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Dec. 2 2009 — 5:47 pm | 14 views | 0 recommendations | 7 comments

President Obama and the war that must be fought

M4 rifle

It is called Obama’s war now, our current conflict in Afghanistan, and we are all better off that it is, no one more so than the young men and women who will be engaged in the battle.

I don’t listen to pundits when it comes to matters of life and death. I listen to those who have had their boots in the sands of battle, seen death close enough to taste blood and know that fighting a war takes much more than tough talk and a wave of the flag. Last night, watching a late edition of “Hardball,” I heard the words of retired General Paul D. Eaton, commander of operations to train Iraqui troops from 2003-4, refering to President Obama as a competent man surrounded by competent people as opposed to the incompetence of the last administration. “These soldiers,” he said, “are being put in harm’s way by a man who knows what he’s doing.” If you think the General was merely being a gung-ho soldier bracing young troops for a fresh battle, then you need to know a bit more about Paul Eaton.

 He is the son of Col. Norman Dale Eaton an Air Force pilot shot down over Laos in 1969. The General’s dad was MIA until his remains were discovered in 2004 and he was finally buried at Arlington in 2007. He has three children, one of whom, a son, is a West Point graduate and now an infantry Captain. He cares about the young men and women who served under his command and has seen far too many of them die because of the indifference and ignorance of politicians. “Anyone who blindly endorses the Republican Party on military matters is just not a thinking American,” the General said after Obama’s speech. “The Republican Party has done more damage to the armed forces of the United States than any party in my memory.”

 His anger has been simmering for some time and, as with any good soldier, when he gets a target in his sights, he hits what he aims at. In late October, when former Vice-President Dick Cheney accused the Obama administration of “dithering while America’s armed forces are in danger,” the General, from his post as senior advisor to the National Security Network, had this to say: “Dick Cheney and the Bush administration are incompetent war fighters. They ignored Afghanistan for 7 years with a crude approach to counter-insurgency warfare. 1. Deny it. 2 Ignore it. 3. Bomb it. While our intelligence agencies called the region the greatest threat to America, the Bush White House under-resourced our military efforts, shifted attention to Iraq, and failed to bring to justice the masterminds of September 11.”

General Eaton is not a lone wolf. Many in the military share his feelings. Col. Jack Jacobs, who has won three Bronze Stars, two Silver and the biggest daddy of them all, the Medal of Honor, has said of the Bush administration, “they abandoned Afghanistan. They looked only to Iraq. It will be harder going now to get rid of the bad guys.”

Retired Rear Admiral Joe Sestak, now a Congressman from the 7th congressional district in PA., has been equally as critical of the previous administration’s handling of the war and was quick to embrace President Obama’s plan.

You heard it from soldiers in the field and the rumblings out of the Pentagon, as the complaints slowly found their way to print. For far too long the signals were mixed at best, confused and incoherent at worst. There was a lot of tough talk and USA chants, but on the ground our young men and women were dying, forced into battle without proper equipment and very little direction from the highest levels of the previous administration. On the day President Bush played pretend pilot and declared Mission Accomplished, someone’s sons and daughters lay dead in the heat of Iraq.

 They fought the wrong war in the wrong way, fueled only by their ignorance and outright hubris. History will be their judge, no matter how hard and how often Cheney and his ilk try to claim a victory they never had the knowledge nor ability to grasp.

Instead, now the talk is that the soldiers are getting not only the guidance they need to succeed, they are getting the equipment with which to wage that tough, grinding daily battle that still waits to be fought by young men and women so very far from home on multiple tours of duty. They now have a President who has their backs. No more jokes at home about the non-existant weapons of mass destruction. No more double-speak about nation-building and spreading the word of democracy. We are there to broker a deal with the members of the Taliban who mean us no harm so they can go out and kill the ones who do. And we are also there to wipe out Al Qaeda. No more reports about killing the third guy from the left in the photo with Bin Laden. Those cartoon days are at an end.

 This time, the idea is to get all of them–the big guy himself in particular.

Now, Obama goes into the war zone. He goes equipped with a plan which, if it succeeds, will finally bring not an end, but a respite from the senseless waste of lives we have born witness to these last nine years. He opened a new front last night. The Generals watching, retired and active, got it. The 4,000 cadets in attendance picked up on it. The soldiers listening in the remote regions of Afghan and Iraq sure as hell zeroed in on it. Last night, Obama put his arm out and reached for the third rail–Pakistan. It will not be a public war, but a covert one, fought with Black Ops and drones, using a solid Pakistani intel operation already in place and a military willing and able to help.

In his speech last night, President Obama mentioned Pakistan over 30 times. He never once mentioned the President of Pakistan. Obama doesn’t need him nor trust him. Instead, he spoke directly to the Pakistani intel forces and their military and telegraphed a clear message. We now have one target and one target only, the one we should have had from September 12, 2001–Al Qaeda and Bin Laden.

He has never fought in battle. He did not protect the state of Alabama from foreign attack like the previous President. In his heart, he would much rather bring every single soldier home safely to family and friends than to send them to fight and die. The weight of the losses which are sure to mount will cause him much grief, as it does all Presidents, even those foolish enough to start a war instead of finishing one. He did not make any claims to victory, knowing victory against one terrorist group does not mean an end to the battle against terrorism. 

Instead, he laid out the mission, laid out the plan, laid out the expense and even told them how long they had to get the job done. It was clear, concise and to the point.

We have always had the toughest, bravest, most honorable young men and women ready to heed the nation’s call to war.

It is comforting for them to know they now have a commander-in-chief who will do all he can to give them all they need.

That’s what a leader does.

Don’t believe me.

Believe the ones who have seen far worse than I ever will–from Col. Jack Jacobs to Admiral Joe Sestak to General Paul Eaton. They are warriors all.

 They always side with the soldiers.

And now, they side with the young President who leads them.



Nov. 28 2009 — 9:14 pm | 10 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

New Year’s resolutions I promise to keep (maybe)

Paris Exposition: Champ de Mars and Eiffel Tow...

I always keep my New Year’s resolutions.

The secret to my success is that I keep the list short (no more than four specific goals) and private (written down and hidden in a favorite book, checked on at various points throughout the year). This year, however, I begin a new tradition–a much wider and more expansive list and made public a good month and change before the zero hour lands:

 1. Ignore Dick Cheney and his family. Let him get all the awards he can get his paws on and then hand them off to loyal Scooter Libby to have and to hold in lieu of a law license. I have no idea why he keeps getting awards or what they could possibly be for and I don’t care. I will ignore him not only in 2010 but until one of us dies–unless Mr. Cheney finally mans up and admits his many mistakes–how wrong he was on, well, EVERYTHING. And how many young men and women have died and suffered because he was so very wrong. One apology would go a long way toward finding redemption. Until then, he can jabber away all he wants, go hunting in Wyoming, shoot another friend, buy a new tux, hire Scooter as his caddy.  But me and Dickie have had our last dance.

2. The Tea-Baggers. Enough already. They will be holding a convention in 2010 with Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin as primary speakers and I would just as soon eat my own leg than listen to one single word those far-out ladies of the far-right have to say.  And while we are on the subject of Ms. Palin, Alaska’s gift to animal slaughter, one word of advice, writer to writer–it would be a huge help before you sat and actually had someone else write your book, to maybe read one or two. I know, I know, she’s out-selling Dan Brown and probably The Bible by now. But you should really give a book your best shot, gosh darn it, and blaming the McCain folks for everything other than getting your teenager pregnant is not the classiest way to go.

3. Rep. John Boehner. He’s off my eye chart until he does two things and does them before 2010 is out. First, enough with the man tan or whatever the hell he does to make his skin look like something that would make George Hamilton cough up his lunch. Then, next time he holds up a copy of the Constitution and quotes from it, he needs to make sure he actually quotes from it. Last time he tried that stunt, he quoted from the Declaration of Independence.  Doesn’t matter, I suppose. His less-than-tan crowd still cheered and whistled at his every word, showing they were  not sure which was which either or they too were on their way to Jake’s Stop and Glow Tanning Salon. Find a doctor, Congressman  and get yourself some sun block.

4. I’m going to drop 30 pounds by summer. Now, I do work out, at least 4 times a week but I love to eat and drink and the weight seems to stay the same or the number creeps up the ladder a bit. So, hit the gym every day, do my usual two hours, cut down to two meals, no snacks, back off the bread and carbs and see which way the scale tilts. I admit to having reasons other than health for this one. I have a new book coming out in early July. That means a publicity tour. That means photos. I’m 55 and bald. I can’t change that. But 55, bald and in shape–that may not move books, but it can’t hurt either.

5.  Buy fewer books. I confess to being a book junkie. I probably have done more to keep Amazon, the chains and the independent book stores in my neighborhood ringing up sales than any person in the Tri-State area. This, despite the fact I get sent books for free from publishers and friends and judging committees all year long. I have already started to ease up on my addiction–I use my library card more than ever and while I take out six books at a time, it doesn’t cost me any money as long as I return them. I’ve also started buying used books–much cheaper and I still get to keep the book. So, read more and buy less is the motto.

6.  Be a better father. There is a tendency when your children reach a certain age (mine are 27 and 23, respectively) for a parent to back off a bit (yes, even an Italian father). They are, in every respect, adults now, with careers and lives of their own. I didn’t want my parents to intrude on me at that age and felt the same reasoning should apply to my own children. But, maybe I went a bit too far. I didn’t see them as much as I would have liked and I miss having them around.  

7. Good Bye Morning Joe. I have been an Imus in the Morning fan since I was a kid listening to him back in his drug-fueled radio days. I am happy he is back on a network I can get on my TV and thrilled to see he is as grumpy as ever. I will admit to turning off the sound whenever Bo Dietl goes on one of his rants (especially since, like most of the free world, I have no idea what he is saying or why). Otherwise, the show is in great hands with Charles, Bernie, Lou and the gang. As to Morning Joe, he was a good fill-in while Imus was on the farm network and I grew to like him and it was a pleasure to listen to Chuck and Mike and crazy Pat. But Mika’s act was boring from the starting gate and Joe humping his book every three seconds for the entire summer was enough to make me want to see what Fox and Friends was really all about.  But no more complaints from me about Joe, Mika or her dad. I got the I-Man back and whether he likes it or not, I’m sticking with him (except for the Bo parts).

8. Write more. I’ve been writing for money since I was 17–some years not much money; other years, more than I could count. Still, I could write more and better and devote my full attention to the business of  writing. That means read more newspapers, magazines and web sites; watch more TV shows, see more plays and movies and really pound out the books,  scripts, magazine pieces and yes, blogs, at a much more accelerated pace. The business has grown harder and harsher. With luck, I can reach my peak during these next five years, find out if I can be better at it than I have been and produce work  I can point to with pride.

9. Ignore the Obama Bashers. Now, I  admit, this one will be tough but needs to be done. It helps that I don’t watch Fox nor am I a member of the Klan. I am not a birther, a tea bagger or any other cute little catch phrase those opposed to the President on anything and everything like to call themselves. And every time someone tells you it has nothing to do with race, bet the mortgage (if you still have one) that is has EVERYTHING to do with race. Instead, they  prefer to wrap their displeasure around the flag of fiscal conservatism–arguing that health care and the study of science or cap and trade will strip our grandchildren of their future. Really? Why were these concerns not voiced when the flames of the Iraq war were being fanned? What about their grandchildren then? The ones who died needlessly in a war that never needed to be fought? The money from that war alone would have funded health care in this country  for everyone for decades. But they didn’t care about it then. Nor did they piss and moan when those Bush tax cuts made it easier for them to pay the country club dues and hit the links with the other members in the checkered pants. They have decided to ruin Obama by denting him at every turn. When he bowed to the big dog from Japan, they were offended. But when Bush held the Saudi boss’s hand as if they were on a prom date, no one said a word. They hate him because he is a smart African-American holding what they see as a white man’s job. And the hell with them.

10. Take that special someone to Paris. I have never been there and it’s not because I hate the French. Quite the opposite–I love the French. We would not have won the Revolutionary War without their help. I love their wine, their women, their food, their movies and TV shows. My two all-time favorite authors are Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo. I have never been to the South of France but would pack up the dogs and the sweatshirts and move there tomorrow if offered the chance (see “A Good Year” and you’ll understand). It’s just that whenever I have the chance to go to Europe, I head to Italy. I was made in Italy and feel at home in that country more than in any other place in the world. And, despite going there since I was 14, there is still so much more for me to see. Plus I have family there, most of whom I care about. Some of my happiest memories are there. Italy is where I belong. But in 2010, Paris is where you will find me with a beautiful  woman, much too patient all these years, by my side, walking slowly down the streets of the city of lights. 

It’s as close to heaven as I’ll get in 2010.

 Or maybe ever.



Oct. 3 2009 — 10:01 am | 64 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

The Don’s Daughter: a visit with Victoria Gotti

Last known picture of an ill John Gotti

The last known photo of John Gotti

This week I spent some time with Victoria Gotti to talk about her new book, This Family of Mine, and her life with her dad, the late John Gotti. 

You can read my interview at Speakeasy: Http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2009/10/03/Victoria-Gotti-on-her-dad-he-didnt-want-me-to-write-one-of-those-Mafia-Princess-books/ 



Oct. 1 2009 — 12:12 pm | 16 views | 3 recommendations | 3 comments

Rep. Alan Grayson comes out swinging

Cover of "Rocky"

Yesterday, on the floor of the House of Representatives, an elected Democratic member of Congress came out of the shadows and landed a few Rocky Balboa left hooks in defense of health care reform and finally took the fight to the Republicans.  Alan Mark Grayson, a congressman representing Florida’s 8th district since 2008, had simply had enough. He was weary of the lies about members of his party wanting to kill Grandma. He was fed up with the silly talk of death panels and the heartless blatter of who should be covered and who should be left on the street to die.

And he was tired of waiting for a Republican Health Plan that will never see the light of day because it simply does not exist. So Rep. Alan Mark Grayson of Flordia, by way of the Bronx, New York, rolled up his sleeves, put on the gloves and went at the liars and fear-mongers on the other side of the aisle. And he went in heavy. He broke down the Republican Health Plan like only a true son of the tough Bronx streets would have the cubes to do. Here it is: “Don’t get sick. But if you do, die quickly.” continue »



Sep. 13 2009 — 2:27 pm | 25 views | 0 recommendations | 5 comments

The march of the wooden morans

Boston Tea Party: Colonists dumped the British...

They came to Washington fired up and ready to go.

Thousands marched on Washington, D.C. yesterday to voice their outrage over the possibility that the President of the United States would sign into law a plan that would call for all to gain universal health coverage.

That’s right, they came to march against health coverage and the costs of such coverage. Because NOW they are concerned about government spending. And they came armed with the tools of the right–hate and ignorance. One overweight man in his fifties walked around with a sign that simply read “Morans.” Another, an overweight woman also in her fifties, claimed she would no longer listen to the “Liberal Nazi in the White House.” Many held signs that portrayed President Obama as the Joker from “Batman” under which was scrawled the word “Fascism.”

 Before we get to the main arguments, some housecleaning here is in order: My mother lived the first 24 years of her life under Mussolini’s Fascism. She lost a husband, an infant and a young brother. And if anyone living under Mussolini’s Fascism had carried a sign that painted anything on Il Duce’s face, he would have been shot dead on sight. Know the meaning of the word, moran, and the pain it has caused those who lived  under its weight before you choose to use it. 

There is no such thing as a liberal Nazi. Nazis were right wingers and the people in the march yesterday did not have to venture far to discover that for themselves–they could have simply asked the Neo-Nazis in attendance on which side of the aisle they cast their vote.

And Morans? What can I say? The Moran who wrote that is indeed a moron.

Many of the assembled were gathered there by Dick Armey, the former Congressman who chairs a group called Freedom Works. It is a group primarily funded by the insurance industry and has been linked to disruptions and demonstrations at the various circus town hall meetings we bore witness to this summer. I wonder if many of the demonstators in the crowd knew that Armey is a fervent believer in the privatization of Social Security and has argued for open immigration, letting anyone who wants to enter this country come in and stay in. He was opposed to the war in Iraq until he met with then Vice-President Dick Cheney and was assured our troops would walk through the streets of that country as “they did going through the streets of Paris.” Armey later claimed he deserved better than “to be bullshitted by the Vice-President.”

 Armey is also concerned about President Obama. He said the President’s very name “gives people concern he could have been much too influenced by Muslims.” Not him, mind you. Never him. Just people.

I don’t care if people protest. It’s an American tradition to be ticked off, carry a sign and walk out in public, often looking like a fool. I drove by a 7-11 just last week and saw three fat white guys holding up signs that said, “No More Spics” and “Take Back Your Country.” Hey, it’s a moran’s right. 

I do care that they come to the protest fueled with hate and armed with lies. Last week, during his speech, President Obama was talking about the insurance companies and the profits they reap over health care. He said, “They don’t do this because they are bad people.” The protesters at yesterday’s march did not listen to the President’s speech. They listened to Sean Hannity who that very night said, on more than one occasion, “the President said that insurance executives are bad people.”

They learn the words fascism and Nazi from Beck, a moran growing rich over their ignorance. They already dislike President Obama for the color of his skin and not for any political position he may have taken. Using that as their starter’s pistol, the voices of the right add to it with their angry words and fear tactics, careful to never, ever step on the truth and call for an open and honest debate.

They even call themselves Tea Baggers and modeled their protest after the Boston Tea Party. The Boston Tea Party of  Samuel Adams–the patriot not the drink, morans. Mr. Adams strongly believed in the guiding principle “that all men were born with natural rights, life, liberty, health and possessions.”  The government, he also believed, was there to “protect and provide these rights for the people.” That’s right, you tea bagging morans, Samuel Adams, Mr. Tea Party himself, was in favor of government health coverage.

