PRESIDENTS’ DAY

Today, February 18, we celebrate Presidents’ Day, or do we? According to Wikipedia, the moniker, “Presidents’ Day,” is actually a colloquialism. The official name of the federal holiday is “Washington’s Birthday.” It is celebrated on the third Monday of February, which, depending on the particular year, can be anywhere between the 15th and the 21st. However, as many of you know, W was actually born on February 22, so the holiday never falls on his actual birthday. Except, the year W was born, 1731, the British Empire, including the American Colonies, was still using the Old Style Julian calendar, which was eleven days behind the modern Gregorian calendar, which became the standard in 1752. So, technically, W was born on February 11, 1732 (Old Style). Confused? Read on; it gets worse.

Congress first promulgated the federal holiday honoring W in 1879. Fittingly, W was the first and only President to be so honored. It was celebrated on February 22. In 1951 a gentleman named Harold Fischer formed a committee with the apt name of the “President’s Day National Committee,” of which he became the National Executive Director, for the purpose of honoring, not a particular president, but the office, itself. There was sentiment for designating March 4 as the date since that was the original presidential inauguration date, and, in point of fact, several states’ did designate that date as President’s Day.

Finally, in 1971 Congress clarified matters with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. It wanted to promulgate a holiday that would honor both W and Abraham Lincoln, whom most historians recognize (as do I) as our two best presidents. The holiday was moved to the third Monday in February, which, as I have said, falls in between L (February 12) and W’s (February 22) birthdays. It has remained there ever since. People liked it because it provided a built-in three-day weekend, and retailers liked it because customers could spend the extra day off shopping in their stores.

Still confused? Almost done, but there’s more. For example:

1. Today, the holiday is widely viewed as a plural (Presidents’ Day) to honor all presidents, not only W.

2. The day is not a universal holiday. It is celebrated as a state holiday in only 38 of the 50 states, plus DC and Puerto Rico.

3. Moreover, these states use 14 different variations of the name of the holiday, such as “President’s Day,” “Presidents’ Day,” “George Washington/Thomas Jefferson Birthday,” “Lincoln/Washington/Presidents Day,” “George Washington’s Birthday,” and “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” (who?), among others.

4. Fourteen states do not celebrate the holiday at all.

5. Other variations:
a. Massachusetts celebrates “Presidents Day” on May 29 in honor of four specific presidents. Can you name them? Three are easy. They were born in the state and were well-accomplished, aside from being president. The fourth, who was more obscure, was born in a neighboring state, but served as MA governor before becoming president. Kudos if you can name all four. See answer below.
b. New Mexico celebrates the holiday on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
c. Georgia celebrates the day on Christmas Eve.
d. Indiana also celebrates it on Christmas Eve, or the previous workday.
e. W’s adopted city of Alexandria, VA holds celebrations throughout the entire month of February, including what is billed as the nation’s “longest-running and largest George Washington Birthday parade.”
f. The city of Eustis, FL boasts a “GeorgeFest” celebration, which dates back to 1902.
g. One popular food that is traditionally consumed on this day is…?
h. Which medal did W create for the “common soldier?”

CONCLUSION

For many of you, today marks the end of winter vacation from school and work. If you have yet to travel home be careful and be safe. If you have already returned, I hope you enjoyed your time off.

I told you this would be confusing, but, now, you are doubtlessly an expert regarding the holiday.

Quiz answers: 1) John Adams, John Quincy Adams, JFK, and Calvin Coolidge
2) Cherry pie, for obvious reasons.
3) The Purple Heart for being wounded in combat.

PS. Daisy Gatson Bates was a civil rights activist who played a leading role in the integration of Arkansas’ public schools in the late 1950s.

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PRESIDENT TRUMP SIGNS BORDER DEAL, DECLARES NATIONAL EMERGENCY

With respect to the Border Deal, most of you are aware of the headline, as stated above, but, when it comes to evaluating the deal, remember, “the devil is in the details.” Almost everyone is happy that Congress was able to put together a deal to avert another government shutdown. It would have been very bad on many levels. Wall Street, the most objective arbiter I know, loves it. As I write this at mid-day the DJI is up over 200 points.

But, while you’re busy celebrating remember Congress put the Border Bill, some 1,000+ pages of it, together in a rush, under extreme pressure, and few, if any, have even read it. We have no idea of the fine points, but you can be sure they will surface eventually. For example, it has been reported that there is a provision that sponsors or potential sponsors cannot be deported. Okay. Doesn’t sound too bad, but what is the definition of a “sponsor.” I heard that anyone can declare himself a “potential sponsor.” Theoretically, a gang member, or any other adult migrant for that matter, could convince or intimidate a minor migrant into agreeing to designate him as their “sponsor,” and then he cannot be deported. If that’s true, the GOP got snookered, badly.

As an illustration of a hidden, significant, “detail,” I recall the story I heard about the origin of the 401k. Were it not for this provision, salaried persons, especially those without pensions, would not have been able to accumulate the funds for a comfortable retirement. My understanding is that it was an obscure, last minute, “pork” add-on to a tax bill. Some CPA found it, used it for his clients, and it spread to common usage. Point being, we do not know what’s in the Border Bill, but eventually we will find out, good, bad or indifferent.

The primary point of this blog, however, is the National Emergency. Already, it has provoked an outcry in some quarters, and it is sure to be challenged in court. (1) What, exactly, is a “NE?” (2) Does the president have the constitutional authority to declare one? (3) How many and under what circumstances have they been declared? (4) Do we have any outstanding presently? Good questions, keep reading.

1. According to Wikipedia a NE is “a state of emergency resulting from a danger or threat of danger to a nation.” We can debate whether or not the situation at the southern border, or any particular situation, meets that standard, but Mr. Trump thinks it does, and his is the opinion that counts.

2. Congress passed the NE Act in 1975. It authorizes the president to declare a NE, which triggers a slew of events. In order to undo a NE Congress must pass a joint resolution. Such JR would require either a two-thirds vote or the president’s approval. Neither scenario is likely in this situation. Court challenges are likely. A lower, “friendly” court may rule against Mr. Trump, but, ultimately, he will prevail. In my research, I was unable to find one case where the Supreme Court reversed such an order.

3. According to Wikipedia some 60 NEs have been declared and 32 are active, including today’s. According to Kim Scheppele, a professor at Princeton University’s Center for Human Values, they’re “absolutely common.” Historically, presidents have declared them “for all kinds of things,” even before the passage of the aforementioned NEA. The first recorded one was by none other than George Washington who employed it to take over state militias to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in 1792. During the Civil War President Lincoln declared a NE as authority to blockade certain ports of the Confederacy. More recently, George Bush declared a NE after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and Barack Obama declared one to combat the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009. Very often, Presidents have declared NEs of broad scope and vague duration with little of no Congressional oversight. I am not defending that custom, just pointing out that Congressional griping over this one will likely fall on deaf ears, legally.

4. As I said, Mr. Trump did not invent this tactic. Today’s NE makes 32 outstanding.

CONCLUSION

The NY Times has published an article the gist of which will no doubt be echoed on much of the rest of the news media. It makes for interesting reading, if only to get a liberal opinion. It lists six “takeaways” from Mr. Trump’s action. Of course, they are negative.

1. He will go to “almost any length to appease his base.”
2. Dems cannot stop him, but they can “make it awkward.”
3. Diverting funds from elsewhere could “make new enemies.”
4. Expect court challenges.
5. “Watch how Nancy Pelosi responds.”
6. He provided his challengers with “an argument.”

As I said, Mr. Trump will be criticized by his enemies, but so what? He is used to that, as are all politicians. On the other hand, he will be fulfilling a campaign promise. The people elected him to secure the border, and that is what he is doing. Some of you may not agree with his actions or opinions, regarding border security, which is your right, but he is well within his constitutional authority to take the action he has today.

DEMS’ VERSION OF THE LIMBO

Some of you may be familiar with the dance called the “limbo,” which was popular back in the 1960s. The whole point of the dance was to see “how low you could go” under the limbo bar. Well, the Dems are engaged in a political version of the limbo called “How Far Left Can You Go.” The self-defeating point of this dance seems to be to espouse as many outrageous far left policies as possible to curry favor with the base, even if, in the process, you offend mainstream voters. The primary players of this inane game are not merely fringe members of the party. That would be somewhat understandable. Some, like freshman Congresswoman Ihan Omar (MN) are, but most of them are declared candidates for the 2020 Dem presidential nomination.

Due to space limitations, I will limit this to a few recent examples.

1. Ihan Oman – She has barely gotten her feet wet in Congress, and already she has made one ill advised statement after another. She has embarrassed herself and, more importantly, her Party with her obvious anti-Semitic bias. Her latest was a tweet in which she criticized the pro-Israel lobby group, AIPAC, by tweeting “it’s all about the Benjamins.” Her meaning was clear – Jewish money has cast undue influence on US relations with Israel. Really. How about all the Arab lobbyists? I suppose they don’t try to peddle influence as well. That’s what lobbyists do. Duh.
2. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The media has turned her into a spokeswoman for the Party. This is curious since she only won election in her far left political district because she defeated an overconfident incumbent in a poorly attended primary. (The only reason she isn’t running for president is she is too young, thank God.) AOC proposed a “Green New Deal.” There are many preposterous aspects to this policy, but my favorite ones are eliminating anything that burns combustible fuels, such as cars and airplanes, and rebuilding every building in the country. This would not only destroy the country’s energy, military and farming sectors, among many others, but also bankrupt the country. Did she really think this through? She makes the much-denigrated Sarah Palin look like an Einstein! The NGD was immediately endorsed by much of the progressive wing, including Mazie Horono, the Senator from Hawaii best known for advocating the elimination of the due process provision of the Constitution during the Kavanaugh hearings. That is, until someone asked her how anyone would be able even to travel to Hawaii under the plan. Uh oh. And did I mention the cost? No one knows, including AOC, but it would surely run in the tens of trillions per year and destroy our economy. This is simply too insane to discuss seriously. It will be fun to see the eventual nominee try to defend it.

3. Elizabeth Warren. As most of you know, she is the MA senator best known for her false and ludicrous claim of being Native American and then doubling down by insisting she gained no advantage from that lie. She has issued a veritable plethora of far-out, dumb ideas. Her best (or worst) was take your pick between (a) eliminating private healthcare insurance options and (b) instituting a 2% wealth tax. The former would disenfranchise some 180 million Americans who have such plans presently and like them just fine, thank you very much. The latter, as I blogged recently, has been tried (and abandoned) in many countries. It has not worked anywhere. All it has accomplished was to cause the wealthy to hide/devalue their assets and/or flee to other countries.

4. Kamala Harris has made many outrageous statements, but her latest was to endorse the legalization of marijuana. In an interview on “The Breakfast Club,” she admitted she has tried it and liked it, adding it “gives a lot of people joy.” It also serves to impair them and many view it as a “gateway” drug to other hard drugs, but she either is oblivious to that or chose to gloss over it. Maybe she was lulled by a recent Fox poll that disclosed 66% of Americans favor legalization of pot. Perhaps, but I don’t think her opinion will be popular outside of coastal America

5. What is going on with the Dem pols in Virginia?! First, it was discovered that Governor Ralph Northam posed in “blackface” in his medical school yearbook. Then, at the resultant press conference he had to be restrained by his wife from performing a “Moonwalk” a la Michael Jackson. Later, he tried to deny it was he in the picture, but, come on, who would put another person in “blackface” on his yearbook page. There has been bipartisan demand for his removal from office. Ironically, probably, his best shot at surviving is that his would-be replacement, Lt. Gov Justin Fairfax, has been accused of sexual harassment by two women, and the next person in the line of succession, Attorney General Mark Herring has also been embroiled in a “blackface” controversy. Dems, who mostly favored denying Kavanaugh due process, now have to choose between prejudging those three as well or being accused of hypocrisy. In addition, many AAs will not be happy if Fairfax, who is the only AA of the three turns out to be the one who goes. What a mess, and don’t forget Virginia figures to be a key state in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

6. The best (or worst) is Governor Northam’s endorsement of infanticide. Yes, not just abortion, but infanticide, aka murder of infants. He went beyond advocating late term abortions, which the latest Gallup poll disclosed 68% of even PRO CHOICE advocates oppose. He described how a delivered, viable baby could be “made comfortable” while the parents and their doctor decided whether or not to abort it. And, this from a licensed physician!

CONCLUSION

Yes, the 2020 election cycle is heating up, and 2019 has just begun. We have nearly a dozen declared Dem candidates, with various others undeclared. So far, the field is being dominated by the far left. Each candidate is trying to “out left” the others. I believe most of them are already to the left of most of the electorate. The debates should be very entertaining with, perhaps, 20 or so people vying for the spotlight.

Ironically, the latest poll by Morning Consultants shows two undeclared candidates, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, who is not even a Dem, in the lead with 29% and 22%, respectively. Biden, who I had always viewed as a moderate to liberal, seems like a staid conservative by comparison. As he contemplates his decision he must wonder if there is even a constituency for him in his own party.

At this rate, the nominee will emerge so bloodied and so far to the left that Mr. Trump will walk to the White House. He has labeled the Dems derisively as the party of open borders, drugs, crime, terrorism, sanctuary cities, and Socialism. Based upon their rhetoric, I would agree, and I think many other people would as well. To me, that is a recipe for defeat, perhaps an historic one.

STATE OF THE UNION

And, the state of the union is ……divided. In my opinion, there is one inescapable fact that applies whether you are a liberal, a moderate or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican, a Trump supporter or a Trump hater, white, black or Hispanic, young or old, male or female, or rich or poor. Two years into the Trump presidency, this country is DIVIDED, as never before in my lifetime.

Who is to blame? Dems? GOP? Obama? Trump? The media? All of the above? The answer is simple; it depends on one’s political point of view. Watching the president’s SOTU speech Tuesday night and the various rebuttals and political commentators on CNN, MSNBC and Fox, how could one think otherwise?

The Constitution requires the President to inform Congress on the “state of the union” annually. The time of the year is not specified, but traditionally, Presidents have given the address in January or February. This year, the acrimony and the divisiveness over border security and the resulting government shut-down led to the SOTU being delayed. This was not the first time a SOTU was postponed. In 1986 president Reagan postponed the SOTU for one week due to the explosion of the Space Shuttle “Challenger.”

George Washington gave the initial one, in person, in 1790, but that is not a requirement. In fact, during the 19th century most of them were actually delivered to Congress in handwritten form. Apparently, they were not viewed as that significant.

With the advent of radio, however, Presidents began to see an opportunity to disseminate their policies directly to the people. Hence, they were broadcast on the radio and, later, telecast on TV. Down through the years, most of them have been rather mundane, however, a few of the notable announcements were:

1. President Monroe announced the Monroe Doctrine in 1823.
2. FDR described the famous “four freedoms” (freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear) in 1941.
3. LBJ outlined his War on Poverty in 1964.

In my opinion, as is usually the case, the evaluation of this year’s SOTU depends on one’s political preferences. Trump supporters will mostly view it as a positive, unifying speech; his detractors will view it as divisive, self-serving, and disingenuous. I, being a Trump supporter, lean toward the former.

Some general observations:

1. I liked the show of unity of most of the women wearing white. (I’ll have to ask my wife if it was “winter white” or “regular white.”)

2. The audience’s decorum was polite and professional. Not everybody applauded many of Mr. Trump’s points, but that is normal. At least no one booed or walked out that I am aware of. However, it was a little distracting to see Pelosi sitting directly behind the president periodically shuffling papers.

3. Of course, Mr. Trump summarized and defended his policies and accomplishments, such as job growth, low unemployment (particularly among women and minorities), what he called the “unprecedented booming economy,” support for the military, and decimation of ISIS.

4. The two biggest controversial comments were regarding the “lawlessness” of the southern border (I liked his chiding many of the people who criticize his border wall policy while they live behind “walls, gates, and guards,” although those with a different view might consider it to be a low blow.), and late term/partial birth abortions. The latter could be a devastating issue for Dems, prospectively.

5. Without a doubt, the biggest highlights came when Mr. Trump introduced the three D-Day survivors, the Dachau survivor, the military veteran and survivor of the shooting in Pittsburgh, and former astronaut Buzz Aldrin. What were the odds that one of the D-Day survivors would also have been one of the Dachau liberators? Also, the audience singing “Happy Birthday” to the Pittsburgh survivor was a really nice gesture.

CONCLUSION

As I said, one’s opinion of the SOTU is in the eye of the beholder. One may disagree with the substance, but at least Mr. Trump delivered it in a calm, rational, presidential manner, not at all like his normal “stump” speech.

The rebuttal was delivered by Sheri Abrams, who had lost a close race for governor of Georgia. She blamed Mr. Trump for the government shutdown and was generally critical of all things Trump. Dems loved the speech. One commentator on CNN called it the “best rebuttal ever.” Trump supporters, not so much.

Media opinions followed along party lines. CNN commentator, Van Jones, was particularly acerbic, denigrating the speech as “psychologically incoherent.” Remind me where he got his medical degree. Interestingly, Chuck Schumer criticized the speech even before it was given. How prescient. Maybe I should hire him as my new financial advisor.

CNN’s instant poll disclosed that 76% of respondents approved of the SOTU speech. CBS’s poll disclosed 72% approved of the president’s immigration policy, including the wall. I’m not sure what that augurs for the long run as a Rasmussen poll disclosed his approval rating was only 48%, roughly where it’s been.

One final note: Hopefully, independents and moderates who don’t normally get unbiased news from a biased media watched it and will be edified.

As I write this, a conference committee is meeting in an attempt to reach a compromise regarding border security issues. Let’s hope it is successful.

SUPER BOWL LIII (AKA THE PATRIOTS INVITATIONAL)

Another Super Bowl; another appearance by the New England Patriots (yawn). This will be the Patriots third appearance in a row, their 4th in the last five years, and their 11th overall. Maybe, the game should be renamed “The Patriots Invitational.” LOL.

To mark the occasion, I have compiled a quiz. Some of the questions may be too difficult for casual football fans, but I have to challenge the hard core football fans. Remember, no peeking.

1. The first Super Bowl was played in what year?

a. 1966
b. 1967
c. 1968
d. 1969

2. The losing team in the first SB was:

a. Cowboys
b. Raiders
c. Giants
d. Chiefs

3. This will be the third consecutive SB appearance for the Patriots. Which team made four consecutive appearances (and lost them all).

a. Buffalo Bills
b. Dallas Cowboys
c. Philadelphia Eagles
d. Miami Dolphins

4. Which city has hosted the most games (tied with Miami)?

a. New Orleans
b. Dallas
c. Los Angeles
d. Phoenix

5. How many Super Bowls have been decided in overtime?

a. 0
b. 1
c. 2
d. 3

6. Which franchise has won the most SBs?

a. Dallas
b. San Francisco
c. Pittsburg
d. New England

7. Each of the following teams is undefeated in SBs except:

a. Jets
b. Ravens
c. Bucs
d. Green Bay

8. The name “Super Bowl” was derived from:

a. College “bowl” games
b. Fan vote
c. Media feedback
d. Child’s toy

9. Who has won the most SB MVPs?

a. Bart Starr
b. Tom Brady
c. Eli Manning
d. Joe Montana

10. Who was the only MVP from the losing team?

a. Chuck Howley
b. Len Dawson
c. Bruce Smith
d. Icky Woods

11. How many defensive players have been MVP of a SB?

a. Two
b. Five
c. Eight
d. Ten

12. Which of the below cities has never hosted a SB?

a. Santa Clara
b. Jacksonville
c. NY
d. Washington, DC

13. Which of the below networks has not telecast any Super Bowls?

a. ABC
b. CBS
c. Fox
d. ESPN

14. Each of the following has not appeared in a SB, except:

a. Browns
b. Bengals
c. Lions
d. Jaguars

15. Who will be performing at halftime?

a. Beyonce
b. Lady Gaga
c. Gladys Knight
d. Maroon 5

16. How many times has a team played the SB in its home stadium?

a. 0
b. 1
c. 2
d. 3

17. Which team won SB VII to cap an undefeated season?
a. New York
b. Chicago
c. Miami
d. Pittsburgh

18. The coldest temperature for a SB held outdoors was 39 degrees in which city?

a. Houston
b. New Orleans
c. Stanford
d. Cleveland

19. Which of the following coaches has taken more than one team to a SB?

a. Don Shula
b. Tom Landry
c. Bill Belichek
d. Vince Lombardi

20. Which coach has the most SB wins?

a. Don Shula
b. Bill Belichick
c. Mike Shanahan
d. Chuck Noll

21. Which of the below-listed quarterbacks did not win any Super Bowls.

a. Jim Plunkett
b. Dan Marino
c. Joe Namath
d. Terry Bradshaw

22. After whom is the SB trophy named?

a. Pete Rozelle
b. Paul Brown
c. Al Davis
d. Vince Lombardi

23. Which player has won the most SB rings (tied with Tom Brady)?

a. Adam Vinatieri
b. Charles Haley
c. Terry Bradshaw
d. Bob Lilly

24. Which half-time entertainer became (in)famous for a “wardrobe malfunction?”

a. Beyoncé
b. Janet Jackson
c. Madonna
d. Lady Gaga

25. What marginal player became famous for the “helmet catch” in SBXLII (Giants vs. Pats)?

a. Plaxico Burris
b. Randy Moss
c. David Tyree
d. Bob Schnelker

Extra credit: Where did Tom Brady attend college?

ANSWERS: 1. b; 2. d; 3. a; 4. a (10); 5. b; 6. c; 7. d; 8. d; 9. b(4); 10. a (SB V); 11.c; 12. d; 13. d, 14. b; 15. d; 16. a; 17. c; 18. b; 19. a; 20. b(5); 21. b; 22. d; 23. b(5); 24. b; 25. c

Bonus answer: Michigan

My prediction: 31-27 Pats. I hope I’m wrong. What’s yours?