#167 Three Dead Guys, One Long Year

In the past eight years that I've been writing Rat Rants, I haven't once bothered with an "end of year wrapup." I'm not sure this will be such a conclusive document, but all the hand-wringing about Jerry Ford and Saddam Hussein's death this week brought out the rant motivation this morning. Listening to eulogies from characters like Dick Cheney, Bob Dole, Donny Rumsfeld, and the like approached ruining my New Year's eve morning coffee.

Everyone who was a conscious adult in the 1970s knew that Jerry Ford made a deal with the Nixon Administration to pardon the head criminal and create a distraction that would allow the legal escape of a long list of Nixonian criminals. The almost universal disgust regarding Ford's pardon of Nixon was evidence of that knowledge when Ford was solidly trounced by a Georgia peanut farmer who was, four years later, trounced by a b-movie acting, failed California politician. Ford's attempt to "end our long nightmare," was just beginning of a much longer nightmare. The nation has not recovered from the cynicism and radical distrust of our institutions that was began by Nixon's criminal behavior and has been continued since, because Gerald Ford established a precedent that demonstrated that criminals do not have to pay for their crimes, if those crimes are big enough. The Bush Administration's huge collection of criminals are counting on this precedent, which is why Cheney spoke so emotionally (for a zombie) at Ford's funeral. If Nixon didn't have to pay for his wide array of crimes against humanity and the nation, surely Bush and Cheney will escape their criminal activity equally unscathed.

Ford's legacy includes allowing some really vicious Nixonian characters to remain in the Republican national party; Rumsfeld, Cheney, Casper Weinberger, and many of the Rat Pack who have made up the past 30 years of Republican incompetence. As for his redemption in the short attention span of the American media, the New York Times stated that his pardon of Nixon was "a profoundly unwise, divisive and unjust act" which wreaked Ford's "credibility as a man of judgment, candor and competence." Nothing in the last 30 years has changed to restore any of those qualities to Jerry Ford. Much in that amoral action has contributed to the long nightmare that was continued by Reagan, Bush I, Clinton (the "Eisenhower Republicans") and Bush II. A public trial, conviction, and new laws to protect the nation from a despot President would have followed Nixon's escape from Washington. We could be a massively improved nation if that had happened, Ford made sure it did not.

Thanks for the legacy and the endless nightmares, Jerry.

Another legacy was created Saturday, two days before the New Year, the hanging of Saddam Hussein on the first day of the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival. Just to be certain that portion of the world understood how insensitive the United States and our microscopic "coalition" is to Islamic feelings, Traditionally, Muslims execute an animal on this day, in remembrance of Abraham's willingness to slaughter his own son on God's command. Only the least informed citizen could believe there was anything legitimate about Hussein's trial, conducted by hand-selected judges while the nation is occupied by American troops, so the symbolism is pretty clear to the Mideast. Hussein has probably been elevated to the unlikely stature of "hero" in the eyes of many Islamic fundamentalists. No one ever (intelligently) accused the Bush cronies of being sophisticated or having a sense of timing. I don't know where you'd find better evidence of their incompetence than this incident.

Finally, someone for whom I actually cared died Xmas Day, 2006. James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, the true Kind of Rock and Roll, and a revolutionary of the best sort, died at 73. James wrote and performed the song that should be the modern national anthem, "Living in America," in 1987. He lived it as he played it, too. The multicolored band that performed that song in the movie and music video from Rocky IV was as American as a professional basketball team; representatives of every race, clothing designer, and popular musical instrument rocked out to a cowed and boring Russian crowd. James shouting, "I'm an American, eat your heart out!" to that audience was the only highpoint to an otherwise mindless, worthless movie.

For most of my life, I've taken crap from family, friends, and other musicians about my "James Brown rules!" convictions. From "he can't even sing" to "that's nothin' but jungle music," I've heard it all. And it's all wrong. Anyone suffering through another artist attempting to sing "A Man's World" knows how difficult Brown's music is to recreate. All of the lame comedians who grossly failed to even remind us of any aspect of JB's performance skills discovered how complicated, technical, and physically demanding this music is.

I don't imagine that one minute of 2007 will be taken up with my memories of Saddam Hussein or Jerry Ford, but I'm going to miss James Brown and the hope that I'll have another chance to see "the Hardest Working Man in Show Business" again. 

December 2006

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