Category Archives: news

Politics and tricks and all them things you said

Haven’t talked about politics for a bit, not because there hasn’t been anything to talk about it – that’s hardly the case – or even because I don’t want to talk about it. But I do find it a tad enervating.
Continue reading Politics and tricks and all them things you said

April Ramblin'

Fun Interpretation of the Google Books Settlement

What I love about my Bible study: we talk a LOT about current affairs. Part of the conversation recently, in reading the 23rd Psalm, was “What IS evil?’ One of the examples I thought of was the deliberate misrepresentation of the truth with the intent to incite.

We also were distressed about the new Arizona immigration law Two thoughts on that. Remember the Sun City (video) album from the 1980s? Sun City was the resort town in South Africa, which, during apartheid came to symbolize the difference in conditions for blacks and whites. On that album was the song, Let Me See Your ID (video).

The other thing is that famous quote by theologian Martin Niemöller
“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
Having been profiled one or twice (yeah, right), this really disturbs me.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow: FOX News, GOP further ‘the un-mooring of politics from fact’ (video)
Gunn High School Sings Away Kansas Hate Group known as the Westboro Baptist Church (video).
The vengeance of Bernie Goldberg on the Daily Show (Link to video). I don’t recall Goldberg being quite so wack when he was on CBS.
Plaque in honor of activist William Moore unveiled. He was a civil rights activist from around my hometown of Binghamton, NY, who was murdered in Alabama in 1963. The local branch of the Congress of Racial Equality, with which my father worked, was named after him. It even rhymed: The William L. Moore chapter of CORE.
Very soon, you can listen to the sounds of the cosmos yourself. All of the data from the SETI program will soon be available at to download or play.
New national park quarters unveiled: U.S. Mint debuts designs for the first five coins in its America the Beautiful Quarters Program, which will honor 56 national parks. The rest will be released through 2021. I probably WON’T collect them; still haven’t found most of the 2009 quarters.
MAD Artist Jack Davis’ Illustrations of NBC’s 1965-66 Season for TV Guide is really cool, especially if you remember the shows, which I do.
Angelina Jolie is in the summer movie I can’t wait to see, Salt, which was filmed in part in Albany, NY. The filming caused massive traffic delays for days.
Siren’s Crush Receives Rave Reviews from NAMM (short video). This is my niece’s group; Rebecca is the brunette female.
My friend Deborah, who I met in 1977 in Manhattan, and who’s been living in France for the past quarter century, recently bought a beautiful old stone house in Brittany with a plan of partly financing the loan by renting it out as a holiday home.

The Kan ar Vouac’h website and its listing on VRBO are finally done, and she’s hoping to be putting the final touches on buying the final necessaries over the month of May.

I’m told it’s a lovely and reasonable place to stay in Brittany.
Retiree Bathtub Test

During a visit to my doctor, I asked him, “How do you determine whether or not a retiree should be put in an old age home?”

“Well,” he said, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the retiree and ask him or her to empty the bathtub”

“Oh, I understand,” I said. “A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”

“No” he said. “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?”


Behind the Curve

Partially because I deigned to watch football the last three weekends and partially because I have the annoying habit of taking on more stuff than I’m comfortable with, I’m behind in watching stuff on TV, reading the paper, etc.

That two-hour Haiti special, the album for which is the first #1 album that exists without an actual physical product? Haven’t watched it.

The State of the Union – read the reviews, but not heard the actual address. The chat Obama had with Republicans that went so well for the President that FOX News stopped showing it 20 minutes in – plenty of places to read it or watch it, including here but hasn’t happened yet. Still, I think Evanier’s right when he notes: Once you tell your constituents that everything Obama does is evil, you can’t meet him halfway on anything without appearing to be compromising with evil. You can’t even support him when he does things you like. I think that’s a lot of our problem right there.

Of course, being behind has its benefits. After Martha Coakley lost to Scott Brown in the Massachusetts race for US Senate, there’s been this revisionist message that the Democrats only dumped on her because she lost. Watching the Sunday morning talk shows two and nine days before that election, it was clear that the Democrats, though muted in their criticism – she was still their candidate – suggested that she did not run the robust campaign she ought to have. Yes, in answer to her rhetorical question, you DO pass out fliers in front of Fenway Park.

Some stories I missed altogether, such as the death of Pernell Roberts, the eldest son on Bonanza who later became, in some bizarro world spinoff, Trapper John in the CBS drama Trapper John, MD. It was not a great show, though it was the jumping off point for now-Broadway legend Brian Stokes Mitchell.

I plowed through a couple weeks of the Wall Street Journal and came across this story of Scarlett Johansson’s debut on Broadway as well as a very positive review of “Gregory Mosher’s revival of ‘A View From the Bridge, Arthur Miller’s
1955 play about love and death on the Brooklyn waterfront.” “Of course you’ll be wondering about Ms. Johansson, whose Broadway debut this is, and I can tell you all you need to know in a sentence: She is so completely submerged in her role that you could easily fail to spot her when she makes her first entrance. You’d never guess that she hasn’t acted on a stage since she was a little girl.”

Other stories I just didn’t know what to say. I noticed that Kate McGarrigle of the singing/songwriting McGarrigle Sisters, and also mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, died of cancer at the age of 62 back on January 18. The best I could come with is a link to an obituary for Kate written by her sister Anna. I was listening to Trio, an album by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris this week. There’s a Kate song called I’ve Had Enough, about lost love, but feels right here.

Love it’s not I who didn’t try
Hard enough, hard enough
And this is why I’m saying goodbye
I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough
Love you don’t see
The pain in me
That’s plain enough, plain enough
You’re never here to catch the tears
I cried for us, I cried for us

I’ll take my share but I’ll be fair
There’s not much stuff
Easy enough
And if you choose I’ll break the news
This part is tough, so very tough

I’ve tried and tried to put aside
The time to talk, but without luck
So I’ll just pin this note within your coat
And leave the garden gate unlocked

And this is why I’m saying goodbye
I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough

Her funeral is today in Montreal.

Little Boxes theme from Weeds by the McGarrigle Sisters.


Local News

There’s a story in the local newspaper about how a Minnesota man who allegedly embezzled $1.38M attended Schenectady (NY) County Community College. It’s always interesting to see how much coverage an item will receive, and part of it is the ability to find the local angle, if any. Most recently, we’ve had the alleged Craiglist killer who attended UAlbany; so instead of the national stories, we get our local “insight.”

Visiting Arthur at AmeriNZ a couple months ago, he noted some North Carolina Republican speaking against the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, calling Matthew Shepard’s murder “a hoax”. One commenter said: “Sadly I’m not seeing much coverage of [Virginia] Foxx’s incredible comments in the mainstream media,” but another noted:” “Foxx’s comments are all over the television and radio news, Internet, newspapers, etc. here in NC.” Thus her banality was only newsworthy instate rather than nationally.

Yet the story of the mother kicking her kids out of the car in Westchester County, NY, a story that once upon a time might have been in the local police blotter, stirred up an international debate.

One of the things I’m reminded of every Thanksgiving is that the amount of news that gets reported and printed is only a fraction of the news available. Why Thanksgiving? It’s because our local paper is so thick with stories – to balance the ads sold – that simply would not get reported on any other weekday.

So what’s news? Depends on the purveyor of same. I knew this intellectually, but it’s always nice to confirm.
If David Carradine’s death at age 72 is really a suicide, then I’m truly shocked. A month or two ago, he was profiled on “CBS Sunday Morning” along with Bruce Dern and Rip Torn for a movie they’d made together. The basic point of the story is how full of life the three veteran actors still were. There was zero indication Carradine was anything but happy with where he was in this world.
I saw Koko Taylor perform on the Empire State Plaza in Albany sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s. She was on the north end of the plaza near the state capitol, and she was very close to the audience. Anyone out there know the year? It was NOT the 2007 show that got driven indoors.

She only had one “hit”, the Top 60 “Wang Dang Doodle” in 1966, but she was a blues force, and I’m sorry that she died at age 80.


No Forwarding Address

Sometime last year, we started getting mail for a Hrishikesh Samant at our home. We have been at this address for nine years and the people who lived here before were not so named either. I thought it would be an easy matter to Google the name and perhaps trying to contact him. No such luck; there seems to be at least a geology and/or zoology professor in Mumbai, India and a GIS expert in the US. Here’s a video of one of them. Or maybe it’s all the same guy. But it doesn’t explain while mail, including utility bills, cable bills, and items of the sort started arriving at our door in that name.

So I decided that perhaps I should contact the authorities to see if someone was trying to perpetrate some fraud in Mr. Samant’s seemingly good name(s). I contacted the postal authorities. They told me to just return to sender. After three or four months, the mailings have seemed to stop.

Now we are getting mail for Gwen Powell. It’s all what we would consider junk mail. Moreover, we at least have a theory about how we came to get “Gwen’s mail”. My wife’s given surname, her “maiden name” if you will, is Powell. A C and a G have similar structures; the line of the G plus ar could be construed as a w, I suppose. In cursive, o and e both have loops. I need to contact these vendors to get “Gwen” off their mailing list.
There was a story this week in the local paper about an a 11-year-old boy who pedaled his bicycle into the path of a car and later died. Very sad story made worse by the fact that he waited 25 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Someone on Twitter commented that the fact that the driver of the car wasn’t ticketed was tantamount to getting away with “murder”, and used that specific word.

Now few people complain more about how irresponsible car drivers are vis a vis bicyclists than I do. I got a broken rib about 50 weeks ago from trying to avoid a car running through a traffic light. But the facts in the case – the boy’s bike hit the passenger-side door – suggests that the boy either didn’t see the car, had his brakes fail or some other circumstance. In any case, the driver, who will undoubtedly be traumatized for a long time, doesn;’t need apparently unfounded claims of murder bandied about.


My Ambivalence About Bobby Kennedy

I first realized that I didn’t much like Robert F. Kennedy when he decided to run for the U.S. Senate from the state of New York in 1964. There were three overriding factors:
1. I had heard that the FBI was bugging Martin Luther King, Jr., and I felt that as U.S. Attorney General, he was responsible.
2. We had a perfectly good moderate Republican senator in Kenneth Keating, in the Jacob Javits tradition. I know some of you are too young to remember moderate Republicans. They existed. Really.
3. I had read a syndicated column in the morning newspaper in Binghamton, the Sun-Bulletin, where William F. Buckley compared RFK to a “carpetbagger”. Of course, his own brother, James, would move into New York, to run for and win a Senate seat in 1970; the tradition continued with Hillary Clinton in 2000.

BTW, I was 11 at the time. I was a political junkie, even then.

As it turned out, Bobby Kennedy won the Senate seat. Satirist Tom Lehrer quipped that Massachusetts then had three senators. Ken Keating ended up on the state Court of Appeals, which, despite its name, is New York’s highest court. (Whereas the Supreme Court is a trial court; go figure.) He then served as a US Ambassador, first to India, then to Israel.

Move to 1968. Eugene McCarthy runs against an incumbent President and gets 42% of the vote versus 49% for LBJ in the New Hampshire primary on March 12. It’s only then that Bobby Kennedy gets into the race. Commentators at the time declared that Kennedy used McCarthy as a “stalking horse” against Johnson, and I tended to agree. LBJ’s declaration that he would not run came at the end of March. This was followed on April 4 by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., which ultimately had a profoundly moderating effect on my world view.

I woke up the morning of June 5 to see the results of the California primary, only to hear the news of RFK’s shooting in Los Angeles; he died the next day. I knew many people who were deeply affected by his loss. I too was at a loss, though. While I certainly didn’t wish him ill, I wasn’t having the same sensation, and I was feeling pretty guilty about it. Yet, as I watched the days of coverage, seeing people lined the railroad tracks as the train carrying his body went by, somehow I started to emphasize with what those folks felt.

A few years later, Tom Clay, a radio disc jockey, born in Binghamton, but by then working out of Los Angeles’ KGBS, put together this very odd song, melding the Bacharach-David song “What the World Needs Now” with the Dion hit “Abraham, Martin and John.” I’ve written about this record before, even putting it on as the last song on a mixed CD. The song starts off rather cloyingly, with Clay asking children about prejudice and segregation, and them having no idea, then segues into soldiers preparing for the Viet Nam war. Next, reports of JFK’s and MLK’s death, with this comment by Bobby Kennedy about the latter: “No one can be certain who next will suffer, from some senseless act of bloodshed.”

Then the record uses what I believe to be the audio tape of reporter Andrew West of KRKD, a Mutual Broadcasting System radio affiliate in Los Angeles, who also provided a blow-by-blow account of the struggle with the shooter Sirhan Sirhan in the hotel kitchen pantry, shouting at Olympian Rafer Johnson to “Get the gun, Rafer, get the gun!” and telling others to “get a hold of his thumb and break it, if you have to! Get his thumb! We don’t want another Oswald!” (Not so incidentally, I was watching the television 4 1/2 years earlier when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot.)

The next thing heard is Senator Edward Kennedy, eulogizing Bobby: “My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.” Ted Kennedy’s voice cracks during that section, and my own pain, largely missing at the time, except as a supporter of others who mourned, came into fruition; it gets to me every time I hear it. The remaining Kennedy brother concluded his eulogy, by quoting George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things as they are and say ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?'”

In retrospect, I think that Bobby Kennedy was transforming from a cool, calculating politician to a more truly compassionate man, and I mourn his death now far more than I did at the time.

Here are the lyrics to the song.

The YouTube video, which may not be historically accurate. I swear it’s David Brinkley’s voice I hear when Walter Cronkite is on the screen.

Oh, and like so much in this campaign, I thought the Hillary Clinton “gaffe” re: RFK’s assassination was a non-issue.


So early in the morning

Tuesday morning, I was the first person to vote in my district to vote on the budget proposals for the school and library. I saw the Capital News 9 truck in the parking lot, but I wasn’t thinking much about it. I was thinking how it’s 7 a.m. and I need to get my daughter, who was still in bed last I checked, dressed and on the 7:30 bus. (Her mother was home, but would leave as soon as I got back.)

It’s always interesting being interviewed. Read this story about the voting in Albany, which does mention me. The reporter, Ms. Godchalk, asked me a question about how the rising cost of things would affect my voting choices; interesting slant designed to generate a particular point of view. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a pithy response, so I launched into a bunch of cliches about how we could be “penny wise and pound foolish” and how we could pay for good education now or pay later – I was thinking about welfare and prison, but did not specify. Did I mention I had a four-year old and that her education was important to me? I did not. No wonder sports figures asre always engaging in terminology such as “take it one day at a time.”

Anyway, a few hours later, maybe around 10 a.m. I went to the Capital News 9 website to see if they had actually used the interview. Instead, I saw a piece Ms. Godchalk had done with Eva Joseph, the superintendent of the Albany School District about the budget process, and I figured, “OK, I got bumped.” Ah, but Capital News 9 is a 24-hour news station, provided by Time Warner Cable, and they use almost EVERYTHING. When I got to the library that evening to hear the Times Union’s Rex Smith speak, someone told me that he HAD seen me on TV, and that I sounded good. So I went to the computers upstairs, and saw myself. Unfortunately, it was one of the 15-minute computers with no headphones, but I was on screen for at least 20 seconds; at least I LOOKED intelligent, even if I were babbling.

Anyway, in Albany, the proposed 2008-09 school budget was approved, 2,331-2,011, and the proposed library budget was approved, 2,400-1,906.

Here Now the News

One Fred G (for Generous) Hembeck passed this on to me: Rupert Murdock’s New York Post front page from yesterday. I don’t remember which of these many characters in Anna Nicole Land this Larry is, but the picture is worth posting anyway.
He (Fred, not Larry) may be featured in another post in the near future.
Meanwhile, I was watching ESPN last night when the crawl made mention of two stories:
Men exonerated in rape charge – oh, yeah, the Duke lacrosse team members.
Don Imus suspended by his network – oh, yeah, for dissing the Rutgers women’s basketball team.
Interesting how, in some way or another, race, gender, class and power all played into both “sports” stories.
I read that Google Earth is mapping the atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan. Thought I’d look for it myself, but absentmindedly used Google Maps instead. I discovered something quite curious. There’s a Darfur, Minnesota 56022, about 130 miles southwest of St. Paul.
However you feel about the war in Iraq – and I’ve made myself quite clear on this in the past – there’s something really unsettling about the Defense Dept. extending the tours of duty of US soldiers by 25%. It has me worried about what happens if/when another war breaks out; also, the “bait and switch” seems patently unfair to the soldiers and their families.



I’m recalling that the guy who did the In the News segments on Saturday morning s for CBS died last year. What WAS his name? He had a great voice.

Anyway, an extension of a recent Lefty question.

1. Where do you get the news?
Local newspaper? Yes, I read the Albany Times Union, more for the local stories.
National newspaper? Yes, the Wall Street Journal, even though their editorial policy is obnoxious. I do like the cool sabermetric stuff they have on the Friday sports page, their movie recviews are usually spot on, and I like the wine, small business and and technology columns. I USED to read the NY Times daily; those were the days, he sighed. Someone tortured me by getting me a free NYT last Sunday; still haven’t read the book review or the magazine.
Local TV news? I used to, back when this guy was anchoring. But now, I might get “News in a Minute” from the Time Warner folks, unless some major story has broken, when I’ll usually tuirn to the NBC or ABC affiliate.
National news? ABC in the evenings, ABC and CBS on Sunday morning; the ABC show does a best of the late night comedians segment. Also 60 Minutes, for stories such as Brundibar: How The Nazis Conned The World by using a children’s opera to deceive the International Red Cross, which, frankly, made me weep; and GIs Petition Congress To End Iraq War, which frankly gave me hope – check out The Appeal for Redress website for more information. The Today show on those rare times I watch in the morning.
Radio news? About four minutes worth on NPR at 6 a.m., usually. If I’m in the car, I’ll sometimes catch NPR.
Internet news? I tend to note the pieces on Google or AOL, but don’t tend to read them unless they’re breaking stories, usually a storm (Alabama, Florida), a death (Molly Ivins), or a rampage (Utah mall). Occasionally, I’ll check out the local paper’s website, usually when the weather’s dodgy, and I want to know about school closings.
Internet commentary (e.g., Daily Kos)? Rarely, unless someone sends me a link.
E-mailed news? I get a notice from Hispanic Business, which often has news elements.
Most of the above I do NOT watch in real time.

2. Why do you get, or don’t get, the news?
As a librarian, I’ve found it useful context for future questions. Someone reads about a new tax policy and wants to know the implications for themselves. I COULD look it up when asked, but I have found it easier to answer when I have some idea what they’re talking about. Besides, I have that JEOPARDY!-champion-know-it-all burden to maintain. Everyone assumes I know everything (except about cars, where they KNOW I haven’t a clue).
That said, sometimes, I tune out certain stories: another helicopter going down in Afghanistan or Iraq, or the next car bombing that kills scores of civilians, out of self-preservation.


I was content to post not too much today, I really was, but then I heard that Peter Jennings had died.

When I was growing up, it was Huntley/Brinkley in our household (the reason I know the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 9th), then Walter Cronkite. When Cronkite retired in the early 1980s, I tried a number of folks: Chancellor then Brokaw, Rather. But eventually I found myself gravitating towards this Canadian fellow.

I think I found him more credible because he was somehow more the observer. I think his disastrous first shot at the anchor in his 20s made him work harder. Perhaps my favorite moment was on September 15, 2001 when he was talking to kids about the attacks, compassionate, yet not jingoistic.

When he said he’d be back when he went off the air in April, I figured, for a while, that maybe he would be.

The network has no clear choice to replace him. The folks who have been substituting for him already have a job (Elizabeth Vargas on Prime Time) or two (Charles Gibson on Prime Time and, more importantly for ABC’s bottom line, Good Morning America.) Koppel is set to leave Nightline soon to do his own thing.

As I’m sure all the news analysts are saying, the triumvirate is over, which is neither here nor there for me. But the passing of Peter Jennings is one that fills me with some sorrow. It’s strange that when you “invite someone into your home” electronically, you can get feelings of sadness when they’re gone.