KOREAN SUMMIT

It’s on.  It’s off.  It’s on again.

The Korean Summit, including the US, SOKO and NOKO, is scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.  Despite all the rhetoric, it was never really cancelled.   White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders’ disclosure that an advance team is still planning to travel to Singapore to “make arrangements” should tell you all you need to know.

I maintain Mr. Trump’s “cancellation” was just a way of posturing, part of the negotiations.  It was intended to show Kim that, if Mr. Trump thinks the US is being “played” he is perfectly willing to walk away.  As anyone who has negotiated any kind of deal – a house, a car or a business arrangement – knows, the first rule of a successful negotiation is to convince the other side that you are willing to walk away.    (Incidentally, Messrs. Obama and Kerry would have been advised to employ that strategy when negotiating the Iran nuke deal.  If so, they likely would have gotten a more reasonable deal.)

Anyone paying attention during the presidential campaign would remember Mr. Trump’s constant railing about poor deals made by previous administrations and his claim that he could and would negotiate better ones.  This is consistent with his negotiating style.  Whether or not one likes Mr. Trump’s politics, there is no doubt that he knows how to negotiate a deal.

I find the Dems’ and the mainstream media’s attitude toward this summit most amusing and disingenuous.  Their criticisms have been oxymoronic.  Prior to its being announced they were criticizing Mr. Trump for his open hostility toward Kim, i. e. accusing him of antagonizing a leader who was “clearly unbalanced” and who controlled a nuclear arsenal and referring to him derisively as “little rocket man.”

When the summit was first announced they were critical once again.  The general theme was Mr. Trump was being “played.”  He was being suckered into affording Kim an exalted status he did not deserve.  He was creating false hope for SOKO and the US.   What made him think he could succeed where others had failed for over 60 years.  Mr. Trump, for his part, was consistently even-keeled.  His standard assessment of the summit’s prospects has been variations of “we’ll see.”  Typically, he would balance the “carrot” of the summit with the “stick” of dire consequences that the US could and would visit upon NOKO if it failed to come to pass.  As a footnote, along the way, NOKO unilaterally released three hostages, unharmed, and destroyed at least one of its nuclear sites.

At the Olympics they fawned over Kim’s younger sister, Kim-Yo Jong, as if she were an international celebrity, while, at the same time, being overly critical of Ivanka Trump.  They lost sight of the fact that Kim is a blood relative of the leader of one of the most brutal dictatorships in modern times while Ivanka is the daughter of the president.  Would the press have been as critical of Chelsea Clinton or Sasha or Malia Obama?  I doubt it.

When Mr. Trump announced he was cancelling the summit he was criticized again.  One common theme was he had “counted his chickens before they hatched.”  The far left harpies on The View gleefully decried that he would no longer be in line for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Ha.  Ha.  Too bad.  It was as if these critics were rooting against the US just so that Mr. Trump could fail.

Well, “surprise, surprise” as the late Jim Nabors used to say.  Yesterday, SOKO’s Moon Jae-in and NOKO’s Kim Jong In had their own “impromptu” summit meeting, reportedly at Kim’s request.  Both leaders announced it was very productive, and they repeated their oft-stated wish for a “nuclear-free Korean peninsula.”  Furthermore, they agreed to maintain open lines of communication and meet “frequently,” prospectively.  It is clear that both are highly motivated to hold the summit, as scheduled.

Furthermore, NOKO has issued a press release that Kim is ready to talk to Mr. Trump “at any time.”  Even Aljazeera, definitely not a pro-US media outlet, had something positive to say, quoting Kim as saying the summit could “end decades of war.”

CONCLUSION

How can any objective person think a Korean summit is a bad idea?  I have always believed that even enemies need to maintain lines of communication.  Even at the height of the “Cold War,” for instance, we always had “back channel” communications with Russia.  Talking is always better than fighting.

I think it is clear that, at the moment, the leaders of both Koreas, particularly Kim, are highly motivated to work out some kind of deal.  Perhaps, Mr. Trump’s tough, no-nonsense stance regarding ISIS, the Iran Deal and other matters has laid the groundwork for Kim’s newfound willingness to talk.  Perhaps, China has been pressuring him.  Perhaps, conditions in NOKO are more intolerable than we know.   In any case, as we know, in life timing is everything.  Strike while the iron is hot.  Use any cliché you like.  Perhaps, now the time is right for peace in Korea.

My message to the Dems and the mainstream media is simply put aside your antagonism for Mr. Trump and support the peace effort.  You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t criticize Mr. Trump for (1) antagonizing Kim, (2) agreeing to a summit, (3) cancelling the summit, and then (4) reinstating it.  Once again, you are on the wrong side of an issue on the eve of an election.

Yes, the summit can still be derailed, or it may not be successful.  Lots of things can go wrong.  But, for the first time, we have a real chance for peace in Korea.  Like Mr. Trump says: “We’ll see.”

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MEMORIAL DAY

This weekend, millions of Americans will celebrate Memorial Day. To many of them MD is merely a day off from work, a day to gather with friends and relatives, watch sports, barbecue, or maybe go away for a mini-vacation. But, how many of us actually stop and ponder the meaning of MD? What does it mean? What is its derivation? Well, I’m glad you asked. Read on.

According to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs the purpose of MD is to honor veterans who have died in the service of their country. (Some people confuse it with Veterans’ Day, celebrated in November, which is to honor LIVING veterans for their service.) MD is celebrated on the final Monday in May, which this year is May 28. It has also evolved into the unofficial start of summer and Opening Day for beaches, pools and vacation homes.

