Monday, September 24, 2018

Blueberries, Judge Kavanaugh, the Neuse River, Florida Politics and a Chess Endgame


A Blueberry Tariff? 

I read recently where Florida blueberry growers were hoping that the President would add blueberries to the list of American products protected from foreign competitors.  In most instances where tariffs are imposed, comparable well-priced domestic products are not available so the imports continue with the tariff being passed on to the consumer. That amounts to a tax!  Often, tariffs have nothing to do with supply and demand but are only a retaliatory tool in an economic struggle.  That's what is going on today between us and China.  

Well, blueberries are different.  There are plenty of blueberry growers in the United States, but it costs them more to grow and bring their product to market than their foreign (usually Mexican, Peruvian or Chilean) competitor does.  Hence, they want protection.

Well, I add a handful of blueberries to my breakfast cereal every day!  That makes me an expert!  Sometimes, I’m puzzled over why the container of berries which I buy is either a shallow one or a deeper one, and why, regardless of the container size, the price is always $4.99, $3.99 or rarely $2.99, never anything in between . In local stores, the source of the berries varies.  I always take note of where my blueberries come from.  Over the past few months, my blueberries have come from Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, Michigan, Mexico and most recently, Peru.  By far the tastiest and longest-lasting berries (regardless of their origin, usually a few at the very bottom of the containers don’t make it) I have enjoyed are the Peruvian ones.  They are the very best!  I am against tariffs on foreign blueberries.   If Florida farmers cannot make a living raising them, they should switch to another crop, or sell their land to real estate developers.
Jack Lippman 



Kavanaugh

Did he or didn't he?
Opposition to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court bench now centers of charges of sexual molestation during his teenage years.  This is out of left field on the part of Democrats.  That’s why it wasn’t brought up earlier.  Doing it now is like using a pinch hitter in the last of the ninth.  Whether true or not, and that will be very difficult to determine, it is the kind of thing that in other times would not even come to light and if it did, normally would not carry very much weight in the confirmation process.  But these are not normal times.

Mitch McConnell played a dirty game when he refused to even entertain President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the late Justice Scalia’s seat on the Court and stalled until a Republican was in the White House.   The Democrats are therefore entitled to return his favor and play just as dirty in their opposition to Kavanaugh and do whatever they can to stall his confirmation until they have a possible majority in the Senate or even lacking that, an election victory in November demonstrating a popular distrust of anything the President and his lackeys in Congress do.

McConnell
Most Senate Republican blindly follow McConnell’s leadership because they fear primary challenges from their party’s extreme right, which the President has in his pocket because of his appeal to millions of gullible Americans. (More about that later.).  When you play dirty, chickens come home to roost, Mitch!    Sad thing is that if Kavanaugh withdraws or fails getting confirmed, Trump’s replacement appointee, again drawn from the Federalist Society’s approved list, would be just as objectionable to Democrats as is Kavanaugh. 

One factor favorable to Democrats is that the behavior of the Republicans in regard to Kavanaugh only serves to strengthen the appeal of Democrats to women voters.  I’ve even seen replays of Anita Hill’s lurid testimony which failed to prevent Clarence Thomas from getting on the Court in 1991.  That would not even be on TV again, reminding women of supposed Republican attitudes toward them, were it not for the Kavanaugh ruckus.

Regarding the President, his background regarding relationships with women is such that under normal circumstances, Evangelical Christians and other religious conservatives would abhor him.  But in 2016, and right now, holding their noses, they support him only because of his pledge to put an anti-abortion Justice on the Supreme Court. In the unlikely circumstance where the Democrats somehow manage to prevent that from happening, Evangelical support for Trump will evaporate.  They would have no reason to support him.

JL





 
The Sewer in the Middle of North Carolina 

The 275 mile long Neuse River is not a major river by national standards.  It is not in the class of the Mississippi, the Colorado or even the Hudson Rivers.  But it is still the longest “major” river in North Carolina. 

It was in the headlines a few years back when its function as a sewage facility, carrying the waste materials from hundreds of hog farms out to sea, contaminating the land on its banks along the way, hit the headlines.  Attempts to remedy the situation have been made but with minimal success in North Carolina, a state of environmental deniers.  The flooding caused by Hurricane Florence’s rainstorms has worsened the situation, leaving rotting carcasses of drowned animals, both domesticated and wild, to add to the danger already posed by the established flow of hog excrement in the Neuse.  This is a very big problem.


