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

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

September 13, 2023 - Coco Gauff, Jury Selection, Pardoning You Know Who, Musk's Foreign Policy, a Trivia Quiz, and Some Bits & Pieces


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Congratulations to Coco Gauff - More Than Just Tennis!

Hats off to Coco Gauff, southern Palm Beach County resident, and winner of the 2023 U.S. Open Tennis Championship!  But as Tom D’Angelo wrote in the Palm Beach Post, she’s more than just than just a champion on the tennis court.

In addition to her tennis accomplishments, Coco is known for having delivered a passionate and powerful speech during a Black Lives Matter demonstration, was prominent in protests at the time of the George Floyd murder, repeatedly spoken out against Florida Governor DeSantis’ restrictive policies against the LGBTQ+ community, and even acknowledged and accepted climate protesters who caused a 50-minute delay in her U.S. Open semi-final match.  After winning the championship, Coco graciously thanked Billie Jean King, who was at her side at Arthur Ashe Stadium, for her pioneering work half a century ago, bringing gender equality to tennis tournaments.  

And Coco is only nineteen years old.  Of course, while she received congratulatory messages from President Biden as well as from former presidents Clinton and Obama, among many other prominent Americans, including tennis great Serena Williams, none came from Governor DeSantis, who was busy in Iowa hunting for presidential-primary support among Republicans, which I assume Gauff is not.  If she can find the time from her tennis calendar, perhaps Ms. Gauff can put in a good word from the platform she now occupies urging voter registration among young people.


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Crucial Jury Selection Looms

Republican efforts to move the trials of some of the defeated former president’s indicted colleagues to a Federal Court in their conspiracy to try to get Georgia’s 2020 electoral vote changed, was solely for the purpose of getting a jury more favorable to them.  

The case will be tried before a jury selected in heavily Democratic Fulton County.  Moving it to a Federal Court would widen the area from which the jurors would be selected resulting in a less Democratic pool of jurors.  Thus far, those efforts have not been successful.  In the defeated former president’s and his colleagues’ criminal cases, all it would take is one dissenting juror to bring about an acquittal or a mistrial.  If that happened, it would weaken the prosecution's arguments in their other pending criminal cases dealing with the election and its results.  That would not be nice.

The future of democracy in the United States depends on whether its foes, those who would prefer a more autocratic form of government, can manipulate the jury system to aid the racists and bigots in their quest to have a government that is the opposite of the one Abraham Lincoln spoke of at Gettysburg, a government of, by, and for the people.

Some believe that it would be impossible to select a jury anywhere in this country that would not be prejudiced in regard to the chief defendant in either direction, despite instructions to jurors to make their decision entirely on what is presented in the courtroom. All it would take would be but one juror to slip through the questioning by both sides’ attorneys.  That’s why jury selection will take a long, long, time.  (In earlier postings on this blog, I suggested that both sides sit down and cut a deal which would include guilty pleas by the defendants, punishments limited to house confinement and a restriction of further political activity, with the aim of avoiding the dangerous domestic violence many fear would be likely to take place after a jury’s verdict, regardless of a what it might be.) 

Recall the securities fraud case a few years ago brought against pharma CEO Martin Shkreli in which hundreds of jurors were questioned over several weeks and dismissed before a jury was impaneled.  (He was convicted and served seven years.) This one will take even longer. 

The ultimate jury, likely in an appeal of one of the defeated former president’s trials' result, will probably be the nine members of the Supreme Court, and that will set the tone for the other cases.  Of course, three members of the SCOTUS should recuse themselves because they were appointed in a political atmosphere by the defendant. Our Department of Justice's attorneys will fight hard for us to make sure that Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett do not sit in judgment of the defeated former president and of democracy in America. We shall see.

It would be a damn shame if this clear attack on American democracy goes unpunished because of that very democracy's structure.  We love democracy, but it is time for that love to swing closer to 'tough love.'  

And that means carefully examining the issue discussed in the following article.  

This presupposes the conviction of the defeated former president, and the 'deal' that I had suggested to cut short the trials, parenthetically mentioned above, not being done. 


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A Pardon for the Former President?

The following commentary appeared in the September 11 issue of the New Yorker magazine.  Study it.  It is very important.  The author, Jelani Cobb, is the dean of the School of Journalism at Columbia University.

'Donald Trump and the Pardon Debate'

"In early August, 1975, President Gerald Ford granted amnesty to a polarizing figure whose actions had posed a grave threat to American democracy. The man in question was not Richard Nixon, whom Ford had pardoned eleven months earlier, but General Robert E. Lee. After the Civil War, the prospect of prosecution had loomed over former members of the Confederacy. In 1865, President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation that absolved most of them but excluded, among others, Confederate leaders and those who held property worth more than twenty thousand dollars. Three years later, Johnson, who felt that it was simply time to move on, issued another proclamation, which expanded the pardon to include the men, such as Lee, who had organized and led the rebellion. Still, having renounced their U.S. citizenship and taken up arms against the government, they were required to swear an oath of allegiance and make a formal request to regain their rights. Lee’s application was lost—one theory holds that Secretary of State William H. Seward gave Lee’s paperwork to a friend as a souvenir—and he died, in 1870, a man without a country.

Robert E. Lee - Different from the 
Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers?

When Ford reinstated Lee as an American citizen, albeit a dead one, he stretched the truth to the point of prevarication. Lee’s character, Ford remarked, had been “an example to succeeding generations” and the reinstatement was therefore “an event in which every American can take pride.” Nixon’s pardon was far more controversial, but it followed a similar logic. Speaking to Bob Woodward, in the late nineties, Ford explained that Watergate had become such a debacle that there was no hope of making progress on any domestic or foreign-policy issue until it was resolved. He was, in his telling, motivated by concern for the nation’s fate, not Nixon’s. Despite the scale and the destructiveness of his predecessor’s actions, he argued, it was time for the nation to move on.

Late last month, Donald Trump, the twice-impeached, serially indicted former President of the United States, arrived at a courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, to face charges stemming from his alleged attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. By then, the spectacle of a former President being indicted had gone from unprecedented to old hat. In addition to the sprawling Georgia case, grand juries have returned indictments against Trump in a business-fraud case brought by District Attorney Alvin Bragg, in New York, and in two federal cases brought by Jack Smith, a special counsel for the Department of Justice: the first, in Florida, relates to the mishandling of classified materials, and the second, in Washington, D.C., to election interference. (Trump has pleaded not guilty in all of them.) The most damning charges appear in the election cases, which concern Trump’s attempts to retain the Presidency after being voted out of office. Those attempts, of course, culminated in the January 6th assault on the U.S. Capitol—the most significant threat to the peaceful transition of power since the conflict at the center of Robert E. Lee’s forfeited citizenship.

It is not entirely surprising that Trump’s federal indictments have inspired murmured appeals for President Biden to issue a preĆ«mptive pardon. (On the state level, it’s difficult to imagine New York’s governor issuing a pardon. In Georgia, the governor has no such authority.) After the first federal indictment, in June, Marc Thiessen and Danielle Pletka wrote, in the Washington Post, that “millions will see Trump’s prosecution as illegitimate, and any conviction as unjust. That will further erode public confidence in our judicial system and the principle of equal justice under law.” After the second, in August, an op-ed in the Miami Herald held that Trump should be pardoned “because the impact an extended trial and sentencing might have on our democracy is just too terrifying.” The senseless sloganeering that produced the phrase “too big to fail” during the Great Recession has a contemporary corollary: "too big to convict."

The common theme underlying these arguments is the sentiment that the Trump era was rancorous and difficult enough, and the work of upholding the rule of law is slow and protracted and will only deepen national divisions. It is time—let’s say it in unison—for the nation to move on

Of all the rationales for pardoning Trump, the most substantial is the contention that prosecuting political rivals is almost always the hallmark of an autocracy. Under most circumstances, this would be true. Yet the proponents of this argument seldom acknowledge the inverse—that the refusal to prosecute someone, or reflexively pardoning that person precisely because he’s a political rival, is at least equally corrupting to a democracy. It’s not unimaginable that thoughts of the Nixon pardon assuaged the members of Trump’s inner circle as they rampaged over norms, policies, and laws. Abiding lawlessness among the powerful has a way of breeding more of the same. The relatively lenient terms of the Confederate amnesty, for instance, almost certainly facilitated the rise of violent white militias that nullified the voting and citizenship rights of Black people throughout the South in the Civil War’s long aftermath. 

It’s also worth recalling that Trump glided into the White House buoyed by an understandable sense of his own impunity. Despite the years-long tax schemes, chronicled by the Times, and the claims of sexual assault made by more than two dozen women, there has always somehow been a reason not to prosecute Donald Trump. He has enjoyed the amnesty of wealth his entire life—a troubling exemption, though one that, unlike the current calls for amnesty, was never passed off as something in our collective best interest.

The key problem with “moving on” is the indeterminate direction. Where to? There are times when it is in the best interest of a nation not to seek justice despite egregious wrongs. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was premised upon remorse and transparency, is one such example. Trump, whose campaign claimed to have raised seven million dollars in less than three days after his mug shot was released, adheres to opposite principles: belligerence and deception. 

At seventy-seven, for the first time in his life, he may suffer real consequences for his actions. In the short run, this will stoke deeper divisions and heighten animosities. In the long term, this is the safest course for a democracy to take. A pardon would embolden Trump and others like him. It would allow the nation to move on, but toward an even more dangerous future."



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Senator Warren’s Alert to Musk 


According to the New York Times, Senator Elizabeth Warren wants Congress to investigate Elon Musk’s Space X program after he acknowledged blocking Ukraine from using his private Starlink satellite network in an attack on Russian warships near the Crimean coast.  Musk posted on X, his social media network formerly known as Twitter, that if he had agreed to the Ukrainian request, he would have been ‘explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.’  

I add to the Senator’s efforts that Musk, while free to believe whatever he wants to believe, and say whatever he wants to say, should not be able to take international actions outside of our government’s policy, which right now is to support Ukraine’s war effort in struggling to maintain its independence from Russia. 

Despite our satellite network being ‘farmed out’ to him, Musk should not be able to make foreign policy decisions.  Permitting him to get away with doing so would mean that any American who disagrees with our foreign policy anywhere in the world can take independent action if he has the power to do so.  This is beyond 'free speech.'   For example, while most Americans do not own something like Starlink, they do pay taxes. Would this extend to their skipping paying them because they disagree with what the money is being used for?  And this can go beyond foreign policy.  I say ‘No.’  Musk must be brought to understand this.


Our government must find a way to ‘unprivatize’ Starlink.  They need not go so far as Vladimir Putin did in ‘unprivatizing’ the Wagner militia, but they must address this problem. The development of nuclear weapons in the last century was a good example. The government did it, not the private sector.  Imagine nuclear weapons in private hands. 



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Bits and Pieces

Hot Dogs - Sorry that the link to the article on hot dogs in the last posting may not have worked for you.  Here is the correct link, to be accessed on your browser line, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/14/dining/regional-hot-dog-styles-america.html or by CLICKING HERE.  It has been corrected, as well, in the prior posting.  Warning!  This is a mouth-watering article.

Drug Overdosing - According to a piece in the New York Times, More than 100,000 people in the U.S. die of drug overdoses each year, mostly from the synthetic opioid fentanyl. That is higher than the number of people who die each year from homicides and suicides combined, and just a few thousand short of the total amount such deaths if you add auto accidents to the homicide and suicide numbers!   Narcan, an inhalant that can save the life of someone who has overdosed on fentanyl will soon be available ‘over the counter.’  Law enforcement personnel now carry it, and if you have friends or relatives who are at risk, you should too.

President Sheinbaum? - The president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, prevented by law from running again, is retiring from politics. It is likely that his party will run Claudia Sheinbaum to replace him.  Ms. Sheinbaum, a scientist, academician, and politician most recently held a position equivalent to our governorships for the Mexico City area. Mexico, with its 'macho' political tradition, has never before had a female president.

Hunter’s Illusion - It is reported that Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s former business partner, told congressional investigators that Hunter used the illusion of access to his father to win over potential partners in his financial finagling.  Hunter’s transgressions will remain in the spotlight so long as Republicans search for a way to discredit and possibly impeach his father, President Biden, who was the vice-president at the time.  Because 'illusions' are not concrete acts, hard to pin down except on the front page of the New York Post, the only real crime Hunter committed was possessing a gun while in a drug recovery program, and such matters usually are settled out of court and rarely ever get near indictments and trials.  And as for his father, let's not confuse an illusion with the real man sitting in the White House.  We can pick our politics, but families are something into which we are born, and we are stuck with them.


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Trivia Quiz #6 - Car Rentals

Can you name five car rental agencies you'll find at most airports ... and once you do, you must name five separate States whose names start with the first letter of those five rental agencies. (Example: Zoom Rental ... I made that up ... doesn't count since no State name starts with 'Z'. )

And here are the answers to Trivia Quiz #5:

Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Roslyn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, Melania Trump, and Jill Biden. 


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Housekeeping on Jackspotpourri

Email Alerts:  If you are NOT receiving emails from me alerting you each time there is a new posting on Jackspotpourri, just send me your email address and we’ll see that you do.  And if you are forwarding a posting to someone, you might suggest that they do the same, so they will be similarly alerted. You can pass those email addresses to me by email at jacklippman18@gmail.com.

Forwarding Postings: Please forward this posting to anyone you think might benefit from reading it. Friends, relatives, enemies, etc.

If you want to send someone the blog, exactly as you are now seeing it, with all of its bells and whistles, you can just tell folks to check it out by visiting https://jackspotpourri.blogspot.com or by providing a link to that address in your email to them.   I think this is the best method of forwarding Jackspotpourri.

There’s another, perhaps easier, method of forwarding it though!   Google Blogspot, the platform on which Jackspotpourri is prepared, makes that possible.  If you click on the tiny envelope with the arrow at the bottom of every posting, you will have the opportunity to list up to ten email addresses to which that blog posting will be forwarded, along with a comment from you.  Each will receive a link to the textual portion only of the blog that you now are reading, but without the illustrations, colors, variations in typography, or the 'sidebar' features such as access to the blog's archives.

Either way will work, sending them the link to https://jackspotpourri.blogspot.com, or clicking on the envelope at the bottom of this posting, but I recommend sending them the link. 

Again, I urge you to forward this posting to anyone you think might benefit from reading it.


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