An express trains speeds past Ramsey station in this 2003 photo, ruffling Mayor Richard Muti's jacket, but not the mayor.

IN MY OPINION . . .

Resolving the gun rights/gun control dichotomy

August 25, 2017

Tags: gun rights, Second Amendment, gun control, NRA

I'm a gun owner and former member of the National Rifle Association, the nation's largest gun lobby. In 2003 when I ran, unsuccessfully, for state senate in New Jersey's 39th legislative district, the NRA gave me a B+ rating, an unusually high grade for a Democrat. I later resigned my membership over disgusting remarks made by rock star Ted Nugent, who sits on the NRA's board of directors.

At a 2007 concert, Nugent described presidential candidate Barack Obama as a piece of excrement, using the vulgar four-letter term. Obama can "suck on my machine gun," he said. Candidate Hillary Clinton was dismissed as a "worthless bitch." During the 2012 campaign, Nugent said publicly that if Obama was reelected, "I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year," prompting a Secret Service investigation.

Celebrities engaging in over-the-top political commentary is nothing new and, judging from the spate of anti-Trump tirades by Hollywood-types, à la Kathy Griffin, it may be a growing phenomenon. But hope for a more civilized discourse, at least as it relates to the gun issue, recently sprang from an unlikely source: rock star and, apparently, reformed provocateur Ted Nugent. (more…)

Treatment of Veterans -- A National Disgrace

June 1, 2017

Tags: Veterans, VA claims

Too many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have had to wait inordinate lengths of time—some, a year or more—to have their claims for disability benefits processed by the VA. We are all properly outraged when we see news reports about this national disgrace.

Part of the problem is mushrooming claims from two simultaneous wars of more than 10 years duration, involving 2.5 million Americans who have served in combat zones, one-third of them on multiple deployments. The number of traumatic head injuries, amputations, PTSD cases, and other serious wounds has overwhelmed the VA. The incidence of PTSD has not only affected VA claims, it has also contributed to record numbers of veterans and active service personnel committing suicide in recent years. (more…)

Remembering JFK on his 100th Birthday

May 27, 2017

Tags: Kennedy Centennial

I wrote this piece to remember and honor President Kennedy in November 2013, on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. It's a happier occasion now to repeat it on his centennial, May 29, 2017.

As commander-in-chief of all our armed services, President John F. Kennedy was supposed to be impartial, especially regarding that greatest of inter-service rivalries, the Army-Navy game. In the two games Kennedy attended as president, he dutifully spent part of each contest in the company of roaring West Point cadets, before striding across the field at halftime to join the roaring brigade of midshipmen. But we midshipmen knew whose side the skipper of PT 109 was really on.

President Kennedy was a Navy man, through and through, and his death affected the Naval Academy community all the more deeply because of that association. He was not just our commander-in-chief; he was also our brother in arms. (more…)

President Donald J. Trump

January 7, 2017

Tags: Trump presidency

I originally posted this in the spring of 2016, before the Republican National Convention. While I don't claim prescience on all things political, I nailed this one.

Remember when we speculated that NJ Governor Chris Christie's abrasive manner wouldn't play well in the heartland of America, where people were too polite and civil to accept an obnoxious bully as a presidential candidate? Ta---daaa! Introducing Donald J. Trump, the "presumptive" Republican nominee for President of the United States and leader of the free world and, in my opinion, probable next president. In 1920, the great American satirist and acerbic wit, H. L. Mencken, gave his take on the future of the American presidency. Take a moment to read it and reflect.

"When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost... All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

Governor Christie's Siren Song

August 27, 2016

Tags: Chris Christie, school funding, Fairness Formula

Governor Chris Christie's "Fairness Formula" for public education funding plays upon the frustrations and anxieties of property tax-weary suburbanites like the song of the sirens played upon the ears of ancient Greek sailors. If listened to, it will surely lead our ship of state onto rocky shoals as perilous as those that threatened Odysseus and his men in Homer's immortal tale. (more…)

