Monday, August 31, 2020

Day 175 Nat'l Emergency: Unmasking Cultural History

Masks have been an integral part of our visual mass culture ever since the 1903 production of “The Great Train Robbery,” a 12-minute movie considered to be the first film with a narrative plot line (click the link to see the film:

Herewith, my compilation of worthy films and television/cable shows that employed a mask in a significant way:

The Mask—Jim Carrey’s eye-popping comedy thriller;

Batman movie series including The Joker, as well as the Batman TV series of the 1960s;

The Man in the Iron Mask, either the 1939 Louis Hayward or the 1998 Leonardo DiCaprio swashbuckler set during the reign of France’s Louis XIV;

Star Wars series with masked Darth Vader and Kylo Ren;

Mask—No mask worn by Eric Stoltz portraying Roy “Rocky” Dennis who has craniodiaphyseal dysplasia. A triumph for Cher as his mother; 

Gravity—Sandra Bullock and George Clooney spent most of the film with their faces shielded by astronaut helmets;

The Elephant Man—another biopic about disfigurement with John Hurt playing Joseph Merrick in 19th century London; 

Nacho Libre—Jack Black in a homage to Mexican wrestlers who wear colorful masks;

Zorro—Lots of Zorros to choose among, from Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in a silent, to Tyrone Power, Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas, as well as George Hamilton as Zorro, The Gay Blade. And don’t forget Guy Williams as the TV series Zorro;

The Invisible Man—Not technically a mask, but the same genre of concealed identity. Choose from the 1933 classic or the 2012 or 2020 versions;

Spider-Man series—I like Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker;

Phantom of the Opera—Claude Rains was the phantom in the 1943 version, a role played by Lon Chaney in the 1925 silent movie. If you’re an Andrew Lloyd Webber fan, go for the 2005 musical; 

The Lone Ranger television, and before that radio, series (forget most of the movies) which added “Hi-Yo Silver,” “Kemo sabe” and “Who was that masked man?” to our lexicon of words and phrases;

The Green Hornet—Forgettable except for his sidekick’s name, Kato, which became linked to the O.J. Simpson murder prosecution in the form of Kato Kaelin, a witness at the trial;

The Mask of Demetrios—No mask here beyond the title of this film noir classic with key roles for Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Zachary Scott and Faye Emerson;

The Phantom—Not to be confused with The Phantom of the Opera, The Phantom is another comic book crime fighter brought to the silver screen;  

Money Heist—If you haven’t Netflixed this Spanish serial  about robbers wearing Salvador Dali masks you have no idea what absorbing television looks like;

And because they spent so much time behind their surgical masks, M*A*S*H, the movie and iconic TV series.

Feel free to add to my list by clicking on the comments link.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Day 173 Nat’l Emergency: “Acceptable Deaths” and Melania Exposed

Political conventions are meant to be one-sided versions of the truth. So let’s cut some slack to Republicans, and before them the Democrats, for engaging in hyperbole to try to sway the few undecided voters who might have tuned in to their respective shenanigans.

That said, a bit of news from a CBS News/YouGov poll that came out last Sunday, the day before the GOP kicked off its convention, deserved more attention, though for sure it would not have come from Republicans during their staged proceedings. Indeed, two of the nation’s most current and pressing crises—the COVID-19 pandemic and the recurring shooting by police of people of color that has supercharged the Black Lives Matter movement—hardly rated any mention except to pat the administration on its back for its pandemic response and to vigorously support law enforcement.

The CBS News/YouGov survey found that 57% of Republicans say the level of deaths from the coronavirus is “acceptable.” At the time of the survey the death count was more than 176,000. It is now 180,000-plus.

Even more Republicans, 73%, believe the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic is “going well.”

By comparison, 67% of independents and 90% of Democrats said the death toll was “not acceptable,” while 62% of all voters said the response is “going badly.”

The alternative universe that Donald Trump lives in has permeated down to his legion of supporters. Sixty-four percent believe deaths are really “fewer than reported.”

