Time To Divide the Republicans?

Posted by: on Nov 12, 2012 | No Comments

It’s now almost a week since the election. When I voted, if anyone had been staring at my ballot when I hit the red vote button in the voting booth, they probably would have thought I was schizophrenic or on drugs. My ballot covered a democrat, a republican (I know, you’re shocked) and 2 independents. That’s they way I roll, despite some people’s thoughts that I’m a crazy liberal, which I’m not.

Since the election, I have done a lot of reading, watching and listening as I’m very interested to hear what folks had to say. Obviously the die-hard republicans are very disappointed, have many theories as to what went wrong and even more theories an what to do next. One theory that I have found especially interesting stated that the Republicans needed to take a lesson from the Whig Party, which was very powerful during the mid 1800s. Ultimately a deep division on how to handle slavery destroyed the Whig Party and many of their members went onto join a new party in American politics…the Republican Party.

Maybe now it’s the time for the same thing to happen to the Republicans. As previously, stated I (the self-professed died in the wool moderate) did vote for a Republican in this election, as I have voted for Republicans in the past. At this point (and unfortunately for them IMHO), the Republicans have lost me. Just like the Whigs were severely divided by slavery, today’s Republican Party is severely divided by the growing extremism on the far right of the party. As much as many Americans did not want to vote for our current President, the Republican Party is losing it’s credibility, especially with independents and moderates, such as myself.

Many of us perceive that the Republicans have been taken over by the lunatic fringe (and some of those ran for the republican nomination for president) and they don’t realize the changes going on in our country. Any shot the Republicans had at gaining more of my votes this year was lost 2 years ago when Mitch McConnell, the minority leader in the Senate, publicly stated that his party’s one and only goal for the next 2 years was to make sure that President Obama wasn’t re-elected. He would see to it that not one pass of legislation that made the President look good would get through the Senate. Toss out compromise, toss out sacrifice and toss out common sense.

Another issue the Republicans have is the perception of who is leading the party. Take your pick of loons that the party needs to muzzle – Rush, Donald, Michelle, Sarah, Grover.  I don’t think the Republican Party should be giving a voice to folks who question the President’s place of birth, who make bizarre statements about “legitimate” rape, who reject the separation of church and state, and a group that make them take a “no new taxes under any circumstance” pledge.

Going to say it again and again that this country was built on sacrifice and compromise. If you are going to make our elected officials sign a pledge that they won’t raise taxes no matter (and it is no matter what), than the person making that demand and the officials who sign that pledge don’t know the first about being an American. Listen, I don’t want to pay more taxes (does anyone?) but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.

So, to the Republican Party I say this. If you want moderates and independents like me to consider your candidates in the future, you better start whistling a different tune. If you don’t, you will soon find yourself with less influence, less power and less money. The final word you will hear as you ride off into the sunset with the new American political landscape shrinking in the rearview mirror is “adios!”

It’s a “Barrier” Island

Posted by: on Nov 7, 2012 | 2 Comments

It’s a “Barrier” Island

I know this post is going to piss off a lot of people and make me seem extremely insensitive to the plight of many of the victims of Hurricane Sandy and the aftermath many are still enduring. On the first point, pissing people off, I really don’t care. On the second, I’m sorry. I do feel terrible about the loss of lives, property and the devastation that took place, much of which I think could have been avoided now and can be avoided in the future.

A few nights ago, I was watching the news and one of the many victims of Hurricane Sandy was being interviewed. Her house on the Jersey shore, which had been in her family for 3 generations, had been laid to waste.  This house was situated on a barrier island, probably no more that a couple of hundred feet from the ocean. She stated that her family planned to rebuild that house in a “responsible and sustainable way.” One of those moments that make me go “hmmm.”

Think about the term “barrier island,” which are usually narrow pieces of sand that are meant to protect the mainland from the ocean. A barrier, a shield, an obstacle to prevent the ocean from flooding the mainland. Mother Nature designed these strips of sand to flood at times, for the sand to recede during certain times of the year and than to be replenished at other times of the year. Here on the east coast, we have barrier islands that stretch from Florida to Maine. If you put something on that barrier island, a house, a road, a building of any kind. you disrupt the natural course of things. The island no longer becomes a barrier but a target for disaster, which we have seen time and again.

Some people call them natural disasters. If you ask me, the disaster occurred when you took the island out of it’s “natural” state. Now when these disasters occur, everyone’s knee jerk reaction is to rebuild; push the sand around; get the army corps of engineers into to replenish the beaches; yada yada yada. I ask why? To what end? I swear it seems to me we are always rebuilding the beaches.

Let me stop for a second and say that I’m a big fan of the ocean. Love the beach, would love to have a friend with a house on the beach, would love for that friend with a house on the beach to invite me down, maybe even give me my own room to use whenever I want. Just because I love the beach doesn’t mean I want to see it destroyed…and by destroyed I mean by people not by nature.

Now comes the aftermath. Our Governor, who has performed admirably during this catastrophe, talks about his days spent on the Jersey shore and how he wants to see it restored to it’s previous glory. Excuse me Mr. Fiscally Conservative Budget Cutting Governor but who is going to pay for this? Who are the primary beneficiaries of this rebuilding? You want to rebuild the beaches? I’m OK with that. You want to rebuild the all those structures, houses, roads, etc? Here we have a problem.

How many of you out there have been to the Jersey Shore? Ever been to Island Beach State Park? Island Beach State Park is a beautifully preserved part of the barrier island, that also contains Seaside Heights, a not so beautifully preserved piece of that same barrier island.  Between Seaside Heights and Island Beach State Park, there’s a piece of land called Seaside Park. What it should be called is Seaside Trailer Park because you have a cluster fuck of homes, one on top of each other that sprawl from the Atlantic Ocean to Barnegat Bay. For several blocks, I doubt there is one inch of what could be recognized as a barrier island – no sand, no dunes, no native beach grass. Just roads, cars, and mobile homes piled one on top of each other. This area is the poster child for everything that is wrong with allowing over development on a barrier island.

When Katrina struck New Orleans, I remember one of the political type comedians (either Jon Stewart or Bill Mahar) stating that he believed that “New Orleans should be rebuilt…in Arkansas.” Well, just like it doesn’t make any sense to me to build a city below sea level in an area surround by water that is historically prone to flooding, nor does it make any sense to me to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild these barrier islands unless you are going to start returning them to their natural state.

If you are like me, you believe that the earth is getting warmer, that the seas will continue to rise and our climate will become more volatile. I’m not calling it global warming because that term has political connotations to it. Our climate goes in cycles. Thousands of year ago we were in an ice age and now we are in warming cycle. Will it last? Who knows. What’s the cause? Probably a combination of things but the past several years should make us all stop and think. We need to realize our planet is changing, getting warmer (for whatever reasons), the oceans are rising, and if we don’t learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes.

In this past Sunday’s New York Times, I read an article about what we need to do to plan for the future with regards to our coastlines, the rising waters, the devastated eco-system and how we currently use our barrier islands. A Columbia University climatologist used the term “managed exodus.” In other words, we need to start retreating from the barrier islands over the next several years in a carefully thought our manner. If things keep going they way they seem to be going, by the end of this century, it won’t make any difference as many barrier islands will become un-inhabitable. Do we really want to invest billions of dollars to save slivers of sand that have been totally abused for decades and decades?  Only time will tell but I think we are fighting a losing battle.

3rd Party Politics

Posted by: on Nov 5, 2012 | No Comments

In another day or so, the 2012 presidential election season will be over….and let us all say “Amen.” On January 20, 2013 the choice of the American people will be inaugurated and on January 21, 2013, the 2016 Presidential election season will begin. I only wish I was joking. It seems like we move seamlessly from one Presidential election to the next without a break. I for one, cannot wait for all this to be over.

But like so many people, I find myself thinking that there has to be other choices than the 2 we have now. In theory we do have more than 2 political parties, but nobody ever takes those 3rd party  people seriously and I wish they would. I wish there was a viable 3rd party, if for no other reason than to scare the shit of the democrats and the republicans. To make them realize that they can’t sit around day after day, week after week, month after month, and seemingly do nothing but run for office.

