OPENING DAY

Today is April 7, and after a long winter of cold, rain, economic turmoil, war, COVID issues, and a lock-out by the owners, today will mark the start of the 2022 baseball season, aka OPENING DAY. Finally! This is the latest OD in many years, and for a while it appeared as though the season would be delayed considerably further, but finally the adults in the room hammered out a deal. Some fans blamed the players for the delay; others blamed the owners; still others blamed both sides. Most fans just wanted a settlement and baseball. As we know sports are a healthy diversion, especially in times such as now.

Twelve teams will commence playing today; others will begin tomorrow. And, of course “Mother Nature” may force further delays. As I write this, I am aware of two games that have already been postponed due to inclement weather. Typically, many early season (and late season) games are played in weather more suitable for football. Why? We know why – M O N E Y. If MLB persists in playing games in March, April and November why doesn’t it mandate domed stadiums in cold weather locales? Probably, too logical for the Lords of Baseball.

In some years MLB has scheduled “pre-opening” games before the official OD. The initial “pre-opener” was played in 1999 in Monterey, Mexico. Other “pre-openers” have been played in San Juan, Sydney and, most recently, in Tokyo. Opening in these distant locales may be inconvenient for the players, but MLB does it to broaden the exposure and appeal of the game. Indeed, MLB rosters are chock full of players from countries such as the Caribbean, Central America, South America and Asia. According to MLB 28% of MLB players are foreign-born.

MLB does not consider these “pre-openers” to mark the official start of the season. It has always considered OD to be the first date when a full slate of games was scheduled. Got it?

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 three years when they opened on the road – 1966, when the home opener was rained out,1990 when the season was delayed due to a lockout, and this year again due to a lockout. The team was formed in 1869 as the Red Stockings. It 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.

This year the Cleveland Indians will be known as the “Guardians.” This continues the ill-advised trend, in my view, to eliminate “inoffensive” and “insensitive names,” which are objectionable to a small but vocal group of people. I think this is a bigge r issue with the “woke” crowd than with indigenous people, but these are the times in which we live.

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 had won. In 2017 the Houston Astros won their first WS after having languished near the bottom of the league for many years. Unlike other sports, very often the team with the best regular season record does not win the World Series or even get there. Several wild card teams have actually won the World Series, most recently, the Washington Nationals, in 2019.

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.”

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. Over the years nearly every president has done so, and the practice has evolved from a perfunctory toss from the stands to a more elaborate ceremonial toss from the mound. Will we see President Biden follow tradition this year? Your guess is as good as mine, but I doubt it. 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 fast ball, 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. Later, he became the first AA manager to be “fired.”
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 course.
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).

12. Some of the individual OD records we may see broken today are most home runs (3), most hits (5) most RBIs (7) and most strikeouts (15). Maybe, we will see another no-hitter, although the way the game is played today any no-hitter would be a group effort.

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.” 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.”

So, which teams will reach the World Series? Which team will win? Most of the “experts” that I have heard are predicting the Dodgers will defeat the Chicago White Sox. I think the Dodgers have the best team on paper, but, as we all know, the games are played on the field, not on paper. I think the TV networks would like to see a Dodgers-Yankees Series. I think that would generate the most interest and the highest TV ratings. They used to meet on what seemed like a regular basis back in the 1950s, but they have not met since 1981.

What is your favorite OD memory? Please share.

PLAY BALL!

RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR UPDATE – BIDEN DITHERS WHILE PUTIN DEVASTATES

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates once opined that Joe Biden “has been wrong about every major foreign policy and national security decision over the past four decades.” It sounded like an exaggeration, but the more I have seen of Biden’s decision-making ability since he has been inaugurated the more accurate the quote seems to be. I cannot recall one decision he has made that has benefited the US, not one. Moreover, in a recent blog I challenged my readers to come up with one and so far no one has been able to do so. In my opinion, based on his decisions regarding the Russia-Ukraine War, he has kept his streak alive.

Biden is nothing if not consistent. His style is to fail to anticipate, and then we when he does act or react it is with a weak, halfway measure. For example, everyone knew that Putin was going to invade Ukraine. He told us he would. He has often said he considers Ukraine to be a part of Russia, particularly since there are millions of ethnic Russians living there. Then, he spent months amassing hundreds of thousands of troops along the border. What did Biden think he was going to do?

Biden was passive until the invasion, and then he instituted various financial and economic sanctions. Most observers have characterized them as too little, too late. Ukraine President Volodymy Zelensky, not one to mince words, put it most succinctly: “If [Biden] had started sanctions months ago there would not have been war.” Now, Zelensky wants the US to increase the pressure. He is advocating a boycott of Russian oil and a “no-fly” zone. By the way, the courage and leadership Z has shown throughout has been remarkable. Now, there’s a leader! Reminds me of Washington during the Revolutionary War and Churchill during WWII.

The impact of the current sanctions is debatable depending on whose opinion one reads. But, for sure, they have not and will not deter Putin. He is not going to just throw up his hands and leave Ukraine because some funds have been frozen and the Russian people are suffering. Russia is not the US where public opinion matters to leaders. He has plenty of money, and he does not care about everyday Russians. What he does care about is his legacy, and he wants to be the one who resurrects the former Soviet Union. He will not stop until he is stopped.

So, how do we stop him without an actual physical war. I say we pull out all the stops with respect to sanctions. Hold nothing back.

Not to oversimplify, but let me put it in simple terms that even Kamala Harris could understand. Starting a war is easy. What is difficult is sustaining a war. All wars require two things above all else in order to be sustained – funds and supplies. And, if you don’t have funds you can’t acquire supplies; you can’t pay your troops; you can’t feed them; you can’t operate your weaponry; you can’t fight.

Russia is not a wealthy country. Its GDP is about $1.71 trillion, which comes to less than 10% of the US’s. Its primary product of value is oil. It relies on exporting oil to sustain its economy. It is relying on oil exports to fund the Ukraine War. Without it, it could not continue to fund the war. It could not sustain it. Currently, who are the main importers of Russian oil? The US and NATO countries. Therefore, it stands to reason that the most effective sanction would be to cease buying Russian oil. The US’s oil reserves could easily pick up the slack, but to do so Biden would need to reopen the Keystone Pipeline. So far, he has refused to do it, so the war continues to drag on and on. People continue to die, and still Biden continues to dither and dither and dither. Either he doesn’t get it or he does and is too afraid of offending the small but vocal cadre of far left socialists who are imbedded in his circle of advisors.

Everyone I talk to understands the above concept, even my 14 year-old grandson. Even many liberal Dems have spoken out in favor of it. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she would not oppose it. My strong recommendation would be to convince Biden to act. Alternatively, Congress could pass a law authorizing it and if Biden vetoes it, try to override the veto.

Something has to be done. Ukraine is being demolished. Thousands of people, non-combatants, children are dying. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced and have nowhere to go, and to what end?

CONCLUSION

I understand that Biden wants to avoid a war with Russia. No sane person wants a physical war with shooting and bombing that could escalate into a nuclear war. But, Biden has to realize that Ukraine is just the opening salvo of Putin’s plan. Putin is a disciple of Josef Stalin’s. Stalin’s mantra was to continually push for expansion until he met resistance. If he did not, keep on pushing. If he met resistance he would pull back and wait for another opportunity.

The US and NATO have provided Putin with the perfect storm of opportunity to pursue his goal, but that’s another story for another blog on another day.

Putin will not be appeased. He will not bow to weak, wishy-washy sanctions. Appeasing aggressors has never, ever worked throughout history. It will not work now. He will not stop with Ukraine. He will want the Baltics, Moldovia, or Poland next, all of which are NATO countries. Will NATO invoke Article V?

Joe: grow a pair. Cease importing Russian oil, and re-open the Keystone Pipeline!

HEROISM IN UKRAINE

It was supposed to be a walkover, a slam dunk, a laydown, David vs Goliath Part II. Russia had amassed some 200,000 troops at the Ukraine border. These troops were supported by a veritable cornucopia of weapons including, among others, planes, tanks and missiles. Most observers assumed they would roll through Ukraine in a matter of days or weeks like the Germans had rolled through Poland in 1939. They would be welcomed by the Ukrainians as liberators; they would capture Kiev in short order; they would assassinate or capture President Volodymyr Zelensky, his family and other key political leaders; they would install a “puppet” government; and the US, NATO, and the rest of the world would protest but otherwise wring their hands and stay on the sidelines. Biden was too timid, NATO was a disorganized “paper tiger” afraid of losing access to Russian oil; and Ukraine was not willing or able to offer much resistance. Ukraine would be another notch in Putin’s belt, another step on his way to restoring the post-WWII Soviet Union. Next stop, the Baltics, then maybe Poland, Romania, and the rest of Eastern Europe.

But, here we are ten days into the invasion, and things have not exactly gone Russia’s way. Surprise! Surprise! The Ukrainians did not welcome the Russians. Quite the opposite. They are fighting them “tooth and nail.” For example, according to multiple media reports:

  1. The Ukrainian government has not fallen and remains as strong as ever. Furthermore, contrary to what other heads of state have done in similar circumstances Zelensky has not fled the country, nor does he intend to. Not only has he stayed but his family and other key officials have as well. This is despite the reports that Russia has deployed some 4,000 mercenaries to assassinate Zelensky, his family, and other key government officials. When offered to be evacuated he defiantly replied “I don’t need a ride; I need more ammunition!” His bravery has been an inspiration to both his countrymen and to the world. Nevertheless the EU reported that in excess of 500,000 refugees have already fled the country and before all is said and done the total could exceed four million.
  2. As I write this Russia has not been able to capture any major cities, nor has it been able to gain control of the airspace despite the fact that it was thought to be one of Ukraine’s major weaknesses. In a show of solidarity weapons are flowing in from various countries.
  3. Many observers have noted that Russia has not yet unleashed its full arsenal of weaponry. Perhaps, it wanted to avoid massive devastation, because it wanted to occupy the country afterwards. There are indications that may change. Douglas Lute, a former US ambassador to NATO, cautioned that Russia has ” a lot… of weapons not employed yet.” Unleashing them would shorten the shooting war, but it would damage Russia further in the world of public opinion.
  4. Various media outlets have disclosed the presence of a Russian army convoy 40 miles long that is converging on Kiev. If it were to arrive intact the potential havoc it could wreak would be devastating.
  5. Since the inception of the invasion Russia has dropped over 100 cruise missiles on Ukraine. That sounds like a lot, but I have to believe there are many more where they came from.
  6. There are reports that they have used cluster bombs on Karkiv. These are so deadly and kill so indiscriminately that their use has been banned by many countries, and some people consider their use to constitute a war crime.
  7. There have been reports of Ukrainians attacking Russian troops and tanks with only Molotov cocktails for weapons. NYT correspondent Valerie Hopkins reported that some of them have even “tried to repel Russian tanks with their bodies” to no avail.
  8. One Ukrainian was shown removing a land mine from a bridge with his bare hands while smoking a cigarette. He was not trained in bomb disposal, and he was not wearing any protective equipment. Brave or foolhardy? Take your pick.
  9. A Ukrainian brewery has stopped brewing beer and commenced using the bottles for Molotov cocktails.
  10. In a somewhat humorous story in Spain, in protest of the invasion, a Ukrainian was arrested for attempting to sink a $27 million yacht belonging to his boss, a Russian oligarch.
  11. It has been reported that the members of the Snake Island garrison are alive and being held in a Russian prison facility. You may recall that a few days ago when a Russian warship demanded their surrender they defiantly replied “Go f**k yourself!” The ship proceeded to destroy the facility, but apparently the people survived.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world has united against Russia to a degree that we have rarely seen.

  1. The US and other countries have imposed very strict sanctions designed to hurt Russia and its people financially, economically and emotionally. For instance, the Russian banks’ assets, and those of various influential oligarchs, have been frozen. Even the Swiss, who have always remained neutral in any conflict, have joined in. It should be noted that so far energy has been exempt from sanctions.
  2. Russia’s banks have been locked out of the S.W.I.FT. financial system, a devastating blow, which effectively precludes them from effecting transactions internationally. Bruno Lemaire, the French Finance Minister, called this the “financial nuclear option.” The various financial sanctions have been effective. The ruble has declined to the point where it is worth one US penny; the Russian stock market “crashed” and trading has been suspended; and there have been “runs” on Russian banks as depositors have been desperately trying to withdraw their money.
  3. The sanctions are having a devastating effect of the Russian people, and it will only get worse. They can’t get their savings; food and other necessities are scarce; and inflation is running wild. I see similarities to post-WWI Germany and present-day Venezuela. How long can they take it? We have already seen protests, which is most unusual in Russia.

CONCLUSION

One can debate the effectiveness of the sanctions. There has been some impact as I have discussed above, but it would have been better if Biden would have acted sooner and more forcefully. In addition, as I blogged last week Biden should have ceased buying oil from Russia and reopened the Keystone Pipeline. His impulsive and ill-advised decision to shut it down remains one of the most inane decisions of his presidency, and God knows there have been plenty of them. As it stands now, by buying oil from Russia we are, in effect, helping to finance the invasion.

The invasion has not been kind to President Biden, politically. According to a CNN poll released yesterday 58% of those queried disapprove of the manner in which he has been handling it. That percentage is likely to increase as the inflationary impact takes hold on everyday Americans. Unfortunately, as always, the poor and working class people will suffer the most. Let’s hope they remember that in November.

No one knows what is going to happen, and anyone who says they do is either delusional or lying. The possibilities range from outright Russian withdrawal to nuclear war with many possible outcomes in between. Remember, Putin is a disciple of Josef Stalin’s. He is very aggressive, and, at the moment, he senses weakness and vulnerability in the leaders of the US and NATO. His ultimate goal is to resurrect the post-WWII Soviet Union, and he thinks this is the time to do it. The invasion of Ukraine is but one piece of that strategy and should be viewed in that context.

WAR IN UKRAINE

Every newly-elected president goes through it. Every newly-elected president gets “tested” by our enemies. At their core, autocrats are bullies. They want to see what they can away with. Like all bullies they will keep on pushing and pressing until they are stopped. The best example of this that I can remember was Hitler’s and Nazi Germany’s pre-WWII repeated aggression and the allies continued appeasement (remember Neville Chamberlain in 1938 proclaiming the Munich Agreement guaranteed “peace in our time”), but there have been many others throughout history.

Some presidents, like Truman with communist expansion in post-WWII Europe, Kennedy, with the Russian missiles in Cuba, and Trump with Russia, China and North Korea passed the test. Others, like Carter with the hostages in Iran, failed.

In my opinion, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is Biden’s “test.” How will he respond? Will he roll over and merely issue meaningless platitudes; will he hide in his basement; or will he be strong and determined. I’m not advocating we send troops to fight the Russians in Ukraine. No sane person wants that. Ukraine is not a member of NATO. We don’t have to defend them with troops. But, Biden has a variety of other options at his disposal.

My recommendation would be to hit Putin where it would really hurt him. The Russian economy is very fragile. Currently, its major source of revenue is oil and gas. We have allowed it to establish a pipeline directly to Europe to sell oil and gas to our allies. Russia is making a fortune from this, and as a bonus, it has control of their economies. It can charge whatever it wants, and it could shut down the pipeline entirely whenever it wants. Even worse, a second pipeline is on the way. At the same time, Biden shut down our own Keystone Pipeline for “environmental reasons.” As I have blogged previously that was an inane decision on many levels that never made any sense to me and many others.

To me, the obvious initial move would be to reopen the Keystone Pipeline. That would restore our energy independence, allow our allies to buy oil from us rather than Russia, and deal a huge blow to the Russian economy. That would likely provide us with the leverage to convince Russia to stand down. We don’t have to commit troops. Countries need money to finance wars. Where else could Russia get it?

CONCLUSION

As the saying goes, “elections have consequences.” For a variety of reasons, we elected a weak, cognitively-challenged president instead of a strong one. He has exhibited weakness at every turn. Both our friends and our enemies have observed this. Our friends are anxious and afraid; our enemies are emboldened. History has shown us repeatedly that weakness invites war; strength prevents it.

Putin has taken advantage. He has been planning this for a long time, while we have been focused on silly issues like CRT and cancel culture. We have been “asleep at the switch.” We could have and should have focused on the Ukraine issue months ago when it could have been handled more easily. Like they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Now we are suffering the consequences of our prior inactions.

There is a real danger that he will not stop with Ukraine. He may decide to continue on to the Baltic States or other neighboring countries. He sees himself as the second coming of Joseph Stalin. His ultimate goal, as he has stated himself, is to re-create the old Soviet Union. Like all bullies, he will keep pushing until he is stopped one way or another. China, North Korea, Iran, our other enemies, and our friends as well are watching to see how Biden reacts.

Joe, what will you do? The whole world is watching.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

As many of you know, February has long been designated as Black History month. According to Wikipedia, its purpose is to officially recognize AAs that have made significant contributions to Black history and culture. Currently, it has been recognized officially by the governments of the US, Ireland, Canada and the UK. In the US it is also known as African-American History month. The UK and Ireland observe it in October.

Although most people are familiar with the most famous AAs, such as Barack Obama, MLK and Muhammed Ali, among others, I believe scant few of you are familiar with the many others that have also made significant contributions. They also deserve to be recognized. I have profiled a few of these less widely known persons below.

The history of BHM can be traced to 1926. That year Black historian, Carter Woodson, and the Association for the Study of Negro Life announced that the second week of February would be known as “Negro History Week.” That particular week was a logical choice because it included the birthdates of both Abraham Lincoln (2/12) and Frederick Douglas (2/14). Many Black communities had been celebrating those two dates since the late 1800s.

In 1969 Black educators and a group called the Black United Students at Kent State University proposed expanding the week into a Black History Month. The idea caught on. By 1976 BHM was being observed all across the US at various universities and other centers of Black culture. That year, as part of the nation’s Bicentennial celebration, President Gerald Ford officially recognized BHM to “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans.” The month of February was the obvious and logical choice.

There is no shortage of Blacks who have made and are making significant contributions to Black history and culture, too many to discuss them all in a brief blog. Therefore, as I mentioned above, I have chosen five persons who may not be generally known, but who nevertheless have made significant contributions to Black history and culture.

Dred Scott (c 1799-1858

Dred Scott, his wife and two children were enslaved AAs who sued unsuccessfully for their freedom based upon the fact that the family had lived in the State of Illinois and the territory of Wisconsin, where slavery was illegal, for four years. The laws in those jurisdictions stipulated that slaveholders would forfeit their rights to ownership the slave(s) had lived there for an “extended” period. The Scotts lost the case, but the decision was very controversial. It exacerbated racial tensions between the pro-slave and anti-slave states, and many historians believe it hastened the outbreak of the Civil War. The Scott family was manumitted by private agreement in 1857. The decision was later nullified by Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. Dred Scott did not live to see that. He died of tuberculosis in 1858.

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (1913-2005)

Rosa Parks was active in the civil rights movement for many years, but she is best remembered and honored for a single act of defiance. On December 1, 1955 Parks was employed as a seamstress in Montgomery, AL. She was riding the bus home sitting in the “colored” section, as required. The bus was full, and in accordance with the law the driver ordered her to give up her seat to a white woman. Parks was tired after a long day of work and refused. The incident sparked a bus boycott that lasted over a year and changed the course of history. The NAACP represented her in the courts. The result was a decision that rendered bus segregation unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. Parks was fired from her job, but she landed on her feet. She relocated to Detroit where she found similar employment, and later she worked for a Black congressman, John Conyers. In addition, she became active in the Black Power Movement and other Black causes.

Later in life, Congress honored her as “the first lady of civil rights” and the “mother of the freedom movement.” Upon her death she became the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.

Frederick Douglas (c 1817-1895)

An escaped slave from Maryland Frederick Douglas was a staunch abolitionist, an orator, author, and statesman. He was so accomplished that he debunked all the stereotypes of the day vis a vis slaves, for example, that they lacked the intellectual capacity to function independently. On the other hand , he was such an accomplished author and orator that many abolitionists found it hard to believe that he had once been a slave. he was a staunch supporter of slaves’ rights and women’s suffrage. He became the first AA to be nominated for vp of the US (on the Equal Rights Party ticket in 1872). He believed in maintaining a dialogue with those who held opposing views. His mantra was “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”

Harriet Tubman (c1822-1913)

Harriet Tubman was a staunch abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery she escaped but that was not the end of her story. She devoted her life to helping others escape as well. Using the famed “Underground Railroad” she undertook over a dozen missions and rescued some 70 other slaves. Even one mission was highly dangerous. The risk of capture or death was very high. I can’t imagine the bravery it took to make as many as she did. During the Civil War she spied for the Union Army, and afterwards she became a staunch advocate for women’s suffrage. In 2016 the Secretary of the Treasury announced a plan to put her likeness on the front of the $20 bill and move Andrew Jackson’s likeness to the back. According to Wikipedia that hasn’t happened yet, but it is still in process. Harriet’s life was portrayed in a 2019 movie starring Cynthia Erivo. If you haven’t seen it I strongly recommend it.

George Washington Carver (c1864-1943)

George Washington Carver is generally considered to be the most renowned Black scientist of the 20th century. He was also a strong environmentalist and an accomplished inventor. He was a vigorous advocate of using crop rotation to counteract the depletion of the soil by continuously growing cotton. In this regard, he urged farmers to rotate other crops such as sweet potatoes and peanuts. His talents and accomplishments were recognized and commended even in the white community. For example, in 1941 Time magazine characterized him as a “Black Leonardo [da Vinci].”

CONCLUSION

Throughout history, there have been a plethora of Blacks that have risen above humble beginnings to make significant accomplishments. The foregoing are merely a few examples. In my opinion, they all exhibit one commonality. Rather than bemoan their fate of being born a slave or poor they set about doing something about it. They took advantage of the the great opportunities available in America to better oneself. I think this generation could learn a valuable lesson from them.

PRESIDENTS’ DAY

Tomorrow, February 21, we celebrate Presidents’ Day, or do we? As you will see, the holiday is replete with quirks.

According to Wikipedia, the moniker, “Presidents’ Day,” is actually a colloquialism.  The official name of the federal holiday is “Washington’s Birthday.”   According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution pursuant to the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act” of 1971 it is celebrated on the third Monday of February, which, depending on the particular year, can be anywhere between the 15th and the 21st.  There is no mail. Federal and state offices, the courts, the DMV, banks and financial markets are all closed. Most public schools are closed. Some even take the entire week off as a winter recess.

As many of you know, GW was actually born on February 22, so the holiday never falls on his actual birthday.  Except, the year GW was born, 1731, the British Empire, including the American Colonies, was still using the Old Style Julian calendar, which was eleven days behind the modern Gregorian calendar, which became the standard in 1752.  So, technically, GW was born on February 11, 1732 (Old Style). Confused?  Join the club.  Read on; it gets worse.

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

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

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

1. Today, the holiday is widely viewed as a plural (Presidents’ Day) to honor all presidents, both past and president, not only AL and GW.

2. The day is not a universal holiday, and it does not have a universal name in all states.

3. States that do observe the holiday recognize over a dozen variations, such as “President’s Day,” “Presidents’ Day,” “George Washington/Thomas Jefferson Birthday,” “Lincoln/Washington/Presidents Day,” “George Washington’s Birthday,” and “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” (who?), among others.

4. Eight states do not observe the holiday at all.

5. Other variations:
a. Massachusetts celebrates “Presidents Day” on May 29 in honor of four specific presidents. Quiz question #1. Can you name them? Three are easy. They were born in the state and were well-accomplished, aside from being president. The fourth, who was more obscure, was born in a neighboring state, but served as MA governor before becoming president. Kudos if you can name all four. See answer below.
b. New Mexico celebrates the holiday on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
c. Georgia celebrates the day on Christmas Eve.
d. Indiana also celebrates it on Christmas Eve, or the previous workday.
e. GW’s adopted city of Alexandria, VA holds celebrations throughout the entire month of February, including what is billed as the nation’s “longest-running and largest George Washington Birthday parade.”
f. The city of Eustis, FL boasts a “GeorgeFest” celebration, which dates back to 1902.

Other quiz questions

2. Which popular food is traditionally consumed on this day?

3. Which medal did GW create for the “common soldier?”

CONCLUSION

I cannot conclude this blog without commenting on the “cancel culture” movement, which has, to a large extent, been taking over our lives.  In particular, personally, I find the movement to wipe out the legacies of past presidents, such as GW, AL, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and others to be ill-advised, distasteful, misguided, and just plain wrong.  Those who would do so are demonstrating a severe ignorance of our history and are pursuing a radical political agenda that is not shared by the vast majority of Americans.  We should fight back and not allow it to go on.

These individuals were heroes.  They helped forge this nation.  No one is saying they were perfect.  No one is.  Everyone has flaws.  Yes, many of them owned slaves, fought against indigenous peoples, or did something else objectionable to some present-day persons when viewed in retrospect.  However, it is important to recognize that they were a product of their times.  It is a historical fact, for instance, that before the Civil War it was very common to own slaves, even in the northern states.  Even some Blacks owned slaves.  We cannot and should not apply our present-day standards and mores to people who lived in anther time.

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

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

HILLARY TO THE RESCUE

She’s baaack! Like the proverbial “bad penny,” Hillary has returned.

All the polls are showing that the Dems are in total disarray. The far left wing is battling with the moderates (Yes, there still are some moderate Dems.), and the Party’s agenda is out of touch with the voting public. The Dems are pushing climate change, CRT, racism, and “social justice,” while the public is worried about COVID, crime, security, the economy, and inflation.

They have a president who, quite literally, is an embarrassment, who is comically weak and indecisive, whose cognitive deterioration is becoming more and more evident every day, and whose every decision since taking office has made our enemies stronger and America weaker. Americans have lost whatever confidence they had in him. I have characterized him as, wittingly or unwittingly, a metaphor for the “Manchurian Candidate.”

I believe that many of those who voted for him are suffering from “buyers’ remorse.” They thought they were voting for the moderate Joe of the 1980s and 1990s, but what they have gotten is an empty shell of that Joe who is controlled by a small cadre of far left wing zealots.

Polls put his approval rating at less than 40%. Approximately, 2/3 of the public want him to take a cognitive test and disclose the results. (Don’t hold your breath on that.) Many of his supporters don’t want him to run for re-election in 2024. Personally, I don’t think he was ever planning to do so. He probably won’t even finish his current term.

They have a vice president who has demonstrated time and again that she is cluelessly overmatched. She has failed to “handle” any assignment she has been given, most egregiously, the southern border crisis. Moreover, she has been giving speeches in which she has been denigrating America as “racist,” “homophobic” and “misogynistic.” In my view, those are unacceptable comments for a vp to make, and besides it is grossly inaccurate. The very fact that she is vp is living proof of that. Her comments dishonor all the heroes who have fought and died for this country. It boggles my mind that she could be so ignorant and insensitive. I, for one, don’t know any racists and to my knowledge, have never met one. Have you?

There is a massive split between the far left and moderate wings of the Party. The far left is in the minority, but the leaders in Congress have allowed it to control the political narrative. The mid-term elections are looming. The 2024 presidential election is looming. Disaster is looming. There is seemingly no one in sight who can unite the party, no one who can save the day.

But wait, like Mighty Mouse Hillary is riding to the rescue. H will “save the day.” Yeah, right. Fat chance. As the expression goes, “if you believe that, I have a bridge I can sell you.”

In my opinion, H is a “political vulture.” This characterization may offend some of you who like her, but I believe it is an apt metaphor. Wikipedia defines a “vulture,” in part, as a bird that “gathers …. in anticipation of the death of a sick or injured person.” It gathers and waits to swoop in and prey on the detritus. A second definition, is a “contemptible person who preys on or exploits others.” In my view, that’s H to a “t.”

In my opinion, H is the most corrupt, duplicitous and dishonest politician I have observed in my lifetime. I am old enough to remember Richard Nixon and Joe McCarthy, so that says a lot. In the 30 or so years she has been in the public eye she has been involved in scandal after scandal from Whitewater, to questionable commodities trades, to Bill’s sexual misconduct, to the deaths of four Americans in the Benghazi compound, to her association with and defense of Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein. The list goes on and on. She has always managed to blame others and avoid being held accountable. I could devote the entire blog to her sordid past, but you get the point.

And now comes the topper, the icing on the cake, the cherry on top. The long-awaited John Durham Report has detailed a new level of corruption. You may recall that Durham was appointed by then-Attorney General William Barr to investigate alleged ties between Donald Trump and Russia. Briefly, as reported by multiple news sources, including CNN and Fox News, the Report disclosed that Michael Sussman, a lawyer for H’s 2016 campaign, conspired with cybersecurity researchers and data mining experts to hack into candidate and President Trump’s computer systems and develop a false narrative that Trump was a “puppet” and a “spy” for Russia. When their spying didn’t uncover anything illegal they simply made stuff up and disseminated them as fact. This led to the infamous “Russian Dossier,” a series of illegally-obtained FISA warrants, a three-year campaign of harassment against Trump and various of his supporters and ultimately T’s impeachment. I and many others view it as nothing less than an effort to overturn the results of the 2016 election.

Ironically, although the investigation is still playing out it now seems that Clinton, through Sussman and others, may have been involved in a scandal to subvert the 2016 election through illegal means. They may very well be the ones with illicit ties to Russia. This would be a classic case of someone falsely accusing someone else of doing something that they, in fact, were doing.

Clinton and her cohorts are trying to pass it off as “data mining” whatever that is, which sounds benign, but let’s call it what it is – spying. H and the other members of the power elite simply could not accept the 2016 election results. To this day, H still cannot. She is still claiming that the 2016 election was stolen from her and that T was an “illegitimate” president. In reality, she lost because she ran a poor campaign and underestimated the degree of her unpopularity as a person.

People are innocent until proven guilty, but given her sordid and nefarious history, H’s complicity seems likely. Was she involved in the details or did she simply authorize it? We, the public, deserve to know. How serious are these charges? The overused phrase “worse than Watergate” seems applicable.

Conclusion

Now, against this backdrop H wants to run for president again. She sees a weak Dem field and is determined to win what she views as rightfully hers. I don’t think she realizes how divisive and disliked she is. Unfortunately for her this current scandal will not go away so soon. The term “crooked Hillary” is actually a mild description of her, and much of the public believes that “lock her up” is what she deserves but probably won’t get. As an illustration, just yesterday when she arrived in NYC, a Dem stronghold, she was greeted derisively with jeers of “lock her up.”

Can the Dems be desperate enough to nominate her again in 2024 despite all this baggage? Perhaps. Stay tuned.

VALENTINE’S DAY

Today, February 14, many of us will celebrate Valentine’s Day aka “The Feast of Saint Valentine” (the “Day”).  The Day is named after St. Valentine.  We will present our loved ones with flowers, candy, jewelry and/or a romantic card.  The Day is celebrated in some form by people all over the world, but why, and who was St. Valentine?  What did he do to merit this recognition?  Read on and be edified.

My research disclosed that the origins of the Day are shrouded in mystery.   It is not clear what is fact and what is legend.  Apparently, it originated as a religion-oriented Christian feast day to celebrate an early saint, or saints, named “Valentine.”  Over time, it has evolved into a Day more associated with romance than religion.

