See Hillary Sign. See Hillary Run?


This article 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC 6.17.2014

If you live in the DC area you probably don’t know Sue Kezurer Zuckerman, but if you knew Suzie like I know Suzie, you would know 3 things – she’s my wife’s college roommate, she and her husband Marc were visiting us in Crystal City last weekend, and she loves Hillary Clinton.

That’s why you could find Sue, Marc, my wife Judy, and I walking to the Costco store in Pentagon City Saturday morning to stand in line to see Mrs. Clinton, who was scheduled to begin signing copies of her new book Hard Choices at 11 a.m.

Arriving at the Costco parking lot shortly after 9 a.m., it was apparent that this wouldn’t be your normal book signing. There was the crowd. Lines of more than 700 people, many with a copy (or copies of) Hard Choices in hand, were already established alongside the entire western side of the store.

Then there was the bus in the parking lot. The red, white and blue bus with a big picture of Hillary on the back where you see her texting with the words Please Don’t Text and Drive. On the sidethe messages Ready for Hillary and Join the Movement weredisplayed in giant type. Outside the bus, dozens of people were stacking tables with “I’m Ready For Hillary” buttons and signs. Others were rolling up posters of Hillary to distribute to those who wanted them. Still others were huddled in small groups, getting further instructions for the day.

Now authors don’t travel in tour buses with entourages. Rock stars, sports teams, and political candidates do. And that’s the thing. Very few people in the Costco crowd Saturday were there to see Hillary Clinton the author. They were there to see the Hillary Clinton whom almost everyone expects will gain the Democratic nomination in 2016 and try to become the first woman in American history to hold the office of President of the United States.

We were greeted by Megan Collins from Orange County, California, who is a sophomore in college here in the DC area. She offered us our “I’m Ready for Hillary” stickers (which as an old practicing journalist I declined) and explained the procedures for the day.

I asked Megan why she was working for the as-of-yet-not-declared candidate. “We’re here to show Hillary today that we have a number of people supporting her if she decides to run. And we’ll still be here for her in 2016.”

Megan said that while she endorses Mrs. Clinton for her political views, she also has a more personal reason to join the “I’m Ready for Hillary” campaign. Both of her parents are big Bill and Hillary Clinton supporters. When she was 8 months old, Megan had her picture taken with Mrs. Clinton. Later, her mother said, “maybe you’ll be working with her when you’re older.”

“And here I am,” she said with a wide smile. “I think it’s pretty revolutionary for a former First Lady to go out and make a name for herself. Not only is she a strong representative for the female community, she is a strong representative for America.”

But, of course, not everyone is as admiring of Mrs. Clinton as Megan or my wife’s roommate, Sue.

Take John Lipnicki of neighboring Vienna. The 69-year-old business owner was on the sidewalk next to the Costco, brandishing a large yellow, black, and red sign which attacked the former Secretary of State for Benghazi and claimed she had a legacy “written in blood from Arkansas to the White House.”

“I’m here to let people know that there is another side to Hillary,” Lipnicki said. “If she wants to be president, what she did or did not do will impact America for years to come. She’s no leader. Where was she when we needed her as secretary of state?”

And Lipnicki was not alone in his opposition to Clinton. At the front entrance of the store, the Republican National Committee had unleashed it new anti-Clinton weapon – a volunteer NRC worker in an orange-and-white squirrel costume wearing a dark blue t-shirt with the slogan “Another Clinton in the White House NUTS” written in red and white letters on the front.

Other RNC volunteers were on hand to distribute literature accusing Clinton of numerous failings including, of course, Benghazi, and her most recent statements that she and Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House. For his part, the squirrel remained silent, letting his T-shirt proclaim his message. He (or she) did pose for pictures so that message could spread from Costco via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

Meanwhile, back in line, people passed the time by chatting – not surprisingly – about politics, government, and the Clintons.

Laird White from Arlington told us why he was spending 2-and-a-half hours here on a sunny Saturday. “I’m looking forward to 2016 and I’m hoping that somebody competent stays in the White House,” he said. White also said he had a suggestion he wanted to deliver to Mrs. Clinton. He believes he knows who should be her running mate – current senator and former Gov. Mark Warner from Virginia.  “If she does choose Warner, then I can take credit for the pick,” he said with a laugh.

For her part, Suzie was having a hard time keeping her excitement in check. “What should I say her? Don’t you think she’s wonderful? She’s so great.”

Suddenly, she hit me on the shoulder. “Look, there’s Bill Clinton. Right behind us.

