From The Archives: Joe Gentili circa 1974

Photo copyright © 2023 by Gerry O’Brien

I’ve always described Joe as the older brother I never had. He’s gone 15 years today, and I miss his twisted sense of humor and sandpaper-grade personality. The world is a far less interesting place without Joe.

Constituent Advertising, Apache County

Photo copyright © 2023 by Gerry O’Brien

Bob Dole, 1923 – 2021

Photo copyright © 2012 by Gerry O’Brien

I got to spend an hour with Bob Dole a decade ago, when he was 89 years old.

Long retired from the U.S. Senate and public life, he was still a force to be reckoned with. He regaled us with stories of his Kansas childhood, and his life in New York City, where he attended Brooklyn College for a brief time before being shipped off to fight in World War II as a second lieutenant in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division.

A star athlete, his life was changed forever by the war, and he returned home paralyzed from the neck down, expecting to die soon after.

Fate had other plans for Bob Dole, and like many in the Greatest Generation, he continued to serve his country for many years. Despite debilitating injuries, he never lost his sense of humor.

From The Archives, 1981: Tom Cuite

Photo copyright © 2021 by Gerry O’Brien

Tom was your classic old-time pol: a World War II veteran who served in New York’s State Senate, lost a bid for Congress the year I was born, and was rewarded with a seat in the New York City Council. He rose to Finance Committee Chairman, and in 1969, Vice Chair and Majority Leader — today’s equivalent of City Council Speaker. In 1977, I was his 18 year old opponent in the General Election. It wasn’t close. I took this photo of him at the Montauk Club in the summer of 1981.

Rainswept Bokeh

Photo copyright © 2021 by Gerry O’Brien

From The Archives, 1983: Mayor Ed Koch

Photo copyright © 2021 by Gerry O’Brien

Tolkien Foresaw This Day

The Fall of Barad-dûr in The Return of The King

“But the Nazgul turned and fled, and vanished into Mordor’s shadows, hearing a sudden terrible call out of the Dark Tower; and even at that moment all the hosts of Mordor trembled, doubt clutched their hearts, their laughter failed, their hands shook and their limbs were loosed. The Power that drove them on and filled them with hate and fury was wavering, its will was removed from them; and now looking in the eyes of their enemies they saw a deadly light and were afraid.”   — J.R.R. Tolkien

Somewhere, John McCain Is Smiling

Photo copyright © 2017 by Gerry O’Brien

From The Archives, 1981: County Chairman Vince Albano

Photo copyright © 2020 by Gerry O’Brien 

Fun Fact: Vince was the brother of John Albano, creator of DC Comics’ Jonah Hex.

From The Archives, Circa 1981: Richard Nixon

Photo copyright © 2020 by Gerry O’Brien

America’s 37th President is now only our second most corrupt Commander-in-Chief of all time, thanks to Donald Trump.

Nixon was many things, but he refused to challenge the election results after his close 1960 loss to John Kennedy, because he knew the damage it would do to our country. And when Barry Goldwater and other old guard, conservative Senators traveled to the White House in 1974 to tell Nixon it was over, he left office peaceably. Trump, on the other hand, has repeatedly refused to say he will honor the results of this election, and has spoken many times about ignoring the constitutional two-term limit.

If you live in the United States and haven’t voted yet, today is your last chance. Perhaps for a long time. VOTE.

From The Archives, 1983: Mayor Ed Koch

Photo copyright © 2020 by Gerry O’Brien

36 Years Ago I was A Reagan Delegate At The Republican National Convention. This Year, I’m Voting For Joe Biden For President.

(This is a distinctly political post; those of you who follow me strictly for photography
and lighter subjects can read on at your own peril)

In 1984, I was 25 years old, and two years earlier, I had defeated the local Republican boss in a Primary Election. As the new State Committeeman and District Leader for Brooklyn’s old 51st Assembly District, I represented the area from Park Slope to Bay Ridge, communities with a healthy mix of liberals, blue collar conservatives, and Latinos.

I was active in the community and worked with people of all political stripes on important neighborhood issues. And I was a presence in local media. So when it came time for Reagan Delegates to be selected for the Republican Convention that year, I made sure I was named. And when I was, I got picked to serve as the Daily News Hometown Correspondent, writing a daily column from the Convention floor.
I went to a Republican Convention where there was a clear distinction between politics and government. Where family members of the candidates occasionally spoke, but were prohibited from any role in government or the campaign and where the candidate and his family did not benefit financially from the presidency or the presidential campaign.
The convention I attended in 1984 had a candidate who was optimistic and cheerful. He didn’t attack reporters, and he didn’t demean women for questioning him. And that candidate didn’t fake a foot injury to avoid military service.
The convention where I served as a Delegate went to great lengths to shun kooks and conspiracy nuts, not award them prime time speaking slots on national television. Or worse, appoint them to positions of power and influence in the Administration.
The presidential candidate we nominated at that Republican Convention comforted Americans in time of great tragedy, and he mourned the loss of American servicemen and women. He didn’t smear dead soldiers, and he didn’t abuse the parents of those Americans who gave their lives in service to their country.
That presidential candidate also didn’t single out American companies to feud with, or try to hurt them financially. That presidential candidate did not use the Presidency to settle personal scores.
The presidential candidate we selected at that Republican Convention wasn’t petty and he wasn’t a coward. When that presidential candidate was shot and almost killed, he joked about it.
The presidential candidate I voted for at that Convention was a hardliner when it came to the Russians. He eventually signed far-reaching nuclear arms reduction treaties with them. But he made damn sure their new leader could be trusted before he agreed to anything. Trust, but verify, he always said.
The presidential candidate I supported at that Convention was not a perfect man. Nor was he a perfect President. But the difference between him and the man Republicans nominated this week is stark. Because the man they chose is a shameful embarrassment to their party and to our nation.
I left the Republican Party in the spring of 2016 and became an Independent, because the Donald Trump I knew from living in New York City all my life didn’t have the character, the courage, the decency, or the skills to be President.
The last four years have proven me right. Almost on a daily basis.
No need for details: 2020 has been brutal enough. Suffice to say, I don’t hate Donald Trump — but as an American I am deeply ashamed of and embarrassed by him. We want, we need this soap opera on the Potomac to end.
I expect to disagree with a lot of things Joe Biden does as President. That’s politics.
But Joe Biden is a decent man. He’s suffered great personal loss in his lifetime, yet remains a warm and engaging gentleman.
Biden understands that red states and blue states are still the United States. He’ll never make disaster relief decisions based on partisan politics. American Presidents don’t do that. Trump did.
Biden as President will put Putin in his place — as the leader of a minor world power with an economy equivalent to Texas. Trump appears beholden to Putin. And too much money from Kremlin oligarchs has found its way into Trump’s Republican Party.
My conservative friends will rail about the budget, the Supreme Court, and so on.
As if any of that matters with a racketeer in the Oval Office. 
Trump could appoint Jeffrey Dahmer as White House Chef, and some conservatives would express glee at such a fresh approach to cuisine.
Evangelical leaders continue to contort themselves to defend Trump. Proof positive that those same evangelical leaders are the crack whores of American politics: they will get in bed with anyone.

Note to my friends on the left:  I am not demonizing addicts, sex workers, or pool boys. Just the kind of people who preach and lecture the rest of us, then rip babies from their mothers’ arms and toss children into cages.

I will point out that the central message from this week’s convention — that Donald Trump will never abandon you or America —  was delivered by his third wife, whom he cheated on with a porn star. Character is everything, and Trump has none. But I digress.

As far as the budget goes, Trump makes drunken sailors look like price conscious coupon clippers.
What really bothers me is all that government money and party donations being spent at Trump properties. America’s Founders never intended the presidency to be a profit center. And they absolutely never wanted the White House to be pimped out as a Campaign Headquarters, complete with signs and bunting.
As the son of an immigrant ironworker, I am saddened to see Trump’s Republican Party become the vanguard of xenophobia and hatred of immigrants. Like Jack Kemp, I want to close the backdoor of illegal immigration so we can keep the front door open to the millions of new Americans we need in our country, not malign them, nor seek to overturn the naturalization of American citizens who have built roots here and made our nation their home.
Even when I was a Republican, I never voted a straight party ticket in my life. Standing in the voting booth, I always saw the names of people I knew personally, who ought not to have been on the ballot. So I’ve voted for Democrats and minor party candidates over the years. Lately, I’ve taken to writing in the names of my preferred candidate in some races, like John Kasich for President in 2016.
But I’ve never voted for a Democrat for President. Until now.
I’m voting for Joe Biden.
I’m voting for Joe proudly, with the kind of hope and optimism that has propelled our nation forward for centuries. I’m voting for Joe because he’s a decent man, who will work hard to protect our nation and get the job done. I’m voting for Joe because he can end this national soap opera, turn things around, and get America moving again.
Let the crazies and the bitter, hateful kooks vent all they want. Ignore them.
Because I know there will be many current and former Republicans — along with lots of Independents and Democrats and just plain old Americans — who will join me in voting for Joe Biden.
Because we know that putting America first isn’t just a slogan.
It’s what patriotic citizens do.

Washington Crossing the Delaware with Air Support

Washington Crossing the Delaware with Air Support

Along The Shadows

Photo copyright © 2018 by Gerry O’Brien

Golden Hour, Park Slope

Photo copyright © 2017 by Gerry O’Brien

The Man in the Arena

Photo copyright © 2017 by Gerry O’Brien

Lincoln at Union Square

Photo copyright © 2017 by Gerry O’Brien

Living Room, Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace

Photo copyright © 2016 by Gerry O'Brien

Photo copyright © 2016 by Gerry O’Brien

James Stranahan, Father of Prospect Park

Photo copyright © 2016 by Gerry O'Brien

Photo copyright © 2016 by Gerry O’Brien

Citizen of Brooklyn

Photo copyright © 2016 by Gerry O'Brien

Photo copyright © 2016 by Gerry O’Brien

The Party’s Over (for me)


Forty years ago this summer, I became a Republican voter in New York State.

Since then, I’ve been a Republican candidate for City Council and State Assembly, a State Committee Member (in two very different districts), Secretary of my local County Committee, and a Reagan Delegate to the 1984 Republican National Convention.

Today I leave the G.O.P. to become an Independent (or Blank, in New York election parlance).

It’s not just the imminent nomination of a man so vile he isn’t worthy of shining shoes at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (though it was the final straw). More about him, shortly.

I am troubled by religious extremists in the G.O.P.  Their ideology mirrors that of terrorists we fight around the globe. It includes suppression of women, intolerance, and the blind rejection of known scientific fact.

America’s founders established separation of church and state to avoid the sectarian bloodshed and divisions prevalent in so many nations.

Today’s Republican Party is beset by phony preachers and religious extremists who want to blend church and state.  Their presence at the highest levels of government makes it impossible for Republicans to speak with any integrity or independence in the war on Islamic terror.

If you think joining religion to government and politics is a good idea, take a closer look at Ireland’s last 400 years. Or today’s Middle East. My ancestors came to the New World in 1792 to escape religious divisiveness in Europe. Why would we invite it to America?

For all their talk of freedom and individual liberty, conservative Republicans get downright ornery when real people try to live their own lives. These same conservatives find many people’s personal choices offensive, unusual, or just too different for them, and now they claim religious exemptions to justify their bias.

God is not an excuse to refuse service to anyone in a commercial business, anymore than God is an excuse to blow up buildings and airplanes. Render unto Caesar, as a famous carpenter once said.

Democrats have their own massive problems with identity politics, so joining them is not an option for me.

I’ve always been an independent-minded person. Now my party enrollment (or lack thereof) can be a more accurate illustration of my independence.

About Trump: I understand the anger his supporters feel. Hell, any American voter who isn’t angry today hasn’t been paying attention. The system has failed us. Completely.

The solution is not to hire a con man whose family has been financing that same failed system since the 1950s.

The answer is to elect a President who can inspire us, like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt all did.

Imagine for a moment that Trump were to meet any of those legendary former Presidents. It would not end well for Trump.

Washington would horsewhip him. Lincoln would pin him to the mat and muss that bizarre orange hair until Trump confessed to being a fraud. And Roosevelt? TR would knock Trump out with a single punch, like he did to another loudmouthed bully back in his cowboy days.

Trump is beyond an embarrassment. He is a crude, disgusting man who treats women like meat, mocks the handicapped, and shouts juvenile insults at anyone who crosses him. Trump is ignorant about so many issues, (including what the nuclear triad is). And the story of his business success is pure fantasy.

