Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Finding One's Voice After Another Shooting

 Have you ever talked back to the television? Or grumbled when you read a newspaper?


I have.


Particularly during newscasts or when reading a news article.

 

Take, for example, recent reports that Viktor Mihály Orbán, prime minister of Hungary, was blocking the swift absorption of Ukraine into the European Union favored by President Joe Biden. And that Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was stymying Sweden and Finland’s rapid entry into NATO, another Biden priority.


When I heard of those dual objectors I commented to Gilda that Orbán and Erdoğan are the Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema of U.S. foreign relations, a reference to the two Democratic senators who repeatedly fail to support key parts of Biden’s domestic programs.


Tuesday, my response to the horrific massacre of innocent young children and their protectors at an elementary school is Uvalde, Texas, Tuesday was shocked silence, a miasmic feeling of “Oh God, this can’t be happening again.”  


Anguish, pain, grief, were palpable as President Joe Biden spoke to the nation Tuesday night.


If you didn’t equally feel his despair, and anger at our nation’s inability to behave rationally toward gun control, you are running on automaton mode. Or you simply lack any emotional content within your heart and mind. And soul.


When I woke in the middle of the night, as I often do, I could not escape thinking of the tragedy. I couldn’t help thinking of my grandchildren and wondering, wishing, if their schools had sufficient protocols to thwart a madman.


Biden seemed to wonder how parents of the slain children would be able to find any peaceful slumber. His own experience of sudden loss of a child and spouse embedded in him an understanding few if any presidents ever had. 


Bill Clinton was mocked for saying, “I feel your pain.” Biden’s emotional distress is not playacting. He knows all too well the sudden, tragic, loss of a spouse and young daughter, along with coping with the extensive recuperatory period two young sons underwent after the crash that cratered their family. His older son’s death from cancer, his younger son’s drug addiction have given him ample first hand knowledge of the trials and tribulations adult life can present.


Daily reports of the senseless, unprovoked carnage by Russia in Ukraine have not inured us to the senseless acts of troubled minds in America. Victims shopping in supermarkets, in schools and houses of worship, attending concerts, or packed in a subway car in no way offended random shooters. 


Each brazen attack on innocents underscores the need for voices to shout out, “Enough is enough. Remember those who refuse to enact moral gun control laws and vote them out of office.” 


First, however, we must get over the shock-induced silence from yet another mass murder shooting.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Musings: My Old Phone, Walking, Jackie O., Mistakes

 My pride in successfully fixing my iPhone 4S is diminishing at the unfortunately same rate the replacement battery I installed is draining power. Maybe it wasn’t the battery that was the problem. Maybe it’s just iPhone old age.


At least I can be proud I didn’t destroy the phone. I was able to install a new battery. A small, but significant, victory.



I hate slow walking. I like a brisk walk. I bristle when anyone walks passed me.


Walking up Park Avenue for 32 years from Grand Central Terminal to my office at 55th street, and back at the close of business, I would challenge myself to outpace every pedestrian. Even after peripheral neuropathy in my feet slowed me down about 25 years ago I was still able to maintain a competitive pace.


Anyone not a New Yorker might not understand that obsession. True New Yorkers are competitive in everything they do.


But walking with Gilda Monday afternoon around the 1.58 mile track circling the reservoir in Central Park I was humbled by how many left me in their dust, literally because the track is not paved but rather some mixture of crushed pebbles. A pickleball-inflamed achilles tendon kept me from being able to accelerate. Vexing, truly vexing.


The reservoir is named for Jackie Kennedy Onassis who used to jog around it. During my professional career as a newspaper reporter and business magazine editor I’ve had many encounters with famous people. If our meeting was not planned, I quietly greeted them with a “thank you for your work” acknowledgement. Furthest from my mind was any visible or audible display that might expose them to more intrusive members of the public.


One of the perks of being a field editor on Nation’s Restaurant News back in 1977, was being able to dine at some of the classier eating spots in Manhattan. One day, I found myself with co-workers Liz and Peggy having lunch in an expensive, over the top restaurant off Park Avenue in the mid-East 60s. The décor was gaudy—lots of mirrors and gold accents. 


As it had recently made its debut, the restaurant (long since closed) had yet to be discovered by the lunchtime crowd of power elites. It was, to be honest, rather thinly patronized that day. Aside from we three, only one other table was occupied. As I looked around I saw two people sitting at the table, a professorial-type man with unruly grey hair and a strikingly composed, thin, raven-haired woman with big glasses, eating a salad.


As Peggy’s back was to the other table, I whispered to her to glance in the mirror to see the reflection of what I thought was Jackie O. Instead, she twisted her body for a full frontal look and then, in no semblance of a stage whisper, blurted out, “It’s Jackie Kennedy!” 


I shrank in my seat, but Jackie didn’t bat an eyelash. A perfect example of being cool, calm and collected to what must have been a common occurrence in her lifetime.


As she worked as a book editor at Viking Press a few blocks from my office, I saw Jackie O. several times enter or emerge from a taxi. We never said hello.



Uh-Oh: Perhaps it’s because I spent decades trying to publish “clean” copy I am attuned to miscues that make their way into print, or bytes for today’s technical craft. So I was amused by the following that appeared on my iPhone at the end of an article from The New York Times last week on Maryland governor Larry Hogan’s efforts to combat Trumpism within the Republican Party and the possibility he would seek the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2024: 


“He added: ‘There’s still a long way off before ’24. I wouldn’t make any decision about that until next year sometime. I haven’t really decided what the future holds, but I don’t want to give up and I’m not just going to walk away.’


“Advertisement will go here, if sold. A horizontal rule will appear above the ad by default. Please place at a break in the content, where a horizontal rule exists below.”


Clearly the second paragraph was meant for internal communication only. You’re only as good as your proofreader or copy editor. It reminded me of a more egregious slip-up at The New Haven Register some 50 years ago.


After covering a night meeting of the Little Elephants, a group of Republicans in Shelton, Conn., the reporter included a quote from its leader in a story transmitted by Scan-a-Tron machine from our Ansonia bureau to the copy desk in New Haven. The quote did not make any sense to the reporter, but it was colorful and conveyed the political sophistication, or lack thereof, of the speaker. 


To be on the safe side, the reporter chose to alert the night editor to the wackiness of the remark by adding the following in parenthesis after the quote: “I don’t know what the f*** it means, but that’s what he said.” (For the record, he did not use f***, preferring the common spelling of the expletive.) 


No doubt you’ve guessed what happened. The night editor never saw the parenthetical note, until it was in print. Like I said, you’re only as good as your editor. 


P.S. This being a one-person operation, I edit my own writing. Not the best arrangement for error-free copy, but considering what you’re all paying for these missives, you’re getting a real bargain. 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Voices of Dissent to Alito's Draft Dogma

If there is a lesson to be learned from trigger laws in 13 states that would immediately ban abortions if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, as seems likely with the publication Monday night by Politico of a leaked preliminary majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, it is that elections—on municipal, county, state and school board levels—matter. Those 13 states are among 23 that have placed restrictions on access to abortions. 


For too long Democrats have ceded these fertile election fields to Republicans, resulting in conservative victories in drawing up election maps, in setting education standards, in implementing fiscal policy, in providing healthy care and in taking advantage of, or rejecting, federal government programs. 


In other words, complacency can kill. By not turning out to vote in elections they deemed less important than presidential contests, Democrats and left-leaning voters have consigned too many states to regressive government and enabled too many conservatives to be elected to the U.S. Senate. 


The whirlwind of dissent to Alito’s manuscript is not unexpected but sadly too little, too late. From my social media feeds, here are some of the more cogent commentaries you might not have seen:


 From Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun: “I do not believe that just because you are opposed to abortion, that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, a child educated, a child housed. Andy why would you think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.” (Posted by Occupy Democrats)


From Sam Cohen, actor: “Pro-Life would be 20 Sandy Hook Students starting high school.”


From Leila Cohan, Co-EP at Netflix: “If it was about babies, we’d have excellent and free universal maternal care. You wouldn’t be charged a cent to give birth, no matter how complicated your delivery was. If it was about babies, we’d have months and months of parental leave, for everyone.


“If it was about babies, we’d have free lactation consultants, free diapers, free formula. If it was about babies, we’d have free and excellent childcare from newborns on. If it was about babies, we’d have universal preschool and pre-k and guaranteed after school placements.”


Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America: “The draft majority Supreme Court opinion disclosed yesterday is an attack on women’s autonomy, freedom and health. When a woman’s right to choose is limited, we also limit her right to safe, informed medical decisions and procedures. If enacted, this decision will have disproportionate impacts for the empowerment, economic equity and security of women in underserved communities.  


“Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America reaffirms its unwavering support for full and complete access to reproductive health services and a woman’s right to make health decisions according to her own religious, moral and ethical values.”


From Occupy Democrats: “New Rule” If you ban abortion before you ban military-style assault rifles that massacre children in schools, you’ve lost your right to call yourself “pro-life.”


From Talia Lavin: “This being the culmination of a holy ar that’s been going on since the ‘70s, you should be aware they are coming for absolutely everything that isn’t straight white christian fertile marriage with a submissive, economically dependent and fiscally constrained wife.”


From Dan Rather: “It is no coincidence that the same people who overturn Roe-v-Wade also prevent voting rights and encourage partisan gerrymandering. They fear the will of the majority. In other words, democracy.”


From Motherwell Magazine citing Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”


For those who might have missed Stephen Colbert’s outrage Tuesday night, spend a few minutes watching the video of his monologue from Tuesday night, May 3. https://youtu.be/gJCGAA4VYT8



 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

iPhone Repair Is Risky Business

Have you ever opened the back of your iPhone, out of curiosity or to replace a worn out battery?


I hadn’t either till necessity and the desire to save $50 motivated me.


Let me set the stage: I have an old iPhone 4S used solely when sequestered in the master, I mean, primary throne room. The phone cannot send or receive calls. It is not connected to the Internet. I use it for one purpose only, to play solitaire, the three card draw format (for variety I play the single card draw version on my iPhone SE).


For the last half year or more the 4S has not held a charge despite just minutes of use each day. My patience worn thin I inquired how much a replacement would set me back—$60, for battery and installation, the repair shop steward replied.


I enjoy playing solitaire but not $60 worth of enjoyment. So I did what hordes of people do every day. I googled how to replace a 4S battery.


Videos with ads for batteries and repair kits filled my laptop screen. I settled on a $13 remedy with two day free delivery.


Sunday afternoon I settled down at the kitchen counter to fix or, knowing full well my limited technical skills, destroy my 4S.


I arrayed the tool kit in front of me. I watched the video several times, wondering why my tool kit contained utensils not used in the video. Kinda like the extra nut, bolts and doohickeys Ikea throws into its furniture kits to play with your “I-can-do-it-myself” mindset. 


With determination and an equal if not greater amount of trepidation I unscrewed the phone’s back panel, lifted it off and, using a second magnetic screwdriver, unscrewed two teeny-tiny screws to release the grounding plate and, with a miniature plastic crowbar, lifted the depleted battery.


After putting the new battery into place it was time to reconnect the grounding plate. Looked easy on the video. Not easy in real life.


There’s a reason iPhones are assembled by lithe young people with small, dextrous fingers in foreign lands. What the repair shop techie said was a simple 10-15 minute total operation turned into a near 30 minute frustration trying to align the minuscule grounding plate back into position so the teeny-tiny screws could be securely fitted into their holes. 


I finally nailed it, though not without some fear that the grounding plate might not have been properly placed. Would I be burning down the house when I charged the battery?


