Saturday, March 05, 2016

Deal with the Devil: Trump, Christie's Mob Ties

The video of Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, endorsing Donald Trump looked like a man with a gun being held to his back. The impression is so staggering, Christie defended himself to CNN, declaring he was not being held hostage.

The notion of a gun being held to Christie, figuratively or literally, is not from left field if one has a firm grasp of the mob-related corruption in New York-New Jersey. I grew up in upstate New York. Knowledge of political-organized crime corruption is bred into us.

I was a reporter at the Times-Union when the large Capitol complex was being built in Albany at the cusp of the Seventies. Everyone knew someone who worked in construction. The construction crews burned down at night what had been built during the daytime. It was common knowledge.  It was just damned hard to prove that the fire had not been started by night crews to keep warm and got out of control by accident.
To identify Trump as a builder in New York construction, and his less successful casino ventures in New Jersey, is to say that he has been in bed with the mob for a long time.

Politifact, in a balanced, well-researched article, points out that Trump may not  have been happy to deal with the mob, has never been charged with a crime, and provides evidence of the longstanding ties.

David Marcus, at the avowedly conservative The Federalist, reports:

"The Atlantic City story starts with Trump’s purchase of a bar, at twice its market value, from Salvatore Testa, a made man in the Philadelphia mafia and son of Philip “Chicken Man” Testa, who was briefly head of the Philly mob after Angelo Bruno’s 1980 killing. Harrah’s casino, half owned by Trump, would be built on that land, and Trump would quickly buy out his partner, Harrah’s Entertainment, and rename the casino Trump Plaza.

"Author Wayne Barrett lays out a slew of suspicious dealings and associations.
Trump Plaza’s connection to the mob didn’t end with the land purchase from Testa. Nicademo “Little Nicky” Scarfo (who became boss after the elder Testa was blown up) and his nephew Phillip “crazy Phil” Leonetti controlled two of the major construction and concrete companies in Atlantic City. Both companies, Scarf, Inc. and Nat Nat, did work on the construction of Harrah’s, according the State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation’s 1986 report on organized crime," concludes Marcus.

Not coincidentally, Christie is New Jersey and literally has family connections to crime.

 It strains my credulity that Christie, with his fat ass stuffed on manicotti, has not kissed the ring of a mob boss or two. In fact, Christi complained that he looked like a mob boss in a photo on Time magazine cover.

What can one say but, "If it looks like a duck, maybe it is a duck." Does it walk like a duck?

The New York Times reports that Christie visited Tino Fumera, a mob boss and family relation, in prison. In 2002, he recused himself as New Jersey top prosecutor when Fumera was involved.  As with Trump, the connections span time. It looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, and in the endorsement video, I submit it quacks like a duck.

Is it far-fetched to ask if what I shall genteelly call behind-the-scenes pressure was put on Christie to support Trump? It would not be the first time organized crime has been implicated in presidential politics. “In his 1997 book, The Dark Side of Camelot, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh alleged that the elder Kennedy eventually did meet with Giancana in Chicago, to solicit his support for JFK in the general election” (National Geographic History.
But the Kennedys had class and idealistic values, qualities Donald Trump lacks.

Republican Party elders are saying they have to support this Fascist meglomaniac if he wins the popular vote.  This is a deal with the Devil.  The Republican Party in Weimar Germany believed that Hindenberg was the only person who could stop Hitler from being elected. Hitler was appointed vice chancellor to Hindenberg and arrogated power to himself when Hindy died in office. Then Hitler disbanded the elected Reichstag. 

Appeasing bullies is a slippery slope to Hell. It did not turn out well for Germany or Europe the last time appeasement of a power-made lunatic was tried.

The only firewall between Trump and power at this point is the Democratic candidate. Hillary does not fill me with hope. Polls and surveys suggest she is perceived as unlikable. She  carries her own corruption baggage. As in the case of Trump, no political slime has resulted in criminal charges. But perception, not truth, is what prevails in today’s over-mediated society.

Bernie Sanders is the only candidate whose stacks up in likeability to Trump's obscene reality-show posturing and charismatic strong-man bullying.

Political analysts suggest that Trump represents the authoritarian strain in US politics. No secular organization is more authoritarian than organized crime. It’s dog eat dog, kill or be killed, and Trump is a bully in the stamp of a godfather. The nouveau riche gaudy gold trappings of his vision of what success means is straight out of the Sopranos’ playbook.

America, be very scared when Trump starts offering the Republican Party a deal they are saying they can’t refuse.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Bucket List with a Big Helping of Comfort and Stability

American popular culture has made it  fashionable to have a bucket list as a requiem for one's youth. And to then go out and do whatever crazy dang thing is on the list.

This presumably shows character.

I did as many of the dang crazy things I could afford when I was younger. Quite a few are X-rated and others I refuse to acknowledge because my answer may incriminate me. My adventures have been naughty enough so that I am not going to tell them, and on the other side, sufficiently intellectual and fantasist to bore you.

A bucket list, it seems, benefits from the inclusion of extreme sports — parachute jumping, rock climbing, deep sea diving — as proof one is going to live every moment.

Even packing off to the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in India is acceptable, showing adventurousness and intercultural curiosity.

