Play it again, Pete

Moments that stir our senses never leave our memories. One such memory for me was a moment many years ago.

As the song from “Phantom of the Opera,” appropriately “The Music of the Night,” describes it, it was a moment when “silently the senses abandon their defenses.”

I was sitting at the bar in the Bateau Lounge on Bourbon Street. A man with a goatee sat in a chair atop the bar. From his clarinet came one of the sweetest sounds I’ve ever heard, and it had nothing to do with Teacher’s on the rocks.

“Just a closer walk with thee ...”

I share with you the following poignant passage as I listen to Douglas Brinkley’s “The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”

“Saventy-five-year-old Pete Fountain, the legendary clarinetist, tried to stay positive. He was safe, but his $1.5 million Bay St. Louis (Miss.) house was gutted, and his most treasured possessions, which documented his illustrious jazz career, were lost forever.

“Correspondence with Frank Sinatra, gold albums, signed pictures of himself with presidents, Louis Armstrong memorabilia. Losing the gold record of his signature song, ‘Just a Closer Walk with Thee,’ was a truly personal blow. Fountain’s vintage gun collection was also gone. After Katrina, it all came under the heading of one word: debris.

“Fortunately, Fountain had evacuated with his family to Hammond, Louisiana, 75 miles west. ‘Katrina really got me,’ he told the Associated Press, ‘but I have two of my best clarinets, so I’m OK.’

“That’s what Fountain told the press after Katrina. He had that Mississippi Gulf Coast male mentality that no matter what your age you don’t complain. His post-Katrina sadness, though, was acute. For 46 years Fountain had participated in New Orleans’ Mardi Gras parades. His krewe was called ‘Half-Fast Marching Club’ and was a huge tourist draw, parading down St. Charles Avenue while Fountain played his clarinet, a modern-day Pied Piper.

“When February 2006 rolled around, however, Fountain stayed at his rented home in Hammond, Louisiana, refusing to participate in Mardi Gras. His heart wasn’t in it. ‘I think maybe it was just depression about all the stuff that happened,’ he said, ‘all the things we lost, all the disruption. And then you look around and see all the stuff messed up. It just sort of grinds you down.’ ”


Upstairs, somewhere in a box, I have Mardi Gras doubloons from the Half-Fast Marching Club. (If you haven’t caught on, it’s pronounced “half-assed.”) I have Fountain’s original album. These are little treasures I myself hoard.

Smile, Pete. When you take that closer walk, I – and the world – will have your music.

No winds, however menacing, can take away the music.


'Vast right-wing conspiracy'

Remember when Hillary uttered the words “vast right-wing conspiracy,” and the media and public opinion pooh-poohed her?

Now that Bill Clinton has called this vast right-wing conspiracy as “virulent” as ever, bear in mind that he didn’t bring it up, but was asked specifically about Hillary’s remark Sunday morning by “Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory (LINK).

Is there a vast right-wing conspiracy? You betcha!

The Cliintons, Bill and Hillary, like President Obama now, have been the brutal brunt of it.

The Clintons were accused of murder. President Obama is being accused of wanting to murder old folks with “death panels.” The right-wing continues to strip itself of its self-proclaimed monopoly on moral values.

For this reason, the former president says there’s “no way” Republicans will retake Congress in 2010.

For an eye-popping look at the right-wing’s vulnerable underbelly, read David Brock’s “political and journalistic mea culpa,” Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservtive.” (There are multiple paperback copies for 75 cents on half.com.)

This is a no-holds-barred, nonfiction roman à clef which names names and exposes how they dished the dirt.

As one of a bright and talented army of young conservatives recruited to destroy the Clintons, Brock was the dirtiest of the dirty tricksters. As he personally struggled with his homosexuality, he experienced a road-to-Damascus revelation about the puppetmaster pulling his strings.

The word “conspiracy” turns me off, but it did exist when Hillary talked about it, and it exists now that Bill acknowledges it. Brock’s book is a good jumping-off place to fully understand both its impact and the money and power behind it.

Brock continues to expose and fight this conspiracy today on the Web site he founded, Media Matters for America, described thusly:

“A non-profit progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing and correcting conservative misinformation.”

