WHAT HAPPENED TO MODERATE JOE?

In the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election many of my Democrat friends told me they were voting for Biden because he was a “moderate.” Of course, I disagreed. In my opinion, the moderate Biden of the 1980’s and 1990’s was long gone. He had been replaced by “malleable Joe.” Based on what he and his supporters were saying it was obvious to me and to anyone else who had been paying attention that Joe was under the control of the far left wing of the Dem Party. Moreover, it was equally obvious that, as president, he would agree to enact their policies and programs.

Well, as we all know, Biden won the election, and now we are seeing the results. He has pledged to be the president of “all the people.” He has claimed he wants to unify the country, but so far his actions have belied his words. I suspect that some of the moderate Dems, having seen what he has done and is likely to do prospectively, are now having “buyer’s remorse.” If they aren’t, they should be.

Biden has moved fast, faster than one could have imagined. In just one week he has signed dozens of Executive Orders with many more to come. Some of them appear to be benign, although their true impact may be felt later. Others, in my view, appear to be vague, perplexing, distressing and not in the best interest of the country. It appears that they have been rushed through, and their ramifications have not been fully analyzed.

For example:

  1. He is supporting the ill-conceived and unconstitutional impeachment of Donald Trump. In the opinion of most constitutional lawyers the Constitution does not permit Congress to impeach a president who has left the office and is now a private citizen. Moreover, this impeachment makes no sense. The purpose of impeachment is to remove the person from office. News flash to the Dems. Trump is already gone. This has no chance of success. It is a fool’s errand, a distraction, and a big waste of time and money. The country has many other more pressing matters to address, such as COVID, which is actually killing thousands of people, and the economy, which for many middle class people has been disastrous.
  2. He cancelled funding for the Keystone XL Pipeline. Thus, with the stroke of a pen he eliminated over 11,000 jobs. These were good-paying middle class jobs, which cannot be easily replaced. About 8,000 of them were union jobs. I thought Biden was a strong supporter of unions. Furthermore, the effect of this ill-conceived action will certainly ripple through the economy and ultimately cost many more jobs. This EO also terminated the country’s energy independence, which had taken us some 70 years to achieve. Once again, we will be dependent on the whims of OPEC and Russia for our energy. All this for a dubious benefit to the climate.
  3. He rejoined the Paris climate change accord. As I have discussed in previous blogs on this last year, this is an ill-conceived, one-sided deal not in our favor. The main beneficiary will likely be China, the Biden family’s benefactor.
  4. He terminated the funding for and construction of the southern border wall. I know immigration is a complicated and emotional issue. But, now, in the midst of a pandemic and with thousands of Americans out of work is the worst time to open our borders to persons who have not been tested for COVID and will flood the job market.
  5. He guaranteed unemployment insurance for those who refuse to work due to concerns over COVID-19. This is nonsensical to me. There is great potential for fraud and dishonesty. It will be easy for one who just doesn’t want to work to claim he or she is concerned about catching COVID and be paid indefinitely not to work.
  6. He committed to promoting “racial equity,” not “equality, equity.” This strikes me as a typical liberal policy. It sounds good, but no one knows what it means, how it will work, or how much it will cost.

CONCLUSION

Will someone please explain to me why there are thousands of National Guard troops still in DC. The number of troops exceeds that which we have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. The inauguration is over. There have not been any demonstrations, much less any violence, since January 6. There is no justifiable reason for the troops to remain, particularly given their third-world-style accommodations. They are being forced to sleep in a parking garage on the cold floor with inadequate toilet facilities packed in like sardines. So much for social distancing in the midst of a pandemic. How come Biden and his alllies have not complained about that?

Furthermore, who authorized their deployment, and who has decreed that they remain? No one seems to know, or rather, admit they know. These are the same people who last summer strenuously objected to deploying the NG to cities that were being destroyed by far left, lawless radicals.

Some rational governors have recalled their state’s troops, but many have not. It seems to me that the objective is to display power and to intimidate, which is not appropriate in a democratic society. We are still living in a democratic society, aren’t we? I wonder.

LARRY KING

To most of us he was known primarily as a celebrity interviewer on his Larry King Live show, which aired on CNN for 25 years from 1985 – 2010. In a career that spanned some 60 years it has been estimated that he conducted as many as 60,000 interviews, but, as you will see, he was involved in many other pursuits as well.

Lawrence Harvey Ziegler was born on November 19, 1933 in Brooklyn, NY. His parents were Orthodox Jews who had immigrated to the US in the 1930s. His father, who worked in a defense plant and owned a restaurant was a first-generation immigrant from Austria-Hungary; his mother was a garment worker who had been born in Russia.

His father died from a coronary when Larry was only nine years old. This had a profound impact on Larry. The family went on welfare, and Larry lost interest in school, although he did manage to complete high school. Upon graduation rather than attending college Larry began to work to support his family.

Larry had always had a desire to work in the broadcasting business. At the suggestion of a friend he decided to try his luck in Florida, which, at the time, was reputed to be a growing market with a plethora of opportunities. His first job was at WAHR, a small station in Miami Beach. He started at the very bottom as a janitor and errand boy.. When one of the announcers abruptly quit he was pressed into service as a disc jockey, newscaster and sportscaster. He was paid the princely sum of $50 per week.

The station manager told Larry he had to change his name because “Ziegler” was “too ethnic.” Nowadays that would have been viewed as racist, but in the 1950s changing names was not uncommon in the entertainment field. Supposedly, Larry chose the surname “King” from an advertisement he had seen for “King’s Wholesale Liquor.” Eventually, he changed his name legally.

Even back then, Larry would interview anyone at anytime. For example, he hosted a show at a local restaurant in which he would interview anyone who happened by. His first interview was of a waiter at the restaurant. His first celebrity interviewee was singer, Bobby Darin, who while in town for an engagement, just happened to enter the restaurant for a meal.

King first big break came when he met Jackie Gleason (aka the Great One”) in the mid 1960s. As some of you may remember Gleason’s weekly variety show was broadcast from Miami. Gleason took a liking to King and became very supportive. In King’s words, Gleason “became a mentor of mine.”

