December rambling: who isn’t running

“Girls were girls, and men were men”

Who isn’t running for re-election in the House and Senate in 2024

A deluge of violent messages: How a surge in threats to public officials could disrupt American democracy

What Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court, could teach today’s SCOTUS:  Her embrace of the rule of law and empathetic jurisprudence are sorely missed.

Will Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State under Nixon and Ford, actually RIP?

Jewish American Families Confront a Generational Divide Over Israel 

Comics For Ukraine, the benefit hardcover comic anthology to benefit folks in Ukraine, which I got in its original crowdfunding push – it’s very good – is still available for purchase 

How Much Pain Is ‘Enough‘ to Prescribe Opioids?

Massive Tuberculosis News

Don’t Neglect Tobacco Use in People Experiencing Homelessness — Cessation programs can save lives and improve financial stability.

Organ & Body Donations: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver 

Why Do You Get to Do That? A few words on your “rights”


Watch videos from the November 17, 2023 Telling the Truth conversations by the NYS Writer’s Institute. The fifth Telling the Truth event, this 2023 edition featured two panels.

The American Presidency: A conversation about the Biden administration and the prospect of a second Trump administration with  Miles Taylor, former Trump Administration staffer and author of Blowback: A Warning to Save Democracy from the Next Trump and Franklin Foer, author of The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden’s White House and the Struggle for America’s Future.

Also, The American Backlash: A conversation about the politics of revenge, and the impulse to punish ‘out groups’ who have made political gains — particularly racial, sexual, and cultural minorities, and women with Jeff Sharlet, author of The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War and Juliet Hooker, author of Black Grief/White Grievance: The Politics of Loss.

I attended these seasons in person. 

That’s Entertainment

I was on a team for Any Questions Live! WAMC‘s Inaugural Trivia Challenge on December 7. The final question was that five of the 15 largest cities in the United States are in one state. Of THOSE five cities, which one is the smallest in population? Answer below. 

2023’s TIME Person of the Year. I was totally off; I thought it’d be Bibi.

The 100 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment of 2023

Everybody knows Flo from Progressive. Who is Stephanie Courtney?

Actor Andre Braugher Dies at 61. I was a massive fan of the NBC series Homicide: Life on the Street; the episode for which he won an Emmy was gutwrenching. He appeared in six episodes of Law and Order: SVU, including this one featuring Mike Tyson. He appeared in the movies Glory,  Salt, and She Said, all of which I saw. I occasionally watched him on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and some Kojak TV movies.

Marty Krofft, the Brains Behind a Kids TV Empire, Dies at 86

Ryan O’Neal, Star of ‘Love Story,’ ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ and ‘Paper Moon,’ Dies at 82. I never saw Love Story, but I saw the others and the evening soap opera Peyton Place.

The Ritz Brothers, comedy pioneers: A Retrospective. 

‘Doctor Who’ Doctors: Every Actor Who Has Played the Part

‘Home Alone,’ ‘Terminator 2,’ ‘Love and Basketball,’ ‘Desperately Seeking Susan,’ ‘Fame,’ ‘Apollo 13’ Enter National Film Registry. Of these, I specifically recommend 20 Feet from Stardom

The murky math of the New York Times bestsellers list

Why Do Airplanes Dim the Cabin Lights During Takeoff and Landing?

Hinsdale, NH, man had no car and no furniture but died, leaving his town millions.

Now I Know: A Creative Way to Stop a Celebrity Stalker and The Great Puffin Toss and You Is Now Welcome in Sweden and Pokémon Go to Jail and The Politician Who (Technically) Kept His Pledge and The American Enclave That Pretended to Want to Join Canada

To a deluxe apartment in the sky

Norman Lear, the legendary television producer and inclusive storyteller, died at 101. Here’s the family tree for All in the Family and its spinoffs, all of which I watched, at least for a time, as well as Sanford and Son; One Day at a Time, both iterations;  Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and ITS spinoffs, and others. Heck, I even saw his less successful ventures, such as a.k.a. Pablo, Hot L Baltimore, the underestimated The Powers That Be, and the movie The Night They Raided Minsky’s

Performers and critics lauded him not just for his contributions to entertainment but also for his activism with People for the American Way and other avenues. 

 His son-in-law, Dr. Jon LaPook, gave some personal insights. I recommend you check out If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast, the late Carl Reiner’s 2017  documentary where he “tracks down several nonagenarians” – including his friend Lear – “to show how the twilight years can be rewarding.”

This is what I wrote way back when Norman Lear turned 100.


John Williams’s score to Nixon: “The 1960s: The Turbulent Years

Coverville 1467: The Damien Rice Cover Story and 1468: The Shane MacGowan Tribute

Save Me – Jelly Roll

Rossini: La Cenerentola – Overture

The ten most overplayed piano pieces

Everybody’s Talkin’ – the MonaLisa Twins

Six13 – A Hamilton Chanukah

Arthur describes all of the #1 songs from 1983 and a few more

Paul McCartney Photographs 1963–64: Eyes of the Storm is now open at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, through April 7, 2024

Denny Laine (1944-2023): a remembrance

The answer to the question above is #15 here. (We got the correct state but the wrong city.)

Radio silence on Election night

poli sci major breaks his pattern

radio silenceOne of the smartest things I’ve done recently was to declare radio silence on Election night. This meant going off the grid from 6 pm EST that Tuesday until 6 am Wednesday. No cellphone, no email, no live TV or radio. In fact, as it turned out, I saw no television at all. Since the cable defaults to the local news, I was afraid I’d accidentally learn something. So I just read.

I should note that it was not my idea. The Weekly Sift guy, Doug Muder wrote on the day before: “I’m probably not going to watch the returns come in. I just can’t picture that experience being good for me.” Surely, I know the feeling, as did Arthur and Chuck. Mark Evanier was not unhappy that his power went out.

I wonder if others felt the same way. The television ratings for the midterm elections audience fell by double digits compared with 2018. As Variety noted, the “coverage provided [is] just the latest example of the broadening gap between polls of voters’ intentions and how citizens actually lean when they get to the booth.” The news anchors expected a “red wave” but did not anticipate a “blue wall.”

Here’s the weird thing from this old political science major, who always, well, at least since 1972, ALWAYS watched the returns: I didn’t miss it. Getting most of the results at 6 a.m. the next day didn’t alter a thing.

I say most because there were so many races that weren’t settled for a while. The US Senate race in Georgia will be a December 6 runoff. I’m going to quote Muder again. “49% of Georgians want Herschel Walker to represent them in the Senate. Seriously?” Now that the Senate will be in Democratic hands, punditry predicts a Warnock rout; probably yes, but I’ll wait for the actual votes.

A few trends

I was pleased that Kentucky voters rejected a ballot measure to deny any constitutional protections for abortion. Meanwhile, voters in Michigan, Vermont, and California enshrined abortion rights in the states’ constitutions. FOX “News” guy Steve Doocy noted on November 3 that the Democrats would regret emphasizing abortion and democracy instead of “pocketbook issues.” On November 9, he said, “Abortion and democracy were foremost in people’s minds.”

One of the disappointments was the loss by Congressman Sean Maloney  (D-NY) in a district just north of NYC. Ultimately, I blame the state legislature’s Democratic overreach in their gerrymandering. The lines for the Congressional districts were tossed, and some Democrats ran in districts far different from where they ran two years earlier.

Did these consultants help the Democrats’ message? The Russian hacktivist group that called on its members to target the American Democratic party website on Election Day was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, a certain former President was quoted as saying about candidates he supported, “Well, I think if they win, I should get all the credit. If they lose, I should not be blamed at all.” Apparently, he’s blaming everyone who advised him to back Mehmet Oz, including his wife.

Oct. rambling: total Latin dorks

Rebecca Jade, Death Cafe, and the embarrassing Herschel Walker

Movie Love #16
Angela Lansbury was in the movie Mutiny (1952), set during the War of 1812. She’s on the cover of Movie Love #16, only rarely offered by Heritage Auctions

CEO Pay Has Soared by 1,460% Since 1978

The Onion advises the Supreme Court’s ‘total Latin dorks’ on parody

Decomposing HUMAN remains can legally be used as compost from 2027 thanks to new California law aimed at tackling climate change

Someone is pretending to be me, and Internet Trolls Have Tormented This Sci-Fi Writer for Years—and He Can’t Stop Them

Cheating scandal at an Ohio tournament rocks the competitive fishing world

NY-CT Border Disputes and The Kidnapping of Freedom-Seeker Peter John Lee

Against All Odds – Building Albany’s Free Black Community in the Early 1800s

The U.S. Just Renamed 650 Sites Around the Country—Here’s Why It Matters

MAD magazine’s oldest active artist is still spoofing what makes us human. Sergio Aragonés has drawn for the publication since he arrived in New York from Mexico 60 years ago. At age 85, he’s contributed to its 70th-anniversary issue: “Drawing has become like walking.”

Charles Fuller, Playwright, and Screenwriter Behind A Soldier’s Play, Dies at 83

Robbie Coltrane, Comic Performer Who Played Hagrid in Harry Potter Movies, Dies at 72

Sacheen Littlefeather, Who Delivered Brando’s Oscar Rejection Speech, Dies at 75

Kitten hailed a hero for saving a family poisoned by carbon monoxide

Daniel Abesames-Hammer of D III Cornell College is among the smallest college football players ever

Hitchcock Talks About Lights, Camera, Action

Mark Evanier: Blackhawk and me

Variety Intelligence Platform’s Level Up report examines the interrelated sectors within the near-$200 billion global gaming market

All aboard!

Now I Know: When a Lot of Wine Had to Defend Itself in Front of the Supreme Court, and How a Lot of Typos Led to Late Emails and The Intentionally Bad Song That Accidentally Worked and We Are All Invisible Pinocchios


The Making and Remaking (and Remaking) of MAGA Heir Ron DeSantis

Florida GOP’s Assault on the Freedom to Teach

What is a MAGA Republican? and Racism, Lies, and Hypocrisy Are Now Seen as Electable Qualities in GOP Candidates

Herschel Walker says forget about him holding a gun to his wife’s head because Jesus and Does anything matter?

Democrats Warn That Republicans Will Turn US Into a Fascist Hellhole If GOP Prevails in Midterms

Speaking Out Against Hate: SPLC Intelligence Project Director tells a congressional panel that white supremacy threatens communities, education, and democracy

Inside the S–tshow That Was the Trump-Biden Transition

Why ‘Veep’ and ‘The West Wing’ Plotted a Crossover Reunion (Hint: to Save Democracy)

Someone named Gregory purchased and built for him his very own (not very complimentary) website. “More content is on the way.” He also bought the following:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:  Bolsonaro, Brazil’s terrible leader


Some Controversial Classics From Loretta Lynn; One’s On The Way

The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires by Astor Piazzola.

Tired Of Waiting – MonaLisa Twins (The Kinks Cover)

Democracy – Leonard Cohen.

Coverville 1416: The Motley Crue Cover Story

Autumn Gardens by Einojuhani Rautavaara.

Mama, I’m A Big Girl Now from Hairspray

Portland, Oregon – Loretta Lynn and Jack White

Loretta Lynn, Feisty First Lady of Country Music,  Coal Miner’s Daughter, dies at 90. Living in her America. Over her long career, she documented the highs and lows of rural life in an incredibly complex emotional register.

Official release date of Rebecca Jade’s newest album, A Shade of Jade

For more than 40 years, taxpayers funded the FBI’s fruitless surveillance of Aretha Franklin

Linda Ronstadt on Her New Memoir, Feels Like Home, and Her Mexican American Heritage

Questlove and Black Thought Know Much More Than Music

DEATH CAFE in Albany, NY

The parking lot in the back of the Library and the street parking meters are free on Saturdays.

Learn more about this international movement at

Folks will break into small groups of 4-6, as always. Please wear a mask inside until you are seated with your small group, and your group chooses to be masked or not. Homemade treats and cold and hot water for tea; feel free to bring your own mug and/or beverage.

As always – it is not a support group. We just talk about whatever our group chooses and respect each other’s views.
Please RSVP by emailing to

2021 Ballot Proposals: statewide, local

I looked on the ballot from both sides, now.

Before I could vote on November 2, 2021, or earlier, I needed to get up to speed on the 2021 Ballot Proposals. There are five statewide items in New York State, and two in the city of Albany.

There may be other local propositions where you live. They will likely be on the REVERSE side of the ballot from the candidates’ listings, so check out both sides!

The five state proposals are found here.

Ballot Proposal 1

Amending the Apportionment and Redistricting Process
This proposed constitutional amendment would freeze the number of state senators at 63, amend the process for the counting of the state’s population, delete certain provisions that violate the United States Constitution, repeal and amend certain requirements for the appointment of the co-executive directors of the redistricting commission and amend the manner of drawing district lines for congressional and state legislative offices. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

The Census guy in me supports:
Requiring that state assembly and senate district lines be based on the total population of the state, and require the state to count all residents, including non-citizens and Native Americans if the federal census fails to include them.
Provide for incarcerated people to be counted at their place of the last residence, instead of at their place of incarceration, for the purpose of redistricting. This practice is already established by state statute for Senate and Assembly districts.

I’m ambivalent about this:
Freeze the number of state senators at the current number of 63. Currently, under the state constitution, the number of senators was originally set at 50 and thereafter increased over time to 63.
On one hand, I would support Congress getting larger to counteract the unfairness the current system is applied to larger states. On the other hand, we’re talking about the historically dysfunctional state legislature.

All in all, I’m still thinking about this. Notably, the League of Women Voters of the City of New York recommends a NO vote. This is due, in part, because, “The proposed amendment would unfairly empower the majority party by preventing the minority party from having input into the final proposed maps.” Help me with this one, people.

Ballot Proposal 2

Right to Clean Air, Clean Water, and a Healthful Environment
The proposed amendment to Article I of the New York Constitution would establish the right of each person to clean air and water and a healthful environment.

Of course YES. But how would this work, exactly?

Ballot Proposal 3

Eliminating Ten-Day-Advance Voter Registration Requirement
The proposed amendment would delete the current requirement… that a citizen be registered to vote at least ten days before an election and would allow the Legislature to enact laws permitting a citizen to register to vote less than ten days before the election.


Ballot Proposal 4

Authorizing No-Excuse Absentee Ballot Voting
The proposed amendment would delete from the current provision on absentee ballots the requirement that an absentee voter must be unable to appear at the polls by reason of absence from the county or illness or physical disability.

YES. People oughtn’t have to lie about how sick/infirm they are.

Ballot Proposal 5

Increasing the Jurisdiction of the New York City Civil Court
The proposed amendment would increase the New York City Civil Court’s jurisdiction by allowing it to hear and decide claims for up to $50,000 instead of the current jurisdictional limit of $25,000.

Sure. It seems to be a response to inflationary pressures. The NYC LWV is YES on Props 2-4, and takes no position on 5.

The local items

Proposition: Council residency requirement
Shall the Charter of the City of Albany be amended to require any person seeking election as a member of the Common Council to be an elector and resident of the ward for which the person is seeking election for a continuous period of at least three hundred sixty-five (365) days prior to taking office and during the entire term of office, except in limited circumstances following reapportionment of Common Council wards?

What? That’s NOT the law already? YES.

Proposition: Increase Community Police Review Board Authority

Shall Article XLIV of Chapter 42 of the Code of the City of Albany be amended to increase the Community Police Review Board’s authority and ability to conduct investigations and to exercise oversight, review, and resolution of community complaints alleging abuse of police authority?

The IDEA of the CPRB was grand. But it has been a paper tiger. “The law was already affirmed by the Albany Common Council, in a unanimous 14-0 vote, in March but requires a citywide referendum from the public to go into effect. That would be a YES.

Building confidence in US elections (2005)

“Measures to encourage and achieve the greatest possible participation in elections”

“I wish that we could just have someone out there say in 2005, Jimmy Carter and James Baker did the Carter-Baker Commission to both tried to expand voting and make it more secure. They had 87 recommendations. Adopt them all. It means you won’t have ballot harvesting, but it means it will be easier to vote.”

I heard someone suggest this on one of those talking-heads shows two months ago. It made sense in building confidence in US elections.

The Commission had “five sturdy pillars.”

“Voter registration that is convenient for voters to complete and even simpler to renew and that produces complete, accurate, and valid list of citizens who are eligible to vote.”

This means not having wholesale purging of voter lists. Voters who move more often – students, renters, e.g. – should not be disenfranchised.

“Voter identification, tied directly to voter registration, that balances election integrity without introducing new barriers to voting, including the casting and counting of ballots.”

Prior to the pandemic, I never had to show my ID when I voted. The last two times, once involving early voting at a central location, and the other in an alternative site, I did. This is not to say it might not be onerous for others.

I’m suggesting something that’s a bit of a bugaboo for some: an option for people to receive an identification card that is FREE and not onerous to obtain. Or, in the alternative, a wider array of verification documents that don’t discourage the franchise.

When requiring, say, a driver’s license/non-driver’s license and the nearest DMV is two bus rides away with long lines, THAT is a barrier to voting. Too often, the ID requirements have been used to, de facto, disenfranchise.

More participation

“Measures to encourage and achieve the greatest possible participation in elections by enabling all eligible voters to have an equal opportunity to vote and have their votes counted.”

Having one drop-off box for ballots per county may seem fair in the abstract. But when one county has a few hundred and another has a few hundred thousand – well, no. People standing in long lines because there are too few polling places in “selected” communities.

I’ve been consistent in giving ex-felons the right to vote. It’s our duty as a nation to rehabilitate. How does that happen when the formerly incarcerated are denied the franchise?

“Voting machines that tabulate voter preferences accurately and transparently, minimize under- and over-votes,
restricting mail-in voting and allow for verifiability and full recounts”

This means non-hackable computers and paper records.

“Fair, impartial, and effective election administration.”

This would preclude a former elected person from asking an official to “find” him some votes.

My great fear is that if we can’t find a way to have elections that most people recognize as legitimate, the country will not exist. That may seem melodramatic, but I firmly believe it.

Amendments 15, 19, 24, 26

As I’ve noted many times, the arc of the Constitution bends towards greater participation in voting by its citizenry. Letting black people and women and 18-year-olds vote. Getting rid of the poll tax. Ultimately, we should be heading forward in making

BTW, the suggestion was offered up by Sarah Isgur, a veteran of the Trump Justice Department, who’s now a political analyst for “The Dispatch.” She suggested it on the July 11 episode of This Week

Read the 2005 report. It’s only 113 pages long, and it has pictures! What do you think can be done to create a more perfect union that enough people can get behind?

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