There is historical evidence that there may have been more than one martyred saint named “Valentine.”  For example, Valentine of Rome was martyred in 269 by Roman Emperor Claudius II for the crime of performing marriage ceremonies for persons who were forbidden to marry (presumably for religious reasons), for example, Christian soldiers.  Supposedly, in 496 Pope Gelasius established February 14, the date of his death, as the “Feast of Saint Valentine” in his honor.

In addition, the same Claudius martyred Valentine of Terni in 273 evidently, for similar offenses, hence, the religious origin of the Day.  Due to the factual similarities and chronological and geographic proximity of these two events, some historians believe that the two were actually one and the same. There is another legend that Saint Valentine, while in prison, restored the sight of his jailer’s blind daughter. Moreover, to top it off, prior to his execution he wrote the daughter a romantic farewell note, which he signed “Your Valentine.” Perhaps, this was the first Valentine’s Day card.

St. Valentine has been called the patron saint of beekeepers, epilepsy, the plague, fainting, and travel as well as lovers, engaged persons and marriage.  Busy guy.

Most historians credit the romantic aspect of the Day to Geoffrey Chaucer, a 14th century English author and poet.  Chaucer is best known for The Canterbury Tales, a collection of 24 stories written over a 13-year period between 1387 and 1400.   According to author, Jack Oruch, Chaucer was the first person to associate the Day with romance and love.  In a poem entitled Parlement of Foules in 1382 in honor of King Richard II’s engagement to Anne of Bohemia, he wrote (in Middle English):

“For this was on seynt Volantynys day; Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”

For those of you who are not scholars of Middle English it translates to

“For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”

By the end of the 18th century publishers were providing suggested romantic verses to persons who were unable or unwilling to compose their own (sort of a forerunner of the greeting cards with which we are all familiar).  During the 19th century the popularity of these cards increased to the point that they became mass produced.  Their popularity was aided by the invention and wide usage of the postage stamp in the 1840s, which enabled one to mail cards to distant locales.  In time, valentine cards became more elaborate.  Esther Howland, a bookstore proprietor in Worcester, MA, is credited with being the first person to mass-produce Valentine’s Day cards of embossed paper lace in 1847.  Soon, these mass-produced cards replaced handwritten notes.

In 1868 Cadbury, the British-based chocolatier, hopped on the bandwagon.  It began marketing decorated boxes of chocolates, called “Fancy Boxes” for the Day.   As we know, other candy makers soon followed suit as well as purveyors of other products, such as flowers and jewelry.  Now, with the advent of the internet, many people send their holiday greetings electronically, more efficient, but less personal. Over the years Valentine’s Day symbols of love and affection have developed, such as doves, heart shapes and the winged Cupid.

According to the US Greeting Card Association, Americans send nearly 200 million greeting cards on the Day, and that excludes those cards exchanged personally by school children.  Many of us remember, probably with more embarrassment than fondness, exchanging valentines with elementary school classmates. (I had one such experience that I will keep to myself.)  The GCA estimates that when those cards are included the figure swells to over 1 billion.  In fact, collectively, teachers are the largest recipients of Valentine’s Day cards.

CONCLUSION

Alas, like all other holidays, the Day has become commercialized to the extent that its original meaning and purpose has become obscured in the mists of time.  As mentioned above, it is now celebrated all over the world, by people of all religions, not just Catholics.  After all, there are lovers everywhere.

For example,

  1.  In Latin American countries such as Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Mexico, it is known as the “day of lovers.”  Typically, people perform “acts of appreciation for their friends, romantic or not.  Brazil celebrates the day on June 12 in connection with St. Anthony’s Day (the marriage saint).  In addition to the usual exchange of gifts, single women traditionally perform rituals known as simpatias with the intention of attracting a good husband.
  2. In China the Day is called “lovers’ festival.”
  3. In India the Day did not catch on until circa 1992, when the idea was spread by American tv programs.
  4. In Israel the Day is celebrated in late August in connection with the traditional holiday, Tu B’Av.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  As we know, love is universal.  So, enjoy the day.  Don’t forget your loved ones.

SUPER BOWL LVI

Super Bowl LVI, (56 for those of you who don’t read Roman numerals), will take place tomorrow, Sunday, February 13, 2022 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA.  The SB is an annual extravaganza.  Many non-football fans watch the game, often at special SB parties.  Some of them have such a good time partying that they skip work the next day.

This year, the contestants will be the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals.  Some fans have labelled the Bengals as the “Cindarella” team, but, in reality, both teams were only seeded fourth in their respective conferences. This will be the first time that two number four seeds have met in the SB.

At this time, I think it would be appropriate to test your SB knowledge with a little quiz.

By now, you know the drill.  No peeking at the internet, and no asking “Alexa” or “Siri.”  Good luck.

  1. Which team won the first Super Bowl? (a) Packers, (b) Steelers (c) 49ers, (d) Vikings.
  2. Which team did they defeat? (a) Raiders, (b) Jets, (c) Chiefs, (d) Bills.
  3. This year the scheduled halftime show headline entertainers will include each of the following, EXCEPT: (a)  Eminem, (b) Dr. Dre, (c) Snoop Dog, (d) Adele.
  4. Who is scheduled to sing the National Anthem? (a) Lady Gaga, (b) Mickey Guyton, (c) Jennifer Hudson, (d) Ariana Grande
  5. What is the cost of a 30-second tv commercial? (a) 1 million, (b) $4 million, (c) $7 million, (d) 10 million.
  6.  Which is the only current NFL team that has neither hosted nor appeared in a SB? (a) Browns, (b) Jags, (c) Panthers, (d) Lions
  7.  Which team lost Super Bowls in four consecutive years? (a) Bills), (b) Vikings, (c) Rams, (d) Broncos.
  8.  Who was the only player from the losing team to win a SB MVP? (a) Tom Brady, (b) Roger Staubach, (c) Len Dawson, (d) Chuck Howley.
  9.  Each of the following teams is undefeated in Super Bowls EXCEPT: (a) Jets, (b) Saints, (c) Bucs, (d) Packers
  10.  How many SBs has the team that scores first won? (a) 30, (b) 36, (c) 38, (d) 46.
  11. How many SBs has the team that led at halftime won? (a) 30, (b) 35, (c) 40, (d) 45
  12.  Who scored the first SB touchdown? (a) Boyd Dowler, (b) Paul Hornung, (c) Otis Taylor, (d) Max McGee.
  13.  What player has won the most SB MVPs (a) Eli Manning, (b) Joe Montana, (c) Tom Brady, (d) Terry Bradshaw
  14.  Who made the famous “helmet catch?” (a) Mario Manningham, (b) Randy Moss, (c) David Tyree, (d) Plaxico Burress
  15.  The name “Super Bowl” was derived from (a) a child’s toy, (b) a book, (c) a comic strip, (d) a vote by the fans.
  16.  Which of these teams has appeared in the most SBs without suffering a loss? (a) Jets, (b) Ravens, (c) Chiefs, (d) Dolphins.
  17.  Each of the following teams has not appeared in a SB, EXCEPT (a) Panthers, (b) Lions, (c) Texans, (d) Jags.
  18.  Who was the first QB to win a SB with two different teams? (a) Tom Brady; (b) Terry Bradshaw; (c) Peyton Manning; (d) Bart Starr.
  19.  Who won the only SB decided by one point? (a) Cowboys, (b) Giants, (c) Patriots, (d) Rams.
  20. Which team has played in four SBs and never held a lead? (a) Eagles, (b) Broncos, (c) Vikings, (d) Bengals.

ANSWERS

  1. (a); 2. (c) 3.(d) 4. (b); 5. (c); 6. a; 7. (a); 8. (d); 9. (d); 10. (b) 11. (c). 12. (d) (He had not expected to play, had partied extensively the night before, and was hungover during the game.); 13. (c); 14. (c); 15. (a); 16. a; 17.  (a); 18. (c) (Colts and Broncos); 19. (b) (20-19 over the Bills.); 20. (c).

Well, there you have it.  How did you do?

Enjoy the game.

My prediction –  Rams 31 – 27.

IS JOE BIDEN THE “MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE?”

First, a disclaimer. Please don’t interpret the title literally. I’m not suggesting that Joe Biden is a spy for the Chinese or that he has been brainwashed in some sinister plot like in the above-referenced movie. What I am suggesting, however, is that, as a result of his dubious business dealings with those countries, past and present, wittingly or unwittingly, he is now under the influence of China and Russia, and many of his policies and decisions have benefited those counties rather than the US.

Over the past few years Fox News and other news outlets have disclosed a series of sketchy business relationships between Joe and his son, Hunter, and the Chinese and the Russians that I believe are obvious cases of the Bidens using Joe’s influence, first as vice president and later as president, for their own financial benefit. These have been downplayed or even ignored by much of the media, so many of you may not be cognizant of them, but I believe the issue is serious and pervasive. It sounds incomprehensible, but how else could one explain many of Joe’s self-destructive policies or illogically conciliatory attitude toward China and Russia? I cannot think of any other explanation.

Last week, I distributed a blog that provided my one-year assessment of the Biden presidency. I don’t feel the need to rehash the details of that assessment at this time, but suffice to say it was very negative. In point of fact, I expressed the opinion that there was not one positive accomplishment. Zip, zilch, nada.

On the other hand, one can easily conclude that everything Biden has touched has had a negative impact on America. For example, consider his handling of COVID (in particular his failure to ascertain the extent of China’s culpability), the southern border (not only permitting but encouraging the massive influx and dissemination of illegal aliens and drugs), canceling the Keystone Pipeline (and then turning around and standing by while Russia builds its own pipeline in Europe), inflation, food shortages, gas prices and his soft, conciliatory attitude towards China, Russia and Iran. Taken as a whole his actions have had an adverse effect on our health, quality of life and safety. I believe that at this time we are closer to nuclear war than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

CONCUSION

Biden campaigned as a moderate Democrat, but he has governed as a radical “leftie.” The voters have been deceived. They have not gotten what they voted for. His policies have not been consistent with what most Americans want. His health is questionable, to say the least. He has been unduly influenced by his inner circle, which is comprised of persons from the far left wing of the party. His weak foreign policies have led us to the brink of war. Russia may invade Ukraine at any time. China is poised to take over Taiwan, which I predict will occur soon after the Olympics. Iran is close to becoming a nuclear power. Everything Biden has done or not done has resulted in a negative outcome for the US. One can only conclude that these persons are either incredibly stupid or they are doing this intentionally to change America radically and irreversibly and not for the better. I do not think they are stupid, so draw your own conclusions.