Tom Romita

Writer. Director. Frustrated Human.

Tom has been successfully (not) writing “unscripted” television shows for almost twenty years.  From the romantic comedy of “Blind Date” and “Matched in Manhattan,” to the family drama of “Wife Swap” and “Shalom in the Home,” to the workplace shenanigans of “Counting Cars” and “New York Ink,” Tom has crafted stories to the delight of millions of viewers over the years.  He’s reached a level of success that has allowed him to live in the city he loves, New York, and secure a wife and daughter so beautiful, people think he’s adopted.  But now, he’s doing it the right way. He’s writing stuff down. Right here. Please enjoy his website, and feel free to share, Tweet or contact Tom directly to say hi, exchange ideas, or introduce him to really rich people who might want to produce his movies.

POLIDICKS

I try to keep my political opinions to myself, or off the ol’ interweb anyway. My “radical”  philosophy is always vastly underrepresented in my profession, hometown and most social circles, so full self-expression would be detrimental to my, well…entire life.

But I don’t want to talk about it. When people write or say naive, myopic or just plain wrong things in my presence, I nod in agreement. I refuse to stand up and defend my position.

I am a coward.

Or, that burning desire to teach others what I've learned and therefore change the world I had in my 20s, waned into frustrated ambivalence in my 30s, and has all but disappeared in my 40s. I don’t have the time, ambition or patience to explain things like basic economics  or human motivation to people. Things that require thought.

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon in this realm, thanks to social media. There are hundreds of complicated fields in which people have varying levels of expertise; electronics, music, architecture, sports, etc. What I’ve noticed of late is that society defines and accepts certain qualified experts in subjects like these, but for some sad reason, for the one that really affects everyone in the most profound of ways, politics, it does not.

When you need your house re-wired, you don’t argue with the electrician on how to best do the job. If you met Jay-Z, you probably wouldn’t tell him how to produce hip hop records. If you enjoy ballet more than baseball, you don’t head to Las Vegas and place a million dollar bet on the World Series. If you need surgery, you don’t grab a knife and get to work. The filter that stops us from taking action without sufficient information and expertise in other fields does not seem to extend to the realm of politics. Wildly differing levels of understanding of how government and the political process behind it works don’t seem to discourage those with the lowest level of understanding from getting in the faces of those with the highest, and proclaiming their intellectual superiority. Everyone considers himself a pundit, and lack of fundamental knowledge inherently necessary to form political opinions doesn’t stop people from doing so, and expressing them with gusto, on Facebook.

The non-politically adept think if they just “feel” a certain way about something (War - Bad! Funding the Arts- Good!) these feelings should be reflected in the laws of the land. Oh, were it that simple. I feel like I can install a ceiling fan, but I can’t, so I leave it to an expert.  Why don’t people leave politics to people who have actually taken the time and effort to understand it? Many people think that whatever individual opinion  they hold, out of hundreds of possibilities, should also be held by every government official, and  laws enacted accordingly, and they are offended when their individual thoughts and desires are not shared by their political leaders. And they make their dissatisfaction known, on Facebook.

Do me and the rest of us who take a passionate interest in politics a favor; if you know more about the New England Patriots than the Patriot Act, don’t tell me how to stop terrorism and I won’t tell you how Tom Brady can increase his completion percentage. If you know more about T-Pain than Thomas Paine, don’t tell me about natural rights of men and I won’t tell you if he’s a better rapper than Wiz Khalifa. If you know more about Katy Perry than Rick Perry, don’t tell me who should be the next GOP candidate, and I won’t tell you who should be her next boyfriend.

It would seem that while people are able to separate expertise in say, sports or architecture, from their self-perceived intelligence, the same cannot be said about politics. You can be less than an expert in sports, architecture, music, etc. and still regard yourself, and be regarded as, normal and intelligent. But the dimmest  of the dim expect and are expected to weigh in on candidates, policies and laws, regardless of their ability to actually spell “law”. And weigh in they do, on Facebook.

This morning, some troglodyte I apparently went to high school with and carelessly befriended on Facebook, posted graphic pictures of a baby afflicted with some kind of cancer. Underneath was his comment - “This is why abortion should be legal.” Regardless of your stance on abortion, this poster’s parents clearly should have expressed their right to one. My personal solution was swift and effective- I couldn’t have clicked “Unfriend” any faster. FB-posting Troglodyte is gone from my world forever, but he will be voting in the next election. For someone who favors the legality of abortion apparently. Because babies get cancer and he found a picture of one on the internet. I wish I could wipe a lot of people out of the voting pool as swiftly as I eradicated his existence from mine.

A friend of mine, who is very involved with local politics and writes a column in a town paper, was being lambasted on Facebook by someone who found his latest column "rude."  She informed my friend that if he wanted to write in a public forum, he should get his facts straight.  Apparently, his citing of facts that contradicted her inaccurate personal opinions was “rude.”  There were as many misspellings, basic comprehension and grammatical errors in her critique as there were facts in his column.   

