Friday, February 26, 2021

Which Joe Is President? Biden or Manchin?

Which Joe is president of the United States? Joe Biden or Joe Manchin? You may think the former, but in this perilous time for Democrats with razor thin majorities in the House and Senate, it is the senator from West Virginia who wields power above his weight class.

Manchin twice already has stymied Biden in just the first month of the new administration. Even before the Senate parliamentarian ruled it was against Senate protocol to include a raise in the minimum wage in a reconciliation bill, Manchin jeopardized passage by saying he would vote against the measure if it included the raise. 

Since it was doubtful Biden could secure any Republican votes, he would have needed the full 50 votes in the Democratic caucus, plus the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, to pass the legislation. Manchin became a kingmaker, or should we say, a president-deflater.

Manchin also opposes Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget. Seems he didn’t like some of her tweets. Struck too close to home. Apparently, Manchin’s skin is a lot thinner than that of Republicans. 

Even after the Capitol insurgent mob inspired by Donald Trump sought out Mike Pence so they could hang him, the former vice president says all is good between them, he is still Trump’s lap dog. And Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who sharply blamed Trump for the sacking of the Capitol and was in turn lambasted by Trump, now says he would support him if nominated for the 2024 election.

Manchin’s independence from party solidarity is a grave precedent. Knowing that Biden needs complete support from his party, it might encourage any self-minded Democrat to make demands in return for a vote, thus weakening Biden’s ability to enact any part of his comprehensive program, be it on environmental legislation, civil and voting rights, judicial and executive appointments plus a host of other initiatives. 

Already another senator, Krysten Sinema of Arizona, came out against the $15 an hour minimum wage. It was just such personal actions by Democrats that watered down the final Obamacare bill and the 2009 recovery stimulus package.

There’s a fix Biden can make. He needs to “Man up.” 

He needs to act like the president of the United States, the mightiest country on Earth, not some chairman of the local Kiwanis Club out to charm the neighbors.

Biden wasted an opportunity to demonstrate ethical resolve when he did not immediately fire deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo for disparaging and threatening a Politico reporter. Okay, Biden didn’t personally hear his abuse, but if his administration believed Ducklo’s conduct warranted a one week suspension without pay then Biden’s course of action should have been set—he should have fired him or else his word, his bond, would be meaningless. Biden made a big deal out of a no tolerance policy. Biden was fortunate Ducklo resigned quickly. But damage to the presidential backbone remains.

The buck stops with Biden. Don’t pawn off responsibility to someone else, as he is trying to do with the decision on whether Trump should receive intelligence briefings.

The president is the ultimate arbiter of intelligence dissemination, as Trump let us know when he leaked sensitive material to the Russians. So let’s not dilly dally.

Take a stand. Announce to the world that Trump is no longer going to be the leaker-in-chief and that anyone who passes intelligence information to him would be in violation of national security regulations and subject to arrest and prosecution.

The Senate did not convict Trump of inciting an insurrection but, as president, Biden should take no chances that Trump might relate intelligence to foes, foreign and domestic, considering his past actions and high regard for autocrats like Putin, Erdogan, Mohammed bin Salman, Duterte, plus the favor he has shown toward white supremacist organizations, as they have shown towards him.

Take a page from late night TV show host Jimmy Kimmel. Wednesday night, Kimmel aired clips of Trump and Pence from February 2020 dismissing the impact the virus would have on Americans. They said it would quickly fade away and America was ready for it. Sadly, we know they lied. More than 508,000 have died from 28.4 million cases. 

Why do it? Because Americans have poor memories. You need to reinforce reality, the truth, over and over again. Yes, celebrate successes like the number vaccinated since the inauguration but don’t forget to kick Trump when he is down. He would do it to you. 

Joe, it’s time you realize Republicans will not help you, not help the country, not help Americans suffering from economic distress of reduced income, lack of food, fear of losing their residences and businesses. Stop waiting for them to have the best interests of the nation at heart. Twice they have permitted a president to violate the Constitution. They’ve shortchanged relief before and will do so again. It’s time to act alone if necessary. It’s time to go big.

