THE DECLINE OF CIVILITY AND RESPECT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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WORLD CUP 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

Quiz answers:

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

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION AND CHILD SEPARATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUMMER SOLSTICE

In the northern hemisphere, the 2018 summer solstice will occur tomorrow, June 21, at 6:07 am. As most of us know, the ss is the date with the longest period of daylight, and when the sun’s shadow is its shortest. Furthermore, in most of the US it is the date on which the sun appears to be at its highest point in the sky. In extreme northern locales the sun will be “out” the entire day. In the NY area, where I live, we will get about 15 hours of sun.

The word “solstice” is derived from the Latin “sol,” meaning “sun” and “sistere,” meaning “to stand still.” As the seasons progress from winter to summer in the northern hemisphere, the sun appears to move north in the sky. On the date of the ss it has progressed as far north as it will get, and it momentarily “stands still” before it appears to begin to slide southward toward the point of its winter solstice.

In most cultures and countries the summer and winter solstices are intertwined with the seasons. For example, in the US and many other countries the ss marks the commencement of summer. On the other hand, in extreme northern and southern locations the solstices mark the midpoint of summer or winter.

For many ancient cultures the ss was a festive time. Most of them were sun worshippers anyway, and the longest day of the year was a reason to celebrate the renewal of life. The recurrent themes, in various forms, were life, light, femininity, marriage and fertility. (Perhaps, this concept was the derivation of the custom of having weddings in June.)

For example:

      1.   The pagan holiday, Litha, which is a celebration of light and life, was celebrated on that date.

 

      2. Many archaeologists maintain that the ancient culture that constructed Stonehenge intended it to be a crude calendar. The stones do seem to have been placed to align with the sunrise on the date of the ss.

 

      3. The ancient Chinese marked the date with celebrations of the femininity, the “Yin” forces, and the Earth, itself. This served as a counterpoint to the winter solstice, which was a celebration of the heavens, masculinity, and the “Yang” forces.

 

      4. Typically, Native Americans held festivals featuring body paint and ritualistic dances.

 

      5. In ancient Gaul (modern-day France) the celebration was called the Feast of Epona after a mare goddess that protected horses and personified fertility.

 

      6. Slavic and Germanic cultures celebrated with huge bonfires.

 

CONCLUSION

In modern times the ss is a time to celebrate the arrival of summer. In many extreme northern areas, where the people may not see the sun at all for certain parts of the year, such as northern Sweden, Finland and Norway, people spend the entire day outside. Many of them decorate their homes, light bonfires, and dance around Maypoles.
I have always enjoyed a warm summer day as much as the next guy. But, truthfully, to me June 21 is just another day. Depending on the weather I will play golf, play outside with the kids (or grandkids), go to the beach, or, if it’s inclement, just stay inside.

One final thought on the date, it has always seemed counterintuitive to me that the beginning of summer also marked the time when the days started to get shorter, and I view shorter days as a harbinger of winter. Whatever, you do, enjoy the day.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – JUNE

Below please find a list of historically significant events that occurred during the month of June.

June 3, 1937 – After abdicating the British throne, The Duke of Windsor, formerly known as King Edward VIII, married Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee.

June 3, 1972 – Sally Jane Priesand became the first female ordained rabbi in the US.

June 4, 1944 – The allies liberate Rome.

June 4, 1989 – Chinese government troops open fire on unarmed protesters in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

June 5,  1968 –  Following a celebration of his victory in the California primary presidential candidate Robert Kennedy was shot and mortally wounded while leaving the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

June 6, 1944 – D Day.  The Allies landed successfully at Normandy Beach opening up a crucial second front against the Axis Powers.

June 9, 1898 –  The British signed a 99-year lease for Hong Kong.  On July 1, 1997 the sovereignty of Hong Kong reverted to The Peoples Republic of China.

June 11, 1994 – The Soviet military occupation of East Germany ended after 49 years.

June 12, 1898 – The Philippine Islands declared their independence from Spain whereupon the US swooped in and took control.

June 12, 1963 – Civil rights leader, Medgar Evers, was ambushed and assassinated in Jackson, MS.

June 13, 1966 –  In Miranda v Arizona the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that an accused person must be apprised of his rights to remain silent and have an attorney present prior to being questioned by the police.

June 13, 1971 –  The New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers, a compendium of top secret documents outlining the US’s strategy for the Vietnam War.

June 14, 1922 –  Warren Harding became the first president to broadcast a message to the American people over the radio.

June 14, 1951 – The world’s first commercial electronic computer, Univac I, was unveiled in Philadelphia.

June 15, 1215 – English King John signed the Magna Carta, the first document to guarantee certain basic rights to a monarch’s subjects.  It has since served as a cornerstone for all democracies.

June 17, 1972 – Watergate ceased being known as merely a hotel as the police arrested five men who had broken into the National Democratic Headquarters there.  Eventually, this incident led to the unravelling of a massive conspiracy, which culminated in the resignation of President Richard Nixon.  Also, since then we have we attached the suffix “gate” to every scandal.

June 18, 1815 – A coalition of British, Prussian, Dutch and Belgian troops defeated Napoleon and the French at Waterloo.

June 18, 1983 – Dr. Sally Ride became the first woman in space.

June 19, 1953 –  Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, after becoming the first civilians to be sentenced to death for espionage, were executed in the electric chair in NY.

June 22, 1941 – In a grossly ill-advised strategic decision, some 3.2 million German soldiers invaded Russia across an 1,800 mile wide front.

June 24, 1948 –  The Soviet blockade of West Berlin began.  The allies responded with a massive airlift.  The Soviets were forced to lift the blockade eleven months later.

June 25, 1876 – General Custer and 250 men were massacred at the Little Bighorn by some 2,000 Sioux Indians.

June 25, 1950 – The Korean Conflict began as North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea.

June 28, 1862 – Northern troops began the siege of Vicksburg.  The fall of Vicksburg was one of the turning points of the Civil War (along with the Battle of Gettysburg).

June 28, 1914 – Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were assassinated, which directly led to WWI.

June 28, 1919 – The Treaty of Versailles was signed formally ending WWI.

June 30, 1971 – The 26th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted reducing the voting age from 21 to 18 in all states.

June 30, 1997 – China assumed sovereignty over Hong Kong from Great Britain.

Birthdays –  Brigham Young – 6/1/1801 in Whittingham, VT; Norma Jean Mortensen, aka Marilyn Monroe – 6/1/1926 in Los Angeles; Marquis de Sade – 6/2/1740 in Paris; Jefferson Davis – 6/3/1808 in Fairview, KY; King George, III – 6/4/1738 in Westminster, England; Adam Smith – 6/5/1723 in Kirkcaldy, Scotland; John Maynard Keynes – 6/5/1883 in Cambridge, England; Nathan Hale – 6/6/1755 in Coventry, CT; Paul Gauguin – 6/7/1848 in Paris; Frank Lloyd Wright – 6/8/1867 in Richland Center, WI; Cole Porter – 6/9/1893 in Peru, IN; Frances Gumm, aka Judy Garland – 6/10/1922 in Grand Rapids, MN; Jacques Cousteau – 6/11/1910 in Ste-Andre-de-Cubzac, France; Vince Lombardi – 6/11/1913 in Brooklyn, NY; George Bush, 41st President – 6/12/1924 in Milton, MA; Anne Frank – 6/12/1929 in Frankfurt, Germany; Harriet Beecher Stowe (wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin) – 6/14/1811 in Litchfield, CT; Alois Alzheimer( first to identify the disease that bears his name) – 6/14/1864 in Markbreit am Maintz, Germany; Stan Laurel – 6/16/1890 in Ulverston, England; George Mallory (British explorer, attempted to climb Mt. Everest.  Why? “Because it is there.”) – 6/18/1886;  Lou Gehrig – 6/19/1903 in NYC; Audie Murphy (most decorated US soldier of WWII) – 6/20/1924 in Kingston, TX; William Arthur Philip Louis, aka Prince William – 6/21/1982 in London; Jack Dempsey – 6/24/1895 in Manassa, CO; Eric Arthur Blair, aka George Orwell, (wrote 1984) – 6/25/1903 in Montihari, Bengal; Mildred (“Babe”) Didrikson (probably, greatest all around female athlete) – 6/26/1914 in Port Arthur, TX; Dr. William Mayo (co-founder of the Mayo Clinic) – 6/29/1861 in LeSeuer, MN.

