Sunday, December 10, 2017

Our Visit to Snowy New York City

My son and I visited the big city one day after the first snowfall of the season.

Trump Impeachment Vote Will Not Take Place - Thank the Democrats

Al Green, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from Texas, had formally introduced a vote to impeach President Trump.

The measure was his fellow Democrats.

We have all witnessed the enormous irresponsibility of this man in his tenure in office, which feels long already, but has actually been quite short, at not even one full year!

During that time, he has shredded the Iran deal, announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Accord on the grounds that he does not feel that climate change is actually as serious an issue as the rest of the world does and does not believe that humanity is responsible for it. He also just announced that the United States would be moving it's Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, so that in yet another way, the United States stands alone, this time as the only nation to officially recognize the disputed city as the official capital of Israel. In an incredibly short period of time, he has managed to turn off numerous other world leaders, most notably traditional allies. Now, we have Pope Francis showing visible dismay after meeting with this king of narcissism. Just after Trump's meeting with European world leaders, several European heads of state - most notably Germany's Angela Merkel, the head of the largest and most powerful European nation - announced publicly that the United States could no longer be relied upon, and Europe needed to take matters increasingly into it's own hands.

Of course, that is just some of what he did before the rest of the world. What has he done domestically? Well, after several failed efforts at repealing Obamacare, he finally gutted it with Executive Orders - the very same kinds of Executive Orders that supporters of Trump acted so offended and outraged by when President Obama did them, and they blasted him for executive overreach at the time. And now, the Trump Tax Plan, which many are rightly calling the Trump Tax Scam, which feels like a more apt and honest description of what it actually is. It will hurt the middle class and the poor, and very predictably, will benefit the most privileged Americans, and the major corporations, of course.

Through all of that chaos - and this presidency has been nothing if not chaotic - we have had to endure Trump's lies, his excessive narcissism, and classlessness and cluelessness, and his damn tweets. His approach is not only beneath the office that he is supposed to represent, but far, far beneath it. When you think of some of the great minds and great men who have held the office - for all of their imperfections - and you think of Donald Trump, it just makes you shake your head and wonder how in the hell we have reached such depths in this nation now.

Out of 194 Democrats in the House, 127 Democrats (roughly two-thirds) voted against the measure to even bring up a vote on the impeachment of President Trump.

I can understand politically why they did it. After all, next year is an election year, and Democrats supposedly want to wait until they have a majority (they are assuming they will have the majority) before they take any such action. After all, with Republicans in control, they clearly will not actually go through with getting rid of a Republican president. If they bring the vote up before Congress, than numerous Democrats would have to explain during an election year why they voted against impeachment. Also, President Trump is very unpopular right now, but a vote to actually impeach him might galvanize his base, even those who's support was wavering. Suddenly, we might see a political resurgence of what is increasingly being referred to as Trumpism, which frankly, should never have come into existence in the first place.

However, I think the Democrats are, predictably, miscalculating. They only think in terms of conventional political strategy. In other words, they think only of the results, which for them is all about winning elections. And they think that a more conventional approach works, or will work.

They learned nothing from their humiliating defeat last year. 

The Democrats, obviously, are supposed to be the opposition party. We were told by many Democrats that there should be no normalization of Trump, because there was nothing normal about this guy. Yet, for all intents and purposes, we have seen exactly that here, domestically, in the United States, even while Trump himself has produced nothing but chaos for the United States, both domestically and especially internationally. 

This is exactly how most of us skeptics expected the Democrats to react. They acted outraged at first, but before too long, it was overly cautious and opportunistic. Yes, opportunistic, like Trump himself, just waiting in the grass like a coiled snake, ready to pounce.

Except that Trump and the Republicans are much better, and much more natural at it, which is why they continue to win election after election. That is why Democrats keep losing major elections in supposedly shocking fashion, despite polls showing a vast majority of Americans being opposed to Donald Trump, and a ridiculous majority of Americans being opposed to the Republican controlled Congress. 

Want to know the sad truth of the extent of how warped politics has become in the United States? President Trump's approval ratings not hover around 35 percent, according to recent polls. He is lower than any other man who has held the White House this early into their term. Yet, he remains firmly in power, and some are suggesting - with legitimacy - that he could, and probably will, win the 2020 election. The Republican Congress is even lower, at about 16 percent. Yet, Congress members are re-elected over 95 percent of the time. A majority of Americans want a better, more affordable healthcare system, yet we never seem to get that. What we got was Obamacare, and even when a majority of Americans wanted to keep that, Trump killed it with his Executive Order, as well as some sneaky additions in this ridiculous tax plan. Speaking of that tax plan (or rather, tax scam), approval ratings for that were never higher than 25 percent. Yet, it passed the Senate, and it seems like a mere formality before it is on President Trump's desk, where he will sign it into law. Never mind that it passed the Senate in the middle of the night, before any single Senator was actually able to read the approximately 500-page bill. 

