Winter Ponderings

Stupidity has spread faster than omicron in this country. Omicron is transmitted by air, stupidity spreads generally by social media and right wing blogs and networks.

Omicron’s ill effects are mild and short term (for the vaccinated). Stupid’s effects are long term and spur many and various variants, most uncontrolled and impervious for remedy.

January 6, 2021 is a metaphorical “Fort Sumter” on the current civil war in the United States.

Does anyone think long-term today? Companies and their shareholders don’t. Politicians don’t. Sports franchises don’t. We live in an era of instant gratification. Many if not most of the public demand instant results. A first year coach in any sport gets critical comments from his team’s fanbase if the wins and losses aren’t to their exaggerated expectations.

My description of a woman I know: “She is as cold as a blizzardly blustery late January sundown in Buffalo…”

At age 69, I should have developed an immunity towards being disappointed and hurt. I have not. While I am more philosophical about experiencing those emotions, I have not developed an antibody for the sadness I feel.

Observations that I have read and found worthy of repeat…

Having been retired for about three years, I look back on my “career” in various positions as defining a job as an inconvenient interruption between weekends. Phil from Philadelphia (comment on NYT article Public Displays of Resignation: Saying ‘I Quit’ Loud and Proud)

“It is simple: depending on others is misery; depending on yourself is power.”
—Robert Greene, The Daily Laws

“To keep Trump and his epigones away from high office, it isn’t enough to have the moral high ground. It’s like something Adlai Stevenson supposedly said once when a voter told him that every thinking person was on his side. “I’m afraid that won’t do,” he replied. “I need a majority.” Democracy needs a majority.” (Bret Stephens NYT Covid 3.0, Biden 2.0 and Trump Number …1/10/22)

Miscellanea

Friends generally fall into tiers, like those old food-pyramid posters in the school cafeteria, except in this case, the tiny triangle at the pinnacle is where the good stuff is, your best friends who provide the most nourishment. The broad base of the pyramid represents the acquaintances, the kinda-friends, the friends of friends and amiable whoevers that, like matcha cupcakes or pigs in a blanket, are great to sample at a party, but do not make a full meal.

I Want My Friends. But How Many? Alex Williams

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“The two most important days in your life are the day that you were born and the day you found out why.”

Mark Twain

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“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

 Philip Dick

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This country is in the midst of a 5 alarm fire, & so many of the democratic leadership, the media, & much of the general population don’t get it, can’t believe it, or think someone else will stop it. If you don’t see where we’re headed in 3, 5, 10 years, your head is in the sand.

Kurt Eichenwald

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As I do for the first time in my 62 years, my biggest worry is for my country. But the darkness on the edge of town has spread to the main roads and highways and neighborhoods. It’s now at the local bar, and the bowling alley, at the school board, and the grocery store. And it must be acknowledged and answered for. Grown men and women who swore an oath to our Constitution, elected by their constituents possessing the kinds of college degrees I could only dream of have decided to join the mob and become something they are not while hoping we somehow forget who they were. They’ve decided to burn it all down – with us inside. 

Brian Williams on his final MSNBC telecast

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“You know, look, one thing that nurses also told us is that not only are they treating these people, but these people come in and ask like it’s Starbucks there. No, I don’t want that treatment. I want ivermectin. I want this, I want that, I want all these other things I’ve heard about,” said Marquez. “And the hospital has to actually fight their own patients to give them the treatment that actually works!”

Reporter on Covid treatments at Sparrow Health System Michigan

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Expectation is the grandfather of disappointment. The world can never own a man who wants nothing.”

— Aphorisms for Thirsty Fish

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“Here is a formula for staying young well beyond the days of youth…

“Grow old in a place where you do not think you belong. You will feel like an adolescent, because adolescents always consider themselves outsiders. Then, after decades, just as you have gradually habituated yourself to your surroundings, pack up and leave. It is time for another, perhaps the final beginning.”

Willard Spiegelman

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My Favorite Books for 2021

I am a voracious reader. This year I have read 64 books so far and I will probably read another 2-3 books by year end. I tend to be picky as to what I read and I am somewhat reluctant to recommend books  to others given my “eclectic” tastes. Over 80% of what I read is non-fiction though I did recommend two fiction books that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Here are my Top 10 books of 2021 and two extra recommendations..

I have read many of the Trump presidency books. I find that the one written by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa is the best. Peril also covers the candidacy and early administration of Joe Biden and the comparison between the Trump and Biden administration is compelling. I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker is also excellent and the title is self explanatory as to the story within the book. Most of the book details Trump’s failure with managing the Covid pandemic.

