Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Desperately Seeking Survival

by Al Falafel

29 March, 2009: Dr. Ruth Westheimer does not see herself as a Holocaust survivor. Rather, she tells us she is a Holocaust orphan. In 1939, at the tender age of 10, her parents put their youngest child on a train leaving from their hometown Berlin bound for Switzerland where arrangements had been made for her to stay in a children's home. There she grew up, never seeing her family again.

The irrepressible Dr. Ruth shared this poignant page out of her autobiography last night in her introductory remarks to the gathered throng at the magnificent Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan. As we all sat bracing ourselves, however, for what no one expected to be a program of light and lively music, it was clear that there was perhaps a handful of actual concentration camp survivors among the thousand or so people crowding the church.

Other Survivors, namely those of the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Furstenberg, Germany have invited Ars Choralis to perform at their annual Liberation Day ceremonies on April 18 and 19, 2009 on the grounds of the camp. And there are sure to be a number of Holocaust survivors and orphans alike among those who will be at Berlin's Heilig Kreuz Passion Church when Ars Choralis presents the same program there on April 17.

In the still early dawn of 21st Century, however, we Americans tend to be psychically disconnected more than ever by time and space -- not to mention a gaping cultural divide -- that separate us from the unthinkable horrors that make up an ignominious living memory for people we often forget are still with us. The performance last night was presented as a tribute to a group of gifted artists who were forced to live not only through a desperate time of insanity far from anything most of us have experienced. But they also lived ever after haunted by the deep soul-wrenching conflicts of having participated in the bizarre and often humiliating rituals that accompanied the genocide of their own people by the millions.

As musicians plucked from the arriving cattle cars at Auschwitz and kept alive to form the death camp orchestra, the women honored by this program were forced to play while wave after wave of inmates --no more deserving than they -- were degraded, broken down by hard labor, gassed and burned like so much rubbish.

A former inmate, Erika Rothschild, remembered this macabre accompaniment:

Those who arrived in Birkenau were driven out of the cattle wagons and put in rows … to this the band played, made up of the best musicians among the prisoners; they played, depending on the origins of the transport, Polish, Czech, or Hungarian folk music. The band played, the SS pummelled, and you had no time to reflect … some were forced into the camp, the others into the crematoria.

According to the New York Times pre-review (March 25) , "some survivors find it too poignant. The ensemble has agreed to forgo the “Desperate Times” program of music and lyrics at Ravensbrück and play other music instead . . . because 'survivors said it would be too painful.'

Esther Béjarano, 84, a pianist who played accordion in the Birkenau orchestra, said it saved her life. But she called the current orchestra’s revival of the music 'distasteful.'
'I don’t want to listen to this music,' she said recently from her home in Hamburg, Germany. 'I don’t want to be reminded. Never in my life do I want to ever hear it again.'”

How then are we to feel? Understanding how some of the actual surviving musicians feel about this - and why - and sitting among many for whom this beautiful, riveting performance dredges up unfathomably painful memories of a world we never knew, how could we fight our own voyeuristic shame in finding any kind of gratification in the somber experience?

All I can say is: it was an awesome experience for me, beyond the privilege of having been part of a meaningful virtuoso concert and choral performance in the ethereal magnificence of an historic and progressive venue that is St. John the Divine's. I can't help but feel that more people need to experience this sort of connection on a deep personal level with such effective reminders of the extremes to which we human beings are capable of going, any time and all at once.

Naturally it makes a person uneasy to sit in silent attention while performers on a stage before us lead us through complex juxtapositions of innocence and artistry against the brutal context of man's overwhelming inhumanity to man. Unsettling are the echoes drawn from distant places through timeless gut-wrenching ugliness even as they reverberate across the antique cavernous chamber of a massive gothic cathedral. It is an uncomfortable disturbance of the cherished oblivion of our own time. For most of us today, reliving that prior time too horrible to conceive and audaciously denied by a scant few subhumans among us, it is understandably better forgotten by those who cannot deny the truth of what and how they survived. Whatever else comes through in this tribute performance, these echoes will evoke pangs of shame and pride, unreconcilable pleasure, pain and survivor's guilt that impossibly demands reconciliation.

I just can't imagine this coming through with the same meaningful intensity in anything other than a live performance as seen last night. This was ultimately a courageous performance reflecting the humble courage of the original Birkenau Women's Orchestra, 54 women who thankfully survived their 18 months of hell to be liberated by the British just hours before they were slated for execution themselves.

But in the interest of full disclosure, I would likely never have even known about this concert if my very good friend Nancy had not been a part of it. Nancy is not just a unique human being and a very special person in my life - she is also a truly gifted musician and artist whose performances I have missed way too many of in recent years. When I first heard that she was going to be performing at a time and place that just so happened to coincide with my schedule and my pressing need to take a long overdue, long-weekend break from my tedious routine, I did not even think to ask what it was all about. Nancy can do just about anything. If she has not gotten around to everything she may yet master musically I, for one, have always been blown away by her every performance I've been lucky enough to see, hear or hear about.

Nancy plays recorder in the Birkenau tribute orchestra. Ars Choralis is lucky to have her, as are we all!


Monday, March 30, 2009

"Christine" by Garland Jeffreys

by Dick Mac

This is one of my all-time favorite songs. In this video, a younger Garland Jeffreys (who remains as sexy today as when this was recorded) performs it live, just a little bit faster than the original recording that appeared on his most excellent 1982 album "Escape Artist."

Jeffreys is currently on a world tour and I recommend you check out his show, especially if you've never seen him perform.

From the album Escape Artist (1982)
Music & Lyrics by Garland Jeffreys

You caught my eye when you came into view
I met you on some New York City avenue
I liked your smile, your style and your grace
Your sexy walk could light up anyplace
You said to me you just came in from Paris
I said to you well I'd like to get to know you
You said to me you're shy and a bit embarrassed
I said to you there are some things I want to show you
Christine, Christine

Oh I soon found out it was more than fascination
I soon found out she was much more than a cheap imitation
I held her hand and we got closer
Felt like a man and not some kind of poseur
Yes it's true she just came in from Paris
Her French perfume I got to know it better
She talked of love and poetry and marriage
Then I discovered that love letter
Christine, Christine

She caught my eye when she came into view
I met her on a New York avenue
I liked her smile, her style and her grace
Her sexy walk could light up anyplace
She said to me she must go back to Paris
I said to her please don't you do it to me
She said to me I got another boyfriend
I said to her why the hell didn't you tell me
Christine, Christine

To receive Garland's monthly newsletter (with the latest news, world tour and new album updates and more), send your email address to cmjeffreys(at)aol.com.

Link to his Official Site, also find him on Facebook and MySpace.

Friday, March 27, 2009

" . . . can't help but think that race might have played a part . . . "

by Dick Mac

A white police officer in Texas pulled-over an SUV driven by a black man who rolled through a red light, on his way to a hospital where his mother-in-law was dying, and instead of helping the guy and his family, the cop berated, humiliated and threatened the man.

I know conservative apologists (we're not allowed to call them racists anymore) will point out that the guy did blow the red light; so, he only got what would come to any citizen.

I gotta tell you that as a white guy I have walked away from more flagrant violations of traffic laws and criminal activity than this, and I do not know any black guys who have had similar luck.

Fortunately, the guy's wife, whose mother was dying inside the hospital, was smart enough to just walk away from the idiot and be at her mother's side.

To his credit, the black guy managed to maintain a modicum of calmness, even when the cop pointed his gun at him and his family.

I like this line from the following article: "The Moats family, who are black, said they can't help but think that race might have played a part in the white officer’s behavior."

Ya think?

This story is news because the black guy is a millionaire football player; but, this happens all day every day all over America. White cops are not really allowed (anymore) to downright kill black men they don't like, but they still harass them like this.

Read the story here: Dallas officer delayed NFL player as relative died.

And here's a really irritating news story that shows some video footage of the event: Cop blocks NFL player from dying relative.

I will always believe that this would not be done to a white man.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How Now Is Soon?

by Al Falafel

Only a couple of times a year do my partner and I get to do it up and drag our lame butts out to a concert experience that we would both really want to kick ourselves for missing. A couple of months ago while scanning the announcements of upcoming concerts there was no question about it when we saw the first notice that Morrissey would be performing in one of the most fabulous halls in the country right here in our home town: the 152 year old Academy of Music (Prince Charles and Camilla were here 2 years ago to celebrate the sesquicentennial).

The former lead singer of The Smiths coming up on 30 years later does way more than deliver on this tour. He kicks it OUT!

You can find YouTube videos of other performances from his Tour of Refusal with better sound quality than the one embedded here. But this one takes me back the best visually. That's the set they had on stage and those were the rock and roll lights. It was hard to keep my eyes on them though from my partially-obstructed-view seat behind a column in the second balcony, what with the awesome (perfect word) 19th century interior details to look at (always makes me feel like I'm in the Theatre of the Vampires there).

But what is truly awesome about the place where the orchestra played are the damn near perfect acoustics. Morrissey's 50 year old voice is as smooth and rich as ever - every syllable popped - and as loud and angry as the music of his band got (with those precocious identical twins on drums and guitars), I never felt like covering my ears or ducking out for relief in the halls. In fact, I was totally into it. "Hurt me Morrissey, make me feel like you inside!"

The man does a great show. Even in the stodgy old-money environment of the Academy, Morrissey's angst-wrenched charisma still drives the boys so wild they are compelled to literally climb up and over each other in a mad frenzy to get onto the stage in an effort to... what? Rip his clothes off? I don't know. Those who actually made it past the footlights and onto the stage ended up just getting manhandled by the big burly guards/roadies who tossed the interlopers right back into the parquet circle like they thow amps onto a truck. Ouch!

I was just as happy to keep my middle-aged butt up there in the balcony, above it all. God knows, if I were down in the orchestra/mosh pit with them, I probably would have gotten swept up in the frenzy myself!

I don't even usually use the word, "awesome." But this is an awesome show. Awesome.

I have to say though, the man from Lancashire has really gone Hollywood. At one point, after the third song or so, the Moz even did a costume change, ripping off the white shirt he wore for the first act and disappearing back stage only to reappear wearing a totally different black shirt!

Who does he think he is?


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Courtroom Humor

Posted by Dick Mac

From the book "Disorder in the American Courts":


ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?

WITNESS: He said, 'Where am I, Cathy?'

ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you?

WITNESS: My name is Susan!


ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?

WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.


ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?

WITNESS: No, I just lie there.


ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?


ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?

WITNESS: I forget.

ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?


ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?

WITNESS: We both do.




WITNESS: Yes, voodoo.


ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?

WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?


ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?

WITNESS: He's twenty, much like your IQ.


ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?

WITNESS: Are you shitting me?


ATTORNEY: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?


ATTORNEY: And what were you doing at that time?

WITNESS: Getting laid


ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?


ATTORNEY: How many were boys?


ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?

WITNESS: Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney. Can I get a new attorney?


ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?

