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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Recent weeks have seen a decline in the kinds of abusive reader emails that keep a columnist feeling feisty. It’s a long time since anybody informed me that I’m a cowardly elitist doomed to spend eternity in hell watching NBA games with Barack Obama.

So to stir the pot, here’s a brief selection of heterodox opinions:

**As a New Jersey expatriate — my sons used to call All in the Family “The Man Like Grandpa Show”—people keep asking me what the George Washington Bridge brouhaha says about Governor Chris Christie’s presidential hopes. What hopes? Christie never had a realistic shot at the GOP nomination anyway. He’s merely a noisier version of “America’s Mayor,” Rudy Giuliani.

Christie’s whole act, pointing at people and yelling—not to mention cozying up to Barack Obama—won’t play with GOP primary voters south and west of Trenton. For the longest time, it was impossible to take the bridge thing seriously because nobody could possibly be that petty and stupid. Now that we’ve seen the incriminating emails and heard Christie’s alibi that he was betrayed by disloyal staffers, all that’s lacking is what thriller writers call “the McGuffin”—the ultimate prize these jokers were chasing.

Ultimately, Jersey political intrigue always involves a shakedown. If anybody solves the puzzle, it’ll probably be Steve Kornacki, an excellent reporter who knows the territory even if he does work for MSNBC.

The novel version is Robert Penn Warren’s classic All the King’s Men, even though it’s set in Louisiana in the 1930s.

**Speaking of Louisiana, I wrote a while back that an ill-advised publicity stunt by Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson would probably backfire. Condemning gays to hell won him short-term notoriety.

“Longer term,” I wrote, “unapologetic bigots always fade into obscurity, basically because they embarrass people.”

Sooner rather than later, it turns out: Ratings for the show’s season five premiere were down 28 percent from last year.

**As a recovering testosterone addict, Frederic Poag’s Daily Banter article “The Myth of the Good Guy with a Gun: How I was Almost Curtis Reeves” struck me as exactly right.

Curtis Reeves is the Florida ex-cop who shot somebody to death for texting in a movie theater. You pack heat, you’re apt to run into some jerk that needs killing—or so you might think for the two enraged seconds it takes to destroy his life and yours.

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  • Dominick Vila

    Most people object to abuses of power, and most of us object to the loss of any of our constitutional rights, but there are times when we all must use our common sense and reach sensible decisions that reflect the circumstances of the world we live in. Terrorism is not a chimera, it is real and we are painfully aware of that fact. The Patriot Act was put in place to minimize the recurrence of another 9/11. While the gathering of mega data is troubling, I think it is important to remember that actual surveillance is targeted to individuals and organizations known to be engaged in terrorist activities, and more often than not after the fact, as part of investigations to determine who carried out an attack against us or our interests.

    • Lovefacts

      Dominick, don’t forget what Benjamin Franklin said about freedom and liberty: “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Between SCOTUS rulings over the past 30 years and the Patriot Act, we are will on our way to losing both freedom and liberty.

      As for mega data collection, IMO, it doesn’t prevent attacks as claimed. In truth, too much data makes it more difficult. As for 9/11, the FBI ignored warnings by worried citizens about several of the hijackers. We must not give up our liberties and Constitutional protects in the name of safety/security. That is the true chimera/fantasy.

      • FredAppell

        Correct, Benjamin Franklin did say that but then again, history has also shown that our forefathers had a habit of going against their own beliefs. They started to realize that ideology and reality weren’t always compatible. They certainly weren’t infallible either. If it means anything to you though, I am concerned about the growing powers of our spy agencies too but the world is a huge mess right now.

