Monday, April 30, 2007

Some foolishness to see April on its way

This is the last day of April, at least for 2007. May Day is tomorrow -- time to find a Workmen's Circle chapter and sing The Internationale, the theme song of socialists and progressives back in the day. for an English version.
You may remember it from the soundtrack of the long-but-wonderful movie "Reds." Never seen the film? Make time -- it's worth it.

April comes in with April Fools' Day. I like the Chinese tradition of celebrating an event after it happens, so let's celebrate some silly things that have come our way in April.

For example, some mental-health advocates feel that their clients' privacy is the prime concern, above all other concerns, including public safety.

Therefore, the names of those who have been diagnosed with mental problems, even if those problems are severe enough to warrant involuntary commitment to a mental-health facility, should never be made known to the police, even to be put into a database used by the gun-shop owners to run the instant background check mandated by the federal Brady Bill.

It's true, even after the massacre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, according to a "60 Minutes" piece presented by Steve Kroft last night.

Spokesmen for the National Mental Health Association, as well as the Gun Owners of America, say someone who suffers from delusions, has been adjudged a threat to his or her own safety and the safety of others, and has been committed to a mental-health locked ward and then released should be able to buy a gun with no impediments.

The folks at the National Rifle Association think this is wrong, according to its executive director, Wayne LaPierre, in the Kroft piece.

If you only think this applies to states such as Texas, think again. The story started out in Massachusetts. Close enough for you?

The following comes from an Associated Press story.

"In creating the background check system, Congress passed a law in 1993 that said states must supply mental health records on people who have been declared mentally defective or have been involuntarily committed. But in 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that requirement, saying states cannot be forced to take part in a federal program of this sort.

"'It's a voluntary process," said Jerome Pender, deputy assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which includes the database. "There's no requirement."

"The states that report at least some mental health records to the FBI are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming, according to the FBI.

Oh, you didn't see your state's name there? Neither did I.

Second on the silly list is the report that New York City subway hero Wesley Autrey was being sued by his lawyer, Diane L. Kleiman.

It seems Autrey hired Kleiman to handle publicity and other things after he saved a 19-year-old man who had suffered a seizure in January and fell onto subway tracks. Autrey, 50, jumped onto the tracks and saved the younger man by lying on top of him and preventing him from moving as the train roared overhead.

Autrey had said Kleiman had manipulated him into signing a one-sided agreement and sued her to get out of their contract.

Kleiman is seeking money for breach of contract and damage to her reputation.

"They're making me look like a shyster. I'm not a shyster," Kleiman told the New York Post. "I'm not money hungry."

Oh, yes....she's also seeking legal fees.

Third is all the yak about the New York Yankees being in big trouble, along with their manager, for losing all these games in April.

Look, I'm just as happy as anyone about the Yankees losing games, especially five of six to the Boston Red Sox. I love the fact that Julian Tavarez beat the Yankees' top pitcher and that both Big Popi and little Alex Cora hit balls out of Yankee Stadium.

But, to those who say it's only April and things can change, I say the following: You Are Right. It's early. It's months even until All-Star Break.

But we can still enjoy it.

And two of my grandchildren were born in April, Naomi, who just turned 3 and the one who will be named tomorrow, when he will be 8 days old.

That makes up for everything.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sulzbeger or Steinbrenner the boss?

I am disappointed. I expected more from the stories sports scribes of the hallowed Great Grey Lady, The New York Times.

I expected coverage that is fair, that is to the point and that is relevant to the events of the day.

I didn't expect them to be apologists for the New York Yankees, to be Boss George Steinbrenner's propaganda machine.

I expect it from Charlie Sterling, the radio sportscaster for the Yankee games. He's paid by the team and is supposed to be their chief excuse-maker.

I didn't expect to see a script for the movie "Wag the Dog," on the sports pages of my morning newspaper.

Let me explain.

"Wag the Dog" is a movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro, among others, about an administration that starts a televised war to cover up a screw-up by the president. You know, the script for the Bush presidency.

In the world of sports, especially in New York, the unthinkable has happened. The New York Yankees, the best team money can buy, is in last place in its division. It can't buy a win (let's not get into that) and is slightly behind the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Only four teams in all of baseball are lower than the Yanks. Colorado, the last-place team in the National League West, is slightly ahead of the Yanks.

The arch-enemy, the Boston Red Sox, are in first place and right now are the best team in baseball. They are 5.5 games ahead of the Yanks coming into tonight's (April 27, 2007) first game of a three-game set against the Yanks in the Bronx.

OK, it's April...early days as the British say.

The Yanks have real trouble in that many of their top pitchers some top hitters are or have been on the disabled list.

The Yanks' apologists in the New York Times are whining the beat the band about how it's not a fair test because the Yanks are so beaten up. Last year, the Red Sox were in the same boat, only much later in the season.

Yankee fans are right to say it's not a fair test. They weren't right last year when they refused to give the Red Sox the same break when the Sox were nose-diving because just about everyone was on the sick, lame and lazy list.

I can even deal with that.

What I can't deal with is the play given in the Times to this notion that somehow the sock worn by Sox pitcher Curt Schilling when he beat the Yanks in 2004 wasn't really bloody.

This is the bloody sock of legend, the symbol of determination in Schilling's pitching performance against the Yanks in 2004 when the New Yorkers become the symbol for choking, when the Yankees posted the biggest choke in the entire history of sport and the Red Sox came from three games down to beat the Yankees for the American League championship.

Some idiot sportscaster said Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli told him the sock really didn't have blood on it but read paint and the yakker spread it around. He later apologized, saying he must of misheard Mirabelli.

So, this has to take up a fifth of an inside page of Friday's sports pages, with promotion on the front.

Fellas, you are a disappointment to me. I expected better. First of all, who cares? Schilling performed one of the most heroic feats in baseball history. The sock from the Yankee game is in the Hall of Fame. You clowns suggest that maybe a medical examiner should cut some of the sock off and give it a chemical test to see if there is blood.

Y'all have been watching CSI too much.

As far as the Cardinals games are concerned, neither Schilling nor the Red Sox needed any help in taking apart the National League champs.

Still, one wonders whether some New York Times sports writers aren't free-lancing for the Yankees Propaganda Ministry and spreading rumors that the Hall of Fame folks say are silly.

It's a shame the question even has to be asked.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I hate New York, love some people in it

I had another grandson yesterday (April 24, 2007).
Before you call the folks at the Guinness Book, what I mean to say is that my daughter had another son yesterday.
She lives in New York and there are some people in New York who are really nice.
What's the expression? These are the exceptions that prove the point.
First, everything about this kid, whose picture you can't help but see here, is wonderful. The people at Roosevelt Hospital and everyone connected with it or even near it was wonderful.
Even the guy who operates the parking garage (west on 59th street, the first one you come to) was great. Only $19 for seven hours' parking in New York -- are you kidding?? That's dirt cheap.
The folks at the hospital were first-class. No complaints.
Unfortunately, my daughter chose to give birth on a Tuesday. In her neighborhood, that's one of the days for New York City's version of the Twilight Zone: alternate side of the street parking.
For an hour and a half, all parking on one side of the street is verboten. That's all the streets in an area that has three times the population of, say, East Haven.
And how do the locals respond? They get in their cars and double-park on the legal side of the street and then go back home. It's like Boston's Back Bay on Saturday night. If you need to move your car in that 90-period -- well, you cannot.
Add in all the parking spaces taken up by workers for various companies, the beer truck parked in the middle of the street.
Picture in your mind: A street barely wide enough for two cars to squeeze by double-parked cars. All the streets are that narrow. Heading down one of the cowpaths, I see heading for me an 18-wheeler belonging to an outfit called something like Grocery Delivery Service. Carrying corn flakes, not emergency equipment to save thousands of lives. On he bears, although there's already a truck parked at the corner. To the right: a street blocked off for a school (no problem there) and to the left, a one-way street going the wrong way.
I had been driving around for a solid hour, trying to find a legal parking space. The local six-story high garage: full. No sleep for, at that time, about 30 hours. Rod Serling, where ever you are, are you listening?
Jump shift a few miles south to City Hall. There is Mayor Michael Bloomberg, trying to find money for the city. Here am I, with the solution.
New York has a law that says anyone who sounds a car horn gets a $350 fine.
Mike, old buddy, you can solve the city's fiscal problems: feed the hungry, house the homeless, build all the skyscrapers Donald Trump wants. All you have to do is enforce that horn-blowing ban for two weeks. Maybe less. Man, you can't live in New York for 10 seconds without some jerk (read that anyway you want: this column is rated PG) blowing his or her horn. Slow down to look for a parking space (BEEP). Don't move for three seconds after a light turns green (BEEP). Don't start moving in the four seconds before the light turns green (BEEP). And not a light tap on the horn either -- a real angry, five seconds long HONK.
Anyway, I'm grateful to the guys at the gas station at Broadway at 182nd Street who run a small parking lot to finally let me stop driving.
And I thank God that baby and mom are healthy and happy and all the rest of the family is, too. And I thank Him for helping me drive back home Tuesday night.
All in all, it was quite the day.

Monday, April 23, 2007

How about drug testing for the president?

There he sat, or rather slouched, in a chair in the Oval Office.

My president, George W. Bush, was expounding on the state of the war and his appointed attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez.

He smirked, although not as much as on other occasions.

It was what he said that was frightening. Gen. David Petraeus was in town for his briefings of the president and the Congress. My president probably wouldn't say the war was lost, even if he thought it was, in front of the guy he sent off to save his bacon in Iraq.

That's a feat akin to a baseball team coming back from three games and eight innings down to win a seven-game pennant. Sorry -- bad example -- already been done. But you know what I mean.

It wasn't so much of the same-old, same-old in Iraq, it was the fact that the president of the U.S., whose wife is constantly yammering about education, said that Gen. Petraeus was off to speak to a joint session of Congress.

Now, every fourth-grader knows or should know that a joint session of Congress occurs only if the president is in the room. Otherwise, it's a joint meeting.

Which is it? That's another story. It just may be (small chance) that there will be a joint session...but how to find out? Nothing on the Senate or House calendar. The networks -- forget it.

As Shakespeare says, the past is prologue. So, I will say that the president doesn't know the difference between a joint session, joint meeting and joint committee hearing.

My president also said Attorney General Gonzalez handled himself well in front of the Congress last week. He answered every question. Sure, if "I don't know" and "I can't recall" are good answers.

Which hearing was the president watching? How could he think that the mess we made in Iraq can be cleaned up by a regime that has so far refused to do anything to help itself.

The wall that had begun to go up around certain Baghdad neighborhoods: They don't like it. The Israelis don't like their wall either, but it works. There were many, many fewer bombings after the Israel wall was built and many fewer incidents in the places where the wall was erected than other places.

It works. So what if it cuts off neighborhoods. In American cities, neighborhoods are cut off by highways and exit ramps. If it works, try it. But no-o-o-o-o-o. Not our Iraqi brethren.

It just isn't rational.

If we are worried about bicycle racers, football players, baseball players and high schoolers on drugs, how much more serious were it to be if the president were on drugs? Or the Iraqi leader?

I'm not saying this president is on drugs, although his perception of events seems a little skewed. But there may be one in the future who is on drugs. We should know. A little pee in the cup, or a puff into a breath analyzer every now and then may not be such a bad idea.

We may not be able to do anything about what the president will be doing, but at least we'll know why.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Panel: Bring me the head of Al Gonzalez

Time is getting short, friends, to get in on the when-does-Gonzalez-go contest.

As you may remember (or not), this column offered a Len'sLens T-shirt (if we ever make them) to the person coming closest to the date that Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez finally gets the boot. You know, the J. Donald Imus memorial heave-ho.

It's not that Imus and Gonzalez can be compared. Imus made horrible racial remarks about the Rutgers University women's basketball team. Gonzalez just made all of us, in my opinion and in the opinion of the Senate committee that fried him yesterday (Thursday, April 19, 2006), a whole lot less secure in our liberties.

Just one example: In the Clinton White House, there were four people who could be told about pending prosecutions before there was enough proof to gain an indictment. In the Bush White House, there are more than 400. Gonzalez was asked about that and either pretended to be or was completely in the dark about that.

Anyway, because of the hiding he took from the committee, especially from the Republican members, it could be that his time is near. You know: Thou hast been to long for any good thou has done. Be gone, leave, in God's name go.

Today's lukewarm backing by the acting of the Cabinet official by the acting press secretary adds fuel to the fire.

So, my friends, it's time to stand up and be counted (or sit down and be counted if it's been a hard day.)

Take a look at and then pick. You can either send me an e-mail (address on this post) or add a comment to this or the previous post.

Oh, yes, if you already entered, you can change your mind and enter again. Just tell me that's what you are doing.

And, for all our sakes, let's hope these travesties (the contest and Gonzalez's term in office )end soon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Baseball subconscious: hero antiworship

It's been three games and Red Sox phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka's record is one win and two losses.

He struck out 10 batters each in two of those games. He allowed two runs in the loss to Toronto, and yet the Red Sox lost. He allowed three runs against Seattle and the Red Sox also lost.

There's been a lot of talk about the ball movement and the size of the ball and differences between the ball here and Japan.

I have a different take on the Matsuzaka phenomenon.

I don't think he's pitching badly. I think the rest of the team is not hitting well when he's pitching. Why? I think it's subconscious.

I call it hero antiworship.

I remember a thousand years ago when I was playing high school football in New Britain, Conn., (don't look for my name on any trophies), we had a guy who weighed nearly 300 pounds and who could bull his way through defensive lines. This was a time when a defensive tackle weighed maybe 215. This guy was built like a tank and could run like the wind for a short while.

Well, in practice, this guy ate up the defense. But in games, he did nothing. But when a lot lighter and less talented fullbacks took the ball, they did better. Why? Because the offensive line wasn't opening up any holes.

It wasn't that they wanted this guy, and the team, to fail. It was a "why bother" or "if this guy's so good, maybe I could let down a bit."

I wonder if this is in play with the Red Sox. Not on the surface, but subconsciously. When Schilling or Beckett are pitching, and even when Wakefield has the ball, the Sox seem to be putting up bigger numbers than for Matsuzaka.

Hmmm. I just wonder. Maybe this is something to be looked at. What do you say, Tito?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Gone round the bend, mate

Forgive me if I don't say more about the massacre at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. I have a kid in grad school, and I can't bring myself to think about it.

Just a thought, though, about Professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor and Israeli who moved to Virginia in 1986 and who was a mechanical engineering lecturer. He threw himself in front of students who were being targeted by the killer yesterday (April 16, 2007) and paid with his life. All the students, however, survived because of his heroism.

I wouldn't be surprised if, in Britain, he will be vilified as somehow responsible for the shooting. Ridiculous? Read on.

As some of you know, I am a journalist -- have been one for close to 40 years. I'm proud of my craft and most of the people who practice it. But not all.

At its annual conference a few days ago, the British National Union of Journalists voted by a narrow margin (66-54) to boycott Israeli goods because (wait for it) "savage, pre-planned attack on Lebanon by Israel" and "continued attacks inside Lebanon following the defeat of its army by Hezbollah." Never mind that Hezbollah, a recognized by the same Great Britain as a terrorist organization, started the war by lobbing rockets and missiles into Israel.

Wait, it gets better. The motion also called for a halt to Israeli aggression in Gaza. Never mind that Israel pulled out of Gaza in the summer of 2005, tearing thousands of its citizens from their homes in the hope (up to now vain) for peace.

These fat-headed weasels next will be blaming the Israelis for one of their own getting slaughtered by the Arabs in this same Gaza.

Here's what Honest Reporting had to say.

"While we condemn this ridiculous and self-defeating display of anti-Israel bias by the NUJ, we also recognize that this boycott was voted on by a very small number of people and potentially against the wishes of many ordinary NUJ members. The most effective way of overturning this motion and boycott is from within the NUJ itself. We therefore urge those members of the union who possess a conscience to take action and register their protests to the NUJ.
"If this boycott is allowed to stand, it will be impossible to treat any British journalism from Israel or the Palestinian territories seriously."

I've been to national journalism conferences in this country and sometimes the participants get a little carried away, but even at our most hung over, we would not seriously entertain libel such as this by the British union.

So, we will say thanks to Professor Librescu for his heroism. I'm sure the parents of the students he saved will bless his memory. And perhaps the British journalists who libeled a nation will find the time to read about the Israeli soldiers who gave their lives in Lebanon so that Israelis and Lebanese could live without the scourge of armed terrorists at the door.

This is being sent to the general secretary of the British National Union of Journalists. Like the one sent to Reporters Without Borders last year, I don't expect a reply, but if I get one, I will post it.

Monday, April 16, 2007

In tragedy, Bush looks after his friends

In her wonderful late-1990s book, "Shrub," Molly Ivins predicted that if George W. Bush were elected president, he would always be sure to take care of his friends, no matter the consequences.

There was a horrible incident today (April 16, 2007) at Virginia Tech. At this count, more than 30 people have been shot to death.

Right now, at 5:30 p.m., we don't know much. Why did this man shoot all these people? Who was he? What is his background? Why did university officials keep the campus open after an early-morning shooting spree?

Some of these questions will be answered -- the shooter's name, background, maybe even a motive. Others we may never know: What was going through his mind, for instance.

But we do know one thing: In the midst of the unspeakable horror, our president is taking care of his pals.

In his comment on this tragedy, he made sure to mention that people have a right to bear arms. Never mind that if this killer had shown up with a knife or spear or bow or axe or any other type of weapon, the death toll would certainly have been lower. Much lower. Like, maybe, zero.

People have a right to have guns. That's what's first and foremost in what is laughingly called W's mind. Take care of your pals. Dance with the one what brung ya.

Thank you for your insight, Mr. President. I hope it brings comfort to those whose children went to class today and never came back.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Let's make good come of Imus mess

So, Don Imus, who had entertained, shocked and MC'd for 30 years has lost his job and reputed $10 million annual paycheck.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, the hero of the Tawana Brawley scandal and self-appointed spokesman for whomever will stand still for him, said something that might yet give this hurtful and tragic episode a positive ending.

While gloating in New York on Thursday (April 12, 2007), he said the fight against racist and sexist and anti-gay and anti-Semitic speech and actions should be carried on to those African-Americans who also talk down about other blacks. He said he was talking about rap and hip-hop artists who call women hos (one assumes they mean whores). He was, I hope, also talking about black comedians who use racial epithets.

I also hope he's talking to those who use the N-word as a friendly greeting, saying it's OK for blacks to use that word while, at the same time, trying to pass legislation making it a crime for others to use it. Some guy was on television today (Friday, April 13, 2007) saying blacks had that right while others did not.

I demur. Just because I'm a Jew and you're a Jew, don't think you can call me a kike or a Christ-killer. You don't have that right.

Look, don't talk to me about minorities. I belong to a group that is not classified by the U.S. government as a minority because there aren't enough of us. Too few to be a minority. Don't need it. After all, we run the government, the newspapers and movies and television empires, all 2 1/2 percent of us.

Don't believe it? Ask the Rev. Jesse "Hymietown" Jackson, who once called New York that name because of all the Jews who live there, but who was parading around New York yesterday to get Imus fired.

Look, Imus needed firing. If a reporter whom I supervised ever said that in a print, he or she would be on the street, too. But I just hate hypocrites. The hero of Tawana Brawley and the Hymietown Kid should not be teaching us what's moral and what's not.

Let's just keep watch. I would be pleasantly shocked if Sharpton's pledge to chase racist and sexist and anti-gay and anti-Semitic and anti-Arab and anti-anything talk and behavior from the community, including the African-American community, was anything but wind. But, unlike The Reverend Al, I'm willing to give him the chance to prove himself.

Sharpton and Jackson don't have the right to define morality. The women of the Rutger's basketball team do. By their actions and their speech in this difficult hour, they have defined class.

Learn from them, not from Sharpton and Jackson. Let's use this horrible time to learn to respect one another, even if we have the same skin color.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Justice, justice shall you pursue

The holidays are over and I'm back.

Two things to talk about and both have to do with justice denied and delayed.

The first, of course, is J. Donald Imus and his big mouth. Boy, if people had talked about Iraq and paid as much attention to our entrance into that war as they have about Don Imus acting like Don Imus, we'd be able to tsk tsk from afar about the problems the Iraqis are having.

Look, nobody to the left of the Ku Klux Klan is excusing Imus' comments to the Rutgers University women's basketball team. I won't repeat them here. They were horrible, unfeeling (especially since this team had just lost their dream of being national champions), wrong, bad, sexist, racist and stupidest. It doesn't matter if Imus thought them up or Barnyard McGerk thought them up.

Is the reaction also over the top? In some quarters, it is.

Imus deserves all the public humiliation that his bosses, the team and we can heap on him. But I see a little hypocracy in the actions of some who are demanding his firing from his radio program.

For example, we don't need the Rev. Al Sharpton, the hero of the Tawana Brawley case, poking in his nose.

Imus made these kids feel bad, but unlike Brawley, he didn't lie to cover his butt and attempt to ruin the careers of law-enforcement people to cover up a tryst with a boyfriend. Nobody has ever heard any apology from anyone involved in the Brawley case to anyone who was harmed. Sharpton still owes an apology to Steven Pagones, an assistant district attorney in Dutchess County, N.Y., who was accused of raping the 15-year-old girl and, along with up to six other men, smearing her with feces and writing racial slurs on her body. Brawley said that one of six white men who brutally tortured her had flashed a badge.

According to the Feb. 17, 1988, Poughkeepsie Journal, Brawley implicated Dutchess County Sheriff Frederick W. Scoralick. She also reportedly identified Pagones as one of the attackers.

However, a 1988 grand jury concluded that Brawley made up the story of being abducted and raped. It also exonerated Pagones and others, calling the incident a hoax.

In the meantime, Pagones suffered public and private hell, as well as unnecessary financial expense. Sharpton, the spokesman for Brawley and her lies, has never apologized, although he and two lawyers were found liable in a civil trial and ordered to pay damages. As usual, Sharpton didn't have to put his hand in his pocket. His judgment was paid by Johnnie Cochran and others.

Until Sharpton apologizes, he needs to shut up about others saying they're sorry.

Now, for justice delayed.

Of course, I'm talking about the Duke University lacrosse team members who have gone through hell because of a false accusation of rape and other sex crimes, as well as kidnapping.

For those hiding under a rock, a stripper accused three members of the Durham, N.C., university's men's team of raping her at a booze and strip party.

Yes, these kids were stupid for having a booze party and hiring two strippers.

That being said, this woman made up her story out of whole cloth. And Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong ran with it in order to get re-elected in November.

So, what now? North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has said the young woman, the Duke Deceiver, will not be prosecuted. After nearly ruining the lives of three guys who were guilty of nothing more than having a drink and seeking a couple of women take off their clothes, she gets off absolutely free.

So do the eighty-some professors who were so anxious to get on the political-correctness bandwagon. The team coach was hounded from his job, the season canceled and these kids put through psychological and fiscal hell. The profs, the Dook administration just say "Sorry", or not even that.

Whom do these three students see about their justice denied? They were trotted out in handcuffs, while this bimbo gets protected and concealed. Where's Al Sharpton when these absolutely innocent kids need a spokesman to demand justice, or Barak Obama or Jesse Jackson or any of these others who demand that Don Imus be fired.

Yes, Imus said something incredibly stupid and hurtful, but didn't do anything that was going to get three guys with a lot to offer society thrown in jail for thirty years.

Justice, just shall you pursue.