COLIN POWELL

Despite humble beginnings Colin Powell led a very accomplished life.

Colin Luther Powell was born in The Bronx, NYC on April 5, 1937. His parents were first-generation immigrants from the island of Jamaica of mixed Scottish and African heritage. His father, Luther, worked as a shipping clerk, and his mother, Maud, was a seamstress. He attended NYC public schools and graduated from City College of NY with a degree in geology. He described himself as a “C” student (probably due to a lack of motivation rather than intelligence). In 1971 He followed up with an MBA from GW University.

As a youngster one of his jobs was in a local furniture store, which was owned by Eastern European Jews. As the story goes he picked up bits of Yiddish from the employees and customers, and, later in life, at one point he shocked a Jewish reporter by addressing him in Yiddish. In addition, he served as a “Shabbos goy,” one who performed certain tasks, such as lighting the stove, for Orthodox Jews who were forbidden to do so on the Sabbath.

In college he joined ROTC and upon graduation was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Army. In a long and distinguished military career (35 years) he rose through the ranks to become a four-star general and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, only the 12th person to hold that office. Moreover, he was a diplomat and a statesman, serving as national security advisor and Secretary of State. Finally, in 2008 he was in the conversation as a GOP candidate for the vice presidency under John McCain. Although he declined to run his endorsement was actively sought after by both political parties. In the 2016 election he received three electoral votes (Washington Sate) even though he was not on the ballot. In my opinion, his career was marred by one significant “blip,” which I will described below.

In the eyes of some, there was one significant blemish on his career – his speech at the UN in support of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. At the time, the decision was very controversial. The George W. Bush administration justified the invasion based on intelligence reports, later determined to be inaccurate, if not intentionally misleading, that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction.” Powell, as Secretary of State, gave the aforementioned speech at the UN in which he attempted to justify the invasion, When no such weapons were ever found his reputation “took a big hit.” In 2005 he was forced to resign.

Later, Powell admitted that his speech had contained various “inaccuracies.” Furthermore, he explained that he had been strongly in favor of trying diplomatic measures before resorting to an invasion. In point of fact, he revealed that he spent hours with Bush outlining the ill-advised consequences of “going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.” Bush was not swayed. Ultimately, Powell told Bush that he would respect and support whatever decision he made, and he did. The implication is that he gave the speech as a “good soldier” who was following the dictates of his boss. Years later, Powell disclosed that VP Dick Cheney had told him “you’ve got high poll ratings; you can afford to lose a few points.”

CONCLUSION

During his career Powell received innumerable awards and decorations, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and the Presidential Citizens Medal.

Powell passed away on October 18, 2021 from COVID-19-related complications and multiple myeloma, which compromised his immune system. Despite his one above-described “blip” he remained a hero to many. My personal opinion is that the one “blip” should not override all the good Powell did in his life as a military leader, diplomat and statesman, particularly since he was operating as a loyal subordinate who was “taking one for the team.” Additionally, I think he would have made a good president.

DEMOCRATS’ MASSIVE SPENDING BILL

Most of you have heard about the massive, comprehensive $3.5 trillion or so spending bill that is being debated in Congress (the “Build Back Better Act”). It is supported by President Biden, virtually all Dem lawmakers, and most of the media. Conversely, it is opposed by all GOP lawmakers and two moderate Dem senators. At the moment, the bill is stalled in the Senate. The Dems’ margin in the Senate is so small that they need the support of all 50 Dem senators in order for it to pass. It is generally accepted that this omnibus bill is the centerpiece of Biden’s legislative agenda, and if it fails to pass, his presidency will have been dealt a severe blow.

The purpose of this blog is not to debate the pros and cons of the bill’s provisions. Rather, it is to point out that it is some 2,500 pages long, chock full of hidden clauses, fine print, and “pork,” and virtually none of the congressmen and women who will be voting on it have read it. I repeat, this massive bill will cost roughly $3.5 trillion, will likely remake our way of life, will affect our children, grandchildren, and generations yet unborn, and virtually no one knows all of what’s in it! I don’t know about you, but I find that downright scary and borderline congressional malpractice (if there is such a thing). I admit I have not read the bill, but then it is not my job to do so. However, I can assure you that if I were a member of congress I would make sure my staff had read it and analyzed it before I cast my vote.

Based on my research of summaries provided by various sources, such as CNN, CBS News, Fox News and others the following is a list of what I consider to be the major provisions of this bill Again, I am not offering an opinion, just the facts as I see them. I encourage you to decide for yourself if this is what we want, need and can afford.

  1. $400 billion to enhance child care and universal “pre-k” as part of the Dems’ “cradle to grave” plan.
  2. Two free years of community college regardless of income.
  3. Expand Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision services.
  4. Extend expanded child care credit through 2025.
  5. Comprehensive paid family leave.
  6. Expand eligibility for child nutrition programs.
  7. Invest in affordable housing.
  8. Increase significantly the number of IRS tax agents and expand its tax enforcement mandate.
  9. Various climate change and Green New Deal provisions.
  10. Block oil/gas exploration.
  11. $25 million each for butterflies, “desert pupfish,” and mussels.
  12. $4 billion to remove “racist infrastructure.”
  13. $100 billion to provide amnesty, free college and welfare for illegal aliens.
  14. $500 million for “culturally appropriate” school lunches. (Bagels and lox?)
  15. Free housing for convicted felons.
  16. Taxpayer-funded abortions.
  17. Grants to treat “loneliness.”
  18. $7 billion to universities to provide “equity” training and teach “critical race theory”).
  19. Increase the corporate tax rate from 21% to 26%. This would make it among the highest in the world.
  20. Increase taxes on small businesses.
  21. Increases to the “death tax.”
  22. Increase the top personal tax rate from 37% to 39.6%.
  23. Increase the top capital gains rate from 20% to 25%.

CONCLUSION

One telling fact is that the Dems are trying to pass this bill as a “reconciliation” item. That is, they are claiming it only needs a simple majority to pass the Senate, not a supermajority of 60 votes like non-reconciliation bills. They know they would never get 60 votes, but they could get a simple majority since VP Harris could break a tie in their favor. It is questionable whether or not this bill as it is currently written would qualify. Reconciliation bills are required to be budget-related. Even so, presently the Dems are two votes “short” of a simple majority. Two moderate Dem senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, have expressed reservations about supporting it. In fact, Manchin has called for a “pause” in spending for the moment.

Many of the above provisions are part of the radical/progressive wish list, and have already been proposed (and rejected by most Americans) as part of the “Green New Deal.” The radical Dems are now trying to sneak them in under the radar in this massive bill that few will read. Others sound good and make some sense, but they are too expensive and inflationary. Many believe the tax provisions will strangle the economy, drive businesses overseas, and feed inflation. The economy has already been exhibiting signs of inflation. Anyone who has bought groceries, gassed up their car, or bought clothes recently has experienced this. Inflation hurts everyone. Some of us are old enough to remember the 1970s, which were characterized by high inflation and long gas lines. You have to ask yourself if we can afford the bill, and if the provisions are worth the cost.

The Dem leaders are trying to convince us that we need this bill. Pelosi has repeated her famous line that “you have to pass it to know what’s in it.” Unfortunately, that inane line worked with respect to the Affordable Care Act, but hopefully, it will not work now.

COLUMBUS DAY

On Monday, October 11, we will celebrate Columbus Day, which is a holiday to honor the man who “discovered” America. But, did he? More on that later.

Federal offices and most banks will be closed, so there will be no mail delivery (although national parks will be open). On the other hand, financial markets and most schools will be open. Many cities and towns will hold their traditional Columbus Day parade, including NYC for the 77th year.

CD has been celebrated in the US since 1792. Originally, it was celebrated on October 12, the date on which Columbus made landfall. FDR proclaimed CD a national holiday in 1937. In 1971 pursuant to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act the date was changed to the second Monday in October where it has remained ever since.

In recent years Columbus and CD have become controversial. Many Native American and other activist groups have denoted his brutality toward the indigenous peoples he encountered, particularly in the West Indies. Some states, such as Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, and South Dakota, have authorized alternate holidays, such as Fraternal Day and Indigenous Peoples Day in protest.

For hundreds of years the conventional wisdom was that Columbus discovered America in 1492. Most of us know the basics of the story. Columbus was born in Genoa, which is now part of Italy, in 1451. According to Wikipedia the precise date is not known. He went to sea at around the age of ten and travelled extensively from the British Isles to the West African coast.

By the late 1400s the spice trade between Asia and Europe had become extremely lucrative. The problem was it took too long to travel between the two locations. Either ships had to sail around the “horn” of Africa or caravans had to travel overland through central Asia. Both routes were arduous and dangerous. Columbus became convinced he could find a quicker route. Time meant money, even in the 15th century. He was seeking a “Northwest Passage” to Asia, which would enhance the spice trade between Europe and Asia. His idea that he could find it by traveling west was considered radical and unrealistic.

At the time, most people believed the world was flat, and that if one sailed too far west the ship would simply fall off the edge of the earth. It was not until the 16th century, thanks primarily to the research of Copernicus and Galileo that the scientific community generally accepted the notion that the earth was spherical, not flat, and that it revolved around the sun, not the other way around. He “pitched” his idea all over Europe seeking a sponsor. He was subjected to laughter and ridicule until King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain decided to take a chance on him. He set sail in August of 1492 with three ships – the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

On October 12 he made landfall in the current-day Bahama Islands. He named the indigenous people “Indians,” as he thought he was in India. Of course, he was wrong, but the term Indians to identify Native Americans has “stuck.” As colonial Governor of the area he became known for his extreme brutality toward the indigenous people. It was so bad that eventually he was removed from his post.

Eventually, Columbus would make three subsequent voyages to Central and South America. He never set foot in any part of North America. And he never did find the elusive Northwest Passage.

Based on new evidence, it is now generally accepted that Columbus did not “discover” America as we were taught in school. He did not “discover” anything. He was not the first person to set foot in America. Not even close as you will see below. What he did accomplish was to make Europeans aware of the existence of a “New World” which was chock full of unimaginable riches. His successful voyages ushered in a new era of exploration, conquest, colonization and war that would last for centuries. He was not the first, but one can argue that he was the most significant.

CONCLUSION

So, who did “discover” America?

  1. According to historian Michael Bawaya, editor of the magazine, American Archaeology, the original settlers of the NW arrived about 15,000 years ago. At that time the Bering Sea, which separates modern-day Siberia from North America, was more shallow than it is now. In some areas, it was an actual land-bridge. According to the US National Parks Service the land-bridge “played a vital role” in the spread of flora and fauna between the two continents. Animals such as mastodons, wooly mammoths, Arctic camels horses and various species of fish and birds moved freely over the land-bridge establishing migration patterns that persist to this day. Of course, humans followed as they went where the food was.
  2. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of settlements in and around Clovis, NM that are some 11,000 years old. DNA evidence suggests that these inhabitants were the direct ancestors of some 80% of ALL indigenous peoples in the Americas.
  3. According to voanews there is ample evidence that the Vikings inhabited Newfoundland and other parts of eastern Canada as early as circa 1100. Two leaders of these intrepid Viking explorers were Leif Erickson and his son, Eric “the Red.” They did not establish any permanent colonies, but there is ample evidence that they used the area as a winter settlement to make repairs to their boats and “ride out” bad weather.
  4. There is evidence that Chinese and/or Polynesian explorers made their way to parts of South America well before Columbus.

In summary, I believe Columbus deserves credit (and blame) for introducing the New World to Europeans and all that followed, but it cannot be said that he “discovered” it. As indicated by his harsh treatment of the natives he was not perfect; none of us is. But, I believe he deserves to be recognized with a holiday in his memory.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – OCTOBER

October has had more than its share of significant historical events. Please see below:

10/1/1908 – The first Model T cars, designed by Henry Ford, went on sale.
10/1/1938 – German troops occupied the Sudetenland section of Czechoslovakia.
10/1/1949 – The Peoples’ Republic of China was founded with Mao Zedong as its leader.
10/1/1979 – The US formally turned the Canal Zone over to Panama.
10/2/1967 – Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as the first African American associate justice of the Supreme Court.
10/3/1863 – President Abraham Lincoln promulgated a proclamation designating the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving (later changed to the fourth Thursday).
10/3/1929 – The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was officially renamed Yugoslavia.
10/3/1932 – Iraq gained its independence from Great Britain.
10/3/1974 – Hall of Famer Frank Robinson became the first African American to manage a major league baseball club (the Cleveland Indians). Later, he also became the first AA manager to be fired.
10/3/1990 – East and West Germany were united as the Federal Republic of Germany ending 45 years of separation.
10/4/1830 – Belgium gained its independence from the Netherlands.
10/4/1957 – Russia ushered in the Space Age as it launched the first satellite, named Sputnik.
10/5/1908 – Bulgaria proclaimed its independence from the Ottoman Empire.
10/6/1927 – “The Jazz Singer,” the first “talkie,” opened in NYC.
10/6/1928 – Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek became the president of the Republic of China.
10/6/1973 – The “Yom Kippur War” commenced as Egypt and Syria launched surprise attacks against Israel, which was busy celebrating the most sacred of Jewish holidays.
10/6/1981 – Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated.
10/7/1985 – Palestinian terrorists seized the cruise ship, “Achille Lauro,” and threatened to blow it up if their demands were not met. They infamously murdered an elderly wheelchair-bound passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, by pushing his wheelchair off the deck into the sea.
10/8/1871 – The Great Fire of Chicago destroyed much of the city. Legend has it that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow started it by kicking over a lantern in her barn.
10/8/1918 – Sergeant Alvin York, arguably the US’s greatest war hero, single-handedly took out a German machine-gun battalion, killing and capturing nearly 150 enemy soldiers. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and the French equivalent, the Croix de Guerre.
10/8/1998 – The House of Representatives voted to launch a formal impeachment inquiry of President Bill Clinton.
10/9/1962 – Uganda gained its independence from Great Britain.
10/10/1973 – Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned amid allegations of income tax evasion stemming from his tenure as Governor of Maryland.
10/11/1939 – Scientist Albert Einstein issued a warning to President FDR that Germany was seeking to develop an atomic weapon. His warning led the US to marshal its resources to develop its own atomic weapon (the Manhattan Project).
10/12/1492 – Christopher Columbus landed in present-day El Salvador, erroneously thinking he had found the elusive northwest passage to India.
10/12/1811 – Paraguay declared its independence from Spain.
10/12/1822 – Brazil declared its independence from Portugal.
10/13/1792 – George Washington laid the cornerstone of the White House.
10/13/1884 – Greenwich, England was established as the basic time zone from which all time is calculated.
10/14/1066 – The Normans defeated the English at the decisive Battle of Hastings, which resulted in the Norman’s conquest of England.
10/14/1912 – Former president Theodore Roosevelt was shot while campaigning for re-election, but he survived.
10/14/1947 – Test pilot Chuck Yeager became the first to break the sound barrier.
10/14/1964 – Martin Luther King became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
10/15/1991 – Following several days of contentious hearings regarding allegations of sexual harassment against a former aide, Anita Hill, the Senate confirmed Clarence Thomas as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
10/16/1701 – Yale University was founded in Killingworth, CT as the Collegiate School of Connecticut.
10/16/1793 – French Queen Marie Antoinette, known for her extravagance and contempt for her subjects (“Let them eat cake.”), was beheaded.
10/16/1853 – The Crimean War (Russia, England and France vs. the Ottoman Empire and parts of present-day Italy) began.
10/16/1995 – Louis Farrakhan led the Million Man March on Washington.
10/17/1777 – The Colonial Army defeated the British at Saratoga in what many historians believe was the turning point of the Revolutionary War.
10/17-25/1944 – The US succeeded in decimating the Japanese Navy at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which was the largest naval battle in history.
10/18/1945 – The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial commenced with indictments against 24 former Nazi leaders.
10/19/1781 – English General Cornwallis surrendered to the Colonial Army at Yorktown, VA. marking the end of the Revolutionary War.
10/19/1987 – This day was dubbed “Black Monday” on Wall Street as stocks plunged 508 points or 22.6%, the largest one-day decline ever.
10/20/1818 – The US and Great Britain agreed to establish the US-Canadian border at the 49th parallel. The 5,525 mile border is the longest in the world between any two countries.
10/20/1944 – General Douglas MacArthur, who upon fleeing the Philippines in 1942 to escape the Japanese Army boldly asserted “I shall return,” returned as promised.
10/20/1968 – Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of President John Kennedy, married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.
10/21/1805 – The British Navy defeated the combined naval forces of France and Spain at the Battle of Trafalgar, obviating the threat of their invasion of England.
10/21/1879 – Thomas Edison successfully tested an incandescent lamp.
10/21/1915 – AT&T transmitted the first successful transatlantic radio voice message (Virginia to Paris).
10/22/1962 – President Kennedy warned Americans of the existence of Russian missiles on Cuba. The so-called “Cuban Missile Crisis” was probably the biggest threat of nuclear war during the Cold War.
10/23/1942 – The British Army led by General Bernard Montgomery launched a major offensive against the German Afrika Corps, led by General Erwin Rommel, at El Alamein, Egypt. Montgomery’s victory marked a major turning point in WWII.
10/24/1931 – Notorious Chicago gangster, Al Capone, was sentenced 11 years in prison for income tax evasion.
10/24/1945 – The UN was founded.
10/25/1854 – 673 British cavalrymen took on a Russian force in the Battle of Balaclava. This famous Crimean War battle was immortalized in a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson entitled “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”
10/26/1881 – In the infamous shoot-out at the OK Corral the Earp brothers and “Doc” Holliday defeated the Clanton Gang.
10/26/1825 – The Erie Canal, the first man-made waterway in America, opened for business.
10/27/1904 – The NYC subway system opened with a run from City Hall to West 145th Street as the first underground and underwater system in the world.
10/27/1978 – Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat shared the Nobel Peace Prize.
10/28/1636 – Harvard University, the oldest university in America, was founded in Cambridge, MA, funded by donations provided by John Harvard.
10/28/1846 – The ill-fated Donner Party departed Illinois for California.
10/28/1918 – The Republic of Czechoslovakia was founded by combining three provinces that were formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – Moravia, Slovakia, and Bohemia.
10/28/1919 – Prohibition commenced as Congress enacted the Volstead Act.
10/28/1962 – Russia agreed to halt the construction of offensive missile bases in Cuba and dismantle existing bases, thus ending the Cuban Missile Crisis.
10/29/1929 – The stock market “crashed” ushering in the Great Depression.
10/30/1938 – A radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” without commercial interruption caused widespread panic, as many people thought that Martians had actually invaded Earth.

10/31/41- The sculptures of four US presidents on Mt. Rushmore was completed. Can you name them? (See below).

10/31/50 – Earl Lloyd became the first AA to play in the NBA (Washington Capitols).

10/31/84 – Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandhi was assassinated.

BIRTHDAYS – Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi – 10/2/1869; Rutherford B. Hayes (19th President) – 10/4/1822; Frederic Remington (artist)- 10/4/1861; Chester A. Arthur (21st President) – 10/5/1830; Robert Goddard (“Father of the Space Age”) – 10/5/1882; George Westinghouse (engineer and inventor) – 10/6/1846; John Lennon – 10/9/1940; Eleanor Roosevelt – 10/11/1884; Mary Ludwig (aka Molly Pitcher (Revolutionary War heroine of the Battle of Monmouth, NJ) – 10/13/1754; William Penn (founded the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which bears his name) – 10/14/1644; Dwight (Ike) Eisenhower (WWII war hero and 34th President) – 10/14/1890; Lido Anthony (Lee) Iacocca (auto industry executive) – 10/15/1924; Noah Webster (teacher and journalist who compiled the first dictionaries) – 10/16/1758; Oscar Wilde (Irish playwright and poet) – 10/16/1854; David Ben Gurion (“Father” of Israel) – 10/16/1888; Eugene O’Neill (playwright – “The Iceman Cometh”) – 10/16/1888; William O. Douglas (associate justice of the Supreme Court) – 10/16/1898; John Birks (Dizzy) Gillespie (jazz musician) – 10/21/1917; Pablo Picasso (artist) – 10/25/1881; Hillary Rodham Clinton – 10/26/1947; James Cook (English explorer) – 10/27/1728; Theodore Roosevelt (26th President) – 10/27/1858; Dr. Jonas Salk (polio vaccine) – 10/28/1914; Bill Gates (Microsoft) – 10/28/1955; John Adams (2nd President) – 10/30/1735; Emily Post (arbiter of etiquette) – 10/30/1872; Admiral Will (“Bull”) Halsey (WWII fleet commander) – 10/30/1882.

Quiz answer: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.

THE COVID VACCINE THAT ALMOST WASN’T

I love stories like this. Simply love them. It is a story of Holocaust survival against heavy odds. It is a story filled with irony, coincidence and, yes, plain luck. It is a story about Albert Bourla, an immigrant Jew who, as CEO of Pfizer Corporation, spearheaded the development of the first COVID vaccination, which, as you know, has already saved untold thousands of lives. That, however, is not the best part of the story. The “kicker” is that but for the abovementioned irony, coincidence and luck Albert would never have been born. No Albert, maybe no COVID vaccine, or certainly not as quickly. No Albert and untold thousands more people would have died from COVID.

The story began in Greece in 1939. Albert’s future parents lived in Thessalonika, Greece, which was a thriving port city on the Aegean Sea. In 1939 some 60,000 Jews lived in the city in peace and harmony with the non-Jewish population. On September 1, 1939 the Nazis invaded Poland, which marked the beginning of WWII. That, by itself, had no immediate effect on Thessalonika. However, in the Spring of 1941 Hitler decided he would invade Russia. But, first he wanted to secure his southern flank. That decision doomed Greece. Germany invaded Greece on April 6, 1941. The port of Thessalonika was a prime target.

The Jews in the city were doomed. Almost the entire population was quickly sent to concentration camps and exterminated. There were very few survivors.

Two of the lucky few were Albert’s future parents. According to Wikipedia his future mother was literally minutes away from being executed by a firing squad when her life was spared. Her brother-in-law, who was not Jewish, managed this 11th hour rescue by paying a hefty ransom to a Nazi Party official who then interceded on her behalf. His future father survived due to the good fortune of being absent from the ghetto when the Nazis arrived to round up the residents. He went into hiding and survived the war.