1940: FDR, Wilkie, Lindbergh, Hitler—the Election Amid the Storm by Susan Dunn documents the leadership, judgment and foresight of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the year before we entered World War II. Many Americans wished to remain isolationist and did not want to support Great Britain even as its cities were attacked by German bombers. Wendell Wilkie was the unsuccessful Republican candidate for President in 1940. Wilkie ran an unconventional campaign but unlike many Republicans today accepted the results of the election and supported FDR’s policies about the impending war.

Corruption, bad judgment, mismanagement, suicides, deviant behavior, treachery and Donald Trump, all this and more in Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction. This is a business book that reads like a novel, a huge international bank plagued by scandals.

If you are an Eagles fan, you will thoroughly enjoy Ray Didinger’s Finished Business. Lots of great stories about players, owners and coaches. If you are a basketball fan, Three Ring Circus by Jeff Pearlman about the Los Angeles Lakers team from 1996-2004 is very entertaining and provides some great insights into the rocky relationship between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Amazing how a very dysfunctional team was so successful. For baseball fans, October 1964 by David Halberstam is a bit of a dated book but an excellent read. It covered the 1964 seasons of the New York Yankees (with Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Yoga Berra) and the St Louis Cardinals (Bob Gibson, Tim McCarver, Stan Musial). Interesting personal portraits of many of the players were provided. Phillies fans, take note, the Phillies collapse towards the National League pennant is documented!

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher about a crotchety, sarcastic Creative Writing teacher Jason Fitger was very funny. I would keep my wife awake with my laughter as I read the book in bed. Maybe the Fitger character reminded me of someone else who did not suffer fools gladly in his corporate life? I enjoyed the adventurous tales of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell. Interesting stories of the Wild West beyond the fight at the OK Corral.

The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War by Malcolm Gladwell was an uncomfortable story. It detailed the thinking and strategies about how to close the wars against the Germans and the Japanese. There were two lines of thought. One was to bomb military and manufacturing targets primarily. Second, bomb population centers and destroy the morale of citizens. The decision on whether to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki also created moral dilemmas.

The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win by Maria Konnikova is primarily a story about a woman learning to play poker and also compete (and win) in big money tournaments. The bigger picture contains the lessons that she learns about psychology, luck, focus, risk and control that are useful as to how we conduct our lives, careers, finances and relationships.

Two extra recommendations:

Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo (Title is self explanatory. I did not agree with some of her analysis but this book was very well presented and written.)

Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig. Eye opening expose about the management and performance of the Secret Service. Interesting anecdotes about some of our Presidents and their interactions with the Secret Service.

Two Days of Infamy: One Act of Leadership

Two days of infamy. The first we commemorate on its 80th anniversary today, the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan. The second day of infamy, 1/6/2021 was when our democracy was attacked in plain sight by a crazed and violent mob at the U.S. Capitol provoked by incendiary speeches by a desperate and defeated President and his delusional sycophants.

The Pearl Harbor attack was met with a declaration of war by the President and Congress. A nation became united in its determination to win a war and defend its democracy. Men signed up for the military, women took over jobs in industry and manufacturing to help in the war effort. Americans sacrificed so that needed resources and materials would go to our military. Maybe more importantly, we had a leader, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had prepared the country for war. Roosevelt covertly aided England to help in their national survival. During an election year (1940), FDR reinstituted the draft knowing it could hurt his re-election chances. He placed the interests of the country before his personal interests.

pictures of FDR by Harry Podlinski

The Capitol attack was met by indifference and denials by the Republican party, even though its Vice President was a target by the mob. Instead of a united country, there was significant support for the insurrection. In 1941, Congress united and declared war. In 2021, many Congressional members ran from their responsibility with the same alacrity as they ran from the mob. Some members of Congress who aided the mob are still in office. Instead of action, a Congressional “commission” was created to investigate what clearly happened that day and who was clearly responsible for incitement and violence.

History calls Americans alive during the 1940s as the “Greatest Generation.” What will history call the Americans living in the past five years based on our political discord and antipathy to science and reason? One generation dedicated to saving democracy; one ready to abandon it.

Note: Photo taken of FDR was by Harry Podlinski, my father-in law and amateur photographer.

In Primo Aspectu (at first glance)

Joe Biden should not run for a second term. I always viewed him as a placeholder until a younger man or woman ran for the office. In a sense he is like Gerald Ford—-a good man providing some needed relief and a period of decency and calm after replacing a corrupt prior president and administration.

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That being said, Biden generally does not deserve some of the low poll numbers or extreme criticism that he has received from less than one year in office. The economy is strong. People are going back to work. There are no troops in Afghanistan after 20 years. We are working with our allies again. The infrastructure bill will add jobs to various states and communities as well as improving local economies by fixing roads, bridges and transportation services. 

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My hope is that the following people do not run or do not get nominated as the Republican candidate for President: Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, Florida Governor Ron Desantis, Nikki Haley, Ted Cruz or anyone remotely associated with the Trump Administration or supporting it.

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Currently the Democrats are looking at losing both the House and Senate in next year’s mid-terms. However if the Supreme Court decides to revoke Roe v Wade or support additional measures by States to restrict abortions, that may energize the Democratic party and could mitigate potential losses.

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Omicron, the new Covid variant, is headed this way from Africa or Europe, if it is not here already. I think most Americans are tired of Covid precautions and I sense that many will roll the dice and avoid any lockdowns, vaccinations or other preventive measures if they are mandated or recommended by the government or CDC.

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Count me as slightly suspicious that both Moderna and Pfizer announced that they can produce a counter vaccine to Omicron. A scientist from South Africa had described the effects of Omicron as relatively mild. Slight cough and fever that lasted 2-3 days. Most of the people who had the new variant were reportedly unvaccinated. So do we really need a new vaccine?

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Unless I see dozens of people consisting of White House officials, high level Trump flunkies, with Congressmen and Congresswomen indicted, convicted and sent to jail, then I would view the Congressional hearings on 1/6/2021 as a waste of time. I know Trump will not be indicted but Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows can take his place in prison.

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Totally confused by Penn State providing James Franklin a 10 year contract based on his mediocre record so far. I think the only guarantee Franklin can make is that the Penn State program will be better than Rutgers.

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I thought fans of English football (soccer) were fanatical. But they may be in second place after the fans of football teams in the SEC, many of whom are crazy.

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I originally thought it was dumb to rename Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden based on the allegations that Wilson was a racist. But based on cursory research, there may be  justifications to make the change. Wilson, among other racist actions, policies and thoughts, supported the Ku Klux Klan.

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Mental Defragmentation

Sorting through various and disparate ideas in my mind…

Friends disappoint, strangers rarely.

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The greatest gift one can provide to another person is their attention.

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Generally the people who urge the banning of certain books rarely (or can’t) read.

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Too many Americans can’t read between the “lies’ much less read between the “lines.”

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The most thoughtful commentary and analysis of our political and cultural discourse are often found in comedy. (See SNL openings, Doonesbury, Bill Maher etc.)

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The most preposterous, unintentionally comic and inane commentary and analysis of our political and cultural discourse are often found from the mouths of politicians, pundits and government officials.

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For me, gambling ads on social media, television and websites are as morally and ethically repugnant as cigarette ads decades ago.

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If you can’t stand up to a dictator in your own party, why should anyone trust that you would stand up to a dictator in another country?

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Home prices, gasoline, food, cars and other hard assets continue to inflate, good judgement, rationality and truth continue to abate.

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Regrettably there is no one-shot vaccination against one of our major contagions, stupidity. Worse, the ones who are most infected would refuse to take it.

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Three unappreciated occupations dealing with unrealized expectations and public disdain: Detroit Lions head coach, convenience store cashier and public school teacher.

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Pennsauken High School has an 81% graduation rate. However only 26% can pass a reading proficiency test; only 6% can pass a math proficiency test. How low is the bar to graduate from Pennsauken High School? Which business would take a chance to hire a graduate from PHS based on those statistics?

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Coincidentally Pennsauken voters will be voting on a bond referendum that includes funding for a new indoor pool. Makes sense as a lot of Pennsauken students are already drowning in terms of their education and future.

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We live in a country where many people believe professional wrestling is real, the 2020 election was stolen, Joe Rogan is a better health expert than Dr. Fauci, vaccination mandates are totalitarian, the Capitol takeover on 1/6/2021 was: justified/a liberal plot/a peaceful demonstration of American patriots/not instigated by Trump. So much for American exceptionalism!

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Review: Peril by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa

Authors Bob Woodward and Robert Costa closed this book with the following warning based on a conversation with Donald Trump.

“Real power is – – I don’t even want to use the word – – fear,” Trump told us.

“I bring the rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have. I don’t know if that’s an asset or a liability, but whatever it is, I do.”

Could Trump work his will again? Were there any limits to what he and his supporters might do to put him back in power?

Peril remains.

I have read a number of the retrospectives of the Trump presidency particularly as it relates to his last year and last days in office. There is nothing in this book that presents Trump in a positive light. There are plenty of examples of him being a bully, arrogant, insensitive and just plain stupid. Despite entreaties from many in his cabinet, among advisers and even from his daughter Ivanka, Trump continued to believe that he was cheated in the 2020 presidential election. There is very little doubt that he caused the insurrection on January 6, 2021.

Most of the highlights of this book have been reported through various media. Here is my list of observations and analysis from this book:

Mike Pence was a coward. Yes he finally did the right thing by validating the election. But it appears to the reader that he was looking for a way to accommodate Donald Trump’s wishes to overturn the election results. Pence even sought the advice of that well-known constitutional scholar, Dan Quayle, as to what to do. Quayle thankfully told Pence that he had no role in overturning the election. Even after a Trump mob wanted to hang him, Pence returned to the White House and tried to mend a relationship with a man who mocked him and treated him very poorly during their four year administration.

General Mark Milley was a voice of reason during a very precarious period in our nation’s history. He understood the danger that Donald Trump represented and was very concerned that Trump would create either a war or some type of foreign policy crisis so he could stay in office. In particular Milley assured the Chinese that there would be no military actions against them. There were a few countries that were very concerned that Trump would initiate a military attack against them.

The benefit of this book was to see the campaign of Joe Biden and his first few months as President. The contrast in decency between Biden and Trump is very evident throughout the many anecdotes in this book. Unfortunately the Democratic party does not shine. Too much infighting. Lack of party discipline and unity. Too much influence by West Virginia senator Joe Manchin. One gets the sense that Biden is a placeholder and does not possess the necessary influence to put forward a transformative domestic agenda and get it passed in Congress.

Interestingly enough, there is not a lot of coverage about Vice President Kamala Harris. Biden had spoken with South Carolina congressman Jim Clyburn prior to the South Carolina primary and Biden indicated he was favorable to Kamala being on the national ticket. There is little indication how much influence Harris possesses in decision making or policy.

If you are going to read just one book about the end of the Trump presidency in 2021, this book is the best to read. Just don’t be surprised if Woodward has to write another sequel in 2024 about the re-election of Trump.

Chuck Grassley: A Profile in Courage…Not!

88 Year old Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa demonstrating the typical courage of a Republican running for re-election.

“While the ultimate responsibility for this attack rests upon the shoulders of those who unlawfully entered the Capitol, everyone involved must take responsibility for their destructive actions that day, including the former president. As the leader of the nation, all presidents bear some responsibility for the actions that they inspire — good or bad. Undoubtedly, then-President Trump displayed poor leadership in his words and actions. I do not defend those actions and my vote should not be read as a defense of those actions.


President Trump continued to argue that the election had been stolen even though the courts didn’t back up his claims. He belittled and harassed elected officials across the country to get his way. He encouraged his own, loyal vice president, Mike Pence, to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions during the Electoral College count.”



Statement for the Senate Record by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
United States Senate
On the Senate’s Acquittal of former President Donald Trump
February 13, 2021
“I was born at night but not last night. So if I didn’t accept the endorsement of a person that’s got 91 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn’t be too smart. I’m smart enough to accept that endorsement.”


Republican Sen. Charles Grassley embraced Donald Trump’s return to Iowa on Saturday, October 9 at a Trump rally, standing by the former president as he repeated his false claims of voter fraud and a stolen election to a crowd of thousands.

October 9, 2021

Book Review: Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency by Michael Wolff

There are so many tragedies described within this book. First, Donald Trump’s obsession with perceived fraud in the 2020 presidential election. It absolutely consumed him. Despite entreaties from some responsible Republicans, Trump continued to pursue crackpot theories and schemes that the election was stolen. His “legal team” filed hundreds of suits but no court, including the Supreme Court would listen to their case. Second, the complete fall of Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Once the hero of 9/11, he was described in this book as a drunk and a flatulent, senile old man, spinning wild conspiracy theories and urging Trump to just announce that he won the election. The third major tragedy was that approximately 74 million people voted for Donald Trump. And a significant majority of them also believed that Trump was the legitimate winner of the election.

The book describes the bizarre behaviors of Mike Lindell, Peter Navarro, Mike Flynn and Sidney Powell along with other Trump enablers to encourage Trump to protest the election.

Wolff also recounts the events of January 6, 2021 when at the urging of Donald Trump, his supporters invaded The Capitol. What will future generations think of us that such a horrific event could happen?

There are a number of unflattering portraits and descriptions of people within the Trump White House. Very few heroes exist as no one was able to curb the actions and plans of Donald Trump.

If you are not a supporter of President Trump, nothing in this book will surprise you. What may surprise you is how much worse things really were during his administration. Wolff also includes a chapter on his interview with Trump after the election. Unsurprisingly Trump is not apologetic or remorseful in what he put this nation through, especially in the last year of his Presidency.