Plato spoke of philosopher kings as the individuals in society best suited to rule it. As much as this smacks of intellectual elitism, do we really want a bunch of moron kings running the joint? We already have politicians who cater to whoever is in the room (Social Security needs reform until your audience is old, immigration policy needs reform, until your audience is Hispanic, welfare needs reform until your audience is poor, and corporations need to be reined in until they are funding your re-election campaign), so perhaps a bit of individual intellectual dominance in office is in order. The opposite philosophy and practice has not worked, except in insuring the proliferation of more and more dumber and dumber kids growing into dumber and dumber voting adults.

It is unfortunate that for whatever reason, be it the Internet, Obama expanding the general interest in politics, the decline of America as a great nation, or the popularity of the Kardashians, American Idiots suddenly feel empowered to pontificate on matters of which they will never actually attempt to grasp the intricacies.  It’s bad enough they vote- now we all have to hear why....on Facebook.

UNSECURITY

Perhaps it was missing a connection in Boston because the security outfit at the Bar Harbor airport hasn’t figured out that the waiting area beyond the screeners should be large enough to accommodate a planeload of people, in order to avoid a departure delaying logjam. Maybe it was being handed a paper sticker with the word “Visitor” scribbled on it by a guard this morning to gain entrance to a New York City building full of television VIPs and millions of dollars worth of equipment. I got to thinking about security practices in general. And how many of them do absolutely nothing to protect us, from anything.

I find it comforting to think that the reason a 9-11 type event has not been repeated is due to some change in the security practices of the nation. I don’t often find myself thinking like a criminal, but if you allow yourself to for just a moment, you start to realize that many of the security practices we see everyday are either costly smoke shows, or initiated by complete morons. I’ll share some stories and observations that will hopefully entertain and enlighten, that hopefully the bad guys won’t read.

I was recently traveling by plane in Europe. They still ask you there if anyone has given you anything to carry on the plane. I actually think this is a good idea, and for some reason, the powers that be in the US have deemed it unnecessary, yet still won’t let me carry an Evian on the plane. They have apparently determined that middle aged white guys are more likely to craft an IED that looks like water, than a terrorist asking an old lady to please carry his “gift” to New York where his lovely wife will come pick it up at baggage claim.

And what’s with the 3.4 oz. rule? Am I expected to believe that Homeland Security is running tests and taking down planes over some Arizona airfield with 3.5 ounces of hair goo? And that they will know exactly when terrorist technology reduces their hair gel disguised bomb size to 3.3 oz. and will then consequently change the carry on rules? If they know the level of terrorists' Neutrogena bomb making abilities to this much detail- I think they should just go kill them.

My wife and I were leaving England, and  weren’t sure if two jars of jam we bought for our parents would pass through security or not, so we (stupidly) left them in our carry on at Heathrow. What’s the worst that would happen- they pull them out and toss them, right? London airport security is apparently required to unpack and swab EVERY item in your carry-on bag when a liquid over 3.4 oz. is discovered in it. Apparently there is a cell of very savvy bad guys that appear to be middle aged, middle class American tourists, but are actually some folks who have figured out that if they can sneak on a plane with their magical terror-in-a-jam-jar solution that has the ability to turn dirty socks into explosives, they can do some serious damage. Am I being ridiculous? I wasn’t the one running a chemically treated stick over my skivvies for 40 minutes.

Think about this- you can’t bring 3.5 ounces of liquid on a plane, supposedly because it could be an explosive. And you can’t bring sharp metal objects on, because they could be used as weapons. To insure that nothing dangerous gets on board, your carry-on bags are X-Rayed for both, but you yourself are checked for metal ONLY, by being passed through a metal detector. That’s right- watch it in practice the next time you pass through airport security- the system protects us from 3.5 containers of magical jam that turns underwear into bombs, but not from anyone putting as many oz. of whatever the hell they want into a plastic flask, jamming it in their pocket, and sashaying onto the plane.

