Sunday, September 2, 2012

Scandal-Plagued Grimm Takes Awkward Photos at Republican National Convention

Staten Island congressman Mike Grimm will probably be reelected in November regardless of the ex-fundraiser being arrested, the grand jury probe of potentially illegal contributions, the skinny-dipping incident. There's probably more, we can't seem to recall off the top of our collective dome pieces.

Anyhow, Mike Grimm is sure to be reelected because he is what Staten Islanders want: a million dollar smile and an unbending, irrational hatred of President Obama. This recent radio report has him treated like royalty (What scandal?)

So brushing off all the bad news, Grimm headed down to the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week and tried to make nice with all the big wigs. In such a politically tenuous situation, this could cause for some awkwardness, but Grimm brushes it off with ease.

He took some pictures. Here they are:

Friday, April 1, 2011

On closing the Dump

"Roll up your windows"

That's what we'd say when we drove by: "roll up your windows." Whether I was with my mother or brothers, or sister, driving on the highway that cut through those huge mountains of filth, we'd all say "roll up your windows" to each other. But it didn't matter. It got in anyway.

The smell. It got in the car. That awful, putrid smell.

I was about 8 or 9 when I moved to Staten Island. I don't remember much about my life, especially the early years, but I will never forget that smell. It got in. Through the vents. Through the doors. It stuck to you. To your hair. To your clothes. It came in waves - sometimes you'd think it was gone, but it came back, stronger, overwhelming.

(I once dated a girl who lived near the thing and the waves that came were awful. It infected everything. It came from everywhere. Like a mold growing in every corner of the house it was ubiquitous and inescapable.)

But we rolled the windows up anyway, on our wood-paneled station wagon, and continued to travel to school, or to Brooklyn, or wherever it was we were going - as fast as we could - and, sometimes, wondered why we came out here, moved out here to (what seemed like) the end of the universe. It was the '80s and there wasn't much down there except long-haired freaks, and we certainly didn't look like them, or fit in there, but we soldiered on. And we kept driving. With the windows rolled all the way up.

And those mountains on either side. Those pulsating hills of refuse. They were alive.

Sure, now it looks like a postcard. But back then, those hills - man, they were alive. Birds, so many birds: swooping down like B-52 bombers, feasting on five boroughs worth of leftovers. A generation of dirty diapers. Carcasses and all. So many birds - seagulls, I guess - just swooped down and ate it up, shatting all over the place as they swept.

There were trucks too. All over the place. Bulldozers, I think they are called. Pushing and piling the mounds of garbage while the birds were feasting. They flew in circles as the trucks plowed, and shat on the windshields and all over everywhere as they swooped.

Fences lined the outskirts of the landfill and plastic bags, random ephemera, just meandered, trying to escape, and smacked up against it and stayed there.

Now they call it a park. They say it is capped. They say it sinking. They say it's not sinking. The politicians sat up on those hills and issued platitudes, and patted themselves on the back, and they called it a park, and said it's not sinking.

They probably got kick backs, money, favors, whatnot. The government contract to cap the entire landfill was probably a few million dollars and I'm sure some of it made it their way. Lining their pockets as the local boys lined the dump with their "impenetrable seal." Everybody gets a piece of the action, the grease the makes the machine run.

But, now they call it a park and they'd like to change the name. They call it a stain. An unfortunate blight on this otherwise pristine place, this place that should never have been sullied with so much for so long. And they say that the stain is removed and it is gone, and we should change the name and move along, and forget it.

But it's there. You can see it. It's hiding. Right there under the cap. Under the "impenetrable seal." It's still there.

And it's still alive, man. So alive. Pumping out methane gas. Years and years worth of dead, rotting, filth. It's pulsating. Tons of it. Right there. Big gigantic heaps, suffocating, trying to breathe underneath that cap.

We can call it something else. We can change the name. We can put a big cover on it. Pretend it doesn't exist. But it's still there. It'll always be there.

As long as we live, work, play in this sacred place it will haunt us like a vision from the past, or loom over us like an impending storm. Or, it will just hide there. Lie dormant. Under the cap. An ever present reminder that we need to "roll up the windows" - fast. We have to stop it from getting in.

Even if we can't. We'll still try.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Boomerang Situation

Well, here we go. The following is a fascinating performance by Staten Island's own Mike 'The Situation' Sorrentino. The former West Brighton(!?) resident and star of The Jersey Shore was invited, for some odd reason, to appear on TV last night and roast Donald Trump along with other professional personalities and comedians.

It didn't go so well.

The general consensus following the 'performance' by The Situation was that he bombed, not just bombed but tragically bombed. He was, in fact, booed, heckled and almost cut short of his poorly-delivered spiel. Head roaster Jeff Ross even parachutes in to save him at the end. Too little, too late though.

One important note - about the entire show - is that the 'actor' was chided by almost every member of the roast squad before he came on (a regular roast occurrence) so a return of fire was in order. But Mike's aim was not just misguided, it actually boomeranged back to himself.

The following video will probably be removed because, well, it's illegal. But, that's YouTube's problem. Enjoy while it lasts:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Painful look back at Willowbrook

Last year, the federal government made the unprecedented step of apologizing for the infamous medical study where US government researchers were instructed to "deliberately infect prison inmates in Guatemala with syphilis."

In a joint statement from last October, Secretary Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius acknowledged and expressed deep regret for the horrific experiments.
"Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices."
But more information and an additional mea culpa may be forthcoming as the federal government just yesterday announced the formation of an "International Research Panel to consider the standards for protecting human subjects in scientific studies."

The request to form this commission allegedly came directly from President Obama himself in the wake of the recent revelations of Guatemala. The primary goal of the commission will be to assess current standards and rules involving the research of human subjects.

But also, the commission will include a "fact-finding investigation into the 1946-48 research" which includes the disturbing experiments done at the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island.

An Associated Press look at old medical journals uncovered the following:
At nearby Staten Island, from 1963 to 1966, a controversial medical study was conducted at the Willowbrook State School for children with mental retardation. The children were intentionally given hepatitis orally and by injection to see if they could then be cured with gamma globulin.
As the AP story mentions, some of these studies were covered by the media, but only with the mention of finding new cures. Some clarification of the facts and an apology for Willowbrook may soon be coming from the US government.

A few words for the teachers of PS 57

There's a state budget squeeze in capitals all across the country. Everyone and everything is a potential candidate for the fiscal chopping block. Places like New Jersey and Wisconsin have riots literally breaking out over drastic cuts to the salary, benefits, and - in some cases - the very existence of public employee unions as governor's try to close bulging budgetary gaps.

Here in New York, a recent Times piece details the "worst-case" scenario for teacher layoffs in city schools. In reality, the plan to cut 6 percent - or 4,675 - teachers from the city payroll is a dramatic overstatement. As these things usually go, the city will fire much less educators than predicted, and everyone comes out looking like a hero.

But it's sad still, that some people will lose their jobs - these very stressful, poorly paid jobs.

According to the Times at least two NYC schools are immune from the impending budget bludgeon. One happens to be Public School 57, right across from the parking lot of Home Depot, off Targee Street, in the Park Hill section of Staten Island.

From the Times:
About 320 schools would see no layoffs, because they have not hired new teachers recently. Some schools, like Public School 130 in Bayside, Queens, and P.S. 57 in the Park Hill neighborhood of Staten Island, have employed the same teachers for many years.
Who works in this neglected school, in a desperately neglected neighborhood, with mostly impoverished children? And, in addition, who works in this school for "many years"? (A school that has a rating of 2 out of 10 on Who works there?

Here's what one parent said about the school a few years back on the web:
From what I've witnessed so far, the new principal has been doing a great job. However, the school's test scores speak for themselves. Also, I was quite disappointed to see my daughter come home yesterday with a book from 1964(!)...
Whoever works at this place is doing God's work. Congratulations on keeping your job. We're glad your not getting fired. And we're sorry. Sorry that we have not given you the attention, funding, and support you need/desire/deserve/have earned.

Sorry your school is crumbling. Sorry the guy on Forest Avenue gets all the attention. Sorry we haven't helped. (We don't live that far away. We have a few free hours in the afternoon, I'm sure we could come over, maybe after school, sweep up the lunchroom, play basketball with the kids... something.) The children needs us. The children need you. This is unacceptable. You've been shouldering the burden - a burden no one person should be expected to shoulder - with the lack of resources, and the budget cuts, and the threats of termination.

This doesn't help, though. These words. Just empty promises. Words on a screen. One day, maybe, we hope that we can really do something to make a difference. Until then, we wish you luck and strength.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mike Grimm attacks Planned Parenthood

Congressman Mike Grimm joined the GOP's crusade to help balance the federal budget by bulldozing social programs for poverty-stricken Americans (and other random people who just happen to not vote for them).

After an extension of the Bush Tax Cuts by the Obama Administration last year, Republicans have been trying to trim federal spending in conveniently Democratic and liberal sanctuaries.

This time, Grimm teamed up with pro-lifer Mike Pence to vote on an amendment to cut off every single federal dollar to Planned Parenthood and deny much-needed health care and family planning to thousands of women all across the country.

The Pence amendment, which has little chance of actually passing, would deny a myriad of services such as HIV and cancer screenings to women, specifically in poor communities. Manhattan Congressman Jerry Nadler has even deemed the legislation unconstitutional, telling Politico that it targets and punishes a specific group.

"If Planned Parenthood or anyone else is doing terrible things and ought to be punished, that’s up to the courts,” Nadler said.

But, unfortunately for Andrew Breitbart, Planned Parenthood doesn't do anything illegal. The organization promotes health and sexual wellness to women through counseling and treatment - "90 percent" of which is preventive and primary care, not abortion.

Still, Grimm is taking a cavalier stance on this controversial issue.

"I understand the argument," Grimm told NY1. "However, I think that the people of the United States feel very, very strongly that none of their money, no federal funding, should go for abortions or for counseling for abortions. And that's really the heart of the issue."

First off, that's probably not true. Secondly, the only American people you represent live out on Staten Island. You've been in office for two months and you're making decisions on behalf of the entire country for an issue like abortion. Slow your roll, Mr. Grimm.

In addition, Staten Island is not rabidly conservative on social issues. Abortion barely came up in the campaign, if at all. And it's not clear if Grimm is taking this stance on moral or fiscal grounds. So it's likely there will be some backlash against the congressman for his Pyrrhic, symbolic gesture. (A similar move to defund NPR failed last year.)

Even if the doomed legislation was enacted, the rescued federal funds would be paltry in comparison. Planned Parenthood estimated that it received about $79 million last year in the legislative funding (called Title X) which goes to groups that provide abortion.

The war in Iraq cost $3 trillion; tax cuts for rich people $81.5 billion over two years; 13.9 million people are unemployed and Congress devoted a three-hour debate to defunding a successful program and imposing their moral certitude on poor people.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Method Man talks 'Where I'm From'

Hey, check out this French(?) video of Clifford Smith, also known as Wu-Tang's Method Man, talking about growing up on Benzinger off Jersey Street on Staten Island. Among other things, Meth talks about meeting members of the legendary Wu crew in the 8th grade after moving here from Long Island.

Good video. Great subtitles. Makes us wish we paid more attention in high school French class: "Je me rappelle que RZA etait la..."

Worst parents ever talk to Joy Behar

What happens when you pretend to abandon your 6-year-old daughter at the 120 Precinct in St. George? You go on the 'Joy Behar Show.'

Below is the mind-boggling video of Annette Gerhardt and Gerardo Santiago, the dipshit parents who had the brilliant idea of using the busiest police station on Staten Island as a method acting studio. The subplot was to terrify their child Enayla until she learned to behave in school.

The West Brighton couple claims they were just pretending to ditch their kid, and were hoping the cops would have nothing better to do and join their dysfunctional family improv sketch. Apparently the police were a little busy. They called The Administration for Children's Service instead.

Oh, and by the way, the Advance points out that the duo was arrested in 2010 when police found a half-pound of marijuana in their Sunnyside apartment. The charges were expected to be dismissed in June, provided the two "stay out of trouble." Good luck.

Notice in the interview with Behar that the mother claims she got this ingenious plan from a friend who did the same thing to her 4-year-old at the 123 Precinct on the South Shore - and it worked. Lady, have you ever been to Tottenville? People would do improv with farm animals.

Santiago also tells Behar that a number of talent agents are interested in working with their child as an actor. So maybe there's a screenplay at the end of all this: 'Honey, I Dumped the Kid (at the 120).'

Friday, February 25, 2011

OMG: Albany's Brangelina

You guys hear about the latest pseudo-celebrity romance news from Albany? It's the most exciting Staten Island political gossip since Vito Fossella left his family to spend more time with his other family.

It turns out that State Senator Diane Savino is totally hooking up with State Senator Jeff Klein. The story was so juicy that the New York Post called the pair 'Albany's Brangelina.' Get it, because... actually no it doesn't make any sense at all. (In the same piece the Post also called them Klavino, which is even worse because it sounds like a venereal disease.)

Anyway, once the beans were spilled all over the Page 6 gossip column Savino finally fessed up to the Advance.

"He's a nice, white, Jewish lawyer senator. It's hard to beat that combination."

OOOOH! You go girlfriend!

In legislative news, after being crowned 'Albany's Brangelina' New York State lawmakers quickly passed a resolution allowing the lovebirds to adopt 15 orphaned children from Utica and Buffalo.

Budos Band MF Doom mash-up

Look what we found on the internets! Have you ever heard the Wale song that samples "Chicago Falcon" from the Budos? Well, if not, you should be ashamed of yourself. But even better, maybe, is a similar loop set to the lyrics of the infamous rhyme-slinger and metal mask wearer, MF Doom. It doesn't quite have the same break beat of Wale's track - and is pretty bare bones mash-up - but it syncs up pretty well and it's effin' DOOM, man. It's worth a listen. In fact, we fully endorse this. Enjoy: