THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – AUGUST

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

August 1, 1838 –  Slavery in Jamaica, which had been introduced by Spain in 1509, was abolished.

August 1, 1944 –  Fifteen year-old Anne Frank, who was fated to be captured by the Nazis three days later and killed at Bergen-Belsen, wrote her final entry into her famous diary – “[I] keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would like to be, and what I could be if … there weren’t any other people living in the world.”

August 2, 1776 – Most of the 55 signatories to the Declaration of Independence signed the original document (not on July 4, as is commonly believed).

August 2, 1923 –  President Warren Harding died suddenly and was succeeded by Calvin Coolidge.

August 3, 1492 – Christopher Columbus set sail from Palos, Spain seeking the elusive Northwest Passage to Asia.  Do you remember the names of the three ships in his convoy?  See below.

August 5, 1583 – Explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert founded the first British colony in North America in present-day Newfoundland.

August 5, 1861 – President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an emergency war measure to levy a 3% income tax on income in excess of $800.

August 5, 1962 – Actress Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson), symbol of Hollywood glamor and sexuality, was found dead from an overdose of sleeping pills.

August 6, 1945 – The US drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians, destroying the city, and hastening the end of WWII.

August 6, 1962 – Jamaica achieved independence, ending some 450 years of colonial rule first by Spain and then by England.

August 6, 1965 – President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law.

August 7, 1964 – Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which provided legal “cover” for the US’s entry into the Vietnam War.

August 9, 1945 –  The US drops a second atomic bomb (on Nagasaki).

August 9, 1974 – President Richard Nixon resigned as a result of the Watergate scandal.

August 11, 1965 – Six days of  racial riots began in the Watts section of LA.  The riots resulted in a reported 34 deaths, over 3,000 arrests and property damage estimated at $40 million.

August 13, 1961 – East Germany put up the Berlin Wall separating West and East Berlin.

August 14, 1935 – FDR signed the Social Security Act.

August 14, 1945 – V-J Day commemorating Japan’s surrender, which marked the official end of WWII.

August 15, 1969 – The Woodstock festival began in Bethel, NY.

August 16, 1896 – Gold was discovered along the Klondike River in Alaska, precipitating what became known as the Great Klondike Gold Rush.

August 18, 1920 – Ratification of the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.

August 21, 1959 – Hawaii was admitted to the Union as the 50th state.

August 24, 79 A. D. – The volcano, Vesuvius, erupted destroying the cities of Pompeii, Stabiac and Herculaneum.

August 24-25, 1814 – During the War of 1812 the British attacked Washington D.C. and burned much of the city, including the White House and the Capitol.

August 26, 1883 – One of the most catastrophic volcano eruptions ever recorded occurred on the island of Krakatoa in Indonesia.  It produced tidal waves of 120 feet and killed 36,000 persons.

August 28, 1963 – Over 250,000 persons participated in the March on Washington in support of civil rights.  One of the many speakers was the Reverend MLK, who gave the famous I Have a Dream speech.

August 31, 1997 – Princess Diana died from injuries suffered in an auto accident while fleeing from pursuing paparazzi.

Birthdays – Francis Scott Key (wrote the Star Spangled Banner), 8/1/1779 in Maryland; Herman Melville (wrote Moby Dick), 8/1/1819 in New York City; Ernie Pyle (WWII war correspondent), 8/3/1900 in Dana, IN; Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong (Jazz trumpeter),8/4/1901 in New Orleans Quiz question #2 – Do you know the derivation of his very unusual nickname?); Raoul Wallenberg (saved 33,000 Jews from the Holocaust), 8/4/1912 in Stockholm; Barack Obama (44th US President), 8/4/1961 in Honolulu; Alfred Lord Tennyson (poet, wrote Charge of the Light Brigade), 8/6/1809 in England; Alexander Fleming (discovered penicillin), 8/6/1881 in Scotland;  Herbert Hoover (31st US President), 8/10/1874 in West Branch, IA; Alex Haley (wrote Roots), 8/11/1921 in Ithaca, NY; Cecil B. DeMille (directed The Ten Commandments), 8/12/1881 in Ashfield, MA; Annie Oakley (sharpshooter), 8/13,1860 in Ohio; Alfred Hitchcock (British film director, The Birds, Psycho), 8/13/1899 in London; Fidel Castro, 8/13/1927 in Cuba; Napoleon Bonaparte, 8/15/1769, on the island of Corsica; T. E. Lawrence, 8/16/1888 in North Wales, Quiz Question #3 – Who played Lawrence in the Oscar-winning movie, Lawrence of Arabia?); Menachem Begin, 8/16/1913 in Poland; Davy Crockett, 8/17/1786 in Tennessee; Meriwether Lewis, 8/18/1774 near Charlottesville, VA; Orville Wright, 8/19/1871 in Dayton, OH; William Jefferson Clinton (42nd US President), 8/19/1946 in Hope, Arkansas; Benjamin Harrison (23rd US President), 8/20/1833 in North Bend, OH, (Quiz question #4 – He was the grandson of another president. Who?); Leonard Bernstein (conductor and composer), 8/25/1918 in Lawrence, MA; Lyndon Baines Johnson (36th US President), 8/27/1908 near Stonewall, TX; Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (aka Mother Teresa), 8/27/1910 in Yugoslavia.

Quiz Answers

  1.  Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria
  2.  The most likely story is as a youth Louis would dance for pennies in the streets of his home city of New Orleans.  To prevent other boys from stealing the pennies he stored them in his mouth, which would then become so stuffed as to resemble a satchel.  Someone dubbed him “satchel mouth,” which became shortened to “Satchmo.”  Many of his friends called him “pops.”
  3.  Peter O’Toole
  4.  William Henry Harrison
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ULYSSES S. GRANT

US Grant was, in my opinion, one of the more intriguing and controversial figures in American history.  I would characterize his life as having been marked by a series of “ups” and “downs,” successes and failures.  On balance, while I would not place him on the “Mt. Rushmore” of historical figures, I think we should be mindful of and thankful for his historical contributions.

Hiram Ulysses Grant was born on April 27, 1822 in Point Pleasant, Ohio, the oldest of six siblings.  By all appearances his family was middle class.  His father was a tanner and a merchant.  He could trace his ancestry back to before the American Revolution.  Patriotism ran strongly in the family.  One of his great-grandfathers fought in the French and Indian War, and a grandfather fought in the American Revolution.

