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Goodbye, cruel America

An in-death eulogy for 2006
By CLIF GARBODEN  |  December 20, 2006


Toward the end of 2006, we woke up to the glad news that Chile’s former strongman Augusto Pinochet had saved everyone the trouble of hanging his sickly carcass for war crimes and atrocities by dying of a heart attack. Mr. Now-You-See-Him-Now-You-Don’t himself has been permanently disappeared! The papers weren’t shy about describing the awful tactics by which this bloodthirsty old fart secured capitalist democracy (while stockpiling a personal fortune) in his country, but they stopped short of noting that Pinochet’s regime was a direct product of US foreign policy. Let’s hope that it’s remembered that way anyway.

Of course, this wicked puppet-dictator wasn’t the only casualty of 2006. A quick survey of the Internet yields a roll call of the departed that includes Robert Altman, Jack Palance, Shelley Winters, Steve Irwin, Lou Rawls, Glenn Ford (who, we have on good authority — i.e., a yellowed late-’60s edition of the National Inquirer — believed in reincarnation anyway), Al Lewis, Wilson Pickett, Buck Owens, Ed Bradley, Mickey Spillane, Syd Barrett, Mike Douglas, William Styron, Gene Pitney, the underrated Billy Preston, Don Knotts, the incomparable Red Buttons, Chris Penn, Betty Friedan, Coretta Scott King, the overrated William Cowsill, Louis Rukeyser, Floyd Patterson, and the unforgettable Georgia Gibbs.

Most of these folks, we’re sad to see go. But for the most part, their passings were, as they say, “not unexpected.” Jack Palance, for example, was born (as Volodymyr Palahnyuk) in 1919, the year Woodrow Wilson signed the Treaty of Versailles.

PFC Peter D. Wagler, of Partridge, Kansas, on the other hand, was born in 1987, the year Ronald Reagan, still smarting from Iran-Contra, signed the IMF Treaty. Like Pinochet, Wagler was a tool of US foreign policy — his job: to impose capitalist democracy on a country never likely to embrace it willingly. A major difference between these two fatalities of third-millennium/year-six being that Wagler didn’t amass a fortune before he was, as reported by the Washington Post, “killed when a makeshift bomb exploded near his M1A2 Abrams tank during patrol operations in Baghdad.” Another dissimilarity being that the considerably younger Wagler had almost no part in setting his agenda.

Peter Wagler was the first 18-year-old American to die in 2006 amid the remote, sandy glamour of Operation Iraqi Freedom. There’s really no other reason to single him out — and we hope the family that survives him doesn’t mind if we do — except that he was the year’s first, youngest-possible, US military casualty of the war America spent the past year losing. (If you want to feel really sad, visit

In all, according to figures published by the Washington Post, 852 US service personnel had fallen victim to Operation Iraqi Freedom and its Afghani doppelgänger, Operation Enduring Euphemism . . . er, Freedom, from January 1 through mid December 2006. (You can catch the entire up-to-date breakdown online at

One year, one lost cause (two, if you count the Iraq and Afghanistan fiascos separately), 800+ American human losses, and many more Iraqi and Afghani deaths. This part of the 2006 year-end wrap-up isn’t so funny. It is, however, the signature punch line of a coterie of greedy rich men who must be stopped and, therefore, it should be mentioned first.

Falls from grace
Fortunately, things we can laugh at also died in 2006 — the previously unchecked power of the conservative wing of the GOP, for example. And the blind faith America’s Christian hard-liners once had in the Bush administration. Could this year also mark the death of ignorance?

Well, let’s not hope for too much. The born-againsters aren’t about to abandon their allegiance to superstition over sense. But at least, in their own slow-witted way, they’ve recognized that G.W. and his moneyed string-pullers played them for suckers. Yes, out of earshot of the overly faithful, it’s been reliably reported, even the Bushies refer to the cap-C Christian constituency as “nuts,” making it almost unanimous.

Given that federal regs on abortion haven’t budged and American public education (with or without an “intelligent design” curriculum) now ranks among the lowest in the solar system, and poor folks are still allowed to collect welfare just before they starve, about the only thing the Bush administration has done for the Jesus loonies is make it harder for them to commute to faith-healing rallies by plane.

The fact that these (almost universally acknowledged) fruitcakes finally realized the clown they helped vote into office has never done a damn thing for them, combined with the toxicity emanating from the Oval Office after the midterm elections, constitutes the death of an alliance of earth-shaking scope. Whatever happens in 2007, one thing is for sure: it’s to the advantage of every Republican to distance him- or herself from the current presidency — and the phony war that comes with it and the phony claims to religiosity that have sheltered it. Since moving further right is impossible — short of applying some method of governance borrowed from the Tonton Macoutes — this can only be a good thing.

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Goodbye, cruel America
With regard to your use of the term "overrated" to describe William (Billy) Cowsill in this article, I would like to say that Billy was one of the best singers of ALL time! Obviously you never heard him sing.
By Marsha on 12/20/2006 at 10:13:18
Goodbye, cruel America
Singling Billy Cowsill out to describe as "over-rated" is not only utterly inaccurate, it's plain nasty. Although revered as a "musicians' musician", in fact Billy was under-rated in his native America. Methinks Mr Garboden has a personal axe to grind here - perhaps his "lady" is a Billy fan?
By CynthiaS on 12/22/2006 at 3:15:45
Goodbye, cruel America
The depth of your stupidity, ignorance and lack of sensitivity is mind boggling. Not only is singling Billy Cowsill out as overrated completely inaccurate, downright mean and no matter how you say it - WRONG, it's very unprofessional and callous. Your offensiveness lacks description to be honest. Billy's death last year was a blow to music everywhere. You obviously don't know him or his talent or the people he's influenced. He was an amazing musician who if anything was under-rated right here in his own country. He If you knew Billy musically, you'd know he had the #1 record in Canada just a few years ago. Some of his post-Cowsill groups were major influences. His talent was boundless. You would know he was selected to replace Brian Wilson. You would know someone whose voice was that of an angel, not my words, but the words of anyone who ever had the privilege of hearing him sing. If you knew that his brother Barry was a victim of Hurricane Katrina and Billy's death was learned only 30 min. after Barry's funeral service you would have some sensitivity to his family and friends, still reeling from a double blow of Barry's tragedy and Billy's unexpected death. This is their first holiday season since their passing for their families, their children, their grandchildren, their friends, their fans. If you knew Billy personally you'd know a man with a kind heart, who volunteered his time at a hospital playing. You'd know a brother who was well loved and respected. You'd know a community who rallied together for him when he became ill. You'd know people who were inspired to follow their dreams. You'd know a man who is irreplaceable in every way. A public apology to his family and friends is absolutely necessary and I hope you can realize what a faux pas you made, Mr. Garboden. You need to apology both here and on which I strongly urge you to check out. Don't air your personal grudges in your work, too, if that's the case. Don't wait to do the right thing.
By Suzanne on 12/22/2006 at 11:03:13
Goodbye, cruel America
I wonder by whom you feel Billy Cowsill was over-rated? Having only been familiar with his music as a member of "The Cowsills", I didn't discover the "real Billy" until about seven years ago. I'm not even particularly a fan of his genre, yet was bowled over by the man's talent. Allow me to provide a quote by Peter Holsapple: "If you can ever find a copy of "On the Floor of Heaven" by the Blue Shadows (CBS/Sony/Bumstead from Canada), spare no expense to pick it up (unless it's on eBay being sold by an unscrupulous jerk trying to cash in on Billy's demise). It is an incredibly beautiful disc, often described as what it would sound like if Hank Williams had been a member of the Beatles." Over-rated? Please don't use this term until you have experienced Billy's catalog of music.
By TotDoc on 12/22/2006 at 1:05:24
Goodbye, cruel America
I think you have a lot of nerve judging a man in death saying he was overated, regarding William Cowsill. Have you heard his music since 1969, do you know the difficulties of his life, the illnesses he had to endure. You have no respect for the dead, and no knowledge of music. Please think before you write obituaries that are cruel instead of rememberances of a persons career and life.
By ilenef on 12/22/2006 at 1:29:23
Goodbye, cruel America
I'm going to give the author the benefit of the doubt, and suggest that he "mixed-up" his under-rated and over-rated lists! We will just blame the editor. Otherwise, the author needs to get his head out of his ass.
By Colleen Long on 12/22/2006 at 2:58:55
Goodbye, cruel America
I find this Article on Billy Cowsill sick. Did you even know Billy? Do you know any of them? I think not ! Billy had a voice from Heaven. Came back from the ashes of his life. All the Cowsills did. Do you have fun speaking of the dead behind their backs. I come from MA. Those Cowsills , all of them came from here. They are our family. How dare you speak of Billy or any of them like that. I am ripping. Get a life listen to Billy's stuff. Listen to the Cowsills stuff. You will get the surprise of your life. Now you can say your sorry in print to the Cowsill Family and Fans. In this paper and on all their sites and My Space. You are a sick person. Go back to school learn to write. Go get your head fixed. Get your ears cleaned out. Get a life. Do the right thing.
By Patsy on 12/27/2006 at 10:18:12
Goodbye, cruel America
Patsy's comment: "This article on Billy Cowsill..." HELLO! This article just mentions him in passing... which he had done, nearly a year ago now, & that's sad but it's a fact of life, happens to everyone. It's YOU Cowsill bells who need to get a life before you waste any more of it OVERREACTING to one single word -- ALL the writer said was he's overrated. That's it. The words overrated & underrated are NOT offensive words. In a way, they barely mean anything. EVERYONE in one way or another is overrated AND underrated... I admit I have probably only heard the Cowsills song "Hair," which is an outdated, goofy & overblown show-tune, & I could care if I never heard it again. I guess the band inspired the show "The Partridge Family," which is certainly a very silly thing in my memory. So I'm going to say too that, for William Cowsill to have fame based on that, he is overrated. That's all I have to go on -- unless I am writing an article on his entire life & work, as writer talking about the passing of 2006 I can say certainly that in passing. Now based on the reader comments above, that he's one of the greatest singers of all time, & it's a crime to say otherwise, on the mere face of it I'd say HE IS WAY THE HELL OVERRATED. I'm sure there are some people who've heard a lot more than I have by the guy, who don't think he's one of the greatest. He may have been as you have declared, but just who made you people, The Cowchippers, THE DECIDERS? You've been led by Dupeya for too long -- just like the rest of us... The biggest inspiration of my adult life, was Joe Strummer, who died days before Christmas (Now you wanna talk about someone who is overrated! The dude never existed, & even if he did, his "miracles" are all fabrications -- hell, the gospels were all written word for word as being "told directly by God's Holy Spirit" -- yeah, right. Like God exists -- the most overrated fake-out of all time -- which is one hell of an underrate business accomplishment in & of itself, but I digress, but not really. As a baptized & confirmed Roman Catholic I may go to hell if I'm not already there for doubting the existence of God. Who was just born like last week, only to suffer & die on the GD cross! Have I know humility? Oops! Oh well...) Anyway, if the day after Joe died I had read that he was overrated, an eyebrow might have risen but I would not have been offended in any way. Hell, I'd have to give the writer some respect just for having the cojones for going against the grain, what w/me being an against-the-grainer going way back. But hell, Strummer WAS overrated -- by me & other punks. He put out some shit. He had said it himself, that everyone does that. The Clash was "the only band that matters" -- and for a few years they were! Which at the same time is a totally ridiculous & pompous claim, impossible to live up to. However Joe was also underrated, because The Clash never made much money when they existed as a performing band -- he was a squatter for much of that period. The only band that mattered was treated like shit by their record company. & so it goes... Finally, back to the present, I think Lindsay Lohan put out the best single of the year, "Confessions Of A Broken Heart," & that Paris Hilton's "Paris" is the album of the year. HOLY CRAP! Obviously they are, go ahead & say it, "overrated" by me! & of course they are! I build them up in part because in my eyes & ears they don't get their due. I see death wishes made on them all the time & in response, I am overprotective. Paris & Lindsay are totally underrated by everyone else, including the ARTISTS themselves as neither of them even toured behind their great works, allowing them to die on the vine. Everyone else's loss but mine it seems. An overrated claim. But no apologies necessary except to yourselves, people. LOHANARCHY 4 THE USA : You gotta FIGHT for your RIGHT to PARIS!
By thewaymouth on 01/05/2007 at 11:13:30

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