Andrew Cuomo Has Found His Voice, and It’s His Father’s.

Andrew Cuomo has found his voice, and it’s his father’s.

 

Less than one month before the New York State Democratic Gubernatorial primary, Cuomo, seeking his third term as New York’s Governor, is being politically pelted from the Right and the Left, at the same time as Upstate New York is being battered by torrential storms.  Yet Cuomo, strong and resolute, is weathering the withering attacks, like his battered fellow upstaters, just as his father did, decades before.

 

Cuomo has gotten into court battles with the lawless, amoral Trump Administration, almost daily, just the way Mario Cuomo relentlessly resisted Ronald Reagan’s attempts to eliminate State and local tax deductions for middle-class homeowners, and to illegally force an unsafe Nuclear Power plant down the throats of Long Islanders. Andrew Cuomo has taken dead aim at the financial stability of the NRA, echoing his father’s fearless fights with the greedy gun-lobby that couldn’t tell the difference between a constitutional right, and their own institutional recklessness, or, today, their sellout to rich Russians out to undermine democracy.

 

But nowhere has Andrew Cuomo been more articulate in channeling his father, than on the defining issue of our time, immigration and human dignity.

 

In an impassioned Op-Ed in the New York Times less than a week after what would have been Mario M. Cuomo’s 86th birthday(“A Moral Outrage We Must Not Tolerate”, June 21, 2018), Andrew Cuomo, excoriated the Trump Administration for its “inhumane treatment of immigrant children.”

 

Cuomo punctuated his well-reasoned legal case against the “complete disregard for parental rights,” with a paragraph that could have been written by his father, Mario Cuomo, who’s three-terms as Governor were devoted to serving the “Family of New York:”

          “New York State will not remain silent. Our state has always served as a beacon and opportunity for the world, and the Lady of the Harbor holds her torch high not only to light the way for immigrants, but to light the way forward when our country is lost.”

 

I re-read the paragraph and closed my eyes.   The words were familiar to me.   I had heard the same sentiments with that same sense of optimism, strength and compassion many times before, having worked for Andrew Cuomo’s father when he was Governor of New York, and was the ringing voice for people around the country without the power, money or connections to speak for themselves.

 

I was with Mario Cuomo in June, 1992, when he spoke at New York University’s Urban Research Center on Immigration, explaining how his father and mother—immigrants from Southern Italy—battled discrimination each day:

I thank God the country didn’t say to them, ‘We can’t afford you, you might take someone else’s job, or cost us too much.’  I’m glad they didn’t ask my father if he could speak English, because he couldn’t; I’m glad they didn’t ask my mother if she could count, because she couldn’t…I’m glad they didn’t ask my father what special skills he brought to this great and dynamic nation, because there was no special expertise to the way he handled a shovel when he dug trenches for sewer pipe.  I’m glad they let him in anyway.”

 

On the day after Andrew Cuomo’s Times’Op Ed echoed his father’s eloquence, he traveled to a facility in New York State that housed 15 immigrant children separated from their parents.  Later that week he asked Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services for information about 345 children kept in NY by the Federal government without the knowledge of anyNew York State officials.

 

“They are in my state,” Andrew Cuomo said.  “ They are my legal charge.”

 

More importantly, Cuomo’s deepest values –the “fundamental right to family integrity”—as taught to him and scrupulously practiced by his father, and mother, Matilda, who devoted herself to the “Decade of the Child” while First Lady of New York State—had been violated.  These immigrant children, forcibly taken away from their parents in violation of every religion’s teaching, were Andrew Cuomo’s children,and he was morally offended by what was being done to them.

 

I read Andrew’s words and was transported back to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, to an electrifying speech his father gave in May, 1990, when racial tensions were near the boiling point in New York, less than a year after the murder of Yusef Hawkins—a 16-year old Black child—in heavily Italian Bensonhurst:

“There is hostility, and I don’t like it.  It makes me cringe.  I’ve seen a lot of it in my time…but we need to refocus our hostility away from one another and onto the government policies that neglect people in need…Think of it: with a 21% drop-out rate in NYC among my Italian-American young people—myItalian-Americans—we are second only to Hispanics and African-Americas.  For Italian-American youth, the enemy is not Hispanics or African-Americans, or any of the bright new immigrants sweating to make a place alongside us. The enemies are hopelessness, and illiteracy, ignorance and fear…”

 

Mario Cuomo’s words quaked with emotion, shaking the rafters of the huge Cathedral:

 “Tell me, for God’s sake, why are we fighting among ourselves?  We must save our strength for the real battles; for fighting the closed-minded people, the skin-heads, the anti-Semites, the racists, the gay-haters…We must save our strength for all the small-minded, shrunken-souled, big-mouthed demagogues who seek to tear us apart.”

 

Cuomo’s words resonated with New Yorkers so deeply that the great Pete Hamill, writing in the New York Post, on May 24, 1990, expressed it perfectly:

Cuomo spoke with the personal authority of a man who had triumphed over stereotypes, over bigotry, over ignorance.”

 

Now 28 years later, when the “shrunken-souled, big mouth demagogues” are tearing apart this nation, Mario Cuomo’s words, personal decency and actions are more urgent than they have ever been.  And, if you listen closely, you can hear him speaking through his son:

“There’s a line and it’s called basic decency and basic humanity,”Andrew Cuomo told NY 1, referring to the Trump Administration’s policy of rippling immigrant families apart. “And they have stepped over that line.”

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No Fear; No Compromise.

 

I never expected that when I was in my 60’s I’d be fighting some of the very same wars we fought in the 1960’s for human dignity, human rights, and against racism, moral and political corruption and the blatant disregard for the Rule of Law by the President of the United States.

But here we are again, and here I am, along with many others who have been there all along as well. Only now, 50 years later, remarkably, I have more energy than the first time around, and am more outraged and more determined than I’ve ever been in my lifetime to fight to my last breath to make this country a better, fairer, more just place, with respect for all.

Oddly, although I have many more financial assets today than I had 50 years ago as a college student, I feel like I have nothing to lose by giving this fight everything I’ve got. In fact, I have everything to lose, if I don’t fight hard, including my ability to look my granddaughters in their pure, innocent eyes and tell them I did all I could to make life better for them.

So, with the entire direction of the US Supreme Court and the Judicial Branch of government for generations now up for grabs, don’t even think of telling me to temper what I say or how I say it, or to be reasonable or “civil.” Being reasonable and “civil” and playing by the rules is what gave us the non-candidacy of Justice Garland, and the election of the Russian tool and kleptocratic Fascist Donald Trump. Being “civil” has put the very existence of civil society at risk.

Being reasonable has led to the forced separation of refugee children from their mothers, the blatant religious discrimination against Muslims, and the continued battering and abuse of young black men. This is a terribly racist nation and it has been since its inception, but now America is teetering on the brink of totalitarianism, or worse, indifference to totalitarianism, aided and abetted by an avowed enemy of democracy—Russia—which has financed nationalist, anti-democratic movements around the world, including in the US Elections of 2016, as documented by every single American & British Intelligence Agency.

I refuse to be quiet or polite or courteous or “civil” or to play by any rules except these:

  • · to preserve what’s left of our democratic institutions;
  • · to save this country and guarantee human rights for my granddaughters.

I will use any means necessary to protect the people I love.

I will settle for nothing less than total obstructionism by the Senate Democrats to stop–in whatever way they can–any and all further nominations by Donald Trump to the Federal Courts, and to the US Supreme Court, now over the next four months, and for the remaining two years of Trump’s term, if he isn’t forced to resign sooner for criminal conduct or conspiring with the Russians to undermine democracy and our national interest.

The mere concept of a President under an ominous cloud of a far-reaching criminal indictment and of conspiring to undermine democratic institutions and the Rule of Law with a foreign adversary, is, on its face, enough to disqualify any nomination for any judicial position, especially the Supreme Court. To do otherwise is tantamount to enabling Gambino Crime Family Boss John Gotti to select his own judges and juries.

I will continue to work as hard as I can, write as much as I can, and contribute as much money as I can afford, to ensure a Democratic take-over of the US Senate and the House of Representatives this fall. There can be no compromise on this and no surrender. Any Democrat who caves in, deserves disgrace and defeat. Anyone calling for moderation, or for making peace with mendacity and extremism, has lost all credibility in this grave new world in which we live.

I’m tired of the timidity of too many liberals and progressives who luxuriate in wringing their hands over how horrible everything is, but are too reserved to wring the necks of the people who are the causes of the horror. Shaming public officials in public places for their shameful behavior as public officials is a perfectly valid form of protest, advocated and practiced by Dr. Martin Luther King, as a form of direct Civil Disobedience. I am committed to doing it even more aggressively, and to make it my mission to ensure that the comfortable find no comfort.

Like Dr. King, I am neither a liberal, a conservative, nor a progressive, but a radical in the truest sense of the word. I am dedicated to rooting out the underlying causes of the inhumane governmental actions and hateful private attitudes which are rotting the very foundations of this society.

I am not intimidated by the current turn of events in the courts, in Congress, nor by the constant ooze of lies, hate, lawlessness and massive corruption flowing out of the Executive Branch, like lava from an active volcano. If anything, my senses are sharper and on high alert, and I am emboldened, and far, far more dangerous than I ever was the first time I fought this war 50 years ago.

I have been through the valley of death and defeat many times, and I fear no man.

Gotti & Trump: They Showed the World Who’s Boss

 

Gotti & Trump: They Showed The World Who’s Boss

This week marks a perfect storm of events relating to John Gotti and Donald Trump.

First, on the biggest mobster in the nation’s history: Trump’s birthday is June 14, Flag Day, and Trump is proving himself to be the most un-American, un-patriotic of US Presidents by undermining the post World War II Alliance of Western democracies. At the same time, the Flag Day Flim-Flam Man is advancing the interests of America’s most viscous, vindictive and dangerous foe, Russia. Trump started dealing with Russian mobsters—in New York and in abroad—after he used up his credit lines with the Genovese and Gambino Crime Families of New York—the crime families that enabled him to build Trump Tower and other New York properties– and the Scalfo Crime Family of Philadelphia—the crime family that helped Trump build the Atlantic City Taj Mahal Casino. In return for the mobs’ bankrolling him when regulated bankers would not, Trump laundered millions of dollars in dirty money, for which his now bankrupt New Jersey Casino paid a $10 million fine.

 

Trump’s well-documented mob associations aside, I’m more furious over the Quisling Trump’s sabotage of democracies around the world.   My father went off to war, leaving his wife and three children to fight to preserve Democracy in WW II. My wife’s uncle, a 20-year old Jew, lost his young life fighting the Fascists in Europe. By annihilating the sacrifices of tens of thousands of US Veterans who fought and died to make the world safe for Democracy for decades, Trump has defecated on their graves, wiping himself with the American Flag in the process.   Imagine how callous Trump would be if he wasn’t born on Flag Day.

 

The following day, June 15, represents milestones for former Gambino Mob Boss John Gotti—now dead 16 years ago this week–and for me. Last June 15, my memoir was published on the 85th Anniversary of Mario Cuomo’s birthday, recounting the tumultuous eight years I worked with Cuomo—a paragon of integrity with reverence for the law– while my brother was working as a bagman for John Gotti. My book, entitled Tightrope: Balancing a Life Between Mario Cuomo and My Brother,” was published by Heliotrope Books (NY). It detailed my eye-witness testimony of how I knew Mario Cuomo had no connections to organized crime, because I did—and my brother’s mob associates understood it clearly, since they declared Cuomo to be “unreachable.”   It was the exact opposite way they felt about Trump, whom John Gotti and the Gambino Family’s local Teamster Boss John Cody—both friends of my brother Michael’s– considered to be their personal, puffed-up patsy.

 

This June 15, the long-delayed movie “Gotti”, starring John Travolta, is being released by Lionsgate and pumped out globally via On Demand and Movie Pass. According to Variety, the film depicts John Gotti, Mob Boss, as a “respectable family man.” The movie, based upon the self-published memoir of John Gotti, Jr., entitled “In the Shadow of My Father,” completely distorts the message of the book, which, I quoted in my own, since it demonstrated the repulsion Gotti’s son had for being torn between his love for his father and exposing his own family to “The Life” in the Mob.

 

More disturbing than the way John Gotti, Sr., is lionized, according to Variety writer Peter Debruge, is that “the film presents an extended grievance on how unjust it is (Trump would call it ‘unfair’) that the U.S Government won’t leave the ‘poor kid’ (John Gotti, Jr.) alone.”   It was a common refrain repeated by my brother and his mob associates once they got caught for racketeering, tax evasion, assault, or, in Gotti Sr’s., case, murder:   “The god-damned FBI; the fuckin’ government; they’re out to get us.”   So unfair. Such “Fake News.”

 

So in the week when Trump sells out global Democracy to dance with dictators, when he wraps himself in the American Flag while mocking the values it represents and the Veterans and law enforcement personnel who still risk their lives to defend those values, the flim-flam film “Gotti” debuts in America, with the appropriate marketing phrase: “He Showed The World Who’s Boss.” He did; for a while, just like the flim-flam President is showing the world right now. For a while. Gotti was the boss–until Sammy “the Bull” Gravano (Gotti’s own fixer, like Michael Cohen) flipped on him to Robert Mueller and the FBI, and the indictments, arrests, convictions and imprisonments started to flow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RFK’s Death & A “Dangerously Unselfish” Life

On the 50th Anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, my mind has been replaying the first moment I met him.  It was 1964, the year after his brother was murdered, and he was campaigning for the U.S. Senate seat from New York State. I was 15 years old, and RFK was visiting Sunset City Shopping Center in North Babylon, L.I., just a few miles from where I grew up.

Since my mother and father were among the few registered Democrats in a working-class enclave of Republicans, the local Democratic Committeeman, Chester Clarke, asked me if I’d like to “meet Bobby” when he came to town. I jumped at the chance, and spent days painting the words “HELLO, BOBBY!” on an old bed sheet my mother gave me.

On the day of RFK’s visit, Chet Clarke drove me to the rally and placed me directly behind the rope, where I’d be able to shake Bobby’s hand, and my huge “Hello, Bobby!” banner would be front and center.  After the RFK cheerleaders sang “Robert Kennedy, Vote on November 3, There’s Gonna Be a Great Day,” (to the tune of “When You’re Down & Out, Lift Up Your Head and Shout,”) and Bobby gave a short, stirring speech, the candidate began to make his way around the rope, shaking hands.

He started across from me and I couldn’t take my eyes off of the bird-thin legs of Dorothy Kilgallen, the Talk Show host and journalist, walking right next to him. Her legs were so thin that her stockings flapped in the wind, as did Bobby’s wild, wispy hair.

When he worked his way around the rope to me, he put his hand on my shoulder, and said: “That’s quite a sign you’ve got there! Thank you!”, and he continued around the rope to shake every hand.

As he was leaving, there was a scuffle a few feet behind me. An obnoxious kid from my high school–the only person I’ve ever punched in the face–was pulled down from a light pole by Suffolk County police for pointing a plastic water pistol at RFK.

11391154_10154213026132316_5041038157268326664_n In the early morning hours of June 6, 1968, when Bobby was shot and killed in Los Angeles by a real pistol, I was driving past Sunset City Shopping Center in North Babylon, taking my father to the Babylon Train Station to catch a 5:30 am train into NYC to his job as a building maintenance man. We turned on the all-news radio station  to hear the late night baseball scores from the West Coast, but the only  news we heard on the radio was that RFK was shot and killed.  I dropped my father off at the LIRR Station, drove back to the spot where RFK touched my shoulder four-years earlier, shut off the car, and cried uncontrollably.

The following day, Robert F. Kennedy’s dead body would be flown back to New York to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a public funeral which tens of thousands of people would attend. Intuitively, I knew I had to be there, to feel this loss as deeply as I could and never permit anything to turn me back toward a life of quiet desperation, nor to be numbed into inaction by my own deep sorrow.

I got up early with my father on the first day Kennedy’s body was laid-in-state at St. Patrick’s.  We stopped at the newspaper kiosk at the Babylon train station’s lower level, picked up a copy of the New York Daily News for him, and the New York Times for me. We boarded his regular early morning train that was already waiting at the station. Both newspapers predicted huge crowds of mourners would jam Manhattan that day. .

When we got into the City, I started walking uptown to the Cathedral, and, blocks before I reached the church, I noticed the lines, stretching in all directions. It was still early, 6:45 in the morning, and the closest point I could join the line was at 45th Street and 5th Avenue, some five blocks from the main entrance to St. Patrick’s.

People were dressed in all kinds of clothing, but I focused on a small group of older Black women dressed up like it was Easter Sunday, wearing pastel-colored suits and pillbox hats with fine lacey black veils pinned over the front part of their hats, ready to be draped over their eyes when they entered the sanctuary.

I studied these elderly and elegant Black women carefully, picturing them praying together two months earlier when they learned Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed. I saw them standing in their church somewhere Uptown or in Brooklyn or out on Long  Island in Roosevelt, in the same bright pastel-colored suits and pillbox hats, with their fine lacey black veils pulled down over their eyes, unable to hold back their tears. We moved agonizingly slowly, and as the heat of the day caused me to perspire under my sport jacket,  I marveled at how the older Black ladies looked as cool and calm as the moment they joined the line hours ago. They had been through this before.

