MLK is not your wingman

Martin Luther King Jr. Day typically brings about some great discounts!

My wife sent me an article from Leah Donnella at NPR called “MLK is not your wingman.” It’s the introduction to the Code Switch podcast episode for January 10, 2024, Everyone Wants a Piece of Martin Luther King’s Legacy. You should listen to it.

But the Donnella intro hit me right between the eyes because it’s SO true.

“For decades, everyone and their mother has tried to get a piece of that sweet, sweet MLK Pie, from car companies… to politicians (no matter what their actual politics are). And don’t forget about the deals! A recent article in Forbes probably put it best: ‘MLK Day is unequivocally about celebrating the life and legacy of civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,’ they wrote (emphasis mine). But also, the article went on, ‘Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day and even Martin Luther King Jr. Day typically bring about some great discounts.’ (Cue the swelling applause.)”

Yes, and this makes me… exasperated and weary and sad. One of the things I’ve hated about the MLK Jr. legacy after his assassination is that his image became embedded in amber, as I railed against last year.

The Struggle for the People’s King

“Hajar Yazdiha, the author of a new book about the struggle over King’s memory, argues that it’s worse than that — that Dr. King’s legacy has been used quite intentionally as a ‘Trojan horse for anti-civil rights causes.’ For instance, at a news conference in 2021, numerous Republican lawmakers invoked King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech while arguing for bans on teaching Critical Race Theory in schools.”

You’d think he gave just one speech, heck, one part of one speech. When I excerpted that address last year, I intentionally omitted the most familiar section because it has been weaponized as a declaration that WE HAVE Overcome, which I’ve primarily heard since Obama was elected President in 2008.

“Those moves are from a very old playbook, Yazdiha told us… Take Ronald Reagan. As president, he publicly helped instate Martin Luther King Day as a federal holiday. But Yazdiha says that in private letters, Reagan assured his friends that he was ‘really going to drive home throughout his presidency the story that Dr. King’s dream of this colorblind nation has been realized, and so now racism is…over and we can move on.’ That play – of invoking a radical figure only to manipulate or defang their teachings – has proved incredibly enduring and incredibly effective.”

These conversations ignore continuing inequality in wealth, health, and many other aspects of life in America.


“It’s worth remembering that despite his contemporaneous supporters, Dr. King was considered a huge threat during his lifetime and was incredibly unpopular among the mainstream. And that’s no coincidence. Part of the civil rights movement’s success was due to its disruptive naturemassive boycottsmarchessit-ins, and other acts of civil disobedience that put powerful peoples’ time, money, and good names in jeopardy.”

I noted this back in 2015. “According to the Gallup poll: ‘In 1963, King had a 41% positive and a 37% negative rating; in 1964, it was 43% positive and 39% negative; in 1965, his rating was 45% positive and 45% negative; and in 1966 — the last Gallup measure of King using this scalometer procedure — it was 32% positive and 63% negative.'”

Donnella continues: “So while it’s all well and good to celebrate a hero from a bygone era now that he’s no longer able to disagree with any particular interpretation of his legacy, maybe it’s more important to be looking at the present. Because the real inheritors of King’s legacy today — and of the civil rights movement more broadly — are likely acting in ways that make a lot of people pretty uncomfortable.”

August rambling #2: how ridiculous xenophobia is

Will Your Prescription Meds Be Covered Next Year? Better Check!

Syrian children

It’s not just Freddie Gray. The Justice Department’s new report shows how wide and deep Baltimore’s police problems are

My four months as a private prison guard, which has led to the US phasing out private prison use

US: The Real Way the 2016 Election Is Rigged

Joseph Goebbels’ 105-year-old secretary: ‘No one believes me now, but I knew nothing’ – she said, Nothing!

Germany finally apologizes for its other genocide—more than a century later

Does Henry Kissinger have a conscience?