After the war the two met and married. On October 21, 1961 they had a son, Abraham. By all accounts Abraham was a brilliant student. He studied veterinary medicine, earning a doctorate in reproductive biotechnology in veterinary medicine at Aristotle University in Salonika.

He joined Pfizer in 1993 as technical director for the firm’s animal health division. In 2001 he emigrated to the US and changed his name to Albert. Albert rose through the ranks at Pfizer and became CEO on January 1, 2019. He became executive chairman in January 2020. In 2020 Institutional Investor designated him as the US’s top CEO in the pharmaceutical industry.

With the advent of the COVID pandemic Albert directed Pfizer to aggressively develop a safe and effective vaccine. To that end, he partnered with BioNTech, a German company. He directed that “financial returns should not drive any decisions.” Virtually all medical and epidemiological people thought it would take years to develop a safe and effective vaccine . Indeed, historically, that had been the standard timeframe. But, by working in cooperation with executives of other major pharmaceutical companies and with the strong support of President Trump it was accomplished in a matter of months by November 2020. The Pfizer vaccine was ready first. In order to expedite matters Albert had taken the calculated risk of mass-producing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine prior to FDA approval so that it would be ready for distribution immediately upon approval. Undoubtedly, this decision saved thousands of lives.

CONCLUSION

Albert is a major figure in the pharmaceutical industry. For example, he is a member of The Business Council, which is an organization of prominent business leaders, and the Business Roundtable a group of business leaders that promotes pro-business public policy. In addition, he is featured regularly on CNBC and in the NY Times.

The supreme irony of this story is that Albert who, but for a fortuitous twist of fate would have never been born, has had a significant role in the development of a vaccine against a deadly pandemic that is benefiting millions of people worldwide, including the descendants of those who sought to eradicate his ancestors.

WEAR A MASK/DON’T WEAR A MASK VACCINE/NO VACCINE

Instead of uniting us, in my opinion our elected leaders have continually been devising new ways to divide us. Some of you may be wondering what I mean by that provocative statement. Read on, and I will explain.

Historically, leaders, and not just those currently in the US, have always realized that the way to maintain their power and control over the masses is to divide the people. Thus, at various times the ruling class has successfully pitted, for example, the haves against the have nots, Protestants against Catholics, both of them against Jews, liberals against conservatives, and the latest, “red” states vs “blue” states. The theory is that if different groups are in conflict with each other they are less likely to question who is to blame for the current calamities, whatever they may be. They are less likely to unite against the ruling class. This has been true whether the rulers were kings, despots, or elected leaders. Very often, the vast majority are so busy dealing with their daily lives they fail to notice what is occurring. History is full of such examples, from the European royalty of the Middle Ages through the 19th century, to the 20th century despots in Russia and Germany, to the current crop of incompetents in the USA. If you doubt me, feel free to research the history yourself.

In my view, the COVID pandemic has provided the perfect opportunity for the ruling class to exert and consolidate its power and control over our daily lives. Yes, COVID is a deadly disease. Yes, its has killed millions worldwide. I get that. Everyone gets that. But, the question is what freedoms and rights have we and will we continue to give up to combat it, and is it necessary to do so? How many of you stayed in your homes, avoided social contacts, made financial sacrifices, or not seen your kids or grandkids because you were scared to do so? Was it worth it? Was it necessary, or was it overkill? Everyone has to decide the answer to that for himself. Personally, I think not. I believe one cannot live one’s life in fear.

There are many examples that illustrate my contention, but for the sake of brevity I will cite only two.

Mask mandate –

For some 20 months I have sat back and watched and listened to the “experts” bloviate with respect to the positives and negatives of wearing masks. Everyone intones “follow the science,” and yet many of our political leaders and medical spokespersons do not. Instead, they choose to follow the politics. Politicians have been imposing draconian policies on the general public, which are not always based on science and which they don’t always follow personally. Their motto is “rules for thee but not for me.” Examples abound. Earlier this year during the lockdown CA Governor Gavin Newsome and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot were photographed eating in restaurants without a mask in violation of their own mask mandates. Nancy Pelosi and Lightfoot had their hair done when the rest of us could not do so. Pelosi has actually threatened to have any congressman who does not wear a mask in the House chamber arrested. More recently, San Francisco Mayor London Breed was caught dancing and singing in a club without a mask. Was she apologetic? No. Was she contrite”? No. Instead, she defended her actions, saying she was “feeling the spirit,” whatever that means. Then, she doubled down by criticizing the “fun police” for reporting on her.

According to WHO contrary to popular belief a mask alone does not provide sufficient protection against the virus, particularly the Delta variant. Therefore, those who assume it does are operating under a false sense of security. Furthermore, not all masks are equal. For example, how many people have you seen wearing a bandanna as their “mask?” How many people fail to clean and disinfect their mask regularly? How many people have you observed wearing a mask over their mouth but not their nose. How does that help? How about people who wear a mask while driving? Alone? What’s that all about? How many people have you observed wearing a mask while exercising? WHO advises not to do so as it impairs one’s ability to breath properly.

Vaccines – [Full disclosure: I have had two vaccines plus the booster, but I have put aside my personal opinions regarding the vaccine for purposes of this blog.]

Before the 2020 presidential election both Biden and Harris cautioned the public that the “Trump vaccine” was dangerous, unproven, and not to be trusted. Forget the fact that the vaccines were being developed by pharmaceutical companies that did this for a living, who clearly knew what they were doing and were taking every precaution. They made it seem as if Trump were concocting a witches’ brew in a cauldron in secret in his basement. It was Trump, and all things Trump were bad and not to be trusted. Once they got elected, however, the mantra changed. Now, vaccines are good, everyone eligible must take them. Those who don’t for whatever reason are “unpatriotic,” “selfish,” and endangering the rest of us. They should be banned from working, going out, traveling, and breathing the air.

Naturally, the media has “eaten this up.” The media loves a controversy. We now have a new division in this country – the vaccinated vs. the unvaccinated, and the media has seized every opportunity to exacerbate it. The media blows up every incident without knowing the facts. The latest example is the Carmine’s Restaurant episode of a few days ago. You all know the story. The hostess asked a group pf patrons to show proof of vaccination to eat inside as she is required to do by NYC law. The next thing we know, the group assaulted her. They claim the hostess uttered a racial slur, but as I write this we don’t know if she did or not, and if so what she said. There is no audio. The matter is under investigation. The point is, this is a perfect storm for the media – COVID and race combined. The media is off to the races. Facts don’t seem to matter.

The vaccinated are blaming the unvaccinated for prolonging the pandemic and endangering the vaccinated. Meanwhile, many of the unvaccinated have what they perceive as legitimate concerns and resent being told what they must do. As far as I know, this is still America, or did we all fall asleep and wake up in Soviet Russia circa 1930. Emotion and fallacy have overtaken reason and facts.

Meanwhile, according to the CDC and many other reputable outlets the vaccinated have a much lower risk of infection, even from the much-feared Delta variant. Moreover, according to a recent study published by Forbes the fully vaccinated are only half as likely to catch COVID if they have been exposed to an infected person, and they are less likely to die from it. These are known as “vaccine breakthrough cases.” They have been few and far between, but they have been disproportionally publicized by the media.

On the other hand, the primary concern of the unvaccinated, its affect on fertility, appears to be groundless. The CDC has stated there is “no current evidence” that any vaccine, including COVID would cause fertility problems. Of course, evidence could turn up years from now, so I can understand why a young, healthy woman who wants children would have reservations. Does anyone remember the thalidomide scandal? Briefly, in the 1950s and 1960s the drug, thalidomide, was commonly prescribed for nausea in pregnant women. Later it was determined that the drug caused severe birth defects in many babies.

The medical experts have been wrong continually from the beginning. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical “expert,” has flip-flopped on the mask issue and other aspects of the coronavirus daily (or so it seems). At this point his credibility is “shot.” He isn’t the only one. Most media outlets have repeatedly trotted out “experts” who are not doctors, don’t have the foggiest notion of what they are talking about, but who feel free to give authoritative advice to the rest of us.

The average person is confused and no wonder. The messaging seems to change daily. Wear a mask; don’t wear a mask. You don’t need a mask if you are fully vaccinated. Yes, you do because you might infect those who are not. In fact, wear a double mask. Wear a mask outside. Wear one inside as well, even inside your house. Businesses such as hospitals and restaurants should require all employees to mask up. No, they shouldn’t. Close the schools to in-person classes. No, don’t do that. It is damaging to the kids in various ways. Do all who recover from COVID retain antibodies? Yes/no/maybe. If so, how long do they last? Do we need booster shots periodically? No one really knows, but many act as if they do.

Require your employees to wear a mask. No, you don’t have to do that. Is it even legal? Require everyone to be vaccinated. No, you can’t do that. This is America. We have freedom of choice, and some people have valid reasons for eschewing the vaccines.

The bottom line is this is not a “one size fits all” situation. The best advice is to consult your doctor who is familiar with your medical situation, and follow his or her advice.

Are you thoroughly confused yet? You should be. What should we do? Everyone has an opinion, but no one really knows. Repeat: EVERYONE HAS AN OPINION, BUT NO ONE REALLY KNOWS. Based on my observations people’s opinions are based, in large part, on their news source and political leanings.

As I said above, these aforementioned mask mandates and other restrictions are not about the health of Americans, not even about combatting the virus. Yes, it dangerous. Yes, it kills people, especially the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems and those in generally poor health. Yes, we need to take it seriously. That said, the mask mandate and other safety measures are not about all that. Not really. What are they about? Power and control. That’s P O W E R and C O N T R O L.

Why do I say that? Simple. Despite all the talk about the dangers of the virus and its capacity to spread and kill, our fearless leaders adamantly continue to keep our southern border open to anyone and everyone. That makes absolutely no sense. Migrants have been pouring across every day. Many of them have come from countries with high infection rates and they are NOT tested for COVID. To be clear, the Administration demands Americans wear a mask and be vaccinated, but migrants do not have to be. How does that make any sense. The visuals shown on tv are incomprehensible. It makes me ill just to look at it.

CONCLUSION

In summary, I have concluded;

1. COVID has provided our elected officials with the opportunity to exert control over how we live, how we earn a living, how we worship, and how we educate our kids, among other things. Think about it. These restrictions would have been unacceptable and unthinkable two years ago.

2. Once again, the media has failed to do its job. Instead of investigating they have been enabling.

3. Fear of COVID has caused us to surrender many of our liberties and freedoms little by little under the guise of protecting us from an existential threat. Some changes have been radical, while others have been so imperceptible as to be barely noticed. None of them will be beneficial to our traditional way of life. We are literally witnessing the remaking of America.

4. In particular, the Administration has frequently gone out of its way to criticize the COVID policies of “Red State” governors, notably Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Texas’ Greg Abbott. Here is where the politics come in. DeSantis is seen as a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2024. The Dems desperately want to discredit Abbott and turn Texas “blue.” At the moment, COVID cases are up in both states likely due to Biden’s open border policy. Recently, Pew Research has reported that there were 200,000 border “encounters” in July, which is a 21 year high. Furthermore, most of us have seen video of the 12,000 or so Haitians living in squalor under a bridge on the border. Eventually, most of these people will have to be absorbed into the US somewhere, maybe in your neighborhood.

5. By pitting the vaccinated against the unvaccinated the ruling class has successfully diverted our attention from the other problems facing us, such as the economy, crime, energy independence, leaving hundreds of American citizens and green card holders behind in Afghanistan to be tortured and murdered, and our deteriorating relationships with our allies.

5. The virus has become a political football. We have been induced to cede much control over our lives to people who don’t have the foggiest notion of what they are doing. In many cases, they are literally making it up as they go.

Remember, politicians have many faults, but they are really, really good at two things: getting elected and getting re-elected.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – SEPTEMBER

The following historically-significant events occurred during the month of September:

9/1/1939 – The Germans invaded Poland marking the beginning of WWII.
9/1/1983 – A Russian fighter jet shot down a Korean civilian airliner that had supposedly strayed off course during a scheduled flight from NY to Seoul.
9/2/1666 – The Great Fire of London began. It destroyed over 13,000 houses, although it is believed that only six lives were lost.
9/2/1789 – Congress established the Department of the Treasury as the third cabinet department.
9/2/1864 – General Sherman captured Atlanta.
9/2/1945 – President Truman declared VJ Day.
9/2/1963 – Alabama Governor George Wallace dispatched state troopers to prevent the integration of Tuskegee High School.
9/3/1783 – Representatives of England and the American colonies signed the Treaty of Paris bringing a formal ending to the Revolutionary War.
9/3/1833 – The “New York Sun” debuted, as the first newspaper to be “hawked” by boys on the sidewalk.
9/4/1609 – Henry Hudson discovered the island of Manhattan. (Do you know the derivation of the name, “Manhattan”)? See below.
9/4/1781 – Felipe de Neve founded El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles (in English, The Town of the Queen of the Angels), or as it is more commonly known, the City of Los Angeles.
9/4/1886 – Geronimo, the last and, perhaps, the most famous, Indian chief, was captured.
9/5/1774 – The First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia.
9/5-6/1972 – Terrorists belonging to the Black September faction of the PLA murdered eleven members of the Israeli Olympic Team in Munich.
9/5/1997 – “Mother Teresa” died at age 87.
9/8/1565 – Spain founded the first settlement in America in St. Augustine, FL.
9/9/1776 – The Continental Congress officially changed the name of the “United Colonies” to the “United States.”
9/9/1976 – Chairman Mao Zedong, Communist China’s longtime leader, died.
9/11/2001 – The worst terrorist attack in US history ushered in the War on Terror, which is ongoing. Terrorists hijacked four jumbo jets. Two were flown into the WTC, causing both towers to collapse; one crashed into the Pentagon; and the 4th missed its target (the White House or the Capitol) due to the heroism of some of the passengers on board. Nearly 2,800, mostly civilians, were killed and thousands of first responders have since died or suffered health problems directly related to the attack.
9/12/1953 – Future US President John F. Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier in Newport, RI.
9/13/1788 – The US Congress chose NY as the capital.
9/13/1814 – Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner while observing the Battle of Fort McHenry from a British prisoner ship in Baltimore harbor.
9/14/1901 – President William McKinley died from gunshot wounds suffered during an assassination attempt eight days previously.
9/15/1935 – The Nazi Germany government enacted the Nuremburg Laws, which deprived German Jews of their citizenship.
9/16/1620 – The Mayflower, with only 102 passengers and a few crew members, departed England for its famous voyage to the New World.
9/16/1908 – William Durant founded General Motors in Flint, MI.
9/17/1789 – The Constitutional Convention approved the US constitution.
9/17/1862 – The Union Army defeated the Confederate Army at Antietam in the bloodiest battle in US military history as approximately 26,000 soldiers died on both sides.
9/18/1947 – The air force was established as a separate branch of the military.
9/19/1893 – New Zealand became the first country to approve women’s suffrage.
9/20/1873 – The NYSE closed for the first time due to the Panic of 1873.
9/20/1973 – Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the much-ballyhooed “Battle of the Sexes.”
9/22/1776 – The British executed Nathan Hale as a spy for the colonials who famously intoned “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
9/22/1862 – President Abraham Lincoln issued the famous Emancipation Proclamation.
9/23/1952 – Vice Presidential candidate Richard Nixon delivered the famous “Checkers” Speech before a national tv and radio audience.
9/24/1957 – President Eisenhower deployed the National Guard to enforce racial integration in Little Rock, AK.
9/25/1513 – Spanish explorer Vasco de Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean.
9/25/1789 – Congress proposed 12 amendments to the US constitution of which ten were eventually ratified as the Bill of Rights.
9/26/1960 – Senator Kennedy and Vice President Nixon participated in the first televised presidential election debate.
9/27/1964 – The Warren commission issued its report that concluded a lone gunman had assassinated President Kennedy.
9/28/1542 – Portuguese explorer Juan Cabrillo discovered California.
9/28/1995 – Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chief Yasser Arafat signed an agreement granting Palestinian self-rule of the West Bank.
9/29/1789 – Congress created the US Army, which consisted of 1,000 soldiers.
9/29/1829 – Britain’s Parliament authorized London’s Metropolitan Police Force. They were nicknamed “Bobbies” after Home Secretary Robert Peel, who was the driving force behind the idea.
9/29-30/1941 – Nazi soldiers perpetrated the infamous Babi Yar massacre at which in excess of 33,000 Jews were murdered.
9/30/1938 – British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned to England brandishing an agreement with Nazi Germany that he asserted guaranteed “peace in our time.”
9/30/1949 – The Berlin airlift concluded after it had successfully thwarted Soviet attempts to blockade West Berlin.

BIRTHDAYS – Rocky Marciano, undefeated heavyweight boxing champion, 9/1/1923; Christa McAuliffe (the first “ordinary” citizen in space), 9/2/1948; Jesse James, celebrated outlaw, 9/5/1847; Darryl Zanuck, movie mogul, 9/5/1902; Marquis de Lafayette, Revolutionary War hero, 9/6/1757; Queen Elizabeth I, 9/7/1533; Ferdinand Marcos, 9/11/1917; James Cleveland (“Jesse”) Owens, winner of four gold medals in 1936 Olympics, 9/12/1913; Walter Reed, 9/13/1851; General John J. Pershing, WWI commanding general, 9/13/1860; James Fenimore Cooper, authored “Last of the Mohicans,” 9/15/1789; William Howard Taft (27th US President), 9/15/1857; Agatha Christie, renowned mystery writer, 9/15/1890; John Marshall, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, 9/24/1755; F. Scott Fitzgerald, author, 9/24/1896; George Gershwin, composer, 9/26/1898; Samuel Adams, Revolutionary War leader, 9/27/1722; Enrico Fermi, nuclear physicist, 9/29/1901; Truman Capote, authored “In Cold Blood,” 9/30/1924.

Quiz answer – It is derived from the Indian name, “Mannahatta,” which translates to “the hilly island.”

World Geography Quiz


Once again, it’s time to test your knowledge. Have fun and no peeking at the internet. No consulting Alexa or Siri.

1.  Each of the following is one of the “Seven Seas” except: a.  Arctic; b. Baltic; c. Gulf of Mexico; d. Mediterranean

2. What percent of the earth is covered by water? a.  60; b.  70; c.  75; d. 80

3.  The southern-most point in Europe is located in which country? a.  Spain; b.  Italy; c.  Albania; d.  Turkey

4.  Asia is the largest continent by land mass.  Which one is second? a.  North America; b.  South America; c.  Australia; d.  Africa

5.  Each of the following countries is landlocked except: a.  Ethiopia; b.  Afghanistan; c. Guyana d;  Paraguay.

6.  The longest river in the world is the a.  Amazon; b.  Nile; c.  Yangtze; d.  Danube.

7.  The Appalachian Trail passes through or borders each of the following states except: a.  NY; b.  Maine; c.  Georgia; d.  South Carolina.

8.  China is the most populous country followed by India.  Which country is third? a.  Indonesia; b.  Brazil; c.  US; d.  Pakistan.

9.  The eastern-most point in the US is located in which state? a.  Maine; b.  Florida; c.  Alaska; d.  NY.

10. Pike’s Peak is located in which state? a.  Colorado; b.  Nevada; c.  Wyoming; d.  Washington.

11. The Mississippi River borders on or flows through each of the following states except: a.  Louisiana; b.  Minnesota; c.  Michigan; d.  Tennessee.

12.  The least populous state is a.  Rhode Island; b.  Wyoming; c.  Vermont; d.  North Dakota.

13.  The Gadsden Purchase included land from the state of a. New Mexico; b.  Texas; c.  Nevada; d.  California.

14.  Russia is the most populous country in Europe. The second is a.  France; b.  UK; c.  Spain; d.  Germany.  

15.  The northern-most point in Europe is located in a.  Finland; b.  Norway; c.  Sweden; d.  Estonia.

16.  Each of the following is one of the world’s continents except: a.  Antarctica; b.  Australia; c.  Central America; d. Europe.

17.  Each of the following is one of the Baltic States except a.  Estonia; b.  Latvia; c.  Lithuania; d.  Finland.

18.  Each of the following countries borders on the North Sea except  a.  Norway; b.  Finland; c.  Germany; d.  France.

19.  The largest of the Great Lakes is a.  Erie; b.  Superior; c.  Michigan; d.  Ontario.

20.  Each of the following countries is located in Central America except  a. Belize; b.  Costa Rica; c.  El Salvador; d. Cuba.

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

Well, there it is. Let me know how you did.

9/11 REMEMBRANCE. HAS IT REALLY BEEN 20 YEARS?

Today, Saturday, is September 11, a date that will always have special meaning for all Americans, indeed for all decent people worldwide. Like December 7 and November 22, September 11 is a date that will, in the words of former president FDR, “live in infamy.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 began as a beautiful late summer day in NYC, much like today, pleasant temperatures and a brilliant blue sky. That would soon change. At 8:46 a.m. ET, Americans’ safe and secure lives changed forever. Like the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and the JFK assassination, undoubtedly, most everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard of the attack. At that moment, the first hijackers’ plane crashed into the north tower of the WTC. This was followed quickly by a second plane crashing into the south tower, and, later, a third one crashing into the Pentagon. Incredibly and inexplicably, by 10:28 both towers had collapsed.

Later in the day, a fourth plane crashed into a field in Shanksville, PA. It is believed that this fourth plane was bound for a target in Washington, D.C., perhaps, the White House or the Capitol, and it would have succeeded but for the heroism of some of the passengers on board.

As I said, this year will mark the 20th anniversary of those horrific attacks. They resulted in just under 3,000 deaths. Most of those were workers who were trapped in their offices and consumed by fire or smoke/chemical inhalation. They could not escape because most of the stairwells were blocked.  Many victims have only been identified due to their DNA, in some cases many years later.

Compounding the tragedy was the fact that NYC’s 911 operators were not as well informed as they should have been. Thus, they were advising callers from inside the towers not to descend the stairs on their own. Some of them proceeded to the roof hoping to be rescued by helicopter. Unfortunately, helicopters could not land on the roofs due to the heat and thick smoke. Many of us who were watching on tv witnessed the awful sight of people jumping to their deaths (in some cases, actually holding hands with others for support) rather than awaiting their fates from the fire.

The horror of the attacks, themselves, was amplified by the fact that the victims were not soldiers but innocent civilians who were merely working at their jobs.  In addition to the thousands of civilians, police officers, firemen and EMS workers that were killed in the attacks, themselves, thousands more volunteer workers and even people who lived or worked in the vicinity ended up contracting various illnesses from inhaling the many carcinogens in the air and dying subsequently, in some cases many years later. 

Many of us know or know of someone, such as Jamie Testa, a close family friend, who suffered this fate.  These people were heroes. They didn’t have to be at ground zero. They volunteered to help rescue people who were trapped under the rubble, because that is what Americans do. Tragically, they paid with their lives. Even today, 20 years later, people are still contracting diseases and dying.  Horrifying as it may seem, some doctors have predicted that eventually these victims will exceed the 3,000 killed on 9/11. 

The primary illnesses are cancer, respiratory disorders, asthma, COPD and gastroesophageal reflux disorder. In addition, in the aftermath health workers noted a significant increase in anxiety, depression and PTSD. As I said, many of the above have manifested themselves years later. Even now, new cases are being presented. The number of documented cancer cases, alone, has tripled in the past few years. The physical, mental and emotional toll has been astounding. An estimated 18,000 people have contracted illnesses from the toxic dust. Moreover, there is speculation that 9/11 has caused health issues in babies whose mothers were pregnant at the time of the attacks, such as premature birth, respiratory problems, below average weight, and increased neo-natal requirements.

This was the deadliest attack on US soil ever. By comparison, the shocking Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which, as I said, President FDR characterized as “a date that will live in infamy” resulted in “only” 2,400 deaths, and they were mostly military personnel.

The ceremonies will continue throughout the day. Some of the highlights will be:

  1. President Biden, the First Lady, and various other dignitaries will pay their respects at the site. There have always been suspicions of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the attacks. A group of some 1,800 survivors and relatives of survivors is opposing Biden’s participation unless he agrees to declassify certain documents they claim will show “much investigate evidence” linking the Saudi Arabian government and certain Saudi officials to the attack. They have released a statement through NBC News stating “we cannot in good faith and with veneration to those lost, sick and injured welcome the president to our hallowed grounds until he fulfills his commitment [to declassify the documents].”
  2. There will be the traditional “moment of silence” at 8:46.
  3. Flags will be flown at half-mast at all government buildings.
  4. The FDNY will host a memorial service at 1:30 at the iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral to honor the 343 firemen who perished.
  5. Volunteers will distribute some 200,000 meals to needy NYers at the Intrepid, Sea, Air and Space Museum.
  6. There will be other ceremonies at various locations throughout the country, notably at Shanksville, PA site of the crash of flight 93.
  7. And the ultimate highlight, at least for me, will be when the survivors read the names of every 9/11 victim out loud in real time on tv, including those killed at the WTC (in both 1993 and 2001), the Pentagon and on Flight 93. This is a particularly poignant scene as the readers are typically the spouses, children and/or grandchildren of the victims. In addition to citing the name of the victim some of the readers add personal messages of remembrance. This was omitted last year due to COVID fears. In my opinion, these readings of the names of the victims is a fantastic idea as it helps us to remember the horrific and cowardly terrorists attacks and continue to pay tribute to the victims. Frank Stiller, chairman of “Tunnels to Towers” who lost his wife on that day, characterized the reading of the names “an essential and irreplaceable tribute.” Well said.

In addition to the deaths there was significant damage to the economy of NYC and the US as a whole. The entire Wall Street area, including the financial markets, was closed until September 17. Air travel was disrupted. Americans’ psyche was severely damaged. The cleanup of the WTC area was not completed until May 2002. All in all, it took 3.1 million man-hours to clean up 1.8 million tons of debris at a cost of $750 million.  Internationally, countries were generally horrified and supportive, although some of the people in some Muslim countries, such as Iraq, were seen to be celebrating.

Fifteen of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, with the others having originated from Egypt, Lebanon and the UAE. The terrorist group, Al Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, quickly claimed responsibility. Bin Laden had declared a holy war on the US and had issued a fatwa calling for the killing of Americans. Following 9/11, bin Laden became public enemy number 1. Eventually, the US exacted revenge, hunting him down and killing him.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Americans wanted to know how our intelligence agencies had failed to anticipate them. Who had “dropped the ball?” Amid many investigations and finger-pointing it became obvious that the major factor was a failure to communicate and share intelligence and information. For example:

l. The CIA had intelligence reports that a terrorist attack was forthcoming, but it was expecting it to be in Israel, not the US.
2. The CIA knew that two known terrorists had slipped into the US.
3. The FBI had information of certain anomalies at some US flight schools.
4. The Justice Department policies advocated very limited intelligence-sharing, even with other agencies.
5. The CIA and NSA were reluctant to reveal sources of information and their methods of attaining it.
6. None of these agencies reported their information to each other or to the White House.
7. In 2004 Attorney General John Ashcroft testified to the “9/11 Commission” that the “single greatest structural cause…. was the wall that segregated or separated criminal investigators and intelligence agents.”

I hope that the coordination and information-sharing among these agencies have been enhanced since 9/11, but I have my doubts. As time has gone on, I sense that we have grown more and more complacent and the various alphabet agencies have resumed “guarding their own turf” rather than sharing intelligence and information for the greater good.

CONCLUSION

Americans’ lives have changed considerably since 9/11. Many believe that not all of these changes are good or even necessary. For instance:

1. The US created the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate and oversee intelligence activities and security. In addition, it passed the USA Patriot Act. These agencies have improved our readiness and security but at the price of certain civil liberties. There is, and should be, a balance between security and liberty, and depending on one’s political point of view the pendulum may have swung too far, or not enough, toward security.

2. Enhanced security at airports and train and bus terminals has made travel more complicated, time-consuming, and nerve-wracking. Some people have curtailed or ceased their travel entirely, particularly internationally.

3. Many parents are apprehensive, if not paranoid, about letting their children go outside to play or ride their bicycles in the neighborhood. Also, they accompany their children to the school or school bus stop and pick them up at the end of the day. The various terrorist attacks in schools in recent years have done little to assuage these fears and concerns. Schools have ramped up security protocols. Some have even hired armed guards. Some people have advocated arming teachers.

4. Many Americans have become very focused on enforcing immigration laws strictly to protect our borders, which has led to conflicts with those who view such an approach as “racist” and favor looser, or even open, borders. Biden’s open border policy has been particularly vexing to many people.

5. On the plus side, there has been a significant increase in patriotism and gratitude toward veterans.

In my opinion, parents should make a concerted effort to educate their children on the tragedy of 9/11, what happened, how it happened and what it means. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation approximately one-third of Americans are under the age of 26, and, therefore, have little or no recollection or knowledge of this event. The danger is that as time passes the populace will forget, and we should never allow that to happen. Educate your kids!

In addition, I recommend you watch some of the special memorial programming about 9/11 which will be shown on tv this weekend. I have seen a few and they are excellent.

Already, some people are “down-playing” the 9/11 attacks. For example, Rep Ilham Omar, one of the notorious “Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse” who has uttered many disparaging remarks about America and Americans, has summed up 9/11 as “some people did something.” Really? Is she kidding? It’s easy to write off her and others of her ilk as “kooks,” but she does have followers who place credence in what she says.

Every anniversary has presented the heightened danger of additional terror attacks. This year, being the 20th, will be especially dangerous. In addition to the many obvious high value targets, such as ground zero, Times Square, and the Yankees-Mets baseball game there are a plethora of soft targets, such as churches, schools and malls. I believe that America is especially vulnerable due to our open southern border and the recent mass of refugees from Afghanistan the vetting of whom has been haphazard, at best. All of us need to be especially vigilant.

I encourage everyone to find the time to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It is on the site of the original WTC complex in lower Manhattan. It occupies approximately one-half of the acreage of the original complex. It features two huge waterfalls and a “survivor tree,” which symbolizes resilience and strength. Take the time to stroll around this beautiful area. Take one of the many tours. You will find them most informative. Yes, it is tragic to be reminded of the horror of that day, but, on the other hand, it is uplifting to be reminded of the heroism and resilience of many first responders and even ordinary citizens and to experience the healing that has occurred. Remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Undoubtedly, many of you experienced 9/11 firsthand. Please feel free to share your experiences.

LABOR DAY

On September 6 we will celebrate Labor Day (“LD”).  As we all know, the holiday has traditionally been celebrated on the first Monday of September.  It is celebrated in various forms and at various dates in approximately 80 countries.

To most Americans LD merely symbolizes the unofficial end of summer and the impending beginning of the school year, (although this year, since LD is late, many schools have already commenced the Fall term).  They enjoy the three-day weekend off from work.  They spend the day with family and/or friends. They enjoy picnics, parades, vacations, shopping, baseball games and other sports activities, and barbecues. They lament, but grudgingly accept, holiday traffic and long lines at airports. [Quiz question: According to CBS News what will be the busiest airport in the US over the LD holiday?] This year, because of the lingering specter of COVID in some areas and among some population groups LD celebrations, for some, will be somewhat muted.  More on this below.  

Also, it is the reason why summer always seems to be so short. In our minds, we transfer the approximately three post-Labor Day weeks of the season to Autumn. But, what is the meaning and purpose of LD?  Why do we celebrate it?  How did it come about?  Good questions.  Read on for the answers.

As the name implies, the purpose of LD is to celebrate the accomplishments of the American Labor movement.  Whatever one’s political views and affiliations, I think it is important and appropriate to understand Labor’s contributions to the growth and development of the US.  For one thing, cheap labor was an integral component of the Industrial Revolution.  When all was said and done, someone had to build all the roads, railroads, and cars, and operate all the factories and steel mills.  In addition, the labor activism of the late 1800s and early 1900s was largely responsible for the relatively high wages and extensive benefits that are enjoyed by today’s US labor force (compared to that of other countries).

It should be noted that union membership has been declining sharply and steadily.  For example in 1950 approximately 40% of American workers were members of a union.  By contrast, in 2019 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number was approximately 11%

The history of LD began in the 1870s in Canada.  Labor Unions were illegal in Canada, and 26 members of the Toronto Typographical Union had been imprisoned for striking for a nine-hour work day.  That action led to demonstrations and rallies and raising the profile of labor unrest in both Canada and the US.  Two of the most outspoken leaders were Peter McGuire, founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and an official of the American Federation of Labor, and Matthew Maguire, Secretary of the Central Labor Union in NY.

Historical accounts differ, but one or both of these men are credited with being the first to propose a holiday to celebrate labor.  In any event, the CLU planned and organized the first LD celebration in NYC on September 5, 1885.  Approximately, 20,000 workers and their families participated.  The concept spread.  In 1887 Oregon became the first state to sanction the holiday.

The Pullman Labor Strike in 1893 provided the final impetus for a national labor holiday.  The Pullman Company had been founded and was run by George Pullman.  Pullman, IL, where the company operated, was a classic company town.  All the workers lived there and paid rent to the company, which was automatically deducted from their paychecks.  Workers’ housing was segregated according to their jobs; everyone shopped at the Company Store.

Many viewed such an arrangement as a form of slavery, because workers were, in actuality, trapped due to their omnipresent debt to the Company. (Think of the song “Sixteen Tons.”)  In 1893 the country was in the midst of a recession.  The company laid off hundreds of workers and reduced the wages of many others.  Of course, living expenses remained constant.  These actions led to a strike.  President Cleveland declared the strike to be illegal and “broke” it with Federal troops.  Some striking workers were killed in the ensuing violence.

This incensed many Americans, and 1894 was an election year.  So, Congress expeditiously passed a bill establishing LD as a national holiday, and the President promptly signed it into law.  This entire process took only six days, so you can imagine the extent of the public outcry.  Incidentally, this action failed to save President Cleveland’s political career; he was defeated anyway.

Eventually, the government settled on the first Monday in September as the official date.  Many countries celebrate it on May 1 in conjunction with International Workers’ Day, but the Federal government did not want the association with that date for obvious reasons.

As mentioned above, because of the CV many people have altered their holiday travel plans.  Increasingly, Americans are being divided into two groups – the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Each group feels strongly about its choice and I will not debate the merits and demerits in this blog, which is about LD. According to ABC News approximately 47% of Americans are still unvaccinated. One’s vaccination status will likely determine the manner in which they celebrate LD (and go about life, in general, for that matter).

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has recommended that unvaccinated persons avoid travelling entirely. I don’t think that is likely to happen, but AAA has predicted that, despite rising gas prices, road trips will be more popular, and fewer people will travel by air, ship, rail or mass transit.  For example, CBS has reported AAA expects in excess of three million individual trips on the NYC area’s tunnels and bridges over the holiday period.

I believe there are two main reasons for this.  Firstly, travel by car offers the safety of an enclosed environment.  Travelers are not as exposed to other people as they would be with the other modes of travel.   Secondly, although the roads could be crowded they are preferable to the frustrations, violence, and general inconveniences one normally encounters at, for example, the airports.

Finally, any and all of the carefully planned travel arrangements will be subject to the vagaries of Mother Nature.  For instance, as I write this many areas of the South and East are still feeling the affects of Hurricane Ida, and in the far West there are wild fires to contend with.

CONCLUSION

One of the supreme ironies of LD is that because it is such a big shopping day, many workers, especially retailers, are required to work.  LD is considered to be one of the biggest retail sales days of the year.  Some people use the day as a benchmark to change over their Summer clothes to Fall clothes.  Fashion-minded people claim it the latest day when one should wear white clothes (although “winter white,” whatever that is, is still permissible.)

Like other holidays, LD should be a time for all of us to come together and reflect on what makes America, despite its flaws, the greatest country in the world.  Disaffected residents as well as some people in other countries may like to criticize us for our real and perceived flaws, yet foreigners still want to come here, in some cases, desperately.  In essence, many of them are “voting with their feet.”

Despite what you may see on tv or read in newspapers or on social media, most Americans are decent, hard-working, caring persons.  Whenever disaster or tragedy strikes we unite to help those in distress.  Many have donated their time and/or money without being asked and without expecting any payback or even recognition.  If you doubt me, just look at the outpouring of kindness and empathy shown by “average” Americans toward the victims of the catastrophic events in recent years, such as superstorm Sandy and hurricanes Katrina, Irma, Laura, Harvey and, most recently, Ida.

To me, those people, not the destructive thugs and professional agitators one sees on the tv news destroying property, attacking the police, and beating up those with whom they disagree, are the “real” Americans.  It is the proverbial “silver lining” in a very dark cloud.

I hope you all enjoy your LD holiday, however you choose to spend it.  You owe it to yourself after having endured nearly two years of lockdowns, natural disasters, and medical, financial and economic uncertainty.  Feel free to tell me how you celebrated.

Quiz answer: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International.