Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Tuesdays with Paulie 12/26/06 (Late edition)

Passing of a President

It's hard to imagine becoming President of the United States under more strenuous conditions than Gerald Ford. Being the only man to become President without being elected President or Vice President, Ford found himself the 38th President during a time when scandal occupied the Oval office and America was still trying to get out of Vietnam with some dignity. Ford who became President when Richard Nixon resigned, died Tuesday evening at his home in Rancho Mirage, California at the age of 93.

If there was ever a President who history treats kinder as time goes on, it would be Ford. Only serving for 895 days, Ford experienced and achieved much in his 2 years in the White House. He survived two assassination attempts, entered into the Helsinki Accords with the Soviet Union, faced a foreign policy crisis with the Mayaguez Incident and fought an economic recession with tax rebates and industry deregulation.

In September of 1974, Ford angered America when he granted President Nixon a full unconditional pardon for any crimes he committed as President. Conventional wisdom blamed the Nixon pardon for his re-election defeat in 1976. There has always been much speculation that Nixon and Ford may have had a deal in which Nixon gave up the Presidency to Ford for a Pardon. There has never been any proof of that arrangement and history today gives Ford the benefit of the doubt as well as agreement with his decision. Back then Ford explained to the nation that a Pardon was in the best interest of the America, "our long national nightmare is over with," Ford told America. At the time Americans wanted to see Nixon go to jail, but Ford believed it was time to move forward. Ford was right, but in 1976 America still disagreed with him, electing Jimmy Carter President.

Ford Facts: Ford was a member of the Warren commission which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and concluded Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing Kennedy. Ford was a star center for the University of Michigan football team. He was offered pro contracts by the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. In 1980 Ford was believed to be Ronald Reagan's first choice for Vice President. It is believed that both camps couldn't come to an agreement.

In 1999, Ford was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton. In 2001, he was presented with the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award for his decision to pardon Richard Nixon to stop the agony America was experiencing over Watergate. During that presentation, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) admitted that his harsh criticism of Ford after the Nixon Pardon was wrong.

Simply put, Ford was an honest guy who did what he felt was best for America regardless of the political consequences. That integrity is greatly lacking in American politics today. Gerald Rudolph Ford, you will be missed.

The Godfather has left the building

Funk, Disco, Soul and Hip Hop are all off spring of the Rhythm and Blues generated by the Godfather of Soul James Brown. Sadly at the age of 73 the man who would step back and kiss himself has died.

About 15 years ago I saw Brown perform at the UIC Pavillion. Back then he was nearing the big 60 mark, but his performance would match a man half his age. He played all his great hits, Please...Please...Please, Papa got a brand new bag, I feel good, Mother Popcorn and more. The audience was mostly middle age African American and my friend and I where the youngest people there. However, once the music began age and race didn't matter, everyone just wanted to see James and dance to his groove.

Brown had a multitude of hits during the 50's, 60's and early 70's. His most important song was a social commentary "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" in 1968. In 1986 Brown was part of the inaugural induction class for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

For me James Brown will always be etched in my mind as the Reverend Cleophus James in the movie the Blues Brothers. It's now our turn to ask the Reverend, Do you see the light? Then go to it and join God's Rock and Roll Band.

Speaking of death...

As sad as it is that President Ford and James Brown have passed away, hopefully the third famous person to die (famous people die in three's) will be a death we can celebrate. Today Iraq's highest court rejected Sadam Hussein appeal. The court stated that former dictator must be hanged within 30 days for ordering the killing of scores of Shiite Muslims in 1982. Saddam's hanging "must be implemented within 30 days," said Aref Shahin, chief judge of the appeals court. "From tomorrow, any day could be the day of implementation."

ABC news is reporting that hundreds of Iraqi's have inquired about the job as Hussein's hangman, even though officially, no such position exists and the government has not advertised for it. This is what makes Democracy great...citizen participation. The actual job in question is to be the person who pulls the lever that will drop the floor beneath Hussein. One Shite Muslim said,"there is not a house in Iraq that has not held a funeral because of Hussein. He explained that he is "not the only one" who wants to execute the former dictator."

I am not one who enjoys blood lust. In fact I rarely support the death penalty. However, I do support capital punishment in extreme cases. Considering the fact that Hussein murdered anywhere from 300,000 to 1 million human beings, I will welcome his death. The truth is...there is no punishment that will fit his crimes against humanity.



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