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Monday, November 22, 2010

JFK - Murdered 47 Years Ago Today

The team from my advertising agency was making a major presentation to the regional managers of Alitalia airlines who were meeting in Cincinnati. I was point man for the team, responsible for MCing the presentation. I spent the night at the Hilton and delivered our presentation at 10:00 AM on the morning of November 22, 1963.
The presentation was well received and we could count on the Alitalia business-at least for a while. (In advertising like the restaurant business, you're only as good as your last meal or campaign). The team and I headed to an upscale Italian restaurant for lunch to celebrate our victory. It was a two martini eventl that lasted over two hours, just at coffee, a waiter came to our table and told us that the President had been shot.
I left the restaurant and returned to the Hilton where I picked up my bag, checked out and headed to the airport. I don't remember the flight back to New York but I do remember going home and watching the news on the TV for several hours seeing Caroline "John John" and Jackie, Johnson and Oswald. I saw Ruby shoot Oswald and I knew that Camelot was over and that it had all been a fantasy - a dream.
For the 43 years I ignored politics completely. I had worked hard on JFK's campaign but after that, politics was a fool's game as far as I was concerned. In 2007 I saw Obama at a rally here in Austin and I thought that maybe JFK had a successor.
But Camelot ended a long time ago and Obama is no JFK.

Friday, November 19, 2010

TIME GOES BY | Social Security and President Obama

During Steve Kroft's interview with President Barack Obama on 60 Minutes, here's what the President said about the budget and Social Security:”You’re still confronted with a fact that the vast majority of the federal budget are things that people really think are important. Like Social Security and Medicare and defense.

“And so, you then have to start making some tough decisions about how do we pay for those things that we think are important. And you know, we're not gonna be able to balance the budget just by slashing the National Parks budget... “I mean, we're gonna have to, you know, tackle some big issues like entitlements that, you know, when you listen to the Tea Party or you listen to Republican candidates they promise we're not gonna touch.”

Richard Eskow, writing at Campaign for America's Future on Monday, commented on Obama’s remarks on 60 Minutes:
“That doesn't just sound as if he's preparing to cut the Medicare and Social Security 'entitlement' programs,” wrote Eskew. “It almost seems as if he's taunting the Tea Party and the GOP for not being tough enough to cut them.

“When a Democratic President sounds like he wants to outflank the Tea Party by running to its right, we're in deep trouble.”

Thursday, November 04, 2010

TIME GOES BY | REFLECTIONS: On Conflicts of Interest

TIME GOES BY | REFLECTIONS: On Conflicts of Interest: "During a broadcast of 'Open End' a TV panel show moderated by David Suskind in the late 1950's, Susskind tried to divert the panel's focus away from some very parochial gossip about the (mis) behavior of New York's 'litteratti' by broaching the subject of the Soviet Minister of Trade's unprecedented visit to the heartland of America. The panel appeared almost stunned by Susskind's non-sequitor, but then Norman Mailer responded by saying 'Mikoyan's just another poiltician and politicians are all whores. We're not discuss whores in front of a family audience are we?'

Like they say 'politics make strange bedfellows' and it looks like the political whores and the media whores are now sharing the same mattresses."

Monday, November 01, 2010

Jon Stewart Rally Attracts Estimated 215,000 - Political Hotsheet - CBS News

Jon Stewart Rally Attracts Estimated 215,000 - Political Hotsheet - CBS News: "An estimated 215,000 people attended a rally organized by Comedy Central talk show hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Saturday in Washington, according to a crowd estimate commissioned by CBS News."
My youngest daughter was at the rally and she voted my proxy.
Are we winning? Not yet and unfortunately many of the people who did attend the rally may not even vote in this election. The "enthusiasm gap"
strikes again. I did vote (the Green ticket with two exceptions for Deomocrats I have confidence in) but I can empathize with the 60% of the electorate who probably won't get to the polls this year. The whole election "scene" is ugly and decidedly unpleasant. We're all going to need some serious catharsis when it's finally over.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

U.S. Deficit as % of GDP? "Fagetaboutit!"

We hear so much B.S. from our politicians and other pundits about our scandalous deficit spending, - how we are putting future generations in hock for centuries to come,  that I finally checked the CIAWorld Factbook and discovered that the U.S. ranks 47th among 129 nations of the world in terms of public debt (i.e. "deficit") as a percent of our GDP (Gross National Product). Among the really big spenders in the list, Japan is no. 2 with 189% of GDP in Public Debt, Italy and Greece running almost neck and neck in 6th and 7th places with around 114% and France - in 16th place with 77.5%, Canada -75%, Germany 72%, UK -68% and way down, close to the bottom of the list in the 109th place, those inscrutable Chinese.
So, pray tell what's all the congressional and media brouhaha all about? Is it just the usual political bull#^@T?
Why is everybody including all the old, wet teabags, got their knickers so twisted? 
"The answer my friend is written in the wind" as Bob Dylan wrote so many years ago. Just ask your Tea Party friends (if your unfortunate to have any) "What percentage of our GDP is in hock to (gasp!) PUBLIC DEBT?
We hear so much B.S. from our politicians and other pundits about our scandalous deficit spending, - how we are putting future generations in hock for centuries to come,  that I finally checked the CIAWorld Factbook and discovered that the U.S. ranks 47th among 129 nations of the world in terms of public debt (i.e. "deficit") as a percent of our GDP (Gross National Product). Among the really big spenders in the list, Japan is no. 2 with 189% of GDP in Public Debt, Italy and Greece running almost neck and neck in 6th and 7th places with around 114% and France - in 16th place with 77.5%, Canada -75%, Germany 72%, UK -68% and way down, close to the bottom of the list in the 109th place, those inscrutable Chinese.
and then "How much do you think it should be right now and how much was it under the movie actor who was our president, Ronald Regan?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Does Your Vote Really Count?

With more than half of the Senate bought and paid for  by Big Finance, Insurance & Real Estate,  do you really think the guys that are supposed to be representing you in the Senate are listening to you at all?
If you do, you probably also think Santa Claus is real and the Tooth Fairy as well.
We live in a completely corrupt society where money and only money talks and you have to put up or shut up. Wake up and smell the coffee and unless you've got at least ten million in the bank don't try to get in to the politics game because only suckers play in a game where the cards are stacked against them

Sunday, October 10, 2010

True U.S. Unemployment is 17%


"The government’s broader measure of unemployment, sometimes referred to “true unemploytment,” now stands at 17.1 percent. As  the Washington Post’s Frank Ahrens puts it, you are not included in the “official” unemployment rate if, a) you would like to have a full-time job but can find only part-time work, and b) if you’ve grown so discouraged at finding work, you’ve simply given up
 Writing recently about increasingly bleak unemployment picture, Paul Krugman, NY Times' economics guru, says, "enormous harm" will come to American families. "You just need to think about how many people are unemployed now for long periods of time. Large numbers of people who have lost their jobs and will never get another if we don't change our policies."

Now that virtually one out of six American workers is out of a job and very little hope of finding one in the near or foreseeable future, it is the duty of the U.S. government to treat the situation seriously and take aggressive steps to find some real solutions.  When the people of France were unable to buy bread, Louis the XIV's doxy, Marie Antoinette, suggested "Let them eat cake" in reply French citizens cut off her head and Louis' as well.
The causes of our current debacle are many but not least of these is obsession with profits "uber alles" Social responsibility and moral integrity have vanished. Currently, our "captains of industry" are stockpiling cash for the moment when (and maybe if) the economy turns around and the American consumer starts another buying spree that will lift us out of the pits we are now mired in up to our necks. However these business leaders seem to ignore the simple fact that we can't spend what we haven't got.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Road Goes on Forever

I'm "On the Road Again",just like my contemporary, Willy Nelson. Currently in Hudson, NY about 100 miles north of NYC. It's another one of those towns that time forgot for about 100 years but now it's being gentrified by artists, decorators, antique dealers and the like, including my youngest sibling, my sister Nicole who bought an old house here in 2003. It is also, by sublime coincidence, the birthplace of my great,great, great grandfather, James Ward Smith whose parents were some of the earliest settlers of this riverside hamlet. Heading to the Green Mountains of Vermont next and then down to Cape Hatteras, NC , after that.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


The oil spill has nothing to do with the people of Great Britain and everything to do with the larcenous cupidity of the tycoons that run worldwide megabucks corporations like BP, Goldman Sachs & the other big banks and Nestle, Monsanto etc.
It is no conspiracy - all of these corporations are systemically focussed on maximum profit - whatever the cost to customers, citizens and the taxpayers of whatever country or counries they do business in. BP will drill for oil wherever and whenever they can, providing it offers substantial rewards- irregardless of the risk to the environment and society. The current debacle is proof that the markets do not regulate themselves and unless governments take an active role in control of the larcenous bastards that run the BP's of the world, we are screwed.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

20% Unemployed- Forever!

Cynthia Norton, Jacksonville Florida, laid off two years ago from an insurance company.
“Sometimes I think I’d be better off in jail” says the 53 year- old unemployed administrative assistant only half joking. “I’d have three meals a day and structure in my life*. I’d be able to go to school. I’d have more opportunities if I were an inmate than I do here trying to be a contributing member of society.”
1.7 million Americans who were employed in clerical and administrative jobs when the recession began are no longer working in that occupation now. Those jobs have been permanently eliminated and even when the economy recovers they will never be filled again. This country and virtually all of western civilization must accept the fact that one-fifth of it’s work force, will eventually be permanently unemployed. 
What is the Obama administration or for that matter, the Merkel, Sarkozy, Cameron etc.,  administrations, doing about this? For that matter, are any of them even acknowledging the existence of this 100 ton gorilla?
The King Kong of modern social issues is being completely ignored simply because no one has even the slightest idea of how to deal with him. Except perhaps, “Just ignore him and maybe he’ll go away”
Since the dawn of the Industrial revolution and maybe even before, people have defined themselves by their occupations. If you ask someone to describe themselves they’ll usually start with their jobs; “I’m a lawyer and a father, a husband” etc. Their social positions, their connection to the community, their lives, revolve around their jobs. With no job - who are they? If one out of five members of the work force have no jobs and no employment prospects what are they? How can they relate to society? 
An examination of countries that have experienced long-term, massive unemployment reveals a consistent pattern of social unrest and a frequent tendency towards an autoritarian regime (e.g. Nazi Germany, fascist Spain & Portugal, Peron’s Argentina, etc.) or incipient fascist movements as in the 1930’s U.S. or the current Tea-Bag Movement and aberrations like the Arizona immigration law.
FDR introduced Social Security and the WPA among other governmental initiatives to offset (but not cure) the unemployment crisis. They were fairly successful palliatives but it took WWII to put a temporary stop to it. Then, the post-war “reconctruction” with its GI Bill and other related instruments contributed to the temporary postponement of the resurgence of massive unemployment but as the Eagles sang “You can run but you can’t hide” and now almost 80 years since the onset of the Great Depression it’s “deja vu all over again”
This time, we must face the awful reality of permanent unemployment for a significant segment of the world’s population and focus our best minds and facilities on the problem before the Gorilla starts to tear the place apart.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Watching Pigeons

 Do Americans look and act  more like pigeons or are pigeons imitating people?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

You Want Limited Government?

How about HONG KONG?
".  We may well ask whether there exist any contemporary examples of societies that rely primarily on voluntary exchange through the market and in which government is limited.
Perhaps the best example is Hong Kong.  It is less than 400 square miles in size with a population of roughly 4.5 million people.  The density of population is almost unbelievable — 14 times as many people per square mile as Japan, 185 times as many as in the United States.  Yet they enjoy one of the highest standards of living in all of Asia — second only to Japan and perhaps Singapore.
Hong Kong has no tariffs or other restraints on international trade.  It has no government direction of economic activity, no minimum wage laws, no fixing of prices.  The residents are free to buy from whom they want, sell to whom they want, to invest however they want, to hire whom they want, to work for whom they want.
The role of government is limited.  It enforces law and order, provides a means for formulating the rules of conduct, adjudicates disputes, facilitates transportation and communication, and supervises the issuance of currency.
Government spending remains the lowest in the world as a fraction of the income of the people.  As a result, low taxes preserve incentives.  Businessmen reap the benefits of their success but also bear the costs of their mistakes.
Free to Choose by  Milton Friedman

Isn't Hong Kong part of the People's Republic of China (PRC)? How could anyone call that a "contemporary example which government is limited". The truth is that the limited government, so prized by the Tea Partiers is a fantasy in today's world. Even the Tea Partiers want their Social Security and Medicare and all of us who benefitted from the GI Bill of Rights don't regret that either.
Totally Free Market Economy? So Goldman Sachs and the rest of Wall St. Gang can get away with murder? 
These guys can't be serious. 

I would like to know exactly how their vision of limited government would work and how do we re-invent our political system to fit it?
Maybe start with "limited free elections" ? Land owners and millionaires only? Maybe we should just abolish the federal government completely so that here in Texas we'd be totally under the thumb of wing-nut secessionists like Rick Perry

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Glory that Was...America?

If only the politicians in Washington, London, Paris, Baghdad or wherever weren't politicians and if scorpions weren't always scorpions, then the leopard would change his spots and we could have universal health care that makes sense and other legislation that benefits the people. Alas it's not going to happen- ever. Politicians will always be- politicians, and the people will always follows the kings of misrule with the loudest voices. After 60 years of political activism (from Adlai Stevenson to Barack Obama) I'm laying down my clipboard and retiring. I have wasted so much time and energy tilting at windmills only to realize that it has all been "An impossible dream" . 85% of what we call "the people" are really only sheep and they will follow anyone who looks like a shepherd. Tebaggers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your strings!

And I will sit back and watch as this country sinks to the second tier position it has earned. Where indeed is the courage, integrity and goodwill that used to be the identifying keywords of American foreign and domestic public policy?
Maybe it was all "an impossible dream"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Have I Got Egg on my Face?

Not quite but almost. True, Obama and his staff have managed to get the somewhat tattered Health Care Reform Bill through the house the House. It a quilt work of compromises and some rather shifty deals. The restrictions on abortion are unfair and unfortunate but it is some reform and maybe it will lead to more cost savings somewhere down the road.
So hip, hip fore President Obama (he has now earned the title) and please remember sir, "there are miles to go before [we] sleep"

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Lives of "The Stars"

Susan Sarandon is dating a 31 year old ping pong player?
How sad. I respected and admired ms. Sarandon for her masterful performances in ," Thelma & Louise" (1991)," Lorenzo's Oil" (1992), and "The Client" (1994).She definitely earned the award for her performance in " Dead Man Walking". But it seems as if the corruption and decadence is spreading fast from Wall St., to Washington and Main St. to Hollywood. Evidently, you can take the [Woman] out of Hollywood but you can't take Hollywood out of the woman. Good luck to you Susan, it seems "I hardly knew ya"

Monday, March 08, 2010

Be Careful About What You Wish [Vote] For

I laughed when I first heard somebody refer to Barrack Obama as "The Manchurian Candidate of the 21st century" but I don't think it's all that funny anymore. Certainly he's not a tool of the Russians or even the Chinese but, what if, he has been recruited and formed by the robber barons of Wall St. and other free market gangsters, to completely subvert the government of the United States in preparation for a takeover by the forces of the night/right and the installation of an oligarchic dictatorship? "Oh no, it can't happen here you say"? How about Timothy Franz Geithner and his mentor Larry Summers? Whose side do you think they're on? Yours and mine? Yeah right. And the latest Supreme Court rulings? I won't use the word "conspiracy" but it does somewhat fit a pattern doesn't it. The question is "How low can he (Obama) go" before people wake up. Obstructionist Republican naysayers to the right of us- dubious Democrats to the left of us. Simpson & Co. "retrofitting" our Social Security system. Isn't there anybody out there that's on our side?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

CPR for Our Country

The economic system is under a death watch and there's almost no hope for survival without radical surgery.
Our political system needs multiple organ transplants,
including brain and heart.
Here's what responsible citizens can do to insure the survival of our country.
1. Stop contributing to all political organizations and politicians immediately!
2. Create and circulate a petition to impeach the Supreme Court.
3. Plan and execute a responsible citizens March on Washington on the first of May.
4. Politicians and organizations supporting the petition and march will be eligible for funding
5. Draft the "best and the brightest" to conceptualize a "Citizen's Bill of Rights for the 21st Century" for endorsement and incorporation in the U.S. Constitution.
Perhaps then we can start to re-create "a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men [and women] are created equal."

God Help America!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Best Hotels in the World

Totally subjective based  exclusively on my own personal experience

  • The old Plaza Hotel ( New York)
  • The George V (Paris, before it became a Four Seasons Hotel)
  • The New Otani (Tokyo)
  • The Villa D'este (Lake Como)
  • Due Torri (Verona)
  • Gritti Palace (Venice)
  • Claridge's (London)
  • The Hilton (Hong Kong)
  • The Beverly Wilshire (Beverly Hills)
  • The Four Seasons Costa Rica

Three of the best are in Italy. The Italians do a few things right- hotel keeping, cooking, making and wearing clothes and manufacturing fine cars. If, "living well is the best revenge", living in Italy is the supreme vendetta.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Mimicking or "mirroring" is not exclusive to humans, our cousins the chimps do it and so do many other animals. chimps-1.jpg
It may be one of the most ancient forms of social intercourse. It's a way of establishing a connection with another and, although not absolutely necessary it may be a quick way of establishing a preliminary relationship. I don't usually mimic someone I don't like unless it's to ridicule them. It's a way of demonstrating our "sympathie" (in the French sense) for another. You smile and I smile back, you laugh and so do I. (Many people need a laugh track to know what's funny) 
When someone makes a friendly gesture; offering their hand or a hug and I don't reciprocate, I am showing that I have no wish to engage with that person in a friendly way.

We don't usually mimic anyone that we don't feel any empathy for unless it's to show scorn or contempt. So, what about those who can't empathize with others? Normally they don't mimic and if they do it's usually forced and unnatural. 

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Just War?

"My God, is this the end of the world? No. it's 'just war' ".
I don't believe in "Just Wars" or more specifically. I can't think of any except perhaps WW II (and I'm not absolutely sure about even that). The President presented an almost valid argument for his position relative to our occupation of Afghanistan but it was not totally convincing. He demonstrated his pragmatic  tendencies and actually showed his casuist side as well. It's beginning to look like Barrack Obama is not really committed to the changes he promised in his campaign but instead is totally wed to the idea of business as usual even more than the lobbyists he promised to get rid of.
Can we blame him for these survivalist tactics? Not if we go along with the idea that politicians main/only function or purpose is to get elected. Obama has achieved his goal now we just have to wait to see how his "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" strategy will play out.
This is not the way it was supposed to be.