Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha

(Trump’s acting Director of US Citizenship & Immigration Services, Ken Cucaracha)

 

Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

Can no longer walk too far —

Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

Where his legs were is a scar!

What doesn’t he have? What doesn’t he have?

Is a backbone or his feet.

Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

Sold his parts for just one tweet!

Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

Stepped in the cesspool of his King —

And when he looks down, and when he looks down,

His legs and spine were both missing!

Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

Can no longer walk too far —

Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

Where his balls were is a scar!

Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

White Supremacist is he.

Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

Crushed by Lady Liberty!

The People vs. Donald Trump: Damn the Senate; Gives Us the Evidence Through Impeachment and We’ll be the Jury.

(A constituent of Congressman Mike Thompson’s (D-Napa/Sonoma Counties) strongly urges him to get off the fence on Impeachment)

 

Go Back to Where You Came From, Donald Trump.

 

Go back to where you came from, Donald Trump.

Go back to the bottom of the Jamaica, Queens dump.

Go back to the 1927 KKK rally where your father was arrested,

Go back to your federally funded housing where Black people were rejected.

Go back to Roy Cohn, and coke-sniffing at Studio 54,

Go back to kissing Mobsters asses and salivating for more.

Go back to Gambino, Genovese, Gotti and John Cody,

Go back to being the Mob’s whore, and every Russian’s toady.

Go back to calling for death for the innocent Central Park 5,

Go back to preaching hate in print and on TV, live.

Go back to your mental shitholes, your anti-immigrant bile,

Go back to pinching young pussies, in Jeffrey Epstein-style.

Go back to lying about Obama’s birth,

And 10,000 other things.

Go back to lying about your girth,

And your criminal enterprise rings.

Go back to stealing 9/11 money,

And cheating on your taxes.

Go back to hush money to your honeys,

And pleading for Wiki’s email haxes.

Go back to where you came from, Donald Trump,

Go back to the Ninth Circle of Dante’s Hellish Dump.

Go back to all your mirrors and your hairs — fewer and fewer;

Go back to where you were born, in the scummiest of sewers.

JFK, Jr., & Harry Chapin: Lovers of Life, Brothers in Death

 

They were always there, right in front of me: Harry Chapin, and John F. Kennedy, Jr., linked in death on the same exact date — July 16.

They died 18 years apart, their age difference, when they were both killed in terrible accidents at 38 years old. Chapin’s brief, shooting-star-of-a-life ended in the fiery crash of a small car on the Long Island Expressway; JFK, Jr.’s, in the crash of a small aircraft, somewhere off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

They were brothers in death, but their families — guided by strong women — and their mutual love for life were intertwined in ways that one of Harry Chapin’s five children, Jason, would come to experience first-hand, in his work directly with JFK, Jr. and his “Reaching Up” non-profit organization. The son of President John F. Kennedy founded “Reaching Up” in 1989 to give greater access to higher education and training to healthcare givers working with individuals with disabilities. The organization’s work not only enlarged the scope of the Special Olympics founded by JFK, Jr’s Aunt Eunice Shriver, but it also shared the compassion and common sense of the life-saving work done by a national non-profit co-founded by singer/songwriter Harry Chapin at the peak of his fame — WHYHunger — still tackling food insecurity in local communities 44 years after it was formed, as well as providing job skills to lift people out of poverty. Chapin and Kennedy were answering similar calls to serve others.

Jason Chapin, who worked with Governor Mario M. Cuomo and was elected to two, four-year terms on the New Castle Town Council in Westchester, County, NY, has, along with his four siblings, carried on his father’s work for WHYHunger and local food banks since 1975. He is the only Chapin to know JFK, Jr., and work with the “Reaching Up” organization and its City University of New York partner (CUNY) from 1995 to 2001.

“John was extremely passionate and dedicated to the organization, “ Jason Chapin said. “ I will always remember our Board Meetings which John chaired. He politely greeted everyone in the room when he arrived. He attended all of the annual Reaching Up Kennedy Fellows Convocations and was very friendly with the Fellows.”

It was precisely the same way JFK, Jr., greeted me at an early 1996 non-profit breakfast at New York’s Plaza Hotel which I attended as a guest of Jason Chapin’s. I was representing Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, and wearing a “We Believe in Brooklyn” button to boost Brooklyn’s visibility among the Manhattan political and media elite. JFK, Jr., who sat a few seats away from me at the circular table, spotted my button as soon as we got seated. He leaned over to me and whispered.

“My family believes in Brooklyn, too,” JFK, Jr. said. “We believe deeply in the Bed Stuy Redevelopment Project,” an important initiative started during the too short Senate term of his uncle, Robert F. Kennedy, when he was NY’s U.S. Senator, from 1965–68. What JFK, Jr., may not have known then was how important Jason Chapin’s grandfather, John Cashmore, was to his own father’s election as President of the United States in 1960. Cashmore, Brooklyn Borough President from 1940–1961, delivered 66% of Kings County’s vote to JFK, helping him beat Nixon in New York State by five percent, and win NY’s 45 electoral votes, giving Kennedy the 303 Electoral votes he needed to win the Presidency.

