Archive for the December 2006 Category


Sometimes essays write themselves. That was the case recently in an essay having to do with an exchange of correspondence between Matthew Pepe and myself involving deflectors which he installed to keep me on course as I negotiate the driveway with the garbage containers. Here is another essay that has written itself.

This essay is about lyrics to a song. Anyone who grew up poor during the American Depression and felt its continuing sting, will know what this song is all about. It also applies to those who are burdened today with other difficulties. It is performed most poignantly by Peter Yarrow of the trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Yarrow, who has felt the scorn of anti-Semitism, sings this song with such feeling that it might bring tears to your eyes. These are the lyrics that go with the music and are entitled “Don’t Laugh at Me”.

Don’t Laugh at Me

I’m a little boy with glasses, the one they call a geek
a little girl who never smiles cuz I got braces on my teeth
and I know how it feels to cry myself to sleep
I’m that kid on every playground who is always chosen last
a single teenage mother tryin to overcome her past
You don’t have to be my friend if it’s too much to ask
Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names
Don’t get your pleasure from my pain
In God’s eyes we’re all the same
some day we’ll all have perfect Wings
Don’t laugh at me
I’m a cripple on the corner
You pass me on the street
I wouldn’t be out here begging if I had enough to eat
and don’t think I don’t notice that our eyes never meet
I lost my wife and little boy somewhere down that yellow line
The day we laid ’em in the ground was the day I lost my mind
Right now I’m down to holdin this little cardboard sign
Don’t laugh at me, Don’t call me names
Don’t get your pleasure from my pain
In God’s eyes we’re all the same
Someday we’ll all have perfect wings
Don’t laugh at me
I’m Fat, I’m thin..I’m Short, I’m tall..I’m deaf.. I’m blind
Hey aren’t we all
Don’t laugh at me…… Don’t call me names
Don’t get your pleasure from my pain
In God’s eyes we’re all the same
Someday we’ll all have perfect wings
Don’t laugh at me

written by
Allen Shamblin & Steve Seskin

This song has come to mind now that we see the vigorous efforts of the American political right-wing to thwart immigration to this land of immigrants. Specifically I think of this often when I find Mexican laborers gathered on a cold corner in Summit, New Jersey, hoping to be selected to perform a day’s work. If a contractor fails to choose one of them by 8 A.M., he will head back to his lonely room to wait for another day. These men are eager to perform a service. They are at the bottom of the economic scale. They are here not for the purpose of rape or robbery. They are here in an effort to support their families. Yet we find efforts throughout the country to have them banished.

In Hazleton, Pennsylvania, for example, fines are imposed upon anyone who hires such immigrants or rents to them. How un-American is this in the country that was founded on the premise of Emma Lazarus’s admonition which is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

It brings back memories of the case of my own ancestors, where help wanted signs were posted with the exclusionary note that “Irish need not apply.”

Now a few more words about Peter Yarrow. He was raised in New York City. He is a slender man who wears glasses. In his childhood, I suspect that he was much more interested in learning to play the guitar than in homeruns being hit. I can imagine a bully on the playground saying to Peter Yarrow, the last kid picked for a softball game, “Hey Jew-boy, go out to right field and don’t let the ball get behind you.” That youngster has grown up to be a sensitive man in his sixties who sings “Don’t Laugh at Me” with the greatest of poignancy. Maybe we can all take a lesson from its lyrics.

When I see men digging ditches or cutting the grass or driving a garbage truck or waiting on tables in a café, I know that were it not for my luck, I would be among them. When a person trips or falls to the bottom of the economic ladder, it is so much better to give him a hand rather than to kick him in the ribs. In essence, that is the meaning of “Don’t Laugh at Me” particularly as sung by Peter Yarrow.

December 2, 2006

Kevin’s commentary: Wow. Listen here. Really pretty song, and a great message.


John Donne 1572 – 1631

These lines are being dictated on a gloomy Friday afternoon at the end of December, 2006. Ordinarily my outlook on life is less than exuberant during the period between Christmas and New Year’s. Today’s news has sent me further into a depressed state of mind in that it appears that Saddam Hussein will be hung. I don’t find the news of Saddam’s imminent death amusing; I find it grossly depressing.

Four thoughts now occur to this feeble essayist’s mind. The first thought is that I am able ordinarily to compose a prose sentence in the English language. On the other hand, poetry is absolutely beyond my grasp. Recognizing this deficiency, I tend to rely on poets who can say things in rhyme much better than I can write them in prose. In this case, the person that I cite today was born 434 years ago in England and was known by the name of John Donne. If my Internet sources are halfway correct, John Donne was an Anglican clergyman who wrote extensively as a poet. There may be some debate about whether John Donne’s work which goes by the title, “No Man Is An Island,” is a meditation, a devotion, a sermon, musings, or perhaps a poem. For this essay, I will treat Mr. Donne’s work as a poem. It clearly and certainly is not a prose work.

Now to proceed to the main points of what I wish to say this dreary afternoon. In the first instance, the news on television and on radio is saturated with thoughts about the imminent death of Saddam Hussein. There is even much speculation as to whether the breaking of the vertebrae in his neck from the noose will cause him pain. All of this sort of thing contributes to my unhappiness and less than gleeful outlook on life today.

I fully agree that Saddam Hussein was an evil person. I fully agree that he should be punished in some fashion. But to take his life does not contribute to or promote the cause of mankind. To take his life by hanging or by any other means simply illustrates the cruelty that the human race has yet to overcome. If Saddam were to be imprisoned under solitary confinement rules until he lives out his days, I believe it would be a just punishment. To kill him is to show nothing less than our failure as a civilized society.

The point here is that John Donne said it right 382 years ago in a series called Meditation XVII. The best known work in these meditations is, “No man is an island entire unto himself.” In that meditation/devotion, John Donne points out that every man’s death diminishes the rest of us. And poet Donne also observes that you need not send to know when the funeral bells ring; at some point, they will “Ring for thee.”

I am an old soldier who is fully familiar with death. Saddam’s demise by hanging does not inspire me. It repulses me. It seems to me that John Donne had it right when he said that every man’s death diminishes the rest of us. Here is John Donne’s Meditation, written in 1624, which states it better in verse than I could ever do in prose.

“No man is an Island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were;
Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.”
John Donne, Meditation XVII
English clergyman (1572 – 1631)

Pastor Donne’s work, particularly in the final sentences, make the case succinctly and powerfully.

The second thought that comes to mind on this dreary afternoon as we wait for Saddam’s execution, is that of an American enlisted man. It goes without saying that the enlisted men in the American Army do all of the heavy lifting. And they do about 90 to 95% of the dying. For example, when a general recounts a battle and says that we lost 5,000 or 9,000 men in that battle, you may be assured that the people who did the dying were enlisted men and not the general, who was safely removed from the hostilities in a location many miles away from the battlefield. The General might even be in Washington, D.C. The overwhelming point is that enlisted men in the military perform the most miserable tasks and in the end, they are the ones who ordinarily wind up in body bags and aluminum coffins.

Thirdly, for the past several days, George Bush, who is becoming much more like Lyndon Johnson in the final days of the Vietnam War, has gathered his advisers around him in Washington, Camp David and now in the center of the universe, Crawford, Texas. Quite obviously, Bush is preparing a marketing effort to sell to the American people more troops being sent to Iraq. The marketing effort will involve a series of slogans that will underlie the sending of a new “surge” of American troops to Baghdad to try to rescue the abominable war that Mr. Bush has started. So far this month, even without the surge being employed, we have lost 113 men killed in action in Baghdad and Iraq. If I were an American enlisted man, which I was in World War II, and if I knew I would be included in the so-called surge which might be my second, third or fourth involvement in Iraq, I would have to conclude that as John Donne states it, in my case, the bell will soon toll for me.

Enlisted men are not dummies. They know when they are being sent to do an impossible job. And yet they go. In this case the Commander in Chief is asking our troops to lay down their lives for an impossible war that should never have been launched at any time. And yet the Commander in Chief sends these young men to die for a blunder of epic proportions.

Mr. Bush is a man of limited intellect. To cover his intellectual shortcomings, Bush usually resorts to bullying. This has always been the case. If you will recall his tenure as Governor of Texas, where he was attended by Alberto Gonzales, now the Attorney General of the United States, Mr. Bush sent dozens of people to be executed. His lack of compassion was widely noted. One of the people who lost her life under the Bush administration was Carla Faye Tucker. Ms. Tucker was condemned to death, but in the years before her execution, she became a devout Christian and lent comfort to others on death row and throughout the penitentiary with her caring attitude. Yet in the final analysis, Mr. Bush, who brags often about his attachment to Jesus, ordered her to be killed. Bush could have saved Carla Faye Tucker; but he did not. He had her killed to show how tough he was.

The surge in troops that Bush now seems to favor in a final hope to quell the violence, will do nothing of the sort. It is intended to show how tough Mr. Bush is and how he disregards the November 7, 2006, election results. It makes no difference what the Jim Baker-Lee Hamilton study group had to say about getting us out of Iraq. Mr. Bush has decreed that the Baker-Hamilton report amounts to surrender. He seems prepared to order a surge in troops which will inevitably result in more needless deaths to Iraqis as well as to Americans. To Mr. Bush, these unfortunate soldiers are just numbers, as was the case of Carla Faye Tucker. How cruel, how cruel.

