50 years ago: the beginning of political activism

By the time this was published, two or three weeks later, I was MORTIFIED by my response.

When I was 15, I was a conventionally conservative kid, fueled by my religion and small city roots. I had been in a couple civil rights marches but that was a topic that affected me personally.

I was preternaturally aware of the political issues, reading the op-ed pages of both the morning Sun-Bulletin and the Evening Press. Chet Huntley and David Brinkley were on the NBC news and Walter Cronkite was over on CBS, and I watched one network or the other since I was 11.

I entered Binghamton Central High in February 1968 and was asked early on by someone on the school newspaper, the Panorama News, who I supported for President. Oddly, I hadn’t given it much thought. I opted for Richard Nixon, noting that he had eight years as Vice-President.

By the time this was published, two or three weeks later, I was MORTIFIED by my response. I was going through…something. It may have been the influence of new friends or Cronkite’s assessment of the Vietnam war on February 27 as a likely stalemate.

On March 12, Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-MN) received 42% of the vote in the Democratic primary in New Hampshire against a sitting President, Lyndon Baines Johnson. I was utterly fascinated by this turn of events.

Still, I was not prepared when Johnson invoked the pledge in his March 31 national address, announcing, “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.” I had developed mixed feelings about LBJ. Great on civil rights, but like many, I was doubting the point of the war in southeast Asia.

So I’m pleased that my daughter, at an age younger than I was, is feeling all riled up about some issues in her world, more about which I’ll mention in due time. I think the Resistance play she was in this month at church was really in her emotional wheelhouse.

J is for the Johnson amendment

Preachers can preach on feeding the poor and clothing the naked, and that a just society ought to be doing that.

In the midst of the process of creating the massive tax bill at the end of 2017, the US Congress attempted to remove The Johnson Amendment. Fortunately, Congress’ own rules prevented from happening in that particular manner.

From the Wikipedia: It is “a provision in the U.S. tax code, since 1954, that prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. [These] organizations [range] from charitable foundations to universities and churches. The amendment is named for then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, [later the 36th President] who introduced it in a preliminary draft of the law in July 1954.”

Recent claims suggested that the provision was some sort of attack on the First Amendment’s freedom of religion and speech. Defenders of the Johnson amendment, including me, believe that when the churches and other nonprofit organizations that are exempt from taxation, the prohibition against “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office” is appropriate, for it would otherwise be the state establishing religion.

Now the law is fairly narrow in scope. “Nonpartisan voter education activities and church-organized voter registration drives are legal. Pastors are free to preach on social and political issues of concern. Churches can publish ‘issue guides’ for voters.” In other words, preachers can preach on feeding the poor and clothing the naked, and that a just society ought to be doing that.

As it turns out, the piece to quash the Johnson amendment in the December 2017 budget bill was blocked by the Senate parliamentarian. “Because of a requirement called the Byrd Rule, reconciliation bills — which are passed through a simple Senate majority — cannot contain ‘extraneous’ provisions that don’t primarily deal with fiscal policy.”

Nonreligious people have said for decades that we ought to be taxing the churches, and I disagree. But if a religious entity wants to engage in partisan politics, endorsing candidates, it should give up its tax-exempt status.

For ABC Wednesday

Presidents Day 2017: Nixon’s the One

JFK Calls about Furniture

George Washington’s first inaugural address (April 1789), referring to himself: “One, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies.”

Now I Know: The Case of George Washington versus Pinocchio

John Quincy Adams: When The People Cheered

Presidents in Our Backyard – Part 1 (Martin Van Buren, Chester A. Arthur, Ulysses S. Grant)

The highest-ranked President who only served one-term is James Knox Polk.

Sarah Knox Taylor, the second daughter of Zachary Taylor and the first Mrs. Jefferson Davis

This is an actual standard fantasy I’ve had over the years: I’m captured, and the Americans think I’m a spy. I name all the Presidents correctly, including the year entering the office and political party – I really CAN do that – then they shoot me, because OBVIOUSLY, I’m a Soviet/Russian/Chinese spy, since NOBODY knows Millard Fillmore (1850-1853, Whig), who was New York State Comptroller before becoming Vice-President.

Worst president ever: The ignominy of James Buchanan – On the way to the Capitol for the inauguration of his successor on March 4, 1861, Buchanan told Abraham Lincoln, “If you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland [his home in Pennsylvania], you are a happy man indeed.”

Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address (1861)
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Lincoln’s Great Depression

Now I Know The Vice:President (David Rice Atchison) and John Wilkes Booth’s Heroic Brother

Are You a Presidential Beard Connoisseur?

Ulysses S. Grant’s Veal & Sweet Potato Fries

The first President to ban immigrants?

Chris Churchill: A chat with President Chester A. Arthur

Now I Know: Grover Cleveland’s Pole Tax

‘All for each and each for all:’ Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal

Theodore Roosevelt holds that it is “unpatriotic, servile, and morally treasonable to proclaim that there must be no criticism of the President.” (1918)

Who was the first president to visit Canada? I was surprised.

Quora: Which US President had the most foresight?

Listening In: JFK Calls about Furniture (July 25, 1963)

Lyndon Johnson Speech Before Congress on Voting Rights (March 15, 1965): “There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. And we are met here tonight as Americans—not as Democrats or Republicans–we are met here as Americans to solve that problem.”

Lyndon Johnson orders pants.

Nixon Aide Reportedly Admitted Drug War Was Meant To Target Black People. “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.” Anyone who read Michele Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow already knew this.

Nixon’s Vietnam Treachery. This was treason.
US fatalities in the Vietnam war:
1969 – 11,780
1970 – 6,173
1971 – 2,414
1972 – 759
1973 – 68
1974 – 1
1975 – 62

Now I Know: The Red Menace (Nixon in China)

Three Presidential $1 Coins were issued in 2016, the final year of the program, for Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, and Ronald Reagan. Jimmy Carter had the audacity of still being alive; hope he’ll get one down the line, after he passes away.

Now I Know: Reagan and Gorbachev’s Green Pact

You Must Remember This podcast – Storm Warning: Ronald Reagan, the FBI and HUAC (THE BLACKLIST EPISODE #8)

10 Books to Understand the Obama Presidency

Presidential Payroll: What Commanders in Chief Have Earned Since 1789

Presidents Day 2016

Woodrow Wilson was extremely racist — even by the standards of his time.


Presidents Day quiz


Rose Fitzgerald
Janet “Jessie” Woodrow
Dorothy Walker
Jane Knox
Hannah Simpson

Hussein; Gamaliel; Abram; Earl; Alan

The only one who went 4-0
2-0: He was twice too much for Adlai
2-1: 1-0 vs. James G. Blaine & a split with Benjamin Harrison
1-0, in a split decision over Samuel Tilden
One of the 2 who went 0-1


The most recent left-handed president.
The first president to be born in a hospital; it was in October 1924.
The first to hold an Internet chat with the public.
The first born outside the original colonies, in 1809.

ABC News ‘This Week’ Powerhouse Puzzler
Which four sitting Vice Presidents have been elected President?


It’s a Scandal, It’s a Outrage

President Harding’s mistress wasn’t kidding, DNA tests show; see also this and this.
The Nan Britton affair was the sensation of its age, a product of the jazz-playing, gin-soaked Roaring Twenties and a pivotal moment in the evolution of the modern White House. It was not the first time a president was accused of an extracurricular love life, but never before had a self-proclaimed presidential mistress gone public with a popular tell-all book. The ensuing furor played out in newspapers, courtrooms and living rooms across the country.

At Princeton, Woodrow Wilson, a Heralded Alum, Is Recast as an Intolerant One. And Woodrow Wilson was extremely racist — even by the standards of his time.

More fun

Original acrostics on all the states and presidents of the United States, and various other subjects (1868). Click on text to turn pages.

Behind the Lens: 2015 Year in Photographs By Pete Souza, Chief Official White House Photographer.

Quinnipiac poll: Jimmy Carter Surpasses Reagan on Post-White House Work. In December, Carter Said Cancer in Brain Is Gone. The 2016 Presidential $1 Coin Release Schedule excludes the 39th President because he’s still alive.

I went through my draft posts and found this, which I may never have used:

For the premiere episode of Season 7 of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld takes President Barack Obama for a spin in a 1963 Corvette Stingray Split Window Coupe but finds it hard to spirit the leader of the free world off the White House grounds.

The Atlantic magazine had a list of The 100 Most Influential Figures in American History, from 2006. One could argue about the content. Naturally, it’s filled with Presidents:
99: Richard Nixon
55: John Quincy Adams
50: James K. Polk
44: Lyndon B. Johnson
28: Dwight D. Eisenhower
21: Harry S. Truman
18: Andrew Jackson
17: Ronald Reagan
15: Theodore Roosevelt
13: James Madison
12: Ulysses S. Grant
10: Woodrow Wilson
04: Franklin D. Roosevelt
03: Thomas Jefferson
02: George Washington
01: Abraham Lincoln

Another “found” graphic:

Political playing cards, including 2012 Re-Elect Barack Obama Playing Cards.

Now I Know: The President’s Pants (LBJ) and grave robbing (Lincoln) and Triskaideka-Dinner Party.

Friends of the Jensen family of Washington, D.C., know they shouldn’t expect Christmas cards. “Instead, each year Marisa Jensen, her husband, Jeff, and their daughters, Matilda, 15, and Franny, 12, take part in a much more unusual tradition: Presidents Day cards.”

What IS the purpose of Presidential libraries?

Mister, we could use a man like Calvin Coolidge again.

Quora: Who was the first U.S. President?

Obituary: Aaron Shikler, 93; painted portraits of presidents.


John Kennedy; Woodrow Wilson; George H.W. Bush; James Polk; Ulysses Grant

Barack Obama; Warren Harding; James Garfield; Jimmy Carter; Chester Arthur

Franklin D. Roosevelt; Dwight Eisenhower; Grover Cleveland; Rutherford B. Hayes; Millard Filmore or Gerald Ford

Obama; Carter; Clinton; Lincoln

John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, George H.W. Bush

40 years ago: the fall of Saigon

I knew a guy, Michael, who almost certainly died from Agent Orange exposure in early 1982, just after his daughter was born.

S. Vietnamese in Da Nang struggle to climb aboard ships that will evacuate them to Cam Ranh Ba
S. Vietnamese in Da Nang struggle to climb aboard ships that will evacuate them to Cam Ranh Ba

I’ve been reading several news articles about the documentary ‘Last Days in Vietnam’, directed by Rory Kennedy, daughter of RFK, which revisits the fall of Saigon in 1975. If I get the opportunity, I’ll have to watch it.

I became actively opposed to the Vietnam war in mid-1968, as much because of a 1967 speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. as anything.

Prior to that – I WAS only 15 -it was more that it was an American war, and I was an American, so I didn’t really need to think about it much.

After that evolution of thought, I actually LOOKED at how the United States, after France’s final defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, ended up in Vietnam, first with “advisers”. Then, after the lie that spurred the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in August 1964, there was a much-expanded presence in Vietnam, propping up one failed leadership in South Vietnam after another.

Only much later, I discovered how Richard Nixon sabotaged the 1968 Vietnam peace talks to get elected President, an arguably treasonous act, something that cost the United States an additional 22,000 lives, of the 58,000 US military killed, not to mention those tens of thousands of Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians who died needlessly.

So when the Americans effectively stopped fighting in January 1973, through a program called Vietnamization – read this and see if it reminds you of the US policy in Iraq this century – it led to the inevitable collapse of the South Vietnam government. “By the end of April 30th, South Vietnam was wholly under the control of North Vietnam who swiftly announced the creation of a united Vietnam. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City.”

Yet I felt terrible about those South Vietnamese who were left behind, who undoubtedly felt the Americans would take care of them, but, for the most part, were not able to; an estimated one million people died after reunification. Moreover, I am fascinated by the normalization of relations between the US and a united Vietnam in the past three decades.

One of the legacies of the American involvement in the war the use of the defoliant Agent Orange. I knew a guy, Michael – a good friend of my girlfriend at the time – who almost certainly died from Agent Orange exposure in early 1982, just after his daughter was born. It took nearly another decade before the government acknowledged a link between the chemical and a number of neurological diseases.

Now the U.S. finally accepting responsibility for the devastating ongoing effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam. But is this funding just a way to get USAID in the door to meddle in the country’s affairs?
From 2015: SamuraiFrog revisits Good Morning, Vietnam.

From 2014: US Government sanitizes Vietnam War history.

From 2012: ‘Napalm Girl’: An Iconic Image Of War Turns 40.

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