Yes, this is where we are in American politics. We have a President who lost the majority vote last year by nearly three million, yet he claims to have won a historically dominant vote, claiming that it was a wide mandate. We have a majority of Americans increasingly catching on that trickle-down economics does not work and has not worked historically, yet this tax bill effectively reformed the American economy to make it the very picture of trickle-down economics. Marijuana legalization is now supported by a majority of Americans, yet the Trump administration wants to crack down on this wave of legalization in individual states. According to polls, 70 percent of Americans believe in climate change and feel that we need to do something, while the Trump administration officially wants to do nothing. No, worse than nothing. They pulled us out of a binding international agreement, have made dumping in streams far more easy for major polluters, and have opened up national parks for drilling and for plundering. 

What does it matter what the polls say, when we so clearly are being occupied by a hostile force?

And by that, I mean both President Trump's Republicans, as well as the complicit, mainstream Democrats!

Most Americans now feel that the Democrats stand for nothing except opposition to Trump. That is why they lost the 2016 election, because all they talked about was why Trump would be so bad. They were right, he is bad. But what did the Democrats stand for, exactly? A majority of Americans could not say. Hillary Clinton claims that she talked at length about some of what she stood for, but what were those things again? All I remember her doing last year was "defeating" Bernie Sanders while effectively controlling the clearly rigged Democratic primaries, thus reinforcing doubts about her honesty and integrity, and then talking at length about how bad and unstable Trump was. She could hardly stand on solid ground when discussing what she stood for, because she only stands for things when she could possibly get some measurable political gin from them. That, or some money, like those speaking fees she received by those big Wall Street banks.

So, can anyone really tell me, concretely and with no ambiguity, what Hillary Clinton actually stood for, rather than allegedly stood against? And even if there some ideas or proposals that she stuck to, were they detailed, and did she truly possess the consistency in character that would allow most Americans to believe that she would actually fight for them once in office? I mean, the mainstream Democrats seemed to have no problems with her character, but it seems that they also were to dismiss clear indicators of her not being trustworthy. When she is caught lying about coming under sniper fire in Bosnia, mainstream Democrats too easily dismissed it, while the rest of us paid attention to something truly revealing about her. When she told the Wall Street banks that she felt that it was fine to have both a public and a private position on banks, they too easily and quickly dismissed it, but the rest of the country paid attention. When she asked for help from Democratic party leadership, like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz outright stated Clinton did, the mainstream Democrats too conveniently dismissed it, but the rest of the country paid attention. Is it any surprise, then, that they too easily and quickly dismissed unfavorable polls that showed Trump beating her before she officially got the nomination?

Some might dismiss this as old news, as irrelevant, because it is part of the past. But it is not the distant past and, most importantly, the mainstream Democrats have not shown any serious signs of having learned any lessons. They are still turning their hopes towards other mainstream Democrats, dreaming of a Joe Biden run, or perhaps to Kaine, or other very mediocre, frankly untrustworthy candidates. I saw one person writing about their hopes that Al Franken would basically get past these recent allegations against him, and make a run for the presidency, even though he himself has suggested that he would never run for the White House, and this was well before these charges were brought up.

Many of these people, and like-minded people, were as dismissive of Bernie Sanders and his ideas, as they were with any seemingly glaring imperfections associated with Hillary Clinton. I saw a number of them dismissing what they called "pie in the sky" ideas, such as a single-payer healthcare system that covers everyone, or free college - even though both of these things exist in numerous countries already, and are hardly unrealistic goals for us to achieve. The message from mainstream Democrats for people who believed that these things were not only possible, but downright necessary for the nation to keep improving and for our standard of living to remain competitive with these other nations is that we Americans could not do it. Talk about defeatism. Why would these things not only be possible, but have already been done in so many other nations, yet somehow impossible here in the United States?

But, of course, private interests and the profit motive trump everything else here in the United States. These profit motives kill the good ideas that could truly improve out national standard of living, and both the Republicans and the Democrats are guilty of this. Why do we not have some kind of truly universal, affordable healthcare system in this country? Because it cuts into the profits of the healthcare industry and big pharmaceutical industry. Why do we not have free college? Because it would threaten the profits of private education institutions, as well as for those wealthy Americans who can actually easily afford the costs, and want to keep the wealth, and the most plum positions, within family, rather than having to compete for them. Why do we have such an unfair and outrageously oversized prison system? Because doing away with it, dismantling that system, would obviously hurt the for profit prison system, because people are obviously raking in the dough from what has become a new version of slavery in this country. Why do we not have legalized marijuana? Because it would cut into the profits of the alcohol, tobacco, and paper industry, to name just a few. 

Yes, the profit of the few is the reason that we have seen our standard of living decline for decades now, and it is also the reason why we are unlikely to raise that standard of living, at least if we continue to vote for the mainstream parties, the two major parties. Why? Because they are like auctions for special interests, who look to purchase investments in essentially owning politicians, who will then do their bidding. When corruption becomes endemic in the marbled halls of Congress, this becomes the real agenda, the real priority, for these politicians, which is how we got to the point we find ourselves now, with a de facto corporate supremacist state. Everyone knows it, but no one knows how to dismantle it.

I will tell you one thing, however. We are not going to see this end if we keep electing the same types of corrupt politicians. That is why Hillary lost, because for far too many, she represented exactly a continuation of the same old same old in Washington. At a time when people were fed up with politics as usual, the mainstream Democrats truly believed that her experience, which was seen as tainted, should stand to her benefit. As unbelievable as it seems, despite how everyone knew that Trump had such an extensive and well-documented history of being a liar and a con artist, he was more trusted than Hillary, and probably precisely because he could rightly claim not to be a Washington insider, and he correctly identified that Washington corruption had reached epic proportions and needed to be reigned in. True, most people, including myself, had absolutely no faith that he could bring integrity back to Washington. But many believed his claims that he could not be bought or sold, and they would never believe Hillary if she made the same claim, and really, that was not without some justification. Also, many just voted for Trump to shake things up, knowing that he would piss off "the establishment." That he did not represent serious improvements in people's lives seemed to be lost on them, when he convinced people that he would do for the country what he had done for himself, in building up his financial empire. 

That is why so many of his supporters remain loyal to him, and why they get so outraged whenever there is any mention of possible impeachment. Indeed, with the current political climate in this country, such an action might just wind up triggering an actual second civil war. Why? Because to them, it would be the corrupt elitists in Washington trying to get rid of a threat to their privileged status. Again, facts do not matter. That Trump has proven himself to be an elitist, which he has been all of his life, does not matter, or is not believed. The fact that Trump has proven himself to be incompetent as leader according to many around the world is also easily dismissed, because when the president throws this absurd notion that any and all criticisms of him automatically fall into the category of "fake news" and his supporters buy into that, there really is no arguing against it.

And so, Democrats once again predictably walk away, despite how bad things are getting. Trump clearly is a threat to our democracy (what remains of it, anyway), and is a dangerously unstable leader. He predictably pushes a narrow, elitist agenda, yet he claims otherwise, and his legions of gullible supporters believe his every word, while he laughs all the way to the bank. And the Democrats, who see opportunity in all of this, are once again very cautious, to a fault. 

That is why they will lose, because they are trying to outmaneuver the current Republican party at the game that Republicans themselves have long ago mastered: profiting from manipulation and propaganda. 

Really, it is not a secret why Republicans continue to win, and even to dominate, what is going on in Washington. It is not a secret now, and has not been a secret for decades. As Harry Truman once said, "If it's a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time."

The Democrats will continue to swirl the rope of opportunism around in hopes of drawing attention, and getting a large crowd to donate money and, ultimately, to vote. In their attempts to lasso golden opportunity, and they are doing it now as we speak, they are attempting to appear like a unified opposition party, while simultaneously trying to purge Bernie supporters from the party. They believe that the middle ground will continue to win elections, even though it clearly did no such thing for them last year. And all too predictably, the Republicans will give the Democrats enough rope to allow them Democrats to hang themselves with. Really, this is something that we have seen time and time again, like Charlie Brown lining up to kick that football that Lucy is holding, only to have it pulled away at the last moment, and to fall flat on their backs. If they keep going this way, you can bet that after the 2020 election, they will once again, also predictably, be finger pointing towards anyone and everyone but themselves for yet another dismal and dispiriting failure.

ABC News: Majority of Americans Say Democrats Stand For Nothing Except Being Against Trump (VIDEO):

Trump impeachment vote shot down as majority of House Democrats join Republicans to kill resolution by Emily Shugerman, December 6, 2017:

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Under One Year of President Trump, Germany Has Had Enough

Earlier this week, Donald Trump announced that he would be moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And like with so many other things that this man has said and done since becoming President, reaction was swift and mostly negative. There were calls for violent protests, and indeed, protests were seen in much of the Middle East. For many Arabs, this latest move was just confirmation of what they largely suspected, that Americans might claim to be somewhat neutral in the debate between Israel and Palestine and a potential two state solution, but the reality is that the United States always seems to side with Israel, and that despite some window dressing to appear neutral, the United States will forever side with and favor Israel. 

Now, there were some who were jubilant about this announcement. Many Israelis were, obviously. They made the move to make Jerusalem the national capital many years ago. However, no nation had their embassy there (although some used to), because it was recognized by the world community as disputed territory. For all intents and purposes, Jerusalem is a divided city. There is West Jerusalem, which belongs to the Israelis. And there is East Jerusalem, which has been recognized as belonging to the Palestinians. But Trump's announcement is being regarded as legitimizing Israeli claims to all of Jerusalem, so indeed, many Israelis are happy. Netanyahu looked downright jubilant.

