Wednesday, November 16, 2011

George Carlin- The American Dream

Its been too long since I last logged on and commented on what's on my mind.....and we'll catch up soon.

Lately I've wanted to give my thoughts on the Occupy Movement, and why its necessary. Needless to say, those souls occupy Wall Street (despite the efforts of His Worship, Michael Bloomberg) because Wall Street occupies America.

But here's a man who said it better than any of us ever could, and he did it back in 2005. The late George Carlin talks about who owns America.....and it's not you and me.

It's a restricted club.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Occupy New Jersey!

To those who said that this is a fad....guess again.

It is a movement.

Today, at 2:00PM, citizens who have had enough will march on the State House annex in Trenton and the Goldman Sachs building in Jersey City.

More information may be found on the Occupy New Jersey page on Facebook.

Occupy Wall Street, Occupy New Jersey, Facebook,

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Steve Jobs, possibly the greatest innovator in the history of communications technology since Thomas Edison, sadly passed away at age 56 yesterday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Much has and will be written about the life and legacy of Steve Jobs. But let's go back to nearly the beginning of his story for the commercial that announced the arrival of the Macintosh, Apple's computer that sparked a revolution. The commercial was shown only once, during the Super Bowl in 1984, and was directed by future Oscar winner Ridley Scott. It is generally regarded as the greatest commercial ever made.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Your Right To Vote Will Cost You 44 Cents"..... and Some Random Thoughts

I took the absentee ballots from my Mom and Dad, and sealed them....and I did help my father in filling out his ballot....and filled out the proper spaces on the ballot acknowledging that I did assist in filling out the ballot, and that I would be transporting the ballots to the post office.

And then I drove to the US Post Office to pay the postage for each of my parents ballots. In a sense, they had to pay for their inalienable right to vote in the United States of America. The absentee ballots for Middlesex County, NJ were not postage paid for 2011's election of New Jersey state senate and the assembly.

Last year I took my parents ballots to the post office for the 2010 midterms....I had to get extra postage for those ballots. I thought the principle of an individual having to to pay any amount to vote in an election was unfair and un-American, but I kept my mouth shut. But that was last year.

And this is now.

Last year the ballots were heavy, and one stamp wouldn't cover I paid the extra 20 cents, or whatever it was. This afternoon the price was only 44 cents each.....but the question remains; why should some voters have to pay to vote by mail while those who vote in person do not? The board of elections pays poll workers and for use of facilities in elections....shouldn't they be required to pay postage for those who may not be able to get to the polls without extreme physical difficulty?

I'm not asking for an entitlement, but I am asking about the right of a truly free election- the amount of money for the postage is not the problem. The fact that it must be paid in order for some of our most vulnerable citizens to vote is the issue. Where is Grover Norquist, he who hateth all taxes, on this one? And the Tea Party, in their Colonial Williamsburg outfits, complete with Brown Bess muskets, waving the  Constitution in the air like it's a winning lottery ticket? I's the Ayn Rand thing, isn't it? Social Darwinism....the old folks paying to vote are just a bunch of dinosaurs on their last legs....put 'em in a corner and move on, right?

Back in the 1960's the poll tax was done away with in the Jim Crow South. It was a weapon to suppress and nullify the African American vote. Paying to vote by absentee ballot is not in the same ballpark as the poll tax....but in principle, it is just as wrong.  Some citizens must pay in order to have their votes counted, and others don't.....and that is simply wrong.

Absentee ballots for all elections on all levels should have postage paid by the board of elections. Its the right and fair thing to do.

Random Thoughts

Chris Christie- "It's not my time (to run for President)".....Dang! I already had a campaign slogan already for him if he wanted to get into the Republican Primaries;
"Vote for Chris Christie- at Least He's Not Crazy"

Yeah, he's a brash loudmouth, and a bully.....but he's not a Mitt Romney "what flavor am I today?", or a yahoo like Rick Perry, or a total whack job like Michele Bachmann. But at least Christie has a charisma that goes a long way. Now that doesn't mean I've flipped and have become a Christie supporter- you can have a certain amount of charm and likability but still have a personality traits that repel and even disgust you- kind of like Tony Soprano.

You know what you get with Chris Christie....that is, if you live in New Jersey. I don't think the national media really gets it with the guy- yes, Christie got bipartisan support in getting his agenda passed, and then he threw the Democratic State Senate President and Speaker of the Assembly under the bus in front of their base in a power play. And he did the same thing to his first Commissioner of Education in the "Race to the Top" fiasco- Christie screwed up, and Brett Schundler, his commish, had to pay for it.

The alleged "tough guys" in the media, like Chris Matthews and Piers Morgan, either throw Christie softball questions or seemingly swoon over him like they have a man-crush....and Chris Matthews, do you really think that a guy with Christie's ego would ever want to become Vice President and preside over the Senate for at least four years? Chris, start talking to guys in the New Jersey media, like Tom Moran, Michael Aron, Paul Mulshine, or Kevin Manahan before you start that crazy talk. For 10 reasons Chris Christie will never be president, check out this column by the Star-Ledger's Kevin Manahan.

Oh, and did a mention....the Republican Party has moved so far to the right with it's Tea Party wing they could never stomach Christie's appointment of a Muslim to a judgeship. And that's just for starters.

Now, can we please stop this Christie for President, right now?

Hank Williams, Jr.- When are people going to realize that using Hitler as an analogy for all individuals and things they hate is a bad move?

Last night I was flipping back and forth between Monday Night Football and the Yankees-Tigers Division Series, and was surprised that there was no "All My Rowdy Friends" by Hank, Jr. on ESPN. I figured there was some kind of glitch, or possibly I just missed it when I stayed with baseball for a bit longer than intended.

But there was no Hank Jr.

And it wasn't until after the game was over that I saw that ESPN pulled the song, a fixture for more than 20 years, because of comments made by Williams on (where else?) Fox and Friends to the usual suspects.

Hank equated President Obama to Hitler.....and notice how Doocy, Carlson, and Kilmeade jumped to POTUS's defense IMMEDIATELY?

You didn't see it? Funny...I didn't either. And Joe Biden, he's the enemy too, in the Gospel according to Hank, Jr.

Maybe it's just me....but doesn't he appear to be in the bag, even at that early hour?

A few hours ago Williams offered a "sort of" apology for his remarks.

Isn't it odd how Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks got hate mail and death threats for their 2003 remark about being ashamed to be from the same state as George W. Bush (not to mention being ostracized by the country music establishment), and Hank Jr. seemingly gets a pass (Hank being Hank) for calling the current president "the enemy".

One last thing.....Hank said he might run for the Senate in Tennessee in 2008.

Who knows...maybe he'll be the VP candidate in 2012.

And in closing....Eric Foster's injury on Monday Night Football

It was tough to watch the terrible injury to Eric Foster of the Indianapolis Colts in last nights 24-17 loss to Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium. Foster appeared to have a dislocated ankle, that twisted horribly and unnaturally, causing even hardened NFL players to wince and even shed tears for a fallen member of their fraternity. Surgery was performed on Foster's ankle, and he will be flown home on owner Jim Irsay's private jet. Eric Foster will be placed on injured reserve- his season is over.

Eric Foster was always one of my favorite players when he was at Rutgers. The big defensive lineman was a captain and the heart and soul of that incredible 11-2 team from 2006 that just barely missed winning a BCS bowl bid. Foster became a You Tube star in 2006 after a win against South Florida made the Scarlet Knights 5-0....Foster led in this locker room chant.

Ironically, the locker room chant took place in the same stadium- Raymond James- as the one Eric Foster was carted off from last night.

Get well, big guy!

And it was a bad week for former Rutgers NFL players. In a span of eight days Foster, Colt teammate Gary Brackett, and Tennessee Titan Kenny Britt all sustained season ending injuries.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If You Love This Blog You Can LIKE Us On FACEBOOK

And Sally said....."You like me! You REALLY like ME!!!!!

That's right.....I've decided to go crazy with the html and buttons and all that good stuff and create a Facebook page for the old bloggerroonie.

So not only can you read can LIKE us!

Or you don't have to.....

But if you don't...watchout! You might know where you live. And my Uncle Nunzio from Jersey City might pay you a visi

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Until I Was Interrupted...... A Brief Rundown of the Past Couple of Months

After taking sometime off from blogging for the past several months (see previous posts), I thought it would be a good idea to cover briefly what's been going on in this little corner of the world. Admit it, you still care, dontcha?

Hurricane Irene- Lost power for twelve hours, a little bit of water in the basement. The only damaged property was the lightweight mop I used to cleanup the mess- the handle broke. All things considered, we were very, very lucky.

The Earthquake of 2011- The house shook, but I thought it was from the tree removal guys who were working across the street and up the I was installing the software for my new printer and couldn't get the drivers installed! "Yeah, yeah...a friggin' earthquake....I've got problem with my computer and the house is shaking...STOP IT RIGHT NOW, dammit!!!".

The Debt Ceiling Debacle- A disgrace. No other word for it. The rest of the world is laughing at America and our dysfunctional government. And we, the people, keep allowing this lunacy to continue.

Rick Perry- That's right America......we need another shittkicker from Texas in the White House. Please read my comments about the debt ceiling.

Michele Bachmann- Had she been a man and this were 1789, she might make a reasonable presidential candidate.....but then she would start screaming about the world being flat and get all Christine O'Donnell on us about witchcraft....oh, nevermind. On second thought, she's indefensibly nuts. Let's move on.

Barack Obama- A brilliant mind and orator who needed to develop an inner Lyndon Johnson- the Republicans never cared about bipartisanship, it was all about beating Barack in 2012. The jobs bill is something I support.....but he should have presented the plan two years ago.

Best Political Line I've Heard- From Bill Maher on politicians who feel they MUST wear an American flag pin at all times..... " If you've won the election, we have a pretty good idea who's side you're on".

Best Line (Non Political/General Use)- "The distance between a halo and a noose is about 8 inches".....former Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden.

College Football Chaos- The Big 12 has only 10 teams and may soon be down to five. The Big East lost Pitt and Syracuse and as I type this the AD's and presidents of the remaining Big East schools are meeting to see what's next. The two conferences may merge, but it would make little geographic sense, and would not be cost effective for non revenue sports. Much depends on what Texas and Notre Dame decide to do. I see Rutgers and UCONN to the ACC, Notre Dame to the Big Ten, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State to the Pac 12, Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC.....and after that who knows? And that scenario could change at the drop of a hat.

Charlie Sheen- As Joan Rivers said yesterday....." Why are they roasting Charlie Sheen tonight? He's been fried for years!"

In Closing....What's Happening With Dad. Dad's condition is fairly stable...he needs some help doing routine things now, like getting dressed sometimes. He seems to be able to retain new information for about two weeks, and then it's gone. He doesn't remember having an oral surgeon yank out a molar about a month ago.....and he also had a cancerous skin lesion excised in July, leaving a hole in his forehead the size of a half dollar. I cleaned the wound and dressed it everyday for six weeks until it healed; he doesn't remember any aspect of the surgery, not the doctor, the office, the surgery, the recovery, or me caring for his wound.

It breaks your heart a little everyday....but you have to go on, look for a reason to smile and laugh. And try to keep hope alive.

Tomorrow Is Alzheimer's Action Day- Check out the Facebook page for the Alzheimer's Association. September is Alzheimer's Awareness Month, and if you have a few minutes, please read about the good work the Association is doing. And above all, care for and be kind to your aging loved ones.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sarah Palin- You Were Cookin' Rice?

The funny thing is.....I never knew she was a Michigan fan.

Let's hear it for "The Victors".

Announcing My "Relaunch"

Let's just's time.

To those of you who may just be checking in, I took some time off to to try to come to grips with my father's medical condition. Rather than rehash everything, you can check the story in the previous posts.

Things are relatively stable, not good, but not awful either......just time consuming.

My original intent was to relaunch this blog in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of September 11th, but as an old Yiddish saying goes, "Man makes plans and God laughs".

At any rate, The blog will be back in a more scaled back form....the days of my daily commentary and immediate comments  are gone for the foreseeable future. But I feel a need to write again.....I don't want to turn this into a "living with a loved one with Alzheimer's" diary, but it is the 800 pound gorilla in the room everyday, so I'll be sharing some of that with you on occasions.

It will take awhile.....I need to do some housecleaning and simplification of some of the things I set up on these pages.

But it's time.....I'm back. Just a little quieter and not as frequent.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial 2011

Just take a minute or two and remember the meaning of the day.

Sometimes we all need a kick in the pants to remind us that our young men and women are still fighting and dying in the Middle East.

Hopefully on Memorial Day 2012 they'll be back home with their loved ones.

God bless.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

2011 Rapture Cancelled! Rescheduling Information Below

I'm still standing......


Yes, 6:00 PM came and went, and I didn't even remember what didn't happen as I cleaned my grill- my last meal was going to be Bubba Burgers....I'm a Jersey Guy, I have simple tastes.

Anyway here's the latest skinny on the cancelled Rapture 2011. It will be made up sometime next year as part of a day/night separate admission doubleheader with 2012 Apocalypse. Season ticketholders may advance order, all others must wait until the first trumpets come warning of the coming of The Beast on a first come, first serve basis.

Wait a minute.....Newt Gingrich is supposed to be on Face the Nation tomorrow, singing Friend of the Devil, with Bob Schieffer playing a wicked set of spoons.

OK....I made that last part up!

Rapture 2011; MY LAST TWEETS (and Testament)

It's been several weeks since my last post, and I just want to apologize one more time for not being as diligent as I used to be with my blogging......oh what the heck, it's time to say "GOODBYE" to everyone because in a couple of hours we're all going to be toast anyway.

I hate prolonged farewells.....and it's only about three hours until The Big Event.

This morning I said my goodbyes on TWITTER with my Ten Rapture Rants. You never asked for them, but here they are, just the same.

#rapture rants- (1) I'm pissed off because the world will end before the new season of MAD MEN

# rapture rants- (2) The idiot behind me is cutting his lawn at 9:00am. You mean I can't even sleep in 4 one more Saturday?

#rapture rants- (3) The world can't end! Rutgers still hasn't won a Big East title in football- or men's basketball, 4 that matter

#rapture rants- (4) Maybe there is something to this rapture stuff. The Pope just called the space station- maybe HE WANTS IN!

#rapture rants- (5) 26 years after quitting, is it OK to for me to smoke again (for the duration)?

#rapture rants- (6) Is it still possible for all those people who booked June weddings to get a refund?

#rapture rants- (7) Today the world will end at 6:00PM. On Monday gas prices will rise another ten cents a gallon.

#rapture rants- (8) This 6:00PM Doomsday stuff has me in a bind- should I start making dinner an hour earlier?

#rapture rants- (9) To the survivalists who've spent tens of thousands of $'s stockpiling food, guns and ammo- wasn't that a waste of money?

#rapture rants- (10) If Newt Gingrich is quoted saying "There will be no rapture", does that mean don't believe him?

I wonder if Harold Camping has a back up speech prepared, just in case things don't go as a rain delay, maybe?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama's Bin Laden's Dead- This One's for You, East Brunswick 8

I was among the last people in the New York- New Jersey megalopolis to learn of the death of the mass murderer- mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Osama Bin Laden. Last night I went through my usual Sunday night routine, catching Game of Thrones on HBO at 9:00pm and Treme at 10:00. I found myself nodding off at 11:00, and I started sawing logs soon afterwards About 4:00am I woke up and turned off the TV, still tuned to HBO.

At 7:00 AM I got up, made coffee.....I put on channel 11 where I saw anchor Laurie Dhue talking about the death of Osama Bin Laden. And my jaw dropped.

I watched the celebration at Ground Zero, and the party atmosphere in front of the White House, and the elation at West Point. This was one of the moments you remember for the rest of your life....the Boogie Man who killed 3,000 of our friends and neighbors was dead, shot through the eye like Moe Green, and sleeping with the fishes like Luca Brazzi.

Well done Navy Seals, CIA, and all who executed this operation. And  well done Mr President, and to your administration, for getting it done with surgical precision.

To any clown that suggests that Democrats hate America and are soft on national defense, I have to say the only thing "soft" in such people are their brains.

In the afternoon I took a ride over to the municipal building to give East Brunswick (NJ) their check for the right to live there (aka "tax day"). Upon leaving I took a walk over to East Brunswick's 9/11 monument.

