Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mme. Galzogorist, famed political fortune teller, reveals top news headlines of 2010

I work in a gritty New York garment center neighborhood.

It’s peopled by bicycle messengers attempting to mow down pedestrians on the sidewalk, the world’s greasiest non-affiliated fried chicken joint, a shop that features cigarettes and an extremely busy lotto machine, a liquor store with a plastic shield between its salespeople and its customers, a massage parlor, and lots of wholesale garment outfits, some of which seem to be pitching their sales toward a retail store somewhere that must be called The Hooker Supply House.

But my favorite retail business on the block is the political fortune teller, Mme. Galzogorist.

Recently, I climbed a steep flight to her walkup high-tech Situation Center (see photograph above) and asked her to predict the top 10 headlines of the coming year.

“Murky vibrations in my crystal ball prevent me from giving you all 10,” she said, “especially since all you have in your hand is half a sawbuck and a George. But for that kind of money, I’ll give you six. A buck each.”

She had a deal. Here’s are the headlines she predicts we’ll be seeing before the end of the year.

Sarah Palin declares latest
US Supreme Court decision
is "clearly unconstitutional"

Ungandan judge, revealed to
be closet gay, sentences self
to death under new law

Joe Lieberman “repents” and introduces bill favoring Public Option after disgruntled health insurance companies cut his campaign contributions

RNC Chief Michael Steele promises he and Republicans will stop being square and instead “get groovy”

Palin clarifies her view of foreign policy:
“Yes, you can see Russia on a clear day
from my porch—but you need a telescope”

Obama declares that ending war in Iraq, like the Public Option, was "not something I campaigned on.”

That's all for now. I'm off to a Mexico vacation for sun, cerveza and tequilla. See you some time in January

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Is America turning into a Third World nation? Read this, then decide.

It started under Ronald Reagan, rapidly accelerated under George W. Bush — and Barack Obama is doing far too little to stop it. For example, here are some of the characteristics common to many Third World nations. Check out the links for just a taste of how the United States stacks up.

  1. In the Third World, many people sleep in the streets like those in the photograph.
  2. In the Third World there is a small middle class, with a huge gap between per capita income of the rich and poor.

  1. Third world countries have a small or nonexistent manufacturing base

4. Third World Countries are thought of as having poor educational system with enrollment at the best universities essentially limited to the wealthy.

  1. The nation’s raw materials are exploited without environmental concern, but natural resources get devastated largely for export.

6. In the Third World there is wide spread unemployment with little predicted change in the near future.

7. Typically, Third World nations are characterized by a military too weak to sustain resistance to invasion by significant foreign forces.

8. Rotting (or almost no) infrastructure.

9. Under repressive Third World governments, people “disappear” into torture dungeons while officials have little or no fear of being brought to justice for their acts.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Blogger Underbelly-Buce writes better obit of E&P than E&P

Editor and Publisher is kaput. I will miss it. Not very badly, since I am long out of the newspaper business. But badly enough.

I began perusing its classified ads as a college newspaper editor in search of summer jobs and a career. More recently, nearly a half century after college graduation, I still perused its editorial content on the web — as a clue to what was going on in the business I had fecklessly abandoned in my early 20s, in search of better money.

I made the money. Or what I thought was money in my naive youth. But I always missed the adrenalin-fueled joy of being there when gangsters, hookers, politicians, clowns, killers, cops, suicides and celebrities did their thing. Not to mention the occasional triumph of finding out — before anyone else did — what they were doing that they didn't want the world to know.

I was about to write a long appreciation of E&P, but my friend Underbelly-Buce, my first mentor at the college newspaper, has explained the initial attraction better than I could.

As it turns out, he also explained it better than the two writers at E&P who covered the loss of their own pay checks. Well, that's understandable. It's never a good idea to ask someone to cover his own execution.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Another reason to break up the big banks: Citibank took your hard earned tax money and gave it to Arabs who promptly blew it. You can’t make this up.

By now I guess nearly everybody knows that many financial institutions would have gone out of business, leaving their limousine-riding, cash-flush, bonus-sucking execs on the financial rocks if it hadn’t been for TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

That's the program that handed the banks billions of bucks that you and I gave in taxes.

And I guess nearly everybody knows that many of those institutions took some fairly large gobs of that TARP money and put it in their own bonus envelopes. But there still should be some left.

So why is your small business still having trouble borrowing bank money to expand, make new products, hire more people and put America back to work while we suffer from over 10 percent unemployment?

Big story buried in
The New York Times

Buried in the 12th and 13th paragraph of a story by Andrew Ross Sorkin in the New York Times on December 1 was a revealing answer — revealing, at least, if it’s Citibank that won’t extend your American business a loan. Or sell you a mortgage even though you have a good income. Or that’s charging outrageous interest rates on your credit card, while it pays close to zippo on the prime.

Citibank took a huge gob of your tax money and gave it to a bunch of Arabs in the Persian Gulf.

I’m deliberately saying “gave it” because the Arab enterprise, an architecturally grandiose entity called “Dubai World” — featuring what I think is the world’s only indoor artificial ski slope in a tropical desert —was as financially shaky as a tower of blocks built on a mound of jello cubes.

Well, if you read Sorkin’s column carefully, it would seem the Citibankers thought that the government of Abu Dhabi would give Dubai World a bailout, just as the US Government gave Citibank a bailout.

We quote Sorkin in the Times:

Just as the United States stood behind its banks, in part, to avoid losing the confidence of foreign investors, Abu Dhabi might have to do the same.

That had to be what Citigroup, with its firsthand expertise with bailouts, must have been thinking when it lent $8 billion to Dubai last year. Oh, and here’s an interesting fact: Citigroup made the loan to Dubai on Dec. 14, 2008. Take a look at the calendar — that’s after it received tens of billions in TARP funds. Citigroup’s chairman, Win Bischoff, said at the time, “This is in line with our commitment to the U.A.E. market in general, and reflects our positive outlook on Dubai in particular.” Good call. And what became of all those Shariah-compliant financial instruments that were the hot topic of that panel I attended? It turns out that many of them that were sold prior to the crisis weren’t compliant at all.
This blog (when you get there, scroll down a bit) also had an interesting point to make about Citibank’s harrumphing about why it was okay to lend your money to an already oil-rich Arab nation that's blowing its wad on indoor ski slopes while over 10 percent of Americans are out of work.

Wait a second guys. Shariah-compliant or not, that money was handed over to American banks by American taxpayers to bail out American businesses and save American jobs — and not to fund indoor ski slopes where bankers could go to blow their bonuses on super-duper-deluxe hotels.

Seize the SOBs and smash them into
tiny little neighborhood banking bits

Next time Citibank starts going down the tubes again — and believe me, there will be a next time if the banks aren’t broken up — I hope the government will seize the banks in the name of national financial duress, and break them into hundreds of tiny pieces.

Break off the investment banking arm of Citibank from the consumer banking arm. Break up the branches into separate banks. The Bank of the Upper East Side. The Bank of Midtown. The bank of Greenwich Village, the bank of Ho Ho Kus, New Jersey, and so on. That way, if any of them fail, Uncle Sam can pay back the depositors and then flush the small bank execs down the toilet with a satisfying whoosh.

The government ought to focus now on breaking up the big banks. That means Citicorp, Chase and Bank of America, among others. Right now they’re too big to fail. We need the government to make them so small they’ll be terrified of failure.

Maybe then American small business owners can get loans at reasonable rates, and put some Americans back to work.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The clown act continues — for the moment starring Lou Dobbs

No sooner did we crankily declare that a bunch of clowns are vying for the next Republican presidential nomination than Lou Dobbs climbed to the top of the circus highwire on his unicycle and began spritzing seltzer at the audience.

Dobbs, says the Wall Street Journal, is "trying to wipe away his image as an ememy of Latino immigrants by positioning himself as a champion of that fast-growing ethnic bloc."

Yes, you read that right. He wants to be their champion.

Lou Dobbs, who railed against Latinos sneaking across the border, now wants to make citizens out of those who did the sneaking.

Did he think the Latino community was misjudging him? Essentially, the answer to that was yes said Lou, the former enemy of undocumented aliens who now wants to be seen as the friend of those whose emnity he made — so that he can run first as a Republican candidate for Senator in heavily Hispanic New Jersey, and later as a candidate for president.

"By the way, I don't believe for a moment that the Latino, Hispanic community in the United States believes that of me at all," said Lou. "It has been the efforts of the far left to characterize me in their propaganda as such."

Right. And for years who was just about the only figure in the nationally-known news media (as opposed to the far right Yell-O-Sphere media that broadcasts the raving nut jobs) who constantly stated Lou Dobbs' positions supporting the notion sending Mexicans back where they came from is a good idea?

You guessed right. It was Lou Dobbs.

Bring on the clowns? Don't bother, they're here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Send in the clowns! Potential Republican presidential candidates Dobbs vs. Palin vs. Sanford vs. Giuliani vs. Jindal vs. Limbaugh vs….?

Every time I start feeling low about how President Obama is doing...

Whenever I wonder why he is ignoring his base...

Whenever I fret about the next presidential election, the same thought occurs to me.

Obama doesn’t have to worry about his re-election because…

It’s the Republicans, stupid.

Or rather, it’s the stupid Republicans. They seem to be busily forcing centrists out of their party, making room for what, at least at this anticipatory moment, will be the clown act of the century.

Can you imagine the next Republican presidential primary — an exercise in who can look more right wing, sound more radical, or propose the most insane policies for the economy, healthcare, American homeland security and society?

Can you imagine the debate between Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin on the nuances of foreign policy concerning those parts of Kurdistan that lie within the Turkish border?

Can you imagine Bobby Jindahl making a fool of himself all over again on the economics of healthcare? Well, for that matter, on the economics of anything?

Or Mark Sanford singing a song about C Street and the soulmate he left behind in Argentina?

Or Rudy Giuliani explaining why his leading crime fighter is now a convicted felon, and why Rudy chose the World Trade Center as his "impenetrable" command center for use in case of an enemy attack?

Or Lou Dobbs explaining how years of sitting in front of a camera railing about illegal immigration qualifies him to deal with complicated decisions about national defense and the economy?

Get out the popcorn, folks! It’s gonna be better than Saturday Night Live.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Blow away the neighborhood for Christmas (and bayonet a few babies.) This handsome AK47 and Bayonet Set is yours free from

If you scroll down a smidge, or go here, you’ll find a post discussing Dr. Ignatius Piazza, a chiropractor turned, umm, weapons enabler who recently offered me a handgun.

Evidently anxious for me to take a course at his reportedly resort-like school, he recently sent me an e-mail offering the AK47-with-bayonet-and-scabbard-set that you see above, to people who would sign up fast.

He's now using the tragic Fort Hood shootings to claim he’s mad as hell that our soldiers aren’t all armed on base. (I know from personal experience that as far back as 1962, soldiers on American bases had to turn in and lock up their weapons when finished with them on training exercises. I wouldn’t be surprised if that wise custom goes back at least as far as WWI. Not a bad idea idea, considering what might have grown out of some of the fistfights that occurred in the barracks.)

But never mind all that. If the Swiss government can arm its citizens (all of whom are military reservists) Dr. Piazza will arm you, too, without the onerous requirement that, like the Swiss, you join your Army Reserve or state national guard and face a call up to, oh, I dunno, Afghanistan or Iraq, maybe.

As for the AK47, it’s for your self-defense, says the good chiropractor. Defense against what? If a burglar sticks his head in through your window, one good hard whack with a frying pan ought to take care of it, without busting up the window panes and fillings the walls full of holes. And what’s the bayonet for?

On his website, Dr. Piazza shows a film in which a Swiss gun owner seems to imply we need to ward off invading Nazi forces.

Uh, doc? What invading Nazi forces? And come to think of it, hasn't Switzerland been neutral — and sent its troops nowhere, nowhere, nowhere — during WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan?

But that AK47 is a great toy for shooting up the neighborhood, blowing away the bickering couple down the block that's so annoying, and bayoneting their kids. Maybe their barking dog, too.

This guy is the best argument for gun control I’ve ever come across.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A man walks onto an army base and blows away a bunch of people — and this guy's giving away free firearms?

So I open my e-mail today and there's yet another e-mail (I get them almost daily) from 'Dr. Ignatius Piazza" of an organization called "Frontsight" urging me to sign up for his firearms course.

He's so anxious to have me, he'd be delighted to put a free gun in my hand.

He doesn't know who I am — whether I'm a psycho, or a murderer, or a rapist, or a terrorist. No matter. He-wants-that-gun-in-my-hand.

I won't torture you with his whole letter, but I'll let you finish off today's post with an excerpt, while I go barf.

There are only 58 brand new, Pocket Pistols left. Call my assistants Jon, Kendra or Ian today from 8:30am to 5:30pm PST to help you secure yours.

Here is why...

Something happened at Front Sight that has never happened before.

On Friday, November 6, 2009 Front Sight had 673 people arriving to attend our training. This is not only a record breaking weekend for Front Sight, this is a record for the firearms training industry!

This has never before happened any where in the world!

As you read this, those 673 people are being treated to a positively life-changing experience with all the personal attention needed, by the world's greatest firearms training instructional staff.

(One of the 673 has already responded to this e-mail from his BlackBerry. Here is what he said: "Dr. Piazza, That's awesome. I represent 7 of those people that are here right now. We are amazed with the detail and quality of training. I am a Pastor and want everyone I know to get involved at Front Sight! Thanks so much. Chuck Hickman. Soteria Church")

Well, come to think of it, there is one more thing I want to say. Who would Jesus blow away, pastor?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Is somebody trying to poison New York’s water? Maybe, warns NY State Senator Liz Kreuger. But hey, a buck’s a buck, so “Hydrofrack you!”

You’d think that if a city’s water supply were endangered — especially if it’s one of the largest cities in the world — the energy companies would, umm…

Err on the side of caution?

Don’t bet your shirt on it.

As I post this, New York State Senator Liz Kreuger is preparing to testify the next day at a DEC Public Hearing on “Hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale.”

If you’ve never been hydrofracked,
you may be soon if you live in New York.

Hydrofracking is a process for extracting natural gas from shale beds, such as those close to the reservoirs that supply New Yorkers with their water.

Umm, a small problem

“Hydrofracking accidents have occurred in nine states throughout the country, and a similar accident in the watershed could result in contamination of our water supply,” warns Kreuger.

"Oh, just stop overregulating what ought to be a free market," say the free marketers (egged on, no doubt, by profit-seeking energby companies.)

It’s the classic case of those business selling us free market principles so that, if need be, they can get away with poisoning us.

But hang in there, all you Ayn Randite Free Market Conservatives. I see the point you’re about to make. If they make our water undrinkable, or if we all die, free market forces will punish those energy guys because you can bet your bottom debenture we’ll never buy their natural gas again.

That ought to show ‘em!

Monday, October 26, 2009

"Brother can you spare a diamond?" Hard luck on the New York subways. Or, while the mayor plays with his campaign funds...

My pal Underbelly (that's his avatar, at right) recently visited New York from his small California home town, which he calls (I suppose with affection) Palookaville.

While here, he dared to ride the subway. Naturally, he was accosted by a well-spoken female panhandler. The experience left him scratching his head.

Hey Underbelly, this happens all the time on the subway here. Everybody and his drug addicted sister has a hard luck story. And while it’s illegal to pitch your tale of misfortune for money on public transportation, our mayor is too busy overturning election laws and spending $75 million or so on advertising aimed at convincing the voters he’s indispensable to bother enforcing the law.

Wait till you hear my own pitch!

Anyway, I get accosted by subway panhandlers so often that I’ve begun to fantasize about how I would make my own (illegal; they're all illegal) subway car pitch. It would be bullshit, of course, as are most of the subway panhandler pitches. But here’s what I’d say:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention please. Until the financial meltdown I was a hard-working trader and arbitrageuer at a hedge fund, earning $839,000 per year, plus an average $3 million annual bonus.

"Unfortunately, due to the trading errors of others, we experienced a meltdown and I was let go on short notice. Furthermore, for some political reason instigated by those frothing-at-the-mouth taxpayers and politicians, I was robbed of my bonus, which this year would have come to $3,200,795. Over three mil out of my pocket! That's highway robbery!

It's a total bleeping tragedy!!!

"Now you've got to understand what a tragedy this is to me and my family. I have a son at Yale, another at Princeton, and my third wife has a daughter from her first marriage at Brearley. I owe $145,000 in tuition, room and board payments alone, not to mention the kids’ allowances and clothing budgets.

"My second ex-wife and her bloodsucking matrimonial lawyer are hounding me for the balance of the alimony payments I owe her, and the tax bill is coming due on my beach house in Bridgehampton.

"We’ve already had to fire the maid who takes care of the Park Avenue apartment, the caretaker in Bridgehampton, and cancel our lawn maintenance and swimming pool care contracts out there. Did I mention that we had to let the cook go? Leuba has been with us for 12 years, but I had no choice. We even had to cancel our annual gala and dinner party for 150 of our closest friends and get out of the catering contract with Daniel Boulud.

Save me from a life of crime

"Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t want to turn to a life of crime. I don’t want to mug you on the subway the way other people do, or establish any Bernie Madoff or Allen Stanford-style retirement funds. But I’m down to my last five million and I have to tell you, it’s hard out here for an arbitrageur. All I’m asking is that you reach into your pockets and contribute to helping me get back on my feet.

"Anything will help. A hundred dollar bill or three, even a few fifty dollar bills. I am also accepting bearer bonds and coupons if you still have any, and I will even accept your check for over $500. I am also accepting your donations of statement quality jewelry. Just put it in this MacDonald’s coffee cup I’m shaking as I walk down the aisle.

"Thank you, Godbless. Thank you, Godbless. Thank you, Godbless. Than…what the hell is this? An effing quarter? What the hell do you think I am, anyway?"

Monday, October 19, 2009

Should junk mail writers be licensed? How about newspaper reporters?

There is a reason for government licensing of certain jobs and professions. You wouldn’t want just anybody to hang out a shingle, claim he’s an MD, and take out your appendix.

You wouldn’t want some unknowledgeable oaf to represent you in court on a capital charge. (Although it sometimes happens with court-appointed lawyers.) Or some amateur architect doing a redesign of your home that ends up accidentally removing a supporting wall.

The rule of thumb is pretty simple. When life, liberty or valuable property is at stake, or when the recipient of services is highly vulnerable to financial loss from fraud, the government has some business licensing who can do what.

But now along comes the Direct Marketing Association (DMA for short). No, they're not a government organization. They’re a private trade organization, and what they want to do is license junk mail writers who write for and have their work reviewed by the sophisticated direct marketers and ad agencies that hire them.

A trade association shakedown

The DMA doesn't actually call it licensing. They call it “certification.” But what it boils down to is trying to force a bunch of hungry free lance writers in effect bribe that noble organization, The Direct Marketing Association, with fees for courses in exchanging for plying their ink stained trade. In effect, it's a shakedown.

The awful news came out in the October issue of Inside Direct Mail, a junk mail business trade paper that unfortunately you cannot access on the Internet unless you pay money or happen to subscribe to the magazine. I get the magazine because (full disclosure) I earn part of my daily bread writing junk mail. I’ve won awards for it, some of them given out by the DMA itself, for the quality and effectiveness of my work. I’ve got a 25 years of experience in the business.

But no matter, if the DMA has its way. I cannot be a member of “an elite group of professionals,” unless I now pay the DMA each year to participate in the DMA’s “Certified Marketing Professional Program.”

This includes written tests and annual follow-up courses. This, among other things, is going to teach me the difference between writing for print, the web and twitter. Wow! As if I’d never written for (or heard of) any of them.

Sounds to me like it’s just a money-grabbing scheme for the DMA, which recently has been so financially hard up that it fired just short of 20 percent of its loyal staff, some of whom had been working there for years.

Evasive answers in techno-jargon

You can tell it’s all techno-baloney by the evasive answers and run-on technobabble used by Jodie Sangster, the DMA’s “Vice president of global compliance.” Whatever the hell that title means. (That’s her in the photograph.)

For example, from a column in Inside Direct mail called (ironically in this case) “Straight Talk,” comes this enlightening information:

Q:What can a direct mail copywriter, for example, learn from such a program?

Sangster: DMA’s vision is one of increasing the intelligence in all networks, as a way to strengthen every channel…[elipses are the magazine’s]…and improve the ability of marketers to integrate any and all in a one-on-one conversation with a customer.

She goes on from there, but I suspect that, like me, you’d prefer a more merciful means of getting put to sleep — perhaps by getting whacked over the head with a two-by-for.

Well, okay, nonsense can be charming, so here are one or two more jargon-filled sentences (some might use a stronger word, such as bullshit) from the Global Compliance ubersturmfuhrer:

We believe today’s multichannel direct marketing process lies close to the heart of the information-based economy we have developed in the U.S. As we leverage the DMA platform across a global market, many will capitalize on the knowledge and experience we have accumulated….”


Can you imagine trying to plow your way through two-pages of nonsense from this genius of prose exposition, who wants the right to grant certification to others to write a sales letter?

But wait, there’s more!

Now it looks as if the Federal Trade Commission wants take the first step toward licensing journalists. They don’t call it that any more than the DMA calls is that when they want you to pay them money for a course before you can write a line on an envelope and a sales letter.

But the FTC has set up a double standard for disclosure — one for bloggers, the other for journalists who write for what’s left of the print press and TV news. And this double standard has teeth that could bleed you dry: teeth like $11,000 fines.

The principle of the First Amendment was that anybody could print anything, so long as it wasn’t libelous or likely to cause a fire or a panic in a crowded theater. But never mind that.

Licensing has always had two purposes. The first is control of others. The second is to generate revenue for the licensor.

That kind of control — and maybe some fees to do some policing — makes sense when it comes to cutting open peoples’ heads and stomachs for medical purposes. It makes no sense at all when it comes to cutting people in our out of the right to report on facts, express opinions or make a living as a writer.

Friday, October 09, 2009

EXPOSED!!! The New York Crank pays a shameless bribe to a fellow blogger for a favorable review. Come and get me, you FTC imbeciles!

Now it can be revealed!

The New York Crank has shamelessly paid a bribe, documented by his check number 6133, shown above, to the proprietor of a blog called Underbelly, for a favorable review.

A memo notation in the lower left-hand corner of the check clearly states, “Bribe.”

This bribe was the consequence of a comment posted to Underbelly by The New York Crank recently. The Crank offered a five-cents bribe after reading a denial by Underbelly that stated. “I wish the record to show that nobody has ever offered me a plugged nickel to hype anything on this blog, and I am damn shirty about that, but not nearly as much as some of my colleagues are about the FTC rule.”

The FTC rule in question now punishes bloggers for things that print and broadcast journalists and pundits do every day, such as accepting books for review and not paying for them. Thus it sets up two separate classes of speech — the equivalent of journalism licenses. If you don't work for an organization the FTC recognizes, you don't have freedom of the press any more. Bye bye, First Amendment.

Underbelly's post was responding to a justifiably irate posting by Scott Stein of the blog “When falls the Coliseum.” It stated:

The official, considered opinion of the management of When Falls the Coliseum (me) is that the FTC’s position, particulary in regard to reviews of books and other entertainment products, is bullshit.

A fuller explanation of the Federal Trade Commission’s idiocy can be found in this excellent piece by Jack Schaffer in SLATE, called “The FTC’s mad power grab: The commission’s preposterous new endorsement guidelines.”


In compliance with the demands of the morons on the Federal Trade Commission, The New York Crank voluntarily offers these disclosures:

1. The Crank’s real name and address, Underbelly’s real name, and the account and routing numbers of the 5-cents bribe check reproduced above deliberately been obscured from the image of the check for security reasons.

2. On or about late October 1957, (nineteen hundred and fifty-seven) the person also known as “Underbelly” drove the person also known as “The New York Crank” (and their respective dates) from Yellow Springs, Ohio, to Circleville, Ohio, to see the Circleville Pumpkin Show. Gasoline at this time cost about 35 cents per gallon, and The Crank estimates that the round trip drive may have consumed as much as four (4) gallons. Maybe even five (5) gallons. The Crank accepted this ride free, and no cash was exchanged between the two parties. This may (or may not) have had some unconscious influence on either The New York Crank or Underbelly which might (or might not) have contributed to the decision to attempt bribing Underbelly or for Underbelly to accept same and write a favorable "Appreciation" of the New York Crank some 52 years later.

3. Approximately two years ago, Underbelly, The New York Crank and The Crank’s beautiful girlfriend enjoyed a T-bone steak dinner together in a not-bad Greenwich Village restaurant called The Knickerbocker. When the check arrived, Underbelly said, “I suppose I’m expected to kick in a third of this,” to which The Crank replied, “Yes.” Underbelly thereupon paid his share. This may (or may not) have affected Underbelly’s estimation of The New York Crank and the "Appreciation" of same on Underbelly's blog. The New York Crank has not accepted any gratuity, payments, emoluments or favors from the Knickerbocker. He did, however, leave an above-average tip.

4. No gerbils were stomped by women in high heels nor were any other animals harmed in the course of writing of this blog post or any other posts to The New York Crank. I am unable to make similar warrantees for what goes on at meetings of the Federal Trade Commission.

5. The names of the imbeciles who sit on the Federal Trade Commission are Jon Leibowitz, Pamela Jones Harbour, William E. Kovacic and J. Thomas Rosch. Three out of the four are holdovers from the Bush Administration, natch. Write to your Congressman and tell him or her what you think of these clowns.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Man on the take pays off his greedy insurance company masters

The public option is down and out.

Max Baucaus (that career political hack on the right) killed it, saying he didn't know how else to get 60 Senate votes for a healthcare "reform" bill that shovels truckloads of money to the health insurance companies at the expense of the American taxpayer while forcing most of us to use their greed-driven "coverage."

Yeah. If he stopped taking money from insurance companies, that would be one vote more for the public option. Ditto Senators Carper of Delaware, Conrard of North Dakota, Lincoln of Arkansas and Nelson of Florida. The reek of legalized corruption ought to stink in every American's nostrils.

Did I mention my own senator, Chuck Schumer, who voted against the public option this time, but says he'll introduce a public option amendment after "reform" without a public option is voted in? He knows perfectly well his amendment will be voted down. But it allows him to play both sides of the fence. The hypocrite!

Now, will President Obama have the guts to veto the bill, which makes a huge gift to the insurance companies at taxpayers' expense without solving the biggest part of the healthcare problem? Or will he crumple like an overused dollar bill?

You know perfectly well what the answer is.

Excuse me while I go vomit.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dear Mr. President: Tell this scoundrel to give us the health care bill most of us voted for, or to get out of Washington

Okay, Mr. President, I’ve had it.

I voted for you when you were promoting a pretty specific plan that promised a “public option” to keep the health insurance companies honest. It wasn’t the healthcare plan I wanted. I was looking for a single payer plan. But I was willing to compromise.

Now I feel I’ve been screwed, Mr. President. By you, Mr. President. Not deliberately screwed. It's just that you're acting like a timid mouse, more interested in getting along with everyone who doesn't want to go along with you than in getting us what you promised. And that includes getting along with Max Baucus, the Montana Senator in the photograph.

Romancing failure

What Senator Max Baucus is trying to foist on us isn’t a plan. It’s a blueprint for failure. It’ll make healthcare more expensive for many of us, pay for itself by taxing other health plans instead of high incomes, and generally make a mess of things. It's the kind of healthcare reform plan that an insurance or drug company would promote to make us hate the idea of a healthcare reform. Which may be why Baucus wrote it the way it's written.

Max Baucus, we know, is on the take from health insurance companies and drug companies.
He and the other “Blue Dog Democrats” (“Blue Vermin Democrats” would be more like it) don’t have the public's interest at heart. It’s time for you to reign them in. Or swat them down.

Mr. President, here are several
things you can do

1. Right off the bat, stop calling it the “public option."

“Public option” is Washington wonk jargon. Americans like Medicare, as evidenced by the screaming hordes who rail against so-called “socialized medicine” and then end their tantrums by screaming, “And don’t you touch my Medicare, either.”

Well, the public option is Medicare. So start calling it what it really is, “Reliable Medicare for any citizen who wants it.” That’ll go a long way toward shushing up the foaming-at-the-mouth morons in the crowd.

2. Reach out with that powerful presidential iron claw you have at your disposal, grab Max Baucus by the throat, and throttle him within an inch of his political life.

Lyndon Johnson was a master of this. You can do it, too. Haul Max’s butt into the Oval Office. Sit him down in a nice comfy chair, smile sweetly and say, “Baucus, starting in 90 seconds, you’re a dead man walking in this town.”

Mention that any bill that benefits something or somebody in his state will be vetoed, as long as you’re President, unless the appropriation for his state is stricken form the bill. Mention that you’re going to mention this to other Senate Democrats — and that you will make him a pariah whose mere presence is blocking their own pork from reaching their own states. Mention it to Senate Republicans, too.

While you’re at it, mention that you’re mighty suspicious of all that money he’s taking from the drug and insurance companies, and you’re thinking of asking the U.S. Attorney General to look into the possibility of influence peddling and bribery. Oh, and of course mention an up-and-coming young Montana Democrat who you might support in the next primary.

3. Then go on to the next Blue Vermin senator.

Keep on doing that until the Blue Vermin Democrats are trembling in their shoes about what might happen if they don't revamp the bill to what you were promising during your election campaign.

4. Forget about bi-partisanship.

You tried it. The Republicans blew off your overtures.

It’s time now to deliver for the people who voted for you, before you blow it, Mr. President. Give us the health care bill you got elected on!

Respectfully (but very crankily) submitted,
The New York Crank

Monday, September 14, 2009

Are Internet con artists suddenly studying creative writing?

I don't know about you, but I was getting sick and tired of those ripoff con job letters that show up in my e-mail. (God knows where they get my private e-mail addresses).

You know the kind of letters I'm talking about. The writer purports to be a widow or a dying cancer victim, impoverished except for a gazillion dollars that she'll gladly share with you. Just send your bank account numbers. Or the writer, a total stranger in another land, craves your love and friendship.

Yeah, sure. And probably your savings and credit cards.

But recently, I've been receiving a bunch of con letters so creative that they could win awards were it not for the horrid syntax and spelling. When it comes to fanciful thinking, this stuff is better than Republican lies about healthcare, Barack Obama's birth, and what's in the United States Constitution. And when it comes to grammar, it's almost as ignorant as those idiots who worry about death panels and who think Medicare isn't socialized medicine.

Anyway, for your delectation, here are two of the most creative letters that recently landed in my e-mail in-box.

The Gothic Tale From Hell
Award goes to this writer:

Please let this letter not bring confusion to you. I know that we have
not met either before but hear me from the dept of my mind. It is circumstances
that made me to send this mail to you.

I will introduce myself first to you, My name is Cindy Coulibally, I lost my mother, my hero and my lord Ms Monica Coulibally a year ago. She was
poisioned to death by her associate in business.

She formed a company by one Mr. Philip Brown who poisioned her only to take benefit of the multimillion venture. He was arrested immedaitely my mother died and he entered an agreement with my mother's brothers that I and the immedaite youngerbrother of my mother will represent my mother's interest in the company.

After six months I was kicked out of the company because I said that we have to change the company's lawyer who I termed was part of the elimination of my mother. I did not know that they have changed all the company's document without my name appearing any where. I will have to let you know more detail on that but let me move to the point why I am contacting you.

I have been nick named bastard by my mother's relations, They have named
me all source of names even calling me outcast because my mother is late,while my mother was the bread winner of the family. They have pushed me
out of my mother's mansion and still want to eliminate my life.

I got through the records of my mother account books three weeks ago while
crying and meditating, which I beleive was inspired by the spirit of God,I discovered that there is a huge sum of money she deposited in a bank,
which is $1,850,000. (One Million Eight Hundred and Fifty Thousand USDollars)The note attached to the deposit agreement she made
with the bank indicated that, the money was to be used to purchase machinery
for the establishment of a new company of her own.

Please all I need from you is to do all you can to help me to get this money
out of the bank. I have been to the bank where this money was deposited
and confirmed the account most deligently. The bank told me that my mother
informed them that the money was to be remitted to her company's customeraccount abroad, which her customer will provide to them but since then they have never heard from her nor the customer, now my mother is late. I don't
want the bank to know that my mother is late. I told them that she is illand appointed me to represent her in her affair
(1) I want you to provide an account where the money will be remitted into
as my mother's customer. (2) Make arrangement for me to leave here as soon
as possible (3) How much commission you will take for rendering me this

My mother did not marry to any man, She had me as the only child while she
was having an affair with the person that surpposed to be my father when
she was 18 years and the man abandoned her and disappeared which forced
her to remain single. Now I am 20 years and never saw my father for a day.
I have no home now and my life is in danger. I don't have any one to run
into. All the members of my mother family have turned their back on me because
l demanded for my right. They told me that I don't belong to the family.
That I should go and look for my father, Whom I don't know. I have made
traces to know my father without success. I want you to hear me from the
inner most of my heart and accord me this help.

God will bless you for saving my life and future.
Best wishes,
Cindy Coulibally.
And the Crank's Iffy Poetry Award
(Free Verse Division)
goes to this iffy con person (who never
met you but craves your friendship):
Friendship is sharing a laugh or two;
Friendship is leaning on each other when
we come to a bend in life's road;
Friendship is taking the time to encourage
There's a miracle called "Friendship." Oh what a miracle it is
in just keeping' it real. The "Friendship" dwells way, way down deep in the heart and soul of a person or individuals.
You don't know how this "Friendship" happens, it just happens so soulfully. It is a light from the "Friendship" that provides sunlight to the soul
whenever it happens. But you know and recognize the gift from above.
My name is Linda from United States of America hope to tell you more about myself as soon as I hear from you.
Got your own favorite examples? If they're clever, colorful, or simply outrageously ridiculous, send 'em along.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

How I got temporarily un-cranked by a Segway tour of Paris

Personally, until last week I’ve regarded the Segway — that two-parallel-wheeled, battery-powered gizmo that looks like a lawn mower or a scooter with a genetic defect — as something of a gimmick.

Having finally ridden one, I still regard it as a gimmick. But it’s a marvelous gimmick if you simply want to have fun.

I’m talking about this now — and about Paris — because I just got back from vacation and I’m so PO’d at Obama’s waffling on healthcare and the “public option” while I was gone that I want to puke. (Maybe the “public option” would fly if he’d only call it what it really is — Medicare For All. Or at least for all those who want it.) So instead let me talk about something more agreeable.

I want you to know that if you ever go to Paris again, despite the dollar looking increasingly like cheaply-printed play money in comparison to the Euro, you gotta be sure to take a Paris Segway Tour.

I woke up in Paris one morning last week feeling as cranky as usual. I hurried my beautiful girlfriend over to the south leg of the Eiffel Tower, where we met up with a representative of City Segway Tours. From there we were guided on foot through the back streets of the 15th Arrondissement to a combination bicycle and Segway garage in a housing project that you’d otherwise have a hell of a time finding on your own. Next we were equipped with Segways and taught to ride them (it only takes a few minutes to learn) by our guide, a willowy blond Texan from Fort Worth named Crystal. That’s Crystal in the photograph, teaching the Crank’s beautiful girlfriend how to Segway like a pro.

