Friday, July 31, 2020

Day 144 of Nat'l Emergency: It's Time to Think About What Trump Could Do After the Election

On the assumption Donald Trump will fail in his reelection bid, prognosticators are busy trying to piece out what he would or could do. 

Would he challenge the validity of the election? Of course he would.

Would he outright refuse to leave the White House on January 20? That’s an interesting question posed recently on, a newish question and answer website on all sorts of issues whose major drawback is that answers do not necessarily come from experts. Some of the answers are downright amusing, such as the one posted in response to the question, “Can a president refuse to leave office after losing an election?”

“Absolutely! The President can legally refuse to leave office. The housekeeping staff will politely pack them up and remove their goods to the curb, and the Secret Service will come into the White House and remove the now ex-President to the same curb - or to the local hoosegow - and the new President will move in and take control. But, the old President can pout and thrash and proclaim that he or she is still the President - legally - and they will be cheerfully ignored.”

That’s all well and good on January 20, 2021, but from November 3, 2020, until noon January 20 Trump would still be president, with all the powers ascribed to that office. 

For example, he would continue to be in control of the nuclear codes until Joe Biden takes the oath of office on inauguration day. That, of course, is an extreme example of the delayed transfer of power. 

During those full 77-1/2 days after votes are cast, he would remain commander in chief of the armed services. He could end our membership in NATO, though that order would be rescinded by Biden on his first day as president. He could order an air strike against Iran, and any subsequent military action it provoked. Cleaning up that mess would be Biden’s responsibility.

He could declare martial law at will. Indeed, some fear he might exercise that power in advance of the election to prevent voters in Democratic districts in swing states from  being able to turn up at polling precincts.

There would more than enough time for Trump to wreak additional havoc on government institutions and international alliances that he has already weakened.

The potential for chaos is extreme.

Which brings us to the Rod Rosenstein solution, commonly known as the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. After Trump dismissed FBI director James Comey with its potential obstruction of justice issues, Rosenstein, as the deputy attorney general of the United States in charge of overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, is alleged to have suggested Trump could be removed from office under provisions of the 25th Amendment. For the record, Rosenstein denies he ever seriously considered the idea.

But it may be worth thinking about now. Section IV of the amendment empowers the vice president and a majority of cabinet secretaries to remove the president from office, at least temporarily. The section reads, “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.”

Within 21 days both chambers of Congress would have to ratify the action or the powers would revert back to the president ( 

Trump clearly has been exhibiting anti-democratic tendencies, even going so far as to tweet the idea of postponing the November 3 election, a suggestion that prompted a founder of the conservative Federalist Society to call his actions “fascistic” and grounds for impeachment ( Not so strident but soundly in opposition to Trump’s idea were Republican Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

If Trump loses, will Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet invoke the 25th amendment to safeguard against scorched earth actions such as a pardon of Ghiselle Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s enabler?

Mostly, but not entirely overlooked by the public and some media because of coronavirus and political campaign news, Donald Trump was asked at the tail end of a recent news conference if he was concerned Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged-sex-scandal-with-underage-women-enabler Maxwell might reveal names of famous people.

Unspoken, but clearly implied since Trump had consorted with Epstein and Maxwell before he was president, was whether he feared she would implicate him in the sordid activity, as Britain’s Prince Andrew has been. Maxwell is in custody on six federal charges for allegedly facilitating Epstein’s sexual abuse of minors. She has pleaded not guilty. 

“I don’t know,” Trump replied. “I haven’t really been following it too much. I just wish her well frankly. I’ve met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach. I guess they lived in Palm Beach. But I wish her well. Whatever it is.”

The vagueness of that comment and his well wishes to Maxwell prompted the following Facebook message from “Ridin’ with Biden”: “I’m voting for the guy who didn’t just go on live TV and send best wishes to a woman accused of running a child sex trafficking ring.”

By now we are creepily familiar with his repeated protestations of ignorance about his affair with Stormy Daniels and the payment to her of hush money. 

