Could We Accomplish This Today? Not On Your Tintype, Nellie!

Some Common Wisdom . . . for What Has Regrettably Become An All Too 'Common' Twenty-First Century

With all the build-up to the turn of the century, I confess to having gotten caught up in all the unbridled optimism for what we as a nation might accomplish together this new century. Now with nine years of this century underway, all we seem to be doing as a nation is repeating every infamy, every inequality, every national embarassment of the Twentieth Century--and in about the same chronological sequence, with one possible common ('common' in the most perjorative sense) characteristic--obscenely immoral excess.

Only nine years into this century we've managed to repeat virtually every obscenity from the Twentieth Century:

  • A Return to Racism, but on a far grander, pervasive, and reprehensible scale (see also: Fox News, CNN, MSNBC or ABC).

  • A Return to Class Warfare, but on a far more extensive, premeditated scale (witness the obscenity of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, food and oil prices driven up 'during time of war' by an Administration obsessed with subsidizing and sanctioning the industries and commodities and securities speculators that prop them up).

  • A Return to Voter Disenfranchisement, but with an 'Orwellian' technological twist.

  • A Return to pre-World War II days of college accessibility for the Middle Class. We've deliberately and systematically made college tuition so unattainable that only the wealthiest families in America can afford it. (see also: Class Warfare, systematic destruction of the Middle Class, and dismantling of organized labor).

  • A Return to the Robber Baron Era of the turn of the last century, with the new focus on media, telecommunications, stock manipulation, opportunistic bankruptcy, pension embezzling, price fixing, eminent domain and stock fraud, medical and corporate malfeasance, and consumer fraud on a breathtaking scale--while at the same time, stripping us, through 'tort reform' initiatives, of any means to protect or equitably redress or compensate genuine victims of rampant deregulation.

  • The systematic economic destruction of the Middle Class, but on a more pernicious and devastating scale than ever before in our history.

  • The deliberate and strategic dismantling of organized labor of every kind, in every trade, and in every state of The Union--yes, 'The Union' . . . . ironic, no?

  • We witnessed the Republican-controlled Congress propose an increase in the Minimum Wage from $5.15/hr to $7.50/hr, while cynically tying it to the elimination of the Estate Tax. Had the bill passed both houses, a minimum wage worker would have seen a theoretical average increase of $2,000. The average beneficiary of the Elimination of the Estate Tax would have seen an average actual annual benefit of $1,000,000. Reaganomic 'trickle-down' at its most ignominious. Is it any wonder it didn't pass? . . . . but it almost did.

  • A visciously aggressive renewal of small, fear-mongering, hate-mongering, hypocritical (witness the shameful Terry Schiavo debacle) segments of self-serving 'faith-based' Protestant fundamentalist religious factions attempting to legislate their cynical brand of 'morality' onto the Majority, but this time around, through bribes, influence peddling, and day after day of new 'straw man' social icons to protest and demonize through 'talking points' and a complicit, morally compromised national media corporatocracy. This isn't new. We've seen it before--even during The Golden Age of Radio. But the Father Coughlin's, and Rev. Herbert Armstrong's of that era were effectively dealt with and had their broadcast licences stripped from them in every case by an FCC that still possessed a moral compass. Today, through influence peddling, lobbying, stacking the FCC, and financial manipulation, the Robert Tilton's, Jerry Falwell's, and Ralph Reed's of America seem to simply continue to proliferate as part of the Conservative Right's base. Even worse is the growth of paramilitary "Faith Based Initiatives" funded groups like Blackwater USA, founded by Christian Right Wing multi-millionaire, Erik Prince, a group of gun-for-hire mercenaries, who in true, hypocritical Christian Right Wing fashion have become the third largest profiteer in Iraq--after Dick Cheney's own Halliburton--typically paying their 'patriots' $680 a day--almost three times as much a day as the highest paid enlisted troops (after taxes that only the enlisted or commisioned troops pay)--while billing American taxpayers 1,500 un-taxed dollars a day for each mercenary.

  • A Return to usury as never before seen in American history. The obscene usury and continued manipulation of our economy by--yet again--a small, but inordinately influential segment of the Credit Industry that rivals any and all of the obscenities of loan-sharking by the Mafia Godfathers of the Twentieth Century.

  • The deliberate, premeditated, and pernicious dumbing down of two whole generations has resulted in the following civic ignorance: 1.) 75% of those polled recently could name all three of the Three Stooges, but only four in ten knew the three branches of our Government; 2.) 77% of those polled could name two of the seven dwarfs, but only one in four knew two of the nine Supreme Court Justices; 3.) 57% of those polled could name the fictional boy wizard, Harry Potter but only 46% could name Great Britain's Prime Minister; 4.) To this day, eight years after 9/11/01, two years after both the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces, and the President himself, agreed there were no weapons of mass destruction left in Iraq since approximately 1998, 50.3% of those polled continue to believe there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when we invaded. That's how effective the 'big lie' is. As embarassingly shameful as it is to have to admit, 50 - 75% of Americans are utterly and blissfully ignorant when it comes to simple American Civics.

  • During World War II--once America officially entered the war in December 1941-- it took the full force and power of the entire United States War Effort--both at home and abroad--only three and a half years to win a war on two fronts over Germany, Italy and Japan. Today our 'war on terror' against Osama Bin Laden enters it's sixth year, without capturing Osama Bin Laden--a debilitated, emaciated, crippled man, dragging all manner of life-support equipment behind him everywhere he traverses. This speaks far more about American malaise and apathy, the dangers of the military-industrial complex that Republican President Dwight Eisenhower warned of, and the corporatization of mass media, than it does about the miserable failings of the self-serving, incompetent Bush Administration and its enduring, infamous legacy.

  • A return to the economic denial of medical care exceeding the scale of the post-Depression and Dust Bowl Years. Even more embarassing, given the obscene profits of the Medical and Pharmaceutical Industries while projected Medicare and Medicaid obligations are racking up untenable deficits every year.

  • Like lambs led to the slaughter by a Judas goat, we've stood by unquestioning of a whole series of cynical 'reverse-meaning' legislation passed right under our collectively held noses. From the 'Clean Water' Act, to No Child Left Behind, to The 'Patriot' Act', to the latest insult to our intelligence, the Pension 'Protection' Act. Each and every name--in the most Orwellian 'doublespeak'--meaning precisely the opposite--but we're too apathetic or civically ignorant to 'see' it or or even question it. The Clean Water Act is actually the 'Let's Pollute Our Oceans and Rivers Even More, But Legally' Act. The Patriot Act, the cruelest joke of all is, as we all know now, is 'The Fascist Act'. The No Child Left Behind Act, is actually the 'No Child Given A Chance To Advance' Act--if you happen to be a Middle Class child or lower in our new American caste system. And the latest cruel joke -- the 'Pension Protection' Act, which actually means The Pension Elimination Act. You see, it's not merely enough to foist their cruel, fascist, corporatist legislation onto us--they're not happy till they've twisted the knife a even deeper, by assigning these cynically and cruelly ironic names to their fascist ( e.g., corporatist ) legislation. But we've all stood by like ignorant, unquestioning sheep, with jingoistic loyalty to our flag, our nation, 'our fighting men and women', and it's leaders--just as they [the Congress] cynically calculated that we would, and just as al Quaeda cynically calculated we would. I'm sure they all have a good chuckle together after they pass another one of these legistlative obscenities--laughing all the way to K-Street to pick-up yet another 'donation'.

  • Our wounded soldiers, seamen, and airmen returning from Iraq--over 28,000 of them as of Labor Day 2007--with all manner of missing limbs, organs, mental disorders and disfigurements, are returning to a Veteran's Administration System that our government has systematically defunded for every year of the current Iraq Occupation. Most vets have to pay for their own meals while in recovery, and they're being made to wait as long as 6 to 9 months--depending on their rank--for each new glacially incremental appointment toward their treatment and rehabilitation (unless they're conned into taking a 'short money' settlement that forecloses any further V.A. treatment). V.A. Mental Health services were recently cut by $27,000,000. The very afternoon of 'Shock and Awe' as all of America and the World watched us flatten and demolish the infrastructure of a country we now freely admit we were lied into attacking, Bush's Congress surreptitiously cut the V.A. Budget by $3.7 Billion. The Administration has proposed and enacted $8 Billion of Department of Veteran's Affairs budget cuts since the Iraq Occupation began, and it's proposed another $7 Billion of Department of Veteran's Affairs cuts over the next 4 years. And in the ultimate insult to our injured veterans, the head of the Veteran's Administration lies to the media about the actual estimate of in-theater and post-service suicides among our returning veterans (the V.A. knew it was on the order of at least 1,000 per month, but stated it was 'around 780' a year).

And last but by no means least, let us never forget that we entered this new century with a $370 Billion SURPLUS in our Treasury, and now in only our eighth year we're close to a Ten Trillion Dollar DEFICIT. We're at the tail end of another 'Vietnam War' experience, we've squandered the goodwill we gained from the entire globe over the past 60 years, and our leaders and our nation are ridiculed, vilified and otherwise held in cynical contempt by virtually every civilized nation on the planet. This isn't something that the mythical 'they' did to us. We did this to ourselves, either by apathy, civic ignorance, failing to vote, devoting ourselves to 'things' instead of our own Republic, or most shamefully of all, simply assuming 'the other guy' would look out for us.

There are over 3 Billion laborers in the global economy more than happy to take every job we do here in America, for $25 a week--their living wage, as compared to ours. Is it any wonder that every morally bankrupt American corporation with the means to do so, is shipping their jobs overseas? From a purely 'bottom-line' perspective, a morally bankrupt corporation with absolutely no patriotic compass, and no loyalty to any group but their stockholders can justify doing virtually anything--immoral or otherwise--to reduce the bottom line. There was a time in America when this would be considered treasonous or seditious--especially during 'war'. In today's America, with much of the Middle Class itself invested in the Stock Market, it's become acceptable to simply hold our collective nose and continually do the wrong thing--patriotically and morally--over and over and over again. Is there anyone else to blame for bankrupting our children and grandchildren's futures?

Freedom of Speech
Freedom of Worship
Freedom from Want
Freedom from Fear

In only seven years we've managed to lay the foundation for completely dismantling and abandoning The Four Freedoms we held most dear for the past 60 years: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom From Want, and Freedom From Fear.

After the advent of popular American Radio 24 years into the Twentieth Century, "The Big Lie", a perenially popular fascist gambit of tryanny, was all but impossible to disseminate or perpetuate, due in large part to the tens of thousands of 'mom and pop', small-market, low-to-medium power transmission radio stations that bridged across the landscape of virtually every community of our great nation. That was far too large and diverse a media conduit through which to disseminate 'the big lie' . . . . tens of thousands of troublesome little local radio voices, each possessed of the power to locally disseminate the 'truth' as they saw it and effectively serving--through their synergy-- to quickly silence, dull, or at the least, philosophically and intellectually challenge the 'talking-point, big-lie, noise machines' of the era.

We've stood by apathetically to witness virtually every major facet of our Government become ubiquitously populated with 'foxes in the chicken coop'--the obscene practice of installing self-serving corporate industry magnates in every single regulatory agency of our Federal Government. . . . while they systematically work, in concert with each other, to dismantle and render completely ineffectual those same agencies.

The Flag of The Corporate States of America

It's time for all of us over the age of 50 to ask and answer one simple question: Could any of this have happened during The Golden Age of Radio? If that answer didn't come quickly to you, then I'd respectfully suggest that you've either compromised yourself, or you're in denial. And those of you under 50 . . . . go to the library and pick up a civics book, listen to some Golden Age Radio, or poke around the Library of Congress's extensive online resources and learn about your government--both its history and its civics fundamentals. There's no excuse any longer to remain ignorant. The resources are out there. The shame of it is that these days you have to seek them out yourself.

This Hasn't Been A Very 'Perky' Piece, Has It . . .

I am entirely unapologetic. I confess that I didn't intend to be so glum, but it's become impossible to step back, look at these eight obscene years in historical perspective, while listening almost daily to five to ten Golden Age Radio recordings and not see the obvious pattern--the nakedly obvious, shameful pattern.

Our fabled 'Silent Majority' has, over the years, demonstrated an uncanny propensity for unsilencing itself at precisely the most critical moral junctures in our singularly democratic history. This is another of those junctures. The time for holding our pens, tongues, mice, or keyboards is long past. This is the time and this is the place in our history for all of us, irrespective of political persuasion, irrespective of race or class, irrespective of philosophical or religious persuasion to speak out loudly, passionately and succinctly to demand the return of OUR Four Freedoms, to demand the return of OUR Airwaves, and to demand the return of OUR national conscience.

We are Americans. We are NOT weak and fearful--no matter how much our current Administration and corporate media attempt to insist to us that we should be. The attacks that precipitated this black period in our collective history were not the product of some diabolical off-shore genius. They were simply the predictable, inevitable result of an incompetent, bloated, politicized, apathetic, and ineffectual security infrastructure--no more, no less. But we transformed the 9/11 plotters into geniuses by doing and becoming precisely what they cynically predicted we would: allow our nation to deny its own long history of being fearless in the face of adversity of every kind, against every threat to democracy and humanity, and becoming more concerned for our stock market performance and corporate profits than for our storied Democratic Republic.

We are, for the most part, a spiritual Nation. But we are not a theocracy, nor will we ever be. We are a nation of hundreds--if not thousands--of beliefs, ethnicities, religions, philosophies, and gods. But what we all do share is the freedom to believe what we--each and every one of us--hold most sacred, or most spiritually, ethnically or philosophically valuable.

We are a compassionate nation. We have been throughout our history. We are better than what we've allowed Iraq or Hurricane Katrina and their aftermath to become--both on the ground, and as symbols.

