To be perfectly Frank

I hope when Dennis Hopper, dead at age 74, got to the Pearly Gates, Frank Booth wasn’t held against him, and he got Brownie points for making full use of his God-given talents.

Hopper and I go all the way back to 1955 when he had a minor role in “Rebel Without a Cause,” followed by a supporting role in “Giant,” while I fell head over heels for star James Dean.

In my video collection, I probably have every major film Hopper has starred in – there are just so many over a six-decade career. Often his supporting performances were so much a part of what made these movies great.

But for me, David Lynch’s bit of genius, “Blue Velvet,” gave us filmdom’s most chilling character ever – Frank Booth – and Dennis Hopper played him.

Hopper reportedly told writer-director Lynch, “"I've got to play this part, David, because I AM Frank."

I hope not. With all the innocence of the world whose creepy underbelly the film exposed, I’d like to think that nowhere in the world there exists a Frank Booth, and that Hopper was just giving us one of the best performances of his life.




Hillary's 2 cents on taxes

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, making it very clear she was giving her own opinion and not that of the Obama administration, told the Brookings Institution “the rich are not paying their fair share of taxes.”

She pointed out Brazil's successful economy:

"Brazil has the highest tax-to-GDP rate in the Western Hemisphere and guess what – they're growing like crazy. And, the rich are getting richer, but they're pulling people out of poverty.

"There is a certain formula there that used to work for us, until we abandoned it, to our regret in my opinion."

Economics is not my long suit, but I know enough to realize that the Bush administration policy of cutting taxes for the wealthy while this country was engaged in wars on two fronts was not exactly a formula for success.

I do remember phrases like “spillover benefits” and “spillover costs” and apparently when “the rich” – individuals and corporations alike – pay their “fair share,” there are spillover benefits for everyone.

SOURCE: CNN’s Political Ticker


Have a great Memorial Day weekend, guys. Take time to remember those who have served – past and present. See you on the flipside.


Art Linkletter, 1912-2010

I’m not an autograph hound, but I do have a few collected through the years.

The autographs of singer Ray Stevens and actress Katharine Hepburn resulted from letter exchanges.

Chances are we all made out to Johnny Mathis. After being told “Mr. Mathis has left the building,” I was allowed backstage to meet the singer after producing my vinyl album, “Open Fire, Two Guitars.” “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this one,” Mathis said, as he autographed it for me.

News came yesterday of the death of Art Linkletter at age 97. Hard to imagine there’s a whole new generation of TV viewers who probably have no idea who this man is. (Read the story.)

“Art Linkletter’s House Party” was one of the most popular shows on TV. Especially entertaining were his “Kids Say the Darndest Things” segments. Many will never forget Linkletter’s deadpan expression when the kid pointed to the little boy next to him and said, “Leroy farted.”

Art Linkletter’s autograph cost me 10 cents.

In the early 60s I made a trip to California with friends Ronnie and Richared. Our hosts were Ronnie’s aunt and uncle, and for three wonderful weeks they made certain we did not miss one attraction in the Los Angeles area – from Disneyland to Knott’s Berry Farm to a game between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers in Chavez Ravine - where I got to see my old arch enemy Casey Stengel,..

At CBS Studios, we attended a taping of Linkletter’s show. The celebrity moved through the audience, chatting with fans before taping began. As he neared, I reached into my purse, pulled out an envelope, extended it to him and asked for his autograph. He said, “It’ll cost you” and moved on up the aisle. I reached into my purse again, and as he headed back down to the stage to begin his show, I said, “Here’s a dime; give me your autograph.” He stopped, signed the envelope and took my dime!

Art Linkletter once told The Wall Street Journal, “I was Oprah before there was Oprah,” and he was.

All those funny little kids will never forget you, Mr. Linkletter, and neither will I.


God knows, Obama's tried

During the 2008 presidential campaign, it was evident that Barack Obama had read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Abraham Lincoln, “Team of Rivals.”

Unlike my friend Frodo, I make no comparison of Lincoln and Obama, save for the fact that I believe each was a man for his time. Like Lincoln, though, and unlike George W. Bush, President Obama desired to be president of all Americans.

Toward that end he has made every effort to quell the rabid partisanship gridlocking this nation today and to work “across the aisle” with Republicans.

My feelings about his efforts to do so have run the gamut from “Hallelujah!” to “Who gives a damn?”

Arizona wants more National Guard troops to control our border with Mexico. Obama sends 1,200. Immediately, Sen. John McCain of that state says, “1,200 is not enough. We need 3,000.” If Obama had deployed 3,000, McCain would have called for 6,000.

In his continuing effort to work with them, Obama met in a closed-door session with Senate Republicans yesterday. He sought bipartisan cooperation on issues such as the economy, climate change, nuclear arms reduction and immigration reform The White House reported the meeting was “productive.”

Apparently Sen. Bob Corker, still wet behind the ears from his Tennessee victory over former Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., didn’t think so, telling CNN’s Dana Bash “that he accused the president during the meeting of taking an excessively partisan approach to critical issues such as financial reform, and then having the ‘audacity’ to come to the Senate GOP conference and use the Republicans as election year ‘props.’"

I’m hearing the echo of “You lie!”

Corker seemed pretty proud of insulting POTUS face-to-face: "I said I realize we are props in this meeting and asked how do you reconcile that duplicity? It obviously hit a nerve. For the president to come in and for us not to have a frank conversation is a wasted opportunity."

I will try really hard not to dip into hyperbole and fiery rhetoric – or curse words. I just don’t believe in my heart of hearts that the good people I know who vote Republican fully realize what that Party has become.

As my friend Sue would say on her blog: Helloooo, Mr. Presidnt, are you listening?

Sir, I am very tempted to say to you, “No more Mr. Nice Guy,” but I don’t think any good was ever attained sacrificing integrity and honesty by assuming the posture of an enemy.

And, like it or not, the Republican Party is becoming an enemy of the state. Hasrsh words, but how else can one define a Party which has put partisan politics above the good of the nation?

I went back to DemWit’s post the morning after your election, Mr. President, and all who commented expressed hope that this country can find unity in diversity.

Many of us still feel that way.


Two women

From time to time I check “Dead or Alive,” which lists on its home page notables who have died in the past six months. (There is also a search engine to check on notables.)

Quite a few with celebrity status have died in the last few months, but there are two women, who, while their names might not at first be recognizable, deserve mention.

I recognized the names “Miep” (rhymes with “peep”) and "Mankiller" right away.

For 25 months during WWII, Miep Gies and her husband Jan Gies protected and fed Anne Frank and seven other Jews as they hid in a secret annex above Otto Frank’s business in Amsterdam. It was Miep who saved for posterity the handwritten pages which would become “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.” Miep died on Jan. 11 at age 100 from “a fall.” Of all involved, she was the last survivor, but the diary lives on. (Read the New York Times obit.)

On April 6, Wilma Mankiller died from cancer at age 64. Mankiller, in 1985, became the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. She left office in 1995 because of health reason, but continued as a revered tribal adviser. During her 10-year tenure, the Cherokee Nation grew and prospered. (Read the New York Times obit.)

I will leave it to you, dear reader, to ponder what these two women had in common.


A brief post follows.

Obama at West Point

I did not hear and have not yet read the transcript of President Obama’s commencement address Saturday to West Point cadets. I did note this comment by columnist John Cory of Reader Supported News:

“President Obama gave a commencement speech to West Point. You should read it because frankly it chilled me to the bone to hear how the wars all started, why they continue and what is ahead on the horizon - more of the same but not as much.”

I’ve read about a kajillion words concerning how the wars started, and I do know that a total of 5,471 U.S. soldiers (6,498 total coalition) have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And, I am interested in “what’s ahead on the horizon.”

So, I’m getting off to read the TRANSCRIPT.


Jackson State shootings, May 1970

If given a word association test, many would respond to “civil rights struggle” with “Mississippi.” How much do you really know about the past struggles, the on-going struggles, for racial justice in my home state?

On 4 January 2010, I noted in “Greed and ghosts of Mississippi” that one of my heroes, Bobby DeLaughter, was headed off to prison for lying to the FBI during a corruption investigation.

DeLaughter, portrayed by Alec Baldwin in the movie “Ghosts of Mississippi,” was the prosecuting attorney who finally won a conviction of Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

Having come of age in Jackson, Mississippi, during the turbulent civil rights struggles, all of this was very close to my heart. I was stunned, therefore, when people I deem informed had never heard of the case, the movie or Medgar Evers.

May 4 marked the 40th anniversary of the shootings at Kent State in Ohio, but did my readers know that 10 days later, on May 14, 1970, there was a similar incident at Jackson State University, then all-black Jackson State College, in Mississippi – a law enforcement barrage which left two student dead and many more injured?

Growing up I lived in such proximity to Jackson State to hear the Tigers marching band and the cheers of football fans.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Jackson State shootings, Democracy Now! hosts Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman interviewed longtime Mississippi civil rights activist Gene Young. Young, by a twist of fate, was born on the Jackson State campus and became a hero on that fateful midnight.

I thank my friend Clara for sending me the transcript of the interview, and I would encourage readers to spend some time this weekend reading it in its entirety. It is a window to the past, replete with all the players and the places which helped bring about Dr. King’s dream.

I have added personal notes throughout the interview from my own recollections and experiences.

As to the question of why the media paid and still pay more attention to the Kent State slayings, I agree with Mr. Young’s assessment that whites shooting white students was bigger news, in the context of the times, than whites shooting black students.

And particularly heart-warming are Young’s words of tribute to our Mississippi home.

Step back into the struggle. This enthralling and enlightening interview is in The Reading Room.


Our Founding Scoundrels

I have to tell you, dear reader, that I am learning some stuff about our "Founding Fathers," who should be called our "Founding Scoundrels." I have been trying to listen along to some fairly new biographies of all of them. So far, I've examined Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and John Paul Jones. John Adams is the only one, so far, who lived his life on a high moral plane. (I believe the beloved Washington was so boring, he didn’t have a choice.)

Most of them, including Adams, left their wives to rear the children and maintain hearth, home and the family income.

According to some pretty astute biographers, most were womanizers – a-drinkin’ and a-whorin’ as old Ben would say - and Thomas Jefferson was, in my opinion, a HYPOCRITE. Not just for keeping his slaves while saying all men are created equal – he did not even free them upon his death; they were sold to pay off his debts. Not even for fathering at least one (and probably all) of slave girl Sally Hemings’ children. Jefferson used surrogates to level brutal personal attacks on some of his best friends, including John Adams, when it was politically expedient for himself.

The point is: politics and most politicians have been rotten since Day One, and the miracle is that this nation has survived and risen above it through the years. Something is working, and that's a good thing.


The books, so far:

“1776,” David McCullough
“John Adams,” David McCullough
“American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson,” Joseph J. Ellis
“Benjamin Franklin: An American Life,” Walter Isaacson
“John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy,” Evan Thomas
“Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation,” Cokie Roberts

Best-laid plans

Just a quick entry. I continue to have Internet connection problems - static on AT&T's underground cable. If I do manage to get on for just a minute, I get kicked off. Please continue to check DemWit. Thanks, BJ


Young love, first love

Those of you who have read my blogs through the years know my buddy Chris. Chris, 27, is mentally challenged, and I met him when he was seven and his folks were my neighbors.

Sometimes I am as equally amazed at how Chris’ mind works as I am with how it doesn’t work. You meet a lot of people along life’s way, but few impress you with true wisdom. So many times, I have gotten that from Chris. It’s all a matter of understanding and interpretation.

Through the years, I believe I have been a help to Chris, and now he helps me. On his visits, he helps me “see” to cook and do household chores.

Last Sunday, as we ate dinner, Chris told me he is “in love with a girl at training.” Both are in a special program designed to help them secure a job. After seven years in the program, it has become evident to me that Chris is not trainable and cannot learn the skills required.

I’ve never been able to teach him to use a can opener, yet he never forgets anything. His recollection of movies, movie quotes, actors, directors matches that of the online International Movie Database.

A keen observer of normal life around him, it’s not surprising that the following dinner conversation ensued:

“I asked her to marry me,” Chris confided.

“At work?”

“No, I asked her on the telephone.”

“What did she say, Chris?”

“Oh, she said she didn’t think she was ready for marriage, but she might be one day.”

“What did your mother say when you told her you asked the girl to marry you?”

“She cried.”

A mother’s tears that Chris cannot live independently, much less marry.

I changed the subject: “Chris, you can’t kiss this girl at work, because they have rules against that, and you could get in trouble. Have you kissed her?”

“No,” he replied, “I blow her kisses.”

Sometimes life really doesn’t seem fair.


Enough, already!

Hats off to Hawaii for saying “enough, already” to that delusional segment of our society known as “birthers.” The state passed a law Wednesday which allows state offices to ignore the endless demands for President Obama’s “real” birth certificate.

Despite the fact the state furnished a copy of Obama’s “Certificate of Live Birth” – not to mention copies of 1961 newspapers which bear the hospital’s announcement of his birth – the so-called birthers continue to insist Obama is not a U.S. citizen.

The conspiracy theories about Obama float from email inbox to email inbox – he’s a Muslim, he’s a Communist, he’s a fsscist – ad nauseam. I get them and either refute them or delete them. And, I’m intrigued that people who don’t take time to keep up with what’s going on around them, will use that time to read such unattributed and undocumented tripe – and pass it along.

