Thankful for the USA

 

My daughter Grace and her husband Frank treated Sandra and me to Thanksgiving lunch at the Hilton Garden Inn yesterday. It was really pleasant dining and chatting with them, their sons Jonathan and Adam, and Frank’s sister Maria.

Frank and Grace drove to Lakeland from Miami, and so did Adam, who picked up Jonathan in West Palm Beach. Frank and Grace picked up Maria in Northport.

That’s a round trip of at least 500 miles, and I really appreciate the effort.

At lunch, Grace asked us what we were thankful for, and we all gave short, cute responses. It wasn’t the time and place to go into detail.

So I’ll give it some thought this morning.

I’m thankful to be alive at 83, of course. Most people don’t make it this far along life’s highway.

I’m thankful for my wife’s love and companionship. It would be a bleak life without her.

I’m thankful that I’m still able to hobble around the golf course, even though I play so poorly these days.

I’m thankful for  the affection I enjoy from my brothers, Bill and Peter, and my sister Elizabeth. After all these years, we are still the best of friends.

I’m thankful for my three children and two grandchildren, and I’m especially thankful that they are safe and free from political oppression.

That’s more precious than many Americans might realize.

Even with Trump in the White House. Even with a tiny elite gobbling up most of the nation’s wealth. Even with all the faults we constantly grumble about – racial conflict, political chicanery, boorish, often predatory, male behavior, a flawed criminal justice system, widespread bigotry and hypocrisy…

I’m sure you can think of other things you would like to fix.

But thank God we live in America. This society is not perfect  – far from it – but we have the freedom to address its failures. We are free to speak our minds and vote our conscience.  And if we don’t, there’s nobody to blame but ourselves.

I was born and grew up in Jamaica, beautiful, charming Jamaica. And my island home will always have a special place in my heart.

But I’m thankful to be an American.

 

Sex in the Workplace

 

The reports of inappropriate workplace behavior flooding the media are not just sad.  They’re disheartening. As a man, I know it can sometimes be difficult to keep our minds on the task at hand when we’re distracted by an attractive coworker.  But it’s inconceivable that the attraction should lead to the behavior that’s being reported.

Surely, we men should have enough self discipline to keep our clothes on and our hands to ourselves?

I imagine women are not all impervious to sexual instincts. For example, there are reports of female schoolteachers being tempted by their male students.  But apparently women usually manage to restrain any inappropriate impulses they might have. Especially in the workplace.

I notice that some of the men accused of unwanted sexual overtures say they thought their feelings were reciprocated. I wonder what gave them that idea. A sidelong glance, perhaps? A sly smile? An affectionate touch on the arm?

Women have been known to use their allure to advantage. Did they occasionally go a little too far?

Of course there’s no excuse for the behavior I’ve been reading about. But dare I say a word in defense of Al Franken? He stole a kiss. He posed for a photo that was in inexcusably bad taste (at right).  But what prompted him to take such liberties? A misunderstanding perhaps?

And Bush the Elder. How old is he? Ninety-three?

I am 83, and I suspect any inappropriate intentions he might have are only in his mind. I imagine the physical contact he has with women at his age are meant as expressions of affection or something just as innocent. They might even be the result of failing eyesight.

Yes, I know, some of the alleged incidents occurred years ago. But even so, they seem relatively innocuous compared with some of the other reports..

Roy Moore is something else. He is accused of preying on high school girls. I know it happened a long time ago but so did Bill Cosby’s atrocities. And Cosby didn’t get a pass despite his advanced age and poor health.

I believe in redemption. I believe in forgiveness. But they must be accompanied by contrition. And Moore is not contrite. He is defiant.

The way the media lumps together the avalanche of accusations is unfair.  Soliciting sex from a minor is very, very different from making a pass at an adult coworker. Both are wrong, of course. But one is heinous, the other is stupid.

Without a doubt, the attention being given the problem is welcome. It’s time men and women had this talk. Obviously, our mothers didn’t level with us. They let us think women and men were more or less the same when it comes to impure thoughts and the like.

Obviously, we’re different.

As the French say, vive  la difference. If only we men could better understand the difference. It’s high time someone explained it to us.

 

The “Welfare Queen” Myth

 

You may have heard the story:

In Chicago, the authorities found a woman who used 80 names, 30 addresses and 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.