I was traveling for work years ago with a television crew and equipment. Sometimes the audio equipment gets rookie security officers excited and you have to sit and watch as they pick it apart and look at you as if you are bringing a turd on board. You want to say to them, if I wanted to blow up the plane, would I put something that looks EXACTLY LIKE A BOMB on the conveyor belt under your nose? Anyway, in this case, everything made it to Las Vegas from New York without difficulty. On the way back apparently the equipment tested positive for nitroglycerine, and security wasn’t going to let it on the plane. I calmly explained that this was several thousand dollars worth of equipment that had travelled around the country in recent months without difficulty, I had no idea how nitroglycerine got on it, and there was really no way I could explain to my bosses that I had left their equipment at the Las Vegas airport. I explained that this is why we arrived two hours before the flight- they could do ANYTHING they wanted to the audio gear to quell their suspicions, so long as it made it onto the plane. After about 20 minutes of negotiation, the agents said they only way we could bring the nitroglycerine laced audio mixer on board was, I'm not kidding, if one member of our party agreed to be placed on the terrorist watch list. WTfuck? So let me understand, fearless protector of humanity, you think this TV equipment is a bomb, that we are terrorists on a suicide mission to blow up the plane, and you are going to let us on the plane as long as one of us admits that we are a terrorist? Before I could get my head around the ridiculousness of the situation and attempt to communicate it to the guards, my grip Josh yells out- “Ooh I’ll do it!” I shot him the death glare fearing hours of interrogation or worse, until I heard the agent say to Josh “Sign here please.” He did, and they proceeded to allow us, our nitroglycerine soaked audio gear and our newly anointed chubby, deaf dimwitted grip/terrorist on the plane.

Banks often have one security guard on duty. Who is this person supposed to stop or dissuade from doing what exactly? To professional crooks who have the ability and moral tendency to organize a team to infiltrate a banks vault and take some serious cash, a security guard is a speed bump. So it would seem he’s there to ward off the random solo thief who wants to grab maybe a thousand bucks from the teller’s drawer, the type that may strike that branch once every ten or so years, if ever. Wouldn’t it be wiser to let the thief take the grand and just not pay a security guard the $400,000 over that time span?

Some office buildings in New York City won’t let you enter without identification unless you get your picture taken and your license information is entered into a data base. This isn’t going to stop a madman from shooting up the entire accounting department on the fourth floor if he feels like it, but it seems a bit of a deterrent to other ne’er do wells. On the other hand what exactly is the point of the gruff chunky ladies with the clip boards at a multitude of other buildings that insist you sign in before entering the building? What in the name of St. Pete is this designed to “secure?" The women are wearing shirts that say “Security” on them, so I assume it must be securing something, but for my life I don’t know what that could be. I would imagine that anyone with nefarious inclinations ranging from stealing stirrers from the cafeteria to blowing the top 15 floors off the building would not arrive at the front desk, learn he had to sign in, and head off to an easier target free of clipboard lady defense shields. I then thought that the name signing was possibly to protect the signee from being left in the building in case of a fire or other emergency, but the idea of the gum chomping troglodyte behind the desk grabbing his clipboard and running through the flames to save “R. Goldfarb- 6th Floor- 1:43” made me realize that no, this was just another example of a security measure that, by design, secures nothing.

SUB SIGNS

A year or so ago around the holidays I posted an entry called “Holiday Help.” In it, I highlighted the conundrum faced by those bombarded on a daily basis with requests from people in need of various levels of help. (From the hoards of lost tourists in Times Square to the dozens who conveniently become homeless and/ or disabled and beg for money every December). While I am all for lending assistance to the truly less fortunate ALL year round, traveling through the streets of New York City everyday is like navigating a jungle of need, you can easily find yourself stuck in a rut of thinly spread misplaced altruism.

Yesterday I saw this sign on a subway and I had a similar twinge of misguided good tidings once again. I had to snap a picture, I apologize for the poor quality, I may have been shuddering in anger, or diving out of the way for a nebulously disabled person.

Subsign.jpg

The sign says:

PLEASE OFFER A SEAT. IT’S NOT ONLY POLITE, IT’S THE LAW. AT THE END OF EACH SUBWAY CAR THERE ARE SEATS DESIGNATED FOR “PRIORITY SEATING FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES.” THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT REQUIRES THAT THESE SEATS BE MADE AVAILABLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES UPON REQUEST. PLEASE BE AWARE, NOT ALL DISABILITIES ARE VISIBLE.

Well that’s nice. Unless of course you stop to think for just a moment. The tricky thing about making laws, running a country, becoming a politician, etc., is not only gaining fans, but accounting for the consequences of your popular actions.

I was once discussing with someone the damage done to a nation by overtaxing its citizens. The person informed me that there is no way of predicting anything about the world’s financial future, or what policies may or may not insure a healthy one. I said that is unfortunate news for all of the economists out there.

So how does this relate to a sign on a subway? It comes in looking at how the policy denoted on the sign would and could play out in actual practice. The most difficult thing about policy creation is not allowing those the law was not intended to protect to take advantage of it. Inconsequential? The entire profession of tax accounting exists primarily to find ways for us to NOT pay taxes, and the IRS currently employs 100,000 individuals to stop us and our accountants from succeeding. Granted, taking a seat on a train you are not legally entitled to isn’t the same as saving thousands of dollars each April 15, but the legal principal is. Just as millions cheat on their taxes, certainly some will take advantage of the disability laws. Here’s what it looks like:

An apparently able-bodied Citizen X steps onto a crowded train. He wants a seat. Bad. He moves to a seat designated for people with disabilities. Citizen Z is sitting in it. Citizen X asks Citizen Z to get up. Poor Citizen Z finds himself in a bit of a predicament, compliments of our well intentioned but small minded government.

What is the right thing for Citizen Z to do? If he surrenders his seat he may be giving it to someone who has no right to it, and will no doubt not surrender it if someone who truly needs it comes along. If Citizen Z refuses, he may be breaking the law, because as the sign reminds us “Not all disabilities are visible.” With no way of knowing the veracity of Citizen X’s claimed disability, Citizen Z has no choice but to give up the seat to ANYONE who asks for it. As the sign clearly points out, there is no way of knowing who legally deserves that seat more than you.

I suspect Citizen Z could ask Citizen X the nature of his particular malady, if he suspects a ruse, and risk being plastered all over the evening news as cripple hating ogre if his suspicions are wrong. Realistically, anyone willing to kick a person out of a seat he is not legally entitled to, will no doubt lie about his disability anyway. I guess Citizen Z could ask for some sort of proof at this point, and risk being turned into a disabled person himself by Citizen Z and his fellow train travelers.

Who would take advantage of such a law, really? Well apparently we live in a society where kindness and politeness need to be legislated and posted on subway walls, so wouldn’t it only follow that in this kind of society, people pretend to have disabilities to get train seats?

“It’s not only polite, it’s the law” means “This particular type of impoliteness has been deemed punishable by death.” Overdramatic yes, but laws are only effective if there is fear of repercussions, and effective policy making entails taking the consequences of laws in practice to their POSSIBLE unintended conclusions. IE: Citizen Z refuses to give up his seat. Turns out that Citizen X had “Jumping Frenchman of Maine Disorder” which causes individuals to carry out shouted commands instantly and without thought, first observed in French Canadian lumberjacks by G.M Beard in 1878. Between jumps, Citizen X takes Citizen Zs contact information, informs the authorities of the violation who fine Citizen Z $25. Citizen Z refuses to pay or show up in court and a warrant is issued. The police arrive to serve the warrant and Citizen Z explains how ridiculous the situation is and that there is no way he could have known Citizen X had a rare debilitating Canadian loggers mental disorder, and he would rather not spend an evening locked in a cage with actual criminals due to this lack of obscure medical knowledge. Citizen Z continues to resist the arrest until the police shoot him a few times to express their disagreement with Citizen Z's legal opinion of the situation.

Our leaders should have the foresight to know that things that sound good on paper, may not truly be sound ideas. Politics has become the practice of promising everyone everything during the campaign, and then blaming others when no one gets anything, after the election. We once trusted our leaders with tough decisions, we no longer do, we expect them to make our lives wonderful just by being elected. We’ve become impatient, spoiled and stupid, which is no way to serve the needs of a fragile democracy.

-It takes time to persuade men to do even what is for their own good.
Thomas Jefferson

Whenever someone writes an open-minded analysis of a emotionally charged issue such as affirmative action, welfare, social security, etc. the kneejerk reaction from the short-sighted is to vilify the author as being an enemy of the group who's issue he is addressing; Racist! Elitist! Grandma Killer! respectively, instead of reading the words he wrote. Let me assure the short-sighted who read this entry that in this case they are correct. I, the author, am an enemy of the disabled. Of course only in cases where the disability is short-sightedness and stupidity.

Let’s all give ourselves the best gift anyone could get this year. The gift of PATIENCE, RESTRAINT, and THOUGHT. Just because it sounds good doesn’t mean it is. Just because it feels right doesn’t mean it isn’t going to hurt. This country is about to learn this lesson in a big way, as our government takes down the private sector which has always shielded the people from the governmental tyranny currently in progress. Kindler gentler sounding “public options” and “bank aid packages”, lead down paths only the thoughtful are aware, and afraid of.

ACTS OF GOD

“ACT OF GOD”: A common legal term for events outside human control, such as floods or natural disasters, for which no one can be held responsible.

After Hurricane Katrina, the Indonesian Tsunami, the Pakistani Earthquake, and now the record breaking Blizzard of ’06, this year may very well be remembered as the year of the natural disaster. I’ve been struck lately by the public’s reactions to these events, especially those happening right here at home. The recent blizzard dumped more snow on New York City in a shorter span of time than ever before in recorded history. The news stories the next day? Not on the absolutely stunning number of deaths as a result of the storm (zero), but endless whining testimonials from commuters who were pissed that trains were delayed.

The travel delays were newsworthy for informational purposes, but what was remarkable, were the reactions of the stranded travelers. They seemed to have no idea that moving hundreds of giant metal electrified boxes filled with thousands of people through hundreds of miles of metal track blocked by cold, wet, slippery small mountains, is difficult. They were all furious and oblivious as to why the trains were not running with complete efficiency. The reason would seem obvious, but apparently it was not, to the city’s far too modernized throngs of spoiled brats. (Wouldn’t the real news have been if, for once, the trains were running on time?) Then came the blame game, which forced MTA executives to bite their tongues, and promise to “do a better job” out-foxing the Almighty the next time He decides to cast His wrath on the city. (It’s what He does. Hence the term “Act of God”.) Now we can all look forward to the rate hikes and tax increases; a smoke-show “response to the problem” temporarily pacifying the mildly inconvenienced sniffling masses, until the next divine curveball is tossed.

The same type of response occurred on a greater level, after Hurricane Katrina. Bigger “Act of God”, more death and hardship, nastier blame game, and more money pointlessly thrown at the problem. (The US Army Corp of Engineers is currently spending $142 million to rebuild the life-saving levees to withstand a category 3 hurricane. Katrina, which destroyed the levees in the first place was of course, a category 5.) Once again- the facts are- the biggest storm in US history hit the worst place it could possibly hit- a city that nature has always intended to be, and will eventually turn into, a lake. Still there is shock, outrage and disbelief when the flood happens, and that the people who decided to stay in its path, died. Again, the reason would seem obvious, but an alien landing on earth on Sept. 1, 2005 would turn on the news and think the tragic events unfolding in the Crescent City were caused by a powerful and deadly atmospheric phenomenon called ‘George Bush’.

Could the response have been better? Definitely. Is it tragic that people died not only because of nature’s wrath but also human error? Of course. However, a little perspective goes a long way:

1,417 people died as a result of Hurricane Katrina. While this was the BIGGEST storm to hit the US, it was not nearly the most deadly. The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 claimed 8,000 lives, the Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928 claimed 4,075, and the Chenier Caminada killed 2,000 in 1893. Modern technology, advanced rescue practices and, heaven help us, strong federal coordination averted what should have been a much larger catastrophe, but that doesn’t make for an inflammatory, ratings-grabbing story, does it.

1,101 of Katrina-related deaths happened in Louisiana. Approximately 1,000 of these were in New Orleans. Approximately 300 of these were people who decided to stay in the direct path of the storm, and were subsequently killed by it. Let the race-baiters place alternate blame for these deaths, I’m just saying when the biggest damn storm ever is headed straight for you, and you decide to not get out of its way, you’re likely to become a dead black, white, red, yellow, blue or green idiot. Don’t tell me they were too poor to leave- did you see how many CARS were left in the floodwaters? How much money does it take to jump in a car and get the fuck out of town? 9,500 of these folks can thank the U.S. Coast Guard and other vilified organizations for pulling them from the floodwaters after the storm hit. Did you ever think how much more efficient the response might have been, had the troops not been forced to pick 10,000 wet Mensa members off rooftops?

So, do the math- 700 or so people died in the aftermath of the storm. More kids drown in swimming pools every year, but still a tragedy, nonetheless. Would ALL of these people have been saved if Superman or Bill Clinton were running the rescue effort? Doubtful, considering that the Mayor of New Orleans predicted 10,000 deaths and FEMA ordered 75,000 body bags immediately after the storm hit, BEFORE George W. even had a chance to "fuck everything up". With a little perspective, it’s clear; things could have been a lot worse.

What is an “Act of God”? It is an event that PEOPLE decide no one bears responsibility for. After the reactions to Katrina and the Blizzard of ’06, it would seem an obsolete, outmoded concept. “Acts of God” these days are opportunities for the spoiled to complain, and the vindictive to blame. The result of all this complaining and blaming is money being re-directed from our pockets, to building bigger better snow shovels, and rebuilding a city that up until September 2005 was best known as the murder capital of the world, and women exposing themselves for strings of beads.

THE NON-OIL CRISIS, OR WHY I HATE THE NEWS

The only thing that irritates me more than watching non-news stories on The News, is watching the same friggin' ones year after year. Summer's coming, so I am looking forward to my favorite non-story: Rising gas prices before holiday weekends. I can see it now- those stupid video packages with the slow dissolves of the rotating gas pump price displays rising ever higher and higher, the creepy music, the "Cha-ching" sound effects, and the dopey blonde predicting the end of mankind as we know it, backdropped by a Texaco sign and a Hummer. This is actually a triple non-story- first, because its not interesting or surprising- it is periodic, predictable, and makes total economic sense. Second, its temporary, and barely has any effect- as I will demonstrate. Third, because gas is ridiculously cheap, as I will also demonstrate.

Prices are set, universally and historically, by supply and demand. Low supply, high demand, high prices and vice versa. Period. Most liberals and newscasters don’t believe this. They think prices are set by the Fairy Price Princess who exists only to insure that everyone has everything they ever want and therefore should make everything affordable to everyone. That’s why they are shocked every time they see the law of supply and demand in practice. And they report it, over and over and over. Who sets prices? Whoever owns the stuff for sale. In this case, ridiculously wealthy oil sheiks. Know how they got that way? By understanding the law of supply and demand. When they know the demand is going to be higher, holiday weekends, they cut back the supplies sent ot the U.S., driving the prices up. Yes, that's right, they do it on purpose, to make money. Is it fair? Not an issue. Until we start tapping our own fuel sources (BTW, for a first-hand look at the devastating effects of oil drilling in the Alaskan Wild Refuge- click here http://www.anwr.org/gallery/pages/17-Caribou_no_impact.htm ) we don’t have a choice but to pay the price that the guys who own the stuff set. And the guys who own the oil like being ridiculously wealthy, so they cut the supply before every holiday weekend. And we are shocked and bewildered every time, and look for answers, solutions, and anything besides the truth.

Secondly, the price raising phenomenon is temporary, the prices always go down. Or we would be paying $1000 a gallon by now. The sheiks know we wouldn’t, so they always put the prices back down, and always will. If you listen to the newscasters, they never report this, its always the end of the world or a horrific new world of elevated gas prices. When was the last time you heard the news story “Gas prices return to normal after holiday weekend, as they do every Goddamn year!”

While I am fully aware of the broader economic impact of rising oil prices, rising automobile fuel prices have barley any effect on an individual’s pocket. To illustrate- say you are traveling for the holiday weekend. Lets make it a big trip- 300 miles each way, 600 miles total. The average car gets about 20 MPG. So you need 30 gallons of gas. How much does the gas increase before holidays- $.20 a gallon? Ok so at $2.00 a gallon (pre-holiday rates) you would have paid $60. At the new, end of the world capitalistic pig gauged price of $2.20 you now will pay $66. A one time fee of...

$6.

Two sodas at a rest stop. A glass of wine at dinner. Nuts from the mini bar. Kids admission to “Al’s Wild World of Wood” in Barstow. A six-pack- of water. This is a news story? Who’s gonna skip a vacation because of $6? No one. Unless they watch the news.

OIL REVISITED

The oil crisis. According to any news report- higher oil prices are causing a stalled stock market, retail slump, housing slump, airline bankruptcies, cancer, halitosis and the break-up of Nick and Jessica. It’s become so bad that hybrid vehicles that come with their own donkey to assist on inclines are actually becoming popular. Tree huggers are so happy they are trying to figure out how to take their relationships beyond the friendly hugging phase.

Oil company executives were brought before congress to justify the high prices, which they handily did. Were our fearless leaders in the House and Senate easy on them because of the never reported 30% hidden tax on gasoline? Hmmm…

I just heard a news report about a new ‘crisis’- road repair. Apparently roads everywhere are in dire need of repair and maintenance, due to lack of funds. The government’s proposed solution: An increase in the gasoline tax to pay for it. And to account for less gas dependant hybrid owners, a surcharge for owning a hybrid vehicle. I’m not kidding. I don’t even know where to begin ranting- so I’m not going to.

Have a nice day, in the United States of the Twilight Zone.

#$&% YOU WOODY HARRELSON

Remember Woody Harrelson, that dim-witted pseudo-eponymous ‘Coach’ replacement on ‘Cheers’? He followed that stint with a relatively successful movie career, and then disappeared for about five years. You only heard of him when he was growing poppy plants in schoolyards or trying to run his Ferrari on bird shit. Ted Danson and Woody Harrelson’s post ‘Cheers’ antics make you wonder if they were serving Commie-Cakes and Lenin-ade at the craft-services table of the ol’ bar set. Who would’ve thought that Kirstie Ally would turn out to be the most even-minded of the Bull and Finch Ex-pats?

So His Woodness has re-emerged as a lawyer in a new movie about a poor white trash worker suing a successful corporation. Shocking. I wonder who wins? Can’t you see Woody getting up in front of the jury, “You know, I’ve had a revelation. Just because some toothless jerk-off tries to dry-hump Charlize Theron, there’s no reason to take down an entire corporation.” Anyway, cue the Oscar theme…

I was watching Letterman the other night and Woody Harrelson was the lead guest. I knew I should have flipped to Leno, but something made me stay. Woody informed Dave that for the last five years he had been spending his millions living in Maui and Amsterdam, smoking pot, farming, wiping his ass with tree bark, purposefully endangering his life on a daily basis, and having children. Dave praised his Enviro-Commie lifestyle, to which Woodhead responded:

“Well Dave you know, with the hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes, something has to be done. We are relying too much on fossil fuels and we are paying for it. Scientists predicted exactly this, years ago, and now its happening.”

At this point the Upper East Side of Manhattan was awakened by a blood curdling shriek and the sound of glass breaking and a television set crashing into the street below. I apologize.

I should know better by now, but I was truly shocked at the Left for blaming fat white Republicans in their SUVs for hurricane Katrina. Despite the fact that EVERY meteorologist says this is a completely predictable natural cycle with heavy hurricane seasons following lighter ones, that didn’t stop the Left from blaming the Right.

Why not? Besides the current “the world is melting” scenario, they have blamed the Right for the overpopulation in the 50’s, dead baby birds in the 60’s, a New Ice Age due to global COOLING in the 70’s, and who could forget the ‘death from above’ Acid Rain of the 80’s and ozone depletion induced ‘hole in the sky’ of the 90’s? Frightening stuff. But last I checked, we just had one of the coldest winters ever, followed by one of the warmest summers, there are plenty of birds (too many in New York City), we are not killing our neighbors for a $1000 piece of cheese, people are not vaporizing on the beach, and when it rains, we do not disintegrate. Can you say “Scare Tactics”?

These completely fabricated and 100% inaccurate ‘end of the world’ predictions have not changed the perceptions of some of the greatest purveyors of this misinformation as some of the great environmental minds of the day. Paul Ehrlich and Al Gore are regarded as such and have made millions as “experts” despite the fact that they both predicted the world would meet its demise years ago, in “The Population Bomb”, and “Earth in the Balance”, respectively.

So its not surprising that a tree hugging stoner actor gets a round of applause after announcing that my Ford Explorer’s fumes caused the earth’s plates to shift thousands of feet below the Indian Ocean, and under the mountains of Pakistan, killing thousands. The hurricane propaganda at least had a well-stretched leg in reality and showed a bit of ‘creative connectivity’ between the unrelated factors, but earthquakes? Have you NO shame Woodhead? Mr. Harrelson would you PLEASE tell me how the use of fossil fuels lead to the earth's plates shifting in Indonesia and Pakistan? I'm not asking for references, there clearly aren't any, I challenge you to even try to make something up. I don’t think its possible to creatively connect oil use and plate techtonics, even in a Maui Wowie induced pseudo-coma. And while you are at it, I would like ONE name of a scientist who predicted these earthquakes. Just one. You announced it to millions, is asking for one name too much?

I once heard that facts to a Liberal are like Kryptonite to Superman. Fearing the death of ideals that keep them permanently entrenched in their ivory towers, Liberals avoid contact with facts, which is why Mr. Harrleson will never respond to my, or anyone’s challenges, and why “Air America” talk radio, a medium that requires Liberals to actually defend their positions, not just announce them as doctrine to largely ignorant and easily riled masses, is an enormous failure.

What will it take for the reasonable among us to say “We’ve had enough!”? Perhaps when Woodistotle announces a link between gunpowder and AIDS.

Howard Dean is on Letterman tonight. I would flip to Leno. If I still had a TV.

MOM…DAD…SIT DOWN

Interior. Night. Nice apartment somewhere on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

A young-man in his 20s enters room with overnight bag, greeted by two 50 something parents.

Mom: Hello Michael, oh its so good to see you

Dad: Hey big guy

Michael: Hi guys, good to see you too.

Mom: How are things in God’s country?

Dad: Making friends? Breaking hearts ha ha?

Michael: Great, really great. Guys there’s something I want to talk to you about.

Mom: What is it Michael?

Dad: Yeah son, what is it?

Micheal: Come here- sit down. It’s like, well, now that I’m out of the city, things are different in Indiana. I feel… different. My life is just changing a lot, and I wanted to let you know.

Mom: Michael what do you mean? Are you ok?

Michael: Yeah oh yeah, never better actually. It’s just, well I wanted to talk to you about…

Dad: About what Mike?

Michael: Well, hmm. You see in Indiana, people are different. More open to ideas, lifestyles that I was never exposed to before. It’s made me think a lot and I’ve realized some things about myself. It’s like a whole new world has opened up to me, I feel for the first time that I can finally express my feelings as I’ve always wanted to but never could without being scrutinized, laughed at and left out. I want to live my life proudly, without shame. I’ve met some people, that I really love and respect, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with them, especially one, and I just wanted to tell you myself, before you heard it from someone else, that’s all.

Michael’s father takes his hand and looks directly in his eyes.

Dad: Son , you know whatever it is you want to say, we’re here for you, to love you and support you forever, no matter what.

Mom: Of course dear. We always have and always will love you unconditionally.

Michael: No, I know, I just thought I should tell you myself.

Michael’s mother and father exchange a look and prepare for what is coming.

Dad: Well go ahead son, we love you.

Long pause...

Michael: I’m a Republican.

Mom and Dad let go of his hands and stand up in utter shock.

Mom: What?! No!!

Dad: No, son wait, no, you can’t, are you sure?

Michael: (upset) Yes I’m sure, what do you mean am I sure?!

Dad: Well I mean you were always such a nice, caring, thoughtful boy. What happenned?!

Michael: Huh?!

Mom: Son sit down, let’s talk, this may just be a phase-

Michael: This is not a phase! I’m a right wing fiscal and social conservative and proud of it.

Mom: Aaaagggghh! (Sobs)

Dad: Now son watch what you say, you are upsetting your mother.

Michael: You know I thought you might be a little surprised but I never thought you would react like this, you always prided yourself in being open minded.

Mom: Well yes Son but come on- a Republican? I mean what happened? Who did this to you!!?? Was it Eric??!! (to husband) I told you I didn’t like that boy!!

Dad: Maybe you should move back home.

Michael: What?!?! No, I don’t want to move back home. I love Indiana and I love the Grand Ole’ Party!

Mom: (Gasp!!)

Dad:  Now son, you are talking crazy, we are going to talk about this, get some help and work through this together, all right?

Michael: Help?! I don’t need help.

Mom: It’s ok son, we still have Dr. Chang’s number, you remember the nice man who fixed your bedwetting problem?

Michael: Mom!!

Dad: Son, I don’t understand. How did this happen. What did I do wrong?

Michael: Nothing!! No one did anything wrong, I’m fine. I’m a fine, happy, healthy, pro-life Christian, God-fearing, Fox news watching, conservative, Bush supporting, NRA card carrying Republican.

Mom: (Gasp!!) Ohhhhh!!!!

Dad: Oh I’ve heard quite enough.

Michael: What is wrong with you?

Dad: It’s what’s wrong with you young man, these “friends” of yours have twisted your mind into thinking what you are doing is actually normal.

Mom: It’s wrong, it’s wrong, it’s unhealthy, it’s not natural. (to husband) This is because of your God damned country music albums!!

Dad: It’s because you breast fed him too long!! I told you…

Mom: You made him eat steak!!!

Michael: Dad!! Mom, just calm down. Everything will be ok.

Dad: It’s not ok. You just pop in here and announce you are a Republican and think we are going to be ok?

Mom: (sob) What are we going to tell the family (sob).

Dad: Oh, the neighbors. The New Equality Club!! (grabs phone) I’m calling Pastor Higgins, Michael get your bag we’re going to get help.

Michael: Dad!! Stop it sit down, calm down. I really can’t believe you guys are reacting like this. I’m happy, healthy, successful, got a great girlfriend, things are perfect for the first time in my life. I know who I am. Why can’t you be happy for me?

Mom: Son, you may think you are happy, but you can’t be, you won’t be for long, oh it’s just wrong!!! (sob)

Dad: Son this just isn’t right, you need to think about what you are doing. Your life. Your future. Your future children…

Michael: You know I don’t believe this, I mean I heard a story like this once on Rush Limbaugh…

Mom: Ahhh! (faints, clutching her chest)

Dad: No!!! That’s it, enough, get the phone, call Dr. Chang, and the Pastor. Call the Call everyone. Call Michael Moore!

Michael face palms.

Lights out.

MEXICO

Back when I was a married man living in Los Angeles, my wife and I took a drive down to Rosarito, Mexico for a little vacation. Passing the border was simple enough, (Mexicans aren’t too worried about Americans sneaking into their country and not returning. If I get a good tan while I’m there, the reverse cross could be dicey.) Somewhere on the dark roads of the Baja peninsula we reach what I’ll loosely call a ‘checkpoint’. Actually it was just a man standing in the road with a machine gun. In America, (outside of Detroit) a man with an automatic weapon usually signifies some sort of governmental/ military activity. But this was Mexico. I get nervous. The man holds up his hand for us to stop. I get real nervous. He approaches the driver’s side and I roll down the window. He smiles. Full set of gold teeth. I swallow hard and shit out my pancreas. We are going to be shot and eaten in Baja. One word passes the 14k divide:

“Drugs?”

My fears lessens. Sort of. Until I come to the horrifying realization- I don’t know what the correct answer is!! If this is some sort of official I should definitely say no. (I think?!) But what if he’s a dealer, and wants to know if I want some? Worse, what if passing through alive requires that I make a purchase?!! Then I better answer yes! Third, what if this is a bandit, and he wants to steal our drugs? Not having any, I’m dead either way!! Knowing that hesitation is a bad idea in any case, and knowing how well I work under pressure, I answer immediately, something like this:

“Well, no… I mean I'm not sure what you … I mean I don’t know, not this trip, not that I have before but, why...do you need any? I might like to, do you know anyone…? which way is Rosarito?... nothing special there, we're just from LA, Americans on vacation you know, just drove in, first time... very nice place you've got here...No drugs, no way, uh uh, nope none, ooh full moon!...unless- NO you don’t, sure ok … no none sorry though thanks for asking, good luck with everything… best wishes to the family, have a nice night.”

He looked like he was on a crowded elevator and someone farted. Someone with IBS. And he was on the 60th floor. Going down. And it was lunch time.

“Please don’t kill me,” I added. He glanced at my wife. Without a word, he pointed his gun up the road and the message was clear. “Drive on stupid”. My wife looked at me like I just punched a kitten. “What?!” I said. Her look gave the same message.