Frost/Nixon–Tonight’s Entertainment

Obviously any account of the event will share facts, but this is scarily similar. Too similar. I suspect it entered heavily into Peter Morgan’s thought process as he wrote the original stage play.


The text above, from the New York Times, is a contemporaneous account of the Frost/Nixon interviews. I didn’t watch them in ’77. The pre-show buzz said it was long and ploddingly boring as I remember.

Helaine and I saw Frost/Nixon tonight. Excellent movie. Very compelling. Frank Langella is Nixon. I am a huge Ron Howard fan–that won’t change.

I was no fan of Nixon.

I turned against our Vietnam policy in ’66 or so (against our government’s policy not against our soldiers) during the Johnson Administration. I marched on Washington in the Moratorium and joined more peaceful protests while in college in Boston.

To my contemporaries and me Nixon poured gasoline on an already raging fire. Watergate then added insult to injury. And, as recon missions go, it was stupid. Nixon was going to win by a landslide anyway. Did they really need to know what was in Larry O’Brien’s office at Watergate?

It is difficult to understand the depth of distaste toward Richard Nixon if you weren’t there. Unlike Iraq, ‘Nam was being fought daily on TV. Death and injury were vividly seen. Bush-43 controlled the coverage much better than Nixon who watched public opinion shift away from him as the futility of the war became obvious. And, of course, Nixon was anything but a sympathetic character.

After the movie I wanted to read a little more from the period. Along with the Times article I found a long preview of the show from Time Magazine.

“He is back among us. And, as always, in a memorable manner, both painful and poignant, sometimes illuminating, usually self-serving. The once too-familiar face of Richard Nixon re-enters the homes of America this week for 90 minutes of dramatic television.”

What’s most interesting is this long Time article reads like an outline for the movie! Obviously any two accounts of this event will share facts, but this is uncomfortably similar. Too similar. I suspect Time’s treatment entered heavily into Peter Morgan’s thought process as he wrote the original stage play.

In the movie Nixon’s camp downplays David Frost’s qualifications to hurt them. I could be wrong, but that doesn’t ring true because of Frost’s association with “That Was The Week That Was“–a show whose American version was brutally critical of Nixon (and with this clip also brutally critical of PM Harold Macmillan in its British version).

Across The Universe

I was young, aimless and idealistic. I was frightened of the life I faced, even without Vietnam. But I was hip. I understood the culture as it was. And I was right in the middle of it.

There’s this misconception in the Fox household: I’m not hip.

OK, maybe I’m not as hip as I once was, but I was hip. Doesn’t that count for anything?

We just finished watching “Across the Universe.” Stef had seen it once before and wanted Helaine and me to see it too.

Helaine liked it. I did not.

Abba’s “Dancing Queen,” with better music and a darker plot line was my first thought. That’s much too simple assessment, I suppose. Still, this seemed more concept driven than plot driven.

Maybe I also reacted to this treatment of a life I knew. What fulfilled me then, today I find somehow hollow.

So much of that movie was my life. Of course, it isn’t my life anymore.

Maybe my age driven change from who I was in the sixties is why I couldn’t enjoy what I watched?

I lived through the sixties. I went to the Fillmore East and hung out in the Village. I marched against the war in New York, Boston and Washington. My hair was long and pockets empty.

I was young and idealistic. I was frightened of the life I faced, even without Vietnam. But I was hip. I understood the culture as it was. And I was right in the middle of it.

Life is organic. It unfolds around you. You don’t necessarily choose to participate. You are chosen.

That’s what I didn’t understand back then. Who you become is based on what you experience. So my experience changed me as our culture evolved in its own way.

So, yeah, I am hip. But I’m hip in a 1969 kind of way.

Tech In The Times – From 1968

Because the school was one of New York City’s academically elite, with admission limited by an entrance exam, we had an overabundance of wimps and nerds. Most of our teams were awful.

dungareesI was just looking at some old articles in the NY Times archive (free and worth perusing). I entered the name of my high school, isolated my four years and began to scan.

