NEW YEARS EVE 2020

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

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

As you know, 2020 has been a unique year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Our lives have been changed radically in ways we could not possibly have imagined at this time last year. Some of these changes will likely be temporary; others will probably be irreversible.

Consequently, New Year’s Eve celebrations will be very different this year. For example, take the world famous ball drop at Times Square. The NY Times reported that the ball drop will still take place at midnight, but there will be no crowds at Times Square (except for a few first-responders). That will seem eerie, but no more strange than many other events that have been altered or cancelled during this year. In 2020 much of what we have always thought of as normal has been replaced by strange and unique, a so-called “new normal.” One group of people who will probably be pleased by the lack of crowds will be the sanitation workers who are normally tasked with the job of cleaning up the approximately one ton of trash left behind by the celebrants.

So, what do we do tonight? Every year many of us look forward to celebrating NYE. The raucous scene at TS has been an integral part of this celebration. All over the world people view it on tv. To many of them it symbolizes NYE.

The good news is, according to multiple media sources, the NYE celebration will go on without the live crowd. It is estimated that some 200 million Americans and approximately 1 billion persons worldwide will watch on tv and/or live streaming on their mobile devices. 

  1. Normally we are treated to live entertainment from various venues around the world. I’m not sure what will be available this year. Some of you may recall, with nostalgia, the most famous and enduring NYE entertainer of them all, Guy Lombardo. From 1928 until his death in 1977 he entertained us from the ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria, first on the radio, then on TV.
  2. Traditionally, NYE is the busiest day at Disneyland and Disney World, which feature Disney-character shows and fireworks. Disneyland is open this year, and will likely present a modified show adhering to COVID social distancing guidelines. Disneyworld is closed, a victim of CA’s strict, and some would say ill-advised and excessive, lockdown policies.
  3. At Times Square there will be some live entertainment featuring the “Heroes of 2020” honoring first responders and “essential” workers. I think we can all agree that they were the real heroes of 2020 (and Time should have honored them as its “Person(s) of the Year”).
  4. The “One Times Square” website has announced it will be offering what it calls a “virtual celebration” featuring various celebrities that viewers can live-stream.
  5. In addition, there will be Facebook Watch’s “Peace Out 2020” featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Anne Hathaway and others.
  6. Of course, there is the perennial standby, “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” which will be televised for the 49th consecutive year. It will feature Ryan Seacrest, Lucy Hall, Billy Porter, Jennifer Lopez, Ciara and others. Entertainment from various venues will likely be featured.
  7. If none of those offerings “floats your boat” you can escape with the Honeymooners marathon, featuring Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph, which is offered every year but never gets stale.

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

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

Below please find a sampling of normal celebration customs in various countries. As I said, these will likely be curtailed or, perhaps, cancelled outright this year due to the coronavirus. However, hopefully, they will be reinstated prospectively once we have eliminated the virus as a major health threat.

  1. Elsewhere in the US NYE is traditionally celebrated with parties with family and friends and other special events. For example, Chicago features a music show and fireworks over Lake Michigan; San Francisco features yoga parties and concerts; Atlanta boasts the (“Peach Drop”); Nashville has the (“Music Note Drop”); and New Orleans features live music, a “fleur-de-lis drop,” and parties centered around the French Quarter.” (Authorities of the city of Nashville have announced that the city’s celebration will be cancelled this year out of respect for those killed and injured in the Christmas-Day bombing.) The other celebrations will likely be muted somewhat this year depending on local COVID restrictions and personal choice.

However, by far the biggest and most significant celebration, as mentioned above, is in NYC. Since 1907 people have been gathering in Times Square to watch the “Ball Drop.” The “Ball Drop” has been held annually every year since, except for 1942 and 1943 when it was canceled due to the wartime blackout. As I said, this year it will be held but without the customary raucous crowd.

At precisely at 6:00 pm a huge Waterford crystal ball will be raised to the top of the pole at One Times Square  At 11:59 pm, the ball will be activated by the push of a special button. The original “ball” was constructed from wood and iron and lit with 100 incandescent bulbs. Over the years, it has gone through various iterations. The current iteration is a geodesic sphere. It is 12 feet in diameter and weighs 11,875 pounds. It contains 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles. This triangular design enables it to support extremely heavy loads. The ball will be illuminated by 32,256 light-emitting diodes (aka LEDs) of various colors – red, white, blue and green. It will look gorgeous on tv. It will begin its descent from the roof of One Times Square down a 141-foot high pole. Exactly one minute later, at midnight, the ball will reach the roof of the building, and huge lights will signal the start of the New Year.

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

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

Quiz questions:

1) What other historically significant event occurred in NYC in 1904?

2) What was Times Square’s name prior to 1904? See below for the answers.

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

2. In Canada the mode of celebrations vary by region. For example, in Toronto, Niagara Falls and other areas of Ontario, there are concerts, parties, fireworks and sporting events. On the other hand, in rural Quebec some people go ice fishing. Montreal features concerts and fireworks. This year, depending on local guidelines, some of these will likely be severely restricted or cancelled altogether.

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

4. As you might expect, celebrations in England focus around Big Ben. People gather to observe fireworks and celebrate. In addition, many celebrate in pubs or at private parties. In view of the mutated strain of the virus that recently surfaced in the UK these activities will almost certainly be severely curtailed or cancelled

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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NAZIS’ PERSECUTION OF “GENETICALLY INFERIOR” PERSONS

The Nazis’ relentless persecution of Jews before and during WWII has been well-documented. But, how many of us are aware of their persecution of the mentally and physically handicapped? How many of us are aware of their persecution of other religious groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. The record of such persecutions, as detailed below, is horrifying as well.

The primary source of the information in this blog is the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, although some of it was gleaned from other historical sources. As you read it, be prepared to be shocked, horrified and disgusted at the Nazis’ callous disregard for human life.

The Nazis targeted Jehovah’s Witnesses because they were not malleable. In particular, they would not bend to Nazi ideology; they resisted obeying the authority of the State; and they were opposed to engaging in war. In addition, many of them refused to give the Nazi salute, to display the Nazi flag, to join Party organizations or to let their children join the Hitler Youth. The Nazis could not abide these acts of independence. They considered them subversive. Accordingly, they commenced their campaign of persecution against the Jehovah’s Witnesses within months of their taking control of the government. For instance, they crashed JW meetings, attacked the people, destroyed property and sent thousands of them to concentration camps.

One of the basic tenants of the Nazis was that the Germanic people were the descendants of a superior race (Nordics or Aryans). All other people, such as Slavs, Gypsies, Jews, and non-pure Nordics, were inferior. The Nazis sought to create a “Master race” consisting solely of these Nordics and Aryans. In order to achieve this goal it would be necessary to weed out and eliminate certain “substandard” and “deficient” persons, which they believed were actually “unworthy of life.” In their twisted minds, it was their right and duty to do so. This included not only the aforementioned groups, but also those with physical, mental, or emotional handicaps. Thus, in the 1930s the Nazis established six major “euthanasia” facilities whose sole purpose was the sterilization and euthanasia of the handicapped. Thousands were euthanized in these facilities, including some 5,000 children.

In typical fashion, the Nazis promulgated an elaborate set of organized procedures to achieve their goal. Phase 1 was child infant and euthanasia, which began in 1939. Doctors and midwives were required to report to health authorities any newborns that exhibited certain characteristics. Among these were blindness, deafness, mongoloid appearance, paralysis, malformed or missing limbs, hydrocephalus or microcephaly (overly small head, which was believed to be a forerunner of various maladies such as poor motor function, poor speech or intellectual disabilities). Phase II was adult euthanasia. Phase III was the euthanasia of the disabled or handicapped.

One of the euthanasia facilities was located in Hadamar, which opened in 1939. It is estimated that 15,000 German citizens were murdered, including a goodly number of children. The head nurse at the Hadamar Clinic was Irmgard Huber. As far as I could discern, before the war Huber was a normal person who led a normal life. She was born and raised in Hadamar, attended the local primary and secondary schools, then nursing school, and upon graduation in 1932 became a nurse. One becomes a nurse to care for the sick and save lives, but at some point Huber underwent a metamorphosis and became a monster.

Before and during the war Huber was the head nurse at Hadamar. Although she later insisted she never actually killed anyone (a claim that was supported by co-workers and witnesses), as head nurse she certainly procured the drugs that were used in the murders and would have supervised the process. In my view, this made her equally culpable, if not more so.

Before and during the war, some 250,000 persons were euthanized at these facilities. Most of them were German citizens, although some 500 were forced laborers from foreign countries. There were countless examples of this wanton cruelty, especially to children, but, in the interest of time and space, I have selected just one to illustrate the process.

Helene Melanie Lebel was born in Vienna in 1911 to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. Her father was killed in WWI and her mother remarried. She was raised in the Catholic faith. At the age of 19 she began to exhibit signs of mental illness. Eventually, she was diagnosed as schizophrenic and in 1936 was placed in a psychiatric hospital in Vienna. In 1938 Germany annexed Austria. Even though Helene was showing improvement she was one of thousands who were transferred to the Brandenburg Euthanasia Center, which was, in fact, a converted prison without her parents’ knowledge or consent. She was severely mistreated and eventually gassed along with thousands of other children and young adults. The “official” cause of death and what authorities told her parents was that she had died in her room of “acute schizophrenic excitement,” whatever that is. In 1938 alone over 9,000 persons were gassed in that facility.

CONCLUSION

After the war it was time for the reckoning. In the post-war divided Germany Hadamar was in the American zone. The Americans who were prosecuting these cases were limited by international law to only prosecuting the murders of non-German citizens. Huber was one of those arrested by the Americans, but in view of her claim that she never actually killed anyone she was initially released. Later, she was rearrested, tried, and convicted as an accomplice. Being a female she received a lighter sentence, 25 years. ( In 1946 a German court did try her and others for murdering the 15,000 German citizens at the facility. She was convicted and sentenced to an additional eight years.) Her male nurse co-defendants were sentenced to death.

In 1952 as a result of America’s greater focus on the Cold War and a more lenient attitude toward ex-Nazis Huber was released from prison. She continued to reside in Hadamar until her death in 1983.

In my opinion Huber was another example (like the thousands of administrators I discussed in a previous blog) of a pre-war normal citizen who became corrupted by the Nazi ideology and the lure of power and influence. It did not, however, diminish the heinous nature of her crimes. I believe she got off easy.

COVID VACCINE – WHO GETS PRIORITY?

It should be simple. It should be a “no-brainer.” Broadly speaking, the equitable and logical procedure should be to give priority to (1) medical personnel who are on the front lines, (2) residents and staff of assisted living and nursing homes, (3) the elderly and (4) those with compromised immune systems. Makes sense. Right? They are the ones with the greatest risk of dying from COVID. Right? Well, not so fast. Various groups have been making a case that they should be considered “essential” and therefore should be prioritized. Obviously, everybody cannot receive priority, and this has created perhaps the most intense lobbying campaign in memory. More on this later.

Let’s start with some facts. Facts have been in short supply regarding COVID, but I have ascertained a few courtesy of various media outlets, such as the NY Times, the NY Post, STAT, AARP, Cal Matters, Fox News and CNN:

  1. The CDC’s Advisory Committee regarding COVID has made various broad-based recommendations with respect to the vaccine distribution. Following an emergency meeting last Sunday it stated that its overall goal was to strike a balance between minimizing illness and death and maintaining societal functioning and equity. Fine objectives, but very difficult to achieve.
  2. The CDCAC announced that to date some 5oo,ooo persons had received the Pfizer vaccination. The goal is to have vaccinated 100 million persons with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines by the end of February.
  3. The CDCAC stressed that the states need more federal funding. It is estimated that $8 billion will be required to support the inoculation program, and the feds have provided less than $500 million so far. One committee member explained the situation thusly: “Operation Warp Speed has delivered two Cadillac vaccines to us. But they’ve come with empty gas tanks, and we have a long and difficult road ahead of us.”
  4. According to AARP, the CDCAC compiled five groups or phases. Phase 1a includes healthcare personnel and residents and staff of long-term care facilities [24 million persons]. There seems to be little dispute regarding this group. The composition of the other groups is not as clear-cut.
  5. Phase 1b includes frontline essential workers and persons 75 and older [49 million].
  6. Phase 1c includes persons age 65 – 74, persons 16 – 64 with “high-risk conditions,” and other essential workers not included in Phase 1b [129 million].
  7. Phase 2 includes all other persons age 16 and older.
  8. Once the vaccines have been delivered to the individual states, however, these states have the authority to make the final determination as to priority. They are free to make subjective judgments and refinements. This is where the “fun” will begin. The Kaiser Family Foundation has opined that the order “has yet to be resolved in …. a majority of …. states.” Robert Mujica, NYS budget director, stated that priority will be based on the “risk and the number of contacts … and the risk profile of the individual.” NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has reiterated again and again that “there will be no political favoritism.” I would hope not, but based on past performance I have my doubts. We shall see.

As I said above, many groups have been lobbying hard to receive priority. For example in NY Uber, Con Ed, the financial institutions, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, the transit union, the hospitality union, school nurses, truck drivers, morticians, zookeepers, and even a presidential elector are just some of the groups that have petitioned either directly or through their lobbyists for status as “essential.” They have made reasonable cases, but, as I said, not everyone can receive priority. The math simply does not allow it. Some people will have to wait. One state official characterized this as “the big fight.” There will be winners and losers, and no one wants to be a loser. No final determinations have been made. According to the NY Times emergency responders such as police officers, transit workers and those who maintain the power grids will likely receive priority.

Some states will be prioritizing workers in industries that are important to the local economy. For instance, Colorado has decided that ski industry personnel residing in congregate areas will be included as essential; and Georgia and Arkansas intend to give priority to meatpackers and food processors. In a somewhat controversial decision the NY Post has reported that MA Rep. Ayanna Pressley has successfully convinced the State of Massachusetts to grant priority to prison inmates and include them in Phase 1b. Her chief argument was that the prison population consists disproportionally of poor people and people of color and that to deny them priority would constitute racism. Thus, at least in MA, violent felons of all ages will get inoculated ahead of people who are elderly or at-risk. Equally disturbing are reports that some well-heeled individuals have been offering bribes to medical personnel to “jump the line.” Some states, such as Illinois, have announced they are waiting for additional guidance from the CDC beyond the initial wave.

Many congresspersons have already been inoculated. Ironically, some of them such as Biden, Kamala Harris, and AOC, among many others, are the same ones who during the campaign were denigrating the virus and casting doubt on its efficacy. They did not trust it since it was being produced by the Trump Administration and expressed reluctance to take it (as if he was personally stirring it up in a huge caldron in the White House basement). Now that the election is over their attitude has changed. What a surprise! By the way, hats off to Rep. Tulci Gabbard (Hawaii) and some others who have stated that they would not get vaccinated until all at-risk persons had been inoculated.

The distribution plans have been compounded by the fact that, to date, states have been allocated an amount of doses which is far less than the demand. For instance, NY’s initial allocation of the Pfizer vaccine was 170,000 doses, and it is expecting a shipment of 346,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine shortly. That is a substantial amount of doses, but it will not cover the Phase 1 demand of some 1.8 million persons.

Quiz:

As a sidebar, Joe Biden has been making a habit of blurting out non-sequiturs. Some find these entertaining and harmless; others cite them as examples of his declining cognitive functionality. During the campaign he called one voter a “lying dog-faced pony soldier.” Recently, he called a reporter a “one-horse pony.” Does anyone know what these mean, if anything, or are they figments of a confused mind? See below.

CONCLUSION

This would be a good time to remind ourselves to return to that tired mantra – “follow the facts; follow the science.” Many groups can and have presented compelling cases as to why they should receive priority. However, as I said above, not everyone can be prioritized. The CDC has set a goal of 100 million inoculations by March. That is a lot, but not nearly enough in a country with a total population of 328 million. Tough decisions will have to be made. These should be based, not on power and influence, not on racial or gender guidelines, and not on quotas, but simply on who is most at risk of dying. To me, those at the greatest risk of dying should go to the top of the list. Luckily, we can determine that objectively. So far, in the US overall roughly 1.5% of those who have contracted COVID have died. Some 40% of those fatalities have been nursing home residents. Some 80% of all fatalities have been persons over the age of 65. Thus, those not in those high-risk groups, although they may get sick, are not in any realistic danger of dying. FL and TX are cognizant of this and are prioritizing those groups. Clearly, that should be the universal approach. Individual states can determine the rest of the order.

A final thought, many people, perhaps as many as 20% according to Fox, have expressed reluctance to get vaccinated. Some of this is based on mistrust that the vaccine will work, fear of vaccines, in general, possible allergic reactions, and/or that it has been developed under the Trump Administration. As Americans, that is their right. However, be advised that that decision will impact the rest of us as it may prevent us from achieving “herd immunity,” which medical experts have been saying would be the ultimate protection against the virus. Moreover, according to Rogge Dunn, a Dallas-based employment attorney, the law permits employers to fire employees who refuse to be vaccinated. Furthermore, I do not think it is too farfetched to foresee a time when those who have not been vaccinated could be barred from certain places, such as restaurants, theatres and airplanes.

This is a very fluid situation, so stay tuned for prospective developments

Quiz answers:

  1. “Lying dog-faced pony soldier.” Biden has attributed this to John Wayne in one of his movies, but no one has been able to verify it.
  2. “One-horse pony.” It appears that Biden may have conflated two expressions: “one-horse town” and “one-trick pony.”

COVID AND SMALL BUSINESSES

All of us have had to make sacrifices and adjustments to our lifestyles due to the COVID pandemic. Some of us have endured the pain of the virus firsthand. A lucky few of those have had a mild case, but most of those who have contracted it say it was a horrific experience. Many of those who have remained healthy have suffered in other ways. For example, they have been forced to stand by helplessly while loved ones got sick and passed away, sometimes alone and neglected. Others have lost their jobs or businesses and/or have been confined to their homes, precluded from spending time with family and friends. To be sure, those things are devastating, but the focus of this blog will be on the impact of the virus and the government’s policies on small businesses.

In many ways, small businesses are the essence of America. They embody many of the characteristics that define us – entrepreneurship, free enterprise, independence, risk-taking, being one’s own boss. Being a small business owner entails financial risk, long hours, and sacrifices relative to one’s family. According to the SBA the failure rate is high. About one-half fail within five years, and the resultant fall-out can be severe, such as personal bankruptcy or divorce. However, if one is successful the rewards are substantial. Growing up, my father owned a small pharmacy, and I experienced the various ups and downs firsthand. For some, the experience is not unlike the children’s game of Chutes and Ladders.

The Small Business Association generally defines a small business as one having fewer than 500 employees and generating less than $7.5 million in annual sales. Furthermore, according to the SBA there are currently approximately 30.7 million of them in the US, and they account for 99.9% of all businesses. According to the latest statistics available they account for 62% of all new jobs. Yes, the large businesses are more well-known, but small businesses are the lifeblood of the US economy. Additionally, they provide a livelihood for much of the middle class, immigrants and the working class.

As I said, owning a small business is a high-risk endeavor. However, it is bad enough if one fails due to one’s own actions or inactions, such as a poor product, poor management or lack of sufficient financing. It is much worse to be tripped up by outside events which you could not have foreseen and over which you have no control, such as the events of 2020. First, there was the COVID pandemic, which originated in China and which no one could have foreseen. Then, to combat the pandemic the government was forced to impose a general shutdown of all but what it arbitrarily and unilaterally deemed to be “essential” businesses. Next, the government failed to provide sufficient relief to those affected. Finally, it extended the shutdown of certain businesses based on questionable facts and motivations. More on that last one later.

As I write this we are nine months into the pandemic. Thousands of businesses have already failed, and more failures will be forthcoming. The hardest hit have been the service industries, which are based on person-to-person contact, such as restaurants, catering, beauty salons and gyms. In many states the politicians have deemed these to be “high-risk” enterprises and have imposed stringent restrictions on them, which for all intents and purposes have forced them to shut down.

Many of these restrictions are arbitrary, and punitive. Contradictions, inequities and inanities abound. For example, in many states one is precluded from attending religious services, even if one remains in one’s car, yet one can buy liquor or a lotto ticket.

Our political leaders often ignore their own rules and flout it as if they are above the laws they themselves have instituted. (“Good for thee, but not for me.”) For instance, Nancy Pelosi goes to a closed beauty salon to get her hair done; Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot gets a haircut when the rest of Chicagoans are forbidden to do so; NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo makes plans to fly to his mother’s on Thanksgiving (until he was found out and forced to cancel); his brother, Chris Cuomo, goes jogging when he was supposed to be in isolation and then berates a passerby who questions him; and CA governor Gavin Newsome ignores his own rules and dines in an exclusive restaurant with over a dozen family members, friends and donors without masks or social distancing. These “in your face” demonstrations of entitlement only serve to frustrate and anger people. who are forced to sacrifice.

In states such as NY and CA the rules on restaurant dining have changed several times, often without science or logic. First, only takeout was permitted, then takeout plus dining outside, then dining inside was all right with restrictions, then only outside, then not at all. Often, these restrictions would vary from locale to locale as if the virus could not cross the street from one area to another. This continual moving of the goalposts is enough to make one dizzy. In some states restaurant dining is prohibited, but one can go to a strip club where, presumably one can eat and drink. Maybe if an enterprising restaurant owner were to have his waitstaff wear “G-strings” they would be allowed to open up. These ever-changing health and safety standards merely add an extra layer of stress, frustration and anger to an already-difficult situation. Furthermore, they are being imposed by self-righteous, self-important politicians who exhibit indifference, if not callousness, to their constituents who elected them to protect them and who are struggling. Meanwhile, these same politicians remain insulated from the pain and suffering they have caused and continue to draw paychecks. As I said, “good for thee, but not for me.”

There have been many instances where a restaurant, a gym or a salon is prohibited from operating, but a few blocks away a competitor in a bordering county, zip code or state is permitted to open. Try explaining the logic behind that to the exasperated business owner who is forced to watch his clientele move a few blocks to said competitor. Some states have been imposing a 10:00 pm curfew, as if the virus were dormant all day and only came out after 10 pm. Even more unjust was the case of the LA restauranteur who was required to close down her outdoor dining facility when literally next door a movie company was permitted to open and operate an identical outdoor dining setup for its cast and crew. Go figure.

It is instructive to compare the situations in NY and FL. I could write an entire blog on this, but suffice to say the two states are a study in sharp contrasts. Last summer the NY governor required nursing homes to accept COVID patients. Predictably, over 10,000 nursing home patients caught the virus and died. FL kept COVID patients out of nursing homes, and has had fewer deaths even though it has a higher population and an older demographic. NY has shut down many businesses and schools. The NYS Restaurant Association has disclosed that since March some 1,000 NYC restaurants have closed permanently, and many more are anticipated. Moreover, as many as 2/3 of NYS’s restaurants could close by year-end if they don’t receive additional government aid, which, as I write this has not been passed. According to Yelp nationwide about 100,000 small businesses have closed since the advent of the pandemic. The NY governor seems indifferent to the plight of the people; he appears to be more focused on his public image and self-perceived “celebrity.” On the other hand, Fl has encouraged businesses and schools to remain open. Recently, the FL governor has reiterated to the people that he “has their back.” Is it no wonder that many NY residents are fleeing the state for FL?

During the summer, many cities were being victimized by “protests,” which, in reality, were riots and convenient excuses to loot and destroy businesses. Social distancing guidelines were ignored. The politicians directed the police to stand down and ignore those crimes. The final indignity was that in some states, such as NY, the few rioters that were arrested were immediately released to riot again thanks to the state’s illogical and inane “no-bail” policy. Yet, many business owners who dared to open up in defiance of the mayor’s or governor’s order were hounded, jailed and lost their license.

CONCLUSION

I understand the desire to keep people safe from a deadly pandemic. However, in my opinion, one must find a balance between safety and economic well-being. Shutting down the economy has fostered social and economic problems and exacerbated political divisions within the populace.. Virtually, every physician I have heard has denoted that isolation in and of itself leads to various health hazards, such as depression, alcoholism, drug use and domestic violence. Destroying businesses that people have spent years building is unconscionable. What benefit is it to defeat the virus and, in the process, destroy the country?

As we know, help is on the way. The FDA has approved one vaccine and more are on the way. Inoculations have already commenced for healthcare workers and will soon expand to other groups. It is expected that millions of doses will be available by late Spring/early Summer. There is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. As I said, let’s hope that after the virus has been defeated there is still an economy and a country left.

COVID VACCINATIONS COMMENCE

Yesterday, December 14, 2020 was truly an historic day as the first doses of the anxiously-awaited COVID vaccination arrived at various hospitals and other venues throughout the country. These initial doses were given to high-risk workers. The recipients were grateful and upbeat. The general feelings were of pride to have played a major role in coping with the virus and relief that the vaccine is providing tangible evidence that we have turned the corner in our fight to defeat it.

A few examples:

  1. Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse in a Long Island hospital, opined “I’ve seen too much pain, too much death….. I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history.” Amen to that.
  2. Dr. Aharon Sareli, head of critical care at a Florida hospital, characterized the vaccine as the “first real hope in changing the epidemiology of the virus.”
  3. In Columbus, OH Phillip Grudowski, a critical care nurse in an area hospital said he felt “privileged” to be one of the first recipients. He and his coworkers recounted the many patients who suffered greatly with the virus, which viciously attacked their major organs and put them through agonizing pain before killing them.
  4. In Santa Fe, NM Yvonne Bieg-Cordova, a radiologist at a local hospital, was very grateful to be one of the first recipients. “I’ve worked in healthcare since I was 18,” she said. “I seen a lot of people die… but over the last nine months the amount of people who have died from COVID has been horrendous.”
  5. In Iowa Dr. Patricia Winokur, an investigator for one of the clinical trials for the vaccine gushed “Our team worked so hard, and I am so proud to have been a part of it.”

These reactions were repeated thousands of times all over the country.

Millions more doses are slated to follow in the coming days. There are several vaccines in various stages of development. These vaccines have been researched, developed, tested, with 95% efficacy, and brought to market in just nine months. Nine months! This is a remarkable achievement.

Many of you will recall that back in March all the medical and epidemiology “experts” were emphatically telling us it would take several years to accomplish this. They lectured us that the most optimistic timetable was five years. Commentators on the “fake news” outlets as well as Dem politicians and Trump-haters were openly mocking the Administration for its “unrealistic” predictions.

Of course, as with most everything else COVID-related, the “experts” were wrong. Few people will acknowledge it now, but this achievement was primarily the result of the leadership of President Trump. It was his vision and acumen as a problem-solver that poked, prodded and cajoled everyone from the scientists, the drug company executives, the people who provide swabs, needles and other support products, and logistics experts to put this all together. In my view, he has been unfairly criticized and accused of exacerbating the pandemic by his various perceived policies of omission and commission and causing thousands of fatalities. Let’s see if he is now given the credit for saving millions of lives for this achievement. I won’t be holding my breath.

Remarkably, according to a recent Fox News poll only 61% of the public is planning to take the vaccination. In addition, a poll released by the Kaiser Family Foundation disclosed that in excess of 25% of respondents said they would “probably or definitely not” take the vaccine. My question is what the heck are these people thinking? A few may have legitimate reasons for demurring, such as an allergy, but most of them are, quite frankly, not thinking clearly and rationally. This is America. We can’t make them take it, but their refusal will put themselves and others with whom they interact at grave risk for contracting the virus.

I believe that in many cases their disinclination or outright fears have been influenced by negative comments of many in the “fake news” media and certain Dem politicians, such as Biden, Harris, Schumer, Pelosi and Cuomo that were pushing their own anti-Trump agenda. They were intent on depriving Mr. Trump of a “win” on the eve of the election even if it had a negative impact on the country. An apt analogy would be if you were surrounded by an enemy bent on killing you, the cavalry comes riding over the hill to rescue you, and rather than embracing your good fortune at being rescued, you tell them: “That’s okay. I don’t need you; I’m fine.”

CONCLUSION

Incredibly, amid all this optimism certain clueless state governors, such as NY’s Como and CA’s Gavin Newsome are planning to re-institute the shutdown of indoor restaurant dining, just in time for the winter. I have yet to see any scientific evidence that indoor dining has been a significant spreader of the virus. Yes, some establishments have ignored social distancing guidelines, but these have been few and far between. So, why punish every establishment? Why not just target specific violators, enhance inspections? These governors, and others like them, are being unduly arbitrary and authoritarian. They seem bound and determined to kill the restaurant industry and the small businesses that support it. It’s unconscionable.

Sadly, the vaccines have come too late for many people. Over 300,000 Americans have died from the virus and millions more worldwide. The NY Times has reported that some 2,400 Americans are now dying each day. Many of us have lost loved ones, and probably many more of us will in the months to come. It is incumbent upon everyone to take the vaccination as soon as it is offered. In particular, if you have a family member or friend who is an “at risk” person due to age or pre-existing condition who is reluctant please convince them to take it as well. It is literally a matter of life and death! After months of pain, suffering and sacrifice we are nearing the goal line. Let’s cross over it together!

2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION LEGAL CHALLENGES UPDATE

So, where do we go from here? As most of you know by now, SCOTUS has declined to hear the lawsuit initiated by the State of Texas, (and joined by some 16 other states) against GA, MI, PA and WI that alleged fraud and other voting irregularities with respect to the 2020 presidential election. I have detailed these irregularities in previous blogs, and there is no need to repeat them here. Unless one has been living in a cave or getting their news exclusively from MSNBC or CNN you know what I am talking about.

As I understand it, SCOTUS’s reason was that these states lack the “standing” to sue other states over the election. So, what is “standing?” With respect to this case who, if anyone, would have it? I am not a constitutional lawyer, but I will give it my best shot. According to Wikipedia to have standing (or “locus standi”) one must have “sufficient connection to a harm from the law or action challenged.” The three elements of standing are (1) the plaintiff suffered a “concrete” injury; (2) the injury is traceable to the defendant’s or defendants’ actions; and (3) the injury would likely be redressed by a favorable decision.

What SCOTUS has ruled is that these states do not meet the above criteria. So, who, if anyone, would? More on that later.

Note to Trump-haters. Yes, you have won a significant victory, but before you celebrate you should be cognizant of the fine print. SCOTUS did not opine on the merits. In other words, it did not opine that there was not fraud. It just stated that Texas, et al. did not have the right to bring the case, leaving the possibility that some other party that meets the “standing” requirements, as denoted above, could. Whom would that be?

According to Rudy Giuliani and other attorneys I have heard the next step would be to present complaints of certain individuals whom it is believed do have standing to the attention of SCOTUS, such as the over 1,000 affiants and perhaps even President Trump and the electors in those states. This is a long shot to be sure, but it is a shot. Can SCOTUS ignore all of that? I don’t know, but I would like to find out.

CONCLUSION

I understand SCOTUS’ decision from purely a legal point of view. I don’t like it, but I understand it, and I accept that it may be the proper one. But, from a common sense point of view I think it was the worst possible decision. I would have almost preferred that SCOTUS had taken the case and decided there had not been any fraud or that the level of fraud had not risen to a significant enough level to reverse the election. This decision leaves open the possibility that there was fraud, but the perpetrators got away with it on a technicality.

Thus, the election will be plagued with uncertainty prospectively. Remember, according to the latest Fox News poll some 68% of GOP voters and 36% of all voters think the election was “stolen” from President Trump. SCOTUS’ decision will do nothing to resolve that. In fact, I think it will enhance it. I maintain that the people deserve a definitive answer, not one that will feed conspiracy theories and divide an already divided country even further.

Are the Trump campaign and its supporters “running out of road?” Is this the “end of the line?” Is the “fat lady” getting ready to sing? Probably. Unfortunately, I think the ramifications of this election will affect the country for some time.

HIDDEN NAZI DOCUMENTS REVEAL A PORTRAIT OF AN “ORDINARY” SS OFFICER

This is a remarkable story of Holocaust-era documents that remained hidden inside the cushion of a chair for some 70 years after WWII before being discovered. These documents provided insights into the life of an “ordinary” SS officer. Much of the credit for this amazing story belongs to the historian/author, Dr. Daniel Lee, who devoted several years of his life to research the story and bring it to life.

The story began in 2011 when a Dutch upholsterer found a batch of documents that had been sewn into the cushion of a chair she was repairing. Ironically, the chair had been in her family for many years. Her mother had purchased it in Prague in 1968. She had habitually sat in the chair as a child and young woman while reading or doing schoolwork without any inkling of what was hidden within.

The woman contacted Dr. Daniel Lee who was a renowned Senior Lecturer in modern history at Queen Mary University of London. Dr. Lee is a recognized expert in WWII-era French history with a specialty in the plight of the Jews during the Holocaust. He has published various books on that particular subject matter. However, it is his second book, The SS Officer’s Armchair, that is the subject of this blog. He was intrigued by the discovery and was determined to unravel the mystery of the documents.

The documents were emblazoned with swastikas, which clearly identified them as WWII-era Nazi documents. Initially, Dr. Lee was able to ascertain that the documents, which consisted primarily of personal items such as passports, diplomas, and stock certificates, belonged to Robert Griesinger, a minor SS official, who had been based in Prague and other places during WWII. After further research, however, he discovered that Griesinger was a lawyer and a member of the Nazi party who had been assigned for a time to the Protectorate of Bohemia and Slovenia. He had died in 1945 at the age of 38 during the Prague Uprising. Little else was known about him, even among his surviving family members. It appeared that he was not famous. His name did not have the cache of the more notorious Nazis such as Rudolf Hess, Adolph Eichmann, or Josef Mengele, for example. He was a small cog who, for the most part, had lived his life under the radar, so to speak.

Dr. Lee was intrigued and was determined to find out more about this seemingly “nondescript” and “ordinary” functionary, “one of the masses of administrators without whom the Third Reich could not have functioned.” Next to nothing is known about these people, how they lived from day to day, both personally and professionally. There is virtually no trace of them in the history books or even the internet. It’s as if they never existed, but we know they did. Somebody had to have kept the Nazi administrative machine running.

Dr. Lee wrote, “I was hooked when I saw for the first time his name and SS number on the SS officer[s’] list. This guy was obviously committed to the Nazi project. That’s when I decided I had to find out more about him.” As a historian, Dr. Lee viewed G as a mystery and a challenge he was determined to solve. He spent the better part of five years doing so.

Eventually, Dr. Lee determined that G was a prime example of how ordinary people could be and were “poisoned by a combination of ideology and professional opportunism.” Even though Dr. Lee does not present any evidence that G personally tortured and murdered any Jews directly as so many other Nazis did, he points out that nevertheless, he was often in the vicinity when such atrocities occurred, and he “did horrible things, destroying families from behind his desk” like many other “functionaries.”

At first, Dr. Lee was reluctant to contact G’s surviving family members fearing that they would be uncooperative, at best, and possibly downright defensive or hostile. But, to his pleasant surprise that was not the case. It turned out that they knew little about their infamous ancestor and were eager to hear what Dr. Lee had discovered about him.

G was born in 1906. Surprisingly, he was not a pure-bred German. His father was an American, born in New Orleans. Dr. Lee was able to trace G’s paternal ancestors back to 1720s Louisiana. As one might expect being Southerners, the family had owned slaves back in the day. G grew up in a conservative, nationalist, military family with strong anti-Semitic leanings. Not surprisingly, like many Germans, G’s family blamed the Jews for having started WW1.

G was part of the so-called War Youth Generation, that is, born too late to fight during WW1, yet old enough to have witnessed firsthand the post-war destruction and humiliation of its aftermath. Students of history know that the seeds of the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party were sown during this period, which was characterized by runaway inflation, unemployment, suffocating war reparations, loss of territory, a feeling of despair, hopelessness and anger, and an intense desire for revenge. Much like others of his generation, G was extremely fearful of communism, resentful of the ineffectual Weimar Republic, and ripe to be influenced by a radical, nationalistic group such as the Nazis.

Originally, the SS was formed as an elite group whose function was to serve as bodyguards for Hitler and other senior party officials. Upper and middle class Germans were attracted to it by its prestige and rigorous selection process and training. The SS wanted well-educated persons of good backgrounds who would be capable of administering the affairs of the captured territories as opposed to the uneducated rabble that was to comprise much of the regular army. The SS’s membership grew exponentially. G was one of thousands who joined up. By the early 1930s it boasted over 40,000 members. G joined up during this period.

Dr. Lee debunks a common stereotype of the SS. Thanks to Hollywood, which normally distorts history for the sake of its movies, most people have the impression that the SS consisted entirely of armed sadistic, psychopathic brutes who enjoyed torturing, intimidating, beating up and murdering Jews and others. There are many examples of this type of character, such as Christoph Waltz’s character in Inglorious Basterds and Ralph Fiennes’ character in Schindler’s List. In reality, says Dr. Lee, the SS was not a homogeneous group. There were some Waffen SS, as these men were called, who exhibited the above characteristics, but about 90% of the SS served in the Allgemeine, or non-military SS. The Waffen SS were employed as concentration camp guards and members of the death squads, for example. On the other hand, the Allgemeine were responsible for the security of the Nazi party leaders and various administrative tasks.

According to Dr. Lee some 90% of the SS were part of this latter group, including G. For many of them, the SS was a part-time job. Their primary jobs might be as a lawyer, accountant, teacher or some other professional. Remember, most of them were highly educated. Moreover, they did not wear the dreaded SS uniform every day, just when attending official functions. They also spent time training, marching and participating in athletic contests against other SS units. As I said, this is contrary to the impression most of us have of them. In Dr. Lee’s opinion, G viewed his membership as one of enhanced prestige and a means to career advancement.

That said, there is evidence that G, like most Allgemeine, could and at times did, switch from a kind and gentle husband, friend and co-worker to a ruthless, murderous monster. As I said, in his book Dr. Lee does denote that G was present and likely an active participant in terrorizing Jews and other prisoners in the Ukraine, Prague and, perhaps, in other places as well.

CONCLUSION

In the course of his research Dr. Lee discovered the strong possibility that while in Ukraine in 1941 G may have passed through the same town in which Dr. Lee’s ancestors lived. Although Dr. Lee found no evidence that they had some interaction, it’s certainly possible, if not likely that they did. Dr. Lee’s reaction upon that discovery? “Oh my God, this is much closer to home than I could have imagined.” Indeed.

My guess is that the book would make fascinating reading.

2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION – THE AFTERMATH

As any trial lawyer knows, there is a significant difference between suspecting or even “knowing” something to be true and being able to prove it in a court of law. Often, there are unmistakable suspicions or signs that something occurred, but any actual proof has been obscured or destroyed. Such is the case in the 2020 presidential election.

During the election and in its aftermath several obvious anomalies surfaced. Some of them appear to have risen to the level of actual fraud. I have outlined these anomalies in previous post-election blogs, and I see no need to repeat them now. Suffice to say that these anomalies have motivated the Trump Team to challenge the results in several battleground states, which they have done and are continuing to do. Let’s be clear. Even if one despises Trump one should not and cannot deny his constitutional right to pursue these claims.

The Trump Team has gathered hundreds of affidavits from election workers, observers, checkers, and other witnesses and presented them to various elections officials and courts. No one is seeking to disenfranchise anyone who has voted legally. It is the illegal votes that they are seeking to have thrown out.

As of yet, none of those venues has seen fit to give the Trump Team’s proof any credibility. Generally, their response has been some version of “where is the proof” as if a sworn affidavit under penalty of perjury is not “proof.” Don’t they realize these aforementioned affiants have put their credibility, their reputation, and even their physical safety on the line? Do they even care, or are they just bound and determined to ignore any information that would cast doubt on the election results? I hesitate to accuse these election officials and local judges of being corrupt, but it certainly seems that they are at least biased or incompetent.

Yes, it is true that the states in question have authorized and, in some cases, have completed recounts. It is also true that none of those recounts has “flipped” any states. Of course, not. These recounts were merely window-dressing. The core issues were not addressed. The same duplicate votes, votes of deceased people, late votes and improperly/incomplete/fraudulent mail-in ballots that were counted originally, were recounted. Why wouldn’t the results be unchanged? What was needed, what is needed, is a forensic audit of the ballots that would identify and eliminate the fraudulent ones. That has not happened and likely never will. By now, much of the incriminating evidence has been destroyed.

Post-election observation and analysis has disclosed various additional anomalies, which, though not proof that would stand up in a court of law, are suspicious and strain credulity, such as:

  1. According to the Federalist Trump would be the first incumbent president to gain votes and lose re-election since Grover Cleveland in 1892.
  2. The Federalist also reported that Biden would be the first winner to lose both Ohio and Florida in 60 years.
  3. The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump won 18 of 19 bellwether counties across the US that have “picked” every president since 1980.
  4. Biden underperformed Clinton in various Dem strongholds, such as NYC, Chicago and LA, yet he exceeded her vote total in cities such as Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Detroit and Milwaukee located in swing states. Overall, he received 80 million votes, which exceeded Obama’s and Clinton’s totals by some 15 million.
  5. Biden underperformed Clinton among AA voters, except in swing states.
  6. The GOP won all the down-ballot House races that had been rated as toss-ups plus some others.
  7. According to Blaze in PA the rejection rate on mail-in ballots due to questionable signatures was .38% compared to 1% in 2016.
  8. Last, but not least, there are many questions surrounding the reliability of the Dominion voting machines, which had led several states not to use them.

CONCLUSION

The end-game for the Trump Team has always been to get a hearing before the Supreme Court. The SC has weighed in on previous elections, such as the 2000 contest between Gore and Bush. Hopefully, it will do so again. Even if the SC is not able or does not care to correct the anomalies and fraud that many believe characterized the 2020 election, perhaps, it will require the state legislatures to implement changes that will render future elections more equitable. Otherwise, we may never have another free and fair national election again.

Unfortunately, the real loser will not be Mr. Trump. It will not be the millions of supporters who voted for him. It will be the country, itself. As I have said many times, the cornerstone of America is the belief that our elections are free, fair and legitimate. Historically, there have been many controversial elections, but the people have always accepted the results and moved on.

That may not happen this year. This year there are too many anomalies. Taken individually, these anomalies may be explainable. But, when viewed in their entirety they demonstrate a compelling pattern.

Post-election polls have demonstrated that an already divided country has been seriously fractured. Some 73 million people voted for Trump. That is a huge number. In fact, it is more votes than any previous WINNER. A recently-released CNBC/Change Research poll has disclosed that 73% of them think that Trump was the actual winner and the election was somehow “stolen” from him. Approximately, 66% of those voters think Trump should “never concede” to Biden, and 81% of them say they are “not willing to give Biden a chance as president.”

Folks, that is a deep and serious divide. As usual, the press has been mindlessly biased against Trump. It has refused to recognize his right to pursue these legal venues. It has accused him of failing to recognize the “reality” of the situation – that he lost. It has even blamed him for the current post-election controversy and deep divide. In my view, that is very destructive.

I believe that if this matter is not resolved fairly and legally, if half of the electorate remains convinced that Biden was not the legitimate winner it will seriously hamper his Administration’s ability to govern. It should not be discounted just because Trump supporters are not rioting in the streets and destroying property. I say, cease mocking and belittling the dissatisfied Trump voters and at least let the legal process play out. Give them their “day in court.” Even then, the matter may never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, but hopefully, eventually, the nation will be able to get past this and move on.