I turned around. Obviously, it wasn’t Bill Clinton, but for once Suzie was almost right. The man did resemble the former president. Especially at a quick glance. The Clinton look-alike turned out to be 59-year-old Rick Meidlinger from northern Virginia. He admitted this wasn’t the first time he had turned heads at a Clinton book signing. A few years ago, when Bill Clinton had appeared at the same Costco to sign one of his own books, Meidlinger had attended.

“I was sitting on that loading dock over there and a woman came over and said, ‘If I can’t get a picture with him, I can get a picture with you.'” Then others did the same thing.

I spent the next hour or so talking to Meidlinger, who, although he wasn’t the former president, did have a really interesting story behind his reason for getting Mrs. Clinton’s signature. Autograph gathering was something he had started with his younger daughter, who had a passion for baseball that she developed while playing sandlot ball with the boys in her neighborhood. She played Little League with the boys; then continued on to pitch with them on the high school baseball team. She had thrown a perfect game and been featured in a section of Sports Illustrated. Later, she made the US Women’s Baseball Team, but once it was decided that baseball wouldn’t be an Olympic sport, she gave up actively participating in the game. But she and her Dad continued collecting autographs.

Finally, after noon, we entered the store. In order to see Mrs. Clinton you had to be a Costco member. Judy and I had bought a membership the day before for $55. But since we had only 2 cards, that meant that only Judy and Sue could continue through the line. When we had purchased our membership, I told Dave, one of the store managers, about my plans to blog about the event. He suggested that we not carry anything in to the signing, since it would have to be stored and checked. So Judy and Sue gave their pocketbooks and small beach chairs to Marc, who would hold them, while I wandered around the store trying to capture more details for this post.

I will let Judy describe what happened next:

Sue and I were given yellow wristbands after we showed our 2 Costco membership cards. We proceeded following the yellow arrows down the cement floor aisles blocked off for the signing. Store employees had constructed a giant wall using slats of water bottles for a base and slats of paper towels for height to secure the signing area.

Since we weren’t carrying anything (not even a cell phone or a pre-purchased book), we were told to take a shortcut across 3 aisles of waiting Clinton fans, where we were scanned by Hillary’s security and lead to the inner signing area.  

Sue meantime had asked me at least a dozen times if I was going to get her a book for Hillary to sign. I repeatedly assured her they would have books inside the maze that we could purchase and finally asked the security people just to assure her. 

Sue asked me what I was going to say Hillary and, after thinking about it, I said I would simply thank her for all she has done for us (women). 

As we rounded the final aisle, there she was, elevated on a platform, surrounded by hundreds of books and many members of her staff and security. 

The people ahead of us had cell phones and were taking pictures while in line. “Oh man,” I said to Sue. “David will be upset that we don’t have our phones to take a picture”  I turned around to Rick, our new friend and Bill Clinton look-alike, and asked him to take a few shots of Hillary signing books and then email them to us. He said he would. 

The line was moving very quickly, but Sue observed that Hillary was shaking hands with every person in line.

“Oh my God Judy, what am I going to say to her.  Doesn’t she look beautiful? I mean really beautiful?” Sue blurted out, obviously awe-struck at finally seeing Hillary up close and personal. 

When it was our turn, three of us were herded up. Hillary shook all three of our hands and we were given a pre-signed book and led out the other side of the signing area. The entire process took less than 20 seconds.

I didn’t get to say “thank you for all you have done,” but we had gotten Sue to meet her political idol.

TV Detective Tackles JFK Conspiracy

This article 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC – 05.07.2013

For 20 years, actor Richard Beltzer, as his character Detective John Munch, has been employing his fictional investigative skills, 1st on Homicide Life on the Streets for 7 years and then on Law and Order: Special  Victims Unit for the past 13 years. In fact, Beltzer holds a TV record for portraying the same Munch character on 11 different shows ranging fromSesame Street to The Wire.

But Beltzer has been using his real-life investigative skills for twice that long, spending the past 40 years trying to unravel the truth behind the assassination of President John Kennedy and the cover-up that Beltzer believes began long before the shots that killed JFK were fired on that sad November, 1963 day in Dallas, Texas.


Last night, Beltzer appeared at the National Press Club to discuss the latest book he co-authored with David Wayne entitled Hit List: An In-Depth Look at the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination.

Beltzer contends that the JFK hit list contains more than 50 witnesses who died under mysterious circumstances ranging from accused murderer Lee Harvey Oswald (whom Beltzer believes was just a pasty set up by the American government. “He was there, but he didn’t fire a shot.”) to a Dallas stripper with the stage name Delilah, to national correspondent Dorothy Kilgallen, to U.S. Congressman Hale Boggs. “Anyone who had any knowledge was eventually murdered,” Beltzer said. “The sheer number forces us to ask whether their deaths were coincidence?” 

“This is the greatest murder mystery of all time,” Beltzer added. “It’s Sherlock Holmes on speed.”

So how did the cover-up that Beltzer alleges begin? “It was the height of the Cold War. People said ‘Holy shit! Somebody in government killed our president. We have to cover up.” he contends. “I don’t think there is one great big conspiracy, but there are a lot of sharks in the water.”

So who did plot and carry out the Kennedy assassination? “The real question is who didn’t kill him. I know that is glib but there were elements in our government and elements in the mob. President Kennedy was planning many changes,” Beltzer maintains. “But it was 50 years ago. It just goes on and on. There is no reason not to tell the full story now. It’s only the ongoing contempt for the American people and that to me is very, very disturbing.”

Beltzer said that leaders in authority have been able to link the words conspiracy and theory and delusional together. “It’s easy to marginalize people who question authority,” Beltzer said.

Beltzer’s Press Club talk came on the same day Hit List made the New York Times best seller list. This came despite the fact the The Times regularly refuses to review Beltzer’s books on the JFK murder. “The New York Times doesn’t review my books, so, if I may, I say fuck the New York Times,” Beltzer said. “Certain people don’t want people to know what I am saying because it is the truth.”

Film Director Oliver Stone Talks JFK, Conspiracy

Oliver Stone makes a point with Newseum Vice Chairman Shelby Coffey III.

When film director Oliver Stone speaks about his controversial film JFK, he wants it understood that he was not depicting absolute truth. Instead, he was making what he calls a countermyth to contrast with what he calls the myth of the Warren Commission Report, a voluminous compendium of information that maintains Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he killed President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago.

This article 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC – 11.05.2013

“We were not making a documentary, we were dramatizing,” Stone says. “I thought the Warren Commission was fiction and I still do today.”

Stone appeared at the Newseum in Washington, DC to discuss his film, which was released 22 years ago and is enjoying a resurgence because of the timeliness of the 50th anniversary this month of that dark day in Dallas.

“The (Kennedy) investigation was badly handled from the beginning,” Stone said as he detailed his belief in both a conspiracy and a cover-up. “A major medical fraud took place. He should have been autopsied in Parkland (the Dallas hospital where Kennedy died). A doctor there says for 18 minutes he saw brains emerging from the back of President Kennedy’s head. A shot from the front was the kill shot and that is a shot that Lee Harvey Oswald couldn’t have made.”

Of course, if the Warren Commission is wrong and Oswald didn’t act alone, the question becomes – who is responsible for killing JFK?  “Look at the people who had the power,” Stone contends.

In Stones’ view, the military/industrial/intelligence complex was highly disturbed about Kennedy actions that they believed were wrong for an America which, at the time, was engaged in a Cold War with the Soviet Union and the idea of Communism.  “Kennedy was moving toward detente and the end of the Cold War. The generals wanted to blow up the Soviet Union because they could. They wanted a war because they knew they could win it. But Kennedy realized we were facing the end of the world as we knew it and he said no. They were furious and didn’t want him to win re-election in 1964. Kennedy took them head-on and paid a price for it ,” Stone said.

The director said he began to question the Oswald-only position after reading On The Trail of the Assassin by New Orleans attorney Jim Garrison in 1989. Garrison’s book detailed his investigation of a Kennedy conspiracy. Kevin Costner portrayed Garrison in Stone’s film.

Stone said he had always admired the 1969 film Z, by Greek director Costa-Gavras, a thinly fictionalized account of the events surrounding the assassination of a Greek politician and the outrage at the military dictatorship which hatched the killing plot. “I wanted to do something similar on an American level,” Stone said. “I wanted to give a reason why he (Kennedy) must be removed from office.”

“In drama, you have the right to interpret history as you want. Shakespeare proved that,” Stone said. “Even documentaries aren’t objective. But I think the facts of JFK hold up to me.”

Cool Jazz as Cold War Policy

This article 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC

When he was asked to describe the music he and his contemporaries were playing, famed pianist Thelonious Monk responded, “jazz is freedom. Think about that.”

So with that definition in mind, it really isn’t surprising that America decided to use jazz and its performers as cultural weapons in its idealogical Cold War against the former Soviet Union.

Recently, a panel was held at the National Archives to discuss the topic Jazz Diplomacy: Sending America’s Music to the World. It was part of an ongoing series of programs to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival.

“Since the beginning of jazz, music has been a prevalent symbol of freedom,” said John Hasse, curator of American Music at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

According to Dr. Penny Von Eschen, professor of history and American culture at the University of Michigan, the use of jazz as a diplomatic tool was “accidental and improvised,” much like jazz itself.

From the beginning of the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union, Russia pushed its artistic preeminence to demonstrate it offered the better way of life to the existing and emerging nations of the world.

“They (the Russians) said we were a nation of gadgets and automobiles and a people of no culture,” Von Eschen said. “In essence, the US was reacting to this cultural warfare. But did the state department think of this?  No. This came out of the jazz world. Musicians said the Russians can’t claim jazz.”

However, the fact that many jazz musicians were African-American and blacks in the late 1940s and 1950s were treated as inferiors in the South and other parts of the country initially threatened any musical diplomacy plans. The tours began laced with contradictions, but eventually the music won out. Black jazz musicians gained popularity for their American music. Trumpeter Louis Armstrong  came to be known around the world as “The Ambassador of Democracy.” Duke Ellington and his band performed in more than 65 countries.

“The musicians were bringing a very different message of democracy, of who counts, and what is democracy, and what is egalitarianism,” Von Eschen noted.

Perhaps the biggest victory for jazz was delivered through The Voice of America shows aired by Willis Conover. Conover presented jazz programs for foreign listeners for more than 4 decades. In fact, while Voice of American language program transmissions were jammed in the Soviet Union, officials there allowed the music to play.

“It was a musical expression of the things happening in America,” said current director of Voice of America David Ensor. “The Soviet Union had a hierarchal structure of music and jazz really upended that.”

When questioned about playing American music produced by blacks, Conover had a quick reply. “Listening to skin instead of listening to music is irrational,” he was reported as saying.

Ironically, the Voice from America propelled both Conover and jazz to new heights overseas, but not at home. “He was well-known the world over, but he wasn’t known in the United States. In fact,  jazz is more popular today in many countries than it is here,” Ensor explained.

David Killion, a former U.S. representative to UNESCO, said that although the Cold War is over, jazz is still serving a purpose around the world. “My message is that jazz diplomacy isn’t history, it’s contemporary,” Killion said.

“Jazz diplomacy may have started in the United States, but it has been embraced by the world,” he added. “In jazz, (as a player) you have to listen to what everyone else is playing, even if you don’t agree with it. Jazz teaches us that this world is big enough to accommodate all of us.”

You’re Never Too Old to Protest, But Sometimes You Discover the Street Isn’t the Best Place for You to Do That

Photo by Bruce Guthrie

I began my political activism – or, translating that into the parlance of today became woke – in 1968 in my then-conservative hometown of Bridgeton in rural southern New Jersey. One year later, I not only continued that local activism, but expanded my protesting to include the Villanova University campus where I was enrolled as a college student and, periodically through the year and the early years of the decade to follow, at various sites in Washington, DC.

The act of protesting itself and contact with my fellow protesters, most of whom were then older, taught me much about life. For example, it was in the nation’s capital where I was first tear gassed. And where I was first maced. I was spit on and pushed by counter protesters and chased by law enforcement many times. As an activist, I was arrested, harassed, and detained on occasion. I had a policeman in full riot gear place the barrel of a shotgun against the side of my neck and scream “I told you. Shut the fuck up”. I took his advice in the short term and shut up. But after being released from jail the next morning, I resumed my protesting.

From 1974 to 2011, I continued protesting injustice, but almost all of it was done in a much different way — first as a newspaper reporter and then as an educator in poverty-plagued urban school systems. When my wife and I retired, we moved to Crystal City, Virginia, which is only 3 Metro stops from Washington, DC, meaning I could again protest, rally, and march in the nation’s capital. I worked with and aided Occupy Washington. I marched for gay rights, same sex marriage, Black Lives Matter, women’s rights, and science and the environment and I marched against corporate greed, the blood-drenched NRA, and the senseless slaughter of our students in their schools. On 2 occasions, I actually had a chance to speak directly to Donald Trump outside the White House with Kremlin Annex, a group who held nightly rallies opposing the current temporary resident living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Of course, Trump probably didn’t hear me because he was inspecting his White House bunker, watching Fox Fake News with the sound turned up, or tweeting in bed with a cheeseburger on his lap.

Today, another massive rally was scheduled for Washington, DC for many of the causes I believe in, but for the first time since we have been in the DC area, I was not participating.

There were several reasons for my decision. And in the spirit of all those radicals from the 20s and 30s who were kind enough to share their wisdom and experience with me, I would like to offer the same to the young protesters of today, who someday will find themselves old.

If I had to describe myself politically now, I would say I am an uber-liberal, a former radical now tempered by reality and age. I still realize that America faces serious threats to its survival, many of them like racism, class, and income equality carried over from our ’60s days of rage. We also now have the specter of worldwide climate change and global warming which portend the end of life as we know it. And, as the proverbial cherry on the top of this melting poisonous spoiled-ice-cream-mountain-mess of destruction, we also have a coronavirus pandemic which has already taken more than 100,000 American lives and is still with us.

All these deadly threats are compounded by the fact that we are being led (or not being led depending on your personal view) by Donald J. Trump, already identified by historians as the worst of the 45 American presidents.

The realist in me has prioritized that the one thing I can most readily change to help the future is to keep Donald Trump from achieving a second term as president. That is the main reason I chose not to take to the DC streets today. In order to continue working against Trump from now until Election Day and then casting my vote for the person I believe has the best chance of defeating him, I must be alive. As a person in the prime age for COVID0-19, I don’t think the best place for me right now is surrounded by thousands of people, making social distancing impossible.

In addition, neither protesting or the activist skills I now possess are the same as when I first began my activism in the ’60s. While huge protests still prove a point, with the 24-hour news cycle, cable TV, and ubiquitous social media, all protests, not just those in Washington, DC, now find their way onto personal screens everywhere, making the days of huge solidifying marches not as necessary to show the volume of support. In addition, as a writer who uses social media, I have more opportunity there not only to have my face seen and my body counted, but my words can reach far more people than ever before. I also appear on live shows dealing with politics and was scheduled to be on one shared on YouTube, Facebook, and Periscope at the same time I would have been at the DC rally.

But that does not mean I was comfortable staying home, no mater how much work for the cause I felt I was doing.

In a way, I guess it’s analogous to the professional athlete who has reached the end of his on-field playing career and now realizes he can best help his team by managing or coaching from the sidelines. Of course, you miss the thrill that only happens on the field, but you come to understand you can still be a crucial component of any team victory.

So for all the young protesters out there today in DC or anywhere else where I can’t be in upcoming days, here’s some advice:

  • If you are protesting for any cause that Donald Trump is opposing, don’t have second thoughts about if you are right. One of the few constants in life is that Trump is always on the wrong side of what is good.
  • Do not be discouraged for long (although there will be many times when you want to abandon the cause). Major lasting change does not happen overnight. It might not even happen in your lifetime. But if you truly believe in something, fighting for it gives your own life meaning and the fight itself should be viewed as its own reward.
  • Out in the streets today, keep in mind that you should keep using safety recommendations to avoid contacting the virus — wear a mask, try to keep a physical distance of 6 feet from any sustained personal contact, keep hydrated, etc., — and if you feel any signs of illness, immediately remove yourself from the protest and seek immediate medical attention.
  • Be sure to be vigilant and survive all encounters with law enforcement. The cause does not need more martyrs. Tragically, we have too many of them. The passion and commitment you demonstrate by participating in the street is powerful and worthy of great praise, but we need your vote in November to defeat Trump. Then we can move to the next steps to resolve the myriad of problems Trump’s abysmal four-year presidency has only exacerbated.
  • Keep in mind that any sustained action calling for systemic change requires both protesters of the school of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (peaceful, nonviolent) and those who would have followed Malcolm X (by any means necessary). There is place for everyone in a revolution.
  • Do not expect any immediate results from your protesting. Right now, we are simply calling attention to problems in such a way that they become impossible for others to ignore. If you are committed for the long haul, there will be much more to do for you and all those standing (or sitting, or kneeling, or lying on the ground) next to you now.
  • Finally, it is hard for so many of us to breathe right now. For some groups, it has been hard for their members to breathe for centuries. But just because something has been, does not mean it must always be. Change can happen. But it takes a whole lot of dedication, work, resilience, and most all of hope. Please, whatever else you do, do not give up hope. For hope, coupled with action, is always the strongest activist weapon of all.