Black lives apparently do not matter too much to Republicans—81% felt recent attention to discrimination was “too much.” Only 12% of Democrats shared that opinion (

Those populating today’s Republican Party, including those Dixiecrats who switched to the GOP back in the 1960s after civil rights legislation was passed by Democrats, have resisted extending civil and voting rights to minorities. So it is not surprising that Republicans as a group fail to see any merit in the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Perhaps because Blacks and Latinos have been disproportionally affected and killed by the coronavirus Republicans have displayed less empathy for the victims.  How else to rationally explain why 57% think the death toll is “acceptable”? 

Has Donald Trump so inured Republicans to tragedy that they blithely accept losses that should appall even the most hard-hearted among us? Similarly, has Donald Trump’s America reverted to antebellum attitudes that ascribed less than human values to people of color? Is that why his base did not protest when children from Latino asylum seeking families were ripped from their parents at the border and incarcerated in cages? 

If only Melania’s “compassionate” voice was the voice of the Trump administration, some observers wished after her convention speech. Perhaps because her life story did not begin with food ladled by a silver spoon Melania might be able to relate to the common folk, in sharp contrast to her husband’s gilded and discriminatory upbringing. 

Upon closer reflection, she is an enabler. Did she really say Donald is “totally honest”? That implies he doesn’t lie. I’m not talking about the type of political misrepresentations that all pols do to hide or obscure secret negotiations or other national security issues. Donald Trump’s memory of what he has said or tweeted lasts a nano second. Apparently, Melania is either not reading or listening. Or she, too, lacks total recall.

Her “perfection” as a First Lady has been shattered by the pending release of a tell-all book by her former BFF and White House aide, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. 

In “Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady,” Wolkoff asserts Melania did not move into the White House with her husband for several months until a new toilet and shower could be installed in her quarters. Could it be she deemed it unacceptable to use facilities previously used by a Black couple, Michelle and Barack Obama? 

Wolkoff ends her gossipy treatise by writing Melania “told me in her way that she was not part of the solution, she was part of the problem. Not speaking up, and not fighting, against the problem, is being part of the problem, and I learned that the hard way.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Day 169 Nat'l Emergency: Your Choice of Values

 This election is not between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

This election is not between Republicans and Democrats.

This election is between fear and hope. 

The choices November 3rd contain lists of names. For Republicans, the list is headed by Trump. For Democrats, Biden tops the list.

Actually, we will not be choosing between two septuagenarians. We will be choosing between their respective value systems that reward:

Indecency or decency

Fiction or non fiction

Lies or truth

Ego fulfillment or empathy

Alchemy or science

Voodoo doctors or medical doctors

Racism or equal opportunity

“It is what it is” or compassion

Self interest or national interest

Restrictions on voting or extended voting rights

Rejection of alliances or respect for allies

Distortion or reality

A bully or a mensch

Autocracy or democracy

A conspiracy believer or fact-based decision maker

Disrespect or respect

Both Trump and Biden agree on one thing—this election could be the most important ever for its impact on the future of America. 

Voters will decide what type of country they want America to be.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Day 165 Nat'l Emergency: Trump's Acceptance Speech (My Version)

(Next Thursday, Donald Trump will present his nomination acceptance speech. Here’s my vision of what he will say.)

My fellow Americans.

It is what it is.

I have been humbled. How ironic. I, who am a germaphobe, have been humbled by a germ, a microbe that refuses to go away no matter how many times I say it will just disappear.

So many deaths. So many positive cases. We lead the world in both categories. How humbling it is to lead the world.

Fauci says close down the country. Does that mean even I wouldn’t be able to go golfing? By the way, isn’t it more peaceful now that Fauci had throat surgery and has to limit his public voice? 

I hope he listens to his doctor’s advice. That’s good advice for all of you—listen to your doctors, unless, of course, you are smart like me and know where to find medical experts on the Internet. That Internet is really an amazing source of knowledge. As good as Fox News. And the America One Network.

All those people out of work. All those businesses posting signs that they’re out of business. Stop your whining! You all sound like Democrats. Or Black Lives Matter demonstrators crying over a few tear gas droplets. You’d think they were sprayed with coronavirus aerosol.

You know why the Democrats keep harping on those deaths and lost jobs? Because most of those affected were Democrats—poor people with no insurance. No savings. People of color because, you know, the coronavirus is attracted to darker colors. White people have an advantage. As they should. 

They’re all crying about being behind on their rent and possibly being evicted. Being put out on the street during a pandemic. Well, they’ve shown no empathy for landlords who’ve lost so much of their incomes. Take it from me—I’ve been a landlord all my life. That’s why Dad and I didn’t want any of those deadbeats as tenants in our housing developments.

Buck up, business people. You think I don’t know a thing or two about going belly up? Heck. Look at me for inspiration. I’ve filed for bankruptcy six times, six times, and now look at me. Ain’t America a grand place to live?!?

Just look at that stock market. You really need to invest your money in the stock market. That’s how you really make money. That and real estate. 

Now, I know some of you need every one of your dollars to pay for food and clothing, and of course rent or your mortgage. But seriously, I’ve seen so many of you at my rallies and quite a few of you could afford to skip a few meals and put the savings toward the stock market or a sweet real estate deal. 

Take it from me—what have you got to lose?

Just like the wall that Mexico will pay for—oh, yes, they will pay for it—we will get China to pay for the China virus they unleashed on us. Don’t ever doubt my word.

It’s been so hot this summer. And all those fires out West are making it even hotter. You can’t even cool off under a strong shower. Those shower heads have no pressure. That’s why I am rescinding those damn water flow regulations. If American companies won’t go back to the old ways we’ll just have to import shower heads from China.

Oh, wait a minute. I’ve just made shower heads an essential business so we can’t ask China for help. Maybe Vietnam will do it for us?  You know, now that we’re not at war with Vietnam I’ve always wanted to visit that country. I hear lots of Americans found Vietnamese women to be rather alluring. 

What’s that?—I’ve already visited Vietnam before meeting my good buddy Kim Jong-Un. Oh, well, it is what it is.

You want to know why I don’t criticize Putin? Look what’s happened to Aleksei Navalny. They got him to drink poisoned tea. He’s fighting for his life in a Russian hospital. No way I’m going to take a chance offending that man Putin. He gave me a soccer ball when we met one time. I’m not going to diss someone who gives me presents. He did, after all, gift me the presidency in 2016.

Yeah. Now that the bi-partisan Senate Intelligence Committee, with a Republican majority no less, has concluded that Russia and the Trump campaign worked together to defeat Lyin’ Hillary, it no longer can be denied—Vladimir is my best bro, my comrade. He’s a shorty, but did you see those pecs when he rides shirtless? He’s a man’s man, not like those young Frenchies, Macron and Trudeau. I know, Trudeau is Canadian, but French Canadian. A real Canuck. Just ask my friends up in Maine and New Hampshire about Canucks.

Those bastards at the United Nations don’t want to re-impose sanctions on Iran. They say because we pulled out of the nuclear agreement we no longer have any say on Iran sanctions. Well, I say if they won’t listen to us we’ll just stop giving the UN any of our money. It’s not as if the UN has done anything for us.

It’s just like the World Health Organization. They care more about China and Europe than about the United States. So we left the W-H-O. We’ve got the best doctors and scientists here in America. Some day they’ll beat this pandemic. And when we develop a vaccine we’re not sharing it with any country until all of our people who want to be vaccinated get the shot. You know, there are a lot of good people who are anti-vaxxers.

Democrats are really socialists. Imagine. They want to give everyone a living wage. They want to take back the trillion-dollar tax break I gave the wealthy. And then give it to working class and middle class families. They want the police to stop killing people of color. They think Black Lives Matter. Well, I think Blue Lives Matter. They want to eliminate coal plants. They want to get all our energy from the sun and wind. Crazy. We need more coal plants.

And we need fewer gasoline mileage standards. And we need to open up our national lands to more logging and more drilling for oil and natural gas reserves. Drill baby, drill. And let’s stop coddling Native tribes who don’t want pipelines or drilling on their reservation lands. This is America. This is our land. We won. They lost.

Losers. That’s what all those complainers are. They lost in 2016. Cryin’, Lyin’ Hillary still believes she got more votes than I did. Sleepy Joe was part of the team that led to my victory. Do you really want to go back to a time when people feared their guns would be taken away? When illegal migrants flooded across our border? They blame me for separating families. For kicking illegals out of our country. But Obama started it. I just perfected it.

Those crybaby liberals are letting our great cities burn down. We need more police, not fewer. We need tougher judges. We need more prisons. Those Central Park Five miscreants should still be in jail, not lauded in documentaries.

The media, the left wing fake news media, is the greatest danger to our freedom. We need to punish them. We need to loosen libel laws. We need to knock social media giants down to a size where they cannot use their biases to deny conservative commentary on their web sites.

It’s time everyone came together to recognize our great Christian nation is exceptional. God has blessed us all, especially me, singling me out to lead our country through troubled times. In years to come Hollywood will make a movie out of our endeavor.

Who do you think should play me? Mel Gibson? Jon Voight? Clint Eastwood? Chuck Norris? Gee, if only Charlton Heston were still alive.

In a little more than two months it will be time to cast your votes. Democrats think they’ll swamp us by voting by mail. They’re encouraging all those seniors to vote by mail. They only want more benefits, more handouts.

Let’s submerge their strategy by voting by mail as well. Let’s overwhelm the Postal Service.

I stand before you eager for another four year term as your president, and for more terms after that, as well. We’ll see what we can do about that. I gratefully accept your nomination for president.

And don’t believe any of those nasty rumors that Melania will leave me once I no longer am president. She’s a great First Lady.

God bless the USA. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Day 162 of Nat'l Emergency: A Daughter's Grief

 Michelle Obama is being hailed by Democrats, or razed by Republicans, for her emotional takedown of Donald Trump during Monday’s streamed Democratic Party national convention. 

But for my money, the most effective, powerful moment came not from a politician or their spouse but from a grieving daughter whose father believed in Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and died needlessly because of that misplaced trust. 

Democrats missed an opportunity to more widely share this message by placing it during the first hour of the convention which was not broadcast by CBS, NBC or ABC. So if you did not see it, here’s a link to Kristin Urquiza’s impassioned 2:21 minute tribute to her father:

Monday, August 17, 2020

Day 161 of Nat'l Emergency: No Limits on Secret Executive Powers Threatens Democracy

 I couldn’t fall back asleep Sunday night after waking up at 1 am. I stayed awake for four hours. I kept thinking about a “CBS Sunday Morning” piece by Ted Koppel I had watched that evening about the unlimited executive power a president could assert in a self-declared emergency. A president could, for all intents and purposes, shred the Constitution. 

A president could declare martial law, dismiss Congress, suspend Habeas Corpus, and indefinitely jail any dissenters, including elected senators and representatives, journalists and late night TV comedians who have made a cottage industry out of haranguing those in power, even if they have not committed any crime. Elections could be shelved. 

In effect, a president could install him- or herself as a dictator for life (

Developed first in the 1950s during the Eisenhower administration as a rapid response format in case of nuclear war, the content and scope of executive emergency authority directives, known as Presidential Emergency Action Documents, are not widely known. They are periodically updated by administrations and their Justice Departments. Conjecture about them breeds uncertainty and apprehension. In the hands and mind of the wrong president and his or her cabal they could destroy our democratic republic.

And it would be entirely legal.

Several times Donald Trump has hinted at the extraordinary powers a stroke of his pen could grant him. On March 12 he declared, “I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about.” Earlier, on January 9, he said, “I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency.” 

So far, Trump has invoked seven national emergencies. All he needed was approval from the Justice Department. He has a pliant and enabling attorney general.  

