Thursday, July 30, 2009


The Racial Beer Summit at the White House is enough to make me queasy.

At a time when our economy is falling in upon itself, a quarter of a million homes a month are being foreclosed on, healthcare is in crisis, we are (although we seem to simply ignore it) still fighting two wars, and doing piss-poorly in both of them, our cities and states are running out of money for basic public services and everything sort of seems to be diving headlong into the proverbial shitter – In times like these the President of the United States is having a Harvard professor and a local cop over for beer and a chat. Why?

Because of this… Like it or not, these are the facts, just the facts, sans all the interpretations:

1. In broad daylight, a fifty-seven year old man, a man who needs a cane to walk upright, returning from a visit to China, was seen “pushing” his way through a door that was apparently stuck. He made no attempt to hide or disguise his efforts. He was trying to get into his own home – not yours, not mine and not someone else’s – his own home!

2. Somebody called the cops.

3. When a policeman arrived on the scene the old man was already inside his home. For him, whatever difficulty and drama the situation had presented was over.

4. The policeman announced himself and asked for some identification from the professor – who was, remember, inside his own home by now.

5. The old man showed the cop two pieces of identification, at least one containing his photograph. The ID clearly showed that the house he was in belonged to him – He lived there! One of the IDs told the cop the old man was a teacher at the local neighborhood school – Harvard.

6. The cop called for six backup cops to assist him. Six! The professor was then arrested for violating a local Disorderly Conduct statute. He was placed in handcuffs and taken into custody.

Those are the facts. Yes, other things happened as well – allegedly – not necessarily and perhaps not ever to be established as facts. Unkind words may have been exchanged between the professor and the policeman. Someone’s “Mama” may, or may not, have been mentioned. The professor, from within his own home, may or may not have been “cooperative” with the policeman.

If we allow – for the purpose of discussion – that all of the claims by the policeman regarding the behavior of the professor are accurate, might that have justified his eventual arrest? Let’s say the professor spoke in a nasty manner to the cop. Let’s also say he refused, at first, to cooperate. Let’s also remember – he was inside his own home and the cop was an uninvited visitor. Could the cop have still arrested him? Well, only if the policeman in question didn’t know anything about Disorderly Conduct laws he was enforcing, only if you believe that a cop’s “personal reasons” why somebody ought to be arrested should be applied to the official enforcement of law and order.

Let’s look at just a couple of additional facts – facts that are well known to those who work in law enforcement.

- It is not illegal to talk unkindly to policemen. “Yes sir – No sir” is not required by law when communicating with cops.

- One cannot be disorderly in a manner that violates the law when one is in one’s own home. There is no Disorderly Conduct law in effect anywhere that allows for an arrest in this situation.

- According to the facts as we know them, the professor could not have committed any behavior legally considered to be disorderly so long as the only people present were the professor and the policeman and so long as they were inside the professor’s home.

Since that is the law, how then did this escalate to where the cop arrested the professor? Why did he do it?

One final fact to consider:
The professor is a black man. The cop is not. He is white.

Some people think that doesn’t matter. Some think that race plays no role in these situations. Some believe it’s only the media that plays up the racial angle. Some people – including the cop involved here – have denied that race was ever a factor.

Fair enough – What do you think? Try asking yourself this question:

If the Harvard professor had been an old white man with a cane, and the cop had been black… do you think events would have developed as they did and do you really believe that the two of them would be having a beer in the White House with the President of the United States?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


We are driven to be informed. To know what’s going on in the world.

We have it all, don’t we? Newspapers, magazines, cable television, the vast Internet... And yet, what is the point?

What's the point to all this when there is my own work to do – my latest novel and my next (and certainly not forever to do it...) - and so much that I haven't read that would really be worthwhile reading?

Am I spending my time (do we have anything else?) well?

For example - this morning I woke up at 6:30, went downstairs and put on a pot of coffee, then walked out to the driveway to pickup my home delivery copy of The New York Times. So, here I was with The Times, the TV (Morning Joe on MSNBC) and a fresh brewed cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. How good is that? Pretty good, but not as good as you might think.

