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Shadow

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“… the isolated and powerful imperial presidency was over. The nation seemed to be falling in love with its new Midwestern president.”

-NOT January 2025, but August 1974. Regardless of where he (or she) is from, though, the absolute best American presidential candidate would have maximum life-experience, knowledge and wisdom, but still be lucid and sane.

The Book of the Week is “Shadow, Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate” by Bob Woodward, published in 1999. This primer on presidential power-struggles was written toward the end of the Clinton Era–prior to the historical revisionism and 20 / 20 hindsight of the resurgence of American presidential power.

President Jimmy Carter made a campaign promise that his administration was going to behave morally. Yet, in summer 1977, his budget director Bert Lance got in trouble for personal financial conflicts and hypocrisy. In 1978, Carter signed the Ethics in Government Act, some aspects of which turned out to be a can of worms for later presidents. Pursuant to the Act, an independent counsel was to be appointed to investigate illegal behavior of a president when there was probable cause. However, in the next two decades, overzealous, viciously vengeful, legally wily government officials abused their power to launch witch hunts. Any counsel appointed could never really be “independent.”

The Justice Department has the authority to investigate wrongdoing by a president. Nonetheless, the Department serves under the president, who is presumably considered innocent until proven guilty. But, most of the time, the president’s political enemies clamor for the administration to appoint the “independent” counsel (a prosecutor) whose job is to find wrongdoing.

By the summer of 1995, the above conundrum dogged president Bill and first lady Hillary Clinton. “The FBI couldn’t investigate itself. The White House was at the center, and the Justice Department also would have zero credibility investigating its own bureau or the White House.” “Independent” counsel Ken Starr twisted the Ethics in Government Act for his own purposes in instigating the tabloidy probes into Whitewater business transactions, the White House travel office activities, Vince Foster’s death, and later on, Bill Clinton’s sex life.

In May 1997, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a private party could bring a civil suit against a president still in office. Thus, the Paula Jones case could proceed. Even so, at that time, now-Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh believed that Ken Starr was abusing his power as an independent counsel in maximally, mean-spiritedly probing the Clintons. Bill Clinton didn’t help his cause, though, by launching vigorous denials and counterattacks, instead of coming clean.

Anyway, read the book to learn of how post-Watergate presidents handled the changing political times in connection with presidential power amid increasing partisan hostility. As is well known, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Excesses reach a screaming crescendo; dissatisfaction reaches critical mass, and the people say, enough’s enough.

In order to boost their ratings (and profitability), the media incessantly teases Americans with propagandizing, incitement and phoniness. But, not to worry. When the nation is at its breaking point, there will be surprises. Again, DO NOT be fooled by Trump’s “new Nixon” act. Here’s what’s actually going on.

THE MINDS THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’

sung to the tune of “The Times They Are A-Changin’ with apologies to Bob Dylan.

Protect your history books YOU have at home,
beCAUSE revisionists around you have grown.
Stop fretting. Soon our government’s fate will be known.
If you vote, it’s democracy you’ll be saving.
It’ll be really exciting, you’ll see a new tone.

For the minds, they are a-changin’.

Come readers and thinkers who are mature and kind.
And keep your ears open, it’s compromise you’ll find.
Don’t give up too soon, for you’ll see the signs.
There’s no telling truth from the raving.
You just might be in for a pleasant surprise.

For the minds, they are a-changin’.

Come senators, Congress reps, do the correct thing.
Don’t be a greedy hypocrite, don’t act like a king.
Or you will get outed, you will feel the sting.
There’s a new ethical attitude dawning.
It’ll soon shake your conscience and become a thing.

For the minds, they are a-changin’.

Come community leaders throughout the land.
Tyranny is trembling despite best laid plans.
Think for yourself: democracy is at your command.
You’ll replace the rapidly aging.
To the young idealists, you’ll lend your hand.

For the minds, they are a-changin’.

Sure, there are still pawns,
but the worst it is past,
though the nation’s mandates appear to be vast.
Targets of hatred should no more be harassed.
The ugliness is rapidly fading.
And the best characters will be hired for the cast.

For the minds, they are a-changin’.

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Bill Moyers Journal

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The Book of the Week is “Bill Moyers Journal, The Conversation Continues” by Bill Moyers, published in 2011. This compilation of interviews was done in the middle of the Obama Era–prior to the historical revisionism and 20 / 20 hindsight of the Trump Era and thereafter.

One subject Moyers touched on was campaign finance. Due to the merging of the American political, media and business worlds, and court rulings, money has corrupted the election process. Two cliches apply: The fox is guarding the henhouse (it’s really hard to clean up “Tammany Hall” because many of the enforcers themselves have conflicts of interest), and the fish rots from the head down (unethical behavior is contagious).

One way to take unfair advantages away from wealthy candidates is to legally require publicly financed campaigns. Obviously, even legally required disclosure means nothing to shameless, greedy officeholders who refuse to act ethically in connection with their conflicts of interest, once they’re elected.

Higher-quality (better behaved, less hypocritical!) Americans would be more inclined to run for office at all levels. Leaders need to be tax-paying, law-abiding citizens– people for whom honesty is a habit, a lifestyle (or at least have a reputation for it, such as Bernie Sanders). Otherwise, this nation will become a Third World country.

The latest big U.S. Supreme Court ruling is yet another indication that the nation needs campaign finance reform. That ruling was likely a choice between the lesser of two evils, in which the worse evil would be even more expensive (not just financially) for American taxpayers.

It was comparative to the 2008 financial-crisis bailout program. The alternative to the bailout would have been, that alpha males with hubris syndrome who possessed almost as much hegemony as George W. Bush, would have launched an extremely long, traumatic, complex set of lawsuits (whose goal of some would have been to get their bonuses), that would have bankrupted ordinary, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens. Ironically.

Perhaps the conservative Supreme Court justices rationalized that their ruling would be the lesser of two evils. Yes, they would give absolute power to a future president who acts like a dictator who loots his country. However, the law could be modified in the future. And the current American money-driven electoral system allows a candidate to purchase his way to office, anyway.

But the alternative would be: Trump could take the title, “president.” As is well known, Biden has some skeletons in the closet, and he’s been the target of witch hunts for, forever. So the ruling was also a deterrent to Trump’s allies and other Biden-haters who would stop at nothing to kick Biden out of office, and distract Americans from the 2024 presidential election process.

The bottom line is, TAXPAYERS ARE ALWAYS FOOTING THE BILL FOR THE MESSES AND SHENANIGANS OF THEIR GOVERNMENT. Decisions made by the authorities in massive financial scandals clearly aim to lessen the (still outrageous) tax burden on innocent Americans, lest there be revolution.

The United States needs CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM NOW. Abortion, gun control and healthcare can wait.

On a different issue, Moyers interviewed James Cone, a professor in New York City and a person of color. Cone thought white Americans omitted inconvenient facts when discussing their history, such as: Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were slaveholders. He said, “Because America likes to be innocent… that’s why it’s hard for Barack Obama or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to talk about blackness; if they talked about blackness in the real, true sense, it would be uncomfortable.”

Read the book to learn about a wealth of other issues on which America needs to work.

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Cable News Confidential

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Foreword

Hannah Arendt, in an essay on Socrates, wrote that a statesman of high caliber listens— meaning, attempts to understand another speaker’s views. Charles Lindbergh and Joseph P. Kennedy obviously failed to listen to signals from their own countrymen; for, they hitched their star to Hitler. They figured if he won the war, they’d reap the spoils. Strangely, in 1968, even Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. was fooled by the “new Nixon” who was actually the same old vicious, wily, power-hungry criminal. It pays to listen to the other side to see historical behavioral patterns that aren’t going to change.

Post

The Book of the Week is “Cable News Confidential, My Misadventures in Corporate Media” by Jeff Cohen published in 2006. The author was born in the 1950’s in the Detroit area. He detailed the now-expected, and standard: hypocrisy, shenanigans, unfairness and imbalance he encountered while appearing as a political commentator at three different cable channels into 2004.

Beginning in 1997, the author appeared as a Left-wing panelist on the TV show, Fox News Watch. Also present were a Right-winger and a Centrist. On Fox, Cohen was allowed to bite the hand that fed him– criticizing the media for its biases, profiteering, smears and lies, etc. during his five-minute appearances on political shows. He believed that the commentary was actually politically balanced for about a year. Thereafter, Right-wingers became the majority.

In the summer of 1999, George W. Bush’s cousin John Ellis wrote in a Boston Globe column that his covering the 2000 presidential-voting results on election night in November would be a conflict of interest. Nevertheless, Ellis was doing exactly that, on Fox News, wrongly announcing, at 2:16am Wednesday, the day after election day, that Bush was the winner in Florida and therefore, Bush had won the presidency. Unsurprisingly, Cohen personally witnessed Ellis’ kind of unethical behavior over and over again.

From January to August 1998, MSNBC covered Bill Clinton’s sex life with Monica Lewinsky. Too bad, Lewinsky missed a valuable opportunity to become a political activist. Instead of allowing the media to shame her, she could have engaged in a public relations coup with the right messaging.

Anyway, in May 2001, Chandra Levy– a female intern– went missing, at which time the major cable “news” stations put her boss Democrat Congressman Gary Condit under the microscope nonstop until September 10, 2001. Other “news” stories the idiot box could have covered instead included:

  • On September 9, 2001, secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld was demanding billions of dollars to fund the creation of weaponry to defend against America’s enemies’ ballistic missiles. But, contrarily, he was saying that the president was opposing the U.S. Senate’s proposal that would shift the funding of said weaponry to fund counter-terror measures.
  • On September 10, 2001, U.S. intelligence agents heard al-Qaeda members utter the phrases, “the match begins now” and “tomorrow is zero hour.” But, contrarily, head of the Justice Department, John Ashcroft opposed the FBI’s request to add tens of millions of dollars to its budget to hire additional personnel to counter terror threats.

Cohen was constantly backing up his arguments with facts, such as when Chris Matthews basically denied that the United States did not send its military into other countries willy-nilly– that Iraq in 2003 was an exception. Cohen countered with occasions after 1945 during which America was an aggressor, that included 21 different territories into the single-digit 2000’s.

Read the book to learn much more about the author’s dismay with his employers’ practices that included much, much more Right-wing commentary than Left, and lack of fact-checking.

Endnote

By agreeing to debate and softening his rhetoric, Donald Trump is showing he has reached the bargaining stage of grief, in the death of his political career. DO NOT BE FOOLED BY HIS “NEW NIXON” ACT.

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Poor Little Rich Man – BONUS POST

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How can you tell when a politician (i.e., Donald Trump) is self-destructing?

His lips are moving.

Here’s what this politician is singing now.

POOR LITTLE RICH MAN

sung to the tune of “Fortunate Son” with apologies to Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The Democrats support,
the vendetta by Alvin Bragg.
Ooh, I’M red, white and blue.
They distract us all WITH Hunter Biden.
But there’ll be a bloodbath for YOU.

It ain’t me, it ain’t me.
I ain’t no president’s son.
It ain’t me, it ain’t me.
I didn’t do drugs and buy a gun.

The Communists support, the whole Biden fam-ILY.
Lord, don’t they help themselves.
But when the tax man came to my door,
there was a corrupt and biased ju-RY.

It ain’t me, it ain’t me.
I ain’t no president’s son.
Vote for me, vote for me.
It’s either me, or we’re done.

Our unfair courts,
perpetuate such lies.
Biden opened the door.
And when they undo all my great laws,
ooh, they only Witch Hunt ME more more more.

It ain’t me, it ain’t me.
I ain’t no president’s son.
Vote for me, vote for me.
It’s either me, or we’re done.


The only way the U.S. government can restore its integrity (which it is trying to do through prosecuting wrongdoers)
is to remove the plank from its OWN eye before it removes the splinter from others’ eyes.

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Baseless

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The Book of the Week is “Baseless, My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act” by Nicholson Baker, published in 2020.

From the 1940’s through the 1960’s, the CIA funded, and was supposed to supervise certain big-name American universities’ and the U.S. military services’ secret research; this, in biochemistry, pathology, mycology, entomology, etc. for the purpose of developing weapons of mass destruction. Such weapons would cause deaths of famine from crop failure or from fatal diseases, or spur regime changes. Government officials lost control of the experimenters’ spending and activities. The “researchers” were accountable to no one.

Pursuant to their actions, the researchers generated documents that they desired remain classified forever, or else redacted in large portions thereof, so as to become incomprehensible or prevent their readers from connecting the dots, because such secrecy allows them (to this day!) to hide their unethical, even evil behavior and shameful harm to society.

This book’s author repeatedly asked for said documents under the United States’ federal law called the “Freedom of Information Act” (or FOIA); he did hours and hours of reading to detect the truth about the wrongs committed by American officials. Those officials’ excuse for their coverups (during the Cold War– it was anti-Communist measures) is always “It’s a matter of national security.” The government keeps on violating FOIA by taking years (instead of weeks or months) to fulfill the author’s numerous requests.

Despite the government’s stonewalling, American society is changing in ways that offset the harm done by the lack of information on the government’s past evil actions; among them:

  • muckraking gadflies such as the author (who globally disseminate information on the shameful behavior of society’s leaders);
  • the increasing number of females (who are displacing alpha males in the shrinking “old boy network” and generally do not behave like alpha males) who are taking top leadership positions in America’s institutions;
  • propagandizing of celebrities, such as Bill Maher, (who, a number of years back, joked that “If your kid’s not learning in school, don’t blame the teacher– fire the parent!” which has perhaps influenced recent legal cases in which failures of parents have been perceived as a major factor in their kids’ shooting people– involving “parental responsibility statutes”);
  • the quantum leap in knowledge-sharing made quick and easy by the Internet (in spite of disinformation), through countless international, multi-media human-interest stories and videos that are raising awareness of the importance of voting and other actions Americans can take to help maintain their democracy;
  • the fact that the Internet has fostered a grass-roots communications revolution by allowing ordinary Americans to express themselves in a decentralized global network at the speed of light, absent the filtering of past societal influencers such as journalists, politicians and celebrities;
  • the fact that the body of knowledge of power-abusing American presidents in the past half-century has been amply globally publicized so as to significantly lessen the impact of their historical revisionists– and that Americans’ learning curve on them has run its course;
  • the COVID lockdown of 2020, which forced all different stakeholders to deal with education and childcare issues, and showed how the wisdom of life-experience has been imparted from the older generation to the younger one.

The author pointed out that every president to hold office since the 1930’s has committed evil of one kind or another– funding terrorists or authorizing the use of unethical practices in creating weapons of mass destruction (which were actually seldom used, and of course, were a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money) to supposedly keep America’s enemies at bay.

The author listed a number of online primary sources of governmental misdeeds and James-Bond wannabe activities; among them (in no particular order):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Classified_documents

Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/CIADocuments/CIA-001/)

Brill (https://brill.com/display/db/cwio?language=en) — charges a fee for its services

MuckRock (https://www.muckrock.com/)

The Black Vault (https://www.theblackvault.com/documentarchive/)

governmentattic.org

And, he listed the physical libraries that contain the said Swiss-cheese, needle-in-a-haystack, “smoking gun” information: the National Security Archive at George Washington University and the CREST database in the FOIA Reading Room at the CIA.

One of many specific studies the author mentioned, involved 1940’s germ-warfare experiments that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of hogs and fowl, and the subsequent early 1950’s actual use of bacteria in North Korea and East Germany. On civilians.

Other evil scientists sought to learn whose buildings burned longer– Japan’s or Germany’s, in the early 1950’s, as the U.S. was then firebombing both North and South Korea. Interestingly, each territory’s building materials differed, and so burned at different rates.

Read the book to learn a lot more about the research– how men were promoted to the highest military or government positions and hailed as heroes for the info they gathered on how to do grievous harm to other human beings; the unexpected, mysterious deaths of certain of them; and everything you ever wanted to know about their plausibly deniable, willfully ignorant, fear-mongering propaganda campaigns (which was their true ulterior motive in the midst of all that distracting sociopathic “science”; it was thought that rattling the enemy psychologically more than physically, did more harm).

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The Night Trump WAS Defied – BONUS POST

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…And the exciting conclusion of the “Hush Money” Trial, produced by and starring Donald Trump, written by lawyers and decided by, THE JURY:

The Night Trump WAS Defied

sung to the tune of “The Night Chicago Died” with apologies to Paper Lace.

(Trump was STOPPED, in a court in New York City,
back in the USA, back in the Biden days.)

In the heat of a late spring night
where the land is a lawsuit mill.
The night Trump was defIED.
For him it was a bitter pill.

About-WITCH-hunts he’d bitch-and-moan.
But the GOP, he did OWN.
“It’s a disGRACE,” we-hear-him SAY,
while others FINally yell, “Hooray!”

I’d heard a MILlion lies.
I’d heard-the-crimes the night Trump WAS defied.
People, what a night the lawyers saw;
people, what a fight the lawyers saw.
Could it be?

I’d heard a MILlion lies.
I’d heard-the-crimes the night Trump WAS defied.
People, what a night the lawyers saw;
people, what a fight the lawyers saw.
Could it be?

And the propagandists sang, that a jury turned the tide,
but Trump’s current legal gang, could apPEAL and save-his-hide.
There was shouting and infinite TWEETS,
saying progress like this is SWEET.

But other people SAID, this is good for states of red.

I’d heard a MILlion lies.
I’d heard-the-crimes the night Trump WAS defied.
People, what a night the lawyers saw;
people, what a fight the lawyers saw.
Do my-eyes-deceive me?

I’d heard a MILlion lies.
I’d heard-the-crimes the night Trump WAS defied.
People, what a night the lawyers saw;
people, what a fight the lawyers saw.
Do my-eyes-deceive me?

And Trump still had the gall, to keep trashing one and all.
And the Right’s wallets opened wide,
and his slaves rushed to his side,
and they kissed his big, fat ass,
and they brushed his tears away.

The night Trump WAS defied.
hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah.
The night Trump WAS defied.
People, what a night the lawyers saw;
people, what a fight the lawyers saw.
Holy GOP!

The night Trump WAS defied.
hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah.
The night Trump WAS defied.
People, what a night the lawyers saw;
people, what a fight the lawyers saw.
Holy GOP!

The night Trump WAS defied.
hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah.
The night Trump WAS defied.
People, what a night the lawyers saw…

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Liars’ Theme – BONUS POST

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“Our vision stands in stark contrast to Crooked Joe Biden and his Far-Left special interest allies who want to keep the status quo and end American Exceptionalism at home and abroad… The radical Biden Democrats have had their time and their tried-and-failed Marxist agenda has been a disaster.”

So says a May 2024 mailing that is soliciting donations for the Trump National Committee. One wonders whether donations would go toward paying MORE hush money to who knows whom.

Here’s the trial situation:

LIARS’ THEME

sung to the tune of “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” with apologies to Christopher Cross, the Estate of Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, and the Estate of Peter Allen.

All of his life Trump FOUND them.
Accomplices who kept word from GETting around.
Michael Cohen made himself, the, TALK of the town.
After-his-ordeal, he’s still with us.
What comes around, goes around, in this town.
Wondering whether he’ll take, Trump, down.

When Trump got caught with Michael COHEN in New York City…
Both are phony. Is anything new?
When Trump got caught with Michael COHEN in New York City…
The best that they could do, the best that they could do, was cover up.

Donald, he does what he pleases.
All of his life, he’s mastered power.
His claques, flacks and sycophants are ACTing, ACTing loyal.
Tired of court, time after time,
thinks he’ll never be doing, ANY time.
Showing his suck-ups the way, they WISH they could be.

When Trump got caught with Michael COHEN in New York City…
Both are phony. Is anything new?
When Trump got caught with Michael COHEN in New York City…
The best that they could do, the best that they could do, the best that they could do, was cover up.

When Trump got caught with Michael COHEN in New York City…
Both are phony. Is anything new?
When Trump got caught with Michael COHEN in New York City…
The best that they could do, the best that they could do, the best that they could do, was cover up.

When Trump got caught with Michael COHEN in New York City…
Both are phony. Is anything new?
When Trump got caught with Michael COHEN in New York City…
The best that they could do, the best that they could do, the best that they could do, was cover up…

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The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told

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The Book of the Week is “The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told, A True Tale of three gamblers, the Kentucky Derby, and the Mexican Cartel” by Mark Paul, published in 2020.

Sidenote: Speaking of gambling, in May 1988, Paul Laxalt, a Republican from Nevada, and in June 1992, H. Ross Perot, an Independent from Texas: jumped into the race for president. The latter exceeded many people’s expectations.

Anyway, the author described the American horse-race gambling environment of the late 1980’s. At that time, off-track betting was putting smaller racetracks out of business, because gamblers could watch the races on which they bet, live– simulcast on video screens at racetracks and casinos; in other words, wherever gambling was legal. They did not need to be physically present at the racetrack.

Through the decades, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) got wise and cracked down on gamblers’ financial crimes such as tax evasion and money laundering. The author described one guy at the racetrack who illegally paid cash to winning bettors who wanted their money immediately, who were willing to pay a twenty percent fee to him rather than to the IRS.

The suspenseful part of the author’s story began when he and his best friend identified a talented filly– a female horse– that was running in major races. Practically all horse races had previously featured colts because on the whole, they were bigger and stronger and so more likely to win races, and were worth more money because they could be hired out to breed more race horses like themselves at a much higher volume than could females.

The author and his friend took what turned out to be a life-threatening risk by driving down from California to a casino in Tijuana, Mexico, to place a bet months in advance, on the said filly that was to run in the Kentucky Derby. He explained that by placing bets on events to take place far into in the future, gamblers get tremendously advantageous odds; for instance, 50 to 1 odds three months in advance, rather than, say, 2 to 1 odds on race day, on a horse to win– because that horse has become the favorite. However, if the horse doesn’t run in the race, regardless of the reason, the gamblers will lose all of the money they bet.

Read the book to learn of the gamblers’ activities before, during and after their fateful bet on their favorite horse in the Kentucky Derby.

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Rockne of Notre Dame

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The Book of the Week is “Rockne of Notre Dame, The Making of a Football Legend” by Ray Robinson, published in 1999.

Knute Rockne was born in March 1888 in western Norway. Two friends convinced him to become a student at Notre Dame (located in South Bend, Indiana), which had open enrollment for anyone who could pay the tuition. In the 1910’s, Rockne was able to get paid for playing and coaching American football simultaneously. The financial rules of football played at schools and football played as a form of work, were still evolving.

Rockne took full advantage: he knew all the public-relations tricks for building a reputation and maximizing his earnings. He sometimes played under a fake name, or sent a substitute to play under his real name. He got away with that because few people knew what he looked like.

In the nineteen-teens, Rockne became an assistant coach and trainer for the Notre Dame football team. He was promoted to head coach in 1918 when the previous one retired. One team member was a colorful character named George Gipp (as in “Win one for the Gipper”). His life outside football consisted of drinking, gambling and cutting classes.

Rockne condoned Gipp’s behavior because he helped the team achieve a winning record with his extraordinary talent. However, by March 1920, when Gipp’s sins became excessive and he was a bad influence– hurting the reputation of the school– Notre Dame’s administration basically told him “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son” (like in the movie, Animal House) and expelled him.

In a not-uncommon situation, by late April 1920, local businessmen pressured Notre Dame’s president into reinstating Gipp, because they wanted to see a winning football team, and they were major investors in the school’s then- and future facilities.

Rockne always had a profit-making pot of irons in the fire, that included betting on the games of his own team. Gambling was rampant among numerous stakeholders of the American sports scene at the time. By the early 1920’s, Rockne could even control his own press, becoming a weekly columnist (sometimes published by ghostwriters) in syndicated newspapers. No one seemed to care that conflicts abounded among Rockne’s other (concurrent!) positions– Notre Dame’s athletic director, football recruiter, track-team coach, etc.

The Notre Dame football team’s profitability rose when the team was finally invited to play in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on New Year’s Day 1925. The school (pursuant to Rockne’s negotiations) collected a portion of the gate receipts (of paying fans at the stadium). The game was broadcast on the radio.

The Notre Dame team played against Army every year. The football community had yet to feel the effects of the Great Depression in their big game of November 1929 at the then-Yankee Stadium. “A special train brought in Notre Dame’s eighty-piece marching band, and hundreds of South Benders came along with them.”

Through the decades, Rockne’s influence spread far and wide, as he served as a father-figure to dozens of his players. He recommended them for coaching positions after they graduated.

Read the book to learn much more about how Rockne became a legend in Notre Dame football.

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Bounds of Silence – BONUS POST

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Interesting factoid: Donald Trump paid hush money to most everyone who worked for him when he was president. For, as a hiring-condition, they signed non-disclosure agreements that legally barred them from speaking publicly about their employment experiences. These workers were forced to choose between whistle-blowing and loyalty to their boss, but the boss hogged all the free speech for himself. Here’s what happened.

BOUNDS OF SILENCE

sung to the tune of “Sounds of Silence” with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel.

Hypocrisy is Trump’s known trend.
He’s been confronted yet again.
Because legal-cases continuously
leave their seeds and are proliferating.
And the secrets, that were buried by his PR team
gathered steam, within the bounds of silence.

In gag-agreements signed by all,
through his own scandals and stonewalls,
under the spotlight of the tabloid camp,
sued by his-transition-team, employees and tramps.
His sins were outed, by-a-clash with the betrayed Right.
To his enemies’ delight.
And breached the bounds of silence.

And in attorneys’ offices one saw
one hundred people, maybe more.
People talking and people speaking.
People hearing and people listening.
People writing books.
Their thoughts were finally shared.
People dared. Breaking the bounds of silence.

Fools bound by Trump.
Free speech with a dreck-show dump.
Read their words and they might teach you.
Trump would slam them, with his crew.
But their words, through social networks spread.
Volumes out of the bounds of silence.

And this made Trump’s gang afraid, of the free-speech mess they made.
And democracy rang out in ITS glory, in a civil-rights success story.
And the courts say the words Americans-express are always free except-for-threats

or epithets.

We’re out of the bounds of silence.

[Heads exploding.]


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Tripping on Utopia

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The Book of the Week is “Tripping on Utopia, Margaret Mead, the Cold War, and the Troubled Birth of Psychedelic Science” by Benjamin Breen, published in 2024. This book documented the circumstances that led several “scientists” in America to experiment with psychedelic drugs from the 1940’s through the 1970’s.

In 1920’s Munich in Germany, psychotherapists tested mescaline on schizophrenic patients. Ditto in 1930’s London, England. In 1933, funded by government or university grants, the thirty-one year old Margaret Mead, along with her male or female lover of the moment (She had a series of them through her life), practiced “salvage anthropology.” She tried to salvage information about exotic cultures that were dying due to colonialism and war.

In the 1930’s, Mead did fieldwork with the Native-American Omaha tribe in the Great Plains. They, and her research subjects in Bali used peyote, a psychedelic drug, for ritual purposes. She theorized about sexual identity and wrote best-selling books.

Mead and her scientific colleagues discussed how Hitler used hypnotism to control the subconscious thoughts of his fellow Germans. He didn’t need psychedelics! Starting in 1939, she and her then-husband studied human nature to help propagandize for the war effort. In 1941, “The members of the Committee for National Morale saw themselves as a shield protecting freedom, democracy and diversity from the weaponized manipulative forms of applied science emanating from Nazi Germany.”

The American federal agency, Office of Strategic Services (OSS) began to study truth serum and hypnosis for the purpose of getting prisoners-of-war to talk, improving the health of traumatized soldiers, and analyzing enemy psychology.

In 1944, since Mead and her husband, Gregory Bateson, had insiders’ knowledge and experience of tribes’ cultures in Asia, they were allowed to play adolescent-boy spy games, thinking they could make the Japanese surrender. In late 1944, Bateson volunteered to go to Burma on perilous missions. In reality, as evinced by kamikazes, and their guerrilla warfare all over the South Pacific theater, the Japanese would never, ever surrender. They would actually fight to the last man. Mead, Bateson, and other spies were fooling themselves. Their big egos led them to risk their lives for nothing.

After the war, the CIA began a series of research projects called MKULTRA. Most of those conducting the LSD, mescaline and psilocybin Cold-War Era studies didn’t know the CIA was providing funding. The Macy Foundation and the Department of Defense were the CIA’s fronts. The operation was a desecration and perversion of legitimate scientific research, as it scrapped the scientific method. In one experiment, a spy posing as a “scientist” slipped LSD into the alcoholic drinks of his unknowing friends and acquaintances at social gatherings.

Further, many of the research described in the book sounded unscientific— lacking rigor (amateur, James-Bond wannabes were conducting them), lacking a statistically significant amount of data, and lacking a regard for chemical interactions of the psychedelics with alcohol!

In the 1950’s– about two decades prior to the outlawing of psychedelics– the “scientific” community (comprised of psychiatrists, pop psychologists and spies, not to mention profiteers) around Stanford University especially, had the arrogant notion that perhaps LSD could accelerate the rate by which global culture could not only become one big, peaceful, happy family with no starvation– but also become more tolerant of otherness, different lifestyles, sexual orientations and gender identity.

It appears that in trying to solve the world’s problems, politicians nowadays are a little less naive than they were in the mid-twentieth century. However, reducing social ills requires multi-pronged approaches– legislation and social programs. Ironically, instead of eliminating social ills, introducing psychedelics to society caused social ills to multiply exponentially.

Anyway, read the book to learn about the evolution of research on psychedelics, including various shameful episodes in which people, dolphins and Siamese fighting fish were harmed or died; one of which involved a prestigious institution (whose main character was, by 1960, described thusly: “Approaching forty, he had alienated most of his colleagues back in Berkeley, was nearly bankrupt, and had no income despite his extravagant multimonth family vacation [in Spain and Florence, Italy].”).

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naomi osaka (sic)

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The Book of the Week is “naomi osaka (sic), Her Journey to Finding Her Power and Her Voice” by Ben Rothenberg, published in 2024. In this large, wordy volume the author showed how in chasing big money– noise from the incestuous relationships among the industries of: sports, media (which includes social media), entertainment and politics– has reached a screaming crescendo.

As a member of Generation Z, a professional athlete, a biracial individual, and a frequent poster on social media– Naomi was treated as a Very Important Person when she put her two cents in.

Born in October 1997 in Osaka in Japan, Naomi and her family moved to Long Island, New York State when she was three years old. Her Haitian father and Japanese mother were inspired by the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena– professional tennis players– to push their two daughters to also become professional tennis players, beginning when they were pre-schoolers.

As is well known by its fans, singles tennis is a super-suspenseful game because either player has plenty of opportunities to make a comeback. It’s always unpredictable. Upsets happen all the time. Even when “It’s gotten late early” (as Yogi Berra would say) because a match seems to have been won already, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

After a socially isolated childhood in which her parents made extreme sacrifices for her career, Naomi kept professional tennis exciting by making amazing comebacks in tournaments. Although she began to earn obscene amounts of money from tournament winnings and sponsorships, she still expressed her dissatisfaction with various aspects of professional tennis. And the media. And politics. However, Naomi and Serena Williams (a fellow tennis rival) needed to learn how and when to protest to maximize their desired results.

In 2018, Serena Williams argued with a line judge during a match, when she was losing. So she appeared to be a sore loser, regardless of whether she was right or wrong. In 2021 during the French Open, Naomi sent out a message that she would refuse to talk to the media. She was biting the hand that fed her, as her making money required the publicity the media gave her; she was in effect, an employee of the governing tennis organizations because their rules required that she talk to the media. At less emotionally charged times, the governing tennis bodies might have been more receptive to the players’ proposals to change the rules.

BUT, the bottom line is the bottom line. The governing entities subjected to complaints in a push for change, must consider how much money they would lose, or how more money they would make, in effecting the change. It seems celebrities who push a message persistently and have a sufficient number of friends in high places can make a small change.

In Ross Mathews’ case, in around 2012, a certain fast food outlet re-introduced a butternut squash menu item because Mathews and his social media friends bombarded the restaurant with messaging that appeared to show how popular the item was. In 2019, a bit of legislation was finally passed due to Jon Stewart’s long-time rigorous activism to compensate 9/11 first responders who had been harmed.

It is unclear whether other kinds of protests work, because they involve ideology rather than money. Due to the overwhelming propaganda that smears violence in the streets committed by brainwashed youth protesting a war, it is impossible to prove whether the war was stopped sooner by the protesters, or even how much the course of the war was affected by them. Of course in a war, there are hugely complex interactions of profit-seeking entities that throw a wrench in the works.

Another aspect of messaging in most situations, is that the bulk of the most active commenters are people whose jobs are on the line if they don’t weigh in with positive or negative coverage, in a way that is financially or ideologically advantageous for their employers.

At any rate, in late August 2020, in the wake of a number of emotionally charged, law-enforcement actions against people of color, Naomi wielded her tremendous power and influence as an individual professional athlete– jumping on the bandwagon of a protest among team-efforts of other sports– to postpone a very important tennis tournament in order to make a political statement. She was able to postpone it, due to the way professional tennis is governed internationally.

Naomi spurred hours of stressful phone calls among the chief executives of the major tennis organizations– the USTA, WTA, and ATP. But it is hard to prove whether that kind of political activism has actually worked in stemming violence and racial incidents.

Read the book to learn everything you ever wanted to know about Naomi and her adventures in professional tennis.

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We Will Mock You – BONUS POST

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Interesting factoid: Donald Trump sued, among hundreds of other parties (in no particular order):

George Stephanopoulos in 2024
Orbis Business Intelligence, 2024
H. Pixel International, 2011
Mary Trump, 2021
Michael Cohen 2023
Juan Merchan, 2024
Wesley Moss, 2024
Andrew Litinsky, 2024
ABC News, 2024
Bob Woodward, 2023
Cable News Network, 2022
Hillary Clinton, 2023
Bill Maher, 2013
New York Times, 2024
Tim O’Brien, 2006
Letitia James, 2022
Univision, 2016
Twitter, 2022
Facebook, 2022
Merv Griffin, 2015
City of New York, 2019
New York District Attorney Vance, 2020
Jose Andres, 2015
E. Jean Carroll, 2023
City of Palm Beach (FL), 2020
Morrison Cohen, 2020

Pursuant to the cliche: “What comes around goes around” or, the negative version of “You get what you give” here’s what prosecutors at the Southern District of New York (and countless others) are singing:

WE WILL MOCK YOU

sung to the tune of “We Will Rock You” with apologies to Queen and whomever else the rights may concern.

Trump, you are spoiled.
Always making noise.
Playing politics.
Getting punished today.
You got egg on your face.
You’ll lose the race.
Juggling your slush funds all over the place.

Face it.

We will, we will mock you.
We will, we will mock you.

Trump, you’re an old man, defeated man.
Shouting out of court.
Hated by the WORLD today.
WE’LL set the pace, we’re on your case.
We’ll keep that scowl all over your face.

We will, we will mock you. Face it.
We will, we will mock you.

Trump, you’re the doomed one, the LOser.
We’re TOYing with your fate.
Gonna make you cry UNCle today.
You played your last ace.
You big disgrace.
We’re finally putting YOU back in your PLACE.

We will, we will mock you.
We will, we will mock you. (Dig it.)

We will, we will mock you.
We will, we will mock you. (America!)

We will, we will mock you.
We will, we will mock you. (’bout time)

Done.

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Enemies

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“The political hacks and blackmailers were to be fired forthwith. No more midnight break-ins at the Capitol. No more cloak-and-dagger work. No more arrests.”

— In the mid-1920’s, Harlan Fiske Stone tried to rid the Bureau of Investigation of partisanship and re-position its function from spying to catching criminals. That endeavor lasted less than a decade, given the turbulent times.

The Book of the Week is “Enemies, A History of the FBI” by Tim Weiner, published in 2012. With regard to catching criminals who cross state lines, spying, and national security, various recurring themes have emerged over the decades. This, as a result of America’s alpha-male-dominated culture and leadership. The major themes include:

  • incompetence, corruption and billions and billions of wasted taxpayer dollars due to inter-agency rivalry and power struggles among the FBI, Army, Navy, State Department, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals, large urban police forces, the office of the Attorney General, CIA and other law-enforcement groups;
  • violations of the civil rights of countless ordinary Americans, in the name of “national security”;
  • smear campaigns launched by America’s leaders, against its domestic and foreign enemies (which could change “on a dime” pursuant to the tenor of the times);
  • traitors‘ sale of secrets to the Soviets, undetected for years due to the hatred between the FBI and CIA;
  • an outdated, disorganized filing system that lasted into the 1990’s;
  • lack of Arabic translators (resulting in the severe crippling of the FBI’s ability to spy in the Middle East; it had one translator until the early 1990’s);
  • total absence of communication among the FBI’s fifty-six field offices with the others, and rare conferences between agents and headquarters, analysts or the White House through the 1990’s;
  • a culture of secrecy in which all classified documents won’t be disclosed to the general public for decades and decades; and
  • high turnover of personnel— means no one knows who’s in charge– even years after the 2005 consolidation of America’s national-security services encompassing intelligence, counter-intelligence, and counter-terror operations.

To be fair, the kinds of men who are a good fit for the culture of intelligence organizations tend to be James Bond wannabes, predatory stalkers and bullies.

In July 1908, president Theodore Roosevelt authorized the creation of the Bureau of Investigation (later named the FBI), which started with thirty-four agents. By August 1919, as head of the Bureau’s Radical Division, the twenty-four year old J. Edgar Hoover supervised hundreds of agents.

World War I gave rise to the Espionage Act of 1917, which gave Hoover an excuse to order that foreigners and countless others be spied on and arrested– right up until the day he died in 1972!

The author used the terms “informant” and “informer” in a confusing manner, and didn’t clearly define either one. But “mole” or “infiltrator” are more clear terms: an intelligence agent who joins a political, ideological or labor group targeted for spying, who eventually– of course on flimsy or no evidence, uses smears and lies to arrest and jail the group’s members.

Hoover’s favorite techniques included using infiltrators, mail-theft, sending agents to engage in break-ins, planting of hidden microphones, and warrantless wiretapping of phones (violations of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution) at the homes of people he perceived as enemies of America– named on his list.

Sometimes, law enforcement denied due process to suspects just to quell public fear or outrage, such as in the Sacco and Vanzetti case in the 1920’s. Over decades, there have been many incidents whose perpetrators were never caught. Spring 1919 saw one example of political terror. In acts of protestation against the federal government’s xenophobia and crackdown on innocent people, suspected anarchists sent tens of mail bombs to high-level public officials. The U.S. attorney general blamed Communists.

In November and December 1919, the Bureau of Investigation corralled and deported hundreds of the Union of Russian Workers. A few months later, the Attorney General’s office, run by A. Mitchell Palmer, basked in the glory of catching thousands of suspected Communists across the entire country– by way of spying operations and stomping on due process; he was fortunate to have Hoover’s authorization and talent for plotting the complicated operation. The jails overflowed with foreigners.

The hysteria against foreigners, anarchists, labor unions, Socialists and Communists was such that president Woodrow Wilson’s administration allowed the American Protective League (comprised of vigilantes– ordinary Americans who volunteered to, and were authorized, by wearing badges!) to spy on, burglarize the homes of, and beat up, suspected subversives. The group’s membership at its peak numbered approximately three hundred thousand.

Clearly, after WWI, the world wasn’t ready for president Wilson’s proposed League of Nations– a group of the world’s most industrially and technologically advanced countries that were attempting to cooperate in maintaining world peace. They couldn’t even quell their own citizens’ unrest, and were too busy jockeying for territory and resources of other sovereign states.

WWII saw historical events that forced human beings to evolve sufficiently politically, economically, culturally and socially, so that they did cooperate, more or less. And yet, there’s still so much hatred.

Anyway, FDR allowed Hoover to install listening devices in the German, Italian, French, Russian and Japanese embassies in the United States. However, the U.S. Army, Navy and FBI did not share intelligence among themselves prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. So failure to connect the dots resulted in countless deaths and ruined lives. The FBI crowed every time it caught criminals who could harm America in wartime, but in one of countless instances, in spring 1942 it omitted inconvenient facts from its narrative. Two of eight saboteurs had an attack of conscience and revealed their evil plot to the Bureau before the plot was executed. They would not have been caught otherwise.

In January 1946, president Harry Truman wisely disallowed the growth of a monstrous, oppressive, Stalinist kind of organization run by one individual. He dashed Hoover’s dream of running all worldwide spying operations on behalf of the United States– by ordering the founding of the CIA, which would spy internationally, while the FBI would do so domestically. Nevertheless, unsurprisingly, “The routine destruction of FBI files ensured that no accurate count [of break-ins and buggings] existed.”

Seething, Hoover secretly vetted men who went to work for the CIA, and publicly shamed them if they had Communist affiliations or homosexual tendencies. He contended that they were vulnerable to blackmail if they were employed in the government, colleges, law enforcement or public schools. He rooted them out and got them fired.

In the late 1950’s, Hoover began to target the Civil Rights Movement, saying its members palled around with Communists; in 1963, he deemed MLK “the most dangerous Negro in America.” Hoover’s spies infiltrated King’s cohorts, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and other religious and political groups. Although Hoover wanted to go after Soviet spies, attorney general RFK wanted him to spy on the KKK. But Klan members in Alabama and Georgia were employed in local law enforcement, so it was hard to fight City Hall.

There is nothing new under the sun. The FBI collected information on the sex lives of U.S. Senate and House members, and any deviant behavior could be used for blackmailing. It kept the reports in a safe. “The president wondered allowed whether they should be leaked selectively.”

Beginning in late 1967, LBJ let Hoover sic spies on about a hundred thousand Americans who were protesting the Vietnam War and civil rights violations. Hoover manipulated the FBI (of course), plus the U.S. attorney general’s office, army, NSA, CIA and community leaders. A couple of months later, LBJ’s own administration was under surveillance.

President Nixon kept pressuring the FBI to prove that the Soviets were to blame for the civil-rights and anti-war protests. But they weren’t to blame. Into the 1970’s, the Weather Underground, a subgroup of SDS, destroyed property through tens of terrorist bombings in the United States. The FBI solved none of the cases. Major media outlets such as Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Time magazine reported there was something rotten in Denmark.

Read the book to learn:

  • how Hoover made a “new normal” of ignoring the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to spy on everyone during four presidential administrations (Supreme Court rulings be damned);
  • how this has come full circle now, intruding on the lives of all Americans;
  • what happened under presidents Ford and Carter;
  • of infinite occasions of mis-allocation of the FBI’s resources (such as the time when hundreds of agents investigated president Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern instead of chasing after criminals who were stealing from, terrorizing or killing people);
  • and a century’s worth of the FBI’s adventures and (mostly) misadventures in law enforcement.
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Oozing Democracy – BONUS POST

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Interesting political factoid: At the end of April 1968, Hubert Humphrey (a Democrat from Minnesota) jumped into the presidential race. America was in a different time and place then.

Since the Reagan Era, America’s diversity, location, size and the greed of human nature have all teamed up to give its style of democracy and capitalism a slimy underbelly.

These increasingly incestuous political and economic systems put it through a vicious cycle:

1) Excessive deregulation spawns unconscionable looting (of itself and other lands) by mostly alpha males.
2) The consequences lead to: partial restoration of regulation, but hardly any punishment for the real culprits, and eventually,
3) business as usual all over again.

Politicians are a crucial cog in the systems. They think they’re oozing democracy when in reality, they’re just oozing.

Here’s what they sing in American-style campaigns.

DEMOCRACY OOZING

sung to the tune of Rock ‘N’ Roll Music with apologies to the estate of Chuck Berry and whomever else the rights may concern.

Just let me preach some of my democracy oozing.
Through voting you can choose it.
Knowing backstory you can’t lose it.
Any old time you use it.
I’m gonna be democracy oozing, if you want to rant with me, if you want to rant with me.

I got no beef against equality.
Unless the law doesn’t favor me.
I deserve due process indefinitely.
You know I am never GUI-i-lty.
That’s why I go for that democracy oozing.

Through voting you can choose it.
Knowing backstory you can’t lose it.
Any old time you use it.
I’m gonna be democracy oozing, if you want to whine with me, if you want to whine with me.

I greet my donors in shady spots.
Where nosy-bodies can’t conNECT the dots.
I have a RIGHT to privacy.
Just as activists, to AS-sembly.
That’s why I’m all about democracy oozing.

Through voting you can choose it.
Knowing backstory you can’t lose it.
Any old time you use it.
I’m gonna be democracy oozing, if you want to lie with me, if you want to lie with me.

My opponents want autocracy.
And their actions show hypocrisy.
They have oppressive POL-i-cies.
And they rewrite history.
Only I MYSELF am democracy oozing.

Through voting you can choose it.
Knowing backstory you can’t lose it.
Any old time you use it.
I’m gonna be democracy oozing, if you want to smear with me, if you want to smear with me.

In your state we have a primary.
In other countries they have bribery.
It’s much too early to declare victory.
But in the meantime, I keep Americans free.
So I keep on democracy oozing.

Through voting you can choose it.
Knowing backstory you can’t lose it.
Any old time you use it.
I’m gonna be democracy oozing, if you want to brag with me, if you want to brag with me.

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The Bluest State

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The Book of the Week is “The Bluest State, How Democrats Created the Massachusetts Blueprint for American Political Disaster” by Jon Keller, published in 2007. This short volume contained a mishmash of anecdotes on politicians and issues in Massachusetts from the 1980’s to the single-digit 2000’s.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, and a Bibliography), Democrat politicians in Massachusetts (such as Ted Kennedy and John Kerry) displayed “Aloofness. Arrogance. Entitlement. Condescension. Hypocrisy.” They and their supporters consisted largely of aging, elitist Baby Boomers, such as the Clintons, Al Gore, and John Edwards. The author cited some data that showed this (without listing his sources).

In 2004, the Democrats chose Barack Obama to deliver the keynote speech at their convention in Boston. The author commented on how African American politicians had changed the tone of their rhetoric: “American liberalism’s black face this time around would not be a fire-breathing preacher with a sermon full of angry demands [like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson]. Instead, as the crowd roared in approval, a dignified light-skinned black man spoke compellingly about his love for America in Hallmark terms.”

And yet, as Barbara Walters wrote in her book, “We [the media] really seem to care only if they [celebrities and politicians] are outrageous and call our president a devil or declare that the Holocaust never existed. Stand up and scream and we will interview you, or be reasonable and unheard.” Political races are won or lost with the right messaging at the right time. It is a delicate operation.

The author wrote of another politician– Deval Patrick– who was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2006. Patrick’s charisma helped him just before the election– he and his rival were neck and neck in the polls, but a good bit of last-minute messaging gave him the win. After he took office, however, he immediately began to ignore his constituents and reap political spoils in various ways, breaking his campaign promises. Is it relevant that he is African American?

Identity politics is alive and well for various reasons. One reason is that it is a way of maintaining two rivalrous parties– which has helped maintain a democracy more or less, for the United States for more than two centuries. Indefinite one-party dominance would be a dictatorship. There would be total cooperation, but the leader would rule his empire by fear.

There are always leaders who have embarrassing stories to tell about numerous political contacts and those contacts know it, so by threatening to tell those stories, the leaders can cash in on favors from those contacts in the future whenever necessary. Unbeknownst to voters, all the time, infinite acts of political puppetry are going on behind the scenes.

Anyway, read the book to learn of how the author gave a few examples of the hypocrisy of the Democrats, especially in Massachusetts, on the usual major political issues that get voters riled up: scandals, affordable housing, the environment, education, taxation, gay rights, abortion, crime, etc., etc., etc.

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Jonas Salk

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The Book of the Week is “Jonas Salk, A Life” by Charlotte DeCroes Jacbos, published in 2015.

Born in October 1914 in East Harlem, Salk grew up in the New York City area. In 1942, he got a fellowship to study polio at the University of Michigan, that served as a draft deferment. The spread of influenza and pneumonia had caused ruined lives and a massive number of deaths in previous years, so health officials wanted to stem a similar kind of devastation in connection with polio. Unlike measles or mumps, the flu was found to have variants. Polio was also found to have variants, so making a vaccine for it was a complicated affair. Even so, in the 1940’s, medical researchers were permitted to experiment on human subjects in, say, mental institutions and prisons.

In 1945, Salk signed a contract with the drug company Parke, Davis that allowed him to collect royalties for the flu vaccine. In October 1947, he got to manage his own laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. His goal to was to create a polio vaccine in order to eradicate the fear of illness and deaths that was then plaguing ordinary Americans.

Salk was one of the first scientists to describe the-then idea of herd effect: during an epidemic, when a population became effectively vaccinated, there were fewer people to whom to spread the virus– the rest of the population, or herd. Therefore, disease-spread was greatly reduced. In the absence of an effective vaccine, disease spread like wildfire.

At his new employer, Salk chafed under a bean-counter and inferior resources. But he sold his soul and became a workaholic bureaucrat. He got the dean’s permission to renovate the place, in exchange for teaching classes and delivering lectures in serving the Pittsburgh community.

Salk tested whether mineral oil was a good adjuvant in a flu vaccine. This was a non-toxic substance added to the syringe to stimulate the production of antibodies at the vaccination site on the arm. An effective adjuvant would allow the patient to better fight the flu and a variety of other germs. Besides, it would dilute the vaccine, cutting costs.

By 1948, Salk had developed a reputation for explaining his work to laypeople at press conferences, so he was able to get funding to study how many types of polio virus there were. His belief was that inactivated (dead), rather than live virus cells in the vaccine-syringe could still be effective. Other alpha-male scientists disagreed with him. Live virus was riskier, because there was a small chance that even a healthy patient could contract or spread the disease.

By 1953, Salk’s research on monkeys and children showed that his vaccine was effective. However, “The press continued to incite the public; exaggerated and inaccurate reports created unreasonable expectations.” The public began clamoring for the vaccine. The clashing egos of polio research-scientists resulted in power struggles over how to conduct vaccination field trials.

The mid-1950’s saw a successful nationwide study on Salk’s polio vaccine that made him a celebrity. His wife and three sons lost their privacy. The press slapped Salk’s name on the vaccine, even though a rival scientist named Sabin aggressively pushed the live-virus vaccine that became the standard one used for decades across the United States from the 1960’s onward.

Read the book to learn everything you ever wanted to know about the history of polio vaccines (including the 1955 vaccine-making drug-lab mishap that resulted in illness, deaths and lots of scapegoats)– how hard it was to make them safe and effective and convince the public of same (hint: The chief reason it was so hard was that it costs money and scientists can’t do research without money, and humans are corrupted by money; also, scientists tend to have big egos and want to win a Nobel Prize).

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Dumb Ranting – BONUS POST

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All the time, Trump continues his dumb ranting about a “bloodbath” and about promising to “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.”

There needs to be a cautionary riches-to-rags sitcom starring Trump, called “Fallen Towers.” This could be its theme song.

Dumb Ranting

sung to the tune of “Come Dancing” with apologies to the Kinks.

Trump inherited a company that owned land,
where hospitality properties used to stand.
Before that, his father built an empire slowly,
on sites now notoriously lonely.
That’s where Trump’s cronies used to come and play.
His groupies follow HIS lead every day.

Dumb ranting.

All his girlfriends used to come and call.
Why not dumb ranting? It’s only natural.

Another ruling, another court date.
He delays, appeals and whines to make them wait.
Viewers drool IN anticipation.
His victims know the cases will end up in frustration.

He wasted all his money on legal fees.
A life of litigation, and crime sprees.

Dumb ranting.

Dysfunction started when he was just a kid.
And who listened to his ranting? His worshippers always did.

His ranting doesn’t bother the FAR Right. They will ignore it and wait.
To most, it’s gotten tiresome, big-time.
And Fox News helps him bloviate.

spoken:
[Out in the cold, think of the leaders who have made comebacks:
Grover Cleveland, Jerry Brown, Juan Peron, Netanyahu…]

The DAY judges knock down his fallacies,
Trump will continue to whine, “This hoax is outrageous!”
His childhood will never die. My, my.

Now the grownups will take over the land.
Voices of rule of law will take a stand.
Trump was married and he lived on an estate.
He might be out. Now it’s his turn to wait.
Will he get away with things YOU never could?
He keeps repeating that he alone, should.

Dumb ranting.

C’mon Trump, have yourself a ball.
NOW, do all of your dumb ranting,
before the jailer comes to call.

Dumb ranting.

Just like Truth Social every single day.
Trump keeps on dumb ranting,
so for him, it’s Groundhog Day.

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Laws – BONUS POST

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Unsurprisingly, this is what Trump is singing now, and will be singing for the foreseeable future.

LAWS

sung to the tune of “Signs” with apologies to Five Man Electrical Band.

And their law said, the greatest real estate leader lied.
So I ran for prez and got audited.
And I went in and asked them WHY.
They said your organization made too much money.
We’ll keep harassing YOU.
So I got elected prez and said,
Imagine that, huh, me LEADing you. Whoa.

Law, law everywhere a law.
Witch Hunting me.
I did nothing wrong.
You said I DID this, I did that.
You misread the law.

The law said,
allow all the migrants in.
DON’T shoot on sight.

So I questioned this,
and said to our people,
Hey, we have a RIGHT
to build a wall to keep them out
and keep Americans safe.

They keep coming here.
We’re losing the race.
THEY will be the winners.

Law, law everywhere a law.
Witch Hunting me.
I did nothing wrong.
You said I DID this, I did that.
You misread the law.

Now hey, judges can’t you read?
I don’t understand how you got your seats.
You should watch.
I’m in the lead.
How can you say I can’t BE here?

The law says I have the First Amendment, it’s my RIGHT. Uh.

And the law said
I should be immune to prosecution today.
But the rulings came down from some Witch Hunts.
Those are fines I shouldn’t have to pay.

So I got me an interview on Hannity.
No need to read between the lines.

I say thank you GOP for thinking about me.
I’m alive and doing fine. Woo.

Law, law everywhere a law.
Witch Hunting me.
I did nothing wrong.
You said I DID this, I did that.
You misread the law.

Law, law everywhere a law.

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A World of Ideas

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The Book of the Week is “A World of Ideas, Conversations With Thoughtful Men and Women About American Life Today and the Ideas Shaping Our Future” by Bill Moyers, edited by Betty Sue Flowers, published in 1989. This compilation of interviews was done at the end of the Reagan Era–prior to the historical revisionism and 20 / 20 hindsight of the Clinton Era and thereafter.

David Gergen was one of the few political workers who has explicitly stated that the job elected officers should be doing is governing. This means serving one’s constituents in public service– rather than wooing voters with fantastic promises that will likely be broken– effecting wily public relations that includes propagandizing and standing on ceremony, also called populism.

Forrest McDonald, one of Bill Moyers’ interviewees, commented that America’s one president fills the roles of both government officer and populist, while England has two separate people doing those jobs, respectively: the prime minister, and the king or queen. A recent American president whose populism instilled fond memories in the minds of Americans that made them forget his wrongheaded governing, was Ronald Reagan. Around the time of the interview, the Iran-Contra hearings were all the rage, yet Reagan’s charisma was on display, as much as his amnesia.

McDonald correctly prophesied that more Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals would break in future decades, due to the conflicts the president faced in executing laws while worrying about protecting his reputation. Hardly any political issues have changed at least since the late 1980’s when McDonald rightly declared, “We’re living beyond our means. Congress is for sale to the highest bidder from one election to the next, the Pentagon belongs to the fixers, the President’s out to lunch, and the media are drowning us in violence, nonsense, and trivia.”

In his interview, Noam Chomsky pointed out that the United States government is comprised of two parties (Republican and Democrat) whose main policies are based on business and economics; in other words, donor-determined. All other major, developed countries of the world have a Labor Party– comprised of politicians who lobby on behalf of the poor or working class. It appeared that Chomsky was making a value judgment that the United States was wrong for allowing money to elect its public servants.

There are pros and cons to this, which are too numerous and controversial to discuss here. Suffice to say, the American government’s leadership-and-management culture is a completely different animal from that on other continents. It allows its people the freedom to practice capitalism on a much more extensive scale. Its foreign policy, shaped by globalization of course, has played a major role.

Speaking of foreign policy, Sissela Bok wished that the United States would behave in a more humanitarian manner in international conflicts. She wanted to see more Americans value all humans equally– “… so that it becomes just as awful for us to take an innocent life in some other country as it is in our own.”

Read the book to learn the opinions of mostly university professors, on American political, economics, cultural, and social issues from the 1980’s; that show the areas in which the country has regressed or progressed.

ENDNOTE: Since the book’s writing, arguably, the U.S. is slowly but slowly, progressing in terms of maintaining a democracy, more or less. One bit of evidence of this, is that the country suffered roughly ten years in a row during which a wartime president behaved like a dictator– under LBJ and then Nixon. The next occasion of that, which was seven years in a row, occurred under George W. Bush. It took four years in a row and one day (Jan. 6) for the U.S. to get tired of the next president who behaved like a dictator (Trump), and there wasn’t a war on.

Crisis-generation has always been a cliched way for leaders to keep their power, but hyper-awareness and politicization of crises has been generated in recent decades, due to the speed and reach of modern, global communications. In this way, the traumas of recent natural disasters, financial crashes, wars and celebrity anguish stay fresh in the minds of every culturally-labeled American generation, from Depression-Era babies to Generation Z.

The institutional memory of the older generation especially, allows them to detect and minimize the impact of crises sooner than otherwise. For instance, the Baby Boomers personally experienced— how LBJ and Nixon stubbornly refused to withdraw American troops from Vietnam– a war that involved unspeakable horrors in the region, causing adverse decades-long consequences there and in this country. The Boomers saw that Trump’s megalomania, secrecy and vengeance are akin to those exhibited by LBJ and Nixon. However, Trump refuses to ever give in; whereas, Nixon was shamed into resigning.

Leaders who have harnessed ways to brainwash the masses into believing they are saviors, are the ones who keep their power, at least until their enemies out their crimes in court.

There are many more indicators that our nation won’t devolve into anarchy anytime soon, that are beyond the scope of this post.

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Winchell

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The Book of the Week is “Winchell, Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity” by Neal Gabler, published in 1994. Two cliches that apply to the likes of Walter Winchell’s role in the evolution of the American entertainment industry include: THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN, AND DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN.

Born in April 1897 in East Harlem, Winchell got into Vaudeville as an adolescent. In the 1920’s, there were about six major New York City newspapers, and readers had their favorite columnists. In August 1924, Winchell got his own column, specializing in Broadway gossip in the newly launched Evening Graphic.

Winchell’s career took off. By summer 1929, he was writing for the Hearst-owned paper, the Mirror. The following spring, he launched a radio show, and the following summer, he acted in a movie. He associated with Mobsters, advertising their night clubs while he received protection from them.

Winchell vacillated between suffering from imposter syndrome, and behaving like an alpha male with hubris syndrome. He was a dream dispenser for his readers; they aspired to adopt the lifestyle of “Cafe Society.” In the 1930’s, this set consisted of star-struck social climbers, heirs and heiresses who had done nothing to merit their own celebrity.

Winchell acquired significant power to make or break peoples’ fame with his column, by promoting or smearing them. During the Depression, he honed his showmanship and propaganda techniques, becoming a strong political influencer. Beginning in 1933, he flacked for FDR and smeared Hitler. His rhetoric was anti-Communist, anti-Fascist and anti-isolationist.

Lacking significant formal education, Winchell rode a wave of success based on envy, anger and vengeance, into the 1950’s. The author wrote, “The real grievance was the control he exercised over his social and intellectual superiors and what that control portended for the elites.”

Read the book to learn a lot more about Winchell and others that smacks of other public figures whose rises and falls have been largely similar, in the history of this country.

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He’s All Alone – BONUS POST

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Thanks to the American political atmosphere of the last eight years, the courts have been busier than ever. One party on both sides of the system, George Santos is yet another tragic figure abandoned by his supporters, who is meeting his downfall. Here’s a little ditty that tells his story.

HE’S ALL ALONE

sung to the tune of “We’re All Alone” with apologies to Rita Coolidge.

In court the cases begin,
and they may never end.
Crying foul, George San-tos will dream,
his acting we’ll still see,
forever more, forever more.

He makes the tabloids beam,
coming apart at the seams.
He rants and raves, among the knaves of ours.
He won’t be forgotten now.
He’s all alone. He’s all alone.

Cue the videos, enjoy the fight.
Santos will find his light.
You’ll continue to watch him now.
He’s forced to account, you’ll see all his sins.
He knows how to pretend.

Once the truth is out,
the defendants lose their clout.
Drama-queens do, lawyers too.
So fast-en your seatbelts for the trend.
For years and years, for years and years.

Cue the videos, enjoy the fight.
Santos will find his light.
You’ll continue to watch him now.
He’s forced to account, you’ll see all his sins.
He won’t be forgotten now.

He’s all alone. He’s all alone.

Cue the videos, enjoy the fight.
Santos will find his light.
You’ll continue to watch him now.
He’s forced to account, you’ll see all his sins.

No slow news-weeks now. Too-ooh much.

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Will

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The Book of the Week is “Will” by Will Smith with Mark Manson, published in 2021.

Born in September 1968 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Will described in detail what he learned from the people in his life, from the cradle onward. His life has not always involved the wealth and privilege conveyed in his hit song, “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”

Smith related anecdotes in which, like his father– he displayed poor impulse control. Smith’s father could be a mean drunk, while he himself sublimated the traumas he experienced from his family’s dysfunctionality through constant goal-oriented activity.

If Smith took even a short break from his fantasy life, and later, his working life, he would be forced to acknowledge other people’s emotions and possibly even face his own shortcomings. So he laser-focused on competing to be the best at whatever he was doing, in completing a mission.

The lowest point in Smith’s existence came in the early 1990’s, when he was saddled with crushing debt load. To make matters worse, his association with gang members posed a life-threatening situation. Law enforcement had caught up with them. Smith got in trouble when a friend protected him with a knockout punch to his attacker: “But as I sat in that jail cell, facing aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy, simple assault, and reckless endangerment charges for a punch I hadn’t even thrown…” He obviously grew from experience, but didn’t elaborate further.

Smith earned bragging rights for making movies that allegedly made more money than any other Hollywood actor’s movies, including Tom Cruise’s; he spent a longer amount of time than anyone else in promoting his movies in foreign countries, and performing in free concerts for his fans.

Read the book to learn many more details about: Smith’s childhood, the people who guided his careers, his wrongheaded notions that led to love-life failures, and some of his misbehaviors and extraordinary achievements.

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All Year Long – BONUS POST

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The year 2024 in America might get worse before it gets better, but it WILL get better. As usual, the media are whipping up the most heinous hysteria. Here’s a little ditty that explains the situation.

ALL YEAR LONG

sung to the tune of “All Night Long” with apologies to Lionel Richie and Universal Music.

My fellow Americans,
the media here
mislead you through teasing and mongering fear.
It’s extreme, this election year.

Trump will try to LIVE on (live on, live on, live on…)

His crew will lie, his crew will smear,
conspire and hate and scheme and jeer.

He’s the GOP PArty.
Calm down, don’t WORry, not forever.
Ignore his DANCE and song.

He’s the GOP PArty.
Calm down, don’t WORry, not forever.
Ignore his DANCE and song.

All year long (all year) all year.
All year long (all year) all year.
All year long (all year) all year.
All year long (all year) all year.

His lawyers all in the courts
play dirty tricks of all sorts.
They delay, they distract.

Trump will try to LIVE on (live on, live on, live on…)

Curious things will happen and
aging will take its toll.
He can’t help but lose control.

He’s the GOP PArty.
Calm down, don’t WORry, not forever.
Ignore his DANCE and song.

All year long (all year).
All year long (all year).
All year long (all year).
All year long (all year).

Yeah, IT might seem that
there’s no hope right now.

But wait for the fun.
It WILL come ’round.
He can’t possibly ignore
his troubles away.
The GOP party will change one day.

No more sheNANigans AND nonsense.
Yeah, the worm will turn.

That GOP party,
oh, it’s changing
Oh, change will come.

No more sheNANigans AND nonsense.
Yeah, the worm will turn.

Dough dough dough dough yeah,
Oh, that GOP party, yeah.

All year long (all year) all year.
All year long (all year) all year.
All year long (all year) all year.
All year long (all year) all year.

People of all sorts,
they’re watching all the courts
all year long.

(all year, all year)

Yeah, I said

People of all sorts,
they’re watching all the courts
all year long (all year)

Yeah,
just wait, just wait!

(all year, all year)

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Impresario

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“He was clearly in the early stages of what his colleagues referred to as Alzheimer’s, although it was never diagnosed as such. Whatever it was, it didn’t prevent him from functioning effectively much of the time, yet by this point…”

–Around 1969, Ed Sullivan began having “senior moments.”

The Book of the Week is “Impresario, The Life and Times of Ed Sullivan” by James Maguire, published in 2006.

Born in 1901 in East Harlem, Ed Sullivan grew up in the New York metropolitan area. He had a burning desire to become famous and rich. Therefore, beginning in his teen years, he met as many people as he could, and hung out at all the city’s hippest social clubs (celebrity hangouts) that featured alcohol and performances.

In 1948, he finally got to host his own show on TV, after paying his dues failing at radio shows and succeeding at writing a newspaper gossip column. Even so, he got lots of hate mail. His CBS-TV show, Toast of the Town was partially sponsored by Lincoln Mercury (car) dealers in Southern states. They were livid that he refused to stop shaking hands with and hugging black performers. Sullivan was racially egalitarian, but politically, rabidly anti-Communist.

With the 1955-1956 season, the show was renamed The Ed Sullivan Show— as the host had achieved his goals of wealth and stardom; media ratings, really. He began talks with Warner Bros. to make a movie of his life. In preparing the script for that endeavor, unsurprisingly, the clashing of egos resulted in back-and-forth shenanigans; summarized thusly: “When Jack Warner realized that Sullivan had completely thrown out Wallace’s second version… hearing of Sullivan’s plans for still more rewriting… He cancelled the film.” That was eight months after signing the contract.

In summer 1967, the CBS Standards and Practices department was strict about performers’ not saying specific words that smacked of sex or drugs. The band The Doors got away with “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher” in its song “Light My Fire” because the show was live, and the lead singer disobeyed the censors.

Anyway, read the book to learn much more about: how The Ed Sullivan Show was able to stay wildly popular and attain high ratings for decades despite its host’s lack of charisma; (Hint: It changed with the times in featuring guests who entertained audiences of all ages, until advertisers’ demands changed); the people who helped make it so; and the secrets of Sullivan’s success.

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Tangled Vines

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The Book of the Week is “Tangled Vines, Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California” by Frances Dinklespiel, published in 2015. The moral of this book’s main story is “Lawsuits followed and winemakers like Viader made mental notes never to be cavalier about the disposition of fire-damaged wine.”

According to the author, as of 2013, Americans drank the largest quantity of wine, 13% of all the wine of all the countries in the world.

In October 2005, a majorly evil crime was committed at the Wines Central warehouse on Mare Island in Vallejo. An assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern district of California– an expert in wine fraud and arson, and an agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assessed the damage and investigated the site. The latter used an acceleration-detection canine, also called an arson dog.

The perpetrator committed: mail fraud (for shipping wine across state lines under a false name), interstate transfer of stolen property (because it wasn’t his wine to sell), arson, and tax evasion.

Fire destroyed millions upon millions of dollars’ worth of wine (stored in the warehouse) of mostly mom-and-pop wineries. As is usual in such instances, insurance claims of winemakers whose wine was covered, were denied, because the insurers contended that the wine was “in transit.”

In the single-digit 2000’s, Bill Koch of Koch family fame, didn’t spare a dime in finding out how he had become the victim of wine fraud. He employed investigators in various fields: ex-FBI agents, ex-Sotheby’s workers, a glass historian, and experts in cork and adhesives and labels. He sued the auction house and original seller of the wine.

Read the book to learn about the kinds of people who are passionate about making and selling wine, how they became victims of one especially bad actor, and a few other incidents in the life of the California wine industry.

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Mar-a-Lago – BONUS POST

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As is well known, Donald Trump ignores ALL signs of decline in his popularity. Clearly, his downfall will be complete only: when the number of his ass-kickers (such as Judge Engoron, E. Jean Carroll, and Omarosa among others yet to emerge) exceeds the number of his ass-kissers (his attorneys, previously– Rudy Giuliani, Bill Barr, Alan Dershowitz, etc., etc., etc.), or, when he dies.

Here’s a little ditty of what he continues to sing, despite the wreckage piling up around him.

MAR-A-LAGO

sung to the tune of “Key Largo” with apologies to Bertie Higgins.

I’m better than the others.
I’m fighting so hard in the courts.
All these Witch Hunts together.
My accusers are losers of all sorts.
Watching my old testimonies,
and attacking me desperately.
America, I am your hero.
And you are my favorite country.

I do it all.
Protecting you and building the Wall.
Starring in my own great, great show.
I’ve just been planning at Mar-a-Lago.
All our enemies ran and hid.
So many, many things I did.
I could do them all again, I know.
I’ve just been planning at Mar-a-Lago.

America, don’t you remember–
I cancelled every bad deal.
We will never surrender.
I stopped the steal.
I made you rich. I will do it again.
‘Cause you love me still.
America, this can’t be the end.

I do it all. I do it all.
Protecting you and building the Wall.
Starring in my own great, great show.
I’ve just been planning at Mar-a-Lago.
All our enemies ran and hid.
So many, many things I did.
I could do them all again, I know.
I’ve just been planning at Mar-a-Lago.

I do it all. I do it all.
Protecting you and building the Wall.
Starring in my own great, great show…

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I Should Have Honor

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The Book of the Week is “I Should Have Honor, A Memoir of Hope and Pride in Pakistan” by Khalida Brohi, published in 2018.

Pakistan’s Muslim men have a tradition of arranging marriages for their prepubertal daughters to clans they deem worthy. None of the female family members have any say in the matter.

It was through a stroke of great good luck that Grohi’s father (born in the mid-1970’s) received an education, instead of facing a fate of ignorance, poverty, goat-herding and hard manual farmwork as his siblings did. Too, the author won the “world parents lottery” in many ways. Her father refused to agree to marry her off before she was born (!) Her parents provided the same resources and opportunities to her and her sisters, as to her brothers. She attended school and was allowed to do almost anything her male counterparts were allowed to do.

The author was born in the late-1980’s, although when she began to travel internationally, her later-created identity documents were inaccurate by about a year. She became fluent in English and Brahui. During her childhood, her financially struggling, ever-growing family moved around a lot. At first, they lived in multi-generational households in rural villages and later on, upgraded to the cities of Hyderabad and Karachi.

Even so, Grohi’s mother and females in her large extended family were still enslaved in a life of domestic chores, which included feeding their farm animals and making cow-dung patties to be burned in cooking-fires. In other words, in most Pakistani Muslim households, the females were kept barefoot and pregnant.

On an even more extreme note, in the single-digit 2000’s (!) the males were allowed to physically abuse their wives (for any reason they rationalized, or none at all), and allowed to kill a female who brought shame to the family through misbehavior such as eloping. The latter situation occurs about a thousand times a year in Pakistan. Gossiping is the number one activity in rural-village communities, so everyone was under pressure to conform to the elder males’ rules.

The author realized that religion, caste or tradition had nothing to do with how such a punishment was justified. The elders were simply alpha males with hubris syndrome who were insecure, or enraged at the disobedience of their daughters. Grohi tried to change that. She founded a non-profit organization that empowered females by spurring discussions in Pakistan and internationally regarding gender equality. After much trauma, she was forced to switch to a less confrontational approach– by apologizing to the males, and convincing them:

  • that physically harming females was dishonorable;
  • that allowing female family members to work outside the home would financially help the household (and for that, they might need education), and
  • that the points above were their idea.

Read the book to learn an additional slew of information on the author’s family, and her trials, tribulations and triumphs in trying to change Pakistan’s entrenched gender-segregated, cruel culture.

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Somethin’ Stupid – BONUS POST

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In 2024, everyone who’s anyone knows who the main Democratic candidate for president will be. That candidate will want to debate Trump, who probably will avoid participating in any and all political debates the rest of his life.

For decades, it’s been a cliche for a candidate to debate against an empty podium, but in this case, it might be a hilarious comedy sketch, at which this little ditty could be sung by the Democrat to Trump:

SOMETHIN’ STUPID

sung to the tune of “Somethin’ Stupid” with apologies to Nancy Sinatra, the estate of Frank Sinatra, and whomever else the rights may concern.

I know your standard line
that you CANnot spare the time to spend an evening with me.
You’ll never take the chance that I will kick your ass
when you engage in a debate with me.
Then after you refuse,
I will put you in your place
on all substantive issues.

And then you go and prove it all by spewing somethin’ stupid like “I hate you.”

I know most voters are sick of
all the same old lies you’ve told for years and years now.
We know you’re just a has-been.
I know I’m true,
and we ignore your fears now.

I’ve practiced my whole life to propose ideas to share
to help our democracy pull through.
With my knowledge and experience,
I know it’s not too late,
and the hell with you.

My time is right.
I get inside your head,
then states of red become states of blue.

And then you go and prove it all by spewing somethin’ stupid like “I hate you.”

My time is right.
I get inside your head,
then states of red become states of blue.

And then you go and prove it all by spewing somethin’ stupid like “I hate you.”

“I hate you.”
“I hate you.”
“I hate you.”

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My Race

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The Book of the Week is “My Race, A Jewish Girl Growing Up Under Apartheid in South Africa” by Lorraine Lotzof Abramson, published in 2010.

Born in March 1946, the author grew up in Orange Free State in South Africa. Her ancestors were originally from Latvia. Many other fair-skinned people (hereinafter called “whites”) were descended from British settlers. The Afrikaners (descended from Dutch settlers) were the country’s ruling majority. They imposed apartheid beginning in 1948. They interpreted the Christian Bible in a way that depicted dark-skinned Africans (called Africans; hereinafter called “blacks” but the derogatory term is Kaffirs) as servants. All white families had sufficient wealth to employ at least one (black) servant.

The black population way outnumbered that of the white. The Afrikaners felt extreme pressure to oppress the blacks unmercifully, lest they revolt against any and all whites. The Jews were thus largely left alone. The author was the only Jew in her elementary school. She showed natural running ability at an early age, and after collecting a bunch of victories in footraces, she became a source of local pride for the community. So she was tolerated, even though she was Jewish.

In August 1961, the author was chosen to represent her homeland of South Africa in the Maccabi Games, a competition for Jews held in Israel. She met athletes of all different nationalities, including surprisingly, an Indian Jew. Under apartheid in South Africa, simply having a conversation with an Indian (or any non-fair-skinned person) was a crime, in public or in private.

The South African government used a divide-and-conquer strategy, outlawing assembly of ten or more individuals of dark-skinned tribes. The government fomented hatred of one tribe against another. Signs saying, “Whites Only” or “Non-Whites” were posted in all public places to indicate who was allowed where and what they could do. Whites would be arrested for entering a place bearing the “Non-Whites” sign. The police kept photos of protest-marchers (troublemakers– including whites). A person of any skin color who criticized the government would be punished.

In 1991, after serving 27 years in prison, (black political activist) Nelson Mandela was elected leader of South Africa. The whites were deathly afraid the blacks would wreak revenge against all whites. Mandela was forgiving, and didn’t hold a grudge against his oppressors. But he could’ve– as happened in previous decades when various other African countries achieved independence and a black person became the top leader. The South African whites were relieved as hell.

Read the book to learn much more about the author’s life and times and places.

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Joy to MY World – BONUS POST

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If Donald Trump cheers up, this is what he’ll be singing:

JOY TO MY WORLD

sung to the tune of “Joy to the World” with apologies to Three Dog Night.

Giuliani was my bullhorn.
He was a good friend of mine.
I stood behind every word he said,
but our relationship changed over time.
Yeah, I HAD to draw the line.

Singin’ Joy to MY World.
It’s ALL me and rallies now.
Joy to my assistants E-RIC and Donnie.
Joy for my victory.

You know I am the King of the World.
I tell you what I’ll do:
I’ll take away the migrants and the Bidens and the laws
and I’ll get rid-of the states that are blue.

Joy to MY world.
It’s ALL me and rallies.
Joy to my assistants E-RIC and Donnie.
Joy for my victory.

You know I love the ladies.
With the media, I have such fun.
I’m never going to tire, I’m the top survivor,
and a witch-hunt victim but I won, a witch-hunt victim but I won.

Joy to MY World.
It’s ALL me and rallies.
Joy to my assistants E-RIC and Donnie.
Joy for my victory.

Joy to My world.
It’s ALL me and rallies.
Joy to MY World.
Joy to my MAGA rallies.
Joy to My world.
It’s ALL me and rallies.

Joy to IVAN-ka and Jared, too.
Joy to MY whole crew.

Joy to My world.
It’s ALL me and rallies.

Joy to MY world.
It’s ALL me and rallies.
Joy to my assistants E-RIC and Donnie.
Joy for my victory.

Joy to MY world.
It’s ALL me and rallies.
Joy to my assistants E-RIC and Donnie.
Joy for my victory…

Featured

Whistles From the Graveyard

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The Book of the Week is “Whistles From the Graveyard, My Time Behind the Camera on War, Rage, and Restless Youth in Afghanistan” by Miles Lagoze, published in 2023.

In 2009, the author joined the Combat Camera division of the U.S. Marines in the war in Afghanistan. Very few people will recall now, that in 2003 the George W. Bush administration aired an ABC-TV reality show (that was soon cancelled due to poor ratings) of his version of that war.

It seems U.S. presidents after Nixon have accepted the fact that they are in a fish bowl, so they have made legacy-oriented practices a point of pride, maximizing propaganda on projects for which they have wanted to be remembered, mostly through their privately-funded presidential libraries.

The most unethical presidents have kept materials to themselves, to be discovered after their deaths as a way to prove they were not just leaders of the free world– but king of the world (Nixon, George W. Bush, Trump).

After the Nixon tapes, the following wanted to be best known for:

  • Ford: the celebration of the United States’ bicentennial;
  • Carter: Camp David Accords– a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt;
  • Reagan: his bringing about the fall of the former Soviet Union (all by himself (!); never mind the heavy dose of his wilful ignorance and plausible denial of the CIA’s international adventures);
  • George H.W. Bush: America’s glory in winning the First Gulf War;
  • Bill Clinton: resuming the dialogue on national healthcare in a big way, and (the lies of) his administration’s giving rise to almost a decade of peace (except for a few terrorist attacks) and prosperity (including balancing the national budget);
  • George W. Bush: (the complete and utter nonsense of) his administration’s bringing democracy to Afghanistan and Iraq (good luck with accessing those classified documents);
  • Obama: pushing through national healthcare and getting rid of Osama Bin Laden (even he hired a videographer in order to make his entire administration a reality show, but king of the world? His political enemies accused him of going on an “around the world apology tour”);
  • Trump: building a wall (?) protecting the nation from a pandemic (?) However, he kept classified documents, and grabbed as much money and power as possible during his time in office, just in case a court rules that executive privilege would protect his every move only during his time in office.

Anyway, according to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, and a Bibliography), the author wrote that medical discharge from the U.S. military confers enormous monthly payments (compliments of American taxpayers) for the rest of one’s life. Some of the young men who volunteered to go to war, changed their minds about fighting, and wished injuries upon themselves in order to get medically discharged. Not the author.

Even so, the author was reluctant to use his gun during the few times when he was told to. Most of the time, he was a camera operator of footage containing frat-boy shenanigans; some of it cold-hearted, sadistic, disgusting, and always insane (mutilated bodies, cruelty to animals, etc.).

After he came home upon completing his four-year military contract, he and a friend decided to make a video of the war, which he posted on YouTube. He described his role as “The souvenir aspect of war tourism for the young and depraved of American society.”

Read the book to learn more about the author’s experiences, and how he and his military buddies fared after they came home.

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When – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” by Daniel H. Pink, published in 2018.

The author cited various studies that focused on timing, rather than the contents of events. The results of one study he cited, indicate a counter-intuitive aspect of human nature.

The study asked different groups of subjects to evaluate the overall moral character of a fictional man who was hypothetically their boss. Different groups were given different scenarios describing his awful and good behaviors. “Indeed, they [the subjects] evaluated a life with 29 years of treachery and 6 months of goodness the same as a life with 29 years of goodness and 6 months of treachery.” When the last 6 months were good, the subjects were forgiving, and seemed to forget the character’s past sins.

Religion might account for some of the study’s results; some evil people find religion when they have a near-death experience– like surviving a plane crash, or surviving a bullet that should have killed them. They believe that when they are baptized, all their sins are washed away. So they empathize with the aforementioned fictional character– their past criminality doesn’t count.

That could be why people elect politicians who are serial criminals, and why men in sinful or controversial fields of work– have an attack of conscience and turn traitor at the ends of their careers. Here is a little ditty about the collective mood in this country, notwithstanding the fact that the people gets the government it deserves.

ANOTHER DAY

sung to the tune of “Another Day” with apologies to Paul McCartney and whomever else the rights may concern.

Every day the media incite wrath,
at the news we glare,
politicians-wrap LAWyers ’round them.
They’re teaming up with corporate chairs.

It’s just another day.

Sidling up to donors,
they know how to schmooze,
dipping in the pockets of the taxpayers.

It’s just another day.

At the office where their powers grow,
they’re one big herd.
Doling out the Kool-Aid.
And we find it hard to trust their words.

It’s just another day.

baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa

It’s just another day.

baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa

It’s just another day.

So sad, so sad. Sometimes we feel so sad.
Unheard and harmed we dwell
till a less bad leader
comes to give us, a better sell.

Ah, can’t-wait.
Don’t stand us up.
Vote against the-bums,
but some stay,
and we continue to pay.

So sad. Sometimes we feel so sad.

As they plant another story for their favorite cause.
Their colleagues rally ’round them.
We find they don’t obey their own laws.

It’s just another day.

baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa

It’s just another day.

baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa

It’s just another day.

So sad, so sad. Sometimes we feel so sad.
Unheard and harmed we dwell
till a less bad leader
comes to give us, a better sell.

Ah, can’t wait.
Don’t stand us up.
Vote against the-bums,
but some stay,
and we continue to pay.

So sad. Sometimes we feel so sad.

Every day the media incite wrath,
at the news we glare,
politicians-wrap LAWyers ’round them.
They’re teaming up with corporate chairs.

It’s just another day.

Sidling up to donors,
they know how to schmooze,
dipping in the pockets of the taxpayers.

It’s just another day.

baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa

It’s just another day.

baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa

It’s just another day.

***

Read the book to learn of additional studies that show how doing certain things at certain times can make a difference.

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The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

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The Book of the Week is “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, How We Lie to Everyone– Especially Ourselves” by Dan Ariely, published in 2012.

The author presented one way human beings think about ethical behavior in a given situation: the Simple Model of Rational Crime (SMORC). It says someone would do a cost / benefit analysis in order to decide, for instance, whether to park illegally because they’re late for a meeting. Of course, a major factor in their decision-making includes how likely they are to get caught, and if they are caught, how willing they would be to bear the consequences.

The author wrote that SMORC doesn’t take emotion and trust into account, so most people wouldn’t engage in that kind of moral reasoning. With only reciprocity as the sole consideration, an individual using SMORC would require contracts for almost every ethical dilemma. He would spend most of his life in legal battles and litigation; like, Howard Hughes, Ted Turner, and Donald Trump.

Although the author failed to distinguish between guilt and shame, he cited numerous behavioral-economics studies he and other professors conducted (on mostly American subjects) to learn the causes of dishonest behavior, and ways it can be curbed.

The author realized that in a matter of weeks, even he was getting brainwashed by the propaganda of his bosses, because he was receiving generous compensation for serving as an expert witness.

Two ways to reduce cheating included:

  • Having people read or sign an honor-code document (such as the Ten Commandments, or an agreement not to cheat on an exam, or a set of rules, which, if broken, would give them an unfair advantage) before completing a particular task, taking a test, or competing.
  • Having people put their signature at the top of a document, and then fill in the info (such as on an application or tax return), rather than fill in the info and then sign at the bottom.

Read the book to learn of additional ways society can spread more ethical behavior (yes, it can be contagious!) so as to stave off the collapse of modern civilization just a little longer.

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Courthouse Crock – BONUS POST

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The New York civil fraud case against Donald Trump and Trump Organization will be rearing its ugly head again soon. Here’s a recap of it thus far.

COURTHOUSE CROCK

sung to the tune of “Jailhouse Rock” with apologies to the estates of Elvis Presley and Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, and to whomever else the rights may concern.

Went to watch a case in New York civil court.
Judge Engoron was there.
He’s a damn good sport.

Trump’s hate speech is distracting
and his intent is to sting.
He’s desperately trying to stay “still a thing.”

It’s crock. Everybody, it’s crock.
Everybody in the GOP bloc–
on the stand was courthouse crock.

Donald Senior played the Witch Hunt card.
Eric had amnesia. He hit back hard.
Don Junior’s emails went crash, boom, bang.
Such was the nature of the Trump Org gang.

It’s crock. Everybody, it’s crock.
Everybody in the GOP bloc–
on the stand was courthouse crock.

Don Junior said to the grilling at-torney:
“My daddy’s the best artist I ever did see.
I myself am delighted with our company.
Accountants shared nothing of the numbers with me.”

It’s crock. Everybody, it’s crock.
Everybody in the GOP bloc–
on the stand was courthouse crock.

The defendants put on an irrelevant show,
when the prosecutors asked, “Where’s this gonna go?”
Judge said, “Calm down, don’t inVITE a mistrial.
Just shut your mouth, ignore Trump’s bile.”

It’s crock. Everybody, it’s crock.
Everybody in the GOP bloc–
on the stand was courthouse crock.

The media tell us Trump’s act is a charade.
They give Trump due process. They give it in spades.
Trump thinks he’s being shifty and saying nix nix.
He wants a mistrial. He’s getting his kicks.

It’s crock. Everybody, it’s crock.
Everybody in the GOP bloc–
on the stand was courthouse crock.
on the stand was courthouse crock.
on the stand was courthouse crock.

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Davos Man

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The Book of the Week is “Davos Man, How the Billionaires Devoured the World” by Peter S. Goodman, published in 2022. As the now-cliche joke goes, “You can tell Monopoly is an ancient game because there’s a luxury tax and rich people can go to jail.”

Yearly, about three thousand, super-rich people gather in Switzerland at a five-day conference called “Davos.” The least wealthy people there consist of journalists, academics, diplomats, entrepreneurs, activists and senior government officials. The billionaire-attendees (whom the author called “Davos Man”) pay lip service to the world’s social, economic and environmental problems, and behind closed doors, discuss how to profiteer in connection therewith.

In the last half century, Davos Man has enriched himself through making campaign contributions to politicians who have legislated:

  • monopolistic practices
  • tax cuts
  • excessive deregulation and
  • gutting of social programs.

The above favor powerful, rich people in Silicon Valley, New York City and Washington, D.C. Their propaganda campaigns brainwash the masses into blaming:

  • China
  • immigrants whom they believe are taking their jobs away, and
  • automation

for the working classes’ job losses.

The author argued that the common people in most industrialized nations of the world should blame DAVOS MAN and politicians, who are sometimes one and the same!

Davos Man– the modern-day Robber Barons– salve their consciences through philanthropic activities that are comprised of a tiny, tiny percentage of their businesses’ profits. Plus, the author contended that it is a Cosmic Lie that tax cuts pay for themselves by spurring spending.

During the COVID pandemic, the American Davos Man enriched himself through incestuous corporate / political relationships: “The United States had employed a Rube Goldberg contraption, with [Steven] Mnuchin’s slush fund [in the U.S. Treasury] funneled through Jamie Dimon’s bank [JPMorgan Chase], and Larry Fink’s firm [BlackRock] buying bonds on behalf of the Fed, allowing Steve Schwartzman’s private equity empire [Blackstone Group] to borrow for free.”

The English government convinced many of its people that through Brexit, their nation could decide its own financial fate. But Davos Man actually ended up collecting a boatload of their hard-earned taxes. Meanwhile, Argentina was defaulting on its loans for the tenth time in the last half-century. The aforementioned Davos Man, Larry Fink, blamed Argentina for the resulting disastrous losses of his clients at BlackRock. BUT– his firm was the sucker that lent it the money!

Anyway, read the book to learn of: Davos Man’s activities in various countries of the world– that resulted in skyrocketing wealth for him, and plummeting economic security for everyone else; why the author is still optimistic that the world can reverse the current, cold-hearted global financial climate in which inequality between rich and poor is ever-widening (hint: creative ideas on community cooperatives are in the air, but also– read Amy Klobuchar’s tome on antitrust issues); and the economic history explaining how Davos Man has become so rich and powerful.

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All American

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The Book of the Week is “All American, The Rise and Fall of Jim Thorpe” by Bill Crawford, published in 2005.

America’s tradition of holding a Thanksgiving Day college-football game began in the early 1890’s. The schools with football teams practiced profiteering from the get-go. They charged fans admission to the games, and gambling was rampant; even in preseason games. Even among the coaches– who themselves, sometimes played in the games. The coaches also made obscene salaries, even then.

Football had no passing, only rushing, until 1895. And hardly any rules: with respect to creative plays, and preventing injuries. There was unnecessary roughness galore, not to mention minimal, if any, protective equipment, and fan interference was sometimes allowed. Officials arbitrarily enforced the few rules there might have been. Play continued in all kinds of weather.

