Anarcho-punk’d: Hear Reagan threaten to nuke Europe in Crass’s infamous ‘Thatchergate’ prank
01.24.2014
12:06 pm

Topics:
Punk

Tags:
Ronald Reagan
Crass
Margaret Thatcher
Thatchergate


 

This two-year old post from the Dangerous Minds archive is something we’ve noticed has been getting a lot of attention recently, so we’re moving it onto the front page again. The reason for renewed interest in this matter is that on January 2nd, the UK’s National Archive released some documents regarding Crass’s epic “Thatchergate” prank of 1982 (it had a bit of a long fuse, as you will see). They’re revealing on several accounts, not least for the level of blinkered-ness they indicate prevailed in the spy agencies back then…

There’s a lot of text here, but it’s instructive to read the news reports—there weren’t many—from the time in chronological order and see how the story was ultimately revealed. At the end of the post, I’ve added recent comments from Penny Rimbaud and Steve Ignorant.

These days we’re used to seeing public figures like Sarah Palin and Scott Walker punked, but in the early 1980s, the avenues for media hacking just did not exist the way they do now. The infamous “Thatchergate” tape—an audio collage constructed by Crass bassist Peter Wright (aka “Sybil Right” and “Pete Wrong”) of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan “talking” about nuclear weapons and the sinking of the HMS Sheffield as a deliberate attempt to escalate the conflict in the Falklands War was one of the first. The “Thatchergate” tape was an event back then, especially in the squatter/anarcho-punk crowd that I was a part of in London at the time. To hear about Crass perpetrating the hoax of Ronald Reagan getting “caught on tape” threatening to nuke Europe (he’d show Russia who was boss!) was nothing short of a blow against Moloch!

Today, there are a little more than 2000 items that come up on Google for “Thatchergate” and most have nothing to do with Crass. This story should be a lot better known, it’s one of the greatest pranks in history:

From San Francisco Chronicle, January 30, 1983.

Washington. A fake tape of a purported conversation between President Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was circulated in Europe this spring, possibly by the KGB, the State Department said yesterday.

“This type of activity fits the pattern of fabrications circulated by the Soviet KGB, although usually they involve fake documents rather than tapes,” the department said in a written response to reporter’s questions.

The department said that although the recording is of “poor quality,” a technical analysis revealed that the voices were those of Reagan and Thatcher.

But the department indicated the voices were spliced together and said they were not part of an actual conversation.

“We checked with the White House, which advised thay no such conversation took place,” the department said.

The President’s part in the recording apparently was lifted from his Nov. 22, 1982 speech on nuclear disarmament,” it said. “We are not sure where Mrs. Thatcher’s remarks came from.

The department said a copy of the tape was received by the U.S. embassy in the Netherlands a week before the British elections.

The tape dealt with the Falklands crisis and U.S. missiles in Britain, the department said.

It said, “From the drift of the tape, the evident purpose was to cause problems for Mrs. Thatcher by blaming her for the sinking of the British destroyer Sheffield and also for us by stirring trouble on the INF (Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces) issue.”

The Sheffield was sunk by Argentine forces last year during the war with Britain over the Falkland Islands.

Britain and the United Staes took part in a NATO decision to install intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe late this year as a counter to similar Soviet forces if an agreement on restriction such weapons is not reached.

The State Department said the tape-recording was sent with a covering letter from an anonymous person to Dutch journalists.

It is said an analysis by the language experts “suggests that the author was not a native speaker.”

The Reagan administration has contended for some time that the KGB has contended for some thime that the KGB has a forgery factory producing false documents to mislead target audiences.

It was also written up in The Sunday Times, on January 8, 1983

How the KGB fools the West’s press.

THE TAPE is heavy with static and puntuated with strange noises, but through it all can be heard the authentic voices of Ronald Reagan on the telephone: “If there is a conflict we shall fire missiles at our allies to see to it that the Soviet Union stays within its borders.”

At the other end of the telephone is Mrs. Thatcher. “You mean Germany?” she asks increduously.

“Mrs. Thatcher, if any country endagers our position we can decide to bomb the problem area and so remove the instability.”

If this is not hair-raising enough, we hear Mrs. Thatcher virtually admitting that she had the Belgrano sunk to end any chance of an agreement with Argentina. “Oh God!” says Reagan.

The whole conversation is fake. Both voices are real but the words spoken have been doctored, cut, rearranged and then expanded on the transcript of the tape. Every word from Reagan is extracted from his lengthy presidential address on nuclear strategy. When, for instance, he seems to swear at Mrs. Thatcher, he is in fact coming to the end of his speech and quoting a hymn: “Oh God of love, O king of peace.”

The tape surfaced in Holland just before last year’s British general election, but it never quite overcame the suspicions of Dutch journalists. They declined to publish the juicy exclusive, sent to them anonymously. But other journalists across the world have fallen for an increasing flow of such stories based on “authoritative” cables, memo and tapes. The State Department in Washington says they are all products of an increasingly sophisicated Russian campaign.

“They have accelerated their efforts and they have fine-tuned them,” claims Larry Semakis, deputy director of a State Department team that monitors what the Russians call “active measures.” He admits that “no one can specifically prove in a court of law that Soviet hand was on this or that item.” But he says there is a pattern in the use of forgeries which points unmistakably to the Russians.

The State Department believes that “active measures” are the responsibility of the KGB’s first directorate; that some forgeries go as high as the ruling Politburo for approval…

“[W]hich points unmistakably to the Russians”? I don’t think so…

Then one year later in The Observer newspaper on, Sunday, January 22, 1984, it was revealed that…

‘Soviet’ faked tape is rock group hoax

A TAPE recording, purporting to carry details of a secret telephone conversation between Mrs Thatcher and President Reagan, has been revealed as a hoax manufactured deliberately by an anarchist rock group.

The recording was taken to newspapers throughout Europe—including The Observer—but, apart from one Italian newspaper, nobody had been taken in by the hoax tape until it appeared in the Sunday Times earlier this month.

That newspaper described it as part of a KGB propaganda war. Unfortunately the tape was recorded not in Moscow but in an Essex farmhouse.

The New York correspondent of the paper reported that the State Department believed the tape was evidence of ‘an increasingly sophisticated Russian disinformation cam- paign.’

The real authors of the hoax tape, the anarchist punk rock group Crass, said that they had been ‘amused and amazed’ that the tape had been attributed to the KGB.

The recording first appeared in the offices of a number of Continental newspapers shortly before the British general election last year.

A covering note said it was a recording of a crossed line on which was heard part of the two leaders’ telephone conversation, and that the person who sent it wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

Key lines in the tape include Mr. Reagan apparently asking why the Belgrano was sunk during the Fallrlands war, when Secretary of State Haig was nearing a peace agreement. Mrs Thatcher appears to reply: ‘Argentina was the invader. Force had to be used now, punishing them as quickly as possible.’

Mr. Reagan then says: ‘Oh God, it is not right. You caused the Sheffield to have been hit. Those missiles we followed on the screen. You must have, too, and not let them know.’

Later, in a discussion on nuclear strategy, Mr. Reagan is made to say: ‘If there is a conflict we shall fire missiles at our allies to see to it that the Soviet Union stays within its borders.’

The tape was first brought to The Observer by a Belgian journalist last June. We concluded, like most of the other newspapers, that it was a fake.

The quest for the real hand behind the tape led to an isolated farmhouse in north Essex, where the eight members of the band live with their children.

Reluctantly the members of the band, who sport names like Joy Be Vivre, G Sus and Sybil Right, admitted faking the tape. They showed how they had put it together over two and a half months, using parts of TV and radio broadcasts made by the two leaders, then overdubbing with telephone noises.

‘We wanted to precipitate a debate on those subjects to damage Mrs. Thatcher’s position in the election. We also did it because of the appaling way Tam Dalyell was treated over the Belgrano debate,’ they said.

‘We believe that although the tape is a hoax, what is said in it is in effect true.’

And there was more: From The Associated Press, Sunday, January 25, 1984
 

 

More still, plus the “Thatchergate” tape, after the jump…

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Ronald Reagan rap parodies
11.14.2013
10:54 am

Topics:
Music
Politics

Tags:
Ronald Reagan
rap

Ron and the D.C. Crew
 
When Reagan was in office, people called him the “Teflon president” because attacks against him had a way of not sticking. It’s one of the definitions of a successful president, that the opposition is flummoxed, it’s hard to carve out a coherent contra point of view that resonates with people. Reagan was hard to satirize because those who liked him, of whom there were many, just ignored or dismissed the satire. Similarly, President Obama has been difficult to lampoon; when he became president there was some talk among comedians to the effect that he was hard to make fun of—I haven’t seen much in the meantime to contradict this.

In any case, in the 1980s the idea of turning Reagan into a rapper was well-nigh irresistible. In 1982, perhaps predictably, Rich Little was first out of the gate with his “President’s Rap,” which featured no rap at all, merely a loooooong (9 minutes!) chunk of his Reagan schtick over a bed of Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love.” The song relates in some way to Saturday Night Live (although I could find no evidence that Little ever appeared on SNL)—at one point he has Reagan crying “Live, from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” and the song features a cameo by, of all possible personages, Mr. Bill, a plasticine axiom of the show’s Belushi years. You are encouraged to regard the use of Mr. Bill (not to mention Hervé Villechaize) as an index of how toothless these Reagan rap satires were.
 

 
In 1984 Air Force 1 threw together “See The Light, Feel The Heat,” which played a series of Reagan soundbites over some beats. Again, not a true rap—it’s all sampling.
 

 
In Reagan’s second term Ron & the D.C. Crew came out with “Ronnie’s Rap”—this is probably the best Reagan rap from a rapping perspective. The vocalist does a very nice job with the Reagan impression, and the lyrics are solid too:
 

Met with Gorbachev in ‘85
to talk about how everyone could stay alive.
And though he seemed to be a guy with class,
if he doesn’t play ball, we’ll nuke his ... country!

 

 
The only Reagan rap I could find with an actual video is unfortunately one about which I’m unclear on the details. On YouTube it’s identified merely as “Rappin’ Ron Reagan” and I don’t know who the artist is or what year it came out. In the video Reagan pops out of his presidential limo in the ghetto in the effort to “try to get those mothers to the polls,” if I understood that verse right. There’s some cringeworthy ebonics, the actor neither looks nor sounds particularly like Reagan, and yet I appreciate the effort. The satire, such as it is, is probably the most biting of the bunch, and the jokes are probably the strongest. Also it has breakdancing in it—“Don’t need cardboard for my shoulder spins”—actually, that very fact probably indicates that it’s pretty early, 1982 or 1983.

Most of the songs just love to include references to “Nancy” (his wife) and “Ed” (Meese, his attorney general)—even here we see why it was so difficult to make fun of Reagan. If you’re highlighting the fact that he dotes on his wife, you’ve probably lost the battle.
 

Written by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Oh Jesus: ‘Left Behind’ author’s group behind apocalyptic Tea party shutdown?


 
For those of you either too young to remember them—or perhaps not raised in the Bible Belt—among the very top best-selling books of the 1970s were Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great Planet Earth and its sequel Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth. These books are literalist readings of the Book of Revelation, presenting a fanciful, goofy paranoiac eschatology comparing vaguely worded end-time prophecies written over 2000 years ago (and reworded an unknown number of times since) with (then) current events. They’re about as intellectually serious as Chick tracts.

