PARTITION OF INDIA

In August 1947 Great Britain oversaw the partition of the Indian subcontinent, aka the British Raj, into two countries – India and Pakistan.  The partition was far from orderly.  In fact, it was swathed in controversy and violence, as we shall see.  The hostility between the two nations persists to this day, and the geopolitical ramifications have been extensive.

Great Britain had ruled India since 1858, but by the end of WWII India had become an unwelcome remnant of a bygone colonial era.  GB was looking to exit the subcontinent as gracefully as possible.  Fighting WWII had depleted GB’s treasury substantially.  In addition, the post-war elections had put the Labor Party in control of the government, and most of the Laborites wanted out.

Furthermore, in 1946 a series of mutinies in the armed forces stationed in India broke out.  RAF servicemen were growing increasingly frustrated by what they perceived to be the too slow pace of their repatriation.   At the same time, the Indians were riding a wave of nationalism.  Violence between the more radical elements of the Hindu and Muslim populace was accelerating.  In short, all three parties wanted the British to leave asap.  The only question was whether the area would remain whole or would it be divided into Hindu and Muslim countries.  The British and Hindus wanted to keep the area whole; the Muslims wanted a separate country.  Feelings were hostile on all sides.  The Brits did not want to leave without having achieved a peaceful resolution.  The government appointed Admiral of the Fleet Louis Mountbatten Viceroy of India and charged him with the responsibility to do so.

Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten was born on June 25, 1900.  He was a second cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth II.  He enjoyed a long, distinguished military career.  He served in WWI and WWII, rising to the level of Supreme Allied Commander of the Southeast Asia Theatre .  As such, he had the distinct honor of commanding the British forces that recaptured Burma from the Japanese and, later, of accepting the Japanese surrender of Singapore.  In short, Mountbatten was a famous and well-respected military hero and he had the necessary cachet to complete this assignment successfully.

Initially, the British government had instructed Mountbatten to keep the area united.  He negotiated extensively with Jawaharlal Nehru, the Hindu leader, and Muhammed Ali Jinnah, the Muslim leader, in an attempt to accomplish this, but in the end, he could not overcome the mutual mistrust and antipathy between the two groups.  As the violence escalated, he realized unity was a lost cause.  Ultimately, he managed to convince his superiors in London that a partition was the only possible solution.

Essentially, the partition was accomplished along religious lines.  Those areas that were predominantly Hindu were included in India, while the predominantly Muslim areas were formulated into Pakistan.  Unfortunately, the demarcation lines were determined by a committee consisting of people who had limited or no knowledge of the region, and they were drawn under the time pressure of a short and arbitrary deadline of August 15, 1947.  Furthermore, many areas were impossible to demarcate as they included substantial numbers of both Hindus and Muslims.  Millions of Hindus and Muslims alike, fearing for their safety, were forced to abandon their homes and flee to areas in which they would be safe.  The entire process was handled most poorly and was extremely problematic for both Hindus and Muslims.There were numerous instances of starvation, rape and murder.  It was total lawlessness and chaos.  The British, who could have ensured that the transition proceeded in an orderly manner, did not exactly do themselves proud.  They were just too anxious to wash their hands of the area.

In an odd twist, Pakistan was divided into two sections, which became known as West Pakistan and East Pakistan.  These two areas were separated by a large section of India.  This was not sustainable, and eventually, East Pakistan became a separate country known as Bangladesh.

CONCLUSION

Mountbatten stayed on as India’s first Governor-General until June 1948, but Jinnah refused his overture to serve as Governor-General of Pakistan as well.  Jinnah knew that Mountbatten, like many in the British government did not approve of Pakistan.  As I mentioned above, India and Pakistan have clashed repeatedly and remain enemies to this day.

The matter of the partitioning of India is chronicled in the movie, Viceroy’s House, currently playing in selected theatres.  It stars Hugh Bonneville, best known for his role as the Earl of Grantham in Downton Abbey, as Lord Mountbatten and is directed by Gurinder Chadha, who is the granddaughter of one of the aforementioned refugees.  I have seen it, and I recommend it.

Mountbatten met a sad and untimely end.  In 1979, he and his grandson, Nicholas, were assassinated by the IRA (a bomb in his fishing boat).

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9/11 REMEMBRANCE

Today, as on every 9/11 one could see the names of every 9/11 victim being read out loud on tv.  This is a particularly poignant scene as the readers are typically the children and grandchildren of the victims.  In my opinion, these readings of the names of the victims is a fantastic idea as it helps us to remember the horrific and cowardly terrorists attacks.

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

Today, marks the 16th anniversary of those horrific attacks.  They resulted in just under 3,000 deaths.  Most of those were workers who were trapped in their offices and consumed by fire or smoke/chemical inhalation.  They could not escape because most of the stairwells were blocked. Compounding the tragedy was the fact that NYC’s 911 operators were not as well informed as they should have been.  Thus, they were advising callers from inside the towers not to descend the stairs on their own.   Some of them proceeded to the roof hoping to be rescued by helicopter.  Unfortunately, helicopters could not land on the roofs due to the heat and thick smoke.  Many of us who were watching on tv witnessed the awful sight of people jumping to their deaths (in some cases, actually holding hands with others for support) rather than awaiting their fates from the fire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope that the coordination and information-sharing among these agencies have been enhanced since 9/11, but I have my doubts.

