The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘2016 Election’ Category

A BRIEF TUTORIAL ON SOCIALIST ECONOMICS

Dorm life at the University of Chicago included endless reading lists, study groups and a twelve times a week food contract in the building’s cafeteria.  As one of my fellow students whose epicurean background was similar to mine put it, “They should put out a contract on whoever had the gall to call this food.”  Fortunately, we all got to enjoy a respite from this gastronomic abuse.  It was called Sunday and the cafeteria was mercifully closed.

This, of course, forced us students to fend for ourselves for sustenance.  As I was the organist for the Episcopal Church services on campus at Bond Chapel, Father Pyle and his wife had established a Sunday supper program for us poor waifs who had nowhere else to turn.  I wished that the program were a nightly event as I would greatly have preferred the fare at Brent House to that in my dorm’s cafeteria.

Hyde Park had only one establishment that could be referred to as a “supermarket”.  At the time I moved into the neighborhood it had been operating for over thirty years, having been founded during the Great Depression in 1932.  It was called the Hyde Park Cooperative Society.  But the “Co-op” as it was generally called was two miles from my dorm, far too long a journey on foot to buy a piece of fruit during the depths of winter.  So until I moved out of the dorms in my fourth year I was constrained to buy provisions from the two small mom and pop stores that were within reasonable walking distance.

My fourth year in college brought with it two major developments.  The first was that I paid for driving lessons and set to inflict myself on the general automotive community by purchasing my uncle’s two year old Dodge Monaco.   I also moved to the east side of Hyde Park and was only a few blocks from the Co-op which was the anchor tenant in Hyde Park’s largest shopping center – though by comparison to today’s mega centers it was really quite small.

Now that I was freed from the bondage of a dorm food contract, I naturally turned to the Co-op as my preferred choice for grocery shopping.  I walked into the store for the first time and wanted to find out how to become a member – it was, after all, a co-operative society.  I went downstairs to the membership department, picked up a brochure and couldn’t help but notice the photo montage that was on the walls showing the growth of the store from its original founding when four people got together and decided that they could help out people in the neighborhood if they banded together, bought food in quantity and passed along the savings to their customers.  In other words, the original founding motivation was based on a social philosophy – and the implementation of that happened to take form as a grocery store.  This philosophy continued to permeate the Co-op when I joined.

Now I must admit that I might not have been imbued with the same desire to help out the poor and downtrodden – but I was motivated to purchase a share because for ten dollars, I was going to receive a five percent return on my small investment while the banks were only offering four percent and I was promised a rebate on my annual purchases based on the store’s profitability.  Sounded like a decent deal to me.  I unfortunately made the small indiscretion as I signed up to refer to myself as a shareholder in the Co-op.  After all, I was purchasing a share so that seemed like normal terminology.  The person who accepted my ten dollars and signed me up explained that I was not a shareholder – but a member in the Co-op.  Well, shiver me timbers, apparently political correctness was floating around even back in the late ’60’s.

As I came to find out when my first year of membership had passed and the Co-op sent out its annual accounting, I apparently was not a “full member.”  My statement arrived showing my fifty cent credit on my one share investment.  In addition, I had received a 2.3% rebate on my purchases during the year.  So I was entitled to a distribution of just under three dollars.  But rather than sending a check for that amount, it had been re-invested in an additional partial share.  The explanation included in the letter indicated that until a person became a “full member,” which was to say owned ten shares of stock, that procedure would continue. And it did for many years.  I was moderately offended that the Co-op in the finest tradition of socialist organizations everywhere dictated, through it’s infinite collective wisdom, what its members should do.  Nothing could be more apparent to demonstrate that than what I will next relate.

Perhaps you will remember Cesar Chavez and his United Farm Workers’ Union.  If not, Chavez organized the farm workers to protest the poor conditions under which they labored.  He effectively called for a boycott of farm workers from picking lettuce and grapes.  The Co-op, always mindful of its social, primary mission, aggressively concurred with this policy and refused to carry either of these products during each of these boycotts.  (Those two mom and pop stores saw a significant increase in their sales while the Co-op refused to allow its patrons and members to purchase lettuce and grapes).  Apparently their customers didn’t completely subscribe to the collective wisdom.

As years went by, Chicago saw a significant increase in the number of chain grocery stores.  While the Co-op might have been the biggest fish in a small pond, it’s original concept of saving money by purchasing in bulk could in no way compete with much larger grocery stores with hundreds of outlets throughout the country.

The share dividend decreased regularly to the point where there was no dividend at all and the rebate percentage declined precipitously as shoppers found themselves with far less expensive alternatives.  On May 5, 2009, The Hyde Park Cooperative Society filed a petition of bankruptcy under Chapter 7 in the Northern District of Illinois.  The store was subsequently taken over by one of the smaller, multi-store chains, Treasure Island and is still operating under that name.  Seeing the writing on the wall, I had divested myself of my interest in the Co-op a decade earlier.

There are several points I hope that my readers will take away from this story.

The first is that when ideology, no matter how well-intentioned, is the driving force behind making business decisions even though that philosophy flies directly in the face of economic reality, that business is, sooner or later, doomed to fail.

The second is with regard to bankruptcy law – and the presidential campaign.

Much has been made, particularly by the junior senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren about the horrible things that Donald Trump has done to people because of his using the bankruptcy laws to his advantage.  She has painted a picture of his using those laws to “stiff” small companies and “cheat” them out of monies that were due to them.  So a word on bankruptcy law is in order.

If you’re familiar with the novels of Charles Dickens, you already know that he was a crusader for social justice.  One of the most egregious evils he identified was the existence of debtor’s prisons.  Yes, back in Dickensian England, a person could be imprisoned for failing to meet his debt obligations.  Bankruptcy laws came about as a reform to this form of societal punishment, recognizing that sometimes people found themselves in situations that were out of their control and the law was formulated to allow that person to make a fresh start.

As I mentioned, the individual who has most aggressively inveighed against Mr. Trump for following the law is Sen. Elizabeth Warren.  During her less than stellar career, Sen. Warren, prior to her election was a professor at Harvard Law School, among other venues. While there she gained a reputation as one of the nation’s foremost experts in and exclusively taught students – you probably guessed it – bankruptcy law.  It’s a bit hard for me to comprehend why a person who has spent a career teaching and representing clients in bankruptcy cases would hold such a negative view of that very law.

But then, I did sell my interest in the Hyde Park Co-op – before that very liberal organization had to resort to that same law.  Just saying …

 

T

 

 

 

 

‘TIL DEATH DO US PART

Hyde Park had a strong Jewish presence in the early to mid part of the 20th century, in some respect due to the fact that the University of Chicago had a large Jewish faculty.  But as times changed and the surrounding neighborhoods deteriorated, bringing with that event an increase in the amount of crime in this middle class neighborhood, many of these people relocated to the north side of the city, particularly the area known as the Gold Coast.

There had been any number of delicatessens which catered to this part of the population but with their migration north, by the early ’70’s there was only one left – that being The Flying Lox Box on the very east perimeter of the neighborhood, a few blocks from the residence of the city’s first black mayor, Harold Washington.  The “Lox Box” as we called it, attracted a lot of us on a Saturday late morning for a delightful lunch, replete with outstanding dill pickle slices and an ample supply of insults from the proprietors, Rich who heaped disparaging comments on the diners as fully as he piled on the pastrami and corned beef on our sandwiches.  It was a bit reminiscent of growing up in Manhattan to me – and I reveled in the food, the company and Rich’s well meaning barbs.  I think that deep down, he had a repressed desire to appear on stage at Chicago’s Second City comedy club.

One of the regular patrons was a Chicago Police Department Sergeant, Adolph who was a sort of gentle giant.  Adolph could put away a sandwich with ease and frequently would order a second half sandwich to wash down the first one.  He was a delightful raconteur who would regale us with stories of life on the force.

In his earlier days with the CPD he was assigned to a different district – one that included Chicago’s second most dangerous housing project, Cabrini-Green, which now has been demolished.  He told us that the worst calls were ones coming from the project which involved domestic violence. Emotions ran very high in those sorts of calls.

One day when he and his partner had nearly finished their shift, they were dispatched to Cabrini on just such a call.  Queenie Johnson had called 911 to report that her common law husband was drunk and was beating her.  Adolph and his partner were only a few blocks from their apartment and responded promptly.

When they reached the Johnson apartment, they knocked on the door.  A timid voice answered from behind.  They identified themselves and Ms. Johnson opened the door.  It was immediately clear from the large cut and welt under her left eye that someone had indeed been hitting this woman.

On entering the apartment, Adolph asked, “Ms. Johnson, do you know where your husband is?”

“He be in the bedroom.  He be drunk and I think he passed out.”

“Do you want us to arrest him?  If so, you will have to come down to the station and file a complaint against him?”

“Oh, no, no, no, don’t do dat,” she replied. “He be drunk and didn’ mean no harm.”

“Well, ma’am, if you don’t want us to arrest him, what exactly is it that you would like us to do?”

Adolph paused for a moment.  Despite his large size he really was a big teddy bear.  He then told us what Ms. Johnson asked him and his partner to do on this visit.

She said with an almost childlike innocence, “Could you go in the bedroom, wake him up and make him say, ‘He love me’?”

I was about to join the others at our table who laughed at this woman’s request, but then it occurred to me how sad and pathetic her situation – and how terribly low her self-esteem must have been that she would willingly endure this sort of physical abuse.  And I could see that Adolph had not delivered her statement as the “punch line,” pardon the expression, of a joke.  He went on.

It was about six months after this visit when 911 got another call from Queenie Johnson.   Again, she was suffering a physical attack by her husband.  And once again, Adolph and his partner were dispatched to respond.  But this time, there was no soft voice behind the door.  They could hear the sounds of a struggle and when they broke in the door, they found Mr. Johnson holding a bloodied baseball bat on his shoulder, over the lifeless body of Ms. Johnson whom he had just murdered.

You could have heard a pin drop in the deli.  Even Rich, who had been eaves-dropping on this story, was uncharacteristically quiet.  All of us finished our meals without enthusiasm and went our ways, sobered and chilled by this account.

There are many reasons that I could advance for my unchangeable decision not to vote for Hillary Clinton.  I could argue that, despite the fact that she has never been arraigned or convicted for many of the past scandals which seem to circle her like a buzzard waiting for a wounded animal to die, she seems to be a magnet for controversy and activities which might or might not be legal but certainly raise questions of morality – a higher standard than what might be proven in a court of law.

I might argue that she exhibits all the pathology of a serial liar; that she arguably endangered this country through her slip-shod handling of emails; that she lied to the victims of the families of the Benghazi attack and to the American public; that she through the aegis of her and her husband and daughter’s foundation accepted money from governments which are among the worst human and female rights offenders in the world; that there may or may not be some quid pro quo from countries and individuals during her tenure as Secretary of State which enabled her and the former president to acquire vast amounts of wealth, far beyond even their excessive speaking fees would have produced.

But I do not need to argue any of that in formulating my decision because there is something far more profound and fundamental which in my mind disqualifies her from holding the highest office in the land and having ownership of the nuclear launch codes. That pre-eminent factor is her disposition and temperament.

Have you ever been involved or known anyone who has been involved in an abusive relationship?  If so, you know that the only alternatives open to that person is to terminate the relationship or to continue in it and continue to be abused.  Both choices are difficult – but the second one might be fatal as in the case of Queenie Johnson.

And the simple reason that people persist in abusive relationships always comes down to the same thing – lack of self-esteem.

As a friend, I’ve counselled any number of people who found themselves in situations where their spouses cheated on them or mentally or physically abused them.  My advice has always been the same.  I laid out the two alternatives that were available and suggested that the decision about what sort of future they had in life was totally dependent on how they went forward.

Some continued in those relationships and their abuse went on as before, as predictably it would have.  Some smaller number decided that they had value as a person and took the daring step to find that better future for themselves, though this decision resulted in a great deal of immediate pain and self-doubt which they were only able to overcome through the support of friends and family and their discovery of an inner strength.

Ms. Clinton obviously has chosen the first path.  Apparently her inner strength is so minimal that she is wiling to accept the very public knowledge that she is the “other woman” in her own marriage.  And it amazes me that for someone who purports to be a “champion for women” she is such a poor example for women or, for that matter, people of either gender.

This post is dedicated to Queenie Johnson – and to all the other people, living or dead, who have suffered from abusive relationships.  And while I feel a great deal of empathy for them, pity is not a valid reason for entrusting the future of the greatest nation on earth to a person who allows him or herself to be a victim.

 

 

 

 

 

MANAGEMENT AND MS.MANAGEMENT

Ah, to sit at the top of the corporate food chain.  There you are, a middle-aged white male (with or without paunch), showing up occasionally to work in your chauffeured vehicle, taking a few minutes to check the emails that your underpaid assistant has already reviewed, then off to a three martini gourmet lunch followed by a full body in office massage and, noticing that it’s quitting time off you go to the palatial home in which you live thanks to the fact that you are overpaid for being the CEO of your company.  That is the general picture that those who argue against “income inequality”  put forward.

While the picture of a day in the life of the CEO as I just enumerated it is, of course, a gross exaggeration, since most of us are not and will probably never be CEO’s of any major corporation, we simply are not privy to what the CEO actually does. As a result it is not difficult for those who are “anti-corporate” to sell this image.  This resonates particularly well with those who are at the low-end of the corporate ladder and already view themselves as victims of “the system.”

If truth be told, I suspect that a significant number of those who rail against the inequities of corporate America would, were they offered the opportunity, gladly accept the position of CEO of their company complete with a seven-figure salary, stock options and all the perks that accompany that position, quickly forgetting their comrades in arms on the assembly line.  If that analysis is correct, then we can say that it is not the inequities of corporate America toward which people are hostile.  It is merely the fact that they are not the beneficiaries of the positive benefits that those at the top receive.  In other words, their motivation is predicated on one of the ugliest of the deadly sins – envy.

While I have never run a Fortune 500 company, I imagine that my experiences as CEO probably mirrors that of others who ran their own small businesses.  I can assure you that the glamor and prestige which is attributed to being the leader of your business is more than offset by trying to keep the company afloat, making sure that the cash is in the bank to pay your employees (even if that meant skipping your own paycheck) and the sleepless nights – wondering if your plan and your vision will be enough to bring you through a slow patch – well, who would ever trade pacing the floor at three in the morning in favor of a restful night’s sleep?

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from viewing the actions of a number of NFL players off the field, it is that if your job requires you to be aggressive and violent, it is sheer folly to believe that removing a helmet and shoulder pads turns you into Mary Poppins.  We are who we have become – both in our place of work and outside the office.

People tend to want to associate with people who are like them.  By that I am not speaking of superficial characteristics such as race, gender, ethnic background or religious views.  At the heart of this desire to associate with others like us is a general outlook on life and the way in which we conduct ourselves with others. That is as true for a CEO as it is for someone on the assembly line.  There is a reason that the term “den of thieves” is part of our vocabulary.  It speaks to the fact that those comprising the “den” all share a common value system – that theft is not only an acceptable way of conducting oneself – it is an underpinning of  their core belief of how they view the world and their role in it.

People, of course, can change.  But let’s think back to the era of light bulb jokes as one of those comes to mind.

“How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?”

“Only one.  But the light bulb really has to want to change.”

The fact is that behavior whether it is constructive or destructive seldom changes because miraculously the owner of that behavior has a sudden epiphany.  Normally, the longer we repeat doing the same thing seeing what we believe are positive consequences, the longer we are likely to continue in that same behavior.  The thief who knocks over a convenience store and gets away with the crime, is likely to plan additional convenience store robberies.  Or, he might expand his horizons by considering how to make an even bigger haul by robbing a bank.

As he continues in successful caper after caper there is no reason for him to change his modus vivendi.  The only likelihood that he will abandon his career is if he is apprehended, tried and incarcerated.  And even then, we know the rate of recidivism of convicts is extremely high.

There is a reason that two-thirds of Americans view Hillary Clinton as “dishonest and untrustworthy.”  (I am in that camp).   She has a track record which she has developed over decades for, at the best, being barely inside the furthest edges of what might be considered legal; and at worst, violating the law but escaping the consequences of those misdeeds by virtue of her being well-connected and privileged.

Now the primary argument advanced by Ms. Clinton and her cohorts to dispel all the controversies that have surrounded her and her husband for decades is that, “it is a great right-wing conspiracy to disparage and impugn them.”  I would consider myself on the right side of things politically.  Yet I’ve never in all these years received even one invitation to attend an anti-Hillary conspiracy meeting.  Perhaps I should feel offended by this omission.

In evaluating a candidate for president, I try to employ the same standards that I used in my business life in which I referred executives to our client companies for potential hire.  Does the candidate have the requisite experience to handle the position in an exceptional manner?  That was the primary determining criterion that i used.  But beyond that there was a subjective component to my decision either to refer a particular candidate to my client or to withhold that referral.  Did I like the person?

As subjective as “liking” someone is, I tried to apply objective standards to that decision.  Was the candidate late, on time or early for our scheduled interview?  Did she come to the interview in a crumpled outfit or were her clothes fresh out of the cleaners?  Did the candidate have a good handshake or was it limp and fishy?  How was the candidate’s eye contact and general body language during our interview?  Did the candidate respond to questions in a clear and succinct manner or did she or he talk around the answer?  Did the candidate engage in any activities whether on or off the job that suggested a generous nature and a team spirit?  And perhaps most importantly, after we concluded our interview, did the candidate take the time either to call or send me a note, thanking me for the opportunity to meet and expressing an interest in the position we had discussed?

In essence, I mentally compiled a FICO score of personality for each candidate.  Perhaps it was not quite as scientific or mathematical as those which are put together to determine credit-worthiness.  But it seemed to be pretty effective as more than ninety-five percent of the candidates we referred to our clients and who were hired had long careers with those companies.

Applying those same standards to Ms. Clinton, I would not in good conscience have referred her to a client should the position of CEO be vacant and she had come in to apply for the job.  That decision has nothing to do with our divergent political views.  Rather, it centers around the woman herself.

I lived in the same condo for twenty-seven years and served as president for eight of those and as a board member for eighteen.  Many of the owners were in the building for similar amounts of time – but there was some turnover as people changed jobs and relocated or found other accommodations.  In some cases, I only learned the names of the other owners when, after three or four years, they had sold their apartment and were moving.  The reason for that was simple.  They followed the few rules we had, were good neighbors and gave the board no reason to have to intervene in any disputes in which they and their fellow owners engaged.

But as luck would have it, there were two of the seventy-two units whose owners either would appear before the board’s monthly meetings with regularity to allege a complaint against either management or one of their neighbors or who were the subject of just such a complaint by one of their neighbors.  I remember that when they showed up for a board meeting, the rest of the board’s membership joined me in a collective groan as we knew what was in store.  And it seemed that no amount of negotiating, no amount of pacification, nothing we could do would deter these two people from having another problem in the months that would follow.  Very early on in this process, I believe that we all correctly came to the conclusion that the source and cause of the alleged problems was not the neighbor but the complainants themselves.

It was my experience that the overwhelming majority of my neighbors were kind and courteous people.  They acknowledged their neighbors with a cheery, “Good morning” when we’d run into each other in the lobby and perhaps take a moment for a little chat even if they were on their way to work.  They always thanked the doorman for opening the outer door of the building for them.  On the other hand, the two people who regularly showed up at our meetings to file their complaints were cold and dismissive.  They would seldom say hello to other residents and treated the doorman and the janitorial staff as though they were indentured servants.  On more than one occasion, I apologized to our staff for their rude behavior.

