Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shana Tova

“This American president has got to be one of the most efficient leaders we have ever had. He has us at war and on the verge of a Depression all at the same time. It took President Roosevelt more that 16 years to accomplish that.”
Ashkenazi comedian Yosef ben Beryl

Sad, but true. Wish I had written the above line myself.

Shana tova

May the new year be filled with joy, prosperity, peace and friendship.

And if not, then next year.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Building bigwigs better bite on bedbug bill, by and by.

We are in the middle of an unpopular war, going into it’s sixth year. There is a bill in front of Congress that will make the US economy the largest socialist nation in the free world. There is a presidential election going on.

So, what is the big business in Trenton? Three lawmakers from northern NJ are looking to put a clamp down on blood-sucking creatures who annoy us at night.

Nope, not lawyers. Nor corrupt officials.

Joan Quigly, L.Harvey Smith and L. Grace Spencer are co-sponsors of legislation that will make landlords get rid of the bedbugs. I would have thought there were already laws on the books to breakdown the biting beasties from your bed. But, no.

The bill requires landlords to have the bedbugs exterminated, and pick up the tab in the process---and not pass the charge along to tenants. The fines should bug the landlords: $300 per apartment. Or $1000 per infested common area.

Funny how there is an uptick in the bedbug population during a presidential year.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Doin' the Hand Jive

There has been a big movement over the passed few years for the “privatization” of governmental services. On the Federal level, many members of Congress have talked for years about the ‘privatization’ of Social Security and Medicare.

On the state level, there has been much talk about the privatization of tunnels and toll roads, school systems, and even state prison systems.

And on the local level, there has been much talk about privatizing municipal services such as water and sewer service, and local jails.

Well, I think it’s about time someone did something about “privatization”. It’s a damn good idea.

First and foremost, the sector of the economy that should be “privatized”, with absolutely no governmental involvement from the President and Congress is the “home mortgage and investment banking industry”. Where does President and Congress come off even thinking that they can do a better job than market driven capitalism?

Adam Smith was right: Let the invisible hand of the market place do the job it’s supposed to do. That’s right: What this country needs and is going to get is a good old fashioned market place hand job. And that should keep everyone satisfied with a happy ending.

Interesting thought: There are all those who predicted that Social Security and Medicare were on the verge of collapse because it was being badly managed by the government. These are the same sure footed folks at WaMu, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, and AIG et al who now have their hands out for a bailout from the folks who ‘badly managed’ Social Security.

Go figure.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The House That Ruth Built

In a way it’s ironic, that we are losing “The House That Ruth Built” at about the same time when so many people are losing their homes, too. Oh, well.

There is something about the great cathedral of baseball, Yankee Stadium, which the new stadium could just never have. It will take a while for me to call the new stadium with its luxury boxes, restaurants, shops, excellent site lines 'Yankee Stadium. This is the Stadium where all those 26 World Championships were won. This is where I learned about the world’s greatest sports franchise, the New York Yankees from my dad, Bernie Novick, a Yankee fan.

Today, rather than naming a baseball stadium after the team that plays there, ‘naming rights’ are sold for millions and millions. Stadiums are named after orange juice companies [Minute Maid Park- Houston Astros; Tropicana Field – Tampa Bay Devil Rays] or multi-national banks [PNC Park – Pittsburgh Pirates; Citizens Bank Park – Philadelphia Phillies] or world-wide communications companies [AT&T Park - San Francisco Giants; U.S. Cellular - Chicago White Sox]. You need a scorecard just to figure out which ballpark you’re in.

But not at Yankee Stadium. There, the product is written in big blue letters a mile high and two miles wide for all the world to see: Yankee Stadium. Home of the New York Yankees.

The last time I went to Yankee Stadium was two years ago. We arrived too late to see Memorial Field. But not the first time I went…in 1962. Summer, July. A mid- week night game against the old Kansas City Athletics...

It was a night game, and my father was taking me alone. Both of my brothers were in sleep-away camp, and I got to go to my very first baseball game with just my dad. From Brooklyn to Yankee Stadium was a mere 18 miles away. But on the subway, it would almost two hours. I did not care.

