ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO PRINT

I grew up in a suburb of New York City in northern New Jersey. My parents would read the New York Times every day as well as one of the local New Jersey papers, The Bergen Record. In addition, we watched the CBS evening news every night and hung on everything that ‘the most trusted man in America’, Walter Cronkite, reported. Once I was able to read and understand what I was reading I would mimic my parents and place the paper on the floor and kneel over it to read the articles. When I didn’t quite get it I would either ask to have the article explained or just move on. As I got older and could hold the paper, I continued in this family tradition. Along the way I also developed a love of reading books. I could not get a hold of them fast enough. I would, and still do, grab onto an author and plow through his or her works preferably in the order that they were published. The Library was one of my favorite haunts.

When I was in High School I took Journalism classes and learned how to fold the paper so as to be able to read it with one hand, turn the folds over to switch from one page to another. This became helpful after graduating college when I was riding the bus or train to work and could keep reading with someone in the seat next to me or standing in the subway holding the strap with one hand and the paper with the other.

Speaking of college, I majored in journalism with a minor in radio news. All the time still plowing through books. It had gotten to a point where if I didn’t have time to read for a long period of time, I would read a few pages and that would satisfy my need for the day. When I got towards the last quarter of the book I would run to the Library for another to have at hand to begin the instantly at the end of the one that I was reading.

When traveling I would grab the NY Times and a local paper so that I could compare how the same news was handled in different regions of the Country. And yes my book was still there as well.

Even today, decades later, I still must begin the day by reading the news. I still watch the news almost every evening and of course I still have a book within reach. BUT, somewhere about a decade ago I switched from paper to digital. Something that I had once said that I would never, ever do. I got myself a tablet. Surprisingly once I started, I was on a roll. Now I could read the news from various outlets and regions on the same device. Next I got a Kindle. Books were now lighter and could fit easily in my pocket. Nirvana. Who said that technology was bad?

Well last week I was walking through the supermarket and saw the local paper. I kept walking but suddenly halted. Backed up and looked down. Should I? I mean after all its yesterday’s news and I probably read it on my tablet already. I’m retired now and I guess that I was feeling a bit sentimental for the good old days. I couldn’t remember the last time I had held a newspaper. Or having my fingers stained by newsprint. Or read the comics. I reached down and picked up the paper and put it in my shopping cart. When I got home, I took it out of the shopping bag and made a point of showing it to my wife and saying, “Hey hon look at what I picked up in the store.” With a certain amount of pride and awe in my voice. ‘Cool.’ she replied.

Before I knew it, I was sitting on the couch, paper in hand and a steaming cup of coffee next to me. I was in heaven.

I don’t buy the paper every day but if I know that I will have time to sit I pick one up. I still read the news on my tablet in the morning. But now not only do I grab a paper I also grab those freebie local papers to see what is going on in our new community. Analog and digital, they can blend.

Oh, I still have my Kindle and still have to read a bit everyday. No I have not picked up a true hardcover yet but who knows what the future holds.

Deadhead1155

 

 

The Trump We Did Not Want to See

When are we going to stop trying to rationalize the irrational?

Opinion Columnist for the New York Times.

(From Deadhead 1155: This began as a blog where I would share my observations on things I see around me. Lately, I have noticed many people writing pieces that say thoughts and observations that I agree with. So rather than reinvent the wheel I post their writings. I have not given up contributing my own thoughts, and will do so again. As a nation our Republic is at a crossroad not seen since the 1859. So much is going on. So much is at stake. Our Republic is at stake. And do I borrow from others more articulate than I.)

Much of the work of H.P. Lovecraft, an American horror and science fiction writer who worked during the first decades of the 20th century, is defined by individual encounters with the incomprehensible, with sights, sounds and ideas that undermine and disturb reality as his characters understand it. Faced with things too monstrous to be real, but which exist nonetheless, Lovecraftian protagonists either reject their senses or descend into madness, unable to live with what they’ve learned.

It feels, at times, that when it comes to Donald Trump, our political class is this Lovecraftian protagonist, struggling to understand an incomprehensibly abnormal president. The reality of Donald Trump — an amoral narcissist with no capacity for reflection or personal growth — is evident from his decades in public life. But rather than face this, too many people have rejected the facts in front of them, choosing an illusion instead of the disturbing truth.

The past week has been a prime example of this phenomenon. On Thursday night, the United States killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani of Iran leader of the Islamic Republic’s Quds Force and one of the most powerful military leaders in the region. The strike was sudden and unexpected. The White House notified Congress only after the fact, with a brief, classified document.

The assassination of Suleimani was tantamount to a declaration of war and has escalated tensions between the United States and Iran. Tehran has already promised “harsh revenge” against the United States, while Trump said he would “HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD” if Iran made good on its threat, vowing an attack on “52 Iranian sites” including locations “important to Iran & the Iranian culture.”

This standoff, which in its latest incarnation saw Iranian missiles sailing toward bases in western Iraq on Tuesday night, is so consequential that it’s been hard not to impute some logic to the president’s actions, even as many observers acknowledge the lies and dysfunction surrounding the attack. It’s only natural. As humans, we want to impose order on what we see. As Americans, we want to believe our leaders understand the gravity of war. Traditional news outlets published detailed descriptions of the president’s decision-making process. Sympathetic observers, like Matthew Continetti of the Washington Free Beacon, hailed the strike as a “stunning blow to international terrorism and a reassertion of American might.” Cable news analysts spoke as if this was part of a considered plan for challenging the Iranian Government.

But we’ve learned since that the strike on Suleimani was almost certainly another impulsive action from an impatient president. Pentagon officials have said they were stunned by the decision. According to reporting in The Times, they gave Trump the option of an attack with the expectation that he would reject it for being too extreme. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been pushing for an attack on Iran for some time, but the past few days of confusion — of mixed-messages and shifting rationales — are evidence that this strike was made with little thought to the consequences, justified after the fact with claims of imminent danger.

This is reckless but it isn’t shocking. Trump is not a steady hand. He’s never been one. Three years in office have neither changed his character nor enhanced his capabilities. He is as ignorant and incurious as a president as he was as a candidate (and as a would-be mogul before that). His main goal is self-preservation, and he’ll sacrifice anything to achieve it. His current assault on the authority of Congress — his refusal to have the White House or members of his administration release documents or obey subpoenas — is an attempt to escape responsibility for his own unethical (and potentially illegal) actions. He is self-involved, unethical and unstable — a dangerous combination to have for the commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful military forces, under pressure from impeachment and a re-election campaign.

I think most observers know this. But the implications are terrifying. They suggest a much more dangerous world than the one we already believe we live in, where in a fit of pique, a single action taken by a single man could have catastrophic consequences for millions of people. This isn’t a new observation. When he was still a rival — and not one of Trump’s most reliable allies — Senator Marco Rubio of Florida warned Republicans that they shouldn’t give “the nuclear codes of the United States” to an “erratic individual.” Hillary Clinton said Trump was “temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility” and that “a man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

Fear of what Trump would do with the power of the presidency was so acute that his defenders actually urged critics to ignore his actual words in favor of symbolic understanding, to take him “seriously” but not “literally.” You can even understand the constant drive to normalize Trump as an attempt to turn away from the reality of what he is for fear of what it means.

Somehow, we’re still doing it. Everything we know about Trump says he doesn’t make considered choices. Pence and Pompeo may have campaigned for an attack on Iran, but there’s no evidence that Trump — the actual president — has planned for the consequences, or has a rationale for the strike other than his usual brand of bellicose nationalism. When Iran retaliated Tuesday night, the president did not speak, although of course he tweeted. No one knows what the administration will do next.

In his careless thrashing, the president may have started a war with no plan to end it and no regard for the lives that will be lost. The situation is precarious. It’s scary to think about. But we cannot look away.

Much of the work of H.P. Lovecraft, an American horror and science fiction writer who worked during the first decades of the 20th century, is defined by individual encounters with the incomprehensible, with sights, sounds and ideas that undermine and disturb reality as his characters understand it. Faced with things too monstrous to be real, but which exist nonetheless, Lovecraftian protagonists either reject their senses or descend into madness, unable to live with what they’ve learned.

It feels, at times, that when it comes to Donald Trump, our political class is this Lovecraftian protagonist, struggling to understand an incomprehensibly abnormal president. The reality of Donald Trump — an amoral narcissist with no capacity for reflection or personal growth — is evident from his decades in public life. But rather than face this, too many people have rejected the facts in front of them, choosing an illusion instead of the disturbing truth.

The past week has been a prime example of this phenomenon. On Thursday night, the United States killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani of Iran leader of the Islamic Republic’s Quds Force and one of the most powerful military leaders in the region. The strike was sudden and unexpected. The White House notified Congress only after the fact, with a brief, classified document.

The assassination of Suleimani was tantamount to a declaration of war and has escalated tensions between the United States and Iran. Tehran has already promised “harsh revenge” against the United States, while Trump said he would “HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD” if Iran made good on its threat, vowing an attack on “52 Iranian sites” including locations “important to Iran & the Iranian culture.”

This standoff, which in its latest incarnation saw Iranian missiles sailing toward bases in western Iraq on Tuesday night, is so consequential that it’s been hard not to impute some logic to the president’s actions, even as many observers acknowledge the lies and dysfunction surrounding the attack. It’s only natural. As humans, we want to impose order on what we see. As Americans, we want to believe our leaders understand the gravity of war. Traditional news outlets published detailed descriptions of the president’s decision-making process. Sympathetic observers, like Matthew Continetti of the Washington Free Beacon, hailed the strike as a “stunning blow to international terrorism and a reassertion of American might.” Cable news analysts spoke as if this was part of a considered plan for challenging the Iranian government.

But we’ve learned since that the strike on Suleimani was almost certainly another impulsive action from an impatient president. Pentagon officials have said they were stunned by the decision. According to reporting in The Times, they gave Trump the option of an attack with the expectation that he would reject it for being too extreme. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been pushing for an attack on Iran for some time, but the past few days of confusion — of mixed-messages and shifting rationales — are evidence that this strike was made with little thought to the consequences, justified after the fact with claims of imminent danger.

