Sunday, December 3, 2017

Pitt KO’s Weinstein/ A Rotting Democracy/ Trump Always Wins…

Harvey Gets It Caught in the Wringer --They were so certain of it: no matter how outrageous and criminal their behavior was regarding their treatment of women, the grandees of Hollywood – studio heads, directors, producers, really virtually anyone in the movie business who controlled the careers of women – were confident they had not a thing to worry about: as the big bosses, they could inflict any kind of sexual depredation upon their subjects, who wouldn’t dare say a word about it because ‘no one would believe them.’ The moguls were too rich, too famous, too powerful, too connected to ever be accused by some low-on-the-totem-pole starlet. They were untouchable.

Well, thank God, that’s over. Aggrieved women are coming out of the woodwork with their accounts of sexual misconduct. We have Harvey Weinstein to thank for that. He, and many others as well, after decades of untrammeled, incomprehensible criminal behavior, are finished [for the foreseeable future]. If criminal charges are not forthcoming, and they may not be, Mr. Weinstein is essentially ruined anyway – fired from his own studio, a wife and two young kids leaving him, unemployable, essentially a pariah among his peers, who will be essentially broke, once all the lawsuits and lawyer fees tumble forward.

Mr. Gripes, who in the best of times, is not the most empathetic character, asserts, “Too bad, Harvey. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. You’re a crude and egotistical pig. You deserve everything that’s happening to you.’

With all the tumult spewing forth these days, Mr. Gripes is puzzled by a few aspects of this scandal: why, for one, were there so little venom and outrage directed at Weinstein and the other predators by the victims’ boyfriends, husbands or significant males in their lives? In fact, it appears that there was virtually blanket silence and inaction on the part of these men. For a week, maybe, after Weinstein’s behavior was exposed, everyone in fact seemed to toe a party line: ‘I didn’t know a thing about this kind of behavior in Hollywood.’ Even the friends of the victims asserted this. 

Then suddenly everything shifted: it turned out, evidently, everyone knew of the Weinstein crimes, as well as a thousand others, and they’ve known for a long time. Ignorance was no longer thrown out there as a defense. A lot of people just kept their mouths shut.

So, I ask again: where were the men who lived with these women, who had serious relationships with them? Why, for decades, did we hear absolutely nothing from them? 

It turns out there is one gallant knight, perhaps, in this, although he basically didn’t do what was really called for either. Gwyneth Paltrow in a meeting was accosted in an ‘uncomfortable’ manner by Weinstein, escaped, went home, and told her boyfriend Brad Pitt about the incident.  Mr. Pitt subsequently accosted Weinstein at a gathering, and told him, I’m guessing, to ‘knock it off’. And that was the extent of it. Nothing more from any other male in Hollywood. Ms. Paltrow in fact continued to work with Weinstein afterwards. Is it all about careers, and no courage, out there?

What kind of man would ever allow a monster like Weinstein to put his hands on a woman, let alone someone whom you care about? Mr. Gripes shakes his head; I just don’t get it.

I’ll end this piece with a Gripes fantasy of an alternate ‘take’ on the Weinstein-Brad Pitt confrontation: Brad Pitt goes up to Weinstein at the party, after the incident, and yells, ‘Who do you think you are, you fat creep! Gynneth came home very scared after meeting with you the other day. You think you can just go up to any woman and put your slimy hands on her?’ 

At that point, in my fantasy, Mr. Pitt unloads his best impersonation of a Sonny Liston right cross-left hook combination, landing thunderous punches into the far-more-than-ample gut and solar plexus of Weinstein. Weinstein collapses on the floor, gasping, pleading with Brad to stop. ‘You’re despicable, Harvey, and if I hear of any other women whom you mess around with, and whom you hurt in any way, I will find you and beat you to a pulp. I promise you.’

Deeply enmeshed in his fantasy now, Mr. Gripes can almost hear the late announcer Howard Cosell intoning, ‘Down goes Weinstein! Down goes Weinstein! 1…2…3…4… The count is going to hit 10, and the bastard is out cold.’

An American Democracy? No More….As an innocent, patriotic kid growing up in the United States, Mr. Gripes just assumed – felt in his gut actually – that American governance had no peer in the world : a robust, prosperous, confident, indomitable democracy, a free people, an example for all nations. I thought it would go on forever. All of us growing up in the 1950’s believed that 1,000%.

And now look: in 2017, our government is 100% dysfunctional. That’s the sad truth.

No longer are elections ‘free’ and ‘open’. Not by a long shot. Instead of welcoming challengers, and looking forward to a fair fight, incumbents have ‘locked up’ the system, by either raising so much money that newcomers don’t have the stomach or the cash to even enter legislative contests, or incumbents are protected by the egregious, pernicious gerrymandering that gives every electoral advantage to those already in power.