The original name for MD was “Decoration Day.” The custom of decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers is centuries old. Its origins are murky, but after the Civil War it became customary to “decorate” soldiers’ graves with flowers as a way to honor those who had died in that war.

Several cities claim to be the birthplace of MD. Warrenton, Va. claims that the first CW soldier’s grave was decorated there in 1861. Women began decorating soldiers’ graves in Savannah, Ga. as early as 1862. Boalsburg, Pa. and Charleston, SC, among others, have also made claims. NY became the first state to recognize MD as an official holiday in 1873. In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, NY to be the official birthplace of MD.

The basis of Waterloo’s claim is that in 1865 a group of locals, including a pharmacist, Henry Welles, General John Murray, a CW hero, and a group of other veterans, simply marched to the local cemeteries and decorated the soldiers’ graves with flowers. What gave Waterloo an edge in the birthplace battle was that Murray was an acquaintance of General John Logan, the general who issued “Logan’s Order, ” the proclamation that declared “Decoration Day” should be celebrated annually nationwide.

At first, MD was celebrated on May 30 every year. The date seems somewhat arbitrary as it was not the anniversary of any famous battle or military event. Perhaps, it was chosen simply because flowers with which the graves are decorated are in bloom and plentiful at that particular time of the year. The name, “Decoration Day” was gradually replaced by MD beginning in 1882, and in 1887 MD became the official name. In 1968 the Congress moved the holiday to the last Monday in May. This annoyed many traditionalists, but the lure of a three-day weekend overcame any objections, and the Monday date has prevailed.

There are some MD traditions worth noting:

1. Flying the flag at half-staff.

Most of the time one will see the flag flown at half-staff all day; however, technically, this is not proper. The flag should be raised to the top and then lowered to half-staff. This is intended to honor those who have died for their country. At noon, the flag is to be raised again to full staff, where it remains for the rest of the day. This is to recognize that the deceased veterans’ sacrifices were not in vain.

2. Poppies.

Poppies have become the official flower of remembrance, declared as such by the American Legion in 1920. This is derived from WWI and the Battle of Ypres (English pronunciation is “Wipers.”). Apparently, a proliferation of poppies grew on that battlefield around soldiers’ graves. These poppies were featured in a famous poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae called “In Flanders Fields.” This poem caught people’s imagination and popularized the custom.

3. Sporting Events.

No American holiday celebration would be complete without a sports connection. MD has the Indianapolis 500 and the Memorial golf tournament, among others. Also, until recently there was the traditional Memorial Day baseball doubleheader. Alas, due to economics, scheduled holiday baseball doubleheaders are all but extinct.

CONCLUSION

I hope the foregoing has increased your understanding and appreciation of MD. As a veteran, myself, I find it most gratifying that, in recent years, most Americans have come to recognize and appreciate the service and sacrifice of our country’s veterans. I can remember a time (the Vietnam War period) when it wasn’t so.

So, whatever you do this weekend, however you celebrate, try to pause for a moment in honor of the many veterans who have given their lives so that the rest of us could enjoy the freedoms we sometimes take for granted.

Below please find an outline of the significant historical events that occurred in the month of May:

May 1 –   Since ancient times, a day for festivals celebrating the arrival of the Spring season.  Today, many socialist countries celebrate May Day on May 1 as a holiday to celebrate workers.

May 1, 1707 –  Scotland was combined with England and Wales to form Great Britain.  The later addition of Northern Ireland formed the UK.

May 1, 1960 –  An American U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Russia on the eve of a summit between President Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev.   The incident caused the cancellation of the summit and increased Cold War tensions between the two countries.

May 2, 2011 – US Special Forces located and killed Osama bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

May 4, 1494 –  Christopher Columbus, still seeking the Northwest Passage, discovered the island of Jamaica.

May 4, 1970 –  Ohio National Guard troops fired into a student demonstration at Kent  State University killing four students.

May 5 –  Mexican holiday celebrating Mexican forces’ defeat of a numerically superior French invasion force in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

May 5, 1865 –  Celebration of Decoration Day honoring soldiers killed in the Civil War.  Eventually, morphed into Memorial Day.

May 5, 1961 –  Astronaut Alan Shepard completed a 15 minute suborbital flight, thus becoming the first American to fly in space.

May 6, 1937 –  The German blimp, Hindenburg, burst into flames killing 36 of its 97 passengers.

May 7, 1915 – The shocking sinking of the Lusitania, a British passenger ship, by a German U-boat hastened the US’s entry into WWI on the side of the Allies.

May 7, 1954 – The French surrendered at Dien Bien Phu, ending their colonial presence in Indo- China.  Eventually, this event led to the US’s ill-advised involvement in Vietnam.

May 8, 1942 – The Battle of the Coral Sea, which historians consider to be the turning point of WWII in the Pacific, commenced.  US naval forces defeated Japan for the first time and began their inexorable march toward the Japanese mainland.

May 10, 1869 – The Union Pacific and Central Railroads join at Promontory Point, UT (symbolized by driving a golden spike into the roadbed), creating the Transcontinental Railroad, which linked the entire US.

May 10, 1994 – Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as president of South Africa, bringing an official end to Apartheid.

May 12, 1949 – Russia ended its blockade of West Berlin.

May 14, 1607 – The first permanent English settlement was established at Jamestown, VA.

May 14, 1804 – The Lewis and Clark expedition of the northwest, which lasted some 18 months and covered some 6,000 miles, departed St. Louis.