2 years ago, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senator from Kentucky and the Senate Minority Leader, publicly stated that his party’s goal for the next 2 years was that President Obama lose in 2012. He would block legislation and act on nothing that might make our President look good, even if it benefited our country. I’m sorry but that is seriously fucked up, but Mitch has nothing to worry about, at least where his job is concerned. He’s been a Senator since 1984, will probably hold his seat until he dies (and maybe even after that) and he’s not alone. There’s politicians on both sides of the aisles who are career politicians, who spend their entire political careers running for office and bringing home the pork to their constituents, even if the people they serve don’t really like or need pork.

Unfortunately, the 2 parties we currently have are so dug in there is no way to get rid of them, unless a viable 3rd party comes along. Some thought the Tea Party was that solution but they have gone so far off the deep end (and I mean way off), that is no longer possible. For those who do vote for a 3rd party candidate, our peers look down their noses and state “you’ve just wasted your vote.”

Well, I don’t agree. I think we need to put a scare into the current 2 parties, even if the 3rd party candidate we favor has no shot of winning. I think if a couple of 3rd party candidates could combine to get 8 – 10% of the vote, Americans would take notice and American politicians would take notice. If you don’t like the 2 choices, do something with your vote. I believe voting for a Democrat or a Republic that you don’t really feel passionate about,  (just because you don’t think a 3rd party candidate can win) is a wasted vote, not the other way around and I’m not just talking about the race for President….local races too. Vote for a Libertarian, a Green Party candidate, an Independent or pick a candidate who stands for just one issue that you care deeply about – the environment, legalizing marijuana, abortion, whatever.

In 1980, I voted for President for the first time. The 2 major party candidates running were Reagan and Carter. Also running as an independent was John Anderson, a republican congressman from Illinois. I weighed all my options, listened to my NYC union teacher mother tell me I had to vote for a democrat, and in the end I voted for the 3rd party guy. My decision was based on my unhappiness with the current state of things under Carter, my belief that Reagan should go back to acting and the fact that the female student running the Anderson for President campaign on campus at SU had a great rack. At 20 years old, it was the only part of the campaign I was really passionate about.

Post Sandy Post #1

Posted by: on Nov 3, 2012 | 2 Comments

Well, it’s been one hell of week here in NJ and for much of the east coast. The wrath of Sandy was one for the history books. I hope everyone effected by the storm is doing as well as can be expected and that you did not suffer too much damage.

I have lots of thoughts about this storm but for this post, going to stick with some photos from my home and the area. Here’s our house the morning after.At about 10 PM the night of the storm, we heard the sound of breaking glass. Never a good thing during a hurricane. So I did what any red-blooded American male would do. I got dressed and went outside to assess the damage, while Linda screamed at me that I was crazy. The branch that is laying on the ground in the photo above, was actually kissing my car. Luckily, the glass that we heard was from our lamp post that the spruce fell on. The good news is our peeing boy of Belgium got a new hat.

As can be expected during these types of events, the response from the utility company was slow, and that’s being kind. We live in Short Hills, which has many big houses and many more big, old trees. Last year during Irene and the October snowstorm, our area sustained tremendous damage but those 2 storms combined don’t come close to the devastation we sustained from Sandy. Below is a photo of one of the main streets leading up to the Short Hills Train Station.

I took this picture on Wednesday, 2 days after the storm. Today is Saturday and that area looks pretty much the same.
Earlier today, we took a walk in South Mountain Reservation behind Old Short Hills Park, a heavily wooded area with miles of walking trails. This is something Cosmo and I (and sometimes Linda) do almost every weekend, and I go snowshoeing in there when there is snow (yes, Jews do know how to snowshoe). I was amazed last year at the devastation that took place after the 2 storms that hit our area but you can add those 2 storms together, multiply by a factor of 5 – 10 and that’s what I saw today. A week after Irene, the trails were better than 50% cleared of trees, branches and debris. Today…well a picture is worth a thousand words.

Behind that mass of tree trunks and branches is a trail that I walk almost every weekend. Whereas last year the trails were cleared in a week or two, I’m thinking this is going to take months to clean up. The good news is, Cosmo has a new obstacle course to play on. In times like this, you need to find joy in the simple things in life – family, friends, community and the smile of a happy dog: