Michael Dukakis

“Running against Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis… Bush ran an ugly, negative campaign. In a measure of how much liberalism had become delegitimized during the Reagan years, Bush’s main charge against Dukakis was simply that he was a liberal.”

pg. 409

Managed by Lee Atwater, the 1988 Bush presidential campaign represented the ugliness of American politics. The Willie Horton ad and the so called “southern strategy” played into American’s racial fears. It also shows how American discourse had started to shift to the right during the Reagan administration. This shift is continuing even in today’s world.

By all accounts, Dukakis ran a sloppy campaign. His decision to pose in a tank in order to seem more militarily informed proved to be a huge mistake for Dukakis. Also, running against a candidate manged by Atwater, one of America’s greatest (if morally questionable) campaign managers, proved to be too difficult for “bland” Dukakis. The Bush campaign was aggressive. All in all the failure of Dukakis to gain many votes solidified the idea of the “Reagan revolution” in the American political arena. The lack of public support behind liberal candidates at this time would lead Bill Clinton, a liberal before office, to run an administration that looked closer to a moderate Republican administration.

Oliver North

“Oliver North, a midlevel NSC staffer, set up a network of former military and intelligence officers, arms dealers, and private businessmen. White house officials repeatedly lied to Congress and the public when they denied that the administration was still involved in supporting the Contras.”

Page 396.

Although congress specifically denied any further funding to the Nicaraguan Contras, the Reagan administration completely defied this order. North worked to set up a secretive system where Americans would sell weapons to Iran in order to secure the release of American hostages in Lebanon. The money gained from the sale of these weapons was then funneled to the Nicaraguan Contras. The goal was to help the Contras overthrow the Sandista government. This shocked many Americans who never would have guessed their government was negotiating with terrorists, secretly supplying the world with weapons, overthrowing democratically elected governments, and dealing in drug money. The fact that the military-industrial complex was able to do this despite congress’ explicit ban on these actions speaks to the power the military was gaining behind the scenes in the American political realm. This would create problems that we are still experiencing today, such as those illuminated in the documentary Dirty Wars.


Hungry Freaks, Daddy – Frank Zappa

Freak Out!

In 1966 Frank Zappa released Freak Out! the first 4 side rock and roll album. Freak Out! was Frank Zappa’s musical manifesto. In some ways, Freak Out! can be seen as the first musical attempt at Surrealism. It features incredible instrumentation (Orchestra, kazoo, vibraphone) juxtaposed with the traditional rock band format. It attempts to have a song to appeal to everyone. This makes the album go all over the place. There are doo-wop songs, rock and roll pieces, Musique-Concrete pieces, pop ballads, R&B, Pop rock, and experimental vocal and electronic compositions. All the music is written, arranged, and orchestrated by Frank himself, something very few rock musicians were doing. This record is often considered ahead of it’s time and it introduced us to Frank Zappa’s vision. I can’t even describe how out there some of the music on this album is!

(The album had a profound influence on the Beatles, who called Frank Zappa to ask him for permission to use his ideas on his album. When Zappa asked to be paid, the Beatles decided to just steal the ideas. Also, John Lennon stole an album full of Zappa material and released it as his own. What a jerk! Read all about it…. http://suckmybeatles.com/2007/10/29/reason-1754-the-ballad-of-john-and-frank/)

The  song features humorous instrumentation (kazoo and vibraphones), and the almost atonal piano tone clusters laid over your standard 60s rock and roll song. It is a shocking statement for an opening of an album. The humorous musical arrangement is immediately contrasted with the powerful lyrics. “Mr. America Walk On By…” Zappa gives voice to a group of Americans who felt out of touch in the 60s. “The left behinds of the great society” as he calls them. This is a direct reference to Lyndon Johnson’s America. Zappa argues that America alienates citizens who do not buy into their “supermarket dream” or “great midwestern hardware store philosophy.”  I like this song because Zappa chose to open an album with unusual music and opinionated lyrics. This wasn’t intended to be a pop success. Zappa was attempting to market to and capitalize on what he saw as an untapped market of Americans who didn’t see the world the way everyone else did. The Mothers were a band for people were unsatisfied with being fed top 100s pop and corporate-approved counter culture.

Here are the liner notes written by Zappa for the song

1. HUNGRY FREAKS, DADDY(3:27) was written for Carl Orestes Franzoni.  He is freaky down to his toenails.  Some day he will live next door to you and your lawn will die.  Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system.  Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and educate yourself  if you’ve got any guts.  Some of you like pep rallies and plastic robots who tell you what to read.  Forget I mentioned it.  This song has no message.  Rise for the flag salute.



Jimmy Carter

“Carter’s political symbolism and rhetoric suggested that the days of American imperial ascendancy were over, and that it was probably for the best.”

pg 327

Carter came into office in large part because he was different from the standard American presidential candidate. Carter’s lack of experience in Washington helped separate him from the rest of the candidates. To many American’s he seemed like one of them. Although his attitude and image appealed to American’s at the time, Carter was ultimately unable to satisfy the American people. He did little to solve any problems the country faced. Freeman argues that this period of America is characterized by an expansion of a “hollowed out” Democracy. Carter talked about peace, hired many women and African Americans, and proposed a new direction for America, but ultimately changed very little. The rhetoric was there, but the results were not. American’s had to look further for the changes they wanted to see.

Garry Marshall

Garry Marshall, producer of Happy Days and  Laverne and Shirley

“Garry Marshall said he wanted to be the ‘Normal Rockwell’ of television.”

pg 311

Garry Marshall’s wish to be the Normal Rockwell of television provides perfect evidence for Freeman’s argument about the rising nostalgia in the 70s and 80s. Seeking to comfort people with a Leave it to Beaver attitude, Films, Music, Television, and other forms of entertainment were often drenched in imaginary idealized visions of the 50’s. Uncertain about their current state and worried about the future, many Americans looked to the culture of the 50’s to feel safe. Nostalgia informed the ideas of many people who felt the country had lost its way in the past 20 years. This sentiment is possibly a large contributing factor to the success and semi-religious worship of Ronald Reagan in the 80s.

Gang Culture in the Bronx

The hope and optimism of the 60’s exploded with the assassinations of leaders like RFK, MLK , and Malcolm X. These feelings of despair and hopelessness combined with the post Robert Moses conditions of the Bronx, set up the perfect conditions for the gangs that sprung up in The Bronx in the late 60s and early seventies. Chang argues that youth movements usually spring up and last for 5 years,  putting both the youth and civil rights movements of the sixties and the subsequent gang activity in a perfect time frame.

The Ghetto Brothers were a revolutionary group of young people that emerged around 1968. Formed by the four Melendez brothers, it also included Charlie Suarez and Black Benjie. Although involved in gang activity, the group was taken under the wing of their teacher Manny Dominguez. With this, they attempted to make a transition from a gang to an organization. The Ghetto Brothers attempted to organize a gang truce in 1972. They were a great example of the youth energy that arose from the ashes of the sixties optimism.

One very interesting aspect of the ghetto brothers was their expression of their youthful energy and political ideology through their fun energetic music. The new youth movement that would spring up in the Bronx after the Ghetto Brothers disintegrated in 1973 would be influenced by the energy and sense of community of the Ghetto Brothers. This lead to the block parties that would eventually become the foundation of hip hop.

Aid to Families with Dependent Children

“Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), “welfare” in the common lexicon… did not address the causes of deprivation but only sought to alleviate the plight of the poor (and lessen the social threat they might pose).”

Pg 268

This long established program was plagued by “complex regulations and demeaning practices” which made it hard for women to enroll. The Welfare Rights movement lead to states loosing regulations on the AFDC application process. This lead to an increase in families receiving AFDC benefits.

Nixon proposed a minimum annual income to replace AFDC, which he deemed a failure. The public generally bought into the misinformed notion that the majority of welfare recipients were black women, putting many people, particularly in the south against Welfare reform. Others believed the proposal was not enough to be considered a replacement of AFDC benefits. Ultimately Nixon’s proposal was denied in the Senate.

Nixon’s involvement with Welfare Rights and environmentalism shows that “Nixon did not shy away from the idea of expansive government.”

The Warren Court

“Forty-five times the Warren Court overturned previous Supreme Court rulings. Until then, in its entire previous history, the court had overturned its own decisions only eighty-eight times.”

Pg 236


Earl Warren was the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1953-1969. This court overturned more decisions than any Supreme Court before it. The Warren court made radical changes to previous precedent. Many of the Warren Court decisions were supported by popular opinion. Others were designed to update certain state legislatures to comply with modern national standards. Examples of this are Loving v. Virginia which eliminated anti-interracial marriage laws. Another example is Griswold vs. Connecticut which stopped the Connecticut State government to ban contraceptives.

Although the Court was generally praised for expanding individual rights, the Warren Court was sometimes criticized for of inventing new rights. Conservatives attacked the criminal justice advances made by the Warren Court (Ex. Miranda Rights, the 1962 Court decision that prohibited illegally seized evidence from being used in court). The Court was blamed for rising crime rates during the Johnson years.

Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party

“In Mississippi, where African Americans were excluded from the process of selecting Democratic convention delegates, SNCC and other civil rights groups… founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.”

pg 204

The MFDP was a group that campaigned to select an integrated delegation for the Mississippi seats at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. The MFDP was largely formed by SNCC(Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and COFO (Council of Federated Organizations) during the Freedom Summer. Fearing political injury, Lyndon B. Johnson used the FBI to coordinate his plan to undermine the MFDP. In the end, the MFDP was able to get 2 out of 64 of their proposed delegates into the convention and the Democratic party promised to stop excluding African Americans from the selection process during the next DNC.  Although many saw this as a step foward, the MFDP saw it as an insult.