    • charleo1

      Sure. Personally, it seems you describe a very common sense,
      and logical reason to accept that which we would rather not. But,
      the facts would seem to leave us little choice but to endure some Constitutional compromises, mostly inconveniences, in my opinion. To protect aganist the unfathomable potential loss of life a single successful, act of terrorism could cause. I think that is reasonable. But, some of my otherwise ideological brethren , could not be more diametrically opposed. To them, Edward Snowden is a whistle blowing Patriot, worthy of the highest praise. While I see the proper place for him, and others of his ilk, a Federal Penitentiary. Not because I would rather be safe than free. But because, for a whole host of reasons, we can’t abide by people taking it solely upon themselves to decide the risk vs. reward paradigm, that may hand the terrorist just what they need, to slip the next plot under the radar and people die. Perhaps many thousands die. And, in addition to that, fighting international terrorism requires an international effort. Our allies will not be trusting their Nation’s security, or sharing what they know, with a U.S. security system, that seems to be leaking like a sieve. Pvt. Manning might be explained as a one off. But, what must they think about Snowden, coming on the heels of Manning? Now a fugitive, in the clutches of the old KBG man. Some want to give him a ticker tape parade. But, here’s the deal. What underpins all this is a total, or near total distrust of government. Not of just any government, well that too. But of our Government. As the Right Wing, primarily covering for corporate malfeasance, lays the Great Recession at the feet of the Federal Government. And taxes are always squandered, and the poor are caused to be dependent, and so on, according to the Right. Now comes the Left, claiming the NSA is proof the Federal Government is attempting to install a police state. To what ends, is a question not answered. But, there seems to be no doubt within this group, of it’s intentions to do so. I not only believe that to be inaccurate, but I think it’s dangerous. For there must be, in a democratic society, a certain level of trust between the people and their government, if we are to function as a society . A level certainly beyond the assumption that the Central Government of, ( this, their, our,) Country, is using the specter of terrorism to impose tyranny. That is truly more disturbing to me as an idea, than terrorism itself.

  • JohnRNC

    He covers alot of ground in this article. The notion that we can “use our military might” to “dispatch with ease” the little bullies like North Korea & Iran is pure fantasy. Look how well that strategy worked for us in Iraq & Afghanistan. Far better to bring Iran to the negotiating table and hold them accountable and responsible [to the world] for their knowledge of nuclear physics (most of which they learned at American Universities). Beating our enemies into submission may have worked in Japan & Germany, but the rules have changed [thanks to international terrorism and other little bullies like the Taliban]. Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan are on the same recovery trajectory as Japan & Germany at the end of WWII. Our strategy must be different also.

    • S.J. Jolly

      Trying to control Iraq was a major strain for our military. Iran has five times the land area and more than twice the population.

    • tdm3624

      I think the U.S. does have the military might to dispatch with ease countries like North Korea. But I don’t think the people would approve of the brutal measures that would be necessary to completely and unequivocally smash a country to pieces. For all of America’s faults, we at least don’t approve of treating nations like Iran and North Korea like Rome treated Carthage.

      • charleo1

        It seems to me, you’re both right. The truth about Japan, and Germany is, we made a conscience decision to
        fire bomb population areas, along with industrial centers
        to, as General Curtis Lemay put it, discourage popular
        support of the war effort. On many occasion 50,000
        civilians were killed in a single night’s bombing run. Of
        course, the information Americans received back in the
        States, was tightly controlled. And most attitudes were
        decidedly unsympathetic towards the people under the
        bombs. Whip ’em, and come home, seemed to be the
        overriding sentiment, of a good number of Americans.
        Who weren’t keen on getting involved in yet another
        European feud. It wasn’t until modern technology brought
        the Vietnam War into America’s living rooms, that the
        true horror of war, any war, was impressed upon the
        collective conscience of the ordinary American. While
        laser guided munitions, and an all volunteer military had
        some selling the American public on the possibility of a
        “clean war.” Now, after a decade of war, reminding,
        Americans that war remains as it always has been, ugly,
        terrible, and at it’s core, a failure of mankind. I can’t
        understand the hopping eagerness of some hell bent to
        fight another one, over WMDs. in Iran. Just my opinion.
        Unsolicited, but there it is anyway.

        • obibecker

          because the Russians just build a nuclear facility in Iran capable of pooping out an atomic bomb the size of Hiroshima every two weeks. three weeks if you want Nagasaki.

