CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

The weather in California has always been characterized by extreme, or even disastrous, conditions, including destructive mudslides in the winter, uncontrollable wildfires in the summer and earthquakes at any time. At the moment, the state is in the midst of a wildfire season of epic and historic proportions. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the National Interagency Fire Center so far in 2018 the state has seen over 7,500 wildfires, which have destroyed an area of nearly 1.7 MILLION acres. That’s right, folks – million. These fires have caused damage of nearly $3 billion.

Moreover, as we know, there is more destruction to come as fires are still burning. According to Wikipedia, one of them, the Camp Fire, has been responsible for 56 deaths and has consumed in excess of 10,000 structures so far, which makes it the deadliest and most destructive fire ever in CA. It is estimated to be as large as the state of Rhode Island. Even now, firefighters estimate that it is only about 50% contained.

In addition, many more people are missing and unaccounted for. Given the circumstances, the likelihood is that many, if not most, of them are dead as well. Many bodies have been burned so badly that they can only be identified by DNA analysis.

The worst of the damage is in northern California, even spilling into southern Oregon. Those of you who watched the Giants-49ers football game last Monday night from San Francisco witnessed the eerie site of smoke in the air from a nearby fire. Also, many of the players, affected by the unhealthy air quality, could be seen sucking oxygen on the sidelines. Periodically, the tv commentaters denoted that the air quality index was approaching the “unhealthy” level of 200.

Why has this season been so destructive? Several reasons have been suggested:

1. An increase in the number of dead trees. Obviously, trees die all the time, but at this time there is, according to Wikipedia, a record 129 million dead trees in the state. Dead trees equal fuel for fires.

2. The state is in the midst of a severe drought. The climate change advocates have cited increasing temperatures as the cause. Temperatures have been higher, but it could be an annual effect rather than a climactic trend. I don’t think there is proof one way or the other.

3. Exurban expansion. Homes have been and are continuing to be built in canyons and forests that are susceptible to wildfires. According to Wikipedia in the last 20 years over 40% of new homes have been built in such areas. Most of these homes were wiped out. The entire town of Paradise, was obliterated. The “NY Times” cited one homeowner who, perhaps, ill-advisedly, stayed and managed to prevent the fire from destroying his mobile home. He fought the fire with “a garden hose and five-gallon buckets.” He said the fire was so intense it “roared like an aircraft engine.” He described embers “larger than basketballs” and recounted that when the fire hit a nearby shed in which firearms were stored it “set off hundred of rounds, sending bullets flying.”

4. Forest Management. The state and federal governments have not kept up with clearing dead trees. President Trump, in what I consider to have been an ill-advised and inappropriate tweet, cited this as the primary reason for the high number of fires. He tweeted, in part, “there is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in CA except that forest management is poor.” He was referring to mismanagement by the state of California’s forestry personnel, probably not realizing that some 60% of the forestry in CA is owned by and is the responsibility of the federal government. As reported in the “NY Times,” once he toured the area with Governor Jerry Brown he modulated his tone. He ascribed the fires to “a lot of factors,” declared the area a “disaster area,” pledged federal aid, and praised the firefighters and emergency workers for their “incredible courage,” adding “we’ll all pull through it together.”

CONCLUSION

As I said in the opening paragraph California has always been plagued by extreme weather. Heavy rains in the winter, and dry, hot, windy conditions in the summer, not to mention the constant threat of the next earthquake. There’s nothing we can do about that.

I think we can all agree that these fires are tragic. I can’t imagine what it is like to see your home, with all your possessions, destroyed in minutes and nothing you can do to prevent it. My heart goes out to those people.

That said, I predict that Americans will pull together to help those affected get through this latest tragedy. It’s what we do. We squabble among ourselves from day to day, but when disaster strikes we close ranks and support each other.

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FLORIDA RECOUNT MESS

Here we go again! As that noted philosopher, Yogi Berra, might have said, it is “deja vu all over again.” It seems that in every election cycle there are substantive issues with the validity of the vote count in Florida. For example, many of us remember the “hanging chad” controversy in the 2000 presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush. That one went all the way to the Supreme Court before being resolved.

This time, the controversy involves two very important races – the Senate race between GOP Rick Scott and Dem Bill Nelson and the governor’s race between GOP Ron DeSantis and Dem Andrew Gillum. It is now ten days after Election Day, and we still don’t have a definitive winner in these races. As I write this, the latest, as reported in the “Washington Post” is that the Senate race is close enough (within .25%) to trigger a mandated statewide recount. On the other hand, DeSantis’ margin over Gillum remains wide enough to avoid such a recount, and his victory will likely be certified next week. However, Gillum has still not conceded. He is claiming that “tens of thousands of votes … have yet to be counted,” and it appears he will challenge the election results in the courts. He has issued the catchy phrase “a vote denied is justice denied” to support his case.

Both the original vote and the recounts have engendered much controversy with both sides levelling charges and countercharges. The focal point seems to be Broward and Palm Beach counties. As reported in the “WP” there have been many instances of irregularities such as questionable veracity of signatures on mail-in ballots and improperly completed ballots. Moreover, as reported in the “WP” and various other media outlets, these counties have failed to meet various legally mandated deadlines for completing the vote counting process, casting doubt as to the validity of the elections.

As part of the manual recount election officials will be inspecting some undervote or overvote ballots to try to assess the voter’s “intent.” Perhaps, some of these ballots, which had been ruled ineligible, will be counted. Good luck with that. “Hanging chad” part 2.

President Trump and others have questioned whether or not an “honest vote” (count) is still possible. Some on the far left media have trotted out that old reliable, “racism,” to explain” Gillum’s defeat. In addition, Hillary Clinton has made this accusation with respect to the governor’s race in Georgia where the Dem candidate, Stacey Abrams, an African American woman, lost in a close race. All this hyperbole is inappropriate and distracting from the central issue, which is the integrity of the elections.

The only adult in the room has been US District Judge Mark Walker. While adjudicating legal challenges to the elections in question Walker issued the most telling opinion of all the vote-counting ineptitudes. He opined “we have been the laughing stock of the world election after election. But we’ve still not chosen to fix this.” I am not sure whether he was referring to Broward County, the State of Florida, or the US as a whole. Take your pick.

In some ways, the center of all this controversy is an obscure bureaucrat named Brenda Snipes, the Broward County Supervisor of Elections. Incidentally, the fact that we even know her name is an indictment of her job performance. According to Wikipedia there are 3,007 counties in the US. Do you know the Supervisor of Elections in any other of them, even the one where you live? I would guess not.

Snipes was appointed by then-Governor, Jeb Bush, in 2003. Her predecessor had gotten the “boot,” for, as reported in the “Guardian,” “malfeasance.” Her tenure has not been an improvement. As some of you know, this year’s vote- counting fiasco is not Snipes’ first bout with controversy and ineptitude. For instance:

1. In the 2004 Presidential Election some 58,000 mail-in ballots were somehow not delivered, requiring election workers to scurry around to replace them.

2. In 2012, approximately 1,000 uncounted ballots were discovered a week after the election.

3. Contrary to election law she destroyed ballots in a 2016 primary election without having waited the mandated 22 months.

4. This year, her office distributed a sample ballot that did not even resemble the real ballot. Obviously, this confused many voters, causing some to undervote or overvote. There have been contradictory claims as to whether or not some of these votes were counted, or should be.

5. Broward County has repeatedly missed deadlines for counting and certifying votes.

She is either a master manipulator or a grossly incompetent manager. Either way, she should be replaced before the 2020 election.

CONCLUSION

I don’t want to get bogged down in the nitty gritty of these aforementioned elections. Suffice to say, the whole mess is embarrassing and totally unnecessary. I don’t blame the losers for demanding recounts. But, at some point, they have to let the election results stand. I have not seen any proof of fraud. Incompetence, yes, but not fraud, although I am concerned that the possibility exists for fraud prospectively. Does anybody else find it ironic that some of us are so concerned with the Russians hacking or otherwise interfering with our election process, yet we allow such incompetence of our own election officials to continue?

At the same time, I have not seen any evidence supporting claims of racism. Too often, when the Dems lose a race they blame racism, or misogynism or some other “ism.” They should realize that they lost because they needed a better candidate. In my opinion, the simple answer is that some of Gillum’s and Abrams’ policies were too liberal for the electorates in Florida and Georgia, respectively. Next time, nominate a more mainstream candidate.

Irrespective of the foregoing, my overriding concern (as should be everyone’s)is that, in the end, the public accept the validity of the election results. After all, free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our system of government, and nothing should cast suspicion on them. If we don’t have faith in them, we have nothing.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – NOVEMBER

Below please find a list of what I consider to be significant historical events that occurred during the month of November.

11/1 – All Hallows Day, aka All Saints Day. Many of us observe the day before this holiday as Halloween.
11/1/1848 – The first women’s medical school opened in Boston, MA. It was founded by a Mr. Samuel Gregory and “boasted” twelve students. In 1874 it became part of the Boston University School of Medicine, becoming one of the first co-ed medical schools. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, today, women comprise approximately 1/2 of all medical students.
11/1/1950 – President Harry S Truman, whom many historians consider to have been one of our greatest presidents, survived an assassination attempt by two members of a Puerto Rican nationalist movement.
11/2/1962 – President Kennedy announced that all Soviet missiles in Cuba were being dismantled and their installations destroyed, thus signaling the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis. On 11/20 he announced that all missile sites had been dismantled. Unbeknownst to the general public, that crisis was probably the closest we ever came to nuclear war.
11/3/1948 – The Chicago Tribune published its famous, or infamous, headline “Dewey Defeats Truman,” arguably, the most embarrassing headline ever.
11/4/1862 – Richard Gatling patented his first rapid-firing machine gun, which utilized rotating barrels to load, fire and extract the spent cartridges. The gun bares his name.
11/4/1942 – In the battle generally considered to be one of the turning points of WWII (along with Stalingrad) the British defeated the Germans at El Alamein (North Africa).
11/7/1811 – General (and future president) William Henry Harrison defeated the Shawnee Indians in the Battle of Tippecanoe Creek, which was located in present-day Indiana. The battle gave rise to the chief slogan of Harrison’s presidential campaign – “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.”
11/7/1885 – Canada’s first transcontinental railroad was completed, opening up the western part of the country to settlement.
11/7/1962 – Former Vice President Richard Nixon, having lost the California gubernatorial election decisively to Edmund Brown (father of the current governor), gave his famous farewell speech to reporters, telling them they “wouldn’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen this is my last press conference.” As we know, Nixon made a comeback in 1968 narrowly defeating Hubert Humphrey for the presidency.
11/8/1895 – Wilhelm Roentgen discovered the electromagnetic ray, aka, X-rays.
11/8/1942 – The Allies landed successfully in North Africa (Operation Torch).
11/9&10/1938 – All over Germany Nazis terrorized Jews, burning, pillaging and vandalizing synagogues, homes and businesses in what became known infamously as Kristallnacht.
11/10/1775 – The Marine Corps established as part of the Navy.
11/10/1871 – Explorer Henry Stanley finds Dr. Livingston after a two-year search. There is doubt that he actually uttered the attributed phrase “Dr. Livingston, I presume.”
11/11/1973 – Egypt and Israel sign momentus cease-fire accord sponsored by the US.
11/13/1927 – The Holland Tunnel, the first underwater tunnel built in the US, which is named not for the country, but for Clifford Holland, the engineer who designed and led the construction of the project, opened connecting NYC and NJ.
11/13/1956 – The Supreme Court declared racial segregation on public buses to be unconstitutional.
11/15/1864 – Union soldiers, under the command of General William Sherman, burned much of the City of Atlanta.
11/17/1869 – The Suez Canal opened after taking 10+ years to complete.
11/19/1863 – President Abraham Lincoln delivered the famous Gettysburg Address.
11/20/1789 – NJ became the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights.
11/20/1945 – The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials began. Twenty-four former leaders of Nazi Germany were tried for various war crimes.
11/22/1963 – President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald who, in turn, was later assassinated by Jack Ruby. Hours later, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president while on board Air Force One.
11/28/1520 – Portugese explorer Ferdinand Magellan rounded the southern tip of South America, passing through what is now the Strait of Magellan, crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.

CONCLUSION

In addition, the following notables, who made significant contributions to society, were born during November:

Daniel Boone (frontiersman) – 11/2/1734; President James K. Polk (11th President) – 11/2/1795; Will Rogers (humorist) – 11/4/1879; Walter Cronkite (tv anchor/journalist) – 11/4/1916; John Philip Sousa (musical conductor) – 11/6/1854; James Naismith (inventor of basketball) – 11/6/1861; Marie Curie (chemist who discovered radium) – 11/7/1867; Billy Graham (evangelist) – 11/7/1918; Edmund Halley (astronomer/mathematician who discovered Halley’s Comet) – 11/8/1656; Christiaan Barnard (pioneer of heart transplant operations) – 11/8/1922; Richard Burton (actor) – 11/10/1925; George Patton (WWII General) – 11/11/1885; Auguste Rodin (sculptor of “The Thinker,” among others) – 11/12/1840; Elizabeth Cady Stanton (suffragist) – 11/12/1815; Grace Kelly (actress/princess) – 11/12/1929; Louis Brandeis (Supreme Court justice) – 11/13/1856; Robert Louis Stevenson (author) 11/13/1850; Robert Fulton (inventor of the steamboat) – 11/14/1765; Claude Monet (pioneered impressionist painting) – 11/14/1840; Jawaharlal Nehru (India’s first Prime Minister) – 11/14/1889; Louis Daguerre (invented daguerreotype process of developing photographs) – 11/18/1789; James A. Garfield (20th President) – 11/19/1831; Indira Gandhi (Indian Prime Minister) – 11/19/1917; Edwin Hubble (astronomer for whom the Hubble Space Telescope is named) – 11/20/1889; Robert Kennedy (JFK’s brother, Attorney General and US Senator from NY) – 11/20/1925; Charles De Gaulle (French WWII hero and president of France) – 11/22/1890; Franklyn Pierce (14th President) – 11/23/1804; William (Billy the Kid) Bonney (notorious outlaw) – 11/23/1859; William Henry Platt (aka Boris Karloff) (famed horror movie star) – 11/23/1887; Zachary Taylor (12th President) – 11/24/1784; Andrew Carnegie (financier and philanthropist) – 11/25/1835; John Harvard (founder of Harvard University in 1636) – 11/26/1607; Anders Celsius (invented Celsius, aka centigrade, temperature scale) – 11/27/1701; Chaim Weizmann (Israeli statesman) – 11/27/1874; Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, (author) – 11/30/1835; Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister during WWII) – 11/30/1874.

Well, there you have it. I tried to keep it succinct so as not to bore those of you who are ambivalent toward history.

VETERANS DAY

Sunday, November 11, is Veterans Day. This year, because the holiday falls on a Sunday, the Federal government and most states will observe the holiday on Monday, November 12. A few states – Massachusetts, Texas, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nebraska – will observe it on Sunday. Wisconsin is the only state that does not observe the holiday officially, although state employees are awarded a “floating” holiday.

Banks, federal courts, some schools, and non-essential federal offices will be closed on Monday. There will be no mail, but the financial markets will be open.

Incidentally, some of you may have noted that I spelled the holiday without an apostrophe. My research has indicated that the official spelling is apostrophe-less, as the holiday is intended to be about honoring veterans. Using the possessive apostrophe would indicate that the day belongs to veterans, which is not the case.

To many people, VD is merely a day off from work or a chance to spend time with family or friends. They do not stop to reflect on the significance of the holiday, its history, and the sacrifices endured by millions of people to make it all possible. Like so many things, we tend to take it for granted.

VD originated at the conclusion of WWI, which was the most devastating war up to that time. WWI lasted from 1914 to 1918. In those pre-WWII days, it was called “The Great War.” There were 37.5 million total casualties on both sides, including 8.5 million people killed. The countries with the largest number of casualties were Germany, Russia and France. The US’s casualties were relatively light, 116,000 killed and 323,000 total casualties, because it joined the war late (1917). Do you know in which war the US suffered the most fatalities? See answer below.

Most people know that the immediate cause of WWI was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip. However, every war has underlying causes as well. The underlying causes of WWI had been building for many years. They were:

1. The proliferation of mutual defense treaties. All of the major European powers, Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary were bound by interlocking treaties. This insured that if one of these countries were to go to war all the others would be drawn in as well. Let’s not gloss over the danger of mutual defense treaties. Today, the US is involved in such pacts in many areas of the world. For example, the US is committed to defending the other 28 members of NATO, some of which very few Americans have even heard of or could find on a map. Would we really want to go to war over Montenegro, Slovenia or Slovakia? Probably not, but as a member of NATO we are pledged to do so.

2. Imperialism. This was nothing new. Imperialism had been an issue since the 16th century. In the early 1900s it had risen to a new level. The European powers were all vying for pieces of Africa and Asia, primarily for their raw materials.

3. Militarism. The militaries in each of these countries were aggressive, bold and influential.

4. Nationalism. Various ethnic groups, notably the Slavs in Austria, wanted independence from the imperialist countries that controlled them.

Against this background, it is easy to see how a world war could break out. All that was needed was a spark, and the abovementioned assassination provided it. The principal antagonists were Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire on one side and Great Britain, France, Russia and the US on the other, although the Russians were forced to withdraw in 1917 with the advent of the Russian Revolution, and the Americans entered the fray late.

After four years of fighting, from 1914 to 1918, the combatants were finally able to agree on an armistice. It took effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. Eventually, it was ratified by the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed June 25, 1919 at the Palace of Versailles. November 11 became known as Armistice Day. In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson made it official by proclamation. It became an official holiday in 1938. Armistice Day was officially changed to VD in 1954. In 1968 Congress mandated that VD be observed on the fourth Monday of October. However, in 1975, due to the objections of various veterans groups the observation of VD was changed back to November 11 where it has remained.

The “Father of Veterans Day” is a WWII veteran named Raymond Weeks. It was his idea to expand Armistice Day to include all veterans, not just those of WWI, and he became the driving force to effect this change. He petitioned General Dwight Eisenhower, and he led a national celebration every year from 1947 until his death in 1985. President Reagan honored him with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in 1982 at which time he was recognized officially as “The Father of VD.”

VD should not be confused with Memorial Day. VD celebrates the service of ALL military veterans living and dead (even non-combatants), while Memorial Day celebrates only those who died in the service of their country.

VD is celebrated in many countries. Celebrations vary. In Canada the holiday is called Remembrance Day. In Great Britain the holiday is known as Remembrance Sunday, and it is celebrated on the second Sunday of November. In both countries as well as in many European countries, the occasion is marked by a moment of silence at 11:00 am. Also, in both Canada and Great Britain some people wear poppies in their lapels as a tribute. Red poppies became a symbol of WWI after they were featured in the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae. If you are unfamiliar with the poem I urge you to google it and read it. I am not normally a fan of poetry, but I found it very moving.

In the US we enjoy parades and other celebrations around the country. Many restaurants and other businesses offer veterans free meals or discounts on various goods and services. Additionally, there is a special ceremony in Washington, DC which features the laying of a wreath at the “Tomb of the Unknowns” at Arlington National Cemetery. In NYC there is a massive parade down Fifth Avenue, typically attended by several hundred thousand persons.

CONCLUSION

So, as you enjoy the day, take a few minutes to recognize and show respect for the veterans who sacrificed so much in order that the rest of us could enjoy the freedoms that we sometimes take for granted. Many of us do not realize how brutal and vicious war actually is, particularly when it comes down to hand-to-hand combat where it’s you vs. the other guy, and it’s literally kill or be killed. So, if you encounter a veteran, thank him or her for their service. It would mean a great deal to him or her to be so recognized.

Also, be cognizant of the inadequate medical services we provide our veterans, especially the significant delays in receiving medical care and other benefits. It is truly a national scandal that has received scant attention in the mainstream media and one that needs to be rectified asap. The good news is that President Trump has been following through on his campaign promise to rectify the situation, but much more work needs to be done.

Finally, some advice to the “anthem-kneelers.” Find some other way to bring attention to your cause. Attacking/disrespecting popular institutions, such as the flag, the anthem and veterans is doing you, and your cause, more harm than good.

Quiz answer: The Civil War (618,000) fatalities.

MIDTERM ELECTION RESULTS

The 2018 mid-term elections are history. Who won? Who lost? In my view, there was something positive for both political parties. The Dems can point to their retaking control of the House. (As I write this, final numbers are not available, but it looks like a Dem gain of 30-35 seats.) The GOP can point to the smaller-than-predicted number of seats lost in the House and their expanding control of the Senate. President Trump can point to the many candidates he actively supported who won. But, to me, the biggest winners are the voters. According to the NY Times, Americans cast a record 114 million votes, an astounding total for a midterm. By comparison, in 2014 the total was 83 million. Also, several states shattered turnout records. For example, Floridians cast 8 million votes, compared to 6 million in 2014. The voters spoke, loudly and clearly, and that is good for America and the democratic process.

Now, some random thoughts:

1. The Dems’ recapture of the House means that we have re-established the system of checks and balances that is an integral part of our system of government. In theory, the people are best served when one political party does not control the presidency and both houses of Congress. Of course, in order to make it work both parties must work to find common ground and be willing to compromise.

Which will it be? Compromise or gridlock? Do much, or do nothing? The former would be preferred; the latter would be most disappointing and would greatly enhance Mr. Trump’s re-election prospects in 2020. In 1948 President Harry Truman engineered one of the biggest upsets in history, in large part, by making a campaign issue of the “do nothing” Congress.

The Dems should not get too cocky over retaking the House. One could argue that the Dems gaining “only” 30 or so seats was a victory for the GOP, particularly since some 60 GOP Congressmen did not seek re-election for various reasons. Also, as we all know, the party in power almost always loses ground in the midterm elections. The two exceptions were during the Great Depression and after 9/11. In fact, since 1862 the average loss has been 32 seats. Moreover, Presidents Clinton (1994), Bush (2006) and Obama (2010) lost 52, 30 and 63 seats, respectively, and still won re-election two years later.

2. Whom will the Dems elect as speaker. Former speaker Nancy Pelosi is the favorite, but the progressive wing opposes her. Indeed, during their campaigns some 25 of them publicly pledged NOT to vote for her. To them, she represents the “old” Dem party, and they want to move on. I do not believe that the opposition has coalesced around any one candidate, however, so Pelosi may very well win again.

3. What do the Dems stand for, besides loathing Donald Trump. Now that they control the House they must cease to be the party of “no,” and develop a platform of ideas. Healthcare reform and immigration reform would be good places to start.

4. The Kavanaugh Effect – Dem senators Claire McCaskill (MO), Joe Donnelly (IN), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WVA), and Jon Tester (MT) were in a particularly tough predicament. They were up for re-election in “red” states that Mr. Trump had carried handily in 2016. Their party leaders were pressuring them to vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation, but by doing so they would be jeopardizing their re-election prospects. In the end, Manchin voted in favor, and the others voted against. Manchin won; Tester barely survived; the others lost. Exit polls confirmed that the Kavanaugh vote was a significant factor. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opined that the Kavanaugh battle provided an “adrenaline shot” to the GOP base.

5. The Trump Effect – President Trump called the midterms a “tremendous success.” In my view, “tremendous” might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I would agree that they were a success.

Mr. Trump campaigned extensively on behalf of GOP candidates that supported his program, such as Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in Florida, Josh Hawley in Missouri, and Brian Kemp in Georgia. All four won narrow victories despite being behind in the polls before Mr. Trump got involved. Scott defeated Bill Nelson for the Senate; DeSantis defeated Andrew Gillum for governor, Hawley defeated Claire McCaskill for senator; and Kemp defeated Stacey Abrams for governor of Georgia.

It is worth noting that McCaskill lost despite her 11th hour repudiation of many of the Dem leadership’s liberal policies in a futile attempt to appear more moderate. The voters saw right through her disingenuousness. Kemp overcame extensive support from outside luminaries, such as former President Obama and entertainer Oprah Winfrey. Mr. Trump also gave a big assist to Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who was embroiled in a tough challenge from Beta O’Rourke. Cruz also overcame a strong challenge from the Dem national party machine, which devoted a substantial amount of money and resources in an unsuccessful attempt to unseat him.

Dem charges of racism in Florida and Georgia seem disingenuous to me. You can’t blame every defeat on racism. If you drill down, I would venture to say you would find other reasons for the losses. Perhaps, a more moderate candidate would have stood a better chance of success. Incidentally, how come the Dems are not claiming racism in Michigan where GOP African American John James lost to a white woman? How about Hispanic Ted Cruz’s near defeat? Are the voters in Michigan and Texas racist too?

6. Many women, minorities and veterans won their races, on both sides, which was nice to see. Special kudos to Marsha Blackburn (R), who became the first female senator from the State of Tennessee.

7. I was happy to see Dan Crenshaw, the former seal who lost an eye in combat, and was crudely, cruelly, and tastelessly mocked on SNL on the eve of the election, win his race.

8. Russia investigation – The Dems have been pushing this issue hard for the past two years, but according to exit polls this was largely a non-factor in the minds of voters. They were more concerned with the economy, border security, healthcare and Kavanaugh’s unfair treatment. This was further confirmation that many political leaders do not live in the real world.

9. Investigate/Impeach Trump/Kavanaugh – Let’s not mistake the intentions of the Dem party leadership. Despite what some of them may be saying publicly, they are itching to open investigations into Mr. Trump, and they desperately want to see his tax returns. I’m confident his tax returns have been audited thoroughly by the IRS, so I fail to see what “smoking gun” they expect to find. Obviously, their endgame is impeachment.

This is so ridiculous for several reasons. (1) After two years of investigation that has turned up nothing, most of the electorate has moved on. They are far more concerned with the issues I mentioned above. (2) It is far more difficult to remove someone by impeachment than they believe. A guilty verdict requires a 2/3 vote in the Senate. That is a very high bar, particularly since the GOP has expanded its control of the body. Even the much despised Andrew Johnson was not convicted. (3) Impeaching a duly elected or appointed official just because you disapprove of him and his policies is a very slippery slope. (4) It would be a real loser, politically. The electorate is not stupid. It would see right through the Dems and punish them in the voting booth in 2020. (5) It would do a disservice to the American people as it would distract the government from achieving anything else meaningful. I would advise the Dems to heed the following advice from former Pennsylvania democratic governor Ed Rendell who advises “don’t investigate, legislate.” Moreover, the Dems would be advised to heed the advice of both Mitch McConnell and Newt Gingrich, both of whom denoted yesterday that when the GOP impeached President Bill Clinton in 1998 his approval rating increased and Congress’ decreased. Food for thought.

10. Don’t overlook that the GOP won the governorships of New Hampshire, Iowa and Florida. Typically, the governor controls the political machinery and sets the political tone statewide, and these states are all important jumping off points for the 2020 primary season.

11. In my view, no Dem frontrunner for the 2020 presidential election emerged. All I see so far is the same group of recycled pols: Pelosi, Schumer, Warren, Biden, Harris, Sanders, and Booker. I doubt any of these can beat Mr. Trump.
Even Hillary may resurface, others as well. I can foresee the spectacle of 20 or more candidates crowded onto a stage for the first presidential debate. That would be fun to watch.

CONCLUSION

The much anticipated “blue wave” was, in the end, a mere trickle. Dem gains were very modest by historical standards. The conventional wisdom of the media wonks was no more accurate than it had been in 2016. Apparently, there is some truth to the theory that GOP supporters are reluctant to advertise their preference to pollsters, but they do vote on election day.

I sincerely hope that the two parties will work together to govern, but I am not holding my breath. Legislative gridlock is a distinct possibility. The moderates in both parties must find a way to control their fringe elements, or else not much substantive will get accomplished. Mr. Trump is renowned as a dealmaker, so let’s see him live up to his reputation.

Furthermore, I wish everyone would turn down the rhetoric a couple of notches. This goes for politicians of both parties, the media and celebrities. Everyone take a deep breath and relax. This is America. There is always another election, another chance to reverse your fortune.

Finally, just because a person may disagree with you, politically, that does not make him evil, stupid, unhinged, a racist, a Nazi, or a misogynist. Once you label someone thusly, it shuts off all debate. They are no longer listening to you. Your comments become so much “white noise.” When people stop talking, they start fighting, which no one wants.

IT’S ALL ABOUT TRUMP

Reader beware! Most of the time I try to write objectively, although, based on some of your comments, some of you might dispute that. But, every so often I post a bog of pure opinion. In those cases, like now, I give fair warning. Liberals beware! Never-Trumpers beware! To paraphrase the late singer Lesley Gore “it’s my blog, and I can write what I want to.”

In my last blog about the mid-terms a few days ago I reminded you of the late Speaker Tip O’Neill’s oft-repeated quote that “all politics is local.” I don’t know the context of that quote, but I believe, normally, it is true with respect to mid-term elections. For example, wherever you might live I would wager there are local issues on which voters are focusing in this election, for example, crime, taxes, schools, local corruption, etc. These issues tend to get overshadowed during a presidential election.

That said, my observation is that more than any other time I can remember this election is about a person who is not even on the ballot. I am speaking, of course, about President Trump. Approximately half the country hates him, and half loves him. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone with a pulse who has no opinion on him one way or the other.

In my opinion, this election has become a referendum on the president, both personally and politically. If you doubt me, just turn on the news. Every day, the “fake news” tv stations, and we all know who they are, run stories that obscure, twist, or ignore the truth. He is to blame for everything and anything. A killing spree by a maniacal gunman? Trump inspired him. Preventing the caravan from entering the US? Trump is a racist and a misogynist. The divisiveness of the country? Trump, again. He has been compared to Hitler, Stalin and other hateful characters. Some critics have even extended those traits to his voters. “If you support him, you must be evil, a racist, a Nazi,” and so on. He even gets blamed for the weather, due to his stance on climate change.

To a large extent, he has created and fostered this situation with respect to the elections. For better or worse, he has been campaigning tirelessly for those candidates he perceives will support him and his policies. He likes it; the candidates welcome his support; and he is really, really good at it. Most of his predecessors have declined to do this, preferring to go about their business and be “presidential.” That is not his style. In my view, he has been as responsible for turning the oft-predicted “blue wave” into a trickle as anyone.

In this election cycle, indeed, in any election cycle, I always try to cut through all the “BS” and “white noise” spouted by politicians, the media, and “know-nothing” celebrities and simply ask myself “am I better off today than I was two (or four) years ago? Is the country?” Once I have answered those questions, it becomes apparent for whom I should be voting. So, in this election:

1. Is the economy better? Yes. Record low unemployment, high jobs creation, middle class wage increases. Tax cut that, directly or indirectly, on balance, has benefitted most people.
2. Stock market up? Yes, substantially so since Trump took office. If you own a retirement account, as most of us do, its value has increased considerably.
3. Do you feel safer, more secure? Yes, again. ISIS has been decimated. The Korean peninsula is quiet. Kim has not been lobbing missiles over Japan or the US. The US has been re-asserting itself around the world, supporting allies, like Israel, and standing up to those who have been taking advantage of us, such as China, Russia and even NATO.

So, the answers to the most important issues for me are “yes,” “yes” and “yes.” Things are not perfect. They never are. For example, our borders need to be made more secure, and the healthcare issue needs to be resolved. But, Trump has only been in office for 20 months and he has had to deal with a hostile media and a sometimes unsupportive Congress. Hence, the need for his aggressive campaigning.

CONCLUSION

I expect that Trump will, on balance, have a positive impact on these elections. We all know that, historically, the party out of power does very well, often even regaining control of one or both Houses of Congress. I hope and expect that the Dems’ success will be more muted this time.

Incidentally, I find it most amusing that, in a break from past custom and protocol, former President Obama has found it necessary to campaign aggressively, although I think he’s more focused on defending his increasingly tarnished legacy and criticizing President Trump’s administration than assisting any individual Dem candidate. I don’t recall any former president doing that in a mid-term. Of course, he can do whatever he wants, but it strikes me as somewhat desperate. Well, at least we are being spared from seeing the Clintons.

Incidentally, where are the other presumptive Dem leaders, such as Pelosi, Schumer, Warren and Sanders? Why aren’t they campaigning for others? Just saying.

Tomorrow is the big day. Take the time to vote! This election will likely be pivotal to the country’s future.

MID-TERM ELECTIONS

On Tuesday, November 6, we will be voting in the 2018 mid-term elections. Nationwide, 33 of the 100 Senate seats, all 435 of the House of Representatives seats, 36 of the 50 governorships and hundreds of assorted local offices will be contested. The importance of these local “grass roots” elections, for state legislatures, judgeships, mayor, and the like, should not be discounted.

Historically, the party that is out of power has almost always gained seats in these off-year elections, sometimes substantially so. This trend should augur well for the Dems. Indeed, for much of this year the general expectation was that the Dems would register substantial gains. But, lately the projected “blue wave” appears to have been reduced to a trickle.

Why? There are many theories. In my opinion, the major reasons are the healthy economy, record low unemployment, particularly among women, African Americans, Hispanics, and teens, the reduced tension on the Korean Peninsula, and the decimation of ISIS. Presently, most people are feeling very good about their situation. That said, it is important to consider that local issues play a larger role in these elections due to the absence of a presidential race. The late Speaker of the House, Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neil, was fond of saying, “all politics is local.” A bit hyperbolic, perhaps, but there is a large element of truth there.

As I write this, most of the latest polls predict that the Dems will, at a minimum, gain the 23 seats they need to retake the House, thanks primarily to increased support in suburban and exurban areas such as Orange County, CA northern NJ, and Southeastern PA around the Dem strongholds of LA, NY and Philadelphia, respectively. Conversely, those same polls predict the GOP will retain, or perhaps, expand its control of the Senate.

The latest Real Clear Politics poll highlighted a disturbing trend – the increased polarization of the electorate. For instance, the Dems are favored by non-whites, 66% to 26%, voters under the age of 40, 58%-37%, and white college educated women, 62%-36%. The GOP has a similar edge with white men and non-college educated women. In addition, there is a significant geographic divide – the Dems being favored on the coasts and the GOP in the middle. It all nets out to a divided country, roughly 50-50. Not good.

Moreover, the poll disclosed that some 70 House seats are still competitive, an unusually high number this close to election day, although it predicted the Dems will pick up at least the 23 seats it needs to retake control. In the Senate the GOP benefits from the luck of the draw. Of the 33 Senate seats that are up for re-election, 23 are held by Dems and only eight by the GOP, with two independent. So, the Dems have more seats to defend. Most of the “toss-ups ” are Dem-held seats. Some of these are in “red” states that President Trump carried handily in 2016. Furthermore, the president’s approval ratings have been on the rise, and he is actively campaigning in key states. Most polls show his approval to be in the mid-40s; Rasmussen has it at 51%, which may be an outlier, but you get the point.

The latest poll by Real Clear politics predicts the GOP will end up with 50 Senate seats, the Dems with 44 and 6 races are presently too close to call. Those six “toss-up” races hold the key, and I will discuss them, along with one key “flip” race, below.

Incidentally, these polls would be good news for those who like to see “checks and balances,” but bad news for those who actually want Congress to accomplish anything meaningful in the next two years. Can you spell “gridlock?” Keep in mind, however, that in politics four days can be an eternity. Furthermore, in mid-terms low turnout is always an issue and hard to predict. This renders polls somewhat suspect.

Back to the seven pivotal Senate contests.

1. Nevada – Dem Congresswoman Jacky Rosen is challenging GOP incumbent Dean Heller. The latest Real Clear poll shows Heller leading by two percentage points, well within the margin for error and too close to call.

2. Arizona – This is an open seat. Dem Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema is leading GOP congresswoman Martha McSally by less than one percentage point. Again, too close to call.

3. North Dakota – According to Real Clear, incumbent Dem Heidi Heitkamp is trailing GOP challenger Kevin Cramer by 11 points. ND is a deep red state that Trump carried handily in 2016. This seat is likely to be “flipped.”

4. Missouri – According to Real Clear incumbent Dem Claire McCaskill is trailing GOP challenger Josh Hawley by two points. Hawley is a strong supporter of the President, who has been actively campaigning on his behalf. McCaskill has been trying to fend Hawley off by moving to the center and distancing herself from Dem leaders, such as Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren, who are unpopular in the state, but the momentum is against her, and I predict she will lose.

5. Florida – Tallahassee Mayor, Bill Nelson, is running against former GOP governor Rick Scott. RC’s latest poll has Nelson up by 2%, but this is really a toss-up. Florida is a very diverse state, politically, and one of the most difficult to predict.

6. Montana – Dem incumbent Jon Tester is defending against GOP Matt Rosendale. Tester is up 4%, but Montana is a deep red state, so the seat may “flip.”

7. Indiana – Dem incumbent Joe Donnelly is defending against GOP businessman Mike Braun. RC has it as a toss-up, but, again, President Trump has been actively campaigning in the state, so there is a good chance the seat will “flip.”

CONCLUSION

If you are interested in politics you will enjoy election night. It could be a late one. There are many close races, and much is at stake. Will the GOP maintain control of Congress, or will the Dems wrest control of one or both of the legislatures? What will the turn-out be? Will a Dem emerge as a frontrunner for the presidential nomination in 2020? What will happen in the next four days to affect the results? Sometimes, there is an event outside anyone’s control. For instance, I believe Super Storm Sandy had a major impact on the 2012 presidential election.

One thing to keep in mind: the “experts” on tv can and do provide educated guesses, and most of them are very articulate and convincing. But, I say, no one really “knows” what will happen in this election.

This is a very critical and unpredictable election. DON’T FORGET TO VOTE.