May 14, 1796 – English Dr. Edward Jenner developed the smallpox vaccine.  He coined the term, vaccination, to describe his method of injecting a weakened version of the disease into a healthy person, who would then fight off the disease and develop an immunity.

May 14, 1948 –  The State of Israel declared its independence.

May 15, 1972 – While campaigning for the presidency, George Wallace was shot and paralyzed from the waist down.

May 17, 1792 – Some two dozen brokers and merchants began meeting under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street to buy and sell stocks and bonds.  Eventually, this led to the establishment of the NY Stock Exchange.

May 17, 1875 – The initial running of the Kentucky Derby took place at Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY.

May 17, 1954 –  The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, Brown vs. The Board of Education (Topeka, KS), ruled that school segregation based on race was unconstitutional.

May 20, 1927 – Aviator, Charles Lindberg took off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island for the first solo non-stop flight between NY and Europe (landing in Paris).

May 20, 1932 – Amelia Earhart became the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.  In 1937, while attempting to fly across the Pacific Ocean, she was lost at sea, and her fate remains shrouded in mystery to this day.

May 21, 1881 – Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.

May 22, 1947 –  Congress approved the Truman Doctrine, which provided foreign aid to Greece and Turkey, which was necessary to prevent the spread of communism in that region.

May 24, 1844 – Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, transmitted the first telegram (“What hath God wrought?”).

May 26, 1940 – Great Britain commenced the evacuation of its army trapped at Dunkirk.

May 27, 1937 – The Golden Gate Bridge opened in San Francisco.

May 30, 1783 –  The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to be published in the US on a daily basis.

May 30, 1922 – The Lincoln Memorial, designed by architect Henry Bacon, was dedicated in Washington, D. C.

May 31, 1889 – The infamous Johnstown Flood of 1889 killed some 2,300 persons.

Birthdays – Niccolo Machiavelli – 5/3/1469; Golda Meir – 5/3/1898; Karl Marx – 5/5/1818; Sigmund Freud – 5/6/1856; Harry S. Truman (33rd President) – 5/8/1884; Israel Isidore Baline (aka Irving Berlin – song writer) – 5/11/1888; Florence Nightingale – 5/12/1820; Gabriel Fahrenheit (physicist) – 5/14/1686; Nguyen That Thanh (aka Ho Chi Minh – 5/19/1890; Malcolm Little (aka Malcolm X) – 5/19/1925; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes creator) – 5/22/1859; Laurence Olivier – 5/22/1907; Ralph Waldo Emerson – 5/25/1803; Al Jolson- 5/26/1886; Wild Bill Hickok – 5/27/1837; Hubert Humphrey – 5/27/1911; Jim Thorpe – 5/28/1888; Patrick Henry – 5/29/1736; John Fitzgerald Kennedy 35th President) – 5/29/1917; Walt Whitman – 5/31/1819.

DEMOCRATS’ DYSFUNCTION

What has happened to the Democratic Party?  In my opinion, the broad “new deal” coalition of labor, ethnics, minorities, other disadvantaged persons, liberals and even some moderates forged by FDR during the 1930s in the depths of the Great Depression is transforming before our very eyes.  Today, the Party of FDR, JFK and LBJ is virtually unrecognizable.

For example:

  1.  The party has moved so far to the “left” that it is alienating many moderates and independent voters.  This was evidenced in the 2016 election by Mr. Trump’s victories in states such as Wisconsin and Michigan.
  2. Some of the Party’s most visible spokespersons are politicians such as Corey Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, who, although very popular, is not really even a Democrat, but an out and out socialist.  They and others have been pulling the Party’s leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to the left with them.
  3. Some of the policies they have been espousing, such as open borders, universally free healthcare, cradle to grave government assistance, and free college education for everyone may sound appealing to some, but they are ill-advised and irresponsible on many levels, have not worked in other countries, would destroy the middle class and bankrupt the country.
  4. Many of the Dems still refuse to believe that they lost in 2016 legitimately.  Even 18 months later they are still focused on Russian election tampering and collusion with the Trump campaign.  They refuse to admit they lost because the GOP had a better candidate and most Americans were just fed up with the same old, same old in Washington.  Their primary campaign issue for 2018 is negativity: Trump is a bad guy.  He is a racist, a misogynist.  We hate him.  We want to impeach him.  They will need more than that to win back Congress in 2018 and the presidency in 2020.
  5. This month is the anniversary of the commencement of the Mueller investigation.  Whether you love or hate President Trump you have to admit that the Mueller investigation has not turned up even a smidgeon of collusion or obstruction on the part of Mr. Trump or his campaign.  And, this is despite having spent millions of dollars, conducting over 100 interviews, examining millions of documents and diverting the country’s attention away from more important matters.  In addition, the objectivity of the investigators and the investigation, itself, has been, to say the least, highly questionable.  Instead, we have found evidence of improper, if not illegal, acts by Democrats and their supporters, for instance, leaking confidential information and entrapment on the part of FBI agents (Stroh, Comey and others), compiling and pushing an unverified, if not downright false, dossier on Mr. Trump that was compiled by the Clinton campaign, “trumping up” phony evidence to obtain a FISA warrant, engaging in illegal wiretapping, and placing an undercover agent within the Trump campaign.  One could legitimately make the case that Messrs. Trump, Jr., Papadopoulos and Carter were “set up” with respect to their infamous meetings and information provided.  This week, even the NY Times was forced to concur, opining that “a year and a half later, no public evidence has surfaced connecting Mr. Trump’s advisors to the hacking or linking Mr. Trump, himself, to the Russian government ‘s disruptive efforts.”  You know it must have killed them to admit and publish that.
  6. Somehow, the Party has been maneuvered into defending the heinous MS-13 gang as well as other criminal illegal aliens.  In addition, their open border stance and support of sanctuary cities have given many people the distinct impression that they prefer the rights of illegal aliens to those of US citizens.  I and many others believe their preference for the rights of illegal aliens is designed to develop a new constituency of voters, prospectively.
  7. MS-13 is one of, if not the, most vicious gangs in the world.  They don’t just kill people.  They chop them up with machetes.  They dismember them.  They torture.  They gang rape.  And, they do it to the victims’ extended family members as well.  They are the worst of the worst.  And they have been increasingly active in the US.
  8. Surprise!  Surprise!   Some members sneak in hidden among other refugees and asylum seekers.  Kids, no more than ten or eleven are recruited or coerced to join.  Mr. Trump’s border security policy attempts to keep them out.  The Dems’ open border policy makes it easy for them to enter.  The crowning blow came this week when Mr. Trump specifically referred to MS-13 members as “animals.”  Based on their abovementioned acts this is hard to dispute.  I think most Americans would agree with that characterization.  But, not the NY Times and Washington Post, which either carelessly or deliberately misquoted Mr. Trump to make it appear that he characterized all immigrants as “animals.”  Also, various Dem politicians and supporters piled on.  For example, Anna Navarro compared Mr. Trump to Nazis and former slave owners.  Nancy Pelosi defended MS-13 members , lecturing us that “we are all God’s children,” and we should “respect the dignity of every person.”  Incidentally, it was the same Anna Navarro who during the 2016 campaign referred to candidate Trump as “an animal.  Apologies to animals.”  Regardless of one’s opinion of President Trump or his choice of words, the Dems are definitely on the wrong side of this issue.
  9. Congressman Al Green (D-TX) is still aggressively pushing impeachment, like a modern-day Don Quixote.  Mr. Green should review the constitution.   Its definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” is fairly flexible (Gerald Ford once famously said it is whatever the Congress decides it to be at a particular point in time.), but it definitely does not include personal dislike or disagreement.

CONCLUSION

The sad irony is that if the Dems were so inclined there are legitimate issues they could exploit and campaign on.  For example, many Americans are concerned about healthcare and gun violence.

Historically, the party in power normally loses seats in the off-year midterm elections.  The question is how many seats will the GOP lose and will they still retain a majority.  The GOP has several accomplishments it could campaign on, such as the improving economy, low unemployment (historically low in the case of AAs), tax cut, defeating ISIS, NOKO talks, but they have to articulate them effectively.

The mainstream media would have us believe that a “blue wave” will sweep the country in November.  I have my doubts.  Let’s not forget that some of the Dems running for re-election are in “red” states that Mr. Trump won handily in 2016.  Personally, I think the results will be closer than most people think, and if the Dems don’t change their strategy they could be in for a big disappointment.

THE ROYAL WEDDING

As the whole world knows, the royal wedding between Price Harry, aka Prince Henry of Wales, the second son of Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales, and Meghan Markle will take place tomorrow, Saturday, at 12:00 pm London time at St. George Chapel at Windsor Castle.  Probably, much, if not most, of the civilized world will be glued to their tv sets so as not to miss even the most insignificant part of the nuptials.

For the most part, I have not been a big fan of the Royal family’s comings and goings.  I have nothing against most of them, personally.  My main interest in the Royals has been the manner in which they have impacted history, particularly the more notable rulers, such as King Henry VIII and Queens Elizabeth and Victoria, to name a few.   As for the rest of it, for example, their exalted and privileged status and station in life due to an accident of birth, the overly lavish lifestyle, the celebrity status, all the pomp and circumstance and suffocating protocols and etiquette, I just don’t see the relevance in the 21st century.  In short, to me they are an anachronism.

All that said, I am interested in the Royal Wedding because of Meghan Markel.  I enjoyed watching her performances on the TV hit series, Suits (2011-2018), and I am intrigued by the fact that she is a “commoner” (Incidentally, I really hate that term.  It conjures up class distinctions and tells you all you need to know about monarchies and why they’re passe.), an American, and a person of “mixed race heritage” as Wikipedia so delicately puts it,  As most of you know by now, she will be the second American and the first person of “mixed race heritage” to marry into the British royal family.

So, who is Meghan Markel, and how did she get to where she is?  Glad you asked.  Read on.

Meghan Markel was born on August 4, 1981 in Los Angeles.  Her father is Caucasian and, interestingly, according to Wikipedia, is a distant relative of England’s King Edward, III.  Her father was in the entertainment business peripherally.  He was a lighting director in daytime TV and actually won a Daytime Emmy.  Her mom, an African American, was a social worker and yoga instructor.  They divorced when Meghan was six.

She graduated from Northwestern University in 2003 with a degree in international studies and theatre. She married Trevor Engelson in 2011.  They divorced in 2013.

Meghan is more than merely an actress, although that is how she is best known.  To put it bluntly, before Suits, however, her acting career was mostly nondescript.  It consisted of small, forgettable roles in forgotten movies and single-episode appearances on tv series.  For example, in 2005’s movie A Lot Like Love she played a “passenger on a plane.”

In her other endeavors, Meghan was a counsellor for “One Young World,” an international charity that advocates gender equality and derides “modern-day slavery.”  In addition, she was founder and editor-in-chief of The Tig, a lifestyle website.  Furthermore, in partnership with Reitmans, a Canadian clothing company, she distributed a line of women’s fashion work wear.

Some fun facts regarding the royal couple nuptials, most of which those of you who are ardent “royal watchers” probably already know:

  1. Harry and Meghan met on a blind date.
  2. The Saturday wedding is a break with tradition in that such events have usually been held on a weekday.  Traditionally, the weekday wedding days have been designated as “Bank holidays,” but this Saturday has not.
  3. In a nice gesture, the royal couple has requested that, in lieu of traditional gifts, guests should make donations to one of various designated charities.
  4. Due to Meghan’s father’s illness Price Charles will walk her down the aisle.
  5. Prince William will be the best man.  The couple has selected the children of various friends and relatives to act as pages and bridesmaids.
  6. Due to the small venue, the guest list will be limited to 600, roughly 1/3 of the number, for instance, that attended the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1947.  These are people who have a “close” and “direct” relationship with the couple.  In addition, since Harry is “merely” 6th in the line of succession to the throne, protocol dictated that it was not required to invite political leaders and Heads of State, and so most of them were omitted.
  7. Since Harry is one of the six persons in the line of succession both Queen Elizabeth and the Church had to give their approvals, which they did.  In case you’re interested, the Church no longer denies permission to a divorced person with a living spouse.  Meghan was baptized into the Church in March and is in the process of becoming a British citizen.  It has not been determined if she will retain her US citizenship.
  8. It is estimated that the wedding will cost 500,000 pounds (approximately $673,000), which, thankfully, will be covered by the Royal Family.
  9. In addition to the reception for those attending the ceremony there will be a larger one for family and other close friends and a carriage procession, which will be viewed by selected people.

CONCLUSION

This will be a real rarity for all you “royal watchers,” many of whom will rise in the wee hours tomorrow so as not to miss anything.  Others may watch bits and pieces, here and there.  Still others will take a “bah humbug” approach and watch reruns or old movies.

Finally, for those of you that are interested, some etiquette tips for the guests courtesy of Town and Country and its panel of etiquette experts:

  1. One expert advises ladies to cover their heads; another one said “hats are encouraged, but not required.”  Good luck with that.
  2. Ladies, no bare legs.
  3. Heels should be moderate, but not too high.
  4. Don’t wear white.
  5. Many men will wear a “morning suit” whatever that is, but if not, a conservative suit, grey or navy, would be appropriate.  Avoid garish waistcoats or accessories.
  6. Bow and curtsy properly.

So, now you can eagerly watch for etiquette faux pas.  Enjoy the show.

ISRAELI INDEPENDENCE DAY

Today, May 14, is a “red-letter day” for the State of Israel and its supporters.  First of all, it marks the 70th anniversary of Israeli Independence Day, formally known as the “Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel.”  (The equivalent date on the Hebrew calendar, 5 Iyar, was celebrated throughout Israel as Independence Day last month.)  Secondly, today the US embassy officially relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The US embassy relocation was a long time coming.  To paraphrase President Trump, a very staunch supporter who, make no mistake about it, was the driving force behind the move, every country has the right to designate its capital city, and foreign embassies should be located in the capital city.  In reality, Jerusalem is and has been the real capital of Israel, so the US is merely recognizing reality.  Every other President promised to relocate the embassy, but it was President Trump who delivered.

Critics will wring their hands and complain that it hurts the peace process, but, in truth, the peace process between the Jews and the Arabs in the region has been languishing for years.  Some would characterize it as DOA.  Animosities go back thousands of years.  Hardliners like Iran have denied Israel’s very right to exist and have vowed to crush it.  For all intents and purposes, a constant state of war has existed between Israel and most of its neighbors for the entirety of its existence.  President Trump has reaffirmed the US’s commitment to the peace process, and I believe him.  Today’s Hamas-inspired violence was unfortunate, but it fell far short of the chaos and mayhem that some had predicted.

The birth of the State of Israel can be traced to the Zionist movement of the late 19th Century.   Two of the early leaders of this movement were Theodore Hertzl and Chaim Weizmann.  The Zionists’ goal was to re-establish a Jewish state in the land area that is now the State of Israel.

It picked up steam following WW1.  The Middle East had been part of the Ottoman Empire.  After their defeat, the British took control of the area.  The Brits issued the controversial Balfour Declaration, named for Foreign Secretary Alfred Balfour, which among other things, called for the establishment of a home for the Jews in Palestine.  That gave Zionists hope.  A land of their own free from the scourge of anti-Semitism.

The problem was, the Declaration was vague on details, and it may have contradicted certain promises the Brits had made to Arab chieftains in exchange for their support against the Turks in WW1.  Also, there was a large majority of Arabs living in the area who wanted no part of a Jewish state.  The powers that be essentially “kicked the can down the road.”

The situation simmered until after WWII when, in response to increasing violence the Brits dumped the matter into the hands of the UN.  The UN passed a resolution to partition Palestine, as it was called, into three areas – an Arab state, a Jewish state and a “Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem.”  The Jewish state was to receive some 56% of the area’s landmass.

Unlike the Arabs, the Jews were willing to accept the terms of the resolution, except for the borders.  The Arabs wanted all of the area and were willing and eager to take it by force.  Consequently, the Jewish leader, David Ben-Gurion, famously stated that if the Arabs would not agree to the borders neither would the Jews. “Why should we obligate ourselves to accept boundaries that, in any case, the Arabs don’t accept?”  If Israel won a war, he said, it would keep whatever additional land it captured.  When the dust had settled, Israel was in control of an additional 60% of the land that the UN resolution had originally awarded to the Arabs.

Meanwhile, on May 14, 1948 Israel issued a declaration establishing itself as a Jewish state.  There was some discussion regarding the name of the state.  Some of the other names considered besides “Israel” were “Ziona,” “Ivriya,” and “Herzliya.”  “Israel” was Ben-Gurion’s choice, and I believe it was a good one.

CONCLUSION

In my opinion, the State of Israel has much to be proud of.  As stated above, it had to fight for its very existence against very long odds.  Furthermore, it has had to maintain a constant state of vigilance and fight several wars and skirmishes just to survive.  According to an editorial in the National Catholic Reporter it is “an event to celebrate in a part of the world where democracy remains rare,” (I would say, “unique.”)

Israel’s only reliable ally over the past 70 years has been the US, although I believe that some Administrations have been less supportive than others.  The US was the first country to recognize Israel as a state.  (It took President Truman about 11 hours to do so.)  In return, Israel has been the US’s only consistent and reliable ally in the region.

I maintain that Jews should be very proud of this country.  Even non-Jews should admire its ability and determination to continue to survive in a hostile world.

70 years!  Congratulations, Israel!  Well done!

MOTHER’S DAY

Today, Sunday, May 13, most Americans will celebrate Mother’s Day.  Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world in some form.  Different countries have their own way of celebrating the day and even celebrate on different dates.  Some countries have replicated the US traditions – hallmark [or email (tacky)] card, flowers, chocolates, and family gatherings; others have incorporated it into other holidays honoring women or mothers; and in still others, a combination of the two has evolved.

Restauranteurs claim that Mother’s Day is their busiest day of the year. Evidently, one of the perks for mothers on MD is a day off from cooking.  And why not?  (On the other hand, on Father’s Day the restaurants are relatively empty as many fathers are put to work barbecuing.

In the US MD was first celebrated in 1908 when a lady named Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother.  Ms. Jarvis had been campaigning for the country to recognize a day to honor mothers since 1905 when her mother had passed away.  In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed an official proclamation establishing the second Sunday in May as MD.  It was to be a day to honor mothers and the concept of motherhood and their contributions to society.

Eventually, Ms. Jarvis became disillusioned with the commercialization of the holiday. By the 1920’s the greeting card, candy and flower industries were marketing their products aggressively to take advantage of the holiday. Jarvis strongly advocated that people should demonstrate their love and respect for their mothers through personalized, handwritten letters instead.  Being a person of action she organized protests and threatened boycotts of these industries.  At one point, she was arrested for disturbing the peace at a candy manufacturers’ convention.

Despite her efforts, commercialization of the day has continued to grow.  Americans, in particular, tend to demonstrate their love in tangible, material ways through the giving of gifts.  Today, MD is one of the biggest days for the sale of flowers, candy and greeting cards. According to CNN this year Americans will spend an average of $180 on their mothers for the holiday.  In addition, it is the third-biggest day for church attendance behind Christmas Eve and Easter.

As I stated, MD is celebrated in many countries in different ways and at different dates. For example:

1. The most common date is the second Sunday in May, which is May 13 this year. Besides the US, some of the countries that celebrate it on this date are Canada, Italy the Peoples Republic of China and Turkey.

2. Some countries, such as the UK, Ireland and Nigeria, celebrate it on the fourth Sunday of Lent. The UK incorporated it into a previously existing holiday called “Mothering Sunday.” ” Mothering Sunday” dates from the 16th Century.

3. Many Arab countries, such as Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia celebrate it on the vernal equinox (March 21).

4. Russia used to celebrate MD on March 8 in conjunction with International Women’s Day, but in 1998 the date was changed, by law, to the last Sunday in November.

5. Bolivia celebrates it on May 27, which is the date of an historically significant battle in which women played a key role.

6. Since 1950 France has celebrated MD on the fourth Sunday in May, except when the date conflicts with Pentecost in which case it is delayed to the next Sunday.

7. Hindus celebrate MD on the new moon day in the month of Baisakh (April/May).

CONCLUSION

Some of you may have noted that I spelled MD as Mother’s Day.  This was not an error.  The official holiday is spelled in the singular tense.    According to Ms. Jarvis the day is intended to honor “the best mother who ever lived, yours.”

MD is one of the few truly internationally recognized holidays.  One of the charming features of the day is the variety of ways and dates on which it is celebrated. This is derived from the differences in customs and cultures around the world.

One thing is certain now and will remain so prospectively: on this day the mother/wife is truly in charge.

Men, all together now, let’s repeat the two-word mantra for a successful marriage:
YES, DEAR!

PRESIDENT TRUMP AND THE IRAN NUKE DEAL

President Trump has opted out of the Iran Nuke Deal, formally called The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) and one would think Armageddon was upon us.  The Dems and the usual suspects in the media would have you believe that Trump’s “irresponsible,” “reckless” action will make the world less safe and will more likely lead to nuclear war.  The Nation labeled it the “most reckless policy move yet” and a “prelude to war.”  Oh my!  Let’s all take a deep breath and analyze the situation rationally.