Now consider for a moment that somehow, one of these two people were not only elected to the board but, even worse became president.  What was once a generally well-functioning entity is now being run by people who had demonstrated that they were always at the center of controversy – and because of their actions were the cause of that controversy.  How long would it take for the building’s operations to deteriorate, first into mediocrity and then into chaos?  I suspect not long at all.

Ms. Clinton brings with her candidacy a great deal of baggage that has caused many stirs over the decades.  One might agree with her assertions these are all a function of that vast great right-wing conspiracy.  Or one might argue, the reason for all the controversy surrounding her is that she, through her own actions or inactions, has focused scrutiny on herself.  If the same person is on site every time an arsonous fire is set, it would be foolish to overlook that person’s proximity and not have thoughts of suspicion arise toward them.  Accidents happen fairly infrequently – and coincidences even less often.

Despite her proclamations to the contrary, Ms. Clinton is one of the least transparent political figures in this country.  I cede the award of first place to President Barack Obama, hands down, undisputed, no argument. But Ms. Clinton is running a close second.  She has, through her cohorts in the establishment in the DNC managed to schedule very few debates and most of those were aired at a time when people were absorbed with watching major sporting events or preparing to celebrate the Holidays.  She hasn’t had a press conference for six months, unusual for a candidate for president who logically would want the public to know and understand what her positions are on important issues.

If we remember the premise that people tend to associate with people like themselves, what kind of staff would Ms. Clinton hire should she be successful in her bid for the White House?  Well, we do know what kind of staff and who it was that she hired in the only executive position she has ever held – as Secretary of State.

The Dems in Congress have downplayed Ms. Clinton’s role in what lead to the death of our ambassador in Benghazi and that of three other Americans.  To be candid, we may never know if their deaths were preventable.  We also may never know whether the State Department acted in a prompt manner to attempt a rescue effort.  But we do know that the State Department and President Obama knew the night of the attack that their explanation for the attack, that it was due to “an internet video besmirching the Prophet Mohammed” was a false narrative, repeated over a week’s period of time.

Further, we know that Ms. Clinton clung to this narrative while she “consoled” the families of those who had fallen in Libya – though she now denies that despite the testimony of those family members who heard her speak those words.

We also know that despite the Benghazi Committee’s Democrat members who have and still call this a “witch hunt,” were it not for the committee’s investigations, we might never have known that Ms. Clinton maintained an unsanctioned personal server and communication system nor that she deleted thirty-three thousand “personal” emails.  These, among other matters, are currently the focus of an FBI investigation – not the “security review” that Ms. Clinton speaks of when addressing this issue.

Besides the FBI investigation, a number of organizations including Judicial Watch have filed suit to determine whether Ms. Clinton (and her staff)have violated any Federal statutes.  Under the Freedom of Information Act, one of her senior assistants, Cheryl Mills gave a deposition last week.  Ms. Mills was accompanied to this hearing by no fewer than seven lawyers – three who represented her personally and an additional four from the Justice Department.

While I’m sure that it was Ms. Mills’ intent to be transparent and totally forthcoming in her deposition, apparently she refrained from answering a significant number of questions put to her because it might have “compromised national security.”  How ironic.  That Ms. Mills could so clearly identify issues of “national security” in the questions posed her, yet her boss, Ms. Clinton was so unable to determine that thousands of the emails she received could not be so identified truly amazes me.  I am further startled at the sheer numbers of legal talent that were assembled to advise this woman.  In twenty-six years in business I don’t think I had need to consult with that many attorneys in toto.

Throughout her career, both Ms. Clinton and her spouse have regularly relied on legalistic defenses for their actions.  It is reasonable to expect that should she be elected president, that sort of approach will continue.  Perhaps we will see her put the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe on retainer.

But to my thinking, legal redress in most cases could be avoided by simply doing the right thing in the first place.  That, it seems to me, is one of the fundamental roles that good management brings to the table.

In Ms. Clinton’s case, I am afraid we would see little more than Ms.management. And all of us will end up footing the bill.

LET HE WHO IS WITHOUT SIN WITHHOLD THE FIRST VOTE

John 8:1-7 (KJV)

1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.

2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

(Apocryphal addendum)

At this point a rock flew past Jesus’ head and hit the woman squarely in the stomach.

Jesus looked up to see who had cast the rock and said, “Oh, really Mother.”

The question of Mary’s status had been debated by the Doctors of the Church until Pope Pius IX in 1854 issued an encyclical promulgating the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, thus requiring all those in communion with the Roman Catholic Church to accept Mary’s status as a person who was conceived without sin.  Please forgive the somewhat irreverent  conclusion to the well-known story of the woman taken in adultery – but if one accepts Pius’  ex cathedra encyclical, it is theologically sound.

Fortunately for those of us who are not theologians, there has been no debate over the fact that all the rest of us have flaws, are sinful and are redeemed through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross (or so we Christians believe).  That would, of course, include candidates for public office – even for president of the United States.