As you can see, the East Brunswick memorial consists of black twin towers. On the left the names Siew Nya Ang, Susan Blair, Paul W. Innella, and Hweider Jian are engraved. The right tower lists Alan David Kleinberg, Stuart Louis, Suzanne Passaro, and Kenneth W. VanAuken etched in the black granite.

They are the East Brunswick 8, township residents who died on that horrible day nearly 10 years ago. I knew none of them personally, but in a community like ours its easy to find people who knew them or their families. These eight, and nearly 3,000 others died in a fiery inferno that collapsed around them- if they weren't incinerated alive they were crushed by tens of tons of falling debris, squeezing the life from them. They must have died horribly. Osama Bin Laden met his demise instantly and literally never knew what hit him. It was much too quick....but at least he was gone.

And hopefully the sharks in the Arabian Sea are eating well tonight.

I snapped several pictures of the monument.....and paused for a few seconds of silence. And then I spoke to The Eight.....

"They got the son of a bitch."

A memorable day indeed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rainy Day Musings (Part 1)

In the past few weeks since my Dad's diagnosis I've spent a great deal of time reflecting on all those things one normally does when a serious situation arises. You think about the nature of life, it's fragility, the seeming unfairness that most of us experience from time to time, the randomness of tragedy, and about immortality. And you get a greater appreciation for that which you do have, and get a sense of the proportionality of a bigger picture, that the whole scheme of things is so inner connected and transcends any dogmatic spiritual belief.

Last September I wrote a review of Mitch Albom's book Have A Little Faith, a work that points us in a direction to recognize that religious faith should be a mechanism to unite us rather than fragment our society, and in a larger scale, our world. One of the topics Albom talked of in his story of his friendship with his aging and ailing rabbi was that each one of us dies two deaths, the first when we kick that proverbial bucket, and the second when there is no one left who remembers who we were, what we did, who we loved, and what we accomplished in our lives. I guess part of the appeal of being a movie star or recording artist is that a piece of you lives on for generations.

For the past two months I've immersed myself in music.....most of you know I'm a classic rock dinosaur, so that playlist included the usual suspects; Bruce, Zeppelin, Clapton, oldies like Humble Pie, cult performers like Richard Thompson, Gregson and Collister, and my beloved Fairport Convention.

And then there was Queen and Freddie Mercury. November 24 will mark 20 years since Freddie's passing- and it doesn't seem possible that it's been that long, or even that he has truly died. While listening to some of Queen's later songs like The Show Must Go On, Who Wants To Live Forever, These Are The Days of Our Lives I gained an appreciation of the band's (and Freddie's) sense of mortality in a way I never could before. In their final album with Freddie Mercury, Innuendo, it was clear that Freddie was dying from AIDS; the result was an album that was a curtain call, a farewell, and an epitaph.

But while listening to the songs I was reminded that Freddie Mercury did die that first death (the physical one), but he is far away from the second one- his music lives, and he is far from forgotten. And even to those who wouldn't know the difference between Freddie Mercury and Freddie and the Dreamers, all you have to do is go to any ballpark or stadium throughout the world, and on any given day you will hear the foot stomps of We Will Rock You and the triumph of We Are The Champions.

I thought about my Dad and his 30 years of teaching, and the thousands of lives he touched along the way- there are people who might have known my Dad better than I did at the time, and just maybe he was that special teacher who pointed them in the right direction, and changed their lives. And after retiring from the classroom he spent another 15 years as a fulltime employee- and a state president- of the teacher's union.

Yes, Dad was one of those guys our conservative brethren loved to hate. My father was one of those pesky union activists who helped insure collective bargaining rights for the New Jersey's teachers, and subsequently for those in other parts of the country. Obviously Scott Walker, John Kasich, and professional tough guy Chris Christie are not popular figures with this household, this family, and this blogger.

My Dad spent his life touching lives, and helping to improve them. To see his work demonized by implication courtesy of some bullying political opportunists alternately saddens and angers me. But that should and will be the subject of another blog entry.

To be sure I felt some sense of isolation in the past month or so......but then I looked at the number of people who have visited in the past couple of years, over a quarter million, and that's just since I installed the counter. And I feel grateful that more than 250,000 people have taken time to read my words....and I know that I'm not alone at all.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whassup? Me and My Dad

Tuesday March 29

Remember me?

Its been more than a month since I seemingly vanished off the face of the earth....and if my disappearance (or my reappearance) has been (or is) cause for concern, I apologize, but there was a reason.

About a month ago I told my readers that I was taking a hiatus from blogging, then shortly afterwords I came back and posted the previous article, and then dropped out for the next month. So let me explain what has happened, back peddling a bit.

About two months ago I took my father to his endocrinologist for his routine examine. She gave him a clean bill of health, but she was concerned about his inability to answer questions and his confusion about taking his medications and getting prescriptions filled. She called me in and we had a talk about this decline in cognitive skills, and she then gave me the names and numbers of some gerontologists and neurologists.

My father, who will be 84 this Tuesday (April 5), is a retired teacher and until about 18 months ago was active in the Saint Vincent DePaul Society and the AFT Retirees of New Jersey. He wrote columns for the retiree's newsletter, and I featured his piece We Need More Than Another FDR on this blog on November 1, 2008. Within a year he gave up the column and his work with St. Vincent DePaul, and was given a dinner in his honor by the retirees in October 2009, and he received an award for service from St. Vincent in January 2010.

During a trip to visit my brother in Ohio in June 2009 Dad had trouble walking, and a little more trouble communicating that in the past. Being under the care of a cardiologist he had been taking a statin drug that his doctor thought could have been too high a dosage, so it was altered. His walking improved but his cognitive skills were not what they were only a short time before.

By the end of 2010 Dad was forgetting routine things, like how to open the garage door with the remote, where certain kitchen items were located (even some that were in the same spot for twenty years), and recent events. He would have CNN on TV most of the day, but when I mentioned "Tea Party" to him before the elections last year I had to explain to him what and who the Tea Party one point in his life Dad was the political junkie's political junkie. He was a virtual encyclopedia of American and New Jersey politics, and knew more about labor relations and law than any five congressmen of either party.

On February 9 of this year we visited a neurologist who gave Dad a routine test of thirty oral questions, of which he got 23 correct. He knew the season but not the date or month. He could write a complete sentence but could not spell "world" verbally. He was told to remember three items in a list, and was asked to repeat them a few minutes later. He couldn't do it.

In the past few weeks I took Dad for a Doppler reading to see if there were arterial blockages to his brain....there weren't. We went for an EEG to see if there was any evidence of a stroke.....there wasn't.

And he had an MRI done as well. Yesterday in the neurologists office we got the results. Dad had shrinkage in his brain that the doctor said was similar to the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. The doctor did say that there was a 40% chance that his condition could be something other that AD, and that Dad would have to meet certain criteria - like a steady regression of cognitive skills over a period of time with no leveling off- to make a definitive diagnosis of AD. But as of now my Dad is being treated as a patient with the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease.

In the past few weeks I've had to commandeer Dad's driver's license, Medicare and insurance cards, as well as his credit cards so he won't misplace or loose them....and he has a couple of times. In the past two months we've found prescriptions that were written but never filled and we've started putting his pills out for him each morning, and we're making sure that he doesn't forget to take them.

To make a long story short, its been adjusting to a "new normal" around here, that's anything but normal. And to top it off, early this month my father answered a phone call from a "cousin" of mine who was supposedly in jail in Canada and said he needed bail money. He and my Mom were targets of an international scam that has victimized 60,000 elderly people nationwide.

As if there weren't enough on the plate than to deal with those lowlifes and spending part of the day reporting it to the cops.

Wednesday March 30

I'm back after a break of nearly 24 hours.....its a little harder to find time to write these days, and when I do have the time sometimes there isn't adequate energy.....and at other times, I just didn't feel like writing at all, or even logging on to my own blog. But I promise to be better in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

If you want to see a comparison about how my life has changed, take a look at at the column of my previous posts and look at 2009- you'll find 700 entries for that year. Maybe I'll do 70 in 2011....if that.

To say that 2011 has been an emotional roller coaster of year is pretty accurate- and its only the end of March. The sages tell us to never stop learning, and that's what I'm doing, maybe learning lessons of a lifetime.

I got a real lesson from an old retired school teacher on Tuesday who's neurologist was about to tell him he probably had Alzheimer's Disease. Dad and I were sitting in the doctors office....and I was noticeably more nervous than he was. A nurse came in and took Dad's blood pressure and pulse. The guy will be 84 on Monday, and his BP was 120/65 and pulse was 72. "That's great" my Dad said to the nurse, and she said "Yes it is".

Then the the doctor came in and asked us how we were....."Great!", my Dad told him. "I've already got two pieces of good news!".

When we left the doctors office and were walking to the car Dad said to me, "Well it could of been worse. At least my heart and blood pressure are good".

And that's my Dad in nutshell, possibly the most optimistic man you'll ever meet. He's the guy who kept saying "Bowl game next year!" back in the 1990's when Rutgers football was a national joke, complete with an 0-11 season in 1997. And sadly, today he can barely remember details of any of the more recent games.

I left the neurologist's office that day with a bounce in my step because I felt so proud that this sunny and courageous man is my father. He's always been a great Dad, but even a better person. How can you not love someone like him.....and I do.

Then Dad and I took a ride across town to Nathan's where we pigged out on hot dogs and fries.....we deserved it.

So life has changed for the coming years, and so will this blog. We'll be open for business, but the hours will be reduced. So if you knock and nobody answers, its probably because I'm a little tied up.

But I'll be back ASAP.

Appreciate each and every day...........

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The anatomy of an $11 billion myth in New Jersey |

Hello again everyone. I'm back after taking a week off that was greatly needed. I'll be adding some new and original posting very soon, but first I'd like to link up this January 16 post from The Star Ledger's Tom Moran.

Be sure to read this prior to watching this Sunday's edition of Face The Nation when host Bob Schieffer will interview New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Moran's column explodes the myth that Christie reduced the state's deficit of $11 billion dollars. The real story, according to Moran, is that the deficit actually rose despite the draconian cuts made by the Christie administration and the deficit will be almost the same for the next fiscal year.

In a related story, yesterday about 3,000 public employees and other union members rallied in Trenton yesterday in a driving rainstorm with 35 mph winds to show support for public employees in Wisconsin. Some protesters displayed their anger at Christie, who along with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida's Rick Scott, and Ohio's John Kasich are at the forefront of an apparent assault on public employee unions' benefits and their right to collective bargain.

The anatomy of an $11 billion myth in New Jersey |

Friday, February 18, 2011

Blogging "On Hold" Until Further Notice

I just wanted to touch base with my readers and followers and first say "thanks" for helping this blog become a success.

But because of several non-life threatening health issues primarily dealing with my father I'm going on a hiatus from blogging for awhile. He's in no immediate danger or anything, but the issues I'm talking about require some extra time from me. At the present when I do find time to try and write something, "the flow" isn't really there and the effort is forced. And quite frankly, my writing has not been up to par. There's one thing I've learned in the two and a half years since I started this....if "it's not there", you can't force the issue. It's best to back away.

Maybe in awhile I'll share more about what's going on, but as of now we're in the process of connecting dots. And just maybe it can help others who may be in a similar situation.

Right now the story of the year is probably the situation in Wisconsin and other states regarding Republican governors versus public employee unions and their respective budgets. I'll chime in on the issue eventually (and guess who's side I'm on?), but now isn't really a good time.

I might be back in 24 hours ( odds; 3 to 1) or 24 days (50 to 1), so it will probably be sooner rather than later. And I will be logged on to check for comments, and the proverbial spammers, and see what my bloggie buds are doing.

Seeya later....I promise!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Real Journalists Get Canned While Glenn Beck Just Gets Rich(er)

Real journalists continue to lose their jobs as newspapers cut staff in record numbers. And while this is happening hucksters like Glenn Beck continue to make millions playing on ignorance and fear

About a week ago I was on a Rutgers football message board where I read the sad news of the laying off of Home News Tribune sports reporter/columnist Paul Franklin and reporter/ columnist Rick Malwitz due to cutbacks and consolidation by parent company Gannett Co, Inc. Combined, these two journalists must have had 60 years of experience between them, but were let go, as have thousands of other newspaper reporters and columnists as that industry struggles to transition itself into the information age.

I'm a self admitted dinosaur who still gets two newspapers a day, the HNT and the Star-Ledger. I find newspapers a guilty pleasure instead of a necessity- most news I get is from the internet, or TV, or radio. But I love the tactile sensation of reading a newspaper while having my morning coffee- nothing beats it. The local newspaper will give me information about local stories that most other sources will not, and because of that newspapers will probably never become totally obsolete. Newspapers had to reinvent themselves in the 1960's when satellites were launched that could beam down to the world news as it happened.....the newspaper, until then the primary source of news for most people, had to become more opinion based and targeted to certain readership in order to survive. And the big fish ate the little ones; the number of newspapers in the United States began to shrink. In New York the decade of the 1960's saw the demise of the century old The Daily Mirror, The Journal-American, The World-Telegram &Sun, and The Herald-Tribune. In New Jersey we lost The Newark Evening News and The Elizabeth Journal. The Perth Amboy Evening News morphed into The News Tribune and moved to Woodbridge, and it finally merged with The Daily Home News of New Brunswick to become The Home News Tribune in the 1990's.

And in the new century America's newspapers continue to consolidate and reorganize, merge or fold, and send hundreds of respected professional journalists to the ranks of the unemployed. Advertising revenues for the print industry continues to shrink, so payroll is slashed.

Paul Franklin reported and commented on local scholastic and collegiate sports for as as long as I could remember. Most recently he was a beat writer for Rutgers Women's Basketball, and previously reported and wrote commentary about RU football. He's a big, gray bearded gregarious guy who could be seen in press row for most of the last two decades at The RAC, and though he was always objective and professional, the reader knew that this man was a fan of the games he reported on. He did his homework, never wrote "rip pieces" in order to sell papers, and always seemed to get an angle to a story from locker room interviews from student athletes.

Paul was one of the best....I miss reading his reports and commentary already.

Rick Malwitz is a real Central Jersey guy, and wrote about the issues that affect us locally in civil, rational tones and never ventured into sloganeering and character assassination. I mentioned Rick in this blog last summer when he broke down the root cause of high property taxes in New Jersey in a way few politicians would dare; Rick used the late New Jersey legislator Alan Karcher's premise of the insane number of municipalities in the state the bottom line cause of New Jersey's property tax woes. No one ever spelled out and defined the "whys" of the situation like Rick Malwitz, no progressive or conservative, and no governor of this state.....including the current one.

With these two gentleman, it was about integrity and journalism, not demagoguery.

The Gannett Blog does a great job at detailing the ongoing saga of Gannett's downsizing and the reaction of those affected by the cuts. I highly recommend the blog, it's great reading, and please take time to read the dozens of comments.

Which brings me to FOX News, and the Websters definition of demagoguery......Glenn Beck.

And in the spirit of full disclosure I'll have to admit....I never watch the guy. But I do watch the clips of his crazy rantings, of "Islamic- socialist" alliances out to conquer the world, all at the behest of President Barack Obama. The man is making a fortune appealing to fear and prejudice, and playing on the almost total ignorance of world and national affairs of his audience. Beck has become a multi-millionaire though spewing misinformation to his viewers, and throwing a nightly pile of horsecrap at his audience to see what sticks.

I'm debating in my mind on a daily this man demented or evil, or a little of both. More on Beck can be found at blogger pal Leslie's Parsley's Pics.

And you wonder...where is the justice?

Beck makes millions spreading hate and fear....and Rick Malwitz and Paul Franklin are looking for jobs after decades of good, solid journalism.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hugh Jee Buys An iPod (Finally)- And The World Stops Spinning On It's Axis

I'm in sync!!!! Finally

And it feels good.....I think.

As of yesterday I still had a Christmas gift card from Tar-jay (and a few extra bucks) that was burning a hole in my Wrangler Relaxed Fits, so I decided to get myself a Valentine's gift. BTW.....Happy V-day, one and all.

After weeks of thinking about what to get with it, I decided against buying another camera or another guitar, and went boldly forward into the land of Apple, iTunes, and the wonderful world of digital music.

It was finally time to breakdown and buy an iPod.

Now, I'm admittedly an old dinosaur and have never even owned an MP3 player. When I want to hear music, I did it the old fashioned way....I threw on a CD, or listened to the radio.

And.....I utilized one last, somewhat antiquated piece of technology. I am the person who had the last fully functioning Sony Walkman Sports Edition in the Northern Hemisphere. It served me well from the last century, and it was part of my life since 1991. Forget that it was fragile, always needed new batteries, had crummy radio reception, and was the color of a taxicab from was a friend for nearly 20 years.

And sadly, last October, before the Rutgers- Army game, my friend passed on to that great Technology Graveyard in the sky, joining my late and lamented Toshiba Word Processor and a couple of hundred 8 track tapes. I never even knew my Walkman was ill until it just stopped working- it wouldn't pick up a radio station or play a cassette tape.

I still haven't scheduled a funeral for it.

About three or four weeks ago I was watching one of the local TV morning news shows, and the topic was outdated stuff from the past, like "the mullet", VCR's, Atari games.....and the Walkman. And it wasn't until that moment that I realized how totally un-twenty-first century I was. A Sony Walkman? I'm surprised kids didn't come up to me at football games and ask, "Hey mister.....what's in that big yellow thing that your listening to?".

So yesterday I finally took the plunge.....I looked at the iPod Classic but was not about to shell out over $200 for a piece of technology I was sure I would destroy accidentally, or at best confuse the hell out of me. The Shuffle seemed to be limited in what you could do with it, and it didn't have very much storage space for music.

So I decided on the iPod Nano (6th Generation) with the touch screen, It had 8GB of space and didn't seem too daunting or intimidating....and the price was right. With the gift card and a store discount, my total cost with tax was just over $100. Not bad.

I took Nano home yesterday afternoon, opened the small plastic box she was in and followed the directions from Apple that said START HERE.....I registered Nano, and opened an iTunes account. I found out later that you should let it charge for three hours (after checking out the manual online), but that little tidbit slipped through the cracks in the instructions that came with Nano. It really didn't hurt anything, and I continued on my merry way. It was time to add some music to the mix.

It was then that I had to come to terms with the term "sync".....iTunes found every music file on my computer, even some old samples that came with it at purchase, and stuff I downloaded years ago and had forgotten about. But what I really wanted to do is take an old playlist I had on an external harddrive and copy it to Nano. And that's where the fun began. I found out just how un-techy I really am.

What came next was about four hours of trial and error, ERROR being the operative word. I had to figure out how to get music from Point A to Point B, in order to listen to it on Point C. There were 15 files I wanted to why does TUNNEL OF LOVE by Springsteen and PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM by Elton John show up, and nothing else? And why is Elton on there twice?

And why are these icons shaking back and forth? Are they being arrogant or something? Why did the screen just go black? Did I break the freakin' thing on the first day?

To hell with it! Go to POPEYES! Get chickened out!

So I had dinner....sat down, calmed down.....and I finally figured it out!

Oh.....I have to check the box EACH TIME I make a change, or else the other music doesn't sync to the Nano! Gotcha!

So I figured it out....very proudly. I added the files. And then I stated to copy some old CD's to Nano.

Adding Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers....Humble Pie....Led Zeppelin.....Heart....Fairport Convention....the Rolling Stones....the Eagles.....and of course, Bruce.

Yes...the 21st century. But it's obvious from some of my musical choices that my heart and head are still "back in the day".

So I was able to add about eight albums and an additional 15 song files on the first day, and I put on SHUFFLE...the touchscreen is so cool....and listened to music in bed before dozing off. But before going to sleep I thought about music, and what it used to be, and what it used to mean. Yeah, the Nano is great, and it's an amazing bit of technology. But I thought about a generation of young people who have known nothing but the downloading of songs and have no idea what it was like back in the days of vinyl, when a new record by the Beatles or Bob Dylan was cultural event.

I remember going to stores and buying those new releases, and then tearing off the cellophane, carefully holding the record by the edges (as not to get fingerprints on the tracks), and placing it on the turntable....never used an auto changer, because they might scratch the record on the bottom. In those days my collection looked like William's in the film Almost Famous; when I saw that movie I said to myself "That kid's got my old record collection!"....Joe Cocker, Joni Mitchell, Hendrix, The Dead, Joplin.

You'd listen to the music with friends....sometimes with "recreational substances"....and read the lyrics from the album liner or jacket. And you'd check out the credits as well. It was always interesting to find out who played on what track, and what instrument they played, and if there were any guest artists on the track.

Yep, I'm getting old and nostalgic. But sometimes I feel that in those days the music seemed to matter more, and there was more interest in who made it and how. I love the new technology, but sometimes when we go forward, we often lose something in the process.

The soapbox is now closed.

Friday, February 11, 2011

They Didn't Need A Second Amendment Remedy To Topple A Tyrant In Egypt

The 30 year regime of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak ended with his resignation today after 18 days of protests became a revolution; the strongman resigned his presidency with the tens of thousands of protesters never firing a shot. Today, the government has been turned over to the military, but Mubarak is out, and Egypt and Egyptians around the world are celebrating as if it were Mardi Gras and a Super Bowl win rolled into one.

And I could never be prouder of a people....a commitment to topple despotism with non violent protests worked. No guns or bombs were needed, no American flags were burned while crowds screamed about "The Great Satan", and the world watched in anticipation of what would happen next. And they got it done.

After the bungling of the Iraq war by the Bush administration when no weapons of mass destruction were found the Bushies and neocons shopped around for a new reason for the war; that aim became freedom for the Iraqi people. At last count 4,754 Americans and allies have been killed, as have tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, at a cost of $773 billion to a nation fighting it's way out of a devastating recession. We have fought and had a presence in Iraq since 2003.

It took 18 days for the people of Egypt to decide ENOUGH and end 30 years of one man rule.

Last night I thought about the vague speech Mubarak gave concerning stepping down....and it appeared he had no intention of doing so. You know that small, still voice we have within? It started jabbering to Mahatma Gandhi, as portrayed by Ben Kingsley. It was the sequence when Gandhi appeared before representatives of the British government, and told them they must leave. The British commander asked Gandhi why should the forces of Imperial Britain leave India.....Gandhi told the man "Because we will not co-operate with you. And there is no way you can force 100 million people to co-operate if they don't wish to".

And that was the beginning of the end of British rule in the Indian subcontinent. The government knew Gandhi was right; the alternative was to fill the nation's prisons with protesters, and then face the prospect of protests involving those who were arrested.

India became a free and independent democracy largely thorough non violent civil disobedience and through non violent assembly.

History repeated itself in Germany in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell; and 1994 in South Africa when apartheid went on history's scrap heap; Poland, Indonesia, Romania, Tunisia.....and in America's South, when Jim Crow was no more.

And of course, the big one....the fall of the Soviet Union

Today, the people of Egypt have risen, and seized their destiny.

They didn't need to assemble with automatic weapons and confront troops with "second amendment remedies", a solution suggested by Far Right American politicians to "take America back".

I'm still trying to figure out...."Take it back? From whom".

I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest. The teachings of Thoreau came alive in our civil rights movement; indeed, they are more alive than ever before. Whether expressed in a sit-in at lunch counters, a freedom ride into Mississippi, a peaceful protest in Albany, Georgia, a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, these are outgrowths of Thoreau's insistence that evil must be resisted and that no moral man can patiently adjust to injustice
                                                                             Martin Luther King, on Henry David Thoreau

God bless the Egyptian people.

This is, indeed, a great day.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Keith Olbermann Heads to Al Gore's Current TV | Fancast News

Breaking news!!!!

KO to "get Current".

A very interesting move. More news to come.

Keith Olbermann Heads to Al Gore's Current TV | Fancast News

Monday, February 7, 2011

Declaring This "A Former Half Term Governor of Alaska Free Blog"!!!

Last week I posted two entries about Bristol Palin's mother, and after doing so I tossed and turned in bed and asked myself....."Why am I wasting my time on a person who knows so little about so much?" And I thought about getting out of bed, getting online, and declaring this an "SP free" blog for the immediate future.

But I didn't. And I should have.

I think the last straw was the botching of "the Sputnik Moment", and Greta Van Susteren giving her a pass on her ignorance during an interview on Fox News after President Obama's State of the Union message. And then came my moment of clarity....few Republicans or conservatives will publicly challenge her lack of knowledge on even the most basic concepts. And those on the left who criticize her are immediately labeled the enemy and the elites by the former Guv and her supporters.

So, again, I asked myself....why bother trying to shine a light on her ignorance to people who can't handle the truth, and keep on preaching to the choir again and again?

Earlier today, I mentioned my thoughts on Sue's blog in her comments section. I was feeling the effects of being Momma Grizzed out

And strangely....I wasn't alone. Little did I know Dana Milbank of The Washington Post had declared on January 21st that he was making February an "SP" free month. It seems that Milbank has written a whopping 42 articles or blogs about Momma Grizzly and has started feeling guilty about it.

Think about it. Every time any media pundit, journalist, talking head, or blogger mentions her she gets free publicity. And as it turns out, I'm as guilty as the next guy- between September 2008 and January 2011 this blog has tagged the former half term governor of Alaska 81 times!!!!!

Yeah, it shocked me too.

Dana Milibank has organized a campaign to make February an "SP" free month. And as I just TWEETED moments ago....I'm in!  Better late than never.

Momma mas!!!!

Well.... at least through February....then go through Lent and on to Easter.

Let's take this one step at a time.

(Oh what the hell...I'll tag her! For old time's sake).

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Arizona, Idaho, and the Ghost of John C. Calhoun

Pictured- John C. Calhoun, former US Senator from South Carolina and Vice President of the United States

I'm no lawyer, nor have I ever played one on TV or even in community theater, but it's time for me to get up on the soapbox.............ready or not.

While American state legislatures spend their time ratifying ridiculous bans on the implementation of Sharia Laws inside the United States.....(wouldn't there have to be a Muslim majority in this country before it was even a remote possibility?)....and other wedge issues like gay marriage, there is a more serious matter going on in certain states. And it's an issue that though not resolved by our Civil War in the 19th century we assumed would most assuredly be resolved by the Constitution's 14th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, and 24th amendments. Those amendments referred to the voting rights of former slaves, minorities, women, residents of the District of Columbia, and of poll taxes used to deny or hinder the vote of those mentioned by the individual states.

Those amendments insured full citizenship to all Americans and were used to supersede state and local laws that would restrict voting rights to those mentioned- and in the case of citizens of the District of Columbia, Washingtonians were finally given the right to vote with implementation of the 23rd Amendment.

In the post Civil War and Reconstruction eras Southern states passed "Jim Crow" laws to prevent African Americans from voting, using the pretense of "state's rights" to keep the law of the land being applied in those states. "State's rights" had been the creed for individual states, primarily in the South, to ignore or even nullify what they saw as an intrusion into the affairs of states....more often than not this had to do with a federal mandate that wasn't popular in that state, and in the early 19th century that often meant laws limiting the growth of slavery. But often taxes and tariffs took the spotlight in that era.

And today in the 21st century we're seeing a new phase of proposed nullification of federal laws in certain states, some a result of opposition to federal healthcare reform, derisively referred to as "Obamacare" by it's opponents. But in Arizona and Idaho there are movements under way for their respective state legislatures to nullify all federal laws that may be deemed invalid or an overreach by the federal government, at the discretion of those state legislatures.

Reactions like those in Idaho and Arizona are almost as old as the republic itself. The Nullification Crisis of 1832 was the most famous instance in our history. Below, the story of the crisis from US

The Tariff of 1832, despite pleas from Southern representatives, failed to moderate the protective barriers erected in earlier legislation. South Carolina called a state convention that nullified the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 within their borders and threatened to secede if the federal government attempted to collect those tariff duties. Robert Hayne (of Webster-Hayne Debate fame) had resigned from the Senate to run for governor of South Carolina; John C. Calhoun resigned the vice presidency and took Hayne’s seat in the Senate. These two men spearheaded the nullification drive. A real possibility of secession and war existed.

Jackson immediately offered his thought that nullification was tantamount to treason and quickly dispatched ships to Charleston harbor and began strengthening federal fortifications there. Congress supported the president and passed a Force Bill in early 1833 which authorized Jackson to use soldiers to enforce the tariff measures.

Meanwhile Henry Clay again took up his role as the Great Compromiser. On the same day the Force Bill passed, he secured passage of the Tariff of 1833. This latter measure provided for the gradual reduction of the tariff over 10 years down to the level which had existed in 1816. This compromise was acceptable to Calhoun who had not been successful with finding any other state to support him on nullification. Jackson signed both measures.

South Carolina repealed its nullification measure, but then spitefully nullified the Force Bill. Jackson wisely ignored that action.

I'm sure no one is accusing members of the Arizona and Idaho legislatures of treason, but it's easy to see that those who propose nullification are shortsighted in their perspective, and to be blunt, have a very narrow grasp on American history.

In Idaho Tea Party members are urging the passage of House Bill 59 which would allow the state to deem federal laws "null and void". Below, a notice from Tea Party Boise (originally printed in The Miami Herald).

"This is the line in the sand. On one side is federal tyranny — on the other side is freedom. What do you choose? If it is freedom — then be at the Capital (sic) on Feb. 7th."

In Arizona, a proposal from Republican State Senator Lori Klein would set up a panel of 12 lawmakers to review federal laws and mandates, and decide if the laws are "outside the scope of the powers delegated by the people to the federal in the United States Constitution."

Below, a statement from Senator Klein (from

"We're not seceding. We're looking at nullifying laws coming from the federal government that are mandates that are not constitutional."

The defiance of federal law in the 19th century inflamed the open wounds that were already there and led to armed conflict in 1861. Being part of this union we call the United States of America is kind of like being either are, or you aren't.

It's the "United States is", not the "United States are".

Let's say state legislators decide they don't agree with the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and decide not to allow gays to serve in the state's national guard?

Or in a national emergency a military draft is instituted....and certain states don't wish to allow their citizens to be drafted?

And if a state is free to nullify federal law without ramification, what is to stop the states from conversely instituting laws that are contrary to federal law, like an intelligence test for voting, or restricting full citizenship to American born children of undocumented immigrants?

If nullification of federal law is allowed to stand, then we fought a Civil War for nothing, and a century's worth of of domestic progress would be in jeopardy.

Maybe the adage is true.....we've seen the enemy, and it is us.

But we do have a constitutional mechanism in our system to resolve situations like's called "the courts".

Once again....thank you, Founding Fathers.

Below, video of Lawrence O'Donnell on THE LAST WORD, with take on the new "Nullification Crisis".

Friday, February 4, 2011

On Super Sunday I'd Like Barack Obama To Ask Bill O'Reilly The Following Question

As most of you must know by now, Sunday is "The Big Game"'s not clear whether I can type the word that rhymes with "Duper Dole" without being busted for some kind of copyright infringement, and being required to write a check to the National Football League for more money than I have.

At any rate, prior to the game President Obama will be interviewed by FOX NEWS contributor and "#1 New York Times Bestselling Author"....(I thought the guys on FOx hated The Times).... Bill O'Reilly.

I won't speculate on the nature or outcome of  the interview itself, but there is one thing I'd really like to see on Sunday. Hopefully the President of the United States will have a copy of O'Reillly's latest book. With any luck, the conversation will go like this.

Obama; "Bill, before you go on to your next question there is one thing I'd like to ask you."

O'Reilly;" What's that, Mr. President?".

Obama;" Well, your last book has a picture of me on the left on it's cover, and you on the right (he holds up a copy). The name of your book is Pinheads and Patriots. We're the only two people pictured on the cover. My question to you is....which one of us is 'the pinhead', and which is 'the patriot' ?".

And wouldn't 50 million people love to hear the answer to that one?

Sigh.....oh, to live in a perfect world.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Egypt In Crisis

When I was young I often asked the question of my parents, "How was some one as evil as Hitler ever able to get control of a country like Germany." No one was able to give me an adequate answer. In fact, it took many years before I found a cultural touchstone to illustrate in almost textbook form how a dictator gains control of a people, and how he is able to hold them under a crushing boot.

That example was the Star Wars prequels, of all things. To those one or two of you who are not into the universe of Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi as created by George Lucas, one of the secondary characters was Chancellor Palpatine, who's real identity was Darth Sidious, a Sith and the sworn enemy of the Jedi knighthood.

Palpatine gained power as a trusted lawmaker of the Galactic Republic, who behind the scenes clandestinely forged alliances with various enemies of the Republic and pitted one side against another, creating crisis after crisis in which he would emerge as the Republic's savior. In the climactic third film of the prequel Palpatine was able to seize control of the government and declare himself the first Emperor of the Galactic Empire, and order the destruction of the Jedi.

No one has been able to illustrate the birth of a dictatorship than this pop cultural phenomenon. Lucas used Hitler's rise as a template for Palpatine, but he just as easily could have used Julius Caesar, Lenin, or Napoleon; all seized power in a similar way. They arose in the midst of chaos....some or all of it their own making....and emerged as the strongman. Where there once was a republic and self determination, there became a dictatorship or the creation of an empire, with a new emperor to call the shots.

I remained quiet about the situation in Egypt for the past week, but like just about everyone else I have been following the crisis on the 24 hour news stations. That is, until the plug was pulled first on the internet (since restored) and then the recent crackdown and harassment of foreign journalists that has seemed to reach a new level today.

For the past week protesters have demanded the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, the US ally who's ruled with an iron fist for 30 years. Tomorrow, Friday February 4, is the deadline demanded by the hundreds of thousands of anti- government protesters in Cairo. Though Mubarak has promised not to run again for the presidency, the protesters want him out now.

Yesterday pro-government goons were turned on the peaceful protesters, turning Cairo into a battle zone. The scene yesterday resembled a hybrid from LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DR> ZHIVAGO, with men on horseback and camels riding into crowds of protesters, brandishing swords, machetes, clubs, and iron bars while the army stood by and watched. Later Molotov cocktails and other incendiary bombs were hurled into the crowd. In the words of NBC's Ron Allen, as I type this, the situation in Cairo has become "an armed conflict".

And today there were attacks on foreign journalist, and arrests. Katie Couric was harassed by a mob, Anderson Cooper was punched, Lara Logan "detained", with dozens of similar incidents to other foreign journalists and news crews. No pictures are coming out of Cairo, and most journalists are calling in their stories in from hidden locations, their lives being in jeopardy. Some journalists have been accused of being agents of the United States, or of other Western nations, and some have been called spies for Israel.

Since yesterday 13 people have been killed and 1,200 have been injured.

Over the weekend Richard Engel of NBC news was on MEET THE PRESS. Engel intimated that Mubarak just might try to exploit the crisis to have a government crackdown. He'd allow anarchy to take hold of the streets of Cairo and throughout Egypt, and then use military force to restore order. Though President Obama has called for a peaceful resolution to the crisis- hinting that it's time for Mubarak to step down- Mubarak appears to be defiant. The conventional wisdom is that the genie is out of the bottle, and it is indeed over for Hosni Mubarak.

What's next is anyone's guess. With hope, Egypt can emerge as a modern secular Muslim state like Turkey, Indonesia, or Algeria, and do so relatively peacefully. But then there is the other extreme....another Beirut or Tehran from a generation ago, with a similar outcome.

One thing is certain......we are closer to the beginning of this story than we are to it's end.

Let's pray and hope for a peaceful transition, and a move to a true democracy......and progression rather than regression.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Sarah Palin- Tea Party Battle Hymn

To close out the month of January.....with a civil unrest in Egypt, healthcare reform under attack from courts, the lingering images of the Tucson massacre, and much too much snow.....let's say "GOOD RIDDANCE!" to this nasty month with a laugh or two.

Below, from The Young Turks, Cenk Uygur prsents a couple who've written a battle hymn for Sarah Palin and the Tea Party that must be seen and heard to be believed.

See you next month!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

40 Years Ago On This Date A Kid From Jersey Joined The Air Force

lackland afb Pictures, Images and Photos

January 29, 1971 was a cold day in New Jersey, around 18 degrees in the morning. I packed light for my trip to Texas. I was beginning a new job; in a few hours I would be a federal employee, performing a similar job my father once had, and his father before him. I would be flying, but I had no need for a ticket; the taxpayers of the United States were picking up the tab. But first I had to get to the Federal Building in Newark. That's where I was to sworn in; in a few short hours life as I knew it would be gone forever, as would the adolescence I managed to hang onto as even after I had turned 20.

Because shortly after lunchtime I would cease to be Joe Civilian and would be known from that point, and for several years until I gained the rank of sergeant, as Airman. I was to take the oath and sworn in as a member of the United States Air Force, and before the day was out I would be in my new home, a barracks somewhere at Lackland Air Force Base, just outside of San Antonio, Texas.

I was too young and too foolish to be scared- I only felt a sense of relief that at long last all of the questions about would I or would I not be drafted would be over . No, I was not drafted.....but the specter of the draft made me choose the Air Force. I was joining by choice, but with more than a little nudging. My draft lottery number was 40, which meant I would probably receive a draft notice within the next two months. I had taken a pre-induction physical by orders of Selective Service two weeks before. Even though I was, and still am, incredibly nearsighted I could tell by watching what was happening around me of what was to come- I would be classified "1A", meaning I was able to serve.

It would just be a matter of time before I received a letter that said GREETINGS!

The problem was I really didn't want to go in the Army. There was this conflict you might have heard of in Vietnam, still raging in 1971 with no real end in sight. Truth be told, I was one of those long haired hippie types who knew what kind of guitars Neil Young and Stephen Stills played, but couldn't tell an M-16 from an MG. And besides, I had some authority issues as well- I flunked out of one college (maybe I should have gone to class), and dropped out of another.

So....I was draft bait. Uncle Sam wanted me....and to be honest, I was going reluctantly. And I'll bottomline this as best I can without getting into all of the late Sixties rhetoric. I hated the war in Vietnam; I bought the whole song and dance about saving Vietnam from Communism while I was in high school.....but in April of my senior year Martin Luther King was murdered. And in June, Robert F. Kennedy's life ended from Sirhan Sirhan's bullets. And my illusions of the life in America began to change in that turbulent year of 1968. I loved my country, then and now. But the land that I saw as a child as perfect had- in my eyes- some very serious flaws.

My mantra became "Save Vietnam, so they can be like us? And have leaders murdered almost routinely?". It was a time of civil unrest, well documented. Nineteen sixty-eight was a heck of year to be sent off into adulthood.

Anyway, while at my pre-induction physical, and knowing I was mere weeks away from being drafted, our whole group of "pre-inductees" were in a holding area where we saw new recruits being processed into the US military. We watched a group of guys coming in thinking they were being drafted into the Army; they were told to count off in three's. When they were done, the Army sergeant processing them told all of the three's to step forward and move across the room. After they followed his order the sergeant told them, "Congratulations....all of you men are going to be Marines".

We watched this cautionary tale before our eyes, and some of us looked at the far end of holding area; there were recruiters for the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force in little cubicles. We were still in our underwear, holding the final paperwork from our pre-induction physicals. One guy sitting next me said, "That's it, I'm seeing if I can get in the Navy". I thought he made a good choice. And with little hesitation I took a walk to the Air Force recruiter and asked him if they were still taking volunteers. My entire thought process of thinking about joining the Air Force and actually doing it was about 30 seconds. I don't think I've ever made a life changing decision so split second before or since.

After I turned my medical papers over to the sergeant at the desk, he asked, "Do you want to go next week?"

" about in two weeks?", I countered.

"Sure....we need you to fill out some more paperwork". And I obliged.

And.....that was that. I had to come back the following Saturday and take some aptitude tests, but that was it. I was going into the Air Force.

Now....some may ask, if I hated the war so much why didn't I resist the draft or go to Canada?

Very simply.....I hated the war. I didn't hate my country. My country frustrated me, sometimes it made me angry....but people and things we love usually have a way of doing that. Going to jail to make a point may be the right thing for some people, but it was not my way. and as for going to Canada to avoid the draft....I never considered it. If I had gone into a self imposed Canadian exile in my own heart and soul I would have forfeited my voice forever; in good conscience, I could not do it. Go ahead and serve, just like Dad and Grandpa did during the World Wars, and I would have paid my dues. I had a right to be heard. I am an American, and in the future no one could silence me if I didn't wish to be silenced.

And so two weeks later, Mom and Dad tearfully drove me to Newark, where I said my goodbyes as stiff-lippedly as I could- I hated to watch my Mom cry. And after lunch at the Federal Building we freshly minted US airmen got on a bus to Newark Airport, where we got on an old Braniff Airlines 727- each one was painted a different color; no wonder they went broke. During the flight to San Antonio we hit an airpocket; the beautiful blond flight attendant fell into my lap momentarily. She apologized, and I smiled but couldn't think of a clever thing to say. Little did I know she would be the last woman I would come in contact with that closely for many a month.

At San Antonio it was close to 70 degrees in the evening...remember, this was January. We bussed from the airport to Lackland AFB under the direction of Sgt. Sawed Off, a little guy with glasses and a squeaky voice. There was about a dozen of us from New Jersey; soon we were joined by about twenty guys from Brooklyn, and some from Ohio, and to keep it interesting, about ten more from Mississippi. These were the 50 men I would be with during basic training....we stood on a drill pad where we met our "TI's" (Training Instructors)....let's call them Tech Sgt Face Like Clenched Fist and Staff Sgt Gold Tooth. Gold Tooth did all the talking. After introducing themselves Gold Tooth gave us our first order.

"From now on the first and last words out of your mouth when addressing me or any Training Instructor will be 'Sir!' Now, you hogs have ten minutes to get get all beards, moustaches and sideburns shaved, get your filthy asses in that dorm....RIGHT NOW!"

Now....there were 50 of us in the latrine scrambling for space to shave in the five sinks. One guy, Bill from Brooklyn, shaved so fast and sloppily that he had what looked like a Hitler moustache over his lip, but it was really a scab. It was a Friday night and we wouldn't officially begin training until Monday. We'd spend one last weekend in our civvies, sleeping in an open bay barracks. Gold Tooth got us out of bed at 5:00 AM the next day; first the light went on, and if you didn't move Gold Tooth flipped the bed over with you in it.

He only had to do it once; there were no repeat offenders.

Monday we got our heads shaved and were issued uniforms, and training began. I can remember some details of those days like it happened last week, and I can recall the smells, and tastes, and emotions, and even how the weather was for duration- it was Texas in the winter, temperatures ranged from highs in the 70's to near freezing.

I remember how the chow hall smelled outside on those chilly mornings; you could smell the bacon and hotcakes from 100 yards away.

And on the Monday we got our heads shaved we left the barbershop and were to march over to the uniform distribution center. We were supposed to get in the same formation behind the same guy we marched in with. The problem is, everybody looked different without any hair. The only way I found the guy who I was supposed to behind in formation was to look for the strange red birthmark he had on the back of his neck. I found him, but it took awhile.

I remember a kid from New York named Leroy who was dry shaved by Gold Tooth because he had too much stubble.

And there was mail call....and those letters from home that always made your day.

There was the first base liberty we had after two weeks of training- we were given $30 and freedom to go around the base (with certain limits) for a Saturday. I remember going to a hamburger stand, and ordering a chocolate shake after two weeks of nothing but Air Force chow and only Air Force chow....I never missed something so much in my life as I did those chocolate shakes. My God it tasted good. It was perfect.

There was Sgt Screech, who subbed for Gold Tooth one day, and got into my face, informing me that I marched like I have a corn cob shoved up my ass.

One cold morning that winter Tech Sgt. Face Like A Clenched Fist told us that Joe Frazier beat Muhammad Ali the previous night in Madison Square Garden. The whole world was watching that fight....everybody except basic trainees that is.

Then... I got the flu, and was laid up for 48 hours. I ended up missing M-16 training, which I had to make up before leaving Lackland. I had to spend an extra week there to make up "wet fire" on the range. And surprise...I qualified as a marksman.

I started going to chapel on Sundays because there were WAF's there. I had to reassure myself that women were still part of the human race; those six other days I hadn't seen a woman, and of course we had no TV or radio.

In March we were allowed to go into San Antonio on a 12 hour pass. It was St. Patrick's Day, and the river was dyed green...but were expressly forbidden from even thinking about buying a drink. It was our final week of training, and there were military police all over town watching and waiting for recruits to step out of line.

While in San Antonio on the Riverwalk, I saw an Army Sergeant a few yards away. He had a lot of fruit salad on his uniform, and appeared to be a combat vet. He turned and looked in my direction.....half his face had been melted away by napalm. That horribly scarred face has been locked in my memory banks all of these forty years. I wonder what ever became of the guy.

Lackland was the beginning of my military adventure. I never was sent to Vietnam. After Lackland I was stationed at Sheppard AFB near Wichita Falls, TX for a few months, then it was on to Hill AFB near Ogden, UT (onetime home of Donnie and Marie) for two years and then RAF Lakenheath, a British base in East Anglia leased by the US Air Force.....I was there for my final two years.

I saw a lot of the United States, and the world. And like most aspects of life there was good and bad, but for the most part there was more good than bad. But what I remember most of those days were the people, the guys who I befriended, some of whom exposed me to books and ideas I was previously unaware of, and of their own uniqueness. There were some great people, incredible parties, and a live for today attitude.....the phone could ring, and we could be told at any moment to get ready, we're being reassigned to Southeast Asia.

There are stories of those many.

But that mind have to wait for another cold snow day when I feel like sharing some "war stories"....well, sort of.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sarah Palin, Sputnik and a REAL "WTF" Moment

On MORNING JOE (on MSNBC) Joe, Mika, Willie and guests watched a clip of Greta Van Susteren's interview of Sarah Palin critiquing President Obama's State of the Union Address, complete with her use of the acronym "WTF" to describe areas of his speech. I'm pretty sure she knows what it means- and it's not "Winning The Future". Surely Palin probably got some yucks from the knuckleheads who think she should run for president in 2012. But what was really interesting was Palin's response to the term "Sputnik Moment", meaning that event that challenges America to get up, be more competitive, excel, and win, just like the US did after the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957 and America entered and eventually won the space race.

Hmmmm. That answer kind of reminded me of something I saw years ago. From another former pageant contestant.

Anyway....back to the original subject.

Wouldn't it have been merciful to all who still care about Sarah Palin to have Greta Van Susteren just stop Palin in the middle of her gibberish and say....."Governor Palin, you really have no idea what a 'Sputnik Moment' refers to, do you?".

But I guess the Fox News audience would have turned on Van Susteren, called her a "RINO", and demand her firing.

I guess Uncle Pat Buchanan deserves some high marks, however. At least he had the good sense as not to try to spin her words.....and the reaction from the MORNING JOE regulars was priceless.

One more time......this woman knows NOTHING.

The Official Mid Winter Cabin Fever Is Killing Me Entry

Above- the view of my street after 14 inches of snow fell in Central New Jersey last night. It's only January and already it's made it to #6 snowiest winter of all time in the NYC Metro area

I used to kid my brother who now lives in northern Ohio about living in a snow belt, with lake effect snows and even days when it's so cold snow comes down with no clouds in the sky.

So I suppose there's some reverse karma at work right now....the New Brunswick area is starting to look like Ashtabula. But we were among the luckier ones; we never lost power (6,500 residents did) and my cousin in Clifton got socked with 19 inches of the white stuff.

Yesterday we had two separate storms, the first of which was 4 inches of wintry mix that began in the wee hours of Wednesday and ended in the early afternoon. Then it was the main event, a Nor'easter that had ripped through Florida early in the week and churned up the coast with warm air hitting cold air in the Mid-Atlantic, causing "thunder snow" (see previous post) and freezing rain that felt and sounded like a tropical storm, then a changeover to a heavy, wet snow that downed trees, powerlines, and made travel impossible in these parts. Central Park in New York recorded 19 inches of snow and passed the 30 inch mark for the month; this was the snowiest January in New York's recorded history.

And we've got two more months of winter to go.....Groundhog Day can't come fast enough. Please Phil, give us some good news!

Everyone who reads this blog regularly knows I'm no youngster....heck, I still own a SONY WALKMAN (and it still works). And I'm starting to feel the physical ravages of removing snow two and three times a week.

But I must admit....snow sure can be beautiful, even awe inspiring. And it's more aesthetically pleasing than gray skies, brown lawns, and bare trees.

Here's some pics from the first few minutes prior to the beginning of snow removal.

The back patio. Check out the picnic table

The deck in the back garden

The back door, freshly dug out!

The view from the top of the driveway before I started removing snow. At the end of the driveway is a five foot tall wall of snow, courtesy of a township snowplow.

The Old Homestead

Somewhere under that four foot pile of snow are daffodil bulbs hoping to make an appearance sometime in 2011.
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