This is reckless but it isn’t shocking. Trump is not a steady hand. He’s never been one. Three years in office have neither changed his character nor enhanced his capabilities. He is as ignorant and incurious as a president as he was as a candidate (and as a would-be mogul before that). His main goal is self-preservation, and he’ll sacrifice anything to achieve it. His current assault on the authority of Congress — his refusal to have the White House or members of his administration release documents or obey subpoenas — is an attempt to escape responsibility for his own unethical (and potentially illegal) actions. He is self-involved, unethical and unstable — a dangerous combination to have for the commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful military forces, under pressure from impeachment and a re-election campaign.

I think most observers know this. But the implications are terrifying. They suggest a much more dangerous world than the one we already believe we live in, where in a fit of pique, a single action taken by a single man could have catastrophic consequences for millions of people. This isn’t a new observation. When he was still a rival — and not one of Trump’s most reliable allies — Senator Marco Rubio of Florida warned Republicans that they shouldn’t give “the nuclear codes of the United States” to an “erratic individual.” Hillary Clinton said Trump was “temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility” and that “a man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

Fear of what Trump would do with the power of the presidency was so acute that his defenders actually urged critics to ignore his actual words in favor of symbolic understanding, to take him “seriously” but not “literally.” You can even understand the constant drive to normalize Trump as an attempt to turn away from the reality of what he is for fear of what it means.

Somehow, we’re still doing it. Everything we know about Trump says he doesn’t make considered choices. Pence and Pompeo may have campaigned for an attack on Iran, but there’s no evidence that Trump — the actual president — has planned for the consequences, or has a rationale for the strike other than his usual brand of bellicose nationalism. When Iran retaliated Tuesday night, the president did not speak, although of course he tweeted. No one knows what the administration will do next.

In his careless thrashing, the president may have started a war with no plan to end it and no regard for the lives that will be lost. The situation is precarious. It’s scary to think about. But we cannot look away.

I Headed the F.B.I. and C.I.A. There’s a Dire Threat to the Country I Love. By William Webster

Note from Deadhead1155: This page, Eyes of the World, is a mix of personal observations as well as things that I see in print that I feel should be shared. I always welcome comments and discussion whether you agree or not. Please feel free to leave your comments and personal thoughts. 

What follows is an Op Ed piece in this morning’s (December 16,2019)  New York Times. Mr. Webster is a former federal judge and the former director of both the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. He served under two Presidents one a Democrat and the other a Republican.

The rule of law is the principle that protects every American from the abuse of monarchs, despots and tyrants.

The privilege of being the only American in our history to serve as the director of both the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. gives me a unique perspective and a responsibility to speak out about a dire threat to the rule of law in the country I love. Order protects liberty, and liberty protects order. Today, the integrity of the institutions that protect our civil order is, tragically, under assault from too many people whose job it should be to protect them.

The rule of law is the bedrock of American democracy, the principle that protects every American from the abuse of monarchs, despots and tyrants. Every American should demand that our leaders put the rule of law above politics.

I am deeply disturbed by the assertion of President Trump that our “current director” — as he refers to the man he selected for the job of running the F.B.I. — cannot fix what the president calls a broken agency. The 10-year term given to all directors following J. Edgar Hoover’s 48-year tenure was created to provide independence for the director and for the bureau. The president’s thinly veiled suggestion that the director, Christopher Wray, like his banished predecessor, James Comey, could be on the chopping block, disturbs me greatly. The independence of both the F.B.I. and its director is critical and should be fiercely protected by each branch of government.

Over my nine-plus years as F.B.I. director, I reported to four honorable attorneys general. Each clearly understood the importance of the rule of law in our democracy and the critical role the F.B.I. plays in the enforcement of our laws. They fought to protect both, knowing how important it was that our F.B.I. remain independent of political influence of any kind.

As F.B.I. director, I served two presidents, one a Democrat, Jimmy Carter, who selected me in part because I was a Republican, and one a Republican, Ronald Reagan, whom I revered. Both of these presidents so respected the bureau’s independence that they went out of their way not to interfere with or sway our activities. I never once felt political pressure.

I know firsthand the professionalism of the men and women of the F.B.I. The aspersions cast upon them by the president and my longtime friend, Attorney General William P. Barr, are troubling in the extreme. Calling F.B.I. professionals “scum,” as the president did, is a slur against people who risk their lives to keep us safe. Mr. Barr’s charges of bias within the F.B.I., made without providing any evidence and in direct dispute of the findings of the nonpartisan inspector general, risk inflicting enduring damage on this critically important institution.

The country can ill afford to have a chief law enforcement officer dispute the Justice Department’s own independent inspector general’s report and claim that an F.B.I. investigation was based on “a completely bogus narrative.” In fact, the report conclusively found that the evidence to initiate the Russia investigation was unassailable. There were more than 100 contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russian agents during the 2016 campaign, and Russian efforts to undermine our democracy continue to this day. I’m glad the F.B.I. took the threat seriously. It is important, Mr. Wray said last week, that the inspector general found that “the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization.”

