Posting Started June 2, 2021: Subsequent additions to it can be found by SCROLLING DOWNWARD!
Jack’s Potpourri is getting a bit difficult to manage. To correct that, I am moving all that has been posted since June 2, 2021 (five month's worth of commentary) over to the Blog Archive where it will be available there just a short click away over on the rightmost column. There will be a new posting, “Postings Dated Oct. 28, 2021 and Thereafter" starting tomorrow, which will grow and grow until it too will have to be moved to the Blog Archive. I will also then make appropriate revisions in the paragraph directly below.
The latest additions to THIS posting are added at its beginning. When we run out of the space provided by Blogger, on whose software the blog runs, the frequent additions to the posting will appear on a fresh new posting as was done back on June 2, 2021. I hope the space currently available will last forever! But earlier postings will contunue to remain accessible to PC users via the Blog Archive link off to the right. If you cannot get there that way, there is a link at the very bottom of the blog for getting to "older posts."
Color changes on the blog are cosmetic only. The words and content are not affected.
If you wish to be occasionally reminded (not every time an addition is added) to check out this blog, let me know your email address.
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Item Added October 27, 2021
A Conservative Viewpoint
Here's an interesting "conservative" viewpoint. I disagree. Do you?
Jonah Goldberg: No one wants to pay to Build Back Better
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Item Added October 25, 2021
Chrissy Frost – The Novella
Originally appearing on www.jackspotpourri.com starting about eight years ago in eight separate installments, they are here gathered up as one story, “Chrissy Frost – The Novella.” (“Chrissy Frost” is an entirely fictitious creation. My apologies go to anyone who might happen to share that name, and I know there are some of you out there.) Most of the song lyrics included are, I believe, now in the public domain. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it.
Chapter One - Blue Water and Wind-Tossed Palm Trees
Crissy Frost leaned back and fussed with her hair as Herman, her agent, played with some papers on his desk before he spoke.
“Ya gotta face it, Cris, you’re not getting any younger. Seventy-seven is no longer a spring chicken. You know what things are like on Broadway, off-Broadway, in the sticks, in the clubs, in the rooms at the hotels. Lotsa young talent coming along. There just ain’t much around for you anymore.”
“Come on, Herm, I got three gold records hanging in my living room. And you know the album I made with Sinatra is still selling.”
“That’s the problem, Cris. Nobody buys albums anymore except collectors. Records, cassettes, even CDs are all history. It’s all streaming now on the internet, ITunes, Spotify, that’s where it’s at today, and that’s where you ain’t. Like those albums of yours, you don’t want to be a collector’s item, do you? Have you ever considered that maybe it’s time to hang it up?”
Crissy started to cry. As she wiped her tears with the tissue Herman handed her, her eye caught the big picture hanging on the side wall of the office. Sand, surf, blue water, wind-tossed palm trees, azure skies, beckoning white towers surveying it all.
Herman paused and saw that Crissy was staring at a poster from the Miami Tourism Bureau which he had framed and hung up to cover a crack in the plaster on the wall. He looked hard at her and spoke out.
“That’s Florida, Cris. Would you consider?”
“What can you get for me down there, Herm? I hear they’re selling out in Miami, Lauderdale and even West Palm. That true?”
“You know, Cris, that might actually work for you. A lot of performers are down there who would be working the Catskills if the hotels there hadn’t folded. I think I can find some nice slots for you, but you can’t use that walker. I think a cane would be okay, but no walker.”
Crissy perked up, smiling for the first time during the meeting.
“Now you’re cooking, Herman, baby! The word is that there’s some nice venues down there too. I don’t need those big sports arenas, like the Garden, but I’d love it if you could book me into the Arscht, the Broward or even the Kravis. I hear they’re great, almost like the big New York halls.”
“Actually, Cris,” the agent replied, “I was thinking more of places like a couple of the Century Villages or maybe Kings Point. And there’s some really nice venues in some of the fancy gated communities.”
“You mean the over-55 places, like where my dead brother’s wife lives in down in Boynton? You want to put me on the condo circuit, Herm? Me, with five gold records! Really?”
“Three, Cris, Three. Think about it and give me a call when you make up your mind. I got some connections down there. ”
As she shuffled out of the office, Crissy took one last look at that picture on the wall. Sand, surf, blue water, wind-tossed palm trees, azure skies and beckoning white towers. Once downstairs on the sidewalk, she found herself in the midst of a bone-chilling gray 20 degree afternoon typical of January in New York, complete with some dirty slush at the curbside. She called Herman back as soon as she got home.
The “showcases,” events where performers looking for bookings on the South Florida condo circuit display their talents, weren’t too bad, something like what a slave market must have been like before the Civil War but without the chains. In fact, Crissy picked up a dozen dates which would earn her about ninety thousand after she paid for a lighting tech, a sound man and the combo to accompany her. A place to live was no problem since she would move in with her sister-in-law in Boynton.
“You know, Cris,” one of the other performers said to her one evening before she went on, “This is a hell of a lot better than the cruise ships. On them, you can get seasick, and when you get depressed with where your career is ending up, you might even be tempted to jump overboard. Happens. But all you can do here is fall off of the stage.”
“Won’t happen to me,” she replied. They’re even letting me use my walker tonight! The Stage Manager says it seems to bond with the audience, and takes their mind off what’s happened to my voice.”
She smiled, winked her eye, and pushed her walker out into the spotlight to a thunderous round of applause as the emcee’s deep baritone voice intoned, as if he were officiating at a wrestling match, “Miss Criss-eeeeeeeee Frost!”
Chapter Two - The Man in the Maroon Blazer
Crissy Frost was reminiscing about the time she first hit it big, playing in the grand show room at Grossinger’s over forty years ago. The audience was rapping on the tables with those wooden sticks with balls at the end which the hotel provided in those days. They connected with her most when she belted out her signature tune, Sammy Cahn and Julie Styne’s great 1947 hit. “Time After Time.” She loved that rhyming of “time” with “I’m.” It really clicked with audiences.
“Time after time, I tell myself that I’m, So lucky to be loving you…”
She noticed a man in the second row of tables getting up, as the audience applauded and rapped away. He wore white slacks and a maroon blazer and held a bouquet of pink roses in his hand. Running up to the stage he tossed it at her and then retreated back to his table. Not knowing what else to do, she had caught it and ran backstage.
Fifteen years, and two divorces later, at the 400 seat lounge at the Sands in Vegas, where she had landed a six-month gig, the same thing happened.
“So lucky to be, the one you run to see, in the evening when the day is through…”
“Was it the same guy?” she afterwards asked herself. “White slacks, maroon blazer, pink roses. It had to be. You don’t forget something like that, especially since no one usually tossed bouquets at singers in Las Vegas, or Grossinger’s, for that matter. Hey, I’m no opera star.” She looked out over the audience but he was gone.
A decade later, Chrissy’s latest incarnation was as a fiftyish, both age-wise and music-wise, chanteuse serenading midnight patrons who liked the “oldies” in the Giraffe Room in the Waldorf in Manhattan. Most of that night-cap crowd, many of whom had been attending formal events there earlier in the evening, were still dressed to the nines. That’s why the fellow in the white slacks and maroon blazer stood out. And when she saw the bouquet in his hand, she knew what was going to happen.
“I only know what I know, the passing years will show, you’ve kept my love so young, so new…”
This time, after catching the bouquet, Chrissy whispered to the piano player to play some Gershwin for a couple of minutes. Gingerly hopping down from the stage, she chased after the maroon blazer, catching up with him in the lobby. Before she could say a word, he turned to her.
“Chrissy, I’m your biggest fan ever. I’ve followed you for years. After my wife, I love you most of all.”
“Gee, thanks! I really appreciate that! But what’s your name, anyway?”
Before she could say another word, he had bolted out the door, and turning his head, called out to her as he waved down a taxicab.
“Sam Fink from the Bronx, that’s me!” And he was gone.
And now, years later, here was Chrissy Frost, seventy-seven years young, just starting to make it on the “condo circuit” in South Florida. Perhaps it was the sunshine and the walking in the pool, but her left leg, the one that the stroke six years earlier had affected, was regaining some of its musculature and strength. She was able to put away her walker and now only occasionally carried a cane which she really didn’t need too often for support, but liked to use as a pointer, and as a stage prop.
Florida agreed with Chrissy. She had almost cracked up mentally when her career up north dead-ended, but performing for retirees in Palm Beach County seemed to have given her a second life.
It was in the theatre at Huntington Lakes where she spotted him, about ten rows back. No mistaking him. Same guy, same white pants, maroon blazer and that bouquet held at the ready on his lap. When she sang, she fixed her gaze directly on him. She even pointed her cane at him in a gentle manner as she finished the lyric, and blew him a kiss.
“And time after time, you’ll hear me say that I’m, so lucky to be loving you.”
After the applause subsided and she took her bows, Chrissy wanted to go down and talk to him if she were able to catch him in the theater lobby, but the crowd was thick, and there was a hubbub at the door. People were stopping her to shake her hand, asking her to autograph the CDs they had just bought and complimenting her on her performance, so she wasn’t able to catch up with Sam Fink.
Once back at her sister-in-law’s place in Boynton, where she still was staying, the telephone rang. She picked it up.
“Speaking, who is this?”
“My name is Estelle Fink. I think you may know my husband, Sam. Or at least that’s what he has been telling me for the past 48 years.”
“Actually,” Chrissy replied, “That’s sort of the truth.”
“Well, I think you should know that Sam passed out on the way out of the theater tonight. He has a bad heart. That’s what the delay in the lobby was all about, waiting for the EMTs to come. He’s in Delray Hospital now, and they don’t think he’ll make it. Would it be too much for me to ask if …”
“Mrs. Fink … Estelle, I’ll be right over.”
Unfortunately, Chrissy didn’t make it in time, but three days later at the funeral chapel on Jog Road, after the rabbi chanted the "El Malei Rachamim,” Estelle asked her to step to the microphone. She glanced at the walnut casket, and then at Estelle down in the first row whose tear-stained face brightened imperceptibly as Chrissy quietly sang.
“Time after time, I tell myself that I’m, so lucky to be loving you
So lucky to be the one you run to see, in the evening, when the day is through
I only know what I know, the passing years will show, you’ve kept my love so young, so new
And time after time, you’ll hear me say that I’m, so lucky to be loving you.”
Time After Time: Music by Sammy Cahn, Lyrics by Jule Styne. Copyright 1947
Chapter Three - The Tin Bell
Narrow escapes were common in Chrissy Frost’s family. Many, many years ago in seventeenth century England, a distant ancestor of Chrissy’s, Rufus, an itinerant troubadour, was kicked in the head by a horse. He lay unconscious for days with a barely detectable heartbeat and breathing too weakly to fog a mirror held up to his nostrils. Finally, after several weeks of being comatose, the local bailiff declared him to be dead. The family scraped up enough for a simple wooden casket into which they shoved his body and dumped it into a hole six foot deep. As the laborers shoved dirt on top of the casket, the sound of a bell tinkling was heard. In those days, putting a small tin bell into caskets was standard procedure. Historians have estimated that about a third of those declared to be deceased in those days were really not, so this was an excellent practice. And for Rufus, it certainly was. Hearing the bell, they quickly lifted the casket out of the hole and pried it open. There was Rufus, reclining with his arms at his side, smiling, and asking what the hell was going on. That was indeed a narrow escape, all the more fortunate because embalming was not a common practice in those days either. Rufus went on to be appointed as troubadour to the King’s Court, an honor comparable nowadays to winning an Emmy, where he served until 1655 when Oliver Cromwell had him beheaded.
More recently, Chrissy’s grandfather, an unemployed London clarinetist, was told there was an opening in a cruise ship’s orchestra. He went for an audition and did just fine, except for the fact that the bandleader was an anti-Semite. The family had not yet changed its name to Frost and the bandleader just didn’t want Chaim Finkelstein as part of his orchestra. Chaim became so enraged when some musician friends told him why he hadn’t gotten the job that he ran right down to the docks fully intending to punch the bandleader in the nose. Unfortunately, when he got there, he found that the Titanic had already sailed. Whew, that was a close one, he thought when he read the papers a week later.
Well, Chrissy’s family moved to the United States, but the narrow escapes continued. Her father had put most of his savings, as well as those of his elderly parents and his uncles and aunts, who trusted him, into the stock market which was producing tremendous returns at the time. He even had put all of the funds of the synagogue of which he was the treasurer into his personal market account too, an act which was highly irregular if not illegal. One day, finishing lunch in a Chinese restaurant, he cracked open the fortune cookie the waiter had left on the table with the check. On one side it read “You are a wise man.” On the other it said “Learn Chinese: Word for today is ‘Mai’ which means ‘sell.’” So he took a cab to his stockbroker’s office and told him to sell everything. He did and the next day, October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed, big time! Another narrow escape for a Frost family member.
If you sit down with Chrissy, she will tell you about her audition for the lead in a Broadway show that never took place back in 2001 when she mistakenly marked it for the wrong day in her appointment book. She was supposed to meet the producers at 9:00 a.m. in their offices on the 88th floor of the World Trade Center on September 11, not September 12, as her appointment book incorrectly read. Another narrow escape.
Right before Chrissy came to South Florida to cap off her career by becoming the Queen of the Condo Circuit, she was booked to perform at several major venues in the Far East, which was hungry for American talent, regardless of how stale it might be, and by 2014, Chrissy was already pretty stale! After being booed off the stage in Melbourne, she managed to put on a pretty good show for a non-English speaking audience at a hotel in Bali in Indonesia, but their failure to applaud convinced her to cancel her date in Beijing. Anyway, she would have had to fly to Kuala Lumpar in Malaysia to connect with a flight to the Chinese capital, and that just looked like too much of a hassle for her, particularly since she was still using a walker. So she flew back to the United States, cancelling her tickets to Beijing on Maylasian Air 307, which they are still looking for somewhere on the bottom of the Indian Ocean.
In Chrissy’s pocketbook, you will find a small tin bell. She doesn’t know why she always carries it, but her father gave it to her and told her never to go anywhere without it. His father, who had gotten it from his father, had given it to him with instructions that it be passed on from generation to generation. She had once shown it to someone in an antique shop who told her it looked about three or four hundred years old, and probably was of British origin.
Chapter Four – The Good Life
When Chrissy Frost decided to keep her waning career as a vocalist going by becoming the Queen of the Florida Condo Circuit, she had moved in with her widowed sister-in-law, Stella, in her roomy home in Valencia Heights, a new 1,000 dwelling gated community at the edge of a swamp. It was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, but 2,200 square feet, two bath rooms and three bedrooms proved very adequate for both of them. And it was nice to have someone to talk to once in a while, even though days might go by without their seeing one another.
Chrissy’s brother, Lou, had been a detective on the Jersey City police force. Five years before his scheduled retirement, he was gunned down in a shoot-out with some trash who were attempting to rob a gasoline station on the approach to the Holland Tunnel where he happened to be filling up. His pistol was no match for their assault rifles. But the settlement from the Detective’s Benevolent Society, the city and an insurance policy he had bought some years earlier left Stella well-fixed financially. Their only son, who she saw every two years or so, lived with his family in Seattle where he owned a plant making expresso machines.
Chrissy, whose two marriages had ended in disasters, gave little thought to re-entering the social scene, particularly among Palm Beach County’s numerous widowers and occasional divorcees. Stella, on the other hand, was a social butterfly. Her relationships usually lasted no more than two or three months, but she was rarely without a silver-haired or bald gentleman to convoy her around the latest hot spots in Boca Raton, Delray or Palm Beach.
Her latest, a sharp-dressing Italian-looking gentleman admitted to being in his mid-seventies. When he came to pick Stella up in his Bentley for an evening out, Chrissy would smile politely, almost choking on the aroma of his cologne.
Rocky Levine was his name, and as they chatted superficially one evening while waiting for Stella to finish “dolling up,” she learned that at one time he had been a professional wrestler, using the name “Young Sampson,” had been the proprietor of numerous saloons up north, and now, he boasted, he was “living very comfortably in Boca off of some wise investments he had made.”
“Gee, I wish I had done that,” Chrissy said. “I’ve never been able to save a buck, although I’ve always made a nice living off of my voice. ‘Young Sampson,’ I like that,” she said, as Stella paraded into the room wearing a tight fitting pink dress designed for someone at least one third her age. Rocky smiled. “Maybe I can help you, Chrissy. I know a lotta good people,” he answered as he pecked Stella on the cheek, taking her arm as they headed for the door. “See ya, later.”
On the phone the next day with Herman Blotz, her old agent back in New York, Chrissy mentioned Rocky and Herm indeed recalled “Young Sampson” and even remembered having booked a couple of bouts for him in places like Elmira or Utica where the rubes went for that kind of stuff in those days.
“But how are you doing down there, Chrissy?” Herman asked. “I’ve been hearing good things.”
“Just fine. I get a couple of bookings a week, and at $5,000 a pop, I’m making it. You should know that anyhow since I’m sure you’re getting a piece of the action my agent down here is ripping me off for. Yeah, all these folks want are the oldies. Thank God they don’t want rap or hop-hip.”
“It’s hip-hop, Chrissy. But as for Rocky Levine, or whatever he is calling himself these days, keep your eyes open. I hear he is ‘connected.’”
“Oh? she replied. “Thanks for the tip. I remember that kind from Vegas. I’ll keep an eye on Stella.”
* * *
The idea of double-dating with Stella and Rocky had never occurred to Chrissy until Rocky showed up one afternoon with Nutsy.
Turns out that Nutsy, who came from the Bronx, which he pronounced as if it had two syllables, was the guy who had set Rocky up with some of the wise investments he had told Chrissy about when they first met. Turns out they consisted of part ownership in a couple of massage parlors and strip joints somewhere in Broward County and a “sober home” in Delray Beach.
Nutsy Buttsky, for that was his full name, explained to Chrissy what a sober home was when she asked, never having heard that expression before. It turns out that sober homes are rooming houses where recovering addicts stay, with their heavily padded bill being paid by their rich parents up north, or more often by their insurance companies or the government, while they go to private rehab centers in the area each day for so long as their insurance lasts. Nutsy proudly added that when sober home residents need to arrange for their rehab treatment, the sober home is glad to refer them to one of the places that provide it, usually the one that kicks back the biggest percentage of what they get from the insurance or the government. That was where the big money was. But Nutsy didn’t drive a Bentley like Rocky did. His ride was a Maserati.
So the two couples went out to dinner, and then went to a black dance club in a part of Delray to which she had never been. Nutsy was tall, good-looking, muscular and fun to be with and Chrissy, for the first time since she had come to Florida, had a good time going out on a date. But she knew, from what Herm up north had told her about “Young Sampson,” and from the “investments” which Nutsy wasn’t in the least reluctant to brag about, that both of them were probably somewhere on the shady side of the law.
Chrissy had gone out with Nutsy about a half-dozen times, sometimes along with Stella and Rocky and sometimes just the two of them. And she was having a good time. Nutsy occasionally showed up at her performances and usually applauded longer than anyone else in the audience until those sitting near him started staring at him. He would eventually stop clapping, but only after he stuck his tongue out at them or aimed an imaginary pistol he formed with his fist and extended forefinger at them, but always with a smile on his face. The relationship wasn’t going anywhere, she knew, but she always had a lot of fun when he was around. The two of them, along with Stella and Rocky, were having a ball when they went out, hitting the hot spots in Palm Beach County and even venturing down to South Beach occasionally. This was the good life.
Or at least that was what Chrissy thought it was until that day when an Assistant State Attorney for Palm Beach County left a message for her on her answering machine.
Chapter Five – Goldfinger
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 defensive 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.”
Chapter Six - Beach Party
Hey, Chrissy,” Nutsy called out. “I got some fun stuff for us to do tonight! When was the last time you went to a beach party? I’m invited to one tonight and I’d love it if you came along. Game for it, girl?”
“What kind of party?” Chrissy replied, tapping the topaz on the bracelet Cleopatra had given to her. “It’s really too cold out there, and I don’t want to get sandy.”
Nutsy looked at her strangely. It was a look that Chrissy had never seen before. “You’re coming, and no ifs, ands or buts about it. I need you to be there.” He spoke stridently, in a no-messing-around almost alarming manner.
Chrissy looked away for a second, and when her eyes returned to Nutsy, he was holding a revolver in his hand. “This says you’re coming with me tonight, Chris! Understand?”
“What kind of shit is this, Nutsy?” But her question was just a front. She knew he was onto her.
“Same kind of shit you’ve been pulling on me for the past month. Don’t you think I’ve caught you moving that flower pot around, the one by the mailbox? That’s an old trick. You’re tipping off someone about something, and I have a vague idea that it’s me … so that’s why you and me are going to a beach party tonight!”
“What are you talking about? You gotta be out of your mind!”
“No, it’s you who’s out of your mind. I think you’re working with the cops, Chrissy. I never thought you’d pull that on me.”
“Like I said, you’re crazy. Why would I do that?”
“I dunno,” Nutsy answered. “But I started to worry about you when that schvatzah came to the house last week and you spent a little too much time talking to her.”
“You’re crazy, Nutsy. She answered an ad I placed on the community bulletin board for a new cleaning woman. Haven’t you noticed this place isn’t as neat as it used to be since Maria quit and went back to Honduras? But she couldn’t come when we wanted her. We’re still looking for someone.”
“That’s what you say, Chrissy. I say she was a cop. I can smell them a mile away. And that’s why you’re coming to the beach with me tonight.” Nutsy pointed at the revolver. “I can smell them a mile away.”
Chrissy was relieved that Stella was out in Seattle visiting her kids so she wouldn’t get involved in what she was afraid was going to be a very messy evening. She hoped whoever was supposed to be listening when she tapped the topaz was at the top of their game that day, and not on a coffee break or something.
“What beach are we going to, Nutsy,” Chrissy asked.
“What kind of question is that, sweetheart? Sounds like one you’d ask if you wuz wearing a wire!” With that he pulled at Chrissy’s blouse, roughing her up a bit as he tried to see if she actually were wearing one.
“Guess you’re clean … but just shut up, and get in the car,” he replied, pushing her out the front door.
Chrissy began shaking, for the first time really realizing that she had gotten herself into something deep, and it wasn’t sand. But she gritted her teeth and didn’t let Nutsy sense her fear. She sang to herself.
“When you walk in a storm, keep your head held high,
And don’t be afraid of the dark,
At the end of the storm is a golden sky,
And the sweet silver song of a lark.”
* * *
Twenty minutes later, without any lights, they pulled into the darkened parking lot at Gulfstream Beach, on the road running parallel to the ocean known as A-1-A, just a little bit south of the surfboard shop near Briny Breezes. The entrance was closed but someone had managed to slice through the gate’s lock and raise the arm so the car could get through.
“Hey, Nutsy, all set for a big night,” called out a familiar voice. It was Rocky.
“Yup! We’ll just settle down on the beach and wait. You brought beach chairs I hope.”
“Sure, and also some coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts. The kind in a box that stays warm. What’s with the broad? Why did you bring her along. Dames mean trouble, Nutsy. You know that.”
“Rocky, I’m pissed at you for ever introducing me to her. I think she’s been talking to the cops. I don’t want to take any chances, so if I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but if I’m right, it’s handy to have a hostage around. You never know what will come down.”
By then they had walked down the wooden steps and set themselves up on the beach. Within a few minutes, a faint blinking light appeared, some distance off shore. It got closer and closer.
“Short blink, short blink, long blink, short blink. That’s the signal alright. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Answer them, Rocky. What’s in that boat is worth forty million on the street.”
Rocky pulled out a flashlight he had bought that afternoon at Harbor Freight and answered. “Long blink, long blink, short blink, long blink.”
Within a few minutes a black rubber boat, actually a large motorized raft, pulled itself onto the shore. Two men, dressed in black, carried four waterproofed cartons onto the sand near where Nutsy, Rocky and Crissy sat. Nutsy walked over to the boxes, examined them and handed an envelope to one of the men in black.
It was then that all hell broke loose.
The rhythmic roar of a helicopter beating the air directly overhead drowned out all other sound. Floodlights from above bathed the beach with light. A loudspeaker blared out. “This is the Drug Enforcement Agency. Drop any weapons you have and lay flat on the sand. We have you surrounded. Our agents are approaching you from all sides.”
Nutsy grabbed Crissy around the waist and held the revolver to her throat. “We got a hostage here,” he screamed. “I get out of here free and clear or she dies. Understand?”
The only answer was silence, finally interrupted by the blazing pulsating of a whiter than white, brighter than bright, laser-like brilliance shooting down from the helicopter. Then suddenly, in that instant before Nutsy’s eyes could adjust to what was going on, what appeared to be a creature the size of a bear, or maybe a Florida version of the abominable snowman, came flying out of the beach plum bushes in front of which they had planted the beach chairs. Or was it the largest defensive tackle the NFL had ever seen, and it was screaming, “Drop the gun, asshole!” And before Nutsy had time to think, let along squeeze the trigger, he was pinned to the ground by Cleopatra Cohen, gasping as his open mouth filled with the sand into which she was deeply pushing his face. After that, all that had to be done was to pick up the pieces. And the DEA people set to work doing that, leading Nutsy and Rocky away in handcuffs. Meanwhile the Coast Guard had already captured the two men in the rubber boat.
* * *
Later, back in the house at Valencia Heights, the two women sat over steaming cups of coffee, laced with brandy.
“Chrissy,” Cleopatra said, “It’ll be a long, long time before Nutsy and Rocky get out of prison, if they ever do. But we really want to thank you for your help. Without you, we would never have been able to catch them, and the two guys on the boat too. If you’d like it, we can get you a nice printed up commendation from the DEA. Framed and everything. Maybe even a ceremony in Washington.”
“Nah, all I want is my bracelet back.”
Cleopatra smiled. “You already got it, baby. There was never a second bracelet. All that stuff about a GPS and a communications device was bullshit. We don’t have money in our budget for stuff like that. We ain’t the CIA. We even had to borrow the helicopter we used tonight from the Palm Beach County Sheriff!”
“But how did you know where we were? That he was dragging me to the beach?”
“Old fashioned police work, Chrissy. We had agents planted in a couple of houses on your street and were able to watch you 24 hours a day. When we saw him push you into the car at gunpoint, we knew this was the night, and we made our move.”
“I think I’ll stick to singing, Cleopatra, and staying home a bit more. I’m deserting the Florida club scene for a while. But I will invite you to my next show. Okay?”
“It’s a deal. You know I sing a little myself too,” Cleopatra Cohen answered as she got up and walked toward the door. “You know this one?” She was a soprano with the kind of strong voice you hear from those who passed some of their Sunday mornings in church choirs. Turning toward Chrissy, she sang out:
“Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Though your dreams be tossed and blown,”
Chrissy got up and grasped Cleopatra’s hand, and smiled as their voices joined in delicious harmony.
“Walk on, walk on,
With hope in your heart,
And you’ll never walk alone.
You’ll nehhh-vaaaah waaaalk a-lonnnne!” “Cleopatra, that was great. Maybe someday you’ll come up on stage with me?”
“Don’t hold your breath.” And she was out the door.
Stella was due to be returning from Seattle the next day, Chrissy remembered. And while she set about straightening out the house a bit, she tried to imagine the expression on Stella’s face when she told her that she wouldn’t be seeing Rocky Levine again for a long, long time, probably never. But knowing how Stella had ultimately accepted her husband’s death, she knew getting over Rocky would be no problem at all. Life must go on.
Chapter Seven - Dream Girl
Chrissy Frost was dreaming. She was in an upscale steakhouse in Boca Raton, enjoying a succulent filet mignon cooked exactly the way she liked them done, black on the outside with a strip of red in the middle. At least that was the way she had liked her steaks before her doctors told her to avoid red meat. Although she was almost completely recovered from her stroke six years ago, and was earning a good living performing on the stages of Palm Beach County’s many retirement communities, she still had to watch her cholesterol and beef was no longer part of her diet. But it was an enjoyable dream anyway.
She barely noticed the tiny brownish specks she was spitting out when she brushed her teeth and flossed the next morning. But the following day, after having another “filet mignon” dream, Chrissy was again flossing out bits of steak when she brushed her teeth. Very puzzling. Particularly since she had eaten mostly salads, chicken and egg white veggie omelets over the past week or so.
And when she went to Dr. Lopez for her regular exam the next week, he shook his finger at her.
“Chrissy, your lipids are up. Have you been eating anything to increase your cholesterol? Looks to me like you have.”
“Swear to God, Doctor, I haven’t had a piece of beef in a couple of years. Fish, chicken and rarely, a piece of veal maybe. No red meat at all.”
The d, there still were particles of steak between her teeth when she flossed the next morning.
And woctor scratched his head.
“But, let me tell you,” Chrissy continued, “Something funny has been happening lately. I’ve been dreaming of eating a delicious filet mignon in a fancy restaurant and when I brush my teeth in the morning, when I floss, it seems like I had really eaten a piece of steak during the night. I think I’m flossing out bits of meat.”
Dr. Lopez looked at her kind of funny, peered into her mouth and set up another appointment for more blood work two weeks later.
“Funny things happen all the time, Chrissy. Let’s see what it looks like in two weeks. Meanwhile, stop dreaming so much.”
During those two weeks, Chrissy ate like a vegan, but whenever she had the “filet mignon” dream hen she went back to the doctor, the results were no better. The cholesterol was still up, the LDLs were climbing and the HDLs were dropping. She explained her diet over the past few weeks and then surprised Dr. Lopez by taking out a little pill box which contained a few strands of red meat.
“This is what I flossed out this morning. Take a look at it.”
“Looks like steak to me,” he said, holding them in a tweezer up close to his eyes.
“Chrissy, we have a problem and it’s beyond me. I am referring you to a specialist whom I hope can help you. Here’s his name and address. I’ll call him this afternoon and his office will call you. We’ll get to the bottom of this. Don’t worry.”
“What’s this guy? A cholesterol specialist? I certainly don’t want to have another stroke.”
“No, Chrissy, he’s a psychiatrist.”
“You think I’m crazy?”
“No way, but physical manifestations of what you’re dreaming about are a little beyond me. You have bits of the meal you dreamt of stuck in your teeth. Not a job for an internist, Chrissy, but this guy many have some answers. Give him a chance.”
* * *
The sign on the glass door in the shabby professional building read “Tobias Fink, D.M.A.” Chrissy went into the waiting room, signed in and waited to be for the nurse behind a glass window, or whatever she was, to call her. Otherwise the room was empty. Glancing around she saw some of the diplomas displayed, apparently to reassure patients of the credibility of Dr. Fink. One was from the University of the Guianas, announcing his having received his Doctor of Medical Arts degree there in 1983 with honors and another testified to his having completed his residency in Psychiatry at the Cayman Islands Mental Health Center three years later. Very reassuring, she thought. Once ushered into Dr. Fink’s office, she was confronted by a barefooted chubby man in his fifties wearing a colorful Hawaiian shirt and denim cargo shorts. He was smoking a pipe.
“Good morning, Miss Frost. Dr. Lopez called me and told me a little about your story. Would you mind repeating it for me. But first, would you like a drink?”
With that, Dr. Fink opened a small refrigerator next to his desk and took out a can of Diet Dr. Pepper, popping it open and inserting a straw.
“No thanks, Doctor,” Chrissy replied. “But before I start talking to you, I’d like to find out if I really want to be here talking to you. You must admit, you don’t look like any doctor I’ve ever seen. Tell me why I should be even talking to you.”
“Miss Frost, all of my patients usually say about the same thing as you’ve just said when they first meet me, but believe me, I am legitimate. Or almost, anyway. You see, my medical and psychiatric credentials aren’t accepted anywhere in the United States, but here in Florida, I am able to practice because of a loophole in their licensing laws. Actually, this place is officially licensed as a barber shop and somewhere along the line, I will snip off a half inch or so of your hair … and that makes everything else I do okay with the State. You know, barbers are known to talk a lot with the person in their chair, and that’s what I do in my practice, so it works for me. Of course, I can’t take insurance payments but that doesn’t matter much since my charges are very low. I was left a lot, a real lot, of money a few years back, so I don’t depend on this practice, or barber shop, to support myself. Okay?”
“Hmm,” Chrissy intoned. “How come Dr. Lopez referred me to you if you’re not really a doctor?
“Good question. Because Henry respects what I do, as do most of the physicians in South Florida. They all know of me, and when they come across the kind of case I handle, they don’t hesitate to refer patients to me, even with my phony credentials, because I get results!”
Crissy was beginning to believe, at least a little, in this guy. He slouched in his chair, popping a bit of his gut out between the buttons on his shirt. She almost wanted to laugh.
“Listen, young lady … “
“Cut it out, Doctor,” Chrissy interrupted. “I’m older than you are, so stop with the young lady bit.”
“Okay,” he said, “But let me tell you about some the cases I’ve handled and maybe you’ll want to give me a chance to help you.”
Chrissy nodded her assent.
“This guy, I’ll change his name, came to me a year or so ago with these bloody spots on his hand and on his lower torso. ‘Rufus,’ I asked him, ‘where did you get these things?’ ‘Doc,’ he replies to me, ‘I got them in a dream. I was dreaming I was Jesus Christ being crucified and when I woke up, these marks were on me from the dream of the crucifixion.’ Well, I checked him out and he wasn’t much of a religious guy, went to church once every couple of years maybe and didn’t even know the Biblical details of what he was dreaming. Had him sleep over in my office one night, right on that chaise over there, and I watched him toss and turn. He was dreaming alright, and in the morning, damn it, he had those spots right where he told me he was getting them.”
Intrigued, Crissy asked what happened with Rufus. Dr. Fink continued.
“I got this friend in the Bishop’s office in West Palm. Now I’m not a Catholic, but we grew up together. I tell him this story … and he writes it up and gives it to the Bishop. Two months later a bunch of priests show up in my office with Rufus and ask me to sign some papers. I guess the schools I went to for my degrees, which aren’t worth much in this country, are fully accredited by the Vatican. They tell me that once he dies, they’ll put Rufus up for what they call beatification, which is a step toward sainthood if they can verify any miracles or cures connected with him. They’re taking their time because he really must die first before this thing gets moving. So far, he hasn’t. I told them I go to the track and the casinos with him occasionally, and damn it, he always wins, never loses, it’s unbelievable. Big bucks, really big bucks … but he gives it all to charity. They smiled when I told them that. One of them whispered to me that he suspects that Rufus may actually be Jesus. Keep that under your hat, he says to me. So you see, I do deal with cases like yours, Miss Frost.”
“Wow,” Chrissy said as Dr. Fink cracked open another Dr. Pepper. “Do you have any other interesting patients, ones more like me?”
“Sure … There was Melissa. That wasn’t her real name. Always wanted to be in show business, TV, the movies. But she had no talent and was what I would call homely. In her dreams, she was in the movies, not a star mind you, but a significant bit part player. It was always the same movie, the one that won a lot of awards last year, you know, ‘La La Land,” and she always played the same part. Well, I downloaded the video and she pointed out to me where she was in the movie in her dreams, and to my amazement, when I paused the video exactly there, damn it, it actually looked like it was Melissa playing that role! Or at least someone whom she resembled very closely. I zoomed in and the actress in the movie had the same mole on her neck as Melissa, sitting right where you are now, had. Of course, some other actress played that role in the film, so I contacted the people who made the film, so I might really compare what she looked like with Melissa in person. They told me they couldn’t help me since the actress had died in an automobile accident shortly after the film was made, but they would send me a photograph. I have it right here in her file, and as far as I can see, it’s a photograph of Melissa. She claims she remembers from her dreams when they took it after one of the shoots in Hollywood and even identifies some of the other actors in the background.
“What happened to Melissa,” Chrissy asked.
“Nothing much. I told her never to go to the movies anymore and to cut out watching them on her TV screen too. She also cancelled her Netflix subscription. I know she got married last year and I think she just had a baby. She’ll be fine so long as she stays away from movies. But as far as I am concerned, professionally, I do believe that there was some cosmic merger of her dreams and the making of that movie which resulted in the real actress getting killed and Melissa, from her dreams, retrospectively taking over the role. These things do happen.”
“Another one. This guy, call him George, always was dreaming that he was cheating on his wife with another woman in a hotel room somewhere. The hotel catches fire and the fire department calls up to them on a bullhorn to jump out of the window and they’ll catch them in a net. The two of them do that, stark naked, and who do you think is one of the firemen holding the net? The guy’s wife! And this is where this dream always ends. Normal stuff so far, George is dreaming that he’ll get caught. Classic guilt. Now his wife, I was given to understand, was a stay-at-home type wife, baking cookies, sending the kids off to school and all of that usual good stuff. She had majored in Italian Renaissance Art in college and was a really bright woman. So one day, right out of the blue, she tells George that she has decided to become a volunteer fire department aide. It would be a change for her, she claimed. Smiling, she said it was perfectly safe, he shouldn’t worry, the closest she would get to a fire would be to help those holding the net when someone was forced to jump out of a window in a burning building. At this point, George turned white. He went to the doctor the next morning and that is how I got involved.
“You mean,” Chrissy said, “that his wife in real life was about to enter his dream world, and she was totally unaware of what she would encounter there.”
“She wouldn’t encounter it there,” Chrissy, “George was the one doing the dreaming. He would.” But her presence in the dream would be as a real person, and under deep hypnosis, she might even remember being there in his dream, but we won’t go there. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but it served to turn him into a faithful husband, as I’d advised him to be, and which he has been ever since. Now do you think I’m capable of dealing with a bit of filet mignon stuck between your teeth?”
Chrissy replied “Yes, Doctor.”
After Chrissy repeated the full story of her dreams and the dental residue that remained afterwards, Dr. Fink smiled.
“You’re an easy one, Miss Frost. We can wrap this up right now in one sitting, and my fee will be just $29.99. And I’ll include a second consultation with that free! That’s something I learned from watching TV … and of course, there’s no charge for shipping and handling. Ha, Ha. Okay?”
Crissy nodded, adding, “And you can call me Chrissy, Dr. Fink.”
His remedy was a simple one. “Chrissy,” he said. “Set your mind to controlling your dream as soon as it starts. When the waiter brings the filet mignon, scream at him saying something like ‘I don’t want that, take it away, no meat for me.’ You get the idea. And if he persists, pick up the damn steak and throw it at him! You must be the one who controls your dream, not that little bit of your brain that really wants the filet mignon. Got it?”
Crissy smiled, wrote a check and went home. That night she had the same dream, but this time she tried to confront the waiter. “Take than goddamn steak away! I don’t want it.” Despite her entreaties, he placed the piece of meat on a plate before her. The aroma was almost overpowering, but she hung on. It was slow-motion in the dream, but it was really happening. With her left hand, she stabbed her fork into the steak and slowly, ever so slowly raised it off the plate. Transferring it to her right hand, she drew her arm back as if she were a quarterback throwing a pass. As her arm moved forward, the steak flew off the fork and sailed across the room, hitting the waiter squarely in the eye. And then the dream ended.
The next morning, her sister-in-law came into her bedroom as she was getting up. “Is everything alright, Chrissy?” I heard you screaming during the night, something about taking a steak away. I looked in but you were sound asleep.
“Wait a sec, Stella,” Crissy said as she ran into the bathroom.
“No meat between my teeth! Great! That doctor cured me!” Chrissy was delirious with joy as she waved a string of clean dental floss! Let’s go shopping!”
Later that afternoon, walking through the Town Center mall in Boca, Chrissy thought she recognized one of the waiters from what used to be her favorite steak house strolling toward her. He had a black eye.
Turning to Chrissy, he said, “Pardon me, M’am, I think I recognize you. Were you dining in New York Prime last night about eight?”
“No,” Crissy replied.
“I could have sworn you were there and you threw a steak at me. See my eye. Don’t you remember, we had to call the cops to escort you out of the place.”
“You must have been dreaming. I haven’t been in the place for months. But I hope that eye heals up fast.”
“Yeah, I do too. If it didn’t hurt so much, I would swear it was all a dream”
Chapter Eight - Birthday Party!
It was quite a gathering. Everyone was there to celebrate her 75th birthday. Herman Blotz, her agent from New York had flown down. Sam Fink’s widow, Estelle, was sitting alongside of Dr. Tobias Fink, the shrink specializing in off-beat remedies who had cured Crissy’s elevated cholesterol problem. Actually, he was a second cousin of her late husband. In fact, this evening, he was wearing one of Sam’s old maroon blazers. Dr. Lopez was there too, as was the antique expert who had confirmed that the tin bell Chrissy always carried in her purse was actually four hundred years old. Seated at the head table with Chrissy was Cleopatra Cohen, now a Regional Director with the Drug Enforcement Agency. Of course, Chrissy’s sister-in-law, Stella, dressed to the hilt was there too, running from table to table, showing off her jewelry, most of which wasn’t real.
Some of the folks from Valencia Heights where Chrissy and Stella still lived were there. Chrissy didn’t play cards or do much in the place, but they all were proud that the brightest star in the galaxy of performers who entertained at the weekend shows during the “high season” at the many retirement communities in Palm Beach County was one of their own. The MC who had introduced her when she made her first Florida appearance in a retirement community was still around and had donned his old tuxedo. He stepped up to the microphone and a hush came over the audience. “Ladeeeeez and Gentlemen,” he intoned, “Presenting, Miss Chrisseeeee Frossssssst!”
A pink spotlight settled on Chrissy who stood, waving at everyone. “Time After Time,” they shouted, and Chrissy complied with the song that had made her famous from West Palm Beach to Boca Raton. The applause was deafening. After doing a couple of encores (“You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Goldfinger”), Chrissy looked over across the ballroom and was amazed that she had made so many friends in South Florida. And it all started back when she was sitting tearfully in Herman’s crummy office in Manhattan and that poster with the palm trees advertising the Sunshine State caught her eye. And here were at least a hundred people who thought enough of her to have made four and five figure donations to a cancer-fighting charity to enable them to be with her as she celebrated her 75th birthday at Mar-a-Plago.
The lights dimmed and the dance music the orchestra was playing ceased as a spotlight fixed on a door off to the right. And through it he walked, a little stouter than most expected him to be, but wearing his elongated red tie and his tangerine colored mop.
“Chrissy,” he said, “People call me all the time telling me how truly great you are, and now I can see what they are talking about. Too bad we didn’t meet a few years back when I could have put you on a really major TV show.” By now he had walked across the ballroom, as the smartphone cameras clicked away, right up to where she sat. Putting his hand, which was a bit sweaty but not really small as some folks have said, on her back a little too tightly, he looked down at her and said, “I have a great surprise for you on your birthday, Chrissy!” He looked toward the door at the left of the ballroom and pointed at it. As a spotlight focused, four uniformed guards came into the room, leading two men in orange jumpsuits.
“Nutsy!” Chrissy screamed, running up to the shackled newcomers. “You almost killed me on that beach, you son of a bitch,” she cried out as she tried to spit in his face. Nutsy, still agile even after two years of his prison sentence, quickly ducked, her spit landing just above the knot of the long red tie worn by the man who had thought he was doing Chrissy a big favor by getting Nutsy flown in from Leavenworth Federal Prison for the evening, along with Rocky who was attempting to smile at Stella.
After he finished wiping the spittle from his chin, he tuned to Chrissy, his face turning the color of his hair, “I thought I was doing you a favor, but I guess you’re just another bimbo. Get out of my damn place! Whoever let you ever book your damn event here in the first place? You got no class! But don’t try to ask for a refund. We don’t give ‘em, baby!”
“No one talks to me that way,” Chrissy answered as she swung her cane, which she always carried but rarely had need for, at him. It struck him at the bottom of his long red tie and he bent over in pain.
Meanwhile, Cleopatra Cohen had gotten up and grabbed Chrissy with one arm and dragged her away, latching on to Stella with the other. “We gotta get out of here fast, girls!”
Flashing her DEA badge and shoving aside the bewildered security people in the room, Cleopatra Cohen headed for the door with her charges and once outside, jumped into her waiting SUV and headed over the bridge crossing the Intracoastal Waterway. Thirty minutes later, she dropped them off at Valencia Heights.
Over the next week, when their friends tried to contact Chrissy or Stella, they found their house completely emptied out and no trace of either one of them. In fact, when anyone inquired about either of them, all they got back were sideways shaking of the head.
Meanwhile, in what she thought was a luxuriously furnished DEA safehouse somewhere in Lower California, Chrissy sat doing her nails. Turning to Cleopatra, she asked “How come the government has the money to keep this wonderful place down here in Mexico while they never had enough to run a decent operation in the States to catch those drug smugglers?
Cleopatra smiled. “Whoever said this was a government operation? And what do you think ever happened to those drugs we captured on the beach?
Chrissy finally understood. “If I’m hearing you right, we can never go back to the United States,“ she replied.
“That’s right! And since they’re building a wall, that would be pretty difficult anyway. Chrissy, you’ll have to learn to sing in Spanish!
And she did.
* “Una y otra vez, me digo que soy, tan afortunada de estar amandote … “
*“Time after time, I tell myself that I’m, so lucky to be loved by you …”
* * *
Items Added October 24 2021
Knocking that Ball Loose
Those that follow this blog might remember my past postings citing the bad influence bigtime college football has had on higher education.
You can see it in the numbers of those educated in foreign undergraduate environments where there are no bigtime athletic programs being accepted into graduate programs here in science and medicine, and eventually entering those professions here, becoming valuable citizens, and where names recognizable as “traditional” American names seem to becoming fewer and fewer. I don’t mean to criticize this trend, but I merely report what I am seeing. If the president of the University of Chicago, who pulled his school out of bigtime athletic competition during the last century, stressing the educational experience of college, rather than the athletic, couldn’t change things, I doubt if I can. But I can comment on one thing which I feel ought to be changed, at least in football at the college level as I see it.
When a ball carrier is tackled, he sometimes loses control of the football, resulting in a fumble, which may or may not be recovered by the opposing team. To avoid this, ball carriers are taught by their coaches to hold on to the ball tightly when being tackled.
These days, however, part of the tackler’s job seems to be, in addition to bringing down the ball carrier, to directly poke, punch and jab at the ball itself to dislodge it from the ball carrier’s grasp. Rather than attacking the ball carrier, the defense attacks the football. This is different from the ball carrier fumbling, on his own, when tackled.
|Number 40 is more interested in dislodging the |
ball Number 34 is carrying, rather than tackling him.
In my opinion, although this practice might be acceptable in professional football, it should result in a penalty at the college level. It borders on playing “dirty” and is in the category of other overly aggressive practices such as grabbing onto an opposing player’s facemask, grabbing onto a receiver physically to interfere with his catching a forward pass or using their helmet as a weapon, acts which have already been outlawed and made subject to penalties.
* * *
Government Paralysis - A History Lesson
During the ten or so years before Andrew Jackson lost his first run for president in 1824 (he lost in a vote in the House of Representatives in which a shady deal was made to resolve an inconclusive Electoral College result), our politics were known as "the Era of Good Feelings."
Opposing factions had no problem working together through civilized conversation, compromise and cooperation within the context of one single party, the Democratic-Republicans. Even before then, Jeffersonians and Federalists managed to work together.
Today's politics, the opposite of that, should be labeled "the Era of Bad Feelings," where the existence of two separate and wildly distinct parties encourages the polarization which often paralyzes our government.
* * *
Item Added October 22, 2021
A New Direction?
In a “Your Turn” column on the opinion page of today’s Palm Beach Post, Palm Beach County School Board President Frank Barbieri writes about the County’s school masking mandate and comments on the noisy and rude minority which opposes it at School Board meetings, including parents and in one instance, accompanied there by their children as well. He quotes St. Paul’s words, “we will reap what we sow,” adding that he’s “afraid what will be reaped is a generation of adults who lack the moral and ethical values that made this country the greatest nation on earth.”
No need to wait, Mr. Barbieri. We already have them present in our generation. We call them Republicans.
And while in the realm of politics and after reviewing what I posted on this blog on October 19 and on October 21, I get the feeling that I am getting redundant in printing my political thoughts. Enough is enough. Hence, even though I will work hard to elect Democrats in 2022 and 2024, I am going to steer Jackspotpourri in a more benign direction for the time being. Everyone knows the truth already as I made clear in those two postings. Why belabor it.
* * *
Items Added October 21, 2021
Summing it All Up
Republican Representative Liz Cheney spoke the truth the other day when she recognized that the Republicans know what’s true and what isn’t. Her words: “Almost every one of my colleagues knows, in your hearts, that what happened on Jan. 6 was profoundly wrong. I ask my colleagues, please consider the fundamental questions of right and wrong here. … All of us who are elected officials must do our duty to prevent the dismantling of the rule of law.”
Really, Republicans know that there was no election fraud and the presidency was not “stolen.” You know that, I know that, Ms. Cheney knows that and the Republicans, all of them, do as well. Even the former president knows that but he won’t surrender his last straw, a futile unprovable illusion that the election was “stolen.” That is the sick reality in which he lives.
The problem is that Republicans depend on the votes of the ignorant and the gullible to whom Trump personally appeals and are attracted by the ideas of the 'movement conservatives' (defined a few days ago on this blog - go back and check them out) as well. As false as these ideas are, ‘movement conservatives’ sell them to the ignorant and gullible by catering to the religious right, by repressing voting wherever they can and most of all, by appealing to the often latent racism of many voters.
By recognizing and speaking the truth, however, Republicans would invite their own defeat at the polls and the resulting jettisoning of Republican jobholders and appointees all the way down to local levels, in effect the dissolution of the Republican Party. That's why they don't recognize truth and try to create their own reality. Who would hire an unemployed Mitch McConnell, for example, even as a night watchman?
Let’s look at some history.
The Whig Party, composed of politicians of many stripes, only united by a common hatred of Andrew Jackson and his successors, did not survive the 1850's. That’s the same boat that the Republicans are in today, poised on the brink of extinction. They are a conglomeration of "haters" of immigrants, non-whites, the government's safety net, Medicare, Social Security, labor unions, business and financial regulatory laws, climate control and abortion rights.
The conservative party of that day, the Democrats, did indeed manage to survive the Civil War but were crippled until 1932 when things had gotten so bad that they could not get any worse until FDR saved them, starting them off on a 180 degree political turn which culminated in the 1960’s, when they finally rid themselves of the last traces of support for the bigotry of the South, a role quickly picked up by the Republicans, who care little where they get their support.
The progressive party of that day, the newly formed Republicans, came out of the Civil War smelling like a rose, which very quickly faded into domination by business until it finally wilted, became malodorous and blew away in 1932.
Today's Republicans, hoping “movement conservatism” will take them back to pre-1932 days, are fighting the truths which will ultimately determine our history. It'll be a long battle but they will finally lose and rest in peace with the Whigs. That is my opinion.
Why do these kinds of things happen? The populism which democracy sometimes allows to run wild leads to the exposure of what is its Achilles’ heel. The French beheaded their monarch in their revolution, installed democracy, and ultimately settled on following an autocratic “man on horseback,” Napoleon Bonaparte. The democratic Russian Revolution got rid of the Tsars but after some brutal infighting, ended up with Lenin, Stalin and dictatorship. When the Cubans dumped dictator Fulgencio Batista, they settled on Fidel Castro to lead them, and that was the end of Cuba’s very brief flirtation with democracy.
This is the flaw of democracy, its Achilles’ heel. Giving a possibly ignorant and possibly gullible population the final word in choosing a country’s leader, is dangerous. Thomas Jefferson thought educating the population would solve that but the democracy he envisioned was not quite so direct as that which France, Cuba and Russia bought into with disastrous results. That’s why our Senators were not elected directly originally, why we still have the Electoral College and why our State governments have considerable power. These things, embedded in our Constitution, diluted our version of democracy for its own good.
Despite this, for a variety of reasons, the ’movement conservative’ Republicans have found even the limited democracy our Constitution provides contains an Achilles’ heel. It just has taken them longer to find it. They work hard, very hard, to get voters to support their undemocratic ideas through the democratic structure they would demolish if they came into power. They have sunk their venomous fangs into that heel, using the tactics mentioned earlier, voter repression, catering to the religious right and most of all, an appeal, usually unspoken but well understood, to racism.
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Items Added October 19, 2021
Is Covid19 Turning the Corner?
Who Gets Credit for it Happening
... if it really is?
A conservative media outlet (the Daily Wire) reported a few days ago that Florida’s rate of Covid19 infections was the third lowest in the United States. The impression the article gave was that this was accomplished in a State where neither vaccinations nor masking were stressed by its governor, subtly suggesting that his ignoring the recommendation of physicians and scientists was a better approach. WRONG! Whom do you have to really thank for the decline in infections in Florida? I’ll tell ya! And it’s not the Governor.
It’s the millions of Floridians who are wearing masks and getting vaccinated, and not waiting to first contract the virus so they can benefit from Governor DeSantis’ favorite tool, monoclonal treatment for those already infected! (That’s like taking down ‘no smoking’ signs in crowded theatres and stores and buying more fire engines instead.) And give some credit to those businesses, school districts and agencies which have the guts to defy bans on masking mandates coming out of the Governor’s office. That’s who!
Give credit where it is due. The drop in infections isn’t "just happening" because of seasonal changes as some would like to believe. And it would have occurred sooner if the governor would pay attention to science and not politics.
Right now, keep your eye on those crowds at college football games. If infections don’t increase because of them, we may have turned a corner! But still, hang onto your masks.
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Movement conservatism’s goal is to return our country back to the way it was prior to the reforms initiated by FDR, and eliminate a few even started by his cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, three decades earlier.
This would benefit the very wealthy and large businesses and do nothing to further equality for the common working people and in fact, push them back to where they were half a century ago. Social Security, Medicare, financial marketplace regulations and such reforms would disappear. Movement conservatives have the money to do this and will stop at nothing to accomplish it, including telling lies, creating alternate realities and appealing to racial and ethnic prejudices.
They have an excellent chance of succeeding in the 2022 and 2024 elections. But even If they do, their success will last only until their strategy so damages the country that even the most gullible of American voters will see them for what they are and drive them out of office, if enough of democracy survives to enable that to happen. This is what happened in 1932. It could happen again.
If they take over our government, their success will be short-lived, perhaps a decade or two, after which the country will inevitably experience a crisis, from which it will recover, and continue, but as a second rate nation, looking with envy at how better off are those in European countries from which many of their parents or earlier forebearers immigrated generations ago and where government is not ashamed to look after the welfare of its people and where socialism is not a dirty word.
But what is "Movement Conservatism" all about, anyway?
The movement springs from the writings in the 1950’s of William F. Buckley and author Ayn Rand is their goddess. It includes a drastic reduction of the regulatory and safety net roles of government, adopting economic theories aimed at promoting capitalism instead of providing services to citizens and an increase in the power of States as opposed to that of the Federal government, seasoned with a bit of isolationism, religious faith and a veneer of patiotism. Any benefit the common people indirectly derive from it would “trickle down” to them from a successful business economy fueled by increased investment made possible by low taxes and not being hampered by labor unions.
The first Republican who campaigned on its platform was Barry Goldwater in 1964. But only with the appearance of Ronald Reagan in 1980 was it able to take control of the Republican Party. Later, some disillusioned liberals, referred to as neo-cons, joined it. Today, the Republican Party is entirely its willing captive, seeing no other way of getting enough votes to elect candidates. Its "captivity" there is akin to the "Stockholm Syndrome" whereby those kidnapped ultimately came to agree with their kidnappers.
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A Presidential Quiz
This gentleman served in his state’s legislature, was elected to the United States Congress for 21 years, about half of which he spent in the House of Representatives and about half of which he spent as a United States Senator. He represented the United States government at the Court of St. James in England and in Russia as well, and also ultimately held the position of Secretary of State.
A second gentlemen had no government experience whatsoever, elective or otherwise.
Both mens’ career paths led to the office of President of the United States. Among some historians, there is continuing debate as to which deserves to be labeled as the nation’s W.P.E. (Worst President Ever). It’s a very close race.
Can you name these two presidents and suggest which was the W.P.E.?
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Item Added October 17, 2021
Belated Comment on Replacing Columbus Day
There’s a lot of talk about replacing Columbus Day with a day honoring the indigenous peoples whom Columbus enslaved and killed. That's not a bad idea except for the fact that “indigenous” is a word beyond the vocabulary of most Americans and will not stick. They’re still struggling with “Native American” which is not quite the same as “indigenous.”
More important is the fact that today in the United States, Columbus Day is more a holiday honoring Italian contributions to our country in terms of art, music, science and of course, cuisine. That is what we ought to preserve, not the racist acts of Christopher Columbus, the explorer.
On April 15, 1452, a few months after Columbus’ birth (the precise date of which is uncertain), another Italian, in which all Americans of Italian heritage might take great pride, was born. His name was Leonardo da Vinci. That day is worthy of remembrance and celebration.
A painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer, Leonardo da Vinci was perhaps the most diversely talented person to have ever lived.
Let's toast to that with a slice of pizza and some red wine.
Some of his work:
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Item Added October 16, 2021
Here's something important. Drop what you're doing right now and listen up!
As some of you may know that I follow, and occasionally contribute to Professor Heather Cox Richardson’s daily “Letters From an American.” I recently posted the following comment there:
“Okay, now that American democracy has been hornswoggled by undemocratic laws passed by Republican-controlled State Houses, by too many Americans buying into Republican condemnation of any election they might lose as dishonest, by Republican appointments of sympathetic judges and finally, by Republican obstruction of the workings of Congress, only one question remains: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT that won’t get you arrested, or even might? Sit back and watch it happen? Posting your thoughts online or writing to congresspeople isn’t enough. I repeat, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? Voting won’t be enough. If I were to write a book about it, the title would be “Democracy Gone Wrong.”
I got one response from a nice lady in Texas which briefly suggested that we go out on strike! Her reply to my question, ‘WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT’ read as follows:
“A general strike of all employees of all companies starting at noon on Wednesday. The strike is over when the 'For the People Act' (HR 1) and 'the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act' bills are passed and signed by President Biden! Pass the word. Strike for Freedom to Vote!”
After some initial hesitancy about how to organize such an action, I realized the best solution was to stop equivocating and “to just do it!”
So I ask you to do something at noon on this coming Wednesday.
If you can manage it, don’t go to work. If you’re in school, skip classes. Tell your teachers why you are doing it. Ask them to join you. Make a few posters! "Strike for Freedom to Vote!" If you’re retired, don’t shop or spend money. And make it clear that you are doing to wake up America to the need for the 'For the People Act' and 'the John Lewis Voting Rights Act' bills to be passed and signed by the President.
And try to keep it up for as long as you can! Not just on Wednesday. That would answer the question I originally asked, ‘WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?" This is what you should be doing about it!
Finally, please pass the word on to your friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers, schoolmates. As many as possible. (Just copy and paste this into your email.)
Voter repression can only be fought by the passage of these two bills, enabling us to preserve democracy in America by being able to vote for it.
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Item Added October 15, 2021
"Blue Lives Matter" Charade
I promised two days ago to keep an eye out for right wing law enforcement and military connections. It didn’t take long. I drove past a *garden supply place this morning (one I’ve never patronized and would never do) which had an American flag about 12’ by 8’ out in front along with an equally large sign reading “Blue Lives Matter.” Well, if they did, more of them and their supposed supporters would get vaccinated, Covid19 being the greatest cause of death of law enforcement people today, taking the lives of more than those killed enforcing the law! I wonder why that is.
The sign is merely an objection on the part of a racist right winger to “Black Lives Matter” and seems a safe way of saying that, hiding behind Old Glory and support for the police.
If you get to talk to people (please wear a mask when doing so) who post signs like this and who go around loudly claiming that “Blue Lives Matter,” I am sure you will find that they also believe the former president’s “big lie,” support anti-abortion laws, think Covid19 is a media hoax and don’t understand that in this country, all men are created equal, and are so in the eyes of the law which those in law enforcement represent.
*Locals can find it on the north side of Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach between Barwood and Congress.
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Item Added October 14, 2021
Baltasar Gracian - Writer of a 'Wisdom' Book
Near to my computer, I have a copy of “The Art of Worldly Wisdom” by Baltasar Gracian, a Jesuit priest who lived in Spain and Portugal in the early Seventeenth century. The paper jacket to the book includes the following remark by Professor Christopher Mauer of Vanderbilt University who produced this translation in 1991:
“Throughout the centuries, mankind has produced three great, timeless wisdom books: Machiavelli’s The Prince, Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War and Baltasar Gracian’s The Art of Worldly Wisdom: A Pocket Oracle. And yet, until now, Gracian’s astonishing classic has been largely unavailable to modern readers.”
The Church was not entirely happy with what Gracian wrote and ultimately assigned him to a remote village church in Portugal, but his words have survived, consisting of 300 brief aphorisms which can serve as guideposts to any person’s life. Anyone from a CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation to a befuddled high school student can benefit from reading them. The whole book is but 181 pages and the typography is reader friendly. My copy comes with a story.
When a friend quoted Gracian to me, I played around on the internet and found his book, mentioned above. Used copies were pretty inexpensive and I bought one. It turned out to be in pretty good shape but provided an interesting side story to go with it. Inside the front cover, the following inscription appeared:
“Del - 4/3/92 – For April England trip. Love, Elizabeth.” It was written in the precise and artful cursive script which is no longer taught in schools. Elizabeth was probably a very precise person, writing with a very fine pointed pen. Note that Elizabeth and Del are first names, indicating a degree of familiarity between them and Elizabeth signs off with the word “Love,” suggesting that they might be relatives (sisters?) or very close friends. So Del took off for England, either by boat or plane. She found time to read the book, obviously, and frequently underlined some of Gracian’s words, indicating the kind of person she was. Her underlining and words were much firmer and darker than Elizabeth’s, if that means anything. For example, when Gracian advises against having the spirit of contradiction (Aphorism 135), Del underlined the words “Finding objections to everything can be ingenious, but the stubborn person is almost always a fool” and in #183, she doubles down by underlining “Fools are stubborn, and the stubborn are fools.” Del must have experienced things in her life, or in England, to lead to these underlinings. Perhaps she had been deceived and in #99, she underlines “Things pass for what they seem, not for what they are.”
One of the unknowns are how old Elizabeth and Del were. Could they have been two retired educators? Was Elizabeth older than Del, and perhaps her mentor? While I have assumed Del to be female, Del could have been a male just as well. Del’s underlinings prove almost as enlightening as Baltasar Gracian’s words. In #76 (Don’t always be joking), she wrote in “Maybe my biggest problem.” If you end up with a used copy, I hope any comments or underlinings in it are as provocative as Del’s, whomever she (or he) may be, were in mine. There could be the basis for a short story, or a novella or even a novel buried in my copy.
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Item Added October 13, 2021
The following piece is based on an item in this morning's online AOL News, significantly augmented with my opinions. (JL)
How Far Can We Go Before We Are Forced to Lessen our Freedoms?
|Springsteen Claims "We didn't start the fire." |
Congress wants to know who did. READ ON!
U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan recently sentenced a participant in the January 6 insurrection to 14 days of incarceration and 60 hours of community service, stressing she did so because she had celebrated and bragged about her participation in what amounted to an attempted overthrow of the government. (The prosecution had asked for even milder sentencing.)
“The fact that she subscribes to bizarre conspiracy theories, that's her right. That's something she is allowed to do as an American,” Chutkan said. (Here we see the judge drawing the thin line between thinking treasonous thoughts and acting on them.)
The most serious criminal cases arising from the massive investigation are against leaders and members of two far-right extremist groups, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. (News is creeping out that some in the military and in law enforcement are active in the latter seditious group. We will be looking for more informaion on this and pass it on to you.) Some are charged with plotting coordinated attacks on the Capitol to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's electoral victory. This woman's offense was ostensibly less serious, at least to the prosecutors.
But several who have merely swallowed QAnon's conspiracy theories and not become Proud Boys or Oath Keepers, also played prominent roles in the riot, and such theories appeared to galvanize many others who joined the mob, such as this defendant. Long before the attack, many experts warned of a growing threat of violence driven by disinformation and conspiracy theories like QAnon and its predecessors spread, an example being the conspiracy dubbed “pizzagate“ where supposed Democratic child abusers were holed up in a D.C. eatery's basement.
Justice Department prosecutor Joshua Rothstein said the woman sentenced by Judge Chuktan appears to be an avid consumer of other conspiracy theories, including that the coronavirus is a “hoax pandemic” and that the COVID-19 vaccine is part of a Jewish plot to murder people. She also appeared to believe the pandemic was foreshadowed by “predictive programming” during the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics in London.
“It's one thing to believe in conspiracy theories in your basement. It's another thing to act out on them," he said.
Being “Mr. Nice Guy,” which is what the prosecutors of the January 6 terrorists (and that’s what they were, terrorists) are doing will come back to haunt us. In my opinion, they should, after completing their sentences, be able to roam free, but within the limits of a restricted area, such as Guantanamo Bay. The Chinese would call that a “Re-Education Camp” and while far outside of our legal system, we cannot allow these cancers to fester and reappear after some mild and ineffective treatment.
People have certain rights in a democracy and our Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, enshrine them. Using these rights to demean and destroy democracy in our country, however, must be severely punished, sending a message to others than such acts are not acceptable. If this means a limited and temporary lessening of the freedoms Americans have traditionally possessed, so be it!
It’s the old argument about our not being free to shout “Fire” in a crowded theatre. Those who poison democracy with lies, including the former president, if allowed to remain seriously unpunished, will be responsible for the replacement of democracy in our country by something else, something not so nice. If the antidote to this poison is a limited and temporary lessening of freedoms Americans have traditionally possessed, so be it!
Remember, as Bruce Springsteen first sang 37 years ago, "We didn't start the fire." There's a House Committee seeking an answer to that question (Who did start the fire, anyway?) right now.
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Items Added October 11, 2021
DUMB, DUMB, DUMB !
Check out the backgrounds of DeSantis' Education Commissioner, Richard Corcoran and his Surgeon General, Dr. Ladapo, and after you vomit, you know where this scoundrel is headed. And it isn’t any place the “Founding Fathers” contemplated. He also caters to the ignorant and gullible, which is one half step above the “dumb” about whom Robinson writes. (Ignorance and gullibility can be remedied. Stupidity cannot.) Here’s his column:
How Dumb Can a Nation Get and Still Survive?
October 7, 2021
T.S. Eliot wrote that the world ends "not with a bang but a whimper,” but I fear our great nation is careening toward a third manner of demise: descent into lip-blubbering, self-destructive idiocy.
How did we become, in such alarming measure, so dumb? Why is the news dominated by ridiculous controversies that should not be controversial at all? When did so many of our fellow citizens become full-blown nihilists who deny even the concept of objective reality? And how must this look to the rest of the world?
Our elected representatives in the U.S. Senate, which laughably calls itself “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” agreed Thursday not to wreck our economy and trigger a global recession — at least for a few weeks. Republicans had refused to raise the federal debt ceiling, or even to let Democrats do so quickly by simple majority vote. They relented only after needlessly unsettling an international financial system based on the U.S. dollar.
The frequent games of chicken that Congress plays over the debt ceiling are — to use a term of art I recall from Economics 101 — droolingly stupid. In the end, yes, we always agree to pay our obligations. But the credit rating of the planet’s greatest economic superpower has already been lowered because of this every-few-years ritual, and each time we stage the absurd melodrama, we risk a miscalculation that sends us over the fiscal cliff.
Today’s trench-warfare political tribalism makes that peril greater than ever. An intelligent and reasonable Congress would eliminate the debt ceiling once and for all. Our Congress is neither.
In other news, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) was speaking to a crowd of Republicans at a country club in his home state Saturday when he tried, gently, to boost South Carolina’s relatively low rate of vaccination against the coronavirus. He began, “If you haven’t had the vaccine, you ought to think about getting it because if you’re my age — ”
“No!” yelled many in the crowd.
Graham retreated — “I didn’t tell you to get it; you ought to think about it” — and then defended his own decision to get vaccinated. But still the crowd shouted him down. Seriously, people?
Covid-19 is a highly infectious disease that has killed more than 700,000 Americans over the past 20 months. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines all but guarantee that recipients will not die from covid. I have, or had, an acquaintance who refused to get vaccinated, despite pleas from his adult children to protect himself. He got covid-19, and it killed him. Most of the deaths the nation has suffered during the current delta-variant wave of the disease — deaths of the unvaccinated — have been similarly needless and senseless.
Covid-19 is a bipartisan killer. In the tribal-political sense, the safe and effective vaccines are a bipartisan miracle, developed under the Republican Trump administration and largely distributed under the Democratic Biden administration. People in most of the rest of the world realize, however, that vaccination is not political at all; it is a matter of life and death, and also a matter of how soon — if ever — we get to resume our normal lives.
Why would people not protect their own health and save their own lives? How is this anything but just plain stupid?
We are having other fights that are, unlike vaccination, partisan and political — but equally divorced from demonstrable fact.
Conservatives in state legislatures across the country are pushing legislation to halt the teaching of “critical race theory” in public schools. I put the term in quotes because genuine critical race theory, a dry and esoteric set of ideas debated in obscure academic journals, is not actually being taught in those schools at all. What’s being taught instead — and squelched — is American history, which happens to include slavery, Jim Crow repression and structural racism.
I get it. The GOP has become the party of White racial grievance, and this battle against an imaginary enemy stirs the base. But the whole charade involves Republican officials — many of them educated at the nation’s top schools — betting that their constituents are too dumb to know they’re being lied to. So far, the bet is paying off.
And then, of course, there’s the whole “stolen election” farce, which led to the tragedy of Jan. 6. Every recount, every court case, every verifiable fact proves that Joe Biden fairly defeated Donald Trump. Yet a sizeable portion of the American electorate either can’t do basic arithmetic or doesn’t believe that one plus one always equals two.
How dumb can a nation get and still survive? Idiotically, we seem determined to find out.
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European Political Cartoons From the 1930s Voiced an Alarm - Who Listened?
European Political Cartoons From the 1930s Voiced an Alarm - Who Listened?
Political Cartoons say a lot that cannot be put into words. Here is a collection of sixteen political cartoons, mostly by European cartoonists, from the 1930s warning the viewer of that day of the threat posed by Hitler and the Nazis. They didn't do much to prevent World War Two, but the cartoonists gave us fair warning.
|Jackboots trampling rights |
of the people in Germany
(Library of Congress Collection)
When you see today's political cartoons, remember a picture (or a cartoon) is worth many, many words. Take heed. Go back and visit these European cartoons of the 1930s by CLICKING HERE. They foretold what was coming, just as today's cartoons might be sending a message.
(If the link doesn't work, try on your own to get to
(If the link doesn't work, try on your own to get to
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Item Added October 10, 2021
After two days of heavy duty postings on the blog, here is a short one.
Where One is Educated Does Not Matter
I used to wonder how Florida Governor DeSantis, being a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, could be blind to the fact that in dealing with the Covid19 pandemic, an ounce of prevention through masking and vaccination is worth a pound of cures like the monoclonal antibody treatment he endorses. Then I realized that the late William F. Buckley, a conservative icon, was a Yale graduate and that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a Harvard Law School graduate which goes to show you that where one went to school is meaningless.
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Items Added October 9, 2021
Another Lengthy but Essential Reading Assignment
Yesterday, Oct. 8, I included a lengthy column by David Brooks which had appeared in the New York Times about a week ago. The fact that I included the entire column and not just a link to it should indicate how important it was. Please go back and read it, if you have not done so already. It dealt with the divisions which are tearing our nation apart.
In that column, Brooks mentions an essay by Robert Kagan, opinion writer for the Washington Post and a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute. It is far too lengthy to include here but here is a link to it. CLICK HERE TO READ IT or go directly to it at:https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/23/robert-kagan-constitutional-crisis/
This is the most complete evaluation of our political situation that I have come across and I urge you to read it. It make take more than a minute or two but please read it. It pulls no punches. And they are directed to one's gut.
I take Kagan's essay to be either a last call for Americans of both parties, but mostly Republicans, to wake up, or a eulogy to be read at the funeral of democracy in our country. The odds favor the latter, if mourners will even be permitted at that sad ceremony after 2024.
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I am still looking for an answer from a credible source as to why, in an area of this country (the South) where vaccinations and masking are not prevalent, but hospitalizaitons for Covid19 are, is there no massive rise in the disease amoung the hundreds of thousands of closely packed maskless fans who attended football games over the past few weeks in SEC and ACC college stadiums. WHY?
This is contrary to what happened in Provincetown, Mass. a few months ago. Have things changed that much since then?
Is the pandemic just going away ... or should we be listening less to learned scientists and physicians and more to people who, while not having any real knowledge, seem to be coping with the pandemic quite successfully? WHY?
Having a number of "ignorant and gullible" conservative acquaintances who think vaccinations and masking are part of a hoax, this is an embarassing question to pose!
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Item Added October 8, 2021
Here is a "Must Read" column from the New York Times. of Sept. 30, 2021. Please read it.
Item Added October 7, 2021
A Quote from "Letters From an American"
The following quote, which suggests strengthening our economy by increasing consumption and probably taxes on the wealthy as well, appeared among the comments in today’s “Letters From an American,” the daily free news summary put out by Professor Heather Cox Richardson, Boston College historian.
While the site is free, there’s a $5 monthly fee to be among the hundreds who make comments there each day. (Reach it at https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/). Professor Richardson also produces You Tubes and videos on history and current politics, and possibly makes more money from them and from “Letters From an American” than BC pays her. She's an expert on post-Civil War history and the Republican Party.
Anyhow, I suggest you check out the site, which I visit each morning, and here’s the excellent comment by someone which appeared today:
“I've pointed out many times that 100 ordinary citizens may buy 100 cars, but one millionaire probably won't buy 100 cars. Same for houses, refrigerators, clothes, and college educations … ”
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Items Added October 4, 2021
No Women Should Vote for Those who Oppose Rowe vs. Wade
No woman in the United States should vote for any candidate, Republican or Democratic, for any office whatsoever, who does not denounce those working to weaken or repeal the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision or simply remains silent on the matter. It is that simple.
Roe vs. Wade does not force any woman to have an abortion. The choice is theirs and if their religious belief does not allow them to undergo an abortion, so be it. That is their right. But they have no business nor right to attempt to force others to share in that belief, be it for religious reasons, or otherwise.
All women, and men for that matter, who object to living in a country where the decision to have an abortion rests entirely with the woman who is carrying the fetus are free to pack up and leave for a less democratic environment *outside of the United States where the rights of individuals are not important.
* (They have several choices where all abortions are prohibited by law: Nicaragua, Honduras, Madagascar, Mauritania, Senegal, Egypt and Iraq. There are many other places on the planet where while many abortions are illegal, a limited number are not. This is probably the aim of the "pro-life" people in the United States. Good riddance to these people who do not deserve to live in a free country!)
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Covid In Retreat ?
David Leonhardt, in today's New York Times, writes of "Covid in Retreat," answering one of the questions I raised two days ago on this blog.
Basically it is good news but it also can be bad news leading to a premature opening of certain facilities and a disregard for the continuing need for masking and vaccinations. Read the article by CLICKING HERE.
Leonhardt talks about a "two-month cycle" which repeats itself. I liken this to waves coming into a beach. Sometimes they are high and strong and furious, and sometimes they are weak and reach nowhere near the mark set by the previous high tide. But the next day, they can be strong again, depending on the weather. But they keep coming. So it is with Covid19. Its severity and spread depend upon many factors. Remain cautious.
|Graph Accompanying Article|
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Item Added October 2, 2021
Two Vitally Important Covid19 Questions
I am waiting for medical or scientific comment on two items concerning the Covid19 pandemic.
1. With tens of thousands of unmasked fans packed in stadiums watching football in parts of the country (the South, primarily but not exclusively) with low vaccination rates, where are the Covid19 infections one would expect to result? Does the failure of that to happen mean the pandemic is burning out? Or is it happening but not being reported?
2. Contrary to what medical authorities in the United States are reporting, stories coming out of India seem to indicate that Ivermectin, the drug used basically on livestock and derided by our medical community, has been successful in reducing Covid19 in India’s largest State, Uttar Pradesh, to levels far below those Indian States where the vaccination level is far higher than there. How valid are the sources of such reports?
Failure to quickly address these two issues can weaken our science-based weapons used in fighting Covid19, vaccination, masking and crowd avoidance, causing millions of Americans to disregard them and conceivably become infected with the virus.
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Items Added October 1, 2021
What Reform in Law Enforcement is Really About
Replacing "Law & Order" with "Order & Law"
People in law enforcement at all levels tend to view their jobs as protecting and preserving “order and law,” rather than the more traditional “law and order.” And putting “order” first means preserving the way things are, or in the minds of many in law enforcement, the way they once were and still should be. (This was once true of the military as well, but since they are mostly under federal control, their view of preserving order is different from that of local law enforcement.)
Most uniformed law enforcement people have an American flag displayed somewhere on their uniform, sometimes on a shoulder patch or at least on their vehicles. This ennobles their efforts to preserve “order and law,” automatically labeling them as performing a very “American” service, and often implying that those with whom they deal on a daily basis were somewhat less "American" since they usually weren't running around conspicuously displaying "Old Glory." (Perhaps this is why my trash collectors have the Stars and Stripes emblazoned on their garbage trucks. No cop would dare to ticket them!) Those who carried out the January 6, 2021 invasion of the Capitol, an act of insurrection, draped themselves in American flags to show how patriotic they were, when the exact opposite was actually the case.
This affects the kind of people who are drawn to jobs in law enforcement. When legislation changes the rules in a more liberal or permissive direction, some in law enforcement see that as an attack on their role as protectors of the existing "order." New laws change the “order” they are sworn to protect. The “blue line” or the “blue” version of the American flag seen at conservative demonstrations are examples of this reaction and they see those who are active in changing the laws in local and national government, usually Democrats, as their enemies.
When it is documented that a considerable number of the cases in which the police are involved stem from alcoholism, drug addiction or domestic disputes, and that more funding should be directed at dealing with these as social, rather than criminal issues, they scream that this is an effort to "defund" the police, and that nefarious forces are ganging up on them.
That may be why so many in law enforcement are unvaccinated and do not wear masks, seeing them as encroachments by a hostile government on individual freedoms, which are part of the “order and law” they were sworn to protect.
The result is that right now, in 2021, COVID-19 is the leading cause of death for on-duty law enforcement officers. That was also true in 2020. Check out the numbers on the internet. Start by CLICKING HERE. Ignorance and gullibility are not limited to Republican voters. These qualities are rampant among law enforcement personnel as well. Some don't recognize that a couple of vaccine injections can fight Covid19 better than an American flag patch on their uniform.
A sufficient number of funerals with bagpipes and ranks of saluting officers might change this.
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Solving Haiti's Problems
Solving Haiti's Problems
The western portion of the island known as Hispaniola is occupied by a supposed nation known as Haiti. (The eastern part of Hispaniola is the Dominican Republic which does not share in the problems which have historically plagued Haiti, although it does have some problems of its own.) But Haiti is, and has been, a basket case for years. The chief occupation of Haitians is trying to figure out a way of getting somewhere else. Hurricanes, earthquakes, and bloody political unrest are permanent parts of life in Haiti. They are regular occurrences.
The population of Haiti is about 11,000,000, about the same as that of the neighboring Dominican Republic and also of Cuba, just to the west across an azure piece of the Caribbean Sea. Haitians would love to live in either place, or any other part of the western hemisphere including, and especially, the United States. I think that wish should be granted to them, although at this time, no one is greeting Haitians with open arms.
The nations of the western hemisphere, from Canada on down south through Chile and Argentina, should sit down and decide how many Haitian immigrants they would each be willing to accept. That number should add up to about 11,000,000. Right now, the population of the rest of the western hemisphere, including the Caribbean nations, is a bit over one billion. Certainly, they can absorb 11,000,000 amongst them, just a bit above one percent of their own total population, equitably divided. They would provide an inexpensive and excellent labor force for all these countries, as those who have come to the United States, either legally or illegally, have proven themselves to be. Certainly, it would be an economic improvement for ex-Haitians.
As for the deserted place that Haiti would turn into, it should be left to whatever the flora and fauna there manage to recapture between earthquakes and hurricanes.
Politically speaking, if we do not do something like this soon, the Chinese will, as the Russians once tried in Cuba.
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Was Annie Wrong ?
Annie, from the posting just below, recognized the limits of her optimism when she concluded her song saying, "Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love ya tomorrow, you're always a day away," suggesting that tomorrow never really comes.
Alexander Pope said the same thing when he wrote "Hope springs eternal in the human breast, man never is but always to be blessed." I still contend that things will someday be better, although not necessarily tomorrow.
For that to happen, we will need a total replacement of all of the members of Congress, both Houses, both parties, with the ideas of the generations succeeding ours. No, not tomorrow. But it will happen.
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Item Added September 29, 2021
The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow
The slaveholders had their way for a long, long, time before a fed up country answered secession with bullets, after which things started to get better for a while, at least until "Reconstruction" failed.
Business called the shots from the late 19th century until the 1929 market crash and the resulting depression convinced Americans to throw out the Republicans, after whch things got better, government assuming the role of actually helping people rather than protecting business, from which it had been erroneously assumed all blessings came (or in 20th century G.O.P. parlance,"trickled down").
But they're back, trying to undo the bi-partisan "for the people" reforms initiated during the presidencies of FDR, Truman, Ike, Kennedy, even Nixon and Lyndon Johnson. Gullibility and ignorance will give them some success, making things significantly worse than they are today. But ultimatelely, they will get better, as the American people wake up to the harsh reality that the Republicans don't give a damn about their interests and what really matters to them. Don't hold your breath but things will get better! The "Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow," as Annie sang.
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Item Added September 25, 2021
Water - Essential to Life
Most of the surface of the earth is covered with water. Life exists both in that water and on the land surfaces which emerge, as continents and islands, from that water. Because it is constantly evaporating into the air, that water has to be replaced. Otherwise, the planet would die, as other planets may have in the past. And indeed, it is being replaced. Some of it comes back to the planet as rain falling directly into the oceans of the planet. Other is provided by the periodic melting of frozen water from the ice caps located at the polar extremities of the planet which receive the least sunlight and are the planet’s coldest places.
But all of the rainfall doesn’t go directly into the oceans. Some of it falls on land areas which all ultimately drop in altitude to the level of the oceans they all meet. Gravity causes this rainwater, most of which is not absorbed directly into the ground as in desert areas, to collect and form trickles and brooks and streams and rivers, occasionally temporarily accumulating as lakes, which all, due to elevation and gravity, end up flowing into the oceans of the world with a few rare exceptions which end up being self-contained seas not connected to the basic water surface of the planet.
This behavior of water is all delicately balanced and connected to our seasons, the daily rotation of our planet and its annual circumnavigation around the sun and our weather systems. They all work together and are synchronized so that they support life on our planet as we know it, human and otherwise. Whether this is attributable to a divine Creator as some believe, just a coincidence, or something that turned out to work after billions of unsuccessful attempts is uncertain.
It is said that a monkey sitting at a typewriter forever, banging away at the keys, will eventually type out all of Shakespeare’s plays, or the Bible. Well, that might be how it turned out that the distribution of water, essential to life on our planet, came about. It may never have happened before and may never happen again in whatever time frame one views it. The legend of Noah’s flood, in many cultures, may represent an effort that came close, but ultimately missed, but was succeeded by a formula that worked.
Let’s not mess with it. The alternative is the end of life on the planet. That’s what “climate change” is all about, the continuance of life on our planet.
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Item Added September 24, 2021
More on the Future of Democracy - Words of Jefferson
Here are a series of quotes from Thomas Jefferson, our third president, who followed John Adams. Yesterday, I posted a quote from Adams in which he voiced little confidence in the permanence of democracy. Scroll down and read it again. Here's another potential flaw in our democracy.
Jefferson, as these quotes indicate, was a bit more, but not totally, optimistic about democracy’s future. (Note: When Jefferson uses the word ‘science,’ it is taken to mean learning and knowledge in general.) Here are Jefferson’s words:
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816.
"Convinced that the people are the only safe depositories of their own liberty, and that they are not safe unless enlightened to a certain degree, I have looked on our present state of liberty as a short-lived possession unless the mass of the people could be informed to a certain degree." --Thomas Jefferson to Littleton Waller Tazewell, 1805.
"No nation is permitted to live in ignorance with impunity." --Thomas Jefferson: Virginia Board of Visitors Minutes, 1821.
"Freedom [is] the first-born daughter of science." --Thomas Jefferson to Francois D'Ivernois, 1795.
"Light and liberty go together." --Thomas Jefferson to Tench Coxe, 1795.
"Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to, convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787. (Madison Version)
As you can see, Jefferson clearly tied the future of democracy to defeating ignorance, encouraging enlightenment and the education of the “common people.” Otherwise, it would be “short lived” as Adams had suggested.
Look at the state of democracy in the United States today where one party places a premium on the gullibility and ignorance of the voter, and once elected , even by democratic means, turns out to succumb to actions which inevitably produce fraud, violence, and cruelty, as Adams points out.
Go back and read both Adams’ and Jefferson’s remarks and think about the “Big Lie” upon which the Republican Party now is based and upon which it depends to attract the votes of the bigoted, the uninformed and the selfish.
Does democracy stand a chance?
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Item Added September 23, 2021
A Quote From John Adams
|John Adams - Our Second President|
John Adams, our second president, served from 1796 until 1800. in 1814 he wrote a letter to a John Taylor from which the following is excerpted. (In 1824, his son, John Quincy Adams, became our sixth president. Notably, both served only one term.) Looking around us today, we can see that John Adams, while not one of our great presidents, knew the score when it came to democracy.
“I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation.”
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Items Added September 22, 2021
Giving Aid and Comfort to an Enemy???
The Constitution defines treason as an act of either levying war against the United States or giving aid and comfort to its enemies. To have the status of being such an "enemy" requires that the recipient of that aid or comfort be officially given “enemy” status through a declaration of war by Congress. However hostile an adversary or opponent might be, that isn't enough to officially make them an "enemy."
Such a declaration hasn’t occurred since World War Two. Our involvements in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan proceeded without such declarations, which would have been far more definitive than the mere “authorization to use military force” which was passed when we sent troops into in Iraq.
Strictly adhering to the Constitution’s definitions and conclusions regarding what constitutes treason gives those accused of it a lot of leeway because terrorist groups don’t fit the traditional definition of governments on which we might declare war and treating them as such would give them an undeserved status which they might be happy to attain.
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Thoughts on the Pandemic
After reading from a variety of sources, mostly online, here are some thoughts I have about how the Covid19 pandemic might ultimately resolve itself. These are my opinions and since I am neither a physician nor a scientist, they are not really authoritative in any way. But here goes anyway.
The coronavirus which carries the Covid19 infection needs a fertile field in which to grow. Once it is planted there, it can spread and mutate. Even though it is not a 100% cure, vaccination reduces the size of that field which the virus seeks by creating antigens in those vaccinated to battle the virus' attempts to spread. Similarly, but to a lesser extent, antigens are present in those who may have been infected.
For a while, reducing that fertile field through “herd immunity” was hoped to be accomplished by a high number of people becoming vaccinated. Although politically inspired misinformation has weakened that effort, the size of the field can still be reduced in the two manners I have pointed out.
In the United States, I would guess that about 70% of the population would have to be vaccinated, ideally more than just one time as new variants develop, and another 20% would be almost equally protected due to having been infected. Both groups would possess sufficient antigens to minimize the size of that fertile field, and thereby, achieve that elusive “herd” immunity.
The question seems to be how long this will take. I don’t think science has sufficient numbers to come up with a solid answer, but my guess is that the 90% number which ought to do the job might take between six to twelve months within the United States. For that degree of immunity to be accomplished worldwide however, remembering that Covid19 is a pandemic and not just an epidemic, will take much, much longer, with a greater number of antigens resulting from infection rather than from vaccination, which is less common outside of the wealthier industrialized Western nations. This would amount to waiting, worldwide, for the pandemic to burn itself out, as similar pandemics have done throughout history.
Until then, the cautionary measures we have been following, including masking and crowd avoidance, will have to be continued.
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Items Added September 19, 2021
Time to Light a Fire Under Texas CEOs
As I promised a few postings back, here are the email addresses of the CEOs of the top 24 Fortune 500 companies with headquarters in Texas. I cannot guarantee that all of them are currently valid or that they will work, but only a few have been bounced back to me when I sent them an email.
Here is the email I have sent to all of them. I include their email addresses with the hope that you will send them a similar email. Copy what I sent or make up your own.
The email message:
Legislation in Texas where your organization operates, using the excuse of almost non-existent voter fraud, restricts the lawful right to vote of many Americans. Other legislation in Texas legalizes vigilante bounty hunting to attack the rights of women to decide for themselves whether they choose to have an abortion. People throughout the nation are concerned that your organization co-exists in a State where such undemocratic, un-American, ideas flourish. It is not expected that you would move from Texas, but you should voice your concern and state your position in regard to such reprehensible legislation. The nation is watching and waiting. Do not stand by and watch democracy go down the drain.
For your information, the companies involved are McKesson, CB Holdings, Hewlett-Packard, D.R. Horton, Great Plains, Enterprise Products, USAA, Kimberly-Clark, Energy Transfer, Oracle, Sysco, Dell, Phillips66, Valero, Halliiburton, AT&T, Exxon-Mobil, Waste Management, Conoco Phillips,Tenet Health, Fluor, American Aiirlines, Occidental Petroleium and Texas Instruments. If you happen to own stock in any of them, you might consider sending a similar communication to their Boards of Directors.
Palm Beach County residents should note theat Tenet Health operates the following local hospitals: Delray Medical Center, Good Samaritan Medical Center, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, St. Mary’s Medical Center and West Boca Medical Center, and that Waste Management collects most of your trash.
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The Tenth Amendment
The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution is short and sweet. It says that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Ah, but those last four words are tricky and may open unexpected doors.
The present administration clearly recognizes, and President Biden’s and Attorney General Garland’s actions reflect the fact that national problems call for national solutions. The day is approaching when voting laws, abortion laws and measures to fight Covid19, all national challenges, are removed from State control and regulated for the entire nation, for the people, by the federal government. This is the issue about which politics will revolve for the next few decades. What do those last four words of the Tenth Amendment mean?
They should not be ignored as the first thirteen words of the Second Amendment have been by the Supreme Court.
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Item Added September 17, 2021
Deluged by Useless Email? Try This
First thing I do when I sit down at my computer each morning to check out my email (like now) is to quickly scan all of the email which Gmail has put into the "promotions" category. I will click on and read the very few real emails which it looks like overly zaealous algorithms have put into that category by mistake, but the vast majority always end up asking for a donation or are selling something and are othewise worthless. I delete them, unread, and then I proceed to then read the real stuff which remains in my "inbox."
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The New Yorker magazine's criticism section recently reviewed two books dealing with war, Yale Professor Samuel Moyn’s “Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and former intelligence officer and NBC News commentator William M. Arkin’s “The Generals Have No Clothes” (Simon & Schuster). They lead me to make a few comments and provide some food for thought.
Efforts to make war more civilized such as the Geneva Convention and avoidance of harm to non-military civilian populations of the warring nations do little to do away with war. In fact, they make war more palatable. ‘Don’t worry about your POWs. We’ll try to feed them and avoid killing them’ the opposing sides all say, although that may be no more than a convenient lie.
In olden days, opposing nations’ armies met on battlefields and fought it out, but civilians were not involved, just the armies. At the Civil War’s start, Washingtonians drove their carriages out to Manassas to watch the first battle of Bull Run as if it were a Superbowl game. Only when the North began to get tough with the Confederacy’s civilian population, as Grant and famously, Sherman, did, did the war come to a close. The Romans fought several wars with Carthage, who always seem to come back for more. Finally after three “traditional” wars, Rome took off their gloves and exterminated the population of Carthage and that was it for that war. Did the carpet bombing of German and Japanese cities, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, contribute to the end of World War Two? You bet it did.
|General Sherman's March to the Sea Through Georgia|
But such killing of civilians is not popular today. Hence, war is fought from a distance using drones, missiles and cyberwarfare, lessening risk to a nation’s military personnel and pinpointing only military or arms production targets. This hurts the enemy but seems to sanitize the act of war since most innocent civilians’ lives are spared (although they might starve to death). Such wars can go on for years and years since a knock-out blow such as Sherman’s scorched earth march through Georgia or Rome’s killing Carthage’s population doesn’t occur.
Add to this that wars are rarely fought between established governments these days. They usually are not “declared” but rather involve a taking a side, usually for economic reasons, in a country’s or region’s civil war or internal insurrection, not even providing anyone one to sign a surrender document. And such wars might be fought partially or entirely with contracted mercenary personnel distancing the battles from civilian oversight and accountability. Such ‘sanitized’ wars, so long as civilian deaths can be kept to a minimum, can go on forever. That's why we got out of Afghanistan.
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My 'opinionating' is not limited to this blog. I also write an occasional letter to the Palm Beach Post. I also am a daily follower, and often a comment maker on Professor Heather Cox Richardson's daily "Letters from an American" to which I recomment that you subscribe. She's on the faculty of Boston College. It's free, unless you want to join the many hundreds who pay $5 a month to be able to make comments. It's reachable at heathercoxrichardson.substack.com. (Get to it by CLICKING HERE.) Anyhow, here are a few comments which I made earlier today.
A Letter to the Palm Beach Post:
No one disputes that because of its Delta variant, there has been an increase in the number of people testing positive for the virus that causes Covid19. Even though many of these people do not manifest symptoms, they can spread the virus to others, which alone justifies increased masking. I suspect that there is an underreporting among those who, despite being vaccinated, have become infected and would test positive, but in the absence of symptoms, see no need to be tested. I also wonder if the number of those testing positive is in any way adjusted by the number of those who subsequently do not test positive. Or does that even matter? Simply considering those testing positive as ‘new cases’ can be misleading.
A comment made on Professor Richardson's site:
In many countries other than the United States of America, those like Michael Flynn, Tucker Carlson and others of that ilk might be sent to 're-education' camps as the Chinese do, be poisoned as has occurred in Russia, or just be 'disappeared,' never to be seen or heard of again as was the practice in some Latin-American nations. But our democratic principles allow them to exist, even as they try to undermine those same democratic principles with acts bordering on treason. But doing so also keeps them in the public spotlight, which is preferable to their hiding as an armed underground resistance tearing at the nation's roots.
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Item Added September 14, 2021
How Close to War the Former President Came
Hope you can read this piece from the Washington Post. It might require a minimal subscription to do so, but it will be worth it. It's about Woodwards's and Costa's new book, "Peril." General Milley saved the nation from a president most in Washington, except similarly deranged Republicans, thought had gone off the rails. The United States will not be safe until the 45th president is neutralized and his followers disarmed and made to obey existing laws. CLICK HERE for the Post article.
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How Much Can be Ignored?
As the facts slowly come out, would this (see picture below) be an "un-American" thing to do, setting a very dangerous precedent, or would not bringing it about be even more "un-American," amounting to letting treasonous acts go unpunished?
Non-feasance and misfeasance may be excusable. Malfeasance, such as instigating a physical attack on Congress to prevent the counting of the Electoral College votes for president, should not be.
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Item Added September 12, 2021
Something You Can Do to Help Save Democracy
Here's the text of an email I am sending to the CEOs of the 25 largest Fortune 500 companies based in Texas. It's a pain in the butt looking up their email addresses, and some of them don't work when you find them, but some do. When I am finished (I am sending a few at a time), I will list the addresses I've sent the emails to, and pass them on to you in one batch, so that you can do the same. Or you can look them up on your own and start sending a few right now. You can use my text shown below or develop your own.
"Legislation in Texas where your organization operates, using the excuse of almost non-existent voter fraud, restricts the lawful right to vote of many Americans. Other legislation in Texas legalizes vigilante bounty hunting to attack the rights of women to decide for themselves whether they choose to have an abortion. People throughout the nation are concerned that your organization co-exists in a State where such undemocratic, un-American, ideas flourish. It is not expected that you would move from Texas, but you should voice your concern and state your position in regard to such reprehensible legislation. The nation is watching and waiting. Do not stand by and watch democracy go down the drain."
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Items Added September 11, 2021
“We Must Be Vigilant, We Must Be Vigilant”
Let us Remember what today, September 11, memorializes and remember those words of that World War Two song, “American Patrol.” We all have lasting memories of that date and here are mine.
On September 9, 2001, we ‘went to contract’ on my home in Cascade Lakes. My wife and my son would be driving back to New York in a few days but business required my being there sooner so I had booked a flight on the afternoon of September 10. Arriving at Palm Beach International Airport, I found my flight had been cancelled but I was able to rebook another flight an hour or so later. It would take me to Newark Airport rather than LaGuardia Airport, but I could live with that. Arriving at about 8:00 p.m., I grabbed a cab to take me to my Long Island home. The driver was a Middle Easterner, possibly from Pakistan, and we discussed an extremist group called the Taliban which was threatening peace in the region he had come from. I later recalled that we both had agreed that they were “bad guys.” Well, the next morning, when I got up and looked at the TV, the first World Trade Center building had already been struck by terrorists and I witnessed the live TV of the second building being hit on NBC. My wife and son took a little bit longer to drive back to New York, during which time I wondered how much more that cab driver really knew about the Taliban and perhaps the terrorist group they were sheltering in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda.
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A Republic, If You Can Keep It
The late Professor Richard Beeman, a University of Pennsylvania historian, wrote the following which appears on the website of the National Constitution Center:
“…. Our Constitution is neither a self-actuating nor a self-correcting document. It requires the constant attention and devotion of all citizens. There is a story, often told, that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’ The brevity of that response should not cause us to under-value its essential meaning: democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.”
Please visit the article from which the above quote comes and note the challenges which our Constitution has faced since its birth in 1789 and continues to face today. Think about the challenges to the Constitution which laws concerning guns, abortion and voting present right now.
I believe the article dates from the early years of this century, but it is still very pertinent today. Read it by CLICKING HERE or directly visit:
The Detoxification of Democracy
The other day, I heard a TV pundit use the expression “the detoxification of democracy.” Certainly, some such process is in order when the voting mechanics of our present democratic republic elects to office anti-democratic individuals such as the forty-fifth president, the present governors of Florida, Texas and a few other States as well and of course, many in both Houses of Congress. The problem with any such “detoxification” process is that like some cancer therapies, the side effects may be fatal to the patient, just as using weed killer in your garden can also destroy some desirable plants as well. But will we even get to that point?
Seeing the selfish and non-sensical opposition to a unified national effort to combat the Covid19 pandemic, the difficulty basic democratic voting reforms are having in Congress and the ultra-right orientation of the Supreme Court, I see an awful lot in our democratic republic which needs to be “detoxified,” if that were even possible.
Are Americans willing to make the sacrifices necessary and do they possess the "active and informed involvement" mentioned in the article quoted directly above to bring about such change? To seek answers to these questions, look at what America watches on TV and how they use the internet, and then draw your own conclusions. Will we choose democracy or self-gratification? I do not believe that necessary changes will be accomplished in my lifetime or even within the lifetime of many of you reading this, but there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel, a beacon of hope.
Items Added September 10, 2021
A Constitutional Question - Federal Supremacy over the States
Yesterday, President Biden announced a broad national program to increase vaccinations, encourage masking and taking other steps to battle the Covid19 Pandemic. Also, the Attorney-General announced that the Department of Justice was suing the State of Texas for its unconstitutional anti-abortion legislation.
These steps are well documented in your daily newspapers, which you should be reading, and even on most reliable news TV news sources.
What really lies behind the President’s and Attorney General Garland’s moves today is that national problems call for national solutions. The day is approaching when voting laws, abortion laws and measures to fight Covid19, all national challenges, are removed from State control and regulated for the entire nation by the federal government. Recognizing that the Constitution leaves all powers to the States which are not specifically delegated to the federal government, this creates problems.
The Federal government can step in where government contracts are involved and in cases which can be linked to interstate commerce, as it has in the past, but dealing with such national challenges solely because of their nationwide impact would involve a massive reinterpretation of our Constitution and the assent of a Supreme Court which has been politicized by the ultra-right during the forty-fifth president’s term and which would not smile benignly on Biden’s and Garland’s actions.
In my opinion, It is clear that if that happens, the President and Congress will take steps to add four more Justices to the Supreme Court. Unlike FDR's failed attempt to do that, this time is would have wide public support. The SCOTUS would be concerned with such expansion and it might affect their actions on cases involving these national issues. We shall see.
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This Devil's Disciple Knows Better
If Floriduh Governor DeSantis were an opponent of masking mandates or required vaccinations because he actually believed the hollow illogical reasons some accept as justification for such positions, his actions would be understandable. But that is not the case. His educational background (Harvard Law and Yale undergraduate degree) and the fact that he is fully vaccinated suggest he is capable of knowing better.
That he takes these positions anyway leaves no alternative other than to describe him as an inherently bad person, politically motivated, with no consideration whatsoever for others. If it fits into one’s religious beliefs, he might even be considered a disciple of the Devil, who is currently wielding his Covid19 weapon against humanity, with the help of those like DeSantis.
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Hmmm? No Comment!
Items Added September 8, 2021
Wanna Know How Many Covid19 Killed in Your Floriduh County? Tough to Find Out
A recent article in the Palm Beach Post ... here's the link to it:
pointed out why people who live in Floriduh don’t really know how many deaths from Covid19 are occurring locally in the counties where they live. It is all very unclear and confusing but one thing is clear, the State is not making any effort to be straightforward and honest in reporting local Covid19 death statistics.
This all started months ago when Rebekah Jones, the computer person who managed Floriduh’s Covid19 database, quit in disgust, and later was even prosecuted. It continues with mumbo-jumbo about decreasing Covid19 death rates while the number of deaths themselves are not decreasing, if not increasing.
Floriduh’s hospital ICUs, overcrowded with Covid19 patients, are something Floriduh’s governor avoids discussing because it makes him look bad.
My advice: Get vaccinated, wear a mask when among other people, especially indoors and in crowded venues ... which you should try to avoid, continue to frequently wash your hands, and forget that Governor DeSantis even exists.
* * *
Death Rates and Deaths and Fire Engines
Covid19 "Death Rates," even if declining, are not as important as the number of Covid19 deaths. Given the same death rate, a larger number of infected individuals will produce more deaths than a smaller number. (Example: If a death rate is 1.5% of infected individuals, there will be 450 deaths among 30,000 infected individuals but 600 among 40,000 individuals.) This is why Floriduh's administration does not report the number of deaths per county, but instead mentions a declining "death rate."
Their governor, who really knows better, prefers to let the number of infected individuals rise, but offers monoclonal antibody treatment to them instead of trying to reduce the number infected by masking and vaccination.
His next step will be to remove all building codes designed to prevent fires but authorize the purchase of more fire engines to solve the problem of the resulting fires. This is far too complicated for a voting majority of Floriduh's residents to understand.
* * *
Labor Day is More than Just Another Day for a Picnic
Today is Labor Day, celebrated since 1892. It is a day to remember and honor the many reforms to benefit working people made over the years. The impetus for many of them was the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York in 1911. The absence of laws to protect workers' health and safety, or the failure to enforce them where they exist, still lead to the deaths of many workers. Immigrants, or their children, comprised the death toll in that historic Manhattan fire, just as they comprise the death toll in illegal basement apartments in New York City from which recent flood waters prevented their escape. Those on the bottom of the economic ladder are the most vulnerable to such hazards and need laws to protect them.
* * *
The Ignorant Around Us
I wonder how many of those who have not been vaccinated or those who don’t bother with masks when in public places ever bother to read newspapers, or even know they exist.
Those headsets they are wearing drum music into their ears but little else. Same goes for the escapist TV they might watch or the internet sites they visit to peruse 'social media' posted by equally ignorant individuals.
When I check out in a supermarket or other store (for something I don’t choose to buy online), I usually ask the clerk if they are vaccinated. Some say “yes” (and I offer them a sticker saying so) but many say “no” with a dumb expression on their faces indicating they haven’t the foggiest idea what I am asking about, or about the Covid19 pandemic, the *Supreme Court or Afghanistan, or anything else that really matters.
There are many such people around. They are "the ignorant," the presence of which our democracy seems to pretend do not exist. But they do.
*(Not to be confused with the most loyal followers of the vocal group led by Diana Ross back in the 1960s and 1970s)
* * *
Beardless Taliban Seizes Control of the United States' Judicial System
(As some of you may know, I closely follow Professor Heather Cox Richardson's daily postings on "Letters From An American." Followers on that site often make comments and this one appeared there this morning. It was posted by a Marty London and originated on his blog, "Marty's Blog." I urge you to read it and forward it to others who are concerned with the future of America. Highlighting was added by me. The link at the comment's conclusion is that of London and not mine.)
"We were at war in Afghanis'tan for twenty years. The fight was against the Taliban. Originally, the justification was the failure of the Afghanis to control terrorist groups that threatened the safety and well-being of the United States citizenry. But even after first we beat the Taliban, and a U.S. supported government was installed, and even after we killed Usama Bin Laden, we continued to support the war against the Taliban insurgency. The cost was horrendous: 2,500 American servicemen and women, thousands of US contractors, all at the expense of billions of dollars.
Why did we continue to fight this war? Because the Taliban represented everything that we thought was evil, contrary to our laws, culture, and Constitutional values. They were religious fundamentalists, they had no notion of equality, no integrity, no judicial system that followed the rule of law. Most prominently they subjected women to the role of enslaved people. In the pre-civil war United States, not only was there no school for slaves, it was against the law to create one. Under Taliban rule, a school dedicated to teaching girls how to read was burned to the ground. Even twenty years after the US at first defeated the Taliban, only 37% of Afghani girls know how to read.
The recent anti-abortion law In Texas is right out of the Taliban handbook. Women have no control over their reproductive systems. They are slaves to male domination. What's more, Texas has eviscerated it's rule of law. Physicians face felony charges for performing abortions later than 6 weeks of pregnancy. Everyone, in or out of the state, has the right to sue any person who ”aids or abets" a woman who gets an abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy. The concept of “standing to sue," which is explicit in the Federal Constitution, no longer exists in the State of Texas. In Texas, it's now neighbor against neighbor.
The new tribal Republican right is an absolute threat to our democracy. The Big Lie, the party's vigorous effort to block any inquiry into the January 6th Capitol insurrection, the rash of anti-voting new legislation, all are consistent with Taliban rule.
And perhaps most shocking, the Federal judiciary, now controlled by the Taliban wing of our judiciary, has turned its back on Texas women and on the rule or law.
The Judiciary's reaction to this Texas anti-abortion scheme, is a step too far. Despite the unambiguous unconstitutionality of the Texas statute, both the Fifth Circuit, and more importantly, the Supreme Court, refused to interfere. And the Supremes’ did the dirty deed in the dark of night, on the stroke of midnight, on something called “the shadow docket.”– a place lacking the regular opportunities to file written or oral arguments. And all of this happened because tribal chief McConnell stole a Supreme Court seat from Obama, and put Amy Coney Barrett on the Court. Earlier, Justice Kavanagh had made a pre-confirmation promise not to disturb a woman’s freedom of choice as protected in Roe v Wade--a promise he has now broken-- an offense for which we have no remedy. When Barrett and Kavanagh joined Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch on the Court, Roe was doomed.
For sure, the judicial Talibans will argue that this decision is not permanent, and the Court will take the matter up in regular order next year, but this is legal mumbo-jumbo. They cannot walk away from the truth. They have allowed Texas to control a woman’s reproductive freedom, and in doing so have disgraced the Court.
Let me be clear. I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I believe that it is morally and legally reprehensible to make laws that imprison physicians who would accommodate women who wish to terminate their pregnancies in accordance with the 50-year old Supreme Court decision in Wade. And I do understand that a minority of our population disagrees with me.
But the evil here goes well beyond the abortion issue. It is about judicial fundamentalism and tribalism shredding the rule of law. The Sixth Circuit and the Supreme Court have brazenly dismissed the rule of law without legal due process. Once that virus spreads, we will become more like China than a western democracy.
I do believe the Texas/Supreme Court abortion outrage is so horrendous that the Democrats can be fired up to recognize what is at risk here. 2024 is the key. The Democrats must maintain the House and they must pick up three seats in the Senate (two Democrats will vote against abolishing the ancient filibuster rule by which the tribal Republican caucus can veto any Democrat-sponsored legislation. Only by abolishing the filibuster rule and adding four Justices to the Supreme Court can our democracy prevail. And I believe the American Taliban has now so completely shat upon our Constitutional democracy that enough people -- Democrats, Independents, and perhaps some sensible Republicans-- will gag at the stink, pay attention, and vote to fix this. The stakes are very high.
There is no fixed schedule for these posts. If you would like to receive a notice of each new posting, please fill out the form at <"http://eepurl.com/gf7fS9">.
* * *
Time to Boycott Texas
Some may recall the 2021 Baseball All-Star Game being moved from Atlanta to Denver because of the Georgia legislature's attempt to supress voting and adhere to the "Big Lie." That was a good move. Now it is time to institute a similar boycott of everything "Texan." If the rest of American stopped doing business with Texas, and that means in all commerce, finance, sports, education, health care and even petroleum, they might get the idea. (A good start would be for airlines that use Houston or Dallas as "hubs" to move them elsewhere.)
* * *
Pallbearers at American Democracy's Funeral
The Supreme Court’s letting the obviously unconstitutional Texas abortion legislation go uncontested is the result of the appointment of three politically committed SCOTUS justices by the forty-fifth president. His election, with a minority of the popular vote in 2016, was the result our obsolete Electoral College (of which we should rid ourselves) putting him in the White House because of the votes of gullible voters in just a few states being influenced by TV and internet news misrepresentation, and barely regulated dishonest social media, both protected by the First Amendment.
This Court majority will rule against or refuse to hear litigation challenging the Texas abortion law and many similar laws which are in the GOP's pipeline. This is an attack on the “incorporation doctrine,” which expands the rights of the Fourteenth Amendment from the Federal level to that of the States, preventing them from denying any person equal protection of the laws, any more than the federal government can.
That doctrine was the basis for many decisions regarding desegregation in schools and elsewhere, voting rights, abortion and gender equality over the past seventy years. The five “justices” who refused to hear the Texas case know what “stare decisis,” that is, adhering to legal precedents in making decisions, means and chose to ignore it. Rather, they have chosen to be pallbearers at the funeral of American democracy.
We can sit by and calmly state that this is a crisis for American democracy and watch it die or do something about it. Short of civil war and the falling apart of the Union, all we have left as weaponry is the election process, which itself is the target of attacks by those who would destroy democracy here.
Americans must recognize that a vote for a Republican at any level, national or State, is a vote for someone who does not believe in democracy and has no business holding public office. If that doesn't work, it looks like our great experiment will have failed.
It's up to you.
* * *
Items Added September 3, 2021
And You May Think Floriduh is Neanderthal ... Well, Texas is Worse
Remember Allen West, the ultra-right whacko who managed to get elected to a term in Congress from a Broward/Palm Beach County district a few years back?
Floriduh's ultra-rightists weren’t screwball enough for his tastes so West moved to Texas where until recently, he was chairman of that State’s G.O.P. He has quit that job though and is now running for governor there, basing his campaign on his belief that Governor Greg Abbott is not far enough to the right! West stands for everything that is not in the interests of voters, wherever they may be, Floriduh or Texas. His presence in the campaign, however, pushes Abbott further to the right, if that were possible, so not to lose any support to West.
The racial message present in all ultra-right campaigning is somewhat hidden because West is, as you remember, Black. So is ultra-rightist talk show host Larry Elder who might end up governor of California if Governor Newsom is recalled there this month. Crazy world we live in!
* * *
We Write Letters (You Should Too!)
Here's the text of a letter from me which the Palm Beach Post published today. They softened it a bit, but that's okay.
"The recent (Wednesday, Aug. 25) letter writer who criticized the Post’s “ultra-left liberal articles” echoes the conservative positions taken by those who preferred the rule of George III in 1776 to the “ultra-left liberal” Declaration of Independence, by those who insisted in 1789 that our otherwise “ultra-left liberal” Constitution include protection for slavery, by those who advocated secession in 1861, and by many who opposed the “ultra-left liberal” democratic reforms initiated by Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He probably would have disliked Thomas Paine as much as he does Frank Cerabino. But he is entitled to speak up and write letters to newspapers."
* * *
Ultra-Right Takes Control of SCOTUS
|Can You Name Them?|
It looks like the "movement conservative" disease of the Republican Party which started with the writings of William Buckley and has infected their presidential candidates since Barry Goldwater has spread to the Supreme Court. After all, the former president, with the aid of Mitch McConnell, got to appoint three justices. This is the saddest of the legacies the forty-fifth president bequeathed to us.
And come to think of it, the expression "movement conservative" is too much of an "inside" thing, chiefly used among academics and political savants. We need a bettter expression. "Movement conservative" doesn't provide a ready target like "liberal," "progressive" or even "socialist" do. I lean toward "ultra-right" which at least provides a target at which liberals and progressives can aim their criticism. Otherwise, it is scattered all over the place and loses effectiveness.
* * *
Items Added September 1, 2021
Roe vs Wade Endangered
I was preparing a very detailed and even witty set of comments to make in regard to the Supreme Court’s not acting to stop the State of Texas’ almost complete ban on abortion, with the public empowered to enforce it, but I have crumpled it up and dropped it into my computer's version of a wastebasket.
Instead all I have to say is that any woman in the United States of America who votes for any Republican candidate whatsoever should have her head examined.
And if you don't know what I am talking about, you should have your head examined as well!
* * *
The Bitter Fruit of Democracy
The failure to prosecute right wing agitators, even ones elected to office, who say treasonous things weakens democracy. The recent statements of Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy violate the law (See US Code: 18 U.S. Code - Sec 1505) but we don't see him being prosecuted by the Department of Justice, at least not yet. Why not? Because doing so, in America, would also weaken democracy. It is the kind of thing that happens in Russia or China, but not here.
The January 6 hearings on the Capitol insurrection are a waste of time unless their findings result in indictments and trials. Either way, democracy loses. We are witnessing the bitter fruit which can grow from the seeds of democracy.
Those who wrote our Constitution were well aware of the dangers of pure democracy and made sure there were mechanisms to curtail it. They saw too much "populism" as a danger. These steps included the numerical equality of all of the States in the Senate, regardless of population, the indirect (by State legislature, usually) selection of Senators, the Electoral College and leaving the right to vote to each State individually to determine. But this wasn’t enough to deter supposed dangerous democratic reforms.
By the early Nineteenth century, politicians realized that a broader electorate, including less intelligent and often more gullible voters, was the key to getting elected. Gradually, States changed their election laws, making them more democratic. By 1913, via the Seventeenth Amendment, Senators were elected directly. The first beneficiary of this “democratization of America” was Andrew Jackson, who catered to this new "populism" and it has been that way ever since his election (along with an ultra-conservative running mate to lock in the pro-slavery vote) in 1828.
|Jackson, a victorious general, a leader. No one cared about |
the way he treated Native Americans and lived with slavery.
Trump even hung his portrait in the Oval offfice.
That's why you can taste that bitter fruit mentioned above in your mouth.
* * *
Items Added August 30, 2021
Here are the lyrics of a Rodgers and Hammerstein melody. Reference to it is made further on in this posting.
|Yul Brynner in the movie version|
“Is A Puzzlement!” … from the “King and I”
When I was a boy
World was better spot
What was so was so
What was not was not
Now I am a man;
World have changed a lot
Some things nearly so
Others nearly not
There are times I almost think
I am not sure of what I absolutely know
Very often find confusion
In conclusion I concluded long ago
In my head are many facts
That, as a student, I have studied to procure
In my head are many facts
Of which I wish I was more certain I was sure!
Is a puzzlement
What to tell growing son
What for instance, shall I say to him of women?
Shall I educate him on the ancient lines?
Shall I tell the boy as far as he is able
To respect his wives and love his concubines?
Shall I tell him everyone is like the other
And the better of the two is really neither?
If I tell him this I think he won't believe it—
And I nearly think that I don't believe it either!
When my father was a king
He was a king who knew exactly what he knew
And his brain was not a thing
Forever swinging to and fro and fro and to
Shall I, then be like my father
And be willfully unmovable and strong?
Or is it better to be right?
Or am I right when I believe I may be wrong?
Shall I join with other nations in alliance?
If allies are weak, am I not best alone?
If allies are strong with power to protect me
Might they not protect me out of all I own?
Is a danger to be trusting one another
One will seldom want to do what other wishes;
But unless someday somebody trust somebody
There'll be nothing left on earth excepting fishes!
There are times I almost think
Nobody sure of what he absolutely know
Everybody find confusion
In conclusion he concluded long ago
And it puzzle me to learn
That tho' a man may be in doubt of what he know
Very quickly he will fight
He'll fight to prove that what he does not know is so!
Oh-h-h-h-h-h! Sometimes I think that people
Ah-h-h-h-h-h! Sometimes I think that people not so bad!
But not matter what I think
I must go on living life
As leader of my kingdom I must go forth
Be father to my children and husband to each wife
Etcetera, etcetera, and so forth
If my Lord in Heaven Buddha, show the way!
Everyday I try to live another day
If my Lord in Heaven Buddha, show the way!
Everyday I do my best for one-more day!
But... is a puzzlement!
* * *
I am no longer young. Of two things, however, I am certain.
One is that I will not live forever. The other is that the problems we face will not be solved in my lifetime.
These problems involve overwhelming worldwide challenges such as climate change and its effect on our planet, world peace, nuclear weapons control and proliferation, hunger and starvation, fighting diseases including but much more than Covid19, and the preservation of human rights, including those of minorities throughout the planet.
Domestically, they include our own government’s role in approaching these universal, worldwide challenges and specifically, making sure that democracy survives in our country. This means guaranteeing individual voting rights here. It means realistic controls over gun violence here. It means making health care readily available to all here. It means guaranteeing the right to speak one’s thoughts, even when those words are anti-democratic, here. It means equal economic opportunity here, even if that necessitates a redistribution of wealth through tax reform. It means clarifying what powers in a democracy it is better for our individual States to have and what powers our Federal government ought to have, in order to best serve the interests of the people.
And none of these problems will be solved in my lifetime.
So, might not it be better, when one reaches a certain age, to devote oneself to art, to music, to literature, to religion, to sports, to hobbies, to gardening or even the junk available on TV 24 hours a day, rather than to problems which will not be solved in one’s lifetime? History and philosophy should be avoided too because they funnel right back to those problems. This can result in less frustration and more satisfaction over one’s remaining lifetime than can be derived by confronting the impossible dream and fighting the unbeatable foe, as an elderly and senile Don Quixote attempted to do.
I just don’t know the answer. As the King of Siam sang, or spoke, in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I,” “Is a puzzlement.”
But the first step might be to cease reading newspapers and watching news on TV or via other media sources. And of course, not reading this blog! Ever! I just don’t know the answer.
* * *
We Cannot Ignore Covid19
Even though vaccination is not an absolute guarantee of immunity against Covid19, the severity of symptoms, if any, manifested by those vaccinated who become infected is reduced. Vaccination also reduces the virus' spread, lessening its opportunities for it to mutate into new variants. How long a vaccine remains effective is still up in the air and repeat vaccinations, as done annually with flu, may be necessary.
In addition to vaccinations, for whatever they are worth, Covid19 must be fought by masking in environments outside of one’s home, especially but not exclusively, indoor ones. Unnecessary exposure to environments where numbers of people are present such as restaurants, theatre, concert and sports venues, stores, etc. present a hazard which can be avoided. There are certain to be infected people there, spreading the virus. The same goes for schools and workplaces, but these environments cannot be avoided so extra care is necessary there. Social distancing helps but is not in itself a cure. Like vaccinations, even masking is not an absolute answer. Nor is handwashing and avoidance of personal touching. But by observing together all of the points mentioned above, Covid19 can be defeated.
And the people who claim that mandating any of them is a denial of their personal rights, they should be shunned, and in if in elective office, defeated, because their insistence on their personal rights can cause sickness or even death of others. They have the right to risk their own lives, but not the lives of others. And this includes the politically motivated low-life governors of Florida and Texas, and others of the Republican Party, the motto of which should be "Party over Country and the Lives of its Citizens," and which would not even exist were it not for the massive number of ignorant and gullible American voters who swallow its lies.
|An Ally Of the Enemy?|
* * *
Item Added August 28, 2021
Other Ways Out? Are Republicans "Americans"?
As the airlift flights out of Kabul conclude, I suspect that there have been other ways of getting out of Afghanistan. By now, some routes may have been established but you won't hear about them from the news media. That would give them away. The long borders with Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and even Iran are mountainous and may not be fully under conrol of the governments of these countries nor the Taliban. They might be controlled by the remnants of the former Afghan government, ISIS-K or local tribal leaders who don't care who rules in the capital.
These mountainous borders are porous and I wouldn't be surprised if those who know the mountain passes and who controls them are right now leading Afghans out of the the country that way. Money opens a lot of otherwise closed avenues.
We mourn those killed in Kabul, but without a real government in Afghanistan, could it have ended otherwise? The troops we have there are like the last remaining pieces of a losing side on a chessboard. Our exit strategy depended on a government which ceased to exist, and that is the fault of four presidents and their advisors who didn't understand the messages of history. Our armed forces and President Biden did what had to be done. In times of such crises, Americans have always stood united, which leads me to question the "Americanism" of many Republicans.
* * *
Reminders: Vaccinated or not (and if not, please get vaccinated), wear a mask when among others outside of your household, especially when indoors.
* * *
Item Added August 27, 2021
Where Do We Go From Here
Once there are no longer any Americans in Afghanistan, the United States will live up to President Biden's promise to seek out and destroy those who carried out the suicide bombings in Kabul yesterday. Though their names and personnel have changed somewhat, we are still chasing after those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, even after the death of Osama bin Laden.
The nefarious goals of Al Qaeda and ISIS (or ISIS-K or ISIS "wherever") are too closely tied to a marriage of theology and politics, so we must avoid, when we attack those groups directly or through proxies, our actions being taken as an attack on Islam or on Muslims as a people, a mistake which our 45th president made.
Sooner or later, there will be more MOAB bombings as mentioned below, cyberwarfare and support of groups who are not necessarily our friends but the use of American military ground forces seems unlikely. We will be taking on temporary allies, like the Taliban, wherever their goals match ours. And our actions, and unfortunately retaliation to them, will not be limited to Afghanistan. This is something for the "long haul" and every effort must be made to avoid it becoming a political issue, something the otherwise bankrupt Republican Party may stoop to.
* * *
Item Added August 26, 2021
Remember the "MOAB"?
Back in April, 2017, our forces in Afghanistan dropped what was then called the MOAB (Mother of All Bombs) on a group attempting to attack and replace the Afghan government. No, it wasn’t aimed at the Taliban but rather, at the ISIS terrorists which still exist in Afghanistan today. That ISIS group opposed not only the Afghan government but the less militant Taliban as well. The MOAB was one step below nuclear weaponry.
And this scenario fits in well with the bombing outside of Kabul’s airport, an attempt to slow the massive evacuation of Americans and many of the Afghans who worked with them without much interference from the newly empowered Taliban. As I said the other day, the enemy of your enemy is, at least temporarily, your friend. It may be that the Taliban is just as much opposed to Islamic terrorism, as personified by ISIS-K and Al Qaeda, as the United States is. They are their enemies. Even given the Taliban’s religious intolerance and extremism, this still is a handle which we should attempt, in my opinion, to grasp in seeking to define our relationship with a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
Look at whom we dropped the MOAB on back in 2017 and you’ll find out who was behind the bombing outside of Kabul’s airport.
* * *
Item Added August 24, 2021
My Latest Commentary on Afghanistan and the Taliban
The airlift removing Americans and Afghans who worked for them from Afghanistan will go down in history as one of the most successful such operations carried out by any government, anywhere. Opponents of President Biden and the Democratic (not Democrat) administration will call it a failure, but that it definitely is not. That is just grist for the mills of lies one hears on Fox News, Newsmax and on social media.
Several points come to mind which cause me to think of it that way, in my opinion.
(1) Although it is unspoken, the Taliban recognizes our ability to bomb the crap out of their forces anytime that we wish and they do not need that to happen. They want to devote their energies to establishing some sort of Islamic government in Afghanistan and bombs falling on them at this point is not in their interest. Neither would foreign economic sanctions, particularly in finances, be conducive to their setting up a government. We, of course, will have no love for whatever government they establish, but it will be better than the corrupt excuse for a government which evaporated as soon as it found out that the United States would no longer be its crutch or wheelchair, and which begged us not to leave sooner and start evacuations earlier. At least we know where the Taliban is coming from. And they know what we are capable of.
(2) The Taliban has two prime enemies, and right now, the United States is not one of them. In fact, we can be helpful to them in dealing with these two enemies. They fear opposition from those inculcated with America’s democratic ideas over the past twenty years. Leadership to rally around to oppose the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan would come from that group. They recognize that the United States is removing as many of these Afghans as possible from the country, taking away the leadership of possible opposition to their rule. In that sense, they approve of the continuing airlift. You won’t hear about it, but it will quietly continue after any announced deadline. It is in their interest not to have these ‘dangerous’ people remaining in Afghanistan. An exception to this might be their need for engineers, certain key civil servants and medical people, whom they might not want to see leave.
(3) There is another group they fear. It is ISIS-K, an Iraqi based terrorist group which is far more extreme, and bloodier, than the Taliban. They have established roots in Afghanistan and would be more than willing to use that country as a base from which to launch terrorism against the West, particularly the United States. In doing so, they would overthrow and replace whatever government the Taliban establishes, by violent means if necessary. I don’t expect there to be any publicity about it, but in my opinion, the United States might be helpful to the Taliban in destroying, or at least defanging, ISIS-K in Afghanistan. In that sense, we would be allies against a common foe. As it has been said, 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend.' At least temporarily.
Keep an eye open for sentences or even just words which might slip into news reports which hint at our developing attitude toward the Taliban in regard to these points.
* * *
Items Added August 23, 2021
There’s a lot going on this morning.
The New York Times reports that today, the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and up, making it the first to move beyond emergency use status in the United States. Now, finally, governments, schools and businesses will have less difficulty issuing and enforcing vaccination requrements.
* * *
Dumb Floridian Family Screws Up
But let’s start with the screwball unvaccinated Floriduh family that showed up for their Hawaiian vacation armed with bogus vaccination cards which they had bought. Frank Cerabino wrote about them this weekend, quoting the Hawaii Tourist Authority’s webpage as saying “Now that travelers can once again enjoy our islands, we are asking you to join in our efforts to help keep Hawaii safe.” (The Floriduh family was so stupid that they had provided phony vaccination documents for their children, too young to be vaccinated, which gave their illegal ploy away and subjects them to an $8,000 fine by Hawaii which required such documentation.)
Cerabino, in the Palm Beach Post, justifies their action since as gullible Floridians, they could “opt out” from such things, coming from a culture “steeped in the proliferation of personal weapons, the underfunding of public education, and the celebration and elevation of brute ignorance.”
All You Want to Know About Covid19 Breakthrough Infections and More
As is a common problem with articles in the New Yorker magazine, the current issue contains an article about Covid19 which might take almost an hour to read and twice that to understand. It is about "breakthrough infections” but goes a lot further.
I subscribe to the New Yorker and admit I never finish about half of their well-written but seemingly endless articles. Anyhow, if you want to really, and I mean really, learn about what the story is with Covid19 today, cancel whatever else you have on your schedule for today and CLICK HERE.
And if that doesn't work for you, the article can be found at:
ABC’s political analyst Matthew Dowd pointed out this weekend that “more than 20,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan without a single loss of an American life, while in the same period of time, 5000 Americans have died from Covid-19 and 500 have died from gunshots.”
Actually, the number is now 28,000 and the focus of the news media seems to be improperly viewing what really is a successful rescue operation as a failure. That's okay for Fox, but the others seem on that track as well.
In my opinion, it is correct to remove our troops from Afghanistan, but if necessary, we must exert force upon that country’s Taliban rulers to permit an orderly withdrawal of anyone who wants to leave, especially those who supported our backing of the ousted government.
We lived up to our ex-president’s foolish agreement to remove our troops and have the former Afghan government release 5000 Taliban prisoners, but they are not living up to their side of the agreement. A few well-directed air strikes might convince them to behave better. Threatening to carry them out might suffice, if we can find someone to talk to among the Taliban leadership.
"Nearer My God Than Thee" Department
And MSNBC’s Anthea Butler writes about how evangelical Christians are turning their backs on Afghan refugees.
She writes that "Daily scenes of chaos at the Kabul airport show how badly many Afghans want to leave the country of their birth rather than stay under the Taliban's rule. Many of these refugees will have a hard time gaining entry to the U.S. thanks to an ongoing campaign of xenophobia. And white Protestant evangelicals especially are increasingly unwilling to offer shelter to those in need. This hardening of hearts was encouraged by the Trump administration," Butler writes.
* * *
Item Added August 20, 2021
Here's Frank Cerabino's column from today's Palm Beach Post. It still boggles the mind how our government and its intelligence services saw fit to ignore the lessons of history the late Michael Browning wrote about. Surely they knew at least this much.
Recalling a former Post colleague's prescient writings on the perils of Afghanistan | Frank Cerabino
The Afghanistan conflict outlasted Michael Browning, who died in 2006, but his warnings after 9/11 about involvement in Afghanistan still hold true.
'Watching the final unraveling of the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan this week, I found myself going back to read the prescient words of my old friend and colleague Michael Browning.
And wishing he could weigh in again.
A learned, special voice above the noise
Browning was the best newspaper writer you have never heard of. Nobody had a deeper tool bag of knowledge or a better mastery of getting words to paper. He lived alone here in Palm Beach Gardens, unless you count the more than 10,000 books, often rare volumes, that lined the walls of his home.
His newspaper stories were like small taps into a deep vein, each one a kind of tiny opening into a seemingly limitless horizon. He was a living Wikipedia before there was the Internet. He spoke Latin, Greek and Mandarin. He could carry on forever about the stars in the night sky. And he had a wicked sense of humor, all delivered with his disarming, countryfied North Florida lilt behind a bear-like lumbering frame. For nine years ending in 1992, Browning was The Miami Herald’s correspondent in East Asia.
He survived being stabbed while working for the newspaper. But that happened when he was working stateside. Browning would drive his car from the newsroom parking lot during lunch hours and park under a bridge overpass in Miami’s Overtown section.
Somebody robbed and stabbed him there. At first, police incorrectly assumed it was a drug deal gone bad. No, it was just the quiet but dangerous spot Browning had found to do some midday pleasure reading.
A Palm Beach Post treasure
The Palm Beach Post was lucky enough to hire Browning away from the Herald in 1999 as a feature writer, and two years later, giving him a platform to occasionally write about the American intervention in Afghanistan following the attacks of 9/11 orchestrated by Taliban-protected terrorist Osama bin Laden.
I still remember the piece he wrote just six days after those attacks, the piece that quoted beyond-the-grave warnings over intervention in Afghanistan from 19th century English poet Rudyard Kipling.
Browning’s piece recounted the folly of invading armies trying to bring unified control to the Afghan people. One particular passage stuck out to me:
'"Guarded by sawtoothed mountains like the Hindu Kush and the Karakorum, gated by titanic passes like the Khyber and the Bolan, and surrounded by countries that have mixed or ill feelings for the United States – China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – this nearly Texas-sized country has been independent since 1747, longer than the United States. It is home to some of the fiercest fighters on Earth: a hodge-podge of clans and tribes who seem born for war.
The Afghans are a nation of children, Alexander Burnes wrote condescendingly in his 1834 Travels Into Bokhara. 'In their quarrels they fight and become friends without any ceremony. They cannot conceal their feelings from one another, and a person with any discrimination may at all times pierce their designs. … I imbibed a very favorable estimate of their national character.'
A few years later Burnes was hacked to pieces by an Afghan mob in Kabul."
In 2005, Browning reviewed a book entitled “The Man Who Would Be King,” a nonfiction account by Ben Macintyre of how Josiah Harlan, an American dentist from Pennsylvania, teamed up with the deposed king of Afghanistan during the early 19th Century in a failed bid to rule a northern province of that country.
"Today, when American troops are struggling to bring order to the unruliest country in Central Asia, Harlan's history has a special relevance, for Afghanistan is the graveyard of military dreams. Afghanistan defeated the English in 1839, swallowing up an army 17,000 strong. It bested the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
Will we fare any better, even with the best intentions? Those who would wage the war against 'terror' and anarchy in Afghanistan could do worse than read Macintyre's book."
"Today, ravaged by two decades of war, savaged by the Taliban and polluted by the spoor of Osama bin Laden, only the danger remains, amid the squalor and ruin of battle. The whole nation has become an exploded ruin. It exists in fragments and fiefdoms, much as it did in Harlan's day.
Indeed, Afghanistan emerges from Macintyre's account as the geopolitical opposite of Switzerland. It is a country where nobody is neutral, nobody is rich, opium beats chocolate, and everybody is armed and furious."
Words that stand the test of time
During his foreign correspondent days, Browning met Afghan fighters and found them impressive in ways that seem foreign to us. He wrote:
"The Afghans themselves proved astonishingly resilient, able to absorb immense punishment. I remember visiting a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1987 and being escorted through a dim ward where men lying in bed struggled to their feet and attempted to shake hands and make the gesture of greeting and peace with arms that ended in bandaged stumps, while standing on one-and-a-half legs."
By contrast, he found America’s resolve for our Middle East occupations to be surface-deep and ultimately dooming, as he wrote in a 2004 piece that advocated bringing back the military draft.
"We haven't outsourced just jobs in America. We've outsourced our military. We are relying on the poor and the patriotic to fight our wars for us. 'You had a good home but you left, you're right!' the marching cadence runs.
They go to battle. We go to Disney World.
This month, while Marines were dying in Fallujah, we were glued to the tube, watching Donald Trump hire a gussied-up little gosling as his new "apprentice" for $250,000 a year with a sports car thrown in.
After Pearl Harbor, thousands of young men mobbed recruiting stations. After Sept. 11, thousands of Americans bought a flag at Wal-Mart and considered their duty done.
We may be the most powerful nation on Earth, possessing the most powerful military arm on Earth, but the nation has become numb to its own arm's pain and struggles. At some level, we no longer sense the blows it is striking for us, or the bleeding it is suffering for us, because in a lot of ways it no longer is our arm."
Browning was one of the last group of young men drafted in the Vietnam War. He was enrolled at Columbia University in New York, where he got a student deferment, which he called a “gross injustice.”
“Young men too poor to attend college got shipped off to war,” he wrote.
Browning wanted to change his status. He tried to get Evelyn O. Perry, the head of the Jacksonville draft board, to reclassify him as a “Conscientious Objector.”
“I sent Mrs. Perry quotations from Euripides' 'Phoenissae,' a powerful Greek tragedy about the horrors of war,” Browning wrote. “She wasn't impressed. I was ordered to report. I delayed, frantically seeking a way out …
It took awhile, but two FBI agents finally showed up at my apartment in New York one evening, handcuffed me and took me off to a federal detention center. One night in jail convinced me that the Army was preferable to prison.”
The draft ended when Browning was still going through boot camp, which he called “the great threshing floor, a perfectly level place where Ph.D.s scrubbed pots and peckerwoods gave orders.”
He spent two uneventful years in the Army that led to working on a base newspaper in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. And that opened the door to his first civilian journalism job at the Jacksonville Times-Union.
“Looking back on it, the U.S. Army was one of the safest, nicest, friendliest places I've ever been in,” he wrote.
Browning died of liver failure at the age of 58 in December of 2006. He asked that instead of flowers, popcorn be scattered over his grave.
Fifteen years later, I’m sure if Browning were still around, he’d have a lot to say about America’s 20-year-long occupation of Afghanistan and this month’s mad scramble to get out.
Maybe starting with, "It's about time." '
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Items Added August 18, 2021
Dangers All Aroung Us Warrant Vigilance
If the Covid doesn’t getcha,
Wildfires and floods might, I betcha,
There’s danger with the Talibans,
Or even worse, Republicans!
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Trump's Betrayal of Afghanistan
Here's the agreement with the Taliban made by the Trump admnistration on February 29, 2020 without the participation of the existing Afghan government. Click Here to read it.
This abandonment of the Afghan government led to their military gradually disintegrating, opening the way to the Taliban's taking over in a matter of days, rather than the weeks or months we had counted on. Once they knew we would be leaving at the end of April 2021 (President Biden extended this to August 31 but that meant little), the game was over and Afghanistan no longer had a viable army to deter the Taliban. The conferences between the Taliban and the crumbling Afghan government in the agreement never accomplished anything, and in effect, the Taliban gave up nothing in exchange for our removal of our troops.
Another Republican mess left for the Democrats to rectify. And they try to put the blame on Biden. It is shared equally by the four presidents who presided over our efforts in that country, but especially by our 45th president who thought he could make deals with anyone and everyone.
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Item Added August 17, 2021
Here's the Washington Post's Pakistan-Afghanistan Bureau Chief's explantion of why Afghanistan crumbled so quickly. Obviously, she knows much more than our CIA and NSA did about what was going on. Shame on them for their ignorance. But if they knew and kept silent, there are questions to be answered. And even more if they had spoken up and were ignored.
Afghanistan’s military collapse: Illicit deals and mass desertions
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Items Added August 16, 2021
"Everything Is Going As Planned, Sir"
Afghanistan just fell to the Taliban like the proverbial "house of cards." How did this happen? We were in the course of getting out, a process which former president Trump and President Biden both supported, but that country's unexpectedly instantaneous collapse raises questions.
In any well-run organization or business, when an ongoing project involving enormous sums of money exists, those in charge insist on periodic status reports regarding the project's progress. This is what top management depends on in making decisions.
Obviously, our training of the Afghan military and its status were not properly reported upon. It looks like any such reports were rubber stamped "Everything is going as planned." That's why our government was grossly misinformed when it actually expected military resistance to the Taliban by an army of 300,000. From what I've read, our troops on the ground and many others clearly recognized the truth and knew otherwise.
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A Map Quiz
With Afghanistan in a shambles, its Central Asian neighbors take on more geopolitical importance. I challenge anyone to correctly fill in the names of the following Central Asian nations on the following map: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan, and Oliyandstan. Five are for real and one is ficticious, made up by me.
Clue: Not shown, but just south of them on this map from left to right are Iran, Afghanistan, China and Pakistan, whose borders faintly appear.
(For answers, refer to the map in the item added to the blog on 8/13/21.)
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Item Added August 14, 2021
Strategic Planning 101 (or We Can't Just "Wing It")
When enormous problems loom in the future, a nation must have plans with which to approach and deal with them. I call this “Strategic Planning.” Two examples of problem areas come to mind.
Firstly, all but the totally deaf and blind recognize that the former president’s efforts to remain in office, to subvert the results of the 2020 election, and to attempt to misuse the Department of Justice to do so, and failing that, to inspire rioting attacking the Capitol building in order to forestall the confirmation of the Electoral College results by Congress, are sufficiently documented to the point where even a law school student could justify his indictment, prosecution and likely conviction in a court of law. The documented evidence is very strong. (See Rucker’s and Leonnig’s new book, “Only I Can Fix It.”)
The problem is that proceeding in that direction would ignite a revolution by the tens of millions of supporters of the former president, some of whom are armed and which also include those with tremendous financial resources. How does the nation deal with that problem? Would ignoring it do harm to the nation? Is there a “middle” way in which to deal with it? This requires strategic planning. A nation just does not “wing it.” But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Here’s another example: During the 1950’s, in discussing the Korean War, I pointed out to someone that if we put hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground to stave off the Chinese-supported North Korean invasion of South Korea, that country’s independence might be preserved. But that if we pulled the troops out, the whole nation would most likely collapse. And that is why, sixty years later, we still have troops there in sufficient numbers to prevent that from happening.
But such ‘strategic planning,’ while workable in Korea, failed in Vietnam where even with hundreds of thousands of our troops there, the South Vietnamese state collapsed. The two situations were not identical. (Fortunately, we seem to be getting along relatively well with the North Vietnamese who united the country.)
As we leave Afghanistan today, it is only a matter of days before the Taliban controls that entire nation. Without our military presence, the Afghans are unable to defend themselves and their army, which we armed and trained at great expense, is evaporating. This places many Afghanis who counted on our presence there in danger since the Taliban is cruelly unrelenting in their not tolerating opposition. Remember, these are the people who sheltered the planning and execution of the 9/11 attack on our country and consider women no better than transferrable personal property, i.e., chattels. This is another situation, like Vietnam, where the lack of strategic planning is causing problems. We certainly need such planning to deal with the unavoidable takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. We can’t just sit there and let what happens, happen. That is not a good plan.
So before proceeding further, let me define what I consider to be “Strategic Planning.” I know there probably are definitions all over the internet for "strategic planning" but I have not looked at them, preferring to define it myself.
The first thing a strategic planner must come up with is a “goal,” what you wish to attain, where you want to be at a particular point in time. It can be broad, such as “world peace” or much simpler, such as “good health” or even narrower, such as “losing weight” or “eradicating a particular disease.” It has been said, often facetiously, that if you don’t know where you are going, you may end up somewhere else.” That non-sequitur is true. Any “strategy” must, therefore, have a clearly defined goal, or end point.
What an individual, or a nation does to reach the goal of a strategy aimed at resolving a problem, consists of tactics. Courses in our military “war colleges” emphasize strategies and the tactics necessary to achieve them, tactics needed to win battles in order to win wars, which should be the goal of a strategy, which might even be a tactic itself within a larger strategy, often an economic one. Some tactics are so broad that they merge with the goals of a strategy. For example, disarmament may be a tactic aimed at the goal of world peace, but it can be a goal in itself, requiring tactics to bring it about. The simpler personal goals of “achieving good health” or “losing weight” can be reached by tactics such as dieting, exercising and regular medical check-ups. That’s strategic planning too.
In Korea, our tactics of keeping some troops there and seeing that the South Korean military was soundly developed worked well to achieve the goal of peace on the Korean peninsula. In Vietnam and Afghanistan these tactics did not work, but others might have. No two situations are the same.
Try looking at the immigration situation on our Southern border. What are we trying to accomplish there? Do we view such immigrants as future citizens? Is the labor force such immigration provides essential to our economy? How far should our humanitarian feelings go in effecting policy? We must know where we want to end up. Do we? Tactics such as economically and politically stabilizing the countries from which these immigrants are fleeing for various reasons, providing alternatives to admitting them into the United States and increasing personnel and facilities to process the flow of immigrants are some of the tactics we can use to effect our strategy in this area, but they are worthless unless we know the ultimate goal of our strategy. This is where strategic planning comes in.
Getting back to the first problem mentioned above, what should our strategy be in dealing with the attempts of the former president and his supporters to retain power by illegal acts and instigating rioters to invade the Capitol building, touched upon earlier?
The opposition to any strong measures can be damaging to the nation, conceivably leading to civil strife. The survival of our Constitution is at stake. We must know where we want to end up, and it cannot be where we were before. We cannot go home again because things are different now.
Once a goal for our strategy is determined, and only then, the possible tactics to achieve it must be carefully weighed. Strict punishment of lawbreakers, as a tactic, might create even more problems. “Forgive and forget” might be another tactic, but hurtful to many. Willingness to compromise might also be a tactic, but it all starts with knowing what our strategic goals are. Otherwise, tactics are worthless. A "tactic" cannot determine a "strategy." It has to be the other way around, starting with the desired goal.
This is what strategic planning is about. Now let’s get down to doing some! It should be done by the Executive Branch of our government. Before lunch.
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Items Added August 13, 2021
Mr. Governor: Don't Blame the President for your Wrongdoings
Here's a column by Andres Oppenheimer which originally appeared in the Miami Herald on August 9. Among other things, it points out what a liar Florida Governor DeSantis is when he blames the spread of the Delta variant of the Covid10 virus on President Biden's opening up the Southern border to infected immigrants.
My feeling is that is time for the President to call DeSantis the liar he is to his face, and add that he is also unfit to be a State Governor. The same is true of Texas Governor Abbott. Both serve as agents and allies of the Covid19 virus.
When the four columns of Franco's armies invaded Spain in 1938, they were aided by a "fifth column" already within Spain. Covid19 has its "fifth column right here, headed by DeSantis and Abbott. But here is Oppenheimer's excellent column:
They are now blaming immigrants — Mexicans, specifically — for the surge in COVID-19 cases across the nation. It’s another big lie, just like the one that insists Trump won the election or that drinking bleach would kill COVID-19.
In recent days, Trump world has been spreading the falsehood that the surge of COVID-19 in the country is the result of Biden’s allegedly lax border policies.
In fact, it is the result of Trump Republicans’ shameful opposition to mask mandates, their ambiguous support for vaccination drives, and by Fox News, Newsmax, OAN and other right-wing news channels’ disinformation about the vaccines’ effectiveness.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who reportedly is campaigning to be the Trump-backed Republican candidate for president in 2024 — and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are going gung-ho with the theory that the border is wide open to undocumented migrants.
DeSantis even had the nerve to claim on Aug. 4 that Biden is helping “facilitate” the spread of the virus because of the alleged influx of COVID-spreading Mexican migrants.
This comes from the same DeSantis who is one of the nation’s biggest COVID-19 enablers. He has, among other things, signed an executive order threatening school districts that require face masks with funding cuts and has sued cruise-line companies that require passengers to be vaccinated.
But the argument that Mexicans or any other undocumented migrants are a major cause of COVID-19’s spread is based on lies.
First, it’s not true that Biden is allowing more COVID-19-carrying migrants into the country. In fact, more migrants have been sent back to Mexico under COVID-19 prevention laws so far this year than during the entire final year of the Trump administration.
More than 500,000 migrants were expelled from February to June under Title 42, a public-health law the Trump administration began using in March 2020 to eject people at the border in the name of preventing COVID-19 infection, according to Factcheck.org. By comparison, there were 449,000 such expulsions from March 2020 to January 2021.
Second, it’s not true that undocumented migrants who cross the border are the spreading the virus in the United States.
In fact, the biggest COVID-19 surges in the country are taking place in Florida and parts of Texas with mostly white, unvaccinated populations. And the least vaccinated places in the country are mostly populated by Trump voters, according to several studies.
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy expert with the American Immigration Council, a Washington-D.C., think tank, told me that, “If migrants were indeed spreading the coronavirus, then we would see the most intensive outbreaks on the border, and that’s not the case.”
As for Republicans’ claim that migrants who are released at border shelters then go to other parts of the country, that doesn’t make sense either. Migrants tend to go to places where their relatives and friends live. Those places do not coincide with the ones having current uptick in COVID-19 cases.
Third, migrants released at the border and who move to other locations have already been tested before leaving their shelters and determined to be COVID-negative. They are perhaps the most thoroughly tested population in the country, Reichlin-Melnick told me.
So the real culprits of the spread of COVID-19 in Florida and Texas — two Republican-run states that account for the bulk of the current spike in contagions — are not Mexican immigrants, but unscrupulous Trump-backed politicians and right-wing news channels.
According to a new report by Media Matters for America, a left-of-center media watch group, in recent months, “Fox News alone was responsible for pushing 325 segments that actively undermined coronavirus science.”
Trump world is simply trying to divert public attention from its own responsibility for fighting mask mandates and not actively supporting vaccinations. The governors of Florida and Texas are now resorting to thinly veiled racism — the perennial last resort of political scoundrels — to try to make us blame somebody else."
©2021 The Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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A Sad Story - Afghanistan
The lesson of losing in Vietnam about half a century ago (has it been that long?) seems to have been that it is not impossible to work with the ultimate winners there, the Hanoi government, rather than our former allies in Saigon.
But applying that lesson to Afghanistan would be foolish. Kabul will fall in a few weeks and we already are talking about using future financial aid as leverage in getting the Taliban to leave our Embassy alone. Foolish idea. We must remember the millions or billions we poured into that country which ended up in politicians' pockets and the utter failure of the military we spent big bucks to equip and train. Any aid to Afghanistan in the future will be similarly "disappeared." And while the North Vietnamese never attacked us, the Taliban are the fine fellows who sheltered the planners and perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on us and whom consider women to be personal property to be treated as chattels.
Like the British and Russians, let's forget about Afghanistan, however tempting its very central geographic location is. That's what attracts outsiders to it. Probably, China will go for them and ultimately meet the same fate. Afghanistan is a "poison pill" for whomever tries to save the Afghans from their biggest enemy, themselves. After we airlift our own people out and as many Afghans as we can, we might encourage illegal emigration of Afghans who don't get out in time via Pakistan, another motley crew. (Recall that they were the ones who provided a hiding place for Osama Bin Laden.) There is a price there for everything. A sad story.
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More About Baseball's Flaws
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Items Added August 12, 2021
An American Crisis ... Today
The American Crisis is a collection of articles written by Thomas Paine during the American Revolutionary War. In 1776, Paine also wrote Common Sense, an extremely popular and successful pamphlet arguing for independence from England, containing the inspirational words, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Those words resonate today as we face another “American Crisis.”
I feel that the current crisis will not be over until those responsible for the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, including members of Congress and the former president of the United States of America are indicted and go on trial. In view of the evidence available everywhere, in person and on video, their conviction and sentencing seems likely. But I am well aware that such legal actions will then ignite a much bigger insurrection carried out by tens of millions of their well-endowed, and often armed, supporters.
Will fear of this happening throw sand into the gears of the wheels of justice, allowing them to get away with what they had done and attempted to do?
This is the American Crisis which we face today.
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Here's the full text of Frank Cerabino's column as it appeared in Wednesday's Palm Beach Post.
"Unvaccinated Radio host Dick Farrel Died from COVID, Missed Chance to Tell Truth to Listeners" Frank Cerabino
Palm Beach Post - Aug. 11, 2021
Dick Farrel raged against the coronavirus as a 'scamdemic' and vaccines as poison. Then he died of COVID-19 without telling his audience he was wrong and that he'd mislead them.
I never thought I’d be saying this, but I wish that Dick Farrel had more to say on an important topic.
For decades, Farrel was a nomadic political commentator and fringe Republican Party activist – a Palm Beach County fixture on radio, who plied his trade of what might be most charitably described as “cartoon conservatism.”
Light on substance, high on playground name-calling, Farrel’s AM-radio shows were full of over-the-top invective, performance-art recitations of the “Pledge of Allegiance” and lots of references to Nazis and Commies.
Farrel had names for everybody
The Palm Beach County Commissioners were “county commissars,” The Palm Beach Post was “The Palm Beach Putz” and Democrats were “dummy craps” under “Joe ByDumb.”
Yes, very sophisticated banter.
In Farrel's cartoon world, liberals were routinely cast as a modern-day Gestapo.
“The Nazis would kill someone to empower themselves,” Farrel once said on his show. “The liberals are no different."
Farrel, who was born Farrel Austin Levitt, died this month at the age of 65. The liberals didn’t kill him, though: COVID-19 did.
Although, we didn’t hear that from him. Which is a shame.
|Late Dick Farrel at work|
Instead, Farrel treated COVID-19 as another launchpad for conspiratorial nonsense, something to ridicule in his typical hyperbolic way to a gullible audience, which had gone national with a stint on Newsmax.
The virus, in his words, was a “scamdemic,” promoted by “lying freak” Dr. Anthony “Foot chee,” who wanted people to wear “face diapers” to further the ruse.
“The deaths and infection numbers are rigged, fudged, cooked and sold by the lapdog media on orders from the wealthy capitalists who desire socialism for the rest of us but not themselves,” Farrel posted last month on Facebook.
He called the vaccine “poison” promoted by “corona conspirators.”
“Thank you, Moderna, FOR NOTHING!” he wrote.
In June, he re-posted the message “I am not vaccinated. I am not a sheep.”
Missing a chance to right a host of wrongs
He died last week, but not before realizing that he was dead wrong about COVID, and privately advising his friends to get vaccinated.
“He is the reason I took the shot!” his friend Amy Leigh Hair posted on Facebook after Farrel’s death. “He texted me and told me to 'Get it!' He told me that this virus is no joke and he said: 'I wish I had gotten it!' ”
But publicly, Farrel remained silent, missing a real opportunity to tell the truth to the audience he’d been dangerously misleading: I was wrong, he could have said. Get the shot. COVID is real.
He owed that to them.
It would have been refreshing to see Farrel take an opportunity on Newsmax to offer his real-life experience once he contracted the virus.
For example, maybe Newsmax host Rob Schmitt could have done a phone interview with Farrel from his hospital bed.
Instead, here’s what Schmitt was saying last month:
“I feel like a vaccination in a weird way is just generally going against nature,” Schmitt told Newsmax viewers. “If there’s some disease out there maybe there’s just an ebb and flow to life, and something’s supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people, and that’s just kind of the way evolution goes.
“Vaccines kind of stand in the way of that.”
Farrel could have offered a far different perspective by saying that the free, widely available and effective vaccination means that nobody’s “supposed to get wiped out” by COVID.
That the only thing that vaccines "stand in the way of" is preventable death. And that only fools like him would pass up the chance to get one.
And then maybe he could have come up with a playground nickname for the Newsmax host for suggesting that people just needed to accept their nonvaccinated deaths.
Let’s see, what rhymes with “Schmitt”? I’m sure Farrel would have come up with something.
Farrel could have renounced the death cult surrounding COVID and at the very end — for possibly the only time in his broadcasting career — become the voice of reason.
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Those that think this blog is just a Democratic Party clone should note my criticism of the CDC and its leadership back on August 5. They don't know how to communicate. Dr. Walensky is not up to the job. In addition, be aware that because I cannot stomach the local Democratic Party in Floriduh, I officially have "No Party Affiliation" fully knowing that it costs me a vote in the primaries.
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Item Added August 11, 2021
Keeping Up With the News
I took a few minutes off last night from a book I am reading and watched a bit of news on TV.
Between 7:30 and 8:00 last night, MSNBC was interviewing Transportation Secretary Buttilieg about the Infrastructure Bill and about the “human” infrastructure which would be included in another bill to be passed through “reconciliation” in the Senate with just a majority vote, rather than a “supermajority” of 60.
At that time, CNN was busy devoting time to interviews with school board officials who were facing the threat of Covid19’s Delta variant as children came back to their schools, and how they were dealing with State government actions telling them they could not insist on masking without risking "defunding."
Finally, I switched to FOX NEWS where a retired Chicago police sergeant was complaining about overworked police, their excessive suicide rate and bemoaning the fact that the investigations into the January 6 Capitol riots, which involved attacks on police, did not include in their agenda the investigation of similar attacks in street protests against police violence.
Yes, it's important to keep up with the news! But you must be careful where you get it.
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Items Added August 10, 2021
Even if the Democrats were to win big in all fifty States in 2024, the Republicans in governorships and State legislatures would still scream that the election was stolen, turn the selection of presidential electors over to these legislators, and continue their campaign in the courts, even on up to the no-longer-trustworthy Supreme Court.
They take this position because their big donors (read Mayer's New Yorker article) will do anything to prevent a redistribution of wealth via tax reform, and the ignorant and gullible will go along with it because they have been convinced that it is every American's God-given right to be selfish and inconsiderate of their fellow citizens. Isn't that somewhere in the Bill of Rights?
The Republicans play every card in the deck to do get these folks to vote against their own interests. Irrelevant issues such as socialism, communism, gun rights, immigration, abortions, gender equality, non-existent election fraud, foreign threats, religious freedom, family values and support of law enforcement fire them up, resulting in their allying themselves with the opponents of democracy in America.
I would hope that Democratic leaders are sitting down right now and discussing precisely how to win elections in 2022, increasing their control of both Houses of Congress and also accomplishing the very difficult task of recapturing some State legislatures and governorships in 2022. This cannot wait until 2024.
|American Gothic - Grant Wood 1930|
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Words from "Silent Cal"
“The business of America is business” is an oft-repeated phrase reported to be first said by President Calvin Coolidge in a January 1925 speech to newspaper editors. Most understood that he was speaking figuratively and not literally. Our forty-fifth president, however, believed it to be true and carried over the questionable ethics he had routinely practiced without overt criticism in the business world into government, where they were unacceptable.
|"45" and "30" - Two Duds|
He spent much effort trying to get lawyers to defend his positions as he routinely had done with success in the business world but that didn’t fully work in government although he tried hard to make such legal somersaults succeed, for a time with the aid of Attorney General Barr.
He never really understood this and ultimately may have to pay the price for taking the thirtieth president’s words seriously. This will determine how his administration will go down in history. Conceivably, it also could put him in jail or in exile somewhere. Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson have some ideas in regard to the latter possibility.
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Items Added August 9, 2021
We Got Published Again
Back on July 28, on this blog I reported sending the following letter to the Palm Beach Post. Well, it finally got published today with no deletions. In fact, they broke it into five paragraphs, giving it more emphasis, and accompanied it with a cartoon with a message urging vaccination. Here's the letter again (as it appeared in the Post.)
"We should accept the fact that the Covid19 pandemic will last far longer than we expected it to because of the adamance of some who, for a variety of reasons, still refuse vaccination.
The unvaccinated, besides risking illness or worse, also provide an expanding environment for the virus in which it can grow, spread and mutate, posing a threat to us all.
But with few exceptions, attempts to identify the unvaccinated, these allies of the virus, meet with social and often ambiguous political opposition.
It then remains the job of the vaccinated to let everyone know who they are by wearing an “I’m Vaccinated” sticker. I purchased a roll of them online and offer them to others.
Vaccinated people, if enough of them wear such stickers, will be able to more easily identify those with whom they might wish to avoid contact. A typical exchange might be: “Are you vaccinated?” followed by “Great, here’s a sticker to wear” or “No? Well, you should be! Bye.”
I still have a supply of stickers if you want any! Call me.
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Resume Wiping What You Bring Home (or is delivered)
Here's something I just posted on our community website's "Message Board."
In view of the number of retail employees I am encountering in Publix and Home Depot who either admit to me they are unvaccinated, and those who refuse to answer because they are not required to, whom must be assumed therefore to be unvaccinated, it is time to resume wiping down merchandise from these and other retailers as we were doing earlier in 2020.
Floriduh leads the nation in Delta variant infections and therefore, some of these employees may be spreading it. Remember that vaccinated individuals can be infected, although less frequently and less severely than unvaccinated ones and these vaccines may soon require a booster, so please, for all of our sakes, resume wiping down what you bring home from stores.
I hope when the FDA gives final full approval to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, some businesses will defy State law and insist that employees be vaccinated. It is sinful than we don't even know which hospital employees are unvaccinated. Disagree with me if you must, but please, wipe that stuff down.
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Item Added August 7, 2021
The Money Behind the "Big Lie"
There’s a lengthy article in the current issue of the New Yorker by Jane Mayer which echoes her earlier book "Dark Money" which had explained how money from usually unidentifiable, masquerading sources, pours into Republican campaigns at the State and National level, and acts to preserve the power of the wealthy in opposing democracy by supporting anti-democratic candidates.
Her current New Yorker article, "The Money Behind the Big Lie," provides names, identifies foundations and organizations which are funded by that same dark money and which is currently being used to take the choice of presidential electors away from the voters and give it to State legislators as permitted by the Constitution. (Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution reads that "Each State shall appoint, IN SUCH MANNER AS THE LEGISLATURE THEREOF MAY DIRECT, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.")
Historically, legislatures have appointed electors based on the popular vote in the State, but they can appoint electors any damn way they please. And if they fear an election involves fraud or corruption exists, they may be prompted to do so. That's known as the "Independent Legislature Doctrine."
This is why the Republicans persist in claiming fraud exists, contrary to all evidence. Of course they know better! Fear of it, however unfounded, is sufficient to move these legislatures, and at least three conservative Supreme Court justices, perhaps more, may be sympathetic to that position. This is why the farcical election audit in Maricopa County, Arizona, will go on and on and on, and spread elsewhere, suggesting fraud in the 2020 presidential election where none exists. That is sufficient, it appears to me, to move State legislatures toward that obscene, anti-democratic, "Independent Legislature Doctrine" with the aim of legitimatizing Trump's claims that he actually won the 2020 presidential election, and making sure future presidents are NOT chosen by the voters.
Republicans are bright enough to realize after ending up with a minority of voters in repeated presidential elections that letting the voters choose a president clearly is not in their party's interest. In the six elections in this century, the only time a Republican presidential candidate received a majority of votes was in 2004. They only survive in Congress through gerrymandering made possible by their dominance in State legislatures.
It's a very long, detailed, article, but please read it at https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/08/09/the-big-money-behind-the-big-lie
I get the feeling that a bloodied democracy in America is on the ropes in the later rounds of a title prizefight. Mayer closes her article by quoting Bill Gates, one of the few remaining sane Republicans in Arizona, who commented on his fellow Arizona Republicans succumbing to the “election fraud” fictions in Arizona as follows, "The sad thing is that there are probably millions of people - hardworking, good Americans, maybe retired - who have paid their taxes, always followed the law, and they truly believe this, because of what they've been fed by their leaders ... and what is so dispiriting is that the people who are pushing it from the top? They know better."
If the two bills pending in Congress, the For the People Act - HR1 and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, do not pass, our democracy is in big trouble, and it is not, what the late Congressman Lewis called "good trouble."
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Items Added August 6, 2021
Disobeying Bans on Masking Mandates in Schools
|Gov. De Santis, Florida Opponent of Masking|
If such a loss of funding takes place, the Federal government should immediately step in and replace that funding directly for the local school district. They would then deduct that amount from any Federal aid for education which the Federal government routinely provides to the State involved.
Federal legislation to make this possible should immediately be passed. (I've already asked my Congressional Representative to see about accomplishing this.)
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Will the Delta Variant turn Americans Against One Another?
July 30, 2021
"We are, it seems, on the verge of war. A germ war, to be precise, that pits the vaccinated against the unvaccinated and is forcing government officials, universities and corporations to pick sides. A time for choosing awaits us all.
We’re about to enter a strange era not seen since 1905, when the Supreme Court ruled (7 to 2) in favor of state police powers to require vaccines, in that case smallpox, for the benefit of the larger community. Today, such a scenario seems better suited to science fiction. But this is our world now, and we’ve all been inducted to serve.
As covid-19 reemerges through the twice-more-contagious delta variant, forcing many Americans to wear masks again and possibly to discontinue gathering in public places, the message is clear: Either get vaccinated, or prepare to be treated differently.
President Biden has ordered that all federal employees (though not uniformed members of the military) either get vaccinated or wear masks and submit to frequent coronavirus testing. Biden is also urging private companies and the military to do the same.
Duke University has announced that it will require that anyone on campus — students, faculty, staff — provide proof of full vaccination or have an approved medical or religious exemption. Unvaccinated people will have to wear masks and submit to regular testing.
There’s no telling how many more universities, companies and communities will follow suit in the next weeks. But the die has been cast. The approximately 50 percent of Americans who have stepped up to the plate and been fully vaccinated, thus drastically reducing the infection rates (for a while), are fed up. The delta variant is quickly overtaking what progress was made by the willing and is swiftly moving through populations of the unvaccinated. The fear among experts is that as delta spreads, infected people will surround and overwhelm vaccinated people through “spillover infection,” while continuing to retard herd immunity.
There is little goodwill between warring factions. People who don’t want the vaccine argue that it’s still categorized as an emergency-use concoction, the full effects of which remain unknown. This would be a reasonable enough argument were it not for the fact that covid and its mutations pose an emergency that can be contained only by vaccinating as many people as possible.
Those of us who’ve gotten our shots see no point to such reluctance when the alternative is so troubling. Even if most people who contract covid don’t die, more than 600,000 Americans already have. Is that figure too small to give people pause? Do the vaccine-averse figure that losing older Americans and fatter Americans, the most vulnerable to extreme sickness and death, is just the price we pay?
For many people over 65, more than 80 percent of whom are fully vaccinated, compromise is neither rational nor negotiable. Fully 42 percent of Americans are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and also at high risk for covid.
It isn’t hard to spot the class war lurking within our germ war. The college-educated are less likely to be obese, probably because they’re more fluent in nutrition and because, having higher incomes, they can afford to buy healthier foods. We learned in the early rounds of this pandemic that the virus is devastating to minorities with unequal access to health care; will one part of the population let that happen again to another part?
I am not unmindful of what this might do to us. The circumstances in which we find ourselves remind me of the worst sectarian fighting during the Iraq War, when former friends would cross the street rather than share a sidewalk with someone who supported or opposed the U.S.-led invasion. Divided families could barely discuss the subject with each other, making holidays and reunions impossible. Relationships dissolved. Bitterness reigned.
Those days seem like a picnic compared with what could happen if almost half the U.S. population, already riven by political discord, persists in making life miserable for the other half. This time the battleground isn’t far away, but in our front yards, schools and workplaces.
The pandemic changed us, we’ve said over and over. But as we measure our progress, it seems reasonable to wonder: Could the next pandemic ruin us? Does any vaccinated person want to be around an unvaccinated person? How will we know who’s who? Will we soon be wearing ID bracelets? Such questions raise another frightening prospect to all of this: With the decisions being made to now wage war on the unvaccinated, are we laying the groundwork for even greater distrust in an already convulsive time?
Cures are sometimes worse than the disease, we’ve heard. I fully support the measures mentioned here, but I also fear we’re about to test that hypothesis in ways never before imagined."
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A Paragon of Consistency
We all know Florida Senator Marco Rubio holds a "Right to Life" position in regard to abortion. In regard to masking and Covid19 vaccinations, he holds a "Right to Death "position. Be you an unborn fetus or an Anti-Vaxxer, he's out there defending your rights!
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Critiquing the Centers for Disease Control
We must not underestimate the danger presented by the Delta variant of the Covid19 virus. Dealing with it requires a CDC skilled in communications and organization as well as in science. I believe Dr. Walensky does not fill the bill and hope that President Biden realizes this quickly and gets this effort back on track. Find out more about this in an opinion piece from the New York Times which criticizes that agency by CLICKING HERE. It can also be found at
Meanwhile, let's not forget that pandemics are nothing new and be thankful that we have better tools with which to approach them than our ancestors in the Fourteenth century did. They are vaccines and masking and should be used.
State legislation and executive orders which prevent the public from knowing who is, and who is not, vaccinated should be disregarded. The government would dare not enforce them. If school districts lose State aid because of an insistance on masking, millions of parents should camp out in front of the Florida capitol and the Governor's home twenty-four hours a day until sanity returns to government.
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For Football Fans
|Big crowd at Ohio State football game|
John Maynard Hutchins, President of the University of Chicago from 1929 to 1951, wrote an article in 1954 in Sports Illustrated about what he believed the role of a university might be. He had his own ideas, and in 1939, the University of Chicago, under his leadership, dropped football. Here is an excerpt from the 1954 article.
“The ancient Athenians were as crazy about sport as modern Americans are. So were the ancient Romans and the Renaissance Italians. So are contemporary Britons and Germans. But we Americans are the only people in human history who ever got sport mixed up with higher education. No other country looks to its universities as a prime source of athletic entertainment. In some other countries university athletic teams are unheard of; in others; like England, the teams are there, but their activities are valued chiefly as affording the opportunity for them and their adherents to assemble in the open air. Anybody who has watched, as I have, 12 university presidents spend half a day solemnly discussing the Rose Bowl agreement, or anybody who has read—as who has not?—portentous discussions of the "decline" of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, or Chicago because of the recurring defeats of its football team must realize that we in America are in a different world.
Maybe it is a better one. But I doubt it. I believe that one of the reasons why we attach such importance to the results of football games is that we have no clear idea of what a college or university is. We can't understand these institutions, even if we have graduated from one; but we can grasp the figures on the scoreboard.”
Perhaps this is why when you search any list of physicians and scientists today, you will find many foreign sounding names. Many of them got their undergraduate degrees, and sometimes their advanced degrees as well, from colleges outside of the United States where intercollegiate athletics plays no significant role. Does it really matter whether the Universities of Texas and Oklahoma are admitted to the Southeastern Conference? In fact, does the SEC matter at all in the big picture, or is it just a deterrent to what a college or university should be, an institution dedicated to learning and research.
(On several occasions, I have suggested that alumni associations take over these schools’ intercollegiate athletic programs. Many alumni are wealthy donors interested in their schools’ teams to start with and might be willing to provide seed money. The alumni associations could sell tickets, rent the stadiums from the colleges, hire coaches and non-student football players who would compete wearing the school’s colors and even employ a colorfully attired marching band. Alumni spouses could handle the cheerleading chores. Any profit might be donated to the college or university. The NFL would probably love such an arrangement because it would provide them with something comparable to baseball’s minor leagues.)
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For Baseball Fans
|No, it won't look like this|
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The Borowitz Report
The online satire found in the New Yorker's Borowitz Report is funny and amuses those with a sense of humor. When he mocks the politicians opposed to masking and vaccination in regard to the Covid19 pandemic, serious matters involving life and death, his humor takes a darker turn however. We don't satirize Adolph Eichmann, and for similar reasons, Ron DeSantis, whose views have put Floridians into their graves prematurely, should not be the subject of satire. Impeachment or defeat at the polls perhaps, but not satire.
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Here's a letter I sent to the Palm Beach Post the other day. I'll let you know if they print it.
Space Flight Suggestion
"Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have garnered much credit and publicity from their enterprises’ sending them off into the edges of space. Perhaps our own Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott could similarly benefit by manning the next such space flight which might have the goal of settling its occupants permanently on the moon or somewhere else far from this planet."
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Items Added August 1, 2021
Playing Catch Up
Today's New York Times quoted Dr. Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington and a former C.D.C. scientist. He said that "This virus is in the driver’s seat and we are chasing it and the only way we stay ahead of it is through vaccination and wearing a mask. If we don’t, we will always be catching up.”
Please refer to yesterday's posting below, especially the 'What You Can Do' paragraph.
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Sports Page Bad News
Big news on the sports pages this past week is the likely expansion of the SEC with its addition of the Universities of Oklahoma and Texas and the effect this would have on the structure of college athletic competition.
This emphasis on athletics has weakened education in this country. As an example, the doctor quoted directly above received his undergraduate degree from the American University of Beirut in 1984, while undergraduates here were concerned with which bowl games their schools would be invited to. It is time for "college" athletics to be divorced from our universities and perhaps be put in the hands of alumni associations which could hire professionals to wear their school colors and compete with one another. They might rent the stadiums from the schools, where education rather than sports will be emphasized, like it is throughout the rest of the world. The first step might be to disband the SEC, the Big Ten, the ACC, the PAC12, the Big 12 (or whatever number it is down to) and the rest of these cancers on American education.
I wrote about this here at length some years ago when it became obvious that graduates of foreign universities were frequently replacing those educated in the United States in faculty and research appointments. (You can stll find that great Oct 22, 2013 posting by searching through 'older postings' or using the search box off to the right typing in 'college sports.'). It's time to wise up, America!
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Items Added July 31, 2021
Keeping up with Covid 19
If you want to really keep up with the struggle against Covid19, visit the Washington Post and read some of their reporting. Try CLICKING HERE. or paste
https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/WhctKKWxZKKpMJfvwJMBnsRldsQkcthvhHMdDfvcnczxxKQkWwclcDTjDcZpRWnJTVMCRNG on your browser line. Hope either way works. I have my doubts. Sometimes they limit access to subscribers only.
But if it doesn't work for you or if you don’t want to bother to do that, just recognize that
(1) The protection provided by the vaccinations is not all-encompassing,
(2) Vaccinations are becoming weaker with the passage of time. Boosters are a possibility for the vaccinated,
(3) CDC statistics do not tell the full story, and
(4) The highly contagious Delta variant of Covid19 is spreading to both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, although the the unvaccinated are far more likely to contract it than the vaccinated, and cases among the vaccinated present less serious symptoms than those among the unvaccinated. There doesn't seem to be a difference between the frequency with which either group passes the virus on to others, leading to the CDC recommending that even the vaccinated resume the use of masks when indoors in public places.
What You Can Do: Please wear a proper mask when indoors in public places, try to avoid contact with the unvaccinated anywhere including those who refuse to let you know if they are vaccinated (they probably are not), wash your hands frequently, get vaccinated if you are not already and feel free to disobey the stupid politically motivated regulations in some backward States, like Florida, which make it illegal for anyone, including employers, to ask if one is vaccinated or not.”
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Looking Ahead in Struggle to Preserve Democracy
The headlines about the ex-president asking the DOJ to use the word 'corrupt' in describing the 2020 presidential election, after which he and his friends in Congress would "take it from there," and about the upcoming release of his tax documents (which all presidential candidates except him have always released) lead to the really big story on the horizon.
It is about the reaction of the former president's supporters when his indictment and trial, which is where these two stories, and that of the January 6 insurrection, inexorably will lead, occurs. It won't be like the Whiskey Rebellion and it will far, far, outshadow the January 6 insurrection. It won't be peaceful. Can our democracy survive such a crisis? Note that it is still struggling with the aftermath of the Civil War, right in Congress today, in regard to voters' rights legislation.
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Item Added July 30, 2021
Efficacy of Covid19 Vaccine Questioned After Six Months in Israel and Elsewhere ... Including Here. Booster Shots on Horizon
Pfizer has been tooling up for booster vaccinations, recognizing that there seems to be a reduction in effectiveness of vaccinations after six months or so. The CDC is lagging behind this hypothesis, awaiting more scientific evidence, but the Delta variant is forcing them to act more quickly. Clearly, more vaccinated individuals are coming down with Covid19 than their statistics reflect. Wear your masks, make certain they are good ones and snug around both nose and mouth, and avoid the unvaccinated.
It would also help if the vaccinated and unvaccinated could be differentiated. Here’s a Not-So-Simple Solution:
If anyone wants to claim to their employer, or a cruise operator, airline, hotel, hospital, merchant, restaurant or operator of any venue where there are others present, that they are vaccinated, they should have to present the “Covid-19 Vaccination Record Card” they were given when they were vaccinated, their word alone being insufficient. Why do you think the cards were given out? As a momento of having a needle stuck in your arm?
Failing that, the default position must be that they are unvaccinated and treated accordingly. Those listed above, especially employers, should be able to ask them if they are vaccinated. If there are laws against this solution, which are present in some backward States, they must be disobeyed, and legal assistance secured.
Finally, here’s an article from today’s Palm Beach Post which may preview what will happen in the United States within a few months, or even weeks:
Israel to offer third COVID booster shot to older citizens
Ilan Ben Zion
ASSOCIATED PRESS JERUSALEM
Israel carried out one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns. It will soon offer a third shot to those over 60. Oded Balilty/AP
Israel’s prime minister on Thursday (July 29) announced that the country will offer a coronavirus booster to people over 60 who have already been vaccinated. The announcement by Naftali Bennett makes Israel the first country to offer a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine to its citizens on a wide scale.
'I’m announcing this evening the beginning of the campaign to receive the booster vaccine, the third vaccine,' Bennett said. 'Reality proves the vaccines are safe. Reality also proves the vaccines protect from severe morbidity and death. And like the flu vaccine that needs to be renewed from time to time, it is the same in this case.'
The decision comes at a time of rising infections and signs that the vaccine’s efficacy dwindles. Bennett said the country’s president, Isaac Herzog, will be the first to get the booster Friday. It will be offered to the general public on Friday.
Neither the U.S. nor the EU has approved coronavirus booster shots. It’s not yet proven if a third dose helps and, if so, who needs one and when. The first large study of the strategy is beginning in thousands of patients in Norway. Boosters were previously used in some countries with the Chinese and Russian vaccines.
Early this year, Israel carried out one of the world’s most aggressive and successful vaccination campaigns. Over 57% of the country’s 9.3million citizens have received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and over 80% of the population over 40 is vaccinated. The vaccination program allowed Israel to reopen its economy before other countries. But there are signs that the vaccine’s efficacy wears off, and Israel has seen a spike in cases of the new delta variant, even among people who are vaccinated.
People over the age of 60 who were vaccinated more than five months ago will be eligible for the booster.
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Item Added July 28, 2021
A Precaution to Take to Avoid the Coronavirus' Allies, the Unvaccinated
Here's the text of a letter I've emailed to the Palm Beach Post, a decent newspaper which I read daily. If they print it, I suspect they will delete the final paragraph:
"We should accept the fact that the Covid19 pandemic will last far longer than we expected it to because of the adamance of some who, for a variety of reasons, still refuse vaccination. The unvaccinated, besides risking illness or worse, also provide an expanding environment for the virus in which it can grow, spread and mutate, posing a threat to us all. But with few exceptions, attempts to identify the unvaccinated, these allies of the virus, meet with social and often ambiguous political opposition.
It then remains the job of the vaccinated to let everyone know who they are by wearing an “I’m Vaccinated” sticker. I purchased a roll of them online and offer them to others. Vaccinated people, if enough of them wear such stickers, will be able to more easily identify those with whom they might wish to avoid contact. A typical exchange might be: “Are you vaccinated?” followed by “Great, here’s a sticker to wear” or “No? Well, you should be! Bye.”
This is a serious matter. If you want a few stickers, call or email me!
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Item Added July 27, 2021
January 6 Insurrection Hearings
The House January 6 hearings started today (7/27) and the repeated testimony involving Donald Trump leads to one question. Will the committee risk civil war by issuing a subspoena for the former president and if they do, will he show up?
It can only lead to an indictment for instigating the insurrection, which makes him accountable for it, and if convicted, subject to punishment along with the rioters. Jailing an ex-president sets a bad precedent so I think he's ultimately going to be offered exile somewhere, like Napoleon was. (See comment and map below.)
Of course, this assumes we have a country left after the possible civil war his appearance before the committee will cause and provided the nation survives the resurgent coronavirus pandemic, with whom many of Trump's supporters are allied through their anti-vaccination positions. (Both anti-vaxxism and Trumpism represent attacks on the people of the United States so it is logical that they should be allies.)
|Location of St. Helena|
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Items Added July 26, 2021
Your Assignment for Today
If you do nothing else today, read the New York Times article on how the refusal of many to be vaccinated is prolonging and aiding the Covid19 pandemic. CLICK HERE TO READ IT.
Crucial in combatting the virus is vaccination. Press Secretary Psaki has made it clear that vaccination or masking mandates are local community, State, organizational and private business' decisions and not that of the Federal government. So it is time for YOU to roll up your sleeves, get vaccinated (if you are not already) and go one step further. You must avoid contact with those who are not vaccinated. They are dangerous because beside their own vulnerabilty, they can spread the virus to others, including the vaccinated, who while probably not being susceptable to infection themselves, can spread the virus, in all of its dangerous variants, to others. And that is where the battle against Covid19 must be fought.
To help identify the unvaccinated, who must be avoided, I have ordered a generous supply of stickers for the vaccinated to wear, so that they may be identifiable as opposed to the unvaccinated allies of the virus, who must be avoided. Just ask me for one. I expect a delivery later today.
Just ask me for one! (or more so you can pass them out to the vaccinated.)
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Here's a letter I sent to the Palm Beach Post last week after they published an article about how some rude customers insulted the owner of an Asian restauarant in Delray Beach, using anti-Asian epithets. I doubt that they will publish it, but here it is for your benefit:
"In the Post’s July 22 article on local anti-Asian racism, the owner of the restaurant where the incident occurred is quoted as saying “We let it go and moved on. It was just ignorant people.”
We should not underestimate the power of such “ignorant people.” Their ignorance is not limited to bad behavior in restaurants. It played a big role in the election of our governor, the majority of our State Legislature and the awarding of Florida’s electoral votes to Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020.
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Items Added July 23, 2021
Covid19 Isn't Going Away So Fast !
If voluntary measures (vaccination, renewed mask wearing and attempts at crowd avoidance) fail to halt the increasing spread of Covid19, particularly its extremely contagious Delta variant, mandatory measures will start to come back into play, since those who do not do these things voluntarily, whether they get sick or not, endanger the entire population, vaccinated or not, to some extent. That's where the government's responsibility comes in. (While those vaccinated are highly unlikely to get a serious infection, the degree to which they can stll spread the virus to others has not been determined.)
Such measures still would be difficult to enforce since their politicization would be unavoidable, despite many hypocrites among some Republicans and conservative clergy just now starting to dislike what they see when they look in a mirror. (This does not apply to Florida where Republicans, led by their quietly vaccinated governor, generally are too ignorant or gullible to see the problem.)
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“Cancel Culture” is said to include the acts of not patronizing organizations and businesses with whom one might disagree politically. Whether or not one chooses to do this is up to them, but there are two businesses whom I recommend boycotting.
One is the “My Pillow” guy who is an outspoken acolyte of Donald Trump and a fan of the evils for which he stands. Most businesspeople keep their political views to themselves in order not to antagonize potential customers but not this fellow. Don’t buy pillows from him.
Another enterprise to avoid are the “Hobby Lobby” stores. Ostensibly religious people, they are closed on Sundays but they go further. (Chick-a-Filay is also closed on Sundays for that reason, but they don’t go beyond that point.) Hobby Lobby recently ran full page ads in many newspapers under the heading “One Nation Under God,” which clearly attacked the First Amendment’s injunction against the establishment of any religion in our country. They use the protection of the First Amendment to attack the words of that very Amendment. Hobby Lobby is as un-American as were the Inquisition and the Crusades. Stay away from their stores.
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Item Added July 21, 2021
McCarthy Afraid of January 6 Investigation ... Pulls GOP Participation
|Pelosi did not want |
investigating the insurrection
McCarthy seemed very concerned that the investigation would not center on why the Capitol Police were unprepared to handle the rioters, rather than on the insurrection itself. I liken this position to investigating the manufacturers of a bank’s vault after it was successfully broken into in the middle of the night by safecrackers, rather than going after the perpetrators of the crime.
Republican positions on this investigation is another reason to not vote for any Republican in any election whatsoever! They are as serious a threat to our democracy as any fascist or communist danger ever was. It is time that supporters of the former president awoke to this fact. So far, few have. One is Republican Representative Liz Chaney who refuses to accept the former president's 'big lie' about the election and sees the January 6 insurrection as a violent attempt to keep him in office. Chaney called McCarthy's action "despicable and dishonest."
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Items Added July 20, 2021
To Vax or Not to Vax
Not being vaccinated against Covid19 seems to be more prevalent among Republican voters than among Democratic voters. While not wishing ill to any among the unvaccinated who end up too sick to vote, or even dead, it is possible that the unvaccinated may contribute to Democratic victories in upcoming elections.
The vigor with which the President and other administration figures are urging Americans to become vaccinated could result in the unvaccinated digging in their heels and becoming more adamant in their refusals. Many of them believe charlatans like Tucker Carlson on Fox News or even worse naysayers on the internet.
Knowing this would happen, might the administration’s “hard sell” be intentional, aiming at reducing the number of Republican votes as suggested above? A stubborn child sometimes will behave in the opposite manner from how a parent told them to behave. And many of the ignorant and gullible Republican voters have no more than a child’s mentality.
It is a win-win situation for the Democrats. They, along with the whole country, will benefit from an increase in vaccinations limiting the spread of the Coronavirus in all of its variants and reduce the severity of infections. A decrease in vaccinations will help Democrats in elections since a seriously sick or dead Republican won't be casting a vote, and it is among them that the anti-vaxxers are found.
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Republicans Depend on Dummies for Support
Here's a quote from a piece in today's Washington Post. about the motivation of the January 6 insurrectionists. No Surprise! The Republicans depend on dumb people like this poor fellow to riot and vote for them. Fox and Trump deserve to stand before the bar of justice and God willing, they someday will!
"Anthony Antonio lost his job because of the pandemic, moved in with friends who watched Fox News constantly and says he came to Washington because Trump commanded him. (Antonio, charged with five counts including obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder, has yet to enter a plea.) “The reason he was there is because he was a dumb --- and believed what he heard on Fox News,” Antonio’s attorney, Joseph Hurley, said in an interview in May."
Reminds me of the old TV character who when confronted with his evil acts, claimed that "The Devil Made Me Do It!" That'll go a long way in court.
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Item Added July 13, 2021
Untethered From Reality
Republican arguments at their recent CPAC meeting were characterized by some as "untethered from reality" as they endoresed the "Big Lie." There's nothing new about that! The September 2017 issue of the Atlantic included a lengthy and comprehensive article (updated on Dec. 28, 2017) on our nation's dysfunction which started with a question asking "When did America become untethered from reality?"
It headlined Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously saying “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts” as well as historian Daniel J. Boorstin's words as far back as 1961 in his "The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America" as saying "We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so ‘realistic’ that they can live in them.”
Being so far "untethered from reality" that one lives in a world of illusion can call for psychiatric intervention and it appears that we have reached that point. Many of those who Americans see on Fox News fit this diagnosis.
Anticipated and feared Republican victories in the 2022 elections, following the pattern they have established in States they control, will mean we will have given the keys to the asylum to the inmates. "Untethered" puts it too mildly, frighteningly and dangerously so. If you've read this far, go a bit further and check out the Atlantic article mentioned above by CLICKING HERE.
I hope the Democrats' hope for a solution does not hinge on the hope that the American voter will see the voter suppression acts in the States the Republicans control and their gross hypocrisy in Washington as sufficient motivation to turn out in truly massive numbers in the 2022 elections and repudiate these anti-democratic forces. Doing so might be as effective as carrying a rabbit's foot or crossing one's fingers.
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Item Added July 12, 2021
Virgin Galactic's Space Flight
I am not a stock market maven (my only investments are in well managed conservative mutual funds or exchange traded funds) but the behavior of Virgin Galactic’s stock whose (NYSE symbol SPCE) over the past year has been strange to say the least. For a company with no apparent revenue and losses piling up, there has been a lot of speculative trading going on with large blocs of its stock being bought and sold. It is unavoidable that Virgin Galactic’s founder Richard Branson’s flight into "near space" a few days ago may have an effect on the stock’s volatility particularly in the options area.
In any event, it appears there are billionaires lining up to pay an estimated $250,000 for future brief space flights to nowhere. I would hope IRS makes sure to audit those on the prospective passenger lists who seem to have enough money to piss away on such ego building, but otherwise worthless, activities.
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders commented via Twitter on this event writing that "Here on Earth, in the richest country on the planet, half of our people live from paycheck to paycheck, people are , struggling to see a doctor and meanwhile, the richest guys in the world are in outer space. Yes, It is time to tax billionaires.”
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Item Added July 11, 2021
Where Did We Go Wrong?
Where, oh where did we go wrong? Where is the nation that was able to pull itself out of a world-wide depression during the thirties (true, WW Two helped), defeat the forces of fascism during the forties, derail world-wide communism during the last half of the twentieth century, and was able to provide its citizens with the highest standard of living in the world, a thriving economy and more liberty and equality (although that is still a work in progress) than ever before? Where did we go wrong?
This weekend, conservative Republicans are gathering in Dallas at their CPAC convention, at which the former president will speak. He and other speakers will talk about a stolen election, a claim disproven by all election authorities and courts, dismiss the January 6 invasion of the Capitol by terrorists intent on stopping the formalization of the election results in the Electoral College as a mere visit by tourists and talk about getting the former president back in the White House in 2024 or sooner. Where, oh where did we go wrong so that such dangerous nonsense has achieved even a smidgen of credibility?
I will tell you how those who are against democracy in the United States and against a citizenry enjoying equal rights under the law regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation found a way.
In my opinion, they started by pinpointing areas of dissatisfaction among separate groups of Americans and over the past half century, unifying them under one all-encompassing banner. Dissatisfaction with something or other has always been part of American culture but never before have all of the dissatisfied been united as they were through the words of William Buckley, the candidacy of Barry Goldwater, the emergence of the Tea Party, the salesmanship of Ronald Reagan and culminating with the election of Donald Trump to the presidency.
Some were frustrated by the disappearance of traditional hands-on jobs and their replacement with technology, with the replacement of the Rust Belt with Silicon Valley. Some were annoyed by the growing presence of recent immigrants and eventually their children among the work force, the professions and society in general. Similarly, there were those who for a variety of reasons, objected to racial equality and were still, at least in their minds, fighting the Civil War. Some were dissatisfied with the government’s assuming the role of maintaining a safety net for those who were on the lower rungs of the economy’s ladder. Government regulations designed for the welfare and protection of ordinary citizens from questionable financial and business practices were opposed by others, usually in the private sector. There were those who saw a communist or socialist conspiracy behind every door that was being ignored. Others were dissatisfied with the ease with which a woman could obtain an abortion. Some objected to the redefinition of family structures, to include new sexual choices. And there were those who, despite the First Amendment, saw the United States as a Christian country and wanted to keep it that way. Regulation of the possession of weapons by private citizens was seen by others as an incursion into their freedom. Dissatisfaction with our educational system flourished, particularly among those who lacked confidence in science, and among those who disliked their children going to desegregated schools. Unionization of workers was seen by others as somehow un-American. The list of causes of dissatisfaction went on and on.
Standing alone, these groups made a lot of noise, but really did not exert much power. But united in their various dissatisfactions, augmented by carefully cultivated media outlets, they became a potent force. They first manifested their strength in local and State elections, and continue to do so, and soon their power spread into national politics. And that is where we are today.
This is where we went wrong. This is why so many Americans believe the “Big Lie” in regard to the 2020 election promulgated by the party which has mobilized these many sources of dissatisfaction into one massive anti-democratic group, masquerading as patriots dedicated to ‘saving’ our country and way of life.
What can be done about it remains in the hands of voters. The battle against these anti-democratic forces must be fought primarily in elections for State legislators and officials, governors and members of Congress. The presidency counts but not so much as these other offices do. This is where the dissatisfactions mentioned above manifest themselves, separately or unified into what is today’s Republican Party.
And in answering the question I started with, where we went wrong, the answer seems to be that we fail to recognize that all politics are local. So is dissatisfaction with something or anything.
The laid-off employee at the local factory, the picketer at the local abortion clinic inspired by a local clergyman, the local hunter who cherishes his weapons, the local worker who sees his hard-earned salary taxed to support local unemployed, those who feel that the history they've been taught is being taken away when a statue of a Confederate general is removed from the town square, those who see strange-sounding foreign names appearing on the honors list at the local school; When they suddenly realize that they can band together on the same local team, motivated by different things with which they are dissatisfied, but moved to do something about them in concert, we have a problem. We "go wrong" when we do not recognize and deal with these seemingly local "dissatisfactions" on the level where they initially manifest themselves, locally.
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Item Added July 10, 2021
Phooey on Bipartisanship!
Here's a letter I just emailed to the Palm Beach Post. I'll let you know if they print it.
“In a ‘Your Turn’ column on July 10, Mario Lopez looks for bipartisanship in the Senate, defending its traditional use of the filibuster procedurally to protect the rights of the minority viewpoint. Unfortunately, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, as recently as last month, declared that “the era of bipartisanship is over.” I take that to mean that the Republicans consider the filibuster as a destructive tool and not a step toward constructive bipartisan compromise. When the hand offered in the hope of bipartisanship is spit upon, what alternatives do the Democrats have?”
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Item Added July 8, 2021
Haitian Disaster ... and memories of the Monroe Doctrine
The President of Haiti was assassinated the other day, which brings to mind that somewhere on this blog, years ago, I posted my thoughts as to what I considered “the prerequisites of statehood.” As I recall they were (1) a base on which to establish a potentially viable economy, be it natural resources, agriculture or manufacturing or a combination of them, (2) natural boundaries such as bodies of water, mountain ranges and finally, (3) a sufficient number of educated people to manage its government and its economy.
Overarching and essential to these three prerequisites would be having a distinct ethnic identity which must be present, complicating them further. Without that, achieving lasting statehood is very, very, difficult, if not impossible.
Lack of only one of these prerequisites suggests that the area would be better off merged into another county, peacefully or by conquest, although most nations might be reluctant to buy into what clearly would be a 'can of worms,' or in other words, a losing proposition.
Good natural borders and smart people but no potentially viable economy will eventually lead to disaster. A potentially viable economy and smart people but insecure natural borders will eventually lead to disaster. Good natural borders and a potentially viable economy but no smart people will eventually lead to disaster. Failure on all three counts guarantees disaster.
And don't forget about ethnic identity, even if all three prerequisites are satisfied. (This is one of the arguments of those in favor of a 'two state solution' for the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.)
Which brings us to Haiti. In my opinion, there is only one solution for that country, which fails on two of these three counts. (The fact that the late President's wounded wife had to be air lifted to a hospital out of Haiti, in Florida, is further evidence of the hopelessness of Haiti to survive as a nation.)
Haiti should be taken over by a group such as the Organization of American States and managed as a protectorate until it measures up in the two areas in which it fails. This would result in reduced unwelcome Haitian emigration to nearby countries and prevent a nation from outside of the Western hemisphere, such as China or Russia from stepping in with a solution. It is in the interests of the United States, and the rest of the Western hemisphere nations, to prevent that from happening.
The Monroe Doctrine supposedly put an end to colonizing the Western hemisphere, but colonization still exists today, but hiding under other names, cheifly related to economic aid. We do not need another Cuba nor Venezuela in the Caribbean!
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Item Added July 7, 2021
Politics are Enough to Make Me Sick Department
Politics are Enough to Make Me Sick Department
Here’s a recent Palm Beach Post column from Frank Cerabino. It illustrates what is wrong with our political system. That such appointments can be made without citizens screaming bloody murder is tragic. Politicians love to give your money away to people like this.
It proves that what one knows is secondary to whom one knows and what power one might have over them. It is just another reason to vote against Governor DeSantis when he runs for re-election and any Republican legislator who supports him. And of course, there are many other reasons as well. You must read this column! It’s easy. JUST CLICK HERE AND BE SHOCKED !
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The Power of Minorities
Minorities were sufficient to bring the Bolsheviks to power in Russia and to bring the Nazis to power in Germany. Our gullible and history-ignorant minority is similarly sufficient to destroy the obviously flawed democracy we have in the United States. It is doing it TODAY in State legislatures throughout the country and will do it nationally if it manages to only slightly increase its numbers in Congress.
Over the past half century, we defeated fascist and communist attempts to overturn democracy, but Republican traitors (what else can we call those who approved of the January 6 insurrection and voted against investigating it?) in the guise of patriots, will be more difficult to deter. Insurrectionists go unpunished and actually have Congressional support from members of what used to be a political party but is now no more than a subversive cabal!
The only solution is a massive outpouring of Democratic votes, from Democrats, Independents and sane Republicans in 2022, and making that happen is up to each and every true American, including you, and you, and you, and YOU! And then we will need an agressive Department of Justice and FBI to defend the results ot that election from attack by the subversives.
And this must be a continuous effort, in elections and otherwise. The forces of evil do not give up. The Nazis' "Beer Hall Putsch," analogous to our January 6 Insurrection, failed in 1923, but they came back nine years later to take over the government. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty!
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Item Added July 6, 2021
Am I Serious .. or Just Angry?
Just got a call on my landline phone from my power company saying my power would be cut off unless I paid overdue bills and instructed me to push "one" to talk to someone. Of course, I hung up, knowing my bill was paid in full and this was just an attempt to steal my identity or at least my phone number to use for nefarious purposes.
The best way to stop these calls, other than not answering your phone unless you recognize the caller via 'caller ID' (but what if it's a relative calling from a phone booth or borrowed phone?) is to suspend our justice system in regard to them for one year and institute and publicize a mandatory death penalty for those caught making the calls and their crooked employers. If these calls come from outside of the country, we should force foreign governments to immediately crack down on them, under the threat of our breaking diplomatic relations with them, suspending any aid programs that exist, and if that fails, start testing nuclear weapons off of their coasts.
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Item Added July 5, 2021
Dealing with Enemies
In a speech Abraham Lincoln delivered
at the height of the Civil War,
he referred to Southerners as fellow human beings who were "in
error." An elderly lady chastised him for not calling them irreconcilable
enemies who must be destroyed. “Why, madam,” Lincoln replied,
“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
But readers, do not forget Aesop’s fable regarding a farmer and a snake, in which a farmer picks up a freezing viper from the snow, and warms it within his coat, only to be fatally bitten by it, knowing as he dies that his death is his own fault.
There's another fable where the thankful snake becomes his friend. Which fable you believe, or even the words of our sixteenth president, is up to you. Vaguely, this has something to do with President Biden's search for bi-partisanship in Congress.
* * *
Do Older Florida High-Rises Pose Dangers?
An article in the New York Times featured the headline, "Lax Enforcement Let South Florida Toweres Skirt Inspections for Years." It went on to point out that "the collapse of Champlain Towers South has prompted a review of hundreds of older high-rises ... that some buildings ignored or delayed action on serious maintenance issues ... that the collapse of Champlain Towers South has prompted a review of hundreds of older high-rises ... and that some buildings ignored or delayed action on serious maintenance issues."
This story is far from ended. And it goes far beyond Miami, extending to the inability of local and state government in Florida and elsewhere to pass and enforce legislation to solve this problem. Right now, in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, there could be hundreds, if not thousands, of people living in structures as unsafe, or even less safe, than was Champlain Towers South. We just don't know. And they don't know, either.
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Item Added July 1, 2021
Three Things on my Mind to Get Off of my Chest
1. Supreme Court Gets it Wrong: The SCOTUS decision weakening Democratic litigation challenging the anti-democratic voter repression being legislated by Republican governors and State legislators is the result of the three appointments made to the Court by the former President. The Court should have been aware that voting the way they did will, and should, open the door to expanding the Court to better represent and defend the rights of the American people. But they were not.
Now, expect Democratic measures to expand the Supreme Court, in line with the now irreversible Republican politicization of it. Making Puerto Rico and the D. of C. into States would ease that process, along with ditching the filibuster. The Republicans have asked for it!
2. A "Woke" TV Commercial: There’s a Toyota Rav4 TV commercial kicking around (I see it several times while watching baseball games) which has a silent message. It stars James Marsden who has had roles in other Toyota commercials and is a well-known actor, although I’ve never heard of him before. Anyhow, without making any claims to be making a racial point, this is a “woke” commercial, just because it takes the awareness of its racial aspects for granted.
In the commercial, a young woman of color is introducing “James,” apparently her Caucasian boyfriend, to her family in their driveway, saying “This is James” to them. The mother comes forward and for a split second, you can see the father off to the side in the driveway. She is Black. He is not. (I suspect that the actors playing the parents are actually the real parents of the actress playing the young woman. There is a definite resemblance.) Finally, we see James swinging on a rope over a swimming hole and awkwardly falling into the water, witnessed with great empathy by his buddy, who is Black.
Okay, they’re selling cars, but there’s another message here, made more powerful because it is unsaid.
3. New York, New York: The screw-up in tallying New York City’s “Ranked Choice Voting” mayoral primary (where the candidates with the least votes are eliminated, one by one, with their voters’ second choices becoming their first choice, until finally, one candidate has a majority of the votes) reminds me of someone I met years ago, whose name I don’t even recall. Retired from his information technology position (I believe he had been with IBM), he told me he was working for the City of New York as a “consultant” in one of their departments where computers were heavily used. I recall asking him if he was there to train the City employees, to which he replied, “No, I’m hired to do their job. The City’s employees are too dumb or too lazy to learn the skills necessary to do the job.” This is why last week’s mayoral primary was screwed up. Things haven’t changed.
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Item Added June 30, 2021
Getting into "Necessary Trouble"
When a government becomes oppressive, people sometimes rise up to show their opposition to that government’s behavior. So it was in China a few years ago when a lone protester faced off against a tank in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. That spirit isn’t alive in China today, but all it takes is a spark to ignite it anywhere, including in the United States. Back in 1984 during the Reagan presidency, Bruce Springsteen sang of that spark in his “Dancing in the Dark” (not the 1931 song of the same name) with these words:
“You can't start a fire
You can't start a fire without a spark
This gun's for hire
Even if we're just dancin' in the dark”
Here’s a letter just published (June 29) in the Palm Beach Post by a member of the community where I live. It contains a spark.
“The three-ring circus of unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, acts of insurrection and the passage of laws that make it more difficult for everyone to vote continues. I find it hard to believe that anyone who believes in America is not angered by the actions, words and deeds of Republican elected officials at every level who have supported this false narrative.
Their words are shameful. Their passage of laws aimed at denying people their constitutional right to vote, cloaked in the false premise of securing future elections, and their blatant disregard of decency and honesty can lead nowhere other than to more and more acts of civil disobedience.
I for one will be at voting stations on Primary and Election Day and will be handing out bottles of water and snacks to those who are standing in line to exercise their right to vote. I fully understand that it will be a violation of the new so-called election reform law that was recently passed and I will be prepared to accept the consequences of my actions.
I believe that many people, whatever their political affiliation, are equally as angry, frustrated and disgusted. I urge you to join me to protest the Florida Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ insulting attack on democracy and to remember, on future Elections Days, who did this to all of us.
Bruce Brodsky, Boynton Beach”
While challenging governmental oppression by passing out water to those waiting in lines to vote isn’t on the level of facing off against a tank, it can nevertheless get one into trouble because Florida’s neo-fascist governor, Ron DeSantis, and the Republican legislature have made it illegal.
That “trouble,” however, fits the definition of “good trouble” spoken by the late Congressman John Lewis, “necessary trouble to redeem the soul of America,” at the March 2020 ceremony commemorating “Bloody Sunday” at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965 when such demonstrations against segregation were as illegal as confronting a tank in Tiananmen Square was or passing out water to those waiting in lines to vote in Florida is today.
* * *
And speaking of letters, here is a draft of one I never bothered to send anywhere: Just as the United States survived the threats to democracy posed by fascism and communism during the past century, it will survive the similar threats to democracy posed by today’s Republican Party leadership. This, I believe.
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Item Added June 29, 2021
Although they wilI keep trying, I doubt that the rescue teams are going to find any living survivors of the collapsed condo in Surfside. What comes to the fore now are the questions about how this horrific tragedy happened.
How thorough are the periodic examinations of these buildings right on the shoreline facing the sea? Are the resident boards which govern them sufficiently pro-active to aggressively act on a report suggesting “structural problems.” Without an engineer saying that a building is unsafe and about to collapse, which is a rare determination, how can it be determined when “structural problems” are sufficiently serious to cross a line into the area of being “unsafe” and move a building’s resident board beyond procrastination for financial reasons. Builders are long gone and beyond accountability. And how closely do governmental agencies monitor the results of these inspections, mandatory after 40 years? Is that waiting too long? (Champlain Towers was built in 1980.) We really do not fully understand the cumulative effect of tides and winds and salt water over the years and the shifting geologic factors that can gradually, or quickly, change what was once a firm foundation into something less.
|Collapsed Champlain Condo in Surfside|
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of buildings along Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts, just a few yards from the sea which could end up with the kind of problems which brought down Champlain Towers South in Surfside, with what appears to be great cost of human life. And we don’t know which one will be next. Wait long enough and there will be a “next.” Ancient cities like Troy have been found to be built over earlier cities, after they eventually crumbled. But they rarely rose more than one story.
I live in a one-story home in Florida, about six miles from the Atlantic Ocean, but worry about those who live in high-rise buildings right along the ocean, particularly those that were built during the 1900’s and not designed to last an eternity... and whose safety is in the inexpert hands of amateur condo and homeowners boards, whose eyes are usually fixed on budgetary matters.
* * *
Playing Politics with the Infrastructure
I understand that the President's strategy is to somehow pass everything the original Infrastructure bill contained. His tactic to get that done is to first secure passage of a pared-down bi-partisan Infrastructure bill (requiring 60 Senate votes) and then, the American Families bill (requiring only 50 votes if reconciliation is used) which includes the economic and social benefits taken out of the original Infrastructure bill.
The timing of passing the latter bill is crucial to maintaining Republican support for the bi-partisan bill. Managing this tactic is the key and just as the President erred in originally implying (since 'walked back') that both bills had to pass, for either to pass, Speaker Pelosi, is dead wrong and risking everything when she suggests that she wants the American Families bill passed first.
This might satisfy the more progressive Democrats, but also risks losing G.O.P. support for the pared-down Infrastructure bill. I hope the Democrats don't let such faulty tactics defeat sound strategy and shoot themselves in the foot by poorly timing action on these two bills.
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Item Added June 27, 2021
Critical Race Theory and "South Pacific"
“Critical Race Theory” is an academic movement among civil rights scholars and activists which developed about forty or fifty years ago. It seeks to examine our laws as they intersect with issues of race today in the United States and challenge present approaches to them.
Contrary to rightist misinformation, it is not something to be taught in our schools. It may, of course, influence professionals in the field of education, particularly those who develop curricula for our schools. An example of what Critical Race Theory points out might be residential zoning requiring minimum lot sizes which result in less wealthy people, including members of minority groups, being unable to afford to live in a particular area. That Critical Race Theory may lead to such conclusions is is no reason, however, to exclude such information from what is taught in schools.
In 1949, before Critical Race Theory even existed, Oscar Hammerstein wrote the following lyric to a song from the musical “South Pacific” which dealt with the origins of racism, so this is not entirely a new problem. It is an old one:
You've got to be
taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade
You've got to be carefully taught
You've got to be taught before it's too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught.
* * *
If President Biden is encountering difficulty in the matter discussed here yesterday (see below), the problem rests with the tactics he used to try to move his strategy forward rather than the strategy itself.
I am shocked that his advisers did not make it clear that these tactics would only work if the two bills were, at least in the eyes of the Republicans, kept separate. Once the slimmed-down Infrastructure bill were passed, the second bill, containing the deleted social and economic benefits would be introduced and passed using reconciliation, after a delay of few weeks, leaving the Republicans free to then disassociate themselves from it. With Senator Manchin's cooperation, that could be a "slam dunk" and worth the gamble that something might go wrong. I think the President should be in daily telephone contact with Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi before he starts "winging it."
(The second paragraph of this comment added on June 28.)
* * *
Item Added June 26, 2021
Playing Politics with the Infrastructure
Looks like the President came up with a bi-partisan deal with a sufficient number of Republican Senators to pass an Infrastructure Bill, which didn’t have a lot of the social and economic benefits tacked onto it, desired by progressive wing of the Democratic Party, but unacceptable to Republicans. Enough GOP Senators could, however, vote for this stripped-down Infrastructure Bill, which could then amass the sixty votes needed to avoid a filibuster.
But apparently, these Republicans now claim that they were unaware that those excised social and economic benefits would appear in a separate bill involving financing and thereby possible to pass with just fifty Senate votes plus the Vice-President’s using the “reconciliation” process. President Biden says he will not sign the stripped-down Infrastructure Bill without also signing this separate bill. I cannot believe the Republicans were taken by surprise with this strategy. Generally, they are dumb, but not that dumb.
It would enable Republicans to tell their constituents they voted for the Infrastructure Bill, a good thing, but voted against the separate bill, which the Democrats could pass without them, because of its costly social and economic benefits, which their voters associate with “socialism.” Democrats would, between the two bills, get everything they originally wanted in the Infrastructure Bill.
Belatedly, Republicans are becoming hesitant about what they agreed to do. Their leader, Mitch McConnell doesn’t go along with it and wants those Senators who met with the President to get back in line. I don’t know how this will work out. Without that separate bill, it is likely that some Democrats will not vote for the stripped-down Infrastructure bill. That’s why President Biden needs both bills.
The real solution is for Democrats to come up with massive victories in 2022, taking firmer control of both Houses of Congress so it will not be necessary to play these games. Along with such victories, Democrats need to take over as many governorships and State legislatures as possible, where voting rights are under attack . That’s the way it must be done. Meanwhile the infrastructure crumbles.
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Item Added June 25, 2021
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Item Added June 23, 2021
There’s a conflict going on in Palm Beach County between a developer, actually the son of that developer who is deceased, and the county because the developer was never able to complete a development. Many homes there, condemned by the county, have stood half finished for many years, presenting hazards to those which the developer did sell. The county has gotten court orders to tear down these skeletal structures and the developer is fighting these orders, trying to prevent the county’s demolition contractors from what they call “trespassing” on their property. Which leads me to the following thoughts.
|Infested with 'critters,' and with a tarpaper roof |
blowing in the wind, a fine neighbor!
There are many definitions of “developer” but the one I address today is that of a “real estate developer.” Such individuals, or companies, find a site, design something to be built upon it, either commercial or residential, build it … and get it into the hands of its ultimate users. Such “developers” take something of little value and turn it into something marketable and usable out of something that previously had far less value. The home you live in or the office or plant or store you work in probably would not exist were it not for its “developers.” This is a good thing.
Once a developer locates a site on which they can “develop” something, they have to have some money to put into it; not very much, but enough to put up to convince banks or other financiers to lend them the rest so they might purchase the site, hire architects, builders and ultimately, marketers, to create their development. Like many business people, developers like to do their thing with money other than their own. Once they have completed their development and have rented it or sold it to buyers, their job is to get rid of the considerable debt they accumulate in order to be able to be afford to build it. They do this by passing the “development’s” financial structure on to others who see it as something that will grow in value and prove profitable, even though it is saddled with debt. Some potential buyers even desire such debt for tax purposes.
Of course, the price the developer gets for it is far more than what they initially laid out to get their financing. They may have even borrowed to get that amount, and that just gets added to the debt. It may take a few years for this to happen, but when it does, the developer has made a very nice profit and can move on to their next development, wealthier from the experience.
But if the developer is "stuck" with the development's debt burden and cannot "lay it off elsewhere," they have a problem, one that the income coming in from renters and buyers is inadequate to cover. Failing to find a purchaser, or less desirably a refinancing source, for the development and its debt burden, the developer may go “belly up,” and seek relief in bankruptcy. This is a bad thing.
I do not criticize the way this kind of business operates. Some developers have enough resources of their own so as not to have to borrow, but in my opinion, most do not. Of one thing I am certain, such a business it is not a good training ground for a president of the United States.
Disagree with this? Let me know.
* * *
Item Added June 21, 2021
Back on Oct. 22, 2013, this blog explained, in advance, before Trump even ran for president, the sickness which was infecting the Republican Party. Today, things are still about the same, if not worse, for the country because of the gullible ignoramuses who blindly vote against their own interests and vote Republican. Since then, they elected the worst president this country has ever had, weakened our relationship with the rest of the civilized world and are busy demolishing democracy in America. They are destroying our country. Go back and read what this blog pointed out almost eight years ago on Oct. 22, 2013. You might also look at the Oct. 10, 2013 posting which is referred to in the Oct. 22 posting. (It ends with Ted Cruz as President of Somalia.)
Check out the instructions for getting to this old posting which appear above. All you can do about it is to vote, and get everyone you know to vote in all elections from president on down to dogcatcher.
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Item Added June 20, 2021
Thoughts Prompted by the Latest Financial Fraud
In reading the articles about the Florida-based Seeman-Holtz investment fraud, (google it if you don’t know what I am talking about, including the suicide of Holtz) it occurs to me that many consumers don’t know the difference between an insurance company and a business, usually called an agency, which sells the products of one or more insurance companies, and sometimes also may provide other financial services, including investments. States regulate the finances of insurance companies, and to some extent, guarantee their products. Other than licensing sales agents, however, they do not similarly regulate the firms which are in the business of selling the products of insurance companies.
Many years ago, when I left the insurance company of which I was a vice-president because of its acquisition by a larger insurance company, I connected with a firm in the business of selling the products of several insurance companies, a firm which was what might properly be called an insurance agency. One day, I heard an employee say, in speaking to someone on the phone who had called by mistake, “You’ve got the wrong number. We’re an insurance company.” When I pointed that the XYZ Agency was not an insurance company, the employee didn’t know what I was talking about. In another instance, while I was still an executive with an insurance company, I became aware from newspaper advertising that Chase Bank was getting into the business of selling insurance. Although all that they were doing was selling the products of real insurance companies, the ads referred to the “Chase Insurance Company.” I pointed this out to someone I knew at Chase, and I suppose others did as well, because the ads quickly changed.
Whomever initiated the program at Chase, and the employee of the insurance agency I mentioned, were as ignorant as the clients of Seeman-Holtz as to the difference between an insurance company and a business which sells the products of an insurance company. (An exception to this can be the insurance companies, like Metropolitan and Prudential, which own some or all the agencies, or businesses, which sell their products.)
I don’t know whose job it is to make the public aware of these differences. They are important when their trust is based on the guarantees an insurance company supposedly provides, when what they are dealing with may actually be another kind of creature entirely. This is how many of the clients of Seeman-Holtz were bilked. And this information, when provided, shouldn’t be on gray paper in tiny type in a slightly darker shade of gray.
(Addendum added 6/21/21): From what I gather, and this is pure conjecture on my part, this firm claimed its clients' investments were "collateralized," whatever that means, by life insurance products. Conceivably there were enough life insurance policies out there, with the firm as owner and/or beneficiary, to eventually cover, by death claim or their cash surrender values, at least some of the money that wasn't there in what was otherwise a Madoff-style Ponzi scheme.
* * *
Item Added June 18, 2021
The Item added on June 14 to this posting (see below) regarding the role of the Supreme Court in acting to reduce gun violence appears today as a Letter the Editor in the Palm Beach Post. Its "print" and "online" six-figure circulation surpasses that of this blog.
* * *
Items Added June 17, 2021
Criticism of Criticism - "In the Heights"
|Clip from the film "In the Heights"|
Saw Lin-Manuel Miranda’s new film version of his Broadway show, “In the Heights” the other night on HBO-Max and will catch it again when it opens in real theatres. It is really enjoyable and the choreography is great.
But I heard one critic interviewed on NPR the other day who objected to the way it depicted the inhabitants, mostly from the Dominican Republic, of Washington Heights in the film, and more specifically, the casting.
The cast was entirely Latino (or Latinx, if you prefer) ranging in skin color from Caucasian to Black, but mostly “light brown,” whatever that means, which fits in with people from the DR whom I’ve met. From what I heard her say in an interview (most of which is available on the internet), the critic objected to the fact that there weren’t enough Afro-Latino actors hired to perform in the film and it didn’t portray Washington Heights' DR community as sufficiently Afro-Latino. Specifically, she is quoted as saying that "As a Black woman of Cuban descent, specifically from New York City, it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge the fact that most of your principal actors were light-skinned or white-passing Latinx people. We want to see Afro-Panamanians, Black Cubans, Black Dominicans ... That’s what we want to see, and that’s what we were yearning for.” Miranda acknowledged this criticism, but looking back at the casting of his masterpiece, "Hamilton," he cannot be accused of racism.
Sooner or later, the United States will become racially “color-blind,” and “In the Heights” is a great step in the right direction, a far cry from the "whiteness" of the characters in "West Side Story," earlier in this century.
This kind of criticism makes a point, but if those espousing that position look in a mirror, they might see a fuzzy reflection of a racist who doesn't realize they are one, but one whose racism is based on discriminating between the varying degrees of not being "White."
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As for the Biden-Putin Meeting, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post reports below on its coverage. Looks like Putin and our Republican Party, God bless them, are using the same playbook. Otherwise, it appears to have been a good meeting with both heads of state getting a good fix on from where each other was coming, and neither kissing the other's hand (or butt). Really, quite an improvement on what happen in Helsinki when our former president met with Putin. But here's Milbank's column, well worth reading.
“The list of your political opponents who are dead, imprisoned or jailed is long,” she said, including “Alexei Navalny, whose organization calls for free and fair elections and an end to corruption …. So my question, Mr. President: What are you so afraid of?”
The dictator replied by invoking the lie, told by Donald Trump and Republican leaders, that American cities have been convulsed by violence. “America just recently had very severe events after well known events, after a killing of an African American, and an entire movement developed known as Black Lives Matter,” Putin said. “What we saw was disorder, destruction, violations of the law, etc.. We feel sympathy for the United States of America, but we don’t want that to happen on our territory.”
Scott refused the Russians’ demands that she hand over the microphone. “You didn’t answer my question, sir,” she pressed, again asking why his “political opponents are dead, in prison or poisoned.”
This time Putin offered up the fiction, again oft told by Trump and Republican leaders, that the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol was an ordinary political protest. “As for who is killing, whom are throwing whom in jail, people came to the U.S. Congress with political demands; over 400 people had criminal charges placed on them,” the dictator replied. “They’re being called domestic terrorists,” he went on, calling the charges “unclear” and claiming people were shot “by the police, although they were not threatening the police with any weapons. … We have no desire to allow the same thing to happen in our country.”
It was a preposterous lie — and finally there is a U.S. president who will say so. At Biden’s own news conference just after Putin’s (the White House declined to hold a joint one for just this reason), PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor asked Biden about Putin’s remarks about BLM and Jan. 6.
“That’s a ridiculous comparison,” Biden said.
The absurdity of the comparison should be obvious to the world. Thanks to Trump and his allies’ disinformation, it isn’t. This is why truth matters.
Republicans, ignoring pleas from U.S. intelligence, echoed Kremlin disinformation in claiming it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and others repeated Russian disinformation in their Biden-Burisma probe. Trump excused Putin’s political murders, saying, “You think we’re so innocent?” And, in Helsinki, he famously accepted Putin’s denials of election interference.
Putin is still dining out on that one. Asked Wednesday by CNN’s Matthew Chance about Russia’s cyberattacks on the United States, Putin replied that the United States is responsible for “most of the cyberattacks in the world,” and that “Russia’s not on the list” of perpetrators.
The civilized world didn’t have to look far to see where such lies lead. Putin and his goons gave a timely demonstration in Geneva of their might-makes-right ways.
At meetings between world leaders, small “pools” of journalists typically attend and report back to other correspondents. But at Wednesday’s summit, a mob of Russian “journalists” — many, of course, state-controlled — shoved their way inside. The mayhem blocked some Americans from the room and drowned out the two leaders’ introductory remarks.
“Russian security yelled at journalists to get out of the rooms and began pushing journalists,” Politico’s Anita Kumar, part of the pool, reported. “Your pooler was pushed multiple times, nearly to the ground, as many poolers tripped over the red rope, which was now almost to the ground.” Another pooler said there was “lots of shoving and grabbing” and “Russian security pulled on our clothes.”
Russian state media then reported that there had been a “stampede” by U.S. journalists.
The truth matters no more to them than it does to Putin — and both, performing in concert at Putin’s news conference, presented a dizzying display of false statements, microphone grabbing and jingoism.
“Our team won. Congratulations,” a correspondent from Komsomolskaya Pravda told Putin. “What do you think is the score in the Putin-Biden meeting?”
Putin, for his part, declared that “all of the activities that have to do with worsening the relations, all of the actions that did that, were not initiated by us.”
Is this how Republicans who parrot Putin’s propaganda want the United States to end up?
Biden, to his credit, opened his news conference with a long statement about Russia’s misconduct. And he promised consequences. He said he informed Putin that “this is not a kumbaya moment.”
Nor should it be. It is a moment for truth."
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Item Added June 15, 2021
A Column To Read
Check out Maureen Dowd's recent column on how the very, very, rich pay little or no taxes. In my opinion, tightening the tax laws won't help since their accountants will certainly come up with other methods of legal tax avoidance, and a "wealth tax," as advocated by Senators Warren and Sanders has no chance of passage since anyone in Congress who votes for it would instantly be deemed a socialist. To read it, CLICK HERE. If that doesn't work, surf the net a bit looking for her columns and you will get to it.
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Item Added June 14, 2021
Only the Supreme Court Can Reduce Gun Violence
The Second Amendment states that “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.” Because of the many shootings lately, some may wonder why the first thirteen words of the Amendment were even included by the framers of the Constitution. They seem to be ignored while its final fourteen words make regulations against gun violence difficult.
|Late SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia, whose 2008 opinion |
has reinforced the power of those who oppose firearms regulation
and thereby, although unintentionally, contributed to many deaths.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in D.C. vs Heller in 2008 that while the first thirteen words stated the purpose of the Amendment, they did not limit the rights guaranteed by its final fourteen words. This reasoning, which has encouraged the proliferation of weapons in this country, may ultimately be reversed by the Supreme Court, but only after more shootings, we hope not too many.
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Item Added June 10, 2021
Two news stories are worthy of comment today.
Number One: Today’s shooting (three fatalities) in a supermarket in Florida points up that there are just too many guns out there in circulation. Gross political misinterpretation of the Second Amendment by a politicized Supreme Court, ignoring its first thirteen words, has legitimatized the availability of weapons to anyone who wants them, with no clue as to what is going on in their brains. The mental problems of those who turn to shootings are usually unknown and unpredictable in advance. The sale of weapons, in any manner, should be carefully regulated and those who possess weapons must be licensed to do so. State governments, for now, are not capable of doing this, so it must be done by the Federal government. We do not live in a Western movie, where everyone was armed. We live in the real world. If the sale of weapons and the licensing of gun owners for legitimate purposes does not take place, there is only one alternative. Repeal of the Second Amendment!
Number Two: Throughout the country, pressure is being put on teachers not to teach the role of racism in American history. It cannot be denied that we were a slaveholding nation until 1864, and the history of what happened before then and after the abolition of slavery is often ugly, with some Americans refusing to accept the Declaration of Independence’s words that “all men are created equal.” Hiding the truth, ignoring history, does not make it go away. Ignored facts eventually come back to bite you. The administration of education should be left to educators and not politicians with questionable agendas. Again, the States must step aside for Federal control of this problem. The States, at this time, cannot be trusted.
Even the Bible says that “Ye shall know the truth and it shall make you free.” (John 8:32) Not seeing that these words, in another context, also apply to education in our country recognizes that there are some in positions of power who do not want you to be free.
It should be noted that Florida Education Commissioner Corcoran, unlike Governor DeSantis, does not have an undergraduate degree from Yale and a law degree from Harvard. In fact, I never before had heard of the colleges (both of which are pretty good schools within their limited category) where he got his degrees. Replacing DeSantis is crucial to solving this problem. Otherwise, people like Corcoran will continue to be given important posts for which they are not qualified, as political rewards.
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Item Added June 9, 2021
A Problem and a Question
The problem is that the American people did not elect enough Democrats in 2020 to make a difference in the struggle to save democracy.
A Question: Will Republican obstinacy in the Senate, repressive State voting legislation and tighter abortion laws, perhaps fueled by the SCOTUS, be enough to remedy this problem by awakening and turning out massive numbers of Democratic voters throughout the country up and down the ticket in 2022, particularly including State legislature elections?
Americans stepped forward and acted in 1776 when the Crown tried to deny them democracy, did so again in 1861 when the slaveholding States seceded and did so again in the 20th century when fascism and communism threatened democracy.
Will they do so now when confronted by undisguised Republican attacks on democracy?
(The physical attacks on the Capitol on January 6 were not by Democrats, BLM or Antifa ... if there is such an organization ... but by supporters of the Republican president whom the voters had just voted out of office. And refusal to investigate that attack on democracy is the policy of Republicans in Congress. It is enough to make one vomit.)