Sunday, February 16, 2020

A Fond Farewell To Bob Shane And The Original Kingston Trio: Truly The End Of An Era

Sunday, February 16th, 2020

My Dear America:

The name Bob Shane may not mean much to many young people.  But to people of a certain age, like me, Bob Shane was one of the most important and long time members of a very important Musical group called The Kingston Trio.

The Kingston Trio broke onto the musical scene in 1958 and except for a few brief periods of time they have continued to play up to and including the present time.  Bob Shane left the Kingston Trio in 2004 following a heart attack but the group has continued to play in one form or another to sold out crowds to the present day.

Shane was one of the original members of The Kingston Trio, which initially consisted of Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds and Dave Guard.  Due to some conflicts in the group Dave Guard decided to leave The Kingston Trio in 1961 and form his own group, "Dave Guard and the Whiskey Hill Singers."  Following Guard's departure The Kingston Trio drafted someone who had already written songs for the group, John Stewart.  With the addition of Stewart The Kingston Trio continued on until 1967.

I first heard The Kingston Trio singing at a Friday night record hop dance at Central Catholic High School in Allentown, PA.  The DJ put on "Tom Dooley" and everyone looked around at each other trying to figure out how to dance to this number that was impossible to dance to.  

My best Friend in High School, Barron Bregenzer invited me over one day to his house to listen to his new Stereo Record Player.  Along with his new Chuck Berry album and some other great rock and roll albums he also played me "The Kingston Trio" and "From The Hungry I," a live recording of the Trio in concert. I was hooked.

I went to college in the Scranton/Wilkes Barre area in the early 60s and on my first day on Campus at King's College I heard a folk trio singing great harmonies as they sang Kingston Trio songs.  I was lucky enough to see The Kingston Trio with John Stewart in concert in Scranton during the early 60's.  They were awesome in concert. 

I have spent a good deal of my time playing with "The Lehigh Valley Folk Music Society Performing Group for the past 20 or so years playing Folk Music inspired by The Kingston Trio.  Their music has always been important to me and will always be.  

There is a DJ on our local Public Radio Station, WDIY, whose program is called Folk Classics with Steve Aaronson.  I just listened to Steve's interview with Bob Shane that Steve recorded some years back.  It is available as a podcast on WDIY's Website and I would recommend listening to it for anyone interested in some of the backstory of The Kingston Trio.

Bob Shane will be missed.  In the world of Donald Trump it seems as though Trump takes up all of the news oxygen.  I would recommend to anyone tired of the weirdness of Trump World to take a moment and listen to Steve's interview with an American treasure who is now gone and has taken The Original Kingston Trio with him.

Yet, with the miracle of streaming and modern recording we will always have The Kingston Trio's music to enjoy over and over again.

Thank You Bob Shane for all you and your heavenly comrades have done to enhance American Music.  You and The Kingston Trio may be gone but you will never be forgotten by me and by the legions of other folksingers you have inspired and unleashed upon the world.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Trumpzilla's Revenge - Congressional Republicans, What The Hell Have You Done

Thursday, February 13th 2020

My Dear America:

Neither you nor I have seen anything this politically dark in a long time.  Not since Richard Nixon have we seen anything this disturbing happening before our eyes in real life and in real time.  At least Nixon had the good sense to commit most of his crimes and direct others to commit crimes in his name behind closed doors.  Richard Nixon was an incredibly bad President but it is becoming more and more evident that in comparison with Donald Trump Nixon was a piker.

I had the bad fortune to turn on the TV last Thursday, the day after the Republican Senators let Trump off the hook with wishes by a couple of Senators that following his acquittal by the Senate Trump would hopefully have learned his lesson.

On Thursday afternoon as I watched the disturbing spectacle of Trump's reaction to his acquittal, it was clear to me that the lessons Trump had learned by his party's failure to call him to account for his misdeeds were not the lessons that Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski had hoped for.

Instead of apologizing for trying to extort damaging information on Joe Biden and his son from Ukraine's President by holding back funds that had been approved by both Senate and House Republicans and Democrats for weapons to hold off the Russians from invading Ukraine, Trump was spending his time at the White House Podium attacking the House Managers, as well as Democrats in the House and Senate who voted to have Trump Impeached.  Trump was also focusing his venom on Mitt Romney who had been the only Republican Senator with the strength of conscience to vote with the Democrats to oust Trump from the White House.  Trump had begun the day at a Prayer breakfast Previewing his Dark Afternoon Screed against Romney and the Democrats who had the nerve to criticize his "Perfect Phone Call" with Ukranian President Zelinsky.

In his dark afternoon "Celebration" Trump had a lot to say and a long time to say it.  Trump celebrated his main attack dogs in the House of Representatives including Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows and Doug Collins, as well as other Republicans who Trump felt had treated him fairly by approving of his every ugly move with regard to Ukraine.  In turn, his Staff and Republican Legislators, along with his large Senate Trial Defense Team all clapped loudly for nearly everything their President told them.

What I saw of the White House Rally was disgusting.  Luckily for me I had a medical appointment to go to with my wife so I had to turn the television off and didn't see the whole thing.  

I had a tough time for the rest of the day dealing mentally with what I had seen.  I hadn't seen it all but what I had seen had left me with a serious case of dread.  Clearly Donald Trump was now emboldened by his saviors in the Senate.  It was clear to me that Trump's White House Celebration Rally following his Impeachment victory was not going to be the end of the story.  It was only going to be the beginning of the story.  There was much more to come.  That was clear.  Trump certainly had it in for Mitt Romney.  He also was angry at Democrat, Joe Mansion, who had sided with Trump on many other issues and votes but in the case of Impeachment had voted with his party against Trump. Trump saved his most poisonous venom for the man who Trump saw as his Arch Nemesis, House Impeachment Manager, Adam Schiff.  Trump clearly did not like  Schiff, who had done a remarkable job keeping his demeanor civil throughout the House Impeachment Hearings and throughout the Senate Trial.  Schiff and his fellow House Managers even without further witnesses, to my mind, proved their case for Impeachment and Removal without a reasonable doubt.  Trump's words for Schiff were "Vicious" and "Horrible" to name only a few.

Thursday showed me that revenge would be coming soon.  It did come soon.  It came on Friday when Lieutenant Colonel, Alexander Vindman and his Lawyer Twin Brother were escorted out of the White House after both were fired from their jobs with the National Security Agency.  Alexander Vindman had not followed White House instructions not to respond to House Intelligence Committee Subpoenas.  Vindman had bravely told the truth to the Schiff Committee.  His twin brother had not testified and had nothing whatsoever to do with the Intelligence Committee.  Why was he fired.  Clearly because he was Alexander Vindman's brother.  

Also fired on Friday was Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondlund.
Sondlund was a large donor to the Trump Campaign who got mixed up in Trump and Giuliani's Ukraine intrigue.  Sondlund testified to the House Intelligence Committee at first trying to cover up Trump's involvement.  It was clear to Sondlund, however, after other officials spilled the beans that he had better clear up discrepencies in his original secret testimony.  By the time Sondlund testified in public hearings he had wised up to the fact that Trump and company were already setting him up as the patsy in the Ukraine scandal.  Sondlund then testified truthfully blowing the whistle on Trump and Giuliani and wisely saving himself from being the Trump Fall Guy who ends up in prison for lying to Congress.

Clearly Donald Trump is now unleashed and more dangerous than ever at this point in time.  How and why his poll numbers are increasing is beyond my understanding.  How anyone can support him is a mystery to me.  Our only real hope at this point is to elect a Democrat in November.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The State Of Our Union is Corrupted - Absolutely

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

My Dear America:

Things have moved and are moving so fast during January and February of 2020 that it is hard to keep track of current Political Events. 

It seems like it was a month ago rather than a week ago when Donald Trump gave his State Of The Union Speech.  Trump strutted into the Senate Chamber scowling while his Republican groupies crowded around him like he was a rock star.  Trump finally made it to the stage where it looked like he handed a copy of his speech to Mike Pence and threw another copy at Nancy Pelosi.  When Pelosi held out her hand to shake the President's hand Trump turned quickly and acted as if he hadn't seen Pelosi's attempted handshake.  In introducing the President Nancy Pelosi did not say that she had "The High Honor and Distinct Privilege to Introduce the President" which is normally said by the Speaker of the House.  

Like the showman that he is, Trump, despite the fact that he was still technically not done with Impeachment, tore into his speech sounding as though he didn't have a care in the world.  The truth was that Trump really didn't have much to worry about with regard to Impeachment.  He was just less than a day away from having the entire Republican Senate, with the exception of Mitt Romney, voting to acquit him of charges of Abuse of Power and refusing to cooperate with the House of Representatives in their Impeachment inquiry.  

Despite Calls by the Democratic House Impeachment Managers for the Senate to demand testimony from individuals who refused to testify before House Committees investigating the President, Republicans had refused to demand anything from the White House.  Despite Republican refusal to cooperate with calling witnesses and demanding documents from the White House, Democratic House Impeachment Managers led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Adam Schiff, had made a very strong case for Impeachment of Donald Trump despite what would be the Senate's ultimate refusal to recognize their efforts.   

Trump's State Of The Union Speech was both interesting and entertaining.  He celebrated some interesting guests who he had invited to the State Of The Union Speech.  He gave a scholarship to a young black girl from Philadelphia.  He brought home a soldier from the wars to reunite with his wife and children in the balcony of the Senate Chambers.  He also invited one of the last surviving members of the famous black Tuskegee Airmen to his speech.  And to top it all off Trump had his wife give the "Presidential Medal of Freedom" to Right Wing Radio Personality, Rush Limbaugh, who had recently announced that he had cancer.  Cancer or not, Rush Limbaugh did not really belong in the company of such former recipients of the honor as Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali. Perhaps the Tuskegee Airman would have made a more fitting recipient of The Presidential Medal Of Freedom, not Rush Limbaugh.  But Rush made a number of very weird faces apparently showing how thrilled he was to receive the honor.

Of course Donald Trump praised himself for what he had done to stimulate the economy along with his other accomplishments.  He, of course, lied about Health Care once again stating that he was an advocate for making sure Americans would not lose their coverage for preexisting Conditions while at the same time he had government lawyers in court arguing against preexisting conditions and against "Obamacare." 

Trump's Republican cronies stood up like robots every 2 seconds during the speech while Democrats kept their seats much of the time.  A couple of times the cameras panned on Military Service Commanders while Republican Senators were cheering and the Military men were silent and in their seats.  Democratic Female House members were clearly visible in their white outfits making their feelings known throughout the Trump Spectacle.

To Trump's credit he followed the teleprompter pretty closely and did not add his usual inappropriate remarks to the fairly standard speech.

When the speech was over Nancy Pelosi very publicly ripped up her copy of the President's speech right on camera while standing behind Trump.  She very clearly let the Congress and the public know what she thought of President Trump's Lie Ridden State Of The Union Speech.

On his way out of the Senate Chamber Trump was once again mobbed by his Republican allies as he headed for the exit.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Hypocrites On Parade - An Impeachment Chronicle

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

My Dear America:

We have all witnessed countless disturbing and shameful spectacles over the course of the last three plus years of the Trump Presidency.  

Certainly the Sham Russian Style Impeachment Show Trial in the United States Senate, in which the Republican Senators decided to Hear No Evil, See No Evil and Speak No Evil regarding Donald Trump, certainly qualifies as one of the most enduring foul spectacles of the exceedingly foul Trump Presidency.

Truth seems to be in short supply in the Trump Presidency and it was certainly in short supply from Trump's White House Defense Attorney's at the Sham Impeachment Trial.

The Trump Defense Team was large and in charge in  the Senate.  

It was stranger than fiction to see Former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, putting his Tattered Reputation on the line for Donald Trump  and reminding not only the Senate but the country on national Television of how divisive Impeachments are. Totally Weird is what it was.

Seeing Starr talking down Impeachment would have been really comical if it had not been for the lives that Starr had ruined along the way in his relentless pursuit of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Monica Lewinsky and Jim and Susan McDougal during the Nineties in what had started out as "The Whitewater Investigation" and ended up as Bill Clinton's Girlfriend Investigation.  Starr and his deputy Special Counsel's, including presently Tarnished Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh, pursued Bill Clinton like Tommy Lee Jones pursued Harrison Ford in "The Fugitive". Starr was clearly out to get President Bill Clinton in the Nineties.  But in 2020 it was clearly a different story with Donald Trump. Starr, who had no mercy whatever for Democratic President Bill Clinton, was more than ready to provide nothing but mercy to Republican President Donald Trump, despite the fact that what Trump had done was much more damaging to American National Security than what Clinton had done more than two decades before.  

Another Tarnished member of the Trump Defense Team was Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz.  Dershowitz is a Lawyer whose High Profile Clients have included O.J. Simpson, Jeffrey Epstein and Claus Bulow.  

Over the past few years Dershowitz has spent a good deal of time before the Fox News cameras defending the misdeeds of Donald Trump and company so it was no surprise to see Dershowitz at the Trump Legal Defense Table at the Senate Trial.  

It was a bit surprising, however, to hear Dershowitz stating to the Senate that Donald Trump's attempt to corrupt the leader of Ukraine who had just won his country's Presidency on an Anti-Corruption platform was not a crime and even if it was, as long as Donald Trump thought he was doing it in the best interest of the United States that it was not an impeachable offense.

The extremely odd Dershowitz argument was denounced by nearly every lawyer in the land except those at the Trump Defense table.  To make matters even more odd, CNN and MSNBC continued to play video of not only Dershowitz making his 2020 argument but older video of Dershowitz making the opposite argument of his present argument.  The older video presented Dershowitz insisting that a president can be impeached even if he hasn't committed a crime.

What has also been revealed in former National Security Adviser, John Bolton's book in stories published by the New York Times is that President Trump did advise Bolton and others including Pat Cipilone, one of Trump's Impeachment Lawyers, in a meeting that both Bolton and Cipilone attended, that Trump was stopping Unkraine from getting millions of dollars for arms needed to fight the Russians until The Ukrainian Leader promised to investigate Joe Biden and his son.

After watching much of the Impeachment Show Trial it seems clear to me that Adam Schiff and the other Impeachment Managers made their case that the President should be Impeached but this is, after all, a show trial and The Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell has made it clear that President Trump would not be removed from office.  So Except for Senator Mitt Romney all Republican Senators following the lead of their House colleagues voted against removing Donald Trump from the Presidency.

God Bless Mitt Romney.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher