Thursday, February 22, 2018

Great Columns by Friedman and Cerebino, R.I.P. Billy Graham, Feminist Bannon and Few More Words on Guns

Important Message:  One of the greatest mistakes I ever made in using computers was starting to use Gmail a few months ago as my basic email service rather than AOL’s email service which I had been using for years.  I still will use both, but I will be minimizing my use of Gmail in the future and slowly returning to AOL.

The reason:  Gmail uses algorithms to determine what is and what is not spam.  To find what they have been missing, all Gmail users should inspect their spam files on a daily basis if not more frequently.  They should also check out what Gmail, using its own criteria, has decided is “social,” a “promotion,” an “update” or what they label a “forum.” This is an annoyance, beside letting someone else make your decisions for you.  To get to these “labels,” Gmail’s word for folders, it is sometimes necessary to look below the “Compose” button at the top left of the Gmail screen, clicking on “more” to reveal labels which may be hidden, and to which your email may have been moved.

AOL, on the other hand, allows the user to set up the criteria for determining what is spam.  Whatever advantages Gmail may have, this is enough to sour me on it.   I have discovered a lot of communications I have missed because of it. Also, the number of fonts and font sizes available in Gmail is far less than in AOL mail.  I only hope AOL stays in business.  I still will have my Gmail address, but I encourage all to contact me at Riart1@aol.com once again.  I will be sending out emails to people who frequently contact me advising them of this shortly.  (This is not to say that AOL doesn't have disadvantages as well, but I think they are more easily managed than Gmail's shortcomings.)  Jack

A Tom Friedman Column

Tom Friedman's Feb. 18 New York Times column, headlined  "Whatever Trump is hiding on Russia is hurting us all"  has been passed on to millions of Americans. 
Rather than give you a difficult-to-manage link to it at the New York Times web site, I am reproducing the entire column.  Don't tell anyone!  It is vitally important that all Americans, including those who have been used by the Russians (see following item) read it.  Here goes.

Whatever Trump is hiding on Russia is hurting us all

Thomas Friedman 

Our democracy is in serious danger.

President Donald Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.
That is, either Trump’s real estate empire has taken large amounts of money from shady oligarchs linked to the Kremlin — so much that they literally own him; or rumors are true that he engaged in sexual misbehavior while he was in Moscow running the Miss Universe contest, which Russian intelligence has on tape and he doesn’t want released; or Trump actually believes Russian President Vladimir Putin when he says he is innocent of intervening in our elections — over the explicit findings of Trump’s own CIA, NSA and FBI chiefs.

In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behavior is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system — a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history.

Up to now, Trump has been flouting the norms of the presidency. Now Trump’s behavior amounts to a refusal to carry out his oath of office — to protect and defend the Constitution.

At a time when the special prosecutor Robert Mueller has brought indictments against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups — all linked in some way to the Kremlin — for interfering with the 2016 U.S. elections, America needs a president who will lead our nation’s defense against this attack on the integrity of our electoral democracy.

What would that look like? He would educate the public on the scale of the problem; he would bring together all the stakeholders — state and local election authorities, the federal government, both parties and all the owners of social networks that the Russians used to carry out their interference — to mount an effective defense; and he would bring together our intelligence and military experts to mount an effective offense against Putin — the best defense of all.

Think for a moment how demented was Trump’s Saturday night tweet: “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign — there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”

To the contrary. Our FBI, CIA and NSA, working with the special counsel, have done us amazingly proud.  We should be using our cybercapabilities to spread the truth about Putin.My guess is what Trump is hiding has to do with money. But whatever it is, Trump is either trying so hard to hide it or is so naive about Russia that he is ready to not only resist mounting a proper defense of our democracy, he’s actually ready to undermine some of our most important institutions, the FBI and Justice Department, to keep his compromised status hidden.

That must not be tolerated. This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.

Jack Lippman



Trump Supporters Tools of Russian Intelligence

I’ve heard that the dummies in the White House are somewhat relieved by the tragic shooting at the high school in Parkland, Florida, because it takes the spotlight off of Special Prosecutor Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, still denied by the Administration’s chief dunce.  The indictment of a group of Russians by Mueller brings this truth (not “fake news” as the dunce in the White House refers to the Russia probe) right back into the spotlight.  

Basically, they are accused of attempting to use dumb, gullible Trump supporters to reach their goals.  Many of them fell for it, hook, line and sinker. 

Read Frank Cerebino’s witty Palm Beach Post column on how the fire which drove many Trump backers to support him was ignited in their child-like, impressionable minds by the Russian intelligence apparatus skillfully using social media on the internet. 

Special Prosecutor Mueller’s commission has just indicted a group of Russian agents for doing this, and the poor souls (the same ones still waving pro-Trump banners as his motorcade drives by) who executed it were never even aware of for whom they were acting … and for whom they continue to work. 

Never, ever, overestimate the intelligence of a Trump supporter!  Read Frank Cerebino’s column by CLICKING RIGHT HERE!    

(In an article subsequent to the column I hope you just read, Cerebino contacted a few of the 'duped' Trump supporters.  These dummies couldn't care less.  One actually said that, in deriding the FBI's Russia investigation, "They're trying to connect Trump to Russia, but I was the guy dealing with the Russians, not Trump."  I suppose, if you're stupid enough, that makes being the dupe of a foreign power okay, even unwittingly, if it helped elect Trump.  As I have said, never ever overestimate the intelligence of a Trump supporter!)
JL


Bottom Line on Guns

No matter how many millions, or even billions, are poured into mental health diagnosis, treatment and care, and no matter how detailed background checks of those purchasing weapons might be, there is no way of knowing which of the millions of Americans with grudges, anger problems or even criminal intent will be the ones who will carry out the next mass killing with an assault weapon.


Therefore, rather than embark upon the close-to-impossible task of seeking out potential trigger squeezers among the millions of Americans, the sale of assault weapons must be banned immediately and assault weapons already in private hands turned in at local police stations, with the government offering a premium price to buy them back for a limited period.  After that, their possession should be made a felony, requiring a minimum sentence of two years.  




There is no reason for military weapons designed for mass killings to be in the hands of anyone other than the military or law enforcement agencies.  Anything else is a delaying tactic supporting the Supreme Court’s corrupt emasculation of the Second Amendment in 2008.  That is the bottom line.  

                                   

And as for increased vigilance on the part of the public, "If You See Something, Say Something" just isn't enough when law enforcement agencies lack the personnel for detailed, around the clock, monitoring of all those about whom they have been "tipped off."   To do that job properly, many, many more law enforcement officers would be needed along with many, many more mental health professionals. There are millions of disturbed people in this country, some of whom have never sought help, and they are impossible to keep track of!  Military weaponry must be kept out of civilian hands.  You, the voter, rule America, not the NRA! 

                                    *  *  *  *

(I sent the following letter to the Palm Beach Post the other day.  Doubt that they will print it because they printed another letter from me fairly recently.  But here it is for your benefit.)



"The letter writer in Friday’s Post accusing the NRA of twisting the core of the Second Amendment and having “oceans of American blood on its hands” may not be aware that the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia vs. Heller confirmed this gross misinterpretation of the Second Amendment.  Hence, the hands of Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito and the late Justice Scalia (who wrote the opinion) are also covered with blood.  Like Lady Macbeth, they will never be able to wash it away."

Jack Lippman



Steve Bannon, the Feminist

As much as one might dislike Steve Bannon, whom even Donald Trump grew to dislike and ultimately fire, he is no dummy.  He read the mood of the many American voters whose place in our society had been diminished by technological advances, competition with harder working newcomers to this country, lower cost overseas labor and the reduction of artificial racial and gender-based barriers which once had protected them.  He coached Donald Trump into the presidency by telling him to campaign for these voters, and precisely in what States to do so.  A smart fellow, Bannon is.

And now, after seeing the support Oprah Winfrey gathered at the Golden Globe Awards and recognizing the increasing role of women in both the private and the government sectors, he sees the future as one being one dominated by women at the ballot box as well as elsewhere.  Women are not being elected to public office and becoming corporate CEOs in greater numbers than ever before because of the specific traits that have traditionally set them apart.  They are getting there because they are equal to or better than the male competition, and moreover, they are united in their effort to erase any remaining historic barriers they may still face.

Women who manage homes, raise children, cook food and care for parents are still able to accomplish successes in areas which only a few years ago were male domains.  And men never had to simultaneously do all of this other stuff!   Men were necessary for women to produce babies, of course, but even this assignment is no longer necessary today.   And without women, there would be no babies.  Men cannot make that claim (at least without extensive surgical procedures). 

Steve Bannon senses all of this and can see what is going on and what the future may be like.  He should not be ignored.
JL




Billy Graham and Jews 

Billy Graham, the evangelist who paved the way for the evangelical base which is a significant part of Republican support throughout the nation today, died last week.

Purportedly a friend of the Jewish people, probably because of the Christian theological necessity of the State of Israel’s survival for those who await the ultimate triumph of Christ over evil and the “rapture” after “Armageddon” to take place, Graham was also a bit of an anti-Semite.  Not knowing he was being taped, he had once agreed with some of Richard Nixon’s anti-Semitic remarks, but ultimately apologized years later to the Jewish community for doing so.  In addition to his strong support of the State of Israel, he also worked toward getting Jews in the Soviet Union to emigrate to Israel and he opposed evangelical Christians’ attempts to convert Jews.  On the final scale upon which all of us are ultimately measured, Graham comes out favorably.

About sixty-five years ago, I made it my business to attend one of the “services” at which Graham spoke at the Auditorium in Ocean Grove, NJ, adjacent to Bradley Beach, NJ, where I spent some time every summer.  He was already quite famous at the time and I felt hearing him would be an important historic event.  I recall his resonant voice making the usual evangelical pitch for Christians to come forth and be reborn, to reaffirm their belief in Jesus.  Many did, as you can still see happening today on numerous television evangelical programs and in the evangelical “mega-churches” which have since sprung up.  I consider it a bit of history.   I give Graham credit for recognizing his anti-Semitism and apologizing for it.  Rest in Peace. 
(Interior and exterior views of Ocean Grove Auditorium as it appears today, pretty much the same as it did in the 1950's.  Note the prominence of the American flag, not-so-subtly associating patriotism with Christianity.)
JL

   
            



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Jack Lippman 

Monday, February 19, 2018

A New Painting, Guns and Two Important Columns to Read



Art Department

When people retire, they have the opportunity to do things they were too busy to try in their earlier life.  A friend since the third grade back in Newark, Howard Silver practiced dentistry for over forty years, but when he retired, he turned his skills  from dental procedures to paint brushes.














Here is his latest work, accepted for exhibition by a panel of prominent judges, to be part of an important art show here in South Florida.





"Must Read" Columns by Gerson and Dowd


Two really great columns appeared last week.  I consider them to be mandatory reading.  The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd wrote about our “national identity.”  She is pretty clear about what she doesn’t want it to be but doesn’t come up with precisely what she wants it to be.   And the Washington Post’s Michael Gerson points out that the history and heritage of the Oval Office deserves a better occupant than Donald Trump.  But like Dowd,  

Gerson fails to get to the core of the problem.  Read Gerson’s article by  CLICKING RIGHT HERE
 

I couldn’t find a decent link to Maureen Dowd’s great article (without subscribing to the Times), so I am breaking one of the blog’s rules and including it.  Don’t tell anybody.  Here it is, and then, go back and check out Michael Gerson’s words via the link provided.

Our New National Identity Is Becoming Distressingly Clear



By Maureen Dowd

Donald Trump slipped into the Oval Office through a wormhole of confusion about the American identity.

We weren’t winning wars anymore. They just went on and on and on, with inexplicable and deceptive aims and so many lives and limbs and trillions lost.

We couldn’t believe in our institutions, with breaches of trust and displays of ineptitude.

We were moving from a white-majority, male-dominated country and manufacturing base to a multicultural, multilateral, globalized, PC, new energy, new technology world, without taking account of the confusion and anger of older Americans who felt like strangers in a strange land.

With the Russians sowing confusion, Trump surfed those free-floating anxieties straight to Pennsylvania Avenue.

And now, we are finding out fast who we are and who we don’t want to be.

We don’t want to countenance abusive behavior. And we certainly don’t want men like Rob Porter who have punched, kicked, choked and terrorized their wives to be in the president’s inner circle, helping decide which policies, including those that affect women, get emphasized.

We don’t want a president who bends over backward to give the benefit of the doubt to neo-Nazis, wife beaters, pedophiles and sexual predators — or who is a sexual predator himself. We don’t want a president who thinks #me is more important than #metoo.

We don’t want a president who flips the ordinary equation, out of some puerile sense of grievance, to honor Russia and dishonor the FBI.

We don’t want a president who believes that vile behavior is justified by a Vesuvial stock market.

We don’t want a president who is too shallow to read his daily intelligence report and too obsessed with the deep state to deal fairly with our intelligence agencies.

We don’t want a president who suggests that Democrats who don’t clap for him are treasonous and who seems more enthralled by authoritarian ways than democratic ones.

We don’t want a president who promises an A-team but surrounds himself with dreckitude, a president who vows to pass “the best” bills but then doesn’t care whether he’s selling steak, wine, condos or garbage policies on matters of life and death that he hasn’t even bothered to read.

We don’t want a president who goes to military school but never leaves; who loves generals but trashes Gold Star parents; who wants the sort of military parade that we mock Kim Jong Un for.

We don’t want a president who makes his version of make-believe real, and who looks with favor on deceit, hypocrisy, conflict of interest and nepotism.

We don’t want a president who merits a special prosecutor.

We don’t want a president who treats the hallowed house where Abraham Lincoln once wrote the nation’s most sacred texts as the set of a cheesy reality show.

We don’t want a president who treats the presidency as just another personal business franchise.

We don’t want a president who glides through the chaos he craves and conjures, while everyone around him immolates and shivers.

And, finally, we surely don’t want a president who seeks advice on foreign affairs from Henry Kissinger. Ever. Again.

What do I have to say about this?  Well, Donald J. Trump was elected President of the United States “fair and square.”  There was no election fraud or fiddling with the voting results.  Russian involvement, if any, in surreptitiously pushing Trump’s candidacy was probably far less that the business community’s involvement permitted by the Citizen’s United decision!  The American people in a sufficient number of States to provide a majority in the Electoral College voted for a TV reality show host and businessman of questionable ethics who accepts lies, if they can be gotten away with, as a routine way of doing business, managing his personal life and in running the country.  That’s what the voters bought into!

The real issue is why they did.  Is it a question of being poorly educated and perhaps gullibly susceptible to dishonest campaign rhetoric?  Is it because of a loss of faith in our government’s historic institutions, as Michael Gerson suggests? Is it because their primary attention has been conditioned to watch professional sports, use our vast computer technology to gossip and to dabble in “narishkeit” (a Yiddish word.  Go look it up)? 

All the while China, and soon the rest of the countries in Asia, are “eating our lunch.”  We’ve paid them enough for manufacturing our “stuff” with their cheap labor so that they have plenty of our money to invest in improving and rebuilding their formerly pathetic nations and in buying into our domestic economy with the financing we suddenly need.  True, they are not so “democratic” as we are, but even though dissent there can often lead to disappearance or death, they are slowly marrying their tough communist regime to a more democratic brand of controlled capitalism.  It seems to work better, at least for them, than the unregulated free-enterprise economy our government strives to maintain.

Asians send their smartest to the United States for the superlative post-graduate educational opportunities in our country while even their undergraduate college students at home get a thorough scientific education, not diluted by the distractions of the intercollegiate athletics, fraternities, sororities and beer busts American education features.
 
Start looking in this direction to find out what’s wrong with the American identity, Ms. Dowd.  (I call it the “narishkeit” factor.) And Mr. Gerson, I sentence you to watching Fox News exclusively for a month.  Then you will know why some Trump supporters who believe “the idea of nobility in politics is a sham,” prefer Donald J. Trump who, “in contrast, acts and talks like someone from the real world.” (quotes from the Gerson article.)  Please read his article if you have not by now!




Guns and the Second Amendment 

Skip the rest of this article if you wish to, but here’s the bottom line, with which to start off.   No matter how many millions, or even billions, are poured into mental health diagnosis, treatment and care, and no matter how detailed background checks of those purchasing weapons might be, there is no way of knowing which of the millions of Americans with grudges, anger problems or even criminal intent will be the ones who will carry out the next mass killing with an assault weapon. 

Guns do not kill people unless there is someone to squeeze the trigger. Rather than seek out potential "trigger squeezers," a close to impossible task, the sale of assault weapons must be banned immediately and assault weapons already in private hands turned in at local police stations, with the government offering a premium price to buy them back for a limited period.  After that, their possession should be made a felony, requiring a minimum sentence of two years.  That’s the “bottom line” up front.  

Here are some thoughts on the latest mass shooting:   It's sad, but real gun reform legislation is highly unlikely.  It won’t happen despite public outcry resulting from recent killings which might not have taken place if there were stronger gun control laws. It won’t happen because of the gross misinterpretation of the Second Amendment by the Supreme Court majority which supported ignoring the first thirteen words of the Second Amendment as if they never existed.  (See the words of the Second Amendment at the close of this article.) 

Justice Scalia, who wrote the opinion in District of Columbia vs. Heller in 2008 is deceased but the other four justices who voted for it are still on the court (Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas and Alito). 



Were it not for their action, there very well might be stronger local and State gun control laws, even ones banning assault weapons, but that horrid decision weakened the power of local and State governments to enact them. They may be Supreme Court Justices, but I don’t think they’re very bright.   I did submit a letter to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on this subject about the five men in black robes who are complicit in the mass shootings carried out since 2008.  I hope they publish it.  Here is what I wrote;

"In addition to the mentally challenged young man who carried out the mass killing at a high school in Parkland, culpability for this heinous crime must be shared by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justices Thomas, Alito and Kennedy as well as the late Antonin Scalia, the Justice who wrote the Court’s 2008 decision in the D.C. vs. Heller case.  They formed the majority which made this decision which, followed by lower court decisions, in effect eradicated the first thirteen words of the Constitution’s Second Amendment, making it difficult if not impossible for local governments to enact gun control legislation.  They should be ashamed of themselves,\."

The three recent mass killings which took place in Florida (Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale Airport baggage pick-up area, and now, Parkland high school shooting) will probably spur Florida’s legislature into action.  Because most of the Republican legislators there fear the loss of the votes of gun-toting, pistol packing Floridians who in their youth saw too many John Wayne movies, they are probably going to propose “open carry” for all teachers and students over the age of ten as the best measure to prevent future killings.  That’s the way this legislature thinks.  These dunces, mostly Republicans, think the Second Amendment gives anyone the right to own a weapon, be it a hunting rifle or an assault weapon, so long as it’s for self-defense, the misinterpretation created in District of Columbia vs. Heller.

The real answer, and don’t expect the Democrats to support it either, since they too know that gun advocates vote, is a repeal or a significant modification of the Second Amendment so that assault weapons are banned.  In any sane country, weapons capable of mass killings, as opposed to weapons for home protection, hunting or target shooting should be illegal. That’s the way they do it in China where such mass shootings (other than by the government) are rare.  But don’t put these sentiments on a bumper sticker on your car, unless you want it to be “keyed” and your tires slashed.  At least that is the way it is in Florida.

Seriously, if a state or any local government wanted to enact a law banning assault weapons, the aforementioned Supreme Court decision would provide a formidable obstacle along with the opposition of the nut-jobs who run the National Rifle Association, so long as the ‘self-defense’ excuse provided by the Supreme Court exists.

As I see it, the best course of action today, while legislators on all levels pontificate and pray would be the organized peaceful picketing of gun stores with signs reading “This store sells assault weapons capable of mass killings!  If you want one, join the Army!”  Now go back and re-read the "bottom line" up at the start of this article!

A few words about the Second Amendment:  To get the Constitution “passed” back in 1789, several of the richer of the thirteen colonies had to be reassured that the new Federal government would not prevent them from forming militias which required recruiting armed citizens. They wanted this guarantee because the Federal government lacked the resources to support a standing army (although they did support a navy) for protective purposes such as dealing with ‘Indians’ or slave rebellions in the new States and these States wanted the capability of doing it themselves.  To make that possible, they wanted a guarantee that their citizens would always be allowed to have their own weapons available when recruited into a State militia.  Some also feared that the Federal government would be less likely to encroach upon the rights of the new States if those States possessed armed militias.  


James Madison and George Mason came up with the Second Amendment to solve that problem and that is how the Second Amendment came to be. It read, and continues to read (despite the its misinterpretation by the Supreme Court in 2008) as follows:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The right of the people to bear arms in situations other than that described by the Second Amendment’s first thirteen words was never in the minds of those who wrote the Constitution and its accompanying Bill of Rights.  Eventually the horrid decision which legalized the emasculation of the Second Amendment, ignoring its first thirteen words, will be modified, but probably only after a few more mass killings made possible by the decision of those five men in black robes who formed the majority in District of Columbia vs Heller back in 2008.  

Fortunately, Justice Scalia’s 2008 opinion did strongly imply that there were indeed limits as to what the Second Amendment would allow in terms of gun ownership.  Short of reverting to the real intent of the Second Amendment, the Court must quickly define those limits at the earliest opportunity, and assault weapons would be a good place to start.
JL


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Jack Lippman