Monday, August 27, 2007

Berlin Turnpike article

Turnpike at Crossroads?
With a spate of new developments in place, Berlin now has to deal with its image, and the oldest profession in the world on the Berlin Turnpike
By Adam Bulger
Hartford Advocate August 22, 2007

Driving south from Hartford on Route 15, which for the stretch between Hartford and Meriden is commonly called the Berlin Turnpike, you’ll notice several shifts in the landscape. The sections of the pike in Wethersfield and Newington are dense with big-box stores, strip malls, chain restaurants, gas stations and motels.
Farther north, in Berlin, the landscape becomes less crowded, and trees and unpopulated properties become more commonplace. Industrial parks, homes and stores are scattered among cheap motels. The crowded retail sprawl of the north end is absent.

However, the Berlin section of the Turnpike has gone through significant changes over the last several years. It’s becoming denser with retail stores and new developments. There are still several empty properties, but with a newly opened liquor store, a gas station/mini mart and a Dunkin’ Donuts currently under construction, they increasingly seem like the exception, not the rule.
“We’ve had quite a few changes on our strip of the Berlin Turnpike,” said Hellyn Riggins, director of Berlin’s Department of Development Services.” Newington built up quickly, but people have discovered Berlin.”
Unfortunately for the town, the new construction is set against a long-standing problem that has become more pronounced in the last year: prostitution on the pike.
“It’s a sporadic problem that pops up once in a while. It’s really only one or two individuals that seem to ply their trade on the turnpike,” Berlin Chief of Police Paul Fitzgerald said. “We arrest them, they go to court. They go away for about a month and then they come back.”

Berlin officials note that Berlin’s population has risen dramatically in the last five years. As a result, the town has been very aggressive about marketing their section of the pike for development. It’s not just a question of more things on the Berlin section of the turnpike. The nature of the businesses is changing.
“Obviously, we have areas for industrial. Most of it nowadays is becoming more retail,” Berlin Mayor Adam Salina said.
The Newington section of the pike is so developed that there’s little room for more construction. The logical thing seems, at first blush, for retail to push further south, into Berlin. And to an extent, that’s what’s happening.
“Retail is starting to filter down into Berlin,” Salina said.
Another important element is that the town of Berlin and surrounding areas are attracting more people.
“We have the people. We have the population. You need to have numbers to attract businesses. Berlin is attracting those numbers more and more,” Riggins said.
The nature of Berlin’s section of the strip and the way the residential neighborhoods that are around the road prevent the Berlin section of the turnpike from perfectly replicating the look and density of development on the Newington section.
Homes were built closer to the turnpike in Berlin than in Newington and Wethersfield. As a result, the lots are often too small to support a store like a Best Buy or a Target.
In addition, the road is surrounded by protected wetlands areas.
The easiest things to slot into the narrower spaces are strip malls. Considering though, that strip malls are among the most maligned commercial style, that poses some challenges for the town. While more retail would be good for the town in many ways, strip malls are viewed as ugly and undesirable. Riggins said that the town is being vigilant about quality control with the buildings. Her office is monitoring the aesthetic nature of the buildings that are going up. However, the town has realistic expectations of what the turnpike can support.
“We don’t expect the turnpike to look like a quaint New England town,” Riggins said.
She added: “we’re looking for quality architecture and style.”
As an example, she pointed to the new building housing the liquor store. It’s a strip mall, but one that’s dressed up with a roof furnished with cupolas (the things that look like little houses on building tops). She showed me a sketch of the currently under-construction Dunkin’ Donuts, and noted its relatively subtle signage and its elegantly designed outer lamps.

Some in the town are confident that the increased development on the turnpike will deter prostitution and other illegal activity.
“Good business and good industry kind of scares other kinds of businesses away,” Fitzgerald said.
But Laura Michaud, the founder of a group called No-VIP which opposes adult businesses on the strip, worried that more business would mean more places for prostitutes to hide.
“It might increase their odds. I don’t know. I think that rather than looking at these women as criminals, I’m sure they’re drug addicts,” Michaud said. “The real solution would be for them to get treatment.”
A Berlin police detective said that the women had been offered social services. However, the arrest reports don’t seem to support Michaud’s supposition about drugs; according to one report, an alleged prostitute told an officer where to buy crack upon the undercover officer’s request. Otherwise, the arrest reports have been drug free.
There seems to be few secondary effects of the prostitution on the pike. By all accounts, it’s a safe place to live and work.
“This is more of a poor impression than a dangerous situation,” Fitzgerald said. He stressed that while the women may be visible, they are few in number.
“I think they travel the length of the turnpike. I haven’t heard much about Newington, but I know they’re in Meriden. They might not like to travel down to Newington, or maybe they’re more discreet in the motels,” Fitzgerald said.
Prostition on the turnpike is not a new problem for Berlin, but it seems to have spiked recently.
“We’ve gone years without this sort of activity, but in the last six to eight months there’s been a number of reports. Everyone is aware of it,” Berlin police detective John McCormack said. It’s a visible problem — the women walk on the road in the daylight. In the last year, three women have been arrested on prostitution charges on the Turnpike: 41-year-old Kimberly Bowers, 46-year-old Catherine Smith and 42-year-old Vicki Wilson. Bowers and Wilson have of both been arrested twice. Berlin police detective John McCormack said that Bowers was unable to make bail, and was currently being held by the town.
Michaud, who lives in a house facing near the turnpike, said that when she and her neighbors organized to fight the adult entertainment store VIP from moving onto the turnpike, prostitution quickly became a point of concern.
At first, Michaud and her group were hesitant to alert the police when they saw a woman who they believed might be a prostitute. They weren’t comfortable with accusing people of prostitution. “You don’t want to think that just because someone looks down on their luck, you don’t want to automatically label them as a prostitute,” Michaud said.
But eventually she and her neighbors decided to start alerting police when they spotted the women. So in the last year, the Berlin police force has stepped up enforcement of prostitution. But proving that women are prostitutes is sometimes difficult.
“It’s a difficult arrest to make. We do occasionally arrest people for walking on the turnpike, not just women. If you’re a pedestrian on the turnpike and you’re on the road, you’re supposed to walk to the edge of the road facing traffic,” Fitzgerald said. “There are different rules for pedestrians. Obviously, these individuals will [flout] those rules because they’re trying to attract attention.”
The prostitutes seem to act boldly and recklessly. A Berlin police detective told me the women have flagged down unmarked police cars that the average citizen would recognize as an unmarked police car. Records of undercover operations show the women being forthcoming about being self-described “working girls.” In one notable report, the accused prostitute said “you got me” after being told that she was under arrest.
Berlin’s police have not yet aggressively prosecuted the men who hire prostitutes — commonly known as johns.
“Initially, we wanted to make the case against the women, hoping they would move on,” Fitzgerald said. “If they return and that doesn’t appear to have worked, then we might go after the johns.”
The johns haven’t been targeted in the past, Fitzgerald said, because arresting johns isn’t as effective a deterrent as arresting the women.
“The problem is with the johns is that it’s a different person every time. How do you get that message out? You can arrest one john today and they might be in the paper but that doesn’t scare every other john away,” Fitzgerald said.
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Connecticut For Lieberman

Whose Party Is It?
The two leaders of the Connecticut for Lieberman party -- one who is for him, one against -- squabble over who gets to be chairman
By Adam Bulger
Hartford Advocate August 16, 2007

It's difficult, perhaps impossible, to forge accurate declarative sentences about the Connecticut for Lieberman political party. It seems that every attempt at a simple statement of fact needs to be qualified. Attempt to list a series of facts about it, and you end up with a paragraph pockmarked with parentheses.

Fairfield University politics professor John Orman is the elected chairman of the party (but he opposes Lieberman).

Cheshire resident and medical physicist Stuart Korchin is the chairman of the party (but no one elected him).

The party exists to advance Senator Lieberman's political career (except it doesn't, and Lieberman doesn't support it).

The second annual meeting of the party was held on August 9 (except one of the battling party chairmen contends it wasn't really a meeting at all).

There are two men claiming control of the party, which was started by Lieberman supporters after Lieberman lost the democratic primary to Ned Lamont on August 8, 2006.

The party is simultaneously one of the smallest political parties in Connecticut, with a membership numbering in the low two figures, and one of the most powerful, as it holds one of the highest offices in the state (sort of — sorry, last one.).

The man the party is named for is not a member of the party. And Korchin says he didn't consider inviting or even informing Lieberman about the Aug. 9 meeting when he planned the party's most recent event.

"[Lieberman's people] don't have much interest in doing much with the party right now, and I can't blame them to tell you the truth," Korchin said. "The party is really very small. I don't know that they're terribly interested."

Korchin, who some have accused of being a shill for Lieberman, denies having a relationship with the senator.

"I've met him. I've met him on more than one occasion, but not recently," Korchin said. "And he and his office have certainly not given any endorsements to what I'm doing or what the party's doing."

Korchin said he contacted party members about the event. Since Lieberman is a registered Democrat, that means he's likely blissfully unaware that the meeting took place. Actually, more than likely, as Korchin opted to not send him an invitation.

"I have no reason to contact his people," Korchin said.

Speaking before the Aug. 9 meeting, Korchin said he expected about 30 party members to attend the meeting. Assuming that's true — Korchin wouldn't tell me where or when the meeting as held — that would represent a 1900 percent increase from the previous CFL meeting Korchin organized; below the minutes from that meeting, held August 9, 2006, are reproduced, almost in their entirety.

"A meeting of the CONNECTICUT FOR LIEBERMAN Party was held at [Korchin's home in Cheshire] at 4:30. Membership currently consists of Stuart R. Korchin, a registered member of the party, attended. There being no current business, the meeting was adjourned."

Speaking before the meeting, Korchin promised this year's event would be much more involved. Lieberman isn't up for re-election until 2012.

"I have some items on the agenda, mainly about the future and what we're going to be doing in terms of activities," Korchin said. "I don't think we're going to make any endorsements this meeting, but I'm open to suggestion."

Another notable non-attendee to the meeting was nominal party official John Orman, who said he was not informed about the gathering.

"I'm the chair of the CFL, and it's unusual that the chair wouldn't be invited to a CFL meeting," Orman said.

Orman, a longtime state political activist, joined the party after Lieberman was elected to the Senate. Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz's office told him that no one was registered with the party, and Orman — who opposed Leiberman's bid for the senate — took the opportunity to "punk" the newly independent Senator by hijacking the party.

"What we said was that if the state was going to allow a fake institution to exist, we were going to turn that fake institution into a real party to hold Joe accountable," Orman said.

The political punking hit a snag after Korchin saw a New York Times article about Orman's takeover.

"First of all, it wasn't true. I was already a member of the party. Obviously, he was declaring he was the only member of the party, which was false," Korchin said.

Evidently, there was a problem with Korchin's registration.

"I don't know if it was the town registrar or a mistake at the Secretary of the State's office," Korchin said. "The people at the Secretary of the State's office were unaware I was already registered with the party."

Subsequently, Orman held his first party convention, which Korchin attended as one of the six registered party members. Korchin contests the legitimacy of that convention, saying that Orman took control of the party illegally.

While both men enjoy using interpretations of fine points of election law to their advantage, they sharply contrast in attitudes towards Lieberman.

Korchin is a Lieberman supporter. Orman switched his registration as a Steven Colbert-style political joke, and a way to protest what he views as legislative improprieties on Lieberman's part.

"He had this promise to start a new party. I consider that to be a false petition. He told the Secretary of the State he had every intention of forming a new party, but then didn't. To me, that was like electoral fraud," Orman said.

The Secretary of the State's and Lieberman's offices did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Trachtenburg Interview

A Family Affair
The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players bring their loopy genius to Hartford for the first time
By Adam Bulger

If J.D. Salinger ended his self-imposed exile and moved to the Lower East Side, he'd invent the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. The three-piece ensemble is fronted by Jason Trachtenburg and supported by his wife Tina, who accompanies her husband's pop ditties with ancient slides collected from estate sales. The real star of the show, however, is their 13-year-old daughter Rachel who plays drums and sings harmony. Rachel, who has been performing with the band for the entirety of their seven-year history, has become something of a celebrity, appearing on magazine covers and a popular YouTube video where she performs Syd Barrett's "Effervescent Elephant."

The society-tweaking presentation of America through slides, the familial nature of the performers and the genuinely catchy music create a perfect storm of cute, smart and funny. It's indie rock fun for the whole family, by a whole family.

A: How did the slide concept come together?

JT: With everything we do in the band — which is me, my wife Tina and my daughter Rachel — we're trying to create a ground-breaking artistic statement. That can mean creating an entirely new genre, as well. The possibilities are there. We tapped in on the concept of combining the slides with music, taking these images we found from estate sales and using songs to narrate those songs.

I was a struggling songwriter up until about the age of 30 or so. I was having trouble finding an audience for my music. Tina said "you gotta do something. You've been trying for ten years and nothing's happening. Why don't you try and reach your audience and really communicate with them through the visual medium of imagery through slide show projection?"

A: You play catchy pop songs that could stand on their own. Do you ever want to ditch the slides?

JT: I think the audience has come to expect the full presentation. They want to see the slides; they want to see Rachel on drums. They want the dynamic of a family band, and I don't blame them.

A: Rachel is 13 now, and she's kind of becoming a celebrity.

JT: She has a lot of skills, and she's very sincere. She could teach kids a lot of things, through her experience. She's working on her own show, which focuses on things kids can do themselves. It's something for kids that isn't dumbed down or patronizing, like a lot of Disneyfied culture.

A: Does her celebrity worry you as a parent?

T: Actually, that might be a better question for Tina.

A: Hello.

Tina Trachtenburg: Hey.

A: Well, the question is whether Rachel's celebrity worries you as a parent?

TT: Not really. I don't know if there's much to worry about. We live a quote unquote normal life. I think you should worry about are the ones that come from your basic tragic situation. She just has a really great family and friends and support system. She has tutors and teachers and us teaching her. There's a conglomerate around Rachel.

Right now we're doing puppets for the Rachel morning show that we're debuting in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She's also performing it in London.

A: When I was 12 or 13, I think I didn't want to have much to do with what my parents were doing.

TT: I think about that too. When I was 13 the last thing I wanted to do was hang out with my parents. With Rachel, I guess we're quote unquote cool parents. We do fun stuff. We're not sitting in an office. We're not doing things she can't do.

A: There's the Alex P. Keaton syndrome, where cool parents' kids rebel by being stiff and corporate.

TT: That's always a possibility. She said something to me like "It'll be interesting what I'll do when I'm 21, because by then I'll have already toured the world and been in every bar and rock club." Her friends will come and stay with us and they can't wait to go to a bar. Rachel's like "Whatever. You want to go to a bar, I'll go there. They're dumb. It's boring unless you're performing. You stand around, they drink and smoke, and talk to each other. It's dull."

A: Does she rebel against the concept of the band. Does she ever wants to do hip-hop or something?

TT: She doesn't like that kind of music. She likes classic rock. ... Doing the slideshow players is more Jason's thing. ... It's a fun family thing we do. Rachel, who has now picked up the ukulele and started playing a lot of ukulele songs — she loves that. Drumming, she likes, but I don't think she loves it like the ukulele. It's not her passion.

A: A major part of the band's appeal is that a cute little girl plays in this quirky rock ensemble. Is there an end date in mind — like OK, you're 16 and it's not so cute anymore?

TT: I guess we're not thinking about that. By her having her own show, that really broadens her thing. If she doesn't want to be in the band anymore, she can always get out of the band. She can do her own show, which she loves doing. I don't know if it would ever not be cute. When she's 16 it'll still be fun to see a family still doing some songs.
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Turbonegro Record Review

(Cooking Vinyl)
Hartford Advocate August 02, 2007

Have Turbonegro come to praise rock or to bury it? Are they trying to be Motorhead or Spinal Tap? Jack White or Jack Black? On their new record the Norwegian butt-rock MVPs rock it out like they have something to prove, with snaky intertwining guitar lines and shout-along choruses. It's fierce and fun, with seemingly no potential for irony. But then they have crazy funny song titles like "Everybody Loves a Chubby Dude" and "Hell Toupee." The second song, which actually seems to be about hair, contains the near perfect post scum rock couplet "Other day I was doing a bump/and then I found myself taking a dump." Are these the words of a candid, depraved rocker or a committed, convincing satirist? Does it matter when the riffs approach the level of Appetite for Destruction? Well, it does, sort of, and I have a feeling I'll be unraveling this mystery at top volume for the next couple of months.
— Adam Bulger Read more!

Cops Against the Drug War

You Know the Drug War is Going Badly When Law Enforcement Turns Against It
Originally published by the Hartford Advocate in August 31, 2006, no longer online

The idea that America's 35-year-old war on drugs has serious problems isn't new. Multiple long-standing organizations ranging from NORML (The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) to Libertarian think tank the Cato Institute have advocated drug legalization for decades.

The debate has even permeated American popular culture to a degree, with films like Traffic and Maria Full of Grace exploring the human impact of drug prohibition.

The message that drug policy reform group LEAP is bringing to Connecticut in a series of speaking engagements in September - that the drug war is unwinnable and indefensible - is neither novel nor unique. It's the people making the argument, not the argument itself, that's noteworthy. The members of LEAP, which stands for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, are retired and active police officers and government agents who helped shape and enforce America's drug laws. These are veterans of the front lines of the war on drugs who are now speaking against it.

"[What better group] to challenge the efficacy of the policy than the people tasked with promulgating that policy?" LEAP member Mike Smithson asked.

Smithson said he believes LEAP's message is supported by the majority of Americans, but needs the authority that the police and other law enforcement veterans in LEAP offer for it to resonate.

"We believe that most of America is opposed to this prohibition, but are afraid to say it," Smithson said.

The group is largely the brainchild of retired New York State Police Captain Peter Christ. While Christ doubted the effectiveness of drug laws during his time as a cop, he still enforced the law.

"I went into law enforcement with the hope that I would see the stupidity of my position. I hoped I'd look into the drug business, see its effects and say "boy am I ever wrong." What really happened is the more I saw, the stronger my position became," Christ said.

When he retired after 20 years on the force in the early '90s, he started working full-time to change those laws. After attending conferences by NORML and the Drug Policy Foundation, Christ realized many cops shared his stance, and enlisted them in the cause.

"I started talking about creating an organization of law enforcement people basically modeled after Vietnam Veterans Against the War. That was a group of people that you may not have agreed with their position against the war, but you couldn't dismiss them by saying they didn't know what they're talking about," Christ said.

He hooked up with Jack Cole, a 26-year veteran of the New Jersey state police, to create an organization of his peers who advocated ending the drug war. With the help of three other retired police officers, Cole and Christ founded LEAP in 2002. From those beginnings, membership swelled to over 5,000 in four years.

Their website, , has a 12-minute video in which speakers make the case against the government's prosecution of the drug war. The video has made the rounds of the blogosphere, including being featured on Time magazine's daily dish.

"Prohibition doesn't work. ... The bad thing is that it creates crime and violence that need not exist," Christ said.

When he speaks, Christ says the war on drugs has destabilized society.

"We know from studies that 85 percent of the drug-related violence in our society is not related to drug ingestion and the high from the drug, but from people fighting over the market place," Christ said.

Christ was careful to distinguish between being against the war on drugs and supporting drugs.

"There's a drug problem, the use and abuse of these dangerous substances, which I am not minimizing. It's a serious problem we have to deal with as a society," Christ said. "Then there is a crime and violence problem attached to the drug problem the same way we had it attached to alcohol prohibition."

Christ believes the war on drugs enables rather than fights the drug problem.

"When you institute a blanket prohibition, at that instant you give up all your ability to regulate and control that thing. Who regulates the purity of these drugs on our streets? The gangsters and the mobsters. Who determines the selling points and sets the age limits? The gangsters and the mobsters," Christ said.

"We at LEAP believe that a regulated and controlled marketplace is superior to a prohibition marketplace that creates crime in our society."

Eric E. Sterling was Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary from 1979 until 1989 and is now a LEAP speaker. Sterling, who helped write many of the drug laws passed by Congress in the 1980s, now says that much of the drug legislation in the '80s resulted from misguided political opportunity seeking.

"I began to see the way in which criminal justice and drug policy were taking a backseat to political opportunity," Sterling said.

Sterling said the policy set in the '80s has had a regrettable effect on America's legal system and economy.

"Most people are not aware of the enormous economic consequences of what we are doing. By giving out millions of felonies for drug offense convictions over the course of your anti-drug crusade, we have put a tape worm into the American economy that is sucking a lot of life out of it. One out of nine men in America has a felony conviction," Sterling said. "Once you have a felony conviction your ability to get a job is dramatically reduced. Once that happens, your role in the global economy is substantially undermined."

The felony convictions have a cumulative, debilitating effect on our consumer-driven economy. We're making it harder for potential consumers to consume.

"Your felony conviction becomes part of a background check that goes into your credit score. Even if you have a job, and can afford a car, your ability to finance it is greatly lessened. Your ability to buy a car is dramatically reduced," Sterling said.

As an attorney and a veteran of national legislation writing and advocacy, Sterling said the effect the drug war has had on the way America enforces its laws has been dramatic.

"At another level, in the criminal justice system itself, the drug laws are enforced through lies and perjury," Sterling said.

The dishonesty underlying the prosecution of the drug war, Sterling said, has influenced the rest of our legal system.

"In courts, judges and prosecutors blind themselves to the lies that are routinely told in support of drug cases. When cases go to trial and drug suspects testify against friends and partners to get reduced sentences, lying again is frequent," Sterling said. "Witnesses know that unless their performance is adequate, they're not going to get the plea bargain deal they're hoping for. This is routine. The habit of perjury has become ingrained and routine in the criminal justice system. Judges and attorneys have become inured to fraud in the courts."

One prominent local law enforcement official indicated that while the war on drugs may be flawed, legalization and regulation of drugs is a long way off.

"There may be a need for some changes [in the drug war]. But I am not advocating the legalization of drugs," newly appointed Hartford police chief Daryl K. Roberts said.

A former vice cop, Roberts has seen the effects of drug addiction firsthand. He said that while gun-related violence would be his highest concern as chief, he would also have the Hartford force concentrate on enforcing drug laws.

"I was in vice narcotics for 10 years, four and a half as a detective and five as a sergeant. It's a high priority because I do think it's a catalyst for a lot of our crimes. A lot of our crime comes back to our drug dealing. When you use drugs you're not just destroying yourself, you're destroying your neighborhoods and families."

Roberts said that because of the nature of drugs and addiction, he believes they should remain illegal.

"Whether drugs are legal or not, they still have the same harmful effects on the body," Roberts said.
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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hunter Thompson Interview

The Hunter S. Thompson Interview
BY ADAM BULGER 03.09.2004

This interview took place in early March 2003, shortly after the publication of Kingdom of Fear.

(To Answering Machine) I had an interview scheduled with Hunter Thompson--

(Explosion of music over the telephone.)
Hey hey hey hi. Sorry, this thing is just dragging on longer than I thought. I'll call you, I'd imagine, in like ten minutes.

OK. Sure.


I got caught up in some goddamn weird old English romance of some kind.

Was it something you were writing, or reading?

I was watching a movie. (Yelling to someone in the room.) Sense and Sensibility, I think. I couldn't believe it, I was wrapped up in this ancient goddamned thing.

Jane Austen, right?

Yes, it is.

I've never seen it, I think I've read the book, though.

Goddamn, I must be in a unique mood of some kind because I got completely into it.

Really. I wouldn't think you'd like that.

I wouldn't either. I've never been into Jane Austen, particularly. But that was well done. A nicely done movie.

OK, then. What is the state of the American dream today?

Oh, god. That's a pretty pre-thought out, written-on-a-list kind of question. Not very good. Yeah, I would say not. The American Dream ran out with the American century. I'm still figuring it out. That's a pretty strong statement. I'm still putting the pieces together right now.

What do you think Horatio Alger would do if he was alive today?

He'd probably be a terrorist.

Do you think its possible for a man to be free in present day America?

Well, it depends on who it is. I'm doing pretty well. I don't know about you. I have a feeling it's going to be more of a struggle than it's been for a while.

Why's that?

Look around you. The military state we're being sort of formed into--shit, I wrote about this last night, I forgot what I said. The military structure--did you read the book I just wrote?

Yeah. Kingdom of Fear. I thought it was a very apt title.

Yeah, more so than I realized when I came up with it.

What do you think of how the Bush Administration is cracking down on civil liberties?

The Bush administration is a heap of Nazi shit. Bullshit. Yeah, you can put it that way. I don't know what your audience is ready for. What kind of target...

In the 70s you had a meeting with Richard Nixon and you talked about college football. What would you say if you had the same face time with G.W. Bush?

Oh, ahhh. To put this on realistic lines. I was the only person in the press corp who could talk about football, and Nixon wanted to talk about football. I don't know. I don't think Bush would want to talk to me. I'm a journalist, of course I would talk to him.

But the impression that I had was that Nixon probably didn't want to talk to you that much, either.

Well he sure as hell wanted to talk about football. Once I got into the car we became instant buddies. He was good company. I enjoyed him. He got me on the plane, showed me all around. I almost dropped a zippo into the gas tank of his Lear jet.

On purpose?

No, no, no. I liked him, at the time there. He was good company. That's all we talked about was football. I was warned that if I mentioned wars or tear gas or protests or anything like that he'd [inaudible].

Do you think you'd be able to talk baseball with the former owner of the Texas Rangers?

Well, I don't know baseball that well. I met Bush at some point, long ago and I don't know what the hell I'd talk to him about now. I mean, Nixon wasn't honest about anything but football. And Bush? I don't know. I'd be curious to talk to him, I'd like to ask him what the fuck he's doing. But I know I wouldn't ask that either. I'm a professional journalist. I would conduct a professional interview. I don't know. We'd probably find something to talk about.

What do you think of the state of political journalism?

Very bad. Very lazy and almost cowardly in its obsequiousness.

What important questions are they not asking?

God damn, man. Who wrote these questions for you?

I did.

Well, they're all kind of pertinent, but let's take a break and kind of work up to some of these.

OK. I'm going to ask you some more softball questions. What are you driving these days and what's its top speed?

Oh Jesus, you really are one of these, aren't you? It's snowing out. I drive a Jeep Cherokee through the snow.

If they offered you the post of the governor of Samoa today would you accept it?

Oh. That's interesting. Well, yeah, if I thought I could really have free hand. It would be an adventure. I'd try it for a year.

You're the last public figure to use a cigarette holder. What's the deal?

For one thing, it is not a holder. It is a filter. A big difference. A filter clears a full ounce of scum and tar a day, keeps it from ruining my lungs. The first time I used it, I saw what came out of a filter and I never stopped.

How does that compare with your double life as a character in the Doonesbury comic strip?

Well that's a horrible piece of shit. I got used to it a long time ago. I used to be a little perturbed by it. It was a lot more personal. The bastard was, well, I don't read it or follow it. It no longer bothers me.

What's the best drug to write on?

You've got dumb questions.

Um, sorry. Have you ever done ecstasy?

Yeah. It seemed kind of mild and talky. I didn't mind it. It's not in the nature of the kind of drug I am normally accustomed to, it was a quasi-drug, I guess.

What kind of music are you listening to?

Let's see. I just got the new Bob Dylan box set from the Rolling Thunder tour from 1975. It's kind of a big package with a book and several CDs in there. It's maybe the best rock and roll album I've ever heard.

You don't think that was after his peak?

Shit. You really are dumb. You have to listen to it and find out. If you think that, you really are ignorant. What do you want to talk about--Eminem?

Is writing still fun for you?


What's the best firearm for home security?

Twelve-gauge short-barrel shotgun.

And what's the best for just fucking around?

Machine guns are kind of nice. You can have a lot of fun with them. It's like watering the lawn. I don't get to play with them very often.

Ralph Steadman said that you almost killed him in a gun-related explosion while he was visiting you in Aspen. What happened?

I don't know that story, but no doubt it's right. I can think of several times. Ralph is well acquainted with my lifestyle.

He also said that you claim that you are one of the few people who should be allowed to own a handgun, and he said that you definitely shouldn't be allowed to own one.

(Laughs.) Ralph is one person who definitely shouldn't be allowed to drink whiskey.

Why's that?

I'll wait for his reason why I shouldn't have handguns. Whiskey is not beneficial for Ralph.

You were a very vocal critic of the Clinton administration, but you were in correspondence with Sandy Berger, Clinton's Defense secretary. Are you guys still friends?

Oh, yeah, definitely, he's a good boy. I disagree with a lot of my friends. Just because he's my friend doesn't mean he has to agree with me.

Are you still in touch with Patrick Buchanan?

Occasionally. We're still friends. Patrick is a libertarian, or at least in that direction. I think of politics as a circle, not a spectrum of one line not just right and left. Patrick and I are often pretty close. Patrick's an honest person. He's a straight guy and very smart guy.

His magazine, the American Conservative, is really interesting. It's all anti-Bush, basically.

I'm pleased with that. I frequently agree with him. He's an intelligent--you might call him a politician.

He did run for President a couple of times.

Yeah, he's a politician.

Why exactly did you try to deliver an elk's heart to Jack Nicholson's house?

I thought it would be fun and it's in the spirit of our relationship. A little humor. I don't know, it just came to me tonight. I had a few bombs, you know. We do that pretty frequently, exchange bizarre presents. I couldn't have foreseen the horrible circumstances around it. He had just gotten in from LA. I didn't know it, but he had a stalker. I saw him the afternoon he got in. I said I'd see him later. I figured, shit, I have some presents for the kids. I was supposed to get there a little earlier. I feel a little queasy looking back on the night. Of course it was all in good humor. It went wrong in so many weird ways. I went out there and sort of did my thing and left, feeling rejected sort of. Bear in mind I was pretty much wanked up, in the mood I frequently get in with Jack. He's pretty fast. He's one of the natural aristocrats of our time.

He's fast?

Oh, yeah, we have a good time talking. Jack is quick. One of the smartest people I know.

What do you think of how the Hell's Angel's have gone mainstream?

Don't confuse the Hells Angels that I wrote about with what the Hells Angels are now. I consider Sonny Barger to be a friend of mine.

Really. Even after his boys beat you up?

Shit, he didn't do it. You swim with sharks, you're going to get bit once in a while. I wasn't surprised by that. In fact, I thought it was long overdue by the time it happened. I always got along fine with Sonny. I haven't seen him in a while. He's an extreme case of a sociopath, but I like him.

After Altamont, too.

That was way over the line. I've seen stuff like that before. Not kill people in that sense, but I wasn't surprised at all at the Angel's behavior. That's what they do. The Stones and Rock Scully, the people who decided to have the Angels as their personal security, I would blame them.

You would blame the incident on whoever chose the Angels as security.

Right. I don't know who I would have chosen, but that's a guarantee of an explosion and a disaster.

Do you ever watch Fox News?

Very rarely.

What do you think of their level of discourse?

I think it's low and dumb.

I heard that you and Allen Ginsberg had the same weed dealer in the 60s.

That's an obscure and arcane story, isn't it? But yeah, yeah. I had met him before in New York during his poetry readings and things. In San fransicisco, it turned out that we did have the same weed dealer. That's when you bought weed in tins, tabacco tins. Ten dollars, fifteen. I lived in an apartment right next store to the guy he was buying it from. I was working on the Hells Angels book. I got to talk to him about it, and he was a big help. Allen was a good one.

You liked him a lot.

He was the real thing, in the way. He was involved in everything. Allen was a gentleman and an honest man. He was fun, wonderful sense of humor. He helped me with the book. He took some time.

How was he in a crisis?

He did that ohm thing [starts chanting] OOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHM. He just tried to hum it away. I first saw that in La Honda. There were Cops, he was trying to get people out of jail. I was being a journalist I had, more or less a neutral zone pass. I could go back and forth between the Angels and the cops. I could negotiate. I had gone down there. My son was two years old at the time.

In La Honda?

No, I was out in Sonoma. I went down to La Honda for a little fun. I took my kid with me. Fun, you know. Allen and I got in a police chase. I was driving. The cops had pulled some people over. It was a madhouse over there, that whole La Honda scene. Blinking, blazing, lights going on all the time. I know that I've described that some place else, so I won't get into it. We stopped to intercede on some other arrest the cops were making. As a journalist I could do that.

You have claimed to be the most accurate reporter people could read. A lot of people would disagree. How would you defend that claim?

With the exception of typos, I have some ungodly types in my work. In terms of my...I might not get the dates right every once in a while. I try to be more accurate than other journalists, which is not that difficult. You have to distinguish between what happened and what the situation was. I'm not doing a very good job of this. And imagination.

Do you think that's due to your willingness to put objectivity by the wayside?

Well, you can't be objective when you're dealing with passionate situations, politics and so forth. I guess you can, I never have. For instance if you were objective about Richard Nixon, you would never get him or understand him. You had to be subjective to understand Nixon. You have to be subjective to understand the Hells Angels. Would you be objective about Altamont, I guess. A million people gathered, a riot started. I was supposed to be there.

Oh yeah?

I took one look at it on the last day and figured fuck this. Like a million people. Guaranteed explosion and disaster. Imagine having gone in there early and going down by the stage and not having a helicopter to get you out? I know people who were trapped under there for eight hours! Just horrible... then I don't know... it [inaudible] of police brutality. I can't really be objective. I can claim I am. Well, I mean, free press, street press, it's the goddamned street press right now that's the only, that's doing this job with us, on us, with Bush and passing propaganda. Just, uh--disgusting!

The mainstream press, you mean?

Yeah, the mainstream press is uh, is uh, in the bag, in the pocket of Bush and the military and they seem to like it there! Not all of them, I've got a lot of good friends, good people in journalism, that feel more strongly than I do, or at least as strongly.


The uh, New York Times, eh, yeah, it's a different animal. There's not too many papers like that. But the press in general, the media, the TV, is doing a disgraceful job in covering this situation in this country and around the world. This is where I have to bring some subjectivity into it that I believe is right! A president that came in here, uhhh... about two years ago...

Right, barely elected.

Barely elected, yeah, and I guess it's only been two years, and he's taken this nation from a, uh, um, let me think looking at it from a, uh, just objectively, from a prosperous nation at peace to a broke nation at war.

Right, but I mean, there were those assholes who flew the plane into the World Trade Center.

Who were they indeed? Now, [cough] do you believe that, that a bunch of Arabs jumped up from some kind of a campfire and fucking mountains over there and snuck into this country and hijacked those planes and did that by themselves?

Well what are you proposing? I mean I think they were funded years ago by the CIA and it was a blowback, but, I don't think there was any direct... Are you saying there might be some other American agency or some international agency that directly supported them in that?

Uhh, this is tricky territory, but yeah, that's what I'm getting at.


I can't sit here and jerk up documents like Joe McCarthy, there's no proof of that. But I'm sure there is. And the idea that we're getting the whole story, uh, through the uh, the media, or from the president, is absurd on it's face because you never do, for one thing. And there's so many unanswered questions and loose ends and uh, lets see, well, lies! Yeah, about what happened. That they, in the run-up to that day, the years, I wrote a column about it right after it happened.

Yeah, I've read it. I thought that was great, the thing about your phone conversation with Johnny Depp, right?

Yeah, that was one of them. Yeah, that one and the one right before it. I was just finishing my sports film for ESPN when, I was about to go to bed, and I had been up all night, you know the usual, you know struggle, deadline...


And sort of on my way to bed, I saw something on the, heard or saw, something about a plane hitting the World Trade Tower. The first reports were of the "small plane"--like one of those things that sometimes hits buildings around the world. That got my attention just enough not to go straight to bed. I turn around and have a look at the TV set, just in time to see that other one go straight in. Jesus.


Hang on a second there... there's so many things about who uh, oh boy, this is a dangerous area. But I talked to witnesses, I'm just thinking of one in particular, a guy, a driver who watched the, just happened to be taking uh, maybe the owner of the Giants, I forget who he was, but he was out at the Meadowlands. But he saw both of them hit.


Direct line of sight. The first one, he didn't get really get a line on, but it got his attention, though he hadn't seen the approach. But the second one, he said, uh, and I heard this from other people, but very few, really, calm and sane accounts the moments of insanity. I happened to see the second one go in, but just the last few seconds, as it came out of the left, stage left, and then plowed right into the front of the center of the TV picture and the center of the building, uh, perfectly. And I wrote that it was one of the most efficient, uh, most skillful and just about impossible um, acts of piloting... That's a very rare, uh, uh pilot... can take a big plane and plant it right as if a target or bulls-eye was on the side of the building. Apparently that second plane approached, and veered off, and made sort of a half-loop and then sort of came back and aimed again and then hit the building.


Have you heard this, or did you see that, or do you know about it?

Yeah, well I've seen the tape so many times.

But have you seen what would be before the tape that we see, like a minute before the hit?

No, I haven't.

Well, I haven't either, really. But there were eyewitnesses. And several people have said that, but you had to be watching. This guy happened to be at the Meadowlands. Cause I've kind of seen it as something that's really horrible and atrocious but not that hard to pull off. I mean it just seems like they got some box-cutters and they hijacked a plane and they flew it into a building. It doesn't seem like there was that much skill or that much preparation really. It's pretty broadly assumed that there's is a lot more to that story than the uh, the simple, kind of evil guys who just wanted to learn enough about flying to take a plane off but not land it.


Remember, everything we know about that, that incident, and it was a horrible thing, I mean tragedy! Uh, and about Iraq and about Afghanistan and the people allegedly inside those countries, you know, Bin Laden... Everything we know in this country is spun through the CIA or NSA, but lets call it the CIA.

Do you think that the foreign press is any better off?

Well the foreign press is not necessarily...don't agree with us, do they? No, I would say that, the, just the round-the-world feeling about our invasion of Iraq using, I'm not sure what the hell they're using now as a pretense. Did they say the World Trade Towers?

What, the pretense for invading Iraq?

Yeah, is it more of that stuff or is it...?

No, they want to spread democracy now, that's the message.

Well I've been dealing with these guys for forty years. I've been covering politics and I was in the air force and kind of around that stuff. I know... something about the structures and behavior of the military and politics, the White House. And uh, it gives you a certain perspective, at least to ask questions.

Yeah, your depth of knowledge and personal experience...

Well, plus if you go back and read some of the things I've written, I don't stand by that first column I wrote on the World Trade Tower, uh, tragedy. Like I said, I was just going to bed, and they called back and said, 'you gotta write another column about the bombing in New York.' Nobody really knew what it was. And I wrote a column, and it's in the book.

What newspapers and magazines are you reading right now?

Well, I mean lemme look here, umm... New York Times, New York Observer, The Nation, uh, Consumer Reports, Sports Illustrated. Now I look up and I see the Statistical Abstract of the United States... I see Legal Affairs, uh, let's see, Time, National Geographic, Foreign Affairs Quarterly, uh, The Progressive, The Economist. It goes on and on. It's a, it's a load. But I find that I really stay uh, more, certainly not more knowledgeable out here than I would be if I were in Washington, but the people I know and can call and then see frequently, I stay pretty well informed out here. There's a network that has taken me forty years to cultivate and build.

The end of your ESPN columns it says you live in a fortified compound in Aspen. How exactly is it fortified?

Well it's not really fortified, it's, I put that in there I guess, it helps me keep gawkers away. And it helps to--somebody gets shot out here every once in a while.

You get shot out there?

There was a story about me shooting my secretary a while ago. It was bogus. But now I have, it keeps me a little bit, it keeps people from being too eager to rush in here and knock on the door. I had a lot of that. Huge amount of kinda curiosity seekers.

Ok. What do you think of um, I'm sorry, I'm getting back to my list of questions.

You can tell that right away, 'what do you think of...'

Yeah I know, I'm sorry man.

Go ahead.

What do you think of the state of America today vs. when you were writing in the 60s and 70s?

Ho, it's a whole different game. Yeah, this is a, uh, oh, a corporate, uh state, really. Pretty much on the order of uh...

Like the Weimar Republic, kinda?

Yeah, yeah, exactly. There we go! And it's, ah, I don't know, National Socialism in a way, that would be a good conversation. Let's, wait, let's say something about that. Let me hear, what do you think about that, just, I'll go on, I just want a little, uh... lets see, the thing that fascinates me is, I've been reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich again. I see parallels throughout the Third Reich to the extent where I often refer to this as the Fouth Reich.

The post-American Century then.

Well it's a convenient break you know, the new century. And it just happens to be that we started off with, well, you might call it a bang, you know? Why the voters in this country continue to vote for the same people who plunge them into economic doldrums and real trouble?

Why do you think that is?

That is what brings us I guess to the uh, Third Reich and that comparison. It baffles me, enrages me. And I can't, it seems to me like simple stupidity.

You think people are just dumb?

Well, the education [in this] country, the patriotism, the boom boom boom drum, and the propaganda, and the cooperative media, yeah. That, well come to think of it, the Germans were economically stricken, weren't they?

Yes, that's why they weren't so opposed to getting the Nazis in.

Exactly but, the country on paper, in a state of prosperity. And we know better about who was, you know, what stocks were really worth what. But, it was a prosperous country, seemingly, people weren't wheeling wheelbarrows of dollar bills through the streets to buy a loaf of bread. And, just to watch the quality of life in this country go down and down, and lesser expectations of happiness and freedom and discretionary income, leisure, all the things that seemingly defined this country uh, in the past let's say 50 years. It has been... moving forward and upward, a lot of quarrels in there, a lot of things to argue about, but I don't think it has been, in most peoples eyes, a nation where the current generation of children can, and does look forward to a standard of living lesser and lower than their parents. You know, not live as well.

What's that?

What, excuse me. I, I didn't hear you.

No, I didn't catch your last comment, I'm sorry.

Oh, well it's the diminishing of personal expectations in this country. And the uh, the hope, the feeling of hope. I talk about this all the time to a lot of people: Are you more optimistic about the next ten years than about the last, when you started?

Who, me?


No! I... man, to rip you off, I'm full of fear and loathing. I am a citizen in the Kingdom of Fear. I'm scared every waking moment, man.

Well, uh, Jesus, that's horrible! That's a kind of, uh, prevailing sentiment.


And you know, you look at fear and people, a population that's uh, just riddled with fear and confusion and, uh, loathing, goddamn. Never did it occur to me when I came up with those words that I would be using them to describe the state of the nation 30 years later or whatever.

Yeah, you said that 30 years ago, and fear keeps coming through in your works. I mean it's so powerful, like your use of it. And I was just kinda wondering what you're fearing right now.

Well I don't, I'm past, uh, fearing things. I'm old enough to, not really uh, worry about some of the things that maybe I once did. I'm a successful writer, I'm out here, I'm you know...

I just had one last question, and it kind of plays into what we were just talking about. Your friend Warren Zevon was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. [Warren Zevon died on Sept. 7, 2003 - ed]


And I just wanted to know how you have reacted to this, if you've mellowed out at all, if this has kind of affected what you're fearing, or your concept of fear.

Well, no, I'm very sad about Warren's situation, but I think it's my job to, uh, console him, to ignore it. They're all quacks out there, and many people have come through fatal uh, prognosis. I assigned him to write the music for this movie we're working on here, the Rum Diaries.

I'm curious about why you're doing the kinda sports-centric thing with ESPN. I know you started as a sports journalist, but...

I got a soft spot in my heart for sports and what the hell, I bet on it, I'm into it all the time, I might as well make some money on it. One of the things I think I've learned over time is I have to make movie on, excuse me, money on, I have to get paid for my vices somehow, or else its gonna be destructive. If you're paid for being crazy, then you're not crazy, is that right?

And when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

I think the real difference is functional and dysfunctional rather than sane or insane. And John Walsh at ESPN is an old friend. And I like it, it keeps me, the column kept me kinda sane, a regular deadline every week. I gotta finish it and read it the next day. I like the regularity of it. I grew up in newspapers. And it just gives me a nice little break every week.

Well, that was my last question.

Well, that's, uh, good luck! And you're gonna need it.

Copyright © 1998-2007 Infocrat, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
And here is the rest of it.
Read more!

Right Wing Comedy

Laughing Matters
The vast right-wing comedy conspiracy.
By Adam Bulger
New York Press, Oct. 14, 2003

Julia Gorin is onstage cataloguing the gory side effects of RU-486, the morning-after abortion pill. She waves her arms emphatically as she describes the blood and doctor’s visits the pill would entail.

"What are the NOW ladies going to be happy about next?" She pauses, then continues: "Wire coat hangers?"

Two tables from the stage, where in a typical comedy club a boozed-out fratboy might be heckling, sits a man who is the spitting image of Carl Reiner in the Ocean’s Eleven remake. The crowd sweats modest urban affluence, with men dressed in Brooks Brothers’ dress shirts tucked into unwrinkled khakis, and women in wool slacks and high heels. The American flag is the accessory of choice: One male audience member wears a flag pin on the lapel of his Patrick Bateman-style pinstripe suit; opening act Robert George had tiny flags on his tie; and Gorin, the headliner, wore a bead-encrusted choker with an American flag centerpiece.

This is not a typical comedy crowd. And this is not a typical comedy show. This is Republican Riot–comedy for and by political conservatives–held last week at the Don’t Tell Mamma cabaret on 46th St., a sublevel club around the corner from a porno emporium.

In addition to topping the bill, Gorin also organized the night, with an eye toward monthly shows and a run that will hopefully culminate during the 2004 Republican convention. She’s a seasoned stand-up comic whose act evolved from observational humor and jokes about dating into political humor during the late 90s.

"Bill Clinton was in office, so there was always something funny to say… The audience responded pretty well, so that encouraged me to move in a political direction. I happen to be right-wing, so my observations are always coming from that perspective."

That same year, she started writing opinion pieces for conservative outlets, and has since written articles such as "Not at Albright" and "The Hours: I Am Woman, Hear Me Bore" for Jewish World Review, and Opinion Journal. The Republican Riot was her first attempt at producing a show.

"I suffered through nearly a decade of listening to other people’s acts, when they bash Republicans. Conservatives are the butt of all their jokes. And they defend Bill Clinton and talk about how his penis was good for the economy. And the audience cheers."

To counter what she views as a pronounced liberal bias in stand-up comedy, she created a routine demanding that Americans get their heads out of the gutter and instead wrap their arm around President Bush–or her "Georgie," as she refers to him during the act. Democrats ("You gotta love ’em") were frequent targets of jokes, as were immigrants, Iraqis, Europeans (specifically, and obviously, the French) Palestinians and, of course, Bill Clinton.

Sex is an oft-returned-to topic. "Libertarians are Republicans with an unhealthy preoccupation with sex," she jokes, and "the Democrats are against the missile shield because they’re so busy having sex they won’t notice that the bombs are dropping." She defines liberal ideology as "give me liberty or give me tyranny, as long as you give me sex."

This anti-sex slant is a tough sell for a room full of comedy-hungry drunks no matter what the ideological makeup of the audience, but Gorin draws upon years of experience on the comedy circuit. She knows how to brand an identity: onstage she becomes a Chuck Jones sketch of a New York Jew, effecting a high-pitched tremolo voice and kvetch-me-if-you-can nervousness. She airs her insecurities to get the audience on her side, tightly intertwining jokes about her self-image with her right-wing observations.

Her opening act, Robert George, lacks Gorin’s streamlined stand-up mojo; his act is a scattershot volley of one-liners devoid of her smooth transitions. He’s a professional television commentator and a writer for the un-bylined editorial page of the New York Post, which he refers to as the second-least credible paper in New York. The first? The New York Times.
George is a black Catholic Republican, and he opens his set with jokes about the inherent conflicts in his racial, spiritual and political identities. He equates his multilayered personality with the Republican party’s broad diversity, then jokes that the party has some diverse broads, while winking at a lady in the front row.

With the California recall election just one day old, George takes the opportunity to riff: Arnold won by courting the Cali hiphop vote with a band called "Schwarza-niggahs with Attitude" and a song called "Straight out of Austria." After a rendition of that song, he adds, "I might be black, but I’m not crazy." The crowd wants him to succeed, wants him–and Julia–to kill, to be hilarious, to be funnier than Garofalo and Carlin and the other liberal giants of standup. So when Julia’s punchlines flatline or when George’s voice stammers, the crowd is uncomfortable but patient.

The Republican Riot show may just be the New York tip of the Republican comedy iceberg. Brad Stine is a conservative comic who tours with the Promise Keepers, playing to arena crowds numbering in the thousands. A veteran of the secular circuit and the 90s cable-tv comic boom, Stine has found his "very pro-Patriot, very pro-theism, very pro-God" personal philosophy to be in opposition to the stereotypical comedian.

"Comedians are thought of as rock ’n’ roll, spoken-word, edgy, pushing the envelope," he observes, "but to do that from a conservative, Judeo-Christian point of view is unique."
Around the 45-minute mark of his act, Stine will often point out that he hasn’t used a single curse word. No matter which club he’s in, he says, that factoid never fails to garner applause.
He currently brings his brand of pro-American jokery to churches and religious functions, noting he doesn’t "do as many clubs now because [he doesn’t] make as much money."

Stand-up comedy is a format that’s ready-made for conservatives. There’s allowance for the Limbaugh monologue/rant, spots for one-liners and ample space for Fox News-style soundbyte ethos. Comedy club audiences respond to shouting and invective and, really now, how far of a jump is it from Bill O’Reilly to Sam Kinison?

As Stine told me, "There is certainly a huge constituency of conservatives in the United States who have made Fox News the number-one news network… There are millions of Americans saying ‘speak for me, speak for me,’ and they’ve never had a comic do it."
Read more!

Kiss Convention

On Kondoms and Kaskets
The Kiss nostalgia machine will eat you alive.
By Adam Bulger
New York Press, 2003

Marketing professionals must look at Kiss with abject envy. Every American under the age of 70 has at least passing knowledge of the Kabuki-theater rock quartet. Kiss is the most recognizable high-concept act in rock: They’re the band that wears make-up and breathes fire, a combination hard-rock band and pyrotechnic circus. They’ve got a hipster-friendly 70s kitsch, comic book/action figure tweeker appeal and a metal/classic rock crossover combo rivaled only by AC/DC and Led Zeppelin.

But the ultimate testament to the breadth of their appeal may have been their appearance at the 1996 Grammys. They were joined onstage by Tupac Shukar, and the patron saint of gangsta rap was uncharacteristically giddy standing alongside the costumed avengers of rock.

The mass awareness of Kiss coexists with a rabid fan base that matches the Shatner cult of Trekkies in its consumption of merchandise and detailed knowledge of the source material. The thousands of conscripts in the Kiss Army act as a built-in sales base for Kiss products, like the recently launched Kiss Kondoms (advertised as "tongue lubricated") and 2001’s infamous Kiss Kasket, an airbrushed coffin embossed with the words "Kiss Forever."

The Army’s devotion to its leaders, however, is far from absolute, and coexists with a pronounced contempt. According to a Gene Simmons-authored press release on, the original official Kiss website was shut down due to a flood of negative comments on the message boards. Kiss fans compartmentalize their enjoyment of the band, isolating the aspects of the band they like (Ace Frehley, the comic books, the live shows) and enthusiastically trashing everything else. One of them joked that Kiss is an anagram for "we Know It Sucks So what."
For almost two decades, the faithful followers of the schlock rockers have congregated in New York at annual events called Kiss Expos. Kiss Expos are a combination rock ’n’ roll flea market, celebrity meet-and-greet, and performance showcase. There you can buy action figures, matchbox cars, plush cushion slippers shaped after Gene Simmons’ onstage platforms, bobble heads and LEGO toys, comic books, dolls, lunchboxes, garbage cans, teddy bears and even a board game.

The 2003 New York Kiss Expo took place May 3rd and 4th in New Jersey. It was held three months before Kiss is set to embark on a national tour with fellow 70s icons Aerosmith.
The Expo took place at the Meadowlands Sheraton, a 21-story glass monolith that towers over the surrounding wetlands and professional sports facilities. The festivities were spread across three beige banquet halls, spaces usually reserved for corporate events and civic awards ceremonies. Sheraton banquet staff wore black tuxedos and served fried food, hot dogs and $7 dollar mix drinks to the 1200 fans in attendance. The crowd ranged in age from high-schoolers to AARP members.

The Kiss Expo is a family-friendly event, crowded with baby strollers and small children. One infant wore a "Kiss baby" bib, and a married couple in full stage outfits chaperoned their 10-year-old nephew, also in make-up. For civilians: straight-leg jeans and sneakers, rock t-shirts and denim jackets. There was a lot of long hair, but few mullets, suggesting that the old-school rockers have finally wised up. Youngsters leaned toward goth, but were soundly outnumbered by the over-30s, who were too old to rock but hadn’t yet figured out what else to do.

At a typical Expo, the vendors rent table space and provide their own inventory. Some are hardcore Kiss fans unloading their collections, others hawk homemade Kiss goods like mouse pads, blankets and Cub Scout soap-box derby cars. Some are speculators who buy Kiss stuff on eBay with hopes of turning a profit.

The Kiss collectible market is similar to the late-80s baseball card and comic book scene. One older gentleman criticized another fan’s purchase by saying, "I can’t believe that guy paid 40 for that beat-up tour book. Did you see it? I got it from a guy over there for 10 bucks and it was in perfect condition."

Others are regulars on the metal scene. The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds publisher Bill Zebub was on hand behind an assembly of death metal CDs, DVDs and his magazine. Long, straw-like blond hair and White-out skin give the impression that he’s been living on a diet of Twinkies and Pabst for years, but he’s a glowingly nice guy and gave me an issue of his magazine and a documentary about the history of death metal.

Zebub was having a rough time of it, however. "I think death metal fans listen to Kiss," he told me, "but Kiss fans don’t really listen to death metal." He seemed to regret renting the table, as he’d only sold one CD so far.
The man behind him had better luck selling 80s merchandise from the Christian glam-rock group Stryper. His table was covered in black and yellow t-shirts and stacks of the 2001 Stryper Expo videos. When asked how his Stryper-exclusive angle was working, he revealed a billfold packed fat with 100s and 50s. He’d arrived with ten dollars in his pocket.

Away from the center of the merchandise tables, the featured guests earn their fees. Bruce Kulick, Kiss lead guitar player from 1984 to 1995, was on hand to sign autographs and promote his solo album and current gig as the axe-man for the reconstituted Grand Funk Railroad. Kulick is tall, thin and played the role of rock star in his leather jacket and rock boots. A tightly compacted, Jeri Curlish hairstyle failed to fully hide his bald spot.

Michael Kelly Smith, the lead guitar player for 80s hair-metal band Britny Fox was seated next to Kulick’s autograph station. His locks still flow down to his shoulders, but they lack the spiky afro from the days when his band enjoyed one-hitter success with "Girlschool." Britny Fox recently released its first studio album in 12 years, but Kelly wasn’t sure if the band would tour, as his full-time guitar-teaching gig would be jeopardized.

And in the back corner of the larger banquet room: adult film starlet Jasmine St. Claire, signing autographed pictures and talking to fans. St. Claire–most famous for having sex with 300 men in World’s Biggest Gang Bang 2–looked haggard and acted unfocused and flighty. Her skin was taut and leathery; her hair was tangled, almost in dreadlocks. When asked why she was at the Expo, she rattled off six favorite songs. She also had every Iron Maiden album on vinyl, and remains a huge fan of Dio and Dokken. She also told several fans that she was keen on offering her professional expertise to Kulick. When informed of Jasmine’s intentions, Kulick was flattered but terrified.

The Expo’s organizer is Richie Ranno. He’s a thin guy with curly gray hair who on the day of the event was eager to blow me off. The next day, on the phone, he was gracious and polite.
Ranno’s been organizing the New York Kiss fan events for 17 years, a gig that grew from his relationship with Kiss in the 70s when he played guitar for the forgotten pop-metal band Starz that shared management with Kiss. They put out four records on Capitol before breaking up in the early eighties.

He says his transition from rock star to convention organizer was an accident.

"I did it with a partner. We had some Kiss stuff that people seemed to want, and we thought, ‘How are we going to sell it?’ The idea was that the stuff we had was 70s stuff, and Kiss with make-up was [then] a nostalgia thing because Kiss was running around with no make-up."
Their first convention, held in Cranford, NJ, was a success. Ranno soon formed Starz Productions and became the Johnny Appleseed of Kiss conventions–Cleveland, Chicago, Boston and Poughkeepsie soon followed. Ranno also plays with his "all-star" band every Sunday night at the Orange Lantern bar in Paramus, NJ, and hopes for a Starz reunion and tour this summer.
Depending on which original members come on board, this summer’s manifestation of Kiss will either headline or support Aerosmith. Word at the Expo was that original guitarist and fan favorite Ace Frehley was unlikely to join. He is, however, slated to appear at Rock ’n’ Roll Fantasy camp on June 18 in New York City. (The five-day camp gives fans the chance to fulfill lifelong dreams of playing alongside members of Kiss, the Who, Mountain and the Hall & Oates’ back-up band.)

For those not inclined or employed enough to attend Fantasy camp, the band is offering backstage passes for their upcoming shows for $1000. Through the official website,, fans can purchase a Platinum Ticket that guarantees a seat in the first five rows of the show and backstage access. Once backstage, these superfans can have their pictures taken with the band by the tour photographer. But buyer beware: Fan cameras are prohibited and autographs, though possible, are not guaranteed.
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West Nile Threatens Connecticut

Once Bitten...
Due to recent weather patterns, the state's mosquito population is exploding. Is Connecticut set for a West Nile virus outbreak?
By Adam Bulger
Hartford Advocate, July 5, 2007

With a recent spike in Connecticut's mosquito population, some state health officials are cautioning that mosquito-borne illnesses, including the West Nile virus, may increase this year.

The University of Connecticut's Agricultural Experiment Station, which traps and monitors hundreds of mosquitoes at 91 locations throughout the state, has noticed unusual growth in the state's insect population. Over the past 10 years, the traps have yielded an average of 225 mosquitoes per trap. In the second to last week of June they collected mosquitoes 350 per trap, and the chief medical entomologist for the CAES, Theodore Andreadis, predicted the weekly average would rise as the summer progresses.

More mosquitoes doesn't just mean ruined picnics.

"We have conditions right now that are quite suitable for rapid amplification for the West Nile virus," Andreadis said."Why I'm saying that is because if you have a very wet spring with a lot of flooding that produces a lot of mosquitoes, if that's followed by very hot weather, like we have right now, that seems to accelerate the whole transmission cycle."

The CAES has monitored mosquitoes as part of the state's mosquito management program, a coordinated effort between the state's Department of Health Services, the state's Department of Environmental Protection and the CAES, since 1997.

Andreadis and his team sort through the mosquitoes to determine what kind of mosquitoes they are — Connecticut hosts about 50 different species of mosquitoes. Determining the species is critical for determining whether they are nuisances or health risks. Different types of mosquitoes can carry different kinds of diseases.

West Nile is carried by the Culex mosquitoes, which are found typically in urban and suburban areas, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a disease whose symptoms range from mild flu-like coma and death according to the Center for Disease Control, is spread by Culiseta mosquitoes, which are found in rural places with fresh water marshes. In Connecticut, Hartford and Fairfield counties have historically had the most cases of West Nile, while the southeast region of the state is hit hardest by Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
The main infection time for West Nile is August and September.

"You'll see people start getting sick in the last two weeks of August. The peak of people getting sick and coming down with clinical signs, is in early September," said Randall Nelson, a veterinarian for the DHS.

While cases have already been reported in other parts of the country, it hasn't yet reared its head in Connecticut.

The first outbreak of West Nile was in Connecticut's southern neighbor, New York, in 1999. Despite its proximity to the disease's presumed source, Connecticut residents have so far mostly avoided the disease.

"We've been very lucky. Why that is, we're not 100 percent sure. But while some people were seriously ill, and we have had several deaths, in the big picture, if you put it in perspective, we have been quite lucky," Nelson said.

According to the state health department, only 57 Connecticut residents have contracted West Nile (five of those contracted the disease out of state) since the state began monitoring for the disease. In those cases, there have been three fatalities.

I suggested to Nelson that Connecticut is a smaller state, and that the smaller population would account for the lower rate of infection. Nelson disagreed.

"Of course, you need to have a population at risk to get sick," Nelson said. "But beyond that, we do have over three million people living in Connecticut in a variety of residential settings, from rural to urban. So, we certainly have opportunity."

West Nile is a difficult public health risk to assess. Despite years of close study by health officials throughout America, it's impossible to determine how it will spread.

"It has to do with a number of factors, but I don't think we know everything that comes into play," Nelson said, adding that while public health officials have learned a lot about the disease since 1999, there are still many unknowns. "To predict where it's going to crop up, we can't really do that."

Statistically, only one out of 150 people exposed to the virus will show symptoms. And when symptoms are evident, they vary greatly.

"It varies from mild symptoms — some people will just very mild symptoms — a fever, headache, not much more than that," Andreadis said. "But other individuals will develop much more severe complications like nausea or vomiting. The virus can affect brain cells. You can slip into a coma and die."

The best treatment for the virus is avoiding getting bitten by mosquitoes. That doesn't mean we need to stay inside througout August and September. Commercially available insect repellent sprays containing DEET are a reliable method of avoiding mosquito bites. He cautioned people from relying on citronella candles marketed as fighting mosquitoes, as he said the candles are ineffective. Nelson recommended that Connecticut residents outfit their windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of their homes, and to employ netting for outdoor activities like camping. Because mosquitoes lay eggs in water, emptying out containers that have been filled with water is important.

Andreadis said that Connecticut residents should get used to taking these simple precautions against West Nile, as it has become part of the landscape.

"I don't think, given our ecology, given the species of mosquitoes that carry the virus and our mosquito season, we're probably ever going to experience the volume of cases you see in other parts of the country," Andreadis said. "But you have to understand that this virus has found a permanent home. It's firmly established in North America and Connecticut. It emerges every year."
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Barack Obama, UCC Synod

Does the Right Wing own religion? Barack Obama comes to Hartford to address the United Church of Christ Synod. While the emphasis was on faith, politics crept around the edges.
Adam Bulger
Hartford Advocate, June 28, 2007

Within hours of his keynote speech at the United Church of Christ Synod, presidential hopeful Barack Obama was a top story on the Drudge Report.

According to the headline on the right-leaning newsfeed website, the junior Senator from Illinois claimed during his speech in Hartford that the Christian right had "hijacked" faith.

The headline was prominently displayed on the site through late Sunday, underneath a headline about Republican former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney complaining about attacks on his religion; the stories seemed meant to be read against each other — in other words, making Obama out as the aggressor.

Seeing the Obama story on the Drudge Report surprised me. I attended Obama's speech along with a reported 8,000 UCC members and, according to the church, 166 registered journalists, in Hartford on June 23, and the hijacking comment didn't register with me at all. I was surprised when I checked my notes from the event that I had even written the comment down. It seemed like a boilerplate stump speech comment, an example of one of Obama's great political skills — the ability to comfortably mix Christian language with political ideas. It fit into the day's agenda of liberal Christian ideals.

Looking over the transcript of the speech, it was at least partially clear why I ignored the comment that would later be drudged up. First, it was a few words in the middle of a paragraph, couched within a statement about the need for unity and the ability religion has to unite.
"Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and faith started being used to drive us apart," Obama said

Obama mentioned the Christian right, but it wasn't the shot across the bow Drudge implied it was.

"Part of [the reason faith has become divisive is] because of the so-called leaders of the Christian right," Obama said.

The church members I spoke to after the speech didn't seem struck by the hijacking comment, either. A couple people said, that comment was very much in keeping with the rest of the Synod.
"With the UCC, for the most part, we agree with that, so it didn't hit us as anything out of the ordinary," UCC member Nicolle Dahlen said.

The 45-minute speech, which was met with several standing ovations by the crowd, set Obama's personal journey of faith against what he saw as a "hunger" in America for "a sense of purpose" among many Americans to "relieve a chronic loneliness."

Obama recounted how he was raised without religion, and became a churchgoer late in life, partially out of expediency. As a community organizer in Chicago, he dealt with several churches. Obama said that at that time, a pastor told him that if he was organizing churches, it might be helpful if he "went to church once in a while."

The catalyst for Obama's involvement with the church was his work with community action. Touching on speeches by Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Obama talked about the relationship between social progress and faith. The Christian right, Obama said, has worked to erode that relationship, exploiting peoples' faith to fight Democratic political initiatives.

"I think he was talking about how the radical Christian right has used faith to divide. How can we say that everyone does not have a spirituality around them? Religion doesn't belong to just a few people," said Nancy Rucker, a UCC member from Storrs.

To me, the most striking thing about Obama's speech was how eerily relaxed he seemed giving it. He was speaking in front of thousands of people, and seemed about as anxious as someone talking to a beloved house pet. Even when he made a mistake — like when he said he earned $13,000 a month (instead of a year) as an organizer in Chicago before quickly correcting himself to say $13,000 a year — it didn't look like his heart rate was raised by even a beat.

The content itself was fairly unremarkable, not because it was bad, but because it wasn't anything Obama hadn't said before. Much of it was taken almost verbatim from Obama's autobiographical book The Audacity of Hope.

It wasn't supposed to be a political speech, as several UCC officials made pains to say. Several church members emphasized to me that the UCC had asked Obama to be the keynote speaker before he announced he was running for president.

A speaker announced early in the day that Obama campaign buttons and T-shirts were not allowed within the Civic Center.

However, signs of political maneuvering were evident. Campaign staff manned Obama tables placed outside the building, across the road from buildings tagged with Dodd's '08 political graffiti.

Two politically minded entrepreneurs from Brooklyn were hawking American Apparel style T-shirts with hipster silk screen renderings of Obama's image outside the civic center entrance.
Sarah Gager and her boyfriend Andy had traveled up from New York with bags of silk screened T-shirts.

Gager laughed when I asked when the Dodd version of the shirt would be ready.

It's probably the fallout from getting up at seven on a Saturday, but I was initially irritated to high hell by the Synod. Watching two singers stand against a backdrop reading "Let It Shine" sing "Solar Power, inexpensive energy" to the tune of the hymn "Angels We Have Heard on High" (you'd know it if you heard it — it's the one that goes "Glor-or-ee-or-ee-or-ee-a), I thought the group combined all the annoying aspects of earnest liberals with all of the annoying aspects of Christianity. I warmed to the idea, though, when the entire crowd, numbering in the tens of thousands, sang along.

Partially it was the effect of being surrounded by thousands of voices in relative unison, but mostly it was the realization that with the critical mass of these numbers, something constructive might come out of these kinds of ideals.

Shortly after the holy solar power sing-a-long, Bill Moyers, the former host of PBS's news magazine show NOW and the current host of Bill Moyers Journal, was introduced as the first keynote speaker. Raised a Baptist, Moyers has attended services at a UCC Church for over 40 years.
But even if he wasn't involved with the church, he would fit the UCC's vibe perfectly, mixing a liberal slant on current events with literate references and a deep religiosity. He talked about the biblical figure Saul and Emily Dickinson in the same sentence, and deftly connected
spirituality with social action. Speaking of the conflict he saw between power and justice, Moyers said that "nothing seems to embarrass the political class in America." Not the disparity of wealth in America, not the Iraq war, not the response to national crises.

"It's justice that measures the worth of a state, not empire," Moyers said to a standing ovation shortly after a Tupperware container full of chocolate chip cookies passed through my aisle.

This paper's own columnist, Alan Bisbort, was quoted in the material handed out to the Synod-goers. In his last column, he suggested the UCC adopt "Christian but not insane" as their motto, and that quote was excerpted in the "General Synod Digest." If nothing else, this shows the church's ability to tolerate even the craziest op-ed columnist in the country (Just kidding — nobody beats the Biz!).

But in all seriousness, the church's embrace of the quote speaks volumes about its views and its character. Embedded within the statement is the supposition that Christianity has become, at least in some quarters, insane. Including the quote was a sign that the UCC is separated from the Christian right.

"That liberal Christian voice is one that isn't heard that much. What's mostly heard is a rather strident right leaning voice in America," said Philip Price, a UCC member from Atlanta, Georgia. "So it was exciting to hear so many folks affirming their faith, not with a leftist view-point, necessarily, but with a compassionate viewpoint."

At times the Synod seemed more like a political convention than a religious one. There were conferences on topics such as immigration, gay rights, and morally responsible business.

The UCC members I spoke with uniformly embraced the church's liberal stances. However, those views rankle at least one member. Jeffrey Lord, a former Reagan White House political director, wrote in the latest issue of conservative magazine The American Spectator that he and other right-leaning members of the church had objections with the church's liberal bent, writing he decried UCC officials' "zealous insistence on presenting the UCC to the national media as a liberal church" and using its member's money for "liberal political causes."

Lord claims the liberal bent has had an adverse effect on the church's membership, writing that: "as a direct result of the liberal politics running the hierarchy, the church has lost over one million members in the last four decades."

One church member suggested that the right wing hold over American Christianity is a question of perception and marketing.

"I can't blame them if they're more media savvy. I can't blame them if they're better at getting in front of the cameras," said Atlanta's Philip Price. "I think the progressive voice has not been as astute or smart at getting the message of what we believe out there in the same way."
The people I met were almost all self-described liberals. One young church member said that issues aren't always addressed.

"The church is pretty liberal and supportive. But there are some people who try to stay away from it and pretend it's not an issue," said Nicolle Dahlen, a 20-year-old church member from Rochester, Minnesota. Dahlen had spent most of the Synod working an LGBT booth. "In the last three days we sold $3,000 worth of buttons and T-shirts and stuff. The turnout's always really awesome at Synod, but because this year is our 50th anniversary, there was about 8000 people here," Dahlene said. "Which was pretty intense."

At the encouragement of the event's speakers, many of the 8,000 attending the Synod spilled out of the Civic Center and onto the surrounding streets. On Saturday, the streets and restaurants of downtown Hartford were packed with church members. My heart swelled with civic pride at the prospect of someone telling their friends back home in Sioux City, Iowa about the great chicken curry quesadilla they had at The Russell.

Jordan Polon of the Greater Hartford Welcome Center said she was overwhelmed by the number of people asking for her assistance. She didn't mind the crush, though.

"These are the nicest people I've ever met," Polon said.
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Lil' Bush Review

Bush Bash
The decider-in-chief rendered as a shrimpy little cartoon on Comedy Central
By Adam Bulger
Hartford Advocate, June 21, 2007

It's weird. People talk about Comedy Central cartoon Lil' Bush like it's an audacious gut punch to the president. While the show's not without its charms, it's far from revolutionary. Bush is as popular as salmonella right now. Mocking him almost smacks of lazy writing. It's Leno territory.

Nobody thinks of Bush as the megaphone-toting cowboy standing on rubble on 9-12 anymore. He's the strutting idiot in the "mission accomplished" flight suit. Sure, it's interesting there's a whole animated TV show devoted to mocking him, but it would be a lot cooler if it was better.

The show's central conceit — portraying Bush and his staff as toddlers — is its biggest problem. First, it's confusing. Bush 41 is in office in the show, yet references to current events — like Bush 43's war in Iraq — are referenced constantly.

Many of the gags are predicated on juxtaposing the Bush administration against the formulas of cartoon shows, which doesn't work. The first episode features an extended Josie and the Pussycats-style musical scene that's more distracting than funny. Adult Swim has been on TV for six years — does anyone in America still think Hanna-Barbera parodies are clever? I was shouting at the TV, demanding more Abu Graib references.

All of which would be fine if the show was more precise. The cartoon features a Donald Rumsfeld character, six months after his real life counterpart was shitcanned. Voiced by Iggy Pop, Lil' Rummy is Lil' Bush's most trusted advisor — couldn't the Godfather of punk voice a larval version of Karl Rove instead? Meanwhile, Jeb Bush, the brightest of Herbert Walker's awful spawn, is portrayed as a feral manchild. Lil' Bush at one point chastises the Condoleeza Rice character for using fuzzy math, a reference to a seven-year-old presidential debate. Even worse, there's a tepid Monica Lewinsky gag dating back to the Mesozoic era.

Lacking cutting edge South Park style topicality, the show falls back on gross-out humor. In the second episode, Lil' Cheney not only has sex with Barbara Bush, he gets lodged inside her uterus afterwards. Maybe that's water cooler fodder, but it's a cheap gag that detracts from the smarter jokes the show occasionally attempts.

Lil' Bush isn't the first time Comedy Central show devoted to mocking G Dubs. That's My Bush, produced by South Park's Matt Stone and Trey Parker, aired on the network in the spring and summer of 2001. Starring a befuddled-looking Timothy Bottoms as Bush, the show was a satire of sitcoms, not politics. It featured a sassy maid, and a Larry Dallas-style wacky neighbor. Bottoms reprised the roll, minus the 30-yard stare, in the 2003 hagiographic made-for-television movie DC 9/11: Time of Crisis.

It's unlikely that anything from Lil' Bush would likewise be re-purposed as praise for the decider in chief. But in order for the show to succeed as the comedic assault on Bush it's intended to be, it needs to evolve into a much darker beast.

There are some inspired riffs, particularly showing Baghdad's Green Zone as a scene out of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Also, even though the Lil' Bush's character utters his fair share of malapropisms, his most prominent character trait is misplaced self-assuredness, not stupidity. The character believes his own bullshit — there's a perfect moment when he declares his love for tatter tots, pauses slightly and says "decisive."

That's a joke worth being jealous of. More of that, please.
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Global Warming Denying Weatherman

Don't Need a Weatherman
Former local TV weatherman Art Horn storms the state, saying global warming's a myth
By Adam Bulger
Hartford Advocate, July 26, 2007

On Wednesday, July 11, four days after the Live Earth concert and the night that the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report stating the Northeast region was at dire risk of global warming-related disaster, former TV weatherman Art Horn told the 12 people assembled in the community room of Granby's police department that man-made global warming is a myth.

With his rumpled shirt, and TV-friendly delivery, Horn's demeanor matched a junior high school science teacher. It was a very effective presentation. Horn's assertions — mainly that the earth was going through a natural warming period and that the data linking industrial carbon emissions and climate change is incorrect — were presented in colloquial, easily understandable language.

The crowd appeared to watch Horn's slide show intently. They rolled along when Horn mocked global warming advocate groups. They laughed at his jokes, nodding over his insinuations about the pocket-lining motives behind Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth. Gore's company, Generation Investment Management, Horn noted, deals in carbon offsets, directing investor money towards businesses involved with non-carbon emitting energy production.

"Global warming is a business. It's an industry," Horn said near the presentation's end, adding: "If you don't believe in global warming, you're almost like a heretic or a heathen."

An audience member asked if Horn had read Michael Crichton's environmentalist-vilifying novel The State of Fear. Horn hadn't and regretted it. After more questions, Horn turned to the prospect of carbon taxes.

"If global warming is a myth, we'd be taxing ourselves for nothing," Horn said.

Horn has been giving the presentation Global Warming: Fact or Fiction, since last fall, at libraries and other public meeting places throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts and Florida. He conducts the presentation, and other weather-related one-man shows with titles like The Wonders of Weather, through his company the Art of Weather. In addition, he produced the 2006 Emmy-nominated public television documentary Hurricane: Direct Hit.

He started the speaking company in 2004, while he worked at the local NBC affiliate WVIT. A year later, he was informed his services were no longer required by WVIT, and he focused his energy on his independent business. He's been a full-time speaker since, bringing his self-described infotainment presentations to venues ranging from assisted living facilities to cruise ships. He's also provided expert testimony on weather-related court cases; think someone slipping on ice and suing the owner of the property where the slip occurred.

A self-described political moderate, Horn said he first conceived of the global warming presentation to engage with the popular topic of climate change, and he started from the premise that global warming didn't exist.

"There's such confusion in the general public about it because there's been such a drumbeat from the advocates of global warming," Horn said. "It's not a two-sided discussion. All you hear is that global warming is real, that it's man-made and it's going to kill you all."

And while the presentation and information about global warming appears to lean politically to the right — his site links to the right wing Web site World Net Daily and he has given global warming testimony on local conservative radio host Brad Davis' show — Horn maintains the presentation is not political.

"I'm not on a crusade. As part of business and what I do, this is right up my alley. It's something I have some experience with and feel reasonably qualified to talk about," Horn said.
Unlike many TV weathermen who don't have meteorological training, Horn has a Bachelor of Science in meteorology.

"There's no licensing for meteorologists. If you know a little weather speak, almost anyone can call themselves a meteorologist," Horn said.

Put simply, the theory behind global warming is that the rise of man-made carbon dioxide gases in the atmosphere is causing the earth's temperature to rise. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, including water vapor and ozone, warm the planet by absorbing the sun's radiation. Normally, that heat is cooled by the earth's oceans and land masses. The increase in carbon dioxide in the industrial age has offset that balance, causing heat to rise worldwide.
Horn believes the danger presented by man-made carbon emissions has been overstated. In his presentation, Horn notes that carbon dioxide accounts for about three percent of green house gases and water vapor makes up almost all of the rest.

In addition, Horn says, only about three percent of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is man-made. The amount of man-made carbon in the atmosphere, Horn says, composes less than a tenth of the total atmosphere. According to Horn, such a small percentage couldn't possibly have an effect on global climate.

Why have temperatures gone up and why are the icebergs melting, then? Horn ascribes rising temperatures to a natural warming and cooling cycle the earth has always gone through. In his presentation, he shows slides of paintings from the 1400s, when he says a little ice age occurred, and says concerns over warming are silly since he believes the world could be in store for another little ice age.

"The things that control climate are complex. A lot of it has to do with the sun ... and the changes that occur to it," Horn said. "The oceans play a huge role. They go through fluctuations. The Pacific Ocean warms up."

The global warming myth, Horn believes, has been drummed up by a media "that never saw a gloom and doom story they didn't like" so that media-savvy, politically connected businessmen like Al Gore can make money through carbon offset enterprises.

Horn said that he wasn't alone in his beliefs about global warming, citing Web sites such as and

"I'm not alone. There are many world-respected meteorologists that feel the same way," Horn said.

Members of the scientific community who support the existence of man-made global warming say that while many of Horn's assertions about the atmosphere are correct, his conclusions are not.

"Quite often in these arguments that are put forward by what I call science skeptics, they do something called Ignoratio elenchi, or logical fallacies. The first statement is correct, and there is no logical connection to other," said Bill Chameides, the chief scientist at nonprofit environmental advocacy and research group Environmental Defense.

While water vapor is far more present in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, Chameides said Horn misstates the symbiotic relationship between water vapor and other greenhouse gasses.
"We add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and that makes the atmosphere warmer, which causes there to be more water vapor in the atmosphere, which causes it to be warmer still. The fundamental cause of global warming is the rise of carbon dioxide," Chameides said.

The balance of greenhouse gasses is delicate, and even a relatively small increase could nudge temperatures upwards.

Brenda Ekwurzel, a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that Horn's suppositions miss out on critical nuances of climate science.

"He's looking at cold numbers about how much water vapor there is, and how much carbon dioxide there is and drawing very simplified conclusions that sound scientific but are missing a lot of the key points about climate," Ekwurzel said.

Horn's assertion that the earth's temperature fluctuates through hot and cold periods is common and correct, Ekwurzel said, but even with the low periods taken into account, the world's temperature has risen considerably more in the industrial age. Chameides said Horn's conclusions about natural temperature fluctuations are indicative of Horn's general logical missteps.

"The first statement is that the earth goes through warming and cooling cycles. That's true. The next statement is therefore the current warming is due to the same cycles," Chameides said.

"There's no logical connection between the two statements. ... Physics tells us that greenhouse gasses cause global warming."

Ekwurzel or Chameides both discounted Horn's claim that only three percent of carbon emmisions are man-made.

"The claims are common if you haven't been trained in climate science," said Ekwurzel. "He's looking at the composition of the atmosphere and drawing conclusions without understanding all the various properties of water vapor versus carbon dioxide and so on."
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