Born in May 1887 in Oklahoma, Jim Thorpe received most of his education on sports fields, although he was supposed to have been in school. His mother was of Native American, Irish and French origin. At sixteen years old, Thorpe began attending Carlisle Indian Industrial School. It was a military-style trade school for Native Americans where they could live on-campus.

In 1903, the Carlisle team tricked the Harvard Crimson with a play in which a Carlisle player hid the ball under the back of his jersey while his teammates hid their helmets under their jerseys so the opposing team couldn’t find the ball until its actual holder had run into the end zone for a touchdown.

Another dirty trick involved sewing an image of half a football onto various players’ jerseys, making it unclear as to which receiver caught the ball, to trick the opposing team’s defense. But, there was still no penalty for pass-interference, so receivers could be tackled before touching the ball. All of them. Even if they didn’t have the ball.

It should be noted that other, better-funded teams had tens of players who could enter the game anytime, whereas Carlisle had a tiny team whose players were both offense and defense.

In 1906, the newly formed NCAA established specific rules that dramatically reduced injuries, but failed to address the financial shenanigans that have greatly enriched colleges and individuals for the past century.

In 1907, when he was twenty, Thorpe joined the Carlisle football team, which had been coached by Glenn Warner since 1899. Warner headed the school’s Athletic Association, but he was not an employee of the school. So he got paid by a profit-making organization, which got its revenues through gate receipts of sports-competitions hosted by the school– football, baseball, track, etc.

Since Carlisle was a school for Native Americans, it received full federal funding for tuition, room and board for all its students. The Association didn’t have to award tuition-scholarships. Coach Warner used the Association as his personal piggy bank.

Yet another part of Warner’s job that has characterized football coaches since time immemorial, was to hush up the bad behavior of his players so as to squelch bad publicity the school would receive when players got drunk and destroyed property or got into fights, broke school rules or NCAA rules, etc.

Read the book to learn of what an exceptionally excellent multi-sport athlete Thorpe was (though he played mostly football; hint: “Twice Thorpe managed to run downfield and catch his own punts” and on one of those receptions, he shook off three or four tacklers to run twenty yards to score a touchdown.); the scandal surrounding him; and much more about his life and the tenor of the times in “amateur” sports.

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Never Gonna Give It Up – BONUS POST

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Just like Rick Astley, Trump is an alpha male with hubris syndrome.

The former is associated with “rickrolling” and Trump has started a trend of
what could be called “quicktrolling.”

The persona of both exhibit an undertone of stalking.

THIS IS WHAT TRUMP IS SINGING TO HIS ENEMIES.

NEVER GONNA GIVE IT UP

sung to the tune of “Never Gonna Give You Up” with apologies to Rick Astley.

I’m no stranger to life.
I’ll play the game until I die.
A Great America is what I’m fighting for.
GOP wouldn’t get this far with any other guy.
I, just want to win
and leave you reeling.
It’s free speech, you, UNderstand.

Never gonna give it up.
Always gonna cut you down.
Give-the-courts the run around, and spurn you.
Always max my fame,
make you say my name.
Always gonna dominate my empire, and burn you.

You’ve been targeting me, for so long.
You’re all losers, and you’re gonna blow it.
Inside we both know what’s been going on.
I’m still winning the game, and we all know it.

And, I just know that I’m aPPEALing.
I’ve made my supporters, look up to me.

Never gonna give it up.
Always gonna cut you down.
Give-the-courts the run around, and spurn you.
Always max my fame,
make you say my name.
Always gonna dominate my empire, and burn you.

Never gonna give it up.
Always gonna cut you down.
Give-the-courts the run around, and spurn you.
Always max my fame,
make you say my name.
Always gonna dominate my empire, and burn you.

[Ooh, give it up
Ooh, give it up
Never gonna give
Never gonna give
Give it up
Never gonna give
Never gonna give
Give it up]

You’ve been targeting me, for so long.
You’re all losers, and you’re gonna blow it.
Inside we both know what’s been going on.
I’m still winning the game, and we all know it.

I, just want to win
and leave you reeling.
It’s free speech, you, UNderstand.

Never gonna give it up.
Always gonna cut you down.
Give-the-courts the run around, and spurn you.
Always max my fame,
make you say my name.
Always gonna dominate my empire, and burn you.

Never gonna give it up.
Always gonna cut you down.
Give-the-courts the run around, and spurn you.
Always max my fame,
make you say my name.
Always gonna dominate my empire, and burn you.

Never gonna give it up.
Always gonna cut you down.
Give-the-courts the run around…

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the (sic) Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl

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The Book of the Week is “the [sic] Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl, How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis” by Arthur Allen, published in 2014. This disorganized story presented horribly confusing time frames, alternating between scenes of the main characters, with a large amount of historical context thrown in– which made the book’s title misleading, besides. But it provided information on a lesser-known aspect of WWII: the evolution of the typhus vaccine that saved countless lives.

Anyway, in 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire drafted the two doctors described in the story, as medics for the Kaiser’s army. Dr. Rudolf Weigl was born in 1883 in what is currently Czech Republic. Dr. Ludwik Fleck was born in 1896, and was Czech, Austrian and Polish. They both lived in the city of Lviv (aka Lwow or Lemberg) for a significant period in their lives. Weigl studied typhus there at the Polish National Health Institute of Hygiene (PZH).

Fleck opined that the contradictory medical journals of the 1930’s weren’t particularly useful, so doctors needed to use their personal smarts when diagnosing patients. Patients could be carriers of an illness, but not have symptoms themselves. For decades, Weigl was experimenting nonstop by breeding body lice (rather than head lice) as the spreaders of typhus– that fed on human blood. The guts of those lice were then injected with typhus-contaminated blood solution. He developed a vaccine that worked better than the competition’s.

Later on, during WWII, the German military ordered Weigl to refine the vaccine (because different strains of typhus appeared) to protect its soldiers. Fleck’s immediate boss was a spy for the SS (Security Service) who ordered him to do medical research that minimized the possibility that Aryans would contract a disease such as typhus, in the name of creating a master race. His ultimate boss was Heinrich Himmler.

Beginning in autumn 1939, new Soviet bosses imposed their will on Fleck and Weigl. Fleck previously had a private medical lab, but he was named head of the microbiology department of the new Ukrainian Medical Institute, led Lviv’s Sanitation and Bacteriological Laboratory, and conducted research at the new Mother and Child Hospital.

Weigl received and took the savvy advice that he should avoid joining the Communist Party, because inevitably, eventually, Stalin would turn against him and he would be thrown in the gulag, or worse. He also heeded the warning that he should engage in corruption only insofar as it helped him survive. Excessive corruption would get him in trouble. Different armies took over certain territories in Eastern Europe during the war years.

Beginning in summer 1941, fearing for his and his family’s life, Weigl cooperated with the Nazis rather than the SS and local German leaders in Lviv. His reasoning for insisting on keeping his private lab was that, if the Nazis killed him, he’d be viewed as a martyr. He let a German VIP help him supervise the research, though. He saved hundreds to thousands of lives of Jews of Polish origin. Their false identity papers allowed them to be hired as medical guinea pigs by having body lice feed on their blood.

Starting in the early 1940’s, the Nazis needed medical doctors who happened to be Jewish, so they spared them, but they compelled them to commit atrocities doing research. During wartime typhus epidemics, deaths of Polish and Soviet Jews were significantly higher than those of people of other ethnicities due to anti-Semitism. For, the Nazis ordered medical doctors to refrain from treating Jews in their quarantined ghettos. The SS needed the Jews’ slave labor in factories to further the war effort, so the Jews weren’t confined to the ghettos. They therefore spread typhus, anyway.

Through the years, the constantly-improved vaccines developed by Weigl were used (and spread far and wide in black markets) in Ethiopia, Manchuria, North Africa, and Eastern Europe. Britain, however, decided to take steps to kill the lice rather than muck about with a typhus vaccine.

Read the book to learn how American soldiers fared during times of typhus epidemics; plus much more about vaccines other than Weigl’s, about the Soviets on the Eastern Front, the history of Buchenwald, the adventures of Fleck and his family at Auschwitz, the fates of the people associated with different vaccines, and other ways various peoples combated typhus.

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Mr. Whiny-Speech – BONUS POST

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Since U.S. retailers start the holiday season right after Labor Day, it’s high time for a Christmas song after Halloween.

MISTER WHINY-SPEECH

sung to the tune of “Little Saint Nick” with apologies to the Beach Boys.

Boo.

Forever DISHing hate speech.
Trump’s a grinch throughout the year.

Boohoo.

Well, IN all the courts
where the air gets cold,
there’s a defendant called Trump
as you can’t help but know.

He’s a real famous DUDE
all caught up in suits
and he’s spending his last-years
with GOP in cahoots.

He’s Mister Whiny-Speech.
Mister Whiny-Speech.

He’s Mister Whiny-Speech.
Mister Whiny-Speech.

Just a-bunch of lawyers, HELPing
Mr. Whiny-Speech
and they can’t shut him up
no matter how they beseech.

He’s always spewing insults at
his former mob.
And trashing has become
his full-time job.

He’s Mister Whiny-Speech.
Mister Whiny-Speech.

He’s Mister Whiny-Speech.
Mister Whiny-Speech.

Spread spread spread smears.
Spread spread spread smears.

Woe

Spread spread spread smears.
Spread spread spread smears.

He don’t miss NO one.

He did WRONG through the election
at a frightening speed
with half a dozen schemes
with Rudy to lead.

He’s got to wear his blinders
’cause he really lies,
and USE every trick
in-order TO survive.

He’s Mister Whiny-Speech.
Mister Whiny-Speech.

He’s Mister Whiny-Speech.
Mister Whiny-Speech.

Boo

Forever DISHing hate speech.
Trump’s a grinch throughout the year.

Boo

Forever DISHing hate speech.
Trump’s a grinch throughout the year.

Boohoo

Forever DISHing hate speech.
Trump’s a grinch throughout the year…

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Character & Characters / Retail Gangster

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The first Book of the Week is “Character & Characters, the Spirit of Alaska Airlines” by Robert J. Serling, published in 2008.

Alaska Airlines (AKA) came into existence in the mid-1940’s with the buyout of Star Air Service. It faced stiff competition from Northwest Airlines, and Pan American– which was already monster-sized from: its contract with the federal government to deliver the U.S. mails, and exchanging many political favors.

Mostly, AKA transported passengers between the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. In early 1949, it completed a dangerous mission, flying about 140 Jews from Yemen to the airport in Tel Aviv, while an Arab bomb could have hit the plane anytime.

In the 1950’s, top executive Charlie Willis had such passion for and loyalty and dedication to AKA, that he borrowed $100,000 using his personal house as collateral, in order to restore the pilot-pension-fund shortfall, to keep his employer from going out of business. Beginning at the dawn of the 1960’s, he enabled his second-in-command-executive to engage in deficit spending. They broke the bank to do promotional gimmicks.

In the back of its model CONVAIR 880, AKA installed a stand-up beer bar, even though it replaced eight passenger seats. AKA generated goodwill by throwing parties it couldn’t afford for industry players, such as its own employees and trade associations. In the late 1960’s, it bought hotels and a ski resort. AKA was one of the very first airlines to provide in-flight movies and music. So it hovered near bankruptcy, repeatedly unable to meet its employee payroll. For years.

Commercial airlines, initially transporting wealthy passengers, employed stewardesses in sexy uniforms– with no or minimal training, and offered alcoholic beverages included with the airfare. With evolution came the organization of labor– of pilots, flight crews and ground crews. Alaska’s bush pilots who had gotten in on aviation’s ground floor, had become disenchanted with the changing times. Bob Ellis sold his tiny airline in Alaska because he was no longer having fun, was emotionally exhausted from the government’s imposition of regulations, and didn’t understand the need for union labor. He had treated his employees well.

The Civil Aeronautics Board, one of the government’s regulatory bodies, was soon to stop subsidizing the (small, financially struggling) regional airlines (including AKA) in Alaska. The consolidation of the industry in the 1960’s meant no more floatplanes, biplanes, and single-engine monoplanes. These were replaced with DC-3’s and other faster, technologically superior aircraft.

Competing airlines were growing in size, complexity, and needed economies-of-scale and scope. Bosses couldn’t afford to pay for their employees’ expensive personal problems as though they were in a small business anymore. There was backlash by the workers against this vanishing era. They no longer felt like a family.

In summer 1970, AKA’s Willis (rumored to be an alcoholic) was able to get a new air route: to the U.S.S.R. Ironically, AKA had to lease a Pan Am 707 in order to do it. Willis became a drinking buddy to his Aeroflot counterparts. The passengers, who flew to Siberia, consisted mostly of Native Americans from Alaska visiting family, missionaries, and businessmen. They were treated to flatware made of gold, caviar in their Caesar salads, wine, and Russian samovars. The flight attendants dressed in Cossacks’ attire, with bear fur hats. Unsurprisingly, the flights proved insufficiently profitable over the course of three years.

AKA suffered less disastrous financial losses when the oil industry in Alaska kicked into high gear, in the late 1960’s. Oil-pipeline construction around Prudhoe Bay in the North Slope area became all the rage. From the Seattle-Tacoma airport, the airline’s Hercules’ C-130 planes transferred cargo, including hazardous materials that could accidentally cause a lot of wrongful deaths and property damage: 25,000 pounds of dynamite, heating and fuel oil and big, heavy drilling rigs for ground vehicles, and heaters.

In the early 1970’s, many pipeline workers liked hunting, but they got drunk before they flew home. AKA allowed rifles on their planes, so they hired the equivalent of bouncers who served as ground-crew screeners, and had a locked-up special gun-rack section in the front of the plane.

Read the book to learn a wealth of additional details on Alaska Airlines’ role in the development of aviation, people, power struggles, technologies, and the tenor of its times up until the book’s writing.

The second Book of the Week is “Retail Gangster, the Insane, Real-Life Story of CRAZY EDDIE” by Gary Weiss, published in 2020.

Currently fading from Americans’ memory, is “Crazy Eddie.” Launched in the mid-1970’s, it was a retail chain of electronics stores in the northeastern United States. The company became known for a spokesman who flooded all kinds of advertising media with emotionally-charged screaming, that Crazy Eddie’s prices were insane. The repetitive repetition of this singular message worked. Eddie projected an image of success that fed on itself.

However, from the start, the store’s top executive– Eddie Antar– committed financial crimes. He had selfish, greedy intent, unlike the aforementioned Alaska Airlines executives, who were merely big spenders out of unbridled optimism and honest ineptitude.

Starting in 1984 when the company sold shares to the public, Eddie and his key employees (mostly his relatives) engaged in securities fraud. They had ongoing, frantic bursts of activity in which they: “…stuffed cash in the ceiling, stole store sales-taxes, [plus, they falsified inventory records] and defrauded insurance companies without a second thought. They did not expect to be caught, and if the Antars had any doubt on that score, they had only to look to City Hall for inspiration.” New York City’s government had committed exactly the same kinds of accounting fraud for years and years, beginning in the 1960’s. As the behavioral-economics cliche goes, “The fish rots from the head down.”

By 1987, Crazy Eddie had 2,250 workers in 32 locations from Philadelphia to New England. Read the book to learn a slew of details on the fates of Eddie, his families, and his businesses.

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The Longest Race

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The Book of the Week is “The Longest Race, Inside the Secret World of Abuse, Doping, and Deception on Nike’s Elite Running Team” by Kara Goucher with Mary Pilon, published in 2023.

Born in 1978, the author grew up in New Jersey and the Duluth, Minnesota area. Goucher became a professional runner. Like many of her fellow athletes, the author– who experienced an early childhood trauma– found at a young age that competing in footraces is cathartic.

Goucher focused on her training and reaching the finish-line first, rather than getting all worked up about the numerous stressful situations she endured in everyday living. However, she rationalized away some of the wrongs committed against her, because speaking out against them would ruin her career, her marriage, her friendships, etc.

In the United States, the way runners go professional is to convince a corporate, non-governmental sponsor to pay them to race. Goucher and her husband both signed contracts with Nike, the monster-sized corporation best known for making athletic shoes. The company provided her and her fellow runners in her working group with the best, cutting-edge scientifically and technologically advanced resources for winning races.

However, the Gouchers’ status with Nike was as independent contractors, so they had less legal recourse than that of employees with regard to any illegal goings-on in their field of work. Their coach and immediate boss was the celebrity runner Alberto Salazar. In the single-digit 2000’s, he led the “Oregon Project” which was an attempt to help Americans win races again around the world; their victories had been woefully plummeting for years.

Salazar did boost Kara’s confidence and helped her perform better than she thought she could. But, his behavior and many of his training practices were inappropriate and illegal. He and his colleagues (an alleged psychotherapist and medical doctor) wielded a lot of power over the Gouchers, who owed their careers to their sponsor. Salazar’s underlings hewed to his training methods through fear and force. “He [Salazar] got testy when called out for having a third drink. I could only guess how he would react to being called out about sexual harassment.”

As a female, Kara had to deal with Nike’s double standard of suspending her pay when she ran an insufficient number of races in a specified time period pursuant to her contract. Male runners were punished this way when they got caught in doping scandals or had injuries. She was subject to those same conditions, but she couldn’t race because she was pregnant. In connection with exploring her career options, Kara wrote, “… I found myself again and again in rooms of male executives explaining women’s running to me. There seemed to be more interest in how I would look on a poster than in how the sport could evolve.”

Fighting “City Hall” in so many different areas of life is difficult. Anyone who attempted to do so in professional running in the single-digit 2000’s would have to deal with Nike. It held a near-monopoly with overwhelming power and influence over regulators. Whistleblowers would suffer doxing and death threats.

BUT, it is an age-old truism that when more and more courageous people come forward with firsthand information about wrongdoing by an institution or a particularly powerful individual– the less the harm that will be done in the future because the collective mood of the community will shift against the wrongdoer. Eventually.

Read the book to learn lots of additional details of the Gouchers’ experiences in their professional running careers– their trials, tribulations and triumphs.

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When the Media Love A Romance – BONUS POST

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Here’s a little ditty that explains why Taylor Swift is still a “thing.”

Sung to the tune of “When A Man Loves A Woman” with apologies to Percy Sledge.

WHEN THE MEDIA LOVE A ROMANCE

When the media love a romance
Taylor Swift must stay on viewers’ minds,
and nothing else.
The media THANK the Lord
for the easy money they’ve found.
They report on triVIA when they see it.
She can do no wrong.
Turn their backs on wars-trials-elections.
They award her a CROWN.

When the media love a romance,
she spends her last PR dime
trying to hog the attention she needs.
The media CLING to their comforts
and stay in the tabloid lane,
but that’s NOT how it ought to be.

Well, American media LOVE a romance.
And they do everything they can
trying to promote the NFL.
Lonely, sad viewers eat it up.

When the media love a romance
deep down in their soul,
they want to distract from misery.
Always playing viewers for fools,
it’s a highest-bidder show.
Hard news is impossible to see.

When the media love a romance
She can do no wrong.
Unless more money brings another queen.
Yes, when the media love a romance…

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We Were the Future

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The Book of the Week is “We Were the Future, A Memoir of the Kibbutz” by Yael Neeman, published in 2016. Readers might argue that the author and her cohorts were raised in a cult– brainwashed from birth. The kibbutz movement strove for 100% socialism– the economic system in which all the people (not the State) collectively owned everything; and collectively governed themselves.

In 1947, the total population of kibbutzim as a proportion of Israel’s (Jewish) population reached a high of 7%. It waned after Israel achieved sovereignty in 1948. The first half of the 1950’s saw global historical events (the trials of: Prague [1952], the Doctors in the U.S.S.R. and the Rosenbergs in the U.S. [both 1953]) that were jarring to Jews. The kibbutz movement split over ideological disagreements, especially after Stalin died in 1953 and his crimes were revealed in 1956. Adults around the the author held zero discussions about this recent history.

Neeman was born in 1960 in Kibbutz Yehiam (founded in 1946) in Western Galilee near the border with Lebanon. Her kibbutz was a branch of Hashomer Hatzair (meaning “Young Guard”), the movement’s umbrella organization that began in 1913. Their motto was, “For Zionism, Socialism and Brotherhood Amongst Nations.” Her children’s group consisted of eight boys and eight girls, who did everything together, every day. She was raised among them by women who collectively took care of the kibbutz’s children grouped by age; she visited with her biological parents, but didn’t live with them in the same building.

The lifestyle encompassed a number of major ideas:

  • “Family and education in the rest of the industrial world were considered bourgeois institutions.”
  • “Everyone knew after all, that work [on the kibbutz] was more important than school, more important than anything.”
  • Egalitarianism for all the people was key– all decisions were made by committee.

Contradictorily:

  • There was a hierarchical division of labor– upper and lower. The former consisted of high-level positions in the fields and factories; held by the founders of the kibbutz, the (mostly Hungarian) First of May group. The latter consisted of low-skilled, dead-end jobs such as peeling potatoes.
  • The kibbutz undertook a number of enterprises through the years, including a banana “plantation” which was the most “profitable.” [these words with nuanced meanings were translated from Hebrew, but even so, these were capitalist endeavors.]

Kids whose behavior was troublesome were exiled from the kibbutz, and sent to a “special institution.” At twelve years old, all the conforming kids began to attend what amounted to boarding school, located off the kibbutz campus. They had previously received an eclectic education of hands-on instruction on a myriad of topics. Beginning in adolescence, they were allowed to shape their own education, or lack thereof.

Currently, analogous experiments are underway in American education in which adolescents are placed in front of computer screens with no teachers. Educrats and profiteers expect the software to teach them. At that age, most kids have neither the judgment nor the discipline to acquire the knowledge and skills required for becoming mature, responsible adults who can financially support themselves.

Kibbutzniks were afforded too much freedom and not enough guidance and supervision within their tiny, limited community in their early childhood. So they had a rude awakening when they were permitted (on rare occasions) to see how other kids in the rest of the world lived.

One other interesting factoid: Neeman wrote, “In our biological home, we [she and her three siblings] were already allowed to smoke on Purim when we were in the first grade.”

Read the book to learn about a boatload of other ways Neeman’s upbringing was extremely unconventional due to her fledgling homeland’s exceptionalism.

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Propaganda – BONUS POST

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Here’s a parody about the current worldwide situation– especially relevant in wartime.

PROPAGANDA

sung to the tune of “Pop Muzik” with apologies to M (the band) and Robin Scott.

Prop-prop-prop propaganda
Prop-prop-prop propaganda

Low down.

Prop-prop-prop propaganda
Prop-prop-prop propaganda

Radio, video
Buzz with every legal case.
Go living in a courtroom.
Outrage in the prez race.
Celebrities with heartache.
Lies, smears, photos fake.
Boss some, buy some–
attention whores can’t stay mum.

Putting out propaganda
Putting out propaganda

Poll-you, roll-you nonstop.
I can’t veriFY it.
Pop goes the idiot box.
It’s a Kool-Aid diet.

Poll-you, roll-you nonstop
Infiltrated.
Way overrated.

New York Times, CNN, WaPo, Fox slander.
Everybody fooled by propagander.

Putting out propaganda
Putting out propaganda

Prop-prop-prop propaganda
Prop-prop-prop propaganda

Reveling in the headlines.
Shuffle all the partisans.
Spin me a cover-up.
Aren’t they artisans?
Wanna be a war monger–
arguments ARE longer.
Blah blah drivel blather.
Get viewers in a lather.

Putting out propaganda
Putting out propaganda

Poll-you, roll-you nonstop
Lying like a rug.
Pop goes the idiot box.
Aiding the thugs.

Poll-you, roll-you nonstop
Social contagion.
Pop goes the idiot box.
Wily stagin’.

Insidious.

You buy what they’re sayin’.

Putting out propaganda
Putting out propaganda

Prop-prop-prop propaganda
Prop-prop-prop propaganda

Swaying the world.
Gullible you are.
At the speed of light.
Hear it in the car.
It can give you a fright.

cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog
cog cog cog cog cog cog
cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog
cog cog cog cog cog cog

Tabloids in the supermarket.
Read it in the magazines.
Messages in movies.
Your face in your phone again.
You get so, EFfing mad
at hypocrites WE’VE had.
Sunlight on the liars.
Deniers, war and fires.

Putting out propaganda
Putting out propaganda

Poll-you, roll-you nonstop
Hard to know WHAT’S fake.
Pop goes the idiot box.
When everyone’s on-the-take.
Poll-you, roll-you nonstop
Hard to know WHAT’S fake.
Pop goes the idiot box.

Insidious.

New York Times, CNN, WaPo, Fox slander.
Everybody fooled by propagander.

Putting out propaganda
Putting out propaganda

Prop-prop-prop propaganda
Prop-prop-prop propaganda

Low down.

Don’t listen!!!

Putting out propaganda
Putting out propaganda…

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Shanghai Acrobat

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The Book of the Week is “Shanghai Acrobat, The True Story of Courage and Perseverance from Revolutionary China” by Jingjing Xue, translated by Bo Ai, published in 2021.

Born in 1947 in Zhejiang Province in China, the author was sent to live at an orphanage when he was two years old. He never did find out exactly why, as his biological parents were alive. Anyway, the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe recruited him when he was nine years old. Other members of the group were as old as fourteen. He happened to possess the right temperament to endure its rigorous training (that included corporal punishment) and get good at balancing on his hands in various precarious positions.

There were daily academic lessons, too, and a lot of political ideology thrown in. The instructors constantly emphasized the teachings of Mao Tse Tung, and bragged about what a prosperous, wonderful country they lived in. Mao took the calculated risk of allowing performers and athletes to travel outside China where they might learn about other peoples’ lifestyles and defect– so that he could show off his own people’s greatness.

By the late 1950’s, the author was traveling and performing with the Troupe. In 1960, they went to cities controlled by the Soviets, and ironically, to African countries (such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Guinea and Morocco) whose native peoples were starting to throw off their colonialist yokes.

In the early 1960s, owing a ginormous monetary debt to the Soviets and not wanting to pay it, China decided the Soviets were wrong to stomp on the memory of the great leader Stalin (who had died in 1953 and whose crimes were revealed a few years later); Mao theatrically broke off diplomatic relations with the Soviets.

In 1967, Mao capriciously imposed his new twisted logic (a different set of ideas from that of his previous campaign)– the belief that the lowest economic class (the workers, the peasant-tenants) needed to fight the higher economic classes (the bosses and landlords)– because capitalistic activities were anathema. There were a few occasions in which the author was yelled at for saying the wrong things to some non-Chinese people, even though he thought his comments would jive with Mao’s teachings.

As part of the new campaign (called the Cultural Revolution, begun in 1965) to rid China of the dissidents of the moment– performing acrobatics was out of fashion. The radicals loyal to Mao policed the Troupe, finally disbanded it, and psychologically and physically tortured the director in public self-criticism meetings. The author’s acrobatic career was (temporarily, though he didn’t know it at the time) over. He was sent to the countryside for “reeducation.”

With 20/20 hindsight, the author wrote, “To those of us who had been through the Cultural Revolution, the Watergate political scandal was nothing. We couldn’t understand how the American people could force Nixon to resign for ‘peanuts.’ ” It is unclear what kind of propaganda the author and his contemporaries were fed to come to that conclusion.

For, they might have known nothing of Nixon’s real war crimes. But even if Nixon had been innocent of war crimes, he and his underlings still committed election crimes, and worst of all, violated his numerous enemies’ civil rights– evil actions that were considered against the law in the United States. The last fifty years have seen a bit more moderation in China’s political leadership. And radicalism in the United States.

Human nature is such that there has been some convergence (!) between China’s and the United States’ ideologies in:

  • surveillance of citizens
  • incarceration of citizens
  • economics
  • education, and
  • other areas of life.

It’s all in the propaganda fed to the people.

Read the book to learn much more about the author’s life and times, and his fate.

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Oh, My Homes – BONUS POST

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Here’s what Trump is singing now.

OH, MY HOMES

sung to the tune of “Kodachrome” with apologies to Paul Simon.

When I look at all the political crap and how the courts rule,
it’s a wonder they’re allowed to judge at all.

And they’re unfair and un-American, they’ve hurt me some.
They’ve totally defamed me with their gall.

Oh, my ho-o-omes, you gave me tax breaks and loans,
gave me changes in zones.
Helped me build my perfect businesses every day, oh yeah.

I got a bunch of supporters.
I say this IS a Witch Hunt.
So judge, don’t take my magnificent homes away.

You know I didn’t do ANY of the crimes
I’m accused of.
And if you really know HOW to do right,
you’d agree I’m innocent and all my protestations,
AREN’T-inciting racial tensions between black and white.

Oh, my ho-o-omes, you gave me tax breaks and loans,
gave me changes in zones.
Helped me build my perfect businesses every day, oh yeah.

I got a bunch of supporters.
I say this IS a Witch Hunt.
So judge, don’t take my magnificent homes away.

Judge, don’t take my real estate away.
Judge, don’t take my hotels away.
Judge, don’t take my businesses away.

Judge, don’t take my free speech,
Judge, don’t take my mo-ney,
Judge, don’t take my golf courses away.

Judge, don’t take my declassified documents.
Why don’t you leave me the hell alone?

Judge, don’t take my candidacy away.
Judge, don’t take my freedom away. Arrgh.
Judge, don’t take my magnificent homes away.
Hey!

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Trump’s Been Good – BONUS POST

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Trump’s Been Good

sung to the tune of “Life’s Been Good” with apologies to Joe Walsh. This is what House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is singing, in a rare moment of honesty.

I have a speakership.
Forget my power.
Got reelected on condition I cower.
I obey my donors, probe Dems, erect walls.
I have taxpayers pay for it all.

They say I’m weak, but I’m GOP-loyal.
I’m just looking for ways to reap all the spoils.
Trump’s been good to me so far.

I get reelected every few years.
I lost my scruples. Now I have no fears.
GOPers have all got my back,
Secret Service here in case I’m attacked.

I bash the liberals, my base they agree.
It’s my last hurrah, obviously.
So I got me an office,
fancy furniture and all.
Need votes or money, I’ll certainly call.

I deserve a medal after all I’ve been through.
(Everybody say, “I’m cool,” “He’s a fool.”)
The media complains about everything I do.
Trump’s been good to me so far.

I’m a hack for my Party sometimes until four.
It’s hard to leave when you’re a political whore.
It’s tough to handle this fortune and fame.
But with Dems gaining power, the nation will change.

They say I don’t do-enough,
but it takes all my time. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
My days are numbered,
and we all know why.
Trump’s been good to me so far. Yeah, yeah yeah.

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On Shaky Ground

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The Book of the Week is “On Shaky Ground, An Invitation to Disaster” by John J. Nance, published in 1988. Prediction of earthquakes is an age-old issue that can be improved, if enough money and political support is thrown at it, in connection with studying the geologic, tectonic, volcanic and geophysical problems that crop up along fault lines.

Even in 1960 when a major earthquake hit Chile, there was disagreement among scientists over the behavior of underground structures. The opposing theories consisted of “steep vertical fault” and “shallow, sub-horizontal dip-slip fault.”

To that time, ivory-tower “experts” at Caltech relied on only seismograph data for ideas. In the coming decades, graduate students looked elsewhere to disprove the old theories. One young scientist personally, physically surveyed a large swath of the topography of the Alaskan countryside. His data disproved the steep vertical fault theory. Another graduate student became a pioneer in paleoseismology, which identify the substances piled up underground in an earthquake zone, showing how they changed and moved over the course of millennia.

In the early 1960’s, the U.S. government and military were the major employers in the city of Anchorage in Alaska. They were eager to urbanize the place, and construction was booming. They ignored a pesky report issued in 1961 by the U.S. Geological Survey warning that the city’s underground foundation– Bootlegger Cove Clay– would be unstable in the event of an earthquake. Building codes were lax on structural soundness.

Alas, a major earthquake hit the area in March of 1964. The epicenter was under Unakwik inlet in North Prince William Sound, ten miles from Valdez, Anchorage and Seward, Alaska. Many structures collapsed, including but far from limited to: docks, warehouses, a newly opened J.C. Penney store and a Four Seasons apartment building.

The underground clay became liquid, causing the location of oil, army and cannery docks, and railroad yards to shift many feet. Fortunately, there had been regulation of natural gas lines. They had been programmed to shut off in an emergency, and they did, preventing explosions and fires. However, wooden buildings swayed instead of collapsing, but they burned in fires when a Texaco fuel tank exploded.

As fate would have it, the Seismological Society of America happened to be holding its annual meeting in Seattle, on the campus of the University of Washington on that very day. But news of the disaster in those days took hours to reach them. As is well known, communications technology has come a long way since 1987, when there were different radio systems for Los Angeles’ more than one hundred and forty police and fire jurisdictions.

The seismic waves generated vibrations in numerous other places around the world. The quake’s severity was “off the charts” given the existing technology for measuring such activity. Four tsunamic waves spanning twelve thousand square miles of Alaska’s sea floor was felt as far away as Hawaii, and swamped Vancouver Island. Seward’s economy was ruined, as it was based on oil, fishing, import/export, railway transportation, and boating.

Sadly, human beings have short memories; possibly because they’ve become desensitized to cautionary tales. Greed eventually results in business as usual. Political candidates in at-risk communities are loath to spend precious campaign time on safety regulations– their donors benefit financially from disasters. In recent decades, American communities have become wise to the fact that they can always apply for federal aid when they are hit by a disaster (whose loss of life and property damage could have been minimized!).

Anyway, read the book to learn about additional disasters in China, California, Mexico, South Carolina, and much more about the science of earthquakes, and the mentalities of the people in connection therewith.

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Cuba on the Verge

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The Book of the Week is “Cuba on the Verge, 12 Writers on Continuity and Change in Havana and Across the Country” edited by Leila Guerriero, published in 2017.

After Cuban leader Fidel Castro died in November 2016, there was a slight relaxation of economic restraints on the common people. Under the one-party rule of Castro’s brother Raul, Cubans could engage in entrepreneurial pursuits– serving tourists through renting out their homes or turning their cars into taxis, supervised by the government. Americans have begun doing the same in the last two decades, but through centralized corporate entities such as Airbnb and Uber.

Ironically, under Fidel’s leadership, Cuba developed a reputation for literacy and affordable, quality healthcare; during which time, America developed a reputation for deleterious (greedy!) practices in education and healthcare.

At the book’s writing, Cuba required working mothers to take paid maternity leave halfway through their eighth month; the paid leave continued for four and a half months after the births. An additional year was optional, for which mothers received sixty percent of their wages. Further, abortions were not only legal, but used as a form of contraception, with neither shame nor emotional hysteria generated by political activists, attached. On the other hand, the Cuban government spies on its people 24/7.

Cuban children are taught sex education beginning in the fifth grade. So kids are sexually precocious, as they learn from their older siblings. They are casual about relationships, so there are no hard feelings when families become fragmented, but there are many latchkey children, and males dominate.

After the Soviet Union broke up, Moscow’s government no longer funded Cuba’s economy. Beginning in the 1990’s, this “Special Period” saw severe shortages of basic consumer goods such as health and beauty aids and clothing, not to mention food. Unsurprisingly, domestic violence spiked.

People sold their jewelry at government trading posts in order to survive. They received mostly Panamanian goods in return. They adopted casual dress all the time– flip-flops, shorts, T-shirts– even where formal clothing had been worn previously, such as the theater. Counterfeit big-name goods flooded the market, sourced mostly from Miami, Panama, Madrid and China.

Yet another cultural change included males’ taking on of domestic chores and child-rearing, as more women could earn money through prostituting themselves. Socially-skilled men collected and sold coconuts from private properties, or sought out sexual relationships with visiting of out-of-town women who paid their everyday expenses.

Read the book to learn of the numerous other ways Cuba changed in the 1990’s, and ways it hasn’t– such as in its practices of numerology and witchcraft and in its love of baseball.

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Usurpin’ USA – BONUS POST

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Here’s a little ditty that describes a recent situation of the United States government, and the next three years of political charade:

Usurpin’ USA

sung to the tune of “Surfin’ USA” with apologies to the Estate of Chuck Berry,
Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys, and whomever else the rights may concern.

Trump tried to SEIZE an election, across the USA,
and his minions were usurpin’, especially Georg-I-A.
You saw ’em wearing fake badges, defaming officials, too.
Obstruction, insurrection.
Usurpin’ USA.

Watched him USURpin’ at Mount-Rushmore, (inciting outcasts USA)
on the White House lawn, (inciting outcasts USA)
Charlottesville and the Capitol, (inciting outcasts USA)
Proud Boys and QAnon. (inciting outcasts USA)
All over Arizona, (inciting outcasts USA)
Nevada and Ukraine. (inciting outcasts USA)

Trump’s gang is usurpin’, usurpin’ USA.

Lawyers are planning court-duels
we’re gonna watch real soon.
The media’s priming our behavior.
We’re all GONna drool.
Like OJ trials forever.
We’re on court-shows to stay.
Tell the world about usurpin’, usurpin’ USA.

Oath Keepers, Wisconsin, (inciting outcasts USA)
Helsinki-summit, Fox News, (inciting outcasts USA)
Michigan, Pennsylvania, (inciting outcasts USA)
the certification-ruse. (inciting outcasts USA)
All over Mar-a-Lago, (inciting outcasts USA)
and Truth Social today. (inciting outcasts USA)

Trump’s gang is usurpin’, usurpin’ USA.

Trump’s gang is usurpin’, usurpin’ USA.
Trump’s gang is usurpin’, usurpin’ USA.
Trump’s gang is usurpin’, usurpin’ USA.

Yeah, Trump’s gang is usurpin’, usurpin’ USA.
Yeah, Trump’s gang is usurpin’, usurpin’ USA.

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The Preacher and the Presidents

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The Book of the Week is “The Preacher and the Presidents, Billy Graham in the White House” by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, published in 2007.

Billy Graham was one of the most famous Christian preachers in the world from the middle of the twentieth century, into the single-digit 2000’s. He was a religious version of Rush Limbaugh. Although he was raised as a Presbyterian, in 1939 he earned his Baptist-minister certificate from the Florida Bible Institute. By 1949, he had become president of a Bible College, and he had founded a radio station. He spouted propaganda on various political issues through the years, but claimed he was nonpartisan, and claimed he wasn’t aware of the implications of his speechifying.

Graham got friendly with as many powerful, influential people as he possibly could, including American presidents from Truman through Dubya. He rubbed shoulders with publishing magnates Henry Luce and William Randolph Hearst. His philosophy was, believe the Bible or leave the ministry. He was a true, literal believer. Graham told worshipers in Los Angeles that the Soviets were planning to attack the U.S. with nuclear weapons because they were sinners. Yet, he preached love rather than fire and brimstone.

In January 1952, Graham held a religious rally– er, uh, revival in Washington, D.C. He invited president Truman, who didn’t like him because he was a grand-stander. About eleven thousand people attended. “To keep his finances transparent, he [Graham] insisted that crusade accounts be audited and published in the local papers when the crusade was finished.” (Apparently, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker didn’t get that memo with regard to their ministry.)

Graham continued to identify himself as a staunch desegregationist. He delivered sermons to that effect in president Eisenhower’s second term, after racial incidents. A common situation cropped up when Graham courageously took a stand on controversial issues. People on each extreme side of the political spectrum complained he was doing too much for their opponents, or not enough for them.

But Graham was still ever-popular through the 1950’s. In 1957, about two million people attended his 97-day crusade (which was publicized via prayer chains in fifty different countries, leaflets, mailings and bumper stickers) at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He strove for quality over quantity in holding only a few crusades a year, but Martin Luther King, Jr. was constantly on the move for the Civil Rights Movement, spreading himself and his resources too thinly.

Graham prayed at president-elect Nixon’s 1969 inauguration. A few days later, he spoke at the National Prayer breakfast, and presided over a church service at the White House; all these events jammed into a few days to provide efficiency for Secret-Service security. “Whatever else they were, the [religious] services were a great opportunity for arm-twisting, fund-raising, loyalty-testing. [both for Nixon and Graham].”

Also in early 1969, the government was drafting young men working full-time for (college) Campus Crusade for Christ (Graham’s organization) to fight in Vietnam. Graham pulled strings so they would be treated like ordained ministers and evade conscription. However, in late April 1970, Nixon said that it was up to the United States to save the world, be its police officer, lest free nations were threatened with dictatorship and anarchy. Never mind that America had been an aggressor for two decades in so many little global wars, replacing one dictator with another, and had been bombing Cambodia for the year prior(!)

Also in 1970, the president held a July 4th event called Honor America Day in Washington, D.C., to help ordinary Americans calm down. It featured interfaith speakers and celebrity singers, and attendees from all walks of life. Nixon himself, however, didn’t personally attend. He was at his San Clemente property. Later, the media revealed that the event had been a nepotistic donor-fest presented by J.W. Marriott and Nixon’s brother, Donald. Once again, there is nothing new under the sun.

A dress rehearsal for the Patriot Act was proposed in the summer of 1970. It was called the Huston plan. It would have legalized a bonanza of spying in America, like there is currently. Through that plan, Nixon wanted to get rid of influential antiwar troublemakers, but FBI head J. Edgar Hoover opposed it. Even so, as is well known, the Nixon administration committed countless evil acts in order to “… stop leaks, track down traitors, punish enemies, and ensure domestic tranquility.”

In mid-October, 1971, Charlotte, NC enjoyed a holiday named “Billy Graham Day” with a parade and school and government closures. Nixon and Graham rode together in the motorcade. The Secret Service barred anyone who appeared to be a demonstrator, from entering the Coliseum — the venue of a political rally– er, uh, a speaking event. In early 1972, the White House perceived that Jews dominated the American media, so they attacked certain of its members.

As is well known, in the past century, separation of Church and State has waxed and waned in this country. But the main reason for the separation is that civil law must trump religious law, as this nation’s diverse people have diverse religious beliefs. Graham always used the technique of “whataboutism” whenever people pointed out Nixon’s high crimes and misdemeanors, using the cliched excuse: He who is without sin, cast the first stone.

In the mid-1980’s, for the 1988 presidential race for George H.W. Bush, an evangelical political-consultant prepared a 57-page briefing book for wooing devout Christian voters– identifying their demographics, denominations, leadership and beliefs; providing a glossary (with such entries as, “born again”) and recounting how Reagan had wooed them.

Read the book to learn numerous other factoids on Graham’s life, career and political impact.

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Both Sides Now – BONUS POST

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This is the song Rudy Giuliani is singing now.

Sung to the tune of “Both Sides Now” with profuse apologies to Judy Collins.

Jailing bad-guys and a clean Times-Square,
and law-and-order in the air,
and zero tolerance everywhere.
I looked at crime that way.
But now for me it’s no longer fun.
I’m cringeworthy to everyone.
So many things that I have done.
A god complex in my way.

I’ve looked at crime from both sides now,
at us and them,
and still somehow,
my trusted friends were my downfall.
I really don’t know crime, at all.

Ukraine, fake electors and voting machines.
Attorney-client privilege would be our means
to defend our reelection schemes.
I looked at truth that way.
But now it’s just another show.
At least we gave it a long go.
And we’re not weak, we let them know.
We didn’t give anything away.

I’ve looked at truth from both sides now,
at us and them,
and still somehow,
my trusted friends were my downfall.
I really don’t know truth, at all.

RICO and debt and feeling mad.
Political revenge is the latest fad.
Bills and sanctions, oh egad…
I looked at history that way.
But now friends are acting disloyal.
They’ve abandoned me after all this toil.
Well, all is lost, our plot’s been foiled.
I’m broke and living in a void.

I’ve looked at history from both sides now,
at us and them,
and still somehow,
my trusted friends were my downfall.
I really don’t know history, at all.

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We Get Attention – BONUS POST

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Here’s a little ditty in connection with the real motives behind the ridiculous vacillations in the politically expedient pronouncements of the likes of Anthony Fauci, Bill Barr and Alan Dershowitz in the last three years and change.

WE GET ATTENTION

sung to the tune of “I Got Rhythm” (the studio version) with apologies to The Happenings.

In this hyped and waffling world
we often can get bossed.
And we’re like the network, Fox.
We flip-flop a lot because

clip-clip-clip-clip-clip-clip-clip-clip-clip-clip
clip-clip-attention
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We get attention.
We had power.
We’re in good company
when they ask for media whores.

We’ve got amnesic viewers.
And more good lines.
We’re in good company
when they ask for media whores.

We get money (We get money.).
We don’t have shame (We don’t have shame.).
You won’t find it
round our door.

No more fairness (No more fairness.).
No more balance (No more balance.).
We’re in good company
when they ask for, when they ask for,
media whores.

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We get money (We get money.).
We don’t have shame (We don’t have shame.).
You won’t find, you’re never gonna find it
round our door.

We get attention.
We had power.
We’re in good company
when they ask for media whores.

In this hyped and waffling world

clip-clip-clip-clip-clip-clip-clip-clip-clip-clip
clip-clip-attention
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We get attention.
We get attention.
We get attention.
We get attention.

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Warnings

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The Book of the Week is “Warnings, Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes” by Richard A. Clarke and R.P. Eddy, published in 2017. The authors explored the concept of “sentinel intelligence” which means that certain members of humanity have a sixth sense for future dangerous occurrences. The one who issues a warning in connection therewith, is called a “Cassandra.” The Initial Occurrence Syndrome means humans find difficulty in acknowledging that an extremely improbable event could happen, simply because it has never happened before.

The authors recounted various instances in which Cassandras spoke up prior to horrible events. A few of the events they described should not count in the annals of Cassandra-warnings; wars, for instance. There are going to be needless deaths and ruined lives in any and all wars. Predicting what is going to happen when tensions are rising in the hotspots of the world is not rocket science. Those who see them are not Cassandras. People like them are basically Nostradamus. He got famous in the 1500’s for “predicting” all kinds of catastrophes that are inevitably going to happen to human beings, such as wars, pestilence and natural disasters, over the course of centuries.

Also, the authors failed to define “catastrophes” referred to in their book’s title. They might want to refine their description of Cassandra events. The difference between Nostradamus’ and Cassandra’s premonitions is in the specificity: Cassandras identify one individual and/or entities around whom or which one specialized scandal is brewing, or describe signals around which, say, a natural disaster, financial crash or pandemic is coming, within a relatively short time frame (i.e., a Jeffrey Epstein or a Chernobyl).

One good example the authors provided, was the Bernard Madoff scandal. Madoff was a specific criminal– a power broker who harmed a significant number of people in a community. The circumstances were not a general, ongoing situation like welfare fraud or insider trading.

However, the situation still all boils down to how one defines “catastrophe.” There were various Cassandras who claimed to know the different events associated with Donald Trump that have actually come to pass. If one defines his getting elected in 2016 for instance as a catastrophe because the community harmed was the entire United States, then yes, its qualifies as a Cassandra event.

Anyway, the authors explained how a Cassandra in the securities industry helped forward the women’s movement. She issued a warning before a financial crash. She garnered kudos when she turned out to be correct. At the book’s writing, though, another female Cassandra issued a warning in the field of public health. Of course, a white male made a sexist remark about her appearance in an ad hominem attack. That’s how critics seek to discredit female Cassandras.

In another of the authors’ Cassandra cases, in July 2004, the federal U.S. agency FEMA (which provides disaster assistance) and the Army Corps of Engineers held a severe-storm-drill in the New Orleans area, but didn’t take it too seriously. Insufficient funding was provided to make specific plans regarding evacuation-transportation for people who were unable or unwilling to heed the evacuation order.

Nevertheless, the Coast Guard and (federal agency) Wildlife and Fisheries did. At the end of August 2005, they were somewhat prepared when Hurricane Katrina actually hit Louisiana. But hilarity did not ensue. Many needless deaths and ruined lives did, as the aforesaid New Orleans residents couldn’t be evacuated. Of course, the exacerbated disaster aftermath was caused by honest ineptitude, profiteering and opportunism rather than malicious intent. Beforehand, there were a few Cassandras who tried to tell others that a “Katrina” was on the way.

The reason Cassandras aren’t listened to, is that they tend to be gadflies in their organizations. There are: clashing egos, jealousy, and inter-agency rivalries. Cassandras are outspoken, and their mouths get them in trouble. They begin their careers as idealists, and usually end up disillusioned, frustrated, cynical and emotionally burned out. They embarrass powerful and/or monied groups whose support they need to keep their jobs.

Read the book to learn about many more Cassandra events, and the authors’ suggestions for encouraging Cassandras to come forward (Hint: one idea is to revive the White House group from the Reagan Era that evaluated foreign policy threats– but expand it, to take other kinds of disaster-preparedness measures).

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An Ocean to Cross

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The Book of the Week is “An Ocean to Cross, Daring the Atlantic, Claiming A New Life” by Liz Fordred with Susie Blackmun, published in 2001.

The author was born in 1953 in Southern Rhodesia. By the late 1970’s, she and her husband were both wheelchair-bound, due to a horseback-riding accident and an auto accident, respectively. Gluttons for punishment that they were, they decided to pursue the husband’s idea of building a boat with their personal hands, customized for them, and sailing it across the Atlantic Ocean. Many people who cast doubt on their dream had no clue how persistent, creative and resourceful this couple was.

The two were able to cut through some bureaucratic red tape in their home country because there were so few people of fair skin, including them and their then-leader, Ian Smith. But they encountered numerous delays for various reasons, including lack of money, lack of experience in boat-building and sailing, and government regulations. Their native Rhodesia was in the midst of political turmoil, and they needed sailing-practice in a challenging geographic location.

So they moved their craft to the South African coast, where they had to deal with South African customs, and submit a mountain of paperwork for various other reasons, including financing their boat-construction and supplies through: a bank loan, getting articles on their story published, and attracting sponsors. A series of guardian angels provided assistance through the whole laborious process.

Of course, they underestimated how much the entire project would cost and how long it would take; just one example– they allocated four days, with the help of family and friends, to drive their multiple vehicles to transport the boat (which was still a work in progress) to the Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town South Africa, their launching place. Read the book to learn about: how long it really took, the details of their whole ordeal, and their learning-experiences and growth; from start to finish.

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Court Days – BONUS POST

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This is a song about the biggest financial backer (initials, DJT) of the American legal system.

COURT DAYS

sung to the tune of “School Days” with apologies to the Estate of Chuck Berry.

Off in the morning and out to court.
He’s made his law cases a national sport.
Constitutional crisis, treasonous crimes.
He makes a deal, time after time.
His legal history is a disgrace.
But his PR’s the best, he always saves face.
In front of the press, he puts on a show.
To his attorneys, he owes so much dough.
Countless hours, our courts work for him.
Some say conviction chances are slim.
He keeps campaigning, scapegoating, smearing.
He sometimes appears at a hearing.
Regardless of whether his crowd gets their way,
taxpayers pay, and taxpayers pay.
A lot of court jobs will disappear
shortly after election year.
Up to ’24 and around the bend–
on media hysteria, you can depend.
Some say it’s a conspiracy and evil plots.
But it’s very hard to connect the dots.
A lot is confidential and secrets of State.
It’s civil society versus spewing of hate.
Feeling the anger from head to toe.
Round and round and round we go.

Some say it’s a conspiracy and evil plots.
But it’s very hard to connect the dots.
A lot is confidential and secrets of State.
It’s civil society versus spewing of hate.
Feeling the anger from head to toe.
Round and round and round we go.

Hail, hail rule of law,
even though it has many a flaw.
We need court reform loud and BOLD
to deliver us from the days of old.
Rule, rule, rule of law.
We’ve got this guy stuck in our craw.

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The Nightingale’s Song

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“Some looked on his cavalier attitude toward the facts as a harmless, at times amusing sidelight to his high-octane personality. Others seemed to view it as a disability for which he bore no responsibility, like a clubfoot.”

–regarding Oliver North’s lies and credit-grabbing but incredible work ethic in doing a job, and lack of accountability in the event of failure or wrongdoing

The Book of the Week is “The Nightingale’s Song” by Robert Timberg, published in 1995. In this large paperback, the author provided biographies of a group of Naval Academy-at-Annapolis graduates of 1958, 1959 and 1968. Their backgrounds provided insights as to their behaviors, and how they fared at the end of the Reagan Era. The group included John McCain, John Poindexter, Bud McFarlane, Oliver North, and Jim Webb, Jr.

During the Cold War, there were countless ways the United States government, through propaganda, incited phobia across-the-board that the Soviet Union might attack with nuclear weapons. In July 1958, the U.S., pursuant to such phobia, loaded nuclear missiles(!) into AD Skyraiders that would presumably counterattack if the Soviets got aggressive in Berlin or North Korea. For, the U.S. was distracted helping the president of Lebanon stay in power, as there had been a coup in Iraq. McFarlane participated in the Skyraiders endeavor, despite his alarm.

In late 1967, McFarlane was sent to Dong Ha, where he saw that the American senior military leadership was conducting the war extremely stupidly. They had pipe dreams of high-tech installations– while the infantry and artillery suffered shortages of basic supplies. A killing-the-enemy quota was imposed on the front-line soldiers, but the enemy was using guerrilla warfare.

Vietnam veterans such as McCain, McFarlane, Webb, North and Poindexter did their patriotic duty, and entered public service. While they were fighting, however, antiwar protesters and draft dodgers entered the professions and the political arena. “The president and many politicians appeared to be cheering them on.”

Further, the younger generation of civilians appointed by Robert McNamara (Secretary of Defense in Lyndon Johnson’s administration) behaved haughtily toward the former old-school military leaders (WWII and Korean veterans) who were then serving in the federal government. The former were comprised of a “pampered, unbloodied elite.” Congress scapegoated senior military leaders over Vietnam. The usual egregious hypocrisy abounded over Monday-morning quarterbacking. There was serious brain drain from the Navy, and budget cuts, too.

North, McFarlane and Poindexter had met at Annapolis and were reunited in the National Security Council during Reagan’s first term. In early 1982, critics claimed there was a lack of foreign policy experience. That was disputed at a meeting of Reagan’s top staffers. Meanwhile, McCain was still recovering physically and psychologically from having been a prisoner of war in the “Hanoi Hilton” for five years and change.

In mid-1981, McCain insanely decided to run for Congress from the state of Arizona, even though he was labeled a carpetbagger. Having never lived in Arizona, he joined his wife’s family there. His campaign had a very short year and a half before election day, to get his name and platform known, raise money, etc., etc., etc.

All through the Reagan years, there was a constant tug-of-war between the policy makers in the White House, and the military men in the Pentagon. As a consequence, countless dangerous situations ensued; one occurred in the early 1980’s: each gave contradictory orders to a troopship off the coast of Lebanon. The men appointed to high-level policy positions in the White House (i.e., the major perpetrators of the Iran-Contra scandal) eventually went rogue– ignored the chain of command, and thought nothing of it.

In the mid-1980’s, the men in the Reagan administration argued over what to do about the mentally unstable Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. They decided against killing him altogether. The reasoning went that he’d be viewed as a martyr, prompting Arab terror groups to counterattack with vicious vehemence. Poindexter simply wanted to humiliate Gaddafi, and maybe ordinary Libyans would be grateful, and finish getting rid of him themselves.

Of the Iran-Contra scandal, the author wrote, “If nothing else, the administration acted in a muddleheaded, thoroughly unprofessional manner… Administration spokesmen denied any American involvement [on the the CIA-Contra aspect of it] but evidence that they were lying piled up quickly.” By the mid-1980’s, Americans of “Generation X” and older, could see that the Cold War hysteria about Central America generated by the American government was overblown. The region was like Vietnam all over again, complete with guerrilla warfare.

In July 1987, North became a TV star when he testified at the Iran-Contra hearings. He launched a blistering attack on Congress. He considered himself a man of honor in actually helping the Contras because he kept his promise that he would. His other defenses were: the goal was to free six American hostages in Iran; secure supplies for American troops because their lives were at risk. On the other hand, North engaged in very illegal activities: shredded documents, committed perjury, broke federal law by skirting Congress and the president in funding operations that affected numerous people’s lives– and even put lives at risk.

Curiously, the author failed to provide significant information on a major component of the Iran-Contra story: William Casey and his CIA. Casey was conveniently dying of a brain tumor (a smart career move) when the scandal broke. This book, therefore, is missing a major ingredient. It is like baking a cake, and omitting the sugar!

Anyway, read the book to learn additional numerous factoids about the above and other major Reagan-Era characters whose common military schooling gave them a particular mentality and shaped their generation.

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People’s Republic of China – BONUS POST

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This is the song Janet Yellen is singing now.

PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

sung to the tune of “Hotel California” with apologies to The Eagles.

In a busy Asian city, bright lights in my eyes,
the stink of cigarette smoke, crowds in every high rise.
Given the agenda, I tried to relax.
The talks were heavy and deal chances slim.
It’s all spies and hacks.

I was geared to debate there. I heard the opening bell.
I was thinking to myself– so much stress. I hope I stay well.
Then they fed me their specialties, and they showed me the way.
The media waited in the corridor. Thought I heard someone say,

Welcome to the People’s Republic of China.
Such a lovely place.
Such a lovely place.
But they’re in the rat race.
Plenty of excess in the People’s Republic of China.
Oppression and fear.
Oppression and fear.
Paradoxes here.

They’ve got top officials– they got fancy cars.
They got factories and technology, they might go to Ma-ars.
How they danced in our peace talks. Overtures and threats.
We jockeyed for position. A treaty is anyone’s bet.

I said to my hostess, you’ve got a great crew.
They said we haven’t had that spirit here since 1972.

And still we put up a front in all-ll we say.
We talked circles around human rights; be reasonable– okay?

Welcome to the People’s Republic of China.
Such a lovely place.
Such a lovely place.
Always saving face.
Livin’ it up in the People’s Republic of China.
Put on a good show.
Put on a good show,
till it’s time to go.

Warships and solar panels, semiconductors and rice.
We’re all just prisoners here, of our own device.
And as part of the ceremony,
we gathered for the press.
They stab it with their steely words but it’s still an economic mess.

This was a trip to remember, as I headed for the door.
Haven’t made much progress from the place I was before.
These talks scratched the surface. But I was gladly received.
We’re entrenched countries joined at the hip, we can NEVER leave.

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Voices From Tibet

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The Book of the Week is “Voices From Tibet, Selected Essays and Reportage” by Tsering Woeser and Wang Lixiong, edited and translated by Violet S. Law, published in 2014.

In 1910, Great Britain mandated that Tibet become part of China. The territory consisted of yak and sheep herders and barley farmers. Fighting in Tibet ensued until October 1950, when China got its way. Mao Tse-Tung directed his People’s Liberation Army to take it over, except for the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). That bit of land was led by a Buddhist leader called the Dalai Lama. In 1959, he was forced to assume a government-in-exile in India.

More recently, Tibet, with a population of approximately six million, is a mountainous region that is twelve thousand feet above sea level and three and a half times the size of the state of Texas. It has seen decades of violence from protesters agitating for independence. In July 1994, the Chinese government launched a smear campaign against the Dalai Lama. Dissidents who had any connections to Buddhism, even tenuous ones, were imprisoned or killed.

Two political dissidents– a married couple– whom the Chinese government has oppressed due to their stance on freedoms in Tibet include: Tsering Woeser (a Chinese army officer’s daughter, a poet, born in 1966) and Wang Lixiong (a novelist born in 1953).

In 1998, Wang’s writings didn’t advocate subversion, but rather, sought to educate people to effect political change, proposing a gradual approach toward Tibetan democracy. In 2001, he resigned his membership in the Chinese Writers’ Association because its actions offended his sensibilities. The Chinese government expelled him from Friends of Nature, an environmental organization he co-founded.

In 2003, Tsering was fired from a job with a publisher because she praised the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa (a Buddhist leader), and encouraged belief in religion. She moved from Tibet to Beijing and became an unofficial spokesperson for Tibetan dissidents in China. Beijing allowed a little more free speech than Tibet. She posted writings on a foreign website rather than through print-media so it was harder for the Chinese government to harass her.

In 2008, more kinds of people agitated against China’s control of Tibet. Nuns, monks, local vendors, students, farmers and nomads demanded that the Dalai Lama be allowed to return to Tibet. In 2011, almost two dozen of the religious ones set themselves on fire in protest. In 2012, about eighty of them did.

In 2006, China opened the Qinghai-Tibet rail line.”What is unfolding in Tibet is pseudo-modernization, essentially a kind of invasion, a sugar-coated act of violence.” That sounds like colonialism, but in 2008, in the Tibetan city of Lhasa, the political environment was like that of Nazism. Chinese law enforcement officers detained and rounded up about seven hundred monks from monasteries, and took them to the last rail-line stop in Tibet.

The train cars smacked of Holocaust cattle-cars. The monks ended up in either political re-education camps or prison. Armed Chinese soldiers in the streets harassed monks and youths.

Tibet caught capitalistic fever from China. There was a “gold rush” in minerals and caterpillar fungi. Strangely, “The Buddha teaches us that all living beings are equal.” But the Buddhist monasteries in Tibet became hypocrites– were persuaded by an enterprising Chinese tour company to provide Mandarin and English-language translators to fill an (extremely lucrative) niche in the tourism industry. The Chinese controlled the business, which involved swindling tourists in various ways.

Anyway, read the book to learn much more biographical info on the two aforementioned dissidents, and the many additional ways that Tibetans are losing their culture (hint: by the turn of the twenty-first century, Tibet was becoming a regular Dubai) at the hands of the Chinese.

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The Waiting – BONUS POST

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Here’s a little ditty about America’s current political situation.

THE WAITING

sung to the tune of “The Waiting” (Official Music Video) with apologies to the Estate of Tom Petty, and the Heartbreakers.

Seems-LIKE we’re in a holding-pattern right now.
Candidates are assembling their teams.
Yeah, 2024 is not to missed.
But, America will be kind a-gain.

Yet lots of politicians are trying to pretend.
America will survive this conTENtiousness.

Clean-house, clean-house, clean-house, clean-house.

The waiting is the hardest part.
We-are eager for trials to start.
We enjoy-a good debate.
Integrity would-be smart.
The waiting is the hardest part.

Well, most pundits chase tabloid-topics around.
All it does is bring us down.
We need leaders who’ll make us feel good.
But it takes time to reverse right now.
The presidential race will show us how,
to move the nation forward.
We need to move forward.

Clean-house, clean-house, clean-house, clean-house.

The waiting is the hardest part.
We-are eager for trials to start.
We enjoy-a good debate.
Integrity would-be smart.
The waiting is the hardest part.

No more shenanigans, elect a better prez.
No more shenanigans, elect a better prez.
You know right from wrong.
You know you’re nobody’s fool.
This has got to turn around. No more shenanigans.

Clean-house, clean-house, clean-house, clean-house.

The waiting is the hardest part.
We-are eager for trials to start.
We enjoy-a good debate.
Integrity would-be smart.
The waiting is the hardest part.

Yeah, the waiting is the hardest part.
Shape-UP-or-ship-out.
It’s the hardest part…
Shape-UP-or-ship-out.

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Life in the Trash Lane

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The Book of the Week is “Life in the Trash Lane, A Sports Agent’s True Story” by Mel Levine, published in 1993. This sloppily edited volume described a bygone era in terms of the financial aspects of “amateur” sports in America. Only “professional” athletes could receive compensation in the form of money or gifts from work-related people and entities. College players were considered amateurs.

The author began a career as a tax attorney and business investor, but also became an agent for college football players on their way to the pros. He offered his services as an agent, CPA, lawyer, and financial planner. Initially, representing big-name athletes boosted his ego. The author hired various scouts called “bird dogs” who would help him acquire clients who had barely started college but were perceived as talented players. On the surface, sports agency looked lucrative, but it was actually a cutthroat, sleazy business.

The convention in the late 1980’s was for agents to advance expenses to the professional hopefuls, and then, if the players made the pros, the agent was paid about 5% of the athlete’s earnings. The author paid for their cars, insurance, housing, gifts for their significant others, legal fees, etc. (a clear NCAA rule violation). The author continued to run afoul of the strict NCAA rules, but he rationalized that all of the other agents were doing so, too, and he needed to stay competitive. Many times, he was almost busted.

The author was suckered into paying big bucks to numerous players he represented, but they never paid him even in cases when they made the pros. The players owed him thousands and thousands of dollars, but he developed a version of Stockholm syndrome– acting as a father figure to a few of them, and remained fiercely loyal because he felt an escalation of commitment.

In May 1986, one of the author’s clients had an accident in the expensive car paid for by the author. Two major Miami newspapers’ stories on this prompted the question of how the athlete could afford such a car. The car was likely provided by his agent, or his college– the University of Miami. If so, the NCAA violation would end the player’s career before it started, and the scandal would ruin the reputations of the agent, the school, and many others.

The author cooked up a scheme to get a slew of parties out of trouble. He shredded all the paper contracts of his rule-violating clients, and claimed he was running a car-leasing operation; the athletes’ parents were leasing the cars for them [like everyone really believed that (!)].

The author told of another client who was nothing but a boondoggle, but the author stuck by him for years, anyway. By 1987, “He was damaged goods for a [National Football League] team to expend a valuable draft choice on a kid with a bad ankle, drug problems, legal problems, and a dishonorable discharge from BYU was more than any of them would bear.”

As can be imagined, the sports agency business will keep commercial litigators in business forever, as its seamy underbelly consists of an orgy of litigation. The author dismissed yet another client’s transgressions: “At worst, he blew up a Porsche (quite by accident), got arrested in New Jersey for carrying a concealed weapon and unfortunately got into a fight or two. No big deal.”

Read the book to learn about a slew of other details of the conduct of sports agents and their clients of the late 1980’s.

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Oh What A Fight – BONUS POST

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Oh What A Fight

sung to the tune of “December, 1963 (Oh What A Night)” with apologies to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

Oh what a fight.
Criminals STILL walk free in ’23.
What a noisy prez-race we’ll see.
Thug po-LI-tics.
What a fight.

Oh what a fight.

All the candidates, we know their names.
‘Stead of brains-and-maturity, we’ll see false claims.
Where’s the fact-checking?
What a fight.

Oh they, inCITE hostile-feelings in male viewers, of the news.
And oh, fren-em-ies’ll call in favors in-secret soo-oon.

Oh what a fight.
Frus-trating AND infuriating me.
Prah-paganda and lack of substance we’ll see.
Sour surrender, what a fight.

Some viewers, WISH they could roll with the elites,
reveling in opponents’ scandals and electoral defeats.
Oh what a fight.

Oh they, inCITE hostile-feelings in male viewers, of the news.
And oh, fren-em-ies’ll call in favors in-secret soo-oon.

Oh what a fight.

The whole campaign IS a scripted charade.
CLAshing egos, now it’s donor-made.
Hypocrisy-and-attorneys.
What a fight.

Some viewers, WISH they could roll with the elites,
reveling in opponents’ scandals and electoral defeats.
Oh what a fight.

Dough-dough-dough-dough-dough, dough-dough-dough.
Oh what a fight.
Dough-dough-dough-dough-dough, dough-dough-dough.
Oh what a fight…

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John Reed: Witness to Revolution

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The Book of the Week is “John Reed: Witness to Revolution, A Biography” by Tamara Hovey, published in 1975.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked a detailed list of Notes, Sources, References, and Bibliography), Reed was born in October 1887 in Portland, Oregon. The beneficiary of white male privilege, he graduated from Harvard, then bummed around Europe, and wrote stories and articles that were published in the magazines of the day; among them: American, Saturday Evening Post, Century, Smart Set, Colliers, and Trend. But he rebelled against the bourgeois values of his social class. The Masses did not pay its contributing writers, but featured short stories that realistically portrayed the struggling masses in America of the 1910’s. Many publications generously compensated their contributing writers, so Reed was able to scratch out a living.

Reed was given a press pass through the years by different publications to cover a few major historical events. In 1913, he wrote human-interest stories through immigrant workers’ eyes after witnessing violent labor trouble at the silk factory in Paterson, New Jersey.

Reed rubbed shoulders with the famous social activists of his generation. Showing their white-savior-complex– in June 1913, he, along with the independently wealthy Mabel Dodge (who owned a stately home on lower Fifth Avenue in Manhattan) and Robert Edmond Jones, staged a pageant whose performers consisted of downtrodden laborers at the old Madison Square Garden. The three served as planner and director, funder and arranger, and set designer, respectively. Their goal was to improve working conditions for the poor. After the pageant, Reed, Dodge and Jones sailed to Europe.

Reed spent four days in New Jersey’s Passaic County jail (whose conditions were very disgusting) in order to write articles that publicized the plight of striking workers who were denied due process. He was unlike journalists at most newspapers, who were puppets of: management (rather than labor), government officials, and law enforcement. Reed physically climbed into the trenches with German soldiers during WWI to get their stories. He then turned into a pacifist.

Read the book to learn what transpired when Reed developed a reputation as a radical (hint: he acquired a press credential from the American Socialist press in August 1917 in order to cover the Russian Revolution).

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Congo Sole – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Congo Sole, How a Once Barefoot Refugee Delivered HOPE, FAITH, and 20,000 PAIRS OF SHOES” by Emmanuel Ntibonera with Drew W. Menard, published in 2021. This slim paperback volume included no index, and its writing contained occasional grammatical errors throughout. But it was suspenseful.

The oldest of nine surviving children, the author was born in April 1989. He grew up in the city of Bukavu near the Rwandan border, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (hereinafter referred to as “Congo”). Living conditions were primitive. Life-threatening conditions abounded, including malaria, poisonous snakes, bacteria-laden waterways (used for drinking), and jiggers (which burrow under the skin and reproduce; if not removed, they eventually prompt amputation of digits and limbs, but are easily prevented from doing any harm if people wear shoes!).

When the first Congo civil war started in 1996, the family fled on foot many miles to the author’s grandfather’s village in the mountains of Eastern Congo. They did hard manual labor– growing cassava, tending to pigs, and herding cows and goats. If they shot a rabbit with a bow and arrow, they ate it. When the author was about eight years old, he, his father (who was a preacher and small-businessman) and two younger brothers walked back to Bukavu. His father’s dry-goods store had been looted and trashed.

It had been only a few years after the genocide in neighboring Rwanda. Child-soldiers and refugees were still pouring into the Congo, and clashing with rival tribes. In 1997, the regime change in the Congo led to yet more atrocities, including raping of females of all ages. The author and his younger brother had somehow been warned not to be lured into joining the ranks of the child-soldiers. They ran away when recruiters came to call and offered sweets.

While nearly starving to death and suffering many hardships, the author’s family truly believed that petitionary prayer worked for them. At least, people’s outlook improves with petitionary prayer, as it has a placebo effect. People who have a bible that’s falling apart, usually aren’t.

However, one burning question that can’t be answered is: What is the percentage of people for whom petitionary prayer failed (who are unable to triumphantly say that it worked for them) because they died?

Read the book to learn: how the family survived, and about many more details on how the author came to start a foundation (hint: “…for the Congolese children, a pair of shoes was a treasure, not a fleeting status symbol to be discarded for the next trend. It wasn’t about a brand, logo, or label there; it was about protection, vitality. About hope.”)

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one THOUSAND wells (sic)

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The Book of the Week is “one THOUSAND wells (sic), How an Audacious Goal Taught Me to Love the World Instead of Save It” by Jena Lee Nardella, published in 2015.

Born in the early 1980’s, the American author– raised in a strict Christian household– became an idealist, passionate about helping the downtrodden. By her teens, she was volunteering at a Colorado Springs homeless shelter. She worked at an orphanage in Tijuana. In college, she got to meet and work with the Christian music-band, Jars of Clay.

Together with other groups over the course of a decade, the do-gooders who formed a humanitarian organization in 2005 called Blood: Water Mission, would bring uncontaminated blood (for medical purposes) and water (for basic drinking and cleaning) to various underprivileged communities in Kenya, Rwanda, Central African Republic, Uganda, and other African countries. They would help them with the three major components of improving Africans’ health: clean water, hygiene and sanitation.

One of the first of many, many things the author learned in her quest to save lives, was that most Americans’ first impulse is to throw money at a complex problem to solve it. They mean well, but their white-savior-complex is a wrong-headed approach. As she gained experience in providing international aid to poverty-stricken, poorly-educated rural communities, the author saw how villagers were initially skeptical about aid workers’ promises; in the past, so many aid workers had failed to follow up or do anything.

The author’s group eventually elicited a grateful, cooperative response because an educator involved the villagers in raising their own standards of living. A few different aid groups who handled various aspects of a water project, did what they said they would do.

If their projects succeeded, women and children (before school– if they were lucky enough to attend) wouldn’t have to spend hours every day trekking on foot to a water-well or river (which might be used by hundreds of households, and was usually polluted with germs and who knows what else) located many kilometers from their living areas. Blood: Water completed one specific project in Rwanda that allowed eighteen hundred villagers to partake of clean water. Such a basic victory produced a great ripple effect in the community. School attendance soared because:

  • kids were neither fatigued by water-fetching nor plagued by water-borne illnesses (and all the people by other illnesses, for that matter) anymore;
  • villagers were neither sickened by, nor dying from the water they used; and
  • villagers had more time on their hands.

However, the author had rude awakenings on various fronts– a water project that failed, fund-raising struggles, and an episode of corruption by a local male aid-coordinator. She was also forced to do some soul-searching on her religious beliefs. She finally had to accept that it is better to have unanswered questions than unquestioned answers.

Read the book to learn a wealth of additional details about all of the above.

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Danger Rant – BONUS POST

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In light of what current supporters, imitators and phony-enemies (the likes of Jim Jordan, Greg Gianforte and Ron DeSantis) of Trump are doing now, this is the current song of Ranting Republicans (a potentially great name for a rock band!).

DANGER RANT

sung to the tune of “Safety Dance” (the studio version) with apologies to Men Without Hats.

D-D-D-D-A-A-A-A-N-N-N-N-G-G-G-G-E-E-E-E-R-R-R-R-DANGER-DANGER-DANGER-DANGER-RANT-RANT-RANT-RANT

We can rant if we want to.
We can waste the House’s time.
Because if we don’t rant about con-spir-acy,
Trump won’t get a second try.

Say, we can go where we want to,
draft LAWS that are unkind,
and we can act like dictators
from the Third World
and leave your freedoms far behind.

And we can rant.

We can rant if we want to.
We can waste the House’s time.
Because if we don’t rant about con-spir-acy,
Trump won’t get a second try.

Say, we can go where we want to,
draft LAWS that are unkind,
and we can act like dictators
from the Third World
and leave your freedoms far behind.

And we can rant, and zing!

We can spite when we want to.
We hurt Americans all around.
We can act against China and the Dems
by passing bills that shut them down.

Say, we can hate if we want to.
We can and must DO Trump’s will.
As long as anger smolders,
we’ll get MORE-extreme and bolder.
It’s how we get our thrills.

Say, we can rant, we can rant.

We think we’re in control.
We can rant, we can rant.
We’re doing it from poll to poll.

We can rant, we can rant.
We can take liTIGious stands.
We can rant, we can rant.
We lose nothing by taking a chance.

Danger rant, oh well, the danger rant,
ah yes, the danger rant.

D-D-D-D-A-A-A-A-N-N-N-N-G-G-G-G-E-E-E-E-R-R-R-R-DANGER-DANGER-DANGER-DANGER-RANT-RANT-RANT-RANT

We can ban what we want to.
We’ve got Trump’s low base in mind.
As long as we please them,
to hell with reason,
everything’ll work out right.

Ah, say, we can rant if we want to.
We can waste the House’s time.
Because if we don’t rant about con-spir-acy,
Trump won’t get a second try.

And say, we can rant, we can rant.
We think we’re in control.
We can rant, we can rant.
We’re doing it from poll to poll.

We can rant, we can rant.
We can take liTIGious stands.
We can rant, we can rant.
We lose nothing by taking a chance.

Danger rant, oh well, the danger rant,
ah yes, the danger rant.
Danger rant, oh well, the danger rant,
ah yes, the danger rant.
Danger rant, oh well, the danger rant,
ah yes, the danger rant…

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Settle For More

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The Book of the Week is “Settle For More” by Megyn Kelly, published in 2016.

Born in November 1970, Kelly was raised Catholic in the suburbs of Syracuse and Albany in New York State. She conveyed a few simple principles on life. One is, “The only place ‘success’ comes before ‘work’ is in the dictionary.”

The late, great college basketball coach John Wooden said one should be worried about one’s character, not one’s reputation. The true test of one’s character is: how you treat people who can do nothing for you. Like so many others, Kelly got caught up in worrying about her reputation when Trump and his followers smeared and lied about her.

Anyway, Kelly wrote that there occurred an egregious breach of journalistic ethics during 2016, leading up to election day. It was this: some idiot-box interviewers of Donald Trump told him prior to airtime, the critical things they would be saying about him, so they would appear to be “fair and balanced” in their reporting. Trump knew to behave himself and didn’t react with hostility to those questions or comments. Scripting and rehearsals are the new unethical normal in “journalism” nowadays.

Unsurprisingly, Kelly was the victim of a misogynistic Tweet by Trump. He knew this Tweet would become the subject of a 2015 post-debate news story, rather than her debate questions and his non-answers. He is, after all, the master manipulator of distracting messaging. His distractions are analogous to the scene shown during the closing credits of the movie Animal House: While a parade is passing through the college town, a frat boy says to a guy, “Look at my thumb.” The guy does and the frat boy sucker-punches him and says, “Gee, you’re dumb!” the same way Trump makes outrageously offensive comments for shock value, and then watches the fireworks.

In 2016, Kelly was forced to confront an ethical dilemma in connection with sexual harassment in her workplace– Fox News. Having succeeded in two male-dominated fields, she advised her female readers to get some advice on how they sound, and the clothing and makeup they wear so that they will be taken seriously by their male coworkers and bosses.

That said, it is unclear whether Kelly had the authority to choose the photo (in which she is wearing skimpy clothing) appearing on the front cover of the hardcover version of her book. The question is, would a male TV-news-show host wear a sexy shirt in the cover-photo of his book? Resounding no.

Kelly’s choice in that photo could have been an act of rebellion, or an act of naivete and poor self-awareness, on her part. With it, she hurt her cause of telling female readers to behave in ways that even the playing field with their male counterparts. If Kelly couldn’t control the photo on the cover, one might suspect her publisher was engaging in political retaliation.

Nevertheless, read the book to learn about how Kelly became super-successful as an attorney and as a TV “news” anchor, and how she was also able to have a family life in her time and place in the United States, despite the fact that her society gives males advantages over females.

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Disney, Disney – BONUS POST

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This is the song Ron DeSantis (governor of Florida) is singing now.

Disney, Disney

sung to the tune of “Monday, Monday” with apologies to the Mama’s and the Papa’s.

Call-ing, ALL ho-MO-phobes
Call-ing, ALL ho-MO-phobes
Call-ing, ALL ho-MO-phobes

Disney, Disney, [Call-ing, ALL ho-MO-phobes]
so expedient for me.

[Call-ing ALL ho-MO-phobes, call-ing, ALL ho-MO-phobes]

Disney’s learning all about how anti-woke I can be.

Oh, Disney’s torment, Disney’s torment is guaranteed.

[Call-ing, ALL ho-MO-phobes]

Anti-Disney donors, I do what they say,
’cause I need the MONEY.

Disney, Disney, I love power today.
Disney, Disney,
in my state
you’re not allowed to be gay.

Oh, Disney’s torment,
my Florida laws meant
you must go through me.

Oh, Disney, Disney, you can’t proceed
with your upgrading spree.

Every single day, every single day,
every single day of the week you’re mine, yeah.

And you’re under China’s thumb [and you’re under]
And you’re under China’s thumb.

You’re an easy target all of the time.

Disney, Disney, [Call-ing, ALL ho-MO-phobes]
so expedient for me.

[Call-ing, ALL ho-MO-phobes]

Disney’s learning all about how anti-woke I can be.

Oh, Disney’s torment, Disney’s torment is guaranteed.

Anti-Disney donors, I do what they say,
’cause I need the MONEY.

Every single day, every single day,
every single day of the week you’re mine, yeah.

And you’re under China’s thumb [and you’re under]
And you’re under China’s thumb.

You’re an easy target all of the time.

Disney, Disney, I love power today.
Disney, Disney,
in my state
you’re not allowed to be gay.

Disney, Disney, it’s time to pay.

Oh Disney, Disney…

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Stand Down, You’re Distorting the Vote – BONUS POST

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Obviously, given America’s current political situation, certain people will be receiving the “Flying Fickle Finger of Fate” award. Here’s a little ditty that describes the situation.

STAND DOWN, YOU’RE DISTORTING THE VOTE

Sung to the tune of “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” from the 1955 movie-musical Guys and Dolls, with apologies to the estate of Frank Loesser.

ReadING teleprompters on Trump’s road to reelection,
by Trump’s hand
Fox NEWS played along,
and whenever they could,
they hollered Dominion’s shady!!!
But luckily patriots knew right from wrong.

For the lawsuits said stand down, stand down, you’re distorting the vote,
the lawsuits said stand down, stand down, you’re distorting the vote.
And Fox News made us wonder, how they were ever compelled to help Trump GLOAT.

Stand down, stand down, stand down, stand down, stand down, you’re distorting the vote.

We saw the lies on Trump’s road to reelection.
We found by Trump’s hand, fake electors in our midst.
And there Fox stood, handing out the hypocrisy,
but the patriots were bound to resist.

For the patriots said stand down, you’re on a power trip,
the patriots said stand down, you sore loser, get a grip.

And Fox News made us wonder if there’s truth to anything they ever wrote.
Stand down, stand down, stand down, stand down, stand down, you’re distorting the vote.

And as Trump STAFFED those fronting his reelection,
a wave of subpoenas came,
saying Trump come to COURT.
And as he shrank, he hollered, someone MAKE me!
Secret papers were found at his resort.

Patriots said stand down, stand down, you’re distorting the vote.
Said to him stand down, stand down, you’re distorting the vote.

And Fox’s slander made us WONder how they’re ever going to stay afloat.
Stand down, stand down, stand down, stand down, stand down, you’re distorting the vote.

Stand down, you’re distorting, stand down, stand down, stand down, you’re distorting,
stand down, you’re distorting, stand down, stand down, stand down, you’re distorting the vote.
Stand down, you’re distorting the vote.

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Peace

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The Book of the Week is “Peace, the biography of a symbol (sic)” by ken kolsbun with michael s. sweeney (sic) published in 2008. This colorful volume described how a symbol has gone viral worldwide. That symbol is an instantaneous message that its bearer is anti-nuclear, anti-war and / or anti-discrimination.

English artist Gerald Holtom invented and mass-produced the “peace sign” (hereinafter abbreviated ps; consisting of a circle bisected by a vertical line, and on the bottom half, an upside-down “v”), to be attached to picket signs for a 1958 anti-nuclear-weapons march in Britain. Thereafter, the ps was used on what became all sorts of memorabilia, repeatedly, internationally in different kinds of protests.

After WWII, the governments of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. brainwashed many of their citizens into thinking that the other nation (the enemy (!)) would use nuclear weapons to make war. According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked a detailed list of Notes, Sources, References, Bibliography and index), beginning in December 1960, Bradford Lyttle led ps-displaying members of the Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA)– (pacifists urging American and Soviet nuclear disarmament) in a march from San Francisco to New York City, through Western Europe, that ended in Moscow in October 1961.

In November 1961, the group Women Strike for Peace (WSP; a spinoff of the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy) was afraid that usage of nuclear weapons at the newly constructed Berlin Wall would trigger more widespread hostilities and globally cause slow, painful deaths due to cancer. So they led about 50,000 ps-bearing females (many of whom had children) to go on strike; alpha males with hubris syndrome were the perpetrators of massively destructive war tools, after all.

In autumn 1963, freedom walkers teamed up with peace walkers to express their displeasure with violations of their civil rights, and nuclear weapons, through marching from Quebec to Cuba. Everyone wore the ps. Folk singer Pete Seeger joined in the activism. He said, “Songs are sneaky things. They can slip across borders. Proliferate in prisons. Penetrate hard shells.”

Read the photo-filled book to learn about numerous other people whose messaging helped spur the peace sign’s popularity through countless protests.

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I Get Around – BONUS POST

This is the song Clarence Thomas is singing now.

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I GET AROUND

sung to the tune of “I Get Around” with apologies to the Beach Boys.

Resort-bound, get around, I get around,
yeah, get around, woo-woo, I get around,
I get around, get around, yacht-bound, I-didn’t write it down,
I got wined and dined, get around, resort-bound, I get around,
I’m the VIP kind, get around, yacht-bound, I’m makin’ real good friends.

I’m getting bugged and probed by some pesky foes.
I gotta find new gifts I don’t have to disclose.

My cronies and me are gettin’ TOO well known.
Yeah, the previous admins used to leave us alone.

I get around, resort-bound, get around, I get around,
yeah, get around, woo-woo, I get around,
I get around, get around, yacht-bound, I-didn’t write it down,
I got wined and dined, get around, resort-bound, I get around,
I’m the VIP kind,

conFLICTS up and down, I get around, I-didn’t write it down, resort-bound, yacht-bound, bound, bound.

We always loved Crow’s trips ’cause they’re for us elites
and we made sure our connections were ALWAYS discreet.

It’s our turn to be targeted, ’cause we’re on the far Right.
We’ve got the best PR and we’re ready to fight.

I get around, resort-bound, get around, I get around,
I get around, get around, yacht-bound, I-didn’t write it down,
I got wined and dined, get around, resort-bound, I get around,
I’m the VIP kind,

conFLICTS up and down, I get around, I-didn’t write it down, resort-bound, yacht-bound, bound, bound.

Resort-bound, get around, I get around,
yeah, get around, woo-woo, I get around
I get around, get around, yacht-bound, I-didn’t write it down,
I got wined and dined, get around, resort-bound, I get around,
I’m the VIP kind, get around, yacht-bound, I’m makin’ real good friends…

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the signal and the noise (sic)

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The Book of the Week is “the signal and the noise (sic)” by nate silver (sic), published in 2012. In this volume, the author described in redundant and wordy terms, why human beings are so fallible in their predictions and forecasts (and explained the difference between the two). Basically, humans get distracted by noise, so they don’t zero in on the right signals in order to tell the future correctly.

Ironically, the author used less-than-ideal language in describing the epic failings of ratings-agencies in the 2008 financial crash. He should have pointed out that they could have mitigated, just a little, their false advertising by using better risk-assessment wording.

Silver wrote, “… trillions of dollars in investments that were rated as being almost completely safe instead turned out to be almost completely unsafe.” (Never mind the awkwardness of the word “being” in the middle of the sentence, or “it” in the middle of a sentence– so many recently published books have that kind of bad writing.) The ratings agencies should describe investments as “low-risk” or “high-risk” and use the adverbs “extremely” or “very” or “somewhat” or “slightly” as applicable, but never use the word safe.

Anyway, another irony was that the author appeared to be distracted by vast generalizations that were just noise– as cherry-picked data tend to be. He provided all sorts of line graphs and scads of data on housing bubbles. He cited a study on market prices of the “American home” completed by Robert Schiller and Karl Case that created an index based on a century’s worth of data– the years between 1896 and 1996, inclusive.

The research indicated that an inflation-adjusted home bought for $10,000 in 1896 would be worth $10,600 in 1996. Is that noise or what? Silver didn’t specify what “American home” meant. Anyhow, who would buy a home in 1896, and sell it in 1996?

Silver did admit that predictions and forecasts were less inaccurate when qualitative data supplemented statistical models. Worded facts are considerations that add real-world conditions because numbers never tell the full story in complex situations, which are dynamic.

Incidentally, at the book’s writing, he had had success in making predictions in professional baseball because: 1) an excessive amount of data on it had been collected, and 2) he claimed its rules didn’t change. The latter is not true anymore. And besides, performance-enhancing drugs, not to mention new stadiums– among other factors– have put new noise and signals in baseball statistics.

The author pointed out that more data actually made for worse accuracy in predictions in many areas of life. Technology in the form of software that can process scads and scads of data in record time has improved humans’ ability to specifically forecast severe weather, but not earthquakes. As an aside– in any area that involves linguistics, technology is overrated. A chatbot cannot comprehend complex concepts and nuanced language (like sarcasm, irony and idioms). American English is especially fraught with words that have multiple meanings, so it is highly contextual.

There are still financial crashes, gamblers who lose big-time, and “experts” who can’t modify conditions to improve the economy with certainty. Incidentally, as is well known, more and more, daily life in America has been infiltrated by politics.

Read the book to learn about futuristic pronouncements of: television pundits, professional-sports commentators and gamblers, seismologists, chess software, national-security advisers, poker players, and many others.

Featured

Intimate Memoirs – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Intimate Memoirs” by Georges Simenon, published in 1981. This tome’s intended readers were his four adult children. The author detailed: his and his family members’ lives through all their changing of residences, vacations, the dysfunctionalities in his relationships with others (wives, mistresses, governesses, household help, publishing and movie personnel, etc.), and his daughter’s writings.

Born in 1903, Simenon grew up in Belgium, and served in the military in both WWI and WWII. As a teenager, he began writing. He got rich in a short time, penning via typewriter each year, about six dime novels (eventually numbering dozens in his lifetime, some of which were made into movies) about a police detective named Maigret– whose character was partly based on his father.

By summer 1940, he had a wife and son, at which time they rented a chateau surrounded by a vegetable garden and poultry farm in a coastal sub-prefecture town in France. He was supposed to sign in every day at the police station. A couple of benign German officers were posted on the outskirts of the town.

For the rest of the war, the family stayed in French coastal towns, renting homes with farms for a year or two, then moving on. Basically, they were on vacation, except for one incident that reminded them that a war involving religious persecution was taking place elsewhere.

One day, a Vichy commissioner buttonholed the author and aggressively called him a Jew, demanding that the author prove otherwise, by showing the birth certificates of his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. By war’s end, many non-Jewish wealthy people had become wealthier through profiteering, while the peasants suffered the hardships of rationed goods.

The author wrote of powerful, money-grubbing people, “Sometimes there are indeed fatalities. And aren’t the worst brutes the ones that get the most applause? I no longer look on all this as an outsider. When I first got to Lakeville [Connecticut in the USA] I was told ‘Here you have to belong…'”

Read the book to learn everything you ever wanted to know, both happy and sad, about what the author wanted his children to know.

ENDNOTE: Speaking of the worst brutes, here’s a little ditty in connection therewith (This is the song Donald Trump is singing now):

THE ULTIMATE BULLY

sung to the tune of “The Boxer” with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel.

I am a super-rich man
all-powerful and bold.
I’ve-always-had HIGH resistance
to acknowledging my failures and broken promises.
At-bullying, I’m the best.
My base hears what it wants to hear
and cheers on the unrest.
mm hm, hm hm hm hm hm hm, hm
When I left my home and my family
I was not in THE least coy,
I had to teach my attorneys
dangers of beCOMing a-PR-sensation. I-wasn’t scared.
Making deals, seeking out
the easy suckers and easy girls
looking FOR the
ways I could use them in my World.

lie-le-lie, lie-le-lie-lie, lie-le-lie, lie-le-lie
lie-le-lie-lie-lie-le-lie-le-le-le-lie

Paying minimal workers’ wages
I start handing out the jobs
and pad my coffers.
One-after-another bankRUPtcy
to disappear through.
As a first resort,
I’ve made smearing, scapegoating and suing,
a na-tion-al sport.

la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

lie-le-lie, lie-le-lie-lie, lie-le-lie, lie-le-lie
lie-le-lie-lie-lie-le-lie-le-le-le-lie

Now I’m huddling with my attorneys
and wishing I was golfing at Mar-a-Lago.

But the New York City renters are in need of me,
you can’t indICT me. You’re all DOPES.

I hire the best doxers
and go to legal extremes,
so you CARry a reminder
that anytime I-can lay you down
or cut you while I lash out
in my anger with no shame.
You’ll be bleeding,
you’ll be bleeding,
and the-spiter-in-me remains.

mm-hmm

lie-le-lie, lie-le-lie-lie, lie-le-lie, lie-le-lie
lie-le-lie-lie-lie-le-lie-le-le-le-lie
lie-le-lie, lie-le-lie-lie, lie-le-lie, lie-le-lie
lie-le-lie-lie-lie-le-lie-le-le-le-lie…

Featured

The New Cool

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The Book of the Week is “The New Cool, A Visionary Teacher, His FIRST Robotics Team, and the Ultimate Battle of Smarts” by Neal Bascomb, published in 2011.

In the single-digit 2000’s, Amir Abo-Shaeer taught robotics in a “STEM” (four subjects that would help the United States remain economically dominant in the world: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program at Dos Pueblos high school in Goleta, California (a western suburb of Santa Barbara). If he was able to raise $3 million, he would receive matching funds from the state of California to start to build STEM academies all over the state. Dean Kamen’s goal was to have a robotics team in every school in the country.

Kamen was gravely concerned that the United States education system was falling woefully behind that of other countries. He might best be remembered as the inventor of the Segway, but at the dawn of the 1990’s, he also began to change the world in a much more impactful way.

Kamen and Woodie Flowers’ goal was to spark students’ interest in STEM. They wanted to give young people hands-on, real-world skills, not just convey knowledge. In 1992, they co-founded an annual program of STEM competitions for American students called FIRST. About a decade into the program, there were hundreds of thousands of students of different age groups competing in different events.

Elementary schoolers built structures out of LEGO. Each high school team was required to build a robot, and then in the competition, form alliances with other teams in playing a complicated physical game that differed every year, against another alliance.

In January 2009, the aforementioned Shaeer and his robotics team (consisting of high school seniors he taught) attended the briefing that Kamen, Flowers and NASA simulcast– of the terms and conditions of the robotics competitions to take place in the next three months. If their team emerged ultimate winners, they could win scholarships and might be more motivated to pursue a STEM career.

Read the book to learn of Shaeer’s students’ extremely hard work in preparing their contest entry (the robot), and the suspenseful story of how the team performed with its alliances in its very emotionally charged matches against other alliances, and whether Shaeer got the funding for his schools.

Featured

Around the World in Fifty Years – BONUS POST

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“What kind of people would so violate the customary rules of survival as to pillage a disabled vehicle and steal the equipment we need to repair it?”

No, the above does not refer metaphorically to a political system on its way to dictatorship, but rather, lawless tribesmen who stole the author’s traveling group’s gas cans, bootjacks and some tools from their Land Rover and trailer in 1966 in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Bonus Book of the Week is “Around the World in Fifty Years, My Adventure to Every Country on Earth” by Albert Podell, published in 2015.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked a detailed list of Notes, Sources, References, Bibliography and an index), the author risked his life countless times in all kinds of circumstances. In March 1965 in Algeria, he was lucky not to have been blown up by land mines.

The author had to take flights and other means of transportation back and forth thousands of miles out of the way of his destinations due to diplomatic difficulties between or among territories. He had to postpone visiting a bunch of countries because at the time he applied for a visa, the United States wasn’t on the best of terms with them (such as Chad and Angola). Luckily, he had contacts who helped him get onto their soil via extralegal means. It seemed he had a death wish. Why would a sane person want to visit ultra-dangerous countries that have extremely low living standards, for fun?

Well, in countries such as Chad, Angola and North Korea, up until the late 1990’s, the people who dominated release of information about themselves to the rest of the world, were those in the government or journalists with a martyr complex.

Nowadays, it’s those who have World Wide Web access. So the only way to obtain accurate information about the common people in those countries (most of them did not have Twitter) was to visit them personally. So that is what Podell did.

Of course, the author’s stay was supervised and severely restricted as to what he was allowed to see, but he got clues just by making observations about his surroundings.

Read the book to learn the details of the travels of this James-Bond wannabe.

ENDNOTE: Those who are spreading hate-speech on Twitter are shaming themselves and their own countries– projecting a childish image for people such as Albert Podell, who want to learn about other cultures. As has been recently revealed by a probe led by Jim Jordan (Republican Congressman from Ohio), more of his own supporters launched mean-of-spirit Twitter attacks against the Democrats rather than vice versa. Here’s a little ditty that describes the situation.

OOH, TWITTER

sung to the tune of “Moon River” with apologies to Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer and any other rights-holders this may concern.

Ooh, Twitter
both sides of the aisle, are sick of Jim Jordan today.

You deal-maker,
you reputation-breaker.

Name-callers need the trolling,
so they’re not GO-ing away.

Smearers and fibbers, angry at the world.
Their political aims are easy, to see.

It’s the same old pol-it-i-cal show, and,
what a huge waste of time,
on the taxpayers’ dime.

Ooh, Twitter, spare me.

Ooh, Twitter
both sides of the aisle, are sick of Jim Jordan today.

You deal-maker,
you reputation-breaker.

Name-callers need the trolling,
so they’re not GO-ing away.

Smearers and fibbers, angry at the world.
Their political aims are easy, to see.

It’s the same old pol-it-i-cal show, and,
what a huge waste of time,
on the taxpayers’ dime.

Ooh, Twitter, spare me.

Featured

S.O.S.

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The Book of the Week is “S.O.S., Spirit of Survival, One Family’s Chilling Account of the Costa Concordia Disaster” by Dean, Georgia, Valerie, Debbie, and Cindy Ananias, published in 2013. This informative, suspenseful horror story is a must-read for all travelers who go on cruises.

“People were freaking out in various languages and everything was mass confusion.” Such was the situation on the Mediterranean cruise, Costa Concordia in mid-January 2012. The trip turned out to be not just a ruined vacation for the Ananias family– the parents and two of three grown daughters– but a series of life-threatening traumas and insult-to-injury indignities.

About four thousand people found themselves on a sinking cruise late at night. There were indications from the start of the trip, that the captain and crew of the ship were disorganized, negligent and sorely lacking in customer service training and emergency preparedness.

One circumstance (just one of many) that exacerbated the disaster, was that the ship was listing so precariously, lifeboats on one side of it were prevented from reaching the water by the laws of physics. After much exhausting effort, an attempt to lower the lifeboats failed, and hundreds of passengers already in them had to be lifted out of them only to fret about what to do next, how to get off the sinking ship.

In disasters such as this, life-threatening elements (such as which side of a listing ship will have operable lifeboats) are difficult to predict, but passengers can use ounces of prevention, and should, for the entire duration of the cruise.

The following are just some of the actions that can save lives in worst-case scenarios (if the parties involved are not too vain and don’t care how they look):

  • wearing one’s life jacket all the time (there weren’t enough life jackets for all the people on the Costa Concordia);
  • keeping tightly snug in one’s pockets– a packet in a waterproof holder containing: one’s travel documents, wallet-contents, contact info of one’s homeland’s embassy in all countries where the cruise might get shipwrecked, emergency-contact info of one’s family and friends, and (if one is American) contact info of major media outlets so that one can publicize one’s horror story while it is happening in order get maximum compensation from the cruise-line’s lawyers who are experts at defending against any and all legal challenges from anyone harmed by the cruise line’s activities;
  • keeping a flashlight tightly snug in one’s pocket all the time;
  • wearing sturdy, but lightweight and comfortably but snugly fitting shoes (not high heels) all the time;
  • carrying a sweatshirt tied around one’s neck or waist all the time– in case an evacuation takes hours in freezing weather; and
  • knowing how to swim before cruising.

Another step passengers can take to avoid losing valuable items, includes not bringing fancy jewelry or fancy clothing in the first place!

Read the book to learn: everything you ever wanted to know about what the authors went through during the cruise’s sinking, and their tips on how to avoid what they went through.

Featured

After A Stroke

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The Book of the Week is “After A Stroke, 300 Tips for Making Life Easier” by Cleo Hutton, published in 2005. The author of this short paperback had a stroke in 1992, but gives many tips that are still relevant to recovery from an event that adversely affects the brain, and therefore, specific body functions– that commonly impair one side of the body.

In recent decades, a huge amount of attention has been paid, and money spent on research for: raising awareness of stroke prevention and symptoms, treatment, and the introduction of products to make activities of daily living easier for stroke patients.

The author briefly discussed the neurological effects of a stroke, which are on a continuum; every patient is different. She explained that “constraint-induced therapy” helps a patient’s brain transmit messages through alternate neurological routes through the unaffected side of the body.

The author listed the common frustrations and situations recoverers might encounter:

  • feeling overwhelmed by everyday decisions, such as product-selections while shopping (in the United States, especially!);
  • loquaciousness upon regaining the ability to speak;
  • linguistic impairments such as usage of expletives in speech due to groping for the correct word– even for patients who wouldn’t normally utter them, or inability to understand idioms;
  • personality change;
  • seeing specific items in certain situations that prompts crying or laughing at inappropriate times due to damage to the visual association cortex.

The author recommended keeping aspirin in the freezer to help keep it fresh, if one is taking it.

Read the book to learn a slew of other useful tips for facilitating dealing with: the emotional problems arising from bodily impairments, getting around, communicating, cooking, eating, taking care of the home and one’s body, etc., etc, etc.

Featured

American Mirror – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “American Mirror, The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell” by Deborah Solomon, published in 2013.

Born in February 1894 in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan in New York City, Rockwell was an illustrator known for his engaging scenes of ordinary Americans in a kind, lighthearted, innocent time.

The attitude of the United States was forced to change with WWII. FDR speechified about Four Freedoms: of speech, of worship, from want, and from fear. In 1943, Rockwell was tasked with creating images on posters (to promote the sale of War Bonds) that portrayed the freedoms; during which, he helped shape the image of “Rosie the Riveter.” In this way, Rockwell developed a reputation as a patriotic artist who reinforced America’s values, that contrasted with the values of America’s enemies.

Read the book to learn everything you ever wanted to know about Rockwell’s life and career.

ENDNOTE: The 2024 presidential candidates should be asked to explain what they will do to preserve the above Four Freedoms in these modern times. Ironically, freedom of speech is what allows propagandists to whip the public into a frenzy of fear (!)

The freedom from fear directly stems from the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights that, arguably, the U.S. government violates daily, in this electronic age. President George W. Bush pushed for decriminalizing spying on American citizens via Congressional approval of the Patriot Act– a set of federal statutes separate from those contained in the U.S. Constitution. In the past forty years, the following presidents have been accused of a significant number of crimes in the following major categories:

  • war-related crimes: Reagan, H.W. Bush, G.W. Bush;
  • treason-related crimes: Reagan, G.W. Bush, Trump, Biden;
  • financial-related crimes: H.W. Bush, Clinton, G.W. Bush, Trump, Biden;
  • sex-related crimes: Clinton, Trump, Biden

It shouldn’t be surprising that Obama’s name is absent from the above. He needed to avoid egregiously unethical behavior because, given his skin color, not only his political enemies, but also hatemongers— witch-hunted his and his family’s history and every move 24/7.

The question for the 2024 election is:

Is the country ready for another variation on the Caucasian Christian/Catholic male presidents– in terms of ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual orientation?

Featured

Nice Guys Finish Last

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The Book of the Week is “Nice Guys Finish Last” by Leo Durocher with Ed Linn, published in 1975.

Durocher was born in 1906 in West Springfield, Massachusetts. He began his baseball career playing utility infielder for the New York Yankees in 1925. He developed a reputation as a contentious alpha male. Branch Rickey, one of his bosses through the decades, said he was a “… man with infinite capacity for immediately making a bad situation worse.”

Durocher squandered his initial $5,000 annual salary on clothing, food and nightclubs in New York City. Always in debt, he was a pool-hall hustler, too. But everyone wanted to be seen with him, as his social set consisted of celebrities who lived life in the fast lane.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, and Bibliography) professional baseball culture for most of the twentieth century was mean-of-spirit, with alcohol-fueled violence. Team personnel such as Durocher were always thinking of new dirty tricks to win games.

Durocher admitted to trash-talking to batters to psych them out so his team’s pitcher would strike them out. Players suffered injuries galore due to lack of protective gear that would minimize or prevent injuries; batters especially suffered, as team-managers told their pitchers to deliberately hit batters with their pitching.

If hit, the batter was awarded the equivalent of a single as compensation. Durocher wrote, “I once saw Diz [pitcher Dizzy Dean] hit seven straight Giants [the baseball team players] in Miami early in the exhibition season, because the Giants had the nerve to score seven runs off him in one inning.” Finally, in 1940 (!), team-executive Larry MacPhail of the Brooklyn Dodgers ordered his players to wear plastic batting-helmets. This, after batter Joe Medwick was knocked out by a pitch by Bob Bowman of the Saint Louis Cardinals.

Durocher claimed that during the time he managed the Dodgers, MacPhail “fired” him zillions of times in the mid-1930’s, but most of the time, didn’t really mean it, until a tipping point was reached. As is well known, from the 1970’s into the 1980’s, the “You’re fired” situation became a running joke between Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and team manager Billy Martin, in order to entertain baseball fans.

Read the book to learn of other similar episodes, and trials and tribulations Durocher faced in his career (hint– major issues included his own newspaper column; the ongoing hostilities between the Yankees and the Dodgers; the media’s anti-Durocher lies and smears in its baseball reporting; punishments imposed by a few baseball commissioners over the years for alleged libel committed by, and gambling among, members of the ball clubs managed by Durocher; and a few of the colorful characters whom Durocher recruited and managed) and more. Curiously, Durocher failed to mention performance-enhancing drugs.

Anyway, speaking of contentious alpha males, here’s some advice for voters in this ditty concerning the 2024 candidates.

SHOW, NOT TELL

sung to the tune of “Express Yourself” (Official Video) with apologies to Madonna.

[spoken] C’mon America, do you want to see substance and quality in 2024? Of course you have something to SAY about it. That is how we roll.

Ignore the candidates’ bragfest, people.
Feel FREE to put them to the test.
You know, you know you’ve got to make them disPENSE with their spiel.
We want to KNOW their positions for REAL.

Politicians PULL the strings and THEY reap all the gold.

Their eight-year plan is way too vast.

You know, that never lasts, no, no.

What we need is a maTURE public-servant whose policies are smart and sound.
What we usually GET is a king on a throne, who’s abOVE the law and brings us down.

Ignore the candidates’ bragfest, people.
Feel FREE to put them to the test.
You know, you know you’ve got to make them disPENSE with their spiel.
We want to KNOW their positions for REAL.

Deep tax cuts are the way to your heart, but they treat you like an airHEAD. No, budget plans are NOT romantic. We’re hypoCRITically in the red.

Well, there’s no FREE lunch in life, it is TIME for the nation to move ON. Govern-ment should give you chances, but you’ve got to CRE-ate wealth on-your-OWN.

Ignore the candidates’ bragfest, people.
Feel FREE to put them to the test.
You know, you know you’ve got to make them disPENSE with their spiel.
We want to KNOW their positions for REAL.

De-STRESS yourselves. You’ve got to make them SHOW, not tell. Hey, hey, hey, hey.
To distinguish the greats, make them have the debates.
Show what they’ve GOT. We’ll see the best of the lot.

After all, you won’t reGRET it. Think about how much support they deserve.
If they don’t deserve it, they shouldn’t get it.
It’s YOU they should serve. So please

Show themselves. Show themselves. Hey, hey.

What we need is a maTURE public servant whose policies are smart and sound.
What we usually GET is a king on a throne, who’s above the law and brings us down.

After all, you won’t reGRET it. Think about how much support they deserve.
If they don’t deserve it, they shouldn’t get it.
It’s YOU they should serve. So please

Ignore the candidates’ bragfest, people.
Feel FREE to put them to the test.
You know, you know you’ve got to make them disPENSE with their spiel.
We want to KNOW their positions for REAL.

De-STRESS yourselves. You’ve got to make them SHOW, not tell. Hey, hey, hey, hey.
To distinguish the greats, make them have the debates.
Show what they’ve GOT. We’ll see the best of the lot.

SHOW themselves. SHOW themselves. Hey, hey.

To distinguish the greats, make them have the debates.
Show what they’ve GOT. We’ll see the best of the lot.

De-STRESS yourselves. ReSPECT yourselves…

Featured

Just About Everybody vs. Howard Hughes

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The Book of the Week is “Just About Everybody vs. Howard Hughes, The Inside Story of The TWA-Howard Hughes Trial” by David B. Tinnin, published in 1973.

In the 1930’s, Howard Hughes inherited his father’s oil-industry-equipment company, Toolco, which sold a unique, patented, lucrative drill. By the early 1950’s, Hughes had become a pilot passionate about acquiring jets (whose engines had technology that was obsolescing pistons) for his airline, TWA. He was an alpha male whose desire for control of his company led to decades of complex litigation involving age-old economic and political issues.

As American society became ever more capitalistic in the Postwar Era, businessmen hired more and more attorneys to wield more and more power and influence. They sought to change the tax laws to make more and more money.

Hughes was a victim of his own success in that he was using highly leveraged, deficit financing to purchase the new jets through his Toolco. Into the 1950’s, individuals (rather than their companies or employers) were the ones responsible for debts if they needed to borrow money for their businesses. This economic condition has come full circle with tech startups.

Hughes borrowed from banks and insurance companies, but by the late 1950’s, his debt was so high, they refused to give him special treatment. He used dirty tricks (which arguably weren’t illegal but were unethical, at best) to order jets from a few different suppliers.

Hughes’ incestuous business transactions generated an escalation of commitment among various parties, who were averse to losing even more money if they withdrew from their ongoing deals with him. Need it be said, there is nothing new under the son (or sun– either one). In the early 1960’s, his creditors terminated his borrowing privileges and created a voting trust that took control of TWA. Neither side wanted to see TWA go bankrupt. There were, of course, other wrenches in the works, which are too numerous to mention here.

The orgy of litigation resulting from Hughes’ business activities triggered a very controversial legal and economic issue. Hughes owned 78.23% of the voting stock of TWA, which was financially affiliated with his Toolco. At that time, TWA shares were not owned by the general public. His side argued that he should be allowed to control his companies as he saw fit, because he had a controlling interest in them. On the other hand, he really didn’t own them– his creditors did!

Besides that, if TWA went belly-up, there would be far-reaching economic consequences for many stakeholders. All employees of TWA would lose their jobs, competing airlines would benefit financially, contractors supplying jets and their parts to TWA would lose a customer, Hughes’ lenders would lose megabucks, etc., etc., etc.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, and Bibliography), in June 1961, the big lawsuit initially launched in federal court in the Southern District of New York against Hughes was named TWA v. Howard Hughes. TWA charged Hughes with making special deals with third parties that led to financial harm for TWA. He tried to keep competing airlines from buying jets he wanted for TWA, through monopolistic practices.

BUT, due to disastrous losses (from a downturn in air travel that prompted proposals of various airline mergers, and his tax-evasion tricks), Hughes chose to cancel a portion of jet orders for TWA. Under his crushing debt load, he couldn’t afford to pay for all of his purchases. So the airline couldn’t stay competitive in the commercial airline industry. Other airlines were purchasing jets sooner at lower cost. Hughes’ series of attorneys through the years, of course used all manner of shenanigans (through: filing a blizzard of documents with creative legal arguments, counter-suing and appealing rulings) to delay the case.

One last-minute development that aided Hughes’ attorney before Hughes would be charged with contempt of court yet again, was a curious January 1963 Supreme Court ruling regarding jurisdiction in connection with a monopolistic entity. There was a little federal agency called the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), that had been regulating the airlines. The attorney repeatedly tried to get the case against Hughes dismissed– by arguing that CAB, rather than a federal court, should have been trying Hughes’ case.

Read the book to learn every last detail of this suspenseful story that spawned reams of tabloid fodder, but also greatly impacted the legal, economic and tax cultures of corporate America.

Featured

Behind the Candelabra

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The Book of the Week is “Behind the Candelabra, My Life With Liberace” by Scott Thorson with Alex Thorleifson, published in 1988.

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in May 1919, the pianist who became known as Liberace (he used his family’s last name as his stage name) had three younger siblings. The father abandoned the family when he was an adolescent. However, Liberace was his mother’s favorite. Upon seeing that he had piano-playing talent, she had him practicing all the time, instead of socializing with his peers. She also practiced spousification. He began to get paid for his musicianship at fourteen, playing with a band in saloons.

Piano concerts were only the setting for Liberace’s performances. His witty verbal jousts, audience participation, makeup, ten or more changes of glittery costumes, jewelry galore, and flamboyant props and sets– were par for the course.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked an extensive list of detailed sources, and an index), Liberace was very emotionally needy. Once he became rich and developed Peter Pan syndrome, he felt the need to flaunt his high-on-the-hog lifestyle. As an adult, he became a father figure to a series of young males one at a time (but also had an army of servants), sharing his wealth and material possessions with them. However, he was the controller of the relationships, and would break up with them when they expressed too much desire for independence.

At the dawn of his twenties, Scott Thorson met Liberace and became his personal assistant in the summer of 1977. Thorson had suffered through a difficult childhood in a series of foster homes. He soon became Liberace’s surrogate son, and learned of the pianist’s excesses. He enjoyed his new role at first, as his interests meshed with his boss’s. They cared for pet dogs and horses, shopped for and wore elaborate clothing, ate sumptuous meals, met other celebrities, and traveled in style to go on tour.

Their first Christmas together, Thorson was tasked with purchasing holiday merchandise. He wrote, “That year, we had eighteen huge Christmas trees [in Liberace’s mansions in Las Vegas and Palm Springs CA, at a cost of $25,000], more than 350 red and white poinsettias, table decorations, greenery, wreaths– enough candles, lights, and tinsel to stock a department store.”

Read the book to learn of Thorson’s fate: when Liberace asked him to make a serious physical sacrifice; and how Thorson handled the responsibilities and stresses of living with a celebrity such as Liberace– with its many kinds of orgies, including those of litigation in the end.

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Our House – BONUS POST

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Here’s a little ditty that summarizes events of the past week or so in the United States House of Representatives.

OUR HOUSE

sung to the tune of “Our House” with apologies to “Madness” (the band).

McCarthy sold-his-SOUL, feeling pressed.

Reps are tired, they need a rest.

The committees are plotting beHIND closed doors.

The Caucus’s power took a LEAP. [ah-ah-ah]

Biden holds an olive branch, his legacy is now.

Our House, in the middle of the heat.

Our House, in the middle of the–

The Caucus was uncowed.

Males are always power-struggling and they’re usually quite proud.

The Speaker went-fifTEEN-rounds.

Only concessions slowed him down but defeat was not allowed.

Our House, in the middle of the heat.
Our House, in the middle of the–

Our House, in the middle of the heat.

Our House [Tabloids tell us that the radicals took hold of it.]

in the middle of the–

McCarthy rejected-the-Jan.-6 panel’s work.

His base didn’t know, whom to desert.

Then he wanted to probe the probers.

See him long-to-stay where Trump’s YOKE is. [ah ah ah]

Pelosi’s the one they’re going to miss in lots of ways.

Our House, in the middle of the heat.
Our House, in the middle of the–

[I remember way back when, men had honor

and the world didn’t have so very MANY spies.

No more PRIvate lives.

Such a FREE time.

And I remember how we’d live, simply face to face,

used our brains.

Software wouldn’t come between us.

No Tweeters.]

McCarthy sold-his-SOUL, feeling pressed.
Reps are tired, they need a rest.
The committees are plotting beHIND closed doors.
The Caucus’s power took a LEAP. [ah-ah-ah]
Biden holds an olive branch, his legacy is now.

Our House, in the middle of the heat.

Our House, in the middle of the heat.

Our House, in the middle of the heat.

Our House, in the middle of the–

Our House, we need IT for demo-cracy.

Our House, in the middle of the heat.

Our House, that is where some people sleep.

Our House…

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Gratitude In Low Voices

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The Book of the Week is “Gratitude In Low Voices, A Memoir” by Dawit Gebremichael Habte, published in 2017. According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked an extensive list of detailed sources, and an index), through the decades of the twentieth century, Eritrea suffered the usual traumas of a former colony (of Italy from 1890 to 1941) that was fighting for independence:

  • exploitation of its assets and resources (including dry docks, factories, railway cars by the British, and oil by the British and the Americans in the 1940’s);
  • oppression of its people (by Ethiopia in the 1950’s and 1960’s, via a UN resolution that was violated after a decade);
  • a military draft (by the Ethiopian government in 1983);
  • famine (in 1984);
  • ideology and language of the oppressors forced on students in the schools (by Ethiopians, funded by the Soviets in the mid-1980’s); and
  • arrests of and atrocities committed against, Eritrean people who uttered one word in any form, critical of Ethiopia (beginning in the mid-1980’s).

In 1973 or 1974, the author was born into a typical lifestyle for his time and place. He herded sheep and goats at an early age. By then, the Eritrean independence movement was gaining ground in the form of two armed groups resisting Ethiopian oppression: Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF). His father joined the former group, and desirous to have his son educated, in the early 1980’s, sent him to school in Asmara.

Through his formative years, the author received an eclectic education. At about nine years old, he became apprenticed to a carpenter. Afraid the generous pay would corrupt him, his mother sent him to study the Bible at Saint George Orthodox Church. There, he learned Tigrinya, the language of his native people. His father went to Saudi Arabia to work, and sent money home. Eventually, his family became refugees from the violence and left Asmara but stayed in Eritrea.

Read the book to learn what transpired when the author wished to gain access to the resources in a library in his neighborhood and later, when he paid a people-smuggler to help him flee for Kenya; and his and Eritrea’s fate.

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Black Box Thinking

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The Book of the Week is “Black Box Thinking, Why Most People Never Learn From Their Mistakes– But Some Do” by Matthew Syed, published in 2015. This volume attempted to answer the question: “How does failure-denial become so deeply entrenched in human minds and systems?”

The author described two ways of thinking:

1. Some people believe their abilities are fixed, so they won’t improve with practice. They have fear of failure, and make excuses and / or blame others for their failures.

2. Other people believe they can get better with practice, and they are honest about admitting they have made errors. They learn from them. Success is achieved only through trial and error, hard work and persistence.

Number 1 above is also described in the following quote from Bertrand Russell: “There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not rational, he becomes furious when they are disputed.” Yet another way of putting it is “hubris syndrome.”

Two of America’s recent presidents– George W. Bush and Donald Trump– were this kind of thinker. According to the author’s thesis, they succeeded against the odds (if success is defined as getting elected president), considering that they were blind to their own character flaws.

BUT– their common beginnings saw them through: They both began with the special advantages of inheriting money, mentors, lawyers, and valuable career and political contacts. They proceeded to fail upwards until they reached their peak “Peter principle” level, kind of like the joke: How do you make a small fortune in Israel? Answer: Come with a large one.

The author drew parallels between the topic-areas of aviation and healthcare delivery. These involve life-and-death scenarios when things go extremely wrong. However, that is where the similarities stop. People who have shaped the evolution of aviation have built up a knowledge-base that has served to produce lower and lower death tolls when catastrophes have occurred; powerful, influential people working in healthcare have been stubbornly resistant to adopting measures that would result in a drastic reduction in unnecessary deaths.

