NEW YEAR’S EVE

Wow, another year has gone by! That was fast. As we all know, the older we get, the more time seems to speed up.

Tonight, people around the world will celebrate New Year’s Eve. Although the specifics of the celebration may differ in various countries, it is generally a time of social gatherings, parties, eating, drinking, and merriment.

The Pacific island nations of Kiribati (aka Christmas Island), which is nothing more than a coral atoll in the Central Pacific, and Samoa, which is the western-most of the Samoan Islands, were already the first to celebrate; American Samoa, which includes seven tiny islands and atolls in the eastern part of the Samoan Islands, and Baker Island, which is an uninhabited atoll 3,100 km southwest of Honolulu, will be the last.

New Years Day has been celebrated on January 1 since 45 B. C. That year, Julius Caesar decreed that the Roman Calendar, under which the new year occurred in March, be replaced by the Julian calendar. It has been January 1 ever since.

Below please find a sampling of celebration customs in various countries:

1. In the US NYE is celebrated with parties with family and friends and other special events. For example, Chicago features a music show and fireworks over Lake Michigan; San Francisco features yoga parties and concerts; Atlanta boasts the (“Peach Drop”); Nashville has the (“Music Note Drop”); and New Orleans features live music, a “fleur-de-lis drop,” and parties centered around the French Quarter.”

However, by far the biggest and most significant celebration is in NYC. Since 1907 people have been gathering in Times Square to watch the “Ball Drop.” The “Ball Drop” has been held annually every year since, except for 1942 and 1943 when it was canceled due to the wartime blackout.

At precisely 11:59 pm, a specially-designated “guest,” who has been chosen in recognition of his or her community service, will push a special “red button,” which will activate a huge Waterford crystal ball. This ball, weighing some 12,000 pounds, will then begin its descent from the roof of One Times Square down a 141-foot high pole. Exactly one minute later, at midnight, the ball will reach the roof of the building, and huge lights will signal the start of the New Year. This year’s guest is singer Bleta “Bebe” Rexha.

The original “ball” was constructed from wood and iron and lit with 100 incandescent bulbs. Over the years, it has gone through various iterations. The current “ball” features a computerized LED lighting system.

Times Square has been the focal point of NYE celebrations in the US since 1904. That year, the first organized NYE celebration, consisting of an all-day street festival culminating in a huge fireworks display, was held there. It was reported that at midnight the celebratory noise could be heard as far away as Croton-on-Hudson, some 30 miles away.

The celebration was organized by the “New York Times” owner, Adolph Ochs, to commemorate the opening of the “Times” new headquarters located in the tiny triangle at the intersection 42nd Street, Broadway and 7th Avenue. The city renamed the area Times Square in honor of the venerable publication.

[Quiz questions: 1) What other historically significant event occurred in NYC in 1904? 2) What was Times Square’s name prior to 1904? See below for the answers. ]

Two years later the City banned the fireworks display. Ochs’ response was to replace it with the “Ball Drop.” The details of this “Ball Drop” have evolved over the years, especially technologically.

The celebration, itself, has also evolved over the years. Due to the world we now live in, security is tighter than the proverbial “drum.” For example, regarding the police and “alphabet agencies,” it is “all hands on deck.” Police will be omnipresent. Undercover officers will be imbedded in the crowd. Even drones will be used.

This year it is estimated that as many as two million people will cram into the area to witness the “Ball Drop.” Many of them will arrive early in the day in order to secure a prime viewing spot. They will be herded into viewing sections called “pens.” Nice terminology. Additionally, for security reasons, food, drinks, waste baskets, toilet facilities, knapsacks, large bags and pocketbooks, among other items, will be prohibited. Best to arrive early, and if you have to leave for any reason, good luck returning. It is estimated that in excess of one ton of confetti will be dropped at the stroke of midnight. Thankfully, I don’t have to clean it up.

Viewers will be treated to a cornucopia of entertainment, featuring artists such as Christina Aguilera, Bastille, Snoop Dogg and Sting, among others. Many people consider this an important item on their “bucket list.” In addition, some 200 million other Americans and 1 billion persons worldwide will watch on tv and/or live streaming on their mobile devices.

Entertainment from various venues is also featured. The most famous and enduring entertainer was Guy Lombardo, who from 1928 to 1976 entertained from the ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria, first on the radio, then on TV. After his death in 1977 other programs became prominent, most notably “Dick Clark’s “Rockin’ New Year’s Eve.” After his death, the mantle passed to Ryan Seacrest and others. Traditionally, NYE is the busiest day at Disneyland and Disney World, which feature Disney-character shows and fireworks.

2. In Canada the mode of celebrations vary by region. For example, in Toronto, Niagara Falls and other areas of Ontario, there are concerts, parties, fireworks and sporting events. On the other hand, in rural Quebec some people go ice fishing. Montreal features concerts and fireworks.

3. In Mexico, families decorate their homes in various colors, each of which symbolizes a particular wish for the upcoming year. For example, yellow would symbolize a wish for a better job, green, improved finances, white, improved health, and red, general improvement in lifestyle and love. At midnight, many Mexicans eat a grape with each chime of the clock and make a wish each time. Some people bake a sweet bread with a coin hidden inside. Whoever gets the piece with the coin will be blessed with good fortune in the coming year. Finally, some people make a list of all the bad events that occurred to them over the past year on a piece of paper and then burn the paper to symbolize a purging of all the bad luck.

4. As you might expect celebrations in England focus around Big Ben. People gather to observe fireworks and celebrate. In addition, many celebrate in pubs or at private parties.

At the stroke of midnight it is traditional to sing “Auld Lang Syne.” I have always been curious as to the derivation of this song and why it is sung at New Year’s. The origin is murky, but it has generally been attributed to the Scottish poet Robert Burns. He wrote it in 1788, but it is likely that some of the words were derived from other Scottish poems and ballads. “Auld Lang Syne” literally translates into English as “long, long ago,” “old times,” or “days gone by.” Thus, at the stroke of midnight we bid farewell to the past year and, at the same time, wish to remember the good times. In some areas the song is also sung at funerals, graduations and any other event that marks a “farewell” or “ending.” Sometimes the singers gather in a circle and hold hands.

As usual, the weather will be a significant factor. This year, rather than last year’s frigid temperatures, weathermen are predicting temperatures in the 50s, and there is a better than average chance of rain and fog. We could approach the record of 58 degrees (1965-66 and 1972-73). Viewers should plan on getting wet and, maybe, having their view of the “Ball Drop” obscured by the fog.

CONCLUSION

Whatever your NYE plans may be and however you may celebrate, I urge you to be careful and drive safely and defensively. Pay particular care to watch out for the “other guy.” This is one night where too many people celebrate excessively and drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. These people should not be on the road, but, nevertheless, they are, and they are dangerous both to you and themselves. For this reason, Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson’s long-time side-kick on the “Tonight Show” and a noted party-goer, used to refer to New Year’s Eve derisively as “amateur night.” New Year’s Day is the second most deadly holiday for drivers. (Thanksgiving is #1.) Moreover, a whopping 42% of the driving fatalities on NYD are the result of DUI.

Answers to quiz questions: 1) The city’s first subway line opened in 1904. 2) Longacre Square.

Enjoy yourself, but don’t become a statistic.

WALL STALEMATE

At the present time, probably the most controversial item under discussion is the proposed southern border wall. Simply put, President Trump and his supporters want it; the Dems and some GOPers are opposed. Neither side has shown any willingness to compromise even though they could do so if they really wanted to. Both sides are dug in, and the intransigence has caused a government shut-down, which is likely to last at least until the New Year. In my opinion, this stalemate is politically-motivated. As the song goes: “It’s all about the base.”

I have written several blogs analyzing the reasons for the Dems’ strong opposition to even a modicum of funding for a wall, and there is no need for me to rehash it now. But, I do find the fervent opposition among many of the leading Dems to be puzzling and even illogical. Perhaps, Mr. Trump is correct when he speculates that they are only against it because he is for it.

What do I mean? Perhaps, a little history will be illuminating. The construction of a physical barrier along the southern border can be traced to 1990. At that time, we built 14 miles of fencing between San Diego and Tijuana. Then, in 2006 funding for a “fence” sailed through Congress with strong bipartisan support. The Senate passed the bill 80-19 with Senators Obama, Clinton and Schumer, for example, all voting “yea.”

In addition to a fence, the law provided for other security enhancements such as vehicle barriers, checkpoints, cameras, satellites and drones. To be sure, the effectiveness of this law has been mixed. A 2017 GAO report described the various methods by which the fence was routinely being defeated, such as by driving vehicles over ramps, tunneling under the wall, and even tossing drugs over it to accomplices waiting on the other side. One can cite this either as evidence that “walls don’t work” or that it demonstrates the need for a better, more secure wall, buttressed by modern technology, rather than a mere “fence.” Take your pick. I should point out, however, that Mr. Trump has been advocating a significantly higher and more substantial wall supplemented by more modern technology.

CONCLUSION

One of the major issues that carried Mr. Trump to the White House in 2016 was his pledge to construct a wall on the southern border. I believe he has accomplished a great deal in just two years, however, his inability to secure funding for the wall is a big disappointment. This is particularly true given his reputation as a dealmaker and the fact that the GOP has controlled both houses of Congress for the past two years. With the Dems slated to take control of the House next week the likelihood of a wall is dwindling rapidly. Too bad.

All this over a few billion dollars, which is a mere drop in the bucket compared to our deficit of $21.8 TRILLION. This stalemate is like a tantrum between two children. No one looks good. Who will be the adult in the room? Maybe, if Mr. Trump called it a “barrier” or “enhanced fence” instead of a “wall” it might get funded.

Some have speculated (gleefully) that this failure may result in Mr. Trump’s defeat in 2020. I think that in a business where even a few months can be a lifetime, such speculation is very premature. November 2020 is a very long way off, and a lot will happen between now and then. That said, I believe it will be a black mark on his record.

BOXING DAY

On December 26, many countries, notably the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries that were formerly part of the British Empire, traditionally celebrate a holiday known as Boxing Day. Many of those who are unfamiliar with the holiday erroneously assume it is associated with pugilism. That is not the case.

BD is considered a secular holiday, however, some countries celebrate a religious holiday on December 26. For example, Germany, The Netherlands and Poland, celebrate the day as a “Second Christmas Day.” In the Catalonia region of Spain the day is celebrated as “St. Stephen’s Day.”

BD’s origins are murky. There are various theories. Based on my research it appears that the holiday can be traced at least to Medieval England where it was customary for the aristocracy to allow their servants to spend the day after Christmas with their families. After all, the servants were obligated to serve their masters on Christmas rather then spend the holiday with their families. Each servant would receive a “box” containing food, clothing, and/or other gifts to bring home to their families. Over time, this practice was extended to tradesmen and others who performed services for the aristocrats. Perhaps, this was a forerunner to the present-day custom in many parts of the US of giving Christmas gifts to various persons who perform services for us on a regular basis, such as mail carriers, doormen, manicurists, and hairstylists.

The earliest mention of the term “Christmas box” was in Samuel Pepys’ diary in 1663. (Pepys was a member of Parliament during the 17th century who was famous for keeping a diary.) Others believe the day’s roots go back to Roman times when it was customary to place a metal box, aka the Alms Box, outside the church during the “Feast of St. Stephen” to collect donations for the poor.

BD celebrations vary from country to country. For instance:

1. In the UK it is a bank holiday. If it falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, it is celebrated on the following Monday or Tuesday, respectively.

2. In Ireland it is celebrated on December 26, regardless of which day of the week it falls on, as St. Stephens Day.

3. In Australia it is a federal holiday. In the state of South Australia it is celebrated as “Proclamation Day,” which commemorates the establishment of South Australia as a British province in 1834. Supposedly, the proclamation was promulgated at “The Old Gum Tree” in what is presently the suburb of Glenelg North in SA. Originally, December 28 was designated as PD, but, at some point, it was changed to the first business day after Christmas (probably to accommodate those who wanted to create an extended holiday period).

4. In Canada and New Zealand BD is celebrated as a statutory holiday; that is, it is celebrated on December 26 regardless of the day of the week.

5. In Nigeria BD is celebrated on December 26 as a public holiday for workers and students. If it falls on Saturday or Sunday, it is observed on the following Monday.

6. In some countries, notably Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand BD is a huge shopping day, akin to “Black Friday” in the US. Retailers have extended hours and hold sales. Shoppers line up early just like on “Black Friday.” Much like in the US, retailers have expanded the Christmas shopping season in order to generate additional revenue. Some retailers in those countries have expanded the period of observation to “Boxing Week.”

7. In addition, all of the aforementioned countries hold a variety of sporting events to mark the day (soccer, rugby, cricket, horse racing, ice hockey, even boxing).

CONCLUSION

Like many holidays, the original significance of BD has been lost and it has become commercialized excessively. Such is the way of the modern world.

For most Americans, December 26 is merely a day to extend the Christmas holiday and, in some cases, to “recuperate” from it. This year, with Christmas being on a Tuesday, most of us will probably be back to work. However you choose to spend the day I hope you enjoy it.

CURRENT EVENTS QUIZ

How well do you follow the news? Test your knowledge of current events.

1. Each of the following countries is a member of NATO, EXCEPT: (a) Albania,(b) Belarus, (c) Montenegro, (d) Slovenia.

2. The US Secretary of the Treasury is (a) Jim Mattis, (b) Matthew Whitaker, (c) Mike Pompeo, (d) Steve Mnuchin.

3. The President of France is (a) Francois Hollande, (b) Edouard Philippe, (c) Emmanuel Macron, (d) Charles de Gaulle.

4. The “house liberal” on “The Five” is (a) Juan Williams, (b) Bob Beckel, (c) Chris Matthews, (d) Chris Wallace.

5. President Trump’s Press Secretary is (a) Sarah Sanders, (b) Dana Perino, (c) Anthony Scaramucci, (d) Sean Spicer

6. Each of the following was a candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, EXCEPT (a) Ben Carson, (b) Lindsay Graham, (c) Nikki Haley, (d) Scott Walker

7. Prior to winning the election for vice president Mike Pence was governor of which state? (a) Oregon, (b) Illinois, (c) Indiana, (d) Ohio.

8. Each of the following is an anchor/commentator at CNN, EXCEPT: (a) Christiane Amanpour, Wolf Blitzer, (c) Erin Burnett, (d) Brett Baier

9. The US Secretary of State is (a) Ryan Zinke, (b) Steve Mnuchin, (c) Mike Pompeo, (d) Ben Carson

10. Each of the following is generally considered to be a “blue state,” EXCEPT: (a) South Carolina, (b) Washington, (c) Oregon, (d) California

11. The migrant caravan is “stuck” in which city? (a) Mexico City, (b) El Paso, (c) Tijuana, (d) San Diego.

12. According to Wikipedia each of the following is a “sanctuary state,” EXCEPT (a) California, (b) Illinois, (c) NY, (d) Vermont

13. The Prime Minister of Canada is (a) Justin Trudeau, (b) Stephen Harper, (c) Pierre Trudeau, (d) Paul Martin

14. The majority whip in the House of Representatives is (a) Nancy Pelosi, (b) Steve Scalise, (c) Steny Hoyer, (d) Chuck Schumer

15. The Premier of Israel is (a) Ariel Sharon, (b) Ehud Olmert, (c) Abba Eban, (d) Benjamin Netanyahu

16. Which country has voted to leave the EU? (a) UK, (b) Italy, (c) Denmark, (d) Spain

17. The migrant caravanners have mostly come from each of the following countries, EXCEPT: (a) Guatemala, (b) El Salvador, (c) Honduras, (d) Mexico.

18. The President of Syria is (a) Hafez al-Assad, (b) Hassan Rouhane, (c) Bashar al-Assad, (d) Eshaq Jahangiri

19. How many representatives are there in the US House of Representatives? (a) 100, (b) 50, (c) 548, (d) 435

20. What is the name of the rule used by the US Senate to end debate and force a vote on a bill? (a) stymie, (b) stalemate, (c) filibuster, (d) cloture

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

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

PENNY MARSHALL

Entertainment was in her blood. She was born to it. One might say it was the “family trade.” What do I mean by that? Read on.

Carole Penny Marshal was born in the Bronx, NYC, NY on October 15, 1943. (Do you know the derivation of the name, Bronx? See below.) Her father was a film director and producer; her mother operated a tap dancing school; her brother, Garry, six years her senior, was a very successful actor, screenwriter, director and producer; and her sister, Ronny, was a television producer. Yes, one might say that Penny was born to be an entertainer.

The area in which Penny was raised was a cultural hotbed. Various other creative people with whom you may be familiar grew up there around the same time as well – Paddy Chayefsky, Calvin Klein, Neil Simon and Ralph Lauren, for instance.

The derivation of her name was quite interesting. Her first name was an homage to Carole Lombard who was her mother’s favorite actress. The source of her middle name was a little more convoluted. The story goes that Ronny was saving her pennies to buy a horse, which she wanted desperately. Of course, living in the Bronx, it was not happening, but Penny’s mother hoped that naming the new baby “Penny” would offer Ronny some consolation. True or exaggerated, it makes for a good story.

According to Penny religion was not very important to the family, except in a practical sense. She would tell the story that her mother would “[send] us anyplace that had a hall where she could put on a recital.” So, Garry was christened as an Episcopalian, Ronny a Lutheran, and Penny, Congregational. “If [her mother] hadn’t needed performance space we wouldn’t have bothered.”

Penny Marshall exhibited extensive versatility. She achieved great success as an actress, director and producer. She succeeded both in the movies and on tv. Furthermore, as you will see, she was a pioneer in the entertainment business.

Penny learned to tap dance by the age of three. Later, she became an instructor at her mother’s school. She attended college at the University of New Mexico where she studied math and psychology. She dropped out when she became pregnant. In 1963 she married the father, Michael Henry, but they soon divorced. For a time, Penny worked at various jobs to support her baby and herself. Then, in 1967 she moved to LA where Garry had established himself as a writer. Her life was about to change.

Penny’s career followed a somewhat familiar pattern. She suffered through much frustration and rejection and landed a series of forgettable gigs until she got her big break. For example, she played “uncredited roles” in “Where’s Poppa” (a courtroom spectator), “1941” (Miss Fitzroy), and “High Fidelity” (a funeral attendee). Her first appearance on tv was in a shampoo commercial for Head and Shoulders. She was the “girl with stringy, unattractive hair,” the “before.” You may have heard of the girl who played the glamorous “after,” someone named Farah Fawcett.

Penny was considered for the Sally Struthers role in the ground-breaking megahit, “All in the Family.” She didn’t get the role, but she did meet her future second husband, Rob Reiner. Reiner adopted her daughter, Tracy, from her first marriage, and they have five grandchildren. Tracy has continued the family trade. She is also an actress (“When Harry Met Sally,” “Big”,and “A League of Their Own,” among others.)

Finally, in 1971 she landed a worthwhile part. Garry, who was executive producer of the hit tv show, “The Odd Couple,” cast her as Oscar Madison’s secretary, a role she played for four years. During that period she also appeared on other hit shows, such as “The Bob Newhart Show” and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Her big break came in 1975 when she and Cindy Williams were cast as dates for “Fonzie” (Henry Winkler) and “Richie” (Ron Howard) on the hit show, “Happy Days.” It was supposed to be just a single appearance, but Penny and Cindy “knocked it out of the park.” Penny and Cindy were masters of physical comedy, such as that practiced by Lucille Ball back in the 1950s, and which had all but disappeared.

They became series regulars, and the following year, they landed their own show, “Laverne and Shirley,” which ran for eight seasons. In 1982 Williams left the show due to her pregnancy. Penny continued the show for another year, but then the run was over. The two actresses were estranged for several years but eventually reconciled.

In 1979, while “L & S” was still going strong, Penny embarked on her second career, that of director. She was a rousing success. Probably, her best efforts were “Big” (1988) starring Tom Hanks, “Awakenings” (1990), for which she received an “Oscar” nomination, and one of my personal favorites, “A League of Their Own” (1992) with Hanks, Geena Davis and a host of other stars. Who can forget the iconic scene in “Big” with Hanks and Robert Loggia dancing on the piano or the famous quote by Hanks in “League,” when he admonished one of his players, “There’s no crying in baseball.” “Big” became the first movie directed by a woman to gross over $100 million.

Despite her success as a director Penny was very modest. In an interview she described herself as a “mumbler.” She explained, “I talk quietly…I’m not adamant that this is my movie.. I’m not demanding. I just say do it again; I’ll know it when I see it.”

CONCLUSION

Penny was the recipient of many awards and commendations, too numerous to list here. She died on December 17 in LA from complications brought on by diabetes. Testimonials poured in from many of those who knew her and worked with her in her long and illustrious career. For example:

1. Ex-husband, Rob Reiner – “She was born with a funnybone and the instinct of how to use it. I was very lucky to have lived with her and her funnybone. I will miss her.”

2. Broadcaster, Dan Rather – “Mourning the loss of a funny, poignant, and original American voice. Penny Marshall was a pioneer in television and the big screen who understood humor comes in many forms.”

3. Director, Ron Howard – “She was funny and so smart. She made the transition from sitcom star to A List movie director with ease and had a major impact on both mediums. All that and always relaxed, funny and totally unpretentious.”

Rest in peace, Penny. You were a star, you made us laugh, and you will be sorely missed.

Quiz answer: It is named for Jonas Bronck, who established the first settlement in the area in 1639.

WALL OR NO WALL

This will not come as a shock to most of you, but I have concluded that most of the politicians in this country, those who have been elected and the “wannabees,” think we are all morons and lack common sense. That goes for much of the media as well as many of the so-called “elites.” What do I mean by that? Why do I say it? Well, I’m glad you asked. Read on.

The above sentiment applies to many issues, but in this blog I will focus on the issue of immigration. Some random thoughts and opinions:

1. The open borders people are not all left-leaning liberals racked by guilt that they were born in this country instead of some third world country. Some of them are conservative GOPers, as I will explain below. Strange bedfellows, indeed. When was the last time liberal Dems and conservative GOPers agreed on anything? Maybe, never? This has been a very effective coalition. More on this strange coalition later.

2. They would have you believe that if you want to restrict/control immigration, especially with a Wall, you are an evil, bigoted person. For instance, Nancy Pelosi, the once and, perhaps, future, Speaker of the House, keeps calling the Wall “immoral.” So, in her mind and those who agree with her, there is no debate, no give and take of opinions, no negotiating, no compromising. The matter is not open for discussion. If you are in favor of it, by extension, you must be immoral. End of story. I suppose, that means, in Pelosi’s mind, the Pope is immoral, since the Vatican has had an impenetrable wall around it for centuries. Its purpose? Originally, to keep out the wild pagan hordes from Eastern Europe and Asia who were endangering Rome back in the day, now, just plain old security.

3. “Chancy’s” current mantra, which has been repeated on some cable news channels, that the wall won’t work and is “expensive” is so obviously dumb and non-sensical, it is insulting to voters. I have heard various cost estimates, but $22 billion, which is based on a DHS report and is in the middle of various published estimates, seems about right. With all the money the government wastes, with a budget deficit that the “Wall Street Journal” projects will reach $1 TRILLION during this fiscal year, with the $150 billion the previous administration just gave to Iran, this item is considered to be too costly? Please! It’s a drop in the proverbial bucket. It’s akin to you or I saying we can’t afford an extra cup of coffee at Starbucks. As far as not working, tell that to the Vatican or Israel or even the Chinese, who figured out over 1,000 years ago that a “Great Wall” would keep out unwanted outsiders.

4. Recently, Pugh Research published the results of a survey of people in 27 countries around the world. In none of those countries was a majority in favor of more immigration. I have discerned similar sentiments in most countries to which I have travelled. Are we to believe that the whole world is racist? I think not.

5. Think of the wall not as a wall, per se, but as a type of “barrier.” Then, you realize that for the first 150 years of our existence, until the advent of the jet age, the US had two very effective barriers – the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

6. Much of the focus for limiting immigration has centered around crime, terrorism and drugs, but, in addition, there is a powerful economic argument. This is where common sense comes in. US working class families are being squeezed as it is. The middle class, which, traditionally, has been the strength of our country, is being decimated. There are various reasons for this, but one undeniable one has been the development of technology, which has made many jobs obsolete. Most economists expect this trend to accelerate. In the future more and more jobs will be performed by machines and robots and fewer by people. Anyone paying attention to the world around them can see that. I think it’s an indisputable fact. Against that backdrop, can we really absorb millions of unskilled, poorly educated immigrants. The first law of economics is the law of supply and demand. So, if there are more workers clamoring for unskilled jobs, employers will be able to pay less. Common sense, folks. They know it, but they try to obscure it in other arguments and talking points. They think we are too stupid to figure it out. That’s why GOP executives and entrepreneurs have no problem with unfettered immigration.

6. Yes, we feel badly for the plight of most of these immigrants. But, how about the plight of our own citizens. For example, whom do “Chancy” represent? Who elected them? The voters in their districts or the migrants. We know the answer. Do “Chancy?”

7. If you want to see the effect of unfettered immigration, don’t speculate. Don’t guess. Just look at what is happening in the EU, which has had open borders for years. Significant economic problems. Riots in France. Riots in Germany with the likely demise of Angela Merkel’s government. The UK voting to exit from the EU. Closer to home, look at California, which has encouraged illegal immigrants to settle there. Presently, some 72% of illegals in that state are receiving some kind of government assistance compared to 35% of US citizens. No wonder California (“dead state walking”) was $1.3 trillion in debt” in 2017, and probably more now. That could be our future.

8. Last word on the bogus bigot argument. At the moment, there are thousands of “caravanners” stuck in Tijuana. The locals are not happy, to say the least. The mayor has been protesting vehemently to the Mexican government to resolve the problem. Genero Lopez, one of the city’s elected delegates, has denoted the city is being overwhelmed by crime, havoc in the streets, and disease. The news footage is there for all to see, if the tv station you watch shows it, that is. To paraphrase the late comedian, Groucho Marx: “are you going to believe what I tell you or what you see with your own eyes?” Are the citizens of Tijuana racists? Of course not, but it demonstrates the fallacy of that characterization. If these migrants were in a US city in the same situation and you complained, you would be denigrated and dismissed as a “racist.”

CONCLUSION

I will concede that the a Wall would not be a panacea. I view it as one of several elements of border security along with vetting, a diligent border patrol, and ICE enforcing our laws. But, it has become the flashpoint of the issue.

In my view, President Trump has accomplished a great deal in his tenure so far. I have described his accomplishments in great detail in previous blogs, and I see no need to rehash them here. But, I think his one major failure to date has been his inability to convince Congress to fund the Wall. The issue of border security, including building a secure Wall, was, and remains, one of, if not the, primary concerns of his supporters, and it was one of the primary reasons he got elected in the first place. He has been thwarted by the coalition I mentioned above, and after January 2019 when the Dems take control of the House the task will become exponentially more difficult. He needs to find a way before then.

GET TRUMP!

Most Democrats, liberals in the media, swamp dwellers, and assorted other Trump-haters have been plotting against President Trump for two years. To this day, they simply cannot fathom how he was able to win the 2016 election. In their deranged minds it had to be the result of cheating; the election result, itself, should be deemed illegitimate, and he should be removed.

First, they asserted hacking; then, it was vote tampering; then, it was voter irregularities and/or suppression; then, it was collusion with Russia. Now, it appears to be campaign violations. For the past two years, in my opinion, the country has been subjected to the most intensive witch hunt against a sitting president ever (even worse than that against Bill Clinton).

I don’t want to get bogged down in a detailed discussion of the merits of the Muller investigation. We all have our own opinions on it. Personally, I am sick of it, as I’m sure many of you are. It seems to be never-ending. Suffice to say, to date, the investigation, which was authorized based on a false narrative to begin with (the phony, “Trump dossier”) has not turned up any violations or illegalities against Mr. Trump. All it has succeeded in accomplishing has been to waste time, distract the Administration and the Congress from governing the country, and waste millions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money.

In January the Dems will assume control of the House of Representatives. There are many issues that voters want addressed. According to various polls two of the most exigent are healthcare and immigration. There are numerous other issues as well, such as infrastructure and climate change. Many of the newly elected representatives ran on those issues, and the voters who elected them expect them to take prompt action.

So, which issue will the Dems address first? Which is the most important in their minds? Healthcare? No. Border security? No. Immigration? Wrong, again. It is, all together now, ….. GET TRUMP. That’s right, with all the issues facing the US the first order of business for the Dems is GET TRUMP! Impeach him. Indict him. Whatever. Just get rid of him.

In a previous blog I denoted that the Dems would likely win control of one or both of the houses of Congress. Furthermore, I opined that if so, rather than being the party of “no,” they would be best served if they focused on governing. A conviction in the Senate would be very unlikely anyway since it would require a 2/3 vote and the GOP has a majority. Even the hated Andrew Johnson was not convicted. Yes, focusing on impeachment would be ill advised, indeed.

They would do well to remember that when the GOP impeached Bill Clinton the voters saw right through it, and his popularity went way up. I would expect the same to happen here. However, it appears that they will not be taking my advice.

Consider the following developments:

1. Nancy Pelosi, likely the new Speaker, has characterized a border wall as “immoral” and has rigorously stated she will oppose authorizing any funds to build it. President Trump will not agree to any immigration bill that does not include a wall, so that does not augur well for resolving the immigration issue.

2. The Dems and the liberal media have signaled that they are “all in” on impeaching Mr. Trump based on payments made to two women in 2016 with whom he had had affairs a decade or so earlier. Mr. Trump had authorized these payments, from his personal funds, to avoid embarrassment after these women had threatened to disclose the affairs to the public. The Dems are asserting that these payments violated campaign finance laws, because they were made “for the purpose of influencing an election” and were not disclosed. Rep Jerry Nadler, the incoming Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called the payments “impeachable offenses” and added that they “were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the [presidency].” Heck, by that ridiculous standard, a candidate should report funds spent to buy a new suit or get a manicure. Rep Adam Schiff, the incoming Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, went even further, stating that there is a “very real prospect” that Mr. Trump will be “indicted… upon leaving office.” Various commentators, with little knowledge of the facts and less common sense, have been spouting similar thoughts all over the news and twitter.

3. Over the weekend a NY Times Op-Ed piece by Michelle Goldberg concluded that Mr. Trump can only be spared an indictment by winning re-election in 2020 and, therefore, serving as president until the statute of limitations for his “crimes” runs out. She cited unnamed “federal prosecutors” and “lawyers from the justice department” as her sources, the old “anonymous” and “unnamed sources” trick that we have seen so much of the last two years.

CONCLUSION

Wow! How absurd. Apparently, the anti-Trump fever, or, if you prefer, the Trump derangement syndrome, has reached a new low. Where do I begin?

1. Daniels and McDougal sought to extort money from Mr. Trump, plain and simple. Essentially, they said, pay me or I will go public and embarrass you and, maybe, derail your campaign. (Incidentally, isn’t extortion illegal?) Trump has steadfastly asserted that he directed his lawyer to pay the women from his personal funds, and if Cohen used campaign funds, that’s his error.

2. If campaign funds were used in error and not disclosed, it is my understanding that oversights such as that are normally settled with a fine, not jail, and not impeachment. There have been several cases of this, including one involving Obama. Let’s use some common sense. Also, if the payments were required to be disclosed that would have obviated the purpose in paying them in the first place.

3. Mr. Trump was correct when he tweeted back in May that payments such as these are “very common among celebrities and people of wealth.” For example, Congress has a slush fund that is used to pay off paramours and such. To my knowledge, those payments have never been disclosed, nor should they be.

4. Senator Rand Paul, appearing on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday characterized this affair as a “miscarriage of justice.” Furthermore, he opined “if we’re gonna prosecute [and jail] people… for campaign finance violations, we’re gonna become a banana republic.”

5. Alan Dershowitz, noted liberal attorney and not a fan of Donald Trump’s, has characterized this as a clear case of extortion and a “danger to our system.” He called for Muller to investigate the extortion angle. Moreover, in his opinion, it is permissible to use personal funds, and campaign contributions are not even reportable until after the election anyway. He denoted we need a consistent standard to remove the politics. He feels that if, for example, Paula Jones had sought to extort Bill Clinton in the same manner, everyone’s position on the matter would be the reverse of what it is now. I would have to agree.

6. Senator Angus King (I – Maine) nailed it. On “Meet the Press” he denoted that if impeachment were to be commenced based on the current evidence “at least a third of the country would think it was just political revenge and a coup against the president….The best way to solve a problem like this, to me, is elections.”

Give that man a cigar!

Everybody take a deep breath and repeat after me. Donald Trump is our legitimate president. He won fair and square. You don’t have to like him. You didn’t vote for him based on his personal life. You didn’t elect a friend to hang out with; you elected a President who was NOT a politician and who would stand up for the country. You can dislike him but still like his politics. If you want to get rid of him vote him out in 2020.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – DECEMBER

Many historically-significant events have occurred during the month of December. Below please find what I consider the most significant:

12/1/1955 – Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgonery, AL for refusing to surrender her seat on a bus to a white man. This action precipitated a year-long bus boycott and many other protests against segregation led by the Reverend Martin Luther King, among others, and was what many consider the seminal event for the civil rights movement.
12/2/1804 – Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France by Pope Pius VII.
12/2/1823 – President James Monroe articulated the “Monroe Doctrine,” which, essentially, forbade any further colonization of the Western Hemisphere by any European power, and which became a key element of the US’s foreign policy prospectively.
12/2/1954 – The Senate condemned Senator Joseph McCarthy for misconduct, effectively ending his irresponsible communist witch hunt.
12/3/1967 – Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful heart transplant in Cape Town, South Africa.
12/6/1492 – Christopher Columbus “discovered” the “New World,” landing at the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.
12/6/1865 – The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, which abolished slavery.
12/6/1973 – Gerald Ford was sworn in as vice president replacing Spiro Agnew who had been forced to resign following his pleading “no contest” to charges of income tax evasion.
12/7/1787 – Delaware became the first state to ratify the US constitution.
12/7/1941 – Japan perpetrated a surprise attack of the US naval base at Pearl Harbor virtually destroying the US Pacific Fleet and precipitating the US’s entry into WWII. FDR called it a “date that will live in infamy,” and it has.
12/10/1896 – Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel died. In his will he stipulated that a committee of the Norwegian Parliament award from his estate annual prizes (valued at approximately $1 million) for Peace, Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Literature and Economics.
12/11/1901 – Guglielmo Marconi transmitted the first transatlantic radio signal.
12/11/1936 – King Edward VIII abdicated the English throne in order to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson.
12/13/1642 – Dutch navigator Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand.
12/14/1799 – George Washington died at Mt. Vernon.
12/14/1911 – Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole.
12/15/1791 – Virginia became the 11th state to ratify the Bill of Rights making it an official part of the Constitution. (Ratification of an amendment to the Constitution requires 75% of the states, and Vermont had become the 14th state. The three holdouts were Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Georgia, which did not ratify it until 1939.)
12/15/1961 – Notorious Nazi SS Colonel Adolph Eichmann was sentenced to death in Jerusalem for his role in the Holocaust during WWII.
12/16/1773 – A group of Bostonians, disguised as Indians, boarded British ships anchored in Boston Harbor and dumped 300+ containers of tea overboard as a protest to what they viewed as an unjust tax on the product. This became known as the Boston Tea Party and was a part of the chain of events that culminated in the American Revolutionary War.
12/17/1903 – The Wright Brothers – Wilbur and Orville – made the first successful airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, NC.
12/19/1946 – War broke in what was then called French-Indochina. Eventually, the French were ousted, and the US got drawn into war in Vietnam, which did not end well for us.
12/20/1860 – South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. Over the next few months ten other states followed, and the Civil War ensued.
12/21/1846 – Dr. Robert Liston was the first surgeon to use anesthesia (in a leg amputation in London).
12/21/1945 – General George Patton, aka “Old Blood and Guts,” died from injuries suffered in a car accident in Germany. Some historians have postulated that the accident was intentional, but this has never been proven.
12/23/1947 – The transistor was invented at Bell Laboratories.
12/25 – Christmas Day when Christians commemorate the birth of Christ.
12/25/1776 – George Washington led a small contingent of Colonial troops across the Delaware River from Valley Forge, PA to Trenton, NJ in the dead of night, where they surprised and defeated a substantially larger contingent of Hessian mercenaries. This daring and famous victory provided a major boost to the flagging revolutionary war effort.
12/26 – Boxing Day is celebrated in the UK, Canada, and various other countries that, formerly, were part of the British Empire. It has nothing to do with pugilism. Most likely, it has evolved from the 18th Century English custom of giving a “Christmas box” containing gifts, such as food or clothes, to servants and tradesmen as a reward for good service throughout the year.
12/26 – 1/1 – Kwanza, an African – American holiday established in 1966, is observed. It celebrates family unity and a bountiful harvest. The word means “first fruit” in Swahili.
12/29/1890 – The US cavalry massacred in excess of 200 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee, SD., which became a symbol of the white man’s brutality to Native Americans.
12/31/1781 – The Bank of North America became the first bank to receive a federal charter. It commenced business on January 7, 1782 in Philadelphia.
12/31/1879 – Inventor Thomas Edison first demonstrated the incandescent lamp (light bulb) at his lab in NJ.
12/31 – New Year’s Eve is celebrated throughout the world.

Birthdays – Charles Stuart, American portrait painter (of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among others), 12/3/1755; Joseph Conrad, Polish novelist, 12/3/1857; Martin Van Buren, 8th President, 12/5/1782; General George Armstrong Custer, 12/5/1839; Walt Disney; 12/5/1901; Ira Gershwin (wrote several hit songs for “Broadway” shows), 12/6/1896; Eli Whitney (cotton gin), 12/8/1765; Clarence Birdseye (invented process for freezing foods), 12/9/1886; Emily Dickenson (poet), 12/10/1830; Melvil Dewey (invented Dewey decimal system used to categorize books in libraries), 12/10/1851; NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia,12/11/1882; John Jay (first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), 12/12/1745; General James Doolittle (led audacious bombing raid on Tokyo during WWII), 12/14/1896; Alexandre Eifel (Eifel Tower), 12/15/1832; Ludwig van Beethoven (composer), 12/16/1770; George Santayana (philosopher) (“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”), 12/16/1863; Wily Brandt (Chancellor of West Germany), 12/18/1913; Harvey Firestone (Firestone Tire and Rubber), 12/20/1868; Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvli, aka Josef Stalin, 12/21/1879; Claudia Alta Taylor, aka “Lady Bird Johnson,” 12/22/1912; Japanese WWII Emperor Hirohito, 12/23/1901; Christopher “Kit” Carson, frontiersman, 12/24/1809; Howard Hughes, 12/24/1905; Isaac Newton (theory of gravity), 12/25/1642; Clara Barton (nurse who founded American Red Cross), 12/25/1821; Humphrey Bogart, 12/25/1899; Mao Tse-Tung, 12/26/1893; Louis Pasteur (pasteurization process), 12/27/1822; (Thomas) Woodrow Wilson, 28th President, 12/28/1856; Andrew Johnson (17th president, first to be impeached), 12/29/1808; Pablo Casals (cellist), 12/28/1876; Rudyard Kipling (poet, wrote Jungle Book), 12/30/1865; Hideki Tojo (Japanese WWII Prime Minister), 12/30/1884; General George C. Marshall (Army Chief of Staff, WWII), 12/31/1880.

A DATE IN INFAMY

Today, December 7, marks the 77th anniversary of one of the most heinous, despicable acts in modern history. As President FDR forecast, December 7, 1941 is truly a date that has lived in infamy. It is one of those dates we can never forget. It is burned into our very souls. Mention that date to a person of a certain age and their reaction will be akin to later generations’ reaction to November 22, 1963 or September 11, 2001. Most any person over the age of five on those dates remembers where he was, what he was doing and how he felt when he heard the news. Those are dates that had a profound effect on our lives both individually and collectively.

On December 6, 1941 America was still working its way out of the Great Depression, which began in 1929 with the stock market crash. Unemployment was at 9.9%, not good, but a significant improvement from the peak of 25% in 1932. Americans were not thinking about war. After all, we had just fought the “Great War,” (the “war to end wars”). Sure, there was a war waging in Europe, but we were not involved directly. We had no boots on the ground, and we had a vast ocean between us and them. Most Americans were focused on their own lives, not on world events. America was in full isolationist mode. All that was about to change suddenly, violently, tragically and irrevocably.

We all know what happened on December 7, 1941. We know that the Japanese executed a devastating surprise attack on our naval base at Pearl Harbor that precipitated our involvement in WWII. Approximately, 3,500 lives were lost, civilian as well as military, along with most of our Pacific Fleet and airplanes. America switched immediately from peacetime mode to wartime mode. Patriotism and nationalism abounded. The “greatest generation” was on the march.

As we all know, America recovered to win the war after four years of intense and costly fighting. Consequently, there is no need for me to rehash those events. The Pacific War has been the subject of numerous books, movies, and tv productions. The central theme of this blog will focus on the events that led up to the war with Japan.

Every war has its immediate cause and its underlying causes. The attack on Pearl Harbor was the immediate cause. But, what were the underlying causes? What would make Japan start a war that it had virtually no chance of winning? Glad you asked. Read on.

Many, if not most, historians maintain that the US actually provoked Japan into starting the war, although we did not intend for them to devastate our naval fleet in the fashion they did. Over the course of the 1930’s we took various actions that, in reality, left Japan no choice, to wit:

1. The US was providing assistance to the Chinese who were at war with Japan. This included providing airplane pilots, armaments and other supplies and materials. Japan had been at war with China since the 1930’s. Its extreme brutality was exemplified by the Nanking Massacre, aka the Rape of Nanking, which began in December 1937. In a six-week period over 300,000 Chinese civilians were murdered, and there was widespread raping and looting. This shocking brutality was a portent of the Pacific War.
2. Along with the British and the Dutch the US military was actively planning prospective military operations against the Japanese in the Far East to counter its aggression.
3. Japan had few natural resources of its own; it needed to import raw materials, such as coal, iron, oil, rubber and bauxite, from the US and other countries in Southeast Asia to fuel its burgeoning industries. In the late 1930’s the US began to severely limit its access to these materials by enforcing sanctions, limits and embargoes. This aided the British and the Dutch, who were concerned about Japan’s aggressive behavior in the Far East, but it provoked the Japanese.
4. Thus, one can view the attack on Pearl Harbor, not as an isolated event, but rather, as the last act in a long line of connected ones.

Many historians believe that FDR provoked Japan intentionally, because he wanted to go to war against the Axis Powers, and the American people were decidedly against doing so. Before you scoff at that notion, consider that we have fought other wars following provocations that may or may not have been fabricated. For example:

1. The Spanish-American War in 1898 began when the battleship, “Maine” was blown up in Havana harbor under mysterious circumstances. 75% of her crew was killed. “Remember the Maine” became the signature battle cry of that war. There is evidence that suggests that the “Maine” was not blown up by the Spanish, but may have blown up by accident or been sabotaged to provide a pretext for us to enter that war.
2. The legal basis for commencing the Vietnam War was the Gulf of Tonkin incidents of August 2 and 4, 1964. A US destroyer, the USS Maddox, exchanged fire with North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf, which is off the coast of Vietnam. As a result, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized President Johnson to assist any Southeast Asian country that was being jeopardized by “communist aggression.” Johnson was only too eager to do so. It was later determined that some key facts, such as who fired first, are in dispute.
3. President Bush, 43, “sold” the Iraq War to the American people by asserting there was “proof” that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction.” Such weapons have never been found.

So, if FDR did, in fact, goad Japan into attacking us so that we could enter the war against the Axis Powers, it would not have been the only time the US Government used that tactic. In the 1950’s the renowned historian Harry Elmer Barnes (who, ironically, later lost much of his credibility by becoming a vociferous denier of the Holocaust) published a series of essays describing the various ways in which the US Government goaded the Japanese into starting a war it could not win and manipulated American public opinion. After the war, Secretary of War Henry Stimson admitted that “we needed the Japanese to commit the first overt act.”

Most historians agree that even the Japanese leadership in the 1930’s knew it could not win a prolonged war with the US. The US was vastly superior in terms of men, material and resources, and eventually, it would wear down the Japanese. That, in fact, is precisely what happened. In 1941 the die was cast when a more militant, nationalistic government came into power headed by Emperor Hirohito and Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. They spent several months planning the pre-emptive strike. In his best selling book, “Killing the Rising Sun,” Bill O’Reilly denoted that the Japanese sought to imbed spies into the Hawaiian civilian population to gather intelligence. O’Reilly quoted one senior officer who found out that his Japanese gardener was actually a colonel in the Japanese army.

Many historians believe that the Japanese hierarchy was emboldened, in part, by the successful surprise attack on the Russians in 1905 led by then-Admiral Tojo during the Russo-Japanese War. It had worked once; why not again? Their intention was to neutralize American naval power in the Pacific so that it would be unable to block Japan’s aggression in Southeast Asia. They determined that Sunday would be the best day of the week to attack. They also weighed the advantages and disadvantages of attacking the fleet in the harbor or at sea before settling on the attack in the harbor. Although the battleships were sitting ducks in the more shallow harbor, Admiral Chester Nimitz denoted later that one crucial advantage to the US was that we were able to raze several of them later and return them to active duty.

Despite its years of provocations, the US was ill-prepared for an attack. In addition, we had failed to confront the Japanese directly earlier when they could have been dealt with more easily. So, instead of fighting a small war in the 1930s we ended up fighting a world war just a few years later.

One could argue that there are strong parallels between then and our more recent history with respect to various terrorist groups operating in the Middle East and elsewhere. Once again, we failed to deal with the problem when it was manageable (the beginnings of ISIS); once again most of the country was and is very reluctant to get involved in “other people’s problems (Syria and Iraq);” and, we are now embroiled in the more costly aftermath (conflicts, refugees, Russian involvement). History, when ignored, does tend to repeat itself.

Ultimately, the Japanese underestimated the US. Their leaders knew we were in isolationist mode. They did not think we had the “stomach” to fight a prolonged, brutal war. Also, they knew we would be fighting the Germans and Italians as well. Furthermore, they figured that with our Pacific Fleet decimated, if not destroyed, we would be unable or unwilling to counter their aggression in the Far East. The Far East was their end game for reasons discussed above; they were not interested in attacking the US mainland, although much of the US civilian population feared that they would.

Obviously they were wrong. They were not the first enemy to underestimate the US, and they likely will not be the last.

CONCLUSION

On August 23, 1994 Congress passed a bill designating December 7 as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in order to honor the 2,403 US citizens who were killed on December 7. 1941. Every year that date is marked by ceremonies and pilgrimages to the site of the attack. The biggest draw is the Arizona Memorial, which is a marble memorial that was constructed over the site in the harbor where the battle ship, USS Arizona, was sunk. The memorial is intended to honor all military personnel who were killed in the attack, not just the 1,177 crew members of the “Arizona.”

Unfortunately, with the passage of time there are fewer and fewer living survivors of the attack. At one time, there was an official Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, which, at its peak, totaled some 70,000 members worldwide. However, by 2011 only 2,700 remained alive, and many of those were in poor health. Consequently, it was disbanded at the end of the year.

My recollection is that every year on this date Pearl Harbor remembrance would be the dominant story on most news channels and in most newspapers. Accounts would include dramatic and compelling first person accounts of survivors. I realize that former President George Bush’s funeral has been dominating the news, and rightly so. Nevertheless, I find the paucity of such stories very sad. We, as a nation, should not allow the tragedy and heroism of that date to fade with the passage of time.

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH

He was born into a family of wealth, prestige and privilege with, one might say, patrician bloodlines. He could have taken the easy way out. He could have lived a soft, cushy (albeit nondescript) life. He could have let his connected family secure him a safe, non-combat position during WWII, and then he could have lived out his life working in the family’s business. But, that was not who he was. In the modern vernacular, that was not how he “rolled.”

George Herbert Walker Bush was born on June 12, 1924 in Milton, MA. Soon after his birth his family moved to Greenwich, CT. His father, Prescott, was a Wall Street investment banking executive and the son of a wealthy and influential business executive. In addition, he was active in local GOP politics. He was a supporter of President Dwight Eisenhower and served as Senator from 1952-1963. George’s maternal grandfather, George Herbert Walker, for whom he was named, was a successful banker and businessman. Moreover, he served as president of the USGA for many years, and it is he for whom the famed Walker Cup is named.

George attended the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, MA. While there, he demonstrated leadership skills that were a precursor of what was to come. For example, he was elected president of his senior class, secretary of the student council, a member of the editorial board of the school newspaper, president of the community fund-raising group, and captain of both the soccer and baseball teams. But, most significantly, while at a dance he met Barbara Pierce, the daughter of the publisher of McCall’s Magazine.

His true character manifested itself after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the US into WWII. In June 1942 upon graduation from Phillips and shortly after his 18th birthday George enlisted in the Navy with the intention of becoming a Navy pilot. He did so despite the strenuous objections of his father, who wanted him to continue his education. The following June he was commissioned as an ensign and, at 19, became the youngest naval aviator ever to that date.

In 1944 George had a brush with death. While engaged in a battle against the Japanese in the Bonin Islands in the Pacific, his plane was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Despite the exigency of the situation George first completed his bombing mission, then he and his crew bailed out over the ocean. George was rescued after floating in a lifeboat for several hours, the only survivor. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. As an aside, it was later learned that the Japanese were executing any captured pilots and eating their livers. Ugh!

In January 1945, George married the aforementioned Barbara Pierce. They had six children – four boys and two girls. One girl, Robin, died tragically from leukemia at the age of 3. As we all know, one son, George W, became the 43rd President of the US.

The Bushes were married 74 years, the longest presidential marriage ever. Whose marriage is the second longest? Answer below. Furthermore, George and George W. were only the second father-son presidential combination. See below for the identity of the other one. Also, we have had one grandfather-grandson combination. Again, see below for the answer.

In 1948, after graduating from Yale in 2 1/2 years as a Phi Beta Kappa, he eschewed the family business and struck out on his own to make his fortune. He went as far away from his roots as he could, both literally and figuratively. He loaded up his family and drove to West Texas, which, at the time, was truly the “wild west” and the middle of nowhere, to seek his fortune in the oil business. He was a rousing success, first in sales, then as a “wild-catter.” By the mid-1950s he was co-owner of the huge Zapata Petroleum Corp and a multi-millionaire.

The next step was politics. In 1964 he lost his first race, which was for the US Senate. But, 1966 he was elected to the House of Representatives, becoming the first GOPer ever to represent the City of Houston. He became a staunch supporter of President Nixon. It was Nixon who persuaded him to give up his spot to run for the Senate in 1968. He lost, but Nixon, in recognition of his “sacrifice,” appointed him Ambassador to the UN. Later, he was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee and served as Chief of the US Liaison Office of China. (Since the US did not recognize China, this was the highest diplomatic position and equivalent to an ambassadorship.) In 1976 President Ford appointed George head of the CIA, which had been coming under much criticism and was being investigated by Congress for alleged illegal and unauthorized activities.

In 1980 George ran for the GOP nomination for president. He started as a big underdog but ended up giving the eventual nominee, Ronald Reagan, a tough fight. Impressed, Reagan tapped him as his VP. They served for eight years together. In my opinion the Reagan presidency was a huge success, winning the cold war and presiding over a booming economy. George was his loyal VP.

In 1988 George ran for the presidency. His primary rivals for the GOP nomination were Senator Bob Dole (Kansas) and Representative Jack Kemp (NY). (Kemp was a former professional quarterback for the Buffalo Bills.) Bush won handily. During his acceptance speech he uttered a pledge that would later prove to be problematic for his presidency. He pledged, “read my lips. No new taxes.”

He faced Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in the general election. At first, Bush was way behind, but Dukakis’ soft stance on crime and opposition to capital punishment proved to be fatal for him. Bush won the election comfortably, thus becoming the first sitting VP to be elected president since 1836.

In my opinion, Bush’s tenure as president was a mixed bag – some successes and some failures. For instance, on the plus side, when Iraq invaded Kuwait Bush managed to forge a coalition of Arab states to combat Iraq. In addition, he managed to keep Russia from actively opposing the coalition. The Iraqi army was quickly forced out of Kuwait, but Bush was criticized in some quarters for not pursuing the fight all the way to Baghdad and deposing Saddam Hussein. (As it happened, that was probably the right decision. As we have seen, when Hussein was deposed some years later Iraq descended into chaos and civil war between the Sunni and Shia factions. Also, the power vacuum facilitated the rise of ISIS.)

Bush’s main failure was the economy. He was largely unsuccessful in curbing the deficit. Unemployment rose to a peak of 7.8%, and in 1989 the Census Bureau disclosed that 14.2% of Americans were living in poverty. However, the worst decision he made was to agree to a tax increase in order to get the Democratic Congress to agree to spending cuts. Conservative Republicans never forgave him for that. It may have been the right thing to do for the country, but it was devastating, politically. Most likely, it was one of the major factors that caused him to lose his re-election bid in 1992.

By the time the 1992 election campaign rolled around Bush’s approval rating, which had exceeded 90% after the defeat of Iraq, had declined to 37%, primarily because of the weak economy. So, Bush became a one-term president, with the dubious distinction of the being first elected Republican president to lose a re-election bid since Herbert Hoover in 1928 (and we all know why he lost).

CONCLUSION

With the passage of time George’s popularity and standing as president have seemed to improve. This is not uncommon with presidents as the perspective of history often provides a more realistic assessment of their job performance. According to “USA Today,” his positive foreign policy achievements – the victory over Iraq, his presiding over the defeat of Russia and the successful reunification of Germany – have improved his legacy. Those achievements have seemed to overshadow the memory of the weak economy under his administration.

In 2007 at the age of 83 he decided to freefall out of an airplane, which he did with the assistance of a professional guide. Guide or no, that was pretty impressive for an 83 year old. In the last few years of his life George was forced to get around in a motorized scooter or wheelchair due to a form of Parkinson’s Disease called vascular parkinsonism, but it did not dampen his enthusiasm and zest for life.

George Herbert Walker Bush passed away on November 30, 2018 at the age of 94. He lived a full and rewarding life – war hero, successful businessman, public servant, statesman, and family patriarch. He has the distinction of being the longest-lived American president.

Rest in peace, George. You were an exceptional person, and you will be sorely missed.

Quiz answers:

1. The second longest presidential marriage at 54 years was John and Abigail Adams.
2. The other father-son combo was John Adams (1797-1801) – John Quincy Adams (1825-1829).
3. The grandfather-grandson combo was William Henry Harrison (1841)- Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893). For you trivia buffs, William Henry has the dubious distinction of having served the shortest term as president, 31 days. He caught a cold at his inauguration, contracted pneumonia, and in those pre-antibiotic days, that was that.