CARAVAN PART III

According to a story in the “San Diego Union”: “A group of about 100 people trying to illegally cross the border at the San Ysidro port of entry threw rocks and bottles at US Border Patrol agents who responded by using pepper spray…” This news account was not from this week’s edition of the newspaper, but, rather from November 25, 2013. I quoted that story to prove a point, which is that this past week’s actions, as unpalatable as they might have been, especially with children among the victims, were not unique. Additionally, according to an article in the Associated Press similar incidents occurred at various times throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Hopefully, this will add some perspective to the current situation. The 2013 incident was not widely reported, nor did it engender the same outrage in the media that we are seeing now. To me, this is a further example of a biased media. Who was president in 2013? Mr. Obama, not Mr. Trump. According to multiple sources, for instance, the “Washington Times” and “Newsweek,” President Obama authorized the use of tear gas and pepper spray on many occasions during his tenure. Chances are it was the appropriate action at the time, just as is the most recent example.

As I said, this action has drawn widespread outrage. Many politicians, news commentators, and average citizens have strongly criticized this tactic, the Trump administration, and Mr. Trump, personally, without really understanding all the facts of the situation. A sampling:

1. NY Dem Senator Kirsten Gillibrand characterized the use of tear gas as “horrendous.”
2. California Governor-elect Gavin Newsom tweeted “That is not my America.”
3. Ben Rhodes, former advisor in the Obama administration tweeted that “it was wrong to gas women, children and the elderly.” (I would like to denote that Mr. Rhodes was an advisor to the Obama administration during 2013 and likely was complicit in the decision to tear gas migrants during his tenure.)
4. And, my personal favorite: Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz called the border agents who used tear gas and pepper spray “Nazis” and accused them of committing “war crimes.” Nazis? War crimes? Really? Hyperbole like this from an elected official is unnecessarily inflammatory and makes me wonder how he ever got elected in the first place.

The fact of the matter, as related by multiple witnesses on the scene, news video footage, and CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan is that a mob of several hundred migrants rushed the border, which is weak at that point (no real wall), and threw rocks at the agents in an effort to gain entry into the US.

Several agents were injured, and they used the tear gas and pepper spray to protect themselves. That was, in their judgment, the least lethal response they could employ. It was a legal response. The agents on the scene are authorized to do so if, in their judgment, it is “objectively reasonable and necessary to carry out law enforcement duties” and to protect themselves “when other techniques are not sufficient to control disorderly or violent subjects.” Anyone viewing the media footage would have to agree that the agents acted appropriately. Moreover, it is a standard tactic used by law enforcement personnel all over the world. President Trump defended the action. He told reporters “No one is coming into our country unless they come in legally.”

Yes, the optics of women and children being tear gassed and pepper sprayed were offensive. No sane person would be in favor of that. But, they were interspersed in a group of single men who had attacked the agents. Some observers have even postulated that they were used as human shields precisely for the purpose of generating sympathetic optics. In summary, I don’t think it is fair to blame the border agents.

There are thousands more migrants presently housed in Tijuana, and more caravans may be enroute. Mario Figueroa, Tijuana’s Director of Social Services has estimated that of the 5,000 or so being housed in the Tijuana sports complex some 3,100 are adult men. He didn’t say how many of them were single or part of a family unit. Again, we don’t know and need to find out.

CONCUSION

Fair-minded people should recognize that the immigration issue is a complex one with, essentially, two competing narratives. One is that the immigrants are refugees fleeing violence, tyranny and economic hardship and hoping for a better life in the US for them and their children. Most of us can identify and sympathize with that. However, the counterview is that imbedded among these people are, or could be, gang members, terrorists, and other violent people who pose a threat to our national security. They advocate following the process for vetting these immigrants in accordance with our laws. We don’t have the resources to take in everyone, regardless of the circumstances. I have to hope and believe that somewhere there is room for a compromise.

Let’s remember that President Trump offered one last year, which was basically trading a path to citizenship for the “dreamers” in exchange for funding for the Wall. The Dems and some GOPers in Congress rejected it. I think that could still be the basis for a compromise, but I won’t hold my breath.

As most of you know, we do have laws and a process that govern immigrants seeking to enter the country. President Trump and his administration did not promulgate these laws unilaterally. They were passed by previous Congresses, approved by previous presidents, and upheld by previous Supreme Courts. The Trump administration is merely enforcing these laws and processes as they are bound to do constitutionally. The way our system works is if you don’t like a law, don’t rail about it (falsely) in the media; don’t incite violence; petition Congress to change it.

Over the weekend there was a story circulating of a possible deal whereby migrants would be vetted while being held on the Mexican side of the border. If their asylum claims were accepted they would be admitted to the US. Otherwise, not. This seemed to me to be preferable to the much maligned “catch and release” policy. Apparently, the Mexican authorities denied such a deal had been agreed upon, but I think it would be an acceptable compromise to the issue. Perhaps, it will be revisited by the incoming (Mexican) administration. As President Trump likes to say “we’ll see what happens.”

THE CARAVAN PART II

This is a follow-up to my blog of last month on the caravan. The “Phantom” caravan, the caravan that many Dems, such as former President Obama, insisted didn’t exist and was a GOP ruse to rouse its base for the mid-term elections, has arrived at the US border. Some 5,000 of them are presently in Tijuana, which is right across the border from San Diego. This is just the advance group. There are reportedly thousands more coming.

Most of them are being housed inside the local sports complex as the city has nowhere else to put them. According to “The Guardian” conditions are primitive, e.g. inadequate food, water, medical care and shelter, and waiting as much as 30 minutes to use the bathroom. “The Guardian” also reported that Tijuana’s mayor, Juan Manuel Gastelum, has characterized the situation as a “humanitarian crisis.” He told the “Guardian” that the city’s resources are inadequate to deal with the situation. Local churches and some private citizens have been supplying food and other necessities, but that is merely a drop in the proverbial bucket. The sheer numbers have overwhelmed the city.

Gastelum has accused the Mexican federal government of providing inadequate assistance, and he has requested the UN to intervene. (Does this indifference make the Mexican government racist against Guatemalans and Hondurans? Just asking.) It is likely that the crisis will worsen as more “caravanners” will arrive soon, and those who are already in place will likely have to wait for months to be processed. The US cannot possibly assimilate all these people in an orderly and expeditious manner.

The open borders crowd would have you believe that all of these people are refugees, families fleeing war, oppression, natural disaster or economic depression to make a better life for themselves in the US. To be sure, some of them may fall into that category. However, many others do not. Experience has shown us that imbedded in amongst this horde are criminals, MS-13 gang members, terrorists and other undesirables and ne’er-do-wells who would do us harm. Additionally, experience has shown that many of the minors are unaccompanied by their real parents or other family members. Instead, they are being “escorted” by drug cartel members who are just as likely to rob, rape and enslave them as help them. The point is we don’t know who they are. Even if 90% of the “caravanners” are legitimate refugees, a very high number, that would still leave 1,000 or so gang members, terrorists or other undesirables. Do we really want 1,000 of these people let loose in the country?

The US’s archaic immigration laws state that once a person sets foot in the country and claims asylum he or she gets to stay. Yes, they have to appear at a hearing in the future, but few of them actually do so. Many of them are forced to wait in detention centers under dubious conditions. Others somehow manage to roam free throughout the country.

You may ask, where did all these people come from? How did it happen that they all decided to march north at the same time? Good questions. I’m not sure, but it seems more than a little suspicious to me. Common sense tells me that it was not a spontaneous decision that 7,000 people made independently. The only logical explanation is that it was an orchestrated, organized plan hatched, funded, and supported by various open borders groups.

CONCLUSION

In my view, the impact of unfettered immigration is dire for the future of the country. It will impact us economically, socially and security-wise for many years. I think this is a matter of common sense and empirical evidence. Just look at the impact of unfettered immigration on the EU countries – France, the UK, Germany, any of them. Take your pick. A recent article in the “Washington Post” explains, in some detail, how this issue has even threatened to collapse the governments of some of these countries. It specifically mentions Angela Merkel’s government in Germany, but hers is not the only one.

Back to the US:

1. Economically – Most of the immigrants are not well educated, and, therefore, will be seeking unskilled labor jobs (and they’re not all going to be working as nannies or gardeners). They will be competing against unskilled laborers who already reside here. Many of them are AAs, Hispanics, teens, or women, seeking to re-enter the workforce. Ironically, these are the very constituencies that the open border crowd claims they want to help.

The first law of economics is the law of supply and demand. Therefore, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that an influx of cheap labor will depress wages for everyone. I can understand how large corporate executives and business owners would favor this, but how can any politician that fancies himself as a champion for the working man (Dem or GOP) possibly be in favor of it?

2. Socially – Assimilation is a must for any immigrant. Learn the language, accept the customs, make sure your kids go to school and get a good education. All ethnic groups have followed that pattern for 300 years. I would hope that this new wave of immigrants would do likewise, but I have my doubts. Some groups, notably Muslims who insist on being governed by Sharia Law, have resisted assimilation. This is not just my opinion. Just look at the situation in France, the UK, Germany, or virtually any other European country. Years of an open border policy has done severe damage to these countries’ social, political and economic fabric, as noted above. We should observe and take heed. Don’t ignore the empirical evidence. Why should we expect to be able to avoid the problems that every other country has suffered?

3. Security – It is imperative that immigrants be vetted satisfactorily before gaining entrée to the country in order that we can ferret out gang members, criminals and other undesirables. Those politicians who support unfettered immigration, such as Dems’ Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Andrew Cuomo, label anyone who opposes them as “racist.” In my opinion, that is absurd on its face. Yes, there are a small minority of racists in this country, but the vast majority of us who want to control our borders are not racist; they just want to be safe and prudent. Calling someone a racist shuts off any meaningful debate immediately, and nothing gets resolved. As the president has said: “if you don’t have a border, you don’t have a country.”

Obviously, the solution to the present problem would be a compromise immigration law that gives something, but not everything, to all parties. But, that would require cooperation among all the political factions. Don’t hold your breath.

THANKSGIVING

All things considered, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the food, the football, and the four-day weekend. What I don’t like is the traffic. In my experience, regardless of which day and what time you travel, you can’t avoid the traffic snarls. You just have to hope (or pray) for the best. (I have found you can mitigate traffic delays by relying on a good GPS, such as Waze.) According to the AAA Thursday, Friday or Saturday are your best bets. Of course, if you are hosting, you can avoid the traffic, but you have to buy the food, cook and clean up. Pick your poison. You can’t have everything.

As we enjoy the holiday, tomorrow,few of us will stop to think of its origins and meaning. What is its meaning? What are its origins? Why is it celebrated at this time of the year? Read on for the answers.

Thanksgiving is a national holiday originally celebrated to give thanks for the year’s harvest. It has strong religious and cultural roots. Most people are aware that Thanksgiving is celebrated in the US (4th Thursday in November) and Canada (2nd Monday in October), but few of us are aware that variations of it are observed in other countries as well. In these other countries the holiday has a different meaning and purpose. For example, in Grenada it is celebrated on October 25, and it marks the date on which the US invaded the island in 1983 in response to the removal and execution of Grenada’s then Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop. Liberia celebrates the holiday on the first Thursday of November, a tradition that was originated by freed American slaves that were transported there. In the Netherlands a Thanksgiving Day service is held on the morning of the US holiday. Its purpose is to commemorate the traditions of the Pilgrims, who resided in the city of Leiden for several years prior to their emigration to the New World. Japan celebrates a “Labor Thanksgiving Day” on November 23 to commemorate labor and production. It has its roots in the period of American occupation after WWII.

Like many of our customs and traditions, Thanksgiving is rooted in English traditions. These date from the English Reformation in the 16th century and the reign of King Henry VIII. Apparently, the Protestant clergy had determined that events of misfortune or good fortune were attributable to God. Thus, unexpected disasters, such as droughts, floods or plagues, were followed by “Days of Fasting.” On the other hand, fortuitous events, such as a good harvest or the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, which actually was largely attributable to storms off the English coast, were to be celebrated by “giving thanks” to Him.

The origin of the Canadian holiday is uncertain, but it is most commonly attributed to the English explorer Martin Frobisher. He had been exploring Northern Canada seeking the infamous and elusive Northwest Passage to Asia. He wanted to give thanks for his party having survived the numerous storms and icebergs it had encountered on the long journey from England. Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated as a statutory holiday in most jurisdictions of Canada.

Most people trace the American Thanksgiving holiday to 1621 in present-day Massachusetts (although some claim that there were earlier celebrations by the Spaniards in present-day Florida circa 1565 and in the colony of Virginia circa 1610). The Pilgrims and Puritans living there had enjoyed a bountiful harvest that year and wanted to give thanks. Their harvest had been partly attributable to assistance from Native Americans, so they invited them to share in their celebration. Records indicate that there were 90 Native Americans and 25 colonists in attendance. The actual date is uncertain, but it is believed to have been between September 21 and November 11.

Prior to 1942, Thanksgiving was not celebrated as an official national holiday. Rather, it was celebrated periodically by proclamation. For example, during the Revolutionary War the Continental Congress established days of “prayer, humiliation and thanksgiving” each year. In 1777 George Washington proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving to celebrate the colonists’ victory at Saratoga. Following independence, various Presidents continued the practice of issuing proclamations periodically.

In 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed a national “Thanksgiving Day” to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. Historians believe that his action was prompted by a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale, a writer and editor of some renown. (She wrote the popular nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”).

The practice of annual Presidential Proclamations continued until 1939. That year, FDR broke the tradition. November had five Thursdays that year instead of the usual four. FDR figured that if the holiday were celebrated on the 4th Thursday it would provide a much-needed boost to the economy by enabling merchants to sell more goods before Christmas. (Even then, Thanksgiving was the unofficial start of the Christmas holiday shopping season.) Typically, this action precipitated a spat between the GOP and Dems in Congress. GOP congressmen viewed it as an insult to President Lincoln and continued to consider the last Thursday to be the holiday, so there were two Thanksgiving celebrations in 1939, 1940 and 1941, a “Democratic” one on the 4th Thursday and a “Republican” one on the last Thursday. The individual states split the dates (only in America!). Finally, in 1941 everyone got in sync. On December 26, 1941 FDR signed a bill into law that decreed that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November, a practice that has continued to this day.

Beginning in 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented a live turkey to the President. Over the years it became customary for the President to grant a “pardon” to the turkey.

CONCLUSION

Many businesses are closed on Friday as well, which has had the effect of expanding the holiday into a four-day weekend. Traditionally, this weekend is one of, if not the, busiest travel days of the year, as anyone who has been on the roads or at the airports during this time can attest. This year the AAA estimates some 54 million Americans will be travelling, primarily by auto, a 5% increase over last year and the most since 2005. (The AAA defines a “trip” as a journey in excess of 50 miles, so, many trips to grandma’s house are not even included in those estimates.). According to Robert Sinclair, Jr., manager of media relations for AAA northeast, the above increases are attributable to a “strong economy, robust labor market, rising incomes and higher consumer confidence.”

With respect to air travel, good luck. The TSA has denoted that the “Thanksgiving rush” now commences on the Friday before Thanksgiving and lasts until the Monday after (so, this year 11/16 – 11/26. It estimates some 25 million passengers will be clogging the airports. Obviously, travelers should plan on arriving extra early and allowing plenty of extra travel time.
Add in the enhanced security at the airports and the possibility for inclement weather, and one can see that a lot of patience and fortitude will be required to survive the weekend.

The Friday after the holiday is known as “Black Friday.” It is one of the busiest shopping days of the year and signals the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Many retail stores open early and offer sales. Some shoppers love this and camp out overnight (beware hypothermia this year); others deride it as a “fool’s errand.”

Saturday is known as “Small Business Saturday,” which is an attempt to encourage patronage of small businesses. The Monday after the holiday is known as “Cyber Monday,” which encourages shopping on-line. The Tuesday after is called “Giving Tuesday” to encourage donations to the needy. The holiday is a prime time for charity. Many communities have food and clothing drives to collect items for distribution to the poor.

Many cities hold parades. The NYC “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” is a longstanding tradition. Many families have attended this every year for generations. It features celebrities, high school marching bands, and floats with specific themes, such as Broadway shows and cartoon characters. The last float is traditionally one of Santa Claus, which symbolizes the beginning of the Christmas season. Other examples of cities that hold parades are Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Plymouth, MA, and Houston. Sometimes, bad weather puts a damper on the festivities. For example, this year the forecast for NY is for “real feel” temperatures in the single digits. Ugh!

Many of us watch football. High schools and colleges play traditional games against their chief rivals. The NFL has staged a football game on Thanksgiving Day every year since 1934. At first, there was only one that was hosted by the Detroit Lions. Currently, there are three. Even basketball has gotten into the act. There are college tournaments and NBA games. For non-sports fans there are a plethora of TV specials with a Thanksgiving or Christmas theme.

So, now that you are “experts” on Thanksgiving, relax and enjoy the holiday. In particular, take a minute to give thanks that through a fortuitous twist of fate, you were born in this country.

JFK ASSASSINATION

Few people in history are so recognizable that with the mere mention of their initials one instantly knows about whom you are talking. Such is the case with John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States. He flashed across our lives like a comet, brilliant but brief. He was only president for 1,000 days before he was assassinated, yet, even today, people remember him and recognize his name.

Thursday, November 22, will mark the 55th anniversary of his assassination. Almost anyone over the age of 60 remembers vividly where they were and what they were doing when they first heard of it. For example, I, a freshman in college, was walking to a history class. (Yes, I did attend classes, even on a Friday afternoon.) I heard some other students talking about the President having been shot. I wasn’t sure I had heard correctly, but unfortunately, I had.

What was strange about the whole incident was the lack of reliable information. It wasn’t like today when news is known and disseminated instantaneously. It might be hard for you youngsters to believe, but there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no cell phones, no internet.

Communication between New York, where, at the time, all communication was centered, and Dallas was sketchy. Even worse, Dealey Square, the site of the assassination, was not close to the addresses of the network news’ Dallas offices. Reporters on the scene had to communicate by telephone, when they could find one. Often, competing reporters ended up sharing telephones. Information was incomplete and contradictory. Eventually, however, we found out the horrible news. No one will ever forget the grim look on Walter Cronkite’s face as he removed his glasses, stared into the camera, and told a shocked, confused and scared nation that the President was dead. When we heard it from “Uncle Walter,” we knew it was true.

The purpose of this blog is not to relate the details of the day’s events, nor do I wish to get bogged down in the various conspiracy theories, some of which persist to this day. Many books have been written on the subject, and I can’t possibly cover these topics in a short blog. Suffice to say, it was a surreal experience. Many emotions swirled through my head – disbelief, denial, fear and uncertainty. Who did it? Why? Was it a single gunman or a conspiracy? Was it part of a larger plot? Would we go to war? These and other questions came to mind.

Most everyone was glued to their television sets for days while events played out – Lyndon Johnson sworn in as the 36th President of the US, Jackie standing beside him still in shock and wearing the blood and brain-stained pink suit she had been wearing in the limo (which, she had refused to remove, declaring “I want them to see what they have done”), Oswald arrested, Oswald shot live on national tv while under police escort (How in the world did Jack Ruby get access to that corridor, anyway?), JKF’s funeral procession, the “riderless” horse, John Jr’s salute. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy followed soon after. It was the end of innocence.

JFK had won the Presidency by the narrowest of margins over Vice President Richard Nixon. He had received 49.7% of the popular vote to Nixon’s 49.5% and won several states by the slimmest of margins. In that relatively primitive era of communications the end result was not known until the next morning. Many people, including a 15 year-old girl in Berwick, Pa., caught up in the drama, stayed up all night to await the results.

JFK was young, handsome, bright, vibrant, dynamic, scion of a famous and wealthy family, and a war hero. He and his beautiful, glamorous wife, Jackie, seemed like American royalty to many Americans. He gave us hope and optimism. In the eyes of his supporters he was the one to transform America. During his inaugural address he uttered the famous line that symbolized the great hope that he would lead us to “A New Frontier,” as his campaign had promised (“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”). Those words still resonate today.

JFK got off to a rocky start with the Bay of Pigs fiasco. But, he seemed to make up for it when he faced down the Russians and Nikita Khrushchev in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Most of us did not realize how close we had come to nuclear war, but in the end Kennedy won that round and showed he was learning on the job. His administration was dubbed “Camelot” after the description of the mythical King Arthur’s court.

Unfortunately, Kennedy made a lot of powerful enemies. Many Republicans thought he had “stolen” the election. Indeed, there had been whispers about voting irregularities, notably in Chicago, but, in the end nothing came of that – no media exposes, no court challenges. Yes, times have certainly changed.

Many conservatives thought he was too soft on communism and too aggressive on civil rights issues. He had made powerful enemies among organized crime and at the FBI and CIA, among others. Fidel Castro hated him for the Bay of Pigs attack. On the other hand, many Cuban ex-Pats thought he had betrayed them by failing to intervene militarily to support the invasion when it fell apart. All in all, he had a plethora of powerful enemies with the motive, means, opportunity and funds to plan and execute a Presidential assassination and cover-up. In retrospect, one should not have been surprised.

CONCLUSION

A favorite speculation has been how American and world history would have been different had JFK not been assassinated. Would he have pulled us out of Viet Nam as has been speculated? If so, would there have been an anti-war movement in the 60’s with the attendant protests, turmoil and violence? Would MLK and RFK still have been assassinated? Would the civil rights movement have progressed differently, more peacefully? We will never know. There have been many books written about this topic, including one by Stephen King called “11/22/63” about a fictional time traveler who journeys back to 1963 to try to prevent the assassination, which makes fascinating “what if” reading.

Through it all, a cloud of conspiracy still hangs over the assassination 50+ years later. Books have been written and movies produced dealing with the conspiracy theories. Did Oswald act alone? Was he tied to the KGB or the CIA? How did Ruby get close enough to kill Oswald from point-blank range? Was there anyone on the grassy knoll? Why was Ruby killed in prison? What of the roles, if any, of mobsters, like Sam Giancana, Head of the Chicago mob, and Carlos Marcello, Head of the New Orleans mob, as well as the CIA, the FBI, the Russians, and/or Castro? Were the Warren Commission’s findings accurate or part of a cover-up?

At this time, as we mark the passage of another anniversary of JFK’s assassination, we are reminded that these issues, and others, have still not been resolved to many Americans’ satisfaction. As time passes, it seems they probably never will be.

For you readers of a certain age, what are your memories of the assassination and its aftermath? Where were you when you heard the awful news? I would like to know.

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.

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

Monday, November 11, is Veterans Day. Note, when VD falls on a Sunday, typically, like other holidays, it is celebrated the next day. When it falls on a Saturday it can be celebrated either on that day or the previous Friday. Furthermore, if it falls on a weekend some employers will award their employees a “floating holiday” in lieu of the day off for the holiday, itself.

Most 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. To paraphrase General Patton, famed WWII general, “the goal is not to die for your country, but to have the other guy die for his country.” 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, particularly to give veterans the option of seeking healthcare privately, 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.