Thursday, January 31, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
Last night I watched the Screen Actors Guild give the great Charles Durning a Lifetime Achievement Award. I've admired his work for decades. Here is his Oscar nominated turn in "Whorehouse."
Friday, January 25, 2008
I had a nice birthday celebration that lasted about a week earlier in the month. I visited my mother, who is in a nursing home, for her birthday a couple of days ago. Yesterday Dan and I went to see the movie "The Bucket List" which I liked a lot and Dan thought was just average. One of the exchanges of dialogue between the two major characters, played wonderfully by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, had to do with "faith," meaning religious faith. The Freeman character questions Jack Nickolson's character about his lack of faith. Nicholson replies something like "I don' believe in tooth fairies, etc." "What if you're wrong?" asks Freeman. Nicholson replies: " Then I win!" meaning that if there is anything after you die, you get to have it even if you don't have faith. My recap doesn't do it justice, but the exchange resonated with me because I am in agreement with the philosophy of the Nicholson character when it comes to "faith." I don't have any "faith" but I'll win anyway if it turns out that I'm wrong. There are a lot of other pearls of wisdom in the movie. Many critics (and Dan) think it's loaded with cliches. Maybe it is, but to me they are simple lessons that are easily forgotten in today's world.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
I am not a very strong playwright. There, I said it. With all of the writers on strike, I thought I'd rip some writing from the headlines and see how it comes out.
Setting: a suburban middle class house in Minnesota.
Cast: Middle Aged Mom, Dad, Teenage Sister (Condi) and teen age Brother (Karl).
Dad: I just got the mail. Condi, did you charge something on my credit card? I have a recurring bill of $2 billion a week! This has to be a mistake!
Teen Daughter (Condi): Nope, I was logged onto Myspace last night and this guy Saddam was being a dick. I called a couple of my friends and had him and his bitches nailed.
Dad: I don't think I like your tone young lady and who said you could?
Teen Daughter: My friend Joe Lieberman sent me a text with a blank check. Cool, Huh?
Mom: What's all this stuff with all this Chinese writing on it? Our house is full to the rafters! What did you buy and why do you need all this stuff?
Brother (Karl): Aw schucks Mom, we just went to your good old big box store and bought everything! It was cheap and it was made by slave labor in China! Who cares? If I can't see the misery, than it doesn't exist. Fuck 'em!
Mom: It doesn't set a very good example!
Brother (Karl): Look, I only spent a couple of trillion on crap. But it's kick ass crap! Where the hell else is it going get made?
Dad: Don't worry about it, either of you! Go to your rooms and I'll send you a note from my Crackberry on when you can come down for some cloned meat dinner!
Dad to Mom: Hell, am I glad I refinanced this house using a variable rate balloon mortgage! I have a buttload of cash and one low payment! It will never go up as long as the economy stays constant.
Mom: That's a load off of my mind, I just refinanced the kitchen using a 19% credit card! Let me go get the cloned meat on the table!
I was thinking about making this a musical, except with Oompa Loompas singing all of the life lessons as the middle American's families fortunes take on a less than positive direction.
Ooompa Loompa doompety dee, who do you blame when your leaders are psychos? Who elected them?
Oompa Loompa doompety da, how did you make so many bad calls continuing to gorge even after you've fallen?
Oompa Loompa doompety do doo, common sense is missing from you....
So let's recap:
Huge amounts of high interested consumer debt.
Our leaders have used the Saudis and Chinese to finance our debt.
A war that we can't win (and that nobody wants) that costs $2 billion a week.
A housing market that has inflated the average cost of a home sale way beyond reality and used shoddy loans to finance a hugely overheated market.
What actually got me thinking about this was the following: I was watching Ben Stein on CBS Sunday Morning. I have loved that show since I was a kid (I know, weird, huh?) and I actually like Ben Stein. However he has a tendency to oversimplify situations as only someone from the Nixon Whitehouse could do.
Specifically, he was saying that the "potential" recession we may be facing would only last a few months and typically and historically didn't really impact us as much as any of us think. In other words, sit back, go to work and let everything work itself out.
That my friends, is a crock of shit. Let me mention a few things that weren't in past recessions:
$3.50 at the pump.
Trillions in new national debt.
Trillions owed to the Chinese.
Billions vaporized in the housing/finance market
Billions owed in consumer debt
Billions vaporized in a futile Iraq war
We may have dealt with one issue at a time during an economic slump however we now risk creating a perfect storm and something other than a recession. Can you say "depression"? Ah ha, now I might have your attention. And by the way, all the economies across different countries and geographies have some pretty hard ties, when one tanks the other don't do so well. Thus we probably shouldn't look for too much constructive criticism from our friends and foes.
One lesson from this is that apparently after 8 years of Republican rule, the term Fiscal Republican is no longer applicable. Forking over our American jobs to low wage laborers in the evolving third world wasn't such a great idea. Or lining the pockets of wealthy industrialists and contributors by relaxing regulations; probably not a great idea.
And by the way, I'm not convinced that any of the Republicans or Hilary or Barack can come up with something as innovative and intelligent as a TVA. Study your history folks, it's going to be a bumpy road ahead....
PS Feel free to write the end of the play. I thought I'd have everyone dress up in a cat outfit and jump out in the audience. It's kind of like sending a tax rebate out to American families for $800 to $1600 to go buy more shit at a big box store. Dancing like fools in the aisles until everyone leaves.
PSS the dog at the top has an interesting story. If someone wants me to write the story let me know by dropping a comment in the comments section.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
"Doctors, patients and the drug industry will be waiting to see whetherOr maybe natural methods like diet and exercise can be just as effective as popping pills.
regulators are still willing to accept the theory that lower cholesterol is
always a good thing."
Monday, January 14, 2008
"In the 1990s, we saw a burst of grass-roots activism, protest and rhetoric
in defense of gay and lesbian equality. Out of the ashes of the AIDS epidemic,
the gay rights movement rose like a phoenix. And the Clintons, seeing a
fund-raising opportunity, reached out to some in the movement to finance their
own campaign. Those donors trusted them. I wrote the TNR endorsement. But as
soon as the gays had performed their role - financing the Clintons in power and
supporting their campaign - the Clintons turned on us. They dropped their
promise to end the military's ban instantaneously and then presided over a
doubling of the discharges of gay servicemembers under the hideous "Don't Ask,
Don't Tell" policy. They then used the other emerging civil rights issue -
marriage equality - to triangulate against gay couples. They ran ads on
Christian radio stations bragging about the Defense of Marriage Act that
president Clinton eagerly signed. And the only gay people they embraced were
those willing to continue to trade money for access - and loyalty to the
Clintons. Who helped them devise this anti-gay strategy? Dick Morris. Who
recommended hiring him in the first place? Hillary Clinton.
his entire coalition on the issue of civil rights - a heroic act that still
reverberates today. The Clintons wouldn't risk a smidgen of a percentage point
in a Mark Penn poll for the duration of a news cycle. That's the difference. "
"...on Sunday Mr. Obama came out with a real stimulus plan. As was the
case with his health care plan, which fell short of universal coverage, his
stimulus proposal is similar to those of the other Democratic candidates, but
tilted to the right.
For example, the Obama plan appears to contain none of the alternative
energy initiatives that are in both the Edwards and Clinton proposals, and
emphasizes across-the-board tax cuts over both aid to the hardest-hit families
and help for state and local governments. I know that Mr. Obama’s supporters hate to
hear this, but he really is less progressive than his rivals on matters of
Krugman has been a consistent critic of Obama. In particular, Krugman is critical of Obama's health care plan, which does not cover all Americans, and critical of his plan to preserve Social Security. Krugman time and time again notes how Obama uses the rhetoric of the right in argument for his programs.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Or Even a Little Bit, for That Matter
Question: If Noah and his family were the only people to survive the flood, then how did the world get other races?
Pat Robertson: When Noah and his family left the ark, they split up and went around the world and then, I don't know, got tans or something. I don't know exactly how it happened.
via Celebrity Wit, Jan 7, 2008
Need I say more?
Thursday, January 10, 2008
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the RomanOn this date, January 10, 1776, Paine published his great pamphlet "Common Sense" that was such an inspiration to the American Revolutionaries. This great patriot was also a deist and fiercely anti-religious. I read recently that because of this he has been denied recognition in the form of monuments, etc. Religionists in government hate Paine because of his anti-religious writings. It's too bad that Christians have such power in our government. Tom Paine would not approve of the influence that Christians wield in America today.
church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church,
nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national
institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no
other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and
monopolize power and profit.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Let me offer one or two things up before you start reading: This is laced with some strong language and it is about how much I hate so-called security people in NYC office builings and how they are ineffective, largely useless and are actually trouncing on our rights and rolling back our civil liberties into the stone age. I may or may not succeed in making my point about the above however when you navigate away from my article at least you will know my intentions. It's a rant that has been thought about and considered for almost 7 years.
