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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, December 21, 2016

Stupid?, Compromises, A Trustworthy Media and the Fifth Chrissy Frost Story

The following comment appeared in my posting of December 12 on this blog:

"Perhaps it is time to stop calling certain Americans “gullible” and state what they really may be: “stupid.” Call it what you may, but it was a quality in the 2016 electorate that the Democrats badly underestimated.  It resulted in millions of voters casting ballots for a candidate whose appointments clearly indicate that they voted against their own interests!"

I must tell you that of the many followers of this blog, only one was sufficiently offended by that comment to pass his thoughts on to me.  I considered apologizing, because this particular individual certainly is not stupid.  But that does not change my opinion of the millions of other voters who did indeed knowingly, and stupidly, vote for a candidate whose positions were clearly not in their own interests, and whose appointments are quickly proving that. How else can they be described?   

And I still reserve the adjective "gullible" for those whose votes for Trump were not primarily for him, but actually against the losing candidate, because they fell for the preposterously overblown email server stories and the unsubstantiated last minute attack by a politicized FBI Director.
Jack Lippman


A Bundle of Compromises

In our government, as set up by the Constitution and its Amendments, small States are guaranteed a greater voice than their population warrants.  This was intentional so that the large States, in this unification of “states,” would not dominate the government.  We were “united” back then but we were still, and are today although to a lesser extent, a collection of independent “states.”

This manifests itself in the Senate, where each State, regardless of size, has two seats.  In the House, this shows up when one recognizes that a Representative from a large State, such as Florida, represents far more individuals than one from a small State like Wyoming, where the population actually might call for less than one Representative in Congress, an impossibility. 

And since the Electoral College consists of one vote for each of a State’s Senators and Representatives, this small State imbalance in selecting a President continues in the College for all but two States.  In Nebraska and Maine, it is done differently by the choice of these two States.  There the popular winner gets two electoral votes (one for each Senate seat, maintaining that small state advantage) and the popular winner in each Congressional district gets the one vote for that district.  This is more “democratic” than a State’s Electoral votes all going to that State’s popular winner as is the case in the 48 other States.

Some advocate doing away with the Electoral College.  I do not agree with them since that would take away the guarantees given to smaller States in the Constitution.  But I do think the way it is done in Maine and Nebraska is an excellent compromise.  For example, if in a State with 20 Congressional districts, twelve of them voted Republican and eight Democratic, the Electoral votes would be thusly split, twelve to eight.  The total popular vote in the State would determine where the two remaining Electoral votes stemming from the two Senate seats would go.

Think about this the next time you hear talk about getting rid of the Electoral College. Its structure, while not the most “democratic” on a national basis, represents the kind of compromise necessary to cause our fifty “States” to be “United.”  Without the ability to compromise, these United States might not have endured.  Our government is based on separate legislative, executive and judicial branches, balancing each other but all anchored to the structural backbone of the nation, the Constitution.  And that document is a bundle of compromises.  Remember that when we lost the ability to compromise, the Civil War resulted.  


Trustworthy Media

In view of the declining ability of the media to easily provide Americans with enough information to make intelligent decisions about voting, we are losing the “well-informed electorate” which is essential to democracy according to some of our Founding Fathers’ words.  Much of this is because our journalism depends on an economic base to operate, and that base is shrinking as advertisers drift elsewhere, or have undue influence on what the media presents to the public.  By media, I mean newspapers, magazines, radio, television and the internet.

Without a trustworthy media, we are no better than Peron’s Argentina, Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia.  People can’t come up with the “truth” without a press that does the job of seeking it out and clearly presenting it. In fact, Russia calls its heavily opinionated major newspaper “Pravda” which translates as “the Truth,” even though its content might be the exact opposite of truth.  Beside government interference, the existence of trustworthy media is also endangered by economic pressures. Media requires money to exist and money talks.

In our nation’s early days, to make certain newspapers survived, our government subsidized them with reduced postage rates and payments for doing the government’s printing work.  Eventually, as increasing advertising revenue reduced the necessity for this kind of support, media became profitable in its own right, but began to lose its trustworthiness.  Ownership and advertising influenced what was disseminated.  Today, print media is collapsing financially while internet, radio and TV media are still seeking ways to attain permanent profitability.  But that profitability is most often thought of as a business goal rather than a means of keeping the public, the electorate, “well-informed.”

Somehow, in this setting, “trustworthy” media must continue to exist.  Public radio and television attempt to fill this role with minimal government assistance.  But that isn’t enough. The Bible (John 8:32) advises us that “Ye shall know the truth and it will make you free.”  I recall that as being on the masthead of a no-longer-existing New York City newspaper and it is engraved on some public buildings as well.  These are very important words for us to consider well beyond their Biblical context.  Without access to “the truth,” democracy will be difficult to preserve.  And that is why independent, unfettered journalism is important.  It must be kept alive.  It is conceivable that government may have to ultimately play a role in guaranteeing this with taxpayer dollars, but there must always remain an impenetrable wall between government and the media.


Jack Lippman

(This is the fifth of a series of very short stories featuring Chrissy Frost, singer, senior citizen and Queen of the Condo Circuit.  Who knows, I may combine them into a book.  For the first four installments, check out the postings of July 11, July 27, September 6, and November 10.  In that last one, the reader was introduced to Rocky and Nutsy.   Become a Chrissy Frost fan!)

The Assistant State Attorney introduced Chrissy to the person who was the one who really wanted to talk to her, and then walked out of the room.  Confronting her was a tall, smiling Black woman with the figure of an NFL offensive lineman.  Rising from behind a desk, she grasped Chrissy’s hand, motioning her to sit down.

“I really want to thank you for coming, Ms. Frost.  We just had to get to speak with you.  My name is Cleopatra Cohen.  Don’t laugh, but that’s the name I was born with.  Maybe someday I’ll get to tell you how it came to be, but now, we have to talk. Please call me Cleopatra.  I hate being called Cleo.”

Cleopatra, Chrissy sensed, was the kind of person you could not help but like.

“Okay, but please tell me what this is all about,” Chrissy said.  “And you can call me Chrissy.”

“Fine, Chrissy.  First I want to let you know that I’m a Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency.  I’m a Fed.  I usually work up north, but they sent me down here to Florida for this assignment.  And it involves you, Chrissy, if you are willing.”

Chrissy nodded.  “Tell me more.  And if I don’t want to hear anymore, I can leave? Isn’t that the way these things usually go?”

“That’s the idea, but I don’t think you will.  You see, we’ve checked you out.  We know your brother died in the line of duty as a cop, so that sort of puts you in the law enforcement family. Listen to me, Chrissy.”

Chrissy leaned toward Cleopatra and listened.  She learned that Nutsy Buttsky, with whom she was having such wonderful times, was a major player at  the Florida end of the heroin pipeline which started a thousand miles across the Caribbean in Columbia and emerged in the dark of the night on lonely beaches on the Sunshine State’s coast.   And Buttsky wasn’t his name either.  It was just one of the many aliases he has used, she learned.  His real name was Isaac Christos O’Leary, Cleopatra explained. 

“He certainly had me fooled,” Chrissy exclaimed. “That’s almost as wild as Cleopatra Cohen.”  But why me?

“Because he likes you.  We’ve been chasing him for years, but he has always been a loner, getting close to no one, except guys like Rocky.  Actually, he met Rocky in prison ten years ago.  We could never work with guys like Rocky, they can’t be trusted, but you’re a different story, Chrissy."

“He’s been in prison?”

“Yes, he did eight years for manslaughter.  He ran down a dealer who cheated him. Struck him with his truck.  Then backed it over him.  An accident, he claimed.  But now, Chrissy, he’s into importing drugs and the stuff he brings in is responsible for a lot of the crimes and deaths you read about in the papers every day.  It’s a dirty business.  We know he has you fooled, but he really is a bad, bad dude. And it looks like you’re closer to him than anyone has been in years.  Can’t figure out why he likes you but, that’s why we’re sitting here talking.”

Chrissy made her decision.  “That son of a bitch, what do you want me to do?”

Cleopatra opened a small box on the desk and pulled out a bracelet, with several semi-precious stones embedded in it.

“Where did you get that?” Chrissy asked.  “That’s one of my bracelets.  I thought I lost it. I’ve been looking for it for a month now.”

“Not exactly, Chrissy.  This looks exactly like the one we managed to lift from you.  We have yours.  Don’t worry.  It’s safe and you’ll get it back.  But we’d like you to wear this duplicate instead.”

Chrissy didn’t know what to think.

Cleopatra continued.  “The purple stone, I think it’s an amethyst, that’s really a GPS sensor. Keep wearing it and we will always know exactly where you are.  And this topaz is a recording device.  All you do is tap it and it starts recording and one of our operators will be listening in.  Tap it again and it stops.  It’ll work for about a hundred hours without a recharge, and I hope this thing is over long before that’s used up.”
“So you got me wired?,” Chrissy asked.

“That’s old-fashioned.  Works with suits and coats, but you really can’t hide a wire down here, the way people dress in Florida.  This is better.”

“So what do you want me to do?”

Just keep on living your life the way you’re doing it, singing for the retirees, seeing O’Leary or Nutsy, or whatever he calls himself now.  If he ever talks about going somewhere, particularly at night, or taking a trip, maybe to a beach, or mentions names, try to record it by tapping the topaz.  Simple enough?  If we want any more help, we’ll let you know.  Now think about this for a minute, Chrissy.  Is all this okay with you?  You could get hurt.  Remember, Nutsy is really a very dangerous criminal.”

“I’m okay with it.”

“One more thing,” Cleopatra added.  “I noticed you have a small flower pot with some impatiens in it by your mailbox.  Do us a favor.  If Nutsy is in the house with you, or you are expecting him, keep the flower pot to the right side, facing the street, of the mailbox.  It he’s not around though, keep it on the left side.  Helps us keep track of where your Nutsy is.  That’s important.”

“You mean O’Leary.”

“Whatever. You can always say you have run out to check your mailbox for something you’re expecting, when you have to switch it.  Okay?  And not a word of this to your sister-in-law or anyone else.  Okay?  When I want to talk more with you, I will get to you.  Don’t worry about that.”

Chrissy nodded again.

“Look, Chrissy.  Technically, Iike they say in the spy movies, I’m your handler.  I’ll be watching you. You’ll be okay.  Don’t worry.”

Chrissy nodded again, and the interview was over.

And that night, when she was performing a midweek gig she had picked up at the Upstairs Lounge at the Isle Casino next to the trotting track down in Pompano, she made sure to think deeply of the lyrics as she sang her opening number, from the 1964 movie of the same name:

He's the man, the man with the Midas touch,
A spider's touch,
Such a cold finger,
Beckons you to enter his web of sin,
But don't go in
Golden words he will pour in your ear,
But his lies can't disguise what you fear,
For a golden girl knows when he's kissed her,
It's the kiss of death from Mister … Goldfinger.”

(To be continued)


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Jack Lippman 

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