Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gas, greed, and the great New York pastrami disaster

Yes, it can kill you, but what a way to go!
I confess to what may be a congenital weakness for sandwiches containing any cut of meat that falls under the general category of “brisket.” That includes the Big Three: corned beef, pastrami, and plain old “brisket of beef.”

All three contain enough animal fat and sodium to send an elephant into cardiac arrest, with enough fat left over to kill the elephant’s pet whale. One ounce of brisket — one measly ounce! — contains seven tenths of a gram of saturated fat, 18 milligrams of cholesterol, and, almost any way it’s prepared, 22 milligrams of sodium. And don’t take my word for it. That’s Google talking.

All this would be perfectly fine and not a hazard to human health if people actually limited themselves to eating an ounce of brisket, or pastrami, or corned beef every now and then. Fat chance! (No pun intended.)

Is it worth your life?
Yeah, probably.

In New York, moderation be damned!  Instead, we have the revered phenomenon of the New York deli sandwich, a gastronomic institution among New Yorkers who have the daring to risk their lives for the richness of great gleaming globules of oily fat mixed with giant doses of blood pressure-raising salt, and in the case of pastrami also a probably-toxic level of smoke particles, (as well as some accompanying animal protein.)

In a New York deli when you order brisket, corned beef, pastrami or some combination thereof, you don’t just get an ounce. You don’t just get two ounces. You don’t just get three, or four, or five, or six, or seven ounces. Or even a little bit more than that.

Instead you get a pile of meat so high that the obligatory rye bread, weakened by rivers of fat oozing from the meat, can’t possibly hold the sandwich together. You get a great, heaping, huge, humongous mountain of adipose protein, so big, and so devastating to the bread above and below it that the sandwich falls apart if you’re foolish enough to pick it up. Instead, you have to eat it with a knife and fork.

Little wonder that my father died at age 67. Or that one of my cousins died at 47. Or that another of my cousins, although he lived to 75, spent the last ten years of his life in a wheel chair after a debilitating stroke at the age of 65. As the Parisians would say, if they lived here instead of in Paris, cherchez le brisket. But of course, if they lived here they wouldn't be Parisians.

Fatal flirtations

Was it worth it?  My deceased relatives would probably tell you,”Yes. Yes it was.” And although I personally am a member of Pastrami Anonymous, every so often I fall off the PA wagon, too. And when I do, I usually wake from my trance to discover that I am sitting at a formica table in a New York deli, in the midst of a sea of pastrami-chomping tourists who are carrying on high risk flirtations with cholesterol as part of their New York gastronomic experience.

And no, I will not tell you where to get the best brisket-stuffed sandwiches in New York. The Second Avenue Deli has its aficionados. So does the Carnegie Deli. So does Katz’s Deli. So did the late, lamented Stage Deli, may it rest in peace and fond memory upon a lake of molten chicken fat. And other delis with their claques include, but are not limited to Sarge’s (founded by a retired Jewish police sergeant I’m told), Mendy’s, and Pastrami Queen. Did I mention Sammy's Roumanian, where they don't even have brisket, but do have pitchers of chicken fat on each table to fatten lubricate the tenderloin steak?

As I said, I’m not getting into a whose-is-best free-for-all.

But I am, finally, getting around to my point.

What it all means

During the past month there have been two separate revelations of  restaurants that offered pastrami also illegally stealing natural gas from utility lines.

The first was the Stage restaurant, (no relation to the original Stage Deli in the theater district). The Stage, in this instance, was a Ukranian restaurant in the East Village that dabbled in pastrami sandwiches (although at $8.70 per, they couldn’t have been nearly as thick as the $16-and-up  tourist-chokers in midtown and elsewhere in town.) 

The second was one of the grand dames of things done to brisket in the name of attracting tourists — the great Carnegie Deli.

Somehow, a scheme I’ll call The Old Ukranian Gas Tap Caper led, through a process I don’t pretend to understand, to a huge and fatal explosion in a neighboring sushi restaurant. Sushi? Fat-free sushi? Blown up by gas from a brisket joint? The details are all a bit muddled, if you ask me. But suddenly city inspectors, or maybe the utility's inspectors, awoke after the Great Pastrami Disaster from a decades-old torpor and began inspecting. And soon after, the Carnegie Deli was caught at the same gas-tapping caper. 

Is this an alert 
for energy-explorers?

The city’s enforcers now seem to be conducting inspections following the maxim – energy explorers please note –that where there’s corned beef and pastrami, you’re likely to find gas. (Yes, damn it, pun intended.) To which I might add,  where there’s gas you'll also find greedy people pumping it at breakneck velocity.

On the other hand, finding gas in the wake of pastrami sandwiches would come as no surprise to my dead relatives.

Eat up.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Memo to the One Percent: You’re cordially invited to commit “legal” murder, if you first pay a fee. (Fee schedule follows.)

Why is this man smiling? Possibly
because he contributed enough to
his local Sheriff's election campaign
to ge away with what some consider 
So among the police brutality cases that won’t go away is a case of civilian brutality aided and abetted by the police.

It happened in the vicinity of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where we now have a case of sport-hunting a human being for money. A so-called “reserve deputy,” age 73, who had generously contributed to the sheriff’s office (and gave $2,500 to his election campaign) got to “ride along” with the deputies, armed with both a taser and a pistol. And when they came upon a man who turned and fled when these weapons-bristling “peace officers” saw him, guess what?

Right, Mr. Ridealong Casssidy, actually a 73-year-old insurance executive named Robert Charles Bates, in search of an adventurous payoff in return for all the financial support he gave his local sheriff, shot and killed the suspect.

“Whoops,” he in effect said, explaining that he thought the pistol was his taser and his taser was his pistol, “My bad.” Or something like that.

Of course the sheriff’s office went to the most impartial investigators they could find — themselves — and learned through meticulous self-investigation that they and their honored guest killer were totally absolved, and that it was all an innocent mistake.

As for what happened when the mortally wounded man complained, “I’m losing my breath,” and a (real) sheriff’s deputy on the scene replied, “Fuck your breath,” that’s a mere bagatelle. I mean hey, the wounded man would have died anyway.

One begins to wonder if the One Percent, bored with making their billions and buying elections, haven’t gone on to the next level and now have a sporting arrangement to kill civilians, paying a fee for the fun.

They wouldn’t publicize it, of course. But the word-of-mouth would almost certainly get around at the club. For those government entrepreneurs who want to make money serving up fun to billionaires, I recommend the following fee schedule:

The $2,5000 Local Yokel: Pay $2,500 to an approved local official or candidate for office and get to chase and shoot dead one person of color in a “bad” neighborhood. If chastised by some lefty member of the press, you may be initially charged with a crime, but guaranteed you will be excused. Your pal the sheriff will simply investigate the incident and say, “Aside from the fact that the dead man shoplifted a banana five years ago and therefore got what he had coming, it should be noted that my honored honorary deputy was merely participating in a hot pursuit. Besides, he thought he heard gunfire coming from the dead man's direction.”

The $500,000 fatal clubbing: Using a police baton or a hammer, you may may enjoy the thrill of clubbing to death, a handcuffed suspect — while he is in police custody. Severing the arrestee's spinal cord is optional. This is a socially useful activity that relieves police officers of the onerous and tiresome duty of killing already-captured and manacled suspects by themselves.

The $10,000,000 Sheldon Adelson Decapitation Special: Why should ISIS executioners have all the fun? Contribute a Sheldon Adelson-size ten million bucks to any senatorial, congressional, gubernatorial, or presidential campaign and you too can get to take a knife and saw off the head of a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit. Whether you wear a mask or not is optional. However, you may want to remain masked to keep the kids or grandkids attending progressive lefty schools from asking embarrassing questions. It takes a while before they get to understand that your wealth entitles you to this kind of fun. You might want to treat them to participate in a decapitation for their 21st birthdays.