Well, it’s been three days since the repair. Charging the battery didn’t start a fire. The phone is working like new. And so far, minus the cost of the repair kit, I’m $47 in the black.  

Monday, May 2, 2022

Traveling With Murray Can Be Risky

Perhaps you heard about the recent mayhem at Ben Gurion airport in Israel prompted by an American Jewish family innocently trying to bring onto their flight home an unexploded artillery shell they found in the Golan Heights (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-61267265).


I can totally empathize with them. Back in May 1990 our family participated in a UJA family tour of Israel. It included a visit to the Golan where the military treated our group of 900 to a demonstration of Israeli firepower.


After the shooting stopped 11-year-old Dan and I walked the battlefield and picked up some bullet shells. A few days later as our group waited in the terminal to board planes back to New York we were startled to hear a request for the Forseter family to approach the gate check-in area. We were startled even more when they ominously asked us why we had bullets in our checked luggage.


Our—that is, my—indiscretion resolved itself rather quickly. Few fellow passengers became aware of our—my—faux pas. No pandemonium like what just happened at Ben Gurion. Security even let us keep the bullets which to this day stand upright on our living room shelving.


A few weeks later there was more security fallout from our trip to Israel. Gilda flew to Sweden to attend a medical conference on Lyme disease. When she arrived in Stockholm security noted her recent trip to Israel.


As Forseter is not an immediate giveaway as to religion, security wondered if she was a Palestinian sympathizer. They sequestered her in a room, asked her whom she had met with in Israel and sorted through all of her luggage, even taking apart her travel hair dryer. Keep in mind, this was just a few years after “The Little Drummer Girl” movie starring Diane Keaton about a woman caught up in Palestinian-Israeli  bombing intrigue.


Of course the Swedes found her safe for entry. But it was a lesson that reinforced the need to be vigilant. And as inconspicuous as possible. 


At the end of another family trip to Israel, in 2004, I believe, our line through security was long compared to a second, shorter queue. I wondered out loud why we didn’t shuffle over to that line. I was about to move over when I was informed the shorter line was mostly for Palestinians and non Jews who underwent more comprehensive inspections. 


Our daughter-in-law Allison had yet to join the tribe and marry into our family. Though traveling with four Forseters she didn’t fit our profile. Security singled her out, took her into a separate room and went through her luggage. 


For me, getting through security without a hitch has not been confined to Israel. Traveling home with Gilda from Paris some 20 years ago I carried an elaborately wrapped bar-mitzvah present for a friend’s son. It was a glass hannukiah, commonly called a menorah. 


Naturally, the security agent asked what I was carrying. Instead of saying a glass candelabra, I said it was a hannukiah. Ding, Ding, ding. Security was all over me. I had to unwrap the delicate gift, all the while being teased by Gilda for my indelicate response. It has become one of her favorite “traveling with Murray” stories. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

At the End of Passover, 4 Questions About Ukraine

Passover ends Saturday evening, but four questions remain about the war in Ukraine:


Why is this war different from other conflicts around the world?


Unlike civil wars underway in countries such as Yemen, Central African Republic and Congo, Ukraine is fighting the unprovoked aggression of an outside power that desires its conquest, its territory, its resources. In that regard Ukraine is similar to Kuwait when it was invaded and taken over by Iraq. Both Iraq and Russia were led into war by autocratic despots. The only difference is that Russia really does have weapons of mass destruction including nuclear and chemical arms.



Why are Ukrainian refugees seemingly more welcome in foreign lands than refugees from conflicts in Africa, Asia and South and Central America?


It cannot be denied, racism is part of the reason Europeans and Americans are more open to Ukrainian refugees than their counterparts from Syria, Libya, Myanmar and Honduras. Apart from the color of their skin, Ukrainians also are perceived to be better educated, more skilled, more industrious. And less of a risk of bringing with them embedded terrorists or gang members.



Has anyone in the United States benefitted from our support of Ukraine?


