Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Letting dead horses lie: A short meditation about Barbaro, belittlement, paid obituaries, human decency, and the sad state of the newspaper business

In this morning’s paid obituary notices in the New York Times, I found one for a dead horse.

As you might guess, it wasn’t an obit notice for any old dead horse. It was for Barbaro, the champion racehorse who broke his leg and eventually deteriorated so badly that he had to be put down, an event that occurred just the other day.

I don’t mean to belittle the grief of Barbaro’s owners and others who knew him. Or petted him. Or admired his racing prowess. Or betted on him.

I also don’t mean to belittle the sincerity and concern of the Belmont Child Care Association which placed the obituary notice.

But I’m guessing – just guessing, mind you – that in some peoples' minds, placing an obituary for a horse in a human obituary column might seem to belittle the human dead.

It somehow appears indecent that to honor a dead horse, someone drew attention away from the humans whose modest lives and sometimes tragically early deaths are briefly illuminated by their relatives in these columns .

I’m also willing to speculate that 20 years ago, an obit for a horse among the human death notices would have been unthinkable. It would have been like a dead horse buried in religiously hallowed ground – an honor to the horse but arguably an insult to the adjacent dead humans.

What has caused this shift of values?

The fault, dear friends, lies in the Internet. Once upon a time, all manner of small type ads – paid death notices, help wanted ads, real estate ads, used car ads – added bread and heaping slabs of butter to the tables of newspaper publishers and their stockholders.

Alas, Internet sites such as, and others have sat down at the publishers’ tables uninvited and helped themselves not only to the bread and butter, but also to the meat and pudding.

Consequently, publishers’ advertising policy might just be loosening up to allow for a new income stream. Horse obits? Why not? Perhaps next week we’ll see a death notice for a beloved cat.

“You killed birds like a champ, Buzzby. You always covered the poop in your box. We will never forget you – Mom, Dad, Chip and Muffy.”

And after that, who knows? Maybe the dead hamster. Maybe a pet boa constrictor. Or an adored Iguana.

It’s a sad state of affairs when we have to wonder whether a horse or lizard will warrant more attention in the obituaries than ourselves.

Monday, January 29, 2007

C'mon you crooks! At least get your stupid and terribly-written stories straight!

Recently, in part as a demonstration of the appalling state of expository writing among Internet crooks, I published the letters of two wannabe thieves, offering to make me rich for nothing.

One of the letters was from a “Mrs. Pearl Vat Cole,” who was tapping out her dying message to me on a laptop in her hospital bed, with only a few days to live.

Whaddya know! She survived! (At least for a while.) That’s the good news. The tragic bad news is, now she’s got a friend named Mrs. Dora Ekpo who’s also dying (remarkably from the same variety of cancer), and who discovered my e-mail address on “the Christian site on the Internet.”

I can’t imagine my name being on any Christian site anywhere, unless it’s on a list of people who will roast eternally in hell, but never mind.

I promised I was only going to publish con artist letters once. That meant one time and one time only. However, this stuff is like all those truly terrible performers on American Idol. The worse they get, the harder they are to ignore. They're wildly addictive – two parts criminal, three parts hilariously stupid.

So here are two more submissions from the Terrible Writing Department of the Internet Underworld – first from Mrs. Dora Ekpo, who appears to be Mrs. Vat Cole’s deeply religious alter ego, and then from someone who purports to be Mr. Niabba Ibrahim, a crooked banker who sent me a virus (fortunately zapped by virus-killing softwear) along with his plea to join him in high finance skullduggery.

Subject: Beloved In Christ
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2007 12:02:01 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: Beloved In Christ
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2007 12:02:01 +0000 (GMT)

Beloved In Christ

Calvary greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am Mrs.Dora. ekpo, a widow to Late Sherrif ekpo, I am 69 years old, I am now a new Christian convert,suffering from long time cancer of the breast. From all indications,my condition is serious and according to my doctor it is quite obvious that I may not survive the sickness,although as a christain,I beleive God and I know that I will not die,I will leave to declare the glory of God.

My late husband and my only son was killed during the Ogoni Crisis and I am resently leaving alone.Our Lord Jesus Christ is my comforter. My late husband was very wealthy we have a lot of properties including Shares and houses.After the death of my husband,I made up my mind to travel abroad to leave the rest of my life and continue to do the work of God as a missionary.

I called our lawyer and I instructed him to sell all my husbands properties and shares to enableme raise some money to conitue my mission. The lawyer sold the Shares and some of the properties and I was able raise a sum of money which i will disclose the amount as soon as you notify me of your readiness to accept this proposition The fund is in cash,for the safety of the fund till am able to travel out,I packaged the fund in consignments deposited it with a Security Company in abroad.
Now that my sickness has gone to this stage,I am scared and I want the fund to be used for the work of God all over the world. most expecially the victims of the ecember 26 2004 tsunami disasterand the recent HURRICANE KATRINA in part of the u.s.a.,I have prayed and I told God to provide a honest christan who will receive this fund and utilise it for things that will glorify the name of God.

After my prayers,I searched the christain site in the internet,I found your email address and I decided to contact you.Please if you are interested in using this fund for the work of God,please send to me your full names and address to enable me give it to the security company for immediate arrangement with the security company on how the consignments that contained the fund will be delivered to you.

I await your urgent reply. to my private email..
Thanks and God bless you.

mrs dora ekpo

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Date: Fri, 26 Jan 2007 5:03 PM
Dear friend.

Good Day,

I am Mr NIABBA IBRAHIM, Senior Credit Officer of AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK ANNEX BURKINA FASO.Here is a 100% concealed and mutually profitable business proposal for you. After the United States and Iraqi war, our client Hatem Kamil Abdul Fatah who was the deputy governor of Baghdad in Iraq and also business man made a numbered fixed deposit for 12 calendar months, with a value of ten million five hundred thausand usd only in my branch.Upon maturity several notices were sent to him, even in the first quater of this year.Again another notification was sent and still no response came from him. We later found out that the Deputy Governor has been assasinated in Baghdad.
The websites below is a proof and verification of the news abou this death:

After further investigation it was also discovered that Hatem Kamil Abdul Fatah did not declare any next of kin in his official papers including the paper work of his bank deposit. And he also confided in me the last time he was at my office that no one except me knew of his deposit in my bank. So, ten million five hundred usd$ is still lying in my bank and no one will ever come forward to claim it. Against this backdrop, my suggestion to you is that I will like you as a neutral person to stand in as the next of kin to Hatem Kamil Abdul Fatah so that you will be able to receive his funds with my aid as the insider.

THE PREREQUISITE OF THIS PROJECT:I want you to know that I have had everything planned out so that we come out successful.all that is required from you NOW is for you to provide me with your Full Names and Address so that i can prepare the documents with your name. After you have been made the next of kin,you will also file in for claims on your and secure the necessary approvals and letter of probate to enable the bank move the funds to an account that will be provided by you.

There are no risks involved in the matter as we are going to adopt a legalized method and all necessary documents will be prepared by the bank for easy movement iof the fund into your account.Please endeavour to observe utmost discretion in all matters concerning this issue.Once the funds have been transferred to your nominated bank account we shall share in the ratio of 60% for me, 30% for you and 10% for any expenses incurred during the course of this peration.Should you be interested, please send me your full particulars including your private phone and/or fax numbers for easy communication,and i will provide you with more details of this operation as well as my particulars.

I wait your respond
Kind Regards,
private email:

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Our brilliant Bush administration: “You make nukes that endanger the world? Okay, Dear Leader! Just for that, no jet ski for you!”

This just in from Reuters, “The United States on Friday issued a formal rule banning exports of luxury items to North Korea, including jet skis, I-pods, jewelry and fancy cars, in an effort to put pressure on the communist leadership in Pyongyang.”

Wait a second! Isn’t this the same North Korea where Kim Jung Il rules the roost while the mass of people are starving? Depriving them of Jet Skis, I-pods and other luxury items (perfume, for example) must really be dealing that nation one hell of a body blow. I mean, how’s the average starving North Korean woman gonna get by without her Miss Dior Perfume?

Oh, I see. Further down in the Reuters article, there was an explanation that, “U.S. officials argue that this will help to erode support among the elite for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who enjoys the finer things in life and uses such gifts to curry favor with the military while most North Koreans live a subsistence life.”

You mean – you mean that we have to wait for some general’s wife to run low on toilet water before this even begins to have some kind of effect? And what’s that effect going to be? She’s going to whine to her husband, “You never buy me perfume any more!” Yeah, that’ll really stop the North Korean nuclear program dead in its tracks. And heaven help Kim Jong Il’s wife or girlfriend if she tries kvetching to her Dear Leader about how she’s kept.

Oh, wait, I see. The General and Dear Leader will have an additional problem because they won’t be able to jet ski. Jet ski where, Mr. U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Madame U.S. Secretary of State? I just checked the Pyongyang weather report for today and the temperatures are 27 °F / -3 °C. I can imagine some North Korean general putting on a pair of bathing trunks and zipping around in the icy Pacific.

This kind of idiocy is typical of the Bush administration. They refuse to negotiate with the North Koreans and talk them (or okay, bribe them) out of becoming a worldwide nuclear menace. Instead, they “get tough” by depriving them of jet skis.

Who are they kidding?

Oh, right. Themselves.

You'll find the Reuters article here:

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Arf Arf! Clap Clap! Congressional trained seals put on the same sorry State of the Union applause show as usual. Disgusting!

What is it with Congress? I’m talking about both houses. And both parties.The President makes a State of the Union address. He speaks a sentence. Applause. Another sentence. More applause. And so on.

Thus the legislators in the nation’s two allegedly most august bodies behave more like trained seals than serious lawmakers. The President cracks open his lips. They applaud. Little wonder that in a 40-or-so-minutes speech it takes about an hour for the President to say his piece.

Oh, and a note for all you Democrats who applauded at various points in the speech: Every applause break you contributed to lengthened the speech time and decreased the likelihood that a certain number of Americans would stay awake to listen to the Democratic rebuttal. Shame on you.

I watched the Trained Seals Show on CNN, where one of the newscasters suggested we watch for the likelihood that one side would applaud certain topics more than the other side.

