Friday, December 31, 2010

The Crank's beautiful girlfriend – a eulogy

The Internet is a tricky medium. Even under cover of relative anonymity, I don’t want to say anything that might help some people identify the Crank’s beautiful girlfriend. She had a flawless professional reputation. She had patients (she was a doctor) of many political hues. I would not want them thinking any less of her because she was romantically involved with some cranky guy who keeps leaning to the left.

That said, I should tell you first of all that she really was beautiful. I’m an older guy and she was not born yesterday either, but she seemed to transcend her chronological age. She still got whistled at in the streets. We would go out with other couples, and occasionally, the unscrupulous male half of the other couple would try to sneak around my back and hit on her. She was a stunner.

She was also brilliant: Summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from an ivy college that she attended on full scholarship. Way up there in her class in one of the nation’s best medical schools, which she also attended on scholarship. A role model later on to other doctors whom she taught and supervised in her specialty. She was utterly charming, with eyes that sparkled when she smiled and a sense of humor that could reverse my darker moods in an instant.

When I first met her I was in high school and she was in what in those days people called “junior high.” When we caught up with each other nearly a half century later, it was love at second sight. Within a few months she invited me to move in with her. I would have to have been certifiably insane to say no.

There followed the seven happiest years of my life. Her friends and daughter tell me it was also the seven happiest years of her own life. What comes to mind is a verse by Edgar Allen Poe:

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,

Went envying her and me—

Yes! That was the reason (as all men know,

In this kingdom by the sea)

That the wind came out of a cloud one night,

Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee

In my beautiful girlfriend’s case it wasn’t a wind. It was a cerebral event that put her in into a hospital where she lost her hold on life a few inches at a time until finally her family acceded to her living will and asked that the respirator be removed.

There is no justice to it. She should have lived. If either of us died, I should have died first, because men usually do die younger than their women and I was older than she. She had more emotional resources to bear my death than I have to bear hers. But there you are. Fate pays precious little attention to the people and their needs. It just does what it does.

There will be no politics from me today, my friends. Instead, let me just tell you to hold those you love close to you, hug them tightly, tell them every day that you love them, and enjoy every minute you have with them.

I’ll be back to this space when I’m feeling more like a functioning human being. For the moment, I’m simply lost in grief.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The New York Crank is Temporarily On Hiatus

The Crank's beautiful girlfriend has had a serious accident and is in the hospital. There will be no further posts until she heals.

I'll be back when she's better.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Going home for the holidays? Don't let the TSA grope you. Fly nekkid!

Hey, at least they won't have an excuse to touch you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A warning to Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Jon Kyl and our too-quick-to-compromise President from...Madagascar!

In Madagascar, an island nation off the coast of Africa, a bunch of tinpot colonels and other military types decided to take over the government.

That was a day or so ago. Since then, the military usurpers seem to have found themselves up a certain unprintably-named creek without a paddle.

Seems the usurpers, having announced that they were bringing the government down, have – umm – retreated to the safety of their barracks. Maybe they could still pull this thing off if the new president will negotiate, but so far he seems to be telling them to go jump in that creek they're stuck in and take a few deep gulps of swamp water.

Now right here in the United States, Senator Mitch McConnell, Representative John Boehner, and lately Senator Jon Kyl, Republican problem children all three of them, are also threatening to bring down the president and make him a one-term phenomenon.

Yes, their actions would bring the government to a halt for the next four years. Yes, they're endangering the United States economy and what's left of the prosperity and health of every American citizen. Yes, their near-treasonous attempt at a forceful overthrow of the presidency is even endangering us diplomatically and militarily.

But the thing is, you see, they think Barack Obama will negotiate himself out of power if they keep this sociopathic stuff up. And his behavior since he came into office gives them a rational basis for thinking this way. So...

Memo to President Obama: Stop trying to negotiate with politicians who are trying to kill you. If you explain your case to the American people carefully, forcefully and frequently, they'll see that their interests are in line with yours, not the subversive Republicans.

Memo to McConnel, Boehner, Kyl and other Republicans: You might win this. But you might end up getting sent back to the barracks, your butts whupped, to sit in the corner with your dunce caps on until you're voted out of office. Is it really, really worth the gamble to you?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A plan to fix the U.S. economy in 12 months or less

Back under the Bush Administration, Congress in 2006 passed legislation that lets the President declare whomever he wishes as “enemy combatants” and have them locked up.

I was always opposed to this idea. It’s a license to sweep off the streets you, me and anyone else the President of the United States doesn’t like — and then toss us into the pokey indefinitely. Even into an off-shore pokey, say in Guantanamo.

But wait! A thought occurred to me. There’s grounds to say that Senator Mitch McConnell, Congressman John Boehner, and various other Republicans and “Teabaggers” are sabotaging the American economy with their "policy of no” and demands for a balanced budget without serious tax increases. That’s a route that would sink America faster than a torpedo can sink a rowboat, and therefore a crime equivalent to terrorism against the American people.

If the Republicans and Teabaggers have it their way, they will bankrupt the American economy and send our nation tail-spinning into poverty and ruination.

So instead, let's use the law we have on the books — passed with enthusiastic Republican support, by the way — to sweep all the obstreperous sabotagers of the United States and our economy out of Congress and the Senate into prison. While the President is at it, declare as enemy combatants Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts for the same crimes, which the President evidently can define any way he wants.

Then break up the banks into little regional entities so that they’re no longer “too big to fail.” Arrest the Wall Street fat cats while we’re at it and send them to Guantanamo with McConnell And Boehner and Alito and Roberts. Oh, and the corpses of Ayn Rand and Milton Freedman.