At what point is it impossible to separate art from the artist? (Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation)

Tote bag proves how ridiculous xenophobia is

“Christian” groups are handing out these creepy ‘gay cure’ comics to children

If your pastor says “RACISM ISN’T A SKIN PROBLEM, IT’S A SIN PROBLEM” you need to find another church

Pew Research: Choosing a New Church or House of Worship; Americans look for good sermons, warm welcome

In today’s troubling times, where are our faith leaders? But Even Reinhold Niebuhr could not be Reinhold Niebuhr in 2016


Michael Rivest: The Wall That Heals

Cartoon: The future of climate denial

174 Heroin Overdoses in Six Days in Cincinnati

NPR is closing its comments section – can’t blame them

Flat earth Theories

When New Parents Refuse Vitamin K Shots And Their Babies Get Brain Bleeds

Race and poverty

America’s wealth gap is split along racial lines — and it’s getting dangerously wider

Affluent and Black, and Still Trapped by Segregation

The Original Underclass; Poor white Americans’ current crisis shouldn’t have caught the rest of the country as off guard as it has

‘Hillbilly Elegy’ Recalls A Childhood Where Poverty Was ‘The Family Tradition’

Michele Bachmann: “White People Have Suffered More In The Last 8 Years Than Blacks Did During Couple Years Of Slavery”

Why Poor People Stay Poor -Saving money costs money. Period.

Auto Lending: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Will Your Prescription Meds Be Covered Next Year? Better Check!

The culture of the smug white liberal

What I said when my white friend asked for my black opinion of white privilege

A C-SPAN caller asked a black guest how to stop being prejudiced; Here’s how she responded

The infamous Stop White Genocide video

Lottery of Indencency

Arthur’s Internet wading

When Elite Parents Dominate Volunteers, Children Lose

Thurgood Marshall’s interracial love: ‘I don’t care what people think. I’m marrying you.’

Dashcam Video Captures Highway Pileup, Woman Rescued from Burning Car in Binghamton, NY

Larry Wilmore on the End of The Nightly Show and the Show’s Greatest Legacy

Arthur@NZ is getting better and his hospital bill; damn Kiwis!

Dustbury goes grocery shopping 2.0

At my alma mater at SUNY New Paltz, College mourns death of emeritus biology professor Heinz Meng, known for recovery of peregrine falcon – he was very cool

The only movies I’ve seen with Gene Wilder are The Producers, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask, Silver Streak, Stir Crazy, and one of my favorite movies ever, Young Frankenstein, which he co-wrote. They were all released between 1967 and 1980. But he was always excellent then and in a couple of episodes of Will and Grace early this century. Gene Wilder on The Truth | Blank on Blank | PBS Digital Studios, plus Evanier and Tom Straw remember.

Steven Hill, D.A. Adam Schiff on ‘Law & Order,’ Dies at 94

A Marvin Kaplan story

Jack Riley, RIP

‘I’ve had a good life’: Donna Wold, the ex-flame who inspired the Little Red-Haired Girl in ‘Peanuts,’ dies

Your Guide to the Fall Broadway Season

50 things about comics, featuring ME

The 10 most Influential Poets in History

Art is about surrender – Stop asking for it to be custom-tailored

Chuck Miller at the State Fair and Don Rittner at the county fair, and Jaquandor at the county fair

Now I Know: David’s Garden and Horse, Off-Course

Ken Levine HATES Robert Hall

The Casual Sex Project


Harmonica legend Toots Thielemans, Known for ‘Sesame Street’ Theme, Dies at 94 and The Getaway – End credits – Quincy Jones – Toots; more Quincy and Toots; John Barry, Toots – Theme from “Midnight Cowboy” (mostly stolen from Steve Bissette’s Facebook)

U2 Live Albany New York – 13 November 1981

John Denver, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash & Roger Miller – Rocky Top

Herb Alpert Foundation to donate $10.1 million to Los Angeles City College — making studies for music majors tuition-free

It’s only rock ‘n’ roll – and sometimes it’s better in mono

35 Years Ago: Violent Femmes Discovered by the Pretenders While Busking in Milwaukee

June rambling #1: love and math

Nation Wishes It Could Just Once Be Reminded Of Preciousness Of Life Without Mass Shooting.

Get Visual: On passing.

Everything Doesn’t Happen For A Reason.

NY Gov. Cuomo signs “unconstitutional, McCarthyite” pro-Israel exec. order punishing BDS boycott movement.

Chuck Miller: The Blackbird: 2006-2016.

John Oliver: Debt Buyers.

Dan Rather on a free press.

Dear Journalists: For the Love of God, Please Stop Calling Your Writing “Content”.

A Progressive Agenda to Cut Poverty and Expand Opportunity.

Meditations of an Anxious Baker.

Christine Baxter: We Are Singing For Our Lives. The sights of her experience at the United Methodist General Conference.

Love and math.