          • charleo1

            The Russians have had a contract to build a
            nuclear electricity facility for several years now.
            As had the U.S., France, with German assistance
            for the Shaw. Going all the way back to Eisenhower’s atoms for peace initiative in the 50s.
            Also, your information on the enrichment capabilities doesn’t jibe with what IAEA reports. And by the terms of the recent 6 month interim agreement, all sites are to be open for inspection. No exceptions. With all enriched fuel also being subject to inspection. That said, Iran has a recognized Right to peaceful nuclear power. As do all Countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And the reality is, if Russia were to pull those plans, China would itself be more than pleased to take up where the Russians left off. Then, there’s the tiny bit of hypocrisy involved, when the U.S. threatens war over Iran’s nuclear program. Allowing it would set off an arms race in the Mid-East. While Israel sits there, armed to the teeth with our finest multiple war-headed, satellite guided, Armageddon causing, arsenal. With nutty Netan-yahoo’s finger on the button.

          • Sand_Cat

            Then why hasn’t it?
            Are you another person who can’t wait to bomb that “little bully” who became so after the good old US of A overthrew an elected parliament and prime minister to boost BP’s profits? The same BP that helped us decorate our gulf coast awhile back.

        • FredAppell

          Unfortunately, I think the 1st Gulf War sold Americans on the idea of a surgical war all over again. Our current problems of the last 13 years aren’t about specifically targeting those we want dead, we’re very good at that, we just don’t do occupations very well. We continually underestimate
          the enemy while continually overestimating how the civilians will embrace us as the good guys. We are so sure of our own importance that we aren’t learning from our mistakes.

          I’m just not sure Americans that are so eager to attack Iran have been paying much attention to the real war and it’s consequences. Maybe they simply don’t care, they’re so intoxicated with American righteousness that they fail to feel any empathy or understanding for the other side. I hope we give diplomacy a chance.

          • charleo1

            Maybe if we tried occupying South Los Angeles,
            Detroit, or East St. Louis, driving out terrorists
            there, and rebuilding, we’d be better received,
            and actually have something to show for the
            money we spent. Unfortunately, there’s no oil
            under those cities, and the neocons are hell
            bent on yet another Mid-East war. As is the
            Jewish Lobby, and the Saudis, it seems. But, I
            can tell Americans one thing. Those that are concerned enough about the debt, that hard pressed Americans can’t get an extension on their unemployment. We haven’t made the first payment on Iraq, or Afghanistan. Our infrastructure is falling apart, and our tax base for addressing any of it, is held captive by Republicans, and their mission to end the safety net programs altogether. And another Mid East war, would go a long way in making all that happen. They are beating the drums furiously, now that, God forbid, a diplomatic solution may be at hand. I hope we are very careful here over the next year.

          • FredAppell

            I’ve been wondering for years about the very same thing. I don’t understand why we can’t treat these damn street gangs like the domestic terrorists that they are. Unfortunately for us, the ACLU and every other left and right wing group would be protesting
            such actions. Your reasoning is interesting and probably not far from the truth, there isn’t anything to gain from it except public safety. Seems to me that the powers that be are way too short sighted to see the big picture. When the public feels safe, they become more productive and prosperous which would in turn help the coffers of local and state businesses and municipalities. I suppose the lure of having the worlds most powerful military available to push around anyone we want for any reason must be difficult for the leaders to ignore. The powers that be have been seduced by the quick buck. I too have noticed that the closer we get to a diplomatic solution with Iran, the louder the war drum beats. But we’re not an imperial power, yeah right!

          • charleo1

            Well, I didn’t say violate their Rights. It’s possible
            to enforce the law, and stay within the bounds of
            the Constitution. A lot of us just assume the war is in Iraq, or the Afghan/Pakistan border. But, the real war, in terms of Americans being killed. We had more killings in the streets of Washington D.C. alone last year, than troops in the entire Country of Afghanistan. And this is a Countrywide, pandemic. Local Police are overwhelmed, out gunned, and under manned, due to local budgets, hammered in the recession. In some parts of the inner city of Detroit, it’s so dangerous Police come only when called. Then, the average response time, is 9 or 10 minutes, I forgot which. But a long time, for the local gangs to shoot up the place. And of course, businesses can’t survive in this climate. Their insurance rates alone are enough
            to make the inner cities in this Country economic wastelands, devoid of all kinds of businesses, like super markets, family restaurants, clothing stores, or car repair shops, and so on. Now one could point out, a lot of this is self inflicted. When riots occur, they burn down their neighborhoods, and insurance rates reflect that. Recessions hurt the poor first, and the longest. And, this one is no different. The unemployment rate in our inner cities is double, and triple the overall rate. But,
            the fact that we are seeing huge areas across
            the Country become essentially lawless, ought
            to concern all of us. For purely selfish reasons,
            if nothing else. For what begins in the slums, will
            not always stay in the slums. It’s one of those
            things, that if we don’t deal with it, one day, it
            will deal with us.

          • FredAppell

            I know you don’t want to violate their rights, I respect you for that, however, I feel that they should lose their rights. They continuously violate the rights of every citizen in their communities with zero respect for life and property.
            Gangs want money and control over others, nothing else motivates them. Many gangs recruit (or should I say force) younger kids to join them by using intimidation and even violence. Some recruits are often forced to commit murder. They did this to themselves, economic hardship alone is no reason to resort to the depravity that they have.
            Many people have had it tough, it sucks but that’s life. Most of us do the best we can in the most legal way we can. Maybe we could rid this cancer in our streets by suspending their rights. Law enforcement’s hands have been tied for far too long, they need better support from the law and the public in order to rid the streets of this scum. You said it yourself “For what begins in the slums,
            will not always stay in the slums” you are so right,
            I live 15 miles from a small but dangerous city and the violence has seeped out into the surrounding towns many years ago.

            These inconvenient truths just get swept under the rug by the government because of a law that has tied their hands as well. I’m not saying to turn our urban areas into war zones but the law is too restricting, IMO, we would need to insure ourselves against the slippery slope paradigm but if America
            doesn’t have this conversation, nothing will ever be done. I don’t know about you but my money says that we’ll continue with the latter.

          • charleo1

            Oh, they would lose their Rights. I may be one of
            the few, but I still believe we have the capacity to effectively enforce our laws, without sacrificing our Rights. I am a big believer in the rule of law. That we are a Nation of laws. With a jurisprudence system that’s far from perfect. We are but mortal. But a system with the foundation, and capacity to dispense justice, and insure domestic tranquility, without regard to the scope, or nature of the law breaker. In other words, we need not go outside the bounds of law to do what must be done, to carry out the law. We, the system, has dealt in the past with organized crime, institutional racism, financial fraud, terrorists, and the constant day to day, burglaries, car thieves, battered wives, and crooked politicians. All had their day in Court, with a lawyer provided free if need be. And we could, with the necessary commitment of money, and muscle, take back the streets of our cities. And give them back to the good people, the ones that make an honest living, and are being deprived right now, of those privileges that is their birthright as Americans. You called it right! It’s a cancer. I was reading the other day, there are now over 1 million people in America, actively participating in one kind of gang activity or another. And sooner or later, we’re going to have to deal with this.
            And yes, some our going to squeal police brutality, and civil rights! It wouldn’t be America, if somebody didn’t, right? But, as more people
            realize the magnitude of the problem, I have all
            the faith we’re capable of anything we work
            together on, and set our minds to.

          • FredAppell

            Good comment, well thought out charleo. :))
            Have a good night!

          • charleo1

            Thanks my friend. Good Night to you as well.

      • obibecker

        You must be too young to recall the “Korean war”.
        The US pushed the north Korean army nearly to China, and then China send a million man army and the US was nearly pushed into the sea. Inchon saved the combined Anglo-American army. Did you ever wonder why it was so hard to beat the Vietnamese? That was because the USA was so afraid of Chinese intervention, the US set up the 17th parallel as a buffer zone and GAVE the north a free pass north of the 17th, in duplication of the 38th parallel set up between north and south Korea. China rules that area. NOT the USA.

    • danmurphy2011

      i do not think GL would question Obama going the negotiating route. He has a very capable statesman in Mr. Kerry. Force did not work in Iraq or Afghanistan. Well, maybe some. I read the Taliban are not closing all the schools for woman. The bombing thing is a problem. We must just continue to deplore such evil acts.

  • howa4x

    Snowden had a choice and could have, like Daniel Ellsberg did 40 yrs earlier released his documents here and not on the run. The feds threw everything they had against DE but he stood his ground and won in the end. By running away Snowden lost credibility. Obama said prior to Snowden he wanted to reform the NSA so all this did was make every country leery of dealing with us
    Christies arrogance is what gives this whole bridge thing credibility. His bullying the teachers, and public workers won him no friends and lost the state 400 million in race to the top funds. He spent 17 million tax dollars on a special election for senate to hold down a large democratic turn out in his governors race, and took 700 million out of the utility surcharge fund meant to create sustainable energy to plug a budget hole. When asked for a justification all Christie said was I did it because I could. That is arrogance.
    I don’t see how any Neo con speak in public after the afghan/Iraq disaster. Americans don’t want another war in the mid east over oil at the behest of Saudi Arabia. All they do is set up radical madrassa’s in Pakistan with the money we give them for oil. It is like we are funding both sides in the war against terrorism. The only alternative to negotiation is war. I like what Hillary said when asked what she would so if Iran launched a nuke against Israel. She calmly replied” we would annihilate them”. Iran knows that too.

    • S.J. Jolly

      The Federal government has a LOT more police power than in the days of Daniel Ellsberg. Had Snowden tried to stand his ground, like Ellsberg did, he would have been quickly disappeared into Guantanamo, with his arrest and trial records sealed for the next century or two.

      • obibecker

        He would not have had a trial or arrest per se. Gone. That’s all.

    • obibecker

      Ellsburg did not work for a federal agency. Snowden did. Snowden committed crimes aside from whether he provided aid and comfort to the terrorist community regarding means and techniques. Whether he should be pardoned for his crimes due to the pluses involved is another question. Ellsburg and Snowden both did the public a great service. Both are considered enemies of the state by those in power at the time of the events, while the public sees them a heros or treasonous, depending on their own points of view. The best thing to come out of this from my point of view is that it gives the lie to the claim that Congress has “oversight” on anything the NSA does. You see Feinstein pretending that the Russians may have helped Snowden. She is seeking cover because she was in charge of the intelligence committee and she apparently had no idea the USA was spying on Brazilian trade deals and the German prime minister.

      • charleo1

        What Ellsburg did, was reveal the Government was lying
        to the Country about the progress of the war. Not, our
        battle plans for waging it. Nor, our sources of information inside N. Vietnam. What we knew, and if we did in fact know, how we went about finding it out. There’s a big difference in saying, I’ve discovered the government is intentionally misleading the Country as to the number of enemy killed, or the strength of the enemy is greater than they’ve led Americans to believe. And, I have discovered in my job as a security analyst, the Government is able to monitor internet traffic, and has a computer program that recognizes potential covert, terrorist communications, or money transfers sent out of almost anywhere in the world, except, Iran, or Qatar. Where their financial transactions are completely insulated from monitoring. Hey Terrorist! The weak spot is right there! No, don’t try that! They’ll catch you every time. And they’ve got Special Opps 45 minutes away!

  • S.J. Jolly

    “… threatens to balkanize the communication backbone we’ve exploited to become that policeman.” What the author probably meant was that exposing the NSA’s tapping of international fiber optic cables, via their loops into the USA, is causing other countries to lay new FOC lines that don’t loop into the USA. Rather like, upon finding out that your telephone party line neighbors are recording your calls, you pay extra for a non-party line, and the excuse that they are doing so to police the neighborhood be d***”ed.

