DEMOCRATS’ DYSFUNCTION

What has happened to the Democratic Party?  In my opinion, the broad “new deal” coalition of labor, ethnics, minorities, other disadvantaged persons, liberals and even some moderates forged by FDR during the 1930s in the depths of the Great Depression is transforming before our very eyes.  Today, the Party of FDR, JFK and LBJ is virtually unrecognizable.

For example:

  1.  The party has moved so far to the “left” that it is alienating many moderates and independent voters.  This was evidenced in the 2016 election by Mr. Trump’s victories in states such as Wisconsin and Michigan.
  2. Some of the Party’s most visible spokespersons are politicians such as Corey Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, who, although very popular, is not really even a Democrat, but an out and out socialist.  They and others have been pulling the Party’s leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to the left with them.
  3. Some of the policies they have been espousing, such as open borders, universally free healthcare, cradle to grave government assistance, and free college education for everyone may sound appealing to some, but they are ill-advised and irresponsible on many levels, have not worked in other countries, would destroy the middle class and bankrupt the country.
  4. Many of the Dems still refuse to believe that they lost in 2016 legitimately.  Even 18 months later they are still focused on Russian election tampering and collusion with the Trump campaign.  They refuse to admit they lost because the GOP had a better candidate and most Americans were just fed up with the same old, same old in Washington.  Their primary campaign issue for 2018 is negativity: Trump is a bad guy.  He is a racist, a misogynist.  We hate him.  We want to impeach him.  They will need more than that to win back Congress in 2018 and the presidency in 2020.
  5. This month is the anniversary of the commencement of the Mueller investigation.  Whether you love or hate President Trump you have to admit that the Mueller investigation has not turned up even a smidgeon of collusion or obstruction on the part of Mr. Trump or his campaign.  And, this is despite having spent millions of dollars, conducting over 100 interviews, examining millions of documents and diverting the country’s attention away from more important matters.  In addition, the objectivity of the investigators and the investigation, itself, has been, to say the least, highly questionable.  Instead, we have found evidence of improper, if not illegal, acts by Democrats and their supporters, for instance, leaking confidential information and entrapment on the part of FBI agents (Stroh, Comey and others), compiling and pushing an unverified, if not downright false, dossier on Mr. Trump that was compiled by the Clinton campaign, “trumping up” phony evidence to obtain a FISA warrant, engaging in illegal wiretapping, and placing an undercover agent within the Trump campaign.  One could legitimately make the case that Messrs. Trump, Jr., Papadopoulos and Carter were “set up” with respect to their infamous meetings and information provided.  This week, even the NY Times was forced to concur, opining that “a year and a half later, no public evidence has surfaced connecting Mr. Trump’s advisors to the hacking or linking Mr. Trump, himself, to the Russian government ‘s disruptive efforts.”  You know it must have killed them to admit and publish that.
  6. Somehow, the Party has been maneuvered into defending the heinous MS-13 gang as well as other criminal illegal aliens.  In addition, their open border stance and support of sanctuary cities have given many people the distinct impression that they prefer the rights of illegal aliens to those of US citizens.  I and many others believe their preference for the rights of illegal aliens is designed to develop a new constituency of voters, prospectively.
  7. MS-13 is one of, if not the, most vicious gangs in the world.  They don’t just kill people.  They chop them up with machetes.  They dismember them.  They torture.  They gang rape.  And, they do it to the victims’ extended family members as well.  They are the worst of the worst.  And they have been increasingly active in the US.
  8. Surprise!  Surprise!   Some members sneak in hidden among other refugees and asylum seekers.  Kids, no more than ten or eleven are recruited or coerced to join.  Mr. Trump’s border security policy attempts to keep them out.  The Dems’ open border policy makes it easy for them to enter.  The crowning blow came this week when Mr. Trump specifically referred to MS-13 members as “animals.”  Based on their abovementioned acts this is hard to dispute.  I think most Americans would agree with that characterization.  But, not the NY Times and Washington Post, which either carelessly or deliberately misquoted Mr. Trump to make it appear that he characterized all immigrants as “animals.”  Also, various Dem politicians and supporters piled on.  For example, Anna Navarro compared Mr. Trump to Nazis and former slave owners.  Nancy Pelosi defended MS-13 members , lecturing us that “we are all God’s children,” and we should “respect the dignity of every person.”  Incidentally, it was the same Anna Navarro who during the 2016 campaign referred to candidate Trump as “an animal.  Apologies to animals.”  Regardless of one’s opinion of President Trump or his choice of words, the Dems are definitely on the wrong side of this issue.
  9. Congressman Al Green (D-TX) is still aggressively pushing impeachment, like a modern-day Don Quixote.  Mr. Green should review the constitution.   Its definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” is fairly flexible (Gerald Ford once famously said it is whatever the Congress decides it to be at a particular point in time.), but it definitely does not include personal dislike or disagreement.

CONCLUSION

The sad irony is that if the Dems were so inclined there are legitimate issues they could exploit and campaign on.  For example, many Americans are concerned about healthcare and gun violence.

Historically, the party in power normally loses seats in the off-year midterm elections.  The question is how many seats will the GOP lose and will they still retain a majority.  The GOP has several accomplishments it could campaign on, such as the improving economy, low unemployment (historically low in the case of AAs), tax cut, defeating ISIS, NOKO talks, but they have to articulate them effectively.

The mainstream media would have us believe that a “blue wave” will sweep the country in November.  I have my doubts.  Let’s not forget that some of the Dems running for re-election are in “red” states that Mr. Trump won handily in 2016.  Personally, I think the results will be closer than most people think, and if the Dems don’t change their strategy they could be in for a big disappointment.

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THE ROYAL WEDDING

As the whole world knows, the royal wedding between Price Harry, aka Prince Henry of Wales, the second son of Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales, and Meghan Markle will take place tomorrow, Saturday, at 12:00 pm London time at St. George Chapel at Windsor Castle.  Probably, much, if not most, of the civilized world will be glued to their tv sets so as not to miss even the most insignificant part of the nuptials.

For the most part, I have not been a big fan of the Royal family’s comings and goings.  I have nothing against most of them, personally.  My main interest in the Royals has been the manner in which they have impacted history, particularly the more notable rulers, such as King Henry VIII and Queens Elizabeth and Victoria, to name a few.   As for the rest of it, for example, their exalted and privileged status and station in life due to an accident of birth, the overly lavish lifestyle, the celebrity status, all the pomp and circumstance and suffocating protocols and etiquette, I just don’t see the relevance in the 21st century.  In short, to me they are an anachronism.

All that said, I am interested in the Royal Wedding because of Meghan Markel.  I enjoyed watching her performances on the TV hit series, Suits (2011-2018), and I am intrigued by the fact that she is a “commoner” (Incidentally, I really hate that term.  It conjures up class distinctions and tells you all you need to know about monarchies and why they’re passe.), an American, and a person of “mixed race heritage” as Wikipedia so delicately puts it,  As most of you know by now, she will be the second American and the first person of “mixed race heritage” to marry into the British royal family.

So, who is Meghan Markel, and how did she get to where she is?  Glad you asked.  Read on.

Meghan Markel was born on August 4, 1981 in Los Angeles.  Her father is Caucasian and, interestingly, according to Wikipedia, is a distant relative of England’s King Edward, III.  Her father was in the entertainment business peripherally.  He was a lighting director in daytime TV and actually won a Daytime Emmy.  Her mom, an African American, was a social worker and yoga instructor.  They divorced when Meghan was six.

She graduated from Northwestern University in 2003 with a degree in international studies and theatre. She married Trevor Engelson in 2011.  They divorced in 2013.

Meghan is more than merely an actress, although that is how she is best known.  To put it bluntly, before Suits, however, her acting career was mostly nondescript.  It consisted of small, forgettable roles in forgotten movies and single-episode appearances on tv series.  For example, in 2005’s movie A Lot Like Love she played a “passenger on a plane.”

In her other endeavors, Meghan was a counsellor for “One Young World,” an international charity that advocates gender equality and derides “modern-day slavery.”  In addition, she was founder and editor-in-chief of The Tig, a lifestyle website.  Furthermore, in partnership with Reitmans, a Canadian clothing company, she distributed a line of women’s fashion work wear.

Some fun facts regarding the royal couple nuptials, most of which those of you who are ardent “royal watchers” probably already know:

  1. Harry and Meghan met on a blind date.
  2. The Saturday wedding is a break with tradition in that such events have usually been held on a weekday.  Traditionally, the weekday wedding days have been designated as “Bank holidays,” but this Saturday has not.
  3. In a nice gesture, the royal couple has requested that, in lieu of traditional gifts, guests should make donations to one of various designated charities.
  4. Due to Meghan’s father’s illness Price Charles will walk her down the aisle.
  5. Prince William will be the best man.  The couple has selected the children of various friends and relatives to act as pages and bridesmaids.
  6. Due to the small venue, the guest list will be limited to 600, roughly 1/3 of the number, for instance, that attended the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1947.  These are people who have a “close” and “direct” relationship with the couple.  In addition, since Harry is “merely” 6th in the line of succession to the throne, protocol dictated that it was not required to invite political leaders and Heads of State, and so most of them were omitted.
  7. Since Harry is one of the six persons in the line of succession both Queen Elizabeth and the Church had to give their approvals, which they did.  In case you’re interested, the Church no longer denies permission to a divorced person with a living spouse.  Meghan was baptized into the Church in March and is in the process of becoming a British citizen.  It has not been determined if she will retain her US citizenship.
  8. It is estimated that the wedding will cost 500,000 pounds (approximately $673,000), which, thankfully, will be covered by the Royal Family.
  9. In addition to the reception for those attending the ceremony there will be a larger one for family and other close friends and a carriage procession, which will be viewed by selected people.

CONCLUSION

This will be a real rarity for all you “royal watchers,” many of whom will rise in the wee hours tomorrow so as not to miss anything.  Others may watch bits and pieces, here and there.  Still others will take a “bah humbug” approach and watch reruns or old movies.

Finally, for those of you that are interested, some etiquette tips for the guests courtesy of Town and Country and its panel of etiquette experts:

  1. One expert advises ladies to cover their heads; another one said “hats are encouraged, but not required.”  Good luck with that.
  2. Ladies, no bare legs.
  3. Heels should be moderate, but not too high.
  4. Don’t wear white.
  5. Many men will wear a “morning suit” whatever that is, but if not, a conservative suit, grey or navy, would be appropriate.  Avoid garish waistcoats or accessories.
  6. Bow and curtsy properly.

So, now you can eagerly watch for etiquette faux pas.  Enjoy the show.

ISRAELI INDEPENDENCE DAY

Today, May 14, is a “red-letter day” for the State of Israel and its supporters.  First of all, it marks the 70th anniversary of Israeli Independence Day, formally known as the “Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel.”  (The equivalent date on the Hebrew calendar, 5 Iyar, was celebrated throughout Israel as Independence Day last month.)  Secondly, today the US embassy officially relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The US embassy relocation was a long time coming.  To paraphrase President Trump, a very staunch supporter who, make no mistake about it, was the driving force behind the move, every country has the right to designate its capital city, and foreign embassies should be located in the capital city.  In reality, Jerusalem is and has been the real capital of Israel, so the US is merely recognizing reality.  Every other President promised to relocate the embassy, but it was President Trump who delivered.

Critics will wring their hands and complain that it hurts the peace process, but, in truth, the peace process between the Jews and the Arabs in the region has been languishing for years.  Some would characterize it as DOA.  Animosities go back thousands of years.  Hardliners like Iran have denied Israel’s very right to exist and have vowed to crush it.  For all intents and purposes, a constant state of war has existed between Israel and most of its neighbors for the entirety of its existence.  President Trump has reaffirmed the US’s commitment to the peace process, and I believe him.  Today’s Hamas-inspired violence was unfortunate, but it fell far short of the chaos and mayhem that some had predicted.

The birth of the State of Israel can be traced to the Zionist movement of the late 19th Century.   Two of the early leaders of this movement were Theodore Hertzl and Chaim Weizmann.  The Zionists’ goal was to re-establish a Jewish state in the land area that is now the State of Israel.

It picked up steam following WW1.  The Middle East had been part of the Ottoman Empire.  After their defeat, the British took control of the area.  The Brits issued the controversial Balfour Declaration, named for Foreign Secretary Alfred Balfour, which among other things, called for the establishment of a home for the Jews in Palestine.  That gave Zionists hope.  A land of their own free from the scourge of anti-Semitism.

The problem was, the Declaration was vague on details, and it may have contradicted certain promises the Brits had made to Arab chieftains in exchange for their support against the Turks in WW1.  Also, there was a large majority of Arabs living in the area who wanted no part of a Jewish state.  The powers that be essentially “kicked the can down the road.”

The situation simmered until after WWII when, in response to increasing violence the Brits dumped the matter into the hands of the UN.  The UN passed a resolution to partition Palestine, as it was called, into three areas – an Arab state, a Jewish state and a “Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem.”  The Jewish state was to receive some 56% of the area’s landmass.

Unlike the Arabs, the Jews were willing to accept the terms of the resolution, except for the borders.  The Arabs wanted all of the area and were willing and eager to take it by force.  Consequently, the Jewish leader, David Ben-Gurion, famously stated that if the Arabs would not agree to the borders neither would the Jews. “Why should we obligate ourselves to accept boundaries that, in any case, the Arabs don’t accept?”  If Israel won a war, he said, it would keep whatever additional land it captured.  When the dust had settled, Israel was in control of an additional 60% of the land that the UN resolution had originally awarded to the Arabs.

Meanwhile, on May 14, 1948 Israel issued a declaration establishing itself as a Jewish state.  There was some discussion regarding the name of the state.  Some of the other names considered besides “Israel” were “Ziona,” “Ivriya,” and “Herzliya.”  “Israel” was Ben-Gurion’s choice, and I believe it was a good one.

CONCLUSION

In my opinion, the State of Israel has much to be proud of.  As stated above, it had to fight for its very existence against very long odds.  Furthermore, it has had to maintain a constant state of vigilance and fight several wars and skirmishes just to survive.  According to an editorial in the National Catholic Reporter it is “an event to celebrate in a part of the world where democracy remains rare,” (I would say, “unique.”)

Israel’s only reliable ally over the past 70 years has been the US, although I believe that some Administrations have been less supportive than others.  The US was the first country to recognize Israel as a state.  (It took President Truman about 11 hours to do so.)  In return, Israel has been the US’s only consistent and reliable ally in the region.

I maintain that Jews should be very proud of this country.  Even non-Jews should admire its ability and determination to continue to survive in a hostile world.

70 years!  Congratulations, Israel!  Well done!

MOTHER’S DAY

Today, Sunday, May 13, most Americans will celebrate Mother’s Day.  Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world in some form.  Different countries have their own way of celebrating the day and even celebrate on different dates.  Some countries have replicated the US traditions – hallmark [or email (tacky)] card, flowers, chocolates, and family gatherings; others have incorporated it into other holidays honoring women or mothers; and in still others, a combination of the two has evolved.

Restauranteurs claim that Mother’s Day is their busiest day of the year. Evidently, one of the perks for mothers on MD is a day off from cooking.  And why not?  (On the other hand, on Father’s Day the restaurants are relatively empty as many fathers are put to work barbecuing.

In the US MD was first celebrated in 1908 when a lady named Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother.  Ms. Jarvis had been campaigning for the country to recognize a day to honor mothers since 1905 when her mother had passed away.  In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed an official proclamation establishing the second Sunday in May as MD.  It was to be a day to honor mothers and the concept of motherhood and their contributions to society.

Eventually, Ms. Jarvis became disillusioned with the commercialization of the holiday. By the 1920’s the greeting card, candy and flower industries were marketing their products aggressively to take advantage of the holiday. Jarvis strongly advocated that people should demonstrate their love and respect for their mothers through personalized, handwritten letters instead.  Being a person of action she organized protests and threatened boycotts of these industries.  At one point, she was arrested for disturbing the peace at a candy manufacturers’ convention.

