George Santos Lied to Get Into Congress. Should He Be Allowed to Keep His Seat?

We all know that politicians tend to fib every now and then. It has unfortunately become an expected part of the job. But to lie about your entire biography is another story entirely.

In the last week or so, a number of media outlets revealed that Republican Congressmen elect George Santos lied about who he was as a person and a candidate. Let’s look at some of the untruths he claimed as fact.

  1. He said that he attended both NYU and Baruch College in New York City. Neither school has any record of him as a student.
  2. He was employed by two major Wall Street firms. Again, there are no records of him as an employee.
  3. His mother survived 9/11 and died a few years later. A little digging revealed that she died in 2016.
  4. His mother was the daughter of Jewish Holocaust survivors from Ukraine. After extensive research, no documentation has been found to support these claims. This is both an insult to survivor and their families, and spits on the graves of the millions who were murdered. It also opens the door to Holocaust denial.
  5. Four members of his staff were murdered in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. Santos has yet to disclose details about these supposed employees or the company they all worked for.
  6. During the campaign, he often spoke about being gay and receiving a warm reception from the party. The reality is that he was married to a woman until September 2019. Given the right’s outright discrimination against LGBTQ Americans, this statement is doubly dishonest.

In another world in which Americans were not so politically divided, I would argue that the voters should decide if they want him to represent them. Traditionally, that area (which is divided between Eastern Queens and part of Long Island) is heavily Democratic. Though I personally have no skin in this game, I think he should he should resign. I would not want someone speaking for me whose entire identity has been revealed to be a complete falsehood.

What makes me angry is that by pretending to be a double minority and a survivor by extension of 9/11, he is devaluing the experiences of everyone who legitimately goes by those identifiers. In the private sector, if it is discovered that your resume is not truthful, you are either fired or taken out of the running for the job. I don’t get how this rule does not apply to the political sector.

At this point, we cannot predict how the party and his constituents will react. Whatever that decision is, it will speak volumes about this nation, her beliefs, and her values.

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P.S. Santos now states that he “embellished” his biography. An embellishment is stating that your G.PA. was 4.0 instead of 3.8. A two-point difference on one G.P.A. is not going to potentially change the world. But an elected official who fabricated his entire resume does have the potential to change the world.

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Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence Book Review

Rape and sexual assault are unfortunately a part of human history. For as long as anyone can remember, women have dealt with this reality on a daily basis.

Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence, by Ken Auletta, was published in July. This biography tells the story of former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and the 2017 revelation of the numerous women he forced himself on.

Born to a Jewish family in Queens, Weinstein was an insecure boy who grew into an insecure man. Though this business acumen is notable, how he treated people (and women specifically) is another story. Though there were instances of kindness and generosity, those events were few and far between. He was temperamental, impatient, arrogant, and threw his power around like a frisbee.

The stories of the women Weinstein assaulted are basically the same. He would turn on the charm and make them believe that he was genuinely interested. He would then invite them to his hotel room to discuss possible career opportunities. Once that hotel room door closed, it was just a matter of time.

For obvious reasons, this book is hard to read. It is a long read and the subject is obviously a difficult one.

The psychological profile that Auletta presents is that of a bully. Like all bullies, he has unresolved issues. Instead of dealing with them in a healthy manner, he lashes out and takes his anger out on others.

If nothing else, it should get us all angry. The problem is not just Weinstein’s actions, it is the complicity of everyone around him. As Auletta points out, his sexual reputation was not unknown. Instead of rallying around his victims, the majority stayed silent. If they had the gall to speak out, there were consequences. It was only after the initial revelations in 2017 that the silence was acknowledged and genuine change started to occur.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would also state that this is one of the top five books of the year.

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Armageddon Time Movie Review

There are certain genres that are universal. Regardless of labels, we are able to connect with the characters and understand where they are coming from.