As to whether the efforts of the right-wing are as effective today, Clinton told MTP’s audience, "The country is more diverse and more interested in positive action." The people saw Republican control of Congress under George W. Bush, he said, and “they know the results were bad.”

Inexplicably, there remains a fringe out there hellbent on bringing Obama and his positive agenda down, and we must hold complicit media and members of Congress accountable. They are, after all, doing the bidding of the puppetmasters with the power and the money.


Decade's totally bad flicks

Headed out to your favorite movie rental spot? This one’s for movie buffs and lovers of lists!

In my home film library I have a collection of movies labeled “Totally Bad Sci-Fi.” I also have 17 of the old black-and-white Godzilla films, which might be viewed in a different light when you realize Godzilla represents the atomic bomb. (Bought a movie ticket for the latest Godzilla, and it sucked.)

These are movies which the publication VideoHound Golden Movie Retriever would call “a waste of film and studio vehicles.”

Sometimes they’re just so bad they’re good.

Rotten Tomatoes has compiled a list of the 100 Worst Movies of the Decade (2000-2009).

To help you decide what you might want to avoid for your movie weekend – or check out depending on how warped and campy you are – DemWit has complied the list and put it in The Reading Room, so you won't have to wade through all those pesky screens. This is a LONG list, so feel free to scroll and scan - or zero in on one that was a waste of your ticket money!

Fire up the popcorn and get a taste of totally rotten HERE. To comment, please hit "backspace" and return to this post. Thanks!



My college photography instructor Ed Wheeler was fond of saying “KISS – keep it simple, stupid!” Henry David Thoreau’s repetitious admonition works as well as Wheeler’s.

Theirs would have been good advice to anyone hoping to ensure passage of legitimate healthcare reform.

DemWit has featured a number of posts aimed at dispelling the unending myths surrounding a seemingly unattainable dream of quality healthcare for every man, woman and child in America. It is incomprehensible to me that such lies can waylay the goals of a legitimate president and a citizenry majority.

After reading reams of information on the issue, it dawned on me (I’m slow) that the whole campaign is misnamed. Although polls show Americans are primarily concerned about costs imposed by the medical community, this is not healthcare reform, it’s health insurance reform. OK, whatever works, I told myself.

Back during the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary’s plan was highly criticized for imposing a penalty on persons failing to purchase health insurance. Now that Obama has endorsed the same penalty, where is the outrage? I understood all along the reason for such a penalty. I understand about cost shifts. The question is: does Congress understand there are middle-class families out here who cannot spare another dime from their already impossible household budgets?

Let’s keep it simple: you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip.

I’m reading on my better informed friends’ blogs that the Senate bill produced in committee by Max Baucus (D-MT) is “the plan from hell.” Then Tuesday, the headline on my Progress Report read, “Obama defends Baucus bill” - which he apparently did on a round of Sunday morning talk shows.

Then, there are the cutesy catchphrases guaranteed to confuse even the most astute observer; phrases like “trigger” (one silly report referred to it as “Roy Rogers’ horse”) and “Cadillac healthcare plans.” All these dollops of doublespeak seem contrived to complicate and confuse and send you searching for a glossary of terms!

Frankly, I am limited visually in reading all the lengthy articles promoting or panning this proposed legislation. I have better things to do with my life than spend six, seven, eight hours a day online fighting battles for people who are too ignorant to give a damn about their own welfare.

From the blogosphere to talk shows, this issue has eclipsed every other. The G-20 summit in Pittsburgh. A friend writes that the “Fair Elections Now Act” – calling for public financing of congressional campaigns - has been introduced in the House (H.R.1826) and Senate (S.752) and needs our support. The top general is making dire predictions about Afghanistan. Live Earth emailed me that I have three more days to enter the “Love, the Climate” giveaway!

I recently asked a friend who emails me daily articles on healthcare reform, “Aren’t you tired of all this?”

I am.

To “keep it simple, stupid:” I recall the old adage, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

Advise me if I’m wrong, but I believe Obama made a mistake in throwing the issue over to Congress in hopes of a bipartisan solution. What we are ending up with, at this point, is a watered-down broth of a bill which seems to benefit the insurance industry by bringing millions of new policyholders to its rolls.

