CINCO DE MAYO

I know.  I know.  Today is May 6.  Cinco de Mayo was yesterday, May 5.  But, with Joe Biden’s alleged sexual assault and the CV dominating the news it completely slipped my mind.  So, here it is one day late.  I hope and expect you will forgive my tardiness.

Every year on May 5, many of us eat tacos and enchiladas and drink tequila and margaritas in celebration of Cinco de Mayo.  Typically, most Americans have no idea of the significance of the holiday. They may assume that it is some religious festival or has something to do with Mexico’s independence from Spain. That would be wrong and wrong.

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

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

The battle at Puebla was significant for several reasons:

1. Though largely symbolic, this victory gave the Mexicans a much-needed infusion of patriotism and national pride.

2. Since then, no country in the Americas has been invaded successfully by a European country.

3. Most importantly for the US, many historians believe that France’s ultimate goal was to enable the South to break away from the North.  Mexico could have been used as a military base from which France could have funneled men and equipment to the Confederacy.  If they had not been defeated at Puebla, who knows how far north their army would have pushed and who knows what military and political pressure they would have brought to bear against the US.  It’s possible France could have ended up dominating the entire West Coast of present-day US.  Consequently, it can be posited that that victory helped preserve the Union.

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated not only in Mexico, but also in many other countries. Cities in the US, Canada, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Australia, New Zealand and Japan hold festivals featuring Mexican music, food and drink and celebrating Mexican culture.

Technically, Cinco de Mayo, though recognized as a day of celebration throughout Mexico, is not a national holiday, although it is a holiday in the State of Puebla. Throughout the country, the public schools are closed and many towns hold parades or re-enactments of the battle of Puebla. It should be noted that Cinco de Mayo is NOT to be confused with Mexican Independence Day, which is September 16.

Additionally, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in many areas of the US, particularly in locales where there is a sizeable Mexican population, such as Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Events include parades, festivals, mariachi bands, and parties.

CONCLUSION

Cinco de Mayo is supposed to be a joyous holiday, as it celebrates a heroic occasion. Many non-Mexicans also get into the spirit of the holiday and participate in the above celebrations. They dress in Mexican clothing, such as ponchos and sombreros, participate in parades, and patronize Mexican restaurants.  In recent years, some so-called pc police have objected to this, calling it mocking a culture and even racist (their favorite fallback criticism).  Some colleges, such as New Hampshire University, have attempted to restrict their students’ celebrations, even going so far as to ban using the name “Cinco de Mayo.”

Personally, I find these restrictive actions offensive and a violation of the First Amendment.  It’s not as if the celebrants painted offensive sayings or mocking cartoons. Wearing ponchos and sombreros and dancing the “Mexican Hat Dance” do not rise to the level of, say, anti-Semitic scribblings on walls, burning a cross on a lawn, or fire-bombing places of worship.  THOSE are offensive, or worse.  This merely strikes me as getting into the holiday spirit, not being mean-spirited.

Once again, the majority is being subjected to the tyranny of the vocal minority. Remember, approximately 80% of the tweets are posted by only 10% of the people, so don’t be fooled by the vocal minority. As an aside, I have to say that in my youth we would have dealt with the pc crowd differently. Rather than kowtow, we would have made it point to parade down main street wearing sombreros and ponchos dancing the Mexican hat dance. Times have sure changed, and not necessarily for the better.

As I delineated above, Cinco de Mayo is a great source of pride for people of Mexican descent, as well it should be.  It commemorates a significant military victory over a better-equipped, numerically superior force.  The victory held historical significance not only for Mexico but for the US as well and should be commemorated.

 

SOME STATES’ DIRE FINANCIAL STATUS

A potential fiscal crisis has been percolating for some time now.  Heretofore, it has been simmering just below the surface like an inactive volcano overdue to erupt.  It has been superseded by other more pressing matters, but I believe it is about to burst into the forefront.  It is the substantial differences in fiscal health among the various states.

Some states are in serious financial straits.  In most cases, their difficulties predate the advent of the Coronavirus, but the unanticipated substantial expenses they have been forced to incur to fight it have exacerbated their financial situation.  Their only hope to attain solvency appears to be a federal bailout.  This may become a central issue in the next Rescue Plan, which Congress will likely address as soon as the House Dems return to DC from their “vacation.”

As denoted by “24/7 Wall St” the underlying causes have resulted from the poor management of prior and current administrations.  Some states have been profligate and poorly managed for many years.  They are now saddled with huge debt, primarily due to pensions owed to retired public and union employees.

According to “The Hill,” these states will be seeking an aggregate bailout of in excess of $500 billion.   For example, the unfunded liabilities of IL’s state pensions is an astronomical $137 billion.  I don’t see how it can ever meet that obligation on its own.  Declaring bankruptcy may be a realistic option, but, then, what will happen to the pensioners.

Another example is NY.  Its budget deficit for the coming year is estimated at $6.1 billion.  Moreover, its tax base is declining at an alarming rate as middle class and even upper class taxpayers have been relocating to states with lower or no state taxes.  These are just two examples of many.  Other states with a heavy burden of debt include NJ, MA, and Kentucky.

Naturally, the states in good financial condition are objecting to the idea of a bailout.  Some of these states are AK, SD and NE.  For the most part, the low debt states don’t mind reimbursing expenses related to the CV, as it is viewed as an unforeseen calamity, but they hold a dim view of a federal bailout for pre-existing debt.

Normally, Americans are generous and forgiving.  They don’t mind helping others who are in need through unforeseen circumstances, e.g. natural disasters.  But, they do object to helping others whose problems have been caused by their own profligacy.  They realize that any such funds will ultimately come out of their pocket.  They resent having to bail out the states that, in their view, have been poorly managed, while they were careful with their money.  Some even view it as a form of socialism, which is the “kiss of death.”

Before you criticize and scoff at that notion, consider the following two examples, which I feel illustrate the situation.

  1.  Farmer A and Farmer B

Farmer A and Farmer B are neighbors.  All year long, Farmer A works his land diligently.  He spends long hours planting, tending and harvesting his crops.  He husbands his excess cash carefully for a “rainy day.”  Farmer B is not the least bit diligent.  He is lazy.  He spends much of his time “hanging out” or visiting friends in town.  He blithely borrows money to fund his extravagant lifestyle.  At the end of the year, Farmer A has a bumper crop and sells it at a good price.  He has a goodly surplus left to see him through the winter and deal with any unforeseen circumstances.  Farmer B’s crop is very poor.  He does not have enough to see him through the winter.  Moreover, he is heavily in debt, having spent lavishly without serious regard for the future.  What does he do?  He asks Farmer A to help him out.  Do you think Farmer A would be willing to give Farmer B some of his surplus crop and money?  Should he?

2.  Student A and Student B

Students A and B are in the same class at school.  They are both assigned a term paper due at the end of the year.   Student A diligently works on the paper during the year, forgoing parties and other social events.  He writes a really good paper.  Student B does little or no research.  He enjoys parties and social events throughout the year.  As the due date approaches he realizes he is in trouble.  He asks Student A to give him some of his research notes so he can write his paper.  Do you think Student A should help out Student B or not?  Would it be fair for him/her to do so?

CONCLUSION

In my view, these illustrations are similar to the above situations regarding the states.  Farmer B and Student B are akin to the profligate states I described above.  I do not think it is equitable or appropriate for the states illustrated by Farmer A and Student A to, in effect, pay for the misdeeds of the others.

I believe we should all be responsible for our own actions.  The US is not a socialist country.  Our nation’s economy has been and is based on capitalism, initiative, free enterprise, hard work, and self-determination.  I realize that some of you may disagree with me and think my reasoning is callous.  That is your right.  The issue is worth debating.  I welcome your thoughts.

At the end of the day, this issue is a potential powder keg.  As is often the case, the situation and its solution is far more complex than it appears.  How we deal with it will have a profound effect on our nation prospectively.

READE VS. BIDEN

The Dems, their allies in the mainstream media, and various women’s groups, such as #MeToo and Planned Parenthood, among others, (collectively, the “Accusers”), are being hoisted on their own petard.   Collectively, these groups have strenuously and repeatedly maintained that in all “he said-she said” cases women are to be believed, no questions asked.  Regardless of the longstanding concept of due process, which is guaranteed to everyone by the Constitution, in their minds the man is always guilty.  My favorite quote was from Mazie Hirono, the nitwit Senator from Hawaii, who self-righteously intoned “I believe her [Ford]….  Men  need to shut up.'”

This was never more apparent than in the case of Ford v Kavanaugh.  I’m sure most of you recall how they hounded Kavanaugh and his family relentlessly for weeks despite the fact that Professor Ford’s case was weak.  They went so far as to track down his high school buddies and pore through his high school yearbook.  They accused him of participating in gang rapes.  Upon detailed investigation Ford’s accusations did not hold up.  She could not recall crucial details of the alleged attack, including where and when it occurred or who else was present.  Moreover, she had not reported the incident contemporaneously.  Finally, her supposed corroborating witnesses’ stories did not hold up either.

On the other hand, Reade has a far more believable case.  She does recall crucial details, quite graphically, such as when and where the incident occurred; she told various persons at the time; she filed a contemporaneous report, (although she has not yet produced a copy of it); and there is that haunting telephone call from her late mother to “Larry King Live.”  And, yet, the Accusers tried to ignore the story in the hope it would somehow disappear.  Incidentally, let’s not forget that Reade is a lifelong Dem and a Biden supporter, so there is no political bias involved.

Other than on Fox News the story got very little “play.”  For five weeks, from March 25 to April 30 Biden gave dozens of interviews.  He was not asked one question about Reade.  Not one!  The contrast is stunning.  The hypocrisy is apparent.  The same Accusers who tormented Kavanaugh have rushed to Biden’s defense.  In lock-step they have either stated they don’t believe Reade or have declined to comment.

Tobe Berkowitz, a BU professor who specializes in political communications told “The Hill” that there has been “a disparity” in the media coverage.  “The burden of proof [in the two cases] has not been the same.”  (That’s a really polite way to say the media has been biased and hypocritical.) President Trump and others have characterized it as a “double standard.”  Apparently, the new standard is to always believe women, unless the person accused is a Democrat.

Among the many prominent Dems who have rushed to Biden’s defense and praised his “integrity” regardless are Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams, Nancy Pelosi, and Amy Klobuchar.  Could the reason for their support be that each of them, except for Pelosi and perhaps Clinton, harbors hopes of being selected as Biden’s running mate?

The #MeToo, Emily’s List, and Planned Parenthood groups and other women’s organizations have been put into a very difficult position.  They have long claimed to support women, but they feel the pressure to stick by Biden.  The hypocrisy is obvious.  If they really were committed to supporting women they would be supporting Reade.   In my opinion, the integrity of these groups is taking a huge “hit.”  They are being exposed as phonies.

By  the way, where is the aforementioned Mazie?  Why hasn’t she come out in support of Reade?  Why hasn’t she told Biden to just “shut up?”   We know why.  She’s the biggest phony, the biggest hypocrite of all.

Another significant factor is that this is not Biden’s first incident of sexual harassment.  He has often been photographed as hugging, kissing, sniffing, and petting women (for example, then-Nevada assemblywoman Lucy Flores in 1994), earning the unflattering nickname of “handsy Joe.”  If you doubt this, just watch him mingle among a crowd.  He’s like that creepy old guy that women and young girls instinctively shy away from.  His actions are beyond innocent and friendly, especially in the current PC climate.  Moreover, his attitude toward and treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearing in 1991 was rather callous.

After weeks of silence finally Biden addressed the matter in an interview.  Of course, he picked MSNBC.  I’m sure the hope was that he would be asked only “softball” questions.  No such luck.  To her credit, Mika Brzezinski did not give Biden a fluff interview.  She questioned him rigorously on the incident.  I think Biden did all right (at least he didn’t fumble, mumble and stumble like he often does) until Mika queried him about disclosing the content of his papers that are in the custody of the University of Delaware.  He did not have a good answer as to why those records should not be made available to the public.  The proper answer of an innocent man would have been something like, “go ahead and investigate.  I have nothing to hide.  I will be vindicated.”  Maybe, some enterprising reporter should interview Biden’s high school buddies or take a look at his high school yearbook.  Just kidding, or maybe not.

I suspect his reluctance is based on the fact that the papers contain personal conversations with foreign leaders that he would not want disclosed.  Perhaps, they contain further evidence of corruption that has nothing to do with the Reade case.  Joe is the likely Dem nominee for president.  Everything should be on the table.  The public has a right to know.  If this were about President Trump you can be sure there would be widespread demands to release all the information.

If Biden wants to put this issue to bed once and for all he will have to consent to the release of those papers, personal or not.

CONCLUSION

I am willing to grant Biden the presumption of innocence until and unless he has been proven guilty.  Hopefully, the matter will be investigated by an independent party, and the true facts will be disclosed to the public.

It will be interesting to observe how the media covers this matter prospectively.  Many if not most Americans do not believe we have an unbiased media in this country.  In my opinion, the media has been protecting Biden for years.  Truly, as I have blogged before, he is “the emperor with no clothes.”   This will be an opportunity for the media to “step up.”  Will it?  We’ll see.

It will be interesting to see the impact of this matter on the election.  What will the Dems and independents do?  In my opinion, even if it is determined that he is guilty there will still be many Dems who will still vote for him.  They hate Mr. Trump that much.  That is their right, but let’s not be hypocritical about it.

BIDEN SEXUAL ASSAULT AND MEDIA BIAS

This is a story about two cases of alleged sexual assault and the radically different manner in which they are perceived by certain public figures and reported on by the media.  My point is that these cases are not and were not treated consistently.   I can understand that politicians would tend to exhibit a certain bias, but the media is supposed to be objective.  Our democracy depends on that objectivity.

Case #1 – Ford v Kavanaugh

Most of you are very familiar with this case and I blogged on it extensively at the time, so there is no need to repeat it in detail at this time.  Briefly, Christy Ford had accused Supreme Court Associate Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.  She was hazy on the details, such as where and when the assault occurred, had not told anyone at the time, and the “witnesses” she produced were equally hazy on the details.  All in all, she was not credible.

Case # 2 – Reade v Biden

Tara Reade has accused former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden of sexual assault during her tenure as an aide in his office in 1993.  Her charges are very specific.  As reported by “Politico” and other sources, she claims he accosted her in a hallway, pushed her up against a wall, and “penetrated her with his fingers.”  She added that afterwards “the anger kind of emanated from him.  He pointed his finger in my face and said, ‘You’re nothing to me.  You’re nothing.’ ”  So, we have an alleged sexual assault compounded by verbal humiliation.

Full disclosure, Biden has denied the charges, but then again, so did Kavanaugh.  It didn’t matter to his critics.

Unlike Ford, Reade appears to be very credible.  According to multiple reports she told various people contemporaneously, including her mother, her brother, and a neighbor.  She filed a complaint with the Senate.  Her mother called “Larry King Live” during a segment on sexual assault, to report the attack, although she didn’t disclose either her name or her daughter’s.

Moreover, additional corroborating witnesses have emerged.  “Business Insider” reported that the neighbor, Lynda LaCasse, disclosed that Reade had told her of the incident, in detail, at the time it occurred.  Additionally, Lorraine Sanchez, who had worked with Reade in the office of a California state senator in the mid-90s, recalled that Reade had disclosed the sexual assault to her and also that she had been discharged afterward she reported it.

It should be noted that Reade is not some Trump supporter seeking to damage Biden for political purposes.  She describes herself as a “lifelong Democrat.”  But, she characterized Biden as a “sexual predator.”  She told Fox News, “I will not be smeared, dismissed or ignored.  I stand in truth, and I will keep speaking out.”

I think most objective persons would conclude that Reade has a far more credible case than Ford.  Yet, the media gave far more support and credence to Ford’s story than it is giving to Reade’s.

The media treated Ford’s accusations as fact.  Due process, which, as we all know, is a basic tenant of our Constitution, was ignored.  Kavanaugh was assumed to be guilty as charged.   He and his family were vilified mercilessly for weeks.  He was labeled a sexual predator and worse.  The media demanded he withdraw his nomination.   There were calls for his arrest and imprisonment.  Women’s groups, such as #MeToo, and various Democratic politicians, such as Senators, Mazie Hirono, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, to name a few, were demanding that women be “heard” and “believed.”  It was a virtual “lynch mob” or, as President Trump characterized it, a “witch hunt.”  In the end, there was not sufficient proof to the allegations, and Kavanaugh was confirmed.

By contrast, Biden has essentially been given a “pass” by the same people.  The media has largely ignored the story.  The same media people who vilified Kavanaugh have been silent or, worse, have defended Biden.  In all the interviews he has given since the story “broke,” I have not heard him be asked one question about it.  For the most part, only Fox News has been reporting on it consistently.  Those who do not watch Fox News probably know little or nothing about the assault.

Besides the media bias, consider the following:

  1. Not one Democratic congressperson has gone on the record criticizing Biden.
  2.  I am not aware of any prominent feminist leader going on the record in support of Reade.  What happened to the standard that women are to be heard and believed?
  3. None of the various women who vilified Kavanaugh and have been rumored to be under consideration for vp – Klobuchar, Harris or Abrams – has come out in support of Reade.  When asked they have given a version of “no comment.”  What a surprise.  So much for their credibility, which, apparently, they are willing to sacrifice for the chance to be vp.  Due process, which was suspended in the Kavanaugh case, is back.
  4.  In the midst of all this, Hillary Clinton has endorsed Biden’s candidacy.  This is the same Hillary Clinton who spent years, denigrating the character of her husband’s female victims of sexual assault, who was good friends with Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein, and who as a defense attorney bragged about getting the rapist of a 12 year-old girl acquitted.  If I were Biden I would consider her endorsement to be  the “kiss of death.”  I would tell her, “thanks, but no thanks.”

CONCLUSION

Biden’s campaign and his supporters are hoping the story will just go away.  When they are not ignoring it they are issuing comments denying the “incident” occurred.  Some of them seized upon a NY Times story as an exoneration of Biden, but the Times issued a vehement denial.  In my opinion, it will not go away.  It is part of a pattern of his behavior.  He’s always been “handsy” around women, and don’t forget his treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings.

Sooner or later, he is bound to be asked about it by an honest reporter or maybe by a debate moderator.  In my view, the lesser of two evils would be to meet this issue head on now, deal with it, respond to all aspects of it, and hope it runs its course by the Fall.  Issues like this don’t go away if they are ignored.

This just adds to Biden’s “baggage” as a candidate along with his memory lapses, confusion, and verbal blunders.  So far, Biden’s advisors have been able to sequester him from public scrutiny, but eventually he will have to venture out of his bubble and campaign.  At that point, I believe his poll numbers will decline.  The voting public is smarter and more intuitive than the Dems think and hope.  The Dems have a serious problem.  They are irrevocably committed to a damaged candidate who is akin to a ticking timebomb, and I think they know it.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE XIII – REBOOTING THE ECONOMY

Public support for rebooting the economy has been growing.  More and more people are desperate to return to work.  To them, feeding their families is beginning to take precedence over their fear of the virus.  They are tired of being confined to their homes.  According to JPMorgan Chase in the last four weeks 17 million persons have filed for unemployment benefits.  The current unemployment rate is 13%, and it will likely increase to 20%.  These are exceedingly grim numbers not seen since the Great Depression.

Congratulations to us!  For some two months we have diligently followed the guidelines of our political leaders, medical professionals and the president’s COVID-19 Task Force.  We have washed our hands assiduously, worn masks, gloves and other PPE, followed the social distancing guidelines, and stayed home except for emergencies.  We have endured long lines at the grocery store and voluntarily refrained from associating with friends and relatives.  We have postponed weddings, confirmations, bar mitzvahs, birthday and anniversary parties, and other social occasions.  We have sacrificed financially by closing our businesses and refraining from going to work.

After all this, we have flattened the curve, mitigated the effect of the pandemic.  In most areas, hospitalizations, cases and deaths are levelling off or declining.  The virus is not completely beaten yet, but the worst appears too be over.  Now, we are ready for the payoff.  Now we are ready to reopen the economy.  Now, we want to go back to work.  As President Trump has said, most Americans want to, need to work.  We are a nation of workers, not layabouts.

In the last week or so, many governors have announced plans to reopen their respective states’ economies.  I will briefly discuss some of those plans below.  Some in the media have criticized them for jumping the gun.  They maintain it is not safe yet.  They acknowledge we have flattened the curve, but they fear a resurgence.  A few have taken the position that we should wait until we have developed a workable vaccine, which will likely take over a year.

I disagree with those pundits.  I think that is a bit extreme. Another year of this and we will likely have no viable economy to reopen.

