Thursday, December 31, 2009

Did You Die In 2009? And Happy New Year 2010, from Dick Mac, Al Falafal, and Cavebat!

Thank you to our readers, news providers, and the Internet, for another year of blogging!

What follows is our annual list of celebrity deaths, compiled from the mailings of the good people at Celebrity Deathwatch, and Jon Stewart's Year In Review, from The Daily Show, on Comedy Central.

Also, this link will bring you to one of my earliest internet communiques, the year I learned about blogging, at the beginning of this decade, nine years ago, on January 1, 2001: 01/01/01.

Be safe tonight, and here's to a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2010!


from Dick Mac

Celebrity and notable deaths during 2009:

Oral Roberts, evangelist, 91
Antonio de Nigris, athlete, 31
Ken Ober, game show host/producer, 52
Edward Woodward, actor, 79
Joseph Wiseman, actor, 91
Vic Mizzy, film and TV composer, 93
Clifford Hansen, former Wyoming governor, 97
Soupy Sales , TV comic, 83
"Captain" Lou Albano , legendary wrestling figure, 76
Sheila Lukins, author, 66
William Safire, columnist, 79
Susan Atkins, Manson "family" member, 61
Bob Stupak, Las Vegas impresario, 67
Crystal Lee Sutton, inspiration for 'Norma Rae', 68
Henry Gibson, actor, 73
Mary Travers, singer, 72
Patrick Swayze, actor and dancer, 57
Jim Carroll, Poet and Punk Rocker, 60
Larry Gelbart, "MASH" writer, 81
George Eckstein, writer and producer , 81
Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize winner, 95
Army Archerd, columnist, 87
Gertrude Baines, world's oldest person, 115
Adam Goldstein, disc jockey "DJ AM", 36
Ellie Greenwich, songwriter, 68
Dominick Dunne, author, 83
Edward 'Ted' Kennedy, longtime Massachusetts Senator,77
Robert Novak, conservative columnist, 78
Les Paul, musician, 94
Allen Shellenberger, musician, 39
Eunice Kennedy Shriver, advocate of the mentally disabled, 88
Willy DeVille, singer songwriter, 55
John Hughes, filmmaker, 59
Budd Schulberg, screenwriter, 95
Merce Cunningham, choreographer , 90
Sir Bobby Robson, athlete/manager, 76
Cory Aquino, Philippine people power heroine, 76
Frank McCourt, author, 78
Walter Cronkite, former CBS news anchor, 92
Robert McNamara, Former Defense Secretary, 93
Allen Klein, record label owner, 77
Mollie Sugden, actress, 86
Karl Malden, actor, 97
Fred Travalena, comedian and impersonator, 66
Billy Mays, TV Pitchman, 50
Farrah Fawcett, actress, 62
Michael Jackson, musician, 50
Ed McMahon, veteran TV personality, 86
Koko Taylor, singer, 80
Richard Quick, swim coach, 66
Harold Norse, beat poet, 92
Huey Long, musician, 105
Charles Donald Albury, pilot, 88
Millvina Dean, last survivor of Titanic, 97
David Carradine, actor, 72
Jay Bennett, musician, 45
Lucy Gordon, actress, 28
Dom DeLuise, comic actor, 75
Danny Gans, Vegas entertainer, 52
Jack Kemp, former Republican VP candidate, 73
Greg Page, boxer, 50
Bea Arthur, actress, 86
Ken Annakin, film director, 94
David Kellermann, acting CFO of Freddie Mac, 41
Ernest Stempel, Former AIG vice chairman, 92
J.G. Ballard, novelist, 78
Bruce Snyder, college football coach, 69
Svetlana Ulmasova, athlete, 56
Peter Rogers, producer, 95
Harry Kalas, Radio and TV broadcaster, 73
Mark Fidrych, former Detroit Tigers pitcher, 54
Marilyn Chambers, porn star, 56
Frederic J. Gaynor, child model for Daisy air rifle, 74
Jane O'Brien Dart, actress, 90
Dave Arneson, Dungeons and Dragons co-creator, 61
David "Pop" Winans, gospel group patriarch, 74
Lou Saban, athlete and coach, 87
Helen Levitt, photographer, 95
Earl Paulk, former mega-church leader, 81
Monte Hale, actor, 89
Andrea Mead Lawrence, Olympic athlete, 76
Irving R. Levine, journalist, 86
George Kell, athlete, 86
John Hope Franklin, historian, 94
Dan Seals, musician, 61
Jade Goody, British reality TV star, 27
Ron Silver, actor, 62
Alan W. Livingston, entertainment industry veteran, 91
Elizabeth Bradford Holbrook, sculptor, 95
Anne Wiggins Brown, singer, 96
Natasha Richardson, actress, 45
Alan Landers, "The Winston Man", 68
Horton Foote, actor/playwright, 92
John Cephas, musician, 78
Francis Magalona, musician/actor, 44
Paul Harvey, radio broadcaster, 90
Wendy Richard, actress, 65
Philip Jose Farmer, author, 91
Socks the Cat, former first cat, 20
Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez, musician, 76
Lux Interior, musician, 62
James Whitmore, actor, 87
Lukas Foss, composer, 86
Guy Hunt, former governor, 75
Billy Powell, musician, 56
John Updike, author, 76
Kay Yow, basketball coach, 66
Mariana Bridi, model, 20
José Torres, boxer, 72
Tapan Sinha, director, 84
Bob May, actor, 69
Andrew Wyeth, painter, 91
Patrick McGoohan, actor, 80
Sir Dai Llewellyn, British playboy, 62
Ricardo Montalban, actor, 88
Pat Hingle, actor, 84
Helen Suzman, anti-apartheid activist, 91
Claiborne Pell, senator, 90
Ron Asheton, musician, 60