Perfect example of ‘no-contest’: Governor Andrew Cuomo, who runs again, next year in New York, has already raised $25 million [!] for that campaign even though, at this point, he has no viable opponent to run against.  No one else will be able to raise money of that scale. That kind of money is overkill to the max; if the governor had only $15 in his re-election coffers, he’d still win. This is what incumbents do: raise so much money early, to scare off challengers.  And this is democracy? Give me a break. Incumbents are petrified of even token opposition. They’re cowards. And they’re re-elected 90% of the time, over and over again. [The lethargic, uninformed voting public is at fault too; as the cartoon character Pogo says, ‘I have met the enemy, and it is us.’]

It’s taken Mr. Gripes a long, long time to acknowledge a political epiphany – Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, from the South or the West or the East, politicians  do not believe in an equitable system; if they can – and they work ‘the angles’ very efficiently – eliminate the opposition in any quasi-legal way, they’ll do it. The sitting politicians mouth beautiful words about the strength of our democratic system, but work to eviscerate it at every turn. These gutless wonders are frightened to death of real democracy, real competition. American democracy is rotting at its core.

Trump, Trump, Trump? Well, He Wins, Wins, Wins…A couple of days ago, it was all about Senate candidate Roy Moore 24 hours of the day…then it was 24/7 on Pocahontas…tomorrow, maybe Jared Kushner, or Ivanka, or the fake drama of the tax bill. And it just goes on and on. For cable news, and to a lesser extent, network news, the beat-down on Trump never relents.  Mika Brzezinski, sighing and grimacing all the way to the bank, fretting about Donald the Gremlin; the monotonic Rachel Meadow smirking for a full hour [a couple of words of advice to Ms. Meadow:  just chill out and relax for a couple of minutes, and let your fans exhale, OK?]; CNN shuffling its countless panels of commentators on and off camera, whirling them back and forth, as if they were the teacups at the Disneyland ride, or Chris Cuomo dramatizing every tiny news item to death [His hurricane coverage was priceless]. Mr. Gripes watches less and less of the farce that is present-day American broadcast news. It’s simply insufferable.

And guess what? I don’t miss it one bit. Balanced coverage just doesn’t exist anymore. These days it’s a pitched battle between two sides which never agree on anything, and television ends up serving up biased pabulum to myopic viewers who already have made up their minds, and do not listen to any arguments to the contrary.

Television, in its usual cowardly fashion, has fundamentally given up trying to bridge the chasm between the two factions; Mr. Gripes thinks television news has probably always hyped the drama inherent in news events, but now, the hype has a bias attached to it to retain loyalty among viewers.

What is driving the anti-Trump brigades [of which there are millions and millions] especially crazy is that despite the constant Trump bashing, as well-deserved as it is most of the time, Trump is winning virtually all the fights. Congressional seats? The Republicans have netted four additional seats since January 20 over the Democrats; Obama’s health plan is being eviscerated bit by bit, and will disappear in a couple of years; a tax bill which will add $1.5 trillion to our debt, is a foregone winner now, and Trump’s support in electoral districts he won in 2016 has not diminished at all [it turns out the lower Trump poll numbers simply reflect higher Democratic support in urban blue states, the vast majority of which are solidly Democratic to begin with.] It looks like Trump will begin his next Presidential run with his supporters firmly in his back pocket.

What’s ahead? The Big One…Mr. Gripes is 100% certain Donald Trump is hiding something very damaging to him vis-à-vis his relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia. How do I know? I see with my own eyes: Trump’s actions and words are the giveaway: in dealing with everyone else, Trump is a bully, a sadist, a blowhard, a liar [Wow, what a liar], a bombast, an ignoramus, an egotist, and very likely a crook. With Putin, though, Donald Trump acts like the contented, fat house cat, purring away on his master Vladimir’s lap. Trump is guilty of something very, very serious. I have a feeling the answer lies in those undisclosed tax returns of his, which will be revealed someday. When that occurs, Trump could very well finally meet his Waterloo.

Jim Israel
Mr. Gripes
November 29, 2017

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Trump's Still Around / Venezuela's Plight / Our Disastrous Mayor

Not So Fast, Democrats -- On several occasions, with the all-too-obvious backing of much of the ‘independent’ press, the Democrats were going to ‘stick it’ to Donald Trump, and ‘swipe’ a Congressional seat away from the Republicans, paving the way for a Democratic sweep in the 2018 House of Representatives general election.