New Yorker: Frog and Toad: an amphibious celebration of same-sex love. “Arnold Lobel… was born in 1933 and raised in Schenectady, New York.”

A Long-Lost Manuscript Contains a Searing Eyewitness Account of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, a topic I wrote about here.

Arctic greening not a good thing; low-income assistance doesn’t make people lazy. And Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) is a schmuck.

Having It All Kinda Sucks. “Only women would sign up for this much crap.”

Jaquandor is dee-you-enn with the first draft of another book.

8 Important TV Shows That Were Lost Or Destroyed.

Bruce Dern, at 80, Reflects on His Career, Working With Clint Eastwood and Alfred Hitchcock.

Deconstructing Comics Podcast: #500 – Stephen Bissette: Comics, Movies, and Creator Credits.

Trouble with Comics #40: Party All the Time.

Bats In The Bedroom Can Spread Rabies Without An Obvious Bite, something I learned firsthand.

Your Ramadan beverage.

Period. Full Stop. Point. Whatever It’s Called, It’s Going Out of Style.

Now I Know: Watching What You Say and Decipher This and The Land Down Under in the Land Down Under and How to Take Turns, International Treaty Edition.

Peter Shaffer Dies at 90; Playwright Won Tonys for ‘Equus’ and ‘Amadeus’. Pronounced SHAFF-er. Amadeus: Peter Shaffer’s Enduring Portrait of Genius (and Mediocrity).

Gordie Howe, hockey legend, R.I.P. at 88. Howe played more than 1,700 games in the NHL and scored more than 800 goals. He was widely known as “Mr. Hockey.”

Irv Benson, R.I.P. at 102.

SamuraiFrog answered a bunch of questions from me, including about the Cincinnati Zoo.

Muhammad ALI

Pentagon learned from the epic mistake of making a martyr of the world’s most gifted and famous athlete.
Cassius Clay sings Stand By Me.

Remembering Cleveland’s Muhammad Ali Summit, 1967. Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Lew Alcindor and others.

World Heavyweight Champion of Peace, Justice and Humanity.

Ali Understood the Racist Roots of War and Militarism. And he called them out fearlessly.

The Political Poet.

How Muhammad Ali helped Tavis Smiley heal a father-son rift.

The champ on That’s Incredible.

Man and Superman.

Muhammad Ali’s other big fight.

The 1996 Olympics.

When Muhammad Ali fought at the Washington Avenue Armory.

‘Ali! Ali!’: The Greatest is laid to rest in his hometown.

Pieces by Dustbury and Ken Levine.

A bunch of articles from Slate, including Billy Crystal’s Homage at the Champ’s Memorial. Plus Billy Crystal’s Muhammad Ali tribute – 15 Rounds (1979).

Muhammad Ali documentary ‘When We Were Kings’ to screen at Madison Theatre in Albany 6/23.


Big Daddy’s new video is a mash-up of “New York, New York” with classic Doo-Wop styles of the 1950s…most notably “Blue Moon” by The Marcels.

Marcia Howard: A voice from the past brings the past to The Voice.

Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Audra McDonald, Jane Krakowski, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Freestyles about RAMEN.

Classic guitar riffs.

Bobbie Gentry and other classic music photographs from the BBC archive.

Paul McCartney talks about the early days.

As Dustbury knows, this IS bad: Court Says Remastered Old Songs Get A Brand New Copyright.

Now I Know: Faking Fakin’ It.

Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! at Tanglewood, August 29

What one missed on the radio was Emmanuel Ax’s his utter humility, expressed well in his face.

Some months ago, The Wife contributed to our local public radio station WAMC, for which she got two tickets to watch the taping of the National Public Radio program Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, a weekly hour-long quiz program where “you can test your knowledge against some of the best and brightest in the news and entertainment world while figuring out what’s real news and what’s made up.”

While the Daughter stayed with friends, we went to western Massachusetts, dropped off our stuff at a motel, then on to Tanglewood. This is the lovely music venue that’s been the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for decades, the site of a pair of music schools, and is a beautiful venue for classical music, jazz, performers such as James Taylor, and John Williams, and the Boston Pops.

It had been a long time since I had gone to Tanglewood, almost exactly 15 years ago when I saw Tony Bennett and Diana Krall. The Wife had gone three or four years ago to a few concerts.

With all the inflexible rules about concert-going at other venues, we were surprised to discover that they actually encourage people to bring in lawn chairs, picnic baskets, blankets and the like.

From the lawn, heck, even from some seats inside the Shed, you can’t see the stage. The screens help – a LOT.

The show begins. They record about 90 minutes of material for a 60-minute broadcast. The announcer/scorekeeper is a “voice of God” type, Carl Kasell, who is pushing 80. Someone in the audience said she was probably the only 25-year-old with a crush on Kasell’s voice; almost certainly NOT true.

The host is Peter Sagal. In one segment that did not make it on the air, he admitted that he used to twirl around his wedding ring, which his wife at the time HATED. So she bought him another ring to play with, and now that he’s divorced, he still does. He also defined a collective: a “smug of NPR listeners,” which cracked up the audience.

The panelists this week were Tom Bodett, advice columnist Amy Dickinson and Charlie Pierce, author of Idiot America.

The show does a couple of its set pieces. It’s fascinating that the amount of time the phone contestants are on the line is at least triple what ends up on air, with some quips by the panel and Sagal interrupting the process.

Lots of guessing around us before the show who the guest might be. Would it be James Taylor, or perhaps Yo-Yo Ma? It turned out to be classical pianist Emmanuel Ax. He must have talked for nearly 25 minutes, only 10 of which made it onto the air. His discomfort with the idea of musical competition made it on the air, but the specific answer to Amy’s question about wishing his competiton to do poorly – no, he doesn’t – was left off.

So was a lot of information about him growing up in Winnipeg, Canada for two years, and his total inability to improvise musically. But mostly, what one missed on the radio was his utter humility, expressed well in his face, and his laugh.

There were a couple of jokes about WAMC chair Alan Chartock that might have been too “inside baseball” to air.

When the show was over, Peter did about four minutes of lines he needed to do over for the broadcast, then there was a lively Q&A. We didn’t rush to the car; we weren’t going anywhere soon – and getting out took at least a half-hour – but so it goes at Tanglewood.

Listening to the show on Saturday morning, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. It was good and entertaining, but the live show was a whole lot more fun. If you get a chance to watch a taping, I’d recommend it, but it might take a little luster off the show one can hear each week.

The Devil Is In The Details

Representations of faith such as the one mentioned above does little to aid the cause of Christendom in the greater world, and frankly mortifies more than a few Christians – such as this one – to boot.

At church this past Sunday, there was a dramatic reading of Matthew 4:1-11, the text in which Jesus, hungry in the wilderness for 40 days, is tempted by the devil. In the service, the choir sang a response praising God periodically during the reading. Then at the end, the devil is walking around the sanctuary, singing the very same song that the choir had been performing. It was quite affecting.

I was reminded of this a couple of days ago when I saw on YouTube a video of a young woman praising God for answering the prayers of “the believers”, that “God literally took Japan by shoulders and shook it.”

HE RATTLED THE ATHEISTS IN JAPAN!! (If you want to watch it, you can’t anymore, as Arthur explains.) Even though, or maybe because I now know it to be a hoax, I’m sorry to admit – as a self-professed pacifist – that I still wanted to reach into the screen and slap this person silly.

I was also reading Jo Page’s column in this week’s Metroland weekly about how the “New Atheists” should Give Faith a Chance and how “it is a kind of arrogance to look down your nose dismissively at the varieties of religious experience.” While I understand her point, I also recognize that representations of faith such as the faux one mentioned above do little to aid the cause of Christendom in the greater world, and frankly mortifies more than a few Christians – such as this one – to boot.

In fact, Arthur’s quote of the week dovetails nicely here: “I knew I’d struggle with the injunction to love my enemies when I first became a Christian. I just didn’t expect so many of them would turn out to be other Christians.” – Tapu Misa

I will opine that, noting pious-sounding language may be spouted by the devil, if I were to believe in a personalized Satan, it would be messengers like the person in the video that I’d be most worried about. I’m not saying she’s the devil in Christian clothing, but…
And speaking of hell freezing over, I find myself agreeing with FOX News’ Glenn Beck. Yes, I’m surprised, too.

“Analysts from the Poynter Institute and The Blaze, a website set up by Fox News host Glenn Beck, told an NPR reporter that they found a short version of the video deceiving when compared with the full two-hour tape of a lunch meeting between NPR fundraisers and two conservative activists posing as a fake Muslim group.” Nevertheless, James O’Keefe, the same dude who edited versions of his videos to discredit the nonprofit group ACORN, still got NPR’s Ron Schiller fired. Read more HERE.

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