With the assent of the House Democrats and a few complaint Republicans, raise taxes on the top incomes. Forget this 30-something or 40-something percent crap. For incomes over $600,000, get the top tax bracket up to 50 percent. For incomes of a million and over, create an 90 percent tax bracket.

Use the money to pay off the deficit, put a firm footing under Social Security and Medicare, rebuild the infrastructure, finance fledgling businesses that will enable us to build our own solar power plants and other energy sources instead of buying them from China, make higher education free for anyone who can pass tough entrance exams, and provide seed money for small start-up businesses.

We’ll fix the economy. Fix the educational system. Fix the infrastructure. Fix the banking system. And fix the deficit in the bargain.

When all that’s done, a new Supreme Court can declare unconstitutional the law that imprisoned all those right wing bad guys and we can let ‘em out of Guantnamo — assuming they’re still alive after all the waterboarding that we'll give ‘em to confess on TV the truth of their intent to undermine the United States .

What? You say people who are waterboarded don’t tell the truth — they just say whatever they think you want to hear so you’ll stop waterboarding them?

What? In contradiction of George Bush and his new autobiography, you think waterboarding is illegal and torture?

What, you say that sweeping obstreperous legislators (or any other American citizen) off the street shouldn’t be permitted?

I agree with you on all of that, Dude. But hey, which way do you want it? Because you can’t have it both ways. Either repeal the law or use it to fix the damn economy.

Personally, I can’t wait to hear what Justice Thomas will confess to on that waterboard. Did he have a ‘Long Dong Silver’ porno collection in the garage, but burn it when he heard the FBI was coming? Just asking.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Want to be scared? Suppose I tell you that a bunch of creeps is watching your every move, even what keys you press on your computer?

Click immediately to read this litany of privacy invasions, a practice the author calls "Data Rape."

For openers, it'll make you want to get a crowd with torches and pitchforks chanting in front of Nielsen, the "marketing reserarch" firm, demanding the heads of their snoops on pikes.

And oh, by the way, you're not the only one being watched. They're watching your kids, too.

Creepy, I promise you!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Halloween from The Land of the Brain Dead. Here's another demonstration of that, jellohead!

Nevermind that back during the last election, when asked what newspaper she reads, Sarah Palin couldn't name one.

Nevermind that the Republicans this year have seriously put a candidate on the ballot who never knew that the Constitution of the United States guarantees us freedom of religion and whose campaign slogan seems to be, "I am not a witch!"

Nevermind that while we have some of the lousiest healthcare in the Western world, with thousands of people uncovered, we think that a plan to assure that every American gets healthcare is some kind of "socialist plot."

Nevermind that we are willing to leave our infrastructure way, way underfunded in order to help the superrich save super sums on taxes that will soak the rest of it – and while we're at it, cut our own Social Security and Medicare benefits to help the rich out.

If you want a really, really good demonstration of how brain dead we are, check out the new slogan under the lids of individual jello® desserts. Yeah, the one that says, oh so informatively, "Where he he meet ho ho."

Once upon a time, jello advertising spoke intelligently to intelligent consumers. Their slogan, "There's always room for jello," let consumers know that this was a light dessert that wouldn't leave them feeling stuffed at the end of a heavy meal. No, this wasn't pointy-headed elitist snobbery, just something good to know. It sold jello like crazy.

Now the pitch to consumers seems to be, "We are part of your aimless and meaningless existence," and we have this "he he ho ho" idiocy.

"Jell-O is the latest brand to jump on the 'happy marketing' bandwagon where relentless optimism seems to be working with consumers in categories from food, to sodas, to office supplies," reports the advertising tradepaper Adweek.

Right-o then. Don't think. Don't worry, be a happy idiot. While America's economy and future go down the toilet and thugs for Rand Paul stomp on people who don't agree with their view of how things out to be, just tell yourself "he he ho ho." There, now you don't have to worry while America gets stolen from under you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why is the deficit so big? It could be because billion dollar companies are robbing the U.S. Treasury blind.

One of the reasons you and I and other ordinary American citizens are taxed so much and still live in a country with a huge Federal deficit is because multi-billion dollar American corporations are taxed so little.

They move money around — around Europe and the Caribbean — to make their tax liabilities disappear.

According to Bloomberg news, Google and other U.S. corporations are ripping off the taxpayer to the tune of $60 billion. Now Facebook is about to follow. And there are still others.

The Tea Party and Republican wingnut solution is to cut or eliminate Social Security and Medicare, Federal payments to the states, money for infrastructure and everything else that once made America work.

The smarter solution would be to cut the tax loopholes that let the big corporate thieves get away with this stuff. But Republicans in Congress won't let it happen. If you want to get mad as hell at something, get mad as hell at that.

P.S. An earlier version of this post contained an error attributing the whole $60 billion to Google. That has been corrected. Thank you to those who pointed it out. However, no thanks to those fearful (or furious) souls who declare that if the American people try to collect what they're owed by the corporations, the corporations will leave the country. That's like saying, "If we try to stop that band of bandits, they'll burn down our village and rape our women." I agree the corporations will try to leave the country, just as so many have moved their manufacturing plants out of the country and thrown Americans out of jobs so the factories can pay paupers' wages. So I'm glad you brought the matter iup. We can stop this.

We need to urge Congress to pass criminal laws that would fine companies the equivalent of the wages and taxes they escape by moving overseas. If they want to sell goods here, or do business here, they can employ Americans and pay American taxes here. You say they'll stop doing business in this huge market if we try. Fine. I can guarantee you that some entrepreneurial (and honest) Americans will rush in to fill the vacuum.