I honestly believe the underpinning of all these foolish claims is racism, and that those who buy into them cannot tolerate that an African-American holds the highest office in the land.

It’s not surprising that Hawaii, with its multi-cultural, multi-racial heritage, would be fed up with these attacks on its First Son.

Its state motto, after all, is “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka 'Δ€ina i ka Pono,” Hawaiian for “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”

In other words, “Birthers, bug off!"


Primary concerns

DemWit looks at three races in last Tuesday’s primaries and what they mean, plus what to look for in Tuesday’s upcoming primaries.

TUESDAY, 11 MAY 2010:


Nebraska’s 1st and 2nd Congressional districts: Will Republican incumbent Lee Terry be unseated in November by the Obama win in the 2nd District and his close race in the 1st? Experts say not likely.


The results of Tuesday's primary election most notably a strong showing from a little-known challenger to Republican Lee Terry was met with glee by national Democrats. They say it's a sign the time is right for a Democrat to unseat the six-term Republican.

National Republicans countered that Terry still drew more votes than his Democratic rival, State Sen. Tom White, and they continue to believe the political winds favor his re-election.

White and Terry both garnered their party's nominations Tuesday, setting the stage for a hard-fought battle into November's general election. White is arguably one of Terry's toughest challengers, with a proven ability to raise funds.

White ran in his primary uncontested, while Terry faced a challenge from the right wing of his party in the form of political newcomer Matt Sakalosky.

A Tea Party sympathizer, Sakalosky spent little money on the race, while Terry blanketed likely Republican voters with five direct-mail pieces.

In the end, Sakalosky drew 37 percent of the vote, while Terry took home 63 percent.

“Despite actively campaigning ... Terry's primary win was hardly a clearly defined victory,” said Gabby Adler, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

She called it a “sign” that Terry is vulnerable.


West Virginia’s 1st Congressional District – Incumbent congressman, Democrat Alan Mollohan v. challenger State Senator Mike Oliverio. This race is seen as a test of anti-incumbent fervor. Will West Virginia “throw the bums out”?


Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.) lost his bid for a 15th term Tuesday in a primary defeat that further affirms the anti-incumbent sentiment coursing through the country.

He is the first House member to lose a re-election bid in the 2010 campaign, and his defeat comes days after Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah) was knocked off the November ballot in that state's convention process.

Mollohan hadn't faced a serious primary fight in more than a decade and was seen in some circles as unbeatable, given that the state's 1st Congressional District seat had been in his family since 1968. (His father held it for seven terms before he won it.)

But state Sen. Mike Oliverio ran hard against Mollohan's entrenched-incumbent status and made much of the lingering whiff of ethics problems that dogged the congressman for years.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Oliverio had 56 percent of the vote to Mollohan's 44 percent. In November, he will face former state delegate David McKinley, who won the Republican primary Tuesday night.


Gerogia’s 9th Congressional District: The race to fill the seat of Republican Nathan Deal, who resigned to concentrate on his campaign for governor. Whoever wins will serve in Congress just two months before competing again in the state's July 20 primary, which will determine who is on the ballot in November.



Tom Graves of the tiny northwest Georgia town of Ranger and Lee Hawkins of Gainesville are headed for a runoff for the 9th Congressional District seat. (BJ: In June.)

Both Graves and Hawkins have served in the state General Assembly, but voters in the conservative district showed a strong streak of mistrust of longtime politicians from the beginning of the campaign.

Al D. Marks, a Republican Party official in Hall County, said people were listening to the candidates and asking, "Do we want to send another career politician up there that may have a lot of favors out there, or do we want someone with a little less experience in Washington but clean?"

But political bases, experience and money finally made the difference.

It was a short campaign, after former Rep. Nathan Deal resigned March 21 to run for governor. The winner will finish Deal’s term, which ends in January, but the feeling of victory might be short-lived.

The six Republican candidates in the special election also qualified for the July primary for the seat's next term, so the winner of the occasionally nasty special election will face another challenge before getting unpacked in Washington. A seventh Republican, who wasn't in the special election, also qualified for the July primary.

If there is a runoff after the July Republican primary, voters could be called to the polls in May, June, July, August and November.

TUESDAY, 18 MAY 2010:


CNN: “Will Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln lose in Arkansas? Can Sen. Arlen Specter survive his first Democratic primary? Will newcomer Rand Paul upset the establishment and win Kentucky's Republican Senate race? Will the anti-incumbent fervor take hold of voters and wipe out Congress as we know it?”