The $889,000,000 Koch Brothers mass murder deluxe:  Make a near-billion-dollar political campaign contribution, matching what the Koch Brothers will spend to defeat Democrats in 2016, and the sky’s the limit. If you’d like, we’ll line up 100 people against a wall, hand you an AR-15, and let you mow them all down. There’s actually a choice of weapons. People with a taste for classic weapons may prefer a Browning .30 caliber, tripod-mounted machine gun. Or you can use a bazooka. (Limit: one shell per firing squad victim.) For a slight extra fee of, say, $30,000,000, we’ll even put you in an Air Force plane and let you nuke the entire population of a small Pacific atoll. Then go home or to the club and tell all your friends, “My boom was bigger.”

Now I can almost hear some of the non-one-percent tut-tutting me and telling me not to publish this post because it’ll give people ideas. Hey, I’ve got news for you. The idea has already been conceived and field-tested in Oklahoma. And if it occurred to me, even in jest, that this is the kind of atrocity that can be scaled up, I’m sure somebody else is thinking about that one, too. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, even before this was posted, somebody had submitted a business plan. Maybe even to the Koch Brothers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In another 20 years, will the kid who did this be a Democrat or a Republican?

Ah Spring! The time when flowers and politicians bloom.

Above: warning signs created by a kid, found on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. What party will this kid join a few more years down the road? Where do his or her sympathies lie? What can the picture tell us about where the kid will go politically?

Here are some possibilities to consider:

Democrat: Wants to preserve the beauty of nature.

Republican: Wants to control others, including animals and the people who own them. Probably wants to control your uterus, too, if you have one.

Tea Party: Can't spell worth a damn. And also wants to control everything and everybody in the name of liberty.

Koch Brothers: The advertising overwhelms and obscures what we're supposed to appreciate, the tree and the flowers that the advertising pretends to be protecting. But don't worry. They're going to throw a billion dollars at it and carve their names in the trunk.

Elizabeth Warren : If everybody sends just $2, we can build an aesthetic fence around the tree, protect the flowers, and take down the ugly messaging."

Anarchist: "Here, Rover. Make in this flower box."

Republican strategist: "Hillary Clinton was in the Senate and then Secretary of State for years and did nothing – nothing! – to protect those flowers. It was left to overwhelmed children to put up an inadequate defense that led to tulips shedding their petals. And also, Benghazi."

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The deliciously bloody live dissection of Dick Morris

It says on this blog, right over there in the right-hand column, that Stonekettle Station is “for my nickel, the best-written long form political blog on the planet.”

But now Jim Wright, the grand master who writes Stonekettle, has outdone himself. He has taken Dick Morris, the Republican strategist, and subjected him, point-by-point, organ-by-organ, to the cruelest, meanest, bloodiest, most sadistic and most enjoyably delightful  public dissection since 1601, when Guy Fawkes was drawn and quartered.

For good measure, Wright has chopped off the fingers of the usual Republican suspects – a gaggle of failed and present Republican candidates from Sarah Palin to Ted Cruz – and thrown their filthy severed digits into Morris’s open wounds.

It’s the kind of spectacle for which people used to fight to get front row seats at the gibbet. It’s the kind that, if they did it on Broadway, scalpers would be getting $2,000 for mere balcony tickets. The kind that, if you’re a certain kind of person, you want to bring your knitting to while you watch the deservedly guilty writhe in agony as they die. Or if not your knitting, at least a giant bag of popcorn and maybe some jujubes. 

So click your butt over to Stonekettle Station now and relish the spectacle. If it’s still Saturday while you’re reading this, I can promise you you’ll feel great for the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hi, I’m not stupid, but I play it that way on TV to attract Republican voters

So now we have Rand Paul seeking the Republican nomination for President. His stated interest in disengaging the United States from armed conflict certainly has its appeal. As does his interest in ending NSA spying on Americans. If he means it.

