Big Hat, No Cattle






The ranchers in South Dakota have lost their cattle.

A freak October blizzard roamed across the state earlier this week, depositing up to five feet of snow across the Black Hills, catching tens of thousands of cows stranded in pastures where they died of exposure.

This is a tragedy, make no mistake about it. These ranchers borrow huge amounts from the bank in anticipation of bringing those cattle to market and recouping their investment. Now, those cattle are gone, their corpses piled up three and four high in ditches. I’m not sure what role insurance plays in this transaction, but, given the article’s aura of gloom and doom, we can assume that people are gonna get hurt.

I read this story in the New York Times on Tuesday, 10/16. A few fractions of an inch above this story was another story, about the end of the Government Shutdown.

Now, I know, I know. No one wants to hear about the government shutdown and the debt ceiling debate anymore, about how one political party, possessed of one portion of one house of Congress and loser of the popular vote in Senate and presidential races in recent years, sought to emancipate the American people from health care reform and a federal debt that has been declining as a share of gross domestic product since 2009. Continue reading

Energex Systems and the Magic of the Capitalist Marketplace

Energex Systems, Orthosonix, LawsuitLately I’ve been receiving a lot of big yellow envelopes in the mail, sent by the law firm McCarter and English. M&E are representing my interests in a class-action suit, Dow et al v. Fagan, et al.

One such envelope arrived in my mailbox several months ago bearing happy news. Thomas Fagan, the former CFO of Energex Systems, a biotechnology device manufacturer based in Allendale NJ, had been ordered by a NJ state grand jury to pay $10.2 million in investor restitution to the nearly 800 investors he had defrauded via the sale of unregistered securities. I am one of those defrauded investors.

My own investment was a small one, the minimum allowable for an initial investment at a time when Energex Systems (then called Orthosonix) was little more than a glimmer in Thomas Fagan’s ambitious eye. I’d written a check to Fagan in 1999, before my wife and I had kids, when we sometimes had some money lying around. Doing the math, I can see that many investors contributed a lot more money than I did. Continue reading

Top 10 Things That Need to Go the Fuck Away: 2012 Edition


Yay! It’s that time of year again. Time to take stock of the year behind us. Time to celebrate the best and brightest our culture and society have had to offer in the most recent calendar year.

Yeah, but fuck that. Here’s 10 things that have to go, in no particular order.

Bruce Springsteen, E Street BandBruce Springsteen

Springsteen is to middle-class white people as Jay-Z is to inner-city black people. He’s the reason the revolution never happened.  He is the conduit by which legitimate rage and fear and despair was channeled into T-shirt sales. He is the soothing balm slathered on the guilty consciences of David Brooks and Chris Christie and Barack Obama. He is, as Leon Wieseltier described him in the New Republic, “the least dangerous man in America.” I’m no revolutionary, and I believe that stupid people generally get what they deserve, but bad songs are bad songs. Springsteen didn’t always write bad songs. He started writing bad songs right about the time that goopy Southern drawl appeared in his voice and he started doing that gospel shouting thing from the top of Roy Bittan’s piano. Somewhere between 1988 and 1992. (Some would date Springsteen’s sell-by date to 1984-85, but that doesn’t allow for Tunnel Of Love.)

Anyway, listen to “Racing in the Street.” Then listen to “Shackled and Drawn.” Both are protest songs, of a sort. The first is written and performed by someone recognizable as a real person. The second is written and performed by a well-meaning fathead who clips song ideas from the pages of a copy of Mother Jones on the waiting room table in his therapist’s office. Springsteen is reputed to be a big fan of Elvis Presley. He is said, by those close to him, to have learned much from watching Presley’s decline and fall. He has, to his great credit, never become Elvis Presley. Instead, he’s become Colonel Parker, anthemizing his fans’ grievances and re-packaging them in $75 Super Deluxe Editions.

Hungry Hungry Hippos, Hasbro, MovieHungry Hungry Hippos: The Movie

This is a real thing. Hasbro has entered into a partnership with a film production company called Emmett/Furia to develop Hungry Hungry Hippos into a feature movie, along the lines of Battleship. There was a time in this country when smart people cynically sold stupid things to stupid people. Harry Cohn, Louis B. Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn. Whip-smart, unscrupulous Jews who got their start selling tin-plated utensils and tomato seeds from the backs of wagons. That golden age is over now. Today’s Hollywood executives grew up with GameBoy and Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles and PC caches full of porn jpegs. They’re not selling Hungry Hungry Hippos: The Movie to people because they have nothing but contempt for the hapless consumers who make them rich. They’re selling Hungry Hungry Hippos: The Movie to consumers because they genuinely believe Hungry Hungry Hippos is a good thing. Continue reading

Election Morning After: GOP Soul Searching Begins

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, 2012 Presidential Election



BOSTON, MA — With the results in for the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, Democrats have what they believe is a voter mandate for their fiscal and social policies of the last four years, while the Republicans are left to pick up the pieces. Already, key GOP political strategists are sifting through the ashes of a failed Romney campaign, seeking clues as to where the effort went wrong. There’s no shortage of finger-pointing and blame-shifting, but many well-placed party operatives have been candid in their opinions of where Romney lost his way, while others have suggested measures targeted at getting the party back on its feet after the electoral drubbing they received on Tuesday.

Many of these GOP operatives were willing to speak off the record to our reporters. Here’s what we’re hearing: Continue reading

Mitt Romney For President!


Mitt Romney, 2012 Presidential Election, Barack Obama, US Politics



A lot of people thought Mitt Romney would never amount to anything, but I always knew he’d come through in the end, when the stakes were highest.

His back to the wall, faced with declining poll numbers and back-stabbed by GOP insiders, Romney opted to do what all the Republican mush-mouthers and dog-whistle blowers and code-word deployers (I’m looking at you, Rush Limbaugh!) have been too cowardly to do.

Mitt Romney declared war on red-state America.
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Dream State

Dreams, Sandy Hook, sunset, fictionDreams are a cheap device.

When I encounter one in fiction, I know that the author is going to try to “reveal” something about a character without doing any of the heavy lifting that real plotting and character development and dialogue require. The more “structured” the dream is, the worse it is.

Dreams are, by definition, exposition. They’re telling, not showing. At the very least, they’re  a narrative crutch for writers who can’t see their way forward in the plot. When a writer clears the stage of real incident and relationship and cause-and-effect, and starts editorializing about a character’s inner life by using brain-chemical shadow play, I’ll start skipping ahead. Tell me what’s really happening, I’ll say, not some free-associational aside functioning as a story-telling convenience.
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The Revolution This Time


Occupy Wall Street, We Are the 99 Percent healthcare retirementMaybe nothing will be accomplished at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and marches. Maybe the whole thing will dissolve into riots and chaos and looting. Maybe the cops will finally arrest enough people to cripple the event’s momentum. Maybe nothing will change at all and corporations will keep banking their profits and shipping jobs overseas, while the big banks privatize obscene profits and socialize all the losses attendant upon their gaming of the system.

But at least someone is standing up and saying something.

Until last weekend, if you read anything about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations now going on in Zuccotti Park (re-named Liberty Square by the protestors) you read that it was a silly, unfocused bacchanal staged by a few hundred disaffected hippies. That’s what Citibank and President Obama  and the GOP and the New York Times want you to think. Continue reading

Attack of the Very Serious People


Here’s one good thing about the pending arrival of a Mitt Romney Administration in January of 2013. At least we won’t have to hear about the deficit anymore.

If we’ve learned anything about the Republican style of governance in the last three decades, it’s this: The GOP runs up enormous deficits when a Republican is in the White House, then uses those same deficits as a means to shut down government when a Democrat is in the White House. Once Mitt Romney or Rick Perry or Jon Huntsman takes up residence in the Oval Office in 2013, you can bet it won’t be long before the deficit mania vanishes and the GOP returns to its previous philosophy so eloquently expressed by Vice President Dick Cheney in 2002: “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”
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Detours To Nowhere

The militia news stories come more and more frequently now. The latest one, out of Michigan, introduces a new extremist revolutionary buzzword to the lexicon, Hutaree, but otherwise serves up the usual sad characters and settings.

Underemployed men wearing US Army surplus camouflage, target-shooting and practicing “military maneuvers” in the woods. Single-wide trailers jury-rigged together with plywood and sheet metal. Yards full of cast-off furniture, car parts, and underfed pets. Kids pulled out of school for the purposes of “home schooling.” Men and women with too much time on their hands, too much misdirected rage.

I often wonder how these people can afford to stock up so liberally (if I might use the term) on munitions. I mean, I don’t know about you, but after I pay the month’s bills—the cable, the phone, the mortgage, the credit cards, the electricity—there’s hardly any money left for grenades or extra clips of ammunition for the M16 assault rifle. Some people can stretch a paycheck, I guess.
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Bloomberg’s Boondoggle

Of all the things we don’t need, a new World Trade Center—or a $3.1 billion “Freedom Tower”—is one of the things we don’t need the most.

I know this for a fact because when those American Airlines planes hit the Twin Towers at 9am and 10am on a Tuesday morning in September of 2001, the buildings were virtually empty. Indeed, more than half the floors of both towers were vacant and unleased. Nutjob religious extremists, in their single-minded obsession with a recognizable American landmark, had managed to strike one of the least populated areas in Manhattan. The death count would have been higher if the terrorists had targeted Kim’s Video on St. Mark’s Place.
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