  • Kurt CPI

    “Not only does it [arrogance] threaten to break the ideological backbone of our hegemony—replacing our liberties with our policing—but it quite literally threatens to balkanize the communication backbone we’ve exploited to become that policeman.”

    This is a clear and thoughtful statement as far as I can see. Restated: Arrogance, be it political or policing in nature, leads exactly where anyone would expect – to abuse of power. That great free communication medium called the Internet, that open and unfettered forum for the free exchange of information may now be turned on its head to become the ultimate surveillance tool used by the arrogant to subdue dissenting voices. Orwellian? You bet it is.

    • Exactly.

      The internet has its origins in DoD’s Arpanet, a fact which never sat well with many folks. The Snowden revelations are giving many countries the justification they sought to set up their own internet backbones and to avoid wherever possible any portion of the web that the US government might touch.

      • Kurt CPI

        Arpanet provided much of the technology for the Internet as we know it today. Most notably (AFAIC) was the fact that it was the first large-scale use of TCP/IP, what we really mean today when we say “Internet protocol”.
        The very nature of the Internet is its inter-connectivity. All countries have their own Internet backbones – that is to say there’s nothing preventing them from blocking or even disconnecting any part of it from any other part.

        The Chinese managed to route DOD traffic so that it passed through their routers where they intercepted it. Without getting too technical, you can’t intercept Internet data from just anywhere. But if you can get it to all go through a router that you control, it’s pretty much child’s play to capture, sort and read it. You don’t even have to decrypt it – you just need to make both sides believe you’re the other side, create your own security association in both directions, and act as a relay (“man-in-the-middle”), all the while having full access to the information being relayed. Obviously when discovered the Chinese were highly criticized.

        A few years ago the FCC issued a regulation called “CALEA” (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act). In short, law enforcement may require that an Internet Service company provide them with a point of access to their Internet traffic, explicitly for the purpose of capturing domestic communications – just like the Chinese did to the DOD.

        Everyone should be aware that the Internet is considered a PUBLIC forum. Just like having a conversation at a restaurant, there’s nothing illegal about the guy at the next table listening to your conversation. We should ALWAYS consider this before we post anything on the Internet. If you wouldn’t want anyone else to see it, keep it off the web.

        • charleo1

          That’s great advise. And also why I’ll be changing
          my name, and moving to Mongolia! But, kudos to
          your post!

  • centerroad

    Why do they have that irritating toolbar on the lower left that blocks the type? I cant read a thing so not much reason to come here.

    The genius who approved that needs to step forward and take credit.

    • centerroad

      I like, I tweet, I google, but I don’t read.

      • daniel bostdorf


    • daniel bostdorf

      Maybe you need to use a different browser because hundreds here do not have any complaints.

      You comment is off topic beyond imagination…

      So what is your comment about Libertarians?

  • Henry Ko

    If the Obama regime is willing to lie to you about medical care, is there anything it won’t lie about?

    • charleo1

      If the Right Wing is willing to lie to Americans about death panels,
      is there anything they wouldn’t lie about to stop healthcare reform?
      Were you one of the 5% that had your coverage cancelled? When
      did the T-Party led Conservative/extremest start to care if insurance
      policies were being cancelled? Did they notice between,’07&’08,
      10 million Americans lost their health coverage due to lay offs, and
      bankrupted business? Did they care the number one cause of
      bankruptcy fillings, were due to uninsured medical bills? What’s
      worse? Their number one priority, making Barack Obama a one term President? Or making George W. Bush a two term President?
      What you die hards need to understand, the GOP screwed up, and
      they needed to lose the White House. Now, they need to admit it
      like stand up Americans. Quit their cry baby crap, and their lying.
      And start doing their share of governing the Country. Now what’s
      so God awful hard about that?

  • daniel bostdorf

    Libertarians are very wrong about NSA….because the hypocrisy of wanting to defend to the death the Constitution stops at NSA abuses…that are threatening the very Constitution they give lip service to to score political points…

    Here is an article to back it up:

    NSA Phone Metadata Collection Is Illegal And Should End, Says Federal Privacy Watchdog