In 1970-71 King worked as a color commentator for the Miami Dolphins. Sports fans will recall that during that period the Dolphins had an excellent team and even went to the Super Bowl in January 1972. Unfortunately for King he missed the game. He was fired when he was arrested when a former business partner accused him of grand larceny. Ultimately, the charges were dropped.

During the 1970s King hosted a sports show with the moniker “Sports-a-la-King,” which featured the soon-to-be-familiar format of guests and callers-in. In 1978 King landed a gig with the Mutual Broadcasting System in which he broadcasted a nightly talk show coast to coast. The show continued in different formats until December 31, 2009.

King’s signature show, Larry King Live, commenced on CNN in June 1985. In his distinctive, gravelly voice he would interview anyone from politicians and celebrities to authors and sports figures to psychics and conspiracy theorists. Then, he would take call-ins identifying them by their hometown (“Hello Minneapolis!”). He was an excellent interviewer. His style, honed by decades of experience, was easy and non-confrontational. Frequently, he would ask open-ended questions that allowed his subjects to express their views freely. Concurrently, he wrote a newspaper column for USA Today from 1982 – 2001.

Curiously, King always said that he never liked to read an author’s book in advance, because he “didn’t want to know more [about the book] than his audience.” Perhaps, his best-known interviewee was Ross Perot. In 1992 Perot, an extremely successful businessman and a colorful character with what some would characterize as far “right” political views, announced his candidacy for the presidency as a third-party candidate on King’s show. Later King hosted a debate between Perot and Democrat nominee Al Gore.

Larry King Live was so successful that the Guinness Book of World Records recognized it as the “longest running television show hosted by the same person on the same network and in the same time slot.” By the time he retired from the show in 2010 he had taped some 6,000 episodes. King’s final show aired on December 16, 2010. At the end he thanked the audience for watching all those years. His final words : “instead of goodbye, how about so long.” King retired from the show but not from life. He continued to host specials on CNN.

As I said above, King was more than just a talk show host and interviewer. In addition to his sports commentary he appeared in various movies, such as Arthur, Ghostbusters and Shrek 2, and television shows such as Law and Order and In View with Larry King. Most of the time, he played himself. He also made tv infomercials, such as when he discussed products such as Omega-3, a fatty acid dietary supplement.

CONCLUSION

King led a very colorful personal life. He was married eight times to seven different women. His first marriage was to his high school sweet-heart at the age of 19. That one was later annulled by the couple’s parents. He had five children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was an avid Dodgers fan (Brooklyn and LA) (yes!!!), and often could be seen sitting behind home plate at the games.

King was the recipient of numerous awards, too many to enumerate them all here. Among them were ten Cable ACE Awards, two Peabodys, an Emmy, and the Scopus Award. In addition he was inducted into the National Radio and the Broadcasters’ Halls of Fame.

In a 2005 interview King described himself as a “Jewish agnostic,” (not sure what that means). However, in 2017 he told a reporter “I love being Jewish. I am proud of my Jewishness, and I love Israel.”

King was not in the best of health. In 1987 he suffered a major coronary, which necessitated a quintuple bypass. In 2009 he underwent an angioplasty operation and had various stents inserted. In 2017 he had a cancerous tumor removed from his lung. This past year he had a stroke. Finally on January 2, 2021 he was hospitalized after having tested positive for the coronavirus. He passed away on January 23.

As an aside, I met Larry King once, in Las Vegas at the pool of the hotel in which my wife and I were staying. What was odd was that I didn’t recognize him. I walked right by him. But, then I heard him speak. There was no mistaking that distinctive, gravelly voice.

Rest in peace, Larry. You entertained us for 60 plus years, and you will be sorely missed.

HENRY AARON

In my view, Henry Aaron was, quite simply, one of the best baseball players ever to play the game. He was what is known as a “five tool player.” That is, he could hit, hit for power, run, field and throw. He was aptly known as “Hammerin Hank” or simply the “Hammer.”

In my 65 years of following the sport he was one of the best ballplayers I ever saw (slightly behind only Willie Mays). I am not the only one who holds such an exalted opinion. In 1999 The Sporting News , the unofficial “bible” of the sport, ranked him fifth on its list of the “100 Greatest Baseball Players.” Can you guess the names of the top four? See the answer below. That same year Hank was named to the “All Century” team by a panel of baseball experts.

More than any other sport baseball is measured by statistics. If you are not familiar with Hank’s accomplishments or you question his exalted ranking, just take a look at the following. 755 homeruns (2nd all-time), 2,297 RBIs (1st), 3,771 hits (3rd), 2,174 runs 4th), 6,856 total bases (1st) and 25 all-star games (1st). And, to top it off he was a superb fielder. Like I said above, truly a five-tool player. Remarkable. Truly remarkable. Moreover, throughout his long career not a hint of bad behavior or scandal as we see with so many other professional athletes.

Hank exhibited a quiet, laid back personality and playing style. He was not a flamboyant or controversial ballplayer as were so many other of the superstars of the sport. He wasn’t larger than life like Babe Ruth; he wasn’t mean and aggressive like Ty Cobb, who was known to spike opposing players and fight with anyone, even his own teammates; his baseball cap didn’t fly off his head whenever he pursued a fly ball nor did he employ a unique “basket” catch like Willie Mays; and he didn’t feud incessantly with sportswriters like Ted Williams. He just went about his business quietly and consistently, day after day, year after year. In fact, despite his exceptional talent and achievements one could make a case that throughout much of his career he was actually underrated and underappreciated by the casual fan.

The main focus of this piece, however, will not be on Hank’s baseball achievements. His record speaks for itself. The primary focus will be on the prejudices he had to endure, particularly as he pursued what was probably the most hallowed record in the sport at the time.

Henry Louis Aaron was born on February 5, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama. This was the Deep South in the midst of the “Jim Crow” era. He had seven siblings, one of whom, Tommie, also made it to the major leagues. The family was very poor. Money was scarce. Henry’s father worked as a boilermaker’s assistant and ran a tavern.

Racial slurs were commonplace, virtually a way of life. At times, they manifested themselves subtly, such as the times that Hank observed his father having to yield his place in line in stores in favor of a white person. Other times it would be a matter of life and death as exhibited by the times the family had to hide under their beds in fear whenever the KKK was marching in their neighborhood.

Henry always related how, as a youngster, he would make his baseball equipment out of materials he would find lying around on the street. For instance, he would practice batting by hitting bottle caps with sticks. For some reason, he began hitting cross-handed. Like most Black youths he idolized Jackie Robinson and no doubt fantasized about following in his footsteps. His high school did not have a baseball team, so he began playing on semipro teams, such as the Mobile Black Barons, as a teenager. He excelled to such an extent that at the tender age of 15 he had a tryout with the Brooklyn Dodgers. They didn’t sign him, so he returned to high school.

In 1951 at the age of 17 he signed with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League as a shortstop for the princely sum of $200/month. Henry’s experiences with racism continued when he began to play professionally. In addition to the many indignities suffered while seeking lodging, restaurants and bathrooms throughout the South, Henry recalled one particular incident when the Clowns were in Washington, DC. The team had eaten in a restaurant, and when they had finished the meal they could hear the kitchen help smashing all of their dishes so no one else would have to eat from them. What made that worse, Henry thought, was that if a dog had eaten off those plates they would merely have washed them and reused them.

When he played in Jacksonville Hank and his teammates of color were frequently subjected to taunts, rock and bottle throwing, and racial slurs. Then, there was the time when his first big league manager, Charlie Grimm, nicknamed him “Stepin Fetchit.” Grim, a baseball lifer from St. Louis was nicknamed “Jolly Cholly,” but he wasn’t being so jolly in that case. At the time, Aaron was a shy rookie, so he just “took” the slur.

Henry came very close to being in the same outfield with Willie Mays on the NY Giants. After a standout season with the Clowns he received offers from both the Braves and the Giants. Ultimately, he signed with the Braves because they offered $50 more. Fifty dollars! Just think of how baseball history changed because of a measly $50.

Henry got his big break due to one of those twists of fate that seem to occur from time to time not only in sports but in life as well. In 1954 despite a standout minor league season the previous year Henry seemed destined to spend another year in the minors as the Braves had an established outfield and no room for him. Then, fate intervened. Leftfielder Bobby Thomson broke his ankle during a spring training game. Henry took his place, and the rest is history. So began one of the most outstanding careers in baseball history.

Things were not too bad in Milwaukee. But, as soon as the team relocated to Atlanta, it was a different story. Even in the 1960’s Atlanta was very much a southern town with southern attitudes towards race. The racial taunts and slurs began right away. His wife would hear them in the stands. Hank always said he actually preferred to play on the road.

However, the foregoing was merely a prelude, an appetizer for what was to come later when Henry approached Ruth’s homerun record. Henry had his usual stellar season in 1973, and he ended the year one homer shy of Ruth’s record. It was obvious that he would break the record in 1974. It was just a matter of when. During the off-season the hate mail, which had been brutal, accelerated. For example, one “fan” sent the following letter: “You are not going to break his [Ruth’s] record if I can help it. Whites are far more superior than N…..s. My gun is watching your every black move.” There were boxes and boxes of letters similar to that one. Hank always said the path to breaking the homerun record, which should have been joyful, was “filled with anguish.” Hank kept many of the letters and stored them in his attic. Jim Auchmutey, former reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, recalled for years Hank would occasionally read some of them as if to remind himself of the torment he suffered. There was concern in some quarters that Hank would not live to see the 1974 season. I can only imagine the stress, tension and pressure Hank and his family endured as they waited for the 1974 season.

The fear was real, very real. The FBI was investigating. Hank had bodyguards, as did his family members. Law enforcement officers characterized the letters as “cranks.” Perhaps, most of them were, but who really knew. It only takes one. Hank’s family was also affected. He had to send his children to private schools. His college-age daughter was afraid to leave her dorm. Often, Hank had to stay in a separate hotel from the rest of the team. Sometimes, he slept at the ballpark. All in all, it was an extremely stressful time, which makes the fact that he was able to concentrate on his baseball and break the record even more remarkable.

Many of his former teammates recalled how it was. For example, Davey Johnson was taken aback by all the racial hate. “We [the Braves] didn’t see color. We saw talent. As a ballplayer you never see color. You see talent and teammates.” Frank Tepedino remembered “he never made anything out of it [the pressure]. He kept everything to himself.” Dusty Baker recalled how he would watch Hank open his mail. “I could see when he got a bad letter. He would drop it and go into the trainer’s [room].” He coped by being a “strong man.” The situation made him even “stronger and more determined, and he concentrated harder.” Another supporter was Claire Hodgson, Ruth’s widow. She denounced the racism and made a point to say that Babe would have “enthusiastically cheered” Hank’s pursuit of the record.

Finally the 1974 season began, and another issue arose. The Braves were to open the season with three games in Cincinnati. The organization wanted Hank to sit out those games so he could break the record at home. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn intervened and ruled he had to play in at least two of the three games. As most fans know, he did play and fortuitously hit only one homer to tie the record giving him the chance to break it at home, which he did.

CONCLUSION

Hank broke the record on a Monday night, April 8, 1974, at Fulton County Stadium before the hometown fans in a game that was televised nationally. He hit it in his second at-bat. The bullpens were located just over the leftfield and rightfield walls. I remember that all the players in those bullpens were lined up with their gloves on in anticipation of catching the milestone homer. Do you remember the name of the pitcher? Do you remember who caught it? See below.

I also remember that young two fans jumped out of the stands to join Hank in his homerun trot. Their intentions were not clear. Were they planning to congratulate him or attack him? No one knew for sure. Supposedly, Hank’s bodyguards, sitting in the stands next to his family, were ready to draw their guns and shoot, but they merely wanted to celebrate with Hank. The great Vin Scully “called” the shot on tv. His post-homer description of the moment was priceless. He said, “What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking the record of an all-time baseball idol.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Hank was the recipient of numerous awards, among them the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. Additionally, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982, his first year of eligibility, with 97.8% of the votes. Upon his retirement he worked as an executive in the Braves’ front office for many years.

Sadly, due to the foregoing Hank always said he got “no enjoyment at all” out of pursuing and breaking the record. That, I think, was a shame. On the positive side, as time has gone on the country’s attitude toward minorities in general and Hank, in particular, have changed for the better. Even Hank acknowledged that “people respect me more now than they did even 20 years ago.” Even though his record has since been broken many people, including former commissioner Bud Selig, still consider him the “rightful recordholder.”

In his later years Hank suffered from arthritis, and in 2014 he underwent a hip replacement. Hank died in his sleep on January 22, 2021.

Rest in peace, Hammer . You carried yourself with dignity and class, and you will be sorely missed.

Quiz answers: #1. Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, and Walter Johnson. Hard to quibble with those choices.

2. Al Downing

3. Tom House

BIDEN INAUGURATION

At last the big day, the day the Trump-haters have longed for since the 2016 election, has arrived. Trump is out, and Biden is in. The anti-Trump coalition – the Dems (and a few GOPers), the “elites,” the media, the tech moguls, Big Pharma, the DC establishment, the Hollywood liberals, the swamp dwellers, et al – can all exhale. Things are back to normal. The world has returned to spinning on its axis. All is well once again. Order has been restored. Right? Uh, not so fast as I will explain below.

First, a brief commentary on the inauguration, itself. Once again, America has demonstrated that despite our differences we have effected a peaceful, orderly transfer of power. I agree with those who say that Trump should have attended. Even though Biden said he didn’t want him there, and his presence would likely have overshadowed the proceedings, it is customary for a former president to attend. Every one has done so since the Civil War. Despite the biased manner in which he has been treated for the past four years and the obvious antipathy between Biden and Trump, it would have been the right thing to do.

That said, I thought Biden’s acceptance speech was okay, not great, not inspiring, but okay. Fox anchor Chris Wallace gushed that it was the best inauguration speech he has ever seen. He is entitled to his opinion, but I don’t agree. I think he was a little carried away by the moment. He and I are about the same age. I’m sure he remembers JFK’s inauguration speech. Now, that was inspiring. Biden’s, by comparison, was desultory, almost boring.

The central theme of Biden’s speech was a desire to unite the country, “bring America together.” Biden vowed to be the president of all the people, not just the ones who voted for him. If only! Biden didn’t explain how he will accomplish it. In summary, he offered platitudes, not policy. Talk is cheap; it’s actions that count. In the interest of fairness, I will reserve judgment until I can assess his actions. However, as I have outlined below, I don’t think he is off to a good start.

The inflammatory rhetoric on the left has been accelerating in the last few weeks. It is clear that the far left wing of the Dem Party has no interest in uniting the country. The “cancel culture” is in full swing. Revenge and vindictiveness are in the air. For example:

  1. The House Dems pushed through a rush impeachment of Trump in one day. One day! The constitution contemplates that impeachment should be a deliberate, carefully thought-out process with witnesses, debate, and counsel for the accused. It should not be done on the spur of the moment. It should not be marred by emotion. This impeachment violated all of the above guidelines. Moreover, President Trump’s term in office was virtually over anyway, and many constitutional legal scholars have opined that Congress does not have the constitutional authority to impeach a private citizen. The House’s action was ludicrous on its face. The purpose of impeachment is to remove someone from office. How can you do that when the person is no longer in office?
  2. Biden has issued a slew of provocative Executive Orders. Of course, it is his right, but some of them, such as inviting migrants to enter the country, halting construction of the southern border wall in the midst of a pandemic, no less, ending the “travel ban,” rejoining the Paris accords and WHO, broadening protections against “discrimination in the workplace,” and closing the Keystone X L Pipeline, will be deleterious to the country and make no sense except to enhance divisions among the populace.
  3. Leftist radicals, such as the “squad” and certain news commentators, have been advocating extreme programs such as banning “unacceptable and “inflammatory” comments (from conservatives) from social media, blacklisting Trump supporters in the job market, banning books with a conservative viewpoint, voiding college degrees of certain senators, and sending Trump voters’ children to “re-education” camps. I kid you not.
  4. Many of them, including Biden, believe and have stated that the country is infested with “white supremacists,” and “domestic terrorists” that must be “rooted out” and “defeated.” That, my friends, is code for Trump supporters, all 75 million of them, indeed, anyone who doesn’t share their political opinions. No dissenting opinions will be allowed. How are comments like that supposed to unite us all? I don’t know any white supremacists nor, to my knowledge have I ever met one. Have you? I doubt it. There are very few in the US.
  5. In previous blogs I have discussed the Dems’ radical programs, such as the Green New Deal, statehood for Puerto Rico and DC, a huge tax increase, ending the filibuster in the Senate, and packing the Supreme Court. These “hot-button issues, which the Dems have vowed to pursue, will be very damaging to the country and certainly will not unify it.

CONCLUSION

If Biden is serious about unifying the country, he will have to start by reining in the radicals in his Party. I fear he doesn’t have the “stomach” to do it, but, I am willing to “wait and see.” As I said, actions speak louder than words.

By the way, it is an “open secret” that Biden is not well, physically and mentally. His supporters know it; the opposition knows it; the media knows it; anyone that has been paying attention the last few years knows it. However, no one has wanted to say it publicly. It is like the children’s story “The Emperor Has No Clothes.” Now that Biden has won, how long will it be until it leaks out? My guess is not long.

I fear the country is in a bad place, very bad. As a student of history, I see some scary parallels with Soviet Russia of the early 20th century and 1930’s Nazi Germany. Then, as now, the signs of autocracy are being advanced by a small, vocal, well-organized group, but they are being ignored. Our Bill of Rights is under attack, and few people seem willing and able to do anything about it. I hope we can survive until 2022.

A TALE OF TWO STATES

As everyone has seen, the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has been fraught with problems. The apt description that comes to mind is “FUBAR.” For those of you who are not familiar with the acronym it stands for “Fouled up beyond all recognition.” (For those of you who favor more colorful language feel free to substitute another word for “fouled.”)

