Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan’

Was It An ‘Invitation’ I Couldn’t Refuse?

Tuesday, May 16th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

The invitation

The invitation

     Sometimes, it’s the mundane, easy to overlook things that give a week it’s meaning.

      For example, I recently bought two medium coffees at a drive-through window for a popular coffee chain. After the male voice inside the screen repeated the order back to us, he said, “That will be 6 oh 3, please drive around.”

      We looked at each other in surprise. $6.03? As I scrambled for three pennies to go with the 10-dollar bill, I thought it seemed like just a short while ago that same order was under $4. More recently, a bit more than $5. My friend, a regular customer of the franchise, agreed.

       Inflation? Supply chain issues with Latin America? I think a bit of profit-taking is the more likely explanation. By the way, the coffee chain in question was not Starbucks.

        Not long after this encounter with corporate America, I had occasion to stop by another local establishment for some suet and birdseed. It’s been a good year for cardinals, blue jays, finches, doves, sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, starlings, woodpeckers, wrens, squirrels and other hungry feeders.  As I approached the front door, a small sign, recently posted, caught my attention: “Lawful concealed carry permitted on these premises.”


Again, I paused. Hmm. Good to know, I thought, should I ever feel threatened wandering around the bird seed and chicken feed. Although I must admit, I am puzzled at the sudden need for this notice in the first place.

     Back home, while routinely scrolling through my daily emails, I was surprised to find a message that was the highlight of the week: An invitation to dinner with a former president of the United States of America. Wow, I thought, that doesn’t happen a lot. In fact, it’s never happened to me.

    Then I read a little further. It seems I was being invited to take a chance on being invited to dinner with a former president of the United States of America. All I had to do was donate some money to be placed on the list from which one “lucky“ winner, and a guest, would be chosen to have dinner with, of course, Donald Trump, at one of his golf courses.

    That’s not all. The invitation also said, “That’s right – I’lI cover your flight, your accommodations, and your terrific dinner.

And we’ll take a picture together so that you can keep a photograph of this incredible memory forever.”

     Donate now!

     How could I refuse this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? This was a chance to rub elbows, shake hands, drink coffee and have a photo taken with a man just convicted by a jury of sexually abusing a woman nearly 30 years ago in a dressing room of a Fifth Avenue Manhattan department store and publicly calling her a liar and saying all sorts of vile things about her when she accused him of rape, a man that jury said owed the woman $5 million for the harm he caused to her reputation.

      A man, coincidentally, also recently indicted by a Manhattan grand jury for campaign finance fraud in a case involving paying hush money to a porn star he cheated with shortly after his third wife, Melania, had given birth to their son, Baron.

       In fact, this was a man also facing possible indictment in Georgia for trying to convince officials to change the results of that state’s vote in the 2020 presidential election, which he lost.

       And, come to think of it, this was a man under investigation for taking hundreds of classified government documents with him when he left office and refusing to return them until the FBI served him with a warrant. Sonofagun if he didn’t even brag about taking those documents on TV the day after the Manhattan jury found him guilty of sexual abuse. Why, he even took that opportunity to insult his victim again.

      Yes, that ex-president. The same one who refused to do anything to stop the riot at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, when the results of the 2020 election were being certified. The one who placed his own vice president’s life in jeopardy with remarks he made on that day, never mind the lives of all members of Congress, police and those working in the Capitol.

     This was the former president who, for good measure, on that same misbegotten TV presentation, would not say who he wanted to win the war between Russia and Ukraine. Coincidentally, while he was president, he said he admired Russian President Vladimir Putin and was impeached (for the second time) for threatening to withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine unless their president came up with some dirt on Joe Biden’s family. Biden, of course, was his opponent in the presidential election in 2020, an election Biden won.

      Well, that very busy ex-president was now offering me the opportunity to have dinner with him. All I had to do was kick in a few bucks for a chance at winning the raffle. I mean, they didn’t say why this supposed billionaire needed the money, although he did say he’s running for president again. So …

      Donate now! Time is running out. I got the same urgent message about three or four days in a row. I guess they wanted to make sure that every loyal American — even registered independent voters — had an opportunity to win this once-in-a-lifetime event.

   I hesitated. I mean, it was quite an opportunity, after all. A chance to maybe speak to a former president of the United States of America. But then I thought, what would I, a mere retired journalist of 40-plus years’ experience, have to say at dinner to this man? Pass the ketchup?

     I decided not to send in a donation and, the cost of coffee being what it is, ordered sushi for dinner. I deleted the email. A new invitation came the next day, but I figured we’d be needing birdseed again soon.

rjgaydos@gmail.com   

 Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

       

A Quintessential Trump Indictment

Monday, April 3rd, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Stormy’s tawdry Trump story

Stormy’s tawdry Trump story.

   Perfect. Poetic. The dotard was hoist on his own, uh, petard.

   With all the many sins and crimes alleged about Donald Trump, ranging from attempting to steal an election, stealing classified documents, actually stealing an election, obstruction of justice, attempted extortion of a foreign leader, inciting a riot and attempting a coup, the one that finally gets him fingerprinted involves paying a porn star hush money so she wouldn’t spill the beans about his having sex with her just four months after his third wife, Melania, had given birth to their son, Barron, and seeing the porn star several more times.

    That one. The tawdry one. The basic, dumb Donald Trump one.

   Perfect.

   Don’t get me wrong, the other stuff is serious. But Trump appears to be constitutionally oblivious to the magnitude of those other crimes. He has displayed no concept of loyalty, patriotism, honor, duty or responsibility, except as others apply those moral concepts towards him. Honesty is a foreign concept.

    But getting arrested because a porn star tried to shake him down and he had his lawyer pay her off to keep her mouth shut so he could steal an election and get to live in the White House? That’s a made-for-TV movie. That, Trump gets. It’s his entire life in a mini-series. Sex. Betrayal. Borrowed money. Lies. It suits him like a tabloid headline.

   Even the, umm, adult film star, Stormy Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford), recognizes the difference between her case and the handful of other investigations involving Trump.

    “It’s vindication,” she said in a recent interview. “But it’s bittersweet. He’s done so much worse that he should have been taken down [for] before.”

     The vindication she claims may refer to her allegation that Trump promised to get her a spot on his hit TV show, “The Apprentice,” because she was “amazing,” and, in true Trump fashion, never delivered. 

      Also to the fact that Trump’s buddy, David Pecker, publisher of The National Enquirer, paid her for her story on Trump and then killed it as a favor to Trump. And that Trump also denies the affair.

     The squashed story and the payoff to Daniels by then Trump lawyer Michael Cohen were intended to keep the story from hurting Trump’s campaign for president in 2016, and are the basis for the case against Trump by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. A campaign finance violation.

   Cohen served a term in the Federal Correctional Facility in Otisville after pleading guilty for his part in the payoff. He’s a key witness against Trump in this case.

    The other grand jury investigations into more serious allegations against Trump, ironically, seem to have more direct lines to proving his guilt than Bragg’s, which is considered to be a difficult case to prove in court.

    But Bragg’s is the first and that makes it important as well as historic. It may well motivate other prosecutors who now don’t need to worry about being the first to bring charges against a former president.

    And it may help Americans pitted against each other get used to seeing the man who promoted and profited from the rift for what he has always been: A cheating, lying, self-serving, hypocrite who always looks for someone else to pay for his crimes.

      Daniels, who could be considered an expert witness, says that at their first sexual encounter in his hotel room in Nevada, she felt compelled to say to Trump, “Please, don’t offer to pay me.”

      She knew tawdry when she saw it.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.






    

Really Old, Really Rich and Really Wrong

Sunday, December 19th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

A centuries-old horn stolen from Turkey, worth $3.5 million.

A centuries-old horn stolen from Turkey, worth $3.5 million.

  This is a story about how the rich often get special treatment from our justice system. There is also a footnote to the story which raises at least some hope that the rich-get-off-easy scenario may soon be amended.

     First, a favor for the rich guy.

     Michael Steinhardt, a billionaire who is used to having pretty much anything he wants, recently got an early birthday present from Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr.: A stay-out-of-jail card.

   The gift came with a message, a stern warning if you will: Tsk, tsk, Michael. You know better than that. Now round up all those weird old things cluttering up all your homes and give them back to their rightful owners. And don’t ever do that again. (Signed), Cy

    Steinhardt’s lawyer said his client, a hedge fund founder who has been accused of sexual harassment in the past, was “pleased” with Vance’s gift. Most rich people Vance lets off the hook usually are.

    As he prepares to retire, Vance provided one more piece of evidence confirming that his scales of justice are weighted heavily in favor of the rich.

Michael Steinhardt

Michael Steinhardt

  Steinhardt, described in news accounts as a philanthropist and collector of antiquities, was ordered to return some $70 million worth of those antiquities to their rightful owners. People from whom they were stolen, in other words. The people of 11 nations, actually.

   He was also told to refrain from this practice, or else. The “or else” part was not spelled out. Two days after Vance’s  announcement, Steinhardt celebrated his 81st birthday, presumably suitably chastised.

    This “punishment” for aggressively seeking, purchasing and possessing 180 pieces of stolen property was the culmination of a four-year investigation by the Antiquities Trafficking Unit of the Manhattan prosecutor’s office. It involved investigators and officials in the following countries: Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Turkey, a veritable Who’s Who of places one might shop for antiquities. And Steinhardt was a frequent shopper. He also apparently knew where to find the good stuff.