I say, the country is not a homogenous entity.  Some areas are densely populated; others are very rural.  Virtually every state has some large cities and some rural areas.  The CV has not affected all areas equally.  This is obvious to most of us who have been paying attention, but apparently not to many in the media.  Most of these media critics live in the densely-populated coastal areas.  They do not have any interest or knowledge of what goes on in the vast heartland.

One of the main reasons why President Trump has left the process of rebooting to the  governors was the realization that they know best what is appropriate for their respective states.  So, now, as many states begin to reboot we will be seeing some radically different approaches, which will be tailored to each individual state or area.  We should give these governors the benefit of the doubt, at least until and unless there are problems.

Below please find a few basic trends and specific examples based on news reports from Worldometer, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and, where indicated, my opinions.

  1. As I write this, according to Worldometer, CBS and multiple other sources the US has reported about 990,000 cases and 56,000 deaths.  NY remains the state with the most cases (282,000) and fatalities (16,600).  By the time you read this those numbers will likely be higher.
  2.  I mentioned the wide disparity of the effect of the CV.  In contrast to NY, Alaska, for example, has reported 341 cases and nine fatalities, Montana 449 and 14, and Wyoming 502 and seven.  So, one would not expect those states to follow the same timetable as NY and other densely populated states.
  3. Every state that has announced a reopening plan has announced its intention of following (1) a phased-in approach similar to that suggested by the Task Force and (2)  different timetables for different areas of the state.  I think this is very sensible.  Dip your toe in the water; don’t jump in blindly.
  4.  Note, some of the following specific plans may be subject to last minute changes.
  5. Several neighboring states, which have overlapping economic interests and concerns, have decided to act in concert.  For example, NY, NJ, CT, RI and DE have formed one group, and CA, OR and WA another.  More may follow suit.
  6.  Perhaps, the most aggressive state has been Georgia.  In recent days, it has authorized the re-opening of hair and nails salons, restaurants, movies theatres, in-person religious services, and even tattoo parlors.  Governor Brian Kemp has received widespread criticism for this plan, and many observers are waiting/hoping to see if it will backfire.  I say, he should know what is appropriate for his state, and someone had to be brave enough to be first.
  7. Alaska is planning to re-open retail stores and dine-in service for restaurants, among others.
  8.  Montana Governor Steve Bullock has issued a plan to resume religious services on April 26 and retail stores the next day.  If all goes well, restaurants, bars and breweries are expected to follow on May 4 with limited capacity.  Schools may re-open as early as May 7 at the discretion of local school boards.
  9. In contrast, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo will be taking a more conservative approach.  He wants more testing, and he wants to see hospitalizations decline for 14 consecutive days.  NY is close to that now.  He is not planning to reopen anything until at last May 15 at which time there will be a monitored phased-in approach beginning with the more sparsely-populated upstate areas.  Businesses such as manufacturing and construction will be among the first.  If key health indicators continue to improve other businesses and areas will follow.  Schools, beaches and public swimming pools will be more problematic.  Cuomo said that areas such as NYC and LI are “more complicated.”  I would expect them to be reopened last, perhaps last in the whole country.  The whole process will require flexibility.

CONCLUSION

As I said, the country is on the cusp of being ready to reboot the economy.  It will be a gradual, phased-in process, which is the best approach.  It will vary by state and, within each state, by region according to their situation.  Everyone agrees that the health and safety of Americans is paramount.  At the same time, the longer the economy remains closed down the more difficult it will be to get it back to where it was.  Remember, we were enjoying the best economy in our lifetimes, if not ever.

The economy may need a boost to restart effectively.  Some people have been advocating another stimulus package.  I am concerned about the long-term effects of all the stimulus packages.  I am especially concerned about the idea, which has been floated by some Dems, to bail out some states that are in financial difficulty.  I don’t think it’s fair for states that have spent money carefully and wisely to have to bail out those that haven’t.

I would advocate a rollback of the payroll tax for, say, six months.  This would infuse cash into the economy immediately and would benefit both employers and employees.

KURT MAIER – HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR

April 21, 2020 was observed (“Celebrated” would be an inappropriate characterization.) in Israel as Yom HaShoah, or, in English, Holocaust Remembrance Day.  The purpose of the day is to commemorate the approximately six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust.  The initial observance took place in 1951.  By Israeli law the official commemoration date is the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar.  Typically, the date corresponds to a date in April or May on the Gregorian calendar.  As I said, this year the day fell on April 21; next year, it will fall on April 8.

It is difficult to comprehend the scope of the Holocaust.  The mind simply cannot imagine six million dead persons.  Therefore, for purposes of this blog I have chosen to profile the struggle of one family to survive, the Maier Family of Kippenheim, Germany.  As you read about them, be aware that their story was replicated millions of times by other families, in some form or another during the late 1930s and early 1940s.  The names and locations may have been different, but the facts and circumstances were eerily similar.  The Maiers were no better nor worse than millions of other Jewish families.  Why did they survive when others perished.  Often, as in their case, it was a matter of luck and happenstance.

The Maiers’ story began shortly after dawn on the morning of October 20,1940 when some policemen banged on their front door.  There are few things more terrifying than the police banging on your door first thing in the morning.  They told the Maiers they had two hours to pack up all their belongings and leave the house.  This was part of a Nazi government-ordered ethnic cleansing.  All Jews in the area were being summarily evicted.  This was not an uncommon occurrence.  You may recall a similar scene portrayed in the musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.”

The family included a father, Siegfried, a mother, Charlotte, two young children, Kurt and Heinz, and two grandmothers.  Ironically, the Maiers, like many other Jewish families, had feared this day was coming.  They had applied for US immigration visas, but they were still on the waiting list.

Siegfried had served in the German army in WWI, and he had a pin identifying him as a veteran.  After the war he had become a successful merchant, but his family was now poor as a result of a series of government-sponsored sanctions against Jews.  He wore the pin on his coat hoping it would get the family special treatment.  However, that day, one of the German officers told him to take it off, asserting “it won’t do you any good where you’re going.”

They were taken to a train station and stuffed into crowded railway cars.  The train dumped them, along with other “unwanted” Germans at a refugee camp named Gurs in Vichy France.

As one can imagine the conditions in the camp were horrid.  Food was scarce; medical care was virtually non-existent; and rats and disease were rampant.  Sickness and death were common, which, doubtless, was the Germans’ intent.

Remaining in Gurs would have meant certain death either from the conditions or from a transfer to one of the concentration camps.  However, leaving was not so easy.  It would require one to navigate through a bureaucratic nightmare consisting of  (a) the French police, (b) the American consulate in Marseille, (c) various foreign relief agencies, and (d) a difficult and circuitous passage across the Atlantic Ocean.

At every stage there was frustration, long lines and bureaucrats who do what bureaucrats the world over are famous for  – being arbitrary and making things as difficult as possible.  American relief worker Varian Fry described the process thusly in a memo written in February 1941: “The visa rigmarole here [Marseille] is inhuman.  It is almost killing the refugees…  They have to wait in corridors and [on] long lines over and over and over again, until their very souls must be shriveled and shrunken by the experience.”  We complain about the lines and quality of service at places like the DMV.  Think DMV times a hundred.

Obviously, in situations like this money and influence are very helpful.  Being poor and Jewish the Maiers had neither, so their application was relegated to the back of the que.  It didn’t look promising.

After some four months the Maier’s exit visas were finally approved, but that only meant they could leave Gurs for Marseilles.  As some of you know, Marseilles in southern France was the main debarkation point out of France.  That was merely Phase 1.

Next, they had to interview with a US consul on May 1.  That meant another long line and more frustration.  By this time, Siegfried and Grandma Sofie were very ill and barely able to function.  Here is where the family got lucky, very lucky.  They were accompanied by a relative who had been wounded in WWI fighting for the French.  Apparently,  he had a special pass that entitled the entire family to go to the head of the line.  Furthermore, they were able to produce some crucial documents: (a) US visas that had been issued to them in May 1940 but never used, and (b) an affidavit from a relative who lived in New Orleans.  Based upon this the consul extended their visas for four more months.

They steamed from Marseilles to Casablanca where they were delayed further.  They were supposed to continue on to Martinique, but Vichy France had closed down that escape route for Jewish refugees.  By now, the expiration date on their visas was becoming an issue.  If they were to fail to reach the US by September 8 their visas would become worthless, and they would be back to square one.  They needed to find another route and fast.  At this time, Casablanca was chock full of persons trying to escape to somewhere safe.

At this point Lady Luck intervened again.  A Jewish relief agency was able to secure room for them on another ship, which was headed for NY.  One final issue:  Upon arrival, as their ship steamed up the East River its mast clipped the Brooklyn Bridge.  This was not a major problem just a footnote to their perilous journey.  Their arrival was memorialized in the next day’s “NY Herald Tribune,” which noted the arrival of “two hundred refugees from Casablanca” who had been in a “race against time to reach the US before their visas expired.”

CONCLUSION

As the Maiers were being rounded up a neighbor took a photograph of the scene.   The photo was found some 30 years later in an old shoebox, and a copy of it accompanies this story.

Of the 6,500 or so German Jews who had been sent to Gurs about 25% perished in that hellhole.  Moreover, almost half were deported to Auschwitz.  I don’t know what happened to the Jews who were stranded in Marseilles or Casablanca, but, likely, it was not good.

Yes, the Maiers were fortunate.  Kurt, now a cataloguer of German books at the Library of Congress, acknowledges as much.  He pointed out that the back of the visas was adorned with a plethora of stamps and signatures.  He remembered that the absence of even one of these required stamps would have condemned his family to bureaucratic purgatory, which, all too often, meant death.  He called the visa “the most precious American document I ever possessed.”

If you would like to read the unabridged story of the Maiers and/or any other stories of Holocaust survival you may contact the US Holocaust Memorial Museum at <information@ushmm.org>  These stories are most inspiring to read, especially since they are true.

REOPENING THE ECONOMY

As you know, the world has been battling a serious CV pandemic since January.  The CV has been so virulent that most countries, including the US, have virtually shut down their economies for about the last month.  Presently, all 50 states are operating under a state of emergency.  This is the first time that has ever occurred.

Additionally, at the present time, 43 of the 50 states are operating under stay-at-home directives imposed by their respective governors.  Recently, in SD, one of the seven states that is not operating under such a directive, a Smithfield factory reported 769 cases of CV.  The factory was closed, and currently there is a widespread demand within SD that Governor Kristi Noem issue such a stay-at-home order.  So far, she has stood her ground saying she has “faith” in the people of SD to continue to exercise prudence.

The shutdown’s draconian measures have devastated our economy.  Unemployment has gone from the lowest on record to the highest since the Great Depression.  Over 22 million people have been put out of work through no fault of their own.  The private sector has just suffered a devastating quarter, and many businesses are on the verge of going under.  The medical community has told us that these sacrifices were necessary to defeat the CV.  For the most part, people have listened and obeyed at great economic and emotional cost.

Now, by most measurements, the CV is receding.  The rates of infections, ICU admissions, hospitalizations and fatalities have flattened or decreased.  At long last, we are nearing the time to restart the economy.   The questions are how do we do it and who will be in charge of it.

At first, Mr. Trump insisted it was the purview of the federal government.  The states’ governors pushed back, insisting that the Constitution gave them the authority to do so.  After some days of political wrangling and sniping it was agreed that the individual states would decide how and when to reopen their respective economies with the guidance and support of the federal government.  This makes sense to me as I maintain that the governors of each state are in the best position to determine an appropriate course of action for their state.  The situations are very different from state to state, or even from section to section within a given state.  For example, in NY, where I live, the situation in the NYC metro area is vastly different from that of the rest of the state.  I expect NY Governor Cuomo will take that into account.  So, the governors have secured the authority, but with the authority comes the responsibility should anything go wrong.

Basically, the plan is to reopen the economy in stages as areas are deemed safe to do so.  The states’ individual governors will have wide latitude to reopen the economies in their respective states in accordance with the federal guidelines suggested by the president and the CV Task Force headed by VP Mike Pence.  The reopening will consist of three phases.  A state or region will pass through each phase depending on its degree of readiness, according to the criteria outlined above.  For example, some states, such as AK, WY, ND, NE, WV, VT, NH, ME, HI, UT and MT are likely ready or close to ready right now.  On the other hand, states such as NY, and NJ still have quite a ways to go.

Everyone agrees that the safety of the people will be paramount.  All reopening plans will be data-driven and will rely on extensive testing, people wearing PPE, and social distancing.  There are shortages of some PPE, such as cotton swabs and reagents used in testing, but the feds are working hard to rectify them.

Below please find the current status of various states’ reopening plans:

  1. Doctors in some states have noted that the CV has been attacking the kidneys.  Twenty to forty percent of patients in ICU have been suffering kidney complications  and have needed dialysis.  This has led to a shortage of relevant machines, supplies and staff and may delay some states’ re-openings.
  2. There are increasing signs of public dissatisfaction with staying at home.  People want to return to work and commence earning money.  For those people, economic considerations are taking precedence over medical considerations.  There have been protests in several states, such as MI, VA, CA and TX.
  3. Florida has reopened some of its beaches, i.e. Jacksonville, but its schools will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.  SC is also planning to open its beaches.
  4.  Some governors are considering easing the social distancing guidelines, while others are being more conservative opting to delay reopening until testing is more widespread.  According to the Task Force, presently, the US is testing about 175,000 persons per day, and the total tested is around 4.2 million.  This is, by far, the most of any country.  But, a Harvard University study suggested that reopening should be delayed until the daily testing rate has been increased to about 600,000.
  5. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the border with the US, which is the longest of any two countries, will remain closed for an additional 30 days.
  6. President Trump announced that the small business loan program is “fully drained.”  As I write this, Congress is negotiating a plan to authorize additional funds, which are sorely needed.
  7. VP Mike Pence delivered a commencement speech at the Airforce Academy in CO, where graduates were required to sit six feet apart for proper social distancing.
  8. Texas governor Greg Abbott announced he intends to begin relaxing restrictions next week.
  9. Idaho will be opening some “non-essential” businesses for curbside pickup such as flower shops and jewelry stores in advance of Mother’s Day.
  10. Montana plans to commence a phased reopening after April 24.
  11. Wisconsin governor Tony Evers disclosed he will be extending the state’s stay-at-home order until May 26, but he will be lifting the ban on craft stores (which sell PPEs).
  12. North Dakota plans to commence reopening gradually after April 30.
  13.  There have been some odd events, which make one wonder what country we are living in.  In NJ there were reports of police stopping cars to demand the drivers tell them where they were going.  In Philadelphia a man was dragged off a bus and arrested for not wearing a face mask.  In CO a man was “cuffed” for having a “catch” with his daughter in a park.  Several hundred people who were listening to church services in their cars were fined.  However, MI Governor Gretchen Whitmer wins the dubious prize for executive overreach.  For example, she has forbidden people to travel to their vacation homes, to go fishing, or to buy seeds to grow their own food.  But, she is allowing people to buy liquor and lottery tickets.  Go figure.  MI is really suffering, and many people are fed up.  It has 25% unemployment, has lost the most jobs of any state, has the 5th most number of cases and the 3rd most number of deaths.  She has tried to walk back some of the damage, saying she will be reviewing the state’s guidelines on May 1, but the damage is done.  She had been on some lists for vp, but now her chances have diminished.   The above examples are enough to make one wonder what happened to the Bill of Rights.

CONCLUSION

I believe the pain of the shutdown has fallen disproportionally on those who are most vulnerable economically, the middle class and working class.   They are more likely to have the types of jobs most effected, such as factory jobs, service jobs and blue collar jobs.  Many of the wealthy work in jobs that can be done at home in which case their income has not been affected materially.  All the more reason to reboot the economy as expeditiously  as possible.

I understand why schools, shows and sports venues should remain closed for now.  But, I see no rationale for not opening small businesses such as dry cleaners, doctors offices, jewelry stores, and stationary stores to name a few, as long as patrons wear PPE and practice social distancing.  I believe we could even find a way to open office buildings and movie theatres under the same guidelines.  Workers need to work, and patrons need to get out of their homes.

Most experts agree that the re-opening will be a very delicate process.  It has never been attempted before, so there is no guidebook to follow.  If we blow it, we could become mired in a depression that would rival the Great Depression.  Therefore, it is essential that we put aside political differences and act in concert.

That said, I already have seen signs of divisiveness.  Each Party is blaming the other one for delaying to recognize the gravity of the CV.  I believe that one can ascribe blame to either side, but the major villain in this matter is China.  It was China where the CV started, most likely due to careless safety procedures in one of their labs; it was China that failed to contain the outbreak at its early stages by allowing infected people to travel internationally; it was China that launched an extensive public relations program to deflect blame onto others; it was China that withheld vital information about the CV, including that it could be transmitted from animals to humans; it was China that enforced a news blackout; it was China that cracked down on those who wanted to tell the truth, likely sending them to work camps or murdering them; it was China that expelled foreign journalists; it was China that misled other countries’ medical experts with false information; and it was China that withheld vital medical supplies to other countries.

I say to our politicians, stop blaming each other.  Our politicians and medical experts did their best.  They unwittingly relied on false information provided by China.  The real culprit is China, China, China, and China again.  When the pandemic is over the world community must investigate China’s actions and inactions thoroughly and levy appropriate sanctions.  Congress is considering a bill that would permit US citizens to file suit against China for damages.  That would be a good start.

THE BIDEN BUBBLE

In my opinion, currently, there is another media conspiracy underway, the protection and nurturing of Joe Biden.  The media has encased him in a protective bubble in order to hide his flaws, primarily his declining mental acuity and his penchant for inappropriate behavior toward women, from the public.  It has been more subtle than the various ongoing overt and covert criticisms of President Trump over the last 3 1/2 years, but it is just as insidious.  Furthermore, to date, I believe it has been quite effective.  Why else would Joe Biden, with all his baggage, be leading in the 2020 presidential election polls?

For example:

  1. Biden has rarely given interviews, and the ones he has given have been highly controlled.  No open Q & A’s with reporters for him, even with social distancing.  Regardless, many of the interviews he has given have been somewhat problematic.  I recall one he gave from his home office, where he failed to shelter his cough.  When the interviewer reminded him that mitigation guidelines required him to do so, he replied it was all right as he was in a room by himself.  Apparently, he had just forgotten to shelter his cough, and he had forgotten that there was a cameraman present and possibly others as well.  In various other interviews he has stumbled over his words.  This seems to be more the rule than the exception.
  2.  The mainstream media has tried to ignore or sugarcoat his many faux pas, or what I have characterized (with apologizes to NY Knicks’ announcer, Walt Frazier) as his “fumbling, bumbling and stumbling.  In a recent blog I compared the situation to the children’s fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
  3.  The mainstream media has been largely ignoring Biden’s and his son’s relationship with both Ukraine and China.  Many people believe them to be prime examples of corruption and bribery and worthy of further investigation.
  4.  Perhaps, most obvious and egregious has been the media’s treatment of the Tara Reade sexual harassment accusation, particularly when contrasted with its coverage of the Christine Ford accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.  In my view, Reade’s account is far more credible.  She has been able to recall specific details about the time, place and nature of Biden’s attack; she promptly told friends and family who have said they believe her; and she filed a complaint with the Senate promptly.  On the other hand, Ford has been hazy, to say the least, as to the time, place and nature of the attack; she didn’t tell anyone in the immediate aftermath; and several of her friends whom she said were present either don’t recall the incident or don’t support her account of it.  Yet, the various female politicians and women’s groups who jumped to support Ford have been strangely silent about Reade’s claims. Where is the outrage from “Me Too,” “Planned Parenthood,” the Women’s ACLU,” and others?  Where is Hawaii Congresswoman, Mazie Horono, who, in support of Ford, inanely opined that “men need to shut up and step up,” and “Women need to be believed” in any “he said-she said” situation.  All that said, most of the media found Ford’s accusations credible, but has largely ignored Reade’s.  Why?  In my opinion, politics.  Ford was accusing a Republican; Reade is accusing a Dem.

Biden’s next big challenge will be to pick the right vp running mate.  Historically, the vp choice has been largely insignificant.  Conventional wisdom has always held that people vote based on the presidential candidate, not the vp.  That was even true in 1944 when due to ill health it was likely that FDR would not be able to complete the upcoming term.  Harry Truman was basically an experienced, relatively unknown candidate, but FDR still won easily.

This year, however, I have a feeling that the vp choice will have a significant impact on the election.  There is a very real chance that the vp could accede to the presidency. Already, it has been speculated that, if elected, at some point Biden would step aside in favor of his vp during his first term.

Biden has announced publicly his intention of choosing a woman as his running mate, which is fine.  Who will it be?  Kamala Harris?  Elizabeth Warren?  Gretchen Whitmer?  Amy Klobuchar?  Someone else?   Whoever it is, however, should be someone who is qualified, not just a sop to satisfy the pc crowd.  According to a recent poll by Politico, about 2/3/ of all voters and 4/5 of Dem voters felt it was more important to pick an experienced candidate, rather than just a female or a person of color.  Yes, Biden’s choice of running mate will likely have a significant impact on the election.

Of the above group, based on what I have seen during the campaign among the female possibilities I prefer Klobuchar. I don’t think the others are suitable for various reasons.  Harris and Warren have a lot of baggage, which I have outlined in previous blogs, and time and space do not permit me to repeat here.  I think Whitmer has damaged her chances by her recent executive overreach wherein she has been enforcing arbitrary, heavy handed rules regarding dealing with the CV.  Many people believe she has exceeded her authority under the Constitution and “trampled” on the Bill of Rights.  There have been demonstrations and at least one civil lawsuit is pending.  We will let the courts sort it all out, but in any event the optics have been really bad for her.

CONCLUSION

In my opinion, Biden’s handlers have done a masterful job in protecting him from himself.  But, eventually, he will have to come out and play.  At some point, the CV will have been removed as a threat and communication lines will open up.  He will no longer have an excuse to avoid the public.  He will have to commence active campaigning.  He will have to face reporters in an uncontrolled setting.  He will have to speak at the Dem convention.  He will have to debate President Trump.  At that point, his flaws will be on open display for all to see.  He will no longer be able to hide.  Then we will see if the emperor truly has any clothes.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – APRIL

Many significant events have occurred in April. Below please find some of them:

April 2, 1513 – Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon landed at present-day St. Augustine, and claimed FL on behalf of Spain. St. Augustine is the oldest city in the continental US.

April 2, 1982 – Argentinian troops seized the Falkland Islands, a British territory just off the Argentinian coast, thus beginning the Falkland Islands War. Britain recaptured the islands on June 15.

April 3, 1860 – The Pony Express mail service commenced in St. Joseph, MO.

April 3, 1865 – Richmond. the capital of the Confederacy, surrendered.

April 3, 1948 – President Truman signed the Marshall Plan, an economic aid package that is largely credited with halting the spread of communism in post-War Europe.

April 3, 1995 – Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female Justice of the Supreme Court.

April 4, 1949 – NATO was created.

April 4, 1968 – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.

April 6, 1896 – The first “modern” Olympics was held in Athens.

April 6, 1917 – The US entered WWI.

April 8, 563 BC – Celebrated as Bhudda’s birthday.

April 8, 1913 – The US ratified the 17th Amendment to the Constitution mandating the election of US senators by direct popular vote instead of appointment by State legislatures as had been the procedure.

April 9, 1865 – Robert E. Lee formally surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant ending the Civil War.

April 9, 1866 – The US passed the Civil Rights Bill of 1866, which granted AAs the rights and privileges of US citizenship.

April 10, 1942 – The Bataan Death March began.

April 10, 1945 – The Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated by US troops.

April 11, 1968 – The US adopted the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

April 12, 1861 – The Civil War commenced as Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter.

April 12, 1945 – FDR died in Warm Springs, GA of a cerebral hemorrhage.

April 12, 1961 – Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, became the first human in space.

April 14, 1828 – Noah Webster published the first American-style dictionary.

April 14, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln was mortally wounded by assassin John Wilkes Booth at Ford Theatre. He died the next day.

April 15, 1912 – The “unsinkable” Titanic, which had struck an iceberg the previous night, sunk. Some 1,500 of the 2,224 persons on board perished.

April 17, 1961 – The so-called Bay of Pigs invasion, which was intended to precipitate the overthrow of Fidel Castro, failed disastrously.

April 18, 1775 – Paul Revere embarked on his famous “Midnight Ride” to warn the Patriots that “the British [were] coming.”

April 18, 1906 – The infamous San Francisco Earthquake and fire began.

April 18, 1942 – A squadron of airplanes led by General James Doolittle successfully bombed Tokyo, providing a much-needed morale boost to Americans by demonstrating that Japan was not invulnerable.

April 19, 1775 – Patriots fire the “shot heard ’round the world” at Lexington, MA, which marked the commencement of the Revolutionary War.

April 19, 1943 – The Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto began an armed insurrection against their Nazi captors.

April 20, 1999 – The “Columbine Massacre” occurred in Littleton, CO, leaving 13 dead and 20 more wounded.

April 21, 1836 – Texans, under the command of Sam Houston, decisively defeated a Mexican force at San Jacinto (near present-day Houston), which led to Texas’ independence from Mexico.

April 21, 1918 – Baron Manfred von Richtofen, the infamous “Red Baron” who was credited with some 80 kills, was shot down over France.

April 22, 1889 – The “Oklahoma land rush” began.

April 24, 1800 – The Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, housing some 145 million items, was established.

April 26, 1986 – The nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine, exploded, spreading a radioactive cloud extending over much of Europe.

April 26, 1994 – Apartheid in South Africa officially ended as the country held its first multiracial elections with some 18 million blacks participating. Nelson Mandela was elected President.

April 28, 1789 – Led by Fletcher Christian, the crew of the HMS Bounty mutinied against Captain William Bligh.

April 30, 1789 – George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the US.

April 30, 1948 – Palestinian Jews declared their independence from the British and established the State of Israel.

Birthdays – 4/2/1805 – Hans Christian Anderson (Danish fairytale author); 4/5/1856 – Booker T. Washington (AA educator); 4/10/1847 – Joseph Pulitzer (publisher); 4/13/1743 – Thomas Jefferson (3rd President); 4/16/1867 – Wilbur Wright (aviator pioneer); 4/16/1889 – Charlie Chaplin (silent film comedian); 4/17/1837 – John Pierpont Morgan (financier); 4/18/1857 – Clarence Darrow (renowned attorney); 4/20/1889 – Adolph Hitler; 4/22/1870 – Vladimir Lenin; 4/23/1564 – William Shakespeare (writer); 4/23/1791 – James Buchanan (15th US President; 4/25/1874 – Guglielmo Marconi (invented the radio; 4/27/1791 – Samuel F. B. Morse (telegraph inventor); 4/27/1822 – Ulysses S. Grant (civil war commanding general and 18th US President); 4/28/1758 – James Monroe (Founding Father and 5th US President); 4/29/1863 – William Randolph Hearst (publisher).

JACKIE ROBINSON

Number 42. Does that have any special meaning for you, or is it just another number? Baseball fans, civil rights advocates, and students of history will recognize it as the uniform number worn by Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers. It should be noted that that uniform number has two other major significances:

1. It is the only number to have been retired by every major league baseball team (1997); and
2. since 2004, every year on April 15 on what is known as “Jackie Robinson Day,” every player wears that number in tribute to Jackie Robinson in recognition of the anniversary of his debut in the major leagues in 1947.  On that historic date Jackie became the first African American to play in the major leagues since the 1880s.

Unfortunately, this year the baseball season is in limbo due to the CV, so we will not be able to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on the appointed date.  Hopefully, the MLB season will get underway soon, and we will be able to do so later in the season.

In order to put this in its proper perspective one must realize the racial situation in 1947. Life was radically different, a reality which few of us who live in the PC era can appreciate.  Much has changed in the intervening 73 years.

For example:

1. Segregation was the law of the land. “Jim Crow” was alive and well.
The “Brown” Supreme Court decision integrating public schools would not come until 1954.
2. Even though many AAs had distinguished themselves during WWII the armed forces would not be integrated until 1948.
3. A disproportionate percentage of MLB players were from the South and espoused all the values, attitudes and experiences of the region regarding AAs.  Most of them had never played ball with an AA.  Many had rarely even associated with one as peers.
4. The prevailing attitude among players, sports writers, and fans was that AAs were not good enough and did not have the “temperament” to succeed in MLB.

Very few of us lived through that era, and consequently, we cannot imagine the circumstances Jackie had to overcome.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia.  His parents chose his middle name in honor of President Teddy Roosevelt, who had recently died.  He was the youngest of five children.  One of his older brothers, Mack, would later earn some notoriety by winning the silver medal in the 100 meter dash in the 1936 Olympics, (the Games held in Berlin at which Jesse Owens embarrassed Adolph Hitler and the Nazis by winning four gold medals).

Jackie’s parents were sharecroppers and barely scraping by, so in 1920 they moved to Pasadena, California seeking a better life.  In high school and college Jackie excelled in five sports – baseball, basketball, football, track and tennis.  Basically, he was an all-around athlete who excelled in any sport he tried.  At UCLA he became the school’s first athlete to “letter” in four sports (all of the above except tennis).  One of his teammates on the 1939 UCLA football team was the future actor, Woody Strode.  Ironically, statistically, at least, baseball was his worst sport of the four.

In 1941 Jackie left UCLA just shy of graduating to play semi-pro football, but in early 1942 he was drafted and stationed at Fort Riley in Texas.  He applied for admission to OCS. Initially, his application was rejected as few blacks were accepted at the time, but following a personal appeal from Joe Louis, the reigning heavyweight boxing champ, he was accepted.

Jackie’s tenure in the army was marred by one unfortunate incident in which his fiery temperament got him in trouble.  While riding an Army bus one day the driver told him to move to the back.  Jackie refused.  As a result he was nearly court-martialed for insubordination and other “trumped up” offenses.  A conviction would have changed the course of his life and, possibly, the country’s as well, but he was acquitted.

In 1945 Jackie signed to play for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. Unbeknownst to him, Branch Rickey, President of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was looking for a Negro to break the major leagues’ “color barrier,” which had been in place since the 1880s.  He had compiled a list of the best players in the Negro leagues and was evaluating them for suitability.  There were many players better than Jackie, notably Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, but due to age, temperament and other factors, they were all eliminated in favor of Jackie.

Rickey knew the first AA player would have to “turn the other cheek” to a great deal of verbal, physical and emotional abuse.  Otherwise, it might be many more years before the next one got a chance.  When he told Jackie this, Jackie was shocked and replied: “Are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?” Rickey’s famous reply was that he was seeking a Negro “with guts enough not to fight back.”

To make a long story short, Rickey signed Jackie.  He played for the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers AAA minor league affiliate in the International League, in 1946.  He “tore up” the league, winning the MVP award.  The next year he made his debut in the major leagues.

To me, his debut was one of the most significant events not only in baseball history, but also in the country’s history.  There was tremendous resistance not only from other Dodgers, but from players on other teams as well.

Again, it is very hard for us to appreciate the level of abuse to which Jackie was subjected. Breaking into the major leagues is hard enough, physically. The added mental and emotional pressures Jackie and other AAs had to overcome was mind-boggling. Jackie had to endure a tremendous amount of prejudice and abuse both on and off the field (name calling, spiking, “beanings,” separate lodgings and restaurants on the road, etc.  Eventually, other AAs would join him in the majors. They had to overcome many of the same obstacles.  Some were unable to survive, but many more did.

Luckily, Dodger management was behind Jackie 100%.  When some Dodgers players threatened to quit, strike or demand a trade, the team’s manager, Leo Durocher, a fiery, no nonsense person himself, nipped the rebellion in the bud.  He declared: “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a f****** zebra.  I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays.”  Players on other teams also threatened to strike, but MLB Commissioner “Happy” Chandler quelled that rebellion quickly as well.

CONCLUSION

Rickey chose well with Jackie.  In baseball parlance, he “knocked it out of
the park.”  Attendance soared and not just in Brooklyn but in every other city as well. Black people came in droves to see their hero, Jackie Robinson, play.  In those days, attendance was the primary source of ball clubs’ revenue, so Jackie made money for everyone.

Not only did Jackie “take” all the abuse without incident, he starred on the field and became an integral part of one of the most storied teams in baseball history, the “Boys of Summer.”  In a ten-year period from 1947-1956 that team dominated the National League.

It won six pennants, lost another in a playoff and lost another by one game.

Among Jackie’s many MLB accomplishments:

1. Rookie of the year in 1947 (the first one).
2. National League MVP in 1949.
3. Appeared in six World Series.
4. World champion in 1955.
5. First ballot hall of famer in 1962.
6. Member of the MLB All-Century team.

Jackie was extremely versatile,  Although he came up as a second baseman, he also played first, third and the outfield.  Many times, he was among the league leaders in fielding at his position.  He was one of the best “clutch” players I have ever observed.  He could beat you with the bat, the glove or on the bases.  I have never seen a better baserunner or a tougher competitor.  When on base, he would drive the opposing pitcher crazy with his antics.  He was always a threat to steal a base.  I saw him steal home in the 1955 World Series.  When caught in a rundown he often escaped, which, generally, was a rarity.  His aggressive style of play was unique for the 1940s and 1950s.

As an example of his extremely competitive nature, one story will suffice.  In the decisive third game of the 1951 playoff with the NY Giants, when the Giants’ Bobby Thompson hit the game winning home run, all the Dodgers left the field immediately with their heads down in defeat.  All except for Jackie.  He watched and made sure that Thompson touched all the bases on his home run trot.  He would not accept defeat until Thompson had completed his circuit.

Jackie retired from baseball after the 1956 season worn down by age and diabetes, but he did not retire from life.  For example, he became very active in the civil rights movement; he became the first black to serve as vp of a major corporation (Chock Full O’Nuts); he went into broadcasting; and he acted in a movie of his own life story.

Ultimately, however, his fierce competitiveness could not overcome ill health.  Jackie died on October 24, 1972 at the relatively young age of 53 from complications of heart disease and diabetes.  I’m sure that all the stress he had to endure on the playing field also contributed to his early demise.

Jackie’s legacy, however, lives on.  There are countless, statues, schools, parks and roads named in his honor.  Moreover, every time a black or other minority takes the field in the major leagues, the NFL or the NBA, he owes a debt to the pioneer who made it all possible.

In all likelihood, eventually the 2020 baseball season will commence, and there will be a “Jackie Robinson Day” at some point when all players on every team will wear “42” to pay homage to Jackie.   At that time, take a moment to appreciate the special achievement of one Jack Roosevelt Robinson.