As a lawyer and a former federal judge, I made it clear when I headed both the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. that the rule of law would be paramount in all we did. While both agencies are staffed by imperfect human beings, the American people should understand that both agencies are composed of some of the most law-abiding, patriotic and dedicated people I have ever met. While their faces and actions are not seen by most Americans, rest assured that they are serving our country well.

I have complete confidence in Mr. Wray, and I know that the F.B.I. is not a broken institution. It is a professional agency worthy of respect and support. The derision and aspersions are dangerous and unwarranted.

I’m profoundly disappointed in another longtime, respected friend, Rudy Giuliani, who had spent his life defending our people from those who would do us harm. His activities of late concerning Ukraine have, at a minimum, failed the smell test of propriety. I hope he, like all of us, will redirect to our North Star, the rule of law, something so precious it is greater than any man or administration.

This difficult moment demands the restoration of the proper place of the Department of Justice and the F.B.I. as bulwarks of law and order in America. This is not about politics. This is about the rule of law. Republicans and Democrats alike should defend it above all else.

In my nearly 96 years, I have seen our country rise above extraordinary challenges — the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, segregation, assassinations, the resignation of a president and 9/11, to name just a few.

I continue to believe in and pray for the ability of all Americans to overcome our differences and pursue the common good. Order protects liberty, and liberty protects order.

William Webster, a former federal judge, was director of the F.B.I. from 1978 to 1987, and director of the C.I.A. from 1987 to 1991.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles.  And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

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Opinion: Trump Is the Founders’ Worst Nightmare

Occasionally through my eyes I see things that I feel must be shared even though I did not compose them. This is one of those times. We Americans have been living through some historic times. Regardless of Party affiliation or belief we are living through a period in our Republic which will ultimately affect us and the whole world order.

What follows is one person’s take on this. Borrowed from the New York Times.

Deadhead 1155

The very conduct that necessitates presidential impeachment also supplies the means for the demagogue to escape it.

Mr. Bauer served as a White House counsel under President Barack Obama.

Donald Trump’s Republican congressional allies are throwing up different defenses against impeachment and hoping that something may sell. They say that he didn’t seek a corrupt political bargain with Ukraine, but that if he did, he failed, and the mere attempt is not impeachable. Or that it is not clear that he did it, because the evidence against him is unreliable “hearsay.”

It’s all been very confusing. But the larger story — the crucial constitutional story — is not the incoherence of the president’s defense. It is more that he and his party are exposing limits of impeachment as a response to the presidency of a demagogue.

The founders feared the demagogue, who figures prominently in the Federalist Papers as the politician who, possessing “perverted ambition,” pursues relentless self-aggrandizement “by the confusions of their country.” The last of the papers, Federalist No. 85, linked demagogy to its threat to the constitutional order — to the “despotism” that may be expected from the “victorious demagogue.” This “despotism” is achieved through systematic lying to the public, vilification of the opposition and, as James Fenimore Cooper wrote in an essay on demagogues, a claimed right to disregard “the Constitution and the laws” in pursuing what the demagogue judges to be the “interests of the people.”

Should the demagogue succeed in winning the presidency, impeachment in theory provides the fail-safe protection. And yet the demagogue’s political tool kit, it turns out, may be his most effective defense. It is a constitutional paradox: The very behaviors that necessitate impeachment supply the means for the demagogue to escape it.

As the self-proclaimed embodiment of the American popular will, the demagogue portrays impeachment deliberations as necessarily a threat to democracy, a facade for powerful interests arrayed against the people that only he represents. Critics and congressional opponents are traitors. Norms and standing institutional interests are fraudulent.

President Trump has made full use of the demagogic playbook. He has refused all cooperation with the House. He lies repeatedly about the facts, holds public rallies to spread these falsehoods and attacks the credibility, motives and even patriotism of witnesses. His mode of “argument” is purely assaultive. This is the crux of the Trump defense, and not an argument built on facts in support of a constitutional theory of the case.

Of course, all the presidents who have faced impeachment mounted a political defense, to go with their legal and constitutional case. And it is not unusual that they — and, even more vociferously, their allies — will attack the process as a means of undoing an election.

The difference in Mr. Trump’s case is not merely one of degree. Richard Nixon despised his opposition, convinced of their bad faith and implacable hatred for him. But it is hard to imagine Mr. Trump choosing (and actually meaning) these words to conclude, as Nixon did, a letter to the chair of Judiciary Committee: “[If] the committee desires further information from me … I stand ready to answer, under oath, pertinent written interrogatories, and to be interviewed under oath by you and the ranking minority member at the White House.”

Mr. Trump has instead described Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, as a “corrupt” politician who shares with other “human scum” the objective of running the “most unfair hearings in American history.”

These remarks are not merely one more instance of Mr. Trump’s failure to curb his impulses. This is his constitutional defense strategy. Mr. Trump’s White House counsel, informing the House of the president’s refusal to cooperate, declared that the impeachment process is unconstitutional and invalid — a “naked political strategy” — and advised that the president would not participate. It matters that the president’s lawyer, in a formal communication with the House, used rhetoric that might have been expected from the hardest-core political supporters. Once again, contrasts with past impeachments are illuminating. Bill Clinton’s White House counsel Charles Ruff testified before the House Judiciary Committee, pledging to “assist you in performing your constitutional duties.”

The demagogue may be boundlessly confident in his own skills and force of political personality, but he cannot succeed on those alone. He can thrive only in political conditions conducive to the effective practice of these dark arts, such as widespread distrust of institutions, a polarized polity and a fractured media environment in which it is possible to construct alternative pictures of social realities. Weak political parties now fall quickly into line with a demagogue who can bring intense pressure to bear on party officials and officeholders through his hold on “the base.” As we have seen with Mr. Trump, the demagogue can bully his party into being an instrument of his will, silencing or driving out dissenters. Republican officeholders know that Mr. Trump can take to Twitter or to Fox News or to the podium at rallies — or all of the above — to excoriate them for a weak will or disloyalty.

This is how the Republican Party has become Mr. Trump’s party. It is also why that party will not conceive of its role in impeachment as entailing a constitutional responsibility independent of the president’s political and personal interests. It has come to see those interests as indistinguishable from its own. In this way the constitutional defense of the case against Mr. Trump and the defense of his own interests become one and the same. As another fabled demagogue, Huey Long of Louisiana, famously announced: “I’m the Constitution around here now.”

The implications for the constitutional impeachment process are dire. Until Mr. Trump, modern impeachment has ended with some generally positive assessment of its legacy. Nixon’s resignation appeared to indicate that serious charges could bring the parties together in defense of the rule of law. “The system worked” was a popular refrain, even if this was a somewhat idealized and oversimplified version of events. The Clinton impeachment suggested that the standards for an impeachable offense required a distinction between public misconduct and private morality, and Congress reclaimed its responsibility for impeachment from an independent counsel statute that was allowed to lapse.

The Trump impeachment is headed toward a very different summation. A demagogue can claim that Congress has forfeited the right to recognition of its impeachment power, then proceed to unleash a barrage of falsehoods and personal attacks to confuse the public, cow legislators and intimidate witnesses. So long as the demagogue’s party controls one of the two chambers of Congress, this strategy seems a sure bet.

When this is all over, we will not hear warm bipartisan praise for how “the system worked.” The lesson will be that, in the politics of the time, a demagogue who gets into the Oval Office is hard to get out.

Bob Bauer is a professor of practice and distinguished scholar in residence at New York University School of Law and served as a White House counsel under President Barack Obama.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

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BASTILLE DAY 1957 OR HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY BROTHER.

Back on Bastille Day in 1957 I was 20 months old living the good life. There we were living in Poughkeepsie, NY. Mom, Dad, Taffy (our cocker spaniel) and me. Suddenly at that very young age I felt a ripple in the force. Yes a ripple in still waters. I wasn’t aware of the reason why (after all I was just 20 months old) but none the less I knew that something strange and new was happening that was going to change life as I knew it on our planet. My father came home every night but my mother was nowhere to be found. During the day, these strange gray haired people would keep an eye on me until my father got home from work. Then suddenly after about a week of this the front door to our apartment swung open and low and behold there was my father carrying a valise and my mother carrying this little thing wrapped up in a blanket. They announced that our family had a new member. That I had a brother named Mark and that he would be living with us. I did what any normal 20 month old would do that was used to being the center of attention. I ran over to my mother and my little brother and swiftly kicked my mother in the shin until someone pulled me off of her.

Scan_20180708a (2)This is a picture of Mark with our paternal grandfather. Doesn’t look too happy does he? Mark I mean not our grandfather.

As time went on I slowly, very slowly, got used to the idea that Mark was here to stay and wasn’t leaving. But something wasn’t right. I had the distinct feeling that Mark had decided that he wanted to be the center of our family unit and strange things started to happen.   In the Summer of 1961 our maternal grandparents took a home in Rockaway, NY and we spent 2 weeks there in July. Our father would take the subway to work and we would hang out and walk the boardwalk eating Italian ices, pizza and after a half hour of that we were allowed to go into the water.

Grandpa George Rockaway 1961Here is a picture of Mark and me with our grandfather. Notice how even then Mark was sitting with one hand propped up holding his head trying to figure out how to get rid of me. If you look carefully you can see the smoke coming out of his ears and me with my eyes shut tight in terror.

Our parents were completely oblivious to any of his shenanigans. One night while he was kneeling on his dresser and we were watching the snow fall, just to get me in trouble, he fell off of the dresser and cut his eye open. Mark was screaming and crying. Blood was pouring over his head like a bucket of Gatorade after the Super Bowl. Our parents came running in and asked what happened. I told them that Mark slipped and fell. Mark told them that I pushed him and told him that if he told on me I would beat him up. Well they believed him and I got the shit kicked out of me and Mark got stitches and a good laugh whenever he thought of that beating.

Well in 1963 shortly after President Kennedy was shot we moved from Ridgefield, NJ to Teaneck, NJ. Teaneck was a very progressive town. They had something called New Math. New Math? WTF I couldn’t even add or subtract. Mark on the other hand really excelled in this new school system and in his own methodical way he began to plan on getting rid of me for good.Scan_20180708b (2) But not so fast, this had to be done in such a way to keep him looking like he was just an innocent bystander.  Look at that smile on his face. Look at the evil in his eyes. What you can’t see is his left hand. That is because he is giving me the finger and the photographer cut the picture so that no one would see it. But I was there, I saw it. And when I told our parents what he did once again I got the shit kicked out of me for making up stories. Stories? I knew better. All the world saw was this cute kid with a disarming smile. Scan_20180708d (2)I saw evil. I know you find that hard to believe. Well let me tell you a little story. Down the street lived my friend Marc G. Since Mark and I were only 20 months apart in age we used to all hang out together. Well my dear brother decided one day, when our folks were out, that he was hungry for pizza and fried chicken. So he suggested to Marc G. and I that it would be really funny if we ordered 10 pizzas for one of our neighbors and a bucket of fried chicken. As an afterthought Mark wanted French fries and had us order a side of fries to go with it. Now this was the days when businesses needed reverse phone books to figure out if this was a legitimate call or not. Well a minute after hanging up while Marc G. and I were laughing hysterically the phone rang. I picked it up and it was the pizza guy. He accused us of making a phony phone call and started screaming at me. I cracked and admitted it. The pizza never came but the chicken did. Before that however Marc G. and I got on our bikes and hightailed it out of there. My brother stayed behind to see what would happen when the chicken guy showed up. After an eternity we went back home. There was Mark sitting in the kitchen eating a bucket of chicken with French fries with my parents. Once again, I got the shit kicked out of me while Mark got dinner.

Well time continued to pass. Mark and bike

I guess Mark needed some fresh ideas and took up bike riding. Something that he does to this day to clear his head, he claims. Here is a picture of him on his first serious bike. See how happy he looks? See the hairdo? In fact he is probably wearing a pair of PF Flyers on his feet because he wanted to be able to run faster and jump higher then me.

In reality I began to feel that Mark and I had reached an understanding. We were hanging with the same group of people, I wasn’t getting the shit kicked out of me as much anymore and we could even laugh while watching Batman on TV.

The one thing that we found common ground in was that we both love the NY Yankees. Mark, still needing to be better then me would study the Stats in the Sporting News daily so that he could quote every players RBI’s, or home runs, or a pitchers ERA. Me? I was still trying to figure out who wore number 9 or 7 since the Yankees don’t have their names on their jerseys. But none the less we shared the Yankees. We would take the bus to Fort Lee, walk across the George Washington Bridge (to save a few bucks to get an extra hotdog at the game). Grab the A train to 145th St the D train to 161st street in the Bronx to watch the game. Those were the days. Soda was $.10, a hotdog was $.50 and tickets to the game were $5. Finally Mark and I had something in common. As the years went by we had something else too, Bruce Springsteen. 2018DNM

Mark moved to California and I guess that the 3000 miles and year round summer helped him to forget about our problems. And his jealousy that I was born first. I think that he also realized that if I was born first then he would die last. And thereby get the last laugh.

Any way Happy 62 Birthday Mark. It seems like just yesterday that I pushed you off of that dresser.

 

PS:        You know while preparing this little cock and bull story I came across two pictures of Mark. One as he is when the sun goes down and he becomes the ‘Don’ of Alisa Viejo, and another of Mark in one of his palatial estates on one of the Hawaiian Islands. I’ll leave it to you, those that know him best to figure out which one is really him. Me? I’m 3000 miles away and in the Witness Protection Program. LOL.

Mark the mobster (2)Yankee in Hawaii

Memorial Day

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Memorial Day. Originally called Decoration Day. The beginning of Decoration Day is foggy to say the least. What is known is that it began as a way of commemorating  the Soldiers of the Civil War. Some write that the practice actually began prior to the Civil War.  On June 3, 1861, Warrenton, Virginia, was the location of the first Civil War soldier’s grave ever to be decorated, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper article in 1906. In 1862, women in Savannah, Georgia decorated Confederate soldiers’ graves according to the Savannah Republican. The 1863 cemetery dedication at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was a ceremony of commemoration at the graves of dead soldiers. Some have therefore claimed that Lincoln was the founder of Memorial Day. In April 1865, following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, commemorations were widespread. The more than 600,000 soldiers of both sides who died in the Civil War meant that burial and memorialization took on new cultural significance.

Today there are Memorial Day sales at all types of stores. We are inundated with ads on the internet, in our emails, newspapers (for those that still read the news on paper), on our tablets, and all over television.  We barbecue, go camping, and go to ball games. This weekend is the unofficial kickoff of the Summer. Beaches open, in NJ the pitch of the arcade hawkers can be heard almost the whole distance of the shoreline. There are parades all over the country to celebrate. And this is just the tip of the list of wonderful things that we Americans do on Memorial Day Weekend.

How do I celebrate the holiday? I never thought that you would ask. When I was young I used to host a Memorial Day barbecue, drink beer or Old Number 7 and party hearty since it was a day off of work. That ended over 20 years ago. When I became involved with the Boy Scouts of America I began to learn the true meaning of the Memorial Day holiday. Our Troop is chartered by the local American Legion Post. Every year we were asked to participate in their Memorial Day Remembrance. We would raise and lower the American Flag to half mast. Help lay wreaths and on occasion one of our Scouts was asked to recite something during the ceremony. As each year passed, I found myself listening intently to what these Veterans, and current members of the various branches of the Military had to say. One day i had this epiphany. I understood what the real meaning of ‘All gave some and some gave all’ really means.  So I do not shop at all on this holiday. I do not partake in barbecuing or swimming or any of the really fun stuff until I have paid my respect to our brave fallen men and women that gave all to keep America free.

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THE RIDERLESS HORSE WITH THE BOOTS REVERSED IN THE STIRRUPS. SYMBOLIC OF THE FALLEN COMRADE.

Jump ahead to this year. My wife and I are fulltime RVers. It was not easy to get back to our old hometown to be with my Troop today, so I decided to seek out how our home for the summer, Branchville NJ was going to pay homage to these souls. I found out that there was a parade followed by a commemorative ceremony in the town square at their gazebo. Branchville, if you have never been there is truly ‘small town America.’ It is in farm country. The town was settled in 1690 and incorporated in 1898. You are out of the downtown area before you realize that you are even in it. We love it. We began the day with our son and grandson and a couple of friends watching the parade. It had the proverbial fire trucks, new and old, police cars, EMT trucks. A few old cars, Veterans on foot and riding, old tractors, Boy and Girl Scouts, Little League, Soccer League, and many others that came by in a blur that I cannot mention. Please accept my apologizes.

Truly a beautiful symbol the Americana that I yearn for and seek out. Afterwards the town gathered in the square around the gazebo to truly pay homage to their fallen. The Master of Ceremonies was a 98 year old veteran of the Second World War. I learned a lot about all of the killing, maiming, burning, and horrors that he saw all in the name of preserving our Freedom. Others spoke as well. Each with a story that would make anyone stop and shake their head. The Boy Scouts raised and lowered the American Flag to half mast. A young lady sang the Star Spangled Banner and she hit every note perfectly. Yes perfectly. We met current members of the Armed Forces. I went and thanked as many as I could for serving. Who knows if they will be here next year or the year after.

For today, I put our turbulent times behind me and realized that the price of Freedom is not Free. Thank you to all those that have served our Nation, to those serving currently, and to those that made the ultimate sacrifice. I for one will never forget your contribution.

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#MemorialDay

THE TIME TO ENACT THE 25TH AMENDMENT HAS ARRIVED.

I have been reading some very disturbing news in various media outlets that, quite frankly, have me scared.  Scared for the future of our once great Nation. I do not see any good on the horizon. And that is what scares me.

Let me digress for a moment. For my entire voting life I have never belonged to a Political Party. Which means that in the State in which I have legal residency, I am not allowed to vote in the Primaries. In our Democratic Republic the Primary elections are more important than the General Elections because that is where we choose the people for the General Elections and ultimately our representatives in government. I have always voted issues not party line. Also, I was not a supporter of HRC in 2016 as I felt that the Clintons were the modern day Political Machine. Equivalent to the first Mayor Daley in Chicago, or Frank Hague in New Jersey, or Boss Tweed in New York City. But I felt that the Choices in the General Election made her the lesser of two evils. Yes voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil. Even so I felt that considering who Vladimir Putin was manipulating to be the Republican candidate was almost, if not worse than, having Adolph Hitler run for President. Putin won and our Nation lost.

Growing up on the western shores of the Hudson River I spent decades of my life watching the Trump family dynasty and was constantly amazed with every twist and turn at just how crooked they were/and are. I was also very aware of just how corrupt Charles Kushner and his businesses were and still are. When Ivanka married Jared it was Kismet for both families and for Russia and Putin.

Yes Putin. I just finished reading an amazing book called ‘The House of Trump. The House of Putin. And the Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia.’ by Craig Unger. People have been screaming at me that he is known for writing books with a Liberal tilt but to be honest, much of what is in that book I was already aware of. The rest just fit into place and makes loads of sense. I am surprised that more people have not read it. Please do. I truly understand where the Mueller investigation is going and pray that he succeeds.

I will not list all of the shady deals that ‘The Donald’ has done but will name a few. When building Trump Plaza he sold almost one third of the condos to Russian Mafia Oligarchs for cash. Cash delivered right to his desk by the Oligarchs. Thereby laundering money for the Russian Mafia. According to the Washington Post, ‘...in 1991 Fred gave Donald the equivalent of an interest-free loan by buying $3.5 million of chips from the Trump Castle casino-hotel in Atlantic City, N.J. According to an article in the Atlantic City Press, a lawyer representing Fred Trump showed up at the Castle on Dec. 17, deposited a $3.35 million certified check, bought 670 $5,000 chips at a high-stakes blackjack table, stuck the chips in a bag and left. The next day, Fred wired $150,000 to the casino and bought another 30 chips.’ The article continues, ‘Because Donald knew that his father wouldn’t cash in the chips right away, he could use the extra $3.5 million in the till to help make the $18.4 million interest payment due on the bonds.’ Money that he owed to the banks in interest payments. This is just on of many examples of what Trump has done to try and keep his (so called) empire afloat.

Then there is Jared Kushner’s father Charles Kushner. He laundered money through the Israeli Chabad  as one of their top 10 financiers. Vladimir Putin is at the top of the list of financiers of the Israeli Chabad. Why? The U.S.S.R was crumbling. Putin wanted to get the Russian Mafia Oligarchs out  safely so he donated lots of money to the Chabad knowing that Israel would allow anyone Jewish in to the country to live and who would question their religion with all that money pouring into the country? Putin + Russian Mafia + Trump Condos = Laundered money.

What has become of Trump’s tax returns? Is he not the self made millionaire that he claims to be or is he over leveraged?

Then there is the video of him bragging about being a p***y puller.  Is he a womanizer and adulterer (yes not the first in the White House but does that make it right)? Has he paid off women to be quiet so that he could win the Presidency?

Did he use false claims regarding immigrants and people seeking asylum to gain the votes of the, in many cases, less educated? (Oh that one is going to catch hell for me). Did Donald and his Father deny rentals to people of color or ethnicity? Yes they were fined but…

Once elected did he fill his Cabinet with and put people in positions that go against everything that their respective Department stand for? Oh and most of them are people that gain financially by wrecking those Departments  and don’t care what it does to our Nation and future generations? Lets face it, coal is 19th century. Time to move on to new technologies.

Fake News? The man is the king of fake news. He is trying to kill the media and only let his propaganda get out there. Isn’t that what Dictators  do to win power. (See: Adolph Hitler, Idi Amin, Etc.) It is known that he kept a copy of Mein Kamph within his reach to refer to.

Here is a Tweet that I borrowed from the Washington Post regarding his lies and own ‘fake news’

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Let’s look at the Stock Market. When it was up he was crowing like a rooster. Now that it is tanking and is on track to fall worse than it did in 1929 not a peep out of him. This time he cannot yell Fake News.

Trump promised new jobs in the country. Yes the economy is a pendulum that swings back and forth. Yes unemployment is at record lows, however how many of us are now at the age for Social Security and are not looking for work. The population is aging and there are not as many young people out there to take our place in the work force. AND many companies are closing plants and laying off people. Those numbers will hit the unemployment report eventually.

Social Security and Medicare are not entitlements. We have been paying into it our whole working lives. Food Stamps and Welfare? Yes many abuse that system. But many really need it. But that does not make it an entitlement.

With one swipe of his pen, Trump has put us in more debt than this country has ever seen. His tax break will only help him and the top 1%.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Trump is careening out of control. And the worse things get the more he watches TV and Tweets. There was a fantastic article in today’s New York Times. Here is the link. Please click on it and read it. For Trump, ‘a War Every Day,’ Waged Increasingly Alone

Here is just a small snippet from the article: By all accounts, Mr. Trump’s consumption of cable television has actually increased in recent months as his first scheduled meetings of the day have slid back from the 9 or 9:30 a.m. set by Reince Priebus, his first chief of staff, to roughly 11 many mornings. During “executive time,” Mr. Trump watches television in the residence for hours, reacting to what he sees on Fox News. While in the West Wing, he leaves it on during most meetings in the dining room off the Oval Office, one ear attuned to what is being said.

Articles and reports like this are appearing not in just the ‘Liberal’ press but in the Conservative outlets as well.

I could go on and on and on. I won’t but I hope that I have given you some food for thought.

It is my opinion that the time to enact the 25th Amendment to the Constitution has come. This Amendment deals with deals with issues related to presidential succession and disability. To remove this increasingly unstable President fall under Section 4 of the Amendment:

Section 4: Declaration by vice president and principal officers

Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

 

Section 4 addresses the case of an incapacitated president who is unable or unwilling to execute the voluntary declaration contemplated in Section 3; it is the amendment’s only section that has never been invoked. It allows the vice president, together with a “majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide”, to declare the president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” in a written declaration to Congress. The transfer of authority to the vice president is immediate and (as with Section 3) the vice president becomes acting president – not president – and the president remains in office, though without authority.[6]

The “principal officers of the executive departments” are the fifteen Cabinet members enumerated in the United States Code at 5 U.S.C 101:

A president declared unable to serve may issue a counter-declaration stating that he is indeed able. This marks the beginning of a four-day period during which the vice president remains acting president.[10][11] If by the end of this period the vice president and a majority of the “principal officers of the executive departments” have not issued a second declaration of the president’s incapacity, then the president resumes his powers and duties.

If a second declaration of incapacity is issued within the four-day period, then the vice president remains acting president while Congress considers the matter. If within 21 days the Senate and the House determine, each by a two-thirds vote, that the president is incapacitated, then the vice president continues as acting president. If either the Senate or the House holds a vote on the question which falls short of the two-thirds requirement, or the 21 days pass without both votes having taken place, then the president resumes his powers and duties.[11][12]

Section 4’s requirements for the vice president to remain acting president indefinitely – a declaration by the vice president together with a majority of the principal officers or other body, then a two-thirds vote in the House and a two-thirds vote in the Senate – contrasts with the Constitution’s procedure for removal of the president from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors” – a majority of the House followed by two-thirds of the Senate.

Should it happen. I truly believe it. Will this ever happen. I highly doubt it especially that those remaining in his Cabinet are his own sycophants and can’t see past the nose on their faces.

Pray for America. Pray hard and everyday. If not for us today but for our Nation and our future Americans.