Friday, September 30, 2011

"Christie Creme?"

Our governor continues to bask in the national spotlight merely by seeming to waffle on a campaign for president. He won't run unless he's absolutely confident he can win it all, the nomination &   defeating  Obama. That requires unity & money & a "fire in the belly." He has belly enough for a big fire. Right now I don't think he's convinced he can generate all of the three. But he sure does like the celebrity.

It won't do to call him childish names, as the kneejerks at Kos are: "Dough Boy" & "Christie Creme." It didn't work in Jersey & it won't work anywhere except, maybe, Eugene, Oregon or some other jogger's organic food paradise. It's dangerous to assume Christie's podium belligerence wouldn't  stand up well to Obama's famous cool. Jerseyans have been underestimating  Chris Christie since he was George W.'s pick for Jersey District Attorney. Whatever shenanigans he's accused of  committing while District Attorney are the sort of things that bore voters within 30 seconds.'

We have a government that can't fix the economy,  regulate banks,  end our wars, improve education, bring manufacturing jobs back to America, get immigration  under control, or make any sort of far-sighted policy, But the government endlessly nags Americans about our weight & what we eat. The cheerleader of the naggers: The svelte First Lady serving  her White House garden veggies at state dinners. Millions of Americans would  identify with a fat guy running for president.  & they wouldn't all be Republicans. Christie is comfortable in cities &  unlike most of the current Repug candidates (Herman Cain excepted) he doesn't fidget nervously  around African-Americans. If you walked him down a state fair midway, he would quite naturally arrive at the corn dog stand without a reminder from a campaign aide. Tacos, knishes, Swedish meatballs, ribs,  red beans & rice, Jambalaya, Ho fun noodles, spinach - pigeon pea dal, corned beef & cabbage, cannolis, he could shovel it all in with appreciative, guiltless gusto. Taste by taste, vote by vote.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bargain Man

Sheesh, I come home, there's two people I've never seen before by the door buzzers, I unlock the front door & they start following me in. I ask, "Who do you know here? " One of them mumbles something. I ask, "Are they answering the buzzer?" The guy mumbles again. I say, "I'm not letting you in,  the person you want to see hasn't let you in, & you don't live here." One guy was clutching the edge of door so I made it clear I would slam his fingers in  it if needed, & he let go. They didn't look dangerous, but they did look & act  sorta weird.

I had to go downtown to Radio Shack for a new mouse. I  look at stuff, but there's few bargains at Radio Shack.

Speaking of bargains, the Bargain Man store went out of business. Bargain Man had the most awesome inventory of utter crap, it was almost mind-boggling.  A "bargain" is something of reasonable quality for which you pay less than you might expect to pay. Nothing at Bargain Man was a "bargain" because you got what you paid for - crap, mostly made under what surely were slave labor conditions, much of which it was difficult to imagine who would buy it at all.

Bargain Man also sublet floor space for small shops run by caste-bound men from Gujarat working out their merchant dharma  selling gold jewelry, luggage & umbrellas. At least half the stores in downtown Elizabeth are dharmic imperatives.

Conditions looked right for a rainbow, but none sighted.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

All mimsy were the borogoves

“Is a title worth it?” she asked, rhetorically. “Does a title shackle a person? Are they someone like me who’s maverick? I do go rogue and I call it like I see it and I don’t mind stirring it up in order to get people to think and debate aggressively.”

“Is a title and a campaign too shackle-y?,” she continued. “Does that prohibit me from being out there, out of a box, not allowing handlers to shape me and to force my message to be what donors or what contributors or what pundits want it to be? Does a title take away my freedom to call it like I see it and to affect positive change that we need in this country? That’s the biggest contemplation piece in my process.”
WTF is Sarah Palin talking about?  If you read it very slowly, it begins to make sense. What is this language: go rogue, shackle-y, contemplation piece in my process?  Good heavens, the woman believes she's qualified to be president & she speaks Jabberwocky.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Harry Robinson Crew - Stompin' at the Savoy

From the 1962 album "With Mallets Aforethought!" Recorded in England.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Dad's only book

My dad authored a book,
The Company of Military Historians, Military uniforms in America: the first thirty years, index to the plates, published in 1979. 80 pages. Since the Company of Military Historians publishes collections of prints of soldiers from all sides in the Revolutionary & Civil Wars, drawn as historically accurate as possible in their uniforms, ordinance, & field gear, dad's book may have been a companion to the art folios.  I've never seen it. It must have been in his library, probably with a collection of CMH folios,  & should be in my sister's hands now that dad's second wife  passed away. It's a family treasure, for my niece & nephews.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Eatontown NJ

Las Vegas Motel

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Go to church or go to jail

Serve Time In Jail...Or In Church?

BAY MINETTE, Alabama --

Non-violent offenders in Bay Minette now have a choice some would call simple: do time behind bars or work off the sentence in church.

Operation Restore Our Community or "ROC"...begins next week. The city judge will either let misdemenor offenders work off their sentences in jail and pay a fine or go to church every Sunday for a year.