WITNESS: By death.

ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?

WITNESS: Take a guess.


ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?

WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.

ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?

WITNESS: Unless the circus was in town, I'm going with male.


ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?

WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.


ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?

WITNESS: All of them. The live ones put up too much of a fight.


ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?



ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?

WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.

ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?

WITNESS: If not, he was by the time I finished.


ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?

WITNESS: Are you qualified to ask that question?


ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?


ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?


ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?


ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?


ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?

WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.

ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?

WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.


Thanks to Tess for sending this along!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

Special Report: Sarah Palin sees Obama as more powerful than God!

by Al Falafel
Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate and the mother of a young son with Down syndrome, said she was "shocked" by the "degrading remark about our world's most precious and unique people, coming from the most powerful position in the world"
-- From Telegraph.co.uk

Personally, I think all this brouhaha over President Obama's off-the-cuff remarks during his TV appearance this week, supposedly exposing his hidden insensitivity to people with disabilities is just downright retarded.

But what do you expect from those retards in the media, the GOP and even some who should know better? They have been salivating in wait for their first chance to pounce on the new President for any public slip of the tongue that can be hyped as offensive to somebody. After eight embarrassing years of Bush, he still has some highly placed apologists who are desperate to see the mentally challenged ex-president somehow vindicated for that constant barrage of idiocies that sputtered out every time he opened his damn fool mouth without a script or teleprompter. Do they actually think that catching Obama in anything that can be made to seem like an objectionable gaffe gives them ammunition in their futile battle of wits? You would think that such stupid tactics would only work on the witless.

Obama's supposed gaffe came during a light night TV appearance and was the kind of self-deprecating assessment made routinely by most people of normal intellect and tact -- those who aren't so arrogant they cannot admit their own short-comings. Remember when Bush drew a blank when asked to name a single mistake he made during his disastrous two terms in office?

The big Obama "gaffe" was in comparing his own facility at the "sport" of bowling to that of a contender in the Special Olympics. We all got the joke because we all made the joke amongst ourselves, in one way or another - often in ways that really are offensive to people with disabilities.

But Obama's comment was not offensive. It only became a gaffe when someone deliberately twisted it that way. Personally, being the relatively able-bodied middle-age lunk that I am, I suck at all sports myself -- always have. I was born without a trace of the Jock gene (drives my jock boyfriend mad). I am sure the only way I would ever have had a shot at coming near winning in any kind of sport would be in competition with people who have disadvantages of their own, physical, mental or otherwise. If I acknowledge this does that make me offensive to people with disabilities?

If Obama's mention of bowling and the Special Olympics was offensive, it should be noted that it could have and would have been worse coming from Bush. Had he been talking about golf, he might have had a chance to double his offensive entendre by referring to his own "handicap," a now-disparaged term in the disabled community. This would be the kind of inopportune phrasing that Bush would have been expected to mangle, even if he were talking about bowling instead of golf.

A more grievous faux pas we can easily imagine coming from a cretin like Bush would have been referring to the "Retard Olympics" or some other objectionable misnomer for the competition. That would be offensive coming from anybody.

The whole ordeal raises once again the question of using the word "special" in reference to people with disabilities and moreover the officially protected use of the term in reference to the Olympics. How is it not totally offensive to the physically or mentally challenged community to allow such a condescending term in reference to them and their abilities?

What is so special about having a recognized disability?

According to the Telegraph.co.uk report, even Sarah Palin's carefully worded objection to Obama's remarks makes it clear that it is not the individuals who are considered special: it's their "needs" ("she hoped the president's comment did not reflect his true feelings about the special needs community"). In this context the word "special" clearly pertains more to the egotistic feelings of people like Palin herself who take responsibility for someone with such disabilities rather than to the individuals in their charge. Not to say that any care-giver does not act sincerely out of love, but in my experience, the people I know and love who fit the description of "disabled" consider their needs to be basic, not "special." What's so special about having to rely on someone else to take care of your basic needs?

If you are like me you just take for granted such things as getting yourself out of bed, feeding yourself, talking and getting around on your own, wiping your own ass and cleaning up after yourself. We would be be more honest to recognize that we are the ones who are "special" in that we do not (yet) have to live necessarily resigned to the indignity of having others do these basic things for us.

It is blatantly disingenuous for someone like Palin to pander so to what she calls the "special needs community" when she and her ilk regard the needs of other disadvantaged communities as "special" only in a pejorative sense. They champion reform of attitudes, customs and laws that may limit opportunities and the full participation of people with physical or mental disabilities in society. But the struggle to reform societal and legal prohibitions against people who face disadvantages imposed by equally ignorant attitudes, customs and laws held by the majority is dismissed as an unreasonable demand for "special" rights rather than for equality. In the case of marriage equality for same-sex couples in particular, it is really people like Palin who feel entitled to the quality of "specialness" they wrongly ascribe to our basic rights and needs.

On another level, the legally sanctioned exclusivity of the term "Special Olympics" is little more than an instance of high-profile institutionalized pandering to people with disabilities, with unintended demeaning results. In 2000 the US Supreme Court upheld the United States Olympic Commission's right to impose sanctions on any organization or business that might use the word "olympic" in any public reference. The basis of their decision was in trademark regulations which the commission has famously but selectively enforced since 1910, even bringing action against mom-and-pop pizza parlors after they hung out a shingle bearing their chosen name "Olympic Pizza." When a group of people from the LGBT community came together to create the annual event now known as the "Gay Games" they were hit with a ferocious lawsuit to prevent them from using their preferred "Gay Olympics" name. At the same time, no action was taken against the "Police Olympics" or even the "Nebraska Rat Olympics."

