JOSEPHINE BAKER – HOLOCAUST SPY, ENTERTAINER, CIVIL RIGHTS CRUSADER

One of the things I like about stories of the Holocaust is that they illustrate that under the right circumstances, ordinary people who find themselves in exigent situations can accomplish extraordinary and heroic things that one would not think possible. One such example is that of Josephine Baker.

It is likely that not many of you are familiar with the story of Josephine Baker. I, for one, had never heard of her. However, in my view, she led one of the more interesting and significant lives of the 20th century. Read on, and see if you agree.

Despite humble beginnings, as a young lady she was a much celebrated entertainer based in France. As such, during WWII she was uniquely positioned to spy on the Nazis for the Allies, which she did to great effect. Later in life she was a strong advocate for civil rights for women and people of color.

Freda Josephine Baker was born on June 3, 1906 in St. Louis, MO. Her lineage was somewhat murky. Her mother had been adopted by her maternal grandparents both of whom were former slaves. I could not find any information about her birth parents. Her estate listed her natural father as a vaudeville drummer named Eddie Carson (who was white), however, her birth certificate lists her father vaguely as “Edw,” perhaps, to disguise his real identity. It is worth noting that Josephine and her family always believed her real father was white, but not necessarily Carson. Her real lineage remains a mystery to this day.

Baker appears to have had a troubled, turbulent and undisciplined childhood. For example, she was raised in a racially mixed low income neighborhood in St. Louis, an area that consisted primarily of rooming houses, brothels and apartments without modern conveniences such as indoor plumbing. Her mother had married a “kind but perpetually unemployed” man, and the family barely earned a subsistence-level income. Josephine spent a lot of her time on the streets doing whatever. As a young girl she began working as a live-in domestic and earned spare change by dancing on street corners.

At 12 she dropped out of school. At 13, she got married. After less than a year she was divorced, and then she remarried at 15. Her relationship with her mother was contentious and turbulent to say the least.

In her mid-teens she decided she wanted to become an entertainer. Her mother objected, telling her that she should stay at home and “tend” to her second husband. But, Josephine was very independent-minded and used to making her own decisions. She joined a dance troupe called the St. Louis Chorus Vaudeville Show, divorced her second husband, and left with the troupe for NY. She performed at clubs, such as the Plantation Club and in hugely successful Broadway revues, such as Shuffle Along and The Chocolate Dandies. Soon, she became a featured dancer and was billed as “the highest paid chorus girl in vaudeville.” Eventually, her tumultuous relationship with her mother led her to further her career in France.

In Paris her popularity and fame rose to a new level. Baker was one of the first dancers of color to move to France. She always said she “couldn’t stand” America with its overt racial prejudice and segregation lifestyle. Even though she had begun her dancing career in NY on Broadway she always felt she got her big break in Paris.

She specialized in “erotic dancing,” that is, she would often dance virtually nude. Her signature costume was a “banana costume,” which was basically a skirt made of a string of artificial bananas. It was considered very risque for the times, even for Paris. Before long, she was one of the most successful American entertainers performing in France. No less a personage than Ernest Hemingway considered her to be “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.”

All of this was preamble for the most significant stage of her life. As we know in September, 1939 Germany began WWII by invading Poland, whereupon France and other countries declared war. Before long, Baker was recruited by the Deuxieme Bureau, France’s chief intelligence agency as an “honorable correspondent.” Her job was to collect military intelligence and pass it along. Due to her occupation and her celebrity she often socialized with high-ranking Axis diplomats, military officers and intelligence operatives, which made her uniquely qualified for the job. Nevertheless, this was still very dangerous work. Basically, she was a spy and despite her fame, if caught she would have been tortured and executed.

Later, she moved to southern France where she provided housing, visas and other documents to the Free French. In addition, her status as a famous entertainer enabled her to carry sensitive information, often in invisible ink hidden on her sheet music or pinned to her undergarments, to other countries such as Portugal, Spain, Morocco and South America.

In 1943 she toured North Africa entertaining the Allied troops and raising some three million francs in the process. In 1944 after France had been liberated Baker returned to her beloved Paris. She was appalled by the dire living conditions of its citizens and proceeded to sell her own valuables to raise money for food, shelter, and other necessities for them. Her contributions to the war effort were recognized after the war by none other than Charles de Gaulle, who presented her with the Croix de Guerre and the Rosette de la Resistance and made her a Chevalier of the Legion d’honneur.

After the war she resumed her career, first in France then later in the US and other places. She still chafed at the racial inequities in the US, and often her outspoken nature got her into trouble. For instance, while performing at the Stork Club in 1951 she criticized the club’s unwritten policy of discouraging Black patrons. Then she doubled down by criticizing powerful columnist, Walter Winchell, an old friend, for failing to support her in the aftermath. Winchell responded with a harsh rebuke, which included mentioning what he referred to “communist sympathies,” a very serious allegation in the era of “McCarthyism.” As a result, the State Department terminated Baker’s work visa, which necessitated her returning to France. It would be some ten years before she would be allowed to return.

During the 1950s from her home in France Baker was an outspoken supporter of the Civil Rights movement in the US. Upon her return to the US to perform she was appalled by the racial discrimination that was still prevalent [in the US]. She gave speeches at Black colleges, such as Fisk University. She refused to perform before segregated audiences. She became active in the NAACP. She was the only official female speaker at the March on Washington in 1963. As a result of her work and her fame after MLK’s assassination she was encouraged by none other than King’s widow, Coretta, to succeed him as leader of the Civil Rights Movement. She declined, saying “her children “were too young to lose their mother.”

CONCLUSION

Despite her busy lifestyle Baker found the time to adopt and raise 12 children of various nationalities and religious affiliations. She referred to her family as the “Rainbow Tribe.”

Toward the end of her life Baker fell on hard times financially. For example, she lost her castle due to unpaid debts, although none other than Princess Grace helped her out by offering her an apartment in Monaco.

Baker passed away on April 12, 1975, but her influence still lives on. For example:

  1. In 2003 Angelina Jolie, in an interview with USA Today referred to her as “a model for the multiracial, multinational family she was beginning to create through adoption.”
  2. In 2006 Beyonce performed Baker’s signature “banana dance” at Radio City Music Hall.
  3. In 2017 Google released an animated slideshow it called a “Google Doodle,” which chronicled her life and achievements.
  4. In 2019 she was one of the honorees inducted into the Rainbow Honor Walk, which celebrated LGBTQ persons who have made “significant contributions in their fields.”
  5. There have been numerous songs, sculptures and films honoring her life and achievements, too many to mention here.

As I said at the outset, in my opinion, Baker, despite very humble beginnings, led one of the most interesting and significant lives of the 20th century. I believe that outside of the entertainment field she is not as well known as she should be.

AFGHANISTAN DEBACLE II

And so, it continues. Every day millions of Americans rush to find out the latest developments of the Afghan debacle. I have tried to describe it, but I cannot find the appropriate words. One of the worst aspects of this is the inconsistent and, at times, contrary messages emanating from those in authority as I will detail below.

Perhaps, the acronym, FUBAR, describes it best. For the uninitiated, FUBAR stands for “f**ked up beyond all recognition.” One would be hard-pressed to deny that this disorderly, disastrous withdrawal is a FUBAR. Steadfast Biden and Dem supporters have either remained silent or tried to dance around the issue like Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly. Furthermore, as I stated in my last blog, I fear the long-term ramifications will be far worse.

The situation remains very fluid, but as I write this, below please find some of the more significant recently-reported developments:

  1. As reported by virtually all major news outlets, including longtime Dem supporter and apologist CNN, and Administration members, such as Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, the situation on the ground remains more dire than President Biden has been reporting to the American people. For example, in one of his rare press conferences Biden stated that there was “no indication” of any Americans being prevented from gaining access to the airport. He is continuing to deny he received any warnings from the State Department, the military or the embassy. He is claiming Al Qaeda is “gone from the country. On the other hand, there have been multiple reports that they are very much a presence. Spokesperson, John Kirby, the Pentagon’s Press Secretary, tried to “walk back” that assertion saying Biden “meant” Al Qaeda was not a “significant ” threat,” but the damage was done. Austin relayed reports from multiple sources of Americans being assaulted, “beaten,” detained, and harassed by the Taliban. Biden is continuing to deny what we can all see with our own eyes. He is either woefully misinformed, is unable to fully grasp the situation, or he is lying directly to the American people. You decide.
  2. CNN and other news outlets have reported interviewing many people who have been stuck at or near the airport for days. Some have been unable to get in due to chaos at the gates. (They’re open; then, some are closed; then they’re open again.) Others have gotten in, but have been unable to fly out for various reasons.
  3. According to USA Today and other news outlets the US Embassy has issued contradictory advisories. First, go to the airport at your own risk as we “cannot guarantee your safety.” Then, don’t go without “individual instructions from a US government representative.” People are fearing for their lives; they are desperate for clarity of guidance; and they get that.
  4. Pentagon officials have told USA that they are continuing to process people “with the proper paperwork,” but there have been multiple reports of people possessing US passports and/or visas being turned away.
  5. In the midst of all this chaos there have been multiple news reports of airplanes flying out with empty seats.
  6. At times, the gates have been closed. Why? It seems that Qatar, which had been accepting refugees declared it could not take any more.
  7. The US military finally sprung into action, rescuing, by helicopter, 169 Americans who had been trapped in a hotel only yards from the airport. Great news, but it was a very minor victory. Also, British and French troops have been rescuing their own citizens for days, while our soldiers have been ordered to “stand down.”
  8. The Pentagon told CNN it has successfully evacuated 14,000 people since the end of July. Biden has characterized this as “one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history.” That sounds good, but it is far fewer than the military’s own stated goal of “5,000 to 9,000 … a day.” Moreover, Biden stated we should anticipate that all American citizens will be evacuated by the end of August. Good luck with that. There are reported to be tens of thousands more people still in-country, including Americans, allied Afghanis whom we swore to protect from retribution, and their families. No one, not embassy personnel, not the State Department and definitely not the Administration knows who they are, how many there are, and where they are. As I have said, in my opinion, we will not know who and how many have been left behind until they turn up on Al Jazeera being tortured or beheaded.
  9. The BBC and multiple other news outlets have been reporting that Taliban soldiers are going door to door seeking to exact retribution against Afghani “collaborators” and their family members. Those who have not gotten out are in hiding.
  10. There continues to be what CNN and others have characterized as an “international outcry” over the US’s handling not of the decision to end the war, but of the evacuation, itself. I have not found one positive statement from any world leader or member of the international media.

CONCLUSION

,According to USA Today, Senator Mark Warner, Chairman if the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Rep Adam Smith, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, both Dems, have signaled their intention to hold hearings on the matter. That would be fine, if they follow through. We’ll see.

Currently, Biden is taking a lot of criticism for this situation and rightly so. According to the latest Reuters poll his approval rating is down to 46%. In addition, there have been multiple reports of a “red wave” in 2022. However, the public has a short memory, especially regarding politics. For example, the September 11, 2012 attack on our diplomatic compound in Benghazi was a huge story in the months leading up to the 2012 presidential election. The outcry over four Americans being killed was fierce. But, at this point it has been largely forgotten, superseded by other events. How many of the four Americans can you name? Can you name any? This is not meant to be a criticism, just reality. See answer below.

The 2022 elections are over a year away. A lot can and will happen in that time, both good and bad for Biden. By then this may all be a distant memory. The primary issues will likely be COVID and the economy.

UNLESS, as I said above, we see public torturing and/or beheadings of Americans left behind. Remember, one of the primary reasons for Reagan’s victory over Carter in 1980 was the continued issue of the US hostages in Iran.

Quiz answer: Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Information Officer Sean Smith and CIA operatives Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

AFGHANISTAN DEBACLE

For the last several days those of us who have been following the debacle in Afghanistan have been sickened by what has been occurring. We have seen the most disturbing, humiliating, and embarrassing images most of us have ever seen on the tv news. It is like a Steven Spielberg movie. This cannot be real, we say. But, alas, it is. It is very real. For example, we have seen (1) people running after airplanes that are about to take off, (2) people clinging onto said planes ignoring the obvious dangers, (3) people falling off airplanes that are in the air, (4) people so desperate to save their children that they are attempting to pass them, by hand, or even toss them over barbed wire barriers to strangers on the other side, and (5) indiscriminate maiming and murdering of innocent civilians.

Simply put, we have been witnessing the destruction of a country and a way of life right before our very eyes. I remember the scene during the fall of Saigon of desperate people gathered on the roof of the American embassy fighting to get on the last helicopter out of the city, clinging to the skids. I never thought I would witness something like that again. But, here we are.

And America, which is supposed to be the most powerful country in the world, is standing by impotently, powerless to stop it. There have been reports that State Department officials are actually pleading with Taliban leaders to grant safe passage. Pleading! America pleading? Are you kidding me? Can you imagine President Trump or any other previous president, for that matter, actually pleading with terrorists to stand down? I can’t. Make no mistake about it. Our allies and our enemies are watching and taking note. This will have repercussions far beyond Afghanistan.

The stark comparison between Biden and Trump has never been more obvious. We have abandoned thousands of Afghanis who have been working with us to a fate of torture and death. These are people to whom we promised safety in exchange for their help. Many of them are already being hunted down and brutally murdered, as will their families as punishment. Already an untold number of women and young girls are being brutalized in ways we, as a civilized nation, cannot even imagine. But, we have abandoned more than people. We have also abandoned billions of dollars worth of the most advanced war materials. We can expect the Taliban to be returning that material to us in battle and terror attacks.

Even worse, various news outlets have reported there are tens of thousands of Americans who are trapped in the country with no viable plan for exfil. Incredibly, we don’t even know how many there are. There are news reports that they are being advised to make their own way to the airport – through Taliban territory. Good luck with that. Their fate is anybody’s guess. In contrast, former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows reported on Fox News that President Trump’s evacuation plan had included a dire warning to the Taliban that if they hurt even one American or violated even one part of the evacuation agreement he would “destroy” them “immediately.” And, they knew he meant it, and they believed he would follow through. On the other hand, they know Biden is weak and would do no such thing.

We have created the largest hostage situation and propaganda victory in history. Don’t be surprised if some of them turn up on Al Jazeera being tortured and beheaded. Our political and military leaders have failed us and our Afghani allies miserably.

CONCLUSION

Let me be clear. I am not expressing an opinion as to whether or not we should have been in Afghanistan in the first place. Generally, I am not an advocate of “nation building.” But, that is a separate issue from the inept way we have been trying to extricate ourselves. (For the record, however, I would like to remind everyone that in its entire history Afghanistan has never been conquered, not by Alexander the Great and the Greeks, not by the Romans, who otherwise conquered the “known world,” not by Genghis Kahn and his Chinese hordes, not by the British, not by the Russians, and now, not by us. They are a fierce and independent people, and the terrain is extremely inhospitable to would-be conquerors. Our various leaders have ignored history and therefore were doomed to repeat it.)

Biden has been blaming President Trump and other previous Administrations. We can argue culpability, but that is separate and distinct from the current situation. We are not debating whether or not we should have been in Afghanistan and the manner in which the war was prosecuted. We are focusing on the manner in which the exit is being mishandled. Our leaders totally misread the strength of the Taliban. Exfil should have begun months ago. Where were our intelligence-gathering people? Where were our military leaders? Where were Biden and his senior advisors? Who was formulating an exit strategy? What was it? Why was it not employed months ago when it became apparent that a Taliban takeover was inevitable?

In summary, the problem as I see it is not the leaving. It is the execution of the leaving.

We need to know what went wrong. We need a thorough independent investigation. We need the media to do its job for once. We need Congressional hearings. People are dying and will continue to die. American people. But, I won’t hold my breath.

Some people have been calling for Biden to resign. Yes, he is incompetent. Yes, he is cognitively-challenged. We knew that before all this happened. I agree he should not be president, but the alternative, VP Kamala Harris, would likely be worse. She has repeatedly demonstrated that she is in no way suitable for the job. For example, what has she done to resolve the border crisis? Where has she been this week?

Besides Biden, personally, there is plenty of blame to go around. Where have the generals in charge of our troops been? Why haven’t the Dem leaders such as Chuck and Nancy, Congressmen, various self-righteous women’s groups and Hollywood elites weighed in? Are the 70+ million Biden voters happy with their choice now? We are in the midst of a serious crisis, perhaps an existential one, and our leaders have failed us. I hate to say “I told you so,” but I told you so.

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

MASK MANDATE/LOCKDOWNS 2.0

Strap it up, and get ready for mask mandate 2.0 and other restrictions. For months I have sat back and watched and listened to the “experts” bloviate with respect to the positives and negatives of wearing masks. Everyone intones “follow the science,” and yet many of our political leaders and medical spokespersons do not. Instead, they choose to follow the politics. Politicians have been imposing draconian policies on the general public, which are not always based on science and which they don’t follow personally. Their motto is “rules for thee but not for me.” For example, earlier this year during the lockdown CA Governor Gavin Newsome and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot were photographed eating in restaurants without a mask. Nancy Pelosi and Lightfoot had their hair done when the rest of us could not do so. Pelosi has actually threatened to have any congressman who does not wear a mask in the House chamber arrested. NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio has threatened to bar the unvaccinated from any public venues, such as restaurants and the theatre. Several political leaders are talking about requiring a so-called “vaccination passport.”

The medical experts have been wrong continually from the beginning. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical “expert,” has flip-flopped on the mask issue and other aspects of the coronavirus daily (or so it seems). At this point his credibility is “shot.” He isn’t the only one. Most media outlets have repeatedly trotted out “experts” who don’t have the foggiest notion of what they are talking about, but who feel free to give authoritative advice to the rest of us.

The average person is confused and no wonder. The messaging seems to change daily. Wear a mask; don’t wear a mask. You don’t need a mask if you are fully vaccinated. Yes, you do because you might infect those who are not. In fact, wear a double mask. Wear a mask outside. Businesses such as hospitals and restaurants should require all employees to mask up. No, they shouldn’t. Close the schools to in-person classes. No, don’t do that. It is damaging to the kids in various ways. Do all who recover from COVID retain antibodies? Yes/no/maybe. If so, how long do they last? Do we need booster shots periodically? No one really knows, but many act as if they do.

Estimates vary, but according to the latest numbers published by the CDC approximately 50-60% of the population is vaccinated. After all this time the numbers should be higher. We are far short of the Biden Administration’s goal and the percentage needed to attain herd immunity. Some of the unvaccinated have legitimate reasons, but most don’t. Meanwhile, COVID cases and hospitalizations are rising, likely due to the Delta variant. According to a study published by Forbes the fully vaccinated are only half as likely to catch COVID if they have been exposed to an infected person, and they are less likely to die from it. Recently, the vaccinated and the non-vaccinated have been sniping at each other. Many of the former resent the latter as causing them to endure additional restrictions in their lives, which make them wonder what was the point of getting vaccinated in the first place. On the other hand, many of the latter feel it is their right as Americans to choose to forego the vaccines if they want to or if their personal physician advises them to do so. In my view, both sides have legitimate points.

Adding fuel to the fire is new Delta variant, which has shown signs of being more highly transmissible than the “regular” COVID strain. It is the cause of some 80% of new cases. Get ready for government mandates requiring one to show proof of vaccination to be able to engage in certain activities, such as flying, entering a restaurant or a gym, or attending the theatre.

Require your employees to wear a mask. No, you don’t have to do that. Is it even legal? Require everyone to be vaccinated. No, you can’t do that. This is America. We have freedom of choice, and some people have valid reasons for eschewing the vaccines.

According to WHO contrary to popular belief a mask alone does not provide sufficient protection against the virus, particularly the Delta variant. Therefore, those who assume it does are operating under a false sense of security. Furthermore, not all masks are equal. For example, how many people have you seen wearing a bandanna as their “mask?” How many people fail to clean and disinfect their mask regularly? How many people have you observed wearing a mask while exercising? WHO advises not to do so as it impairs one’s ability to breath properly.

Are you thoroughly confused yet? You should be. What should we do? Everyone has an opinion, but no one really knows. Repeat: EVERYONE HAS AN OPINION, BUT NO ONE REALLY KNOWS. Based on my observations people’s opinions are based, in large part, on their news source and political leanings.

In my humble view, these aforementioned mask mandates and other restrictions are not about the health of Americans, not even about combatting the virus. Yes, it dangerous. Yes, it kills people, especially the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems and those in generally poor health. Yes, we need to take it seriously. That said, the mask mandate and other safety measures are not about all that. Not really. What are they about? Power and control. That’s P O W E R and C O N T R O L.

Why do I say that? Simple. Despite all the talk about the dangers of the virus and its capacity to spread and kill, our fearless leaders adamantly continue to keep our southern border open to anyone and everyone. That makes absolutely no sense. Migrants have been pouring across every day. The visuals shown on tv are incomprehensible. It makes me ill just to look at it.

CBP data reports that in excess of 200,000 migrants were apprehended in July 2021, the highest monthly total since 2000. At that rate the annual total will approach 2.5 million, which is a phenomenal and unsustainable number. And those are just the ones we know about. We have no idea where they are from, what their motives are, nor if they are infected with COVID. Estimates run well into the thousands since the start of the year. Fox News has reported that the sheer quantity of these migrants has overwhelmed the system of social services in many border towns such as McAllen, TX. It is causing a humanitarian crisis. The Dem politicians in charge are focusing on penny ante safety measures while they allow the all-time super-spreader to continue. Don’t forget the kids in (Biden) cages subjected to insufficient food, water, toilet facilities, and medical facilities with a COVID positivity rate of up to 10%. The hypocrisy is unbelievable. The only explanation that makes any sense is that the Dems don’t care how many Americans die as long as they can grow their voting base.

Moreover, soon after arrival these migrants are being transported all over the US in many cases surreptitiously in the dead of night without the knowledge or consent of local authorities. I believe this policy is the cause of the spike in COVID cases in Texas and probably Florida as well. And Biden has the unmitigated gall to blame those spikes on Governors DeSantis and Abbott. More on this later. Here we are worrying about wearing a mask or not, gathering in public or not, opening schools or not and the infected migrants are being placed in our backyards. There is probably a cluster of infected migrants near you.

Memo to Biden. You are president of the US, not the world! Do your job. Protect us. Close the border!

CONCLUSION

Personally, I have concluded;

1. COVID has provided our elected officials with the opportunity to exert control over how we live, how we earn a living, how we worship, and how we educate our kids, among other things. Think about it. These restrictions would have been unacceptable and unthinkable two years ago.

2. Once again, the media has failed to do its job. Instead of investigating they have been enabling.

3. Fear of COVID has caused us to surrender many of our liberties and freedoms little by little under the guise of protecting us from an existential threat. Some changes have been radical, while others have been so imperceptible as to be barely noticed. None of them will be beneficial to our traditional way of life. We are literally witnessing the remaking of America.

4. In particular, the Administration has frequently gone out of its way to criticize the COVID policies of “Red State” governors, notably Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Texas’ Greg Abbott. Here is where the politics comes in. DeSantis is seen as a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2024. The Dems desperately want to discredit Abbott and turn Texas “blue.” At the moment, COVID cases are up in both states (likely due to Biden’s open border policy) but in my opinion their overall performances have been stellar, and I am confident they will rectify the matter.

5. The virus has become a political football. We have been induced to cede much control over our lives to people who don’t have the foggiest notion of what they are doing. In many cases, they are literally making it up as they go.

JACKIE MASON

This past weekend we lost a comic legend, Jackie Mason. His irreverent, acerbic and often politically incorrect style of humor offended some people, but many others loved it and thought he was simply hilarious. He performed, with considerable success, in every entertainment medium – movies, tv, Broadway, discography, one-man shows, and books for over 60 years. He won Tonys, Emmys and received a Grammy nomination. Quite simply, he made us laugh.

Yacov Moshe Hakohen Maza was born on June 9, 1928 in Sheboygan, WI, to a family of very strict Orthodox Jews. His parents were from Minsk, Russia. They had emigrated to the US in the 1920s along with the rest of the extended family. He had two sisters and three older brothers. How strict? His father was a rabbi; his grandfather, great grandfather, and great great grandfather had been rabbis; his older brothers became rabbis, and his two sisters married rabbis. That is quite a legacy. Given his family background it was preordained that Jackie would become a rabbi as well. More on that later.

When Jackie was five the family moved to NYC settling, like many other working class families, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. One of the primary reasons for the move was to enable Jackie and his siblings to get a proper religious education in a yeshiva.

Despite the pressure from his family to become a rabbi Jackie had other interests. Years later, he admitted that “I knew from the time I’m 12, I had to plot to get out of this, because this [was] not my calling.” Unfortunately, as long as his father was alive he felt he was unable to do so.

As a teenager he got a job as a busboy at the Pearl Lake Hotel in the “Borscht Belt as the Catskill resort area was known. It didn’t go very well, to say the least. As Jackie later recalled: “Twenty minutes [there] I broke all the dishes. [Then] they made me a lifeguard. ‘But, I can’t swim,’ I told the owner. ‘Don’t tell the guests,’ he [said.]”

Ultimately, Jackie succumbed to the family’s pressure. At 18 he became a cantor. After graduating CCNY with a BA in English and Sociology he attended Yeshiva University, and at 25 he was ordained as a rabbi. When he led his congregations in services he often spiced his sermons with jokes. Soon, as he put it, people began to attend just to hear his jokes, even gentiles. His heart was not in it, but he stayed with it until his father passed away in 1959. Then, he felt free to switch to comedy, because, as he told it, “somebody in the family had to make a living.”

Along with his new profession he changed his name. New profession, new name, fresh start.

The early years were tough. This was the late 1950s and early 1960s, and people were not yet ready for his sarcastic, ethnic style of comedy where he would poke fun at the audience. This was before comedians like Don Rickles and Jack E. Leonard popularized that style of humor. He took jobs at obscure clubs and continued to work in the Catskills, anything to get experience and exposure. His first big break came in 1960 in an LA club where his act was seen by comedian Jan Murray. (Quiz question: What was Jan Murray’s birth name? See answer below.) Murray liked his act and recommended him to Steve Allen who booked him for his late night show. Soon he was appearing in more popular clubs, such as the Copacabana and popular tv shows such as The Perry Como Show, The Dean Martin Show, and the ultimate, The Ed Sullivan Show. Jackie was on his way, or so it seemed.

Jackie wrote much of his own material. Some samples:

  1. On doctors: “That’s a great profession. Where else can you ask a woman to get undressed and then send the bill to her husband?”
  2. On trust: “My grandfather always said that I shouldn’t watch my money, that I should watch my health. So, while I was watching my health someone stole my money. It was my grandfather.”
  3. On fidelity: “Eighty percent of married men cheat in America. The rest cheat in Europe.”
  4. His assessment of a new hot group called the Beatles: “Four kids in search of a voice who needed haircuts.” Obviously Jackie was lacking as a talent scout.

Jackie’s career was derailed as the result of one incident on the Ed Sullivan Show on October 18, 1964. As reported in Wikipedia and the NY Times Jackie’s routine was interrupted by an unscheduled speech by President Lyndon Johnson. In those days, tv was live, so after the speech the show’s technicians had to rearrange the programming on the fly. Apparently, Sullivan held up two fingers to Jackie indicating he had two minutes left, then one finger indicating one minute left. Jackie, miffed to have had his act interrupted to begin with, responded by holding up his own fingers, and declaring “here’s a finger for you, and a finger for you, and a finger for you.” Mason claimed that he was making fun of the situation and that the two fingers were his thumb and index finger, not the middle finger.

Regardless of whether or not one of Mason’s fingers was the middle finger the salient point is that Sullivan believed it was. He canceled the rest of Mason’s performance. Mason sued him. Eventually, he won and the two eventually reconciled, but the damage was done. At the time, Sullivan was one of the most powerful men in the entertainment industry, and based on his influence Mason was labelled as “unpredictable,” “untrustworthy,” and “obscene.” TV producers and club owners shied away from him. Remember, at that time, everything was live. There was no technology to “bleep out” obscene comments. Mason’s career was stymied for many years. A few years later Sullivan “booked” him for a single performance on his show. Also, Jackie tried Broadway with some success, and appeared in some nondescript movies, such as The Stoolie (1972 and The Jerk (1979), but the damage had been done, and it was not undone until the 1980s. As Mason later lamented, “it took 20 years to overcome what happened in one minute.”

Finally, in the mid-1980’s Mason’s new manager convinced him that the old Borscht Belt comedy was making a comeback and booked him for a one-man show on Broadway. The World According to Me was a big success. It ran for two years. It earned Jackie a Tony and led to an Emmy ,a Grammy nomination and several other awards. The critics loved it. Jackie was back.

It was soon followed by other one-man shows, including my personal favorite, Politically Incorrect, movies, tv appearances and voiceovers. One joke from PI was particularly prescient. Remember, this was 1994. Jackie lamented how one was not permitted to criticize anyone except a tall, white, young, Anglo-Saxon Protestant male. Everyone else, women, blacks, short people, ethnics and old people were out of bounds. When he said it, audiences loved it for its absurdity amid a grain of truth. No one is laughing now.

CONCLUSION

Eventually, Jackie married, Jyll Rosenfeld, the manager who had resurrected his career. They have one daughter, Sheba, who is also a comedian. Jackie got involved in some controversy in the 1990s when he referred to NYC Mayor David Dinkins and President Obama as schvartzes during his routines. (Schvartze is a mildly derogatory Yiddish word for a black person). Some members of the audience were offended enough to walk out, but that was an example of Jackie’s humor.

In 2005 in a poll of comedians and comedy insiders sponsored by a UK tv station Jackie was voted #43 among comedy acts and #63 among “Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-ups off All-Time.”

Jackie passed away peacefully in his sleep on July 24 at the age of 93. Many tributes poured in, among them:

  1. Henry Winkler – You put on “truly one of the funniest shows I have ever seen …ever…thank you Jackie, and now you get to make heaven laugh.”
  2. Gilbert Gottfried – “You were “one of the best.”
  3. Sean Hannity – “You were “irreverent, iconoclastic, funny, smart, and a great American patriot.”

Quiz answer: Murray Janofsky.

PRESIDENT BIDEN’S SIX-MONTH REPORT CARD

Monday, we passed the six-month mark of Joe Biden’s presidency. At this point, I think enough time has gone by so that the American people can evaluate his performance. In the interests of time and space I have only included the major areas. The following is just intended to be a summary. As some of you may recall I have covered most of these areas in some detail in previous blogs.

Obviously, the following is largely my opinion. Some of you will probably disagree with some of my commentary. That is to be expected in a free society. A lot will depend on (1) the sources from which you get your news, and (2) your political preconceptions. As always, I welcome your comments.

  1. The Southern Border

One of Biden’s first actions was to reverse all of former President Donald Trump’s policies regarding the southern border. In my opinion, it wasn’t because they weren’t working. They were very effective in securing our borders and mitigating the influx of drugs, criminals, and terrorists, among others. The obvious conclusion is that he did it to placate the far left elements of the Dem Party. For example, he halted construction of the border wall; he reversed the “stay in Mexico” policy; and he relaxed all restrictions with respect to undocumented migrants. The result has turned the border into a “turnstile.” Every day FOX news, for instance, has shown a virtual parade of migrants crossing the border. (Other news outlets are likely ignoring, or at least downplaying, this story.) According to the CBP’s website the total number of “encounters” between migrants and CBP agents for the most recent nine months between October 2020 and June 2021 was approximately 1.1 million compared to 450,000 in the previous 12 months. The largest category was single adults, which accounted for some 70%. Those numbers do not include the illegals that have not been interdicted. No one knows that total, which is very scary.

How many illegal immigrants are living in the US currently? No one knows for sure because so many sneak in undetected. The number I keep hearing is about 20 million, but I believe that number is considerably understated. According to the Migrant Policy Institute the actual number is just under 45 million.

Rather than seeking to avoid CBP agents as had been customary, migrants are actually seeking them out and surrendering to them. We don’t know who these people are, where they are from, and whether or not they are infected with COVID. Many of them have travelled thousands of miles guided by “coyotes” who frequently subjected them to rape and other atrocities. Many of them die enroute. Once they have arrived many of them, including young children, are being housed in cages with insufficient or no food, medicine, beds and toilet facilities. Additionally, many of them are being transported, in secret, all throughout the country. Media access has been limited or non-existent. This is a disaster on many levels – political, economic, social, medical and humanitarian.

Why are the Dems doing this? Why are they deliberately putting Americans at risk? In my opinion, it is because they hope and expect that sometime in the future the migrants will become eligible to vote, and studies have shown that (excluding Cubans) they will vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. So, for the Dems, it’s all about winning elections and retaining power. Grade – F.

2. Energy

After 75 years, toward the end of the Trump Administration the US had finally achieved energy independence. This had been a longtime goal of every administration since WWII. The significance of this is that we would no longer be beholden to the whims of other countries for energy, no more gas lines, no more blackmail, and no more risk of supply interruption during war. Biden ended all that with the stroke of a pen. One of his earliest EOs was to halt construction of the Keystone Pipeline. At the same time he eliminated some 11,000 middle class jobs, which accounted for some $2 billion in wages. These jobs were not factory jobs, which could be replaced with other factory jobs. These were jobs that required years of specialized training and experience. They are irreplaceable. Basically, this action was a negative “twofer.” They told us the reason was environmental, which, to me, is a specious argument. The absence of a pipeline means that the oil has to be transported by trucks, which is less efficient, more costly, more time-consuming and is not environmentally friendly. Also, a few months later Biden did not block the Russian-built pipeline to Germany giving our arch enemy control over the energy needs of our European allies. Totally illogical, nonsensical and inane. Go figure. Grade – F.

3. Voting

There are many facets to this one. Two of the most significant and controversial ones are: (1) The Administration wants to put all elections under the control of the Federal government. Its goal is to control the election process and hence the outcomes of all elections. (2) Furthermore, it is opposed to voter ID requirements, labeling them as “racist.” I and many others view these as poorly-disguised mechanisms to cheat. Consider: (1) The US Constitution clearly states that state legislatures shall fix the manner and time of elections, not the executive branch, not the feds, not the courts, and not any other body. Changing it would require a constitutional amendment. (2) In this day and age, virtually everyone has some form of ID. One is required to provide ID for many things, such to buy alcohol, cigarettes, many over the counter medicines such as Sudafed, to fly, get a library card, take a train or get married. Are all those requirements “racist” as well? Finally, every poll shows an overwhelming majority are in favor of voter IDs, even Dems, even AAs, and even Hispanics. A recent poll conducted by the NY Post reported 78% in favor. How often do 78% of Americans agree on anything? This issue is one of the best illustrations of that when Dems run out of valid arguments they play the “racist” card. Grade – F.

4. The Economy

This is a mixed bag. The recovery from the COVID recession has been spotty and uneven. Unemployment remains higher than it should be. The latest available statistics from the Bureau of Labor put it at 6.1% The goal is about 4%, which most economists define as “full employment.” Some states, such as California, are as high as 9%. Most of you will recall that prior to COVID the US was enjoying record low levels of unemployment.

Many small businesses report that their recoveries are being hampered by an inability to find qualified workers, likely due to the enhanced unemployment benefits that are still in effect in many areas. Interestingly, the latest Department of Labor statistics disclosed that 17 of the top 20 states to regain jobs are run by GOP governors. Not surprising.

By one measure, the financial markets, the economy is doing very well. But, that is only one piece of the puzzle. In evaluating the economy one has to consider the whole picture. All the stimulus packages, much of which was not really necessary and had more to do with rewarding special interests and campaign donors rather than providing COVID relief, have reawakened the specter of inflation. The prices of almost all goods and services have been rising. Anyone who has gone shopping or filled the gas tank at the gas pump has been experiencing this. For example, a gallon of water, which cost 89 cents a few months ago is now $1.19. Furthermore, according to AAA and other sources a gallon of gas at the pump, which generally hovered around $2.00 – $2.40 for much of 2020 has jumped to as high as $3.38 (in CA).

Currently, the people who have received stimulus money are happy. Who doesn’t like to receive free stuff? Those with IRAs or 401Ks are raking it in. But, most students of economics and history know that this will likely be short-lived. Printing money, as we have been doing, is a short-term fix. Eventually, one has to “pay the piper.” Once unleashed, inflation is very hard to control and not without much hardship. History is replete with examples, such as post-WWI Germany, 1970s US, or present-day Venezuela. The Administration’s decision-makers appear to be ignorant of this or hope we are. Grade – D.

5. Foreign Affairs

This is a real mess. Everyone can see that Biden is weak and ineffective. Our allies are nervous. Our enemies are emboldened. Almost daily, our enemies can see evidence that he is cognitively compromised. They see the same speeches and news conferences that we do. Often, he seems to be unable to answer the simplest of questions cogently. As Walt Frazier might say, he fumbles, bumbles and stumbles his way through interviews.

Moreover, he is likely compromised in his dealings with Russia and China as a result of his and Hunter’s nefarious business dealings with them. The mainstream media has suppressed this scandal, but In my opinion Joe and Hunter are bought and paid for.

Russia is threatening Ukraine, a NATO ally by the way, and has bullied Biden into approving their pipeline. By the way, why is Russia’s pipeline environmentally acceptable and not ours?

China has refused to provide information on the origin of the coronavirus, is threatening Taiwan, our longtime ally, and is saber-rattling in the South China Sea.

Iran is threatening to destabilize the Middle East and continuing to develop its nuclear capabilities in blatant violation of the controversial Iran nuclear deal.

Biden’s treatment of Israel, our only enduring and reliable ally in the region, has been outrageous. It makes one wonder if he is anti-Semitic. Israel is feeling increasingly abandoned and isolated. Don’t forget, Trump was on the verge of securing peace agreements between Israel and various Arab states when he was voted out of office.

Terror organizations, such as Hamas, ISIS and the Taliban are becoming increasingly bold. Grade – F

6. COVID

It’s not going well. Yes, we have reliable vaccines (thanks to Trump, not Biden), but that’s the extent of the good news.

Other COVID news:

a. There is continued resistance among some people to getting vaccinated. According to the CDC only 56% of Americans who are eligible to be vaccinated have done so. This is far less that the Administration had set as its goal. Many have chosen not to be vaccinated for various reasons, e. g. health issues, religious reasons, doubts of the vaccines’ efficacy, mistrust of vaccines in general, and personal choice.

b. Recently, there has been a spike in COVID cases. The primary cause is that the virus has mutated as viruses tend to do. The newest mutation, aka the Delta variant, seems to be stronger. It has been infecting primarily those who have not been vaccinated. Furthermore, common sense (which is not common) tells us that when you open your borders and let thousands of unvaccinated people in and then scatter them all over the country you should not be surprised when a spike in cases results. The dummies who are running the administration want it both ways, and that is simply not logical.

c. Masks are once again being required in some locales where COVID has spiked. Most of those who have been vaccinated are reluctant to start wearing them again. They feel they are being “punished” for getting vaccinated. In addition, it sends a subtle message to those who have not been vaccinated that the efficacy of the vaccines is in doubt. Many people believe that masks have limited value. It is better to improve your general health, for example, lose weight or exercise more. Some people may refuse to “mask up.”

d. There is a growing divide between those who have been vaccinated and those who have not. Many in the former group have been advocating forcing the latter group to be vaccinated. I am opposed to forcing people. This is still America where we have freedom of choice. However, I do favor encouraging and convincing them to do so.

e. From the outset there has been much conflicting information regarding COVID, which has tended to confuse people and cause them to mistrust the so called experts. For example, Dr. Fauci has continually flip-flopped on the need to wear masks as well as on other aspects of the virus.

f. There is a growing possibility that the virus may cause an interruption of the 2021 Olympics before the competition concludes in two weeks.

g. After all this time we still do not know definitively the cause of the virus. China has refused to be forthcoming, and our leaders have been loath to force them to do so. Grade – F7.

Our Freedoms

Slowly, but surely our first and second amendment protections are being chipped away. Freedom of speech is being challenged continually by the “cancel culture warriors.” They are a small, but vocal minority. Say or do something they don’t like, and they will attack you relentlessly. Many targets relent rather than face attack. For example, MLB’s decision to change the all-Star game from Atlanta with its heavy minority population to Denver with its disproportionately white population because of Georgia’s revised voting law is but the latest example. Lost in the shuffle was the fact that Georgia’s law was actually significantly less restrictive than that of many other states, including Biden’s home state of Delaware. The CCWs didn’t care, and the media ignored it. MLB wimped out, and the big losers were the fans and businesses of Georgia.

The schools are teaching our kids critical race theory, which holds that whites are born oppressors and AAs are born victims. Everything is to be viewed through that prism. This is outrageous on so many levels. Parents have largely been oblivious to this indoctrination. Many of them have been paying tuition in excess of $50,000 to send their young kids to private schools that teach this garbage, although in some areas they have begun to protest.

Just as appalling is the fact that social media outlets, such as Facebook, openly censure opinions with which it does not agree that are posted on their websites with the support of the Biden administration. The Biden Administration is doing everything it can to chip away at the Second Amendment. There are many reasons for the rise in crime in many locales, but gun control advocates always blame the gun rather than the gun owner. Grade – F.

CONCLUSION

There are many other areas in which Biden has been failing. He has done a lot of damage in just six months. The foregoing were but a few of the most egregious ones. Many believe he is not really in charge of the government. Who is? Harris? His wife? His chief of staff? Bernie Sanders? AOC? Schumer? Pelosi? Some combination of the above? Your guess is as good as mine. Furthermore, VP Kamala Harris has continually demonstrated an inability to serve as president should the need arise. For example, Biden put her in charge of the southern border crisis, and she has not even visited the areas where the crisis is. (El Paso doesn’t count).

As I said, Biden’s mental acuity is clearly deteriorating. It’s not just my opinion. Anyone who watches and listens to his public statements would have to agree. We should all be nervous, very nervous, including any Dems up for re-election in 2022.

The situation has been exacerbated by the attitude of the media. It is supposed to challenge those in power, to keep them “on their toes,” to inform the public, to be impartial. At the moment it is doing none of those things.

In our system of government the voters have the final say. If we don’t like the performance of those in power it is our right, our duty to vote them out. We will get our chance in 2022. At the moment, the most important question is the way things are going can the country afford to wait until then.

Biden’s overall grade is a resounding F.

HISTORY QUIZ

Several of you have requested a quiz. Be careful what you wish for. Here it is. You know what to do.

  1. Donald Trump is considering running for the presidency in 2024. If he were to win he would become the second president to serve two terms nonconsecutively. Who was the other one to do so?:

a. Grover Cleveland

b. Rutherford B. Hayes

c. Theodore Roosevelt

d. Andrew Jackson

2. Who is generally considered to be the “father” of the US Navy?

a. David Farragut

b. Chester Nimitz

c. John Paul Jones

d. Jean Lafitte

3. Which was the 14th state to join the Union?

a. Maine

b. Vermont

c. Kentucky

d. Florida

4. In which war did the US suffer the most fataliies?

a. Civil War

b. Korean War

c. WW1

d. WW2

5. Each of the following is generally considered to have been a “Founding Father,” EXCEPT:

a. Thomas Jefferson

b. James Monroe

c. Alexander Hamilton

d. Andrew Jackson

6. In which war did Teddy Roosevelt achieve fame?

a. Crimean

b. WW1

c. Spanish American

d. Indian Wars

7. The purchase of which future state was labeled derisively by many as “Seward’s Folly.”

a. California

b. Hawaii

c. Alaska

d. Oregon

8. Who was the first Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court?

a. Earl Warren

b. Alexander Hamilton

c. John Jay

d. John Marshall

9. Who was the only person to serve as both vice president and president without having been elected to either office?

a. James Monroe

b. Gerald Ford

c. Teddy Roosevelt

d. Millard Fillmore

10. Part of the land in this future state was acquired in the Gadsden Purchase.

a. Utah

b. California

c. Texas

d. New Mexico

11. Who was the first president to reside in the White House?

a. George Washington

b. John Adams

c. Thomas Jefferson

d. John Quincy Adams

12. The Battle of New Orleans was fought in which war?

a. War of 1812

b. Civil War

c. Revolutionary War

d. French and Indian War

13. What does the “S” in Harry S. Truman’s name stand for?

a. Stephen

b. Sam

c. Sylvester

d. Nothing

14. The four sitting presidents that were assassinated in office included each of the following, EXCEPT:

a. Zachary Taylor

b. James A. Garfield

c. Abraham Lincoln

d. William McKinley

15. The Central Powers in WW1 included each of the following EXCEPT:

a. Yugoslavia

b. Bulgaria

c. Germany

d. Ottoman Empire

16. What year was D-Day?

a. 1940

b. 1942

c. 1944

d. 1945

17. The likeness of each of the following is carved on Mt. Rushmore EXCEPT:

a. Abraham Lincoln

b. Thomas Jefferson

c. Theodore Roosevelt

d. FDR

18. The site of Custer’s Last Stand is near what river?

a. Platt

b. Little Big Horn

c. Snake

d. Montana

19. FDR was elected to four terms. How many different vice presidents served under him?

a. one

b. two

c. three

d. four

20. The last of the lower 48 to join the union was Arizona in 1912. What the 47th state, which had joined a few months before?

a. Utah

b. Oklahoma

c. Nevada

d. New Mexico

ANSWERS:

  1. (a); 2. (c); 3. (b); 4. (a) (623,000, a whopping 91% of the overall total); 5. (d); 6. (c); 7. (c); 8. (c); 9. (b); 10. (d) The other state was AZ.); 11. (b); 12. (a); 13. (d) (No middle name. It’s an homage to his two grandfathers.); 14. (a); 15.(a); 16.(c); 17. (d); 18. (b ; 19. (c) (John Nance Garner -2 terms, Henry Wallace and Harry Truman); 20. (d)

Well, there you have it. Some were easy; some were hard; and some were tricky. How did you do?

FRANK COHN – HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR

Frank Cohn is not famous. He is not a well-known politician, entertainer, or religious leader. In many ways, he is just an ordinary person who led a normal life. Chances are you have never heard of him. However, I believe his story should be told. Why? Frank Cohn is a Holocaust survivor. No, he did not endure years of captivity in a concentration camp. He did not endure a harrowing escape. Unlike most Holocaust survivors his story had a happy ending. Through a fortuitous set of circumstances, unlike millions of others who were not as fortunate, he escaped Nazi Germany before the emigration door was slammed shut, came to the US, managed to stay, and led a productive life. In a sense, he has lived a life as proxy for the millions who did not escape.

Before I discuss Frank’s story permit me to provide a brief overview of Jewish life in Germany before Hitler and the Nazis seized power in 1932-1933. In my opinion, this is important to provide perspective.

Jews had been living in Germany since the Middle Ages, well before Germany even existed as a distinct nation. In 1871 the various regions and principalities were united into the country we know as Germany. At that time, Jews were given the same rights and privileges as non-Jews. This was referred to as the Jewish Emancipation. By 1933 the Jewish population in Germany numbered some 525,000 persons, 400,000 of which were German citizens. Some were poor, but most were middle class, for example, small business owners and professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and scientists. In 1922 a German Jew, Albert Einstein, had won the prestigious Nobel Prize for Physics. All in all, German Jews were as safe, secure and prosperous as Jews living anywhere else. One could argue that the pre-WWII status of German Jews was not all that different from that of present-day American Jews, but that is a topic for another blog on another day.

As most of us know, Jewish existence changed rapidly and irrevocably in 1933 when Hitler and the Nazis consolidated the power they had gained in the 1932 election. They had won control by successfully blaming the Jews for all the country’s problems. This was not unique. Throughout history, many other political and religious leaders had done the same thing. In fact, some historians have postulated that some rulers permitted Jews to remain in their country just so they could be used as scapegoats for crop failures, natural disasters, or other misfortunes.

Most German Jews, cognizant of their longstanding peaceful coexistence with German non-Jews, ignored the warning signs thinking it would all blow over. They refused to believe what they were seeing with their own eyes until it was too late. A few, like the Cohn family, were prescient enough to “get while the getting was good.”

Frank Cohn was born in the German city of Breslau, (present day: Wroclaw, Poland) on August 2, 1925. His father, Martin, owned a successful sporting goods store. His mother, Ruth, was a homemaker. Frank was an only child. Unlike many other families, which were enduring economic hardships during the post-WWI period under the Weimar Republic, the family enjoyed a comfortable, middle class existence.

In early 1933 the Nazis ramped up their campaign against the Jews. One of the most effective measures was the economic boycott that commenced on April 1 and targeted Jewish-owned businesses. Soon after, the Cohns were forced to sell the family store. Martin found a position selling bales of cloth to clothing stores and tailor shops.

Other incidents of persecution occurred later that year to Frank and other Jews. (1) His favorite third grade teacher began wearing the Nazi uniform with a swastika armband. (2) His non-Jewish peers joined the Hitler Youth and displayed the Nazi emblem on their clothing. (3) In school when his classmates sang Hitler Youth songs, Frank was instructed to remain seated, as Jews were forbidden to sing those songs. (4) Often, Frank was chased by Hitler Youth boys after school who taunted him and attempted to beat him up. He avoided being caught, but he was traumatized. (5) His parents were forced to place him in a private Jewish school. Shortly thereafter, the government passed laws which forbad Jews from attending German public schools. In retrospect, the foregoing and other laws and restrictions seem like obvious warnings, but as I said, at the time most Jews did not think they would last.

Not so the Cohns. First, Martin managed to emigrate to the US. Soon after, Ruth and Frank followed. Ruth bought two first class tickets on the Staatendam Steamer of the Holland-America Line, departing from Amsterdam for New York. Ruth feared that if immigration authorities knew that her husband was already in the US, they would order their immediate return to Europe upon arrival. However, fortuitously, first class passengers were invited to disembark directly onto the pier, avoiding the authorities on Ellis Island.

The Cohns reunited in New York on October 30th, 1938. On November 9th, a wave of violent anti-Jewish pogroms referred to as Kristallnacht took place throughout Germany and Austria. In response, President Roosevelt issued an Executive Order permitting all in-country German refugees to stay and, again fortuitously, the Cohns’ visitor visas were extended indefinitely.

Just a month after his 18th birthday in 1943, Frank was drafted into the US Army. During Basic Training he was sworn in as a US citizen. Frank was initially assigned to the 87th Infantry Division but while in Belgium, the Army discovered that he spoke German fluently. He was sent to Le Vesinet, France for a two-week Intelligence course. Frank served during the Battle of the Bulge and later in the Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns, in a 12th Army Group Intelligence unit named T-Force. In the subsequent occupation by Allied Forces, Frank was tasked with guarding war criminals, overseeing German Prisoners of War, and shipping Nazi documents back to the US, in support of future war crime prosecutions.

During his tour Frank had the unique experience of being “captured” by American troops. Briefly, here’s what happened: Frank and his Intelligence unit were on patrol and got lost. They spied another US outfit and approached them to ascertain where they were. The lieutenant in charge of this other outfit doubted that they were American soldiers as, being in an Intelligence unit, they were not carrying ID. He asked them certain questions, such as who had won the World Series the previous year. This was a standard means of identification in the field. Neither Frank nor his CO knew. Meanwhile, another member of the unit approached and asked what was going on. It happened he spoke with a heavy German accent. Out came the M1s. Back at headquarters it took several hours to straighten out the situation. In retrospect, it was humorous, but not so at the time. A trigger-happy GI could easily have shot them.

After the war, Frank completed his undergraduate degree in Psychology and Education at the City College of New York and later obtained a Masters degree in Police Administration from Michigan State University. Frank continued to serve in the military for a total of 35 years before retiring from his role as Chief of Staff of the Military District of Washington. He married Pauline in 1948 and they had one daughter, Laura.

CONCLUSION

Yes, Frank was lucky, lucky his parents recognized the dangers of the Nazis early on, lucky his mom managed to get them into the US, lucky they got to stay when so many others were deported, and lucky he wasn’t shot by American troops. His story is one of the “success” stories of the Holocaust. He made the most of his opportunity. He lived a productive life. He served in WWII; he continued to serve his country by remaining in the army for 35 years; and he served as a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum where no doubt he had a unique firsthand story to tell visitors. It was his way of “giving back.” In the words of the Tom Hanks character in the movie Saving Private Ryan he “earned it.”

INDEPENDENCE DAY

This year July 4th falls on a Sunday. Therefore, it is celebrated on the following day, Monday, July 5 giving us a nice three-day weekend.

Traditionally, Americans celebrate their independence with family gatherings, parades, carnivals, barbecues, fireworks, and, of course, political speeches. Many of us go to the beach, play golf (weather permitting) or attend concerts, plays or baseball games. Many of us remember, with nostalgia, when MLB celebrated Independence Day with a doubleheader, but those days appear to be gone for good. Last year, because of the coronavirus many of those traditional activities were cancelled or curtailed for health reasons, but this year celebrations should, more or less, be back to normal.

According to USA Today some 47.7 Americans will be travelling during the holiday weekend. If true, this would be the second highest amount on record. AAA and other prognosticators are predicting that over 43 million of them will be travelling by automobile, which would set a record. AAA has labeled this phenomenon “revenge travel.” It attributes this to a reaction to being cooped up last year due to health restrictions. Now that the threat of COVID has been mitigated and most travel restrictions have been eliminated or relaxed they will be taking their “revenge.” Travel experts suggest that Friday will turn out to be the busiest day. Moreover, whichever day you travel normally it is best to leave either early in the day or in the dead of night.

By the end of the 18th century many major cities were marking the day with various celebrations and parades. Today, many major cities also hold massive and elaborate fireworks displays. In addition, many private organizations, for example, Macys, the Boston Pops, and many baseball clubs, entertain the public with fireworks displays. Macy’s fireworks celebration, generally considered to be the most famous, has been nationally televised since 1976.

Sadly, many private citizens, who are not properly trained, set off their own fireworks, sometimes with unfortunate results. Every year we read or hear about some tragic accidents involving loss of limbs or even death. Remember the case of NY Giants defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul? He lost part of few fingers (and nearly his life) and almost ended a most promising football career.

However we spend the holiday weekend, hopefully, some of us will take a few minutes to reflect on how our country was “born.” Who were the “founding fathers” we hear so much about? Who were the heroes of the revolution? How much do you know? Let’s find out. Below please find a special Independence Day quiz. As always, no peeking at the internet, and don’t ask “Alexa.”

1. The primary author of the Declaration of Independence was
a. George Washington
b. Henry Lee
c. Benjamin Franklyn
d. Thomas Jefferson

2. The oldest continuous Independence Day celebration is in what city?
a. Bristol, RI
b. New York, NY
c. Waterbury, CT
d. Philadelphia, PA

3. The origin of the song, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” was
a. American troops during the Revolutionary War
b. French troops during the RW
c. British military before the RW
d. Hessians at the battle of Trenton, NJ

4. The movie, “Independence Day” starred
a. Tom Cruise
b. Will Smith
c. Morgan Freeman
d. Daniel Day-Lewis

5. The first person to sign the Declaration of Independence (and the only one to do so on July 4) was
a. Thomas Jefferson
b. Patrick Henry
c. Benjamin Franklyn
d. John Hancock

6. Each of the following was a member of the Committee of Five (assigned to draft the Declaration), except:
a. George Washington
b. Roger Sherman
c. John Adams
d. Benjamin Franklyn

7. Who was the only President to have been born on the 4th of July?
a. John Adams
b. Grover Cleveland
c. Calvin Coolidge
d. James Polk

8. Each of the following Presidents died on July 4th, except:
a. John Adams
b. Thomas Jefferson
c. James Monroe
d. James Madison

9. Each of the following is considered to be a “Founding Father,” EXCEPT:
a. John Adams
b. Andrew Jackson
c. Alexander Hamilton
d. James Madison

10. The “Star Spangled banner” was written by Francis Scott Key during which war?
a. French and Indian War
b. American Revolution
c. Civil War
d. War of 1812

11. The origin of the nick-name “Uncle Sam” is purportedly:
a. The Continental Congress
b. The Sons of Liberty
c. Meat packer who supplied meat to the US Army
d. British troops during the RW

12. Who, along with John Adams, is responsible for designating the bald eagle as the US’s National Bird?
a. George Washington
b. Thomas Jefferson
c. Benjamin Franklyn
d. Patrick Henry

13. Which state was the last of the “lower 48” to join the Union?
a. New Mexico
b. Oregon
c. Hawaii
d. Arizona

14. How many persons signed the Declaration of Independence?
a. 13
b. 26
c. 40
d. 56

15. Which was the first state to ratify the Constitution?
a. Virginia
b. New York
c. Delaware
d. Massachusetts

16. Purportedly, the Independence Day Nathans Hot Dog Eating Contest was first held in
a. 1876
b. 1930
c. 1945
d. 1916

17. Who was one of only two signers of the Declaration of Independence to be elected President?
a. John Adams
b. Andrew Jackson
c. Alexander Hamilton
d. Aaron Burr

18. Although July 4 is recognized as Independence Day, the Continental Congress approved a “resolution of independence” on this date.
a. June 15
b. July 1
c. July 2
d. July 3

19. Washington, DC became the capital in
a. 1776
b. 1800
c. 1820
d. 1920

20. The 14th state of the union was:
a. Maine
b. Georgia
c. Florida
d. Vermont

21. Independence Day became a federal holiday in:

a. 1776

b. 1783

c. 1870

d. 1916

22. In 1778 George Washington celebrated Independence Day with his troops by:

a. Giving everyone a raise

b. A 21-gun salute

c. Giving a rousing speech

d. giving everyone a double ration of rum

23. Each of the following presidents’ faces are sculpted on Mt. Rushmore, EXCEPT:

a. Franklyn Roosevelt

b. Theodore Roosevelt

c. Thomas Jefferson

e. George Washington

ANSWERS: 1. (d); 2. (a); 3. (c); 4. (b); 5. (d); 6. (a); 7. (c); 8. (d); 9. (b); 10. (d); 11. (c); 12. (b); 13. (d); 14. (d); 15. (c); 16. (d); 17. (a); 18. (c); 19. (b); 20. (d); 21. (c); 22. (d); 23. (a)

CONCLUSION

Well, how did you do? I’d like to know.
Now, some Independence Day-related trivia with which you can impress your friends:

1. Although we consider July 4th to be the official date of our independence, most historians now agree that the Declaration was not actually completely signed until August 2.

2. On July 4, 1777, the city of Bristol, RI celebrated the first anniversary of ID with a thirteen-gun salute. The city’s annual ID parade, which was first held in 1785, is the oldest continuous ID celebration in the US.

3. In 1870 Congress designated ID as a federal holiday. In 1938 it granted federal employees a day off with pay on that day.

4. With respect to the “Star-Spangled Banner:
a. It was composed by Francis Scott Key from a British prisoner ship in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. (Key was not a prisoner, himself. He was on the ship to negotiate the release of a prisoner.)
b. He wrote it as a poem named “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” Later, it was set to a tune, which, ironically, is an English drinking song, with the strange name of “To Anacreon in Heaven.” In case you’re wondering, the song was the official song of a gentlemen’s club in 18th century London.
c. Key wrote four verses and a fifth verse was added later, but, of course, we only sing the first. Does anyone know the words of the others? I don’t, but I will say that all five verses end with “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
d. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson declared that it should be played at all official events.. The “Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem in 1931.

5. Some notable events that occurred on this day:
a. 1802 – The US Military Academy at West Point opened.
b. 1817 – The ground was broken for the Erie Canal in Rome, NY.
c. 1826 – Former Presidents and Founding Fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died within hours of each other.

d. 1939 – Baseball legend Lou Gehrig delivered his famous “luckiest man” speech before a packed house at Yankee Stadium.

Enjoy yourself on the 4th, but, above all, be safe. If you travel, drive defensively and if you must handle fireworks, BE VERY CAREFUL!