Category Archives: History

The Right Words at the Right Moment

HerdmanI rarely publish the words of others on this blog. But there are rare times when somebody in a position of authority says the right thing at the right time in the right way – and there’s no need for embellishment or comment.

While announcing a single charge filed against a 20-year old self-defined white nationalist and would-be mass shooter in northern Ohio – U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman just delivered such words.

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman’s comments on recent Ohio cases involving political violence

Now let me speak generally to those who are advocates for white supremacy, or white nationalism.  I am talking directly to you.  The Constitution protects your right to speak, your right to think, and your right to believe. If you want to waste the blessings of liberty by going down a path of hatred and failed ideologies, that is your choice. 

Democracy allows you to test those ideas in the public forum.  If you want to submit your beliefs to the American people and get their reaction, please be my guest.  Keep this in mind, though.  Thousands and thousands of young Americans already voted with their lives to ensure that this same message of intolerance, death, and destruction would not prevail – you can count their ballots by visiting any American cemetery in North Africa, Italy, France, or Belgium and tallying the white headstones.  You can also recite the many names of civil rights advocates who bled and died in opposing supporters of those same ideologies of hatred.  Their voices may be distant, but they can still be heard.

Go ahead and make your case for Nazism, a white nation, and racial superiority.  The Constitution may give you a voice, but it doesn’t guarantee you a receptive audience. 

Your right to free speech does not automatically mean that people will agree with you.  In fact, you have an absolute God-given and inalienable right to be on the losing end of this argument.

What you don’t have, though, is the right to take out your frustration at failure in the political arena by resorting to violence.  You don’t have any right to threaten the lives and wellbeing of our neighbors.  They have an absolute God-given and inalienable right to live peacefully, to worship as they please, to be free from fear that they might become a target simply because of the color of their skin, the country of their birth, or the form of their prayer.

Threatening to kill Jewish people, gunning down innocent Latinos on a weekend shopping trip, planning and plotting to perpetrate murders in the name of a nonsense racial theory, sitting to pray with God-fearing people who you execute moments later – those actions don’t make you soldiers, they make you criminals.  Law enforcement doesn’t go to war with cowards who break the law, we arrest them and send them to prison. 

As I said, this case was made by a concerned member of the public and a responsive police officer.  That’s all it takes to stop you.  The men and women of our community are allied with law enforcement.  And every single member of law enforcement took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  Many of us have taken that oath several times – as police officers, federal agents, prosecutors, military members, and elected officials. 

Together, we represent the absolute best of what America has to offer.  Our skin is every color you can imagine, our families come from a hundred different countries and a hundred different faiths.  What makes us different doesn’t split us apart, though.  Those differences are insignificant compared to what is the same about us – we are united in our commitment to each other, to our families, and to our communities.  We are the living embodiment of everything you say is impossible.

Together, we are united to ensure that you commit no further acts of violence in the name of your beliefs.  When you wake up tomorrow morning, no matter what time, I want you to remember something.  You can’t set your alarm clock early enough to beat us out of bed.  The men and women of law enforcement don’t wake up.  We never went to sleep.  We are always awake.  And arm in arm with the public, when your hatred leads you to break the law, we will do everything we can to be there to stop you.

 

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Filed under History, Politics, Truth, Uncategorized

The Democratic Presidential Field & The Democratic Agenda

5050391_011019-cc-ap-possible-2020-dems-social-imgThis year, it seems like every week another candidate announces his or her bid for the Democratic nomination.

UnknownBernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Corey Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, Pete Buttigieg, John Hickenlooper – and maybe Scranton Joe Biden

I say come one — come all!

Let there be a robust, upbeat competition for the Democratic nomination.

VIXFV2FORVCZLLASFYVF6EHGQILet there be a robust, upbeat dialogue about the Democratic agenda.

First and foremost, let’s define the Green New Deal— and then extol its virtues. We need a visionary agenda as ambitious as FDR’s bold antidote to the Great Depression.

This country (and our world) needs another spasm of liberal advancement like Kennedy and Johnson shepherded in the mid-1960s. In fact, a new Voting Rights Act is needed to overcome the damage done by the Roberts Supreme Court. When more American citizens vote it’s better for progressives.

694940094001_6016070216001_6016070379001-vsDemocrats! Progressives! Young folks who don’t relate to political labels!

We need a comprehensive progressive vision for reversing climate change, modernizing our national infrastructure and addressing criminal justice reform, equal rights, economic justice, fair taxation and voting rights – not to mention universal health care!

Let’s see which candidate embraces such an agenda.

Let’s see which candidate stands on an inspiring, revolutionary platform.

And let’s see which candidate can sell it to the American people.

