Monday, August 31, 2009


A New Role for Mr. Warm & Cuddly

In today’s New York Times and, I am quite confident in writing, many other news outlets, was another angry statement from the former congressman from Wyoming, Defense Secretary for George H.W. Bush (a.k.a. Bush 41), and Vice President of the bloodless coup of 2000.

Other than the recent phenomena of Al Gore, Vice Presidents that aren't running for the top spot usually fade off. Dan Quayle is a subject of annual “where are they now” columns. This man has been running his mouth so much, there is a FaceBook club dedicated to telling him to shut the hell up.

Sunday morning on Fox News, Dick Cheney went on at length about how C.I.A. officers should be allowed to use a “full range of interrogation techniques” and that officers who “strayed outside Justice Department rules of interrogation” should be afforded legal protection because they worked in good faith to protect American lives.

These techniques included not only water boarding, but threatening prisoners with a gun and a drill, and hanging them by their hands tied behind their backs. Some other, even less charming techniques employed included threats to sexually assault family members of prisoners. Over and over again it has been proven that someone being tortured will pretty much say anything that they think their captors want to hear in order to stop the torture. These statements are not used in court because they are not reliable as truth.

It seems that Dick Cheney’s new occupation is that of meddler. This man is obviously bored and needs something to do. I have something else for him to do, something that he is most eminently qualified to do, and do convincingly.

I have been observing Mr. Cheney for over twenty-five years. As he ages, Mr. Cheney more and more resembles Max Schreck in his most famous role, Count Orlok in “Nosferatu, a Symphony of Terror.” Some speculate that he was bitten by a mosquito involved in a nuclear accident, just as Peter Parker was bitten by a spider in similar circumstances. Of course by ‘some’ I mean me, for the purposes of this scholarly, highly respected research periodical.

Mr. Cheney should join the cast of True Blood. He’s perfect for it. He already sleeps in a coffin with dirt imported from Transylvania.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Small Items in the Corners

Today’s New York Daily News was dominated with coverage on the life of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, but there were other stories. The gems are often small items that make up one or two column inches and are referred to in the newspaper business as “fillers” They are usually found at the bottom of a page or in corners under a story that didn’t take up enough space to fill a column or a page.

I love filler stories. One of my favorites years ago was about a farming community in Czechoslovakia. There was a melon field that was being pilfered consistently. The farmers decided to inject several remaining melons with a powerful laxative to discover who the thief was. It turned out that the guilty party was a herd of elk that, after ingesting some of the treated melons, walked through town during the night and deposited the effects of the trap. The best laid plans…

Some of the stories were longer than fillers, but I have decided to summarize them as though they were.

Mark Sanford stated that he will not step down from the governorship of South Carolina. Instead he will move his office, making it more convenient to hike the Appalachian Trail while in an apartment in Buenos Aires.

The Democratic Mayoral Debate for the New York City primary took place. To summarize: Tony Avella and William Thompson both announced that they don’t like Mayor Bloomberg, and that there should still be term limits. How did they differentiate themselves from each other? Tony Avella said he didn’t like Bloomberg more than Thompson didn’t like Bloomberg. The funniest part of the story is that the Daily News made a logo for this- two boxing gloves over boldface caps: BRAWL for the HALL. It’s more like the pillow fight for the La-Z-Boy…

Hit and run driver Mark St. Pierre intentionally rammed several cars, injuring thirteen and killing one. Police say St. Pierre was in a rage after having a fight with his girlfriend while having dinner at a Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant. WAIT A MINUTE! A DATE at a CHUCK E. CHEESE’S restaurant??? I’m figuring she probably called him an asshole and a cheap, tasteless bastard for taking her to Chuck E. Cheese’s, setting off the rampage.

A taxi driver who struck and killed a pedestrian in a crosswalk had five moving violations in less than two years, mostly for running stop signs and red lights. The Taxi and Limousine Commission stated that they had no idea the driver had this driving record, that they would have pulled his license if they knew, and blamed the Department of Motor Vehicles for not informing the TLC. Yo! DMV and TLC! There are these things that are found in offices of government agencies called COMPUTERS, and they can TALK TO EACH OTHER over this new-fangled thing called the INTERNET… Can it be possible that nobody ever thought that the TLC might need the driving records of the 100,000 drivers who hold chauffeur's licenses? Any New York City pedestrian can tell you that the driving records of the city’s cab, car service and limo drivers do not appear to be a high priority.

There were other stories that will be covered in the near future, but it's late.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Bob Dylan to Cover Standards

Bob Dylan is releasing a Christmas album. There will be no original poetry from the voice of a generation. Instead, Bob Dylan will be covering such tunes as "Here Comes Santa Claus," "Winter Wonderland" and "Little Drummer Boy."

Dylan will be donating all of the proceeds of the album to charities that deal with hunger. The U.S. album sales will be donated to Feeding America, in perpetuity. Overseas sales proceeds will be donated to overseas charities, also who deal with hunger and famine.

I find this to be among the most honorable of projects that I have ever encountered. In my senior year of high school, I was on the organizing committee of the second annual hunger hike. This was a nationwide effort, and I'm very proud to say that the hike that I helped organize was one of the most successful in the country. On May 9, 1971 in Skokie, IL, we had a turnout that police estimated between 90,000 to 100,000 participants, raising well over a million dollars, 42.5% going to Chicago area coops and food pantries and 42.5% going to projects outside of Illinois, some in Appalachia, some in Africa. Fifteen percent went to administrative costs. Everyone on our committee was a volunteer, and it took months of work to achieve these results.

That said, I'm confident in stating that I will not buy this Dylan album. I have absolutely no desire to hear Bob Dylan sing "Little Drummer Boy" or any other Christmas song, for that matter. I cringe at the thought of a Bob Dylan arrangement of "Sleigh Ride," "Oh Holy Night" or "Carole of the Bells," fearing it will sound like "Hurricane" or "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts." Not buying the CD will hardly be a guarantee that this won't be inflicted upon me. I will probably not be able to avoid hearing this. The holidays are not too far off, and Americans everywhere will shortly be bombarded with a wide variety of hideous versions of songs that I tired of years ago.

A CD that has a retail list price of eighteen bucks would have the artist's royalty of about fifteen percent ($2.70) for a new artist, maybe as much as twenty five percent ($4.50) for someone of Dylan's stature. The rest of the money is split between the record label, the distributor and the retailer.

If you think that Dylan's cause is a good one, and it is, send your eighteen bucks directly to the charity and spare your ears.

Senator Edward Kennedy

Over the next few days, a parade of politicians and pundits will pontificate proudly about their relationship with the late Senator Edward Kennedy and how much they will miss the senior senator. Some will be genuine. Others will be pretentious pricks preening in prime time.

I always had tremendous respect for Senator Kennedy's record in the legislature. Lefty Liberal that I am also has me agreeing with most of his public stances. Unfortunately his personal life stopped him from getting to the White House- or is it unfortunate? His public record with womanizing and alcohol abuse kept him from reaching the top job, but his incredibly long tenure in the Senate had him accomplishing more than almost any president one can name. If there were a Mount Rushmore for titans of the Senate, Edward Kennedy's face would surely be put on it.

Anytime a huge political figure reaches the end of life, those who regularly raked that person over the coals in life have an instant turn-around while in the presence of a television camera. It shouldn't be difficult to look through the speeches, statements and op ed pieces to pick out the hypocrites from the genuine, but nobody does this research, or if they do, they don't feel it worth mentioning.

Senator Kennedy was a public figure that seemed to be a magnet for cheap shot criticism, in the halls of congress and its back offices and meeting rooms, in the pages of newspapers and magazines, on late night television, and in comedy clubs. How many of these people who sought to earn notoriety by publicly kicking Senator Kennedy will be lining up to now publicly cry and tear at their hair and clothes and bleat on about how much he will be missed? It will probably number in the dozens, possibly in the hundreds.

It is said that the two things in life that can't be avoided are death and taxes. You can add self-serving babbling at memorials and funerals to the list.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

The above phrase, originally attributed to Benjamin Disraeli and later recycled by Mark Twain came to my attention this evening. While scouring the press for something to catch my eye, my eyes rested over and over again on the future of Plaxico Burress. Articles in many papers and electronic outlets are already speculating about his return.

The gifted athlete was on ESPN telling his side of the story. He says he almost died. Of stupidity. He's about to surrender to authorities having plead guilty of illegal gun possession. This is a settlement, a reduction of charges. Originally included, among other things, was unlawful discharge of a weapon. In his own leg. A crack shot, that Mr. Burress.

I am reminded of the writings of one of my influences in this project that I have thrust upon myself. I read Mike Royko daily, first in the Chicago Daily News, then the Sun-Times when the Daily News went the way of the rest of the afternoon papers in the land of the brave and the home of the free. I even read him in the Chicago Tribune when Royko left in a huff when the Sun-Times was bought by Rupert Murdoch. Mike Royko had an annual "Gun Owner of the Year" award column, where he had his own sort of 'top ten list' long before David Letterman was on the air. One of these gun owners was the sort who was never going to let the criminal element get HIM! He kept his gun under his pillow. One night, tired and half asleep, he saw something moving at the foot of his bed. He grabbed his gun and blasted at the suspected sneak thief, shooting off his big toe. Yup, he bagged the interloper all right. That toe would never sneak up on HIM! But I digress...

Plaxico Burress has joined the parade of convicted NFL stars. About ten years ago a book named "Pros and Cons" was released, documenting the huge number of NFL players with criminal records. While on a film set in Los Angeles I looked at this book, borrowing it briefly from a fellow film worker during a lunch break. There was an appendix that had the names of current (as I say, this was ten years ago) players with rap sheets, and their crimes. Twenty-five percent had arrest records. Twenty-one percent for felonies. Some of the players listed had one DUI, but many had a large number of offenses far more serious. Lots of spousal abuse, assault and battery, and minor drug charges. Some players had arrests for auto theft, armed robbery, bank robbery, sexual assault, rape and even manslaughter.

I just did a little bit of research on this subject and was highly amused to find a 2007 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune where the NFL defends itself on its record of rewarding criminals who can play the game. Here is a quote from the article:

The NFL said the study unfairly included criminal incidents in college and that their rate of arrests is no different than, say, a group of plumbers.

Ok, so the armed assaults, auto thefts, bank robberies, and sexual assaults, were merely youthful indiscretions.

I'm under the impression that lots of plumbers are NFL fans, and would probably object to being compared to PacMan Jones' rap sheet and Reggie Lewis' being suspected as being involved in a double murder, case dropped for insufficient evidence. Being a dog owner myself, I don't even want to get into the subject of Michael Vick. I can't speak rationally on the subject. I don't know any plumbers who could be compared to these three. The plumbers I know are hard working people. They don't nearly make the money of even a first year fifth round draft pick who barely made the team.

The article went on to say that the twenty-one percent statistic of NFL felons did not take into consideration that really only a small percentage of active players committed crimes while signed to an NFL contract, and that a more accurate statistic would be more like one in forty-five players, about one per team, and the rate of DUI busts was more like one out of 144 players. The NFL players are just like everybody else. Like you, like your plumber, your mechanic, maybe even your kid's school teacher.

Still, this statistic is twice the national average. So, according to NFL statistics, the rate of criminality among active players while under contract is not so bad, only double that of the rest of the country.

Yes indeed. They're just like everybody else. According to them. Americans everywhere make an average salary of a million bucks and beat their wives. I know this is true because someone from the commissioner's office told me so.

Pearls Missed from Over the Weekend

On Friday I was called to a meeting that I didn’t expect, taking up the time I had set aside to write this column. This meeting was from one of my employers. Since I have yet to collect any earnings writing these pieces, I placed a higher priority in this meeting than in writing this column.

Here are some musings on some of the subjects that I missed-

Item One: News flash- Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that pharmaceutical companies don’t make all that much money. I suppose that earnings are a matter of perspective. For instance, when I was eight years old and had an allowance of a dollar a week and a kid down the street’s allowance was five bucks, to me that kid was rich. After all, he could get ONE HUNDRED PACKS of baseball cards with fossilized bubble gum EVERY WEEK to my twenty. I knew it would be a ridiculous expense to buy twenty packs of baseball cards. I would have nothing left for trips to Dairy Queen. I would have to look for soda bottles at the side of the road and hope they were intact. After all, you wouldn’t get the two cents if the bottle was broken.

Mayor Bloomberg is worth well over nine billion dollars. That’s $9,000,000,000.00. To a guy who’s worth nine billion, the earnings of the president of a pharmaceutical company must look like the change the mayor loses in the couch cushions. It took a short time for the mayor to retract this statement, probably after a brief conversation about relative earnings with his valet.

Item Two: The Lockerbie bomber was released. I have nothing funny to say about this, but I’m moved to make a statement. I like Scotland. I like Scottish people. I have spent time in Scotland and have always wanted to attend or even perform in the Edinburgh Festival. That said, the U.S. government and its citizens need to see Kenny MacAskill publicly fired. Mr. MacAskill has stated that the release of Mohmed Al Megrahi was his doing and his alone. Yo, Kenny! How about the ticker tape parade he got in Tripoli when he got off the plane? Was that your idea as well? Mr. MacAskill referred to this hero’s welcome as ‘unfortunate.’ Really, Kenny? The hero’s welcome was the unfortunate part of this? How about the complete abortion of justice? This bastard has the blood of 270 innocent people on his hands, 189 of them Americans. All these people did was get on a plane. I think that my love of Scotland notwithstanding, I am moved to propose a tariff of 189% on each Scottish made item on American shelves in American stores, effective immediately, for a period of at least 189 months after the death of Al Megrahi. If the people of Scotland were to get upset about the huge loss in income they would suffer for this, they should bill Mr. MacAskill, his children and grandchildren the sum of their losses. I’m sure that there are other American citizens that would consider my proposal as insignificant babblings of a bleeding heart liberal, that Kenny MacAskill should be publicly killed, and that the tariff should last for 189 years.

Item Three: The people who are carrying assault rifles to the public appearances of President Obama need some kind of therapy. Possibly anger management. Possibly sensitivity training. Possibly five years of solitary confinement followed by five years of hard labor. They seem to think of themselves as patriots. Sure. Patriot is often the title given to someone who brings a loaded weapon to a town hall meeting in an attempt to intimidate a legally and popularly elected official. These patriots should be awarded something, like maybe a nice vacation in the Caribbean. I hear there’s room at Guantanimo.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Sunday Events and Rule Breaking

On Sundays I usually spend the day with my wife and our large hound. We began the day with a relaxing walk, only to discover that the hound had gotten into something bad, and was having a bout with diarrhea. Thankfully we had extra bags to clean the sidewalk, and even more thankfully none of the bags tore.

It was during this walk that we got a call from a friend who had tickets for the Mets-Phillies game at Citi Field, the Mets new home. We are both baseball fans, though not fans of the Mets or the Phillies, but we had yet to pay a visit to the new ballpark, so we jumped at the opportunity. A few weeks ago I had been offered tickets to a game there, but the game was rained out, and the game that we traded the tickets for (against my home town team, the Cubs) isn't for another two weeks. This would be my first game there.

We discussed our nervousness at leaving the poor pup alone in her condition, and came to the agreement that we didn't really have to stay for the whole game, not having anything in particular at stake in the outcome. Now let me state here that normally, leaving a game early is a huge violation of personal rules. As Yogi Berra would say- "it aint over til it's over," and truer words were never spoken.

Since it was a last minute event we were unprepared for the game. Usually we make grilled chicken sandwiches and pick up a bag of chips and one or two liters of water to bring with, avoiding the overpriced ballpark fare. The game was to start at 1:10pm and we didn't even get the tickets until 12:15. The ride of the 7 train got us there about five minutes after the first pitch.

The new ballpark is a thing of beauty. It looks like the old Ebbets Field as you get off the train. Walk into the main entrance and find yourself in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, a tribute to the hall of fame infielder, race relations pioneer, civil rights leader and humanitarian. It's all about Jackie Robinson and the old Brooklyn Dodgers. Not a Met player to be seen (and that's fine with me, still being angry about 1969, the Cubs' crumble and the infamous Labor Day weekend series where a Met player smuggled a black cat into Shea Stadium that ran across the field to the Cubs' dugout, starting the September Swoon).

Jayne needed to visit the ladies' room and I took a look at the field. I heard the crack of a bat followed by crowd groans. I saw three men in Phillies uniforms circling the bases and I looked at the scoreboard. There were no outs in the first inning and the Mets were already down three-zip. By the time we got to our seats the Phillies were up by six before the Mets were to take their first swings. We sat down, and the player leading off for the Mets slammed the ball to the left field wall. The Phillies' outfielder had misplayed it, leading to a clean inside-the-park home run. An inside-the-park home run is rare. Normally if someone makes it all the way around the bases on one hit an error or even two are involved. I have probably been to 500 or more major league games and I have only witnessed an inside-the-park home run two times.

Seeing a game with nothing personally at stake is very relaxing. We were sitting with Andy, a friend of ours and Jake, his nine-year-old son. Jake is a baseball fanatic and spends long hours reading record books. He is already a walking encyclopaedia of baseball, rattling off statistics of games and players from long before he was born. He knows the Mets team roster, name and number, and all of their major league stats. He and I sat together, which was non-stop entertainment.

Andy and Jake had to leave at the seventh inning to make it to a birthday party. Jake as torn about this- wanting to attend his friends' party but not wanting to leave the game. I completely understood this. Jake already feels the same as I do about staying for the full contest. I have been to games that have been five hour marathons, extra innings, rain delays, you name it. Of the approximately 500 games I have been to I can count how many I left early on one hand. Yesterday was one of those games.

I had two good excuses for leaving early. The first being a well grounded fear of arriving home to find a horrifying mess, and not wanting to be away from the poorly feeling hound for too long. I needed to get home and take the poor pup out. The second excuse was that the game appeared to be out of reach, and I really didn't care who won anyway. Jayne and I were in the process of walking around the park, doing some exploring for the next time we go, two weeks hence to see my beloved Cubs. We had to see where Shake Shack was. We had to find the imported beer booth. Yes, I'm a beer snob- I lived in Europe. American mass produced beer is brewed through a horse. You think the Budweiser Clydesdales just pull the wagon? No! First, they drink large amounts of water while eating hops and barley- but, I digress...

So the game was going into the 9th inning and Jayne says something about finding a seat near the exit to watch the last inning. All I can think of is our poor Torre crossing her legs and doing the bathroom dance and losing the battle. I say- "let's just go home."

Jayne is shocked at this. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, let's go."
"You know, we can stay, it's only one inning."
"Nah- we can go."

So we get on the train and start to head back to Manhattan, Yogi's voice ringing in my head. Ten minutes after we left the game ended on an unassisted triple play. In over 130 years of major league baseball this was only the fifteenth such occurrence. I can't believe it. It was like missing Halley's Comet.

I arrived home to find no mess, no emergency. I kick myself. This game that I didn't care about opened with an inside-the-park home run and ended with an unassisted triple play.

I always believe that anytime I walk into a major league baseball park I might see something rare and magical, and I am frequently rewarded. I once saw a game that the Cubs were down nine to nothing in the sixth inning and came back to win it ten-nine in ten innings. Anything can happen. I know this. Yes, Yogi, it aint over til it's over. I promise I'll remember this next time.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


That's Entertainment...

I grew up in Chicago. My father worked for the old Chicago Daily News, which was bought by the Chicago Sun-Times. He had job security, and worked for both newspapers selling advertising space. All employees got a free paper. My father brought home the Daily News and Sun-Times every day. I learned to read by reading the newspaper. My first job was delivering newspapers. One could say I have printer's ink in my veins.

In the late 70s I began working in theater, and my first good job was working on The Goodman Theater's first production of "A Christmas Carol." Del Close was the ghost of Christmas present. We hit it off and he invited me to participate in his workshop at The Second City, and I was eventually hired by The Second City, first as a bartender.

Not long after my hiring my bosses learned that I had stage management experience and had a good feel for improvisation, and I was promoted to being tour manager of the National Touring Company of The Second City. Not long after that, The Second City opened the back room theater, The Second City e.t.c., and I became the stage manager of the founding resident company of the e.t.c. space. We wrote original shows, satirizing current events and pop culture. I began to read four newspapers per day, constantly searching for items that we could make fun of.

Chicago politics is notorious. I thought things couldn't get any better, being paid to read the newspaper and make fun of people and events in the paper. National news outlets constantly say Chicago politics is the dirtiest in the country, and no city or state could outdo our local politicos. Not true.

I have been in New York City for nine years now, and I have come to believe that New York politics is at least as dirty and pathetic as Chicago politics. This year has been a goldmine of stuff to make fun of. My chief difficulty in coming up with fodder for a daily piece is choosing what to write about. There's no lack of material.

Today the mayoral race has caught my attention. It seems that William Thompson, currently the city's comptroller and a mayoral candidate, has hired a pretty large number of people to manage the city's various pension funds. It seems that these funds have not been performing all that well. Other cities' pension funds are dong much better, with a smaller number of paid money managers involved. Mayor Bloomberg pointed this out, along with the previous stated fact that Mr. Thompson has hired a number of people to do this for him, and that they are being paid quite well.

I'm not exactly going out on a limb when I state that New York City is one of the financial centers of the world. It would follow that it shouldn't be too difficult to find someone skilled at money managing who could oversee the pension funds and see to it that they grow. I believe that such a money manager would be the city's comptroller. OH YEAH! William Thompson IS the city's comptroller! And so it appears that Mr. Thompson has hired a number of people to do his job, and that they pretty much suck at it.

Mr. Thompson defended himself by stating that Mayor Bloomberg suggested hiring most of these people, and that if the pensions are underperforming, Mr. Bloomberg is as much at fault, if not more, than he (Mr. Thompson) is.

Let me put this in plain English. Mr. Thompson has basically said "If I suck, it's because I took your advice!"

It won't be long before the Mayoral debates take place. A few more weeks of this penetrating high level discourse will likely degenerate to "I know you are but what am I?" Along with some exchanges that begin "I'm rubber, you're glue..."

Election day is still more than two months away. There's plenty of time for things to get worse, funnier and more pathetic. I can't wait.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


A Family Company

For the past two days I have been looking closely at The Walt Disney Company. They are a family company. They own the happiest place on earth, so they tell us. They also own Disney Studios, Touchstone Pictures, Mirimax Films, Pixar Animation Studios, Disney Theme Parks, ABC Television, ABC Family Television, ABC News, The Disney Channel, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes, ESPN International, Walt Disney Records, Hollywood Records, Lyric Street Records, ESPN Radio, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Zone Theme Restaurants, SOAPnet, Stage 9 Digital Media, Disney Theatricals (producers of Broadway show versions of Disney produced films), and Hyperion Books, along with The Walt Disney Internet Group, which includes, and, along with a few other things too numerous to mention here.

I first started paying close attention to The Walt Disney Company when I when I was a child, watching "The Mickey Mouse Club" in the afternoons when I got home from school. I was a big fan of many Disney movies and animation shorts. As I matured I became more of a fan of Warner Bros. animation, then later studied Winsor McKay and Max Fleischer, but that's a subject for another day.

The Walt Disney Company has been having a bit of a losing streak at its Theme Park Division. The economic down turn has reduced the tourism business tremendously and attendance is down. Three fatal accidents in Disney owned theme parks in the last two months in Florida hasn't helped much as well. Disney is, once again, having an image problem.

A few years back their image problem stemmed from an honest desire to protect their brand, which went totally out of control when some lawyer at the corporate office brought suit against a day care center for having a picture of Donald Duck posted in public view, demanding a huge licensing fee. As one might imagine, the public at large didn't take a kind view to a multi-billion dollar behemoth attacking a small preschool over something so trivial as that.

Their latest image problem is just beginning. It has come to my attention that a Disney owned network is about to broadcast a series thought to be family fare, featuring a known criminal. I am, of course, talking about "Dancing with the Stars."

It seems that The Walt Disney Company, ABC Television, and "Dancing with the Stars" believes that Tom DeLay is a star, a role model, and a nice family guy. I'm guessing shooting days of the show will be scheduled in between court appearances. Here are just some of the highlights of his resume:

Misuse of Federal Investigative Agencies: During a legislative conflict in his native Texas, the Congressman, citing the Department of Homeland Security, ordered the FAA to search for an airplane chartered by Texas state representatives and demanded the FBI arrest these same legislators, all Democrats opposed to a redistricting plan to gerrymander the Texas legislature, redrawing district lines to make said districts have a Republican majority. He also attempted to direct the U.S. Marshals, the Texas office of the U.S. Attorney, and the Air and Marine Interdiction Coordination Center (a bureau dedicated to stopping smuggling and terrorism operations) in this effort to arrest the group of Democratic legislators.

Reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee: Congressman DeLay spearheaded the K Street Project, an attempt to penalize lobbying companies who hired known Democrats, pressuring the companies to hire only Republicans, effectively creating a blacklist. Restraint of Trade as a political bludgeon.

Just plain meddling in something that was none of his business: The Terry Schiavo case. Congressman DeLay was behind the Palm Sunday weekend convening a quorum of Congress to insert themselves into the Schiavo case. In addition, while speaking about the removal of the unfortunate Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube, Congressman DeLay was accused of endorsing violence in the wake of a series of high-profile violent crimes and death threats against judges when he said, "The men responsible will have to answer to their behavior." DeLay's comments came shortly after the February 28, 2005 homicide of the mother and husband of Chicago Judge Joan Lefkow, and the March 11, 2005 killing of Atlanta Judge Rowland Barnes. After considerable pressure, Congressman DeLay retracted that statement.

Still not fully investigated: The former Congressman is up to his neck in the Jack Abramoff scandal, and that would take weeks of postings to just skim the surface of that mess.

So with such a role model appearing on "Dancing with the Stars," I can't imagine that the former Congressman was the first choice for this role. The producers of "Dancing with the Stars" must have known that using Mr. DeLay could be a bit sticky. Surely there was someone else that has some musical ability and is an equally high profile individual. Someone with charisma and a huge built-in following. But it turns out that Phil Spector is unavailable.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Fall TV Line-up on the Bravo Channel

I am now ready to admit that, like many other titans of sofa journalism which is also known as Starbuck's Coffee Shop and/or barroom punditry, I have a huge secret army of deep cover operatives. Go ahead, prove me wrong. You can't. So take my word for it and live a life looking over your shoulder.

One of these operatives has uncovered the upcoming programming list for the Bravo Channel, formerly a tasteful arts channel somewhat like Ovation TV, now attempting to re-brand itself as catering to a ten percent segment of American society that's growing in power and long established in buying power.

Anyone who questions the descriptions as tasteless and wishes to assail me with accusations of intolerance should know that this is a direct verbatim copy of the secured document.

Monday night:

8:00pm- Real Housewives of Butte, Montana: Five real housewives: Anne- auto mechanic to the Mayor, Julie, a Sunday school teacher with a dark secret, Cathy, saleswoman at Doc Brown’s marital aids, Mary-Beth, an aging biker chick with green teeth, and Velveeta, a transvestite.

9:00pm- Top Chef, Leavenworth. Premier episode with feature competition for best execution of lamb on a shank.

10:00pm- Guess Who’s Not Gay. Twelve metro-sexual men are evaluated by three judges- Former Senator Larry Craig, former Congressman Mark Foley and Carson Kressley. Contestants will be put through elimination challenges and viewers will vote weekly via text messaging. Last remaining contestant will win a cash prize and gets a makeover, a subscription to Muscle and Fitness and have his closets redone by designers from The Container Store.

Tuesday night:

8:00pm- Fashion Police, Special Victims Unit: A special detail based in New York’s Garment District busts people for buying designer knock-offs, uncovers sweat shops in Chinatown, and publicly ridicules tourists from Indiana for hideous taste.

9:00pm- Cute Puppies: That’s it. One hour of cute puppies. No plot, writers or paid cast needed.

10:00pm- Drags, Fag Hags and Bags: Women who tip the scales dish with drag queens, then swap clothes and go purse shopping.

Wednesday night:

8:00pm- Top Chef, Fort Bragg North Carolina: Premier episode will feature competition making creamed chipped beef on dry toast and a speed potato peeling challenge. Loser will have to mop the floor of all barrack latrines with his own toothbrush.

9:00pm- Book Beat: The editorial staffs of The National Review and The Nation dress as pro wrestlers and assault each other, using the Encyclopaedia Britannica as bludgeoning instruments.

10:00pm- The Blue Collar Matchmaker: Premier episode dedicated to finding an attractive storefront hairdresser for Joe Sixpack, a commonly referenced plumber and TV political loudmouth.

Thursday night:

8:00pm- Boarding School: A fun-filled hour of obnoxious snot-nosed over-privileged brats that you just want to throttle. First episode has brats creating a game out of belittling school kitchen staff for points.

9:00pm- Project Resale: Contestants are let loose in a Salvation Army store, and vie to obtain an entire wardrobe for under $50. Winner each week gets an extra $15 to spend.

10:00pm- Reruns of old Kathy Griffin shows.

Friday night:

8:00pm- Top Chef: Burger World. Contestants take things out of the freezer and deep fry them. Other contestants operate the shake machine and measure ice cubes.

9:00pm- Censored and Pixilated: Rebroadcasts of Taxicab Confessions and The L Word in a format that’s acceptable to Bravo’s large population of fundamentalist Christian viewers.

10:00pm- Reunion: Twelve one hit wonder bands of old rockers who can’t stand each other but need the cash get back together and go on tour. Each week one band will break up all over again. Some deaths may occur.

Weekend schedule will be a rotation of reruns of all of the above, plus paid programming half hours featuring a recently deceased bearded shouting huckster pushing products you don’t need, but seem to work very well on camera, all of which cost only $19.95. But wait, there’s more! If you call in the next eleven minutes you can get TWO of something you don’t need!

You don't believe me? Tune in. Even if the titles are changed the content will remain the same.

Monday, August 17, 2009


The Recession's Reach

Yes, hard times are being felt by all citizens. And by citizens, I mean citizens of everywhere. The economic downturn, as it has been euphemistically branded by politician and reporter alike, has reached far and wide. So far and so wide, that nobody is willing to give it any kind of border or limit.

Since this economic downturn has yet to be truly defined, I'm beginning to think of it in a more universal manner. It could very well be infinite. One could say that this has had galactic implications. In fact, as recently as this past Friday this writer has discovered evidence of just how far the recession's effect has reached.

My wife and I were walking our large hound, and ventured to the Union Square Green Market. This charming Manhattan venue is where you can pay full retail and even higher for farm-fresh items, trucked in from upstate New York and far-off places such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Local Manhattan residents and European tourists flock to this market, open every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, not counting Christmas Day and New Year's Day. The Union Square Green Market is a magnet for street artists, t-shirt sellers and musical buskers attempting to capitalize off the overflow crowd.

It was in this market where the extent of the recession was brought home to me, in living Technicolor. It seems that Boba Fett has been unable to successfully locate and capture any intergalactic criminals in such a long time, that he has been reduced to playing the accordion for spare change (see photographic evidence below).

It could very well be a sort of musical extortion- "Pay me or I'll play 'Lady of Spain' or 'Too Fat Polka!'"

This is how far we have fallen economically. It may not end there. How long before Boba Fett will be joined by Princess Leia? Mutt and Jeff? Elmer Fudd? Hell, even Bazooka Joe will not be immune!

And so I must plead to Congress, President Obama, The United Nations, and the World Bank! Save us! Save us all, even our fictional characters, from the ravages that have befallen us!

Friday, August 14, 2009


An Architecture Critique

New York City has something I have not seen in any other city that I have been to or lived in. One cannot go far without encountering this item commonly referred to as a "Sidewalk Shed." That is the shorthand version, because to call it "scaffolding with reinforced decking to spare pedestrians the pain and suffering from falling bricks because the cheap bastard that owns the building won't fix the place up" doesn't quite roll off the tongue quite so easily.

Some of them are there for a limited time, while exterior work is being done on a building. There are others, however, that seem to have become a building's facade, a semi-permanent addition. I cannot believe that the Department of Buildings allows these things to stay in place without some kind of time limit. Some of them have been up for well over five years.

These hideously ugly, but utilitarian structures are ubiquitous on our crowded island. As I walk around my close by stomping grounds- Gramercy, Flatiron, Chelsea, Union Square, Murray Hill, The East Village, The West Village, Lower East Side, Chinatown, Little Italy, Battery Park, and Tribeca (Ok, I walk a lot. I have a big hound.) I come upon dozens of these, maybe over a hundred.

I wish I owned the scaffolding company. The rents on the gear must be unbelievable.

There are alternative uses for these structures. It does provide shelter from the rain for many homeless. And a private place to publicly urinate. The homeless almost have an excuse for this, since it can be hard to find a place to relieve oneself- but what's the excuse all those drunks are using? I'm pretty sure that an alternative purpose is not to catch and tear the sleeve of an expensive leather jacket as I walk by, damn it!

I truly have no alternative suggestion for these horrid eyesores. I know that some are there legitimately and will be gone soon. Maybe if someone made them with some kind of design flair, something to make them at least a little bit more visually acceptable. I'm not expecting visually pleasing. Just something that doesn't scream "I ASPIRE TO BE A PILE OF RUBBLE!"

It's just that I'm still pissed off about the jacket.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Reality Literature

The length people will go to publicly humiliate themselves in exchange for cash and notoriety never ceases to amaze me. People will jump at the chance to appear on TV, especially if prizes are involved, even if they have to reveal that they were screwing their sister and her pet mynah bird.

Tell all books fall into this same category. I bring this up today because of the revelation in today's papers, generously supplied by John Murphy, a spokesman for St. Martin's Press, that Bernard Madoff was having an affair for twenty years. Mr. Murphy was made aware of this affair by Mrs. Sheryl Weinstein, the other half of the equation. Mrs. Weinstein is telling all, via a book about to be published by St. Martin's Press.

Mrs. Weinstein, it seems, was quite a catch for Mr. Madoff. She held the post of Chief Financial Officer for Hadassah, a very large charitable organization of Jewish women. Hadassah was one of the few outfits that profited from its relationship with Mr. Madoff, because they ended their financial relationship with Mr. Madoff when Mrs. Weinstein left her job.

Most men want a woman body and soul. Not Bernie. It seems that Mrs. Weinstein and her husband decided that the financial genius of Mr. Madoff warranted their continued fiduciary support. So, over about a dozen years, while Bernie was allegedly schtupping Mrs. Weinstein physically, he was also schtupping her checkbook. In the fairly recent past, Mr. and Mrs. Weinstein felt so confident in Mr. Madoff's financial prowess, they took out a second mortgage on their house and basically bet the farm on it. And so, the Weinsteins are now very poor. Poor as dirt? No. Poorer.

How will Mrs. Weinstein dig herself out of this financial mess? (fanfare music builds from pianissimo to fortissimo, punctuated by a cymbal crash) A TELL-ALL BOOK IS BORN!!!

She's calling it “Madoff’s Other Secret: Love, Money, Bernie, and Me.” She should call it "Bernie Madoff Screwed Me" but then, probably nobody would buy it. After all, "Bernie Madoff Screwed Me" is already a best selling bumper sticker in Scarsdale. Still, no matter what she names the book, I can't imagine the book will sell much, and she will have debased herself on talk shows and at book signings in Barnes & Noble and Border's outlets. It may well be that St. Martin's will be unable to get her too many high line bookings and she'll be having her book events at airport and train station news stands.

Ruth Madoff, suspected with complicity in her husband's financial wrongdoings, now must suffer the further indignity of her husband's publicly divulged infidelity on top of his spectacular dive from the heights: going from head of his highly ranked multi-billion dollar company directly into a 150 year sentence at the Butner Federal Correction Complex outside of Raleigh, NC. The Madoff's golden wedding anniversary is approaching. What will THAT party be like?

I, for one, would like to be on the guest list, just to experience such a shindig. I just wonder one thing- what would be an appropriate gift for this event?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


How I Can Save New York City's Troubled Economy

Day after day I hear the cries of our civic leaders about how broke our fair city has become. A hiring freeze at the Department of Education has been instituted, preventing this writer from full time employment in two schools that have expressed interest. Cutbacks at the MTA have closed ticket booths and laid off station workers. The NYPD, having cut a number of clerical positions, now has uniformed officers (who no doubt have better things to do) filing papers. Some FDNY firehouses are in danger of being shuttered, and unemployment is rising faster than sewage in a clogged toilet at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

I propose a simple change, easy to implement, that will raise the quality of life on many levels. Just two words: write tickets.

In nine years of New York City living I have heard dozens of times that traffic fines are being increased to make our streets safer, that dog poop fines are being increased to make our sidewalks cleaner, and that bridge and tunnel tolls are being increased to pay for the maintenance of our vital links to the world outside. What I have never seen- and I do mean never- is a police officer writing a ticket for anything other than illegal parking.

I have had to jump out of the way of speeding cars, seen people knocked down by bicycle messengers and food delivery people riding on the sidewalks, and seen thoughtless transgressions made by my fellow dog owners. What I haven't seen is someone being made to pay for these incidents that chip away at our quality of life.

Mr. Mayor: Hear me out! You can put people to work and not spend a dime! Well, OK, maybe it'll cost more than a dime, but you'll make so much money back you'll be happy to cough up the bulk rate postage that will be one of the only expenses. Have I caught your interest? Good. Here it is.

Run an ad that the city is looking for unemployed city residents who have video cameras, promising high commissions for easy work. Hundreds of people will come out of the woodwork. Put one at each major intersection. Tell them they will get a fifteen percent commission on each fine that is collected due to their evidence gathering.

At the intersections closest to my apartment building I see red lights disregarded. I see illegal turns. I see bicycles running people down and dogs eliminating. And I see this about a dozen times an hour. Multiply this over all the major intersections in Manhattan. The city would clean up, the camera people would be able to afford their outrageous rents, and money would be flowing. The hiring freezes could end. Potholes will be filled. Subway stations will be clean and rat-free (alright, that last part is pure fantasy, I admit).

One other thing- I've noticed that a disproportionate number of motor vehicle transgressors have New Jersey license plates. I propose a special New Jersey tax. Anyone driving over the G.W. or through the Lincoln or Holland tunnels with Jersey plates has to pay double, and all traffic tickets issued to cars with Jersey plates have their fines doubled. Just on general principal. Manhattan residents universally agree that a clear majority of interlopers from New Jersey are tacky, tasteless and vulgar. These bridge and tunnel people should be charged extra to enjoy our superior culture and inflated restaurant prices.

To quote the delightful and dearly departed Gilda Radner speaking as Rosanne Rosannadana: The foist ting ya gadda do is get outta New Jersey!

I'm sure, Mr. Mayor, you will agree with me that the implementation of this will go a long way to heal our monetary ills.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


The Similarity Between the Press and Politicians

Over many years of observation, it has come to my attention that whenever a politician or a tabloid "journalist" wants to demonize someone, there will be an inevitable Nazi comparison. If the person to be demonized is a president, prime minister or dictatorial despot they are graduated to a Hitler comparison.

This summer, members of the New York State Senate were accused of Nazi-like tactics by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a nice Jewish boy from Boston. Since I am a nice Jewish boy from Chicago I can call Mayor Bloomberg a nice Jewish boy both verbally and in print, so stop it with your anti-Semite conclusion-jumping already!

I would like to correct my Ashkenazy cousin. The rank and file of the New York State Senate are not Nazis. They are much closer to being the Somali pirates. Today it was revealed that Bronx State Senator Pedro Espada Jr., leader of this summer's political coup in Albany, was able to secure his son a job, filling a position that did not previously exist, for a salary of $120,000.00 per year. When questioned about this, the senior Espada stated that his son was qualified to get this job that did not exist due to his extensive experience in both the public and private sectors.

This same state senator, frequently accused of being in violation of rules by living outside his district (a very nice home in Westchester county instead of a bungalow in the Bronx, and who can blame him? Well, me for starters). This is the state senator who jumped from the Democrats to the Republicans along with a buddy of his who was accused of spousal abuse, creating a month long impasse in Albany. This impasse was finally broken when senate Democrats accepted this putz as majority leader, prompting him to rejoin the Democratic party (like they really need this schmuck).

I was just trying to remember his state senate henchman, accused of cutting up his girlfriend's face with a broken highball glass (and being a good girlfriend she told police she fell face first on said glass). I asked my wife if she could remember the accused face-slicer's name. The following conversation took place:

Me: Remember the state senator who was accused of slicing up his girlfriend's face?
Her: Sliced up his girlfriend's face?
Me: Yeah, and then he became a Republican and helped Espada become senate majority leader?
Her: Yeah, wasn't he from Staten Island?
Me: I thought he was from Queens.
Her: Are you sure? I thought he was from Staten Island.
Me: No, he's from Queens.
Her: Look him up in Google.
Me: What would I search under?
Her: Just what you said to me- state senator spousal abuse, or maybe New York state senator spousal abuse.
Me: If I type that in, I'll get a thousand hits!

I go to Google search.

Me: You were right! Staten Island. Fossela! Oh, wait a minute- he was the guy who was pulled over for speeding and had the secret other spouse in Virginia- he was a U.S. Congressman, not a state senator. He wasn't a spouse abuser, he was a bigamist!
Her: Wait, was he married to both? No, I think he was just having an affair.
Me: Oh, yeah, you're right.
Her: He was a congressman? Oh, yeah, he was!

Also in the same search I find that 29 Congressmen have been accused of spousal abuse, seven have been arrested for fraud- WAIT A MINUTE! Are they talking about the U.S. Congress or the NFL? No, it must be Congress- the role models in the NFL have a much higher percentage of members with criminal rap sheets than the role models of Congress.

So, getting back to Nazis, I see in today's New York Times that an ex-Nazi officer, Josef Scheungraber (that's pronounced SHOIN-grabber, rhymes with groin grabber, a well known hip-hop dance pose) has been sentenced to life in prison for killing Italian non-combat citizens. The guy is 90. What's a life sentence to a 90 year-old man- two weeks? Thank God he didn't get away with it and justice was served.

Scheungraber is to serve his sentence as a Republican state senator from upstate Renesselaer County...

Monday, August 10, 2009


New News

Since there's been precious little news on the professional front during this time of economic uncertainty, I have decided to change the thrust of this page. So, I am introducing...


This will be both serious and satirical. Your job: figure out what is true and what is a joke.

Today's issue: Town Hall Meetings. It has come to my attention that people actually go to town hall meetings. There they put in their two cents worth of highly informed opinions such as- Government will make a list of which old people they are going to have knocked off for nonpayment of hospital bills, government will start deciding what age is old enough to be killed for not contributing to the profits of pharmaceutical companies, and my personal favorite- Sarah Palin's real next profession will be Tarot card reader in Jackson Square, New Orleans, LA.

These pearls of opinion are uttered by the same level-headed citizens who believe that President Obama was not really born in Hawaii, and even if he was, Hawaii is not really a state, but an outpost of Philippine communists.

Republicans appearing recently on "Real Time with Bill Maher" stated forcefully that it was not Republican operatives disrupting these town hall meetings. Today's New York Times revealed that this is indeed true. The people disrupting town hall meetings are actually hired proxies of pharmaceutical and insurance lobbyists.

Today's quiz: Is Hawaii an outpost of Philippine communists or are the people disrupting town hall meetings most likely hired goons of the pharmaceutical and insurance lobbies?

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