Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Democrats Win NY's 26th. Does Gingrich Have it Right?

Imagine a Red Sox fan walking into a Bronx bar on game night and walking out an hour later having convinced the Yankees fans inside to root for the Sox. Pretty unthinkable, right? Well that's essentially what happened yesterday in New York's 26th Congressional District where the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, defeated her Republican opponent, Jane Corwin, in a special election in one of the state's most conservative bastions.

To give some perspective, the district, which spans from Rochester to Buffalo, has 27,000 more Republicans than Democrats, voted for John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008, and has had just three Democrats represent it in the last 150 years. The 26th is about as red as they come. In last Fall's midterm elections, the GOP incumbent, Chris Lee, won the district with 76% of the vote. The only problem for Lee was that a few months later he was caught in a cheesy shirtless pose on Craigslist trolling for babes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo then called for the special election to fill the randy Republican's seat.

Jump ahead to April when Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, released his controversial proposal to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a voucher system. While virtually all Republicans voted for it, most Americans are against the plan. So what Hochul shrewdly did up in Western New York was scare the bajeesus out of voters with: 'My opponent and her party will take away granny's Medicare and put her on the street with a tin cup.' And it worked, big time.

If Democrats were smart (I'm not so sure sometimes), they'd co-opt Hochul's strategy and aggressively run with it nationally all the way to November 2012. This is the absolute perfect bumper-sticker issue for them, and with it they could win many critical seats. The truth is, Americans dislike crafty politicians messin' with their large entitlement programs. And it ain't just granny and grandpappy that's pissed off. Voters, whether they're 20, 30 or 50, likely have several people in their families benefiting from Social Security and Medicare. What Ryan's plan did therefore was to commit political suicide for the Republican Party ( you hear that sound? It's Ryan being pushed under the bus this morning by his conservative colleagues....)

So was Newt Gingrich right to come out strong two weekends ago on NBC's Meet the Press where he criticized Ryan's plan as "Right wing social engineering?" Well, the proof is in the puddin.' The Democrats' astounding victory Tuesday should not just give great pause to House Speaker John Boehner (OH), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) and every other Republican (incumbent or hopeful), but should be an indication to Gingrich that maybe, just maybe, he's on the right side of a hot populist movement. My opinion? I'd say it's time to pull out that fork that so many stuck in him these past two weeks. It would be very foolish to count Newt out just yet. While he may have pissed off every Republican politician in Washington, his position seems to resonate among the majority of Republican voters. Call me crazy, but that's what matters on election day.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Some Tough Love for Dog Owners

Let me first say that I am the proud owner of the most adorable German Shepard/Rottweiler mix. Priscilla's 10-years-old (or the cutest 70-year-old, depending on your choice of math) and sweet as pie. Two years ago I had to put down my Yellow Lab Elvis Pawsley (yes, I guess that makes me Colonel Tom). I've had dogs my whole life, including Ralph and Barney. I'm a dog lover. What I don't love is most dog owners. Living in a big, densely populated city like New York requires a certain level of consideration for others, yet it is dog owners who are some of the biggest violators.

Dog owners are just like parents of small children. In fact to them, their dog is their child. Instead of playgrounds they go to dog parks and stand around with other dog owners and talk about their "kids" the same as parents do. They ask meaningless questions like "What's her name?" How old is she!? "Did ya get him from a breeder?," as if they really care. I mean, do they really care if Buster is 6 and hails from Beacon, NY? And they believe that we think everything their dog does is utterly fascinating, just as parents think everything their kid does is mind-numbingly interesting. "Hey, wasn't that awesome how my kid just punched your kid in the face!?" Um, not really....

But I really don't mind any of that behavior, no matter how odd it may be. What I do mind is when, outside of a dog run, owners act as if their dog can do anything it wants, anywhere it wants, and we're still supposed to think it's phenomenal. So to enlighten you dog owners who remain clueless as to how to behave amidst your fellow New Yorkers, here's a few tips:

1. Please don't let Oscar piss on the sidewalk three feet from my table at an outdoor cafe. I know your pooch's urine has an incredibly artistic yellowishness to it, and the muscle definition when he lifts his leg is Shwarzenegger-like, but I'm eating my freakin' lunch and don't want to see it. Any of it. Same goes for pooping. News flash: merely picking up your dog's crap doesn't mean you haven't left behind a nice little sidewalk souvenir for the rest of us. Walk past the cafe next time and then let your dog relieve himself.