It originated with Ronald Reagan and has persisted in America’s folklore ever since. Some versions describe the “welfare queen” as driving her Cadillac to the supermarket to cash in her food stamps.

Did I mention she is black?

In the political discussions I’ve had with neighbors, abuse of the welfare system often  emerges as their trump card in discrediting my “liberal” views. They invariably ask why they had to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps while so many people today are living high on the hog without having to do a lick of work. They don’t have to say it, but my white neighbors are talking about black people.

Now, a report has emerged that shows it’s white Americans who profit most from welfare.

According to  a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a DC based think tank, welfare benefits were collected by 6.2 million white Americans in 2014, compared with 2.8 million Afro-Americans and 2.4 million Hispanics.

The study also showed nearly half of welfare recipients – white, black or whatever – took advantage of the government’s assistance to become productive tax payers instead of tax takers..

Does Trump know this, I wonder. Does he care?

Apparently not. He’s vowing to slash welfare benefits, a move that would inordinately punish his white working class supporters, not the black Americans they resent so fiercely.

And you know the Republican controlled Congress will be with him. They’re in favor of any policy that would shred the social safety net and turn back the clock to the days of Dickens.

Trump’s promised crusade

More on Reagan’s story

 

The Real Bottom Line

 

I just read a report that big-money donors are threatening to abandon the Democratic Party “if they go too far left.”

As an example, a wealthy Democratic donor named Stephen Cloobeck said on TV recently:

I’ve talked to Schumer. I’ve talked to Wyden. I’ve talked to Pelosi.  And I said if you use the term billionaires again, I’m done… And I told them to stop it. Knock it off…

Asked if he is worried about the party moving too far to the left, Cloobeck declared:

So much so it would make me quit the party. And I’ve made it very clear I’ll cut your money off. And others will do the same.

Cloobeck must think money buys elections. And I can understand why. The recent obscene spending on election campaigns in Ameruca might make it seem the Almighty Dollar determines results at the ballot box. But what does money really buy?

Ads of course. And professional campaign operatives with their skill at “getting out the vote.” Psychological manipulators with their focus groups and creepy behavior management… All of it indisputably useful.

But money can’t buy enthusiasm. Money can’t buy conviction. Money can’t buy passion.

And that’s the bottom line.

Bernie’s crusade in the last presidential election demonstrated the power of the people over the power of the purse.   And Trump’s showmanship, salesmanship and guile defeated Hillary’s massive spending.

Cloobeck argues that everybody hopes to get rich some day and they don’t want the government taking their money when they do.

But that kind of thinking by America’s politicians has already produced an economic environment in which the top 10 percent of the population owns 80 percent of the wealth.  Even the most deluded American must by now realize how elusive that pot of gold has become for the ordinary working stiff.

So when the big money threatens to abandon the Democratic Party, I say let them go.

There’s nothing Democrats have to offer those donors in return anyway.  Or there shouldn’t be.

In a two-party system, the parties should offer alternative agendas – not the same old system of serfdom and servility. When both parties are beholden to corporations and the rich, who will help the underdog? Nobody.

So what incentive does the underdog have to vote?

Democrats should tell Daddy Warbucks to keep his ill-gotten riches. We aren’t for sale any longer. We will make do with our nickels and dimes.

When we the people pay the piper, we the people will call the tune.

The Cloobeck interview

 

Chastising us with Scorpions

 

Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

That’s what the Biblical ruler Rehoboam promised the Israelites. And that’s what the Republicans who control America’s government plan to do to us. But they aren’t as honest as Rehoboam. They pretend they’re doing it for our own good.

The tax reform bill approved by the House yesterday spells out a vicious assault on Americans, especially on the poor, the old and the sick.

And the Senate version is even worse.

The bills represent a massive transfer of wealth from the poorest and most vulnerable Americans to multinational corporations and the super-rich (the main source of the Republican Party’s campaign donations).

The poor and middle class – even families making as little as $10,000 a year – will pay more income taxes.

Old folks like me will pay more for Medicare – and get less.

As a result of  Obamacare sabotage (in the Senate bill), health insurance rates will skyrocket, and chronically sick people will once again be unable to get coverage at any price.

Schoolteachers will lose their deduction for classroom supplies, and graduate students will be taxed on their tuition waivers….

The list goes on and on…

The justification of this sadistic assault is the timeworn theory that if the corporations and super-rich get to keep more of their loot, they will use it to expand their businesses and thus provide jobs.

I’m sure that by now, most Americans must realize the theory doesn’t work.

I doubt even Republicans believe in it still. What they really want to do is further enrich the big companies and wealthy individuals who fill their campaign chests.

They don’t care how much the rest of us will suffer.

But they should read their Bibles. They will find that the Israelites refused to submit to Rehoboam’s oppression.

And they should be warned that this time they might be going too far.

As the old folks say in Jamaica:

Every day bucket go to well, one day the bottom will drop out.

What the House approved

What the Senate bill proposes

Chastising graduate students

Sabotaging Obamacare

 

The Oldest Dirty Trick

 

It’s the oldest trick in the book. Even toddlers do it. When some tot calls another tot a bad name, the response is often, “You’re the (bad name)!”

Or:

I know you are but what am I?

And the Republican Party shamelessly resorts to that strategy whenever their skullduggery is exposed.

Of course they’re trying it now as the damning evidence mounts in the Russian hacking scandal.

They’re planning to launch an “investigation” to show that Hillary is the one who colluded with the Russians.

Really.

Hillary is such a convenient target. They have spent years – decades – trashing her credibility, and although their allegations always get laughed out of court, much of the mud has stuck.

The chants of “lock ‘er up” are easily revived.

This time, it’s an old uranium deal that’s being dug up. And you can bet the Republican “investigators” will manage to squeeze days and weeks of negative news cycles out of this one.

It doesn’t matter that there’s no collusion scandal there.

 Even Fox News anchor Shepard Smith recognizes it. And you know Fox News is the Republican party’s megaphone. The Fox crew is spearheading a  crusade to smear Hillary (again), claiming she and Bill pocketed millions (billions?) in exchange for letting the Russians buy a Canadian uranium mining company.

Although Russians were among the myriad donors to the Clinton Foundation, there was no quid-pro-quo (as you probably guessed) and Shepard Smith – Fox anchor though he is —  could see that. He called the collusion charges “inaccurate in a number of ways.”

Naturally, Fox viewers are outraged. They’re roasting him on Twitter and reviling him in every way they can think of.

But even a Fox News host has to draw the line somewhere.

More on the Uranium One deal

More on Shepard Smith’s stand

Hillary’s defense

 

Pity Roy Moore’s Wife

As the shameful revelations of Roy Moore’s past continue to snowball, I can’t help feeling sorry for his wife, Kayla (pictured with her husband).

In fact, I feel sorry for all the wives and girlfriends of the myriad celebrities and politicians being shamed by women who accuse them of sexual assault.

Some of the men being shamed surprise me. Who would’ve suspected George H. W. Bush of being a groper?

Moore, of course, isn’t just a groper. He’s accused of being a pedophile. And that’s as low as anyone can sink.

But I bet Kayla didn’t know that when she said, “I do.”

We men can look so earnest and trustworthy. But looks, as I’m sure you know, can be deceptive.

What’s a girl to do when her guy pops the question? Demand an affidavit of some kind? Have him checked out by a detective agency?

You know she isn’t going to do that when she has stars in her eyes and he’s pouring honeyed words into her ear.

She can only hope that she’s getting one of the good guys.

And when she finds out she did not?

Kayla, for one, is choosing denial.

Not her Roy, she insists. He would never do anything like that. It’s a witch hunt. Obviously, his accusers were paid by those wicked liberals. Didn’t they malign President Trump, too?

Kayla has apparently convinced herself that her man is innocent. She is gathering evidence to prove it, she says.

And she asks the good people of Alabama to pray for him.

I think they should pray for Kayla. What could she possibly have done to deserve a husband like Roy Moore?

Kayla’s appeal

The horrible reality

The blight is widespread

 

Making up the “News”

Trump and his minions constantly complain about “fake news” produced by left-leaning media. And the mainstream media are not completely blamesless.

Political reporting has always been suspect. This type of journalism seems to rely on more lenient standards than “hard news” reporting.

The practice of using unnamed sources, for example, is prevalent in political reports. Yet you seldom – if ever – come across a crime story where the reporter uses quotes from an unidentified witness.

“A source familiar with (whatever)” is dubious at best. But I can understand why political sources don’t want to be named. And it’s turning out that the information they’ve been providing lately is almost always accurate.

The real “fake news” is to be found on right-wing web sites.

There, you will not only read “stories” based on raw speculation and wild surmise but on totally concocted disinormation.

For example, recent “alternative news” includes a report that President Obama’s elder daughter Malia was arrested for beating up a 97-year-old woman. According to the story, she was in a gang of crowbar wielding Harvard students who descended on the old woman as she was leaving her church.

The report is accompanied by photo-shopped pictures, supposedly documenting Malia’s arrest.

The site that first ran the “story” has an almost invisible disclaimer warning that it is “satirical.”

But the story was picked up by other right-wing sites, and expanded to include the claim that the police officer who arrested Malia was “found dead under suspicious circumstances.”

I know what you’re thinking. How can anyone get away with this kind of blatant lying? You might think the purveyors of such trash would be arrested – or at least sued for libel.

But who knows where these fakers are? They could be in Madagascar. They could be in Nigeria. They could be in St. Petersburg, Russia. As recent evidence in the Russian hacking scandal shows, a lot of false news originates with paid Putin provocateurs.

I recently read that the comments flooding social media might not even come from humans. Automatic “bots” are churning these comments out to influence public opinion.

That’s the weakness of the web. You have to take what you get from it with a huge helping of salt. Especially when what you’re reading sounds too preposterous to be true.

More on Malia’s “arrest”

Putin’s propaganda

More on fake news

 

Whitewashed Sepulchers

 

Surely, we’ve learned by now to be skeptical of those who “protest too much”? From Jesus to Shakespeare,  sages have warned us to be wary of self-righteous, finger wagging  boors.

Like Roy Moor.

You probably know about Roy Moore.

He’s the creepy old man accused of fondling a 14-year-old girl when he was in his early thirties. Yes, the Republican candidate for Jeff Sessions’ old Senate seat in Alabama.

He’s running on a religious platform. Not just religious, but fire-and-brimstone religious.

Moore is a champion of Old Testament righteousness. He insists Americans should obey “God’s law” above human laws.

He is known as the “Ten Commandments Judge”  because he once hung a wooden plaque of the commandments on the wall of his courtroom. He was removed from office in 2003 when he refused to remove the plaque. But he was re-elected as Alabama’s chief justice in 2012.

Last year, he was kicked off the bench again when he refused to obey the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

Moore won the Republican Senate nomination  earlier this year.  He is scheduled to face Democrat Doug Jones in a special election December 12.

He is a breast beating, psalm singing, Bible thumping bigot. He has likened homosexuality to bestiality. He identified non-white Americans as “blacks, reds and yellows.” He claimed Barack Obama is not an American citizen.

Now, we’re reading about alleged sex crimes in his past.

Surely, you aren’t surprised?

I’m not. I’ve come to expect people like Moore to have skeletons in their closets. After all, Jesus warned us about “whitewashed sepulchers” that are “full of dead men’s bones.”

More on Moore

 

An Encouraging Sign – But…

 

 

Yesterday’s elections gave the Democrats cause for hope – but not for complacency. Results, especially in Virginia, were even better than the pundits predicted, and it looks as if a Blue Wave is building for 2018.

But Democrats should beware. If they get too comfortable – as they have so many times in the past – they could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Last night’s good news should be a call to party  leaders to work even harder, not sit back and pat themselves on the back. They’ve got to get the rank and file fired up, as they were for Barack Obama. And keep them fired up, too.

Democratic voters are known for their lethargy. As soon as they see a glimmer of hope, they tune out instead of turning out.

And voter apathy is not the only danger.

The Democrats seem to be bent on self destruction.  Party bigwigs are snarling and sniping at each other, washing and rewashing last year’s dirty linen in public.

Donna Brazile’s book is one example of the self-serving disloyalty afflicting the party. Elizabeth Warren’s recent comments are another.

Both were favorites of mine. Now, I wonder about them.

This is not the time for Democratic self flagellation. This is the time to take advantage of an opportunity that might not come again for generations.

Trump has brought the Republicans to their knees. By standing with him, they are falling like dominoes.

America will not put up with the degeneracy that has come with Trump. Last night’s election results made that obvious. But voters need an acceptable alternative.

And the Democrats seem to be doing their best to deny the voters that choice.

So let’s end the bickering over the 2016 elections and make the best of the future, Democrats. Offer America a new and better deal instead of brooding over the past.

The country needs inspiration, not recriminations, a bright star of hope, not the dark night of despair.

Election results

Historic wins

Democratic bickering

More on Brazile and Warren