US-POLITICS-ELECTION-HARRIS-VOTEBut, for *@#! sake, let’s not fall into the “Are Democrats moving too far to the left?” trap! Let’s not defend ourselves against charges of “Socialism.” Instead, let’s ask whether people like Social Security and Medicare – not to mention the Interstate Highway System.

The fact is that progressive Democratic reforms reflect mainstream American values. Most Americans want to see human beings survive – and, hopefully, thrive! That’s why tackling climate change is Job #1.

FILES-US-POLITICS-VOTE-TRUMP-BIDENProvided Democratic candidates are in ideological agreement, our 2020 ticket must balance race, gender, age and geography. And so far, I must say — I’m delighted with the casting pool.

Other than the fact that at least one woman must be on the ticket — and someoneon the ticket should notbe a white person — there’s plenty of time and room for any of the contenders to define a progressive agenda, inspire us and fire our imaginations.

Like Obama, a Democratic winner must motivate young folk, women, people of color, principled professionals and working families. Without the enthusiastic support of all these American voters, we don’t stand a chance.

6pZz_T3l_400x400That means American sanity doesn’t stand a chance.

Humanity doesn’t stand a chance.

So, come on Democrats!

We may differ on how we get there. But, despite our internecine disagreements — let’s not give the right wing anything to exploit.

Democratic candidates should promote their progressivism proudly. And they should put it in historical context.

ows_153920112233316FDR’s progressive New Deal” saved mid-century America from the Great Depression, won World War II — and saved worldwide Capitalism.

Democrats running for President or any other office must educate voters on the millionaire tax rates under Republican President and World War Two hero, Dwight Eisenhower. Ike’s highest marginal income tax rate was 91% — during the years that built the great American middle class. Taxing the rich works.

john-hickenlooper-speaks-onstage-at-conversations-about-news-photo-1129660942-1553170112The American people know these things in their bones. (At least the majority of us do.) And we’ll vote in overwhelming numbers for a progressive, forward-looking agenda.

And I haven’t even mentioned the Great Orange Disaster. Leave him to Mueller and Congress.

Democrats must embrace the Green New Deal and an Agenda for a Great American Future.

But, most of all, we must get out and vote for a DEMOCRAT in 2020!

The GOP has proven itself unworthy of governing this still promising country.

MarijuanaCollage

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Filed under History, Politics, Uncategorized

Insect Extinction? What the hell?

10823418-16x9-largeScreen-Shot-2019-02-12-at-8.27.12-AM-e1549989084758On Monday, February 11, 2019, FOX News online ran a piece with this headline:

FOX News headline #2Wait.

What?

What the hell was that about the insects? And the survival of mankind?

According to the FOX News article, a “decline in insect populations happening across the planet has Earth’s ecosystems and humankind facing catastrophic consequences.”

“Catastrophic consequences.”

Did they say, “catastrophic”?

Smollett+caseI thought that among the burning issues of the day was whether some actor from the cast of “Empire” staged a hate crime attack on himself. And that according to sources, Senator Amy Klobuchar might be too hard on her staff.

But now I hear that “More than a third of the world’s insects are threatened with extinction in the next few decades.”

UnknownMore than a third of the insects could be gone in the next few decades? Shouldn’t we be hearing a lot more about our vanishing insects? Then again, maybe there’s just no time to address this insect extinction story – and still have room on our news broadcasts for breathless punditry about whether or not “Pocahontas” Elizabeth Warren tried to get ahead by claiming Native American heritage?

According to this same FOX online report, we humans have already “wiped out about 60 percent of the planet’s animal life since 1970.” Holy crap. I didn’t realize that? I must have missed those stories. Guess I was too busy reading about whether Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt were gonna get back together. And all that stuff about Kanye and Kim. Somehow, I totally missed the reports about 60 percent of the world’s animal life going the way of the dodo bird and the passenger pigeon.

aoc1Of course, with all the time spent on television and in the print and online media arguing about whether Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is a Socialist who’s moving the Democrats too far to the left, maybe there’s just not enough time to worry about losing all our insects?. While the pundits and politicos dither about whether AOC is too extreme — there’s scant time to explore the fact that “Due to the high level off species loss, Earth is considered to have entered into its sixth mass extinction event in half-a-billion years.” That problem sounds a lot more extreme than the political philosophy of a 29-year old freshman congresswoman. But what do I know?merlin_150449823_e3d772b6-4db2-4eba-8875-8f0356db66be-articleLarge

Of course, I hate that The New England Patriots won another Super Bowl and I do wonder what NBA franchise Anthony Davis will play for next. I, too, am concerned that all of the Academy Awards be announced during the broadcast and not during the commercials. (And I still worry about Jen and Brad.) But when I see a headline like this…

100 years

…I gotta wonder about our priorities.

As discussed to death and important an issue as it is — will Trump’s southern border wall help to save our insect species?

Of course not.  In fact, it looks like it will actually make the insect situation worse.

butterfly

Dr. Francisco Sánchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney warns that, “If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind.”

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln – how did you like the play?Insects-on-Display

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Filed under History, Politics, Random Commentary, Truth

Numbers Don’t Lie. Trump Does.

banner 1screen shot 2019-01-25 at 10.22.55 pmbanner 3Events are moving fast in Trump era America.

Trump confidante Roger Stone just got indicted.

img_7463House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pulled the plug on Donnie’s State of the Union MAGA rally.

And the serial swindler who sold his passionate, ill-informed minions on a fantastical Mexican border wall was forced to eat his brain-dead campaign promise — by a girl!

How fast are events moving?

Only a couple days ago, millions of Americans took to the streets nationwide to resist President Trump and his agenda – and the news and social media were buzzing about the dust-up between BuzzFeed and Special Prosecutor Mueller over whether it’s kosher to say there’s solid evidence that Trump told his lawyer-fixer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress.

img_7456Now, Cohen says Trump told him to lie — which sounds entirely plausible. Given Mango Mussolini’s reputation as a pathological liar, it’s completely reasonable. In fact, if it’s a question of whether or not Trump’s lying or encouraging lies, the answer is nearly universally, yes.

Yes! Trump is lying and promoting lies.

But as Trump tries to Tweet-twist the facts, the negative drumbeat continues. His lies piles on lies. And lately, his lies have begun to catch up with him. Remember that wall across our entire southern border that Mexico was going to pay for?

screen shot 2019-01-25 at 10.37.34 pmStarting today, Trump’s Great Wall Cave-in will ignite even more strident right-wing blowback. It was Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter who buckled him into a political straightjacket – and surprise! – Donnie’s no Houdini. Might they spare him for attacking windmills at their behest? (I doubt if any of them ever actually read Cervantes.)

Taking the political temperature today, I predict that by the summer of 2019, President Blowhard Bankruptcy will be revealed to all but his most ardent fascist-religious fans to be a dismal, derelict, treasonous failure.

Why do I think so?

img_7440Part of it is a gut feeling.

I feel this to be true.

I can sense where this Trump/Russia thing is going. Like I could sense trouble when I was a kid and my brother and I were wrestling around in the living room – and we broke our mom’s best vase.

We could lie. We could tell the truth. But no matter what we said – we were guilty of the crime. And we’d ultimately pay for that crime.

Now, President Trump is paying for his crimes.

So, what will Americans think of Trump by the summer of 2019?

img_7484

Women’s March 2019 Los Angeles. You had to be there.

Let’s look at the numbers.

img_7474And not just the hundreds of thousands who showed up in downtown Los Angeles to enjoy the Women’s March 2019. (I’ve illustrated this post with photos of the march, as I accompanied my wife & some wonderful friends.)

Let’s focus on dry, nerdy numbers. Cold, hard numbers are hard to dispute. Especially numbers that mean so much to our Dear Orange Leader…

How is Trumpty Dumpty doing in the national approval polls?

Let’s take a look at Trump’s current poll numbers in comparison to, say. George W. Bush…

img_7447When President George W. Bush left office in January of 2009, he was one of the most unpopular departing presidents in U.S. history. The Iraq War was a crime. There were no WMD. Then the economy collapsed. And oh yeah, Hurricane Katrina, too.

According to a CBS News/New York Times poll, George W’s final approval rating was 22%. 73% disapproved.

bush 3Bush’s final approval rating was the lowest for an outgoing president since Gallup began asking the question over 70 years ago.

C’mon, Donnie! You can underperform Dubya!

You can do it!

For what’s left of you Donald Trump fans out there, dig this…

img_7462Trump’s current approval rating is far below the final ratings of two-term presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, who both ended their terms with a 68% approval rating.

Barack Obama — the first black President — enjoyed a 53% approval rating while Hillary Clinton took on Trump during the 2016 election.

Two years later, Trump is in deep trouble.

Nate Silver and 538’s average poll numbers on the eve of the 2018 mid-term elections indicated a substantial Blue Wave. Trump’s approval was at 41.8% — and his disapproval at 52.8%. Trump was underwater by 11%.

img_7454Sure enough, the GOP got its clock cleaned in the 2018 mid-term elections — giving the gavel back to Speaker Pelosi. Hello, Madam Speaker!

As of tonight, 538’s Presidential approval poll average puts Donald Trump’s support at 39.3% His disapproval is 56%.

Trump is now underwater by 16.7%.

He was down by 11% before the midterms. He lost nearly 6 points before he caved on his Wall.

img_7465It’s only going to get worse for Orange Julius Caesar.

What follows are my favorite shots from the Women’s March in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, January 19th.

Let’s have fun and march until Mango Mussolini falls — and drags the GOP into the dustbin of history.

img_7492

Who could possibly disagree?

img_7491

Over-the-top satire? I don’t think so, Vice President Pence.

img_7444

This is my Women’s March 2019 posse. Bad ass, for sure. I was very safe.

img_7470

This was a big, big march. And everyone was having fun! Winning feels good!

img_7452

What else is there to say?

img_7478

 

 

 

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Filed under Comedy, History, Politics, Uncategorized

The Practical Theatre Company: Scenes from the Early Days on Howard Street

PTC 10

The front window of 703 Howard Street, painted by John Goodrich. Winter of 1980-81.

sc0000c1b2Practical Theatre member Reid Branson (AKA “Reedo”) sent me this cool stash of photos from the very first days and months on Howard Street in the winter of 1980-81 — when the 42-seat John Lennon Auditorium was under construction. Reid took the photos and his wife, Kathy Hahn, made the photochemical magic happen in the darkroom. That’s Reid in the photo above left — in character as Reedo Branson, the PTC’s street theatre candidate for President in 1980. Since we hadn’t built the theatre yet, all of us kids had to play in the street. (It’s the only photo in this post that I took.)

And now, here are the rare early JLA photos from Reid and Kathy…

PTC 17

(L to R) Brad Hall, the author & Rush Pearson — with evidence of theatre construction and band rehearsal in the background. We got a lot of use out of 703 Howard Street even before the John Lennon Auditorium was finished.

PTC 15

Rush Pearson (Left) and a guitar player whose name I don’t recall. (Sorry, sir!)  The stage has yet to be built — but there’s a stack of plywood against the wall. The Chicago Theatre Festival banner came by way of Rush, who had been a member of the Festival’s street theatre company.

PTC 12

Looking toward Howard St., the author is in silhouette — and the seating framework is just starting to take shape. We did all the construction work ourselves, guided by the theatre’s designer, the late, great Louis DiCrescenzo. Work proceeded slowly for two reasons: none of us were great carpenters & we had to raise money in fits and starts to buy lumber and materials.

PTC 13

Another angle on the construction of the 42-seat auditorium. The author can be seen in the background wearing headphones (yes, they had them back then) — and you’ll note some sort of play-pen or crib on the floor in front of me. So, what’s in that crib?

PTC 6

It’s my infant daughter, Maura. She was born in July of 1980 (the same month that the storefront at 703 Howard Street was leased and dedicated) so she’s around 6 or 7 months at the time this photo was taken in the lobby of the unfinished JLA. Lucky for me, Maura was a patient, good-natured baby who seemed to thrive amid the creative chaos of those early PTC days.

PTC 2

Taped to the wall is the poster for “Thrills & Glory”, designed by cast member Gary Kroeger. “Thrills & Glory” (which also starred Reid Branson, Rush Pearson and yours truly) was the first show to be performed in the completed John Lennon Auditorium. We had to work like demons to get the theatre ready for the show’s opening on March 21, 1981. We never lacked for confidence.

PTC 9

It looks as though the theatre seats (donated by nearby Wisdom Bridge Theatre and its director, Bob Falls) have been installed – though the stage and “the monolith” have yet to take shape. That looks like PTC member Al Leinonen at right. The little ceramic chap to his left, wrapped in odd garments is our mascot, Sri Abdul Aziz, whose unblinking eyes watched over the theatre.

PTC 11

Another angle on Al, looking toward the house and those 42 magical seats. Behind Al, Sri Abdul Aziz gazes at the auditorium in wonder. Atop Sri’s head is the hat I wore as Infra-Death in the 1980 Mee-Ow Show. I hope that Al isn’t holding an umbrella because the roof is leaking…

PTC 7

PTC member Herb Metzler naps in the foreground, as Brad, the author and Rush work out a tune in the lobby of the theatre. It doesn’t appear as though the box office as been built yet. But, heck, we’re writing a show — and there will eventually be a finished theatre to perform it in!

PTC 8

This appears to be a gathering of Sturdy Beggars, including (L to R) Rush, Jamie Baron, Danny Deuel, Herb, Jeff Semmerling (?), the author and Brad. Perhaps it’s an early “Thrills & Glory” preview, maybe a break in construction work — or just another opportunity to party.

PTC 1

Casey Fox, Brad and Gary Kroeger — most likely at a “Thrills & Glory” rehearsal. Casey shot short comedy films for the show, Brad did his best to provide some direction — and Gary (the lone beardless cast member) played all the female roles. Ours was a very Elizabethan approach. Not.

PTC 3

Portrait of the author as a young theatre builder. I loved that storefront. Still do.

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Filed under Art, Beauty, History, Improvisation, rock & roll, Uncategorized

Our National Embarrassment…

Flanders Trump

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November 10, 2018 · 1:34 pm

A Reminder to All You Patriots…

Photo on 11-5-18 Crop

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November 5, 2018 · 6:57 pm