No doubt our military industrial complex has raked in huge revenues from replenishing the stock of equipment the United States has provided Ukraine. In March President Biden signed off on a $13.6 billion emergency aid package passed by both houses of Congress. Non profit humanitarian organizations, as well, have benefitted from this tragedy.



Will the American public say “dayenu”—enough!—to the non stop aid provided to- and news about- Ukraine, just as it has tired of Covid mask requirements even as nearly 400 Covid-related deaths occur every day?


It is impossible to accurately forecast an end date but our history of fatigue with world, and even long term domestic, events is extensive. As long as American lives are not lost the public’s attention span will get progressively shorter, especially if Ukraine devolves into a pattern similar to when the USSR occupied Afghanistan and the Afghanis (the Taliban) fought a guerrilla war to force a Soviet retreat from their homeland. It took the Taliban 10 years to secure victory.


The Passover story ended with freedom for the Israelites, their maturity from slaves to a nation on a journey to a promised land. In many ways their departure from bondage in Egypt provided a template for other peoples trapped by oppression. Ukrainians are struggling to remain free and not become a nation and people dissolved by a modern day pharaoh. 


 

Friday, April 15, 2022

A Seder With Even More Resonance

If ever there was a religion that focused on its past it is Judaism, perhaps no more reflected than in the seder experience that will be played out Friday night in various forms in living and dining rooms the world over, not just by religiously observant Jews but by fellow tribe members who are no more conversant in ancient ritual than their gentile guests dipping parley in salt water or sandwiching bitter herbs in matzah to recall centuries of bondage Israelites endured in ancient Egypt.


Passover forever stays relevant offering a continuing counterpoint to events in generation after generation.


Perhaps the most poignant point of Passover’s relevancy to daily events of our time is the Bible’s repetitive commandment not to oppress the stranger “for you (Israel) were strangers in the land of Egypt.” 


Ukraine is foremost in many minds—as of March 16, 2022, over three million Ukrainians have fled their country, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which estimates worldwide there are more than 26.6 million refugees. 


America is a magnet for people seeking a better life, a safer life, a more economically opportunistic life. Beyond attaining just and benevolent immigration and asylum policies, our nation must also address lingering issues of discrimination, discrimination historically aimed at successive newcomers whether they be Irish, Italians, Chinese, Jews, Hispanics, and, through all those waves, the continuing discrimination and violence against Blacks, the one group that did not voluntarily choose to seek a new life in America. 


Let’s also not forget that America’s original peoples continue to be deprived of the many benefits and riches of our country. 


One of the more mind-boggling stories Gilda and I heard when we toured Charleston, SC, a few years ago was the practice of colonial Jewish merchants (“merchants” being code word for slave traders) conducting their seders with their personal slaves sitting around their table as participants. How surrealistic that must have been to their slaves hearing, probably not fully comprehending, the Hebrew text recounting the Israelite slaves escaping bondage. 


Other slaves, as Sharon Braus recounted in The New York Times, were read Bible stories from a “Slave Bible” that was “carefully redacted to exclude all references to the Exodus from Egypt. Imagine a Bible with no Moses, no burning bush, no Israelites fleeing slavery, no split sea and no revelation at Sinai” (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/14/opinion/passover-exodus-story-redemption.html?smid=em-share).


Bible scholars ascribe the length of slavery in Egypt to 400 years. 400 years? How coincidental: The first African slaves were brought to America in 1619—400 years of repression mixed with unrealized equality. 


In Nebraska earlier this week the state legislature voted to  require schools to teach about the Holocaust and other acts of genocide. On procedural grounds, however, the lawmakers rejected an amendment that would have required teaching about “slavery, lynching and racial massacres in the United States.” At least I hope it was a procedural problem, though past attempts to legislate instruction about the treatment of Blacks also failed to pass. 


The Exodus story begins with two heroines, midwives who did not heed Pharaoh’s edict to kill any newborn baby boy. To stifle dissent, Vladimir Putin wants Russians to inform on their neighbors and even family members who question the government’s line on its “special operation” in Ukraine. 


How different is that from a new law in Texas, copied by some states, that rewards snitches who report abortion recipients and those who facilitated the procedure? 


The exodus from Egypt culminates with the might of the Egyptian empire humbled, its army on chariots, drowning in the waters of the Red Sea. 


In another sea of color, the Black Sea, the pride of the Russian fleet, the guided missile cruiser Moskva, sank Thursday. Whether it was from a missile attack by Ukrainian forces or from an accidental explosion of ammunition aboard the ship, the outcome was the same, a huge victory for a people seeking freedom from a vastly superior force. 


The seder this year will have special resonance. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

A Rented Truck Key to Solving Crime

This was before surveillance cameras became ubiquitous across America. It was 1975.


Shortly before midnight on a Saturday night, March 1, a rented Ryder truck carrying 500 pounds of dynamite and 24 55-gallon drums of gasoline parked in front of the Shelton Sponge Rubber Products Plant 4, a massive blocks-long factory complex along the Housatonic River waterfront in downtown Shelton, Conn.


Some seven miles away, to the north in Seymour, another down on its luck mill town straddling the Naugatuck River, Gilda and I were about to fall asleep when the phone rang. It was Don Anderson, my boss, my bureau chief, calling from his home in Ansonia. Having been awakened by an explosion in nearby Shelton, he asked why I was in bed while half of downtown Shelton, my beat as a reporter for The New Haven Register, was ablaze.


Back then, if you slept on a foam mattress it likely was manufactured in Shelton. B.F. Goodrich had built the 475,000 square foot factory, but as consumer bedding tastes changed Goodrich unloaded the facility to an Ohio businessman, Charles Moeller.


Moeller couldn’t turn the business around. Like King Henry II of England back in 1170 venting his frustration with Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, leading to Becket’s assassination by several of Henry’s henchmen, Moeller vented his frustration to his trusted advisor and guru, David N. Bubar.


 A Baptist minister and self-proclaimed psychic, Bubar recruited eight others to relieve Moeller of his albatross. They rented a yellow Ryder truck, packed it with explosives and gasoline, drove to Shelton, broke into the factory, tied up the night watchmen, deposited them safely in a nearby woods, and, for good measure, told them they were part of the Weather Underground.


Fire departments from roughly 20 communities battled the blaze, the largest industrial arson to that time in the United States.


It took authorities just days to track down the Ryder truck and the men who rented it. Moeller, Bubar and the perpetrators were arrested, charged and were tried for arson and related crimes. Moeller was found not guilty. Bubar and seven others were found guilty. One was acquitted.


Where the massive plant once stood a waterfront park has been erected. With construction of a more modern Route 8 through its heart Shelton has become a desirable bedroom community and light industrial site in Fairfield County.


Like Shelton I moved on, first to become The Register’s bureau chief for West Haven, Woodbridge Orange and Bethany, later to become the editor and publisher of Chain Store Age.


This tale from my past was prompted by the scary, grotesque smoke and gun attack on subway commuters in Brooklyn Tuesday morning and by the swift work of authorities to find the rented van the alleged assailant, Frank R. James, used to transport his weapons of fear, mayhem and injury. As of this posting James’ whereabouts had not been determined. 

 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Afternoon Bachelorhood, Fortunate Lives, Word Play, Poem for Ukraine

Baseball season has started, as has my months-long annual entry into afternoon bachelorhood. It is just by coincidence that my pm bachelorhood overlaps my dedication to the New York Yankees, though most of their games are scheduled for nighttime viewing (I generally watch just a  few innings while cleaning the kitchen after dinner). 


No, my afternoon bachelorhood is an outgrowth of Gilda’s preoccupation with her garden. It is not unusual for her to spend six hours a day weeding, pruning, caring for vegetables, shrubs and flowers. 


Gilda’s garden is nothing to sneeze at (as the accompanying picture of a fraction of her toil reveals), though her proximity to plants and assorted greenery no doubt contributes to some of her allergies. 



As if her intensity for gardening were not sufficient to keep me lonesome, she has embarked on a two-year course of study to become a Master Gardener Volunteer under the auspices of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester. I can’t really complain about that as I suggested that to her when she began her retirement three years ago. 


It’s a good thing I’ve taken up Pickleball to keep me occupied, especially once outdoor courts become available in a few weeks. My Achilles tendon injured a month ago is still sore but I’ve begun tenderly playing again with the perhaps misguided hope of not incurring further degradation. For the record, and much to Gilda’s annoyance, I wore a walking boot for just a few days. Even more annoying to her, I have not overly stretched each day as per doctor’s instructions. 


Just in case, I have not put away the walking boot. It stands in a corner on my side of our bedroom.



Word Play: You might have noticed fewer postings from me lately. A key reason is Wordle, or to be more precise, Word Guess, a Wordle knockoff that offers unlimited daily word challenges compared to Wordle’s once-a-day contest.


I usually am up at midnight when the new Wordle quiz becomes available. It takes but a few minutes to solve. My success rate is 99% of 90 games played; my best consecutive streak is 78.


My craving for word challenges not fulfilled by just one Wordle a day, I wind up logging onto Word Guess where my success rate is 98% of 275 games played (Word Guess doesn’t track streaks). 


How is all this word play limiting my writing? Many of my posts were written on my iPhone in the wee hours of the morning. Instead of putting thoughts into bytes for posts I am exercising grey matter figuring out five letter words. By the way, I do not employ a trick starter word with three or four vowels. I choose words at random, often with just one vowel. 



Gilda and I are among the fortunates. We live comfortably in good health in retirement. We enjoy each other. We share values and most interests. We have good friends.


Sure, our travel and entertainment options have been stymied by Covid. Gas costs more, as do most if not all of our daily expenditures.


But if we’ve learned anything during the last few weeks from pictures and accounts of inexcusable, unjustified, inhumane carnage in Ukraine it is that we in the United States have it easy. Even those struggling at the lower socio-economic rungs of our nation have lives more secure and full than Ukrainians now endure.


Several newscasts have shown American motorists willing to pay more at the gas pump if it will help Ukraine and the democratic West stifle Vladimir Putin’s invasion. It makes for a sympathetic sound bite. 


A CBS News/YouGov poll recently reported that 63% of Americans said they would “continue to support sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas even if U.S. gas prices go up.” Thirty-six percent said, “No.”


The true test of American mettle will come in the weeks and months ahead. How much resolve will we truly have? Long term, will we match the courage and backbone Ukrainians display to stand up to Russian aggression? Or will our consumer driven economy and entitlement mindset undermine our response?


A Facebook post from The Other 98% bears consideration:


“Instead of complaining about gas prices going up, try feeling grateful that you aren’t sitting on a concrete floor in a train terminal, holding your cat, wondering if your home and everyone you love has been blown to bits.”


Forgive me, but perhaps because of my training as a journalist or maybe it’s inherently part of my makeup, I am generally a pessimist when I appraise my fellow Americans. We have truckers threatening to barricade access to our capital over mask requirements. One wonders how residents of Kyiv or any Ukrainian community view these protests. Would any of these truckers consider swapping their so called “infringed liberties” for the dictatorship Putin has imposed in Russia and seeks to implant in Ukraine?


There is no doubt higher gas costs and higher inflation are hurting the needy far more than the upper classes. Republicans are wasting no breadth in blaming Joe Biden for these financial woes.


Of course they disavow any responsibility. But a recent Facebook post from Occupy Democrats puts the issue into context:


“I don’t like paying higher gas prices either, but it’s incredible that people will buy the Republican Party outrage on gas that’s $5 instead of $3.50 – but then excuse Republicans for keeping the minimum wage at $7.25 instead of $15, insulin at $1,200 instead of $35, and paid leave at 0 weeks instead of 12 weeks.” 