Before we left, my father made sure I had my Yankee baseball cap, and glove---because we were going to sit in the ‘best seats at the Stadium’, my father declared, and sure a ball would be hit near there. My mother made sure I had a chicken sandwich for dinner and a sweatshirt in case it got cold. We were on our way.

We took the Gerritsen Avenue bus to the D Train at Avenue U and East 16th Street. But before we went through the subway turnstile, my dad asked me for the chicken sandwich in the brown paper bag. He took it and through it in the trash.

“At Yankee Stadium”, he said, “You have hot dogs for dinner, not a chicken sandwich.” I was very open to learning all about baseball protocol. “But, when we get back home, if mom asks ‘How was the chicken sandwich?’, you need to tell her with a big smile, ‘Boy, that was the best chicken sandwich I ever had!’ ”. So, I was tuned in to our own little subversion of the truth.

And all along the subway ride, my dad made me practice, smiling, rubbing my stomach and saying, “Boy, mom, that was the best chicken sandwich I ever had!”. I had to sound convincing. The D train went all the way from Brooklyn, right to Yankee Stadium. The subway got more and more crowded as we traveled through Brooklyn, through mid-town Manhattan, and on in to the Bronx. And I kept on practicing. It made the subway ride fun.

We arrived for a 8 o’clock game at about six thirty, to catch batting practice. As we exited the subway at 161st Street in the Bronx, I could see the Stadium in the distance. The streets were packed with people of all shapes, sizes, and colors all walking to the Stadium. We crossed many streets, and the Stadium got larger and larger. “We have the best seats in the house,” my dad proudly declared.

We took the escalator up and up. As we got to the first level, I asked, “Are our seats here?”. “Nope, our seats are much better than these,” my dad called out over the buzz of the crowd. We went up one more level. “What about here? Are these our seats?” “Nope, even better than this. We have the best seats in the Stadium,” my dad said again, very proudly. Finally, after three more levels, we finally got up to the highest level inn the Stadium.

As we walked through the tunnel from the escalator to the seats, I could see the greenest green of the grass in the outfield, the brownest brown of the infield dirt, and the bluest blue of the sky.

And there they were: The New York Yankees taking batting practice. Number 7, Mickey Mantle. Number 8, Yogi Berra. And Roger Maris, Number 9. We walked up a steep set of steps, to just five rows from the top, just behind the first base side.

“These are our seats? All the way up here?,” I asked somewhat incredulously. “Of course, these are the best seats. You can see the whole Stadium from here. You can see the people on the roof tops watching the game. This is where the real fans sit….but, if you want to sit down there…” he seemed to say derisively, “we can save money and get cheaper seats…”. “No!,” I protested, “Let’s stay here---in the good seats.”

“Now, you can have as many hot dogs as you want. But remember, when mom asks, what do you say?” asked, prompting me again. “I give her a big smile, and say ‘Boy, that was the best chicken sandwich I ever had!’”.

We stood for the Star Spangled Banner, and I stayed standing until every Yankee was
announced as they took the field. I will never forget that booming voice, welcoming everyone to Yankee Stadium, and telling everyone that any reproduction of the game broadcast without the written permission of the New York Yankees was not permitted. That seemed like a good idea, but I was only eight and no plans to broadcast the game on my own anyway.

My dad explained to me how to keep score. That the flags on the Stadium roof showed us what place the Yankees and all the other teams were in. How the people on the nearby roof tops could watch the game for free. And taught me how to call out to the guys carrying food, so that they would hear me and walk up all those steps just to sell me a hot dog.

First inning, one hot dog, one soda. I found it amazing that people would just bring food directly to you. Third inning, the same. As Yogi popped up a foul ball, I got some ice cream. After a Maris single in the sixth, popcorn.

After the seventh inning stretch, another hot dog. At the end of the top of eighth, Cracker Jacks, and I was done. More than full. By the end of the game, I was stuffed. And my dad still made me practice, with a big smile, ‘Boy, that was the best chicken sandwich I ever had!’.

The game ended [Yankees 7, KC 2] and the blue July sky turned darker, and darker and finally we walked to the subway, and caught the D train back to Brooklyn. For a good portion of the way, we had to stand, but that was OK. The rest of the way home, I sat on my dad’s lap, asleep. We finally arrived home with my mother waiting for us at the door.

“So, how was the game?” she asked. “It was great!” I told her a series of disconnected facts about the game. About the subway ride. About the great seats we had. About the Stadium. “So, how was the chicken sandwich?”, she asked. Here was my big chance. My father looked at me. I looked at him. “Boy, that was the best chicken sandwich I ever had!”, I said proudly, rubbing my stomach. My dad smiled back. Success. We had fooled her.

“And how many hot dogs did you have?”, she asked. “Three!” came out the number, before I realized I had been found out. We did not practice that question! She looked at my dad, and he looked at me.

And so, Yankee Stadium, “The House That Ruth Built”, the green, green grass where Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jo DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer, Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter, and so many others played for the greatest team in the world ----and called 'home' ----is no more.

Thanks, dad for taking me to my first baseball game there. And thanks, mom, for the chicken sandwich.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

News Bits and Bites

Some bits of news require either no comment or minimal comment. From today's New York Times:

President Bush discussed the government’s financial bailout proposal during a news conference at the White House on Saturday.

The proposal, not quite three pages long, was stunning for its stark simplicity. It would raise the national debt ceiling to $11.3 trillion. And it would place no restrictions on the administration other than requiring semiannual reports to Congress, granting the Treasury secretary unprecedented power to buy and resell mortgage debt.

Yup, they know what they're doing domestically, too.

...and one more headline, needing no comment:

Debate Pact Will Let McCain and Obama Spar

The presidential debates will follow a free-flowing format, but John McCain’s campaign insisted on more structure for Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s debate with Sarah Palin.
Yup, she's ready to rumble.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

“I am Leonard Lance and I approved this message”

In 2006, the Hunterdon County Democrat newspaper did something really menschy: they took Mike Ferguson to task for his “Stender is a Spender” series of commercials. The commercials were low-brow, sophomoric and childish. The newspaper, known mostly for their conservative/Republican leaning editorial policy--- was highly critical of the radio and TV commercials that essentially lowered the bar for political campaigns in New Jersey – as if that were possible. Stender went on to be endorsed by every major newspaper in the district, including the Democrat. However, she did lose. But the Democrat was right about the commercials.

And so, it was with great surprise and disappointment that I now see that Senator Leonard Lance is using the same theme in a TV commercial---perhaps even a commercial recycled from 2006. While it is true that Mr. Lance does not have the campaign cash that Assemblywoman Stender does, he has lowered himself to the same levels that Ferguson did just two years ago.

Senator Lance has received praise from Republicans and Democrats alike over the years because of his honesty and his courage in taking on his own Party. And as long as I live in district dominated by Republicans, he seems better than most. While I don’t agree with him on all issues like the war, paid family leave, marriage equality, and the Bush tax cuts--- he certainly is much better representing the 23rd than Mike Doherty or Connie Myers. So, I hope he stays put.

But the Stender is a spender commercials were a departure form his usual campaign style, and it does not do him well at all to take that tack.

Hopefully, the Hunterdon County Democrat will use the same criteria to judge the commercial Mr. Lance is using, that they used in judging Mike Ferguson.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Billion Monkeys

They say that if you put a billion monkeys in front of a billion computers for a billion years, one of them will write a Shakespearean play. Or throw feces at each other. Or vote Republican.

So, searching the web for the answer to the question: “What’s the difference between Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney?” I found at least a billion sites that gave the same answer: Lipstick. LOL. Or at least SUYB (snicker under your breath).

So, now that Governor Palin has officially been anointed as Republican VP candidate Palin, it’s time to figure out the actual differences between Palin and Cheney.

First off, while there are some slight similarities. For example, they both wear glasses. Both have received major dollars from oil companies. But that is where the similarity ends.

First of all, Palin was vetted more by ABC's Charlie Gibson, than by McCain. Cheney was vetted, well,…by Cheney.

When hunting, Palin shoots caribou and moose. When hunting, Cheney shoots friends and campaign contributors.

Palin was named “Miss Congeniality” in the Miss Alaska contest. In movie terms, that makes her Mary Poppins. Cheney is more like Darth Vader.

Palin does not know what the VP does everyday.
Cheney, last year, said that the Vice President was not part of the Executive Branch.

As governor, Palin has kept Alaska safe from attacks from Canada and Russia. Cheney, on the other hand, initiated a pre-emptive attack on Iraq.

Under Miss Alaska pageant rules, if the 1984 Miss Alaska (Maryline Blackburn) cannot perform her duties for any reason, Palin must take her place. Under the 25th Amendment, if the president cannot perform his duties for any reason, I think Bush actually takes Cheney’s place.

And finally, in her interview with ABC’s Gibson, Palin did not seem to know what the Bush Doctrine is. And, of course, it was Cheney who developed the Bush Doctrine.

So it goes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Back to School

As Governor Sarah Palin moves full throttle in to being VP candidate Sarah Palin, there is still one thing we are waiting for her to do:

Be interviewed on any of the network news shows. It is one thing to thrill the hometown crowds, it is another to be drilled by the news people at the networks. This is where I will miss Tim Russert the most.

She holds her child, Trig, in her arms at rallies and the Republican-spin meisters and radio right-wing talking heads chatter on about how her family life should be private. Her daughter is pregnant at 17, but Palin opposes real sex education in schools, preferring 'abstinence only' education. Now she opposes 'earmarks' or pork barrel spending, but when she was mayor, she spent millions on lobbyists for 'earmarks' for her town of Wasilla.

These are minor points. The real questions will come on whether she can name the current president of Geoegia [Mikheil Saakashvili]; knows what the trade deficit is with China [117, 462,900,000 dollars in deficit trade imbalance as of June of this year]; or know what has been spent, for example, by the state of New Jersey on the Iraq War [$25,229,435,556, as of this writing].

And these questions will come not from the fellow Republican fans at the Convention, but from Charles Gibson, George Stephanopoulos or Katie Couric et al.

I am sure that all this week, the Governor is being grilled by the best tutors that the Republicans have to offer on a wide range of international issues. Thus far, her answers to questions about international issues have had little smore ubstance than the standard beauty contest refrain of "I want world peace."

Oh, boy how I will miss Tim Russert grilling the candidates on Sunday morning this campaign season.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

McCain's Yawner

Senator John McCain made one of the most boring nomination acceptance speeches I have heard in years. He spoke for nearly one hour, and the most exciting thing of the evening was the balloon drop.

He, once again, told his very compelling POW story---the same one told by Fred Thompson, and was told tonight in a brief biographical film before his speech. He was long winded, and was short on specifics. The speech was choppy, and at times, there were many in the audience who simply did not applaud.

Governor Palin's speech was much more animated and uplifting. She definately outclassed her running mate.

So, now the games begin.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Totally Useless Metrics

So, the debate goes on between VP candidates Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin. There are some differences, and some similarities. One’s pro-choice; the other pro-life. One is male the other female. One supports the war; the other opposes it. Yada, yada, yada.


And while the national news outlets, newspapers, broadcast news TV stations, CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, Fox News, and the political blogosphere feel compelled to measure the candidates' mettle with the same old tired criteria and standard political season metrics, I do not.

I like to roll the candidates through a series of non-functional, fairly trivial and meaningless exercises and time wasters that provide no value whatsoever. So, let’s begin.

First of all, the names of both their home states appear together in an old joke I remember. This joke was one I told in front of Mrs. Gottesman’s First Grade class in P.S. 277, when we were learning the names of the states:

Timmy: “So, what will Delaware?” Tammy: “I don’t know. Alaska!”

Get it? The first person says, “What will Della wear?” Then, the second person says, “I don’t know. I’ll ask her.” But when you use the names of the states, the sentences sound the same! Boy, did that material ‘kill’ in front of six year olds in 1960!

Next little trick, for no apparent reason---the hidden meanings in name anagrams:

If you re-arrange the letters of 'Senator Joe Biden'', you get---'Job-oriented, sane.' That’s not too shabby. Good description for someone who might be the next in line to be the Leader of the Free World.

However, if you re-arrange the letters of 'Governor Sarah Palin' you get 'Horror's vagina plane' Ouch! That’s gotta sting for a fundamentalist Christian woman with a pregnant 17 year old daughter.

When Sarah Palin came in second in the Miss Alaska beauty pagent, her special talent was ‘whistling’. When Biden ran for president in 1988, and then again this year, his special talent was 'verbosity.

So, please feel free to compare the two candidates, along whatever trivial criteria makes sense to you.