  1.  The first point to comprehend is that Mr. Trump was within his rights, legally, to take the action he did.  The deal was never ratified by the Senate.  President Obama, perhaps, realizing that the Senate would have been unlikely to ratify such a flawed agreement, committed the US to it by executive action.  Therefore, Mr. Trump was within his rights to undue it the same way.
  2. There are many flaws in the deal but, to me, the two most egregious are (1) the absence of inspection and verification by an independent body and (2) the “sunset provision.”  The absence of independent inspection and verification would have made it easy for Iran to cheat.  Raise your hand if you trust Iran to comply.  The sunset provision made Iran’s neighbors very uneasy, not just Israel, but Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey as well.  Mr. Trump stated that he feared it would trigger a nuclear arms race as other countries in the region would seek to protect themselves by developing their own nuclear stockpiles.
  3. The $1.7 billion cash payment to Iran defies all logic. Obviously, it has been and will continue be used to fund terrorist and destabilizing activities in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Mr. Trump’s action should have come as no surprise.  During his campaign he railed on and on about the deal, characterizing it as “the worst deal ever.”  In addition, he called Iran the “leading state sponsor of terror.”  Furthermore, Iran has repeatedly and unabashedly stated its intention to “wipe Israel (the US’s staunchest and most reliable ally in the region) off the face of the earth.”

The deal may not have been quite the “worst,” but it was very bad.  It was dangerous, because it presented the illusion of protecting the US and its allies, yet it failed to do so.  The false sense of security and positive “spin” by Messrs. Obama, Kerry, Clinton  and others reminded me of Neville Chamberlain and the Munich Pact in 1938.  “Peace in our time,”  he had proclaimed, jubilantly.  We all know how that turned out.

Mr. Trump called for the reinstitution of sanctions, which had been terminated in 2015 as part of the deal, to be phased in over the next six months.  Moreover, he warned that any country that provides assistance to Iran’s nuclear program could also face sanctions.

CONCLUSION

By now, we should all be familiar with President Trump’s methodology, and he is following it here.

  1. He will endeavor to undue or, at least, modify deals and agreements that he perceives as disadvantageous to the US.  The much quoted and often maligned slogan “America first” is not an empty promise to him.  Some examples include NATO, TPP, NAFTA, the climate change deal, and North Korea.
  2. The NOKO situation is particularly instructive.  First, he took a tough position toward Kim, which Mr. Trump’s critics called “inflammatory,” “ill-advised,” “reckless” and worse.  But, in the end he has brought NOKO to the bargaining table, and got them to free three hostages, UNHARMED AND AT NO COST.  It’s called negotiating, and it is what Mr. Trump has done very successfully all his adult life.  As I keep saying, focus on what Mr. Trump does, not on what he says.
  3. You will note that the sanctions are being phased in over the next six months.  Lots of things can happen in the next six months.  Iran will bluster. Mr. Trump’s critics will bloviate.  Britain, France and Germany will complain publicly, but privately they will likely open back channels to Iran.  After all, everyone has much to lose economically.  Don’t be surprised if the deal is modified to something the US can live with.

TRUMP AND THE NOBEL PRIZE

Can President Trump win the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his bringing North and South Korea together to sign a peace treaty “de-nuclearizing” the Korean peninsula?    Should he? Will he?  Three questions, possibly different answers.  In my opinion they are “yes,” “yes,” and “perhaps.”

First, a little background for those who are unfamiliar with the Nobel Prize, how it’s awarded and, perhaps, who Nobel even was.

  1.  The so-called Nobel Prize consists of five individual awards that recognize achievement or advances in Chemistry, Physics, Literature, Medicine and Peace.  Following a lengthy nominating process, the first four are awarded by a board of prominent Swedish citizens; the peace prize honoree is selected by a Norwegian Nobel Committee.  Aside from enduring fame, the winner, or laureate as it officially called, receives a gold medal, a diploma and a sum of money.  In 2017 this sum was in excess of $1 million.
  2. The  awards are named after Alfred Nobel, a renowned 19th century chemist, engineer and inventor.  Nobel was born in Stockholm, Sweden on October 21, 1833.  During his lifetime he amassed a fortune, primarily in the manufacture of armaments, notably explosives.  He is credited with some 350 inventions.  One of his most well-known was dynamite.  In his will, he stipulated that his fortune be used to fund a series of “prizes” to be bestowed annually upon those that confer “the greatest benefit on mankind” in the abovementioned categories.  The Peace Prize may be, and has been, awarded to an institution as well as an individual.  Moreover, the prizes may be, and often have been, shared.
  3. Nobel died in 1896.  (As an aside, in 1888 Nobel actually read his own obituary published in a French newspaper.  The headline was “the merchant of death is dead.”  Obviously, it was an error.  In point of fact, it Nobel’s brother who had died.)
  4. A few individuals have been awarded more than one prize.  Only one, however, Marie Curie, has been awarded prizes in two different disciplines (Physics and Chemistry).  Furthermore, the extended Curie family has won four prizes.

What did the three US Presidents do to win their respective Peace Prizes?

  1. Teddy Roosevelt won in 1906 for mediating the terms of the Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).
  2. Woodrow Wilson won in 1919 for helping end WWI and for his staunch efforts in conceiving and promoting the League of Nations.  Ironically, the League was DOA since the US never joined.  In addition, many historians maintain that Wilson’s tireless and ultimately futile efforts to convince the US Senate to vote to approve the US’s joining the League contributed to his fatal stroke.
  3. Barack Obama won in 2009 for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”  Obama was a curious choice.  Some members of the committee denoted that he had only been President for a couple of weeks and had “not yet secured the achievements to merit such an accolade.”  Obama, himself, was quoted as saying he did not feel deserving of such an award.  He may have been just being modest, although if one compares his achievement to that of other laureates one would have to agree.

So, back to President Trump.  What is his achievement?  It relates to the Korean peninsula.  The Korean War (officially a “conflict”) began on June 25, 1950.  North Korea was supported mainly by China and the USSR.  South Korea had the backing of the UN (basically, the US).  After three years of often brutal fighting the parties agreed to an Armistice on July 27, 1953.  No formal peace treaty was ever signed, so, technically, NOKO and SOKO are still in a state of war.  Tensions have been very high for some 65 years.  During this time, the US has been trying to ease tensions, but to no avail.  Every president has failed.

Now, the tension has ratcheted up as NOKO is on the verge of becoming a nuclear power, if it has not already.  President Trump has succeeded in getting NOKO at least to agree to join negotiations for denuclearization and other matters, possibly a treaty.  We don’t know how it will end up, but at least we have a good start.  For the first time a thaw in relations between NOKO and SOKO seems possible.

CONCLUSION

I realize that the selection of the Nobel laureates is based on politics as well as actual achievement.  Therefore, Mr. Trump may be denied the prize many think he deserves, because many dislike him, personally, or disagree with his politics.  In my view, however, personal or political factors should not be relevant.  After all, Yasser Arafat, a terrorist, was selected as a laureate in 1994 for his efforts to make peace between Palestine and Israel.  We can all see how that has worked out.

I maintain that President Trump has earned the award, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations.  After all, efforts at peace have been recognized in the past, and we likely will not know the true outcome of the peace talks for many years.

The Nobel Committee may even deem it appropriate to award a share to Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-in.  Okay by me.

POP CULTURE QUIZ

My darling and devoted wife claims I have very limited knowledge of pop culture. Perhaps, but let’s test your knowledge. You know the drill: no peeking at the internet. Don’t ask “Alexa.”  Good luck.

  1. Each of the following movies won the Oscar for “Best Picture, EXCEPT:

(a) Crash; (b) Argo; (c) Hacksaw Ridge; (d) Moonlight

2.  President Trump has been mentioned as a possible winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  How many previous US presidents have been so honored?

(a) 1; (b) 2; (c) 3; (d 4)

3.  Which famous entertainer was born in Steubenville, Ohio?

(a) Dean Martin; (b) Bing Crosby; (c) Jack Benny; (d) Liberace

4.  Which of the below actors played “Danno” on the original “Hawaii 50” tv series?

(a) Al Harrington; (b) Buddy Ebsen; (c) Larry Manetti; (d) James MacArthur

5.  Alfred Hitchcock directed each of the below movies, EXCEPT:

(a) “Psycho;” (b) “Marnie;” (c) “The Birds;” (d) “The House of Wax”

6.  Each of the below was a 2017 Emmy Award winner, EXCEPT:

(a) John Lithgow; (b) Viola Davis; (c) Nicole Kidman; (d) Sterling Brown

7.  Which of the below actors won the 2018 Oscar for “Best Actor?”

(a) Gary Oldman; (b) Daniel Kaluuya; (c) Denzel Washington; (d) Woody Harrelson

8.  In the famous Abbott and Costello comedy routine “Who’s on First,” the name of the second baseman is:  (a) What; (b) When; (c) Tomorrow; (d) I don’t know.

9.  Which child actor debuted in the tv show “Little House on the Prairie?”
(a) Ed Furlong; (b) Richard Thomas; (c) Jerry Mathers; (d) Jason Bateman

10.  Each of the following is a show created by Dick Wolf, EXCEPT:

(a) South Beach; (b) Law and Order; (c) Boston Legal; (d) Chicago Justice

11.  Which movie featured music by Simon and Garfunkle, including megahit “Sounds of Silence?”

(a) The Apartment; (b) The Graduate; (c) Eyes without a Trace; (d) A Patch of Blue

12.  Which of the below actresses won the 2018 Oscar for “Best Supporting Actress?”

(a) Octavia Spencer; (b) Mary Blige; (c) Allison Janney; (d) Sally Hawkins

13.  The rock ‘n roll song, “Rock Around the Clock” was featured in which of these movies?

(a) Blackboard Jungle; (b) The Rockers; (c) The Survivors; (d) Teen Angel

14.  Each of the following was a member of the “Rat Pack,” EXCEPT:

a.  Peter Lawford; (b) Dean Martin; (c) Vic Damone; (d) Frank Sinatra

15.  Who was the host of the “Newly Wed Game?”

(a)  Pat Sajak; (b) Alex Trebek; Marc Summers; (d) Chuck Barris

16.  Which famous actor appeared on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air?”

(a) Will Smith; (b) Denzel Washington; (c) Brian Forster; (d) Fred Savage

17.  The hit song, “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” was featured in which movie?

(a)  Bonnie and Clyde; (b) Cool Hand Luke; (c) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; (d) Eyes without a Trace

18.  Whose birth name was Joseph Barrow?  (a) Cary Grant; (b)  Joe Louis; (c) Robert Mitchum; (d) Peter O’Toole

19.  Which rapper was born Curtis James Jackson, III

(a) Lil Wayne; (b) Eminem; (c) LL Cool J; (d) “Fitty” Cent

20.  Name the original host of the tv game show, “The Match Game.”
(a) Don Pardo; (b) Art Fleming; (c) Pat Sajak; (d) Gene Rayburn

ANSWERS

  1. (c);  2. (d) (Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama);  3. (a);  4. (d);  5. (d);  6. (b);  7. (a);  8.  (a);  9. (b);  10. (c); 11. (b); 12.(c); 13. (a); 14. (c); 15. (d);  16. (a);  17. (c); 18. (b) (Joseph Louis Barrow); 19. (d);  20. (d)

Let me know how you did.  Also, I am happy to accept suggested questions for my next quiz.