Mainly, though, the USOC today allows only one other use of the term over which they legally own all rights: the "Special Olympics." I would never demean any athletically inclined person who wishes to take part in sports competition with others on a level playing field, but it is clearly well-known what the Special Olympics is all about and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. One unintended result, however, of the fact that we have only the Olympics and the Special Olympics in our current frame of reference is that anyone who is not mentally challenged can make such self-deprecating remarks about our own athletic abilities as Obama did and have them interpreted as offensive to the people who are serious competitors in those games. However, even by their own admission, the Special Olympics is not primarily a venue for competitors to gain recognition of athletic supremacy. It is an organization and movement that works to bring attention to "the value and unique gifts of people with intellectual disabilities." In this it is a noble cause and provides a very valuable experience for those who are eligible to take part.

As little footage as I have seen of actual Special Olympic events, it appears to me that the overriding attitude of the participants is far different from the sometimes cut-throat Tanya Harding rivalry among competitors in the World Olympics. Rather it always appears that Special Olympic contenders are genuinely enthused with the sheer joy of being together and playing the games, no matter how they might score. As I listened to Obama's comment and attitude on the YouTube replay it seemed to me that he was reflecting this admirable aspect of the Special Olympics: that he could take part in the game and enjoy himself regardless of his lack of bowling prowess.

I understand the need he felt soon after to clarify his nuanced remarks in order to appease those idiots who would exploit them to their own evil advantage. But I wish Obama had not apologized for what he said. It is just plain disgraceful of all those washed up douche bags and bimbos like Palin to jump on the media-fired bandwagon and add their own self-serving, worthless comments to the manufactured storm of outrage. I would love to hear Obama's spokespeople demand an apology from all of them for their attempted character assassination of the President.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wise Old Man - Humor

posted by Dick Mac

A retired man moves into a house near a junior high school. He spends the first few weeks of retirement in peace and quiet. However, when a new school year begins, three young boys beat on every trash can they encounter every day on their way home from school.

Finally, the man decides to take action and walks out to meet the boys. He says, "You kids are a lot of fun. I'll give you each a dollar if you'll promise to come around every day and do your thing." The kids continue to do a bang-up job on the trashcans.

After a few days, the man tells the kids, "This recession's really putting a big dent in my income. From now on, I'll only be able to pay you 50 cents to beat on the cans." The noisemakers are displeased, but they accept his offer.

A few days later, the retiree approaches them again. "Look," he says, "I haven't received my Social Security check yet, so I'm not going to be able to pay more than 25 cents. Will that be OK?"

"A freakin' quarter?" the drum leader exclaims. "If you think we're going to waste our time beating these cans around for a quarter, you're nuts. We quit."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It can all be gone in a flash!

by Dick Mac

I spent yesterday away at the funeral of an aunt. She was 88-years-old, a mother , grandmother, and great-grandmother.

She was an avid reader and politically astute. I enjoyed the times I would spend debating the state of the world, whether it be supply-side economic theory or personal freedom.

She had been sick for a while, and her death, though very sad, was not a sudden, shocking surprise.

When I returned to New York last night, I met some friends and the conversation turned to Natasha Richardson, the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and wife of Liam Neeson, who died suddenly after a fall on a beginner's ski slope in Canada. Richardson was 45-years-old and seemingly fit and healthy. She was not supposed to die like this.

And it reminded me that this mortal coil is temporary, that life is to be lived to its fullest, that love is to be shared, and justice defended, and the world made a better place because I am in it. This can all be gone in a flash!

If you can't make the world a better place, then why bother living?

Natasha Richardson dies after fall on ski slope

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Financial Crisis Game Show (Bonus Round)

by Dick Mac

American International Group (AIG) has used bailout money (i.e., welfare payments) to distribute bonus money it owes to the executives who ran the company into the ground.

Let's recap:

Our economy tanked (uh-oh).

It was determined that some financial institutions controlled a greater portion of the economy than you would have thought (thank you Reaganomics and deregulation).

In order to prevent a catastrophic collapse of the entire economic system that drives Western Civilization, American tax dollars were paid to keep some large companies afloat (save America).

It didn't work well, because the companies took the money and didn't tell us what they were doing with it, and the government insisted on no accountability (stupid).

So we pumped another trillion dollars into the economy (welfare benefits for rich guys).

AIG took some of that money and paid massive bonus payments to the executives who failed their shareholders (obvious end-result).

See, it all works out:

(thank you Reaganomics and deregulation)
(save America)
(obvious end-result)
(welfare benefits for rich guys)

President Obama wants his staff to try to get some of that bonus money back. They won't, but it makes for good headlines.

AIG insists that they are contractually obligated to pay the bonuses. Well, the AIG that signed those contracts no longer exists and the new AIG doesn't have the money to pay those bonuses, so the money should never have been paid out. If those executives believe they are entitled to that money, they should have to sue AIG in ope court and explain a few things about what they did with the previous money they had in their coffers.

Most people have no right to be upset about this.

Many voted for Ronald Reagan (twice) and he promised he would deregulate industry and get the government off our backs.

This is what he meant.

This is what Reaganomics was designed to do.

This is what you asked for if you ever voted for Reagan or any Republican who came after him, at any level of government, in any part of the nation, from dog catcher to President.

So, if you've ever voted for a Republican since 1980, you have nothing to complain about. You are enjoying the fruits of your labor.

Here's a story about the laugh-riot that is Obama demanding that welfare recipients repay the government:

Obama in Effort to Undo Bonuses at A.I.G.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Financial Crisis (An Explanation That May Help)

by Dick Mac

Linda is the proprietor of a bar. In order to increase sales, she decides to allow her loyal customers - most of whom are unemployed alcoholics - to drink now but pay later.

She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans). Word gets around and as a result increasing numbers of customers flood into Linda's bar. Taking advantage of her customers' freedom from immediate payment constraints, Linda increases her prices for wine and beer, the most-consumed beverages. Her sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic customer service consultant at the local bank recognizes these customer debts as valuable future assets and increases Linda's borrowing limit. He sees no reason for undue concern since he has the debts of the alcoholics as collateral. At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert bankers transform these customer assets into DRINKBONDS, ALKBONDS and PUKEBONDS. These securities are then traded on markets worldwide.

No one really understands what these abbreviations mean and how the securities are guaranteed. Nevertheless, as their prices continuously climb, the securities become top-selling items. One day, although the prices are still climbing, a risk manager at the bank decides that the time has come to demand payment of the debts incurred by the drinkers at Linda's bar (he, of course, is fired due to his negativity).

However the drinkers cannot pay back the debts. Linda can not fulfill her loan obligations and claims bankruptcy. DRINKBOND and ALKBOND drop in price by 95%. PUKEBOND performs better, stabilizing in price after dropping by 80%.

The suppliers of Linda's bar, having granted her generous payment due dates and having invested in the securities are faced with a new situation. Her wine supplier claims bankruptcy, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor. The bank is saved by the Government following dramatic round-the-clock consultations by leaders from the governing political parties and vested interests. The funds required for this purpose are obtained by a tax levied on non-drinkers.

Thanks to jendi for sending this along.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mets Decline To Buy Naming Rights For Subway Stop

by Dick Mac

Baseball continues to be an embarrassment to America, capitalism, and good judgment.

Citigroup, a welfare queen that would make Ronald Reagan blush, will spend $20,000,000 per year for the next 20 years to have their name emblazoned on the New York Mets' new stadium in Willets Point, Queens.

"Welfare Park" will open at the beginning of the 2009 baseball season, and the Mets will take the taxpayers' dollars without batting an eye. Like all good conservatives, the Mets ownership will take the taxpayer for every nickel they can get. That's how conservatives are: when there are people who really need government assistance, they insist that is socialism; but, when it comes to rich white guys getting government money, then that is a free market.

So, the Mets' big plan includes getting $400,000,000 in welfare, and for the citizens of New York State to donate a subway station to the cause.

It is not verboten for the MTA to attach a corporate name to a subway station, but the idea is that the corporation will pay money for the privilege.

The Mets want the current Shea Stadium stop on the Flushing Line to be renamed Citi Field, so that it matches the name of Welfare Park. The Mets, however, are not willing to get up off any of the four hundred million they are collecting in welfare, so the MTA is refusing to rename the station.

Sadly, the MTA is renaming it Mets/Willets Point; which I think is far more generous than the welfare queens in Fred Wilpon's empire deserve.

Name the station Willets Point. Period. No "Citi Field," or "Mets," but maybe "Welfare Park"!

Stadium Is Citi Field, but the Subway Stop Has Other Ideas

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rush to Apology: Apologies to Rush

by Al Falafel

If you are like me, you have probably, on occasion, frequently, or perhaps continually over any number of years, said something horribly offensive about the incendiary loud-mouth shithead, Mr. Rush Limbaugh. If you are a member of the Republican Party you may feel overwhelming regret for it and wish to offer an apology to your self-anointed leader. Now you can . . .


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stem Cell Research

by Dick Mac

In a move that hearkens back to an earlier time, when intellectuals ran the government, and thinking people were resident in the White House, President Obama stated that he would "make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology."

Holy shit! Can you imagine?!?!? A President who makes decisions on facts instead of 'his gut' or what 'God told him'! It's like a dream come true. It feels like waking-up from a long nightmare.

Bravo, Mr. President, bravo!

Obama Lifts Bush Limits on Stem Cell Research

Monday, March 09, 2009

Touched By an Uncle?

by Al Falafel

Ben is a member of the family I was born into, but only by marriage (and I don't mean he is my husband). Married to my little sister, Ben and I are nearly the same age in years. But there is something wrong with the guy. I was reminded of this recently when, out of the blue, I received a text message from him. The text seemed to be meant to inform me of a death in the family I had moved far away from about 35 years ago.

I figured this may mark a coming resurgence of impersonal messages I used to get from my text-happy brother-in-law: like the one he sent two years ago to let me know my only other brother-in-law had passed. Ben seems completely unable to understand how I feel about getting such messages by text. I think it is terribly offensive. And he and my sister are completely offended because of how I feel about it. Actually, there is more to the story of our falling out. It involves his texting me hateful racist messages about Obama during the Presidential campaign and me calling him on it. I asked him which order of the Klan he had joined since I last saw him, among other, even more direct observations that his texting me such crap was pure and simple racism.

But I digress.

So I got this text out of the blue - after telling text man months ago to f*uck off and stop wasting my minutes. I did not really say anything the last time he texted me about a death in the family but I felt then that if he wanted to convey this kind of news - and since he does have my phone number - why couldn't he take the time to make an actual call?

I knew even before I left them all in that Southern state that I would never rate such a grand gesture as a phone call, or even the common courtesy of sharing such a private familial moment like a REAL member of the family. Sending me such news from hundreds of miles away by text message just makes me feel like they are crossing me off the list of obligations they think they have to tend to when a family member dies: item #25: text everybody that you don't really want to talk to. Just so you can say you did it and then go on with your life.

I guess it makes them feel better about themselves and puts the ball in my court. Am I supposed to take it on myself to call back? As I recall I responded by calling my niece and offer my condolences on the loss of her father. As my niece is a modern adult gal who stays in touch with me = and who I love like a niece - I don't feel bad about that at all. She is not one of THEM: my immediate sibs.

I don't know. I think Ben is so obsessed with texting he gets happy when he has an excuse to do it. Almost makes it seem like he is glad when somebody in the family dies because he then has an excuse to send text messages. Two years ago, he and my sister came to visit me on a trip to the big city - the only family visit I've had for 35 years (a mistake I will never allow to be repeated) all he did was text back and forth with his adolescent daughters as though he were one of them. I tell you, there is something wrong with the guy. Not that I'm all that: I'm just sayin'.

The message said, "Uncle Al died over the weekend. He was 84," or words close to this. I thought, "Gee. I can't even remember having an Uncle named Al, or Alfred, or Albert... But I've been out of the loop for about 35 years and I never did know most of my parents siblings. No surprise that I don't remember him."

I do remember a TV perv who played a character named "Uncle Al" who had the kids show when I was growing up. I even went on the show once when I was about 5 (Of course I did: being a budding perv-ette myself at the time). But I didn't think it was "Uncle Al" that Ben was taking the trouble to text me about. After the horrible falling out we had why would he suddenly decide to text me with this bit of trivial information? Maybe if I was still 5 years old I might care if Uncle Al the TV perv dropped dead. But I grew up and got past the whole kiddy TV thing about four and a half decades ago. (In fairness, I don't really know if the guy was really a perv. But come on, just look at him. And he had a kids show for Christ's sake!).

Still thinking that the message was about some actual unknown relative of mine - who I was probably supposed to remember according to him - I decided to screw with Ben a little. I texted back "Condolences to Capt Windy."

I thought it might be taken as snarky and offensive of me to make the connection between a real life relative who just died and some obscure and fictitious TV persona - an unreal character played by some guy I never knew. That guy actually had a first AND a last name. Captain Windy was his TV sidekick cloned from June Cleaver. Those TV characters all died a long time ago for me, probably long before the show they were on was cancelled. I am unaware of the day it went off the air but that would have been when these characters "died" -- as much as TV characters can die. As I found out, that happened sometime in the 1980s.

Out of curiosity I later Googled it and found out that Ben probably was texting me about the guy who played Uncle Al. His name was Al Lewis. He was married to a woman named Wanda who played Captain Windy on his show.

The sad thing is that Ben is probably truly mourning the passing of Uncle Al but not Al Lewis. More likely, he may be mourning the demise of his own long-extended childhood. Finally hitting adolescence in his mid-to-late 50s: this could be a dangerous phase for someone like Ben - the guy who sent me all those juvenile delinquent, thinly veiled racist slurs about Barack Obama by text message. I just wonder how long it took the Uni-bomber to grow up?

I tell ya, there is something wrong with the guy.

Friday, March 06, 2009

British Anti-War Coalition Takes The Lead

by Al Falafel

The American Anti-War Movement seems to be on hiatus, apparently in hope that the Obama Administration will make us obsolete, rather than merely ineffective as we were all during the Bullish-on-War Bush years. There is a huge risk, however, in getting our hopes up too high and hanging back while Obama and Co. continue the same mistakes that their detestable predecessors made.

Yes, we can forget Iraq as long as we feel we can take President Obama on his word that the troops are coming home. I think he deserves that trust. But at the same time, what about Afghanistan? He has begun a "surge" of troops to that country where we have no more reason to be than we had to be in Iraq. Listening to his brilliant speech before Congress last week, outlining all the progressive policies and programs he is putting in place, I strained to hear what his justification may be for ratcheting up the US military presence in Afghanistan. All I heard was the same old weak rationale that could have just as well come out of the mouth of Bush except for the use of the irritating phrase, "war on terror."

I am very interested to see how the movers and shakers in the US Peace Movement chose to respond to this on-going war. But I would be even more interested how a President Obama would respond to large-scale demonstrations like the ones I joined on the Mall in DC or the streets of Manhattan during the build up to the Iraq war when several hundred thousand of us knew we were just banging our heads against the wall. What would it be like to hold such a march when there is someone in office who has actual intelligence, a moral compass that works and the keen sense of a real leader who takes the concerns of his constituents seriously?

We are likely to get a taste soon of how this President responds to a large crowd of people with a passionate drive to resist war, demanding that policies that keep us involved in senseless, unjustified military actions (wars) be changed. But it will not be due to any action of the comatose US Peace Movement.

The UK Stop the War Coalition is organizing a huge demonstration at the G20 meeting coming up in London early next month. Mainly focused on the recent horrible attacks on Palestinians by the Israeli government but their agenda includes calling for all foreign troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan as well.

The demonstration is bound to get Obama's attention. They are using his tagline: "Yes We Can!" End the War.

Below is the text of a recent email I received announcing the event,


The leaders of the world's most powerful nations will meet at the G20 summit in London on April 2. It will be Barack Obama's first visit to Britain. Despite expectations of a change of course, and though we now have a welcome commitment to a pullback from Iraq, there has been no distancing from Israel from Obama, a promise of a massive surge of troops to Afghanistan and continued missile attacks on Pakistan.

The G20 is a chance for us to demand a real end to Bush's war policies. The Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, The British Muslim Initiative, and CND have called two protests at the G20.

Our message will be 'Yes We Can'. Yes we can end the siege of Gaza and free Palestine, yes we can get the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, yes we can make jobs not bombs, yes we can abolish nukes, yes we can stop arming Israel.

* April1st: march through central London on the eve of the G20, assemble central London, 2pm.

* April 2nd: protest at the Excel Centre London Docklands, assemble 11am.

For publicity postcards contact the Stop the War office.

Stop the War will also be marching on the March 28th Put People First Demonstration.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

There's Nothing Common About Courtesy

by Dick Mac

We all have an opinion about what's right and what's wrong, what's tasteful versus tasteless. Some people believe that establishing a society that benefits the wealthiest is morally superior to a society that spends its money helping those at the bottom. It's all so much opinion.

Etiquette has been one of the systems used to prevent us all from crippling one another as we use doorways, and take our seats. A simple piece of etiquette that always works is: "ladies first" when a more than one person is making their way through a doorway (like onto an elevator). It keeps things orderly and nobody has to guess who goes first. I will always subscribe to it, even when a faux-feminist in an office building feigns offense.

It's just a logic thing, ma'am, not a fairer sex thing.

One of my pet peeves is the commuter with luggage. I don't mean the traveller with luggage, I understand why a traveller has luggage. I'm talking about the person who is going to work and has three bags, every day. What are you carrying with you? Good etiquette should inform us that a single bag is sufficient for getting back and forth between home and office, during rush hour.

Thousands of writers have written about etiquette over the years, and a new article discusses Party Poopers, Nickel & Dimin’, The Line-Up, The ME Show, Baby Biz, Mobile Madness, Smokes, The Pee & Flee, Stealing, Belly Baring, Spitting, and Honking. I am guilty of one of these. How many do you suffer (or make us suffer) with:

The Worst (And Most Common) Etiquette Mistakes

Party Poopers When you receive an invitation to a dinner or party--whether by Evite, voicemail, or casual email--RESPOND. Yeah, that’s what that little “RSVP” thing means. Everyone knows it, yet it’s amazing how many don’t respond. Even for weddings! Planning a party or event requires a lot of work, so do the host a simple favor and let them know if you're coming or not.

Nickel & Dimin’ How annoying is it when you go to dinner with four or more people, the check finally arrives, and one of your meal companions begins to divvy up the check down to the last penny? Sure, we get that Sally had a shrimp salad, and Janet had two iced teas, while Beth only had water, and you ordered a slice of peach pie (a la mode, which is extra). The point is, if you go out to dinner with a group, be prepared to split the bill more or less evenly. If there's an outstanding cost differential, fine, estimate it and be done with it. The person who spends twenty minutes dividing the bill to the dime comes off as a cheapskate –- and kills the festive mood.

The Line-Up Lines are a fact of life. At the post office, the supermarket, just about everywhere these days. For starters, moaners who huff and gripe about standing in a line of three people for all of five minutes are tops on our list. Get over yourself -- if you don’t have a few minutes to wait to buy that loaf of bread, then pick it up another time. Another thing: Don’t show your impatience by creeping up so close to the person in front of you that they can feel your breath. Crowding those around you will not get you to the front any faster, so give them some space. Finally, cutting in line or trying to ignore the fact that there IS a line –- stop it! Everyone’s time is valuable. Continue reading here . . .

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Ahhhhhhhhh, Vice!

by Dick Mac

I am a fan of vice, even though I strive to avoid it.

Today I discuss two of my faves: gambling and injectable drugs.

When I compare the two, I immediately think that the former is safer than the latter. I know of no gambler who has contracted hepatitis or HIV from a deck of cards, a pair of dice, the single-arm of a bandit, a cock fight, horse race, or bingo marker. I do know gamblers who have destroyed their lives, lost everything, alienated their children, lost their jobs and ended-up in bankruptcy court. These people are called addicts, and rightfully so: they can't stop, they are addicted. Still, the insidiousness of their problem is in its relative physical safety.

The latter, injectable drugs, are sort of in their own special category of vices. Technically, injecting drugs is in the same category as drinking alcohol, smoking pot, tripping on acid, and chewing Prozac. We all know, however, that injecting drugs is really different than smoking a bone. There is nothing insidious about addiction to injectable drugs: it is dangerous on every level.

When I consider parenting, I worry about the pitfalls my child will face: peer pressure, stress, spiritual and financial struggles, and I wonder how vice will play a role in her coping with life.

I hope my child stays away from cigarettes, and booze/drugs, overeating, gambling, and the many other vices at her disposal; and, I pray that she chooses against injectable drugs.

There is something viscerally disquieting about injectable drugs, the people who use them, and the people who traffic in them.

I've never heard anyone say, "He sells a little [junk] on the side, but he's generally a good guy." Although, you might hear someone say: "you know, he drinks heavily, but he's a good provider."

There is just something about the use of injectable drugs that seems to cross a line for almost everybody. It's a moral issue. It seems too extreme. It's scary and dangerous and people don't really like to think about it or talk about it. It happens to other people, in other places, in other times.

Gambling is a socially acceptable activity, unlike shooting drugs. There are palaces around the world (actually, buildings grander than palaces) open specifically for gambling. Free booze and free food and free lodging are available to anyone who wants to indulge. The deeper you indulge, the more free stuff you get. (Again, I point to the insidiousness of gambling.)

Shooting drugs might be the least socially acceptable activity, outside of rape and murder. There is no place in the world (even your friends' homes) where you are welcome to hang-around and shoot a little dope. Chat with the guys, enjoy a free tourniquet, and some clean hot water, maybe a clean toilet to puke into. It just doesn't work that way.

