TRUMP – PUTIN SUMMIT

This blog should come with a warning label.  Usually, I base my blogs on extensive research, and try to present mostly facts with a modicum of opinion.  This blog will be mostly opinion, so some readers may not like it.  Of course, as always, I welcome comments and opinions.  I don’t care if you agree with me or not.  The most important thing for me is for you to read the blog.  That said, I encourage you to read on.

The Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki this week was memorable in more ways than one.  According to Mr. Trump the two discussed many significant issues, such as Syria, Iran, terrorism, the Ukraine, and the Crimea.  As I write this, we do not know the details of their discussion with respect to the above issues as much of it was held in private. It was their first summit, and I would hope that the two men found some common ground and at least formed a basis for further meetings.

I think most of us would agree that relations between the US and Russia have been very strained recently, due to these and other issues, notably Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.  In fact, in the opinion of Professor Stephen Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies at NYU, they are as strained now as they have been at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.  If you know your history, you will realize that that is a very serious statement.  At the time, the public was unaware of the full gravity of the situation, but we now know that on that occasion we were very close to nuclear war.

Since the two nations control some 90% of all nuclear weapons, it is essential that they develop a basis for talking instead of fighting.  As I have said many times, most recently regarding Mr. Trump’s summit with Kim, I favor talking to one’s enemies as well as one’s friends.  I think most people would agree that talking is preferable to fighting.  No one dies when you talk; they die when you stop talking and start fighting.

Unfortunately, this summit may be remembered for what was not said, rather than what was said.  Of course, I am referring to the Russian 2016 election meddling issue.  Mr. Trump later told reporters he mentioned it, Mr. Putin strongly denied it, and he accepted Mr. Putin’s denial.  Many people are distressed that Mr. Trump did not press the issue and seemed to take Putin’s word over that of his own intelligence agencies (although Mr. Trump subsequently walked that back).  They wanted him to berate Mr. Putin, virtually call him a liar, and let him know in no uncertain terms that we know he did it and don’t dare do it again, or words to that effect.

Certainly, one could argue that he should have been more forceful on that issue.  That would have made most of us feel good for a brief moment.  We would have said to ourselves something like “yeah, way to go, take it to him!”  But, I ask you, what would that really have accomplished?  Putin knows he did it, he also knows that we know he did it.  Do you expect that Putin would have said, “oops, you got me.  I’m really sorry.  I won’t do it again.”  No, Putin would likely have taken umbrage at the assertion.  He would have continued to deny, deny, deny.

If Mr. Trump had persisted, Putin may have even walked out of the meeting, in which case nothing would have been accomplished.  All those other issues I mentioned above, as well as whatever else they discussed would have continued to fester.  The long-term, more significant objectives of the summit, to build a working relationship, would have been a failure.

Moreover, it would not have changed the fact that Russia meddled, and it will continue to meddle, prospectively.  Let’s not be naïve.  As Senator Rand Paul said in a recent Politico article, “everyone does it.”   Off the top of my head, I can think of several instances in which the US has meddled in another country’s elections and other internal affairs – South Vietnam in the 1960s, Chile regarding the election of Salvador Allende in 1970, and Israel’s last election when President Obama tried to undermine Netanyahu’s candidacy.  Moreover, for over a century the US meddled in most every South and Central American country’s affairs.  Remember the Monroe Doctrine?  We considered the Western Hemisphere to be our private preserve and earned the enmity of many of our Latin American neighbors.

After two years of intense investigation, all evidence indicates that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, but recognize the difference between “meddling” and “hacking.”  We have yet to see any evidence that Russian meddling changed ONE SINGLE VOTE.  Get over it, and move on with your lives.  Mr. Trump won fair and square.  He is the President, and he will continue to be at least until January, 2021, if not beyond.  History tells us that on election night voters will not focus on whether or not Trump “dressed down” Putin at the summit.  They will focus on the economy, and right now, it is BOOMING.

There are many more important issues, such as feeding your family, medical care, immigration, and thwarting terrorism.  Instead of being stuck in the past we should be focusing on how to prevent anyone from meddling in the 2018 and 2020 elections.  (I would suggest that one corrective action would be to enforce the law precluding government officials from using private email servers.  Another would be to require passwords more secure than “password.”  Probably, a 10 year-old could have hacked the DNC.)

CONCLUSION

It is one thing to express disagreement with Mr. Trump’s, or any politician’s policy decisions.  After all, the right to do so is a cornerstone of our republic.  It is a legitimate complaint that Mr. Trump should have been more forceful.  As I said, that would have had consequences, but I can understand the sentiment.  But, that does NOT make him a “traitor, an “imbecile,” or Putin’s “puppet,” as many have been saying.

What I cannot abide and what caused me to write this particular blog, was the vituperative and disrespectful tone of much of the criticism toward Mr. Trump.  We all know that 90% of the media, most politicians and “swamp dwellers,” and half of the voters hate him with a passion that exceeds all reason.  They will criticize anything he does or says.  Some will even hope for bad outcomes, even of they hurt the country, just to prevent Mr. Trump from looking good.  But, some of the criticisms I have been reading exceed all decency, decorum, and reason.  For example:

  1. Former CIA Director, John Brennan, one of the architects of the sell-out Iran Nuke Deal, labeled Mr. Trump’s words “imbecilic” and “nothing short of treasonous.”
  2. Senator John McCain said Mr. Trump’s performance was “a conscious choice to defend a tyrant” and “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
  3. Newsday called Mr. Trump’s performance “an extraordinary embrace of a longtime US enemy,” and surmised that he made it obvious that “any firm acknowledgment of Russia’s [meddling] would undermine the legitimacy of his election.”
  4. Scores of political pundits weighed in with similar comments, but, to me, most of these people lost their objectivity and credibility long ago, so I find it hard to take their analyses seriously now.  I view them as so much “white noise” and see no need to waste time and space by repeating them here.
  5. The worst, by far, came from the formerly venerable New York Times.  The Times used to be one of, if not the, most respected newspapers in the country.  But, in recent years, it has essentially become a shill for the far left.  The latest example is the video cartoon it published depicting Messrs. Trump and Putin as homosexual lovers.  Any decent person should find it disgusting.  It was the stuff of the most prurient tabloid.  I have no adequate words to describe how far beyond the pall of decency it was.

This is what we have come to in this country, where the president of the US can be ridiculed and attacked in this manner.  Have we lost all reason?  Disagree with his policies?  Okay.  But, at least do so in a mature, decent and reasonable manner.  I shudder to think of what might be next.

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THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – JULY

Historically, July has been a very active month.  Below please find a list of significant historical events that have occurred during the month.  Read on, and be edified.

July 1 – Canada Day is celebrated commemorating the union of Upper and Lower Canada and certain of the Maritime Provinces to form the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867.

July 1, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill authorizing the first income tax levy (3%).

July 1, 1863 – The decisive Civil War Battle of Gettysburg commenced.

July 1, 1963 – The US Postal Service commenced using zip codes.

July 2, 1776 – The Continental Congress adopted a resolution declaring that “these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”

July 2, 1788 – Congress announced that the US Constitution had been ratified by the requisite nine states.

July 2, 1881–  President James Garfield was shot and mortally wounded.  He died on September 19.

July 2, 1937 – Pilot Amelia Earhart went missing.

July 2, 1964 – President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

July 3, 1775 – George Washington took command of the Continental Army at Cambridge, MA.

July 3, 1976 – Israeli commandos rescued 103 hostages being held by pro-Palestinian guerrillas on a hijacked airliner at Entebbe airport in Uganda.

July 4, 1776 – The Continental Congress formally approved the Declaration of Independence, making this date the US’s official Independence Day, even though many of the 56 signatories signed the document later.  (The exact dates are in dispute to this day.)

July 4, 1863 – The city of Vicksburg, MS surrendered to General Grant giving the Union control of the vital Mississippi River.

July 4, 1959 – A 49th star, representing Alaska, was added to the flag.

July 4, 1960 – A 50th star, representing Hawaii, was added to the flag.

July 5, 1946 – The bikini, named by creator Louis Reard for the Bikini Atoll where the atomic bomb was tested, was introduced in Paris.

July 6, 1885 –  Louis Pasteur administered the first successful rabies shot (to a boy who had been bitten by a rabid dog).

July 6, 1942 –  Holocaust victim, Anne Frank, and her family began hiding in a sealed-off room in Amsterdam in an ultimately futile attempt to avoid being captured by the Nazis.

July 7, 1898 – President McKinley signed a resolution annexing Hawaii.

July 8, 1889 – The Wall Street Journal began publication.

July 10, 1940 – The German Luftwaffe commenced bombing raids against Great Britain.

July 10, 1943 – The Allies commenced their invasion of Europe by landing in Sicily.

July 10, 1973 – The Bahamas gained their independence after 250 years of British rule.

July 13, 1977 – Two lightening strikes caused a 25-hour blackout in the NYC area. (Did the local birth rate spike in April, 1978?)

July 14, 1789 – A mob of protesters successfully stormed the Bastille Saint-Antoine in Paris, a fortress, a prison and a hated symbol of aristocratic repression.  The Bastille’s fall shocked the aristocratic world and signaled the beginning of the French Revolution.

July 16, 1769 –  Father Junipero Serra founded the mission of San Diego de Alcala (present-day San Diego), one of many he founded throughout current-day California.

July 16, 1969 –  The Apollo 11 mission took off for the moon.

July 17, 1918 –  Bolshevik rebels murdered Czar Nicholas II and his family in Ekaterinburg, Siberia.

July 17, 1955 – Disneyland, in Anaheim, CA, opened to the public.

July 17, 1996 – TWA Flight 800 blew up shortly after takeoff off the coast of Long Island.

July 18, 1936 – The Spanish civil war began as a revolt by right wing army officers stationed in Morocco.

July 18, 1947 – President Truman, who had succeeded to the presidency following FDR’s death, signed an Executive Order that laid out the order of succession in the event a president were to die or become incapacitated (vp, speaker of the house, etc.).   This order became the basis for the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified on February 10, 1967.

July 18, 1969 – Senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a wooden bridge on Chappaquiddick Island killing aide Mary Jo Kopechne and ending his chances for the presidency.

July 20, 1969 – Billions of people watched live on tv as Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.  (Famous quote – “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”)

July 27, 1953 – The US and Korea signed an armistice ending the Korean Conflict, which had raged on for three years.

July 27, 1974 – The House of Representatives charged President Nixon with the first of three articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice, eventually culminating in his resignation.

July 29, 1976 – David Berkowitz, aka “Son of Sam,” began his murderous reign of terror in NYC, which lasted until August 10, 1977.

July 29, 1981 –  England’s Prince Charles and Lady Diana were married at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

July 30, 1965 – President Lyndon Johnson signed the Social Security Act of 1965, which established the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

July 31, 1798 – The US Patent Office opened and issued its first patent (for a new method of making potash and pearl ash).

Birthdays –  Thurgood Marshall – 7/2/1908; Stephen Foster (wrote some 200 songs, including Oh Susanna, Camptown Races and Swanee River) – 7/4/1826; Calvin Coolidge (30th President) – 7/4/1872; David Farragut (Civil War admiral, famous quote: “Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead”) – 7/5/1801; PT Barnum (promoter, showman and co-founder of the circus) – 7/5/1810; Cecil Rhodes (his will established Rhodes Scholarship) – 7/5/1863; John Paul Jones (father of US Navy, famous quote: “I have not yet begun to fight!”) – 7/6/1747; Leroy “Satchel” Page (AA Hall of Fame pitcher) – 7/7/1906; Nelson Rockefeller – 7/8/1908; John Calvin (founded Presbyterianism) – 7/10/1509; Arthur Ashe (tennis champion) – 7/10/1943; John Quincy Adams (6th president and son of #2, John Adams) – 7/11/1767; Gerald Ford ( 38th president) – 7/14/1913; Rembrandt van Rijn (famous Dutch painter) – 7/15/1606; Nelson Mandela – 7/18/1918; Edmund Hillary (first to ascend Mt. Everest) – 7/20/1919; Ernest Hemingway (Nobel Prize-winning author) – 7/21/1899; Simon Bolivar (aka “The Liberator” or “The George Washington of South America” for his successful efforts to liberate the nations of Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Venezuela from Spain) – 7/24/1783; Amelia Earhart (pioneer female pilot) – 7/24/1898;  George Bernard Shaw (playwright) – 7/26/1856; Jacqueline Bouvier (JFK widow) – 7/28/1929; Benito Mussolini – 7/29/1883; Henry Ford – 7/30/1863;

BRETT KAVANAUGH – SCOTUS NOMINEE

As most of you know, President Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Anthony Kennedy as associate justice of the Supreme Court.  As most of you also know, Mr. Trump’s nomination is required to be approved by the Senate.  Presently, the GOP holds a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate.  Due to this slim margin and the currently contentious political climate, such approval is far from certain.

Most Dem senators are opposed to Kavanaugh.  They claim their opposition is based on concerns over Kavanaugh’s perceived positions on issues such as abortion and healthcare.  In particular, they are concerned he will somehow become the swing vote that would enable the Court to overturn Roe v Wade, the decision which legalized abortions throughout the US.  For example, Chuck Schumer has vowed to “fight this nomination with everything I’ve got.”

In actuality, most Dems would oppose any Trump nominee just because he or she was put forth by the President, whom they loath.  Many of them, such as Nancy Pelosi and the aforementioned Chuck Schumer, have expressed strong opinions that the President should not put forth any nominee until after the midterm elections.  There is no legal basis for this.  They just hope that the Dems will gain a majority in the midterm elections and thus be able to block any nominee with whom they disagree, politically.

In my opinion, there are at least two GOP – Susan Collins, Me, and Lisa Murkowski, Alaska – and three Dem senators – Joe Manchin, W. Va, Heidi Heitkamp, ND, and Joe Donnelly, IN – that are swing votes.  Collins and Murkowski have expressed vague concerns and want to conduct a “careful vetting” of Kavanaugh’s judicial record before voting.  (I highly doubt the veracity of this reason since Kavanaugh was not a surprise pick, and his judicial record is both extensive and publicly available.)  Manchin, Heitkamp and Donnelly are up for re-election in states that Mr. Trump carried decisively in 2016, and would be reluctant to have to explain to their constituents why they voted “nay.”  Other “wafflers” in either party may surface as well.

The Court was established pursuant to Article 3 of the Constitution when the document was ratified in 1789.  It was intended to operate as the third leg in the system of checks and balances that is the legal cornerstone of our system of government.  It is intended to interpret the law, but only within the context of an actual case that has been brought before it.

Article 3 did not specify the number of justices.  It merely stipulates that the Court consist of a chief justice and various associate justices.  It provides for members to be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.  Once approved, they serve for life, but they can be impeached.  In case you are wondering, one and only one justice has ever been impeached, Samuel Chase in 1804, but he was acquitted.  Moreover, there is no mechanism for forcibly removing a justice who is ill or incapacitated and declines to resign.  (Given the age of some current members, three are 70 or older, this may become significant, prospectively.)  Currently, the Court consists of eight associate justices, but at various times in our history there have been as few as five and as many as ten.

The constitution provides that a president may fill a vacancy temporarily while the Senate is in recess.  Any justice so-appointed must be approved by the Senate when it reconvenes.  Historically, this has been a real rarity and very controversial even with respect to appointments to lower courts.  Only 13 justices have received so-called “recess appointments” and none since the Eisenhower Administration.  Can you imagine the furor if President Trump made such an appointment?