He’s conned you, folks. 

You want to give this lunatic control of our armed forces and the nuclear launch codes? Have you not seen the Mad Max movies?

A Trump Presidency is a threat to more than just the Republican Party. It puts America and our modern world in grave peril.

I don’t know who I will vote for in November — I may write-in someone — but I could never, would never, ever vote for Donald Trump.

And I won’t be a member of a political party that would nominate or endorse him. America comes before Party.

As the old saying goes, a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you something. I’m a political consultant here in New York, so I have a good idea how leaving the G.O.P. will impact my bottom line. So be it.

To my friends staying in the Republican Party: I hope you somehow manage to stop this madman, and that our nation survives. As for me, after 40 years as a Republican, the Party is over.


The modern day Jimmy Stewart

John Kasich in Brooklyn, NY

John Kasich in Brooklyn, NY

American Graffiti

Photo copyright © 2016 by Gerry O'Brien

Photo copyright © 2016 by Gerry O’Brien

WCBS TV discusses Trump & the 2016 Presidential Race with me

Reporter Tony Aiello asked me about Trump’s decision to boycott the latest GOP Debate on Fox News.

My response: “If he can’t handle a hostile debate, how’s he going to handle China or Russia or any of the other 1,001 problems that are going to confront the next president of the U.S.?”

What I also told him, which ended up on the cutting room floor, was:

  1. This gives the real candidates (such as they are) a chance to talk to voters.
  2. Trump has only a fraction of the number of paid staffers on the ground in Iowa as some of the other candidates. You don’t win a caucus (which is an entirely different animal than a Primary) with robocalls and TV ads. Not that Trump has spent much money on them either.
  3. There’s a difference between a candidate who is angry
    (and there’s certainly enough wrong with our country today to make voters angry) and a candidate who is hateful and downright mean, like Trump. Americans are not going to entrust the nuclear launch codes to someone who is prone to fly off the handle and attack people.

The Odd Couple of Politics

Crain’s New York Business ran an excellent piece by @RosaGoldensohn on the recent war of words between Donald Trump and Mayor de Blasio.

Some of my colleagues and I were interviewed for the story, which you can read at the link here:

Today is the 152nd Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address



Abraham Lincoln, highlighted in sepia tone, at Gettysburg.


Has anyone seen or heard anything in the media about today’s anniversary?

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Left & Right & Wrong on the Paris Attacks


Neon sign of the Eiffel Tower in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.


(I’ve been a bit distracted waiting for someone in NYC government to acknowledge and do something to clean up the statue of France’s Marquis de Lafayette in Prospect Park that was defaced after the horrible events in Paris. What happened to the statue seems an odd coincidence. I rarely accept coincidences. But onward…)

Since the Paris attacks last weekend, I’ve watched progressives and conservatives react. Both have filled me with tremendous disappointment as an American. My thoughts are likely to annoy those on the left and the right, so I’m clearly the voice of reason here.

Conservatives say the Paris attacks require us to close our borders, especially to Syrian immigrants. As the son of an immigrant myself, I would remind folks on the right that America is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants built this nation. And while today’s economy is far from robust, one of the few gems in American business is Apple Computer, founded by Steve Jobs, the son of a Syrian migrant. And I might add, today’s Syrian migrants are fleeing the loonies back home who attacked Paris. Welcome these migrants. Absolutely screen them to avoid any bad apples. Instruct them in our language and our culture. Help them become the best Americans they can be. We will all benefit from their participation in America’s future. Hell, an immigrant designed the Saturn V rocket that took us to the moon, and we scooped him up at the end of World War II when he was working for those bad guys. Stop with the anti-immigrant rants. You sound like a bunch of dicks.

Progressives absolutely refuse to acknowledge the pivotal role a particular religion plays in the motivations and activities of those who carried out the Paris attacks. Moreover, they insist that mentioning this religion will only incite more violence by radicalizing currently non-violent adherents of that faith. The Paris murders aren’t the first time this has happened. By now, when Americans hear news of a major violent incident where reporters go out of their way not to mention the name or anything about the perpetrators … we know it’s the Cthulhu people. You know, those crazy followers of H.P. Lovecraft who secretly yearn for the return of — almost got you, didn’t I? After reading a story about a priest and child molestation, people don’t assume all Catholic priests are involved. And they don’t go around advocating the burning of their churches or monitoring their communications. They support criminal prosecution of the molesters and the bishops and cardinals who enabled them or covered up their crimes. If we learned that specific local churches were clearinghouses for the exploitation of children, I hope we would close them permanently. Apply as needed to other faiths and other problems. Progressives need to acknowledge and deal with religious extremism, regardless of the religion involved. Don’t be naive pussies.