People who shoot drugs are really outsiders, and gamblers are really just regular joes like you and me who are coming over to the house on Saturday to play a little penny-ante poker.

Gamblers who are compulsive are known to steal, lie, cheat, defraud, even kill for their addiction. Drug users who inject drugs enjoy the same characteristics. Both the compulsive gambler and the injectable drug user are sociopaths, on some level; and your family is better-off if neither is at the dinner table.

Why do we treat them so differently? Why is one such an outcast and the other just a nuisance?

Come now, Major League Baseball, who at one time banned Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle (both retired) from the game because they endorsed a casino in Atlantic City, and currently ban Pete Rose from the game because he gambled on games (not his own games) while a manager. Major League Baseball has taken a stand that many families might want to consider: either you give-up the questionable behavior or you're out.

With the ban of Pete Rose, MLB has shown the courage of its convictions. These are the rules and you broke them and you're out! Period. End of story. No negotiations. You are banned for life. Arguably, the greatest pure hitter in the history of the game, Rose is now an outsider, shunned by the industry (family?) he helped build, to whom he gave his life.

The courage of its conviction is something that MLB should be proud of, because it shows a moral fiber I don't expect to see in a corporate entity.

Most corporate entities (recognized as 'people' as defined by the 14th Amendment) are generally morally bankrupt. They are sociopathic (maybe even psychopathic) in their drive to succeed and crush all around them. The moral fiber of corporate entities is questionable, at best.

So how has MLB managed to maintain such a strong moral presence?

Oh, wait . . .

There is no punishment of injecting drugs and cheating.


That's right!

You can inject (or can have injected) drugs that gave you a competitive advantage, you can cheat, and there is no punishment.

Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, and hundreds of other baseball players cheated for years, got caught, and all enjoy a secure place, snuggled around the fireplace in the hallowed halls of Major League Baseball.

Pete Rose is out, because he bet the over-under on a Twins v Indians game in 1987; and Alex Rodriguez is in, even though he injected drugs for years while playing the game.

Major League Baseball has some pretty skewed priorities and really odd values.

This is not a morally upstanding organization, this is a psychopathic entity ignorant of its own flaws and racing to the finish line of profits with absolutely no consideration for their moral impact on society.

Allowing Rodriguez, Pettite, and any other player who shoots drugs to remain in the game sends a message to America's youth that shooting drugs is OK, that cheating is OK, and there are no consequences for moral bankruptcy.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

J-Rod and P-Rose

by Dick Mac

I noticed last night that Alex "Juiced" Rodriguez is still playing baseball.

Major League Baseball has taken no action against "arguably the best player in the game," since it was revealed that he is a cheater.

J-Rod is one of hundreds of baseball players who have been cheating for a couple of decades. There are some pretty big names on the list besides J-Rod: Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, etc., ad nauseum.

None of them have been kicked out of the game, or "banned for life" as the industry likes to call it. No, they skip merrily along, cheaters earning millions of dollars, and planning their enshrinement.

Only Canseco has been vilified over the years, and it seems like he is the only one who has been telling the truth.

Pete Rose has been banned for life because he is a gambler. This seems like small potatoes when compared to J-Rod and crew.

Is it time to reinstate Pete Rose to the game he loves?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Utah Senator Threatens America

by Al Falafel

As a good and loyal American, how would you respond to one of your elected leaders' calls to defend our beloved country against its worst enemies and greatest threats?

Late news from Utah - the state that exports hate by funneling millions of dollars to fund anti-gay measures in places like California: State Sen. Chris "The Butt(hole)" Buttars has now positioned himself to be a serious threat to the security and well-being of a sizable segment of his own constituency and the entire country's citizenry.

Of course, the targets of his hatred are decent, law-abiding, tax-paying Americans and our families who happen to be members and supporters of America's LGBT minority.

An elected official broadcasting a deep personal prejudice (founded in stubborn ignorance) against ALL gay people - especially those of us in committed loving relationships - Sen. Buttars' sets a frankly terroristic tone and example for a volatile public looking to vent their pent-up anger.

He has demonstrated perverse audacity in condemning US as "America's Greatest Threat!" over the likes of Osama Bin Laden, Kim Jong-Il, Dick "The Torturer" Cheney and Bernie Madoff.

This man, Buttars, has shown himself to be a clear and present danger to those millions of Americans like myself who support legitimacy for our fellow citizens who happen to be gay. He is unfit to lead.

The hostile tone of such hateful rhetoric from persons in leadership positions has proven to incite violence against individuals and entire groups named as a "THREAT" without cause.

In these times of deepening national hardship - due to the state of our economy and other disasters wrought by such leaders as Buttars himself - it is especially irresponsible for this man to spread lies using abusive language.

We responsible LGBT Americans love our country and support our leaders who call for defense against her REAL threats and enemies. Likewise we condemn those who would use their positions to incite violence against any of our fellow citizens and their families.

I hope you will join the Human Rights Campaign in condemning Sen. Buttars' remarks as well. And I hope you will urge that official action be taken by supporting the move to censure Sen. Butt-ars.

HRC has organized a write-in campaign to Sen. Michael Waddoups, President of Utah's State Senate, calling for censure of Chris Buttars. As one of Utah's leading public servants, it is Waddoups' responsibility to protect the safety and well-being of the Mormom state's citizens. Visit the HRC website to add your voice to the call for punitive action against Sen. Buttars' mean-spirited rhetoric.