CONCLUSION

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

  1.  The US created the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate and oversee intelligence activities and security.  In addition, it passed the USA Patriot Act.  These agencies have improved our readiness and security but at the price of certain civil liberties.   There is, and should be, a balance between security and liberty, and depending on one’s political point of view the pendulum may have swung too far, or not enough, towards security.
  2. Enhanced security at airports and train and bus terminals has made travel more complicated, time-consuming, and nerve-wracking.  Some people have curtailed or ceased their travel entirely, particularly internationally.
  3. Parents are apprehensive, if not paranoid, about letting their children go outside to play or ride their bicycles in the neighborhood.  Also, they accompany their children to the school or school bus stop and pick them up at the end of the day.  The various terrorist attacks in schools in recent years have done little to assuage these fears and concerns.
  4. On the plus side, there has been a significant increase in patriotism and gratitude toward veterans.

In my opinion, parents should make a concerted effort to educate their children on the tragedy of 9/11, what happened, how it happened and what it means.  Roughly 21 million of the country’s 320 million population are under the age of 21 and, therefore, have little or no recollection or knowledge of this event.  The danger is that as time passes the populace will forget, and we should never allow that to happen.

I encourage everyone to find the time to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in lower Manhattan.  Take the time to stroll around the beautiful fountain area.  Take one of the many tours.  Yes, it is tragic to be reminded of the horror of that day, but, on the other hand, it is uplifting to be reminded of the heroism of many first responders and ordinary citizens and to experience the healing that has occurred.  Remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

OBAMACARE MESS

The US healthcare system is, to put it bluntly, a “hot mess.”  I suppose it’s all right for those who have qualified for Medicare, are covered by a group plan that is relatively all encompassing and inexpensive, such as, NYS teachers’ Empire Plan, or have qualified for free healthcare based on low income.  For the millions of others, however, it has become a nightmare of rising premiums, deductibles, and co-pays,  restricted coverages, disappearing providers, and cash-only doctors.  Negotiating the exchanges to find a suitable healthcare provider has become an exercise in frustration and futility.  More on this later.

Healthcare is an extremely complex matter, and, simply put, the ACA, aka Obamacare, has not worked out as promised.  It has proven to be rife with unintended (or, perhaps, intended) consequences.  I can’t believe I am actually saying that Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, was correct about anything, but I have to say she was downright prescient when she famously, or infamously, said with respect to the ACA bill “you have to pass it to know what’s in it.”  Remember when President Obama promised the American people: If you like your doctor, you can keep him?  WRONG.  If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it?  WRONG.  Premiums will not go up.  WRONG again.  WRONG, WRONG AND WRONG.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on healthcare issues, approximately 32 million persons under the age of 65 were uninsured in 2014.  These were predominantly people in working families.  Moreover, most of them had been without insurance for over a year.  For most, this was not by choice.  Over one-half of them cited the cost of coverage as the reason.  When they get sick, they often forgo treatment, unless it is so serious they have no choice.  Often, they do not fill prescriptions due to expense.  They pay for mandatory treatment out of their own pocket.  Approximately, one-half of them were eligible for ACA and had to forgo it.  The tax penalty that was designed to entice people to sign up is a sham, as it is cheaper to pay the fine than any ACA premium, especially if one is young and healthy.

Many states have expanded their Medicare coverage.  Approximately 70 million persons are now covered by Medicare.  Generally, it is a good plan, but expensive to administer.  On the other hand, many of the people living in the states that have not expanded their Medicare coverage remain uninsured.  They have not been able to qualify for the much-ballyhooed subsidies, thus rendering the ACA “UNaffordable” for them.

One of the key underpinnings of ACA was the state exchanges.  In most states, they have been a colossal failure.  According to Sally Pipes, President, CEO, and fellow of Healthcare Policy at the Pacific Research Institute, the exchanges needed 40% of the so-called “young invincibles” (aged 18-34) to sign up in order to remain viable.  For various reasons, only some 30% have done so.  Furthermore, many exchanges have either raised rates considerably, as much as 20% per year (Blue Shield, CA) or dropped out citing unaffordable (pardon the pun) costs.  For example, just a few weeks ago, Northwell Health, Long Island’s largest health insurer, which currently covers 126,000 policyholders, announced it will drop out in 2018.  Michael Dowling, President and CEO, stated the reasons succinctly, which I believe is a microcosm of the problem with ACA: (1) huge losses, e.g. payments into the state’s “risk-adjustment pool” in excess of $100 million for last year and this, and (2) uncertainty and instability in the marketplace.

Luckily for New Yorkers, 14 insurers remain in the individual market to choose from and 19 in the small group market.  People in other states are not so fortunate.   According to Newsday, in many states the choices are in the “low single digits,” one third of the nation’s 3,000 counties only have one insurer offering insurance on their exchange, and 40 have none.   It doesn’t take an advanced degree in economics to discern that the fewer the number of providers, the higher the cost.

Take Arizona, for instance – John McCain’s home state.  According to the AZ Department of Insurance website, premiums for the popular silver plan are projected to rise 116% in 2017, by far the largest increase of any state.  By comparison, the nation-wide average is projected to be 22%.  Furthermore, there will not be any PPO options available in any of the exchanges in AZ.  This is part of a continuing trend, and is cited as a means to hold down costs.  As most of you know, with PPO you can choose any doctor and do not need a referral to see a specialist.  HMO plans require you to see a doctor from an approved list

Louise Norris, a healthcare.org contributor, wrote that many ACA critics have characterized AZ a prime example of a state whose healthcare system is in a “death spiral.”  And yet, Senator John McCain came off a sickbed to cast the deciding vote to kill a bill that would have authorized the Senate to continue discussion of the healthcare issue and possibly pass a bill, which could be “conferenced” with a like bill that the House had passed.  Just a discussion to keep debate alive!  Inexplicable.  As the late Desi Arnaz would have said: “He has some ‘splaining’ to do.”

CONCLUSION

To analyze all essential aspects of the problems and possible solutions would take a book, not a blog.  I have tried to limit myself just to the essentials, as I see them.

