Thursday, January 31, 2008

An unaffiliated constituent

I'm an "unaffiliated" voter. I haven't voted in a primary in years. There have been two contested local Democratic primaries since I've been in Elizabeth, one for mayor & one for ward council rep. The mayor, who I generally like, I judged in no imminent danger requiring my vote. My councilman was an entrenched leftover of an old defeated Democratic machine, but he was attentive to ward issues, while the challenger, a former library director, struck me as a party functionary who wouldn't open his peep between elections. So I skipped that, the challenger won the primary by a single vote, I voted for him in the general, & indeed he's completely disappeared as expected.

There only two issues I'd like to take up with my council rep. The first is that I want a police patrol car passing this corner every night of the week. But that would involve a level of police management I haven't seen in this city. It would be pointless for me to mention that some years ago Rahway improved patrol coverage in one month by promoting to chief someone with professional administrative training. Presumably, all the new chief did was restructure the patrol routes & beats & then tell his cops they damned well better do them rather than meeting in the Italian Club parking lot for long chats on quiet evenings.

The other suggestion is for the Public Library to rotate large print & childrens' books through the branches rather than letting them gather dust in the main library. The problem with this is the library assigns books permanently to the main building & branches & marks them accordingly with an indelible ink stamp. I say that computers make this stamping unnecessary, since patrons search for books, & librarians check them in & out, on the computer. The books are really inventoried, assigned, & tracked on the computer, not with the stamp that says, "Elmora Branch." Move a book, change the location on the computer, that's all. Oh, you troublesome unaffiliated constituent!

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The things we did last summer

we'll remember all winter long:
TAMPA, Fla. - Two Egyptian college students arrested near a South Carolina Navy weapons station last year were carrying low-grade fireworks, as they claimed, not the dangerous explosives as charged by federal prosecutors, the FBI has determined.

Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed, 26, and Youssef Samir Megahed, 21, have been in jail since sheriff's deputies found what they called bomb-making materials in the trunk of their car during a traffic stop near Charleston, S.C.
The FBI report said the items found in the trunk of the car - PVC pipe containing a mixture of sugar, potassium nitrate and cat litter - are ingredients for a "pyrotechnic mixture" that burned but didn't explode in tests.

"Simply put, based on the FBI expert testing, the PVC pipes found in the trunk of the vehicle were harmless pyrotechnic materials similar to those found in fireworks and road flares," wrote public defender Adam Allen in a motion asking a judge to reconsider letting Megahed out on bail.
Still problematic for Mohamed is a video found on a laptop in the car in which, prosecutors contend, he demonstrates how to convert a remote-control toy into a detonator for a bomb. According to an FBI affidavit, he told authorities that he made the video "to assist those persons in Arabic countries to defend themselves against the infidels invading their countries."

Besides the explosives charge, Mohamed faces a terrorism-related count of demonstrating how to use a destructive device for violence. According to the FBI, the laptop also contained stored information on building destructive explosives. Bullets and gun-cleaning kits also were found in the car, the FBI said.

Allen contends Megahed didn't know anything about the information on the laptop or the items in the trunk of the car Mohamed was driving when he was stopped for speeding. Allen said the students were on an innocent road trip to Sunset Beach, N.C., which was the destination programmed into the GPS unit in the car.
There's enough evidence to prove they're stupid, not that it's illegal in America, or uncommon among south Florida college students. It's reasonable to wonder why anyone in the south needs to construct their own fireworks. Mohamed is here on a student visa, & he fired an expensive lawyer the Egyptian Consulate had hired for him. Megahed has a green card & lives with his family. Since the Feds have weak cases, these two knuckleheads ought to be given bail & whispered advice from two governments that they will not be prevented from purchasing & using one-way tickets to Egypt. Rights? Sure, you got rights. But we have enough problems. Save us the effort & expense of staging a judicial spectacle in an election year. If you stay & fight, good luck finding an impartial jury.
The midway and the fun, the kewpie dolls we won,
The bell I rang to prove that I was strong;
The things we did last summer we'll remember all winter long.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I'm disappointed

Admittedly, I'm a the-glass-is-half-empty kind of person except when it comes to unfamilar music, Jersey diners, & southern libruls, which I approach with habitual optimism & hope regardless of many past, deep disappointments. The '06 elections & President Monkeybrain's unpopularity did not instill in me a conviction that the Democrats could occupy the White House merely by nominating a candidate who could string words together into coherent sentences. Every election is a unique equation. No one should run for elected office with a secure belief that the conditions existing at the beginning of the campaign will hold until Election Day. More often than not those conditions do hold, especially in local races. But it's an inflexible & foolish strategy.

I am not pleased with John Edwards leaving the presidential race today. I didn't realistically expect him to make it to the convention given his percentages, but I wanted him to roll the dice on Super Tuesday & let his supporters nationwide have our say. Media gives Edwards' exit more importance than it ever gave his candidacy. I think his presence balanced the see saw of Clinton & Obama, both of whom would carry obvious handicaps into the general election. More importantly, he set the bar high on opposition to the Iraq War & on support for health care, the working poor, veterans, labor unions, & other traditional Democratic social justice issues, & the other candidates had to jump higher as a result. But in a primary race, there isn't a whole lot of space to move around between Clinton's old Democrats & Obama's new thing style. The bigshots are choosing sides & they're not choosing John Edwards. I thought Edwards was the only candidate who could put Tennessee, Arkansas, & Louisiana into play in November. His populist message was substantial, endearingly Democratic, & appealing to independent voters. I also think that progressive southerners still arrive at their views through a different process & with deeper insight than yankees or Californians. John Edwards didn't cynically change his positions; he had a series of profound epiphanies.

Thompson is gone. Giuliani is gone, thank heavens, although there was so much more America should have learned about "America's Mayor" before he quit; voters felt dirtied enough by what they did learn. Huckabee's appeal is as narrow as his theology. Ron Paul is the screwballs' screwball. Which leaves McCain & Romney. So the general election is now reduced to four possible matchups. Don't overestimate the impact of the vice presidential candidates, they rarely have any. No Dem VP can rescue Hillary from "Billary" & "icy bitch" or Obama from "Obama-Osama" & that other word never said in polite company. Because that's what lies ahead for Democrats. The Repugs run campaigns on two levels; one has to look into the ugliest places to find the lower one. I hope Hillary & Barack are prepared for the worst. I hope each of them has thought far enough ahead to have a map with 270 Electoral votes worth of blue states.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

seven or eight

Michael Abramowitz wrote this yesterday in his WaPo column:
Today, the president is getting little credit for improved security in Iraq, as the public increasingly focuses on a struggling U.S. economy.

That is the problem Bush faces as he prepares to deliver his seventh and probably final State of the Union address tonight.
Probably? Does Abramowitz suspect something?

Actually, the SOTU address is a flexible matter according to the Constitution & as explained at The American Presidency Project. GWB has delivered 8, but the first was billed as a "Budget Message." Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Ford, & Carter gave one just prior to leaving office. Reagan passed on his 8th but delivered an Oval Office farewell address.

Giving Bush "credit" for improved security in Iraq is like giving an arsonist credit for calling the fire department.
Margaret Truman Daniel, daughter of President Harry S. Truman, died at age 83. An intelligent, talented, attractive woman. Sixty years ago, her father desegregated the armed forces by executive order. It took several more years, constant pressure from civil rights organizations, & the Korean War to kick the services into compliance, but it happened.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Boop Boop A Doop

I made a mistake when I passed up the plastic talking Betty Boop on my way out of of 7-11 yesterday; three models including Betty wearing a sexy bathing suit, in a little box with heart lollipop, $3.49. Those will sell fast, I told myself.

Had to post this photo, a wink & a smirk. Like we just got snapped with a wet towel in the boys locker room.

Oy I'm becoming a political blogger

Ted Kennedy is such a powerful, entrenched senator that he risks little by endorsing Obama. What's surprising is that he's handing out an endorsement at all. It seems Bill Clinton pushed Ted to it. Bill's original role in the campaign was as a money-raiser & all around rah-rah guy. That was back when the Clinton campaign believed Obama would've been pushed aside by now, marginized not specifically for inexperience or race, but through lack of votes & money, giving Hillary a clear run through Super Tuesday when she'd wrap it up. As the partisan Bill Clinton re-emerged, writing his own script, he pissed off Ted, who never thought much of Bill's centrism anyway. The Clintons have no one to blame but themselves. Will it make any difference? We'll see.

Our memory of John F. Kennedy is colored by an alternative timeline where he doesn't get murdered. In that timeline, he stomps Goldwater, wins a clear mandate, then accomplishes everything Lyndon Johnson does except ratchet up the Vietnam War. I don't buy it. JFK didn't have LBJ's giant ambition of completing The New Deal with the Great Society. He was every bit the anticommunist Lyndon was. & he didn't have Johnson's bullying, arm-twisting political muscle or insight into the white reactionary mind (which Johnson knew could often be bought off). I remember JFK mostly as a classy president who talked a good game but had the fighting style more of a counterpuncher. I was a kid, not deeply interested or informed. Kennedy was only 4 years younger than Nixon, so the '60 election was a passing of the torch no matter who won it. That generation kept the White House until Bill Clinton, 32 years. The "lost generation" is that of Ted Kennedy & John McCain, born during the Great Depression, coming of age in the 1950's, just before Elvis. I've never trusted the non-swingin' middlebrow music of that bunch; Johnny Ray, Patti Page, Eddie Fisher, Guy Mitchell, enjoyable only if you listen to it from the margins of the era's jazz, rhythm & blues, & country-western.

We have a primary here next week, & not a winner-takes-all. Conceivably, Hillary could "win" but pick up a disappointing number of delegates. The Hispanic vote counts for something in Jersey; they're the largest voting demographic in my city, anchor the city's middle class, they trust Sen. Bob Menendez, a Clinton supporter, & I think they'll go overwhelmingly for Hillary. My vote goes to John Edwards. I reject the either/or calculations of a two person race at this time. I have to vote on that basis every November when the regular Dem party stacks the ballot with "it's my turn" players & hardly any of them know when it's time to leave the game & go sit on the bench.

