TRUMP – PUTIN SUMMIT

This blog should come with a warning label.  Usually, I base my blogs on extensive research, and try to present mostly facts with a modicum of opinion.  This blog will be mostly opinion, so some readers may not like it.  Of course, as always, I welcome comments and opinions.  I don’t care if you agree with me or not.  The most important thing for me is for you to read the blog.  That said, I encourage you to read on.

The Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki this week was memorable in more ways than one.  According to Mr. Trump the two discussed many significant issues, such as Syria, Iran, terrorism, the Ukraine, and the Crimea.  As I write this, we do not know the details of their discussion with respect to the above issues as much of it was held in private. It was their first summit, and I would hope that the two men found some common ground and at least formed a basis for further meetings.

I think most of us would agree that relations between the US and Russia have been very strained recently, due to these and other issues, notably Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.  In fact, in the opinion of Professor Stephen Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies at NYU, they are as strained now as they have been at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.  If you know your history, you will realize that that is a very serious statement.  At the time, the public was unaware of the full gravity of the situation, but we now know that on that occasion we were very close to nuclear war.

Since the two nations control some 90% of all nuclear weapons, it is essential that they develop a basis for talking instead of fighting.  As I have said many times, most recently regarding Mr. Trump’s summit with Kim, I favor talking to one’s enemies as well as one’s friends.  I think most people would agree that talking is preferable to fighting.  No one dies when you talk; they die when you stop talking and start fighting.

Unfortunately, this summit may be remembered for what was not said, rather than what was said.  Of course, I am referring to the Russian 2016 election meddling issue.  Mr. Trump later told reporters he mentioned it, Mr. Putin strongly denied it, and he accepted Mr. Putin’s denial.  Many people are distressed that Mr. Trump did not press the issue and seemed to take Putin’s word over that of his own intelligence agencies (although Mr. Trump subsequently walked that back).  They wanted him to berate Mr. Putin, virtually call him a liar, and let him know in no uncertain terms that we know he did it and don’t dare do it again, or words to that effect.

Certainly, one could argue that he should have been more forceful on that issue.  That would have made most of us feel good for a brief moment.  We would have said to ourselves something like “yeah, way to go, take it to him!”  But, I ask you, what would that really have accomplished?  Putin knows he did it, he also knows that we know he did it.  Do you expect that Putin would have said, “oops, you got me.  I’m really sorry.  I won’t do it again.”  No, Putin would likely have taken umbrage at the assertion.  He would have continued to deny, deny, deny.

If Mr. Trump had persisted, Putin may have even walked out of the meeting, in which case nothing would have been accomplished.  All those other issues I mentioned above, as well as whatever else they discussed would have continued to fester.  The long-term, more significant objectives of the summit, to build a working relationship, would have been a failure.

Moreover, it would not have changed the fact that Russia meddled, and it will continue to meddle, prospectively.  Let’s not be naïve.  As Senator Rand Paul said in a recent Politico article, “everyone does it.”   Off the top of my head, I can think of several instances in which the US has meddled in another country’s elections and other internal affairs – South Vietnam in the 1960s, Chile regarding the election of Salvador Allende in 1970, and Israel’s last election when President Obama tried to undermine Netanyahu’s candidacy.  Moreover, for over a century the US meddled in most every South and Central American country’s affairs.  Remember the Monroe Doctrine?  We considered the Western Hemisphere to be our private preserve and earned the enmity of many of our Latin American neighbors.

After two years of intense investigation, all evidence indicates that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, but recognize the difference between “meddling” and “hacking.”  We have yet to see any evidence that Russian meddling changed ONE SINGLE VOTE.  Get over it, and move on with your lives.  Mr. Trump won fair and square.  He is the President, and he will continue to be at least until January, 2021, if not beyond.  History tells us that on election night voters will not focus on whether or not Trump “dressed down” Putin at the summit.  They will focus on the economy, and right now, it is BOOMING.

There are many more important issues, such as feeding your family, medical care, immigration, and thwarting terrorism.  Instead of being stuck in the past we should be focusing on how to prevent anyone from meddling in the 2018 and 2020 elections.  (I would suggest that one corrective action would be to enforce the law precluding government officials from using private email servers.  Another would be to require passwords more secure than “password.”  Probably, a 10 year-old could have hacked the DNC.)

CONCLUSION

It is one thing to express disagreement with Mr. Trump’s, or any politician’s policy decisions.  After all, the right to do so is a cornerstone of our republic.  It is a legitimate complaint that Mr. Trump should have been more forceful.  As I said, that would have had consequences, but I can understand the sentiment.  But, that does NOT make him a “traitor, an “imbecile,” or Putin’s “puppet,” as many have been saying.

What I cannot abide and what caused me to write this particular blog, was the vituperative and disrespectful tone of much of the criticism toward Mr. Trump.  We all know that 90% of the media, most politicians and “swamp dwellers,” and half of the voters hate him with a passion that exceeds all reason.  They will criticize anything he does or says.  Some will even hope for bad outcomes, even of they hurt the country, just to prevent Mr. Trump from looking good.  But, some of the criticisms I have been reading exceed all decency, decorum, and reason.  For example:

  1. Former CIA Director, John Brennan, one of the architects of the sell-out Iran Nuke Deal, labeled Mr. Trump’s words “imbecilic” and “nothing short of treasonous.”
  2. Senator John McCain said Mr. Trump’s performance was “a conscious choice to defend a tyrant” and “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
  3. Newsday called Mr. Trump’s performance “an extraordinary embrace of a longtime US enemy,” and surmised that he made it obvious that “any firm acknowledgment of Russia’s [meddling] would undermine the legitimacy of his election.”
  4. Scores of political pundits weighed in with similar comments, but, to me, most of these people lost their objectivity and credibility long ago, so I find it hard to take their analyses seriously now.  I view them as so much “white noise” and see no need to waste time and space by repeating them here.
  5. The worst, by far, came from the formerly venerable New York Times.  The Times used to be one of, if not the, most respected newspapers in the country.  But, in recent years, it has essentially become a shill for the far left.  The latest example is the video cartoon it published depicting Messrs. Trump and Putin as homosexual lovers.  Any decent person should find it disgusting.  It was the stuff of the most prurient tabloid.  I have no adequate words to describe how far beyond the pall of decency it was.

This is what we have come to in this country, where the president of the US can be ridiculed and attacked in this manner.  Have we lost all reason?  Disagree with his policies?  Okay.  But, at least do so in a mature, decent and reasonable manner.  I shudder to think of what might be next.

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THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – JULY

Historically, July has been a very active month.  Below please find a list of significant historical events that have occurred during the month.  Read on, and be edified.

July 1 – Canada Day is celebrated commemorating the union of Upper and Lower Canada and certain of the Maritime Provinces to form the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867.

July 1, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill authorizing the first income tax levy (3%).

July 1, 1863 – The decisive Civil War Battle of Gettysburg commenced.

July 1, 1963 – The US Postal Service commenced using zip codes.

July 2, 1776 – The Continental Congress adopted a resolution declaring that “these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”

July 2, 1788 – Congress announced that the US Constitution had been ratified by the requisite nine states.

July 2, 1881–  President James Garfield was shot and mortally wounded.  He died on September 19.

July 2, 1937 – Pilot Amelia Earhart went missing.

July 2, 1964 – President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

July 3, 1775 – George Washington took command of the Continental Army at Cambridge, MA.

July 3, 1976 – Israeli commandos rescued 103 hostages being held by pro-Palestinian guerrillas on a hijacked airliner at Entebbe airport in Uganda.

July 4, 1776 – The Continental Congress formally approved the Declaration of Independence, making this date the US’s official Independence Day, even though many of the 56 signatories signed the document later.  (The exact dates are in dispute to this day.)

July 4, 1863 – The city of Vicksburg, MS surrendered to General Grant giving the Union control of the vital Mississippi River.

July 4, 1959 – A 49th star, representing Alaska, was added to the flag.

July 4, 1960 – A 50th star, representing Hawaii, was added to the flag.

July 5, 1946 – The bikini, named by creator Louis Reard for the Bikini Atoll where the atomic bomb was tested, was introduced in Paris.

July 6, 1885 –  Louis Pasteur administered the first successful rabies shot (to a boy who had been bitten by a rabid dog).

July 6, 1942 –  Holocaust victim, Anne Frank, and her family began hiding in a sealed-off room in Amsterdam in an ultimately futile attempt to avoid being captured by the Nazis.

July 7, 1898 – President McKinley signed a resolution annexing Hawaii.

July 8, 1889 – The Wall Street Journal began publication.

July 10, 1940 – The German Luftwaffe commenced bombing raids against Great Britain.

July 10, 1943 – The Allies commenced their invasion of Europe by landing in Sicily.

July 10, 1973 – The Bahamas gained their independence after 250 years of British rule.

July 13, 1977 – Two lightening strikes caused a 25-hour blackout in the NYC area. (Did the local birth rate spike in April, 1978?)

July 14, 1789 – A mob of protesters successfully stormed the Bastille Saint-Antoine in Paris, a fortress, a prison and a hated symbol of aristocratic repression.  The Bastille’s fall shocked the aristocratic world and signaled the beginning of the French Revolution.

July 16, 1769 –  Father Junipero Serra founded the mission of San Diego de Alcala (present-day San Diego), one of many he founded throughout current-day California.

July 16, 1969 –  The Apollo 11 mission took off for the moon.

July 17, 1918 –  Bolshevik rebels murdered Czar Nicholas II and his family in Ekaterinburg, Siberia.

July 17, 1955 – Disneyland, in Anaheim, CA, opened to the public.

July 17, 1996 – TWA Flight 800 blew up shortly after takeoff off the coast of Long Island.

July 18, 1936 – The Spanish civil war began as a revolt by right wing army officers stationed in Morocco.

July 18, 1947 – President Truman, who had succeeded to the presidency following FDR’s death, signed an Executive Order that laid out the order of succession in the event a president were to die or become incapacitated (vp, speaker of the house, etc.).   This order became the basis for the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified on February 10, 1967.

July 18, 1969 – Senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a wooden bridge on Chappaquiddick Island killing aide Mary Jo Kopechne and ending his chances for the presidency.

July 20, 1969 – Billions of people watched live on tv as Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.  (Famous quote – “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”)

July 27, 1953 – The US and Korea signed an armistice ending the Korean Conflict, which had raged on for three years.

July 27, 1974 – The House of Representatives charged President Nixon with the first of three articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice, eventually culminating in his resignation.

July 29, 1976 – David Berkowitz, aka “Son of Sam,” began his murderous reign of terror in NYC, which lasted until August 10, 1977.

July 29, 1981 –  England’s Prince Charles and Lady Diana were married at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

July 30, 1965 – President Lyndon Johnson signed the Social Security Act of 1965, which established the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

July 31, 1798 – The US Patent Office opened and issued its first patent (for a new method of making potash and pearl ash).

Birthdays –  Thurgood Marshall – 7/2/1908; Stephen Foster (wrote some 200 songs, including Oh Susanna, Camptown Races and Swanee River) – 7/4/1826; Calvin Coolidge (30th President) – 7/4/1872; David Farragut (Civil War admiral, famous quote: “Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead”) – 7/5/1801; PT Barnum (promoter, showman and co-founder of the circus) – 7/5/1810; Cecil Rhodes (his will established Rhodes Scholarship) – 7/5/1863; John Paul Jones (father of US Navy, famous quote: “I have not yet begun to fight!”) – 7/6/1747; Leroy “Satchel” Page (AA Hall of Fame pitcher) – 7/7/1906; Nelson Rockefeller – 7/8/1908; John Calvin (founded Presbyterianism) – 7/10/1509; Arthur Ashe (tennis champion) – 7/10/1943; John Quincy Adams (6th president and son of #2, John Adams) – 7/11/1767; Gerald Ford ( 38th president) – 7/14/1913; Rembrandt van Rijn (famous Dutch painter) – 7/15/1606; Nelson Mandela – 7/18/1918; Edmund Hillary (first to ascend Mt. Everest) – 7/20/1919; Ernest Hemingway (Nobel Prize-winning author) – 7/21/1899; Simon Bolivar (aka “The Liberator” or “The George Washington of South America” for his successful efforts to liberate the nations of Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Venezuela from Spain) – 7/24/1783; Amelia Earhart (pioneer female pilot) – 7/24/1898;  George Bernard Shaw (playwright) – 7/26/1856; Jacqueline Bouvier (JFK widow) – 7/28/1929; Benito Mussolini – 7/29/1883; Henry Ford – 7/30/1863;

BRETT KAVANAUGH – SCOTUS NOMINEE

As most of you know, President Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Anthony Kennedy as associate justice of the Supreme Court.  As most of you also know, Mr. Trump’s nomination is required to be approved by the Senate.  Presently, the GOP holds a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate.  Due to this slim margin and the currently contentious political climate, such approval is far from certain.

Most Dem senators are opposed to Kavanaugh.  They claim their opposition is based on concerns over Kavanaugh’s perceived positions on issues such as abortion and healthcare.  In particular, they are concerned he will somehow become the swing vote that would enable the Court to overturn Roe v Wade, the decision which legalized abortions throughout the US.  For example, Chuck Schumer has vowed to “fight this nomination with everything I’ve got.”

In actuality, most Dems would oppose any Trump nominee just because he or she was put forth by the President, whom they loath.  Many of them, such as Nancy Pelosi and the aforementioned Chuck Schumer, have expressed strong opinions that the President should not put forth any nominee until after the midterm elections.  There is no legal basis for this.  They just hope that the Dems will gain a majority in the midterm elections and thus be able to block any nominee with whom they disagree, politically.

In my opinion, there are at least two GOP – Susan Collins, Me, and Lisa Murkowski, Alaska – and three Dem senators – Joe Manchin, W. Va, Heidi Heitkamp, ND, and Joe Donnelly, IN – that are swing votes.  Collins and Murkowski have expressed vague concerns and want to conduct a “careful vetting” of Kavanaugh’s judicial record before voting.  (I highly doubt the veracity of this reason since Kavanaugh was not a surprise pick, and his judicial record is both extensive and publicly available.)  Manchin, Heitkamp and Donnelly are up for re-election in states that Mr. Trump carried decisively in 2016, and would be reluctant to have to explain to their constituents why they voted “nay.”  Other “wafflers” in either party may surface as well.

The Court was established pursuant to Article 3 of the Constitution when the document was ratified in 1789.  It was intended to operate as the third leg in the system of checks and balances that is the legal cornerstone of our system of government.  It is intended to interpret the law, but only within the context of an actual case that has been brought before it.

Article 3 did not specify the number of justices.  It merely stipulates that the Court consist of a chief justice and various associate justices.  It provides for members to be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.  Once approved, they serve for life, but they can be impeached.  In case you are wondering, one and only one justice has ever been impeached, Samuel Chase in 1804, but he was acquitted.  Moreover, there is no mechanism for forcibly removing a justice who is ill or incapacitated and declines to resign.  (Given the age of some current members, three are 70 or older, this may become significant, prospectively.)  Currently, the Court consists of eight associate justices, but at various times in our history there have been as few as five and as many as ten.

The constitution provides that a president may fill a vacancy temporarily while the Senate is in recess.  Any justice so-appointed must be approved by the Senate when it reconvenes.  Historically, this has been a real rarity and very controversial even with respect to appointments to lower courts.  Only 13 justices have received so-called “recess appointments” and none since the Eisenhower Administration.  Can you imagine the furor if President Trump made such an appointment?

The Court first met on February 2, 1790.  There were positions for six justices, but only five had been confirmed by that date.  There were no cases before them.  According to historian Fergus Bordewich, they “sat augustly before a throng of spectators and waited for something to happen.  Nothing did.”  So, after one week of inactivity the Court adjourned, and the justices went home.

The Court’s power of judicial review (interpreting laws) has become a well-settled power.  We accept it as a “given.”  But it was not always so.  In fact, originally this power received little attention by the Founding Fathers, and the concept is not specifically mentioned in the constitution.  It was not until 1803 in the landmark case, Marbury v Madison, that the court established this power when Chief Justice John Marshall opined that “the authority to interpret the law was the particular province of the courts.”

Over the years, as the country expanded and grew, Congress authorized additional justices to correspond with the increased number of judicial circuits.  The maximum was ten in 1863.    In 1869 Congress reduced the size to nine, where it has remained ever since.  Some commentators have been advocating adding more justices for political reasons  when, as and if a Dem wins the presidency.  They want more liberal justices.  This may sound absurd, but it has actually been tried once.  FDR tried to expand the Court in 1937 in order to add justices who would support his “New Deal” initiatives, some of which had been struck down, but Congress did not approve his plan.

The constitution does not guarantee that a president will be able to appoint any justices, nor does it limit the number he or she may appoint.  Throughout our history only four presidents have not had the opportunity to appoint at least one justice.  Two of them – William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor – died in office after having served very abbreviated terms.  The third, Andrew Johnson, was thwarted when Congress reduced the authorized size of the court.  Jimmy Carter was the only president to serve a full term and not have the opportunity to appoint a justice.

The current court is extremely diverse with respect to gender, race, and religion.  Three of the nine are women; one is African American, one is Hispanic; five are Catholic and three are Jewish.  Politically it has been balanced, with most decisions 5-4, but if President Trump and the GOP have their way, that may change prospectively.  Liberals won’t like it, but elections do have consequences.

CONCLUSION

Since the beginning of the republic politicians and legal scholars have debated whether the court should interpret the constitution strictly as written or allow for expansion of federal powers with the changing times.  Some courts have adhered strictly to the Constitution; others, notably the “Warren Court” (1953-1969) have been very active in expanding the powers of the federal government.  For example, it was during this time that the court mandated integration of public schools (Brown v Board of Education) and certain rights of a suspect under arrest (Miranda v Arizona).

Generally, conservatives favor a court that interprets the constitution strictly (as written), whereas liberals favor one that is more active and expands the powers of the federal government.  I don’t view one philosophy as “right” and the other as “wrong.”  Historically, whichever political party has been in power has been able to appoint justices whose philosophy was consistent with theirs.

Kavanaugh appears to be more of a strict constructionist.  Liberals are not happy with the choice, but I have yet to see anyone argue that he is not highly qualified.  Therefore, he should be confirmed, and I believe that, after a period of “breast-beating by some Dems, he will be.

 

ABOLISH ICE?

Should the US “abolish” ICE, as many of those on the left are now advocating?  Most news outlets have been bombarding us with negative stories about ICE, characterizing their operation as “heavy-handed” and “excessive” and even comparing the detention centers to “concentration camps.”  Much of the criticism has such a shrill and extreme tone that it is bordering on the irrational.  Based on the foregoing, one would think that there is a huge groundswell in the country to abolish ICE.

In point of fact, this is another example of what many Trump supporters have been calling “fake news.”  (For example, do you recall the news video footage of the children in cells, which were later shown to be from 2014 and the Time cover of Mr. Trump towering over a little crying child, which was also later shown to have been fabricated?) In fact, a recent Rasmussen poll has disclosed broad support for ICE.  For example, only 25% of respondents were in favor of abolishing it.  Even among liberals, Democrats, and AAs the numbers were only 45%, 36%, and 22%, respectively.

Consider:

  1. Critics have been focusing on the separation of parents from their children.  Actually, according to the NY Times that is the responsibility of the Customs and Border Protection Agency, not ICE.
  2. The CBP is following the law, which is well settled.  It was passed by Congress decades ago and has since been validated by the courts.  Some administrations have chosen to ignore or loosely enforce this law, but Mr. Trump has chosen to enforce it with “zero tolerance” as he pledged to do during the 2016 campaign.  His strong stance on illegal immigration was one of the major reasons why he was elected.  As we know, “elections have consequences.”
  3. The accompanying adults are not always the actual parents anyway.  Often, they are “coyotes,” hired to guide the illegals.  Many of them are pedophiles, gang members, or other unsavory characters.  In those cases, the parents have chosen to stay behind for whatever reason, so it is they who have separated themselves from their kids, not ICE.
  4. The separation is only temporary until officials can determine the status of the children and the accompanying adults.  This can be time-consuming, particularly given the high volume of cases.
  5. The current system has its drawbacks, but I believe it is an improvement over Obama’s policy of “catch and release,” which was an abysmal failure.  The illegals simply disappeared into the general populace.  Very few bothered to appear for their hearing.
  6. The side issue that critics carefully ignore is that many US children are separated from their parents every day, such as when innocents, like Kate Steinle, are murdered and when parents are incarcerated or judged to be “unfit.”  Where is the outcry in those cases?

Most of ICE’s critics have no conception of its responsibilities other than that it arrests, detains and deports immigrants who have managed to enter the US illegally.  It has many other diverse responsibilities, including investigating crimes such as smuggling drugs, weapons, and military equipment, human trafficking, cyber crimes, financial crimes and identity theft.  In addition, its legal arm represents the government in immigration matters.

Moreover, people forget that ICE was authorized by Congress under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 following the 9/11 terror attacks.  The Act combined various diverse border and revenue enforcement agencies and placed all of them within the Department of Homeland Security.  Presently, ICE has some 20,000 employees that operate in about 400 offices throughout the US and 46 foreign venues.  It is a sizeable operation and remains vital to our national security.  Terror threats are still with us and, perhaps, always will be, so it would be ill-advised to let our guard down now.

CONCLUSION

Nobody is advocating harming children.  Most everyone realizes the current arrangement is imperfect.  It is merely the best we can do under the present circumstances, presuming we want to enforce the current law and protect our borders.  Anyone who suggests otherwise is being disingenuous and irresponsible.  As Mr. Trump keeps saying, it is up to Congress to improve the law.

Also, as I have said many times, any comparison to Nazis or concentration camps is ridiculous, dangerous and does a disservice to the real Holocaust victims and their families.  It is clear that certain people desperately need a history lesson.

The extreme rhetoric of the far left has put the Democratic Party on the wrong side of the immigration issue, politically.  Below please find a few samples:

  1. NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand characterized ICE as a “deportation force” and advocated that it be abolished.  I submit that she has not the foggiest conception of what ICE does and why it is necessary.
  2. Not to be outdone, MA Senator Elizabeth Warren called President Trump’s immigration policies “deeply immoral.”
  3. Nancy Pelosi has spoken out in defense of the rights of MS-13 gang members, saying “they are people too.”  Does she really want to be portrayed as a supporter of MS-13?  Does she even realize they don’t just terrorize and murder; they hack their victims to pieces with machetes?
  4. Chuck Schumer has declined to support any compromise immigration bill, because he will not help Mr. Trump “clean up his own mess.”  Nice.
  5. The Hill reported that WI Representative Mark Pocan (who?) opined that ICE is “tearing apart families and ripping the moral fabric of our nation” and referred to President Trump and his supporters as a “team of white nationalists.”  Talk about hyperbole!  Furthermore, Pocan has actually introduced a bill to abolish ICE.
  6. Finally, let’s not forget the demonstration at the Statue of Liberty on July 4.  Many people had their holiday plans ruined, and some law enforcement personnel were distracted from their anti-terrorist responsibilities.  I’m sure that won over a multitude of supporters to the anti-ICE cause.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Where are the moderate Dems?  I’m sure there must still be some, but they are laying low.  They cannot be happy.  The extreme rhetoric from the far left on this and other issues is forcing the Dem Party well out of the mainstream, and it does not augur well for the 2018 and 2020 elections.  They need to speak out, but I hope they don’t.

 

 

INDEPENDENCE DAY

Today, July 4th, we celebrate our independence.  There will be family gatherings, barbecues and fireworks.  Many of us will attend concerts, plays and baseball games.  Weather permitting, many of us will go to the beach.  The Automobile Club and the TSA have both predicted that this extended holiday will be among the busiest travel periods of the year.  We will celebrate in a wide variety of ways.  This year the 4th has fallen on Wednesday, many of us have taken the entire week off from work, which, in effect, results in a nine day vacation.

Hopefully, some of us will take a few minutes to reflect on how our country was “born.”  Who were the “founding father” we hear so much about?  Who were the heroes of the revolution?  How much do you know?  Let’s find out.   As always, no peeking at the internet and don’t ask “Alexa.”

1. The primary author of the Declaration of Independence was
a. George Washington
b. Henry Lee
c. Benjamin Franklyn
d. Thomas Jefferson

2. The oldest continuous Independence Day celebration is in what city?
a. Bristol, RI
b. New York, NY
c. Waterbury, CT
d. Philadelphia, PA

3. The origin of the song, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” was
a. American troops during the Revolutionary War
b. French troops during the RW
c. British military before the RW
d. Hessians at the battle of Trenton, NJ

4. The movie, “Independence Day” starred
a. Tom Cruise
b. Will Smith
c. Morgan Freeman
d. Daniel Day-Lewis

5. The first person to sign the Declaration of Independence (and the only one to do so on July 4) was
a. Thomas Jefferson
b. Patrick Henry
c. Benjamin Franklyn
d. John Hancock

6. Each of the following was a member of the Committee of Five (assigned to draft the Declaration), except:
a. George Washington
b. Roger Sherman
c. John Adams
d. Benjamin Franklyn

7. Who was the only President to have been born on the 4th of July?
a. John Adams
b. Grover Cleveland
c. Calvin Coolidge
d. James Polk

8. Each of the following Presidents died on July 4th, except:
a. John Adams
b. Thomas Jefferson
c. James Monroe
d. James Madison

9. Each of the following is considered to be a “Founding Father,” EXCEPT:
a. John Adams
b. Andrew Jackson
c. Alexander Hamilton

d. James Madison

10. The “Star Spangled banner” was written by Francis Scott Key during which war?
a. French and Indian War
b. American Revolution
c. Civil War
d. War of 1812

11. The origin of the nick-name “Uncle Sam” is purportedly:
a. The Continental Congress
b. The Sons of Liberty
c. Meat packer who supplied meat to the US Army
d. British troops during the RW

12. Who, along with John Adams, is responsible for designating the bald eagle as the US’s National Bird?
a. George Washington
b. Thomas Jefferson
c. Benjamin Franklyn
d. Patrick Henry

13. Which state was the last of the “lower 48” to join the Union?
a. New Mexico
b. Oregon
c. Hawaii
d. Arizona

14. How many persons signed the Declaration of Independence?
a. 13
b. 26
c. 40
d. 56

15. Which was the first state to ratify the Constitution?

a. Virginia
b. New York
c. Delaware
d. Massachusetts

16. Purportedly, the Nathans Hot Dog Eating Contest was first held in
a. 1876
b. 1930
c. 1945
d. 1916

17. Who was one of only two signers of the Declaration of Independence to be elected President?
a. John Adams
b. Andrew Jackson
c. Alexander Hamilton
d. Aaron Burr

18. Although July 4 is recognized as Independence Day, the Continental Congress approved a “resolution of independence” on this date.
a. June 15
b. July 1
c. July 2
d. July 3

19. Washington, DC became the capital in
a. 1776
b. 1800
c. 1820
d. 1920

20. The 14th state of the union was:
a. Maine
b. Georgia
c. Florida
d. Vermont

ANSWERS: 1. (d); 2. (a); 3. (c); 4. (b); 5. (d); 6. (a); 7. (c); 8. (d); 9. (b); 10. (d); 11. (c); 12. (b); 13. (d); 14. (d); 15. (c); 16. (d); 17. (a); 18. (c); 19. (b); 20. (d)

CONCLUSION
Well, how did you do? I’d like to know.

Now, some Independence Day-related trivia with which you can impress your friends:

  1. Although we consider July 4th to be the official date of our independence, most historians now agree that the Declaration was not actually signed until August 2.
  2.  On July 4, 1777, the city of Bristol, RI celebrated the first anniversary of ID with a thirteen-gun salute.
  3. In 1778, to mark the second anniversary, George Washington issued double rations of rum to the Continental Army troops.
  4. By the end of the 18th century many major cities were marking the day with various celebrations and parades. Today, many major cities hold massive and elaborate fireworks displays. In addition, many private organizations, for example, Macys, the Boston Pops, and many major league baseball clubs, entertain the public with fireworks displays. Sadly, many private citizens, who are not properly trained, set off their own fireworks, sometimes with unfortunate results. Every year we read or hear about some tragic accidents involving loss of limbs or even death. Remember the case of NY Giants defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul a few years ago. He lost part of few fingers (and nearly his life) and almost ended a most promising football career.
  5. In 1870 Congress designated ID as a federal holiday. In 1938 it granted federal employees a day off with pay on that day.
  6. With respect to the “Star-Spangled Banner:
    a. It was composed by Francis Scott Key from a British prisoner ship in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. (Key was not a prisoner, himself. He was on the ship to negotiate the release of a prisoner.)
    b. He wrote it as a poem named “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” Later, it was set to a tune, which, ironically, is an English drinking song, with the strange name of “To Anacreon in Heaven.” In case you’re wondering, the song was the official song of a gentlemen’s club in 18th century London.
    c. Key wrote four verses and a fifth verse was added later, but, of course, we only sing the first. Does anyone know the words of the others? I do, but it’s too long to repeat here. But, I will say that all five verses end with “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
    d. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson declared that it should be played at all official events.
    e. The “Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem in 1931.

So, enjoy yourself on the 4th, but, above all be safe. If you travel, drive defensively and if you handles fireworks, BE VERY CAREFUL!

 

MY HERO

July 5 will mark the three-year anniversary of the most horrific day in the lives of my  wife and I, a day no parent should have to endure.  Eventually, the ordeal had a happy ending, but it was touch and go for a while.  Subsequently, I shared our experiences in a blog entitled “My Hero.”

As the aforementioned anniversary approaches I would like to re-publish the blog at this time.  (Some of you were not following my blog three years ago and may not have seen it.)  I believe it is as inspirational now as it was then.  So, read and enjoy “My Hero.”

“Who is your hero?  Who has inspired you by exhibiting extreme courage and achievement in the face of adversity? Is it a historical figure, like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, or, a religious figure, like Moses, Jesus or Muhammed, or maybe, a civil rights icon, like Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela? Or, perhaps, it might be an ordinary person you know or know of who, while not famous, has accomplished something so truly remarkable, against such long odds that you are truly inspired. Not all of us can point to such a person, but I can. It is someone very close to me that I have known all his life. It is my son, Matt.

It all began on July 5, 2015, a day I will never forget. Like the JFK assassination and the 9/11 terrorist attacks I will never forget where I was and what I was doing when I heard the awful news. It was a typical summer’s day in the NY area, bright and sunny. Matt was enjoying a family day with some friends and his lovely wife and two children at a local club. Suddenly, after swimming in the lake he became dizzy, lost vision in one eye and collapsed. He had suffered a dissection of his carotid artery, which had triggered a massive stroke.

Luckily, there was a doctor present. He immediately recognized what was happening and knew exactly what to do. This doctor accompanied Matt in the ambulance and stayed with him at the local hospital to ensure the ER doctors gave him the clot-buster shot and other appropriate treatment, including emergency surgery to remove the clot within the five-six-hour window that is considered to be optimal for treating strokes. This certainly mitigated the effects of the stroke and may even have saved his life.
My wife and I were eating dinn

er with friends at a local restaurant when we got the shocking telephone call that Matt had suffered a stroke. It seemed impossible. Matt was only 40 and in excellent physical condition. He worked out regularly, ran and practiced jujitsu. The caller did not know any details, not even if Matt was alive. If you’re a parent, you know that type of telephone call is as bad as it gets. Luckily, our friends insisted on driving us to the hospital in Westchester to which Matt was being transported (the Westchester Trauma Center). I don’t think I was in any condition to drive. We arrived at more or less the same time as Matt. We were able to see him and ascertain that although he was in very serious condition, he was alive. After the surgery he was only able to breathe with the aid of a ventilator, and his skin was the color of white porcelain.

Over the next few days the medical news was very dire. The doctors confirmed that Matt had, indeed, suffered a massive stroke. He was not conscious; he was paralyzed on his right side; he might need a craniotomy; he was blind in his left eye; and he had only partial vision in his right eye. He was in such bad shape that I felt elated a few days later when I squeezed his hand and felt him squeeze mine back.

The doctors told us he was facing a long, arduous recovery, one -two weeks at the hospital followed by six to nine months at a rehab facility. In addition, they said there was a good possibility that he would never recognize us, speak, or be able to walk unassisted. As far as returning to a normal life as a husband and father and resuming his career as a senior research analyst, that was seemingly too unrealistic to even contemplate. (Later, Matt told us that one of the doctors had flat-out told him he would not recover sufficiently to do so. When we asked him if that had bothered him, he said “no, I knew he was wrong.”) I realize that doctors feel compelled to disclose all possibilities, but there is a natural tendency to focus on the most negative ones, and that was an extremely disturbing prognosis.

Over the next year. Matt made a remarkable recovery. He was discharged from the hospital in only six days and transferred to Burke for rehab. Not only did he have to rehabilitate himself physically, but he also had to rehab his mind and his memory. At first, he didn’t even recall very basic elements of his life, such as the names of his wife and children and his current address. He had to relearn how to speak. His rate of progress was beyond anyone’s most optimistic expectations. He attacked his rehab with a vengeance. He attended every session. He never once told them he was in too much pain, too tired, or not in the mood, as many rehab patients do. Many times he would cut short our visit by telling us he had to leave for a rehab session. If they told him to do ten of something, he would do 15. He would complete the most tedious and frustrating of tasks without complaint. His course of rehab included robotics, which helped considerably. Of course, it helped that he was only 40 years old and in excellent physical condition, but, nevertheless, he astounded the doctors, the therapists, and, indeed, even us with his progress. In August 2016, after less than one month at Burke, he was discharged, although he still undergoes private rehab once a week.

CONCLUSION

Matt’s astounding recovery has included the following accomplishments:

  1. He completed his rehab at Burke and returned home to his family well ahead of schedule.
  2. The day he was discharged he accompanied his wife and son to Nassau Coliseum, which was over a one-hour drive, to see Billy Joel’s last concert there.
  3. He climbed up to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
  4. He has resumed his career as a senior research analyst at a Wall Street firm. This is a remarkable achievement since his job is very demanding, requiring many hours of complex analysis, a high level of prolonged concentration, and high-level meetings with clients.
  5. He has completed two half marathons. How many non-stroke victims can say that?
  6. Most importantly, has resumed his role as husband and father, and my wife and I have our son back.

During his recovery period Matt was fond of saying his full-time job was to get better. He applied the same single-minded determination and dedication to that task as he has to everything else in his life. He is not yet all the way back, but if you were to meet him today for the first time you would likely not realize that he had suffered a massive stroke only 20 months ago.

My wife and I know that Matt was extremely lucky that there was a doctor present who ensured he received the immediate care he needed as well as an amazing support system of friends, relatives and colleagues, and, for that, we will be eternally grateful. However, the determination with which he attacked his rehab virtually willing himself to get better was nothing short of amazing!

We have always been very proud of Matt, but, now, he is and will always be, our hero.”

Even now, three years later, it is hard for me to read that blog without getting emotional.  We know we dodged a big bullet.  Matt has pretty much returned to normalcy, although he is still blind in one eye and has a weakness in his right hand.  However, I remain optimistic that one day medical science will progress to the point that he will regain his sight.  Who knows?

We tease Matt that he could become an inspirational speaker to give others the benefit of his experience.  Alternatively, his experience would make a fine inspirational movie, although Hollywood would probably dismiss it as too unrealistic.  In any case, read it and be inspired.