 

 

 

 

US OPEN GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP

Goodbye Tiger.  The 118th US Open is underway at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club located in eastern Long Island, and once again Tiger has missed the cut at a major.  Thus, once again, we face the controversial question of whether or not he will ever return to his prior dominance, or even compete with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, and the various other “young guns.”   These guys outdrive him, out-putt him  and, most of all, are no longer in awe of him.  Tiger used to intimidate other golfers just by his presence.  No more.

How will Tiger’s absence affect the tv ratings for the weekend? That remains to be seen, but the USGA and Fox TV will be holding their collective breaths for a close, suspenseful tournament that will attract the casual golf fans.  (Note: as I write this, Dustin Johnson has a four-stroke lead.  He is certainly capable of running away from the field, and if he does so, the ratings may suffer.)  Despite Woods’ varied issues, both golf-related and personal, he remains the most compelling figure in the sport, particularly with respect to casual fans.

Shinnecock is not easy to get to.  Most of the access roads in the area have one lane, and there have already been major traffic jams.  One golfer missed his practice tee time, and others have come close.  A few players have chosen to commute by boat in order to beat the traffic.  Today and tomorrow should be better due to fewer people commuting to work and the learning curve of the traffic police.

Arguably, the main story the first two days was the course, itself.  On Thursday, it was so windy that many of the pros looked like weekend duffers.  Their drives landed in the deep fescue, their irons missed the greens and their putting was woefully inconsistent.  There were many three-putts, and Tiger, for one, four-putted one hole.  Undoubtedly, many fans watching on tv said, “hey, he looks like me!  I can do that!”

Moreover, Tiger wasn’t the only “name” to miss the cut.  He was joined by Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Jason Day, and Jordan Spieth, among other notables.   In addition, Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson just squeaked through by two strokes.

The Open is one of four “major” championships in golf.   The others are the Masters, which is held in April, the British Open (July), and the PGA (August).  As in tennis, the majors are considered to be so important that players’ legacies are determined, in large part, by the number they have won.

Originally, the majors were generally considered to include the US and British Opens and the US and British Amateurs. Those were the tournaments that Bobby Jones won for his Grand Slam. However, concurrent with the rise of professional golf in the US in the 1940s and 1950s the Masters and the PGA replaced the two amateur tournaments in importance.  After all, it no longer made much sense to include amateur tournaments as majors when most of the best golfers could no longer qualify to compete in them.

The watershed year was 1960.  That year Arnold Palmer, who was the best and most influential golfer at the time, won the Masters and the US Open.  He observed that if he could add the British Open and the PGA he would have completed a “grand slam” equal to that of Mr. Jones.  He failed to do so, but the notion of those four tournaments as the four majors “stuck.”

The Open is always scheduled for mid-June with the final round on Father’s Day. The Open field includes 156 players from all over the world. Golf has truly become an international sport. The Open includes four rounds of stroke play over four days. Until this year, if a playoff were required a full 18 holes was played on Monday. If there were still a tie the winner was decided by sudden death.  This year the USGA has instituted new format, which guarantees that the championship will be settled on Sunday.  First, there will be a two-hole playoff with the golfer with the lowest aggregate total winning.  If there is still a tie, we will go to sudden death.  One guess who the architect of this change in format was. Hint: the initials are F O X.

Do you recall the name of last year’s winner? See below.

Only about half of the players in the field are actually required to qualify. The remainder gain entry by one of many exemptions. Some of the exemption categories include:

Winners of the past ten US Opens.
Winner and runner-up of the previous year’s US Amateur Championship.
Winners of the past five Masters, British Opens or PGA Championships.
Winner of the previous year’s Senior Open.
Top 60 ranked golfers.
Special exemptions granted by the USGA. These are usually top-ranked players who, though past their prime, are deemed worthy.
There are other exemption categories, but I think you get the idea. Those who are required to qualify must survive two stages – Local and Sectional. There is no age requirement, so it not unusual to find a teenager in the field. The youngest qualifier ever was 14 (Andy Zhang of China).

CONCLUSION

Some interesting facts about the Open that only the most knowledgeable golf fans would know:

The winner of the inaugural tournament in 1895 was Horace Rawlins, an Englishman.
The record score is 268 by Rory McIlroy in 2011.

The record for most Open Championships is four and is held by four men. Three of them will be familiar to you – Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan. If you know the fourth, you are either a golf historian or a trivia buff, and my hat’s off to you (even though I don’t wear one).  See answer below.