Conservatives go to the other extreme when dealing with the religion associated with the Paris attackers. They continually lambaste this faith as a backwards, violence-loving, ignorant ideology with barbaric practices against women, who despise science and progress, and which insists everyone worship their god, they way they say their god ought to be worshipped. Wait. Isn’t that modern red-state social conservatism? You can’t argue that religious fundamentalism abroad is a threat to America’s future when a different flavor of religious fundamentalism at home is your own political base. Not if you want to be taken seriously. Conservatives must embrace separation of church and state here in America before they can lecture other nations on the role of religion in society.

Progressives talk a lot about dialogue and building hospitals and schools in Middle East nations, and deep down, want to try hugging this out. Aside from the fact that Americans are among the most generous (as individuals and as a nation) people in the world, having fed and educated countless millions in recent decades, the bottom line with the Paris attackers and their brethren is this: we are unfortunately going to have to kill them. A lot of them. Some of them will be young boys. Others will be mothers. Or grandmothers. And they need killing, because they are sworn and dedicated to killing us with a fervor that cannot ever be extinguished. Deal with it. I don’t like it any better than you do, but there you go. You can’t have a dialogue with people who behead people and throw gays off rooftops.

Conservatives say the Paris attacks are why we need to let the government monitor and record all communications all across America, on the internet, by phone, and by smoke signal. All I want to know is: what color will the armbands be? I mean, if you’re going to effectively dissolve the nation of Jefferson and Adams and create a modern police state … let’s do it with style! Hire some cutting edge directors to film a batch of security-oriented public service spots that will put Leni Riefenstahl to shame. Get the boy scouts and girl scouts involved for that authentic Hitler Youth look. The post 9/11 security state is an affront to everything America stands for. And I would remind you that of the 19 hijackers who attacked our nation that day, exactly zero of them were American citizens. Conservatives are supposed to be against big government. Yet, they allowed Bush and Cheney to initiate the most far-reaching expanse of scary government power in two centuries — which they politely turned over to the party that actually likes government power when they left office in 2009.

Progressives bemoan the U.S. military presence in the Middle East, and suggest it caused the slaughter in Paris, as well as the 9/11 and other attacks. This has rapidly become a chicken-or-the-egg debate. I’ve always thought Obama’s biggest blunder was leading with health care reform. He ascended to the presidency with more political capital and popular support than anyone including Reagan and Franklin Roosevelt. He could have looked Americans right in the eye and told them he was investing a trillion dollars in developing space-based solar power satellites that would make American energy independent in twenty years. Instead, he pursued health care and a Bush-Lite approach to Guantanamo and the Middle East. which required the continued presence of American troops. Progressives have a kneejerk tendency to blame America. Sometimes they are right. But the obsession with national navel-gazing and self-deprecation on a global scale is hurtful to the cause of freedom and liberty when there is a group out there that wants to kill Americans and anyone who believes in freedom of speech or freedom of religion. Priorities, people.

Bottom line: Conservatives and Progressives both have their heads stuck where the sun doesn’t shine. And both are locked into an ongoing, 24/7 hatefest with each other. It’s damaging to our nation, and to be honest, it’s boring.

As a kid, one of my favorite Merrie Melodies cartoons was a series about Ralph the Wolf (a clone of Wile E. Coyote) and Sam the Sheepdog. Each episode followed Ralph’s sheep-abducting plans and Sam’s brutal response. The stories are built around the theme that Ralph and Sam are just two guys, doing their jobs. Individual episodes begin and end with both characters having a friendly chat while punching their time cards. One cartoon includes a lunch break where they lounge amiably together and enjoy the beautiful weather.

Before launching the next flamethrower broadside on their fellow Americans over terrorism or other important issues, Progressives and Conservatives should check out Ralph and Sam on YouTube. They might learn something. Ralph & Sam in A Sheep in the Deep