Four times this year, the Democratic candidate, gleefully riding a palpable anti-Trump sentiment among American voters, was presumed to be a favorite to win the race.

Guess what? Never happened. Republicans: 4 for 4 – Democrats:0 -4- a big fat zero.

The Democrats act shocked that this could have occurred. How is it possible a villain of the proportions of Donald Trump can possibly win and win and win? Don’t voters see through the act?

No, they don’t. And Democrats – that means you Nancy Pelosi and the never-reticent Chuck Schumer – better find superior candidates and offer real substance to voters. Forget all the noise about which bathrooms to use, women’s pay, or immigrant reform; these issues don’t mean anything to people who are surviving from paycheck to paycheck and have been beaten up by the business and political classes for decades – of which, incidentally, both parties are guilty . Nancy, you need to come up with solutions, not more impossible-dream scenarios.

At least, Trump supporters will say, he’s yelling and screaming, and shaking things up. Obama didn’t do any of that: he solicitously took possession of a 425 page policy book, and retired to peruse it quietly in his study until midnight. Too damn quiet for a lot of people.

Mr. Gripes is absolutely not a fan of Donald Trump, not one bit. He’s everything that I abhor in a President: he’s got no intellectual curiosity, he’s a mean, dishonest son-of-a-bitch, he doesn’t care about his American constituency one whit, except as to how it feeds his excessive ego, and, let’s be honest about this, his pocket book and net worth. We’ll never know to what extent while he’s in office, but just imagine how much his family is amassing in terms of his fortune. We all know if we looked under the rock, the picture would be horrific.

Despite all the baggage, the lying, the duplicity, and the blatant incompetency, Donald Trump, unless he resigns, will be with us a long time.

Mr. Gripes has a couple of theories as to why Donald Trump remains in a strong position, despite the predictions of his doom:

Barack Obama : the ex-President appeared for a couple of months to be on permanent vacation, jumping off yachts, snorkeling among the Midway Islands, golfing at St. Andrews in Scotland. I hope you enjoyed yourself, Mr. Obama, because on your return home, you must have realized just getting off the plane you have zero power and influence. Your sycophantic fans think you still have clout, but in the real world, you don’t have any. It was a great run, but it’s really over.
To the Trump backers, Barack Obama has been the devil incarnate for a long time, a detested and reviled individual. A Trump supporter might say, ‘Donald Trump beat Hillary, and accomplishing that huge feat, managed to eviscerate and obliterate the Obama-Hillary conspiracy.’ And readers, have you noticed the ‘scorched earth’, anti-Obama policies since January 20? President Trump, like his voters, simply wants all traces of Obama and his eight years of liberal thinking and legislation eliminated.

For that one overriding achievement, the Trump supporters are willing to give the President a huge hug, no matter his outsized faults. ‘We will be eternally grateful,’ is the screed of the Trump crowd. Whatever President Trump does or does not do from now on, he’s done that.

There’s another less obvious possibility why Mr. Trump will probably not face his moment of truth any time soon: the ‘Trump bump’ on Wall Street. Since Mr. Trump’s triumph in November, the stock market has rocketed up. The affluent class in this country – Let’s put it at 25% of the population – has been significantly enriched since November. The upper classes, who were not Trump voters and certainly are still worried about his steadiness, feel less anguish and fear now that their IRAs are fattening up. People feel pretty good right now: as heavyweight Joe Lewis said regarding the check handed to him after one of his successful title fights, “One thing about money: it sure settles the nerves.”

It’s never mentioned by the big-mouths on network television, but Mr. Gripes senses this feeling of enhanced financial well-being among certain Americans mitigates against persistent Trump protests. The one demographic sector -- the upper middle class --that could effectuate regime change remains quiet. That sector was the driving force of Richard Nixon’s ignominious exit; Watergate was the excuse. When that class finally moved against Mr. Nixon en masse, he was finished. We’re a long, long way from that happening this time.

Venezuela --In my mid-teens, for one week during a summer, I accompanied my father to a medical conference in Caracas, Venezuela. My dad enjoyed the company, and both my parents must have figured a short trip to a foreign country might be a ‘learning experience’ for me, instead of wasting my time at home obsessing about Mickey Mantle and his home runs.
Well, I did sit in on a cardiology lecture for 45 minutes, observing one enlarged, blood-engorged heart after another. I decided on the spot that my activity for the next three days would be exploring Caracas on my own.

Despite the opulence of the hotel swimming pool, I chose to obtain some ‘carry-around’ money from my dad, and with the admonition not to ‘go too far’ from the hotel, I began to ‘tour’ the city. Caracas, from what I recall, was not a picturesque city, in the tradition of, say, Barcelona or Paris. In fact, it was a drab place, dominated by oil derricks in those days, and resembling New York City somewhat in its grittiness. Sightseeing was not one of its strengths.

But, I discovered, in my sojourns, that the Venezuelans themselves were helpful, kind, generous and very pleasant to a 15-year-old, sheltered boy. [On multiple occasions, shopkeepers would step out into the street, and present to me -- I offered to pay, but was refused – some kind of meat pie that must have been a national dish. I ate a ton of them.]

I always remember with fondness how friendly the people of Caracas were to me, with no ostensible animosity at all. I felt at ease with them immediately.

So, when I read these days of the apparent complete breakdown of the Venezuelan state, the political arrests and shootings, the dissolution of its institutions [judicial, economic], the ‘stolen’ elections, I react with two emotions: a profound sadness for those kind people and utter rage at – once again as has been the case since 1917 – the goddamn Communists who run the country.

It’s always been the same story, beginning with Nikolai Lenin taking a train to St Petersburg and starting the Bolshevik Revolution, the monster Josef Stalin, the murderous Mao killing tens of millions of his own citizens, or the psychopathic Fidel Castro, within two months of his ascension to power, executing hundreds of his own citizens and expropriating private property: these criminals  will cruelly treat anyone who may challenge the one-man dictatorship, and then dispose of them quickly via a noose or firing squad or imprisonment.

What’s absolutely stunning about Communists is that the story has been and always is the same: they usurp control with ‘power-to-the-people’ promises, and obliterate the one class that could do wonders for the country: the intelligentsia and the small business owners. Within a short time, without the assistance of the people who actually have the ability to run a country successfully, the Communists manage to destroy the economy, impoverish the citizens, and rule without mercy. They become homicidal psychopaths; holding on to power using any means available becomes the ultimate goal. And, of course, the United States becomes the universal scapegoat for these bastards.

The baboon Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, elected in a free election in 1998, and his successor Maduro are no different: they devastate the national economy [inflation the last time I looked was running at 720% annually!], to the point now citizens can’t get enough food, and Maduro and his henchmen hold on to power through only one means: the gun.
Final portrait of Mussolini
I just hope that Maduro, when he is finally overthrown, is treated just like Benito Mussolini was at the end of World War II: the former dictator of Italy was executed, then hung up, naked, by his ankles, at a public gas station, so his fellow Italians could confirm that he was dead, and then enjoy spitting on him. That would be entirely fitting for Mr. Maduro.

Our Incompetent Mayor – Mr. Gripes, once a card-carrying liberal, has been disenchanted with them for a long time: Conservatives, i.e., Republicans, invariably govern utilizing ill-conceived, cruel and economy-destroying policies alongside hollow promises, but Liberal ones, i.e., Democrats, go one better: they promise the world – balanced budgets, an ‘even playing field’ for all, ‘progressive’ actions without moneyed influence – but they lie, connive and cheat exactly like their Republican colleagues.
EVERY politician alive is interested in three things: raising tons of money, destroying his opponents, and getting re-elected. Nothing else, especially sound and responsible policy, matters.

Let’s look at the case of the present mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio. A pleasant enough man whom I know from our local YMCA, he’s sadly turned out to be nothing more than another grubby, low-life city pol who’s looking for money virtually every waking moment. Oh, sure, he invariably talks up his ‘progressive’ stances, but it’s a bunch of baloney.

An example: early in his term, a couple of years ago, he advocated, very strongly I might add, replacing the work horses which lead tourist carriages around Central Park, with automobiles [!!]. These electric-run autos would be built along the designs of vintage antique cars, i.e., the Ford Model T. Why the hell, Mr. Gripes wondered at the time, would our mayor look to replace one of the signature city tourist attractions with a car? [Or, as a friend of mine asserted, ‘Like New York needs more cars?’]

My father, long before Watergate, taught his children that ‘if things don’t really make a lot of sense, follow the money streams….’

It turns out that the chief backer of the plan to eliminate the horses and replace with automobiles had donated $300,000 to Mr. de Blasio’s Democratic primary campaign.  The donor was and is a very wealthy real estate developer in the city. That money was subsequently used to buy TV advertising spots which attacked the mayor’s chief primary rival, Christine Quinn. Later, Ms. Quinn was beaten badly in the primary. It turns out that these horses are housed in stables located midtown on the West Side [52nd Street], a property that has long been coveted by real estate developers. Mr. de Blasio’s contributor, whose group ultimately donated $1 million to the full campaign, it seems, wanted very badly to eliminate the Central Park horse-carriage business and empty out the stables. Then builders would bid on the now-unoccupied space, with the winner putting up a high-rise apartment building on the site, netting presumably hundreds of millions in the current red-hot New York real estate market. The way New York City bidding works, guess who’s most likely to ‘win’? 

I don’t think for a moment the developer cared about the welfare of those animals, which was his justification for pushing to eliminate horses in Central Park. Real estate moguls – look at Trump’s sordid history – don’t fret over a matter of a horse’s work load for a second. These guys would run over the horses with their limousines if it meant getting their hands on that valuable piece of property.

Another facet of this plan actually made Mr. Gripes even angrier: the Mayor proposed building a $25 million stable to house the retired horses in Central Park -- public land by the way. $25 million to be paid out of the city budget [NYC taxpayers] for a building that’s to hold maybe 80 horses! This is not a Frank Lloyd Wright design we’re talking about. It’s a horse stable, for God’s sake, a simple, inexpensive construction of some wooden walls and roof; an oil by Cezanne is not required. The entire deal reeks of pure larceny and corruption, and yet the legislation almost passed.

Through divine intervention, perhaps, on the eve of the vote to approve in the City Council – usually a lap-dog organization for de Blasio, akin to Khrushchev’s Politburo --the project was killed. It was even too toxic for our typically brain-dead municipal representatives. Alas, our fine Mayor promises to revisit the entire issue after he’s re-elected. In New York City, big donors ultimately get paid.

Jim Israel, aka Mr. Gripes
July 12, 2017

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Media's Crocodile Tears / The Middle East: Enough For Now / The Wall Debacle

Really It’s Not That Bad, Is It, Mr. Tapper? -- It’s been tough sledding for Mr. Gripes since Donald Trump’s election. How on earth is anything he chooses to write about going to compete – on an entertainment level -- with whatever that febrile, infantile brain of the President chooses to  bray about on any given day, or hour, for that matter.

After a long hiatus, I finally realize that the Trump Bizarro-World is a cornucopia of riches for snapping-turtle types like Mr. Gripes.

So, let’s get started:

At the outset, let’s acknowledge one certifiable fact about the circus we are so ravenously feasting on: the media, seemingly horrified and disgusted at the spectacle they’re experiencing up-close, will never acknowledge to stunned viewers that Donald Trump is an absolute godsend to all media: TV and radio ratings have jumped, newspaper subscriptions are going up; [Ironically, the ‘failing’ NY Times, gushing red ink, may prosper again due to Trump], and even stodgy, august publications like the New Yorker are seeing substantially larger subscription numbers.

What this means, predictably, are higher advertising rates, which will engender, naturally enough, larger profits for the entertainment/news corporations. The more outrageous Mr. Trump acts, whisper the TV stations and newspapers, the more the rapt, fascinated ‘viewing audience’ tunes in to see the Big Show -- and the cash rolls in. The media – the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post, CBS, NBC, all of the giants – weep through crocodile tears.

And let’s not forget that not-happening, run-of-the-mill broadcasters -- Jake Tapper and Don Lemon come to mind -- by confronting Trump on occasion and acting so, so aggrieved, are raising their own profiles, which very likely will engender more lavish opportunities down the road. Mr. Tapper, for one, should send a ‘Thank You, Mr. President’ to the White House. 

Now to President Trump: we all are aware of his multiple shortcomings that will not serve him well as President – impatience, megalomania, rashness, greed, cruelty, ignorance, an inability to focus, mythomania [lying], lack of compassion, indolence, a bias toward authoritarianism, and a Manichean world view – but the one trait that stands out to Mr. Gripes is his, and I’m creating a word here, total in-educability. Mr. Gripes senses the President, in his term, probably will never bone up on essential policy issues, whether it’s North Korea, the Chinese military build-up, trade agreements, the burgeoning civil war in the Ukraine, or a thousand other issues. That task would involve solitary work and concentration, verboten to the Trump persona.  He’ll watch news on television, probably Fox, read a magazine or two [‘People’ and ‘Maxim’, most likely, certainly not ‘The Atlantic’], speak to his advisors, but never will he have enough information of his own to make intelligent decisions.

Mr. Trump prides himself on ‘winging it’, just as Mr. Gripes attempted to do when he had not studied for an exam. That particular methodology never worked for Mr. Gripes, and will not work any better for Mr. Trump. In fact, his rampant ignorance will most likely lead to emotional and irrational decisions. His final decisions may simply be based on the opinion of the last person he spoke to. Barack Obama, whatever his faults, did not make rash decisions; Mr. Trump, I’m afraid, will.  I dread the consequences.

The Middle East: Bye-Bye for Now -- Now, after all that, I bring up an issue in which Mr. Gripes finds himself in fundamental agreement with Mr. Trump: the Israel-Palestine quagmire.

First, some telling optics: the President met with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a couple of months ago, and afterwards they held a press conference. Mr. Netanyahu sits to Mr. Trump’s right as Trump takes press questions on the Middle East. While Mr. Trump was babbling on, the look on Mr. Netanyahu’s countenance was priceless: he was the ‘cat that ate the canary.’ Smug, seemingly supremely content, almost gloating, the Prime Minister, after the hand-to-hand combat with Barack Obama for eight years, knew he finally had his yes-man in charge. ‘Man, after dealing with that bastard Obama for an eternity, this guy is going to be a piece of cake.’

As for the topic at hand, Mr. Trump announces --- very likely thinking, ‘I don’t know sh_t or even care  about this boring stuff’ -- that  he won’t take sides on the question of one state or two states, and then says, [I paraphrase] ‘in whatever form Israel and Palestine agree on a solution, that’s fine with me. Until then, the United States is hands-off.’ You know, when I heard that, I thought, ‘Trump’s absolutely right – why the hell should this country continue working our collective asses off to get these intransigent enemies to sit down and work out a peaceful solution, when nothing’s worked for 20 years?’

Hell, John Kerry, the feckless former Secretary of State, must have flown in circles around the Middle East 50 times trying to get a deal done, all for nothing. Enough already.  It’s not worth our time or attention until the parties themselves over there make an attempt to sit down and get serious about peace.

There are so many other dangerous, time-sensitive issues that have to be dealt with right now. Our energies should be focused elsewhere.

The ‘Wall’— A little bit of history: France built, between World War I and II, a fortification along the Switzerland-Luxembourg border to prevent another invasion from Germany.  Called the ‘Maginot Line,’ the French reasoned the wall was impregnable -- no longer would goose-stepping German troops come pouring over the open border. One problem, though: no fortification was built up north along the Belgian border.

Needless to say, the wall didn’t work – the Maginot Line is, infamously, one of the great follies of military lore. Germany, in 1940, invaded France by simply going around the wall to the south, through Belgium. Paris fell two weeks later, and all of France capitulated soon after. The well-deserved reputation of the French as military morons has stood to this day.

Well, Mr. Gripes is convinced history is about to repeat itself: the wall along the Mexican border that President Trump is planning to erect promises to be a multi-billion – many, many billions -- calamity, an unnecessary boondoggle that will surely line the pockets of some of Trump’s fat cat supporters, but serve no other purpose whatsoever. By the time it’s completed, the wall will be as useless as an appendix.

Let’s, first, break down some of the initial fanciful cost projections: in the White House budget,  the figure for the construction has been set at $5 billion. No one in the White House or Congress believes that figure for a moment. More reputable analysts who don’t have an ax to grind put the figure at $11 billion. And there’s not one word about the inevitable overruns: Mr. Gripes lives in New York City, just like Mr. Trump, and both of us know no major construction project is completed here without huge overruns of expenditures. Overruns are ‘baked’ into contracts here and elsewhere, as Mr. Trump surely knows. So, let’s double the figure to $22 billion. And that’s just for the construction.

I move on…..This is one huge project, covering about 2,100 miles of border. Some of that terrain is exceptionally rugged, and will be exceedingly difficult to ‘pacify’ even prior to any wall construction. That means an additional huge cost element to the project.

And what about the real estate along the border on which the wall will be built? The government has to negotiate prices for that land with the individual landowners. Indeed, through eminent domain, the federal government can take over privately owned real estate, but that doesn’t mean the whole process is going to be easy. And, once again, that means big delays, more lawyers, more litigation, more court dates, and another huge financial outlay. 

And, adding to the financial slaughter, President Trump has requested in his budget 15,000[!] additional border police, new judges and other personnel, which will lead to a brand-new federal bureaucracy, with all the attendant employee benefits and wages that promise to stretch out for decades.  And, of course, that means additional costs attached to the wall, and a few more billion added to the federal debt each year. 

Finally, perhaps the most salient point: by the time this monstrosity is finished, it’ll be outdated and essentially useless. Let’s suppose this takes 9, 10 years to build: no one has mentioned that technology advances, through much better functioning drones and space satellite surveillance, guarantee blanket electronic coverage along the entire length of the wall. Drones will take over the job of the wall in keeping out immigrants. No one will be unobserved coming over the border, purely via electronic means. Illegals crossing over will not stand a chance amidst all the cameras honing in on them, and capture will be virtually instantaneous. The wall will be obsolete on the day it’s completed – and stand for a very long time as another display of American idiocy and arrogance.

By Jim Israel, aka Mr. Gripes                         
April 18, 2017

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Hasta la Vista, Fidel/ Scranton Joe Is Running Again/ Christmas Plot?

Straight to Hell, Fidel --Mr. Gripes was handed an early Christmas present on November 25th: he woke up to discover that Fidel Castro had died. My immediate reaction: ‘The SOB is finally dead -- this morning there’s one less bastard on this earth.’

And, indeed, what a ruthless, cruel, heartless monster he was. And crazy, too: when Nikita Khrushchev and John Kennedy were attempting delicately to extricate their countries from initiating a nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, Fidel Castro’s persistent advice to Mr. Khrushchev was : ‘Go, go for it. Use the missiles to launch those nuclear weapons on the U.S. if America threatens Cuba.’  Castro was advocating the destruction of the planet, which would surely have followed any attack on the United States mainland. When I read this recently, I was immediately convinced: Fidel Castro was a demonic and murderous psychopath.

Mr. Castro did, miraculously, manage to survive 57 years in power, since 1959. That is astonishing.  But, readers, don’t be misled by the fools who still support the Castro reign. Don’t believe for a second it’s because there was a groundswell of love and devotion to Fidel. No, the Castros have maintained power through the very same means that all cruel despots use: a huge secret police apparatus that penetrates every aspect of Cuban society, eliminating any political opposition through intimidation and imprisonment, prohibiting a free press or free assembly, or simply through the barrel end of a gun, or the noose at the end of a piece of rope.

Cubans are a very gifted and beautiful people blessed with hard work-ethics, who reside on a gorgeous island that possesses bountiful natural resources. Fidel Castro essentially took these people and their magnificent country and ground them into the ground. Mr. Gripes laughs when he hears the apologists assert, ‘But Castro gave his people free medical care.’ Yeah, and the doctors, I bet, deal with a lot of malnutrition. The jobless economy is so dire, and has been for so long, that people struggle to eat. It’s an impoverished, tattered country.

Castro, when he came to power, had an opportunity to mold his country into one of the most envied nations on earth: his people, if they were treated differently, and if Castro had chosen a more benevolent path, could easily have achieved whatever they wanted. And let’s not forget that American investment and aid would have poured in. The country had everything it needed. But Castro didn’t hesitate to take another road: his ambition was one-man rule and domination, and if killing enemies and destroying the economy were the methods to get there, so be it. 

His supporters in this country never did accept Fidel Castro as the criminal he was. After all, he was a devoted Marxist, and the leader of a country that was a ‘workers paradise.’ Everyone would be treated the same, the doctor or the peon in the sugar fields. It was going to an egalitarian society. Castro promised this, and a lot of duped people in America and Europe believed him for a long, long time. 

Did you know that Cuban citizens, whose land is surrounded by the spectacular Caribbean Sea, are not allowed to keep their own boats! Why? Fidel Castro, a man of the people, was afraid his people would try to escape the ‘workers’ paradise’ and direct the ships to America, to a free life. Fidel Castro was a horrific, sorrowful catastrophe, who mistreated his own people right up to the end.

Jobless Man from Scranton -- At least he’s honest: Joe Biden, soon to be out of his job as court jester in the Obama royal court, admitted a couple of weeks ago, “I’ve done this [politics] since I was 26 years old; I can’t do anything else.’ Naturally, in the same breath he announces he’s running for President in 2020. Guys like him always are running for office, or getting ready to run. They’re like racehorses – lead them to a race track, and they witlessly run, and run, and run.

Mr. Biden, not a man of introspection, doesn’t realize he’s finished. His time has passed: he’s worked successfully the ‘I’m-from-scrappy-Scranton-and me-and-the-working-man-are-attached-at-the-hip’ crap for a long time. His supporters, however, extensively white, blue-collar, union, urban, and a bit long-in-the-tooth, have just rejected the Democrats and voted for Trump. He’s now a relic of the Franklin Roosevelt era.

When Mr. Biden confesses he can’t do anything else but run for office, he’s not kidding: I bet he couldn’t sell a chocolate bar or a comic book to kids on their lunch break in a candy store. Mr. Gripes, despite Mr. Biden’s jobless plight, sheds no tears for him; some fat-cat, liberal, Democratic tax-dodge foundation will give him a cushy $750,000 no-show sinecure for which Mr. Biden, flying first-class around the country while staying at $800-a-night, big-shot hotels, will attend well-heeled conferences to exhort crestfallen Hillary souls to keep the faith –2020 will be here soon enough.

Why is Joe Biden in such a hurry to announce a run at this ungodly early date? [Also, let’s not forget that challengers like Elizabeth Warren and, yes, Bernie Sanders, are growling about running, too]. Mr. Gripes has a theory. The Democratic Party, I suspect, is convinced that Donald Trump is going to fall on his face, fail miserably as President, and serve just one term, gift-wrapping a Democratic Presidency in 2020.

Beware, once again, my vanquished and wishful-thinking Democratic friends: Mr. Trump may turn out to be quite adroit at retail politics. In the interregnum before he takes office next month, for example, Donald Trump has already made some pronouncements that are broadly appealing to a majority of Americans: his caustic criticism of the ridiculous cost of the new Air Force One [$4 billion!], and his anger at the ongoing price overruns for a new military plane, the F-35 [$400 billion, and counting!!], are very shrewd ploys: no one is for extravagant waste. [Of course, nothing may come of his comments, but Mr. Trump is surely aware that first impressions in this country are usually all that’s remembered.]

Americans have known of outrageous overruns for decades, and nothing is ever done about them. I applaud Mr. Trump for at least announcing that the days of rubber-stamped approvals without real oversight are over. And if Mr. Gripes, who cannot conceive ever voting for Mr. Trump, is muttering, ‘Go get ‘em, Donald, beat on them like a drum,’ there are a hell of a lot of other potential 2020 voters out there, Republican and Democrat, thinking the same thing.

‘The War on Christmas’ – It’s bizarre that right next to the uproar these days about ‘fake’ news on the internet, Americans are simultaneously bombarded with the notion that this country is in the midst of a subversive ‘war on Christmas.’ Talk about a phony and spurious issue….

Mr. Gripes reasons that this is another ‘shot across the bow’ by the radical / evangelical right towards liberals and their media pals. It’s a slippery slope, the neo-Conservatives proclaim, when media and businesses instead of proudly asserting ‘Merry Christmas’, substitute ‘Happy Holidays’ as the greeting. Taking ‘Christ’ out of Christmas will be next, they say, then the elimination of Christ in public discourse and, ultimately, the banning of Christianity itself.

The fear is absurd on its face: Mr. Gripes took a stroll down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan a couple of weeks ago, enjoying immensely the Christmas decorations in department store windows, as well as the festive bonhomie of everyone walking down the avenue. Christmas, on 5th Avenue, is no different now than it was when my family and I took that same stroll 60 years ago.

‘They’re killing Christmas’ is a bold-faced lie. How does an obvious falsehood like this manage to endure for such a long shelf life? For one thing, it’s been promulgated by Bill O’Reilly for years, even though Mr. Gripes is convinced Mr. O’Reilly doesn’t believe a word of it. Let’s keep in mind, though, that Mr. O’Reilly is one terrific publicity engine for his endeavors, especially his books. [He did write one on Jesus Christ, in fact.] He knows that pushing this ‘dead Christmas’ idea, although patently untrue, arouses the conspiratorial tendencies of the Radical right, which always thinks liberals are out to snuff out ‘traditional’ American values and eviscerate our rights. Bill O’Reilly wants to create publicity, and a theory, however outlandish, about the demise of Christmas will have the media eating out of Mr. O’Reilly’s hands. And, voila, his books then fly out of the bookstores.

Let’s get one thing straight, by the way: the American Constitution guarantees religious freedom for all citizens. We’re free to belong to any religious order, whether it’s Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Atheism, Islam, even Paganism. Sure, we’re a predominantly Christian country, but religious freedom is a protected right for everyone, no matter how minuscule the number of believers may be.

What’s especially dismaying to Mr. Gripes is that our President-Elect has taken up the cause. The other day, he made it a point to emphasize the words ‘Merry Christmas’ repeatedly in an impromptu press conference, giving credence to those who think saying ‘Happy Holidays’ is all a conspiracy to delete ‘Christmas’ from our American lexicon. Doesn’t Mr. Trump have many more important matters to deal with, as he’s going to be President in less than a month? Maybe not.

It’s Mr. Gripes’ contention that Donald Trump revels in conspiracy-thinking. It fits him to a tee. First of all, if the theory is dramatic enough, it creates a lot of publicity – and good or bad publicity is all Mr. Trump is after. Second, there’s no need to be truthful: just create a ‘plausible’ fiction, throw it up against the wall, and see what sticks. Verifiable facts are bunk. Mr. Trump, with his Obama-birth fabrications [‘I have investigators over in Honolulu right now and they’ve come up with some real interesting stuff.’], knew it was a total lie, but that issue, I think, actually jump-started his campaign to the White House.

And, last, conspiracy theorists, like Trump, thrive on tumult, disruption – shake up the established order, and create noise. So, of course, Donald Trump is going to play up a Christmas conspiracy – it’s custom-made for him. 

Jim Israel, aka ‘Mr. Gripes’
December 31, 2016