MUELLER REPORT – NO COLLUSION

No collusion? Huh? How could that be? The vast majority of the Dem party and the media have been assuring us there was. Well, I guess they were wrong. In my opinion, either they are stupid, or they think we are to believe them.

The long-awaited and much-anticipated Mueller Report has been completed and submitted to Attorney General William Barr. Barr and Rod Rosenstein, his deputy, have reviewed the report, and they have issued a statement that (1) the report did not call for any additional indictments, and (2) neither Mr. Trump nor his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. It should be noted that various US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia did, however, interfere with the election, although Russia has consistently denied it did so. In any event, there has been no evidence presented that even one vote was affected.

The report did not absolve Mr. Trump of obstruction of justice. Critics have latched on to that like a lifeline. They cite his firing of FBI director Jim Comey as evidence of obstruction, but they conveniently forget or ignore the fact that even the Clinton campaign was unhappy with Comey and wanted him fired. A decision on obstruction will be up to the attorney general. In my opinion, the case for obstruction is weak, but we’ll see.

There is strong bipartisan support for Barr to release the full report. The president, his supporters, his critics and the public all want to see it, and the likelihood is he will do so, except for Grand Jury testimony and “classified” information, if any. The release of the report should clear up the cloud of suspicion that has plagued Mr. Trump his entire presidency, and it should end the investigations of him and his campaign, what some have labeled a “witch hunt.”

Congress should now be able to proceed with the business of governing. It should be able to address various issues that Americans really care about, such as healthcare, border security, terrorism, infrastructure, and the economy. But nooooo! Not happening, at least, not yet. Leading Dems, such as Jerry Nadler, Adam Schiff, and “Chancy,” have indicated that separate Congressional investigations will be forthcoming. I would caution them to tread carefully. A recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll disclosed that 50% of Americans agree with Mr. Trump that the entire investigation has been a “witch hunt,” compared to 47% who do not. That same poll disclosed that only 28% were in favor of his impeachment, while 62% were opposed.

For over two years the Dems and most of the media have been pounding us with accusations regarding President Trump. He colluded with Russia to steal the election; Russia/Putin is blackmailing him; he is a Russian spy; he is a puppet of the Russians; he is the “Manchurian Candidate;” he committed treason; and on and on ad nauseum. I could fill this entire blog with their inane rhetoric, but I will settle for a few select quotes:

1. Adam Schiff – There is a “stream of evidence.”
2. Tom Perez – There is a “mountain of evidence.”
3. Jerry Nadler – “We know there was collusion.”
4. Richard Blumenthal – “The evidence is pretty clear.”

In addition, politicians from Adam Schiff, to Jerry Nadler, to Kamala Harris, to Cory Booker, to AOC, and commentators, such as Don Lemon, Anderson Cooper, Carl Bernstein and Chris Matthews, have been pushing for his impeachment. Nancy Pelosi, to her credit, has been more cautious. She has stated she would not support impeachment unless the evidence against Mr. Trump was “compelling, overwhelming and bipartisan.” Now that the report has been released and does not prove any of those accusations, the aforementioned critics, have switched the narrative. Now, they want to pursue their own investigations. Essentially, they want to keep investigating until they find something damaging (or until Mr. Trump completes his second term, which will likely come sooner).

In my opinion, the Mueller investigation was conceived and commenced based on FISA warrants of very questionable legality. Also, Mueller’s team was composed almost entirely of individuals with a bias against Mr. Trump. This was a “plus” for Dems, but now it is a “negative,” since it precludes them from accusing the team of pro-Trump bias. The team was extremely relentless and thorough. It tried really hard to find something damaging. Over the course of 2+ years it issued some 2,800 subpoenas, interviewed some 500 witnesses, and spent some $400 million of the taxpayers’ money. Some of their tactics and motivations seemed heavy-handed and excessive (e.g., the Stone arrest), but I would give them an “A” for effort. The fact that after all that, the committee could not find any collusion is very significant and should be dispositive. But, apparently not enough to satisfy some hardcore critics.

Nadler’s committee has reportedly sent some 80 letters of inquiry to some 60 individuals, many of whom will likely be summoned to testify. I’m not aware of all the names, but I have heard that Glenn Simpson and Christopher Steele, who were involved knee-deep in the so-called “fake dossier,” were not among them. That strikes me as curious, to say the least.

CONCLUSION

For over two years, we were told constantly by most Dems and most of the media to wait for the Mueller Report. It would “nail” Mr. Trump. It would prove he colluded with Russia to “steal” the 2016 election. It would end his presidency. He would be impeached. He would go to prison, as would members of his family and inner circle. Now, even though Mueller and his team were given tremendous latitude to investigate whatever they wanted, the report has been issued, and it has exonerated Mr. Trump from collusion.

For two plus years, the American people have been subjected to exaggerated and false claims from Dems and their allies in the media who, blinded by their irrational hatred for Donald Trump, rushed to judgment before the facts were in. The above quotes were a small sample of the irresponsible behavior of those who should know better. By the way, this was not the only time they have done so. The Covington High School and Jesse Smollett stories are two other recent examples. Some have advocated that those who acted irresponsibly should resign or be fired or, at the very least, apologize to the American people, but I will not hold my breath waiting for that.

Regarding the Mueller Report, Peter Baker, writing in the NY Times, opined “the darkest most ominous cloud hanging over [Mr. Trump’s] presidency was all but lifted…” He added that in his opinion the Dems were now “on the defensive.” I would concur. They staked a great deal on the report, politically, and it did not fulfil their hopes. Now, many Dems are thinking, “now what.”

In my opinion, there should be investigations into the conduct of the likes of John Brennan, James Clapper, Jim Comey, Loretta Lynch, and Peter Strzok, among others, who may have acted inappropriately or illegally with respect to this matter. Also, Adam Schiff keeps saying he has evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Trump. I say, either disclose it or cease and desist.

A note of caution for Trump supporters. The Southern District of NY and NY State are investigating Mr. Trump and certain of his business activities. We’ll have to see what develops there. I understand a sitting president cannot be indicted, but what they might find could hurt him, politically, and there is a chance he could be indicted after he leaves office.

Finally, for the good of the country I would hope that at least one of the 2020 Dem candidates will have the courage to say that “enough is enough” and focus on the issues. The Dems should realize that the best way to oust Mr. Trump is not through bogus investigations; it is to defeat him in an election. Of course, I won’t hold my breath for that either.

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OPENING DAY

It’s a beautiful Spring-like day in the NY area today, and the extended forecast calls for temperatures in the 50s for the next 10 days, or so. After a long winter of cold and rain, this makes me think of OPENING DAY. And, on March 28, the major league baseball season will commence, officially. All 30 teams will be in action. This is the earliest OD in the long history of baseball, beating 2018 by one day. As an added twist, two games were already played on March 20-21 in Tokyo. The Seattle Mariners “hosted” the Oakland A’s. That was not OD. Technically, MLB considers OD to be first day in which a full slate of games is scheduled. Got it?

Usually, the early games are plagued by inclement weather – cold, rain, even snow – especially in the northeast. Not an ideal scenario for MLB and its fans, but that’s the price we pay in order for the World Series to be completed before November.

For many years, MLB had scheduled the very first game of the season in Cincinnati, usually on the first Monday in April, with a full slate of games the next day. This was in recognition of the fact that the Reds were the first professional baseball team. In fact, the Reds are the only team that has always been scheduled to play its first game at home. There have only been two years when they opened on the road – 1966, when the home opener was rained out and 1990 when the season was delayed due to the lockout. The team was formed in 1869 as the Red Stockings. The team has undergone various name changes and is now known as the “Reds.” Incidentally, for you trivia buffs, they went 65-0 that first year, the only perfect season in baseball history.

The National League was organized in 1876, and the American League in 1901. For many years there were 16 teams – eight teams in each league, all in the northeast, with no team being located west of St. Louis. With the advent of air travel in the late 1950s it became feasible to add franchises in other sectors of the country. Presently, there are 30 teams – 15 in each league.

Fans have been complaining that the season starts too early; the weather in early April is too cold in many cities. So, what does MLB do to resolve the problem? This year, it moved Opening Day up to its earliest date ever! Brilliant! Furthermore, rather than scheduling OD games exclusively in warm weather sites and dome stadiums, MLB has compounded this idiocy by scheduling games in venues, such as Chicago, NY, Denver, Pittsburgh and Seattle, and many early season games will be played at night. Yes, MLB is always thinking of the fans.

Despite the often inclement weather, OD holds a special meaning. Mention those words to any sports fan, and, immediately, he knows what it means and to which sport it pertains. Not football, not basketball, not hockey. OD means that another season of Major League Baseball is beginning. Baseball fans look forward to OD every year. Local newspapers step up their coverage of the local team in anticipation. Many of them even print a daily countdown of the number of days remaining until OD. In addition, OD occurs in the Spring, a season that symbolizes a new beginning and one which most people anticipate every year.
Most fans will acknowledge that baseball is no longer the most popular sport. In fact, according to TV ratings, betting interest and most fan polls, football has superseded baseball. Perhaps, basketball has as well, particularly among younger fans. However, baseball, which has been played in the US in some form since the 1840s, is part of the social fabric of America.

Most men remember their first game of “catch” with their father or their first baseball game. For most boys it is a “rite of passage” as uniquely American as the flag. In fact, I have a more detailed recall of a World Series game I saw with my father in 1956 than I do of ballgames I saw last year.

Every fan is optimistic on OD. Every team starts with the same 0-0 record. None has lost a game yet. Every team still has a chance to make the playoffs, and as we have seen in recent years, once you make the playoffs anything can happen. For example, in 2016 the Chicago Cubs won it all for the first time since 1908. Think about that for a minute. That means that no present Cubs fan, and virtually none of their fathers, were even born the previous time the Cubs won. In 2017 the Houston Astros won their first WS after having languished near the bottom of the league for many years.

Many fans, and even some reporters, place undue emphasis on the opener forgetting or ignoring the fact that the season consists of 162 games. Over the course of a baseball season even the best teams will lose approximately 60 games. To many fans, a win OD means the season will be outstanding; a loss means the team “stinks.”

MLB has been trying to develop its international presence. One way has been to schedule OD contests in various foreign venues. The first one was in 1999 in Monterrey, Mexico. For the record, the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres. Since then, there have been eleven season openers held in international venues. Tokyo has hosted the most, nine. Sydney has hosted two and San Juan one. This year, the Yankees and Red Sox will play two games in London (although not on OD).

Down through the years, OD has produced some memorable events, such as:

1. In 1907, the NY Giants, forerunner of the San Francisco Giants, forfeited the opener after rowdy fans began throwing snowballs at the players and umpires. There were not enough police on hand to restore order, so the umpires forfeited the game to the visiting Phillies.
2. In 1910 President Taft became the first President to throw out the “first ball.” In 1950 President Truman threw out the “first pitch” twice, as a righty and a lefty. In total, twelve Presidents have thrown out the “first pitch.” Over the years it has evolved from a perfunctory toss from the stands to an more elaborate ceremonial toss from the mound. Will we see President Trump follow tradition this year? Your guess is as good as mine. Can you imagine him doing the “wave?”
3. In 1940, Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians, known as “Rapid Robert” because of his high velocity, threw the only OD day no-hitter in baseball history. As an aside, there were no radar guns in Feller’s day, so one day some officials attempted to “time” his fastball by having him throw a pitch against a speeding motorcycle.
4. In 1947 Jackie Robinson debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers on OD becoming the first African American to play in the major leagues since the 19th Century.
5. In 1975 Frank Robinson became the first African American to manage in the Major Leagues.
6. In 1996, John McSherry, an umpire, suffered a fatal heart attack near home plate.
7. Early in the 20th Century teams would, on occasion, open with a doubleheader. Doubleheaders used to be quite common, particularly on Sundays and holidays. Now, they are rare, and when they do occur it is usually the result of adding an extra game to make up for a rain-out. The reason? Money, of couse.
8. In 1946 Boston Braves fans attending the game got an unpleasant surprise. It seems that the Braves’ management had had the stands freshly painted, and the paint had not completely dried. Many fans got red paint all over their clothes. The embarrassed management issued a public apology and paid the fans’ cleaning bills.
9. Tom Seaver started the most openers – 16. Walter Johnson pitched the most OD shutouts – nine, including a 1-0 victory in which he pitched 15 innings. No chance of that happening today.
10. In 1974 Henry Aaron clouted his 714th homerun tying Babe Ruth’s all-time record for career homers.
11. In 1968 minor leaguer Greg Washburn became the only pitcher to appear in two OD games in the same year. (He won both 2-0).

CONCLUSION

As I said, weather is often an issue on OD, especially in the northern cities where it is not unusual to have cold, damp, rainy weather in early April that is more suitable to football than baseball. It reminds me of one of the major criticisms of baseball, that the season is too long. We all know the reason – tv money. The owners like it, because it makes them rich and less dependent on attendance for revenues. The players tolerate it, because it fuels their astronomic salaries. As for the fans, well, they will just have to grin and bear it.

Hall of Fame pitcher, Early Wynn summed up the essence of OD thusly: “An opener is not like any other game. You have that anxiety to get off to a good start, for yourself and for the team. You know that when you win the first one you can’t lose them all.” HOF, Joe DiMaggio, always looked forward to OD. He felt “you think something wonderful is going to happen.” Finally, I am reminded of that renowned philosopher Yogi Berra, who could turn a phrase with the best of them, who is reputed to have said: “A home opener is always exciting, no matter if it’s home or on the road.”

My hope and prediction is for a Yankees-Dodgers World Series. They used to meet on what seemed like a regular basis, but they have not met since 1981. I think fans around the country would be “all-in,” and I know the media would love it. The Dodgers have lost two straight WS, and I’m hoping the third time will be the charm.

What is your favorite OD memory? Please share.

PLAY BALL!

OPENING DAY

It’s a beautiful Spring-like day in the NY area today, and the extended forecast calls for temperatures in the 50s for the next 10 days, or so. After a long winter of cold and rain, this makes me think of OPENING DAY. And, on March 28, the major league baseball season will commence, officially. All 30 teams will be in action. This is the earliest OD in the long history of baseball, beating 2018 by one day. As an added twist, two games were already played on March 20-21 in Tokyo. The Seattle Mariners “hosted” the Oakland A’s. That was not OD. Technically, MLB considers OD to be first day in which a full slate of games is scheduled. Got it?

Usually, the early games are plagued by inclement weather – cold, rain, even snow – especially in the northeast. Not an ideal scenario for MLB and its fans, but that’s the price we pay in order for the World Series to be completed before November.

For many years, MLB had scheduled the very first game of the season in Cincinnati, usually on the first Monday in April, with a full slate of games the next day. This was in recognition of the fact that the Reds were the first professional baseball team. In fact, the Reds are the only team that has always been scheduled to play its first game at home. There have only been two years when they opened on the road – 1966, when the home opener was rained out and 1990 when the season was delayed due to the lockout. The team was formed in 1869 as the Red Stockings. The team has undergone various name changes and is now known as the “Reds.” Incidentally, for you trivia buffs, they went 65-0 that first year, the only perfect season in baseball history.

The National League was organized in 1876, and the American League in 1901. For many years there were 16 teams – eight teams in each league, all in the northeast, with no team being located west of St. Louis. With the advent of air travel in the late 1950s it became feasible to add franchises in other sectors of the country. Presently, there are 30 teams – 15 in each league.

Fans have been complaining that the season starts too early; the weather in early April is too cold in many cities. So, what does MLB do to resolve the problem? This year, it moved Opening Day up to its earliest date ever! Brilliant! Furthermore, rather than scheduling OD games exclusively in warm weather sites and dome stadiums, MLB has compounded this idiocy by scheduling games in venues, such as Chicago, NY, Denver, Pittsburgh and Seattle, and many early season games will be played at night. Yes, MLB is always thinking of the fans.

Despite the often inclement weather, OD holds a special meaning. Mention those words to any sports fan, and, immediately, he knows what it means and to which sport it pertains. Not football, not basketball, not hockey. OD means that another season of Major League Baseball is beginning. Baseball fans look forward to OD every year. Local newspapers step up their coverage of the local team in anticipation. Many of them even print a daily countdown of the number of days remaining until OD. In addition, OD occurs in the Spring, a season that symbolizes a new beginning and one which most people anticipate every year.
Most fans will acknowledge that baseball is no longer the most popular sport. In fact, according to TV ratings, betting interest and most fan polls, football has superseded baseball. Perhaps, basketball has as well, particularly among younger fans. However, baseball, which has been played in the US in some form since the 1840s, is part of the social fabric of America.

Most men remember their first game of “catch” with their father or their first baseball game. For most boys it is a “rite of passage” as uniquely American as the flag. In fact, I have a more detailed recall of a World Series game I saw with my father in 1956 than I do of ballgames I saw last year.
Every fan is optimistic on OD. Every team starts with the same 0-0 record. None has lost a game yet. Every team still has a chance to make the playoffs, and as we have seen in recent years, once you make the playoffs anything can happen. For example, in 2016 the Chicago Cubs won it all for the first time since 1908. Think about that for a minute. That means that no present Cubs fan, and virtually none of their fathers, were even born the previous time the Cubs won. In 2017 the Houston Astros won their first WS after having languished near the bottom of the league for many years.

Many fans, and even some reporters, place undue emphasis on the opener forgetting or ignoring the fact that the season consists of 162 games. Over the course of a baseball season even the best teams will lose approximately 60 games. To many fans, a win OD means the season will be outstanding; a loss means the team “stinks.”

MLB has been trying to develop its international presence. One way has been to schedule OD contests in various foreign venues. The first one was in 1999 in Monterrey, Mexico. For the record, the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres. Since then, there have been eleven season openers held in international venues. Tokyo has hosted the most, nine. Sydney has hosted two and San Juan one. This year, the Yankees and Red Sox will play two games in London (although not on OD).

Down through the years, OD has produced some memorable events, such as:

1. In 1907, the NY Giants, forerunner of the San Francisco Giants, forfeited the opener after rowdy fans began throwing snowballs at the players and umpires. There were not enough police on hand to restore order, so the umpires forfeited the game to the visiting Phillies.
2. In 1910 President Taft became the first President to throw out the “first ball.” In 1950 President Truman threw out the “first pitch” twice, as a righty and a lefty. In total, twelve Presidents have thrown out the “first pitch.” Over the years it has evolved from a perfunctory toss from the stands to an more elaborate ceremonial toss from the mound. Will we see President Trump follow tradition this year? Your guess is as good as mine. Can you imagine him doing the “wave?”
3. In 1940, Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians, known as “Rapid Robert” because of his high velocity, threw the only OD day no-hitter in baseball history. As an aside, there were no radar guns in Feller’s day, so one day some officials attempted to “time” his fastball by having him throw a pitch against a speeding motorcycle.
4. In 1947 Jackie Robinson debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers on OD becoming the first African American to play in the major leagues since the 19th Century.
5. In 1975 Frank Robinson became the first African American to manage in the Major Leagues.
6. In 1996, John McSherry, an umpire, suffered a fatal heart attack near home plate.
7. Early in the 20th Century teams would, on occasion, open with a doubleheader. Doubleheaders used to be quite common, particularly on Sundays and holidays. Now, they are rare, and when they do occur it is usually the result of adding an extra game to make up for a rain-out. The reason? Money, of couse.
8. In 1946 Boston Braves fans attending the game got an unpleasant surprise. It seems that the Braves’ management had had the stands freshly painted, and the paint had not completely dried. Many fans got red paint all over their clothes. The embarrassed management issued a public apology and paid the fans’ cleaning bills.
9. Tom Seaver started the most openers – 16. Walter Johnson pitched the most OD shutouts – nine, including a 1-0 victory in which he pitched 15 innings. No chance of that happening today.
10. In 1974 Henry Aaron clouted his 714th homerun tying Babe Ruth’s all-time record for career homers.
11. In 1968 minor leaguer Greg Washburn became the only pitcher to appear in two OD games in the same year. (He won both 2-0).

CONCLUSION

As I said, weather is often an issue on OD, especially in the northern cities where it is not unusual to have cold, damp, rainy weather in early April that is more suitable to football than baseball. It reminds me of one of the major criticisms of baseball, that the season is too long. We all know the reason – tv money. The owners like it, because it makes them rich and less dependent on attendance for revenues. The players tolerate it, because it fuels their astronomic salaries. As for the fans, well, they will just have to grin and bear it.

Hall of Fame pitcher, Early Wynn summed up the essence of OD thusly: “An opener is not like any other game. You have that anxiety to get off to a good start, for yourself and for the team. You know that when you win the first one you can’t lose them all.” HOF, Joe DiMaggio, always looked forward to OD. He felt “you think something wonderful is going to happen.” Finally, I am reminded of that renowned philosopher Yogi Berra, who could turn a phrase with the best of them, who is reputed to have said: “A home opener is always exciting, no matter if it’s home or on the road.”

My hope and prediction is for a Yankees-Dodgers World Series. They used to meet on what seemed like a regular basis, but they have not met since 1981. I think fans around the country would be “all-in,” and I know the media would love it. The Dodgers have lost two straight WS, and I’m hoping the third time will be the charm.

What is your favorite OD memory? Please share.

PLAY BALL!

THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE

The Electoral College is not an official term. It is not mentioned in the Constitution. It was coined in the early 1800s to describe the group of “electors” that actually elects the president and vice president. However, the role of electors is an integral part of the original Constitution, and the specifics of the electoral process are laid out in the 12th Amendment, which was ratified in 1804. Therefore, it can only be modified or eliminated by a constitutional amendment.

Recently, the EC has come under substantial criticism. Some of the criticisms may have a degree of merit, but I believe that most of those who have been criticizing the EC are doing so due to self-interest and have demonstrated a lack of understanding of how it functions and, also, the historical reasons for it. How does it function? Why was it conceived? Is it still necessary today? What are its advantages and disadvantages? Should it be modified or abolished? Read on, and I will attempt to explain.

I think some historical perspective is in order. According to Nancy Benac, reporting for the AP, the EC was conceived at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. It was a compromise between those who favored a straight popular vote for president and those who wanted no public participation. Most of you may recall that it had been agreed that in order for the republic to succeed it would be necessary that ALL states ratify the constitution. No state(s) would be bullied by a majority.

In order to accomplish that, there were many difficult issues to overcome. For example, smaller states feared domination by the larger states, and how would slaves be counted, as “people” or as “property?” These and other thorny matters were finally resolved by a series of compromises, including the “three-fifths compromise,” the makeup of the House and Senate and the EC. So, in my opinion, those who are now claiming the EC is based solely on slavery are being simplistic and disingenuous. More on this later.

Simply put, the EC is a term for the various groups of “electors” that have been chosen by each state’s voters. Even though we think we are voting for the candidate on the ballot, we are, in reality, not voting for that candidate, directly, but, rather, for an elector who has pledged support for that candidate. This is a small, but significant distinction. In most cases, it is a distinction without a difference, as electors invariably end up voting for the candidate to whom they have pledged their support, but they are not required to do so. Indeed, throughout history, there have been a few cases where a “rogue” elector has not done so.

The number of electors allocated to a particular state is equal to the total of its senators and representatives. Each state legislature chooses its own electors by its own procedures. Presently, there are a total of 538 electors.
The least populous states, such Wyoming, have three, while California, the most populous, presently has 55. DC is allocated the same number as the smallest state (3).

Briefly, the election process is as follows:

1. On the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November in a presidential election year voters vote for electors that are pledged to their candidate of choice.

2. In December these electors meet in their respective state capitols to officially cast their votes. The electors sign a Certificate of Vote, which is then sealed and delivered to the President of the Senate. As I mentioned, these electors are generally required to follow the wishes of the voters, but, historically, there have been a few instances in which they have not.

3. The result is ratified in January before a joint session of Congress.

4. If no candidate receives a majority the House votes with each state having one vote.

Criticisms/Suggestions for modification:

1. The current system unfairly gives the smaller states a disproportionately larger voting power compared to the larger states.

2. Increase the size of the House of Representatives. This would give more electors to the larger states, and, thus, come closer to the “one man, one vote standard” espoused by some.

3. Replace the winner take all method of allocating electors with a proportional method, which is presently only employed in Maine and Nebraska.

4. Eliminate the EC entirely, and elect the president by straight popular vote.

As I said, opponents of the EC cite the risk that the vote of the electors will contradict the will of the people as evidenced by the popular vote. They cite the 2016 election of Donald Trump as exhibit A. Moreover, they remind us that slavery no longer exists as a reason for the EC. I say, true, but not the whole story. Read on.

Reasons to retain it:

1. The USA is governed by a federal system, one in which individual states share power with the national government. A straight national vote for president would result in a concentration of power in the national government at the expense of the individual states. Clearly, this was not the intent of the Founding Fathers. As I said, when the Republic was first formed many states, especially, the smaller, least populated ones, were concerned about being dominated by the larger, more populous states. That concern is reflected in many areas, such as the composition of the Senate and the EC.

2. The Founding Fathers viewed it as a layer of protection against the possibility of a populist or a demagogue winning the popular vote by captivating the electorate. Many of them reasoned that only a select “enlightened” few persons would have the capability of analyzing the issues and selecting a president. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were particularly strong proponents of electors. Madison envisioned electors being elected by voters in their respective districts and then being entrusted with the important task of selecting a president. Hamilton concurred, opining that the selection of the president should be “made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station [of president].” That type of elitist attitude, which is certainly not in vogue today, was prevalent in the 18th century when most of the populace could neither read nor write. Despite the outdated logic, I believe the system has served us well. I respect the historical precedent. Furthermore, I subscribe to the belief that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

3. Without it, candidates would ignore the least populous states and focus on campaigning in states like CA, NY, FL, IL and TX where the most votes are. These states would dominate the country’s politics.

4. It preserves the two-party system. Although the two-party system has its drawbacks, it is better than the system typical of European democracies where there are numerous splinter parties, which makes governing cumbersome.

5. Despite the furor over the 2016 election there have only been five elections ever in which the winner had lost the popular vote. Those results may have bothered some people at the time, but the country survived. Can you name them? See the answer below.

CONCLUSION

The Dems are determined to make the EC an issue for the 2020 election. Many of the declared and undeclared candidates have advocated its modification or elimination. For example Elizabeth Warren has stated she wants to “abolish it because it meant that candidates avoided states that were not battleground states.” In my view, naturally, candidates, with a finite amount of time and resources, have always focused their efforts on states that are in doubt and spent less time in “safe” states that consistently vote one way or the other, and they always will. It is not because of the EC. In any case, that is not a valid reason to tamper with the EC. Without the current system candidates would ignore the small states and focus on the dozen or so large ones and on the big population centers. The former would lose any political “voice” they now have. Once again, Warren, like many others, is showing her ignorance of the history as I outlined above. Even worse are the comments of Rep Steve Cohen (D-TN) who said the EC was “conceived in sin” to “perpetuate slavery.” His comments were not only ignorant, but also inflammatory.

Clearly, the Dems are making this an issue because of the manner in which they lost the 2016 election. While they are fighting the last war they will be ignoring the issues that voters really care about, such as the economy, border security, healthcare, and terrorism.

Finally, don’t they realize that amending the Constitution is a long process and takes years. One does not simply wave a magic wand and make it so. It requires a 2/3 vote in both the House and Senate, plus ratification by the legislatures (or special conventions) of 3/4 of the states. Typically, this process takes years. It would most certainly not be completed by the 2020 election, and by 2024 who knows who the candidates will be and which one(s) the system would favor, if any. The EC system does not always favor the GOP. For example, in 2016 Mr. Trump had a very narrow and specific path to 270. He had to, and did, win a series of close races in states like FL and Wisconsin (aided, no doubt, by Hillary’s failure to campaign adequately there). Keep in mind that presently the Dems are virtually assured of the electoral votes of NY, IL and CA, which together will total 104 electoral votes in 2020.

Quiz answerer: John Quincy Adams (1824), Rutherford B. Hayes (1876), Benjamin Harrison (1888), George W. Bush (2000), and Donald Trump (2016). In addition,
on 14 other occasions the winner won a plurality, but not a majority of the vote. The last person to do so was Bill Clinton in 1996.

THE BETO PHENOMENON

Most Americans only know him as the mystery man with the flamboyant, energetic speaking style and the unusual nickname. Who is Beto O’Rourke? How did he get that unusual nickname? What is his background? What does he stand for, politically? Does he really have a chance to win the Dem nomination? The election? Good questions. Read on, and let’s see.

Robert Francis O’Rourke was born on September 26, 1972 in El Paso, TX. His family was steeped in politics. His father was a local politician in the El Paso area. In addition, he was an associate of former Texas Governor Mark White (1983-87); and he was the state chairman of Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns. Later, he switched parties and ran for various political offices as a Republican, and lost every race. His mother, who owned a furniture store, is the step-daughter of Fred Korth, who served as Secretary of the Navy under JFK.

The family bestowed the unusual nickname, Beto, on Robert as an infant. It is a short version of “Berto,” a Spanish nickname for Roberto, which is the Spanish translation of Robert. He was called Beto to distinguish him from his grandfather, who was also named Robert.

Beto’s childhood included a couple of unusual events. As a teenager, he became involved in a computer hacking group called “Cult of the Dead Cow.” His “handle” was “Psychedelic Warlord.” More on this later. After two years at the local high school, his family shipped him off to boarding school in Virginia (possibly because of his involvement with the hacking group). He spent the summer following his graduation as an intern on Capitol Hill. He attended college at Columbia and graduated in 1995 with a BA in English.

Also, in 1995 he was arrested for burglary. He and some friends were caught sneaking onto the campus of UTEP for some hijinks. The university declined to press charges and the matter was dropped. In 1998 he was arrested for DWI in connection with a car accident. Those charges were dismissed as well. Youthful indiscretions? Perhaps. But, these matters may be raised by his political opponents if he stays in the race.

After graduation Beto worked at a series of jobs as he was deciding on a career, such as caretaker, proofreader, and writer of short stories and songs. Later on, he co-founded a technology business. In 2012 he entered politics. He ran for Congress and won. After serving three terms, he ran for the Senate against Ted Cruz and lost, albeit narrowly. Based on that narrow loss in a “red” state he has become a “media darling.” How long it will last is anybody’s guess.

As I said, not much is known about Beto, except for his unusual nickname. He is a colorful character, an animated speaker, a prolific fundraiser and has charisma. Politically, he seems to be in the mainstream of the Dem party, which is fine for the nomination, may be too liberal for the general election. For example, he seems to be a proponent of open borders, or, at least, relaxed borders, soft on crime and criminals (against mandatory sentencing) and favors the legalization of marijuana. Moreover, he favors a two-state solution in the Middle East, which may offend some Jews who would normally support Dems.

CONCLUSION

If Beto is to remain a serious candidate he will likely have to overcome some severe hurdles. For example:

1. As of yet, he does not have the name recognition of, say, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, or Kamala Harris.

2. He will have to develop detailed policies and communicate them to voters. So far, most voters do not know where he stands on major issues, such the economy, terrorism, Iran, healthcare, energy, and many others. He needs to articulate his positions on those and other significant issues better than he has to date.

3. He will have to provide a satisfactory explanation of his participation in the teen-age hacking, burglary and DWI. Apparently, Reuters knew about the hacking before the Senate election, but, inexplicably, did not print it until afterwards. Apparently, the report described some rather disturbing fiction he wrote as “Psychedelic Warlord” that detailed the murder of children. Some political opponents and voters might dismiss those incidents as old news since they occurred 20 or more years ago, but others might not be so forgiving, especially in view of the Reuters matter.

4. Perhaps, his biggest hurdle will be that he is a white male in a political party that is committed to “identity politics” and seems to be determined to nominate a minority and/or female candidate, and moreover, he is not even the preferred white male, trailing Biden and Bernie.

I believe the media is enamored with him at the present time, and that will provide him with a bit of a boost. Right now, he is a fresh face, with considerable charisma. Some see him as the Dems’ “Trump” in terms of personality. (I don’t). But, eventually, the novelty will wear off, and he will have to explain his policies and carve out his niche. The field is getting very crowded. In the 2020 election, as the late Yogi Berra said in a different context: “it [will] get late, early.”

In summary, it’s very early, but, in my opinion, his chances of winning the nomination are very slim. Should he pull off an unlikely upset, I believe his chances of winning the election would be slim and none.

COLLEGE ADMISSIONS SCANDAL

Life is not fair. This is not a revelation. Most of us have heard this mantra our entire lives. First from our parents, when a friend was allowed to do something we weren’t, like stay up late or watch a PG-13 movie. You know the drill. (Child – “No fair. Jim/Jane is allowed to do it.” Parent – “Jim/Jane is not my kid. You are. Life is not fair.”) Then, perhaps, you experienced it when a coach picked someone else for the team instead of you, even though everyone “knew” you were the better player. Or, maybe, you experienced it at work when the promotion you “deserved” went to someone else whom the boss liked better. Now, as a parent, many of you have repeated the mantra to your own kids.

Even the famous and well-worn expression “all men are created equal” is not exactly accurate. The child born into poverty in a third-world country is not really “equal” to one born in the US. Within the US some children are borne into poverty while others, having hit the genetic lottery, are born into wealth and privilege. They don’t start out equal, but, in theory, our system is supposed to provide everyone with at least the opportunity to be successful. Indeed, our history is replete with examples of successful people who began life poor, or even destitute, yet somehow managed to succeed. Equal opportunity is the key, which brings me to the college admissions scandal that is currently inundating our news.

Some would say this is nothing new. It has been going on forever. Perhaps, but I doubt to this extent, and in any event, I see a new twist to this. What really aggravates me is the sheer hypocrisy, the unremitting sense of entitlement. More on this later.

The focal point of this scandal is William Singer, a Newport Beach, CA businessman, who has been charged with several counts of racketeering, money laundering, fraud and obstruction of justice against the US. In his words, he merely provided a “side door” for admission, as opposed to the “front door,” whereby a student gains admission on his own merits, or a “back door,” where the parents donate a building. In order to mitigate his penalties he has been cooperating with federal prosecutors for some six months. He has been providing a virtual treasure trove of information regarding the scandal.

The prosecutors allege this scandal has been going on since 2011, but it may have existed, in some form, for a lot longer. According to the FBI, federal prosecutors, the “NY Times,” and Wikipedia the FBI has alleged the key elements of this scandal are as follows:

1. Bribing SAT and ACT examiners to create inflated scores. It is alleged that Singer was able to arrange for his clients’ children to take their SAT or ACT exams at sites, such as Houston or LA, where he had bribed officials to correct their answers, if necessary, and in some cases, look the other way while “stand-ins” actually took the exams.
2. Bribing college administrators and coaches to “push” unqualified or poorly qualified candidates on the basis of their supposed athletic prowess. In some, cases, these applicants had never even played the sport, in question. Moreover, Singer would create false resumes inflating the applicants’ accomplishments, claiming a disability, or even lying about their ethnicity to boost their credentials. The universities involved read like a “who’s who,” Stanford, Yale, USC and University of Texas, among many others, and the sports are varied, such as soccer, tennis, water polo, and crew. One could almost admire the creativity of some of these parents. For example, one used “photoshop” to create a false record of his son being a football player. In the case that has received the most notoriety so far, actress Lori Loughlin (“Full House”) is alleged to have paid $500,000 to get her daughters into USC as members of the rowing team despite the fact that neither had ever participated in the sport. One of the daughters, Olivia Jade, exhibiting callous indifference to the situation, blithely stated “I don’t really care about school, just the parties and the experience.” Nice, and she took the place of a kid who really needs and wants to go to college.
4. Typically, the payments were funneled through a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in order to conceal the aforementioned bribes. This enabled Singer to avoid income tax on the payments and enabled the parents to deduct the payments as “donations.” Sweet deal.
5. In some cases, the child was complicit; in other cases, he or she was unaware.

CONCLUSION

The repercussions of this scandal will likely be far-reaching. It appears that it will touch wealthy elites in all walks of life – entertainers, businessmen, athletes and, perhaps, even politicians. I can understand that parents of means will desire to give their children every advantage in life, but it should be legitimate and legal. It should not include bribery, fraud, and other illegalities.

I view this as one more example of the hypocrisy and sense of entitlement of the so-called elites. I am “fed up” with it. Most of these people think the laws and rules of society that apply to the vast majority of people do not apply to them. They talk about helping the less fortunate, but see nothing wrong with their child taking a spot in college that should have gone to a child of a middle class or working class family. Let’s not overlook that aspect of this mess.

These are the same people who spout off about “climate change,” yet travel by private jets. They want to open our borders, yet they live in gated communities with walls and 24X7 security. They support the “Green New Deal,” which would outlaw airplanes and cars to “save the planet,” but don’t consider how people who don’t live in NY or LA are supposed to travel from place to place. For example, OAC, who spouts one inane idea after another on social media and tv, wants to outlaw cars, yet she rides in limos everywhere even though subways and buses are readily available. They even want to control what we eat. For example, the mayor of NYC has imposed “meatless Mondays” in public schools, but he doesn’t realize that many kids may need and want the nutrition, which they may not get at home.

Federal prosecutors advised they are processing indictments against over 50 people so far, so this scandal is likely to touch many more people. Furthermore, several coaches have been fired; some universities, e.g. USC, have announced they are reviewing some of the questionable admissions; and several class action lawsuits have been filed against some of the universities. Undoubtedly, there will be more legal action to follow.

For once, I sort of agree with Elizabeth Warren, who professed to have “zero” sympathy for the perpetrators. By the way, does anyone else see the irony of her statement considering what she has done to falsify her background?

ANTI-SEMITISM IN AMERICA

I believe it is always there, just below the surface, like a simmering teapot. It doesn’t take much to set it off. Am I being too sensitive? Am I overreacting to the comments and attitudes of a few outliers? Perhaps, but I have 5,000 years of history to guide my thinking.

History can be a pesky thing. It’s permanent, and its lessons are always available to those who care to learn them. Those who take the time and make the effort to learn from it are all the wiser; those who don’t will likely repeat the same mistakes.

Throughout history, Jews have, on occasion, been welcomed in various countries, in some cases for hundreds of years… until they were not. Rulers found the Jews to be useful for a while as they normally made strong contributions to society. But, then, they could also make handy scapegoats if things went bad, for instance, if there were crop failures or plague or if the rulers wanted to divert the attention of the masses from their miserable daily existence. Some of the more obvious and egregious examples of this occurred in Egypt (in Moses’ time), Spain (the Inquisition), Russia (19th century pogroms) and Poland and Germany (WWII). There are a plethora of other examples, if you care to, as Casey Stengel was fond of saying, “look it up.”

In the US Jews, for the most part, have been able to live their lives in peace and prosperity. What anti-Semitism has existed has been mostly covert (college quotas, hiring practices, closed club memberships, crude jokes and comments) rather than overt (pogroms and other physical violence). Fine and good, but history tells Jews not to be lulled into a false sense of security. It can all change in a “New York minute.” All it needs is a spark.

In evaluating Rep. Omar’s comments my concern is not just what she said last week or last month. I view them as part of her underlying belief system. In addition, I think it is important to view them through the lens of history, as described above.

Her apology not withstanding, I think it’s obvious she said what she meant, and she meant what she said. She has made similar comments before. For example, in 2012 she tweeted that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” The gist of her latest comments was to question the loyalty of those Americans who support Israel. In her opinion, they are demonstrating allegiance to a foreign country (Israel) rather than the US. This kind of comment is very dangerous. It actually reminds me of the concern by some when JFK ran for president in 1960 that, as a Catholic, he would be loyal to the pope, rather than the US. That line of reasoning turned out to be unfounded, and, in retrospect, it seems preposterous. Omar’s line of reasoning is equally so. Someone should remind her that one of, if not the, major reason why the US supports Israel is that it is our only reliable ally in the volatile and strategically-crucial Middle East and the only stable democracy.

Furthermore, she put out a tweet implying that lawmakers’ support for Israel was predicated on contributions from lobbyists, such as AIPAC, (“It’s all about the ‘Benjamins.’ “) as if there are not a plethora of pro-Muslim lobbyists as well. Lobbying is pervasive in DC. Every interest group does it. No one is defending the practice, but it is the way business is done. It’s not right to single out AIPAC.

Clearly, she is anti-Semitic. She’s entitled to her opinion. After all, this is America. I say this not because she is a Muslim. In my observation and experience, few Muslims in the US are anti-Semitic. Like the rest of us they just want to go about their business in peace, enjoy life, provide for themselves and their families. They don’t have the time or inclination to get embroiled in politics.

Moreover, I believe that criticism of Israel is very often “code” for anti-Semitism, not always, but very often. I compare it to some southern politicians of the 1950s championing “states’ rights” as code for segregation.

My primary concern is the wishy-washy language of the resolution condemning hate. It should have been specific to anti-Semitism and named Omar as the culprit, leaving no doubt on where the Dem Party stands on the issue. The original resolution condemning anti-Semitism was watered down to include practically every identity group in existence – Muslims, Asians, Hispanics, LGBT, etal. “It’s not [just] about her [Omar]” said Pelosi. “It’s about all forms of hatred.” No one is averse to condemning all forms of hatred, but the watered down version was so wishy-washy it was almost gratuitous and meaningless. As Rep Douglas Collins intoned, it was something “all of us should have learned in kindergarten.”

A sampling of other comments:

1. Rep. Mo Brooks (perhaps, tongue-in-check)- Why didn’t it include a condemnation of discrimination against “Caucasian Americans and Christians.”
2. Rep. Ted Deutsch (D-FL) “Why are we unable to singularly condemn anti-Semitism? Why can’t we call out anti-Semitism and show we’ve learned the lessons of history?”
3. Rep Liz Cheney (-WY) – Dems are “enabling anti-Semitism [by] failing to explicitly condemn” Omar’s comments. She added that refusing to name her “was really an effort to actually protect [Omar}, to cover up her bigotry and anti-Semitism.” She contrasted this with how Rep. Steve King was treated for his “white nationalist” comments.
4. Rep. Eliot Engel, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, characterized Omar’s comments as a “vile, anti-Semitic slur.”

CONCLUSION

Where is the Dem leadership? Where are the moderates? Are there any left? Has “Chancy” abdicated their leadership roles? For the moment, Pelosi seems to be content to let the fringe elements of the Party run wild. Schumer has said not a peep. At the very least, Omar should be dismissed from the Foreign Affairs Committee, as some Reps have suggested. In the old days, LBJ or Sam Rayburn would have cracked down hard on her and other fringe members. They would have assigned her to a committee counting pencils, or some such. Instead, Pelosi defended Omar, saying “I do not believe that she understood the full weight of the words. I feel confident that her words were not based on any anti-Semitic attitude.” Yeah, right.

The serious Dem presidential candidates cannot be happy about this development. They will continually be made to answer questions about anti-Semitism and prejudice in their Party. Moderates, like Joe Biden, have to be concerned that their core beliefs are no longer in synch with the mainstream of the Dem Party.

Traditionally, Jews have been staunch supporters of Dems. In some instances, they have voted for Dems blindly and automatically. Perhaps, it is time to rethink that philosophy and be more selective.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – MARCH

Below please find some of the significant events that have occurred in March.

3/1/1932 – In one of the most notorious kidnappings ever, the 20 month-old son of renowned aviator, Charles Lindbergh, was taken from his home. Tragically, the child was later found dead only a few miles away.
3/1/1961 – President JFK established the Peace Corps, which sent volunteers to developing countries to provide healthcare, education, and other basic human needs.
3/1/1974 – Several senior officials of the Nixon administration were indicted for obstruction related to the infamous Watergate break-in.
3/4/1681 – England’s King Charles, II deeded a huge tract of land in the New World to William Penn in settlement of a debt. Appropriately, the area became known as Pennsylvania.
3/4/1789 – The first meeting of the US Congress occurred in NYC.
3/4/1830 – Former President John Quincy Adams returned to Congress as a member of the House of Representatives, the first, and only, ex-President to do so. [Who was the only ex-President to serve in the US Senate? See answer below?]
3/5/1770 – British soldiers opened fire on a group of demonstrating colonials, killing five, including Crispus Attucks, an African-American, who later became celebrated as being the first person to die in the Revolutionary War.
3/5/1946 – The term, “Iron Curtain,” was first used (in a speech by Winston Churchill) to describe the separation between the free countries of Europe and those that were under the domination of the Soviet Union.
3/6/1836 – The Alamo was overrun by Mexican troops, who slaughtered every last defender, including James Bowie and Davy Crockett. “Remember the Alamo” became the inspirational rallying cry for Texans’ fight for independence from Mexico.
3/10/1862 – The US began distributing paper money in denominations of $5, $10 and $20.
3/10/1880 – The Salvation Army was founded in the US.
3/11/1918 – The “Spanish Flu” first appeared in the US. By the end of 1920 it had been responsible for some 22 million deaths worldwide.
3/12/1609 – The British colonized Bermuda (by accident, as a ship headed for Virginia had been blown off-course).
3/12/1888 – The infamous “Great Blizzard of 1888” wreaked havoc on the northeastern US. In NYC it dropped 40 inches of snow over 36 hours and was responsible for some 400 deaths.
3/12/1938 – In the first of many blatant acts of aggression, Germany invaded, and later annexed, Austria.
3/15/44 B.C. – Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Senate by a group that included his friend, Brutus (“Et tu, Brute?”).
3/16/1968 – American soldiers killed 504 Vietnamese men, women and children in what became known as the “My Lai Massacre.”
3/17 – Celebrated in many countries as St. Patrick’s Day to honor the Patron Saint of Ireland, who is credited with converting the Irish to Catholicism in the 5th century.
3/22/1972 – Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender.
3/23/1775 – In a speech before the Virginia House of Burgesses, Patrick Henry intoned his famous words, “give me liberty, or give me death.”
3/24/1934 – President FDR granted independence to the Philippine Islands, which the US had controlled since the Spanish-American War.
3/24/1989 – The oil tanker, Exxon Valdez, ran aground off the coast of Alaska, spewing forth some 11 million gallons of oil over some 45 miles of natural habitat, creating the one of the largest and most devastating ecological disasters in US history.
3/25/1807 – The British Parliament abolished slavery throughout the Commonwealth.
3/25/1911 – A raging fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in NYC killed 123 in just minutes. The tragedy shined a spotlight on the working conditions of immigrant women who were laboring in the garment industry for long hours and low pay.
3/26/1979 – Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David Accord peace treaty, brokered by President Jimmy Carter.
3/28/1979 – An accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant created a controversy over the use of nuclear power that still has not been fully resolved.
3/30/1981- President Ronald Reagan is gravely wounded by a would-be assassin. He recovered shortly to resume his duties and later quipped that he “forgot to duck.”
3/31/1968 – President LBJ, who, for many, had come to symbolize the futility and frustration of the Vietnam War, announced he would not run for re-election.

Birthdays – 3/1/1904 – Glenn Miller, bandleader (“Moonlight Serenade”), in Carilinda, IA; 3/2/1793 – Sam Houston, led the fight for Texas independence, Rockbridge County, VA; 3/3/1831 – George Pullman, invented “Pullman Car,” which improved sleeping accommodations on trains, in Brocton, NY; 3/3/1847 – Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, among others, in Edinburgh, Scotland; 3/4/1747 – Casimir Pulaski, Revolutionary War hero, in Poland; 3/4/1888 – Knute Rockne, football coach, in Voss, Norway; 3/6/1475 – Michelangelo, Renaissance painter, in Caprese, Italy; 3/9/1451 – Amerigo Vespucci, explorer and cartographer for whom America is named; 3/9/1934 – Yuri Gargarin, first cosmonaut in space, in Gzhatsk, Russia; 3/14/1879 – Albert Einstein, physicist who developed the theory of relativity; 3/14/1833 – Lucy Hobbs, first female dentist, in NY; 3/15/1767 – Andrew Jackson, 7th President, war hero in War of 1812, in Waxhaw, SC; 3/16/1751 – James Madison, a Founding Father and 4th US President; 3/18/1837 – Grover Cleveland, 22nd and 24th President (only president to serve two terms non-consecutively), in Caldwell, NJ; 3/19/1813 – David Livingstone, explorer and missionary who famously went missing in Africa. When he was finally found by newsman Henry Stanley, the latter supposedly uttered the famous line, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume,” although that might have been an example of Hollywood hyperbole, in Scotland; 3/19/1848 – Wyatt Earp, Wild West lawman and gunfighter, in Monmouth, IL; 3/19/1860 – William Jennings Bryan, known for “Cross of Gold ” speech and for the dubious honor of being only person to lose three presidential races, in Salem, IL; 3/21/1685 – Johann Sebastian Bach, composer, in Germany; 3/24/1874 – Erik Weisz, aka, Harry Houdini, escape artist, in Hungary; 3/26/1911 – Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams, III, playwright (“A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”), in Columbus, MS; 3/29/1760 – John Tyler, became 10th President upon the death of William Henry Harrison, Charles City County, VA; 3/30/1853 – Vincent Van Gogh, Postimpressionist painter, in Groot Zundert, Holland; 3/31/1731 – Franz Joseph Hayden, composer, considered to be father of the symphony and string quartet, in Austria; 3/31/1878 – Jack Johnson, first AA boxing champion, in Galveston, TX.

Answer to quiz – Andrew Johnson (TN)

BIDEN’S DILEMMA

I could almost feel sorry for Joe Biden. Almost. I don’t agree with him on most issues, politically, and I don’t think he would be a particularly good president, but I don’t think he is a bad guy. I think he would like to be president. Most politicians in his position would aspire to that job. Unfortunately for him, I believe he has already missed his best chance.

In 2016 Vice President Biden would have been a strong candidate, stronger than Hillary, who had trouble beating back the challenge of a previously obscure socialist, like Uncle Bernie. On top of his long tenure in the Senate, he had the visibility and name recognition that goes with having been VP for eight years. As it turned out, both parties ran unpopular candidates. I believe President Obama would have backed him over Hillary. But, Joe hung back. Perhaps, the wounds of his son’s death were too raw. Perhaps, he bought in to the whole fallacy that “it was Hillary’s turn.” In any event, I think he could have won, and now, it appears that events and time have passed him by. In politics, as in life, timing is crucial.

In 2020 the Democratic Party has moved very far to the left. Already, there are a plethora of far left candidates, such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamila Harris and Corey Booker, who are espousing extreme progressive/socialist ideas who have strong backing within the Party. In addition, there is AOC, who, though only a freshman and too young to run, seems to be the current media darling, and is spouting one crazy idea after another on tv and social media. (Her latest is to threaten Congressmen who vote to support moderate policies with being put on a political “hit” list. She may be of questionable intelligence, but I have to admit, she does have “chutzpah.”) It seems that the party is seeking a diversity candidate, which is code for a woman and/or minority. Biden, as an older, relatively moderate, white guy, seems to be an outcast in his own party.

Furthermore, Biden is not helping his case. His indecisiveness is encouraging others to jump into the fray. At this rate, by the time the primaries begin in early 2020 there could easily be 15 or 20 candidates. What a mess that would be. Entertaining, but a mess.

It looks like Biden’s strategy is to wait, let the various pretenders fight it out and eliminate each other, and then jump in to challenge who’s left. He might be better served by declaring his candidacy and locking up financial funding and political support, rather than hanging back as he has been. Tough call, but I think his current stance makes him appear indecisive, which is not a good quality for a leader.

CONCLUSION

In my view, Biden did not help himself with the Pence situation. What is wrong with calling another politician from the opposition party a “nice guy?” It doesn’t mean Biden was endorsing his political views. Some twitter morons criticized him, and instead of standing his ground, he tried to apologize. For what? Being respectful toward another politician? Not something a strong, decisive leader does.

I think Biden would be the Dems’ best candidate in a general election. If you’re a Dem you should be rooting for him. He would have an excellent chance of beating President Trump, probably the only Dem who could. But, I don’t know if he can win his own party’s nomination. As they say, we’ll see.

NO KO IS A NO GO

On the surface, the second summit between Messrs. Trump and Kim was unsuccessful. Mr. Trump embarked on a 17 hour plane ride to Vietnam (Kim travelled 60 hours by train.). Nothing substantive was agreed to, and Mr. Trump terminated the discussions abruptly. Abject failure? Perhaps. In my opinion, it depends on one’s point of view.

The negative view, which was widely reported on various media outlets was that, by meeting with Kim as “equals” Mr. Trump elevated Kim’s status as a world leader. Moreover, Mr. Trump failed to get Kim to agree to any concessions, such as disarming his nuclear arsenal, agreeing to inspections, or even agreeing to an official end to the Korean Conflict. It seems that Kim was insisting on complete relief from sanctions as a condition for committing to incremental denuclearization. Mr. Trump viewed that as a complete non-starter, hence the walk-out.

On the other hand, the more optimistic view is that (1) the two leaders are continuing to talk and seek diplomatic solutions, (2) the sanctions are remaining in place, (3) according to Margaret Brennan, who covered the summit for CBS News, the two leaders committed to continue to hold discussions among staff diplomats, and (4) best of all, we are talking, not fighting. I subscribe to the optimistic view. I believe diplomatic interaction with one’s enemies is preferable to ignoring them, which inevitably leads to war.

The sanctions against No Ko are extensive and, by most accounts, very effective. There are widespread food shortages and the country is severely strapped for currency. Kim may not care if his people starve and lack for other basic necessities, but the sanctions include not only weapons-related materials but also luxuries. This is intended to impact the elites, whose support Kim relies on. That is the “stick.” The “carrot” is that Mr. Trump has made it clear to Kim that if we can agree on a satisfactory deal NK’s economy can prosper along the lines of South Korea’s.

CONCLUSION

I was taken aback by much of the media’s and Dems’ attitude toward this summit. First, they criticized Mr. Trump for agreeing to meet with Kim. They expressed concern he was elevating Kim’s status in the world and would agree to a bad deal just to make a deal. Then, when he walked away from a bad deal, they criticized that as well. Par for the course. It was almost as if they would rather see Mr. Trump fail at securing a peace agreement than get a “win.”

To state the obvious, no deal is better than a bad deal. (I wish the Obama-Kerry-Clinton team would have realized that with respect to the Iran nuclear deal.) In my opinion, walking away was just part of the negotiating process. It demonstrated strength of conviction. The other side will not negotiate seriously unless they know you are willing to walk away. Mr. Trump has already gotten further along toward peace in Korea than any previous president.

At some point, there will be other meetings. I expect we will continue the process until we get NK’s agreement to denuclearize. In the meantime, talking is better than fighting, and there are no “test” rockets flying over Hawaii or California.