From what I can discern based on various news reports the success or failure of the rollout has varied from state to state depending on the adequacy of that state’s planning, organization and leadership. Every state has had to cope with a shortfall of supply to some extent, but some have dealt with the problem better than others. One common theme is that politicians at all levels – federal, state, county and local – have been doing what they do best: blame someone else. It’s so typical and expected, but no less annoying.

Rather than trying to analyze the experiences of all 50 states, with apologies to Charles Dickens I will compare the experiences of two states – New York and Florida.

NYS’s rollout has been problematic from the start. For instance:

  1. Apparently, Governor Cuomo is unaware of or has forgotten that old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” NY has proven to be as ill prepared for the rollout as it was last summer for the pandemic, itself. As a result, it has been scrambling to catch up. NYS State Senator Phil Boyle opined that the state should have had a distribution plan in place and ready to go prior to the arrival of the vaccines. Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University echoed that sentiment. “We had the the time to engage the [local] communities, engage the leaders, [and] educate them. We lost that opportunity.” I agree. It’s not as if we were taken by surprise. Everyone knew months ago that the vaccines would be ready eventually, and that when they arrived time would be of the essence.
  2. In my view, NY has been one of the many states guilty of “micromanaging.” NY officials from the governor on down have been trying to exert too much control at the state level instead of delegating the rollout to local authorities who, obviously, are more cognizant of the needs of their communities. When asked to comment on this issue Nassau County Chief Executive Laura Curran tried to be diplomatic, but her frustration came through anyway. “We communicated to them [the state]….that we were ready to be helpful. ….”I think the state is now seeing how valuable we can be on the local level.” The cruelest irony of all, as pointed out by Alex Azar, HHS Secretary, is that while many people were unable to arrange appointments thousands of doses were lying in warehouses undistributed. There were reports of some that had to be destroyed.
  3. The vendors have been unable to deliver sufficient supplies of the vaccine. There are various reasons for this. All states have had to figure out how to deal with this issue.
  4. In addition, there have been reports of shortages of necessary supplies such as needles, vials and swabs
  5. Some states have coped better than others. Florida is one of the states that has been able to adapt; NY, not so much.
  6. Cuomo has been complaining that the Feds have “shorted” NY by tens of thousands of doses. Cuomo spokesman, Jack Sterne, tried to deflect responsibility stating that “every state had trouble in the beginning due to a lack of support and planning from an incompetent federal administration.” Yes, but as I said, some states have handled it and adapted to it better than others. Like I said, every state is being forced to deal with the same issue. I say, Andy, put on your “big boy pants” and deal with it. Take responsibility. Show some initiative and some leadership. Instead of griping, find a solution.
  7. NYS failed to delineate clearly the order of priority of different groups of people. For example, the second group to receive the vaccine was “essential” workers and people over 75, but before all of them could be inoculated the next group was authorized to and began to receive the vaccine. Thus, in one fell swoop the state tripled the number of persons eligible to receive the vaccine. Millions of persons were vying for appointments at the same time, which overwhelmed an already taxed system. Also, some people in the third category have been vaccinated ahead of those in groups 1 and 2.
  8. Making appointments has been plagued by computer glitches. Predictably the system has malfunctioned and “crashed” on multiple occasions. It became routine to spend hours on line trying, in vain, to get an appointment. Often, people would continually get error messages. Try to imagine the frustration and stress of an 80 year old person trying to navigate through such a situation. Also, many people don’t have access to a computer, or are homebound. What do they do? How is a nursing home patient, who is likely immobile, supposed to get to an inoculation site? The worst situation occurred with respect to the facility at Stonybrook. Some 20,000 persons had their appointments voided. Melissa DeRosa, a senior aide to Governor Cuomo ascribed that to that old standby excuse, a computer “hack.” But, Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Pubic Health, has ascribed the malfunctioning computer system to a “lack of preparation.” I believe that is the more likely explanation.
  9. Trying to get an appointment by telephone has been no better. If one were lucky enough to get through it was common to wait on hold for long periods and then either get cut off or be told their were no appointments available.
  10. According to Newsday NYS’s rigidity as to who was eligible to be vaccinated has contributed to the problem. Governor Cuomo’s defense was that he was merely following CDC guidelines.
  11. Newsday reported that additional sites have been needed to cope with the demand, and some are scheduled to open up over the next few weeks. Fine, better late than never, but the state will be playing catch-up. It will also have to resolve the other abovementioned issues.
  12. Even these new sites have proven to be inadequate. For example, last week a new site opened at Jones Beach. There were 55,200 slots available. They were filled within two days, and the dates were months away. How many more people will die before they can get their vaccines.
  13. On the other hand, Florida appears to have been better prepared and better organized. It should be noted that FL’s population has a higher risk profile than that of NY in terms of COVID. According to the latest US Census Bureau figures available it is the third largest state in terms of population with 21.9 million and ranks second in percentage of residents in the high risk category of 65 and over (20.5%). Do you know which state is first? See answer below. It will surprise you. By comparison, NY is the fourth largest state with 19.4 million and ranks 26th in percent of elderly (16%).
  14. FL’s Governor Ron DeSantis has affirmed that the elderly and healthcare workers and patients have been and will continue to receive top priority.
  15. FL has been utilizing the local infrastructure of its individual counties. Vaccines have already been shipped to all 67 FL counties for distribution. People I know who live in FL have had a much easier getting vaccinated than New Yorkers. FL appears to be well ahead of NY in distributing the vaccine to those who need it.
  16. According to Florida Health Carlos Montoya, president and CEO of Jackson Health System, praised Governor DeSantis for his “planning ahead” and exhibiting “tremendous leadership in getting the vaccine out into our community quickly.” FH noted that from the very outset DeSantis ensured that those at the greatest risk were given top priority. He “prioritized frontline healthcare workers as well as residents and staff of long-term care facilities.”
  17. According to Business Insider since FL is not requiring proof of residency many “snowbirds” have been flying down there to be vaccinated. Many of them stay for a while and enjoy a mini-vacation while they wait for the booster shot. DeSantis called the practice “vaccine tourism.” According to the Wall Street Journal FL health official explained this policy thusly: “If [people] are spending time in our community….they can be spreaders.” In addition, people have come from as far away as Argentina.

CONCLUSION

NY is continuing to be plagued by a resurgence in COVID cases, hospitalizations and fatalities. According to various news sources total hospitalizations have exceeded 8,800 for several days running, a total not seen since last May. At the same time, as discussed above thousands of elderly and immunocompromised persons have been unable to get vaccinated.

This is a chance for president-elect Biden to show some leadership. He made COVID the central issue of his campaign. He has said he will direct the feds to establish mass inoculation sites and mobile clinics, provide billions of dollars in additional funding, and pressure the manufacturers to step up production not only of the vaccine but also of related supplies such as vials, needles and swabs. Talk is cheap. Let’s see if he can pull it off. I, for one, will remain skeptical until and unless he does so.

Quiz answer: Maine (20.6%).

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS RUN AMOK

We shouldn’t be surprised. It’s not as if the Dems didn’t give advance warning. The signs have been there in plain sight for those of us who were paying attention. They have been planning this for months, if not years. Now that they have gained control of all three branches of government they can act with impunity, and they know it, and they are doing so. The Dems, the social media outlets and the media have formed an unholy alliance to control the country. Anyone who does not toe the far left line, who dares to offer a dissenting opinion, who does not submit will be crushed. If they can do all this to the president think what they can do to you and me. As Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, giddily predicted months ago “everything will be on the table.” Those of you who are silent now think of the song “Bad Boys.” “Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?”

I see parallels between the current situation and Nazi Germany of the 1930s and Soviet Russia. Make no mistake about it. This is a very scary time for us all.

The demonstration at the Capitol last week was just an excuse. Yes, it was wrong; it was dangerous; it was extreme; and people died. Everyone agrees. I have not heard one person defend it. There is no defense. But, is it grounds for impeaching a president who is leaving office in one week? Is it grounds for the runaway PC that has followed and, in all likelihood, will continue to follow? More on that later.

Keep in mind, we are talking about one incident that got out of hand. I submit that it was a far cry from all the rioting, looting and lawlessness that the Dems, BLM, ANTIFA and their sympathizers perpetrated in many cities throughout the summer and fall. As anyone who followed the news knows, people were killed; their businesses were destroyed; churches and government buildings were burned; police were attacked, injured and killed; and alternative “countries” were established in the middle of Portland and Seattle. Harris, Pelosi and other Dems openly supported these riots and even helped provide bail money to put those arrested back on the street. Why weren’t they charged with insurrection and sedition? Biden and the mainstream media stayed silent throughout. I didn’t hear all the widespread outrage we are hearing now.

That said, let’s examine the current extreme, over-the-top reactions by the PC crowd. I will cite just a few examples courtesy of Fox News. You decide if they are appropriate or extreme. You decide if they are examples of suppression of free speech guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Keep an open mind.

  1. Today, the House led by Speaker Pelosi voted to impeach President Trump for a second time. This was truly an ill-advised and time-wasting endeavor. The Constitution views impeachment as a very serious and deliberative process, not a snap judgment to be completed in one day. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, has stated that there is simply not enough time for the Senate to conduct a trial before the President leaves office on January 20. Furthermore, according to renowned attorney, Alan Dershowitz and others the Constitution does not permit the impeachment of a former President, so the Senate cannot act after January 20 either. Therefore, this impeachment, like the one earlier this year, will not result in a conviction. Jesse Watters commenting on Fox News reported a poll by the McLaughlin Group that 77% of voters in the battleground states think it was a protest that got out of control, not an insurrection. They consider impeachment to be divisive and a waste of time and money. They would rather the Congress focus on COVID. In my view, Pelosi is grandstanding for the left wing of her Party. Hello, Nancy, we are in the middle of a pandemic. People are suffering; people are frightened; people are dying. Why not focus on that instead of acting like a modern-day Nero.
  2. A Newsweek reporter named Darragh Roche has advocated putting Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley on the “no fly list.” Keep in mind that this list is reserved for terrorists and other dangerous criminals. Cruz and Hawley are far from that. They elected sitting US Senators. What was their “heinous crime?” Advocating for an an audit of the 2020 election results in a few states. This was not unique. Historically, such audits and investigations have not been uncommon.
  3. Simon and Schuster, who are they publishers of Hawley’s new book, have dropped representation. On what legitimate basis? Who pressured them to do so?
  4. Senator Dick Durbin has introduced a bill to classify Trump rallies as domestic terrorism. What rallies? He will leaving the presidency in one week. To me, this is inane grandstanding. Durbin should know better.
  5. Forbes magazine has proposed blacklisting former White House staffers who might apply for a job prospectively. Why punish staffers just because you hate Trump?
  6. The major social media outlets have conspired to silence and destroy Parler, a new media outlet that had the audacity to publish conservative opinions. Unknown forces went so far as to pressure Parler’s attorneys to resign. I thought in America everyone had the right to legal representation. Even terrorists and the worst criminals do.
  7. The Bar Association is considering taking action against Rudy Giuliani because he was working on behalf of President Trump.
  8. The PGA has announced it will not sponsor any events at a Trump-owned facility.
  9. And my favorite, a PBS attorney has advocated putting children of Trump supporters in “re-education ” camps. I kid you not. (I understand his employment has since been terminated.)

CONCLUSION

Even if you hate President Trump, even if you think he has been the worst president ever, that is still not justification for the above measures. The “left” and its PC have truly run amok. These measures are un-American. They are akin to those imposed by Soviet Russia and other autocracies back in the day. And they’re just getting started. What’s next? Denying Trump supporters a mortgage, a car loan, admission to a college, the right to fly? The possibilities are endless. The country is heading down a slippery slope. It will not stop with President Trump. Who knows where it will end.

President-elect Joe Biden has been proclaiming he wants to unite the country. Sounds good, but actions speak louder than words. Joe, this is your chance to reach out to the other half who did not vote for you. How about showing some leadership by telling the Dems to “stand down.” You won. Rather than being vindictive, how about being gracious in victory. How about thinking of the country for a change.

This is a very dangerous time for America. We are divided as never before, with the possible exception of the 1960’s. Division weakens us. Our enemies are always looking to exploit a weakness. You can be sure they are paying very close attention. Are our leaders?

A TIME FOR HEALING

ENOUGH, ALREADY! Enough with the hateful, vindictive language! Enough with the squabbling! Enough with the violence! Enough, enough, enough!

Now is not the time to exacerbate the divisions among us. Now is the time for healing. Now is the time for our leaders on both sides of the aisle to step up and demonstrate their leadership. Now is the time for our leaders to validate the reasons why we elected them in the first place. We did not elect them to make things worse. We elected them to make things better.

This has been and is a very tough time for America. People have lost their jobs. People have lost their small businesses into which they have poured their life’s blood. And on top of all that we are in the midst of the worse pandemic in over 100 years, if not ever. People are dying. People have stood by helplessly while their parents, friends and neighbors have died at the hands of an arbitrary, capricious and merciless virus, and they have been unable, in many cases, even to say good-by or even to give them a proper, respectful funeral.

People are scared, very scared. They want their elected leaders to make things better, not worse.

Now is not the time for the Dems, who control the entire government, to flex their muscles. Now is not the time for vindictiveness. Now is not the time to pile on. Now is not the time to ban people from social media because they express opinions we don’t like or agree with. Now is not the time to waste our time, energy, and money on trying to impeach a president who will be leaving office in ten days. How ridiculous is that? It would take much more than ten days for the process to play out. As I said above, we have much bigger problems to address.

CONCLUSION

Now is the time to forgive, to forget, and to heal. Many of us will remember that after President Nixon’s resignation in August 1974 his successor, President Ford, granted him a full and complete pardon. Nixon’s many enemies howled. They wanted blood. But, President Ford knew it was more important to heal and move on. He didn’t get a lot right during his presidency, but he was spot on right about that. History shows that we did heal, and we did move on.

I ask Joe Biden and the other Dem leaders to forget about revenge, forget about “getting even,” put aside your personal animosity to President Trump and his supporters, forget about placating your radical friends and supporters. Show some leadership. Do the right thing. The people will be grateful. History will vindicate you.

Be fair. Be kind. Be magnanimous. Put aside petty differences. Focus on what is important.

Now is a time for healing.

TOMMY LASORDA

Tommy Lasorda often said he “bled Dodger Blue,” and few followers of baseball would dispute that. During his 71-year association with the team he came to symbolize the Dodgers more than anyone else with the possible exception of longtime announcer Vin Scully. Moreover, he loved the fans passionately, and they loved him right back.

Thomas Charles Lasorda was born on September 22, 1927 in Norristown, Pa. one of six boys. His scrappy, bombastic, pugnacious personality was an outgrowth of his upbringing. Money was tight, there were many mouths to feed, and it was not easy to hold one’s own among five brothers. Young Tom was a “go-getter.” He was always working to make a few extra bucks. For instance, during summers among the many jobs he had were as a bellhop and laying track for the railroad.

Baseball was his ticket out, so to speak. He was a good enough pitcher to attract the attention of the Philadelphia Phillies who signed him directly out of high school in 1945 as an undrafted free agent. After serving two years in the military he was drafted by the Dodgers in the 1948 minor league draft.

Lasorda, a lefthanded pitcher, possessed limited talent as a player. He languished for 14 years in the minor leagues and often played Winter Ball for teams in the Caribbean. He appeared briefly in the major leagues with the Dodgers and KC Royals, and never won a game, going 0-4. During his only start for the Dodgers in 1954 he tied a dubious major league record by throwing three wild pitches in the first inning after which he was removed. For good measure, he was spiked by one of the players who was scoring after one of those wild pitches. After that debacle he was sent to the minors, never to return as a player. Lasorda always said, with his tongue firmly implanted in his cheek, that the Dodgers had to make a tough choice between keeping him or another young wild lefty by the name of Koufax, and it took one of the best pitchers ever to displace him.

Lasorda spent some 20 years working his way through the Dodgers minor league system. He started at the bottom and eventually worked his way up to AAA. He did everything. He was a scout, coach, manager, sold tickets and even cooked team meals. He accompanied several players as they rose through the Dodgers minor league system all the way to the majors. Among the many players were infielders Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Roy Cey who were to play together for the Dodgers for a record 11 1/2 consecutive years. By the time he got to the Dodgers, he knew the players and their abilities and they knew and respected him and his abilities. Some 75 of the players he managed in the minors made it to the majors (not all with the Dodgers).

Probably, his best achievement as a scout was recommending Mike Piazza, even if it was by accident. In high school Piazza was an infielder of pedestrian ability and achievement. Lasorda was a close friend of the Piazza family which lived in the Norristown area. He convinced the Dodgers to draft him as a special favor to him. They were reluctant. They did not want another infielder, but they needed a catcher. So, Lasorda told them “sure he can catch,” even though he had never played the position. The Dodgers drafted him in a late round. We all know how Piazza turned out.

He made his mark as a manager for the Dodgers from 1976 – 1996. During that span he won 1,599 games against 1,439 losses. He won two World Series (1981 and 1988), four pennants, eight division titles, and his teams were almost always in contention. I will always remember those two WS. The Dodgers were big underdogs in both, yet they prevailed in large part due to Tommy’s leadership. In 1981 they had to come from behind in both the playoffs against Montreal and the WS against the Yankees. They lost the first two WS games, then won four straight. The other noteworthy thing about that Series is that my seven year-old son, Matt, who was a Yankees fan, abruptly switched allegiance to the Dodgers during the Series. I still like to remind him of that.

The 1988 win featured a dramatic victory against the Mets who had a much better record and had dominated the Dodgers during the regular season. Then, the Dodgers upset Oakland in the WS aided by an otherworldly performance by pitcher Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson’s dramatic homerun. Gibson was injured and could barely walk, yet he homered off one of the best relief pitchers at the time. (I will never forget Hall of Fame announcer Jack Buck’s iconic call “I don’t believe what I just saw!).

He was voted Manager of the Year twice. In addition, he led the US Olympic baseball team to a Gold Medal in 2000. From time to time, some critics questioned his strategic moves, but there was no denying his proficiency as a motivator, handler of players, and his popularity with the fans. He was a superb ambassador of the Dodgers and of MLB, in general.

When he was hired, ascending from the job as third base coach for the Dodgers, he was replacing a very successful manager, Walter Alston, who had held that post since 1954 winning four World Series and numerous pennants. A reporter asked him if he felt any pressure replacing such an iconic manager. He said, “no, I’m worried about the pressure on the guy who is going to replace me some day.” Everybody laughed at the obvious joke, but 21 years later it came true.

CONCLUSION

Tributes for Lasorda from contemporaries have been pouring in. For example:

  1. Longtime LA Times columnist, Jim Murray: “Some managers are worth five games a year to their franchise. … Tommy Lasorda is worth …. a few hundred thousand in attendance.”
  2. The LA Times opined that he had “achieved near mythical status among loyal Dodger fans.”
  3. Hall of Fame Dodgers announcer Vin Scully recalled his “boundless enthusiasm, his determination, his self-belief and his competitive spirit.”
  4. Commissioner Rob Manfred called him “one of the finest managers our game has ever known.

I actually met Lasorda a few times at Spring Training. I found him to be gracious and entertaining. Once, he signed a baseball for my grandson, Mason. The fans would always respond to him with love and enthusiasm as he did to them. There really was mutual love and admiration between them.

Lasorda passed away from a heart attack on January 7, 2021 at the age of 93. He was fond of saying that when he died he would be “going to the big Dodger in the sky.” Hopefully, he is there now, watching over his favorite team.

2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION UPDATE

Today, Wednesday, January 6, 2021 has been a day that Americans will not soon forget. Since the founding of the Republic over 240 years ago the primary characteristic that has distinguished us from all other countries has been that we are a nation of laws. We have this remarkable document called the Constitution, which reigns supreme. Whenever there has been disagreement among different factions we generally settle them with debate, not violence. We may disagree, but we generally treat the opposition with respect. If we don’t approve of a government representative or his policies we vote him or her out. We are not a “banana republic.” We are not Soviet Russia. We are better than that.

That is what made today’s events so disturbing. The sight on tv of hundreds of thousands of protestors gathering at the Capitol and some of them even breaching the Capitol, itself, was something I had never seen before and never thought I ever would. The crowd was mostly peaceful, but, some got violent, and tragically, one demonstrator was killed. The threat of additional violence was omnipresent. The situation was beyond embarrassing.

The House and Senate had been in session fulfilling their constitutional duty to certify the electors from the November election as required by Article 2 of the Constitution. They were in the midst of debating the merits of a challenge to the validity of the electors in some of the states. These challenges had been brought by a group of senators and representatives who were alleging election irregularities and fraud. They were forced to recess and shelter in place for their own protection, “subject to the recall of the Chair.” Additionally, Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Grassley, the VP, Speaker and President pro tempore, respectively, were sequestered in an undisclosed location. The Capitol, itself, was put on “lockdown.” As I write this Congress is back in session, and as Mitch McConnell said it will fulfill its duty and certify the chosen electors.

The genesis of the protests was that approximately 40% of voters are convinced that the 2020 presidential election was not free and fair. In their minds there is ample evidence that the election was “stolen” from Mr. Trump. Several examples of “irregularities,” if not outright fraud, have come to light since the election, which I have detailed in previous blogs. Many of these have been supported by affidavits, videotape, and eyewitness accounts. Trump and his supporters have been pursuing these in various venues, but have been thwarted at every turn. The Supreme Court has declined to even hear the case, not on the merits, but on the basis of lack of standing. To most people who are not constitutional lawyers, this distinction without a difference has only served to fuel the anger, frustration and the sense that they are being denied justice and fairness. Remember, our system of government only works if the people believe the elections are free and fair.

These people needed to vent their anger and frustration. In addition, they wanted to show their support for President Trump. I believe that Trump went a little overboard with respect to this protest. He encouraged his supporters to march on DC to demonstrate. Fair enough. That’s what Americans do. But, he went too far. He issued several tweets that served to inflame the situation. Moreover, he attacked several prominent GOP supporters who had always been in his corner, such as Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell. Thus, in a few short weeks he has destroyed much of the legacy he has built up in four years. At the moment, he looks like a spoiled, petulant child who is “acting out” because he did not get his way.

By vowing to “never concede” and continuing to insist that he really won the election he is doing what he criticized Hillary Clinton for doing after the 2016 election. He has taken this as far as he can. At this point, it is apparent he is not going to prevail in the courts or anywhere else. Further action will only lead to false hope. Now, he should concede graciously. He should thank his supporters for their loyalty and advise them to “stand down.”

The “fat lady” has sung. In another context the late Yogi Berra once intoned sagely that “it ain’t over ’till it’s over.” Well, sorry to say, it’s over.

CONCLUSION

All that said, let’s not forget about the 40%. Our government leaders have to deal with their feelings. They cannot just say, “the election’s over; forget it and move on; stop complaining; shut up and go sit in the corner.” People feel they are being victimized by a do-nothing Congress that once elected does not follow through on campaign promises, a corrupt, biased media that does not print the truth, and by autocratic tech oligarchs that censor social media postings arbitrarily. They are frightened by the pandemic and frustrated by their leaders’ response to it. Many of them have lost their jobs and their businesses and are at the end of their rope. Those same feelings of anger and frustration and sense that they are being ignored will not just go away. They will fester, and at some point they may explode again. I am reminded of the scene from the movie, Network, in which the lead character says he is “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” That feeling has to be dealt within some equitable and reasonable way. People need closure for what is bothering them. They need to feel that their leaders care about them and will protect them.

I remember that after the JFK assassination when a goodly portion of the people were convinced of a conspiracy the government sanctioned an independent investigation headed by Earl Warren, a much respected former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Warren Commission’s report helped tamp down the feelings of conspiracy (although not entirely). Something like that might help. Another suggestion would be a sincere attempt at meaningful election reform, so that at least people would have confidence in future elections.

There may be other good ideas out there. I will leave it to people smarter than me to deal with it. The one thing our leaders cannot do, however, is nothing. Unfortunately, though, doing nothing is something at which the government is very good.

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.