The derivation of Grant’s name is interesting.  Supposedly, at a family gathering prior to his birth various possibilities were discussed, and the name, “Ulysses,” was drawn out of a hat.  Later, his parents added “Hiram” to placate his mother’s father, who had advocated for that name.  Following Hiram’s secondary education his father got Representative Thomas Hamer to nominate him for admission to West Point.  Supposedly, Hamer erroneously had submitted the name as “Ulysses S. Grant,” and once it had been submitted officially, the Army could not (or would not) change the name.  In any event, from that point on Hiram was known as Ulysses S. Grant (nicknamed “Sam,” of course).

Grant was quiet and shy and made few friends, traits that were to impact him his entire life.  Furthermore, he was an indifferent student, graduating in 1843 with a ranking of 21 out of 39, but he did demonstrate an affinity for riding and handling horses.  In fact, while at the academy he set a high jump record that stood for some 25 years.

Grant was not exactly a “gung ho” soldier, more like indifferent.  He once described military life as having “much to dislike, but more to like.”   Originally, he had planned to resign his commission at the conclusion of his mandatory four-year enlistment, however, when he became engaged in 1844 his outlook changed.  With a wife to support, he decided to remain in the army.

Grant fought in the Mexican War and distinguished himself at various battles, such as Vera Cruz, Resaca de la Palma, and Monterrey.  Later, he served in Panama, California, and the Oregon Territory.  He found peacetime army life to be tedious and boring.  His postings were no place for a wife and family, and he missed having them with him.  Likely, his shyness added to the tedium.  Perhaps, it was at this time that he began to imbibe.  Drinking and drunkenness were not uncommon among soldiers, given the long stretches of isolation and tedium, especially in peacetime.  Some historians have postulated that Grant, who became known as an excessive drinker, was not any worse than many others; he was just unable to “hold” his liquor as well.  In any event, his drinking would remain a stain on his reputation.

It was during his posting in the West that he became sympathetic to the plight of Native Americans.  This was a rarity among soldiers and white settlers, in general, at the time.  It was to become a significant issue later on.

Grant finally resigned his commission in 1854 to be with his family.  He bounced around unsuccessfully.  He tried farming, but like many farmers, he was wiped out in the Panic of 1857.  Plus, his wife was not happy with that existence.  Finally, he caught malaria, and that finished him as a farmer.  Eventually, he went to work in his father’s leather goods business.

Grant’s mundane and forgettable existence changed radically with the advent of the Civil War in April 1861.  Grant was very patriotic and wanted to fight for the Union.  Like the rest of his family, he was strongly anti-slavery even though his wife’s family owned slaves.  (His father held such strong anti-slavery sentiments that he had actually boycotted Grant’s wedding.)   After several attempts to become recommissioned as a senior officer, through the efforts of a Congressman he managed to obtain a commission as a colonel.

Grant was a very successful commander, winning several battles, and rose quickly through the ranks.  Despite his many faults, he is generally considered to have been a military genius, and many of his strategies are still featured in contemporary military textbooks.  A series of decisive victories in Tennessee, particularly at Shiloh, brought him to Lincoln’s attention.  As we know, in the early days of the war the Union Army had been plagued by a series of incompetent Commanding Generals who had displayed a frustrating reluctance to fight.  This passivity was allowing the Confederacy to maintain the initiative, and against all odds, it appeared to be winning the war.  In a stroke of genius, Lincoln overruled his advisors who had been critical of Grant, and put him in charge.  He famously intoned “I can’t spare this man.  [At least], he fights.”  When cautioned about Grant’s excessive drinking his response was that maybe he should direct all his other generals to drink whatever he [Grant] was.

As we know, Grant led the Union forces to victory after victory.  He showed the defeated rebels no quarter.  His terms of surrender were always unconditional, earning him the moniker “Unconditional Surrender Grant.”  First, he captured Vicksburg to gain control of the vital Mississippi Valley.  Then, under his command, General Sherman “marched to the sea,” devastating all in his wake, including the major city of Atlanta.  Finally, he defeated General Lee in Virginia, which led to the end of the war.

Afterwards, Grant was a legitimate war hero.  He was feted in Washington DC.  In a quirk of history, President Lincoln had invited Grant and his wife to accompany him to Ford’s Theatre on the night he was assassinated.  The Grants would probably have gone, but Mrs. Grant insisted that they decline the invitation as they had prior plans to travel to Philadelphia.  Had they attended, who knows what would have happened.  Would they have been assassinated as well, or, perhaps, would Grant, an experienced military officer, have thwarted the assassination attempt and saved President Lincoln’s life?  Arguably, that innocuous decision changed the course of history.  We will never know, but it makes for interesting speculation.

In the wake of Lincoln’s assassination and the resultant turmoil, the Republican party nominated Grant for the presidency, unanimously, and he was elected.  On March 4, 1869 he was sworn in as the 18th President of the United States and the youngest up to that time.  Grant served two terms, and even considered running for a third term.  (At the time, there was no legal prohibition to do so, but all prior presidents, respecting the example established by George Washington, had declined to seek a third term.)

For many years, historians had ranked Grant as one of the worst presidents.  His tenure was besmirched by cronyism, corruption, scandals, and fraud, and he was derided as a drunkard.  Many of his friends, supporters, close advisors and even family members were guilty of these transgressions, and Grant, while not personally implicated, was criticized for failing to reign them in.  Additionally, he was unable to deal with the Panic of 1873, which had been caused, in part, by corruption and cronyism.  The dichotomy was that he was able to win a second term in 1876 anyway.

It should be noted that Grant did have some positive accomplishments.  For example, he established the Department of Justice, supported Native Americans, advocated for the prosecutions of the KKK, and created the Civil Service Commission.

Following his tenure in office he and his wife embarked on a 2 1/2 year tour of Europe, and Asia, meeting with world leaders, such as Queen Victoria and Otto von Bismarck and dignitaries, such as the pope.  He became the first president to visit the Holy Land.  This was not entirely personal.  President Hayes encouraged Grant to assume a diplomatic role, which he did successfully, demonstrating to the world that the US was an emerging world power.

CONCLUSION

By 1884 Grant knew he was dying of throat cancer.  The family was nearly broke, and Grant wanted to provide for them after he was gone.  So, he began to write his memoirs.  He was assisted in this endeavor by the illustrious Mark Twain.  They were a big commercial success and actually helped establish standards for future presidents’ memoirs.

Grant died on July 23, 1885 at the age of 63.  Soon afterward, his reputation and legacy came under attack for the aforementioned corruption, cronyism, and scandals that had plagued his presidency.  As successful as he had been as a general, most historians viewed him as one of our least effective presidents.  It should be noted that one early supporter was historian, Louis Arthur Coolidge, who wrote in 1917 that “Grant’s success as president [was] hardly less significant than his success at war.”

More recently, Grant’s legacy has been rehabilitated.  Many historians have come to recognize Grant’s personal integrity, efforts to treat the vanquished South fairly during Reconstruction, and sympathy towards native Americans, as well as the accomplishments noted above.  Historian T. J. Stiles noted that a recent biography by Ronald White “solidifies [Grant’s] positive image amassed in recent decades blotting out the caricature of a military butcher and political incompetent.”  A 2017 positive biography by Ron Chernow continued Grant’s rehabilitation and drew praise from former president Bill Clinton, with respect to Grant’s “significant achievements” during and after the Civil War.

Grant has been the recipient of a plethora of honors and memorials, such as Grant’s Tomb in NYC, the US Grant National Historical Site in St. Louis, and the Grant Memorial in Washington, DC.  In addition, his likeness has been on the $50 bill since 1913.  One may argue as to his effectiveness as president, but his significant contributions to the preservation of the Union at a crucial point in our history cannot be denied.  Like I said, I am not advocating that we carve him a place on Mt. Rushmore, but I do believe he deserves to be remembered as a true hero of the Republic.

DOES IT MATTER TO YOU?

The mainstream media’s obsession with Donald Trump seemingly knows no bounds.  Whether the story is positive or negative, true or false (in my view, mostly negative and false) he drives their ratings, and they apparently can’t get enough of him.  The tweets, the Russia collusion issue, the sexual innuendoes and escapades, tasteless jokes and U-tube videos, you name it, they cover it.

The latest example is the “shocking” and “existential” news that candidate Trump may have known about Don, Jr.’s meeting with the Russians.  Wow! Stop the presses!  According to the fake news analysts on CNN, MSNBC and other cable news networks we now have incontrovertible evidence of Mr. Trump’s collusion with the Russians.  Even worse, he lied to the media by denying such knowledge.  According to these analysts these are definitely impeachable offenses.  President Trump is toast.  Hallelujah!  We got him!  The world is saved!  I say…. not so fast.

Never mind that the source for this latest tidbit is Mr. Trump’s scurrilous former lawyer, Michael Cohen.  Never mind that the Clinton campaign actually paid a foreign national to dig up dirt on Mr. Trump, which produced the now disgraced fake Trump dossier, which, in turn, was the basis for the FISA warrant that led to the Mueller investigation, which has dragged on for nearly two years without having turned up the “smoking gun” that Trump-haters desperately want.

Never mind that “dirty tricks” have been associated with politics and elections forever.  For example, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was notorious for getting out the vote, whatever it took, giving rise to the expression that “people in Chicago vote early and often, even if they’re dead.”  Some of you may recall that there was evidence that his tactics may have swung Illinois to JFK in 1960, which, if true, swung the election to him.  More recently, we had the “hanging chad” issue in Florida in 2000, which, ultimately, was decided by the Supreme Court, a controversial decision that gave us President Bush 43 rather than Al Gore.  Significantly, the country digested these events, shrugged its collective shoulders, accepted them, and moved on.  Dems and Trump haters would do well to follow these historical lessons, but, of course, they won’t, because few of us know or care about history any more.

Whether or not Cohen’s accusations are true is beside the point.  I ask you: does it really matter?  Do you really care?  Will it affect your life significantly one way or the other?

The economy is booming; do Cohen’s accusations really matter?  Unemployment is at record lows, even among AAs, Hispanics, women and teens; do Cohen’s accusations really matter?  Trump’s tax cut has put real money in your pocket; do Cohen’s accusations really matter?  Jobs are returning to the US; the stock market is booming (how’s your 401k doing?); ISIS has been defeated;  North Korea has ceased “testing” nuclear weapons and may be dismantling its nuclear arsenal; do Cohen’s accusations really matter?

Of course, those were rhetorical questions.  The answer is “of course, not.”  They appear to matter only to those who live in the NY-DC-LA bubble.  Well, hello!  There is a whole country out there inhabited by people who simply don’t care.  They are more interested in feeding their families, affordable healthcare, getting a good job and feeling safe.  They are tired about reading and hearing about what Trump may have done in his personal life.  Like comedian Bill Murray famously intoned in the movie, Meatballs, “it just doesn’t matter.”  They are much more interested in the above issues.

The most recent survey conducted by Pew Research disclosed that most Americans view immigration as the number 1 issue for the 2018 mid-term elections, followed by healthcare and the economy.  Russian collusion was not even in the top 20.  In May a CBS poll disclosed that 53% of Americans now believe that the Mueller investigation is politically motivated.  Voters’ minds are made up, one way or the other.  It is tearing our country apart, and it needs to be concluded.  Enough is enough, already!

CONCLUSION

This may come as a real shocker to some, but our history is chock full of examples of political leaders, business executives and entertainers who have committed questionable moral acts.  Off the top of my head, Eisenhower, JFK, Johnson, Clinton, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Tiger Woods and even MLK come to mind.  We overlooked all of them because of all the good those people had accomplished.  So, how can one justify the fascination with Mr. Trump’s personal behavior? I could write an entire blog about this topic, but you get the point.

Most Americans are not interested in President Trump’s past peccadilloes.  They don’t care about Stormy Daniels, Cohen or if ten year-old Donny Trump may have bullied someone on the playground.  We didn’t elect Donald Trump for his moral character.  We elected him to shake things up in DC, improve the economy, make us secure, drain the swamp, etc.  We didn’t want another cookie-cutter politician.  I say, so far we got exactly what we voted for.

 

 

TRUMP – PUTIN SUMMIT

This blog should come with a warning label.  Usually, I base my blogs on extensive research, and try to present mostly facts with a modicum of opinion.  This blog will be mostly opinion, so some readers may not like it.  Of course, as always, I welcome comments and opinions.  I don’t care if you agree with me or not.  The most important thing for me is for you to read the blog.  That said, I encourage you to read on.

The Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki this week was memorable in more ways than one.  According to Mr. Trump the two discussed many significant issues, such as Syria, Iran, terrorism, the Ukraine, and the Crimea.  As I write this, we do not know the details of their discussion with respect to the above issues as much of it was held in private. It was their first summit, and I would hope that the two men found some common ground and at least formed a basis for further meetings.

I think most of us would agree that relations between the US and Russia have been very strained recently, due to these and other issues, notably Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.  In fact, in the opinion of Professor Stephen Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies at NYU, they are as strained now as they have been at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.  If you know your history, you will realize that that is a very serious statement.  At the time, the public was unaware of the full gravity of the situation, but we now know that on that occasion we were very close to nuclear war.

Since the two nations control some 90% of all nuclear weapons, it is essential that they develop a basis for talking instead of fighting.  As I have said many times, most recently regarding Mr. Trump’s summit with Kim, I favor talking to one’s enemies as well as one’s friends.  I think most people would agree that talking is preferable to fighting.  No one dies when you talk; they die when you stop talking and start fighting.

Unfortunately, this summit may be remembered for what was not said, rather than what was said.  Of course, I am referring to the Russian 2016 election meddling issue.  Mr. Trump later told reporters he mentioned it, Mr. Putin strongly denied it, and he accepted Mr. Putin’s denial.  Many people are distressed that Mr. Trump did not press the issue and seemed to take Putin’s word over that of his own intelligence agencies (although Mr. Trump subsequently walked that back).  They wanted him to berate Mr. Putin, virtually call him a liar, and let him know in no uncertain terms that we know he did it and don’t dare do it again, or words to that effect.

Certainly, one could argue that he should have been more forceful on that issue.  That would have made most of us feel good for a brief moment.  We would have said to ourselves something like “yeah, way to go, take it to him!”  But, I ask you, what would that really have accomplished?  Putin knows he did it, he also knows that we know he did it.  Do you expect that Putin would have said, “oops, you got me.  I’m really sorry.  I won’t do it again.”  No, Putin would likely have taken umbrage at the assertion.  He would have continued to deny, deny, deny.

If Mr. Trump had persisted, Putin may have even walked out of the meeting, in which case nothing would have been accomplished.  All those other issues I mentioned above, as well as whatever else they discussed would have continued to fester.  The long-term, more significant objectives of the summit, to build a working relationship, would have been a failure.

Moreover, it would not have changed the fact that Russia meddled, and it will continue to meddle, prospectively.  Let’s not be naïve.  As Senator Rand Paul said in a recent Politico article, “everyone does it.”   Off the top of my head, I can think of several instances in which the US has meddled in another country’s elections and other internal affairs – South Vietnam in the 1960s, Chile regarding the election of Salvador Allende in 1970, and Israel’s last election when President Obama tried to undermine Netanyahu’s candidacy.  Moreover, for over a century the US meddled in most every South and Central American country’s affairs.  Remember the Monroe Doctrine?  We considered the Western Hemisphere to be our private preserve and earned the enmity of many of our Latin American neighbors.

After two years of intense investigation, all evidence indicates that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, but recognize the difference between “meddling” and “hacking.”  We have yet to see any evidence that Russian meddling changed ONE SINGLE VOTE.  Get over it, and move on with your lives.  Mr. Trump won fair and square.  He is the President, and he will continue to be at least until January, 2021, if not beyond.  History tells us that on election night voters will not focus on whether or not Trump “dressed down” Putin at the summit.  They will focus on the economy, and right now, it is BOOMING.

There are many more important issues, such as feeding your family, medical care, immigration, and thwarting terrorism.  Instead of being stuck in the past we should be focusing on how to prevent anyone from meddling in the 2018 and 2020 elections.  (I would suggest that one corrective action would be to enforce the law precluding government officials from using private email servers.  Another would be to require passwords more secure than “password.”  Probably, a 10 year-old could have hacked the DNC.)

CONCLUSION

It is one thing to express disagreement with Mr. Trump’s, or any politician’s policy decisions.  After all, the right to do so is a cornerstone of our republic.  It is a legitimate complaint that Mr. Trump should have been more forceful.  As I said, that would have had consequences, but I can understand the sentiment.  But, that does NOT make him a “traitor, an “imbecile,” or Putin’s “puppet,” as many have been saying.

What I cannot abide and what caused me to write this particular blog, was the vituperative and disrespectful tone of much of the criticism toward Mr. Trump.  We all know that 90% of the media, most politicians and “swamp dwellers,” and half of the voters hate him with a passion that exceeds all reason.  They will criticize anything he does or says.  Some will even hope for bad outcomes, even of they hurt the country, just to prevent Mr. Trump from looking good.  But, some of the criticisms I have been reading exceed all decency, decorum, and reason.  For example:

  1. Former CIA Director, John Brennan, one of the architects of the sell-out Iran Nuke Deal, labeled Mr. Trump’s words “imbecilic” and “nothing short of treasonous.”
  2. Senator John McCain said Mr. Trump’s performance was “a conscious choice to defend a tyrant” and “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
  3. Newsday called Mr. Trump’s performance “an extraordinary embrace of a longtime US enemy,” and surmised that he made it obvious that “any firm acknowledgment of Russia’s [meddling] would undermine the legitimacy of his election.”
  4. Scores of political pundits weighed in with similar comments, but, to me, most of these people lost their objectivity and credibility long ago, so I find it hard to take their analyses seriously now.  I view them as so much “white noise” and see no need to waste time and space by repeating them here.
  5. The worst, by far, came from the formerly venerable New York Times.  The Times used to be one of, if not the, most respected newspapers in the country.  But, in recent years, it has essentially become a shill for the far left.  The latest example is the video cartoon it published depicting Messrs. Trump and Putin as homosexual lovers.  Any decent person should find it disgusting.  It was the stuff of the most prurient tabloid.  I have no adequate words to describe how far beyond the pall of decency it was.

This is what we have come to in this country, where the president of the US can be ridiculed and attacked in this manner.  Have we lost all reason?  Disagree with his policies?  Okay.  But, at least do so in a mature, decent and reasonable manner.  I shudder to think of what might be next.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – JULY

Historically, July has been a very active month.  Below please find a list of significant historical events that have occurred during the month.  Read on, and be edified.

July 1 – Canada Day is celebrated commemorating the union of Upper and Lower Canada and certain of the Maritime Provinces to form the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867.

July 1, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill authorizing the first income tax levy (3%).

July 1, 1863 – The decisive Civil War Battle of Gettysburg commenced.

July 1, 1963 – The US Postal Service commenced using zip codes.

July 2, 1776 – The Continental Congress adopted a resolution declaring that “these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”

July 2, 1788 – Congress announced that the US Constitution had been ratified by the requisite nine states.

July 2, 1881–  President James Garfield was shot and mortally wounded.  He died on September 19.

July 2, 1937 – Pilot Amelia Earhart went missing.

July 2, 1964 – President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

July 3, 1775 – George Washington took command of the Continental Army at Cambridge, MA.

July 3, 1976 – Israeli commandos rescued 103 hostages being held by pro-Palestinian guerrillas on a hijacked airliner at Entebbe airport in Uganda.

July 4, 1776 – The Continental Congress formally approved the Declaration of Independence, making this date the US’s official Independence Day, even though many of the 56 signatories signed the document later.  (The exact dates are in dispute to this day.)

July 4, 1863 – The city of Vicksburg, MS surrendered to General Grant giving the Union control of the vital Mississippi River.

July 4, 1959 – A 49th star, representing Alaska, was added to the flag.

