HUNKY-DORY VS REALITY

Okay, both political conventions have concluded, and I have some thoughts, opinions, and conclusions.  I will try to keep this as objective as possible, although my opinions and beliefs may seep through.

  1. In accordance with long-standing tradition both parties sought to unify their members behind the nominee.  Thus, the Dems attempted to placate the Bernie Sanders supporters and Clinton-haters among them, and the GOP tried to bring the conservative wing and Trump-haters into the fold.  Given the historically high negative ratings of both candidates, this will be an ongoing struggle throughout the campaign.  Safe to say, however, that the degree to which each party succeeds or fails in this endeavor will be one of the keys to the election.
  2. For the most part, the myriad of speakers in support of both candidates did well. As expected, the general theme was to praise the nominee and vilify the opposition.  Speculation, rhetoric, half-truths and exaggerations ruled the day.  Only the “Kool-Aid” drinkers believe everything that was said.
  3. It appeared to me that the Dems and GOP seemed to be talking about two different countries, like they are existing in two alternate realities.  According to the GOP things are terrible, as bad as they have been in many, many years.  According to the Dems things are just fine, much better than they were eight years ago.  We are on the right track.  Just give us four more years to complete the job, and everything will be fine.
  4. The GOP says we are and have been at war with ISIS and other radical Islamic terrorist groups whose main goal is, simply, to either convert us or kill us.  They cite, as examples, recent attacks by Muslims in the US and Europe.  They favor more aggressive action.  The Dems say it’s not that bad.  Those radical groups are being contained, if not defeated.  The Dems will not even acknowledge that they are terrorists, will not even speak the phrase “Islamic terrorists.”
  5. The GOP wants to build a Wall to control the flow of immigrants from the south and deport illegals more aggressively.  The Dems want open borders, where anyone who can make it here can stay.  The GOP wants to restrict, temporarily, emigration of Muslims from certain areas, for example, Syria, until they can be vetted thoroughly.  They point to other countries, such as the UK, France, and Germany, that have been having problems with immigrants who entered their countries via the Eurozone’s open borders.  The Dems view them as refugees that should be allowed to enter unfettered and unverified.
  6. The GOP says we in the midst of the worst economic recovery in memory.  The “recovery” is stagnant.  The latest real growth is about 1%.  The average middle class family’s “real” income is lower than it was a decade ago.  In addition to the unemployed, millions more have quit looking for work, and still millions more are underemployed.  The Dems say the economy is much improved over eight years ago, and if the voters would give them four more years they will continue to improve it.
  7. The GOP says Obamacare has not worked and is a financial drain on the middle class.  The Dems denote Obamacare has provided affordable health insurance to millions who, otherwise, would have had none.
  8. The GOP says “political correctness” has gone too far and cite, as an example, Obama’s “bathroom policy.”  The Dems embrace it, and, in fact, want more of it.
  9. The two parties have different opinions on crime and cop killings.  Are guns too easy to acquire?  Are too many cops overzealous in their interactions with AAs or, worse yet, racist?   Are cops being hampered by excessive political correctness?  Is “Black Lives Matter” helping or exacerbating matters?   The answers to these questions are very complex and will not be resolved in this blog, but they are emotion-charged and will play a major part in the election.
  10. The GOP wants to return to capitalism, self-reliance., and smaller government.  The Dems favor big government or even outright socialism.
  11. Perhaps, the most significant issue is that due to death and/or retirement the winner will likely get to nominate as many as five Supreme Court justices, which will have a huge impact on the Court and our lives for many years.

The foregoing are just the major issues, impressions, and conclusions.  They illustrate the vast differences between the two parties.  I could continue and bore you to death, but I think you get the point.

CONCLUSION

Whose vision of America do you believe?  Unlike in many elections, voters will have a real choice.  Most political observers agree that there are very few undecided voters remaining.  Most voters have hardened their positions and believe very strongly in their party’s version of the situation.  It seems as though not much can or will occur that will change their minds.  That is probably true, but the debates may be a critical factor.  They figure to be very heavily watched this cycle.

Also, external factors are always a “wild card.”  For example, many believe that Superstorm Sandy played a pivotal role in Obama’s election in 2012.  This time around some other unforeseen event, such as a disastrous terrorist attack, could have a decisive impact.

So, I ask you the time-worn question:  Are you better off today than you were four years ago?   Do you feel more safe and secure, both on the streets at home and when traveling abroad?   Is your financial situation better or worse?  Do you feel the government is representing you and your desires appropriately?   Do you want a de facto Obama third term?   At the risk of oversimplifying matters, if the answers to those questions are “yes,” you will be inclined to vote for Clinton.  On the other hand, if the answers to those questions are “no,” you will be inclined to vote for Trump.

When formulating your answer, don’t focus on the political rhetoric, personal attacks, half-truths, or outright lies promulgated by the candidates, their campaign organizations, or the less-than-objective media.  As the expression goes, “are you going to believe what you are told or what you see with your own eyes?”

As for me, I hinted at my opinion in the title.  Based on empirical evidence I believe the GOP’s version is considerably closer to reality.   By the way, according to most polls over 70% of Americans believe the country is “on the wrong track.”   Also, history tells us that socialism or an omnipresent government system has not had enduring success anytime, anywhere.   If you can think of an instance when it has, please tell me.

As I write this, according to the average of all major polls Clinton and Trump are in a statistical dead heat, although the Dems can expect a “bounce” from their convention.  Hold on to your hats.  The best (or worst) is yet to come.

Advertisements

PENCE AND KAINE

Pence and Kaine.  Kaine and Pence.  Sounds like a Wall Street law firm, but, as most of you know by now, Mike Pence and Tim Kaine are the vice presidential nominees of the GOP and Dems, respectively.  The conventional wisdom is that Trump selected Pence primarily to placate the GOP’s conservative base and to strengthen the ticket’s appeal to mid-western voters.  I believe that Clinton selected Kaine to appeal to the Dem moderates and “deliver” Virginia in the general election.

In any event, both appear to be “safe,” non-controversial choices.   Both are experienced politicians and well-respected in their respective parties.  Neither could be described as “charismatic.”  Kaine, while being interviewed on Meet the Press, even described himself as “boring.”  Each should be able to fulfill the primary objective of a vp selection – do no harm to the ticket.  Not all of their political positions coincide with those of the presidential nominee, but that is to be expected.  The idea is for the vp to sublimate his opinions to that of the president and support him (or her).  Most political observers know little about these two individuals (as did I), so allow me to edify you a little.

Michael Richard Pence was born on June 7, 1959 in Columbus, Indiana.  He is one of six children.  His father ran a group of gas stations.   His experience includes twelve years as a Congressman and four years as governor of the State of Indiana.  While in the House he served as Republican Conference Chairman, which is the third highest ranking position.  As governor of Indiana he cut the state income tax, eliminated the inheritance tax, maintained the state’s AAA credit rating, reinstituted a minimum ten-year sentence for certain drug crimes, banned certain abortion procedures, supported charter school programs, and opposed resettling Syrian refugees in the state.

His positions on some of the major issues are as follows:

  1. Has spoken out in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood.
  2. Has sought to modify the principle that anyone born in the US is automatically a citizen to requiring that one parent must also be a citizen.  He voted against the DREAM Act, and favors strict laws against hiring illegals and increased border security, such as the Wall.
  3. He has been a proponent of a flat federal tax and has voted against raising the minimum wage.
  4. He supported military action in Iraq, supported the “surge,” and opposed publicizing a date for troop withdrawal from Iraq.
  5. He opposes closing Guantanamo.  He favors trying terrorists by military tribunal as “military combatants” rather than as civilians in the US courts.
  6. He is a strong supporter of Israel, calling it “America’s most cherished ally.”
  7. He opposed the ACA, aka “Obamacare.”
  8. He has opined that it is not clear that global warming is a result of “human activity” and has labeled it a “myth,” stating that the earth is actually cooler than it was 50 years ago.
  9. He is a supporter of free trade, in general, and NAFTA, in particular.
  10. He voted against a bill that banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and does not believe homosexuals should serve in the military.
  11. He opposes President Obama’s directive on transgender bathrooms.
  12. He is a strong advocate of the Patriot Act, characterizing it as “essential” to “the war on terror.”

Timothy Michael Keane was born on February 26, 1958 in St. Paul, MN.  His mother was a teacher, and his father, a welder by trade, owned an iron-working business.  His varied political experience includes Mayor of Richmond, Lt. Governor of VA, Governor of VA, Chair of the Democratic National Committee and US senator.

Some of Tim Keane’s positions on the major issues are as follows:

  1. He supports climate change and global warming initiatives.
  2. He supports Roe v Wade, although he is personally opposed to abortion, and favors banning late term abortions when the mother’s life is not in danger.
  3. He supports same-sex marriage and banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  4. Although generally pro-union he supports Virginia’s “right to work” law.
  5. He supports the US’s nuclear agreement with Iran.
  6. He favors bring our troops home from Afghanistan asap, saying we have achieved our primary mission there.
  7.  He appears not to be as strong a supporter of Israel as some other politicians, favoring a more even-handed approach in the Middle East, similar to President Obama’s.
  8. He favors requiring Congressional approval for military operations against ISIS.
  9. He opposes capital punishment, although, while governor, he presided over a limited number of executions.
  10. He is a gun owner, but he supports increased background checks and restrictions on the sale of certain “combat-style” weapons.
  11. He supports Dodd-Frank and strong regulation of the financial industry.
  12. He favors allowing the so-called “Bush tax cuts” to expire.
  13. He is a supporter of NAFTA but not TPP, at least in its “current form.”
  14. He supports “comprehensive” immigration reform and President Obama’s programs to defer deportation for up to five million undocumented immigrants.
  15. He voted for Obamacare.

CONCLUSION

Despite the foregoing, I believe this race will be all about Clinton and Trump, not their running mates.  I believe that, historically, people have voted based on the presidential candidates, not their running mates.  In my lifetime, the one exception was the 1960 election in which Lyndon Johnson swung the election to JFK by delivering Texas and other southern states where JFK’s support was tepid, at best.

One final thought.  Fourteen vice presidents have acceded to the presidency for one reason or another.  Eight so-called “accidental presidents” became president upon the deaths of the elected president.   In case you’re wondering, they were John Tyler (succeeding William Henry Harrison), Millard Fillmore (Zachary Taylor), Andrew Johnson (Abraham Lincoln), Chester A. Arthur (James Garfield)  Theodore Roosevelt (William McKinley), Calvin Coolidge (Warren Harding), Harry S. Truman (FDR) and Lyndon Johnson (JFK).  Gerald Ford became president upon the resignation of Richard Nixon.  The other five, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush were elected in their own right.

I believe history has shown some of the foregoing vice presidents to be fine presidents, but others were among our worst.  Something to keep in mind, although I think either Pence or Kaine would be suitable should the situation arise.

TV “SITCOM” ICON

The name, Garry Marshall, may not resonate with many of you, but his creations sure will.  For six decades he was one of the most influential and prolific producers, directors, writers and actors in the business, primarily, but not exclusively,  in the genre of the tv “sitcom.”  His most notable creations included the seminal and enduring Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy, and the tv version of the Odd Couple.   In addition to the shows, themselves, he created and developed such iconic characters as the “Fonz” and “Mork” played by Henry Winkler and Robin Williams, respectively.   He provided them with the platforms with which to launch their renowned careers.

Winkler was a little-known struggling actor.  His one notable film credit was The Lords Flatbush, an obscure film most notable, in retrospect, for the screen debuts of Winkler, Sylvester Stallone and Perry King.    Trivia buffs will recall that the “Fonz” was supposed to be a very minor character, but Winkler’s performance transformed it into the iconic character we all remember.  Similarly, Williams was an obscure stand-up comic in the Bay Area.  The success of Mork launched his career.

He also gave an all-but-forgotten childhood actor named Ron Howard, who those of a certain age will remember as “Opie” on the Andy Griffith Show, a chance to resurrect his career.  Howard has since become one of the more successful movie directors of our time.  Among his many “hit” movies are Cocoon, A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon and The Da Vinci Code.  On the silver screen Marshall directed movies such as Pretty Woman, which launched the career of Julia Roberts, Runaway Bride and the Princess Diaries.

Garry Kent Marshall was born on November 13, 1934 in The Bronx, NY.  The original family name was “Masciarelli,” which his father changed to the less ethnic-sounding “Marshall” before Garry was born.  Entertainment was in his blood.  His father was a movie director and producer; his mother ran a tap dancing school; his sister, Penny, is an actress/director in her own right; and his brother Ronny, is a tv producer.  Marshall began his career as a joke writer for the likes of Joey Bishop, Dick Van Dyke, Lucille Ball, and Jack Paar.   Then, as I described above, in the early 1970s he hit his stride with the aforementioned tv “sitcoms,” and, as they say, the rest is history.

Along the way, he met another struggling actor named Hector Elizondo at a pick-up basketball game.  Elizondo recalls that during the game he inadvertently hit Marshall in the face with an errant pass.  The game stopped abruptly while Marshall gathered himself.  Elizondo feared that a physical confrontation was coming, but Marshall said to him:  “I’m Garry Marshall.  This is my court.  You’re a terrific actor,  [but] a lousy passer.  But, I’ve got a movie for you.”  The two became best friends.  Over the years Elizondo has appeared in 18 Garry Marshall films.  Perhaps, he is best known for his role as a stuffy, hotel manager who develops a soft spot for Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman.  Elizondo claims, perhaps, jokingly, perhaps, not, that  he was written into all of Marshall’s contracts “whether he wanted to [actually] do the movie or not.”  That definitely sounds like Marshall.

Marshall’s acting career included various tv and movie roles.  For example, in the mid-1950s he had a recurring role on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show as a child.  Some of his other tv credits included Murphy Brown, and Happy Days (as a drummer).  In the movies, he was in Soapdish, On the Lot, and provided a voiceover in two Simpsons movies.  But, my personal favorite of his movie roles was that of Walter Harvey, the candy magnate and baseball mogul in League of Their Own, starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna and directed by his sister, Penny. (The Harvey character was loosely based on Philip Wrigley, chewing gum magnate and long-time owner of the Chicago Cubs.)

CONCLUSION

Marshall has been the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of his work.  For example, he received the Women in Film Award in recognition for his role in enhancing the role of women in tv and the Laurel Award for tv writing.  In addition, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1997, and he has a “star” on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Personally, I would like to salute Marshall for entertaining us down through the years.  His funny and sometimes politically incorrect shows helped us to laugh at ourselves, a trait that seems to be largely absent from our culture today.

Rest in peace Garry.  We will miss you.

 

 

“SOFT” TARGET TERRORISM

I think all sane people can agree that terrorism is horrific beyond words, particularly when it is indiscriminate and random.  At this point, most of us that are objective about it realize who the main perpetrators are and are cognizant of their twisted motivations.  The US government’s response to these despicable acts are a matter of record.  Each of you can decide for yourself whether or not you agree or disagree with current US policy and how to resolve the situation.  The purpose of this blog is not to re-debate those matters.  In my opinion, that would be a waste of time as most people appear to have hardened their positions, and are resistant to change.

Rather, I want to discuss a new and disturbing development.   As I have feared and predicted, terrorists have begun attacking “soft” targets, such as schools, shopping malls, and places of worship, among others – e.g. a school in Connecticut, a nightclub in Orlando, a pedestrian promenade in Nice.   Yes, a  successful attack on a high profile venue, such as the Super Bowl game or Times Square on New Year’s Eve, would result in more physical damage and produce substantial bragging rights, but these venues are so well protected that the chances of success are remote.  Indeed, it’s safe to say terrorists have tried many times with no success.   On the other hand, it can be argued that a successful attack on a “soft” target, that has minimal or no security, can be far more damaging psychologically and emotionally.

Those attacks tear at the very root of our daily lives.  Most of us will never go to a Super Bowl or Times Square on NYE, so we can tell ourselves that as horrific as those attacks were, they happened to “other” people.  But, most all of us have sent our kids off to school, shopped at malls, and walked down a busy boulevard without a second thought.  When we send our kids to school every day, we expect that they will return home at the end of the day safe and untraumatized; when our wives go to the mall, our biggest fear should be that they will spend too much, not that they will be murdered in a terrorist attack; and when we go on vacation we expect to relax and have a good time, not have to keep “looking over our shoulder” or be victimized in a random attack.  Yet, this is rapidly becoming the new reality.

Among the nearly 100 anonymous dead in Nice were two Americans from Texas – Sean Copeland and his son,  Brodie.   They are not anonymous to us, nor should they be.  They were real people, with a family, friends and real lives, which were snuffed out randomly, carelessly and prematurely.  Any one of us could have been them.  Sean was a corporate executive.  Brodie was a typical fifth grader who liked baseball and acting.  They were just normal, everyday people like you and me, whose only “crime” was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  They were enjoying a European vacation, celebrating the birthdays of two other family members.  They had just been in Spain where they had witnessed the famed “running of the bulls” in Pamplona.  Now, they were enjoying the Bastille Day celebration on a beautiful, peaceful boulevard in Nice.  Who would have thought that the latter would turn out to be more dangerous than the former?   The sheer randomness of this whole thing is sickening, but that is the state of the world now.

CONCLUSION

There are signs that some countries have finally had enough and are advocating aggressive action.  As we know, a significant chunk of Americans want to take tighter control of our borders and initiate stronger vetting of immigrants and refugees from certain areas.  This idea has been ridiculed by some, but with each terrorist attack, it looks increasingly attractive.

The Brexit vote in the UK was primarily about controlling immigration, rather than economics.  France has been subjected to more than its fair share of terrorism, and its  political leaders are speaking out.  Premier Holland has “declare[d] war” on “radical Islam.”  French Prime Minister Manuel Vallis vowed his country will take “exceptional measures” to combat terrorism.  It remains to be seen what these “exceptional measures” will be, but one possibility under discussion is a “national indignity” law, which essentially would strip those who commit a terrorist act of various civil and political rights.

Political leaders in other smaller countries, such as Poland, Slovenia and Hungary have also been speaking out.  These low-population, low-GDP EU members are very concerned that they will be overwhelmed economically, culturally and socially by the result of the EU’s current lax illegal immigration policies.  Regarding terror attacks, in general, and the Nice terror attack, in particular, Hungarian Cabinet Office chief Antal Rogan opined that “illegal immigration and terrorism go hand in hand.”  Furthermore, in his opinion, it is “quite clear” that “the terrorist perpetrators” were “illegal immigrants.”  He called for the EU to enact significant changes to stop allowing unfettered “mass migration.” He went so far as to say that “migration to Europe should now be halted,” (sound familiar?) and suggested  that this opinion was gaining traction in other European countries as well.  Hungary will be holding a national referendum on immigration later this year.

Whether or not all this rhetoric will result in significant action is anybody’s guess.  In the meantime, each of you will have to decide whether to go on “living your life” or “hide under your bed.”  Personally, I choose the former.  Otherwise, the terrorists win.

TOGETHER IN LIFE AND DEATH

The other day I was intrigued by a newspaper story about a couple who had died on the same day.  Irving (87) and Charlotte (84) Diton had been married for 63 years and died just hours apart at separate assisted living facilities on Long Island.  In a scenario reminiscent of the movie, Dirty Dancing, Charlotte and Irving had met at a Long Island resort while she had been vacationing with her family, and he had been employed as a busboy.  They were married in 1953 and were inseparable thereafter.

According to one of their daughters, Irving lacked the funds for a diamond engagement ring.  So, for 30 odd years he secretly saved a small sum of money each week until he had accumulated enough for a nice ring.  Then, he arranged a family gathering at which he ceremoniously surprised Charlotte with it.

Irving worked as an electrical engineer, and he was very handy and ingenious.  Two stories will illustrate this point:

  1.  He took a “selfie” of Charlotte and him by tying a string from his big toe to the camera’s shutter.  Remember, this was in the early 1950s.
  2. He used his skills to keep the same washer and dryer operational for 40 years.  I know machines were made better then, but 40 years …?   Perhaps, more surprising was the fact that Charlotte put up with the same ones for 40 years.

Reading this story got me thinking about other couples who may  have died on the same day and whether or not there is any scientific basis for this phenomenon.  Well, it turns out that this occurs more often than you might think.  Some notable examples:

  1. Former NFL quarterback Doug Flutie’s parents, Richard and Joan, married for 56 years, died hours apart.
  2. More intriguingly, Kent and Diana Kraft (nee Schroder) not only died on the same day right next to each other, but also they had been born on the same day as well .
  3. Finally, though not married, two former US presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died on the same day in 1826 (on July 4, no less).  Ironically, unaware that Jefferson had predeceased him by a few hours, Adams’ last words were “Thomas Jefferson survives.”

Further research disclosed that there is some scientific basis  for this phenomenon particularly among the elderly.  Consider some of the findings of various studies, such as one by Dr. Nicholas Christakis, MD and PhD at Harvard Medical School:

  1. Severe emotional distress brought on by the serious illness or death of the spouse takes a significant toll on the survivor, particularly if he or she is suffering from pre-existing health problems.  Scientists call this the “bereavement effect,” but a more common slang term is what laymen call “heartbreak.”  The greatest risk is immediately after the death of a loved one, but even for as long as a year the risk of death is 20 percent higher.
  2. Some diseases take a greater toll on the other spouse than others.  Christakis’ study revealed that diseases that impair the physical and mental functioning of the patient, such as dementia and emphysema, have a more profound effect than a disease like cancer.
  3. The significant impairment or outright loss of a spouse, especially a longtime companion, deprives the other spouse of social, financial and/or emotional support on which he or she has come to rely heavily.
  4. According to Judah Ronch, a geriatric mental health expert for Erickson Health, sometimes widows are ostracized by their friends who view them as an unwelcome reminder of what could happen to them and even as a rival for their husbands’ affections.
  5. People with similar traits, hobbies, and ethnicity tend to pair up.  In addition, longtime married couples often develop and share similar habits, both good and bad, e.g. smoking (or not), drinking (or not), overeating (or not), or exercising (or not).
  6. Ronch even goes so far as to say that sometimes the survivor just decides to “let go.” He admits it’s not very scientific, but adds “we see it more and more.”

CONCLUSION

Perhaps, you have been exposed to similar situations among family  and friends.  If so, I would be interested in your comments.

SECRET SISTERS

What is the likelihood that you have a sister you have never heard about, never met, never knew existed, and, furthermore, this sister just happens to be a famous person you have idolized and emulated virtually your entire life?   Not a chance, you would say.  That may happen in a fantasy, but not in real life.  In fact, if it were a movie script, Hollywood would reject it out of hand.  But, in point of fact, recently, that very scenario occurred for a young woman named Jennifer Bricker.  This is a very inspirational story on many levels.  Some of you may have read or seen it on 60 Minutes or ABC News, or read about it in the NY Daily News or one of various on-line news services, but for those of you who have not, read on and be amazed.

Jennifer Bricker was born on October 1, 1987.  She was born without legs and immediately placed for adoption by her biological parents.  In plain English, they took one look at her physical condition and rejected her.  Luckily, her adoptive parents provided a loving, supportive environment for her.   From early childhood, Jennifer refused to believe that her handicap would prevent her from doing anything.  Running?  No problem.  Basketball?  No problem.  Swimming, gymnastics, tumbling?  Check, check and check.  In fact Jennifer became so proficient at tumbling that she became Illinois’ first handicapped high school tumbling champion.  Following that success, she placed fourth in the 1998 AAU Junior Olympics in power tumbling.  Moreover, she won the organization’s Inspiration Award, no doubt an easy and obvious choice.

If that were the end of the story, it would still be amazing.  But, there’s more.  Jennifer grew up idolizing Dominique Moceanu, a member of the 1996 gold medal-winning US Olympics women’s gymnastics team, the so-called “Magnificent Seven.”  She harangued her parents about Moceanu constantly.  “I wouldn’t shut up about her…,” says Bricker.  “I knew she was Romanian” (like Bricker).  “I knew we looked alike”  [I was} her biggest fan.”

When she was 16 Jennifer’s parents shockingly revealed to her that Moceanu was, in fact, her biological sister.  Four years later, Bricker finally got up the courage to write a letter to Moceanu with the startling news.  She was afraid that Moceanu would dismiss her as a “nut,” but luckily she was able to provide records that documented their relationship.

Moceanu recalls that the news was “the biggest bombshell of my life.”  Her first thought was one of rage, that she had a sister her parents had never told her about.  When she confronted her parents they confirmed that they had given a baby girl up for adoption immediately after birth when Dominique was six.  Dominique’s mother, Carmelia, seems to regret the decision now.   She lamented to Dominique “I never saw my baby.  I never held her, never touched her, never even smelled her.  I desperately wanted to, but your father told me we had to give her up, and that was that.”

As gymnastics fans will recall, Dominique had had a rocky relationship with her parents.  They had both been athletes, though not famous ones, and it appeared that they were determined that Dominique would achieve the fame that had eluded them.  They entered her into a gymnastics program at the age of three and some would say, force-fed the sport to her.  Eventually, Dominique divorced herself from them legally claiming that they had been “abusive,” manipulative,” had “repressed” her and “squandered” her money.  Subsequently, she had taken out a restraining order against her father, claiming he was stalking her and, perhaps, had even ordered a “hit” on two of her close friends.   They reconciled shortly before his death, but given this history one might argue that despite the stigma of being “given up” Jennifer had had a better home life with her adoptive parents than she would have had with her biological ones, particularly given her handicap.

CONCLUSION

Dominique accepted Jennifer with open arms.  Today, they have a close, warm relationship.  They marvel at their similarities, such as their voices, their handwriting and the manner in which they laugh and chuckle.  “It’s mind-blowing, “says Moceanu.  Indeed, it is.

ELIE WIESEL

Last week, the world lost one of its most enduring champions of human rights.  Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor, professor, political activist, Jewish historian, author, and Nobel Laureate, but, above all else, he was one of the most steadfast and vociferous chroniclers of the Holocaust and one of the world’s most renown human rights advocates.   He lent his considerable influence and support to combat injustice wherever and whenever he encountered it whether it was anti-Semitism, Apartheid, genocide in Sudan or oppression in places like Nicaragua.

Eliezer (Elie) Wiesel was born on September 30, 1928 in Sighet, Romania (Carpathian Mountains area).  He had three sisters, two of which, Beatrice and Hilda, survived WWII.  The third sister, Tzipora, did not.  In March 1944 the Germans invaded, and in May, at the age of 15, Wiesel and all the other Jews in the area were deported to Auschwitz.  Approximately 90% of them, including Wiesel’s mother and youngest sister, were exterminated upon arrival.  Eventually, Wiesel and his father were transported to Buchenwald where he remained until the camp was liberated by the US Army on April 11, 1945.

