Relationship Building

Building Relationships

Want to know Glenn Beck’s secret to successful relationships?  Or at least how to be as successful as he is?

No, no.  Not those kinds of relationships.  Liberal relationships.  The relationships between Liberal politicians, campaign donors, and fundraising organizations.  If you don’t have a cast of thousands like Glenn does, you can always go to Muckety.com.

Muckety allows you to type in the name of a Liberal power player, like Anita Dunn, and it draws you a map of all the key links in her political relationships, personal, political, and organizational.  Anita, for instance, is related to Robert F. Bauer, Obama’s personal and White House counsel.

I typed in George Soros, figuring it would be full of names – and it was.  Somewhere in the maps I subsequently researched was the Brain Trauma Foundation.  Why in the world, I wondered, was such a benign-sounding organization being linked to such a web of spiders?

You hear Brain Trauma Foundation, you think, “Christopher Reeve.”  But that’s the wrong answer.  The name you should be thinking, it turns out, is Hassan Nemazee.

Nemazee is a member of the board of directors of the Brain Trauma Foundation.  So is George Soros.  But put Soros to one side for now.  Nemazee is the interesting character here. 

He contributed to the presidential campaigns of John F. Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and eventually, Barack Obama, and actually served as the Clinton’s campaign finance manager.

His name has surfaced before.  He is involved with the Iranian American PAC.  Somehow, the media always manages to bury him again, though.  Especially with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arriving in New York City next week – if he can obtain a U.S. visa – to attend the nuclear proliferation talks at the United Nations.

Talk about inconvenient timing.

The Iranian-American son of a shipping magnate, Nemazee was chairman and chief executive of Nemazee Capital, a holding company with investments in private and public companies.  He was arrested in August for running a ponzi scheme from 1998 to 2009 that obtained $292 million in fraudulent loans from Bank of America, Citibank and HSBC.

Last month, he pleaded guilty to stealing the money to buy property in Westchester County, and donate to charities and political campaigns.

When I was little, my father would read the Sunday New York Times from cover to cover.  It didn’t matter that we were all waiting around, clutching our favorite beach toys.  My mother would complain.

 “Why do you have to read it now?  It’s a beautiful day!  The kids want to be outside.”

He said it was important to read it from cover to cover to unearth the important news the Times had buried in its back pages.

The story about Nemazee was on page 22 of the March 18th New York Times, in the N.Y./Region section.   Other media outlets are only now catching up to the story, long after the mainstream media has yawned and gone on to other, more important issues.

Nemazee has been ordered to turn himself in by this Friday.

According to the New York Times article, “A spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan declined to identify the political action committees or campaigns that received money from Mr. Nemazee’s schemes.”

The New York Times will never reveal the information, either.

But go to Muckety.com.  You’ll be able to connect all the dots yourself.

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Published in: on April 28, 2010 at 6:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Trying Our Patience

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that New York City terror bomb suspect Najibullah Zazi was tracked by the F.B.I. on the 1,800-drive from Colorado to New York City.

The Port Authority Police were waiting for him at The George Washington Bridge at a pre-arranged drug checkpoint, without a warrant to search for the explosives he was allegedly carrying.  Unable to do anymore than look, they waved him across the bridge.

A police department spokesman later pooh-poohed the incident.  “The important thing,” he assured the news cameras, “was that Zazi was caught.  We stopped him.”

Those comforting words beg the question – then why was he stopped on the bridge in the first place?  What were the authorities trying to prove, if they couldn’t prove anything?

One thing it proves is how dysfunctional our legal system is, when law enforcement can see or at least easily find dangerous explosives, only to have the evidence dismissed.  Let’s see.  The Top 10 Reasons Zazi hid explosives in his car:

10.  I needed to remove some tree stumps.

9.         My kid wasn’t waking up in time for school.

8.         I was trying to evict a tenant from my rental property.

7.         I have a rock band and we wanted to have some pyrotechnics.

6.         I wanted to dig a hole for my new swimming pool.

5.         I was going to a bachelor’s party.  We wanted to give the groom a big bang.

4.         It’s my kid’s birthday; I promised him fireworks.

3.         It’s my anniversary; I promised my wife fireworks.

2.         My cellar door is jammed; I needed to get it open.

1.         I needed to jump-start my wife’s car.

There’s no end to the excuses defense attorneys will make to have evidence dismissed. 

Zazi’s car, it seems, could have been loaded from bumper to bumper with explosives, with a lit fuse dangling out of the trunk; yet, without that piece of paper, the PAPD would have to let him go right out onto the bridge and blow it up.

Nor will there be any end to the blame the Liberals will gleefully lay upon law enforcement and upon our own country, all the while shedding their own enormous share of blame the way a snake sheds its skin.

This event is evidence for one thing, at any rate:  it’s another reason why the 9/11 Terrorist Trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be a military tribunal.

Heaven only knows what sort of embarrassing evidence against the F.B.I., the Port Authority P.D., and the New York City P.D. will emerge (you won’t hear it from me).  We don’t even know what we don’t know.  But we know what we don’t want to know.

KSM, as they call him, doesn’t deserve a civilian show trial.  Neither does he deserve a firing squad.  That would be too good for this evil clown and would dishonor all our service men and women.  He doesn’t rate a warrior’s death.

Many are opposed to him having a lethal injection.  But it would be the best way to send this murderous showman to the ash heap of history, with a quiver and a snivel, and nothing more.

No pompous speeches, outlandish theatrics, or courtroom temper tantrums for him.  Above all, no television cameras to record his last, “heroic” moments.  Turn this guy off, for the love of Pete.  Give him the old #30#.

A military tribunal would spare us any further examinations into the “unusual” methods of the F.B.I.  We don’t need to add any more fuel to the fires of the 9/11 Truthers, for one thing.  Nor do we need to hold our useless legal system up to scrutiny.

Finally, if nothing else, think of the poor George Washington Bridge.  Every day, it’s faced with traffic jams, accidents, fires, suicide jumpers, car chases with drug dealers.  Lunatics scaling its cables. 

Sleeping security guards.

It’s the busiest bridge in the world.  The GW doesn’t need this kind of publicity. 

Next time you need to track down a terrorist guy, terrorist-guy chasers, send him through the Lincoln Tunnel, instead.

Published in: on April 27, 2010 at 6:53 am  Leave a Comment  

The “Fairness” Tax

What gets you up in the morning?  If you’re like the rest of us, the answer is a four-letter word:  work.

You have to feed your kids, pay your mortgage, and pay your “fair” share of taxes.  Welcome to real life.

That word “fair” is what got me up this morning.  Obama used it again to describe amnesty for illegal aliens.  But he’s also used it for a host of his other socialist programs including health care reform, the Fairness Doctrine, and the redistribution of wealth.

Otherwise known as taxes.

In doing my taxes, I discovered I was eligible (barely) for the working class tax credit.  I accepted it.  I don’t deny it.  I don’t deny that I could use it.

However, my older brother was not eligible for this tax because he made more money than I did.  Well, that’s fair, isn’t it?  He can afford to pay more taxes.  He probably deserves to pay more taxes, right?  He’s the “evil rich.”

I think I’ve been down this blogger road before but the subject is worth repeating, especially since the word “working” is used to justify this “credit.”

My older brother has worked longer than I have.  He’s worked harder.  At age 11, he was busy building a newspaper route empire.  He’s stayed at the same company since graduating from college with a master’s degree in business administration.

He’s smarter than I am.  He studied harder and got better grades than I did.  He did his homework.  He did his chores.  He was more responsible than I was.  He was more careful with his money.  He did a better job of saving it.  He shopped around for the best prices for everything, from stereos to automobiles.

He looked to the future.  He built his own house.  He took on more responsibilities at work than I did and got more promotions, and more money.  He invested his money wisely.  Well maybe not always as wisely as he could have, but more wisely than I did.

When there was a strike, as a manager he was called upon to fill in for the striking workers.  It was a hazardous duty, and he had to hire protection for himself.  In general, he’s worked longer hours than I have and spent more time away from home.

But the Fates got “even” with him for being so responsible.  He married (and divorced) a woman who spent extravagantly enough for both of them.  He had a son who’s even smarter than he is and whom he now has to support through an expensive engineering school.

And his younger sister is getting a tax credit for working and saving only half as hard, diligently, and responsibly as he did.

It just isn’t fair.

Published in: on April 26, 2010 at 6:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Off with Their Heads

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!  My gorge rises at it…  Not one now, to mock your own grinning?”  [Hamlet]

In olden tymes, the court jester was allowed to do what no one else could:  criticize the king.

But The Fool was only allowed so much leeway.  He mock and jest and the king until His Majesty said, “That’s enough!”  and then the court jester had to hold his tongue, or risk losing his head.

Today’s coMEDIAns (Get it?  Chuckle, chuckle!) are the modern-day court jesters.  Their skits, routines, and jokes must pass the Democrat Party censors, naturally, and the Republicans must be seen as the butt of all jokes.

For several generations, Saturday Night Live was the reining court jester.  Their takes on President Gerald Ford were legendary.  Their mockery of First Lady Nancy Reagan brought howls of laughter.

With the advent of cable television and new networks, pretenders to the throne challenged SNL’s crown as King of (Liberal) Comedy.  The Simpsons began the new Golden Age of Comedy.

As Queen of my household, no one was allowed to turn the channel to that program, nor any of its ilk, particularly the cartoon, South Park.  Other fools in other households in America notwithstanding, I would not give it house room.

South Park, however, went a step too far.  Naively, its writers assumed there were no sacred cows.  If they could mock Santa Claus and Jesus, why should Mohammed get any special consideration?

After a Danish cartoonist was placed under a fatwa for insulting Mohammed in a newspaper editorial cartoon, South Park’s creators evidently felt a movement of comic solidarity was in order.

In a two-part episode, they took on Mohammed.  Never having watched the show, I don’t know what it was all about.  Nor watching it, would I have found out, because before it ever made it onscreen, the producers of Comedy Central censored the program.

A character at the end of each show apparently delivers a Linus-like homily.  This speech was supposed to be about standing up to intimidation.  Instead, the speech was deleted because the creators had received death threats from Islamic extremists.

So much for standing up to intimidation.  Meanwhile, it’s comedic open season on those dangerous Tea Party activists and by association, the Republican opposition.  That “irrepressible” funny man, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, is show in promotional ads telling the Republican to go “fudge” themselves.

In the background, audience members titter hysterically.  Once upon a tyme, to hear such erudite humor, you had to be at the bottom of the high school football team pile-up.

Now, you can hear it with the click of your remote.   That is real progress, indeed.

Let us see if President Clinton will don his grandfatherly spectacles again and warn us all against making jokes about Islamic terrorists, the way he’s compared the Tea Parties to Timothy McVeigh, who railed against Clinton’s government.

How now, though.  The present king (Obama) is displeased with both.  He has ordered his predecessor and his chief of staff to denounce the innocent Tea Party protestors and Comedy Central has been given the order to flail itself.

Tea Partiers must not cajole the King and his own jesters must not cajole the King’s favorites.

The king is not amused.

Published in: on April 25, 2010 at 9:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

We, The Peeps

They’re such simple words.  How could anyone mistake them?  “We the People of the United States.”

Not We the Politicians.  Not We the Media.  Not We the Poor, or the Rich, or the White, or the Black, for that matter.  Certainly, not We the Illegal Immigrants.  Or We the Mexicans, Mauritanians, or Macedonians.  Or We the Islamic Terrorists.

Maybe the words are just too simple.  Maybe that’s why they can’t figure out who the Tea Party People are.  The Liberal Media is scouting around for people in aluminum foil hats.  They think Tea Partiers are scoundrels swathed in white sheets carrying iron cross flags.

It’s taken them a year – a full year – to realize we’re the mild-mannered, casually-dressed, everyday working people carrying home-made signs.  We’re not here to overthrow the government.  We’re here to rescue a government that’s been overthrown.

They still haven’t gotten that last message.  They figure since they took over, by buying votes, that they’re legitimate.  Their propaganda machine will bear witness to their victory and their loaded court system will exonerate them.

Every day this week, the Bergen Record has run articles pleading the case for New Jersey teachers.  Today’s photo showed a snarling teacher next to a sign that reads, “Respect Teachers.”  How did such an ironic photo get ast The Record’s editors.

Meanwhile, I don’t recall seeing anything about The Hackensack Tea Party in the paper’s columns the next day.  On page 8, they ran a brief story about the Tea Party in Washington. 

But nothing about the Tea Party going on in The Record’s own city.

The New Jersey papers were full of stories about the travails of the poor Morristown Tea Party, though.

Oh, Morristown had great attendance, though not quite as high as last year.  These stories were all about who was the real “leader” of the Morristown Tea Party. 

There are actually two Morristown Tea Parties, with slightly different names.  The leader of the one group sued the leader of the other, as well as the former secretary of the group and another person.

Well, we won’t go into the nasty details, lest the leader should decide to sue this blog as well.

The point is, when the group was still one, whole, albeit ad hoc, organization, they were told that the most important people to consider were not the politicians, or the media, or even the people who organized the Morristown Tea Party.

The most important people were – The People.

The conservative people, not to put too fine a point on it, who’d been backed into the northwest corner of their tiny state.  The reason these Tea Parties were so vital to New Jerseyans was that they’d all but given up on the notion that their voices were being heard.

The loss of the 2008 election proved them all too right.  New Jersey’s conservatives have felt isolated.  They didn’t know who else was out there who thought and felt and voted like them.  Nobody’s listening to them.

The Tea Parties were their chance to make themselves heard.  The rallies could give them hope in a hopeless state.  Hopelessly corrupt.  Hopelessly taxed.  Hopelessly outnumbered. 

This was their last chance.  With another wave of welfare-wallowing immigrants, they’d be finished.

Yes, it was important to target the politicians, particularly the Republicans, upon whom New Jersey conservatives placed their meager hopes. 

But in an already left-leaning state, left-leaning moderates hold the sway.  Unless conservatives can stand up for their principles, they may as well move.

It was time for the conservatives to come out of the shadows, fighting.  They had nothing to lose.  The Tea Parties were about them and for them.  The Tea Parties are about them and for them now.

Political sages say that we should abandon the rallies and focus on political campaigns.  They claim that the rallies are a waste of time and money, that could be better spent getting candidates elected.

However, the rallies are the most visible asset of the Tea Party movement.  Will the Media mock its participants?  Certainly.  They gnash their teeth daily over our activities.  They sit at their terminals, trying to permeate the Tea Partiers’ armor of resolve.

They vow to attack us in the blogs, on the radio, in the chat rooms.

The so-called leaders of the movement quail at such threats.  They would have us go underground, work in secret, out of the light of day, where, not being easily seen, we can’t be vilified, insulted, and lied to.

In short, they want us to go back to business as usual.   To being The Sheeple, instead of The People.

 One Tea Party leader said that if there wasn’t some forward-moving action for the people to take, they’d “moan and groan and go home.”  Very true.  And no one is saying that after the Rallies the Tea Partiers should go back home to skulk.

The rallies are a good start, but we do need to elect responsible representatives.  There are many avenues of campaigning that activists can travel, some tried-and-true, others high-tech, on the internet, on Facebook and especially You Tube.

Whatever the campaign workers do, the politicians must ultimately remember that this race is all about the people, not them.  The rallies are the best reminder of that as we rebuild our country.

We’re just saying that as we rebuild the house, don’t destroy the foundation.

Published in: on April 23, 2010 at 8:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Triangle-ating

 All day yesterday, people were talking about not dating themselves, as in not making themselves sound old by referring to outdated movies or music.

A musician, scolded for dating himself, replied, “I’m lucky to be old enough to date myself, and I intend to go right on dating myself!”

I’d love to be able to say that I’m from the class of 1954, that I was born under President Ronald Reagan, that You’re A Grand Old Flag was at the Top of the Hit Parade, and that The Sound of Music was playing in the theaters when I was born.

But alas, it’s not so.  Some Like It Hot was the top movie.  The Sound of Music opened on Broadway, not at the box office.  I prefer the No. 2 song of the year to the No. 1 song.  No. 3 was kind of neat.  Some of the others in the Top Ten I’ve never even heard.

Gunsmoke was the most-watched television show.  Mary Ann Mobley was crowned Miss America.  Charlton Heston took the Oscar for Best Actor in Ben-Hur.  Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states, respectively.

A book I never heard of or read – The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters (about a boy who travels with his father by wagon train to California) – won the Pulitzer for Fiction, and a play I never heard of or saw – “J.B.” by Archibald MacLeish – won the Pulitzer for Drama (a modern-day version of the biblical tale of Job).

When I was six months old, ala Jaimie McPheeters, we moved by station wagon to California.  Once out there, my mother didn’t curse God but she certainly cursed her in-laws and the confoundedly constant, beautiful weather of Southern California.

 Within two years, we returned to the East Coast, where my mother could once again enjoy the change of seasons.  I grew up with the typical school-kid notions of the Sixties, that the world was this global village where everyone shared everything.

Only one teacher ever had the courage to teach the students the realities of life.  No reality is more apparent than my birthday present this year – a triangle.

All through high school and college, the schools had a plentiful supply of percussion instruments.  The first adult community band I joined, being so old, had every percussion instrument imaginable.  The church band I next joined not only had every instrument, but usually of the best quality.

Then I got out into the real musical world. 

We joined a band with a professional conductor.  Now, my musical friends didn’t have to worry because they already had their personal instruments.  As a percussionist, I suddenly found myself having to purchase assorted mallets I’d always taken for granted everywhere else.

Not only that, but I discovered possessing my own triangle was now de rigeur.  There’s no such thing as “sharing” or “borrowing” in a professional percussion section.  If you don’t have your own triangle, you’re out of luck.

A hard lesson, but one that young students of today should note.   This is a do-it-yourself, do-it-for-yourself world.  That’s the way the world should be.  Self-reliance is the mandate, especially if you’re a percussionist.

You’ve got to make it on your own, on your own steam.   People shouldn’t be doing everything for you.  Your mother isn’t going to be there to cut your meat for you.  Your father isn’t going to be there when you fall down roller-skating and scrape your knee.

The other percussionists aren’t going to lend you their triangles.  Get used to it.  Grow up.

Get your own triangle.

Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 7:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Obama, Unbound

“I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper.”  [Introduction to Frankenstein]

The year of 1816 was known as The Year Without A Summer.  The previous year, in April 1815, Mount Tambora, in Sumbawa, Indonesia, erupted.  An estimated 92,000 people perished either directly or indirectly from the effects.

Average global temperatures decreased enough to cause significant agricultural problems around the world.  In May 1816, an unusual frost killed off all the crops in the Northeastern United States and Canada.  An incessant rain destroyed the harvests in England and northern Europe.  Snowstorms occurred in June.  Nearly a foot of snow fell in Quebec City.

A persistent dry fog was visible in the Northeastern U.S.  In China, the cold weather killed trees, rice crops and even water buffalo, especially in northern China. Floods destroyed many remaining crops.

Mount Tambora’s eruption disrupted China’s monsoon season, resulting in overwhelming floods in the Yangtze Valley in 1816.  In India the delayed summer monsoon caused late torrential rains that aggravated the spread of cholera from a region near the River Ganges in Bengal to as far as Moscow.

In the ensuing bitter winter of 1817, when the thermometer dropped to minus 26°F, New York’s Upper Bay froze deeply enough for horse-drawn sleighs to be driven from Brooklyn to Governors Island.

The ruination of crops sent many Northeastern farmers westward, precipitating the great Westward Movement.  The famine was said to have inspired the beginnings of the invention of the bicycle, the Mormon Church, and the introduction of mineral fertilizers.

In Switzerland, an ice dam formed below a glacier in 1818.  The ice dam collapsed, catastrophically.  Two years before, Mary Shelley and friends were visiting with poet Lord Byron at his home in Switzerland.  The continually rainy weather forced them to stay indoors.

To amuse themselves, they held a writing contest.  The result was “Frankenstein.”
Mount Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland has not had any effect, so far, on agriculture.  But it’s wreaking havoc with airline travel.  Iceland’s Mid-Atlantic volcanoes do not rest quietly. 

The last eruption was in 2004, with Mount Grimsvotn – Iceland’s most active volcano.
In 1783, Grimsvotn produced the most effusive eruption in a millenia.  Accompanied by enormous amounts of sulphur dioxide and fluoride gas, the eruption caused wide-spread crop damage, killed a large number of livestock and caused a severe famine on Iceland.

As a result, one fifth of Iceland’s population was killed.
 
Some consequences of the eruption were felt in other parts of the world.  Volcanic fog (the gas cloud from the eruption) drifted over Europe and parts of Asia, altering summer temperatures. This was the first eruption that led scientists to speculate that volcanoes can impact the world’s climate.

Did Grimsvotn wake up Eyjafjallajokull, subsequently activating other Icelandic volcanoes?  Scientists are worried. 

A few years after Grimsvotn erupted in 1783, the newly-formed United States began the process of laying out its laws in a constitution.  Various attempts at ending slavery failed.

The eruption of Mount Tambora inspired a generation of writers including Shelley, Byron, and Bronte, who saw the world through a haze of frost.

What will the eruptions of Grimsvotn and Eyjafjallajokull herald?  Since 2004, we have witnessed a sudden frost upon America’s freedom of speech and a meltdown of our economy.

Air travel has been seriously disrupted, stranding travelers in foreign lands and crippling the already-struggling airline and tourism industries.

Like Dr. Frankenstein, Obama has fashioned a hideous monster of an economic strategy, trying to strike the spirit of prosperity into limp, lifeless limbs like Medicare and the Stimulus packages.

He has stolen the fire of capitalism and freedom to transmogrify them into a creation of his own fashioning, unearthly, unnatural, and uncontrollable.  This monster he has unleashed onto an innocent, unsuspecting world.

Without the divine spark of genuine creation, will this monster, seemingly beneficent, turn on us, devouring our economy and ultimately destroying our great nation?  Some recognized this creature for what it is; others have yet to recognize its dangerous nature.

Obama and his assistants have expended an enormous amount of time, and our money, convincing us of the horrors of not having health insurance.  Yet, he has not a produced evidence of a single body.  Habeas corpus.

He shrouded the creation of this fiend in secrecy.  Congress released this thing – a 2,000-page bureaucratic monstrosity – only days before it was to be signed into law.  We were assured we’d find out what it said later.

Too late for rectification.

Like Frankenstein’s monster, Obama repeatedly lays the blame for all our country’s financial woes on his predecessor, when history clearly points to the Democrat party and their visions of social justice and redistribution of wealth, a philosophy created shortly after Mary Shelley’s fictitious monster was born.

At the end of the novel, of a friend of Dr. Frankenstein’s confronts the monster, who has tormented his creator literally to death.

“…you come here,” he charges, “to whine over the desolation that you have made.  You throw a torch into a pile of buildings, and when they are consumed, you sit among the ruins and lament the fall.”

And in Obama’s case, to raise another fiend, Phoenix-like, out of the ashes.

Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  

‘Let the Little People Owe’

What an age we live in!  What an age, when we have to fear to use an ordinary word because filthy minds have perverted it.  In this case, readers (just to assure you), the word I’m about to use – “blow” – is only in the sense of playing a horn, an instrument.

In this case, the following sentence is from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  Frodo has fled the Shire, leaving a friend behind in his house to cover his escape.  The bad guys break in and the friend runs for it to the nearest neighbor.

The hobbits sound the alarm, blowing horns and crying, “Awake! Awake! Awake!  Fear! Fire! Foes! Awake!”

The bad guys – the Ringwraiths – hear the horns.  But their prey has escaped with the Ring of Power and they have to ride off to hunt him down.

“Let the Little People blow.  Sauron will deal with them later,” the Riders sneer.

The Tea Parties – of which there were hundreds on April 15th – sounded their horns.  They did it peacefully, passionately, and publicly.  The protests were really more like rallies than protests, though the Tea Partiers are angry.

Not being content to let The People have their say, Obama had to go on television, before his own choir naturally, to sneer that he was “amused” by the protests and that the People should be “thanking” him for what he claims are tax cuts.

Not to be outdone, former President Clinton took to the limelight to warn about the “dangers” of such demonstrations.  Kooks are waiting in the wings to take advantage of such opportunities to wreak mayhem and chaos on an unsuspecting public.

In short, the Tea Parties must be ‘dealt with.’

I don’t know whose taxes have been cut, but mine sure haven’t been cut.  I paid a whole lot more in capital gains than I did the previous year, and this was a bad year in the stock market.  Imagine what the taxes would have been in a profitable year.

My older brother’s taxes certainly weren’t reduced and neither were my mother’s.  All my friends – their taxes rose, also.

So I don’t owe Mr. “Owe-bama” any thanks.  (Thank goodness.)

The only thing I owe is taxes.

Published in: on April 19, 2010 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Singing Statues

How can a leading lady compete with singing, tap-dancing statues?  Warbling portraits?  Sibilant siblings?  Side-kicking sidekicks?  Lyrical soprano mothers?  Quarrelsome barbershop quartets?  Grecian urns?  The Statue of Liberty? 

And a script that leaves out one of your only chances at getting in your comedy licks?

It’s enough to strain your voice and make you think you don’t have what it takes to make it to Broadway. 

Still, if you’re a 13 year-old leading lady, you should take a bow just for having the guts to take on the role of Marian, the Librarian in “The Music Man Junior”  – minus the key library scene, “Marian, the Librarian.”

A colleague’s daughter was perfoming in a junior high version of the classic Broadway musical.  She was in the chorus.  When he mentioned it, there was a wince in his voice.  He’d be viewing it three times.

He needn’t have winced, though.  School musicals have come a long way in just a generation, thanks to Grease, Disney’s High School Musical, music videos, karaoke, and the I-Pod.

This is a generation that loves to sing.  They practice, and sing along, and even critique one another.  They faithfully watch American Idol and Dancing with the Stars.  This is one “musical” generation.

I’ve gone to a number of school musical productions in my town, and for friends whose kids were in shows, and I’ve never been disappointed.  It’s fun watching these risings stars give it their all, and to their credit, the teachers did a terrific job training them in the choreography and musical numbers.

School musical productions have come so far that the drama department can now purchase pre-packaged musicals, completely with background CDs and scripts written just for the kids, shortened and sanitized (where necessary).

This was just about as good a production as I’ve ever seen.  I had a hard time believing I was watching 13 year-olds.  Only after I saw them up close in the hall did I realize just how young they were.

The young man who played Prof. Harold Hill’s sidekick, Marcellus, had such an adult voice, I wondered if he wasn’t a ringer, an adult brought in to play the role.  But his parents were seated right behind me, his baby sister in their lap, gurgling and babbling.

The choreography was perfect, the backdrops beautifully painted (they were borrowed from the high school next door).  The kids were endowed with energy, talent, and stage presence.

If there was anything wrong, it was with the pre-packaged CD and script.  The traveling salesman/piano lesson’s tempo was much too fast even for grown-ups, much less junior high school singers.  “Marian” and “Mrs. Paroo” wound up stumbling over the lyrics.

Subsequently, poor “Marian” was left with that tempo for her ensuing dialogue and it took her awhile to mentally bring the tempo down again as she was delivering her lines.

The other problem was the aforementioned elimination of the “Marian, the Librarian” scene in the script.  Without it, the audience is left with a poor understanding of Marian and the predicament in which she finds herself and the actress is robbed of her opportunity to get some laughs reacting to the chaos that follows in Prof. Harold Hill’s wake.

No doubt, the scriptwriters deleted the scene due to the chromatic challenges of the song.  Adult instrumentalists, when faced with this song, have to brace themselves for it.  The editing was probably an act of mercy to young singers.

But it does leave the besieged “Marian” flat (no pun intended).  In the film, the scene perfectly illustrates what she’s up against:  a serious, reserved, quiet, sensible character cast adrift in a sea of merry mayhem.

The library scene is her stage, her chance to stand out in this three-ring circus of eccentric characters – a dancing statue (in this production – a brilliant innovation; we didn’t realize it was a kid in statue make-up as “Miser Madison” until he jumped down at the end to sing and dance with the rest of the cast) and warbling portraits, hayseeds and gossips, bickering politicians and businessmen – with Harold Hill as the ringmaster.

Without it, she’s hopelessly upstaged, which is what happened in this production.  Where our young actress had any chance – in the bridge scene and the scene with the traveling salesman – she was wonderful, quite possibly the sweetest, most charming Marian in the history of the production of The Music Man.

I found her outside in the lobby after the play was over.  She was off to one side by the doors, on the outer rim of the jumble of other cast members, thrilled and proud (and legitimately so) with their performance.  “Marian” was standing in a draft.

I only saw her mother and a young friend with her.  I wondered if she’d been congratulated for just having the courage to take on the thankless role of “Marian”?  Obviously, she’d encountered the same singing problems other young leading ladies have had.

Looking into her eyes, which were red, I could see she was aware of her difficulties and that she hadn’t received as much applause as the other cast members.  Her mother cringed when I complimented her.

Nevertheless, I assured her I had enjoyed her performance.  Her little face brightened.  As she smiled, the braces glinted on her teeth.

“Did you really like it?” she asked wistfully.  I laughed lightly and assured her she was “Broadway-bound.”  What the future will bring depends on how she develops her talent, how much encouragement she receives, and how much faith she keeps in her abilities, a hard task for any young performer.

For this night, after working so hard and enduring so much upstaging, she deserved that much hope.

There was a lesson in this musical, too, for those of us adult taxpayers headed for the school election polls this Tuesday.

When it comes to the school budget, I’m right up there with the other taxpayers, parents and non-parents alike, as well as our governor.  The teachers have to face the realities of the recession just like the rest of us.  Times are hard and they’re going to have to share in it.

However, while I have no financial sympathy for them – in fact, quite a bit of contempt – I feel a little less severe towards them regarding the job they’re doing.

Conservatively, they need to teach more of the basics and a little less politics.  They also need to refrain from using our children (I use the word “our”, although I’m childless) as pawns in the budgetary wars.

Still, I can’t blame them entirely for the lack of progress students are showing.  Our teachers are “Marian, the Librarian,” trying to teach in a three-ring circus world filled with music videos, I-Pods, cell phones, with cable television serving as the ringmaster.

In addition to all that, there are the usual distractions of adolescence, raging hormones, peer pressure, drugs, broken homes, and in poorer communities, poverty, violence, and ignorance.  All that’s missing are the dancing statues.

They must stand in front of the Music Generation and try to teach with a ruler, a piece of chalk, and a book in their hands.  Good luck with that!

When it comes to finances, wrangle away!  But when it comes to discussing education itself, ask yourself what you’re doing as a parent. Are you serving as a good role model?  Do you read yourself?  Do you read to your younger children?

Do you take them to the library?  The museum?  Do you discuss world affairs and history with them?  Do they see you doing work at home (that is, homework)?  Reading the newspaper?   Do you check their homework assignments each night?

Are you involved in continuing education?  Do you take courses?

Or do you just come home each night and flop in front of the television, content to be merely entertained?

Good education begins much earlier than you realize.  Children are little copy machines.  They’ll copy everything you do when they’re small.  Make sure they’re copying from a good source.

Your children are your legacy to the future, statues which you must mould and place upon a secure pedestal.  If you want your little statues to stand up for themselves and stand on their own two feet, you’ve got to teach them to sing, dance, and “quote Shakespeare and all them other, high-falutin’ Greeks”.

Without falling off the pedestal.

Published in: on April 18, 2010 at 9:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Deeply Disturbing Story

Former President Bill Clinton had no sooner intoned his warning of “deeply disturbed”, angry, anti-government rhetoric leading to violence, than his prognostication was borne out by the headlines.

A white supremacist group, demonstrating on the lawn of tbe Los Angeles town hall, was attacked by counter-protestors who hurled rocks and bottles at the American and Nazi-flag toting demonstrators.

Who does President Clinton think were the “deeply disturbed people” in this picture? In my opinion, it was one deeply disturbed group facing another, with the Los Angeles Police Department doing their best to protect the First Amendment rights of both parties.

I hadn’t realized rocks and bottles were protected modes of free speech. The Nazi flag is hardly the symbol of First Amendment free speech, either. Maybe that’s why the white supremacists had to carry the American flag, as protection.

The supremacists certainly slid down the slippery slope Clinton was warning about. But the counter-protestors went right down the hill with them. Only the counter-protestors had to be arrested for violence, though.

The white supremacists always have to carry things one step too far. Where Tea Partiers only want illegal immigrants sent back to where they came from, the Nazi guys want everyone who isn’t white sent back.

The L.A. Police should be grateful that’s never happened. Every time they have to put on their tear gas masks to break up extremist-fueled riots, they can thank Garrett Morgan.

In his teens, Morgan had to quit school in order to go to work. But he had saved enough money to hire a tutor to help him continue his studies.

A successful businessman, he invented the forerunner to the gas mask, a safety and respirator hood which was used in 1916 to save miners trapped in a tunnel under Lake Erie.

Good thing he wasn’t sent back to Africa, or wherever he came from.

No, wait – Morgan was born here, in Paris, Kentucky, in 1877, a fact some people will certainly find deeply disturbing. White supremacists will find it disturbing because he wasn’t white.

They can take comfort, though – the Carnegie Institute refused to recognize his achievements.

Liberals will find his story disturbing because he was a successful, self-educated black man – who was born here.

Published in: on April 17, 2010 at 10:45 pm  Leave a Comment