Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Grand Juries with Guns to Their Heads

You know when Al Sharpton is invited by the president of the United States to offer his ideas on how police should conduct themselves on how to do their jobs in high crime areas,  we are in trouble. For a president so concerned with optics, after frequent, insensitive mishaps, this is disturbing.

Sharpton, the polarizing race baiter and  tax evader has no place in the White House. The outhouse would be more appropriate. He has done nothing to bring harmony to the great racial divide that now exists in our country. In fact, he has helped create it. From planting the seeds of hate in the nascent stage of his then medallion wearing career in the Tawana Brawley case to the present situation in Ferguson, MO. Closer to his New York City home he is fanning the flames in the tense situation awaiting the grand jury decision whether or not to indict a police officer  in the strangle hold death of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who was arrested for selling illegal cigarettes.

Of course, Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner would both be alive today, if they had heeded police requests to cease and desist. Both were caught in the commissions of a crime. Should the police have just let them go as some liberal pundits have posited? Should we allow certain citizens because of the color of their skin get away with crimes to avoid the rage and destruction we witnessed in  the aftermath of the grand jury decision in Ferguson?

While the president is trying to assuage the marauding gangs of rioters but little has been done to help the business owners who lost their livelihood in the looting and rampaging. Most of these businesses were minority-owned. These are the citizens who should be held up as role models for African-American youth to emulate; not the “scumbags,” former basketball star Charles Barkley’s words. Perhaps the most egregious offense in the rioting was the burning down of the African-American church attended by Michael Brown’s father. What possible reason  could there be for this? And if you can believe it the pastor of the church blamed white supremacists for the torching! This demonstrates the level of delusion and anarchy in the African-American community.

In an ironic twist, Mayor Ras Baraka of Newark, NJ, has  requested additional police officers to respond to the  Thanksgiving weekend of violence where there were 11 shootings and 3 fatalities and multiple injuries. Mayor Baraka should be lauded for this action. While the police aren’t  perfect by and large they are our only hope to keep us safe – all of us.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

To The Victors Belong the Vanguished Excuses


Now that the dust has cleared from last Tuesday’s Republican victory at the polls we are sure of only one thing: more dust is on the way. The spin coming out of the Liberal media that the blowout doesn’t necessarily mean the last two years of the Obama administration cannot still be productive is akin to what our youth soccer and little leagues have evolved to. Nobody loses and we are better for the experience of being in the game.

When one political side loses these days, it’s not a repudiation of their philosophy, it’s a communication problem. Their message wasn’t  enunciated properly. In fact, in this past election it was overly enunciated by the deafening silence on the administration’s six-year record .  Almost every Democrat candidate running would rather have been seen with Jack the Ripper than President Obama.

An editorial in the Chinese newspaper, Global Times, put it in stark terms: “He (Obama) has done an insipid job, offering nearly nothing to his supporters. U.S. society has grown tired of his banality.” Ouch.

Mr. Obama used to be fond of saying that elections have consequences. But that only applies to Democrat victories. The arrogance and threats that he will act unilaterally on issues he feels important harkens back to the Nixonian era.  But this virulent strain is more monarchical, even tyrannical.

Perhaps the president’s  most troubling statement  is that he is also thinking about the two-thirds of the electorate that sat out last Tuesday. He seems more beholden to this apathetic  constituency than the folks who exercised their voices so their government could hear them.

When the next stalemate materializes, look for the president to blame his ubiquitous foil, the obstructionist Republicans. This was already evident at the White House luncheon the president hosted for the leaders of both parties, who looked like they’d rather be in a dentist’s chair getting a root canal. Unless consensus can be found in the next two years to get the country moving again we might all opt for the root canal.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Nectar of My Grandfather and the Gods


When October comes around with its welcomed chill and variegated pallet, I delve into my most cherished  family tradition – making wine. If you are of Italian extraction as I am you don’t have to delve too deeply into the past  to find a forebear who made wine. For me it was my grandfather.

This is my 37th year of wine making and each and every year has brought a  unique satisfaction. My friend and I whom I started making wine with  all those years ago now make it separately but still exchange notes and bottles throughout the year. And yes, lament the fact  of the ever increasing price of  California grapes. When we started, the price for a 42-lb case was $12; today for a 36-lb. case  the price is $40. Together, there were times  we made 100 gallons; now, we each make separately about 25.

Throughout the years we have accumulated  a wealth of  experience and  a more discerning palate. We have tinkered  and tweaked our recipes to produce  a most enjoyable wine every year. And it’s absolutely all pure, fermented grape juice, no additives. As a result it has a short life span: from December to May. It peaks in March but by that time more than half of the stash of bottles has  been dispensed as welcomed  Christmas  or birthday gifts to friends and family.

When I see  someone take that first sip of the new wine and exclaim how wonderful it is, it makes the painstaking  job of making it all worthwhile. But it also reminds me of my grandfather in his wine cellar. Myself and my  two older cousins would look on while pilfering small bunches of grapes to eat.  We’d watch him turn the crank of his grape crusher until he was finished  with the first step in the process. He’d clean his equipment and we’d help; then he would pour us kids a small glass from the vintage of the year before. It sure didn’t taste like the wine I make now. It had a much rougher edge to it. It wasn’t as smooth  or had  hints of cherry or blackberry notes like the Cabernet Sauvignon  I’ve made in the past and am making this year. No his  was a heartier fare to enjoy after a hard day’s work, contributing to the building of  this great country.

I’m sorry I never had the opportunity to clink glasses of my wine with my grandfather, he would have been very proud  that I had kept up the tradition as I am of him for handing it down to me. Salud, grandpa.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A.C., R.I.P.


In 1974 a referendum on legalized gambling failed to pass in New Jersey. Two years later it did. And the power brokers who were pushing for it then  would  have made sure it was on the ballot until it did pass. It was important, it was said, to add to the state’s coffers and  support new state initiatives and  education. Ah, education – the black hole of American politics. Thirty–eight years later, politicians  are still carping about the need for more funds for education.

The salty air was full of  promise of revitalizing Atlantic City. All those mom and pop businesses: shops, cafes and restaurants  that had been relegated to the dust heap of urban decay  would once again enjoy  a booming patronage. Never happened. Once  a casino was built it became an all-encompassing entity. All your needs could be obtained therein with a plethora of dining  options in the hotels themselves. Why would you want  your clientele  leaving  your premises for any reason while they still had two rubles left  in their pockets to lose. If anything,  gambling in Atlantic City spawned pawn shops and prostitution. And catered to the addictions of thrill seekers. And its fabled  Steel Pier, a family attraction for generations, was  dismembered. Why would you want kids distracting  from their parents' time on  the casino floor. Better to let the whippersnappers stay at home while mom and dad  thinned out their college funds.

Big players were offered comped rooms. How many times did I hear friends and acquaintances  boast of “being comped,” as if it was some endearing invitation from their friends at Caesars or Trump’s or Harrah’s or Resorts the first casino to open in 1978. “Being comped ,” to these slubs, carried James Bondian status but even Moneypenny would have seen through the subterfuge.

Then there were the senior bus rides from all over New Jersey, enticing senior citizens to enjoy  an exciting day away  from the doldrums of old age. With an added bonus of getting $25 in quarters  for the slots  and, in some cases,  a complementary free lunch. Coming up with activities where our seniors could blow their Social Security checks – now that’s community-minded altruism.

The final straw in the demise of paradise by the sea was a host  of casinos going down for the third time, drowning in an ocean of red ink,  especially the  two-year-old Revel, a  casino built  costing $2.4 billion. It  was  just sold  to  Florida's Polo North Country Club for $90 million and will be reborn, so a spokesman says, as a “mega casino,” pending court approval. The new owners  must still believe the adage that a fool and his money go separate ways. Or, as P.T. Barnum  once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Substitution, Please


Another American journalist has reportedly been beheaded by another blood thirsty, ISIS jihadi. Early reports indicate it may be the same man who beheaded James Foley. I am curious as to how the Obama administration will spin and vacillate over this latest horror. We know how the president handled the last execution – a tepid speech followed by a round of golf. With nary a wince for  Mr.Foley’s parents.

These last few months have seemed to unravel any notion that we are safe and secure in America. The  southern border continues to spurt strangers with little or no documentation. Then there’s the thousands of Central American children who trekked north, many all alone. Some with diseases and other problems saddling border towns with  economic  hardship. In such a scenario are we being alarmist thinking that the very people who are murdering in the name of religion have found their way here as easily as unaccompanied children.

The international picture continues to be bleak. China and Russia continue their expansionist policies. Remember when both the Soviet Union and China accused the United States of being an imperial power? And there were plenty of voices  in this country who agreed with that assessment. That liberal argument  has collapsed under the weight of its own incredulity.

At least in those days, though, we had a cohesive foreign policy, presided over  by an engaged chief executive. Now our foreign policy seems to be formulated  on the fly by a host of incompetent advisors . Sometimes not. The president announced last week he has no strategy as of yet to deal with ISIS. Pronouncements like these should scare the hell out of all Americans. Just as the horrific images being splashed across social media of Steven Sotloff being murdered.

Mr.President  do something to assuage the grief of Mr. Sotloff’s  family. Do something to help the innocent people being herded into dead marches and  mass graves. If you’re not up to it; or have checked out like so many of your critics have said, then step down. Our constitution allows for the transfer of power when a president is incapacitated. For whatever reason we seem to have breached this territory. You’d have so much more free time for fund raising and socializing with your elitist friends. And, for golf of course.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Farewell to Arms, Not Likely

The conflict in Gaza seems to be following the usual paradigm. Charges and counter–charges by the principals. Civilians being murdered, armaments stored in hospitals and schools. Who can say with certainty what is true and what is not. As the ancient Greek Aeschylus said, “In war, truth is the first casualty.”

 Another fragile cease fire seems to be holding for the time being. How long will it last? A few days; a few weeks; a few months? All that  can  be said with  certainty is -- it will not last.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a quandary for the ages. Indeed, the whole of the Middle East is a  Rubik’s cube of misery ever since the British and French divided the spoils of the Ottoman Empire into colonial fiefdoms they figured to exploit to enrich the home front with the mother’s milk of industrialization: oil. It was to their advantage to have friendly, and, in some cases, ruthless  autocracies in place to maintain the status quo. But with the Arab spring and its aftermath we are seeing an unraveling of  the region.   The one constant has been the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the latest chapter, the pendulum of support seems to be favoring the Palestinian side. Because of the disproportionate amount of fatalities , world opinion is shifting toward Israel’s enemies for the first time. In Europe and the US, demonstrations against Israel are becoming  more frequent and vociferous. There is palpable  support for the Palestinians and it continues to grow.  

Unfortunately, only more misery lies ahead for them. Their country is non-contiguous, governed(and I use that term loosely) by two ruling factions which  cannot unite in any meaningful way.  Hamas in Gaza has remained strident  in its goal to destroy Israel. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, more moderate than Hamas but just as intransigent, can only lament the proliferation of more Jewish settlements on their land.

What’s next. Another tenuous truce. More non-productive peace talks; then, if Israel decides  not to re-occupy Gaza, more Hamas rockets will rain down on the Israelis. And they will respond more forcefully again.

General MacArthur had it right when he said,  “War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.” In this war the  object is  more indecision, not victory.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Is Romney Running?

As we approach the upcoming mid-term elections in November, the most interesting development is the sight of Mitch Romney stumping for  Republican candidates. After his defeat in 2012, he affirmed his attention not to run for president again. But the thought that he might give it another try  is intriguing.

 Perhaps this notion is fueled by my reading of Patrick Buchanan’s, “The Greatest Comeback.” It’s the story of Richard Nixon’s improbable election in 1968, after being humiliated in the 1962 California gubernatorial race, and after being narrowly defeated by John Kennedy, just two years earlier. Incidentally, Nixon's biggest challenger for the GOP nomination in 1968 was Mitt's father, Gov. George Romney of Michigan.

Romney must see the weak field in both the Democratic and Republican camps. The two early front runners: Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie are attenuating as each day goes by. Secretary Clinton is practicing self-immolation. Her tepid memoir, “Hard Choices,” is a complete flop. No substance whatsoever and her record  at the State department hardly stellar. And her penurious pronouncements while she rakes in $250,000 per speech beyond ridiculous. Christie on the other hand, is trying to distance himself from former best bud, Barack Obama, criticizing the president for his handling of the influx of immigrants pouring over our southern border. But Texas governor, Rick Perry, also a possible candidate in 2016,  has this issue in his backyard and back pocket.

In addition, Christie has alienated many Republicans by his lack of support for Rob
Astorino, the Westchester County Executive who is challenging New  York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in November. He has termed Astorino’s quest  a “lost cause.” This pronouncement might very well be the biggest Christie blunder to date. The whole Bridgegate affair notwithstanding.

Cuomo is now under fire for  his lack of support for the Moreland Commission. A commission he set up to root out corruption in his state’s political system after a host of elected officials were implicated in unsavory practices. This could very well damage Cuomo in the coming months. Enough to catapult Astorino?  Who knows? But it certainly changes the game. It will be interesting to see if Romney offers his support to Cuomo’s challenger.

There has been much said about the mistakes Romney made in the last presidential election. His message may be resonating with the nation now and he has certainly proven his ability to adapt to changing scenarios.  But make no mistake it would be an uphill battle of Nixonian proportions.