Archive: November, 2009

Studs: December 7th

 When Studs Terkel copped out on us on Halloween a year ago at age 96, he took from us a hard-left passion for social justice, a bawdy sense of humor and a raspy voice for the working class we’ll never replace.  But he left behind an amazing body of work we’ll be digging into for inspiration and entertainment for decades to come.  On Monday, December 7th at Georgetown University, Theodore Bikel, David Strathairn, Kathleen Chalfant and a cast of well-known actors from New York, Chicago and Washington, DC, will remind us of Studs’ genius with a concert-style reading (that means singing and story-telling and  Terkel-type jokes)  of Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Reflections on Death, Rebirth and Hunger for a Faith, an adaptation of his book of interviews on death and dying which he published in 2001. 

Studs Terkel’s Wikipedia page says he was an author, historian, radio personality and an actor.  They left out blacklisted television star, outrageous curmudgeon, relentless raconteur, open-heart surgery survivor, lawyer, union organizer, sports nut, Obamaphile and generally obnoxious professional Chicagoan.  The son of penniless Russian immigrants, he got his start in broadcasting in the 1930s with the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Writer’s project.  His radio program, The Studs Terkel Program, ran for forty-five years on WFMT in Chicago. His 18 books, most of them oral histories taken from interviews he conducted, documented the ravages of the Great Depression, the horror of World War II, and the often savage world confronted by workers and their families.  Somehow, he always siphoned off a mug of hope from the cesspool of capitalism he confronted every day with anger and wit.  For Will the Circle be Unbroken, he followed his lifelong pattern of interviewing regular folks — parents, medics, patients, teachers and clergy — as well as biggies like Kurt Vonnegut, Uta Hagen, Doc Watson and himself. 

 Will the Circle Be Unbroken was adapted, with Stud’s help, by Derek Goldman, the Artistic Director of the Performing Arts Center at Georgetown, which is producing the concert reading in collaboration with Arena Stage. Goldman and Joseph Megel directing.

 For more information, a full cast lineup, and ticket purchases, visit

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Mr. President, take down that wall.

Last Saturday night when the Senate Dems hustled up the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster on health care reform, my hope-a-meter shot up like the stock market, then dropped soberly back down the next morning. What with the Republicans reeling from disclosures about abortion coverage in the RNC’s health insurance plan, the drug companies getting caught with their hands in the price-hike jar, and Sarah Palin on tour, it should have been a primo week for the good guys. But while the GOPs have been firing repeated volleys into their fat and clumsy feet, our long-awaited, progressive Democratic Administration has been implanting multiple stab wounds in its own back (and yes, it takes a team of contortionists to get the job done right). (More)

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Cheapshot: Michael Gerson

Shame on CNN. I was outraged at Michael Gerson’s snarky comment during CNN’s live coverage of the memorial service at Fort Hood. The former Bush speechwriter and columnist opined that while Presidents Clinton and Bush “always wore their hearts on their sleeves” at times like these, President Obama is more “cerebral and reserved” and needs to “show some heart this afternoon.”  CNN should have immediately dropped him from the commentary for being a disrespectful schmuck. Or maybe they should trade him to Fox News for a couple of future draft choices.  P.S. Obama delivered an incredibly dignified homily at the service, a speech much more fitting and thoughtful than any ever written by Gerson or delivered by his old boss.

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November 9, 2009

How to pay for health care? Let’s re-soak the rich.

A recent report by Citizens for Tax Justice says the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy will cost us over $2 trillion over the period 2001-2010, with half of the benefits going to the richest 5 percent of taxpayers.  I’m no math genius, but even I can figure their half comes to about $1 trillion dollars.  Holy cow — that’s almost exactly the ten-year cost of the health care plan just passed by the House of Representatives!  I’ve got an idea: let’s get our money back by sticking the rich with the total tab for health care reform, while we restore some much-needed progressivity to the federal income tax, and give our economy a huge boost in the process. (More)

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