Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Kasich Is All Cuddly But at Heart a Conservative

You have to hand it to John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, who failed in his attempt to secure the Republican Party presidential nomination but who continues to try to present himself as a reasonable, humane, thoughtful, non divisive alternative to Donald Trump should there be a vacancy, for any reason, at the top of the 2020 GOP ticket. 

Kasich appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers a day before Trump delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday. He sounded soooo normal. And Meyers, usually a sharp observer of the political landscape, fell into the trap Kasich set. 

You see, Kasich is a conservative. His tone might be different, more pleasing, than Trump’s, but his substance, the outcome of his actions, were he to inhabit the White House, would not be materially different.

Like an old sweater one wears around the house, Meyers felt comfortable talking kumbaya with Kasich. (Here are two clips encompassing the totality of the interview:

But Meyers never asked him any nitty gritty questions about what the Trump administration has done and if he would have done the same or acted differently.
What, for example, is Kasich’s position on coal? Is he in favor of softening environmental regulations on coal mining and burning? What’s his position on alternative energy sources? Would he permit oil and gas exploration along our coastlines?

Would he have nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court? In general, what criteria would he use in selecting federal judges?

How would he have fixed Obamacare? 

What are his beliefs on abortion and funding of Planned Parenthood for non abortion related activity?

What are his positions on NAFTA, the Paris climate accords, NATO, the Keystone Pipeline, the Trans Pacific Trade Pact, the United Nations, Jerusalem as the location of our embassy in Israel, the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the Iran nuclear deal?

How would he resolve differing views on the Dreamers? Would he build a southern border wall? What, if any, changes would he like to see in our immigration policy?

Does he believe Russia interfered in our 2016 election? 

Is he comfortable with the influence the religious right is having on government? 

Is the new tax plan acceptable to him?

Many of these questions can be answered by looking at Kasich’s Web site ( For example, Kasich champions his opposition to abortion and funding of Planned Parenthood. 

We live today in a sound bite world. For Meyers (and, to be honest, lots of other TV hosts) to give Kasich and other politicians a soapbox to sound statesmanlike without providing specifics would result in saddling us with another Trump, albeit with a more teddy bear demeanor.

We would be shaking our heads and wondering how we got duped again. Meyers is an entertainer. I get that. But he has injected himself five nights a week into the political dialogue so he needs to step up from one dimensional attacks on Trump’s behavior to offer constructive alternatives. 

Have more respect for, and confidence in, his audience, that viewers want not just jokes but hard information when interviewing Kasich et al, as he has done with his Closer Look segments. 

Alternative Universe: What alternative universe does Donald Trump live in? Prior to delivering his State of the Union speech he said his goal would be to end the divisiveness that has existed in the country for many years. 

It’s a laudable objective but does he not recognize that he is a prime reason we are a polarized society? 

From his despicable advocacy of the birther movement questioning the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency to his abusive comments, delivered live and in tweets, mostly about women but also about anyone who disagrees with him, to his embrace of neo-Nazi and alt-right leaders and members, to his denigration of national organizations such as the FBI and the CIA, Trump has done more to divide our country than any president of the last century. 

It’s no wonder that Kasich thinks being a “good guy” might be enough to propel him forward. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Recalling Ikea's Entry Into the U.S.

The year is 1985. It’s early spring. I’m in Chicago for the National Housewares Show and decide to visit the State Street downtown flagship store of Carson Pirie Scott, the perennial maid of honor to the bride of Windy City department store retailing, Marshall Field & Co. 

I’m sitting in the office of the chairman and chief executive, Dennis Bookshester, six months earlier the subject of a cover story in Chain Store Age on his efforts to resurrect Carson’s fortunes. He’s a veteran department store executive recently successful as the head of Caldor, a now defunct upscale discount store chain based in Norwalk, Conn.

I’ve known Dennis for several years so the conversation is casual and friendly, not guarded, not strained as often the case when executives talk with the press.

Dennis is outlining a strategy for overtaking Field’s based on making home goods a star attraction when suddenly Stewart A. Levine, vice president and general merchandise manager, Home Division, bursts into his office excitingly conveying news that Ikea, already operating in Canada, would be opening its first store in the United States, in Plymouth Meeting, PA, outside Philadelphia, later that year. 

The three of us talk about Ikea for several minutes, wondering whether it would conquer America as it had Scandinavia and parts of Europe. Would American consumers opt for no frills furniture retailing with the type of do-it-yourself assembly that leaves one frustrated after several hours of futility and vowing never to subject oneself to another such experience just to save hundreds of dollars? 

Thirty-two years later the answer is a resounding, YES! While knock-off stores, most notably STØR (with its pseudo Scandinavian name), tried to co-opt Ikea’s layout and expansion strategy in the U.S., they lacked Ikea’s systems, vendor relations and financial clout. 

I never met Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of Ikea, who died Saturday at age 91 ( But I’ve shopped his stores for three decades (buying a TV stand, dresser and wardrobe system, plus assorted kitchen utensils and dishes). Shopping Ikea is never a quick in-and-out affair. No visit, however, is complete without a stop at its restaurant for Swedish meatballs with Lingonberry sauce. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Picking a Favorite Football Team, Songs of My Parents, Punishing Helmet Hits

It is six days until kickoff of Super Bowl LII Sunday between the Philadelphia Eagles and the defending champions the New England Patriots. If my father were alive, there’s a good chance he would be rooting for the underdog Eagles.

Not that he handicapped any games. He barely knew what football was, the American version, that is. Growing up in Poland he knew football for what we call soccer. But I digress. 

After arriving on American shores in 1939, my father had a difficult time learning the intricacies of what was then, and by some still is, considered the national pastime, baseball. Occasionally he would watch parts of a game with my brother Bernie and me. It was our mother who took us to ball games until Bernie was old enough to escort me to Ebbets Field, Yankee Stadium, the Polo Grounds and Shea Stadium without adult supervision. 

Football was not a game my father ever spent any time watching. Because of his bald pate, he did, by the way, bear a striking resemblance to Y.A. Tittle, the “Bald Eagle” Hall of Fame quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers and, late in his career, the New York Giants, the team he led to three consecutive NFL Eastern Conference titles in 1961-62-63. Alas, he never was able to win a championship. 

Thirty-seven years ago my father got caught up in the frenzy of football memorabilia. As Bernie recalled, in late December 1979, Dad, an independent apparel manufacturer, surprised him by saying he was rooting for Philadelphia to win its next game. Bernie asked if he knew whether the team was playing football, basketball or hockey. “I don’t know, or care,” he replied. “I only know that if Philadelphia wins and plays next week, then I have an order for 10,000 green T-shirts with white sleeves!”

It was the Philadelphia Eagles football team. They played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a divisional playoff game. Philadelphia lost, 24-17. 

There are no shirt orders on the line for this Super Bowl matchup. I am rooting for the Patriots. Except when they’re playing the Giants, I favor New England. Their quarterback, Tom Brady, is just the best to watch dissect a defense. There are no other indispensable stars on the team. 

I want New England to win, as well, because our grandson Finley has become a Patriots fan and wears a Brady jersey while watching games. He began life as a Giants and Eli Manning fan, as his father, Dan and mother, Allison, and grandfather are. But living outside Boston the transformation into a Patriots booster was inevitable. 

To my knowledge, he has not succumbed to becoming a Red Sox devotee. I’m counting on his parents to keep him a Yankees fan. 

Sing a Song: When you’re in a reflective mood, do you find yourself humming or singing a song? I often do. But they’re not songs of my youth or adulthood. They are songs my parents sang.

My mother always had music playing in the background. Mostly American standards played on WVNJ-AM or WPAT-FM. She enjoyed Broadway musicals and operas. But the only two songs that resonate among memories of my mother were sung by Kate Smith and Jo Stafford.

“When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain” was Kate Smith’s theme song. I remember the lyric Mom sang as, 
“When the moon comes over the mountains
Someone waits for me” 

but the actual lyrics are, 
“When the moon comes over the mountain
I’m alone with my memory
Of you”

When she was in a more jocular mood Mom would sing the Jo Stafford song: 

“Shrimp boats is a-comin’ 
Their sails are in sight 
Shrimp boats is a-comin’ 
There’s dancin’ tonight”

Dad, on the other hand, did a virtuoso performance of “Home on the Range.” He’d belt it out whenever we’d be driving close to home after a family outing. Bernie says he liked that song because it was one of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s favorites. (

And Dad would sing late in the afternoon in his factory, usually while repairing a recalcitrant Merrow sewing machine. I can still see him hunched over the black machine, but I cannot place any melody.

Back to Football: There is one other star, maybe even a superstar, player on the Patriots. He’s Rob Gronkowski, a tight end who is a favorite receiver of Tom Brady. But it’s not certain he will play because he is recuperating from a concussion suffered when his helmet was hit by a defender’s helmet during the Patriots’ victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Helmet to helmet hits are the scourge of football especially now that concussions are considered the reason many players develop brain injuries. Yet defenders persist in leading with their heads when making tackles. 

There’s a simple way to reduce helmet to helmet injuries and other violent acts that lead to injuries: Suspend without pay the offender for as long as the injured player misses playing time. If the egregious incident occurs late in a season or playoff game the offending player’s punishment carries over to the following year if the injured player has a lingering injury. If it is a career ending injury the guilty party would be suspended for a full year in addition to any games left in the current schedule.

Faced with the loss of salary and playing time, tacklers will not risk butting helmets and coaches will go back to teaching fundamentals of football that do not include head to head contact.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Melania Has Earned Our Pity

Consider the symbolism of First Lady Melania Trump’s visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, Thursday while her husband junkets in Davos, Switzerland, among the corporate and political elites he has long disparaged. 

Consider the visual impact of the ultimate trophy wife staying home, foregoing an international stage, instead visiting a museum with a message of tolerance and engagement to prevent bigotry and its physical consequences.

Consider the humiliation Melania has suffered within the last month. In “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s tell all about the first hundred days of the Trump administration, she was displaced in bed by a cheeseburger. Even more ghastly was the revelation the philanderer-in-chief not only cheated on their marriage but did so within weeks of her delivering to him a son. Will she ever again be able to look upon Barron without visualizing Trump in his tighty-whities chasing porn star and director Stormy Daniels around a hotel bed, or being spanked by her with a rolled up copy of Forbes magazine featuring Donald, Donald Jr. and Ivanka pictured on the cover? (to those seeking the salacious details, here are three links: In Touch Weekly:;

Consider the symbolism of visiting the Holocaust museum on the day Trump advanced a program to restrict entry into the United States, entry denied to hundreds of thousands of Jews trapped in Nazi Germany and its occupied territories three-quarters of a century ago. 

Consider this visit to a memorial dedicated to victims who were denied their humanity even as she suffered indignity and humiliation heaped on her by her husband.

Consider a visit to an edifice dedicated to the tragic consequences of denying safe refuge to people persecuted for their religion even as the supposed “leader of the free world” disparages Islam and seeks to deny its adherents the opportunity to seek safety and freedom in America.

Consider the history of American inaction and indifference 90, 80, 70 years ago as refugees sought shelter but were turned away because of racist, bigoted immigration laws even as Trump seeks to close the door to America during the worst ever global displaced person crisis. 

Consider visiting a museum dedicated to the tragic aftermath of American xenophobia and isolationism, to the failure to maintain U.S. global leadership that allowed despots to march unchallenged across continents while Trump and his narrow-minded acolytes reject evidence of Russian interference in U.S. and foreign democratic elections, even as right wing movements, here and abroad, are given succor and retweets by a base and egotistical president with no appreciation of historical context. 

One wonders if Donald Trump has visited the Holocaust museum, not just for a fly-by tour as he did at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem last year, but to study in-depth the disastrous effects of prejudice coupled with an ultra-nationalist credo. Saturday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. What message should we expect?

Melania has taken more than her fair share of jabs from late night comedians, some justified, some not. Consider many of the (cruel) comments collateral damage for signing onto the macabre display of Trump’s presidential campaign and time in office. 

She is now seen as the cuckquean of an inveterate womanizer, a man we have come to learn has the temperament and attention span of a child. She has become the object of our pity. No matter how many millions or billions she might be entitled to, we all wonder, is it worth it? 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

To Legitimize the Dreamers, Fund the Wall

When the Branch Davidians holed up in their compound outside Waco, Texas, the federal government pleaded with cult leader David Koresh to release the children inside the building. They, after all, were too young to differentiate right from wrong, the wrong being the Davidians alleged sexual abuses and illegal weapons violations. The  children should not suffer any consequences for actions taken by their parents. Nineteen children were evacuated before the 51-day siege turned into a conflagration that killed 76 Davidians. That was in 1993. 

For the most part it has been the position of our government, at all levels, to absolve children for the misdeeds, alleged and real, of their parents or elders.

Even the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that juveniles should be treated differently than adults. It ordered a review of mandatory life sentences handed out to youths. Included in the fallout from that ruling is Lee Boyd Malvo, the teenage accomplice of the Beltway shooter whose killing spree totaled 10 victims around Washington, DC, in 2002.

According to Allen Weintraub, an attorney involved in asylum law, “The Trump  immigration policy is … denigrating American ideals of justice and fairness by the administration’s refusal to recognize the long-standing  common law tradition, codified in many state and federal statutes, differentiating the application of the law between minors and adults. In civil law, any contract entered into by a minor is void on its face; and in criminal law there are major differences in determining the guilt and sentencing for a minor. In no way are the DACA minors complicit in violating U.S. immigration laws. They cannot be punished for the illegal acts of the adults who brought them into the U.S.”

The sympathy, if not benevolence, of the federal government seems to have dissipated under Donald Trump. His vacillating stances on the fate of youngsters (median age 6) brought to America illegally, mostly by their parents, have become conflicting chapters in an ongoing saga of venality as Trump uses the precarious position of the so-called “Dreamers” to push Congress to fund a southern border wall with Mexico. 

Last year Trump vacated DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program initiated by President Obama), setting March 6 as the day deportations could begin if Congress didn’t pass enabling legislation to grant the near 800,000 Dreamers enrolled in DACA renewed residency rights. 

(March 6 happens to be my birthday. I have always comically associated the date with the fall of the Alamo to Mexican forces. How ironic that Trump could exact revenge on Mexico—for the Alamo and for rejecting any suggestion it would pay for the border wall—by beginning deportation procedures on March 6 as 79% of DACA recipients are from Mexico. Here’s a statistical profile of young undocumented immigrants brought here:

Folklore would have you believe America was always a welcoming country. Not so. Our past is speckled with eras of discrimination against the Irish. The Chinese. Southern Italians. Eastern European Jews. Even in the face of death our shores were not open to those yearning to breathe free from persecution.

Trump has cut by more than half the number of legal immigrants permitted to enter the United States each year. It is 45,000, the lowest since the 1970s, an especially harsh number given the unprecedented volume of refugees around the globe. 

Pushed by zealots such as presidential advisor Stephen Miller, Trump says he wants to restrict immigration to an educated, professional class that could integrate smoothly and quickly into the country’s manpower needs and all but erase entry based on family ties beyond spouses and children. 

Miller apparently has forgotten his family history. A descendant on his mother’s side of the Glosser Brothers retail company of Pennsylvania, Miller’s ancestors fled pogroms in Russia. He and other members of his extended immigrant family started a successful, but now defunct, chain of department stores (  

My father, as well, came from Eastern Europe in 1939 when he was 28, with little beyond initiative and moxie, to become a successful small manufacturer who, if memory serves me right, supplied Glosser Bros. with lingerie. As for Trump wanting only the highly skilled and educated, my father, again, had no more than a sixth grade education. He spoke little English when he arrived on our shores. I shudder to think where I might be if Trump’s Draconian immigration measures were in place decades ago.

But enough of my personal story. How about the poster boy for the value of benign immigration? 

As many others have pointed out, imagine if Trump’s restrictions on Muslim immigrants were in place in the early 1950s. The biological father of Steve Jobs of Apple fame, a Syrian leaving Lebanon because of political unrest, would have been denied entry into the United States. He would not have met Jobs’ biological mother. They would not have spawned the co-founder of the richest company in the world.

The question remains, why do all immigrants have to be skilled? Or rich? Or from Caucasian countries? Is there something wrong with immigrants serving in the home health care field, or in foodservice, or in agriculture, or in any field open to those with less than a college degree? 

Late Thursday afternoon the White House packaged sweeping changes to immigration law tied to the possibility of a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants (

Hailed as a compromise that could get 60 votes in the Senate, the White House is mum on prospects for passage in the more conservative House where the prospect of amnesty is anathema to hardliners. 

Should Democrats sign on, even though it includes $25 billion for a southern border wall and other security measures as well as changes to our traditional immigration policies?

I’d have to say, yes, as it represents the only avenue Dreamers have to legitimize their lives in the United States. Let Republicans be the guilty party if the proposal dies in Congress. 

Our heritage is as a nation of immigrants. Through quotas and discrimination we have grown stronger because of our open doors. Overwhelmingly, according to surveys, Americans favor granting residency to Dreamers. We should not let a vocal minority, a repressive, self-centered minority, change the criteria upon which the best values of our country rest.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Trump Benefits From Apple (a day) Windfall

An Apple a day, or a week, or a month, could keep Trump in the White House through 2024. 

Apple’s announcement Wednesday that because of the new tax law it would repatriate $252 billion in cash that it held overseas while investing heavily in new infrastructure and employees over the next five years has the Trump administration and Republicans crowing that their fiscal strategy is working to, what’s that phrase?, “make America great again.” 

Apple isn’t alone in feeding the Trump broadcast of vigorous economic resiliency unleashed by the new tax bill ( The stock market is at record highs. Unemployment is at or near record lows. Consumer confidence is way up. Oh what a triumphant Trump we will see Saturday on the first year anniversary of his inauguration.

Is it all Trump magic? No doubt he deserves some credit, but to use a sports analogy, ex-New York Yankees manager Joe Torre could not have led his team to four championships in five years without the building blocks (Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams) his predecessor Buck Showalter and former general manager Gene Michaels left him. Similarly, Trump inherited an already vibrant economy from Barack Obama. Indeed, Obama’s task was much harder as he had to rebuild a devastated economy left by George W. Bush. Too many Trumpsters fail to remember this and fail to give Obama credit for turning the economy around.

If the “economy, stupid” is the key to winning the next presidential election and the 2018 mid-term congressional contests, Republicans would seem to be sitting quite comfortably in the driver’s seat. 

Yet, there are signs that all is not hunky-dory in Trumpland. The president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing criticized Trump for not following through on his promise to restore the competitiveness of American steelworks ( Factory workers in Indianapolis are reportedly angry their jobs weren’t saved ( How effectively laid off workers return to their jobs in the coal and steel industries, in Rust Belt manufacturing, may tip the balance at election time.

No need to rehash Trump’s boorish behavior. If you aren’t aware of it you qualify for the Rip Van Winkle dummy award. But seriously, are 2018/2020 shaping up as referenda on economic self- and national interest vs. personal- and national values? It appears so.

As a dyed-in-the-wool anti-Trumpster, I am wary of this election choice, wary because too many lack compassion, what has been called Christian charity, for their less well-off neighbor. I worry that with the increase in standard deductions to $24,000 for married couples and the resulting fewer itemized deduction tax returns, less charity will be donated to the hungry, to the barely clothed, to the poor who live in squalor, to the infirm, to research to cure the sick. When the choice becomes personal vs. public standing, too many may seek cover under a private, secret ballot.

I fret that selfishness will triumph over generosity, that accessible borders will yield to restricted entry, that democratic values will be toppled by autocratic whims, that intolerance of the strange and different will supersede tolerance, that history and science will be dismissed as irrelevant. 

I am troubled that Trump exacerbates, even encourages, this meanness of the American spirit. 

Perhaps most troubling is the separation of our citizenry from the ideal of E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one) into a multi-fractured hash of special interests, denying the legitimacy of others and not willing to dialogue earnestly with them. 

Without doubt Trump is not the person who can unite us, not that anyone else jumps to mind at this time. It’s a sobering realization that for the foreseeable future we will remain a much divided country. 

A Video Presidency: In case you didn’t see this analysis on Politico, here’s an interesting perspective on Trump’s attention to his physical presentation:

Goodbye HuffPost: My gig and that of 100,000 other writers as non paid contributors to HuffPost is over. The Web site announced Thursday it no longer will accept unsolicited independent articles. 

Since April 2016 I have had 99 submissions published on HuffPost. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Exposing Our Greed and Venality Trump Distracts Attention From Damage to Our Protections

By now we should be used to his excessive vulgarity, his racism, his lying, his cheating. It should roll off our consciousness like water off a duck’s back.

Surely Melania must know about his sleaziness. No doubt, she has made a Faustian compact to live in a gilded palace, and now the White House, in return for accepting his casual infidelities, if not in actual deed, for certain in lewdness.

The rest of us, and the world, have to endure a considerably less than perfect projected presidential image of America. 

The real tragedy of Trump is that he has exposed the venal selfishness and bias inside too, too many of our citizens and the men and women chosen to represent us in the legislative and administrative arenas intended to benefit us all.

Trump’s characterization of Haitians and Africans squares effortlessly with the persona recognized by anyone who has followed his career. The surprise from this incident is the failure of public officials and ordinary citizens to emulate Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) to express revulsion in the face of racism, bigotry and the denigration of the standards of the office of the president. (One wonders what was Trump’s response when challenged by Graham. Bullies usually back down. Did he express remorse or did he continue to violate proper decorum?) 

Reminiscent of the “I cannot recall” testimony of Republican operatives in the Nixon White House during the 1973 Watergate hearings, and 14 years later by Rear Admiral John Poindexter during the Iran-Contra hearings, Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA), astonishingly claimed they heard nothing. Surely if Graham admonished Trump, as he said he did, it could not have been in whispers. Nor in private. Were Cotton and Perdue, along with other attendees House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-VA), and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) sleeping through this meeting?  Or playing with a fidget spinner?

Cotton and Perdue have tried to blunt the report on Trump’s language by casting doubts on Durbin’s integrity. “I’m saying that this is a gross misrepresentation, it’s not the first time Sen. Durbin has done it,” Perdue said on ABC’s This Week. But Graham, recently thought to have a close relationship with Trump, has not denied Trump’s vulgar language (

Trump has declared he is not a racist, but his actions (against black athletes, minority voters, Hispanic immigrants, Muslims and Jews) and at times silence in the face of White Nationalist provocations have been more affirmative than any rejection of the appellation. 

Those Americans who voted for Trump are a mixed bag. The true believers, among them evangelicals of all religions who have abandoned their respective god’s principles to idolize a vengeful, egotistical leader devoid of compassion, absolve him of any wrongdoing regardless of its accuracy or provenance. Theirs is a belief grounded in zealotry and intolerance (

Economics drives those who held their noses and voted for Trump. They might not like what he says or how he acts but they like the rise in their stock portfolios. They have sold their principles, along with environmental protections and American world leadership, in exchange for riches. But as Jesus told his followers in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve God and mammon.”

As a nation we have aged beyond the time when a Walter Cronkite could express on the CBS Evening News disenchantment with the war in Vietnam and a president (Lyndon Johnson) could reportedly have said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Today we tune into cable telecasts (hard to call them newscasts) that reinforce our prejudices ( There is little opportunity to build a national consensus of truth and facts.

A duck gliding smoothly across a lake is an image of tranquility. As is often noted, however, the real action is below the surface where the duck’s legs are busily paddling away. 

Trump is no serene image but he is a distraction to the destructive activity underway in the halls of government, not the chambers of Congress, rather the offices of agencies and departments now supervised by men and women dedicated to dismantling regulations that protect consumers, workers, voters, the environment, international agreements and other initiatives intended to balance the greed of the wealthy and empowered with the needs of the common populace (Here’s the latest in Politico’s weekly review of five things Trump did while you weren’t looking:

Trump garners our attention. He galvanizes the resistance. He will bring voters to the polls, against and for him, in numbers a Mike Pence or any other Republican would not. But, in substance, he is no worse than what any other conservative Republican would be doing. 

Except, in the cult of personality he is generating and in his in evocation of powers, real and imagined, presidents before him rarely, if ever, espoused, Trump is a dangerous political phenomenon.

Which leads me to conclude with an excerpt from a reflection written by Jules Harlow contained in the Lev Shalem (whole heart) prayer book read during an ecumenical service Sunday night honoring The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Temple Israel Center of White Plains. 

“Help us, Eternal, to honor humility.
Too often we follow the foolish and the wicked; 
Too often we follow mockers and the arrogant.

“Protect us, Sovereign, from ourselves as from others.
Too often we speak slander and violence;
Too often we falter in our faithfulness.”


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Oprah for President? Not So Fast

As were millions of others, I was thrilled by Oprah Winfrey’s speech during the Golden Globe Awards ceremony Sunday evening. I, too, was enthralled by the possibility of her candidacy for president of the United States as a Democratic Parry nominee.

Perhaps it was a reflection, at this moment, of the less than spectacular field of potential candidates. History—the elections of 1992 and 2008—would suggest, however, a nationally obscure politician might emerge sometime in the next two years to captivate our imagination. 

That’s the long view of politics. To those traumatized day in-day out by the current White House occupant, Oprah offered a stylish, progressive voice in the here and now. But it was a voice unattached to any body of political positions or government experience to measure her competency for the job as the most powerful leader of the world.

Where, for example, does she stand on the thorny issue of  the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? One state or two? Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or as capital of a Palestinian state, as well? 

How would she deal with North Korea? To fight militants, does she favor the use of drones to kill those who would harm Americans or American interests? We know she is in favor of women’s rights here in the United States, but how would she approach countries, many considered our allies, especially in the Muslim world, who limit women’s freedom and opportunity? 

Politics is the art of compromise (at least it should be if the result is intended to benefit the country). How would Oprah deal with recalcitrant members of her own party who would advocate more progressive actions than she is comfortable initiating? How would she coax Republicans to accept her policies? 

One can look to Lech Walesa in Poland and Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (Burma) for examples of renowned figures who could not transform their popularity into effective governing.

Interestingly, in our nation’s recent past over the last half century, five entertainers were elected to national office. Musician John Hall was elected to Congress as a Democrat. The other four were Republicans: former Major League pitcher Jim Budding served as a senator from Kentucky, while actor George Murphy represented California in the Senate, singer Sonny Bono was a congressman and, of course, actor Ronald Reagan was first California’s governor before twice winning the presidency. Maybe there are others who traded in the footlights for the political spotlight, but I cannot think of them at this time. 

As a self-made billionaire, Oprah obviously has intelligence and leadership skills. What she lacks is a political organization. Picking the right advisors—rejecting the Paul Manafords of the Democratic world (let’s not be naive and think such people don’t exist)—would be step one to securing the nomination. 

Given the ego most politicians possess, other potential contenders could not be expected to let her cakewalk toward the nomination. They would not see their options as merely competing for the vice presidential spot on an Oprah ticket. 

Her speech and its seismic vibrations have generated loads of analyses. Here’s one from The New York Times:

What should be considered when pondering the tepid reaction of political pros is that, like Donald Trump, Oprah would shake up their comfort zones. Likely, she would not be someone they could easily control. Bernie Sanders showed that Democrats and Independents are eager to break the status quo. How willing she would be to be the avatar of change is a question only Oprah can answer.

As it now stands, she looks like the favorite as minorities and women would likely be in her corner, ready to be galvanized to show up at the polls come primary days. But 2020 is a marathon in time away from January 2018. 

Awards season is upon us. It’s way to early to give Oprah or anyone else the prize.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Father's Birth Year Is a Mystery

Had several interesting conversations with my sister Lee and brother Bernie Friday on the occasion of our father’s birthday. I’d tell you how old he would have been but that was what we were trying to agree on.

Family lore has it that Kopel Fuersetzer (through several iterations Fuersetzer evolved into Forseter) was born in Ottynia on January 5, 1911. Or was it 1912? My recollection is the date disparity centered on Austria-Hungary’s military draft rules. Ottynia, a small shtetl in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in Galicia, was part of Austria prior to the Great War, World War I. 

Young men could be drafted when they turned 18 so there was reason behind the fluidity of actual birthdates in the Hapsburg Empire. At least that’s the story I grew up with. And my brother did as well. (After the war Ottynia became part of Poland. After World War II Ukraine absorbed Ottynia within its borders.)

Lee, on the other hand, remembers Dad telling her he was 35 when she was born in 1947. That would put his birth year as 1912. That’s what we had engraved on his tombstone.

But ... several official papers I reviewed Friday—his Polish good citizenship document, his U.S. military enlistment record and his death certificate—all list his birth year as 1911!

Out the window went the theory of military draft evasion. Enter the realm of supposition. 

Bernie posited he claimed being a year older because he needed that earlier date to obtain government permission, perhaps a peddler’s license, after he moved to Danzig when he was 16 or slightly older. As official records from a small shtetl would be rare to come by, it would have been easy to prop up his age in Danzig (present day Gdansk).

Sounds plausible. With Polish document in hand he would be forever recorded as having been born in 1911, though in his mind he was a year younger.

Mom and Dad always said he was six years older than she. Sylvia Gerson was born November 11, 1917, in Lodz, Poland. But was their age difference a rounded up six years from five years, 10 months, from a 1912 birth year, or a rounded down six years from 1911?

My siblings and I will never know.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

New Year's Surprises and Resolutions

Have you broken your New Year’s resolutions yet? I am not in the habit of making any resolutions, not that I consider myself perfect in all ways. I just don’t see the need to focus on an arbitrary day to begin any transformative plan.

But I have been mulling a change that would affect you as well. I am considering reducing the percentage of blog posts that deal with the Trumpster. It is hard to imagine anyone who has launched more terabytes into the blogosphere but I will try my best to adhere to my resolve.

So what will I write about? Life. Just ordinary life. Take, for example, the surprise that greeted Gilda and me when we returned home from a less than 24 hour trip on Monday. The intake pipe to the master bedroom’s bathroom toilet froze during the frigid cold snap. Good thing our house has three bathrooms.

It wasn’t the first time we experienced this inconvenience since we remodeled the bathroom 13 years ago and put the toilet, and the offending pipe, up against an exterior wall (in the 20 year priors to the remodel, the pipe never froze as it was attached to an inside wall). 

Apparently, according to our plumber, frozen intake pipes next to exterior walls are a common predicament during prolonged cold snaps accompanied by high winds. All we could do, he related, is hope, and pray, the pipe wouldn’t burst while we warmed up the wall with a portable heater. After several hours we were back in business.  

More Tales From the Cold: Thursday’s “bomb cyclone” blizzard dumped eight inches on our driveway and front walk. But the high winds kept most of the snow from sticking to our solar panels. Around 4:15 pm I confronted the inevitable, suited up in snow pants, boots and balaclava and spent the next 45 minutes making sure to propel the fluffy snow in the direction of the wind. It was, actually, one of the easiest snowstorms I’ve ever had to clear.

Time to Break My Resolution: Heck, you might think I have no willpower, but keep in mind four days have gone by since the New Year began. So here are some Trumpian thoughts:

In case you haven’t heard about it, there’s an informative article in The New Yorker by Evan Osnos detailing how our bumbler-in-chief is making China great again. Here are two links, one to the print article ( and the second to an interview Osnos did with Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air (you can either read the transcript or click on an audio link:

One of my takeaways from Osnos was that we no longer have just Russia to worry about concerning the integrity of our elections. Here’s a short clip from Osnos:

“I asked a strategist in Beijing, this very prominent figure, a guy named Yan Xuetong. I said, how long does the period of strategic opportunity last for China? He says, well, it lasts as long as Trump is in office.”

Thus, not only Russia but China, as well as other countries that have stroked Trump’s ego, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines, have a vital national interest in keeping the dumb-as-a-loon-in-chief in office in 2020 and in retaining a Republican controlled Congress in 2018. 

Interference in our electoral processes may well become commonplace, but Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are more interested in stopping state sanctioned marijuana sales than in preventing the sanctity of our most cherished right. 

News Flashes: One of New York WCBS TV’s field reporters Thursday evening confirmed that “slush is wet!” 

Does anyone else find it amusing that ABC News correspondent Eva Pilgrim reports out of Boston? 

Was anyone else surprised Gail Collins did not include any mention of Seamus, the dog Mitt Romney strapped to the top of his station wagon when taking his family on a vacation years ago, in a New York Times column about Romney’s potential candidacy for the Senate seat being vacated by Orrin Hatch? (