But it’s good to know that at least one person, the President of the United States, is concerned with the crisis in North Carolina!  As reported in the Charlotte Observer, Trump asked about the storm’s effect upon Lake Norman, which is managed by Duke Energy, but which is some distance from the Neuse.  Duke’s CEO told him that the lake was good but got a lot of rain, according to a briefing  released by the White House.  “I love that area,” Trump was quoted as saying. “I can’t tell you why, but I love that area.” 
(Lake Norman, is home to the Trump National Golf Club, an 18-hole golf course with “world class country club amenities,” according to its website.) 
It never ends, does it?
JL




Floriduh Politics 

The biggest asset that the Republicans running at the top of their ticket in Florida have is the endorsement of the President.  Without that, Rick Scott (running for the Senate) is just another conservative candidate with a lot of oppressive baggage.  Ron DeSantis (running for Governor) is a big nothing whose only appeal is to those on the far right of his party.  Ah, but they both have more wisdom than Donald Trump. Neither of them agreed with his attack on the George Washington University study, commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico, which greatly increased the number of deaths resulting from Hurricane Maria last year.  (There are a lot of Puerto Rican voters in Florida.)  

As a result, the President’s support for them has cooled and his base may react accordingly and cannot be counted on as they were when these two candidates were fully in agreement with Trump’s lies and fabrications.

And speaking of the Florida races, DeSantis remains on the low road.  After bringing racism into the contest by criticizing the ideas of Democrat Andrew Gillum’s programs as programs which he suggested can “monkey up” things, he has made a blatant appeal to Jewish voters, of which there are about 600,000 in Florida. He is attempting to tie Gillum to the pro-Palestinian agenda of some on the Democratic far left, including those advocating a boycott of Israeli goods. Gillum of course strongly denies this.  

Gillum
Not all Jewish voters, this blogger included, buy into Bibi Netanyahu’s right-wing positions (necessary to maintain his majority in the Knesset) which delay a real solution in Israel, and that includes moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.  Although a governor has little to do with it, Andrew Gillum is for a two state solution there and opposes steps which serve to prevent that from happening.  That's no sin.  DeSantis thinks Jewish voters are “one issue” voters.  They are not.  And Gillum, a politician, while a strong supporter of the State of Israel, is not going to go overboard to alienate Democratic voters on the extreme left. 
JL



Endgame for the President

Like the last phase of a chess match, the President is slowly being deprived of available options to avoid a loss.  The best he can hope for is a “stalemate,” but he cannot win.  He has already lost too many of his key pieces (Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen) to salvage a victory.  If you look closely, there are beads of sweat on his brow.

His opposing player, Robert Mueller, still has his key pieces in place on the chessboard.  That is why the President is attempting to get them removed from the board.  Right now, his efforts are directed toward eliminating the “recused” Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and his second-in-command at the Department of Justice, Ron Rosenstein. (Consider them to be “rooks” in chess terminology.)  Rosenstein is accused of privately talking about, but not acting on, some extreme tactics to counter the President’s actions.  That may be enough to wipe him from the board.  Trump is also trying to eliminate his opponent’s “pawns,” the FBI, by discrediting that agency’s normal and routine operating procedures and demanding access to the confidential information essential to any law enforcement agency’s operation.  Their “bishops” (Comey and McCabe) have already been captured and taken off of the board.

And when it comes down to deciding whether the game will end with the President being the victim of a “checkmate” or a “stalemate,” that well may be left up to the Supreme Court.  They will decide whether the President can also capture his opponent’s “queen,” which is the report which Robert Mueller’s investigation ultimately makes, eliminating that from the board as well.  This is really, in addition to abortion, what the battle over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is about.  

Of course, if the Supreme Court rules against Trump, he can always kick over the chessboard and say that he makes the rules and the game is over.  Demonstrations and bloodshed might follow.  It’s that serious.
JL





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Jack Lippman 







Monday, September 17, 2018

Andrew Gillum, The Swiveling Menorah, Medicare Choices, Seven Questions for Republicans, Your Garbage Disposal and a Book Review (The Death of Democracy in Germany)





Andrew’s Turn

In our last posting we devoted a lot of space to the abysmal record of Ron DeSantis who with the endorsement of President Trump is running for governor of Florida.  This week it’s Andrew Gillum’s turn.  Here are ten great reasons, from the pen of Mike Gentry, for voting for Gillum to be the next governor of the Sunshine State.

Ten Reasons to Vote For Andrew Gillum For Governor

Criminal Justice Reform: Andrew believes that after someone pays the penalty for their mistake, they should be given a second chance. He supports the legalization of marijuana in order to generate new revenue to pay for teacher and instructional staff pay increases and to reduce the mass incarceration of people with low-level drug offenses.

Economy and Jobs: Nearly half of Florida’s households struggle to make ends meet, and as the son of a bus driver and construction worker, Andrew knows firsthand what it’s like to have your parents choose between which bills to pay before a service gets cut off.  As Governor, he will address the devastating inequality that has hurt our working families, who are forced to live paycheck to paycheck and feel that the opportunity to get ahead isn’t available to them anymore.
Education: Andrew believes a quality, public education is still the best path to equal opportunity, but that Florida’s education reform has been a failure. Our education system and its over-reliance on high-stakes testing has failed our children, our parents, our teachers and our state. He has proposed a $1 billion investment in our public schools, students, and teachers to boost early childhood education, raise teachers’ starting salaries to $50,000, restore public school construction funds, and increase SHOP 2.0 vocational training.
The Environment: Andrew believes that climate change is a real and urgent threat. Politicians like Donald Trump, who call it a “hoax,” and Governor Rick Scott, who banned the words “climate change” and “global warming,” are putting us and future generations of Floridians at risk. These politicians have failed to take action against climate change, with Florida having the most property at risk in the nation.
Gun Safety: Andrew is the only candidate who has fought the powerful gun lobby in court and won. He has beaten the gun lobby, including the National Rifle Association, to protect a law that bans firing a weapon in a city park.  In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy, Andrew led the charge for more common-sense gun safety policies including a ban on assault weapons, large capacity magazines, and bump stocks; strengthening and requiring universal background checks for all gun sales; and banning the purchase and possession of armor piercing bullets.
Health Care: Andrew believes that healthcare should be a fundamental right, not a privilege. Instead, extreme politicians refuse to acknowledge that Floridians struggle every day to keep themselves and their families from going bankrupt due to the lack or cost of healthcare. Andrew believes that Senator Sanders’ Medicare for All plan will help lower costs and expand coverage to more Floridians. Gillum has promised to fight the new health care premium increases that are a result of President Trump, Rick Scott and Congressional Republicans trying to attack Obamacare.
Immigration: Immigrants strengthen our society and have played a vital role in Florida becoming one of the leading economic states in the Union. Andrew is the only candidate for Governor who opposed both Donald Trump and Rick Scott’s policies that target immigrants.  During the child separation crisis, he spoke out loudly and forcefully against the Trump Administration’s inhumane and cruel zero-tolerance policy that separated young children from their parents. Gillum held Rick Scott and the Republicans accountable for their silence during this fight, and demanded Rick Scott support S. 3036, the Keeping Families Together Act.
LGTBQ Rights: Andrew has always been a staunch supporter of LGBTQ rights during his years as a public leader. As a City Commissioner, Gillum led the charge to expand domestic partner benefits for City employees. As Mayor, when more than a dozen counties were refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Florida, Gillum raised his voice in opposition and extended an invitation for couples to get married in Florida’s capital – Tallahassee.
Women’s Rights: When women succeed, Florida succeeds. As Governor, Andrew would support the state legislature ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. Florida should make it clear that civil rights will not be denied based on gender.  Andrew believes Florida must have Equal Pay for Equal Work, so women are given an equal opportunity to succeed at every level.  A Gillum administration will work to protect and encourage women-owned businesses and hire the best and brightest women to help lead our state forward.
Puerto Rico: Mayor Gillum is proud to stand with our fellow citizens from Puerto Rico — both as they recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and as they strive for better-paying jobs, better-funded schools, and a state that puts everyday people first.  Andrew will stand in the gap for our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters to advocate for new federal legislation and assistance.
Jack Lippman


The “God Squad”

The “God Squad” was a TV program and a weekly newspaper column hosted by Rabbi Marc Gellman and the late Monsignor Tom Hartman.  (The two of them authored the popular book, “Religion for Dummies.”) Gellman continues the column; it appears each Friday in the Palm Beach Post.