Cy Vance

Cy Vance

In a prepared statement, Vance said: “For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the pieces he bought and sold, or the grievous cultural damage he wrought across the globe. His pursuit of ‘new’ additions to showcase and sell knew no geographic or moral boundaries, as reflected in the sprawling underworld of antiquities traffickers, crime bosses, money launderers, and tomb raiders he relied upon to expand his collection.”

       Despite all those traffickers, crime bosses, money launderers and tomb raiders with whom Steinhardt did business, Vance said he decided not to prosecute Steinhardt in order to return the stolen subject to their rightful owners as quickly as possible.  Suddenly, time is of importance with these extremely old treasures.

    Vance also said he wanted to protect the identity of witnesses around the globe. Future tipsters. So thoughtful. 

     In comparison, studies of his office’s prosecution rates show that low-level offenders (people in possession of less-pricey stolen property, for example) from Manhattan represent a significantly higher population of Rikers Island in New York City, than similar miscreants from Brooklyn, which has a significantly higher population of all types. Hey, if you do the crime in Manhattan, Vance says you gotta pay the time.       

    Then there are Vance’s past decisions not to prosecute movie producer Harvey Wasserman on sexual harassment charges, or to charge Donald or Ivanka Trump on the usual fraud stuff. People who care about ethics in government have also criticized Vance”s practice of accepting campaign donations from lawyers and law firms whose clients had dealings with his office. The connection between money and influence is, well, elementary.

       Now for the hopeful news in this story, the footnote. 

        This is Vance’s swan song in Manhattan. He’s retiring. That means the new, eager DA will get to work with New York Attorney General Letitia James on putting Trump and his cohorts behind bars on a variety of tax fraud charges. 

       James decided not to run for governor and to focus on the continuing Trump prosecution she has been working on with the Manhattan DAs office. She’s already forced Andrew Cuomo to resign as governor because of sexual harassment allegations. Nailing Trump would make her a political rock star as well as establishing a different, more balanced, atmosphere in the Manhattan DA’s office.

        Maybe Vance finally decided this was one political favor to a rich friend he couldn’t deliver. And maybe all those museums that slapped Steinhart’s name on galleries because of his “generosity“ need to take it down. At least his ego will pay a price.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

 

Beached!

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

By Jeffrey Page

So long, Chris. Write when you get a job of work, not an appointed commissionership.

That is, if you get work; there’s not much call for professional bullies and blowhards. Maybe you can make a career of explaining why people hate being treated like chumps. Sometimes it seems like making fools of people is your specialty.

Here’s what I mean.

Gov. Chris Christie and family enjoy an exclusive day on the beach.

Gov. Chris Christie and family enjoy an exclusive day on the beach.

Several million dollars was supposed to be set aside for the much needed but long delayed repair and rehabilitation of the railroad tunnels that connect lower Manhattan and New Jersey. The tunnels need a lot of work.

So weren’t New Jersey and New York rail commuters left aghast when they learned you diverted a huge chunk of that money for other uses?

The explanation was the basis of a recent story in The New York Times, which reported that you’ve been diverting a large sum from the tunnel repair project and using it instead to support a little used ferry boat service that connects Atlantic Highlands on the Jersey Shore with service to Jersey City and Hoboken.

Chris, you are a screen writer’s dream. Passengers aboard the ferry pay a roundtrip fare of $24, and then New Jersey reimburses the carrier at the rate of $95 per round trip. But wait, this gets better. The Times noted that in addition to the individual subsidy, the carrier, Seastreak, also received $7,200 a day.

In the meantime, the rail tunnels await repairs.

Now, just six months before you leave office, it’s Beachgate, the latest outrage you’ve foisted on New Jerseyans.

It was a beautiful day, a perfect beach day, recently. But anyone thinking about taking the family to Island Beach or any other state park in New Jersey soon found himself out of luck: The state’s beaches were closed due to a government shutdown.

This of course didn’t apply to you, Chris. You’re a man who’s good at getting what he wants and who spares little in getting it. Except when you played sycophant extraordinaire to Donald Trump so that he’d make you his vice presidential running mate. Hey, you can’t win them all.

It was hot and the beaches were cool on July 2. So you took the family and a bunch of aides to Island Beach and if any of the other 8,958,999 perspiring New Jerseyans objected they could take the first bus to hell.

When journalists got wind of your little outing, one enterprising photographer grabbed an incredible shot of you and your private party taking in the rays. The rest of the beach, which is 10 miles long, was empty of all visitors.

A reporter later asked you about your private use of the public beach, and you responded with the tact of a mule: “This is just the way it goes,” you said.

If you ever wish to understand why New Jerseyans dislike you as much as they do, just play back that quote.