If offenders elect church, they're allowed to pick the place of worship, but must check in weekly with the pastor and the police department. If the one-year church attendance program is completed successfully, the offender's case will be dismissed.

Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland says it costs his department about 75 bucks per inmate per day. Rowland says the ROC program will be cost-effective and could change the lives of many people heading down the wrong path.

So far, 56 churches in North Baldwin County are participating in ROC.

Rowland says the program is legal and doesn't violate separation of church and state issues because it allows the offender to choose church or jail...and the church of their choice.
This is so wrong, so blatantly unconstitutional. The offender is given a choice only between church or jail. What if you have no church?  What if your religion is not represented? What if you're an atheist?  What if you're a wiccan solitary?  What if the offender is me, or you, &  we know it's nuts & wouldn't happen where we live?  Maybe ... just maybe .. it could pass constitutional muster if community service was the third option. The "state" is saying you observe an approved religion for one year or go to jail. Your case will be dismissed only if you go to church. But don't think this is some new right wing religion idea. It's the way these people are,  a small town in Alabama. But it's still so wrong that the first person to challenge it will find the ACLU paying legal costs. The town of Bay Minette, if it's too stubborn, will spend  thousands of dollars of taxpayer money defending this ridiculous policy, & lose.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

da Mets

The Mets finished the season with a road record of 43-38. Based on that number, one would imagine they had a winning home record with six home games left.  Their home record to date is an abysmal  31-44. If they'd won 43 games at home so far, not unreasonable even for a mediocre team, they'd be two games out in the Wild Card race.

Rookie Manager Don Mattingly is bringing in the Dodgers at about .500. He stepped into a nightmarish situation there.  It's presumed  by many that The Mets front  office is grooming feisty former Mets second baseman Wally Bachman for the manager job. But I think when  feisty Terry Collins is done - he's a good judge & motivator  of young ballplayers, The Mets will not be looking for another feisty,  & it wouldn't surprise me if Mattingly were offered the job, provided he improves the Dodgers next season.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Carl Lewis, Olympic medalist, political aspirant, spiritual advisor

In reversal, federal appeals panel decides Carl Lewis will not be on ballot for N.J. Senate

TRENTON — A federal appeals panel this morning reversed its decision from just one week ago and ruled former Olympic track and field star Carl Lewis will not be on the ballot for state Senate after all.
"This isn't about residency. It's about keeping intact their privilege and their entitlement. They never wanted this to be a race," he [campaign manaager Chris Walker] said.

"And it makes you wonder why. When Carl Lewis, who was inducted to the New Jersey Hall of Fame, who was welcomed in by Gov. Christie himself and has represented this country over 20 years, and now, when he wants to step into a different arena to raise the level of consciousness amongst people, you say no?"
Speaking of privilege & entitlement, I read the residency requirements & if they are constitutionally valid Carl doesn't  meet them.  He hasn't resided here four years. In 2009 he voted in California. I was surprised that any court sided with him. But he's Carl Lewis!  There must be more to being a state senator than I'd thought, considering all the money spent to keep Carl on or off the ballot.  It's not a celebrity office. Most people don't know which district they're in & who represents them. I can't recall the names of my assembly reps, although I can picture one of them, an overweight Hispanic woman.  My state senator, Ray Lesniak, resides part of the time a few blocks from here. The rest of the time he's at his NYC Soho loft, his million dollar bayside house at the shore, or Paris, France.  He's a lifelong bachelor.

You don't have to reside in Jersey or be among the living  to get into the Jersey Hall of Fame.  Is it a qualification for office?  Calling Bud Abbott (b. Asbury Park) & Lou Costello (b. Paterson).

What level of arrogance  permits a candidate's spokeperson to say Carl is here to "raise the level of consciousness among people"? If I want my consciousness raised I'll learn to meditate or take up pot smoking again.

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Troy Davis

Very saddened by the execution of Troy Davis.  As a citizen, one can agree the state should be able to execute humans on one's behalf, or not agree. I don't agree.

I wouldn't say I was certain Davis was innocent. I didn't read about any evidence that completely  exonerated him. But his arrest & trial, the investigation & prosecution, cast reasonable doubt all over his case.

We know innocent people have been executed because of the number of death row inmates exonerated through DNA evidence. If you reason that it's acceptable to execute the occasional innocent person in order to ensure the capital punishment of the guilty, you ought to ask yourself what percentage of innocent is acceptable?  Then  apply the standard to some situation in which you are the innocent person serving that purpose of   a supposed greater justice.  Say to cover up a faulty model of  radar gun, or an unreliable DWI test, or the profiling of dark-skinned people at police road checks, or even an inaccurate parking meter that gives 55 minutes for an hour worth of change.   All of which, by-the-way, have been taken to the courts & won by private citizens who had a lot less to lose than their lives. The radar gun did catch actual speeders, the DWI test nabbed some drunk drivers, the profiling caught some fugitives wanted on outstanding warrants, & you shouldn't wait until  the last minute to feed the parking meter. You're just the unlucky exception caught in the wheels of justice, so stiffen up & take it as a price of law & order.

It makes economic sense to abolish the death penalty.  It costs twice as much in basic expenses  to incarcerate a prisoner sentenced to death. The State pays for up to two decades of appeals  that can amount to millions of dollars  in legal fees for the inmate & the costs of upholding conviction.  The motives for fighting appeals aren't always to preserve justice; they may be to protect careers, cover up shabby police investigations, & prevent the exposure of  incompetent legal representation for poor people unable to afford  quality  criminal defense attorneys. Taxpayers pay less for life sentences.
An especially gruesome, heinous double murder is being tried in Connecticut right now. Home invasion, sexual assaults & murders of a mother &  her teen &  preteen daughters, the perps burned the house in an attempt to destroy  evidence. It's a death penalty crime if there ever was one. One murderer already convicted & sentenced to death,  the prosecution has a tight case against the other. But is this a  one--in-five, or one-in-ten example in terms of the level of brutality & the weight of evidence? A sociopathic racist was executed in Texas this week for dragging a black man behind a truck. No one seems to have protested that one. I'm saying that I would give even these vicious criminals life without parole if that's what it takes to keep one innocent person out of the execution chamber.

I don't like the company we keep among most active death penalty nations: China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia.  In the Americas, only the United States has carried out executions over the past two years.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If you pressed me to name which college football schools I favor, I'd say Penn State & Army.   I'm actually a casual & disinterested follower of college football. Any game is fine if I'm in the mood to watch & it's close. But  football is killing what is most likable about collegiate sports - tradition,  historic rivalries, regional conferences & competition.

I am a college basketball fan.  Football is undermining the Big East, arguably the best basketball conference in America, but the weakest of the conferences with an automatic BCS football bid.  There's two Big East schools in Jersey, one in New York City, one in Philly, & two - Syracuse & Notre Dame - with large alumni fan bases in the NYC metro area, The Big East Tournament, played at Madison Square Garden, has in some years been so exciting that it made the NCAA Tournament anti-climatic.

Syracuse & Pitt  have opted to join the ACC,  Sometimes Pitt  has a really good football team.  Syracuse hasn't been a power for a long time. Both have  great basketball teams year-after-year.

Briefly, it looked as if the Big East would crumble.  Rutgers & UConn would certainly receive invites from ACC, Rutgers possibly from Big Ten.

The Big East would still be a pretty good basketball conference if it dropped all the football schools. Assuming Notre Dame remains independent in football (the Irish have a very lucrative TV deal all to themselves), they stay. Plus St. John's, Georgetown,  Seton Hall,  Providence, Marquette, DePaul, & Villanova ('nova has a fledgling football program,  hoping to upgrade to BCS level but may now be having second thoughts.  That's 8 schools, back to the predominantly Catholic league it was at the beginning.  IF BE wanted to be larger, it could try to steal a school or two from Atlantic Ten,  Temple & Rhode Island would be good fits, especially the latter if UConn leaves BE.

But the fate of the Big East depended on what happened far away  in the Big 12 & PAC 12, conferences producing National Championship contenders every season.  If PAC 12  expanded to a superconference with four schools from Big 12,  the Big 12 would collapse,  creating a ripple effect as more Big East football schools sought the security of larger conferences,   the remaining Big East scavenging the ruins of Big 12.  PAC 12 wisely decided to stay a far west conference for now, Texas wouldn't compromise or share  its lucrative cable network, & the Big East stayed glued together, with one traditional football power nobody else wants, West Virgina, because it has a lousy media market. The Big East is also the only conference willing to let Notre Dame, with it's huge, exclusive TV contract,  stay independent in football. In all other sports from basketball to fencing, the Irish are a Big East school.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Count Basie - Reach Out, I'll Be There

Unsettling album jacket.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Grilled Cheese on Whole Wheat Bread Seasoned Peas & Carrots Jell-O

Elizabeth Board of Ed. president arrested on state charges of lying to obtain free federally subsidized lunches for her kids

ELIZABETH — The president of the Elizabeth Board of Education was arrested at her home early this morning on state charges of lying to obtain free federally subsidized lunches for her two children.

Also charged was the ex-wife of a school principal whose daughter was also received reduced-cost meals, along with the husband of another supervisor whose daughter had received free lunch under the program that helps feed the children of needy families.

Charged were Marie L. Munn, 46 who heads the Elizabeth school district; Angela Lucio, 35, the ex-wife of school principal Carlos Lucio; and Peter W. Abitanto, 42, the husband of Marlene Abitanto, the district’s supervisor of custodians, according to a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office. He said all three were charged with third degree theft by deception and third degree tampering with public records or information.
So pathetic. If what Munn claims is true - she wasn't aware her kids received subsidized lunches - there's some reckoning on the way for the Munn children, who either tossed  the lunches mom packed them or pocketed the money she gave them for lunch & not telling her. That's unlikely. This is just one of those perks politically-connected people thoughtlessly accept when they complacently believe they're invisible or protected from scrutiny. It's also the kind of chump change benefit real power disdains in order to play bigger games with important money. Munn is a gavel-whacker, as provincial as an Atlantic City convention in February or a $100-per-seat charity  dinner-dance at a  local restaurant, formal dress optional but there's a red carpet on the sidewalk.  The Star-Ledger knows where the real power is in Elizabeth's Board of Ed, & those men won't hesitate long before throwing Munn under the school bus. Any competent criminal defense lawyer can defend against & maybe even beat these charges, but it won't be cheap; it'll cost Munn far more than the $2,682 of grilled cheese, seasoned peas, & Jell-0 she's alleged to have stolen.

I'm sure the speculation around Elizabeth & Union County is that Munn, Abitanto, & Lucio aren't the intended quarry, but rather three  birds the attorney general's office wants to start  singing.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fort Monmouth NJ

Fort Monmouth guest house, Eatontown NJ

Most of Fort Monmouth is on a peninsula surrounded on three sides by tidal estuary & marsh.  Much of the marsh is now developed, the old dredged channels silted in.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fort Monmouth closes forever

Fort Monmouth closes to cut costs
EATONTOWN — Under an overcast sky that aptly reflected a somber mood, the retreat call was sounded and the American flag was lowered for the last time at Fort Monmouth today. And with the final 12 folds of Old Glory — before several hundred people on hand to pay their respects — came tears from some of the more hardened sort the fort produced.

A sad day.  Not only because of  Fort Monmouth's  great history in New Jersey, especially for development of radio communications & radar.    The Fort  was  a unique, compact, versatile property located between New York & Philadephia. I thought some use could found for it in the interest of "national security." * It also had a classic golf course - Suneagles,  a marina & a motel. The Army gave it away.  Maybe the Army is keeping the course. The Fort is best known as the home of CECOM (Communications & Electronic Command) & the Signal Corps. Research & development was based there, with several other sites  in Monmouth & Ocean Counties.

The Base Closing Commission  "said it would cost $782 million to move Fort Monmouth’s mission to Maryland. But by 2008, however, the cost had risen to $2 billion, the commission acknowledged."

My cousin's graduation from West Point was badly timed with the end of WWII - he missed the career-boosting combat experience he had expected to have. The atomic bomb ended the war  a year earlier than projected. His first posting  was with the Communications Corps. to occupied Japan, where he helped set up an FM radio network. Military FM was developed at Fort Monmouth, including a brilliantly-designed backpack transmitter you see in old war movies.  His first job was to  install a  relay station to feed radio transmissions to headquarters in Tokyo. The problem was that Mount Fujiyama was in the way of the FM line--of-sight signal. Supposedly, it couldn't be done, but he was a green 2nd Lt. &, as he said, telling me this story,  "You're ordered to do it, you damn well better do it." So, in desperation,  he calculated some angles, crossed his fingers, & successfully bounced the signal off Mount Fujiyama into Tokyo.  Fort Monmouth was his command base. He was assigned there for a year in the 1950's, but he was  frequently in touch with it throughout his career.  I visited the Fort while he was there, don't recall much about it..

Around the time my cousin was in Japan, an Army team based at Fort Monmouth, Project Diana, successfully bounced a radar signal off the moon, from  an antenna built near the Fort in Belmar.

* The Fort closing had been talked about for a decade before the decision was made in 2005. After 9/11 I figured the Army would want to keep it, given it's proximity to New York..


Friday, September 16, 2011

Forward, to the past

Michigan House votes to ban domestic partner benefits

I don't get this.  For the past year, national polls measuring views on full marriage equality, when the choices are simply yes or no, come up about evenly divided. Northeast & West Coast are more in favor than South & Midwest.  But when there are three choices; full marriage equality, domestic partnerships / civil unions,  or no recognition,  around  a whopping 70% of Americans favor some kind of legal recognition for gay & lesbian couples. The hinge remains the word marriage.  In Michigan, the legislature is acting against the preferences of a large majority of its constituents.

 Michiganders & Americans support basic legal rights & protections for same sex couples. Approving a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man & a woman, as Michigan did,  doesn't change that. A lot of straight people, mainly over the age of 40,  have problems applying the word  marriage to same sex couples.  Michigan voted against gay marriage, not against civil unions, & if they were polled today  it's  what the polls would indicate.  Most Americans by large margin  want same sex couples recognized in some way  as legitimate households, if not as husband & husband or wife & wife.  True, Michigan has some very rural districts. In New Jersey, I doubt if  any Republican has been elected to the statehouse with a mandate to roll back Jersey's civil union laws (despite what a few of them may believe), as he or she did not win  election  based on that issue.  I suspect the same applies for most Republican legislators in Michigan.  A large majority of Jerseyans support our civil union  legislation, & there's been remarkably little complaint about it.  It went into effect, we accepted it.

If there's a problem in Michigan defining a domestic partnership, if the state civil service commission  has defined it in such a way that it  could result in an abuse of benefits by couples that are not really committed "partners," the state legislature should deal with that matter & tighten the eligibility requirements with some stronger contractual standards, not use it as an excuse for homo-bigotry.

Unless The United States morphs into a theocratic police state, always a possibility if we stay on the road we're traveling,  the next few generations of Americans  will be repealing all these anti-marriage equality laws & amendments, except  in Mississippi.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

We're "The Garden State," really

N.J. state Senator asks Gov. Christie to veto $420K 'Jersey Shore' production tax credit

TRENTON —A Democratic state Senator and a national coalition of Italian Americans are calling upon Gov. Chris Christie to block a tax credit awarded Wednesday to the production company of the hit MTV television show “Jersey Shore.”

“It is disparaging to Italian Americans. He should veto it, ” said state Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex), a frequent critic of the show who supports the film tax credit but said the state should not reward a television show that paints the state in negative light.

I went to high school in Jersey with dozens of people like the cast of Jersey Shore, & to be fair only some of them were of Italian descent. Maybe other Jerseyans have different experiences, like the state depicted in the slick magazine New Jersey Monthly. My guess is that Jersey Shore has brought far more than $420,000 into our economy during its four season run, with a fifth recently wrapped. Tax credits are given for that purpose, & if the recipient delivers, we have no gripe. No doubt Mr. Good Italian-American, State Senator Joe Vitale complained long & loud about The Sopranos, too. The Sopranos,  one of the best TV shows in television history, received no tax credits. I suppose Boardwalk Empire, being "historical," isn't bad for the state's image, although the basics of the show are true enough. We Jerseyans are intrigued by  our old corrupt political bosses, like Nucky Johnson.

It's ridiculous how touchy some people are about the state's image, as if one could control it. So let's hide the dying & bankrupt city of Camden, our honky tonk boardwalks, our obese governor, our current corrupt political machines, the fact that we suffer massive flooding in both cities & suburbia after heavy rainfalls, the presence of a dozen ethnic varieties of organized crime, & we'll henceforth be known only for restored Victorian mansions, upscale restaurants, Bruce Springsteen, The Pine Barrens, some pretty lighthouses, the new & sure-to-be fabulous Atlantic City Casino District designation that pretends it isn't attached to the rest of Atlantic City, Jersey Fresh produce, & a handful of remaining picturesque dairy farms.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bullhorn Day

A day to read this: Casualties of the September 11 attacks. A demographic breakdown, not individual names.

It's 9/14/01. three days after the terrorist attacks. America is in shock. So is New York City & the metropolitan area. But New York isn't listening to the rest of America. & the rest of America isn't really listening to New York. Watching,  not listening.

The political face of New York is Mayor Rudy Giuliani. On 9/14 President Bush comes to town. He hasn't been  a factor so far in the post-attack consciousness of New Yorkers. He wasn't there on 9/11 & he wasn't leading. Giuliani was.  Giuliani has been bluntly honest about the scope of the destruction & the security measures put in place.

New Yorkers are confused & fearful. Will there be more attacks? They're also in motion. It's an international city comprised of an extraordinary variety of people, many of whom detest each other yet coexist peacefully for the most part. They're proud of this. It's what the hinterlands don't like about New York.  A tremendous amount of effort is directed from all over the city toward smoking Ground Zero. Already one can feel movement to begin healing this tremendous  rent in the fabric of of the city. The four outer boroughs & Manhattan above 14th Street are untouched. New York is not a city that can put up a "Closed" sign for more than few days.

There's anger, yes, & some anti-Muslim & anti-Arab attitudes. Most New Yorkers don't feel comfortable with this, at least not yet. Maybe time for that later, time for hate. For now, what you feel out of New York is mostly sadness, resolve,.  & compassion.

On 9/14 families of the missing are still posting & passing out "Have you seen?" fliers in an increasingly pathetic hope that loved ones may be unidentified in hospitals or traumatized into silence & hiding.  The workers in The Pit toil on, exhausted, determined,  frustrated. They know  the truth. They don't want to say the truth. They can't admit it yet & no one expects them to. Mostly dust & fragments. This isn't earthquake rubble. It's only  a matter of timing, how long before announcing the DNA experts are coming in.

Your son, daughter, wife, husband, father, mother, friend, are gone.

On 9/14/01 President Bush goes down into the pit & is handed a bullhorn.  Here is the transcript of that visit.
President Bush: Thank you all. I want you all to know -- it [bullhorn] can't go any louder -- I want you all to know that American today, American today is on bended knee, in prayer for the people whose lives were lost here, for the workers who work here, for the families who mourn. The nation stands with the good people of New York City and New Jersey and Connecticut as we mourn the loss of thousands of our citizens

Rescue Worker: I can't hear you!

President Bush: I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people -- and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!

Rescue Workers: [Chanting] U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

President Bush: The nation -- The nation sends its love and compassion --

Rescue Worker: God bless America!

President Bush: -- to everybody who is here. Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for makin' the nation proud, and may God bless America.

Rescue Workers: [Chanting] U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
No one remembers what President Bush said. He had nothing of consequence to say. Amazing if you think about it. What America heard was "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!"

Ground Zero workers did what one would expect them to do; vent patriotically.  But the President himself needed to take a more balanced tone. For the second time in four days he failed to establish his own leadership & voice,  gave the situation over to others.

We needed to step back & be calm. We needed to follow the conspiracy back to its roots & follow the funding of the conspiracy, which would have taken us beyond bin Laden & the Taliban. To where? We needed better intelligence & diligent international police work before we mobilized our armed forces for invasion.

On 9/14 the 9/11 attacks became not a global tragedy, & not local tragedies, & not even personal tragedies, but a collective national insult. It was too soon. We decided it was another Pearl Harbor before we certain who had attacked us.

On 9/14 the Bush administration began beating the war drums. Our leaders had the balls to ask young people to die by the thousands for America, in Afghanistan, which we expected,  & in Iraq by turning Saddam Hussein into  Saddam bin Laden,  but they lacked the courage to ask Americans to pay for it. In this President Obama is not that different from President Cheney Bush. The wars bankrupted us. Our financial institutions didn't give a shit; there were fabulous profits to be earned.

When we finally cornered bin Laden a decade later, we dealt with the man who had the answers to many of our questions by putting a bullet in his head.

America should have listened to New York City. All of New York City.

"Hate is too great a burden to bear," said Dr. King. Yet for a decade we have preferred a generalized hatred for Arabs (Saudis excepted), Muslims of all kinds, & a "War on Terror" (as if terror had one source we could conquer - Norway should teach us something about that), & the creation of a national security state  to reforming our financial institutions, repairing our infrastructure, developing a sound energy policy, & a thousand other challenges that would give us the kind of bright, hopeful future that would absorb any blows terrorists directed at us, & undermine their credibility & appeal around the world. The world can plainly see that we are becoming less & less of what we  claim to be.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My sister's birthday.  Of my three siblings she's the only b-day I remember. although once again I procrastinated on sending a snail mail card, which she much prefers to an e card. Jean is computer-literate, but the PC & social networking aren't the focus of her existence.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The best part of "I told you so"

Back in a post titled Sturm und Drang I wrote about the jerk who parked a leaky illegal moped in the building during Hurricane Irene. When I first saw the machine outside  I said the cops would eventually confiscate it, or confiscate it & write at least four summonses, each costing  $200 or more, & named them. I said if he was lucky, the city attorney might drop three if he plead out to one & paid the fine in cash. The knucklehead said cops had seen him driving it & did nothing. I said, "Do you see any electric or gasoline scooters around town anymore?"  But he's  the kind of guy who never says "No" to the voice of his inner asshole. After the Irene incident I gave him the cold shoulder & complained to the landlord.

Then I noticed that when he was hanging outside on the stoop, which he does for many hours each day,  he wouldn't even look at me as I went in & out of the building, total eye aversion, like a guilty little kid. I never saw the moped again.  I figure he either busted it completely or, even better, the cops took it. The latter  would make me in his mind an eerily prescient person.  The best part of "I told you so" is never saying it or even insinuating it.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

The only poem I wrote about 9/11

Martin of Tours, as the Burning Towers Fall

When I turn again, witnessing the horror,
When I turn again, sharing the grief,
When I turn again, bearing the suffering,
When I turn again, my thorny crown blooming roses,
I turn away from retribution.

Demonic Powers! I embrace you until death!
Draw closer to me now, taste my love.

The only poem I wrote about 9/11. It's difficult for me to recapture the emotional state that produced it. But I was strongly resisting letting media or politicians define the meaning of 9/11 for me. Something evil had happened. Evil is not destroyed by shooting at it, by imprisoning it, by executing it. It is as at best only constrained. In that sense, evil's power is equal to love. But evil is destroyed by love. This is a profoundly disturbing truth, because who believes he or she has love strong enough to conquer evil? No, our human  inclination is to pick up a weapon & try to slay it. To do that we have to make someone or something the embodiment of evil, & ourselves  warriors for good.

I'm not naive. I understand what it takes to protect & preserve one's self, one's family, one's country.  One may ask for God's blessings in battle. But  when Martin of Tours took his first steps toward sainthood (makes no difference to me  if these stories are legends or facts), he made himself unfit to be an officer in the Roman army.

This poem is consistent with what I've always expressed in my poetry. But the voice here is one I hadn't used before & haven't since.  It was published at the now-defunct website Poets Against the War (mainly Iraq).  I was never comfortable  placing it in that context.  I had to use the Wayback Machine to recover it.


Jersey City NJ

Ellis Island & Lower Manhattan from Liberty State Park

Were the Twin Towers anyone's  favorite skyscrapers?  I don't see how. They weren't beautiful.   What made them impressive was their location right next  to Hudson River  & sheer gargantuaness. They dwarfed everything in downtown Manhattan. But I never tired of the view after WFMU moved to Jersey City in 1999 a couple of blocks from the waterfront.  I saw them at all times of day & night & in all kinds of weather. When I drove to Jersey City, taking the east extension of the Turnpike across across Newark Bay, the highway  made a swing left & the entire Manhattan skyline came into view, plus the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island.  That was a view I loved to show visitors. By train, I changed from NJ Transit to PATH in Newark,  the train dipped underground at Journal Square in Jersey City. I got off the train at Exchange Place, rode a long escalator or an elevator to the surface, & there were Hudson River & the Towers. At the distance they loomed overhead.  The sight never failed to stop me for a moment before I walked up Montgomery Street to the station.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Toward the Unknown Region

Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Words by Walt Whitman

DAREST thou now O soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?

No map there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.

I know it not O soul,
Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us,
All waits undream'd of in that region, that inaccessible land.

Till when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us.

Then we burst forth, we float,
In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them,
Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil O

Flight 93

If I could be anywhere for the 9/11 observances this weekend, it would be at the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, PA.  There were uncounted acts of valor on 9/11, most unknown to us. But these 40 passengers & crew we do know. We know what they did. They refused to be victims. They all died - they had no chance -  but only they, of all the passengers on the four hijacked  jets, were given the opportunity to decide the circumstances. They wouldn't die crashing into the Capitol or White House.

Flight 93 took off from Newark International Airport. I lived six miles away directly in line with the runway. It took off at 8:42, 4 minutes before Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower. I may have heard it fly overhead as I was  watching Good Morning, America, , just before the first news bulletin.

Flight 93 poses several what ifs? of 9/11. What if the hijackers of Flight 93 had not inexplicably delayed their takeover of the plane until passengers learned of the fates of the other three jets? What if the terrorists on any of the other three jets had also delayed their hijackings?

The courage of the passengers on Flight 93, their determination to stop the terrorists' plans, is one of the great heroic moments in American history, which is filled with such moments. We can believe that passengers on the other three jets would have done the same. The 40 people commemorated at Shanksville represent not only  all the acts of valor that happened on 9/11, but also all the acts of valor that would have happened had people been given the chance to perform them.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Before 9/11/01

Strangely, I was somewhat emotionally & intellectually "prepared" for 9/11, so far as that was possible.  I was coming out of a couple of very rough years & had reached a little bit of routine & stability during that summer. I had two pleasurable on-going projects - therapy. I was  methodically listening through Beethoven's symphonies & string quartets, which I hadn't been able to enjoy for the 18 years I was doing radio shows at WFMU.  Free form radio  had required that I find & consume mass amounts of unfamiliar music, & the sabbaticals I'd taken from radio during that time had usually been for the purpose of stockpiling.

I'd also reread some of Paul Tillich's existential theology for dummies books, & had tackled his more difficult History of Christian Thought.   It was one those books where I had to read some paragraphs four or five times & move on hoping maybe they'd eventually make sense. I'd also read theologian Walter Wink's The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium, a fairly radical examination of the politics & agencies of domination in which Wink updated difficult (& I had previously considered quaint) concepts of angels & demons as psychic & emotional energies generated by institutions, communities, families. These energies could be positive or negative but are usually a mixture of both. Some are darkly mindless & oppressive. I'd also read a wonderful brief history of progressive religion in America, a title & author I just can't recall, too bad because I'd like to read it again. It was very refreshing to read a counter-history to the revisionist shit churned out by the religious right, which had opposed just about everything good & just & enlightened in American history. I was reading about the natural history of New Jersey, the earth underfoot, the beaches & marshes.  I was trying to ground myself in arts & ideas that had been tested & had  endured.

The upshot is that the events of 9/11, shocking as they were,  were not for me primarily political or nationalist, they were not Pearl Harbor or Fort Sumter,  which had announced themselves to wise observers long before they actually occurred.  The 9/11 attacks were the latest expression of the irrational, demonic horrors the human race has always generated, & which are in a very real sense why the highest forms of the great religions exist - to help us understand & cope, & see through & into their true nature, not to wrap us in ignorance & superstition.  Like everyone else, I knew the day would be a singular, life-changing passage. It was, even more so than the assassination of John Kennedy (which I experienced as young adolescent, & quickly put behind me).  For all the human tragedy & suffering, 9/11 was very much about symbols. I've never believed the conspirators cared how many Innocent people they murdered, 1,000 or 100,000. That was incidental to their goals. I don't believe they intended to completely knock down the Twin Towers. I believe they wanted two jagged, smoking, half-destroyed  structures in the New York skyline. I believe the complete collapse of the Towers foiled them. There was nothing left to photograph, no strong propaganda image, no destruction of symmetry.  The art of Islam is very big on symmetry, on abstract completeness. It's not difficult to imagine that a radical Muslim would consider the Twin Towers the epitome of western arrogance.  They would not like the design & meaning of the Pentagon, either. What happened to the Pentagon was more what they were after. The valor of Flight 93 passengers prevented an attack on the Capitol or White House, we're not sure. I don't intend this coldly, but  9/11 was planned as global theater. It was staged for television.  At Pearl Harbor, the Japanese wanted to sink America's Pacific carrier fleet & paralyze our war efforts for the minimum two years it would take to rebuild.  It was a practical military strategy, & it failed by luck on our part.  Al-Qaeda had no army, no navy, no air force. They did it with only 19 suicidal fanatics. That was their message to us.

Those of us fortunate not to have lost loved ones on 9/11, or been present at the scenes of death & destruction - I don't need to recall the images burned into my mind & yours, they were more traumatic in person  - were able to distant ourselves ever so slightly, by one method or another. One had to do it, or risk succumbing to madness. New York City didn't go mad.   America did.

The pity is that in  the aftermath of 9/11 America was not guided by the responses & attitudes  & spirit of New Yorkers & those who know New York City & the metropolitan area.  But that's for another post about 9/14.

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Lost Decade

I know it's unpopular to say, but one lesson of 9/11 is that it demonstrated we probably couldn't have handled another major terrorist attack.  It showed we  don't have the cool or resiliency or long view of the British. We panicked, & badly. We're still isolationists at heart. We spent  trillions of dollars & thousands of lives & put our Constitution at risk  because we thought 19 lunatics with a whack religious belief were capable of tearing down our civilization.  Our response was to start tearing it down ourselves. We became enamored of scientific & historical  ignorance. We worshiped  ideology even as we fought Islamic ideologues & let homegrown ideologues paralyze our government. We fought a bunch of  secretive, conspiratorial medievalists with the full brunt of our military power, cost no object,   as if they possessed armies & navies & air forces. We  were so frightened that we handed over our government to a cabal of international bankers & militarists & let them drain our treasury, kill our young people, & ruin our economy. Then we blamed it on Social Security, Medicare, teachers,  science, gays out of the closet,  the old standby of commies in the closet, anyone & anything  except following the money, which we should have done beginning 9/12/01. Meanwhile, Germany, China, India, Brazil, & a bunch of other powerhouse nations naturally took advantage of our obsession with Muslims & willingness to bankrupt ourselves & undermine our own Constitution. Our President  advised us ignore the wars as much as we could & shop our way out of crisis. Then millions of formerly middle class Americans couldn't afford to buy anything. There was no back up plan.

I don't think I've ever said anything more cynical than that anyone who supported the excessive measures we took & the endless war we've waged in response to 9/11 & failed to personally profit materially from them is an All-American sucker. Just ask the folks who turned the redevelopment of Ground Zero into a multi-billion dollar white collar criminal enterprise,  passed the outrageous costs on to everyone else as toll & transit fare increases - lying about why those hikes were necessary. Instead of going to jail they get  to stand on the podium on Sunday, weeping crocodile tears.  But a tiny slice of the 9/11 bonanza.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The weather for the past month really hasn't been good. Most years, the week after Labor Day is terrific, a great Jersey shore week if you want to avoid crowds & get off-season discounts.

I ordered a new printer & an answering machine. With the printer, I tried to balance ink costs with a few functions I absolutely wanted, without spending much, & I chose a model with far more positive than negative geek & amateur reviews.  You just have to hope the machine isn't too cranky & that the self-cleaning doesn't eat up the colored inks. They're gonna get you on ink no matter what  the projected cost-per-copy is.  That's the game.  I haven't  had a printer for a long time. My old answering machine lasted over 20 years & suddenly began acting crazy. Hardly anyone uses answering machines anymore, there's only a couple on the market. I wouldn't need one, except that my phone is also connected to the downstairs intercom & door buzzer, I have no way of telling intercom from phone call without picking up or screening the call.  Of course, there are a number of idiots in this (or any) building who'll buzz in anyone. When the Watchtower people knock, my first reaction is to want to ask, "Who the hell let you in? Because I know I didn't."

Also ordered Adele Kenny's new book of poems. When one's poet friends have "real" books published nowadays (rather than self-printed chapbooks - see above printer), you should buy it if you want to support their art & can afford it.  Poets can't afford to give away dozens of copies just because you happen to know them. Poets are lucky if they find publishers that  cover printing costs & do some promotion. I used to receive lots of "review" copies when even small publishers allocated a substantial number for that purpose. No more. A small volume of poems in  a hard copy is a work of art, far nicer than downloading an e book. Only over the past few years have I come to appreciate Adele's classiness, her fine taste, & her Franciscan spirituality.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


Only days after Hurricane Irene floods subsided, two days after President Obama visited flood-ravaged areas of Paterson & Wayne, New Jersey is receiving a day-long drenching, an approaching cold front drawing moisture from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, which is headed northeast up the Appalachians. Though far offshore, Hurricane Katia is expected to kick up heavy surf.

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Monday, September 05, 2011

The Things We Did Last Summer

I am the Bard of Bennies, the Prince of Shoobies. My grandmother rode trains from Philly to Atlantic City in 1920. My grandfather worked on the Million Dollar Pier. My aunt bought a bungalow in Somers Point before WWII & moved there. My brother married a girl from Margate. The spawn of my clan is spread from the Banks of the mucky Manasquan to the swampy backwaters of Great Egg Harbor.

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Sunday, September 04, 2011

Beach Haven NJ

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Saturday, September 03, 2011

Watching the last part of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a movie I found tedious  & somewhat stupid  when it was new. Of movies Spielberg himself directed, I liked Dual, Sugarland  Express, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, most of Saving Private Ryan, Don't like John Williams' music, either.

I like many of the silly movies he produced, by other directors.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Phone message today from someone asking if I had anything appropriate for her to include in a 9/11 memorial reading. I do not have anything "appropriate" in the sense she means. I wrote one short poem in response to 9/11 & there is nothing in it of eulogy, elegy,  of comfort. It is about demonic evil, & madness.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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