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)

2021: This Was The Year That Was

A sampling of headliness throughout 2021:

Judge dismisses Gohmert’s attempt to force Pence to decide election (1/1/2021)

‘I just want to find 11,780 votes’: In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor (1/3/2021)

Mob Incited by Trump Storms Capitol (1/6/2021)

Majority of Americans want Trump removed immediately after U.S. Capitol violence – Reuters/Ipsos poll (1/8/2021)

House Republicans Reportedly Terrified of Crossing Trump on Impeachment: They ‘Fear For Their Lives’ (1/13/21)

The worst final popularity rating ever for a first lady belongs to Melania Trump (1/19/21)

‘Tompa Bay’ is Titletown: Tom Brady, fierce defense lead Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Super Bowl victory (2/7/2021)

Senate acquits Trump for inciting Capitol riot even as bipartisan majority votes to convict (2/13/2021)

Almost Half of Republican Men Say They Won’t Get the Coronavirus Vaccine (3/12/21)

Home Prices Soar in Frenzied U.S. Market Drained of Supply (4/9/2021)

US Navy vid shows UFO whizzing through sky before dropping into ocean as ex-pilot says ‘military sees them all the time’ (5/15/2021)

During Covid-19, Most Americans Got Richer—Especially the Rich (WSJ) 6-27-21

US COVID-19 cases rising again, doubling over three weeks (7/14/21)

US life expectancy in 2020 saw biggest drop since WWII (1.5 yrs.) 7-21-21

1 in 500 Americans have died of COVID since 1st US infection (9/15/2021)

Jamie Dimon says bitcoin is ‘worthless’ (10/11/2021)

Weekly jobless claims fall to 184,000, the lowest level in more than 52 years (12/8/2021)

One Percent of All U.S. Seniors have Died from Covid Since Beginning of Pandemic: NYT 12/13/2021

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.

***

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?

***

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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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.

Book Review: I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker

Anyone interested in reading this book should first understand that this is not a pro – Trump book. There are very few instances where Donald Trump is shown in a positive light or where he is shown competent in his job. This is not because of the prejudice of the authors but based on the actual reporting and eyewitness accounts during the last year of the Trump presidency. If you keep up with the news or have not been in a coma the past four years, there is not a lot in this book that will surprise you. If I gathered anything new it was that things were a lot worse than even I imagined.

This book primarily focuses on three major events/issues in Trump’s last year: handling (or mishandling) the coronavirus, the 2020 presidential election and post-election claims of fraud by Trump resulting in the January 6, 2021 invasion of The Capitol by his supporters.

What I was looking for were examples of competence and courage by people within the Trump administration. There were a few including General Mark Milley, who was very concerned about a possible coup and how Trump viewed the military as a weapon that he could use. Despite incredible abuse and intimidation by the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci continued to tell the truth about COVID-19. On occasion, even Attorney General Bill Barr showed some back bone when pressed by Trump to initiate some bogus investigations against Trump enemies.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was fired by Trump primarily due to his opposition to Trump’s plan to use the military against demonstrations from the George Floyd killing. Trump wanted to employ the Insurrection Act of 1807 as a means of curbing demonstrations.

Regrettably Trump had a lot of enablers.  Rudy Giuliani, Mike Flynn, and Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff was a faithful soldier to until the end of his Presidency. Mike Pence does not read well in this book. He blindly supported Trump throughout the four years. And though Pence did the right thing in certifying the electoral vote, it seems that he was looking for a way to blocking it. Pence comes off as a toady.

The authors appeared to make every attempt to keep this story as authentic and factual as possible. They also conducted a several hour interview with Trump after he left office.

A very revealing book though there are about 74 million people in the U.S. who might disagree.

These are the “Times” We Live In

Bits and pieces from the August 1, 2021 edition of The New York Times…

From Maureen Dowd’s Why Do Republicans Hate Cops

“He (Trump) turned Republicans upside down like a snow globe, and suddenly the party that loved to rah-rah for family, morals and religion was in the grip of a thrice-married, grabby, foul-mouthed Tartuffe. The party that prided itself on supporting those in uniform, the F.B.I. and C.I.A. had to go along with Trump’s crooked ways and Deep-State vilification of the F.B.I. and the intelligence community.

We’re still learning the extent to which President Trump tried to strong-arm the Justice Department into helping him purloin the election. As the Times’s Katie Benner reported Friday, as late as Dec. 27, Trump called officials at Justice and, according to their notes, told them: “Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me,” assuring them that his congressional allies would help.”

*****

“This past week, amid the emotional testimony of police officers at the first hearing of a House select committee, Republicans completed their journey through the looking-glass, spinning a new counternarrative of that deadly day. No longer content to absolve Mr. Trump, they concocted a version of events in which those accused of rioting were patriotic political prisoners and Speaker Nancy Pelosi was to blame for the violence.

Their new claims, some voiced from the highest levels of House Republican leadership, amount to a disinformation campaign being promulgated from the steps of the Capitol, aimed at giving cover to their party and intensifying the threats to political accountability.”

*****

“Bidding wars are frustrating buyers. Agents are struggling to navigate frantic competition. About half of small bankers in a recent industry survey said the current state of the housing market poses “a serious risk” to the United States economy. Lawmakers and economic policymakers alike are hoping things calm down — especially because frothy home prices could eventually spill into rent prices, worsening affordability for low-income families just as they face the end of pandemic-era eviction moratoriums and, in some cases, months of owed rent.

Industry experts say the current home price boom emerged from a cocktail of low interest rates, booming demand and supply bottlenecks. In short, it’s a situation that many are feeling acutely with no single policy to blame and no easy fix.”