In this season, many Jews’ observance of the High Holidays unfortunately does not include attendance at a temple or synagogue where they might be exposed to a sermon by a Rabbi.  By clicking right here though, they might find that role filled by Rabbi Gellman’s words from last week’s column.  Easy reading; nothing heavy! (Until you start thinking about it.)  And others might learn something new and enjoy reading it as well.  Click right here and learn about the swiveling menorah and a country which is "a pluribus in search of a unum.”

 JL





Medicare Information 

Those who supplement their traditional Medicare (not a Medicare Advantage Plan) with a Medigap or Medicare Supplement policy are probably aware that Medicare Part B covers 80% of the Medicare approved rate for most doctor bills.  Your Supplement plan (regardless of insurance company - these plans are standardized), subject to whatever co-pays or deductibles are involved with your choice of the standardized selection of plans, pays the other 20%.   For a $400 doctor bill, that amounts to saving you $80 out of your pocket.  But that’s NOT why you have a Medicare Supplement policy!   


You have it for that operation which Medicare approves for $120,000 (which the doctor cannot argue with even though he billed for more) and pays 80% percent of that, $96,000, leaving you obligated to pay that other $24,000!  That’s what you have the Supplement for!  Not the little stuff.



But, you might ask, why not avoid the need of paying almost anything at all, including the not insubstantial cost of a Medicare Supplement, by choosing a Medicare Advantage Plan?  Good question! 

When you do that, you and your family lose the ability to decide when a referral to a physician of your choice is desirable, and the ability to select a hospital of your choice.   In some plans, you may be able to exercise these choices, but in a limited manner and usually at a higher cost than if you had remained within the choice of doctors and hospitals fully participating in the plan.

Example:  Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the nation’s top two cancer centers, both accept Medicare and Medicare Supplement insurance but do not routinely participate in Medicare Advantage plans and usually, will not accept them as coverage, although they may accept some to a limited extent.  

Both these hospitals’ web sites recommend contact with one’s Medicare Advantage Plan beforehand to determine to what extent they may or may not provide coverage in institutions like these.  A patient with such a plan may end up in an excellent hospital but possibly not the one they would prefer.
 JL





Questions for Republicans

Seven questions for Republicans, whether in Congress or out among the population of these United States:

(1)  Would you want your children to grow up to be like Donald Trump?

(2)  Would you approve of your daughter dating, or considering marrying, a man like Donald Trump?

(3)  What do you call a “witch hunt” that ends up catching real witches?

(4) Who, in you Party, was responsible for “vetting” now-admitted criminals like Paul Manafort, Paul Papadapoulos, Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen, allowing them into the “inner sanctums” of your otherwise bankrupt Party? 

(5)  Why were these soon-to-be-proven criminals even issued credentials to be admitted to Republican campaign events?  Terrorists wouldn’t have been admitted to the G.O.P.’s 2016 Cleveland convention, yet these criminals were.  Who knew and who didn’t know?

(6)   Why the hell are you still supporting Trump and his few remaining supporters in Congress who are cowering in fear of a primary attack from the right?   Think about that the next time you feel like joining him in screaming “Make America Great Again.”  

(7)  Are you a real American or something else?  Many Trump supporters indeed are “something else.”  Most Republicans really are true Americans but are afraid to admit it.  If they look around them, they will find that most Republicans think just like they doSo why don’t YOU all step up and support “Impeachment, Conviction and Exile” (to Patagonia) for Donald?  (The Chileans or Argentinians who control the place might vomit at the thought of having him there, but it must be considered.)  Ivanka, Jared and Donald, Jr. will probably be welcome in Israel, at least by Bibi.  That has probably been long arranged.
JL

A Kitchen Hint

And while on the subject of cleaning out filth, have you ever considered cleaning your kitchen sink garbage disposal unit?  




It should be done periodically.  Not a big job either.   Check out your unit’s manual or Click right here.  


JL





A Book Review - It Happened in Germany Not So Long Ago

Ideas gotten from books are never equaled by what appears on the internet, on television or in theatres.  Books can be read, re-read and digested, deeply thought about or just skimmed over.  It is the reader’s choice.  The more transitory nature of other media lessens their impact and places them on a level lower than books.

Historian Benjamin Carter Hett’s 2018 book, “The Death of Democracy,” chronicles Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and the downfall of the Weimar Republic, the government which ruled Germany from the end of the First World War until 1932.  While very readable, the detail it provides about the many personalities, political parties, economic forces and ethnic and social groups which populated Germany in those years might be a bit boring to some.  Nevertheless, this is a book which should be on your reading list.  How high on that list, of course, is up to you.

Right now, here are some quotes from “The Death of Democracy” which might interest you.  They might even tempt you to read the entire book.
    “One of the challenges of understanding what the Nazi movement was all about comes from a basic fact of politics.  The Nazis were politicians: like all politicians, including fascists in other countries, they moved into the political space that was available to them, and their programs evolved to fit the supporters they attracted.” (page 98) 

Permit me to add that in those days, the 1920’s, “Nazi” was not yet the synonym for evil which that word later became.  It was merely a shortening of the party’s full name – the National Socialists. (It was a party of “anti’s,” anti-capitalist, anti-communist, anti-Semitic, anti-intellectual … and became a home for those with many such hatreds.)

Quoting the words spoken in 1932 by Kurt Schumacher, eventually the Social Democratic Party’s leader both before and immediately after World War Two, “The whole National Socialist agitation is a constant appeal to the inner swine in human beings.  If we recognize anything at all about National Socialism, it is the fact that it has succeeded for the first time in German politics in completely mobilizing human stupidity.” (page 128)

     The burning of the Reichstag in 1933, probably the work of Nazi arsonists to justify their cracking down violently on their opponents, was a matter of dispute at the time. Hett quotes a German woman writing to her daughter in Holland and who “noted with approval that a Social Democratic editor had been arrested because he had told the foreign press that the Nazis might have set fire to the Reichstag.  One need not be surprised any longer, she continued, that such false news about the National Socialists is always being spread by the foreign press.” (page 193)  Supporters of the Nazis always considered unfavorable news about the Party to be “false news.”

In 1932, the various conservative movements in Germany, unwilling to work with the more liberal Social Democrats, concluded that they needed the support of the Nazis to remain in power.  

They thought they could temporarily use Hitler, who had the support of millions of Germans, to their advantage, even while recognizing the despicable nature of his party’s agenda.  Sadly, the reverse turned out to be true and once given a foothold in the government, the Nazis quickly destroyed German democracy.  Contributing to this was the practice of German political parties of having some sort of ceremonial paramilitary adjunct, which potentially armed them with something more than mere rhetoric.  The Nazis had their “stormtroopers” and did not hesitate to use them in dealing violently with their opponents.

At this point, it’s time to recall the advice of philosopher George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  These words have frequently been applied to the lessons of history.
JL



HOW TO BE ALERTED TO FUTURE BLOG POSTINGS.
Many readers of this blog are alerted by Email every time a new posting appears.  If you wish to be added to that Email list, just let me know by sending me an email at Riart1@aol.com.

HOW TO CONTACT ME or CONTRIBUTE MATERIAL TO JACKSPOTPOURRI.com 
Contact me by email at Riart1@aol.com.   YOU ALSO CAN SEND ME YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO BE PUBLISHED IN THIS BLOG AS WELL AS YOUR COMMENTS AT THAT ADDRESS.  (Comments can also be made by clicking on the "Post a Comment" link at the blog's end, though few followers of the blog have done that lately.)

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Jack Lippman 



Sunday, September 9, 2018

A Whole Bunch of Stuff: Michael Gerson, St. Thomas More, Kathleen Parker, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ron DeSantis, Brett Kavanaugh, Fordham, the U of P and of course, Donald Trump





A Gerson “Must Read” Column


There was a great Washington Post column by Republican conservative Michael Gerson last week.  In it (the column’s heading was ‘Republicans must pick their point of principled resistance’), Gerson quotes author Edward Luce about populism as follows: “the true populist loses patience with the rules of the democratic game” and goes on to comment that “he comes to view himself as the embodied voice of the people and (sees) opponents as (in Trump’s words) “un-American“ and “treasonous.”  Wow!  You must read the entire column!

St. Thomas More
I read the column in the Palm Beach Post, which had omitted its final paragraph which talked about St. Thomas More, who in Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for All Seasons,” had to make a fatal decision resulting in his execution.  He drew a line beyond which he would not retreat in confronting evil.  That’s why the Roman Catholic Church made him a saint.  Republicans can’t hope for sainthood if they act now, but they can take a lesson from this column.
 
Click here to read  the full column as it originally appeared in the Washington Post. 
Jack Lippman


 How it Will End

Things are developing so fast with the Presidency that this weekly blog cannot keep up with them.  Cracks in the edifice are widening. 
The advance hints as to what Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book will reveal and the New York Times Op-ed piece by an anonymous Senior White House official deeply criticizing the President are unprecedented.  Charges of incompetence and mental illness even overshadow hints at criminality.  Even Barack Obama has issued a clarion call to America to wake up!

But there are still enough Americans out there sufficiently gullible, misled, misinformed or just plain dumb (no other word suffices) supporting the President, and enough Republicans in Congress who fear that their speaking the truth will result in a fatal primary challenge from the right to prevent anything being done at this point. They are quiet because the majorities his supporters have given them in Congress enable them to push through what is mostly a traditional Republican agenda (Tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, weakened safety net, emasculated health care, conservative judiciary, etc.). That is sad, but that is what happens when easily-swayed people vote against their own interests and put Republicans into office. 

Go back right now and read the Gerson column above if you have not already.  This is what it is all about.

Mueller
There will have to be something absolute, irrefutable and ironclad, from Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation or otherwise, which when presented to the public, to Congress … and to the President … will result in his immediate resignation.  I don’t know what that something is, but it is out there lurking somewhere, like Moby Dick following the Pequod, occasionally hinting at its presence, but not revealing itself fully until poised to ultimately destroy its target. That will end it all.
 JL

 
Moby Dick was a White Whale ... but a picture of one here wouldn't show up as well as this one does.  Sorry.


A Parker Quote

Here’s a quick quote from a Kathleen Parker Washington Post column last week directed at Evangelicals, who along with Congressional Republicans, daily attain new heights of hypocrisy. 

“If Republicans do lose Congress, it will be because of Trump himself.  A Democratic victory in the midterms will happen because of the GOP’s silence in the face of Trump’s untenable behavior; their lack of courage in condemning his Draconian execution of policies; and the utter hypocrisy of allowing such a foul-mouthed, race-baiting misogynist to occupy the Oval Office after many of these same paragons of virtue impeached Bill Clinton for lying about his irresponsible affair with an intern.”

Parker, like Gerson, are life-long Republicans.
 JL



Something Special About Poetry

Sara passed this 2007 poem on to us.  Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the major poet of the Beat Generation as well as a painter, bookseller and liberal activist, is still alive and kicking at age 99.  Poets have the uncanny ability to write things that endure over the years.  That’s what so special about poetry.  One cannot deny that this poem has meaning for us today.

Pity the Nation 













Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, 
whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation —  oh, pity the people 
who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.
JL


The Education of Donald Trump

I’ve always had my doubts about how Donald J. Trump amassed his educational credentials.   Living in a nice neighborhood in the borough of Queens of New York City, Trump could have gone to one of the best high schools in the entire city at the time, Jamaica High School, just a short distance from where he lived.  


Jamaica High School
Instead, his family opted to send him to the New York Military Academy.  In my recollection, back in the day, teenagers who attended military academies were sent there by their parents, if they could afford it, because they believed a private school education would be better for their offspring than a public high school.  But there are many private schools that are not military academies.  Those whom I knew who attended military academies did so for one of two reasons. Some came from military families that felt such a secondary education would be a good start for a military career.  Others felt that the structure of a military academy, for a variety of reasons, would benefit the student better than a non-military environment.  Donald Trump did not come from a military family.