My bucket list does not have an extreme sports or jaw-dropping excursions. I will jump out of an airplane wearing a parachute the day a terrorist points a gun at me and says, “Jump or I’ll shoot.”

My bucket list is simple.

I want to live in a house in Florida where I can have dogs. I want to have two or three, and I want to rescue dogs, particularly poodles.

I would love to have purebreds; they are such a joy. But at this point in aging and maturity, I feel called to relieve some suffering.

I want the house to be energy efficient, secure, in a neighborhood with some businesses and nice vintage homes, perhaps a few mid-century modern buildings that are such a delightful part of Florida architecture.

I want to be part of a dog training and/or rescue group, attend Jung and Sufi events here and on the Eastern seaboard, perhaps other places. Find someone with whom to attend jazz concerts.

I’d like to visit a friend in England, visit Glastonbury and other places known for their ley lines, get into Ireland and Scotland, explore for a month at least. Visit France one last time. Not sure if I want to return to Spain. Would like to see Jung’s home in Switzerland and experience that country.

I’d like to make a good friend or two.

I’d like to spend more time on my health, make exercise a priority.

Get away from the TV. Spend more time with music, reading, writing.

The simple life.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Real Meaning of the 12 Days of Christmas: Recollections & Rant

            Merchants have turned the 12 days of Christmas on their head, with popular culture -- movies and ads – depicting the 12 days preceding the holiday as the most important times to express consideration and get busy with that shopping.  Traditionally, The 12 days of Christmas follow the birth of the child Jesus. It took the Three Wise Men – shadowy figures from East of Palestine – that long to reach Bethlehem after the star appeared to guide them on the so-called Holy Night.

            This night was fixed at December 24, to co-opt the pagan rituals. In early times of winter celebration, feasting in the lord’s castle or the village continued until Jan. 5, the Feast of Epiphany or Little Christmas as it was called in the ethnic community where I was raised. On this night, the myth holds, the Wise Men reached Bethlehem to complete the cycle of rejoicing following the birth of the new king. 

            12 Nights of Socializing

 In my father’s extended family, and my mother’s smaller local family, there was much visiting in the evenings during the 12 nights of Christmas. The men returned from work, generally factory or crafts jobs; the family had dinner. Then the children were bundled into snowsuits, and we set off in the dark, chill night on icy streets. Or relatives might ring the bell about the time we finishing cleaning up after supper.

            In that case, we children were expected to allow ourselves to be hugged, answer questions civilly, open any gifts in the presence of the givers and say “thank you” as sincerely as we could manage as kids, no matter what our personal opinions might be. Then we might go to our rooms, which were not equipped with televisions.  A television was a space-consuming piece of furniture and the focus of the living room. Even radio was not available until my teens, when cheap Japanese transistors came into widespread, affordable use.

       The Social Protocols     

Certain visits were obligatory. Visits to grandparents and/or get-togethers with siblings occurred on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Less close connections were attended to during the week. Nieces and nephews were expected to visit their aunts and uncles, bringing the children to meet the great-aunts and –uncles. Godparents had to be visited, or the godparent might visit the child’s home. There didn’t seem to be a pecking order on that. In general, it was expected that families with young children and older people were less mobile, so they would be visited. In general, younger people visiting older ones showed respect.

            Conversation often centered on family. Conversations included keeping track of marriages and – rare in those times, divorces, as well as births, illnesses, children’s education and antics, and gossip about mutual acquaintances. In addition to information sharing, one conversational ploy was known as fishing.  Direct questions about many things were rude. If one suspected that a woman had died her hair to cover the gray, or someone’s child was getting into trouble, one might volunteer some information that would anticipate a similar self-disclosure from the other person. If I wanted to know if cousin Holly’s child was failing in school, I might volunteer that one of my children was struggling with math or English or some such. Inquiry could be deflected by focusing solely on the inquisitor’s situation: “I am sorry to hear it.”

             Circles of Friends in the Seventies

 As a young woman, there was a lot of visiting among friends during the holiday season. This was accompanied with capacious quantities of wine, weed, and great food. A few businesses even gave a paid break week for the days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. The feeling was that not a whole lot of work would be done anyway. Many business places were looser about hours, especially if business was a bit off.  In the newspaper business, for example, Christmas was often a famine period. This was before our nation celebrated national holidays with shootings, and before celebrity gossip and local police blotter stuff was elevated to the status of news worth anyone’s time. Congress and most state legislatures are on break, and once upon a time in the United States, political coverage constituted a good part of what was considered news.  A phenomenon such as the Kardashians was not even a gleam in the cameras’ eyes.

            Now however, the 12 days of Christmas have fallen on hard times. What was once a joyful period of carousing during the darkest nights of the year has become an excuse for employers to model themselves on Scrooge and fire employees who prefer to spend time with family on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas or Hanukkah, or Passover or Eid, or Diwali, or whatever occasion might be of sacred importance to that worker.

            The 12 days of Christmas, a time for opening one’s heart to an ever widening sphere of people with food, conversation, and drink, is simply a marketing ploy. And it's too bad that advertising analysis co-opts ancient cultural roots, simultaneously pretending to honor them while subverting the social and cultural practices toward a calculus of endless consumerism.