Heading back On the Road with Charles Kuralt, this is a much more wistful piece than usual, as he looks at Fort Motte, South Carolina, one of the many small towns in the South disappearing as a way of life is gone, and the once-sleepy cities grow.
This is too bizarre and hilarious. Now Golf Digest is uncovering Trump stories.
On Trump's golf course in Virginia, there his a memorial, signed by Trump himself, honoring the dead soldiers in a Civil War battle so bloody apparently that it's called "The River of Blood." Unfortunately, there's one big problem -- the battle NEVER TOOK PLACE!
(The "funniest" part of the article is when a reporter asked Trump about it, and the best he could come up with as a response was, "How would they know that? Were they there?" No, but they're scholars and study and do actual research from records of accounts of military actions from the army and from people who were -- in fact, really -- there.)
And so now we can add one more to our honor roll of moments of silence in memory and the fallen in non-existent massacres and faux-battles of today and throughout history --
Remember Bowling Green.
Remember The River of Blood.
And in the end, once again, we find the real source and admirer of creating fake news. It's a third-graders gambit: if you don't know the answer on your test, make it up and hope the teacher won't notice. And suddenly, Trump not knowing that Frederick Douglass died 120 years ago, that China and Korea have a complicated history going back 1,500 years, and that Andrew Jackson died 16 years before he could have solved the Civil War becomes ever more clear. And gives fodder to those planning to sue Trump University for fraud.
You can read the article about it here.
"[Hitler] was not using gas on his own people."
-- Press Secretary Sean Spicer
Happy Passover from the Trump administration.
I swear this is true. I swear he said that. Actually it's worse than that -- he was asked to clarify his initial ghastly statement and this was his "do over"!! Really. His initial statement had been, "You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,”
He was attempting to shame Russia into supporting the Assad regime, but it came out oh-so wrong. That's when he was given his mulligan and a second chance to explain better what he meant. Apparently in TrumpLand, where tone deafness, anti-Semitism and ignorance seems to be the norm, cluelessness covers a wide swath. His clarification was worse than the first try.
But it gets even worse, as near-impossible as that would seem.
That's because he followed up this comment that Hitler "was not using gas on his own people" by adding that instead "he brought them into the Holocaust centers.”
Mr. Spicer makes the facilities sound oh-so refreshing, like a Club Med spa. One wonders why the people even had to be "brought" there at all, but didn't come rushing in on their own to sign up for a membership. Though I'd hate to see the brochures. And just to clarify, the proper translation from the original German is "gas chambers."
One also wonders if Sean Spicer meant that Hitler "brought them" much the same as United Airlines brought their reluctant, struggling, screaming passenger off the plane back to the terminal.
Let's be clear: The ghastly Assad chemical attack which brought the Trump attack killed 70 people. (The earlier chemical attack by Assad four years earlier killed 1,700, though Trump's relentless response to that was we should not get involved.) Adolf Hitler rounded up six million Jews into concentration camps and killed them in gas chambers, while putting together a massive military offensive in order to subjugate Europe and ultimately rule the world.
Assad is gruesome and hideously bad. He doesn't come close to Adolf Hitler. And the pathetic, ignorant, shameful, tone-deaf, clueless attempt to make a comparison speaks loudly and emphatically to what exists in the White House.
Sean Spicer tried three times to make a clarification. The thing is, there is no further clarification due. The only proper response at this point is -- "Oops. I screwed up. Oops. Comparing anyone to Adolf Hitler is idiotic. Assad is a war criminal and despicable. But it was foolish to drag Adolf Hitler into this. I'm sorry. Oops."
The only good thing to come from this is the knowledge that Melissa McCarthy will be hosting Saturday Night Live in only one month, on May 13. Which will be broadcast live in prime time.
We made it in. And just in time to wish Happy birthday, Benjamin Franklin. On January 17, 1706, the good fellow was born 311 years ago today. And he might be one of the least-likely historical people to be depicted in two Broadway musicals.
