Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Deer Hunting With Jesus

Dispatches From America's Class War
Joe Bageant
ISBN: 978-0-307-33936-2

My guitar playing buddy, Johnson the man with two last names, lent me this book, for which I am highly indebted, I think, debt being one of the characteristics of the American "redneck" described by Joe Bageant. Bageant left his home, of Winchester Virginia 40 some years ago to join the navy, go to college and become a journalist. He returned lately and has written this book as a privileged outsider, observing the lives of his own friends and family.

In this book Bageant, let's call him Joe, explores hourly wage labor, or Americanserfdom, as he prefers to call it, predatory lending and life in a trailer park, the gun culture, Christian fundamentalism, and television as the arbiter of America's consciousness.

The chapters on fundamentalism are particularly chilling. Here's a few highlights quoted from a chapter entitled "The Covert Kingdom."

The United Nations is a tool of the Antichrist. America alone must spread the gospel around the world.

There is no need to worry about the environment because we are not going to need this earth much longer.

Israel is to be defended at all costs and even encouraged to expand because the Bible declares that Israel must rule all the land from the Nile to the Euphrates in order for the End Times prophecy to be fulfilled.

God will provide a Christian leader to shepherd the American flock as they become his chosen people to extend the gospel world wide and rid the earth of evil.

Recognize any of that rhetoric? The fundamentalists infiltrating America's government have become more sophisticated in their rhetoric since James Watt but they are still working toward the same goals. Well, we get another chance to throw them out next November. Let's take it this time. The problem is that somehow we have to get Joe sixpack to go along.

Keep current with Joe Bageant at

Add to Mixx!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Day of Reckoning

How Hubris, Ideology and Greed Are Tearing America Apart
Patrick J. Buchanan
ISBN-13: 978-0-12-37696-3
ISBN-10: 0-312-37696-0

When I saw this book by Pat Buchanan on the new book shelf at the library I knew I had something to really chew on. Here was my chance to give that paleocoservative cave man one right between the eyes. Who can forget how Buchanan single handedly torpedoed George H. W. Bush's second term candidacy at the 1992 Republican convention in Dallas? Who is not still angry about the things he said to Michael Kinsly week after week on Crossfire? Well, Pat Buchanan is pretty tame compared to the conservatives we have running the show today.

Buchanan calls the the Bush II administration a failure because of it's hubris and ideological policymaking. In a chapter he calls "The Gospel of George Bush," he lambastes the notion that America can or should "end tyranny in our world," or spread democracy to every nation. He calls the invasion of Iraq the greatest mistake in American history. I'm with you Pat. Oh, it's hard to write that. How can I be agreeing with this guy?

Domestically Buchanan sees America drifting toward a union with Canada and Mexico, where we will lose our national identity - or the division of America where we will lose the southwest to the Mexicans, he's not sure which. Now we're talking! That's the Pat Buchanan I remember! He hits all the high notes, except that he never mentions the Trilateral Commission. Usually the Trilateral Commission is behind all these world government plots.

Buchanan feels the we need to close our borders to immigrants from Latin America, who speak another language, don't look like us and refuse to assimilate. He says, "Yet were an American to propose an immigration policy to keep the United States predominantly Christian and European -the rational behind the immigration act of 1924 - he or she would be denounced as a racist, a xenophobe, and un-American." Well, yeah, Pat. That would cover the bill.

What he fails to remember is the history of immigration in this country. Millions of people came here from China, Italy, Eastern Europe, Germany, Scandinavia in successive waves. Each time there were Pat Buchanans there eager to nail the gate shut and each time, in about three generations, the immigrants assimilated, made our country culturally richer and joined the Buchanans of the world to decry the coming of the next wave. Of course the Scandinavians brought lutefisk, which nearly poisoned the entire upper midwest, or at least made it smell bad. I'm allowed to say that, just like Buchanan is allowed to sing "No Irish Need Apply." If he remembers the words.

Add to Mixx!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Schulz and Peanuts

A Biography
David Michaelis
ISBN: 978-0-06-621393-4
ISBN-10: 0-06-62193-2

I have always identified with Charlie Brown. Somehow Charles Schulz had gotten into my head and put my life into his comic strip. Not surprisingly David Michaelis found this to be a common reaction to the Peanuts strip among many people that he talked with, in preparation for this book.

Charles Schulz was given the nickname Sparky, in infancy, after the racehorse character in the Barney Google comic strip. The comics page in the newspapers of the early 20th century served some of the same purposes as television does today, adventure series ran in installments, comedy was served up daily. The comics were discussed around the office water cooler like he latest Seinfeld episode, or whatever it is people talk about now.

Amazingly, Sparky Schulz determined that he would be a cartoonist at the age of 6. He was a shy withdrawn child, preferring to draw pictures rather than participate in the rogh and tmble play of the neighborhood children. Then again he formed and managed his own sandlot baseball team. Just like Charlie Brown.

There has been some negative reaction from the Schulz family to the conclusions that Michaelis has drawn. Family members object to his assertion that Schulz suffered from depression, feelings of inadequacy, agoraphobia. Yet Michaelis uses the Peanuts strips to illustrate his points. Certainly Charlie Brown believes that no one likes him, despite his good nature, intelligence and willingness to pitch in and help the other characters.

According to Michaelis, Schulz peopled his strip with representation of those in his daily life. Lucy as his first wife, Joyce Halverson; the little red haired girl as Donna Johnson, the woman who rejected his proposal; Snoopy, Schulz's fantasy life. He carefully inserts strips from Schulz's 50 years of work to illustrate each point. Schroeder, the unrecognized genius, another aspect of Schulz, yet he was always surprised when people complimented his work.

I found the small type, and particularly the speech balloons of the greatly reduced comic strips, shrunk to fit the page of a standard hardcover book, to be difficult to read. I will be wandering over to the large print section sooner than I thought. I persevered, however and, using a magnifying glass to read the strips, I was able to watch, as Schulz aged, a tremor appear and grow in his drawing hand. And I was able to watch as Schulz learned to master, and use that tremor to enhance, rather than detract from, the quality of the drawing.

In the end Schulz, as he was dying of colon cancer, was saddened that Charlie Brown never got to kick the football. I was more than ever convinced that Sparky Schulz had been reading my mind and putting my thoughts into Charlie Brown's speech balloons.

Comic strip image from
"Linus and Lucy" by Vince Guaraldi from