Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Items From My Past

I'm usually reluctant to use my blog to flog personal items but just this once I decided to break tradition with this incredible offer.

For a limited time only, you can purchase my ninth grade science project which I produced, directed, and wrote after I broke my leg in a skiing accident on December 29, 1962. This new release has been updated from the original with a completely restored title page and never-before-seen X-rays that reveal surprisingly overlooked cracks and fissures in my tibia and fibula bones! Yes, shoppers, you will feel the same tingling experience that freaked out 30 of my classmates some five decades ago. Of course, I received an "A" from my science teacher, a considerable achievement because the Internet and the photocopier had not yet been invented. All the material has been faithfully reproduced with a mimeograph machine!

I'm also going to include a restored copy of a speech on American Democracy that I originally crafted in sixth grade -- yes, I was only 12 years old! -- for the local Optimist Club in Mt. Vernon, N.Y. It received third place in the Oratorical Contest (out of four entries). This fabulous bit of soaring rhetoric has a vintage feel to it, yet it still has a distinct tinge of timeliness. My teacher had no idea that I might do this to earn a living some day. (He simply said if I didn't enter, I couldn't become a student projectionist and miss all those classes to show movies.)

That's not all....

Yours free are "first drafts" of several speeches I wrote for Gov. Mario M. Cuomo between 1992 and 1994, his last term as the head honcho of the Empire State. Disclaimer: Few of these speeches actually contain many words spoken by the Governor, but I can assure buyers and readers that they have the "feel" and "texture" of a speech that was actually delivered. I cannot guarantee which speech draft you'll get, but I can assure you each that one has several distinct mark-ups written in the Governor's own hand!

I also pledge not to produce any prequels, sequels, or follow-ups to ensure that your investment in my "early work" is never compromised.

Hurry -- supplies are limited.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Alpine Ski Racing Gets Weirder

In the hierarchy of world crises, this is not very pressing, but I just read in this morning's Times that an Austrian Alpine skier (a woman) was accused of wearing illegal plastic underwear in a race. I had to do a double take. I thought, is this a skit on Saturday Night Live? How kinky can you get...? (Check the late night talk shows -- I can't see how Leno and Letterman will miss this one.)

Now, I know cheating in sports is always up there on the media-interest scale, but this is certainly taking it a bit far. Athletes have been juicing for decades now, be it football and baseball players on steroids or cyclists and track and fielders who simply blood dope. That's worth arguing about. But underwear making you faster on a Super-G slalom course? I can understand the concern about outerwear -- the skin tight Neoprene suits have all kinds of restrictions because these athletes need to shave off hundredths of seconds to be competitive. Aerodynamics are paramount when whistling down the hill.

While the article went into substantial detail about the official standard, it did little to explain how underwear makes you faster or slower. Let me quote, "...must have a minimum permeability of 30 liters per square meter per second under 10 milimeters of water pressure." I'm trying to imagine the coaches saying, "Okay, ladies, turn in your bras and panties; we need to test them for permeability."

Why are they requiring this? Who cares? What kind of advantage can you get from underwear fabric? Can you imagine that underwear has to go through wind tunnel testing? Or water testing, or whatever?

I'm for fairness, rules, and regulation, but hey...

Next, we'll have rules telling golfers they can't wear those ugly plaid print pants.

Come to think of it, if I were a ski racer, I'd make a protest run in the nude. Might be a very cold minute and a half, but I'd be sure to lead the evening news. And you thought Mia Hamm was a ham. Ha.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The old fishing license trick to the nth power

For my first blog of the New Year, I thought I'd rail about all those tricks that our elected officials use to impose and collect taxes while still engaging in the usual blather about how Americans are taxed too much (and, of course, how they wouldn't even think of raising them -- or coming up with new ones).

Several years ago, when I went to the town hall in East Hampton to get a clamming license I received clarity. You fill out a three-by-five card and pay a fee, and you can now take legally take shellfish out of designated areas. The fee, of course, is a tax, and not a "license." A license supposedly deems that you have a achieved some certification or expertise; the only certification this -- or most any other fishing license -- requires, is reaching for your checkbook.

I'm going to use my cell phone bill from AT&T to make my point. I just calculated the government fees, taxes, and other usage charges, and it added more than 17 percent to the monthly statement. They include "usage charges," unspecified "other charges," a "911 charge," plus another local wireless "911 surcharge," a state "Telecom tax," a city "Telecom tax," and even a "City District Telecom Tax." Oh, I forget to include the "Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge," the "County Gross Receipts Charge," the "MTA Telecom Surcharge," the "Federal Universal Service Charge," and the "State Telecommunications Excise Surcharge."

I am surprised there wasn't a "Special Cellphone Fishing License Surcharge." But that will come, I'm sure. Come to think of it, it's pretty hard to come up with a name for a new tax. But I have confidence in my elected officials.

It's not the taxes themselves, or even the amounts (sometimes) that gets me crazy. It's the gross hypocrisy factor -- what will the American public swallow? I'd rather have a bill that said, "Look, it's a 17 percent vigorish to run all the various agencies. Breaking it down will just get you even angrier."

Remember George H.W. Bush? Sure you do. "Read my lips. No new taxes." When I was working in government and I heard that I had a good laugh. I knew what old George was thinking... "But that doesn't mean I won't raise the old ones."