July 12, 1960: Mr. Potatohead Was Not Amused

Two knobs in the lower corners on the front of a plastic cube-like structure, when rotated clockwise or counterclockwise, move a stylus that displaces a metallic powder on the back of a screen, leaving horizontal and vertical lineographic images – in layman’s terms, magic. In the Romneywords of the French inventor, L’ecran Magique. Or in the words of the marketers who made it one of the 100 most memorable and most creative toys of the 20th century, Etch-a-Sketch.

The mechanical drawing toy, which was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998, was first marketed on July 12, 1960, by the Ohio Art Company, timed perfectly to catch the big wave of the Baby Boom. In England, it was known as the DoodleMaster Magic Screen. (There was also the Magna Doodle and the Mystic Writing Pad.)

Although it remained popular throughout the fifty plus years of its existence, the Etch-A-Sketch reached a new notoriety in 2012, when it became a part of the demise of a presidential campaign. The simple plastic rectangular box may have contributed as much to the 2012 election – in influence –  as all the SuperPACs put together. It happened when candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign manager, asked if Romney was boxing himself into ultra-conservative opinions during the primary, answered: “I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.”

Trying to contain the brouhaha, the Romney campaign only added to its woes by saying that since the mention of Etch-A-Sketch caused its maker’s stock price to triple, they would next mention Mr. Potatohead.


On the other hand, you have different fingers. ~ Jack Handey


July 10, 1984: In the Afternoon He Hugged a Tree

To burnish his environmental creds, President Reagan visited the salt marshes and crabbing grounds of the Chesapeake Bay. There he claimed credit for cleanup efforts in the area, provoking a hue and cry among critics who found his environmental policies wanting.

In a bit of derring-do, the President climbed to the top of a 50-foot observation tower at the Bird_WatchingBlackwater National Wildlife Refuge and made eye contact with two wild bald eagles.

Lunching with a group of Republican Chesapeake Bay fishermen at a Tilghman Island fishing village, Reagan asserted that his efforts to protect the environment were ”one of the best-kept secrets” of his Administration, which indeed they were since no one had been able to find them. The grateful fishermen donated two bushels of crabs to his re-election campaign.

When a reporter asked the President where former EPA head Anne Burford who had resigned amid charges of mismanagement fit into his secret record, press secretary Larry Speakes ordered the lights turned off. Reagan, who was used to being in the dark was unfazed. “My guardian says I can’t talk,” he quipped. Thus, his environmental record remained a closely guarded secret.

Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement. — Ronald Reagan

June 17, 1972: CREEPs That Go Bump in the Night

It was the middle of the night in June 1972, and while much of the nation slept, something was burglarafoot at a large apartment complex in the Foggy Bottom area of Washington DC. A security guard noticed pieces of tape covering the latch on the locks on several doors, leaving the doors unlocked. He removed the tape, naively thinking nothing of it – the wind maybe?  (He evidently had never read a suspense novel.)  An hour later, he discovered that the locks had been retaped and realized that this was something more than just the wind. He called the police who discovered not just one but five intruders in the offices belonging to the Democratic National Committee.

     The five men were charged with attempted burglary and attempted interception of telephone and other communications. In September, a grand jury indicted them and two other men (E. Howard Hunt, Jr. and G. Gordon Liddy) for conspiracy, burglary, and violation of federal wiretapping laws.

     The men who broke into the office were tried and convicted in early 1973.  An investigation, tied all five men to CREEP. CREEP is the loving acronym applied to the 1972 Committee to Re-elect the President, the President being Richard Milhouse Nixon. Trial judge, John J. Sirica, (who evidently did read suspense novels) suspected a conspiracy involving people at the pinnacles of government.

     In March 1973, James McCord, one of the original gang of five claimed that he was told to plead guilty. He implicated Attorney General John Mitchell and other top Nixon aides, who began to topple like so many Republican dominoes, and the June 17 Watergate robbery quickly escalated into one of the juiciest political scandals of the century.  Although many have tried to top it, none have succeeded.  Until now, perhaps.