But again, most of the world was clear in condemning Trump's actions. Like so many of his decisions and opinions, it is being regarded as reckless and not well thought out at all. While Trump himself has remained defiant, and suggests that this is just an acknowledgement of reality, most of the world clearly seems to reject his thinking, and reinforcing America's increased isolation since Trump took over. Indeed, the United States sees itself as more and more isolated with seemingly every action and every policy coming out of the Trump White House. Americans had better get used to it.

Case in point would be the reaction out of Germany. Now Germany, along with the rest of western Europe, are traditional allies with the United States. That is understandable, as these nations, by and large, share some similarities politically, economically, culturally, and historically. Western Europe and the United States became especially close particularly in the postwar years, when they joined together to form NATO to keep the Soviet threat in check. Also, there were clear signs of mutual cooperation and respect both economically and politically. 

That period appears to be ending. If there were signs of that - and to be sure, there were always differences of opinions that resulted in friction - those signs have never been as blatant and transparent as they appear to be now. The close cooperation between the United States and western Europe was seriously threatened during the administration of George W. Bush in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, and it clearly existed when it was discovered, under President Obama, that the United States had wiretapped the offices of Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany.

Yet, even those earlier signs of rising tensions and suspicions pale in comparison to what has been going on ever since Donald Trump won last year's presidential elections in the United States. That election result shocked and alarmed - some might even suggest horrified - many around the world. Coming as it did just months after Britain had similarly disappointing and horrified the world, and especially Europe, by voting to leave the European Union (Brexit), there was growing feeling in Europe that they were dealing with two English speaking countries, and close allies, who were choosing to go in a very different direction than the rest of the world, and perhaps especially away from Europe.

Still, once Trump's official election win became clear, despite some obvious and serious trepidation, there was a general response of let's just wait and see what we end up having, from the masses of people opposed to Trump both inside and outside of the United States.

Well, we have waited, and we now have seen what the Trump presidency will be like. As most skeptics predicted, it has offered nothing of real substance, much like the main man behind it. It is a reflection of Trump himself: loud and boisterous and overly sure of itself, despite no real cause for all of this bravado for any thinking, halfway objective person. His America first policy betrays and overly, overly paranoid way of thinking, and very public dismissal of science and good taste more generally has sickened the world. His recklessness and crass approach has rubbed many people the wrong way, and this is especially true in Europe - perhaps especially in Germany.

Some German citizens - not the government - were warning about the dangers of having a populist politician with a big  mouth and with a certain bravado like Trump in charge, and in a thinly disguised comparison with a certain former leader of Germany, they warned that Germany as a nation had tried it, too, and look how well that turned out.

Indeed, a vast majority of Germans disapprove of Donald Trump, and that is no secret or surprise. What might be a surprise, at least to Americans, is that they view the United States under Trump as a more serious threat than either Russia or North Korea, in a poll and news story that actually reminded me a bit of a similar poll in Canada about a decade and a half that revealed that a wide majority of Canadians viewed the United States as a more serious threat to world peace than Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Indeed, after European leaders first met with now President Trump earlier this year, several European heads of state warned that they no longer felt that they could rely upon Britain and the United States - again, two former longtime allies - as reliable partners anymore. The most notable world leader to do this was, of course, Angela Merkel of Germany, just hours after first meeting Trump in person. It should also be noted that just days earlier, Trump's trademark style of empty bravado, so beloved by tens of millions of Americans apparently, even sickened the Pope, who looked visibly unhappy and distressed after meeting with President Trump.

Those differences only grew over time, especially after President Trump announced that he would be withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, insinuating that it had been a "bad deal" for the United States, and that the entire world was laughing at his nation. In fact, it seemed that the whole world was more disgusted by Trump's crass but typical dismissal of science than they ever were laughing at the United States for joining the world community on the international accord.

And now, with this latest announcement, Merkel went even further, not merely suggesting that the United States was no longer a reliable ally, but that the United States, at least while Trump is in charge, is in fact not an ally at all. 

Can you blame her?

Indeed, this is exactly what millions of American opponents of Trump were worried about, that this man's shallowness, which tens of millions of Americans apparently cannot see through, is all too transparent for the rest of the world. Nobody outside of American borders seems fooled in the least. And traditional allies are leaving us in droves. Allies like Germany, and much of the rest of western Europe. And Mexico, of course, because whatever some paranoid Americans believe, the United States and Mexico were close allies and partners in trade, but this has been greatly compromised. And indeed, some other nations are starting to think twice, such as Saudi Arabia, a nation that has been extremely reluctant to criticize this country before, but which blasted Trump's decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem. 

As many people warned and predicted, the United States under Trump is making very bad decisions, decisions that might haunt it for years to come. In less than one full year (although it feels like Trump has been in there longer than that), the United States has indeed lost close allies and grown ever more isolated, while China's power and influence grows. The Trump presidency has benefited them, as they have used every opportunity to step in and assume leaders roles around the world that Trump's isolationism and provincial way of thinking is leaving open.

The world is trying to warn Americans, and indeed, the increased isolation should be alarming enough to anyone paying attention. The rest of the world is screaming, trying to warn Americans that they are heading for a crash, and tens of millions of arrogant and ignorant Americans are convinced that they are doing so only out of jealousy or hollow anger. 

In fact, they are trying to warn us of the clear dangers that seem all too clear to them when an idiot like Trump takes charge. And nowhere are they screaming out warnings faster or more fiercely than in Germany.

Again, can you blame them?

Germans see Trump as bigger problem than North Korea or Russia Reuters Staff, December 5, 2017:

Germany Denounces the United States Under Trump's Leadership, Releases Historic Statement

Friday, December 8, 2017

John Lennon Remembered Three Decades and a Half After His Murder

One last blog entry dedicated to the anniversary of the death of John Lennon.

Hopefully, I am not overdoing it. But one of my earliest memories of actual news events in my lifetime was the death of John Lennon. Also, since both of my parents, and other adults that figured prominently in my life while a child, either had been into the Beatles or still very much were, the music of the Beatles, as well as Lennon's solo works, were pretty huge for me. I loved their music and their history, as well as their message. This was most likely the case with Lennon in particular. My father even carved Lennon's caricature on a piece of wood, and was hugely influenced by Lennon. He still recalls the one time that he saw Lennon in New York City.

So, there are two links to articles on Lennon here.

The first one is a nice article overall, with CNN reflecting on the ex-Beatle, as well as solo musician in his own right, and noted peace activist.

The second one is about this particular anniversary being recognized this year at Strawberry Fields in New York City, not far from the spot where he was killed.

I have been to Strawberry Fields, and visited just outside of his old apartment, where he was shot. There was a feeling of serenity and reverence at Strawberry Fields not all that different than being in a place of worship. One of these days, I intend to go there on the anniversary of his death, as well as on his birthday, which should bring extra added significance.

35 Years Ago: John Lennon Murdered (NBC News Archived Video):

Remembering John Lennon, 35 years after his death by Todd Leopold, CNN, December 7, 2015

John Lennon's Last Days: A Remembrance by Yoko Ono, December 23, 2010:

How the World Reacted to John Lennon’s Death 35 Years Ago by Lily Rothman, Dec. 8, 2015:
John Lennon fans offer peaceful tributes to slain Beatle at Central Park’s Strawberry Fields memorial 35 years after his death BY JOSEPH STEPANSKY, STEPHEN REX BROWN  NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Tuesday, December 8, 2015: - new york - top&_gup=Facebook&_gsc=CF2poEE

Over 1 Million Americans Have Been Killed by Guns Since Murder of John Lennon

Okay, one last post related (sort of) to the death of John Lennon.

Of course, Lennon was shot more than three and a half decades ago on this day, and died hours after being shot.

We Americans have had some high profile cases of people being killed by guns. There was the Kennedy Assassination and, later that weekend, much of the country watched live as Lee Harvey Oswald, the man suspected of having shot Kennedy, was himself shot.

In the following years, numerous other prominent figures were killed by guns, including Medgar Evars and Malcolm X. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were shot about one month after one another. So was segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace. Lennon was shot late in 1980, and Ronald Reagan was shot early in 1981, although he survived the assassination attempt.

However, one bit of shocking news that I learned of earlier today was that well over one million Americans were not so lucky since that fateful day in early December of 1980 in New York City, when a madman with a gun struck down one of the most revered musicians and peace activists of all time.

Please take a look at the article below by clicking on the link, and let us reflect on what that means, especially if you are an American, or are presently living within the United States. I think that we can agree that something needs to be done.

1.15 Million Americans Have Been Killed by Guns Since John Lennon's Death Lennon was shot to death by Mark David Chapman 35 years ago Tuesday  BY TESSA STUART December 8, 2015:

Paul McCartney Talks About John Lennon's Death

"John Lennon Shot to Death by Wacko as Wife Watches"

Those were headlines of the famous news story that occurred back in 1980 following the events on December 8th, when famed musician John Lennon was shot.

Chapman was a lunatic who had gone out of his way to get to New York to shoot down the peaceful and iconic musician. He came all the way to New York City and waited around for Lennon. When he finally saw him, he approached him first to ask for his autograph on a record that he had with him. Then, he took out a gun and shot Lennon several times. I think that Lennon was trying to run away, so he was shot in the back several times, and died later that night.

