THE RISE AND FALL OF KAMALA HARRIS

The rise and fall of Kamala Harris has been dramatic. Her campaign got off to a very good start. Local police estimated that some 20,000 supporters attended her official launch back in January. Over the next 24 hours she followed up by tying the record for the most campaign contributions (set by Bernie Sanders). She seemed like a strong, aggressive candidate, who had a really good chance to win the nomination and who could possibly stand up to Donald Trump in the general. Moreover, in a year in which the Dems were emphasizing diversity she was a black female senator from the most populous state in the Union.

Her candidacy remained strong throughout the summer. During the first debate in June she impressed by directly confronting and out-debating Joe Biden on various issues, such as his role in bussing in the 1970s and shortcomings of Obamacare. To many observers, including this one, she made him look old, weak, tentative, unprepared, and out-of-touch. She appeared to be the big winner of the debate, not only of her one-on-one with Biden, but also, overall. This assessment was confirmed by her 6-9% rise in the polls immediately afterward. She appeared to be in the upper echelon of contenders, along with Biden, Sanders and Warren. It appeared she would remain in serious contention all the way to the end with a decent chance to win the nomination.

Now, just a few months later, her campaign is in serious trouble. Recently, a piece from Reuters described her as a “once rising star” who has become an “afterthought.” According to a recently-released Berkeley IGS poll her support among likely Dem voters has dropped to 8%, compared to 21% as recently as June. By comparison, the Big 3 – Warren, Biden, and Sanders – came in at 29%, 20% and 19%, respectively. Even worse, Harris is polling a distant fourth in her home state of CA, again, behind the Big 3, despite the fact that Warren and Biden have not even opened campaign offices in the state yet.

In Iowa she has slipped to fifth after being a solid second as recently as July. According to a poll by the Des Moines Register her support among likely Dem voters has slipped to a paltry 6%, behind not only the Big 3 but also Pete Buttigieg. Not good, particularly since Harris’ campaign had stated its goal was to finish third in the state.

It should be noted that despite its small size Iowa is a significant state, simply because it is the first to vote. To a large extent, it sets the tone for the rest of the campaign. For example, some of you may recall that Barack Obama’s campaign received a substantial boost after he put on a late surge to finish third there in 2008. In fact, since 1972 no candidate has won his party’s nomination without having finished in the top 3 in the Iowa caucuses.

Harris is cognizant of the significance of the state and her need to step it up. Jeff Link, Democratic strategist and co-founder of the progressive group “Focus on Rural America,” has iterated her need to increase her emphasis on rural voters, not only to win the nomination but the general as well. In response, Harris announced plans to beef up her staff in the state, add ten campaign offices, and commence bus tours to reach rural voters.

Perhaps more significantly, she has also been slipping in the area of fundraising, which, as we know, is the lifeblood of any campaign. For example, her campaign only raised $11.6 million in the third quarter, less than half of Sanders’ total, and even less than Buttigieg’s. These are all ominous signs.

CONCLUSION

So, what happened. Why is Harris’ campaign fizzling. In my view, there are many reasons, such as:

1. Tepid performances in the second and third debates. Of course, the format of the debates and the large number of participants makes it very hard for any one participant to stand out. Harris found a way to do so in the first debate, but she lost a lot of momentum following the next two. In particular, she struggled to defend certain of her actions as CA state prosecutor and “sell” her healthcare policy.

2. She has had a light campaign schedule, preferring to focus on fundraising, which, as I mentioned above, has not been successful anyway. As a result, she has not campaigned sufficiently in Iowa, NH and SC, which with its substantial AA population, is crucial to her candidacy. She is not likely to do well in Iowa and NH, but she must do well in SC to have any chance.

3. Her name recognition is well below the Big 3. They have been in the national limelight for many years. On the other hand, Harris, though known in CA, has only been in the Senate for three years.

4. Perhaps most troubling for her, is that many voters, such as Texas’ Austin Healy, have told pollsters that they are not sure “what she stands for.”

5. I view the last two as very problematic as they are not easily correctible, particularly with the crowded field and the impeachment investigation, which, for better or for worse, will likely suck up much of the media’s and voters’ attention throughout the campaign.

We have all known the current field of 20 or so is way too crowded, and it would eventually be winnowed to a few survivors, perhaps three or four. Although it is still early, no votes have actually been cast yet, and she still has a chance to resurrect her campaign, it appears that Harris will not be one of those survivors.

Impeach Trump!

As former president Ronald Reagan might say, “There they go again!” The Dems and most of the mainstream media just cannot help themselves. They hate Mr. Trump so much and want to get rid of him so badly that they continually “jump the gun” and end up embarrassing themselves when the actual facts are determined. This has been going on since even before Mr. Trump was sworn in as president.

Below please find a list of some of the highlights, or, rather, lowlights:

1. Collusion with Russia to “steal” the 2016 election.
2. Obstruction of the Mueller investigation.
3. The Mueller report was supposed to provide definitive proof of the above.
4. Testimony of James Comey, Corey Lewandowski and others before Congress that were sure to implicate Mr. Trump in various crimes, but did not do so.
5. For good measure we were subjected to the misreporting of the Covington kids affair and the relentless smearing of Justice Kavanaugh during his hearing.
6. Now, Mr. Trump was supposed to have threatened Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

What is the common thread of all of the above? A rush to judgment before the facts are in, and the subsequent embarrassment when it was determined there was “no there there.” Writing in the WSJ Kim Strassel pointed this out opining that the Dems had opened the impeachment investigation “based on a whistleblower complaint they had not seen [and a second-hand one at that] and a transcript they had not read.” It turns out that this whistleblower is a disgruntled CIA employee working in the White House who may, in fact, have his own agenda.

All in all, the Dems (not all of them, but a significant number of them) and their allies in the media have wasted three years during which time they have single-mindedly focused on how to “get” Mr. Trump rather than focusing on the real problems that need fixing, for example, healthcare, income inequality, student debt, and infrastructure, to name a few. They were elected to deal with these and other issues, not to waste their time trying to build a case for impeachment. I cannot recall any significant legislation emanating from the Congress in the last three years. Can you? The current Congress has distinguished itself as the quintessential “do nothing” Congress. Some of you may recall that Harry Truman won election in 1948 largely by using that as an issue. How are the 30 or so moderate Dems who were elected in 2018 from districts that Mr. Trump carried in 2016 supposed to hold their seats in 2020 with this record? They can’t be pleased that Pelosi has abandoned them in favor of the radical impeachment wing.

Once again, in the Ukraine case they have acted prematurely, before all the facts are in, before even seeing the transcript, before even interviewing the whistleblower to assess the veracity of his claim. This time, there may have been actual wrongdoing. As I write this, we simply don’t know enough facts to make a reasonable judgment. And that is my point.

The Trump haters want it so badly that they have lost their judgment. Even Nancy Pelosi, who heretofore had shown great restraint on the impeachment issue, has fallen victim to TDS (“Trump derangement syndrome”). I know she has characterized it as an “investigation” of the feasibility of impeachment, but to me and many others that is a distinction without a difference.

As most of us now know, Mr. Trump has released the transcript of his telephone call with Mr. Zelensky. Without getting lost in the weeds I think it is fair to say that it is not a “smoking gun” as has been claimed (hoped?) by some. At most, it is benign and inconclusive. There is nothing demonstrating that Mr. Trump threatened Zelensky with any quid pro quo nor that he pressured him to reopen an investigation of Hunter Biden. He asked Zelensky to “look into” the case that had been mysteriously dropped after former VP, Joe Biden, had threatened to withhold a loan guarantee if it were not. There is no doubt that Joe did this. He bragged about on tape.

The context of the conversation is significant. It is well known that for years Ukraine has been plagued by corruption. Zelensky has made it a priority to root it out wherever it may be. He has given his newly-appointed prosecutor a mandate and full autonomy do this. Therefore, would it not be normal for Mr. Trump, as part of a broader conversation, to ask him to look into the Biden case?

Nevertheless, some have chosen to interpret the transcript to fit their narrative. For example, Adam Schiff, who has not exactly been a paragon of objectivity or accuracy for the past three years, characterized it as a “shakedown” worthy of a “mafia don.” Others don’t agree. They point out that in a recent press conference Zelensky stated emphatically that no one “pushed” him to do anything. So, if you want to be objective, do you believe a whistle blower that admits he does not have a firsthand account or what you hear on tape from the principal directly involved. This reminds me of that old Groucho Marx joke, and I paraphrase: “do you believe what I tell you or what you see with your own eyes?”

By the way, the aforementioned Hunter Biden case presents a far more compelling instance of corruption and influence-peddling. Briefly, a Ukrainian oligarch hired Hunter to serve on the board of his energy company and paid him some $50,000 a month. For what? Certainly, not for his expertise in the field. Coincidentally, at the time Biden Senior was VP of the US. Wow! My nine year-old granddaughter could connect those dots.

Biden Junior walked away with millions of dollars. Supposedly, he had a similar deal with China. I am not accusing the Bidens of any criminal wrongdoing, but I think an investigation is certainly merited. This has been severely underreported, if not ignored.

I will concede that Mr. Trump is not popular on a personal level. For example, a recent NBC/WSJ poll reported that 69% of voters do not “like [him] personally,” although his approval rating has stood at about 45% consistently. The actual grounds for impeachment as stated in that pesky document we call the Constitution are somewhat vague, but as former President, Gerald Ford, famously intoned: “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” Got it? I doubt that the intent of the framers of the Constitution was to authorize impeaching a duly-elected official simply because we don’t like him, personally. If that were the standard I could think of a dozen or more Dems I would like impeached.

Incidentally, polls often reach contrary conclusions and should be read with a grain of salt. For example, reporter Carrie Dunn disclosed that the same poll found a “the electorate at large expresses doubts” with respect to some of the progressive policies being espoused by many of the Dem candidates, including the three leaders – Warren, Biden and Sanders. One might conclude that, at the moment, the voters are not really endorsing any person or any policies, or maybe the results have been influenced by the manner in which the questions were asked.

While we’re discussing polls I would like to point out that a recent Quinnipiac poll disclosed that 57% do not want to see the president impeached. This was despite his personal unpopularity and the massive negative reporting to date on this issue. Once again, the average American voter has demonstrated he has more sense than the politicians. If the Dems proceed with impeachment I expect this number to increase, perhaps, sharply. Some of you will recall that President Clinton’s popularity soared as he was being impeached.

CONCLUSION

So, let’s review. Do Mr. Trump’s actions rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors?” Do they justify impeachment? Or, do we have another instance of Trump-haters jumping the gun and seeing a crime that isn’t there? I will leave it to you, the reader, to decide. But, at least, decide based on the facts, not your personal dislike of Mr. Trump.

In my opinion, this is just another case of some people trying to negate the results of the 2016 election. I find the timing rather curious, however, since by the time any impeachment proceeding and subsequent trial in the Senate will have runs its course it would almost be Election Day anyway. Could it be that Pelosi realizes the Dems are about to lose big in 2020? Hmm.

My advice to the Trump-haters is give it up, already. You would be advised to look at life through the windshield, not the rear view window. In other words, focus on the 2020 election rather than continually trying to undue the 2016 election. Even if you were to succeed, what would you gain? Hillary would not ascend to the Presidency. Pence would, and he would be eligible to run two more times. Uh oh! The best way to oust Mr. Trump is to WIN THE 2020 ELECTION.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – SEPTEMBER

The following historically-significant events have occurred during the month of September:

9/1/1939 – The Germans invaded Poland marking the beginning of WWII.
9/1/1983 – A Russian fighter jet shot down a Korean civilian airliner that had supposedly strayed off course during a scheduled flight from NY to Seoul.
9/2/1666 – The Great Fire of London began. It destroyed over 13,000 houses, although it is believed that only six lives were lost.
9/2/1789 – Congress established the Department of the Treasury as the third cabinet department.
9/2/1864 – General Sherman captured Atlanta.
9/2/1945 – President Truman declared VJ Day.
9/2/1963 – Alabama Governor George Wallace dispatched state troopers to prevent the integration of Tuskegee High School.
9/3/1783 – Representatives of England and the American colonies signed the Treaty of Paris bringing a formal ending to the Revolutionary War.
9/3/1833 – The “New York Sun” debuted, as the first newspaper to be “hawked” by boys on the sidewalk.
9/4/1609 – Henry Hudson discovered the island of Manhattan. (Do you know the derivation of the name, “Manhattan”)? See below.
9/4/1781 – Felipe de Neve founded El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles (in English, The Town of the Queen of the Angels), or as it is more commonly known, the City of Los Angeles.
9/4/1886 – Geronimo, the last and, perhaps, the most famous, Indian chief, was captured.
9/5/1774 – The First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia.
9/5-6/1972 – Terrorists belonging to the Black September faction of the PLA murdered eleven members of the Israeli Olympic Team in Munich.
9/5/1997 – “Mother Teresa” died at age 87.
9/8/1565 – Spain founded the first settlement in America in St. Augustine, FL.
9/9/1776 – The Continental Congress officially changed the name of the “United Colonies” to the “United States.”
9/9/1976 – Chairman Mao Zedong, Communist China’s longtime leader, died.
9/11/2001 – The worst terrorist attack in US history ushered in the War on Terror, which is ongoing. Terrorists hijacked four jumbo jets. Two were flown into the WTC, causing both towers to collapse; one crashed into the Pentagon; and the 4th missed its target (the White House or the Capitol) due to the heroism of some of the passengers on board. Nearly 2,800, mostly civilians, were killed and thousands of first responders have since died or suffered health problems directly related to the attack.
9/12/1953 – Future US President John F. Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier in Newport, RI.
9/13/1788 – The US Congress chose NY as the capital.
9/13/1814 – Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner while observing the Battle of Fort McHenry from a British prisoner ship in Baltimore harbor.
9/14/1901 – President William McKinley died from gunshot wounds suffered during an assassination attempt eight days previously.
9/15/1935 – The Nazi Germany government enacted the Nuremburg Laws, which deprived German Jews of their citizenship.
9/16/1620 – The “Mayflower,” with only 102 passengers and a few crew members, departed England for its famous voyage to the New World.
9/16/1908 – William Durant founded General Motors in Flint, MI.
9/17/1789 – The Constitutional Convention approved the US constitution.
9/17/1862 – The Union Army defeated the Confederate Army at Antietam in the bloodiest battle in US military history as approximately 26,000 soldiers died on both sides.
9/18/1947 – The air force was established as a separate branch of the military.
9/19/1893 – New Zealand became the first country to approve women’s suffrage.
9/20/1873 – The NYSE closed for the first time due to the Panic of 1873.
9/20/1973 -Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the much-ballyhooed “Battle of the Sexes.”
9/22/1776 – The British executed Nathan Hale as a spy for the colonials who famously intoned “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
9/22/1862 – President Abraham Lincoln issued the famous Emancipation Proclamation.
9/23/1952 – Vice Presidential candidate Richard Nixon delivered the famous “Checkers” Speech before a national tv and radio audience.
9/24/1957 – President Eisenhower deployed the National Guard to enforce racial integration in Little Rock, AK.
9/25/1513 – Spanish explorer Vasco de Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean.
9/25/1789 – Congress proposed 12 amendments to the US constitution of which ten were eventually ratified as the Bill of Rights.
9/26/1960 – Senator Kennedy and Vice President Nixon participated in the first televised presidential election debate.
9/27/1964 – The Warren commission issued its report that concluded a lone gunman had assassinated President Kennedy.
9/28/1542 – Portuguese explorer Juan Cabrillo discovered California.
9/28/1995 – Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chief Yasser Arafat signed an agreement granting Palestinian self-rule of the West Bank.
9/29/1789 – Congress created the US Army, which consisted of 1,000 soldiers.
9/29/1829 – Britain’s Parliament authorized London’s Metropolitan Police Force. They were nicknamed “Bobbies” after Home Secretary Robert Peel, who was the driving force behind the idea.
9/29-30/1941 – Nazi soldiers perpetrated the Babi Yar massacre at which in excess of 33,000 Jews were murdered.
9/30/1938 – British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned to England brandishing an agreement with Nazi Germany that he asserted guaranteed “peace in our time.”
9/30/1949 – The Berlin airlift concluded after it had successfully thwarted Soviet attempts to blockade West Berlin.

BIRTHDAYS – Rocky Marciano, undefeated heavyweight boxing champion, 9/1/1923; Christa McAuliffe (the first “ordinary” citizen in space), 9/2/1948; Jesse James, celebrated outlaw, 9/5/1847; Darryl Zanuck, movie mogul, 9/5/1902; Marquis de Lafayette, Revolutionary War hero, 9/6/1757; Queen Elizabeth I, 9/7/1533; Ferdinand Marcos, 9/11/1917; James Cleveland (“Jesse”) Owens, winner of four gold medals in 1936 Olympics, 9/12/1913; Walter Reed, 9/13/1851; General John J. Pershing, WWI commanding general, 9/13/1860; James Fenimore Cooper, authored “Last of the Mohicans,” 9/15/1789; William Howard Taft (27th US President), 9/15/1857; Agatha Christie, renowned mystery writer, 9/15/1890; John Marshall, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, 9/24/1755; F. Scott Fitzgerald, author, 9/24/1896; George Gershwin, composer, 9/26/1898; Samuel Adams, Revolutionary War leader, 9/27/1722; Enrico Fermi, nuclear physicist, 9/29/1901; Truman Capote, authored “In Cold Blood,” 9/30/1924.

Quiz answer – It is derived from the Indian name, “Mannahatta,” which translates to “the hilly island.”

DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES’ EXTREME POLICIES

Many voters do not like President Trump, personally. For example, they disapprove of several of his personality traits as well as his penchant for tweeting whenever and whatever he feels like. They may approve of most of his policies, such as his handling of the economy, defeat of ISIS, and “America First” philosophy, but those positives are outweighed by their personal animosity towards him. They are primed to vote for an alternative if only there were a reasonable and viable one. The Dems have a rare chance to unseat a sitting president who is presiding over a very favorable economy and who is not burdened by an unpopular war (such as LBJ was with Vietnam). This has hardly ever happened in our modern history, but it could in 2020.

So, what are the Dems doing with this rare opportunity? They are blowing it, that’s what. How? Read on.

As I write this, there are some 20 candidates still in the race for the Dem nomination. All of them, except for maybe a couple of the fringe ones, have been advocating extreme left policies, which polls, such NPR/Marist, show are too extreme even for a majority of Dem voters. More on that below. This has been pretty evident if one watches the debates, their campaign speeches and the recent CNN-sponsored Town Hall. It is almost comical as they persist in playing a game of “can you top this” as they try to “out-progressive” each other.

Some examples of these extreme and unpopular policies, many of which may sound good but would not work and would bankrupt the country, are the following:

1. Healthcare – Free healthcare for illegal immigrants. Don’t they realize how unpopular this is among voters, most of whom are struggling with inadequate, overly expensive or no healthcare, themselves? This is a non-starter with voters, yet they keep advocating it.

2. Open/relaxed borders – This issue has been very over-politicized. Most Americans realize that there is a vast middle ground available, if only the pols on both sides would compromise their hardline positions. This position, combined with free healthcare is simply idiotic. Anyone with a brain and a modicum of common sense (which, as we all know, is NOT common) can see it. Dems want to let anyone enter the US who wants to do so, and then offer them free healthcare? The combination of these two, by themselves, would bankrupt the country.

3. Illegal immigrants – Most voters are keenly cognizant of and don’t appreciate that the Dem candidates seem to favor illegal immigrants over American citizens. For instance, they favor decriminalizing illegal entry, shorter prison sentences, and thwarting ICE from doing its job. And, then there are the sanctuary, cities, counties and states, which they endorse and encourage. Do you think most Americans like that a several-times deported illegal killed Kate Steinle and then got off on a technicality? How about the mayor of Oakland giving advance warning to illegals of an impending ICE raid, or Montgomery County, MD, a sanctuary county, where, just in the last few months, alone, there have been several instances of illegals raping teenage girls.

4. Taxpayer abortion up to and after birth – According to a recent NPR/Marist poll only 18% of Dems supported this. A woman’s right to choose is a reasonable position, but this goes too far. In my opinion once a fetus is viable outside the womb, abortion is murder. There are even reports that Harris has supported Planned Parenthood in CA in selling body parts of aborted fetuses.

5. Racism/Identity politics – They continually promote identity politics and see racism around every corner and under every bed. That same poll disclosed that most Dem voters disagree.

6. Free college tuition/forgiveness of student debt – Not practical for many reasons, which I have discussed in previous blogs.

7. Assault weapons ban/confiscation – I think everyone would be in favor of curbing shootings, especially school shootings, but I don’t think this is the answer. Certainly, it is not the entire answer. How about universal background checks; better reporting, police who are not afraid to do their jobs, addressing mental health issues, etc.? Incidentally, can anybody tell me what the actual definition of an “assault weapon” is. Probably not, but don’t worry, neither can the geniuses in Congress who are attempting to write the law to ban them. Wikipedia acknowledges that the definition “varies among various regulatory jurisdictions, but usually includes semi-automatic rifles with a detachable magazine, a pistol grip and sometimes other features, such as a vertical forward grip, flash suppressor or barrel shroud.” Got it? You can, however, bet on two things: (1) The proposed ban, by itself, will do little to curb the frequency of shootings; and (2) the elites and their bodyguards will somehow be exempt from any ban. Some of the candidates, not content with a ban, have been advocating seizure. How do you think that will play out?

7. Other bans – Are you ready? The following are some of the bans that have been proposed to “save the environment” and thwart climate change. Some of these are part of the inane Green New Deal:

red meat
plastic straws
fracking (Sanders called it “a danger to our water supply and the air we breathe.”) How about the 80,000 or so people whose livelihood depends, directly or indirectly, on fracking?
incandescent light bulbs
air travel
combustion engines (What would happen to the auto industry, and how are suburban and rural folks supposed to travel?)
too many babies (Isn’t that racist?)
carbon emissions
nuclear power
coal and coal mining (Uh oh, there goes PA and WV.)
factory farming
toys in McDonalds happy meals
surgery drinks, such as sodas.

Of course, most of these are absurd, but I believe they demonstrate the inane thinking of these candidates. I have not seen any poll in which a majority of Americans supports any of these bans. I submit, they are not about climate change or saving the environment. They are about controlling your lives.

CONCLUSION

Back to my original point. The Dems would have a reasonable chance to defeat Mr. Trump if only they would offer a qualified moderate candidate. (Biden was supposed to be that candidate, but he has shown he is neither qualified nor moderate.) Until this election cycle Dems always stood for the middle class, the working class, the disadvantaged. I have not seen any of the candidates do that. The one exception is Tulsi Gabbard, and her reward was to be belittled and shunted aside by the powers-that-be.

Now, the Dems are all about identity politics, political correctness and white guilt socialism. They are taking their cues, not from their traditional and broad constituency but from the twitter crowd and the likes of the “Four Horsewomen.” Good luck with that.

9/11 REMEMBRANCE – HAS IT REALLY BEEN 18 YEARS?

Wednesday is September 11, a date that will always have special meaning for all Americans, indeed for all decent people worldwide. Like December 7 and November 22, September 11 is a date that will, in the words of former President FDR, “live in infamy.”

Wednesday, as on every 9/11, the names of every 9/11 victim, including those killed at the WTC (in both 1993 and 2001), the Pentagon and on flight 93 will be read out loud on tv. This is a particularly poignant scene as the readers are typically the spouses, children and/or grandchildren of the victims. In addition to citing the name of the victim some of the readers add personal messages of remembrance. In my opinion, these readings of the names of the victims is a fantastic idea as it helps us to remember the horrific and cowardly terrorists attacks and continue to pay tribute to the victims.

On September 11, 2001 at 8:46 a.m. ET, Americans’ safe and secure lives changed forever. Like the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and the JFK assassination, undoubtedly, most everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard of the attack. At that moment, the first hijackers’ plane crashed into the north tower of the WTC. This was followed quickly by a second plane crashing into the south tower, and, later, a third one crashing into the Pentagon. Incredibly and inexplicably, by 10:28 both towers had collapsed. Later in the day, a fourth plane crashed into a field in Shanksville, PA. It is believed that this fourth plane was bound for a target in Washington, D.C., perhaps, the White House or the Capitol, and it would have succeeded but for the heroism of some of the passengers on board.

This year will mark the 18th anniversary of those horrific attacks. They resulted in just under 3,000 deaths. Most of those were workers who were trapped in their offices and consumed by fire or smoke/chemical inhalation. They could not escape because most of the stairwells were blocked. Many victims have only been identified due to their DNA, in some cases many years later.

Compounding the tragedy was the fact that NYC’s 911 operators were not as well informed as they should have been. Thus, they were advising callers from inside the towers not to descend the stairs on their own. Some of them proceeded to the roof hoping to be rescued by helicopter. Unfortunately, helicopters could not land on the roofs due to the heat and thick smoke. Many of us who were watching on tv witnessed the awful sight of people jumping to their deaths (in some cases, actually holding hands with others for support) rather than awaiting their fates from the fire.

The horror of the attacks, themselves, was amplified by the fact that the victims were not soldiers but innocent civilians who were merely working at their jobs. Moreover, many Good Samaritans who volunteered at the site are still dying from cancer or respiratory diseases. This was the deadliest attack on US soil ever. By comparison, the shocking Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which, as I said, President FDR characterized as “a date that will live in infamy” resulted in “only” 2,400 deaths, and they were mostly military personnel.

In addition to the deaths there was significant damage to the economy of NYC and the US as a whole. The entire Wall Street area, including the financial markets, was closed until September 17. Air travel was disrupted. Americans’ psyche was severely damaged. The cleanup of the WTC area was not completed until May 2002. All in all, it took 3.1 million man-hours to clean up 1.8 million tons of debris at a cost of $750 million. Internationally, countries were generally horrified and supportive, although some of the people in some Muslim countries, such as Iraq, were seen to be celebrating.

Fifteen of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, with the others having originated from Egypt, Lebanon and the UAE. The terrorist group, Al Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, quickly claimed responsibility. Bin Laden had declared a holy war on the US and had issued a fatwa calling for the killing of Americans. Following 9/11, bin Laden became public enemy number 1. Eventually, the US exacted revenge, hunting him down and killing him.

In addition, to the thousands of civilians, police officers, firemen and EMS workers that were killed in the attacks, themselves, thousands more volunteer workers and even people who lived or worked in the vicinity ended up contracting various illnesses from inhaling the various carcinogens in the air and dying subsequently, in some cases many years later. Even today, 18 years later, people are still contracting diseases and dying.

Horrifying as it may seem, some doctors have predicted that eventually these victims will exceed the 3,000 killed on 9/11. Many of us know or know of someone, such as, for example, Jamie, a dear friend of my family, who suffered this fate. The shame of it is they went out of their way to volunteer their services and paid for it with their lives.

The primary illnesses are cancer, respiratory disorders, asthma, COPD and gastroesophageal reflux disorder. In addition, health workers have noted a significant increase in anxiety, depression and PTSD. As I said, many of the above have manifested themselves years later. Even now, new cases are being presented. The number of documented cancer cases, alone, has tripled in the past few years. The physical, mental and emotional toll has been astounding. An estimated 18,000 people have contracted illnesses from the toxic dust. Moreover, there is speculation that 9/11 has caused health issues in babies whose mothers were pregnant at the time of the attacks, such as premature birth, respiratory problems, below average weight, and increased neo-natal requirements.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Americans wanted to know how our intelligence agencies had failed to anticipate them. Who had “dropped the ball?” Amid many investigations and finger-pointing it became obvious that the major factor was failure to communicate and share intelligence and information. For example:

l. The CIA had intelligence reports that a terrorist attack was forthcoming, but it was expecting it to be in Israel, not the US.
2. The CIA knew that two known terrorists had slipped into the US.
3. The FBI had information of certain anomalies at some US flight schools.
4. The Justice Department policies advocated very limited intelligence sharing, even with other agencies.
5. The CIA and NSA were reluctant to reveal sources of information and their methods of attaining it.
6. None of these agencies reported their information to each other or to the White House.
7. In 2004 Attorney General John Ashcroft testified to the “9/11 Commission” that the “single greatest structural cause…. was the wall that segregated or separated criminal investigators and intelligence agents.”

I hope that the coordination and information-sharing among these agencies have been enhanced since 9/11, but I have my doubts. As time has gone on, I sense that we have grown more and more complacent and the various alphabet agencies have resumed “guarding their own turf” rather than sharing intelligence and information for the greater good.

CONCLUSION

Americans’ lives have changed considerably since 9/11. Many believe that not all of these changes are good or even necessary. For instance:

1. The US created the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate and oversee intelligence activities and security. In addition, it passed the USA Patriot Act. These agencies have improved our readiness and security but at the price of certain civil liberties. There is, and should be, a balance between security and liberty, and depending on one’s political point of view the pendulum may have swung too far, or not enough, towards security.

2. Enhanced security at airports and train and bus terminals has made travel more complicated, time-consuming, and nerve-wracking. Some people have curtailed or ceased their travel entirely, particularly internationally.

3. Parents are apprehensive, if not paranoid, about letting their children go outside to play or ride their bicycles in the neighborhood. Also, they accompany their children to the school or school bus stop and pick them up at the end of the day. The various terrorist attacks in schools in recent years have done little to assuage these fears and concerns. Schools have ramped up security protocols. Some have even hired armed guards. Some people have advocated arming teachers.

4. Many Americans have become very focused on enforcing immigration laws strictly to protect our borders, which has led to conflicts with those who view such an approach as “racist” and favor looser, or even open, borders.

5. On the plus side, there has been a significant increase in patriotism and gratitude toward veterans.

In my opinion, parents should make a concerted effort to educate their children on the tragedy of 9/11, what happened, how it happened and what it means. According to Wikipedia roughly 90 million of the country’s 329 million population are under the age of 21 and, therefore, have little or no recollection or knowledge of this event. The danger is that as time passes the populace will forget, and we should never allow that to happen. Educate your kids!

Already, some people are “down-playing” the 9/11 attacks. For example, Rep Ilham Omar, one of the notorious “Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse” who has uttered many disparaging remarks about America and Americans, has summed up 9/11 as “some people did something.” Really? Is she kidding? It’s easy to write off her and others of her ilk as “kooks,” but she does have followers who place credence in what she says.

I encourage everyone to find the time to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It is on the site of the original WTC complex in lower Manhattan. It occupies approximately one-half of the acreage of the original complex. It features two huge waterfalls and a “survivor tree,” which symbolizes resilience and strength. Take the time to stroll around this beautiful area. Take one of the many tours. You will find them most informative. Yes, it is tragic to be reminded of the horror of that day, but, on the other hand, it is uplifting to be reminded of the heroism and resilience of many first responders and even ordinary citizens and to experience the healing that has occurred. Remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

STUDENT LOAN CRISIS

What do you suppose is the most serious threat to the US at the present time? What problem could potentially undermine our entire society and way of life? Is it terrorism? Border security? Russia? China? Racism? Healthcare? Income inequality? Climate change? Each of these poses a serious threat, and depending on one’s political orientation and economic and social status, one could make a strong case for any of them as the primary threat. But, there is one problem missing from the above list, and I can make a case that it has the potential to pose at least as big a threat as any of the others. And, that my friends, is the proliferation of student debt (“SD”.

What, you say? SD? How can that be? Well, read on.

Student loan programs originated in 1958 when the National Defense Education Act established financial aid programs, including grants, scholarships and loans, for students majoring in certain disciplines, such as teaching and foreign languages. In 1965 the program was extended to include any students who could demonstrate a financial need. Over the years the program’s criteria and the sheer volume of debt have expanded exponentially. Even members of Congress are not immune. According to “Roll Call” 68 Congresspersons either owe SD, themselves, or have family members who do.

The two major reasons for this astounding growth are the exploding cost of college and the high interest rates on the loans, themselves. According to a report issued by the “American Center for Progress” over the past three decades the cost of a typical college has increased by some 1,000%. Depending on the type of student loan the current interest rate can be as high as 10%. By comparison, currently, typical rates on a 30-year fixed mortgage and a new car are 3 5/8% and 4 3/4%, respectively.

Moreover, according to Lenore Hawkins of Tematica Research Corp, SD loans CANNOT be forgiven, even in bankruptcy. (It would be interesting to ascertain how that came to pass. Most likely, some really heavy-duty lobbying.)

According to “Forbes Magazine” in 2018 total SD amounted to $1.5 trillion. (That’s trillion with a “T.”) To put that amount in perspective it is more than the GDP of several European countries, such as Spain and Sweden. Furthermore, it exceeds the total amount of car loans and credit card debt. The “Forbes” report added that the average college grad owes approximately $38,000; two percent owe in excess of $100,000. The average law school graduate owes some $110,000. The average doctor owes about $200,000.

Those are daunting amounts. Remember, few lawyers work on Wall Street, where one starts with a six figure salary and can become very rich. According to Wikipedia, most earn far less, and many never even practice law at all. Similarly, the average doctor, may be in his 30s before he or she begins to earn any significant money, and with the recent changes in the healthcare system their earnings prospects are generally far less than they used to be. Meanwhile, in contrast, the average tradesman may top out in the low six figures, but he will have started earning money at 18 or so and not have any SD to pay off.

The total SD outstanding in the US is second only to mortgage debt. Any way you slice it, the total SD is massive. Most likely, an entire generation will spend their entire lifetime paying off their SD (or trying to). And, those are the people who actually earn a degree. Many don’t for various reasons, and they still have SD to pay off. They end up living with their parents, broke, angry and frustrated.

A recent Gallup poll estimated that 35% of young adults do so, compared to 25% in 1990. The poll found that they want to marry and have kids, but just can’t afford to do so. This is one reason why the middle class is shrinking.

Along the same lines, in January, 2019 the Federal Reserve reported that the precipitous rise in SD has been responsible for many millennials (those born in the early 1980s to mid-1990s) delaying certain life milestones, such as marrying, purchasing homes, having children, and saving for retirement.

So, what does all this have to do with Socialism?

1. As I said, many millennials are disillusioned, frustrated, and angry. They are saddled with massive student debt that they cannot see themselves ever being able to repay. In the words of Bernie Sanders, they feel the system is “rigged” and “corrupt.”

This attitude is bolstered by reports of favoritism, particularly for children of influential politicians, who manage to gain admission to elite colleges, such as Harvard, Yale or Stanford, despite average credentials. Examples abound, such as Dante Di Blasio, Chris Cuomo, Chelsea Clinton, and the children of Chuck Schumer and Michael Bennett. Then, there is my personal favorite, Al Gore, who has sent four children to Harvard. Four! I’m no statistician, but it strikes me as a statistical impossibility that four children from the same family could meet Harvard’s exacting admissions criteria legitimately.

To be sure, this is nothing new, and we all know why colleges do it, but the brilliant student from an average family sees it as confirmation that the current system is broken, corrupt and rigged.

2. All too often, college graduates discover that their hard-earned, prohibitively expensive degree does not lead to a meaningful job and career. Often, they cannot find a job at all, or if they can it is a dead-end job, such as waiting on tables, driving a taxi or slicing meat in a deli. Moreover, they find themselves saddled with a debt load they probably will never be able to repay. They feel the current system has failed them. It can be argued that in return for the exorbitant tuition they charge colleges have at least a moral duty to prepare students for the real world, and this would include career advice. But, alas, they have no incentive to do so, and frequently don’t.

3. Most millennials do not have the foggiest idea of what Socialism is. They are not cognizant of its disadvantages and failings. All they know is it is different from the current capitalist system, which has not worked for them, and they are not adverse to trying it.

4. They are attracted by the prospect of free “stuff.” Who doesn’t like free “stuff.” They don’t realize that there is no such thing as “free.” Someone, somehow, has to pay for it. Guess who that “someone” will be.

5. In many cases, millennials, in the words of Justin Hawkins of the Hartland Institute have been indoctrinated in socialist ideas and ideals since kindergarten. He characterizes America’s schools as “socialist indoctrination factories.” That opinion may be a little extreme, but many Americans have grown to wonder just what colleges are teaching their kids. What benefits are their kids getting for the $50,000 plus a year they are paying. How come they graduate, if they do, being ill-prepared to make their way in the real world.

They are fed up with left wing dogma, which extolls the so-called “virtues” of socialism and ignores the fact that it has failed everywhere it has been tried (Russia, Cuba, Venezuela). They wonder why students need “quiet rooms.” They are opposed to over-the-top “political correctness.” Now, some schools, notably the University of Michigan, have gone further. They have promulgated “Bias Response Teams.” I could write an entire blog on this, but, in a nutshell, this policy encourages a student who hears or sees anything that he or she deems to be biased or makes them “uncomfortable” (even if they were only a bystander) to report it to the BRT. The BRT will then investigate with the assistance of the campus police. Penalties could be as severe as expulsion. Informing on others to the authorities? Does anyone else think this conjures up life in the old Soviet Union, and don’t we still have free speech in this country?

CONCLUSION

So, what is the solution? Personally, I don’t know, but I do know it is NOT to make college free for everyone. Like a lot of left wing ideas, it sounds good, but it is impractical for many reasons, such as:

1. It would be prohibitively expensive, particularly in conjunction with open/relaxed borders. The Dems will throw out many estimates, but the truth is no one has the faintest idea of how much it would cost.
2. Who would be eligible?
3. What would the limits be in terms of years and costs.
4. There would be no incentive to control costs, such as tuition, books, and staffing, which are out of control as it is.
5. Those who didn’t go to college at all or who attended a reasonably-priced college would balk at paying for others who attended expensive schools and for more than four years.
6. It would be run by the federal government, which has demonstrated repeatedly that it cannot run anything efficiently.

There is no panacea, but I would like to offer some possible suggestions.