We are--and always have been--an outspoken nation. We cannot remaiin silent any longer, least of all at a time when we need most to speak out. No matter how heavily we're censored, no matter how heavily we're spied upon by our own Administration, and certainly no matter how often we're told through Frank Luntz's, Dick Cheney's and Karl Rove's daily talking points--dutifully disseminated via corporate media--what we should think, say, or believe.

Please read on. . . . I can assure you the other two pieces below aren't nearly as dire or glum--but they are thought-provoking.

Addendum: Late Breaking News! On Labor Day Weekend 2006, we found and captured the #2 Al-Quaeda Leader--for the 11th time in three years. (Suggestion: Find and re-read George Orwell's'1984')

September 3, 2006

I just had to write you guys--I rarely meet people (virtually or in the flesh) who not only appreciate Golden Age radio, but promote the progressive politics born in an era when to dissent was recognized as true patriotism, and when "turning on and dropping out" were not an excuse to avoid the huge social and economic challenges of the '30s and '40s. People seem to forget that the leader of the greatest military engagement the world has ever witnessed was a "liberal"...and I've always been proud to call myself a pro-labor, pro-military, pro-social progress Roosevelt Democrat. How quickly they forget that we owe Social Security, Workman's Comp, and a host of other programs today taken for granted to the New Deal.

I hope the wonderful links you've provided behind the Labor Day images can help remind people what it is we are losing on a daily basis (besides manufacturing jobs, customer service jobs, and our reputation and dignity as a nation). I applaud you both--and am very proud to be a supporter of the Digital Deli. You're doing the country a great service--in so many ways!

All the best

August 2006

These things would NOT happen today . . . or would they . . .

Five (5) lessons about the way we treat people. (Anonymous source)

1 - First Important Lesson - Cleaning Lady.

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one:

"What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

"Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say "hello."

I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

2. - Second Important Lesson - Pickup in the Rain

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rain storm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride.

Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab.

She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached.

It read:

"Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband's bedside just before he passed away... God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others."


Mrs. Nat King Cole.

3 - Third Important Lesson - Always remember those who serve.

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him.

"How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked.

"Fifty cents," replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.

"Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired.

By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient.

"Thirty-five cents," she brusquely replied.

The little boy again counted his coins.

"I'll have the plain ice cream," he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. . .

You see, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

4 - Fourth Important Lesson. - The obstacle in Our Path.

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping! the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand . . .

'Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.'

5 - Fifth Important Lesson - Giving When it Counts...

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare & serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister.

I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes I'll do it if it will save her." As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded.

He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away?".

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

November 2004

Something to Think About This Turbulent Year

How did we ever survive? (Anonymous source)

If you lived as a child in the 40's, 50's, 60's or 70's how did you survive?

Looking back, it's hard to believe that we've lived as long as we have...

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of an open pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets.

(Not to mention hitchhiking to town as a young kid!)

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. Horrors!

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and junk, then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day.

No cell phones or pagers. Unthinkable! We played dodge-ball and sometimes the ball would really sting. We got cut and broke bones and chipped teeth, and there were no lawsuits from those accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame, but us. Remember accidents?

We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it.

We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank sugared soda but we were never overweight... cuz we were always outside playing. We shared one grape soda with four friends, from the same bottle and no one died from this.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X-Boxes, video games of any kind, 250 channels on cable, video tape or DVD movies, surround-sound, personal cell phones, personal computers, Internet chat rooms ... we had pals for entertainment. We went outside and found them. We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door, or rang the bell or just walked in and talked to them.

Imagine such a thing! Without asking a parent! By ourselves! Out there in the cold cruel world! Without a guardian. How did we ever do it?

''Problems' were just that--problems! They weren't 'issues'. An 'issue' was a topic of concern. A 'problem' was when something had gone wrong with an 'issue'.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate bugs and worms, swallowed our gum, got our toungues stuck to a metal objects in the winter, and though we were told it would surely happen, we didn't put out very many eyes with spitwads, nor did the worms or gum stay inside us forever.

Little League and cheerleading had tryouts and not everyone made it. Those who didn't, learned to deal with disappointment..... Some students weren't as smart as others so they failed a grade occasionally and were held back to repeat the same grade..... Horrors! Tests were not adjusted for any reason.

Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. There was no one to hide behind. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard-of. They almost always actually sided with the law. Imagine that!

But the children of the 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem-solvers, and inventors in history. The past 50 years have seen an explosion of social, political, and technological innovation and philosophy. We've had freedom, failure, success, conflict, and new responsibility, and we learned how to deal with all of it.

If you're one of them . . . .