Sadly, under pretext of restoring civil order, Trump could unleash federal forces throughout the land. He has had his dry run in Portland, Seattle, Chicago and Washington, DC, along with his border patrol agents and their detention centers.

Few have seen the scope and text of emergency executive power authorizations. Leaders of Congress haven’t. Presumably, the four living ex-presidents—Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama—have, so why haven’t they issued warnings about their substance and potential abuse? 

COVID-19 and racial unrest are not existential threats to the republic, but then again, it is Trump who would make the determination. Losing an election—even holding an election—could be perceived by him as an existential threat to his continued rule. He has joked about being president beyond the constitutional limit of two terms. 

The question of his voluntarily leaving office if he loses the election is no longer a parlor game of possibilities. He could void the results. And if he wins he could remain “president” for life if he so chose. All perfectly legal.

It is generally assumed Trump’s supporters revere the Constitution. What will they do if he suspends it? Is their patriotism a sham, or will they finally revolt against his rule? Keep on mind that some estimates place two-thirds of all legal guns in the hands of Trump supporters. Would the ultimate irony be Trump’s disarming the membership of the National Rifle Association?

The playbook for would-be dictators is well known: Get yourself elected to lead a government and then purge it of all dissent as you strip away any potential challenge to your absolute rule while setting up laws, including removal of all weapons, that you and your like-minded judges ruthlessly enforce. 

Eisenhower defeated Hitler and Mussolini but the emergency powers he put into place have provided a legal umbrella to shield Trump on his mission of total empowerment. It is no comfort to know that the foreign leaders Trump most often praises are Putin, Duterte, Erdogan, Kim Jong-un, Bolsonaro and even Xi. 

Foretold is forewarned. The results of the election November 3, if there is an election, could be far different from our expected reality, our tradition of a peaceful transition of power. Remember, even if he loses in a landslide Trump would remain president for 77-1/2 days, more than enough time to proclaim an emergency to invoke absolute authority, forever.

I’m sorry in advance if you cannot stay asleep tonight. But don’t blame me. I am merely the messenger.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Day 160 Nat'l Emergency: Voting Edition—Jewish Voters, Minority Voters, Mail-in Voters

 You gotta hand it to political junkies. They’ll look for any trick to tie in support for their preferred candidate.

Take the Jewish voter. In important swing states, such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and even Arizona, Jews could shade each state blue or red.

Here’s where some Jewish “pilpul” comes in. For the uninitiated, pilpul, according to the dictionary, “is a method of disputation among rabbinical scholars regarding to the interpretation of Talmudic rules and principles or Scripture that involves the development of careful and often excessively subtle distinctions.”

There can hardly be a more subtle exegesis than the argument that God is on the side of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Why? Because their surname initials, B and H, written together as B’’H, are shorthand for a phrase many observant Jews place at the top of anything they write. It stands for “Be-ezrat Hashem,” which means, with God’s help or with God’s strength. Some translate it to be “Be-irshut Hashem,” with God’s permission. Either way, God is invoked as a positive presence.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence might claim solid evangelical Christian support, but Biden-Harris could be a signal from God to Jews to vote Democratic.

Speaking of Jewish voters, pundits are wondering what the impact of the Trump-brokered peace accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates will be on their choice for president.

They can stop wondering. Those who already favored Trump will continue to believe he is the harbinger of the messiah.

Those who vote based on a candidate’s total résumé—which in Trump’s case includes culpability for tens of thousands of needless deaths because of his mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic, his demeaning, bullying, lying, misogynistic, egotistical manner, his xenophobia—will choose Biden who is a mensch and has been a stalwart supporter of Israel.

Mail Call: Trump says mail-in ballots are prone to fraud. Of course, that hasn’t stopped him from requesting his own mail-in ballot from Florida.

Trump claims in-person voting is safer from fraud than mail-in systems. Yet, for the 2016 New Hampshire results, Trump asserted hordes of Massachusetts voters crossed the border into the Granite state to cast votes for Hillary Clinton, depriving him of victory there.