We also should all be creepily familiar with Trump’s evocation of positive feelings toward friends and supporters charged with, and even convicted of, illegal activity. Paul Manaford. Roger Stone. Gen. Michael Flynn. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Rod Blagojevich, Michael Milken, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik. 

If he speaks fondly of someone, expect some form of executive clemency in the near future. So Paul Manaford and Retied General Michael Flynn, sit tight, your freedom awaits a propitious moment.

That could be sometime after November 3, whether Trump wins or loses the election. And let’s not count on Penche and the Cabinet doing the right and patriotic thing after four years of serving as his toadies. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Day 142 Nat'l Emergency: Trump's Dilemmas

What if you hosted a party to celebrate the creation of a COVID-19 vaccine but nobody came?

Having invested so much time disparaging the reality of the pandemic, only to invest billions of taxpayer dollars to develop a vaccine at “warp speed,” Donald Trump will have to confront dilemmas mostly of his own making should a potential cure be discovered.

Having cultivated an image as a disruptor while encouraging similar behavior, including disbelief in government programs and pronouncements, among the legion of his followers, will Trump be able to turn those mavericks into compliant communal-minded sheep? 

What if a coronavirus vaccine is developed but not enough people take the shot to make it effective as a pandemic deterrent?

What if Trump’s past deprecation of science and medical expertise, including support for the anti-vax movement, leaves him with no moral persuasive powers to convince enough people to take the inoculation?

What if he were told by advisors he needed to publicly take the shot to rally the country behind the vaccine. Would Trump roll up his shirtsleeve and do it? Could he trick the public by getting a dummy shot, or would he fear a leak would expose his deception?

Would he have his wife and children and their families publicly inoculated? What about the White House staff and cabinet secretaries? Would he order them to take the shot?

A president is charged with safeguarding the nuclear bomb codes that could destroy the world. As this viral moment in time unfurled a president also had the power to help save the world from a virus that knows no boundaries to its ravaging impact. 

How sad that Trump has squandered opportunities to stem the transmission of the disease. How sad that Trump has championed false remedies. How sad that Trump has set the example that wearing a face mask is not necessary and definitely not mandatory. How sad that Trump has sown doubt about the medical and scientific communities’ integrity. How sad that in almost every public appearance Trump has dispensed lies, fabrications and misinformation. 

How sad that the death toll from the coronavirus in the United States exceeds 152,000 from more than 4.46 million confirmed cases. How sad that those numbers will continue to climb because of Trump’s ineptitude. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Day 141 Nat'l Emergency: 6th Grade Memories

Buried deeply in a pandemic-fueled tribute article in Monday’s New York Times to the “soothing comfort” Johnny Carson infused in “The Tonight Show” was a reference to the TV host’s master talent of extracting interesting tidbits during small talk with guests. Aside from engaging in long interviews on weighty subjects, Carson might “suddenly decide to ask every guest on an episode what they recall about their sixth-grade teacher” (

If you’re like me (btw, proper grammar would be “as I am,” but I tend to write colloquially, not always per the Queen’s English), you would have paused and reflected on your sixth-grade teacher, presuming, of course, you have any such memories. Gilda, for example, cannot recollect who her teacher was but she does remember being named valedictorian of her graduating sixth grade class at Public School 182 in the East New York section of Brooklyn. She also recalls attending a sixth grade prom, sixth grade being the end of public elementary school before the transition to junior high school. 

I had four teachers in sixth grade. As I attended Yeshiva Rambam in Brooklyn, a Modern Orthodox Hebrew day school, through eighth grade, we had separate teachers for Hebrew and English studies, mostly women for the latter, rabbis for Hebrew classes except in first and second grades. In sixth grade we had one Hebrew teacher whose name I cannot remember, and separate teachers for mathematics, English language and social studies. It was my social studies instructor who left a lasting impression.

Perhaps it was because Mrs. Saperstein was the first teacher that looked young. She was tall and attractive, with short hair.

As the 1959-60 academic year coincided with the run-up to the presidential election, Mrs. Saperstein structured a candidates’ debate among the students. She chose to focus on eight hopefuls: Hubert Humphrey, John F. Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, Adlai Stevenson, Lyndon B. Johnson and two more whose names escape me. I was assigned to represent Rockefeller.

Rockefeller might have been my governor but I knew little about him. So I tapped into my human Google equivalent—my father. Though he had lived in America for just 20 years at the time, Dad was politically informed. 

The day of the “debate” is rather fuzzy in my brain. I can see myself on the left as the eight candidates stood before our classmates. I think by the time my turn as Rocky approached class was almost over so my speech was gratefully cut short. Much like the governor’s campaign which he abandoned shortly thereafter, easing the way for Nixon to secure the Republican Party nomination.

For another of Mrs. Saperstein’s projects I was assigned to report on Bolivia. For that I consulted the Encyclopedia Americana my parents had recently bought. 

All I remember from that exercise is that Bolivia was named for Simón Bolívar, a Venezuelan freedom fighter who liberated the region from Spanish rule, that part of the country lies in the Andes Mountains, that La Paz is the highest administrative capital in the world, that tin mining was a major segment of the economy, and that Lake Titicaca is part of the border with Peru and is the highest commercially navigable lake in the world as well as being the largest lake in South America. 

Beyond that I retained very little knowledge about Bolivia.

Mrs. Saperstein didn’t last very long at Yeshiva Rambam. Within two years she left, with not even a mention in our 1962 graduation yearbook. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Day 139 Nat'l Emergency: Taylor Swift's Rebekah Harkness Song Is Only Part of the Family Story

Music superstar Taylor Swift is making scores of news with the release of her latest album which includes a song about the family—mostly the eccentric socialite heiress—that owned the mansion she bought in 2013 for $17 million in Watch Hill, RI. 

For a short time, just the seven years they were married, Mr. and Mrs. William Hale Harkness lived in what they called the “Holiday House.” William died in 1954 from a heart attack. His widow, Rebekah, renovated the 40-room house to include eight kitchens and 21 bathrooms. She died in 1982. For tabloid details about the Harkness heiress, click onto this Daily Mail article:

Why Swift would desire the property that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean is a question only she could answer, though the spectacular views for sure were an enticement. Doubtful at the time she contemplated it as inspiration for a song, “The Last American Dynasty.” 

The Harkness family is associated with John D. Rockefeller, Henry Flagler and the origins of Standard Oil which made them the wealthiest of Americans.

Holiday House is 25 miles northeast of Waterford, CT, outside New London, where the neoclassical mansion Eolia stands at the cliffside edge of the 230 acre Harkness Memorial State Park. Eolia was one of seven homes owned by Edward and Mary Stillman Harkness. Edward is the son of Stephen Harkness, a silent investment partner of Rockefeller’s oil empire. Harkness was the second largest stockholder in Standard Oil, just ahead of his stepbrother Flagler. 

Harkness invested in Rockefeller’s enterprise on the condition Flagler would be made a partner. Aside from the fortune Flagler made as the “brains” of Standard Oil, he later gilded his coffers by building a railroad network into Florida all the way to Key West and developing resort hotels in the Sunshine State including the Breakers in Palm Beach. He is considered the “father” of Miami.

Like Holiday House, Eolia is majestic. It has 42 rooms, 20 bedrooms, 11 fireplaces and 14 bathrooms. 

Upon his mother’s death Edward became the sole heir to his father’s estate. In 1918 Forbes magazine ranked Edward as the sixth richest man in the United States.

Edward’s wife was no slouch when it came to wealth, as well. Her maternal grandfather owned much of what we now call Mystic Seaport.

Rebekah was unconventional, even as she supported charities and the arts. Edward and Mary, on the other hand, enjoyed a more staid reputation. Childless, they endowed many institutions, chief among them the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. Specifically, as he was fascinated with Egyptian artifacts, Edward funded the Met’s purchase of George Herbert’s collection of Egyptian treasures which included relics from the tomb of King Tut. 

Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, had accompanied archeologist Howard Carter on his famous excavation discovery. Herbert needed to sell his collection to pay for renovations of Highclere Castle, the setting for the PBS television series “Downton Abbey.”

Edward also paid for residential colleges and buildings at Yale, Harvard and other universities. 

Mary’s interests led her to start on grounds adjacent to Eolia a retreat for children afflicted with polio. Now called Camp Harkness it currently is used by special needs children. 

Almost none of the gifts the Harknesses made (more than $2 billion in today’s dollars) bears their name.

Founded in 1918 by his mother and later administered by Edward and Mary, the Harkness family established the Commonwealth Fund, one of the longest running, continuous foundations to improve public welfare.

My personal connection to the Harkness family name came from my mother’s frequent stays at Harkness Pavilion, a private wing of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. It was named for Stephen Harkness, a gift from his wife and son. 

Five years ago Gilda and I visited Eolia on one of our day trips. It was a glorious late summer day, an excursion the coronavirus and an oppressive heat wave have made all but impossible to reproduce. Taylor Swift may make Rebekah Harkness’ sad, troubled life familiar to her fans, but I will always recall the Harkness name with fondness for the care my mother received in its namesake pavilion.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Day 137 of Nat'l Emergency: Praying for Rain

Like the toothache that doesn’t hurt when you get to the dentist we have been stymied to discover if the repairs to our gutters and leaders have been effective.

It’s rained only once since we had the new rainfall channels installed 10 days ago. To be sure, the rain Wednesday night was intense. But we weren’t home to observe how the gutters and leaders performed. We had chosen that night to socially distance a dinner visit with friends.

It sprinkled Friday morning, not enough to even dampen the newspaper thrown onto the driveway. The longterm forecast for the next 10 days suggests sunshine except a 40% chance of rain next Tuesday and the following Monday.

In pre quarantine days we would exult in weather that fit our desire for outdoor activity. But those options are severely limited these days. No Garden Conservancy tours. No trips to the beach. Or to a friend’s pool. No outdoor festivals. Or flea markets. 

With temperatures hovering near and above 90 degrees with a dew point index an uncomfortable 60-plus, walking extensively outdoors, even on a shaded trail, is out of the question.

Confinement is not how Gilda and I anticipated spending this year. Scratched already have been trips to Washington with Shalom Yisrael guests, to Omaha to see our daughter’s family, to Colorado for a first cousins get together, to Massachusetts to see our son’s family, to Switzerland for a car tour with my brother and his wife, to Maryland for their oldest grandchild’s bat mitzvah, to Portugal for a bus tour.

On the local level we’ve missed out on plays from our subscriptions to Playwrights Horizons and Second Stage, countless dinner parties with friends at our home or theirs, hosting the Passover seder, and attendance at synagogue services and programs.

Zoom cannot replace those experiences.

There’s a special heart rending poignancy to crossing those activities out of my paper calendar that cannot be matched by deleting them from an electronic calendar on my iPhone. 

I know. My fatigue and disappointment with coronavirus life is no more extreme than what many or all of you have gone through. No one in my immediate and extended family has been infected.

At least I have this public blog to express my feelings. And for a change I am not ranting about Donald Trump.

Stay healthy. And pray for rain, enough to test our gutters and leaders. But no flooding. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Day 136 Nat'l Emergency: Person of the Year Choices, Turkey Time Off, Jobs Off, School Time

Five months before Time magazine releases its Person of the Year issue it is safe to say there are three significant candidates whose image could grace the front cover: 
*George Floyd, whose cellphone-recorded death at the knee of a Minneapolis policeman sparked nationwide outrage and galvanized Black Lives Matter protests; 
*Dr. Anthony Fauci, whose calm Dutch uncle counsel on the coronavirus has soothed and informed a frightened and conflicted nation; 
*The embattled frontline healthcare worker, who has selflessly placed themself in danger to heal a sick country and comfort the dying in the absence of quarantined loved ones.