Today marks the 34th anniversary of that tragic event. Lennon was a luminary, a visionary. He wrote some beautiful music, including Imagine, which I think ranks up there as one of the greatest songs (not just rock songs) ever, period.

The world was saddened and shocked by the sudden murder of Lennon, and that obviously included the other members of The Beatles.

But Paul McCartney's reaction seemed a little strange to many, to say the least. He did not mean to come across as almost indifferent, yet that was almost the way he came across initially before the news camera. Here is a clip:

McCartney explained himself a bit, however. He certainly did not intend to come across as seeming indifferent, or anything. He was simply never comfortable trying to express sadness before the cameras. Here is a clip of him explaining what happened, and why he seemed so strange on that night:

Also thought this was worth seeing. Final radio interview just a couple of days before his death:

Here is the link to the article that I wrote on Guardian Liberty Voice on the subject:

Here was a link to another cool article that I found:

Paul McCartney opens about John Lennon's death on The Jonathan Ross Show: 'His killer is the jerk of jerks'

Sir Paul McCartney Speaks About John Lennon's Death by Ed Biggs | 06 December 2014

50 Years Ago: The Beatles Started to Show the Strains of Beatlemania on ‘Beatles for Sale’ by Michael Gallucci December 4, 2014

Famous Musicians Who Correctly Predicted Their Own Death by Michael Gallucci   Read More: Famous Musicians Who Correctly Predicted Their Own Death

John Lennon – Famous Musicians Who Correctly Predicted Their Own Death by Michael Gallucci

The Fascinating Story Behind Last Photograph of John Lennon

Imagine happening to be somewhere just before something huge happens. I think about that every now and then, since my mom was working in the financial district near Wall Street and the nearby World Trade Center for years. She stopped working there very early in September of 2001. A week and a half after she moved on from that position, two planes hit the World Trade Center, killing thousands and changing the world. She probably would have been okay, because she did not work in the Twin Towers, or anything. But she would have been there on that long day, and surely would never have forgotten what she saw.

Well, there is a man who had just such an experience, and it changed his life. He is longtime New Jersey resident Paul Goresh, and he was in New York City on December 8, 1980. More than simply being in the city on that fateful day, he took the last picture of John Lennon before the music legend and peace activist was murdered later that day. Even more shocking, he got a picture of Lennon next to his eventual killer.

This is a fascinating story, and I recommend clicking on the link below if you are interested to find out more:

N.J. man who took last photo of John Lennon recalls tragedy by Anthony G. Attrino | NJ Advance Media for, December 07, 2015:

John Lennon's NYC Photographer Bob Gruen Reflects on Years With Ex-Beatle

Honoring the memory of John Lennon once again on this, the anniversary of his assassination, I thought that sharing this article (see link below) would be nice.

These are some thoughts from his official photographer during the years when Lennon and Yoko Ono lived in New York City, and had their son, Sean.

Take a look:

John Lennon's photographer Bob Gruen remembers the Beatle's New York City years by Jamie Reysen,  December 7, 2015:

Thursday Night Football Review - Falcons Edge Saints

New Orleans Saints 


Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta 20, New Orleans 17 - This was a fun and fascinating game to watch! Well, admittedly, I did not watch it from the beginning, but perhaps from midway or so through the fourth and final quarter. But these two teams seemed to go back and forth. One minute, it seemed assured that the Saints would win, then then next, it seemed certain that the Falcons would win. 

In the end, the Falcons were able to ice the win when a rare Drew Brees mistake saw the Saints seemingly good chances for a game winning touchdown (they were quite close to the end zone, and at least in great position for a field goal to tie the game and force overtime) was intercepted by Deion Jones in the end zone. 

The ball thus went to Atlanta with little time remaining, and with the Falcons needing a first down to keep the drive alive and keep the ball away from the Saints dangerous offense, Sean Payton obliged by running well onto the field to protest that he was not being paid attention to while trying to call a timeout. That gave the Falcons 15 yards and a first down, and from there, they were able to run out the clock on New Orleans. 

Earlier in the fourth quarter, Sean Payton showed his trademark class and imitated Pete Carroll by making a "choke" sign with his hands. It was perhaps meant to get inside of the heads of the Falcons, who infamously blew a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl last season, and lost some games earlier this season after holding sizable leads. 

Atlanta's Devonta Freeman saw it, but it did not bother him. Here is the response by Freeman, according to an ESPN article by Vaughn McClure:

"Man, I saw it,'' a chuckling Freeman told reporters after the Falcons' 20-17 win. "That man don't know nothing about choking. He ain't from where I'm from. He don't know about choking. He's a good competitor. The 'competes' probably came out. But we don't let that bother me. He don't know nothing about choking.'