She fitted into my biggest arm-chair as if it had been built round her by someone who knew they were wearing arm-chairs tight about the hips that season ~ P. G. Wodehouse

March 20, 1854: Deciders Unite

The Whigs didn’t last long as as political party. Formed in the 1830s out of annoyance with Andrew Jackson, they gave us four presidents — William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary republicanTaylor and Millard Fillmore, commonly known by their nickname, Who? (not to be confused with the rock group of the same name). As is the case with many political parties, they had disagreements over tents, finding themselves unable to deal with the concept of big ones, and eventually tore themselves asunder with internal disagreements.

The semi-official date of the party’s actual death was March 20, 1854. On that date, a number of don’t wanna-be Whigs met in Ripon, Wisconsin, and the result of that meeting was the birth of the Republican party. Six years later the Republicans elected their first president, Abraham Lincoln. The South promptly seceded and the Civil War followed. Though the party may have been born out of chaos (the Democrats quickly co-opted chaos as their own guiding principle), the Republicans dominated presidential politics until the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932.

Not surprisingly, a few people have made known their opinions of the party over the years:

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a Republican. But I repeat myself.  — Harry S. Truman

There are two political truisms: Old people vote and Republicans eat their young. — Eddie Whitlock

Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child. — Dan Quayle


March 20, 1922

Born in 1922 in the Bronx, the son of immigrants from Romania and Austria, Carl Reiner is an actor, film director, producer, writer, and comedian. He has won twelve Emmy Awards and a Grammy Award during his long career.Carl_Reiner-1976

His career took off in 1950 when he joined Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, appearing on air in skits and working with writers such as Mel Brooks and Neil Simon.

In 1959, Reiner developed a television pilot based on his experience on the Caesar shows. However, the network didn’t like Reiner in the lead role so, in 1961, it was recast as the hit series The Dick Van Dyke Show, starring Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. In addition to writing many of the episodes, Reiner occasionally joined the cast as Alan Brady, a temperamental television host. In 1960, on The Steve Allen Show, Reiner teamed with Mel Brooks as the straight man to Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man character.

He has also appeared in many films including his starring role in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming.

Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca and Howie Morris in” The Clock,”  from the Caesar shows:

Alice in Donaldland

(This piece was written during the 2012 election, but it still seems relevant today. )mad-hatters

The Hatter, March Hare and Dormouse were crowded together at one corner of a large table. “No room,” they cried out when they saw Alice coming.

“There’s plenty of room,” said Alice indignantly, sitting down.

“Did you bring your birth certificate?” the March Hare asked.

“Of course not,” said Alice.

“Then how do we know you were born?”

“Because I’m here,” answered Alice.

“I’m not convinced,” said the March Hare. “Have some wine.”

Alice looked all around the table, but there was nothing on it but tea.  “I don’t see any wine,” she remarked.

“There isn’t any,” said the March Hare. “And there’s no free lunch.  Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.”

“Your budget wants cutting,” said the Hatter.  This was his first speech.  “Why is Obama like a writing desk?”

“I give up,” Alice replied.  “What’s the answer?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter.

Alice sighed.  “I think you might better spend your time than wasting it asking riddles that have no answers.”

“Spend, spend,” said the Hatter.  “Tax and spend. That’s all you liberals do.”

“Cut the budget,” said the March Hare.

Here the Dormouse shook itself, and began singing in its sleep, “Twinkle, twinkle, budget ax. How I wonder what it whacks.”

“Obamacare,” said the Hatter.

“Public radio,” said the March Hare.

“Planned Parenthood,” said the Hatter.

“The EPA,” said the March Hare.

“Why do you want to whack these things?” asked Alice, confused.

“Gay marriage, women’s rights and undocumented black presidents are going to bankrupt our grandchildren,” said the Hatter.

“That’s silly,” said Alice.

“What do you know?” retorted the March Hare.  “You weren’t even born.  You don’t have a birth certificate.”

“But people don’t carry their birth certificates around with them,” answered Alice.

“Then where’s your Constitution?” the Hatter demanded.

“I don’t carry that around either.”

“Then how do you know original intent?” said the Hatter.

“I don’t think – ”

“Then you shouldn’t talk,” said the Hatter.

This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear. She got up in great disgust and walked off.  “We need to build a wall,” shouted the Hatter.

October 20, 1928: And a Pot for Every Chicken

During a recent Republican presidential primary debate, candidate John Kasich ridiculed his opponents’ competing over-the-top tax cuts (my tax cut’s bigger than yours): “Why don’t we just give a chicken in every pot, while we’re coming up with these fantasy tax schemes,” he said. This was, of course, an allusion to a much earlier presidential campaign in which Republicans running Herbert Hoover promised a chicken for every pot and a car in every garage. Although the statement has been hung like an albatross around poor Hoover’s neck, he never actually said it himself; it appeared in a Republican party flyer on October 20, 1928.

chickenpouleThe Republicans did not coin the phrase, however. That honor goes to King Henry the IV of France (Republicans quoting a Frenchman, my, my) who some 400 years earlier said: “Je veux qu’il ait si pauvere paysan en mon royaume qu’il n’ait tous les diamaches sa poule au pot.” Translation: “I wish that there would not be a peasant so poor in all my realm who would not have a chicken in his pot every Sunday.” A little wordy, but he was the king. Le bon roi Henri came to be known as le Roi de la poule au pot or King of the Chicken in the Pot. Much as the 1928 presidential candidate came to be known as the Hoover of the Chicken in the Pot. This was probably the result of his opponent Al Smith continually ridiculing the statement while holding up a rubber chicken (Okay, he actually held up a copy of the flyer, but a rubber chicken would have been better.)

chickrubbAs so often happens in campaigns, the statement got inflated to a chicken, a bunch of vegetables, two cars in every garage, a gasoline card and silk stockings.

Hoover’s actual campaign slogans were the rather uninspiring “Who but Hoover” and “Hoover and Happiness Or Smith And Soup Houses,” in spite of which he won the election. During his single term in office, the Great Depression got underway, an irony Hoover probably did not appreciate.

Hoover died on October 20, 1964, and was buried with a rubber chicken (actually that’s an unsubstantiated rumor).

Inspirational Quote for 10/20/16


Bedtime for Donald

They’re saying women aren’t going to vote for me. Boy are they in for a surprise on election day. I’m going to win, win big, and women will donald-trumpbe voting for me, because they secretly love me. And I love them, at least the good looking ones. They love me because I’m big, a big television star, a big businessman. I have big buildings, a big plane, big bucks. And I have a big locker room, if you know what I mean. The women love my locker room. They all want to get into my locker room. Big ideas, big hands, big hair, big . . . G’night.

Bedtime for Donald

They’re streaming across the border. By the thousands. Murderers, rapists and illegal voters. They’re trying to throw the election to Crooked Hillary. They all know she can’t win without illegal votes. It’s donald-trumpall rigged. Just like the debates. But I’m going to win. Because the people love me, they love me. And those holier-than-thou Republicans who want you to think they’ve never been in a locker room before, they can scream and whine all they want, because I’m in this to the finish, and I’m going to win. They cross me, they’re going to lose, lose big. Trust me. And on my first day in office, I’m going to throw Hillary in a jail cell and throw away the key. And her husband will be free to chase all the skirts he wants. He’s far worse than me, far worse. You ought to hear him in a locker room. Disgusting. G’night.

Bedtime for Donald

Wheel and deal, that’s what it takes. Everybody’s all tut tut, he didn’t pay any taxes for all those years. I paid plenty of taxes, plenty. Maybe not those taxes, but plenty of taxes. It’s the system. You got to wheel and donald-trumpdeal the system. My book says it all — The Art of the Deal. Maybe I’ll do a sequel — The Art of the Wheel. That broad Leona Helmsley said it: “Only the little people pay taxes.” Tough broad. Ugly, but tough. And I say only losers pay taxes. You got to wheel and deal. That’s what I’ll do when I’m President. Wheel and deal and make America great again. And none of us will pay taxes. Except the losers. Mexicans and Muslims, if any of them are still here. And Crooked Hillary, boy will she pay. G’night.

Bedtime for Donald

I ran the Miss Universe contest. Talk about experience in world affairs. Herding bimbos is a lot harder than dealing with attachés and ambassadors. That’s work for someone like a Secretary of State — whodonald-trump is a secretary after all,  just a step above housekeeper. Running Miss Universe, that’s diplomacy. I can see me and Putin in the same room when Miss Fraulein Germany swoops by. We exchange knowing glances. If we had exchanged knowing glances back when SALT talks were going on, well, the world would be a much better place today. I’m really the only person who can do foreign policy. I ran Miss Universe. I visited almost every nation, if you know what I mean. Except Argentina. Yes I called her Miss Piggy; it was just a pet name. Doesn’t anyone understand sarcasm or irony or whatever? G’night.