Fourthly and finally, we come to the ending of John Donne’s Meditation. Donne’s work reminds us, “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” I am aware that winter gloom has descended upon me. I cannot help but think of Saddam’s oncoming death and the sacrifice of hundreds of American enlisted men’s lives which have to add to my unhappiness. While I know that on this particular occasion I am affected by gloom, I cannot escape the fact that somewhere down the road, probably sooner rather than later, George Bush will find that the bell tolls for him as well. This man has sent 3000 Americans to die in Iraq and countless thousands of Iraqis to die also. He has dismantled a sovereign country which could have been our friend. Clearly, for the next 500 years, Iraqis will curse the name of George Bush and the American occupiers.

In 1942 when I was a Buck Private in training for the American Army, Jack Butkowski, a longshoreman from Brooklyn, used the expression, “What goes around, comes around.” It was the first time I ever heard that expression. George Bush has been involved for years as a director of destruction. It could very well be as time goes on, the philosophy of what goes around will snare Mr. Bush. If that is not the case, Mr. Bush may give thought to John Donne’s ancient maxim that “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls.” I suspect that sooner or later, our Commander in Chief will be called to account for the lives that he has needlessly lost. I deeply regret that, because America can do much, much better.

December 29, 2006

Within hours after the first draft of this essay was dictated, Iraqi authorities ended Saddam Hussein’s life by executing him in a hanging. George Bush missed a golden opportunity to show the world a touch of compassion. Until his final hour, Saddam was in American custody. He could have been imprisoned for life under solitary confinement rules rather than to kill him.

Bush is again on vacation at his Crawford, Texas ranch. According to the White House announcement, Bush retired for the evening serene in the knowledge that Saddam would be hung before daylight reached American shores. Presumably the Commander in Chief retired to the same bed in August, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans. On that occasion, Bush ignored the devastation for three full days and was forced to view a video tape put together by his staff to show him what he had missed. It must be assumed that Mr. Bush, under instructions from Karl Rove, sleeps peacefully with the bed covers securely fastened over his head.

Have we not had enough killing in Iraq? Does one more killing, even if it is Saddam, bring serenity to the American people or to the Iraqi people? The answer is clearly negative.

In John Donne’s words, Saddam’s death diminishes me. The deaths of more than 113 American soldiers in December also diminishes me. The three thousandth American death in Iraq has now occurred. Again, those figures diminish me. During December the body count at the Baghdad morgue reached more than 3,500 men, women and children. I weep for those Iraqi deaths.

John Donne says, “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Jack Botkowski’s expression conveying the same thought is that, “What goes around, comes around.” George Bush has the blood of the Americans and the Iraqis on his hands as a result of his bastardly invasion of the sovereign country of Iraq. Bush will not escape the verdict of history. That verdict may very well be “the bell tolls for George Bush” and he will become a victim of the philosophy of “What goes around, comes around.” I am demeaned by these needless deaths taking place as a result of our occupation of Iraq. We should leave Iraq posthaste before more deaths occur.

December 31, 2006


Kevin’s commentary: I’m reminded here of when American troops killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. I was in my dorm room when people started to whoop and cheer and sing the national anthem. I remember both being glad that a monster was no longer free to continue his activities, but also a little bit surprised at the reactions of those around me. People were really and truly celebrating that he was dead. I’m not entirely sure what that accomplishes, to celebrate a death. It doesn’t bring back anyone that he hurt, all it means is that never really had to answer for any of it.




The king of Crawford, Texas, George III, has frequently said that he consults with outside experts on monumental decisions, but in the end he says he relies on his “gut feelings.” Reliance on King George’s gut feeling has brought on the disaster in Iraq and the so called war on terror. While King George says that he consults with other people, the fact is that he consults with Cheney and Rumsfeld, and primarily, his guts. His “gut feeling” has led us to the invasion of Iraq, quite simply the biggest blunder in American foreign relations in our history.

In the early 1990’s when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the chief decider’s father gathered a coalition of nations which resulted in the route of Saddam’s army. The rich Middle Eastern nations also picked up the tab for the costs of the war in Kuwait. When the route of Saddam’s army in Kuwait was complete, there was much consternation to the effect that the Allies should have pursued Saddam to Baghdad to overthrow his regime. Shortly after the war, George Herbert Walker Bush, the father of the Chief Decider, and his gifted National Security Adviser, Brent Scowcroft, wrote a book. In that book there are these lines which explain why the Allies did not seek to go to Baghdad and overthrow Saddam:

“We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well… Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations’ mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different – and perhaps barren – outcome.”

(emphasis mine)

The turmoil envisioned by the Bush-Scowcroft writings has now come to pass in spades. The United States is a pariah among all nations, Muslim, European and Christian. The former Secretary of State, James Baker, a confidant of the Bush family, reports that in prior years, people often inquired of him as to why George Herbert Walker Bush did not pursue Saddam to Baghdad. Now that events in the Middle East have proven the probity of the Bush-Scowcroft assessment, Baker now reports that no one asks him that question anymore.

The fact is that King George of Crawford conspicuously rejected his father’s advice saying, “I rely upon a higher father.” It must be assumed that the higher father is either God, Jesus or the Holy Ghost. By saying that he relied upon a higher father, it is clear that one of those members of the divinity ordered the invasion of Iraq. Thus, our war in Iraq takes on the trappings of a holy crusade.

So you see, King George of Crawford did not rely upon his father’s advice. He relied a upon his gut feelings when he ascribed it to members of the Christian divinity.

By relying upon his gut feelings instead of the wisdom of his elders, King George of Crawford has brought to fulfillment the prophecy of Henry L. Mencken. In 1925, Henry Mencken was the most noted author of prose in this country, being an editor, a critic, a reporter and the author of some 80 or more books. Henry Mencken’s view of the American presidency went into this statement about its eventual prospects:

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

– H. L. Mencken

What we have here is that the American system has produced a president who relies on gut feelings, which is clearly a moronic gesture. King George of Crawford is indeed a moron and a very dangerous one.

I have consulted with learned physicians in the eastern half of the United States. I have even had a clinical discussion with Dr. C. J. Whitman who is a specialist on ileocolectomies. Every single physician I have consulted has stated that in the digestive system, there are no brain cells. Brain cells are in the head. They are for thinking. The lower digestive system serves quite another purpose.

Unanimously, the physicians that I have consulted have said that the king of Crawford’s gut feelings are clearly the result of cramps, digestive problems or more than likely, irregularity. They have prescribed “Black Draught” for quick action or, for gentle relief of gut feelings, there are always Carter’s Little Liver Pills.

So there you have the chief decider relying and not only on his gut feelings but on a higher father than George Herbert Walker Bush. These are the actions of a dangerous moron. The lives of millions are in the balance. There is no room for a dangerous moron to rely upon his gut feelings as he guides this country into more dangerous misadventures.

December 2, 2006
Essay 270
Kevin’s commentary: Seems like Pop didn’t get quite enough off his chest with this essay, since this one came out shortly after. I knew that the older Bush had the opportunity to occupy Iraq but didn’t, but had no idea that the predictions for the outcome of such an event could be so accurate. Though I guess they were a little obvious, knowing what we know about how nations generally react to being occupied.


After every professional sporting event, a box score is kept. The box score records how many runs and hits there were, how many shots were taken, how many assists there were, and such things as passed balls, and wild pitches. A box score on Bush’s war on terror as 2006 draws to a close would look something like this.

American sources report that there have been more than 600,000 Iraqi deaths since the war started. Bush contends that that figure is “not credible.” When it comes to credibility, Bush has major troubles of his own. The blood of those Iraqi deaths are on George Bush’s hands. If we lost that many people in this country, it would be the equivalent of losing the city of Seattle, Washington.

Since the war started, more than one million Iraqis have left their home country to move to neighboring Arab states. The passport office in Baghdad now stays open on weekends to handle the demand for travel documents. In effect, the Iraqi middle and professional classes have been wiped out, leaving only the very rich and the very poor to remain. George Bush alone is responsible for this phenomenon.

The coalition forces lost more than 300 men distributed among the British, the Spaniards, the Italians and the Poles. At the end of November, our losses stood at 2,900 dead with more than 20,000 wounded. If the war were to continue to the end of Bush’s term, which he says it will, there will be 5,000 killed and perhaps 35,000 to 40,000 wounded. The cost of the war so far has exceeded $350 billion. This is called “staying the course.” And George Bush is responsible for these deaths and this waste of our financial resources.

The figures in Bushes box score in his war on terror, as it relates to Iraq, has caused millions of people, particularly in the Arab countries, to conclude that George W. Bush is the world’s supreme terrorist. To believe that a president of the United States has fallen to such depths is unbelievable and unspeakable. At the same time, an objective observer would find it most difficult to disagree with this melancholy and dismal assessment.

December 4, 2006
Essay 221
Kevin’s commentary: This was initially just a rider on the previous essay but I decided it was worth it’s own separate post since it had a title instead of a P.S.

While not the MOST unfortunate figure here, that $350 billion was the one that made me shake my head a little bit. We knew how much of a national drain the war would be from the start, and had accurate information about its cost the whole way. And yet still someone looked at it and said “yeah, keep this up.”

I think it’s a little extreme to call Bush “the world’s supreme terrorist” given that his intentions are not really to terrorize anyone (except potentially the terrorists themselves, I suppose), but presumably rather are just vengeance-driven/divinely inspired. A dumb reason to go to war, but far different from specifically attempting to spread panic among civilians. The fact that that’s is exactly what happened in a lot of the places we occupied was considered to be a nasty side-effect of the holy mission, I guess.