Well, maybe Payton meant to get in their heads, but as it turns out, much like when Carroll made that gesture with the New York Jets in a game that the Dolphins would eventually lose, the Saints also lost this one. It seemed rather fitting, frankly. 

With the loss, the Saints might wind up once again being tied with the Panthers after this weekend, if Carolina manages to stop the red hot Vikings and end their big win streak. At the very least, New Orleans is not nearly so close to clinching the division as it appeared they might be after beating the Panthers last weekend, and being favored by many to win this one this week.

The win for Atlanta keeps their playoff hopes alive, although they do need help. 

Or, perhaps, they do not. Why? Because, in fact, they play the Panthers and the Saints again this season, in their remaining three games. And if they manage to win all three of those remaining games, they will win the NFC South, as unlikely as that scenario appeared just days, or even hours, ago. It might not happen, but by virtue of this win, it is at least still a possibility.

So, maybe the Falcons did choke in the big game in February. And maybe they did blow some big leads earlier this season. But they certainly did not blow it in this one, and if they can avoid choking in any of these upcoming three games, the Falcons will be able to proudly call themselves NFC South champions, against all odds.

If it is anywhere near as fun as last night's game was, I for one ame looking forward to it!

This is the article that I used (specifically the quote) in writing this particular blog entry:

Devonta Freeman brushes off choking gesture from Sean Payton by Vaughn McClure ESPN Staff Writer, December 8, 2017:

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Concert Review: Johnny Hallyday Beacon Theater, NYC, October 7, 2012


This blog entry was originally published on October 7, 2012, and reviewed the Johnny Hallyday concert in New York City from a day or two before:

Concert Review: Johnny Hallyday Beacon Theater, NYC, October 7, 2012

The first time that I saw Johnny Halliday was way back in 2000, in Montreal - the Theatre St. Denis, if memory serves me correctly.

Now, most English speakers will likely never really have heard of Johnny Halliday. One time, I remember hearing that he was the most famous rock star that you've never heard of. As far as English speakers go, and particularly Americans, I think that's pretty accurate.

Johnny Halliday is to France what perhaps the Rolling Stones are. He's a historical act, a huge act going way back - we're talking decades here - to the early days of rock 'n roll. He sort of was comparable to a French version of Elvis, if you will, although he has managed to redefine himself more times than perhaps anyone I know of. He took a slightly more Hippie-ish turn later on, then was very seventies, very eighties, and so on and so forth. 

It can almost be comical, yet he is a very talented musician. After all, no one lasts that long in such a tough business without some strong measure of talent, and he not only has survived, but has thrived over the course of decades now. He has some truly incredible stuff.

Where he seems most comfortable is as a biker, seemingly. He particularly seems to enjoy coming to America, perhaps for more or less the same reason that some celebrities here enjoy going to Europe - for some anonymity, the privilege of being just another person, and not a celebrity with tons of people following your every move.

Until fairly recently, he lived in a town called Louveciennes, which borders the town that my family traditionally was from - Marly-le-Roi. Neither Marly nor Louveciennes are exactly like Hollywood or anything. Marly is a normal town, and hardly a rich man's paradise. Yet, many French celebrities seem to come to Louveciennes to live. It is convenient, being a pretty suburb of Paris. Close enough to be convenient, but far enough to be quiet. That certainly has it's advantages.

It is hard to get people to understand just how huge this guy is in France. He truly is an icon for French rock 'n roll music, and he has been at the forefront for nearly half a century. He works out and keeps himself in decent shape, too, which perhaps explains how he is able to move so well throughout the show. Johnny puts on a great one, and I was fortunate enough now to have seen him twice - in Montreal in 2000, and now in New York City in 2012.

Apparently, the show at Beacon Theater was this legendary rocker's was his debut in the Big Apple, a fact that I'll admit to finding a bit surprising.

He joked with the crowd a bit, saying that the crowd had been louder in Canada. Hallyday had played in Montreal on October 4th and 5th.

Johnny donned his familiar biker look for this concert - the same look that he wore the previous time I had seen him, in 2000. Seems that in his older age, that is evidently his look of choice.

The crowd, which seemed to be at least in huge part of French extraction were loud and enthusiastic. Cries of "Johnny!" could be heard prominently throughout the night.

He played some of his staple songs along the way, including Que je t'aime (which got a huge and wildly enthusiastic reception!), L'envie (my personal favorite Johnny song), Allumer le feu, among others. He also did some tributes to other great musicians hat he liked and found influential, including Jimi Hendrix, with a French language version of Hey Joe (I should note here that Hendrix once opened for Johnny in Evreux back in 1966, and there is old, black and white footage of the two partying together). He also did a French language version of Creedence Clearwater's Fortunate Son. He closed by paying tribute to another great French musician, covering Jacques Brel's Quand on n'a que l'amour, after nearly two hours on stage.

Johnny is a professional, and knows how to put on a good show! He did not disappoint on rainy and chilly Sunday evening in New York City, either.

Johnny Hallyday will have a new album, "L'Attente" coming out next month, in November.

One person, Livius44, who read that post shared a video from this concert from New York's Beacon Theater. Here is a clip that, presumably, he or she took:

Here is a Youtube video showing the advertisement for the show, put up by  :

Another illustration of the advertisement:

Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

It has now been more than three quarters of a century since the attack on Pearl Harbor. But it was such a huge event, one that finally fully got the United States into the biggest war to date that the world has ever seen.

This was such a huge event in American history, and really world history, that it deserves to be mentioned on this day. After all, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor forced America into World War II, as the United States declared war on Japan. Days later, Hitler announced that Germany was declaring war on the United States.

Pearl Harbor is one of those few places almost entirely defined by the significance of one event that took place there. Even the World Trade Center in New York City is not as systematically defined by the attacks there as Pearl Harbor is by the bombing by the Japanese on this day, 75 years ago now.

Each year, of course, there are fewer and fewer survivors who attend the ceremonies, as the Greatest Generation sadly continues to die off. Still, it seems appropriate to honor their sacrifice, their bravery, and their shining example in the fight to keep the world free from unprecedented tyranny and aggression.

Today, I honor the sacrifices of those who gave everything that they had to give, often including their very lives, to help keep the world free, particularly on this day, those who were at Pearl Harbor. The world truly is a better place today for their efforts.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

RIP, Johnny Hallyday

Most Americans will likely not recognize this one, but a great icon of rock 'n roll, dating back to the early days of the 1960's, died yesterday. 

This was Johnny Hallyday, and again, although he was unknown to many Americans, he was in fact a huge star. In France, and indeed in much of Europe, he was as well-known and iconic as the Rolling Stones and the surviving Beatles. The New York Times, in their article announcing his death, claimed that he was France's answer to Elvis Presley, and indeed, that was likely not an exaggeration. 

Unlike Elvis, however, Hallyday's career endured over many decades, and his stardom only grew with his age. So much was this the truth, that it prompted  New York Times writer William Grimes to suggest of Hallyday:

"His career endured so long that when he released an album in 2008 called “Ça Ne Finira Jamais” (“It Will Never End”), the title sounded like a simple statement of fact." 

How big was he, really? Well, to give you an idea, he regularly would sell out arenas and even stadiums, and was a superstar, whose fame transcended the music world. He sold 100 million albums worldwide (no, that's not a typo), and acted in more than 30 movies, including at least one of the more recent Pink Panther movies with Steve Martin, where American audiences would have seen him (if not known him by name). He did and was featured on scores of other film soundtracks. 

He gave a free concert at the Champ-de-Mars in Paris (just under the Eiffel Tower, and that concert drew a crowd of half a million people, with just under ten million people watching on television. That is roughly a sixth of the entire population of his native France.

Yes, he was that big.

Hallyday did and was featured on scores of other film soundtracks. He was regularly featured on the covers of French tabloids and major magazines. Again, William Grimes summed up why quite succinctly:

"Mr. Hallyday gave his fans more than recycled Elvis. His hard drinking, car crashes, wild partying and tempestuous love life made him a permanent headline in the French popular press. Readers breathlessly followed his on-again, off-again marriage to the glamorous singer and actress Sylvie Vartan, a roller-coaster relationship that led Mr. Hallyday to attempt suicide twice."

I was fortunate enough to have seen Johnny Hallyday a couple of times. The first time was way back in 2000, when he did four shows at the Théâtre St-Denis in Montréal. My father and I made a point of ordering tickets to see one of them, which we did. It was spectacular, and featured guest appearances from some noted personalities, including actor Jean Reno, and Québec's own Éric Lapointe. My brother, my girlfriend and I also saw him in 2012, when he came to New York City. My brother was also at that show at the Eiffel Tower in 2000.

His birth name was Jean-Philippe Léo Smet, and he was inspired to pursue a career in music after watching Elvis Presley in the 1957 film, "Loving You." He was 74 years old.

Here is a clip of Johnny Hallyday from 1960:

Here are some other clips from various points in Hallyday's career:

Here is a clip of one of Johnny Hallyday's most famous songs, "l'Envie." This has been my favorite Hallyday song dating back to my childhood (again, he was a well-known rock star, so being French, I was quite familiar with him even back then):

Here is a clip from another of my favorite songs from him. Hallyday performs "Je te promets" live back in 1992:

Here is the complete video from the aforementioned show under the Eiffel Tower back in 2000:

These were the main articles that I used in writing this blog entry:

Johnny Hallyday, l’enfant du rock américain December 6th, 2017 by Gaétan Mathieu:

Johnny Hallyday, the Elvis Presley of France, Is Dead at 74 by William Grimes, Dec. 5, 2017: