GET TRUMP!

Most Democrats, liberals in the media, swamp dwellers, and assorted other Trump-haters have been plotting against President Trump for two years. To this day, they simply cannot fathom how he was able to win the 2016 election. In their deranged minds it had to be the result of cheating; the election result, itself, should be deemed illegitimate, and he should be removed.

First, they asserted hacking; then, it was vote tampering; then, it was voter irregularities and/or suppression; then, it was collusion with Russia. Now, it appears to be campaign violations. For the past two years, in my opinion, the country has been subjected to the most intensive witch hunt against a sitting president ever (even worse than that against Bill Clinton).

I don’t want to get bogged down in a detailed discussion of the merits of the Muller investigation. We all have our own opinions on it. Personally, I am sick of it, as I’m sure many of you are. It seems to be never-ending. Suffice to say, to date, the investigation, which was authorized based on a false narrative to begin with (the phony, “Trump dossier”) has not turned up any violations or illegalities against Mr. Trump. All it has succeeded in accomplishing has been to waste time, distract the Administration and the Congress from governing the country, and waste millions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money.

In January the Dems will assume control of the House of Representatives. There are many issues that voters want addressed. According to various polls two of the most exigent are healthcare and immigration. There are numerous other issues as well, such as infrastructure and climate change. Many of the newly elected representatives ran on those issues, and the voters who elected them expect them to take prompt action.

So, which issue will the Dems address first? Which is the most important in their minds? Healthcare? No. Border security? No. Immigration? Wrong, again. It is, all together now, ….. GET TRUMP. That’s right, with all the issues facing the US the first order of business for the Dems is GET TRUMP! Impeach him. Indict him. Whatever. Just get rid of him.

In a previous blog I denoted that the Dems would likely win control of one or both of the houses of Congress. Furthermore, I opined that if so, rather than being the party of “no,” they would be best served if they focused on governing. A conviction in the Senate would be very unlikely anyway since it would require a 2/3 vote and the GOP has a majority. Even the hated Andrew Johnson was not convicted. Yes, focusing on impeachment would be ill advised, indeed.

They would do well to remember that when the GOP impeached Bill Clinton the voters saw right through it, and his popularity went way up. I would expect the same to happen here. However, it appears that they will not be taking my advice.

Consider the following developments:

1. Nancy Pelosi, likely the new Speaker, has characterized a border wall as “immoral” and has rigorously stated she will oppose authorizing any funds to build it. President Trump will not agree to any immigration bill that does not include a wall, so that does not augur well for resolving the immigration issue.

2. The Dems and the liberal media have signaled that they are “all in” on impeaching Mr. Trump based on payments made to two women in 2016 with whom he had had affairs a decade or so earlier. Mr. Trump had authorized these payments, from his personal funds, to avoid embarrassment after these women had threatened to disclose the affairs to the public. The Dems are asserting that these payments violated campaign finance laws, because they were made “for the purpose of influencing an election” and were not disclosed. Rep Jerry Nadler, the incoming Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called the payments “impeachable offenses” and added that they “were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the [presidency].” Heck, by that ridiculous standard, a candidate should report funds spent to buy a new suit or get a manicure. Rep Adam Schiff, the incoming Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, went even further, stating that there is a “very real prospect” that Mr. Trump will be “indicted… upon leaving office.” Various commentators, with little knowledge of the facts and less common sense, have been spouting similar thoughts all over the news and twitter.

3. Over the weekend a NY Times Op-Ed piece by Michelle Goldberg concluded that Mr. Trump can only be spared an indictment by winning re-election in 2020 and, therefore, serving as president until the statute of limitations for his “crimes” runs out. She cited unnamed “federal prosecutors” and “lawyers from the justice department” as her sources, the old “anonymous” and “unnamed sources” trick that we have seen so much of the last two years.

CONCLUSION

Wow! How absurd. Apparently, the anti-Trump fever, or, if you prefer, the Trump derangement syndrome, has reached a new low. Where do I begin?

1. Daniels and McDougal sought to extort money from Mr. Trump, plain and simple. Essentially, they said, pay me or I will go public and embarrass you and, maybe, derail your campaign. (Incidentally, isn’t extortion illegal?) Trump has steadfastly asserted that he directed his lawyer to pay the women from his personal funds, and if Cohen used campaign funds, that’s his error.

2. If campaign funds were used in error and not disclosed, it is my understanding that oversights such as that are normally settled with a fine, not jail, and not impeachment. There have been several cases of this, including one involving Obama. Let’s use some common sense. Also, if the payments were required to be disclosed that would have obviated the purpose in paying them in the first place.

3. Mr. Trump was correct when he tweeted back in May that payments such as these are “very common among celebrities and people of wealth.” For example, Congress has a slush fund that is used to pay off paramours and such. To my knowledge, those payments have never been disclosed, nor should they be.

4. Senator Rand Paul, appearing on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday characterized this affair as a “miscarriage of justice.” Furthermore, he opined “if we’re gonna prosecute [and jail] people… for campaign finance violations, we’re gonna become a banana republic.”

5. Alan Dershowitz, noted liberal attorney and not a fan of Donald Trump’s, has characterized this as a clear case of extortion and a “danger to our system.” He called for Muller to investigate the extortion angle. Moreover, in his opinion, it is permissible to use personal funds, and campaign contributions are not even reportable until after the election anyway. He denoted we need a consistent standard to remove the politics. He feels that if, for example, Paula Jones had sought to extort Bill Clinton in the same manner, everyone’s position on the matter would be the reverse of what it is now. I would have to agree.

6. Senator Angus King (I – Maine) nailed it. On “Meet the Press” he denoted that if impeachment were to be commenced based on the current evidence “at least a third of the country would think it was just political revenge and a coup against the president….The best way to solve a problem like this, to me, is elections.”

Give that man a cigar!

Everybody take a deep breath and repeat after me. Donald Trump is our legitimate president. He won fair and square. You don’t have to like him. You didn’t vote for him based on his personal life. You didn’t elect a friend to hang out with; you elected a President who was NOT a politician and who would stand up for the country. You can dislike him but still like his politics. If you want to get rid of him vote him out in 2020.

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THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – DECEMBER

Many historically-significant events have occurred during the month of December. Below please find what I consider the most significant:

12/1/1955 – Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgonery, AL for refusing to surrender her seat on a bus to a white man. This action precipitated a year-long bus boycott and many other protests against segregation led by the Reverend Martin Luther King, among others, and was what many consider the seminal event for the civil rights movement.
12/2/1804 – Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France by Pope Pius VII.
12/2/1823 – President James Monroe articulated the “Monroe Doctrine,” which, essentially, forbade any further colonization of the Western Hemisphere by any European power, and which became a key element of the US’s foreign policy prospectively.
12/2/1954 – The Senate condemned Senator Joseph McCarthy for misconduct, effectively ending his irresponsible communist witch hunt.
12/3/1967 – Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful heart transplant in Cape Town, South Africa.
12/6/1492 – Christopher Columbus “discovered” the “New World,” landing at the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.
12/6/1865 – The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, which abolished slavery.
12/6/1973 – Gerald Ford was sworn in as vice president replacing Spiro Agnew who had been forced to resign following his pleading “no contest” to charges of income tax evasion.
12/7/1787 – Delaware became the first state to ratify the US constitution.
12/7/1941 – Japan perpetrated a surprise attack of the US naval base at Pearl Harbor virtually destroying the US Pacific Fleet and precipitating the US’s entry into WWII. FDR called it a “date that will live in infamy,” and it has.
12/10/1896 – Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel died. In his will he stipulated that a committee of the Norwegian Parliament award from his estate annual prizes (valued at approximately $1 million) for Peace, Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Literature and Economics.
12/11/1901 – Guglielmo Marconi transmitted the first transatlantic radio signal.
12/11/1936 – King Edward VIII abdicated the English throne in order to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson.
12/13/1642 – Dutch navigator Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand.
12/14/1799 – George Washington died at Mt. Vernon.
12/14/1911 – Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole.
12/15/1791 – Virginia became the 11th state to ratify the Bill of Rights making it an official part of the Constitution. (Ratification of an amendment to the Constitution requires 75% of the states, and Vermont had become the 14th state. The three holdouts were Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Georgia, which did not ratify it until 1939.)
12/15/1961 – Notorious Nazi SS Colonel Adolph Eichmann was sentenced to death in Jerusalem for his role in the Holocaust during WWII.
12/16/1773 – A group of Bostonians, disguised as Indians, boarded British ships anchored in Boston Harbor and dumped 300+ containers of tea overboard as a protest to what they viewed as an unjust tax on the product. This became known as the Boston Tea Party and was a part of the chain of events that culminated in the American Revolutionary War.
12/17/1903 – The Wright Brothers – Wilbur and Orville – made the first successful airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, NC.
12/19/1946 – War broke in what was then called French-Indochina. Eventually, the French were ousted, and the US got drawn into war in Vietnam, which did not end well for us.
12/20/1860 – South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. Over the next few months ten other states followed, and the Civil War ensued.
12/21/1846 – Dr. Robert Liston was the first surgeon to use anesthesia (in a leg amputation in London).
12/21/1945 – General George Patton, aka “Old Blood and Guts,” died from injuries suffered in a car accident in Germany. Some historians have postulated that the accident was intentional, but this has never been proven.
12/23/1947 – The transistor was invented at Bell Laboratories.
12/25 – Christmas Day when Christians commemorate the birth of Christ.
12/25/1776 – George Washington led a small contingent of Colonial troops across the Delaware River from Valley Forge, PA to Trenton, NJ in the dead of night, where they surprised and defeated a substantially larger contingent of Hessian mercenaries. This daring and famous victory provided a major boost to the flagging revolutionary war effort.
12/26 – Boxing Day is celebrated in the UK, Canada, and various other countries that, formerly, were part of the British Empire. It has nothing to do with pugilism. Most likely, it has evolved from the 18th Century English custom of giving a “Christmas box” containing gifts, such as food or clothes, to servants and tradesmen as a reward for good service throughout the year.
12/26 – 1/1 – Kwanza, an African – American holiday established in 1966, is observed. It celebrates family unity and a bountiful harvest. The word means “first fruit” in Swahili.
12/29/1890 – The US cavalry massacred in excess of 200 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee, SD., which became a symbol of the white man’s brutality to Native Americans.
12/31/1781 – The Bank of North America became the first bank to receive a federal charter. It commenced business on January 7, 1782 in Philadelphia.
12/31/1879 – Inventor Thomas Edison first demonstrated the incandescent lamp (light bulb) at his lab in NJ.
12/31 – New Year’s Eve is celebrated throughout the world.

Birthdays – Charles Stuart, American portrait painter (of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among others), 12/3/1755; Joseph Conrad, Polish novelist, 12/3/1857; Martin Van Buren, 8th President, 12/5/1782; General George Armstrong Custer, 12/5/1839; Walt Disney; 12/5/1901; Ira Gershwin (wrote several hit songs for “Broadway” shows), 12/6/1896; Eli Whitney (cotton gin), 12/8/1765; Clarence Birdseye (invented process for freezing foods), 12/9/1886; Emily Dickenson (poet), 12/10/1830; Melvil Dewey (invented Dewey decimal system used to categorize books in libraries), 12/10/1851; NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia,12/11/1882; John Jay (first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), 12/12/1745; General James Doolittle (led audacious bombing raid on Tokyo during WWII), 12/14/1896; Alexandre Eifel (Eifel Tower), 12/15/1832; Ludwig van Beethoven (composer), 12/16/1770; George Santayana (philosopher) (“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”), 12/16/1863; Wily Brandt (Chancellor of West Germany), 12/18/1913; Harvey Firestone (Firestone Tire and Rubber), 12/20/1868; Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvli, aka Josef Stalin, 12/21/1879; Claudia Alta Taylor, aka “Lady Bird Johnson,” 12/22/1912; Japanese WWII Emperor Hirohito, 12/23/1901; Christopher “Kit” Carson, frontiersman, 12/24/1809; Howard Hughes, 12/24/1905; Isaac Newton (theory of gravity), 12/25/1642; Clara Barton (nurse who founded American Red Cross), 12/25/1821; Humphrey Bogart, 12/25/1899; Mao Tse-Tung, 12/26/1893; Louis Pasteur (pasteurization process), 12/27/1822; (Thomas) Woodrow Wilson, 28th President, 12/28/1856; Andrew Johnson (17th president, first to be impeached), 12/29/1808; Pablo Casals (cellist), 12/28/1876; Rudyard Kipling (poet, wrote Jungle Book), 12/30/1865; Hideki Tojo (Japanese WWII Prime Minister), 12/30/1884; General George C. Marshall (Army Chief of Staff, WWII), 12/31/1880.

A DATE IN INFAMY

Today, December 7, marks the 77th anniversary of one of the most heinous, despicable acts in modern history. As President FDR forecast, December 7, 1941 is truly a date that has lived in infamy. It is one of those dates we can never forget. It is burned into our very souls. Mention that date to a person of a certain age and their reaction will be akin to later generations’ reaction to November 22, 1963 or September 11, 2001. Most any person over the age of five on those dates remembers where he was, what he was doing and how he felt when he heard the news. Those are dates that had a profound effect on our lives both individually and collectively.

On December 6, 1941 America was still working its way out of the Great Depression, which began in 1929 with the stock market crash. Unemployment was at 9.9%, not good, but a significant improvement from the peak of 25% in 1932. Americans were not thinking about war. After all, we had just fought the “Great War,” (the “war to end wars”). Sure, there was a war waging in Europe, but we were not involved directly. We had no boots on the ground, and we had a vast ocean between us and them. Most Americans were focused on their own lives, not on world events. America was in full isolationist mode. All that was about to change suddenly, violently, tragically and irrevocably.

We all know what happened on December 7, 1941. We know that the Japanese executed a devastating surprise attack on our naval base at Pearl Harbor that precipitated our involvement in WWII. Approximately, 3,500 lives were lost, civilian as well as military, along with most of our Pacific Fleet and airplanes. America switched immediately from peacetime mode to wartime mode. Patriotism and nationalism abounded. The “greatest generation” was on the march.

As we all know, America recovered to win the war after four years of intense and costly fighting. Consequently, there is no need for me to rehash those events. The Pacific War has been the subject of numerous books, movies, and tv productions. The central theme of this blog will focus on the events that led up to the war with Japan.

Every war has its immediate cause and its underlying causes. The attack on Pearl Harbor was the immediate cause. But, what were the underlying causes? What would make Japan start a war that it had virtually no chance of winning? Glad you asked. Read on.

Many, if not most, historians maintain that the US actually provoked Japan into starting the war, although we did not intend for them to devastate our naval fleet in the fashion they did. Over the course of the 1930’s we took various actions that, in reality, left Japan no choice, to wit:

1. The US was providing assistance to the Chinese who were at war with Japan. This included providing airplane pilots, armaments and other supplies and materials. Japan had been at war with China since the 1930’s. Its extreme brutality was exemplified by the Nanking Massacre, aka the Rape of Nanking, which began in December 1937. In a six-week period over 300,000 Chinese civilians were murdered, and there was widespread raping and looting. This shocking brutality was a portent of the Pacific War.
2. Along with the British and the Dutch the US military was actively planning prospective military operations against the Japanese in the Far East to counter its aggression.
3. Japan had few natural resources of its own; it needed to import raw materials, such as coal, iron, oil, rubber and bauxite, from the US and other countries in Southeast Asia to fuel its burgeoning industries. In the late 1930’s the US began to severely limit its access to these materials by enforcing sanctions, limits and embargoes. This aided the British and the Dutch, who were concerned about Japan’s aggressive behavior in the Far East, but it provoked the Japanese.
4. Thus, one can view the attack on Pearl Harbor, not as an isolated event, but rather, as the last act in a long line of connected ones.

Many historians believe that FDR provoked Japan intentionally, because he wanted to go to war against the Axis Powers, and the American people were decidedly against doing so. Before you scoff at that notion, consider that we have fought other wars following provocations that may or may not have been fabricated. For example:

1. The Spanish-American War in 1898 began when the battleship, “Maine” was blown up in Havana harbor under mysterious circumstances. 75% of her crew was killed. “Remember the Maine” became the signature battle cry of that war. There is evidence that suggests that the “Maine” was not blown up by the Spanish, but may have blown up by accident or been sabotaged to provide a pretext for us to enter that war.
2. The legal basis for commencing the Vietnam War was the Gulf of Tonkin incidents of August 2 and 4, 1964. A US destroyer, the USS Maddox, exchanged fire with North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf, which is off the coast of Vietnam. As a result, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized President Johnson to assist any Southeast Asian country that was being jeopardized by “communist aggression.” Johnson was only too eager to do so. It was later determined that some key facts, such as who fired first, are in dispute.
3. President Bush, 43, “sold” the Iraq War to the American people by asserting there was “proof” that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction.” Such weapons have never been found.

So, if FDR did, in fact, goad Japan into attacking us so that we could enter the war against the Axis Powers, it would not have been the only time the US Government used that tactic. In the 1950’s the renowned historian Harry Elmer Barnes (who, ironically, later lost much of his credibility by becoming a vociferous denier of the Holocaust) published a series of essays describing the various ways in which the US Government goaded the Japanese into starting a war it could not win and manipulated American public opinion. After the war, Secretary of War Henry Stimson admitted that “we needed the Japanese to commit the first overt act.”

Most historians agree that even the Japanese leadership in the 1930’s knew it could not win a prolonged war with the US. The US was vastly superior in terms of men, material and resources, and eventually, it would wear down the Japanese. That, in fact, is precisely what happened. In 1941 the die was cast when a more militant, nationalistic government came into power headed by Emperor Hirohito and Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. They spent several months planning the pre-emptive strike. In his best selling book, “Killing the Rising Sun,” Bill O’Reilly denoted that the Japanese sought to imbed spies into the Hawaiian civilian population to gather intelligence. O’Reilly quoted one senior officer who found out that his Japanese gardener was actually a colonel in the Japanese army.

Many historians believe that the Japanese hierarchy was emboldened, in part, by the successful surprise attack on the Russians in 1905 led by then-Admiral Tojo during the Russo-Japanese War. It had worked once; why not again? Their intention was to neutralize American naval power in the Pacific so that it would be unable to block Japan’s aggression in Southeast Asia. They determined that Sunday would be the best day of the week to attack. They also weighed the advantages and disadvantages of attacking the fleet in the harbor or at sea before settling on the attack in the harbor. Although the battleships were sitting ducks in the more shallow harbor, Admiral Chester Nimitz denoted later that one crucial advantage to the US was that we were able to raze several of them later and return them to active duty.

Despite its years of provocations, the US was ill-prepared for an attack. In addition, we had failed to confront the Japanese directly earlier when they could have been dealt with more easily. So, instead of fighting a small war in the 1930s we ended up fighting a world war just a few years later.

One could argue that there are strong parallels between then and our more recent history with respect to various terrorist groups operating in the Middle East and elsewhere. Once again, we failed to deal with the problem when it was manageable (the beginnings of ISIS); once again most of the country was and is very reluctant to get involved in “other people’s problems (Syria and Iraq);” and, we are now embroiled in the more costly aftermath (conflicts, refugees, Russian involvement). History, when ignored, does tend to repeat itself.

Ultimately, the Japanese underestimated the US. Their leaders knew we were in isolationist mode. They did not think we had the “stomach” to fight a prolonged, brutal war. Also, they knew we would be fighting the Germans and Italians as well. Furthermore, they figured that with our Pacific Fleet decimated, if not destroyed, we would be unable or unwilling to counter their aggression in the Far East. The Far East was their end game for reasons discussed above; they were not interested in attacking the US mainland, although much of the US civilian population feared that they would.

Obviously they were wrong. They were not the first enemy to underestimate the US, and they likely will not be the last.

CONCLUSION

On August 23, 1994 Congress passed a bill designating December 7 as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in order to honor the 2,403 US citizens who were killed on December 7. 1941. Every year that date is marked by ceremonies and pilgrimages to the site of the attack. The biggest draw is the Arizona Memorial, which is a marble memorial that was constructed over the site in the harbor where the battle ship, USS Arizona, was sunk. The memorial is intended to honor all military personnel who were killed in the attack, not just the 1,177 crew members of the “Arizona.”

Unfortunately, with the passage of time there are fewer and fewer living survivors of the attack. At one time, there was an official Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, which, at its peak, totaled some 70,000 members worldwide. However, by 2011 only 2,700 remained alive, and many of those were in poor health. Consequently, it was disbanded at the end of the year.

My recollection is that every year on this date Pearl Harbor remembrance would be the dominant story on most news channels and in most newspapers. Accounts would include dramatic and compelling first person accounts of survivors. I realize that former President George Bush’s funeral has been dominating the news, and rightly so. Nevertheless, I find the paucity of such stories very sad. We, as a nation, should not allow the tragedy and heroism of that date to fade with the passage of time.

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH

He was born into a family of wealth, prestige and privilege with, one might say, patrician bloodlines. He could have taken the easy way out. He could have lived a soft, cushy (albeit nondescript) life. He could have let his connected family secure him a safe, non-combat position during WWII, and then he could have lived out his life working in the family’s business. But, that was not who he was. In the modern vernacular, that was not how he “rolled.”

George Herbert Walker Bush was born on June 12, 1924 in Milton, MA. Soon after his birth his family moved to Greenwich, CT. His father, Prescott, was a Wall Street investment banking executive and the son of a wealthy and influential business executive. In addition, he was active in local GOP politics. He was a supporter of President Dwight Eisenhower and served as Senator from 1952-1963. George’s maternal grandfather, George Herbert Walker, for whom he was named, was a successful banker and businessman. Moreover, he served as president of the USGA for many years, and it is he for whom the famed Walker Cup is named.

George attended the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, MA. While there, he demonstrated leadership skills that were a precursor of what was to come. For example, he was elected president of his senior class, secretary of the student council, a member of the editorial board of the school newspaper, president of the community fund-raising group, and captain of both the soccer and baseball teams. But, most significantly, while at a dance he met Barbara Pierce, the daughter of the publisher of McCall’s Magazine.

His true character manifested itself after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the US into WWII. In June 1942 upon graduation from Phillips and shortly after his 18th birthday George enlisted in the Navy with the intention of becoming a Navy pilot. He did so despite the strenuous objections of his father, who wanted him to continue his education. The following June he was commissioned as an ensign and, at 19, became the youngest naval aviator ever to that date.

In 1944 George had a brush with death. While engaged in a battle against the Japanese in the Bonin Islands in the Pacific, his plane was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Despite the exigency of the situation George first completed his bombing mission, then he and his crew bailed out over the ocean. George was rescued after floating in a lifeboat for several hours, the only survivor. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. As an aside, it was later learned that the Japanese were executing any captured pilots and eating their livers. Ugh!

In January 1945, George married the aforementioned Barbara Pierce. They had six children – four boys and two girls. One girl, Robin, died tragically from leukemia at the age of 3. As we all know, one son, George W, became the 43rd President of the US.

The Bushes were married 74 years, the longest presidential marriage ever. Whose marriage is the second longest? Answer below. Furthermore, George and George W. were only the second father-son presidential combination. See below for the identity of the other one. Also, we have had one grandfather-grandson combination. Again, see below for the answer.

In 1948, after graduating from Yale in 2 1/2 years as a Phi Beta Kappa, he eschewed the family business and struck out on his own to make his fortune. He went as far away from his roots as he could, both literally and figuratively. He loaded up his family and drove to West Texas, which, at the time, was truly the “wild west” and the middle of nowhere, to seek his fortune in the oil business. He was a rousing success, first in sales, then as a “wild-catter.” By the mid-1950s he was co-owner of the huge Zapata Petroleum Corp and a multi-millionaire.

The next step was politics. In 1964 he lost his first race, which was for the US Senate. But, 1966 he was elected to the House of Representatives, becoming the first GOPer ever to represent the City of Houston. He became a staunch supporter of President Nixon. It was Nixon who persuaded him to give up his spot to run for the Senate in 1968. He lost, but Nixon, in recognition of his “sacrifice,” appointed him Ambassador to the UN. Later, he was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee and served as Chief of the US Liaison Office of China. (Since the US did not recognize China, this was the highest diplomatic position and equivalent to an ambassadorship.) In 1976 President Ford appointed George head of the CIA, which had been coming under much criticism and was being investigated by Congress for alleged illegal and unauthorized activities.

In 1980 George ran for the GOP nomination for president. He started as a big underdog but ended up giving the eventual nominee, Ronald Reagan, a tough fight. Impressed, Reagan tapped him as his VP. They served for eight years together. In my opinion the Reagan presidency was a huge success, winning the cold war and presiding over a booming economy. George was his loyal VP.

In 1988 George ran for the presidency. His primary rivals for the GOP nomination were Senator Bob Dole (Kansas) and Representative Jack Kemp (NY). (Kemp was a former professional quarterback for the Buffalo Bills.) Bush won handily. During his acceptance speech he uttered a pledge that would later prove to be problematic for his presidency. He pledged, “read my lips. No new taxes.”

He faced Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in the general election. At first, Bush was way behind, but Dukakis’ soft stance on crime and opposition to capital punishment proved to be fatal for him. Bush won the election comfortably, thus becoming the first sitting VP to be elected president since 1836.

In my opinion, Bush’s tenure as president was a mixed bag – some successes and some failures. For instance, on the plus side, when Iraq invaded Kuwait Bush managed to forge a coalition of Arab states to combat Iraq. In addition, he managed to keep Russia from actively opposing the coalition. The Iraqi army was quickly forced out of Kuwait, but Bush was criticized in some quarters for not pursuing the fight all the way to Baghdad and deposing Saddam Hussein. (As it happened, that was probably the right decision. As we have seen, when Hussein was deposed some years later Iraq descended into chaos and civil war between the Sunni and Shia factions. Also, the power vacuum facilitated the rise of ISIS.)

Bush’s main failure was the economy. He was largely unsuccessful in curbing the deficit. Unemployment rose to a peak of 7.8%, and in 1989 the Census Bureau disclosed that 14.2% of Americans were living in poverty. However, the worst decision he made was to agree to a tax increase in order to get the Democratic Congress to agree to spending cuts. Conservative Republicans never forgave him for that. It may have been the right thing to do for the country, but it was devastating, politically. Most likely, it was one of the major factors that caused him to lose his re-election bid in 1992.

By the time the 1992 election campaign rolled around Bush’s approval rating, which had exceeded 90% after the defeat of Iraq, had declined to 37%, primarily because of the weak economy. So, Bush became a one-term president, with the dubious distinction of the being first elected Republican president to lose a re-election bid since Herbert Hoover in 1928 (and we all know why he lost).

CONCLUSION

With the passage of time George’s popularity and standing as president have seemed to improve. This is not uncommon with presidents as the perspective of history often provides a more realistic assessment of their job performance. According to “USA Today,” his positive foreign policy achievements – the victory over Iraq, his presiding over the defeat of Russia and the successful reunification of Germany – have improved his legacy. Those achievements have seemed to overshadow the memory of the weak economy under his administration.

In 2007 at the age of 83 he decided to freefall out of an airplane, which he did with the assistance of a professional guide. Guide or no, that was pretty impressive for an 83 year old. In the last few years of his life George was forced to get around in a motorized scooter or wheelchair due to a form of Parkinson’s Disease called vascular parkinsonism, but it did not dampen his enthusiasm and zest for life.

George Herbert Walker Bush passed away on November 30, 2018 at the age of 94. He lived a full and rewarding life – war hero, successful businessman, public servant, statesman, and family patriarch. He has the distinction of being the longest-lived American president.

Rest in peace, George. You were an exceptional person, and you will be sorely missed.

Quiz answers:

1. The second longest presidential marriage at 54 years was John and Abigail Adams.
2. The other father-son combo was John Adams (1797-1801) – John Quincy Adams (1825-1829).
3. The grandfather-grandson combo was William Henry Harrison (1841)- Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893). For you trivia buffs, William Henry has the dubious distinction of having served the shortest term as president, 31 days. He caught a cold at his inauguration, contracted pneumonia, and in those pre-antibiotic days, that was that.

THEY SAID IT

With all the bad news in the world today, I thought we could all use a change of pace. Therefore, below please find a quiz of famous movie quotes. If you are a movie buff, it should not be too difficult.

Good luck, and no peeking at the internet. Don’t ask “Alexa” or any of her friends. This is not an “open book” quiz.