Unfortunately he also comes with a truckload of ideas that just sound a little too dumb, or too naive, or too off-the-wall nutty to come from somebody who presumably had the smarts to get into and through medical school.

Some of the deep down insanity of the thinking he purports to believe in bubbled up from the snake pit recently. It happened in Rand Paul's put-down of an attempt by Senator Bernie Sanders to spend more to prevent  starving senior citizens from continuing to starve. 

Take a few mind-boggling minutes to watch Paul's presumbly clueless back-and-forths with Senators Sanders and Franken, then resume reading below.

Sanders had spoken of the Federal “budget consequences” of letting seniors starve during a meeting of the Senate’s subcommittee on primary health on aging, which he chairs. It’s not hard to see what those consequences are. And Sanders pointed them out. Those starving seniors, deteriorate faster than the would if they were reasonably well-fed. Consequently they end up in emergency rooms and nursing homes at public expense, instead of remaining in their own homes.

That’s not a terribly difficult concept to grasp, but Rand Paul either can’t grasp it, or more likely pretends he can’t grasp it.

“It’s curious,” said Paul, “That only in Washington can you spend $2 billion and claim you’re saving money.”

Right. He can't seem to understand that a $2 billion cork can prevent a $50 billion hole in the dike that will drown half the country.

Well, let’s move the decimal point over a few places and apply this theory to you, Senator Paul. You practice ophthalmology. Do you have a Yttrium aluminium garnet laser to correct posterior capsular opacification? Well, that set you (or somebody) back roughly $140,000.

 Do you have a Tonometer? That set you back about two grand. And those are among the hundreds of instruments and precise lenses and other doodads an ophthalmologist needs to practice. Think of all the money you could save, Dr. Paul, if you didn’t buy all that crap. You could just pry peoples’ eyelids open and remove their cataracts through mental telepathy. Or perform Lasik surgery by staring into their eyes. Or prescribe prescription lenses through intuition.

And that’s just as dumb (or insane) a concept as saving money by letting seniors starve.  Or in thinking, as you stated, that “the nobility of private charity” will somehow do the trick. 

Meanwhile, Paul is out begging his supporters for the money they themselves have saved. He wants their money to help get him into office. 

And oh what plans he has for when he's in the Oval Office. He's going to destroy the "Washington machine special interests," for example. He doesn't say which interests. 

However, you can be pretty sure he's not talking about the special interests that keep eliminating taxes on the rich, who can well afford to pay a few extra bucks, while whacking the rest of us. Maybe there will be a starvation tax, for the privileges of going hungry. 

And he's going to "stop the damage we've seen President Obama and his pals inflict on our country," his fund-raising letter tells me. What damage could that possibly be. Oh, I see –  the damage that's caused when you can't be denied medical insurance because you have a "prior condition." Or that makes sure you get medical insurance in the first place. 

Ran Paul's letter to me also tells me he wants a "money bomb." What he's not revealing is that the only thing his program will actually bomb is the American economy.

Of course, you gotta know that Senator Paul already knows he’s talking nonsense most of the time. And that he’s merely saying what he says because he thinks you’re a rube.

But you're a rube only if you let him get away with it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Should lying prosecutors and cops who get innocent people executed themselves be subject to capital punishment?

What if he's innocent?  Currently, often nothing
happens to prosecutors who withhold or falsify
evidence that leadsto an unjust execution. Read
about a way to stop that.
Below, a modest proposal that I submit belongs on the books of every state as well as the Federal law books:
Any prosecutor or officer of the law who withholds, fabricates, conceals, or suborns through perjured testimony, or in any other way taints or conceals evidence that leads to the conviction of a defendant for a crime that the defendant is  later shown shown not to have committed, shall suffer precisely the same punishment that the defendant suffered. If the innocent defendant endured prison time, the law officer or prosecutor shall spend an equal amount of time in prison. If the defendant was executed, the law officer or prosecutor shall be executed in the same manner. Any attempt after trial by any such prosecutor or law officer to conceal or withhold exculpatory evidence shall likewise cause the prosecutor or law officer to suffer the fate of the defendant. 
Why do we need this? 

• Because over four percent of criminal defendants who are later shown to be innocent have been sentenced  to the death chamber, spending years or even decades in the nightmarish limbo of death row before they are vindicated.

• Because, although cases of people already executed are rarely investigated, there are cases on record where innocent men have been executed. Like this one.

• Because just as certainly, innocent people convicted of non-capital crimes spend years in prison and have their lives and the lives of their families ruined by over-ambitious prosecutors and law enforcement officers who have replaced their consciences with lies, coverups, tainted witnesses, and withheld evidence in an attempt to with at all costs – even at the cost of justice.

• Because someone enduring the horror of death row is exonerated an average of every three months, and we’ll never know how many more innocent people have endured long prison sentences or have been horribly executed.

• Because nothing would stop the crime of withholding or fabricating evidence by ambitious psychopath prosecutors and cops more quickly than the forced empathy of seeing their own lives in the balance.

Hang, gas, inject, shoot, or electrocute those lying prosecutors and cops. Try them, convict them, and and execute them, one and all.

Fringe benefit: A law like this might put an end to capital punishment a lot faster than simply taking laws allowing capital punishment off the books.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

A message concerning climate change – especially for those who like to eat something once in a while

I picked up a bag of raw shelled almonds at my local supermarket today. They wanted $9 for eight tenths of a pound. I remember when people blanched at paying that much for sirloin steak. 

All of which brings me to the point of today’s blog entry.

Think he's shafted? What 'till you find
out what climate change will to do you.
And please note that I’m addressing you climate deniers who can’t get it through your thick skulls that the weather isn’t merely a matter of opinion, and that polar bears aren’t the only ones up the creek without an ice floe.

You may have noticed frequent news reports about an historic drought in California, with the state imposing water rationing  while various parties, including, alas, some of my progressive friends, are grumbling that farmers who use 80 percent of the water aren’t getting rationed at all. Or at least not enough.

But wait a second. Just wait a damn second. California is America’s fruit and vegetable basket. According to a California state government report, the state two years ago was producing $5.6 billion worth of grapes, $1.7 billion worth of lettuce, $1.2 billion worth of tomatoes,$2.2 billion of strawberries and $5.8 billion of almonds.

If all that productivity dries up – and it already is drying up – you may be paying nine bucks per nut, and shaving it like a truffle. You won’t be able to afford a salad. Or a tomato. Or an orange.  Or a grape. Or a bottle of California wine. 

What’s that you say? Let them drink milk? Shucks, Mr. Denier. California produces $7.6 billion worth of milk, or was producing that much. And when people from California have to buy milk from out of state instead of shipping lots of it out of state, guess what happens to the price of milk all over America?

“Hey Joe, set ‘em up. A shot glass of milk with a beef broth chaser.”

No, wait a second. Forget the beef broth. Cattle are a $3.05 billion industry in California, too. And when the grass dries up and burns up….well of course you can get your beef cattle from Wyoming. But here comes your favorite law: supply and demand. Guess what you’re going to be paying for steak? Or beef broth.

It has already come to the point where a standing rib roast costs more than the first car I ever bought. Yes, I admit it was a used car and it was a very long time ago. But even so.

Climate change isn’t just changing the climate. And it isn’t just going to starve the polar bears. It’s going to starve you too, starting from the inside of your wallet and your bank account and then straight to your fat head, you knuckle-brained, climate change-denying, psychopathic nincompoop.

Quarter the production and quadruple the prices, a billion bucks worth here, a billion bucks worth there – and pretty soon you’re talking food riots in the street and bloodshed over a bunch of shriveled grapes.

Well of course, you’ll also be armed. Gun rights and self defense and all that. Good thing, too. Because if the climate change you’re denying, and the food shortage that goes along with it, keeps on going along, your gun will be the only thing you’ll have left to eat.


Oh, and P.S.: