Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Here Comes Bush v. Clinton 2.0


Earlier this year I wrote a piece titled "Forget Christie: Why Jeb Bush Will Win the 2016 GOP Nomination." Looks like he's made it semi-official with the announcement over the weekend that he will "actively explore" a presidential run, and will release approximately 250,000 emails early next year from his two terms as Florida governor from 1999-2006. As Yogi Berra famously said, It's deja vu all over again...

Despite the fact that he's not been to Iowa in two years, and that his political team consists of just four people, Bush has big Republican donors salivating on the sidelines. Folks who can't bear the thought of supporting bombastic New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose BridgeGate and Hurricane Sandy scandals, coupled with his anger management problem and obesity, vastly diminish his overall appeal outside the Garden State.

Bush is the anti-Christie.  He's got pedigree, class, is soft-spoken yet firm, smart, moderate (by today's wacko Tea Party standards) and married to a Mexican woman, making him quite an attractive candidate to many, as Hispanics are becoming a much bigger percentage of overall voters. And, mostly because of what he's not--a fringe loon like Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Rand Paul or Marco Rubio, or a 'loser' like Mitt Romney--big GOP donors and bundlers would euphorically hop aboard the BushTrain the nanosecond he declares.

But Bush also has serious liabilities that concern the party's ultra conservatives, such as his controversial positions on immigration, education and taxes, as well as his overseas investments. And then there's that pedigree thing. Though his mother Barbara has essentially flipped on her famous 2013 claim that "we've had enough Bushes," the million-dollar question remains, 'is the country ready for yet another Bush?'

In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll earlier this year, 69% of Americans agreed with Ms. Bush that it's time to move on. And with the news full of terrorist beheadings by ISIS; the turmoil in Iraq and Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East; new reports of CIA torture tactics; Dick Cheney reprising his Darth Vadar routine; and a still-struggling economy, will the ghost of big brother George haunt baby bro and present insurmountable challenges to an eventual campaign?

To be sure, Bush is no centrist, despite his lofty reputation. He's for tax cuts to the wealthy, is against abortion and gay marriage, is in bed with gun owners (we can partially thank him for Florida's Stand Your Ground law), and his views on faith have put him squarely in the middle of controversy. In 2003 he intervened on the side of the family of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman in a persistent vegetative state, whose feeding tube was removed and then ordered reinserted, against the wishes of her husband, her legal guardian.

All of which makes Hillary Clinton the most likely victor in this dynastic match-up. The country has matured and evolved, but the Republican Party hasn't. It is Clinton's views, not Bush's, that are shared by a majority of Americans. Voters want immigration reform; have overwhelmingly supported same-sex marriage; believe in a woman's right to choose; worry about climate change; want to close the income gap; seek government regulation of Wall Street and the banking industry; and support Obamacare and the need to insure all Americans.

Yes, America's next president will likely come from American political royalty, but she won't be a Bush.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Real Dick Cheney "Meet the Press" Interview...

With the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's detention and interrogation programs, which cites brutal acts of torture on detainees between 2001-2006, Chuck Todd, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," sat down this past Sunday with former vice president Dick Cheney.  Below is the original version of that interview before Cheney's people threatened Todd with a very cold, wet death if he didn't destroy it and re-interview him. Thankfully, Kim Jong-un's hackers were able to locate the original and make it public:

TODD: Mr. Vice President, this report is utterly shocking in its findings. The level of torture qualifies as criminal; a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions as well as our own moral standards here in America.

CHENEY: Well, it all depends on how you define torture.

TODD: Detainees were kept naked, chained and shackled, beaten, starved, waterboarded, shot and even killed.

CHENEY: Get to the torture part...

TODD: And you would do all these things again?

CHENEY: You bet your liberal ass I would! And just for shits and giggles, Chuckie. They don't call me Dr. Evil for nothing.

TODD: So you don't think any of this is torture.

CHENEY: Torture to me is having to listen to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. You can waterboard my ass all day long...just please don't make me listen to those two.

TODD: Let me ask you about a few specific cases. Let's start with Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded so aggressively, leading led to convulsions and vomiting....and in one instance he became completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open full mouth.

CHENEY: Bubbles? Sounds like party-fun to me, Chuck.

TODD: But Mr. Vice President, Zubaydah was also shot while he was held captive....and developed an infection in his left eye, which had to be removed.

CHENEY: He's got two eyes, for Pete's sake. What does he want...everything?

TODD: What about the near-drowning of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded at least 183 times?

CHENEY: That's not torture. In my house that's a shower.

TODD: Mr. Cheney, this next allegation is even more disturbing. It involves...er...um...rectal feeding or rectal hydration, without any documented medical need. Seems like it was used as a form of behavior control.

CHENEY: Damn right it was. I think we got that idea from that Al Pacino movie, "CRUISING."

TODD: That's not funny, Mr. Vice President.

CHENEY: (looks at Todd glaringly, with sounds coming from his mouth as if he's chewing on marbles) Do you see me laughing?

TODD: Some detainees were forced to walk around naked and shackled, hands above their heads. Dragged all over the place, being beaten. What is your response to that?

CHENEY: Um...that would be the Pacino film again.

TODD: C'mon, Mr. Cheney, one detainee, Gul Rahman, was found naked from the waist down, chained to the floor of his unheated cell, frozen to death. That, quite frankly, is unconscionable.

CHENEY: He didn't pay his utility bill. So we turned off the heat. We're not running an SRO at Gitmo!

TODD: Mr. Cheney, I'm really starting to get upset with your arrogance, colossal inhumanity and chilling disconnect from reality.

CHENEY: Chuck, one more comment like that and I'll chain you to the floor naked, club you with a spiked paddle and pour ice water all over you while blasting Ariana Grande.

TODD: Now that, Mr. Vice President, is indisputable torture. You can't deny that.

CHENEY: You're right, Chuck. No one should have to listen to Ariana Grande.

Some Hillary Advice for Christie

So New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has weighed in on Hilary Clinton's electability. That's like the Knicks telling the Warriors that they have little chance of winning this year's NBA championship. 

With the holidays approaching, I'd like to offer Christie this little gift of advice: you should spend your time contemplating your own depressed political stock, and chances (zero) of winning the Republican nomination for president in 2016, and not worry so much about Hillary Clinton, who has the support of 65% of Democratic primary voters.

The New York Times on Sunday reported that Christie recently told a group of energy executives that Clinton "lacks her husband's talents and personal appeal." I'm not sure what alternate universe Christie resides in, but Hillary Clinton is perhaps the only politician on this planet who is more popular than Bill Clinton.

Christie also claims he's more likeable than Hillary. While I'm sure he's a huge hit among nasty, arrogant, dismissive, disrespectful Northeastern conservatives who love being told "shut up" and "you're an idiot" by their elected officials, I have serious doubts that his big, bad Jersey blowhard routine will play well in the rest of the nation. 

BridgeGate. Temper. Obesity. Just a few of The Boss's outsized liabilities to go along with his outsized personality. And when (not if) both Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush toss their hats into the ring, Republicans from California through the Midwest to the Rust Belt, Great Plains and down into deep South will be a singing a chorus of "Christie who?"

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The GOP's "The Party of Working People?" Who Knew!

Louisiana Congressman Bill Cassidy defeated Sen. Mary Landrieu in last Saturday's runoff election, handing the Republican Party their eighth pick-up and a 54-seat majority when the new Senate convenes in January. The victory broadens the already massive shift in that region's politics: the deep South is now as red as a fire engine, with nary a Democratic Senator or Governor across nine states spanning the Carolinas to Texas. 

In his victory speech, Cassidy proudly made clear his constituency:

“We are a working-family region,” Cassidy said. “The Republican Party is the party of the working people.”

The problem with this declaration is that it is 100% patently false. Unless of course he's referring to another GOP, not the one that's vehemently against raising the minimum wage, or providing healthcare coverage for all Americans, or regulating Wall Street and banks, or seeking to dismantle the Department of Education or the Environmental Protection Agency, or cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood, or fighting immigration reform, or protecting the interests of Corporate America. Shall I go on?

As for Cassidy himself, let's take a peek inside his own Congressional record in terms of his support for the little guy:

-Voted YES on terminating the Home Affordable Mortgage Program
-Voted NO on additional $825 billion for economic recovery package
-Voted NO on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act
-Voted NO on four weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees
-Voted NO on expanding the Children's Health Insurance Program
-Voted YES on banning federal health coverage that includes abortion
-Sponsored prohibiting abortion information at school health centers

Hardly the record of an advocate of the poor and middle class. But Cassidy and his party are certainly crafty enough to convince an appreciable segment of their base that words matter way more than actions.  Haven't poor and middle class white, rural conservatives been duped and disappointed by the GOP in the past? Apparently they have short memories, and voting against one's own economic interests still rules the day.  

To be sure, right-wingers love to attack liberals for being in bed with Hollywood and the entertainment industry. But the GOP claiming to be "the party of the working people" is as big an example of fiction and fantasy as anything coming out of Los Angeles.  

After the New Year, it'll be the first time in eight years that the Republican Party has controlled both houses of Congress. American's working people will soon find out how much Cassidy and the GOP will value and protect their interests.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What Ray Rice Needs

I am not a violent person. It's not in my DNA to use my fists, or any type of weapon, to harm anyone, let alone a defenseless woman. Even if provoked, it would be hard for me to cause physical harm to another person. That said, if I felt threatened, or my family was in danger, I'm sure the adrenaline would kick in and I'd do whatever necessary to protect myself and my loved ones. But I could never slam my fist into someone's head and knock them unconscious simply because I was angry.

Which is why I believe we're missing the main point in the Ray Rice domestic violence case: that nothing except an intensive, lengthy psychological rehabilitation process will help the Baltimore Ravens running back become a better man. It's terribly misguided, and an oversimplification of the root cause of domestic violence, to think that an indefinite suspension or lifetime ban from the National Football League will "teach him a lesson" and provide some deterrent effect among offenders. Domestic violence is not about "lessons." It's not about conscious, rational thought. It's purely about uncontrollable rage, and the use of violence, often deadly, to express that rage.

Studies have proven that dealing with criminals punitively (and yes, domestic violence is a crime, not something between "Rice and his wife," as some female nitwit at Thursday night's Ravens game told a reporter) has little or no effect on preventing future crimes. Do we honestly think that the next time some pro athlete is about to coldcock his woman in a fit of anger he's going to stop and say to himself, "I shouldn't do this...it could cost me my career?" Our prisons are full of people who've seen others get punished for the very crimes they then went on to commit.

Rage has no brain. Rage doesn't stop to think about consequences. Rage acts first and thinks later. It cannot be "treated" punitively.

Should Ray Rice be banned for life from the NFL? Personally, I'd like nothing better than to see him get everything I feel he deserves, including criminal prosecution and prison time. He's a violent criminal and a coward and I detest his behavior. So yes, if his NFL contract includes a morals clause which specifically calls for such a ban under the circumstances, he should be barred from ever playing professional football again. But let's not kid ourselves. More importantly, he needs treatment. Psychological treatment. He needs to control the very rage that deemed nothing wrong in punching the lights out of his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, and dragging her limp, unconscious body out of a hotel elevator like a dead fish. A lifetime ban will not stop him, or anyone else, from again causing physical harm to another human being.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What Happened to "Never Again?:" Thoughts From an American Jew

The current crisis between Israel and Gaza has certainly stirred up a tornado of emotion and strong opinion worldwide, and has become a polarizing force among American Jews. Caught between their cultural identity and the horrific images of dead civilians, including children, it's easy to understand how many have become sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians.

To be sure, no one wants to see dead children. It's hard to support any military action that kills kids. But I think there's a critical perspective being lost in this war. And that is that it is war. War is horrific, brutal and ugly. Soldiers die. And war kills innocent people. Even children. Which is why governments typically go to war as an absolute last resort, when all other options have failed, because very, very bad things happen during war.

War is typically fought to the death. There are no gentlemanly courtesies afforded the enemy. They try to kill you, you strike back with deadly force as well. It's kill or be killed. It's not, "Hey...you're trying to kill me, but you're a lousy fighter with crappy weaponry so I'll just slap ya down a little and let ya live so you can keep on trying to kill me." Because one day, they might succeed. And then you're dead.

Which is precisely why I'm having a very hard time understanding how some of my fellow American Jews can be so supportive of Gaza and the militant group Hamas which governs it. How they can excuse the actions and atrocities caused by this genocidal Jihadi organization, whose charter calls for the annihilation of Israel and it's people?

Contrary to the rhetoric and radical Islamist propaganda surrounding the current conflict, the battle is not about Israel occupying Gaza (a more fact-base case can be made that it began in response to the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers from the West Bank). Israel withdrew from its occupation of Gaza in 2005 amid intense and violent protest by, and forced removal of, the area's 8500 settlers. Every building, with the exception of synagogues and greenhouses, was demolished. This painful struggle, pitting Israeli against Israeli, civilian against soldier, including daily images of troops dragging screaming and sobbing settlers out of their homes, was played out on television screens all over the world that controversial Summer.

And what did Israel get in return for handing over the region to the Palestinian Authority? Two years later Gaza's citizens went to the polls and in a "democratic" election gave control of the territory to Hamas. And we're now witnessing its colossal failure as a governing body. Rather than build schools, hospitals and mosques, it's been using these locations as launch pads for the thousands of rockets that have been fired towards Israel since their victory.

Hamas has also diverted critical funding and resources--concrete, for example--to build terror tunnels into Israel through which its militants can abduct and murder both soldiers and civilians. And its main defensive strategy is to cowardly use its citizens as human shields, while subsequently crying foul when those citizens get killed in return fire.

Let's be clear: Hamas's rockets have a very specific purpose: to kill Israelis. Not just Israeli soldiers, but innocent men, women and yes, children. And they're being fired to also cause destruction to Israel's cities, its infrastructure and its nuclear facilities. These are not warning flares that Hamas militants are firing towards Israel. They are deadly weapons launched with an intense, venomous hatred, and with a desire to kill and maim Jews.  

Israel's critics charge that its aggressive response to the rocket attacks has been "disproportionate." They cite the death toll, which has almost 2000 Palestinian civilians in Gaza being killed, while just three Israeli civilians have died. But does the fact that most of these Hamas rockets have been shot out of the sky by Israeli's incredible Iron Dome air-defense system, before they do harm, mitigate their intent to blow innocent Israeli civilians into bloody pieces? Would the "score" not be much closer if Israel was less capable of defending itself?

Perhaps Israel's American Jewish critics could answer a few key questions: Should Israel be excoriated and condemned for having more sophisticated weapons, and for minimizing its civilian casualties as a result? Should Israel, because of its successful defense against these deadly rockets, not be firing back at the terrorists launching them because they're being launched from residential areas and schools? Should Israel be treating Hamas like a bunch of petulant teenagers incapable of causing real harm, or as the murderous terrorist organization it is, hellbent on its death and destruction? Must Jewish blood and body parts fill the streets of Israel's cities before its armchair critics in the U.S. and elsewhere can justify its aggressive response? Before American Jews can support such retaliation?

The pro-Gaza, hashtag-fueled cries from American Jews is misguided and, quite frankly, shameful. Whatever happened to "Never Again," the promise by Jews to never again let themselves fall victim to genocide? It's easy to sit in a Starbuck's on Manhattan's Upper West Side and spread social media gospel about how Israelis are "overreacting." I suppose 5600 miles gives one both a safe perch to preach from as well as a false sense of security. But just imagine how these same people would be acting if a bomb exploded on the #1 subway train. And another the next day, and then others in a mall, supermarket and cafe. I wonder if there'd be the same cries for restraint and "proportionate" retaliation.

American Jews seem to be forgetting the thousands of innocent Israelis that have been blown to pieces since 1948 in synagogues, restaurants, nightclubs, on buses, in schools and elsewhere by Palestinian suicide bombers and other acts of terrorism. They're forgetting the horrific images of dead Israeli children being dragged lifeless from the rubble, who died a horrible death simply because they were Jews. How can they forget? This conflict did not start last month.  

We must remind ourselves that without Jewish arrogance, naivete and complacency, the Nazis may not have been able to murder 6-million of our people seventy years ago. A failure to recognize the enemy's goal of ultimately exterminating their entire population helped lead Europe's Jews onto the trains and to the concentration camps without a fight. And, while the rest of the world did little to stop it either.

So against that historical backdrop of genocide, and with chilling acts of anti-Semitic vandalism and violence spreading across Europe once again, the message from Israel is clear: American Jews can think and say what they want, and be naive, complacent or pretend the enemy's sole reason for existence is not to brutally destroy theirs. But Israel vows...never again.

Monday, August 04, 2014

What Boehner's Lawsuit really Means

Thank you John Boehner. The nation truly appreciates you and your fellow House Republicans altruistically devoting your last moments in Congress, before a much-deserved 5 1/2 week vacation (hey, you try doing nothing for a whole year...it's exhausting!) to protecting healthcare. Despite obsessively voting fifty times and spending $70+ million of taxpayer money to repeal the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, you're on a mission to ensure that Americans receive every single benefit the insurance law intended. Bravo!    

That's right. Republicans have sued the President of the United States. That's a pretty serious action. Must've been over something so egregious...something so detrimental to America's health and welfare...something that, if unchecked, could literally bring down our great nation. Guess again. 

The lawsuit is over Obama's use of an executive order to delay for one-year the employer mandate provision of ACA, which requires business owners to provide health care for its employees. Forget Immigration, minimum wage or extended unemployment insurance. There's no time to waste on these pesky little issues when one aspect of Obamacare is at risk! Because no one wants to force businesses to provide health insurance to employees more than House Republicans, right?

Oh, those executive orders! Republicans hate them, especially when it's a Democrat who signs them. But for anyone keeping score, Obama's signed 183, far less than any president in modern history, especially Republicans. George W. Bush signed 291 of them. Bill Clinton 364. Ronald Reagan 381. And George H. W. Bush 166 (in four years). So why all the Republican concern about the Constitution all of a sudden? It's because there's only one thing Republicans hate more than a Democratic president's use of executive orders is this president himself. No president has been more disrespected, or been the object of more vengeful scheming, than Obama.

To be sure, for Republicans, the lawsuit is not only baseless but meaningless. It will have no material impact on Obama's presidency, and its cost to taxpayers will ultimately seem small compared to the cost to the party come election day. But the real gain is to be had by Democrats, whose base is more energized than ever heading into November's critical midterms, while being handed on a silver platter a delicious boon to fundraising. They've raised millions since the suit's been filed...at a rate of about $1-million per day.

Monday, July 28, 2014

An Open Letter to John Boehner and House Republicans

Dear Mr. Speaker...
On behalf of Democrats everywhere, I would like to ask you to impeach President Obama. Please. I implore you. Nothing would make us happier. You know you want to. You know that merely suing him is not going to satisfy you and your rabid brethren. Impeachment is the only solution. So just go ahead and do it. You have our full and unyielding support!

And why are we so supportive? Because it'll be the nail in your political coffin. It will finally convince moderate Republican and independent voters that you're nothing but a worthless cabal of self-serving, tone-deaf, obsessed, manic, hateful, polarizing obstructionists. With your approval ratings swirling in the toilet, and your intransigence paralyzing Washington, impeachment would obliterate any shred of doubt that America's best interests are the last of your priorities. Not the economy, not jobs, minimum wage, immigration, education or the environment. Screw America. If only you guys worked half as hard at doing your job as you do at tearing down Obama...

He's Kenyan! He's an illegal alien! He's a socialist! He's a constitutional criminal! He must be stopped! You do realize how crazy you sound, right? And we love every convoluted, insane word of it.

We also support you in this mad quest because we know it will ultimately have no impact on Obama's presidency or the liberal agenda. To the contrary, it will empower him. Think of all the executive orders he'll use to push through his policies after he's impeached. He'll make you the laughingstock of Washington.

You might want to pay attention to history. What happened to the post-impeachment Bill Clinton? How did former Speaker Newt Gingrich and his merry band of revolutionaries, of which you were one, materially affect his presidency with their venomous lynching? Clinton emerged the victor from that shameful partisan witch hunt. He was acquitted by the Senate, became the most popular politician on the planet, and is still the guy who can charm the pants off folks on both sides of the aisle. And Newt? He was forced to step down as Speaker, left Congress shortly thereafter, and cost his party appreciable seats. And you lost your leadership post for the next decade. 

Mr. Speaker, if you relish being this decade's Gingrich, and want to feel what it's like to suffer humiliating defeat again over an out-of-control obsession with destroying a Democratic president, we will gleefully watch as you drive the GOP crazy-car straight off the cliff and into utter irrelevance and obsolescence.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mitt Romney: The GOP's Great White Hope

Bring up the subject of the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and the conventional wisdom has either New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or political scion and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as the likely nominees. Oh sure, there's a few people who, with a straight face, believe Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are viable candidates, but they have as much of a chance of being nominated as I do. Which is why my money's on Mitt Romney 3.0.

A New Hampshire Granite Poll released last week showed Romney with an astonishing 39% lead over all other hopefuls including Christie, Bush, Paul, Rubio, Rob Portman and Ted Cruz, none of whom broke single digits. That's a pretty startling statistic. And one Romney is no doubt seriously mulling. When New Hampshire beckons, you listen.

Consider Romney the New Nixon. The dull, awkward loser who, despite all the odds, makes a stunning comeback, aided in part by timing and circumstance. Like Nixon, Romney likely won't stop running until he wins, regardless of his halfhearted statements to the contrary. Running for the most powerful and complicated job in the world requires a massive ego. Something Romney has in abundance. But he also has deep pockets and prominent pals with even deeper pockets. Lastly, he's an oasis of mainstream sanity in a sea of radical Tea Party lunacy. He's truly the GOP's Great White Hope.

There's a reason Romney's polled 31 points higher in New Hampshire than other GOP hopefuls. It's a pretty sorry pack. Christie, the former Hope, is damaged goods. He's a belligerent, bullying, scandal-plagued New Jersey back-room brawler. And he's obese. Seriously, people, let's move on. It ain't happening. Bush? He stands the best chance despite his potential deal-killing last name, family troubles, and unpopular views on taxes and immigration....but only if Romney's not in the race.

Let's face it: Romney looks pretty damn good in a suit. And he's quite accomplished politically and in business, is squeaky-clean, and heads a quintessential all-American white-bread family. And once you peel away his fringe-pandering "severely conservative" layers, he's an unapologetic moderate at heart. Would that play well with independents and conservative Democrats this time around?

If Romney wants to win he must address four critical areas: first, he must shed the flip-flopper costume and demonstrate integrity and conviction in his positions. In short, he's got to grow some mainstream balls, embrace his record (including and especially RomneyCare) and stop pandering to the party's lunatics. Trying to out-crazy Rick Perry is not a winning strategy.

Next, he needs to show voters passion and personality, two critical traits that were painfully absent in the 2012 election. He must stop appearing robotic and out of touch. He needs to be the charming, compassionate Romney that his pals supposedly know, not the stiff, tone-deaf automaton who ran against Obama.

He also needs to acknowledge his wealth and put a productive spin on it: "Hey, I'm rich, ok? But guess what...so is every other presidential candidate! My wealth, which I amassed on my own as a businessman, is precisely what affords me the time and ability to commit myself to public service. To be able to help those less fortunate."

Lastly, he needs to clean house. Assemble a whole new team and, more important, a whole new campaign strategy. Together with his advisers, he must figure out a way to bring normal Republican voters to the primaries. The campaign can't be the exclusive playground of the nutballs. He's got a huge opportunity to appeal to all those moderates who lament that "there just doesn't seem to be any place in the party for folks like me anymore." If the man who's put the "aw" in awkward  can enjoin them into the campaign early, and simultaneously come across as a real human being, 3.0 might just be his time in the sun.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

An Open Letter to Sarah Palin

Dear Ms. Palin:

I feel sorry for you. I truly do. It must be terribly frustrating to be so irrelevant. To have your rabble-rousing, race-baiting drivel limited to Fox's Sean Hannity Show in your desperate, pathetic, never-ending quest for attention. You are, put simply, one of the most ignorant, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, hate-filled racists to ever hit the national political stage (thank you John McCain).

Your new video, in which you call for President Obama's impeachment because of his "lawlessness," is an unconscionable, unpatriotic piece of garbage. The level of disrespect, condescension, sarcasm and reality-butchering is astounding. To say that your fake-cutesy, sing-songy, snarky delivery is vomitous would be a colossal understatement. You're also quite tone-deaf, comparing your suffering over his presidency to that of a "battered wife." There really are no groups you won't offend, are there?  

Impeach Obama? For what, doing his job amid relentless Republican obstructionism and intransigence? For trying to keep government operating efficiently? For growing the economy? For creating millions of new jobs? For caring about 8-year-olds crossing the Mexican border alone? For wanting to find a practical, compassion solution to the immigration issue? For providing everyone health care? For trying to narrow the income inequality gap? For protecting women's rights?  For allowing people who love each other to marry?

That you, like that other heartless conservative Dick Cheney, even have a perch from which to still spew your venomous hate-speak, is unfortunate. No one, not even the Fox faithful, should be subjected to your incendiary bile. You're a failed, disgraced politician who, despite becoming a humiliating punchline following the 2008 election, refuses to crawl back under your rock. Trust me: no one except Hannity, a few horny white Republican dudes and a smattering of their intellectually bankrupt women are interested in what you have to say.

Ssshhhh....hear that sound? It's the rock beckoning.... 

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

What Religion is My Company?

I own a marketing company. I'm Jewish. My partner is Italian and Christian. Of our almost fifty employees, our cultural and religious make-up is quite diverse. We are a company of people. The company itself is not a person. So what's our religion? Whose religious beliefs should trump those of all others? Mine? My partner's?

The United States Supreme Court issued a highly controversial decision this week involving Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain, and Conestoga, a cabinet making company, ruling that "closely held" companies can, based on the strong religious beliefs of their owners, refuse to provide certain contraceptives at no cost to their employees. In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote: "Protecting the free-exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby, Conestoga ... protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies." The court essentially gave legal precedent to Mitt Romney's preposterous 2011 assertion that companies are people too, and therefore have the same rights as individuals.

"The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield," wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her minority opinion of the 5-4 decision. "Can an employer in business for profit opt out of coverage for blood transfusions, vaccinations, antidepressants, or medications derived from pigs, based on the employer's sincerely held religious beliefs opposing those medical practices?" she added.

Exactly. Just where is the new line drawn? How far can business owners twist this ruling to deny their employees health care? Can Christian Scientists refuse some basic medical coverage altogether? Can Jews refuse to cover medical procedures that occur on the Sabbath? What about those business owners whose personal religious beliefs are based on strict interpretation of the Bible? Can they therefore deny coverage to homosexuals? Adulterers? Atheists? (all of whom, by the way, should be killed according to various passages in the Bible).

So what is my company's religion? My company doesn't have one. My right, on any conceivable level, to force my personal religious beliefs on my employees disappeared the nanosecond I signed our Limited Liability Company (LLC) documents that would serve to insulate me as an individual from legal and financial claims against the company. Signing those documents created a distinct, legal firewall between my company and me personally, my religious beliefs and, more importantly, my ability to impose them on my staff. I gave up that "right" (assuming I ever had it, which is debatable), as soon as I sought the government's and the court's protection as an individual. I can't have it both ways. Nor can Hobby Lobby, Conestoga or any other "closely held" for-profit company. The Supreme Court's ruling is misguided and convoluted.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dick Cheney's Big Neo-Con Con

Former VP Dick Cheney wrote the following in his Wall Street Journal op-ed this week:

"Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many."

And if you were to guess that he was referring to his former boss, George W. Bush, you'd be wrong.

The man with whom Bush committed the worst military debacle in U.S. history and, as many believe, with whom he's guilty of war crimes, was actually talking about President Barack Obama.

In in the wake of escalating sectarian violence in Iraq, neo-cons like Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Paul Bremer and others have crawled out from under their war-mongering rocks in a pathetic attempt to vindicate themselves while dumping the blame for this disastrous mess on Obama.

The level of audacity, duplicity, shamelessness and megalomania with Cheney in particular is astounding. The war began unjustly, was misguided and mismanaged, and soon proved Cheney 100% dead-wrong on everything he pitched to Americans. Let's revisit for a moment his greatest hits:

-Insisted Iraq had WMD
-Predicted the invasion/war would "last weeks, not months"
-Claimed we'd be "greeted as liberators"
-Bragged that extremists would have to "rethink their strategy of Jihad"
-Boasted that the insurgency "was in its last throes" back in 2005

In fact, the war lasted eight years, cost $1-trillion and 4500 U.S. soldiers' lives. It was a blood-thirsty conflation of Saddam Hussein with 9/11. It was battered with threats of "mushroom clouds" and domestic terrorism. It remains a vile twisting of reality, and an unconscionable exploitation of the nation's collective emotion and fear following the horrific New York City and DC attacks. And it was all perpetrated by Bush/Cheney & Co., not Obama, who merely inherited this mess.

To say that Cheney's op-ed piece is revisionist history would be a gross understatement. Rather, it's the most mind-numbing case of delusion in political history.

Like Vietnam, Iraq is falling following U.S. withdrawal...spiraling into bloody civil war because it lacks a strong enough democratic government and military to sustain itself without American help. And it's been racked by centuries of violent sectarian conflict. It's no surprise that the country now finds itself on the eve of destruction just three years after Obama brought home the troops.

To be sure, Dick Cheney is a very lucky man. That he's not spending his last days rotting in prison for the death and destruction he's caused is quite fortunate for him, as is his ability to continue spewing his unpatriotic, self-serving bile in the neo-con-friendly Wall Street Journal.

But if the unforgiving drubbing that Fox News' Megan Kelly gave Cheney on her program Wednesday night is any indication, history, even among Republicans and conservatives, is judging him quite justly.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Forget Christie: Why Jeb Bush Will Be the 2016 GOP Nominee

ABC US News | ABC Business News

Chris Christie will not be president. Nor will he win the Republican nomination. In fact, it's likely the BridgeGate and SandyGate scandals will derail his decision to even run.

Despite bragging of his vindication in the incomplete report released last week by his hand-picked 'independent investigator,' Randy Mastro, the New Jersey governor's hole just keeps getting bigger and deeper. You know you're in trouble when the surrogate you send out to do your biased bidding on the Sunday morning talk shows, Rudy Giuliani, calls the report "inconclusive" on NBC's Meet the Press.

So as Christie was jetting out to Vegas to kiss billionaire kingmaker-wannabe Sheldon Adelson's ass, thumbing his nose at the allegations against him and pretending everything's back to normal, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll was released showing his popularity's dropped to an embarrassingly low 17%. And at his press conference last week, he traded in his new softer, gentler, contrite self for the original brash, belittling, confrontational model....excoriating reporters simply for doing their jobs. Yes, Christie's back and he's pissed!

Someone needs to remind The Big Man that Americans don't elect angry, arrogant bullies as president, especially those from New Jersey who are embroiled in revenge scandals. As the polls indicate, voters aren't buying his "I didn't know anything" routine. They're instead concluding that he's either lying through his teeth or is utterly incompetent. Nobody wants a president who can't control his staff, or who might call Russian president Vladimir Putin "stupid" or an "idiot." To be sure, Christie's damaged goods, and the goods weren't that hot to begin with.

Which is why former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will most likely toss his hat into the ring and eventually become the GOP's nominee. He's got class, pedigree, political juice and a Mexican-born wife...assets the Republican Party desperately needs. He's an oasis of respectability and sanity in a sea of fringe madness. He's appealingly establishment and old-school against a backdrop of Tea Party Turks run amok. He's Steady-Eddie. Conservative enough to appeal to the masses, but not too conservative to attract independents.

Forget Christie. And forget Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Rick Perry and Paul Ryan. They have as much chance of becoming president as I do. Bush is the only electable one in this bunch. And the only one who makes Democrats very, very nervous. Those Bush's...they have this habit of winning...

Bush v. Clinton 2.0. Get ready...

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Is Woody Allen Guilty or Innocent of Child Sexual Abuse?

Woody Allen is guilty. Woody Allen is innocent. Actually, I have no idea what Woody Allen is, nor does anyone else except Dylan Farrow and Allen himself, although that hasn't stopped anyone, especially in the 24/7, free-wheelin', open-mike social-media playground, from pontificating as if they do.

To many in the court of public opinion, Woody Allen is as guilty as sin. Why?  Well, because it looks that way.  And because Dylan, his adopted daughter with ex-girlfriend Mia Farrow, published a shocking letter earlier this month recounting the sexual abuse she claims to have endured over twenty years ago when she was seven.

Perhaps like so many explosive allegations such as these, the truth will never be known. But that hasn't stopped people from making unequivocal judgments against Allen as if they were eyewitnesses to the alleged crime. The intoxicating allure of social media has given every Tom, Dick and Jane the forum to serve as judge and jury, absent the evidence to render such devastating judgements. Opinion has become the new fact. 

Let me state for the record, again, that I have absolutely no idea whether Allen is guilty or innocent. But I do believe in America's system of due process, and the state of being innocent until proven guilty. The allegations against Allen are not new, nor are the conclusions drawn by Connecticut police, the state attorney and child-abuse experts they hired in 1993 to investigate; experts who had concluded that there was insufficient evidence that Dylan had been molested by Allen, and that it appeared she'd been coached.

Let's be clear, the allegations made by Dylan and outlined in her open-letter are horrifying.  As the father of three daughters I cannot comprehend such abuse. It sickens me to even think about it. I accept that she believes every single word of what she's saying, and that these ghastly experiences comprise her absolute truth. Whether they are real memories based on actual experiences, or are the nightmarish images cruelly planted by her mother when she was seven, will never be known for sure unless Allen one day confesses or Dylan experiences an epiphany.

But there's one indisputable fact here. Dylan Farrow was indeed abused by someone: either a sick, twisted, evil man with whom her mother was involved for many years, or by an even more deranged mother who, out of her own angry, vindictive and unconscionably self-serving state, sentenced her child to a life in an emotional prison and destroyed her relationships with her father and sister. She is a victim of unthinkable, heinous abuse either way. And for that we should feel nothing but compassion and rage. 

But for many it hasn't stopped there. This emotional outrage is the basis for Allen's conviction in the court of social media. The "experts" on Twitter and Facebook use as "proof" myriad situations--misguided conflations-- that should have nothing to do with this case but have served to complicate it even further: the horrible abuse of children that occurs every day all over the world; how women are abused and mistreated by more powerful men; and by what many believe is Allen's "creepy" behavior with the then 19-year-old adopted daughter of Farrow, Soon-Yi Previn, with whom he's been married since 1997. None of which can or should be used to draw any conclusions about Allen's guilt. But is has.

Which is why it's time for people on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere to stop drawing broad, unfounded, incriminating and terribly unfair conclusions of guilt, or unequivocal statements of innocence, about a very complicated 21-year-old case with which they personally know absolutely nothing about.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Christie's Bully Pulpit and the "Lady Mayor"

One thing's certain in the latest allegation against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: either Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer is blatantly lying through her partisan teeth or The Sopranos are alive and well in Trenton.

According to Zimmer, and coming on the heels of the BridgeGate access-lane revenge-closings scandal, she was strong-armed and threatened by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno last year in a shakedown attempt for support of a real estate development deal that was a pet project of Christie's and the Rockefeller Group, a company with whom he has close ties.

Zimmer said the two met in a Hoboken parking lot in May, where the conversation went a little something like this:

Guadagno: Ayyyyyy.....you wanna get some of that cool fed cash for your poor little Hurricane Sandy victims, do ya? Whattya gonna do for us?

Zimmer: What do you mean?

Guadagno:  We got a project ova here...a very important deal....means a lot to the Big Guy. Ya know what I mean?

Zimmer: No, I really don't.

Guadagno: Ok, lemme make it simple for ya, Cheech. You getchya money when you support the deal. Ya don't get shit if you make the Boss angry, kapish? And by the way, this conversation never happened.

Speaking at an event in Union Beach Monday where she addressed reporters but refused to take questions, a stoic, seemingly lawyered-up Guadagno unequivocally denied Zimmer's charges:

"Mayor Zimmer's version of our conversation in may of 2013 is not only false but is illogical and does not withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined. Any suggestion, any suggestion, that Sandy funds were tied to the approval of any project in New Jersey is completely false."

Citing the devastation caused by the storm and saying she was a Sandy victim herself, an incredulous, animated Guadagno called Zimmer's allegations "particularly offensive to me" and denied them as "wholly and completely false."

Yet as each day passes and another new plot twist surfaces, it becomes more and more implausible that Christie, Guadagno and the administration are being truthful. As the saying goes, where there's smoke there's fire. Christie's reputation, like that of his corruption-plagued state, precedes him. He's publicly ridiculed those who've disagreed with him as idiots, jerks and stupid. This derisive behavior points to a culture of intimidation and abuse created and maintained by the governor himself. With that evidence as a backdrop, is it really hard then to imagine Guadagno's "You better pony up, or else"  threat?

Another big question is, why would Zimmer lie? What does she have to gain by totally fabricating a story and thus tossing herself squarely into the center of one of the most complicated, far-reaching and consequential political scandals in recent memory?

Zimmer met Sunday with the United States Attorney's office to provide details and documents to substantiate her story. She's also offered to take a lie-detector test and testify under oath. Guadagno herself admits she met in that parking lot last May with Zimmer and that they did discuss Sandy relief money. She just disagrees with Zimmer's "version" of that encounter.  As the popular SNL skit goes, "Really? Really?"

Zimmer's timing may be suspect to some on the right, but her situation is akin to that of countless crime victims who are bullied into submission and silence, fearful of retribution. But all it takes is someone else to come forward first and the floodgates open. For both Zimmer and Christie, BridgeGate is merely the House of Cards. It's naive to think that Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, BridgeGate's intended victim, and Zimmer are the only local pols touched by the Christie Mob. There's likely other mayors, assemblymen, senators and/or bureaucrats preparing to come forward with their own allegations as well.

Furthermore, we haven't even witnessed the full bore of the state and Federal investigations yet and what the subpoenas of former top Christie aides Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien and the Port Authority's David Wildstein will reveal. If given immunity, these former loyalists could end up singing like canaries, costing the Big Guy the White House and perhaps even the Governor's mansion.

And not for nuthin', it doesn't help Christie's "I am not a bully" narrative to have surrogates like Rudy Giuliani, who's called BridgeGate a "political prank," and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who on CNN Monday referred to Zimmer as "a lady Mayor," defending him.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Stick a Fork in Christie

There's a reason why I love politics so much. I'm fascinated by the winds of change and how sweeping and merciless they can be. In no other landscape can one's fortune change so dramatically so quickly over something so stupid. Consider the Greek Tragedy that threatens to swallow New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's future.

Consider Christie's current fate. One day he's soaring high above the muck as the Republican Boy Wonder.  Anointed The Great GOP Hope to regain the White House from Democrats in 2016. Revered as the tough-talking, straight-shooting everyman who's connected not just with conservatives, but independents, women, minorities and just about everyone else. The Washington outsider who'd reach across the aisle to get D.C. operating efficiently again. The focus of Time Magazine's November 18th cover entitled "The Elephant in the Room." And then overnight the much-anticipated shoe drops and everything turns to shit, thrusting him squarely into the hottest political scandal and into his worst nightmare.

BridgeGate. This now-infamous scandal over the George Washington Bridge access-lane revenge-closings all but ensures that Christie's chances of becoming President of the United States are no longer any greater than mine. The New Jersey State Assembly, investigating the case, will be issuing subpoenas, possibly as early as today, to Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Stepien, the two former top aides Christie threw under the bus last week. Their testimony under oath, especially if given immunity, could be devastating to the governor. There's even talk among state legislators of eventual impeachment. Adding fuel to the fire is a new federal investigation announced Monday into allegations that Christie misused Hurricane Sandy relief funds to produce one or more re-election campaign ads. Hear that sound? That's the other shoe dropping.

It's truly astounding, albeit not terribly surprising to many, just how swiftly Christie's currency has devalued. His reputation as an arrogant, self-serving bully precedes him. So it was not a matter of if but when his skeletons would come flying out of the closet. The only real question at this point is just exactly what will be the cause of his political demise: incompetence, ethical lapses, criminality and/or a cover-up. 

Perhaps that's what the 24/7 news media will now focus on given that their heretofore Christie-as-2016-shoo-in predictions now appear terribly premature.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Jersey Sure: What We Know About BridgeGate

One thing about the BridgeGate scandal we can be sure of: New Jersey Gov. Christ Christie is in a huge heap of trouble. It really doesn't matter whether or not he ordered or had prior knowledge of the George Washington Bridge access lane revenge-closings last September to punish Fort Lee's Mayor Mark Sokolich for his failure to endorse Christie in his re-election bid. Either way, the Big Guy's screwed.

The facts are clear, and by his own admission: either he's a lying, potentially criminal bully, or he's an utterly incompetent chief executive unable to control a rogue senior staff. So whether he's broken the law, committed severe ethics violations or simply had his head up his ass matters little in his quest to be President of the United States come January 2017. This scandal all but kills that hope and, pending the outcome of myriad state and federal investigations now underway, might also cost him the governorship.

"I am not a bully," Christie pleaded from the podium during his nearly two-hour woe-is-me mea-culpa before reporters Thursday in an unprecedented demonstration of narcissism. That bold denial reminds us of Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" and Bill Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman." History has demonstrated that when one utters the words "I am not," he typically is.    

What else is certain here is that the facts and timeline of Christie's story simply don't add up. It's unfathomable that a widely-known, self-admitted micro-manager, feared by many for his brute tactics towards those who cross him, had neither created a culture of retribution which guided his senior team, or one in which he wielded the heavy-hand himself. Whining for 108 minutes about how "blindsided...sad...embarrassed...and humiliated" he is that those in his intimate "circle of trust" have betrayed him doesn't change that suspicion.

Serious questions remain:

-Could Christie really have only found out about the BridgeGate mess for the first time this Wednesday morning after the news officially broke...and by seeing it online on his iPad after a workout at home with his trainer?

-Is it in any way plausible that he did not have have any idea that there were abuses of power both in his top ranks and at the Port Authority, even though his PA appointees David Wildstein and Bill Baroni resigned in December over this very same mess?

-Are we to believe that no one from his senior team bothered to tell him about the Bergen Record story that was about to be published this week? There's no way the newspaper didn't call senior administration officials to discuss the story, or at least tip them off to it, before it went public.

-Is it possible that Christie's #2 official, Bridget Anne Kelly, working for such a tight-fisted, control-freak of a boss, would venture on her own to execute such a bone-headed, Tony Soprano-like act of retribution without any discussion with him, or at least without the belief that she had his tacit approval?

The worst thing that can happen to a politician is that a scandal breaks which reinforces the existing narrative. In this case, it's really not a surprise that Christie's now battling accusations of bullying. To be sure, his reputation as an enforcer pre-dates BridgeGate. The events of this week serve to feed the concerns of nationwide Republicans about the back-room chicanery and corruption in Garden State politics, casting even greater doubt on his presidential electability in 2016. Perhaps you can take the boy out of New Jersey, but you can't take New Jersey out of the boy...

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Bridgegate Over Troubled Water

To some, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is a ballsy, straight-shootin', independent man-of-the-people. To others, he's an arrogant, bullying, typically self-serving politician. And now he's embroiled in a scandal which seems to be proving the latter group right. Welcome to BridgeGate.

While running for re-election this past Fall Christie sought the endorsement of Fort Lee's Democratic Mayor Mark Sokoloch, a public thumbs up he eventually did not receive. In retaliation, it's alleged that top officials in the Republican governor's administration flexed its muscle last September in getting lanes closed on the George Washington Bridge to make Sokoloch's political life miserable.

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," wrote Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's deputy chief of staff, in an email to David Wildstein of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the bridge. Wildstein also happens to be an old high school chum of Christie's.

It didn't matter that people might be sick and/or dying in ambulances stuck in that gridlock. Or that school buses full of kids might be getting to school late. "They are the children of Buono voters," Mr. Wildstein wrote, referring to Christie's Democratic opponent Barbara Buono.

This is the kind of brutal payback crap that's straight out of The Sopranos. And to many, it's no surprise. Many astute analysts have just been waiting for the Christie shoe to drop. For the myth to be shattered. For the skeletons to come crashing out of the closet. Welcome to BridgeGate. 

Back in November, in his very blue state of New Jersey, Christie won a resounding victory, bringing into his big tent not just conservatives but many Democrats, independents, women, Hispanics, blacks and just about everyone else. He was immediately anointed The Great Republican Hope. The sane candidate in a sea of Tea Party crackpots. It was as if the 2016 primaries were already over and Christie was the GOP's man to challenge the likely Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.   

But the notion that he was a virtual shoe-in for the Republican presidential nomination was largely based on the belief that the GOP, hijacked by the Tea Party, has swung so dangerously to the right, resulting in humiliating defeat in election after election, that  the party and it's voters have finally learned their lesson. The problem with that contention is that ideology and wishful thinking always trumps logic, rational thinking and pragmatism.

What got lost in all the euphoria were three critical factors. First, New Jersey is not Kansas. Or Ohio. Or Iowa. Or the Bible Belt or Rust Belt or the Plains. Like Vegas, what happens in Jersey often stays in Jersey. The big question was how this brash, outspoken, obese, larger-than-life Northeastern politician would play in middle-America.

Next, Christie's no angel. There's been much speculation over the years of impropriety on many levels, from budget chicanery to abuses of power. There's no vetting process more intense and invasive than that of a presidential candidate. Could he survive this level of scrutiny?

Lastly, Christie's big win in November meant little in terms of proving his inevitability. Two years in politics is an eternity, and an awful lot of really bad stuff can surface in that period, especially when every aspect of one's personal and public life is put under a microscope. Welcome to BridgeGate.

Was Christie ever truly a viable GOP presidential candidate? Would he be able to overcome the weight issue? The last obese U.S. president was William Howard Taft over 100 years ago... before television and YouTube.

Would Christie be able to withstand a virtually non-stop deep-dive into his closet?  Would Christie's record and reputation eventually catch up with him and burst his mythical bubble?

Welcome to Bridgegate. I think we might have our answer....