Monday, August 31, 2009

Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie

I thought: if Congress can take a vacation for the month of August, I can too. Except, as I hope you noticed, I came in on Mondays.

This August there were five Mondays. On some of them, it was almost too steamy to get hot under the collar about anything. Almost.

Spinoza’s dictum that “Nature abhors a vacuum” wasn’t an invitation to Rush to fill the void. When Nietzsche postulated, “Man is something to be surpassed,” he meant without DeLay, two-step or goosestep notwithstanding.

In the pulpits, we have men of God who preach hatred of God’s people, but hate only some of them. God isn’t omniscient, it's a homophobic Arizona pastor who fulminates about gays in the ministry and advocates death to the President of the United States who is—and can cite 30 verses in the Bible why God hates everybody.

In communities throughout the country, the golden rule is the Second Amendment and proper schooling is aiming and firing a rifle. These schools are never out for recess.

And in the Capital, we have a majority party that always seems to be in retreat—even when its members are away on vacation—and a minority party for whom a national conversation is “No.”

Rank-and-file members of the current House and Senate pay themselves $174,000 annually. That’s $14,500 a month, including the month of August, when they don’t have to show up for work at all! Leadership receives $193,400 annually and the Speaker of the House, $223,500. (All are entitled to an annual cost-of-living-adjustment.) I don’t want to begin to tell you what kind of month I’ve had. But this being the last dog day of August, I’m letting sleeping dogs lie and laying low.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Holy Terror

In case you haven’t heard, God hates Barack Obama. That’s The Word according to Pastor Steve Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. In his own words:
Here’s my sermon: Why I Hate Barack Obama. That’s my sermon tonight. … And I’m going to tell you something. I HATE Barack Obama . You say, “Well you just mean you don’t like what he stands for.” No, I hate the person. “No, well you mean you just don’t like his policy.” No, I hate HIM! Now I’m going to prove this from the Bible tonight why I SHOULD hate Barack Obama, why God WANTS me to hate Barack Obama, why GOD hates Barack Obama. God doesn’t love everybody.
I can’t go on quoting him. He’s insane. But I have to.
Now turn back to Psalm 58 and let me ask you this question: why should Barack Obama melt like a snail? Why should Barack Obama die like the untimely birth of a woman?
I know, it doesn’t quite make sense, but who’s keeping score in the ward?
Why should his children be fatherless and his wife a widow as we read in this passage? Well I’ll tell you why. Because it’s Barack Obama who thinks it’s OK to use a salty solution…
At this point, he rants about abortion. Apparently, Obama is responsible.
And I’d like to see Barack Obama melt tonight. … God appointed him because that’s what this country has turned into, that’s what we deserve as a president.
If I’m keeping score, that’s one for God.
And I’d like to see Barack Obama melt like a snail tonight. Because he needs to recompense, he needs to reap what he sow[s]. He deserves to be punished for what he’s done. … Break his teeth, O God, in his mouth. … He ought to be aborted.
It’s difficult to follow the ravings of a lunatic, but I’m doing the best I can:
You say, “Why are you preaching this?” You know what? Because it makes me mad…. I'm fed up tonight…. Because I'm angered by a bunch of preachers who want to sit back and let America go to hell, let our freedoms go to hell, let the souls of Americans go to hell, and we all just sit back and just, we're comfortable, we're lazy, we're lukewarm, we're neither cold nor hot, and we want to come to church and have our ears tickled. Hey! This isn't to tickle your ears, it's to give you a swift kick in the pants!... You need to come to church and get a boot in your rear end.
But fret not, because:
There’s nothing more encouraging then the Bible!
So, is the Bible-thumping man of God encouraged to pray for his fellow man? Not if the fellow is Barack Obama.
I'm not gonna pray for his good. I'm going to pray that he dies and goes to hell. When I go to bed tonight, that's what I'm going to pray. And you say, “Are you just saying that?” No. When I go to bed tonight, Steven L. Anderson is going to pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell.
Ask yourself what would happen if you were to utter a single one of the venomous lines above about the President of the United States. Imagine what the reaction would be if anything even close to one of them came from the mouth of a Moslem. But Pastor Anderson can continue to address his “congregation” and all the abundantly available nuts in earshot, and still be allowed to walk the streets.

So if you’re on the beach, by all means enjoy yourself—but get your head out of the sand. Tempe, Arizona isn’t far away from wherever you are.

Note: If you can bear all 20 minutes and 40 seconds (in two parts) of the pastor’s rousing sanctimony, starting with his fury about the “dikes” and “faggots” behind the pulpits of the United Methodist church, go to The Obama tirade starts at 5:45 and continues with

Monday, August 17, 2009

Guest Contributor: Benjamin Franklin

From time to time, Son of the Cucumber King will have a guest contributor. Our first such guest is the esteemed Benjamin Franklin.

Mr. Franklin is commenting on the Iroquois Confederacy, the society and government of the Six Nations (known also as the Haudenosaunee).

We consider ourselves quite fortunate to be in possession of this tract: after the eminent newspaper of the day failed to respond to it, the writer gave it to us. Our editorial board of one recognized it for being what it is—a timely gem.

The text, modernized for easier reading, is B. Franklin’s. The bold highlighting is ours.

- - -

The Indian men, when young, are hunters and warriors, when old, counsellors; for all their government is by the counsel or advice of the sages. There is no force, there are no prisons, no officers to compel obedience or inflict punishment. Hence they generally study oratory, the best speaker having the most influence.

The Indian women till the ground, dress the food, nurse and bring up the children, and preserve and hand down to posterity the memory of public transactions....

Having frequent occasions to hold public councils, they have acquired great order and decency in conducting them. The old men sit in the foremost rank, the warriors in the next, and the women and children the hindmost.

The business of the women is to take exact notice of what passes, imprint it on their memories—for they have no writing—and communicate it to their children. They are the records of the council, and they preserve tradition of the stipulations in treaties a hundred years back, which when we compare with our writings we always find exact.

He that would speak, rises. The rest observe a profound silence. When he has finished and sits down, they leave him five or six minutes to recollect, that if he has omitted anything he intended to say or has anything to add, he may rise again and deliver it. To interrupt another, even in common conversation, is reckoned highly indecent.

How different it is from the conduct of a polite British House of Commons, where scarce a day passes without some confusion that makes the Speaker hoarse in calling to order; and how different from the mode of conversation in many polite companies of Europe, where if you do not deliver your sentence with great rapidity, you are cut off in the middle of it by the impatient loquacity of those you converse with and never allowed to finish it.

Benjamin Franklin, printer, writer, scientist, statesman. Discovered electricity. Helped draft the Constitution. Invented the Franklin Stove.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rush Hour

Dear Rush,

I have to take issue with you. But I want to let you have your say before I have mine.
“Well, it’s right out of Adolf Hitler’s playbook. Now, what are the similarities between the Democrat Party today and the Nazi Party in Germany? Well, the Nazis were against big business. They hated big business and of course we all know that they were opposed to Jewish capitalism. They were insanely, irrationally against pollution. They were for two years mandatory voluntary service to Germany. They had a whole bunch of make-work projects to keep people working, one of which was the Autobahn. They were against cruelty and vivisection of animals, but in the radical sense of devaluing human life, they banned smoking. They were totally against that. They were for abortion and euthanasia of the undesirables, as we all know, and they were for cradle-to-grave nationalized healthcare.”

“The Obama health care logo is damn close to a Nazi swastika logo. There are far more similarities between Nancy Pelosi and Adolf Hitler than between these people showing up at town halls to protest a Hitler-like policy that’s being heralded by a Hitler-like logo. Oh, another similarity. Obama is asking citizens to rat each other out like Hitler did!”

Now that you’ve had your say, Rush, I’ll have mine:

The best thing one could say about the Nazi Party is that they were thugs. What’s the best thing to say about you? You… well...

Nothing comes to mind.

Wait! Thought of something!

The Nazis were almost as good as you at propaganda. But you’re an outright liar! You lie and you swear to it. You make it up and shovel it right onto the air. From your lips, “grass roots movement” becomes horse manure.

The Nazis weren’t against big business any more than big business was against the Nazis. Unless you consider Krupp a family store, ask someone on your staff who reads to look up who supplied the gas canisters for “Hitler’s playbook.” (Not the kind of cute little canisters you use for your home barbeque grill.)

The Nazis, you say, “were insanely, irrationally against pollution.” That sounds pretty serious to me. By the way, are you getting professional help?

“They [your Nazis] were against cruelty and vivisection of animals, but in the radical sense of devaluing human life, they banned smoking.” What in the world of rational people does this mean? Are you getting professional help?

“…and they were for cradle-to-grave nationalized healthcare.” Wow! Guess you’ve got me there. Are you getting professional help—or doesn’t your health care insurance cover it?

As far as your mad contention that “The Obama health care logo is damn close to a Nazi swastika logo” and even madder perception that there are “similarities between Nancy Pelosi and Adolf Hitler” and, alarmingly maddest of all, “Obama is asking citizens to rat each other out like Hitler did!” — Is your brain as drug-besotted as your bladder?

Time to level with you, Rush. Nothing compares to Hitler, not even a megalomaniac like you. Well, maybe Pol Pot. But try as you will keep trying, you’re not in their league. I’ll say this for you: you’ve got Goebbels beat.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Writer's Chronicles of a Consummate New York Writer

The subtitle of this blog asserts it will be about Broadway, Hollywood, politics or the Middle East. The following tribute covers all four topics.

Sidney Zion died yesterday of bladder cancer. Sad, but no wonder. The false lips of the world pecked away at his gut all his life and the tragically unnecessary death of his eighteen-year-old daughter essentially did him in twenty-five years ago. Anyone who knew Sidney in those days watched helplessly as he drank even harder than before, and that was going some. Never one to wallow in pity for himself or anyone, Sidney started listing and slurring in heartbreaking anger.

I could say that’s not the way I want to remember Sidney, but it wouldn’t be true—it is the way I want to remember him. The combatant, the campaigner, the debunker, the buddy.

We shared two favorite topics: Israel and songs, and by songs Sidney would poke a finger (or a glass) in the air here to tell you, “I mean the great songs, the ones they don’t write anymore.” He’d mean the songs from the great American songbook.

There wasn’t anything we could teach each other about Israel, or Zionism (how perfectly named he was, I told him), but he loved discussing lyrics with me. He could taste the fine ones. Ira Gershwin and Cole Porter would roll around on his tongue. I would quote Hammerstein and Harburg, and he would nod vigorously and beam.

Never far from quoting a good lyric, he told me he found himself alone with president Anwar Sadat on the steps of his Egyptian villa, in 1979, I believe. He asked Sadat what song he would sing when he made peace with Israel. Sadat, a bit baffled, asked what he meant. “How about Irving Berlin?" Sidney suggested. "Irving Berlin! I love Irving Berlin!" Sadat said, and, in tune now, he enthused, “Blue Skies!" Sidney pronounced it a fine song, but said he had a better “Berlin” in mind.” His choice drew an embrace from Sadat. "Let's Face the Music and Dance," Sidney recounted to me with his inimitable gusto.

It’s not surprising that he was a buddy of Frank Sinatra’s. I think the world’s greatest “saloon singer” in Sidney’s eyes saw a lot of himself in Sidney’s “boisterous candor,” author Cynthia Ozick’s perfect words for him.

Sidney told me about dining in a Manhattan restaurant with Sinatra when a woman approached their table and asked for the crooner’s autograph. As nicely and gently as he could, according to Sidney, Sinatra said he’d be happy to—as soon as he finished eating. The woman, instantly outraged, fumed, “My husband said you’d be like that!” and stormed away. Sinatra looked at Sidney and said, “You can’t win.”

Looking back at Sidney, I won. My Sid Zion shelf includes one of my favorite book titles, Trust Your Mother But Cut the Cards, and one of my favorite inscriptions to me, “If I could only spell boulavourdier, I could write the next on [sic] about Ray. Best, Sid. April 12, 1988.”

Another of his books includes one my favorite dedications, “…to Johnnie Walker, without whom none of this would have happened.”

L’chaim, Sid.