I'll skip tonight's State of the Union address. I detest Bush & his speaking style. Can't tell the difference between nuance & clumsiness in his voice. Takes only five minutes to read the transcript.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Belvidere NJ

Belvidere is a little town in western Jersey on the Delaware River, so the 24 hour Greyhound Bus rest stop & snack bar didn't just feel like the middle of nowhere; it was. I've stumbled off a long distance bus into a joint like this for 20 minutes at 3 am.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

what the...?

"Lead Photo" on my Yahoo home page has the headline,"Obama wins South Carolina Democratic primary" next to a two day old photo of Mitt Romney & John McCain.

Astounding victory, fine speech by Obama, great turnout. Add John Edwards' disappointing 18% to Obama's 55% & the rejection of Hillary (& Bill) by SC Democrats is more than emphatic. It'll bump Barack for sure. But..

South Carolina is a Repug presidential state. Democrats there don't even need to show up in November for all the difference it'll make in the Electoral College. Super Tuesday has broader demographics, if you get the meaning. Which is why Hillary just shrugged & kept going. The Clintons head to their strengths now; a national campaign geared to win delegates rather than single state media showcases. The new Democratic voters registering in record numbers are not doing it to jump on bandwagons. They're excited by what's happening in the Democratic Party. All three remaining candidates are a significant "change." Obama can win it, more mountain to climb.

Repugs are trying to pick the candidate of least change, but don't have one in the race taking the required hat trick of corporate lackey, neocon puppet, & protestant theocrat.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Rudy the Tyrant

All of the Repug presidential wannabees have dangerous views, none more so than Huckabee. But Rudy Giuliani has by far the most dangerous character. In its tepid endorsement of John McCain in the Feb 5 primary, the New York Times says this of the former mayor:
The real Mr. Giuliani, whom many New Yorkers came to know and mistrust, is a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man who saw no need to limit police power. Racial polarization was as much a legacy of his tenure as the rebirth of Times Square.

Mr. Giuliani’s arrogance and bad judgment are breathtaking. When he claims fiscal prudence, we remember how he ran through surpluses without a thought to the inevitable downturn and bequeathed huge deficits to his successor. He fired Police Commissioner William Bratton, the architect of the drop in crime, because he couldn’t share the limelight. He later gave the job to Bernard Kerik, who has now been indicted on fraud and corruption charges.

The Rudolph Giuliani of 2008 first shamelessly turned the horror of 9/11 into a lucrative business, with a secret client list, then exploited his city’s and the country’s nightmare to promote his presidential campaign.
& that's without mentioning anything about Rudy's miserable personal life. Or that this paranoid ex-mayor has zilch compunctions about persecuting anyone, public employees & private citizens, who publicly disagree with him - including his current Repug opponents should Caligula ascend to the throne. He has behind him a trail of broken & ruined lives. It's fact, not gossip. It takes some truly repulsive attributes to be held in contempt by so many hardened New York politicians, disliked by cynical reporters who've covered likably corrupt politicians, & hated by New York's tough breed of firefighters. The support Giuliani gets from tri-state establishment Repugs is not only transparently swinish, one suspects it is also motivated by fear. Think our personal liberty is under attack by the government now? A Giuliani presidency would be capable of turning bankrupt Catskill Mountain resorts into a razor wire gulag for dissenters. He's that screwy.

(Jill at BaB reminds us that Rudy was wandering around cluelessly on 9/11 with his entourage because his Emergency Operations Center had been destroyed - as the NYPD had warned him could happen when he chose to locate it in on the 23rd floor of the World Trade Center next to the Twin Towers. The Center is now in Brooklyn, with a backup elsewhere. )


Show the Funny Beatle some respect

Ringo Starr walked away from the Regis & Kelly Show on Tuesday when they wouldn't give him five minutes to perform the title cut off his new album, Liverpool 8. Told him to cut it in half. It's not much of a song, but Ringo's pushing the album hard, he's a living legend as both a Beatle & drummer, & 150 fewer seconds of egomaniacs Regis & Kelly holding coffee cups & bickering is small sacrifice.

Last night, Craig Ferguson gave Ringo all the time he needed & more on The Late Late Show. With a band anchored by Dave Stewart, Ringo warbled & wobbled his way through "Liverpool 8," "Photograph," " Boys," & "A Little Help From My Friends." He played drums on "Boys," but he sings closer to on key if he doesn't have to provide the beat, too.

Having suggested the Royal Family be abolished, Ringo is not likely to receive a knighthood. Anyway, he's said he'd rather be a prince. He already is - in the Kingdom of Elvis.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rutgers basketball

The Rutgers men's basketball team had its first quality win of the season last night, beating #16 Villanova 80-68. A young team recruited locally, the freshmen aren't blue chippers putting in a year in the minors before jumping to the NBA.

On Tuesday, the #5 women Scarlet Knights had one of their few really dominating performances of the season at Cincinnati, 71-41. At 16-2, with a little more focus & luck they'd be undefeated, but it's better they're not carrying that burden. The problem with this wonderfully talented team - & I'm not saying anything Coach Stringer would dispute - is that they often play down to the level of lesser opponents, which are most of the teams on a schedule not designed to serve up any sleepwalk wins. After the Louisville game on Sunday, Coach Stringer said, ""We should be much better. We rush and we strain. I don't like to just win. We're not executing; we turn the ball over 20 times. Give me a break. You kidding me? The problem is, soon as I say something they all get tight." It's great to hear this team on the radio; the suspense is in their tendency to play only half the game like they're capable of winning the National Championship. & in that half, they're so good you know they can. This year, they're regularly headlined with photos on the Yahoo women's NCAA basketball page.

