Wednesday, May 30, 2012


yes, there is news, and there will be news again

It has been brought to my attention (by the few who read this and my own subconscious - sometimes one in the same) that I have not been contributing to the online world much. This is because until a few months ago I was working 60 hours per week at two jobs and I just didn't have the time or the energy to come up with new material. I have since left one of the jobs and am back down to a sane workload.

I have been doing an open mic made up mostly of stand-up comedians. I am one of two storytellers at this venue on any kind of regular basis. It's on Monday nights at the Identity Bar on 6th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B in what's lovingly branded "The Rapey Basement" of the bar. To say the least, the room lacks atmosphere (or, more accurately a comforting atmosphere). The room was likely designed by someone who probably in prison for some kind of sex crime.

I hope to get back to the news page soon with actual content (especially since this is an election year).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010



Yesterday, when I received word that the former Secretary of Defense and U.S. Congressman from Wyoming was complaining of chest pains I thought that it was possible that he would finally shut the hell up and go either into a full retirement or maybe even into the Great Beyond. I was wrong.

HEADLINE: Dick Cheney Has a Heart (attack)!

I know it's a matter of public record that this is not the first time, and that by extension it stands to reason that he does have a heart. It's a conscience that he lacks. This pillar of the Military Industrial Complex. I have on many occasions publicly stated that this man is a war profiteer who, when he was part of the previous administration, drummed up a war to make a profit off of. I have also publicly stated that I firmly believe that the previous administration supposedly headed up by the former Governor of Texas seized power in a bloodless coup, and retained power by rigging the election of 2004. I know that many patriotic Americans feel the same way.

I also know that many Americans who feel that they are patriots as well feel that the previous administration was in place legally. Convincing arguments can be made for both points of view, but the Republicans are wrong.

If the U.S. election of 2000 happened in a banana republic in the Caribbean, we would have not recognized it and sent in the Marines.

Imagine the only district that is contested that also puts a man in power is governed by that man's younger brother. Continue with the fact that the country's Supreme Court, a body who's function is to define the murkier aspects of law, and that those precedents are to be law for time immemorial, and that in this case, and only this case, their ruling is a one-time deal. Add to that, five of the nine members of the Supreme Court were installed by the family and political allies of the man running for office. You can bet the Marines would be entering that country within a few weeks. It's been done before.

Imagine once again, that this regime was allowed to remain, but was put on a watch list as a nation that engaged in military adventurism, and that their next election was also contested. In this case, the province that swung another extremely close election, had among its residents a well-heeled businessman who's business it was to manufacture and program voting machines, and that this businessman was repeatedly on the record that he would do whatever he could to keep the reigning regime in power. Not only that, but that within his province the only place that had problems with his product was in districts that heavily favored the opposition. You can bet the Marines would go in then.

I think it's easy to see where I'm going with this.

And now, because he had his fifth heart attack the human side of me is supposed to feel sorry, to give him some slack. This man who has embraced torture, this man who has spent his life making a great deal of money as a businessman who profits off of war and unrest, and while acting as Vice President in a questionable regime helped award no-bid contracts to a company he used to run and has a huge amount of stock in.

I don't feel sorry. It was a 'minor episode' and he was filled with cheer, having lunch and talking with his family and friends. He's fine. He's living to endorse torture another day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


And Now, A Word for the Dogs

Last night I watched the first night of the 134th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Today, I read about what I saw in the New York Times. The groups judged last night were the hound group, the toy group, the non-sporting group and the herding group.

The Times writer talked about the waiting the dogs must endure while the judge makes his or her final decision about who best represents each breed, and in turn who best represents each breed group. Times sports writer Richard Sandomir judged the hounds as the most impish and playful while passing the time (he called them mischievous). I can attest to the impishness of hounds. As readers of this space know, I have a Black and Tan Coonhound. Walt Disney owned several Black and Tans, and Goofy and Pluto are reportedly based on Coonhounds. Ours is far outside of breed standard and a rescue. If she had been whelped by a show bitch she would have most likely been put down as being a horrid mutant. Her ears are too short. She has a white spot on her chest. These types of imperfections are a death sentence with a large number of breeders, constantly seeking the uber-hound.

I have never bought a purebred dog from a breeder. From my first dog, adopted when I was eight years old, all have come from neighbors with unintended litters, city pounds and rescue organizations. I even took in a stray from a Los Angeles street once, a Scottish Terrier. I was unable to provide him a home, but I was able to get him from the street to a non-kill shelter, surely a better end than under a car or in the belly of a mountain lion.

The winner of the toy group was, as frequently the case, a toy poodle with an embarrassing haircut. I have no doubt that this purse ornament will either be best in show or take second place. As I learned from the announcers last night, in the previous 133 years of this tournament one dog from the herding group has won best in show, and four hounds. Surely over a 133-year period more than four hounds and one herder deserved the top title. To be fair, originally there were only two groups, sporting and non-sporting. In 1924 the two main groups were expanded to five: Sporting, Working, Terrier, Toy, and Non-Sporting. Still that's a whole lot of years where the Best in Show was some fru-fru purse ornament and not a big, lovable hound or shepherd. A few years ago I was overjoyed when Josh, a Newfoundland, won the big prize.

Last year, a Sussex Spaniel (sporting group) won best in show. The Sussex was quite possibly the oldest winner ever, taking the crown at the ripe old age of ten. This dog has been entered in Westminster several times, as I have been informed by a dog walker I know who has walked dogs directly related to this dog. So why was the Sussex best last year when in previous years did not make it to the final night? The walker told me that the judge assigned to the final slot was friends with the breeder who produced the prize winning Sussex. I do not know this as a sure fact, but if it were true, I would not be surprised. Dog shows are subjectively judged, like Olympic gymnastics, figure skating and diving. It is not a race. There is no clock, no sure winner.

The judges themselves looked like characters in "Best in Show," the hilarious film by the group that brought us "Waiting for Guffman," "A Mighty Wind," and "For Your Consideration." When one of the judges was introduced I said to my wife- "Look- it's Jane Lynch twenty years from now!" The men wore tuxedos and the women wore horrifyingly garish glitter-covered tents.

One thing is highly likely. The winning hound, a beautiful brindled whippet, will not take best in show. That will, once again, go to the toy poodle or maybe a terrier who stopped at a make-up trailer.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Work In Progress

Readers of this site, please be patient. New material is being worked on for the short fiction blog, laughingly called "story of the week" at my home website, which should be more accurately called "Short Fiction."

New topical postings will be here soon. Sorry for the delay.

Monday, January 04, 2010


Republicans, the TSA, and Terrorists

I don't think I can go another day without commenting in print on the Christmas Day incident on the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. I have commented numerous times in conversations among friends and coworkers.

Much has already been written and discussed on the various subjects surrounding this incident. The son of privilege becoming radicalized. His education in extremist mosques in London and Yemen. His father reporting his activities to authorities, and the information being mishandled. A security clampdown being instituted both domestically and in some foreign airports. I cannot add anything to this part of the story.

A couple of other parts of the story that are not being discussed much: Holes in the system of international airport security and passenger screening. Republican Obama-bashing on things he has no control over, and they know it, but they bash anyway.

I'll start with Representative Peter King (R, NY). In a matter of hours after the incident had been successfully resolved with no injuries (other than the burned crotch of the would-be attacker), Congressman King was on the air saying that this was the greatest terrorist incident in history (right- a failed incident was bigger than the attacks on the U.S.S. Cole, the Beirut Marine Barracks, 9/11, and Pearl Harbor). When pinned down that nothing had happened he said 'it could have been the greatest terrorist incident in history!' Again, I mention the above list of actual incidents that were far worse than this one that was a failure. He also said that the incident was all the fault of President Obama, and that he does not take Al Queda, and terrorist threats in general, seriously. Right. President Obama is a babe in the woods who cannot comprehend the actions and motives of an organization that the U.S. has been fighting for a decade. Congressman King needs to have reality explained to him.

Dick Cheney went further, stating that President Obama was "pretending we were not at war." Right. That's why he's sending tens of thousands of troops to Afghanistan. I am not in favor of this, but my disagreement with my president on this subject has not driven me to lie about him or his perceptions.

A surrogate of Cheney's was on MSNBC that week, on "Hardball with Chris Matthews," stating Mr. Cheney's talking point. I say point because all he seemed to be able to say, repeatedly, was that this was an attack by an Islamic fanatic on Christmas. He repeated "Islamic fanatic" and "on Christmas" in the same sentence about a dozen times. At that point the two became two separate two word sentences nearly barked. "Islamic Fanatic! Islamic Fanatic! On Christmas! Islamic Fanatic! On Christmas! On Christmas! Islamic Fanatic! Christmas! Fanatic! Islamic Christmas! On Fanatic! It was at this point he ran the two together into an incomprehensible jumble of syllables.

The Cheney surrogate then went on to state with the certainty of a carnival act mind reader that the terrorist's personal aim was to forever tie Christmas to Islamic terror. He did not once mention the fact that it was an act as impotent as a centenarian who's birthday is celebrated by Willard Scott on the "Today" show.

The Republican Party has become a hate-mongering cartoon, and has surrendered its right to lead. They will take anything and twist it into an anti-Obama and anti-Democrat diatribe. This is not a debate about how to make the United States a better country. It is entirely about race. President Obama has shown himself to be as centrist as President Clinton. The Republicans hate President Clinton because of identity theft. He co-opted the middle of the road planks of the Republican platform and made them his own, marginalizing most of the Republican party to the radical right. The Republicans then have been gleefully racing farther and farther right ever since. Now, there is a president in the White House that is willing to work with them, and continually tries to (for reasons I cannot fathom), and they continue to do whatever they can to knock him down. He's willing to do half of what they want, but it's not enough. Why? We all know why. He's half black and has an African-Islamic name.

The Republicans have people to point to in order to blunt this motive. Some of my co-workers have a familial name for these guys. Uncle Tom. As Bill Maher recently and eloquently stated: "Not all Republicans are racist, but, if you're a racist, you're probably a Republican." Too true.

Now to increased airport security. Nine years ago I was working on a show that employed the Romanian Gymnasts, and had me flying all over the U.S. We put the show up in Florida. In the Orlando airport, after going though security, we ended up in a large food court with some souvenir shops. The souvenir shops all sold pocket knives. We pointed this out to a policeman, who told us to mind our own business. Since it was Florida I suppose we should be glad the souvenir shops weren't selling guns.

I know that this loophole was closed after 9/11, but here's a few that haven't: Passengers connecting from other flights. Like this guy on Christmas. He started his journey in Africa at a low security airport. Once he was through, he was home free. Security at Amsterdam, and at all other airports, do not re-screen passengers who have already been through a screening process, even if that process began in an airport who's cat scan machine is a guy waving a cat over the luggage. Once that luggage has been determined to not contain mice or fish, the passenger is approved for flight. The TSA and the Republican loudmouths for the first several days of Obama-bashing failed to mention that fact. They also failed to mention that Mohammad Atta used this same method on 9/11, starting in at the time low-security Portland, ME and connecting in Boston, where he was not re-screened before boarding the flight to San Francisco.

Here's something else- the TSA has already announced that the increased security is temporary. Brilliant. Maybe you should tell the enemy the stop date while you're at it. They have also spoken about the chemical combination and how there is no known screening process to detect it. This stuff is not odorless, guys. Anything that has an odor, a dog can be trained to find it. You just don't want to go to the expense of training enough dogs and handlers to cover all international airports. The dogs you have are not trained to find that scent. Admit it. Our lives as citizens are worth more to you as martyrs than as voters. One or two planes get knocked out of the sky and you'll get all the funding you want.

One more thing. Even if they are able to secure the airports, the battle will just move to outside the airport. I know this from working in the New York City public schools. I have been in schools that have screening procedures as intense as any airport in the country, yet there is still school violence. It is in the parking lot, in the school yard, or down the block. The kids hide their weapons under corner garbage cans, newspaper vending boxes, parked cars that rarely move, even in flower pots of nearby houses. For years I have predicted that rocket-propelled grenades and shoulder mounted missiles will be employed against passenger planes one day. Ask an ATF agent if any of this stuff is in circulation. Of course it is. The TSA needs to be patrolling airport grounds and access roads as well. Maybe they are, but since our government is well established as a reactive organization rather than a proactive organization, I sadly doubt this.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


More Overseas News

A few short days ago, this reporter penned (or rather tapped a keyboard) a piece about the President of Iran. The reaction to this work as been so extreme that it has become obvious that I should venture into the world of the foreign correspondent. By 'Foreign Correspondent' I am not talking about the excellent 1940 cinematic work of Alfred Hitchcock (though he is without a 'shadow of a doubt' my favorite director since I was 'young and innocent,' prompting me to make the 'thirty-nine steps' from the box office to the balcony of the Granada Theater, which stood 'north by northwest' from my Rogers Park apartment, visible from my 'rear window,' at the slightest hint of a Hitchcock screening that would send me into a 'frenzy'... but that's the subject of another column).

Yes, it's high time this highly profitable venture of mine send me abroad to gather facts on the international scene. In an effort to help out my country in this, its time of need, I'm going to start with Afghanistan.

It has come to my attention that something is happening there. These events have prompted the former Governor of Texas, and now U.S. President Barack Obama, to send uniformed troops to Afghanistan. The president there is a former high level executive of Unocal, the international conglomerate that started as an individual venture known as the Union Oil Company. Mr. Karzai was basically installed as President of Afghanistan by the American administration fronted by the former Governor of Texas, an organization with deep oil company ties.

A little history: Union Oil had a large string of filling stations named Union 76. Union 76 stations were all operated by character actor Richard X. Slattery under the name of 'Murph' and were named Union 76 by Unocal's PR department. They chose the name playing on a bizarre sense of patriotism that many Americans feel when they patronize a business that employs titles and slogans that evoke a subconscious sense of "the real America." I believe the next company to employ this tactic will probably be a reconstructed version of I.G. Farben, which will no doubt have a Bush or two on its board of directors, along with maybe a Mengele and a Goebbels.

Over the last weeks and months, in addition to my work at my other two jobs, I have put in many hours of research on the current situation in Afghanistan. I have a shocking revelation. Hamid Karzai is a puppet. This in and of itself may not be shocking to many readers. The real shocking part is that Hamid Karzai is actually a character being played by acclaimed actor Ben Kingsley. Both my wife and I immediately suspected this the first time we saw Mr. Karzai on CNN, and we have never seen Mr. Karzai and Mr. Kingsley in the same room.

This could explain why earlier today the parliament of Afghanistan rejected nearly all of the cabinet ministers nominated by Mr. Kingsley, I mean President Karzai. How could the parliament have faith in the nomination of say, the Minister of Agriculture in Charge of Poppy Fields or the Minister of Hashish, knowing that these ministers were nominated by an actor. Make no mistake- Mr. Kingsley is a high quality actor, much better than our fortieth president, but an actor none the less. If you want an actor that knows about such ministry positions as the Minister of Poppy Fields and the Minister of Hashish, you need an actor like Dennis Hopper or Gary Busey.

And so, dear readers, this reporter will be closely watching events unfold in central-west Asia. Due to my hectic work schedule and other obligations I will be forced to observe from a bit of a distance, however. There are a few very good Afghan restaurants a couple of blocks from here, and I hear that their bus boys have their fingers on the pulse of all things Afghan. I'll start with a comparative study of tabbouleh.

Thursday, December 31, 2009


Dateline: Milton

In the summer of 1985 I traveled from my native Chicago to someplace in New Jersey to attend my sister's wedding. On the way, I stopped for the night in Milton, Pennsylvania, just off Interstate 80. There were chain motels like Holiday Inn at the side of the interstate, but I wanted to stay in a place that had some local character, so I drove into town. There was a lovely middle-America town square with a tavern that had Genessee Cream Ale on tap. Delish. I'm not kidding. It's not bad. The whole town reeked of down-home folksiness. The motel was nearly half the price of the ones at the side of the interstate, and it was clean and comfortable. I remember the town fondly. Little did I know that the small hamlet would be thrust into the headlines.

Today it was announced that a wanted fugitive has been hiding in Milton. Hiding in plain sight. The fugitive has been living in Milton since 2000, the same year I moved to New York City. Jill Haugen was arrested after she contacted local police stating she did not want to continue caring for her children. Police in Spokane, Washington had an outstanding warrant for her arrest for custodial interference. She took her two sons and bolted from Washington State when custody was awarded to her ex-husband. The warrant has been on the books for eleven years. Her sons are now fifteen and sixteen years old.

So am I reading this wrong? She takes them when they're a cute four and five years old, and once they become teenagers, she'd rather go to jail than raise them. Ms. Haugen's thought process went something like this- Hmmm... raise two teenagers, or go to jail... raise two teenagers, or go to jail... I think I'll pick jail.

As I read further into the article, she claimed child sexual abuse as far back as 1995. So she's claiming the father sexually abused the two sons at the ages of one and two, and Spokane authorities were not able to substantiate any such claim. The father at the time of the accusation offered to do anything the court requested to prove his innocence. The court ended up awarding the father custody.

So I am forced to go back to the previous question- raise two teenagers, or go to jail? Well, Ms. Haugen has chosen jail. Having spent most of the last eight years in New York City public high schools as a teaching artist, I can understand Ms. Haugen's choice.

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