Nevertheless, The Late, Great Planet Earth was marketed as non-fiction Bible prophecy predicting and decoding last days milestones—the USSR invading Israel, the coming of the Anti-Christ who would rule over the European Union, famine, plagues, etc, etc, etc—before the Rapture and the subsequent return of Jesus. One of Lindsey’s main themes was that Jesus would come back “one generation” after the state of Israel was established, so by the 1970s, this was a very hot topic in what we now refer to as red states. (If you have ever wondered WHY Southern evangelical Christians are so obsessed with Israel, wonder no more, Hal Lindsey’s books were—and still would be, although I think people forget this—a huge, huge part of this strain of American Christianity. It was there already, but he brought it to prime-time, so to speak and amplified it culturally.)

Hal Lindsey’s books (co-authored by Carole C. Carlson) rivaled the sales of titles like Jaws, The Godfather and The Exorcist as the books most likely to be read by people who didn’t read very much. These books were staples of nearly every garage sale back then. Apparently over 28 million copies of The Late, Great Planet Earth were sold.

Among the known fans of Lindsey’s books in the 1970s was California Governor Ronald Reagan.

In December 6, 1983, during an Oval Office interview, Reagan informed two stunned reporters from People magazine:

“There were times in the past when we thought the end of the world was coming, but never anything like this.”

Tea party nitwit Pat Boone was one of Reagan’s closest friends. He said of the President:

“I believe that Ronald Reagan would make no decision that would run counter to his understanding of God’s direction and what God says is going to happen and what God says he wants to happen.”

(Reagan said this of Boone to a group of evangelicals at the kickoff of his reelection campaign: “And Pat Boone stood up, and in speaking to this crowd, he said, in talking of communism, that he had daughters, they were little girls then, and he said, ‘I love them more than anything on earth.’ And he said, (and I thought, ‘I know what he is going to say,’ and ‘Oh, you must not say that,’ and yet I had underestimated him). He said, “I would rather that they die now believing in God than live to grow up under communism and die one day no longer believing in God.” Big round of applause for Pat Boone, father of the (20th) century…)

Among Reagan’s cabinet members were men known to be to some degree influenced by Christian millennialist beliefs that we were living in the end times. Reagan’s notably asinine Secretary of the Interior, James G. Watt didn’t believe in ecological conservation because Jesus was coming back. It is known that General John Vesse, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Chief of Naval Operations, James Watkins, would meet regularly inside the Pentagon with Herbert Ellingwood, deputy Counsel to the President and Attorney General Edwin Meese III to discuss their common faith. I think it’s safe to assume that talk of Bible prophecy and a nuclear end of the world was on the menu at such meetings!

Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, an Episcopalian, told students at Harvard:

“I have read the Book of Revelation, and, yes, I believe the world is going to end - by an act of God, I hope - and every day I think that time is running out.”

Yep, these were the folks who had their mitts on the fuckin’ nukes. This was our side! (It should be noted that the Soviets were atheists! WHAT must the KGB have thought of these guys???)

When the great Texas progressive muckraker Ronnie Dugger penned the article “Does Reagan Expect Armageddon?” for the Washington Post in 1984, the frightening prospects of the crazy Americans bringing an end to the human race became a cause for alarm all across Europe. I lived in London then and there was a lot of anti-American sentiment at the time. I can vividly recall being quizzed about HOW?!?!? HOW?!?!?! could these (or did they say “you”?) idiot Americans believe in this stupid shit from three exasperated French guys and a perplexed English punk rock couple at a party once. I tried to explain it as best I could, but I don’t think my shoulder-shrugging “Look, that’s just the way it is over there, what can I tell you?” rationale for “my peeps” was in the least comforting to them!

Something I read this morning made me think back to those halcyon Cold War days of the almost quaint-seeming batshit crazy Republican Christianists of the 1980s: According to an article in the New York Times yesterday, one of the principal reichwing pressure groups architecting and advocating for the current Tea party-led GOP government shutdown was founded by none other than Tim LaHaye, the author of this current last generation’s mega, mega apocalyptic best-sellers, the “Left Behind” series. Tim LaHaye is basically today’s Hal Lindsey.

Lee Fang writes at The Nation:

The coalition is managed by Heritage and the Council for National Policy. The latter organization, dubbed once as “the most powerful conservative group you’ve never heard of,” is a thirty-year-old nonprofit dedicated to transforming the country into a more right-wing Christian society. Founded by Tim LaHaye, the Rapture-obsessed author of the “Left Behind” series, CNP is now run by Christian-right luminaries such as Phyllis Schlafly, Tony Perkins and Kenneth Blackwell.

Guess who else has his fingerprints all over this shutdown mess? Reagan’s Attorney General Edwin Meese III...

The Council for National Policy, the Conservative Action Project and Ed Meese himself know all too well that racial—not to mention religious—demographic trends in the US mean that there is a very strong likelihood there “their type” will probably never get their hands anywhere near the nukes again, but not content to merely fantasize, sidelined, about the end of the world (and their own perceived ROLES in this cosmic battle between good and evil, like the Reaganites who actually carried the nuclear football for eight fuckin’ years), this cabal of numbskull, dumbshit apocalypse-obsessed morons want to bring it on by destroying the world economy!

You have to give these Teahadist types some credit, they know how to fight dirty. These Republican economic suicide bombers are willing to shred the Constitution to bits to “save” the country from majority rule, aren’t they?

Yo’ dawg, they’ll end the world to save it. It makes perfect sense. TO THEM. Because Jeebus is on their side, of course!

This latest news introduces a whole new level of apocalyptic weirdness into the mix. I encourage you to read “Meet the Evangelical Cabal Orchestrating the Shutdown” by Lee Fang at The Nation. The implications of what he’s written there are fairly staggering if you ask me.

This is a battle between good and evil. It is if at least one side sees it that way. The Tea party jihadis want a Christian theocracy and they don’t really care if they have to force it on everyone else. In this way, how is the Christian Right in any way different from the Muslim Brotherhood they fear so much? Their brain-damaged beatific vision of a theocratic America, a country cleansed of gays, Muslims, liberals, illegal immigrants, science and where non-white people don’t get to vote will never, ever come to pass absent a massive genocide occurring in North America, which I don’t think is going to happen anytime soon. The concept of “the American Taliban” is becoming more real with every passing day and the rest of the world (especially the business community and China) is starting to notice it, too. And they are alarmed at what they see. Even the Taliban are brutally mocking us for being stupid!

Holy shit. Literally.
 

“I reveal my innermost self, to God.”
 

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
WASTED Richard Nixon talks, slurs his words to Ronald Reagan on the telephone, 1973
08.21.2013
03:43 pm

Topics:
History

Tags:
Ronald Reagan
Richard Nixon


 
Richard Nixon is quite clearly drunk as a skunk (unless he took ‘ludes!) in this amazing LOL-worthy recording of a telephone conversation with California governor Ronald Reagan.

The call was taped on April 30, the same evening Nixon had gone on television to announce that two of his top aides, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, had resigned and offer the nation details on the breaking Watergate scandal.

Via Mediaite:

“I couldn’t be better,” Nixon insisted after warmly greeting Reagan on what should have been a somber night.

“The time is so far different,” Nixon, a California native, continued. “The time is only 7 o’clock or 8 o’clock there, huh?

“Yes,” Reagan replied.

“How nice of you to call,” the president added.

“You can count on us,” Reagan said after noting how difficult it must have been to deliver the Watergate speech. “We’re still behind you out here.”

“Each of us is a different religion,” Nixon said, pivoting. “But, Goddamn it Ron, we have got to build peace in the world. And that’s what I’m working on.”

That and a massive hangover from the sound of his slurred voice!

“How’d you ever marry such a pretty girl?” Nixon asked Regan after requesting the Golden State governor send his regards to his wife.

“I’m lucky,” Reagan replied.

“Where are you now? Are you in Sacramento?” Nixon asked.

“No, Los Angeles,” Regan answered.

“Good for you,” the president replied. “Get out of that miserable city.”

It’s awkward. And all over the place. But funny. Totally worth the listen, I promise.

If Nixon and Brezhnev necked some Russian vodka during the Soviet leader’s White House visit, I can’t wait to hear that tape, too.
 

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Ronald Reagan in his tighty-whities
07.17.2013
12:44 pm

Topics:
Amusing

Tags:
Ronald Reagan


 
Inside USC writes:

“Ronald Reagan posed in a USC sculpture class, after the Fine Arts Department said he was an ideal example of the “male physique.” They based it on his portrayal of George Gipp in Knute Rockne, All American, the famous movie based on the famous Notre Dame coach.”

Written by Tara McGinley | Discussion
‘Letter to the President’: Snoop Dogg tells the history of Hip Hop, Rap and Politics

letter_to_the_president
 
Ronald Reagan, that evil fuck President who willfully destroyed working class communities to give tax breaks to the rich. Reagan was happy to do it so long as it was African-Americans that bore the brunt.

Reaganomics left half the Black population on welfare. Reagan had no conscience about it. He had a money lust which hit hardest on those who were weakest and least able to fend for themselves.

Stopping poverty wasn’t on Reagan’s tick list. Rather it was cut corners and take, take, take from the poor - which stooped as low as having the tomato base on pizzas reclassified as fruit to ensure he could slash the cost of school dinners. He even tried to do the same with tomato ketchup but failed.

Reagan’s policy was simple - if you were poor: fuck you. If you were sick: fuck you. If you were dying of cancer: fuck you and get a goddamn job.

For young African-Americans in the 1980s, it seemed the hard-earned achievements of the sixties’ Civil Rights movement had been too easily betrayed and forgotten. And when crack cocaine hit the inner cities, it seemed any hope of a future was gone.

Against this background arose a culture of music that was to redefine Black America. Hip-Hop and Rap reflected the poverty, despair and violence of life in the ghettoes. It also railed angrily against the indifference and cynical exploitation by successive Presidents, whose only interest was to help themselves and help the rich.

Letter to the President is a fascinating over-view of the rise of Hip-Hop and Rap, and their importance in bringing a community together against a common enemy. Narrated by Snoop Dogg, and with contributions form Quincy Jones, KRS-One, David Banner, 50 Cent, Chuck D, Ghostface Killah, Nelson George, Sonia Sanchez, and Dick Gregory.
 

 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Clone the President: Ronald Reagan blood vial for sale in online auction
05.21.2012
04:37 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Politics

Tags:
Ronald Reagan
Jurassic Park


He’s back?

Imagine some rightwing billionaire buying this and then spending millions having the Gipper cloned.

He vill be raised in a monastery in upper Bavaria, jah, until he is ready to be unveiled and take his rightful place on da vorld stage.

Quick, someone alert Alex Jones!

Via The Washington Times:

The bids are lofty for a vial that once held Ronald Reagan’s blood, now up for grabs at an online British auction house. At the moment, the leading bid is $5,081 for a 5-inch glass vial with “dried blood residue from President Reagan,” drawn from him at George Washington University Hospital after a 1981 assassination attempt by John Hinckley Jr. A separate hospital form is also included in the package from Guernsey-based PFC Auctions, which also is selling celebrity autographed guitars and a slice of royal wedding cake from Prince William and Kate Middleton’s nuptials, among many other things.