“Ranch Chimp” had a blog post not too long ago asserting these newly insured persons will get minimal coverage. Will the final legislation prevent insurers from stiffing policyholders? Who knows? I don’t have time to read these neverending, ever-changing versions. Do you?

Once more Thomas Jefferson’s words are going through my mind. Obama should have produced a bill and presented it to the American people thusly:

“To place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent.”

In other words, KISS.

And bipartisanship - along with Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin and all their ilk - be damned!

In every argument I’ve read, in every discussion I’ve had with others on healthcare reform, the line is drawn, the gauntlet thrown down. Clearly, the case before us is Individual Greed vs. Altrusim. If a certain political party falls on one side of this line, it is misanthropy of its own making.

With one side perpetuating lies and the other claiming racism (with Obama himself denying it’s a factor), there is a cancer growing in this nation that can hardly be, well, healthy.

Let me know how all this turns out, will ya?


A changeful page

“To make this Earth, our hermitage,
A cheerful and a changeful page,
God’s bright and intricate device
Of days and seasons doth suffice.”

- The House Beautiful, Robert Louis Stevenson


Turning the leaves of my life, the most cheerful and changeful pages have come in autumn.

My favorite season arrives today at 5:18 p.m. ET when the autumnal equinox begins in the Northern Hemisphere.

How thankful I am, looking back into the earliest chapters of my life, to have lived in a time so simple a little girl could cherish poster paints, crayons, pencils, tablets and crisp new workbooks as she readied her new booksack for the first day of school. (That was when school actually started in the fall.)

Fall was Halloween and homemade costumes and gathering sacks of candy in a three-mile radius from home. For little kids with little money for candy, it was dumping our bounty on the living room floor and divvying up favorites with my brother Isaac. No one spoiled the moment by telling us sweets were bad for us.

A highlight of the fall social season came on the first really cold day, when neighbors and relatives arrived at my grandparents’ farm for the hog-killing.

I recall no character-altering trauma as I watched my Poppa Timmons shoot the animals in the head, then hang them in the trees to be gutted. Farmhands dipped them in drums of boiling water to loosen stiff hairs before scraping away the only thing on the hogs that would not be eaten.

All the grandkids pitched in, making souse, cooking cracklings and slinging chitlins as men hung hams and roasts and slabs of bacon in the smokehouse ceiling. Aside from the purchase of flour, sugar, coffee, spices and vanilla flovoring, most of what would sustain the family (and company) through winter was preserved that day.

The falls of my teen years brought high school and Ole Miss football and Malone’s taffy, candy apples and corn dogs at the Mississippi State Fair.

In 1985, when I moved to South Carolina, fall’s big event was the opening of the county fair, just a stone’s throw out my front door – all the sights and sounds and smells and the free nightly concerts and fireworks from my porch’s front-row seat.

How sad it was for me when a few years back Anderson University bought the fairgrounds, and those special September moments came no more.

Having grown up among pine trees, fall took on more meaning as I walked beneath the brilliant canopies of broadleaf trees on one of the country’s most beautiful campuses at Southern Illinois University- Carbondale.

Later, drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville, N.C., to the top of Mount Mitchell brought palettes of fall colors in breathtaking vistas across mountainsides.

Despite all that piques the senses, anyone who has lived their life in the Southeast knows the main reason fall is my favorite season of the year – that first brisk snap in the air and saying so long to summer’s energy-sapping humidity.

It’s a time for sharpened pencils and carved pumpkins and turkeys, not Christmas decorations in stores. And, if there’s a fair near you, please send me a candy apple.


What the Beck's going on?

Glenn Beck, as DemWit readers know, has become the schlockmeister of the Radical Right. As one headline suggests, he’s lunatic fringe meets comedy. Horror writer Stephen King has called Beck “Satan’s mentally challenged younger brother.”

I have placed in my Reading Room an article which is seven pages long in Microsoft Word. Reading time for the article: 15 - 20 minutes. I tell you this so you can schedule an opportunity to read an expose of Beck Fever by a writer of immense talent:

“Mad Man: Is Gleen Beck Bad for America?” by David von Drehle, Time, 17 September 2009.

Here’s a sample of von Drehle’s way with words:

“Our hot summer of political combat is turning toward an autumn of showdowns over some of the biggest public-policy initiatives in decades. The creamy notions of postpartisan cooperation — poured abundantly over Obama's presidential campaign a year ago — have curdled into suspicion and feelings of helplessness. Trust is a toxic asset, sitting valueless on the national books. Good faith is trading at pennies on the dollar. The old American mind-set that Richard Hofstadter famously called "the paranoid style" — the sense that Masons or the railroads or the Pope or the guys in black helicopters are in league to destroy the country — is aflame again, fanned from both right and left. Between the liberal fantasies about Brownshirts at town halls and the conservative concoctions of brainwashed children goose-stepping to school, you'd think the Palm in Washington had been replaced with a Munich beer hall.”

So, why is it important to take the few minutes to read this TIME article?

1) Beck’s techniques are fully exposed.
2) The Beck Effect on the masses is fully examined.
3) Von Drehle is one of the best writers I’ve run across online!

“No one,” von Drehle tells us, “has a better feeling for this mood, and no one exploits it as well, as Beck.”

Beck, like on-air populist predecessors, has put up grassroots roadblocks aimed at both stopping the American dream of progress which put Obama in the White House and, not insignificantly, lining his own pockets with profits.

Take the few minutes to read this one: it’s excellent! When you're finished, please hit "backspace" and leave your comments about the article on this post. Thanks! ENTER THE READING ROOM



Former President Jimmy Carter in an address to Emory University students Wednesday:

“When a radical fringe element of demonstrators and others begin to attack the president of the United States as an animal or as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler, or when they wave signs in the air that said we should have buried Obama with Kennedy, those kinds of things are beyond the bounds,

“I think people who are guilty of that kind of personal attack against Obama have been influenced to a major degree by a belief that he should not be president because he happens to be African-American.

“It’s a racist attitude, and my hope is and my expectation is that in the future both Democratic leaders and Republican leaders will take the initiative in condemning that kind of unprecedented attack on the president of the United States.”

Yes, these attacks are unprecedented because Obama’s presidency is unprecedented. As our former president reminds us, these attacks are from “a radical fringe element” in our society. Or, are they?

So many times over the last few days I have thought about the following quote from President Theodore Roosevelt:

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

So, are we on the left hypocritical in condemning the right, having so arduously criticized George W. Bush?.

Yes, we spoofed his slaughter of the King’s English. He did so himself.

But, we also criticized his policies, most notably an unnecessary war for which we are still paying the price in blood and treasure.

We fought against his efforts, in tandem with a Republican-heavy legislative branch, to overturn all that had been accomplished in this country for decades.

We exposed the many scandals at every level of his administration.

Throughout Bush’s tenure as president, I – and many bloggers I count as friends - struggled to …

Well, Thomas Jefferson in stating his aim when writing the Declaration of Independence said it best: “To place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent.”

That’s pretty lofty, but it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if folks turn a deaf ear to facts.

To be honest, we on the left also have our “radical fringe element,” and, yes, I recall seeing references in blog comments comparing Bush to Hitler.

Here’s the difference:

President Carter got it wrong. The truly egregious comments about President Obama are not limited to a radical fringe element. The most damning lies are coming from a former GOP candidate, Republican governors and Republican members of the U.S. Congress.

To construe every criticism of President Obama as “racist” would be a mistake and, in my opinion, unfair to him.

But, how does one explain personal attacks so devoid of facts they border on the absurd?

Are the racists out there only on the right’s fringe, or are they front and center in the Party which once claimed Abraham Lincoln?

I would like to believe the answer to the latter question is “no,” but, as Carter challenged, leaders of both parties must take the initiative to condemn racism against our president, however subtle or disguised it might be.

There are currently 178 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. Earlier this week, 179 House members failed to censure Joe Wilson (R-SC) for wrongly calling the president of the United States a liar.

Not much in the way of condemnation of a man who voted to keep the Confederate battle flag flying over South Carolina's statehouse.

The election of President Obama was a positive statement about race relations in this country. Failure to reinforce this will not bode well for the Republican Party or America.


Patrick Swayze, 1952-2009

I’ve had the time of my life, and I owe it all to you.

Patrick Swayze is eye candy in “Dirty Dancing.”

Patrick Swayze is sexy, gracing one of the sexiest scenes ever filmed - at a pottery wheel in “Ghost.”

Patrick Swayze is Pretty Woman in “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.”

Patrick Swayze is the bad guy trying to catch the big one in “Point Break.”

Patick Swayze is an altruistic physician finding joy among lepers in “City of Joy.”

Patrick Swayze is tough in my favorite of his movies, “Road House.” I suppose I like this one for the same reasons I like Kurt Russell as “Snake Plissken.”

Reuters’ report of his death summed up Patrick Swayze’s on-screen persona: “masculine grace.”

Patrick Swayze will remain forever in the present tense through his filmography.

If you see a penny floating in air, take it and hold it to your heart.


Middlemarch revisited

“He had also taken too much in the shape of muddy political talk, a stimulant dangerously disturbing to his faming conservatism, which consisted in holding that whatever is is bad, and any change is likely to be worse.”
- Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot


Middlemarch is a fictional 19th Century English town created by George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Anne Evans. There exists among the provincial, narrow-minded gossips of the town a few persons who see beyond the smallness of their environment.

A much-disliked businessman takes it upon himself to build a new hospital for both the treatment of and research into fevers. He engages a progressive young London doctor who gains the trust of some townspeople when his treatments prove more effective than those of his medical peers.

The young doctor, devoted to research, has dreams of medical breakthroughs which will benefit his profession and his fellow man.

Most of the townspeople abhor change, and the rumor mill is set in motion to destroy the new doctor’s credibility. The purpose of the new hospital, one persistent rumor claims, is to allow the doctor to kill people so that he might cut up their bodies.

Later, when railways are being built across the countryside, we find that “In the absence of any precise idea as to what railways were, public opinion was against them, for the human mind in that grassy corner had not the proverbial tendancy to admire the unknown, holding rather that it was likely to be against the poor man, and that suspicion was the only wise attitude with regard to it.”

2009: Absent the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of progress will always be impeded by such stagnant, fearing minds.


Take a quiet moment

What a week! Right-wing idiocy out the ying-yang!

Two solid and meaningful addresses by our president – from kindergarten to Congress – and in “quiet desperation” all the right-wing can do is criticize. I’m a tender-hearted person, and all I can feel is pity for they are being used.

All complaints, no solutions.

But, hey, it’s Friday, so let’s lighten up.


That was how I began the TGIF fluff piece I had written for today. Then, I remembered the date.

Perhaps that date – September 11, 2001 – was the last day we all pulled together as Americans.

Suddenly, like some long ago Movietone newsreel, images began to move through my mind.

That second plane hitting the second tower and our collective realization at that moment that something was unfolding – something many of us had not experienced in our lifetime.

More images. Captives sitting in chairs while masked heathens threatened to behead them. Carnage from car bombs.

Nancy Reagan touching her husband’s coffin.

Post-apocalyptic images in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. A black worker describing how he had to rake bodies away from one of New Orleans’ pumps so it could remove water from the city’s flooded streets. CNN’s Anderson Cooper telling Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu to can the crap as she praised officials, because he had just seen rats eating the body of an old lady on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Horror drawn along the lines of race and poverty.

Disgusting photos from a place called Abu Ghraib.

Still, the images stream by. The chilling video of the poor sick mind behind the massacre at Virginia Tech.

Soon thereafter I could no longer distinguish images on TV, but nothing can block these from my mind's eye.

We didn’t lose our collective heart on 9/11, that was already taking place. We had moments that day and in the days that followed when we still felt its beat. But, somewhere along the way, during the last eight years, America has contracted a social disease, which, if left unchecked, will rot this nation from within.

So, take a quiet moment today to take measure.



Keep us, oh God, from pettiness;
Let us be large in thought, in word, in deed.
Let us be done with fault-finding
And leave off self-seeking.
May we put away all pretense
And meet each other face to face,
Without self-pity and without prejudice.
May we never be hasty in judgment
And always be generous.
Let us take time for all things;
Make us to grow calm, serene, gentle.
Teach us to put into action our better impulses,
Straight-forward and unafraid.
Grant that we may realize
It is the little things that create differences;
That in the big things of life we are at one.
And, may we strive to touch and to know
The great, common human heart of us all.
And, oh, Lord God,
Let us forget not to be kind.


What is a nation profited?

Paraphrasing Matthew 16:26 in The Holy Bible (KJV): “For what is a nation profited, if it shall gain money and oil, and lose its own soul, its own security?”

From time to time, DemWit moves beyond screaming headlines and partisan brouhaha to bring readers stories which might otherwise escape their attention.

One such story, in the 6 September 2009 edition of The New York Times, grabbed my attention.

But first, I offer a little historical background:


During the Iran-Iraq War, the United States, deciding an Iranian victory was not in its national interest, began to provide Iraq’s Saddam Hussein with support. While claiming neutrality in the war, this U.S. aid included military arms.

Background on the above photo:

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan, concerned over Iran’s threat to the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf region, issued a national security directive, which, according to the National Archives (LINK), called for “heightened regional military cooperation to defend oil facilities and measures to improve U.S. military capabilities in the Persian Gulf.” The document further directed “the secretaries of state and defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take appropriate measures to respond to tensions in the area. It states, “Because of the real and psychological impact of a curtailment in the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf on the international economic system, we must assure our readiness to deal promptly with actions aimed at disrupting that traffic.” The directive does not mention chemical weapons.

The National Archives report continues:

“Soon thereafter, Donald Rumsfeld (who had served in various positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations, including as President Ford's defense secretary, and at the time headed the multinational pharmaceutical company G.D. Searle & Co.) was dispatched to the Middle East as a presidential envoy. His December 1983 tour of regional capitals included Baghdad, where he was to establish ‘direct contact between an envoy of President Reagan and President Saddam Hussein,’ while emphasizing ‘his close relationship’ with the president. Rumsfeld met with Saddam, and the two discussed regional issues of mutual interest, a shared enmity toward Iran and Syria, and the U.S.'s efforts to find alternative routes to transport Iraq's oil, Its facilities in the Persian Gulf had been shut down by Iran, and Iran's ally, Syria, had cut off a pipeline that transported Iraqi oil through its territory. Rumsfeld made no reference to chemical weapons, according to detailed notes on the meeting.”


We all know how the Iran-Contra scandal turned out.


In George Crile’s masterful book, Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History, we learn the United States funneled more than $500 million in arms and aid (matching Saudi funds brought the figure to more than $1 billion) through Pakistan and into Afghanistan. This aid to the “Freedom Fighters” assured the Mujahideen’s defeat of the Soviet Union.

In one of history’s “unintended consequences,” these arms would later fall into the hands of al Qaeda and the Taliban.


Having presented a little historical perspective, I now call your attention to The New York Times article’s headline and lede paragraphs:

Despite Slump, U.S. Role as Top Arms Supplier Grows

WASHINGTON — Despite a recession that knocked down global arms sales last year, the United States expanded its role as the world’s leading weapons supplier, increasing its share to more than two-thirds of all foreign armaments deals, according to a new Congressional study.

The United States signed weapons agreements valued at $37.8 billion in 2008, or 68.4 percent of all business in the global arms bazaar, up significantly from American sales of $25.4 billion the year before.

And those, dear reader, are the “unclassified” sales, the ones we know about. These sales are not only for profit, but for “political influence.”

Read the article HERE. Don’t make me continue quoting Walt Kelly’s possum, “Pogo.”

Will we never learn?


IRADICATE IDIOCY! Please read the very brief post which follows and share it with parents on your mailing list.

A happy ending

Once upon a time there was a Democratic president, who, for the benefit of his country, pushed some rather radical new programs.

In one program, he directly appealed to America’s school children, asking them for their involvement and support.

Years later when I was in elementary school, children were still marching to his beat. Every American school child.

That man was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a polio victim, and his “radical” program was the March of Dimes,
the first organization to directly engage citizen volunteers to achieve social change.

Every school in this country passed out little cards with slots to be filled with dimes. Every kid worked untiringly to fill the slots.

We did it because we were afraid to play in water puddles. We saw other children encased in metal leg braces, cumbersome wheelchairs or iron lungs.

By the time I reached junior high school some of my schoolmates still wore the metal braces on their legs as children lined up for “cures” by Sabin and Salk.

So effective was this presidential program involving school kids, its focus eventually became the eradication of birth defects.

Imagine an American president asking school children to apply themselves for the betterment of their country.


Ignorance in Education Award

Ignorance won’t take a holiday, so DemWit can’t.

POTUS wants to encourage America’s school children to study hard and set goals, and across the country right-wing parents are teaching their children lessons in prejudice and fear.

The likes of Fox’s Glenn Beck are telling these poor ignorant souls to keep their children home from school Tuesday to protect them from our president’s words.

Today DemWit presents the Ignorance in Education Award to one so-called educator who sadly typifies others across America:

Escambia County, Florida, Superintendent of Education Malcolm Thomas.

Here’s Thomas in his own words as quoted in the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal (LINK):

"We do not let teachers just watch television. It's going to have to fit with what they're teaching the children. We're in a district where our students struggle. We have bell-to-bell instruction, and we don't want to waste a single minute."

So, Escambia County schools, like so many with lily-livered superintendents, have the option to tape the president's words, which teachers might get permission to show later – if they can justify fitting them into their curricula.

I am 67 years old, and I sit here recalling my days at Viola E. Lake Elementary School in Jackson, Miss., where, in February, we cut out construction paper hatchets symbolic of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree and fashioned with our scissors Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat. In the morning, we would “waste a single minute” pledging allegiance to our country’s flag. We revered our president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. We were good kids, and discipline was the order of the classroom. We learned the "three Rs" and so much more.

So, DemWit salutes Supt. Thomas for exposing the ignorance pervasive in our nation today, even in our children’s schools.

A voice of reason at the Pensacola News Journal:
"Students should hear Obama talk," a column by Reginald T. Dogan, 5 September 2009: LINK


Louisiana players

For your holiday entertainment, dear reader. Enjoy!

In a phone chat my sister Martha in Slidell, La., mentioned the increase in New Orleans crime. I told her I am listening to the guy who wrote the book (or books) on crime in New Orleans and in south Louisiana’s Cajun Country.

I’m on book seven of James Lee Burke’s series about New Iberia Parish, La., sheriff’s department detective, Dave Robicheaux – a fictional force fighting low lifes, street scum and mobsters in south Louisiana.

Martha and I made an easy transition from crime to Louisiana politicians. “What about David Vitter and all the prostitutes?” Martha asked.

“Welcome to Louisiana,” I said.

Not one hour after our conversation I ran across this jewel from Det. Robicheaux in Burke’s “A Stained White Radiance:”

“What always struck my eye first as I rolled over the apex of the bridge into Baton Rouge was the spire of the capitol building lifting itself out of the flat maze of trees and green parks in the old downtown area.

“All the state’s political actors since Reconstruction had passed through here - populists in suspenders and clip-on bowties, demagogues, alcoholic buffoons, virulent racists, a hillbilly singer who would be elected governor twice, another governor who broke out of a mental asylum in order to kill his wife, a recent governor who pardoned a convict in Angola who repaid the favor by murdering the governor’s brother, and the most famous and enigmatic player of them all, the Kingfish, who might have given FDR a run for his money had he not died, along with his supposed assassin, in a spray of 81 machine gun bullets in a hallway of the old capitol building.”

That recap of Lousiana political players was written in 1992.

Just a few years before, in 1985, the state’s governor, Edwin Edwards, was indicted on federal racketeering charges and a year later was acquitted of all charges. The next year Edwards lost his bid for re-election and Pope John Paul II visited the Crescent City, followed in '88 by Republicans in convention.

This gets better.

In 1989, former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke won election to the Louisiana legislature.

At about this time, the state approved a lottery and casino gambling.

And in 1991, Edwards won a fourth term as governor in a landslide victory over former Grand Wizard Duke.

Edward's campaign slogan? "Vote for the crook, at least he’s honest!”

In 1993, Louisiana's violent crime rate was the highest in the nation.

See “A Selective Chronolgoy of Louisiana History."

All this is to say, among Louisiana political players Senator Vitter is small potatoes and par for the course.

As I wrote this, I was reminded of a brief post I read back in July on the ThinkProgress blog (LINK), a post written by Ben Bergmann about Vitter.

