America’s pastime has taken a lot of hits over the years—of the wrong kind, we hate to admit, not the type that boosts players’ averages into the Hall of Fame echelon. Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers slugger and winner of the National League’s Most Valuable Player award in 2011, finally came clean—he had run out of excuses—and in the process dirtied his reputation for good. He made a fool out of his team owner, Mark Attanasio, and Doug Melvin, the team’s general manager, who signed Braun to an eight-year contract that was the richest in Milwaukee’s history, and most tragically for the game, his legion of fans. Braun violated the league’s anti-doping policy. His name showed up in a sweeping investigation of Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic in Florida that baseball officials claim distributed illegal performance-enhancing drugs. His lies finally caught up with him, and he’s been suspended for the rest of the season. He tried to make his fans think he was as pure as driven snow. Just like another artificially pumped-up player named Alexander Rodriguez, whose time is up. When hypocrites fall hard, it’s never a pretty sight. Braun, yer out!
When was the last time Fox News “journalist” Geraldo Rivera actually made news? We can’t remember either, but tweeting a seminude photo of himself clad only in a bath towel has to be another low in a downward spiraling career that they never teach you in Columbia J-School. On the plus side, he didn’t look too flabby for a guy who just turned 70 on July 4 but the other side of the story is his apparent Anthony Weiner plagiarism. Let the New York City mayoral candidate be judged by the voters—and his private behavior by his wife. Rivera’s grab for attention is just cheesy. Is he trolling for a new bride? He’s on his fifth marriage now—still three more to go to catch up to Larry King, who apparently set the bar high for these cable guys. Rivera, next time you take a shower, keep it to yourself.
Maybe it’s not her fault that bleached blonde Aaryn Gries has an egregious spelling of her first name; she can blame her parents for that. But she has to take full responsibility for her outrageous behavior on the CBS reality show “Big Brother” that puts a new shiny face on white supremacy and racism. Her guilt-free expression of intolerance and her selfish expectation of privilege make her the candidate we’d like to banish forever, let alone eliminate from the program. But we know there are millions out there who feel just like her, they’re just not as willing to parade their prejudices in public before the television audience. The benefit of all this attention, scripted or not, is that it gives the lie to the conservatives’ contention that racism in America is a thing of the past. On the contrary, it’s alive and well—in prime time.
Hempstead school district’s summer reading list this year was so stupid it became a national joke because it was filled with errors. It didn’t echo President George W. Bush’s famous malapropism, “Is our children learning?,” but then he was only running for president. The school district’s assignment was to educate its students over the summer. On the list, “The Great Gatsby” became “The Great Gypsy,” Alice Sebold’s “The Lovely Bones” became “The Lovely Bone,” and George Ornell, rather than George Orwell, was credited as the author of “Animal Farm.” The lowly employee who put the list together has not been named, just reportedly “disciplined,” but we say the blame should go straight to the top. Superintendent Susan Johnson makes about $265,000 and is eligible for about $40,000 in annual performance bonuses. She was fired from the district in 2005 for wasteful spending; the district has gone through seven superintendents in the last eight years. Has anybody learned anything since then? Clearly Johnson should renew her library card—and spend all her free time reading the books on this list. Her kind of bureaucratic incompetence hurts the kids who count on her academic leadership. Give Johnson an F.
What Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, did to the punk-rock band Pussy Riot was outrageous enough. By their courageous acts, the all-women collective has shown how little regard Putin has for free speech in his country and how screwed up Russia’s Orthodox Church is. To prove their point, the women staged a protest song , appropriately called “Holy Shit,” from the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. They were arrested for desecration and charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility.” All they destroyed was Putin’s reputation. The church had been blown up in the 1930s and later turned into a swimming pool, but recently, thanks to a restoration reportedly paid for by organized crime, there’s a huge parking lot underneath it, and its banqueting halls are available for $10,000 a day. After the crackdown, which garnered international attention, three of the women remain behind bars. Amnesty International has called them prisoners of conscience. If Putin ever wants to put his ugly KGB past behind him, he should let them go with an apology and a promise that he’ll respect free expression. But he seems to be willfully moving in the wrong direction. While attention has been on Edward Snowden, the American in Moscow seeking asylum, Putin has declared war on homosexuals, signing a bill on July 3 that bans adoption of Russian-born children not only to gay couples but also to any couple or single parent living in any country where marriage equality exists, as gay rights activist Harvey Fierstein, an internationally renowned actor and playwright, recently described it in the New York Times. Putin has also signed a law that allows Russia’s cops to arrest tourists and foreigners they suspect of being gay, lesbian or “pro-gay” (which sounds like a “thought crime” out of “1984”) and detain them for up to 14 days. And let’s not forget that Russia is supposed to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. Perhaps an international boycott is in order. We say “nyet” to Putin. And he should keep his shirt on in public. Who does he think he is—Anthony Weiner?
There were many contenders for this ignominious distinction, but Tennessee’s Rep. Stephen Fincher is the smug face of conservative Republican hypocrisy, hands down. The Congressman has gotten millions of dollars in farm subsidies but blithely voted to cut food stamps to the bone last month. Twenty-two percent of the people in his own district reportedly rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP). But he joined his colleagues in stripping this essential program from the agriculture bill—a measure that had routinely passed in previous years with bipartisan support, because it paired aid for the big farm owners with assistance for the needy people in cities, suburbs and rural areas around the country. You know, wherever there are Americans who can’t afford to put food on their table. But as Fincher calls them, citing the Bible: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” He, of course, rakes in $3.5 million in farm subsidies for growing nothing. Having any American go hungry in a country as rich as ours is a sin. Fincher, get stuffed.
Stephen A. Cohen
How could we ever pass up a chance to lambaste a greedy Wall Street bastard like Stephen A. Cohen, the founder of SAC Capital Advisors? His firm’s insider trading went down a very dark hole, according to federal investigators. Take this telling condemnation from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s filings against him: “Faced with red flags of potentially unlawful conduct by employees under his supervision, Cohen allowed his traders to execute the recommended trades and stood by.” It’s great that Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, has finally indicted SAC Capital for their alleged culture of criminality. After all, as Cohen’s lawyer told a judge earlier this year, “We’re willing to pay $600 million because we have a business to run and don’t want this hanging over our heads with litigation that could last for years.” In other words, they agreed to settle with the SEC as long as they didn’t have to admit any guilt. Now Cohen’s $14-billion hedge fund company is really under the gun. In typical Roman Empire fashion, despite the most recent indictments, Cohen partied in East Hampton with a lavish affair that included $2,000 worth of tuna. Unethical billionaire bottom-feeders (is that an oxymoron?) should be shark bait.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has taken an interesting approach to helping his state’s unemployed people: he signed a bill into law that cuts their weekly benefits by a third. It’s bad enough that the state’s Republican-controlled legislature approved the measure—he didn’t have to sign onto the cruelty. So now, North Carolina, which has the fifth-highest jobless rate in the nation at 8.8 percent, abandons its participation in the federal Labor Department program that helps its residents when their state payouts have run out. That’s a whole lot of pain, considering that the average weekly benefit in the first quarter of 2013 was a measly $298.90. Now, it’s even less. McCroy also just broke a campaign promise and approved a measure that curtails access to reproductive rights in the Tar Heel State. We think the biggest heel is McCrory.
So far we haven’t learned the identity of Juror B-37, one of the six women who absolved George Zimmerman of shooting Trayvon Martin to death, but we have found out more than we suspected. She had planned to write a book about the trial but fortunately her attempt to profit from this miscarriage of justice has been derailed—at least for the time being. She told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Martin was partly responsible for putting himself in a situation where he could be shot—and that race had nothing to do with it. If she had to find any fault with Zimmerman, it was that “he just didn’t stop at the limitations that he should have stopped at…He was frustrated, and things just got out of hand.” What’s more, this delusional juror said, the 911 operator had “kind of egged him on” to follow Martin. And when it came to finding Zimmerman guilty, she cited Florida’s totally misguided “Stand Your Ground” law as his defense even though his own lawyers did not cite it. As she explained her refusal to convict him on second degree murder or manslaughter charge, Zimmerman “had a right to defend himself.” But what about Martin? With Juror B-37, we learn that a 17-year-old young African American man simply wearing a hoodie and holding a bag of Skittles and a bottle of ice tea could be killed on an American sidewalk by a self-appointed neighborhood vigilante armed with a gun instead of common sense and caution. Zimmerman is not innocent.
Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II
Virginia’s Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II is now embroiled in the same ethical quagmire that is muddying the once promising national career of Gov. Bob McDonnell (although his insistence that women seeking an abortion first undergo a “vagina probe” didn’t go over big). But what’s going on with the state’s top Republican leaders? When McDonnell was running for the position Cuccinelli has now, he was slammed by his opponent for collecting thousands of dollars from clients he represented before state agencies that he could influence as a then-legislator from Virginia Beach. McDonnell’s wife got flack for spending $10,000 of her husband’s campaign money on new clothes, but the governor and his sister got a $70,000 donation from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams to a corporation that they own. Why should we expect Cuccinelli, who’s running for governor this year, to be any better? Williams gave the attorney general $18,000 worth of gifts, The New York Times reports, plus holidays at his vacation house where interestingly Cuccinelli seemed to spend a lot of his free time following Star Scientific’s stock price—perhaps because he had about $10,000 worth of it. When the price hit a 52-week high last year, Cuccinelli sold off part of his portfolio and pocketed $4,000 in profit. Sure, it’s chump change in Wall Street circles, but it’s not bad for a thinly traded stock that has lost money for a decade. How’d he do it? There’s some funny business going on in the commonwealth and the joke is on the Virginia voters. State campaign law does not require the details of who gave what to the legislators, only that the legislators list the types of businesses their contributors are in. How convenient that Cuccinelli is the state’s top law enforcer. His judgment just ain’t trustworthy no more.
We can see clearly now that Jack Nicholson didn’t do James “Whitey” Bulger justice in “The Departed.” Nobody could—and Bulger doesn’t deserve it now. As the leader of the notorious Winter Hill Gang, the 83-year-old Boston gangster allegedly took part in 19 murders while being protected as an FBI informant! His crimes have got to stop, yet bodies continue to drop all around him. Late in July, a guy named Stephen Rakes, who said he’d like to see Bulger “in a box, not breathing,” was found dead himself in the woods about 20 miles from the trial where he had hoped to take the stand to tell jurors how Bulger allegedly forced him to sell his liquor store at gunpoint in 1984. Rakes will be pushing up daisies now. And while we’re rehashing some of the more despicable acts that we know are attributable to this creep, let’s recall how he ellegedly strangled Deborah Davis, a 26-year-old girlfriend of his former pal, Stephen (The Rifleman) Flemmi, now serving time himself. Flemmi said that after killing Davis in the basement of Flemmi’s mother’s home, Bulger went upstairs to take a nap. Say goodnight, Whitey.
This is a no-brainer—just like the head of Heath Campbell, apparently. The 40-year-old New Jersey father has been denied custody of his youngest son. Campbell, a National Socialist wannabe with hate tats up and down his body, had marched into a New Jersey courthouse in full Nazi regalia demanding he get back his son, Heinrich Hons Campbell. State welfare workers had removed the boy from Campbell and his estranged wife, Deborah, hours after he was born in 2011, reports the New York Daily News, as well as his three other kids, after domestic abuse charges surfaced. Campbell made a name for himself in 2009 when he created a ruckus over a supermarket’s refusal to inscribe Hitler’s name on a birthday cake for his son. Now the scheissenheimer’s going to become a father yet again since his fiancé Rose Zito is pregnant. Somehow we don’t think Hitler had Campbell in mind when der Fuhrer was jabbering on about the master race. Campbell, you’re a dummkopf.