And the vial? The slender glass tube with green stopper once belonged to a relative of a Maryland-based laboratory technician who actually analyzed the contents more than three decades ago. The mysterious keeper-of-the-vial held onto it, and eventually informed officials at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library of its whereabouts.

After some back and forth, the vial keeper got the green light to sell it, assuring the auctioneer that “everything was OK, National Archives was not interested in what I had, nor was the Secret Service, the FBI and other agencies … it was simply something that was of no importance at this time, and that I was free to do with whatever I wanted with it.”.

A letter of provenance is included with the listing from the seller:

“These articles have actually been in my family’s possession since 03/30/1981, the day that President Reagan was shot in Washington D.C. Back in the 70’s and 80’s, my mother worked for Bio Science Laboratories in Columbia, Maryland. Her laboratory was the laboratory contracted by Walter Reed Army Medical Center as well as the George Washington University Hospital to handle blood testing as well as other types of testing. Her lab did the blood work and testing for President Reagan. The test tube and the lab slip that I have are for his blood work to be tested for lead on [Monday] 03/30/1981. The testing was completed and the test tube was sitting on my mother’s desk. At the end of the week, she asked the director of her laboratory if she could keep the paper work and the test tube. The director of the lab told her no problem and really never gave it a second thought. It has been in my family ever since. My mother passed away back in November last year [2010] and my father passed away in January 2009. Prior to their passing, they knew that it was the only thing that I wanted with regards to their personal property or money that they accumulated over the years…

“About 3 to 4 months ago, I contacted the Reagan National Library and spoke to the head of the library, a Federal Agent. I told him what I had, how I came across it and so on. We spoke for about 45 minutes. The reason that I contacted the Reagan National Library was to see if they would like to purchase it from me. He indicated that if I was interested in donating it he would see to it that he would take care of all of the arrangements. Prior to hanging up the phone, he said to me, do me a favor, don’t move from where you are, I will call you back within 30 minutes but I have to make a couple of phone calls to seek legal counsel, consult with National Archives, the FBI and other three or four letter agencies that I have heard of. I said am I in any kind of trouble or will there be some black cars/suv’s or helicopters hovering above my home and he said not yet but possibly in the very near future depending on what he learned from the phone calls he had to make. I told him alright, I will not move from where I was sitting and would await his return call. He called back in 25 minutes and said that everything was ok, National Archives was not interested in what I had, nor was the Secret Service, the FBI and other agencies. Since 30 years had passed by, he thought that it was simply something that was of no importance at this time and that I was free to do with whatever I wanted with it. He then stated that he felt the family would be interested in it being returned to them and if I was interested in doing so to contact him and he would make all of the arrangements. I told him that I didn’t think that was something that I was going to consider, since I had served under Pres. Reagan when he was my Commander in Chief when I was in the ARMY from ’87-’91 and that I was a real fan of Reaganomics and felt that Pres. Reagan himself would rather see me sell it rather than donating it.

Classic!
 

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
The New Progressive Movement: #OWS signals the end of the Reagan era


 
In an inspiring Op Ed piece in today’s New York Times, Columbia University’s Jeffrey D. Sachs takes but a few paragraphs to thoroughly demolish the dominant ur-myths of the past three decades of Republican politics, and to illustrate how the New Progressive Era is already upon us.

Both clueless Democrats and ignorant, rightwing assholes like Frank Miller should read this short essay very carefully:

Occupy Wall Street and its allied movements around the country are more than a walk in the park. They are most likely the start of a new era in America. Historians have noted that American politics moves in long swings. We are at the end of the 30-year Reagan era, a period that has culminated in soaring income for the top 1 percent and crushing unemployment or income stagnation for much of the rest. The overarching challenge of the coming years is to restore prosperity and power for the 99 percent.

Thirty years ago, a newly elected Ronald Reagan made a fateful judgment: “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” Taxes for the rich were slashed, as were outlays on public services and investments as a share of national income. Only the military and a few big transfer programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits were exempted from the squeeze.

Reagan’s was a fateful misdiagnosis. He completely overlooked the real issue — the rise of global competition in the information age — and fought a bogeyman, the government. Decades on, America pays the price of that misdiagnosis, with a nation singularly unprepared to face the global economic, energy and environmental challenges of our time.

Washington still channels Reaganomics. The federal budget for nonsecurity discretionary outlays — categories like highways and rail, education, job training, research and development, the judiciary, NASA, environmental protection, energy, the I.R.S. and more — was cut from more than 5 percent of gross domestic product at the end of the 1970s to around half of that today. With the budget caps enacted in the August agreement, domestic discretionary spending would decline to less than 2 percent of G.D.P. by the end of the decade, according to the White House. Government would die by fiscal asphyxiation.

Both parties have joined in crippling the government in response to the demands of their wealthy campaign contributors, who above all else insist on keeping low tax rates on capital gains, top incomes, estates and corporate profits. Corporate taxes as a share of national income are at the lowest levels in recent history. Rich households take home the greatest share of income since the Great Depression. Twice before in American history, powerful corporate interests dominated Washington and brought America to a state of unacceptable inequality, instability and corruption. Both times a social and political movement arose to restore democracy and shared prosperity.

Sachs goes on to state what already seems self-evident to many of us:

This is just the beginning.

The young people in Zuccotti Park and more than 1,000 cities have started America on a path to renewal. The movement, still in its first days,  will have to expand in several strategic ways. Activists are needed among shareholders, consumers and students to hold corporations and politicians to account. Shareholders, for example, should pressure companies to get out of politics. Consumers should take their money and purchasing power away from companies that confuse business and political power. The whole range of other actions — shareholder and consumer activism, policy formulation, and running of candidates — will not happen in the park.

