Thursday, March 14, 2019

Thoughts on College Admissions, Manafort, Impeachment, Farm Aid and a Cautionary Tale

The audacious scandal of parents of privilege paying a collective millions of dollars to trick the college selection process into accepting their children into prestigious schools evoked memories of how I and many of my high school classmates chose our institution of higher learning. 

During senior year at Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn my classmates and I met with one of our math teachers, Morris Turetsky, who doubled as the college guidance counselor. Moe, as we called him, was diminutive, balding, cherubic, if such a look can be ascribed to a man who seemed to be in his late sixties or early seventies. He often held index cards below desk level when conducting class, his personal cheat sheets. He spoke in clipped sentences in a street-smart voice. (Years later, after Gilda and I had our children, the rabbi of the synagogue we joined in White Plains was his son, Arnold, a spellbinding orator.)

Like many of my cohorts, I was a first generation American, my parents having emigrated from Poland, my mother in 1921 when she was four, my father at 28 in 1939. Neither attended college. My mother graduated high school. My father probably had no more than a sixth grade education in Poland, though he did earn what may be liberally considered a high school equivalency degree from night school classes in New York.

When meeting individually with Moe, more often than not, his counsel was, “Save your parents’ money. Go to Brooklyn College.” 

At the time, Brooklyn College cost $50 per semester plus books, usually no more than another $50 ($200 for an academic year). BC was a commuter school, so students lived with their parents. By comparison, annual tuition at the University of Pennsylvania cost $1,770 in 1966 with another $1,000 in room and board expenses, $180 for a general fee, $100 for books and $450 in personal expenses. 

Viewed another way, in 2016 inflation adjusted dollars, the cost of attending a full year at Brooklyn College was $1,504; at Penn, $26,303. 

Moe wasn’t wrong. Brooklyn College could save my parents lots of dollars. And at the time, Brooklyn was highly ranked among the nation’s liberal arts colleges. 

His advice did not fall on deaf ears. Of the 110 students in my graduating class, I and 58 others matriculated to Brooklyn College. Another nine enrolled at City University of New York sister colleges. Fourteen chose Ivy League schools; another dozen opted to leave Brooklyn to attend MIT and universities such as Wisconsin, Rochester and Chicago. 

Do I regret not leaving the friendly confines of Brooklyn for the out of town college experience? At times. But it would be hard to regret my years at BC, meeting Gilda and embarking on the career path I took. 

Does Manafort Have Any Regrets? One wonders if Paul Manafort has any regrets now that he has been sentenced to serve seven and a half years for a variety of federal crimes. Keep in mind he cannot appeal his punishment as he pleaded guilty to the crimes and was at the mercy of the two judges who sentenced him in separate courtrooms. 

Mercy was exactly what he was seeking, appearing as he did in a wheelchair both times, a complication of his alleged gout. Gout is often cast as a rich person’s ailment, commonly brought about by indulging in foods such as shrimp, lobster and red meats. 

Doubtful Manafort will enjoy such tasty fare in any federal lockup (assuming he is not pardoned by Trump), but here’s an interesting tidbit from lobster history. An abundance of lobsters in Colonial times caused the crustaceans to be considered a poor man’s food. “The meat was so reviled that indentured servants in one Massachusetts town successfully sued their owners to feed it to them three times a week at most,” according to You decide if you believe it or not.

Smoking Gun: Trump has latched onto an assertion by one of Manafort’s judges that his trial had nothing to do with collusion with Russia. Trump is braying, “No collusion,” as justification for ending any investigations into his 2016 campaign and administration, and certainly no reason to consider impeachment.

I’m with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on this one. Without “smoking gun” evidence, impeachment hearings would further divide the country and almost certainly solidify and possibly expand Trump’s base. Without, and maybe even with, a smoking gun the Republican controlled Senate would not convict. 

So we’re stuck with Trump for his full term. But I am all for extensive congressional investigation of Trump’s actions, his campaign, his businesses, his taxes, indeed, anything Trump, as a counter-balance to his authoritarian style of governing. A constant drumbeat of Trump’s duplicitous dealings exposed will undermine his legitimacy.  

Farm Aid: Farmers are said to be among Trump’s most ardent supporters. Yet, they have not been rewarded for their loyalty (another example of Trump’s one-way loyalty street). 

Here’s an article from Bloomberg News outlining Trump’s budget plans for farmers:

Cautionary Tale: Wealth does not protect one from mishaps, including medical mistakes. Ego apparently led to the untimely death of a billionaire diamond trader intent on reversing his undercompensated manhood: