COLIN POWELL

Despite humble beginnings Colin Powell led a very accomplished life.

Colin Luther Powell was born in The Bronx, NYC on April 5, 1937. His parents were first-generation immigrants from the island of Jamaica of mixed Scottish and African heritage. His father, Luther, worked as a shipping clerk, and his mother, Maud, was a seamstress. He attended NYC public schools and graduated from City College of NY with a degree in geology. He described himself as a “C” student (probably due to a lack of motivation rather than intelligence). In 1971 He followed up with an MBA from GW University.

As a youngster one of his jobs was in a local furniture store, which was owned by Eastern European Jews. As the story goes he picked up bits of Yiddish from the employees and customers, and, later in life, at one point he shocked a Jewish reporter by addressing him in Yiddish. In addition, he served as a “Shabbos goy,” one who performed certain tasks, such as lighting the stove, for Orthodox Jews who were forbidden to do so on the Sabbath.

In college he joined ROTC and upon graduation was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Army. In a long and distinguished military career (35 years) he rose through the ranks to become a four-star general and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, only the 12th person to hold that office. Moreover, he was a diplomat and a statesman, serving as national security advisor and Secretary of State. Finally, in 2008 he was in the conversation as a GOP candidate for the vice presidency under John McCain. Although he declined to run his endorsement was actively sought after by both political parties. In the 2016 election he received three electoral votes (Washington Sate) even though he was not on the ballot. In my opinion, his career was marred by one significant “blip,” which I will described below.

In the eyes of some, there was one significant blemish on his career – his speech at the UN in support of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. At the time, the decision was very controversial. The George W. Bush administration justified the invasion based on intelligence reports, later determined to be inaccurate, if not intentionally misleading, that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction.” Powell, as Secretary of State, gave the aforementioned speech at the UN in which he attempted to justify the invasion, When no such weapons were ever found his reputation “took a big hit.” In 2005 he was forced to resign.

Later, Powell admitted that his speech had contained various “inaccuracies.” Furthermore, he explained that he had been strongly in favor of trying diplomatic measures before resorting to an invasion. In point of fact, he revealed that he spent hours with Bush outlining the ill-advised consequences of “going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.” Bush was not swayed. Ultimately, Powell told Bush that he would respect and support whatever decision he made, and he did. The implication is that he gave the speech as a “good soldier” who was following the dictates of his boss. Years later, Powell disclosed that VP Dick Cheney had told him “you’ve got high poll ratings; you can afford to lose a few points.”

CONCLUSION

During his career Powell received innumerable awards and decorations, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and the Presidential Citizens Medal.

Powell passed away on October 18, 2021 from COVID-19-related complications and multiple myeloma, which compromised his immune system. Despite his one above-described “blip” he remained a hero to many. My personal opinion is that the one “blip” should not override all the good Powell did in his life as a military leader, diplomat and statesman, particularly since he was operating as a loyal subordinate who was “taking one for the team.” Additionally, I think he would have made a good president.

DEMOCRATS’ MASSIVE SPENDING BILL

Most of you have heard about the massive, comprehensive $3.5 trillion or so spending bill that is being debated in Congress (the “Build Back Better Act”). It is supported by President Biden, virtually all Dem lawmakers, and most of the media. Conversely, it is opposed by all GOP lawmakers and two moderate Dem senators. At the moment, the bill is stalled in the Senate. The Dems’ margin in the Senate is so small that they need the support of all 50 Dem senators in order for it to pass. It is generally accepted that this omnibus bill is the centerpiece of Biden’s legislative agenda, and if it fails to pass, his presidency will have been dealt a severe blow.

The purpose of this blog is not to debate the pros and cons of the bill’s provisions. Rather, it is to point out that it is some 2,500 pages long, chock full of hidden clauses, fine print, and “pork,” and virtually none of the congressmen and women who will be voting on it have read it. I repeat, this massive bill will cost roughly $3.5 trillion, will likely remake our way of life, will affect our children, grandchildren, and generations yet unborn, and virtually no one knows all of what’s in it! I don’t know about you, but I find that downright scary and borderline congressional malpractice (if there is such a thing). I admit I have not read the bill, but then it is not my job to do so. However, I can assure you that if I were a member of congress I would make sure my staff had read it and analyzed it before I cast my vote.

Based on my research of summaries provided by various sources, such as CNN, CBS News, Fox News and others the following is a list of what I consider to be the major provisions of this bill Again, I am not offering an opinion, just the facts as I see them. I encourage you to decide for yourself if this is what we want, need and can afford.

  1. $400 billion to enhance child care and universal “pre-k” as part of the Dems’ “cradle to grave” plan.
  2. Two free years of community college regardless of income.
  3. Expand Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision services.
  4. Extend expanded child care credit through 2025.
  5. Comprehensive paid family leave.
  6. Expand eligibility for child nutrition programs.
  7. Invest in affordable housing.
  8. Increase significantly the number of IRS tax agents and expand its tax enforcement mandate.
  9. Various climate change and Green New Deal provisions.
  10. Block oil/gas exploration.
  11. $25 million each for butterflies, “desert pupfish,” and mussels.
  12. $4 billion to remove “racist infrastructure.”
  13. $100 billion to provide amnesty, free college and welfare for illegal aliens.
  14. $500 million for “culturally appropriate” school lunches. (Bagels and lox?)
  15. Free housing for convicted felons.
  16. Taxpayer-funded abortions.
  17. Grants to treat “loneliness.”
  18. $7 billion to universities to provide “equity” training and teach “critical race theory”).
  19. Increase the corporate tax rate from 21% to 26%. This would make it among the highest in the world.
  20. Increase taxes on small businesses.
  21. Increases to the “death tax.”
  22. Increase the top personal tax rate from 37% to 39.6%.
  23. Increase the top capital gains rate from 20% to 25%.

CONCLUSION

One telling fact is that the Dems are trying to pass this bill as a “reconciliation” item. That is, they are claiming it only needs a simple majority to pass the Senate, not a supermajority of 60 votes like non-reconciliation bills. They know they would never get 60 votes, but they could get a simple majority since VP Harris could break a tie in their favor. It is questionable whether or not this bill as it is currently written would qualify. Reconciliation bills are required to be budget-related. Even so, presently the Dems are two votes “short” of a simple majority. Two moderate Dem senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, have expressed reservations about supporting it. In fact, Manchin has called for a “pause” in spending for the moment.

Many of the above provisions are part of the radical/progressive wish list, and have already been proposed (and rejected by most Americans) as part of the “Green New Deal.” The radical Dems are now trying to sneak them in under the radar in this massive bill that few will read. Others sound good and make some sense, but they are too expensive and inflationary. Many believe the tax provisions will strangle the economy, drive businesses overseas, and feed inflation. The economy has already been exhibiting signs of inflation. Anyone who has bought groceries, gassed up their car, or bought clothes recently has experienced this. Inflation hurts everyone. Some of us are old enough to remember the 1970s, which were characterized by high inflation and long gas lines. You have to ask yourself if we can afford the bill, and if the provisions are worth the cost.

The Dem leaders are trying to convince us that we need this bill. Pelosi has repeated her famous line that “you have to pass it to know what’s in it.” Unfortunately, that inane line worked with respect to the Affordable Care Act, but hopefully, it will not work now.

COLUMBUS DAY

On Monday, October 11, we will celebrate Columbus Day, which is a holiday to honor the man who “discovered” America. But, did he? More on that later.

Federal offices and most banks will be closed, so there will be no mail delivery (although national parks will be open). On the other hand, financial markets and most schools will be open. Many cities and towns will hold their traditional Columbus Day parade, including NYC for the 77th year.

CD has been celebrated in the US since 1792. Originally, it was celebrated on October 12, the date on which Columbus made landfall. FDR proclaimed CD a national holiday in 1937. In 1971 pursuant to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act the date was changed to the second Monday in October where it has remained ever since.

In recent years Columbus and CD have become controversial. Many Native American and other activist groups have denoted his brutality toward the indigenous peoples he encountered, particularly in the West Indies. Some states, such as Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, and South Dakota, have authorized alternate holidays, such as Fraternal Day and Indigenous Peoples Day in protest.

For hundreds of years the conventional wisdom was that Columbus discovered America in 1492. Most of us know the basics of the story. Columbus was born in Genoa, which is now part of Italy, in 1451. According to Wikipedia the precise date is not known. He went to sea at around the age of ten and travelled extensively from the British Isles to the West African coast.

By the late 1400s the spice trade between Asia and Europe had become extremely lucrative. The problem was it took too long to travel between the two locations. Either ships had to sail around the “horn” of Africa or caravans had to travel overland through central Asia. Both routes were arduous and dangerous. Columbus became convinced he could find a quicker route. Time meant money, even in the 15th century. He was seeking a “Northwest Passage” to Asia, which would enhance the spice trade between Europe and Asia. His idea that he could find it by traveling west was considered radical and unrealistic.

At the time, most people believed the world was flat, and that if one sailed too far west the ship would simply fall off the edge of the earth. It was not until the 16th century, thanks primarily to the research of Copernicus and Galileo that the scientific community generally accepted the notion that the earth was spherical, not flat, and that it revolved around the sun, not the other way around. He “pitched” his idea all over Europe seeking a sponsor. He was subjected to laughter and ridicule until King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain decided to take a chance on him. He set sail in August of 1492 with three ships – the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

On October 12 he made landfall in the current-day Bahama Islands. He named the indigenous people “Indians,” as he thought he was in India. Of course, he was wrong, but the term Indians to identify Native Americans has “stuck.” As colonial Governor of the area he became known for his extreme brutality toward the indigenous people. It was so bad that eventually he was removed from his post.

Eventually, Columbus would make three subsequent voyages to Central and South America. He never set foot in any part of North America. And he never did find the elusive Northwest Passage.

Based on new evidence, it is now generally accepted that Columbus did not “discover” America as we were taught in school. He did not “discover” anything. He was not the first person to set foot in America. Not even close as you will see below. What he did accomplish was to make Europeans aware of the existence of a “New World” which was chock full of unimaginable riches. His successful voyages ushered in a new era of exploration, conquest, colonization and war that would last for centuries. He was not the first, but one can argue that he was the most significant.

CONCLUSION

So, who did “discover” America?

  1. According to historian Michael Bawaya, editor of the magazine, American Archaeology, the original settlers of the NW arrived about 15,000 years ago. At that time the Bering Sea, which separates modern-day Siberia from North America, was more shallow than it is now. In some areas, it was an actual land-bridge. According to the US National Parks Service the land-bridge “played a vital role” in the spread of flora and fauna between the two continents. Animals such as mastodons, wooly mammoths, Arctic camels horses and various species of fish and birds moved freely over the land-bridge establishing migration patterns that persist to this day. Of course, humans followed as they went where the food was.
  2. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of settlements in and around Clovis, NM that are some 11,000 years old. DNA evidence suggests that these inhabitants were the direct ancestors of some 80% of ALL indigenous peoples in the Americas.
  3. According to voanews there is ample evidence that the Vikings inhabited Newfoundland and other parts of eastern Canada as early as circa 1100. Two leaders of these intrepid Viking explorers were Leif Erickson and his son, Eric “the Red.” They did not establish any permanent colonies, but there is ample evidence that they used the area as a winter settlement to make repairs to their boats and “ride out” bad weather.
  4. There is evidence that Chinese and/or Polynesian explorers made their way to parts of South America well before Columbus.

In summary, I believe Columbus deserves credit (and blame) for introducing the New World to Europeans and all that followed, but it cannot be said that he “discovered” it. As indicated by his harsh treatment of the natives he was not perfect; none of us is. But, I believe he deserves to be recognized with a holiday in his memory.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – OCTOBER

October has had more than its share of significant historical events. Please see below:

10/1/1908 – The first Model T cars, designed by Henry Ford, went on sale.
10/1/1938 – German troops occupied the Sudetenland section of Czechoslovakia.
10/1/1949 – The Peoples’ Republic of China was founded with Mao Zedong as its leader.
10/1/1979 – The US formally turned the Canal Zone over to Panama.
10/2/1967 – Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as the first African American associate justice of the Supreme Court.
10/3/1863 – President Abraham Lincoln promulgated a proclamation designating the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving (later changed to the fourth Thursday).
10/3/1929 – The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was officially renamed Yugoslavia.
10/3/1932 – Iraq gained its independence from Great Britain.
10/3/1974 – Hall of Famer Frank Robinson became the first African American to manage a major league baseball club (the Cleveland Indians). Later, he also became the first AA manager to be fired.
10/3/1990 – East and West Germany were united as the Federal Republic of Germany ending 45 years of separation.
10/4/1830 – Belgium gained its independence from the Netherlands.
10/4/1957 – Russia ushered in the Space Age as it launched the first satellite, named Sputnik.
10/5/1908 – Bulgaria proclaimed its independence from the Ottoman Empire.
10/6/1927 – “The Jazz Singer,” the first “talkie,” opened in NYC.
10/6/1928 – Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek became the president of the Republic of China.
10/6/1973 – The “Yom Kippur War” commenced as Egypt and Syria launched surprise attacks against Israel, which was busy celebrating the most sacred of Jewish holidays.
10/6/1981 – Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated.
10/7/1985 – Palestinian terrorists seized the cruise ship, “Achille Lauro,” and threatened to blow it up if their demands were not met. They infamously murdered an elderly wheelchair-bound passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, by pushing his wheelchair off the deck into the sea.
10/8/1871 – The Great Fire of Chicago destroyed much of the city. Legend has it that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow started it by kicking over a lantern in her barn.
10/8/1918 – Sergeant Alvin York, arguably the US’s greatest war hero, single-handedly took out a German machine-gun battalion, killing and capturing nearly 150 enemy soldiers. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and the French equivalent, the Croix de Guerre.
10/8/1998 – The House of Representatives voted to launch a formal impeachment inquiry of President Bill Clinton.
10/9/1962 – Uganda gained its independence from Great Britain.
10/10/1973 – Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned amid allegations of income tax evasion stemming from his tenure as Governor of Maryland.
10/11/1939 – Scientist Albert Einstein issued a warning to President FDR that Germany was seeking to develop an atomic weapon. His warning led the US to marshal its resources to develop its own atomic weapon (the Manhattan Project).
10/12/1492 – Christopher Columbus landed in present-day El Salvador, erroneously thinking he had found the elusive northwest passage to India.
10/12/1811 – Paraguay declared its independence from Spain.
10/12/1822 – Brazil declared its independence from Portugal.
10/13/1792 – George Washington laid the cornerstone of the White House.
10/13/1884 – Greenwich, England was established as the basic time zone from which all time is calculated.
10/14/1066 – The Normans defeated the English at the decisive Battle of Hastings, which resulted in the Norman’s conquest of England.
10/14/1912 – Former president Theodore Roosevelt was shot while campaigning for re-election, but he survived.
10/14/1947 – Test pilot Chuck Yeager became the first to break the sound barrier.
10/14/1964 – Martin Luther King became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
10/15/1991 – Following several days of contentious hearings regarding allegations of sexual harassment against a former aide, Anita Hill, the Senate confirmed Clarence Thomas as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
10/16/1701 – Yale University was founded in Killingworth, CT as the Collegiate School of Connecticut.
10/16/1793 – French Queen Marie Antoinette, known for her extravagance and contempt for her subjects (“Let them eat cake.”), was beheaded.
10/16/1853 – The Crimean War (Russia, England and France vs. the Ottoman Empire and parts of present-day Italy) began.
10/16/1995 – Louis Farrakhan led the Million Man March on Washington.
10/17/1777 – The Colonial Army defeated the British at Saratoga in what many historians believe was the turning point of the Revolutionary War.
10/17-25/1944 – The US succeeded in decimating the Japanese Navy at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which was the largest naval battle in history.
10/18/1945 – The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial commenced with indictments against 24 former Nazi leaders.
10/19/1781 – English General Cornwallis surrendered to the Colonial Army at Yorktown, VA. marking the end of the Revolutionary War.
10/19/1987 – This day was dubbed “Black Monday” on Wall Street as stocks plunged 508 points or 22.6%, the largest one-day decline ever.
10/20/1818 – The US and Great Britain agreed to establish the US-Canadian border at the 49th parallel. The 5,525 mile border is the longest in the world between any two countries.
10/20/1944 – General Douglas MacArthur, who upon fleeing the Philippines in 1942 to escape the Japanese Army boldly asserted “I shall return,” returned as promised.
10/20/1968 – Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of President John Kennedy, married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.
10/21/1805 – The British Navy defeated the combined naval forces of France and Spain at the Battle of Trafalgar, obviating the threat of their invasion of England.
10/21/1879 – Thomas Edison successfully tested an incandescent lamp.
10/21/1915 – AT&T transmitted the first successful transatlantic radio voice message (Virginia to Paris).
10/22/1962 – President Kennedy warned Americans of the existence of Russian missiles on Cuba. The so-called “Cuban Missile Crisis” was probably the biggest threat of nuclear war during the Cold War.
10/23/1942 – The British Army led by General Bernard Montgomery launched a major offensive against the German Afrika Corps, led by General Erwin Rommel, at El Alamein, Egypt. Montgomery’s victory marked a major turning point in WWII.
10/24/1931 – Notorious Chicago gangster, Al Capone, was sentenced 11 years in prison for income tax evasion.
10/24/1945 – The UN was founded.
10/25/1854 – 673 British cavalrymen took on a Russian force in the Battle of Balaclava. This famous Crimean War battle was immortalized in a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson entitled “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”
10/26/1881 – In the infamous shoot-out at the OK Corral the Earp brothers and “Doc” Holliday defeated the Clanton Gang.
10/26/1825 – The Erie Canal, the first man-made waterway in America, opened for business.
10/27/1904 – The NYC subway system opened with a run from City Hall to West 145th Street as the first underground and underwater system in the world.
10/27/1978 – Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat shared the Nobel Peace Prize.
10/28/1636 – Harvard University, the oldest university in America, was founded in Cambridge, MA, funded by donations provided by John Harvard.
10/28/1846 – The ill-fated Donner Party departed Illinois for California.
10/28/1918 – The Republic of Czechoslovakia was founded by combining three provinces that were formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – Moravia, Slovakia, and Bohemia.
10/28/1919 – Prohibition commenced as Congress enacted the Volstead Act.
10/28/1962 – Russia agreed to halt the construction of offensive missile bases in Cuba and dismantle existing bases, thus ending the Cuban Missile Crisis.
10/29/1929 – The stock market “crashed” ushering in the Great Depression.
10/30/1938 – A radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” without commercial interruption caused widespread panic, as many people thought that Martians had actually invaded Earth.

10/31/41- The sculptures of four US presidents on Mt. Rushmore was completed. Can you name them? (See below).

10/31/50 – Earl Lloyd became the first AA to play in the NBA (Washington Capitols).

10/31/84 – Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandhi was assassinated.

BIRTHDAYS – Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi – 10/2/1869; Rutherford B. Hayes (19th President) – 10/4/1822; Frederic Remington (artist)- 10/4/1861; Chester A. Arthur (21st President) – 10/5/1830; Robert Goddard (“Father of the Space Age”) – 10/5/1882; George Westinghouse (engineer and inventor) – 10/6/1846; John Lennon – 10/9/1940; Eleanor Roosevelt – 10/11/1884; Mary Ludwig (aka Molly Pitcher (Revolutionary War heroine of the Battle of Monmouth, NJ) – 10/13/1754; William Penn (founded the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which bears his name) – 10/14/1644; Dwight (Ike) Eisenhower (WWII war hero and 34th President) – 10/14/1890; Lido Anthony (Lee) Iacocca (auto industry executive) – 10/15/1924; Noah Webster (teacher and journalist who compiled the first dictionaries) – 10/16/1758; Oscar Wilde (Irish playwright and poet) – 10/16/1854; David Ben Gurion (“Father” of Israel) – 10/16/1888; Eugene O’Neill (playwright – “The Iceman Cometh”) – 10/16/1888; William O. Douglas (associate justice of the Supreme Court) – 10/16/1898; John Birks (Dizzy) Gillespie (jazz musician) – 10/21/1917; Pablo Picasso (artist) – 10/25/1881; Hillary Rodham Clinton – 10/26/1947; James Cook (English explorer) – 10/27/1728; Theodore Roosevelt (26th President) – 10/27/1858; Dr. Jonas Salk (polio vaccine) – 10/28/1914; Bill Gates (Microsoft) – 10/28/1955; John Adams (2nd President) – 10/30/1735; Emily Post (arbiter of etiquette) – 10/30/1872; Admiral Will (“Bull”) Halsey (WWII fleet commander) – 10/30/1882.

Quiz answer: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.