and from Al Falafal

The year in review from the most trusted name in journalism...
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Decade in Review - 2009
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

People Of The Year - 2009

by Dick Mac

10. Health Care Reformers. Democrats proved, yet again, that they are wholly incapable of representing the majority of Americans, especially those who consider themselves to the left of center. A terribly lame health care reform package is being put forward, with no real public option and no relief from the whimsical avarice of insurance companies.

09. Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor was catapulted from the appeals court to the national spotlight when she was nominated to fill the seat on the Supreme Court vacated by David Souter. Originally appointed to the federal court by President George H.W. Bush, her subsequent appointments by Presidents Clinton and Obama were met with the boring, dangerous and predictable delay tactics that the American fringe-right, represented wholly and solely by the Republican Party, have come to use as an impediment to progress. Sotomayor, who enjoys a stellar reputation and has made some landmark decisions in her career, was unflappable in her confirmation hearings.

08. Disney's Princess Creators finally created an animated fairy-tale princess who is not white or beige, she is black. Princess Tiana stars in the latest Disney feature "The Princess And The Frog." Oddly, this black woman does not to get to enjoy her promised regal lifestyle as a stroke of bad-timing leaves her and her prince . . . well, I won't spoil the ending for you.

07. Seattle Sounders FC, this year's expansion team in Major League Soccer, won the U.S. Open Cup in their inaugural year. Quite a feat. Comprised of an impressive line-up that includes Casey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg, as well as Freddy Montero and coach Sigi Schmid, the team also made an impressive run through the playoffs. The team is owned by a group headed by Hollywood producer Joe Roth, Microsoft's Paul Allen, and television personality Drew Carey. The team sold all 22,000 season tickets, making them the league leader in season ticket holders.

06. Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped on June 10, 1991. She was eleven years old. On August 26, 2009, she re-appeared after a series of events that led her to a parole officer who was supposed to be monitoring her kidnapper, Phillip Garrido. Jaycee had been held by Garrido and his wife, Nancy, for 18 years in an outdoor compound of tents and sheds behind their home in Antioch, California. During her captivity, she gave birth to two children, one of whom was born when Jaycee was fourteen years old. Held for 18 years, Jaycee became part of her kidnappers' lives and considered herself to be part of their family. Little is known about her today, but a publisher has been lined-up for a book.

05. Stock Market Investors who entered the market after March 9, 2009, have made a lot of money. Many are simply making back the money they lost in 2008; but, some who entered the market for the first time this year have seen their investments grow. Financial stocks have grown between 25% and 400%; some conglomerates have doubled in value since hitting their low; and a $10,000 investment in Ford Motor Company on March 10, 2009, is worth over $55,000 today (a mere nine months later).

04. Lady Gaga is sometimes referred to as the heir to David Bowie's legacy. Well, David Bowie isn't dead yet, so that might be premature. Although some of her music is reminiscent of modern-day pre-packaged pop stars, using some heavy techno beats, Lady Gaga's songs and performances are of a caliber that reminds me of David Bowie's much-storied career. She is smart and sexy, her use of costumes, props, and dancers is sophisticated, and she gives a great interview.

03. The Murderers of New York City have had less action this year than last. Only 462 murders were committed in the City last year, an 11% decrease from 2008.

02. The People of Maine showed themselves as homophobic bigots when they voted to deny homosexuals the right to marry. I encourage everyone to boycott Maine and everything from Maine. Buy potatoes from Idaho and apples from New York. Buy lobster from Massachusetts and do not plan a vacation to Vacationland.

01. The Opposition in Iran is up against it. The theocratic regime controlling Iran has no intention of letting loose their stranglehold on the country and opposition protesters are regularly arrested, beat-up, or killed. Democracy is dead, and the ideologue who stole the last election is working diligently to make Iran a nuclear power. The United States, however, has wasted vast resources attacking Iraq and Afghanistan, to no fruitful end, and allowed fascist states throughout the Middle East to prosper. It is important that we support, in any way possible, the opposition in Iran.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Health Care Reform Nightmare - WAKE UP!!!

by Al Falafal

It looks like the worst case scenario is actually about to become reality in imminent passing of the much ballyhooed so-called "health care reform" bill brought to you by the National Democratic Party. Of course, this only comes after the Dems totally caved in to the Repugnican Party's demands in order to win the support of the repugnicans hiding out in their own midst. It sure hasn't done anything to win over any out-of-the-closet Repugs.

It's all Business As Usual in the Nation's Capital. Happy Holidays!
Anything with even a remote chance of actually reducing our health care expenses (Medicare buy-in, prescription drug re-importation, even a feebly weak public option) has been systematically stripped out of the Senate Bill on direct ORDERS from the White House, not that corrupt members of Congress needed any serious prodding from that end.

President Obama is out there right now laying it on thick with three primary promotional touts, all of which are such transparent bunko it is astounding that they even need to be debunked.

First, he says the Senate Bill is a good thing because it contains a so-called "bill of rights", and isn't that all we wanted anyway he says, to just curtail a certain laundry list of the most egregious medical insurance industry rip-offs. Second, he talks about how wonderful any bill that provides health care to 30 million new people must be. And third, he argues that the Senate bill must be something great, because he claims the insurance companies are strongly opposed to it.

As to the "bill of rights" spin job, how drop kick stupid do they think we are? Wasn't it just last May that they passed with great fanfare a so-called Credit Card Holder's Bill of Rights. Oh yes,
that's exactly the same deceptive way they framed that one too. Didn't we just fall for this same PR ruse? The worst credit card abuses would be stopped the sell job went. But in just the same way, any provision that would have ensured a real reduction in outrageously usurous credit card interest and charges (like a reasonable cap on interest rates) was rejected.

Instead, credit card companies have played every possible game to raise rates since, and just this week we heard that one of the worst offenders came out with a new card with, get this, an effective interest rate of 80%, all in full compliance with the shiny new bill of rights law. What a mean-spirited, cruel and pathetic trick to play on the American people. Are you starting to get it yet, folks??

The Shinola Stops Here Action Page:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Boycott Ballot Measures on Marriage Equality

by Al Falafal

Opponents of marriage equality for same-sex couples brag about the fact that 31 states have already voted on same-sex marriage at the ballot box, and all 31 states have rejected it.

With New Jersey set to pass Marriage Equality legislation that Gov. Corzine has indicated he would sign during his lame duck time left, we can expect that the right wing nuts in the State will be out collecting signatures to put the issue on a ballot soon enough. If not in New Jersey, it will likely come up on a ballot in DC or somewhere else. When it does, will we continue our losing strategy or try something new, daring and truly meaningful?

Now, we all know that putting civil rights issues up for a vote is intrinsically wrong. We have been through this enough that explaining why it is wrong is just preaching to the choir. So now, if we are serious in our conviction that our civil rights should not, must not and cannot be the subject of a popular vote or referendum, it seems to me that we must be ready to do more than waste our time, money and effort by trying to defeat any such ballot measure next time it comes up.

Wasting time, effort and money is all we do whenever we mount an opposing effort to vote FOR marriage equality (or any other civil rights issue). By going along with an election that is mounted to formally deny our rights, aren't we just playing the anti-gay movement's game? Aren't we playing right into their hands?

In fact, when we participate in a vote on any Civil Rights issue aren't we just buying into a system that we duly hold as invalid?


So the next time any anti-gay group collects enough signatures to put our rights up for a vote in any jurisdiction we should not just let the smug opposition add another humiliating defeat to what they count as 31 straight victories over us.


We've heard calls for boycotts AFTER ballots were taken in California and Maine. After the election is too late. We should have called for a boycotts OF those elections.

Obviously, it does no good to simply vote Yes or No to support LGBT Civil Rights. It does no good - we will be outnumbered and outmaneuvered every time by the well-funded expert manipulators of public opinion who have a stake in maintaining the status quo: keep the queers in their place!

In the next electoral campaign we should put out the word: "If you support LGBT Rights and Marriage Equality DO NOT VOTE on this ballot measure."

Make the BOYCOTT be the campaign. Publicize the boycott far and wide. Urge EVERYONE among our friends and allies who wish to show their support for our cause NOT to vote one way or the other but to BOYCOTT the election altogether as it is an unfair, inappropriate and insulting action against the LGBT Community to ever put our rights up for a vote.

If a ballot measure wins with such a lopsided majority it simply cannot be seen as valid. Think of how we scoff at those fraudulent elections in foreign countries where the corrupt President wins by 100% of the vote. It's a joke at best: an expose of the absurdity of the electoral process.

Just think of it: in any American election where zero votes are cast for one side of an issue the same would have to hold: the vote would have to be seen for what it is: a cynical vicious attack on the rights of a minority.

ZERO VOTES should be our goal in any such future referendum: ZERO VOTES in opposition to the anti-gay question. We should not dignify the question with any response.



BOYCOTT BIGOTRY! It's what we should have been doing all along.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Week Videos: Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt

by Dick Mac

"Santa Baby" is a 1953 Christmas song written by Joan Javits (the niece of Senator Jacob K. Javits), Philip Springer, and Fred Ebb. Although Tony Springer is listed as co-writer, he was a legal fiction created for purposes of membership in the performing rights organization BMI.

The song is a tongue-in-cheek look at a Christmas list sung by a woman who wants the most extravagant gifts like sable, yachts, and decorations from Tiffany's.

. . .

Covered in recorded and live performances by many other artists throughout the years, including Maria Muldaur, Everclear, RuPaul, Kate Ceberano, Taylor Horn, Shakira, Madonna, Jhene, Macy Gray, Natalie Merchant, Faith Evans, Boney James, Kylie Minogue, The Pussycat Dolls, Lina, LeAnn Rimes, Kellie Pickler, Mae West, and Taylor Swift, as well as in an Ally McBeal episode by the title character (Calista Flockhart), by Chris Mitchell, and by The Swingle Singers. Miss Piggy sang the song in the film It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and recorded another version for the album A Green and Red Christmas.

Vanessa L. Williams, Patti LaBelle, and Eartha Kitt performed the song in the 2001 animated Christmas TV special entitled Santa Baby!

The version recorded by the Pussycat Dolls entered the Top 70 Billboard charts in the Philippines, peaking at #22. Although it was a b-side the song picked up radio airplay in the Philippines. This version also appeared as track 1 on CD 1 of The Perfect Christmas 2006 album.

Rev Run has also re-recorded this song for A Very Special Christmas, Vol. 3.

In December 2007, Kylie Minogue's version of the song reached #76 in the UK due to download sales. She used it as a b-side to her single "Over The Rainbow". . . . (from Santa Baby, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Today I share the original Eartha Kitt recording from 1954, and the faster tempo version by Kylie Miinogue from 2007:

Eartha Kitt:

Kylie Minogue:

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Week Videos: White Christmas - Bing Crosby

by Dick Mac

Holiday Inn is a 1942 film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, with music by Irving Berlin. The film has twelve songs written expressly for the film, the most notable being "White Christmas". . . .

The success of the song "White Christmas" eventually led to another film based on the song, White Christmas, which was released in 1954 and starred Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. It was a loose remake of Holiday Inn, with a plotline again involving an inn, but otherwise different from the earlier film. Fred Astaire was offered the second lead in the new film, but after reading the script, he declined. The role was then offered to Donald O'Connor, but he was injured before filming began. Danny Kaye took the role. (Holiday Inn (film) at Wikipedia.)

Crosby's singing partner in this rendition from the film is Marjorie Reynolds:

May your days be merry and bright!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Week Videos: Blue Christmas - Elvis Presley

by Dick Mac

Elvis was huge. From the start to the end, whether culturally or physically, Elvis was alway huge. His television specials drew massive audiences, his personal appearances were sold-out over and over and over again. Elvis could sing "Amazing Grace" or "Kung-Fu Fighting" and we would all be entertained. Here, Elvis sings "Blue Christmas":

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Week Videos: Do They Know It's Christmas - Band Aid

by Dick Mac

" . . . The world's media were in attendance as artists began arriving from 9am. Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Paul Young, Culture Club (without Boy George, initially), George Michael of Wham!, Kool and the Gang, Sting, Bono and Adam Clayton of U2, Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 (whom Ure personally ordered down) and his bandmate Martyn Ware, Phil Collins, Paul Weller of the Style Council, Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt of Status Quo, Jody Watley of Shalamar, Bananarama, Marilyn (who was not invited but arrived anyway) and some of Geldof's bandmates from the Boomtown Rats all arrived. Only one of Ure's Ultravox colleagues, Chris Cross, attended. Geldof, noticing Boy George's non-attendance (despite ringing him up in New York the day before demanding he sing on the record), went back to the phone to get the Culture Club frontman out of bed and on to Concorde. . . ." from Wikipedia

"Do They Know It's Christmas" sparked a temporary global movement of privilege, where affluent (first world) people donated many millions of dollars to famine relief.

In the mid-1980s, musician also sparked movements to Free Nelson Mandela, stop racism, and boycott Sun City with similar songs of protest.

Do they know it's christmas

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Week Videos: Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth

by Dick Mac

At Chrismastime, 1977, I sat in front of a television spell-bound by the godfather of punk singing a carol with the godfather of pablum. I was not the only person that was befuddled by David Bowie's next move in pop culture.

Bowie's love affair with television, as sometimes distant and obtuse as it appears, is enchanting. Whether it's the Dinah Shore show, or the Today Show, or Dick Cavett, or Bing Crosby, Bowie and the camera are lovers as old and affectionate as any others.

David Bowie and Bing Crosby - Little Drummer Boy (Ultra High Quality)

Friday, December 18, 2009

2009: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid. And DO Something!

by Al Falafal

This recap of the events of 2009 is worth spreading far and wide. No comment is really necessary. The lies and lying liars who tell them speak for themselves. And Media Matters puts together a good, though incomplete selection - mostly from Faux News of course . . .

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Another Opportunity To Burden Those Least Able To Afford The Burden

by Dick Mac

Yesterday, I wrote about the City of Pittsburgh's plan to tax the tuition of college students (see, Taxing Those Who Can Least Afford It). Today, another story for you to ponder: the Metropolitan Transit Authority, who provides public transportation to New York City, plans to eliminate free fares to students. These students are children attending grades K through 12. These students can't really get an after-school job to pay for their transportation, the way a college student might get a part-time job to pay the tuition tax.

We have gone from punishing adults to punishing children: M.T.A. Approves Big Service Cuts in Mass Transit.

An unlimited ride Metro Card for the NY transit system costs about ninety dollars a month. A family with three children will spend $270 a month for transportation. What is the impact? Not higher revenues for the MTA, but reduced ridership, which will lead to further service reductions.

Why will ridership lessen and why will this not bring extra money into the MTA's coffers? Families will now drive their children to school.

I already pay for my car, my insurance, car maintenance, and my parking spot. The round-trip drive to my daughter's school will burn far less than $90 a month in gas, and the roads are cleared in Winter more reliably than the subway runs.

So, I will become one more car on the roads during rush-hour, I will be dumping more carbon into the air, my child will be one less citizen using public transport and abandoning the culture of public consciousness.

Yesterday, a friend taught me about the Laffer Curve, where you strive to find that magical tax rate at which the government receives enough money to operate and the citizenry is still enthusiastic about growing their profits. (See, entry, Laffer Curve.)

I would like somebody to apply this thought process to the notion that there is an age at which giving free transport to children actually generates more paying riders.

If I have a wife and three kids, it costs me about $12.50 to take a one-way subway ride. If I am only going a few miles, it would actually be cheaper for me to use a taxi. So, the MTA gets nothing, and my family is using a car that pollutes more than the subway.

What if the subway was free for everyone under 18-years-old? The trip now costs me $5.00 each way, and is a bargain. Instead of getting zero dollars for my travel this particular day, the MTA has gotten five bucks each way.

So, instead of punishing the children of New York by eliminating their free ride to school in the morning; perhaps the MTA should be looking at how much money they can save, and possibly how much they can increase their revenue, by providing free fares to all children at all times.

Irrespective of the results of any Laffer Curve analysis, the MTA should never eliminate free fares for students.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Taxing Those Who Can Least Afford It

by Dick Mac

One of my criticisms of supply-side economic theory is that it unfairly removes the tax-burden of running our society from those who can most afford it (the rich) and places that burden squarely on the shoulders of those who can least afford it (the middle class, nee working class).

Since the implementation of Reaganomics in the early 1980s, and its reaffirmation in the early 2000s, our nation has been unable to support its infrastructure, social welfare programs, education, intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

We are promised (still) that if we relieve the wealthy of their tax burden, they will take the money they save, invest it in the economy, and provide ample economic opportunity to those less fortunate.

As you may have noticed, this isn't working. In fact, the more the wealthy are given, the more they keep for themselves.

I don't blame them. This isn't a criticism of the privileged.

Municipalities are hurting more than any other level of government.

In an effort to raise funds, the City of Pittsburgh has embarked on a campaign to tax those least able to afford a tax, while avoiding the obvious tactic of taxing the rich, who are most able to afford this.

Pittsburgh's new idea is to tax college tuition.

I don't know about the students in your neighborhood, but I grew-up in Boston and my experience is that students do not have extra money to pay taxes. And, generally speaking, neither do their (mostly) middle class and working class families.

When will America wake-up and tax those who have the money, and stop taxing those who do not have the money?

Pittsburgh Sets Vote on Adding Tax on Tuition

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Perfect Day" by Lou Reed and Luciano Pavarotti - Music Video

by Dick Mac

Pavarotti and Lou Reed perform "Perfect Day" at the Pavarotti and Friends Concert, in 2001.

There are mulitple versions of the song. Here are the lyrics for the version in this video:

Perfect Day, written by Lou Reed

Just a perfect day
Drink sangria in the park
And then later, when it gets dark, we'll go home
Just a perfect day
Feed animals in the zoo
Then later a movie too, and then home

Oh it's such a perfect day
I'm glad I spent it with you
Oh such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging x2

Just a perfect day
Problems all left alone
Weekenders on our own
It's such fun

Just a perfect day
You make me forget myself
I thought I was someone else
Someone good


You're going to reap just what you sow
You're going to reap just what you sow
You're going to reap just what you sow
You're going to reap just what you sow

Monday, December 14, 2009

Burn Her!

by Dick Mac

In the movie "Monty Python and The Holy Grail" there is a scene in which villagers accuse a woman of being a witch. It is an absurd scene that makes me laugh whenever I see it, or even think about it.

Recently, in Toronto, Ontario, a woman arrested for defrauding a lawyer of a lot of money by posing as a law student, was also charged with " . . . pretending to exercise witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration . . . " because she proffered a tarot card reading that helped her defraud her victim of his money.

It's definitely worth the read: Accused witch arrested

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Language of Men

by Dick Mac

Esquire magazine's Language Of Men column lists some words a man should never use. Included are some I find particularly offensive: "slacks," instead of trousers, and "expresso," instead of espresso, stand out to me.

And although I use profanity way too much, even in the workplace and church gatherings, I think I may try to subscribe to some of the suggested profanity alternative. Especially helpful will be the use of "frick" and "shite"!

19 Things a Man Should Never Say (with profanity alternatives)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"Heroes" on the Bing Crosby Christmas Special, 1977

by Dick Mac

Bing Crosby's annual Christmas Special was particularly odd in 1977, with David Bowie as the musical guest.

Their duet on Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth is now a classic; but, we rarely hear mention about Bowie's performace of "Heroes" on the same show. The video is dark, and stark, and features a montage of Bowie doing mime. It's not the type of performance by a musical guest that one generally saw on Bing Crosby's shows.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

War Is Over Postcards - Free

by Dick Mac

War is over, if you want it.

Pray for peace.

Work for peace.

Click this link to download your own copy, and choose from many languages:

War Is Over Posters/Postcards

Imagine Peace

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Orthodox Homophobia

by Al Falafal

They tried it in California and in Maine, and now in New Jersey, they're . . .
"trying to change the name of an institution that has existed for thousands of years: homophobia!"

Same-sex marriage supporters march on statehouse

Monday, December 07, 2009

. . . a date which will live in infamy . . .

by Dick Mac

On December 7, 1941, the United States military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was attacked by Japan. Over 2,000 Americans were killed, ships were sunk, and planes were destroyed.

The attack on Pearl Harbor remains one of the most devastating attacks against the United States, and the decision to take action was swift and deliberate. It was clear that retaliation against Japan was necessary.

On December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a speech:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. This morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounded determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

Roosevelt was responding to a military attack by a sovereign nation, and it was clear that Japan was the enemy.

Sixty years later, when a pack of criminals carried out attacks against the United States by flying jets into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the enemy wasn't as crystal clear.

President George W. Bush made no speech that is remembers this eight years later, and he took the opportunity to plan a military exercise designed to acquire the natural resources of a sovereign nation for a small number of businessmen (contractors and oil men), while ignoring the fact that the criminals were funded by our allies, and were citizens of countries with which American businessmen (especially oil men) do a remarkable amount of business, especially Saudi Arabia:

Mohamed Atta al Sayed - Egypt
Ziad Jarrah - Lebanon
Ahmed al-Haznawi - Saudi Arabia
Ahmed al-Nami - Saudi Arabia
Saeed al-Ghamdi - Saudi Arabia
Hani Hanjour - Saudi Arabia
Khalid al-Mihdhar - Saudi Arabia
Majed Moqed - Saudi Arabia
Nawaf al-Hazmi - Saudi Arabia
Salem al-Hazmi - Saudi Arabia
Mohand al-Shehri - Saudi Arabia
Hamza al-Ghamdi - Saudi Arabia
Ahmed al-Ghamdi - Saudi Arabia
Waleed al-Shehri - Saudi Arabia
Wail al-Shehri - Saudi Arabia
Abdulaziz al-Omari - Saudi Arabia
Satam al-Suqami - Saudi Arabia
Marwan al-Shehhi - United Arab Emirates
Fayez Banihammad - United Arab Emirates

We also learned pretty quickly that Osama bin Laden (Saudi Arabia) was the mastermind behind the crimes and that the wealth of his family and friends is used to finance his criminal activity.

Knowing what we know and looking at that list makes me wonder why we have not taken any action against Saudi Arabia.

September 11, 2001, was a date that lives in infamy; but, no successful action has ever been taken to punish the perpetrators, their co-conspirators, or financiers.

I think Roosevelt would have been all over Saudi Arabia. I think Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and even Carter would have been all over Saudi Arabia.

But since our government was turned-over to big business during the reign of Ronald Reagan, and has remained in their clutches with the blessings of Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama, our business relationship with the House of Saud is more important to our leaders than is our national security.

When will the United States government hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the role of Saudi citizens in the worst attack on American soil?


Friday, December 04, 2009

A Lucky Draw!

by Dick Mac

The Unites States Men's National Team has been drawn into Group C of the World Cup, to be played in South Africa next year.

Group C includes England, Algeria, and Slovenia; and although I have read some England fans say that the USA will not score a single point in the group stage, I am confident that we will certainly make it through to the knock-out round with either Slovenia or England moving along with us.

If I was a betting man, I would bet on USA and Slovenia going through, and England blaming David Beckham for their continued failure to make an impression at the World Cup.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Embarrassed To Be A Catholic (Again)

by Dick Mac

I read with dismay an article in the Times this morning, not because of the news it ultimately delivered about gay marriage in New York, but because of these paragraphs:

Roman Catholic bishops had consistently lobbied for its defeat, however, and after the vote released a statement applauding the move.

"Advocates for same-sex marriage have attempted to portray their cause as inevitable," Richard E. Barnes, the executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, said in the statement. "However, it has become clear that Americans continue to understand marriage the way it has always been understood, and New York is not different in that regard. This is a victory for the basic building block of our society."
New York State Senate Votes Down Gay Marriage Bill

It's offensive to me that my church would refer to the marriage of heterosexuals as a "basic building block of our society." If heterosexual marriage is a basic building block of our society, then heterosexuals destroyed that building block long, long ago; and that basic building block of society is pretty much non-existent, even among Catholics.

According to everything parishioners are told, the Church is in financial dire straits. Every level of the Church needs more money. We have to close schools, we have to sell property, we have to lay-off workers, all because we have no money. Then suddenly, there's plenty of money for the Church to lobby in Albany against the rights of taxpayers who may or may not be Catholic.

Which is it: are we broke or are we flush? And what are our priorities: children and education, or politics and conservatism? And how are we supposed to win back the participation of lapsed Catholics when this is the message we are sending?

It is a sad day for me as a New Yorker, and as a Catholic. I am embarrassed to be a Catholic today. I am mute and apologetic.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Afghanistan On The Eve Of Destruction

Map Source: University of Texasby Dick Mac

What to do about Afghanistan?

Ideally, we would eliminate funding for terrorist organizations operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since most of that funding comes from Arab royal families and powerful Arabian businessmen, who are the closest and staunchest business partners of America's oil industry, it is unlikely that the American government will do anything about the funding of terrorism.

So, we have to do the next best thing: slaughter the Afghan people, and some Pakistanis, if we have to, and pretend we are eliminating the threat to our national security.

We will throw thousands of young Americans on the funeral pyre of a righteous war, funded by the Americans who can least afford it, and say that victory is at hand.

And although we may persevere, and we may actually win the war in Afghanistan, the threat to our national security will not be eliminated.

The threat to our national security is our vulgar dependence on Arabian oil, and being beholden to religious zealots who believe Americans are beneath contempt. That dependence will never be address, because the largest and most powerful businesses in the United States are complicit in that dependence. When it comes right down to it, you and I are also heavily invested in these businesses: our retirement funds are littered with oil stocks that allow our funds to swell while we sleep at night.

What do we do?

Well, there are two ideas: end the war in Afghanistan by pulling-out, or ending the war in Afghanistan by totally devastating what is left of that nation and hopefully killing enough of the young men in the area that there will be nobody left to accept Arabian funding for jihad.

The latter is, I guess, possible; but, it hasn't worked for Israel in Palestine.

The latter is what we will undertake, and the President will be discussing the plan later today.

Afghanistan is a mess. We went there to eliminate a terrorist organization; but, when they were in our sights then-President Bush and his coterie decided to let the old family friend vanish into the mountains. The terrorists were emboldened by their success and the current President has inherited an unnecessary mess that will mire the American taxpayer in red ink and red blood for another decade.

The sheikdoms that fund "islamic" terrorism have a lot more money than us; and they have all the oil. As long as those nations (with Saudi Arabia at the head) are allowed to fund terrorism, a victory in Afghanistan will be meaningless.

I say we send the 30,000 troops to Riyadh, and take down the Saudi Royal Family, then go after the other sheikdoms along the gulf. We may see a spike in oil prices for a while, but we stand a better chance of stopping terrorism that way than by continuing to destroy Afghanistan.