Friday, January 15, 2016

The Great (Pizza) Debate. And the GOP, Too

OMG! Did you see the latest news from the debate? No, I am not talking about Thursday night’s Republican Party presidential gabfest (okay, maybe later in this post I will, but not now). More importantly, The New York Times reported Friday the decades-old epicurean debate as to which pizza shop serves the best pies in New Haven, nay, the world, might be drawing to a conclusion.

Sally’s Apizza has an uncertain future. You can’t say you’ve ever been to New Haven if you have not tasted and gone to gastronomic heaven gorging on Sally’s pizza, though some would argue (incorrectly) that Frank Pepe Napoletana down the block in Wooster Square serves the best pies. For details on what might bring this cousinly rivalry to an unsatisfying conclusion read The Times

It wasn’t because I wrote this blog around lunchtime that I waxed nostalgic about Sally’s and the other eateries Gilda and I frequented when we lived two years in New Haven (1975-1977) and two more before that in Seymour, some dozen miles away, while I reported for The New Haven Register as she earned her nursing degree at Bridgeport University and then worked in the newborn intensive care unit at Yale-New Haven Hospital. 

On my reporter’s salary of $7,800 to $10,000 a year we didn’t have much spare change back then. Though expenses were far lower than today’s (gas was about 33 cents a gallon until the oil embargo of 1973 jacked it up to about a dollar, while home heating oil soared from 5 cents a gallon to 50 cents), eating out was a luxury. Even McDonald’s was a treat not to be indulged in too often (btw, back then McDonald’s and Friendly’s had almost exclusive fast food coverage where we lived, though I vaguely remember one of the first Subway stores in nearby Ansonia). 

My salivary glands do get a workout when I recall three restaurants we patronized when we wanted to splurge or celebrate, especially after Gilda started bringing home a paycheck. For seafood we’d go to Jimmies of Savin Rock in West Haven. Sundays we would dine at the Bar B Q-Rest in Milford along Route 1 for a lobster special dinner—a one pounder for just $2.95. 

If we were feeling really flush with cash, or maybe on our way back from a family visit in Brooklyn, we would stop along the New England Thruway at Valle’s steak house either in Stratford or West Haven. Valle’s often ran a double lobster special. Gilda liked the prime rib dinner, but my favorite part of any meal was dessert, a large chunk of devil’s food cake smothered in whipped cream. Alas, the Valle’s chain closed in 2000. 

Okay, enough about food. Let’s get to the real red meat, Thursday night’s GOP debate. But first, here’s a truism reporters learn early on in their careers, but upon retirement and writing a blog it gets less and less important—never sit on a story!

I relate this bromide because Thursday afternoon I started typing a posting on Ted Cruz’s crude attack on Donald Trump and his “New York values.” Instead of pouncing on the subject I deferred, thus allowing Trump and other pundits to rise to the Big Apple’s defense. Ah well, you’re not paying me to be first with news and analysis. Besides, I was enjoying my time with Gilda during her day off.

Anyone who thought ISIS or some other foreign entity, such as Iran, Russia or North Korea, posed an existential threat to America should have come away with a clearer perception of who really could take down the United States—Barack Obama and his co-conspirator Hillary Clinton or any other progressive who might get the opportunity to break our economic system by imposing higher taxes and more regulations and by getting the opportunity to nominate three or four left-leaning supreme court justices.

All right. This was classic campaign rhetoric. What struck me most was the almost complete absence of understanding of the complexities and nuances required of a successful presidential candidate. Take, for instance, Cruz’s opening salvo (no doubt he could not believe his good fortune to be asked the first question). Though it was about jobs and the economy, Cruz launched into a diatribe meant to raise the boiling point of every red-blooded South Carolinian in the audience and anyone else listening who believes gunboat diplomacy is preferable to respectful communication. 

He excoriated Obama for not mentioning in his State of the Union speech the 10 sailors captured by Iran after they meandered into Iranian waters. Cruz promised if he were president a country that captured any of our servicemen or servicewomen and forced them to kneel in humiliation would “face the full force and fury of the United States.” Oh boy, are we ready for cruise missile launches to resolve situations that peaceful diplomacy could diffuse within 24 hours? 

Ben Carson at times exhibited a sense of humor but, to my thinking, not enough understanding of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Carson wondered how rancor and name calling had become so commonplace in our society. Surely, he opined, it did not come from our Judeo-Christian roots.

Huh? Is he ignorant of American history? Puritans, who came to this land seeking religious freedom, denied it to anyone who failed to practice religion as they did. That’s why Roger Williams was forced to leave Massachusetts to found Rhode Island on the principles of religious tolerance and separation of church and state, as well as respect for the land rights of Native Americans.

Did Carson not realize that our Judeo-Christian value system was a foundation of slavery? 

Did Carson not realize that our Judeo-Christian values failed to open the doors to millions of would-be immigrants from the Far East and eastern Europe, many of the latter group who were Jewish?

Yes, there are many good Judeo-Christian values, such as communal help for the poor and underprivileged, but most Republicans prefer bootstrapping rather than government assistance programs or increases in the minimum wage (which they’d really prefer to do away with altogether as they would Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and Obamacare). 

I’ve worked myself up enough so I won’t dissect the rest of the GOP field.  Have a good weekend.