Even if he wins the presidency, Joe Biden would not be elevated to cover boy status. Not this year. 

Similarly, Donald Trump wouldn’t qualify even if he manages a comeback to secure a second term. 

Chief Justice John Roberts has received lots of ink for his high-wire role in shepherding the Supreme Court, but he, too, falls short in overall dominance of the year. 

For sure, the two main stories of 2020 have been the coronavirus with its worldwide impact on health and the economy, as well as international political repercussions, and the outpouring of protest and energy for racial equality after the killings of unarmed Blacks and actions by ordinary white citizens to physically and verbally assault minorities.

It’s About Time: More than a dozen years have passed since I called on retail chains to keep their stores closed on Thanksgiving so employees could spend time with their families instead of aiding in the pursuit of every last disposable dollar. Consumers, as well, would benefit from not running out to the store once dessert has been shoveled down their throat. 

My perch as editor and publisher of Chain Store Age is long gone, but it is pleasing to note that Walmart, the nation’s, nay, the world’s, largest retailer has decided it would not open Thanksgiving. Apparently, Walmart listened to the suggestion advanced by one of its employees in a letter to management.

“We know it’s been a trying year, and you’ve stepped up. We want you to enjoy the day at home with your loved ones,” John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart USA, wrote in a memo to employees. 

Fewer Jobs: Donald Trump promised to bring back manufacturing jobs if elected in 2016. How’s he doing?

Not so great. Though manufacturing jobs increased in the first two years of his presidency, the last two have been not so good. 

Compared to when he took the oath of office there are almost 300,000 fewer manufacturing jobs. Of course, the pandemic is a key factor, an excuse Trump will surely cite if challenged on his record. 

But as The New York Times pointed out, “U.S. factory output declined throughout 2019, as Mr. Trump’s trade war intensified, and it has dropped further this year, suggesting there is no boom in new American factories. Since peaking in mid-2019, corporate investment has  declined for three consecutive quarters. Total foreign direct investment in manufacturing was nearly one-third lower in the first three years of Mr. Trump’s tenure than it was in the final three years of President Barack Obama’s.

“Mr. Trump ostensibly fought his trade war on behalf of American manufacturing. But economists say it has actually been a drag on most U.S. factories, by increasing prices for components and inciting foreign retaliation.  It has also coincided with a plunge in Chinese investment in the United States to $5 billion in 2019, the lowest level since 2009, according to Rhodium Group, a research firm” (

School Time? As part of his reelection strategy Trump is pushing for a September opening of schools. But evidence on the impact of bringing children back to classes where they could become infected, and then sending them home where they could transfer the coronavirus to other family members, is mixed ( 

New research has shown that children under 10 years are not as susceptible, but transmission is more prevalent as student age hits double digits. If schools open before the general public has appropriately contained the pandemic, a rebound in cases could occur, as happened in Israel.  

Few dispute the benefit of having children resume classes. But just as most parents believe in inoculations to protect their offspring from childhood illnesses, most also would think twice about placing their children at risk with the added fear they could be exposing themselves and other family members, especially grandparents. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Day 135 of Nat'l Emergency: Authoritarianism Rules (Unless We Won't Let It)

There’s a burgeoning cottage industry among historians and intellectuals manufacturing theses on why authoritarianism is popping up around the globe, sometimes in bastions of democracy. In some countries autocratic rulers have neutered democratic institutions. 

Yes, Trumpism immediately comes to mind. But the study of the decline of democracy predates The Donald’s assumption of office, though he has worked diligently to install America First leadership of the movement, aided and abetted by members of the Republican Party who have abandoned their historical commitment to constitutional values.

My musings are prompted by an email from a friend who related she had just listened to an interview with Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, describing her most recent book, “Twilight Of Democracy: The Seductive Lure Of Authoritarianism.” 