1. “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” – (a) Platoon; (b) The Deer Hunter; (c) Apocalypse Now; (d) Hurt Locker
2. “They call me Mr. Tibbs” – (a) In the Heat of the Night; (b) Mr. Tibbs; (c) Mr. Tibbs II; (d) Raisin in the Sun
3. “Here’s looking at you, kid” – (a) The Maltese Falcon; (b) The Guns of Navarone; (c) The African Queen; (d) Casablanca
4. “Stella!” – (a) A Streetcar Named Desire; (b) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; (c) Stella Goes to Mardi Gras; (d) On the Waterfront
5. “Get off my lawn,” – (a) Gran Torino; (b) Dirty Harry; (c) Animal House; (d) The Lawn King
6. “Show me the money” – (a) Greed; (b) Jerry Maguire; (c) Wall Street; (d) The Great Gadsby
7. “You’ll always remember this as the day that you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow.” – (a) Blackbeard; (b) The Buccaneer; (c) The Pirates of the Caribbean; (d) The Spanish Main
8. “Say Hello to my little friend.” – (a) The Godfather; (b) Public Enemy; (c) Angels with Dirty Faces; (d) Scarface
9. “Heeere’s Johnny” – (a) The Johnny Carson Story; (b) Johnny Belinda; (c) Johnny Get Your Gun; (d) The Shining
10. “You know how to whistle, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.” – (a) Funny Girl; (b) Cover Girl; (c) The Days of Wine and Roses; (d) To Have and Have Not
11. “Life is like a box of chocolates” – (a) Forrest Gump; (b) The Waterboy; (c) Philadelphia; (d) The Harry Houdini Story
12. “Tomorrow is another day.” – (a) Django; (b) The Last King of Scotland; (c) Gone with the Wind; (d) The Help
13. “You want me to hold the chicken, huh? [Yes.] I want you to hold it between your knees.” – (a) Five Easy Pieces; (b) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; (c) All About Eve; (d) Sunset Boulevard
14. “Rosebud” – (a) Some Like It Hot; (b) Citizen Kane: (c) Chicago: (d) Funny Girl
15. “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate” – Bull Durham; (b) Cool Hand Luke; (c) Giant; (d) Chicago
16. “I’ll kill you last.” – (a) Goodfellas; (b) Terminator II; (c) Commando; (d) Spartacus
17. “Go ahead, make my day” – (a) Sudden Impact; (b) Dirty Harry; (c) Play Misty for Me; (d) Rawhide
18. “There’s no crying in baseball.” – (a) Major League; (b) Eight Men Out; (c) The Pride of the Yankees; (d) A League of Their Own
19. “I’ll have what she’s having.” (a) When Harry Met Sally; (b) Romancing the Stone; (c) Sleepless in Seattle; (d) Dude Ranch
20. “Funny? How? Like a clown? I’m here to fxxxin amuse you?” (a) Scarface; (b) Angels with Dirty Faces; (c) Public Enemy; (d) Goodfellas

Answers: 1.(c); 2.(a); 3.(d); 4.(a); 5.(a); 6.(b); 7.(c); 8.(d); 9.(d); 10.(d); 11.(a); 12.(c); 13.(a); 14.(b); 15.(b); 16.(c); 17.(a); 18.(d); 19.(a); 20.(d)

Well, how did you do? Let me know.

As a special bonus, below please find some words of wisdom from that renowned philosopher, Yogi Berra. He is reputed to have said all of them, but as Yogi might have put it: “I didn’t say all things I said.”

1. “No one goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
2. “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
3. “It’s like ‘deja vu’ all over again.”
4. “I always go to funerals, or else they won’t come to mine”
5. And my personal favorite: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

CARAVAN PART III

According to a story in the “San Diego Union”: “A group of about 100 people trying to illegally cross the border at the San Ysidro port of entry threw rocks and bottles at US Border Patrol agents who responded by using pepper spray…” This news account was not from this week’s edition of the newspaper, but, rather from November 25, 2013. I quoted that story to prove a point, which is that this past week’s actions, as unpalatable as they might have been, especially with children among the victims, were not unique. Additionally, according to an article in the Associated Press similar incidents occurred at various times throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Hopefully, this will add some perspective to the current situation. The 2013 incident was not widely reported, nor did it engender the same outrage in the media that we are seeing now. To me, this is a further example of a biased media. Who was president in 2013? Mr. Obama, not Mr. Trump. According to multiple sources, for instance, the “Washington Times” and “Newsweek,” President Obama authorized the use of tear gas and pepper spray on many occasions during his tenure. Chances are it was the appropriate action at the time, just as is the most recent example.

As I said, this action has drawn widespread outrage. Many politicians, news commentators, and average citizens have strongly criticized this tactic, the Trump administration, and Mr. Trump, personally, without really understanding all the facts of the situation. A sampling:

1. NY Dem Senator Kirsten Gillibrand characterized the use of tear gas as “horrendous.”
2. California Governor-elect Gavin Newsom tweeted “That is not my America.”
3. Ben Rhodes, former advisor in the Obama administration tweeted that “it was wrong to gas women, children and the elderly.” (I would like to denote that Mr. Rhodes was an advisor to the Obama administration during 2013 and likely was complicit in the decision to tear gas migrants during his tenure.)
4. And, my personal favorite: Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz called the border agents who used tear gas and pepper spray “Nazis” and accused them of committing “war crimes.” Nazis? War crimes? Really? Hyperbole like this from an elected official is unnecessarily inflammatory and makes me wonder how he ever got elected in the first place.

The fact of the matter, as related by multiple witnesses on the scene, news video footage, and CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan is that a mob of several hundred migrants rushed the border, which is weak at that point (no real wall), and threw rocks at the agents in an effort to gain entry into the US.

Several agents were injured, and they used the tear gas and pepper spray to protect themselves. That was, in their judgment, the least lethal response they could employ. It was a legal response. The agents on the scene are authorized to do so if, in their judgment, it is “objectively reasonable and necessary to carry out law enforcement duties” and to protect themselves “when other techniques are not sufficient to control disorderly or violent subjects.” Anyone viewing the media footage would have to agree that the agents acted appropriately. Moreover, it is a standard tactic used by law enforcement personnel all over the world. President Trump defended the action. He told reporters “No one is coming into our country unless they come in legally.”

Yes, the optics of women and children being tear gassed and pepper sprayed were offensive. No sane person would be in favor of that. But, they were interspersed in a group of single men who had attacked the agents. Some observers have even postulated that they were used as human shields precisely for the purpose of generating sympathetic optics. In summary, I don’t think it is fair to blame the border agents.

There are thousands more migrants presently housed in Tijuana, and more caravans may be enroute. Mario Figueroa, Tijuana’s Director of Social Services has estimated that of the 5,000 or so being housed in the Tijuana sports complex some 3,100 are adult men. He didn’t say how many of them were single or part of a family unit. Again, we don’t know and need to find out.

CONCUSION

Fair-minded people should recognize that the immigration issue is a complex one with, essentially, two competing narratives. One is that the immigrants are refugees fleeing violence, tyranny and economic hardship and hoping for a better life in the US for them and their children. Most of us can identify and sympathize with that. However, the counterview is that imbedded among these people are, or could be, gang members, terrorists, and other violent people who pose a threat to our national security. They advocate following the process for vetting these immigrants in accordance with our laws. We don’t have the resources to take in everyone, regardless of the circumstances. I have to hope and believe that somewhere there is room for a compromise.

Let’s remember that President Trump offered one last year, which was basically trading a path to citizenship for the “dreamers” in exchange for funding for the Wall. The Dems and some GOPers in Congress rejected it. I think that could still be the basis for a compromise, but I won’t hold my breath.

As most of you know, we do have laws and a process that govern immigrants seeking to enter the country. President Trump and his administration did not promulgate these laws unilaterally. They were passed by previous Congresses, approved by previous presidents, and upheld by previous Supreme Courts. The Trump administration is merely enforcing these laws and processes as they are bound to do constitutionally. The way our system works is if you don’t like a law, don’t rail about it (falsely) in the media; don’t incite violence; petition Congress to change it.

Over the weekend there was a story circulating of a possible deal whereby migrants would be vetted while being held on the Mexican side of the border. If their asylum claims were accepted they would be admitted to the US. Otherwise, not. This seemed to me to be preferable to the much maligned “catch and release” policy. Apparently, the Mexican authorities denied such a deal had been agreed upon, but I think it would be an acceptable compromise to the issue. Perhaps, it will be revisited by the incoming (Mexican) administration. As President Trump likes to say “we’ll see what happens.”

THE CARAVAN PART II

This is a follow-up to my blog of last month on the caravan. The “Phantom” caravan, the caravan that many Dems, such as former President Obama, insisted didn’t exist and was a GOP ruse to rouse its base for the mid-term elections, has arrived at the US border. Some 5,000 of them are presently in Tijuana, which is right across the border from San Diego. This is just the advance group. There are reportedly thousands more coming.

Most of them are being housed inside the local sports complex as the city has nowhere else to put them. According to “The Guardian” conditions are primitive, e.g. inadequate food, water, medical care and shelter, and waiting as much as 30 minutes to use the bathroom. “The Guardian” also reported that Tijuana’s mayor, Juan Manuel Gastelum, has characterized the situation as a “humanitarian crisis.” He told the “Guardian” that the city’s resources are inadequate to deal with the situation. Local churches and some private citizens have been supplying food and other necessities, but that is merely a drop in the proverbial bucket. The sheer numbers have overwhelmed the city.

Gastelum has accused the Mexican federal government of providing inadequate assistance, and he has requested the UN to intervene. (Does this indifference make the Mexican government racist against Guatemalans and Hondurans? Just asking.) It is likely that the crisis will worsen as more “caravanners” will arrive soon, and those who are already in place will likely have to wait for months to be processed. The US cannot possibly assimilate all these people in an orderly and expeditious manner.

The open borders crowd would have you believe that all of these people are refugees, families fleeing war, oppression, natural disaster or economic depression to make a better life for themselves in the US. To be sure, some of them may fall into that category. However, many others do not. Experience has shown us that imbedded in amongst this horde are criminals, MS-13 gang members, terrorists and other undesirables and ne’er-do-wells who would do us harm. Additionally, experience has shown that many of the minors are unaccompanied by their real parents or other family members. Instead, they are being “escorted” by drug cartel members who are just as likely to rob, rape and enslave them as help them. The point is we don’t know who they are. Even if 90% of the “caravanners” are legitimate refugees, a very high number, that would still leave 1,000 or so gang members, terrorists or other undesirables. Do we really want 1,000 of these people let loose in the country?

The US’s archaic immigration laws state that once a person sets foot in the country and claims asylum he or she gets to stay. Yes, they have to appear at a hearing in the future, but few of them actually do so. Many of them are forced to wait in detention centers under dubious conditions. Others somehow manage to roam free throughout the country.

You may ask, where did all these people come from? How did it happen that they all decided to march north at the same time? Good questions. I’m not sure, but it seems more than a little suspicious to me. Common sense tells me that it was not a spontaneous decision that 7,000 people made independently. The only logical explanation is that it was an orchestrated, organized plan hatched, funded, and supported by various open borders groups.

CONCLUSION

In my view, the impact of unfettered immigration is dire for the future of the country. It will impact us economically, socially and security-wise for many years. I think this is a matter of common sense and empirical evidence. Just look at the impact of unfettered immigration on the EU countries – France, the UK, Germany, any of them. Take your pick. A recent article in the “Washington Post” explains, in some detail, how this issue has even threatened to collapse the governments of some of these countries. It specifically mentions Angela Merkel’s government in Germany, but hers is not the only one.

Back to the US:

1. Economically – Most of the immigrants are not well educated, and, therefore, will be seeking unskilled labor jobs (and they’re not all going to be working as nannies or gardeners). They will be competing against unskilled laborers who already reside here. Many of them are AAs, Hispanics, teens, or women, seeking to re-enter the workforce. Ironically, these are the very constituencies that the open border crowd claims they want to help.

The first law of economics is the law of supply and demand. Therefore, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that an influx of cheap labor will depress wages for everyone. I can understand how large corporate executives and business owners would favor this, but how can any politician that fancies himself as a champion for the working man (Dem or GOP) possibly be in favor of it?

2. Socially – Assimilation is a must for any immigrant. Learn the language, accept the customs, make sure your kids go to school and get a good education. All ethnic groups have followed that pattern for 300 years. I would hope that this new wave of immigrants would do likewise, but I have my doubts. Some groups, notably Muslims who insist on being governed by Sharia Law, have resisted assimilation. This is not just my opinion. Just look at the situation in France, the UK, Germany, or virtually any other European country. Years of an open border policy has done severe damage to these countries’ social, political and economic fabric, as noted above. We should observe and take heed. Don’t ignore the empirical evidence. Why should we expect to be able to avoid the problems that every other country has suffered?

3. Security – It is imperative that immigrants be vetted satisfactorily before gaining entrée to the country in order that we can ferret out gang members, criminals and other undesirables. Those politicians who support unfettered immigration, such as Dems’ Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Andrew Cuomo, label anyone who opposes them as “racist.” In my opinion, that is absurd on its face. Yes, there are a small minority of racists in this country, but the vast majority of us who want to control our borders are not racist; they just want to be safe and prudent. Calling someone a racist shuts off any meaningful debate immediately, and nothing gets resolved. As the president has said: “if you don’t have a border, you don’t have a country.”

Obviously, the solution to the present problem would be a compromise immigration law that gives something, but not everything, to all parties. But, that would require cooperation among all the political factions. Don’t hold your breath.

THANKSGIVING

All things considered, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the food, the football, and the four-day weekend. What I don’t like is the traffic. In my experience, regardless of which day and what time you travel, you can’t avoid the traffic snarls. You just have to hope (or pray) for the best. (I have found you can mitigate traffic delays by relying on a good GPS, such as Waze.) According to the AAA Thursday, Friday or Saturday are your best bets. Of course, if you are hosting, you can avoid the traffic, but you have to buy the food, cook and clean up. Pick your poison. You can’t have everything.

As we enjoy the holiday, tomorrow,few of us will stop to think of its origins and meaning. What is its meaning? What are its origins? Why is it celebrated at this time of the year? Read on for the answers.

Thanksgiving is a national holiday originally celebrated to give thanks for the year’s harvest. It has strong religious and cultural roots. Most people are aware that Thanksgiving is celebrated in the US (4th Thursday in November) and Canada (2nd Monday in October), but few of us are aware that variations of it are observed in other countries as well. In these other countries the holiday has a different meaning and purpose. For example, in Grenada it is celebrated on October 25, and it marks the date on which the US invaded the island in 1983 in response to the removal and execution of Grenada’s then Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop. Liberia celebrates the holiday on the first Thursday of November, a tradition that was originated by freed American slaves that were transported there. In the Netherlands a Thanksgiving Day service is held on the morning of the US holiday. Its purpose is to commemorate the traditions of the Pilgrims, who resided in the city of Leiden for several years prior to their emigration to the New World. Japan celebrates a “Labor Thanksgiving Day” on November 23 to commemorate labor and production. It has its roots in the period of American occupation after WWII.

Like many of our customs and traditions, Thanksgiving is rooted in English traditions. These date from the English Reformation in the 16th century and the reign of King Henry VIII. Apparently, the Protestant clergy had determined that events of misfortune or good fortune were attributable to God. Thus, unexpected disasters, such as droughts, floods or plagues, were followed by “Days of Fasting.” On the other hand, fortuitous events, such as a good harvest or the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, which actually was largely attributable to storms off the English coast, were to be celebrated by “giving thanks” to Him.

The origin of the Canadian holiday is uncertain, but it is most commonly attributed to the English explorer Martin Frobisher. He had been exploring Northern Canada seeking the infamous and elusive Northwest Passage to Asia. He wanted to give thanks for his party having survived the numerous storms and icebergs it had encountered on the long journey from England. Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated as a statutory holiday in most jurisdictions of Canada.

Most people trace the American Thanksgiving holiday to 1621 in present-day Massachusetts (although some claim that there were earlier celebrations by the Spaniards in present-day Florida circa 1565 and in the colony of Virginia circa 1610). The Pilgrims and Puritans living there had enjoyed a bountiful harvest that year and wanted to give thanks. Their harvest had been partly attributable to assistance from Native Americans, so they invited them to share in their celebration. Records indicate that there were 90 Native Americans and 25 colonists in attendance. The actual date is uncertain, but it is believed to have been between September 21 and November 11.

Prior to 1942, Thanksgiving was not celebrated as an official national holiday. Rather, it was celebrated periodically by proclamation. For example, during the Revolutionary War the Continental Congress established days of “prayer, humiliation and thanksgiving” each year. In 1777 George Washington proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving to celebrate the colonists’ victory at Saratoga. Following independence, various Presidents continued the practice of issuing proclamations periodically.

In 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed a national “Thanksgiving Day” to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. Historians believe that his action was prompted by a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale, a writer and editor of some renown. (She wrote the popular nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”).

The practice of annual Presidential Proclamations continued until 1939. That year, FDR broke the tradition. November had five Thursdays that year instead of the usual four. FDR figured that if the holiday were celebrated on the 4th Thursday it would provide a much-needed boost to the economy by enabling merchants to sell more goods before Christmas. (Even then, Thanksgiving was the unofficial start of the Christmas holiday shopping season.) Typically, this action precipitated a spat between the GOP and Dems in Congress. GOP congressmen viewed it as an insult to President Lincoln and continued to consider the last Thursday to be the holiday, so there were two Thanksgiving celebrations in 1939, 1940 and 1941, a “Democratic” one on the 4th Thursday and a “Republican” one on the last Thursday. The individual states split the dates (only in America!). Finally, in 1941 everyone got in sync. On December 26, 1941 FDR signed a bill into law that decreed that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November, a practice that has continued to this day.

Beginning in 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented a live turkey to the President. Over the years it became customary for the President to grant a “pardon” to the turkey.

CONCLUSION

Many businesses are closed on Friday as well, which has had the effect of expanding the holiday into a four-day weekend. Traditionally, this weekend is one of, if not the, busiest travel days of the year, as anyone who has been on the roads or at the airports during this time can attest. This year the AAA estimates some 54 million Americans will be travelling, primarily by auto, a 5% increase over last year and the most since 2005. (The AAA defines a “trip” as a journey in excess of 50 miles, so, many trips to grandma’s house are not even included in those estimates.). According to Robert Sinclair, Jr., manager of media relations for AAA northeast, the above increases are attributable to a “strong economy, robust labor market, rising incomes and higher consumer confidence.”

With respect to air travel, good luck. The TSA has denoted that the “Thanksgiving rush” now commences on the Friday before Thanksgiving and lasts until the Monday after (so, this year 11/16 – 11/26. It estimates some 25 million passengers will be clogging the airports. Obviously, travelers should plan on arriving extra early and allowing plenty of extra travel time.
Add in the enhanced security at the airports and the possibility for inclement weather, and one can see that a lot of patience and fortitude will be required to survive the weekend.

The Friday after the holiday is known as “Black Friday.” It is one of the busiest shopping days of the year and signals the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Many retail stores open early and offer sales. Some shoppers love this and camp out overnight (beware hypothermia this year); others deride it as a “fool’s errand.”

Saturday is known as “Small Business Saturday,” which is an attempt to encourage patronage of small businesses. The Monday after the holiday is known as “Cyber Monday,” which encourages shopping on-line. The Tuesday after is called “Giving Tuesday” to encourage donations to the needy. The holiday is a prime time for charity. Many communities have food and clothing drives to collect items for distribution to the poor.

Many cities hold parades. The NYC “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” is a longstanding tradition. Many families have attended this every year for generations. It features celebrities, high school marching bands, and floats with specific themes, such as Broadway shows and cartoon characters. The last float is traditionally one of Santa Claus, which symbolizes the beginning of the Christmas season. Other examples of cities that hold parades are Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Plymouth, MA, and Houston. Sometimes, bad weather puts a damper on the festivities. For example, this year the forecast for NY is for “real feel” temperatures in the single digits. Ugh!

Many of us watch football. High schools and colleges play traditional games against their chief rivals. The NFL has staged a football game on Thanksgiving Day every year since 1934. At first, there was only one that was hosted by the Detroit Lions. Currently, there are three. Even basketball has gotten into the act. There are college tournaments and NBA games. For non-sports fans there are a plethora of TV specials with a Thanksgiving or Christmas theme.

So, now that you are “experts” on Thanksgiving, relax and enjoy the holiday. In particular, take a minute to give thanks that through a fortuitous twist of fate, you were born in this country.

JFK ASSASSINATION

Few people in history are so recognizable that with the mere mention of their initials one instantly knows about whom you are talking. Such is the case with John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States. He flashed across our lives like a comet, brilliant but brief. He was only president for 1,000 days before he was assassinated, yet, even today, people remember him and recognize his name.

Thursday, November 22, will mark the 55th anniversary of his assassination. Almost anyone over the age of 60 remembers vividly where they were and what they were doing when they first heard of it. For example, I, a freshman in college, was walking to a history class. (Yes, I did attend classes, even on a Friday afternoon.) I heard some other students talking about the President having been shot. I wasn’t sure I had heard correctly, but unfortunately, I had.

What was strange about the whole incident was the lack of reliable information. It wasn’t like today when news is known and disseminated instantaneously. It might be hard for you youngsters to believe, but there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no cell phones, no internet.

Communication between New York, where, at the time, all communication was centered, and Dallas was sketchy. Even worse, Dealey Square, the site of the assassination, was not close to the addresses of the network news’ Dallas offices. Reporters on the scene had to communicate by telephone, when they could find one. Often, competing reporters ended up sharing telephones. Information was incomplete and contradictory. Eventually, however, we found out the horrible news. No one will ever forget the grim look on Walter Cronkite’s face as he removed his glasses, stared into the camera, and told a shocked, confused and scared nation that the President was dead. When we heard it from “Uncle Walter,” we knew it was true.

The purpose of this blog is not to relate the details of the day’s events, nor do I wish to get bogged down in the various conspiracy theories, some of which persist to this day. Many books have been written on the subject, and I can’t possibly cover these topics in a short blog. Suffice to say, it was a surreal experience. Many emotions swirled through my head – disbelief, denial, fear and uncertainty. Who did it? Why? Was it a single gunman or a conspiracy? Was it part of a larger plot? Would we go to war? These and other questions came to mind.

Most everyone was glued to their television sets for days while events played out – Lyndon Johnson sworn in as the 36th President of the US, Jackie standing beside him still in shock and wearing the blood and brain-stained pink suit she had been wearing in the limo (which, she had refused to remove, declaring “I want them to see what they have done”), Oswald arrested, Oswald shot live on national tv while under police escort (How in the world did Jack Ruby get access to that corridor, anyway?), JKF’s funeral procession, the “riderless” horse, John Jr’s salute. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy followed soon after. It was the end of innocence.

JFK had won the Presidency by the narrowest of margins over Vice President Richard Nixon. He had received 49.7% of the popular vote to Nixon’s 49.5% and won several states by the slimmest of margins. In that relatively primitive era of communications the end result was not known until the next morning. Many people, including a 15 year-old girl in Berwick, Pa., caught up in the drama, stayed up all night to await the results.

JFK was young, handsome, bright, vibrant, dynamic, scion of a famous and wealthy family, and a war hero. He and his beautiful, glamorous wife, Jackie, seemed like American royalty to many Americans. He gave us hope and optimism. In the eyes of his supporters he was the one to transform America. During his inaugural address he uttered the famous line that symbolized the great hope that he would lead us to “A New Frontier,” as his campaign had promised (“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”). Those words still resonate today.

JFK got off to a rocky start with the Bay of Pigs fiasco. But, he seemed to make up for it when he faced down the Russians and Nikita Khrushchev in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Most of us did not realize how close we had come to nuclear war, but in the end Kennedy won that round and showed he was learning on the job. His administration was dubbed “Camelot” after the description of the mythical King Arthur’s court.

Unfortunately, Kennedy made a lot of powerful enemies. Many Republicans thought he had “stolen” the election. Indeed, there had been whispers about voting irregularities, notably in Chicago, but, in the end nothing came of that – no media exposes, no court challenges. Yes, times have certainly changed.

Many conservatives thought he was too soft on communism and too aggressive on civil rights issues. He had made powerful enemies among organized crime and at the FBI and CIA, among others. Fidel Castro hated him for the Bay of Pigs attack. On the other hand, many Cuban ex-Pats thought he had betrayed them by failing to intervene militarily to support the invasion when it fell apart. All in all, he had a plethora of powerful enemies with the motive, means, opportunity and funds to plan and execute a Presidential assassination and cover-up. In retrospect, one should not have been surprised.

CONCLUSION

A favorite speculation has been how American and world history would have been different had JFK not been assassinated. Would he have pulled us out of Viet Nam as has been speculated? If so, would there have been an anti-war movement in the 60’s with the attendant protests, turmoil and violence? Would MLK and RFK still have been assassinated? Would the civil rights movement have progressed differently, more peacefully? We will never know. There have been many books written about this topic, including one by Stephen King called “11/22/63” about a fictional time traveler who journeys back to 1963 to try to prevent the assassination, which makes fascinating “what if” reading.

Through it all, a cloud of conspiracy still hangs over the assassination 50+ years later. Books have been written and movies produced dealing with the conspiracy theories. Did Oswald act alone? Was he tied to the KGB or the CIA? How did Ruby get close enough to kill Oswald from point-blank range? Was there anyone on the grassy knoll? Why was Ruby killed in prison? What of the roles, if any, of mobsters, like Sam Giancana, Head of the Chicago mob, and Carlos Marcello, Head of the New Orleans mob, as well as the CIA, the FBI, the Russians, and/or Castro? Were the Warren Commission’s findings accurate or part of a cover-up?

At this time, as we mark the passage of another anniversary of JFK’s assassination, we are reminded that these issues, and others, have still not been resolved to many Americans’ satisfaction. As time passes, it seems they probably never will be.

For you readers of a certain age, what are your memories of the assassination and its aftermath? Where were you when you heard the awful news? I would like to know.

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

The weather in California has always been characterized by extreme, or even disastrous, conditions, including destructive mudslides in the winter, uncontrollable wildfires in the summer and earthquakes at any time. At the moment, the state is in the midst of a wildfire season of epic and historic proportions. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the National Interagency Fire Center so far in 2018 the state has seen over 7,500 wildfires, which have destroyed an area of nearly 1.7 MILLION acres. That’s right, folks – million. These fires have caused damage of nearly $3 billion.

Moreover, as we know, there is more destruction to come as fires are still burning. According to Wikipedia, one of them, the Camp Fire, has been responsible for 56 deaths and has consumed in excess of 10,000 structures so far, which makes it the deadliest and most destructive fire ever in CA. It is estimated to be as large as the state of Rhode Island. Even now, firefighters estimate that it is only about 50% contained.

In addition, many more people are missing and unaccounted for. Given the circumstances, the likelihood is that many, if not most, of them are dead as well. Many bodies have been burned so badly that they can only be identified by DNA analysis.

The worst of the damage is in northern California, even spilling into southern Oregon. Those of you who watched the Giants-49ers football game last Monday night from San Francisco witnessed the eerie site of smoke in the air from a nearby fire. Also, many of the players, affected by the unhealthy air quality, could be seen sucking oxygen on the sidelines. Periodically, the tv commentaters denoted that the air quality index was approaching the “unhealthy” level of 200.

Why has this season been so destructive? Several reasons have been suggested:

1. An increase in the number of dead trees. Obviously, trees die all the time, but at this time there is, according to Wikipedia, a record 129 million dead trees in the state. Dead trees equal fuel for fires.

2. The state is in the midst of a severe drought. The climate change advocates have cited increasing temperatures as the cause. Temperatures have been higher, but it could be an annual effect rather than a climactic trend. I don’t think there is proof one way or the other.

3. Exurban expansion. Homes have been and are continuing to be built in canyons and forests that are susceptible to wildfires. According to Wikipedia in the last 20 years over 40% of new homes have been built in such areas. Most of these homes were wiped out. The entire town of Paradise, was obliterated. The “NY Times” cited one homeowner who, perhaps, ill-advisedly, stayed and managed to prevent the fire from destroying his mobile home. He fought the fire with “a garden hose and five-gallon buckets.” He said the fire was so intense it “roared like an aircraft engine.” He described embers “larger than basketballs” and recounted that when the fire hit a nearby shed in which firearms were stored it “set off hundred of rounds, sending bullets flying.”

4. Forest Management. The state and federal governments have not kept up with clearing dead trees. President Trump, in what I consider to have been an ill-advised and inappropriate tweet, cited this as the primary reason for the high number of fires. He tweeted, in part, “there is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in CA except that forest management is poor.” He was referring to mismanagement by the state of California’s forestry personnel, probably not realizing that some 60% of the forestry in CA is owned by and is the responsibility of the federal government. As reported in the “NY Times,” once he toured the area with Governor Jerry Brown he modulated his tone. He ascribed the fires to “a lot of factors,” declared the area a “disaster area,” pledged federal aid, and praised the firefighters and emergency workers for their “incredible courage,” adding “we’ll all pull through it together.”

CONCLUSION

As I said in the opening paragraph California has always been plagued by extreme weather. Heavy rains in the winter, and dry, hot, windy conditions in the summer, not to mention the constant threat of the next earthquake. There’s nothing we can do about that.

I think we can all agree that these fires are tragic. I can’t imagine what it is like to see your home, with all your possessions, destroyed in minutes and nothing you can do to prevent it. My heart goes out to those people.

That said, I predict that Americans will pull together to help those affected get through this latest tragedy. It’s what we do. We squabble among ourselves from day to day, but when disaster strikes we close ranks and support each other.