Senescence

My pithy observations on maturity and the art of getting older…

Photo by Trang Pham from Pexels

We open our book of life to see there are not very many pages left.

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A great antidote to depression or melancholy is the comforting smile of a young child.

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As years grow longer, handshakes, hugs and kisses among friends are stronger.

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Those who are truly happy, if offered a chance to enter a time machine and go back to relive their lives, would decline and say, “I would not change a thing.”

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Songs trigger old memories—-some bring a smile, some bring a tear. 

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We wear fatigue like a thin blanket hanging loosely from our slightly stooped shoulders.

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One’s definition of “success’ matures with age. Success becomes not so much what one has but what one did with what one had.

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Past events that seemed so embarrassing and foolish then are accepted with a wry smile and a forgiving heart now.

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Add 20% to the time it usually took you to complete routine duties like taking out the trash, going grocery shopping, finding your keys and climbing the stairs.

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What we miss surpasses what we look forward to…

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Women retain their desirability by their humor, laughter and conversation; men by simply listening.

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Our nightmares are not events that could happen but did happen.

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What often frightens the young, amuses the mature.

Aphorisms for the Trump Era

I have a dislike for most political memes that are so popularly posted on Facebook and other social media. So many are crude, misleading, poorly written and contain doctored and photoshopped images and pictures. These memes are not meant to inform but inflame, frighten and mislead. What’s worse is that these memes are shared and spread like a cancer. An example of such a meme is described below:

If bullshit doesn’t come to a halt, you will see 83 million gun owners walk out of their homes like this. (picture of masked man carying a rifle and dressed in fatigues).

I am a collector of timeless aphorisms. Aphorisms are short, pithy observations, opinions and thoughts created by (mostly) wise and observant people, not by bots and trolls in their cellars.

Here are a few aphorisms that may have been written a century ago are relevant to what we experience today…

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

H.L. Mencken

 “Holders of power, almost inevitably desire their subjects to be emotional rather than rational, since this renders it easier to make those who are victims of an unjust social system contented with their lot.”

Bertrand Russell

“America is a pot that’s melting.”

John Alejandro King

“The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.”

Dante Alighieri

“A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves.” 

Bertrand de Jouvenel

“We don’t collect news to inform us. We collect news to affirm us.”

Frank Luntz

“The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”

H.L. Mencken

A politician thinks about the upcoming elections, a statesman to the next generations.”

James Freeman Clarke

“The man who is always waving the flag usually waives what it stands for.”

Laurence J. Peter

 “Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.”

Oscar Ameringer

“The only valid political system is one that can handle an imbecile in power without suffering from it.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

“Democracy the domination of unreflective and timorous men, moved in vast herds by mob conditions.”

H.L. Mencken

“The flag does not identify the nation, it identifies the wind.”

George Murray

The Old Man and the Read

A mark of an educated man or woman is to employ an expanded vocabulary in their speech or conversation. A mark of a very educated man or woman is to know the appropriate times to employ the expanded vocabulary to a particular audience.

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I always thought that I had a book within me that I could write and publish. But after recently reading My Mistake: A Memoir by David Menacker, a book about the author’s experiences in various roles in the publishing world, I am now disimbued of that ambition.

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I am also reminded of an adage from the great Christopher Hitchens about people who want to write a book: “Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.”

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I am a huge fan of good journalism. And despite all the outcries of “fake news,“ there is a lot of good investigative journalism of political, business, health and culture topics reflecting strong research, responsible sourcing, effective writing and editing. Magazines of exceptional writing and reporting include The New Yorker, Atlantic, Vanity Fair, and The Nation. What’s frustrating to me is the reliance of so many people on blogs and memes, particularly as it relates to politics and the coronavirus.

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A great financial and mental investment is the online Sunday New York Times for $.99. Excellent ideas, essays, news coverage and articles on politics, business, culture, entertainment and people. I am biased but I think Maureen Dowd is one of the best essayists and commentators of the political and current events scenes.

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Authors continue to write “self help“ books as it is a huge market within book publishing. However the greatest ideas for self-help were written in ancient times by Socrates, Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Confucius, Lao-tzu and Epicurus. Much of what is written today as self help is just a regurgitation of their ideas.

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One of the greatest literary influences on my perspectives regarding life, death and religion is found in the first chapter of a book by Alan Watts titled The Wisdom of Insecurity. The chapter begins, “By all outward appearances, our life is a spark of light between one eternal darkness and another.” I have underlined just about all of the first chapter in my copy of the book. A great deal of wisdom in 15 pages.

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In high school, we were assigned summer reading. The three books I remember and enjoyed were (1) Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee (2) All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque and (3) The Bridges at Toko-Ri. I struggled with the following summer books: (1) The Spy by James Fenimore Cooper, (2) Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert and (3) The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. I found the writing in those books tedious and boring.

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The best and most memorable short story I have read is The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Written in 1948, it is still an appropriate theme for our times. I remember my shock at the ending of the story.

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Currently reading Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife by Bart D. Ehrman. Just finished How Did We Get Here? From Theodore Roosevelt to Donald Trump by historian Robert Dallek.

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A very funny read is Make Russia Great Again by Christopher Buckley. It is a satirical novel about a former Jewish food manager of one of Trump’s Golf Clubs who reluctantly becomes Trump’s seventh Chief of Staff. He becomes embroiled in a number of crazy White House scandals and deals with Fox commentators running the government and his boss’s bizarre ideas (e.g. Ivanka as VP to garner women’s vote.) Strangely enough I’m not sure this satire is as farcical as the real time events of the Trump presidency.

Old Man and the Read

Third Shot Jots

Check out recent YouTube video where Ben Johns and Simone Jardin play Dekel Bar and Adam Stone. Great example of how men and women can compete effectively in mixed doubles, as a partnership. Johns and Jardin play to their strengths. Their movement and strategy were like a dance. Sorry for the dated reference, but think of the balance between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Johns and Jardin beat two top flight pickleball players. Jardin is the best women’s player in pickleball right now.

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I watch a lot of pickleball tournaments and events on social media and YouTube. In all the events I have watched, I don’t recall seeing a player cited for an illegal serve. Maybe the pros and advanced players are that good that they do not violate the rules on serving. But even Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been called on foot faults at times. Seems to me that many of the fast servers in the men’s game come very close to a sidearm motion when they serve.

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One of the hardest disciplines (maybe the hardest) is the ability to not swing at “out” balls. At the advanced and pro levels, players rarely give up free points if a ball is going out. 

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Growing concern about the availability of indoor pickleball when the weather changes in late fall and winter. Given the current health circumstances, I don’t envision government (particularly in NJ)) allowing indoor pickleball facilities to open and if they do, may impose restrictions on how many people can be in the facility.  Facilities may also have to be concerned with any liabilities if COVID 19 infections occur among players. They will also need to be more vigilant about cleaning benches and equipment as well as replacing pickleballs between sessions. Players would need to be more cognizant of social distancing as that becomes a premium when moving from outside to inside to play.

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Just my observation…There is a fine line between offering advice and sounding critical while playing a game, especially when teaming with beginners. I think that beginning players need to hear encouragement first and know what they are doing right. I have seen beginning players inundated with tips and criticisms while they are in the midst of a game. They start to overthink what they are doing and they don’t respond naturally to playing. Better to offer most suggestions to a player after a game, not during it and only when they request help.

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I’d like to see all pickleball games go to 15 points, instead of the customary 11, especially in recreation play…

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The commercialization of pickleball is increasing, as it should, given the popularity of the sport and the discretionary income of many of its players. There is a new paddle from Selkirk (Vanguard) that costs $200. More companies are selling pickleball paddles, clothing and shoes. There are increasing opportunities to promote seminars and training sessions. More towns are building pickleball courts (some at the dismay of tennis players). Hopefully pickleball will receive more media coverage from the sports networks and given the current lack of live sports, this might be the best opportunity to showcase the sport.

