Friday, December 31, 2010

George Carlin and Richard Pryor

They had a miserable childhood, and somehow became superstar comedians.......interesting.

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The Delanceyplace End-of-Year Comedy Week
In today's encore excerpt - the lives of superstar comedians George Carlin and Richard Pryor bear witness to the pain beneath much of our humor:

"George Carlin's father, an ad salesman, was a drinker prone to violent outbursts, and when George was only two his mother grabbed him and his older brother fled down the fire escape and left for good. Mary Carlin and her boys spent two years shuttling among friends and relatives before finally getting an apartment of their own - with George's father stalking them all the way. 'He hounded her' says Carlin. 'And he frightened her. When we lived on One Hundred Fortieth Street, we would come back from downtown, get off the subway, and the procedure was my mother would go to the call box get the local precinct and say 'Hi it's Mary and the kids. I'm at One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street. Come and get us.' And they would drive us home and see us into the house. Sometimes he'd be across the street just looking.' Even when they finally moved into an apartment that his father didn't know the whereabouts of, his mother was still on edge. If they got an unexpected knock she'd tell George to peek under the door. If he saw a lady's shoes, he could open it. A man's shoes and they would stay quiet until the visitor went away. This family drama ended only when his father died. George was eight. ...

"He was born Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor on December 1, 1940, in Peoria, Illinois. His mother, who appears to have been a prostitute, and his father married when Richard was three and split up when he was ten. He then went to live with his grandmother, who ran a chain of whorehouses in town. In his autobiography, Pryor Convictions, Pryor describes learning about sex by peeking through keyholes to watch the prostitutes at work, and soaking up neighborhood lore at a bar called the Famous Door where 'people came in to exchange news, blow steam, or have their say.' He was kicked out of Catholic school when they found out about the family business and he moved into an integrated elementary school. There he got an early taste of racism when he gave a scratch pad as a gift to a little white girl he had a crush on. The next day, as Pryor tells it, the girl's angry father came to school and berated him in front of the class: 'Nigger don't you ever give my daughter anything.' "

Author: Richard Zoglin

Title: Comedy at the Edge 

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Date: Copyright 2008 by Richard Zoglin

Pages: 19-20, 44


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Delanceyplace is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context.  There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came. 

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What's all this about "Mainstream Media" ?

So much for that fairy tale about the liberal bias of mainstream media !

Thom's blog
Mainstream media has been taken over by Conservative ideology
You need to know this. The mainstream media has been taken over by Conservative ideology. A new Pew Research Center Survey studied the media exposure of politicians during the recent midterm elections. What they found was - out of the ten most covered candidates during the election season - the top 3 were all Republicans. And most surprising - Sarah Palin - who essentially has no job and was not running for one - received three times more coverage to spew her talking points than the sitting Vice President Joe Biden. Also - conservative commentators like Glenn Beck received considerably more media coverage than their more liberal counterparts like Keith Olbermann. These findings from the Pew Research Center are similar to a study by MediaMatters back in 2006 that found that Republican talking heads appeared on Sunday morning news shows 58% of the time compared to Democratic commentators appearing only 42% of the time. And finally - reporter Sebastian Jones - with "The Nation" magazine - uncovered at least 75 corporate lobbyists or PR officials that now appear on television political talk shows with no disclosure of what business interests they actually work for. Their job? To do the bidding of their corporate overlords under the disguise of "expert political commentary". So now can we finally put an end to the myth that there is a liberal bias in the mainstream media? And hopefully now start recognizing we need to create new media outlets that aren't beholden to corporate interests or the talking points of their billionaire owners like Rupert Murdoch. Maybe then American will again hear the news they need to know.
-Thom
(Have you noticed this? Tell us here.)
Best of Thom Hartmann audio
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Why? Because We Still Like You~ !

Kids can be cruel !

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In today's excerpt - The Mickey Mouse Club television show was cancelled in 1958 after three seasons, and almost all the Mouseketeers, who were pre-teens and teenagers, found themselves out of work and trying to reenter normal life. Very few received help from Disney or were able to sustain careers in the entertainment world, and most went on to lives filled with disappointment. Even returning to their former schools proved daunting:
"The clash between the [ex-]Mouseketeers' former selves still on television in reruns, and the teenagers careening toward adulthood who they now were, highlighted the larger conflict that would mar their lives for years to come: the idyllic '50s sensibility their screen images represented versus the hipper grown-ups they were trying to become. 'After a while it was a part of my life that I wanted over, and it just wouldn't die,' Dennis Day said in an interview. 'There were all those reruns, and people kept recognizing me.'
"This conflict first played itself out in the halls of the schools to which the Mouseketeers were hoping to return quietly and without incident. Kids in Karen Pendleton's seventh-grade class would ask her for her autograph, but when the guileless middle-schooler would give it to them, they'd tear it up in front of her.
Her classmates would say things like, 'Wiggle your ears and I'll give you some cheese.'
"Don Agrati, a tiny thirteen-year-old, acquired the nickname 'Mouse' the second he returned to public school and suffered from the same unoriginal - though still hurtful - teasing methods
Kids would sing 'The Mickey Mouse Club March' whenever he entered the cafeteria. 'I was in fights every day and I was just miserable,' he recalls. '
Author: Jennifer Armstrong

Title: Why? Because We Still Like You

Publisher: Grand Central

Date: Copyright 2010 by Jennifer Armstrong

Pages: 164-166
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Monday, December 20, 2010

The Brain,...Stress,.....and Human Perception

Some interesting facts about our sensory perception in times of stress.

In today's excerpt - in moments of extreme duress, such as that which police experience during a shooting, human perception alters radically:
"Over a period of five years, [researcher Alexis] Artwohl gave hundreds of police officers a written survey to fill out about their shooting experiences. Her
findings were remarkable: virtually all of the officers reported experiencing at least one major perceptual distortion. Most experienced several. For some, time moved in slow motion. For others, it sped up. Sounds intensified or disappeared altogether. Actions seemed to happen without conscious control. The mind played tricks. One officer vividly remembered seeing his partner 'go down in a spray of blood,' only to find him unharmed a moment later. Another believed a suspect had shot at him 'from down a long dark hallway about forty feet long'; revisiting the scene a day later, he found to his surprise that the suspect 'had actually been only about five feet in front of [him] in an open
room.' Wrote one cop in a particularly strange anecdote, 'During a violent shoot-out I looked over ... and was puzzled to see beer cans slowly floating through the air past my face. What was even more puzzling was that they had the word Federal printed on the bottom. They turned out to be the shell casings ejected by the officer who was firing next to me.' ...
"The single distortion under fire that Artwohl heard about most, with a full 84 percent of the officers reporting it, was diminished hearing.
"The brain's tendency to steer its resources into visually zeroing in on the threat also explains the second most common perceptual distortion under fire. Tunnel vision, reported by 79 percent of Artwohl's officers, occurs when the mind locks on to a target or threat to the exclusion of all peripheral information.
"According to Artwohl's findings, the warping of reality under extreme stress often ventures into even weirder territory. For 62 percent of the officers she surveyed, time seemed to lurch into slow motion during their life-threatening encounter - a perceptual oddity frequently echoed in victims' accounts of emergencies like car crashes.
The truth, psychologists believe, is that it's really our memory of the event that unfolds at the pace of molasses; during an intensely fear-provoking experience, the amygdala etches such a robustly detailed representation into the mind that in retrospect it seems that everything transpired slowly. Memories, after all, are notoriously unreliable, especially after an emergency. Sometimes they're eerily intricate, and yet other times
vital details disappear altogether.
Author: Taylor Clark

Title: Nerve


Publisher: Little, Brown

Date: Copyright 2011 by Taylor Clark

Pages: 245-248

About Us

Delanceyplace is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context.  There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came. 

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To view previous daily emails click here.
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Friday, December 17, 2010

The annexation of Mexico

From sea to shiny sea!

In today's excerpt - in 1836, a small group of "Texans" living in northern Mexico rebelled against that country in a quest for independence, in some part because Mexico had outlawed slavery. Mexico's General Santa Anna failed to quell that small rebellion, then was captured and lost that territory. He was released and allowed to return to Mexico, where he regained the leadership of the country, rationalizing his defeat by comparing his loss to Napoleon's war against the Russians. However, the bitter humilation of defeat stayed with Santa Anna and the Mexican nation, and led directly to the Mexican America War of 1845. There Santa Anna again lost - and had to cede a vast portion of the country from New Mexico to California to the United States:
When Sam Houston and the Texans laid a trap with 800 men along the San Jacinto River, an overconfident Santa Anna dismissed the possibility of an attack. Assaulting 1,500 Mexicans in the late afternoon of April 21, the Texans defeated them in about eighteen minutes and promptly vented their anger over the Alamo and Goliad on their prisoners. Six hundred and fifty Mexicans were killed while just two Texans met the same fate. Santa Anna escaped, only to be captured the next day, disguised as a common soldier wearing diamond studs in his linen shirt. 
"The loss of Texas was a decisive moment in the development of Mexican attitudes toward the United States. ... The creation of the Republic of Texas transformed apprehension into anger.
By the late 1830s, Mexican newspapers were calling for war against the United States. The manifest design of the [United States on the northern territories of Mexico] seemed all too clear. Santa Anna's adviser, Jose Marfa Tornel, later explained that Americans had been united since 1776 in 'their desire to extend the limits of the republic to the north, to the south, and to the west,' by whatever means necessary. The American 'frenzy to usurp and gain control of that which rightfully belongs to its neighbors' resembled the 'roving spirit' of 'barbarous hordes' from a 'far remote north.' ... 
Why should a civilized people respect the Americans? 'Nowhere else on the face of the globe is the feeling of the white race stronger against those which, in its pride, it designates as colored.' Americans exploited and cheated Indians. Americans enslaved African Americans. Their pompous support for the rights of man rested on tyranny over others. How could Americans, who had 'opened a vast market of human flesh in Texas ... dare to acclaim the sacred name of liberty[?]' Americans' behavior in Texas echoed their behavior in Florida.
The loss of Texas would inevitably lead to the loss of New Mexico and California. 'Our national existence ... would end like those weak meteors which, from time to time, shine fitfully in the firmament and disappear.'
"In 1837 Santa Anna managed to restore his reputation, with his usual flair
In the early 1840s he commissioned a statue of himself with a finger pointing north to Texas, as if to trump his critics by reminding the world of his unfinished business."
Author: Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton

Title: The Dominion of War


Publisher: Penguin

Date: Copyright 2005 by Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton

Pages: 268-271
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Why? Because We Still Like You

Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me? :)

n today's excerpt - to help finance the construction of his new theme park, Walt Disney launched a new 1955 television show that revolutionized programming and dominated the daytime ratings with the unheard of strategy of letting regular kids be the stars of a show. For the kids that starred, the work was hard, and they survived in part with their own small subversions. For example, the pre-teen boys who starred in The Mickey Mouse Club defied the wishes of the show's producers and tilted their Mouseketeer caps back to show off their golden pompadours:
A guy could have the coolest hair in town, but no one would know about it if he wore his Mouseketeer cap according to regulation.
The guys had to have their waves out. And producers' demands that they wear the stupid hats way down on their heads wrecked everything. 'All the guys hated the ears,' Lonnie says now. 'They'd always want us to wear it like a monk.'
"The solution: the boys would act like they were going along with the producers' ridiculous rules until the last second before shooting started, then sneak the cap back two inches or so, just as cameras started to roll, pushing as much hair as possible forward with it to approximate a decent wave.
"More than ten million children watched the first season of The Mickey Mouse Club, and two million Mouse ears sold in the show's first three months,
The Mickey Mouse Club made a generation of kids feel like they belonged to their own elite group, a feeling that would lodge itself in their hearts and make them remember Mouseketeers Annette, Tommy, Darlene, Cubby, Karen, Lonnie, Sherry, Doreen, and the rest of the gang for the rest of their lives."
Author: Jennifer Armstrong
Title: Why? Because We Still Like You
Publisher: Grand Central
Date: Copyright 2010 by Jennifer Armstrong
Pages: 3-6
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Sunday, December 05, 2010

200 Years In 4 Minutes (this is a must see video!!)

Statistics, presented visually..... Interesting!



Despite only lasting 4 minutes, this remarkable video is sure to have a very long lasting impact. h/t to @amp-arif for first Amplifying it.

Amplify’d from www.talkingpointsmemo.com

Via the BBC, Hans Rosling examines the correlation between income growth and life expectancy in 200 countries over the last 200 hundred years in an amazing animation. Take a look:

See more at www.talkingpointsmemo.com
 

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

2009: The Year Wall Street Bounced Back and Main Street Got Shafted

2009: The Year Wall Street Bounced Back and Main Street Got Shafted
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2009

In September 2008, as the worst of the financial crisis engulfed Wall Street, George W. Bush issued a warning: “This sucker could go down.” Around the same time, as Congress hashed out a bailout bill, New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, the leading Republican negotiator of the bill, warned that “if we do not do this, the trauma, the chaos and the disruption to everyday Americans’ lives will be overwhelming, and that’s a price we can’t afford to risk paying.”

In less than a year, Wall Street was back. The five largest remaining banks are today larger, their executives and traders richer, their strategies of placing large bets with other people’s money no less bold than before the meltdown. The possibility of new regulations emanating from Congress has barely inhibited the Street’s exuberance.

But if Wall Street is back on top, the everyday lives of large numbers of Americans continue to be subject to overwhelming trauma, chaos and disruption.

It is commonplace among policymakers to fervently and sincerely believe that Wall Street’s financial health is not only a precondition for a prosperous real economy but that when the former thrives, the latter will necessarily follow. Few fictions of modern economic life are more assiduously defended than the central importance of the Street to the well-being of the rest of us, as has been proved in 2009.

Inhabitants of the real economy are dependent on the financial economy to borrow money. But their overwhelming reliance on Wall Street is a relatively recent phenomenon. Back when middle-class Americans earned enough to be able to save more of their incomes, they borrowed from one another, largely through local and regional banks. Small businesses also did.

It’s easy to understand economic policymakers being seduced by the great flows of wealth created among Wall Streeters, from whom they invariably seek advice. One of the basic assumptions of capitalism is that anyone paid huge sums of money must be very smart.

But if 2009 has proved anything, it’s that the bailout of Wall Street didn’t trickle down to Main Street. Mortgage delinquencies continue to rise. Small businesses can’t get credit. And people everywhere, it seems, are worried about losing their jobs. Wall Street is the only place where money is flowing and pay is escalating. Top executives and traders on the Street will soon be splitting about $25 billion in bonuses (despite Goldman Sachs’ decision, made with an eye toward public relations, to defer bonuses for its 30 top players).

The real locus of the problem was never the financial economy to begin with, and the bailout of Wall Street was a sideshow. The real problem was on Main Street, in the real economy. Before the crash, much of America had fallen deeply into unsustainable debt because it had no other way to maintain its standard of living. That’s because for so many years almost all the gains of economic growth had been going to a relatively small number of people at the top.

President Obama and his economic team have been telling Americans we’ll have to save more in future years, spend less and borrow less from the rest of the world, especially from China. This is necessary and inevitable, they say, in order to “rebalance” global financial flows. China has saved too much and consumed too little, while we have done the reverse.

In truth, most Americans did not spend too much in recent years, relative to the increasing size of the overall American economy. They spent too much only in relation to their declining portion of its gains. Had their portion kept up — had the people at the top of corporate America, Wall Street banks and hedge funds not taken a disproportionate share — most Americans would not have felt the necessity to borrow so much.

The year 2009 will be remembered as the year when Main Street got hit hard. Don’t expect 2010 to be much better — that is, if you live in the real economy. The administration is telling Americans that jobs will return next year, and we’ll be in a recovery. I hope they’re right. But I doubt it. Too many Americans have lost their jobs, incomes, homes and savings. That means most of us won’t have the purchasing power to buy nearly all the goods and services the economy is capable of producing. And without enough demand, the economy can’t get out of the doldrums.

As long as income and wealth keep concentrating at the top, and the great divide between America’s have-mores and have-lesses continues to widen, the Great Recession won’t end — at least not in the real economy.

What the hell is the matter with Kansas...part two

Reducing America's Economic Polarization Will Lead to Political Comity

We frequently hear pundits pontificating about the rising level of political polarization in Congress.

Often the blame is ascribed to plummeting levels of civility among Members. In fact, ten years ago the House actually conducted several "civility retreats" aimed at fostering a more civil atmosphere inside the body. These events featured motivational speakers and smaller "encounter-group-like" seminars - and were widely attended by Members and their families. Needless to say, this approach didn't do much for the actual "civility index" in Congress.

And then there are the "centrists" who think that the partisan divide can best be bridged by proposals that seek to "moderate" the Democratic "change" agenda. Of course, most of these "moderates" want to water down Democratic proposals to change the status quo -- proposals that would reduce the power of the Wall Street gang, the private insurance industry, the energy companies and Chamber of Commerce. This presents a serious problem to most Democrats because the interests of these special interests are generally diametrically opposed to the interests of the American people. But it turns out they are also counterproductive when it comes to ending political polarization as well. Here's why:

Several years ago, a group of political scientists that included Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal, conducted an important study on the causes of political polarization. Their results were published in a fascinating book, Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches. Their study found that there is a direct relationship between economic inequality and polarization in American politics.

The team measured political polarization in congressional votes over the last century, and found a direct correlation with the percentage of income received by the top 1% of the electorate.

They also compared the Gini Index of Income Inequality with congressional vote polarization of the last half-century and found a comparable relationship.

Why should this be? It doesn't take a political genius to figure out that if people have more in common they are more likely to support similar proposals and perspectives. Political polarization in Congress does not result from some new inability to "communicate" or "empathize." It results from the fact that the major constituencies of the two parties have increasingly divergent economic interests.

To put it simply, Republicans increasingly represent the interests of the wealthiest elements of American society, and Democrats represent everyone else. As the gap between the incomes of these segments of the population grows, so does the gap between their economic interests and the policy proposals they support.

So in other words, if you want to do something about the political polarization of Congress, you have to deal with the underlying cause. You have to reduce the growing level of income inequality in America. Unfortunately, when "Moderate" Democrats attempt to defang Democratic proposals to rein in private insurance companies, Wall Street banks, energy companies, and the Chamber of Commerce they have exactly the opposite effect. The actions of these "Moderates" serve to perpetuate income inequality - and as a direct consequence, the political polarization they are so quick to attack.

We should remember that the level of income inequality is far from being a static feature of American society.

Paul Krugman points out that at the beginning of the Great Depression, income inequality, and inequality in the control of wealth, was very high. Then came the "the great compression" between 1929 and 1947. Real wages for workers in manufacturing rose 67% while real income for the richest 1% of Americans fell 17%. This period marked the birth of the American middle class. Two major forces drove these trends - unionization of major manufacturing sectors, and the public policies of the New Deal that were sparked by the Great Depression.

The growing spending power of everyday Americans spurred the postwar boom from 1947 to 1973. Real wages rose 81% and the income of the richest 1% rose 38%. Growth was widely shared, but income inequality continued to drop.

From 1973 to 1980, everyone lost ground. Real wages fell 3% and income for the richest 1% fell 4%. The oil shocks, and the dramatic slowdown in economic growth in developing nations, took their toll on America's and the world's economies.

Then came what economist Paul Krugman calls "the New Gilded Age." Beginning in 1980, there were big gains at the very top. The tax policies of the Reagan and Bush administrations magnified income redistribution.

In the last 20 years, there has been a massive re-polarization of incomes in America between the wealthiest 1% of the population and everyone else. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that fully two-thirds of all income gains during the last economic expansion (2002 to 2007) flowed to the top 1% of the population. And that, in turn, is one of the chief reasons why the median income for ordinary Americans actually dropped by $2,197 per year since 2000.

From 1990 to 2004, the income of the top 1% of the population has increased 57%. The richest Americans - the top one-tenth of 1% - have experienced income growth of 85%. Yet the median income of the bottom 90% has increased only 2%

Now the CEO of the average company in the Standard and Poor's Index makes10.9 million. That means that before lunch, on the first workday of the year, he (sometimes she) has made more than the minimum wage workers in his company will make all year. That translates to5,240 per hour - or about 344 times that pay of the typical American worker.
Most people would consider a salary of100,000 per year reasonably good pay. But the average CEO makes that much in the first 20 hours of the work year.
And that's nothing compared to some of the Kings of Wall Street. In 2007, the top 50 hedge and private equity fund managers averaged588 million in compensation each- more than 19,000 times as much as the average U.S. worker. And by the way, the hedge fund managers paid a tax rate on their income of only 15% -- far lower than the rate paid by their secretaries.
So if all the "moderates" who say they want to help end the polarization of Congress are serious, they need to get to work supporting the Democratic agenda to end the stranglehold of the wealthiest, most powerful economic interests, and support measures to once again increase taxes on the wealthiest among us at least to the levels they were back in the Clinton Administration. In other words, if you want to end the polarization of Congress, you have to end the economic polarization of America.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on Amazon.com.
Books By Robert Creamer

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Native of the Philadelphia "Kensington and Alleganey" northeast area. I spent 4 years in the Air Force (Titan-II missles in Tuscon Arizona). I Am currently retired, and among other adventures I spent 28 years working for AT&T in Telecommunications. I've lived in Florida for 33 years....20 years in Hollywood Fla., and 13 years North Florida. I've been married 42 years, and am a proud father of three adult offspring. All of them contributing to society in a very useful and creative manner.