When we finally reached the cool vestibule of the Cathedral, and moved slowly up the center aisle, I stood on my toes, craning my neck to get a glimpse of RFK’s coffin, at the foot of the grey stone altar rail.  On the pillars in front of the main altar, I noticed a large statue of St. Patrick, carved carefully in stone, with a long flowing beard  and a glowering look aimed at any communicant who would dare to sin before the eyes of an angry God.

The line shifted a bit and I could clearly see Robert Kennedy’s coffin, . Directly behind the casket, standing erect, hands falling stiffly by his side, eyes staring straight ahead, was Jack Paar, the television talk show host, a close friend of the Kennedy family.   Flash bulbs went off, and I shot an angry look at a few idiots with instamatic cameras who saw this as simply the latest tourist attraction in New York. I wanted the statue of St. Patrick to strike them down or at least, turn them to stone. I took a few steps forward and stopped. In front of the coffin, less than 10 feet away from me, stood a young boy not more than 14 years old, just 5 years younger than I.   His facial muscles quivered and his hands were clasped tightly in front of him as he fought back tears.  It was Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and the sight of RFK’s son, so fragile and alone, overwhelmed me with grief. I wanted to jump out of line and hug this frail child and apologize for what hate, fear and gun violence had done to his father.

I genuflected on one knee , under the stony glare of St. Patrick, in the bright morning light filtering through the Cathedral’s stained glass, and there, before the tomb of the man who inspired me to do good and the young son robbed of his father’s warm smile and comforting embrace, I vowed to become, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., suggested, “dangerously unselfish” and dedicate myself to life, and love, and public service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memorial Day & Murdering the Bond Between Mothers & Children

 

 

My father curses you from his grave,

You avaricious garbage-pail, depraved

Beyond redemption, not to mention how

Deprived you are of any shards of soul.

 

My father didn’t want to leave three kids

But yet he did, to fight the Fascists and keep

Us safe from crazy, kleptocratic autocrats, intent

On killing mothers & babies, and tearing them apart.

 

My wife’s uncle, at 20, had reasons plenty to stay home

And not run off to Rome, to spend his youth fighting Nazis

So uncouth they pissed on Jewish graves, including his own,

Dug deep into Europe’s hills, before The War was won.

 

And now, you come, you avaricious garbage pail,

Face so callow and puffy, skin so pale, voice a callous peale,

To tear down the democratic fortress their blood sealed,

Defeating & containing dictators for 70 years–your lifetime–

You chin-thrusting shill for Russian mobsters, you pig squeal.

 

My father and his fellow GI’s curse you from their graves,

You avaricious garbage-pail, depraved more than the jackals

Who feasted on the entrails of dead soldiers and civilians,

Growing fat, insatiably feasting on the flesh of humans,

In the crassness and crapulence of your full inhumanity.

 

The soldiers of democracy’s fortune, from here and abroad,

Curse you from their graves, you fraud, knowing the courage of their brave

Allies who, from different lands, came together for a cause,

Not simply for applause, nor profit, but to save the world,

From avaricious, kleptocratic, autocratic, garbage pails like you.

 

 

 

 

 

The Origins of the Trump Criminal Enterprise, Now Operating Out of the White House

 

Join the best bookstore in the whole Napa Valley–the Napa Bookmine–, the Napa Valley Public Library, and me as I read from my book “Tightrope,” and explain the origins of the Trump Criminal Enterprise, which began with the Trump Family’s association with the Genovese and Gambino Crime Families of NY, and is now operating out of the White House.

 

My brother’s associates in the Gambino Crime Family laughed at how much of a “patsy” Trump was for them, until he became a major bagman, and money launderer, for the Russian Mob.

 

If you can’t make it to Napa for my book reading, you can order my book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or get it directly from my website at www.socialvisionproductions.com.

 

For those of you who can’t wait to find the section of Trump and his decades long association with Organized Crime, skip to Chapter 8, which is entitled “Scylla & Charybdis.”

 

Alternatively, you can wait for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments and final report to come out, as well as the indictments from the US Attorneys in the Southern District of NY. Who knows? In exchange for no jail time, Mueller may even get Trump to flip on his Russian Mob bosses, the way he got Sammy “The Bull” Gravano to flip on John Gotti, and bust up the Gambino Crime Family.