But...but...but the right-wingnuts will complain that if companies pay American wages and pay American taxes, prices in America would go up. I agree. That's the price we pay for full employment and a growing economy, rather than unemployment and a dying economy. Which would you rather: Have a job or pay an extra dime for a bag of carrots? (I can hardly wait for some genius to do the math and tell me it's not a dime, it's 17 cents.)

P.P.S. My policy is to allow any post that is not libelous or outrageously, formidably obscene. However, I do screen for those things, and I only do so once or twice a day. So if you don't find your post here for a while, be patient. It'll show up. Probably.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Republican police state? Believe it! Republican Joe Miller “privately” busts a blogger for “trespassing” at an open public gathering.

The photograph from the Anchorage Daily News shows some goons with military haircuts – they’re private security cops – standing over the handcuffed editor of an Alaskan blog called the Alaska Dispatch.

The editor is Tony Hopfinger. According to the Anchorage Daily News, Hopfinger had showed up at a rally that had been advertised by the campaign for Republican senatorial candidate Joe Miller, urging people to bring “friends, colleagues, family, acquaintances and neighbors.” The rally was held on public property, a school.

But Hopfinger evidently didn’t like the questions he was getting asked about his politics, his honesty and his private life. When Hopfinger walked after him asking questions and pointing a video camera to get Miller’s responses, he was grabbed by the private security goons, "arrested," handcuffed, and his recording was erased.

Reporters who tried to film, photograph or interview Hopfinger were also threatened with arrest by Miller’s thugs. When the Anchorage police finally arrived, they ordered the Miller people to release Hopfinger.

Now Miller’s blog is smearing Hopfinger, claiming that he “lost it” at the rally.

What if Republicans like Miller get elected? Seems like you can count on getting arrested and publicly smeared if anything you say or believe doesn’t agree with them.

There goes your freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Here come Republican-run political prisons.

Be sure to check out the whole story in the Anchorage Daily News here:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

U.S. Navy endangers civilian lives with San Francisco Blue Angels air show

The U.S. Navy was in San Francisco last weekend, helping the city celebrate Fleet Week. By chance, I was also there.

I have nothing against any city having a Fleet Week. We have ‘em here in New York, too. But there’s a bit of a difference. In New York we’ve seen what an airplane crashing into a building can do, not only on 9-11 (over 3,000 innocent Amerians dead), but also as far back as 1960 when two passengers airplanes collided in mid-air over the city, taking out an entire city block and leaving 134 passengers and earthbound Brooklynites dead.

I was a newspaper reporter at the time of the Brooklyn air disaster. I personally watched a father tearfully announce to a press conference in a Brooklyn hospital that his 11-year old son, Stephen Baltz, who had originally and miraculously survived the initial crash, had succumbed to burns some hours later. It was a heartbreaking lesson on exactly why tightly spaced aircraft and residential spaces don’t mix. Not ever.

So you can imagine how extraordinarily infuriated I was last weekend when, on a trip to San Francisco, I was walking down a street when four tightly spaced jet aircraft suddenly roared above a residential street at low altitude and formidably high speed.

People jumped. A woman in a car screamed. Some held their ears to prevent damage from the outrageously loud noise. And this kept going on, hours at a time.

It was the “Blue Angels” air show, and for what I suppose was a laugh they were buzzing San Francisco. They did it Saturday. They did it Sunday. I hear they also did it Monday.

Photographic evidence of gross irresponsibility

Take a look at the photographs above. I shot them from the corner of Fillmore and Pine Streets on Sunday afternoon. In the first picture, you can see a squadron of four navy planes in tight formation flying over San Francisco homes and office buildings.

The second picture is of the vapor trail they left – a 360-degree loop-de-loop. The peril to the lives of San Franisco’s inhabitants was beyond irresponsible.

Yes, I know the Blue Angels are supposed to be America’s best young pilots. I know their planes are ship-shape. As they used to say about potential oil spills before “BP” became a household curse word, a disaster couldn’t possibly happen.

Except that we all know the “impossible” is also inevitable when it comes to technology developing glitches. Sooner or later something will go wrong – a millisecond of pilot disorientation, an unforeseen mechanical failure, a stray bird that isn’t supposed to be there getting sucked into a jet intake.

When that happens, scores, hundreds or perhaps even thousands of innocent bystanders will be dead, the property damage will be horrendous, and Navy and city officials will be quick to absolve themselves of blame.

Guaranteed: some hapless junior officer will get screwed

In the end, some poor junior officer will catch a court martial, taking the rap for the big navy brass, who will then head for the officers’ club and treat themselves to a stiff drink for getting away with yet another totally irresponsible idea that destroyed lives and property.

Shame on the Navy brass who allow these demonstrations over American cities and think risking American lives for a bit of "show biz" is a great idea. And shame on Mayor Gavin Newsome of San Francisco for not demanding that the Navy fly boys immediately pick up their toys and fly the hell out of his town.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Revenge tastes best when it crawls, bites and is just a bit icky

From The Wall Street Journal, one of the extremely biased right wing News Corp'ss own publications, comes a blog with the cheering message that Rupert Murdoch has bedbugs.

Well, at least his offices probably do. So if I were you I'd be careful about taking home a copy of The Wall Street Journal, Barrons or the New York Post. Just to be absolutely, positively on the safe side (who knows what those cables can transmit?) I'd avoid watching Fox News, too.

Couldn't happen to a nicer twister of a news, spitter on journalistic tradition, and pooper on the truth.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why hasn't The New York Crank been cranking out more blog pieces lately?

Here's the simple answer, dude. I've been too busy trying to earn a living.

The thing about freelancers is, when the music plays, you gotta dance. Lately the music has been playing. Loud. And fast. And and I've been dancing as fast as I can.

So let me make a few quick points and dance back to work.

• Newt Gingrich is insane. No explanation needed.

• Michelle Bachmann ought to be arrested for advocating the violent overthrow of the United States, just the way they arrested and jailed communists for this decades ago. Every time somebody tries to run a videoclip of her doing this, Fox or somebody takes down the clip for "violation of terms of service." Why are they afraid of exposing the truth?

• I'm not opposed to Christine O'Donnell because she "dabbled in witchcraft." I oppose Christine O'Donnell because she's the kind of idiot who would dabble in witchcraft and then blame it on the 1980s. Actually, her economic theories put her firmly in the 1680s. Which, come to think of it, may be why she dabbled in witchcraft in the first place.

That's all I have to say for now. Back to the salt mine.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Run, run! Run to the Brilliant At Breakfast blog.

And when you get there, read this piece explaining precisely what the problem is with Barack Obama and how he has betrayed those of us who voted for him.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

"Honey, do you think this blog makes my butt look too big?" — A cranky (and perhaps politically incorrect) photo essay.

It started in Paris. By accident.

The Crank's beautiful girlfriend ducked into a boutique to buy something. I impatiently waited outside. Suddenly, a woman with a very large rear end stepped in front of me to look at a card and magazine rack.

I freely confess. Out of impatient boredom, I snapped the woman's picture from, uh, behind. The bottom-most (no pun intended) of the photographs above is the shot.

At first, the Crank's beautiful
girlfriend was shocked. Shocked!

"How could you do that?!" demanded the Crank's beautiful girlfriend when I downloaded my pictures to the computer and she saw what I had done. "That is shameful of you!"

(For the record, because I know somebody's going to ask, the Crank's beautiful girlfriend is a willowy size six.)

But soon after, the beautiful girlfriend happened to notice a big butt in a Manhattan boutique and before she could stop herself, she whipped out her cell phone and snapped away.

Unstoppable compulsion

That was it. The beautiful girlfriend had caught the bug — the worst inexplicable compulsion she has had since she collected a baseball card for every single player on the 1986 New York Mets, and rounded out her collection with Mets jackets, shirts, baseball caps and a couple of signed baseballs.

She finally kicked that Mets compulsion. But now she has a new one. She has become a compulsive big butt photographer.

What it all means

Is there a message for society in all of this? Well, maybe it has to do with media confusion.

First we all get told, we're all too fat. We feel we have to get thinner or we'll get diabetes and our healthcare costs will rise and it'll be our own fault.

But then, some TV news program does an expose on bulimia and anorexia, inevitably entitled something like, "Starved for Beauty." And we get taught that dieting is killing us. Sometimes they even blame it on Barbie (the doll) with her unachievable bodily proportions.

Then in New York they warn we're getting too fat again and the mayor tries to slap a calorie tax on sugared soft drinks and snacks. Then there's a declaration from heavier-set women that Big is Beautiful. But then Matt Lauer or somebody on the Today Show brings on a restaurant snoop who tells us that Big Macs are killing us. But that so are "diet" salads. But then...

Ping pong at warp speed

It's like watching a supersonic ping pong game. It's a wonder that our heads don't snap off as our attention gets turned from fat, to thin, to fat, to thin, to fat again. No wonder some people start focusing on other peoples' butts.

So that's the big butt lesson for today. Except to say that until the Crank's beautiful girlfriend finds a new compulsion to replace her current one (this blog post may help) watch your ass.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Filthy rich people behaving like swine—still more reasons for a 90 percent tax bracket

Why is it that possession of large amounts of money generates sociopathic behavior?

I've gleaned the two stories below from the beachy-bitchy-ritzy Hamptons on Long Island, where the sociopaths flock to flaunt the money they got with taxes you paid.

(The rich get a tax cut under Bush, you're about to finance it with cuts in Social Security benefits and Medicare. Or they make a fortune crash landing a bank that wasn't regulated nearly enough to stop their mischief, you pay for it with a taxpayer-financed bailout while they walk away counting their bonuses. And on and on.)

Exhibit A: Yacht witch
busts up steak house

In the Town of Easthampton, the place to eat steak (for whatever reason) is the local branch of a restaurant chain called The Palm. Reports Dan's Papers, the newspaper of record for those who enjoy knowing what the Hamptons rich are up to (or stooping to) :

According to the manager of the Palm Restaurant, a reservation had been made for dinner for four at 9:30 pm. The hour came and went, and at 9:55, the party showed up, not as four but as eight. They asked to be seated and they pointed out that they had a reservation.

The Palm was packed at that hour-it is one of the most popular restaurants in that town-and the hostess asked that the party of eight now wait until they could arrange a bigger table which might take five or 10 minutes.

Instead, the woman who had arranged the dinner, one Amy Paul of Harrison, New York became violent. She grabbed the hostess' reservation book and ripped pages out of it and threw them on the floor, then took off one of her high-heeled shoes, ran out the front door and began shattering the outdoor light bulbs in the fixtures with the heel. Some of the other diners in her party raced out to get her, but she struggled free, ignored the parking attendants, found her car key and drove off in her white 2008 Mercedes-Benz, which was identifiable because some witnesses memorized the license plate as it flew off.

Police searched for her in vain later that evening, and around midnight, alerted the police in Harrison that she might show up there. In the morning, they called the country club that she belongs to, but she was not there either.

Later that day, a person called the East Hampton Village Police and told them that she was a representative of Paul's and would call the Palm Restaurant and make restitution for the damage Paul had caused. This representative said Paul was unavailable to speak to them herself because she was out on a yacht and did not have cell phone service out there.

That evening, representatives for the Palm Restaurant spoke to the police and said they had indeed been contacted by Paul's representative and would not be filing charges against Paul. That ended the incident.

Wonderful! That ends it only if you're rich enough. Imagine if you were a poor black kid who showed up at The Palm, ripped up the reservations book and busted up the landscape lighting. You'd still be cooling your heels in the Suffolk County pokey—even if you could find a Legal Aid lawyer who promised you'd make restitution by washing dishes.

Or as an online kibbitzer noted:

There are some things servants need to understand in this world. That if your tucked in face has made it to a glitzy magazine, have rubbed shoulders with other celebrated delinquents and happen to own a house whose bathroom is the size of your waiter's and busboy's apartment combined then by rights and vanity you have every right when you turn up late and unannounced at your favorite restaurant to throw a temper tantrum and cause a magic scene if you're needs are not immediately met.

After all Amy dear, you earned the right to be fashionably late and if them wenches can't jump six feet high in the air, who are you to then just idly stand there and watch the world point daggers at your heart.

Exhibit B: Rich guy declares himself king and throws commoners off public road

Out in Bridgehampton, another Hampton where money not only talks, but also doesn't have to speak to anyone it doesn't like, the new game in town is blocking public access to public beaches.

In this case, the culprit in question is a man named Robert Simpson, who has a humongous mansion on a beachfront road called Surfside Drive, where houses (even without the ocean view that houses on Simpson's side of the street commands) routinely sell for upward of $2 million. Sometimes way, way upward.

Here's Dan's Papers to tell you the story again.

More and more, residents with private homes on the ocean are finding ways to block beach access for everyone else but them. They've even arranged this year, for the first time, to begin harassing others who might want to go fish or sunbathe in one particular spot from doing so. This occurred at the sand access roads heading off Marine Boulevard, for example, where guards were posted at beach access roads to the ocean by nearby residents to check I. D.s of those who might want to swim there. It would be okay for the general public to walk a half mile down the beach from somewhere else to get to this enclave, but they sure wouldn't be allowed to go to this beach by using the access roads from these "private" although publicly accessible roads.

A good example of what I consider extremely selfish behavior is the story of a man named Robert Simpson who built an oceanfront home down toward the end of Surfside Drive in Bridgehampton. Simpson's two acres are adjacent to two oceanfront acres owned by the Town of Southampton. Since the settlers landed in Southampton in 1640, a sand road has allowed access from what later become named Surfside Drive to the beach.

The sand road was for a long time considered a right of way to the beach by the Southampton Trustees, an ancient body of officials who were entrusted with the task of providing free access to the beaches, wetlands and bays in that town for the residents for bathing, fishing, clamming and whatever. The trust came in the form of a parchment signed by the King of England in 1686. Its power has never been successfully challenged.

There have been occasions, however, when a determined man with hundreds of millions of dollars set on closing a public access has been able to prevail over a technicality in some individual case if he kept at it long enough and simply spent the Trustees into submission....

There have been occasions, however, when a determined man with hundreds of millions of dollars set on closing a public access has been able to prevail over a technicality in some individual case if he kept at it long enough and simply spent the Trustees into submission.

It took Simpson eight years. In the end not only were the trustees no match for him. Neither were the members of the Town Board who tried to stop him. Today, actually about six months ago, a metal barrier went across this road to close it off. Simpson, who does not even own the land upon which it crosses, has his peace and quiet. The rest of us are the losers.

Because of the errors made by the Town Attorney, today, a steel cattle bar runs across the sand road. It has a chain around it and is locked shut. And it has been put up by the very same Town Board that had torn two obstructions down before!!! If someone were to begin to drown in the ocean by this Town-owned beachfront property, nobody could get to them in any reasonable amount of time. I guess it would be up to the Simpsons to rescue these people. Perhaps the Simpsons could get out there on their front deck and say, "Shoo, go further away and drown somewhere else."

This is what passes for nice behavior in some places. A man has now arranged for an empty lot of oceanfront dunes that belong to the Town and border a beach to no longer provide access for its residents….

...As some people say, all I want is my little patch of heaven and a view of the water and some peace and quiet and maybe a gate or fence to keep others from bothering me now that I have arrived and spent my $15 million.

I think Simpson has succeeded in doing this beyond his wildest dreams. It's everything for him, and nothing for the rest of us.

In East Hampton Town last year when a rich man built a reinforced concrete retaining wall across a protected dune between his house and the beach to keep everybody out-it was even a protected dune on HIS property-the powers that be came in and ordered him to jackhammer it back out or he'd go to jail.

That seems not to be the case out at the end of Surfside Drive in Bridgehampton, where money speaks louder than the law.

Remember, please, that most of the really, really big money in America is made not by people who invent or get others to invent things (Bill Gates and a few other Silicon Valley dudes excepted) but by people who move money round and chip off a little piece of it for themselves each time it moves. That includes the "fee" they charge you for accessing your own money at the cash machine. You pay the grocer. The banker buys a beachfront house.

The best way to discourage this behavior is to tax it out of existence with an excess wealth taxes. The top two or three percent of earners in this country need to be reformed from corruption. And the road to doing this leads straight through the IRS.

Tell your Congressional representative. And next time you're in the voting booth, vote not for the tax-cutters but for those who'd raise taxes on the obscenely rich.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Buhbye until mid-September-ish

Into every cranky life, a little vacation must fall. Like it or lump it.

So I'm outta here for a while. See you the second week, more or less, of September.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What Barack Obama can learn from the experiences of shafted chief marketing officers

Evidently one of the most insecure jobs in the world these days is corporate Chief Marketing Officer.

According to Target Marketing Magazine’s writer Lisa Arthur, who got her information from the Spencer Stewart executive search firm, the poor S.O.B.s who take the marketer-in-chief job typically last less than three years. Well, 34.7 months, to be exact.

Why are they getting canned? And what does this have to do with Barack Obama, his job, and the jobs of the Congressmen and Senators in his party? Plenty.

Suddenly, failed marketers sound like Obama

All you have to do is read the “key risks” (actually key failures) of Chief Marketing Officers, and change a word or two. Suddenly you’re in the Oval Office.

For example?

“Running marketing tactically,” was one chief marketing officer fault. Kind of the way Obama appears to be running legislation. Tactically it was easier to get Obamacare without a single payer option. And tactically it was easier not to give the economy the megadose of stimulus money ir should have had, instead of just a bank and auto bailout. And tactically, let’s fudge those exit dates in Iraq*. And for the sake of continuity, lets leave foxes like Tim Geithner in the henhouse. And on and on.

“Failure to build and unite left brain and right brain organizations,” was another. Think of this as “cooly logical” vs. “emotional.” The President ran for office largely on emotion. Remember? Where did "Yes we can!” that emotional rallying cry go now that we need it? Instead of inspiring the American public to demand his programs, he more or less delivers stumbling lectures. His real modus operandi is, “No we can’t with all those Republicans, so let’s settle for second rate.”

“Forgetting the number one stakeholder: the customer,” was another fatal mistake that Chief Marketing Officers make. Substitute the phrase” “your base” or “the good of the electorate” for “stakeholder” and we have another Obama bummer. The people who supported Obama heard about getting out of Iraq. We heard about a public healthcare option. We heard about immigration reform. And while I’m repeating myself, we heard “Yes, we can!” which was considerably more inspiring than what Hillary seemed to be offering. Now, a great many of us are wondering how bad a mistake we made in not backing Hillary.

Then there was “Being satisfied with the status quo and not pushing to embrace and drive change in emerging channels and technologies.” Let’s talk about those channels and technologies. We were supposed to have a big alternate energy push, remember? We were going to build new American industries based on clean, green technology. Had we had the equivalent of a space program or a Manhattan Project in energy, we’d be on our way to total energy independence, with new industries hiring researchers, building factories and creating new products. (Remember that the space program built industries as varied as microchips and nonstick frying pans, to name just two out of many.) Instead, we got yet another “compromise” — this time in favor of coastal drilling, just in time for the BP oil spill.

Do I hear an objection?

You may be saying, “But, but, all those Republican obstructionists….!”

Yes, I agree Washington is littered with them. Tea Party manipulators. Lobbyists who create corruption by bribing legislators with campaign contributions. Talk shows baloney artists. Liars. Subject changers. Flimflam artists. People who try to take the focus away from preserving Social Security so you’ll get worked up over a Sufi mosque two blocks (instead of what, six blocks?) from Ground Zero. Or changing the subject from the economy to where Michelle Obama takes her vacation. God damn the Republicans! They are doing more than Al Queda ever did to undermine the United States of America and distract our attention while they bomb the economy.

But they can be overcome with one thing. Which brings me to perhaps the most important reason why Chief Marketing Officers are getting fired:

“Forgetting that the ‘Chief’ in CMO means you lead.” That’s what Presidents of the United States are also supposed to do, Mr. Obama. Not compromising with obstructionists for whom no compromise is enough. Not attempting to placate those who refuse to be placated. Lead! Inspire! Build an overwhelming demand among the public for programs that would actually create a sound economy, a future for the young, a fair and sensible tax system, better healthcare, secure retirements and an exit from pointless, useless and wasteful wars.

We, the former Obama base, are not getting that from Barack Obama. CMOs who don’t deliver last less than three years. The Obama Presidency ought to have his four years and no more. It’s time for a Democratic primary challenger to enter the party’s primaries and for the Democrats to replace Obama.

Because if we don’t, the Republicans will.

*NOTE: A day after this post appeared, the exit from Iraqof the last of American combat troops was announced. Well hallelujah! Maybe Mr. Obama is trying to keep his promises after all. Or maybe it's pressure from people like me, calling attention to the way he has failed his base, that has moved him. Or maybe it's just the coming elections. Whatever the case, we're still leaving behind noncombat troops and oodles of "private contractors." Why I am suspicious?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

“Take this job and shove it” — a man, his meltdown, and yet another lesson about the evils of government deregulation

I can’t help but grudgingly admire Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who on Monday had just about damn enough.

Evidently, some self-entitled passenger got up and started taking his luggage out of the overhead compartment of a just-landed plane at Kennedy Airport in New York—before being told it was safe to do so. The bag fell from overhead. It bopped Slater. (In TV footage this morning Slater appeared to be sporting a raw-looking bruise on his forehead.)

A gorgeous rage—and a grand gesture

Irked so badly that it sounds like “pissed off beyond repair” to me, Slater got on the intercom and evidently chewed out the passenger in profane language. Then, possibly realizing that he had just blown his career anyway, he opened the emergency escape chute, grabbed a can of beer (some reports say two cans), and slid down the chute. Once on the Tarmac, he made his way to the parking lot and drove home. It's the best heroic flight story since Hemingway, if I remember correctly, slashed his way out of the jungle from a planewreck with a machete in one hand and a bottle of gin in the other.