You’re going to love this:

“Earlier this week, Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) told the Columbus Dispatch that the GOP was ‘being taken over by southerners’ and that the party has ‘too many Jim DeMints and Tom Coburns.’ Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) responded today by slamming his colleague for being a ‘moderate, really wishy-washy’ Republican. Vitter decried the influence of ‘moderates’ in his party, saying that the GOP has not stuck to ‘core conservative values:’

“ ‘I’m on the side of conservatives getting back to core conservative values,’ said Mr. Vitter, Louisiana Republican and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. ‘There are a lot of us from the South who hold those values, which I think the party is supposed to be about. We strayed from them in the past few years, and that’s why we performed so badly in the national elections.’ ”


I recommend Burke’s Robicheaux series. As I said of the movie “Fargo,” “Violence, raw sex, profanity, and suddenly you realize you’re being totally entertained.”

If there’s anything worse than violence, raw sex and profanity, it’s hypocrisy. Right, Sen. Vitter?


Have a great holiday, guys. I’ll see you Tuesday.


Let's just call it stupid

As is generally the case when sweeping legislative reform is debated, the states which need it most are the states where opposition is the loudest.

Healthcare reform measures are no exception.

Recently, I read two interesting Gallup Poll surveys which bear this out:

Among states with “basic access to well-being” – "basic needs optimal for a healthy life such as access to healthcare, safe places to exercise, affordable fruits and vegetables" – Mississippi and West Virginia have the least access. (LINK)

Mississippi, Texas and New Mexico have more citizens without health insurance than any other states in the country. (LINK)

Today's edition of the Los Angeles Times has an excellent analysis of this enigma. (LINK) Here are the headline and sub-head of the analysis:

"States most likely to win under healthcare overhaul are home to its biggest foes"

“Rural states have more uninsured and lower-income people who stand to benefit from legislation, but it's there where the effort faces the most vocal resistance. It's a factor that stymies legislators.”

A senator from one of these states, Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) can’t seem to grasp the needs of his people. That’s because they can’t seem to understand their own needs.

What else can we call this if not stupid.

Republicans are scared to death of a maneuver called, ironically enough, “reconciliation.”

According to CNN’s Political Ticker: ““Under reconciliation, which applies to bills affecting the federal budget and deficit, a measure requires a simple majority of 51 votes to pass in the Senate, rather than the super majority of 60 votes needed to overcome an opposition filibuster.”

In a CNN report this morning (LINK), Sen. Alexander warns of such a vote, “This will wreck our healthcare system and wreck the Democratic Party.” Tennessee's town hall meetings led Alexander to conclude Americans are “scared to death” of healthcare reform and its passage will lead to “a minor revolution in this country.” (Read "Be afraid, be very afraid.")

Is this responsible representation of an area which would benefit from reform? Well, yeah, if his people are too stupid (there’s that word again) to understand their own needs.

In what is one of the most hypocritical statements concerning this issue, Alexander said of Democrats:

"Either they don't know how to operate in a bipartisan way or they don't want to operate in a bipartisan way."

And, that claim, Sir, is, well, stupid.


Happy Birthday, big brother!

Photo: B.J., age 3, with sisters, cousins, aunt and my big brother Roy, 19, back left. I am wearing one of Roy’s sailor hats, 1945.


My big brother Roy turns 83 today. I talked with him last night, and he is just as excited about celebrating his 26th anniversary with wife Glenda on Thursday. What a couple of lovebirds!

Roy has been blind all the years of their marriage, and Glenda has been a Godsend in his life – and our family’s.

Some of my readers will remember a post on my archived blog about the WWII military service of Roy and my two brothers-in-law Paul and Harold:

“A little girl’s pride in military,” I See My Dreams, 15 October 2007.

I believe new readers of DemWit will enjoy reading the post.

Let me take a minute to tell you about a conversation with Roy that touched my heart.

There are five of us siblings: Leroy “Roy,” Mary (deceased), Martha, Betty “B.J.” and Isaac. Our brother Jesse Lloyd was born three years before me and died when he was one month old. Roy called a few years back to tell me he and Glenda had located Jesse Lloyd’s burial site and had bought a tombstone for, as he put it, “our baby brother’s grave.” To hear a man of Roy’s age referring to “our baby brother” made me cry bittersweet tears.

I love you, big brother! Have a wonderful birthday!