Most of the stories were about our sports teams. Brooklyn Technical High School (aka Brooklyn Tech) was an all boys school with a 6,000 student enrollment. We fielded teams in every sport.

Because the school was one of New York City’s academically elite, with admission limited by an entrance exam, we had an overabundance of wimps and nerds. Most of our teams were awful.

Almost immediately, one story jumped out at me. It is attached to this entry.

The answer to your first question is, yes, I was there. Yes, I participated, even though my mom had to buy me a pair of dungarees to do so! This was the late 60s, and protesting by students was gaining steam, especially as it related to the war in Vietnam.

Oh, yeah, we really did call them dungarees. At that time, they were totally removed from the realm of fashion.

It seemed like a big social issue back then and a way of pushing back against what seemed like irrational rules.

It is a reflection of that more innocent time that this protest caused such angst to the administration of an academically elite high school. The principal was pissed we had defied him.

Until now, I had no idea the New York Times had covered it. They did in 87 words, buried on page 28 of the Saturday, March 23, 1968 edition.

As I remember (not well – I might be wrong), by the end of the school year, jeans were permitted in class.

How We Change Our Mind

This is actually related to my last entry. In it, I pointed out how, early Wednesday morning, the NWS changed their forecast thinking radically over the course of an hour or so.

I don’t mean to pick on NWS. Their forecasts are normally excellent. It would be unfair to judge them based on a single forecast.

I have been through the same angst they experienced, but my forecasts aren’t as well documented. That’s why they’re being used as my example – convenience, nothing more.

How do we change our minds? In most cases, change in thought comes gradually, but there’s usually a tipping point when you go from one way of thinking to the other. That point is not, as you might think, simply where evidence on one side outweighs evidence on the other.

My first experience with this was in the 60s, with the Vietnam War. I was, as were most, a supporter of that war in its earlier days&#185.

I remember doing a term paper on Vietnam for a class. I sat in the Jamaica Public Library and tried to balance arguments. I couldn’t. The preponderance of what I read made me think we shouldn’t be there.

I rode the Q17 bus home feeling conflicted. It was a significant enough episode to remember 40 years later. Yet, even in the face of that evidence and deep contemplative thought, I continued to support the war.

I did later change my mind, probably sometime in ’67 or ’68, and became fervently anti-Vietnam. My realignment came long after the my internal balance of evidence had shifted. Looking back, I’m sorry I waited so long.

Isn’t that strange? Even when my better judgment should have pointed me one way, my earlier decisions made it much more difficult.

My suspicions say that’s what happened last night at the Weather Service. I wasn’t there, but I’ve been through many similar forecast decisions. What you’ve called for isn’t going to happen… and yet you don’t want to let go of the forecast.

Is it an ego thing? Is there a worry the mere act of having been wrong is a blemish to be avoided?

Flip flopping was portrayed as a weakness when John Kerry ran for president. Is it possible having the ability to easily flip flop is really a positive trait?

Making that second decision… overruling your first call… is the weightier of the two processes. It takes much more evidence to change an opinion than to form a similar opinion in the abstract.

I’m not sure what’s to be learned from this, except to say it seems better to make these radical shifts in opinion sooner, rather than later. That’s much easier said than done.

&#185 – Actually, in its earliest days, American involvement in Vietnam was so small and obscure, few realized we were there and even fewer cared.

I Was Never Angry With Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford became our ‘accidental president’ 32 years ago when Richard Nixon resigned. I haven’t heard it mentioned today, but it’s worth noting, Ford became Nixon’s vice president only because Spiro T. Agnew was forced to resign in disgrace.

I’m not going to do a biography here. But I do want to speak about President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon. That’s a subject I have heard a lot about today.

I was not a fan of Nixon’s. I was vehemently opposed to the war in Vietnam and felt the Nixon administration had been disingenuous in its conduct, at best. Though Nixon inherited the war from Johnson and Kennedy, it blossomed under his administration.

Watergate&#185 only served to amplify my anger.

Yet, I was not upset Nixon was pardoned. I may have been angered when I first heard about it, but my anger didn’t last.

Richard Nixon had already been disgraced. His place in history was already sealed. Why put the nation through the divisiveness of a trial?

We were a country divided. It’s difficult for anyone younger than me to realize how divided we really were. Indicting President Nixon on criminal charges would have only made that divide worse.

And then, there was the specter of Richard Nixon going to jail. How embarrassing would that have been for our nation? Did anyone really want to see him incarcerated?

Did Nixon get off the hook? I suppose he got less formal punishment than he was entitled to. His conduct during the Watergate cover-up violated real laws. However, it’s difficult to imagine anyone enduring more mental anguish than what he did during his last year in office.

We were better as a country getting Watergate behind us.

Thirty years later, I still agree with Gerald Ford’s most controversial move.

&#185 – Also forgotten in history is the fact that Watergate was nothing more than a ‘recon’ burglary against the Democrats, in an election Nixon surely would have won anyway! In other words, it was totally unnecessary.

Blogger’s note: After I put this entry online, I received an angry note from John Bosch. I’m publishing his entire email (with his permission) after the jump.

This blog is a reflection of my feelings and remembrances. Unlike a newscast, or a newspaper, these entries are sometimes based solely emotion.

I replied to John in support of my position, but that’s not important here. Here’s his read on what transpired.

Continue reading “I Was Never Angry With Gerald Ford”

I Cannot Tell A Lie Radio Shack Style

What’s Radio Shack’s slogan: “You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers?” As it turns out, not all the answers were true – at least as they applied to the CEO. He resigned yesterday after revelations that the two degrees from non-accredited colleges he claimed, didn’t exist.

First of all, as long as you’re going to lie about it, why a non-accredited bible college? Why not Yale or Harvard?

I’ve never lied about my lack of education. I am an official high school graduate. I went to Emerson College on the accelerated dismissal program, flunking out during the height of Vietnam.

That probably tells you more about my intellect than anything else. Were it not for my high draft lottery number, who knows how my life would have changed?

My resume has always said, “attended Emerson College,” which of course I did (though infrequently). It was more like, “lived in dorm,” but that’s beside the point.

Now that my three years at Mississippi State University are complete, I’m still just a high school graduate.

MSU’s program is a certification curriculum. It’s as if you were allowed to attend college and only take your major subjects, no humanities, math or language. I learned everything I would have learned in an Earth Sciences BS program – no more.

I work with a PhD in physics, Dr. Mel Goldstein, and when I’d tell people I was completing my education at MSU, they’d often ask if I was getting my doctorate. I wish.

This Radio Shack guy, David Edmondson, lied and got caught. He probably deserves what’s coming to him, but the story is much deeper than that and it goes to the core of what college confers upon you.

I have a daughter in college. Steffie, stop reading this right now. I don’t want to throw you off the track.

There are many things college prepares you for, and many ways it broadens you. But college is not always necessary to succeed in a job or career – even some careers that are associated with specific courses of study.

Did I suffer in my career because I didn’t have a degree? Who can say for sure. I’ve certainly done OK for myself.

On the other hand, before I got the job here, I got a call from a news director in Boston. He had seen my tape and was interested in hiring me. Was I a meteorologist?

End of story. He said he liked me but he’d be lambasted in the papers if he hired me. I understood.

Back to this Radio Shack guy. He didn’t just come in from a ad. He was inside the company for well over a decade; a guy who worked his way, literally, to the top. He had been judged on what he could do, and really, it didn’t matter that he did it without a degree!

If you look closely at higher education, you will see it is designed by academicians, not practitioners. When we get interns here at the TV station, they learn more on-the-job than they ever learned in school. The same goes for fresh grads.

I’m not saying college is worthless. That’s just not so. I think it serves a valuable purpose and provides a good background and, hopefully, broadening. It is not the end all, be all, in career preparation.

It would serve companies well if they stopped using a college degree as a crutch and began looking at an applicant’s real skills. That’s what they’re going to use anyway.

This guy from Radio Shack – I feel bad for him, but he lied. There’s really little excuse for that, especially when he’s is the company’s credibility.

Wrongly, instead of proving what he could do without college, he felt it was necessary to lie. He felt his skills would never have been recognized… no one would have looked past his lack of academic credentials.

We overlook too many talented people this way, every day. Where’s the upside to that?

Blurring The Line Between Old and New Media

I was just on the Washington Post site, looking for more on the Watergate story. I am of an age where this was a critically important story. The Vietnam war was raging. I perceived President Nixon as a threat to the 22 year old me – whether that’s defensible or not at this point.

Even today, 30+ years after the fact, I want more on this story.

The Washington Post website had a 3:02 video interview with Bob Woodward. Below the video were their credits – 2 shooters and an editor. The Post had their own reporter interviewing Woodward. I’m not sure whether he was a dedicated video reporter or someone from the print side.

The video was preceded by a commercial. It was a :15 for Microsoft.

They – newspapers – want to get into my business. And why not? They already have the reporting staff. When the news product is delivered request-reply, making every story compelling and entertaining enough for someone in Seymour to care about Stonington, isn’t necessary.

This is depressing.

Newspapers are struggling. Their circulation has generally trended down. They need to sustain revenue and maximize their resources.

TV doesn’t get a free pass either. Cable channels and even the micro networks take some small audience – audience that once was defaulted to us – and there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of these tiny digital niche networks.

Will this bring on the next Golden Age of video? Will we see more quality or quantity or both? Who knows? It will definitely be different than what we’re seeing now.

Whatever it is that finally sits in TV’s current place in society will be more sharply targeted and the content more responsive to the needs of the people watching. Budgets will probably be lower, because niche audiences won’t be able to support higher.

Technology has already started to bring down the cost of TV production. It is easier and cheaper today than ever before to put something together and make it available to an audience. That trend isn’t over yet.

Watergate – One More Thing

Tonight, on an ABC story about Mark Felt’s admission that he was Woodward and Bernstein’s “Deep Throat,” the reporter mentioned Watergate occurred before half the people alive today in the U.S. were born. Wow.

With that in mind, let me lay out a little history, because I think what Watergate was is often lost to time. Watergate was not about what White House Press Secretary Ron Ziegler called, “a third-rate burglary.”

When Democratic National Chairman Larry O’Brien’s (yes – the guy who later became NBA commissioner) office at the Watergate was broken into, the election was already in the bag for Richard Nixon. So, in reality, it was a meaningless burglary.

What made Watergate poisonous to Richard Nixon was his attempt to cover it up. The more he lied… the more he stonewalled… the deeper the hole he was digging became. That the country was deeply divided over Vietnam certainly didn’t help either.

Mark Felt enters the picture because he was worried the FBI’s investigation was being hatcheted by the White House. He ‘ratted’ to protect his own turf.

Nixon was not a warm and fuzzy guy, but he had won by a landslide. He needed to be perceived as pretty evil to be run out of town on a rail – and make no mistake, he was run out of office.

The biggest blow to Nixon was the release of the audio tapes, recorded in the Oval Office. Nixon and his aides could be heard plotting and scheming the cover up. Moreover, they were speaking in a manner never expected from occupants of the Oval Office. They were crude, vulgar and vindictive.

How, even after the courts had ruled against him, he could let these be released is beyond me.

I was in my early twenties at the time and not politically adept, but I was certainly hurt by what I heard and how the President of the United States had told bold faced lies to America. In the pre-24 hour news cycle era, the story started slowly and picked up steam until it was all encompassing.

The Watergate burglary itself was bad… but not this bad. There was no need for it to bring down the president. This became a textbook case in how not to handle a crisis.

You have to hope there were lessons learned in Watergate. You just have to.

Old Mail Returned to Sender

Last month I wrote about hearing from my old friend Dave Kulka. He was Dave Kulka, now he’s David. That happens when you grow up I suppose.

I wonder why I haven’t become Geoffrey?

Dave and I have spoken on the phone a few times since then. Recently, he came across some letters I sent to him from the late sixties to the mid seventies. Now, he’s sent them back to me.

They came yesterday before work, but I have been scared to read them. Isn’t that weird? I wasn’t sure what I would find – what I had said – what I was like. I’ve always been good at avoidance in situations like this. A few minutes ago, I finally picked them up and began to read.

Assuredly, I am not the same as I was then. That is not good nor bad, just fact.

Now that I’ve peeked, here’s what I know. I was very free in what I said. I talked politics, social issues, personal stuff. Then, as now, I wasn’t scared to show myself warts and all. These letters talk about success and failure.

It’s a shame there were no spell checkers or grammar checkers back then because I was in desperate need of both! Most letters were punched out on an old Royal manual typewriter. Once you typed a letter, it was stuck on the page, difficult to remove.

Was there Correctype in 1968? Not in my house.

I’m going to upload a small piece of one of the letters just for a little feel of the times. It was sent two days before my 18th birthday. The header said what was foremost in my mind: In two days I’d be registering for the draft! In 1968, the prospect of Vietnam petrified me. Getting a draft card was the first step in the process. It didn’t mean I’d get drafted – only that I could.

It is interesting to see me refer to my mother from a teenager’s perspective. I hope she can see it in her heart to forgive me for the kind of kid I was… though the letter implies she read this as it was being written. It is also interesting to look at how I was nonchalantly making plans to fly across country, my first time away from home, to meet someone I didn’t know in a city I’d never been to!

Over the next few days I’ll look for a few more snippets to post. However, I’m not sure that there is a letter that doesn’t have at least one embarrassing passage I won’t put on the web. There are warts and then there are warts. I’m no longer 18.

Now I Remember Why I Loved It So

I finished a non-illustrious high school career and like most of my friends moved on to college. It was the thing to do… and there was Vietnam looming if you didn’t!

I wasn’t a very good high school student. My grades were well below the mid-point of my graduating class. Standardized tests were my saving grace – getting me a (never used) New York State Regents Scholarship and admittance to a very competitive New York City public college.

I decided instead on Emerson College in Boston’s Back Bay. I wanted to be a disk jockey, and mass communications was a course of study available at Emerson.

College was much like high school, except they didn’t check attendance or homework. As disorganized and unmotivated as I was, I was gone in three semesters. I like to call it the accelerated dismissal program, but I guess these things only get funny after 30 or more years.

I remember being upset while at Emerson, especially when I felt the curriculum wasn’t really doing what it purported to do. Granted, with my admitted lack of educational excellence, I’m not the one to talk.

I mention this because now, as a very motivated student at Mississippi State, I sometimes notice the same thing. It is most manifested in the quizzes and tests when the instructor uses questions that trick rather than test.

I have had questions with double negatives – so you have to find the answer and then calculate whether the question is actually asking for the true or false version of the answer.

On another test, many of the multiple choice answers were really two questions. So, get one out of two right – no credit.

A few nights ago I took a test which sought to define a term in a very unconventional way. It was the same as asking how much 100&#162 is in New York… and then giving $1, plus the equivalent in Euros and Pounds. The correct answer on the quiz was: All of the above.

Maybe it is the answer, but it’s a stretch.

As is so often the case, we lose sight of what we’re doing. Many times, the process rather than the result gets the focus. That’s often the rub against academic training for practical real world skills.

Please test me – make the test difficult if you want – but test me on the real knowledge contained in the course which advances my knowledge.

Kennedy Assassination As a Universal Experience

I remember, with vivid clarity, the moment I found out about John Kennedy’s assassination. I am not alone. It has been said that no one who lived through November 22, 1963 will ever forget where they were, what they were doing, when they found out.

For me, it was a sunny, late fall day, in Mr. Friend’s classroom on the back side of the first floor at Harold G. Campbell Junior High school. In New York City school names are ceremonial, at best. It was JHS 218 or JHS 218Q (for Queens).

Mr. Friend was told first and he relayed to the class that Kennedy had been shot. That’s all we knew. I can’t speak for the class, but I can tell you that whatever I thought at that moment, I wasn’t grasping the significance of the moment or that anything more could happen.

It was a time when TV news was much less crime and picture oriented. The grit and grime of violence may have been played out every day in the Daily News or Mirror (in 1963 the New York Post was a liberal newspaper which tended to play toward organized labor and its causes, not crime and debauchery)… but I read The Long Island Press, published in Jamaica, Queens. Violence outside of war didn’t exist as far as I was concerned.

November 22, 1963 was the day newspapers lost their position as ‘news of record’ for most Americans to television.

The windows from our classroom faced east, across open space and toward Queens College. Within a few minutes, someone in the class noticed a flag at Queens College being lowered to half staff. That’s when it hit me.

We were dismissed early and I began to walk home. I know I was with friends… maybe Dennis Westler, possibly Marty Ingber. I’m not really sure but I know I wasn’t alone. We discussed the fact that the president was dead and Lyndon Johnson, the vice president, had suffered a heart attack. I know now that was wrong – I didn’t then. We speculated what would happen. I was 13.

Still, we were discussing facts and the emotion had still not hit me. We were cavalier.

As I came home and turned on the TV, I realized this was major. All regular programming was gone. News, in a somber manner, was on all channels. Slowly, from the adults around me, I began to become aware of the gravity of the situation. We all sat, glued to the television.

Though I was born during the Truman administration and remember Eisenhower in a sketchy sort of way, Kennedy was the first president that I really knew. My parents were good Democrats in a lower middle class area of trade unionists who were also Democrats. The huge apartment complex we lived in, made up of dozens of three and six story buildings, was financed and built by the Electrical Workers Union Local 3 and called Electchester. Our friend Morris Scott, on the first floor of our six story 72 unit building, was a Transport Workers Union and Democratic functionary. He was not an exception in Electchester. The two went together.

During the campaign for the 1960 presidential election, Kennedy spoke at a campaign rally at Parsons Boulevard and Jewel Avenue, a block from our apartment. I found the photo on the left at an NYU site – amazing it’s preserved on the net. The facade of the building behind Kennedy is from the Pomonok Housing Project, which was across the street from us. The camera is shooting from the SE to the NW, across the intersection. My memory is of a huge crowd, but I was 10 at the time. This busy intersection was closed and a wooden platform was built.

Richard Nixon had nothing to gain by coming to my neighborhood. He was everything we weren’t, Kennedy was like us, though nothing could be further from the truth.

Anything I thought or felt about Kennedy during the campaign was based on those things that affect a ten year old; my parents, grandparents and the folks we lived around. I knew nothing about his policies, politics, social standing or any of the things we know today… and there’s no doubt we know a hell of a lot more today.

In my sphere of influence, Kennedy was like a god. I know that sounds foolish or naive now, but that’s the truth. To me, he was much larger than life. And he was the first adult I knew of to die tragically.

I had tickets to see a Broadway show on the Saturday following the assassination. It was probably my first Broadway show. Like the NFL schedule the next day, Broadway went on. In hindsight, both football and theater performances were bad ideas. Even so, with a bunch of my classmates and Mr. Friend, we boarded the bus for Flushing and the IRT subway (actually it was mostly above ground) to Times Square to see “Enter Laughing.”

I now know, this show was an autobiographical sketch from Carl Reiner. Then, who knew who Carl Reiner was? I remember it being funny in an irreverent sort of way, but the day being gray and gloomy in every other sense.

Sunday morning we sat home in our tiny apartment, 5E. I lived in an apartment with only a northern exposure. At no time in the 16 years I lived in this apartment… and decades longer my parents lived there, did we ever see the sun!

The TV in the living room, our only TV, was tuned to CBS. Along with millions of others, I watched Lee Harvey Oswald being shot, live. Being live, coast-to-coast, from that Dallas Police Department Garage was quite a technical achievement 40 years ago. Today, we see the videotape replay as grainy, dated black and white. Back then, it was live and vivid. Grainy black and white was the norm.

I was stunned. We were all stunned. How was this humanly possible? Today’s metal detecting, secure area-ed society was light years away. I had never seen a pistol, but in Texas, they were much more the norm.

Monday was the funeral. I think my dad was home, which was not a scheduled day off from work. Certainly every school was closed and my guess is most businesses too. By this time we had a common grief and stunned disbelief in what had happened. If it is possible, I remember being a 13 year old who was depressed.

The country stopped for the funeral. It struck me then, as it does now, that there are people who actually know how to plan an event like this with the proper protocol and deference to tradition. What a morbid field of expertise.

It was an awful, rainy day in Queens on that Monday. The funeral was long and sad and more than anything else I remember the riderless horse, the muffled drums and the crying. We’ve all seen the photo of John Jr. saluting. I believe that was only seen by still photographers. I don’t think we saw that live.

People think it was live because it’s been published and seen so many times. A similar situation is the film of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon, with dust flying and the shadow of the lander on the surface. That too was never seen live on TV, though we did hear the voices of the astronauts and Mission Control.

Five or six years after the funeral I was marching down those same Washington streets, protesting the war in Vietnam. In 1963 there was no thought that you might protest what your government was doing. But after JFK’s assassination, everything changed.

Lyndon Johnson became the president and used the Kennedy aura to pass Civil Rights legislation that began to bring this country out some draconian policies that survived even the Civil War. Johnson also inherited Kennedy’s involvement in Vietnam, which would be his undoing as a president. The war accelerated, halfway around the world.

Before Kennedy’s assassination we were innocent and invulnerable. World War II had taken place without any conflict reaching America’s shores. Korea too was fought far away. The strength of our military, combined with the breadth of the ocean, protected us from harm. But now we found that harm could come from within and that nothing would ever be safe again.

A generation only knows about the assassination through Oliver Stone’s movie. Shame on him. Shame on them. Stone’s powerful use of the medium told America a lie, packaged as the truth.

Forty years ago. I remember it like it was yesterday.

(This entry originally posted November 22, 2003)

Is That a Dinar In Your Pocket…

I drink entirely too much coffee, and I’ll be the first to admit it. Two mediums a day… it’s probably the equivalent of 4 or 5 regular cups. But, I can’t do without it it, and why should I?

Tonight, on my way back to work after dinner, I stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts near home (by the way – what a disappointment while in Southern California this year to find no Dunkin’ Donuts). They know me well enough that often, my coffee is poured and ready by the time I’m at the counter.

As is often the case, especially after being on TV for over 19 years on the same station, I was recognized. It was a young black man. He was wearing flashy ‘bling’ and an elastic type head covering on this awful, drippy, day.

When he spoke, it was obvious that he was well educated and a man, not a child. He had the confidence that comes with maturity.

His name is Aaron Hawkins and he grew up here in town. Now, he’s in the Army, repairing tanks. His home base is in Georgia, but he’s just back from Iraq.

We talked a little about the war (I worry about this Vietnam wannabe war, fought mostly by men of color, without a draft). There are too many historical analogs.

Then, as I was about to leave, he reached in his pocket, pulled out his wallet and started to thumb through the bills. He pulled one out, smiled, and gave it to me… a 250 Dinar note with Saddam Hussein’s picture. Current value, around $.20.

I’m sure Saddam saw the proofs, asked to have his hair darkened and a little taken off the jowel… or maybe the artist knew for his own safety that flattery was the best policy.

Whatever the case, it was a great gift from Aaron. I’m glad I got to meet him.