Memorial Day 2016

June 5, 2016

Tags: B-17 Flying Fortress, air war over Europe

Ninety-two-year-old Joe De Luccia has seen quite a few Memorial days, as have the dwindling ranks of his fellow World War II veterans – the men and women we’ve come to revere as “the greatest generation.” De Luccia, a widower, appears in fine health and fit enough to observe many more commemorations as he engages a visitor in his modest Saddle Brook home with tales of flak-filled bombing missions over Nazi-controlled France and Germany. “It was like flying through a cloud of steel,” he says, no small measure of pride in his voice at having survived the harrowing experience. The silver-haired nonagenarian’s recall is impressive, considering that the events he relates happened more than seven decades ago. (more…)

The God Factor in Politics

May 4, 2016

Tags: politics and religion

After his recent double-digit win in the Wisconsin Republican primary, Sen. Ted Cruz (R., TX) opened his victory speech with the same words he's employed after every other victory, changing only the state name: "God bless the State of Wisconsin," he shouted to a cheering throng.

Cruz, the son of a Baptist minister, has (more…)

A "bomb-the-hell-out-of-them" foreign policy approach

February 26, 2016

Tags: 2016 Presidential Race, Foreign Policy Creds

As Donald Trump rolls into South Carolina, on the heels of his stunning victory in New Hampshire, it will be interesting to see how this real estate developer's approach to foreign policy and the war on terror plays in the Palmetto State, home to the highest percentage of retired military personnel in the nation – (more…)

Veterans Day 2015

November 19, 2015

Tags: Immigrants in the military

Immigrants and their first-generation offspring have been the backbone of our nation's military for as long as we have been a nation. On this Veterans Day, when immigrants, both legal and illegal, have become a political football in a presidential election, that fact is worth remembering.

Half of U.S. troops in the 1840s were immigrants, mostly Irish recruited right off the ships that brought them. According to the Center for American Progress, Irish and German immigrants constituted almost one-fifth of the expanding Union army during the Civil War, or close to 500,000 men under arms. If one assumes that their casualty rates were proportionate, 125,000 of them died or were grievously wounded. As ranks became depleted during that war, blacks were finally allowed to serve and were formed into regiments of U.S. Colored Troops, as they were then called—almost all of them descended from involuntary immigrants to this country. One hundred, seventy-eight thousand of these former slaves served; 68,000 of them died. (more…)

A Brutally Frank Assessment on Memorial Day

May 25, 2015

Tags: Memorial Day, unnecessary wars

(Note: A version of this piece was published in The Record on May 21, 2015)

How can we honor, on this Memorial Day, those servicemen and service women who fought and died by the thousands, or who were grievously wounded by the tens of thousands, in a war that most Americans now believe was a mistake? We can begin by not lying to them and their families. They did not die, and they were not maimed, physically and mentally, to protect our freedom or to safeguard our liberty. Our freedom and liberty were not threatened by Saddam Hussein; in fact, one could argue that his removal put the United States at greater risk, because it also meant the removal of a counterweight to Iran's hegemony in the region and its larger global ambitions. No, American lives were not spent for some noble purpose. They were put in harm's way by politicians who were too quick to choose war as the option of first rather than last resort; who failed to consider the unintended consequences of their actions; and who, to put it bluntly, screwed up royally. (more…)

Selected Works

Biography
A fast-paced, one-volume study of the most fascinating entertainer of the 20th century. The book isn't an academic tome, although it is extensively researched and footnoted; rather, it is designed to be a highly readable page-turner, for avid Sinatraphiles as well as more casual fans of his music and films. It examines the forces, both positive and negative, that made Sinatra Sinatra, with special attention given to the love-hate relationship he maintained toward Hoboken and New Jersey for most of his life. He once called the city of his birth a "sewer," but later observed, "When I was there, I just wanted to get out. It took me a long time to realize how much of it I took with me."
Essays
"Richard Muti's essays are smart and provocative, personal and political."
–Linda Fairstein, former prosecutor
and crime novelist
As this eBook is published, Gov. Chris Christie enjoys a 72 percent approval rating, the highest level attained by any governor in New Jersey history. Yet, the man still evokes passionate feelings from supporters and foes, alike.
"Much needed fresh air out of New Jersey, where the political atmosphere has long been foul."
Kirkus Discoveries
True Crime
"The Charmer is definitely one of 2012's 'must read' books."
True Crime Book Reviews
Novel
Filled with “brilliant plot twists, vivid descriptions, and great dialogue, with a smooth, easy-to-read writing style.”

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