Nights of comedies, years of fantasies

Munstrous for WordPress JPEG

Hey, whose Grandpa didn’t tell some tales?” asked the headline on a New York Times obituary in February 2006 for television actor Al Lewis, best known for playing the vampire-ish Grandpa on “The Munsters,” the 1960s CBS comedy.

It was a lighthearted and deservedly cheery send off for a brilliant character actor, political activist and restauranteur whose contributions to our lives ranged from a million escapist TV laughs to bold radical street activism.

The headline was also a colossal understatement. Al Lewis told more than just “some” tales like the embellished fish stories everybody’s grandfather leaves us with. In fact, the same obit story listed him as age uncertain. That’s because Lewis at different times had listed two birth years as his own.

He was born in either 1910 or 1923 as Alexander Meister. Or Albert Meister. In New York City. Or 287 miles from there in Wolcott, a small town in far upstate Wayne County, N.Y.

That town near Lake Ontario entered the Al Lewis narrative late in his life when a reporter trying to clear up the matter of the actual year in which he was born asked Lewis why no birth certificate bearing his identity could be located in NYC, his hometown. Lewis responded that he was not born in the Big Apple, but entered the world while his mother had briefly lived in Wolcott to work in a factory.

Sealing Al Lewis’ stature as the greatest man of mystery is that no birth record for any A. Meister can be found in Wayne County, said imdb.com, a public figure biography site.

Al Lewis panorama

Click here for a clip of Grandpa with Marilyn Munster (played here by Beverly Owen, then Pat Priest in season 2).

Imdb said that days after Al Lewis’ death, one of his three sons announced that Lewis had in fact been born on April 30, 1923, not 1910 as the actor had claimed.

“Why the deception?” asked the web site Everything2.com. “It could’ve been part of his tryouts for ‘The Munsters.’ If he was born in ’23, he was actually a year younger than Yvonne DeCarlo, who was supposed to be his daughter. But by claiming to be 13 years older, perhaps he felt he’d seem more grandfatherly to the show’s producers.
“At any rate,” Eveyrthing2 continued, “it seems likely that Lewis told a bunch of stories about his youth, either to support his claims about his birthdate or just for the joy of telling stories.”

Al Lewis’ lifelong penchant for fudging brought anything but joy to historians and journalists, who often had to retract or revamp information they had confidently published about one of the television era’s most beloved and eclectic entertainers.

In fact, that New York Times obituary was the second one within days the nation’s newspaper of record published on Al Lewis, the latter correcting the first’s careless inclusion of already discredited information. The Times obituarist Dan Barry wrote that almost every claim Lewis made about his early life – his birth date and place of birth, his wartime adventures in the merchant marine, his education – was unverifiable and possibly false.

Among others were that Lewis had faced danger touring the maliciously anti-union Southeast to help John L. Lewis organize workers, rallied outside the White House in support of condemned immigrant anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, performed as a clown in a traveling circus, sold hot dogs at Brooklyn Dodgers games at Ebbets Field, and in the mid-1960s hired Charles Manson to babysit his three children (he recalled Manson as trustworthy and caring).

Regarding Al Lewis’ educational resume, the imdb.com site added: “Although he claimed to have a Ph.D. in child psychology from Columbia University, the university has no record of it, under his stage name or his real name.”

Lewis’ reliability began being questioned in the early 2000s after his wife of two decades, Karen Lewis, found documents while preparing for her ostensibly 93-year-old husband’s hospitalization for an angioplasty which showed he was in fact just 80. That was the first she knew of any age discrepancy, but the Times quoted her as saying the finding didn’t affect her feelings about him.

A reporter soon examined the actor’s commonly reported story that he had served as a paralegal in the trial of the Scottsboro Boys, a landmark civil rights case involving nine black Alabama teenagers falsely accused in 1931 of raping two white women.

A 1923 birth would have made Lewis eight during the trial (or college age if he were born in 1910). At whatever stage of life, Lewis said he learned of the Scottsboro Boys’ plight after his mother attended a rally for their freedom.

His mother, if one trusts the following Al Lewis recollection on the web site Everything2.com, “worked in the garment trades. My mother was an indomitable spirit. My grandfather had no sons. He had six daughters. They lived in Poland or Russia, every five years it would change. My mother being the oldest daughter, they saved their money, and when she was about 16 they sent her to the United States, not knowing a word of English. She went to work in the garment center, worked her back and rear-end off and brought over to the United States her five sisters and two parents. I remember going on picket lines with my mother. My mother wouldn’t back down to anyone.”

Nothing suspicious about that classic early 1900s immigrant working class bio.

Also perfectly plausible is the 6-foot-1 Lewis’ description of his playing basketball in his youth in New York City and later serving as a non-hired scout for NBA teams – but was he the very best scout in the game?

When Lewis boasted to independent radio station WFMU’s blog that, “you can call Marty Blake, the chief scout for the NBA, he lives outside Atlanta, and ask him who is the most knowledgeable man of roundball you have ever met. Without hesitation, he will tell you, Al Lewis.”

So Kliph Nesteroff, the author of WFMU blog entry “The Myths and Politics of Grandpa Munster,” ran that claim past Blake, who concurred: “He (Lewis) knew everything there was to know about basketball from the tips of your toes to the top of your head.”

However, Nesteroff also wrote: “Lewis liked to say he worked on the defense committee of Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. If there were any semblance of truth to this, it would have occurred when he was no more than five years old…. Neither was he in Washington, as he claimed, the night the American communists Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, sentenced to death for treason, were executed.”

It IS known that Al Lewis, living out his left-wing values, donated his time and most of his earnings from the two-year run of The Munsters to charities, particularly a program helping teenage runaways, who were proliferating in Los Angeles during the late 1960s. But the admiration one feels upon hearing of this altruism quickly turns to skepticism, when Lewis identifies one of those kids he brought under his wing:

“That’s how I met Charlie Manson. He babysat my three kids…. He sat for four or five hours, he amused the kids, he brought the guitar and he played, no big deal, no sweat.”

Back in the real world of documented facts, Lewis ran for governor of New York as the Green Party candidate in 1998, opposing Republican incumbent George Pataki. Like a precursor of Bernie Sanders and with an accent to match, Lewis toured the Empire State fervently condemning health insurance companies, polluting industries, U.S. wars, and corporate tax breaks which made the poor overtaxed.  At age 88 (or 75?), he won 52,533 votes, above the 50,000-vote threshold for receiving automatic ballot placement in the subsequent election. Lewis decided not to make another run, however, citing long odds of being elected as a Green.

He sought to be listed on the 1998 ballot as “Grandpa Al Lewis” to gain momentum from his TV recognition. A state judge turned down the request.Grandpa Al Lewis on the issues

Before The Munsters premiered in 1964, Lewis played New York City police officer Leo Schnauser in the comedy “Car 54, Where Are You?” from 1961 to ’63. Real police in his hometown loved the character and Lewis did public appearances on their behalf. Relations 40 years later between police and radical candidate Al Lewis were cooler when the Green gubernatorial hopeful criticized police use of force practices as racist.

Everyone, however, was warm toward “Grandpa,” and Lewis’ most memorable TV character was how he was often addressed by political supporters, TV fans and customers at Grampa’s Bella Gente Italian, a Greenwich Village restaurant he founded and where his regular presence was a draw. Lewis would greet customers entering, chatting with them, posing for pictures and signing autographs.

One unlikely sounding distinction by Al Lewis that was in fact documented before millions is that he was once censored by Howard Stern. You read right, censored by Howard Stern, America’s chief poddy mouth of the air.

Lewis, who discussed political issues with iron fervor, but free of obscenities on his own Saturday radio show in the early 2000s on New York City’s WBAI, once joined Stern in an outdoor rally against the FCC’s frequent fining of Stern and others for regular use of words banned on airwaves. Not realizing that his microphone was tied into a live broadcast of Stern’s show as well as the rally’s public address system, Grandpa told the crowd: “We’re here because we all have a purpose… And that purpose is to say ‘Fuck the FCC! Fuck ’em! Fuck ’em! Fuck ’em!’ ”

An uncharacteristically mortified Stern frantically slapped his hand on the mic to try to keep his fines from piling even higher.

“I really thought [he’d] lost his mind,” Stern said on the WFMU blog. “As far as I was concerned, my career was over because we’re on the radio live.”

For once, there was no doubting Al Lewis meant what he said.

Brian Arbenz loved Grandpa on The Munsters — and the radical left positions he took while running for office.

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Enough about the Grassy Knoll! The weak JFK conspiracy case distracts from proven CIA crimes

  For opponents of U.S. foreign policy misdeeds, limiting our horizons to “JFK” is to wallow in sentimental US-centric lore, not genuine radicalism.

John Kennedy with Nguyyan Dinh Thuan
Just who in this picture will be assassinated in November 1963 in a conspiracy? Popular theories say John F. Kennedy, but in fact, weeks after this cordial appearing meeting with South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem, JFK ordered the CIA to overthrow him, resulting in Diem’s killing by soldiers of South Vietnam the following day, Nov. 2, 1963.

by Brian Arbenz

Oliver Stone made the wrong movie.

Instead of blending some facts and much supposition into a story of how a peace-loving visionary President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in what might have been a conspiracy, Stone’s 1991 “JFK” could have been a movie about the assassinations involving Kennedy’s White House which were conspiracies – beyond a doubt. Were it titled “JFK,” however, this movie would be named for the antagonist. Yes, Stone could have used his 3 hours and 26 minutes of holding a nation spellbound to unmask conspiracies by John F. Kennedy’s administration to assassinate or overthrow multiple heads of state.

Of course, telling people what is already agreed to be fact would be artistically and commercially riskier because that story likely would fail to dazzle them like the “what if” spectacularism of the movie Stone made. People my age and older feel separation anxiety from the sudden and unforeseeable loss of our charismatic president; Stone’s “JFK” treads heavily on that shared experience. Yet regarding John F. Kennedy’s role in carrying out conspiracies against Ngo Dinh Diem, Patrice Lumumba and Fidel Castro, a three-hour tutorial explaining those would become mired in the arcane in the minds of the moviegoing public.

It isn’t government censorship any more that keeps Americans from intimately knowing the facts about our nation’s real conspiracies. It is the ho-hum factor.

So, we are inured to the truth that JFK’s administration tried to kill Fidel Castro, overthrew South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem in a CIA-launched coup that resulted in Diem’s death, and fully cooperated with attempts by the Eisenhower White House to kill Congolese elected president Patrice Lumumba, and helped establish the corrupt dictatorship that replaced the social reformer Lumumba, who was murdered three days before JFK took the oath of office.

Of course, my suggested alternate movie should not really be called “JFK,” because it certainly wasn’t just John F. Kennedy who plotted illegal and intrusive interventions. His presidency was merely a brief shining moment in more than a century of covert actions carried out by corrupt U.S. foreign policy makers for vested interests.

Whereas the real-life JFK was not the conspirator, he also was not the valiant insurgent against the cold war as he is championed by the didactic movie’s central character, maverick prosecutor Jim Garrison. Played by Kevin Costner, Garrison argues the case before a jury of millions that the military industrial complex removed the president in a coup on Nov. 22, 1963 to propel the nation into the Vietnam War, with a misfit ex-marine being only a patsy.

Let me first, nonetheless, acknowledge that not all appreciation of John F. Kennedy is merely sentimental. He absolutely did stand apart from the cold warrior orthodoxy in the world’s most nervous moment. In October 1962 JFK was there for us (the 4-year-old me included) preventing – barely – a nuclear war, and he signed the treaty banning above ground nuclear tests the following year.

Much is overlooked, however, by Oliver Stone and other advocates of the theory that JFK was going to pull us out of Vietnam, but the CIA and the military and its contractors wouldn’t stand for that. In fact, as noted above, the Kennedy Administration ordered the CIA’s overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963, a secret act which made the U.S. a regime builder, therefore more heavily involved in the then nine-year-long war between North and South Vietnam.

History.com said of the Kennedy-backed overthrow of Diem:

“…the United States was more heavily involved in the South Vietnamese quagmire than ever. Its participation in the overthrow of the Diem regime signaled a growing impatience with South Vietnamese management of the war. From this point on, the United States moved step by step to become more directly and heavily involved in the fight against the communist rebels.”

And regarding Congo, Kennedy, as president-elect, was in on a CIA assassination plot (devised under Eisenhower’s presidency) against the democratically elected president Patrice Lumumba, whose pro-labor stances threatened the western mining interests wanting Congo’s rich mineral resources at lower costs. Just after Kennedy took office, (his inauguration was three days after Lumumba was murdered by Congolese opponents strongly supported by, and likely directed by the Belgian and U.S. governments), his administration finished off Lumumba’s democratic anti-colonialist revolution by propping up corrupt dictator Joseph Mobutu, a lackey for corporate interests.