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A good friend of mine had the pleasure of watching Frank Anthony Davis at Atkinson Park recently. He was blown away at the level of game FAD displayed but he was also impressed how approachable FAD was to talk with spectators. It seems that way with just about all high level performance men and women pickleball players and that will help promote the sport. I have seen FAD playing singles and doubles on YouTube videos – – very happy that he is representing the South Jersey area.

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Covid 19 has impacted my participation in pickleball this summer. I don’t play as much and when I play, it is with smaller groups. That being said, I do miss many friends I have played with from DeCou, Hainesport and Marlton over the years. For me, I play pickleball 75% for the social aspect, 25% for the competitive aspect. Hopefully things will turn around in the next few months and life and pickleball can return to normal, or close to it.

Stay safe!!

Eric Vill jpg

 

 

Observations on a Hot, Steamy Sunday

My fear is that the next presidential election will not be determined by ballots but by bullets; not at the polls but on the streets.

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Axios: “80% of Americans say we are headed in the wrong direction.” I say that we have already arrived.

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The United States has rested on its laurels since 1945. Other than the moon landings, what have we done in terms of significant accomplishment, national pride and purpose? How did we earn our sense of exceptionalism?

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The coronavirus is the King Kong of our time. Scientists can’t stop it. Governments are powerless. It rumbles through with little resistance. Kong and the coronavirus did meet their match in New York City. Let’s call it a draw for now…

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I don’t write for an audience of today. I write for a reader or student 20-50 years in the future so they may understand our current times, tone and culture. My sense is that they will be in disbelief in how poorly we conducted our politics, economy and health.

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On Sundays, people used to buy the paper to read the “funnies.” Here’s what I read from the NewYork Times and Washington Post on Sunday and they are not funny.

America 2-27-20

 

Clearing Mental Cache II

My Top 12 SNL skits:

  1. Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump
  2. Celebrity Jeopardy with Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek, Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery, Norm McDonald as Burt Reynolds
  3. Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood with Eddie Murphy
  4. Close Encounters/Paranormal skits with Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong
  5. Tina Fey as Sarah Palin
  6. Word Association (1975) with Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase
  7. Meet your Second Wife with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler
  8. Taran Killam as Jebediah Atkinson (cultural and political critic)
  9. Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin Point/counterpoint (“Jane, you ignorant slut”)
  10. More Cowbell (Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken
  11. Toonces the Cat with Steve Martin and Victoria Jackson
  12. The Continental (Christopher Walken)

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I would not be shocked if the winner of the next Presidential election is not determined by voters but by the military.

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Why does the re-opening of MLB, NBA and NHL along with the proposed start of NFL football seem like the start of an extended exhibition season for all sports? Does Las Vegas have an over/under of how many games each sport will have before they are forced to close down?

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Donald Trump may not have airports, government buildings or ships named after him as he leaves office but there will be wings of libraries stocked with shelves of books written about him and his presidency. Forget books written by those who worked with Trump or are historians, teachers and news analysts. The most incisive and reveling book will come from his third and recently divorced wife, Melania.

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Pornography is now better regulated on the internet than political propaganda and is often less obscene. (So I hear)

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What is more dangerous? Not wearing a mask in a crowded bar or being an attractive female working at Fox News?

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Capitalism-an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. Can someone explain to me how we are a capitalist economy when the Federal Reserve is propping up the stock market with zero interest rates, while billionaires, large corporations and certain “churches” are receiving financial handouts even though many do not need the money?

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There has already been a lot of discussion about Trump’s presidency relative to his standing with that of his predecessors. Trump, himself feels a kinship to Abraham Lincoln. I decided to take a historical scenario and based on how Trump has handled current crises and project how he would have handled a crisis in the past. I am comparing how FDR actually handled events in WWII to how Trump may have handled them. (Depending on your point of view, you may think my comparison an amusing parody or you may think, “Yeah, you got it right.”)

FDR vs Trump

 

“No” to Fall College and High School Sports

I miss watching sports. I miss watching the competition between teams and among individuals. I miss players displaying their talents, drive and athleticism. I miss the energy of a rabid crowd cheering for their team. With all that said, I don’t want to watch sports played under the current pandemic circumstances, especially high school and college sports. I think that athletic directors and university presidents are delusional to think that games could be played given the spread of infections, particularly in the southern and southwestern sections of this country where college football is fanatical.

