JESSE OWENS

 

Jesse Owens was generally considered to be the best sprinter and long jumper and one of the most famous athletes of his time.  He won countless awards, trophies and championships.  In 1935, at the Big Ten collegiate track and field championships he set three world records and tied a fourth all within a span of 45 minutes, a remarkable achievement.  Furthermore, in 2000 a panel of experts at ESPN ranked him as the 6th best athlete of the 20th Century.

That said, his most remarkable performances came at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.   Those games were very significant and controversial not only athletically, but also politically and socially.  As most of you know, 1936 was a time of considerable turmoil in the world.  America was still in the grips of the Great Depression; racism and anti-Semitism were alive and well; Nazism was on the rise in Germany; and war was in the air in Europe.  The Nazis were intent on using the Olympics to display Aryan supremacy to the world.  But, Jesse single-handedly dashed any pretense at Aryan athletic supremacy.  He won gold medals in the 100 and 200 meter dashes, the long jump and the 4X100 meter relay.  An interesting footnote: one of the sprinters he beat in the 200 was Mack Robinson, the older brother of Jackie Robinson.  Yes, THAT Jackie Robinson.

James Cleveland Owens was born on September 12, 1913 in Oakville, Alabama, the youngest of ten children.  He was nicknamed JC.  His parents were sharecroppers.   When he was nine his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio (part of the so-called Great Migration of southern blacks seeking a better life up North).   Supposedly, when his teacher asked him his name on the first day of school due to his heavy southern accent his “JC” sounded to her like “Jesse,” and the moniker “stuck.”  He was “Jesse” from then on.

He was a track star in high school and at Ohio State.  Known as the “Buckeye Bullet,” he  won eight individual NCAA championships in his two years there.  For some reason, he did not have a scholarship, so he worked his way through school.  He made the 1936 US Olympic team as a sprinter and long jumper.  Also, on the team were two Jewish sprinters, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller.  More on them later.

The Games were marred by two controversies, which still resonate today.

  1.  Hitler appeared to snub Jesse intentionally.  Briefly, it was his custom to congratulate each gold medal winner personally with a handshake.  It was reported at the time that Hitler deliberately left the stadium early to avoid congratulating Jesse.  Given Hitler’s well-known views towards blacks, this was very believable.  Albert Speer, a well-known Hitler intimate, had shamelessly denoted that Hitler had said of blacks: “[their] antecedents came from the jungle [and were] primitive.  Their physiques were [naturally] stronger than those of civilized whites and hence [they] should be excluded from the Games.”  On the other hand, it should be noted that at the time Jesse, himself, had said that as he passed by Hitler’s box , he “waived at me and I waived back.”   Owens always maintained that “Hitler didn’t snub me.  It was [FDR] who snubbed me.  The president didn’t even send me a telegram.”  Also, in 1936 the Baltimore Sun reported that Hitler sent Owens a commemorative inscribed photograph of himself.  Then, in 2009 Siegfried Mischner, a German journalist, claimed he had seen a photograph that Jesse carried around of Hitler shaking his hand.  In addition, in 2014 a highly decorated British fighter pilot named Eric Brown stated in a BBC documentary that he actually witnessed Hitler shaking Owens’ hand and congratulating him.  So, there are two sides to this story.  You can decide for yourself.
  2. Perhaps, more significant was the treatment of the aforementioned Messrs. Glickman and Stoller.  Glickman was a football and track star from Syracuse University.  Stoller was a track star at Michigan.  They had earned the right to run in the 4X100 relay.  Yet, on the day of the race US track and field coaches informed them that they would be replaced by Owens and Ralph Metcalfe.  Supposedly, the coaches were concerned that the Germans would be adding two world class runners to their relay team that they had been hiding.  Nobody was fooled by this sham.  World class athletes had been competing against eachother for years.  They all knew eachother.  Glickman supposedly said “Coach, you can’t hide world class sprinters.”   When Owens told the coaches to “let Marty and Sam run.  They deserve it,” the coach retorted “you’ll do as your told.”   The American team won handily, so, Glickman and Stoller were deprived of running and winning a gold medal.  Obviously, the US Olympic officials, led by Avery Brundage, replaced them so as not to embarrass Hitler by having two Jews win a gold medal.  Years later, Glickman said he was able to find out that  Joseph Goebbels had told Brundage that Hitler “would be very displeased if Jews were to race in ‘his’ Olympic Games,” and Brundage took it upon himself to order the coaches to replace Glickman and Stoller.  This was an early example of Brundage’s callous attitude toward Jews (See the 1972 games in Munich.).
CONCLUSION
After the Olympics, Stoller continued to run track in college.  He dominated the 1937 season and was named an “All-American.”  After college, he became an entertainer.  He acted and sang in several movies with modest success.  He became known as “Singin Sammy Stoller.”  He died in 1985 at the age of 69.
Glickman graduated college in 1939.   After brief careers in both professional basketball and football, he went into sports broadcasting.  He enjoyed a long and distinguished career, becoming one of the most versatile and accomplished broadcasters ever.  He became the voices of the NY Knicks (His signature “call” when a Knicks player made a basket was goooood! like Nedicks!) and NY Football Giants.  At various times he also broadcast NY Rangers games, major league baseball, college wrestling, roller derby, track meets and, believe it or not, marbles. He did it all.  Furthermore, he was a mentor to many accomplished announcers, such as Marv Albert, Spencer Ross and Johnny Most (the longtime Boston Celtics announcer). He is a member of the announcers wing of the Basketball Hall of Fame.  Glickman died in 2001 at the age of 83.
In 1998 Glickman and Stoller got the last laugh on Brundage, etal.  The then-president of the US Olympic Committee, William Hybl, presented them with a commemorative plaque “in lieu of the gold medals.”
Unfortunately, Owens’ later life was not so glamorous or successful.  At first, he was able to capitalize on his fame with some commercial opportunities.  But, when he skipped a post-Olympic tour the US athletic poohbahs became irate and stripped him of his amateur status, effectively ending his track career.   Thereafter, he bounced around trying this and that.  Occasionally, he would race against horses, but nothing clicked and he went bankrupt.  Finally, the US appointed him as a goodwill ambassador, and his fortunes improved.  Sadly, he contracted cancer and died in 1979 at the age of 66.
Owens’ story, focusing on the 1936 Olympics, is being depicted in the movie,”Race,” now playing nationally.  I have seen the movie.  It is a fairly accurate portrayal.  I recommend it.
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UNCLE OSCAR