JFK google sites

Moreover, the Kennedy Administration, possibly without the president’s okay, tried to assassinate Fidel Castro to end his Cuban revolution for the same reasons – its widely popular economic and social models threatened corporate profits. Attorney General Robert Kennedy knew about the plot against Castro and very likely would have told his brother of it. Moreover, JFK backed U.S. sabotage against Cuba’s economy, falsified a “missile gap” with the Soviet Union to raise spending on the nuclear arms race and deceived the world in a speech in Seattle in November 1961, saying the U.S. is at a disadvantage against the Soviets because assassination, disinformation and counterfeit mobs were tactics we simply could not use. We certainly had used them under his presidency and/or Eisenhower’s to destroy democracy and human rights in Guatemala and Iran, as well as Congo, all to boost the profits of well-connected fruit, oil and mining corporations.

In Oliver Stone’s movie, there actually is a reference to our 1954 overthrow of Guatemala’s government, but President Kennedy himself is heroized throughout the film. The cinematic JFK is shown as firmly intending to pull our limited military contingent out of Vietnam by the end of 1965, and some agreeing with Stone’s narrative even maintain he intended to end the nuclear arms race. Then came six seconds of (however many) gunshots in Dallas, and Kennedy’s successor – described by the sermonizing Jim Garrison as “Lyndon Johnson waiting in the wings” – scuttled all our hopes with a secret order sending 600,000 young Americans into the war.

A SECOND OPINION on President Kennedy’s wounds JFK targetHEAD

“I will always know he was shot from the front.” — Dr. Charles Crenshaw.

…but it’s not that simple, said Dr. Malcolm Perry.

Other Parkland doctors recall the wounds.

The notion of John F. Kennedy the peacenik counterpoised to a war machine preparing to cut him down in Texas on the thousandth day of his presidency can be dispelled with some sobering words from the president himself, delivered right there and then. Hours before he was assassinated, JFK spoke in Ft. Worth not of disarmament and peace, but of his massive military buildup. Granted, he was wanting to assuage the rabid disdain for him in a state controlled by rich war hawks, but the numbers in this Nov. 22, 1963 speech, the last he would deliver, stand as empirical evidence that JFK had been no threat to the military industrial complex, that force which the conspiracy theorists insist had decided the president was such a roadblock to their agenda he should be removed in a coup.

JFK missle.jpg-large
JFK and a model of an ICBM

”In the past 3 years,” Kennedy said in Fort Worth, “we have increased the defense budget of the United States by over 20 percent; increased the program of acquisition for Polaris submarines from 24 to 41; increased our Minuteman missile purchase program by more than 75 percent; doubled the number of strategic bombers and missiles on alert; doubled the number of nuclear weapons available in the strategic alert forces; increased the tactical nuclear forces deployed in Western Europe by over 60 percent; added five combat ready divisions to the Army of the United States, and five tactical fighter wings to the Air Force of the United States; increased our strategic airlift capability by 75 percent; and increased our special counterinsurgency forces which are engaged now in South Vietnam by 600 percent.”

These numbers are not found in the “JKF” screenplay; neither is any mention of JFK removing Diem or undermining Lumumba. The movie, however, includes a brief portrayal of new President LBJ on Nov. 26, 1963 eagerly signing NSAM 273, a National Security Action Memorandum on Vietnam, which had substantial differences from NSAM 263, a Vietnam plan signed by JFK Oct. 2, 1963. The timing of Johnson’s signature four days after Kennedy fell dead by the grassy knoll is used as evidence of the movie’s central thesis – that President Kennedy was killed in a coup to keep the U.S. military from pulling out of Vietnam.

There is no question that a headstrong President Lyndon Johnson pushed us deeper into Vietnam faster than Kennedy would have. Being an oil state icon, Johnson was almost certainly moved to prop up the Saigon government quickly by talk that huge oil reserves were under the South China Sea.

While parts of the LBJ-signed NSAM 273 do talk more directly of U.S. intervention – saying our objective is to “win” the struggle rather than to help the South Vietnamese win it, there is more in the memo which should douse the fervor of those linking the assassination so directly to the buildup in Vietnam. Section 2 of NSAM 273 states:

The objectives of the United States with respect to the withdrawal of U. S. military personnel remain as stated in the White House statement of October 2, 1963.”

That was Kennedy’s plan in NSAM 263 to withdraw 1,000 U.S. troops by the end of 1963, then withdraw all our troops by the end of 1965.

Critics of the LBJ conspiracy theory also note that in that Kennedy-signed 263 memo, the plan to withdraw them in those two phases seems to be contingent on the South Vietnamese military and government becoming stronger and more able to hold their own on the battlefield without us.

Specifically, those critics note that section 3 of NSAM 263 says of the rationale for a U.S. withdraw:

“Major U.S. assistance in support of this military effort is needed only until the insurgency has been suppressed or until the national security forces of the Government of South Viet Nam are capable of suppressing it.

“Secretary McNamara and General Taylor reported their judgment that the major part of the U.S. military task can be completed by the end of 1965, although there may be a continuing requirement for a limited number of U.S. training personnel. They reported that by the end of this year, the U.S. program for training Vietnamese should have progressed to the point where 1,000 U.S. military personnel assigned to South Vietnam can be withdrawn.”

This timetable seems unrealistically optimistic, given the corruption within the Saigon government and arrogant attitudes in its military ranks. Critics of the assassination conspiracy theory site NSAM 263 not as JFK’s plan for peace, but as the first example of “light at the end of the tunnel” syndrome – that pathology of always seeing us being nearly able to pull out of Vietnam — that worsened under LBJ, keeping us mired in a war that increasingly was seen as purposeless.

VIDEO: So many conditions on withdrawal. Oct. 31, 1963  JFK press conf 10 31 1963

There is no doubt that Lyndon Johnson’s hubris and penchant for back room deals sent us down a faster track into the war than Jack Kennedy would have, but the differing attitudes of each man were not the only factor in weighing how JFK, had he lived, would have dealt with Vietnam compared to Johnson’s handling of the issue. Circumstances on the ground in Vietnam being certain to turn worse than projected in memo 263, combined with a re-election battle against an anti-communist GOP candidate likely would have pressed JFK into a deeper war. Polls in 1963 showed Kennedy was vulnerable against either Barry Goldwater or Nelson Rockefeller.

Conspiracy theorists, whose work has become an industry and whose gatherings sometimes resemble religious revivals, have weakened actual activism against the United States’ illegal and imperialist foreign policy aggressions by making the proof hinge on the JFK assassination conspiracy theory. The U.S. CIA and secretive corporate interests cozy with it do assassinate leaders, destroy democracy, start wars, use torture and kill innocents — all to protect the profits of corporations such as United Fruit and ITT and to keep Persian Gulf dictatorships buying up U.S. currency to finance our deficits.

This is not a matter of debate. Yet, Oliver Stone, authors such as Harrison Livingstone and Robert Groden and innumerable bloggers and video documentarians devote the commanding heights of popular media to championing a faulty theory that safely absorbs the passions of activists into a flood plain of drama, selective facts and outright fallacies.

Oswald mug shotLee Harvey Oswald: Part of a right wing anti-Castro conspiracy? The Odio sisters recall him as such.

Brother Robert Oswald and others say Lee was just desperate to be important.

The Odios’ account is scrutinized by researcher John McAdams.

The pro-conspiracy people have cherry picked evidence from much more than the two National Security memos.

In an oft-cited 1963 interview with Walter Cronkite, JFK declares of Vietnam: “In the final analysis it is the people and the Government [of South Vietnam] itself who have to win or lose this struggle. All we can do is help, and we are making it very clear.” But his next words, left out of most conspiracy theorist accounts, are: “But I don’t agree with those who say we should withdraw. That would be a great mistake. I know people don’t like Americans to be engaged in this kind of an effort. Forty-seven Americans have been killed in combat with the enemy, but this is a very important struggle even though it is far away.”

Of course, some defenders of the Oliver Stone view note that memo 263 says the plan to withdraw from Vietnam should be kept secret for the time being, which could explain the above statement.

Still, an Oval Office interview with JFK on Sept. 9, 1963 by NBC duo Chet Huntley and David Brinkley displayed more unwavering JFK interventionism concerning Vietnam:

Mr. HUNTLEY: “Are we likely to reduce our aid to South Vietnam now?”

The PRESIDENT: “I don’t think we think that would be helpful at this time. If you reduce your aid, it is possible you could have some effect upon the government structure there. On the other hand, you might have a situation which could bring about a collapse. Strongly in our mind is what happened in the case of China at the end of World War II, where China was lost, a weak government became increasingly unable to control events. We don’t want that.”

Mr. BRINKLEY: “Mr. President, have you had any reason to doubt this so-called ‘domino theory,’ that if South Viet-Nam falls, the rest of Southeast Asia will go behind it?”

The PRESIDENT: “No, I believe it. I believe it. I think that the struggle is close enough. China is so large, looms so high just beyond the frontiers, that if South Viet-Nam went, it would not only give them an improved geographic position for a guerrilla assault on Malaya but would also give the impression that the wave of the future in Southeast Asia was China and the Communists….

“What I am concerned about is that Americans will get impatient and say, because they don’t like events in Southeast Asia or they don’t like the Government in Saigon, that we should withdraw. That only makes it easy for the Communists. I think we should stay.

“We should use our influence in as effective a way as we can, but we should not withdraw.”

Brian Arbenz has been opposing CIA crimes for more than 30 years as a writer, researcher and street protester, including below on April 25, 1987, a national day of protest.

tighter april 25 1987

The Truth Is Out There — Eight Times Presidents Leveled With Us

prez J“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” — George W. Bush, Aug. 5, 2004. The president, flanked by Vice-President Chaney and other staff members, was reading from a prepared text, so rather than this being a classic W flub, perhaps he was preparing us for more Homeland Security.

“We could make no more tragic mistake than merely to concentrate on military strength. For if we did only this, the future would hold nothing for the world but an Age of Terror.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, State of the Union Address, Jan. 9, 1958. Yes, Ike saw it coming. Tragically, W, Obama and the present regime have not figured out that militarizing the Mideast leads to Al-Quaida leads to 911 leads to invasion of Iraq leads to ISIS leads to drone bombing civilians leads to more ISIS recruits.

“We have a tendency to condemn people who are different from us, to define their sins as paramount and our own sinfulness as being insignificant.” – Jimmy Carter. Not sure when he said this, but it defines the narcissistic, starved for circumspection arguing style in today’s echo chambers.

“We must never remain silent in the face of bigotry. We must condemn those who seek to divide us. In all quarters and at all times, we must teach tolerance and denounce racism, anti-Semitism and all ethnic or religious bigotry wherever they exist as unacceptable evils. We have no place for haters in America — none, whatsoever.” – Ronald Reagan, 1984. Well, look who was one of those politically correct, liberal defenders of the multiculture!

“I think that people want peace so much that one of these days, government had better get out of their way and let them have it.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower. Many sources verify this, but none includes a date or context. The statement displays Eisenhower’s long view that the military-industrial complexes of all the nuclear nations were perpetuating the arms race, rather than it being based on nations’ genuine security needs. It has inspired many grassroots efforts at striving for real peace by direct citizen diplomacy.

“A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.” –Ronald Reagan, March 4, 1987, televised address. So, the Democrat majority in the House and Senate impeached him, right? No. House Speaker Jim Wright (far less of a criminal than Dennis Hastert, the speaker whose House impeached Clinton), said impeaching Reagan would be “divisive,” and Democrat leaders were described as bending over backward to find excuses not to pursue impeachment.

“Life is unfair.” – John F. Kennedy, May 21, 1962, press conference, responding to complaints from some military reservists who felt they had done their duty but now were being deployed overseas. The whole quote explained that while some soldiers never leave the country, others randomly end up in danger; some survive, others die. Within this context, it appears “life is unfair,” is not brusque, but still a card the president is selectively pulling to deflect criticism. Overall, however, in a universe where random chance is the ultimate power, JFK’s three-word summation applies.

“See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.” – George W. Bush, May 24, 2005 in Greece, N.Y., explaining his strategy to sell his ultimately failed proposal for Social Security reform.

Brian Arbenz has lived under 12 presidents. Eight truths in 12 presidencies. That’s not such a good total!

Good and Evil Racially Skewed

Al Cappone sipped CROPPED

Imagine today’s 24-hour frenetic news cycle existing on a certain December evening in 1984:

“Breaking news out of New York City – police are responding to a shooting rampage which reportedly followed an altercation on a subway train. There are reports of multiple injuries. The prime suspect is said to have fled…. Bill, what do you make of this?”