Wiesel described the personal horrors he endured in his book, Night.   Although he wrote dozens of books, Night is considered, by most, to be his singular work.  Published in the early 1950s, for millions of readers the compelling first-hand account was their introduction to the horrors of the Holocaust.  Night has since been translated into 30 languages, and over 10 million copies have been sold in the US alone.  According to Rabbi Perry Berkowitz, president of the American Jewish Heritage Organization and a former assistant of Wiesel’s, Night spawned a “global remembrance movement that is very vital today.”   Berkowitz echoes the feelings of many that books such as Night are very important for remembrance purposes.  Without them, as the Holocaust survivors die out, their stories will die with them, the lessons of the Holocaust will fade, and anti-Semitism will resurface.

After the War Wiesel studied and worked as a journalist in France for several years.  It was there that a friend convinced him to write about his “harrowing” experiences in the camps.   People needed to know what had happened.  In the late 1940s he spent some time Israel.  One of his jobs was as a translator for the Irgun.  In the 1950s he emigrated to the US.  He married, raised a family and wrote some 40 books, mostly non-fictional describing the Holocaust on a very personal and compelling level.  In fact, some historians credit Wiesel with being responsible for popularizing the term “Holocaust.”

In addition, he became a professor of Humanities at Boston University, which established the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies in his honor.  He helped establish the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and the NY Human Rights Foundation.  Moreover, as mentioned above, he became very active in human rights causes all over the world.  For his continuing efforts in this area he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.  The Nobel Committee described him as a “messenger to mankind,” adding that he had delivered a message of “peace, atonement, and human dignity” to mankind.   The Los Angeles Times characterized him as “the most important Jew in America.”

CONCLUSION

Wiesel was the recipient of countless awards and honorary degrees, far too numerous to list here.  In many ways, he was a living reminder of the horrors suffered by Jews in the Holocaust and the foremost champion of and advocate for human rights sufferers all over the world.  Perhaps, Wiesel’s philosophy was summed up best at his memorial by Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress and a long-time friend and associate.  He remembered that Wiesel had once told him: “The opposite of love is not hate.  It’s indifference.  It was indifference that brought anti-Semitism to Germany, and it was indifference that brought the Holocaust.”   Those who have studied history know that it does tend to repeat itself, so it is absolutely critical that we never forget those important lessons.  Let’s be prepared for next time, for it will surely come.

Wiesel died on July 2, 2016 at the age of 87.  Rest in peace Elie.  You will be sorely missed.

 

ENTEBBE

Monday, July 4 will be the 40th anniversary of the daring rescue by the Israeli Defense Force of 102 hostages being held at Entebbe Airport in Uganda by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist group.  In my opinion, considering the extremely low number of injuries and fatalities of hostages and rescuers and the complicated nature of the operation this was one of, if not the, most successful hostage rescue operations.  Contrast it with other notable botched rescue attempts, such as the Olympics hostages in 1972 and the FBI at Waco.  It is hard to believe that 40 years have passed.

To refresh our memories as well as to edify those who are too young to have lived through it, the situation was as follows:

  1. On June 27, 1976 two terrorist members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked an Air France jet that had originated in Tel Aviv and was bound for Paris.  There were 248 passengers on board.
  2. The hijackers’ stated objective was to exchange the passengers for 40 Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel and 13 other affiliated terrorists being held in four other countries.
  3. The hijackers flew the plane to Entebbe because they would be under the protection and support of Idi Amin, the dictatorial ruler of Uganda.  It was reported that Amin greeted them personally both on their arrival and periodically throughout their stay to reaffirm and reinforce his support.
  4. The hijackers separated the Israelis and other Jewish passengers from the rest of the group and moved them to a separate room.  The reason for this ominous move was pretty obvious.  Soon after, they released the other passengers, retaining only the flight crew and the Jews, whom they threatened to kill if their demands were not met.  The Israelis took this threat very seriously, and began to plan a rescue attempt.
  5. A successful rescue was an extremely daunting undertaking.  Meticulous planning was essential to avoid a disaster.  Israel was over 2,500 miles from Uganda.  The planes would have to be refueled.  At first, no country would give permission for the Israelis to land in order to refuel, and the Israelis did not have the logistical capacity to refuel up to six aircraft in the air.  Eventually Kenya gave permission for them to overfly its airspace and refuel at Kenyatta Airport.
  6. Mossad provided very critical intelligence, such as the number of hijackers, their location and the stationing of the Ugandan troops and aircraft.
  7. Various attempts to reach a diplomatic solution were unsuccessful.  Even Yasser Arafat tried to intercede, to no avail. The terrorists had threatened to execute the remaining hostages at noon on July 4 if their demands had not been met by then.
  8. Meanwhile, the Israelis, not willing to rely solely on diplomacy and not willing to take a chance that the terrorists were bluffing, determined that it would be necessary to conduct a raid to rescue the hostages.  Various scenarios were considered and discarded before the final plan was formulated.  One such plan called for dropping commandos into Lake Victoria, but that had to be scrapped when it was ascertained that the lake was infested with crocodiles.
  9. The Israeli cabinet approved the rescue plan on the evening of July 3.  The task force included 29 commandos under the command of Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, the brother of future Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The raid was a huge success on many levels, although not without casualties.  Taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh the task force flew under the radar of potentially hostile countries, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and arrived undetected.  The commandos surprised the hijackers and managed to kill them all.  However, unfortunately, three of the hostages were killed in the cross-fire, and Netanyahu, the commander was also killed.  The entire operation took only 90 minutes – 30 of which was the assault, itself.  In addition to the hijackers, 45 Ugandan  soldiers and several Ugandan air force fighters were destroyed on the ground (precluding their being able to pursue the Israelis on their return flight).  The Israelis refueled in Nairobi, Kenya on their return flight to Israel.

CONCLUSION

On July 4 the world awoke to the pleasant and uplifting surprise of the successful raid and rescue.  Personally, I remember feeling extremely gratified the Israelis had taken such a bold and decisive action and that the terrorists had “gotten theirs.”  I remember many of my friends had felt similarly.   We were all sick and tired of governments’ indecisiveness and incompetence in dealing with these terrorist situations.

The world’s post-raid reaction was typical and predictable.

  1. The Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (whatever that was) condemned the raid as an “act of aggression.”
  2. UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim (he of the suspected Nazi background in WWII)characterized the raid as “a serious violation of the sovereignty of a Member State of the UN” (blah, blah, blah).
  3. The Ugandan UN representative claimed that a peaceful, political resolution had been near, implying that the raid was premature and unnecessary.  The Israeli representative denied that assertion and denoted that Uganda had been “directly complicit” in the hijacking in the first place.
  4. The UN Security Council convened to discuss these complaints and others, but Western nations, such as the US, UK, France and West Germany were supportive and blocked any official UN action.  Their support was not surprising, but even the Iranians praised the Israelis for their success and extended condolences for the “loss and martyrdom” of Netanyahu.

There have been various books and movies chronicling this raid.  I think the best one was the 1977 movie, Raid on Entebbe, starring Peter Finch and Charles Bronson.

On this July 4 take a minute out of your day to toast the brave men who, rather than submitting to terrorism, took brave and decisive action to effect a daring rescue.

OH CANADA

Today, July 1, is Canada Day, the national day of Canada.  It is equivalent to Independence Day in the US.  It is a celebration of the enactment of the Canadian constitution (aka the British North America Act), which occurred on July 1, 1867.  CD is a federal statutory holiday in Canada.  If the date happens to fall on a Sunday the holiday is celebrated on July 2.

Prior to July 1, 1867 Canada was part of the British Empire.  It consisted of three colonies – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada.  On that date, as a result of the passage of the British North America Act, aka the Constitution Act, those colonies became united as the Dominion of Canada.  The event was marked by fireworks, military displays and other celebrations.  Technically, it was not a complete separation from Great Britain.  The British parliament and cabinet maintained limited control over Canada, which was reduced gradually over time until 1982 when it was eliminated entirely.

No formal holiday was established until May 15, 1879 when it was promulgated as Dominion Day.  There were no formal, official annual celebrations until the golden anniversary on July  1, 1917.  Average Canadians did not really embrace the holiday until the centennial in 1967.   Then, in the 1980s it really caught on.  The central government began to promote it aggressively, and various celebrations popped up all across the country.  Furthermore, the name of the holiday was changed from Dominion Day to Canada Day as the former was viewed by many as an unpleasant reference to the colonial era.  Around this time, “O Canada” became recognized as the national anthem of Canada.

Canada Day is marked by various modes of celebrations, such as parades, carnivals, festivals, barbecues, air and maritime shows and other similar activities.  It is celebrated not only in Canada, but also throughout the world by Canadian “ex-pats.”  For instance, celebrations of “Canada D’eh” in Hong Kong are held of June 30 at Lan Kwai Fong; in China they are held by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai; and in Afghanistan the Canadian troops celebrate it on their base.   According to Jennifer Welsh, professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford, “Canada Day, like the country, is endlessly decentralized.”

CONCLUSION

In the US we Americans generally do not pay much attention to this holiday, although some of us may see it designated on our calendars and wonder about its significance.  I believe Americans should have at least some knowledge of this holiday.  After all, the two countries have many similarities, and we share a common border of some 5,500 miles, the longest international border in the world.

Well, now you know.  Happy Canada Day!