Saturday, April 6, 2019

Democratic Recipe for Success, Pillow Talk, Security Clearances, Bradlee's Book, Historic American Battles, Baseball in Miami and Gettin' Affectionate over Brahm's 2nd Piano Concerto


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Remembering Iwo Jima

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Brahms and Biden

Falletta
Amidst thunderous applause after pianist Fabio Bidini finished a magnificent performance of Brahm’s Second Piano Concerto at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach last week, he leapt to the podium to warmly embrace Grammy-winning conductor JoAnn Falletta, who had led the Buffalo Philharmonic in its accompaniment of the soloist.  There was nothing sexual nor suggestive in the embrace.  It was his way of saying, “How wonderful; we performed this beautiful music together! Thank you, thank you.”
 
Touching, and even embracing, even if unsolicited (I don’t know if Ms. Falletta expected it to happen) is nothing to be ashamed of.  Actually, Ms. Falletta’s husband, a musician in the orchestra, was sitting right there applauding along with the rest of us.  What counts is the reason for such overt signs of affection.  What is its motivation?


Biden
Which brings us to Joe Biden.  His touching, or even kissing, of which he is presently being accused seems always to have been of a benign, if not paternalistic, nature, even if it took the recipient by surprise.  It never involved a hidden message like, “Stick around, baby.  I got a suite upstairs in the hotel.”  

Such accusations come nowhere near those made of the thrice-married, adulterous President of the United States who prides himself on his sexual prowess (check out affairs with Stormy and Karen, not to mention Marla … whom he was bedding while he was still married to Ivana) and from whom it is said that a friendly pat on the back sometimes dropped down a few inches becoming a squeeze of the butt. 

(As of this moment, I have not made up my mind as to whom I favor for the Democratic presidential nomination ... but for reasons other than those discussed above, I am not leaning in Joe's direction.)

Jack Lippman

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Remembering Gettysburg
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Pillow Talk Amongst the Conways 

In George T. Conway’s op-ed piece in the Washington Post, appearing a few days after the Attorney General’s four-page summary of the Mueller Report was published, he wrote that “whether the Mueller report ever sees the light of day, there is one charge that can be resolved now. Americans should expect far more from a president than merely that he not be provably a criminal. They should expect a president to comport himself in accordance with the high duties of his office.”  

Conway concluded his op-ed by declaring that “if the charge were unfitness for office, the verdict would already be in: guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”  He also said that "if Mueller’s report doesn’t exonerate the president (from charges of obstruction), there must be something pretty damning in it about him, even if it might not suffice to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.”  You MUST read the entire op-ed piece. 

(George T. Conway, III is a prominent and highly respected lawyer, practicing in New York.)

Loving Couple
Because George’s wife, Kellyanne, is a senior advisor to the President, any “pillow talk” that might ensue between them would be priceless.  Expect a book after Trump is out of office. 

CLICK RIGHT HERE  to read Conway's Washington Post op-ed in full as reproduced last week in the Palm Beach Post. 

JL


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 Remembering Yorktown

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The Roadmap to Democratic Success in 2020

As my last blog posting made very clear, despite opinions like that of George Conway addressed above, no matter how the pending court cases are resolved and whatever the Democratic Congressional investigations produce, the only real pathway to success for Democrats is to register voters and work to win every election possible at all levels.   The Mueller Report is not sufficient ammunition. Attacking President Trump’s many obvious shortcomings will be self-defeating because, as you will see,  all those who support him are well aware of them and are immune to criticism for believing as they do.  No, the key is working to register as many Democratic voters as possible, nationwide.

And once those voters are registered, here is how the job of winning elections in 2020 must be accomplished.  Giving such advice may seem highly presumptuous on my part, but after the Democratic nomination of Hillary Clinton in 2016 (when asked back then if I was for her, I ended up replying “Yes, but not comfortably so.”) and their managing to lose both the Senate and Governorship races in Florida in 2018, I wonder if the Party’s leaders really understand.   Well, here’s how the job must be done.  It takes a lot of effort to get your hands and arms around the problem, and your head into it, but please try.

It starts with Ben Bradlee’s book, “The Forgotten,” which explains how Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, long a strong bastion of unionism and the Democratic Party, went overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2016, providing enough of a margin of victory to give all of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes to Trump.  That was it.  The game and the election were lost there and then.  The same sort of thing happened in Michigan and Wisconsin as well, but Bradlee dissected how it happened in Luzerne County with numerous readable and sometimes frightening interviews.  There are three requirements to which I suggest all Democrats adhere in order to win in 2020.

Requirement One: Every Democratic candidate for office at all levels, and all members of the Democratic National Committee and all precinct leaders, nationwide, MUST be required to read Bradlee’s book.  Otherwise, they’re out of a job.

Now let’s get to the book, which should be their primer on how Democrats can win big in 2020.  You can read the opening sections of "The Forgotten's" Kindle version, if you wish, by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.  That ought to whet your appetite for a trip to a bookstore, a book ordering site online or your nearest public library.  Read the whole book!

In the Introduction section of his book, which chronicles in detail why a county which had always been strongly Democratic turned to Donald Trump, not narrowly, but by big, big, numbers in 2016, Bradlee writes, “Some of the motivating factors behind Trump’s appeal could be found in an anonymous, post-election (2016) email circulating among his voters in Luzerne County and elsewhere, its candid sentiments amount to a Trump voters’ creed.”  Its full text follows:

‘I haven’t said too much about this election since the start … but this is how I feel … I’m noticing that a lot of you aren’t graciously accepting the fact that your candidate lost.  In fact, you seem to be posting even more hateful things about those of us who voted for Trump.  Some of you are apparently “triggered” because you are posting how “sick” you feel about the results.  How did this happen, you ask?

   You created “us” when you attacked our freedom of speech.
   You created “us” when you attacked our right to bear arms.
   You created “us” when you attacked our Christian beliefs.
   You created “us” when you constantly referred to us as racists.
   You created “us” when you constantly called xenophobic.
   You created “us” when you told us to get on board or get out of the way.
   You created “us” when you attacked our flag.
   You created “us” when you took God out of our schools.
   You created “us” when you confused women’s rights with feminism.
   You created “us” when you began to emasculate men.
   You created “us” when you decided to make our children soft.
   You created “us” when you decided to vote for progressive ideals.
   You created “us” when you attacked our way of life.
   You created “us” when you decided to let our government get out of control.
   You created “us,” the silent majority.
   You created “us” when you began murdering innocent law enforcement officers.
   You created “us” when you lied and said we could keep our insurance plans and our    doctors.
   You created “us” when you allowed our jobs to continue to leave our country.
   You created “us” when you took a knee or stayed seated or didn’t remove your hat during our national anthem.
   You created “us” when you forced us to buy health care and then financially penalized us for not participating.

And we became fed up and we pushed back and spoke up.  And we did it
   With ballots, not bullets. 
   With ballots, not riots. 
   With ballots, not looting. 
   With ballots, not blocking traffic,
   With ballots, not fires, except the one you started inside of “us.”

YOU created “US.”  It really is just that simple.’

Most of these voters had been life-long Democrats, living in a once-heavily unionized county, but in 2016, they turned to Trump, and along with him, the Republican Party.  In prior years, many felt the Republicans were “for the rich” and the Democrats were “for the working people.”  In Luzerne County, they switched sides in 2016 and voted for Donald Trump for the reasons listed above.  Today, Democrats ignore this at their peril … in Luzerne County and elsewhere in the nation!  Read it and heed it.

When you look at the litany of supposed provocations in the email reproduced above, some (support of the Second Amendment, opposition to Government involvement in health care,) can be taken as traditional Republican positions, while others relate to what specifically happened over the past few decades in Luzerne County and manifest social and cultural issues as well as economic ones. But they are all interrelated.  

The coal mines closed, the manufacturing that replaced some of the lost mining jobs eventually moved overseas, the unions left (check out lyrics to Billy Joel’s song “Allentown” on this subject), unemployment was rampant, mortgages were foreclosed, those who could afford to left the area, retail businesses closed, housing deteriorated, and what low level jobs remained were taken by non-white immigrants who were willing to work for the minimum wage while still qualifying for public assistance, and who rented housing at bargain prices.  In this environment, crime and corruption (always present in Luzerne County) flourished. One resident commented that “the Italian Mafia was replaced by the Latino Mafia.”

It was not a matter of Republicans offering solutions to these problems. They had none. The Democratic Party, once the voters' salvation, had none either in 2016.  And the emphasis which the Democrats placed on progressive agenda items such as healthcare, climate change, the nation’s infrastructure, women’s rights, LGBT rights, the environment, world trade, gun violence, public education as well as civil, voting and minority rights did not resonate in Luzerne County. These issues did not directly address their problems.  The voters there, including Democrats, felt that thier parties had "forgotten them," and hence, the title of Bradlee's book.

Some Democrats felt that they were not leaving their party, but that it was the Democratic Party that had "forgotten them" and was leaving them.  

And in comes Donald Trump with the Republican nomination in hand, promising, in their folksy and earthy language, to shake things up, and Luzerne County was glad to embrace him, even though the Republican Party, long a bastion of backward-looking conservatism, had no solutions either. 


The good citizens of Luzerne County were looking around for someone on whom to place the blame for their sorry state of affairs, and Donald Trump was giving them a broad choice of people, or groups, to blame, among others, immigrants and those on "welfare,' both helpless and easy targets.   What was once an almost entirely white county now had a large, and growing, minority population.  

Latino Softball League Flourishes  in Wilkes-Barre
 

But I am getting ahead of myself.  Read the book!  (Remember, that was "Requirement One.") 











Requirement Two:   In 2020, Democrats must not run against Donald Trump.  We all know he is, was and always will be bad news.  But many, many, others support him, despite all his faults.  Arguing with his positions or what he says is impossible since he relies on lies, hyperbole, imprecise language and insults.  Were such a contest being held in an academic debate environment, things would be different, but that is not an arena into which Trump, nor his Republican supporters, choose to enter.  The same goes for rational journalists’ opinions, as voiced in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, PBS, CNN and MSNBC.  They are worthless in debating Trump, who prefers the National Enquirer or brief twitter outpourings.

Requirement Three:   Here’s what MUST be done.  This is the clincher. The bottom line. The Democratic Party must strongly stress what its programs can do, specifically, to benefit voters in distressed places like Luzerne County, Pennsylvania and the hundreds of similar places throughout the country, particularly in states which narrowly gave their electoral votes to Donald Trump in 2016, states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and of course, Pennsylvania. 


This should take the form of a three-pronged effort directed at removing the reasons why these good people turned to a fraud like Donald Trump in desperation in the first place.  They attack the cause.




 Prong One - It should include a massive program to repair and update infrastructure, including water and power supplies, public buildings, schools, parks, highways, city streets and other means of transportation. (Sounds a lot like FDR’s “New Deal,” which it is, but calling it something like that isn’t a good idea.) 


Well paying, permanent jobs rebuilding and maintaining the nation's infrastructure are the answer, not burger flipping jobs at Wendy's
                                                                                                                                       
     The program should provide enough employment in both the public and private sectors, on a continuing basis, at good salaries, to replace the jobs that were lost in places like Luzerne County over the past thirty years. It must provide jobs over the broad spectrum of workers, including all ethnic groups, a factor which cannot be ignored. Income  from these "infrastructure-related" jobs will filter down to the entire community as these dollars are spent.

  Such economic rejuvenation, I believe, will sufficiently (although not entirely) erase the racism and bigotry which feeds on economic distress, and which Donald Trump harvested.  It will lessen cultural differences, reducing the number of people "on welfare" and change the nature of those choosing to emigrate to what will be a no longer "distressed" Luzerne County. It won't be inexpensive, but funding for such programs can come from significantly increased taxes on the wealthy, involving a reversal of the tax cuts given them by Republicans in 2017.

The modest unemployment rate in the country, about which Republicans and the President boast, is an illusion because many of the jobs it reflects are minimum wage service jobs paying far less than is needed to support a family.  Jobs at Burger King are not the answer.

     
The Healthcare Crisis Must be Resolved
    Prong Two -  Secondly, the question of health care must be resolved in a manner which enables everyone to be guaranteed health care at a reasonable price, preferably through traditional private sources (as is the case with ‘Obamacare’) but with a flexible total cost cap (perhaps a ceiling of 5% for annual family incomes below 75K) – increasing with income, in excess of which the government will subsidize the rest, again paying for it with a reversal of the 2017 tax cuts.  Should this not work, the more expensive “Medicare for All” should be considered.

   Prong 3 -   Finally, the more progressive aspects of the Democratic platform such as climate change, women’s rights, LGBT rights, the environment, world trade, gun violence, public education as well as civil, voting and minority rights should be pushed to the background in areas like Luzerne County.   

Demonstrations Like This Will  Not Help Return Places Like
Luzerne County to the Democratic Party. They Love their Guns too Much!



       They should be mentioned, of course, but only secondary to the two “prongs” mentioned directly above, infrastructure jobs and health care.  They will not attract voters in places like Luzerne County.  They might even provide ammunition to Republicans.  Why give them a target?  As potent as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives might be as vote-getters in some areas, Democrats would be foolish to send her to Wilkes-Barre to speak.
                                                                      

That’s it, Democrats.   Once again, recapitulating those three "requirements" ....

1. Read the book (“The Forgotten”).  (Okay, if you're too busy to do that,  at least CLICK HERE to read the Kindle sample mentioned above.  It might change your mind.)

2.  Forget about Donald Trump.  Attacking him is like punching a pillow.

3.  The Three "Prongs" - (1) Create good jobs by massively rebuilding infrastructure and (2) providing reasonably priced health care, both funded by reversing the 2017 tax cuts for the wealthy, all the while (3) soft-pedalling, but not ignoring, other progressive Democratic priorities in areas such as Luzerne County where their impact is questionable.

Then, and only then, will places like Luzerne County no longer be among "The Forgotten."

 JL
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Remembering Battle of Midway

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On Security Clearances (with apologies to Jared K.)


This is the original
crest of the REDACTED
Back in the 1950’s when I was in the service serving in the Army Security Agency (which reported to the NSA), we all had to have relatively high security clearances.  Mine was at a level known as “REDACTED" which related to some of the work we did.  I recall an incident where someone in my platoon at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, was transferred out of the outfit because his security clearance was being taken away.  Apparently, someone in the Defense Department had caught the fact that one of his parents had immigrated to the United States from Russia during the 1920’s, and since it was entirely possible that he might have relatives in that country, he lost his security clearance and ended up in the plain old Signal Corps.  

Such connections, familial or business-wise, make one vulnerable to being compromised or blackmailed.  That’s the way these things are supposed to be handled, unless you work for the Executive Branch of our government headed by Donald Trump, who probably, once he is out of office, would not himself qualify for the minimal security clearance needed to get a job sweeping the floors in a government building somewhere.
 JL

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Remembering the Battle of the Bulge

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Lonely in the Ballpark  

Empty Seats in Miami

I suspect that the days of the Miami Marlins in Florida are numbered.  The only problems would be how to get out of their deal with Miami-Dade County for use of Marlins Park and where to move the team.  (Stuck with a baseball-less stadium, they probably would convert it to a soccer venue.)  Believe me, owners Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman are businessmen, not philanthropists, and must be thinking about this right now. 


Based on attendance at the first seven home games, I project the Marlins will be fortunate if their total attendance for 2019 is as high as 600,000 for their 82 home games.  (Their current ownership is honest about attendance numbers.  The previous owners were not.)   In 2018, even with ten less home games on their schedule, four minor league teams, Indianapolis, Columbus, Nashville and Round Rock (Austin, TX area) drew more than 600,000 for the season! 

To put in context how abysmal things have been at Marlins Park, through seven games, paid attendance has averaged 9,577 per game. But if we remove the 25,423 that came on Opening Day, the Marlins have seen an average of less than 7,000 per game (6,936). 

Attendance is down throughout major league baseball, but nowhere is it as bad as it is in Miami.  I predict, assuming attendance remains at present levels, that the Marlins will be out of Florida by 2022.
JL

                                                                   


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