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Some quick comments I posted on various threads at Street Prophets today.
The Surge is like temporarily funding extra police to suppress street corner gang activity in a specific neighborhood. It's working, but the gangs are still there. & the people we're protecting from the gangs aren't showing much interest in taking advantage of it. & the gangs are on the move. & it's so expensive that the city can't afford to pay overtime to the snow plow drivers. & we're running out of cops & have to hire private security guards at twice the cost.

FEMA = fire & rescue. It's not overcentralized. Emergencies can happen anywhere at any time. The mayor thought hiring his golf buddy's wife's brother was a good idea. When the plane crashed into the hospital, turned out it wasn't such a good idea.
That's why we think of Hillary Clinton as "establishment." She views policy in terms of continuity & adjustment rather than change. GWB turned out to be radical because his administration believed that real change was possible. Of course, everything changed for the worse.
I wonder if experience is overstated, because an inexperienced GWB brought people into his administration like Cheney & Rove who were just as good at manipulating & bullying as Lyndon Johnson was himself. My concern is that the Democratic congressional leadership isn't up to the tasks at hand regardless of who is in the Oval Office. Hillary's establishment support in New York & New Jersey is based on what those politicians believe is best for the states; our percentage of the federal tax dollar. Just as the local Repugs know Giuliani is the best bet for a windfall in Homeland Security funds. So I hardly blame them.
Without the 9/11 attacks, the Bush adminstration would have been much more gradualist. His ratings tanked after Katrina, when the gradualist policies of ignoring or underminding federal agencies were exposed. Screwing up FEMA was a betrayal not only of his Bible Belt supporters, but of everyone living in places subject to weather events of Biblical proportions. People who couldn't care less about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Dept. care a lot about what happens after an F4 tornado comes to town.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Stimulus Package

A rebate on a portion of the taxes Americans will pay this year toward the Iraq War. So we won't feel that little pinch of sacrifice. It's recommended that the money be spent on durable goods, a new TV or fridge, rather than putting it toward a vacation or restaurant meals. If you just bank it, you're hoarding it. The inflationary costs of essentials might eat it up. Food, gasoline. College tuition. By the time the checks arrive, we'll be deep in the recession but about to begin Christmas shopping.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fred Thompson was always a "dream" candidate. Meaning those Repugs who believed he would unify the party base & stroll to the nomination as Reagan's natural heir were dreaming. His campaign was a stroll. He proved to be what he was; an unremarkable actor & former senator with a rep for conserving his own energy &, like his limited dialogue on Law & Order, nothing much new to add to the plot. He didn't really want to be president, he just figured he ought to be president. Heck, why not if George can do it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Granite Icon

One of the Civil war topics I enjoy reading about & discussing is the question of why poor, hard scrabble white Southerners flocked to defend & die for a relatively small, wealthy, slave-owning class that considered them "trash." Blacks had nothing, the average rural white Southerner had next-to-nothing, & both were under the heel of economic oppression. I'm not saying that the life of a northern factory worker was so great, but the northern worker had a freedom & mobility that didn't exist in the South. Northeastern family farmers were migrating west to homestead, not transplant the plantation system.

Why poor Southern whites fought exposes the ruse of racism as a cover for maintaining class divisions by setting have-nots against have-nothings. Today, it's about illegal immigrant day laborers threatening to take away low-paying, non-union jobs. The current generation of Bosses think it's great when Americans have to work three jobs to survive, they call it productivity.

To strike at the heart of racism requires identifying the actual sources of oppression, exposing what is gained from promoting racial & ethnic discord, & drawing people together on the basis of true self-interest. In his final years, Dr. King sought to create a coalition that included the very white underclass that had most visibly & violently opposed civil rights in the South. The Johnson White House considered Dr. King disloyal for opposing the Vietnam War. But Dr. King saw who was actually fighting the war - draftees without college student deferments or trade skills. He was killed while in Memphis in support of a labor union. We must be careful not to accept a granite icon in place of the real Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Happy Birthday David

Dave Cope is lovely poet from Michigan I've known for 30 years but have met only a handful of times. He's always encouraged my writing, published it his long-running mag, Big Scream whenever I got it together to send him batches. I was with him & Allen Ginsburg the day my Dad died, & I'll always appreciate the kindness & concern they both expressed.

We made a memorable journey to Asbury Park together in the 80's, 6 crammed into poet Jim Ruggia's Volks Beetle on a hot day, Parkway traffic jams, declining to pay beach fees for sand hardly anyone wanted to use. Dave wasn't especially surprised or disappointed by the desperate condition of that place; he saw right through it to the former splendor, & to the evil allliance of local government & organized crime that was sucking remaining life out of it. The town was also a bastion of rock & roll anthemic traditionalism (it was never "punk") in the growing Springsteen mythos. Asbury Park was the kind of bummer scene a downstate Michiganer could relate to without stretching. I was sorry we couldn't end the day with a Sandy Hook sunset or a carousel ride at Seaside Heights.

Dave just turned 60. He's featured in a new Wikipedia entry, Postbeat Poets. I have some quibbles with the idea of "Postbeat." Jack Kerouac was born in 1922, Allen Ginsberg in 1926. I consider myself two generations removed from the Beat writers, with Ed Sanders (b. 1939) & Anne Waldman (b. 1945) more direct successors. The poets in the article that emerged in the 70's are, as I sort them out, post-postbeat, & have a more than coincidental connection with "punk" rock. I think this is especially true of poets from the Detroit & New York City areas, which generated proto-punk scenes in the late 60's & early 70's that were not about peace, love & wearing flowers in your hair. Dave was not a hippie dreamer or a coffeehouse philosopher. Many of his earlier poems came literally out of a public school boiler room, where he worked for some years. But it doesn't matter. The absence of these "postbeat poets" as national voices is one reason why poetry doesn't count for shit in America. Unless you think the occasional "name" poets featured on public radio or at the Library of Congress are culturally significant & influential. Most of them are greased gears in a whispering machine they helped to build, & from which Ginsberg's heirs are excluded lest they make it squeak. Barbaric yawps get a poet marginalized in an already marginal art, & that is a pathetic situation. Ginsberg's generation - not only The Beats - made poetry matter outside of grad schools & other habitations of literary connoisseurs where poetry is prepared & consumed like sushi.


Union NJ

A bland photo, a reminder of how infrequently this part of Jersey has a long, hard freeze now.
Current Green Bay temp: -2F.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Al Rickel

Before Home Depot & Lowe's, there was Rickel's. Al Rickel died at age 90. Al, with his brothers, Mort & Bob, opened their first big store in 1953, helping to kick off the DIY home improvement craze (wood paneling, basement bars & rec rooms, & oh, those kitchen cabinets). The brothers knew almost nothing about the business they were in, but they became fabulously successful at it. Many a Saturday I tagged along with Dad as he drove to Rickel's on Route 22 in Union, then on to Channel a few miles up the highway in Springfield (across from House of Tile) on his "errands." I think Dad preferred Channel. Sometimes he just wanted to get out of the house & look at stuff that provided interesting fantasies. For all the practicality of the merchandise, Rickel's was also selling dreams. The Rickel's chain was sold off in 1969, continued to expand & prosper, then Home Depot, the bigger box, came along & Rickel's went into swift decline. One of the last to close was in the same strip mall where I worked at Pearl Art & Craft. Long before then, Al was spending half of each year in St Croix, where he owned a hardware store as a retirement hobby.


Friday, January 18, 2008

A Bible and a Shotgun

Before we pursue Mike Huckabee's discussion about marriage in the future between humans & iguanas, let's decide who ought to be allowed to get hitched now.

Arranged marriages between male & female, Southern Baptist, 12 year old first cousins from Arkansas: Four Opposable Thumbs Up!
Thanks to FranIAm.

Oh yeah, whenever I see a Confederate flag on a beach towel, a bumper sticker, a tee shirt, flying over a state capitol, anywhere but on a Confederate soldier's grave, in a museum, or in a historical re-enactment, I think, That's racist.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Clown Torture

Decorating children's wards with paintings of clowns to create a nurturing atmosphere could backfire, research suggests.

A University of Sheffield study of more than 250 children, aged four to 16, found the images were widely disliked.

Even some of the oldest children found the images scary.

Patricia Doorbar is a child psychologist in North Wales who has carried out research into children's views on healthcare and art therapy.

She said: "Very few children like clowns. They are unfamiliar and come from a different era. They don't look funny, they just look odd."
I've never liked them. Or paintings of them. or horror movies about them. I dated a girl who occasionally played a clown for children's parties, weird driving her to the gigs when she was in costume. I wasn't sure if she enjoyed it or if it was just something easy for her to pick up a few dollars; or why kids would rather have a clown than a regular magician or someone dressed in a superhero costume, or an inflatable Moonwalk?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Other Bedside Books

I always read before I go to sleep. Back up reading scattered around bed from nights when I had no detective novels from the public library:

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Reverend Huck

Mike Huckabee sez:
I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.
We're supposed to assume he's referring only to abortion & gay marriage, & to opponents such as McCain, Romney & Giuliani. But Huckabee's "word of the living God" comes filtered through the Southern Baptist Convention, which hardly has a monopoly on how believers hear that word. Anyway, conservative Christians have had so much success denying rights on a state-by-state basis that moderate New Jersey looks like a small enclave of ultra-liberalism on a map of the United States. It's an appalling statement about a document never intended to match "God's standards." The Constitution is no more a religious test or text than the qualifications it contains for becoming president.

Behind Huck's Ah shucks faux populist facade there's a southern cracker preacher combined with an Arkansas politician, & I can't think of a more potentially demogogic combination. I can even envision him sneaking out behind the chicken coop to smoke a cigar & taste Jack Daniels.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

President John Edwards

We've had seven years of utter insanity in the White House. Where's the righteous anger? Got it for you right here: John Edwards.

I'm not inclined to put out language about the Democratic presidential candidates that I'd have to eat in September. Because no Repug can cut it for me. Nor can Mike Billionaire Bloomberg, now associating with the "moderate" Christine "It's My Party" Whitman; neither one has uttered a bitter word about George W. Bush. Whose Party are they?

The endorsements of Obama by John Kerry & Bill Bradley could not induce me to vote for Barack, but those endorsements are reassuring because I think both men would have been fine presidents, & they wouldn't support somebody who wasn't up to the job. I didn't want an uncertainty about Obama's qualifications & preparedness to be a factor in choosing Edwards. Nothing the Obama or Clinton campaigns say convince me that the most serious problem is too much partisanship, or temporary incompetency. Both view the Bush adminstration as an aberration, & the Republican leadership as open to reason & reasonableness. A kind of forgetfulness has overtaken those two candidates, with their gauzy appeals to our desire for unity & experience. Fine, but first the Bush machine must be shut down & dismantled, the White House swept clean of neocons & theocrats.

John Edwards has experience, & unity of purpose. He tries, against massive media resistance, to stay focused on the particulars of why this election is so crucial. He has listened, learned, & grown since 2004. John Edwards is the best candidate for pissed off progressives & populists, & for America, & he is electable.

(The New Jersey Democratic primary is proportional with a 15% threshold for the allocation of district & statewide at-large delegates, so a vote for John Edwards really matters. No need to explain why if the primaries fail to give Obama or Clinton the nomination).

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Supermarket with snow forecast

When I get to the supermarket later this afternoon I'll know if people have gone into blizzard mode. NWS is calling this upcoming system a "sharp gradient" kind of storm, which means you can go ten miles & have a significant change in snow amount. Monday morning rush hour will be a mess - throw some ice cubes on the Northeast Corridor tracks & trains run an hour late, but it's gonna clear out by early afternoon, so if you have half a roll of toilet paper & enough food to make it to tomorrow evening you ought to be OK.
Not much more busy. But I was stuck in line behind a food voucher customer. I like food vouchers, they specifiy healthy food items for children, like milk & 100% fruit juices, can't use them to buy Frosted Sugar Bombs. Sometimes the parent has three or four of the vouchers, each with a short list of items, & the cashier has to sort out the order & then match everything against the vouchers, & ring each voucher up separately. The most time-consuming customers are the shopping expeditions from group homes. Can't complain about these people. Usually four or five of them bunched up, each with their own cart because they all have their own food budget, shepherded through the store by an incredibly patient live-in counselor who wants each to feel some sense of independence & personal accomplishment while doing actual, practical weekly shopping. They're easy to get around in the aisles, very polite if they even notice you, but never join a checkout with them ahead of you. You'll have the time to digest Soap Opera Digest magazine & memorize 100 suppers you can make in 30 minutes or less.

Freehold NJ

Odd shape, & also looks like a set for a western movie.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Chinese and Bowling

"We went to the Asian Buffet restaurant this evening and to karaoke at Forest Lanes."

That was Chinese & bowling until a few years ago, & it sounded like a fun night to me.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Edmund Hillary

Edmund Hillary was a great adventurer-hero of my childhood, the first to climb Mount Everest, in 1953. Kids thought of it as a singular, individual feat, like Lindbergh's transatlantic flight, not understanding that Sherpan climber Tenzing Norgay was no sidekick who humbly held back until the white guy got to the top, & he fully shared the achievement. Both explorers were the second summit attempt on behalf of large, well-financed British expedition. It was a tremendous accomplishment. A few years later, Sir Edmund was in the first group to cross Antarctica overland, another frighteningly remote, unexplored place one read about in National Geographic magazine. An amazing man & life in this era of manufactured "Xtreme" sports & meaningless "world records" created for TV. A few days ago, four surfers rode 85 foot waves at Cortes Bank off Point Duma California, the kind of challenge that would impress Sir Edmund.
If John Kerry's endorsement of Obama means anything, it should be to remind Barack of the words, "Swift Boat" (verb: swiftboating). The shit thrown at the honorable war vet in 2004 was rose petals compared to what's in store for a black man. Barack hasn't gotten it worse up to this point only because the Repugs & their lying, cheating, bigoted flying monkey brigades are holding back their most evil organized smear efforts for the Democratic nominee.
President Monkeybrain found new depths of naivete & ignorance in his comments today on Israeli-Palestinian peace, & I wondered how former President Jimmy Carter reacted, maybe with an expression worthy of Edgar Kennedy, Master of Slow Burn Comedy. If you dare, read this horribly vulgar, funny piece in The Onion.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Oh my God he's gone?

Whenever the TV writers strike ends, they'll be working this one into an episode of Law & Order or CSI: NY.
NEW YORK - Detective Travis Rapp has seen his share of corpses, but this was new: two men wheeling a rigid, pale body down a Manhattan street in a red office chair, drawing a crowd of suspicious onlookers.

Looking out the window of the restaurant where he was having lunch, Rapp initially assumed "it was a mannequin or a dummy," he said. "I thought it was a joke, honestly."

A closer inspection showed that it wasn't. The man was dead, and two of his friends had hauled his corpse to a store to cash his $355 Social Security check, police said. They were arrested before they could get the money.
These guys were such losers, it never occurred to them that with a bit of planning they might have come close to success. But when were they going to get rid of the body?


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Mister Softee

New Hampshire demonstrated that Obama's support is very soft indeed. His momentum lasted 4 days. Good news for Hillary Clinton, & maybe John Edwards, too. I think it's partly this: The middle age, middle class & senior folks who tell you in a diner at 7 am that they'll vote for you are more bankable votes than the girls screaming at you in a college cafeteria the day after the Iowa caucuses. Hillary's vulnerable teary moment yesterday might have helped. & the independent voters who see nothing peculiar about waiting until the last moment before choosing between a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. I don't know Hillary's ground operation in New Hampshire, but in New Jersey she's supported by the kind of Democratic party regulars who, year after year, odd & even, give voters rides to the local polls. Barack should not forget he's gonna need those Yellow Dog workers in November in thousands of polling districts, many where the presidency is the only seriously contested race. The Repugs won't help him out in a spirit of nonpartisan cooperation. They'll pick up their own likely voters, thank you very much. Both Barack & Hillary need to remember that Edwards' core support is comprised of some very angry & frustrated issue-oriented Democrats. So I'm hoping Hillary resists bringing a divisive superpartisan like James Carville on board her campaign. She did alright tonight without him.

Briefly tuned into Charlie Rose. The talking heads spinning off garbage like, "Hillary sent out direct mailing lying that Barack doesn't support choice." "Oh yeah, Barack had a campaign staffer denying he's a lobbyist for big pharma." Click! Misrepresenting an opponent's positions. Professional campaign staffers with questionable resumes. Golly, how scandalous.


Monday, January 07, 2008

False Hope Real Voters

Until this weekend, I thought the Dem primary process would go on for another month as a three-way struggle with Obama & Edwards splitting the "change" & reform support while the Clinton Machine hauled in the regulars & centrists with its well-funded local operations. But Clinton was totally unprepared for the huge, overnight rush to Obama the polls are indicating. The most self-defeating charge she could level at Obama was that he was offering "false hope." False hope is the basic premise of almost every political campaign. Clinton ought to know that from '92. Hillary offers "experience." In 1992, "experience" was George W. H. Bush. So now, there's the potential of watching the Clinton campaign self-destruct because it deluded itself into believing it was sufficiently flexible & well-oiled, needing only minor adjustments here & there. It is very difficult for candidates to come across as what they are not, unless, like Bush in 2000 & to some extent Reagan in 1980, they manage to stay in soft-focus.

To be sure, Obama could take a serious pratfall. One mis-spoken sentence - one word even - has brought politicians down. How Hillary Clinton handles defeat & an underdog status, & how Obama responds to being the frontrunner, could be very revealing.

Currently, I am an unaffiliated voter. I did not expect either the Clinton or Giuliani campaigns to make any appeals for my primary vote in Jersey, so certain they were of winning this state easily. But we may be in the game now.


Sunday, January 06, 2008


Three Kings Day: The Chartmakers

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Vineland NJ

I love postcards like this one. No distinctive landmark, unique scenery, vacation spot, or subject of civic pride. But it's from an era when every town had a postcard series. So the photographer gives us a muddy farm road & a drainage ditch next to what appears to be a railroad.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Hillary's Message

There has to be some truth to the idea of "Clinton fatigue." It's inseparately intertwined with "Bush fatigue." We went from 4 years of Bush (12 including VP) to 8 years of Clinton to 8 more years of Bush. Maybe it's feeling like a very old act, & maybe we're tired of it, & maybe we don't think we owe the Clintons another 4 years in this long political dance. It's not so much a generational thing, as Obama claims, as a desire for some other family to occupy the White House. Is it so hard to imagine three ex-presidents - George I, George II, & Bill - waving from a boat off Kennebunkport in 2009?

The Clinton way is that if the outside is changed, we'll believe the inside is changed, too. Call it Aluminum Siding Strategy. So Hillary thinks changing the "message" is the corrective to her Iowa showing. As if over the course of 18 years we haven't gotten to know the "real" Hillary. Of course, we know. The Clintons take whatever is working well for the opposition & decorate themselves with it. Hillary brags how she's stood up to the worst the Repugs have thrown at her. But we can also recall Bill's crippled second term, & consider if Hillary's presidency would begin right where that one left off. If enough voters up in New Hampshire like her, she'll win. But adopting an Obamamama facade won't fool anyone.


Rob, Buddy and Sally

Two unfunny talk show appearances by Bill Maher promoting his new Real Time season demonstrated how much he depends on his writers. & how come Conan O'Brien's three shows this week were unpredictable, well-paced, & pretty funny while Letterman's were draggy & substandard, & Craig Ferguson almost unwatchable? You'd think with eight weeks off the writers & hosts would have stockpiled some first rate material. Apparently, it helped that Conan kept coming to his office at 30 Rock.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Chris Dodd

Senators Dodd & Biden quit the race, no surprise. Chris Dodd, always a no-chance candidate, eventually made a lot of us wonder if he was really the best of the bunch. But how often does the best win? Smart, experienced, with evidence of that rarer attribute, wisdom. A Roman Catholic married to a Mormon, he joked that his was a "two cult family," the perfect attitude toward the over-heated religiosity in politics today. He should get a prime time speech at the convention - not that it's the marquee occasion it used to be. Participation in the Iowa Democratic caucuses nearly doubled, & 70% rejected Hillary Clinton or whatever Clinton politics represent. We shall soon see if there's a genuine wave of change among the ranks & fellow travellers of the Party. Have to keep in mind that few of those new participants usually stick around for the envelope-stuffing & chicken dinner fundraisers. Come next fall, would the Democratic machines put out for Edwards or Obama like they would for Clinton?

& what is it I don't like about Hillary? That less than 24 hours after she's on stage with hubby Bill & Madeline Albright in Iowa, she shows up in New Hampshire surrounded by young people. You want change, she'll change the wrapping paper.

The Repugs got who they deserved: An undisguised flat-earth religionist lifted to victory by large turnout of the kind of white, rural protestants who think root beer is too stimulating. They kicked the asses of the neocons & quasi-libertarians & anyone else who believes the Repugs are a balanced wingnut alliance. If those folks coalesce as a popular movement for Huckabee, ignoring the various endorsements of their many self-annointed leaders, they'll prove their strength once again.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Caucus Schmaucus

We've been hearing about the damned Iowa caucuses for a year. Like New Hampshire, a minute number of unrepresentative voters have a hugely exaggerated influence on the national presidential election. To sum up today's Democratic results: Obama received a little more than 1/3rd of the "preferences," Clinton & Edwards a little less than 1/3rd. Looked at rationally, it was a three-way tie. For all the effort & money, only a small number of actual convention delegates result from this process, & it's not winner-take-all. Obama's victory speech sounds like he just won a landslide election in November, & now he can call for peace & unity.

I'm still leaning toward Edwards because he says he'll pull all American troops except one brigade out of Iraq within his first year in office, & promises to kick some asses.


Cold Morning

Figures that the only bitterly cold morning this week is the morning I take a bus across town for an appointment at a city office. Nothing is as cold as when I commuted to New York & took a train out of Linden at about 6:45 am. The choice there was waiting in the heated street level station room or going up on the windy, exposed platform in the hope of beating the crowd & finding one of the few remaining seats.

When the Iowa caucus results are known tonight, & the money spent divided by votes, the amount spent per single vote will be shocking. It was in the 2004 Dem caucus, I forget the number but it surprised me then. This year it'll be really something.

Huckabee sneaked in the back door at NBC yeaterday so he wouldn't have to cross a picket line for his Tonight Show appearance. I don't see how it makes much difference. No one thinks Repugs support organized labor anymore. They drove all their pro-union people out to make room for the bigots who no longer were welcome in the Democratic Party. The Repugs have never fielded a scarier group of candidates.

Watched a few minutes of Conan O'Brien. Even with his improv experience, he's gonna run out of material very quickly. He doesn't have a strong enough supporting cast to pick up the slack. His band - which has some colorful, interesting people - has, as with all talk show bands, been reduced to one dimensional cartoon characters, silly faces & reaction shots.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Aloha Warriors

Georgia 41, Hawaii 10. I didn't expect the University of Hawaii to beat the University of Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Didn't even expect the game to be close at the end. But I did think Hawaii would put more points on the board in the first half before the Bulldogs inevitably ground the Warriors down in the second. Instead, it was a mismatch all the way. Hawaii star QB Colt Brennan was mercifully removed from the game before he got totally mashed into poi. Hawaii should have sent their cheerleaders out with hula skirts & tried to distract the sides of beef Georgia was dropping on him. I watched three regular season Hawaii games this year, & if you like football where the quarterback just scrambles back & throws, again & again, & he's good enough & gets enough time to do it, they were a great team to see. Plus, the coach wears a lei. Hawaii ends the season 12-1.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

You make me feel mighty real

Fire engine sirens began minutes after midnight (headquarters is three long blocks away) & it seemed like they were on the move almost constantly through 4 am. Even if the calls weren't serious fire events, the firefighters got no rest last night. I tried to figure out why New Year's would be more busy than any other night. There were a number of parties in this immediate neighborhood, none went out-of-control or required the services of the fire department. Some boisterous noise in the streets as the parties broke up.

I turned on the TV near midnight to see the new Times Square ball - it was impressive, although Carson Daly nearly missed the countdown because he was intent on interviewing Alex Rodriguez, definitely a B list celebrity in New York, D list on network TV two months after the end of the baseball season. A quick look at the Dick Clark / Ryan Seacrest broadcast on ABC exposed an alien culture on stage: Miley Cyrus & the Jonas Brothers. They creeped me out; I was unaware Disney had created such lifelike animatronics & liberated them from the confines of theme parks. Perhaps they were only holographic projections. Meanwhile, PBS was giving Paul Simon the "George Gershwin Award for Popular Song." I didn't feel old, just ignored. So I turned to Evan "Funk" Davies on WFMU, who was demonically possessed by the spirit of 70s disco/funk.


Happy New Year

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"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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