History, guides, gore, yarns,
Segways — and some amazed Parisians

There are guides who throw names, dates and statistics about steel tonnage and elevations at you until you’re ready either to scream, nod off, or drown yourself. And then there are guides like Crystal who know that the word “story” is what history is all about. It turned out that Crystal knows not only her Segways, but also her French revolution, and can tell you a gripping tale about it with the best of ‘em.

Her recounting of the execution of Robespierre, the leading figure in the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror until he got it in his own neck, was alone worth the price of the tour. It's no secret that he got what he gave, and that what he got was decapitated. But Crystal was armed with details, narrative skills and a bit of mimicry that made it not just a story but one hell of a story. I won’t repeat it for you here, because I’m not a spoiler for American tour guides in Paris. Suffice it to say that Crystal's narration covered dingbat royalty, outrageous tax rate quotations (those were taxes on the poor, not the rich), street riots, a failed suicide, a horribly busted jaw, and a small taste of gore. It was a hoot.

But so was the Segway ride.

It’s simply a great kick zipping around town on those things. They go fast if you want them to go fast. They slow down easily when you want them to. They take turns like a Porsche on steroids. And counterintuitively, there are no balance issues. Your Segway is full of gyroscopes that simply don’t want you to fall down. Or off.

We learned that Segways have become a sort of reverse tourist attraction in Paris. While you ride around looking at Paris, the amazed Parisians are staring at you. It’s an interactive travel experience that you’ll just never get sitting in a tour bus.

If you want to go Segway-ing with Crystal, go soon. Her contract is up in December and she mentioned that she’s not sure whether she’ll renew and stay in Paris, or go back to Fort Worth where there’s evidently a bustling theater scene (Who knew?) and resume her career as an actress.

Lunch included with the tour.
Lunch at l'Ami Louis definitely not included.

The tour met at 9:30 in the morning and lasted until after lunch. Lunch, incidentally, was included in the price. The Crank's beautiful girlfriend had a croque monsieur (essentially a grilled cheese and ham sandwich that doesn't taste at all like the one you had the other day in some American diner), and said it was the best she ever tasted in Paris.

By the time I stepped off my rented Segway for the last time, I was having a lot of trouble feeling cranky, damnit. In fact, I stayed in a good mood until the next day, when my beautiful girlfriend steered me to a $300 chicken lunch at a place on the other side of town called l’Ami Louis. Now that was a lunch to get enraged about.

Admittedly, the chicken was the size of a small pony, it came with a mountain of frites (that’s “Freedom Fries” to you idiot Republicans who can remember back a few years) and enough duck liver pate to stop your arteries, the arteries of everyone in your family, and all the traffic arteries in your own city, from Interstates to back alleys. Oh, plus we had a half bottle of wine and some fizzy water.

I’ve been thoroughly and appropriately cranky ever the check arrived. Even so, I recommend that you sell the farm and go to Paris — whether you're into $300 chicken lunches or not.

While you're there, spring for a Segway tour. Preferably while Crystal is still in town.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

This blog interrupts its hiatus for an important healthcare message to Georgia, Louisiana and Utah citizens

If you live in Georgia, listen to this:

According to the Center for Responsive Politics John Barrow has received $239,975 from health professionals, and $76,450 from the insurance industry

If you live in Louisiana, listen to this

According to the Center for Responsive Politics Charlie Melancon received $129,000 from health professionals and another $164,000 from insurance industries.

If you live in Utah, listen to this:

According to the Center for Responsive Politics Jim Matheson received $405,535 from health professionals. $235,000 from the insurance industry and another $220,951 from pharmaceutical industry.

Some more fact you ought to know that Republican radicals and the "Blue Dog" Democrats who took campaign contribution payoffs to vote against your interests don't want you to hear:

•According to the Center for American Progress, in December and January, 430 Georgians a day lost their health insurance, 120 Utahans a day lost their health insurance, and 180 Louisianans a day lost their health insurance. And according to a recent study by Health Affairs, the number of people without health insurance is expected to rise by 6.7 million by 2010.

•According to a recent study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, more than one in three small business owners (36%) said that rising costs are likely to cause them to cut some portion of health insurance benefits for their employees.

•On July 31st, Congressmen John Barrow, Charlie Melancon and Jim Matheson voted against H.R. 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, when the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee voted on the legislation. H.R. 3200 is the House of Representative’s version of health care reform legislation.

•Insurers have played the inside game, spending about $40 million on an army of lobbyists and lavishing campaign contributions on Democrats and Republicans to kill the public option. In all, the health industry spent $133 million in the second quarter alone, more than a million bucks a day.

Shame, shame, shame, on Barrow, Melancon and Matheson. Call their offices and tell them that if they don't change their tune to allow a public healtcare option, you plan to help vote them out of office.

And thanks to for the material contained in this post.

Now, back to my hiatus. See you in mid-September

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A guest editorial on healthcare from the Crank's cranky brother

No no no, don't get your bustle in a twist. I'm still on an assignment that precludes me from any regular contributions to this blog.

However, my cranky younger brother sent me an e-mail expressing his rage over Republicrap anti-healthcare scare tactics, and this seems like a cheap way to remind my readers I'm still here.

So think over the irate rant that follows (Is "irate rant" a redundancy?) from the Somewhat Younger Crank.

Incidentally, I have no idea which anti-healthcare dickhead he's all worked up about — there are so many of them opposed to a public health care option — and I wish he'd learn to spell "dickhead." Unless, of course, there's a Congressman Didkhead about whom I haven't heard. Anyway, my cranky brother wants to say:

Feel pissed that the American Public is being subject to panic messages once again? Here's a chance to write a reply to put this didkhead in his place and then you can use it, in some form, for your blog.

-My friend had to wait less than three weeks from diagnosis to operation. Less time that I had to wait here in the US for the same operation.

-If British care is so bad, how come almost no one in England will vote against it?

-Britain gets better medical results than we do.

-Anyone I have known from England loves their system..the only complaints I have heard, was from Americans telling me how the English hate it.

-The English Empire fell (Great Britain) for reasons other than its national health care system.

-The Principal Group sells health insurance...having been in that industry I know how big the profit is to agents and their companies. About four years ago, the president of United healthcare, got a 1.8 billion dollar bonus in addition to his 90 million dollar salary. He was fired because he cheated, he was only entitled to a 1.5 billion dollar bonus.
Okay, that's it for another while. I still plan to return in mid-September. But not before.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I've temporarily shut down my cranky rant shop until mid-September. Here's why:

I know this is going to sound weird, but in these bad economic times, my business is good.

I lie awake at night wondering if it's too good to be true. And why, at an age you don't want to hear about, I'm still working my butt off. Well, some of that has to do with the job my ex-wife's matrimonial lawyers did on me over a decade ago. But even so, it's intense, man.

At any rate, this crank is involved in a humongous project with deadlines that could strangle a gorilla. I gotta do it because the money's great — assuming the people who've contracted with me actually come up with the money.

My contract calls me to meet all my deadlines by end of August. And then I'm going to Paris for a short while to sit in some little cafe off Blvd. Raspail with an ice bag on my head and a glass of Cotes du Rhone in my hand, chilling out.

Until then, man, paying work is too intense to spend time blogging. Even though some of what Obama is doing — or rather, not doing — bugs me. Like not seizing the banks and spinning off their profitable businesses to pay for the cheesy mess that their bad businesses are in. Like not prosecuting the bad guys in the torture scandals. Like actually listening — listening! — to Timothy Geithner.

Then there are the shenanigans I'd like to jeer at, not least of those, the ones committed by Dick the former Veep. And Rummy the arrogant dummy, who, speaking of Dick, may just have discovered he has his private parts caught in a human rights wringer. And Condy who got caught lying about her approval of torture.

But none of that for now. I simply don't have time. So I'm back to the grind.

See you in September, assuming the checks really start coming in. I'll probably crankier than ever. Watch and you'll see.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The new Right Wingnut Tea Party Marching Society and Crackpot Conservatory Band

The recent flurry of so-called “Boston Tea Parties” would be outrageous if anybody (other than CNN) took ‘em seriously. But how could anybody when clowns like these show up? And check out the lady in the background left. She doesn’t even know which side is up.

More people making idiots of themselves here.

Thank you, Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog for staying on their case.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Gum-chewers, Singapore, and hanging offenses. Listen carefully to this, you gum chewing b*st#rds!

I usually don’t advocate the death penalty, except for Osama bin Laden and certain Wall Street razzle-dazzle ripoff artists of the derivative persuasion.

So I’ve been controlling myself as best I can to keep from advocating death for gum-chewing slobs, but it’s getting harder. Let me tell you a story about that.

It was raining the other day. I had a business meeting to attend later in the afternoon, so I was better dressed than I usually am when I go to my gritty workspace on a gritty block in one of the grittiest parts of Manhattan. It's the kind of block you'd want to use for a setting in a noir novel.

The street is lined with buildings that rent out their storefronts to wholesale dress shops peddling cheap rags to cheesy retailers. Upstairs there’s mostly garment factories where undocumented workers still slave away for starvation wages. Just for variety we also have a gypsy fortune teller, a greasy no-name fried chicken place, a liquor store with Plexiglas panels to protect the sales clerks from their own patrons, and, in my building, a company that rents out telephone booth-sized desk spaces to self-employed working stiffs like me.

It was raining, so I was carrying an umbrella. I sat down on a bus to go to work. Since the umbrella was wet, I leaned it, closed, against the side of the bus. But when I got up to leave and grabbed my umbrella, something disgusting happened.

Somebody had stuck a wad of wet chewing gum to the inside wall of the bus. It was so low I didn’t see it. But it attached itself to my umbrella handle. When I grabbed the umbrella, a long, sticky, saliva-soaked strand of it stretched from the umbrella to the wall.

I tried to get the gum off. No way. It was like gum on the bottom of your shoe. You can scrape and pull and tug, and still the gum is there. Every office building and large apartment building in New York these days has a power washer, just to blast the gum off the sidewalk. Apply that kind of water pressure to your shoe and you might blow a hole in your foot. Apply it to your umbrella and goodbye umbrella.

But as I said, I tried. For my efforts, I got several strands of gum stuck to my umbrella handle, my hands and my suit. My brand new beautiful suit.

And that's when I
thought about Singapore.

In Singapore, possession of chewing gum is a crime. And Singpore is a no-kidding-around kind of country. Or city-state. Or whatever the hell it is. One thing's for sure. The place is a nightmare for everybody except chewing gum haters.

Four years ago they hanged an Australian citizen for possession of 14 ounces of heroin. He wasn’t selling it in Singapore. He was merely carrying it when his plane, bound from Cambodia to Australia, happened to put down in Singapore for a while.

This same country knows what to do about chewing gum. It’s outlawed. Gum smugglers don’t get the death penalty. But they can get a year in prison plus — and this is a big plus — five strokes with a cane.

This is no love-pat. A single stroke of a bamboo cane applied to your back can send flesh flying and scar you for life. Five strokes could put you in the hospital — if the authorities ever put jailbirds in a hospital.

And if you’re so much as caught chewing the stuff

… [the] act of chewing gum in Singapore is associated with similar penalties to those imposed for littering. The littering law requires a fine of $500 to $1,000 US Dollars (USD) for first time offenders. Repeat offenders may be fined up to $2,000 USD and assigned a Corrective Work Order (CWO). When serving a CWO for violating littering laws, offenders are made to clean public spaces, often while wearing a bright colored jacket. The media may also be invited to cover the event, increasing the severity of the penalty though additional public shame. The CWO as a penalty for chewing gum in Singapore was reportedly implemented in November of 1992.
So what I want to know is, where is repressive government now that we need it.

It's time we rounded up those pigs who chew gum and then throw the stuff on the ground, or stick it to the bottoms or sides of busses, the undersides of movie seats, the bottoms of restaurant tables...and cane the living daylights out of them. So far as I’m concerned, the definition of a gum litterer is every last damn gum-chewing S.O.B. on the planet.

Got that, you gum-chewing slobs?

And if caning doesn't work?

There’s always the gallows.