Fourth Amendment – Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The fourth ammendment is one of my favorite and most cherished ammendments.
I've been holding back on this but I can't anymore. It's just too silly, too ridiculous, too stupid, too wasteful and it takes a giant dump on the Fourth Ammendment.
My job requires that I go to see my customers daily. I enjoy the job and I generally enjoy seeing my customers. I am always invited, I never just show up. My customers are always large companies and typically are in large metropolitan areas like New York City or close by. I can work with just about any customer in the Northeast but I work mostly with customers in NYC.
NYC is a great city as is the State of NY. I can't just say I like New York or the city. My children were born there, I was married there and I have called it home for well over 2 decades. I love the place and I will always love it forever.
What's happened to New York before and since 9/11 is painful to watch. Let me explain:
Before 9/11, security in any building was tight. My picture had been scanned in at the World Trade Center probably 90 times. There were very few, if any buildings you could just stroll up to and walk in. Even public one's required check in first however it was far less than offenive.
Walking into New York City buildings now is like walking into a TSA Stop at an airport except that it is run by individuals far less qualified and far less concerned with your safety. It makes me wonder why I still work in New York.
Walking into any of the buildings in NYC has turned into a stripping of 4th Ammendment rights and is a huge, gigantic statue to the Chicken Little society we have become. Let me speak plainly. New York security people at front desks and as you walk into building are assholes and add about as much safety and security as a well laid jar of your favorite mustard. Ok, not all of them suck, there are at least 3 that aren't total fucking idiots.
Their security actions are inconsistent, incoherent and generally will stop nothing, especially if the attacker happens to be in a fully fueled 727 flying directly at the middle of the building. The people corporations and building management firms have guarding the so-called portals to the "lions of business" in NYC are generally uneducated minimum wage workers.
They don't have the common sense a bouncer has at any ordinary Manhattan club. They are ex-cops earning a couple of extra bucks on pension (that should have stayed retired) or foreigners that speak diddly for English and usually don't have college level reading skills. Most of the security is outsourced, my guess is to the lowest bidder. Some companies x-ray your bags and knowingly nod although they really don't know a goddamn thing about what they are actually looking at. Most companies call upstairs to find the person you are going to see however they almost never get them; the people are never there because they are waiting in the goddamn conference room for your arrival. How about a list of attendees and planned meetings? Is that too much to ask?
Why do I think none of them know what they are doing? Am I an expert? No, but I have a shred of common sense.
I walk into the same company with three different buildings within three blocks of each other and not one of them has the same security procedure. Today some tall mook security guard that had no identification and a blue jacket was standing out in front on the sidewalk of one of these companies and stopped me as I was walking in and asked my business at this company. My response was to tell him I was walking into the building and I don't really give a shit what he does or doesn't want to know. He than started prattling on to one of his cop friends standing near him about the idiot civilians that don't understand real security. I'm supposed to tell my life story to some asshole standing on a NYC street? Fuck him, I was invited here and I'm not even going upstairs, I'm just waiting in the lobby. Not a credential displayed on the loser, he didn't identify himself nor did he help me in my quest to find my customer.
In the same company in an office three blocks down from there I can go stand in the lobby until my head explodes and nobody will care. I have to walk up to the front desk to engage the security staff (and they are typically rude and stupid). They also ask for a different set of credentials, they ask for drivers licenses and state ID's. The highly qualified 20 year old from the Bronx carefully looks at my ID, I am sure she is an expert at identifying forged documents. I am sure she just doesn't display her FBI training or handwriting credentials. I know there are hordes of white, fat, bald guys in $900 suits (like me) clamoring to get into an office in Mid-Town Manhattan with a fake ID. I'm glad the security staff was there to stave off the tide of Islamo Facists and keep all those bad guys at bay.
In that same company in New Jersey I can walk in the lobby and wait around and nobody will care. And if I want to go in I need to have an under-qualified security guy (how do I know they aren't qualified? Well because of how rough they handle my laptop and bag for starters and because they can't speak English.) x-ray my bag and wait for a guy in another location to look at it.
Did I say that I rarely see the same security person twice at the same office or company? Very rare.
Now here's the kicker. If you are an employee or even if you have a badge at ANY one of the companies I have been to (and that would be about a thousand), you can stroll right through with no x-ray, no questions asked. When you hear about violence in a company, is it coming from a visitor or is it coming from someone that is or was inside the company and that knows the procedures, weaknesses and faults?
I swear some of the security people at the front desks are not all there. And I mean there IQ's are well below 100 and I am not embellishing. Some of the procedures I have to go through are completely worthless, they make the people inside feel better but actually serve no purpose. I'm curious, I walked into a very large financial firm last week with a bottle of water yet the TSA says I can't take it on a plane because it might be an explosive. The security in airports is fodder for another article. However if you look at the standards set by the TSA and actual security set up as you walk into a building, they never, ever jibe.
Security is important and is needed. However there are ways to have security that actually makes people secure without stomping on their rights and insulting their intelligence. I've had the benefit of seeing it first hand at some companies that really had to worry about security (such as Tobacco firms) and they did it right. With surveillance, strong command and control structure and infrastructure designed to be flexible enough to not impede business and the fourth ammendment but still ensure the safety of the people inside the building.
If I ask "Well how many bad things have actually been stopped by the rent-a-cops at the front of the building?" Here is what I get to listen to: "Well, it's probably thousands of crimes, we'll just never know because they all have to kept strictly confidential." Fascinating. I feel so much safer. In my experience in very big business the people that hide the metrics are typically the one's that have poor performance. Pretty much every time.
I've asked some of the firms I work with and they've said they need to bow to their security teams and it really depends on the building management. I rarely get a straight answer excpet that they'll get me a building pass so I can stroll through security like an employee.
I've made a few queries and was told (under the table) that the thought by the scumbag outsourced security firms is that this is "private property" and that the Bill of Rights more or less doesn't apply.
My concern is that my rights are violated every time I walk into a building. I was invited by my customers and I walk in as a strict law abiding American with the Bill of Rights behind, beside and in front of me.
I am tired of sacrificing my freedoms in the name of security. Hopefully the moron/rank amatuer security guy on 7th Avenue today will never lose his 4th ammendment rights either, he probably wouldn't know that they were gone anyway.
PS I took the shot at the top of a Tiki I saw in San Diego. I didn't need to go through any security to see it either. It was just out there. Anyone could have taken it but nobody did. Go figure.
PSS I know the 4th Ammendment applies to Government search and seizure. Let's face it; a right to privacy is something every American expects and demands. My privacy shouldn't be decided by the lowest bidder in a real estate security contract.
PSSS One more thing to think about, when we have this vast tract of high quality security folks deciding on who gets in and who doesn't with no oversight and no continuity (at the lowest cost per bid) how long does anyone think it will be before we have corporate entrances for staff, entrances for people that look "ok" and people that are questionable and may not fit in? Who fits that criteria and who decides?
How long before discrimation becomes privatized and outsourced?
When Barack Obama asks how many
people in his overflow audience are still undecided and a third of the people
raise their hands, it’s a sign that there is a hunger for new leadership but
that it won’t be easily satisfied.
Something is stirring all right. Voters
are paying attention. Young people are coming into the process. The electorate
is fed up and ready to invoke the prerogatives of citizenship to hold the
leadership to higher standards.
The textbooks tell us that’s exactly how it’s
supposed to work.
The Times notes the influx of younger voters into the campaign in it's lead story this morning. For me, that's the best thing about what's happening today - the hope for positive change that the shifting age demographic is bringing to politics. In other words, I'm hoping that less conservative younger people are replacing the older, more conservative generation that has given us 40 plus years of mostly Republican rule. I can hope, anyway.
Monday, January 7, 2008
PHOTO; Subterranean Penn Center - this was once an ice skating rink many years ago.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
I also managed to listen to a couple of the Sunday morning political shows. The most interesting thing I heard on one of the shows, the Chris Matthews Show, was that ten of his regular guests were polled and they all thought that Obama would be the Democratic presidential nominee. Myself, I think it's too early to write off Hillary. Anyway, it has been fun to observe the fallout from the Iowa caucuses. Obama really shook things up on the Democratic side. Huckabee's win also disrupted the best laid plans of Mitt the flip-flopper, which made my heart glad. This week comes New Hampshire. It will be fun to watch even though I don't like any of the leading candidates on either side of the aisle.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
In case you're wondering, no candidate, Democrat or Republican, has ever won his or her party's nomination after
finishing fourth in a contested Iowa caucus, or after winning as little as 13
percent of the vote. Yet this is "very good news for John McCain," according to
some of the nation's most powerful journalists, ignoring the fact that the only
way in which this is good news for McCain is that they keep saying it is good
news for McCain.
If the network news stars say it is so it must be so, right?
PHOTO: Philadelphia's Suburban Station, a deco masterpiece.
Friday, January 4, 2008
The Iowa primary represents a remarkable day in Black American history and
as an American I am deeply moved by the prospect of our first African-American
President. But as a queer I have to come to terms with the fact that as
President, an Obama
will not cross his power base and any hope of equal civil rights for queers
anytime in the near future was possibly run to ground last night in an Iowa
Don't forget, Obama sanctioned the inclusion of an anti-gay black clergyman as a part of his campaign. You can't be for social justice for gays and do something like that.
"I can't tell you how bad I feel for Senator Clinton tonight. I don't believe she
was ever really for this war. But she did -- and continued to do -- what she
thought was the politically expedient thing to eventually get elected. And she
was wrong. And tonight she must go to sleep wondering what would have happened
if she had voted her conscience instead of her calculator."
...and, Moore has an interesting question for Mr. Obama:
"...if you can, tell me why you are now the second largest recipient ofI don't feel bad for Hillary myself. She is firmly in the Clinton tradition, the same tradition that abandoned core Democratic Party principles under the guise of being "moderates," and using centrist-based triangulation when Bill was president. (Triangulation: that's when you stake out a fuzzy third position on an issue with lotss of generalities that allows you to pander to both sides on an issue by telling each what they want to hear, e.g., on gay marriage, Hillary is against it but she favors domestic partnerships at the state level.) She would be more of the same. Ugh!
health industry payola after Hillary. You now take more money from the people
committed to stopping universal health care than any of the Republican
As for Obama, he's a Kennedyesque figure and a powerful orator. However, he cannot bring himself to stand for full equality for gay men and lesbians, which leaves me with the feeling that for all of his fine talk, he's not ready to back it up with courageous stands for social justice. Like Moore, I have serious questions in my mind about Obama.
PHOTO: A locomotive projection on the wall of Grand Central Terminal - part of the holiday laser light show this year.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
With the potential of a truly fractured Democratic field, the one person
who could heal that wound and set the race on fire would be Al Gore. Untarnished
by the primary battles, redeemed both by his own successes and Bush's failed
presidency, with a cause that percolates down to 1st graders who go on nature
walks, and with a conviction not to be handled by "handlers" (who are killing
Hillary now, as they did Gore in 2000), Gore would be perfectly positioned to
run a winning fall campaign. Although Hillary herself would be loathe to
"release" her supporters to Gore, many of the super-delegates and a large
fraction of the actual delegates would nominate Gore in a heartbeat, and only
those states where the delegates are committed on the first ballot could be
Obama would have to win the Iowa caucuses tonight for this to happen, according to Abrams' scenario, starting a process that ends up with none of the Dems arriving at the convention with enough delegates to win the nomination. It's an interesting scenario. We'll have a better idea if it's actually possible after tonight.
PHOTO: The upper level tracks at AMTRAK's 30th Street Station
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Amtrak tickets are so expensive these days. It's to bad that this country has de-emphasized rail travel; and we continue to build and drive gas guzzling automobiles. Maybe if the price of gasoline increases dramatically in the Spring, as is forecast, this will finally begin to break the obsession that Americans have with their large, inefficient automobiles. We'll have to see.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
The age of Roosevelt was replaced by the age of Reagan which itself is
coming to an end. The age of Reagan was relieved only briefly by a rare period
of peace and prosperity in the 1990s. The brief Clinton era pursued "centrism"
at the cost of blurring the fundamental principles of the 20th century
Democratic party -- a sense of national community (Roosevelt), citizen duty
(Kennedy), and equality and justice for all (Johnson). Return to the age of
Reagan, under the current administration, destroyed the security alliances
established by Truman.
But who will return us to the values of the Age Of Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson? Mrs. Clinton? No. Obama? Maybe. Any Republican currently running for president? No.
Happy New Year to all!