The new movie, Armageddon Time, was written and directed by James Gray. Paul Graff (Banks Repeta), is a young man coming of age in 1980’s Queens. His favorite things to do are drawing and spending time with his Grandpa Aaron (Anthony Hopkins). Coming from a middle-class Jewish family, his parents Esther (Anne Hathaway) and Irving (Jeremy Strong) are doing the best they can.

The story gets going when Paul starts to hang out with Johnny Davis (Jaylin Webb). Johnny is one of the African-American students in his class. Due to racism and other issues, he has already been held back. Bonded by their mutual sense of rebellion and dislike for their teacher, Paul and Johnny become fast friends.

Paul is idealistic and stubborn, but also a little naive. When he is forced to transfer from public school to private school, the economic and societal differences between the boys become evident. The choice he has to make will define the rest of his life: speak up or stay silent.

Gray’s film (which is based on his own life), is half coming of age and half a family drama. It is well-written, well-acted, and absolutely fantastic. Repeta, as our young protagonist, blew me away. This young man was brilliant in the role and truly made me want to go on Paul’s journey with him.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Armageddon Time is presently in theaters.

Best Restaurants in New York City, Part II

We all need to eat, that is a fact. But that does not mean our choices have to be limited. In New York City, the possibilities of where to eat are endless.

Burger/Fast Food Restaurants

Schnipper’s

With two locations in Manhattan (Times Square and Midtown East), this restaurant does not disappoint. Though it is fast food, it does not leave you with the cheap, empty calories feeling. The menu is much more than burgers and fries, allowing almost anyone to find something to eat.

Roll n Roaster

Located in the South Brooklyn neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, Roll n Roaster has been around for fifty years. Famous for its roast beef sandwiches, the menu is fast food in the best sense of the word. There is an old-school feeling to the building that makes you feel like you have gone back in time. It’s a bit of a hike from the city, but the trip is definitely worth it.

Dessert

Lady M

Lady M is a semi-national chain with three different locations in Manhattan. The variety of crepe cakes is enough to make one’s mouth water and force a difficult decision to be made. Regardless of whether you purchase a slice as a special treat or a whole cake for a special occasion, it is worth every bite.

Ample Hills Creamery

Ice cream is one of those types of foods that can be as simple or as complicated as we want it to be. Ample Hills Creamery is one of the most respected ice cream stores in the city. It has 10 scoop shops in three different boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens) and sells their products to take home in a handful of retail stores. The variation in flavors is ridiculous in the best way possible.

Gluten-Free

Friedman’s Restaurant

Friedman’s Restaurant with its six locations across Manhattan is a diner, but the food and the experience are a notch above the average diner. There is a level of creativity to the dishes that make this restaurant stand out. What I personally love about Friedman’s Restaurant is that they offer gluten-free options. I’m not on a gluten-free diet, but a good friend of mine is. She was more than pleased with her meal. It’s a perfect place to go for brunch, a pre-theater meal, or just a good cup of coffee.

Tea Time

Alice’s Tea Cup

There is no better break from a busy day (at least in my mind) than a cup of tea and a delicious scone. Alice’s Tea Cup has two restaurants and one to-go location in upper Manhattan. With an Alice in Wonderland theme, the atmosphere is cozy and the food is yummy. Though they can be a bit busy at times, the experience is worth waiting for. Whether you go in for a full meal or just tea and a piece of cake, you will walk out satisfied

Kosher/Kosher Style Deli

2nd Ave Deli

The New York City restaurant scene used to be dotted with kosher/kosher-style delis. While many have gone the way of the dodo, a few remain. Among these is 2nd Ave Deli. There are two locations: Midtown East and Upper East Side. Whichever one you choose, I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. The sandwiches alone are a meal unto themselves. They also cater for large events and for Passover. Anyone who has prepared for a Passover Seder knows how much it helps to have some of the food made by a professional.

Ben’s Kosher Deli, Restaurant, and Caterers

This restaurant and its six locations (most of which are either in or close to NYC) is one of my family’s favorite places to eat. I have yet to walk out as an unhappy customer. Both the sandwiches and the potato pancakes are huge. Depending on when you go, there is a line out of the door and very few tables available. Trust me when I say that it is not uncommon to walk out with leftovers or takeout.

Traditional Ukrainian Food

Ukrainian East Village Restaurant

There is something about traditional food of every kind that makes you feel happy. When it’s made right, it feels like it is straight coming out of a mother or grandmother’s kitchen. I came here for dinner with friends a few months ago and was a happy camper. My favorite part of the meal was the pierogies. They offer several kinds and each is delicious. Given what is happening in the world, I felt like I was in a small way, contributing to helping the people who make this food be seen and heard for more than the headlines.

Veselka

Located in the Ukrainian heart of the East Village, Veselka’s two restaurants are a favorite of locals. For me, it is a reminder that this country and the city have been built and maintained by immigrants. It is those unique flavors and meals that have kept the seats filled for years. I cannot think of a time that I have gone to Veselka that I have not walked out feeling satisfied.

Readers, what do you think? Do you have a favorite among them?

The Nanny Character Review: Fran Fine

I apologize for the delay in the publication of the new character review posts. Life, as it does, got in the way last week.

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series The Nanny. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. When it comes to ethnic or racial stereotypes, there is line that can be easily crossed into a gross misrepresentation of the culture that person represents. However, it can also be subverted to reveal the human being who exceeds the image they represent.

At first glance, Fran Fine (Fran Drescher) is your typical Jewish woman from New York City. She has a thick Queens accent, is obsessed with finding a husband and adores Barbra Streisand. When her fiancé dumps her, she has no choice but to go back to selling cosmetics door to door. One of the doors she knocks on is Maxwell Sheffield’s (Charles Shaughnessy). Maxwell is a Broadway producer and a widower with three growing children. Though she is a square peg in a round hole, Maxwell hires Fran to be his children’s nanny. Over the years, Fran becomes much more than the hired help. She is a mother figure to her charges and encourages them to see beyond the limited reaches of their Park Avenue mansion.

Fran brings much more than herself into the WASP-y Sheffield household. She brings her entire family. Her mother Sylvia (Renee Taylor) is preoccupied with the fact that her younger daughter is both single and childless. She is also known to nosh wherever and whenever she can. Fran’s best friend Val Toriello (Rachel Chagall) is not the brightest bulb in the box. Sylvia’s mother and Fran’s grandmother Yetta Rosenberg (Ann Morgan Guilbert) is sometimes senile and sometimes not senile.

The relationship between Fran and Maxwell is not exactly the most professional relationship between employer an employee. There is a palpable chemistry between them, resulting in a will they or won’t they question that hangs over the characters for five years. When they finally get together, it is to the delight of Maxwell’s children (whose relationship with Fran is of a pseudo-parental/child nature) and the butler Niles (Daniel Davis). It is only C.C. Babcock (Lauren Lane), who looks upon the relationship with disdain. Her numerous attempts to create romantic sparks with Maxwell, her business partner have never succeeded.

To sum it up: Though Fran checks all of the boxes when it comes the stereotype of a Jewish woman, she is more than a list of expected traits and interests. She is warm, adventurous and when she loves, she loves completely.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

The Jeffersons Character Review: George Jefferson

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series The Jeffersons. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. The American dream is the ability to pull yourself and your family up by your bootstraps. But as we all know, that dream still does not apply to everyone. On The Jeffersons, the patriarch of the family, George Jefferson is not exactly humble.

Descending from sharecroppers, and growing in poverty during the Depression, George became a business owner. Opening a chain of dry cleaners, he was able to move his wife Louise (Isabel Sanford) and son Lionel (played by both Damon Evans and Mike Evans) from Harlem to Queens and then finally to the Upper East Side of Manhattan. There are some in his shoes who would be unassuming and appreciative. But not George.

Like his former neighbor, Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), George is arrogant, full of it, and has certain ideas about certain people. Though underneath it all he is a loving and supportive husband and father, that is not the impression one gets upon meeting him for the first time. He takes pleasure in riling up his neighbors, Tom and Helen Willis (Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker), and their maid Florence Johnston (Marla Gibbs). His schemes to bring in more money usually ended up in failure, to be replaced with a new idea.

To sum it up: George Jefferson should be proud of his success. In his time, what he was able to achieve is nothing to sneeze at. But there is a thin line between pride and arrogance. That being said, the reason that audiences have loved this character for nearly fifty years is the duality of being a good spouse and parent and having a large ego. Balancing both aspects, George appeals to the audience in a way that not only breaks boundaries but reveals the human side to what could easily be a dislikable man.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

It’s About Common Sense, Not Religion

If we have learned nothing else about Covid-19 since March, it is that the virus neither knows or cares about the labels and boundaries that human beings have created.

In New York City, there are about a dozen zip codes in both Brooklyn and Queens in which there is a rise in Covid-19 cases. Most of these neighborhoods have a large population of Orthodox Jews. Some have claimed that the city’s response is anti-Semitic.

My personal reaction is the claim is mixed. If I felt it was truly anti-Semitic response, I would be direct in saying so. But it is not antisemitism, it is common sense. If anything, their reactions only amplify the anti-Semitic lies and imagery. Being learned in the text and customs of any religion does not stop this disease. Wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands frequently will stop this disease.

However, the residents of these zip codes are not completely to blame. If the news reports are true, there are not enough Yiddish speaking tracers to reach out to the community. That failure falls firmly on the shoulders of the Mayor and other officials.

The problem with Covid-19 is that common sense and logic are replaced by fear and anxiety. While those responses are normal, given the circumstances, they will not help us in the long run. We need a clear head and a well constructed plan if we are able to return to some sense of normalcy.

All in the Family Character Review: Archie Bunker

The new characters I will be reviewing are from…All in the Family.

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series All in the FamilyRead at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

From a writer’s perspective, it would be too easy to create a one note character that is entirely predictable. It is much harder to create a fully rounded character who the audience can relate to in-spite of that person’s flaws and imperfect humanity.

Archie Bunker (the late Carroll O’Connor) is very much an every man. A veteran of World War II and a blue collar worker, Archie lives in Queens with his wife Edith (the late Jean Stapleton), his daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers), and his son-in-law Mike “Meathead” Stivic (Rob Reiner).

The world around Archie is changing. When change happens, there are two ways to respond. You can either accept it or entirely reject it. Archie is not shy in admitting that he would prefer that life went back to the way it was. He also is not shy about using not so politically correct terms that some might refer to as racist or sexist.

Archie is a dyed in the wool supporter of the Republican Party and then President Richard Nixon. Which often leads to clashes with Mike and Gloria, who politics are on the more liberal spectrum. He also refers to Edith as “dingbat” and loves to sit in his favorite chair while sharing his opinions about the world around him.

But underneath that gruff and bravado is a man who loves his family and at the end of the day, would do anything for them.

To sum it up: No one is just all good or all bad. It is that in between of good and bad that makes us human. Though Archie Bunker may appear to be a racist and sexist hard-ass, he is in reality a man trying to process the transformation of everything that is in front of him.

That is why he is a memorable character.

The Museum Of The Moving Image

I think it is pretty safe to say that the visual mediums that are the movies and television have changed our culture forever.

The Museum Of The Moving Images,  located in Astoria, Queens, celebrated the impact that movies and television have had on our culture.

A few blocks from the 36th Ave N/Q  subway station and Steinway Street subway R/M subway station, the museum is housed in the building that once was the  old Kaufman Astoria studios.

This museum has everything that the movie and television loving audience adores. From props to costumes to makeup, memorabilia and sets, this museum is good for the kids and the kids at heart.

It is feast for the eyes and ears.

I highly recommend it.

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