But, President Obama, put your foot on the brakes for a moment, will you? Because one matter has to be dealt before you let the Castro thugs feast on all the bulging wallets of tourists coming to Havana, or all the American business interests dying to invest in the huge Cuban reconstruction that’s inevitably arriving. Their months are watering, I bet. Again, none of this rebirth can happen until the cop killer Joanne Chesimard is returned to this country. Not in six months. Now.
A back story is in order: [as published in the NJ Lawmen magazine]:
‘On May 2, 1973 New Jersey State Troopers James Harper and Werner Foester were on patrol on the New Jersey Turnpike near New Brunswick. They stopped a car carrying three occupants.
‘As the occupants were being questioned, the driver and female passenger suddenly came up with semi-automatic pistols and opened fire. Trooper Foerster was shot twice in the chest, and Trooper Harper was hit as well. The female [Chesimard] then proceeded to take the service revolver from the injured Trooper Foerster. She pointed it at the wounded trooper and shot him twice in the head, execution style, killing him. [Italics added.] Mr. Foester left a wife and two children behind….’
Ms. Chesimard, a member of the Black Liberation Front, was subsequently arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to life plus 26 to 33 years in prison. Regrettably, her incarceration was short-lived: some of her ‘revolutionary’ associates facilitated an escape from jail. She eluded authorities for seven years, before she managed to get to Cuba, where the criminals Castro welcomed her as a ‘freedom fighter;’ she’s lived in Cuba ever since, for 32 years, in ‘relative comfort’ according to one account.
In this country, Congress in the next session will take up the issue of sanctions on Cuba. There’s a split right now: some in Congress want more vigorous sanctions; others, a complete cessation of sanctions. Mr. President, you’re holding a hammer, which is one thing – besides guns and brute force – that the Castros understand perfectly well.
Why not, Mr. President, get on television, and announce the following: [Show some anger and disgust for once.]
‘You [bastards, under his breath] return the American fugitive and killer Joanne Chesimard to the United States immediately. I want her on a plane to New York within 72 hours, non-stop to JFK. Before you tell me ‘no’, let me remind you we can hit your country with even more severe sanctions. Besides, the Cold War is over, and she’s worth nothing to you, not a damn peso. In fact, she’s a liability, because we’ll never forget. If you refuse me, just remember this: we got Bin Laden, and we’ll get her one day. So make it easy on yourselves, and give her up.’
Swapping a worthless pawn from a long-ago time for an opportunity to get their greedy, bloody hands on a huge pile of American money and commercial acumen, the Castro brothers, I think, won’t hold on to Chesimard longer than a nano-second if they’re delivered an ultimatum.
‘Our apologies, Chesimard, but the reality is you’re no longer welcome in Cuba. Bon voyage, and we’ll send flowers and a bottle of Bacardi’s as you cross the threshold to your gorgeous maximum-security-jail-cell home.’
Show some cajones, Mr. President. Drop the Harvard-Law-School pose for five minutes. Be pissed-off, and take on the pathetic Castros. We got Americans back from Iran and North Korea. This should be a piece of cake. Get Chesimard back. It’s way overdue.
‘The Revenant’: Gripes Says No Way -- It’s time, friends, once again, for one of the Gripes patented ‘trailer’ movie reviews. Mr. Gripes would much rather avoid squirming in some movie hall, seething and punishing himself for being such an idiot in passively agreeing to view some two-and-a-half hour piece of dreck; consequently, trailers have become his ticket.
You see, Mr. Gripes has developed a method to avoid the torture of bad movies: he examines the short trailers preceding the main feature, on the lookout for cinema he knows instantly he’d hate. A trailer runs for, what, four or five minutes, more than enough time for Mr. Gripes to make another ‘snap’ judgment. I not only save $12 or $15 bucks later on, I retain a shred of self respect by not wasting a couple more hours of my dwindling days on earth.
But the planets have to be perfectly aligned to discover one of the trailer movies I’m going to review. The movie has to have a tremendous amount of build-up and publicity, and contain a huge star or two, so Mr. Gripes can skewer with great delight the pomposity and self-regard of the film and its protagonists. In a previous trailer review, I observed about 75 seconds of Oprah’s thespian skills [she portrayed the mother of a butler working in the White House] and some ghastly casting – Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower! -- to recognize instantaneously I had come upon a Holy Grail of trailer movies. ‘The Butler’ was a gift from heaven.
Now another movie presents itself, and it’s a beaut: ‘The Revenant’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Folks, I won’t be going to see it any time soon.
Let’s start with the angry, perhaps rabid Grizzly bear: as you’re no doubt aware of, Mr. DiCaprio was set upon by the aforementioned ferocious animal and almost became the bear’s lunch. Somehow, Mr. DiCaprio, all 175 pounds of him and an Olive Oyl frame, bested a beast that probably weighed over 1,000 pounds, in the possession of incredible speed, endowed with huge claws and a demonstrably inhospitable demeanor. Could I have suspended my disbelief and admired Leo’s invincibility? Not for a second.