“Well, it’s yet another example of urban violence, and further proof that the modern policy of pouring more and more government aid into ghettos has created a lawless mentality.”

“Let’s open up the phone lines – Hello, Frank in Norwalk, Ct…. ‘Yes, this is why decent people don’t want to live in the city anymore. Those street thugs settle scores and don’t care about who gets shot in their crossfire. And they’ll just plea bargain it and be out of jail by tomorrow!’ ”

“This just in – the fleeing suspect has been described as the son of immigrants. Bill?

“This shows how they just aren’t going to assimilate and learn civility unless we make English our only language and stop feeding them that multicultural self-adoration!”

“Back to the phones. We have Suzanne in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Go ahead…. ‘When are we going to keep the undesirables out? Foreigners come here and breed children, like this person, who have no respect for our laws or our ways!’ ”

“We have an update – police have identified the suspected shooter as Bernhard Goetz, whose parents came here from Germany. Bill?

“Ah, another law abiding American fed up with crime. He’s a hero to us all!”…

Well, such a 180-degree turn in spin wouldn’t necessarily be that sudden, but it does characterize how the majority and their mainstream media are biased in assessing actions by shooters, drug dealers and others who do violence.

The enduring fashionableness of Al Capone is underscored by prominently posted notices outside Louisville’s acclaimed Seelbach Hotel and in the corridors of the equally elegant French Lick Springs resort 50 miles away in Southern Indiana, each boasting that the Chicago gangster had been a guest there.

Capone’s deeds rank as romantic cultural lore, and his rise has always been attributed by standard history curriculum to the unwise policy of prohibition. Yet we all know he was a killer; he got rich by ordering the murders of dozens of people to protect his control of the illegal alcohol and prostitution businesses. In one shooting he is thought to have arranged on St. Valentine’s Day 1929, seven people were killed in a Chicago garage.

A black gangster with a record like that will be known as a heartless killer. If he dresses sharply and is charismatic and admired by the poor of his neighborhood, as Al Capone was, he will still be known as a heartless killer, as well as a destroyer of neighborhood stability, a classic example of all that is wrong with black male behavior etc., etc.

And his rise will not be attributed by any consensus of punditry to the ill-advised policy of the war on drugs — well, this may be mentioned among the white mainstream, but as an afterthought. First, all agree, he is a heartless killer.

If I start to check into a hotel somewhere and see a sign bragging that Francois Cunningham or Reggie Rice, high profile Louisville drug dealers from recent years, did illegal drugs here and “you should, too,” I will turn around pronto and look for lodging elsewhere.

In 1974, the catchy pop song, “The Night Chicago Died,” by the British group Paper Lace was No. 1 on the charts of white, mainstream radio (though it is about Al Capone, it seems to mix up imagery from his life with John Dillinger’s, but then a gangster is a gangster).

Yet if a black radio station in our time plays songs glorying urban drug dealer violence, the George F. Wills scream that liberals are encouraging social degeneration by standing by and yielding to a “culture of poverty” that keeps low income youth locked in.

The feelings unleashed by the term “gangster” are of charming Americana when it is our white lore, but precisely the opposite when it is the minority’s.

“Godfather’s Pizza” was the perfectly acceptable name of a popular chain owned by black conservative Herman Cain; the TV ad slogan was “the pizza you can’t refuse!”

Some would argue that this is not any racial double standard; that today’s real life problems naturally are a scare, whereas the violence of 90 years ago is antiquity.

Well, compare two contemporary phenomena of different racial implications.

Here is mainstream culture standard bearer George F. Will’s reaction to the notorious 1989 rape and brutal beating of the woman known to us all as the Central Park jogger: “The attackers did what they did because they are evil. Today people respond: ‘Evil? such a primitive notion – not at all useful as an explanation.’ But that response is not real sophistication, it is a form of flinching. It is a failure of nerve.”

When five young black men were the suspects of a rape, it is simple evil versus the good exemplified by a productive citizen trying to enjoy a jog on a nice day.

It was a rape case which Will and other pundits nearly unanimously said exemplified a norm of the worst of the urban underclass. Now contrast that consensus with what George F. Will said 25 years later about rapes on college campuses.

Commenting on the finding that 20 percent of college women report being sexually assaulted, Will cites American Enterprise Institute numbers from the campus of Ohio State maintaining that the rate at that huge and culturally cross-sectional college was only 2.9 percent.

George Will certainly sees the value of subjecting the dominant belief on a heated issue to a second opinion – how unfortunate that he didn’t see the need to do that in the Central Park case in 1989, when everyone was so sure this was simple evil. It turned out, the horrible rape of the white Manhattan financial district professional wasn’t committed by those five black men Will had derided as heartless, insisting in that column that they “were singing rap songs in their jail cells” in a display of confidence they would get “ludicrously light” punishment. Actually, the five youth were imprisoned unjustly for terms ranging from around seven years each for four of them and 13 years for the fifth. They had never been identified by the victim, as the severe beating left her with no memory of the frightful crime. In large part, the injustice against the Central Park Five was due to a media frenzy spearheaded by Will’s yellow journalism against them.

In 2013, after the state exonerated the five, Will wrote something of an amends column. Now calling the youth “working class” and the prosecution’s case “rickety,” he acknowledged they had not committed the crime and sympathetically described how the five and the father of one of them were manipulated in 1989 by overly aggressive detectives.

The next year, however, in that column on campus rapes, instead of characterizing doubts about guilt as “flinching,” as he indignantly had after the Central Park horrors, Will, with near rabidity, lurches in the other direction. He insists the college rape crisis is exaggerated as part of a culture on the left whereby “victimhood is a coveted status.”

Inner city males fervently presumed guilty as charged. Collegiate males called misjudged due to preexisting victimhood. The pattern is consistent – race and poverty are huge factors in assessing crisis situations.

Now on to sports, the realm which first brought multi-racialism into the living rooms of contented white suburbia.

In 1977, power forward Maurice Lucas of the defending NBA champion Portland Trailblazers was picked for a Sports Illustrated cover as typifying the physical player of the type sports media had dubbed “The Enforcers.” Those two grabber words in large type topped the magazine cover next to Lucas, an African-American graduate of Marquette University.

The expansive story featured Lucas and others talking of how they spot opponents trying to intimidate their superstar teammates — in Lucas’ case, the great 6-foot-11 center Bill Walton — and give the opponent a mean look, or physical contact if required to protect the star.

LUCAS Walton FINAL comparison

“A lot of people think I’m just one of these mean guys,” Lucas told SI. “Well, I just play rough. That’s the way you play when you’re in my game.”

Fair enough; those were Lucas’ words. The provocative cover, however, forever gave that belligerent image to Maurice Lucas, who grew up in Pittsburgh. In our sound bite, clichéd society, Lucas will always come to mind first as “The Enforcer.” Meanwhile, teammate Walton, a white man from the middle class suburbs of San Diego, has constantly been noted by media as a vegetarian – shown in 1975 on the pop culture magazine Crawdaddy as an outdoorsy advocate of meatless eating.

Well, in fact, Walton’s diet did not quite make him stand apart from the rest of the NBA the way this media dichotomy would indicate. The Sports Illustrated profile of The Enforcer does not tell fans something left obscure by sports media in general; that Maurice Lucas, Walton’s teammate and close friend, also was a vegetarian, going back many years.

Two seasons earlier, commenting on his meatless diet in the publicity guide of the Kentucky Colonels, the ABA team he played for then, Lucas said: “I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject of nutrition and my diet is what I feel is best for me. Meat takes too long to digest, and I’m getting the proteins and minerals I need. Plus, I feel better.”

But in the far wider media, even though reporters knew both had the same dietary habits, and both were big and aggressive on the court, Walton is the very face of vegetarianism, whereas it will suffice to characterize Lucas as the enforcer, not also as the man who thoughtfully educates himself all about digestion and health.

Even when the bulk of sports journalists are not racists, the institution is rife with racial skewing. Same for the news business.

And our finest hotels. And our pop music. And our minds.

Brian Arbenz, of Louisville, Ky., is a writer, researcher, and social justice and nonviolence advocate.

Fare Comment – Observations of a Contented Bus Rider

bus rides for BLOG

Road rage is out of my life.  Waiting in the rain is in.
Like everything else, using the bus while living without a car is a trade off. Ice on windshields early in the morning no longer has any effect on my mood. The hygiene of a total stranger seated nearby just may.
And on balance, I’ll take the bus!
Even in a city where mass transit is nominal and expanding it is nowhere on the agenda, my sole reliance on Louisville’s bus system, known as TARC (Transit Authority of River City) since selling my car three years ago has paid big benefits, and much more than just the lots of money I save.
I read during traffic tie ups, I can barely recall the tensions of hunting for parking places and I haven’t dribbled gasoline on my hands in a food mart parking lot in years.
And oh, the insights into our era I have gained during what I have decided are — The 6 Kinds of Bus Trips:

The Reality Show
If you drive a car, the combination of phones and motorized transportation means peril from texters behind the wheel. For bus riders, the blending of the most celebrated contributions of Alexander Graham Bell and Henry Ford lets passengers crash their privacy, not vehicles.
“Well, you can tell her the engagement’s off!” Yes, I heard a man yell that while on a TARC bus about a year ago (it was no joke; he then slammed his cell phone shut with the force of someone dumping an ex-partner’s possessions onto the curb).
Most episodes aren’t that dramatic. Some using cells gripe at their children or complain to a call center about a bill. I’ve noticed that while riding in the direction of the Hall of Justice, I hear several describe in detail why thorny legal matters to which they must attend this morning will cause them to be late to work – possibly 30 or 60 days late.

The Louisville’s Got Talent
Late on a recent weeknight, while only two passengers rode on a bus heading east out of downtown, we were treated to an a cappella version of the great Johnny Cash and June Carter song “Jackson” by the driver, inspired by his passing Jackson Street. He was good, too! His voice was dulcet and his style passionate.
His was the most enjoyable singing I’ve ever heard on a TARC bus – hint, particularly to the rider who sings the Star Spangled Banner each weekday morning on a route heading into downtown.
Yes, a man whose confidence in public far exceeded his singing ability broke into our national anthem on an early westbound Bardstown Road bus I took for the first time recently. Experienced passengers explained to me this was the gentleman’s daily contribution to patriotism, or perhaps his signal to these early morning commuters that it is time to “play ball” at their workplaces.

The Woes on Wheels
Occasionally, a trip features a comprehensive display of the miseries of our time. If you want to see the effects of recent national policies of escorting jobs out of the country while bending over backward to put tobacco, cholesterol and high carbs into neighborhoods left economically hopeless, a ride on TARC may be just the eye opener.
America’s best and brightest gave the world heart bypass surgery, MRIs and mobility chairs. Our nations’ genius also created lots of users of those innovations, because while we gushed over medical miracles, we poured research dollars into factory farming, resulting in faster, cheaper, wider distribution by the corporations whose logos sometimes beam from passengers’ fast food and supermarket bags.
Oh, and speaking of bad national priorities, “smart phone” use by riders who speak in double-negatives supports the “STEM” theory, the contention by Wendell Berry and others that an over-emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math has squeezed out genuine learning.

The Lonely Heart Club
Notice that’s not the plural “hearts.” That’s because inevitably as some rider begins trying to make time with a fetching passenger nearby, the intended recipient of the overture quickly starts checking e-mail, playing video games or taking a call – real or concocted – on their cell phone, conspicuously displaying a smile and talking in soft, affectionate tones, to indicate to the suitor that a significant other already exists in their life.
Sorry pal, you don’t even arrive at, “I have to wash my hair Friday” in this era of hand-held digital technology, aka “loser block.”

The What’s For Dinner, Grandpa?
Overwhelmingly, buses in Louisville smell okay, but there’s one line I know of which travels all day by a huge number of the metro area’s fast food places and food marts. Do the math to see why I no longer take this bus after work: if one percent of the day’s riders on this popular route break the rule against eating on TARC, by nightfall the cumulative spilled potato chips alone will overwhelm you – unless the bits of fish filets, splotches of pizza sauce and morsels of Louisville’s own 11 herbs and spices drown them out.
At least taking this line used to make for a livelier wait at the bus stop, as I would ponder what would be tonight’s entrée.

The Faith Renewed
And now: the most frequent kind of TARC ride. When I walk through the entrance of a store, entertainment spot, medical office or my workplace without bringing to the neighborhood another car, I realize I am helping keep commerce, services, cuisine and the arts there without endangering the neighborhood’s strength by swelling demand for parking lots to accommodate outsiders. I can add to the viability of existing buildings without smothering them. That’s a nice feeling which makes all the rigors of relying on bus travel well worth it.
For the opportunity to get around using a system that – whereas it needs improvements on many levels — is more economical and strengthens the aesthetics of our neighborhoods, the economic fairness of our city and the peace of our world, we should all express what I try to say to the TARC driver each time I exit a bus: “Thanks!”

This piece is adapted from Brian Arbenz’ book, “Lost And Found In Louisville: One Man’s Struggle To Find Acceptance — Or At Least His Coat.”

Climate, political and father issues in Albuquerque

Wordpress for FINAL Out to Albuqueruqe
George A. Morrison, circa 1954,  reports the news on KOB-TV. Son Brian Arbenz 60 years later blogs on his patio in Louisville.

I saw my father infrequently growing up – I mean once or twice a decade, so I do not at all identify with Robert Bly’s assertion that males are collectively wounded by the transition to industrial society that resulted in their fathers leaving home for eight hours a day.

These dads came back each evening, right, Mr. Bly?

When I was 20, on the advice of a sibling, I decided to give a father-son relationship another try. So, in 1979, I boarded a plane for Albuquerque to spend a week with George A. Morrison.

I didn’t really have a sense of who he was, and on a brilliant August day, as my plane crossed the sensually tan Sandia Mountains and landed at the Albuquerque Sunport, my lack of familiarity with him set me apart from most of the 400,000 residents of the city. My father, for 10 years in the 1950s and ‘60s, had been New Mexico’s best known television news anchorman, delivering daily 6 and 11 pm newscasts which – for the lack of another TV market in the state during many of those years – were beamed statewide. That’s a territory that would stretch from Louisville to Minnesota.

After my dad earned a law degree, he left the news business, but remained highly recognized while serving as assistant district attorney for Albuquerque, frequently talking on the air about high profile cases.

So, in 1979, instead of my father showing me his home state, I had the inverted experience of being introduced to him by New Mexico.

In the three trips I had made in 15 years to the Land of Enchantment to visit my father, I had learned that governors, senators and the University of New Mexico football coach were cohorts or acquaintances of his. Two of Dad’s close friends were author William Eastlake (Dad and other friends had helped him choose the title of his signature book Castle Keep) and Clarence Birdseye Jr., whose father’s invention of frozen foods still determines the itinerary of your grocery trips.

me-cropped-sandia-crest-aug-1967
The author at age 9 photographed in the summer of 1967 by his KOAT-TV news anchor father in the Sandia Mountains overlooking Albuquerque. 

In a room filled with my dad’s friends from New Mexico, it seems the only one I wouldn’t already know the life story of was the one who had sired me.

I knew he was a Democrat and had from time to time been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor, a quest which could have succeeded before Watergate gave media the mandate to report on personal missteps such as the philandering and heavy drinking my father did until his early 50s.

What kind of Democrat was he? I heard him say good things about civil rights (he had once served as the legal counsel for the Zuni Indian tribe), but overall supportive things about the Vietnam War (he told me of a passionate argument with the very anti-war Eastlake). An English lit degree holder from U of L, Dad was, by any standard, pro-civil liberties and he once oversaw the consumer protection division of Albuquerque’s Bernalillo County — but knowing he came of age in the 1930s and 40s, can you wager a guess about which issue would prompt this otherwise enlightened intellectual to lapse into bigotry at the drop of a hat? Or, more precisely, at a gesture or an enunciation that struck him as effeminate?

I don’t mean my father would ridicule anyone in their presence, but while at his apartment during my 1979 visit, I saw him launch into a tirade of insults while we were watching a brief TV segment featuring an interview with a man he figured was gay. Suddenly, I saw the Male High School football star and World War II submarine warfare veteran my father also had been.

But there was one more famous person for Dad to introduce me to on this trip. I asked if he knew U.S. Sen. Harrison Schmitt, a first-term New Mexico Republican. In keeping with Dad’s Robin Leach-like knack for associating with the rich and famous, yes, he in fact worked down the hall from and occasionally chatted with Schmitt, who went by his nickname Jack. Dad said he would be glad to try to arrange a meeting.

The senator, my father added, was a political wunderkind, winning election in 1976 as a dogmatic conservative counterpoised to unions in such a pro-labor state. Of course, four years before that, the geologist Jack Schmitt had walked on the moon on Apollo 17, the grandest and most successful of the six lunar landing missions.

Extra-terrestrial glory can obscure a clash in political philosophies – or in the case of John Glenn, even ease the effects of being mired in the S and L scandal.

So Schmitt wasn’t that extremist out to break your union. He was a space hero, who had turned moon dust into politically magic dust.

moonpan_apollo17_strip
Future Senator Harrison Schmitt as Apollo 17’s geologist on the moon in 1972.

In the 1990s and 2000s, the ex-senator Jack Schmitt has become a climate change denier, repeatedly condemning the theory of human causes of global warming as fiction by an environmental movement he has described as the place communism essentially migrated to after the opening of the Berlin Wall. (Makes sense; I mean there was no environmentalism here before 1989, was there?)

So, we’re talking quite a chasm to bridge when I shake hands with Senator Schmitt. Could it get tense?

No. My fascination with space would make meeting Jack Schmitt an apolitical thrill. And if memories of his three walks on Taurus-Littrow weren’t enough, Harrison H. “Jack” Schmitt also had been my first same-sex crush. I mean minutes after the Apollo 17 crew returned from the moon, splashing down near Samoa, I saw him without his helmet for the first time and… well, he had just returned, and I was now off TO the moon.

That was the instant I, as a 14-year-old, knew I was bisexual. I never told my father of this, and didn’t care to seven years later during my 1979 visit, but wouldn’t Schmitt’s office have been a bizarre venue for that? Imagine coming out to your father, a senator, an astronaut, a veteran journalist, a Republican, a Democrat and a homophobic district attorney all at once!

I don’t know whether I would have been prosecuted, disinherited, evicted or pepper sprayed. You would have read about me in a news story datelined Albuquerque, that’s for certain.

This explosive moment of familial and political drama never happened, though. Schmitt wasn’t in town during my visit.

That is not surprising. You see, the senator went on to be defeated in 1982 – marking the only time an astronaut has lost a U.S. election in nine races – and the big issue raised by Democrat Jeff Bingaman (and yes, Dad knew him, too) was the fact that the incumbent simply was never in the state, physically or ideologically. Schmitt was constantly touring, speaking about the cause of mining the moon, an issue absolutely irrelevant during a severe recession in 1982 which had focused voters’ attention on the here and now, not on rocks a quarter-million miles away.