The protesters yesterday also seemed very agitated over debt and costs. “Our grandchildren are going to have to foot this bill,” one shouted. “No way, no how.” The cost in money for the war in Iraq would have paid for universal health coverage and still had a few billion left over. Not to mention that thousands of those grandchildren they are now so concerned about would still be alive or have all their limbs. We are still paying a heavy price for a war that should never have been fought. But did this crew march over that? Were they concerned about the human and financial cost of that? Did they worry about their kids or grandkids having to pay the cost of a fool’s war?

You can bet 5,000 lives they didn’t.

But have a President try to pass health care reform and mention that maybe they get some exercise and lay off the Big Macs , then baby, load up the RV, we’re going to D.C.  They believe the lies told to them by Rush and the FOX crowd because they choose to;  it is the easiest option available to them. Toss onto that heap of hate the very idea that a black man sits in the highest office of the land and you get the angry mob that assembled yesterday.

They don’t give a rat’s ass about the budget. If so, they would have applauded Bill Clinton as loudly as if he were a NASCAR driver since he BALANCED the budget and left wrong-war Bush a surplus of cash for him to blow. But they didn’t.

They forgave Bush for the 9/11 attacks  that occured on his watch. He was only in office a short time, what could the poor boy have done to prevent it other than maybe pay attention and read the memos.  Do you think they will allow President Obama such a courtesy should another attack occur? What are you a moran? 

They didn’t march in anger when Iraq turned into a disaster. They didn’t seem too concerned then about all the lives wasted and the BILLIONS spent. Why?

And when the financial meltdown occured, also on Bush’s watch, and he proposed bail-out after bail-out, not a word from these marchers. Where was the concern for their grandchildren then? Where was the hair tugging over rising costs and government spending? Well, give the good ol’ boy a break. He’s doing the best he can for the country he so much loves.

Then in walks Obama and the doors of hate swing wide open. Suddenly, they turn into fiscal conservatives, listening to every word uttered by Beck, Hannity and Rush “where the hell are my drugs?” Limbaugh. They won’t let this President speak to their children in school, no sir. He might tell them something dangerous. They don’t want health care for all. Health care that would take care of every single American? Why, that’s socialism right there, isn’t it Sean? Or is it fascism, Rush? Or is just a Nazi thing, Beck? Whatever it is, if Obama wants it, I know it’s bad.

Racism rules in this country and always has and it always will, with sexism just a step behind.  When Cindy Sheehan protested in front of the White House, we were told by the right  she was a liberal wack-job. Forget for a second, she lost a son in a war that should never have been fought.

She lost a son. That was the price she paid.

What price have the protestors paid? Many looked old enough to be on Social Security (a government funded program FDR copied from Mussolini, a fascist). Still going to cash that check though aren’t you?

Many of them are on Medicaid. They’re not going to give that up to help balance the budget and reduce costs, are they?

Many are unemployed, getting a check each week from the government. That’s not going to stop until that last check is cut.

What won’t stop is the bile and lies and hate coming at us from the voices of the right who are always so very wrong.

What won’t stop is the growing hatred toward a young President based on his beliefs and the color of his skin.

It won’t stop until he is stopped. That is the goal of the right.

They’ve done it before.

In the summer months of 1963, the voices of the right were tossing hate bombs at another young President. This time over concerns he was too liberal and his religion was one that frightened a fair number of them, primarily those who lived in the South. There were no Becks, Rushs or Hannitys back then, so the John Birch Society filled the void. They tossed out messages of hate, threats and warnings.

One such warning was for President John F. Kennedy to stay out of Texas.

To stay out of Dallas.

You think what is going on today is harmless? You think it’s just people protesting as is their right? You think all the angry talk and the hate speech are just words?

 Well, think again, morans.

Think again.


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    About Me

    I've written eight books (A Safe Place; Sleepers; Apaches; Gangster; Street Boys; Paradise City; Chasers and--coming in July, 2010-Midnight Angels). I've written a dozen film scripts and a half-dozen TV pilots and am working on my next one now, Night and Day for Lifetime. I also worked as a writer/producer for Law&Order and was managing editor of the CBS series Top Cops. When I was much younger I worked at the New York Daily News and for way too many magazines to list (most of them no longer in business). I love sports, politics, travel, wine, dogs, reading, working out, great Italian food, old friends, history, movies, television, plays. I live in the city where I was born, worry about my kids even though they are adults now and love quiet time in the country with my wife. The older I've become, the more liberal I've become and I don't believe everyone is entitled to an opinion. I believe everyone is entitled to an informed opinion. I hope my posts will bear that out.

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    Contributor Since: March 2009