2. Please curb your dog, or at least walk on the edge of the sidewalk closest to the street. It never ceases to amaze me how people walk down the middle of the sidewalk with their dog and then it urinates or poops right there as people almost step in it. The city's streets are filthy enough. We don't want animal waste on the bottom of our or our kids' shoes, on the wheels of our kids' strollers, shopping carts and bikes.

3. Please keep your dog on a leash. We all know you're the Dog Whisperer and deserve major props for training your dog to wander down Broadway untethered, but there's lots of little kids who are terrified of dogs. And besides, it's against the law.

4. Please be mindful of where your dog is going when you use one of those 20-foot extension leashes. I almost tripped and cracked my skull the other day when your little buddy's leash got wrapped around my legs when he was doing his sidewalk gymnastics.

5. I don't mind you bringing your dog to sit with you at any outdoor cafe. But, if he's gonna yap and scream like a toddler, then please leave. If I wanted to eat my pancakes while dogs bark their heads off I'd go to a kennel. News flash: your dog's not cute when he yelps non-stop. He's annoying.

6. I am not amused when your horny Dominique Strauss-Kahn of a beast mounts and humps my Priscilla. When you see that look on my dog's face like "This ain't consensual," that would be a great time to yank him off her.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Daniels Out. Time for Scarborough?

Back in September 2009 I wrote a piece on why MSNBC's Joe Scarborough would be a viable threat to President Obama in the 2012 election:

"Scarborough's been smartly playing the moderate card lately, which is not what we can say for some of the other 2012 "front-runners" like Palin, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee. These guys are so fringe in their ideology that they could never appeal to the all-important middle."

Those words ring even truer today as the pack of Republican hopefuls still primarily comprises either the most radical group of Tea Baggin' loons like Gingrich, Palin, and Michelle Bachmann or snoozers like Tim Pawlenty. Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump and Mitch Daniels are out of the race, leaving the supposed front-runner status to Mitt Romney. But he has several major obstacles to overcome, including his Mormon faith, his own ObamaCare-like program while Massachusetts governor, and the fact that he's already lost once before. And while the GOP is desperate to have "attractive" candidates like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsmann Jr. run, the ground clearly remains quite fertile for an outsider like Scarborough to toss his fleece into the ring.

The word on the street is that Huntsmann's the GOP's best bet. Also a Mormon, he was appointed by Obama and served as U.S. Ambassador to China from 2009 to April of this year. He's a fiscal conservative who backed Obama's economic stimulus, and has moderate views on civil unions, immigration and the environment. But the mountain he has to climb is quite steep. He has zero name recognition, lacks major charisma, worked for Obama and is seen by many in the party as too "liberal." As the Conservative Daily News wrote, "What did Jon Huntsman, Jr. forget, you ask? Simple, he forgot conservatism. Huntsman has mastered the art of pandering to his inner liberal. He maintains a sterling record in fiscal matters but has a nasty habit of straying from conservative principles."

This tepid support from the right to the current GOP pack should convince Scarborough that the party faithful is waiting for a skilled politician with personality and name-recognition to enter the race. Someone who is centrist enough to attract independents without offending the base, and tough enough to face an incumbent president whose popularity is growing.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

When Did the Truth Become 'Gotcha' Journalism?

Tina Fey recently hosted Saturday Night Live and resurrected her brilliant impersonation of Sarah Palin in a 2012 Republican presidential debate skit in which The Wasilla Wonder incredulously declares "I just hope the lamestream media won’t twist my words by repeatin’ em verbatim."

SNL and Fey were of course spoofing the real Palin, who has made many such accusations of media foul-play, including over her most embarrassing encounter when famously asked by Katie Couric what books and magazines she reads. That interview was the beginning of the end for Palin's 2008 vice presidential bid.

And just this week, as his 2012 presidential candidacy appeared to be imploding, the real Newt Gingrich, when asked by Fox News' Greta Van Susteren about his $500,000 Tiffany credit card balance, refused to answer and claimed he won't play "gotcha games."

Gingrich also this week defended his disastrous "Meet the Press" interview Sunday morning--in which he attacked the GOP, Rep. Paul Ryan and his Medicare plan--by claiming "I didn't go in there quite hostile enough, because it didn't occur to me going in that you'd have a series of setups. This wasn't me randomly saying things. These were very deliberate efforts to pick fights." Poor Newt. He maintains he was blindsided by the very crafty David Gregory and had no idea what to expect from this liberal attack show. You'd think that after appearing on the program 35 times he'd know what he was walking into.

When the proverbial shit hit the fan and his campaign appeared to be detonating after just one week, Gingrich, after telling Van Susteren he "made a mistake" in attacking Ryan's plan, then arrogantly declared "on the record" that any ad that an opponent might use against him which includes his actual "Meet the Press" comments will therefore be a lie. Jon Stewart summed up Gingrich's convoluted philosophy this way: "If you quote me directly utilizing videotape of my comments in context, you're lying!"

What is it with these Republicans and the truth? What exactly is "gotcha" about being held accountable for the idiotic things that come out of their mouths? We live in a digital age of 24/7 news coverage. Where anything and everything will end up on YouTube. But it's not the media that's responsible for making people like Palin, Gingrich, Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann and countless others look foolish. They do that all by themselves simply by speaking. To quote my late father Sol, the master of the malapropism, I say to these Republican dummies...If ya don't like the truth, get outta the kitchen.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Still Think Schwarzenegger's Not a Serial Groper?

He's a liar, a cheater, a home-wrecker and a predator. No, I'm not referring to the 1987 sci-fi action pic he starred in, but more likely a sexual predator. After the explosive revelation this week that former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a love-child with a household employee about 13 years ago, it should erase all doubt about whether he in fact was guilty, as accused in 2005, of groping many women over the course of his 30-year bodybuilding and acting career.

Schwarzenegger's newest bombshell is not much of a shock in political circles, especially those out west. Rumors of affairs and children swirled around him during the 2005 campaign against incumbent Gov. Gray Davis. But those rumors were quickly dwarfed by the groping scandal in which fifteen women came forward with allegations of sexual attacks against them at gyms, movie sets, production facilities and elsewhere. Schwarzenegger and his camp vociferously denied the charges, and his wife Maria Shriver went to bat for him as well in what many experts believe was a campaign-saving defense. He went on to win the election and served two terms until 2011 when Jerry Brown became governor again after first serving in that office from 1975-1983.

So here's what happened: somewhere around 1988 Arnold had sex with the worker, Mildred Baena, now 50, and she became pregnant with his baby. She recently left the job after serving twenty years with the family. The affair, pregnancy and eventual birth of their son was kept secret from Shriver--who was said to be pregnant with her son Christopher at the same time as Baena--and the rest of the family until Schwarzenegger's recent revelation. He and Shriver officially announced their separation last week after twenty-five years of marriage. Apparently, this tawdry episode was chief among the reasons for the split.

It's easy to feel sympathetic towards Shriver, who's clearly dealing with a highly emotional, humiliating public scandal. No one likes to see anyone suffer like that, and my heart goes out to her and her five children. But I also can't help feeling for those fifteen women who her husband allegedly molested. Women whose reputations were attacked and whose lives were forever changed by the man Shriver so loyally defended as they both sought even more fame and power than they already had. You can't tell me that on some very visceral level Shriver did not know of or at the very least suspect the sort of lewd behavior of which Arnold was likely guilty. I'm not at all saying she's responsible for this new love-child scandal, but she certainly helped feed the beast. What goes around comes around.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Donald Trump Announces He's Not Running for President and Will Be Going Back to Simply Annoying Business People

On April 15th I wrote: "But let's be very clear about one thing: Trump has absolutely no desire or intention of becoming president. His ego is too grandiose, and his appetite for money too rapacious, to forfeit the self-serving spoils of his capitalistic kingdom to serve the little people for a mere peon's wages while having to answer to anyone other than himself....So what Trump's campaign boils down to is a charade. It's a game he's playing, which is serving to feed that massive Id of his while affording him an even greater soapbox from which he can regurgitate his narrow-minded, inane bile."

With little fanfare and certainly to no surprise here, Trump on Monday officially announced that he will not be running for president. Here's a snippet from his press release:

"After considerable deliberation and reflection, I have decided not to pursue the office of the presidency," Trump said in a statement. "This decision does not come easily or without regret; especially when my potential candidacy continues to be validated by ranking at the top of the Republican contenders in polls across the country. ... Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector."

Apparently, even he's grown tired of the self-aggrandizing hoax through which he's flung enough ignorant, racist bile to fill 100 KKK meetings. But to be sure, Trump got what he wanted: he was able to have the spotlight shine on him for months as he flirted with a possible candidacy and was able to spew all sorts of mania-driven garbage. But in the process he caused serious, irreversible harm to his political standing and overall reputation. It was simply delicious to watch him squirm in anger and humiliation at the recent White House Correspondents dinner. God bless you Seth Meyers.

Trump, who has the dubious distinction of making Charlie Sheen seem calm, cool and collected, attempted to take President Obama down through a relentless, race-baiting "birther" and "schooler" campaign designed to delegitimize him and his presidency. Had it not been for the killing of Osama bin Laden, who knows how far Trump's reprehensible charade would have gone. Timing is everything, right? With Obama's approval ratings nearing 60%, and with the release of his birth certificate which served to embarrass and prove Trump wrong, it would seem that only the business world, and those who watch "The Apprentice," will have to put up with his massive ego going forward. Thankfully, he's been run out of Washington and the nightly news...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hey Newt, Can We ask You Sex Questions Under Oath?

Newt Gingrich took to his smart phone Wednesday with the following message on Twitter: "Today I am announcing my candidacy for President of the United States. You can watch my announcement here." He included a link to his website video message, thus becoming the first politician to use the 143-character medium to announce a run for the White House.

The 67-year-old serial philanderer apparently thinks that Tweeting makes him cool somehow, or that he hopes the audience it reaches is under the age of thirty and clueless as to his cheating, race-baiting ways....and will see him simply as a wise old grandfatherly Republican Party stalwart who still brags of family values despite his extra-marital affairs, kinky sex fantasies, married-man-stealing wife and multiple political corruption scandals.

When asked recently by Fox News host Chris Wallace whether or not he's a hypocrite for leading the 1990's charge to remove Bill Clinton from office over his marital transgressions at the same time he himself was having an affair, Gingrich's reply was that it wasn't about cheating per se but of lying under oath, which Clinton did about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Let's get this straight: Newt wasn't attacking/judging Clinton for cheating, but merely asked him about the cheating, which then boxed him into a humiliating corner over it, and then zapped him with legality when he lied about it under oath. Pretty convoluted justification, if I must say.

So now that Gingrich has announced his candidacy for president, I say he should agree to be held to the same standards as those he imposed on Clinton. He should be subjected to a hearing where he is sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the help him god. A lie-detector test should follow. In both, he should be asked the following:

-how many times have you cheated on your first wife?
-how many times have you cheated on your second wife?
-have you cheated on your current wife, Callista?
-Is there anyone on your staff you'd like to have sex with?
-Have you ever had a homosexual fantasy or any kind of sexual encounter with a man?

Wouldn't we just love to see the answers. Whattya say, Newt? What's good for the goose is good for the Gingrich...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gingrich to Portray his Serial Philandering as a Political Asset

So the man who crucified Bill Clinton over his cheating in the 1990's is about to announce that he will run for president despite having enough skeletons in his closet to fill a college anatomy lab. Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker who never met a vagina he didn't like, the man who said he's previously cheated out of patriotism, will officially announce his candidacy Wednesday, planning to turn a lifetime of tail-chasing into a political asset.

I for one am thrilled that Gingrich is running, as I promise to be on him like a Republican Congressman on a House page. We'll relentlessly hound him for cheating on and shamelessly dumping two ailing wives. For having an affair with his much older high school teacher and his 22-years younger aide. For asking wife #2, Marianne, to "tolerate" his tawdry affair with future wife #3 Callista in some sick, kinky open-marriage fantasy. We'll resurrect the 1982 House Banking scandal and his 22 bounced checks. We'll remind everyone of the 1984 and 1995 book scandals and dust off the GOPAC scandal and illegal use of non-profit funds for political purposes. We'll expose his family-values hypocrisy 'round the clock like a McDonald's drive-thru, and slap him so hard with his lewd past that he'll feel like he went 15 rounds with Mike Tyson.

Gingrich, who now wants America to forgive and forget his multiple selfish marital transgressions and political scandals, is re-casting himself as a God-fearing, devout Catholic pillar of family-values who intends to pimp out his trophy wife Callista as proof that his once-roving shmecky has also found God.

As he attempts to portray himself and Callista as some sort of modern-day wart-plagued Ozzie and Harriet, Gingrich is either very stupid or thinks we are. The man who over the last three years has helped lead the chorus of "Obama's a radical" is himself as radical as they come, and his wife intentionally had sex with another woman's husband; a very sick woman, no less. Not exactly presidential and First Lady material.

Gingrich's cavalier attitude and delusions of grandeur borders on the pathological. When Marianne once accused him of being a hypocrite because he was cheating on her with Callista while grandstanding on family values, Newt replied: "It doesn't matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I say. It doesn't matter what I live." Au contraire Romeo, I think you're soon gonna find out just how much it does matter how you've lived.

While Gingrich may suffer from a colossal case of short memory and hypocrisy, I suspect conservatives in general will laugh, even scoff, at his pathetic fantasy of occupying the White House. Redemption's a bitch, Newt.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

9 Years, 234 Days Later: What bin Laden's Death Means to America

Make no mistake: the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is a monumental military and psychological victory for our great nation and for all Americans. It marks the end of the biggest criminal manhunt in history, presents us with an opportunity for unity, and to experience some sense of satisfaction as we continue to mourn the loss of 3000 victims and heal the still-open wounds.

Much has been said and written about the reaction here at home as news began to spread late Sunday evening that a Unites States mission led by Navy Seals killed bin Laden at his $1-million fortress/mansion in a suburb just 35 miles outside of Pakistan's capital (quite contrary to the belief these past ten years that he'd been desperately living like a hunted animal in a remote cave). Hundreds of people, largely college students and young people, immediately descended upon the White House, Times Square, Ground Zero and other locations throughout the country. While they rallied and cheered in jubilant celebration of the death of this monster, others have decried such revelry and likened it to the shameful dancing and glee that took place on the streets in middle eastern countries following the attacks ten years ago.

It's hard to make comparisons between then and now, as the deaths that were celebrated back in September 2001 were of innocent people, while bin Laden was a mass murderer who deserved to die. Additionally, it's unfair to judge anyone under these trying circumstances. Those who've lost loved ones to violence view life, and death, through a much different lens. It's easy to understand how victims of deadly crimes could desire vengeance and vindication. It's easy to understand their celebration over the death of those who kill. It's the biblical "eye for an eye." That other Americans who have indirectly been affected by the 9/11 attacks also joyously celebrate bin Laden's death is understandable as well.

To be sure, bin Laden and his actions forever changed the U.S landscape in so many ways. His impact can be felt in virtually every aspect of American life, from politics and finance to travel and homeland security. Since the 9/11 attacks, we've been forced to live in fear when we fly, board a train, stand in the subways. That the architect of this terror had half his face blown off is justice served to many. Like Hitler during the 1930's and 40's, bin Laden was responsible for mass death and atrocities, and was our #1 enemy. It's ok to cheer and celebrate his death. We killed our enemy before he could kill us. The joy is more like a collective sigh of relief that maybe this reign of terror, if not over, will abate somewhat. And if our great nation, which has been royally kicked in the ass since the 9/11 attacks--made worse by the worst financial crisis in over 80 years--has a brief opportunity to feel victorious and proud, what's wrong with that?

But it's also completely understandable to view such revelry as uncouth and un-American. Celebrating the death of anyone is not supposed to be something which causes elation and high-fives. We are supposed to be above that. Civility and the rule of law is what really makes America great. But things are very complicated in the post 9/11 world. Grief comes in many different flavors, and everyone experiences it differently. So we must understand and accept the myriad reactions to bin Laden's death without judgement, and at least agree that America and the world is a better place without him.