Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Birthday, Daddy-O.


There are two types of people in the world: Those who turn up volume knobs and those who turn them down. This song by Steel Panther, "Asian Hooker", is definitely not for those who turn them down. So, in honor of my whoremongering old man's 71st birthday, I'm giving him the chance to relive the first year of his marriage and fatherhood in Okinawa. Don't let it be said that I never did anything for you, Pops.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

...And Justice For Gaul


(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

“Our concern is that the Manhattan district attorney is too afraid to try this case.” - Kenneth P. Thompson, counsel for the plaintiff

As has been noted many times before, fortunes and misfortunes in the political arena in the age of digital media and 24/7 news cycles occur with frightening rapidity. The potential for success or failure, for scandal or redemption, whether deserved or not, has never been higher since former president-elect Al Gore invented the internets. And we've perhaps never seen a more vivid delineation in how rapidly one can be snatched from the jaws of destruction and placed back on their pedestal than in the circus surrounding former IMF chief and accused rapist Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

This case contains more drama and twists and turns than John Grisham could fit into a legal thriller. We have an accusation of rape against a presumptive future head of state, we have a discredited witness, we have a suddenly embarrassed District Attorney whose political ambitions are now shakier than that of the defendant's, we have Strauss-Khan's native France's full support, we even have an inflatable Statue of Liberty and early 4th of July independence wishes. This sad, sorry clown show makes the OJ Simpson murder trial of 1995 look like a dignified model of jurisprudence by conspicuous relief. And it hasn't even gone to trial, yet. And, by the looks of the tails tucked between Manhattan prosecutors' legs, it never will.

There seems to be little to no doubt that the star witness, the maid who insists she was raped by Strauss-Khan on the 28th floor of the Sofitel New York hotel, has repeatedly lied in other matters or been inconsistent at best with her account of being sexually assaulted. Anyone who's ever watched an episode of Perry Mason knows that in the world of jurisprudence, so much depends upon the credibility of witnesses and plaintiffs.

And while destroying the credibility of a witness or plaintiff is the fastest way to win a case, in many cases it becomes a witch hunt with your more aggressive attorneys who know they cannot prove their clients to be not guilty. The rules of the legal game always has within it an enormous potential for abuse and the innocent get destroyed in court five days a week, 52 weeks a year while the guilty (such as Simpson) walk out of the courthouses with broad smiles on their faces.

What passed over the heads of the three NY Times reporters who contributed a pair of page one, above the fold stories in today's edition was why this woman had to lie about certain things. In a word, it's survival.

She had to lie about being gang-raped in her native Guinea to get into and stay in this country. She had to lie about having another dependent in order to get a slightly bigger tax refund. She had to allow her bank account to be used as a little money-laundering operation for her jailbird fiance and his friends, all drug dealers.

If Cyrus Vance Jr's office were to ignore these revelations, he'd likely be impeached or perhaps even disbarred and his political career would be deader than his father's. I think we all get it.

But this maid accusing Strauss-Khan of rape (and some of the forensic evidence could lead one to believe something non-consensual could've taken place) and Strauss-Khan himself is an unexplored case study in opposites, one that delineates better than any story currently serving as fodder for the MSM in the difference in how we treat the wealthy and powerful and the poor and powerless.

Strauss-Khan is now a free man who can travel anywhere in the United States without notifying the prosecutors, his bail greatly reduced, his posh and cushy house arrest in lower Manhattan now lifted, his ankle bracelet removed and if he wanted to launch a presidential campaign against French President Sarkozy, he'd once again stand a good chance of winning (and don't think for a minute that Strauss-Khan wouldn't play up the martyr angle and set himself up as the 21st century's answer to Joan of Arc).

Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr., on the other hand, has, because of the wealth and power of the defendant, is on the verge of joining Anthony Weiner on the unemployment line, his own political career virtually in tatters. Considering the prosecution did not protest the reduced bail, it's obvious at this point that Vance is, unlike Strauss-Khan in that hotel room, looking for a dignified exit. It's a foregone conclusion this case will never go to trial.

The plaintiff-turned-defendant, the victim, will surely, if she hasn't already, lose her job and possibly face jail time for lying about her taxes and immigration status and will very likely get deported along with 800,000 others in the Glorious Age of Obama, her hopes and dreams of making it in the United States completely destroyed.

It's the classic case of the boy who cried wolf except in this case it's a girl, one who's been living a borderline criminal life in the interests of survival and the wolf just happens to be the presumptive next President of France and former head of the IMF. But while people are sending him balloons shaped like the Statue of Liberty (an inflatable shark with a fish in its mouth was turned away at the townhouse) and bemoaning how he was victimized by having to give up his IMF post, hardly anyone save for the woman's attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, seem to care about the potential and likely fallout that'll be suffered by the complainant. Suddenly, we're not hearing so much about the compelling forensic evidence, about Strauss-Khan's extremely suspicious behavior (he left the hotel in such a hurry after the rape, he left his cell phone behind).

Once a liar, always a liar, is what we're hearing from the MSM. "If she lied about her immigration status and on her tax returns, then she must be lying about this" is the unspoken consensus. Yet, while it's true that she sought to profit from this (as per the transcript of a recorded conversation she'd had with her self-serving fiance in prison, who put the idea in her head), it's notable that the prison visit reveals the rape to be a matter of fact and not some hoax or conspiracy to extort a vast sum of money from a powerful, wealthy and innocent man.

Here's the difference in a nutshell: If one is poor and has a verifiable history of telling lies, one is doomed. If one is powerful and wealthy and has a verifiable history of telling lies, they get elected, re-elected, literary agents and huge book and TV deals.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

It All Started at Stonewall


My guess would be even the most idealistic activists who'd taken part in the Stonewall Inn riot of 1969 would never have thought that gay marriage would one day be a reality in New York within 42 year's time. Of course, the primary impetus for Stonewall was not a demand for gay marriage or even civil unions but one for the simple, abstract right to not be singled out and persecuted (and prosecuted) for their sexual orientation.

When NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the gay marriage bill into law last night, thereby allowing same sex couples in New York to legally marry in 30 days, it was a watershed moment in not only New York but national politics, with the full weight of historical import felt both in Albany and on the streets of the West Village. Passing 33-29 in a deathly quiet chamber, the outcome hanging in the balance and not known until the final votes were tallied, four New York Republicans joined with all but one Democrat to give the New York LGBT community the rights given to their brothers and sisters in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa and, briefly, Maine and California.

It was still a hard line party vote but it bears repeating that four Republicans did vote for it while being threatened by Tea Baggers outside the state house. Said GOP state Senator Grisanti from Buffalo:
I apologize for those who feel offended. I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.

That's not political grandstanding. That's a courageous statement coming from the heart that gets immediately to the heart of the matter, a heart that's been beating in the chest of every liberal since time immemorial: That if you're a gainfully employed taxpayer, a voter, an American citizen and a human being, you, too, ought to be accorded the same constitutional protections, civil liberties and human rights granted those in the straight community.

Anything less is, at best, cowardice and political expediency, at worst, hateful bigotry.

Last night was indeed a great night to be gay and bisexual in New York state, one of the most momentous acts of legislation in recent New York history.

But there was a summer night like this in Sacramento, California not too long ago, three years ago, to be exact. Within six months, gay marriage was taken from the state in a dirty, overfunded and extra-legal dirty trick called Proposition 8. And to this day, even though retired Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Prop 8's constitutionality, his judgment has been stayed and had been until a week and a half ago challenged by die-hard wingnuts who claim that the openly-gay Walker's ruling was a conflict of interest (Oh, the irony!).

Walker's ruling is expected to be tried before the right wing Supreme Court. So let's not forget California and Maine, which lost legal same sex marriage before it had even become law. As Jefferson famously said, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Acoustic Tuesday


Recently, I began reaching out to long-neglected family on Facebook. I've already chatted for three hours on the phone with one of my cousins in Port St. Lucie, Florida and found out some things I could've lived without knowing while coming across some things that make me proud. My cousin Corey is one of them.

This is a fan-made video of my first cousin Corey Balsamo's "September", a track that was recorded when he was still in high school. Corey's one of the products of my Aunt Janet's marriage to Billy Balsamo, who used to be a Mets prospect in late 70's/early 80's. When I was this kid's age, I only dreamed of being a writing prodigy. This kid became one, proving that sometimes the apple falls farther away from the family tree than we think.

He also seems to be one of the 11 or 12 people who haven't yet deleted their Myspace pages. You can buy and download his songs on iTunes at his Myspace page. He's also all over Youtube. They say his influences are John Mayer and Dave Matthews and his acoustic stylings seem to bear that out.

You go, cuz!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Top 10 Changes Since Anthony Weiner Decided to Resign


Today it was confirmed that Rep. Anthony Weiner (NY-9) will resign as a US congressman after it was revealed three weeks ago that he'd sent lewd pictures of himself to several women on Twitter. Many Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and even President Barack Obama, had called for Rep. Weiner's resignation. Already, things are changing on Capitol Hill in the wake of WeinerGate. What are some of the biggest changes?

  • 10) Americans can now immediately resume trusting Democratic and Republican politicians again after both parties proved their moral purity and superiority at Weiner's expense.

  • 9) Weiner resignation now allows lawmakers and the POTUS to focus on less important issues such as the imminent immolation of the world's largest economy.

  • 8) Now that Alan Grayson and Weiner are gone, Blue Dog Democrats no longer hamstrung and put on the spot by funny and passionate but embarrassing Jewish liberal congressmen.

  • 7) Faith in pogroms and witch hunts restored by having the will of Weiner's constituency subverted.

  • 6) Andrew Breitbart one step closer to looking like a responsible, crusading journalist and one step removed from looking like a racist, spittle-flecked douchebag.

  • 5) Sen David Vitter reportedly wearing Huggies again because of nonstop paroxysm of laughter.

  • 4) Rep. Weiner's final post on his official congressional page is picture of fully erect penis with the caption, "Suck on this, Democrats."

  • 3) Democrats no longer crippled with paralyzing fear that Letterman, Leno, Conan and Craig Ferguson will take down their party with penis jokes on late night TV.

  • 2) Dozens of Republicans reported buying digital cameras and starting up Twitter, Yahoo Instant Messenger and Facebook accounts.

  • 1) Dozens of Democrats reported selling their digital cameras and deleting Twitter, Yahoo Instant Messenger and Facebook accounts.
  • Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Sunday Cat Blogging


    You'd be amazed how often this furry little fuck just stretches out on my notebook even as I'm trying to write a chapter from one of my novels. I'm convinced he's a sworn passive-aggressive enemy of literacy.


    Of course, he has his charming moments (or perhaps when he's too hot to try to forcibly remove my face without provocation), such as this moment.


    Most of the time, however, he's like this.


    Even though I wait on him hand and foot, including shedding undercoat maintenance...


    ...and letting him hog the fan even during heat waves.

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    The Scarlet Letters


    (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

    Is anyone else suspicious about the Sarah Palin Chronicles that just happened to be released when media frenzy about her possible run for the presidency is at its height, and when "Rolling Thunder" and her "One Nation" bus tour hit the east coast?

    You know the ones I mean. The 24,000 pages of letters from her state email and private email accounts up until her rather hasty resignation when TrooperGate began rearing its ugly head? The Yahoo emails given the "lamestream media" by Palin herself, the ones that "paint a picture of an image-conscious, driven leader, closely involved with the day-to-day duties of running the state and riding herd on the signature issues of her administration"? The ones that also purport to show "a woman striving to balance work and home, fiercely protective of her family and highly sensitive to media coverage. She expressed a sometimes mothering side with aides but also was quick to demand answers or accountability"?

    You know, those emails.

    The word "paints" is an unintentionally revealing one because "to paint" implies some intelligent design and an attempt to convey some sort of personal vision or to imply, project or even impose some sort of subjective reality. And the timing of this uncharacteristic "disclosure" has about as much spontaneity to it as, well, a presidential photo op.

    One of the greatest ongoing comedies and tragedies of the mainstream media is the self-serving yet ultimately vapid and self-destructive relationship between it and Sarah Palin.

    In true Republican fashion, Palin has never shied away from blasting the mainstream media that, with a middle school child's love for cheap and obvious puns, she never tires of calling the "lamestream media". However, her diplomacy with the MSM always miraculously comes to the fore whenever she appears before some network or another to pimp yet another ghost-written pack of lies and other name-calling or some TV show or another with the Palin brand name on it.

    And the MSM keep going back for more with the viciously comic recidivism of a recovering sex addict going to Amsterdam's Red Light District. As stated earlier, this unhealthy obsession with Palin that afflicts the MSM is a tragedy to those of us who care about the truth and the issues and a farce to those of us who simply no longer give a flying fuck and have long ago written off the MSM as irredeemably imbecilic and corrupt.

    The marvel of this obviously carefully cultivated and choreographed "disclosure" isn't that there are no "Gotcha!" moments but that Palin and the MSM each think we're stupid enough to fall for this and be completely insensible to the dead giveaway of the timing, that we'd all suddenly slap our foreheads and say when this burnished and pretentiously presidential image of a nonexistent Palin came out, "Duh! we were all so wrong about the poor woman!"

    But to those of us in the reality-based community, the whole thing smells as much as the also suspiciously-timed Branchflower report that found Palin innocent of any wrongdoing the day before the Presidential election.

    The press either doesn't know or doesn't care that Palin is political junk food that simply is no damn good for either them or those who consume the pap they trowel out that ludicrously passes for news, that in a country of American, Swiss and cheddar, Palin is Velveeta or Cheese Whiz straight out of the can.

    That would be the Palin who tried to fire an Alaskan State trooper and fired Walt Monegan, the Commissioner of Public Safety who refused to fire Trooper Wooten over him being simply a former brother in law. There's no hint in these letters of the facts that were unearthed by the toothless yet still-entertaining Branchflower Report, nothing to even suggest "a shadow office" manned by Todd Palin that was literally an enclave within Palin's office within her line of sight, a shadow office that was dedicated to one thing and one thing only: Firing Trooper Wooten for having the colossal bad luck of being Sarah Palin's former brother in law.

    There's nary a breath of the elsewhere underdeveloped scandal involving the corruption behind the building of the Wasilla Sports Center or Palin's flipflopping about Don Young's Bridge to Nowhere and her rejecting the nearly quarter billion in earmark money for the bridges after accepting it but then keeping the money for the road that led to those bridges.

    If nothing else, the Branchflower report does something this cherry-picked cache of Palin letters purposefully fails to do: "Paint a picture" of an amateurish administration of grifters and thugs who, instead of running a state, was largely concerned with petty, personal vendettas.

    Instead, what we're getting treated to is a Republican Party platter filled with Velveeta, a cultivated portrait of Palin that looks suspiciously identical to the image we were presented three years ago and again today, that of a "dedicated" and conscientious "leader" who expected "accountability" from all those around her and ran Alaska like a mother hen but one that always meant well.

    Sort of the image we were given of pre-Katrina Bush months after Katrina struck.