The Court first met on February 2, 1790.  There were positions for six justices, but only five had been confirmed by that date.  There were no cases before them.  According to historian Fergus Bordewich, they “sat augustly before a throng of spectators and waited for something to happen.  Nothing did.”  So, after one week of inactivity the Court adjourned, and the justices went home.

The Court’s power of judicial review (interpreting laws) has become a well-settled power.  We accept it as a “given.”  But it was not always so.  In fact, originally this power received little attention by the Founding Fathers, and the concept is not specifically mentioned in the constitution.  It was not until 1803 in the landmark case, Marbury v Madison, that the court established this power when Chief Justice John Marshall opined that “the authority to interpret the law was the particular province of the courts.”

Over the years, as the country expanded and grew, Congress authorized additional justices to correspond with the increased number of judicial circuits.  The maximum was ten in 1863.    In 1869 Congress reduced the size to nine, where it has remained ever since.  Some commentators have been advocating adding more justices for political reasons  when, as and if a Dem wins the presidency.  They want more liberal justices.  This may sound absurd, but it has actually been tried once.  FDR tried to expand the Court in 1937 in order to add justices who would support his “New Deal” initiatives, some of which had been struck down, but Congress did not approve his plan.

The constitution does not guarantee that a president will be able to appoint any justices, nor does it limit the number he or she may appoint.  Throughout our history only four presidents have not had the opportunity to appoint at least one justice.  Two of them – William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor – died in office after having served very abbreviated terms.  The third, Andrew Johnson, was thwarted when Congress reduced the authorized size of the court.  Jimmy Carter was the only president to serve a full term and not have the opportunity to appoint a justice.

The current court is extremely diverse with respect to gender, race, and religion.  Three of the nine are women; one is African American, one is Hispanic; five are Catholic and three are Jewish.  Politically it has been balanced, with most decisions 5-4, but if President Trump and the GOP have their way, that may change prospectively.  Liberals won’t like it, but elections do have consequences.

CONCLUSION

Since the beginning of the republic politicians and legal scholars have debated whether the court should interpret the constitution strictly as written or allow for expansion of federal powers with the changing times.  Some courts have adhered strictly to the Constitution; others, notably the “Warren Court” (1953-1969) have been very active in expanding the powers of the federal government.  For example, it was during this time that the court mandated integration of public schools (Brown v Board of Education) and certain rights of a suspect under arrest (Miranda v Arizona).

Generally, conservatives favor a court that interprets the constitution strictly (as written), whereas liberals favor one that is more active and expands the powers of the federal government.  I don’t view one philosophy as “right” and the other as “wrong.”  Historically, whichever political party has been in power has been able to appoint justices whose philosophy was consistent with theirs.

Kavanaugh appears to be more of a strict constructionist.  Liberals are not happy with the choice, but I have yet to see anyone argue that he is not highly qualified.  Therefore, he should be confirmed, and I believe that, after a period of “breast-beating by some Dems, he will be.

 

ABOLISH ICE?

Should the US “abolish” ICE, as many of those on the left are now advocating?  Most news outlets have been bombarding us with negative stories about ICE, characterizing their operation as “heavy-handed” and “excessive” and even comparing the detention centers to “concentration camps.”  Much of the criticism has such a shrill and extreme tone that it is bordering on the irrational.  Based on the foregoing, one would think that there is a huge groundswell in the country to abolish ICE.

In point of fact, this is another example of what many Trump supporters have been calling “fake news.”  (For example, do you recall the news video footage of the children in cells, which were later shown to be from 2014 and the Time cover of Mr. Trump towering over a little crying child, which was also later shown to have been fabricated?) In fact, a recent Rasmussen poll has disclosed broad support for ICE.  For example, only 25% of respondents were in favor of abolishing it.  Even among liberals, Democrats, and AAs the numbers were only 45%, 36%, and 22%, respectively.

Consider:

  1. Critics have been focusing on the separation of parents from their children.  Actually, according to the NY Times that is the responsibility of the Customs and Border Protection Agency, not ICE.
  2. The CBP is following the law, which is well settled.  It was passed by Congress decades ago and has since been validated by the courts.  Some administrations have chosen to ignore or loosely enforce this law, but Mr. Trump has chosen to enforce it with “zero tolerance” as he pledged to do during the 2016 campaign.  His strong stance on illegal immigration was one of the major reasons why he was elected.  As we know, “elections have consequences.”
  3. The accompanying adults are not always the actual parents anyway.  Often, they are “coyotes,” hired to guide the illegals.  Many of them are pedophiles, gang members, or other unsavory characters.  In those cases, the parents have chosen to stay behind for whatever reason, so it is they who have separated themselves from their kids, not ICE.
  4. The separation is only temporary until officials can determine the status of the children and the accompanying adults.  This can be time-consuming, particularly given the high volume of cases.
  5. The current system has its drawbacks, but I believe it is an improvement over Obama’s policy of “catch and release,” which was an abysmal failure.  The illegals simply disappeared into the general populace.  Very few bothered to appear for their hearing.
  6. The side issue that critics carefully ignore is that many US children are separated from their parents every day, such as when innocents, like Kate Steinle, are murdered and when parents are incarcerated or judged to be “unfit.”  Where is the outcry in those cases?

Most of ICE’s critics have no conception of its responsibilities other than that it arrests, detains and deports immigrants who have managed to enter the US illegally.  It has many other diverse responsibilities, including investigating crimes such as smuggling drugs, weapons, and military equipment, human trafficking, cyber crimes, financial crimes and identity theft.  In addition, its legal arm represents the government in immigration matters.

Moreover, people forget that ICE was authorized by Congress under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 following the 9/11 terror attacks.  The Act combined various diverse border and revenue enforcement agencies and placed all of them within the Department of Homeland Security.  Presently, ICE has some 20,000 employees that operate in about 400 offices throughout the US and 46 foreign venues.  It is a sizeable operation and remains vital to our national security.  Terror threats are still with us and, perhaps, always will be, so it would be ill-advised to let our guard down now.

CONCLUSION

Nobody is advocating harming children.  Most everyone realizes the current arrangement is imperfect.  It is merely the best we can do under the present circumstances, presuming we want to enforce the current law and protect our borders.  Anyone who suggests otherwise is being disingenuous and irresponsible.  As Mr. Trump keeps saying, it is up to Congress to improve the law.

Also, as I have said many times, any comparison to Nazis or concentration camps is ridiculous, dangerous and does a disservice to the real Holocaust victims and their families.  It is clear that certain people desperately need a history lesson.

The extreme rhetoric of the far left has put the Democratic Party on the wrong side of the immigration issue, politically.  Below please find a few samples:

  1. NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand characterized ICE as a “deportation force” and advocated that it be abolished.  I submit that she has not the foggiest conception of what ICE does and why it is necessary.
  2. Not to be outdone, MA Senator Elizabeth Warren called President Trump’s immigration policies “deeply immoral.”
  3. Nancy Pelosi has spoken out in defense of the rights of MS-13 gang members, saying “they are people too.”  Does she really want to be portrayed as a supporter of MS-13?  Does she even realize they don’t just terrorize and murder; they hack their victims to pieces with machetes?
  4. Chuck Schumer has declined to support any compromise immigration bill, because he will not help Mr. Trump “clean up his own mess.”  Nice.
  5. The Hill reported that WI Representative Mark Pocan (who?) opined that ICE is “tearing apart families and ripping the moral fabric of our nation” and referred to President Trump and his supporters as a “team of white nationalists.”  Talk about hyperbole!  Furthermore, Pocan has actually introduced a bill to abolish ICE.
  6. Finally, let’s not forget the demonstration at the Statue of Liberty on July 4.  Many people had their holiday plans ruined, and some law enforcement personnel were distracted from their anti-terrorist responsibilities.  I’m sure that won over a multitude of supporters to the anti-ICE cause.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Where are the moderate Dems?  I’m sure there must still be some, but they are laying low.  They cannot be happy.  The extreme rhetoric from the far left on this and other issues is forcing the Dem Party well out of the mainstream, and it does not augur well for the 2018 and 2020 elections.  They need to speak out, but I hope they don’t.

 

 

INDEPENDENCE DAY

Today, July 4th, we celebrate our independence.  There will be family gatherings, barbecues and fireworks.  Many of us will attend concerts, plays and baseball games.  Weather permitting, many of us will go to the beach.  The Automobile Club and the TSA have both predicted that this extended holiday will be among the busiest travel periods of the year.  We will celebrate in a wide variety of ways.  This year the 4th has fallen on Wednesday, many of us have taken the entire week off from work, which, in effect, results in a nine day vacation.

Hopefully, some of us will take a few minutes to reflect on how our country was “born.”  Who were the “founding father” we hear so much about?  Who were the heroes of the revolution?  How much do you know?  Let’s find out.   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 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

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)

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 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.
  3. In 1778, to mark the second anniversary, George Washington issued double rations of rum to the Continental Army troops.
  4. By the end of the 18th century many major cities were marking the day with various celebrations and parades. Today, many major cities hold massive and elaborate fireworks displays. In addition, many private organizations, for example, Macys, the Boston Pops, and many major league baseball clubs, entertain the public with fireworks displays. 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 a few years ago. He lost part of few fingers (and nearly his life) and almost ended a most promising football career.
  5. In 1870 Congress designated ID as a federal holiday. In 1938 it granted federal employees a day off with pay on that day.
  6. 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 do, but it’s too long to repeat here. 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.
    e. The “Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem in 1931.

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

 

MY HERO

July 5 will mark the three-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 at this time.  (Some of you were not following my blog three years ago and may not have seen it.)  I believe it is as inspirational now as it was then.  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 dinn

er 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 was 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, although he still undergoes private rehab once a week.

CONCLUSION

Matt’s astounding recovery has 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, and high-level meetings with clients.
  5. He has completed two 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 yet all the way back, 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 20 months 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 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, three years later, it is hard for me to read that blog without getting emotional.  We know we dodged a big 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 tease Matt that he could become an inspirational speaker to give others the benefit of his experience.  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.

THE DECLINE OF CIVILITY AND RESPECT

I don’t know about you, but I am very disturbed by a certain trend in America, particularly with respect to politics.  Americans have always thrived on having a healthy discourse among themselves with respect to political issues.  Often, we can disagree but still engage in respectful debate.  Our culture and way of life have encouraged this.  It’s what has made America unique.

Traditionally, there have been widespread disagreements among Americans with respect to virtually every issue, always have been, always will be.  For example, some of us favor big government, others of us prefer more self-reliance.  Some advocate a woman’s right to choose, others the right to life.  There are wide and varied opinions on immigration, trade, foreign policy, and a host of other issues.

However, what has made America great, what has set it apart from every other country, past and present, is that we have always been respectful of each other’s opinions.  Our attitude has been akin to that famous expression, and I paraphrase, “I strongly disagree with your opinion, but I will defend to my death your right to express it.”

However, recently something has changed.  Many of us no longer respect other people’s opinions if they are at variance with ours.  One could argue where, when and with whom this trend began, but the salient point is it is here, it is accelerating, and it is tearing our country apart.

I get it that one-half of the country despises President Trump on a personal level.  Every thing he does and says annoys them.  His tweets, his policies, his personality.  It is a visceral hatred, the likes of which I have never seen before in my lifetime.  It is so extreme that some, like Bill Maher, have even wished for something bad to happen (the stock market to sink in Maher’s case) so that President Trump’s approval rating will decline.  How sick is that?

The Dems have to wake up to the fact that Mr. Trump IS the duly-elected president.  He won fair and square.  I believe he won, because he tapped into the extreme discontent many Americans felt toward the Washington establishment, including politicians, lobbyists, and administrators.

By now, most of us realize that the Mueller Russia conspiracy investigation has no credibility and will go nowhere.  If anything, it has been uncovering Dem misconduct.   So, Dems you are “stuck” with him until at least 2020, if not 2024.  As my good friend, Arlene, is fond of saying “get over it, and move on!”

If you don’t like him or his policies that is your right but work within the system to defeat him in 2020.  Cut out the useless talk of impeachment, foreign interference and foul play.  Figure out why you lost, nominate a better candidate, and develop a plan to win next time.

In accordance with my center-right political perspective I place most of the blame on the left.  A few examples:

  1. Madonna saying she is thinking of “blowing up” the White House.
  2. Peter Fonda, who hasn’t had a hit movie in forever, saying “we should rip Barron Trump from his mother’s arms and put him in a cage with pedophiles.”
  3. Far left demonstrators chanting and harassing Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, when she was attending a movie (ironically, it was mild mannered Fred Rogers’ Won’t You Be My Neighbor).
  4. Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson, being harassed while eating at DC restaurants and, ultimately, having to leave.
  5. Kathy Griffin holding President Trump’s “severed head” aloft on tv.
  6. Business Insider presented an extensive list of conservative-leaning speakers who were either disinvited from speaking on college campuses recently or were severely heckled, including, Ben Shapiro (who only was allowed to speak after threatening legal action), Anita Alvarez, Cook County, IL states attorney, Bassem Eid, a Palestinian whose remarks were nevertheless viewed as too pro-Israel by protesters, and John Brennan, former Director of the CIA.
  7. Commentators labeling the president and anyone who espouses his policies or even voted for him as “Nazis.”  Perhaps, this, which is becoming more common on certain cable news networks, is worst of all as (a) calling the other person a “Nazi” shuts off all further debate, (b) it dehumanizes them, and (c) it encourages violence.  If you engage in an honest debate with someone with whom you disagree you are recognizing he is not a bad person, per se, just that his opinion may be wrong.  If you label him a “Nazi” you are saying he is a bad person per se and his opinion is not worthy of respectful dialogue.  In addition, in my opinion, these comments belittle the actual Holocaust perpetrated by real Nazis that murdered some six million Jews and others.

CONCLUSION

Folks, we are headed down a slippery slope.  Once healthy, respectful debate is short-circuited, violence inevitably follows.  Fringe elements like Peter Fonda do not concern me.  Few people listen to them anyway.  What concerns me is the hyperbole being spewed by elected politicians like Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters and Kamala Harris.  For example, Harris is railing that President Trump’s anticipated choice of a conservative Supreme Court justice to replace Justice Kennedy will “destroy the constitution.”  Come on!

They should know better.  Where are the moderate Democrat leaders?  Why aren’t they calling for civility?  I think and hope that a majority of Americans are as fed up and concerned as I am.  Furthermore, I hope they will make their voices heard in the one place that it matters most – the ballot box in November.

WORLD CUP 2018

Quickly, what is the most popular sport in the world? If you said baseball, basketball or hockey, you would be wrong, not even close. According to a survey conducted by Atlas, the most popular sport, with some 4 billion fans worldwide is soccer, or, as it is commonly called – football.  My friends, that means over one-half of the world’s entire population are fans of the game.  Moreover, it is played by 250 million persons in over 200 countries. Incidentally, cricket is number 2.  Basketball and baseball ranked 7th and 8th, respectively, and (American) football, by most measurements, the most popular American sport, did not even make the top ten.

Why is soccer so popular? There are many theories, however, consider (1) it is easily played on virtually any surface, even a vacant lot or open field; (2) it requires few pieces of equipment, really, just a ball; and (3) it is easy to learn at a young age. For most kids, soccer is the first organized sport to which they are exposed, as early as the age of five (even American kids). Kicking a ball comes naturally to young kids, and they don’t need to have the coordination, size and strength required to play other sports, such as baseball, American football or basketball.

Soccer has been played for a long time. The first international soccer match was between Scotland and England in 1872. It ended in a 0-0 tie. Soccer became part of the Olympics in 1900 as a demonstration sport. It became an official Olympic competition in 1908. The sport’s governing body the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in 1904.

At the present time, the 2018 WC is being contested in Russia to determine the World Champion.  The current tournament, which began on June 14 and will end on July 15 is the 21st and the first to be held in Eastern Europe.  The World Cup Championship has been held every four years since 1930, except for 1942 and 1946.

[Quiz questions: where was the first tournament held and who won?  Which country has won the most titles?  Which player?  See answers below.]

There are 32 teams in the tournament, although there is discussion of expanding it to 40 teams. FIFA has 209 member associations.  Each team consists of 23 players three of which must be goalies. Replacement players are permitted under certain circumstances, such as serious injury, but the procedures for replacing a player are strictly regulated.

The WC consists of two phases. First is the group stage. The 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four each. The host nation’s team receives an automatic bid; the other 31 teams are required to qualify through regional qualifying matches.  This time the US failed to qualify.

Eight teams, the seven highest-rated and the host nation, are seeded. The teams in each group play each other round-robin style. Points are awarded for each match – three for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. The two teams in each group with the most points advance to the knockout round. The knockout round is single elimination.   There are no draws.  If the score is tied at the end of regulation the teams play as many as two extra periods of 15 minutes each.  If it is still tied the winner is determined by a penalty kick shootout.  One loss and you’re out. The two survivors will meet in the final on July 15.

These 32 teams have survived three years of qualifying tournaments, so, in a sense, the World Cup is virtually a continuous event. Almost as soon as one tournament ends the qualifying matches for the next one begin. The World Cup is the most widely watched and followed sporting event with a total audience approaching 30 million (the second being the Olympics). In most competing countries the entire populace gets caught up in the spirit of the tournament. Generally, soccer fans are extremely passionate. They are literally “fanatic” about their team, which becomes a tremendous source of pride and nationalistic spirit.

CONCLUSION

According to FIFA the highest ranked team entering the tournament was Germany, followed by Brazil and Belgium.  But, many other teams are very close in ability and most games very tense, low-scoring affairs.  1-0, 2-1 scores are very common, so upsets are not unusual.  [Do you remember who won in 2014?]  See below.

The US has a lot of work to do to elevate its program.  Failing to even qualify this year was a real shock, but maybe it will serve as a wake-up call for those who run the program.

This tournament is as good as it gets for soccer fans.  Enjoy the games!

Quiz answers:

  1. The first tournament was held in Uruguay, and Uruguay was also the winner.
  2. Brazil has won the most titles – 5.
  3. Pele has won the most individual WCs – 3.
  4. In 2014 Germany won, defeating Argentina 1-0 in the finale.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION AND CHILD SEPARATION

Finally, the Dems may have found an issue they can run on in November.  The economy?  No, it is very robust and improving further.  Consumer confidence is the highest it has been in years.  Unemployment?  No, it has been below 5% for months; and AA, Hispanic and female unemployment are at or near historic lows.  Additionally, Mr. Trump’s policies have created over 3 million jobs in just five months in office.  Terrorism?  No, ISIS has been severely damaged, and NOKO is talking denuclearization, not launching missiles.  Russian collusion?  After 18 months of intense investigation, none has been found.  Instead, what has been unearthed is collusion among Trump-haters to block his election and then, after he won anyway, to undermine his presidency.  Trump’s character?  Need more than that.  More and more voters have come to realize one should evaluate Mr. Trump on what he does, not what he says.  What then?

What the Dems have come up with is immigration, in particular, the visual images of children separated from their parents and kept in cages.  Now, that is an issue they can run on.  They will attempt to portray the GOP as heartless racists and insensitive to the welfare of children.  This, my friends, is pure BS, but, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Let’s get a few things straight right at the outset.

  1. No one wants to see children separated from their parents and kept in cages.  No one.  Not you, not me, not the Dems, not the GOP, not the Administration.  To suggest otherwise is disingenuous, at best, and an outright, intentional lie, at worst.
  2. Name calling, particularly likening people in the Administration to Hitler or Nazis is insulting, irresponsible and inaccurate, and it exacerbates the problem, rather than solves it.  Moreover, it is an insult to the memory of the six million Jews and others whom the Nazis murdered.
  3. The Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy is merely a decision to enforce the laws as passed by Congress over the years.  Under these laws, all cases of illegal entry are required to be referred to the Justice Department, unless asylum is claimed.
  4. The estimated 2,300 children that are being detained in cages have been separated from their parents, because, by law, they are prohibited from being detained with the adults with whom they arrived.  The accompanying adults have been charged with the crime of illegal entry, not the children.
  5. There is no guarantee that the accompanying adults are, in fact, the parents.  It is very common for parents to send their children North in the company of “coyotes,” who are often nothing more than child abusers and/or drug smugglers.  Part of the reason for the separation is to allow DHS and ICE to vet the accompanying adults.
  6. There has been absolutely no evidence that these children have been mistreated in any way, other than the separation itself.  They are being provided with food, medical care and the ability to communicate with their parents.
  7. Children who are US citizens are separated from their parents every day, due to the parents’ incarceration for crimes or demonstrated inability to care for them.  Many enter foster care where there have been reports of abuse.  Some, like Kate Steinle, have been separated permanently by being murdered.  For example, how many children do you suppose were murdered in Chicago just last week?   How many people do you suppose MS-13 has murdered this year?  Those situations are just as bad, yet there has been no outcry from the media or the public.
  8. Many of the most vocal critics, ranging from politicians to media types to talk show hosts are just adding to the noise.  They are part of the problem, not the solution.  Their aim is to win votes or boost ratings or just hear themselves talk.  There has been too much misstatement of the facts, misleading information, blather and bloviating, and not enough substantive discourse.
  9. And, most importantly, in my view, no one has put forth a meaningful solution.

All that said, yesterday Mr. Trump relented to the intense pressure and criticism regarding separation and signed an Executive Order to cease the practice.  Predictably, many of his critics were not satisfied, for example:

  1. The New York Times denoted that the courts will likely strike down his order as it contradicts a 1997 consent decree (the Flores settlement) that prohibits the detention of immigrant children for more than 20 days, even if they are with their parents.  If that were to happen, we would be right back to square one.
  2. Furthermore, the article stated that the EO does not remedy the plight of the 2,300 or so children who have already been separated.   Their “parents” will remain in federal custody while their status is being determined.  (However, Administration spokesman, Brian Marriott, disagreed with that characterization saying the administrators are “awaiting further guidance [from the White House] on the matter.”)
  3. Critics complain that the EO does not specify where the families will be detained, for how long and under what conditions.   The ACLU’s Lee Gelernt predicted “If they start detaining families and kids in tents or other places I think you will see immediate lawsuits.”  He’s probably right.

As usual, Mr. Trump gets criticized regardless of what he does.  First he gets criticized for promulgating a policy that comports with existing law.  Then, he gets criticized for not resolving the problem that has existed long before he became president and when it is the “do-nothing” Congress that is required to pass laws.  Finally, when he issues an EO consistent with what his critics were demanding he gets criticized as well.  The NYT article pointed out that candidate Trump had criticized President Obama for overuse of EOs and had said he would use them sparingly, implying that he was being hypocritical.

CONCLUSION

As I said, let’s not forget that it is Congress that is responsible for passing laws, not the president.  I don’t know anyone who is satisfied with the immigration laws currently on the books.  Therefore, it is incumbent upon that august body to reach a consensus and pass a law most of us can live with.  Perhaps, our esteemed congresspersons have forgotten that a “consensus” means no one will get everything he or she wants.  Instead, everyone should be satisfied to get some of what they want.

I think both the Dems and the GOP bear some responsibility for the stalemate in Congress, but I am inclined to blame the Dems more.  I don’t think they are really motivated to solve the problem.  As I said, they want to use it as a campaign issue in 2018 and 2020.  For example, just today, Chuck Schumer was quoted as saying he was not inclined to help clean up “Mr. Trump’s mess” by supporting either immigration bill currently under consideration by Congress.  The GOP will need his and other Dems’ support as both bills face an uphill battle.  That, my friends, illustrates the problem in a nutshell.

Furthermore, I believe the Dems view the illegals as a future voting bloc.  Their hope is that the Hispanic illegals will be so grateful to them for their support that when they attain citizenship they will vote for them.

As I have said many times, the emotional mischaracterizations, exaggerations and name calling by media pundits, politicians and celebrities is doing nothing to fix the problem.  Rather, it is exacerbating it, as it causes both sides to harden their respective positions.  In many cases, their comments are inane and merely highlight their ignorance and prejudices.  I don’t have to name them.  If you have been watching the news you know who they are.

Finally, my personal opinion on this issue is crystal clear to anyone who has read my previous blogs.  We need secure borders.  We need to curb illegal immigration, particularly with respect to criminals and terrorists.  We need to stop the inflow of drugs.  We need a wall.  Then, we can devise a path for citizenship for the “dreamers.”  (President Trump has proposed each of these points to no avail.)

Anyone who disagrees should look at the social and economic problems of Western European countries, such as England, France and Sweden, many of which have been caused or exacerbated by years of unrestricted immigration.  There is no need to speculate.  The facts are there for anyone who cares to look with an open mind.

In addition, I have no patience for the celebrities and other elites who lecture the rest of us.  They do not understand the real world.    Most of them live in gated communities with 24/7 security and travel around with armed bodyguards.  Their jobs and income are not threatened by cheap labor.  Their children do not attend overcrowded schools.  They and their families are not threatened by MS-13 in the schools and in their communities.  This issue does not impact them like it does the rest of us.  Like I said, if you doubt the veracity of this, read up on the situation in Western Europe.

SUMMER SOLSTICE

In the northern hemisphere, the 2018 summer solstice will occur tomorrow, June 21, at 6:07 am. As most of us 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.

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. The stones do seem to have been placed to align with the sunrise on the date of the ss.

 

      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 June 21 is just another day. 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.

One final thought on the date, it has always seemed counterintuitive 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. Whatever, you do, enjoy the day.