JACKIE MASON

This past weekend we lost a comic legend, Jackie Mason. His irreverent, acerbic and often politically incorrect style of humor offended some people, but many others loved it and thought he was simply hilarious. He performed, with considerable success, in every entertainment medium – movies, tv, Broadway, discography, one-man shows, and books for over 60 years. He won Tonys, Emmys and received a Grammy nomination. Quite simply, he made us laugh.

Yacov Moshe Hakohen Maza was born on June 9, 1928 in Sheboygan, WI, to a family of very strict Orthodox Jews. His parents were from Minsk, Russia. They had emigrated to the US in the 1920s along with the rest of the extended family. He had two sisters and three older brothers. How strict? His father was a rabbi; his grandfather, great grandfather, and great great grandfather had been rabbis; his older brothers became rabbis, and his two sisters married rabbis. That is quite a legacy. Given his family background it was preordained that Jackie would become a rabbi as well. More on that later.

When Jackie was five the family moved to NYC settling, like many other working class families, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. One of the primary reasons for the move was to enable Jackie and his siblings to get a proper religious education in a yeshiva.

Despite the pressure from his family to become a rabbi Jackie had other interests. Years later, he admitted that “I knew from the time I’m 12, I had to plot to get out of this, because this [was] not my calling.” Unfortunately, as long as his father was alive he felt he was unable to do so.

As a teenager he got a job as a busboy at the Pearl Lake Hotel in the “Borscht Belt as the Catskill resort area was known. It didn’t go very well, to say the least. As Jackie later recalled: “Twenty minutes [there] I broke all the dishes. [Then] they made me a lifeguard. ‘But, I can’t swim,’ I told the owner. ‘Don’t tell the guests,’ he [said.]”

Ultimately, Jackie succumbed to the family’s pressure. At 18 he became a cantor. After graduating CCNY with a BA in English and Sociology he attended Yeshiva University, and at 25 he was ordained as a rabbi. When he led his congregations in services he often spiced his sermons with jokes. Soon, as he put it, people began to attend just to hear his jokes, even gentiles. His heart was not in it, but he stayed with it until his father passed away in 1959. Then, he felt free to switch to comedy, because, as he told it, “somebody in the family had to make a living.”

Along with his new profession he changed his name. New profession, new name, fresh start.

The early years were tough. This was the late 1950s and early 1960s, and people were not yet ready for his sarcastic, ethnic style of comedy where he would poke fun at the audience. This was before comedians like Don Rickles and Jack E. Leonard popularized that style of humor. He took jobs at obscure clubs and continued to work in the Catskills, anything to get experience and exposure. His first big break came in 1960 in an LA club where his act was seen by comedian Jan Murray. (Quiz question: What was Jan Murray’s birth name? See answer below.) Murray liked his act and recommended him to Steve Allen who booked him for his late night show. Soon he was appearing in more popular clubs, such as the Copacabana and popular tv shows such as The Perry Como Show, The Dean Martin Show, and the ultimate, The Ed Sullivan Show. Jackie was on his way, or so it seemed.

Jackie wrote much of his own material. Some samples:

  1. On doctors: “That’s a great profession. Where else can you ask a woman to get undressed and then send the bill to her husband?”
  2. On trust: “My grandfather always said that I shouldn’t watch my money, that I should watch my health. So, while I was watching my health someone stole my money. It was my grandfather.”
  3. On fidelity: “Eighty percent of married men cheat in America. The rest cheat in Europe.”
  4. His assessment of a new hot group called the Beatles: “Four kids in search of a voice who needed haircuts.” Obviously Jackie was lacking as a talent scout.

Jackie’s career was derailed as the result of one incident on the Ed Sullivan Show on October 18, 1964. As reported in Wikipedia and the NY Times Jackie’s routine was interrupted by an unscheduled speech by President Lyndon Johnson. In those days, tv was live, so after the speech the show’s technicians had to rearrange the programming on the fly. Apparently, Sullivan held up two fingers to Jackie indicating he had two minutes left, then one finger indicating one minute left. Jackie, miffed to have had his act interrupted to begin with, responded by holding up his own fingers, and declaring “here’s a finger for you, and a finger for you, and a finger for you.” Mason claimed that he was making fun of the situation and that the two fingers were his thumb and index finger, not the middle finger.

Regardless of whether or not one of Mason’s fingers was the middle finger the salient point is that Sullivan believed it was. He canceled the rest of Mason’s performance. Mason sued him. Eventually, he won and the two eventually reconciled, but the damage was done. At the time, Sullivan was one of the most powerful men in the entertainment industry, and based on his influence Mason was labelled as “unpredictable,” “untrustworthy,” and “obscene.” TV producers and club owners shied away from him. Remember, at that time, everything was live. There was no technology to “bleep out” obscene comments. Mason’s career was stymied for many years. A few years later Sullivan “booked” him for a single performance on his show. Also, Jackie tried Broadway with some success, and appeared in some nondescript movies, such as The Stoolie (1972 and The Jerk (1979), but the damage had been done, and it was not undone until the 1980s. As Mason later lamented, “it took 20 years to overcome what happened in one minute.”

Finally, in the mid-1980’s Mason’s new manager convinced him that the old Borscht Belt comedy was making a comeback and booked him for a one-man show on Broadway. The World According to Me was a big success. It ran for two years. It earned Jackie a Tony and led to an Emmy ,a Grammy nomination and several other awards. The critics loved it. Jackie was back.

It was soon followed by other one-man shows, including my personal favorite, Politically Incorrect, movies, tv appearances and voiceovers. One joke from PI was particularly prescient. Remember, this was 1994. Jackie lamented how one was not permitted to criticize anyone except a tall, white, young, Anglo-Saxon Protestant male. Everyone else, women, blacks, short people, ethnics and old people were out of bounds. When he said it, audiences loved it for its absurdity amid a grain of truth. No one is laughing now.

CONCLUSION

Eventually, Jackie married, Jyll Rosenfeld, the manager who had resurrected his career. They have one daughter, Sheba, who is also a comedian. Jackie got involved in some controversy in the 1990s when he referred to NYC Mayor David Dinkins and President Obama as schvartzes during his routines. (Schvartze is a mildly derogatory Yiddish word for a black person). Some members of the audience were offended enough to walk out, but that was an example of Jackie’s humor.

In 2005 in a poll of comedians and comedy insiders sponsored by a UK tv station Jackie was voted #43 among comedy acts and #63 among “Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-ups off All-Time.”

Jackie passed away peacefully in his sleep on July 24 at the age of 93. Many tributes poured in, among them:

  1. Henry Winkler – You put on “truly one of the funniest shows I have ever seen …ever…thank you Jackie, and now you get to make heaven laugh.”
  2. Gilbert Gottfried – “You were “one of the best.”
  3. Sean Hannity – “You were “irreverent, iconoclastic, funny, smart, and a great American patriot.”

Quiz answer: Murray Janofsky.

PRESIDENT BIDEN’S SIX-MONTH REPORT CARD

Monday, we passed the six-month mark of Joe Biden’s presidency. At this point, I think enough time has gone by so that the American people can evaluate his performance. In the interests of time and space I have only included the major areas. The following is just intended to be a summary. As some of you may recall I have covered most of these areas in some detail in previous blogs.

Obviously, the following is largely my opinion. Some of you will probably disagree with some of my commentary. That is to be expected in a free society. A lot will depend on (1) the sources from which you get your news, and (2) your political preconceptions. As always, I welcome your comments.

  1. The Southern Border

One of Biden’s first actions was to reverse all of former President Donald Trump’s policies regarding the southern border. In my opinion, it wasn’t because they weren’t working. They were very effective in securing our borders and mitigating the influx of drugs, criminals, and terrorists, among others. The obvious conclusion is that he did it to placate the far left elements of the Dem Party. For example, he halted construction of the border wall; he reversed the “stay in Mexico” policy; and he relaxed all restrictions with respect to undocumented migrants. The result has turned the border into a “turnstile.” Every day FOX news, for instance, has shown a virtual parade of migrants crossing the border. (Other news outlets are likely ignoring, or at least downplaying, this story.) According to the CBP’s website the total number of “encounters” between migrants and CBP agents for the most recent nine months between October 2020 and June 2021 was approximately 1.1 million compared to 450,000 in the previous 12 months. The largest category was single adults, which accounted for some 70%. Those numbers do not include the illegals that have not been interdicted. No one knows that total, which is very scary.

How many illegal immigrants are living in the US currently? No one knows for sure because so many sneak in undetected. The number I keep hearing is about 20 million, but I believe that number is considerably understated. According to the Migrant Policy Institute the actual number is just under 45 million.

Rather than seeking to avoid CBP agents as had been customary, migrants are actually seeking them out and surrendering to them. We don’t know who these people are, where they are from, and whether or not they are infected with COVID. Many of them have travelled thousands of miles guided by “coyotes” who frequently subjected them to rape and other atrocities. Many of them die enroute. Once they have arrived many of them, including young children, are being housed in cages with insufficient or no food, medicine, beds and toilet facilities. Additionally, many of them are being transported, in secret, all throughout the country. Media access has been limited or non-existent. This is a disaster on many levels – political, economic, social, medical and humanitarian.

Why are the Dems doing this? Why are they deliberately putting Americans at risk? In my opinion, it is because they hope and expect that sometime in the future the migrants will become eligible to vote, and studies have shown that (excluding Cubans) they will vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. So, for the Dems, it’s all about winning elections and retaining power. Grade – F.

2. Energy

After 75 years, toward the end of the Trump Administration the US had finally achieved energy independence. This had been a longtime goal of every administration since WWII. The significance of this is that we would no longer be beholden to the whims of other countries for energy, no more gas lines, no more blackmail, and no more risk of supply interruption during war. Biden ended all that with the stroke of a pen. One of his earliest EOs was to halt construction of the Keystone Pipeline. At the same time he eliminated some 11,000 middle class jobs, which accounted for some $2 billion in wages. These jobs were not factory jobs, which could be replaced with other factory jobs. These were jobs that required years of specialized training and experience. They are irreplaceable. Basically, this action was a negative “twofer.” They told us the reason was environmental, which, to me, is a specious argument. The absence of a pipeline means that the oil has to be transported by trucks, which is less efficient, more costly, more time-consuming and is not environmentally friendly. Also, a few months later Biden did not block the Russian-built pipeline to Germany giving our arch enemy control over the energy needs of our European allies. Totally illogical, nonsensical and inane. Go figure. Grade – F.

3. Voting

There are many facets to this one. Two of the most significant and controversial ones are: (1) The Administration wants to put all elections under the control of the Federal government. Its goal is to control the election process and hence the outcomes of all elections. (2) Furthermore, it is opposed to voter ID requirements, labeling them as “racist.” I and many others view these as poorly-disguised mechanisms to cheat. Consider: (1) The US Constitution clearly states that state legislatures shall fix the manner and time of elections, not the executive branch, not the feds, not the courts, and not any other body. Changing it would require a constitutional amendment. (2) In this day and age, virtually everyone has some form of ID. One is required to provide ID for many things, such to buy alcohol, cigarettes, many over the counter medicines such as Sudafed, to fly, get a library card, take a train or get married. Are all those requirements “racist” as well? Finally, every poll shows an overwhelming majority are in favor of voter IDs, even Dems, even AAs, and even Hispanics. A recent poll conducted by the NY Post reported 78% in favor. How often do 78% of Americans agree on anything? This issue is one of the best illustrations of that when Dems run out of valid arguments they play the “racist” card. Grade – F.

4. The Economy

This is a mixed bag. The recovery from the COVID recession has been spotty and uneven. Unemployment remains higher than it should be. The latest available statistics from the Bureau of Labor put it at 6.1% The goal is about 4%, which most economists define as “full employment.” Some states, such as California, are as high as 9%. Most of you will recall that prior to COVID the US was enjoying record low levels of unemployment.

Many small businesses report that their recoveries are being hampered by an inability to find qualified workers, likely due to the enhanced unemployment benefits that are still in effect in many areas. Interestingly, the latest Department of Labor statistics disclosed that 17 of the top 20 states to regain jobs are run by GOP governors. Not surprising.

By one measure, the financial markets, the economy is doing very well. But, that is only one piece of the puzzle. In evaluating the economy one has to consider the whole picture. All the stimulus packages, much of which was not really necessary and had more to do with rewarding special interests and campaign donors rather than providing COVID relief, have reawakened the specter of inflation. The prices of almost all goods and services have been rising. Anyone who has gone shopping or filled the gas tank at the gas pump has been experiencing this. For example, a gallon of water, which cost 89 cents a few months ago is now $1.19. Furthermore, according to AAA and other sources a gallon of gas at the pump, which generally hovered around $2.00 – $2.40 for much of 2020 has jumped to as high as $3.38 (in CA).

Currently, the people who have received stimulus money are happy. Who doesn’t like to receive free stuff? Those with IRAs or 401Ks are raking it in. But, most students of economics and history know that this will likely be short-lived. Printing money, as we have been doing, is a short-term fix. Eventually, one has to “pay the piper.” Once unleashed, inflation is very hard to control and not without much hardship. History is replete with examples, such as post-WWI Germany, 1970s US, or present-day Venezuela. The Administration’s decision-makers appear to be ignorant of this or hope we are. Grade – D.

5. Foreign Affairs

This is a real mess. Everyone can see that Biden is weak and ineffective. Our allies are nervous. Our enemies are emboldened. Almost daily, our enemies can see evidence that he is cognitively compromised. They see the same speeches and news conferences that we do. Often, he seems to be unable to answer the simplest of questions cogently. As Walt Frazier might say, he fumbles, bumbles and stumbles his way through interviews.

Moreover, he is likely compromised in his dealings with Russia and China as a result of his and Hunter’s nefarious business dealings with them. The mainstream media has suppressed this scandal, but In my opinion Joe and Hunter are bought and paid for.

Russia is threatening Ukraine, a NATO ally by the way, and has bullied Biden into approving their pipeline. By the way, why is Russia’s pipeline environmentally acceptable and not ours?

China has refused to provide information on the origin of the coronavirus, is threatening Taiwan, our longtime ally, and is saber-rattling in the South China Sea.

Iran is threatening to destabilize the Middle East and continuing to develop its nuclear capabilities in blatant violation of the controversial Iran nuclear deal.

Biden’s treatment of Israel, our only enduring and reliable ally in the region, has been outrageous. It makes one wonder if he is anti-Semitic. Israel is feeling increasingly abandoned and isolated. Don’t forget, Trump was on the verge of securing peace agreements between Israel and various Arab states when he was voted out of office.

Terror organizations, such as Hamas, ISIS and the Taliban are becoming increasingly bold. Grade – F

6. COVID

It’s not going well. Yes, we have reliable vaccines (thanks to Trump, not Biden), but that’s the extent of the good news.

Other COVID news:

a. There is continued resistance among some people to getting vaccinated. According to the CDC only 56% of Americans who are eligible to be vaccinated have done so. This is far less that the Administration had set as its goal. Many have chosen not to be vaccinated for various reasons, e. g. health issues, religious reasons, doubts of the vaccines’ efficacy, mistrust of vaccines in general, and personal choice.

b. Recently, there has been a spike in COVID cases. The primary cause is that the virus has mutated as viruses tend to do. The newest mutation, aka the Delta variant, seems to be stronger. It has been infecting primarily those who have not been vaccinated. Furthermore, common sense (which is not common) tells us that when you open your borders and let thousands of unvaccinated people in and then scatter them all over the country you should not be surprised when a spike in cases results. The dummies who are running the administration want it both ways, and that is simply not logical.

c. Masks are once again being required in some locales where COVID has spiked. Most of those who have been vaccinated are reluctant to start wearing them again. They feel they are being “punished” for getting vaccinated. In addition, it sends a subtle message to those who have not been vaccinated that the efficacy of the vaccines is in doubt. Many people believe that masks have limited value. It is better to improve your general health, for example, lose weight or exercise more. Some people may refuse to “mask up.”

d. There is a growing divide between those who have been vaccinated and those who have not. Many in the former group have been advocating forcing the latter group to be vaccinated. I am opposed to forcing people. This is still America where we have freedom of choice. However, I do favor encouraging and convincing them to do so.

e. From the outset there has been much conflicting information regarding COVID, which has tended to confuse people and cause them to mistrust the so called experts. For example, Dr. Fauci has continually flip-flopped on the need to wear masks as well as on other aspects of the virus.

f. There is a growing possibility that the virus may cause an interruption of the 2021 Olympics before the competition concludes in two weeks.

g. After all this time we still do not know definitively the cause of the virus. China has refused to be forthcoming, and our leaders have been loath to force them to do so. Grade – F7.

Our Freedoms

Slowly, but surely our first and second amendment protections are being chipped away. Freedom of speech is being challenged continually by the “cancel culture warriors.” They are a small, but vocal minority. Say or do something they don’t like, and they will attack you relentlessly. Many targets relent rather than face attack. For example, MLB’s decision to change the all-Star game from Atlanta with its heavy minority population to Denver with its disproportionately white population because of Georgia’s revised voting law is but the latest example. Lost in the shuffle was the fact that Georgia’s law was actually significantly less restrictive than that of many other states, including Biden’s home state of Delaware. The CCWs didn’t care, and the media ignored it. MLB wimped out, and the big losers were the fans and businesses of Georgia.

