Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011


Got this press release from Subversive Theatre. Love those guys ...
Marx is back with a special message for the demonstrators of Occupy Buffalo.  Don't miss this rare event as we take political art right to the heart of the new movement!
Saturday, October 29th @ 7pm
in the Media Tent of the Occupy Buffalo Encampment in Downtown Buffalo's Niagara Square

     Join us as we take art right to the heart of the struggle!  Veteran Buffalo actor Keith Elkins once again takes on the role of the Father of Communism himself with an important message for the people of Buffalo.

     KARL MARX IN NIAGARA SQUARE is our lightly adapted version of MARX IN SOHO by recently deceased radical historian Howard Zinn.  This powerful, polemical one-man play suddenly seems more relevant than ever as activist around the Globe step forward to take back our world from the Corporate Elite.
     "Why have I returned?" Marx asks in this impassioned direct-to-the-audience filibuster.  "To clear my name" he bellows defiantly.  Don't miss the powerful words of one of history's most unforgettable revolutonary leaders performed right in the epicenter of the new wave of activism.
     Actor Keith Elkins first performed this role for Subversive Theatre's first-ever production back in 2002 under the title KARL MARX IN ALLENTOWN.  Since then we've presented the piece in Geneseo and in multiple locations throughout Buffalo. We're thrilled to now the opportunity to share this play's urgently-needed words with all our brothers and sisters in the struggle for a better world.
     Our presentation of KARL MARX IN NIAGARA SQUARE is Saturday, October 29th at 7pm in the Media Tent of the Occupy Buffalo Encampment in downtown Buffalo's Niagara Square.  This event is free and open to all.
     We look forward to seeing YOU in Niagara Square this Saturday!  All Power to the People!
     For more information, check out our website at
or give us a call at 716-408-0499.
Where Dissent Takes Center Stage!
* = indicates members of the Subversive Theatre Collective

Happy Halloween

You may notice that the profile photo on the right side of the website (under the twitter feed) is a little greener than usual. There's two reasons for this:

1) It's almost Halloween and I thought a zombie look would be fitting.

2) The profile link now takes you to my profile on Google+.

While the updates on the website might happen every couple/few days ... or weeks as is sometimes the case, I typically post updates on Google+ several times a day. Take advantage of that link to see more frequent thoughts, links, etc.

While I'm on the topic of Google+, I know I've heralded it here before, but you really should check it out if you're the least bit interested in social media. In other words, if you have a Facebook, you should have Google+. If you enjoy Twitter, you can easily enjoy Google+.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

For everything there is a season

I’ve always liked Halloween.

As a kid, Halloween gave me an excuse to eat as many Snickers bars as possible in a very short period of time. I’m almost surprised I made it through the Halloweens of my youth, given the amount of sugar I consumed.

Also as a kid, I always enjoyed the Halloween parade at my school, Military Road Elementary School, which is now just a big abandoned building. Some say it’s haunted. Of course, some say every big abandoned building is haunted. They have overactive imaginations.

As a teenager, it was my love of scary movies that took over. I have no idea why it is people enjoy being scared, but they do. Many of my favorite movies are of the horror variety.

When my kids were younger, I enjoyed Halloween vicariously through them. They got excited about the costumes — and no doubt, the candy. I enjoyed walking around the neighborhood with them and hearing everyone comment on their costumes.

As an adult, my favorite part about Halloween is the costumes. It’s amazing some of the things that some people wear out in public. I’m not sure when Halloween made the transition from “wear something scary” to “wear almost nothing,” but I’m not complaining.

I also enjoy carving pumpkins. I’m not particularly good at it, but I have fun doing it anyway. I’m usually a bit of an overachiever when it comes to jack-o-lantern carving. I have some great pictures throughout the years.

I find it funny that the same holiday has meant so many different things over the years. I guess that’s called growing up.

Another thing that Halloween means these days is that it’s almost election time. This has been a rather hum-drum election year. There are no major statewide races. There are no Congressional races. And despite the fact that there are stories about the race for the White House in the news every single day, that’s not this year either.

I’m looking forward to the end of election season, nonetheless.

Election season is almost a Halloween of its own. Normal people change into something different to bad-mouth perfectly good citizens and make the rest of the world think they’re sinister and scary.
After Halloween (and election season), it’s a mad dash to the end of the year — and Christmas.

Stores used to wait until after Halloween to start putting up Christmas displays. That tradition seems to have been changed. This year, I saw Christmas stuff and Halloween stuff go out at the same time.
I love me some Christmas, but I do wish it would wait until after spooky season.

It’s funny how fast the last two months of the year always go. The calendar gets from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 in what seems like a couple days. But Jan. 1 to March 1, on the other hand, take much, much longer.

For now, I’ll just enjoy the season we’re in — with the candy and the movies and the decorations and the costumes. And the political fliers and the commercials and the lies and the propaganda.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Everything counts in small amounts

The Occupy Wall Street movement continues to intrigue me. And I continue to research it.

Thursday, I went to the Occupy Buffalo protest to talk to some people about the group, their goals, their thoughts, etc. I did very little talking, frankly, but quite a bit of listening. And from what I gathered, I'm still a fan.

I saw a headline on a website the other day talking about the organization's "Anti-capitalist protest." Whoever wrote that headline does not know what the majority of the Occupy movement stands for. They are not anti-capitalist.

Another headline said "Group protests greed." That's considerably more accurate. I didn't hear a single person say that people shouldn't make money. I didn't hear a single person say that people shouldn't be allowed to amass wealth. They did, however, feel that the banking industry had taken advantage of the government when it was bailed out, and by taking advantage of the government, it took advantage of the people. That coupled with the fact that homes are still being foreclosed upon and loans are hard to obtain makes the Occupy folks (or the 99 percenters, if you prefer) to feel as though something needs to be done.

One of the groups greatest selling points is also its biggest weakness. They are an organization without a leader. There's no one "in charge" despite what you might hear on right-wing radio or Fox News. They aren't taking marching orders from Nancy Pelosi or George Soros. In fact, they aren't taking marching orders from anyone.

From what I've seen and heard, they're just as upset with Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama as they are with the Republicans. They feel as though there's very little difference between the two major parties.

Republican front-runner Herman Cain (when did that happen) seems to think that they're anti-GOP and should focus their ire on the White House. Many Democrats, I think, are hopeful that this is a left-wing response to the Tea Party. It's not. And I hope it never is.

It seems to me that the Occupy movement is what the Tea Party never was but should have been. It's a grass roots populist group made up "of the people" - the regular people. The 99 percent of us working paycheck to paycheck. I hope it stays that way.

The Wall Street protest began its second month yesterday. I can't help but wonder how long they plan to stay there and what will happen in the meantime.


Random side note: I wrote a piece about Occupy Wall Street on my personal blog the other day. I linked it to Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Somehow it got shared by someone or someones leading to me getting an email Saturday that I didn't expect from
a  very old friend of mine who I had lost contact with nearly 20 years ago.

You never know what effect your work will have on the world. If a blog post I wrote in Tonawanda could get shared with someone in the middle of Pennsylvania, who knows what your actions might result in.

Everything counts in small amounts.

Friday, October 14, 2011

#OccupyBuffalo was more Occupy and less Buffalo than I expected.

With some free time at hand and an interest in the #Occupy movement, Heather and I went to Niagara Square, just in front of Buffalo's City Hall to see what all the hubub was about.

Not sure what to expect, I was somewhat pleasantly surprised when we got off the NFTA Metro Rail at Lafayette Square and were immediately greeted with a throng of marching protesters headed our way. We weren't sure where they were going or what they were up to, but they were headed away from Niagara Square. We figured they'd circle around and make their way back to the square (which, of course is really a circle), so we headed there. She figured she'd be better off getting shots of them coming back to the square than shots of their backs as they walked away from us.

Arriving at the square, I was surprised to see about a dozen people milling around. Frankly, that's about all the people I expected to see in total, especially given it was about noon on a weekday. This is Buffalo, afterall. We're not exactly known for our protests. But with the 30 or so people we saw marching and the dozen or so left behind, this group had about 50 people in all. Quite impressive, in my opinion.
The folks that were marching had made their way to the Chase offices at Main Place Mall, we learned ... so we headed there to find them protesting in front of the mall, taking turns to speak and chanting. The group had grown slightly in numbers, I assume because onlookers formed a ring outside the protesters.

The speakers each took a few minutes to bemoan Chase's greed and explain what the #Occupy movement meant to them.

One of the criticisms that I've seen about the #Occupy movement is that there is no stated goal. I think that this could be detrimental to the group in the longrun, but this is what a real grassroots movement looks like. In 2009, I thought the Tea Party was a grassroots movement, only to learn that it was nothing of the sort. It was just a bunch of people who hated the Democrats. I was quite disappointed.

One thing that I noticed was that the group was a pretty decent cross section of America. Yes, there were girls in tie-dyed shirts. But there were also guys in suits and ties. This was not a collection of hippies ... or homeless people. They were not all 20. And they weren't union activists. These were people who took some time out of their day to protest corporate greed and the government that allows it.

Many people have said that the #Occupy movement is a Democratic movement. I think that the Republicans would love to tie this to the Democrats ... and the Democrats would love to think that they actually had grassroots support. This does not seem to be the case to me, though. The people I saw and heard in Buffalo spoke out against government as a whole - not one party or the other. They were just as upset with Obama as they were at Boehner. This is what I had hoped the Tea Party would be.
One thing that I found really interesting was that everything the group did, they did by vote. At one point, they voted to go inside Main Place Mall to deliver a letter to Chase. They were denied by security and then voted to go make copies of the letter and deliver them individually.

The guy who was working security, by the way, couldn't have been nicer to the group. He seemed to understand their plight and they seemed to understand his. He was just doing his job.

While walking back from Chase, the group passed by a Bank of America office. There was security standing outside while they passed, talking on his phone. I overheard him say, "Yeah, they just walked right by ... headed to Niagara Square. No, they did not stop." He didn't give me the impression he'd be as pleasant as the guy at Main Place Mall.

I read the results of a survey the other day that said 82 percent of Americans were aware of the #Occupy movement. I'm not sure if that's true or not, but a lot of people stopped and asked what the protest was about. Each protester gave his or her own version, of course, but the main theme was "corporate greed and the government allowing it - to the detriment of the 99 percent."

Saturday, the group is holding a general assembly in front of Buffalo's City Hall at noon. They expect hundreds of people. I'll be there. I'm still not sure if I'll be part of the group ... or an observer again like I was today. I can tell you this, though: Upon "meeting" the Tea Party in 2009, I was immediately turned off. This group did not give me that feeling.

I know I'm not one of the 1 percent, which means I'm certainly one of the 99.

I have more photos online. Check them out there.

Heather took some great photos, by the way. Hopefully she'll get them online soon. She said she'd link to them on her twitter: @hngrimmer

For more on #OccupyBuffalo, click here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

U.S. should surrender the war on drugs

As I edited tonight's police blotters for the Lockport and Medina papers, it occurred to me that about half of the arrests were misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests.

That's a lot of time, effort and money that the police spend dealing with something petty, that they could use to actually investigate, track and solve what I would consider to be "real crimes."

You may have heard that Topeka, Kansas - under a budget crunch - actually decriminalized domestic violence. For a time being (they've since fixed it), it was legal to physically abuse your spouse or domestic partner because Topeka didn't want to deal with misdemeanors any more.

Now, look, I'm all for there being less laws. And if you want to do away with laws, doing away with misdemeanors is probably the way to go ... but the fact of the matter is that in Topeka, the vast majority of the misdemeanors in the court system were DV arrests.

I say if Topeka, Kansas (and every other American city) wants to do away with laws to save money, get rid of the Rockefeller drug laws. Stop arresting 20-something year olds for having a baggie of weed and a pipe.

The U.S. government spends $500 per second on the war on drugs. Every 19 seconds, someone is arrested on a drug possession charge. And 25 percent of people who do any amount of jail time, do it for violating drug laws.

Let's be clear here: I hate drugs. I've seen them ruin people. I've seen credit cards do the same thing, though. And there's no movement to ban them. Nor should there be.

I don't want drugs sold to children. Especially not my children. But if an adult wants to smoke a joint in their basement while they watch That 70s Show, who am I to stop them? And in order to get that joint to their basement, it's going to have to be on them in a car somewhere, most likely.

If I had $1 for every arrest report that involved a guy in a car with a joint getting arrested, I'd have a whole lot of dollars. And, frankly, there's just no point.

There's real crime to deal with - like assholes that beat their wives.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Who are the 1 percent?

I've been thinking a lot lately about this ongoing discussion of the 99 percent vs. the 1 percent.

Who exactly are the 1 percent? And I don't mean what do they represent. I mean WHO are they. I know damn well I'm in the 99 percent. Odds are pretty high - since you're reading this - that you are, too.

I was wondering how many of the 1 percent (the uber-rich) live in Western New York. A dozen? Less? I know some people with some money ... lots of money, in fact. Well, lots of money by *my* standards. But the 1 percent would probably laugh at them in the same manner than anyone from Los Angeles laughs at Buffalonians who complain about traffic problems. Or how Western New Yorkers laugh at the folks down South who cry when they get an inch of snow.

The only WNYers that I can think of who *may* fall into the 1 percent category are Tom Golisano (although he lives in Florida now, doesn't he?) and Terry Pegula (who, I think still lives in Pennsylvania).

And, honestly, would any of you care if their taxes were raised?

So why is it, then that more than 1 percent of the country is opposed to the tax increase on the super-wealthy? Not that I'm saying that the majority should gang up on the minority and take what's theirs. That's democracy gone ugly and I do not condone such behavior.

Why would any member of Congress oppose a tax increase on the 1 percent? I know that some Congresspeople are wealthy ... but are any "1 percent wealthy?" I really don't know the answer to that ... which gets back the title of today's blog post: "Who are the 1 percent?"

There's that great Tumblr showing photos and letters of us 99 percent-ers. It puts faces and stories with the movement. The faces of the downtrodden, if you will. It humanizes the story that the main stream media seems to so badly want not to be humanized. Maybe if we could see the faces and hear the stories of the 1 percent, it would further enrage the masses and make them call out for justice even greater.

I truly believe that the #OccupyWallStreet movement will continue to grow before it shrinks. I think every story told of someone in New York or Chicago or Atlanta being beaten and arrested for carrying signs and singing Kumbaya will only serve to recruit more to the cause.

In the end, it will take political action to right the economic wrongs of this country. And many people have said that the #OWS movement incorrectly attacks the 1 percent when they should be focusing their efforts on Congress. I disagree, however, because Congress doesn't listen to the 99 percent. They listen to dollars, so only the 1 percent can make Congress act. For this reason, I think the pressure is being put in the right place.

If only we knew who the 1 percent were ...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sounds about right ...

epic fail photos - Customer Service FAIL

Is a "Tea Party Occupation" in our future?

I can’t help but feel like Occupy Wall Street, now in its fourth week, is a movement without a cause.
Sure, I’ve seen their list of grievances — and most of what they find objectionable about the current state of our capitalist system, I find objectionable, myself.

They’re upset that the super rich have gotten increasingly more wealthy with the help of government and to the detriment of the working class. They’re upset that the super rich seem to have their own rules and flaunt that fact, despite the fact that it hurts the economy, the environment and our Constitutional rights.

They haven’t, however, come up with a list of demands. That’s somewhat understandable because, while it may be easy to point out what’s wrong, it is more difficult to come up with solutions.

They’ve been labeled as anarchists, slackers and lowlifes. Photos and videos that I’ve seen would indicate that they are overwhelmingly not those things.

What began on Sept. 17 as a protest in Manhattan has spread to a series of international protests about the plight of the working class, an increasing number of which is not working. And of those who are working, an increasing number aren’t making enough to stay afloat.

About two and a half years ago, I went to a Tea Party rally in Buffalo. The Tea Party movement was in its infancy, and I thought I agreed with some of their ideals. They opposed government intervention in their lives and wanted a return to days when government was controlled by the people.

It only took me one Tea Party rally, however, to realize that the Tea Party wasn’t for me. The fact that they invited an elected member of the New York State Senate to speak told me everything I needed to know. The Tea Party movement was just a bunch of disgruntled Republicans who weren’t so much upset at government as they were at Democrats.

I’m no fan of the Democrats, but we need them to keep the Republicans in check, in my opinion. And we need the Republicans to keep the Democrats in check. It’s a vicious cycle.

I can’t help but wonder, though, what would happen if the Tea Party movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement ever got together and realized that there’s a lot they could agree on.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been improperly branded as a leftist organization. First, it’s hardly an organization. Ask any three protesters what they’re fighting for, and you’re likely to get different answers. Second, they’re just as upset with the Democrats and President Obama as they are with the Republicans.

So the Tea Party is upset with government. And the Occupy Wall Street movement is upset with a system that rewards bad behavior. It seems to me that if they got together and found some real worthwhile candidates for office, they might both get their way.

I don’t think either movement is going to go away any time soon. I just hope that they realize that they can accomplish more together than separately. Frankly, we need some change around here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

I'm ready to give (something) up - Are you?

I'm not afraid of giving something up for the greater good.

Life is give and take. Sacrifice and reward. We've all been there, having to choose between going out to eat and paying the electric bill. Hopefully the electric bill won out.

Odds are if you're reading this column, you just can't have everything all the time – or in the words of Jagger, “You can't always get what you want.”

Actually, the sacrifices I'm thinking of today aren't even really things that I want. Maybe you do, which, of course, will make them bigger sacrifices. But for me? No big deal.

The United States Postal Service has thrown around the idea of eliminating Saturday mail delivery. Many people seem to be up in arms about this. For the life of me, I can't figure out why.

In my lifetime, I've had eight different addresses. That's eight different mailboxes in 36 years. I don't know that in all those years and all those mailboxes I've ever gotten real mail on a Saturday.

It seems impossible that no one ever sends a bill or a letter or anything of any importance on whatever day it would need to be sent to reach my address on Saturday, but I don't think it's ever happened.

This past Saturday, for instance, I got two bulk mail things with coupons and whatnot. I think that's exactly what I got last Saturday. In fact, I think that's what I've gotten every Saturday for the past year and a half that I've lived in Tonawanda.

I recall thinking this to myself a few years ago – the last time the postal service discussed eliminating Saturday delivery. I think all I was getting then was junk mail, too.

Frankly, even if I were getting “real mail” on Saturday, I can't think of an occasion where I couldn't have possibly waited two days to get that mail. Can you think of a time when you've gotten emergency Saturday mail that you had to respond to or react to immediately?

As far as I'm concerned, they can do away with Saturday. Maybe another day, too. In fact, if the USPS mail delivery was Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I think that would be just fine.

We only have garbage pickup once a week. Somehow we manage.

My second sacrifice is also small. In fact, it's mere pennies. Literally. Let's get rid of pennies. They cost more to produce than they're worth. They clog up my changeholder in my car and they're kind of a pain to deal with.

I say in cash transactions, we just round everything to the nearest nickel and call it a day.

Sure, we might “lose” a couple cents on some transactions here and there, but what were you going to do with those pennies anyway?

So we give up Saturday mail and pennies. And the richest one percent give up a little extra in taxes. We all feel the pinch and the world keeps spinning.

What do you think?

Monday, October 03, 2011

60 seconds.

I used to be amazed at what I could accomplish during a 60-second commercial at WLVL. Here's an infographic that shows some things that happen on the web in just one minute.