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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bernie Sanders, A Very Controversial Middle East Solution and a Memorial Day Story


Dah Dah da da Daah da da Daaah, da da Daah da da DAAAH da da DAAH Daaah.  Sitting on the curb on Broad Street not too far from the reviewing stand on the steps of the Newark City Hall we watched the bands march by: The Police Department Band, the smaller but noisier Fire Department contingent, and finally, the high school bands.  Small units from East Side High, Central  High, South Side High, Arts High and larger ones from Barringer High and West Side High and finally the hundred piece Weequahic High band, striding along the pavement to the strains of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony:  Dah Dah Dah DAAAH,  Dah Dah Dah DAAH! 

And then came the Caballeros, that championship drum and bugle corps down from Bergen County, decked out in their southwestern garb and broad brimmed hats.  Several more drum and bugle corps followed, often representing parochial high schools.  And the Army sent one of its musical units too, probably from Fort Dix, to join in the commemoration of the holiday.

The Caballeros are still around, performing throughout the Northeast

The politicians, flanked by some mounted police and others on horseback twirling lariats, strode by along with the Daughters of the American Revolution, the American Legion, the VFW and other veterans groups along with assorted clergy, since indeed it was Memorial Day, a day dedicated to decorating the graves of those whose lives were lost in protecting our country.  Some still called it Decoration Day.

And this was 1940 and I was eight years old.  Europe was boiling over and eighteen months later we would be at war.  But beside the band from Fort Dix, the only military presence was the retired general who would later speak of those to whom the holiday was dedicated.

Many who marched down Broad Street and streets like it all over America that Memorial Day morning would not be alive five years later.   But to a little boy sitting on the curb, it was all colorful uniforms, brass bands and John Philip Sousa’s melodies. Dah Dah da da Daah da da Daaah, da da Daah da da DAAAH da da DAAH Daaah.  
Jack Lippman 

Middle East Solutions
Some of the ideas in this article may seem extremely radical to some readers, particularly in regard to the role of Iran.  Many feel Iran cannot be trusted.  Contrary opinions to the ideas which follow are welcomed for inclusion in the blog.

One thing the United States should not do is send troops into Iraq and eastern Syria in the substantial numbers which will be needed to defeat the army of the Islamic State.   The American public, as well as anyone running for office in the United States, recognizes that any military effort aimed at stopping the conflict in the Middle East which is deeply anchored in the Sunni-Shiite division existing since the Seventh Century, will only result in temporary solutions and not be worth adding more casualties to the 4,500 American lives already lost there.
But the Islamic State must still be stopped!  It has declared that the West, including and especially the United States, is its enemy and such a threat cannot be ignored.  Hence, ISIS must be destroyed.  But how do we do it without putting troops on the ground there?

Once again, let me set the scene.  There is no such nation as Iraq.  It is an artificial entity established after World War One out of three regions of the defeated Ottoman Empire:  Basra, Baghdad and Mosul provinces.  It was only held together by monarchy or dictatorship.  Most of the people in Basra are Shiite.  Most of the people in Baghdad and the surrounding area are Shiite, although there is a significant Sunni minority there.  Most of the people in Mosul are Sunni, including a large Kurdish minority in the north seeking independence and behaving as if they already had it.  The Iraqi government, headquartered in Baghdad, is Shiite-dominated but the Army is Sunni.  That is why it is not particularly loyal to the government and reluctant to fight hard against ISIS troops who also are Sunni, and include former Iraqi Army personnel in leadership roles.  Independent Shiite militia, often trained and supported by neighboring Shiite Iran do fight well against Sunni ISIS though.  This, however, is insufficient from a military standpoint, even with United State air support, to defeat the Islamic State.  Ground troops are needed, but as pointed out above, they cannot be American troops and the Iraqi Army has proven to be ineffective, despite years of training and arming by the United States.

The answer rests with Iran, which shares a lengthy border with Iraq.  Once relations between the United States and Iran improve, contingent on what happens in the ongoing nuclear development negotiations involving those countries and other nations, it is conceivable that a deal might be made with Iran which will destroy the Islamic State.

Iranian armies are very capable of marching into Iraq and destroying ISIS.  They are Shiite and ISIS is Sunni and there would be nothing unusual about such a conflictBut why would Iran do such a thing, in effect bailing out the United States? 

But imagine if they knew that at the end of such a conflict, there would be a grand political realignment of the Middle East, from which Iran would greatly benefit and to which the United States would not object.  Iraq would be dismembered and all of the Basra and Baghdad regions, already mostly Shiite, would be annexed by Shiite Iran.  The rest of “Iraq,” joined with Syria as well, once ISIS were destroyed, would become an independent Sunni state, in Iran’s sphere of influence and essentially its client.  The Mosul region of “Iraq” would be included in this state, minus Kurdistan which would become a fully independent entity.

(Syria is no less artificial than Iraq, a diplomatic creation dating from the end of World War One.  While primarily Sunni, it does have other minority groups including Shiites, Christians and Alawites, who are similar to Shiites in their beliefs and who have been ruling Syria for years.  Right now, Syria is already economically and militarily dependent upon Iran through its Hezbollah surrogate army.)

So, it appears that the West could permit Iran to become the dominant state in the region in exchange for that country’s providing the military ground forces needed to demolish the Islamic State.  That would seem to be a relatively small price for Iran to pay for what would appear to be a tremendous geopolitical triumph for them.  So, for the United States and the West to endorse and support such a deal, Iran would have to do more than just wipe out ISIS.  What more can be asked of them?  A lot more.

Iran might even go for such a deal even if the West further insisted that they would have to be totally serious about adhering to ironclad limits on their nuclear program, positively and absolutely limiting it to peaceful ends, going far beyond what the current ongoing negotiations are asking of them, and that they reverse their stated aim of destroying the State of Israel, ultimately recognizing Israel’s right to exist.  Historically, Israel and Iran got along very well, at least until 1979, and there is no reason why such a relationship cannot be rekindled.

The military overtones of Iran's nuclear research program are part of that country's ongoing efforts to be the pre-eminent power in the Middle East.  Granting them that role in exchange for using their army to defeat ISIS, ending all military aspects of their nuclear program and accepting the permanent existence of the State of Israel would make any Iranian nuclear research other than that for peaceful purposes unnecessary.

On the negative side, such a deal certainly would alienate the West’s traditional Sunni allies such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States.  But what have they really done to help destroy the Islamic State?  Very little.  Actually, some tacit support for ISIS comes from these supposed Western allies.  True, it might cause them to look toward Russia or China for new alliances, but such relationships would not be as comfortable as what these Sunni states have enjoyed with the West over the years.  But that relationship has always been based on petroleum, which is becoming less and less of a relevant factor with each passing year.

None of this is going to happen tomorrow, or next year, but it is not inconceivable that an ultimate solution in the Middle East will resemble something like what I have described above.  For those who question the role which the United States would play in such a scenario, I offer a few words from Henry Kissinger, uttered a third of a century ago: "America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests."


Bernie Sanders Tosses Hat into the Ring
On Tuesday, Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders kicked off his Presidential campaign with this speech on the shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington, VT.   What he said is the antithesis of what most of the several Republican Presidential hopefuls will be saying during the campaign, but what many Democrats hope their candidate will be espousing over the next year and a half.  I doubt that Sanders will be our forty-fifth President, but his campaign may influence whomever turns out to be the winner in 2016.  Here are his prepared remarks, courtesy of Vox.com, minus the thank-yous and glad-to-be-heres he uttered from the platform at the beginning of his address.

                                                      Sanders in Vermont Address
Today, here in our small state — a state that has led the nation in so many ways — I am proud to announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America.
Today, with your support and the support of millions of people throughout this country, we begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally.
Today, we stand here and say loudly and clearly that; "Enough is enough. This great nation and its government belong to all of the people, and not to a handful of billionaires, their Super-PACs and their lobbyists."
Brothers and sisters: Now is not the time for thinking small. Now is not the time for the same old — same old establishment politics and stale inside-the-beltway ideas.
Now is the time for millions of working families to come together, to revitalize American democracy, to end the collapse of the American middle class and to make certain that our children and grandchildren are able to enjoy a quality of life that brings them health, prosperity, security and joy - and that once again makes the United States the leader in the world in the fight for economic and social justice, for environmental sanity and for a world of peace.
My fellow Americans: This country faces more serious problems today than at any time since the Great Depression and, if you include the planetary crisis of climate change, it may well be that the challenges we face now are direr than any time in our modern history.
Here is my promise to you for this campaign. Not only will I fight to protect the working families of this country, but we're going to build a movement of millions of Americans who are prepared to stand up and fight back. We're going to take this campaign directly to the people - in town meetings, door to door conversations, on street corners and in social media — and that's BernieSanders.com by the way. This week we will be in New Hampshire, Iowa and Minnesota — and that's just the start of a vigorous grassroots campaign.
Let's be clear. This campaign is not about Bernie Sanders. It is not about Hillary Clinton. It is not about Jeb Bush or anyone else. This campaign is about the needs of the American people, and the ideas and proposals that effectively address those needs. As someone who has never run a negative political ad in his life, my campaign will be driven by issues and serious debate; not political gossip, not reckless personal attacks or character assassination. This is what I believe the American people want and deserve. I hope other candidates agree, and I hope the media allows that to happen. Politics in a democratic society should not be treated like a baseball game, a game show or a soap opera. The times are too serious for that.
Let me take a minute to touch on some of the issues that I will be focusing on in the coming months, and then give you an outline of an Agenda for America which will, in fact, deal with these problems and lead us to a better future.
Income and Wealth Inequality: Today, we live in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world but that reality means very little for most of us because almost all of that wealth is owned and controlled by a tiny handful of individuals. In America we now have more income and wealth inequality than any other major country on earth, and the gap between the very rich and everyone is wider than at any time since the 1920s. The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time and it is the great political issue of our time. And we will address it.
Let me be very clear. There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and when 99 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent. There is something profoundly wrong when, in recent years, we have seen a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same time as millions of Americans work longer hours for lower wages and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth. There is something profoundly wrong when one family owns more wealth than the bottom 130 million Americans. This grotesque level of inequality is immoral. It is bad economics. It is unsustainable. This type of rigged economy is not what America is supposed to be about. This has got to change and, as your president, together we will change it.
Economics: But it is not just income and wealth inequality. It is the tragic reality that for the last 40 years the great middle class of our country —once the envy of the world — has been disappearing. Despite exploding technology and increased worker productivity, median family income is almost $5,000 less than it was in 1999. In Vermont and throughout this country it is not uncommon for people to be working two or three jobs just to cobble together enough income to survive on and some health care benefits.
The truth is that real unemployment is not the 5.4 percent you read in newspapers. It is close to 11 percent if you include those workers who have given up looking for jobs or who are working part time when they want to work full time. Youth unemployment is over 17 percent and African-American youth unemployment is much higher than that. Today, shamefully, we have 45 million people living in poverty, many of whom are working at low-wage jobs. These are the people who struggle every day to find the money to feed their kids, to pay their electric bills and to put gas in the car to get to work. This campaign is about those people and our struggling middle class. It is about creating an economy that works for all, and not just the one percent.
Citizens United: My fellow Americans: Let me be as blunt as I can and tell you what you already know. As a result of the disastrous Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, the American political system has been totally corrupted, and the foundations of American democracy are being undermined. What the Supreme Court essentially said was that it was not good enough for the billionaire class to own much of our economy. They could now own the U.S. government as well. And that is precisely what they are trying to do.
American democracy is not about billionaires being able to buy candidates and elections. It is not about the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other incredibly wealthy individuals spending billions of dollars to elect candidates who will make the rich richer and everyone else poorer. According to media reports the Koch brothers alone, one family, will spend more money in this election cycle than either the Democratic or Republican parties. This is not democracy. This is oligarchy. In Vermont and at our town meetings we know what American democracy is supposed to be about. It is one person, one vote — with every citizen having an equal say — and no voter suppression. And that's the kind of American political system we have to fight for and will fight for in this campaign.
Climate Change: When we talk about our responsibilities as human beings and as parents, there is nothing more important than leaving this country and the entire planet in a way that is habitable for our kids and grandchildren. The debate is over. The scientific community has spoken in a virtually unanimous voice. Climate change is real. It is caused by human activity and it is already causing devastating problems in the United States and around the world.
The scientists are telling us that if we do not boldly transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies, this planet could be five to ten degrees Fahrenheit warmer by the end of this century. This is catastrophic. It will mean more drought, more famine, more rising sea level, more floods, more ocean acidification, more extreme weather disturbances, more disease and more human suffering. We must not, we cannot, and we will not allow that to happen.
It is no secret that there is massive discontent with politics in America today. In the mid-term election in November, 63 percent of Americans did not vote, including 80 percent of young people. Poll after poll tells us that our citizens no longer have confidence in our political institutions and, given the power of Big Money in the political process, they have serious doubts about how much their vote actually matters and whether politicians have any clue as to what is going on in their lives.
Combatting this political alienation, this cynicism and this legitimate anger will not be easy. That's for sure. But that is exactly what, together, we have to do if we are going to turn this country around — and that is what this campaign is all about.
And to bring people together we need a simple and straight-forward progressive agenda which speaks to the needs of our people, and which provides us with a vision of a very different America. And what is that agenda?
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: It begins with jobs. If we are truly serious about reversing the decline of the middle class we need a major federal jobs program which puts millions of Americans back to work at decent paying jobs. At a time when our roads, bridges, water systems, rail and airports are decaying, the most effective way to rapidly create meaningful jobs is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. That's why I've introduced legislation which would invest $1 trillion over 5 years to modernize our country's physical infrastructure. This legislation would create and maintain at least 13 million good-paying jobs, while making our country more productive, efficient and safe. And I promise you as president I will lead that legislation into law.
I will also continue to oppose our current trade policies. For decades, presidents from both parties have supported trade agreements which have cost us millions of decent paying jobs as corporate America shuts down plants here and moves to low-wage countries. As president, my trade policies will break that cycle of agreements which enrich at the expense of the working people of this country.
Raising Wages: Let us be honest and acknowledge that millions of Americans are now working for totally inadequate wages. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage and must be raised. The minimum wage must become a living wage — which means raising it to $15 an hour over the next few years — which is exactly what Los Angeles recently did — and I applaud them for doing that. Our goal as a nation must be to ensure that no full-time worker lives in poverty. Further, we must establish pay equity for women workers. It's unconscionable that women earn 78 cents on the dollar compared to men who perform the same work. We must also end the scandal in which millions of American employees, often earning less than $30,000 a year, work 50 or 60 hours a week — and earn no overtime. And we need paid sick leave and guaranteed vacation time for all.
Addressing Wealth and Income Inequality: This campaign is going to send a message to the billionaire class. And that is: you can't have it all. You can't get huge tax breaks while children in this country go hungry. You can't continue sending our jobs to China while millions are looking for work. You can't hide your profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens, while there are massive unmet needs on every corner of this nation. Your greed has got to end. You cannot take advantage of all the benefits of America, if you refuse to accept your responsibilities.
That is why we need a tax system which is fair and progressive, which makes wealthy individuals and profitable corporations begin to pay their fair share of taxes.
Reforming Wall Street: It is time to break up the largest financial institutions in the country. Wall Street cannot continue to be an island unto itself, gambling trillions in risky financial instruments while expecting the public to bail it out. If a bank is too big to fail it is too big to exist. We need a banking system which is part of the job creating productive economy, not a handful of huge banks on Wall Street which engage in reckless and illegal activities.
Campaign Finance Reform: If we are serious about creating jobs, about climate change and the needs of our children and the elderly, we must be deadly serious about campaign finance reform and the need for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. I have said it before and I'll say it again. I will not nominate any justice to the Supreme Court who has not made it clear that he or she will move to overturn that disastrous decision which is undermining our democracy. Long term, we need to go further and establish public funding of elections.
Reversing Climate Change: The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change. We can do that if we transform our energy system away from fossil fuels, toward energy efficiency and such sustainable energies such as wind, solar, geo-thermal and bio-mass. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient, and we need a tax on carbon to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuel.
Health Care for All: The United States remains the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care for all as a right. Despite the modest gains of the Affordable Care Act, 35 million Americans continue to lack health insurance and many more are under-insured. Yet, we continue paying far more per capita for health care than any other nation. The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all as a right by moving toward a Medicare-for-All single-payer system.
Protecting Our Most Vulnerable: At a time when millions of Americans are struggling to keep their heads above water economically, at a time when senior poverty is increasing, at a time when millions of kids are living in dire poverty, my Republican colleagues, as part of their recently-passed budget, are trying to make a terrible situation even worse. If you can believe it, the Republican budget throws 27 million Americans off health insurance, makes drastic cuts in Medicare, throws millions of low-income Americans, including pregnant women off of nutrition programs, and makes it harder for working-class families to afford college or put their kids in the Head Start program. And then, to add insult to injury, they provide huge tax breaks for the very wealthiest families in this country while they raise taxes on working families.
Well, let me tell my Republican colleagues that I respectfully disagree with their approach. Instead of cutting Social Security, we're going to expand Social Security benefits. Instead of cutting Head Start and child care, we are going to move to a universal pre-K system for all the children of this country. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt reminded us, a nation's greatness is judged not by what it provides to the most well-off, but how it treats the people most in need. And that's the kind of nation we must become.
College for All: And when we talk about education, let me be very clear. In a highly competitive global economy, we need the best educated workforce we can create. It is insane and counter-productive to the best interests of our country, that hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and that millions of others leave school with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades. That must end. That is why, as president, I will fight to make tuition in public colleges and universities free, as well as substantially lower interest rates on student loans.
War and Peace: As everybody knows, we live in a difficult and dangerous world, and there are people out there who want to do us harm. As president, I will defend this nation — but I will do it responsibly. As a member of Congress I voted against the war in Iraq, and that was the right vote. I am vigorously opposed to an endless war in the Middle East — a war which is unwise and unnecessary. We must be vigorous in combatting terrorism and defeating ISIS, but we should not have to bear that burden alone. We must be part of an international coalition, led by Muslim nations, that can not only defeat ISIS but begin the process of creating conditions for a lasting peace.
As some of you know, I was born in a far-away land called Brooklyn, New York. My father came to this country from Poland without a penny in his pocket and without much of an education. My mother graduated high school in New York City. My father worked for almost his entire life as a paint salesman and we were solidly lower-middle class. My parents, brother and I lived in a small rent-controlled apartment. My mother's dream was to move out of that small apartment into a home of our own. She died young and her dream was never fulfilled. As a kid I learned, in many, many ways, what lack of money means to a family. That's a lesson I have never forgotten.
I have seen the promise of America in my own life. My parents would have never dreamed that their son would be a U.S. Senator, let alone run for president. But for too many of our fellow Americans, the dream of progress and opportunity is being denied by the grind of an economy that funnels all the wealth to the top.
And to those who say we cannot restore the dream, I say just look where we are standing. This beautiful place was once an unsightly rail yard that served no public purpose and was an eyesore. As mayor, I worked with the people of Burlington to help turn this waterfront into the beautiful people-oriented public space it is today. We took the fight to the courts, to the legislature and to the people. And we won.
The lesson to be learned is that when people stand together, and are prepared to fight back, there is nothing that can't be accomplished.
We can live in a country:
Where every person has health care as a right, not a privilege;
Where every parent can have quality and affordable childcare and where all of our qualified young people, regardless of income, can go to college;
Where every senior can live in dignity and security, and not be forced to choose between their medicine or their food;
Where every veteran who defends this nation gets the quality health care and benefits they have earned and receives the respect they deserve;
Where every person, no matter their race, their religion, their disability or their sexual orientation realizes the full promise of equality that is our birthright as Americans.
That is the nation we can build together, and I ask you to join me in this campaign to build a future that works for all of us, and not just the few on top.

Thank you, and on this beautiful day on the shore of Lake Champlain, I welcome you aboard.



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Jack Lippman 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Presidential Politics, 20th Century Man in the 21st Century and Useless Information


Presidential Politics
The nominating conventions and the Presidential election are a long way off, but here are some early thoughts on what is going on in the world of Presidential politics.

The Republicans are a disaster.  There are many candidates but few have the financial resources at this point to stay the course.  Normally, Jeb Bush would be a shoo-in for the nomination, but he is reluctant to fully join with other Republican potential nomineess in wholeheartedly saying that the invasion of Iraq, effected during his brother’s administration, was a mistake and is the cause of much of the disorder in the Middle East today.  His tentativeness on this point hurts him.  In addition, all Republican nomination-seekers must balance their true beliefs with what that have to say in order not to lose the support of the lunatic right wing of the G.O.P. which believes that any function carried on by government is a step toward socialism (indistinguishable from Communism in their eyes) and would prefer a blend of free enterprise and anarchy.   I suspect Bush will manage to eventually get the nomination by reversing his stands on education and immigration.  If he doesn't get it, the nominee will be a G.O.P. governor who at this point has not entered the race.  

                                                       The Reluctant Elizabeth Warren
                                                       The Tentative Jeb Bush

The Democrats are not in any better shape.  Hillary Clinton seems to have the nomination sewed up, but she must run a gauntlet of criticism, some valid and much invalid, on a daily basis from now until Election Day.  This will take its toll on her campaign, her health and her temper.  Many Democrats feels that her time has passed and that her connections with mistakes of the past, including Bill's, as well as relationships with the business community leave them with a sour taste.  Many Democrats would prefer a candidate who stresses bread and butter issues, who will address income inequality in our country, and who would return to the spirit the Party had during the days of the New Deal.  Bernie Sanders, who lacks the resources to get the nomination, let alone get elected, takes these positions as does Elizabeth Warren who repeatedly says she is not running, but perhaps the lady may be denying her ambitions just a bit too vehemently.
Jack Lippman

Twentieth Century Man in the Twenty-first Century
Each week I receive a copy of BloombergBusinessweek in the mail.  It is a very interesting magazine dealing with finance, economics, politics, world events, technology and the society in which we live. (I recommend it.  Steeply discounted subscriptions are readily available on the internet.) 

Unfortunately, each week I find that about twenty percent of what is in the magazine is incomprehensible to me.  I have come to the conclusion that here in the second decade of the twenty-first century, I still remain locked into the last decades of the twentieth century.  I really don’t grasp the tremendous impact “social media” has had on our society and the extent to which those younger than myself are involved in Facebook, Twitter and the like.  I know my mobile phone can take pictures and along with serving as a phone, can be used to access my eMail, search for information and access an infinite number of applications which can be used to do all sorts of very useful as well as many frivolous and useless things.  But I consider my phone only to be an alternate way of paying bills, checking my bank account or the standings in the Eastern Division of the National League.  I still prefer more traditional avenues to do these kinds of things. It took me almost a decade to be confident enough to do some of these things on my desktop computer, which I am told is bordering on obsolescence. I still print out boarding passes to present when I fly somewhere rather than join those knowing souls who just take out their phones so that a weird design pattern can be scanned.

And getting back to BloombergBusinessweek, when I read about something that a start-up tech company (usually headed by an Indian, Israeli or Chinese genius in their twenties) is doing in connection with some other part of social media, business or industry and which is being sold to Facebook, Google or some such outfit for several billion dollars, I read and re-read and re-re-read the article and I cannot for the life of me figure out what the company does.  And if the magazine happens to include a picture of one of these entrepreneurs, I cannot understand how they ever even got a job in the first place, considering the strange ways in which they dress.

I read a newspaper delivered at my front door each day, even though its entire content can be read from my smartphone or my desktop computer.  I read books printed on paper even though I can read them on a computer or mobile device, like a tablet, which I don’t yet possess.  I prefer to make restaurant reservations by a telephone call rather than by doing it online.  I watch TV on a TV set and have no desire to do so via my smartphone, desktop computer or tablet (which I will probably sooner or later acquire.) I listen to music on the radio, from CDs and occasionally from vinyl records on a turntable rather than get them from ITunes or a podcast, whatever that is. (If a fisherman uses unshelled peas as bait, when he throws his line into the water, is that a podcast?)  I am annoyed when people, including close (but younger) relatives reply to me on my phone by “texting” rather than by speaking to me which is what Alexander Graham Bell’s invention was all about in the first place.

This is the dilemma of twentieth century people who are trying to make it in the twenty-first century, where suddenly the rules have all changed.  I guess the only solution would be for me to hire some coders to develop an app which would restate twenty-first century technology in terms comprehensible to those still mired in the twentieth century.  I wonder if I could raise enough money do this through Kickstart or Crowdfunding which I hear are twenty-first century ways of seeking venture capital.  But of course, I haven't got the slightest idea of how to do that, although there probably already is an app out in cyberspace which might show me.   I might even sell my app to Google or Facebook for a few million.  Who knows?

Useless Information Department
Many years ago, for reasons I cannot recall, I memorized a bit of useless information.  Possibly, I might have thought, it could someday turn out to be the jackpot question in a quiz show sometime in the future, or enable me to win in a game of “trivia.”  Anyhow, the useless information was that the body of water separating Corsica from Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea was the Straight of Bonifacio.  And that was fifty years ago.

On my recent vacation, I realized that the cruise ship I was on was actually going to pass through that same Straight of Bonifacio!  I never expected to personally see the actual version of that bit of useless information I had memorized years before.  But there I was.  Hurrah!

For the record, I saw Sardinia clearly a couple of miles off on the starboard side of the ship but it was a bit foggy and I could not see Corsica, five miles to the north on the portside.  (That was too bad, because I have heard that was where Napoleon Bonaparte came from, so that would have been nice.  I learned, incidentally, that Sardinia is not where sardines come from.)



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Jack Lippman