Despite her efforts, commercialization of the day has continued to grow.  Americans, in particular, tend to demonstrate their love in tangible, material ways through the giving of gifts.  Today, MD is one of the biggest days for the sale of flowers, candy and greeting cards. According to CNN this year Americans will spend an average of $180 on their mothers for the holiday.  In addition, it is the third-biggest day for church attendance behind Christmas Eve and Easter.

As I stated, MD is celebrated in many countries in different ways and at different dates. For example:

1. The most common date is the second Sunday in May, which is May 13 this year. Besides the US, some of the countries that celebrate it on this date are Canada, Italy the Peoples Republic of China and Turkey.

2. Some countries, such as the UK, Ireland and Nigeria, celebrate it on the fourth Sunday of Lent. The UK incorporated it into a previously existing holiday called “Mothering Sunday.” ” Mothering Sunday” dates from the 16th Century.

3. Many Arab countries, such as Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia celebrate it on the vernal equinox (March 21).

4. Russia used to celebrate MD on March 8 in conjunction with International Women’s Day, but in 1998 the date was changed, by law, to the last Sunday in November.

5. Bolivia celebrates it on May 27, which is the date of an historically significant battle in which women played a key role.

6. Since 1950 France has celebrated MD on the fourth Sunday in May, except when the date conflicts with Pentecost in which case it is delayed to the next Sunday.

7. Hindus celebrate MD on the new moon day in the month of Baisakh (April/May).

CONCLUSION

Some of you may have noted that I spelled MD as Mother’s Day.  This was not an error.  The official holiday is spelled in the singular tense.    According to Ms. Jarvis the day is intended to honor “the best mother who ever lived, yours.”

MD is one of the few truly internationally recognized holidays.  One of the charming features of the day is the variety of ways and dates on which it is celebrated. This is derived from the differences in customs and cultures around the world.

One thing is certain now and will remain so prospectively: on this day the mother/wife is truly in charge.

Men, all together now, let’s repeat the two-word mantra for a successful marriage:
YES, DEAR!

PRESIDENT TRUMP AND THE IRAN NUKE DEAL

President Trump has opted out of the Iran Nuke Deal, formally called The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) and one would think Armageddon was upon us.  The Dems and the usual suspects in the media would have you believe that Trump’s “irresponsible,” “reckless” action will make the world less safe and will more likely lead to nuclear war.  The Nation labeled it the “most reckless policy move yet” and a “prelude to war.”  Oh my!  Let’s all take a deep breath and analyze the situation rationally.

  1.  The first point to comprehend is that Mr. Trump was within his rights, legally, to take the action he did.  The deal was never ratified by the Senate.  President Obama, perhaps, realizing that the Senate would have been unlikely to ratify such a flawed agreement, committed the US to it by executive action.  Therefore, Mr. Trump was within his rights to undue it the same way.
  2. There are many flaws in the deal but, to me, the two most egregious are (1) the absence of inspection and verification by an independent body and (2) the “sunset provision.”  The absence of independent inspection and verification would have made it easy for Iran to cheat.  Raise your hand if you trust Iran to comply.  The sunset provision made Iran’s neighbors very uneasy, not just Israel, but Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey as well.  Mr. Trump stated that he feared it would trigger a nuclear arms race as other countries in the region would seek to protect themselves by developing their own nuclear stockpiles.
  3. The $1.7 billion cash payment to Iran defies all logic. Obviously, it has been and will continue be used to fund terrorist and destabilizing activities in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Mr. Trump’s action should have come as no surprise.  During his campaign he railed on and on about the deal, characterizing it as “the worst deal ever.”  In addition, he called Iran the “leading state sponsor of terror.”  Furthermore, Iran has repeatedly and unabashedly stated its intention to “wipe Israel (the US’s staunchest and most reliable ally in the region) off the face of the earth.”

The deal may not have been quite the “worst,” but it was very bad.  It was dangerous, because it presented the illusion of protecting the US and its allies, yet it failed to do so.  The false sense of security and positive “spin” by Messrs. Obama, Kerry, Clinton  and others reminded me of Neville Chamberlain and the Munich Pact in 1938.  “Peace in our time,”  he had proclaimed, jubilantly.  We all know how that turned out.

Mr. Trump called for the reinstitution of sanctions, which had been terminated in 2015 as part of the deal, to be phased in over the next six months.  Moreover, he warned that any country that provides assistance to Iran’s nuclear program could also face sanctions.

CONCLUSION

By now, we should all be familiar with President Trump’s methodology, and he is following it here.

  1. He will endeavor to undue or, at least, modify deals and agreements that he perceives as disadvantageous to the US.  The much quoted and often maligned slogan “America first” is not an empty promise to him.  Some examples include NATO, TPP, NAFTA, the climate change deal, and North Korea.
  2. The NOKO situation is particularly instructive.  First, he took a tough position toward Kim, which Mr. Trump’s critics called “inflammatory,” “ill-advised,” “reckless” and worse.  But, in the end he has brought NOKO to the bargaining table, and got them to free three hostages, UNHARMED AND AT NO COST.  It’s called negotiating, and it is what Mr. Trump has done very successfully all his adult life.  As I keep saying, focus on what Mr. Trump does, not on what he says.
  3. You will note that the sanctions are being phased in over the next six months.  Lots of things can happen in the next six months.  Iran will bluster. Mr. Trump’s critics will bloviate.  Britain, France and Germany will complain publicly, but privately they will likely open back channels to Iran.  After all, everyone has much to lose economically.  Don’t be surprised if the deal is modified to something the US can live with.

TRUMP AND THE NOBEL PRIZE

Can President Trump win the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his bringing North and South Korea together to sign a peace treaty “de-nuclearizing” the Korean peninsula?    Should he? Will he?  Three questions, possibly different answers.  In my opinion they are “yes,” “yes,” and “perhaps.”

First, a little background for those who are unfamiliar with the Nobel Prize, how it’s awarded and, perhaps, who Nobel even was.

  1.  The so-called Nobel Prize consists of five individual awards that recognize achievement or advances in Chemistry, Physics, Literature, Medicine and Peace.  Following a lengthy nominating process, the first four are awarded by a board of prominent Swedish citizens; the peace prize honoree is selected by a Norwegian Nobel Committee.  Aside from enduring fame, the winner, or laureate as it officially called, receives a gold medal, a diploma and a sum of money.  In 2017 this sum was in excess of $1 million.
  2. The  awards are named after Alfred Nobel, a renowned 19th century chemist, engineer and inventor.  Nobel was born in Stockholm, Sweden on October 21, 1833.  During his lifetime he amassed a fortune, primarily in the manufacture of armaments, notably explosives.  He is credited with some 350 inventions.  One of his most well-known was dynamite.  In his will, he stipulated that his fortune be used to fund a series of “prizes” to be bestowed annually upon those that confer “the greatest benefit on mankind” in the abovementioned categories.  The Peace Prize may be, and has been, awarded to an institution as well as an individual.  Moreover, the prizes may be, and often have been, shared.
  3. Nobel died in 1896.  (As an aside, in 1888 Nobel actually read his own obituary published in a French newspaper.  The headline was “the merchant of death is dead.”  Obviously, it was an error.  In point of fact, it Nobel’s brother who had died.)
  4. A few individuals have been awarded more than one prize.  Only one, however, Marie Curie, has been awarded prizes in two different disciplines (Physics and Chemistry).  Furthermore, the extended Curie family has won four prizes.

What did the three US Presidents do to win their respective Peace Prizes?

  1. Teddy Roosevelt won in 1906 for mediating the terms of the Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).
  2. Woodrow Wilson won in 1919 for helping end WWI and for his staunch efforts in conceiving and promoting the League of Nations.  Ironically, the League was DOA since the US never joined.  In addition, many historians maintain that Wilson’s tireless and ultimately futile efforts to convince the US Senate to vote to approve the US’s joining the League contributed to his fatal stroke.
  3. Barack Obama won in 2009 for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”  Obama was a curious choice.  Some members of the committee denoted that he had only been President for a couple of weeks and had “not yet secured the achievements to merit such an accolade.”  Obama, himself, was quoted as saying he did not feel deserving of such an award.  He may have been just being modest, although if one compares his achievement to that of other laureates one would have to agree.

So, back to President Trump.  What is his achievement?  It relates to the Korean peninsula.  The Korean War (officially a “conflict”) began on June 25, 1950.  North Korea was supported mainly by China and the USSR.  South Korea had the backing of the UN (basically, the US).  After three years of often brutal fighting the parties agreed to an Armistice on July 27, 1953.  No formal peace treaty was ever signed, so, technically, NOKO and SOKO are still in a state of war.  Tensions have been very high for some 65 years.  During this time, the US has been trying to ease tensions, but to no avail.  Every president has failed.

Now, the tension has ratcheted up as NOKO is on the verge of becoming a nuclear power, if it has not already.  President Trump has succeeded in getting NOKO at least to agree to join negotiations for denuclearization and other matters, possibly a treaty.  We don’t know how it will end up, but at least we have a good start.  For the first time a thaw in relations between NOKO and SOKO seems possible.

CONCLUSION

I realize that the selection of the Nobel laureates is based on politics as well as actual achievement.  Therefore, Mr. Trump may be denied the prize many think he deserves, because many dislike him, personally, or disagree with his politics.  In my view, however, personal or political factors should not be relevant.  After all, Yasser Arafat, a terrorist, was selected as a laureate in 1994 for his efforts to make peace between Palestine and Israel.  We can all see how that has worked out.

I maintain that President Trump has earned the award, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations.  After all, efforts at peace have been recognized in the past, and we likely will not know the true outcome of the peace talks for many years.

The Nobel Committee may even deem it appropriate to award a share to Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-in.  Okay by me.

POP CULTURE QUIZ

My darling and devoted wife claims I have very limited knowledge of pop culture. Perhaps, but let’s test your knowledge. You know the drill: no peeking at the internet. Don’t ask “Alexa.”  Good luck.

  1. Each of the following movies won the Oscar for “Best Picture, EXCEPT:

(a) Crash; (b) Argo; (c) Hacksaw Ridge; (d) Moonlight

2.  President Trump has been mentioned as a possible winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  How many previous US presidents have been so honored?

(a) 1; (b) 2; (c) 3; (d 4)

3.  Which famous entertainer was born in Steubenville, Ohio?

(a) Dean Martin; (b) Bing Crosby; (c) Jack Benny; (d) Liberace

4.  Which of the below actors played “Danno” on the original “Hawaii 50” tv series?

(a) Al Harrington; (b) Buddy Ebsen; (c) Larry Manetti; (d) James MacArthur

5.  Alfred Hitchcock directed each of the below movies, EXCEPT:

(a) “Psycho;” (b) “Marnie;” (c) “The Birds;” (d) “The House of Wax”

6.  Each of the below was a 2017 Emmy Award winner, EXCEPT:

(a) John Lithgow; (b) Viola Davis; (c) Nicole Kidman; (d) Sterling Brown

7.  Which of the below actors won the 2018 Oscar for “Best Actor?”

(a) Gary Oldman; (b) Daniel Kaluuya; (c) Denzel Washington; (d) Woody Harrelson

8.  In the famous Abbott and Costello comedy routine “Who’s on First,” the name of the second baseman is:  (a) What; (b) When; (c) Tomorrow; (d) I don’t know.

9.  Which child actor debuted in the tv show “Little House on the Prairie?”
(a) Ed Furlong; (b) Richard Thomas; (c) Jerry Mathers; (d) Jason Bateman

10.  Each of the following is a show created by Dick Wolf, EXCEPT:

(a) South Beach; (b) Law and Order; (c) Boston Legal; (d) Chicago Justice

11.  Which movie featured music by Simon and Garfunkle, including megahit “Sounds of Silence?”

(a) The Apartment; (b) The Graduate; (c) Eyes without a Trace; (d) A Patch of Blue

12.  Which of the below actresses won the 2018 Oscar for “Best Supporting Actress?”

(a) Octavia Spencer; (b) Mary Blige; (c) Allison Janney; (d) Sally Hawkins

13.  The rock ‘n roll song, “Rock Around the Clock” was featured in which of these movies?

(a) Blackboard Jungle; (b) The Rockers; (c) The Survivors; (d) Teen Angel

14.  Each of the following was a member of the “Rat Pack,” EXCEPT:

a.  Peter Lawford; (b) Dean Martin; (c) Vic Damone; (d) Frank Sinatra

15.  Who was the host of the “Newly Wed Game?”

(a)  Pat Sajak; (b) Alex Trebek; Marc Summers; (d) Chuck Barris

16.  Which famous actor appeared on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air?”

(a) Will Smith; (b) Denzel Washington; (c) Brian Forster; (d) Fred Savage

17.  The hit song, “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” was featured in which movie?

(a)  Bonnie and Clyde; (b) Cool Hand Luke; (c) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; (d) Eyes without a Trace

18.  Whose birth name was Joseph Barrow?  (a) Cary Grant; (b)  Joe Louis; (c) Robert Mitchum; (d) Peter O’Toole

19.  Which rapper was born Curtis James Jackson, III

(a) Lil Wayne; (b) Eminem; (c) LL Cool J; (d) “Fitty” Cent

20.  Name the original host of the tv game show, “The Match Game.”
(a) Don Pardo; (b) Art Fleming; (c) Pat Sajak; (d) Gene Rayburn

ANSWERS

  1. (c);  2. (d) (Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama);  3. (a);  4. (d);  5. (d);  6. (b);  7. (a);  8.  (a);  9. (b);  10. (c); 11. (b); 12.(c); 13. (a); 14. (c); 15. (d);  16. (a);  17. (c); 18. (b) (Joseph Louis Barrow); 19. (d);  20. (d)

Let me know how you did.  Also, I am happy to accept suggested questions for my next quiz.

CINCO DE MAYO

Tomorrow, many Americans will eat tacos and enchiladas and drink margaritas in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. Typically, most Americans have no idea of the significance of the holiday. They may assume that it is some religious festival or has something to do with Mexico’s independence from Spain. That would be wrong and wrong.

Back in 1861 France invaded Mexico. Napoleon III, the ruler of France at the time, correctly perceived that Mexico was “ripe for the picking.”  The Mexican-American War of 1846-48 had virtually bankrupted the country. The US was distracted by its impending Civil War and thus, unable to oppose France in Mexico. The other European powers, notably Spain and England, were not in the picture.

At first, the French, with their superior numbers, equipment and training, routed the Mexicans, but on May 5, 1862 the Mexicans surprisingly defeated the French decisively in a major battle near Puebla, halting their advance. The Civil War ended in 1865, and, thereafter, the US was able to assist Mexico. Eventually, the French needed their military assets at home to prepare to fight the Prussians [in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71)], so they abandoned their plans to conquer Mexico and withdrew.

The battle at Puebla was significant for several reasons:

1. Though largely symbolic, this victory gave the Mexicans a much-needed infusion of patriotism and national pride.
2. Since then, no country in the Americas has been invaded successfully by a European country.
3. Most importantly for the US, many historians believe that France’s ultimate goal was to enable the South to break away from the North. Mexico could have been used as a military base from which France could have funneled men and equipment to the Confederacy. If they had not been defeated at Puebla, who knows how far north their army would have pushed and who knows what military and political pressure they would have brought to bear against the US. Consequently, it can be posited that that victory helped preserve the Union.

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated not only in Mexico, but also in many other countries. Cities in the US, Canada, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Australia, New Zealand and Japan hold festivals featuring Mexican music, food and drink and celebrating Mexican culture. Technically, Cinco de Mayo, though recognized as a day of celebration throughout Mexico, is not a national holiday, although it is a holiday in the State of Puebla. Throughout the country, the public schools are closed and many towns hold parades or re-enactments of the battle of Puebla. It should be noted that Cinco de Mayo is NOT to be confused with Mexican Independence Day, which is September 16.