I understand that the cancellation of fall sports at many colleges and universities could mean the termination of all sports at those schools. Again I appreciate the economic and psychological fallout of canceled sports. But subjecting the possible infection of the coronavirus to a college athlete is not unlike sending Christians to face lions and tigers in an ancient Roman arena. The outcomes are not likely to be favorable.

In this country, we are anxious for a return to normalcy—-a return to the routines and lifestyles we enjoyed before the spread of the pandemic. Some people practice this by refusing to wear masks thus prolonging the consequences of the pandemic. As a country, we are also experiencing political, economic and social agendas that may not reflect good judgment, good science and common sense. I err to the side of caution.

As an aside, I am not sure that re-opening the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball is a good idea either but those players are pros and are getting paid and have the ability to opt out.

Book Review: The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton

I finished The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton. Bolton was Trump’s former National Security Advisor for about 18 months. Out of all the Trump related books written by authors who used to work with Trump that I have read, this appears to be the most detailed and documented. Since there has been no real pushbacks about the events described in the book, I assume that Bolton’s story is credible. Like many other of his appointees, Trump soured on Bolton but Bolton resigned first before Trump could fire him by Tweet.

It is a long book (494 pages) and drags at times. (If you are not into Presidential history, foreign affairs or the Trump presidency, you may want to skip this book and just watch Bolton’s various interviews on Youtube.)

Here are my six takeaways from reading the book:

1. Trump is incompetent. He runs his administration like he ran The Apprentice. He is disorganized, uninformed (doesn’t read or listens to intelligence reports), indecisive, easily manipulated and shows little respect or confidence in the opinions and expertise of those individuals who work for him. Hence the extremely high turnover in White House staff and cabinet officials.

2. Bolton devotes chapters to events and policies related to China, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran. Trump has managed to mishandle them all, particularly North Korea where Trump was schooled by Kim Jong Un.

3. Trump had a foreign affairs team that included Bolton, Mike Pompeo, General James Mattis, Jared Kushner, Nikki Haley, H.R. McMaster and General John Kelly. The Marx Brothers defending Freedonia  were more effective than Trump and his appointees in promoting our national defense and interests.

4. Trump does not have a dog in the White House. He does not need one—-he has Vice President Pence. Bolton claims that Trump has sole control over what Pence does or says. Trump has a touch leach on any ambitions that Pence may have. There are no examples of Pence trying to mitigate Trump’s influence or fix the various dysfunctions among various departments and cabinet members. Bolton alluded to the rumor that Haley could replace Pence on the GOP ticket.

5. Trump treats our allies (Britain, France, Canada, Japan, Germany, South Korea etc) with contempt while trying to cozy up to our enemies (Russia, North Korea and China.) Bolton claims that Trump asked for China’s help in his reelection campaign.

6. I have very little respect for John Bolton. My lack of respect also extends to most of Trump’s cabinet and appointees and to most of the Republican party. They all understand that Trump should have been removed as president and they have kept quiet about this. Now that the Trump presidency is ending, many former Trump supporters are bailing out so that history does not judge them as harshly as they deserve.

I have provided some notes and highlights from the book to provide a flavor of what Bolton was trying to communicate about Trump and how Trump mishandled foreign affairs:

Charles Krauthammer, a sharp critic of his, told me he had been wrong earlier to characterize Trump’s behavior as that of a 11-year-old boy. “I was off by 10 years,” Krauthammer, remarked. “He’s like a one-year-old.’ page 8

The White House announced Trump would make a major Iran address on October 12, so I (Bolton) decided to stop being shy, phoning Westerhout to ask for a meeting. By then, Tillerson had reportedly call Trump “a fucking moron,” which he refused to deny flatly. page 25

For a US president to grant Kim a summit with no sign whatever of a strategic decision to renounce nuclear weapons – – in fact, giving it away for nothing – – was a propaganda gift beyond measure. page 33

I met with Trump and Pence at 1:30 in the small dining room down the short hall from the oval. Trump spent a lot of time in his dining room, with a white screen television on the wall opposite his chair, usually turn to Fox news. page 53

Of course, Trump didn’t help by not being clear about what he wanted, jumping randomly from one question to another, and generally frustrating efforts to have a coherent discussion about the consequences of making one choice rather than another.” page 56

Although the first Abe (Japan’s prime minister)— Trump meeting was on political matters, our briefing room was filled with trade policy types who, having heard there was a briefing, wandered in. Trump was late so I said we would have a brief discussion on trade and then get to North Korea. It was a mistake. Trump, set off about a comment that we had no better ally than Japan, jarringly complained about Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Things went downhill from there.  pages 61 to 62

I joined one of the intelligence briefings Trump hat every week from the director of National Intelligence Coats, CIA director Haspel, and briefers who accompanied them. I don’t think these briefings were terribly useful, and neither did the intelligence committee, since most of the time was spent listening to Trump, rather than Trump listening to the briefers. I made several tries to improve the transmission of intelligence to Trump but failed repeatedly. page 89

Is it Finland kind of a satellite of Russia?” He (Trump) asked later that same morning if Finland was part of Russia. I tried to explain the history but didn’t get very far … page 128

He (Trump) then turned to his visits to Walter Reed, where the wounded soldiers had not the impact on Trump they’ve had on most people, impressing them with their bravery and commitment to their mission. Trump has simply been horrified by the seriousness of their wounds (oblivious also that advances in military medicine saved many men who simply would’ve died in earlier wars). page 219

As it was, Trump generally had only two intelligence briefings per week, and in most of those, he spoke at greater length than the briefers, often on matters completely unrelated to the subject at hand. page 224

I opened the door to ask where Kelly (Chief of Staff) was but no one knew. I went to the hallway; saw him speaking to someone; pulled him into the Roosevelt Room, which was empty; and shut the door. This was our second emotional conversation, even more intense than the first. “I’ve commanded men in combat,” he said “and I’ve never had to put up with shit like that,” referring to what just happened in the Oval. I could see his resignation coming, so I asked, “But what is the alternative if you resign?” Kelly said, “What if we had a real crisis like 9/11 with the way he makes decisions? page 232

Trump said approvingly (to Chinese President Jinping Xi) that there was great hostility among the Democrats. He then stunningly turned the conversation to the upcoming US presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. page 310

Flying to Washington, I concluded that Hanoi (location where Trump and Un met) showed the US still didn’t know how to deal with North Korea and its ilk. We spent endless hours negotiating with ourselves, whittling away at our own position before our adversaries even got to it… page 33

the-room-where-it-happened-9781982148034_xlg

 

 

Denial

With the possible exceptions of various historical inquisitions, I’m not sure there has been another time when so many well reasoned and well evidenced arguments have been so thoroughly discarded and trashed by so many.

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Out of favor: Epidemiologists , journalists, college professors, MLB, Police unions, Fox News (for Trumpsters), wearing masks while in public, responsibility

In favor: Drs, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, political bloggers, online college courses, Korean baseball, BLM, OAN (for Trumpsters) tantrums when asked to wear masks in public, irresponsibility

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Speaking of out of favor, I’m noticing a bit of a pushback against Trump supporters. Not just the Republican politicians running with him this November but also against anyone with a MAGA hat or Trump campaign signs on the lawn. Even in The Villages Florida (a Trump stronghold), there was a counter protest by angry residents to a Trump rally. Now this is not 1944 France where collaborators were jailed or women had their heads shaved for cozying up with the Nazis but there are a lot of angry anti Trumpsters who probably make up the majority in the present cultural war.

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It would be a better use of time to remove the current relics of our country including Trump, Republican Congress etc. who still can wreak damage today than to remove past relics of the confederacy which cannot do damage.

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Trump 2020 presidential campaign strategy equals Roberto Duran’s strategy against Sugar Ray Leonard in their second fight. Will Trump like Duran go to his corner mid bout (election) and cry “No Mas?”

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The essential difference between investing and gambling today is where you place your order (bet).

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Does anyone miss major league baseball? Anyone?