Yes, yes, I know Slater's behavior was very dangerous to passengers as well as Slater. Yes, yes, it no doubt slowed returns home and takeoffs for uninvolved passengers on JetBlue and other airlines. Yes, yes, according to the news reports what Slater did was a crime. Yes, yes, he wildly overreacted.

And yes, yes, having flown a number of airlines, Jet Blue among them, I consider that airline among the best of a really and truly bad lot, which is about as backhanded as I can make that compliment.

All the same, Good for you, Steven Slater.

As New York Times reporters Andy Newman and Ray Rivera said in their lede this morning:

It has been a long time since flight attendant was a glamorous job title. The hours are long. Passengers with feelings of entitlement bump up against new no-frills policies. Babies scream. Security precautions grate but must be enforced. Airlines demand lightning-quick turnarounds, so attendants herd passengers and collect trash with the grim speed of an Indy pit crew. Everyone, it seems, is in a bad mood.

It’s been a long time, too, since flying was a glamorous way to travel, and for the same reasons. And this was so even before terrorism made simply getting aboard the plane such as hassle. Allowed to “compete” to the death (RIP Eastern Airlines, PanAm, TWA and others) the airline companies now compete to see who can more profitably treat passengers like dead sardines.

We weren’t all treated like cargo when the U.S. Government was regulating ticket prices, schedules, routes and other matters that have fallen aside in the name of a “free market.” In those days, flying was truly a glamorous way to travel (people used to get dressed up, not dressed down to do it.)

The so called free market (along with Ronald Reagan’s control tower union busting) has managed to make life miserable and more dangerous for everyone—pilots, cabin crew, probably ground crew, certainly passengers and of course any stockholders who are still reckless enough to buy an airline stock. Or who got stuck owning some.

The moral

Certain things are too important to be left to a bunch of guys who are out to put a buck in their own pockets. Among those — along with healthcare, military intelligence, your Social Security account, military security and probably fifty other matters — is the business of climbing into an aluminum tube and smooshing yourself into a tiny seat while the tube hurtles through the sky at 500 or 600 miles an hour.

In this case, I wish that instead of giving Steven Slater a rap sheet, someone would give him a medal for having—consciously or not—struck one of the rare authentic blows against deregulation.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The curse of John Mitchell: How a middle of the road guy like me became a raving leftist—without changing any of my political opinions

Back in my Mid-20th-Century college days I was a centrist Democrat. I supported the tax structure as it was (I seem to remember that the maximum rate for the really, really well-fixed was up around 70 percent for part of their incomes. They grumbled, but I don't recall anybody publicly declaring it was "socialism." And by the way, the economy boomed under higher taxes.)

I, and all Democrats, and nearly all Republicans were for Social Security. At least that's even what most of the Republicans said. They didn't dare say otherwise or their constituents would have voted them out of office.

I hadn't heard the subject of Medicare come up yet, but I would have been for it. Years later, a more-or-less centrist Democrat named Lyndon Johnson came out for it. And got it. I approved.

I believed in a stronger national defense than we have today. There was a thing called the draft. I hated dealing with it, and I hated my days at Fort Dix, but I was for the draft.

(Vietnam shook my support for the draft some, but only because of Vietnam. In retrospect, the rising tide of anger among young people that they might lose their lives for what turned out to be a fantasy, and even the sympathetic anger of some of their parents, probably helped bring the war to a close sooner.)

Yesterday' centrist is
today's left winger

I still favor almost exactly the same things today. So how come I'm suddenly considered a raving leftist in my dotage?

I haven't found support for this during a quick dive into Google, but I distinctly remember John N. Mitchell, who was Nixon's attorney general, venomously telling a TV interviewer, "This country is going to far to the right you're not going to believe it." I'm pretty sure I'm not imagining that I saw the old sourpuss says this, some time before he did time for his participation in the Watergate scandal.

Well, the vindictive SOB was right. We moved so far to the right that we're even to the right of John N. Mitchell, who while a New York State official tried to borrow money in defiance of the voters with something called "moral obligation bonds."

Mitchell's dead. But his
evil curse lives on.

What's happened is, a huge chunk of Americans have gone so far to the right that they're now voting to destroy themselves.

They didn't object to national debt under George W. Bush, but now they're objecting to any debt that could turn the economy around, bring up the value of their homes, and get everybody working again.

In Mid-20th Century America, most middle class Americans didn't object to higher taxes on a small part of the income of the richest Americans, but now we object—even though it's the lack of taxation that will eventually destroy our national defense, our economy, and our own lives.

Most middle-of-the-road Americans lived with the draft — hated as it was — from WWI through Viet Nam. Say two good things for the draft:

1) The draft gave us a real national defense, for which we've now substituted a bunch of video games (like "Drone the Wedding" and "Blow Up Some Building in Bagdad") and a ragtag bunch of over-used, overwhelmed, exhausted and too-old soldiers who get shot and exploded to pieces without the nation troubling itself much about them.

2)The draft kept us out of some wars and shortened others. Had drafted Americans been dying in Bagdad while George Bush shrugged, mobs of enraged Americans would have taken apart the White House, brick by brick. The Congress is alert enough to its own interests to know they would be next, and not to repeat the civilian unrest brought on by a draft-fed Viet Nam.

Where do you
stand today?

What is now "centrist"—like Barack Obama—used to be considered conservative Republicans. What are now right wing Republicans used to be considered batshit crazy lunatics. And today's batshit crazy lunatics like the "Tea Party" party-goers, Michelle Bachmann, Sharron Angle, and Mitch McConnell, and John Boehner, and this week's version of John McCain would have been locked up in mental institutions because they're a danger to themselves and others.

So I'm a Mid-20th-Century Centrist, and if you think I'm a leftist, you're so far right that even John Mitchell wouldn't believe you and it's time for you to check yourself in at the funny farm.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Heads need to roll on this one: “It’s shameful that an insurance company is stealing money from the families of our fallen servicemen."

There are SOBs. There are greedy SOBs. There are greedy, lying, conniving, evil SOBs. And then there are insurance companies.

David Evans of Bloomberg news reveals how the families of fallen American soldiers are getting misled and essentially ripped off for part of their life insurance benefits by Prudential and Met Life (as well as other life insurance beneficiaries getting ripped off by other insurance companies), with the complicity of some state insurance regulators and the Federal Veterans Affairs Office.

Read it, gnash your teeth, and then write your Congressional representative and Senator telling them you want these evil insurance people behind bars, where they belong, as well as the insurance regulators who bent over for them.

(Thanks to Underbelly-Buce for alerting me to this.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

The mosque, Ground Zero, and a bunch of U.S. Constitution-hating nincompoops, including Sarah Palin, Andrea Peyser, and Carl Paladino

Back in colonial times, a Quaker passing through the Massachusetts Bay Colony got whipped and had his ears sliced off by the good Puritan colonists for…being a Quaker.

In the name of the Inquisition, hundreds, if not thousands of non-Catholics were tortured, and burned at the stake. Their crime? Not being Catholic.

In France, Protestant Huguenots were enslaved for life on galley ships for being…Protestants.

The U.S. Constitution supposedly

put an end to intolerance

When America was founded, the founding fathers said they’d had enough of this hateful intolerance. The Bill of Rights, the very First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in its very first sentence, even before it got down to Freedom of Speech and the Press, declared this:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

It didn’t and still doesn't say, “except when a lot of people with money and the media equivalent of loud speakers say differently.”

In New York City, a group of Muslims wants to build a mosque. I have no particular brief for the Muslim religion, and I have a personal loathing for jihad and for the practice of Sharia law in the 21st Century. But I do have respect for the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

An outpouring of hatred

So I’m horrified at the huge outpouring of hatred from monied and politically devious sources who are stirring up a hornet’s nest of hatred against the Muslim group because the mosque and community center they want to build is two blocks from ground zero.

The operative word is “two” because, of course, none of the people opposing are bigots. Oh no!

“I am not against a mosque. I am against a location of a mosque. I don’t want a mosque on the grave of my son and on the grave of everybody else who was murdered that day,” said one woman while the Fox News TV cameras rolled. Fox. Of course, Fox.

How far away is far enough?

But wait a second, m’am. Your son’s grave is two blocks away. And if that's too close, how far away is far enough? Would three blocks do it? How about four? A mile? Two miles? Or should mosques be allowed on the same island? What about the same coast of the United States, m’am?

But wait, you've got idiot friends seeking to be in powerful places who are backing you up, m’am. Sarah Palin, for example.

In a post to her Facebook page which mysteriously disappeared and then reappeared, Palin declared, and then undeclared, and then re-declared, “Many Americans, myself included, feel it would be an intolerable and tragic mistake to allow such a project sponsored by such an individual to go forward on such hallowed ground. This is nothing close to ‘religious intolerance,’ it’s just common decency.”

Right. Except that, as previously noted, the hallowed ground is two blocks away. (Who hallowed it, by the way? By what authority is land made holy under the First Amendment?) What Palin is doing with statements like this is stirring up religious intolerance, a just plain common indecent thing to do.

At Rupert Mudoch’s right wing New York Post, the mother of all witches, Andrea Peyser, plays fast and loose with the facts. She writes: “Plans to bring what one critic calls a 'monster mosque' to the site of the old Burlington Coat Factory building, at a cost expected to top $100 million, moved along for months

without a peep. All of a sudden, even members of the community board that stupidly green-lighted the mosque this month are tearing their hair out."

Community board had no real say

Witchy Andrea a few paragraphs later finally got around to mentioning that Community Boards in New York have no official say in such matters. So what it boils down to is that their “green light” was the equivalent of a whistling “Melancholy Baby” — a total irrelevance.

Now some upstate New York candidate for Governor who is so-far-right-it’s off-the-charts, a fellow named Carl Palladino claims he will “use the right of eminent domain” to stop the mosque. He

doesn’t spell out what that means, but if it means anything at all, it means that he’ll take a couple of hundred million worth of taxpayer money to buy up commercial property two blocks from ground zero so Muslim worshippers can’t have it.

Good luck to funding education, or highways, or law enforcement, or hospitals, or anything else a state ought to be doing with Palladino’s cut-taxes-and-spend-for-mosque-property philosophy of government.

Of course, the other looney Republican candidate for Governor, Rick The Loser Lazio, who proved what a jerk he is when he walked up to Hillary Clinton during a televised debate and aggressively shoved a pile of paper under her face, also favors repealing the First Amendment — whoops, I’m sorry, stopping the mosque.

But also note Muslim-American

tone deafness

The wannabe builders of this Muslim facility aren’t without blame either. They suffer from a severe case of tone deafness in standing by their proposal.

Nevertheless, last I heard, tone deafness wasn’t against the law and the U.S. Constitution still hasn’t been repealed.