CONCLUSION

In another example of PC overreach, this year the University of New Hampshire has decided to call May 5 “Unity Day” instead of Cinco de Mayo.  Why?  Apparently, last year “some members of the Latino community” were “offended” when some students wore sombreros and ponchos.  They viewed that as “cultural appropriation.”  Well, boo hoo!  It’s not as if they painted offensive sayings or mocking cartoons.  Those actions did not rise to the level of, say, anti-Semitic scribblings on walls or fire-bombing synagogues.  THOSE are offensive, or worse.  Wearing sombreros and ponchos merely strikes me as students getting into the holiday spirit, not being mean-spirited.  Besides, I would wager that one could count the numbers of protestors on one hand.

Once again, we are all being subjected to the tyranny of the vocal minority.  I have to say that when I was in college if the administration came out with an inane suggestion like that, a bunch of us would have made sure to parade through the campus wearing sombreros and ponchos dancing the Mexican hat dance.  Times have sure changed, and not for the better.

Someone should inform these protestors and the university’s administrators, for that matter, that Cinco de Mayo is a great source of pride for people of Mexican descent, as well it should be.  It commemorates a significant military victory over a better-equipped, numerically superior force. As denoted above, the victory held historical significance not only for Mexico but for the US as well. In my opinion, if the administration wants to hold a “Unity Day” to foster better race and cultural relations, fine, but do it on some random day.

So, tomorrow, when you raise a glass of Tequila or dig into an order of guacamole give a toast to the brave men of Puebla.  And, if you want to wear a sombrero or a poncho, by all means, do so.

TRUMP IMPEACHMENT

Should President Trump be impeached?  That question has been percolating among Americans virtually since the day after he was elected.  It didn’t matter what he did or what he said, they wanted him out, even before he was inaugurated.  Voter fraud, collusion, any “trumped up” charge would do.

According to most polls about 40% of the electorate are in favor of impeachment. As one would expect, the issue is extremely divisive: about 70% of African Americans and Dems are in favor, compared to only 30% of whites.  Hispanics and women are virtually split.

Let’s examine the situation.  Although I am a Trump supporter I will endeavor to be objective.

First of all, it is important to understand what impeachment is, what are the criteria for it and what the procedure is.  I maintain that few of us who are not constitutional lawyers have the foggiest idea of the answers to those questions, which, to me, casts doubt on the validity of those aforementioned polls.

  1. Basically, impeachment is the process by which certain officeholders can be removed.  In this case we are discussing the possible impeachment of the President.
  2. The constitution lays out the procedure.  Firstly, the House of Representatives, brings charges, aka the articles of impeachment.  Passage would be by a simple majority of those present and voting. Passage means the President has been impeached, but it does not mean he is removed, not by a long shot.  It is merely the first step, much like an indictment in a criminal case.
  3. The Senate then tries the President.  The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial.  Conviction (and removal) requires a 2/3 vote.
  4. The constitution spells out the grounds for impeachment as “treason, bribery, or other ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ ”  It does not clarify what exactly constitutes a “high crime and misdemeanor,” but in 1970 then-House Minority Leader, Gerald R. Ford famously opined that an impeachable offense is “whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”  Some examples would be perjury of oath, abuse of authority, bribery, intimidation, misuse of assets or dereliction of duty.

Only two presidents have ever been impeached, and neither was convicted. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 for violating the Tenure of Office Act.  (This law, which was annulled in 1887, restricted the authority of the President to remove certain officeholders without Senate approval.)  Remember, Johnson, who was very unpopular, had been elected vice president, not president, and had succeeded to the presidency upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  Although a simple majority of the Senate (35 – 19) voted for conviction it fell one vote short of the required 2/3 majority, so Johnson was acquitted.

President Clinton was impeached in 1998 on the grounds of perjury and obstruction of justice.  He was also acquitted.

CONCLUSION

The “bar” set by the constitution is very high and deservedly so.  Overturning the will of the voters in a legal election should NOT be undertaken lightly.

Furthermore, you will note that the grounds for impeachment DO NOT INCLUDE disliking the President or his policies.  I would “bet the farm” that a large majority of those voting in the aforementioned polls do not understand the process or the criteria, and many of them did not even deign to vote in 2016.

Roughly half of the country dislikes Mr. Trump intensely.  Fine.   In my opinion, much of their animus has been fueled by an extremely biased media and an opposition that 18 months later still cannot believe how they could have possibly lost the 2016 election.  But, that doesn’t matter now.  There are no “do-overs.” Mr. Trump won fair and square, and the constitution does not consider disliking an officeholder to be grounds for impeachment.

In my opinion, if we had impeached every president who was unlikeable, personally, or a womanizer very few presidents would have been able to serve out their terms.  Think back through history, and tell me I am wrong.  My message to Trump-haters is get over it and work harder to vote him out of office in 2020.

INFLUENTIAL WOMEN IN HISTORY

A couple of my loyal readers have requested me to write a blog featuring influential women.  My research has identified hundreds of women who have contributed significantly to society through the ages, beginning with Sappho in the 6th Century BCE.  Unless you are a Greek scholar chances are you have never heard of her.  She was one of the first female writers and poets, and the renowned Plato considered her to be one of the top ten poets of the day.

Some, such as Queen Victoria and Oprah Winfrey, are well known.  Others, such as Margaret Thatcher, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks, have already been the subject of one of my blogs.  I have chosen not to focus on any of them.  Rather, I selected a few who, despite having made significant contributions to society, are not well-known to today’s public.  In my view, they and their contributions are underappreciated or, perhaps, forgotten.

Marie Curie

Curie was a physicist and a chemist who was renowned primarily for her ground-breaking research on radioactivity.  She was the first female to win a Nobel prize, the first person and only woman to win two of them, the only person to win one in two different disciplines, the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris, and the first woman to be entombed (on her own merits) in the Pantheon in Paris.

Maria Salomea Sklodowska was born on November 7, 1867 in Warsaw, but she moved to Paris at the age of 24 and lived most of her life there.  It was there that she completed her education and married fellow scientist Pierre Curie.

Her most significant work was with radioactive materials and the theory of radioactivity.  She perfected techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes; she discovered two elements – polonium and radium; pioneered the treatment of neoplasms using radioactive isotopes, and founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw, which to this day are major centers of medical research.   Oh, and along the way, as noted above, she won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1903 (sharing it with Pierre) and the 1911 Prize in Chemistry.

Her discoveries had many practical uses. One of polonium’s uses is in photography; one of radium’s uses is in cancer treatment. Perhaps, the most significant application is in assessing and treating battlefield injuries.  Two examples were the X-ray machine and mobile radiography units, which became known as petites Curies.  In addition, Curie served as director of the Red Cross Radiology Service and established France’s first military radiology enter in 1914.

In addition to the aforementioned Nobel Prizes, Curie was the recipient of several awards, honors and tributes.  In a 2009 poll conducted by New Scientist magazine she was named “the most inspirational woman in science.”

Curie died in 1934.  Sadly and ironically, the cause of her demise was radiation poisoning.  At the time, the dangers of handling radioactive material were unknown and the extensive precautions that are standard today were not taken.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller was an author, lecturer and an advocate for women’s rights.  And, by the way, she was deaf and blind.  She was not born with those afflictions.  At the age of 19 months she contracted a mysterious illness that her doctors diagnosed as “an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain.”  She recovered but was left blind and deaf.

In those years such a condition would normally have consigned a person to a life of irrelevance and dependency, perhaps, in an institution.  Not Keller.  She became the first deaf-blind person to earn a BA degree.  Her entire life was a living testament that a person with her afflictions could accomplish anything that a person without those afflictions could.

Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, AL.  Her family tree was quite interesting.  Her father had been a captain in the Confederate Army; her mother was the daughter of a Confederate general; and her paternal grandmother was a second cousin of Robert E. Lee, the Commanding General of the Confederate Army.

The turning point of Keller’s life was when her parents hired a  20-year -old visually impaired young lady named Anne Sullivan to tutor her.  Sullivan and Keller “clicked,” and, as they say, the rest was history.

As I said, Keller,  became an inspiration for all impaired people, not just women.  She became a strong advocate for women’s rights, particularly suffrage, a prolific writer, publishing more than a dozen books and articles, and a tireless lecturer.  Politically, she was a socialist and a strong advocate for the working class.

In the 1960s Keller suffered a series of strokes and spent the last few years of her life at home, essentially bedridden.  In 1964 President Johnson awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 1965 she was elected to the National Women’s Hall of Fame.  Her likeness is on both  a postage stamp and the Alabama state quarter (in braille).

She died on June 1, 1968, but she left behind a powerful legacy that one should not allow himself to live as a victim of his or her physical limitations.

Keller’s story was portrayed in the 1962 movie, The Miracle Worker, which starred Patty Duke as Keller and Anne Bancroft as Sullivan. It is a very powerful movie, and I recommend it.

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale was a social reformer and a statistician, but she is primarily known as the founder of modern nursing.  She rose to fame during the Crimean War for training nurses and tending to wounded soldiers.  She was a tireless caregiver, even making rounds of the wounded at night carrying a lamp.  Thus, she became known as “The Lady with the Lamp.”  Although some historians have claimed her contributions during the war were exaggerated by the contemporary press, her post-war achievements in the nascent field of nursing cannot be denied.

Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy.  Her name is derived from the city of her birth.

Her family was wealthy and well connected.  When she developed an interest in nursing her family was strongly opposed.  Florence was expected to conform to the social norms of the day for wealthy, well-bred women – marry well and raise children.  However, Florence was not to be denied.  She educated herself as to the science of nursing and eventually her family accepted her desire to become a nurse.

In 1853 the Crimean War broke out on the Balkan Peninsula (southeastern Europe) between Britain, France, Sardinia and the Ottoman Empire on one side and Russia on the other.  It was a particularly brutal war and many more soldiers were dying from illness than battle wounds.  Florence convinced the British government to permit her to travel to the area accompanied by some 38 nurses she had trained.  She found the sanitary conditions to be appalling.  Medicines were scarce; proper hygiene was non-existent; hospital tents were overcrowded and poorly ventilated; and mass infections of typhus and cholera were common.  The simplest wound was often a death sentence.  Reporting back to the British government she convinced them to improve conditions.

It was during this time that she earned the moniker “The Lady with the Lamp.”  It was derived from a story filed by a reporter for the London Times, which read, in part: “she is a ‘ministering angel’ … every poor fellow’s face softens with gratitude at the sight of her… she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary rounds.”  Whether exaggerated or not, there seems to be little doubt that Florence’s contributions saved thousands of lives.

After the war Florence continued her work, advocating for improved sanitary conditions and training nurses.  For example, she spent time in India where she noted that contaminated water and poor drainage were contributing to illness.  Many of the nurses she trained when on to ply her philosophy in other countries, notably the US during the Civil War.

Florence died on August 13, 1910 in London, but her contributions to society will live on.

CONCLUSION

Limitations of time and space limited me to just the above three women.  We all know that there have been many, many more.  Please advise me of  others that I may have  omitted.