Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Good Old Days

"A billion here, a billion there, sooner or later it adds up to real money." Evertt Dirksen

Friday, September 02, 2011

An Excerpt From The Plot Against Marlene Dietrich (get the complete story for free)

“Don’t hang around with entertainers, huh? Just Coloreds with their dingis hangin’ out, right? I seen you around those Bojangles types. I could hold you as a material witness.”

“Oh, c’mon. You’re not going to do anything, how's that goin’ to look, me beating you out here and all. And I took the train.”

“La Guardia and the commissioner ain’t gonna like this, not at all. Hope this isn’t a murder, Rada.”

“Murder? Who said anything about murder?” Rada took a last drag on his smoke and ground it out on the concrete. The swirls of surf pulsating in his ears came into consciousness. It gushed.

He stared off at the sea, wondered about how she died, and about the Negro up the beach. Then there was a quick glance at Detective Impolitari. Rada shrugged. “ . . . .You could always pin it on the Colored boy, I suppose.” . . .

Get The Plot Against Marlene Dietrich for FREE by paying with a tweet

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I’m not a prolific writer. In fact, I’m rather slow. It’s a bit difficult to dash off five or seven thousand words a day when you write historical fiction. Worse, sometimes I encounter writers block – but I know how to conquer that.

“People don’t want to write, they only want to have written,” Dorothy Parker famously remarked. Most of us writers, at one time or another, have subscribed to that sentiment, particularly in those dry periods when we find it almost impossible to come up with anything solid to write about.

What goes on in these fallow periods? Why doesn’t the creativity we know is there flow like the headwaters of the Amazon?

Over the years writers have asked me this question in my psychotherapy practice, and I’ve certainly thought about it in my own fiction writing.

Somerset Maugham had a unique approach to writers block that I’ve incorporated in my own work, and my work with clients. Writing at the turn of the 20th century, Maugham faced a blank page on his typewriter and pecked away his name: ‘I am Somerset Maugham, I am Somerset Maugham, I am Somerset Maugham . . .’ – until something came to him. His extraordinary Freudian-laced short story ‘Rain’ came to him in just such a way.

Okay, okay, I’m getting to it. What was Maugham really doing? Well, the trick was just sitting down at the typewriter. So when clients ask me how they can overcome their own writers block, I say 'sit down at the computer and write just two sentences. Just two.' It turns out it’s like that potato chip advert, ‘bet you can’t eat just one.’ In this case two.

Really it’s a matter of overcoming inertia. If you do sit down at the computer, once you start writing, it’s a bit difficult to actually stop at just two sentences. The trick to fooling the unconscious is to sit at the computer and begin, any beginning really.

It’s a rather simple ploy, but it works! I wrote a complete first draft of The Plot Against Marlene Dietrich by using this method. Two sentences became twenty, and then two hundred and then – hey, almost a complete draft.You might want to give it a try.

Take heart, it could be worse. James Baldwin called the place he wrote in Paris (in Paris, yet!) the torture chamber – but that’s another story.


Just click on the title above to go to the Amazon page for The Plot Against Marlene Dietrich (now 99¢ through July). Hope you enjoy it. Also, check out The Principal of Rivington Street also on Amazon and other e-readers.


Friday, July 01, 2011


In the time of good and evil, Marlene Dietrich was a heroine. When she finally left Germany for Hollywood in 1931, she not only turned her back on the Nazis, but actively began to fight them.

The glamorous, androgynous Dietrich of The Blue Angel took Hollywood by storm and became the seductress of tinsel town, even besting the great Garbo. Her scandalous nightclub scene in Morroco – where she kissed a woman patron on the mouth – left co-star Gary Cooper clapping, and Hollywood aghast. It made her a celebrity and superstar; in today’s terms Lada Gaga and Madonna all rolled into one.

Behind the veneer of glitz and glamour, Dietrich was fiercely political, and a patriot – an American patriot. From the mid 1930s, Dietrich worked tirelessly to save German actors and artists, particularly Jewish artists, from the Nazi death camps that awaited them.

Dietrich had strong political convictions and she spoke her mind; she flaunted those convictions. On more than one occasion, Dietrich was approached by Nazi representatives in an effort to get her to return to Germany; she turned them down flat, and even tweaked their nose by becoming an American citizen in 1939.

From research for my fictional story, The Plot Against Marlene Dietrich, I was struck by how dedicated she was in saving as many as she could. At first she was able to send money to German banks to help refugees get to Switzerland and then on to the Untied States. Later when this was no longer possible, Dietrich took risks beyond the call of duty. There were to be many émigrés who landed in Hollywood because of her efforts, and her work was ongoing, dangerous and expensive. Some of the refugees, like director Billy Wilder, even took up temporary residence in the Dietrich home in California.

Why is Dietrich’s wartime activity so important? Well, because those of the greatest generation included women and men on the home front, too. And Marlene Dietrich risked it all to help America win the war. Her mother and some family members were still in Germany, and she was put on Hitler’s list of enemies. The Nazis constantly bombarded the airwaves with attacks on her. All though the extent is still unclear, she most likely worked with the OSS (the precursor to the CIA) during the war and entertained our troops close to the battle lines, knowing if she were caught execution was likely.

One memory that stays with me was a time in 1964, stationed in Germany, when the film Judgment at Nurenberg was released. Her role as Mrs. Berholt, a Nazi sympathizer, was difficult for her, and director Stanley Kramer had to convince her to play the part. I was amazed at the time that many of her fellow Germans viewed her as a traitor – as though the horrors of Hitler and his henchmen had easily been forgotten.

Years later, German attitudes toward Marlene changed. In 1997, the central Marlene-Dietrich-Platz was unveiled in Berlin to honor her. The commemoration reads “Marlene Dietrich world star of film and song. Dedication to freedom and democracy, to Berlin and Germany.”

She ought to be remembered by us all, with gratitude.


The Plot Against Marlene Dietrich -- now on Kindle for just 99¢

Just click on the title above to go to the Amazon page for The Plot Against Marlene Dietrich. Hope you enjoy it

. Also, check out The Principal of Rivington Street also on Amazon.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Dirksen redux: A billion here, a billion there, sooner or later it adds up to less than one percent of the deficit.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Interesting to ponder: Could the historical sweep of freedom in the Arab world and Middle East reach northwest Pakistan? So far these people's revolutions are completely antithetical to Al Queda's uber-violent philosophy. Could it be that some of the Brothers will see the light? Okay, it's a bit of a stretch, but I wonder if one of these guys would give him up, and I might as well throw in al-Zawahiri and Mullah Omar -- as long as I'm fantasizing. Just a thought.

, , , and so it goes.


Why is president Obama so silent on public employee unions? Who is he, Eisenhower?

Thursday, February 17, 2011


While the Egyptian revolution was mostly peaceful, Bahrain is quite different. The leaders appear to have adopted the Tiananmen model. China brought troops in from the countryside who had very little in common with the student protesters in the capital making the massacre that much easier for some of the old hard-liners in the politburo.

In Bahrain with its Shia majority pitted against the Sunni dominated elites, the same violent approach will work -- for a time. It's unclear what democracy means to the people that revolt in the streets of the Arab world, but it is a movement that may be delayed, not denied. The hope is the people in the streets will take a cue from the Egyptian populace and find ways other than a blinding, frustrating violence to achieve their ends. Egypt, thus far, has shown it's eminently doable.

The question, too, is where does the United States stand? With the 5th fleet birthed in Bahrain, the security interest rears its head in ways it did not in Egypt. Again we must choose wisely and promptly; true revolutions can be slowed, not stopped.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Dirksen redux: A billion here, a billion there, sooner or later it adds up to less than one percent of the deficit.

. . . and so it goes.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


The army is now in charge in Egypt. The same military that has a vested interest in the status quo. After all, their businesses, military owned businesses, comprise about 10% of the Egyptian economy. Never mind that they don't want to give that up. There's another reason that democracy may give them pause.

Little noticed here, but the same day the Egyptian people freed themselves from Mubarack's military dictatorship, the Turkish prosecutor asked a court to jail 180 current and former military officers on charges they plotted a coup against the democratic Islamist government. The trial is a victory for the government in tackling a military that once held sway over Turkish political life.

The fate of the Turkish military isn't lost on the Egyptian command, and they may not want to go gently into this free night as have their Turkish confreres. Democracy is tough slogging .

Friday, February 11, 2011


They may have a republic, if they can keep it.

. . . On to Tehran.


We are so transfixed by the protestors in Egypt essentially because (at least so far) they are a nonviolent movement. Those young students take their philosophical underpinnings from the likes of Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and the velvet revolutions of Europe.

This is a philosophical focus we must encourage; it is a movement we must forcefully endorse. If we don't, this anti Queda, non Islamist movement will devolve into something nasty and it will further diminish our influence in the region.

If the protestors in Cairo can prevail, that will go a long way toward validating democratic ideals. And those ideals may spread beyond the Arab world all the way to Tehran. Our choice is between the ossified and the ascendant. We ought to choose wisely and promptly.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


At least Nixon had the sense to go.

SO LONG HOSNI (click here for el Ahram)

The Egyptian army will take control of the country and Hosni Mubarack will step down today in favor of Omar Suleiman, or more likely the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. And now we wait . . .

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


In the 1971 South Asian crisis, Henry Kissinger famously 'tilted' toward Pakistan. The tilt was not an all out endosement, and Nixon's antipathy toward Indira Gandhi played a part, but the tilt wasn't a bad idea.

Today we have to play a similar card in Egypt. The cliches aside, i.e. 'getting ahead of the curve,' we need a policy that makes sense. Tilting toward the protestors in Tahrir Square is a must if we don't want the antipathy of the street. We need to be seen as supporting them. At the same time, support - tepid though it should be- for an ally of some thirty years will comfort our other allies in the region.

Yes, there are risks, Mubarack and his cronies literally know where the bodies are buried -- but we must to be seen as supporting those democracy hungry protesters in the cities of Egypt. And signaling that tilt is the way we need to go.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


Finally the corpus resurrected? It will be interesting to see how the Iranian thugocracy reacts to the call for demonstrations by a weak opposition. (click the headline to go to the Times article)

Friday, February 04, 2011


I. An interim government to be set up by March 1st with a transitional figure, perhaps Mohammed ElBaradei or Amr Moussa , in the lead and encompassing the disparate factions. They would be charged with three primary function: running the government; developing a directionality for Egyptian democracy; and lastly, to organize an election to be set up for July 1st. The army would be the guarantor of this body and see to it that its primary funtions are carried out equally and uniformly.

II. An election on July 1st with all parties and stakeholders in Egypt participating regardless of ideology, which may even include figures such as Gamal Mubarack, should he choose to run. The election to be monitored by credible international observers.

III. The handing over of power to the newly elected regime on September 1st.

This may indeed be a way forward to bridge our own American dilemma -- not to humiliate an ally of thirty years standing as well as satisfying the American ideal of encouraging democracy. Perhaps too this also may mollify, to some extent, our other allies -- the Kingdoms in the region.

Mubarack has already agreed to the September target, and from our own perspective there is little downside, with at least a chance of a legitimate neutral outcome.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Hosni Mubarack has taken a cue from Iran by sending out his own thugs reminiscent of the Iranian Besij militia. But Egypt is not Iran and the Egyptian military, the strongest center of power in Egypt, is yet to be heard from.


The spillover of the Egyptian crisis seems to have focused the mind of Arab governments and emboldened their populations. Is the Iranian opposition getting this message, or does it not apply to Persians? Where are those brave protesters who tried in vain to topple the Ahmadinejad regime? Time for a second push; they may not get another chance anytime soon.


Egypt's confusion and ours:. Many in the street want to cast off the American yoke and yet recast themselves in it's image, That confusion spills all the way to Washington.

Is this a velvet revolution, or one that will devolve into chaos with Islamists picking up the pieces? Is the Muslim Brotherhood a changed organization or a scourge that will only bring a fundamentalist Egypt? Will the Muslim Brotherhood even be the winners? Is the quiescence of the Brotherhood tactical or strategic? Do they really aspire to Islamic governance throughout the Muslim world? All tough questions to answer.

At the moment though, the most powerful force in Egypt is not the Brotherhood, but the army. Many of these guys have spent more time at West Point then they have in Cairo, all to the good. And if the Muslim Brotherhood did have a say in a new government, would our engagement with them present an opportunity? That is, some influence in moderating the views of their compatriots in Gaza, Hamas.

It's all damn confusing, but the United States' rhetoric much match its values, otherwise we have no chance of an upside.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


How about sending Baby Doc to Egypt and Hosni Mubarack to Haiti? . . well just a thought.

. . . And so it goes.


It's time to get ahead of the curve in Egypt. The least worst solution is Mohammed ElBaradei, late of the IAEA. But in any case, we can't seem as hesitant when the people in the street are speaking with a clear voice; they want Murbarak out. Let's hope ElBaradei has the political strength to stave off the more radical factions in Cairo. We should at the least encourage the army to have contact with him. Anything short of that, such as holding elections is September, is antithetical to our interests.

Our president and the State department need to review our policy and change it --quick.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Quote of the day:

"You wouldn't talk that way about me if my writers were around." -- Jack Benny

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


You have to be of a certain age to remember those bumper stickers that read 'Impeach Earl Warren.' Maybe it's time to dust off the idea and replace it with the name Antonin Scalia.

The spectacle (though it wasn't open to the press) of Justice Scalia's pimping, yes pimping, for Michelle Bachmann's Tea Party Congress 101 class brings the concept of injudicious and unseemly to new heights.

The Roberts Court has become the most activist and partisan Court since, well, the Warren Court.

Justice Alito mumbled 'not true' at the last SOTU speech and Justice Thomas's forgetfulness as to his wife's source of employment income shakes the very foundation of an impartial Court. We rely on these lifetime appointees to be like Caesar's wife -- not Louis the XVI's.

Time to bring back those bumper stickers, this time: IMPEACH ANTONIN SCALIA.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Face it, Keith Olbermann is narcissistic, over-the-top, mercurial, and a tad vicious; not the uberviciousness of the gaggle of prima donnas at Fox news, but antagonistic nevertheless.

Having said that, you rooted for the guy, hoping the better angels of his nature would win out. It just didn't happen. Eventually he'll be back in some lesser incarnation -- old anchors never die, they just fade away.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Some right wing bloggers are calling for Gabby Giffords to step down. Really? What are they thinking? At best, it's insensitive, over the top and completely dottie. "Let us not assassinate this lass further, senator. . . . Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last?"

Joseph Welsh knew how to do it at the Army-McCarthy hearings in the '50s. Let's hope there's big pushback from the grownups in congress.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Why all the play about Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes? Does anyone really care? After all, it's just Hollywood -- which reminds us of this:

"You can take all the sincerity in Hollywood, place it in the navel of a flea, and still have room left over for two caraway seeds and the heart of an agent." -- Fred Allen.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Today, Monday, January 11, 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of Dwight Eisenhower's farewell address warning against an overbearing military-industrial complex. A pretty fair speech -- and such prescience from a Republican.

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

. . . and so it goes


Who would make the best Republican nominee in 2012?

Join the conversation and comment.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

(Click to link to Times article)

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2012, says he opposes raising the nation's debt ceiling and is urging Republicans in Congress to do the same.
Where was he when he said that? Iowa, maybe? The governor's micturating into a pressure gradient on this one.

Leaves and Conceits:The Best of the Society Pages

The Cabots speak only to the Lodges and the Lodges only to the Lord, at least that’s what mother told me. I’ve had more than a passing interest in the social calendar ever since. And this season, for me at least, has been the most significant and momentous in memory. Below are a few highlights:


Thirty Women from Westchester County were presented last night at the Eggs-Over-Easy Debutante Ball in Rye, New York. In a traditional ceremony, each woman received roses and a small island off the Greek coast.

Proceeds from the annual event will go to The Fund for The Reconstruction of The Eisenhower Administration.


In one of the most exciting finishes in memory, Moorehead Snead III, skipper of Impervious, crossed the finish line some thirty seconds ahead of the sloop Hegemony to win field yachting’s prized Skeffington cup. In field yachting, a sleek, single-masted craft is pulled along a polo field by day laborers known as ‘sloop caddies.’ The first yacht to traverse the field and cross the goal is declared the winner.

Moorehead Snead III, an overrun specialist with the Lockheed Corporation, and the crew of Impervious clearly ran the tactically superior race and were never headed by the opposing yacht, Hegemony. Hegemony had its problems from the start as it strayed off course and interrupted the second chukker of a polo match being played on an adjacent field. Seven ponies died in the incident.


Announcement has been made of the impending marriage of Sarah Ogden Root to Osgood Stegman Jr., a lobbyist for the Poppy Seed Association, currently secondered to the Ministry of Agriculture in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Miss Root, who is currently engaged in experimental salmon farming in her condominium in Aspen, Colorado, graduated from Miss Porter’s School and holds a Master’s degree from Columbia University. She is the great-granddaughter of Zachariah Root, an Assistant Secretary of the Interior in the Coolidge administration and inventor of the aluminum shovel.


In a whirlwind display of swimming pool diplomacy, the exclusive Greenwich Country Club hosted sixteen members of the North Korean Olympic diving team. Less than forty-eight hours after their Ilyshin II-14 touched down at Kennedy International, the divers were in the water.

A few members of the club, unaware of the invitation, complained about ‘Asians flailing about in the pool.’ Sin Sun Ho, North Korea’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, assured the group that his government will reciprocate later in the year. U.S. divers will be invited to use the facilities at the Glorious Fissile Enrichment Pool located outside of Yongbyun.


Mr. and Mrs. Steven Shriver Lodge of New York and Kennebunkport, Maine have made known the engagement of their former daughter, Muffy Elizabeth, to Henry F. Mazel, son of Abe and Ida Mazel of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

The future bride, an officer with the private banking house of Brahmin Brothers, Saks and Forrester, graduated Smith College. She was presented at the 2003 Debutante Cotillion and Christmas Ball, and recently was asked to resign her seat on the board of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Mr. Mazel, the future bridegroom, is a merchant associated with the Pitkin Avenue Herring Works, as was his father before him.


Saturday, January 15, 2011


Tom Delay was sentenced to three years in the hoosegow for money laundering. He claims the jury was the most liberal in Texas, which isn't saying a whole lot. But didn't his lawyers ever hear of premonitory challenges, or don't they have those down there?


Sister Sarah missed the turn. While most are fed up with the vitriol Palin continues her one note violence metaphors. She's marching in the wrong direction. After Tucson it'll be far more difficult to demonize the president, and the Frank Luntz type inflammatory rhetoric won't be looked upon kindly by much of the body politic. A sea change?Probably not, but a turn in a new direction, maybe. And so it goes . .


Reince Priebus of Wisconsin succeeded Michael Steele as the head of the RNC. Who?