The schools are teaching our kids critical race theory, which holds that whites are born oppressors and AAs are born victims. Everything is to be viewed through that prism. This is outrageous on so many levels. Parents have largely been oblivious to this indoctrination. Many of them have been paying tuition in excess of $50,000 to send their young kids to private schools that teach this garbage, although in some areas they have begun to protest.

Just as appalling is the fact that social media outlets, such as Facebook, openly censure opinions with which it does not agree that are posted on their websites with the support of the Biden administration. The Biden Administration is doing everything it can to chip away at the Second Amendment. There are many reasons for the rise in crime in many locales, but gun control advocates always blame the gun rather than the gun owner. Grade – F.

CONCLUSION

There are many other areas in which Biden has been failing. He has done a lot of damage in just six months. The foregoing were but a few of the most egregious ones. Many believe he is not really in charge of the government. Who is? Harris? His wife? His chief of staff? Bernie Sanders? AOC? Schumer? Pelosi? Some combination of the above? Your guess is as good as mine. Furthermore, VP Kamala Harris has continually demonstrated an inability to serve as president should the need arise. For example, Biden put her in charge of the southern border crisis, and she has not even visited the areas where the crisis is. (El Paso doesn’t count).

As I said, Biden’s mental acuity is clearly deteriorating. It’s not just my opinion. Anyone who watches and listens to his public statements would have to agree. We should all be nervous, very nervous, including any Dems up for re-election in 2022.

The situation has been exacerbated by the attitude of the media. It is supposed to challenge those in power, to keep them “on their toes,” to inform the public, to be impartial. At the moment it is doing none of those things.

In our system of government the voters have the final say. If we don’t like the performance of those in power it is our right, our duty to vote them out. We will get our chance in 2022. At the moment, the most important question is the way things are going can the country afford to wait until then.

Biden’s overall grade is a resounding F.

HISTORY QUIZ

Several of you have requested a quiz. Be careful what you wish for. Here it is. You know what to do.

  1. Donald Trump is considering running for the presidency in 2024. If he were to win he would become the second president to serve two terms nonconsecutively. Who was the other one to do so?:

a. Grover Cleveland

b. Rutherford B. Hayes

c. Theodore Roosevelt

d. Andrew Jackson

2. Who is generally considered to be the “father” of the US Navy?

a. David Farragut

b. Chester Nimitz

c. John Paul Jones

d. Jean Lafitte

3. Which was the 14th state to join the Union?

a. Maine

b. Vermont

c. Kentucky

d. Florida

4. In which war did the US suffer the most fataliies?

a. Civil War

b. Korean War

c. WW1

d. WW2

5. Each of the following is generally considered to have been a “Founding Father,” EXCEPT:

a. Thomas Jefferson

b. James Monroe

c. Alexander Hamilton

d. Andrew Jackson

6. In which war did Teddy Roosevelt achieve fame?

a. Crimean

b. WW1

c. Spanish American

d. Indian Wars

7. The purchase of which future state was labeled derisively by many as “Seward’s Folly.”

a. California

b. Hawaii

c. Alaska

d. Oregon

8. Who was the first Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court?

a. Earl Warren

b. Alexander Hamilton

c. John Jay

d. John Marshall

9. Who was the only person to serve as both vice president and president without having been elected to either office?

a. James Monroe

b. Gerald Ford

c. Teddy Roosevelt

d. Millard Fillmore

10. Part of the land in this future state was acquired in the Gadsden Purchase.

a. Utah

b. California

c. Texas

d. New Mexico

11. Who was the first president to reside in the White House?

a. George Washington

b. John Adams

c. Thomas Jefferson

d. John Quincy Adams

12. The Battle of New Orleans was fought in which war?

a. War of 1812

b. Civil War

c. Revolutionary War

d. French and Indian War

13. What does the “S” in Harry S. Truman’s name stand for?

a. Stephen

b. Sam

c. Sylvester

d. Nothing

14. The four sitting presidents that were assassinated in office included each of the following, EXCEPT:

a. Zachary Taylor

b. James A. Garfield

c. Abraham Lincoln

d. William McKinley

15. The Central Powers in WW1 included each of the following EXCEPT:

a. Yugoslavia

b. Bulgaria

c. Germany

d. Ottoman Empire

16. What year was D-Day?

a. 1940

b. 1942

c. 1944

d. 1945

17. The likeness of each of the following is carved on Mt. Rushmore EXCEPT:

a. Abraham Lincoln

b. Thomas Jefferson

c. Theodore Roosevelt

d. FDR

18. The site of Custer’s Last Stand is near what river?

a. Platt

b. Little Big Horn

c. Snake

d. Montana

19. FDR was elected to four terms. How many different vice presidents served under him?

a. one

b. two

c. three

d. four

20. The last of the lower 48 to join the union was Arizona in 1912. What the 47th state, which had joined a few months before?

a. Utah

b. Oklahoma

c. Nevada

d. New Mexico

ANSWERS:

  1. (a); 2. (c); 3. (b); 4. (a) (623,000, a whopping 91% of the overall total); 5. (d); 6. (c); 7. (c); 8. (c); 9. (b); 10. (d) The other state was AZ.); 11. (b); 12. (a); 13. (d) (No middle name. It’s an homage to his two grandfathers.); 14. (a); 15.(a); 16.(c); 17. (d); 18. (b ; 19. (c) (John Nance Garner -2 terms, Henry Wallace and Harry Truman); 20. (d)

Well, there you have it. Some were easy; some were hard; and some were tricky. How did you do?

FRANK COHN – HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR

Frank Cohn is not famous. He is not a well-known politician, entertainer, or religious leader. In many ways, he is just an ordinary person who led a normal life. Chances are you have never heard of him. However, I believe his story should be told. Why? Frank Cohn is a Holocaust survivor. No, he did not endure years of captivity in a concentration camp. He did not endure a harrowing escape. Unlike most Holocaust survivors his story had a happy ending. Through a fortuitous set of circumstances, unlike millions of others who were not as fortunate, he escaped Nazi Germany before the emigration door was slammed shut, came to the US, managed to stay, and led a productive life. In a sense, he has lived a life as proxy for the millions who did not escape.

Before I discuss Frank’s story permit me to provide a brief overview of Jewish life in Germany before Hitler and the Nazis seized power in 1932-1933. In my opinion, this is important to provide perspective.

Jews had been living in Germany since the Middle Ages, well before Germany even existed as a distinct nation. In 1871 the various regions and principalities were united into the country we know as Germany. At that time, Jews were given the same rights and privileges as non-Jews. This was referred to as the Jewish Emancipation. By 1933 the Jewish population in Germany numbered some 525,000 persons, 400,000 of which were German citizens. Some were poor, but most were middle class, for example, small business owners and professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and scientists. In 1922 a German Jew, Albert Einstein, had won the prestigious Nobel Prize for Physics. All in all, German Jews were as safe, secure and prosperous as Jews living anywhere else. One could argue that the pre-WWII status of German Jews was not all that different from that of present-day American Jews, but that is a topic for another blog on another day.

As most of us know, Jewish existence changed rapidly and irrevocably in 1933 when Hitler and the Nazis consolidated the power they had gained in the 1932 election. They had won control by successfully blaming the Jews for all the country’s problems. This was not unique. Throughout history, many other political and religious leaders had done the same thing. In fact, some historians have postulated that some rulers permitted Jews to remain in their country just so they could be used as scapegoats for crop failures, natural disasters, or other misfortunes.

Most German Jews, cognizant of their longstanding peaceful coexistence with German non-Jews, ignored the warning signs thinking it would all blow over. They refused to believe what they were seeing with their own eyes until it was too late. A few, like the Cohn family, were prescient enough to “get while the getting was good.”

Frank Cohn was born in the German city of Breslau, (present day: Wroclaw, Poland) on August 2, 1925. His father, Martin, owned a successful sporting goods store. His mother, Ruth, was a homemaker. Frank was an only child. Unlike many other families, which were enduring economic hardships during the post-WWI period under the Weimar Republic, the family enjoyed a comfortable, middle class existence.

In early 1933 the Nazis ramped up their campaign against the Jews. One of the most effective measures was the economic boycott that commenced on April 1 and targeted Jewish-owned businesses. Soon after, the Cohns were forced to sell the family store. Martin found a position selling bales of cloth to clothing stores and tailor shops.

Other incidents of persecution occurred later that year to Frank and other Jews. (1) His favorite third grade teacher began wearing the Nazi uniform with a swastika armband. (2) His non-Jewish peers joined the Hitler Youth and displayed the Nazi emblem on their clothing. (3) In school when his classmates sang Hitler Youth songs, Frank was instructed to remain seated, as Jews were forbidden to sing those songs. (4) Often, Frank was chased by Hitler Youth boys after school who taunted him and attempted to beat him up. He avoided being caught, but he was traumatized. (5) His parents were forced to place him in a private Jewish school. Shortly thereafter, the government passed laws which forbad Jews from attending German public schools. In retrospect, the foregoing and other laws and restrictions seem like obvious warnings, but as I said, at the time most Jews did not think they would last.

Not so the Cohns. First, Martin managed to emigrate to the US. Soon after, Ruth and Frank followed. Ruth bought two first class tickets on the Staatendam Steamer of the Holland-America Line, departing from Amsterdam for New York. Ruth feared that if immigration authorities knew that her husband was already in the US, they would order their immediate return to Europe upon arrival. However, fortuitously, first class passengers were invited to disembark directly onto the pier, avoiding the authorities on Ellis Island.

The Cohns reunited in New York on October 30th, 1938. On November 9th, a wave of violent anti-Jewish pogroms referred to as Kristallnacht took place throughout Germany and Austria. In response, President Roosevelt issued an Executive Order permitting all in-country German refugees to stay and, again fortuitously, the Cohns’ visitor visas were extended indefinitely.

Just a month after his 18th birthday in 1943, Frank was drafted into the US Army. During Basic Training he was sworn in as a US citizen. Frank was initially assigned to the 87th Infantry Division but while in Belgium, the Army discovered that he spoke German fluently. He was sent to Le Vesinet, France for a two-week Intelligence course. Frank served during the Battle of the Bulge and later in the Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns, in a 12th Army Group Intelligence unit named T-Force. In the subsequent occupation by Allied Forces, Frank was tasked with guarding war criminals, overseeing German Prisoners of War, and shipping Nazi documents back to the US, in support of future war crime prosecutions.

During his tour Frank had the unique experience of being “captured” by American troops. Briefly, here’s what happened: Frank and his Intelligence unit were on patrol and got lost. They spied another US outfit and approached them to ascertain where they were. The lieutenant in charge of this other outfit doubted that they were American soldiers as, being in an Intelligence unit, they were not carrying ID. He asked them certain questions, such as who had won the World Series the previous year. This was a standard means of identification in the field. Neither Frank nor his CO knew. Meanwhile, another member of the unit approached and asked what was going on. It happened he spoke with a heavy German accent. Out came the M1s. Back at headquarters it took several hours to straighten out the situation. In retrospect, it was humorous, but not so at the time. A trigger-happy GI could easily have shot them.

After the war, Frank completed his undergraduate degree in Psychology and Education at the City College of New York and later obtained a Masters degree in Police Administration from Michigan State University. Frank continued to serve in the military for a total of 35 years before retiring from his role as Chief of Staff of the Military District of Washington. He married Pauline in 1948 and they had one daughter, Laura.

CONCLUSION

Yes, Frank was lucky, lucky his parents recognized the dangers of the Nazis early on, lucky his mom managed to get them into the US, lucky they got to stay when so many others were deported, and lucky he wasn’t shot by American troops. His story is one of the “success” stories of the Holocaust. He made the most of his opportunity. He lived a productive life. He served in WWII; he continued to serve his country by remaining in the army for 35 years; and he served as a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum where no doubt he had a unique firsthand story to tell visitors. It was his way of “giving back.” In the words of the Tom Hanks character in the movie Saving Private Ryan he “earned it.”

INDEPENDENCE DAY

This year July 4th falls on a Sunday. Therefore, it is celebrated on the following day, Monday, July 5 giving us a nice three-day weekend.

Traditionally, Americans celebrate their independence with family gatherings, parades, carnivals, barbecues, fireworks, and, of course, political speeches. Many of us go to the beach, play golf (weather permitting) or attend concerts, plays or baseball games. Many of us remember, with nostalgia, when MLB celebrated Independence Day with a doubleheader, but those days appear to be gone for good. Last year, because of the coronavirus many of those traditional activities were cancelled or curtailed for health reasons, but this year celebrations should, more or less, be back to normal.

According to USA Today some 47.7 Americans will be travelling during the holiday weekend. If true, this would be the second highest amount on record. AAA and other prognosticators are predicting that over 43 million of them will be travelling by automobile, which would set a record. AAA has labeled this phenomenon “revenge travel.” It attributes this to a reaction to being cooped up last year due to health restrictions. Now that the threat of COVID has been mitigated and most travel restrictions have been eliminated or relaxed they will be taking their “revenge.” Travel experts suggest that Friday will turn out to be the busiest day. Moreover, whichever day you travel normally it is best to leave either early in the day or in the dead of night.

By the end of the 18th century many major cities were marking the day with various celebrations and parades. Today, many major cities also hold massive and elaborate fireworks displays. In addition, many private organizations, for example, Macys, the Boston Pops, and many baseball clubs, entertain the public with fireworks displays. Macy’s fireworks celebration, generally considered to be the most famous, has been nationally televised since 1976.

Sadly, many private citizens, who are not properly trained, set off their own fireworks, sometimes with unfortunate results. Every year we read or hear about some tragic accidents involving loss of limbs or even death. Remember the case of NY Giants defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul? He lost part of few fingers (and nearly his life) and almost ended a most promising football career.

However we spend the holiday weekend, hopefully, some of us will take a few minutes to reflect on how our country was “born.” Who were the “founding fathers” we hear so much about? Who were the heroes of the revolution? How much do you know? Let’s find out. Below please find a special Independence Day quiz. As always, no peeking at the internet, and don’t ask “Alexa.”

1. The primary author of the Declaration of Independence was
a. George Washington
b. Henry Lee
c. Benjamin Franklyn
d. Thomas Jefferson

2. The oldest continuous Independence Day celebration is in what city?
a. Bristol, RI
b. New York, NY
c. Waterbury, CT
d. Philadelphia, PA

3. The origin of the song, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” was
a. American troops during the Revolutionary War
b. French troops during the RW
c. British military before the RW
d. Hessians at the battle of Trenton, NJ

4. The movie, “Independence Day” starred
a. Tom Cruise
b. Will Smith
c. Morgan Freeman
d. Daniel Day-Lewis

5. The first person to sign the Declaration of Independence (and the only one to do so on July 4) was
a. Thomas Jefferson
b. Patrick Henry
c. Benjamin Franklyn
d. John Hancock

6. Each of the following was a member of the Committee of Five (assigned to draft the Declaration), except:
a. George Washington
b. Roger Sherman
c. John Adams
d. Benjamin Franklyn

7. Who was the only President to have been born on the 4th of July?
a. John Adams
b. Grover Cleveland
c. Calvin Coolidge
d. James Polk

8. Each of the following Presidents died on July 4th, except:
a. John Adams
b. Thomas Jefferson
c. James Monroe
d. James Madison

9. Each of the following is considered to be a “Founding Father,” EXCEPT:
a. John Adams
b. Andrew Jackson
c. Alexander Hamilton
d. James Madison

10. The “Star Spangled banner” was written by Francis Scott Key during which war?
a. French and Indian War
b. American Revolution
c. Civil War
d. War of 1812

11. The origin of the nick-name “Uncle Sam” is purportedly:
a. The Continental Congress
b. The Sons of Liberty
c. Meat packer who supplied meat to the US Army
d. British troops during the RW

12. Who, along with John Adams, is responsible for designating the bald eagle as the US’s National Bird?
a. George Washington
b. Thomas Jefferson
c. Benjamin Franklyn
d. Patrick Henry

13. Which state was the last of the “lower 48” to join the Union?
a. New Mexico
b. Oregon
c. Hawaii
d. Arizona

14. How many persons signed the Declaration of Independence?
a. 13
b. 26
c. 40
d. 56

15. Which was the first state to ratify the Constitution?
a. Virginia
b. New York
c. Delaware
d. Massachusetts

16. Purportedly, the Independence Day Nathans Hot Dog Eating Contest was first held in
a. 1876
b. 1930
c. 1945
d. 1916

17. Who was one of only two signers of the Declaration of Independence to be elected President?
a. John Adams
b. Andrew Jackson
c. Alexander Hamilton
d. Aaron Burr

18. Although July 4 is recognized as Independence Day, the Continental Congress approved a “resolution of independence” on this date.
a. June 15
b. July 1
c. July 2
d. July 3

19. Washington, DC became the capital in
a. 1776
b. 1800
c. 1820
d. 1920

20. The 14th state of the union was:
a. Maine
b. Georgia
c. Florida
d. Vermont

21. Independence Day became a federal holiday in:

a. 1776

b. 1783

c. 1870

d. 1916

22. In 1778 George Washington celebrated Independence Day with his troops by:

a. Giving everyone a raise

b. A 21-gun salute

c. Giving a rousing speech

d. giving everyone a double ration of rum

23. Each of the following presidents’ faces are sculpted on Mt. Rushmore, EXCEPT:

a. Franklyn Roosevelt

b. Theodore Roosevelt

c. Thomas Jefferson

e. George Washington

ANSWERS: 1. (d); 2. (a); 3. (c); 4. (b); 5. (d); 6. (a); 7. (c); 8. (d); 9. (b); 10. (d); 11. (c); 12. (b); 13. (d); 14. (d); 15. (c); 16. (d); 17. (a); 18. (c); 19. (b); 20. (d); 21. (c); 22. (d); 23. (a)

CONCLUSION

Well, how did you do? I’d like to know.
Now, some Independence Day-related trivia with which you can impress your friends:

1. Although we consider July 4th to be the official date of our independence, most historians now agree that the Declaration was not actually completely signed until August 2.

2. On July 4, 1777, the city of Bristol, RI celebrated the first anniversary of ID with a thirteen-gun salute. The city’s annual ID parade, which was first held in 1785, is the oldest continuous ID celebration in the US.

3. In 1870 Congress designated ID as a federal holiday. In 1938 it granted federal employees a day off with pay on that day.

4. With respect to the “Star-Spangled Banner:
a. It was composed by Francis Scott Key from a British prisoner ship in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. (Key was not a prisoner, himself. He was on the ship to negotiate the release of a prisoner.)
b. He wrote it as a poem named “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” Later, it was set to a tune, which, ironically, is an English drinking song, with the strange name of “To Anacreon in Heaven.” In case you’re wondering, the song was the official song of a gentlemen’s club in 18th century London.
c. Key wrote four verses and a fifth verse was added later, but, of course, we only sing the first. Does anyone know the words of the others? I don’t, but I will say that all five verses end with “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
d. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson declared that it should be played at all official events.. The “Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem in 1931.

5. Some notable events that occurred on this day:
a. 1802 – The US Military Academy at West Point opened.
b. 1817 – The ground was broken for the Erie Canal in Rome, NY.
c. 1826 – Former Presidents and Founding Fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died within hours of each other.

d. 1939 – Baseball legend Lou Gehrig delivered his famous “luckiest man” speech before a packed house at Yankee Stadium.

Enjoy yourself on the 4th, but, above all, be safe. If you travel, drive defensively and if you must handle fireworks, BE VERY CAREFUL!

DORY SONTHEIMER – JEWISH BUT RAISED CATHOLIC

Many of us are aware that shortly before and during WWII many Jews went to great pains to hide from the Nazis. One common tactic was to convert to Catholicism. This was also a practice at other times in Jewish history, such as during the Spanish Inquisition. This tactic was not always successful for various reasons, but one remarkable case was that of Dory Sontheimer and her parents. Their story of bravery, ingenuity, “chutzpah,” and, yes, luck is one among many, but it is still well worth telling. Read on.

Try to imagine this situation. You are 18 years old. You were born and raised as a Catholic. Your parents were Catholic. Suddenly, your life is turned upside down. You discover that your family was not Catholic after all, but Jewish. Even worse, some years later at the age of 57 you learn that the Nazis had murdered 36 members of your extended family, people you never knew or knew of. Of course, you have a million questions. But, your parents, the only two people who could have answered all your questions, are both deceased. What do you do? You want answers, but how do you find them?

This was the situation Dory Sontheimer faced. Eventually, she found the shocking answers in seven boxes, which had been gathering dust in the attic of her parents’ house. These boxes had been stored, and either hidden away or forgotten, behind some eiderdowns (a type of quilt or comforter). As Dory told a reporter many years later, “I am sure my parents wanted us to know about what [had] happened to them and therefore they left many tools so that we could find out. But, they didn’t [tell us] when alive out of fear.”

Dory was born in 1946 in Barcelona where her parents had met after having fled Nazi Germany. Her father had arrived in 1929-1930, her mother in 1933. Apparently, as soon as Hitler rose to power in 1933 they realized, being Jewish, they had to leave. They met in Barcelona, fell in love, and in 1936 they were married. Probably, they thought that having escaped Germany they were safe. But, not so fast. In a cruel twist of fate in 1939 Francisco Franco and his Nationalist (fascist) forces defeated the Republican forces and took control of the country. So, ironically Dory’s parents had fled one fascist regime only to find themselves in another. In Dory’s words, at that point “my [parents] knew they had to hide the fact that they were Jewish if they wanted to survive.” Discovery would likely have resulted in deportation to the “frontier,” which meant death. Their solution was to hide in plain site. They changed the family name to Sont and became Catholics. (Later, Dory changed the name back to Sontheimer.)

Dory attended the University of Barcelona from which she graduated with a degree in Pharmacy and Optics. She became focused on her career as a pharmacist and a successful businesswoman. Everything changed in 2002 when her mother died. While cleaning out the family house she made the aforementioned discovery.

The boxes contained a treasure trove of shocking information. There were numerous letters, passports and photos. The letters showed signs of having been censored. The photos were meticulously labeled with names, dates and locations. It was as if Dory’s parents, while posing as Catholics, wanted their true heritage to be preserved and discovered one day by Dory or perhaps someone else. The more Dory discovered, the more she realized she didn’t know and needed to ascertain. “It was shocking. I understood some things, but I realized I had to do a lot [more] research.” She commenced an album for her kids, and when she retired in 2006 she concentrated on researching her family fulltime.

She was particularly intrigued with her maternal grandparents. She knew very little about them. She had never even seen a picture of them. Her parents had only told her that they had died in the war. There had been nothing further discussed about them. She was shocked to find a lot of correspondence between them and her parents. She learned that in 1940 they had been deported from their native Germany to France. Like many others, they had tried to make their way to Marseilles, which due to its location at the southern tip of the country, had become the primary point of exfil to free countries or, at least, neutral ones. But first, one had to obtain an exit visa, which was very much in demand and very difficult to obtain. Exit visas were, quite literally, a matter of life and death. (This fact was portrayed extensively in the movie Casablanca.) Unfortunately, they were not successful.

Eventually, in 1942 they were deported to Auschwitz. Theirs was a familiar story. We can all imagine how it was for them. We have seen it depicted in scores of books and movies, the overpacked train cars, the inhumane conditions, the lack of food, water and proper sanitation, the brutality of the soldiers, the snarling dogs straining at their leashes. Dory related, “they were on a train with a thousand [other] passengers, transported like animals. Two days later, only 899 out of the thousand passengers got there alive. [Fifty-three] entered Auschwitz, and the others were directly brought to the gas chambers. My grandparents were among those. She was 59, and he was 65.”

Dory became obsessed with uncovering as much as she could about her ancestors. Who were they? What were their names? Where did they live? What had happened to them? She commenced to travel extensively. She managed to track down dozens of living family members, whom she interviewed. She wrote a documentary and two books about her findings. She wrote the books to serve as a “tribute to her family and all the [other] families who underwent that horror [of the Holocaust].” She gave talks at schools. She wanted young people to learn about the past so they don’t “make the same mistakes. This cannot happen again. Six million victims are six million personal stories. This was about giving a name and a face to those striped pajamas.” Amen.

CONCLUSION

Much has been written about Jews hiding from the Nazis in plain site, sometimes successfully (Schindler’s List and The Zookeeper’s Wife, and sometimes unsuccessfully (The Diary of Anne Frank). Many were smuggled to friendly countries, such as Sweden and England. Hitler had a soft spot for the Swedes whom he considered to be part of the Aryan race he was aiming to preserve. In addition, there have been many stories of Jewish children who were light-skinned being sent to live with friends or neighbors and “passing” as non-Jewish.

I have heard two firsthand accounts of the foregoing, which I would like to share:

  1. While on vacation in Denmark a gentleman told a group of us how during the war some of the fishermen in his coastal village, including his own father, would ferry Jews to Sweden under the noses of the Nazis. As a little boy he would lie in bed every night praying that his father would return home safely. He told us it was dangerous but the right thing to do.
  2. On a trip to Israel our tour guide told us how his mother, who was fair-skinned, had been sent to live with a woman acquaintance in a rural area of Poland. This woman risked her life daily to shelter his mother. Often, she would send her into town on some errand when she knew the Gestapo was about to inspect her farm. By some twist of fate, many years after the war his mother became the caregiver of the woman who had protected her as a little girl. Strange, but true.

Dory feels that the allies knew about the concentration camps. In her opinion, “there [was] news and leaks.” She regretted that they didn’t bomb the railways more heavily to prevent the Nazis from transporting Jews to the camps. “It [would have been] so easy,” she lamented.

Historians have been debating that matter for 75 years. What did the Allies know, and when did they know it? Why didn’t they focus their efforts more on the camps? Did they dismiss the stories as too farfetched to be true? Did their leaders not have enough sympathy for the fate of the Jews? Alas, these questions have never been resolved fully and may never be.

MY HERO

July 5 will mark the six-year anniversary of the most horrific day in the lives of my wife and I, a day no parent should have to endure. Eventually, the ordeal had a happy ending, but it was touch and go for a while. Subsequently, I shared our experiences in a blog entitled “My Hero.”

As the aforementioned anniversary approaches I would like to re-publish the blog as I do every year at this time. (Some of you are new followers of my blogs and may not have seen it.) I believe it is as inspirational now as it was then. Perhaps, you could forward it to a friend or relative who has suffered a stroke and might benefit from reading it. So, read and enjoy “My Hero.”

“Who is your hero? Who has inspired you by exhibiting extreme courage and achievement in the face of adversity? Is it a historical figure, like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, or, a religious figure, like Moses, Jesus or Muhammed, or maybe, a civil rights icon, like Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela? Or, perhaps, it might be an ordinary person you know or know of who, while not famous, has accomplished something so truly remarkable, against such long odds that you are truly inspired. Not all of us can point to such a person, but I can. It is someone very close to me that I have known all his life. It is my son, Matt.

It all began on July 5, 2015, a day I will never forget. Like the JFK assassination and the 9/11 terrorist attacks I will never forget where I was and what I was doing when I heard the awful news. It was a typical summer’s day in the NY area, bright and sunny. Matt was enjoying a family day with some friends and his lovely wife and two children at a local club. Suddenly, after swimming in the lake he became dizzy, lost vision in one eye and collapsed. He had suffered a dissection of his carotid artery, which had triggered a massive stroke.

Luckily, there was a doctor present. He immediately recognized what was happening and knew exactly what to do. This doctor accompanied Matt in the ambulance and stayed with him at the local hospital to ensure the ER doctors gave him the clot-buster shot and other appropriate treatment, including emergency surgery to remove the clot within the five-six-hour window that is considered to be optimal for treating strokes. This certainly mitigated the effects of the stroke and may even have saved his life.

My wife and I were eating dinner with friends at a local restaurant when we got the shocking telephone call that Matt had suffered a stroke. It seemed impossible. Matt was only 40 and in excellent physical condition. He worked out regularly, ran and practiced jujitsu. The caller did not know any details, not even if Matt were alive. If you’re a parent, you know that type of telephone call is as bad as it gets. Luckily, our friends insisted on driving us to the hospital in Westchester to which Matt was being transported (the Westchester Trauma Center). I don’t think I was in any condition to drive. We arrived at more or less the same time as Matt. We were able to see him and ascertain that although he was in very serious condition, he was alive. After the surgery he was only able to breathe with the aid of a ventilator, and his skin was the color of white porcelain.

Over the next few days the medical news was very dire. The doctors confirmed that Matt had, indeed, suffered a massive stroke. He was not conscious; he was paralyzed on his right side; he might need a craniotomy; he was blind in his left eye; and he had only partial vision in his right eye. He was in such bad shape that I felt elated a few days later when I squeezed his hand and felt him squeeze mine back.

The doctors told us he was facing a long, arduous recovery, one – two weeks at the hospital followed by six to nine months at a rehab facility. In addition, they said there was a good possibility that he would never recognize us, speak, or be able to walk unassisted. As far as returning to a normal life as a husband and father and resuming his career as a senior research analyst, that was seemingly too unrealistic to even contemplate. (Later, Matt told us that one of the doctors had flat-out told him he would not recover sufficiently to do so. When we asked him if that had bothered him, he said “no, I knew he was wrong.”) I realize that doctors feel compelled to disclose all possibilities, but there is a natural tendency to focus on the most negative ones, and that was an extremely disturbing prognosis.

Over the next year. Matt made a remarkable recovery. He was discharged from the hospital in only six days and transferred to Burke for rehab. Not only did he have to rehabilitate himself physically, but he also had to rehab his mind and his memory. At first, he didn’t even recall very basic elements of his life, such as the names of his wife and children and his current address. He had to relearn how to speak. His rate of progress was beyond anyone’s most optimistic expectations. He attacked his rehab with a vengeance. He attended every session. He never once told them he was in too much pain, too tired, or not in the mood, as many rehab patients do. Many times he would cut short our visit by telling us he had to leave for a rehab session. If they told him to do ten of something, he would do 15. He would complete the most tedious and frustrating of tasks without complaint. His course of rehab included robotics, which helped considerably. Of course, it helped that he was only 40 years old and in excellent physical condition, but, nevertheless, he astounded the doctors, the therapists, and, indeed, even us with his progress. In August 2016, after less than one month at Burke, he was discharged. For a while, he continued to undergo private rehab once a week. Now, he exercises by running.

CONCLUSION

Matt’s astounding recovery included the following accomplishments:

1. He completed his rehab at Burke and returned home to his family well ahead of schedule.
2. The day he was discharged he accompanied his wife and son to Nassau Coliseum, which was over a one-hour drive, to see Billy Joel’s last concert there.
3. He climbed up to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
4. He has resumed his career as a senior research analyst at a Wall Street firm. This is a remarkable achievement since his job is very demanding, requiring many hours of complex analysis, a high level of prolonged concentration, high-level meetings with clients, and travel.
5. He has completed the NYC marathon and various half marathons. How many non-stroke victims can say that?
6. Most importantly, has resumed his role as husband and father, and my wife and I have our son back.

During his recovery period Matt was fond of saying his full-time job was to get better. He applied the same single-minded determination and dedication to that task as he has to everything else in his life. He is not all the way back to where he was, but if you were to meet him today for the first time you would likely not realize that he had suffered a massive stroke only a few years ago.

My wife and I know that Matt was extremely lucky that there was a doctor present who ensured he received the immediate care he needed as well as benefiting from an amazing support system of friends, relatives and colleagues, and, for that, we will be eternally grateful. However, the determination with which he attacked his rehab virtually willing himself to get better was nothing short of amazing!

We have always been very proud of Matt, but, now, he is and will always be, our hero.”

Even now, six years later, it is hard for me to read that blog without getting emotional. We know we dodged a major bullet. Matt has pretty much returned to normalcy, although he is still blind in one eye and has a weakness in his right hand. However, I remain optimistic that one day medical science will progress to the point that he will regain his sight. Who knows?

We have suggested to Matt that he could become an inspirational speaker to give others the benefit of his experience. Although he has made a couple of appearances with a friend who was also a stroke victim, for now, he has chosen to focus on his family and career.

Alternatively, his experience would make a fine inspirational movie, although Hollywood would probably dismiss it as too unrealistic. In any case, read it and be inspired.

IF YOU BUILD IT THEY WON’T GET IN

For those of you who are familiar with the popular movie, “Field of Dreams,” please pardon my choice of title, but I think it is appropriate to the content of the blog.

Anyone with a pair of eyes and an open mind can see that the situation at the southern border is ………, well, there are no words to describe it adequately. Catastrophe, crisis, disaster, calamity, FUBAR. Any or all of these apply. Pick your own description.

Every day on the news (at least those outlets that report the real news) we are treated to the site of a caravan of illegals blithely strolling over the southern border or wading across the Rio Grande into the waiting arms of US Customs and Border Patrol personnel. Right before our very eyes the barriers at the border, the barriers that every other country in the world enforces stringently, or in some cases ruthlessly, has turned into a turnstile. Right before our very eyes the country that had not been invaded since 1812 is being invaded. Not only is there no resistance; there is encouragement.

The Biden Administration’s official policy is “come one, come all.” We don’t need to know who you are, where you came from, why you are coming, or anything else about you. You may be a legitimate refugee seeking asylum, but you may also be a criminal, a human trafficker, a drug dealer, COVID-infected, or a terrorist. We don’t know and don’t need to know. This inane policy has aligned the Biden Administration with the likes of criminals, such as MS-13, drug cartels, human traffickers, and terrorists. Either (1) they are too dumb to care, (2) they support those entities, or (3) they think the American people are too dumb to notice, and too apathetic to care.

The Biden Administration’s philosophy is if you can make it here you can stay. The Biden Administration denies there is any catastrophe/crisis/disaster/calamity/FUBAR at the border. In essence, their response to any mention of the problem is “are you going to believe what I tell you or what you see with your own eyes?” It was funny when the late Groucho Marx said it, but it is not funny now.

The administration has explicitly stated it will not only let you in but your whole family as well. Also, we will give you free medical, free education, welfare, and anything else you want or need. In actuality, it will provide more for you than it does for its own citizens. Think about that for a minute. How insane is that?

Many of you will also be allowed to vote, surreptitiously and illegally, of course. You will not be deported, even if you commit a crime, multiple crimes, even murder. Sounds like a great deal. If the Dems have their way soon the whole world will be living in the US. As it is, presently we have no idea of how many immigrants are living in the US illegally, nor the amount of illegal drugs they have brought in. The estimate of 20 million persons we hear all the time is obsolete and laughingly understated. The quantity of lethal drugs is unknown, but many law enforcement officials have opined it is enough to kill millions.

The Constitution states clearly that maintaining border integrity is the responsibility of the federal government. In fact, one might argue that it is its most important responsibility. It has been said that “if you don’t have [borders] you don’t have a country.”

By its actions (or inactions) the feds have abdicated that responsibility. In effect, by refusing to enforce immigration laws Biden has betrayed his oath of office. One of Biden’s first actions was to sign executive orders to reverse President Trump’s immigration policies, which had been very successful. This included, among other things, halting the construction of the border wall and reversing his “stay in Mexico” policy. Therefore, in my opinion, and that of many others, the border states now have the right, indeed the responsibility, to “step up” and protect their citizens and property. That brings us to the primary theme of this blog.

Earlier this week Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that Texas would build its own border wall. The wall would be funded by a combination of excess state funds, for example, from the Department of Criminal Justice, and private donations. He intends to (1) seek the cooperation of local landowners where necessary, and (2) increase the number of border control agents. He characterized the situation in border communities in Texas and other states resulting from the unchecked flood of illegals as a “carnage.” He added that “homes are being invaded, neighborhoods [have become] dangerous and people are being threatened on a daily basis. Truly, it has become the “wild, wild West.” He is confident the state has the authority to arrest and prosecute migrants for such crimes as trespassing, vandalism, robbery, and assault. He added, make no mistake [about it], “the border crisis that we’re dealing with right now is a direct result of the open border policies that have been put in place by the Biden administration.” He is not alone. Reportedly, other border-state governors are considering joining in.

Even some Dems are weighing in. For example, Henry Cuellar, a liberal Democrat who represents a border district in South Texas and who normally is a staunch supporter of the administration agrees that the current policy is failing. Appearing on the far left news program, “Morning Joe,” he opined that the Biden Administration must “do more than just talk.” It needs to enforce the country’s immigration laws, which it has not been doing. He decried the morality of encouraging immigrants, especially women and minors, to place themselves in the hands of dangerous smugglers/criminals and trek thousands of miles to the US, a journey on which many will be brutalized, raped and even killed. He urged it to follow thru on deportations. Furthermore, he stressed Biden and/or Harris must actually visit the border to observe the situation firsthand. He specified, that a “staged visit is not enough.”

It should be noted that Harris, whom Biden told the nation was put in charge of resolving the border crisis has yet to actually visit the border. When queried by the media, she has disingenuously stated she will do so, but she has been vague as to when. Her ducking and dodging has fooled few people. Clearly, in deference to her far left supporters, she is reluctant to do so. Instead she visited Guatemala in order to get at the “root cause” of the immigration crisis. Her visit was a diplomatic disaster. The enduring soundbite was her hollow warning to would-be migrants telling them not to come to the US. They “would not be welcome” at the border. Her comments pleased no one> It drew criticism from her far left base (such as AOC), moderates, and the president of Guatemala himself.

Furthermore, Cuellar expressed the same point that denoted above, that, in reality, that the Biden Administration’s policies are supporting terrorists, smugglers, human traffickers and drug cartels who want to enter the country illegally. In particular, he stated that smugglers are making up to $8,000 per person, and over the years the total has run well into the billions. Whatever Cuellar’s motives for speaking out it seems his common sense and desire to protect his constituents has overridden his political bent, which I applaud.

Predictably, Abbott’s plan has drawn some criticism. For instance, the NY Times has expressed doubt on the legality of his plan and pointed out that he would likely face strong opposition from private landowners in border areas who had resisted prior attempts to have their land seized by eminent domain. In the same article it quoted Domingo Garcia, the president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, which it characterized as “one of the oldest Latin civic organizations in the nation” as labeling Abbott’s plan “illegal, unconstitutional and immoral.”

In just the month of May some 180,000 illegals were apprehended, and that that doesn’t count the ones that evaded apprehension. Moreover, the Texas Department of Public Safety reported an 800% increase in the quantity of fentanyl intercepted, which it reported was enough to kill in excess of 21 million Americans. 21 million! And that was just the amount intercepted. How about the amount that got through?

CONCLUSION

I am not the only one who thinks the Biden Administration’s immigration policies have been a disaster. The latest polls back me up. For example, the latest Harris-Harvard poll shows decisively that the people want our immigration laws enforced, and they blame the Biden Administration for creating the current crisis at the southern border by failing to do so. According to the poll, which was reported in The Hill and elsewhere Americans want stronger borders by 85% to 15%. Roughly, 2/3 of the respondents felt that Biden’s policies “encourage[d] illegal immigration. 68% opined that aliens who crossed the border illegally should be deported. Furthermore, the latest Rasmussen poll disclosed that 66% of respondents considered the situation at the border to be a “crisis” with Biden to blame. Only 20% said it was not.

Let’s cut through the political BS and employ some common sense.

  1. Of course, we need strong, effective borders. Any country would.
  2. Of course, one of the key elements in a strong effective border is a wall.
  3. Of course, they work. Why else did China build the “Great Wall.” Why else did the Vatican build it various walls? Why else do the wealthy and the privileged live in communities protected by walls and security guards? To assert otherwise is disingenuous and insulting.
  4. Of course, we need to be cognizant of who enters, why, and from where. The purpose is not racist as some claim, but for the security of the country and its citizens.

Quiz questions:

  1. How long is the Great Wall of China, and how long did it take to build it?
  2. When was the original Vatican Wall completed?

See answers below.

Clearly, Biden and his minions are on the wrong side of this issue. To some extent, currently, they are benefiting from voters’ focusing on other issues, such as rising crime, the economy and the prospect of inflation, but those distractions will not last forever. More and more voters are catching on to the real situation. The polls are speaking loudly and clearly. The will of the people cannot be denied or ignored indefinitely. The border crisis is untenable.at the present time. At that point, it will be interesting to see the Dems change their tune. After all, like all politicians their primary goal is to get re-elected.

Quiz answers:

  1. Approximately 13,000 miles. Approximately 2,000 years. Think of all the manpower it took to complete it.

2. 852, but there have been several additions since.

FATHER’S DAY

Today, June 20, the third Sunday of June, many of us will celebrate Father’s Day.   According to the British Broadcasting Corporation FD is celebrated in some 70 countries around the world.

In the US, FD is commonly viewed as an opportunity to gather with family for barbecues, picnics, sporting activities (e.g. baseball, golf or fishing), eat at a favorite restaurant, or attend a Broadway show.  Generally, it is a fun day with family and friends. 

Last year celebrations were muted due to the restrictions imposed by state governors to combat the COVID pandemic. This year celebrations should be especially joyous since it appears that the worst is over. Many people are sick and tired of the various restrictions, which they viewed as draconian, and are ready to “let loose.” More than 52 million doses of the COVID vaccine have been administered in the US, and The Mayo Clinic has reported that more than 40% of the population has been fully vaccinated. (I have seen other estimates that were slightly higher, but I will go with the Mayo.)

Even better, we are approaching herd immunity. (Medical and epidemiology experts differ on the required percentage. I have seen estimates as low as 70% and as high as 90%. No one really knows for sure.) Moreover, many governors have relaxed restrictions. In most areas the mask mandate has been eliminated in favor of “mask optional,” and restrictions on gatherings have been relaxed. Sports are back, and Broadway shows are coming. All this augurs a return to normalcy regarding FD.

The idea of an annual day to recognize fathers was first proposed by Sonora Dodd a resident of Spokane, WA, in 1909. She wanted to honor her own father who had raised her and five siblings as a single parent.  In her opinion, mothers had their “day,” so why shouldn’t fathers.  At first, she approached her pastor about organizing a special service on her father’s birthday, June 5, but for some reason, perhaps, time constraints, the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.  The initial celebration was held in 1910.

For many years the idea of a “day” for fathers did not catch on with the general public. The major reason was the fear that it would become overly commercialized like Mother’s Day and Christmas.   In addition, the media was not behind the concept.  Rather than support the idea, they attacked it with sarcastic and cynical articles and cartoons.

FD did, however, have its supporters.  Congress debated a bill as early as 1913, but it did not pass.  Presidents such as Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge supported it publicly.

Some years later, Margaret Chase Smith, a longtime influential senator from Maine, criticized the inequity of Congress’ ignoring fathers while honoring mothers.  Finally, in 1966 LBJ issued a Presidential proclamation designating the third Sunday in June as FD.  It became a permanent holiday in 1972.

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation FD is celebrated in some 70 countries around the world. The timing and characteristics of the celebrations differ depending on seasons and various traditions and cultures, as follows:

  1. United Kingdom – It is also celebrated on the third Sunday of June.  It is recognized as a day to honor not only fathers, but also other father figures, such as grandfathers and fathers-in-law.  As in the US, typically, people pay a visit and give cards and gifts.  Other activities might include male-only outings [golf, football (soccer), or cricket], or trips.  One significant difference is that the day is not considered to be a holiday, just a normal Sunday.
  2. Canada – Very similar to the UK.  Popular activities would include going to the park, the zoo, or eating out in a restaurant.
  3.  Russia – The holiday, celebrated on February 23, is called Defender of the Fatherland Day.  All men are honored, not just fathers.  It began as a military celebration and is still marked by military parades.
  4. Mexico – Celebrated on the third Sunday of June.  It is marked with parties and gifts for dads and a 21 kilometer Father’s Day race.
  5. Brazil – It is celebrated on August 2 in honor of St. Joachim, patron saint of fathers and grandfathers.
  6. Bulgaria celebrates the day in December.
  7. According to The Sun various countries in the Southern Hemisphere, such as Australia and New Zealand, celebrate the holiday in September.
  8. Northern European countries, such as Norway, Sweden and Finland, celebrate the day in November.

In the US, FD is commonly viewed as an opportunity to gather with family for barbecues, picnics, sporting activities (e.g. baseball, golf or fishing), eat at a favorite restaurant, or attend a Broadway show.  Generally, it is a fun day with family and friends.  Of course, this year FD celebrations will be somewhat restricted.  Due to the Coronavirus there will be no baseball, no Broadway shows, and limited family gatherings.

The idea of an annual day to recognize fathers was first proposed by Sonora Dodd a resident of Spokane, WA, in 1909. She wanted to honor her own father who had raised her and five siblings as a single parent.  In her opinion, mothers had their “day,” so why shouldn’t fathers.  At first, she approached her pastor about organizing a special service on her father’s birthday, June 5, but for some reason, perhaps, time constraints, the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.  The initial celebration was held in 1910.

For many years the idea of a “day” for fathers did not catch on with the general public. The major reason was the fear that it would become overly commercialized like Mother’s Day and Christmas.   In addition, the media was not behind the concept.  Rather than support the idea, they attacked it with sarcastic and cynical articles and cartoons.

FD did, however, have its supporters.  Congress debated a bill as early as 1913, but it did not pass.  Presidents such as Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge spoke out in favor of it.

Some years later, Margaret Chase Smith, a longtime influential Senator from Maine, criticized the inequity of Congress’ ignoring fathers while honoring mothers.  Finally, in 1966 LBJ issued a Presidential proclamation designating the third Sunday in June as FD.  It became a permanent holiday in 1972.

FD is celebrated differently in other countries around the world depending on seasons and various traditions and cultures, as follows:

  1. United Kingdom – It is also celebrated on the third Sunday of June.  It is recognized as a day to honor not only fathers, but also other father figures, such as grandfathers and fathers-in-law.  As in the US, typically, people pay a visit and give cards and gifts.  Other activities might include male-only outings [golf, football (soccer), or cricket], or trips.  One significant difference is that the day is not considered to be a holiday, just a normal Sunday.
  2. Canada – Very similar to the UK.  Popular activities would include going to the park, the zoo, or eating out in a restaurant.
  3.  Russia – The holiday, celebrated on February 23, is called Defender of the Fatherland Day.  All men are honored, not just fathers.  It began as a military celebration and is still marked by military parades.
  4. Mexico – Celebrated on the third Sunday of June.  It is marked with parties and gifts for dads and a 21 kilometer Father’s Day race.
  5. Brazil – It is celebrated on August 2 in honor of St. Joachim, patron saint of fathers and grandfathers.
  6. Bulgaria celebrates the day in December.
  7. According to The Sun various countries in the Southern Hemisphere, such as Australia and New Zealand, celebrate the holiday in September.
  8. Northern European countries, such as Norway, Sweden and Finland, celebrate the day in November.

CONCLUSION

The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend about $174 per person on FD gifts in 2021, which would be a $26 increase over 2020’s amount. The NRF estimates the overall total will be some $20.1 billion.

As you might expect, according to the NRF this total pales next to the $28 billion we spent on mothers last month.  Why do we spend so much more money on our mothers than on our fathers?  There are many theories, but no one knows for sure?

We don’t take our dads to restaurants as we do our moms. Instead, we put them work barbecuing. The National Restaurant Association reports that FD is one of the slowest days of the year whereas MD is the busiest. Not surprising.

What are the most popular FD gifts?  According to the NRF #1 is a greeting card.   #2 is a special family outing, for example, taking a trip or attending a sporting event. Other popular gifts include clothes, tools, appliances and “personal care” items.

Dads, remember it is your day.  Whatever you decide to do, enjoy it.

SUMMER SOLSICE

What is the summer solstice?  What does it mean?  When does it occur?  Good questions.  Read on for the answers.

As many of you know, the ss is the date with the longest period of daylight, and when the sun’s shadow is its shortest. Furthermore, in most of the US it is the date on which the sun appears to be at its highest point in the sky. In extreme northern locales the sun will be “out” the entire day.  In the NY area, where I live, we will get about 15 hours of sun.

The word “solstice” is derived from the Latin “sol,” meaning “sun” and “sistere,” meaning “to stand still.” As the seasons progress from winter to summer in the northern hemisphere, the sun appears to move north in the sky. On the date of the ss it has progressed as far north as it will get, and it momentarily “stands still” before it appears to begin to slide southward toward the point of its winter solstice.

Depending on the particular year, in the northern hemisphere the summer solstice can occur anytime between June 20 and June 22.  According to the Wikipedia in 2021 it will occur precisely at 11:31 pm on Sunday, June 20, which will be when the sun will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer (23.5 degrees north latitude).

In most cultures and countries the summer and winter solstices are intertwined with the seasons.  For example, in the US and many other countries the ss marks the commencement of summer.  On the other hand, in extreme northern and southern locations the solstices mark the midpoint of summer or winter.

For many ancient cultures the ss was a festive time. Most of them were sun worshippers anyway, and the longest day of the year was a reason to celebrate the renewal of life. The recurrent themes, in various forms, were life, light, femininity, marriage and fertility. (Perhaps, this concept was the derivation of the custom of having weddings in June.)

For example:

1. The pagan holiday, Litha, which is a celebration of light and life, was celebrated on that date.
2. Many archaeologists maintain that the ancient culture that constructed Stonehenge intended it to be a crude calendar used to mark the summer and winter solstices and the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. The stones do seem to have been placed to align with the sunrise on the dates of those events.
3. The ancient Chinese marked the date with celebrations of the femininity, the “Yin” forces, and the Earth, itself. This served as a counterpoint to the winter solstice, which was a celebration of the heavens, masculinity, and the “Yang” forces.
4. Typically, Native Americans held festivals featuring body paint and ritualistic dances.
5. In ancient Gaul (modern-day France) the celebration was called the Feast of Epona after a mare goddess that protected horses and personified fertility.
6. Slavic and Germanic cultures celebrated with huge bonfires.

CONCLUSION

In modern times the ss is a time to celebrate the arrival of summer.  In many extreme northern areas, where the people may not see the sun at all for certain parts of the year, such as northern Sweden, Finland and Norway, people spend the entire day outside. Many of them decorate their homes, light bonfires, and dance around Maypoles.

I have always enjoyed a warm summer day as much as the next guy.  But, truthfully, to me the day of the ss is just another day.  I will NOT be lighting any bonfires or dancing around any maypoles. (Wouldn’t that be a scary image.) Depending on the weather I will play golf, play outside with the kids (or grandkids), go to the beach, or, if it’s inclement, just stay inside.  Whatever you do, enjoy the day.

One final thought on the date, it has always seemed contradictive to me that the beginning of summer also marked the time when the days started to get shorter, and I view shorter days as a harbinger of winter.