MY HERO

July 5 will mark the seven-year anniversary of the most horrific day in the lives of my wife and I, a day no parent should have to endure. Eventually, the ordeal had a happy ending, but it was touch and go for a while. Subsequently, I shared our experiences in a blog entitled “My Hero.”

As the aforementioned anniversary approaches I would like to re-publish the blog as I do every year at this time. (Some of you are new followers of my blogs and may not have seen it.) I believe it is as inspirational now as it was then. Perhaps, you could forward it to a friend or relative who has suffered a stroke and might benefit from reading it. So, read and enjoy “My Hero.”

Who is your hero? Who has inspired you by exhibiting extreme courage and achievement in the face of adversity? Is it a historical figure, like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, or a religious figure, like Moses, Jesus or Muhammed, or maybe, a civil rights icon, like Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela? Or, perhaps, it might be an ordinary person you know or know of who, while not famous, has accomplished something so truly remarkable, against such long odds that you are truly inspired. Not all of us can point to such a person, but I can. It is someone very close to me that I have known all his life. It is my son, Matt.

It all began on July 5, 2015, a day I will never forget. Like the JFK assassination and the 9/11 terrorist attacks I will never forget where I was and what I was doing when I heard the awful news. It was a typical summer’s day in the NY area, bright and sunny. Matt was enjoying a family day with some friends and his lovely wife and two children at a local club. Suddenly, after swimming in the lake he became dizzy, lost vision in one eye and collapsed. He had suffered a dissection of his carotid artery, which had triggered a massive stroke.

Luckily, there was a doctor present. He immediately recognized what was happening and knew exactly what to do. This doctor accompanied Matt in the ambulance and stayed with him at the local hospital to ensure the ER doctors gave him the clot-buster shot and other appropriate treatment, including emergency surgery to remove the clot within the five-six-hour window that is considered to be optimal for treating strokes. This certainly mitigated the effects of the stroke and may even have saved his life.

My wife and I were eating dinner with friends at a local restaurant when we got the shocking telephone call that Matt had suffered a stroke. It seemed impossible. Matt was only 40 and in excellent physical condition. He worked out regularly, ran, and practiced jujitsu. The caller did not know any details, not even if Matt were alive. If you’re a parent, you know that type of telephone call is as bad as it gets. Luckily, our friends insisted on driving us to the hospital in Westchester to which Matt was being transported (the Westchester Trauma Center). I don’t think I was in any condition to drive. We arrived at more or less the same time as Matt. We were able to see him and ascertain that although he was in very serious condition, he was alive. After the surgery he was only able to breathe with the aid of a ventilator, and his skin was the color of white porcelain.

Over the next few days the medical news was very dire. The doctors confirmed that Matt had, indeed, suffered a massive stroke. He was not conscious; he was paralyzed on his right side; he might need a craniotomy; he was blind in his left eye; and he had only partial vision in his right eye. He was in such bad shape that I felt elated a few days later when I squeezed his hand and felt him squeeze mine back.

The doctors told us he was facing a long, arduous recovery, one – two weeks at the hospital followed by six to nine months at a rehab facility. In addition, they said there was a good possibility that he would never recognize us, speak, or be able to walk unassisted. As far as returning to a normal life as a husband and father and resuming his career as a senior research analyst, that was seemingly too unrealistic to even contemplate. (Later, Matt told us that one of the doctors had flat-out told him he would not recover sufficiently to do so. When we asked him if that had bothered him, he said “no, I knew he was wrong.”). I realize that doctors feel compelled to disclose all possibilities, but there is a natural tendency to focus on the most negative ones, and that was an extremely disturbing prognosis.

Over the next year. Matt made a remarkable recovery. He was discharged from the hospital in only six days and transferred to Burke for rehab. Not only did he have to rehabilitate himself physically, but he also had to rehab his mind and his memory. At first, he didn’t even recall very basic elements of his life, such as the names of his wife and children and his current address. He had to relearn how to speak. His rate of progress was beyond anyone’s most optimistic expectations. He attacked his rehab with a vengeance. He attended every session. He never once told them he was in too much pain, too tired, or not in the mood, as many rehab patients do. Many times he would cut short our visit by telling us he had to leave for a rehab session. If they told him to do ten of something, he would do 15. He would complete the most tedious and frustrating of tasks without complaint. His course of rehab included robotics, which helped considerably. Of course, it helped that he was only 40 years old and in excellent physical condition, but, nevertheless, he astounded the doctors, the therapists, and, indeed, even us with his progress. In August 2016, after less than one month at Burke, he was discharged. For a while, he continued to undergo private rehab once a week. Now, he exercises by running.

CONCLUSION

Matt’s astounding recovery included the following accomplishments:

1. He completed his rehab at Burke and returned home to his family well ahead of schedule.
2. The day he was discharged he accompanied his wife and son to Nassau Coliseum, which was over a one-hour drive, to see Billy Joel’s last concert there.
3. He climbed up to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
4. He has resumed his career as a senior research analyst at a Wall Street firm. This is a remarkable achievement since his job is very demanding, requiring many hours of complex analysis, a high level of prolonged concentration, high-level meetings with clients, and travel.
5. He has completed the NYC marathon and various half marathons and works out regularly. How many non-stroke victims can say that?
6. Most importantly, has resumed his role as husband and father, and my wife and I have our son back.

During his recovery period Matt was fond of saying his full-time job was to get better. He applied the same single-minded determination and dedication to that task as he has to everything else in his life. He is not all the way back to where he was, but if you were to meet him today for the first time you would likely not realize that he had suffered a massive stroke only a few years ago.

My wife and I know that Matt was extremely lucky that there was a doctor present who ensured he received the immediate care he needed as well as benefiting from an amazing support system of friends, relatives and colleagues, and, for that, we will be eternally grateful. However, the determination with which he attacked his rehab virtually willing himself to get better was nothing short of amazing!

We have always been very proud of Matt, but, now, he is and will always be, our hero.”

Even now, seven years later, it is hard for me to read this blog without getting emotional. We know we dodged a major bullet. Matt has pretty much returned to normalcy, although he is still blind in one eye and has a weakness in his right hand. However, I remain optimistic that one day medical science will progress to the point that he will regain his sight. Who knows?

We have suggested to Matt that he could become an inspirational speaker to give others the benefit of his experience. Although he has made a couple of appearances with a friend who was also a stroke victim, for now, he has chosen to focus on his family and career.

Alternatively, his experience would make a fine inspirational movie, although Hollywood would probably dismiss it as too unrealistic. In any case, read it and be inspired.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – JUNE

Below please find a list of the significant historical events that have occurred during the month of June.

6/2/1937 – The Duke of Windsor, who, as Edward VII, had abdicated the throne of England, married Wallis Warfield Simpson, a commoner and a divorcee.
6/3/1972 – Sally Jan Priesand became the first female ordained rabbi in the US.
6/3/1989 – The Ayatollah Khomeini, notorious leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, died.
6/4/1989 – Chinese government troops fired on unarmed demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Upwards of 3,000 were killed; an additional 1,600 were imprisoned; and 27 were later executed.
6/5/1968 – Following a campaign speech Robert Kennedy was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
6/6/1944 – D-Day, one of the most significant battles in WWII. (Please see my previous blog for details.)
6/8/1874 – Cochise, one of the most notorious of Apache Indian leaders, died while living on the Chiricahua Reservation in AZ.
6/9/1898 – Great Britain signed a 99-year lease for Hong Kong. Control of the colony reverted to China at midnight, June 30, 1997.
6/12/1898 – The Philippine Islands declared their independence from Spain leading to the US’s invasion and occupation.
6/12/1963 – Civil rights leader Medgar Evers was assassinated in Jackson, MS, sparking widespread outrage and providing the impetus for comprehensive civil rights laws.
6/13/1966 – In “Miranda v. AZ,” the Supreme Court ruled that the police are required to apprise a suspect of his right to remain silent prior to being questioned.
6/14/1777 – John Adams introduced a resolution to establish an official flag for the 13 colonies. We celebrate this date as “Flag Day.”
6/15/1215 – England’s King John agreed to a charter, known as the Magna Carta, which granted certain rights and liberties to English nobles, and which has served as the basis for all democracies since.
6/17/1972 – Five GOP operatives were caught breaking into the DNC offices in the Watergate Hotel. Eventually, this precipitated a chain of events, which culminated in the resignation of President Nixon.
6/18/1812 – Congress declared war on Great Britain, commencing the War of 1812.
6/18/1815 – England and its allies defeated France decisively in the Battle of Waterloo, which effectively ended Napoleon’s reign as Emperor of France and precipitated his exile.
6/18/1983 – Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.
6/19/1953 – Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for the crime of selling information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. They were not only the first married couple to be executed together in the US, but also the first US citizens to be executed for espionage.
6/24/1948 – The Soviet Union commenced its blockade of West Berlin. Eventually, the US and its allies broke the blockade with a massive airlift.
6/25/1876 – General George Custer and all soldiers under his command were slaughtered at the Little Bighorn by thousands of Sioux in what became known as “Custer’s Last Stand.”
6/25/1950 – North Korea attacked South Korea beginning the Korean Conflict, which lasted three years.
6/26/1945 – The UN Charter was signed by 50 nations in San Francisco.
6/28/1914 – Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Crown Price of Austria and his wife, were assassinated in Sarajevo, by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, which set off a chain of events that culminated in WWI.
6/28/1919 – The Treaty of Versailles was signed, which marked the official end of WWI.
6/30/1971 – The 26th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted, which extended the right to vote to all US citizens age 18 and older.

Birthdays – Brigham Young, patriarch of the Mormon church and founder of the state of Utah, 6/1/1801 in Whittingham, VT; Norma Jean Mortensen, aka Marilyn Monroe, 6/1/1926 in Los Angeles; Marquis de Sade, his name is the origin of the word, sadism, due to his penchant for extreme cruelty and violence, 6/2/1740 in Paris; Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, 6/3/1808 in Todd County, KY; King George III, ruler of England during the Revolutionary War, 6/4/1738; Adam Smith, renowned philosopher and economist, 6/5/1723 in Scotland; John Maynard Keynes, renowned British economist, 6/5/1883 in Cambridge, England; Nathan Hale, Revolutionary War patriot hung by Brits as a spy (“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”), 6/6/1755 in Coventry, CT; Frank Lloyd Wright, renowned architect, 6/8/1867 in Richland Center, WI; Cole Porter, renowned lyricist and composer (“Kiss Me Kate,” “Can Can”), 6/9/1893 in Peru, IN; Hattie McDaniel, actress (‘Mammy’ in “Gone with the Wind”), 6/10/1889 in Wichita, KS; Frances Gumm, aka Judy Garland, renowned singer and actress (“Wizard of Oz”), 6/10/1922 in Grand Rapids, MN; Jeanette Rankin, first woman to be elected to Congress, 6/11/1880 in Missoula MT; Jacques Cousteau, undersea explorer, 6/11/1910 in France; Vince Lombardi, renowned football coach 6/11/1913 in Brooklyn, NY; George H. W. Bush, 41st president, 6/12/1924, in Milton, MA; Anne Frank, Holocaust victim, 6/12/1929 in Frankfurt, Germany; Harriet Beecher Stowe, author (“Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” origin of phrases “Uncle Tom” and “Simon Legree”),6/14/1811 in Litchfield, CT; Alois Alzheimer, psychologist and pathologist who discovered the degenerative disease named for him, 6/14/1864 in Germany; Stan Laurel, half of renowned comedy team, Laurel and Hardy, 6/16/1890 in England; Lou Gehrig, Hall of Fame baseball player, died from ALS, which is commonly called “Lou Gehrig’s disease,” 6/19/1903 in NYC; Audie Murphy, Medal of Honor WWII American war hero, 6/20/1924 in Kingston, TX; Jack Dempsey, heavyweight boxing champion, aka the “Manassa Mauler,” 6/24/1895 in Manassa, CO; Eric Arthur Blair, aka George Orwell, British satirist and author (“1984”) 6/25/1903 in India; Mildred “Babe” Didrikson, renowned female athlete, in Port Arthur TX; Mildred Hill, composed song that is sung most frequently; do you know the name? See below.), 6/27/1859 in Louisville, KY; William Mayo, surgeon (Mayo Clinic), 6/29/1861 in Le Sueur, MN.

Quiz answer – “Happy Birthday”

SUMMER SOLSTICE

What is the summer solstice?  What does it mean?  When does it occur?  Good questions.  Read on for the answers.

As many of you know, the ss is the date with the longest period of daylight, and when the sun’s shadow is its shortest. Furthermore, in most of the US it is the date on which the sun appears to be at its highest point in the sky. In extreme northern locales the sun will be “out” the entire day.  In the NY area, where I live, we will get about 15 hours of sun.

The word “solstice” is derived from the Latin “sol,” meaning “sun” and “sistere,” meaning “to stand still.” As the seasons progress from winter to summer in the northern hemisphere, the sun appears to move north in the sky. On the date of the ss it has progressed as far north as it will get, and it momentarily “stands still” before it appears to begin to slide southward toward the point of its winter solstice.

Depending on the particular year, in the northern hemisphere the summer solstice can occur anytime between June 20 and June 22.  According to Wikipedia and the Farmer’s Almanac in 2022 it will occur precisely on June 21, at 5:14 AM, which will be when the sun will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer (23.5 degrees north latitude).

In most cultures and countries the summer and winter solstices are intertwined with the seasons.  For example, in the US and many other countries the ss marks the commencement of summer.  On the other hand, in extreme northern and southern locations the solstices mark the midpoint of summer or winter.

For many ancient cultures the ss was a festive time. Most of them were sun worshippers anyway, and the longest day of the year was a reason to celebrate the renewal of life. The recurrent themes, in various forms, were life, light, femininity, marriage and fertility. (Perhaps, this concept was the derivation of the custom of having weddings in June.)

For example:

1. The pagan holiday, Litha, which is a celebration of light and life, was celebrated on that date.
2. According to English Heritage, a charity that acts as caretaker for over 400 historic buildings, monuments, and sites, the ancient culture that constructed Stonehenge in about 2,500 BC intended it to be a crude calendar used to mark the summer and winter solstices and the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. The stones do seem to have been placed to align with the sunrise on the dates of those events.
3. The ancient Chinese marked the date with celebrations of the femininity, the “Yin” forces, and the Earth, itself. This served as a counterpoint to the winter solstice, which was a celebration of the heavens, masculinity, and the “Yang” forces.
4. Typically, Native Americans held festivals featuring body paint and ritualistic dances.
5. In ancient Gaul (modern-day France) the celebration was called the Feast of Epona after a mare goddess that protected horses and personified fertility.
6. Slavic and Germanic cultures celebrated with huge bonfires.

CONCLUSION

In modern times the ss is a time to celebrate the arrival of summer.  In many extreme northern areas, such as northern Sweden, Finland and Norway, where the people may not see the sun at all for certain parts of the year, people spend the entire day outside to “reconnect with nature.” Many of them decorate their homes, light bonfires, and dance around Maypoles.

I have always enjoyed a warm summer day as much as the next guy.  But, truthfully, to me the day of the ss is just another day. Rest assured, I will NOT be lighting any bonfires or dancing around any maypoles. (Wouldn’t that be a scary image.) Depending on the weather I will play golf, play outside with the kids (or grandkids), go to the beach, or, if it’s inclement, just stay inside.  Whatever you do, enjoy the day.

One final thought on the date, it has always seemed contradictory to me that the beginning of summer also marked the time when the days started to get shorter, and I view shorter days as a harbinger of winter.

WHO IS MAYRA FLORES AND WHY IS SHE IMPORTANT?

In all likelihood you have no idea who Mayra Flores is. It’s understandable. Few people outside of South Texas politics have heard of her. I confess that I hadn’t until this week. Last Tuesday, she defeated the Democrat candidate 51-43% in a special election to fill the remaining six months of the vacancy created by the resignation of the Democrat incumbent, Filemon Vela, Jr. It was an historic win. She will have to defend the seat in November as part of the general election.

So, one might say, what’s the big deal. It’s only a short-term victory, and the Dems could very well win back the seat in November as due to redistricting the redrawn district will be “bluer” than the current one. However, I contend that the victory is VERY significant. Read on, and I will explain why.

But, first , a little background about Mayra Flores. Flores was born in 1985 in Mexico. Her parents were poor migrant farmworkers. The family emigrated to America when Mayra was six. Mayra became a citizen in 1999 at the age of 14. Like most Hispanics, the Flores’ habitually voted Democrat, but they believed in conservative values, which they imparted to their daughter. Mayra graduated from South Texas College in 2019. She worked for a bit in the healthcare industry, but her real passion was politics. She took a job in the office of the Hidalgo County Republican Party where she was responsible for outreach to the Hispanic community. She is married to a US Border Patrol agent, and they have four children. She is very much tied into the Hispanic Community in her district.

Like many Hispanics she became disillusioned with the Dem Party. She felt the Dem politicians were taking Hispanics for granted and were not doing enough to help them. So, when Vela resigned his seat she quickly filed to run in the special election. She focused her campaign on the issues that most concern Hispanics – family, border security/immigration, inflation and the economy.

The congressional district in question encompasses the area south and east of San Antonio down to the Mexican border. Historically, it has been heavily Democrat (as has most of the region). For example, both Obama and Hillary Clinton had won the district by double digits. But, Biden only carried it by 4 points in 2020. This had shocked local politicians. The district, along with other ones in Texas, Arizona and California that are heavily Hispanic, is on the GOP’s list of vulnerable seats it hopes to “flip” in November.

According to the Texas Tribune the victory established Flores as the first Mexican-born woman to serve in Congress. Furthermore, she accomplished this feat as a Republican in a perennially heavily Democrat district. This will likely have a significant impact on the political landscape not only of South Texas, but also the entire State of Texas and perhaps the country as a whole. It signals loudly and clearly that Dems can no longer take the support of Hispanics for granted.

According to Politico GOP politicians feel the Dems misread the electorate badly. According to a GOP- ordered poll conducted by Meeting Street Insights last month the most important issues for voters in the district were border security, immigration and inflation. GOP Rep Tom Emmer, who is the head of the GOP House campaign effort told the Politico reporter “our [candidates] were talking about inflation and the economy and crime and the border. [They were talking about] January 6.”

Flores’ victory is widely seen by many political observers as a portent of what could happen in November. GOPers are “giddy” over the prospects, particularly with respect to Hispanic voters. On the other hand, the very next day members of the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee were besieged by Dem reps who now realize the extent of their vulnerability. For example, Rep Vincente Gonzalez, who will face Flores in November, lamented “they [the Dem Party] ha[s] just forgotten about the brown people on the border. … They are taking Latinos in South Texas for granted.” Other Dem Reps, such as Sylvia Garcia, Veronica Escobar, Henry Cuellar and Joaquin Castro, who also represent heavily Hispanic districts, expressed grave concern and demanded a meeting to discuss strategy. Cuellar hit the nail on the head saying “the DCCC needs to sit down and look at South Texas seriously. …. You can’t take Hispanics for granted [anymore], which they always do.” Escobar fumed “there is no logical reason why we should be losing any of these seats.” Garcia predicted the meeting will be a “hard talk.” Reading between the lines, I would characterize those reps as “scared sh**less.”

CONCLUSION

The Dems are “putting on a brave face.” They are spinning Flores’ victory as largely symbolic. Most of them believe Gonzalez will win back the seat in November. For instance DCCC head Sean Patrick Maloney denotes that Flores’ district is being redrawn into an even “bluer” district, and she will probably lose it in November. “The Republicans spent millions of dollars to win a seat that’s going away. We’re going to win [it] when it matters.” He may be right. Maybe Flores’ win is the “wakeup call the Dems need. Time will tell. Personally, I don’t think so. I think many of them, particularly those up for re-election, are close to panic. Ultimately, some may squeak by based on the demographic make-up of their district; others will likely lose.

Meanwhile, the GOPers are calling it a portent of the general election in November. Senator Ted Cruz characterized it as a “seismic shift.” Others have denoted that it is the continuation of a trend that began with Donald Trump’s election in 2016.

In my view, Flores’ win provides real evidence that voters are dissatisfied with Biden and the Dem Party. I see it as a continuation and reaffirmation of the various polls we have seen over the last several months. Polls may be subjective, theoretical and open to interpretation and “spin,” but an actual election is a real, irrefutable result. Dems would be advised not to dismiss Flores’ victory as a “fluke” or as a product of Dem overconfidence or the GOP “pulling out all the stops.” Rather they should view it as a legitimate warning shot, a portent. They ignore it at their own risk.

FATHER’S DAY

On Sunday, June 19, the third Sunday of June, many of us will celebrate Father’s Day.   According to the British Broadcasting Corporation FD is celebrated in some 70 countries around the world.

In the US, FD is commonly viewed as an opportunity to gather with family and friends for barbecues, picnics, sporting activities (e.g. baseball, golf or fishing), eat at a favorite restaurant, or attend a Broadway show.  Generally, it is a fun day.  In view of all the negativity we have suffered through this year such a day will be most welcome.

The idea of an annual day to recognize fathers was first proposed by Sonora Dodd a resident of Spokane, WA, in 1909. She wanted to honor her own father who had raised her and five siblings as a single parent.  In her opinion, mothers had their “day,” so why shouldn’t fathers.  At first, she approached her pastor about organizing a special service on her father’s birthday, June 5, but for some reason, perhaps, time constraints, the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.  The initial celebration was held in 1910.

For many years the idea of a “day” for fathers did not catch on with the general public. The major reason was the fear that it would become overly commercialized like Mother’s Day and Christmas.   In addition, the media was not behind the concept.  Rather than support the idea, they attacked it with sarcastic and cynical articles and cartoons.

FD did, however, have its supporters.  Congress debated a bill as early as 1913, but it did not pass.  Presidents such as Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge supported it publicly.

Some years later, Margaret Chase Smith, a longtime influential senator from Maine, criticized the inequity of Congress’ ignoring fathers while honoring mothers.  Finally, in 1966 LBJ issued a Presidential proclamation designating the third Sunday in June as FD.  It became a permanent holiday in 1972.

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation FD is celebrated in some 70 countries around the world. The timing and characteristics of the celebrations differ depending on seasons and various traditions and cultures, as follows:

  1. United Kingdom – It is also celebrated on the third Sunday of June.  It is recognized as a day to honor not only fathers, but also other father figures, such as grandfathers and fathers-in-law.  As in the US, typically, people pay a visit and give cards and gifts.  Other activities might include male-only outings [golf, football (soccer), or cricket], or trips.  One significant difference is that the day is not considered to be a holiday, just a normal Sunday.
  2. Canada – Very similar to the UK.  Popular activities would include going to the park, the zoo, or eating out in a restaurant.
  3.  Russia – The holiday, celebrated on February 23, is called Defender of the Fatherland Day.  All men are honored, not just fathers.  It began as a military celebration and is still marked by military parades.
  4. Mexico – Celebrated on the third Sunday of June.  It is marked with parties and gifts for dads and a 21 kilometer Father’s Day race.
  5. Brazil – It is celebrated on August 2 in honor of St. Joachim, patron saint of fathers and grandfathers.
  6. Bulgaria celebrates the day in December.
  7. According to The Sun various countries in the Southern Hemisphere, such as Australia and New Zealand, celebrate the holiday in September.
  8. Northern European countries, such as Norway, Sweden and Finland, celebrate the day in November.

For many years the idea of a “day” for fathers did not catch on with the general public. The major reason was the fear that it would become overly commercialized like Mother’s Day and Christmas.   In addition, the media was not behind the concept.  Rather than support the idea, they attacked it with sarcastic and cynical articles and cartoons.

FD did, however, have its supporters.  Congress debated a bill as early as 1913, but it did not pass.  Presidents such as Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge spoke out in favor of it.

Some years later, Margaret Chase Smith, a longtime influential Senator from Maine, criticized the inequity of Congress’ ignoring fathers while honoring mothers.  Finally, in 1966 LBJ issued a Presidential proclamation designating the third Sunday in June as FD.  It became a permanent holiday in 1972.

CONCLUSION

The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend about $172 per person on FD gifts in 2021 The NRF estimates the overall total will be some $20 billion, which would be roughly the same as in 2021.

As you might expect, according to the NRF this total pales next to the $28 billion we spent on mothers last month.  Why do we spend so much more money on our mothers than on our fathers?  There are many theories, but no one knows for sure?

Generally, we don’t take our dads to restaurants as we do our moms. Instead, we put them work barbecuing. The National Restaurant Association reports that FD is one of the slowest days of the year whereas MD is the busiest. Not surprising.

What are the most popular FD gifts?  According to the NRF #1 is a greeting card.   #2 is a special family outing, for example, taking a trip or attending a sporting event. Other popular gifts include clothes, tools, appliances and “personal care” items.

Dads, remember it is your day.  Whatever you decide to do, enjoy it.

GAS AT THE PUMP

Today, I officially became a (not so) proud member of the “Five Dollar Club.” I paid over $5.00 a gallon to gas up my car at my favorite service station. Note, that price was to pay cash for unleaded regular. God forbid I should need to use premium, diesel, or pay with a credit card. Actually, I was lucky, because as I was pumping the attendant was busy raising the prices at the other pumps. Good thing I’m an early riser. By this afternoon the price could be over $6. (Just kidding, maybe).

Of course the price of gas at the pump is not the only thing that is rising precipitously. It is merely the most visible. Everything is up – food, rent, interest rates, airline tickets, clothing, etc. You don’t need me to tell you that. Anyone paying attention is fully and painfully aware. Putting it another way, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has disclosed that the average family is currently paying $460 per month more to support itself. Since many if, not most, families have been living paycheck to paycheck that is devastating news. As always, the hardest hit are the middle class, the poor and those living on a fixed income.

According to consumer advocate, Edgar Dworsky, food manufacturers have a new trick to hide price increases. In many cases they retain old the price but reduce the quantity in the package. For example, Pringles has reduced the size of its chips; Cascade has reduced the number of pods in the dishwasher package; Cottonelle has reduced the number of sheets in its rolls of toilet paper. Even restaurants have gotten into the act by reducing portions. Most people may not notice, which, of course, is the point. Welcome to the new wonderful world of “shrinkflation.”

The Biden administration has not shown it has the foggiest idea of how to resolve this massive problem. Even worse, it will not even acknowledge one exists. The first step toward resolving a problem is to admit it exists, and so far the Biden Administration refuses to acknowledge the gravity of the problem. It has steadfastly maintained that inflation is “temporary” and has “peaked.” On the contrary, numbers don’t lie. Our own eyes don’t lie. To paraphrase the late comedian Groucho Marx, “are you going to believe what I tell you or what you see with you own eyes?”

In addition, multiple news outlets are reporting that inflation increased to 8.6% for the month of May, and it is expected to accelerate further. Most business analysts and economists, such as Larry Kudlow, have opined that this is merely the beginning, not the peak, nor the end. Some of us will recall the pain of the runaway inflation and interest rates of the 1970’s. Once inflation takes hold, as it has now, it is pervasive and tenacious. Getting rid of it is very painful. In short, I fear we are “in for it.”

So far, rather than assuring us it has a plan to combat inflation, to get us out of this mess, the Biden Administration has been focusing on ascribing blame. It has blamed Putin, food manufacturers, “greedy” big businesses, Republicans, COVID, Donald Trump, and Fox News, among others. In short, it has blamed everyone but those in charge, those who have made the decisions that got us into this situation. Former president Harry Truman was famous for the saying “the buck stops here,” meaning that he, as president, was responsible. Biden’s attitude has been to “pass the buck.” Americans should not and will not be fooled.

Their favorite tactic has been to create distractions to divert the attention of voters. For example, we are now being bombarded with the “Insurrection” hearings. I refuse to watch one second of this one-sided, phony sham-show, which is reminiscent of the Salem witch trials and the Stalin-era Soviet Union “show trials” where the verdict was a foregone conclusion. This is further evidence of how out of touch with reality the Dems are. Few people care about this issue now when they are mainly concerned with real life issues like putting food on the table and paying the rent. As Hilary Clinton infamously intoned in another context: “what difference at this point does it matter.”

CONCLUSION

How bad will it get? How high will prices rise? No one really knows. But, in my opinion, we do know two things. (1) It will get worse before it gets better. (2) Biden and his cronies are NOT the ones who have the capabilities to resolve it.

The latest Quinnipiac Poll reported Biden’s approval rating to be 33%, which is a new low. Moreover, every poll is predicting that the Dems are heading for a (well deserved) disaster at the only poll that counts – the one in November. Unfortunately, we are stuck with Biden for two more years. (In my opinion, impeaching him and replacing him with Kamala Harris would be worse.) But, we can (and in my opinion, will) “flip” both houses of Congress on Election Day.. More on this in future blogs.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – MAY

Below please find an outline of the significant historical events that occurred in the month of May:

May 1 – Since ancient times, a day for festivals celebrating the arrival of the Spring season. Today, many socialist countries celebrate “May Day” on May 1 as a holiday to celebrate workers.
May 1, 1707 – Scotland was combined with England and Wales to form Great Britain. The later addition of Northern Ireland formed the UK.
May 1, 1960 – An American U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Russia on the eve of a summit between President Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev. The incident caused the cancellation of the summit and increased Cold War tensions between the two countries.
May 2, 2011 – US Special Forces located and killed Osama bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
May 4, 1494 – Christopher Columbus, still seeking the Northwest Passage, discovered the island of Jamaica.
May 4, 1970 – Ohio National Guard troops fired into a student demonstration at Kent State University killing four students.
May 5 – Mexican holiday celebrating Mexican forces’ defeat of a numerically superior French invasion force in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
May 5, 1865 – Celebration of Decoration Day honoring soldiers killed in the Civil War. Eventually, morphed into Memorial Day.
May 5, 1961 – Astronaut Alan Shepard completed a 15 minute suborbital flight, thus becoming the first American to fly in space.
May 6, 1937 – The German blimp, Hindenburg, burst into flames killing 36 of its 97 passengers.
May 7, 1915 – The shocking sinking of the Lusitania, a British passenger ship, by a German U-boat hastened the US’s entry into WWI on the side of the Allies.
May 7, 1954 – The French surrendered at Dien Bien Phu, ending their colonial presence in Indo-China. Eventually, this event led to the US’s ill-advised involvement in Vietnam.
May 8, 1942 – The Battle of the Coral Sea, which historians consider to be the turning point of WWII in the Pacific, commenced. US naval forces defeated Japan for the first time and began their inexorable march toward the Japanese mainland.
May 10, 1869 – The Union Pacific and Central Railroads joined at Promontory Point, UT (symbolized by driving a golden spike into the roadbed), creating the Transcontinental Railroad, which linked the entire US.
May 10, 1994 – Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as president of South Africa, bringing an official end to Apartheid.
May 12, 1949 – Russia ended its blockade of West Berlin.
May 14, 1607 – The first permanent English settlement was established at Jamestown, VA.
May 14, 1804 – The Lewis and Clark expedition of the northwest, which lasted some 18 months and covered some 6,000 miles, departed St. Louis.
May 14, 1796 – English Dr. Edward Jenner developed the smallpox vaccine. He coined the term, vaccination, to describe his method of injecting a weakened version of the disease into a healthy person, who would then fight off the disease and develop an immunity.
May 14, 1948 – The State of Israel declared its independence.
May 15, 1972 – While campaigning for the presidency, George Wallace was shot and paralyzed from the waist down.
May 17, 1792 – Some two dozen brokers and merchants began meeting under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street to buy and sell stocks and bonds. Eventually, this led to the establishment of the NY Stock Exchange.
May 17, 1875 – The initial running of the Kentucky Derby took place at Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY.
May 17, 1954 – The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, Brown vs. The Board of Education (Topeka, KS), ruled that school segregation based on race was unconstitutional.
May 20, 1927 – Aviator, Charles Lindberg took off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island for the first solo non-stop flight between NY and Europe (landing in Paris).
May 20, 1932 – Amelia Earhart became the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In 1937, while attempting to fly across the Pacific Ocean, she was lost at sea, and her fate remains shrouded in mystery to this day.
May 21, 1881 – Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.
May 22, 1947 – Congress approved the Truman Doctrine, which provided foreign aid to Greece and Turkey, which was necessary to prevent the spread of communism in that region.
May 24, 1844 – Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, transmitted the first telegram (“What hath God wrought?”).

May 24, 2022 – A crazed gunman engaged in a shooting spree at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX in which 19 children and two teachers were slaughtered.
May 26, 1940 – Great Britain commenced the evacuation of its army trapped at Dunkirk.
May 27, 1937 – The Golden Gate Bridge opened in San Francisco.
May 30, 1783 – The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to be published in the US on a daily basis.
May 30, 1922 – The Lincoln Memorial, designed by architect Henry Bacon, was dedicated in Washington, D. C.
May 31, 1889 – The infamous Johnstown Flood of 1889 killed some 2,300 persons.

Birthdays – Niccolo Machiavelli – 5/3/1469; Golda Meir – 5/3/1898; Karl Marx – 5/5/1818; Sigmund Freud – 5/6/1856; Harry S. Truman (33rd President) – 5/8/1884; Israel Isidore Beilin (aka Irving Berlin – songwriter) – 5/11/1888; Florence Nightingale – 5/12/1820; Gabriel Fahrenheit (physicist) – 5/14/1686; Nguyen That Thanh (aka Ho Chi Minh – 5/19/1890; Malcolm Little (aka Malcolm X) – 5/19/1925; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes creator) – 5/22/1859; Laurence Olivier – 5/22/1907; Ralph Waldo Emerson – 5/25/1803; Al Jolson- 5/26/1886; James Butler (aka Wild Bill) Hickok – 5/27/1837; Hubert Humphrey – 5/27/1911; Jim Thorpe – 5/28/1888; Patrick Henry – 5/29/1736; John Fitzgerald Kennedy 35th President) – 5/29/1917; Walt Whitman – 5/31/1819.

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, May is the only month in which a US President has not died.

“BIDENFATION” AND OTHER PROBLEMS

Former President Harry S. Truman, in my opinion and that of many historians, one of our most underrated presidents, was fond of saying “the buck stops here.” He said it; he meant it; and he lived it. The meaning is clear. When you are the head guy, the one in charge, “El Jefe,” the President, you are responsible for everything that occurs during your tenure, either good or bad, intentional or not, whether you knew about it or not. In business, for example, the standard is whether you knew or should have known. You are the ultimate authority, and human resources 101 holds that with the authority comes the responsibility. Excuses such as “I didn’t know;” “no one told me” or “how could I have anticipated it” are not only unacceptable, they insult the intelligence of those to whom you say it.

Quiz question: What does the “S” in Truman’s name stand for? See answer below.

That brings us to President Biden. Currently, the country is suffering through the worst inflation in 40 years. This is on top of all the other crises, which I have detailed in previous blogs and do not wish to regurgitate here.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in April 2022 the year-over-year inflation rate was 8.3%, and most economists expect the rate to be higher over the next few months. Our economy is in dire straits. You don’t need me to tell you that. Anyone who has bought food, clothing, cars, tires and filled their gas tank knows this all too well. Many families have been forced to choose among, eating, paying the rent, or gassing up their car. Some examples of the foregoing, according to BLS statistics are fuel oil up 81%, gasoline up 44%, milk up 15%, and plane tickets up 33%. Inflation has impacted everyone, but the hardest hit, as always, have been the poor, the working class and seniors on a fixed income.

Gas in my neighborhood has jumped some 80 cents in the past week. Just the other day, one gas station raised its price 20 cents in an hour! Talk about “sticker shock!” Furthermore, we are heading into the summer months when energy usage and prices normally increase. Don’t be surprised to see gas lines and “brown-outs” this summer.

Economists know that inflation, once unleashed, is very tenacious. It is very difficult to weed out. I expect this will get worse before it gets better, a lot worse. BLS has reported that price inflation has continued in May. Anyone who has bought anything recently is fully cognizant of this.

In the past few days we have been hit with the final indignity, maybe the worst of all – a shortage of baby formula. Yes, baby formula. Due to a combination of a massive recall and supply chain issues most stores are devoid of it. Parents are panicking. I can’t think of anything worse than being unable to feed your baby. Moreover, this affects more than just infants. Doctors and pharmacists such as Roger Paganelli have denoted that many “special needs” children suffer from various medical issues that require them to get their nourishment from baby formula via feeding tubes in their stomach. This is truly a matter of life or death.

Can this get any worse? Apparently, “yes.” I have seen news reports on Fox News and in the NY Post that despite the aforementioned shortage the feds have been hoarding pallets and pallets of baby formula. This has been reported by Representative Kat Cammack who claims to have seen these pallets and taken photos of them. Where are these pallets? Take a guess. If you said the southern border go to the head of the class. Evidently, they have been set aside for illegal migrant babies. I think we can all agree that migrant babies should have access to formula, but tell that to a US mother who cannot find any for her own baby. (America first, or America last?)

CONCLUSION

President Biden has not only failed to reassure Americans that he has a plan to deal with these issues, but he will not even take responsibility for them. Furthermore, he has been slow to admit that these problems even exist. Instead, in his recent public appearances he has chosen to blame others, for example, Putin, the GOP, the meat processors, former President Trump, COVID, and circumstances beyond his control for this crisis and his Administration’s failure to deal with it. Americans are not interested on who is to blame; this is no time to play politics; we just want it fixed. People are suffering. People are dying. Regardless of who or what has caused this, it is Biden’s duty and responsibility to fix it.

Apparently, rather than “the buck stops here,” Biden believes in “pass the buck.”

Quiz answer: The middle initial “S” does not stand for anything, just “S.”

MOTHER’S DAY

Tomorrow, Sunday, May 8, most Americans will celebrate Mother’s Day. Notice the singular possessive form of spelling. This is the standard and generally accepted usage. It was the format favored by Anna Jarvis, the acknowledged driving force behind the creation of the holiday, as you will see below, rather than the plural possessive. Her point was each family should honor “the best mother, yours” rather than all mothers.

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

According to The National Restaurant Association based on decades of research MD is the busiest day of the year for restaurants.  The traditional custom is to give mom a break from kitchen duties and take her out to a nice restaurant to celebrate. And why not? Doesn’t she deserve it? (On the other hand, on Father’s Day the restaurants are relatively empty as many fathers are put to work barbecuing.) Can you name the second-busiest day of the year for restaurants according to the same survey? See answer below.

Moreover, MD is the third busiest day for attendance at church. Can you guess numbers one and two? See below.

According to “RetailMeNot” the average MD gift this year will cost $134, compared to $120 last year. Greeting cards are the most popular MD gift followed by flowers, chocolate and gift cards. According to the National Retail Federation in 2022 we will spend some $32 billion on MD gifts, which will exceed last year’s amount by some $3.6 billion.

This year there is a flower shortage in many parts of the US due to inclement weather and shipping inefficiencies, so I hope you did not wait for the last minute to order them. Apparently, a goodly portion of flowers originate in South America, which has complicated matters.

As always, traffic on the roads will likely be heavy during the holiday weekend. So, plan to leave early, and use your trusty GPS. Additionally, one can expect the usual delays at the airports due to weather complications, security concerns and heavy usage.

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

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

Despite her efforts, commercialization of the day has continued to grow.  Americans, in particular, tend to demonstrate their love in tangible, material ways through the giving of gifts. 

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

1. The most common date is the second Sunday in May, which is May 8 this year. Besides the US, some of the countries that celebrate it on this date are Canada, Italy the Peoples Republic of China and Turkey.

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

3. Many Arab countries, such as Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia celebrate it on the vernal equinox (March 20 in 2022).

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

One thing is certain now and will remain so prospectively: on this day the mother/wife is truly in charge.  Men, remember the adage “happy wife, happy life.”

Finally, men, all together now, let’s repeat the two-word mantra for a successful marriage:

“YES, DEAR!”

Quiz answers: (1) Valentine’s Day. (2) Christmas Eve and Easter.

THE FIRST AMENDMENT, FREEDOM OF SPEECH

“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech…..” So says part of the first amendment, of the US Constitution, that pesky little document that far-lefties and “wokers” often choose to ignore or re-interpret when it suits their purpose. These rights, part of the Bill of Rights, are unique to the USA. It’s one of the things that sets us apart from all other countries. It’s one of the things that has drawn immigrants to our shores for over 250 years.

I don’t want to get bogged down in an in-depth discussion of constitutional law. That is not the purpose of this blog, and bedsides, it would likely bore you, the reader (and me). Instead, I would like to discuss the subject in layman’s terms.

Over the years, there has been a great deal of case law regarding freedom of speech, what it means and its limitations. Currently, to most people, it means one is entitled to express his or her own opinion(s), free of censorship by the government or anyone else. This right is not absolute; the classic exception is one cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theatre, but, otherwise, one is free to say whatever he or she wants regardless of how unpopular it may be. In a famous and extreme example, in 1978 the ACLU defended the right of a neo-Nazi group to march through an area of Skokie, IL, which was inhabited by a goodly number of Holocaust survivors. On the other hand, in recent years social media platforms, such as Facebook and twitter, have banned certain people and opinions based on their interpretation of what is “acceptable” and what is “offensive” or “racist.”

And, now we come to the crux of the matter. According to Politico, the Wall Street Journal, and multiple other media sources, the Biden Administration is planning to unveil a “Disinformation Governance Board” under the purview of The Department of Homeland Security. The DGB will be charged with “countering misinformation.” What is “misinformation?” Obviously, it will be in the eye of the beholder, and that is the most obvious problem. Who gets to decide? Should anyone have that power and authority? Of course, the answer is NO ONE.

Under the Administration’s plan the DGB will be able to label any speech with which it disagrees as “misinformation” and shut it down. To me and many others, this conjures up life in Soviet Russia during the Stalin era, present-day communist China and the dystopian society portrayed in George Orwell’s novel, 1984. This has no place in the US, none.

No person or entity should be permitted to wield that kind of power, not you, not me, not the government, and certainly not the far left group that the Biden Administration has in mind. Alejandro Mayorkas, the Head of Homeland Security, has been the king of misinformation with respect to the crisis on the border, even denying that there IS a crisis. Nina Jankowicz, who has been tabbed to run the DGB, was a strong proponent of the Russian disinformation lies. Can the Administration be more obvious?

According to The Hill far-lefty AOC, always good for an inane quote or two, opined that “we’re going to have to figure out how to rein in our media environment so you can’t just spew disinformation and misinformation.” She uttered similar comments on “60 Minutes” a few years ago. Was she referring to herself as one of the “spewers?” In her mind, “no,” but in my mind, “yes.”

The Administration has claimed it is merely trying to identify those who are spreading misinformation. It has been suggested that the best way to do so would be to purchase a very large mirror.

CONCLUSION

We all know what this is about. It’s not about preserving free speech. It’s not about preventing violence. No, no, no. It’s all about POWER AND CONTROL, getting it, retaining it, and expanding it.

For years, in my opinion, the far left and “wokers” have controlled virtually all of the media narrative, including, for example, social media, news, tv, and movies. The one notable exception has been Fox News. Conservatives have had to tread very carefully, whereas liberals have had free rein. Stories deemed to be harmful to the right, such as Russian disinformation, have been exaggerated and perpetuated. Stories harmful to the left, such as the Biden family’s nefarious involvement with China and Hunter Biden’s laptop, have been whitewashed, ignored or banned.

Now, in the wake of Elon Musk’s purchase of twitter, conservatives and their opinions figure to get a “fair shake.” Now, we will likely have a level playing field. Now, journalists may actually have to do some real work and ferret out the facts to a story. Now, the public will be presented with all of the facts with respect to the news, and they will be free to evaluate it and make up their own minds. That is how it should be in a free society.

Far-lefties and “wokers” are afraid, as they should be. Just listen to the commentary emanating from CNN and MSNBC, if you can do so without laughing, that is.

In their mindless thirst for power and control the lefties and “wokers” have forgotten two things. (1) This new department, like everything else, will have to be funded by Congress. With an election looming good luck with getting a majority of Congressmen to vote to fund it. (2) Every legal scholar I have heard has opined that it is unconstitutional. I believe there will be legal challenges and the courts will rule as such.

One might ask what is the Biden Administration trying to accomplish with the DGB? What is their objective besides providing a sop to the far left and “wokers” that control it? I don’t know, and chances are neither do they.