It was a hypnotic suggestion, almost impossible to avoid once it was made. Too bad. I felt like those mid-20th Century Kremlinologists who once gauged what was going on at the Kremlin by who was standing closest to Stalin during the Soviet May Day parade. Was Pelosi clapping or not clapping? What about the Vice President? What about Ted Kennedy?

And what about sanity?

The awareness of applause watchers undoubtedly forced some of the seals to calculate when they might be caught applauding and when not. For example, I caught Nancy Pelosi clapping for some remark or other about health insurance, even though it should be apparent that the Bush plan would curtail health insurance for many middle class people, increase its costs for others, and as usual give the rich a tax break while the poor get zilch. Maybe she just wanted viewers to know she's pro health insurance.

Oh, and did I hear that W wants to cut out the first $17,000 of income from Social Security tax eligibility to pay for his health proposal? (It’s hard to be sure, because I ended up playing the “Whose Clapping?” game along with everyone else and this broke my concentration.)

But if that’s what W. wants, he means to make a huge, huge cut in contributions to the Social Security Trust Fund, effectively dealing a powerful body blow to Social Security and endangering the retirement of millions of Americans. (Clap Clap, stupid!)

I’ve got a recommendation for all future Congresses at all future State of the Union Addresses.

Sit on your hands. The way you usually do the rest of the year.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Professional criminals join The New York Crank as One-Time-Only guest columnists

So here’s the deal: Ordinarily I don’t lend my space to underworld figures, but I’m making an exception in this case.

The reason? I can’t believe that after all the publicity it's been receiving, the old “I want to send you $10 million for nothing” scam is still working.

However, I also understand the ancient rule of honest direct mail advertisers that seems to have been so eagerly adopted by Internet con artists: “If it’s pulling, keep running it. If it’s not pulling, stop wasting your time and try a different letter.”

I must therefore conclude that somewhere out there, as you read this, some sucker is responding to one of the two messages below, oblivious to the likelihood that if the sender can’t spell, has trouble with English grammar, uses a hotmail address, and asks you to reply at a different free e-mail address, he or she is most probably NOT a notable English barrister at a distinguished law firm.

Nor for that matter would a poor woman dying of cancer want to give away a fortune to a complete stranger for donation to charity, when she could do that herself. She claims that she was “brought up from a motherless baby’s home,” whatever that means. My own opinion involves a somewhat different application of the word mother.

At any rate, enjoy the literary efforts of thieves, below:
Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2007 5:16 AM
Dear Friend,

I am Barrister John Abbo (LLB), principal partner of Abbo Chambers, London, United Kingdom.l am the personal attorney to Engr. Ross Shekel , an expatriate with Uk oil Development Company, United Kingdom who died in an auto crash along South Norwood Highway, London on the 21st of April 2003. He deposited the sum of Ten Million Six Hundred Thousand United State Dollars in his fixed deposit account with a bank, here in London. All efforts to reach his relatives have proved abortive after his death, following the notification from his bank to present his beneficiary or his account will be declared dormant and unclaimed based on their policy. This mandate compels me to present any of the family's relatives of my late client to his bank.

Since the decease is from your country and also bears same surname with you, l have contacted you to assist in the claim/transfer of this money to you. I will prepare every necessary documentation as proof , furnish you with adequate information about my late client that will back you up in this claim and l shall provide all legal services to warrant the release of this money to you within 10 working days after l must have filed in for claim in your favour.

l am highly delighted and willing to work with you in this matter and will appreciate if you will acknowledge your interest by forwarding your full names, home address telephone and fax numbers to enable me apply to his bank for commencement. A copy of my application letter will be sent to you for your view, update and documentation.You shall be entitled to 35% of the Ten Million Six Hundred Thousand United States Dollars while 5% will be used for any expenditure incurred by you and l.

Please if you are interested to assist, reply me in my private e-mail address below

I look forward to your prompt reply.

Yours sincerely,
Barr. John Abbo
Abbo Chambers

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Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2007 8:02 PM

Dear Friend,

Greetings to you in the most wonderful name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His richest blessings shall be upon you forever.

I am Mrs. Pearl Vat Cole, I am 51 years old, I am a widow to late David Cole and suffering from a long time cancer of the Lungs which also affected my brain, fromall indication my conditions is really deteriorating and it is quite obvious that, according to my doctors they have advised me that I may not live for the next five months, this is because the cancer stage has gotten to a very bad stage.

I was brought up from a motherless baby’s home; I married to my late husband for twenty years without a child. My husband died in a fatal motor accident. Before his death we were true Christians.
Since his death I decided not to remarry, I sold all my inherited belongings and deposited all the sum of $18.5million dollars with a Security Company in Europ.

Presently, this money is still with them and the management just wrote me as the true owner to come forward to receive the money for keeping it so long or rather issue a letter of authorization to somebody to receive it on my behalf since I can not come over because of my illness or they get it confisticated.Presently, I'm with mylaptop in a Hospital where I have been undergoing treatment for cancer of the Lungs. I have since lost my ability to talk and my doctors have told me that I have only a few months to live.

It is my last wish to see that this money is invested to any Organization of your choice and distributed each year among the charity Organization, the poor and the motherless babies home where I come from.

I want you to be a God fearing, and also use this money to fund churches, orphanages and widows. You shall be entitled to 40% of the total sum of $18.5million dollars with a Security Company while 60% of this money will be used in all sincerity to fund philanthropic
organization and orphanages.

I took this decision, before I rest in peace because my time will soon be up. As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact of the Security Company. I will also issue you a letter of authority that will prove you as thenew beneficiary of my fund.

Please assure me that you will act accordingly as I stated herein. I shall wait at your prayerful reply.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus the love of god and the fellowship of the holy spirit be with you and your family.

I await urgent reply. You get back to me on my alternative email

Thanking you in the name of Jesus.

Yours in Christ,
Mrs. Pearl Vat Cole,

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Aw c’mon! You mean this is all going on in one teensy-weensy country town?

For a burg with under 4,000 souls, Yellow Springs, Ohio has more wonderful varieties of counterculture eccentricity – per square yard or per live body – than any other town in the planet, including New York.

For example, in just one week, according to the local weekly newspaper, The Yellow Springs News, you’ll find a Peace Vigil, a Water Movement class, a women’s putluck dinner, contra dancing, a Snake Oil Medicine Show, Overeaters Anonymous meetings, Zen Meditation, a “Socially Awakened Buddhism” lecture, a town Tree Committee meeting, a community chorus, a book discussion group, a…oh why go on?

There’s also the motel owner who rants and kvetches passionately about her business problems on her website:

“Here's the scoop on getting rid of the instant coffee and having real coffee. Here's their latest line... If I offer free coffee, I don't have to have a license (I do offer free coffee). BUT, because I charge for rooms they see it as though I am charging for the coffee. Therefore I need a food service license. - 'oh, bother') (Winnie the Poo)”

And of course, the local classifieds speak reams in short paragraphs:

"ROOM TO RENT: opportunity to live cooperatively—lighten the load on Mother Earth. Available February 1. Must be willing and able to communicate; have weekly house meetings; share upkeep of common space; accept and offer affirmations; practice acceptance of human differences regarding_food, spirituality, age, race, gender, etc. Rent is $275, including utilities. Contact Laurie Dreamspinner..."

D"ANI’S HOUSE CLEANING, using environmentally safe cleaning products. Local references. For free estimate, call Dani..."

"Yoga Springs Studio, a beautiful sacred space for weekly classes and weekend workshops. Monica Hasek, RYT, director. 108 Dayton St. (upstairs)..."

"Pamela Funderburg, HMP, Holistic Massage & Belavi Facelift massage..."

"Dark Star Books & Comics, 237 Xenia Ave.Thousands of affordable used books, collectible first editions, the best in comics, too.www.darkstarbookstore.com_"

"ATTENTION REPEAT OFFENDERS: The Newly Revised and Completely Updated REPEAT OFFENDERS: Best of the Yellow Springs News Police Report is available for purchase at the Yellow Springs News. All new illustrations by Matt Minde. It's a steal at $5.50! Find out what everyone's laughing about!"

"Found: Aikida in Springfield; Yellow Springs tags, but phone number disconnected. Call Pat..."

"JUST DO IT! Massive anti-war demonstration in Washington D.C. Jan. 27. Charter bus from Yellow Springs leaves evening of Jan. 26, returns late night Jan 27. $60 round trip, some scholarships available. An exciting adventure, the right thing to do. Reserve a seat now."

More at I gotta tell you, it’s enough to make a body yearn for the peace and quiet of New York.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I wish I wrote that!

John Dickerson of Slate, commenting on the horrid faux wood paneling in a courthouse room where the press was confined during jury selection for the Scooter Libby trial over the outing of Valery Plame:

"Justice is blind and therefore does not decorate well."

Monday, January 15, 2007

How to make a right-winger’s head explode

Way over on the far-right wing, friends of ultraconservative doctrine are having wildly out-of-control panic attacks. How do I know?

In response to a statement that “the Euro is not at all, not even slowly, replacing the U.S. Dollar in central bank reserves…” I posted a hasty note on the right wing blog "No Pasaran" saying that, sadly, the value of the dollar was falling in relation to the Euro. I did so hastily – so very hastily that by mistake I made it sound as if it was the Euro that was falling – a misstatement I corrected later, but no matter.

Boom! It was as if I’d placed a pound of TNT inside the heads of some of that blog’s readers and then ignited the stuff. A powerful gush of fury spewed out of the comment section of the blog. One comment even spilled over into my own blog. (See the comments section in the article below.)

I mean, it’s amazing what you get. I referred to the year I was a student and could live in Europe on $5 a day. One reader assumed that was 1980, and sailed off on a tangent from there. Another assumed it was 1990, and therefore it was impossible for me to live on $5 a day. Wrong on both counts. The year was 1959.

I got called names. I got highly selective statistics thrown at me, with inconvenient ones eliminated. I got non-sequiturs galore. I got obscenities. Sheesh!

Who knew there was all this pent up rage on the right? I mean, isn’t their own guy in the White House?

What’s causing the heat? If you believe, as I do, that rage is really just fear turned inside out, signs point to the likelihood that the right wing is terrified. Their boy, George Bush, followed their party line. The result: chaos in Iraq, blood in the streets of Baghdad, over 3,000 American military personnel dead there, an escalation of the war, a mounting national debt whereas before we had a budget surplus under Clinton, a near total failure of United States prestige abroad and a dollar that’s turning into toilet paper.