In other words, no method of voting is safe and secure from fraud, according to the man who cannot tell anything but a lie.

I’m sure he has an easy solution—just forget about voting and leave him in office for perpetuity, which is what his former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, in his new book, alleges Trump really wants.

Black Votes Matter: Every word that Biden and Harris say about minority communities is being parsed by Trump and his surrogates. Trump wants their votes by touting his economic underpinning of minority businesses and improved employment prospects.

Those arguments might have had traction before 2020, but since the coronavirus pandemic hit Trump has been a “war time president” overseeing and ignoring devastation within minority communities in terms of deaths, illnesses, lost jobs and shuttered businesses. Black and Latino populations have been hurt by COVID-19 on a greater proprortional basis than Whites.

Back in 2016 he publicly challenged Blacks to support him by asking, “What have you got to lose?” Apparently, their lives, the lives of loved ones, their jobs and their businesses. As minorities often fill non professional jobs in essential businesses such as mass transportation and healthcare facilities, they are more exposed to COVID-19 than the general population.

Mail Call II: For sure I have been focused on Trump’s attempt to undermine voting rights by destabilizing the Postal Service’s ability to deliver mail-in ballots in a timely manner. Like many of you, most of my outbound and inbound communications are internet borne, so I didn’t take his actions too personally as they pertained to ordinary mail.

I didn’t zero in on an important function the Postal Service  provides—delivering prescriptions, many of them life-saving medications—to countless Americans.

I casually sympathized with their plight until I realized, hey, wait a minute. I get my diabetes, prostate and blood pressure meds through the mail!

Trump is trying to kill me and millions of others by mucking up delivery of life-sustaining medications. If not outright kill us, at the very least he is creating unneeded anxiety in our lives.

Sadly, while Trump’s actions might be morally indefensible they apparently fall within the legal powers of a president. Our only response is to vote in overwhelming numbers, in person and by mail. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Day 157 Nat'l Emergency: The Biden Acceptance Speech I Want to Hear

 (A week from tonight Joe Biden will present his vision for America. In his nominating acceptance speech, I don’t want him to aggressively attack Donald Trump. No doubt, the days leading up to his speech will contain plenty of vitriol aimed at Trump. I want Biden to present a forward thinking, positive message imbued with dignity and decency. Here is what I hope he will say:)

My fellow Americans, I humbly accept your nomination to become the next, the 46th, president of the United States. I promise you I will work tirelessly to heal our nation both physically and emotionally, to make us again the shining city upon a hill that is the envy of the world.

Let us talk about our brighter tomorrows. First and foremost, we must sign on to a pact of truthfulness. Your leaders must address you as bearers of truth and respect.

We must base our dialogue on respect for science. On respect for the rule of law. On respect for the Constitution. On respect for the value of the lives of all the residents of our great country irrespective of their religion, their race, their creed, their national origin, their wealth, their education, their socio-economic status.

We are a compassionate and empathetic nation. For too long we have buried those emotions in an orgy of selfishness. Compassion and empathy start with an example from our highest leaders. My personal history has contained moments of extreme tragedy. Without the support of family, friends, community and yes, government, I would not be able to stand before you today. I vow to be a caring, compassionate, empathetic president.

As I speak to you today America has sustained an unconscionable loss—more than 5 million have contracted coronavirus. Sadly more than 165,000 have died. Millions have lost their jobs. We cannot dismiss these losses as, “It is what it is” rhetoric. 

As president, my number one responsibility will be to ensure your health, safety and welfare. Any loss of life—especially deaths that could have been prevented by a responsible, coordinated, national response—will not be acceptable in my administration. Our actions will be based on the best scientific, medical and, should it be required, military advice without regard to how it would play politically.

We need to rebuild our country. We have done it before. After the Civil War. After the pandemic of 1918. After the Great Depression. After World War II. After assassinations. After Vietnam. After the recession of 2008.

The current pandemic has shown us the clarity of the need for healthcare for all of our citizens, for a virus knows no boundaries between classes, or races. or religions, or regions. No other industrial nation in the world does not have a working system of affordable health care for all its residents.

No other such country does not have a system of preschool child care. We must provide affordable college education or technical training to all who desire it.

We must heal our nation from within of the insidious racism that keeps too many of our brethren from equally enjoying all the fruits of this great country. We cannot accept hunger and poverty in the richest most successful country in the world. Our compassion and empathy demand we act to decisively lift the lives of our fellow citizens who through no fault of their own have been kept in conditions all compassionate and empathetic people would resolve to change.

Drinking water. There is no reason, no acceptable excuse, why millions of our people lack clean drinking water flowing freely into their homes.

We must shepherd the environment. We cannot let corporate greed debase our greatest natural heritage.

Let’s embrace the truth—climate change is real and is enabled by human action. And can be mitigated by human action. We must strengthen, not weaken, environmental laws.

Through hard work our fathers and grandfathers built an infrastructure complex second to none. But it is aging and needs refurbishing. We must revitalize our bridges, tunnels, highways, dams, ports, waterways, mass transit systems and air traffic control systems.

Throughout our treasured history America has been a beacon that attracted the best from the nations of the world. Not just the richest. Or the most educated. The best. Those who had a desire to improve their lives and their family’s lives, through hard work and initiative. 

We are a nation of immigrants. None of our pedigrees is better than those who came before or after us. We need to construct a workable, compassionate, empathetic legal system of immigration and asylum.

We are a nation among nations. Our commitment to international alliances must be rock solid. For three quarters of a century the rest of the world looked up to America for our values and leadership. I will restore our good name among the people of the world.

Ours is one of the few democracies that has not yet been graced by a female president. My selection of Senator Kamala Harris as my vice presidential running mate and your election of our team will put us one step closer to the shattering of that ultimate glass ceiling.

One hundred years ago women across every state in the Union voted for president for the first time. How fitting it would be to celebrate that achievement by electing our first woman vice president. But let’s not do that simply because Kamala Harris is a woman. Her credentials for the job are exquisite and align tightly with my vision for America.   

Together, Kamala and I will fight any attempt to restrict voting rights. We will champion passage of a living wage. We will address the inequities of a tax system that has rewarded the super rich while burdening middle class and working class families. We will choose federal justices who adjudicate the law and not the whims of their political party affiliation.

But we cannot do it alone. We need each and every one of you to vote, in person or by mail-in ballot. Vote for the Biden-Harris ticket but also cast your vote for Democrats running for the Senate and House, for governor and state legislator, for mayor, councilperson and school board member. The legendary House Speaker Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” Remember, at stake is the direction of our country not just from Washington but also from every hamlet, town and city, on up to state capitals.   

A stark choice for our future awaits us November 3rd. I need not delineate the differences between Democrats and Republicans. I am confident my reading of America is that of a compassionate, empathetic people who believe in equal opportunity for all. Who believe ours is a government based on the rule of law. Who believe that the first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens not just from external threats but also from the decaying threats of poverty and income inequality, of hunger and disease, of ignorance and bigotry, of lies and deceptions, of selfishness and greed. 

I believe in America and want to lead you into an era of trust and truthfulness, of respect and responsibility, of caring and compassion.

I am humbled by your confidence in me. Together we can rebuild America, stronger and better.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Day 151 Nat’l Emergency: International Beer Day, Mood Swings and a Toast to Pete Hamill

Today, August 7, is International Beer Day. While I enjoy the occasional brewski, I am not devoted to the libation. I’m no Brett Kavanaugh. I’m more a vodka man when seeking a buzz.

But I have come to recognize the importance beer has played in the development of societies. As I learned when reading “A History of the World in Six Glasses” by Tom Standage, beer was the first transformational drink of Western civilization. (Just so you’re not overwhelmed by curiosity, the six breakthrough liquids, in their order of development in the Middle East and Western countries, were beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca-Cola.)

Water, naturally, was a thirst quencher from the get-go. But too often water sources became tainted from human and animal waste. The production of beer, on the other hand, cooked off disease spreading microorganisms. At one time, Standage noted, beer was the preferred drink of kings of ancient civilizations. Moreover, the quality of one’s beer reflected a person’s wealth. 

Beer also often was part of one’s wages. Written records show the Egyptians who built the pyramids were state employees whose wages included rations of beer. As winemaking became more prevalent, wine superseded beer as the drink of choice by the cognoscenti. 

Beer continued to be important to the masses. Even children drank beer, albeit a heavily diluted potion. Adults also consumed diluted beer, at least early in the day. It was not unusual for the populace to walk around in a stupor from morning till night. 

It was only after the introduction of coffee to Europeans, first on the island of Malta in the mid 16th century by Turkish slaves, that a different type of buzz woke Christendom up in the morning. Coffee hastened the industrialization of Europe.

It is beer that is celebrated today, however, so everyone raise the glass of your favorite brew. Cheers!

 Uh-oh, I just found out why I have a problem stabilizing my moods.

According to a chart from Sumbu.official, you can get more serotonin in your body by swimming, cycling, running, meditating, sun exposure, and walking in nature.

Okay, well, I don’t know how to swim, I stopped biking 10 years after I learned how to at age 40 following repeated spills, I never jogged (bad for the knees, I always reasoned), I don’t meditate, and after four facial basal cell carcinomas I try to avoid too much sun exposure. I do walk in nature but not often enough to count as a daily, even weekly, endeavor.

I guess I’m screwed.

Serotonin, for those like me who never really thought or knew about it, is a chemical released in your brain based on activities you undertake to stabilize your mood. It is one of four “happiness” related chemicals, the others being dopamine (the reward chemical), oxytocin (the love hormone), and endorphin (the pain killer). Here’s a chart:

How have you been keeping your sanity while staying cooped up in your abode? Have you been maintaining your equilibrium? Not chomping at the bit eager to chop off the heads of your spouse or children? 

Even Michelle Obama has acknowledged these pandemic and political times have infused in her a low grade depression. So, how do you keep your cool?

I achieve quasi-normalcy by writing this blog, though during periods when I go almost a week or longer between posts it usually is because I am too depressed to get up the initiative to create. It’s not writer’s bloc. It’s low grade depression. 

How are you coping?

For Pete’s Sake: Around the time I matriculated from the sports and comics pages of the newspaper to reading daily columnists—the mid 1960s—Pete Hamill began his reporting career at The New York Post, then a bulwark of liberal journalism. He was one of several noteworthy writers including James Wechsler, Murray Kempton, Mary McGrory, Max Lerner, who filled my brain with progressive ideas. But it was Hamill’s prose that captured a reader’s attention through its earthy depiction of tragedies and human interest stories amid the normal lives of working class stiffs that forged the core of Hamill’s background growing up in an Irish neighborhood in Brooklyn. Hamill died Wednesday. He was 85.

Along with Jimmy Breslin of The New York Daily News, Hamill championed a new type of journalism that went beyond the who, what, where, when fact sheet and delved into the why, the emotions behind the swirl of events. He described people and how they were affected. He also instilled a soul into his depiction of New York City. His writing was like that of the Post’s sports columnists who didn’t worry about telling you the score of the game but rather related what star athletes felt about their achievements or disappointments.

I never met Hamill directly. Rather, my contact with him was once removed. Back in the 1970s, when Hamill was living with Shirley MacLaine in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, Gilda’s stepfather, Gus, was their mailman. One day he had to make an in-person postal delivery. Gus rang the bell to their apartment and was surprised when MacLaine opened the door dressed simply in her negligee. A wide smile passed over Gus’ face whenever he recounted that experience.

As I conclude this blog entry written with several interruptions over the course of eight hours, it is still International Beer Day. I think the passing of Pete Hamill is worthy of raising a toast in his good name.

(Editor’s note: Because of the loss of Internet service to my desktop computer I am unable to provide direct links to URLs provided. Please copy them into your browser to gain access to the sources.)