The news was all about Sonia Sotomayor (who is a dead-lock to be confirmed… so where’s the “news” part?), last night's MLB All-Star game (a meaningless and silly exhibition), some feeble attempt by the GOP to introduce their own healthcare plan, and a mention or two of Dick Cheney's maybe/maybe not-coup he cooked up with the CIA… eight years ago!

Of course, all of this was presented as being "VERY IMPORTANT STUFF."

And then it happened. I saw “What Really Matters.”

I read where Goldman-Sachs turned in a Second Quarter profit of $3.44 billion. $3.44 BILLION! Yes, this is the same Goldman-Sachs that was about to "go under" last fall and about to take the Civilized World with it plummeting into a deep, dark hole, flushing ourselves and “Life As We Know It” down the cosmic toilet. To prevent such a catastrophe, billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars were funneled to the Overlords at Goldman-Sachs to "save them." Aren't we all glad we did that? Whew! My God, what might have happened? Some of them might have lost their jobs, their healthcare coverage, even their homes. We couldn’t let that happen. Who do we think they are – those wonderful Americans who are Goldman-Sachs – autoworkers?

Thank The Lord we took our money and instead of saving it for our retirement or our kid’s college, we gave it to them, to save them. Now the good folks at Goldman-Sachs tell us that in the 65 working days of April-May-June 2009... a period of economic disaster for so many Americans, times so bad they have been unknown since the Great Depression more than 75 years ago... in those 65 days Goldman-Sachs pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and made a profit of $3.44 billions. Do you know what that means in terms of the kind of money we can understand and relate to?

Look at it this way -

Goldman-Sachs made an average of $53,000,000 in profits EVERY DAY.

That's the same as $6,625,000 an hour (more than you make in sixty minutes?) or $110,000.00+ for every minute... EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF EVERY SINGLE HOUR. Go ahead… count to sixty. Do it now. One, two, three, four… There goes another 110 grand to the boys at Goldman-Sachs!

Every “working” hour means the hour you spent on your private email, the hour you spent looking at porn sites, the hour you spent talking to your wife, your kids, your mother, or whomever, the hour you spent eating lunch, even the hour you left early on a couple of days. I know you did. It didn’t make any difference. It didn’t put a dent in their moneymaking machine. The wheels at Goldman-Sachs never stopped turning... at six figures plus for every one of those hours.

How many of us have ever had $110,000.00 in our hands at any one moment? So, let's put this $3.44 BILLION profit into an amount of money we can deal with realistically, something as they say we can get our hands around.

How about - $1,840.00 a SECOND! If it took you three seconds to read that line... Goldman-Sachs made another $5,520.00 bucks. If you’re a slow reader, they made $7,360.00 or maybe $9,200.00. If it shocked you and you read it twice? Don’t ask. Don’t worry. It’s not your fault.

Iraq? Afghanistan? North Korean or Iranian nukes? Nationwide foreclosures? Widespread unemployment? Poor healthcare - and the lack of it for fifty million of us? A vacancy on the Supreme Court? Baseball? Apple pie? Chevrolet? Really, it's all about the BILLIONS isn't it? We know “What Really Matters.”

None of the other shit means anything. $$$$$$$$ - Yikes! We’re fucking helpless aren’t we?

Time is all we have. How we use it is all that matters. I want to spend mine as well as possible. I hope Valentine Marofsky will share his reading list with me.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Sarah Palin is not well informed. She’s not well educated. She’s not well spoken, extemporaneously (although she gives a terrific prepared speech!). And it would be difficult to make a case that she demonstrates either a keen intelligence or even an adequate analytical mind. So, how then do we explain her meteoric rise to national prominence as a serious political leader?

Here’s the Truth – not the Ugly Truth – far from it. Here’s the Attractive Truth.

Deal with it… There is a big, big difference between men and women. It’s all about sex – S-E-X! It is the crucial factor in most behaviors involving human beings. Age has little to do with it, except perhaps to overstate it among younger people and, more recently, the reinvigorated, sexually liberated older folks. Class, race, socio-economic status, education… you name the qualifier – the difference between the sexes overwhelms it.

This morning, in a distinctly unscientific study, I checked The New York Times, the nine major television networks (ABC, CBS, NBC plus CNBC, CNN, ESPN, FOX NEWS, HLN and MSNBC), the four network affiliate stations where I live, and for good measure I even tuned into two channels on my cable package I’ve probably never looked at before – a Canadian news channel and the BBC American feed. I saw the same thing on all sixteen media outlets. I saw both men and women – BUT – while the men represented a fairly accurate cross-section of what men really look like, ALL the women were very attractive. In fact, they were so much more attractive than any group or collection of women would be anywhere else, it was striking.

In The New York Times, I took note that 100% of the ads with women in them had only good looking, sexy women in them – that’s beautiful women in every single newspaper ad. On the nine television stations, every woman who appeared on camera – which is to say every anchor, reporter or correspondent – with the possible exception of Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC, was an attractive woman, attractively presented.

Ms. Mitchell (or more accurately, Mrs. Greenspan) aside, not all women in the world are as beautiful or as well prepared as those who are on television. These TV women do not look like the women you run into everyday in real life. And yet, the men on the same TV shows do more closely reflect the average look of men everywhere.

I bring this fact to the forefront only to emphasize the difference between men and women… the big, big difference and the role this difference plays in our perception of people. Now, let me just say it – get it out in the open – the straight Truth.

Sarah Palin’s success – 100% of it – is due to this: Men want to fuck her. Women want to be her. A+B=C. That’s how she got to be Governor of Alaska and that’s the only reason she was picked to be the Republican candidate for Vice President.

Is there any need to prove the first point? If looks were not everything, why else would the Republican National Committee spend more money in two weeks dressing her up than 99% of women spend on clothes and makeup in their whole lifetime? On the second point – that women want to be like her – look around you the next time you’re in public, the next time you’re in a supermarket or in Wal-Mart or on a train or a bus or simply walking down a crowded street. Most women are not anywhere near as good-looking as Sarah Palin is. And yet we know - they want to be.

However, in public life, and certainly in public office, the range of men you will see look to be representative of the range of men everywhere else in our society. Tall, short, thin, fat, bald, hairy – you name it. If you watch the news channels with any regularity you already know that these men – Congressmen, Senators, Governors and the like – are not the best dressed or the most finely groomed men you will ever see. Why not? It’s not necessary.

Then… there’s Sarah Palin.

Forget for now, if you can, whether or not you agree with anything she says she stands for. But ask yourself this – honestly – If Sarah Palin didn’t look the way she does would anyone have ever taken her seriously? And now that we’ve heard her as well as seen her, why does anyone continue to?

Men want to fuck her. Women want to be her. A+B=C. That’s how Sarah Palin got to be the Governor of Alaska and the Republican candidate for Vice President. That’s also why 2012 is the year for her – the end of the line. By 2016, that which makes her so appealing now will probably have withered and died.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Just this week…

1. The people of Minnesota have certified the election of a comedian to the US Senate. A nice Jewish boy from New York City (Al Franken) replaces another nice Jewish boy from New York City (yes, Norm Coleman is Jewish and he’s from Brooklyn). No complaints on this. The citizens of Minnesota – a bedrock state of America’s Midwest – have an absolute right to elect anyone they want. Those who view Franken’s election as weird are wrong. The choice of Al Franken is truly in the American mainstream, not an exception. California elected two movie actors to high office, one as Governor, another as US Senator. The actor who became Governor later became President as well, our first divorced President.

Who can say? Maybe someday Al Franken will be America’s first Jewish President.

Our history is replete with elected officials – Governors, Congressmen, Senators - who “moved into” their states and then their official positions. In recent years alone, Hawaii’s Barack Obama became a Senator from Illinois; Hillary Clinton of Arkansas (and before that Illinois and before that Pennsylvania) was elected to the same New York Senate seat once occupied by Massachusetts’ Robert F. Kennedy; Bill Bradley of Missouri and New York became a US Senator… from New Jersey. Today, the Governor of America’s largest state, California, is an Austrian. Michigan’s Governor is from Canada.

I could go on and on… the term “carpetbagger” itself comes from the Reconstruction period following the Civil War some 140 years ago.

Also, this week…

2. The MILF “hottie” from the Far North, Sarah Palin, up and quit! That alone, while unusual, is not especially dysfunctional. What is, however, is her amazing ascension in national politics. And yet, Palin – like Franken – is also well within the American political and social mainstream. We have a long, long history of choosing highly questionable individuals with little or no governing background credentials for specifically difficult and important public positions of power. How far back do you want to go?

Remember Ulysses Grant? He was a washed-up (actually quite unwashed) ex-general; a notorious drunk; a man with no discernible qualifications to be anything once he left the military. Naturally, we elected him President – twice! And during his eight years the first wave of rapacious Wall Street businessmen stole everything they could get their hands and his signature on. The Grant administration was the most corrupt in our history until… Bush the Younger brought the oil companies and the modern thieves of finance from Wall Street into the White House, the Pentagon and the Treasury. In eight years we were looted to the tune of trillions. And it continues…

How did we ever elect the alcoholic, drug using, military service evading, intellectually disinterested Bush the Younger? He was the son of Bush the Elder. Is there anyone, anywhere who would make the argument that George W. Bush would have been Governor of Texas or President of the United States had his father been… anyone else?

How far back do you want to go? Remember John Q. Adams? He too was the son of former President. He too (like Bush the Younger) finished second in his Presidential election; and he too was inaugurated anyway becoming President after the 1824 election. Like I said, in the mainstream…

So, back to Sarah Palin… how did she ever get elected Governor, even in a state with fewer people than your average sized small city anywhere else in the United States? Name the Mayor of the second or third or fourth largest city in your state and ask yourself – Would I take that person and put them a heartbeat from the Presidency? Particularly when the President is an old man – older than any US President ever – who has already had cancer more than once? You don’t really have to answer that one.

And finally this week…

3. Michael Jackson died. The most likely cause of death appears to be an overdose of a drug used to place surgical patients in a chemical coma, a drug not even available by prescription, a drug available only to doctors, for use only in a hospital setting. Sound like the sort of drug you want to take “recreationally” at home? Well, “Ask a man who knows.” I speak from experience and the answer is a resounding – NO!

Culturally dysfunctional – Michael Jackson dying as he did? Not quite. Aren’t we used to show business personalities dying from the misuse of drugs, both illegal drugs and prescription ones too. After all, what’s the difference between a drug dealer and a doctor? Sometimes, only a license, that’s all.

What is dysfunctional about Michael Jackson needs no mention from me – does it? But isn’t the real dysfunction in our culture obvious from the reaction to his death? Of course, I don’t mean the reaction to the greatness of his music or the phenomenon he was as a performer. Both are unrivaled and unquestioned – however, realistically speaking, he will not be missed. No, he won’t. Why not? Because everything Michael Jackson did still exists – it’s all still here – on record, on iTunes and YouTube, DVD, on DVR, on film and tape. His artistry is not gone. In fact, his death sort of allows us to once more enjoy his work without embarrassment or explanation, without feelings of discomfort or images of young boys and middle-aged men. Fortunately for us, we will never be without Michael’s music or his performances.

The cultural dysfunctional here is the strange, near-psychotic reverence with which Jackson is suddenly being treated by the black community. In the last 50 years – the very years of his lifetime – there is no black American of note I can think of who did more to reject his racial identification than Michael Jackson. Yet he is mourned as if he were… someone special to and for his race. Why?

We are a dysfunctional people. This past week didn’t prove it. It simply illuminated it – again.