“He looks just like my Uncle Oscar!”  So said Margaret Herrick, the Executive Secretary of the Academy in 1931 when she first laid eyes on the statuette.  Fortuitously, columnist Sidney Skolsky was within earshot.  He memorialized the comment by including it in his byline, and the moniker “stuck.”  To be sure, that sourcing is not universally accepted.  For example, according to one of Bette Davis’ biographies, she named the statue after her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson.  However, the Herrick story sounds like the most plausible, so I am going with it.  In any event, the Academy adopted the name officially in 1939.

The Academy Awards, aka the Oscars, is hosted annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  The winners of AAs are selected by the Academy’s membership.  It is the oldest and most prestigious of the awards.  This year’s awards will be presented on Sunday, February 28 .  The host will be Chris Rock.

Some little-known facts about the awards:

  1. The initial awards were presented in 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel before an audience of approximately 270 persons.  This year, by contrast, the awards will be televised and streamed live to approximately 40 million people around the globe.  Moreover, as has been customary, they will be preceded by a elaborate ceremony, which will feature celebrities parading before their fans, the media, and a television audience on the “Red Carpet.”
  2. In 1929 the award winners, 15 in all, were disclosed to the media three months ahead of time.  For a few years, beginning in 1930, the winners were disclosed the night before.  Since 1941, however, the identitities of the winners have been sealed in envelopes and guarded like the proverbial “crown jewels” until they are disclosed at the ceremony.
  3. Since 1950 the ownership of the statuettes has not been unencumbered.  Legally, neither the winners nor their heirs are free to sell them on the open market without first offering them back to the Academy for $1.  Their value on the open market would be substantial.  For example, a few years ago, a pre-1950 statuette sold via on-line auction for $861,542.
  4. The voting membership of the academy is approximately 5,800, roughly 94% Caucasian, 77% male, and 54% over the  age of 60. More on that later.
  5. In order to be eligible for the Best Picture Award, a film must be a minimum of 40 minutes long and must have opened in LA County by December 31 of the previous year.
  6. Other than Best Picture, only the members of each branch vote for the nominees in that category.  For example, only directors nominate candidates for Best Director. The entire membership votes for the winners, as well as for Best Picture.
  7. For many years, the awards were presented in late March or early April.  Beginning in 2004, however, they were moved up to late February or early March.  The major reason for this was to shorten the intense lobbying and advertising campaigns of the Oscar season, which had become excessive.  In addition, the late February-early March period is devoid of competing extravaganzas, such as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in late March, which has grown very popular.  ABC, which televises the event, receives an additional benefit in that February is a “sweeps” month.

From time to time, some critics have accused the Academy of bias, for example:

  1. Favoritism toward romantic dramas, historical epics, family melodramas, and historical biographies (Shakespeare in Love, Chariots of Fire, the Best Years of Our Lives, Annie Hall) at the expense of action films or sports films.  Often, these so-called “Oscar-bait” movies have won at the expense of more popular films such as Star Wars, Goodfellas, Hoosiers and Raging Bull.  I have long felt that there has, at times, been a disconnect between the Academy voters and the general audience.
  2. Sentiment has, sometimes, led to awards for popular entertainers or those who have been denied in the past.  Also, some awards have been given more for a distinguished career than for the most recent individual performance.  One example would be John Wayne winning for his performance in “True Grit” in 1969.  Wayne had been one of the most popular performers for three decades, but he had never won an Oscar.
  3. This year, the absence of nominations such as “Straight Outta Compton”for Best Picture and Will Smith for Best Actor in “Concussion” have resulted in accusations of racial bias.  Critics have denoted the composition of the voting membership, as noted above, as being problematic.  I’m not sure.  Through the years there have occasionally been curious snubs, such as Eddie Murphy being passed over (in favor of Alan Arkin) for his superb performance in “Dreamgirls.”  I did not see “Compton,”so I can’t comment on that.  Smith’s performance was worthy of a nomination (although, which nominee would he replace?).  However, I don’t believe those omissions are cause for protests and boycotts.  I am definitely not in favor of a quota for nominations of minorities.  As long as the nominations and Oscar voting are subjective, there will always be some that are overlooked.  Our society is too PC as it is.  Part of life is dealing with disappointments.

I would like to denote few puzzling choices for Best Picture in past years, cases in which the winning picture was soon forgotten and an also-ran or two became a classic or at least substantially more popular or memorable.  For example:

a.  1977 – “Annie Hall” beat “Star Wars.”  Unless you’re a big Woody Allen fan chances are you don’t remember “Annie Hall;”  “Star Wars” was a mega-hit and spawned several sequels as well as ancillaries such as toys and games.

b.  1941 – “How Green Was My Valley” beat “Citizen Kane.”  “Valley” has been long forgotten, and “Kane” is on many people’s short list of the best movies ever.

c.   1990 – “Dances with Wolves” beat “Goodfellas.”   I saw “Dances.” It was a nice movie, but “Goodfellas” is a classic gangster film with an all-star cast (DeNiro, Pesce, Liotta) and is on tv frequently.

d.  1940 – “Rebecca” beat “The Grapes of Wrath,” a powerful drama about the Depression-era California migrant workers starring Henry Fonda, among others.

e.  1998- “Shakespeare in Love” beat “Saving Private Ryan.”  “Shakespeare” was soon forgotten and is now no more than the answer to a trivia question, whereas “Ryan” was a classic WWII movie with an all-star cast headed by Tom Hanks and Matt Damon).  Who can ever forget the classic D-Day landing scene?

f.  1946 – “The Best Years of Our Lives,” which few recall and is never on tv, beat “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which is a Christmas classic starring Jimmy Stewart and which is on tv annually.

I could go on.  In fact, I could write an entire blog on just this sub-topic, but you get the idea.

CONCLUSION

Finally, I know you are all anxiously awaiting my predictions, so here they are:

Best Picture – “The Revenant” with honorable mention to “Spotlight.”

Best Actor – Eddie Redmayne – “Danish Girl.”  A long shot, but I thought his performance slightly edged out those of Di Caprio and Cranston.  Di Caprio will likely win.  There is some sentiment for him as he has had many outstanding performances throughout his career.

Best Actress – Brie Larson – “Room,” although I will be rooting for Jennifer Lawrence (“Joy”).

Best Supporting Actor – Sylvester Stallone (“Creed”).  Not known for his acting ability, but was outstanding in this role.

Best Supporting Actress – Alicia Vikander – “Danish Girl,” although honorable mention to Jennifer Jason Leigh – “Hateful 8.”

Enjoy the awards show as well as the “Red Carpet,” although I strongly recommend using a DVR to get through the many “dead spots.”

ANTONIN SCALIA

As you undoubtedly know by now, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly during the night of February 12.  The circumstances of his death were unclear.   He was in a remote area of Texas; he was not in the company of a physician, federal marshals, or any other witnesses; his death was pronounced as being due to “natural causes” (whatever that is) by a justice of the peace over the telephone; the JP did not physically examine the body; and, at the request of the family, no autopsy was performed.  Although all of this is legal under Texas law, Mr. Scalia’s prominence raises questions, which will likely never be resolved satisfactorily.  Anyone who has seen CSI on tv is aware that there are many ways to murder someone and make it appear “natural.”  The conspiracy theorists will have a “ball” for years to come.

That said, the focus is now on selecting his replacement.  Scalia was a staunch conservative, a so-called “strict constructionalist.”  He favored what is known as “originalism,” that is, when interpreting the constitution one should consider the meaning of the words as they were at the time they were written.  He generally rejected the progressive view of a living, breathing constitution that is continually evolving over time.   Scalia’s passing gives President Obama a chance to tilt the court toward the progressive point of view.

Clearly, under the constitution President Obama is entitled to nominate whomever he wants whenever he wants.  In turn, the Senate is entitled to provide “advice and consent.”  Normally, approval would be by a simple majority, but one side or the other can filibuster, in which case it would take 60 votes.   This is an example of the system of checks and balances that is an invaluable cornerstone of our system of government.  Unfortunately, in cases such as this it raises  the possibility of a stymie.

Predictably, the politicians are lining up along party lines.  Dems, such as Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Charles Schumer are insisting on selecting a replacement immediately.  Republicans such as Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio favor waiting until after the inauguration.   All of them, as well as others, can and will spin it any way they want, but we all know that the Dems want President Obama to nominate a liberal before he leaves office, while the Repubs want to wait until next year when, they hope, a Repub president will be able to nominate a conservative.  Everyone realizes that the next justice would likely swing the ideology of the court one way or the other, possibly for many years to come.  Ho hum, politics as usual.

So, what happens when there is a vacancy?  Can the Court still function?  It is not an ideal situation, but it can and has in the past.  Essentially, there are three choices:

  1. Let the lower court’s decision stand but without the gravitas of a Supreme Court precedent.
  2. Defer a vote until such time as a replacement has been seated.
  3. Decide cases in which the vote is not 4-4, and see choice 1 or 2 for those that are.

This is not the first time a justice has died this close to an election when the Senate was under the control of the opposition party.  So, how have the other cases worked out?  The answer is, it depends.  Consider:

  1.  Since 1945, 13 of the 30 nominations that were approved, 43 percent, occurred when the opposing party controlled the Senate, but most of those were not during an election year.   Some election year examples would be Louis Brandeis and Anthony Kennedy.  So, it can be done.
  2. Further back, in 1828 Justice Robert Trimble died during a hotly contested election between incumbent John Quincy Adams and challenger Andrew Jackson.  After the election, the Senate approved Jackson appointee John Crittenden.
  3. Perhaps, the situation that parallels the current one most closely occurred in 1844 when Justice Henry Baldwin died during the election campaign between incumbent John Tyler and challenger James Polk.  At the time, the relationship between Tyler and the Senate was very contentious (like now).  Eight Tyler nominees failed to be approved.  Finally, after two years Polk was able to get a nominee approved.

CONCLUSION

Historically, there have been many examples of Presidential nominees being both delayed and approved due to different circumstances.  In my opinion, President Obama’s best chance for getting Senate approval would be to nominate centrists with impeccable credentials  who would be acceptable to a broad spectrum of Senators.  Then, if they are not approved he can rightfully blame the GOP for delaying.  If he nominates hardcore liberals with little chance of approval, you know he is more intent on making a political statement than appointing a justice.

Let the political games begin.

 

TRUMAN VS DEWEY 1948

DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN!  So said the huge headline of the Chicago Tribune on November 3, 1948, a headline that was to become arguably the most erroneous, embarrassing and infamous newspaper headline in political history.  More on this later.

The second of my series of historically significant and controversial presidential elections was the contest between President Harry S. Truman and NY Governor Thomas E. Dewey in 1948.  This election was, without a doubt, the biggest presidential election upset in history.  From the very beginning of the campaign and right up to Election Day virtually every political commentator and analyst and all the pollsters projected Dewey as the winner.  As we will see, all the “experts” were wrong.

Dewey was the sitting governor of NY and the acknowledged head of the progressive/moderate wing of the GOP.  Dewey rose to prominence in the 1930s when, as a special prosecutor in NYC, he vigorously and relentlessly pursued various heads of organized crime.  The pinnacle of his success came in 1936 when he successfully prosecuted Lucky Luciano, the head of the Mafia.  Moreover, he was hot on the trail of Luciano’s key lieutenant, Dutch Schultz, when Schultz was murdered (presumably by the Mob to silence him).  In 1942 he was elected governor of NY and was re-elected in 1946.  In 1944 the GOP had nominated him for president, but he lost to FDR.  The GOP nominated him again in 1948, although not before he fended off brief challenges from Robert Taft, Earl Warren, Douglas MacArthur and Arthur Vandenberg.  In addition, there was a grassroots movement to “draft” war hero Dwight Eisenhower.  That fizzled when Ike declined, stating that soldiers should stay out of politics.  (Apparently, four years later he changed his mind.)

Truman had owned a haberdashery in Kansas City, Missouri when he decided to enter politics.  (For bonus points, what does Truman’s middle initial stand for? See below.)  After serving as a county official, he was elected to the US Senate in 1935.  He rose to prominence in the early 1940s when he served as chairman of what became known as the Truman Committee, which successfully exposed and rooted out corruption, waste and fraud in the Federal Government’s wartime industrial contracts.  This so impressed FDR and his advisors, that when they were looking to replace VP Henry Wallace on the ticket in 1944 they chose him.  This was viewed as a critical choice.  Since FDR was generally not expected to survive the entire upcoming term, there was an excellent chance that his running mate would turn out to be his successor as president.   FDR did, in fact, die in April 1945, after which Truman ascended to the presidency. In 1948 Truman was seeking election in his own right.

Truman’s campaign ran into trouble right away.  Truman was not popular, even within his own party.  Many believe he only won the nomination because the Dem party leaders could not find anyone better.  (They also approached Ike, who declined, making him, as far as I know, the only candidate to have declined to run for each of the major parties in the same election cycle.)   The dissatisfied far left and far right wings of the Party each nominated their own candidates, Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond, respectively, who figured to siphon off votes from Truman.  In particular, the far right “Dixicrats” were a major threat to derail the Dems in the southern states, which were crucial to a Dem victory.

No wonder everyone thought Dewey was a sure winner.

CONCLUSION

So how and why did Truman win?   Why was it such a huge shock?  In my opinion, it was a  combination of Dewey’s mistakes, Truman’s strong campaign and inaccurate polling.  For instance:

  1. Dewey ran a very tepid campaign, focusing on avoiding mistakes.  His speeches were laughingly vague.  He avoided discussing the major issues, such as communist expansion and the economy and how he would deal with them.  He uttered meaningless platitudes, such as “your future is still ahead of you.”  (Maybe Yogi Berra was his speech writer.)  This strategy,  the sports equivalent of “running out the clock” or “freezing the ball,” rarely, if ever, works in sports or politics.
  2. On the other hand, Truman was very aggressive.  Having nothing to lose, he came out swinging.  He ridiculed Dewey.  He labeled the GOP-controlled Congress as the “do-nothing Congress.”  At times, his campaign stops turned raucous, with people shouting out encouragement, such as “give ’em hell, Harry.”  Dewey failed to respond to any of these attacks.
  3. The polling was inaccurate.  In particular, pollsters failed to recognize Truman’s late surge because they did not continue to poll right up through Election Day.  According to the Gallup polls, Truman had narrowed Dewey’s lead from 17 points in mid-September to five points by the end of October, which was within the margin for error.  Roper suspended polling in early September.  Many columnists, including the renowned Joseph Alsop, Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson, among others, wrote their post election analyses weeks before the election.
  4. Even Truman must have had doubts.  Rather than watch the election returns with his staff he sneaked away from reporters.  He went to the Elms Hotel in Excelsior Springs, MO where he treated himself to a Turkish bath and dinner and went to bed early.
  5. Even when Truman took an early lead on election night pundits, refused to believe he could win, predicting a late Dewey surge.  The Chicago Tribune’s mistake was not the only embarrassing error, but because of the famous picture of Truman holding up the headline the next day, it’s just the one we remember.
  6. Truman won several states, such as Ohio, California and Illinois, by less than one percent, so just a few switched votes here and there would have swung the election to Dewey.

The pollsters learned their lesson.  Since that election, they have continued to poll right up to the end.

That election changed the course of history.  Historians generally rate Truman as one of the best presidents.  Had Dewey won, we can only speculate as to how he would have handled the major issues of the day, such as communist expansion and civil rights.  Would there have been a Marshall Plan which helped rebuild a Europe devastated by WWII and checked communist expansion?  Would Ike have run in 1952?  What of Nixon , JFK and all the others who followed?  We will never know, which is what makes it so intriguing.

Note: Truman had no middle name, just the initial “S.”

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE

What do Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have in common, besides the obvious fact of having won their respective party’s New Hampshire primary last night?    Bernie is an avowed Socialist; Trump is …. well, Trump.  Their political philosophies could not be more different.  The answer is that they are both anti-establishment, anti-politician, anti-Washington candidates who have successfully tapped into the anger and frustration of the voters.  As I have been saying, the voters are fed up and want a change.  Their prevailing attitude is “the current government is not working.  Throw them all out and start over.”

NH has been holding presidential primaries since 1916. The state’s primary process has some interesting quirks.  For instance:

(1) NH state law mandates that it shall be the first primary of the season.  The official date is March 2, but the law directs the Secretary of State to change the date, as needed, to ensure that the primary is held at least seven days before any “similar election” in another state.  Note: the Iowa caucuses are not considered to be a “similar election” for this purpose.  Thus, the NH primary is held on different dates, as needed to be the first.

(2)  The primary is an open primary (sort of).  So-called “undeclared voters,” those who are not registered with any party may vote in either party’s primary.  But, in order to vote, one must have a party affiliation.  So, just prior to voting in the primary, the voter must register with that party.  Immediately following the vote, the voter may revoke his registration and return to the status of “undeclared.”  This process is not as confusing as it may sound.  This process adds a degree of unpredictability to the voting, particularly in years when one party’s primary is open and shut and the other is contested.

The NH primary began to achieve significance in 1952.  That year, going in, the GOP favorite was “Mr. Republican,” Robert Taft.  Dwight Eisenhower was merely a famous war hero with an unproven record as a politician and vote getter.  Ike beat him.  On the Dem side, Estes Kefauver defeated sitting President, Harry Truman (causing Truman to abandon his hopes for a second term).  Thus, was the significance of the NH primary, as being small in numbers but large in impact, established.  There have been other surprises, such as Eugene McCarthy losing very narrowly to sitting President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 (causing Johnson not to seek re-election).  On the other hand, there have been some forgettable winners, such as Leonard Wood (1920), Harold Stassen (1948), and Paul Tsongas (1992).  Yup.  NH is known as the state where candidacies go to die.

Last night’s results in NH will keep the “spin doctors” busy.  Thus, a candidate can “win” by losing more closely than anticipated.  Conversely, if a favorite does not win by a large enough margin he can be portrayed as having “lost.”  Thus, winners become losers and vice versa.  Confused?  You are not the only one.  Welcome to “politics, American style.”

Not to diminish Sanders’ resounding victory, 60 percent to 38, but I also see it as a referendum against Hillary Clinton and what she stands for.  How much of it was pro-Sanders and how much was anti-Hillary is anybody’s guess.  Time will tell.  So far, predictions in this year’s Presidential election have been as accurate as predicting the weather, i.e. not so good.

On the GOP side, things became more muddled, if possible.  Trump dominated the field with 35 percent, but after that things became more complicated.  Kasich surprised by running second with 16 percent, which boosted his campaign, but remember he had ignored Iowa to focus on NH.  The other surprise was Rubio, who seemed to have momentum coming out of Iowa, finishing in an also-ran group with Cruz and Bush.  Perhaps, he was hurt by a poor performance in Saturday’s debate.  He should do better in the upcoming contests.

CONCLUSION

All the “experts” have been severely underestimating Sanders from the outset.  He was supposed to have faded long before now.  He continues to astound and confound.  Perhaps, he will finally fizzle in South Carolina and Nevada where the voting constituencies are more diverse.  Perhaps, he will surprise again.  Either way, I expect him to stay in the race, accumulating delegates, for the foreseeable future.  I think he realizes that in this wild and wacky year anything can happen.  For example, Clinton might be indicted and have to drop out; Biden might not run; the rest of the Dem field is extremely “thin;” Bloomberg may enter the race as a third party candidate; or, even if none of those events occurs, Sanders may accumulate enough delegates to become a strong influence at the convention.  Sanders’ prospects have improved from “no way” to “long shot.”

On the GOP side, Trump has the establishment worried, to say the least.  They are cringing at the prospect of him winning the nomination.  Unfortunately, all the best moderate candidates – Rubio, Kasich and Bush – continue to cancel each other out.  Kasich’s strong second in NH has muddied the waters further.  Cruz has the conservative wing to himself.  I expect that one of the moderates will eventually emerge to make it a three-man race.  Trump, Cruz and one of them will be in it to the end.  Perhaps, the GOP will end up with an old-fashioned brokered convention.  “Smoke-filled room” anyone?

SUN LADIES

As we know, ISIS has been terrorizing the world for several years now, especially in the Middle East where they have established a Caliphate.  ISIS’s brutality against women has been particularly egregious  – rapes, murders, enforced marriages, sex slavery.   Those who were too young, old or infirmed to be “useful” were simply murdered.  Talk about a war on women!

That said, it was particularly heart-warming to me to learn about the “Sun Ladies.”   Who are the “Sun Ladies?”  Well, I can tell you what they are NOT.  They are most definitely not women who spend their days relaxing at the beach sipping Mai Tais.  No, the SL are former Yazidi female captives of ISIS who have escaped and have now joined the fight against their former captives.  Literally.

The name, “Sun Ladies,” is an homage to the Yazidi culture.  Approximately, 2,000 Yazidi women managed to escape captivity during the coalition’s bombing of ISIS strongholds on Mt. Sinjar, where they were being imprisoned.  Hundreds of them have enlisted to fight.  Most of them are still in training, but some 100 of them have already formed an all-female battalion and joined forces with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.   They are not only eager for revenge, but also to free thousands still being held.  Since mid-November they have been fighting alongside the Peshmerga in small battles, but they, and everyone else, realize the definitive battle will be for Mosul.  Mosul is ISIS’s primary base in the area and is also where many Yazidis are still being imprisoned.

These SL are primed for battle.  Listen to Captain Khatoon Khider: “Whenever a war wages, our women end up as the victims.  [In the camps, imprisoned] women were throwing their children from the mountains and then jumping themselves because it was a faster way to die.”  Another former captive tells of a mother who was prohibited from breast-feeding her newborn.  When the baby continued to cry, the terrorist beheaded it.  Another former captive, Nadia Taha, is fighting for her enslaved countrywomen in a different way.  Taha, who was repeatedly raped and beaten before escaping, has addressed politicians in several countries as well as the UN, imploring them to take action against ISIS.

