Friday, November 23, 2012

Reflections on Jack Ruby

Depending upon who you read, Jack Ruby was a petty strip-club gangster or an important mobster-friend of Sam Giancana.

NOTE: I first wrote this in 2009 and have re-posted it every November since then.

Please limit comments to current post. Thanks.


It was November 24, 1963.

I remember that I was sitting on a footstool, my nose approximately 8 inches from my family's black-and-white TV set. If I got too close, I couldn't see anything, but I was intent on getting just as close as I could. I wanted to see it all.

It was Sunday morning, and I remember well the hubbub of the adults in the kitchen. I was the only one in the small dining room that served as our TV room. I heard the TV-news announcer say that Lee Oswald was going to be transferred in an armored vehicle. I didn't know what an armored vehicle was, but it sounded awesome. And yet... that little guy? As a six-year-old, I was surprised that such a skinny little guy could be the villain of the hour. I had expected the president's assassin to look something like Brutus, the dastardly evil man of the Popeye cartoons... or at least, he should bear some resemblance to Lex Luthor. This skinny, slight, soft-spoken fellow who calmly denied being near Dealey Plaza? Well, he was just spooky, that's all. They kept calling him a Marxist and a communist, words I didn't yet understand but knew meant that he was a bad person. (I would say the word "communist" in 1963 had the similar gravitas of the word "terrorist" in 2009.) I was enthralled by the constant TV-coverage, the switching back and forth from Dallas to Washington... to our new president, Lyndon Johnson and then back to the basement of Dallas city jail. It was as dazzling as space travel.

Middle-American culture had changed utterly and completely in only two days.

For one thing, the TV had not always been on before. You turned on the TV to watch something, and when it was over, you turned it off. Sometimes you left it on, but usually not. Among the working classes, it was not unusual for some families not to own a TV at all. There were often anti-TV holdouts in these families; cantankerous, old-school types who thought TV was all rubbish and probably unchristian. But after this weekend? This archaic viewpoint was consigned to the dustbin of history. Back in my first-grade class, I would hear about parents who had rushed out to buy a TV at long last. They simply could not bear to be left out.

The TV had been turned on, and stayed on. It was on when I got home from school, dismissed early due to the tragedy, and it was on throughout the funeral. And it stayed on forever after.

And the TV was on as they transferred Lee Oswald to the armored vehicle, or attempted to. There was much talk about security because tensions were running extremely high; there was palpable fury throughout the city of Dallas. When police had forcibly taken Oswald from the theater where they had discovered him, hostile mobs surrounded the police car, and it was said he might have been torn to pieces if the crowd had been able to get their hands on him.

Listening to all this, I was riveted. I remember peering intently as they brought him out, my nose almost right on the screen: There he is!

And then, the inevitable disappointment: such a nonthreatening little dude he was.

I peered and peered and then... bang. Oswald was down.


It was so quick. If not for the firecracker-noise of the gun, I would never have known.

"They shot him!" I shouted, "They shot Oswald! They shot him!"

The adults stampeded as one entity, from the kitchen to the small dining room where I was. My mother, grandparents, some other relatives I have since forgotten... possibly my cousin Charlene.

"I SAW it!" I was shouting, "I SAW IT!"

SSSSSSSssssssshhhhhhhh! Everyone was shushing me. Had I really seen that? The adults' eyes were collectively popping. I felt pretty important for being the one to see it.

"He must be really mad about the president, huh?" I asked.

Nobody answered. They kept shushing me, as obviously-shaken news-announcers talked about what they had just witnessed.

And then, the adults were all looking at each other, that way adults did when they were thinking things that they would not share with children.

Finally, my grandfather said, in what I have come to call his Christian Science Wisdom voice: "Well, that really stinks."

My mother's eyes were wide, wide, wide.

My grandfather shook his head and said "Stinks!" again, rather emphatically. My mother nodded gravely back at him.

I didn't know what he meant then.

The TV-announcers were saying his name: Jack Ruby. The man's name was Jack Ruby.


Like millions of Americans that day, I saw a murder on live television. Because the murder was widely perceived as an act of justice, nobody worried about the ill effects on all of us children who saw it. And later, many years and decades later, when we began to doubt that what we saw was justice and instead wondered if it had been the silencing of a co-conspirator... nobody worried about the erosion of our morality and the consequential development of our cynicism.

But I trace it all back to that day, the day in the basement of the Dallas city jail.

They ask us, do you remember where you were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated? But I always ask, instead: What did you think when his accused murderer was pronounced dead? Because the silencing began then, the questions asked that will forever remain unanswered. (As Norman Mailer once explained the existence of the angry kids of the 60s: They hated the authority because the authority had lied.)

My grandfather was right. It certainly did stink. And the stench covered everything.

The lies of the powerful were uncovered and exposed before us, that morning in the basement of the Dallas city jail.

Some of us never forgot.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have a big announcement coming on the radio show Saturday, so stay tuned! I have been FAR too excited to blog about it, and also don't wanna spoil the surprise. I will be announcing it here on Saturday, after the show.

By the way, it is also our 25th wedding anniversary! We went to Atlanta and back, and have been taking it easy this week. It's been a very nice holiday for us both.

I made him a Deadhead and he made me a fangirl. Good trade!


I also transformed my spouse into a confirmed cat-person... or maybe he always was one, just waiting to emerge? I just introduced the cats, and the rest happened naturally.

Time for Simon's Cat! In attempting to find boxes to ship Christmas presents, I experienced the following, as most cat-owners have:


And I really love this one. My younger cat has perfectly imitated all the habits of my older cat:


Hope your holiday is good too!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil

Jefferson Airplane - The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil

If you can figure out the time signature(s), please let me know. A lifelong puzzle!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Military Fakes don't help Veterans

At left: My father, who was not a fake veteran.

I first started reading blogs in 1998, when the USA was still at relative 'peace'--in terms of war and military interventions. In the past decade, I have witnessed the increase and escalation of military activity in several countries... and with this escalation, an astronomical increase in online trolls and fakes, claiming all sorts of bogus military experience.

Yes, you read that right. Fakes.

On this Veterans Day, I am hereby calling out the fakes.

A real military veteran is usually not afraid to name themselves, or at the very least, share a significant part of themselves online: their photograph, their blog, their location, their Twitter or Facebook profile. Like all real people, pseudonymous or not, their experience rings true, because it comes from the heart. They don't always make themselves look good, or certain, or without ambivalence. Like the rest of us, pseudonymous or not, real veterans have a social-media presence that is believable and consistent. People know them, and there is genuine proof of their ongoing interaction in the world, including their military service.

By contrast, the fakes are anonymous troublemakers and the tellers of tall tales. They often claim to be signature bad-asses, such as Marines or Navy Seals (as the Vietnam Era fakes could not refrain from claiming to be Airborne Rangers or Green Berets). They always claim the violent, romanticized, movie-magic aspect of war; the fakes never claim kitchen duty or the boring grunt work of checking in thousands of uniforms. They claim to have seen lots and lots of carnage. They tell stories of car-bombs and how they breezed through such events, unblinking. They brag about drinking coffee next to piles of corpses, unfazed.

And this is how we know they are fakes. Nobody drinks coffee next to piles of corpses, unfazed, unless they are monsters. I simply refuse to believe our veterans are monsters.

For this reason, the fakes are a blight.

The posturing phonies who brag about their fictional service are doing actual harm to genuine veterans, making up bullshit-bad-ass stories, thereby claiming sympathy, expertise and respect that simply does not belong to them. The arrogance and superiority that is frequently obvious in their online personas (undoubtedly reflecting feelings of inferiority and unimportance in real life) creates antipathy in people who would otherwise feel great empathy for veterans. The fictional crap they constantly spew forth (and I have caught them in countless contradictions and lies) aggravates existing negative feelings that many of us have about war; it doesn't do the military any favors.

The stories of well-known Vietnam-era fakes (or 'partial fakes'--such as historian Joseph Ellis and recent congressional candidate Kenneth Aden) have been part of our culture for a very long time... and due to the endless war of the past decade, we can now expect to see a whole new crop of them. The problems with these fakes will be never-ending. There is already enough trouble tracking down the frauds who dare to name themselves and claim jobs they do not deserve.

The online versions are fast-becoming the same sort of plague--and there seems to be little we can do to expose them.

My advice to one and all, is, do not readily assume someone (especially an anonymous online person repeatedly blowing his/her own horn) is automatically telling the truth about military service. The internet has made it exponentially easier to research the specificities of war, as well as the in-depth details of various actions and incursions (and their casualties). There are more photos, facts and figures online than ever before in history. Any of us, gifted enough in story-telling and accompanying ego-driven motives, could likely pull this off with enough effort. Americans typically want to honor and believe the best of veterans, and are unlikely to call someone a fake, unless that evidence is literally staring them in the face.

But in the case of anonymous commenters and people hanging out on blogs, be skeptical. Just as anyone can claim to be a model or cheerleader or actor or math-genius, anyone can claim to be a veteran. When that person decides to show their ass or treat people in a deliberately unkind, nasty fashion, they tarnish the reputation of ALL veterans, while using their supposed (nonexistent) military service as an excuse to be a first-class asshole.

They don't deserve your indulgence, they deserve to be exposed.

Or at least ignored.

Happy Veterans Day.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Paul Krugman on the election

In a piece boldly titled SOCIALISM! in the New York Times, Paul Krugman writes:

I have to say, the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments on the right comes as a surprise. We knew that they would be upset; but the extent to which they were really, truly unprepared for the obvious possibility that Obama would be reelected is remarkable.
One thing that caught my eye, in particular, has been the wailing that Americans have turned socialist. (Conservatives haven’t failed America — America has failed conservatives!) Thus John Hinderaker of 'Bush is a genius' fame declares--
To me, the most telling incident of the campaign season was a poll that found that among young Americans, socialism enjoys a higher favorability rating than free enterprise. How can this possibly be, given the catastrophic failure of socialism, and the corresponding success of free enterprise, throughout history? The answer is that conservatives have entirely lost control over the culture.
Oddly, he doesn’t even seem to consider the more obvious possibility: after decades in which right-wingers have attacked long-established institutions — Social Security, progressive taxation, unemployment insurance — as “socialism”, a lot of young people now believe them, and think that this “socialism” thing really isn’t so bad.
As for me, I am glad I didn't scrub off those OBAMA 08 bumper stickers from days gone by.

I rather enjoy the dirty looks and grim countenances I see this week in my rear-view mirror.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Deb Morrow not elected; annoying Tea Partier is re-elected

At left: Daisy and Deb Morrow at Occupy Spartanburg last year.

My friend Deb Morrow has lost to Tea Party-puppet Trey Gowdy in the South Carolina 4th District congressional race. He won by refusing to debate her. (Green Party candidate Jeff Sumerel was also in the race, and also offered to debate Gowdy.)

So sorry, Deb--you ran a good race. But as you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars will always beat someone who doesn't take money from special-interest groups.

It shouldn't be that way, but it is.

Gowdy wins second term in SC's 4th District

COLUMBIA — (Associated Press) The GOP's Trey Gowdy has easily won a second term in South Carolina's strongly Republican 4th District in Greenville and Spartanburg counties.

With about a third of precincts reporting, Gowdy had about 65 percent of votes cast in the three-way contest that included Democrat Deb Morrow and Green Party candidate Jeff Sumerel.

Gowdy says he wants to continue working to get the nation's economic house in order. He says the nation isn't going to succeed fiscally without real conversations in Congress about spending priorities and entitlement reform.

Morrow was making her first bid for political office. She's retired from a computer services business and said she decided to run for Congress after getting involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement and organizing an Occupy demonstration in Spartanburg.
You fought the good fight. (bows)

Monday, November 5, 2012

I know exactly what she means...

Pundits are describing 4-year-old Abigael Evans as an "internet sensation"--after her mother posted her endearing cries for mercy, correctly echoing all of our deepest feelings!

Tired of Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney

Viewed almost 12 million times, Abigael wins the DEAD AIR prize for sincerity, during this 2012 election.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Zomney: He needs brains

This has been viewed well over 5 million times already, so you have probably seen it by now. But I couldn't resist sharing it.

Joss Whedon on Mitt Romney and Zombie Apocalypse

He has a point, of course.