Fordham University, where Trump spent his first two college years, is a rigorous college run by the Jesuit order, and provides an excellent education and is not particularly easy to get into. The University of Pennsylvania, to which Trump transferred for his junior and senior years, is one of the great schools of our nation, and its business curriculum, anchored at the Wharton School of Business, is said to be one of the best in the nation and also has rigorous entrance requirements.

From what I’ve seen of the President, he did not learn very much at either Fordham nor Penn (nor at NYMA for that matter).   I wonder how long it will be before some investigative body looks into whether any sizable donations might have been made to either of these schools by Donald Trump’s family at about the time he was a student there.   It would be to his credit if there were none.
JL 
 

Instinctive, Ingrained Bigotry in the Florida Governorship Race

Let’s be overly fair to Ron DeSantis, Republican nominee for the Florida governorship.   He was accused of racism when he said that “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up and try to embrace a socialist agenda.”  The man does not speak English very well (despite an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a Law degree from Yale) and I suspect the words he actually was trying to get out of his mouth were that “the last thing we need to do is monkey around and try to embrace a socialist agenda.”   While “monkey around” is a frequently used expression, I have never heard anyone say “monkey up.”  I think he was confusing this with saying “screw this up” but he failed to get the syntax right when “screwing up” got somehow switched to “monkeying up.”    Nevertheless, the use of this expression, either way, conjures up an image of an inept monkey trying to do something and failing at it, and in the southern part of the United States today, this clearly evokes a racial meaning, especially when DeSantis’ opponent is a man of color, and a lot of people who are voting in Florida still aren’t quite certain of who won the Civil War. 

Most charitably conceding that DeSantis did not consciously intend it to come out that way, we are left with the alternative that his choice of words was instinctive or sub-conscious and that makes it even worse.  Why didn’t he just say “screw this up” instead of “monkey this up?  I believe that this is what he started out to do, but his instinctive, ingrained bigotry popped the word “monkey” into his mouth instead of the word “screw” without even bothering to get the syntax straight.  This says all that need be said about the man’s character.  He’s a turd. You can smell him a mile off. This will do him little good beyond the Trump base, which also has an instinctive, ingrained bigotry affecting everything they say or do.

Now that I’ve said about the nicest things I can say about him, here’s the rest of the story on Ron DeSantis.

Let’s start in the House of Representatives.  His legislative record there includes the introduction of a bill in 2014 to direct the DOJ to report to Congress when any Federal Agency refrains from enforcing laws on the books.  This was aimed at reducing the power of President Obama under the pretext that he was not enforcing laws in order to further his “unpopular agenda.”
A year earlier, he signed on to a pledge, initiated by the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity group, promising to vote against any global warming legislation that would raise taxes.
A year ago, DeSantis proposed a rider to the 2018 spending package which would end funding for the 2017 Special Counsel investigation and also limiting how far back they could go in their investigations, countering a bi-partisan measure aimed at limiting the President’s power to fire the Special Prosecutor.
Needless to say, DeSantis is a member of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, whose actions, along with those of the President, are destroying the Republican Party whose failing label he carries into the Governorship race. 

DeSantis has the President’s support in that race.  He is so devoted to the President that during the primary campaign, he ran an ad showing him teaching his young children how to “build the (Trump’s) wall” and say "Make America Great Again.” He also dressed the youngest in a tiny red "Make America Great Again" jumper. 

Peas in a Pod
Asked by a reporter if he could name an issue where he disagreed with Trump, DeSantis was not able to name a single issue. 

But speaking of “issues,” here is a brief summary of where DeSantis stands on some important ones.