The New Progressive Movement (The New York Times)

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Joseph Beuys Sings

image
 
The German artist Joseph Beuys always seemed to be in Edinburgh, when I was young. Exhibiting at the Richard Demarco Gallery, or discussing art, democracy and socialism with whoever was around.

Born in Germany in 1921, his influence as an artist and an activist during his 64-years of life was so effective that we are, in many respects, all Beuys’s children. Take this as his defintion:

‘...one of the most influential and extraordinary artists of the twentieth century.

Artist, educator, political and social activist, Beuys’s philosophy proposed the healing power and social function of art, in which everyone can participate and benefit…’

Beuys’s best known works are the performance pieces How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (1965), Filz TV (1970) in which Beuys responds to a TV covered with felt, I Like America and America Likes Me (1974), where he shared a room with a coyote for 3 days, and the social sculpture 7,000 Oaks, which he explained to Demarco in 1982 as:

“I think the tree is an element of regeneration which in itself is a concept of time. The oak is especially so because it is a slowly growing tree with a kind of really solid heart wood. It has always been a form of sculpture, a symbol for this planet ever since the Druids, who are called after the oak. Druid means oak. They used their oaks to define their holy places. I can see such a use for the future…. The tree planting enterprise provides a very simple but radical possibility for this when we start with the seven thousand oaks.”

Beuys always dressed the same in his artist’s uniform of Trilby hat and multi-pocketed fishing vest, to keep the focus on his art, as he believed art must work towards a better social order:

Only art is capable of dismantling the repressive effects of a senile social system that continues to totter along the deathline: to dismantle in order to build ‘A SOCIAL ORGANISM AS A WORK OF ART’… EVERY HUMAN BEING IS AN ARTIST who – from his state of freedom – the position of freedom that he experiences at first-hand – learns to determine the other positions of the TOTAL ART WORK OF THE FUTURE SOCIAL ORDER. work included.

Political activism was important to Beuys. I recall in 1980, when he presented Jimmy Boyle Days, where he went on hunger strike in protest over convicted killer Jimmy Boyle’s move from Barlinnie’s Special Unit, where Boyle had rehabilitated himself as an artist and sculptor, to Saughton Prison, where he was no longer able to practice his art. Beuys saw little difference between art and activism, and his support for Boyle led to a huge outcry over the place of art in society, that led to the Scottish Arts Council removing its key financial support form the Demarco Gallery.

In 1982, he surprised critics and fans alike with his one and only single, “Sonne statt Reagan”, a disco attack against President Reagan’s stance on nuclear arms. The song’s title, “Sun Not Rain/Reagan”, was a pun on the German word “regen” for rain and Reagan. Some critics thought Beuys had sold out, but they failed to see his humor, and the serious intention behind the disc. Beuys may have been unpredictable, but his work is always life-affirming.
 

 
Joseph Beuys’ ground-breaking Filz TV, after the jump…
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Ayn Rand absolutely hated Ronald Reagan


 
As I’ve admitted on this blog before, I was a teenage Ayn Rand fanatic. I owned all of her books, cassette tapes of her lectures and every single issue of The Objectivist, The Objectivist Newsletter and The Ayn Rand Letter. I’m not exactly proud of this fact, but what can I do? Thankfully it didn’t take me that long to outgrow this nonsense, but for good or ill, I still to this day have a pretty good working knowledge of her philosophy and life’s work.

This morning it popped into my head, appropos of nothing, how much Ayn Rand railed against Ronald Reagan before she died and I recalled one particular essay from one of the final issues of The Ayn Rand Letter where she asked her readers not to support Reagan and instead to vote for Gerald Ford, who Reagan was challenging for the GOP nomination at the time (and who appointed her loyal apostle and acolyte, Alan Greenspan, to his position as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board).

I’m guessing that a lot of Republican Ayn Rand fans—maybe this will be news to Rep. Paul Ryan and Senator Rand Paul—probably don’t realize that their hero had such a dim view of The Gipper…

From The Ayn Rand Letter, Volume IV, Number 2, November-December 1975:

Now I want to give you a brief indication of the kinds of issues that are coming up, on which you might want to know my views.

1. The Presidential election of 1976. I urge you, as emphatically as I can, not to support the candidacy of Ronald Reagan. I urge you not to work for or advocate his nomination, and not to vote for him. My reasons are as follows: Mr. Reagan is not a champion of capitalism, but a conservative in the worst sense of that word—i.e., an advocate of a mixed economy with government controls slanted in favor of business rather than labor (which, philosophically, is as untenable a position as one could choose—see Fred Kinnan in Atlas Shrugged, pp. 541-2). This description applies in various degrees to most Republican politicians, but most of them preserve some respect for the rights of the individual. Mr. Reagan does not: he opposes the right to abortion.

From Rand’s final public speech, “Sanction of the Victims,” delivered November 21, 1981:

In conclusion, let me touch briefly on another question often asked me: What do I think of President Reagan? The best answer to give would be: But I don’t think of him—and the more I see, the less I think. I did not vote for him (or for anyone else) and events seem to justify me. The appalling disgrace of his administration is his connection with the so-called “Moral Majority” and sundry other TV religionists, who are struggling—apparently with his approval—to take us back to the Middle Ages, via the unconstitutional union of religion and politics.

The threat to the future of capitalism is the fact that Reagan might fail so badly that he will become another ghost, like Herbert Hoover, to be invoked as an example of capitalism’s failure for another fifty years.

Observe Reagan’s futile attempts to arouse the country by some sort of inspirational appeal. He is right in thinking that the country needs an inspirational element. But he will not find it in the God-Family-Tradition swamp.

If you know any conservative Republican Ayn Rand fans, you should forward this post to them, just to annoy ‘em.

Below, William F. Buckley on Ayn Rand:
 

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Reagan: The critics speak 2
02.20.2011
07:20 am

Topics:
History

Tags:
Ronald Reagan
Paul Slansky

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All observations made during his presidency, except for Edmund Morris’s recollection from the recent HBO documentary:

“A high-powered cheerleader for our worst instincts, a nasty man whose major talent is to make us feel good about being creepy and who lets us pretend that tomorrow will never come.”
     —Activist Roger Wilkins

“His answer to any questions about young men being killed for some vague and perhaps non-existent reason in Central America has been to smile, nod, wave a hand and walk on.  And America applauds, thus proving that senility is a communicable disease.”
     —Columnist Jimmy Breslin

“Poor dear, there’s nothing between his ears.”
     —British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

“I dig the cat. He’s spontaneous. A lot of times he’ll blurt stuff out – I can relate to that.”
     —Van Halen replacement lead singer Sammy Hagar

“Reagan swaggering around. Poor old thing! He’s about as masculine as Marjorie Main. He was never a symbol of masculinity – though he sort of plays it ... There is something rather grandmotherly about Reagan. And then again, he’s rather boyish. Between the two, he comes off as non-threatening ... He isn’t popular. There isn’t anything about his policies anybody likes. The pollsters’ questions are so dumb: ‘Do you find him a nice old thing who makes you feel good when he honks away on the box?’ ‘Yes, he’s a nice old thing who makes me feel good when he honks away on the box.’ Well, that isn’t an endorsement of war in Nicaragua.”
     —Author Gore Vidal

“His errors glide past unchallenged ... The general message of the American press is that, yes, while it is perfectly true that the emperor has no clothes, nudity is actually very acceptable this year.”
     —British journalist Simon Hoggart

“The difficulty about figuring Reagan out was he was not introspective.  Therefore, to try and interview this guy, who was so incurious about himself, was very unrewarding.  He would tend to take refuge behind anecdotes and jokes, but when I tried to probe him about fundamental things – his religious beliefs, his feelings about women and children – I just got this echoing sound that I was talking into a large, rather cool cave.”
         —Reagan biographer Edmund Morris

Excerpted from the “Reagan Centennial Edition” of my 1989 book The Clothes Have No Emperor, available here as an enhanced eBook.

Below, Ronald and Nancy Reagan like drugs. A lot.
 

Written by Paul Slansky | Discussion
Reagan: The critics speak
02.18.2011
05:30 pm

Topics:
History

Tags:
Ronald Reagan
Paul Slansky

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As I wind up my two weeks on Dangerous Minds, my last two posts consist of my favorite observations by others, offered during his presidency:

“Ronald Reagan is merely an anthology of the worst of American popular culture, edited for television.”
     —Media critic Mark Crispin Miller

“God, he’s a bore. And a bad actor. Besides, he has a low order of intelligence. With a certain cunning. And not animal cunning. Human cunning. Animal cunning is too fine an expression for him. He’s inflated, he’s egotistical. He’s one of those people who thinks he’s right. And he’s not right. He’s not right about anything.”
     —Director John Huston

“I would never refuse an assignment unless it completely repelled me. ... A national magazine asked me to go to Santa Barbara to photograph the President at his ranch. Well, I hate Santa Barbara and, far worse, I hate Reagan. I can’t ignore my feelings and just make a pretty picture.”
     —Photographer/environmentalist Ansel Adams

“It takes deep bravery to be fearless about one’s own hypocrisy. Politicians of average duplicity cower at being found out. Not Reagan.”
     —Columnist Colman McCarthy

“Look at the Reagan of the 1930s: a no-talent jerk with looks, charm, and a line of blarney who talks himself into one cushy job after another ... Then come the 1950s. In return for his manful anti-communistical efforts in the screen actors’ union, the pimps, procurers, and purveyors of popular culture who own stage, screen and radio arrange for him to be paid off with a job selling General Electric toasters on TV and smarmy right-wing politics on the chicken-croquette circuit. How humiliating to think of this unlettered, self-assured bumpkin being our president.”
     —Journalist Nicholas von Hoffman

“If we told Reagan to walk outside, turn around three times, pick up an acorn, and throw it out to the crowd, we’d be lucky to get a question from him asking, ‘Why?’”
     —Unnamed White House aide

“He’s melting. No one’s noticed yet, but he is melting. We’re talking about a semi-solid mass with dark hair. If the Democrats had come out and just said, ‘He’s melting,’ I think they would have done much better.”
     —Actress/writer Carrie Fisher

Excerpted from the “Reagan Centennial Edition” of my 1989 book The Clothes Have No Emperor, available here as an enhanced eBook.

Written by Paul Slansky | Discussion
Reagan answers some questions about the Arms-for-Hostages scandal
02.17.2011
01:40 pm

Topics:
History

Tags:
Ronald Reagan
Paul Slansky

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Some highlights from President Reagan’s March 19, 1987 press conference, at which he finally answered questions that had built up in the four months since the Iran-contra scandal broke:

“... I don’t know ... I don’t know ... I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was ... I did not know at that time that there was any money involved. I only knew that ... All we’d learned ... Helen, I don’t know. I only know that ... All that I know ... Sam, all I know is that ... I can’t remember ... There are other people that don’t remember either ... I did not know that I had said it in such a way ... I didn’t realize that I had said that ... We didn’t know ... I didn’t know how far we could go ... I still do not have the answer ... It was a complete surprise to me ... We’re still waiting for that to be explained ... I don’t know ... I don’t know ...”

Excerpted from the “Reagan Centennial Edition” of my 1989 book The Clothes Have No Emperor, available here as an enhanced eBook.

 

Written by Paul Slansky | Discussion
Oliver Sacks finds some people that Reagan can’t fool
02.16.2011
01:47 pm

Topics:
History

Tags:
Ronald Reagan
Paul Slansky

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In his 1986 New York Times best-seller The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, an examination of various bizarre neurological disorders, Oliver Sacks provided an account of oppositely impaired patients – aphasiacs, who can’t understand spoken words but do take in information from extra-verbal cues, and tonal agnosiacs, who understand the actual words but miss their emotional content – watching a speech by President Reagan.

“It was the grimaces, the histrionisms, the false gestures and, above all, the false tones and cadences of the voice,” wrote Sacks, which caused the word-deaf aphasiacs to laugh hysterically at the Great Communicator, while one agnosiac, relying entirely on the actual words, sat in stony silence, concluding that “he is not cogent ... his word-use is improper” and suspecting that “he has something to conceal.”

“Here then,” wrote Sacks, “was the paradox of the President’s speech.  We normals – aided, doubtless, by our wish to be fooled, were indeed well and truly fooled ... And so cunningly was deceptive word-use combined with deceptive tone, that only the brain-damaged remained intact, undeceived.”

Excerpted from the “Reagan Centennial Edition” of my 1989 book The Clothes Have No Emperor, available here as an enhanced eBook.

Written by Paul Slansky | Discussion
President Reagan tells real heroes an inspiring story about a fake one
02.15.2011
01:22 pm

Topics:
History

Tags:
Ronald Reagan
Paul Slansky

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A companion piece to “Facts? We don’t need your stinking facts!” After all, facts can be so … inconvenient.

12/8/83 Continuing his tradition of holiday season insensitivity, an obviously well‑fed Ed Meese scoffs at the notion that the Administration’s policies are unnecessarily cruel to the poor. “I don’t know of any authoritative figures that there are hungry children,” he declares. “I’ve heard a lot of anecdotal stuff, but I haven’t heard any authoritative figures ... I think some people are going to soup kitchens voluntarily. I know we’ve had considerable information that people go to soup kitchens because the food is free and that that’s easier than paying for it ... I think that they have money.

12/12/83 Addressing the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, President Reagan tells this heart-warming story: “A B‑17 coming back across the channel from a raid over Europe, badly shot up by anti‑aircraft ... The young ball‑turret gunner was wounded, and they couldn’t get him out of the turret there while flying. But over the channel, the plane began to lose altitude, and the commander had to order bail out. And as the men started to leave the plane, the last one to leave – the boy, understandably, knowing he was being left behind to go down with the plane, cried out in terror – the last man to leave the plane saw the commander sit down on the floor. He took the boy’s hand and said, ‘Never mind, son, we’ll ride it down together.’ Congressional Medal of honor posthumously awarded.”

12/12/83 Introducing this year’s White House Santa, black action star Mr. T, as “a man who I admire a lot,” Nancy Reagan plops herself in his lap and plants a kiss on the top of his bald head.

12/15/83 Ed Meese tells the National Press Club that literature’s classic miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, to whom he has recently been compared, suffered from a “bad press in his time. If you really look at the facts, he didn’t exploit Bob Cratchit.”  Explains Meese, “Bob Cratchit was paid ten shillings a week, which was a very good wage at that time ... Bob, in fact, had good cause to be happy with his situation. He lived in a house, not a tenement. His wife didn’t have to work ... He was able to afford the traditional Christmas dinner of roast goose and plum pudding ... So let’s be fair to Scrooge. He had his faults, but he wasn’t unfair to anyone.”

12/16/83 Columnist Lars‑Erik Nelson – after checking the citations on all 434 Congressional Medals of Honor awarded during World War II – reveals that not one of them matches the story President Reagan told the other day. “It’s not true,” writes Nelson. “It didn’t happen. It’s a Reagan story ... The President of the United States went before an audience of 300 real Congressional Medal of Honor winners and told them about a make‑believe Medal of Honor winner.” Responds White House spokesman Larry Speakes, “If you tell the same story five times, it’s true.”

12/20/83 At a press conference, President Reagan claims that El Salvador has “a 400‑year history of military dictatorships.” As it happens, though, the first military regime didn’t take power until way back in 1931. Okay, so he was off by a few centuries, so what?

12/21/83 The Washington Post reports that the White House is feverishly searching the Medal of Honor files in an effort to verify President Reagan’s story. Says a researcher, “We will find it.” They never do.

12/28/83 Dr. George Graham, a member of the President’s Task Force on Food Assistance, says he doubts that “anyone in their right mind believes that there is a massive hunger problem.” He further claims that black children are “probably the best‑nourished group in the United States.”

12/28/83 Lars‑Erik Nelson reports that a reader saw a scene very similar to President Reagan’s Medal of Honor story in the 1944 movie Wing and a Prayer. “Adding to the confusion,” writes Nelson, “Dana Andrews at one point reprimands a glory‑seeking young pilot with the words: ‘This isn’t Hollywood.’  ... You could understand that some in the audience might confuse reality with fiction.”

1/11/84 Lars‑Erik Nelson suggests another source for the Medal of Honor story: an apocryphal item in the April 1944 issue of Reader’s Digest, a magazine known to be a life‑long Reagan favorite. “The bomber had been almost ripped apart by German cannon,” it read. “The ball turret gunner was badly wounded and stuck in the blister on the underside of the fuselage. Crewmen worked frantically to extricate the youngster, but there was nothing they could do. They began to jump. The terror‑stricken lad screamed in fear as he saw what was happening. The last man to jump heard the remaining crewman, a gunner, say, ‘Take it easy, kid. We’ll take this ride together.’”

All entries are excerpted from the “Reagan Centennial Edition” of my 1989 book The Clothes Have No Emperor, available here as an enhanced eBook. More to come.

Written by Paul Slansky | Discussion
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