Tuesday, June 30, 2009


is how Yankee radio baseball announcer John Sterling would call Al Franken's extra-inning victory over Norm Coleman.

Now we have to wait while Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid in a spirit of bipartisanship begs Repugs for permission to seat Franken, & asks them which committee assignments Al gets.

Al's coin toss win in a state Obama carried by 300,000 shows that independent Minnesotans had reservations about electing him over an incumbent. He had a tough primary, too. But Al will be a fine senator.

Al will be on the senate judiciary committee for the Sotermayor SCOTUS hearings. In 1991, he played a United States Senator in an SNL skit during the Clarence Thomas hearings

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Pistol Packin' Preacher

Pastor invites flock to bring guns to church

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ken Pagano, the pastor of the New Bethel Church here, is passionate about gun rights. He shoots regularly at the local firing range, and his sermon two weeks ago was on “God, Guns, Gospel and Geometry.” And on Saturday night, he is inviting his congregation of 150 and others to wear or carry their firearms into the sanctuary to “celebrate our rights as Americans!” as a promotional flier for the “open carry celebration” puts it.

“God and guns were part of the foundation of this country,” Mr. Pagano, 49, said Wednesday in the small brick Assembly of God church, where a large wooden cross hung over the altar and two American flags jutted from side walls. “I don’t see any contradiction in this. Not every Christian denomination is pacifist.”
Ironically, the Assemblies of God grew out of a movement that had a strong, if nondoctrinal, antiwar sentiment among rural adherents, & which has produced many wartime conscientious objectors; young men who saw a great difference between carrying a gun to hunt animals & using a gun to kill people.

The Methodist circuit preacher packing a Bible & a pistol & bringing Jesus & civilization to the frontier is an old story for Sunday school kids. Most American protestants don't think guns belong in church even if they support the right to carry guns to church. What's surprising, maybe, is how few pastors there are like Pagano. In a competitive market for conservative churches, he's desperate to put more people in his pews. Look around, you can find a church for every kind of bullshit. A few years ago, a local preacher pressured all the men & boys in his congregation to wear army fatigues to church one Sunday to show they were Soldiers for Christ. That was a predominantly Black evangelical church. I was a new blogger & criticised it, & it was one of the few times my blog generated a lot of angry comments (& an e mail from the assistant pastor) defending the practice. If folks would rather be sheep than shepherds, they'll be herded & usually shorn of their money. Cynically, I figured the pastor recommended exactly where to purchase the fatigues, or had his own supply he was glad to sell his "soldiers."

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Monday, June 29, 2009

150 years is about right

If Bernie Madoff had been caught or confessed early in his ponzi scheme, he'd have served his time & been out of prison long ago.

I watched a documentary about Madoff. Evil. Bernie, his higher level employees & accomplices, the SEC, the greedy super-rich investors who couldn't be bothered to investigate why Bernie was so mysteriously profitable. I didn't feel so sorry for the European counts & dukes. I did feel very sorry for the people who entrusted their life savings to financial planners who in turn invested the money with Madoff. Those unfortunate folks didn't know Madoff had their money until it was gone. They didn't get the Madoff personal treatment, the arcane explanations of Bernie's "system," the tour of his headquarters with all the computers showing the neat columns of numbers. No, those smaller investors just woke up broke one day. They're upper middle class professionals having - or expecting to have - a comfortable retirement they'd worked toward for 40, 50 years. They have their social security, their basic pensions (if they weren't self-employed), & maybe some property if they didn't sell the house, move into a cheaper condo, & invest the difference. If Bernie felt the cumulative pain & loss of these people, he would find himself in the next-to-lowest ring of Dante's Inferno, among the fraudulent advisors, the Eighth Circle, deeper than the gluttonous & avaricious & lustful. It would be unbearable. In a NYT piece, Ralph Blumental places Madoff at the bottom, among the frozen betrayers, in the icy pit, an allegory of those who violate trust. An oddity of the Ninth Circle is the presence of souls whose bodies are still alive, now inhabited in world above by demons.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cape May NJ

Remembering a great weekend ten years ago.
Maybe I'll tell you about it some time.

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Billy Mays

The reason for TV pitchman Billy Mays' huge success eluded me when he pitched products other than the Oxy Clean line. His memorable air horn voice communicated wild enthusiasm, but there was nothing intrinsically trustworthy about his personality. I could enjoy him for a few minutes. He was a boardwalk & county fair act, directly descended from traveling miracle medicine salesmen - which is what Oxy Clean stuff is; it either works or it doesn't, & the pitch assumes we haven't met anyone who has actually bought & used the product.

The appeal of Billy Mays was easier to grasp than GemTV - jewelry porn. There, applying the identical format to each item, a transparently silly "play the game" thing with cheesy music & outrageously inflated "start price," a person sitting behind a counter sells ten hideous rings at $1000+ in two minutes, then moves on immediately to the next item & does it all over again, with the same this is the greatest deal I ever offered pitch. Tanzanites, rubies, diamonds, opals, emeralds, it doesn't matter. The "game" is only that quantities are limited & they dare you to buy it without knowing the final price. There's an entire half-hour infomercial with demonstrations devoted to selling a $60 food processor, but those rings & necklaces just fly out, & you have nothing until they're delivered, & how long does the kick last after you open the boxes? Customers are called "collectors" & ain't that the truth.

Billy Mays was no overnight success. He'd been on the road for a decade & seized his opportunity when he met the OrangeGlo guy in Pittsburgh, & that was no sure thing. He knew his job & enjoyed his fame. He may have died from something bouncing off his head during a rough plane landing yesterday.

(Google now scans new blog posts for keywords & summons up an advertisement on the post published page. Just showed me an ad for India jewelry).

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Woman with a ravaged face

Woman with a ravaged face asking for money outside the supermarket. Can't guess how old she is; drugs & booze make people ageless in the worst way. I gave her a buck. I'll always give her something if I have it, because one evening she was outside Dunkin' Donuts & said she was tired & needed a cup of coffee. I thought, yeah, sure, but handed her some change, & a few minutes later she came inside & used my change to buy a cup of coffee.


Friday, June 26, 2009

After the Storm

I think this is only the second cloud snapshot I've taken where the camera saw exactly what I was seeing. The original 5 mp photo is quite impressive.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

the Fuggetaboudit State

"In the meantime please sleep soundly knowing that despite the best efforts of my head my heart cries out for you, your voice, your body, the touch of your lips, the touch of your finger tips and an even deeper connection to your soul."
Gov. Mark Sanford, e mail to Argentinian lover

I wonder if he's written such sweet words to his wife?

If the fundies want to make a marquee defense of the sanctity of marriage between a man & a woman, they can do so in South Carolina, which has a law against adultery & fornication on the books & a governor who just confessed to cheating on his wife. The problem is that Mark Sanford had the affair in Argentina. Long-distance relationships rarely work out. I'd bet he's fooled around closer to home.

An extramarital affair by itself shouldn't be a career-breaker. But Sanford did some stuff we wouldn't abide here in New Jersey the Fuggetaboudit State, where Bill Clinton could have run for a third term & won. He tried to turn down stim bucks. We get so few cents back on the federal tax dollar that we'll take all we can get, strings attached. No one wants to secede from the Union, although some parts of the state wish they could secede from New Jersey.

No matter where super-rich Jersey Governor Jon Corzine spends his weekends, or who he spends them with, when he's out of the state we expect him to inform Senate President Dick Codey, who knows what to do & won't get rattled if there's flash floods or a prison riot.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ed McMahon

I have a lot of respect for radio & TV announcers & "sidekicks." On radio, before my time, staff announcers were very important, the best ones had distinctive voices, usually in the baritone range. Some used phony upper-class diction. Radio stars made their announcers part of the cast, as characters caricaturing their real selves & jobs, like Don Wilson, Jack Benny's announcer, playing Jack Benny's announcer, Don Wilson.

When Ed McMahon said he had worked his way through college as a pitchman on the Atlantic City boardwalk, selling vegetable slicers, I knew exactly what he was talking about; they were still there when I was a kid walking the boards. He learned much on the boardwalk.

Johnny Carson could not have been an easy guy to work for. Temperamental, guarded, a stinging Scorpio, what probably made him a decent boss was that he didn't like change, & he appreciated the loyalty he demanded. But Ed still had to go with Johnny's flow, show after show, a great skill. Ed had the personality of a first rate bartender. Ed also had the additional responsibility, shared with bandleader Doc_Severinsen, of watching over the Tonight Show when Johnny went to regular guest hosts. Johnny didn't want controversy, or the desk props broken, on his day off. Working with Johnny prepared Ed, more or less, to handle Jerry Lewis once-a-year.

All the other good-paying gigs, Star Search, Publishers Clearing House, & execrable Bloopers with Dick Clark, with Ed functioning as a "celebrity," were made possible by Johnny Carson, which Ed never forgot.

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Sonic Youth "No Way"

This performance on Jimmy Fallon's show last night was highly stimulating, as was their Letterman appearance a few weeks ago. Singer Thurston Moore's tee shirt has a risque image.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

I tried a Coolata at Dunkin' Donuts. The drink is as numbing cold as the black coffee is scalding hot. I couldn't hold the cup for fear of frostbite, taking small, cautious sips through a straw. About one-third of the way through, the heavy aeration was already making me burp, so I trashed it. I'll stick with iced coffee. If someone calls you a coolata, you've been insulted in Italian.

Conferenece for the New Majority

(Thanks to Thinkprogress.)

I had an amusing encounter a few weeks ago with a man who spoke not a bit of English. He had a cellphone. If there had been more people on the street, his odds of meeting a Spanish-speaking person would've been better than 50-50 (& a marginal chance of someone with knowledge of Yiddish). The part of town I gathered he was trying to reach, about a mile away, is almost entirely Hispanic. His handicap (aside from almost certainly being here illegally) was that if he mistakenly walked a mile in the other direction he would be in a different world, an overwhelmingly English-speaking town, with a small town police dept. My city's middle class is anchored by Latin-Americans, Colombian, Venezuelan, & Cuban citizens of The United States, many speaking Spanish as their second language. They are immigrant-friendly. & why not? They profit from immigrants. Their honest advice to immigrants like the one I met probably begins with "aprenda el inglés." & I ought to learn to speak a little Spanish.

If your ambition is to be a busboy, or an underpaid landscape laborer working for a bilingual boss, or a non-union roofer without benefits, or an assembly line chicken plucker, & to ride a rickety bicycle to & from your job, & always be in fear of ICE, & anxious whenever you leave your ethnic enclave, & dependent on a translator when dealing with The Authorities, then don't bother learning English. If those prospects don't alarm you, then Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanan, & Peter Brimelow ought to, if you understood them. Don't count on liberal Anglos, 'cause amigo, I'm sympathetic & I couldn't explain how to get to that safe haven cafe somewhere beyond the county courthouse, & a lot can happen to you between here & there, not necessarily good.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

"When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
Mark Twain
Father's Day wasn't much of a deal in my house as a kid, It probably went almost entirely unnoticed. But if we'd thought about it, the best gift simply would've been not to bug our dad for an entire Sunday. Or even better, hung out at our friends' houses for once. Our house was often the default social center for the friends & acquaintances of four siblings spread out 7 years in age from oldest to youngest. My parents took the attitude that it was better to put up with the noise & know where their kids were, because they rarely complained about it. We didn't have a landscaped yard, or plastic covering the furniture, or white wall-to-wall carpeting, the unfriendly tactics other parents used to discourage young visitors. We had a front porch, anchored swing set (later replaced by a circular pool), a twisty magnolia tree easy to climb. We still managed much mischief. Dad accumulated a museum of curious objects, culminating in a World War One merchant ship deck cannon, installed in the basement, with a four foot long barrel that could be aimed at the cellar steps - it was a jaw-dropper on first sight, & a popular by-invitation-only attraction.

Dad's taste in music ran to show tunes & marches, & he liked to read, & it was very difficult for him to clear the household sound environment for any length of time. His four kids had four contrasting musical tastes, none of which he liked. Plus, we had a spinet piano no one played well, except the rare occasions our paternal grandmother performed "I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover," which I later discovered was an almost perfectly memorized sheet music arrangement with a stride-style left hand fashionable when she was a teenager. The origin & extent of her pianistic skills remained a mystery to me. She didn't impart them to Dad. Our cat also liked playing the piano, we encouraged it. Our little dog liked barking out the window at birds. It could be a noisy place.

Sometimes on a Sunday afternoon Dad would announce he was driving out to Channel Lumber for some small but essential item, perhaps a box of sheet metal screws, although he really wanted to admire the power tools. If we were bored enough, he'd find six kids trying get in the car. It was a ride. This was a dilemma for him. On one hand, he only wanted some time to himself. On the other, it was always difficult for him to resist an audience. He usually went with the audience. My friends thought him a whole lot more amusing than I did. A little dispassionate distance from Dad made all the difference in how one appreciated him. Eventually, I gained some distance. The change was just as Mark Twain put it, but it took me longer to get there.

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Whitehouse NJ

Harvey's Cabins & Service Station
Modern & Complete, Luncheonette, Fountain

What more could you want?

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Persia without the poetry

I know I come across as lukewarm on support of the Iranian demonstrators. I've signed so many online petitions protesting the lack of women's rights, the persecution of Baha'is, the oppression of homosexuals, capital punishment & Iranian "justice," the harsh application of Shia law in rural Iran to justify lynchings. Expatriate Iranian intelligentsia tell us what the Iranian middle class really wants (but apparently is too fearful to demand). Iran & parts of the United States are warped reflections. Unfortunately, Iran wants to be Persia without the poetry. But Iran tempts us with the potential for mild reform. Saudi Arabia, a far more oppressive regime, does not.

When the Patriarchs of the Evangelical Right made their alliances of convenience (they were fierce competitors), didn't they have in mind a Council of Cultural Guardians? - a dream of making America like the campus of a Christian college. Sure, there's plenty of respectable culture, sports, entertainment, & good clean fun on those campuses; so much that you might not notice at first what isn't there. Like free academic inquiry, authentic science, courses in feminist lit, professors who aren't born again Christians, nude models in life drawing classes, freedom to question & dissent, & "immodest" clothing on warm, sunny afternoons. A "Christian Republic" would have much in common with an Islamic Republic. They'd agree on just about everything except the Messiah & which Holy Books ought to be obeyed & proselytized. The constitutional setup would be about the same, sans the Supreme Leader. As per Glenn Beck's "9 Principles & 12 Values, " all children would have to belong to the Boy or Girl Scouts. Thomas Jefferson would be highly honored, the Jefferson Bible proclaimed a forgery.

Mousavi has more spunk than Al Gore had, although what's at stake in terms of executive power & policy is far less than America in 2000, & an honest recount would likely verify that Mousavi lost the election by a slimmer margin. Even the Repugs knew Al Gore had fairly won. Al could have tried to lead millions into the streets here to protest a coup d'etat attempt, with a Democratic president watching his back rather than a screwball incumbent seeking reelection. We paid for it.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Gamberoni All'Aglio

“Saturday night, Sarah Palin is going to drop the first puck at the Philadelphia Flyers’ hockey game. Then Palin will spend the rest of the game trying to keep the hockey players out of her daughter’s penalty box.”
Conan O'Brien, 10/08/08
Olive Garden (Darden Restaurants, Inc., also owner of Red Lobster) denies they are pulling ads from Dave Letterman's show, I don't think they can until the contract ends without losing the money they paid. & it'd be dumb. Dave's ratings went up, way up among Leno's older audience. The Late Show can easily make up the ad revenue with Viagra commercials. & as you see in the graphic, Darden stock is doing fine.

Your blogger used to patronize full-service chain restaurants, when I had girlfriends. Probably like most people we went while we were driving back from somewhere, or on impulse. They're convenient, predictable, everywhere. Avoided them on Friday & Saturday evenings, minimum hour wait for table at TGIF.

I met one girlfriend in Blimpie's. She worked there. I didn't patronize the place much, but when the mutual attraction became obvious I got very good sandwiches on my lunch breaks & frequented it more often. Later, she waited tables at a Ground Round, which had decent food & o.k. atmosphere if you went late when the children's parties were over & kids weren't flinging the free popcorn. I thought free popcorn was a bad idea, too filling. They were franchised, the owners had some menu flexibility. She received free dinner-for-two certificates from her boss, which we cashed in at the Ground Round in Toms River because it served fresh seafood, she'd have lobster or daily special fish, & I'd have crabcakes or steak, & we left huge tips & came home with doggy bags of appetizers, sometimes stuff we hadn't even ordered. We also stole cute, small ceramic coffee cups from Denny's. Oh, we were rogues. She's still remembered fondly by some older WFMU DJs for temporarily transforming me into a sociable, out-going human being.

I haven't been to an Olive Garden. Never had the opportunity. The faux Tuscany gourmand cuisine wouldn't stop me, or that it's promoted as a multi-generational family tradition, like ordering a Maruca's Tomato Pie during vacation in Seaside Park. I've been to many Pizza Huts, most of the food there is awful even by my standards, always disappointing, yet I couldn't stop myself. But then, the typical pizza you find in a Jersey downtown is wildly overrated by Sun Belt expatriates.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Epitome

"The white Christian heterosexual married male is the epitome of everything right with America"
Michael Savage
According to Newt Gingrich, it doesn't matter how many marriages a white hetero male goes through as long as they're all Christian.

The long-time gossip about Savage is that back when his last name was Weiner, he fucked poet Allen Ginsberg. I'm merely passing it on, not claiming it's true. Anyway, by the time Weiner met Ginsberg, Allen liked his lovers younger & prettier.

My Neighborhood

East Grand St., across from Pathmark supermarket, near Dunkin' Donuts & branch library.
A charming Spanish style firehouse; a pair of firefighters are enjoying the sunset on the veranda, it looks like a good duty station. But they don't get a lot of down time in this city. Although there's a broad expanse of intersection out front, I waited a few minutes for a break in the traffic, & some drivers don't brake for fire engines.

The houses are probably the most common habitat in town; two, three, & four apt frame structures, old & new. The new ones have garages & balconies, but they're basically the same, built fast & cheaply on the footprint of a teardown. These are well-maintained, depends on the owner. On the other side of town there's block after tedious block of them in all conditions of repair & disrepair, packed closely, & the old, dry buildings are worrisome things for firefighters, who can never be certain how many occupants are living in them.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

One very small incremental step

There are three things I wanted President Obama to do regarding LGBT rights early in his adminstration:
1. Demonstrate full committment to extending federal benefits to domestic partnerships in all ways that are available to him, & making clear he will fight for whatever he cannot do.

2. Urge Congress to repeal DOMA (plus, we recently realized, instruct the Justice Dept. to do no more than what is minimally required to defend the constitutionality of the law).

3. Inform the Pentagon that he intended to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell & order a plan for the transition to be on his desk by a certain date. The Harry Truman approach to civil rights.
These are all incrementalist tactics not requiring Obama to support "gay marriage." To date, he has done none of them. Worse, Justice Dept. issued a report defending DOMA with the zeal one would expect from the previous adminstration.

LGBT & their allies are to the Democratic Party what Mormons are to the Repugs; a reliable independent demographic with fat wallets. They give generously to the Party at the national level, not limiting support specifically to outspoken pro-gay rights candidates.

President Obama is in big trouble with gay rights supporters. There were grumblings during the campaign, with good reason. But he did say this in his campaign:
I'm running for President to build an America that lives up to our founding promise of equality for all - a promise that extends to our gay brothers and sisters. It's wrong to have millions of Americans living as second-class citizens in this nation. And I ask for your support in this election so that together we can bring about real change for all LGBT Americans.

...As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws.

...I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does. I have also called for us to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and I have worked to improve the Uniting American Families Act so we can afford same-sex couples the same rights and obligations as married couples in our immigration system
So there it is. Now the Democratic National Committee faces a big donor boycott of a high profile fund-raising event starring VP Biden, which happens only a few days before the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, the beginning of the Gay Pride movement.

We shall hear what the President says this afternoon, when he issues a presidential memorandum extending a handful of benefits temporarily to domestic partners employed by the federal guvmint - not including the two biggies, health & retirement. I can't imagine him signing the document without promising to do more, & soon.

The President has a lot on the table, & we know that health care reform is at the top of his domestic agenda, as it should be. But the time for playing both sides - the equal rights supporters on the good side who deliver votes & money, & the Rick Warren crowd who don't & never will - is over. Reading the liberal blogs, it's clear the number of Obama's LGBT apologists is rapidly falling. Pam Spaulding's House Blend is the go-to blog. Pam is a reasonable North Carolinian who doesn't expect miracles, & she is not pleased.

Later: I concluded today's little ceremonial signing wasn't for equal rights supporters; it was aimed at the Rick Warren evangelical types whose understanding (or silence) is for some reason so important to Obama; a reminder that although he's moving like a turtle, he's moving, & if it happens later rather than sooner, it's gonna happen, so get used to the idea if you can. Hillary Clinton was prominently mentioned, the full center of the Democratic Party, the triangulators & the gradualists. The Prez, for now, will risk the ire of progressives - who must keep the pressure on Obama & congress, even if it means not opening a wallet when the DNC collection plate is passed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

99 Cent Radio

from the 99 cent (& up) store. Shaped like a faucet, the base is a suction cup to stick it to the shower wall. AM/FM, two AA batteries, it works. The knob is on/off & vol. No shower for this odd baby, it's on the shelf with the other dust collectors.

(What is it if one views it as a surrealist object?)


Monday, June 15, 2009


Plowing hail in Washington Township, Bergen County, dropped by an intense, slow-moving storm. CBS-TV covered it mainly as a novelty story, didn't interview any of the people with ruined gardens, surely were many in that suburban town. I've never experienced hail like this in Jersey. I've seen pretty large hail - nothing like the baseballs out west - & our hailstorms are usually too brief for more than a little coating on the grass. We had some dark clouds in my town, only a spritzing.

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Tweeting Iran

Iran is a nation where one would not want to be a Jew, a Bahai, a Sunni, a Christian, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or an atheist. It's not a great place to be a woman, either. There are no homosexuals in Iran! They can't tweet this away.

Many Americans would be comfortable under a system of government like the one in Iran, but designed for a "Christian Republic." We might be surprised how many. Glenn Beck's fans, certainly. But also a lot of basically apolitical people. If we care only about the liberties we take & the rights we actually use, we become indifferent to the rights of others & harshly judgmental of those who take liberties we consider morally offensive at worst, or frivolous at best. Why, we ask, should others have the rights to take these liberties when we ourselves wouldn't take those liberties & therefore don't need those rights?

The grand fantasy of the Evangelical Right in the last decade of the 20th Century was that if it gained complete control of the federal government, it could get a handle on popular culture & redirect it. There was some reason for believing this. The entertainment & mass media communication industries were in a period of frightening corporate consolidation. Since these corporate behemoths only wanted to generate as much profit as possible for shareholders, government would use a carrot & stick approach to influence the products of these corporations. It did happen, up to a point, but only in the manipulation of information - the "news." The run-up to the Iraq War was a great success for the right wing, lasting through the 2004 election until Katrina news coverage - no manipulating those images or silencing those voices - exposed the true breadth & depth of the collaborative scam. In other areas, movies, music, TV shows, video games, the corporations went with whatever they thought would sell, promoted what sold the most & ditched everything else. The everything else went on the Internet. What sold the most was rarely what Evangelicals were selling. The only big crossover successes were self-help books & apocalyptic fiction.

The wielding of political powe in a nation with strong constraints on political expression is easier than the management of culture & the suppression of ideas, but it sure helps to have those constraints. It's more difficult to manage culture where free expression of political views is part of the cultural marketplace. The religious right in America, even when it had influence & allies at the highest levels of government, had limited cultural success. In order to promote lifestyle, they have to sell product. This stuff is packaged, of course, as family entertainment & moral instruction. But it generally squeezes into the mainstream only in the milder forms.

During George W's first term, I found myself rooting for the success of "American Idol," & for celebrities like Paris Hilton. She had nothing to sell but her own example & image, & spin-off merchandise; a reality show, perfume, the Paris Hilton product. 12 year old girls adored her; they graduated from Barbie dolls to Paris.

Iraq expects to maintain an Islamic Republic with an educated, technologically-savvy middle class but with a medievalist Supreme Leader having the final word on everything. Rather than a reformist president, the Iranian system is just as likely to raise up a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad type with some real political muscle, a religious fanatic who figures out how to get the armed forces, secret police, & a majority of the Council of Guardians on his side, & turns a faltering Supreme Leader into a puppet. I'm hoping the culture of Iran prevents it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How Iran is ruled

Call me a cynic, but I think the Iranian election protests would dissipate if President Ahmadinejad gave away free iPods to the demonstrators with gift certificates for ten iTune downloads. They protest an illusory election result by demanding illusory "reform" with a new figurehead president who maybe doesn't embarrass Iran as much when he speaks at the United Nations or by denying the Holocaust. But they don't get to vote for or against the Ayatollah Khamenei and his council of clerics. We always overestimate the will & strength of the Iranian middle class. Democratic Theocracy is an oxymoron.