Plus, finally the American electorate has begun to see through the Bush administration and the Republican party as if they were made of glass. The Right fears the coming Democrat sweep in the Presidential Election. As well they might.

So…you wanna see right wing brains go boom? Cut and paste the following URL, and then click on “Et ca geule!”

Or click on the link in the sidebar above right to the most current posts on No-Pasaran, certainly a lively blog and definitely a busy blog, written I think largely by American expats in Europe.

The blog’s own writers often have interesting things to say, even though most of the time I’m miles from seeing things their way. But their readers? Hooo-wee! Check the No-Pasaran comment boards and watch all the crazed right wingers burst into flame every time they meet an opinion they don’t like.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Financial pornography, former Governor George Pataki – and the money he paid to thank big companies for firing New Yorkers.

Every so often you come across an old story that was so amazing and yet so under-publicized, it seems worth bringing up all over again.

Just that kind of story has to do with payments – usually in the double-digit millions – that New York State gave out to huge companies under just-retired Governor George Pataki .

Why were they paid the money? It was a form of corporate welfare. They either did nothing for it, or took the dough as an advance thank-you for putting New Yorkers out of work.


Allow me a bit of diversion here into matters sexual and pornographic.

Years ago, I chatted with a guy who during the 1960s was writing and publishing semi-pornographic books about the wild sexual mores of that era’s youth culture. He wrote books describing “open” marriages, S&M, the lifetyles of hookers, and wildly offbeat sexual kinkery.

“You do one or two tape recorded interviews with real people to satisfy the publishers this is real,” he told me, “and then you make the rest up to save time. Only you can’t really make it up, because if you can think of it, somebody else has also thought of it, tried it, and formed a club to do it with him.”

Some of the made up stuff that turned out after the fact to be real included electric shocking of submissive S&M partners and a wild orgy on a pile of creamcheese-smeared bagels.

What does this have to do with New York State? Let me explain:

Look in the Links sidebar to the right and above and you’ll find a link to Billionaires for Bush. That's the satirical website of some imaginary billionaires who encourage government to tax the poor and middle class and then give all the money to billionaires and big corporations. Turns out, you can’t make up this stuff, either. New York State’s outgoing governor had been doing this as a matter of policy. Call it "financial pornography."


I am indebted to Richard Rosenthal, a New Yorker City writer who likes to delve into these things, for providing me with much of the information below and Internet links to the rest of it.

It starts with a report by New York State Senator Franz S. Leichter called “Money For Nothing: The Failures Of The Corporate Welfare Programs During The Pataki Administration. More Than A Dozen Corporate Welfare Cheats Identified.”

You can read the entire report here:

The program Leichter exposed was one of tax breaks for big business, supposedly instituted to create jobs in New York State. But as Leichter quickly points out, the program gave away bundles of bucks for nothing.

Leichter wrote: “While I have previously shown that the State's business incentives have failed to create jobs, this report reveals that more than a dozen companies have made significant layoffs a short time after receiving lucrative tax breaks other business subsidies from the Pataki Administration. A handful of companies have literally taken the money and run -- moving jobs out of New York after benefiting from financial incentives from the Pataki Administration.”

And it’s even more ironic than that. Leichter continued, “It is hard to square the Governor's support for corporate subsidies when he is fighting to drastically scale back funding for the State's social welfare programs. For instance, while Governor Pataki is calling for the end of the "cycle of dependency" for social welfare recipients, he has agreed to provide millions of dollars in subsidies to corporate giants like General Electric, IBM, General Motors, and Kodak -- even though they all failed to live up to past promises to create jobs after receiving State tax breaks.”


Remember, this stuff is just like pornography; you can’t make it up. Here’s Leichter again:

“…the Pataki Administration pledged a hefty sum to Fisher Price, the Buffalo-based toy manufacturer, even though the company had just announced that it was laying off 700 employees. However, earlier this year, Fisher Price, which has taken advantage of State and local incentives for more than a decade, announced that it was laying off all but a handful of its remaining 300 employees and moving its operations out-of-state. Last month, the Pataki Administration agreed to provide Troy-based Garden Way with over $3 million in subsidies to keep its jobs in the State. But, just weeks after the deal was announced, Garden Way, which has eliminated 200 jobs in Schenectady over the past year, said that it would be laying off an undisclosed number of employees this summer."

Leichter’s 1998 list of Fortune 500 companies on the New York State dole included:
•Lockheed Martin
•Key Corp
•GM Super Steel
•Merrill Lynch
•Price Waterhouse

There were many smaller corporate welfare chiselers on Leichter’s list too, including high tech firms and a greeting card company.


Among the horror stories: “…the Pataki Administration joined with New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in announcing a deal to provide Merrill Lynch with a $28.5 million incentive package, even though the Wall Street giant acknowledged that it was not contemplating a move out of New York. While the deal consists mostly of State and City sales tax exemptions to Merrill Lynch, the State will provide a $1 million ESD grant to the company.”

Have these companies no shame? Not in the slightest.

It’s important to keep all this information in circulation, simply because ex-Governor Pataki’s name has been mentioned in connection with future elective office. For example, some think this tax ripoff artist might be just the guy Republicans ought to put up for Vice President.


My thanks to Mr. Rosenthal, who helpfully provided all of the following quotes:

“Our decision to return downtown, which has been our home for more than 150 years, was not predicated on financial incentives . . . Once those financial incentives became available, we chose to participate, as did other companies.”
-- Tony Mitchell, spokesman for American Express, on receiving a $25 million grant to retain its workers in Lower Manhattan following the September 11th attacks, quoted in Newsday June 3, 2002.

“We never really talked about leaving Manhattan . . . We realize it's not the cheapest place to do business, but we're already here . . . We attract a high-quality workforce in New York City, and we think it's advantageous to be in the country's business and financial capital.”
--Greg Vahle, Pfizer vice president of human resources and services, quoted in Crain's New York Business June 23, 2003. (Rosenthal tells me Pfizer took a $46.1 million subsidy anyway.)

“It's a form of blackmail by the companies and a clear case of corporate welfare by the politicians. The state and the city could stop giving tax breaks, and companies would still want and need to be located in New York City.”
--Brian Backstrom, Vice President of Change-NY, a conservative anti-tax group, quoted in The New York Times, June 6, 1999.

“As a businessman I never made an investment decision based on the tax code... If you give money away I will take it, but good business people don't do things because of inducements.”
--Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill at his confirmation hearing in January 2001.

“Any company that makes a decision as to where they are going to be based on the tax rate is a company that won't be around very long...If you're down to that incremental margin you don't have a business."
-- Michael Bloomberg, quoted in The New York Times, November 8, 2001.


Did I mention that at a recent secret meeting of Fortune 500 CEOs and Republican politicians at a New York Hotel, they all got nekkid and started licking whipped cream and cocaine off equally unclothed hookers?

No, no, no, that’s a joke. I’m only making up the stuff about naked politicians and hookers.

Or can you make this stuff up?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

OJ Simpson, Judith Regan and The Cannibal Cookbook – a killer quotation for anybody who finds great writing delicious

A few paragraphs down you'll find a quote from Carl Hiassen’s column of last November 26th in the Miami Herald.

In case you just got back from a long journey to the Planet Nictu, Hiassen is a journalist, mystery author and coiner of unforgettable phrases. He was talking about the recent flap over the OJ Simpson book, “If I Did It...” supposedly a near-confession.

The book was edited by sleaze-a-loid publisher Judith Regan and announced with some fanfare only days before her boss, Rupert Murdock, put a kibosh on the project.

“Simpson's editor," wrote Hiassen, "is a woman named Judith Regan, who in the publishing world is warmly known as the Queen of Crap. If killer-cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer were still alive, Regan would be doing his cookbook.”

In my humble opinion, that’s the best line on the Simpson affair since his trial, when some wag insisted, “They framed a guilty man.”

Monday, January 08, 2007

Pee-eugh! What’s that disgusting odor permeating Manhattan right now? And how easy would a WMD gas attack be? Or is this one?

First off, a bit of full disclosure about today’s picture.

It wasn’t taken in New York. That’s Representative Wesselhoft from the Oklahoma House of Representatives, in the process of going a bit over the top concerning some other issue.

Nevertheless, it’s a perfect fit for New York.

Manhattan this morning reeks of gas – the kind of stuff that burns in stoves and furnaces.

I picked up the smell just as I walked into my cranky work space a few hours ago. I thought it might have something to do with rotting internal infrastructure in the commercial slum of an office building where I rent workspace and communications hookups with other self-employed entrepreneurs. No such luck.


Within moments, all my entrepreneurial neighbors were hawing, hacking and gossiping to each other or over the phone from their own workspaces. And then the word got out via Internet news that the odor was extending all the way up the West Side from Chelsea to Rockefeller Center, a distance of about a mile and a half. Not to mention New Jersey, a mile or so across the Hudson River.

So where’s it coming from? Search anybody in charge. The Fire Department referred the matter to Con Edison, the gas company here, which doesn’t have a clue. The utility is “investigating.”


Is it cooking gas? Or is it WMD poison gas?

Is it in “negligible” concentrations? Or is it in concentrations that will make people sicken or die like some poisoned Russian Agent? And if it’s “not serious,” how come so many people around me are complaining of headaches?

Is “Mayor Mike” Bloomberg, the public official so security minded that he arrests bicyclists out of fear they might create traffic jams that somehow will pave the way for Al Quaida, even aware of the gas leak yet? Or is he still in his weekend home in Bermuda, with do-not-disturb messages attached to his answering machine while he cuddles up to dreams of the Presidency?

I dunno. But I can tell you, if this is the best the city, the state and the Feds can do when some mysterious gas permeates New York, we’re all doomed. Me. You. And anybody from here to San Francisco.

Stay tuned. More dispatches eventually from New York – if there still is a New York and if anybody is left alive in it.

Well, I’m wildly exaggerating.

Scratch that. I HOPE I’m wildly exaggerating.


"Mayor Mike" held a press conference today at 11 AM. He offered one of those razzle-dazzle 'em self-contradictory statements that I just love:

"“The smell is there, we don’t know the source of it; it does not appear to be dangerous.”

Yo, Mike, if you don't know what it is, how can you tell whether it's dangerous or not?

I'm happy to report that the stink is gone from Entrepreneur Central where I work with all kinds of self-employed types – accountants, fashion designers, online newsletter editors, wedding photographers, Internet geeks and other startup businesses.

I was outside about 25 minutes ago, and I most certainly can confirm that whatever-it-was is no longer blowing around the West 30s in concentrations strong enough to smell.

But this was not just a big joke.


A subway train in the West 20s was evacuated for a while because of the strong "gas" odor.

PATH commuter trains between New Jersey and New York were stopped for a while.


Betcha wannabe terrorists are rejoicing. Just explode your poison gas bomb in New York with a timing device, while you're hightailing it out of town. You'll have all manner of public officials saying in laid-back lethargy, "Duh. Gee. I dunno. But it's probably not dangerous. Happens all the time here." And there'll be a lot of dead bodies before anybody in charge wakes up.

What does it take to get government on the offensive when odd smells permeate the whole city? (Turns out this smell covered territory from the Battery in Lower Manhattan to midtown -- a distance of about (this is only a guess-timate) five linear miles. You could bump off a whole lot of people in five linear miles of Manhattan at rush hour.

But that doesn't seem to bother anybody in government, who are practing buzzzzziness as usual. They won't know something really bad has happened until everybody's dead.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Saddam Hussein execution– a 6-part starter kit for budding conspiracy theorists

Look, I’m not saying any of the events listed below happened. In fact, I can 100 percent guarantee (or your money back) that these things absolutely did not happen.

But any time you get anything so weird and brutal as an execution or an assassination, conspiracy theorists and truth deniers are likely to pop up like weeds in a cow plop-enriched pasture.

The truth? Feh! Truth doesn’t matter. Suspicion and an unfounded but insistent conviction that evil forces are at work behind the scenes are everything.

So let’s get right to it with Saddam Hussein, the execution, the cell phone videos, the whole ripe-for-conspiracy-theory shebang. Remember, if you can convince enough people that what you imagine is true, you get to write a book, go on well-paid speaking engagements, build a following or even become famous. So pay attention, folks. Here are some seedling conspiracy theories to hang your hat and your future on.

1. SADDAM ISN’T DEAD. THAT WAS HIS DOUBLE. Remember, before and just after we invaded Iraq, there were TV reports that public “appearances” by Saddam were actually appearances by somebody who looked like him? That’s the poor bastard who got hanged, while Saddam was being spirited out of the country so he can set up a regime/operation/insurgency (pick one or more) in exile.

The reason the room was so badly lighted and shaky cell phones were used instead of video cameras was so that we couldn’t get too clear a look at the hanging victim on the gallows or his corpse afterwards. Taunts against “Saddam” were created merely to throw us off course. Iraqui Baathists can use this theory to rally the troops. Rightist American wingnuts can also use it to convince us that the war has to go on forever because Saddam is still “out there.”

2. SADDAM ACTUALLY WAS HANGED, BUT ONLY AMERICANS WERE INVOLVED. This theory can be used to absolve any Islamist of any stripe – Shia or Sunni – from bearing the guilt. That’s the reason all the executioners wore masks – so we wouldn’t recognize the Yank hangmen. Umm, let’s expand this and call them hangmen and women. Or to be politically correct, hangpeople.

The shouted epithets in Arabic were really tape recorded days earlier on the streets of downtown Bagdad, between IED explosions. Some poor schnook of an Iraqui policeman will be arrested and falsely accused of the camera phone videos, to throw the world off the scent of America. He will end up occupying a cell in a prison – American run, of course – next to Lindy England’s cell.

3. NO NO, AMERICA DIDN’T DO IT. ISRAEL DID IT. You want proof? Well, they hanged Eichmann, didn’t they? And they had a motive because Saddam once fired missiles at Israel, sometimes with deadly effect. So what more evidence do you need? This is a handy one especially for Iranian heads of state whose names begin with the letter A, but also for Palestinians and other “anti-Zionists.” Another variation of this theory is that it was the Israelis acting in concert with the Americans. Take your pick.

4. SADDAM WAS HANGED – BUT BY SECRET AL QUIAIDA OPERATIVES EAGER TO INFLAME THE ARAB STREET. Once again, the hooded hangpeople are all the evidence you need. This theory can be used to absolve the United States for turning Saddam over for execution in the first place.

5. SADDAM HANGED HIMSELF – IN HIS OWN CLEVER VARIATION OF SUICIDE BOMBING MARTYRDOM. He figured, “Why rot in a cell when I can inflame the whole Arab world, certain political segments in Europe and who-knows-who-else by appearing to be a martyr? That’ll teach Bush to monkey with me! Forever after, I will be known as Saddam the Martyr and people will attack America in my name.”

Suicide bombing was of course out of the question while Saddam was held prisoner. But he bribed the judges and the courts and the police and everybody else to find him guilty and get him to the gallows on time so he could be a martyr quicker. This is a good one for Iraqis and Americans in search of absolution for the hanging.

