More on George Carlin

Posted on June 30th, 2008 in Biography,Humor,Politics by Robert Miller

John Nichols, writer for The Nation and author of several important books on contemporary politics, wrote an excellent eulogy on George Carlin, whom he knew and with whom he maintained a dialog over the years. His article is well worth reading, because it crystallizes many of the seminal areas in which Carlin’s comments, through his comedic performances, made us laugh during their delivery, but wince when later thinking about their relevance. Carlin put up a mirror in front of us, forcing us to laugh and cry at our changing World. Carlin could succinctly summarize the Reagan administration, when he said (from Nichols’ article), at the Park Theater in Union City, New Jersey (recorded in 1988 and found in Carlin’s album "What Am I Doing in New Jersey"),

"I really haven’t seen this many people in one place since they took the group photograph of all the criminals and lawbreakers in the Ronald Reagan administration." I liked that one, because it was right on the mark and included, among many others, pointing a finger at the haughty Lt Colonel Oliver North who might well have received a hefty sentence as a convicted felon for the illegal Iran-Contra affair, and also for helping smuggle drugs into the US for an additional source of funds to support the Contras. According to North, he was supporting "Freedom Fighters" (this is the group of torturers who were trained by ex-Natzis, including Claus Barbi, who also murdered nuns and priests).

George Carlin as a Linguist

Posted on June 26th, 2008 in General by Robert Miller

Like many of you, I was shocked and saddened to learn of George Carlin’s death. It seems that we grew up with him, beginning with his early appearances on the Tonight Show, right through his many special shows that aired on HBO, the last of which I saw just a few weeks ago. Indeed, when HBO got started Carlin was one of the top draws for them and continued as a permanent staple to their programming. HBO is currently having a celebration of his performances in celebration of his HBO connection by showing his past video recordings in clusters. Carlin did what no other comedian that I know of has ever succeeded in accomplishing: that of staying current and popular as a stand-up comedian for his entire career. Most comedians have a period of intense exposure and popularity, but then inevitably move on either through burnout or boredom. But Carlin didn’t just survive as a stand-up comedian, he got better and became more relevant and engaging with his audience. Certainly his relationship with HBO was helpful in maintaining his continuity, but his survival was secured by the continued relevance of his insights and his novel choice of topics, as he diversified and expanded his comedic focus. And, of course like no other comedian before him, there was nothing sacred or untouchable about his choice of topics. No subject was out of bounds and no one could make the subject matter more intelligently wrapped in linguistically-evoked laughter than Carlin. He made you giggle as you shook your head. Carlin seemed to transcend the definition of comic genius, we just haven’t found the right category for his brilliance and the illuminant nature of his message.

American Liberty League and the Plot Against FDR

Posted on June 25th, 2008 in General,History,Politics,War by Robert Miller

During the early 1930s, with the depression deepening, and as FDR was trying to implement his array of new federal programs, a group of wealthy individuals and major corporate leaders formed an anti-FDR political action organization, the "American Liberty League " (ALL ). The ALL was heavily funded but oddly out of step with the times, as they wanted to promote a return to the old days before income tax, where government was restricted to delivering the mail: they wanted a return to the first Gilded age of the late 19th Century (too bad they didn’t live long enough to enjoy the one we are in now). The primary focus of this group was to resist the increased federal regulations that FDR was trying to implement, such as Social Security, which they oddly labeled (simply to put fear into the opposition) as the end of Democracy and the first step towards Fascism in America. The group was not exclusively Republican, as Democrat Al Smith (Democratic nominee for Presidency in 1928), is credited for organizing it, but it was very heavily funded by industrialists, including Dupont, U.S. Steel, General Motors, U.S. Rubber and among the figures supporting this organization was Prescott Bush , grandfather of our current president. It’s estimated that the ALL funneled from $500.000 to $1.5 million to resist FDR’s policies, though many feel this group was sufficiently out of step with reality that they aided rather than impeded the programs of The New Deal .

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