, they sent me to Vietnam. The sights, sounds, and smells of Vietnam are still with me, 50 years later.

ABC needed a grunt to help the news team covering President Johnson’s visit to Vietnam. I was it. My job required I not be distracted from the job.

I was a young reporter still learning the ropes. I had to stay focused on the story and exclude the other harrowing images around me.

LBJ vietnam 1967It was a typical evening in Vietnam. In the background was the never-ending rumble of artillery. This was what we called “downtime.”

It was dinner around a campfire. GI’s, South Vietnamese soldiers, politicians, and news media were all hunkered down for chow. The conversation was completely off the record.

Chow was beans and some unknown local meat. Most of us ate the beans. We skipped the meat.

President Johnson or LJ as he told us to call him, squatted at the point of the campfire and told colorful tales about dealing with his pals in the Senate and Congress. The stories were punctuated with smiles and profanities. LJ was drinking from a bottle which he passed around.

Good stuff.

Halfway through dinner, the beans began to resonate. The smell was pungent! I must’ve had a funny look on my face because LJ gave me a withering stare and asked if I had a problem. I remember sounding like a squeaky 16-year-old as I responded “No sir.” LJ guffawed and passed the bottle back to me.

Before completing his trip, President Johnson confided to some of us that seeing Vietnam up close confirmed his worst fears. He broadly hinted he was unlikely to seek re-election, given the backlash of Vietnam back home in the States.

I thought he sounded like one of my cowboy heroes putting duty above personal gain. But it wasn’t a movie. It was the real thing. It was history,

The following day was my final encounter with Lyndon Baines Johnson. There were handshakes, a smile about our campfire evening. LJ was again President Lyndon Johnson, one of America’s truly great Presidents.

I thought that ended my personal relationship with Lyndon Baines Johnson, but there was, it turned out, a lot more to it than I imagined. I’ve never written about this. In fact, I’ve never even talked about it, not even with Marilyn. It seemed too much like bragging, but today a very old friend of mine asked me if there was more to the story. He wanted to hear it. All of it.

This is the part I heard from “Tip” O’Neill and which I didn’t knew.

Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill Jr. (December 9, 1912 – January 5, 1994) was an American politician who served as the 47th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1977 to 1987, representing northern Boston, Massachusetts, as a Democrat from 1953 to 1987.


Your “LBJ IN VIETNAM” comment triggered something I’d forgotten for the past 45 years or more. You graciously inferred there should be “more to the story.”

This part of the story has been posted quite a few times, leaving me wondering whether people are tired of hearing it. Marilyn says she posts it every time she needs to remember we used to have “real” presidents in this country.

There IS more. I realized while I was shaving in my “thinking room,” but it doesn’t involve LBJ exactly. It involves Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill Jr., otherwise known as “Tip” O’Neill.

It occurred on a rare day when I have an actual photograph of Tip and me. It has been around this block a few times, but I don’t have a lot of pictures.

Garry with Tip O’Neill

I’m going to write this as I remember it, profanity and all. So, please don’t be offended.

Tip and I were having a liquid lunch at a bar we frequented. It was near the TV station that employed me and across the street from a funeral home run by the brother of a famous Boston mobster. That’s another story. Tip and I were swapping tales between long slugs of lunch. I told him I had an LBJ story he’d enjoy.

Tip interrupted me: “Hold on, Garry. Betcha I know the story. LBJ, Vietnam and you.” I stared at the venerable Speaker of the House and my fellow imbiber. He just smiled as I stared. I nodded, just a bit ticked off.

Tip began to talk, savoring lunch — and the story. “LJ told me about the night in Vietnam, the night he was pondering whether to run again in 1968. LJ told me he was confused, torn by the decision he didn’t want to make.”

I nodded. Tip continued. “So LJ’s nipping at his bottle around the Vietnam campfire with you guys. He wasn’t pleased about the local civvies and the Washington coat-holders being there. He did like having the GI’s, the Vietnamese and our guys.”

I was staring at Tip who was clearly just warming up, a smile spreading over that big Irish “boyo face” that intimidated so many D.C. Pols.

“Anyway, Garry, LJ told me about spinning stories, ragging on about the same bullshit I deal have to deal with in the House and Senate. It’s like dealing with hacks and amateurs, lemme tell ya, Garry. But you know this shit, Pal. I don’t hafta tell ya.”

I smiled and he went on. There was no stopping Tip now.

“Garry, Gar? What the hell do the guys call you? I heard some calling you “Ka-Ching” and “The Samoan.” What’s with that crap, Garry-O?”

“More stories, another time, Mr. Speaker,” I answered.

Tip said: “Cut the Mr. Speaker, crap, here, Garr-ree.” I smiled and saluted as he continued.

“So, where was I? Oh, yeah. LJ is regaling you guys with the beans, that ‘Nam meat crap and his hooch. LJ sez he was really rolling, having his jollies and you were possibly the only guy really listening to him. He sez cut loose with a couple of BIG farts. Those beans can kill ya. LJ sez it felt so good to fart, but you were almost holdin’ your nose. He figured he’d have a bit of fun. He remembered you as that polite, young colored reporter. No disrespect, Garry. That’s how LJ described you.”

“Did he call me SHORT too?” I interrupted.

Tip guffawed. “No, he said you had nice hair with a silly part in the middle — old-fashioned. Nothing about being short. But, hey, kid, you’re not exactly John Henning (NOTE: A local, respected journalist who stood 6’5″ and a helluva good guy.) No disrespect, Garry. Hey, what about Billy Bulger? (ANOTHER NOTE: He was the State Senate President and brother to the noted mobster Whitey Bulger.) Billy’s a little guy but talks big. Okay, where wuz I? Oh, yeah, LJ tells me about facing you up about your stinko look. You apparently backed down and LJ loved it. You, I believe, got him with stuff about cowboy movies?”

I nodded, trying to remember.

Tip says: “LJ sez he told you that cowboy campfires didn’t smell pretty. LJ liked that ole’ Gregory Peck “Gunfighter” sweatshirt you wore. You impressed him with your interview with Peck.” (THIRD NOTE: I’d interviewed the star a few years earlier at my alma mater, Hofstra University. Peck gave me the sweatshirt.)

Tip continued, “Garry, you told LJ that Gregory Peck turned down “High Noon” because he’d just done “The Gunfighter” and didn’t want to do another western so quickly.”

I nodded and Tip continued. “LJ was really fascinated about that little piece of Hollywood information. He loved westerns and boy, I got to tell ya, LJ was impressed with your knowledge of westerns, good and bad ones. He remembered from his days growing up in Texas. LJ was looking forward to seeing you again, to talk about cowboy movies. Dammit, Garry, YOU had a fan in LJ”.

I just sat there. stunned, as Tip O’Neill rambled on, his smile getting bigger and bigger. We stared at our now empty glasses. Tip sighed heavily, shoving my hand aside as he paid the tab.

Tip at Boston Statehouse

He got up slowly, Tip patting me on the shoulder: “Garry, I love these chats. So much better than the crap I gotta listen to most of the day.” We walked out into the sunlight, cursing its brightness after our time inside the darkened bar.

Tip looked down at me: “See ya, Pal. Have a good day. Don’t let the bastards get ya.” Before parting company, Tip and I were photographed. I was showing him my new wristwatch. It looked like I was selling him some hot merchandise.

It was a long, long way from our college days and that little radio station where we all got started.

STAYING MOTIVATED – BY ELLIN CURLEY

There’s an interesting strain in Jewish history. When Jews are persecuted, killed, locked in Ghettos or severely discriminated against, as in most of our history, we stick together. We stay strong and united. We cling to our traditions and our religion. We stay proud and unbowed as we fight to survive, as individuals and as a culture.

From: Miami-Herald

During periods in our history when persecution was lifted, we are more openly accepted into the larger societies in which we lived. When that happens, Jews rapidly assimilate. In the process, we lose some of our Jewishness. We adopt the culture of our homeland. Intermarry and raise our children less Jewish. This has happened in America since the 1960’s. Without an external enemy, we lose our motivation to maintain our cultural and religious identity. We become complacent. We lose some of our unique spirit as a people.

I believe that Democrats/Progressives are, in some ways, like the Jews. When things are going well for us, we lose our identity and our will to fight. We don’t vote in off-year elections and we don’t participate in local and statewide politics as much. We don’t stay organized, motivated and active without an external crisis to propel us into action.

We were motivated by George W. Bush. We became a vocal anti-Bush, anti-Republican, anti-Iraq war force. We voted, we protested, we became a presence on late night TV. Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” became the most trusted man in America. “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” became some of the left’s major sources of news and sustenance.

Then Obama came along and we went back to our daily lives, leaving politics far behind. We stayed home for the mid-term elections and a large majority of states were totally taken over by Republicans. In the 2016 election, many Democrats were not ‘excited’ about Hillary Clinton. No one believed that Trump could win. So too many of us stayed home on election day or voted for third-party candidates. Now we have Trump to motivate us again.

These days, we sure are motivated! We are marching and organizing with a vengeance. We are running local candidates against Republicans, even in deep Red states. We are pulling in record vote tallies in special elections all over the country. Progressive organizations are raising money like crazy, with small donations as well as large ones. Now there are many more late night shows to take up the Democratic/Progressive banner. Facebook, Twitter and other internet platforms have been a big factor in this Progressive explosion. The outrage is everywhere.

Hopefully we can maintain this level of activism and enthusiasm into the mid-term elections in 2018. That may not be enough to win over one, let alone both houses in Congress. So we may not be able to get the major change in Washington that we want through the ballot box before 2020.

But we can also maintain pressure on Congress, the intelligence agencies and the media. That eventually might result in someone being able to link Trump to the Russian hacking of the 2016 election. Or to money laundering, or something else that’s clearly illegal, even to Republicans. That could result in a resignation or impeachment, if something else, like egregious conflicts of interest, haven’t already.

There shouldn’t be a problem keeping Democrats active as long as Trump or Pence are in the White House. Let’s just hope we’ve finally learned our lesson and don’t crawl back into our apolitical holes once we get rid of the current Republican scourge on our country.