The USGA rotates the site of the Open among various sites.  Next year’s will be at Pebble Beach Golf Links.  Do you know which site has hosted the most Opens?  See below.

The inaugural Open was contested on a nine-hole course at the Newport Country Club. Only ten professionals and one amateur bothered to enter. They played 36 holes in one day. The winner received $150 out of a total purse of $335 plus a gold medal. By contrast, last year’s winner received $2.16 million out of a total purse of some $12 million. I think we can say the tournament and the sport have grown considerably.

Enjoy the Open. Let’s root for a tight, suspenseful tournament that doesn’t get decided until the last hole.

Quiz answers:

  1.  Last year’s winner – Brooks Koepka
  2.  Other four-time winner – Willie Anderson.   Anderson was an interesting and tragic story. He was born in Scotland and emigrated to the US at the age of sixteen. He was one of the outstanding golfers of his time. He won the tournament in 1901,1903, 1904 and 1905. He was an original member of the PGA Hall of Fame and an inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1975. Tragically, he died at the age of 31 from epilepsy.
  3. Oakmont Country Club – 9.

US – NOKO SUMMIT

Okay, they met.  Many people doubted it would occur, but it did.  So, how did the historic meeting go?  What happened?  What will happen prospectively?

By all accounts, the meeting was cordial; Messrs. Trump and Kim got along well (Mr. Trump was effusive in his praise for Kim, and said he felt a “very special bond”); and they laid the groundwork for more open diplomatic relations prospectively.

So, now what?   Do the US and NOKO build on this summit or do they revert to the same old hostility, name calling, and mistrust that has characterized their relationship for the past 65 years?  Will this be the beginning of meaningful progress or just another in a long list of disappointments?  I hate to say it, but I think the answer is “we’ll see what happens.”

So, what, in my opinion, did each side achieve?

  1. The joint communique was full of “diplomatic-speak,” long on generalities and short on specifics.
  2. One thing, however, was very clear.  Just by meeting one-on-one with the President of the US as equals, Kim, the head of a pariah nation presently under sanctions by both the US and UN, raised his and his country’s international status significantly.  Furthermore, Mr. Trump doubled down by stating he would “absolutely” invite Kim to the White House prospectively.
  3. Clearly, the most controversial item was Mr. Trump’s announcement that the US would unilaterally cease joint military “war games” with SOKO, which he characterized as “very provocative and expensive.”  This had been one of NOKO’s chief goals, and it is not clear what, if anything, Mr. Trump got in return.  More on this later.
  4. NOKO did not provide a firm, irrefutable commitment to denuclearize.  This had been one of the US’s chief goals of the summit.  The joint statement mentions they will “work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” without providing specifics as to how and when, although Mr. Trump later told various reporters and media outlets, including Reuters and Fox News, Kim had “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” and he expected the process to commence “very, very quickly.”
  5. The question of inspection and verification was not resolved.  The US wants/needs to have independent inspection and verification; NOKO is reluctant.  Without it, any agreement to denuclearize would be meaningless.
  6. Both parties agreed to identify and recover the remains of POWs and soldiers MIA from the Korean conflict, so their families could get some closure.
  7. There was no mention of human rights in the joint communique to the dismay of many, such as Paul Ryan, who has labeled NOKO “a brutal regime.”
  8. There was no mention of a formal end to the Korean conflict, another high priority of many.
  9. The sanctions will remain for the time being.

According to Reuters and other media outlets, Mr. Trump’s unilateral commitment to cease joint military exercises with SOKO caught everyone by surprise – Republicans, Democrats, allies, and news analysts.  Critics, mostly on the “left,” are claiming that he gave up a significant bargaining chip for not much in return.

A sampling of responses published in Reuters:

  1. SOKO President Moon was measured and diplomatic, but it was obvious he was taken aback: [We have to] “find out the precise meaning or intentions” of Mr. Trump’s announcement, but we are “willing to explore various measures to help the talks move forward more smoothly.”
  2. Chuck Schumer bluntly criticized Mr. Trump for giving up “substantial leverage” with not enough in return.
  3. Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was more cautious, saying at the present time “it was difficult to assess what had happened at the summit.”
  4. Meanwhile, US spokesperson for forces stations in SOKO, Lt. Colonel Jennifer Lovett offered: “USFK has received no updated guidance on execution or cessation of training exercises.”
  5. As I stated above, the president did qualify the comments somewhat, telling Reuters that the cessation would last “unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should.”  Later, in a one-on-one interview with Sean Hannity, Fox News, Mr. Trump was more specific, stating that the cessation was contingent on Kim’s negotiating in “good faith” and proceeding with the dismantling of his country’s nuclear capabilities. If those conditions are not met, the military exercises could always resume. Again, carrot and stick.
  6. Meanwhile, CBS News correspondent Ed O’Keefe denoted that the military exercises are also important because they send a message to China that we are firmly committed to the region.  I would agree.
  7. Predictably many commentators on the “left,” were particularly harsh, vindictive and “nit picky.”  It was almost like they were hoping for the negotiations to fail even if such a result would hurt the country (and the world) just so Mr. Trump could not have a “win.”  Nicolle Wallace (on the Rachel Maddow show) said “we won’t ever know what happened in the meeting since both men are established liars.”  Chris Matthews characterized Mr. Trump as a “wannabe despot.” Finally, David Linker opined that “even a successful summit would be bad because it would improve [Mr.] Trump’s approval ratings.”

CONCLUSION

On the plus side, the summit actually took place.  Many had their doubts.  Messrs. Trump and Kim talked, appeared to come away with a mutual respect for each other, and established a basis for further talks.

Realistically, no one should have expected all the issues to be resolved in one meeting.  Negotiations such as this are always a process.  First, it is necessary to lay the foundation.  Then, as time goes on, more substantive matters are discussed and, hopefully, resolved.  Some readers will remember the “shuttle diplomacy” from the 1960s and 1970s.  Dr. Kissinger shuttled back and forth countless times between Israel and the Arab states in a vain attempt to forge a peace settlement.

On the negative side, Mr. Trump gave Kim a very big carrot when he unilaterally agreed to halt training exercises.  His critics, which are legion, will roast him for that.  However, like I said the carrot can be removed, and the stick applied, and Kim knows it.

Let’s hope that there are future talks and they are fruitful.  As long as we are talking, we are not fighting, which I think everyone can agree is a positive thing.

The whole world is watching.  SOKO, Japan and our other allies want verification that we “have their back.”  Our enemies and rivals, such as China, Russia and Iran will be evaluating the situation as an indication of how Mr. Trump will be dealing with them prospectively.

In order to evaluate the summit properly and fairly I think it is necessary to consider a little historical perspective.  To paraphrase media reporter Joe Concha (The Hill), think of where we were just ten months ago:

  1. It seemed as if we were on the verge of a nuclear confrontation with NOKO.
  2. Both Guam and parts of the US mainland were under a threat of attack.
  3. NOKO missiles were flying over Japan.
  4. Mr. Trump and Kim were trading insults and threats.

And, look where we are now.

Finally, Mr. Trump has wisely determined that any agreement be ratified by Congress.  Securing Congressional approval may be risky, but it would give any deal the force of law and prevent a future president from negating it by executive order.  Note the contrast between this transparency and inclusiveness with how President Obama handled the Iran nuke deal.

 

FATHER’S DAY

On Sunday, June 17, the third Sunday of June, many of us will celebrate Father’s Day.   In the US, FD is commonly viewed as an opportunity to gather with family for barbecues, picnics, barbecues, sporting activities (e.g. baseball, golf or fishing), eat at a favorite restaurant, or attend a Broadway show. Generally, it is a fun day with family and friends.

The idea of an annual day to recognize fathers was first proposed by Sonora Dodd a resident of Spokane, WA, in 1909. She wanted to honor her own father who had raised her and five siblings as a single parent. In her opinion, mothers had their “day,” so why shouldn’t fathers. At first, she approached her pastor about organizing a special service on her father’s birthday, June 5, but for some reason, perhaps, time constraints, the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June. The initial celebration was held in 1910.

For many years the idea of a “day” for fathers did not catch on with the general public. The major reason was the fear that it would become overly commercialized like Mother’s Day and Christmas. In addition, the media was not behind the concept. Rather than support the idea, they attacked it with sarcastic and cynical articles and cartoons. FD did, however, have its supporters. Congress debated a bill as early as 1913, but it did not pass. Presidents such as Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge spoke out in favor of it.

Margaret Chase Smith, a longtime influential Senator from Maine, criticized the inequity of Congress’ ignoring fathers while honoring mothers. Finally, in 1966 LBJ issued a Presidential proclamation designating the third Sunday in June as FD. It became a permanent holiday in 1972.

FD is celebrated differently in other countries around the world depending on seasons and various traditions and cultures, as follows:

  1. United Kingdom – It is also celebrated on the third Sunday of June. It is recognized as a day to honor not only fathers, but also other father figures, such as grandfathers and fathers-in-law. As in the US, typically, people pay a visit and give cards and gifts. Other activities might include male-only outings [golf, football (soccer), or cricket] or trips. One significant difference is that the day is not considered to be a holiday, just a normal Sunday.
  2. Canada – Very similar to the UK. Popular activities would include going to the park, the zoo, or eating out in a restaurant.
  3. Russia – The holiday, celebrated on February 23, is called Defender of the Fatherland Day. All men are honored, not just fathers. It began as a military celebration and is still marked by military parades.
  4. Mexico – Celebrated on the third Sunday of June. It is marked with parties and gifts for dads and a 21 kilometer Father’s Day race.
  5. Brazil – It is celebrated on August 2 in honor of St. Joachim, patron saint of fathers and grandfathers.
  6. According to The Sun various countries in the Southern Hemisphere, such as Australia and New Zealand, celebrate the holiday in September.
  7. Northern European countries, such as Norway, Sweden and Finland, celebrate the day in November.
  8. Bulgaria celebrates the day in December.

CONCLUSION

The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend an average of about $135 per person on FD gifts in 2018.  The estimated overall total is $15.3 billion, which would be just shy of last year’s record-high of $15.5 billion.   As you might expect, according to the NRF this total pales next to the $23.1 billion we spent on mothers last month.

Sports fans, which, let’s face it, include most dads, will have a variety of choices. In addition to the regular choices of the final round of US Open (held this year at historic Shinnecock Hills Golf Club and MLB baseball many dads (and granddads) will be attending their kids’ (and grandkids’) sporting events.  Some years, the NBA Finals are on tv, but not this year (congratulations to the Golden State Warriors who swept the Cleveland Cavaliers to win their second consecutive title).  My family will be enjoying all of the above.

FD is one of the few days of the year when the wife will not complain (hopefully) when you watch “too much” sports.  Dads, it is your day.  Whatever you decide to do, enjoy it.

MELANIA TRUMP

What is behind the media’s and liberals’ obsession with Melania Trump?  What has she done to invoke their extreme mockery and rancor?  Heck if I know.  As far as I can see, her only “crime” was to marry Donald Trump.  Below please find a few examples:

  1. After President Trump’s inauguration she was criticized for remaining in NY while he moved into the White House.  In point of fact, she had determined that it would better for her young son to complete the school term in NY, then move to D. C.  To me, prioritizing her son’s interests and well-being like that was good parenting.  No more, no less.
  2. Vanity Fair criticized her for “poor fashion choices,” citing the fact that she wore  high heels while touring a hurricane disaster site.  Wow!  Lock her up!
  3. Vanity Fair also mocked her launching a campaign against bullying children.  I say, what is wrong with focusing on such an issue, which happens to be one of the chief issues regarding children and which Melania had identified as her “cause” as early  as 2016?  Well, apparently, in the minds of some people (Mika Brzezinski, MSNBC, Jake Tapper, CNN, and Meghan McCain, Fox News, the fact that some of Donald Trump’s tweets are perceived as bullying (though not towards kids) disqualifies Melania from speaking out about the issue.  Moreover, actress Meryl Streep, when questioned about her silence on the issue deflected it with the same skill she routinely demonstrates in her “day” job, acting, retorting “I don’t want to hear about the silence of me.  I want to hear about the silence of Melania Trump.”  In point of fact, we all know that neither Melania nor anyone else for that matter can control the President consistently. Melania has denoted that, on more than one occasion, she has “rebuked” Trump (for his tweets) but “he will do what he wants to do in the end.”  Anyone who knows the President would have to agree.
  4. In 2016 the Daily Mail published a blatantly false story alleging that Melania had moonlighted as an escort during her modeling days.  She sued them for $150 million.  The newspaper was forced to apologize and retract the article.
  5. Recently, late night entertainer Jimmy Kimmel spent several minutes mocking her accent.  He is not the only person who has done so.  Jimmy, she speaks six languages fluently, and English is not her native tongue.  How many can you speak?
  6. The latest and most ridiculous criticism was centered around her absence following a kidney procedure.  The media speculated wildly that she was seriously ill, had a facelift, left the White House, or, perhaps, had been physically abused by the president.  The wild, unsubstantiated speculation continued even after reporter Eamon Javers tweeted that he had seen Melania walking in the White House with some of her aides.  Fake news at its best (or worst).  If it doesn’t fit “the narrative,” ignore it.

It wasn’t until she appeared with the president at a FEMA hurricane briefing that the inane sniping stopped.

Melania Knavs was born on April 26, 1970 in Novo Mesto, Slovenia, which, at the time, was part of Yugoslavia.  Her father managed a car dealership.  Her mother was a patternmaker for a children’s clothing manufacturer.  She has an older sister and an older step-brother whom she has never even met.

Melania began modeling at the age of five years old, and by sixteen she was doing commercials and posing for fashion magazines.  At 18 she signed with a modeling agency in Milan.  Along the way she changed her last name to its German equivalent, Knauss.  In 1995 she met Paolo Zampolli, co-owner of Metropolitan Models and a friend of Trump’s.  At Zampolli’s suggestion she emigrated to NY, where he represented her.  In 1998 she met Trump at a party hosted by Zampolli.  They began to date and were married in 2005.

Melania is the second foreign-born First Lady.  [Who was the first?  See below.]  In addition, she is the first First Lady to be a naturalized citizen and the first whose native language is not English.  As I said above, she is fluent in six languages – Slovene, Serbo-Croatian, French, English, German and Italian.

She has been very supportive of her husband’s political ambitions, even though she is not very comfortable in the limelight.  She told one reporter “I encouraged him because I know what he will do and what he can do for America.  He loves the American people and wants to help them.”

CONCLUSION

Ask yourself, if Melania were a Democrat, if she were not married to Donald Trump, would she be subjected to all of this abuse?  Or, would she be praised for how far she has come in her life.  Her critics should do a little research.  What were the odds that someone born in a small city in Slovenia would become the First lady of the US?  Long enough, that if you had bet a dollar, you would be set for life.

Predictably, all this criticism has produced a backlash.  Remember, she did not seek the limelight.  She was not an experienced politician.  English is not her native language.

One does not campaign to be First Lady.  She gets there by being married to the person who is elected president.  Voters do not consider the “qualifications” of the prospective First Lady (or even the VP, most of the time for that matter).

Therefore, she should be given the benefit of the doubt, not the back of the hand.  The president is fair game.  He sought the limelight.  Melania should be left alone.

Quiz answer:  Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams, who was born in 1775 in London to an English mother.

D DAY

D Day. That’s all one has to say. Most everyone knows what it was and what it meant. Just the very name conjures up remembrances and images of one of the bloodiest battles and one of the turning points of WWII. The battle has been memorialized in books and movies, and who can forget the poignant image of countless crosses and Stars of David neatly lined up in military cemeteries in Normandy.

Today, June 6, marks the 74th anniversary of this epic battle. The Allied Forces included 156,000 troops from various countries, including the US, UK, Free France, Canada and Norway, among others, 5,000 ships and landing craft, 11,000 planes, 50,000 land vehicles, and coordinated landings over a 50 mile stretch of beaches code-named Juno, Omaha, Utah, Sword and Gold, truly a massive undertaking. Allied and German casualties have been estimated as high as 20,000 killed, wounded, missing and captured. If you were involved in the actual landing, whether you lived or died was largely a matter of luck and happenstance – two men sitting side-by-side in an LST and the German bullet finds one and not the other. Think about that for a minute.

In addition to the German guns the soldiers had to deal with the rough surf.  Wearing their battle gear made them heavy and unwieldy, and many of them actually drowned.  The movie Saving Private Ryan depicts this grisly scene clearly.

If you were lucky enough to survive the landing, you became a “sitting duck” on the beach. Then, if you managed to fight your way off the beach you had to charge into several thousand heavily-armed German troops, which were placed strategically in fortified bunkers. Once you fought your way past those, you were ready to commence the real battle to liberate France. Keep in mind, many of these soldiers were just kids as young as 17 and, no doubt, scared s***less.

Planning for the operation began as early as 1943. Russia, one of our allies at the time (“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”) had been lobbying strongly for a second front to alleviate some of the pressure from the Russian Front. Military leaders on both sides recognized the significance of a second front and expected the Allies to attempt to open one at some point. The question was where and when. The Allies were not prepared to attempt such a massive landing until early 1944 primarily because they needed time to build up levels of men and material. Remember, the Allies were fighting in the Mediterranean and North Africa as well. Plus, the US was involved in the Pacific War against the Japanese. Finally, the British’s fighting capacity had been severely damaged in the debacle at Dunkirk in 1940.  Only a remarkable evacuation, aided by thousands of civilian small boats, prevented the Germans from capturing or destroying their entire army on the beach.

The Operation was code-named Operation Overlord. The landing, itself, was code-named Operation Neptune. General Eisenhower was in charge. Indeed, he was in charge of the entire Atlantic Theatre. As the story goes, when he was put in charge his orders were very simple – “Win the War.” No confusion; no limited rules of engagement, which hampered us in Viet Nam and other future conflicts.  “Just win, baby.”

The Allies considered four possible landing sites: Brittany, Cotentin Peninsula, Pas de Calais and Normandy. The first two were eliminated primarily because they were located on peninsulas, which would have afforded very narrow fronts that would have enabled the Germans to trap the soldiers in a counterattack. That left Normandy and Calais. Once the Allies decided on Normandy there were many attempts to deceive the Germans into thinking the landings would be at Calais. Historical evidence indicates that the Germans thought Calais the most likely site anyway, possibly because it was closer to England, but both sites were heavily fortified. Indeed, the Germans had planned to fortify the entire coast from Norway to Spain, a so-called “Atlantic Wall.”  This would have included concrete emplacements, barbed wire, booby traps, mines, the removal of ground cover, and, of course, troops and armored equipment. Luckily for us, these fortifications were never completed. Interestingly, although most of the German High Command viewed Calais as the most likely landing site, General Rommel, perhaps the best general on either side, surmised correctly that it would likely be at Normandy.
Accordingly, he increased fortifications in the area, but, luckily for us he was out of favor for political reasons, so some key elements of his plans for defending the area were ignored or overruled. Most notably, some panzer divisions, which he had wanted to place in the Normandy area were, instead, retained in and around Paris.

In addition, the German Army was stretched very thinly. Much of its manpower was committed to the Eastern Front and had been depleted by heavy casualties after five years’ of fighting. Finally, it was relying on captured equipment, which was not of high quality.

One of the biggest unknowns, and one that the Allies could not control, was the weather. Due to the complexity of the operation conditions had to be just so, including the tides, phases of the moon and the time of day. Only a few days of a given month satisfied all criteria. For example, a full moon was preferred to provide maximum illumination for the pilots. Remember, instrumentation then was not what it is now.

Additionally, dawn, which was between low and high tide, was the preferred time of day. That way, as the high tide came in it would carry the LSTs farther in on the beach, and the men could spot obstacles, such as land mines, more easily. High winds, heavy seas and low cloud cover were not favorable. The planners were determined to wait for a day with ideal weather conditions so as to maximize the chances of success for a very risky and dangerous mission. In fact, the operation was postponed several times before June 6.

As we know, the operation was a success. Some of the major reasons for this were:
1. The aforementioned missions to deceive the Germans forced them to spread their defenses over a wide area.
2. The “Atlantic Wall” was only about 20% complete.
3. The Allies achieved air superiority quickly.
4. Much of the transportation infrastructure in France had been damaged by Allied bombings and the French resistance, which hampered the Germans’ ability to move men and material.
5. The German high command was disorganized and indecisive.

CONCLUSION

If, as many historians believe, winning WWII was one America’s greatest achievements, then it can be argued that D Day was one of our greatest victories. Certainly, its success shortened the war in Europe and, in the process, saved countless lives (combatants and non-combatants alike).

It’s a shame that, with the passage of time, there are so few veterans of this battle still alive.  Even the youngest ones are in their 90s.

In WWII we had a clear-cut goal, win the war; the nation was united in support of the war, our government and our troops; we knew who the enemy was; we knew the Axis Powers were evil (Hitler, in particular, was one of the most despicable men ever to walk the face of the earth.); and there was no holding back. Sadly, we have never had such clarity of purpose again, and, perhaps, we never will.