JetBlue to Cuba Today

The first commercial flight to Cuba in over 50 years took off this morning from JFK.

For First Officer Frank Barreras, being at the controls of the history-making flight to Santa Clara, Cuba is to come full circle. His father, Frank Sr., was just a teenager when he fled Cuba on one of the last commercial flights to the U.S. 55 years ago.

It’s not enough to regain our senses and start flying to Cuba again after 50 years of silliness, there has to be some human angle for the local news to cover.  Is there maybe a puppy on the flight?  Awwww puppy!

Christie Still Governor, Still Awful

It always shocks me when I’m reminded that Dead End Chris Christie is still my governor. Then some terrible decision is made and it all seems so natural. He vetoed a gradual raise in the minimum wage to $15 over 5 years. Which means that it’s entirely possible that someone doing the same job in NY could be making $15 per hour in 2018 and making under $9.00 an hour across the Hudson. That would be absurd and could possibly create an artificial glut of workers in NY competing for those jobs. (The transportation ain’t cheap, but $6 bucks an hour difference more than makes up for a NJ Transit ticket.) NJ restaurants and stores would be compelled to raise their wages somewhat to make an effort to compete, which I suppose Christie and his supply side ilk would applaud as “the way the system is supposed to work.”

So there you have the difference between liberal and conservative economics in a nut shell:  Dems/progressives/liberals would force business to do what they should be doing voluntarily (whether that’s pay better wages, give sick days, better benefits, better environmental practices, etc.) and  Reps/conservatives/libertarians hate business being compelled to do anything unless the market demands it. The problem with that from my Dem/progressive/liberal viewpoint is that they still might not do it and the economy overall suffers (and people in general certainly suffer) from their stubbornness.

Now I believe that the next governor of NJ, if it’s  a Democrat (and it likely will be), will make this happen as soon as possible after taking office in January 2018 and fix these unique fact patterns.

P.S. You know what’s scary?  Dead End Christie cannot run for governor again in 2017, BUT there’s nothing to prohibit him from coming back 4 years later and running again. My neighbors are very stupid.

P.S.S. Dems in the NJ State Senate will put this issue on the ballot in 2017, like they did in 2014. It won. It’ll win again.


I’m Colin Kaepernick… When “God Bless America” Plays My ass stays seated

I can’t say I know what Colin Kaepernick is going through, putting himself into the maelstrom for taking a stand (actually a sit) for the National Anthem, but I make a similar statement as I do not stand for “God Bless America” and the results are often hilarious.

It’s become legendary in my family that if we go to a Mets game held on a Sunday there will be a moment of reckoning because I will refuse to stand for Irving Berlin’s song. And entertainment will ensue.

Firstly, I hate that song.  Just musically it’s hacky, I much prefer “Sweet Caroline” if the team feels compelled have to play a song between innings.  “I’m a Believer” was very popular at the stadium too, and doesn’t that Monkee’s song pretty much express what “God Bless America” expresses in a more catchy way with a cool guitar riff? Secondly, as an atheist the sentiment of the damn song, which is treacly and jingoistic before we even bring God into it, can mean nothing to me. There’s many ways to celebrate the idea of America without “blessing” it.

I would certainly stand for “This Land is Your Land” but that song has probably never been played in a baseball stadium because somehow the idea of the commonwealth is politically questionable, possibly communist. We’re a country based on private property so asserting that it belongs to all of us is subversive. It’s safer to invoke God. Ironically, that was also what the 9/11 terrorists that began it all felt.

The story of how baseball adopted Irving Berlin’s song as a Sunday ritual after 9/11 is as silly and defensive as how the words “under God” were inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance during the McCarthy era.  Somehow 9/11 reminded us that we were Americans and that we should do something at sporting events to celebrate that collectively. Because standing and playing the National Anthem is sooooo mindlessly obligatory that we forget that that is exactly the sort of assertion of our common American citizenship that they were looking for, but we already did that so… doesn’t count.

It is remarkable how angry people get when you do not stand up for a song. It’s just a song. But when you do not stand up for it they act as if you are shitting on them personally. Old ladies will glare at you and signal you to get up, their flabby arms flapping self-righteously. Men have threatened me, sputtering McCarthyite nonsense about leaving the country if I hate it so much. Which is what Trump said to Kaepernick. I will tell them that “I love the country but I loathe this song” and “I am exercising my freedom as an American, to sit.” They scrunch up their faces and want to hit me so bad you can feel it through their knitted eyebrows. One guy got so worked up I think he really would have taken a swing at me if his 5 year old wasn’t sitting between us.  As it is he cursed me like a blue streak and then when I told him to sit the fuck down he said:

Him – “you dare to curse in front of my kid.”

Me – “you just cursed in front of him.

Him – “don’t you dare call me a liar in front of my kid!”

(Understand that all through these confrontations, the people with me are giggling. I’m trying to negotiate with a maniac to stay out of a fight, and they’re just laughing or stifling laughter. I do suspect that if a fight broke out I’d be on my own.)

I did have one man sitting in front of me, as the people behind me and to my side were cursing at me, to ask me plaintively “what if you’re wrong?” I guess he sincerely meant about God, perhaps he was even concerned for my soul.  But I responded, “about what? how much I hate the song?”

So I have a small idea of what Kaepernick is going through right now probably in his locker room as his twitter feed, voicemail and e-mail probably are blowing up with intemperate comments.  And really, Kaepernick has a better case to make than mine. America hasn’t been all that great to people of color – any form of protest is way too little way too late. And that song, the Star Spangled Banner, is truly awful.

If they just played some Springsteen, problem solved.

Bring Back Machine Politics

Interesting piece from Balloon Juice about an article in TNR about the old political machines and how they WORKED.  The politicos delivered services and voters came out to vote. The spin was that the machines were corrupt and they delivered votes (and election fraud) through coercion and abuse. And yeah, that happened.  But the reality for most machines, most of the time, was organization that built things, delivered services and created a tangible connection for the voter to government. People knew where things came from and where to go to for help.

The enemies of machines were generally their jealous, less organized opponents who conflated the machines with organized crime (bad), unions (really good, but demonized) and corruption (bad, but in many ways just another way of doing business that gets things done) – what’s legal and what’s illegal is decided by the same politicians that can declare one person/group effective and another a cesspool of corruption.

I read one fairly badly written book about Tammany Hall, would like to know if there’s a good one. They ran New York City and by extension New York State for around 170 years.

Political machines were corrupt to the core–but they were also incredibly effective. If Democrats want to survive in the modern age, they need to take a page from their past.

So Much Noise

E-mails and private servers, blah, blah, blah. OMG they found 15,000 more e-mails doesn’t that make Hillary a liar? Who the hell knows? It’s all such a mish mosh of facts and non-facts (and nobody’s sure which are which) that don’t add up to anything. The Clinton Foundation should be shut down! I guess they should just throw away the vaccines and medicines they distribute around the world. Ugh, I’m going to the gym.

It’s the kind of noise that the news media does a great job of spreading (like a virus) and a horrible job of sorting out so that it means anything.  The only good news in any of it is that most people don’t pay much attention to it. On the other hand it makes it easy for the forces of darkness to use it as “more smoke” that proves something! – but really proves absolutely nothing.

Update: Maybe the most bullshit aspect of this is the question: “why can’t Hillary put this behind her?” as if it’s entirely up to her to do that when her enemies and the media love the drip, drip, drip.

So who would be with Trump?

Paul Manafort resigned, because oddly enough Trump never fires anybody on this campaign. For a guy who is known mainly for firing people he never fires ANYONE who believes he should be president. But Manafort had to resign because of the distraction over the secret payments he got from Ukrainian Putin disciple Viktor Yanukovych.

The next guy to probably have to go is Trump foreign policy advisor Joseph Schmitz, who is accused of making vile anti-Semitic statements when he worked at the Defense Dept.

In a complaint file obtained by McClatchy, senior intelligence official Daniel Meyer wrote of Schmitz, “His summary of his tenure’s achievement reported as ‘…I fired the Jews.’” Meyer, who worked in the Pentagon inspector general’s office, cited another Pentagon official, John Crane, as the source and witness to Schmitz’s alleged remark.

Now he denies it and claims “I am quite proud of the Jewish heritage of my wife of 38 years”.  But his wife merely had a grandmother who was Jewish, and has never been a practicing Jew, so that statement seems like a bit of “kosherwashing.”

It seems pretty extreme and weird to imagine anybody saying or thinking things like this in this day and age, but like my (actually) Jewish father always said “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree” and this guy Schmitz had a father who was a real winner.

Schmitz is the son of the late John G. Schmitz, the former ultraconservative congressman from Orange County, California. In 1972, he was drafted by the American Independent Party to run for president against Richard Nixon after Alabama Gov. George Wallace was shot In Maryland. As a sitting congressman, Schmitz refused to comment after he wrote the foreword and endorsed the publication of a book that contained widely-condemned anti-Semitic propaganda and was written by a longtime member of the John Birch society. John G. Schmitz was also a member of the organization, but his membership was revoked for holding views still too far right, even for the very conservative group.

So let’s just run that back again. The father was run out of an infamous hate group because he hated too much even for them! And when George Wallace was shot, it was John G. Schmitz that was recruited to run on the American Independence Party line for president. That’s quite a resume of hate, my friends.

So maybe Papa said a few things around the house when young Joseph was in his formative years?  Maybe something about Jews mentioned at the breakfast table. It could happen.

Trump has brought all of these people out of the woodwork. They need to be shoved back in there.

Future Trump II?

No, sorry, actually this is a Nazi rally held at Madison Square Garden on May 17, 1934. Ahem, okay, they called themselves the Friends of New Germany, swastikas and jackbooted thugs notwithstanding. From the Daily News Archives.


Recognize anybody?  Maybe that crazy uncle who never liked to talk about what he did for the war effort?  There were lots of New Yorkers of German heritage, so they might have been there… waving.  How many of them years later said they showed up for a Knicks game and a Nazi rally broke out?  Who knew that could happen?


Is that Fred Trump (nee Drumpf) in the front row?  Hm.

Future Trump?

It’s entirely conceivable that Trump’s aspirations are to be an American Putin and that his vision of how to achieve that is to be the leader of a cult of personality white nationalist political front. He’s 70, that may be what he envisions for the next 10 years.

Assuming that’s his goal, the question then is whether he can take the Republican Party down that road, and it’s not certain that he can’t, given that the establishment of the party has shown almost no backbone in fighting for the integrity of the Party of Lincoln. The result would be a GOP that is further diminished from its already retreating base as a national party.

If they do find some testicular fortitude and put up a fight, then Trump can take his angry minions and start an America First Party, just to pull a likely name out of the past. Which would result in two conservative parties splitting that vote, and more or less fighting each other in some sections of the country with little to no influence in other places (California is practically a no-go zone for Republicans now).

This possibility would allow the actual Republican Party to welcome back a lot of moderates who were scared off and lurch back to the conservative middle, which is still kind of off to the right by 20th century standards. So not so much antagonism towards gays, but still pretty anti-choice, maybe willing to admit climate change is real and maybe willing to work with Democrats a tad.

But the biggest consequence might be for the Democrats who can be pretty much as progressive as they want for a while as the only viable national party serving the center-left… you know, where the American people actually are.  Like the 30s and 40s, the Dems could have all three branches of government for long enough to make some progress, and set a Supreme Court up to keep an new enlightenment going for a generation.

Just spit balling here.  Trump may just disappear after November 8 and re-emerge with a new wife and a segment on QVC selling Trump Wigs.™

Trump Campaign 2.0 gonna be a doozy

Trump said he didn’t want to pivot, he is who he is, so the more presidential, statesmanlike and responsible candidate move the GOP was hoping for was never gonna happen. But I bet they never saw that further move down the road to racism and nationalism coming.

His new, highly unqualified, campaign manager runs Breitbart News and what we can expect from the fire-breathing, Sarah Palin supporting crap monger is a double down on racism, separatism and unabashedly pushing every crazy anti-Clinton theory they can buy time to push.

Bannon, in phone calls and meetings, has been urging Trump for months to not mount a fall campaign that makes Republican donors and officials comfortable, the aides said. Instead, Bannon has been telling Trump to run more fully as an outsider and an unabashed nationalist.

Trump has listened intently to Bannon and agreed with him, believing that voters will ultimately want a presidential candidate who represents disruption more than a candidate with polished appeal, the aides said.

“Mr. Bannon,” it continued, “once recognized by Bloomberg Politics as the ‘most dangerous political operative in America,’ will oversee the campaign staff and operations in addition to strategic oversight of major campaign initiatives in addition to working with Mr. Manafort.”

Bannon is another nail in the coffin of GOP respectability. It won’t work to get Trump elected.  But it will make for an ugly, nasty disgusting rest of the campaign. Bannon and Trump promise to unleash a venomous European nationalist party campaign of hate, propaganda and potential violence.

I’d applaud this move as pushing the GOP further towards oblivion, but I’m afraid someone’s going to get killed because of these people.