The two presumptive presidential nominees prove daily in the tabloids and other news media, neither of them is a candidate who any reflective person would support with unbridled, unquestioning enthusiasm.  Perhaps the greatest difference between this and previous election cycles is that the turpitude of the candidates seems to have reached a new apex – or, if you will a new nadir.  Notwithstanding, there are mathematically only those two choices and one will emerge as the leader of what is left of the Free World for at least a four year term.  How did this happen?  Because we as a collective people and nation have chosen to ignore the obvious warning signs of a nation in decline and, rather than attempt to rectify the sins of the past, have chosen a path of apathy until the proverbial wolf comes to our own door.  That time has probably now come.

Seldom in my experience have I ever worked for and voted for a presidential candidate with unbridled enthusiasm – though it has happened.  Like most people, the media find it more titillating to expose the flaws of a prospective office holder and that is the information to which we are primarily exposed.  Negative news stories work to increase circulation and viewer ship.  Positive stories, if they appear at all, are buried deep in the recesses of the paper and have no interest to those who believe social media is a reliable source of information – which they aren’t.

So the alternative in most elections is determining who is the lesser of the two evils, holding one’s nose and ruefully casting a vote for the candidate who is qualified by his or her opponents’ even greater concupissance.  This year promises to exemplify that way of determining my vote – except that this is a year on steroids.

“It is indeed difficult to imagine how men who have entirely renounced the habit of managing their own affairs could be successful in choosing those who ought to lead them. It is impossible to believe that a liberal, energetic, and wise government can ever emerge from the ballots of a nation of servants.”
– Alexis de Tocqueville

Whether we like it or not, politics is at the core of each of our lives.  If we vote for someone who brings about rules and regulations that adversely impact our day-to-day existence, vote for a more enlightened opponent who is defeated or, worst of all, choose to pretend that how we are constrained by government is simply not important and choose to try to validate that opinion by not participating in the political process by not voting, there will be consequences.

In the last two presidential elections, most of us conservatives were presented candidates by the Republican party who in only a limited way appeared to champion our core principles.  Yet, most of us sucked it up and voted for them anyway because the alternative, Barack Obama was so odious.  It truly disturbs me that Gov. Mitt Romney, one of the least conservative people within the GOP is now on what I can only take as a personal vendetta to bring down the presumptive nominee in the general election, Donald Trump not only by withholding his support but by trying to find a candidate who would be the sacrificial lamb spear heading the efforts of a third party run, thus assuring Hillary Clinton’s election.

It is at the least ironic that Mr. Romney who withheld his tax returns until Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) got up on the Senate floor, lied and said that “he had information that Romney hadn’t paid a cent in taxes for years” only then put out his own returns and is now squawking so loudly about Trump’s returns .  (Frankly, I think this is a red herring issue – but, of course, the media loves it).  What a hypocrite.  Romney would better serve the Republican party and, more importantly the county, by insisting that the Clinton Foundation explain publicly the changes they made to their returns which, after scrutiny from outside organizations, forced them to amend and refile multiple years.

I’m not sure that Mr. Romney ever heard the old adage about people living in glass houses – but if he missed it, he might consider my version, the title of this piece:

LET HE WHO IS WITHOUT SIN WITHHOLD THE FIRST VOTE

HEALTHY SKEPTICISM

It was 1972 and the Democrats had settled on Sen. George McGovern as their nominee for president to face off against former Vice President Richard M. Nixon.  McGovern felt certain that Ted Kennedy or some other well known, prominent Democrat would readily agree to fill out the ticket in the VP spot.  He was surprised that all of those whom he asked declined his invitation.

After culling through other possible Democrats, McGovern was advised by the Massachusetts head of the Democratic Party that he would support the candidacy of Sen. Thomas Eagleton (MO).  The McGovern camp approached Eagleton who agreed to meet with the candidate for an interview.  The two got on well and McGovern settled on his choice for the second slot on the ticket.

Shortly after he became the vice presidential nominee, news leaked that Eagleton had been hospitalized on three separate occasions for depression.  During the course of his hospitalizations he had been given shock treatment to treat his condition.  The prospect that, should he happen to become president, these conditions might impair his judgment as the nation’s chief executive, caused McGovern to remove Eagleton from the ticket, replacing him with Kennedy in-law, Sargent Shriver.

In the Electoral College, the only votes the McGovern/Shriver ticket garnered were cast by the Massachusetts and DC delegations. Remarkably, the senator did not even carry his home state of South Dakota.

There have always been frivolous if not outright deceptive comments made about a presidential candidate which emanate from the other side.  Harry Reid made totally fabricated statements about Mitt Romney’s “non-payment of any taxes for ten years” and when he was confronted with the fact that Romney had delivered copies of his returns showing that he had paid income tax replied, “Well, he didn’t win did he?”  That’s just politics at its slimiest – and who better to engage in that then the senior senator from Nevada.

There are serious matters of character which rightfully should be examined by the voting public.  Naturally, people on one side will try to get maximum mileage out of any gaffe, slip or past indiscretion which they can attribute to the candidate of the other party.  And the hyperbole of electioneering unfortunately allows people to make allegations which simply are untruthful.  That’s why we now have “fact checkers” to correct mis-statements.  But the fact is that while many of us might have seen the untruthful ad containing these assertions, few of us read the story that the information and accusations contained in them were lies.  That’s why most political ads, at least the most effective ones, are negative in nature.

Back in 1972 there was not the immediacy with which information could be communicated.  It was far easier for a candidate to fail to reveal a negative event or trait which was part of his background and hope to escape detection.  That was the route that Eagleton took – failing to disclose his hospitalizations and the reason for them.  But the information came out and that ended Eagleton’s short-lived berth as the number two person on the Democratic ticket.

McGovern acted decisively in having Eagleton step down.  I never agreed with McGovern’s policies, but I do believe that he was a man of integrity.  No doubt, taking Eagleton off the ticket was self-serving, a move which McGovern must have felt would improve his unlikely chance of winning the election.  But I also suspect that he was concerned about the future of the country should something happen to him, Eagleton became the president and then have another of his depressive episodes.

Hillary Clinton is under scrutiny on issues that seem, at their root, to question her honesty and integrity.  That is the case whether the question is about whether she failed to take appropriate steps that might have resulted in a different outcome in Benghazi; why she maintained a private unsecured server and then deleted half of her emails; and whether foreign donors and governments might have bought influence while she was Secretary of State.  Those investigations should be conducted and the facts should be made public without the interjection of partisanship.  The presidency of the United States is too important to hand over to anyone because they make nice speeches or belong to a particular gender.  The past seven years have made that only too clear.

But, as with Eagleton, there is an even more fundamental issue that has been significantly neglected by the press – the question of whether Ms. Clinton is healthy enough to be president.

You may remember that she was to testify before the Benghazi Committee in 2014 but suffered a fall, injuring herself, and was granted a change in date because of this episode.  In his newest book, “Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary,”  prolific political author, Ed Klein asserts that Ms. Clinton has experienced a number of small strokes and, as is not unusual with women her age, might be expected to experience more in the future.  He describes her feeling fatigue as she hits the campaign trail and having bouts with insomnia.

In fairness to Ms. Clinton, Ed Klein could hardly be described as a fan of hers and I’m sure that the book is slanted to open questions into the state of her health.  I would not accept his statements as absolute facts which are beyond dispute.  But on the other hand, I’ve seen enough footage of Ms. Clinton stopping to make speeches and meet voters at small assemblies to have noticed that she does look rather haggard.  That might be understandable were she in a hotly contested primary race – but that simply is not the case.

I would hope that the media would look into the state of Ms. Clinton’s health more thoroughly so that we don’t have another Thomas Eagleton moment on our hands.  The people of this nation deserve a president who is, at the very least, healthy enough to discharge the duties of the office.

Whether Ms. Clinton fits that description – well, at the moment I’m maintaining a healthy skepticism.

CANDY IS DANDY BUT LET’S TALK MISANDRY

If you’re not familiar with the term “misogyny” you have probably missed the fact that the “feminist” movement started a few eons ago or you aren’t tuned in to Hillary Clinton’s campaign to overcome it in what she and others describe as the “War on Women”.  Misogyny is, of course, defined as a hatred of women.  What you probably don’t know (because you’ve likely never heard it) is that there is a male version of this term, “misandry”.  So, you may ask, what does all this have to do with the price of tea in China?  Fair question.

I decided on the title of this post because I just came across an old copy of Ogden Nash’s poetry which included his famous, “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker” poem.  And, of course, misandry rhymes far better with dandy than does mysogyny.  And I love introducing my readers to arcane and otherwise obscure bits of vocabulary.  But beyond all this, there is a method to my madness which has less to do with politics than it does with living in a civilized society.

It’s a good thing that mysogyny (and I guess misandry) exist – or at least are perceived to exist.  If it weren’t for them, those who talk the most about the subject(s) would be utterly tongue tied and have nothing to say.  As it is, they have, in my opinion very little to say – but they still insist on saying it at great length.  Thank goodness for freedom of speech.

But if misogyny exists is it, perhaps, inherent in our vocabulary itself?  Maybe this is the reason that the left considers one of their major objectives to refine, sanitize, delete and alter our language so that it conforms to their view of how the world should be, rather than the way it is.  I first noticed this “purification” process beinning about twenty years ago when I was watching the Kentucky Derby.  Suddenly, I was struck by the singing of Stephen Foster’s My Old Kentucky Home.

The original of Foster’s work read:

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home.
‘Tis summer, the darkies are gay.

One lawmaker in Kentucky found the words “darky and darkies” to be offensive and got a bill passed which altered the author’s original work to read “people”, replacing these two terms throughout the song.  On the surface, as attitudes and speech have changed since the mid-nineteenth century when the song was written, this might be more reflective of the way we think and speak today.  Although one can hardly imagine what the verbage of this song might look like if it fell in the hands of what we euphemistically describe as “rap artists”.  While they were at it, one can only wonder why they didn’t also alter the term “gay” to read straight and LGBTQ – but it’s hard to rhyme those terms I guess.

Unfortunately, like so many things that people who are self-described as “politically correct” missed is that they didn’t understand what motivated Foster to write this song.  Most people, on hearing My Old Kentucky Home envision a song about the idylic pre-bellum South with ladies twirling parasols as they are escorted on the family manse by the young beau who is courting them.  In fact, the song is a lament sung by a slave who has been sold from his Kentucky birthplace to a new master in the deep South who will make him work in the sugar cane fields and probably meet an early death.

But returning to misogyny for a moment in view of the dedication of some to expurgate our language so that only permitted terms can be uttered (and I suspect their theory is that if we can’t say it we won’t think it), a recent sad event occurred which seems to have gone under the radar of the “Thought Police”.  That tragedy was the shooting of NYC police officer Randolph Holder and remarks made by film actor and director Quentin Tarentino’s comments at what might be best described as an anti-cop rally held in NYC a few days after the officer’s murder.

Police departments and associations throughout the country called for a boycott of Tarentino’s forthcoming movie and any further projects in which he might be involved.  I happen to be vaguely unfamiliar with Tarentino’s works.  The last one that I saw was Pulp Fiction which was released in 1994.  When I say that I saw the movie it would be far more accurate to say that I saw a bit less than one half hour of it before I walked out.  Some friends dragged me to the movie but I found the language and violence to be way over the top – so I left.  Fortunately, there was a bar across the street so I enjoyed a few single malt Scotches until the movie let out and my friends joined me.

Now we return to political correctness.  While I thoroughly support the police in their effort to show their displeasure by withholding their hard earned dollars from flowing directly into the coffers of a director who obviously has high disregard for them and the job they do, isn’t their effort in organizing a “boycott” inherently misogynistic?  Why isn’t it called a “girlcott” or the more inclusive “peoplecott”?

As most of those on the left are hoping that they can change the world into what I view as a miasmic fantasyland, I think I’ll just call it an Epcott.

LENNY

It was a very quiet apartment building.  The forty units were mostly occupied by older people whose children were grown and had started families of their own.  Of the seven or eight children who were being raised there, we had all come from families who believed that their children should learn how to behave in public as well as at home so there were never any youthful disturbances which might annoy the other residents.

One of my earliest memories was of the two men who were the Superintendent, Juan Espinoza who was an immigrant from Cuba and his assistant, Lenny.  While I’m sure that I knew Lenny’s surname as a child, I’ve long forgotten it.  But while I may have allowed Lenny’s last name to escape my memory, I’ll never forget the man himself.

Lenny was a gentle, kindly, Big Ben type of fellow, but without the facial hair.  In his day had he had the opportunity to go to college, he easily could have qualified as a member of the school’s football team, at least based on his impressive size.  But that wasn’t why people noticed Lenny.  He had an unusual physical condition which I have never seen again in anyone else.  On his face there were outgrowths of skin, some the size of exploded popcorn.  It was impossible not to notice them – and I couldn’t help myself from seeing them.

I remember being six or seven and going with my mother to the grocery store when Lenny was in the hallway, mopping the floor.  And I remember asking my mother, “Why does Lenny have those bumps on his face?”  Fortunately, I had the good taste to ask this question when we had exited the front door and were far out of Lenny’s hearing.

My mother responded, “I don’t know, dear.  But we must always remember neither to criticize people nor make fun of people because of the way they look.  They can’t help the way they’re born – but they can control the way they behave – just as you can.  And Lenny is always there whenever we need some help in the apartment and does his job very well. That’s what we should remember.”

Although as I mentioned, there were only a few kids in the building, there was one boy who, despite his parent’s best efforts, occasionally had an outburst and broke all the rules of how to be a civilized young person.  He constantly referred to Lenny as “The Freak”.  Of course, like most cowardly people who enjoy belittling others, he only said that when Lenny wasn’t present.  At least that was a blessing.  I could only imagine how hurt Lenny would have been had he heard that comment.  And, although most of the rest of us kids told him that his statement was rude and cruel he persisted in referring to Lenny with that term.

At some point I came to the conclusion, largely based on this one kid’s bad behavior, that boys were more likely to be bullies than girls.  That is until recently.

I was watching a clip on Fox News on the most recent Republican presidential debate which was aired on “The View,” a program that I have never watched.  Of the people who I presume are co-hosts, the only one I recognized was Whoopi Goldberg.  But I did recognize the same sort of vindictive and vile level of incivility that my fellow apartment dweller used against Lenny.  Except that this time it was directed toward Carly Fiorina.  What’s disturbing to me is less that these women acted as though they were vicious attack dogs than that they have an audience which apparently enjoys watching them trying to dismember another human being.

So I guess these folks missed the lesson that my mother taught me when I was a little kid.  And, come to think of it, I believe the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said pretty much the same thing in his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Tag Cloud