I told JFK, Jr. how important the BedStuy project was to Central Brooklyn, the community served by our public hospital, and how important his own father’s example of public service was to me in guiding my life’s work.

“You probably get tired of hearing that from so many people of my generation,” I said to JFK, Jr.

“I never get tired of hearing it,” he said. “It makes me proud to see how many people my father inspired.”

Over the more than three decades I’ve known Jason Chapin, I’ve heard him say, with unending politeness and grace, the exact same words about his father, when people tell him Harry Chapin inspired them to commit their lives to fighting poverty, or improving public health, or helping refugees find access to food or shelter.

“I’m always amazed by how many people my father reached, how many lives he touched,” Jason says again and again.

Harry Chapin, like the Kennedys, was not content to sit still, and unafraid to use his celebrity to do good, performing 2000 concerts during his 10-year music career, with half of them as benefits, raising more than $6 million to fight hunger, and millions more on his radio “Hungerthons” with WHYHunger co-founder Bill Ayres, a former Catholic priest who Marched on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1963.

As with JFK, Jr., Chapin was encouraged to take his activism, courage and compassion full-time to Washington, and run for the U.S. Senate from New York.

Harry recognized, as JFK, Jr., did with the creation of “Reaching Up” in 1989, that his name attached to any project could attract politicians, the media, the public and funding to the cause. His crusade against hunger and poverty, and his successful campaign to create a Presidential Hunger Commission with the help of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT.) and President Jimmy Carter, exhibited the same instincts that propelled JFK, Jr., to launch “Reaching Up” and George Magazine : they knew that politics and pop culture had merged, and that those in a position to use their fame to improve human existence, and to demonstrate their love for life, had a responsibility to do so.

(Steve Villano is at work on the official biography of Harry Chapin entitled Citizen/Artist: Why Harry Chapin’s Life and Work Matter More Than Ever, to be published in 2020. Villano’s previous book Tightrope: Balancing A Life Between Mario Cuomo & My Brother, was published in 2017 by Heliotrope Books, NY, NY.)

Billy Joel & His Family vs. The Nazis

 

Two years ago in late August, 2017, Billy Joel walked out on stage at Madison Square Garden, where he is the Artist-in-Residence performing monthly to standing room only crowds. On the left side of his dark suit jacket, a yellow Star of David was pinned prominently over his heart. For the singer/songwriter who has performed more than 100 times at one of the world’s premiere concert arenas, sold more than 150 million records and won virtually every music award, it was a bold and dramatic action, surprising some of his fans, since Joel is known for not being overtly political.

 

Joel’s jolt came less than ten days after the White Supremacist/Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a young women walking to peacefully protest the anti-Semitic and racial hatred spewed by the “Unite the Right” mob, was deliberately run down and killed by a White Supremacist driving a car into the group of counter-protestors.. To compound the terrible and deadly events in Charlottesville, Donald Trump went on television and refused to place responsibility on the Nazis and White Supremacists, but instead, stated there were “very fine people on both sides.”

 

Trump’s despicable statement “enraged”, Joel, as he told The Times of Israel.

“No, Nazis aren’t good people, “ Joel said. “My old man, his family got wiped out. They were slaughtered at Auschwitz. Him and his parents were able to get out.”

Joel’s comments about his family’s treatment by the Nazis was an understatement.

 

In Billy Joel: The Definitive Biography, by Fred Schruers (Crown Archetype Books, NY, NY, 2014), the author details the systematic campaign by the Nazi’s against Joel’s ancestors, simply because they were successful Jews living in Nuremberg, Germany, where Billy Joel’s father (Helmut, later Americanized to Howard) was born.

 

Joel’s paternal grandfather, Karl Amson Joel, started a business in household linens in 1927, which he called the Karl Joel Linen Goods Company. His business was so profitable that he, his wife and their young son — Billy Joel’s father — were able to move into a wealthy section of Nuremberg. As Karl Joel’s business rose in prominence and the Nazis rose in power, the Nazis fixed their sights on eliminating the Joel’s business and the family operating it.

 

The Billy Joel biography reports that “in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum database titled ‘Index of Jews whose German Nationality was Annulled by Nazi Regime, 1935–1944, Billy’s grandfather is falsely accused of “monetary and currency offenses” in the records of two separate files.

 

“After taking part in the making of the documentary The Joel Files,I realized what the film’s director, Beate Thalberg had discovered,” Billy told the book’s writer, Fred Schruers. “ My relatives were hounded out of Germany at an absurd price — a paradigm of the economic casualties during the Nazi takeover.”

 

But Karl Joel was not simply an “economic casualty: he and his family were specific targets of the Nazis and were used as examples by Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher in the virulently anti-Semitic publication Der Sturmer. Streicher ran front page articles calling Billy’s grandfather a “Yid,” and falsely accused him of underpaying and sexually harassing his workers. The Nazis made up thousands of lies against Germany’s Jews to dehumanize them and turn their political base against them.

 

Billy Joel’s father was one of four Jews in his Nuremberg classroom, forced to sit apart from their classmates, and forbidden from using the public swimming pool. As circumstances for Jews in Germany became more dire, and Karl Joel was arrested three times while being called the “Jew Joel,” a “bloodsucker,” and “oppressor,” young Helmut (Billy’s father) was sent to a boarding school in Switzerland. Meanwhile, Der Sturmer continued its relentless Twitter-like name calling attacks on Karl Joel, labeling him the “Nuremberg Linen-Jew Joel.”

 

Karl Joel was ordered by the Nazis to stamp all of his outgoing packages with a “J”, a German plant manager was installed at his company, and suppliers began to boycott him. In June, 1938, a new law was passed requiring all Jewish businesses to be forfeited to Aryan ownership. Karl Joel’s linen business was taken from him at one-fifth its’ actual value.

 

“My grandparents fled in the night,” Billy Joel told author Schruers, “using fake passports, and escaped across the Swiss border to Zurich. They got in touch with my father at his school and told him they had left Germany for good.”

 

To escape Europe, Billy Joel’s grandparents and his father “secured places aboard a cruise ship called the Andora Star, for a 1939 passage across the Atlantic to Cuba, where they resided for two years before the United States — strictly limiting the immigration of Jews to protect “the ideal of American homogeneity — allowed them entry. Karl Joel’s brother Leon and his family were not so fortunate. They boarded the SS St.Louis, and after the Voyage of the Damned was refused entry in Havana and at every US Port, Billy Joel’s aunt, uncle and family were send back to Europe, and executed in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

 

Billy’s father, fluent in German and trained as a concert pianist, was drafted into the US Army in 1943, fighting in General George Patton’s Third Army. When Howard Joel’s battalion liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp near Munich in April, 1945, he didn’t know that his relatives had been slaughtered at Auschwitz.

 

I interviewed Billy Joel in Oyster Bay, Long Island, earlier this month, as part of my work on the official biography of his fellow Long Island singer/songwriter Harry Chapin. I wanted to thank him for wearing the Star of David as a powerful statement of protest to what happened in Charlottesville, and as a strong rebuke of Trump’s depiction of “fine people on both sides.” I converted to Judaism 40 years ago, and married a Jewish girl from Joel’s hometown of Hicksville, Long Island, so his bold public action was particularly poignant for me.

 

“There are no good Nazis, “ Joel said. “They killed my family members.”

Then he told me how the Nazis, once they confiscated his grandfather’s linen factory, used the machines in the factory to make the black and white striped prison uniforms which they forced Jews to wear, including his family members who were executed at Auschwitz. It was too macabre and twisted to imagine.

 

“I’ll continue to fight them as long as I can, and to use my voice to speak out against that kind of hate, “ Billy Joel said.

 

I thought back to his simple, straight-forward and quietly, powerful act of pinning a yellow Star of David above his heart on his dark suit, and thought of the decades of family and global history behind it, and the millions of Jews and non-Jews for whom Billy Joel’s voice rang out clear and true, without having to sing one note on that August night in New York.

To Beto, or Not to Beto

 

To Beto, or not to Beto, seems to be the question among all of us who want to support the best candidate, or team of candidates, to beat Trump, flip the US Senate to the Democrats, and put humanity and the environment back to the top of this country’s agenda.

 

My son, Matt Villano and I met Beto last May at a fundraiser in Santa Rosa, California, when he was running against ‘Lyin Ted Cruz to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate. We wanted to meet O’Rourke because we admired his courage to buck the odds, and take on such a despicable symbol of hypocrisy in a heavily “Red” state. We weren’t disappointed.

 

Much like he’s doing now in Iowa, Beto came to a small local restaurant and addressed a few dozen of us about why he was running for the US Senate. He was smart, personable, and well-informed on the issues, and when I asked him what he was going to do about the “cages for children” which the Trump Administration constructed on the Texas/Mexico border, near O’Rourke’s Congressional District, he didn’t shy away from giving an impassioned, detailed and impressive answer. As an El Paso native and Representative, he knew and cared about the issue of immigration more than any other public official of our time.

 

Beto’s charisma and passion for those without the privilege he knew he was fortunate to have, reminded me of Robert F. Kennedy. I told Robert Francis O’Rourke that I had campaigned for Bobby Kennedy in 1964, when he was running for the US Senate from NY against an entrenched GOP Senator when I was 15 years old. Now, more than 50 years later, in the presence of my 43-year old son, I felt we were experiencing another of those unique presences in American political life. Having worked with Mario Cuomo for eight years, I knew them when I saw them.

 

But, it was easy to be for Beto when he ran against the creepy Cruz. It was the quintessential battle of good vs. evil, Don Quixote vs. windmills, and a young, caring and charismatic public official struggling uphill, to unseat a shrivel-souled, cynical, hollowed-out man. Beto for President is not such an easy, nor binary, choice — not just yet. We have many miles to go before we vote.

 

Like many other sensible humans who care about the future of our world, I worked hard in 2016 to defeat Donald Trump, doing voter protection in North Carolina, only to discover that the Clinton campaign in that key state, like the candidate, was a catastrophe, as it was in swing states around the country. Like many other good people, I immediately supported the Resistance to Trump, marching and backing court challenges to his every illegal, inhumane act. And, like other citizen activists, I donated generously of both my money and time to Congressional campaigns around the country to flip the House of Representatives in 2018. We succeeded, and I will again do all I can to defeat Trump in 2020, keep the House Democratic and flip control of the US Senate.

 

How do we best achieve that? Who is the best Democrat — and the best team of people — to accomplish those imperatives? If we don’t bust up the Trump Criminal Enterprise, knock out the GOP from the White House and the US Senate, the future of this democracy, the rule of law, and human rights in this country is tenuous, at best, and the future of this planet, environmentally, is lost. That would mean a life of pure hell for my three granddaughters, ages 10, 7 and 3, and I will not sit silently by and allow that to happen.

 

I’ve given early money to the Presidential campaigns of Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, to the US Senate Campaign of Mark Kelly in Arizona, and the yet-to-be-announced Senate campaign of Amy McGrath of Kentucky against Mitch McConnell. I knew Beto would break all fund-raising records within the first 24-hours of announcing his candidacy for President, so, despite receiving 6 email appeals for money from his team on that first day — and three text messages — I resisted giving to Beto’s campaign just yet. I want to allow a few more flowers to bloom.

 

The truth is, like many Democrats and Independents, I’m not sure who the strongest candidate would be yet, to beat Trump and the GOP. Yes, Biden would be strong, but not without a younger female running mate, like Amy Klobuchar, or preferably a person of color who would electrify the electorate, like Stacey Abrams, or, perhaps, Kamala Harris or Cory Booker.

 

As a 70-year old white male, Biden’s age (76) cuts a couple of ways with me: I love the fact that he, like Bernie (78) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (85), prove that age is irrelevant to intellect and commitment to do good. But on the campaign trail, I just cannot see Biden bounding up on top of bars — Beto-like — in small pubs in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan & Pennsylvania — and I think it will take that kind of unrelenting energy to win. Vigor can’t be faked.

 

I love the depth and breadth of the Democratic field of candidates — from the bright, 37 year old Pete “Buttkicker” (as I’ve come to calling the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana), to 68-year old Governor Jay Inslee of Washington, who has made climate change the central issue of his campaign. No one is more articulate on financial, consumer and banking issues than Elizabeth Warren, nor is any other candidate as well-positioned geographically and politically as Amy Klobuchar, a star on the Senate Judiciary Committee. I want Julian Castro to be less formal than he is, but the thought of Florida’s Cubans voting for a President named Castro is incomprehensible. His twin-brother has a far stronger chance to flip a US Senate seat in Texas, especially with Beto — who has already demonstrated powerful coattails in his home state — at the top of the Democratic national ticket.

 

As someone who grew up in an ethnic, working-class family and whose older brothers detested the privilege of the Kennedys, I was affronted by Beto’s beautiful Vanity Fair all-too posed cover photo by Annie Leibovitz, and by O’Rourke’s Obama-like arrogance that he was “born to be in it.” Please spare us the hubris, especially after being bathed in maniacally false pride by Trump for three years. I’m not about to sarcastically christen him as the “magical man-boy”, as the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd did, but Beto, more than anyone in the Democratic field, has to be meticulously careful to avoid becoming the kind of celebrity candidate that working-families grow to resent, and vote against.

 

Yet, as a writer and media professional who worked with the eloquent Mario Cuomo, I recognize the power and great risk of becoming a media darling, and the potency and danger of skateboarding atop social media, especially when confronting a sick, symbiotic relationship between television, Twitter, and a twisted antagonist, like Trump.

 

Beto’s test, far bigger than the one he faced in Texas, will be to find just the right balance of riding the tiger of media and popular adoration without ending up inside, and taming it to come to this country’s rescue. If he can do that, O’Rourke will not only have earned the Democratic nomination, but the Presidency as well.