OJ’S OUT

OJ is out!  Let the media frenzy begin!

Unless you’ve been living on Mars or been in a coma, you know by now that, yesterday, OJ Simpson was granted parole after having served eight-plus years of his 33-year prison sentence.  You couldn’t escape the news regardless of how hard you tried.

Those of you that are outraged at his early release please keep in mind that the parole board’s decision had nothing to do with the case involving the murders of his late wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman.  Rather, it dealt solely with OJ’s conviction for kidnapping and armed robbery in Las Vegas with respect to various sports memorabilia.

The purpose of this blog is NOT to rehash the aforementioned case, the parole, nor the Brown Simpson/Goldman murder case.  As far as I am concerned, that is all “water under the bridge,” and I am sick of it.   If you want to relive the salacious details of the murders and/or any other aspects of OJ’s sordid personal life you will be able to find them on virtually any tv or radio station, prospectively.  For example, yesterday, while I was driving in my car it was extremely hard to find any radio channel that was not covering and analyzing OJ’s parole ad nauseam.

That said, for the benefit of those few of you who may not be cognizant, I will recap (very) briefly the major highlights and lowlights of his life.

1.  Orenthal James Simpson was born on July 9, 1947 in San Francisco, CA.

2.  He attended USC where he became a megastar running back.  Along the way, he picked up the nickname, “Juice.”

3.  He starred for eleven years in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills and the San Francisco 49ers.  In 1973 he became the first running back to rush for over 2,000 yards in a single season, and, although others have since accomplished that feat, he is still the only “back” to have done it in a 14-game season.

4.  He has been elected into both the college and professional Football Halls of Fame.

5.  OJ had a very likeable public image and was very popular, even charming (although, in private, he had been known to exhibit violent outbursts of temper and even physicality).

6.  This popularity enabled him to carve a lucrative post-NFL career in acting and commercials.  He became a bona fide celebrity.

7.  It all came crashing down when he was arrested and tried for the violent murders of his Brown-Simpson and Goldman.  He was acquitted in a controversial verdict.  Later, however, the Goldman family won a $33 million judgment against him in a civil case.

8.  In 2008 a Las Vegas jury found him guilty of the aforementioned armed robbery and kidnapping charges.  He has served eight years of the 33 year sentence, and now has been paroled.

9.  He is scheduled to be released on October 1.

CONCLUSION

In my opinion, the public’s fascination with OJ has not abated over the years.  Most people crave to watch and read about controversy and violence, as long as they’re viewing it, not participating in it.  That is doubly true if it involves a celebrity, and, like him or hate him, OJ is still a celebrity.

I was a huge OJ fan.  I followed his collegiate and professional career avidly.  I watched all his movies.  I particularly enjoyed the Naked Gun movies with the late Leslie Nielson.  I even liked his commercials, especially when he hurdled through the airport for Hertz.  Like most of us, I was only aware of his public persona.  I knew nothing of the real OJ – until the murders.

According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll in 2016 a majority of people, black and white, now believe that OJ was “probably” guilty.”   His defenders should keep in mind that ” not guilty” does not mean “innocent.”  His lawyers simply outclassed a mediocre, at best, prosecution team.  To me, OJ’s acquittal demonstrated that if you’re on trial for murder, or any crime for that matter, it pays to be rich.  How many of us could have afforded to hire the “dream team” even if, as the saying goes, “our life depended on it?”  One could argue that any inequality in our justice system is not predicated on whether the defendant is black or white but, rather, if he is rich or poor.

So, as I said, get ready for a media feeding frenzy.  It will be wall-to-wall OJ – talk shows, interviews, books, movies, one-man appearances on Broadway, video games, etc.  The media is very inventive when there is money to be made, and the public is insatiable for all things OJ.

Those of us who are sick of hearing and reading about OJ will just have to hold our noses and bear it until something even more extreme occurs to knock him from our consciousness.  The one saving grace in all this is that OJ will be working for the Goldmans.  Any money he earns will be going to pay off their judgment against him (unless it is hidden illegally).  Thank goodness for small favors.

MARTIN LANDAU

In my opinion, Martin Landau was one of the finest and most versatile actors of his time.  He was successful in movies, on tv and on the stage.  In addition, he was able to play a wide range of characters, such as “soft” characters, intellectuals, dictators and hard-nosed killers with equal aplomb.

Landau was born in 1928 in Brooklyn, NY.  He graduated from James Madison High School and attended the Pratt Institute.  At 17, he began working at the NY Daily News as an editorial cartoonist.  But, he really wanted to become an actor, so after five years he quit to focus on becoming a stage actor.

In 1955 he auditioned for the Actors Studio, the famous school run by acting guru Lee Strasberg.  In his class, some 500 would-be actors applied and only two were accepted – Landau and an fellow named Steve McQueen.  It was a great learning experience for Landau as he got to hone his craft under professionals such as Elia Kazan, Harold Clurman, Sydney Pollack, and, of course, Strasberg.

While at the studio he met and befriended another aspiring young actor named James Dean.  Landau and Dean became “best friends.”  Landau recalled “we were two young would-be and still yet-to-work unemployed actors dreaming out loud and enjoying every moment.”

Landau made his Broadway debut in 1957 in Middle of the Night.  Later, he caught the eye of world renown director Alfred Hitchcock, who, in 1959, cast him in the hit movie North by Northwest, starring Cary Grant and James Mason.  He played a criminal, alongside Mason.  During the 1960s he appeared in Cleopatra, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, and The Greatest Story Ever Told,  starring Max von Sydow and Charlton Heston.

Ironically, Landau turned down what could have been an epic role – Dr. Spock on Star Trek.  As we know, eventually, that role went to Leonard Nimoy.  Nimoy was fabulous in that role, but I could see Landau being successful in it also, as he could play any role.

His signature role was that of Rollin Hand, a master of disguise character in the hit tv show, Mission Impossible, starring Peter Graves and Barbara Bain, Landau’s wife.  At first, Landau was reluctant to appear on the show, feeling the demands of a regular tv show would interfere with his movie opportunities.  But, he relented when the producers offered him a one-year contract instead of the standard five-years.   Playing Hand enabled Landau to demonstrate the full range of his acting abilities.  He got to portray every type of character, and many times he played two roles in the same episode – Hand and the character Hand was supposedly impersonating.  Landau left MI in 1969 following a salary dispute.  MI continued until 1973 and, later, was reincarnated as a series of movies starring Tom Cruise.

Landau continued to work right to the end of his life.  He was nominated for three best supporting actor Academy Awards for his roles in Tucker, Crimes and Misdemeanors and Ed Wood.  He won for his role as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood.  Additionally, he won a Screen Actors Guild award, a Golden Globe and a Saturn Award for the portrayal.  Showing his aforementioned versatility, landau was nominated for an Emmy Award for his portrayal of an Alzheimer’s sufferer in the hit tv show Without a Trace.

CONCLUSION

In his later years Landau taught acting at the Actors’ Studio.  Also, he collaborated with director Mark Rydell and writer Lyle Kessler to produce an educational seminar that taught the disciplines of acting, director and writing.

Landau passed away on July 15 at the age of 89.  Rest in peace, Martin.  You will be sorely missed.

 

BOB WOLFF

If I were to ask sports fans to name the most accomplished sports announcers of the last 60 years chances are Bob Wolff would not be one of the choices.  Wolff never achieved the notoriety of some of the more famous sports broadcasters of the last 60 years or so, like, for instance, Vin Scully, Jack and Joe Buck and Harry Caray in baseball, Pat Summerall, Keith Jackson, Curt Gowdy and John Madden in football and Marv Albert in basketball, but, in my opinion, his career compares favorably with any and all of them.  Perhaps, the reason he has been somewhat overlooked is he did most of his work on radio, and his tv work was mostly regional.  Read on and decide how his career stacks up with the big boys.

Robert Alfred Wolff was born on November 29, 1920 in NYC.  He attended Duke University on a baseball scholarship and graduated with Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa honors.  Unfortunately, his nascent baseball career ended early in college when he suffered a broken ankle.  However, Wolff did pretty well for himself in his next career – sports broadcasting.

Wolff began this career in 1939 while still an undergraduate.  Ultimately, he became the longest running broadcaster in tv and radio history.  His career spanned nine decades – NINE!  In addition, he was arguably the most versatile broadcaster in history.  He “called” contests in baseball, football, basketball and the Westminster Dog Show, among other sports.

Below please find the highlights of his unique and remarkable career:

  1.  He was the tv and radio voice of the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins from 1947 – 1961.
  2. He “called” games on all the major tv networks as well as the Mutual Broadcasting System and Armed Forces Radio.  He announced the NBC Game of the Week from 1962 – 1965.  Also, he broadcast several major Bowl Games, such as the Rose and Sugar Bowls,
  3. He “called” two of the most famous and significant games in history – the Yankees’ Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series and the 1958 NFL Championship Game where the Baltimore Colts beat the NY Giants in overtime in the so-called “Greatest Game Ever Played.”  It may not have been the “greatest,” but it certainly was the most significant as it has been largely credited for putting the NFL on the map.
  4. In the NBA he broadcast games for the NY Knicks and Detroit Pistons.  In addition, he was the Knicks’ tv announcer for both their 1970 and 1973 championships.
  5. In the NHL he broadcast for the NY Rangers.
  6. In the NFL he did games for the Baltimore Colts, Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns.
  7. In the North American Soccer League he broadcast games for the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
  8. As an employee of Madison Square Garden he broadcast the National Horse Show, college hockey and basketball, women’s tennis, bowling, gymnastics and boxing.  You name the sport, and he did it.
  9. Wolff was one of only two persons (the other being Dale Arnold) to have broadcast games for each of the four major American sports leagues plus soccer.

CONCLUSION

Wolff’s amazing longevity can best be illustrated by the fact that he was able to interview the likes of Jim Thorp, Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, Tris Speaker Ty Cobb and Ted Williams.  One can say, Wolff covered athletes whose career spanned the entire 20th century, plus part of the 21st.  Amazing!   He has been honored by both the baseball and basketball Halls of Fame, the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame and the MSG Walk of Fame.

Wolff continued to work well into his 90s for News 12 Long Island.  Why?  In his own words: “I enjoy it.  If I didn’t do it, what would I do to have fun?”

Wolff passed away on July 15 at the age of 96, leaving a wife, two sons, a daughter, nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.  Rest in peace Bob.  You were one of a kind, and you will be missed.

TRUMP AND RUSSIA UPDATE

Raise your hand if you’re tired of the “Trump collusion with Russia” issue.  I know, I am, as are millions of other Americans.  Several months of intensive research by every reporter and media outlet worth its salt seeking incriminating evidence has revealed nothing significant.  To paraphrase former President Obama no one has found a “smidgeon” of evidence that Mr. Trump or any members of his campaign “colluded” with Russia to undermine the election process or violated any laws at all.

As usual, the mainstream media has it all wrong.  It has been throwing around the term “collusion” without understanding its meaning or significance.  Collusion, which Black’s Law Dictionary defines, in part, as “a deceitful agreement or compact between two or more persons for the one party to bring an action ….. for some evil purpose as to defraud a third party, ” does not constitute a crime in and of itself.   This is not my opinion, but the consensus opinions of over a dozen legal scholars who contributed to the July 12 article published in Politico Magazine.  (If you doubt me, you could, as Casey Stengel was fond of saying, “look it up.”)

Further investigation, they say, may lead to knowledge of crimes such as conspiracy, violation of federal campaign laws, or aiding or abetting other violations of law, but, as yet, nothing has been turned up to indicate that these or other violations of law occurred.  Several of these contributors opined that for Trump, Jr. merely to have met with the Russian lawyer is not a crime in and of itself.  In fact, it is not at all uncommon for political operatives to meet with persons who might be able to provide unflattering information on their opponents, nor for reporters to meet with potential “sources.”  One could argue that Trump, Jr.’s meeting with the mysterious Russian is no different.

To have participated in a criminal act, he would have had to “work with [the] Russian to commit a crime, to aid… in committing a crime, or to conceal a crime committed by [that] Russian.”  To date, there has been no evidence presented of any of that.  For those of you that may be interested in more details with respect to that meeting I suggest you google Trump, Jr’s recent interview with Sean Hannity.  He goes into much detail explaining how the meeting was set up, why he went, the substance of what was discussed, and other pertinent details.  It is the most thorough analysis I have seen yet.  I suggest you watch it and decide for yourself.

I do not wish to get bogged down in legal minutia here.  That is not the focus of this blog.  Suffice to say if you are a Trump-hater, you will likely continue to see conspiracy, conflict of interest or even treason at every turn; if you are a Trump supporter you may see bad optics, bad judgment or political overreach/vendetta, but that’s it.  Therefore, if you want to learn the truth, be skeptical of unsubstantiated news reports and biased analyses.  Also, I would recommend relying on multiple news sources.

In any event, the situation continues to morph daily, changing the narrative.  Just yesterday, for example, the story broke that the Russian had been admitted into the US without a visa, which is highly unusual, with the approval of the Justice Department.  One might wonder why and for what purpose.  There may be culpability on the part of the Obama administration and/or the DNC.  So, let’s let the investigation into this matter play out fully before rushing to judgment.

CONCLUSION

In military parlance, the Dems and liberal media are continuing to “fight the last war.”  The election is over.  It is official.  It will not be overturned.  Mr. Trump has won.  Based upon what we have seen so far, he is not going to be impeached, and even if he were the GOP would still be in control.  As former President Obama said “elections have consequences.”

Moreover, the Dems outrage over “collusion” is somewhat disingenuous since it has been disclosed that the Obama Administration had substantial evidence of Russia’s attempted hacking and other interference in the 2016 election as early as last August.  Not only did President Obama not do anything about it, he denied it publicly several times.  So, Dems, can the moral outrage.

This whole fascination with a Russian conspiracy is only harming the country by distracting the elected officials from tackling the real issues, such as the economy, healthcare, terrorism, and border security, to name a few.   If Dems want to succeed prospectively, they should abandon their unhealthy, counterproductive obsession with President Trump and focus their energies on the 2018 elections and beyond.  Analyze the real reasons for your loss and work to correct them.  Don’t blame external forces.  Simply put, you had an unpopular, untrustworthy, unlikeable candidate, and your policies were out of touch with most Americans.

The Dems have become the disgruntled party of “no.”  They are losing ground to the GOP.  If you doubt me, look at the state governments.  The GOP has 33 governors and controls both houses of the legislature in 32 states, compared to just 13 for the Dems.  Not good news if you’re a Dem.

I believe their best course of action would be to focus how to improve matters.  If you don’t like the policies of the current administration, develop a better set of policies.  Negotiate with the GOP to find common ground.  Get something done!  If you continue to live in the past you will repeat it!

Finally, move away from the current leadership –  the Clintons, Schumer, Pelosi and Warren.  Their time has passed.  They are only holding you back.  Find the next generation of candidates with new, refreshing ideas that will appeal to a broad scope of voters, not just to the extreme left.  Otherwise, you will be in the same position after the next election, which, by the way, would be fine with me.

WHO AM I

Below please find another in the series of fun quizzes.  By now, you know the drill.  Enjoy.  [Marv, the first question is for you.  Don’t “blow” it.]

1. I was born in Austria.  During WWII I was a spy for the Allies against the Nazis.  Later, I became a famous American actress.

a.  Ingrid Bergman; b. Greta Garbo; c. Hedy Lamarr; d. Zsa Zsa Gabor

2.  I was one of the Founding Fathers and later became President of the US.  I was one of three presidents who died on July 4th.

a.  James Monroe; b.  George Washington; c.  John Quincy Adams; d.  James Madison

3.  I was the only person to serve as both President and Vice President without having been elected to either office.

a.  Harry Truman; b.  Benjamin Harrison; c.  Millard Fillmore;  d.  Gerald Ford

4.  I am a famous rapper.  I was born in LA.  My given name is O’Shea Jackson.

a. “Fitty” Cent; b.  Jay Z; c.  Dr. Dre; d.  Ice Cube

5.  I am a Canadian-born actor and comedian.  I got my big break on Saturday Nite Live.

a.  Dan Akroyd;  b. John Belushi; c. Chevy Chase; d.  Eddie Murphy

6.  I was one of eight Presidents who died in office. I only served 31 days, which was the shortest term of any president.

a.  James A. Garfield;  b.  Gerald Ford; c.  William Henry Harrison; d.  Zachary Taylor

7.   I am an actress born in Canada.  My most notable movies were Mean Girls, Wedding Crashers, and Spotlight, for which I received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

a.  Melissa Sue Anderson;  b. Lindsay Lohan; c.  Samantha McLeod;  d. Rachel McAdams

8.  I was born Alicia Christian XXXXXX.  I was a child model.  My acting debut was in Mayberry RFD.  I rose to fame in the movie, Taxi Driver.  I have won two Oscars.

a.  Alicia Silverstone;  b.  Jodie Foster; c.  Tori Spelling; d . Kyra Sedgwick

9.  I was born in Italy.  I was an explorer, navigator and cartographer.  America is named for me.

a.  di Gama;  b.  di Americana; c. Vespucci;  d.  Columbus

10.  I am the easternmost state in the US.

a. Maine;  b. Alaska; c. Rhode Island; d. Florida

11.  I am NOT one of the provinces of Canada.

a.  Quebec;  b. Nunavut;  c. Alberta;  d. Toronto

12.  I was a star of the largest grossing movie ever, adjusted for inflation.

a.  Vivien Leigh;  b.  Julie Andrews;  c.  Harrison Ford;  d.  Leo Di Caprio

13.  I was the star of the prime time live action tv show that played for the most episodes.

a.  Roy Rogers; b.  Mariska Hargitay; c.  James Arness;  d.  Gene Autry

14.  I served two terms as Prime Minister of Israel.

a.  Menachem Begin; b.  Ehud Barak; c.  Moshe Sharett;  d.  Shimon Peres

15.  I am the least populated US state.

a.  Wyoming;   b.  Alaska;  c.  Rhode Island;  d.  Montana

16.  I was the last of 48 contiguous states to be admitted to the union.

a.  New Mexico;  b.  Arizona;  c.  Alaska;  d.  Colorado

17.  I am a well-known singer, songwriter and record producer.  I rose to fame with Visions of Love.  My other “hits” include Without You and We Belong Together.

a.  Gwen Stefani; b.  Courtney Love; c.  Mariah Carey;  d. Beyonce

18.  I was born in Canada.  I was a former Playboy Playmate of the Month.  I starred in Baywatch.

a.  Cybill Shepherd;  b.  Roberta Quinn; c.  Pamela Anderson; d.  Ashley Bell

19.  I am the only non-Nordic country on the below list.

a.  Latvia; b.  Sweden;  c.  Iceland;  d.  Denmark

20.  I am the longest reigning British monarch.

a.  Elizabeth I; b.  Victoria; c.  Henry VIII; d. Elizabeth II

Answers:  1. (c);  2. (a);  3. (d); 4. (d); 5. (a); 6. (c); 7. (d);  8. (b);  9. (c);  10. (b) (also westernmost and northernmost); 11. (d);  12. (a); 13. (c);  14. (d);  15. (a); 16. (b); 17. (c);  18. (c); 19.(a); 20. (d)

CONCLUSION

Well, I tried to be fair.  Also, I sprinkled in some Canadian, British and Israeli questions for my followers in those countries.

How did you do?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FEMALE LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

Thanks to the blockbuster movie, Lawrence of Arabia, most people have heard of T. E. Lawrence and are familiar, to some degree, with his accomplishments in the Middle East.  However, I suspect that very few of you have heard of Gertrude Bell.  In point of fact, as you will see, Bell was every bit as accomplished and influential in the affairs of late 19th and early 20th century Middle East and in the formation of the ME as we know it today, as Lawrence.

Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell was born on July 14, 1868 in County Durham, England.  Her family was wealthy and influential, which greatly impacted how she was able to live her life.  For example, one of her grandfathers was a wealthy and prominent industrialist and a former Member of Parliament under the renowned Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli.  Her step-mother, Florence, was an accomplished author of children’s stories.  Her father, Sir Hugh Bell, 2nd Baronet, was a prominent progressive mill owner, which was unusual for the time, who believed in equitable treatment of his workers, including, among other things, paying them a fair wage.

Due to the foregoing, Bell was able to engage in a lifestyle, which, though not unique, was certainly unusual for a woman in the late 19th century.  She studied at Queens College and, later, at Oxford University, where she became immersed in modern history.  She graduated with the highest honors.

After graduation, unsure of what to do next but being rather independent and adventurous and enjoying the support of her family (financial and otherwise), she decided to travel.  In 1892 she went to Persia (present-day Iran) where one of her uncles was England’s “minister” (equivalent to ambassador).  Later, she travelled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East developing a passion for archaeology, mountain climbing and history.

She exhibited a real gift for languages, becoming fluent in French, German, Arabic and Persian, and conversant in Italian and Turkish.  Finally, in 1899 she returned to the ME.  She fell in love with the area, travelling throughout it extensively over the next several years.  During this period she developed close relationships with many of the tribal leaders in the area, notably, the Hashemite and ibn Saud clans.  Furthermore, she was a prolific writer and photographer.  She sent many letters and photographs home to her family, which portrayed her travels in vivid detail.  (Think a more modern version of Marco Polo.)  For many Europeans, these provided their first insight into the ME.  Even today, they provide valuable insights into life in the area at the turn of the 20th century.

With the advent of WW1 Bell’s skills and knowledge became extremely valuable to the British.  The British were fervently trying to enlist the various Arab tribal leaders’ support against the Germans and Turks.  At the time, the ME was part of the Ottoman Empire, but the Turks were losing their grip on it, and the area was ripe for the plucking.  In addition, oil had been discovered in the area, and then as now, all the world powers coveted it.  Initially, the British denied Bell access to the area, and she volunteered with the Red Cross in France.  By 1915, however, someone in the British hierarchy had awoken to the reality of her unique knowledge, skills and connections in the ME and recommended her to British Intelligence.  She was based in Cairo in the Arab Bureau where she worked with Lawrence and others.  Some of her accomplishments were:

  1. Drew maps of the area for the Army, which was critical since the area was largely unmapped, and getting lost in the desert does not usually end well.
  2. Served as a guide for soldiers on missions.
  3. Acted as liaison between the British and various tribal leaders.  Due to her years of extensive travel she had developed close relationships with them and, being a woman, enjoyed unique access to their wives as well, which proved to be invaluable.
  4. In 1917 she was appointed “Oriental Secretary,” a high honor for a woman.
  5. In 1921 she, along with Lawrence and a few others, was selected to attend a special conference in Cairo (the only female), whose purpose was to determine the national boundaries of newly-formed countries, such as Iraq and Transjordan.  In this regard, her relationships with various Arab leaders, such as Hussein bin Ali, Sharif and Emir of Mecca, and his sons, Abdullah and Faisal, were invaluable to the success of the process.  She helped install Faisal I as the ruler of Iraq.  She often acted as mediator between the British and various Arab tribes.
  6. Regarding the formation of Iraq, Bell, after extensive study and analysis, issued a report entitled “Self-Determination in Mesopotamia,” which advocated that the locals govern themselves.  This was diametrically opposed to the British idea of placing Arab governments under their influence and control.  Eventually, the British realized that their method would have been considerably more costly, so self-determination won out.  Bell was one of the, if not the, chief architects of the boundaries of the modern ME as we know it today.
  7. Bell adamantly believed that antiquities were the property of the country in which they were discovered and should remain there.  Toward that end, she was instrumental in the creation of the National Museum of Iraq.
  8. Throughout the intervening years much criticism has been levelled at these planners for creating an “artificial” country consisting of three factions Sunnis, Shias and Kurds, that hate each other and are unlikely ever to work together.  Only a brutal autocrat, like Saddam Hussein, was able to suppress the intense internecine and intractable hatred among these groups.  Today, it looks like a serious miscalculation.  At the time, however, Bell’s papers indicated that the possibility of these difficulties was recognized, but it was felt that there was no better solution.  I, for one, disagree, but we are stuck with the situation as it is.

CONCLUSION

The end of Bell’s life was unfortunate.  In 1925 ill health and a substantial decline in her family’s financial situation forced her to return to England.  In 1926 she returned to Baghdad only to develop pleurisy.  On July 12, 1926 she was found dead of an overdose of sleeping pills.  it was never determined definitively whether the overdose was intentional or accidental.

An obituary by one of her peers, D. G. Hogarth, renowned British archaeologist and ME scholar, aptly summed up Bell’s life and accomplishments thusly:  “No woman in recent time has combined her qualities – her taste for arduous and dangerous adventure with her scientific interest and knowledge, her competence in archaeology and art, her distinguished literary gift, her sympathy for all sorts and condition of men, her political insight and appreciation of human values, her masculine vigour, hard common sense and practical efficiency – all tempered by feminine charm and a most romantic spirit.”

Bell and her accomplishments have been portrayed in various films.  A documentary called Letters from Baghdad, is currently playing in selected theatres.  I have seen it, and I heartily recommend it.

INDEPENDENCE DAY QUIZ

Tuesday, July 4th, we will celebrate our independence.  Many of us have already begun a four-day, or even a five-day, weekend.  Consequently, I thought it might be an appropriate time to test your knowledge of the holiday with a quiz. No peeking at the internet.
1.  The primary author of the Declaration of Independence was
a.  George Washington
b.  Henry Lee
c.  Benjamin Franklyn
d.  Thomas Jefferson
2.  The oldest continuous Independence Day celebration is in what city?
a.  Bristol, RI
b.  New York, NY
c.  Waterbury, CT
d.  Philadelphia, PA
3.  The origin of the song, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” was
a.  American troops during the Revolutionary War
b.  French troops during the RW
c.  British military before the RW
d.  Hessians at the battle of Trenton, NJ
4.  The movie, “Independence Day” starred
a.  Tom Cruise
b.  Will Smith
c.  Morgan Freeman
d.  Daniel Day-Lewis
5.  The first person to sign the Declaration of Independence (and the only one to do so on July 4) was
a.  Thomas Jefferson
b.  Patrick Henry
c   Benjamin Franklyn
d.  John Hancock
6.  Each of the following was a member of the Committee of Five (assigned to draft the Declaration), except:
a.  George Washington
b.  Roger Sherman
c.  John Adams
d.  Benjamin Franklyn
7.  Which President was born on the 4th of July?
a.  John Adams
b.  Grover Cleveland
c.  Calvin Coolidge
d.  James Polk
8.  Each of the following Presidents died on July 4th, except:
a.  John Adams
b.  Thomas Jefferson
c.  James Monroe
d.  James Madison
9.  The “Liberty Bell” was cast in:
a.  France
b.  England
c.  Germany
d.  Russia
10.  The “Star Spangled banner” was written by Francis Scott Key during which war?
a.  French and Indian War
b.  American Revolution
c.  Civil War
d.  War of 1812
11.  The origin of the nick-name “Uncle Sam” is purportedly:
a.  The Continental Congress
b.  The Sons of Liberty
c.  Meat packer who supplied meat to the US Army
d.  British troops during the RW
12. Who, along with John Adams, is responsible for designating the bald eagle as the US’s National Bird?
a.  George Washington
b.  Thomas Jefferson
c.  Benjamin Franklyn
d.  Patrick Henry
13.  Which state was the last of the “lower 48” to join the Union?
a.  New Mexico
b.  Oregon
c.  Hawaii
d.  Arizona
14.  How many persons signed the Declaration of Independence?
a.  13
b.  26
c.  40
d.  56
15.  Each of the following celebrities was born on July 4th, except:
a.  Mike (the “Situation”) Sorrentino
b.  Neil Simon
c.  Colin Powell
d.  George Steinbrenner
16. Purportedly, the Nathans Hot Dog Eating Contest was first held in
a.  1876
b.  1930
c.  1945
d.  1916
17.  Who was one of only two signers of the Declaration of Independence to be elected President?
a.  John Adams
b.  Andrew Jackson
c.  Alexander Hamilton
d.  Aaron Burr
18. Although July 4 is recognized as Independence Day, the Continental Congress approved a “resolution of independence” on this date.
a. June 15
b. July 1
c. July 2
d. July 3
19. Washington, DC became the capital in
a.  1776
b.  1800
c.  1820
d.  1920
20.  The 14th state of the union was:
a.  Maine
b.  Georgia
c.  Florida
d.  Vermont
ANSWERS:  1. (d); 2. (a); 3. (c); 4. (b); 5. (d); 6. (a); 7. (c); 8. (d); 9. (b); 10. (d); 11. (c); 12. (b); 13. (d); 14. (d); 15. (c); 16. (d); 17. (a); 18. (c); 19. (b); 20. (d)
CONCLUSION
Well, how did you do?  I’d like to know.

Now, some Independence Day-related trivia with which you can impress your friends:

  1.  On July 4, 1777, the city of Bristol, RI celebrated the first anniversary of ID with a thirteen-gun salute.
  2. In 1778, to mark the second anniversary, George Washington issued double rations of rum to the Continental Army troops.
  3. By the end of the 18th century many major cities were marking the day with various celebrations and parades.  Today, many major cities hold massive and elaborate fireworks displays.  In addition, many private organizations, for example, Macys, the Boston Pops, and many major league baseball clubs, entertain the public with fireworks displays.  Sadly, many private citizens, who are not properly trained, set off their own fireworks, sometimes with unfortunate results.  Every year we read or hear about some tragic accidents involving loss of limbs or even death.  Remember the case of NY Giants defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul a few years ago.  He lost part of few fingers (and nearly his life) and almost ended a most promising football career.
  4. In 1870 Congress designated ID as a federal holiday.  In 1938 it granted federal employees a day off with pay on that day.
  5. With respect to the “Star-Spangled Banner:

a.  It was composed by Francis Scott Key from a British prisoner ship in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812.  (Key was not a prisoner, himself.  He was on the ship to negotiate the release of a prisoner.)

b.  He wrote it as a poem named “The Defence of Fort McHenry.”  Later, it was set to a tune, which, ironically, is an English drinking song, with the strange name of “To Anacreon in Heaven.”  In case you’re wondering the song was the official song of a gentlemen’s club in 18th century London.

c.  Key wrote four verses and a fifth verse was added later, but, of course, we only sing the first.  Does anyone know the words of the others?  I do, but it’s too long to repeat here.  But, I will say that all five verses end with “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

d.  In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson declared that it should be played at all official  events.

e.  The “Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem in 1931.

So, enjoy yourself on the 4th, but, above all, be safe.  If you travel, drive safely and defensively, and if you handles fireworks, BE VERY CAREFUL!

 

 

MOVIE QUOTES

Every so often, I try to change things up with a light-hearted blog like a fun quiz.  This one is on famous movie quotes.  To lighten the load even further, most of them are humorous quotes.  I don’t think that most of them are too hard, but I had to throw in a few curveballs to challenge the true movie buffs.  Some people complain my quizzes are too hard, so in order to make it easier for you, it is only necessary to name the movie, not the actor who said it.  Good luck, and no peeking at the internet.  This is not an “open book” quiz.

  1.  “Surely, you cannot be serious.  I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.”

a.  Inside Out;  b.  Airplane;  c.  Airport;  d.  The Other Guys

2.  “Bond, James Bond.”

a.  Thunderball;  b.  Dr. No;  c.  Goldfinger; d.  Casino Royale

a.  Iron Man;  b.  Big;  c.  Blues Brothers;  d.  The Graduate

3.  Pardon my French, but Cameron is so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal up his a*s, in two weeks you’d have a diamond.”

a.  Ferris Bueller’s Day off;  b.  Anchorman;  c.  21 Jump Street; d.  Animal House

4.  “There’s no crying in baseball.”

a.  Bull Durham;  b. Major League; c. Field of Dreams; d.  A League of Their Own.

5.  “I’ll have what she’s having.”

a.  Romancing the Stone;  b. Get Hard;  c. When Harry Met Sally; d. Sleepless in Seattle

6.  “Hello?  Hello?  Anybody Home?”

a.  Animal House;  b.  Dumb and Dumber;  c.  A Fish Called Wanda;  d.  Back to the Future

7.  “I’m a mog – half man, half dog.  I’m my own best friend.”

a.  Animal Crackers;  b. Spaceballs; c.  Airplane; d.  Home Alone

8.  “I coulda been a contender.”

a.  Bronx Tale; b.  Goodfellas;  c.  The French Connection;  d.  On the Waterfront

9.  “Go ahead, make my day.”

a.  Dirty Harry;  b.  Die Hard;  c.  Sudden Impact;  d.  Platoon

10.   “If I’m not back in five minutes, just wait longer.”

a.  Naked Gun; b.  Home Alone; c. Ace Ventura Pet Detective;  d. Ferris Beuller’s Day Off

11.  “You talkin to me?

a.  Taxi Driver; b. Scarface; c. The Professional; d. A Bronx Tale

12.  “Rosebud”

a.  The Good Earth; b.  Citizen Kane; c. Kings Row; d. Mildred Pierce

13.  “You had me at ‘hello.'”

a.  Mister Roberts; b.  Jerry Maguire;  c.  Romancing the Stone; d.  Sleepless in Seattle

14.  “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

a.  The Perfect Storm; b.  Kane Mutiny; c. Jaws;  d.  Moby Dick

15.  “Round up the Usual Suspects.”

a.  Murder on the Orient Express; b.  Defiant Ones; c.  Casablanca; d. Dirty Harry

16.  “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas.  How he got in my pajamas I’ll never know.”

a.  Duck Soup;   b.  Oh God;  c.  A Night at the Opera;  d.  Animal Crackers

17.  “Here’s Johnny!”

a.  Johnny Belinda;  b.  The Shining;  c.  The Johnny Carson Story;  d.  Halloween

18.  “Is it safe?”

a.  Marathon Man;  b.  The Hangover;  c.  The Exorcist;  d.  Young Frankenstein

19. “I’ll kill you last.”

a.  Angels with Dirty Faces;  b.  The Terminator II;  c.  Commando;  d.  Tombstone

20.  “Who’s on first?”

a.  Abbot and Costello Go to Hollywood;  b.  The Naughty Nineties;  c.  Caddyshack;  d.  The Best of Abbot and Costello

21.  “Say hello to my little friend.”

a.  A Fistful of Dollars; b.  Dirty Harry;  c.  The French Connection;  d.  Scarface

22.  “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

a.  Casablanca;  b.  The Great Gadsby;  c.  Public Enemy; d. Scarface

23.  “I could dance with you till the cows come home.  On second thought, I’d rather dance with the cows when you come home.”

a.  Animal Crackers;  b. Naked Gun;  c. Airport;  d.  Duck Soup

24.  “See, women need a reason for having sex, men just need a place.”

a.  City Slickers;  b. The Blues Brothers;  c.  When Harry Met Sally; d.  Sleepless in Seattle

25.  “Win just one for the Gipper.”

a.  The George Gipp Story;  b.  The Vince Lombardi Story;  c.

Brian’s Song;  d.  Knute Rockne All American

Answers

  1.  (b);  2. (b); 3.  a;  4. (d);  5. (c);  6.  (d);  7. (b);  8.  (d);  9.  c;  10.  (c);  11. (a);  12. (b);  13. (b);  14. (c);  15. (c);  16. (d);  17. (b);  18. (a);  19. (c);  20. (b);  21. (d);  22. (a);  23. (d);  24. (a);  25. (d)

Well, there you have it.  How did you do?  If you’re a movie buff, I imagine you got most of them correct.  Please let me know.  Also, if you have some favorites that I did not include, please send them to me.

RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE WITH 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Over the past several months there has been widespread speculation in the some of the media and among Dems that Russia, and more specifically, Putin, interfered with the 2016 presidential election.   Some have even accused President Trump, certain of his supporters and/or members of his campaign staff with collusion with the Russians in this matter, implying that his election victory is therefore invalid.  Over these several months this matter has been investigated like nothing else since Watergate (by Dems, reporters, Congressional panels, and a special prosecutor), and, to paraphrase former President Obama, not a “smidgeon” of evidence has been unearthed to support that notion.

Give it up, Dems.  Donald Trump is our duly elected president.  He will not be impeached.  He will serve the full four years, and, maybe, even eight.  Focus on the important issues facing America, like the economy, jobs, border security, and terrorism, among others.

That said, as an unintended consequence of all this sleuthing, evidence has recently surfaced supporting the notion that Russia did, in fact, attempt to influence the election by hacking into our voting systems.  But, any issues of wrongdoing involve not Donald Trump, but President Obama.  This story was “broken,” not by Fox News, not by Rush Limbaugh, but by the Washington Post, a notorious left-leaning publication and avowed Trump-hater.

Three Post reporters, Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous, contributed to a very comprehensive report on Russian meddling.  Subsequently, their story was picked up by several news outlets (including Newsday).  The following is a summation of their reporting:

  1.  It began in August 2016 when the CIA delivered an “eyes only” report so sensitive that it was to be read by just four people – President Obama and three senior aides.  The report described Russian president Putin’s direct involvement in a comprehensive plan to disrupt and possibly discredit the 2016 presidential election.  More specifically, Putin was seeking to damage, and possibly defeat, Hillary Clinton.
  2. Apparently, Putin and Russian intelligence services had directed hackers to penetrate Dem and GOP computer networks with the intention of uncovering embarrassing or damaging information.  As we know, they succeeded in penetrating the Dems systems, but not the GOP’s.  Approximately, 22,000 emails of various Dem officials were obtained and provided to WikiLeaks, which subsequently publicized them.
  3. Around this time, as a result of the above mentioned report President Obama directed aides to assess the vulnerabilities of our election systems.
  4. At one point, CIA Director John Brennan warned Alexander Bortnikov, Director of Russia’s primary security agency, not to interfere in the presidential election.
  5. Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson offered federal assistance to each state to secure their respective voting systems, but election officials in many states, fearing federal overreach, rebuffed him.
  6. For the next five months the Administration secretly analyzed the CIA report and debated various options for deterring the Russians plans as well as various alternative sanctions.  By September all the intelligence agencies agreed that it was a Russian operation led by Putin directly, and sanctions were appropriate.
  7. The plot was not disclosed to the public, however, until the end of 2016.  During the autumn Obama had given a few speeches in which he mocked Trump and his supporters for suggesting the election was being “rigged,” or even influenced, by Russia and other external parties and flat-out denied that was the case, even though he knew it was true.  Depending on one’s point of view, in this regard Obama was either lying or at least being disingenuous to the American people.
  8. One of the major reasons for the Administration’s maintaining secrecy was its staunch belief that Clinton would win anyway, so why “rock the boat” before the election.  The thought was to deal with it after she wins.  In my opinion, this constituted seriously faulty judgment as Obama allowed political considerations to affect his policy regarding a threat on our national security.
  9. Ultimately, the Obama Administration decided to impose very modest sanctions.  It had a plethora of choices, including very serious economic sanctions that would have dealt a severe blow to the Russian economy.  It is generally acknowledged that economic sanctions are an extremely potent weapon, and we have the wherewithal to cripple Russia’s economy if we choose to do so.  Instead of using this weapon, we merely deported 35 “diplomats” and closed two compounds.  These sanctions served no effective purpose.  They were merely “window dressing.”   Indeed, John Tefft, the ambassador to Russia predicted that Russia would retaliate by expelling a like number of US diplomats from Russia, which would “impair the embassy’s ability to function.”   A senior administration official involved in the process derisively labeled them as merely “symbolic.”  Even worse, these sanctions were not new.  They had been proposed for a different purpose, which was retaliation for Russia’s harassing local US diplomats.
  10. Before he acted, Obama (1) requested a “high-confidence assessment” from the various intelligence agencies as to Russia’s intent and (2) sought bipartisan support from congressional leaders.  This weak and delayed response was very widely criticized, even among Dems, as not being nearly proportionate to Russia’s “unprecedented” attack on our election process.  For example, Senator Adam Schiff stated the Administration’s indecisiveness “often left him with a sense of ‘cognitive dissonance.’ ”  In addition, Michael McFaul, US ambassador to Russia under Obama, opined “the punishment did not fit the crime. ……Russia violated our sovereignty, meddling in one of our most sacred acts as a democracy…”  McFaul’s view was consistent with that of dozens of current and former officials in the White House and Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security Department, and intelligence services who declined to speak on the record for the Post article.
  11. This action, though puzzling to many, was entirely consistent with Obama’s overly cautious, some would say “timid,” approach to foreign policy during his presidency.  Act only if you absolutely have to and only if backed by a consensus of support from allies both foreign and domestic; don’t rock the boat; and don’t make the situation worse.

CONCLUSION

Well, we all know what happened.  Trump won, and there were no issues with the election process.  Nine months and many investigations later, still nothing untoward has turned up – no voter fraud, no manipulations; the system did not “crash.”  In the White House the post-election mood was “like a funeral parlor,” according to one official.

The irony of this whole matter is that in their zeal to tie President Trump to collusion with Russia the Dems have created an atmosphere where reporters and others have been diligently digging for the “big Watergate-like story.”  Instead, what these reporters found was collusion, lying and incompetence on the part of President Obama.

History tells us that during his second term, with no more elections to worry about, presidents typically become more cognizant of their legacy and become loath to do anything to damage it.  The fear among Obama and his senior aides was that his mishandling of this matter would inevitably get disclosed and do just that.  History will determine if that is the case.

OTTO WARMBIER – NORTH KOREAN PRISONER

Otto Warmbier, the Cincinnati resident and University of Virginia college student who had been released by North Korea and returned home in a comatose state after nearly 18 months in captivity, died this past Monday at the age of 22.  Warmbier had been repatriated in what doctors termed a state of “unresponsive wakefulness” and had suffered a “severe neurological injury.”  The cause of the injury was unclear, although the North Koreans claimed it was a complication of botulism.  Sadly, he never regained consciousness, although his family clung to the belief that he had sensed he was home with loved ones.

In a world filled with senseless violence and wanton murder this heinous incident ranks near, if not at, the top.  The NKs exhibited a prime example of their total disregard forhuman life.  It is well-known that the NK government has no regard for the well-being of its own citizens.  For example, there is ample evidence that other than a favored few who live very well, NK citizens have few or no daily necessities.  In fact, many NKs are literally starving to death for lack of adequate food.  Furthermore, arbitrary killings and imprisonment is commonplace.  The government is dysfunctional, except for its ability to intimidate and beat down its citizens.  It is a country in total disarray.

The Wambier saga resembles a plot out of a bad Hollywood movie.  Briefly, Warmbier was convicted of “subversion” after he took a propaganda banner that was on display in the hotel in which his tour group was staying.  The poster said “Let’s arm ourselves strongly with Kim Jong-Il’s patriotism!”  Innocuous enough.  We’re not talking nuclear secrets here, folks.   It may have been an ill-advised act, but it strikes me more as a lark a college student might pull not considering what the consequences might be.  Probably, all he wanted was a “souvenir;” he saw the banner and took in on the spur of the moment.  Only an irrational, paranoid country like NK would consider this to be “subversion.”  Unbeknownst to Warmbier, however, the NK government considers this type of act to be subversion, which it takes very seriously.  KCNA, the NK news agency, characterized it as a “hostile act against the state.”

Warmbier’s “trial” and conviction lasted all of one hour.  Once he was sentenced and incarcerated the real nightmare began.  It was very likely that captivity in an NK prison for any length of time would not end well, and, unfortunately for Warmbier, it didn’t.

Otto Frederick Warmbier was born on December 12, 1994 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He was one of three children and was Jewish on his mother’s side.  He was a bright young man. He was the salutatorian of his high school class, and he was majoring in commerce and economics at the University of Virginia.

At the end of 2015 while on vacation in China he spied an advertisement for a trip to NK.  Most of us would be wary of such a trip, but Warmbier was a young college student and, as his father put it, “adventurous.”  The China-based tour operator, Young Pioneer Tours, advertised the trip as “safe for US citizens,” so Warmbier probably figured, “why not?”   He was not the only US citizen on the tour.  There were ten others.

On the tour Warmbier became particularly friendly with a Brit named Danny Gratton.  Gratton witnessed Warmbier’s arrest at the airport on January 2, 2016 as the group was preparing to leave the country and gave this chilling account.  “No words were spoken.  Two guards just came over and simply tapped Otto on the shoulder and led him away. …… That was the last time I saw Otto, ever.”  Surprisingly, there is no mention that the tour guide tried to intervene on Warmbier’s behalf or assist him in any way.  In my experience, one of the major functions of a tour guide is to ensure the safety and security of the tourists in his or her care.  The group then just left on their flight.

On February 29, 2016 Wambier “confessed” during a press conference.  Does anyone belief it was genuine?   Human Rights Watch deputy director Phil Robertson disparagingly characterized the process as a “kangaroo court.”  As I said, Warmbier’s trial lasted all of one hour, and he was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor, a preposterous sentence.  HRW called it “outrageous and shocking.”   US State Department spokesman Mark Toner opined that NK was using Wambier for “political purposes.”  In my opinion Warmbier was a pawn caught up in the heightened military, political and diplomatic tensions between the US and NK.

Negotiations for Warmbier’s release had been ongoing for over a year to no avail.  It was not disclosed to NK that Warmbier had a Jewish heritage, as it would have complicated matters and clearly illustrated the idiocy of NK’s assertion that he had acted on behalf of the Friendship United Methodist Church in Wyoming, OH.  In fact, Warmbier was very cognizant of his Jewish heritage.  For example, he had travelled to Israel and had thoroughly enjoyed his experience there.  He was especially “taken” with the Western Wall in Jerusalem.  He had remarked “just being at a spot that has been so central to Judaism for thousands of years was completely surreal.  The power that emanated from the wall showed on the faces of all those who were near it.”

CONCLUSION

Warmbier was released on June 12, 2017.   Surprisingly, he was not the only American captive in NK.  Wikipedia reports a total of 16 Americans have been detained on various charges since 1996, and three are still being held there.

Warmbier’s condition was extremely critical.  As I said, doctors at the University of Cincinnati who examined described him as being “in a state of unresponsive wakefulness,” what laymen would call a vegetative state.  Brain scans disclosed he had suffered considerable loss of brain tissue consistent with oxygen deprivation.  He was able to breath and blink his eyes, but, otherwise, he was completely unresponsive to his environment.  Barring an autopsy, which the family has declined to authorize, we will likely never know for sure what happened to him.

This situation is outrageous beyond words.  Condemnation has been universal.  President Trump characterized it as a “total disgrace.”  Senator John McCain, who knows a thing or two about being incarcerated and tortured by a foreign power, went even further, declaring Warmbier was “murdered by [NK] and the US cannot and should not tolerate the murder of its citizens by hostile powers.”

So, what  can we do about it, except bluster?  Forget military action.  That would likely provoke a major confrontation, perhaps with multiple countries, and no one wants to start a war over this.  For years, the State Department has been warning Americans not to travel to NK.  Yet, Warmbier and many others have done so.  Perhaps, an out and out ban (there’s that word, again) would be in order.  In addition, perhaps, the US could impose more punitive sanctions, for example, damage NK indirectly by penalizing those foreign countries that do business with it in some way.  I would think that people smarter and better informed than me could come up with some ideas.

One thing is certain: the US cannot let this stand.  It would embolden other rogue regimes to commit similar atrocities to our innocent citizens.