Back to Manchin: Invite him to the White House for an intimate, one-on-one dinner. Turn on that old Biden smile. Promise him a new dam or new post office. Anything to get him to be part of a team of one hundred percent unity because a team of 50 individual players will fail to win. Having a rogue player amidst the Democratic caucus will surely result in failure to maintain control of Congress, failure to win re-election and, more importantly, the failure of our nation to rebound from the distress Trump’s ineptitude and ego left us in.

Democrats have less than two years to put an imprint on America. Bold action is required, action that can translate into immediate results voters could point to in November 2022.

So man up, Joe. That goes for you, too, Joe Manchin. There’s no time for wishy-washy leadership.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Who Knew About Monopoly's Biased Beginnings?

Who Knew?

Who knew that through six decades of playing Monopoly I was reinforcing racial stereotypes and segregation?

Who knew the board game’s rainbow colored avenues were linked to discrimination? I dare say, few knew until an article in The Atlantic claimed Monopoly properties “were based on segregated 1930s Atlantic City”: 

Is a prejudice unknown still a prejudice? Are we now to scrutinize all playthings for their prejudicial development? Did Barbie sexualize young girls? Did Candy Land foster obesity and tooth decay. Did GI Joe glorify war. Did Ralphie’s fixation with getting a Red Ryder Air Rifle in “A Christmas Story” stoke allegiance to the National Rifle Association?

Sensibilities are being “woked.” If you drive a Jeep Cherokee you should be forewarned that the Cherokee Nation is asking Jeep to cease and desist using its ancestral tribal name to sell its SUVs ( 

No word yet on whether cowboys and descendants of armed combatants in the Roman Coliseum are complaining about Jeep Wranglers and Jeep Gladiators. 

Questioning the pedigree of products is nothing new. For decades after the horrors of Nazi persecution became well known, Jews and others disdained buying or even riding in German made cars. That prohibition was maintained even after Israel accepted Mercedes-Benz cars as part of the German government’s reparations. 

I never owned a German car, but my first car was a Ford Mustang, despite Henry Ford being one of the biggest anti-Semites our country has fostered. 

What I find most troubling with counter culture idealists is their failure to accept personal growth and development among people who they believe do not deserve reverence because at some point in their lives, usually when they were younger, they exhibited some form of prejudice, even if it was an accepted form of behavior at the time.

The Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, might have his name removed from a San Francisco school because decades before the Civil War he expressed views that were not unambiguous about the equal status of Blacks. 

I do not know what Eli Whitney, the inventor of the cotton gin, thought about slavery. But, knowing that the cotton gin was instrumental in the expansion of cotton producing lands in the South and thus the expansion of slavery, should we stop recognizing his achievement? 

How about the common use of the hymn “Amazing Grace?” Commonly heard during religious and secular rites (most recently played in the background Monday night as President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses honored the 500,000 victims of COVID-19 in a White House ceremony), the words were written by English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton. 

But years before he wrote the hymn Newton was a slave trader. Under “woke” mentality that would disqualify his output. 

I’m of a similar mind to Bret Stephens of The New York Times who wrote, “Woke Me When It’s Over” (

Friday, February 19, 2021

Similar Experiences, Different Results

You can discover lots of interesting tidbits by reading obituaries—no, I do not read them to see if my absence on the page means I am still alive, as the old joke goes.

I was particularly attracted to the recent New York Times obituary of Abraham Twerski, a 90 year old, white bearded rabbi, a descendant of several Hassidic dynasties, pictured wearing a tie. Nothing unusual there, except the tie was Snoopy-themed. Turns out Rabbi Twerski, a practicing psychiatrist and authority on addiction, had a working collaboration with Charles M. Schulz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip. They partnered on a series of self-help books. 

All very fascinating in their own right, but what truly drew my attention was the following paragraph from Rabbi Twerski’s childhood in Milwaukee:

“Abraham was the third of five brothers, each of whom became a rabbi but was given an advanced secular education as well, earning college and graduate degrees, something very few Hasidim strive for. He attended public schools in Milwaukee, and in second grade acted in a Christmas play. When his mother visited the school, the principal thought she was there to complain; instead, she told the principal that if her son’s Jewish upbringing was not strong enough to weather a second-grade play, it was his family that had failed him (

You see, one of my wife Gilda’s strongest memories of her early life in Saratoga Springs in the 1950s paralleled Rabbi Twerski’s. She, too, was given a part in a Christmas pageant. She was supposed to bow down to the baby Jesus.

From an Orthodox household, though not strictly observant herself, Gilda’s mother objected to her daughter’s submissive role. Wouldn’t be kosher for a Jewish girl. How about a part in the ensemble, just standing around, she suggested.

The teacher thought otherwise. Kneel or be gone with you. Gilda’s stage debut was thus postponed, indefinitely as far as I know. Her vivid memories of the incident include being designated as different, required to sit by herself in the auditorium as her classmates rehearsed their parts for a month. 

Saratoga was not the most welcoming of hamlets to Jews back then. During winter, children would throw snowballs packed with stones at Jewish students exiting a school bus on their way to classes at the synagogue. Rather than  ruffle feathers with the locals, the rabbi advised quickening their pace as they got off the bus. 

Antipathy toward Jews, anti-Semitism, had a long history in Saratoga. In 1877, the manager of the Grand Union Hotel, the largest hotel in the world, denied a room to a Jewish businessman because gentile customers did not like sharing the hotel with “Israelites.” The refusal, according to Wikipedia, created a “nationwide controversy. It was the first antisemitic incident of its kind in the United States to achieve widespread publicity.”

Some 67 years later, the Grand Union Hotel was bought by a syndicate of Jewish investors, Tikvah Associates, Inc., of New York City. Gilda’s father, Irving Barasch, was president of Tikvah Associates. 

Even though Irving’s family owned two hotels in Saratoga, the Empire and the Brooklyn where kosher food was served to Jewish clientele, anti-Semitism still ran strong in the village. Within months, civic pressure forced Irving and his partners to sell the Grand Union. 

Within a handful of years the Grand Union was demolished. Ironically, part of its footprint became the site of a unit of a supermarket chain, coincidentally named Grand Union. It, too, has vanished from Saratoga. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

No Tears for Limbaugh

 Was I wrong to have cheered when I heard the news Rush Limbaugh died? Will I suffer eternal damnation for exulting that one of God’s creations no longer will live-spill bile on the airwaves? 

I think not. As quoted in The New York Times obituary, Limbaugh said, “I have talent on loan from God.” Apparently, the loan came due Wednesday ( 

What took so long?

I’m normally more respectful of the departed, but I rank Limbaugh up there with other notable figures who made our country and world worse off for their presence. As good a performer that he was, and he was quite good, Limbaugh used his skill to make denigration and humiliation publicly acceptable. 

He spouted wild conspiracy theories. He espoused a vision of America that was unicolored in its whiteness and racist in its belief that people of any other color were inferior, not worthy of his American dream. He demeaned feminism, was much harsher toward the LGBTQ community. He rejected environmentalism and liberalism, of course. 

His broadcasting success, his ability to fashion conservative thought, spawned numerous copycats on radio, TV and the Internet. Ultimately, it begot Donald Trump, sufficient reason for me to disavow any feelings of compassion about his passing. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Not Guilty, With an Explanation

Naturally I believe Donald Trump deserved to be impeached and to be found guilty by the Senate. Of course, the latter won’t happen. 

But not because Trump did not act egregiously on January 6. It is because the House of Representatives confined its article of impeachment to just one count—inciting an insurrection. 

Words, as most people can attest, may be variably interpreted. So it follows that most Republicans see no incitement in Trump’s Stop the Steal rally speech prior to the ransacking of the Capitol by his supporters and to his many orations prior to January 6. Democrats view his words as lighting a tinder box of rebellion and carnage. 

Perhaps a guilty verdict might have been more forthcoming had the House tagged him for failure to provide timely and effective aid to the Capitol, its occupants and especially his vice president, all under attack by a mob bent on upending the constitutional process of certifying the votes of the Electoral College. 

There can be little doubt that Trump neglected his duty to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Moreover, he could have been charged with trying to undermine the integrity of the election in Georgia by pressuring the Georgia secretary of state to “find” 11,780 votes so that Trump would win the state’s electoral votes. Trump threatened the secretary of state with criminal prosecution if he did not comply with his solicitation. 

Trump deserves impeachment, conviction, removal and disqualification from holding any future elective office. But the House’s failure to specify those impeachable actions make it easy for senators to vote for acquittal.  

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Connecting the Dots Is A Bridge Too Far

 Republicans and Trump-leaning commentators are saying House impeachment managers arguing for conviction in Donald Trump’s Senate trial were “not connecting the dots” linking the former president’s inflammatory oratory to the invasion of the Capitol January 6.

Thus, convincing at least 17 Republicans to join 50 Democrats to vote guilty on the premise of that linkage is far fetched, to be brutally honest.

But that result should not be the final basis upon which Senate judgment should be rendered:

* Should Trump be held responsible for failure to promptly and forcibly demand that the mob immediately end its attack and leave the Capitol?;

* Should Trump be held responsible for failure to promptly direct deployment of military forces to quell the insurrection and protect the Capitol and its occupants?;

* Should Trump be held responsible for failure to protect his vice president, for tweeting dissatisfaction with Mike Pence during the attack even as Trump knew Pence was being targeted by a mob chanting, “Hang Pence?”;

* Should Trump be held responsible for pressuring Georgia state officials to “find” 11,780 votes, enough to give him a one vote victory in Georgia, for intimating that if they do not do his bidding they could be prosecuted for criminal activity?

Trump could and should be found guilty of violating his oath of office on any one or all of those questions.

But I am not optimistic. Too many Republican senators are in thrall, or fear, of Trump, even some who are retiring by the next election in 2022 or who recently won re-election and should have six years of freedom from fear of a primary.

So, is there an alternative to conviction? Is there an option that would keep Trump from seeking election in 2024?

Some seek relief from Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution: “No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof (emphasis added). But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

Trump repeatedly gave “comfort” to the assailants. He even expressed understanding of why they invaded the Capitol. 

Yet, using Section 3 is a long shot. For more background, here’s an analysis by Robert Reinstein, Dean Emeritus and Clifford Scott Green Professor of Law Emeritus, Temple University Beasley School of Law:

As long as Republicans remain afraid to stand up to Trump, our country will be terrorized by him. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Half-Slips Funded My Middle Class Youth

Knowing my father was a lingerie manufacturer, my friend Linda sent along a New York Times article with a headline that to me was quite evocative: “Hey, What Ever Happened to the Half-Slip?” (

I had not seen the story which I promptly devoured. Half-slips, you see, enabled my middle class upbringing, as they produced more profit than my father’s other mainstay product in the 1950s through the mid 1960s—panties. 

One of my jobs as a teenager at his factory on Broadway north of Houston Street was to assemble boxes of half-slips of assorted colors, a dozen colors to a box. On a long cutting table he would line up boxes of each color and, going left to right, instruct me to pull from each box one half-slip. Black, then red, then peach, and so on till the dozen was completed with a white half slip.

Easy enough, repetitively boring though it may be. To relieve some of the banality of my task I reasoned that once I got to the end of the line I could begin a new assortment by starting with white and making my way back to black.

My formula worked efficiently enough until Dad checked my progress. All hell broke loose as he reprimanded me for failing to follow his instructions. He wanted the white  slip to be on top, black on the bottom.

I countered that all I had to do was flip the slips upside down in the assorted box, but that did not mollify him. You couldn’t argue with him. It was his way, all the way, all the time. It was an example of why my brother nicknamed him “The Boss.” 

It was also a key reason neither my brother nor I ever considered joining him in the business.

As The Times article inferred, the fashion of wearing half-slips mostly disappeared. For the benefit of those who did not link to the article, the author opined, “They’re seen as remnants of an old-fashioned way of dressing, crushed under the spandex fist of shapewear.”

I have my own explanation—women’s lib torpedoed my father’s business. Now, before you start tarring me with woke feathers, let me assure you I support gender equality and opportunity. Bra burning in the 1960s did not affect my father’s business. The shift from skirts and dresses to pants did.

Half-slips are not worn with pants. Women old and young across the country in communities small and large, north and south, east and west, totally or partially abandoned their wardrobes in favor of dress pants and blue jeans. Stores my father sold to, companies like JCPenney, Levine’s, C.R. Anthony, Macy’s, no longer ordered half slips by the gross.

It took a few years but by the end of the 1960s my father had to retrench his enterprise. He switched to making athletic shirts. He became a sub contractor.

A proud man, he did not enjoy working for someone else. One of his “bosses” was a classmate of my sister when she attended elementary school.

He held on till the early 1980s, finally shutting down his shrunken factory after it had been forced to relocate to Brooklyn just before the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge on Flatbush Avenue. By then his once vibrant business, which at its peak employed between 35-60 sewing machine operators, cutters and packers—all Black or Latinx—had been reduced to less than a dozen workers.

My brother, sister and I grew up knowing many of them. They worked for our father and mother for decades—Eloise, sewing lace on the slips, sat at the end of the production line; Big Mary at the other end. To her right, Little Mary, the fastest Merro machine operator. 

Operator. That’s what the women running the machines were called. The operators got paid by piece work. The more tickets of each batch they collected the more they made each week. Salita affixed labels to finished garments. 

In the middle of the factory floor a cutting table stretched 10 yards or more. Ricky handled the cutting after he and James, the shipping clerk, had lifted long, heavy bolts of different colored fabric from the shelves and rolled them back and forth over the table until the rainbow stack had reached about a foot high. 

Patterns laid down atop the fabric, Ricky would precisely run the cutting machine by hand over the outlined designs. 

Keeping a watchful eye over the manufacturing process, making sure each operator had sufficient work, was Lucy, the floor foreman. 

Our mother handled payroll. Payday was Wednesday, in cash, in small manila money envelopes, the type that opened from the top.

The factory, or as our family called it, “The Place,” was a bee hive of noise with sewing machines buzzing out bursts of stitches, tall upright industrial fans beating the stagnant air, street noises filtering in through open windows, and our father screaming to be heard above the machinery. 

He was always screaming, never really in anger, just screaming as part of his perpetual motion. And yet, in the late afternoon hours, when the activity started to die down, as he’d be hunched over a Merro machine trying to coax it back into life, he’d start singing a song. No song in particular, just a melody of contentment. More often than not he’d open up the old Coca-Cola machine and pass out drinks. 

Mixed Messages with a View of Religious Practices

 The first day of Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial produced mixed historical messaging from his defense lawyers and a visual illustration of religious Jewish practice.

Emulating a homespun country lawyer’s mannerisms, Philadelphia lawyer Bruce Castor, Jr. belittled the idea put forward by Democrats that the framers of the Constitution who embarked on the American Revolution would look to British law as precedent that an official could be impeached after leaving office. Castor argued that the founders of our republic sought to be free of British law and thus would would not look to the former mother country for legal foundation and precedent.

His co-counsel, David I. Schoen, on the other hand, praised English law as giving rights to those charged with a crime, rights he said had been denied to Trump. 

So what is it to be? Are we beholden to English legal precedent or adverse to it? 

To anyone not familiar with religious Jewish practice, it might have been perplexing to repeatedly see Schoen put his right hand on his head as he swigged some water from a bottle. 

An Orthodox Jew, Schoen showed his faith. Religious Jews eat or drink only if their head is covered, if not by a hat or yarmulke, then at least by one’s hand. 

He also bobbed left and right while delivering his commentary, a movement familiar to anyone who has observed services in synagogues where congregants “shuckle” while praying. 

Shuckling can be done forward and backward or side to side. You can shuckle while standing or sitting. It is thought to enhance religious fervor, but there is no added religiosity to its use.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Trump's Impeachment Trial Really About Soul of Republican Party

 Impeachment is not a criminal trial.

Donald Trump’s legal team will argue during his impeachment trial in the Senate next week that his inflaming oratory during the rally preceding the sacking of the Capitol by his supporters was protected speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution.

That argument might be legally sustainable in a court of law. But the impeachment hearing is a political exercise. Rules of engagement in a courtroom do not necessary apply.

In voting to acquit Trump during his first impeachment trial for trying to coerce a foreign government to interfere in an American election, several Republican senators said they felt Trump had been chastised enough and would not engage in similar abusive behavior.

How naive they turned out to be. Trump tried to force state officials in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania to change certified election results to be in his favor instead of the declared winner, Joe Biden. In a recorded conversation with Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, he beseeched him to find 11,780 votes so he could win Georgia. He threatened Raffensperger could face criminal action if he did not.

By rejecting election results for more than two months, by claiming they were fraudulent and that victory was stolen from him, he inflamed his followers’ passions, reaching a climax when he urged his Stop the Steal rally to go with him to the Capitol to stop the official acceptance by Congress of the Electoral College results.

Chicken that he is, Trump slinked back to the safety of the White House as the protesters headed down Pennsylvania Avenue. But that scamper retreat actually compounded his guilt. Viewing televised coverage of the assault on Congress, hearing the mob’s cries for revenge on Vice President Mike Pence for accepting the results, Trump did nothing. He refused to send in troops to quell the insurrection. 

He didn’t lift a finger until well after much of the damage was done and then only after repeated entreaties by his aides. His actions, his inaction, contributed to the deaths of five Americans including one Capitol policeman. Subsequently, two other Capitol policemen took their own lives.

His actions, his inaction, put at risk senators, congressmen, congressional staff, Capitol police, his own vice president. Also, exposed for the taking to the rabble, were government papers with possible classified material.

A more egregious transgression by a sitting president of the United States has never occurred.

The evidence is overwhelming against him, especially as free speech is not a tenable defense in an impeachment trial. There is a clear link between Trump’s months of incitement to overturn an election and the attack. 

Except, in these politicized times, Republican senators will latch onto any reason to acquit. The fear they felt January 6, as rioters broke through barriers and ransacked desks and offices, pales in comparison to the fear of revenge they believe would come their way from Trump and his legions if they vote to convict.

They argue it is unconstitutional to try a president after he has left office. But precedent is against them, as the Senate has adjudicated impeachment of federal officials after their terms of office have ended. 

They say losing the presidency and impeachment have been punishment enough. But we’ve seen “enough” is never sufficient to stop Trump from doing more damage. Without a conviction, and subsequent punishment barring him from holding any office again, he would be eligible to run for president once more. Imagine the force of evil he would unleash should he win the presidency again. 

The impeachment trial of Donald Trump begins next Tuesday. But in so many ways it is not a trial of a grifter who rose for a time to be the most powerful man on earth. 

Rather, it is a trial of a once Grand Old Party that embraced the abolition of slavery and the equality of races, the enactment of anti-trust legislation, the advancement of environmental laws, the development of the interstate highway system, the successful ideological battle to end Communist hegemony in Eastern Europe, and the building of coalitions to combat Islamic aggression. 

It is a trial to discern if statesmanship trumps partisanship, if reverence for principle can overcome allegiance to demagoguery, if the belief in our constitutional republic can survive the machinations of a small, selfish man to bend the government to his will over the propositions upon which our nation was founded.  

Do at least 17 Republican senators have the courage to do the right thing, to cast a guilty verdict that, together with 50 Democrats, would convict Trump? 

I doubt it. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The Undoing—The State of American Government

 No. This is not a review of “The Undoing,” the recent HBO murder mystery series starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant. Rather, The Undoing is a concise description of federal government practice we have come to live under for decades.

With each change of political party controlling the White House, presidents have been rapid-fire signing executive orders undoing, reversing, the dictates of their predecessor. 

Take, for example, the issue of funding overseas organizations that provide health care and pregnancy counseling that includes the option of an abortion. As soon as they are sworn in Republican presidents have restricted the dispersal of U.S. monies to the organizations. Newly inaugurated Democratic presidents immediately reinstate the flow of funds. 

The ideological seesaw plays out at home, as well. Democrats support Planned Parenthood, Republicans don’t. Democrats seek greater environmental protections, Republicans act to lessen the burden on industry. 

This topsy-turvy style of government deprives businesses and citizens the ability to do long-term planning, never knowing which set of rules will apply in four year or longer segments, but always ironically confident that current rules will be upended under a new, different party, administration. 

The humor in all this back and forth is the indignation professed by the party not in power. Each new president let it be known how he (it’s always been a he, so far) would act if elected. “No Surprises” could easily be the message placed on a president’s Oval Office desk, much like “The Buck Stops Here” adorned Harry S. Truman’s desk. 

So let’s not be gullible or amazed at the pace and extent of Joe Biden’s executive order blitz. Donald Trump did it. So did Barak Obama. So did George W. Bush. So did Bill Clinton. 

Elections have consequences. While legislative action is preferable, more long lasting and difficult to negate via executive order, a divided Congress has necessitated presidential mandates to effect change, however fleeting under the next presidential election it might be.  

Getting both chambers of Congress to agree to legislation is monumentally difficult. We are seeing that now with President Joseph Biden’s $1.9 trillion package of pandemic and economic relief. Controlled by a narrow margin of Democrats, the House should pass it without too much noise.

But to pass the Senate and the threat of a filibuster that could be ended by no less than 60 senators, Democrats would have to either secure the votes of 10 Republicans or use a reconciliation process that would require just 51 votes. 

To the rescue of bi-partisanship 10 Republicans stepped forward seeking compromise from Biden. Were they honest brokers? 

Nay. Those 10 GOP senators were involved in a Kabuki political play. Their opening bid of a $618 billion relief package was not a serious counter offer. It was intended to fool middle of the road voters into believing Republicans really want to work with Democrats to clean up the mess Donald Trump left us (or should that have read, “left the U.S.?).

If Democrats are to move off their $1.9 trillion package it probably would require Republican acceptance of a deal encompassing between $1.4 trillion and $1.6 trillion. 

Fear Factor: To get the Republicans to more than double their opening bid would take enormous courage. They would have to overcome a politician’s number one fear—the fear of losing a primary. 

Given the state of our electoral process, extremists in both parties often have decisive influence on who wins a primary. Consorting with the enemy on compromise legislation is prima facia evidence to partisans that an incumbent is not a sufficiently true believer. 

Of the 10 GOP senators who met with Biden, five have the luxury of not facing reelection until 2026. They are Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Shelley Moore-Capito of West Virginia, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. 

Mitt Romney of Utah faces the voters again in 2024. 

Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Todd Young of Indiana would seek reelection in 2022. 

Rob Portman of Ohio has chosen to retire rather than hit the campaign trail next year. Ohio has drifted more to the right in recent years. Portman’s expressed interest in seeking bipartisan solutions placed him in fear of losing his seat to a more conservative voice. 

This is the sorry state of politics today. Principled compromise is rejected. Extremism rules. Champions of the former choose retirement.

For another view of Portman’s legacy, click on the link:

Monday, February 1, 2021

Food for Thought: I Like Masculine Meals

I never doubted I preferred hamburgers to salads, but a new study by Scandinavian researchers has affirmed my culinary choices.

As reported in, the study found, “People with similar-length fingers were more likely to choose steak and burgers while those with longer index finger chose ‘feminine’ food,” like salad. The article provides an illustration of how to determine your food predilections and some of the science behind the calculation (

For those not familiar with, it is a British-based news site with a U.S. component, reputable enough to break many important political stories but tabloid enough to publish nonsensical quackery and gossip. In case you haven’t linked to the actual story of this study by Norwegian researchers, here’s an important fact to keep in mind.

The study involved “216 Chinese people, half of whom were women and half men, all with an average age of 27 years.” From that fact you may discern my skepticism with the validity of the findings. That being said, the article is a welcome diversion from the daily assault on our senses of COVID-19, Trump and Biden news.

Normally, I don’t read the comments section, but I fortuitously did. Here are a handful of them: 

“What a bunch of rubbish” (rubbish being a frequent comment)

“There are little green men on Mars….the moon is made of fromage & the pigs will fly south in winter….who writes this stuff????”

“When I see any government official my middle finger inexplicably extends. Then I want a burger and fries.”

“I have one hand like one picture and one like the other picture which is probably why I eat a balanced diet.”

“I’ve see some stupid ‘studies’ before (mostly on DM). But this one takes the cake. Or is it salad?”

“My stomach determines my next meal thank you very much.”

And my personal favorite: “My fingers always lead me to chocolate.”

Under the Wire: Gilda and I got in under the wire. For our COVID vaccines at the Fort Washington Avenue Armory, that is.

Just days after we received our first inoculation injection under the auspices of New York Presbyterian Hospital, the opportunity for non New York City residents to do so was curtailed. Appropriately so.

Though we are still permitted to receive our second shot at the armory on Lincoln’s birthday, the protocol going forward is that only NYC residents qualify for vaccinations there and that 60% should come from the surrounding neighborhood of mostly Caribbean, Latinx and Black residents.

Any fair minded person sitting in the infield of the armory would have recognized the need for such regulations. Gilda and I observed no one of color relieved to have begun the COVID immunity process. It seemed incongruous to us, especially since the pandemic had higher rates in such communities. 

Perhaps the time of our early afternoon visit was an anomaly. But conversations with a half dozen of our Westchester friends who similarly trekked down to the armory over a few days revealed a similar paucity of people of color.

Upon reflection it should not have surprised anyone. The online application process is cumbersome. It requires knowledge of how to use a computer and, equally important, access to a computer for many hours and infinite patience. Moreover, many residents of the neighborhood have jobs that do not afford the luxury of taking off for several hours around a time assigned by the vaccination web site. 

Aside from making distribution of the shots more equitable, vaccinating the most vulnerable segments of the population will help reduce the spread of the pandemic. 

As long as we’re on the subject of COVID, there have been incidents of airline passengers refusing to wear masks in flight. A recent United Air Lines trip from Tel Aviv to New York is an example (

One easy solution would be to permanently ban anyone from future flights if they don’t wear a mask. They should be placed on a FAA no flight list. Extreme? Yes, but necessary.

Out of the Past: Gilda and I spent part of Sunday reliving the past. Not our past. Rather, we experienced for an hour what it might have been like for empty nesters doing chores—in our cases, sewing—without the distraction of radio or television (yes, I do almost all my mending needs. My mother trained me). Earlier, we walked for 45 minutes, only our conversation and the wind occasionally breaking the silence.

It was quite nice. Mind you, I am not advocating for pre electronics age living. But a respite from checking emails, listening to NPR podcasts or watching Netflix or sports is a welcome change.

The House Just Shuttered: Snow from the upper roof just cascaded down onto the roof above the kitchen. 

At least this time we realized what the rumbling sound meant. Forty years ago in our first house, Gilda and I were startled by what sounded like a garage door opening. 

It was past 11 pm. Our first thoughts were that someone was trying to break into our home. I quickly put on pants and a jacket and grabbed a bat from my softball equipment bag. I ran outside to confront anyone who had dared invade our home. 

While I was doing my best impression of a protective homesteader, Gilda called the police who advised against anyone going outside lest the squad car sent to our room mistake me for the suspected intruder. Gilda quickly called down to me to get back inside, but by then I had figured out what made the noise. Snow had tumbled down from our slate roof. 

Just got back inside at 4:30 pm from my second snow blowing session of the day. Six inches each time. The forecast calls for snow through Tuesday morning. I am not a happy camper.