FIRST NAVY SEAL ADMIRAL DIES AT 93

Richard Lyon, the first Navy seal to accede to the rank of Admiral, has passed away at the age of 93.  At the time of his death he had the distinction  of being the oldest-serving Navy seal, which had earned him the sobriquet “Bullfrog.”  The term, “Bullfrog” is an honorarium give to the Underwater Demolition Team Seal with the largest amount of cumulative service, regardless of rank.  The label is derived from the traditional depiction of seals as “frogmen” in recruiting posters, movies and books.  The superior “frogman” became known as “Bull Frog.”

Lyon was born on July 14, 1923 in Pasadena, CA.   Like most Seals, he was very athletic.  In fact, he was such a proficient swimmer that he qualified for the 1940 US Olympic swim team.  Unfortunately, as we know, due to the advent of WWII those Olympics were cancelled, and Lyon never got to compete.

Instead, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Lyon entered the Navy, serving in the Pacific Theatre.  He served in various roles, much of which was and is classified, including that of “Intelligence Officer” (in China).  Following Japan’s surrender Lyon was one of the first American military personnel to enter Japan.

Lyon served some 40 years in the Navy and fought in two wars (Korea as well as WWII).  He retired from the Navy in 1983, but he did not retire from life.  He had a successful business career in retail and finance.  He served two terms as mayor of Oceanside, CA and as a member of various boards of directors.  For recreation, he piloted private planes, body surfed and played golf.  In 2013 he was the recipient of the prestigious Yale University George H. W. Bush Lifetime of Leadership Award.

CONCLUSION

Over the course of his long and distinguished life and career, Lyon earned, perhaps, the greatest award of all – the respect of his peers.  Rear Admiral Tim Szymanski, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, characterized him as a “legend.”  Said lifelong friend, Kelly Sarber, who first met Lyon as a child through her own father, also a seal: “He reminded me of James Bond.  I never saw him lose his cool. … He was a real class act.”

Lyon passed away on February 3, 2017.  Rest in peace Admiral.  You made your mark and served your country with great distinction.  You will be sorely missed.

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WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Have you ever been curious as to the origin and meaning of your surname?  I have, which led me to write this blog.  The short answer is – surname origins and meanings are complicated, very complicated.  Different cultures around the world have very different traditions with respect to surnames.  In this blog, I have attempted to present the information in an organized and logical way.

Generally, a surname is a family name that is added to one’s given, or first name.  It is given to one’s children and passed to succeeding generations.  In most Western Hemisphere countries, such as the US, the surname, or family name, is the last name.  For example, Lawrence is my given name and Jacob is my surname.  In some countries, such as China and Korea, however, the surname comes before the given name.  To complicate matters further, in most Spanish-speaking countries it is typical for people to retain the surnames of both the mother’s and father’s family, i.e. Jose Rodriquez [Y] Hernandez.  Finally, in some parts of Asia and East Africa surnames are not used at all.  To simplify matters, somewhat I will be discussing customs prevalent in the US and Western Europe unless otherwise specified.

The concept of a surname can be traced back to the Middle Ages.  It had often become confusing when too many people had the same first name in a particular locale.  Thus, John, who was a blacksmith, became John Smith, while John, who made clothes, became John Tailor or Taylor.

My research disclosed the following salient points of information:

  1. The University of West England conducted a comprehensive study of the history of surnames in Great Britain from the 11th through 19th Centuries.  The survey’s findings were published in the Oxford English Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland in 2016. Among the major findings:

a. Irish surnames are the oldest in Europe.  The first recorded surname was O Cleirigh.  The death of one Tigherneach Ua O Cleirigh, Lord of Aidhne was recorded in 916.

b. As we know, the Irish commonly use surname prefixes.  These may or may not be attached to the main name.  Thus, we have the surnames “O’Brien” or “MacMillan.”

c.  In England, surnames originated circa 1086 following the Norman Conquest.  Many Normans used a “territorial surname” by simply attaching the prefix “de” to their town of origin in France, for example, Pierre de Lyon.  As one might expect, the trend began among the nobility and gradually spread to other classes.

d.  Many English would employ occupational or territorial surnames, such as John Chandler, John Butcher, John Hill, or John Meadows.

2.  Traditionally, it has been customary for the wife to assume her husband’s surname, but in recent years this custom has been relaxed due to PC.  Occasionally, a wife will not change her name, or, will use both surnames with a hyphen.  According to Wikipedia the first woman in the US to retain her maiden name was one Lucy Stone in 1855.  The best current estimate of wives who take the husband’s surname is 80%.

3.  In the US:

a.  Approximately 50% of the population has one of only 1,700 surnames.  As you could probably guess, Smith is the most common, with about 1%.  Rounding out the top five, in order, are Johnson, Williams, Brown and Jones.

b.  Many names are corruptions of European names due to misspelling, mispronunciation, or other causes during the immigration process.  A common misconception is that these changes typically occurred upon entry at Ellis Island.  Many family legends insist that the clerk gave their ancestor a name based on his home town, (John London), trade (John Baker), or a physical characteristic (John Short).   Possibly, but, in point of fact, these changes could also have and often did occur at the country of origin or at any waypoint.  Consider that the clerk at Ellis Island was working from a passenger list that had been developed at the port of origin.   Also, during the peak of foreign immigration  (1894-1924) about one-third of the immigration inspectors spoke three or more languages.  Furthermore, interpreters were often available as well.  So, although they could have made a copying error, it would have been more likely that the name changes would have occurred elsewhere.

c.  In some cases family members arriving at different times ended up with different spellings of the same surname.  These differences may or may not have been rectified by descendants.  I have personal knowledge of a family situation such as this.

d.  It was common for immigrants to Americanize their names.  Reasons for this included patriotism, a desire to assimilate or a wish to avoid discrimination.  Many immigrants were so happy to be here they wanted a clean break, a fresh start.  One way to accomplish this was to take a new American name or Americanize their original one.  Thus, “Goldschmidt” could become “Goldsmith” or just “Gold.”  Many names, especially Eastern European names, which tended to be long on consonants and short on vowels, were too difficult to pronounce and spell.  This would instantly identify the person as an immigrant and could cause difficulties or embarrassment at work or at the children’s school.  So, a name like Zymancwiecz or Smirnoff could become Zell or Smiley.  Finally, and perhaps most common, was to avoid discrimination.  Virtually all ethnic groups faced discrimination to some degree.  In those pre-PC days, landlords and employers made no secret about discriminating against certain ethnic or religious groups.  Thus John O’Day would become John Day, and Greenbaum might become Green.

e.  Other reasons for incorrect names:  disguising oneself by using a fictitious name or another person’s name; using the name of a step-father instead of biological father, or using a nickname or a maiden name.

4.   Other countries’ customs:

a.  In China, legend has it that the origin of surnames was a decree by Emperor Fu Xi in 2852 BCE.  His purpose was to facilitate census-taking.

b.  In Japan, surnames were uncommon before the 19th century, except among the aristocracy.

c.  Ancient Greeks used identifiers, such as “son of” or clan or descendant identities.  For instance, Alexander the Great was also known as Alexander Heracleides (as a descendant of Heracles).

CONCLUSION

As I said, one’s surname often provides clues as to one’s background or place of origin.  For example, names such as Farmer, Thatcher, or Smith would be strong indications of a forebear’s occupation.  Names such as Glen, Forrest, or Mountain would be obvious indicators of locale.  President Dwight Eisenhower was likely descended from a person whose occupation was an iron cutter in Germany (“Eisen” means iron in German, and “hower” was likely a derivative of “hewer,” which means one who cuts wood, metal  or other materials).

Many people’s surnames are actual cities in Europe or derivatives of such indicating from whence they emigrated. Some names indicate patronage (Hickman, Johnson).  Many Jewish names have biblical or holy references, for example, Cohen, Kagan, Levy, and my own surname, Jacob.  Many Irish or Scotch surnames are derived from their ancestor’s clan (Macdonald, Forbes, etc.).  Many African Americans carry the names of Southern plantation owners.  The immortal Muhammed Ali, a Louisville native, derided his birth surname, Clay, as a “slave name.”  He was probably correct, as the name “Clay” is a prominent name in Kentucky aristocracy.

If nothing else, I hope this blog gets you thinking about the origins and meaning of your own name.  Let me know if you find anything interesting.

 

 

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S EXECUTIVE ORDERS

President Trump has hit the ground running.  In just two weeks he has already signed a flurry of EOs.  In my opinion, he gets points for decisiveness and for following through on his campaign promises.  Most politicians would have been more deliberate.  Some would not have followed through on their campaign promises at all.   For example, remember Bush 41’s pledge: “Read my lips. No new taxes.”  Or, perhaps you recall Obama’s pledge, “If you like your [health] plan, you can keep it; if you like your doctor you can keep him.”   (I don’t mean those as criticisms of those presidents, per se.  (All politicians obfuscate or lie, at times, to some extent.  That’s why every poll reports them to be so disliked.  I merely present these as examples.)

On the other hand, some commentators and analysts have characterized his actions as rash or not vetted properly.  These critics may have a point, to a degree.  I believe that most of Trump’s EOs will be beneficial to the country, but, in at least one case, I believe he acted somewhat precipitously to his and the country’s detriment.  Below please find my assessment of a few of these orders but, first, a little background.

EOs do not have the force of law.  Only Congress can pass laws.  In theory, their purpose is to enable the executive branch to manage its operation more efficiently.  It’s not always necessary or even advisable for the president to wait for Congress to deliberate over a minor matter.  Many EOs are routine and uncontroversial, for example, JFK’s EO to establish the Peace Corps and LBJ’s EO to appoint the Warren Commission to investigate JFK’s assassination.  Others, such as Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves residing in the Confederacy, and FDR’s decision to inter Japanese-Americans during WWII were more controversial.

Presidents have used EOs since the beginning of the Republic, some often, some seldom.  According to a study published by the American Presidency Project at the University of California, John Adams, James Monroe and James Madison only signed one each, whereas FDR signed the most, 3,721, followed by Woodrow Wilson with 1,803 and Calvin Coolidge with 1,203.  (Of course, FDR was President for 13 years.)

At least in recent times, presidents have often been criticized by the opposition party for many of their EOs.  For example, on a few occasions, Obama was criticized for using EOs to bypass Congress, and a few were overturned by the courts eventually, but he only averaged some 40 EOs a year, about the same as his predecessor, Bush 43.

Back to a few of President Trump’s EOs:

  1.  Keystone pipeline –  This  one seems to me to be a “no-brainer.”  It will transport oil from Canada to the Gulf easily, cheaply, and safely.  It will create jobs; it will be environmentally safer then transporting by train or truck; and it will reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  Nevertheless, many environmentalists are opposed to it.
  2. Trans Pacific Partnership –  Trump has pulled out of this arrangement, citing it is not in America’s best interests.  I am inclined to agree, but, Democrats and some of the other participants, such as Australia, have expressed displeasure.  Also, this could create a vacuum for China to exploit in the region.
  3. Affordable Care Act – There is not much Trump can accomplish in this area by EO, but he will be waiving penalties against those who elect not to pay for insurance and he will allow individual states greater flexibility in administering the ACA.  These actions, though seemingly minor, will put a severe crimp in the ACA or, perhaps, gut it.
  4. Abortion – This is an extremely controversial and emotional issue, particularly among women.  According to the latest CBS News poll from January 2017, 75% of Americans are in favor of abortion being available, half of them said “generally” and half favored availability under “stricter limits.”  According to a Quinnipiac University poll at the same period 46% would favor a ban after 20 weeks (so-called “late term abortions”) and 46% would oppose such a ban.  For many, it is the “litmus test” issue.  Many “choosers” are concerned that Trump opposes the Roe v Wade decision and wants to eliminate abortions  entirely for any reason.  I think that’s extreme and a mischaracterization of his position.  In my opinion, it’s more likely that he will seek to limit late term abortions.  Personally, I would be in favor of that as there is strong evidence that late term fetuses are viable outside the womb.  Trump’s opening salvo in this area was to prohibit foreign aid to any non-government organization that is offering abortion counseling or other services in foreign countries, even if abortion is legal in that country.
  5. Financial Regulations –  Trump has taken steps to ease the financial constraints on the financial services industry imposed by the Graham-Dodd Act.  The Act was precipitated by the financial crisis of 2008-2009, which almost brought the financial markets to its knees.  But, the Act has proven to be very burdensome, especially to small firms, and memories have faded after eight years.  Hopefully, they won’t go too far the other way.  The financial services industry needs sensible regulation and government oversight to protect investors.
  6. The Wall –  Trump has taken initial steps to secure our southern border.  He still insists Mexico will pay for it.  Mexico has adamantly refused.  The most likely outcome is that the US will lay out the money and find a way to charge back Mexico indirectly.  There are various proposals under consideration.  This has been very controversial on many fronts and will no doubt continue as such prospectively.
  7. Immigration Restrictions – This has been the most controversial, and I could spend an entire blog on it.  Both sides have valid points.  On balance, I think there is a significant danger in allowing immigrants from locales where proper vetting is not possible.  Just look at  the situations in France, Germany and the UK.  That said, the rollout was mishandled.  Cabinet members, staff, and customs and border personnel were not briefed sufficiently beforehand, which resulted in the chaotic airport scenes we all saw on tv.  Lost in the shuffle are the facts that the seven countries were selected based on recommendations of the Obama Administration and that the ban is temporary until enhanced vetting procedures can be established.  As I write this, a judge has issued a restraining order, which the Administration will likely appeal.  Hopefully, the Administration will learn from this error and do better prospectively.

CONCLUSION

Trump remains a very controversial president.  Most people have very strong opinions towards him, pro or con.  Part of it is because of his unique style and personality.  He is fighting a three-front war – the Democrats, the media, and even some in his own party.  His most virulent enemies do not seem even to want to give him a chance.  He was being criticized before he even took office.  Some have even questioned the validity of the election, itself.

In order to be successful, he must be cognizant of the fact that his enemies will be monitoring his actions very closely and will take every opportunity to pounce on his errors, real or fabricated.  Reporting will often be distorted or even outright false, for example, the charge that he removed MLK’s bust from the White House.

I believe Trump can effect real change if given a fair chance.  Let’s hope he gets it.

MARY TYLER MOORE

As stated in the theme song from her signature hit tv show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary could “turn the world on with her smile.”  As a performer, Mary had it all: she could, sing, dance, and act, and she was drop-dead gorgeous.  In addition, along with her second husband, Grant Tinker, she became a very successful tv executive.

Mary Tyler Moore was born on December 29, 1936 in Brooklyn, NY.  She was the oldest of three children.  Both of her siblings died at young ages.  When Mary was eight the family moved to Los Angeles, so her father could find work.

As a youngster, Mary wanted to become a dancer.  Indeed, her first job in show business was as a dancing elf in tv commercials for Hotpoint appliances, which sponsored the popular tv show, Ozzie and Harriet.  She was 17 and married.  The sponsor terminated her when she became pregnant, and she “showed” through her elf costume.

In the following few years Mary’s career was rather pedestrian.  She tried modeling and acting with limited success.  One noteworthy incident involved the comedian, Danny Thomas.  Thomas had a popular comedy tv show, Make Room for Daddy.  She tried out unsuccessfully for the part of Thomas’ daughter.  Later, Thomas quipped “she missed [getting the part] by a nose…no daughter of mine could ever have a nose that small.”

One success was landing the role of the receptionist on the detective series, Richard Diamond, Private Detective.  I actually remember that show.  Mary’s face was never seen.  Viewers heard her voice and saw those gorgeous legs.  In addition, she guest-starred on various tv shows, such as 77 Sunset Strip, Wanted: Dead or Alive, and Hawaiian Eye.

Mary’s big break came in 1961.  Despite being a relative unknown, comedian Carl Reiner tabbed her to co-star alongside Dick Van Dyke in a series he was producing based on his own career as a comedy writer.  Co-Producer Danny Thomas had remembered the “girl with three names” that he had rejected years earlier and pushed her for the part.  Both she and the show were huge successes.   Mary’s fresh-faced, girl-next-door beauty and energetic comedy style made her an international star.  I remember that, primarily because of Mary, the show was “must see” tv in our fraternity house in the mid-1960s.  When she accepted her first Emmy for the show, Mary famously and modestly quipped “I know this will never happen again.”  Luckily, her talent far exceeded her prognosticating skills.

For Mary, the best was yet to come.  In 1970 she became the star of her own show.  The Mary Tyler Moore Show was about a single woman seeking to “make it on her own,” a risky and risqué undertaking in 1970.  Mary pulled it off.  The show was a huge hit, and both Mary and her character became groundbreaking inspirations to women everywhere.  In fact, the show yielded spin-off vehicles for three of the show’s supporting actors Valerie Harper, Ed Asner, and Cloris Leachman.

Later, Mary branched out into stage and film.  Her biggest Broadway play was opposite James Naughton in Whose Life Is It Anyway.  In addition, she appeared in several films during her career.  Her most noteworthy was Ordinary People in which she played a serious role, that of a grieving mother unable to cope with the tragic death of one of her sons, and for which she earned an Oscar nomination.

In my opinion, the crowning achievement of her career was MTM Enterprises, which she founded with Grant Tinker, her husband at the time.  MTM produced many successful tv shows, such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, Lou Grant, The Bob Newhart Show, and Hill Street Blues.  In addition, it developed its own record label.

CONCLUSION

In addition to her stellar show business career Mary was very active in philanthropy.  For instance, she was the International Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and a strong animal rights activist.  She was a longtime supporter of the ASPCA and a co-founder of Broadway Barks, an annual animal adopt-a-thon held in NYC.

Mary’s life was not without its tragedies.  She suffered from diabetes and alcoholism.  As I said, both of her siblings died at early ages. Furthermore, her only son, Richard, died from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound.  She dealt with these tragedies openly and honestly, and she persevered.

Mary earned many individual honors.  She received six Emmy Awards, a special Tony Award, was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1986, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy in 1987.

However, I concur with her husband, Dr. Robert Levine who stated that her most enduring legacy will be her inspiration and influence, through both her personal life and in the characters she portrayed, on other female performers as well as working mothers and single moms.  He characterized her as “fearless, determined and willful,” yet “kind, genuine, approachable, honest, and humble.”  Yes, Mary was more than just a pretty face with an arresting smile.  Much, much more.

Mary passed away last week from complications of pneumonia at the age of 80.  Rest in peace, Mary.  You will be sorely missed.