July 4, 1960 – A 50th star, representing Hawaii, was added to the flag.

July 5, 1946 – The bikini, named by creator Louis Reard for the Bikini Atoll where the atomic bomb was tested, was introduced in Paris.

July 6, 1885 –  Louis Pasteur administered the first successful rabies shot (to a boy who had been bitten by a rabid dog).

July 6, 1942 –  Holocaust victim, Anne Frank, and her family began hiding in a sealed-off room in Amsterdam in an ultimately futile attempt to avoid being captured by the Nazis.

July 7, 1898 – President McKinley signed a resolution annexing Hawaii.

July 8, 1889 – The Wall Street Journal began publication.

July 10, 1940 – The German Luftwaffe commenced bombing raids against Great Britain.

July 10, 1943 – The Allies commenced their invasion of Europe by landing in Sicily.

July 10, 1973 – The Bahamas gained their independence after 250 years of British rule.

July 13, 1977 – Two lightening strikes caused a 25-hour blackout in the NYC area. (Did the local birth rate spike in April, 1978?)

July 14, 1789 – A mob of protesters successfully stormed the Bastille Saint-Antoine in Paris, a fortress, a prison and a hated symbol of aristocratic repression.  The Bastille’s fall shocked the aristocratic world and signaled the beginning of the French Revolution.

July 16, 1769 –  Father Junipero Serra founded the mission of San Diego de Alcala (present-day San Diego), one of many he founded throughout current-day California.

July 16, 1969 –  The Apollo 11 mission took off for the moon.

July 17, 1918 –  Bolshevik rebels murdered Czar Nicholas II and his family in Ekaterinburg, Siberia.

July 17, 1955 – Disneyland, in Anaheim, CA, opened to the public.

July 17, 1996 – TWA Flight 800 blew up shortly after takeoff off the coast of Long Island.

July 18, 1936 – The Spanish civil war began as a revolt by right wing army officers stationed in Morocco.

July 18, 1947 – President Truman, who had succeeded to the presidency following FDR’s death, signed an Executive Order that laid out the order of succession in the event a president were to die or become incapacitated (vp, speaker of the house, etc.).   This order became the basis for the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified on February 10, 1967.

July 18, 1969 – Senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a wooden bridge on Chappaquiddick Island killing aide Mary Jo Kopechne and ending his chances for the presidency.

July 20, 1969 – Billions of people watched live on tv as Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.  (Famous quote – “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”)

July 27, 1953 – The US and Korea signed an armistice ending the Korean Conflict, which had raged on for three years.

July 27, 1974 – The House of Representatives charged President Nixon with the first of three articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice, eventually culminating in his resignation.

July 29, 1976 – David Berkowitz, aka “Son of Sam,” began his murderous reign of terror in NYC, which lasted until August 10, 1977.

July 29, 1981 –  England’s Prince Charles and Lady Diana were married at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

July 30, 1965 – President Lyndon Johnson signed the Social Security Act of 1965, which established the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

July 31, 1798 – The US Patent Office opened and issued its first patent (for a new method of making potash and pearl ash).

Birthdays –  Thurgood Marshall – 7/2/1908; Stephen Foster (wrote some 200 songs, including Oh Susanna, Camptown Races and Swanee River) – 7/4/1826; Calvin Coolidge (30th President) – 7/4/1872; David Farragut (Civil War admiral, famous quote: “Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead”) – 7/5/1801; PT Barnum (promoter, showman and co-founder of the circus) – 7/5/1810; Cecil Rhodes (his will established Rhodes Scholarship) – 7/5/1863; John Paul Jones (father of US Navy, famous quote: “I have not yet begun to fight!”) – 7/6/1747; Leroy “Satchel” Page (AA Hall of Fame pitcher) – 7/7/1906; Nelson Rockefeller – 7/8/1908; John Calvin (founded Presbyterianism) – 7/10/1509; Arthur Ashe (tennis champion) – 7/10/1943; John Quincy Adams (6th president and son of #2, John Adams) – 7/11/1767; Gerald Ford ( 38th president) – 7/14/1913; Rembrandt van Rijn (famous Dutch painter) – 7/15/1606; Nelson Mandela – 7/18/1918; Edmund Hillary (first to ascend Mt. Everest) – 7/20/1919; Ernest Hemingway (Nobel Prize-winning author) – 7/21/1899; Simon Bolivar (aka “The Liberator” or “The George Washington of South America” for his successful efforts to liberate the nations of Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Venezuela from Spain) – 7/24/1783; Amelia Earhart (pioneer female pilot) – 7/24/1898;  George Bernard Shaw (playwright) – 7/26/1856; Jacqueline Bouvier (JFK widow) – 7/28/1929; Benito Mussolini – 7/29/1883; Henry Ford – 7/30/1863;

BRETT KAVANAUGH – SCOTUS NOMINEE

As most of you know, President Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Anthony Kennedy as associate justice of the Supreme Court.  As most of you also know, Mr. Trump’s nomination is required to be approved by the Senate.  Presently, the GOP holds a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate.  Due to this slim margin and the currently contentious political climate, such approval is far from certain.

Most Dem senators are opposed to Kavanaugh.  They claim their opposition is based on concerns over Kavanaugh’s perceived positions on issues such as abortion and healthcare.  In particular, they are concerned he will somehow become the swing vote that would enable the Court to overturn Roe v Wade, the decision which legalized abortions throughout the US.  For example, Chuck Schumer has vowed to “fight this nomination with everything I’ve got.”

In actuality, most Dems would oppose any Trump nominee just because he or she was put forth by the President, whom they loath.  Many of them, such as Nancy Pelosi and the aforementioned Chuck Schumer, have expressed strong opinions that the President should not put forth any nominee until after the midterm elections.  There is no legal basis for this.  They just hope that the Dems will gain a majority in the midterm elections and thus be able to block any nominee with whom they disagree, politically.

In my opinion, there are at least two GOP – Susan Collins, Me, and Lisa Murkowski, Alaska – and three Dem senators – Joe Manchin, W. Va, Heidi Heitkamp, ND, and Joe Donnelly, IN – that are swing votes.  Collins and Murkowski have expressed vague concerns and want to conduct a “careful vetting” of Kavanaugh’s judicial record before voting.  (I highly doubt the veracity of this reason since Kavanaugh was not a surprise pick, and his judicial record is both extensive and publicly available.)  Manchin, Heitkamp and Donnelly are up for re-election in states that Mr. Trump carried decisively in 2016, and would be reluctant to have to explain to their constituents why they voted “nay.”  Other “wafflers” in either party may surface as well.

The Court was established pursuant to Article 3 of the Constitution when the document was ratified in 1789.  It was intended to operate as the third leg in the system of checks and balances that is the legal cornerstone of our system of government.  It is intended to interpret the law, but only within the context of an actual case that has been brought before it.

Article 3 did not specify the number of justices.  It merely stipulates that the Court consist of a chief justice and various associate justices.  It provides for members to be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.  Once approved, they serve for life, but they can be impeached.  In case you are wondering, one and only one justice has ever been impeached, Samuel Chase in 1804, but he was acquitted.  Moreover, there is no mechanism for forcibly removing a justice who is ill or incapacitated and declines to resign.  (Given the age of some current members, three are 70 or older, this may become significant, prospectively.)  Currently, the Court consists of eight associate justices, but at various times in our history there have been as few as five and as many as ten.

The constitution provides that a president may fill a vacancy temporarily while the Senate is in recess.  Any justice so-appointed must be approved by the Senate when it reconvenes.  Historically, this has been a real rarity and very controversial even with respect to appointments to lower courts.  Only 13 justices have received so-called “recess appointments” and none since the Eisenhower Administration.  Can you imagine the furor if President Trump made such an appointment?

The Court first met on February 2, 1790.  There were positions for six justices, but only five had been confirmed by that date.  There were no cases before them.  According to historian Fergus Bordewich, they “sat augustly before a throng of spectators and waited for something to happen.  Nothing did.”  So, after one week of inactivity the Court adjourned, and the justices went home.

The Court’s power of judicial review (interpreting laws) has become a well-settled power.  We accept it as a “given.”  But it was not always so.  In fact, originally this power received little attention by the Founding Fathers, and the concept is not specifically mentioned in the constitution.  It was not until 1803 in the landmark case, Marbury v Madison, that the court established this power when Chief Justice John Marshall opined that “the authority to interpret the law was the particular province of the courts.”

Over the years, as the country expanded and grew, Congress authorized additional justices to correspond with the increased number of judicial circuits.  The maximum was ten in 1863.    In 1869 Congress reduced the size to nine, where it has remained ever since.  Some commentators have been advocating adding more justices for political reasons  when, as and if a Dem wins the presidency.  They want more liberal justices.  This may sound absurd, but it has actually been tried once.  FDR tried to expand the Court in 1937 in order to add justices who would support his “New Deal” initiatives, some of which had been struck down, but Congress did not approve his plan.

The constitution does not guarantee that a president will be able to appoint any justices, nor does it limit the number he or she may appoint.  Throughout our history only four presidents have not had the opportunity to appoint at least one justice.  Two of them – William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor – died in office after having served very abbreviated terms.  The third, Andrew Johnson, was thwarted when Congress reduced the authorized size of the court.  Jimmy Carter was the only president to serve a full term and not have the opportunity to appoint a justice.

The current court is extremely diverse with respect to gender, race, and religion.  Three of the nine are women; one is African American, one is Hispanic; five are Catholic and three are Jewish.  Politically it has been balanced, with most decisions 5-4, but if President Trump and the GOP have their way, that may change prospectively.  Liberals won’t like it, but elections do have consequences.

CONCLUSION

Since the beginning of the republic politicians and legal scholars have debated whether the court should interpret the constitution strictly as written or allow for expansion of federal powers with the changing times.  Some courts have adhered strictly to the Constitution; others, notably the “Warren Court” (1953-1969) have been very active in expanding the powers of the federal government.  For example, it was during this time that the court mandated integration of public schools (Brown v Board of Education) and certain rights of a suspect under arrest (Miranda v Arizona).

Generally, conservatives favor a court that interprets the constitution strictly (as written), whereas liberals favor one that is more active and expands the powers of the federal government.  I don’t view one philosophy as “right” and the other as “wrong.”  Historically, whichever political party has been in power has been able to appoint justices whose philosophy was consistent with theirs.

Kavanaugh appears to be more of a strict constructionist.  Liberals are not happy with the choice, but I have yet to see anyone argue that he is not highly qualified.  Therefore, he should be confirmed, and I believe that, after a period of “breast-beating by some Dems, he will be.

 

ABOLISH ICE?

Should the US “abolish” ICE, as many of those on the left are now advocating?  Most news outlets have been bombarding us with negative stories about ICE, characterizing their operation as “heavy-handed” and “excessive” and even comparing the detention centers to “concentration camps.”  Much of the criticism has such a shrill and extreme tone that it is bordering on the irrational.  Based on the foregoing, one would think that there is a huge groundswell in the country to abolish ICE.

In point of fact, this is another example of what many Trump supporters have been calling “fake news.”  (For example, do you recall the news video footage of the children in cells, which were later shown to be from 2014 and the Time cover of Mr. Trump towering over a little crying child, which was also later shown to have been fabricated?) In fact, a recent Rasmussen poll has disclosed broad support for ICE.  For example, only 25% of respondents were in favor of abolishing it.  Even among liberals, Democrats, and AAs the numbers were only 45%, 36%, and 22%, respectively.

Consider:

  1. Critics have been focusing on the separation of parents from their children.  Actually, according to the NY Times that is the responsibility of the Customs and Border Protection Agency, not ICE.
  2. The CBP is following the law, which is well settled.  It was passed by Congress decades ago and has since been validated by the courts.  Some administrations have chosen to ignore or loosely enforce this law, but Mr. Trump has chosen to enforce it with “zero tolerance” as he pledged to do during the 2016 campaign.  His strong stance on illegal immigration was one of the major reasons why he was elected.  As we know, “elections have consequences.”
  3. The accompanying adults are not always the actual parents anyway.  Often, they are “coyotes,” hired to guide the illegals.  Many of them are pedophiles, gang members, or other unsavory characters.  In those cases, the parents have chosen to stay behind for whatever reason, so it is they who have separated themselves from their kids, not ICE.
  4. The separation is only temporary until officials can determine the status of the children and the accompanying adults.  This can be time-consuming, particularly given the high volume of cases.
  5. The current system has its drawbacks, but I believe it is an improvement over Obama’s policy of “catch and release,” which was an abysmal failure.  The illegals simply disappeared into the general populace.  Very few bothered to appear for their hearing.
  6. The side issue that critics carefully ignore is that many US children are separated from their parents every day, such as when innocents, like Kate Steinle, are murdered and when parents are incarcerated or judged to be “unfit.”  Where is the outcry in those cases?

Most of ICE’s critics have no conception of its responsibilities other than that it arrests, detains and deports immigrants who have managed to enter the US illegally.  It has many other diverse responsibilities, including investigating crimes such as smuggling drugs, weapons, and military equipment, human trafficking, cyber crimes, financial crimes and identity theft.  In addition, its legal arm represents the government in immigration matters.

Moreover, people forget that ICE was authorized by Congress under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 following the 9/11 terror attacks.  The Act combined various diverse border and revenue enforcement agencies and placed all of them within the Department of Homeland Security.  Presently, ICE has some 20,000 employees that operate in about 400 offices throughout the US and 46 foreign venues.  It is a sizeable operation and remains vital to our national security.  Terror threats are still with us and, perhaps, always will be, so it would be ill-advised to let our guard down now.

CONCLUSION

Nobody is advocating harming children.  Most everyone realizes the current arrangement is imperfect.  It is merely the best we can do under the present circumstances, presuming we want to enforce the current law and protect our borders.  Anyone who suggests otherwise is being disingenuous and irresponsible.  As Mr. Trump keeps saying, it is up to Congress to improve the law.

Also, as I have said many times, any comparison to Nazis or concentration camps is ridiculous, dangerous and does a disservice to the real Holocaust victims and their families.  It is clear that certain people desperately need a history lesson.

The extreme rhetoric of the far left has put the Democratic Party on the wrong side of the immigration issue, politically.  Below please find a few samples:

  1. NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand characterized ICE as a “deportation force” and advocated that it be abolished.  I submit that she has not the foggiest conception of what ICE does and why it is necessary.
  2. Not to be outdone, MA Senator Elizabeth Warren called President Trump’s immigration policies “deeply immoral.”
  3. Nancy Pelosi has spoken out in defense of the rights of MS-13 gang members, saying “they are people too.”  Does she really want to be portrayed as a supporter of MS-13?  Does she even realize they don’t just terrorize and murder; they hack their victims to pieces with machetes?
  4. Chuck Schumer has declined to support any compromise immigration bill, because he will not help Mr. Trump “clean up his own mess.”  Nice.
  5. The Hill reported that WI Representative Mark Pocan (who?) opined that ICE is “tearing apart families and ripping the moral fabric of our nation” and referred to President Trump and his supporters as a “team of white nationalists.”  Talk about hyperbole!  Furthermore, Pocan has actually introduced a bill to abolish ICE.
  6. Finally, let’s not forget the demonstration at the Statue of Liberty on July 4.  Many people had their holiday plans ruined, and some law enforcement personnel were distracted from their anti-terrorist responsibilities.  I’m sure that won over a multitude of supporters to the anti-ICE cause.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Where are the moderate Dems?  I’m sure there must still be some, but they are laying low.  They cannot be happy.  The extreme rhetoric from the far left on this and other issues is forcing the Dem Party well out of the mainstream, and it does not augur well for the 2018 and 2020 elections.  They need to speak out, but I hope they don’t.

 

 

INDEPENDENCE DAY

Today, July 4th, we celebrate our independence.  There will be family gatherings, barbecues and fireworks.  Many of us will attend concerts, plays and baseball games.  Weather permitting, many of us will go to the beach.  The Automobile Club and the TSA have both predicted that this extended holiday will be among the busiest travel periods of the year.  We will celebrate in a wide variety of ways.  This year the 4th has fallen on Wednesday, many of us have taken the entire week off from work, which, in effect, results in a nine day vacation.

Hopefully, some of us will take a few minutes to reflect on how our country was “born.”  Who were the “founding father” we hear so much about?  Who were the heroes of the revolution?  How much do you know?  Let’s find out.   As always, no peeking at the internet and don’t ask “Alexa.”

1. The primary author of the Declaration of Independence was
a. George Washington
b. Henry Lee
c. Benjamin Franklyn
d. Thomas Jefferson

2. The oldest continuous Independence Day celebration is in what city?
a. Bristol, RI
b. New York, NY
c. Waterbury, CT
d. Philadelphia, PA

3. The origin of the song, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” was
a. American troops during the Revolutionary War
b. French troops during the RW
c. British military before the RW
d. Hessians at the battle of Trenton, NJ

4. The movie, “Independence Day” starred
a. Tom Cruise
b. Will Smith
c. Morgan Freeman
d. Daniel Day-Lewis

5. The first person to sign the Declaration of Independence (and the only one to do so on July 4) was
a. Thomas Jefferson
b. Patrick Henry
c. Benjamin Franklyn
d. John Hancock

6. Each of the following was a member of the Committee of Five (assigned to draft the Declaration), except:
a. George Washington
b. Roger Sherman
c. John Adams
d. Benjamin Franklyn

7. Who was the only President to have been born on the 4th of July?
a. John Adams
b. Grover Cleveland
c. Calvin Coolidge
d. James Polk

8. Each of the following Presidents died on July 4th, except:
a. John Adams
b. Thomas Jefferson
c. James Monroe
d. James Madison

9. Each of the following is considered to be a “Founding Father,” EXCEPT:
a. John Adams
b. Andrew Jackson
c. Alexander Hamilton

d. James Madison

10. The “Star Spangled banner” was written by Francis Scott Key during which war?
a. French and Indian War
b. American Revolution
c. Civil War
d. War of 1812

11. The origin of the nick-name “Uncle Sam” is purportedly:
a. The Continental Congress
b. The Sons of Liberty
c. Meat packer who supplied meat to the US Army
d. British troops during the RW

12. Who, along with John Adams, is responsible for designating the bald eagle as the US’s National Bird?
a. George Washington
b. Thomas Jefferson
c. Benjamin Franklyn
d. Patrick Henry

13. Which state was the last of the “lower 48” to join the Union?
a. New Mexico
b. Oregon
c. Hawaii
d. Arizona

14. How many persons signed the Declaration of Independence?
a. 13
b. 26
c. 40
d. 56

15. Which was the first state to ratify the Constitution?

a. Virginia
b. New York
c. Delaware
d. Massachusetts

16. Purportedly, the Nathans Hot Dog Eating Contest was first held in
a. 1876
b. 1930
c. 1945
d. 1916

17. Who was one of only two signers of the Declaration of Independence to be elected President?
a. John Adams
b. Andrew Jackson
c. Alexander Hamilton
d. Aaron Burr

18. Although July 4 is recognized as Independence Day, the Continental Congress approved a “resolution of independence” on this date.
a. June 15
b. July 1
c. July 2
d. July 3

19. Washington, DC became the capital in
a. 1776
b. 1800
c. 1820
d. 1920

20. The 14th state of the union was:
a. Maine
b. Georgia
c. Florida
d. Vermont

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

CONCLUSION
Well, how did you do? I’d like to know.

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

  1. Although we consider July 4th to be the official date of our independence, most historians now agree that the Declaration was not actually signed until August 2.
  2.  On July 4, 1777, the city of Bristol, RI celebrated the first anniversary of ID with a thirteen-gun salute.
  3. In 1778, to mark the second anniversary, George Washington issued double rations of rum to the Continental Army troops.
  4. By the end of the 18th century many major cities were marking the day with various celebrations and parades. Today, many major cities hold massive and elaborate fireworks displays. In addition, many private organizations, for example, Macys, the Boston Pops, and many major league baseball clubs, entertain the public with fireworks displays. Sadly, many private citizens, who are not properly trained, set off their own fireworks, sometimes with unfortunate results. Every year we read or hear about some tragic accidents involving loss of limbs or even death. Remember the case of NY Giants defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul a few years ago. He lost part of few fingers (and nearly his life) and almost ended a most promising football career.
  5. In 1870 Congress designated ID as a federal holiday. In 1938 it granted federal employees a day off with pay on that day.
  6. With respect to the “Star-Spangled Banner:
    a. It was composed by Francis Scott Key from a British prisoner ship in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. (Key was not a prisoner, himself. He was on the ship to negotiate the release of a prisoner.)
    b. He wrote it as a poem named “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” Later, it was set to a tune, which, ironically, is an English drinking song, with the strange name of “To Anacreon in Heaven.” In case you’re wondering, the song was the official song of a gentlemen’s club in 18th century London.
    c. Key wrote four verses and a fifth verse was added later, but, of course, we only sing the first. Does anyone know the words of the others? I do, but it’s too long to repeat here. But, I will say that all five verses end with “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
    d. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson declared that it should be played at all official events.
    e. The “Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem in 1931.

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

 

MY HERO

July 5 will mark the three-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 at this time.  (Some of you were not following my blog three years ago and may not have seen it.)  I believe it is as inspirational now as it was then.  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 dinn

er 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 was 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, although he still undergoes private rehab once a week.

CONCLUSION

Matt’s astounding recovery has 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, and high-level meetings with clients.
  5. He has completed two half marathons. 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 yet all the way back, 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 20 months 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 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, three years later, it is hard for me to read that blog without getting emotional.  We know we dodged a big 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 tease Matt that he could become an inspirational speaker to give others the benefit of his experience.  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.

THE DECLINE OF CIVILITY AND RESPECT

I don’t know about you, but I am very disturbed by a certain trend in America, particularly with respect to politics.  Americans have always thrived on having a healthy discourse among themselves with respect to political issues.  Often, we can disagree but still engage in respectful debate.  Our culture and way of life have encouraged this.  It’s what has made America unique.

Traditionally, there have been widespread disagreements among Americans with respect to virtually every issue, always have been, always will be.  For example, some of us favor big government, others of us prefer more self-reliance.  Some advocate a woman’s right to choose, others the right to life.  There are wide and varied opinions on immigration, trade, foreign policy, and a host of other issues.

However, what has made America great, what has set it apart from every other country, past and present, is that we have always been respectful of each other’s opinions.  Our attitude has been akin to that famous expression, and I paraphrase, “I strongly disagree with your opinion, but I will defend to my death your right to express it.”

However, recently something has changed.  Many of us no longer respect other people’s opinions if they are at variance with ours.  One could argue where, when and with whom this trend began, but the salient point is it is here, it is accelerating, and it is tearing our country apart.

I get it that one-half of the country despises President Trump on a personal level.  Every thing he does and says annoys them.  His tweets, his policies, his personality.  It is a visceral hatred, the likes of which I have never seen before in my lifetime.  It is so extreme that some, like Bill Maher, have even wished for something bad to happen (the stock market to sink in Maher’s case) so that President Trump’s approval rating will decline.  How sick is that?

The Dems have to wake up to the fact that Mr. Trump IS the duly-elected president.  He won fair and square.  I believe he won, because he tapped into the extreme discontent many Americans felt toward the Washington establishment, including politicians, lobbyists, and administrators.

By now, most of us realize that the Mueller Russia conspiracy investigation has no credibility and will go nowhere.  If anything, it has been uncovering Dem misconduct.   So, Dems you are “stuck” with him until at least 2020, if not 2024.  As my good friend, Arlene, is fond of saying “get over it, and move on!”

If you don’t like him or his policies that is your right but work within the system to defeat him in 2020.  Cut out the useless talk of impeachment, foreign interference and foul play.  Figure out why you lost, nominate a better candidate, and develop a plan to win next time.

In accordance with my center-right political perspective I place most of the blame on the left.  A few examples:

  1. Madonna saying she is thinking of “blowing up” the White House.
  2. Peter Fonda, who hasn’t had a hit movie in forever, saying “we should rip Barron Trump from his mother’s arms and put him in a cage with pedophiles.”
  3. Far left demonstrators chanting and harassing Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, when she was attending a movie (ironically, it was mild mannered Fred Rogers’ Won’t You Be My Neighbor).
  4. Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson, being harassed while eating at DC restaurants and, ultimately, having to leave.
  5. Kathy Griffin holding President Trump’s “severed head” aloft on tv.
  6. Business Insider presented an extensive list of conservative-leaning speakers who were either disinvited from speaking on college campuses recently or were severely heckled, including, Ben Shapiro (who only was allowed to speak after threatening legal action), Anita Alvarez, Cook County, IL states attorney, Bassem Eid, a Palestinian whose remarks were nevertheless viewed as too pro-Israel by protesters, and John Brennan, former Director of the CIA.
  7. Commentators labeling the president and anyone who espouses his policies or even voted for him as “Nazis.”  Perhaps, this, which is becoming more common on certain cable news networks, is worst of all as (a) calling the other person a “Nazi” shuts off all further debate, (b) it dehumanizes them, and (c) it encourages violence.  If you engage in an honest debate with someone with whom you disagree you are recognizing he is not a bad person, per se, just that his opinion may be wrong.  If you label him a “Nazi” you are saying he is a bad person per se and his opinion is not worthy of respectful dialogue.  In addition, in my opinion, these comments belittle the actual Holocaust perpetrated by real Nazis that murdered some six million Jews and others.

CONCLUSION

Folks, we are headed down a slippery slope.  Once healthy, respectful debate is short-circuited, violence inevitably follows.  Fringe elements like Peter Fonda do not concern me.  Few people listen to them anyway.  What concerns me is the hyperbole being spewed by elected politicians like Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters and Kamala Harris.  For example, Harris is railing that President Trump’s anticipated choice of a conservative Supreme Court justice to replace Justice Kennedy will “destroy the constitution.”  Come on!

They should know better.  Where are the moderate Democrat leaders?  Why aren’t they calling for civility?  I think and hope that a majority of Americans are as fed up and concerned as I am.  Furthermore, I hope they will make their voices heard in the one place that it matters most – the ballot box in November.