Also consider this Tweet from Brian Deese, White House director of the National Economic Council: 


“Many people don’t realize this, but because of historically strong economic growth & policy choices, the deficit last year actually fell. By $360bn. AND, Maybe even more surprising, we’re on track to see the federal deficit fall by >$1T this yr, the largest nominal decline ever.”



Pre and Post 2022 Election Forecast: Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden.


You can bet the mortgage the GOP will stress Hunter’s laptop and Joe Biden’s complicity with his son’s dubious activities. It will be the equivalent of the Hillary and Benghazi saga if Republicans take control of either chamber of Congress. Hearing after hearing after hearing. Impeachment of Joe Biden if they win the House.


With no legislative agenda to control inflation, deal with Russian aggression, fix our dilapidating infrastructure, stifle domestic terrorism, continue fighting COVID and a myriad of other pressing issues, Republicans will simply occupy their time trying to topple the president in what they will perceive is payback for how Democrats treated Donald Trump. 



And now a few words, courtesy of Chris Rey, about the slap heard round the world and its importance to America::


“The thing we all have to remember about Will Smith and Chris Rock is that Clarence Thomas’ wife tried to overthrow the U.S. government.”



Final Thoughts: A poem from Art Smith on Facebook:


Woke up warm and safe in my bed,

While someone else heard bombs over their head.

I jumped into a nice hot shower,

While someone else has lost all power.

I hugged my family, we were all together,

While others said goodbye, possibly forever.

While I fear the money that I will spend,

Others worry of losing the country they defend.

In the time it took for me to write this post,

Many have lost the things they love the most.

So, when I start to bitch and want to complain,

I will stop myself and pray for Ukraine.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

No Contest: Zelensky Merits Person of the Year Mantle

 Four months into 2021, the choice of Time magazine’s Person of the Year is a moot exercise. Hands down, barring a dramatic cure for all cancers, the unchallenged Person of the Year is Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky. 


Win or lose in the war with Russia, Zelensky has become the symbol of intrepid determination against overwhelming odds, selflessness and courage. He has become the world’s conscience.  


Historians have a practice of assigning colorful names to combat between nations. Better to remember them by, for their students too, I suppose. There are The War of the Spanish Succession, the War of the Roses, Queen Anne’s War, the War of Jenkin’s Ear and the French and Indian War, to cite a handful of examples. 


Of course, wars may be assigned different names by historians of different persuasions. Americans still can’t agree on the name of our internal combat from 1861-1865. Northerners call the battle to end slavery our Civil War. Southerners label it the War Between the States. 


What we in America and most of the planet call World War II, Russians refer to as The Great Patriotic War to honor the more than 27 million Soviet Union servicemen and civilians killed fighting Nazi Germany.


The current conflict initiated by Russian strongman Vladimir Putin against Ukraine in late February may be properly called the War of Unintended Consequences. 


As Bret Stephens recently pointed out in The New York Times, “He thought Russian-speaking Ukrainians would welcome his troops. They didn’t. He thought he’d swiftly depose Volodymyr Zelensky’s government. He hasn’t. He thought he’d divide NATO. He’s united it. He thought he had sanction-proofed his economy. He’s wrecked it. He thought the Chinese would help him out. They’re hedging their bets. He thought his modernized military would make mincemeat of Ukrainian forces. The Ukrainians are making mincemeat of his, at least on some fronts.”


Now, six weeks later, according to the DailyMail.com, “Russia’s war effort stalls as the Red Army can’t get replacement weapons or spares for their crippled convoys...because they’re all made in Ukraine” (https://mol.im/a/10677711). 


Oh, my! Putin is guilty not just of war crimes but of failing to arrange necessary supply lines of food and materiel for his troops. We have yet to visualize how his incursion into Ukraine will end, but it is doubtful the consequences of his actions will result in what he initially intended.