Who are the Yazidi?  ISIS dismisses them derogatorily as “devil worshippers,” but that is inaccurate.  The Yazidi are a distinct ethno-religious people numbering approximately 500,000 who live mostly in Northern Iraq.  Some also live in Syria, Germany, Russia and elsewhere in Europe.  They have their own culture and religion.  They believe in one God, but one that is different from that worshipped by Christians, Jews or Muslims.  The Yazidi faith has some similarities to Christianity and Islam as well as other ancient religions.  They are often mistaken for Kurds, but they consider themselves to be distinct from them.  In fact, many of them consider the Kurds to be an offshoot of Yazidism.

CONCLUSION

It is heart-warming to see these people fighting back against the evil that is ISIS.  One can only hope that their story will inspire others to join the fray.  However, it is merely a good start; they need considerable help.  The pure evil that is ISIS is everyone’s enemy, and a real “coalition of the willing” is essential for defeating it.

SUPER GOLD

This year is the Golden Anniversary of the Super Bowl.  For those of us of a certain age, who recall the pre-Super Bowl years, how time has flown.

Please celebrate by taking the below quiz.  As always, no peeking at the internet.

  1.  For which college did Cam Newton play?

a.  Alabama

b.  FSU

c.  Auburn

d.  Notre Dame

2. The losing team in the first SB was:

a. Cowboys
b. Raiders
c. Giants
d. Chiefs

3. For which Super Bowl winning team did this year’s Carolina coach, Ron Rivera, play?

a.  Bears

b. 49ers

c.  Patriots

d.  Giants

4. Which city will be hosting this year’s game?

a. Santa Clara
b. San Francisco
c. Los Angeles
d. Phoenix

5. How many Super Bowls have been decided in overtime?

a. 0
b. 1
c. 2
d. 3

6. Which franchise has won the most SBs?

a. Dallas
b. San Francisco
c. Pittsburg
d. New England

7. Each of the following teams is undefeated in SBs except:

a. Jets
b. Ravens
c. Bucs
d. Green Bay

8. The name “Super Bowl” was derived from:

a. College “bowl” games
b. Fan vote
c. Media feedback
d. Child’s toy

9. Who has won the most SB MVPs?

a. Bart Starr
b. Peyton Manning
c. Eli Manning
d. Joe Montana

10. Who was the only MVP from the losing team?

a. Chuck Howley
b. Len Dawson
c. Bruce Smith
d. Icky Woods

11. How many defensive players have been MVP of a SB?

a. Two
b. Five
c. Eight
d. Ten

12. Which of the below franchises has had the most SB appearances?

a. Green Bay
b. San Francisco
c. NY Giants
d. Pittsburg

13. Which of the below networks has not telecast any Super Bowls?

a. ABC
b. CBS
c. Fox
d. ESPN

14. Each of the following has not appeared in a SB, except:

a. Browns
b. Bengals
c. Lions
d. Jaguars

15. Who performed at halftime last year?

a. Beyonce
b. Lady Gaga
c. Usher
d. Katy Perry

16. How many times has a team played the SB in its home stadium?

a. 0
b. 1
c. 2
d. 3

17. Which of the below-listed coaches has the most SB appearances?

a. Vince Lombardi
b. Tom Landry
c. Don Shula
d. Bud Grant

18. Who was the MVP in the first Super Bowl?

a. Paul Hornung
b. Len Dawson
c. Bart Starr
d. Jerry Kramer

19. Which of the following coaches has taken more than one team to a SB?

a. Don Shula
b. Tom Landry
c. Bill Belichek
d. Vince Lombardi

20. Which coach has the most SB wins?

a. Don Shula
b. Tom Landry
c. Mike Shanahan
d. Chuck Noll

21. Which of the below-listed quarterbacks did not win any Super Bowls.

a. Jim Plunkett
b. Dan Marino
c. Joe Namath
d. Terry Bradshaw

22. After whom is the SB trophy named?

a. Pete Rozelle
b. Paul Brown
c. Al Davis
d. Vince Lombardi

23. Which player has won the most SB rings?

a. Adam Vinatieri
b. Charles Haley
c. Terry Bradshaw
d. Bob Lilly

24. Which half-time entertainer became (in)famous for a “wardrobe malfunction?”

a. Beyoncé
b. Janet Jackson
c. Madonna
d. Lady Gaga

25. What marginal player became famous for the “helmet catch” in SBXLII (Giants vs. Pats)?

a. Plaxico Burris
b. Randy Moss
c. David Tyree
d. Bob Schnelker

ANSWERS: 1. c; 2. d; 3. a; 4. a ; 5. a; 6. c; 7. d; 8. d; 9. d(tie with Brady – 3); 10. a (SB V); 11.c; 12. d (Tied with Dallas – 8); 13. d, 14. b; 15. d; 16. a; 17. c (6); 18. c; 19. a; 20. d(4 tie with Belichek); 21. b; 22. d; 23. b(5); 24. b; 25. c

Enjoy this year’s game.  Although the better team, on paper, is Carolina, remember the game is played on the field, not on paper.  The sentimental favorite is Denver, so Peyton Manning can go out on top.

Prediction:  Denver 24; Carolina 20.

IOWA

Finally, after years (That’s right, I said years.) of rhetoric, exaggerated and speculative media coverage and wild analyses and predictions by so-called “experts,” the people have spoken, at least some of them.  It seems like speculation about 2016 began the day after the 2012 election.  Aren’t you tired of it yet?  Enough already!

Okay, what did we learn last night?  In my opinion, a few things, but not much.  The Iowa caucuses have been the first primary since 1972.  In that time they have not always proven to be an accurate predictor of the ultimate winner.  Losers who won the election include Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.  On the other hand, winners who lost the election include Dick Gephardt, Tom Harkin (who?) and Mike Huckabee.  The point is, although it is better to win than to lose, winning Iowa doesn’t guarantee a thing.  Keep in mind, Iowa is not a bellwether state, like, for example. Ohio.  It is a small state with few delegates.  A victory there is symbolic more than anything else.  Clinton earned 23 delegates, and Sanders garnered 21.  Cruz won eight, and Trump and Rubio seven each.   Furthermore, the state is not at all diverse.  It is mostly conservative, heavily religious and has few minorities.

Iowa has used a caucus system since the 19th century.  Years ago, the caucuses were not held as early as they are now, and they had little, if any, impact on the Presidential campaign.  The turning point was in 1968.  That year in Chicago the Dems held what many consider to have been the wildest, most disruptive and violent political convention ever.  In addition, the mayor, Richard Daley, was known to be very unsympathetic to the anti-war movement.   The combination was like pouring gasoline on a fire.  There were numerous clashes between anti-war protesters and the Chicago police.  The violence damaged the Party and may have cost its nominee, Hubert Humphrey, the election.

In the aftermath, there was a groundswell within the Party to open up the delegate selection process, to take it out of the proverbial “smoke-filled rooms” and place it in the hands of the people.  States were encouraged to use primaries to select delegates.  Amid all this reorganization the Iowa Democratic Party moved its caucus to early February, so it could be the first state to vote.

As I said, the 1972 Presidential election was the first one for which the new date was used.  Since then, as the first to vote Iowa has propelled more than a few little-known candidates to national prominence.  George McGovern (1972), Jimmy Carter (1976), and Barack Obama (2004) come to mind.  Julian Zelizer, Carter’s biographer, credits Carter’s success with making the Iowa caucuses the “substantive, multi-media event” it is now.

The results of this year’s caucuses can be interpreted in various ways, and the “spin doctors” will undoubtedly do so.  For example, officially Clinton won the Dem caucus, erasing the bitter taste of her defeat in 2012.  But, Bernie Sanders is claiming that the “virtual dead heat” is really a “victory” for him since he went toe to toe with a better financed, better organized Clinton.  Will Iowa catapult him like it did Carter and Obama?   Anything is possible, but it is highly unlikely.

CONCLUSION

So, back to my earlier question.  What are the takeaways?  What, if anything, did we learn?

  1. Cruz’s narrow victory over Trump represents the first “chink” in Trump’s armor.  Heretofore, he was Mr. Teflon.  Regardless of what he said or did, nothing “stuck” to him.  Everyone has been waiting for him to show vulnerability, and now he has.  Trump will try to spin the results as a good showing, but most polls had him as the favorite.  Now, instead of having the inside track to the nomination he will be in a dogfight with Cruz and Rubio.
  2. Clinton’s narrow win has to be disappointing to her supporters and her.  Bernie was little known at the start of the campaign and underfunded.  Clinton was, and probably still is, the heavy favorite and presumptive nominee.  But now, she, too, has shown some vulnerability.  Many people have dismissed Bernie as a far left wing zealot, and he is, but nevertheless, I think his success in Iowa was an anti-Hillary vote, and Dems should beware.  I still think she will win the nomination, unless she gets indicted, but these results augur trouble for her in the general election.
  3. Even though he came in a close third, I think Rubio was the big winner.  He did much better than the “experts” predicted, and now he has momentum.  He probably has separated himself from the other moderate Republicans.  The candidacies of Bush, Christie, Kasich, Carson and the others have been severely damaged.  Any one of them that does not do well in New Hampshire will likely have to drop out.  Remember the words of William F. Buckley, the arch conservative political commentator, who famously admonished fellow conservatives to (and I paraphrase) support the most conservative candidate with a realistic chance to win.  That describes Rubio.
Unless something unexpected occurs in the next few primaries, the GOP field will soon be a three-man race.  On the Dem side, O’Malley has dropped out (why he was running in the first place was a mystery to me), so we are down to two.  However, as I have said previously, other possible candidates who have heretofore stayed on the sidelines may be more encouraged to jump in, especially if Hillary continues to show vulnerability.
Folks, Iowa was just the appetizer.  The political banquet has a long way to go.