Nixon resigns – 40 years ago today

I remember exactly where I was Thursday, August 8, 1974, the night Richard Nixon announced his impending resignation

NixonI and a friend were glued to the radio in his car, parked outside the house where our band was practicing. Band practice or not, Nixon’s speech was not to be missed. Not all the band members felt that way.

Things had not been going well for Nixon that summer. The Watergate scandal was closing in on him but the embattled president clung to power, stonewalling to the bitter end. Finally, on August 8 we learned that he would address the nation that evening, 8 p.m. Central time. Lee, the band’s drummer and my best friend (I was the bass player), and I knew we’d be at practice but planned to listen on the radio if nothing else. (more…)

The Burglary – book report

The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI

The BurglaryOn the night of Monday, March 8, 1971, Muhammad Ali challenged Joe Frazier for the world heavyweight championship in the Fight of the Century at Madison Square Garden in New York City. While the whole world was distracted by the fight, the Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI broke into an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania.

They took every file in the office, sight unseen, and carted them off to a secluded farmhouse for review. The Committee’s purpose was to determine whether the FBI was illegally – unconstitutionally – suppressing citizens’ right to dissent. For all the group members knew, they risked everything for what may have been worthless paperwork.

Frazier beat Ali. The eight burglars were never caught. Ever. What they and, subsequently, the nation, learned was shocking. (more…)

Don’t Get Sick in America – book report

Dont-get-sick-cover“It may go on for years—efforts to put bandaids on the present system, with cost-control decrees and new arrangements for the poor, while the campaign for national health insurance gathers force. But the signs are that before too long the United States will join the rest of the civilized world in accepting the “right to health” and in making it a reality.”

Daniel Schorr’s 1970 book, Don’t Get Sick in America, ends on that optimistic note. President Nixon spoke of a “massive crisis” in health care delivery and Fortune magazine saw American medicine on “the brink of chaos.” In April 1970, CBS News aired a two-hour documentary, Health Care in America. Schorr’s book is a “more complete report on that inquiry.”

In his preface, Schorr explains the report and the book provide a look at the health industry “as perceived by the consumer, not the supplier. It is the patient more than the doctor who is in trouble. It is he, ultimately, who will require a long-overdue change in America’s healthcare system.” (more…)

Why you and I might not retire

When I was around 10 years old, my vision of retirement was to work until 65 and then “fish my life away.” Role models included my maternal grandfather, who retired from the Ford plant (I guess he was 65), and other men of that cohort who seemed to be enjoying life after work.

By the time I was in high school, fishing as a retirement option was less compelling. By my 20s, I’d given up the whole idea of traditional retirement. My so-called career path was anything but traditional and, in any case, doing something I really liked until giving up the ghost sounded like the best thing. Today, assuming good health, anything that even resembles retirement is out of the question. I’m pretty much on the “feet first” retirement plan. Researchers address the very issues that baby boomers like me face as we approach the traditional retirement age. (more…)

Finding the Ghost in the Machine

“Management researchers . . . dig deeper and deeper into the human psyche in their search for the ‘ghost in the machine’ – that elusive spirit that inspired enthusiastic human action and commitment without concern for external rewards and without asking for more.”

Working-coverIn first part of The Working Life, The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work (2000, Three Rivers Press), Joanne B. Ciulla, ethics professor at University of Richmond, Virginia, explores aspects of work throughout Western history. She moves through Aristotle and the Greeks to craft guilds in the Middle Ages. She discusses the influence of the Catholic Church, the Protestant Reformation, scientific management and more.

But this is not a history book. Ciulla’s real topic is working for others as a paid employee. Why do we work? What does work mean and how does it fit into our lives? How does it affect our identities? Ciulla doesn’t answer these questions directly as much as she explores them from different angles so we can answer for ourselves. (more…)

Smoking Typewriters – book report

The Sixties Underground Press and the rise of Alternative Media in America

“As that old journalistic hound dog, A. J. Liebling put it, ‘Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.’ Right-o, Amigo. And we owned one.” – Steve Diamond, Liberation News Service

Smoking TypewritersJohn McMillian’s Smoking Typewriters: –The Sixties Underground Press and the rise of Alternative Media in America, chronicles the underground press in the 1960s. McMillian, assistant professor of history at Georgia State University, also provides a look, not always intentionally, at the writers, editors and their papers through the lenses of many organizational communication themes. These include leadership, in-groups and out-groups, self-organization, organizational identification and organizational culture. And somewhere, critical theory is lurking. (more…)

New era takes off in Red skies as another goes down the drain

One can’t have read Arlie Hochschild’s The Managed Heart and continue thinking about any working stiff, woman or man, in the same way. Ever. It affects me especially when I’m at a restaurant, but also during any other commercial interaction, where the server (or whatever) and I share a brief moment of humor, acknowledgment or even intimacy. Are all these emotional exchanges suspect? Are we both presenting our front-of-the-house selves? Are they ever genuine? I’d like to think so, at least sometimes.

A recent article in the New York Times reminded me of all this and then, a week later, another made an even deeper impression. (more…)

Macrobiotic french fries

MmFriesKansas City has always been a meat-lover’s town. Early vegetarian restaurants’ lousy cooking years ago may have kept it that way longer than it should have.

Maybe it was the post-Thanksgiving repast at the Japanese joint up the street (it was great), but for some reason I remembered my first encounter with macrobiotic food.

It was 1972 and I was living at the White House, a commune over at 5424 Virginia, in Kansas City. (There’s a story there, for another time.) Some people we knew were into macrobiotics, and they always made it sound so healthy and great, although they didn’t look any healthier than the rest of us.

The Golden Temple was a macrobiotic restaurant on the northeast corner of Westport and Broadway. I think the Sikhs ran it. What the heck, I figured. It seemed worth a try, at least.

Piss on ’em

Part of me thinks there’s too much hand-wringing about the four U.S. Marines pissing on dead Afghani fighters. It’s not like they dragged them behind their humvees, like the Somalis dragged and desecrated our soldiers in the1993 Blackhawk Down incident. And it’s not like they burned the bodies to a crisp and hung them from a bridge, the way the Iraqis did those Blackwater mercenaries. (more…)

Artichokes on Friday

Baked artichokesWhen I was a kid in grade school, Fridays were a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it was the last day of the school week. On the other hand, we were Catholics and could eat no meat on Friday. That meant even Bacos (maybe they were called bacon thins), those bacon-flavored crackers! I always tried to cram in one last ham or salami sandwich before bed on Thursday to see me through the long Friday fast, and I always stayed up past midnight on Friday (so, technically it was Saturday) for another one.