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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The Suffering of Anastasia

"Stop the presses!" Newspapermen would say in my father's day when they had a new story that had to get out in the next edition. I'm not sure what they say now, but it could be something like "Cancel the print command!"

Anastasia is being horribly oppressed. Not the missing heir to the Czar's St. Petersburgh throne. A different, though equally privileged Anastasia. Anastasia Kelly, A.I.G.’s vice chairwoman for legal, human resources, corporate affairs and corporate communications. She's quitting. It seems that after she participated in the crash of the insurance giant and was part of a team of uber-executives that begged, hats in hand, for a government bailout the size of Mt. Everest, she is now angry at the indignity of that same government for enforcing a pay ceiling of a half-million dollars per year. Gee. A half-million dollars per year. She'll have to go on food stamps. She won't be able to afford to put her ass on a gold-plated toilet seat. She may have to walk her own dog and (HORRORS!) retrieve its fecal droppings. I have to say retrieve fecal droppings in the case of such a high level corporate powerhouse. It is we lowly average citizens who, when we exercise our hounds, pick up shit. At least the civic-minded and responsible of us pick up. Maybe if we worked for A.I.G. we would have a legal team who could find an angle to make the government financially compensate us for "waste removal."

Anastasia won't be alone, munching crackers in the dark of her apartment, now that she can't afford to pay her electric bill since she's only making a half-million dollars per year. It seems that Suzanne Folsom, chief compliance and regulatory officer, has departed A.I.G. as well, "to pursue other opportunities." Possibly to assist in the wreckage of another company in exchange for a golden parachute.

Anastasia's severance package has been reported to be $3,800,000. Hell, if someone offered me $3.8 million to go away, my bags would be packed, and packed in a hurry.

The best and the brightest of the corporate giants, who have awarded themselves huge financial compensation packages, have shown their worth by running the world economy into a spiraling chaos at the expense of the rest of us.

I'm honestly surprised that Jacobean mobs have not arisen to drag the cake eaters to the tumbrel, paraded the culprits to a public square, and dusted off the guillotine.

The reason this has not happened, I believe, is at the root of the American Dream. Secretly the angry underclass believe that one day, they too can be awarded a huge payday for ruining a company and putting thousands of people out of work. I believe that there's a course in it at business college, and that the waiting list to take this course is growing.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


A New Theater Critic

Today a well known beacon of culture decided to try out an avocation that he had yet to attempt. This man, renowned throughout the globe as a level-headed voice of reason, has announced to the world that protests against him are "a theater play by the Zionists and the Americans" and that Zionists and Americans have "purchased tickets to this play and are the only audience."

I am speaking of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr. Ahmadinejad is already known as a noted historian. He claims to have proof that the Holocaust is fiction. So the death camp that my father stumbled upon with a group of U.S. Army Rangers was actually a figment of his imagination. Yes, according to Mr. Ahmadinejad my father imagined this vision, along with the imaginations of hundreds of other servicemen of the American and Russian armies in dozens of locations throughout Germany, Austria, Poland and Latvia in 1945.

Being both American and a Jew I could take the somewhat paranoid view and believe he's talking directly to me. After all, I have spent most of my adult life in the theater. I am a member of the Theater Development Fund, which entitles me to discount tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway shows. I just checked the website. Mass protests in Tehran are not on the list. I'm guessing that means the protests are selling out and don't need help from TDF.

The protests are timed for an Islamic holy day, and this has inspired the forthright and honest President of Iran to brand those who protest against him as "offenders against the religion."

Spokesmen of various departments of the Iranian government at first denied that protests were in progress. Later the spokesmen amended this to stating that any deaths were not at the hands of state security forces.

Earlier today I saw video from the streets of Tehran where a police vehicle is driving at a high rate of speed into a crowd of people. A woman's body was seen being driven over. The vehicle is seen backing up and driving over the body a second time. So I'm guessing that the Iranian government's spokesman was meaning that it was not the security forces killing the protesters, as much as it was the security forces' vehicles doing the actual damage.

The chief prosecutor said that deaths in the streets of Tehran were caused by people being "struck by hard objects." Car bumpers, for instance. In the case of the woman on the video, softer objects were likely involved as well. Tires.

In addition, the nephew of the leader of the opposition was assassinated on the street in a drive-by shooting. Witnesses said that the man was shot directly in the heart and was dead within seconds. This conflicted with the view of one of the official news outlets in Tehran, which reported that the man died because of a delay in taking him to the hospital, and that he died of blood loss. I'm not an expert, but I have heard that a gunshot wound to the heart does cause blood loss, and that a delay of treatment could bring about the death of the patient. In this case, a delay in treatment of five or ten seconds would have been sufficient to bring about the demise of the poor slob who happened to be related to someone who is vocal in his disagreement with President Ahmadinejad.

As night has fallen, the people of Tehran are currently at intermission. The next act begins tomorrow. I doubt that they are at the concessions stand buying T-shirts and souvenir programs.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Okay. I've been working seven day weeks, and I've been too tired to write. But I still read the papers with an eye towards something to write about, tired or not. Today, the Times called out to me. The headline: Baltimore's Mayor Is Convicted. How can I pass this up, no matter how tired I am.

It seems that Baltimore's first female mayor, the dynamic Sheila Dixon, up and coming powerhouse of Black politics in the central eastern city that straddles the Mason-Dixon Line, is a sticky fingered politico just like so many others, male and female, black and white. Corruption is as blind as lady justice. Anyone can do it.

As the story goes, a list of well-to-do developers donated a slew of gift cards to places like Target, Old Navy, Toys R Us, and Best Buy to be given to poor families. Somehow a number of these gift cards somehow fell into the hands of Mayor Dixon, who got herself a Play Station 2, a digital video camera, CDs and DVDs, among other things. Since these gift cards were intended for poor people, news that the privileged mayor skimmed a few for her own use fairly upset many of the Baltimore population. Others found it trivial and not worth prosecuting. Still more found the prosecution politically motivated, since the prosecutor is a white Republican and the mayor is a black Democrat.

Still, it is hard for this writer to excuse the mayor on just about any level. She also gave some of the gift cards to a lobbyist who earns a half-million annually. The lobbyist treated himself to a Nintendo Wii. The mayor and the lobbyist hardly need the gift cards, the Play Station 2, the Wii, or the digital video recorder. What they do need is jail time.

Some out there in cyber-land may feel that as a white middle class middle aged male I have no business slamming Mayor Dixon. Yes, I'm white, male, middle aged and middle class. I'm not slamming Mayor Dixon for any racial motivation. I'm slamming Mayor Dixon because she has shown herself to be a political hack and a thief. Not just any thief, but someone who steals from the poor. Maybe she should short-change a few blind people while she's at it.

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