Today, his status as a private citizen gives Schmitt the mobility to challenge the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming and on his still passionate cause of building a thriving lunar extraction industry, which almost every other scientist and financer dismisses as pie in the sky.

Oh, and as for my crush – I don’t even remember what I saw in the guy.

This column is from Brian Arbenz’ book “Lost And Found In Louisville.”

Mitch McConnell and 0.3 Penny Opera

By Brian Arbenz

What on Earth could have transformed Mitch McConnell from a baron of subdivision drainage and park maintenance three and one-half decades ago into the bare-knuckled power-wielder for the nation’s elites?
How was a bespectacled, ostensibly nerdy, tentative-voiced suburban county government chief turned into America’s prime arbiter of conservative priorities with the mandate to declare to the pundits which law is the worst of our time?
The man who once politely asked for legendary civil rights activist Lyman Johnson’s endorsement today confidently defends his party’s various state voter ID laws which will keep millions of minorities and the poor home on election day.
Who or what made this once mousey-appearing civil servant roar? Did someone push Mitch’s buttons in a moment of crisis decades ago, setting off a hunger for validation, the kind to which politicians (including those actually in office and those of us who once seriously thought of running) are so vulnerable?
Remember that word “hunger,” as I start to recount a brush with a future Senate Minority Leader in 1978 that, who’s to say, didn’t change the course of history.
Then, as now, I was on the far left, not an easy place for a college student in the era quite accurately deemed the “Me-Generation” on campus.
Today, while Mitch McConnell and other Republicans insist they aren’t for exploiting the 99 (or, as Mitt Romney puts it, 47) percent, one of that group now named Brian Arbenz (nee George Morrison)  collected concrete evidence – actually copper – that could qualify me for a spot on Rachel Maddow to portray Mitch as cheap and arrogant – to Marie Antoinette proportions.
But hold on. Adequate wages must be earned, not guaranteed. Yes, you heard correctly; I’m on the far left, and my encounter with my side’s future nemesis taught me that bit of conservative wisdom. Let me tell you, though, it must have taught the powerful something we leftists always hold true: poverty hurts.
Now unless first-year Jefferson County Judge-Executive Mitch McConnell 35 years ago had an intelligence gathering operation that would make today’s Secretary of Homeland Security blush, he could not have judged the 20-year-old college student bussing tables in a downtown Louisville restaurant he entered at noontime one autumn day as anything more than an inconsequential, pimply kid out to make enough in tips to buy a six-pack.
Well, in defiance of that period’s youth norms, I eschewed the brew and spent my dollars instead on the works of Michael Harrington, Kate Millet and Norman Thomas.
Mitch entered a Main Street row restaurant called the New York Steak Exchange with two other suits, presumably from county government or the business realm.
To everyone’s dismay, this power lunch happened on absolutely our worst day. Even on our best, we were no gastronomical gem. A newspaper review said our various gimmicks – including a real working stock ticker over the bar – couldn’t make up for the mediocrity of the food.
On this day, the service was poor to boot. So crowded were we that my supervisors had me work as a food server while not busing tables. After Mitch’s party had waited an inordinate amount of time for their food, we hauled three plates through the frenetic din to their table, only to be told this was not what the trio had ordered. We apologized and took the plates back and placed them under red lights to await their rightful owners.
More time went by as the judge-executive and his cohorts were just the most recognizable people in this restaurant hungering. Only so much politics and policy can be discussed at a table before, “Where’s our food?” becomes the sole concern.
And the three orphan plates sat there under the red lights until another server was ordered to take them to the McConnell table on the chance that they were theirs. Oh dear.
I gave chase trying to stop her. You see in the restaurant business, there is no mistake worse – more glaringly unprofessional and insulting — than bringing someone the wrong food. At that moment, I realized that there in fact is. That is bringing someone the wrong food twice. And as though the damage to us could have been worse, we were bringing the wrong food – twice – to the head of county government, the government that includes the restaurant inspection division of the health department.
She reached their table, asking: “Is this what you ordered?” Out of breath from running, I watched as Mitch and the other power hitters looked at the food, and looked at each other. Then the nation’s future highest-ranking member of the Republican Party looked at this young woman and said, in his classic McConnell-esque understated way: “Yes.”
Now we weren’t a grand jury, so this one-word lie doesn’t have the scandal potential of Bill Clinton’s “No” in response to an inquiry from Kenneth Star about the president’s involvement with an intern, though if the Democratic Party had the GOP’s chutzpa, learning of this would prompt it to call for McConnell’s resignation tomorrow. But the Democrats, unlike their opponents, tend to know not to make a federal case over an unimportant falsehood which, like Clinton’s, stemmed from a crucial human need — in this case, food.
And Judge-Executive McConnell – as they say in Senatorial debate lingo – ate someone’s lunch, learning in the process to avoid all contact from then on with the New York Steak Exchange, except – who knows — perhaps to send a memo about the restaurant to the health department.
So could it be that the indignity of eating survival rations, instead of what you wanted, soured Mitch McConnell on those of us who can’t afford to start our own Super PAC?
Well, who among us wouldn’t have sympathized at that moment with Mitt Romney’s declaration: “I like being able to fire people?”
Restaurant diners can’t directly do that to those who inflict even the lousiest service imaginable, but Mitch’s trio found an even more revealing way to express their discontent.
No tip? Nope. Lying on the McConnell party’s table, inscribed with that Eisenhower-era legislated monetary notation “In God We Trust,” was a penny – for the three of us who had waited on them somehow to divide among ourselves.
Notice Senator, that the nationwide perception of your party in the crucial year of 2012 – fair or not — is that you have it in for low-wage workers, the left and women.
Whether the ravenousness and disrespect we made you endure three and one-half decades ago lit your still burning fire, or was forgotten the following morning, shouldn’t you find cause to declare peace between the GOP and those constituencies from the knowledge that you once – albeit justifiably by most any standard — tipped a representative of each, literally, one-third of a cent?
If invincibility in politics is possible, Mitch McConnell appeared to have achieved it going into this decade. He won against the 2008 anti-GOP tide, he had in 2002 garnered endorsements from even liberal publications and he was always bathed in corporate money.
However, as a working person, I also am perched on a privileged spot. I got to witness something astounding in 1978. I saw the well-heeled and self-assured Mitch McConnell hungry and frustrated – so desperately that he was reduced to lying. How many people can say that?

Brian Arbenz retired from busing tables in 1979 to become a journalist, researcher and author. His third book, “Lost and Found in Louisville,” includes this recollection, which he wrote in 2012.