Thanksgiving Madman

Wednesday-Thursday, November 23-24, 2005



There will be no Madman on Thanksgiving Day. I intend to be in a tryptophan-induced slumber right after I put the dining table leaf back under the bed. -NG

Today's Quote in the Lead

It's not up to US to decide what kind of society people have... It's up to them,"
-Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer on Larry King Live, November 23, 2005

Echoing the founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Justice Steven Breyer "Gets it."

If this is one of those "Activist judges" the Bush administration speaks about, we need more of them.

-Noah Greenberg


Noah: you say: send your comments, etc., so I have a couple of them for you:

When I got up this morning, I remembered that Nov. 22 was the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. I looked in vain for mention of this historic event in my San Francisco Chronicle and in your Tuesday piece. I've written a letter to the editor of the paper, and now to you. (The New York Times did recognize it). Maybe it is time for all of us to be reminded once again of George Santayana's time-worn - but relevant - saying: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

I believe that on that day civility ceased to be a part of the American psyche and, as far as I am concerned, things have gone downhill ever since. But if history is to be repeated, I will stop just short of hoping for another assassin. Impeachment ? OK!

Second: I agree with [nearly] everything Mr. Scardapane has to say. But in the interest of stating things accurately, I suggest his statement: "...there is a growing probability that the war may expand to Syria." be amended to remember that the plans developed by Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Perle & Co. two years before 9-11 anticipated going to war first with Iraq and second with Syria. I wish I could give you the exact reference but I have no researcher and no way to keep such records. To use another time-honored phrase: "You [or Scardapane] could look it up."

-Carroll S. Rankin

First, you're right... I was remiss in neglecting to mention what happened in Dallas some 42 years ago.

As for your second point, this Paul Wolfowitz' statement in 2003 said it all: "There's got to be a change in Syria,"

-Noah Greenberg

Politics and Strange Bedfellows

"This is ridiculous. I was told point blank that they (The National Center for Public Policy Research) paid for the trip. Why would we want to make something up? We would not benefit. We are not insane."
-Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), referring to a "fact-finding" trip to Scottland provided by Lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Sounds a little like a  "monarchist", doesn't it? "We are not amused", like Queen Elizabeth might say.

It isn't "we", Bob, it's just "you". It is your responsibility to make sure your "free golf trips to Scotland" are on the up and up. When a lobbyist comes to you with an all expenses paid trip to play golf at the St. Andrews Golf Club, you have to ask a question or two or four:
-Question 1: What are the "facts" I'm going to "find" on holes one through eighteen on this "fact-finding" trip?
-Question 2: Is any trip, where your golf clubs are the most important part of your trip, really a "fact-finding" trip?
-Question 3: Didn't you think a trip that requires ten to twelve golf clubs would look a little suspicious to your constituents?
-Question 4: A trip like this paid for by anyone associated with Jack Abramoff couldn't possible be a good idea, now could it?

Ridiculous? No Bob, it isn't. It's embarrassing it's improper and probably illegal, to say the least.

"That is a mistake that somehow occurred in the congressmen's reporting. We don't know why or how they thought the center was a sponsor ... we had nothing to do with it."
-A spokesman for the center

You say you were told "point blank" that "they" paid for your trip, Bob. Funny how "they" said "they" didn't. When Abramoff told you "they" paid for the trip (it's actually "trips", as Ney went twice), did he say it with an Eric Idle smile,  a "wink and a nudge" or a "say no more" Bob? (You Monte Python fans will appreciate that one.) We are all responsible for our own actions... even members of congress, Bob.

Why make something up? You tell US, Bob. Why did you do just that? The National Center for Public Policy Research is a conservative group and even they won't put themselves on the line for you. A golf trip to Scotland IS a benefit, and, no, you are not insane, just greedy.

Former DeLay aid and partner of Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon is rolling over on his "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party buddies to save his own skin. Scanlon has already pleaded guilty to bribing public officials.. Scanlon and Abramoff got Rep. Ney to put a statement in the public record that was ''calculated to pressure the then-owner" of SunCruz Casinos "to sell on terms favorable'' to them.

And what's worse is that after the purchase, it was discovered that Abramoff and his partner for this purchase, Adam Kidan, faked transferring $23 million the SunCruz' owner Gus Boulis, who mysteriously ended up dead from a gangland style shooting in his Merceded Benz. Abramff and Kidan are under indictment for the fake transfer and Kidan is a person of interest to the Fort Lauderdale police department in the slaying of Boulis.

These are the people you have tied yourself to, Mr. Ney, and that tie is becoming a noose.

-Noah Greenberg

On Prejudice

Before discussing fear of Muslims any further, I hope that everyone can read (if you can find it) Sen Jacob Javits' DISCRIMINATION USA. Unfortunately this 1960 documentation of American color and religious prejudice, apartheid, fear, hatred, violence, lynchings and pogroms--which seemed like the sort of book that never should go out of print--is no longer available except in rare book shops. Maybe your library carries it. I lent out my copy years ago and, as usual, never got it back, but I remember it vividly. Javits--writing more as a sociologist and historian than a lawyer and politician--analyzed one of the human race's most persistant and self-destructive problems, our irrational fear of "otherness". He chronicled hundreds of American episodes of exaggerated self-protection and judgmentalism based on totally superficial characteristics like skin color, accent and religion, and their violent results. His descriptions were harrowing. One episode of violence, from about the 1810s--the burning of nuns in their convent by a gang of Protestant thugs--gave me nightmares for a long time. What was the crime of these unfortunate women? Professing the Catholic religion, which to the "one-hundred-percent American" paranoid attackers had nothing to do with Christianity. To them it meant only allegiance to a foreign power, the Vatican.

But we don't need to read Javit's book, good as it is. Xenophobia and prejudice are not only historically American, but universal--found in every culture, every era of history, especially those in which people feel threatened. My parents grew up in an all-white, all-WASP and German Protestant rural county in southern Iowa. A few, like my mother, were part-Indian, which was acceptable probably because in Iowa it wasn't feared. None but the German-Americans ever felt threatened--and that was only during WWI. The people of the county were not deliberately prejudiced, not evil or mean by nature, but they were badly isolated. After Dad ran away from home in 1912 at 13 and drifted west, he met and began to appreciate other beliefs and cultures. In fact the two mates he ran around with on the open road were Catholics--a kid from Mexico and another from Ireland--but he told me late in life that as a teenager he remained suspicious of Jews and blacks because in the Dakotas and Wyoming he hardly ever saw any. He was almost as suspicious of Englishmen. Born in 1899, his was the last generation of American kids indoctrinated in school and family with super-patriotic hatred of the English Tyrant! That's a prejudice we sometimes forget about, even though it permeated US culture until the American entry into WWII. While working as a migrant laborer in the Saskatchewan wheat belt Dad unexpectedly met the young prince who later (briefly) became Edward VIII, King of England, and was surprised that in person he was just a polite young guy, not the raving monster he'd thought all English royalty were.

Mom never knew anyone other than her own kind till they married in 1926 and moved to Des Moines where a Jewish guy named Sterling Silver--that really was his name--quickly became their best friend, until Sterling died in the late 1930s. After I was born, our move to a Chicago 2-flat in the early 1940s had us rubbing shoulders in a densely-populated apartment neighborhood of every kind of white person, including recent refugees from Hitler and Mussolini. They came from Jewish, Catholic, many denominations of Protestant, Czech, Italian, Irish, Polish, German, Hungarian, Swedish, Scots, Anglo, and doubtless other backgrounds, and at home I never heard anything but respect for our neighbors. When I complained that the apartment of the Irish-American family next door was always so dirty, Mom explained that they had 8 kids, including my friend Jackie from school, and Mrs. McC was just too exhausted to clean, too proud to let anyone help her. But it took till the 1960s--when black Haitian and Cuban families began moving into their south Florida neighborhood, plus my Dad's admiration of Martin Luther King--to erode the color fear from my parents. Never all of it, but enough so that they were the first to befriend, visit, and welcome into their home those newcomers. I never heard a single racist remark afterward from them, even inadvertent. I'm proud that they came that far from such an unpromising childhood, but they managed it only because they were openly friendly. Mom was eager to get new and exotic recipes and learn about far-away places, and Dad liked yakata-yakking politics and current events with just about everybody, even if they had a Cuban or Haitian accent. The only people they shunned in south Florida were white Protestant Fundamentalists, and that wasn't from PRE-judice. It was from working and living alongside them and their irritating proselytizing.

Prejudice--by no means only against Muslims--is all around us still. As Michael Moore pointed out in BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, all we need do is turn on the local TV news and there he is: the nightly black man, who may or may not be a Muslim, pinned to the sidewalk and handcuffed by the cops. When do you ever see a white man treated that way? Moore discerned that this media exaggeration is a basic reason why white Americans fear young black men. I know that I've not been immune to that fear. In Austin, TX, my ex-husband, teenaged son & I lived in a mixed white-black neighborhood, but it was upscale. Our black neighbors and friends across the street were professionals--he was a school principal, she a lawyer--typical of the neighborhood. The street I now live on, in Mt Airy, is largely middle-middle class, and though mixed, there's a higher percentage of African American families than in Austin, around 75-80%. In 1996, when I moved here, I was fearful of the young men walking down the street, but within a couple of months I started to relax as I got to know my neighbors. I can look back and laugh at buying not only an apartment alarm, but (for a while) carrying a little hand-held alarm, even to and from work, and wearing a money belt instead of carrying a purse! It seems so paranoid. Now, when young black men and I see each other on the sidewalk we smile and say "Hi", even if we don't know each other. There've been a few temporary bummers in our neighborhood, but my black neighbors didn't respect them any better than I did and I never thought they were dangerous. Most of us who live around here are working stiffs who just want to get on in life.

Walt Whitman wrote in "Song of Myself": "I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person. . ." That is what we should try to do to overcome the universal urge to fear otherness. First we meet, then get to know the ones who scare--the "others," the "different ones," the "strangers," the "aliens," the "weirdos"--then walk around in their skin and at least try to feel their fear and pain. When we do, we always find that they are no less human than we are--Muslims from Pakistan, Iran, and anywhere else included!

-Jenny Hanniver

Happy Thanksgiving

Twas the night of Thanksgiving, but I just couldn't sleep, I tried counting
backward, I tried counting sheep.
The leftovers, they beckoned - the dark meat and white, But I fought the
temptation with all of my might!

Tossing and turning with anticipation, The thought of a snack became
So...I raced to the kitchen, flung open the door And gazed at the "fridge",
full of goodies galore.

I gobbled up turkey and buttered potatoes, Pickles and carrots, beans and
I felt myself swelling so plump and so round, 'Till all of a sudden, I rose
off the ground.

I crashed through the ceiling, floating into the sky With a mouthful of
pudding and a handful of pie.
But I managed to yell as I soared past the trees...
"Happy eating to all - pass the cranberries, please."

May your stuffing be tasty...may your turkey be plump.
May your potatoes 'n gravy have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious...may your pies take the prize.
May your Thanksgiving dinner stay off of your thighs.

-Sean (Mr. Blus-Sky), sent to me and my family, The Greenbergs

Thanks Sean. -NG

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-Noah Greenberg