How Iran is Ruled, the BBC guide.

New Egypt NJ

Vacationing at Oakford Lake in the Pine Barrens.

Once a tourist destination, small Oakford Lake is still there, near Fort Dix, & not far from Great Adventure Amusement Park; the area remains relatively rural for New Jersey.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Not Budgies

EDGEWATER -- Time is running out on legislation to protect the wild parrots of Edgewater. Again.

While politicians scurry about Trenton, fighting the clock to pass a state budget before the summer recess, a bill granting citizenship to Edgewater's most famous immigrants languishes in committee for the third time in four years.

The legislation is not, even its most passionate proponents admit, a matter of life and death. But it is a vital step toward ensuring the future of charismatic little foreigners that long ago squawked their way into Edgewater's heart.

"We love our birds, and we want to protect them," said Edgewater borough administrator Greg Franz. "I don't think there's anybody who doesn't support the parrots. Well, except maybe the power company."

South American monk parakeets, also known as Quaker parrots, have lived in this urban hillside town just south of the George Washington Bridge for more than 30 years. How they got there is a matter of speculation: Maybe a crate broke open at JFK airport; maybe they're former house pets gone wild, or a deliberate release by an avian activist.

What is certain is that they are -- of about 350 known parrot species in the world -- the only ones biologically disposed to survive New Jersey winters. The reason is their unique ability to build massive, multi-chamber nests in which their shared body heat provides mutual protection against harsh temperatures.

The nests are the parrots' key survival trait and their downfall.

They are amazing constructs that can reach the size of a Volkswagen and weigh up to a ton, experts say. Monk parakeets will only build high above the ground and their favorite perches are utility poles and, particularly, transformers.
There used be a flock of these birds in Keyport, a Raritan bay town - don't know if they're still there - & I wouldn't want them around. They get up in a tree nearby, you can't hear yourself think. But are they worse than pigeons, sparrows & starlings, our other winged rats? Probably not.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Luis Castillo

is a bonehead.

Yankees 9, Mets 8.


Friday Cat

Bored with swatting at moving images on TV, Sparky (standing on hind legs) contemplates catching & eating the noisy children kicking a ball around the street in front of Gina's house. The magnificent hunter ears give you away. Shame on you, Sparky, it was two of those children who got Gina to take you in as a kitten but a few months ago when you were otherwise destined for the evil animal shelter, the one that considers cuddly little kitties expendable when they are no longer so cuddly or so little. Shortly after this photo, they came over to say hello & scritched you & cooed over you & called you adorable.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hold post for review

My comment posts at NJ.com, the Star-Ledger website, are becoming more trollish, as I react to insanely bigoted & paranoid comments by other posters. The threads over there are completely unsupervised (except by columnist Paul Mulshine, who insists his commenters stay on-topic & deletes them when they don't), my complaints to management using the alert function unheard. I don't comment on the news story, I go directly for the posters. Today I wrote: "Newrkpeeches writes comments while shoving firecrackers up the asses of cats & pretending to be a guard at Buchenwald." Let them complain about me.
Friday: I think the comment got me added to the "comment held for review" list. I just tried to post an innocuous paragraph defending the Sisters of St. Joseph, Philadelphia. How come it's so easy for others to post comments saying Newark should be burned down or turned into a concentration camp, & advocating lynchings, & blaming Obama for bank robberies in the burbs?


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Todd the Bod

Dave Letterman's two jokes about Sara Palin's daughter during the governor's recent New York trip really were disturbing. I was aware that 14 year old Willow Palin was the only daughter along for the trip, apparently Letterman's writers were not. So I was taken aback by the jokes, which involved Elliot Spitzer & Alex Rodriguez. But I was pretty sure Dave thought the jokes were about Bristol.

Having to explain that misunderstanding in an apology isn't much of an apology. I don't think Dave handled it well, if there was any way to handle it at all. He may have handled it better if Palin hadn't called Letterman "sexually-perverted."

But Sara Palin is slutty-looking, & a moron, Todd the Bod is there for stud service & she rides the guy like a horse, on top of course, wearing spurs & a moosehide vest. Might even fire the shotgun.

Another oddity: Craig Ferguson thought one of his staffers was the sister of North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, & figured the connection gave him license to joke that Hoeven is an "evil dictator." The staffer is Hoeven's cousin.

Craig loudly proclaims how much he dislikes jazz. Meanwhile, Letterman books & enjoys mainstream jazz artists such as Wynton Marsalis & Diana Krall (Mrs. Elvis Costello). Ferguson's little program & stage would be a great showcase for him to learn about this "American" music he has so much difficulty appreciating. He also doesn't seem to notice that the house bands on four other late night network talk shows can play jazz.

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This bizarre Jon Voight quote from a Repug fundraiser is getting deserved attention:
Obama really thinks that he is a soft-spoken Julius Caeser. He thinks he’s going to conquer the world with his soft-spoken sweet talk. And really thinks he’s going to bring all the enemies of the world into a little playground where they’ll swing each other back and forth. We and we alone are the right frame of mind to free this nation from this Obama oppression.

And let’s give thanks to all the great people like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, William Bennett, Glenn Beck, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Dennis Miller, Dick Morris, Ann Coulter, John Kasich, Michael Steele, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Thomas Sowell, Victor Davis Hanson, Shelby Steele, Charles Krauthammer, Michelle Malkin, Fred Barnes and so many others. Let’s give thanks to them for not giving up and staying the course to bring an end to this false prophet Obama.
What caught my attention is the list. There isn't one elected Repug legislator on it, & although a lot of the names support only Repugs, they're actually unaffiliated celebrity ideologues. Voight's entire little speech was crazy. But since one would have to be crazy to speak at a Repug fundraiser.... I feel a Catch-22 in there. & to think this guy is a great actor, father of Angelina Jolie, & the brother of Chip Taylor - composer of "Wild Thing" & "I Can't Let Go." He also claims to be friends with Hillary Clinton. Oh well, Voight used to be a celebrity leftist - more left than me - & then just flipped over, a neurotic thing. Voight says the the younger him was influenced by "Marxist propaganda." How come I knew what was Marxist propaganda & he didn't? Maybe because I've written stuff I knew was no better than propaganda. My poetry teacher said it's alright to write propaganda for a worthy cause provided you understand that's what it is. Voight is still a sucker for propaganda, & a mouthpiece in a terrible cause, & a stinking liar. Being a fine actor doesn't make him wise. Some actors are notoriously stupid, or notorious assholes, or both.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Quote of the Day

"If it's Calvin Coolidge, you know it's solid comedy."
Dave Letterman

N.J. Headline of the Day:
Robber of Metuchen bank gets stuck in traffic, caught by police

A wonder it doesn't happen more often.

I'm almost envious of hockey fans, they've had a great Stanley Cup Finals, going to a 7th game in Detroit with the home team having won each of the previous six. The season ends Friday, & about two weeks after that they're back in training camp for next season?


Monday, June 08, 2009

My Neighborhood

Elmora Dunkin' Donuts often mentioned in this blog, a few steps from the branch library (I wish it was part of the library). Give the owner credit, they're not required to try for some coffee bar atmosphere. It attracts small study groups from Kean University, guys from a nearby Jewish high school, & people with laptops. One young counter employee was mopping the floor - not her usual duty - & I joked that a barista didn't do that kind of work. "What's a barista?" she asked. OK, it's not Starbucks, but if she made a list of everything she does well in her job, from a dozen variations on an egg & cheese sandwich to basic espresso drinks to helping children choose a dozen donuts, she might be surprised.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

New Age Newt

"I think this is one of the most critical moments in American history," Gingrich said. "We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism." Newt said that at the "Rediscovering God In America" conference in Virginia. A head scratcher, & the quote stands alone in all the press reports. I wonder if he elaborated on the statement?

Is there any topic on which Newt does not have an expert opinion he is eager to express in public, knowing that media will dutifully listen & report? Will Ferrell's new movie? Golf course design? The best recipe for peach cobbler?

There are two environments where I feel the presence of paganism (not including tee shirt shops on the boardwalk). One is any event when religion & patriotic nationalism are blended together. This blend is raised to the level of spectacle in many right wing protestant churches. I've never set foot in those. Religious nationalism is a primary feature of the American protestant right; they believe the United States is the center of the Universe the way we used to believe the Sun, planets, & stars revolved around Earth.

The other place I feel the strong presence of paganism is a Roman Catholic Church. Early Christians, especially after Constantine approved the religion, adopted the forms, liturgies, offices, festivals, music, architecture, & administrative structures of Roman paganism, & they are preserved in living museums found in your town & mine. The Church also absorbed a variety of major & minor gods & goddesses, Virgin Mary being the most notable, a venerable peasant woman of Palestine subsequently elevated to the near-status of Venus/Ishtar. The Church continues to create saints out of historical personages embodying the best qualities of ethnic deities. This is how religion evolves & changes.

Newt has converted to Roman Catholicism. Good for him if it teaches him to think outside the Box of American Right Wing Protestantism & enjoy the cultural diversity the Roman Catholic Church makes available. It hasn't yet. He'll also have to get used to the pagan influences. Newt may also notice that the Roman Catholic Church in America tends to treat immigrants kindly without inquiring as to how they got here.

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North Plainfield NJ

Planters Peanuts & Eber's Patio Shop.
Near each other on the westbound side of Route 22
not far from the Leaning Tower of Pizza.
Planters shops must have been peanut lovers' heaven.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

D Day

"The sheer improbability of this victory is part of what makes D-Day so memorable. It also arises from the clarity of purpose with which this war was waged."
President Barack Obama
Fine D Day speech, but I have to disagree with the President. A successful landing was historically improbable, & certainly seemed so to the men on Omaha Beach, & it could have gone terribly wrong. The lack of initial German air & armored resistance on other sectors of the landing front helped the allies immeasurably. But in the plans, equipment, & quality & numbers of our men, it ought to have succeeded & did. It's a wonder that more of our soldiers weren't killed on June 6, 1944.

By D Day, we'd had some hard experience with beach landings in the Pacific & Italy, we knew what we were doing. After establishing a firm beachhead, our inability to break out into Normandy against German resistance became an enormous danger, & when we finally did break through, our delay in completely encircling & destroying the retreating German forces may well have lengthened the war in the West, a matter still hotly debated, & which reveals how one feels about George Patton.

Although The Longest Day is a good overview of D Day, it's a bloodless film with distracting star cameos. The opening of Saving Private Ryan made me put aside the popcorn.

I miss the generation that fought World War II. They're almost gone now. The natural, youthful disdain I had for them did not extend to their war experiences. As I got older, I better understood the sacrifices, dislocation, & anxieties of those soldiers & sailors who hadn't even been in combat, & of the loved ones remaining at home. Later, they had a great & justifiable sentiment for national unity. Many politicians cynically appealed to this sentiment. After the Civil War those kinds of appeals were called "waving the bloody shirt." We have a President with the empathy & intellect not to do it.


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Part of today's Scorpio Sun sign horoscope:
You're trying to get someone to see how wise it is to give in and fall completely and totally in love with you. It will definitely work, of course -- who could possibly resist you?
I'm doing no such thing, unless posting the excerpt indicates that I'm trying it, in which case I don't know who or why. Later, I'm visiting some cats. They'll be cat happy to see me because they know I open the cans.
In the meantime, though, a little ambiance to go along with that dinner invitation couldn't hurt. Say, a couple of candles, some flowers and maybe some mood music. You know what to do.
Yeah, open the cans fast, dump them on the plates, get out of the kitchen.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Hal Turner you're in the jailhouse now

Uber-right dirtbag blogger & internet radio host & Sean Hannity pal Hal Turner spends the weekend in jail:
The attorney representing North Bergen white supremacist blogger Harold "Hal" Turner said he hopes to arrange a bail hearing for his client on Monday or Tuesday but until then Turner will remain in Hudson County jail in Kearny.

Newark attorney Michael A. Orozco said that after the bail hearing, an extradition hearing will be scheduled.

He plans to fight extradition to Connecticut.

Turner was arrested Wednesday by North Bergen police on a fugitive from justice warrant based on the Connecticut charge of inciting injury. Officials say that while championing a lawsuit filed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., Turner used his blog to incite violence against three Connecticut officials.

"If any state attorney, police department or court thinks they're going to get uppity with us about this," Turner's blog reads in part, "I suspect we have enough bullets to put them down too."
State prison isn't like the minimum security lockups where the Feds stash the eccentric ultraright tax resisters Hal supports - the nutcases who insist the income tax is unconstitutional. Should Hal be incarcerated for any length of time, he ought not delay in obtaining a white racial supremacist tattoo. Conveniently. The Florida Dept. of Corrections provides a sampling of these symbols for Hal's consideration, I'm sure they're good in Connecticut prisons, too. The Republican Elephant symbol also may suffice now.

I've never paid attention to Hal Turner, he's background noise, unfortunately resides in Jersey. But the big loonies on Fox are sounding more & more like Hal. They're all mutual enablers. Last week a doctor in Kansas was murdered. The violent language is not metaphorical. They mean it.



When I arrived back at Casa de Rix earlier, The Most Bored Man I Ever Met was standing outside at the top of the front stoop, barely dry beneath an overhang. Dreary, rainy evening, nothing to look at. TMBMIEM is almost 70, I hear; short, Hispanic but speaks English well. He moved here a few years ago from some bad part of the city, in or around some projects, & once expressed to me a wish he was back there. Not much happens on this corner, & it's gotten very quiet since the drug crew was chased away by the cops two summers ago. I don't know what keeps him from moving back to the 'hood, I'm sure there's someone willing to trade for an apartment in a neighborhood where law-abiding citizens can walk their dogs after dark.

Sometimes in the middle of the winter on freezing days, TMBMIEM stands just inside the foyer door, wearing a jacket, staring out the front windows. Someone else in the building explained him to me.

"Do you ever read those news stories about an innocent person shot in crossfire between two gangbangers?"
"Yeah, I do."
"& then you notice it happened at 3 am in a neighborhood you wouldn't go to in broad daylight?"
"Well, that's him. When you & I hear an argument or a fight or police sirens, we peek out the window. He runs outside. It's like reality television. It's his entertainment. There's lots of people like him. "
"What would he do if he heard gunshots?"
"Go outside & look."
"Why doesn't he move to a more lively area?"
"Wherever he was before, it was probably awful & the city tried to get him into senior housing & he refused to go."
"But those are nice buildings. Clean. Secure. Free buses to the mall."
"Doesn't matter. Nothing he wants to see at the mall."

This isn't quite TMBBPIEW.
The Most Boring Blog Post I Ever Wrote


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Convenience Store Hero

Benevolent New York merchant cited in drug sweep

SHIRLEY, N.Y. (AP) — A New York convenience store owner who made headlines after showing mercy on a would-be robber has been accused of selling drug paraphernalia.

Shirley Express owner Mohammad Sohail's (so-HAYL) store on Long Island was one of seven businesses cited Tuesday. He's accused of violating state business laws.

Prosecutors say undercover officers bought bongs and pipe screens at the store three times in recent weeks.

Sohail said Thursday he did not know the items were not permitted to be sold.

It's not a criminal charge and is punishable by a fine of up to $30,000.

The merchant got attention this week when it was revealed that he gave an intended robber $40 and a loaf of bread if the man agreed never to steal again.
Sheesh. Saw this on TV news tonight. On the security tape, the robber fell to his knees & wept. It was a remarkable encounter, like watching Jesus say, "Go & sin no more," & Mr. Sohail is a special kind of soul. The ornate bongs were in a small glass case with a sign "for tobacco only." You know, that harmless legal drug. Of course, they were used for pot. The 7-11 up the street sells rolling papers, regular & wide. It also sells a variety of cheap, single cigars, including terrible flavored types. When I'm in the 7-11, young folks, male & female, come in to buy a couple of cigars. Many of them are students from the dorms at the nearby college. Everyone knows the cigars are sold for blunts. Slice open the cigar, empty it, fill it with pot, re-roll it, lick it closed, dry it with a few passes of a Bic lighter. Flavored blunts & water bongs are popular where the marijuana tends to be low grade. I don't know about Shirley NY, but around here marijuana smoking is not something law enforcement considers a major problem. Oh, they bust dealers & the occasional small time grower, & put wildly inflated street values on the stuff. Local cops have no choice but to arrest anyone toking outside in a public space, although they're probably more pissed off that the offender is so stupid & putting them through the hassle.

Unavailability is the main reason urban gangs here deal pot along with hard drugs. But it's smelly, takes up storage space, & customers aren't addicts. Decriminalize it (not even legalization), street market expands, people grow their own, price drops, pot smokers - like microbrew beer afficionados - become finicky about quality, & the dried out expensive crap the local Crips sell ain't good enough because your cousin gets better weed from her friend in the burbs. This was the pretty much the situation in many places (not Texas) before Nixon declared War on Marijuana & the subsequent cocaine importation turned formerly livable poor & working class neighborhoods into terror zones, & you couldn't even safely use restrooms in upscale jazz clubs, where coke pimps set up shop. It isn't the pot smokers who become so sick & desperate that they kill convenience store clerks for fifty bucks.


The analog-digital converter makes a fabulous picture -
when it's not pixilating or freezing. & it hasn't found channel 13, WNET PBS.

Unlike analog, digital is a yes or no signal. It's decoded & there or it ain't.
Won't do to get an amplified antenna. The problem is interference,
not a weak, distant transmitter. I'm still on the second floor
with the entire building between the TV aerial & the Empire State Building.

Conan's glitzy new Tonight Show set truly is impressive.
But after tonight, I'm ready to go back to Dave. Craig Ferguson,
with his puppets, low budget skits & D list guests is more my "Hollywood."
He had Baltimorean detective writer Laura Lippman on a few weeks ago;
her husband created "The Wire." She knows Baltimore.
Venerable mystery/action writer Lawrence Block was on at least twice.
Block's best known series features Matthew Scudder, an ex-cop without
a P.I. license who does "favors." But I'm a fan of his Bernie Rhodenbarr novels,
about a cat burglar who owns a used bookstore in downtown New York,
his best friend a middle-aged lesbian with dog grooming salon.
I can put myself in that fantasy.

Jimmy Fallon has a speech impediment. I don't know if there's a name for it.
I just call it mumbling.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A choice not mine to make

When I was 22 & she 19, my Roman Catholic girlfriend had an abortion. I believe she did it more for me than for herself. It did not save the relationship. Having the baby would not have saved the relationship. I have no feelings about the abortion itself, an early, legal termination. But it was a terrible thing for her, & I was too young to really understand that.

My mother aborted a pregnancy between my sister's birth & mine. I don't know if it was the only abortion she ever had. I know she carried a load of guilt over it all her life. She did not tell me about it until she was old, an unexpected answer to a question. The abortion was illegal (I suspect by her personal gynecologist or obstetrician) & traumatic. Yet, had she accepted that pregnancy, I probably would not be here. In her heart, mom counted the one she gave up, an emotional risk women take with an abortion.

The religious "Culture of Life" espoused by the Roman Catholic Church (including some Catholic left groups) & some protestant "peace" churches has its appeal. Nat Hentoff, an atheist, has opposed abortion for decades as part of what he considers rational & ethical human rights advocacy. There's even a pro-gay marriage group opposed to abortion. How I felt about abortion shifted day to day. I am prochoice & prolife, which doesn't male me unusual. I decided to defer to women on the matter. The majority of women - despite some misleading recent poll numbers - do not want abortion outlawed.

By contrast, Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue, is an Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America; women cannot be elders, or ordained anything, in that reactionary denomination. Women acquiesce quietly to the patriarchs at the PCA, quite obedient. Just as women members of Operation Rescue follow male "leaders" of the anti-abortion movement like Newman & like accused murderer Scott Roeder. Roeder is a "lone killer" only in the strictly legal sense. He's always felt empowered by others to do violence, by their language & undisguised admiration for him personally. He's always had women encouraging him to act on their behalf, to make the choices. & when he goes to prison he won't lack for female correspondents or marriage proposals or, for that matter, women willing to bear his children in or out of wedlock.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Jersey Repugs

Jersey Repugs have fair chance to elect governor this year. They didn't have stellar candidates in the primary. Our neanderthal right thinks incumbent Gov. Corzine is so weak that even their guy, a screwball former mayor named Steve Lonegan, could win in November. Lonegan has kept many of his screwball views out of sight during the primary. But he headlined Joe The Bigot Wurzelbacher at a key fundraising event, partly an act of desperation I think - Steve seemed to have gone out of his way not to be photographed with the infamous skinhead. Many Democrats were hoping for a Lonegan win. I wasn't so sure. A candidate willing to showcase Joe is capable of all kinds of angry white guy nastiness should be find himself lagging behind Corzine in the polls. Jersey has been blessedly free of social values type elections & referendums. We lack a strong, organized religious right here, but that doesn't mean they aren't around. I'll give Lonegan credit for inspiring enthusiasm in his supporters. I have never had that pleasure in a gubernatorial primary or general election here.

The Repug primary winner is Chris Christie, a double chin Bush-appointed prosecutor & the candidate of the "moderates." He's carrying some baggage that hasn't all been unpacked in public yet. He's up against an equally uninspiring incumbent Democrat, Gov. Jon Corzine, but a politician who has been, I think, pretty straight with Jerseyans on our budgetary shortfalls, & pretty determined to protect the most vulnerable of our residents from the worst of the cuts. He's a liberal. He may not be so popular, but he's not generally despised. He also has two allies named Barack & Hillary, very popular in Jersey ( as is former Prez Bill) & who can campaign for Corzine without risking any of their political capital. Joe Biden came to Jersey today, telegraphing how important the White House views this race. Corzine could run a variation on Hillary's famous 3 AM phone call commercial but where Christie tries to call the White House & nobody picks up the phone. "Sorry Chris, you don't have a friend there anymore." Can the Obamas & the Clintons help Corzine's re-election? You betcha. Not by swinging a lot of independent voters but by charging up the Democratic base, who have a considerable advantage in registered voters & stronger get-out-the-vote operations.


My Neighborhood

Click on them to enlarge.
Elm Street, adjacent to my apt. Photo on left looks toward my building in the center, at the corner of Elm & Cherry. The next photo is the other direction. Would be a more pleasant street with trees. Some of the houses lack driveways, including a few of the elevated ones. A mix of one & two family. It's a very long block.

The Last Victorian is on the next parallel street. Still vacant, the grass is mowed, bushes & small trees pruned. Someone is looking after it. This evening, a sporty red car was parked out front, a man doing something in the backyard. He noticed me looking at the property & waved, I gave him a thumbs up.


Monday, June 01, 2009

Build a better Beetle

So now we own GM.

GM is bankrupt. Why did take so long?

The problem was becomng evident when I was child, an era of bloated cars & absurd designs. But by the time I was actually driving, the future was easily summed up this way: Why doesn't Detroit build a better Volkswagon Beetle? - a cheap, small, reliable first car for young drivers & second car for families. It wasn't an impertinent or stupid question, although it often was treated as one. The Japanese didn't think so. The first popular Japanese imports were pretty crappy - lots of college students had Datsun junkers with rusted out floors, but they worked on quality control while our auto makers stumbled around from one piece of garbage to another, crying that the Japanese cheated because their government helped the car companies.

AMC - American was the kooky 4th company - tried going "outside the box" in the Fifties with the strange, lovable Metropolitan & in 1975 with the Pacer. I liked the Pacer design, but it got 16 mpg & AMC quickly became confused about what it was supposed to be. A really smart automaker would've had something like it on the drawing board five years earlier.

Every year for decades the Big Three car companies rolled fantastical small car dreams into the auto shows, ideas apparently thought up by geeky young engineers whose conceptions were never intended to reach production.

When the SUV was glued together - truck as family car - deep down inside I think everyone knew it was hopeless & just a matter of time. GMC & Chrysler hung on longer than I had expected. One strategic retreat after another, hoping for a miracle change in the marketplace, or technology, or something.

Twenty years ago I saw Michael Moore's film "Roger & Me." Yeah, they were closing plants, shipping jobs out of the country, & impoverishing entire cities, but they still didn't have a freakin' clue. I left the theater thinking, "It's all true, but what does he expect GM to do without going bankrupt?"


"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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