·         He was against the VA giving veterans access to marijuana when recommended by a VA doctor.
·         He opposes abortion and has denounced Planned Parenthood.
·         He agreed with the Supreme Court decision which permitted the Hobby Lobby company to deny their employees group health coverage which included paying for abortions.
·         He believes the Federal Reserve System should be audited.
·         DeSantis supported a bill which required that regulations which have a significant economic impact be subject to a vote of Congress prior to taking effect.
·         DeSantis sponsored the Transportation Empowerment Act, which would transfer much of the responsibility for transportation projects to the individual states and sharply reduce the Federal tax on gasoline.
·         DeSantis has opposed legislation to require online retailers to collect and pay state sales tax.
·         He voted in favor of the 2017 Tax Cut Act, primarily benefiting the wealthy and businesses, believing that it will bring more jobs to America.
·         DeSantis opposes Federal education programs such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top,” saying that education policy should be made at the local level.
·         In 2015, DeSantis introduced the Guantanamo Bay Recidivism Prevention Act, which would cut off foreign aid to countries that receive detainees from Guantanamo if they show back up on the terrorism recidivism list.
·         DeSantis opposed President Obama's plan to shut down the Guantanamo’s detention facility saying that bringing hardened terrorists to the U.S. homeland harms our national security."
·         Regarding the formal restart of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, DeSantis said "Raising the Cuban flag in the United States (over an embassy) is a slap in the face to those who have experienced the brutality of the Castro regime."
·         DeSantis opposed the Iran nuclear deal, calling it a bad deal that will significantly degrade our national security. DeSantis accused President Barack Obama of giving better treatment to Cuba's Raul Castro and Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei than to Israel's Benjamin Netanyhahu.  (Right now, all signatories to that agreement seem to be adhering to it, with the exception of the United States, because of President Trump’s views.)
·         In 2013, DeSantis introduced the Palestinian Accountability Act, which would halt U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until it formally recognizes Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and cuts off all ties with the terror group Hamas. DeSantis supported the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  Actually, these measures lessen the chances of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian problem in the near future.
·         DeSantis opposes gun control. He received an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association.
·         Following the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, DeSantis expressed his support for hiring retired law enforcement officers and military veterans as armed guards for schools.
·         DeSantis is opposed to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He has called for the "full and complete repeal" of the act. But he wasn’t
ready to support the American Health Care Act, the House Republican effort to replace it.  Even that wasn’t conservative enough for him.
·         DeSantis was a critic of President Obama's immigration policies; he opposed Obama's deferred action programs (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA)) and accused him of failing to enforce immigration laws. DeSantis opposes "sanctuary cities,” which refuse to use their police resources to enforce questionable Federal programs.
·         Regarding U.S. policy toward refugees from the Middle East, DeSantis said "the prudent policy is to err on the side of protecting the American people.”
·         DeSantis has a "0" rating from the Human Rights Campaign based on his record of voting on LGBT-related issues and legislation.
·         According to the Tampa Bay Times, DeSantis "made a name for himself in 2017 attacking special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election." (See above legislative record.)
·         In January 2018, while on the House Intelligence Committee, DeSantis voted on party lines to release a classified memo authored by Republicans on the committee which purported to show that the FBI abused its surveillance powers in the Russia investigation. DeSantis voted not to release a memo authored by Democrats on the committee which accused the Republicans on the committee of playing politics with national security.
·         In April 2018, DeSantis called on FBI Director Christopher Wray to criminally investigate a number of officials involved in investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, including former FBI Director James Comey, former Acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, FBI Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Counsel Lisa Page. DeSantis also called for investigations of a number of former Obama officials, including Loretta Lynch and Hillary Clinton.
This man is no more fit to be Governor of the State of Florida than Donald J. Trump is fit to be President of the United States. 
(Watch for the next edition of www.jackspotpourri.com, in about a week, for the inside scoop on Democrat Andrew Gillum, who is opposing DeSantis in the governorship race.)
JL



Kavanaugh
The hearings to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court are a waste of time.  
1.    The Republicans have enough Senators to confirm him.  It will happen.
2.    The President said he would only appoint a “pro-life” Justice and early on, in talking about his family and community activities, Kavanaugh made a point of mentioning that he coaches his daughters CYO basketball team.  He didn’t say “basketball team.”  He said “CYO basketball team.”  At that point, I knew where he will be going on abortion related cases.  "Nothing but net."  Case closed.  First day!
3.    As for protecting the President from investigation, his continually evasive answers to questions on that point make it clear that his loyalty is to the man who nominated him and he is skillful enough to be able to find tortured legal precedent for anything he does, once appointed.  And he will be appointed.  
That will be a real tragedy.  The solution is to make sure the Democrats control the Senate for the next twenty years!  That is not in anyone’s hands except yours, dear readers.
 JL




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