1. Recognize that the main objective should be to prepare our kids to deal with the real world and learn a skill that translates to a job and a career.
2. Some would benefit more from a trade school or work experience.
3. Some would be better off attending a community college for two years before enrolling in a classic four-year university. That would keep costs down and ensure that the student is more mature and experienced when entering four-year school.
4. Make universities more accountable for their failure to prepare students
adequately. They have a moral duty to do so but not the incentive.
5. Find a way for the feds to exert more influence on the college community.
6. Like most college graduates, I look back very fondly on those years. For many, it was the best time of their lives, a last fling at good times before facing the real world. But, I fear those days are gone.

This is a very complex issue with no easy solution. I welcome your comments. For all of the above reasons, it has the potential to tear this country apart. An entire generation of young adults has become extremely disaffected. They are angry and frustrated. They feel the system is corrupt, rigged and not working for them. They are ready to embrace socialism, despite its warts. If nothing is done I fear socialism will gain a foothold in this country, and, over time, our whole way of life will be changed radically and irrevocably. We, as a nation, cannot let that happen. It would be the end of America as we know it.

LABOR DAY

Monday, September 2, we will celebrate Labor Day (“LD”). As we all know, the holiday has traditionally been celebrated on the first Monday of September. It is celebrated in various forms and at various dates in approximately 80 countries.

To most Americans LD merely symbolizes the unofficial end of summer and the impending beginning of the school year. They enjoy the day off from work. They spend the day with family and/or friends. They enjoy picnics, parades, vacations, shopping, baseball games and other sports activities, and barbecues. They lament, but grudgingly accept, holiday traffic and long lines at airports. Also, it is the reason why summer always seems to be so short. In our minds, we transfer the approximately three post-Labor Day weeks of the season to Autumn. But, what is the meaning and purpose of LD? Why do we celebrate it? How did it come about? Good questions. Read on for the answers.

As the name implies, the purpose of LD is to celebrate the accomplishments of the American Labor movement. Whatever one’s political views and affiliations, I think it is important and appropriate to understand Labor’s contributions to the growth and development of the US. For one thing, cheap labor was an integral component of the Industrial Revolution. When all was said and done, someone had to build all the roads, railroads, and cars, and operate all the factories and steel mills. In addition, the labor activism of the late 1800s and early 1900s was largely responsible for the relatively high wages and extensive benefits that are enjoyed by today’s US labor force (compared to other countries).

It should be noted that union membership has been declining sharply and steadily. For example in 1950 approximately 40% of American workers were members of a union. By contrast, in 2018 the number was 11%

The history of LD began in the 1870s in Canada. Labor Unions were illegal in Canada, and 26 members of the Toronto Typographical Union had been imprisoned for striking for a nine-hour work day. That action led to demonstrations and rallies and raising the profile of labor unrest in both Canada and the US. Two of the most outspoken leaders were Peter McGuire, founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and an official of the AF of L, and Matthew Maguire, Secretary of the Central Labor Union in NY.

Historical accounts differ, but one or both of these men are credited with being the first to propose a holiday to celebrate labor. In any event, the CLU planned and organized the first LD celebration in NYC on September 5, 1885. Approximately, 20,000 workers and their families participated. The concept spread. In 1887 Oregon became the first state to sanction the holiday.

The Pullman Labor Strike in 1893 provided the final impetus for a national labor holiday. The Pullman Company had been founded and was run by George Pullman. Pullman, IL, where the company operated, was a classic company town. All the workers lived there and paid rent to the company, which was automatically deducted from their paychecks. Workers’ housing was segregated according to their jobs; everyone shopped at the Company Store.

Many viewed such an arrangement as a form of slavery, because workers were, in actuality, trapped due to their omnipresent debt to the Company. (Think of the song “Sixteen Tons.”) In 1893 the country was in the midst of a recession. The company laid off hundreds of workers and reduced the wages of the others. Of course, living expenses remained constant. These actions led to a strike. President Cleveland declared the strike to be illegal and “broke” it with Federal troops. Some striking workers were killed in the ensuing violence.

This incensed many Americans, and 1894 was an election year. So, Congress expeditiously passed a bill establishing LD as a national holiday, and the President promptly signed it into law. This entire process took only six days, so you can imagine the extent of the public outcry. Incidentally, this action failed to save President Cleveland’s political career; he was defeated anyway.

Eventually, the government settled on the first Monday in September as the official date. Many countries celebrate it on May 1 in conjunction with International Workers’ Day, but the Federal government did not want the association with that date for obvious reasons.

As usual, holiday travelers can expect considerable delays, frustration and inconveniences. For example, the AAA predicts that 85% of the people who travel on the weekend will do so by car. We all know what that means. Spokesperson Mary Maguire stated that although, as always, most people will depart on Friday and return on Monday a “significant number of people” are expected to “stagger their departure and/or return time(s).” In addition, some locales have “wised up” and plan to suspend construction projects over the weekend.

Planning to fly? Good luck. As usual airports will be overwhelmed. For example, LAX has announced it expects 1.38 million travelers. So, expect the usual flight delays and long lines at security. Best to allow a lot of extra time to make your flight.

Furthermore, all of the following could be exacerbated by the weather. For instance, Hurricane Dorian will likely affect travel on the East Coast, and the spillover might affect the rest of the country as well.

Quiz question: According to a poll by National Today, what will be the most common ways to celebrate LD? Answer below.

CONCLUSION

One of the supreme ironies of LD is that because it is such a big shopping day, many workers, especially retailers, are required to work. LD is considered to be one of the biggest retail sales days of the year. Some people use the day as a benchmark to change over their summer clothes to fall clothes. Fashion-minded people claim it the latest day when one should wear white clothes (although “winter white,” whatever that is, is still permissible.)

Like other holidays, LD should be a time for all of us to come together and reflect on what makes America, despite its flaws, the greatest country in the world. People in other countries may like to criticize us for our real and perceived flaws, but yet they still want to come here, in some cases, desperately. In essence, many of them are “voting with their feet.”

Despite what you may see on tv or read in newspapers or on social media, most Americans are decent, hard-working, caring persons. Whenever disaster or tragedy strikes we unite to help those in distress. Many have donated their time and/or money without being asked and without expecting any payback or even recognition. If you doubt me, just look at the outpouring of kindness and empathy shown by “average” Americans toward the victims of the catastrophic events in recent years, such as superstorm Sandy and hurricanes Katrina, Irma and Harvey.

To me, those people, not the destructive thugs and professional agitators one sees on the tv news destroying property, attacking the police, and beating up those with whom they disagree, are the “real” Americans. It is the proverbial “silver lining” in a very dark cloud.

I hope you all enjoy your Labor Day holiday, however you choose to spend it. Feel free to tell me what you did.

Quiz answer: barbeque – 67%; movie – 36%. The most common foods consumed? Hamburgers (70%) and hot dogs (51%). No surprises there.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – AUGUST

Below please find a list of significant historical events that have occurred during the month of August.

August 1, 1838 – Slavery in Jamaica, which had been introduced by Spain in 1509, was abolished.

August 1, 1944 – Fifteen year-old Anne Frank, who was fated to be captured by the Nazis three days later and killed at Bergen-Belsen, wrote her final entry into her famous diary – “[I] keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would like to be, and what I could be if … there weren’t any other people living in the world.”

August 2, 1776 – Most of the 55 signatories to the Declaration of Independence signed the original document (not on July 4, as is commonly believed).

August 2, 1923 – President Warren Harding died suddenly and was succeeded by Calvin Coolidge.

August 3, 1492 – Christopher Columbus set sail from Palos, Spain seeking the elusive Northwest Passage to Asia. Do you remember the names of the three ships in his convoy? See below.

August 5, 1583 – Explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert founded the first British colony in North America in present-day Newfoundland.

August 5, 1861 – President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an emergency war measure to levy a 3% income tax on income in excess of $800.

August 5, 1962 – Actress Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson), symbol of Hollywood glamor and sexuality, was found dead from an overdose of sleeping pills.

August 6, 1945 – The US drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians, destroying the city, and hastening the end of WWII.

August 6, 1962 – Jamaica achieved independence, ending some 450 years of colonial rule first by Spain and then by England.

August 6, 1965 – President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law.

August 7, 1964 – Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which provided legal “cover” for the US’s entry into the Vietnam War.

August 9, 1945 – The US dropped a second atomic bomb (on Nagasaki).

August 9, 1974 – President Richard Nixon resigned as a result of the Watergate scandal.

August 11, 1965 – Six days of racial riots began in the Watts section of LA. The riots resulted in a reported 34 deaths, over 3,000 arrests and property damage estimated at $40 million

August 13, 1961 – East Germany put up the Berlin Wall separating West and East Berlin.

August 14, 1935 – FDR signed the Social Security Act.

August 14, 1945 – V-J Day commemorating Japan’s surrender, which marked the official end of WWII.

August 15, 1969 – The Woodstock festival began in Bethel, NY.

August 16, 1896 – Gold was discovered along the Klondike River in Alaska, precipitating what became known as the Great Klondike Gold Rush.

August 18, 1920 – Ratification of the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.

August 21, 1959 – Hawaii was admitted to the Union as the 50th state.

August 24, 79 A. D. – The volcano, Vesuvius, erupted destroying the cities of Pompeii, Stabiac and Herculaneum.

August 24-25, 1814 – During the War of 1812 the British attacked Washington D.C. and burned much of the city, including the White House and the Capitol.

August 26, 1883 – One of the most catastrophic volcano eruptions ever recorded occurred on the island of Krakatoa in Indonesia. It produced tidal waves of 120 feet and killed 36,000 persons.

August 28, 1963 – Over 250,000 persons participated in the March on Washington in support of civil rights. One of the many speakers was the Reverend MLK, who gave the famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

August 31, 1997 – Princess Diana died from injuries suffered in an auto accident while fleeing from pursuing paparazzi.

Birthdays – Francis Scott Key (wrote the “Star Spangled Banner”), 8/1/1779 in Maryland; Herman Melville (wrote “Moby Dick”), 8/1/1819 in New York City; Ernie Pyle (WWII war correspondent), 8/3/1900 in Dana, IN; Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong (Jazz trumpeter), 8/4/1901 in New Orleans; (Quiz question #2 – Do you know the derivation of his very unusual nickname?); Raoul Wallenberg (saved 33,000 Jews from the Holocaust), 8/4/1912 in Stockholm; Barack Obama (44th US President), 8/4/1961 in Honolulu; Alfred Lord Tennyson (poet, wrote “Charge of the Light Brigade”), 8/6/1809 in England; Alexander Fleming (discovered penicillin), 8/6/1881 in Scotland; Herbert Hoover (31st US President), 8/10/1874 in West Branch, IA; Alex Haley (wrote “Roots”), 8/11/1921 in Ithaca, NY; Cecil B. DeMille (directed “The Ten Commandments”), 8/12/1881 in Ashfield, MA; Annie Oakley (sharpshooter), 8/13,1860 in Ohio; Alfred Hitchcock (British film director, “The Birds,” “Psycho”), 8/13/1899 in London; Fidel Castro, 8/13/1927 in Cuba; Napoleon Bonaparte, 8/15/1769, on the island of Corsica; T. E. Lawrence, 8/16/1888 in North Wales, Quiz Question #3 – Who played Lawrence in the Oscar-winning movie, Lawrence of Arabia?); Menachem Begin, 8/16/1913 in Poland; Davy Crockett, 8/17/1786 in Tennessee; Meriwether Lewis, 8/18/1774 near Charlottesville, VA; Orville Wright, 8/19/1871 in Dayton, OH; William Jefferson Clinton (42nd US President), 8/19/1946 in Hope, Arkansas; Benjamin Harrison (23rd US President), 8/20/1833 in North Bend, OH, (Quiz question #4 – He was the grandson of another president. Who?); Leonard Bernstein (conductor and composer), 8/25/1918 in Lawrence, MA; Lyndon Baines Johnson (36th US President), 8/27/1908 near Stonewall, TX; Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (aka Mother Teresa), 8/27/1910 in Yugoslavia.

Quiz Answers

1. Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria
2. The most likely story is as a youth Louis would dance for pennies in the streets of his home city of New Orleans. To prevent other boys from stealing the pennies he stored them in his mouth, which would then become so stuffed as to resemble a satchel. Someone dubbed him “satchel mouth,” which became shortened to “Satchmo.” Many of his friends called him “pops.”
3. Peter O’Toole
4. William Henry Harrison

ANTI-SEMITISM IS ALIVE AND WELL IN GERMANY

This blog should come with a warning label. It is based on a first person account of an American writer, William Grim, who has been living in Germany for some time. He found the degree of anti-Semitism to be appalling. For the record, he is not Jewish. He had no preconceived opinions or ideas. I strongly believe we should be mindful of what he has reported.

Many of you will find his account shocking and too incredulous to be true. As I read it, I, myself, was shocked. Based on my research for previous blogs, I knew anti-Semitism was still extant throughout Europe as well as many other parts of the world. (Some of you may recall my previous blogs on the subject that described anti-Semitic incidents and attitudes in France, Sweden, the UK and Germany, to name a few countries.) Special thanks to my good friend and loyal follower, Marvin, for bringing this account to my attention.

It is entitled “A writer’s view of today’s Germany.” The entire story is some 2,500 words, too long for a blog, so I have omitted some sections and paraphrased some others. Let me know if you want to read the unabridged version, and I will be happy to forward it to you.

Here it is.

“I’m not Jewish. No one in my family died in the Holocaust. For me, anti-Semitism has always been one of those phenomena that doesn’t really register on my radar, like tribal genocide in Rwanda, a horrible thing that happens to someone else.

But I live in a small town outside of Munich on a street that until May of
1945 was named Adolf Hitler Strasse. I work in Munich, a pleasant city of a little over a million inhabitants whose Bavarian charm tends to obscure the fact that this city was the birthplace and capital of the Nazi movement. This proximity to such evil brought a physical reality to the textbook narratives of the horrors perpetrated by the Germans.

After a while, little things started to happen that over a period of time added up to something very sinister. For example, one time I was on a bus and a high school boy passed around [his] Grandpa’s red leather-bound copy of Mein Kampf to his friends who responded by saying ‘coooool!’ He then took out a VCR tape (produced in Switzerland) of The Great Speeches of Joseph Goebbels.

A few weeks later I was at a business meeting with four young highly educated Germans who were polite, charming and soft-spoken to say the least. When the subject matter changed to a business deal with a man in New York named Rubinstein, their nostrils flaired, their demeanor attained a threatening mien, and one of them actually said: ‘The problem with America is that the Jews have all the money.’ They started laughing and another one said, ‘Yeah, all the Jews care about is money.’

I soon found that this type of anti-Semitic reference in my professional dealings with Germans was not unusual. In my private meetings with Germans it often happened that they would loosen up after a while and reveal personal opinions and political leanings that were thought to have ceased to exist in a Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945. Maybe it’s because I have blond hair and my last name is of German origin that the Germans felt that I am, or could potentially be, ‘one of them.’ It showed how much they don’t understand what it means to be an American.

Whatever the reason, the conversations generally had one or more of these components:

(1) It was unfortunate that America and Germany fought each other in WWII because the real enemy was Russia.
(2) Yes, the Nazis were excessive, but terrible things happen during wars, And anyway, the scope of the Holocaust has been greatly exaggerated by the American media, which is dominated by Jews.
(3) CNN is controlled by American Jews and is anti-Palestinian. (Yes, I know it sounds incredible, but even among the most highly intelligent Germans, even those with a near-native fluency in English, there is the widespread belief that the news network founded by Fidel Castro’s friend Ted Turner, who was married to ‘Hanoi Jane’ Fonda, is a hotbed of pro-Israeli propaganda.)
(4) Almost all Germans were opposed to the Third Reich and nobody in Germany knew anything about the murder of the Jews, but the Jews, themselves, were really responsible for the Holocaust.
(5) Ariel Sharon was worse than Hitler and the Israelis are Nazis. America supports Israel only because the Jews control the American government and media.

For the first time in my life, then, I became conscious of anti-Semitism.
Sure, anti-Semitism exists elsewhere in the world, but nowhere have the consequences been as devastating as in Germany. The Free Democratic Party openly caters to Germany‘s sizeable Muslim population, and German revisionist historians have begun to redefine Germany’s actions in WWII and the Holocaust not as crimes against humanity, but as early battles against communism (with regrettable but understandable ‘excesses’). The situation has deteriorated to the point that German Jews are often advised not to wear anything in public that would identify them as Jewish because their safety cannot be guaranteed.”

CONCLUSION

Grim said a lot more, but as I said at the outset, his unabridged piece was very long, and I tried to paraphrase and streamline it for you.

Some of you may have perceived a rise in anti-Semitism in the US in recent years. There have been many examples of this, which I have also detailed in previous blogs and feel no need to repeat now. Jews have always been welcome in the US, and it seems that, despite the occasional anti-Semitic incident, they are “safe” for the present time. But, remember they were welcomed and safe in places like Egypt, Poland and even Germany for hundreds of years, until, one day, they were not.

Which brings me to my final point. Israel, though not perfect, is the only guaranteed safe haven for Jews in the world. It is the US’s only true and enduring ally in the volatile, and often hostile, Middle East. It is very important that we continue to support it and support politicians who do so while rejecting those who don’t (and we all know who they are).

LEFTIES

Despite the title, this blog is NOT about communists or socialists. Rather, the theme is people who are left-handed. Most of you, probably did not realize that August 13 was International Left-Handers Day as designated by “Lefthanders International.” This “day” has been observed annually since 1976. That’s right, or rather, that’s correct. Lefties have their own “day” and their own organization.

According to CNN left-handedness, or sinistrality, is derived from the Latin word “sinistra” meaning “on the left.” Through the years, sinistrality has been associated with weakness, impurity and/or evil. It is related to the word, “sinister.”

According to Wikipedia, between 7 – 10% of people are left-handed. LiveScience.com puts the number at 11%. The number has varied slightly throughout history and in different cultures. Regardless, lefties are rare.

One question that has perplexed scientists is what causes a person to be left-handed. Approximately 150 years ago Gregor Mendel discovered the concept of hereditary traits – dominant and recessive genes. As you probably remember from your high school biology certain traits have dominant and recessive genes, which are passed on to one’s children. For example, brown eye color is dominant and blue is recessive.

Handedness is not so simple. Dr. Barry Starr, of Stanford University, writing in the website, “Stanford at the Tech” explains that there are other factors that affect handedness. For example, studies have shown:

1. Even if both parents are right-handed there is a 1 in 10 chance that their off-spring will be a lefty.
2. If only the father is left-handed the odds are the same, but if only the mother is a lefty the odds rise to 2 in 10. Why the difference? Who knows.
3. Even if both parents are lefties the odds are only 4 in 10 that their off-spring will be left-handed.
4. Most astonishingly, identical twins, which share the same egg and have identical DNA are not always the same handedness. Dr. Starr points out that both twins would be left-handed only 76% of the time, not 100% as one might expect.

This seems to contradict what we learned about dominant and recessive traits in high school biology, and there is not agreement as to why. However, Dr. Starr points out that there are other factors in play, such as environment. He believes that besides genes there must be some sort of “environmental trigger” to cause one to be left-handed. What these triggers may be is uncertain, but Dr. Starr suggests that two of them might be the order of birth and gender of the child.

A 1996 study by the Harvard Medical School determined that people working in certain professions, such as surgeons, mathematicians and librarians, tended to be righthanded, whereas people working as artists, musicians and university professors tended to be left-handed. Another study indicated that lefties tend to have increased rates of high blood pressure, irritable bowel and schizophrenia. I have to admit that I’m not sure of the veracity of those studies, but they are interesting food for thought.

In any case, I’m not sure why there are so few lefties. I recall that when I was growing up parents would frequently try to convert their left-handed children to right-handed. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it did not. But, it often caused friction between the parent and the child, who would be resistant to the idea.

We all know people that are left-handed, but do any righties stop to think of the inconveniences they endure in their daily lives? For example:

1. Opening cans. Can openers are made for righties. I am not aware of any “left-handed” can openers. (Actually, it sounds like a bad joke.)

2, Writing. This has been mitigated by the widespread use of computers, but older lefties will recall the difficulties of writing on school desks, particularly those that had the side panel arm rest on the right side. Lefties had to write sideways or upside down. Moreover, when writing with a fountain pen a leftie would invariably smudge the ink or get ink on his clothes, fingers and hand.

3. Scissors. The simple task of using a pair of scissors to cut paper would be problematic for a leftie. Like everything else, scissors are made for righties.

4. Shaking hands. Some lefties find it awkward to shake hands with their “off” hand.

5. Spiral notebooks. These are uncomfortable for lefties, as their hand is always resting on the metal spiral.

6. Bumping elbows. If you’ve ever sat next to a lefty in a restaurant booth or other enclosed space you are familiar with this problem.

7. Bowling and golf equipment. This does not appear to be as much of a problem now, but when I was growing up it was next to impossible to find lefty golf or bowling equipment. Consequently, I have met many lefties of my generation who were forced to learn to bowl or golf righty.

8. Peer ridicule. Not so much now, but when I was growing up many child lefties were subjected to teasing or ridicule by their peers because they did things differently. According to NBC News a few years ago a pre-K teacher actually sent a four-year-old boy lefthander home with a letter stating that “lefthandedness is often associated with evil and the devil” Imagine, as a parent, receiving a letter like that? Peer ridicule is bad enough, but from a teacher?

On the plus side, in my experience most lefties can do many things righty, sometimes almost to the point of being ambidextrous. Conversely, most righties do nothing lefty and have a weak, uncoordinated left hand.

A website called “Anything Lefthanded” has put together a set of products deigned just for lefties to help them navigate through life. Some of the items include:

1. Lefthanded scissors (with reversed blades).
2. Lefthanded can opener.
3. Lead pencils with printing on the lefthanded direction.
4. Lefthanded pencil sharpener.
5. Lefthanded notepad.

Interesting.

CONCLUSION

Lefties take heart. In the pc age, your life has generally been made easier. Furthermore, there have been innumerable successful people who were lefty. A total of eight US Presidents were lefties, which significantly exceeds the average in the population as a whole: James A. Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

In addition, there have been thousands of successful and famous lefties in other fields. A small sampling would include entertainers, such as Don Adams, George Burns, James Caan, Matt Dillon and Sylvester Stallone; artists, such as Leonardo Da Vinci and LeRoy Neiman; and baseball players such as Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Sandy Koufax and Ted Williams. (In fact, left-handed baseball players have a couple of advantages. Pitchers are very much in demand, because they are needed to get out left-handed batters, and even an average one can enjoy a long career. Also, lefthanded batters are a half step closer to first base.)

Lefties, please comment on your life experiences, either positive or negative.