6. THERE WAS NO HANGING. THE WHOLE THING WAS PHOTOSHOPPED BY A REALLY BAD RETOUCHER. Conspiracy theorists can review the videos under a microscope, do pixel-by-pixel analysis, and “discover” nearly invisible insets, erasures, a blackened-over klieg light and other “evidence” that the photos and movies are fakes. Why else does his head appear at a funny angle, twisted out of shape?

Over to the rest of you, fellow Conspiracy Theory-Mongers. Write your own theory, or feel free to embellish on mine. Remember, there’s no lie like a big lie.

Unless it’s a bigger one.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Drip-drip-drip–GUSH! Bush “privatization” launches a brain drain at America’s top defense research labs.

Just when you thought there was probably no more damage the Bush administration could do to national security than it has already done, here comes more:

Thanks to a harebrained Republican-Conservative scheme, the nation’s top defense laboratories are sliding hellbent into operation under new management. The only problem is, many of the scientists who work there are now hellbent to get out. And many already have left, creating a massive national defense brain drain.

Why are the scientists and engineers so eager to jump ship?

For starters, the hush-hush research labs (Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore Laboratories) are getting privatized. Management has been under the auspices of the University of California. But now Los Alamos is reporting to the bubbleheaded bumblers at Bechtel Corporation. And Lawrence Livermore is probably next to become a Bechtel operation after September 30th of this year.


We’re talking about the very same, privately-held, Republican politico-connected, shadowy Bechtel screwups who took billions of your tax money for construction projects in Iraq and then fled the country before completing them.

Among the notable Bechtel disasters in Iraq was a children’s hospital. It was heralded as one of the “good things” happening in Iraq by Laura Bush and Condi Rice. But kind of like the Bush “mission accomplished” that didn’t get accomplished, the hospital never got built.

Well hey, Bechtel had an excuse. There were “difficult soil conditions” the company whined.

But let’s get back to Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore Labs. Under the University of California’s management, some of the nation’s most brilliant physicists and engineers devised ways to bolster the national defense and help make the United States a leader in nuclear technology, space and missile technology and other kinds of critical weaponry.


The nutcake Conservative theory was that laboratories such as Los Alamos, the birthplace of the A-bomb, would benefit from privatization because, “Excellence in science is enabled by excellence in business and operations.”

That helpful thought comes from Tyler Przybylek, chairman of a federal panel charged with evaluating contractors bidding for Los Alamos' management.

But some things, like the national defense and healthcare, are too important to be left to greedy corporations whose first obligation is to make a buck.

So what happened? It’s shocking, but not surprising.


Sooner than you could say “war profiteer,” Bechtel set to work screwing Los Alamos employees out of their pensions.

According to the Oakland, California Tribune of last April 19, “A labor union and four workers contended in a lawsuit Tuesday that the University of California and a UC/Bechtel National-led team were forcing more than 9,000 employees at Los Alamos National Laboratory to swap one of the nation's plushest pensions for lesser benefits and driving workers away from the nuclear-weapons lab.

“At stake is the gold-plated University of California pension that has drawn thousands of workers to design and maintain U.S. nuclear explosives at both Los Alamos and its sister lab, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

“The University Professional and Technical Employees union alleges that the university is violating a commitment written into the state constitution to look after its pensioners, including weapons workers in New Mexico and California.”

The consequence was a lawsuit, with lab employees asking the courts to save their benefits.


Now scientists – particularly employees who have built up some pension equity – are running for the exits.

A scientist at Lawrence Livermore (and no, you’re not getting his name because he hasn’t bailed out yet) told The New York Crank, “We had to make tradeoffs to get those pensions. Many of us are academics who were never allowed to publish because of national security issues.”

An academic who isn't allowed to publish is kind of like a singer who isn’t permitted to perform – except for performances in a top-secret underground bomb shelter, and then only to an audience of six tone-deaf generals and a brain-damaged cabinet officer.

Deprived of the academic acclaim they earned but never got, the only solace of the University of California defense laboratory thinkers was a university pension and university tenure that made professional near-anonymity worthwhile.

Then Bechtel came along. And guess what?

Here’s what, according to that Oakland Tribune article:

“Worker advocates say the new management at Los Alamos has taken away protections enjoyed by the university workers, making them 'at- will' employees, and is pressuring them to accept uncertain future retirement benefits in order to keep their jobs.

"An employee who can get fired on the spot for no reason is not going to speak up for scientific integrity, is not going to speak up if there's a safety problem," said Jelger Kalmijn, the systemwide president of the union.”

Even worse, it turns out, employees in this situation are quitting in droves.


“Uncertainty about benefits and other employment conditions drove retirement rates at Los Alamos 50 percent higher last year than in the past, and Livermore workers predict the same for their lab as it moves into a management competition. The result could be a loss of the scientists, engineers and technicians with the most experience and knowledge of U.S. nuclear explosives.”

Well, according The New York Crank’s source, that’s already happening at Lawrence Livermore, too. And the more experienced the scientists and engineers, the more likely they are to bail, in order to protect their pensions, the Crank was told.

Brilliant! The only worse move the Conservative looneys could have made would have been to sell the labs to North Korea and Iran.

Or are the geniuses of Bush conservatism working on that, too?