HEROISM IN UKRAINE

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

WAR IN UKRAINE

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

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

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

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

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

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

Dred Scott (c 1799-1858

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

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (1913-2005)

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

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

Frederick Douglas (c 1817-1895)

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

Harriet Tubman (c1822-1913)

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

George Washington Carver (c1864-1943)

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

CONCLUSION

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

PRESIDENTS’ DAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other quiz questions

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

HILLARY TO THE RESCUE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

VALENTINE’S DAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

For example,

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

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

SUPER BOWL LVI

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

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

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

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

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

ANSWERS

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

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

Enjoy the game.

My prediction –  Rams 31 – 27.

IS JOE BIDEN THE “MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE?”

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

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

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

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

CONCUSION

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

HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY

Today, January 27, is “Holocaust Remembrance Day.” On November 1, 2005 UN General Assembly resolution 60/7 established this date as HRD to commemorate the date on which the last concentration camp was liberated. As most of you know, from 1933 to 1945 the Nazis murdered some six million Jews, roughly 2/3 of all European Jews, and millions of other “undesirables” such as communists, Gypsies, and dissidents, at these death camps.

The so-called “Final Solution” was a ruthless, highly-organized plan of extermination. I and many historians believe that the roots for the FS can be traced back to the 1920s. Largely due to harsh reparations and other penalties imposed by the allies following WWI Germany was suffering economic ruination. The average German was suffering and desperate. As has often been the case throughout history the Jews were an easy and convenient target to blame. The situation was ripe for the rise of a brutal dictator, who would promise to restore Germany to power and prominence, which is exactly what happened.

Despite the presence of ample of photographic evidence and eye witness accounts of these atrocities there are many who believe the historical accounts of the Holocaust are exaggerated or worse that it never took place at all. I fear, as do many historians and Jewish leaders, that these denials will increase the likelihood that it will be repeated. More on this below.

Below please find a brief timeline of the Nazis’ rise to power and the execution of the FS:

  1. February 24, 1920 – The Nazi Party, aka the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, is established in Munich, Germany.
  2. January 30, 1933 – Adolph Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg.
  3. March 22, 1933 – The Nazis established the first death camp, Dachau. Some 188,000 prisoners would pass through the camp, and some 28,000 of them would be murdered.
  4. August 1934 – Von Hindenburg dies. Hitler abolishes the office of president and becomes dictator.
  5. November 8, 1938 – A nationwide pogrom known as Kristallnacht wreaks havoc on Germany’s Jews. Jewish synagogues, homes and businesses are destroyed, and thousands are killed or transported to death camps.
  6. May 1940 – Auschwitz, the largest and most notorious death camp of them all, is established. During the course of the war it is estimated that 1.3 million prisoners were transported there and 1.1 million of them were murdered.
  7. January 20,1942 – The Wannsee Conference was convened in Berlin at which high-ranking Nazis hammered out the plans for the implementation of the “Final Solution.”
  8. January 27, 1945 – Auschwitz-Birkenau, was the last camp to be liberated by allied troops.

CONCLUSION

As I mentioned above, despite the best efforts of the Jewish community and despite the undeniable evidence of photos and eye witness accounts, as time has gone by knowledge of the Holocaust has faded. There are many reasons for this, too many to discuss here, but suffice to say it is a fact and a real problem.

For example, consider a recent survey by NBC News, which reported:

  1. 10% of respondents “did not recall ever having heard the word, ‘Holocaust’ ” before.
  2. The survey disclosed a “worrying lack of knowledge,” in general, with respect to the Holocaust among adults under 40.
  3. Almost 50% of the respondents could not name a single concentration camp.
  4. Holocaust education has been inadequate. Unbelievably, nearly 40% of the respondents did not even know that it had occurred during WWII. 22% thought it had occurred during WWI. Others thought the Civil War or the Vietnam War.

Needless to say, these results are very disturbing. Gary Schneider, executive vice president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, cautioned “if we let these trends continue for another generation the crucial lessons from this terrible part of history could be lost.” I agree.

As time passes and the survivors die off memories will likely fade. Already a cadre of “Holocaust deniers” have been claiming that the Holocaust never happened. This is most disturbing to Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish history at Emory University in Atlanta who considers Holocaust denial a “form of anti-Semitism.” She adds that the lessons of the Holocaust remain very relevant today not only with respect to understanding anti-Semitism but also “all the other “isms’ of society.” Again, I agree.

History, tells us that anti-Semitism has been omnipresent, sometimes overt and sometimes covert, but always lurking, waiting for a chance to rear its ugly head. The primary lesson of the Holocaust for Jews – remain ever vigilant, never forget, and never let others forget.

ONE-YEAR ASSESSMENT OF BIDEN PRESIDENCY

Yesterday, January 20, marked one year since President Biden’s inauguration. Accordingly, I think this would be an appropriate time to assess his performance. I don’t want to be overly critical, but in my opinion his performance can be summed up in one word, F. U. B. A. R. He has been firmly under the control of the far-left wing of the Dem Party.

As I will outline below, everything he has attempted has been botched, and the policies he has managed to enact have benefited others, not the US. One can argue whether this is due to incompetence, intent, or a blind desire to negate anything accomplished by former president Donald Trump, but in any event that is how I see it. Unfair, you say? Too harsh, you say? Read on as I defend my assessment.

Firstly, let’s look at his positive accomplishments. That’s easy; there have been none. I cannot recall anything he has accomplished that has improved the lives of Americans. If you can, I would like to hear it.

On the other hand, there have been many negatives. The following, in no particular order, are the ones I consider to be the most egregious. I have blogged on each of these before, so there is no need to repeat them in detail at this time.

  1. Opening the southern border. He reversed former president Trump’s stay-in-Mexico policy, which was working, and halted construction of the wall. As a result, hundreds of thousands of illegals have been pouring in, some of which are likely terrorists and/or COVID-infected, as well as untold quantities of drugs which are literally killing us. In some areas the drug cartels have virtually taken control of our own border.
  2. Halting the Keystone Pipeline. He accomplished this via executive order the first day as if he couldn’t wait to do it. The result was to negate America’s energy independence and return us to dependency on OPEC and other foreign actors for our oil. The predictable result has been a sharp increase in the price of home heating oil and gas at the pump. According to AAA the average price of regular gas has increased to $3.30 from $2.39 a year ago. As a by-product, he wiped out thousands of middle class jobs, which cannot be replaced. His excuse was to protect the environment, which many experts say is fallacious. Also, if he was so concerned about the environment why did he allow Russia to build a pipeline in Europe?
  3. Inflation/The Economy. His policies have injected trillions of dollars into the economy supposedly to help those in need. The much-ballyhooed COVID relief packages were mostly “pork.” The result has been the worst inflation in 40 years. Also, have you noticed the supply chain interruptions? In some places the shelves are empty as in Soviet Russia.
  4. COVID. During the 2020 campaign he boasted he would defeat COVID. Instead, fatalities are higher than they were under Trump, and there are severe shortages of testing kits, therapeutics and monoclonal antibodies. Moreover, his fixation on those who have chosen not to be vaccinated has divided the country.
  5. Foreign Policy. The withdrawal from Afghanistan, while the right policy, was executed incompetently. The result was that we left behind untold hundreds of Americans and Afghani allies as well as some $85 billion of equipment. Worldwide, most of our allies mistrust us and most of our enemies sense weakness and no longer fear or respect us. In yesterday’s speech he practically invited Russia to invade Ukraine when he indicated a “minor incursion” would be acceptable. What the heck is a “minor incursion?” I assure you it would not be “minor” to the Ukraine people. This appeasement of a thug reminded me of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler in Munich in 1938. We all know how that turned out. Later, White House spokespersons Jen Psaki and Kamala Harris moved to “clarify” the incursion comment saying any move against Ukraine would be an “invasion” for which Russia would pay a “heavy price,” but the damage had been done.
  6. Crime. What can I say. All one has to do is turn on the news. Habitual criminals are being released from prison or not prosecuted at all. Felonies are being downgraded to misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are being ignored. Random shootings are common. Liberal prosecutors are more focused on the rights of criminals than their victims. Law-abiding people do not feel safe. In NYC people are afraid to ride the subways. Even newly-elected mayor Eric Adams has acknowledged their danger. Biden and his woke allies have simply been ignoring the problem.

CONCLUSION

I am confident that many of those who voted for Biden now have “buyer’s remorse.” They thought they were voting for a moderate, a calm unifier. Instead, they got a cognitively-challenged, far left socialist or, perhaps, a weak leader who has allowed himself to be dominated by the far left wing of the Democrat Party.

He has denigrated as racists and unpatriotic, Republicans, Trump supporters, moderate Democrat senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, the unvaccinated, and any other groups that have opposed his policies. Rather than being a unifier, he has been divisive. Even worse, he seems out of touch with the American people. Rather than focusing on the issues that are important to voters, such as inflation, the economy, the southern border, and crime, he rails about “voter suppression,” the Senate filibuster rules, racism, and the unvaccinated.

No doubt, many Americans would love to have a “do-over” of the 2020 presidential election. But, alas, there are no “do-overs” in politics. We are stuck with Biden for the next three years unless he is removed pursuant to the 25th Amendment. If that were to occur we would go “from the frying pan (Biden) into the fire (Harris).”

The warning signs are up for Biden and the Dems. Some 28 Dem congresspersons have announced they will not be seeking re-election in 2022. Most observers are predicting a “red wave” in 2022 with the GOP seizing control of both houses of Congress.

Additionally, according to the latest Associated Press poll only 28% of voters think Biden should run for re-election in 2024. Furthermore, the latest generic poll of likely voters released by Trafalgar Group disclosed that 56% would favor the GOP candidate and only 42% the Dem candidate. Even worse, much of the mainstream media, even commentators on stalwart supporters such as MSNBC and CNN, is starting to turn on Biden.

If Biden does not run in 2024 who would replace him? Surely, not Harris. Her poll numbers are worse than his. But, not to worry. Waiting in the wings for a third go-round in 2024 is none other than ………….. Hillary.