[A digression about that bear: I don’t care how vicious the bear is, or how brave Mr. DiCaprio seems, my rooting interest was, and will always be, with the animal. If he [or she] could talk, it would say: ‘Listen carefully, Good Lookin’, I live in this forest, 5,000 or so generations of my ancestors have been here before me, and descendants will live here long after me -- in relative harmony, I’ll add. So, holster your goddamn weapons, put your hat back on, and get the hell out, or I’ll tear your legs off. ’]
Nothing about ‘The Revenant’ appeals to Mr. Gripes. As I write this piece in New York City, it’s 1 degree, with a wind chill of 15 below, outside. Just getting to the supermarket involves putting on seven layers of clothing, a Herculean task in itself, and still being frozen half-to-death when I hit the streets. Mr. DiCaprio in the movie deals with much worse: snow drifts the height of the Himalayas, raging white water rivers, and impenetrable forest. Plus, Leo looks exceedingly uncomfortable: I would be, too, if I had to endure a rough, unfinished animal hide on my sweaty, bare skin. To Mr. Gripes, wearing that rustic, itchy coat would be a far greater ordeal than grappling with some enraged bear, that’s for sure. I never was one for camping, either – too much work. Watching Mr. DiCapro attempting to survive the ultimate camping trip holds absolutely no pleasure for Mr. Gripes. Again, too much exertion. I’d rather read a book in the library.
How Hollywood works is a mystery to Mr. Gripes. Here’s a movie that is essentially a remake of a Grizzly Adams tale; the hero manages to emerge from all kinds of catastrophes with body and mind intact. ‘Revenant’ looks like one of those over-the-top, Cecil B DeMille mega-productions that is fundamentally nothing but a jacked-up wilderness tale, propelled by a prototypically huge studio marketing effort. It all hinges on the handsome countenance of its star, Mr. DiCaprio. An Academy award for best actor seems inevitable, considering all the press and praise being lavished on the star these days. The big push is on.
But, in reality, it’s a ‘small’ movie, saddled with big, big pretensions, with actually very little to offer. Perfect for a Mr. Gripes trailer review.
Good Bye, Governor -- When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie dropped out of the Republican Presidential nomination race a week ago, it was the first time Mr. Gripes had exhaled in about a year and a half. I was scared to death of a President Christie. I’ve lived through Nixon, the Republic outlasted Reagan, and by the grace of God we managed to survive the woefully overmatched George W. Bush, too, but Christie in the White House? Mr. Gripes would pack his bags, buy a one-way airline ticket to New Zealand, and depart on a midnight flight the same day.
I’ve watched Christie closely for six or seven years now, since he was elected. He’s a dangerous man, entirely ruled by egregious self-interest and egotism, without a whit of governance skills, except for one talent: he could have run one hell of a race against Hillary Clinton; in fact, I would have taken odds he would have beaten her.
All politicians lie, and lie all the time. New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio always is proclaiming what a great ‘progressive’ he is, but he’s now become nothing but another low-rent ward-heeler bent on his re-election. The instant his so-called progressive agenda works against him in terms of popularity, i.e., his harsh words for the police, he drops that agenda, and kisses the butts of the police union. I’m not against backing the police, per se, but this is a demonstration that there are no core beliefs when it comes to any of these guys. They’re phonies, all of them. [Except for Trump, maybe.]
Well, Mr. Christie was the worst of them. ‘Duplicity’ is his middle name. When he ran for re-election in New Jersey, in an attempt to show he’d be the one ‘unity’ candidate that both Democrats and Republicans could vote for in the 2016 Presidential election, he and his cronies withheld SuperStorm Sandy aid from some municipalities, all of which happened to be localities led by Democratic mayors who did not endorse him. One mayor of a northern New Jersey city, who refused to back Mr. Christie, was told by Christie’s lieutenant governor in a subsequent meeting that no aid would be forthcoming and if the mayor had the nerve to bring this matter up, the governor would ‘deny it, and no one will believe you.’ That exactly is what occurred in the wake of BridgeGate.
So, I say thank God for the George Washington Bridge fiasco that Mr. Christie must have known about and likely initiated. The wantonly aggressive act of preventing cars from crossing the bridge had the fingerprints of Christie all over it. That hurt him nationally more than any other factor. Everything about BridgeGate reeks of Christie the persona: ruthless, cruel, vindictive, bullying, and above all zero concern toward his constituents. Screw New Jersey, he probably reasoned, I’m on to much bigger things: this was all about Christie’s overarching ambition to be elected President.
Look at how he handled his Presidential run: he was never home, spending day after day, week after week, in New Hampshire hoping to jump start a campaign by doing well in the primary there. Most senators or governors would at least try cosmetically to cover their asses, and pretend to take care of home business. Not Christie. He was completely absent, and made no bones about it.
His ego crushed him, finally. New Jersey is absolutely fed up with him. Most of my in-laws live in New Jersey, and occasionally we drive out to a family event, and see everybody. They’re mainly Republicans, and two or three years ago, virtually all of them thought Mr. Christie was the cat’s meow – they enthusiastically supported him. This was probably a little after Sandy, at the peak of his popularity. Well, six months ago, we visited again, and not one of the same people expressed any support for him. In fact, the feelings were exactly the opposite; for instance, Sal, very conservative, and a big Christie fan once, simply told me, ‘I hate him.’ His New Jersey poll numbers? He’s at 35% now in terms of popularity, which is absolutely dreadful.
But Chris Christie, I’d hazard a guess, will be back. Mr. Gripes recalls vividly a very angry and bitter Richard Nixon, in 1962 the day after he lost his bid for the California governorship, at a press conference, declaring famously, “Now you won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.’ I thought he was finished. But, that didn’t happen: through an enormous drive to succeed, and incredible perseverance, Mr. Nixon made it all the way back. Chris Christie, with that will and ego, could be back, too, one day. I fervently hope not.
Jim Israel, aka ‘Mr. Gripes’
February 18, 2016