You well-know the second show he was featured in, the Tony-winning and Pulitzer Prize-winning 1776. But the first musical is far-lesser known, Ben Franklin in Paris, which opened in 1964. The show followed Franklin's efforts to raise money in France for the American Revolution, and it certainly had a major star in the role, none other than Robert Preston. And though it wasn't successful, it nonetheless ran for a moderately respectable 215 performances.
I'm not crazy about the by Sidney Michaels, though it had a few very nice songs. And one of them, happily is actually available on video. Not great quality but very watchable. It is likely from a performance on The Ed Sullivan Show (to bring Ed up again...) and includes the scene that leads into the song -- "Half the Battle."
The other song from the show that I like a lot is "Look for Small Pleasures." It's audio only from the original cast only, but well-worth including here. Here is Robert Preston and the female lead Ulla Sallert
For a variety of reasons, I've recently been discussing with several people the famous "Vast Wasteland" speech by then-FCC Chariman Newton Minow, who had been appointed by President John Kennedy and who also was -- and remains -- father to my friend, the oft-mentioned here Nell Minow.
It occured to me that although people remarkably still know of the speech and its memborable line after over half a century, few people have actually heard any of it. So, I figured that that would be A Good Thing and tracked down three minutes of it, including the famous passage.
So, here than from May 9, 1961 in an address to the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington, D.C., is a bit of Newton Minow. --
Also, I thought it would be interesting to hear some thoughts from Minow about the speech from a perspective of many decades. He always has said that, to him, the point of the speech was not the "Vast Wasteland" line, but rather than of television broadcasting in the public interest. So, here's another four minutes from the good fellow about it all --
And so, we've come to the end. The theater was dark on the holiday, but we're back with the final episode of the Second Elisberg Industry Film Festival presentation of Fiorello!. Think of it as the Encore. I figured that a good way to go out would be with a few off-beat but very appropriate videos. Bear with me, there are a few treats here, especially for your history buffs.. Hey, you've made it this far -- stick around to the finish.
We'll start off with a song that I didn't post during the main part of the Film Festival, that's because there was no in-production performance video of it, a number called "The Bum Won." And there isn't such video still, but this here includes a lot of photos from the show. The song comes after party boss Ben Marino and his political cronies have agreed to let Fiorello LaGuardia run for Congress as a sacrificial lamb against the criminal Tammany Hall organization, with no chance of winning -- and yet to their utter shock the next morning when the results are in, he gets elected. This is one of my favorite songs in the show for the reason that I love songs with counterpoint...and this is counterpoint on steroids, with musical themes overlapping on musical themes overlappoing on even more themes. So, here from the original Broadway album is Howard Da Silva and the cast.
Next, we have a featurette done for the 2013 Encores! concert-production of Fiorello! There's no music in the video, just largely actors and others talking about their roles and the show. But it's noteworthy because it includes the only surviving member of the creative team, lyricist Sheldon Harnick, talking about the show, in particular writing the new number, the reprise of "The Name's LaGuardia."
And finally, two unlikely videos that have absolutely nothing directly to do with the production of musical, but everything to do with the musical. For the past two weeks, we've posting videos about a musical on Fiorello H. LaGuardia, who was mayor of New York CIty for 12 years. Well, here is newsreel footage of LaGuardia himself.
In this first video, it touches on one of the most remembered and beloved parts of his legacy -- something touched on in the musical at the very beginning of the show, which is in essence a flashback. During his term in office, there was a big newspaper strike in the city. And the news aside, one of the consternations it caused was that little children couldn't get their daily comic strips. So, Mayor LaGuardia would go on the air...and read the comics he was able to get access to. Here he is reading from "Dick Tracy" in 1945 -- and one of the fun things, which again they touch on in the musical, is how not only does he read the comics, but every once in a while tosses in little political commentaries that relate to them.
And at least, we come to newsreel footage of Fiorello LaGuardia doing what is, in essence, the foundation that pushed his career forward -- going on the air in 1933 and angrily (and bluntly) railing against the criminal activities of the Tammany Hall organization, still then impacting the city. It's the best way, I suppose, of finishing things here. After all, the name's LaGuardia.
I've always loved the writings of the late columnist Molly Ivins, though never read any of her books. I finally got around to reading her most famous, Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, co-written with Lou Dubose, about her years covering him in the Texas statehouse, as well has his checkered career before.
The book is terrific, and interesting historically since it was was published in 2000 before he became president, and was released during the Republican primary. It was also difficult to read, particularly in retrospect, knowing what a dismal and divisive job he did in the White House and seeing how it was all there in his record, and worse.
I'm not going to get into that, though, because I'd end up quoting almost the entire book. In fact, I want to single out two brief passages that come in the introduction. They both point to one of the reasons I like to read current events books when they are no longer current, but history. They add a perspective you would never see -- could never even possibly see -- if you read them at the time of publication.
The first comes on the very first page. Ivins is discussing how conventional wisdom is often wrong, and the course of history often takes a different route than what we expect. And in writing about this, she makes an example to prove her point -- but then makes an off-handed quip, indeed tossed in as the last sentence of the paragraph, not knowing how it makes her point even far better than she could have ever imagined, because it's so pointed to today, 16 years after being written. She writes --
"The quality of leaders does change history, even in a world supposedly dominated by economic and technological forces. Just for example, Nelson Mandela and Slobodan Milosevic were elected within a few years of one another, each at a point when the unity of his country hung by a hair. They got different results. Since there appears to be a shortage of young Abe Lincolns about these days, it's a mercy America is at no such dire divide."
And here we have Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, born with a few years of one another, at a point when the unity of our country hangs by a hair. Each offering different results, at a time of dire, racist, hate-filled, violent divide.
The second in some ways is even more prescient. At the very least, it's more head-shaking, though we shouldn't be surprised since it's written by someone who studied and wrote about George W. Bush so closely and for so long. She's talking about Bush's frat-boy personality, and his sense of pompous macho to prove his toughness. Again, remember, this was written in 2000, before George W. Bush was even elected president. She writes --
"For an upper-class white boy, Bush comes on way too hard-ass -- at a guess, to make up for being an upper-class white boy. But it's also a common Texas mail trait. Somebody should probably be worrying about how all this could affect his handling of future encounters with some Saddam Hussein, but that's beyond the scope of this book."
You just read that and keep flipping back to the publication date to make sure that it really, actually was written before he became president. And then you again understand why you always liked and admired Molly Ivins so much.
And why you love reading current events after the facts.
And why you think it's critical to always remind people of the famous quote by historian Georges Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
I just read this excellent and ghastly Politco article here by Michael Kruse, "He Brutalized for You." It tells of how Roy Cohn became the mentor of Donald Trump.
Well, that now explains a lot.
As the article puts it, yes, that Roy Cohn. The vicious, odious lawyer who was henchman for Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), and who mercilessly ruined lives, many if not most quite innocent; had mob ties; was disbarred in 1986 for “'fraud, deceit and misrepresentation'— for lying on a bar application, for taking a client’s money, for altering the will of an incapacitated man, among other things;" who journalist Ken Auletta called, “One of the most reptilian characters I’ve ever met;” who was a "Jewish anti-Semite and homosexual homophone'" and had a philosophy best-described as "Say anything. Win at all costs." Who Trump would often tell people he was negotiating with that they could either talk to him or -- as the ultimate threat to be avoided at all costs-- they could deal with Roy Cohn.
That Roy Cohn.
In 1980, Cohn told the New York Times that he was “not only Donald’s lawyer, but also one of his close friends.” An article in Vanity Fair said that they spoke to one another “15 to 20 times a day.”
When Cohn's connections to the mob became news, though, and Trump had to answer questions from New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement and Casino Control Commission, author Kruse writes that "Trump distanced himself from a man he once had called 'a genius,' his attorney whose name, face and reputation he would brandish as a weapon."
Similarly, if not more cold-heartedly, when Trump learned that Cohn had AIDS, he began cutting all ties with the lawyer and began moving his business to other attorneys.
That Roy Cohn. Donald Trump's mentor. Say anything. Win at all costs. It explains SO much.
Is it fair to paint someone like Donald Trump because of his connection to a person who had ties to someone else? No, not necessarily. But that "not necessary" is an important qualifier. Because when that connection employs many of the very tactics he used previously and acts as a bridge between parties to become a mentor then, yes, it not only is fair but right and proper. And in this case, necessary.
Check out the full article here .
This morning, if you can cast your memory back all the way there, a few hours, I wrote a piece about how the legendary folksinger Woody Guthrie hated his racist landlord, Fred Trump, as it happens the father of Donald -- who has publicly stated that "My legacy has its roots in my father's legacy."
During the day, something was nagging at me, and finally I realized what. It all had reminded me of an article I'd written here a two years ago about the Koch Brothers and their father -- and it too, oddly enough, touches on folksingers, as well. (In fact, it was the folk song aspect that prompted me to post it.) So, I thought it appropriate to revisit that piece. Here it is.
The Nuts Don't Fall Far from the Tree
I'd always loved this song, and it's amazing how much resonance it's taken on today, 51 years after it was written as a political satire. And today, I don't think it can be played enough, to put the proper perspective on something deeply relevant today. I'll get to that in a minute.
The John Birch Society was a lunatic. extreme right-wing anti-Communist fringe group that reached its peak in the 1950s and early 1960s, so deeply out of touch with reality that even most Republicans tried to distance themselves from the crazies. (This was a time when there were moderate and even liberal Republicans, mind you.)
So over-the-edge wingnut was it that the folk music group the Chad Mitchell Trio not only recorded a song making fun of Birchers, but it was even reasonably popular. There is no subtlety to it, where you have to read between the lines. It's all laid out there bluntly (and hilarious) to scathing ridicule.
The song was written by the Michael Brown, who among his other songs was the equally funny and pointed, "The Ballad of Lizzie Borden," written for the famous show New Faces of 1952. (Another up-and-coming songwriter who wrote for that show was a fellow named Sheldon Harnick.) [NOTE: here's a link to "Lizzie Borden."]
Why is it so relevant even today?
The John Birch Society was co-founded by a fellow named Fred Koch. If that last name is familiar to you, it's because he's the father of David and Charles Koch.
So, here then from 1962 is "The John Birch Society."
Where the Koch Brothers come from.
In an article published in The Conversation by Will Kaufman of the University of Central Lancashire in England, he notes a fascinating bit of history -- that the great populist songwriter Woody Guthrie, who of course famously wrote "This Land is Your Land," once signed a two-year lease for the Beach Haven apartments in Brooklyn, and because of its racist policies grew to hate his landlord, whose name is signed at the bottom of Guthrie's lease, Fred Trump...the father of Donald.
Certainly one can't visit the sins of the father on the son. But as Mr. Kaufman notes, "Recalling these foundations becomes all the more relevant in the wake of the racially charged proclamations of Donald Trump, who last year announced, “My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy.” So, how much of that legacy is part of what Donald Trump proudly considers his own becomes a question not without reason to ask.
In the article here, well-worth reading in its entirety, Professor Kaurman lays out in detail some of Fred Trump's history of racism, including owning white-only properties, and also bilking the federal government from FHA loans and subsidies for urban housing by overestimating his property by $3.7 million. (Keeping in mind that this was in the post-war years, that value today is probably around $40 million. And was clearly part of the foundation of the Trump family fortune.)
One of the most interesting part of the article is previously unpublished writings by Woody Guthrie which Will Kaufman came across at the Woody Guthrie Archives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, and is a regular columnist for the Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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