Here are links to two recent interviews, the first, a seven minute discussion on NPR’s “Morning Edition” 
( The second link is to a 35 minute broadcast of NPR’s “Fresh Air.” The link also contains a transcript of the interview (

I am neither an historian nor a certified intellectual, but upon receiving my friend’s email I provided some thoughts on the allure of authoritarian rule:

“From religion to business enterprises to sports teams to orchestras to theater/movie productions to all manner of communal activity we are drawn to and often revere strong leaders, be they popes/rabbis, dynamic CEOs, coaches/managers, flamboyant conductors, visionary directors. 

“Of course, we also willingly follow the authoritative general who provides us with security from our enemies and leadership when we covet what others have. 

“It is thus in all societies. We seem to be hard wired in our DNA to seek out strong leaders. It is only in the last 300 or so years that the concept of popular democratic government has evolved. But it has not taken hold in business, the arts, the military, religion. Those disciplines would be unable to succeed under democratic rules. It would result in bedlam.

“Even in democracies like America, India, Israel, Turkey we see too many citizens revert to the innate desire to follow a strongman.

“Democracy, to work, requires education and the absence of existential fear. Trump is stoking fear. From his campaign four years ago to his dystopian inaugural address to his anti immigration rules to his 2020 campaign that spreads warnings of what may happen if the Dems win to his use of armed services to control protesters Trump trades on fear. 

“Fear is one of humankind’s most basic and motivating emotions. Even some of the most educated succumb to fear and seek comfort in an authoritarian leader.” 

It is not for nothing that our form of government is called the “American experiment.” But just as experiments can go akilter (I am reminded of an unintended high school chemistry explosion when the teacher added water to a beaker of sulfuric acid instead of the other way around), so too can our democracy implode if participants fail to act appropriately.

Asked on “Fresh Air” if she sees similarities of creeping authoritarianism in America with actions past and current overseas, Applebaum replied, “Absolutely. The use of the military, the use of language to incite violence - you know, all these are - you know, these aren’t just random things that Trump is doing; these are known tactics. You know, this is how Chavez took over in Venezuela. You know, this is the kind of language that Erdogan uses in Turkey. This is the kind - these are the tactics that Putin uses in Russia. I mean, these are - you know, it’s not coming out of the blue. These are methods that have been used in the past in other places.

“I mean, Americans like to think of themselves as exceptional. And actually, I believe in many ways, we are. You know, we’re uniquely lucky. We’re uniquely gifted. We’ve been a very fortunate nation. We’ve had - you know, we’ve achieved many wonderful things. But we are not exempt from the lure of authoritarianism. We are not exempt from people trying to create authoritarianism. There is nothing about our democracy that is magic. You know, a person who is determined to destroy it can destroy it, unless people can fight back.”

(Most of you are pandemicly stuck at home with time to spare. If you haven’t already, click on the Fresh Air link I provided above. Listen to the interview or read the transcript. It won’t cheer you up but it should galvanize your support in defense of our fragile democracy.) 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Day 133 of Nat'l Emergency: Digging Up Dirt Is Dirty Business

The sins of the fathers taint the acts of the sons no matter how noble the latters’ causes may be. Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” showed us that reality with the persecution of the St. Evrémonde family during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. Charles Darnay was found guilty of oppressing the populace even though he renounced his family title and the nobles who killed and otherwise exploited the peasants.   

And so we now are witnessing the persecution of The New York Times because ancestors of the founding family were slaveholders. Had their coffin draped by the Confederate flag. Were member of the Daughters of the Confederacy (

To be sure, The Times has been cast as guilty of a supreme journalistic sin, that of foregoing objectivity, quashing dissenting voices while permitting bullying of any staffer who deviated from the corporate line.

Never mind that today’s Times champions civil rights. By publishing a special report last year on the  400th anniversary of slavery in the British colonies and laying the foundational reason for the break with the king on perpetuation of slavery, The Times is accused of misrepresenting history while ignoring its own involvement in the despicable practice.

The article demanding genetic purity from The Times was written by a former Times staffer of 16 years. It appeared in The New York Post, a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, an ardent supporter of Donald Trump. Murdoch also owns The Wall Street Journal, arch rival of The Times. Could The Journal benefit from knocking The Times off its lofty perch? No doubt.

That being a real possibility the truth of slaveholding by Times family ancestors is not diminished. But is it damning?

Slavery was part of colonial DNA. It continued into the 19th century even in northern states. New York, for example, did not outlaw all forms of slavery until July 4, 1827. Among northern states only New Jersey permitted slavery longer.

The Ochs family, which bought and reformatted The Times into the preeminent paper in the United States if not the world, had its roots in the Antebellum South. They owned slaves.

I find it increasingly difficult to accept the wholesale tarring of family descendants, especially when one considers how the newspaper over the last 50 years has been a steadfast champion of press freedoms, civil rights and has been a bulwark of defense against abuses of power on local, state and national levels. 

One could surely legitimately argue that The Times has shed some objectivity in its coverage of Donald Trump. That it holds Israel to a higher standard than Palestinians and Arab countries. That its Op-Ed page is mostly a forum for progressive, not conservative, ideas.

Even if guilty on all counts The Times cannot be equated with the symbols of the Confederacy protesters seek to topple. Those statues and the stars and bars flag are symbols of rebellion against our duly elected government. They were traitors unworthy of any reverence or fealty, no matter how valiantly or competently they fought.

My lens of history, of historical perspective, is biased. I admit it. Friends and relatives swear by The Journal as a better newspaper.

Perhaps it is. I don’t read it often enough to make an assessment. Same thing with The Washington Post. They are both owned by tycoons.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has invested heavily in The Post to restore it to its Pentagon Papers/Watergate era prominence.

But in achieving his rank as the richest person in the world Bezos put lots of companies out of business and lots of people out of work. My magazine’s readership included many of those companies and people affected. I derive only some comfort from his resuscitation of The Post.

From Rupert Murdoch I take absolutely no comfort. Anchored by Fox News, his media empire is largely responsible for the distrust many Americans feel toward their country and the resultant emergence of Donald Trump as an avatar of transformation based on misinformation, conspiracy theories and outright lies.

The Times is not pitch perfect. But it still retains a voice that is noteworthy and dedicated to the improvement of our country, despite the less than perfect history of its founding family’s members. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Day 132 of Nat'l Emergency: Lawn Sign for Justice, Petty President, Will Trump Take a Shot

We have proudly joined the woke lawn sign brigade. Designed by Gilda, our sign displays an illustration of eight children of various ethnicities next to a Martin Luther King Jr. saying, “Injustice Anywhere Is a threat to Justice Everywhere.”

Presidential adviser and not-too-secret white supremacist Stephen Miller notwithstanding, Jews have been at the forefront of civil rights activism. We believe in the legitimacy behind the Black Lives Matter movement but have been repulsed by the open antisemitism and anti-Israel stances of some of its leaders and followers, made all the more reprehensible by the organization’s failure to call out repression and discrimination common in Arab Moslem lands. 

Our sign already has won approval from neighbors. We’re at the end of a cul de sac so the sign will get limited exposure. But it’s the sentiment that counts, not the number of eyeballs that see it.

Petty President: The pettiness, the mean-spiritness of Donald Trump continues to know no bounds as it continues to amaze. His latest denigration of the office of the president involves the removal of the official portraits of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush from a public viewing area and their placement in a non public room of the White House.

He couldn’t remove Barack Obama’s portrait because it has not been officially unveiled in deference to the longstanding animosity Trump has toward his immediate predecessor.

One has to wonder how Trump will be treated by his successor, an especially trenchant thought if it is Joe Biden in 2021 or a different Democrat in 2025. Will he be invited to ceremonial functions? Will he be shunned by the members of the exclusive Past Presidents club? 

Will foreign governments welcome him, not that he was an avid jet-setter before his election? As he was not overly complimentary to most foreign leaders while in office, his options for frequent flyer points are limited. Okay, he could visit Turkey, Russia, Brazil. And Israel. Perhaps his good buddy Kim Jong-un will invite him to a deeper visit inside North Korea. Or Xi Jinping might want to show him China’s biological warfare labs that Trump is always talking about.  

Will He Take the Shot? Should an anti COVID-19 vaccine be introduced while he is still in office, will Trump display presidential leadership by publicly taking the shot, or will he punk out and reinforce the cautionary call of the anti-vax brigade that rejects all types of inoculations? Perhaps he will claim an exemption to the injection because of a flareup of his bone spurs.

The current fight over wearing a mask to contain the pandemic’s spread will be child’s play compared to the opposition anti-vaxers will wage, especially if anyone administered the vaccine becomes infected ( 

It is truly a sad time when the health care system once touted as the best in the world has become a shell of its former prominence. 

Feds vs. States: Where does federal vs. state responsibility begin? States’ rights vs. federal authority. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has chosen to push responsibility for containment of the virus to governors, except when he sees political gain advocating opening up the economy and schools. He is trying to strongarm states to do his bidding even as case numbers and deaths rise. But his bottom line is that states, not he, are responsible for the pain the country is experiencing.

On the other hand, having clearly lost his bid to be a successful wartime general in the battle to beat COVID-19, Trump has shifted gears to be the law and order president by sending in federal troops to Portland, OR, to arrest and control Black Lives Matter and related protesters. No state or local official asked for federal troop assistance. Indeed, they have vociferously rejected their presence.

But Trump doesn’t care because this narrative fits the image he wants to project to his base and to voters who might feel threatened by the protesters. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Day 128 Nat'l Emergency: Is the Political Pendulum Swinging?

With just under four months till the election the pendulum has given signs it is ready to swing backward.

After more than four months of jabs and haymakers that have left his administration reeling, Donald Trump appears to have regained some energy. 

Conservative voices are saying woke movements have gone too far. A federal judge has strongly questioned the sexual harassment and abuse settlement against Harvey Weinstein. Conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan is leaving New York Magazine. Bari Weiss is leaving The New York Times because she claims a bullying atmosphere that attacks non liberal stances is tolerated by management. Federal executions have begun anew with Trump threatening more. Trump is further threatening to send in federal forces to cities run by liberal mayors he says cannot control violence. He also is said to be supportive of a Missouri couple who pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters. The CDC director is blaming visiting Northerners for the pandemic outbreak in the South. Trump administration lackeys are degrading the expertise of Dr. Anthony Fauci. Though Joe Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania polls is double digits pollsters say a majority believe there is a “secret” number of Trump voters who could keep the Keystone State red.

Trump is betting his base enjoys their White privilege even as fence-sitting voters will be repulsed by excesses of ultra-progressive woke groups. Their combined ballots will keep him in the White House for another four years

Trump is like that Philadelphia icon—Rocky. It is hard to knock him down. To keep him down.

Biden so far has played a version of Muhammed Ali’s rope-a-dope strategy against George Forman, keeping mostly to himself. He is letting Trump tire himself and the public out with outlandish tweets on all manner of national affairs alongside public displays of indifference to the personal, human losses from COVID-19, now totaling more than 138,000 lives from more than 3.48 million confirmed cases. Even now that he is wearing a mask in public the glower beneath it comes through.

The race for the presidency is a like a 15-round championship boxing match, not a three-round amateur bout. Polling can be illusory. Hillary learned that lesson four years ago.

Barring an international emergency or another vacancy on the Supreme Court, the election will be settled by three intertwined events: the status of the pandemic, the state of the economy, and the success, or lack of, school reopenings.

The pendulum might be swinging a little more in Trump’s direction but there is plenty time for it to swing back to Biden’s corner.