Suffice to say, I know very few people who are pleased with the US healthcare system as it is presently constituted.  It seems everyone has had a nightmare experience.  Whenever I discuss it with my friends it becomes a game of “can you top this.”

I don’t pretend to have the answers.  But, then again, it is not my job to have them.  I am not a duly elected member of Congress. I don’t have access to the latest data and experts in the field.  What I do know is that nationalized healthcare is offered in many countries, and although results in some have been better than others it has not worked well in any of them.  There is plenty of empirical evidence around to support that.  For example, I have heard first-hand accounts of people waiting months for a simple CAT scan or MRI.  I know of many Canadians who simply travel to the US for emergency treatment.  Free or subsidized healthcare for everyone sounds really good, but coverage tends to be inconsistent, delayed and very expensive for the government to sustain.

That said, I am continually frustrated by our government’s failure to resolve this problem.  Once again, members of Congress prefer to squabble and score political points rather than find a solution.  Former President Harry S Trumann won re-election in 1952, in part, by labelling Congress a “do nothing Congress.”  That group was probably more productive than the current one.  Politifact has cited an average of several polls conducted by CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN, which found that the Congress has a 14% approval rating and a 95% re-election rate.  I don’t know what they says about us voters, but it tells me that Congressmen are good at two things and two things only – getting elected and getting re-elected.

In my mind, the leadership needs to do more.  Leaders are supposed to lead, and if not, they should be replaced by someone who will.  Dems have been operating in homogeneous negativity, uniformly opposing anything the GOP has proposed in the belief that that would be bad for President Trump, whom they despise.  Perhaps, but more importantly, it is bad for the country. Many in the GOP seem to have forgotten that they were elected, in part, to repeal and replace Obamacare.  They have failed to do so.  How will these people be able to explain their inaction to the voters in their respective states or districts?

Since they’re acting like children, let’s play a children’s game.  Instead of calling it “repeal and replace,” let’s characterize it as “refining and fine-tuning Obamacare.”  It’s essentially the same thing, but maybe that semantical change will provide both sides with sufficient “political cover.”  In any event, the nation has the means to resolve this severe problem satisfactorily, but does it have the will?

LABOR DAY

Tomorrow, September 4, is Labor Day (“LD”).  As we all know, the holiday has traditionally been celebrated on the first Monday of September.  It is celebrated in various forms and at various dates in approximately 80 countries.

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

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

The history of LD began in the 1870s in Canada.  Labor Unions were illegal in Canada, and 26 members of the Toronto Typographical Union had been imprisoned for striking for a nine-hour work day.  That action led to demonstrations and rallies and raising the profile of labor unrest in both Canada and the US.  Two of the most outspoken leaders were Peter McGuire, founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and an official of the AF of L, and Matthew Maguire, Secretary of the Central Labor Union in NY.  Historical accounts differ, but one or both of these men are credited with being the first to propose a holiday to celebrate labor.  In any event, the CLU planned and organized the first LD celebration in NYC on September 5, 1885.  Approximately, 20,000 workers and their families participated.  The concept spread. In 1887 Oregon became the first state to sanction the holiday.

The Pullman Labor Strike in 1893 provided the final impetus for a national labor holiday.  The Pullman Company had been founded and was run by George Pullman. Pullman, IL, where the company operated, was a classic company town.  All the workers lived there and paid rent to the company, which was automatically deducted from their paychecks.  Workers’ housing was segregated according to their jobs; everyone shopped at the Company Store.  Many viewed such an arrangement as a form of slavery, because workers were, in actuality, trapped due to their omnipresent debt to the Company. (Think of the song “Sixteen Tons.”)  In 1893 the country was in the midst of a recession, and the company laid off hundreds of workers and reduced the wages of the others.  Of course, living expenses remained constant.  These actions led to a strike.  President Cleveland declared the strike to be illegal and broke it with Federal troops.  Some striking workers were killed in the ensuing violence.  This incensed many Americans, and 1894 was an election year.  So, Congress expeditiously passed a bill establishing LD as a national holiday, and the President promptly signed it into law.  This entire process took only six days, so you can imagine the extent of the public outcry.  Incidentally, this action failed to save President Cleveland’s political career; he was defeated anyway.

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

Despite what you may see on tv or read in newspapers or social media, most Americans are decent, hard-working, caring persons.  Whenever disaster or tragedy strikes we unite to help those in distress.  Many have donated their time and/or money without being asked and without expecting any payback or even recognition.  If you doubt me, just look at the outpouring of kindness and empathy being shown by “average” Americans toward the victims of Hurricane Harvey.  To me, those people, not the destructive thugs and professional agitators one sees on the tv news destroying property, attacking the police, and beating up those with whom they disagree, are the “real” Americans.   It is the proverbial “silver lining” in a very dark cloud.

So now, as you celebrate the day in whatever fashion you choose, at least you will have some appreciation of the meaning of LD beyond a day off from work, the unofficial last day of summer and the beginning of the school year.

Have fun and enjoy.

HURRICANE HARVEY

Hurricane Harvey, which, as we all know, is currently devastating southeastern Texas and parts of Louisiana, is rapidly becoming one of the most devastating hurricanes in US history.  It made landfall in Rockport, TX, which is southeast of Houston, on Friday, August 25, as a Category 4 storm measuring 200 miles across.  Although it has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, that is very misleading.  For instance, (1)  The major source of its damage is not wind, but rain and flooding.  Meteorologists predict that parts of southeast Texas could be hit with up to 50 inches of rain before the storm blows itself out, which would be the largest amount ever recorded in Texas.  To put that in perspective, that total would exceed the average annual rainfall for the area.  (2)  Harvey is a relatively slow moving storm.  It is expected to linger in the area until Thursday, or, perhaps, even later.  (3) Some meteorologists are predicting that it could turn back to the Gulf Coast and re-energize as a hurricane again.

Meteorologists are comparing it to other notorious hurricanes.  I have seen various “notorious” lists, but according to the National Weather Channel, the worst ones in history are Galveston (1900), SE Florida/Lake Okeechobee (1928), and Katrina (2005).   More on them later.

Names were not assigned to hurricanes until 1950.  Supposedly, meteorologists felt that assigning names to hurricanes would help people remember them.  The names are taken from a list generated and maintained by the World Meteorological Organization.  The first name used was “Able.”  In 1953 human names were assigned, but only female ones.  The first human name was “Alice.”  Beginning in 1979 male names were added.

And, now back to the Big 3.  We all remember Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.  It was “only” a Category 3 storm, but that is misleading.  Categories 1-5 are assigned based on wind speed, and the main source of Katrina’s devastation was storm surge.  It produced the highest storm surge on record in the US.  The damage was exacerbated by the fact that New Orleans is below sea level, and the levees designed to protect it did not hold.  Katrina was responsible for in excess of 1,800 deaths and $100 billion of damage.  In addition, it displaced over 1 million people, many of whom have never returned.  The city, itself has not recovered completely, and, perhaps, it never will.

The Galveston storm was a Category 4 storm that killed between 8,000 and 12,000 people.  We don’t even have a good estimate.  The storm surge was up to 15 feet.  An estimated 3,500 homes and buildings were wiped out.  Remember this was in 1900 when the population density was much less than now.

The Okechobee storm was responsible for up 3,000 deaths, mostly from drowning.  The storm produced a storm surge up to 15 feet high.

By the time that Harvey has run its course it may compare to those.  Based on the huge size of the storm it has affected thousands of square miles and millions of people.  Flooding has been reported as far away as Austin and Dallas.  The tv visuals have been horrific.  We have seen homes reduced to matchsticks, people stranded on roofs in the pouring rain waiting in vain for help, and Good Samaritans using row boats, motor boats and front loaders to rescue stranded people.  To make matters worse, many areas have been hit with tornados.  The National Weather Service described the situation as “beyond anything experienced.”  Nearly 100,000 homes are without electricity in the Houston area alone.

Government assistance is already underway. President Trump, Texas Governor Abbott, Louisiana Governor Bel Edwards, and various federal agencies, such as FEMA and Homeland Security have been coordinating efforts with local mayors and other local officials to combat this historic storm.  Governor Abbott has activated and deployed Texas’ entire 3,000 person complement of National Guard troops.  FEMA reported there were over 5,000 Federal employees assisting in the area.  Members of the Border Patrol have been reassigned to the area.  Other regions may be sending volunteer police, fire and rescue workers to assist as well.  Finally, President Trump will be visiting the area as soon as security arrangements can be put into place.

Unlike other areas in the storm’s path the City of Houston did not order its residents to evacuate in advance.  Mayor Sylvester Turner has been criticized for this decision, but he has been defending it, saying at a subsequent news conference that a mass evacuation would have been a “nightmare.”  He added, “you literally cannot put 6.5 million people on the road [at once].”  As a result, substantial numbers of people have been stranded and forced to “shelter in place.”  Emergency dispatchers have been overwhelmed and response time has soared.  Many people have been desperately pleading their case on social media.  There have been reports of people seeking shelter in attics and being trapped there by rapidly rising water.  Houston Police Chief Art Acevido issued a special warning advising people not to seek shelter in the attic “unless you have an ax…to break through onto your roof.”  Tens of thousand of displaced persons have been forced to seek shelter in makeshift shelters.

Another complication is that the area is very densely populated.  Texas is the second most populous state, and Houston is the fourth largest city in the country.  Houston, itself, accounted for 3% of the nation’s gross domestic product in 2015.  Furthermore, the area is home to a substantial portion of the nation’s energy industry.  Oil and gas companies have been forced to shut down much of their production.  The economic effects are already being felt, for example, in the price of gas at the pump, and figure to get worse as time goes on.

CONCLUSION

Amid all this devastation and tragedy some good has occurred.  Once again, we see that, generally, Americans are a generous, kind-hearted people.  Despite the many issues that seem to divide us, in crises such as this, Americans pull together.   We have seen many examples of friends, neighbors and even total strangers helping each other without regard to race, religion or national origin.

Eventually, the storm will pass.  In its wake it will leave much devastation and tragedy.  It will likely take many years and much sacrifice to make us whole, but I have no doubt we will do it.

ELVIS

Elvis was, in my opinion, one of the most significant cultural icons of the mid-20th Century.  Love his music or not, it is hard to deny his influence on a whole generation of people – adults as well as children.  Incredibly, August 16 marked the 40th anniversary of his untimely death.

To this day, he is still commonly referred to as “The King of Rock ‘n Roll” or, simply, “The King.”  Furthermore, he was one of those rare people who is so famous that he is referred to by only his first name.   Mention “Elvis,” and everyone will know to whom you are referring.   To be sure, many other persons share that distinction, for example, Madonna, Cher, Bono, Oprah, and Liberace, to name a few, but it is a small, exclusive group.

Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi.  He had a twin brother who was stillborn and buried in an unmarked grave.  After he became famous, Elvis tried to locate the grave, but despite his considerable resources he was unable to do so.

The Presley family was very poor, even for that area of rural Mississippi.  Elvis’ father, Vernon, was not very ambitious and moved from one odd job to another.  They relied on government assistance and handouts from friends and neighbors.

Young Elvis was no better than an average student, but he demonstrated a musical bent at an early age.  His mother was fond of recalling that at age two he would scramble up to the stage and attempt to sing gospel with the church choir.  At 10, he entered a singing contest, his first public appearance.  He finished fifth.  Undoubtedly, after Elvis became famous, the four children who beat him enjoyed beaucoup bragging rights.

For his next birthday, among his gifts was a guitar.  (Later, he recalled he had wanted a bicycle or a rifle instead.)   Regardless, he was interested enough to take lessons from his uncles and the local pastor.  Ironically, Elvis recalled he never wanted to sing in public.  “I was very shy about it.”

Generally, Elvis was a loner, but he would bring his guitar to school and sing during lunch and recess.   Reportedly, the other kids did not think much of him or his music.  They referred to him derisively as a “mama’s boy” and the “trashy” kid who played “hillbilly” music.  Eventually, Elvis got over his shyness.   By 12, he was performing on the radio.

When Elvis was 13 the family moved to Memphis, and coincidentally or not, Elvis began to come out of his shell.  He began to spend his free time at Memphis’ “blues scene” and wear the flashy clothes with which we are all familiar.

In 1953, 18 year-old Elvis Presley simply walked into Sun Records’ offices in Memphis seeking to purchase studio time make a record of two songs called “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.”  They were to be a birthday gift to his mother.  At the time, Elvis was a truck driver who “fooled around” with music on the side.  There was no indication that he was seriously attempting to become a recording star.   Sun Records was a struggling, nondescript record label that was even having trouble paying its bills.  Not exactly a magical combination.

Nevertheless, as a result of those recordings Sun booked Elvis for a follow-up recording session, which took place in July, 1954.   Sam Phillips, Sun’s founder and owner, recalled that Elvis was “probably, the most introverted man he had ever seen,” and he was far from impressed with Elvis’ recording session.   Elvis was playing ballads, which, as we all know, was not his forte.  As the story, or, perhaps, legend, goes, Elvis and his backup players took a break, and during it they began fiddling around, doing “nothing in particular.”  Elvis was playing blues songs, but at a fast, lively pace.  Almost magically, his voice became “euphoric.”  Phillips asked them what they were doing.  They replied they “didn’t know.”  Phillips told them to “back it up and do it again.”  They did.  Two nights later, the song, “That’s All Right,” was being played on local radio stations, and Elvis and rock ‘n roll were on their way.  Tiny, nondescript, struggling Sun Records had discovered arguably the most significant and influential music talent of the mid 20th Century.  Sadly for Phillips, later that year he sold Elvis’ contract to RCA for a mere $35,000, quite possibly the worst business transaction in music history.

Elvis came along at just the right time.  In the mid 1950s American teens and pre-teens were searching for their own sound.  Other musicians, such as Chuck Berry and Sam Perkins were trying to develop that sound.  Presley filled that void.  Some contemporaries said, not unkindly, that he was a “white man playing black music.”  Whatever, it worked.  A large part of his appeal, especially to girls, was his gyrations on stage.  This was not intentional.  The genesis of that was his nervousness, especially before large crowds.  Nevertheless, the girls loved it, and their screaming in delight became part of Elvis’ appeal.  As a result of the conservative mores of the 1950’s, whenever Elvis appeared on tv, producers instructed their cameramen not to film below his waist, so as not to offend certain fans, not to mention the network censors.  This only increased the fervor of his female fans.

Elvis became a huge breakout star.  He became very popular not only among teens but their parents as well.  Over his career he produced dozens of “hit” singles and albums.  In addition, he starred in several feature length movies, was in huge demand in Las Vegas and other nightclubs, and made countless appearances on tv.

In 1958, at the height of his popularity, Elvis was inducted into the Army.  He went willingly and did not seek special treatment because of his notoriety.  His attitude was he “did not want to be treated any differently from anyone else.”  Of course, his induction, created a media circus.  When he received his honorable discharge in 1960 the train carrying him home was mobbed by fans as well.  Can you imagine if he had lived in the internet/social media age?

As successful as his professional life was, that’s how disastrous his personal life was, especially after his divorce in 1973.  He overdosed on barbiturates on two occasions.  One of those occurrences was so serious that he was in a coma for three days.  At one point, he was hospitalized due to his addiction to pethidine, a powerful and highly addictive opioid, which, in excessive doses, can cause respiratory distress or even death, especially when taken in conjunction with alcohol.  Over the next few years, he continued to tour, and his health continued to decline.  In early 1977 journalist Tony Scherman described him as a “grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self.”  Due to his excessive weight and excessive doses of drugs he was barely able to drag himself through the concerts on his final tour.  He was virtually incoherent in one, and had to cancel another.  Finally, he was forced to cancel the entire remainder of the tour.  A very sad ending to a brilliant career.

CONCLUSION

As I mentioned above, Elvis died on August 16, 1977.  Out of respect, I will omit the somewhat lurid details of his death.  Suffice to say, the massive amounts of drugs he had taken for years finally caught up to him.  By one account, at the end he had some 14 different drugs in his system, many of them in “massive” quantities. Although his inner circle probably saw it coming, most of us were shocked.  He was only 42.

Thousands of fans descended on Graceland to view the open casket.  President Jimmy Carter opined that Elvis had “permanently changed the face of American popular culture.”  I should denote that, to his credit, despite his Southern upbringing and the “Jim Crow” attitudes prevalent in the 1950s, throughout his career Elvis evinced great respect for African American performers.

Elvis’ fame and notoriety have not diminished since his death.  Over the years, conspiracy buffs have insisted that Elvis faked his death, and there have been many “Elvis sightings.”  Furthermore, Elvis impersonators are everywhere, and many entertainers have built their act around it.

Elvis has been inducted into five music halls of fame – Rock ‘n Roll, Country, Gospel, Rockabilly and Memphis Music HOF.

Yes, he truly was “The King.”

JERRY LEWIS

Jerry Lewis was the consummate entertainer.  He was one of the most versatile and durable performers of his time.  He could sing, dance and act, and he was a successful film producer, director and screenwriter.  In addition, he was a great humanitarian.  For example, for over 40 years he hosted a Labor Day Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy.  However, he was best known for his unique and zany brand of comedy.  He entertained audiences with his unique nasal, whiny voice, malleable face, and slapstick style.  Often, he would not  even have to say a word, just make a zany face or take a crazy pratfall and audiences would laugh uproariously.  In 2002 he told USA Today: ” I have taken more falls than any other 20 comedians put together.  I have taken them on everything from clay courts to cement to wood floors, coming off pianos, going out a two-story window, landing on Dean, falling into the rough.”  He entertained us for nearly 90 years.

Joseph (or, by some accounts, Jerome) Levitch was born on March 16, 1926 in Newark, NJ.  Entertainment was in his blood.  His parents were Russian Jews who were in the business.  His father, Daniel (aka Danny), was a vaudeville entertainer.  His mother, Rae, was a piano player for a radio station.  Jerry began performing as part of his parents’ act at the age of five, notably at the various Catskill Resorts – the so-called “Borscht Belt.”

To no one’s surprise, young Joey was an inveterate prankster, and he was not exactly a devoted student in school.   In fact, he dropped out in the tenth grade to pursue entertaining full time.  By fifteen he had developed his own act, which he called the “Record Act.”  He would mime lyrics from songs as they played on a phonograph.  Around this time, he changed his name to Jerry Lewis.  Supposedly, he felt Joey Lewis to be too close a resemblance to comedian Joe E. Lewis and heavyweight champion boxer, Joe Lewis.

In 1946, after a chance encounter with singer Dean Martin at a NYC night club, they teemed up to form one of the most popular and successful acts ever.  Martin was the straight man; Lewis was the zany comedian.  Unlike most other comedy acts of the time, their act did not feature any preplanned skits.  They just interacted with each other.  Audiences could not get enough of them.  They began performing in night clubs.  Then, they graduated to tv.  First, they guest-starred on Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town, which was one of the most popular shows on tv.  Soon after, they got their own tv show, The Martin and Lewis Show.  Next came the movies.  They signed a deal with Paramount in 1949 to make a series of films.

They made 16 movies for Paramount between 1949 and 1956, all of which were produced by the renowned Hal B. Wallis.  Over time, however, Martin’s roles in these movies began to decline in relation to Lewis’.  This caused considerable strain on their partnership.  Finally, on July 24, 1956, they split up.

Their legion of fans was very upset, and many of them begged the two to reconcile.  Not only did they not reconcile, but neither would comment on the reasons for the split.  Both Martin and Lewis went on to very successful careers as solo acts, and they would not appear together again until 1976.  They did not formally reconcile until 1980, perhaps, spurred on by the untimely death of Martin’s son, Dean Paul.

After the breakup with Martin, Lewis was unsure of what to do.  Later, he would admit: “I was unable to put one foot in front of the other with any confidence.  I was completely unnerved to be alone.”  As it happened, while Lewis was vacationing in Las Vegas, Judy Garland, who was performing at one of the casinos, became ill and could not go on.   Her manager prevailed upon Lewis to fill in.  With some trepidation, he did so, and he was a big hit singing and clowning with the audience.  That success gave him the confidence that he could succeed as a solo act.

Lewis’ career as a solo act took off.  He was a success in Vegas, on tv and in the movies.  The Sands Hotel signed him to a long term contract.  He got his own tv show on NBC.  He made additional movies.  My personal favorite was “The Nutty Professor,” in which he plays two characters, a milquetoast professor and a macho, hard-drinking lounge performer, sort of like a modern version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  He even enjoyed success as a writer and director.  As a director he is credited with inventing the “video assist,” which enables a director to view a new “take” immediately.

As previously mentioned, Lewis had always been a fundraiser for Muscular Dystrophy.  He was national chairman for many years.  In addition, he hosted a Labor Day telethon from 1952 – 1959 and 1966-2010 for the organization.  Over that period, he raised in excess of $2.5 billion for the cause.  Furthermore, Lewis founded a place for abused and traumatized children called Jerry’s House.

Lewis was not active politically.  He was a strong advocate of the US, in general, but did not advocate for any particular political party.  He would lament other people’s “lack of pride” in the country.  “I do not say anything negative about the president…I don’t do that.  And I don’t allow my children to do that.”  In that regard, he said that he was heeding the advice of former president John F. Kennedy who had advised him: “Don’t get into anything political.  [It] will usurp your energy.”  Lewis also felt that politics “did not belong at the Oscars.”

Lewis was married twice and had seven children – six sons (one of which was adopted) and one adopted daughter.  Even though he lived a long life, he was not a well man for much of it.  For example, for many years he was plagued by a back injury he had suffered on stage in 1965; he became addicted to the powerful painkiller, Percodan; he had two heart attacks; he contracted several serious diseases at one time or another, such as viral meningitis, prostate cancer, diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis.  The Prednisone he was taking for the latter caused him to gain considerable weight and “blew him up like a balloon.”  Through it all, he persevered and continued to perform.  Even at the time of his death he had performances scheduled.  “I do every single thing a performer can do to entertain an audience,” he said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times in 1993.  “In the words of my dad, there’s only one way to be a pro: sweat.”

CONCLUSION

Lewis received dozens of honorariums and awards for movies, tv and his humanitarian activities – too many to list here.  Perhaps, the following quote from superstar director, Martin Scorsese will sum up his legacy:  “Jerry Lewis was a master.  He was a giant.  He was an innovator.  He was a great entertainer.  He was a great artist.  And he was a remarkable man.”

In a 2016 interview with Inside Edition Lewis disclosed that he was “afraid of dying as it would leave his wife and daughter alone.”  Unfortunately, we all have to die sometime.

Lewis passed away on August 20, 2017.  Rest in peace, Jerry.  You were truly one of a kind, and you will be sorely missed.

SOLAR ECLIPSE

On Monday, August 21 we will be treated to a real rarity – a total solar eclipse.  Totality may be observed in the contiguous states of the US in a narrow band approximately 70 miles wide stretching from Oregon (beginning at 9:06 am PDT as a partial) through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina (ending as a partial at 4:06 EDT).

Each of these states is preparing for a substantial influx of “umbraphiles,” aka “eclipse chasers,” most of  whom are attracted by the adventure and rarity of the event, rather than the science of it.  In an attempt to accommodate these umbraphiles as well as their own citizens, each state has planned central viewing areas and celebrations, such as special NASA-sponsored presentations, festivals, entertainment and educational seminars, mostly to be held in outdoor stadiums, fair grounds and parks.   One special event will be Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s special presentation of Bonnie Tyler performing her famous 1983 hit song, “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” on board one of their cruise ships as it crosses the path of totality.  In addition, various media outlets will be covering the eclipse.

The length of time for totality will vary, with the longest period being two minutes and 41.6 seconds.  Partiality may be viewed in the rest of the US as well as Canada and parts of Mexico, Central and South America, northwestern Europe and Russia.

There are four types of eclipses:

  1. Total – when the Moon completely obscures the Sun.  This only occurs briefly along a narrow track.
  2. Annular- The Sun and the Moon appear to be exactly in line with the Earth, but the Moon appears to be smaller.  In this case, the Sun will appear as a bright ring, or “annulus,” around the dark disc of the Moon.
  3. Hybrid – Shifts between a total and an annular eclipse at different points.  These are relatively rare.
  4. Partial – The Sun and Moon are not exactly in line, and therefore, the Moon only partially obscures the Sun.

The previous total solar eclipse visible across the entire contiguous US was on June 8, 1918.  The next total eclipses visible in the US will be in April 2024 and August 2045.

Briefly, a solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth obscuring (or “occulting”) part or all of the Sun. The technical term for this phenomenon is “zyzgy.”  The orbital planes of the Earth and the Moon do not match up perfectly.  The Moon’s is tilted at approximately five degrees in relation to the Earth’s.  If not, there would be a total solar eclipse every month.  In actuality, one occurs somewhere on earth about twice a year.  The reason why they seem to be so rare is that each total eclipse only occurs over a narrow band, so that one can be observed in any particular place only every 360-410 years on average.

Even though the Sun is approximately 400 times the diameter of the Moon, the Moon is approximately 400 times closer to Earth.  Thus, when viewed from Earth they appear to be the same size in the sky.  So, if the alignment of all three celestial bodies is just right, the Moon can and does obscure the entire sun, producing a total eclipse.  During totality it will get dark and only a corona around the sun will be visible.

We all have been amply warned that viewing the eclipse directly with the naked eye can cause severe retinal damage or even blindness.  It is imperative, therefore, to wear special glasses that are able to filter the sunlight safely.  Beware of using unsafe glasses or homemade devices.  Also, keep pets inside and away from windows and skylights.

Ancient people, who were very superstitious and ignorant of astronomy, feared eclipses.  To them, the sudden darkness could only mean they were incurring the wrath of the gods and, perhaps, they portended the end of the world.  There are many stories , or, perhaps, legends, around eclipses.  For example, supposedly, an ancient Chinese king beheaded two of his astronomers who had failed to predict one.  Also, in ancient Greece during a battle between the Medes and the Lydians both sides were so taken aback by an eclipse that they summarily put down their weapons and declared a truce.

CONCLUSION

Unless you are an astronomy aficionado you are probably not all that interested in all the technical jargon surrounding the science of eclipses.  Suffice to say that, for many people, eclipses constitute a seminal event in their lives.  Enjoy the experience.  It does not occur often.

But, above all else, be safe!

ISLAMIC TERROR ATTACK IN BARCELONA

On August 17, 2017 the latest in a series of horrific radical Islamic terrorist attacks shocked the world in its brutality and wanton disregard for human life.  This time, the location was Las Ramblas Promenade in Barcelona, Spain.  One of the terrorists drove a van at a high rate of speed deliberately into the pedestrians strolling through the area.  As I write this, 13 people have been murdered and an additional 100 or more have been injured, many of them seriously.

By all accounts, it was a horrific scene, with victims scattered like bowling pins all over the street. ISIS wasted no time in taking credit for the attack, blathering that it was executed by “soldiers of the Islamic State….to target countries participating in the coalition to drive it from Syria and Iraq.”    Josep Luis Trapero, a senior police official of the Catalonia region, which is located in the northeastern area of Spain and includes Barcelona, advised reporters: “It was clearly a terror attack, intended to kill as many people as possible.”

Las Ramblas is a beautiful tree-lined walkway in central Barcelona that runs between a huge plaza and the harbor.  It is a very popular destination for both locals and tourists who desire to partake of the fine shops, sight-seeing, street performers, and restaurants in the area. It is a place to “see and be seen.”   Pauline Frommer, editorial director of the world-renowned Frommer’s guidebooks calls Las Ramblas “Barcelona’s Champs Elysees or Times Square.”  It is a perfect “soft target” for a terrorist attack.

This latest attack was far from an isolated incident.  In point of fact, the number of Islamic terror attacks in Europe has been rising sharply since 2014, reaching almost epidemic proportions.   Before then, there had not been too many, the notable exceptions being the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the London bombings in 2005.  According to Europol, terror attacks in Europe attributable to radical Islamic terrorists have increased from four in 2014 to 17 in 2015 and 135 in 2016.  Murders have jumped from four in 2014 to 150 in 2015 and 135 in 2016.

There are many reasons for this frightening increase.  I believe the major ones are:

  1. A consequence of the Syrian Civil War.  Many of the countries that have been targeted were those which participated in or supported Operation Inherent Resolve (the military intervention against ISIS in Syria), for instance, Great Britain, France, Germany and Turkey.  France, alone, has suffered ten attacks between December 2014 and June 2017.  (It should be noted that even neutral countries, such as Belgium and Sweden, have been victimized.)
  2. The European Union’s open borders policy.  I have blogged on this most ill-advised policy before.  It enables terrorists to move freely throughout Europe.  Americans who oppose strong border controls in the US would be well advised to take heed.  Here is empirical evidence of the consequences of lax border controls.
  3. Lax law enforcement.  Whether the result of Islamophobia, carelessness, poor policing and security procedures, or incompetence, the result has been the same.  Law enforcement agencies are just now awakening to the terrorist problem in their midst.  For example, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has claimed that in just the three months following the Charlie Hebdo attack France foiled five additional terrorist attacks; Mark Rowley, assistant commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, claims that UK security services have foiled 13 planned terror attacks since mid-2013; and the Prosecutor General of Russia said that his country has foiled 12 potential terrorist attacks in just the first six months of 2017.  Better late than never, I suppose.
  4. Muslim immigrants’ reluctance to assimilate.  In many European cities Muslims have remained concentrated in their own areas of these cities for many years, or even, for generations, adhering to their own customs and language, and even Sharia Law.  In Paris and London the police have acknowledged that there are areas in which even they fear to tread.  Thus, these areas have often become breeding grounds for radicalization, and counter-terrorism efforts are severely hampered.

CONCLUSION

Reactions from world leaders were typical.  Everyone expressed shock, horror, sympathy and support.  That is fine as far as it goes, but it will do nothing to resolve the problem of radical Islamic terrorism.  Even now, certain liberal politicians on both sides of the Atlantic will not even utter the phrase, “radical Islamic terrorism.”  I ask, how can one defeat it if one will not even acknowledge it?

The Times of Israel reported that following this latest terror attack Barcelona’s chief rabbi, Meir Bar-Hen, stated that “the Jewish community in Barcelona is ‘doomed,’ ” because local law enforcement refuses to “confront radical Islam.”  He went so far as to urge local Jews to emigrate to Israel.  Hyperbole?  Perhaps, but it is an indication of the unease that permeates the Barcelona Jewish community as well as other areas of Europe.  Jewish emigration from Europe to Israel has been on the rise in recent years.

Several media outlets have reported that the Spanish police have made two arrests, but the van driver remains free.  Well and good, but the best way to keep people safe is to prevent attacks beforehand.  The old expression “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” may be somewhat trite, but I think it is applicable to this situation.  As I have stated above, although European police agencies have demonstrated improvement in this area, they still have a long way to go.

LEFTIES

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

According to Wikipedia, between 7 – 10% of people are left-handed.  I’m not sure why there are so few.  I recall that when I was growing up parents would frequently try to convert their left-handed children to right-handed.  Sometimes it worked; sometimes it did not.  But, it often caused friction between the parent and the child, who would be resistant to the idea.  Perhaps, there is a scientific or medical reason.  Anybody out there have any ideas?

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

  1. Opening cans.  Can openers are made for righties.  I am not aware of any “left-handed” can openers.  (Actually, it sounds like a bad joke.)
  2. Writing.  This has been mitigated by the widespread use of computers, but older lefties will recall the difficulties of writing on school desks, particularly those that had the side panel arm rest.  Lefties had to write sideways or upside down.  Moreover, when writing with a fountain pen a leftie would invariably smudge the ink or get ink on his fingers and hand.
  3. Scissors.  The simple task of using a pair of scissors to cut paper would be problematic for a leftie.  Like everything else, scissors are made for righties.
  4. Shaking hands.  Some lefties find it awkward to shake hands with their “off” hand.
  5. Spiral notebooks.  These are uncomfortable for lefties, as their hand is always resting on the metal spiral.
  6. Bumping elbows.  If you’ve ever sat next to a lefty in a restaurant booth or other enclosed space you are familiar with this problem.
  7. Bowling and golf equipment.  This does not appear to be as much of a problem now, but when I was growing up it was next to impossible to find lefty golf or bowling equipment.  Consequently, I have met many lefties of my generation who were forced to learn to bowl or golf righty.
  8. Peer ridicule.  Not so much now, but when I was growing up many child lefties were subjected to teasing or ridicule by their peers because they did things differently.

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

CONCLUSION

Lefties take heart.  In the pc age, your life has generally been made easier.  Furthermore, there have been innumerable successful people who were lefty.  A total of eight US Presidents were lefties:  James A. Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry  S. Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.   In addition, there have been thousands of successful and famous lefties in other fields.  A small sampling would include entertainers, such as Don Adams, George Burns, James Caan, Matt Dillon and Sylvester Stallone; artists, such as Leonardo Da Vinci and LeRoy Neiman; and baseball players such as Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Sandy Koufax and Ted Williams.  (In fact, left-handed baseball pitchers are very much in demand, because they are needed to get out left-handed batters, and even an average one can enjoy a long career.)

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