The author cited real-life examples from Great Britain and the United States. But there are other major reasons why his comparison is mostly invalid. These involve lawsuits, unions, government regulations and the political climate at the time of the disasters, and the following:

Obviously, workers in aviation have more of an incentive to improve safety, because in a disaster, many more people might die all at once in a plane crash, compared to the one patient on an operating table or examination table. Even if members of the flight crew survive a disaster, their careers are likely over. Even when doctors are at fault, they usually continue their careers.

The author discussed the pros and cons of just-culture versus blame-culture. He described the latter thusly: “It may be intellectually satisfying to have a culprit, someone to hang their disaster on. And it certainly makes life simple.”

The author recounted how a public-relations campaign can fool even intelligent people into believing a particular method of crime-prevention among young people, works wonders. The only way to debunk such a myth is through numerous Randomized Control Trials.

Read the book to learn about additional concepts surrounding psychological self-deceptions that humans employ in order to avoid admitting failures: cognitive dissonance, narrative fallacy, top-down versus bottom-up product development, various biases, and others.

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The Courage to Survive – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “The Courage to Survive” by Dennis J. Kucinich, published in 2007. This raw, emotional, personal story was similar to those of: journalist Joe Queenan (Closing Time), and teacher Tara Westover (Educated).

Born in October 1946 in Cleveland, the author had a difficult childhood in an ever-growing, poverty-stricken family. His mother was of Irish ancestry; his father, Croatian. The latter was a mean, physically abusive drunk. In his daily life, the author was fortunate to receive guidance and life-lessons from community role models such as his parents, teachers, coaches, his many relatives, (Catholic) priests, godparents, etc.

Nevertheless, the author’s take on life by the time he reached his teens was as follows: “The violence I witnessed at home percolated … I was ready to unleash it, but not in the street… What do you do when you are a kid and you feel violent? Do you look in your neighborhood for people to beat up? Do you vandalize? Do you just plain raise hell?”

More and more in America, such young males who feel like powder kegs pick up firearms and shoot innocent strangers or rival gang members, or engage in cyber attacks and fraud. Instead, if they are lucky– their anger is channeled into competitive sports, the military, performing arts, or politics.

Read the book to learn about the forces that shaped the author’s start in politics.

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Sandworm

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The Book of the Week is “Sandworm, A New Era of Cyberwar and the hunt for the Kremlin’s Most Dangerous Hackers” by Andy Greenberg, published in 2019. In this eye-opening volume, the author provided the backstory (out of chronological order, in a confusing, cherry-picked way) on how and why Russia has become the world’s biggest disrupter of society yet again through a new method. “Sandworm” refers to the Russian hackers who perpetrated cyberattacks. The author implied that knocking out power grids was one new way to destabilize target nations. But this is NOT a new idea.

Anyway, as is well known, in recent decades, for various reasons, Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, ordered his military to attack Estonia (in 1999 and later), Georgia in 2008 (yes, Soviet Georgia– not the American state), and Ukraine. These offensives were accomplished not just on the ground, but also through technology. Ukraine’s election process and electric power were both seriously damaged through the Internet.

In the United States, various federal agencies fight for the power to set policy on the country’s cybersecurity: FBI, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security; plus the U.S. military, North American Electric Reliability Corporation, and SANS Institute.

During the George W. Bush administration, America and Israel started a secret project to develop virulent malware that could wreak cyberwar on their enemies, but whose main purpose was to stop Iran from making nuclear weapons.

During the Obama administration, a young, bright Air Force officer was hired to build a cyber-security department from the ground up, within the NSA. However, he got disgusted with the abusive hierarchy of the American military, as new recruits’ talent was wasted because the status quo dictated that they pay their dues.

Meanwhile, after years of work, investigators found evidence that the Russians were to blame for penetrating America’s technology infrastructure in 2016. Even conservative radio-show host Rush Limbaugh jumped on the bandwagon, saying, “It was an acrylic [sic] keyboard!” [He meant Cyrillic].

In 2017, Britain’s National Health Service was disabled via malicious software code that demanded a small amount of bitcoins as ransom. Other entities hit included a German railway, a Russian bank , colleges in China, police departments in India, and malware called “NotPetya” that did a number on Ukrainian civilians who were really inconvenienced in living their everyday lives.

In sum, it’s deju vu all over again in terms of a Cold War arms race involving Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and the U.S. This time, though, the weapon is technology and the threats are made by numerous worldwide terrorist cells who can hack a target’s infrastructure and its political system (like with online voting in Arizona and Illinois) whenever their territory’s leader commands them to do so. Another difference is that the kinds of cyberattacks seen thus far are akin to one aspect of Nazism: sowing social unrest (rather than killing people; not that the Nazis didn’t also do that) to bring a nation down. Damage done by psychological harassment from foul play via the Internet is economically incalculable and extremely difficult to regulate because it is international.

As is well known, through the twentieth century into the new millennium, information sources evolved from newspapers, magazines, books, and radio, to television, cable television, and then the Internet. Currently, Google and social media can serve as news aggregators, but more often, they are for-profit propaganda tools, just like all the aforementioned media. Most Americans think of movies as entertainment rather than as a source of news or education, but in the Postwar Era, they have also become for-profit propaganda tools.

But take heart, America! There is at least one area of optimism that will help this country’s democracy continue:

Compared to now, there was as much as or even more social unrest in this country in 1968. Before and after, the nation suffered through two dictatorial presidents in a row— LBJ and Nixon– who were recruiting all men of military age; many against their will, to fight in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in a war that was extremely expensive in so many ways. They sowed social unrest among their own people. America has not had two such presidents in a row since.

Even so, LBJ was kind of schizophrenic because he helped pass major civil-rights legislation. However, his ego wouldn’t let him order a stop to the war. Nixon went all-out on lies and deception, wreaking vicious political vengeance on his perceived enemies because he didn’t think he’d ever get punished. As journalist P.J. O’Rourke commented, beginning in the mid-1960’s, the Baby Boomers threw “a decade-long temper tantrum.” But now, their generation is wise to political shenanigans of decades past.

In 1972, voter apathy was so severe that Nixon was reelected in a landslide. Nowadays, voter turnout is at an all-time high. This is cause for celebration. Americans are starting to understand why voting is so important: it shows they believe in the democratic process (regardless of for whom they vote). A significant number of voters are required in order for democracy to work. When a dictatorial leader senses the people aren’t paying attention to what he’s doing, he will take advantage of that to acquire more power. He’s more likely to do the people’s will when he sees their anger is close to reaching critical mass.

On that note, read the book to learn much more about the author’s alarmist take on the global cybersecurity situation.

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The Emergency

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The Book of the Week is “The Emergency, A Year of Healing and Heartbreak in A Chicago ER” by Thomas Fisher, published in 2022.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, friendly bedside manner disappeared in the Emergency Room of the author’s employer, a medical center affiliated with the University of Chicago, on Chicago’s South Side. The author, a medical doctor, was tasked with judging whether to put newly arrived patients on ventilators.

Already a stressful place, the Emergency Department was put under excessive tension when an edict was issued that everyone entering the building was required to cover his or her mouth and nose (with any old piece of germy fabric or a plastic shield; most wore the fabric). The authorities perpetuated the scientifically questionable assertion that covering one’s face (with anything) would stem the spread of disease.

BUT, requiring the country’s entire population to wear medical masks would be impractical and unenforceable. There wouldn’t be enough medical masks for everyone; meaning, masks that would filter one’s toxic exhalations, allow one to breathe relatively easily, while presumably, disallowing most germs from entering and exiting one’s mouth and nose. So, instead, across the country, there was rampant abuse of power by numerous officials in controlling the population with petty, dishonest mask-orders.

Anyway, a nearby Chicago hospital had no more ventilators, and another had only three on hand. A patient might not have COVID, but still might be struggling to breathe because she had heart failure from postpartum cardiomyopathy. The author decided to treat a young patient such as this one with magnesium, additional Lasix and nitroglycerin instead of a ventilator, because she would be more likely to survive than an older patient in poor health who had severe COVID.

“Still, too many physicians and scientists accept that the inequities around us emerge from inside the body we treat, rather than in relation to prevailing societal structures or systems… But it is society that shapes the population-wide patterns we see.”

This volume presented, in a series of anecdotes on the patients admitted and treated by the author, reasons why this country desperately needs NATIONAL HEALTHCARE. It is the right thing to do at this time in history. Other reasons can be found in this blog’s posts:

Morphine, Ice Cream, and Tears. (sic); Chasing My Cure; Clinging to the Wreckage; and I Shall Not Hate.

Read the book to learn of the physical and psychological traumas suffered by not just patients, but also caregivers, that could be prevented or minimized by improving policies in national healthcare in the United States.

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Dr. Folkman’s War

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The Book of the Week is “Dr. Folkman’s War, Angiogenesis and the Struggle to Defeat Cancer” by Robert Cooke, published in 2001.

In the 1970’s, Judah Folkman was a competent surgeon and a very popular professor at Harvard Medical School, but his first love was medical research. He hypothesized about why and how a tumor grows. He inferred that blood vessels grow toward a tumor, but was unable to provide proof for a very long time. He was ostracized for having this radical idea, so he had difficulty attracting enthusiastic graduate students to assist him, and with getting funding for his research.

Traditionally, university medical studies in laboratories had been funded by government grants. Profiteering from patents and medical products resulting from research was considered sleazy in scientific circles. In 1974, Harvard broke the taboo and partnered with the large, profit-making organization called Monsanto.

Even after receiving generous funding, Dr. Folkman worked around the clock simply because making new medical discoveries requires months or years of blood, sweat and tears. The materials required to do experiments can be expensive, messy, odorous and pose unanticipated problems. For a while, Folkman’s lab was working with vast quantities of cow and shark meat (and other obscure, problematic materials) because the animals’ cartilage contains no blood vessels.

Even after the doctor’s studies yielded exciting breakthroughs, media articles influenced the medical community and the public in ways that were harmful to Folkman’s research operations. There were even accusations of fraud against him. It turned out that in his team’s haste to treat cancer patients, many errors were made. Time was of the essence, and procedures for organized data collection were lacking. Folkman wasn’t deliberately trying to deceive anyone.

Folkman was a rare bird in that he was quite altruistic with his time and talents. His patience and persistence allowed him to ignore his detractors and the naysayers (most of whom were jealous). He eventually acquired an area of expertise that not only spawned a new way of thinking about cancer treatment, but also led to treatments for other medical conditions, and whole new industries, including biotech. He also helped shatter a myth in cancer treatment. But this additional idea of Folkman’s still might not be fully accepted in oncology circles (due to GREED), even two decades after the writing of this book.

This is what he learned: The approach to cancer-drug delivery to a tumor of:

“low [dosage] and slow [buildup over the long-term]” was shown to be superior to

“might makes right” and come in with guns blazing; in the past, it was hoped that immediate, large doses would eliminate the tumor before metastasis, and before the patient died from the deaths of too many healthy cells that were also killed in the process.

In other words: The patient’s treatment should begin with a low drug dosage, and if that proves ineffective, increase the dosage gradually until it is effective. Folkman’s experiences with patients showed that that was the successful way to go, and he even saw a few miraculous cures.

Read the book to learn many more details on Folkman’s trials and tribulations and the reasons for them, and what transpired when he finally found vindication.

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Did Elon Musk Lose Your Favor – BONUS POST

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As is well known, the messaging-clutter in the United States has reached a screaming crescendo. Here’s a question in connection with the tenor of the times.

DID ELON MUSK LOSE YOUR FAVOR

sung to the tune of “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor” [1961 Hits Archive] with apologies to the estate of Lonnie Donegan.

Oh [bleep], oh [bleep], oh you.
Whatever shall we do?
And YET one more bleep.
The question is so deep.
At stake is big-time dough.
Politicos want to know,
the pollsters’ Twitter question:
Is it yes or is it no?

Did E-LON Musk lose your favor by poor judgement overnight?
If the critics say just quit it,
do you keep your account in spite?
Do you seek out all the radicals?
Do you follow the Left or Right?
Did E-LON Musk lose your favor by poor judgement overnight?

Here he COMES with excessive pride.
His atTORNeys by his side.
THOSE lies and smears
everywhere are stoking fears
that our country could be wrecked.
But free speech is guaranteed,
and as Musk has trouble with control, he wants to take the LEAD.

Did E-LON Musk lose your favor by poor judgement overnight?
If the critics say just quit it,
do you keep your account in spite?
Do you seek out all the radicals?
Do you follow the Left or Right?
Did E-LON Musk lose your favor by poor judgement overnight?

Now the nation’s split in two.
Democracy will come through,
at every level, yeah, every single level.
Each side keeps the other in check.
We do it with Big Tech.
The most influential voices keep the candidates neck and neck.

If a price tag’s made of a price,
what’s a hashtag made of? [Boom, boom]

Did E-LON Musk lose your favor by poor judgement overnight?
If the critics say just quit it,
do you keep your account in spite?
Do you seek out all the radicals?
Do you follow the Left or Right?
Did E-LON Musk lose your favor by poor judgement overnight?

By poor judgement overnight?

You’re the best, and Twitter loves you, and it wants to make things right.
It’s going to be the most trendy, uncensored social media site.

By poor judgement overnight?

A spade is a spade and
a fact is a fact.
He’d sing another chorus but
he’s afraid of getting hacked.

By poor judgement overnight? Yeah!

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The Vortex

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The Book of the Week is “The Vortex, A True Story of History’s Deadliest Storm, an Unspeakable War, and Liberation” by Scott Carney and Jason Miklian, published in 2022. This multi-faceted story involved a massive number of deaths due to (cue the dramatic music): the Great Bhola cyclone (what would be called a hurricane in the Western Hemisphere), a cholera epidemic, dictatorial political shenanigans, atrocities and genocide; plus heroic international aid workers who were horribly hindered in their disaster-relief efforts. Sorry, no romantic subplot– this wasn’t a movie; all of this actually happened within the space of about three years. But at the end, there was the founding of a new nation, called Bangladesh.

Even decades after geographic separation of various religious and ethnic groups into: A) India, and B) a sovereignty of two discrete land masses (East and West) that comprised newly formed Pakistan in 1947– hostility still reigned. In Pakistan, anger and resentment simmered between the Muslim Punjabis in West Pakistan who spoke Urdu, and the Hindu Bengalis in East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh), who spoke their own language.

In the mid-1960’s, general Ayub (“Yahya”) Khan, who became Pakistan’s leader in 1969 [For more information, see this blog’s post, “The Rape of Bangla Desh”], ordered Pakistan’s military to attack India. The United States imposed economic sanctions on both Pakistan and India for childishly fighting. Pakistan allied with China. India allied with the then-USSR.

In August 1969, American president Richard Nixon tapped Yahya to be the contact to introduce him to China’s leader Mao Tse Tung. In exchange, Yahya wanted to purchase arms for Pakistan. Nixon violated the then-arms embargo against Pakistan to sell it armored personnel carriers and B-57 bombers.

In 1970, there occurred a quantum leap in hurricane-forecasting technology what with a new satellite called ITOS 1 that gathered real-time data on the Northern Hemisphere for the National Hurricane Center. Nevertheless, because they had no clue a storm was coming (the new forecasting technology had yet to reach Central Asia), almost all local residents drowned when the Great Bhola cyclone hit the delta near Manpura island in November 1970. A month later, fifty million Pakistanis were voting for the first time in their lives.

A few months later, American weapons were killing the Bengali people. Nixon was supporting Yahya. The latter’s military leader whipped up a Nazi-level frenzy of hatred against the Hindus, massacring them with .50 caliber machine guns and destroying– via American M-24 Chaffee tanks, jeeps and F-86 jets– key communication, political, educational and law enforcement structures in the city of Dacca in East Pakistan.

Unsurprisingly, all of the above was accompanied by a boatload of radio propaganda put out by Yahya’s side. But later, radio broadcasts helped the Bengalis. Anyway, Nixon aided and abetted Yahya in various additional ways to achieve his own political aims. Refugees fled to India, and where, counterintuitively, military camps trained Bengalis (technically Pakistanis) to resist the Pakistan Army. Indians had always been sworn enemies of Pakistanis. Still, it was in India’s best interest to see the Bengalis win the war and break up Pakistan.

There have occurred countless historical tapestries such as the aforementioned in which a complex bunch of circumstances resulted in millions of deaths; one thing led to another. The authors argued that the especially severe cyclone played a major role in giving scheming politicians an excuse to abuse their power even more. They asserted that more severe storms are occurring due to the earth’s changing atmosphere, and such natural disasters in turn trigger a series of events that increase global conflicts.

BUT, arguably, global conflicts have waxed and waned throughout history, regardless of natural disasters. There are four major causes of global conflicts (that are present in different combinations):

  • fighting over limited (and /or exploited) resources;
  • tribal hatreds;
  • religious hatreds; and
  • territorial disputes.

Present-day events (!) have shown that humanity is making slow, slow, slow progress towards a total net amount of good versus evil on earth– even with all the advances in early-warning systems for disasters and the striving for more widespread humanitarian activities. Cases in point: once-Communist countries have changed for the better in certain ways in the last thirty years, and there is less colonialism in the world than there used to be.

Unfortunately, advances in technology and charitable aid still trigger profiteering and political exploitation with their attendant propaganda. Alpha males with hubris syndrome with their greed and power-hunger still rule most of the world. Bottom line: human nature doesn’t change, but globally, human beings overall, are evolving.

Anyway, read the book to learn many more story-details, involving: how Nixon (and his evil sidekick Kissinger) came extremely close to instigating a nuclear war against the USSR in the Bay of Bengal; the fates of various political and military leaders; and the hapless common people of Pakistan, and the aid workers who passionately tried to help them.

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The Education of A Speculator

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The Book of the Week is “The Education of A Speculator” by Victor Niederhoffer, published in 1997.

Born in 1943 in Brooklyn in New York City, the author sorted “market advisers and investment newsletter writers” into eight different categories, providing a brief description of their behaviors or personality traits. He classified himself as “The Other World Person” because he ignored the overpaid noisemakers and distractions of conventional media outlets that purported to convey information on which securities to buy, sell, or avoid.

The author’s two data sources for his commodities, currency trading and investing ideas consisted of the National Enquirer and his research results from testing all kinds of variables in statistics-calculations of past securities-market data using software. No other sources.

The mid-1990’s saw great advances in statistics software modeling that could process scads and scads of data; hence, market players could erroneously use past performance of investment vehicles faster than ever before for predictive purposes to help themselves and others lose their money faster than ever before. And those advances might have played a part in the scandals and financial crashes that have occurred with alarmingly increasing frequency in the last thirty years. Big Tech’s and Big Media’s incestuous oligopolies (fraught with political donations) just keep getting more hegemonic, so that power and money keep feeding on themselves ad infinitum. Globalization is yet another wrench in the works.

At the book’s writing, global trade had been maturing for decades, but capitalism was still in its infancy in many territories of the world; particularly in ones that were becoming politically democratic again, or for the first time in their histories. Many European countries were in the process of adopting cooperation rather than competition in their financial and economic dealings. A large proportion of them even voted to use one currency among them. The United States kept to itself, but more and more people around the world were starting to trade or invest in foreign securities, currencies and governmental financial entities, so chain reactions occurred more and more.

The Federal Reserve (aka Fed) has always been a major influence on America’s financial markets. The author contended that the Fed was just as clueless as the rest of the country about what effects its making of rate-adjustments would have on the nation’s economy. It is currently just as clueless. But its announcements are made with such confidence and arrogance, that a large number of their listeners are brainwashed into believing they are receiving valuable information.

The incumbents– known names pre-Internet–became the most influential voices in the financial sphere. The wiliest ones use propaganda techniques to paper over their wrong predictions. They never apologize for the losses stemming from their pronouncements. The walls of the author’s business office were lined with portraits of ones who had disastrous losses.

To be fair, the author himself told various anecdotes of his own failures. In 1992, he bought IBM stock for his own kids. That was an embarrassing mistake. He learned to cut his losses at a certain level of the total money he reinvested. And, he didn’t let his greed get out of control when he was winning.

The author was a champion squash player. One similarity between squash and speculating is externalities–opponents’ actions determine players’ actions in the game. So, for instance, in ten-pin bowling, there are no externalities. In squash, there are. In one college finals-match, the author moved his body in a way that tricked his opponent into thinking the ball was going to go in a certain direction, but it went the opposite way. Traders and investors play similar tricks in their communications in the financial markets. Conditions change rapidly so even the market propagandists’ winning streaks don’t last long.

The reason is:

First, independent thinkers make observations or find obscure data that works in making them money. Then software detects their trading tricks. So word gets around, and everyone else jumps on the bandwagon so that the advantage is lost.

Human beings want so badly— to believe they can predict the future, and love to fantasize about getting rich quick– that they tend to look for patterns and order where none exist. The author did provide one vast generalization that might be valuable, though. His statistical analysis between the years 1870 and 1995 inclusive showed that years ending in the digit 5 were good years, and those ending in 7 were bad, for the American stock markets. He didn’t speculate as to why.

However, politics is one major mover of markets, and the collective mood of the United States specifically, might be a bit more upbeat in years when political uncertainty is at a minimum. Presidents and other politicians begin or continue their terms during years ending in 5. The public might be unclear about their future policy directions, or weary of them by the years that end in 7.

Anyway, read the book to learn a boatload more about the author’s philosophy, his trials, tribulations and triumphs in the markets, his research results and comparisons between financial markets and: ecology, games and sports.

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The Six Days of Yad-Mordechai – BONUS POST

The Bonus Book of the Week is “The Six Days of Yad-Mordechai” by M. Larkin, originally published in 1965.

Passionate, mostly Polish Holocaust survivors who were able to make their way to the Gaza Strip in Palestine in late 1943 worked tirelessly to establish a new kibbutz called Yad-Mordechai. The socialistic ideal of their farm collective was this: “Since economic dependence upon the father was what gave him power, such dependence was abolished in their society.”

Still, the community fell short of total gender equality, as the males did the hard manual labor on the infrastructure; an all-male militia except for one female fought against attacking Egyptians, and females did all the food preparation and childcare.

In November 1947, a majority of United Nations (UN) members voted in favor of partitioning Palestine between an Arab state and a Jewish state. The situation was to become official in mid-May 1948, when the British were to withdraw its officials from Palestine. Arab countries broadcast propaganda that gave their fellow tribesmen the impression they were only temporarily evacuating their homes by that same deadline, and would eventually conquer the Jews and return to take over the entire strip of land that was slightly larger than the state of New Jersey.

The Yad Mordechai kibbutz just happened to be located in the Arab state. The Arabs refused to recognize the UN vote, and decided to fight the Jews for the entire territory. The villains of WWII– ex-Nazis and Italian Fascists, plus Lebanese, Egyptians, Syrians and Trans-Jordanians fought on behalf of the Arabs. The Jews had poorly equipped militias and intelligence cells called the Hagana, Palmach, Irgun and the Stern group.

Nevertheless, as of this writing, Wikipedia says this kibbutz still exists today, and its population is 737. It might be recalled that pure socialism thrived for a short time when the State of Israel was born. That was an extremely special exception, for the following major reasons; the kibbutzniks:

  • were forced to work together in order to survive in the desert, geographically surrounded by enemies;
  • were like-minded– oppressed for their religion– seeking a safe place in the world;
  • had a common goal bigger than themselves– building a country for themselves from the ground up– creating the political, social and cultural systems and infrastructure when everything was simple and their population was low;
  • had in common the shared, traumatic experience of WWII and/or the Holocaust; and
  • had substantial financial and military help from the United States.

Lo and behold, Yad Mordechai has since turned to capitalism to survive, selling certain brands of foods. However, the dangers of capitalism become apparent when financial scandals and crashes plague the nation due to EXCESSIVE DEREGULATION.

As is well known, there was consolidation through the 1980’s and 1990’s of the corporate auditing industry, and “Big Six” became the “Big Four” eventually, prompting businesses across the country to become even more incestuous (corrupt) in their relationships with their auditors.

In 1994, the big-name auditor Ernst & Young fired their in-house legal department and hired outside legal counsel. They must have been hiring employees from the competition, who brought a certain corporate culture to their legal department. In 2002, the Enron / Arthur Andersen scandal broke.

Certain wise folks can see a scandal coming. Like Ernst & Young. They don’t know exactly when it will hit the fan, but they know they don’t want to be there when it happens. James Baker of the Reagan administration was one of those sharp individuals. He switched positions with Donald Regan so that he would be far away when the Iran-Contra scandal became publicized.

In 2019, BB&T, a government bond broker, merged with Sun Trust Banks. Excessive deregulation can do wonders for the bottom lines (when they go hog-wild) of any profit-making organizations in the short term. BUT– it seems as though as the decades pass, financial-industry-players gain more and more experience in preventing lawsuits brought against them from their customers and clients by:

having the latter sign legal documents they never had to sign before, and placing disclaimers galore on all of their communications. The latest disturbing trend is for (previously low-risk) government-bond(!) brokers to do this.

Anyway, read the book to learn of the spirited beginnings, independence-warfare death toll and traumas suffered by the Yad Mordechai kibbutzniks, and their eventual fate. [And stay tuned for more traumas in the government bond market.]

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Extreme – BONUS POST

The Bonus Book of the Week is “Extreme, My Autobiography” by Sharon Osbourne with Penelope Dening, published in 2005.

Born in October 1952 in the United Kingdom, Osbourne grew up in a dysfunctional family. In this volume, she revealed how her father– Don Arden– a music-industry executive got away with committing an excessive number of financial crimes. Basically, he never signed legally-binding contracts, but had his daughter and other members of his entourage sign them, so when it hit the fan, they were on the hook, not him. His contacts in high places did his bidding until his bullying and contentiousness wore thin and they abandoned him.

Arden bribed a U.S. senator to help Osbourne acquire a green card. She thus became a permanent resident of America and got a Social Security number so that he could commit tax evasion. Of course, he also hid his assets in offshore bank accounts, which the United States cannot outlaw. Her formal education ended when she quit high school in her sophomore year. So her limitations led her to join the family business. In her early twenties, she was so flattered that her father trusted her with important documents that she happily signed everything put in front of her.

Osbourne met her future husband Ozzy in the late 1970’s. He was the lead singer of the rock band, Black Sabbath. “The music business in those days was a boys’ club, fueled by cocaine and sexual favors. These were the days of payola and Mafia involvement…” But Osbourne would sooner get violent with the boys than give in to their advances or threats.

Read the book to learn many more details about the lives of Osbourne and her family, trials, tribulations and triumphs.

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Sandstorm

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The Book of the Week is “Sandstorm, Libya in the Time of Revolution” by Lindsey Hilsum, published in 2012.

Just prior to WWI, Libya was colonized by Italy in three sections, when the Ottoman Empire was in its death throes. Pursuant to where they live in Libya, various rivalrous tribes exhibit traits of the Middle East and Europe, or Africa. The country is located on the continent of Africa, but has major trade routes that go to the Middle East. Its population is about six million, and oil and gas supports its economy. Many of its people go overseas to attend university.

Beginning in 1959, big-name Italian, British and American companies negotiated agreements that allowed them access to newly discovered fossil fuels, and military training and weapons-testing grounds in the desert in Libya. In September 1969, Muammar Gaddafi became the new leader. He continued to impose one political-party rule (in place since 1952) and instituted one religion (Muslim). He punished political dissidents more harshly than Libya’s previous autocrat, King Idriss. But he made Libyans proud to be Arab. He took a swipe at the British by banning the English language in his country.

By the early 1970’s, Gaddafi’s actions were prompting brain drain and capital flight. His nation did need water, but he could have acquired it much less expensively and with a lot less trouble than he did. “It was one of man’s extravagant dreams, come true because no one dared counter him and too many were profiting from his grandiose visions.” In 1982, Gaddafi formed a political group that was allegedly going to fight against Imperialism, Zionism, Racism, Reactionism and Fascism.

As is par for the course for men such as Gaddafi, his enemies (such as the CIA and the king of Morocco) plotted assassination attempts against him. Smuggling guns and grenades into Tripoli and Benghazi were for nought, as the 1984 plotters were discovered and were killed. Through the last few decades of the twentieth century, the United States vacillated between allying with Qaddafi, and railing against him.

The Reagan administration railed against him. Qaddafi was strongly suspected to be the mastermind of the December 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103. That turned out to be a major historical incident that had worldwide repercussions. However, the tide turned through the 1990’s. George W. Bush wooed Qaddafi.

By the single-digit 2000’s in Libya, nepotism and tribalism had become crucial to survival. Families are comprised of multi-generational networks with tens of people on every level of the family tree. Disaffected, jobless young males became jihadists in Iraq, killing Americans in suicide bombings, as the terrorists had been brainwashed into expressing extreme hatred for the West.

Nevertheless, after 9/11, various nations such as Russia, Turkey and China were drooling over the money to be made in Libya in banking, accounting, construction, hotels, shipping, and of course, oil. But the U.S. held back (Bush was very conflicted) due to its complicated relationship with Israel.

As is well known, in February 2011, ordinary Libyans jumped on the “Arab Spring” bandwagon after Tunisia and Egypt. They used the worldwide forum of social media to publicly express their displeasure with their leader. Also, protesters personally gathered in Benghazi and Tobruk, and then farther east.

Gaddafi, distrustful of his own military, hired mercenaries from Algeria, Niger, Mali, Morocco and Burkina Faso to violently disperse crowds of youths standing around shouting slogans, as Internet access became unreliable. Gaddafi’s own military, angry at his disloyalty, turned against him. In Tripoli, attorneys formed a group to publicize human rights abuses, represent political prisoners, and start an underground resistance movement. Through the four decades Gaddafi stayed in power, he knew how to exploit discontent: bribing Muslims to build mosques and go on pilgrimages to Mecca.

Read the book to learn many more details about Gaddafi’s reign, including those relating to: shenanigans of his son Seif, and Bahrain, Qatar and Iran (hint: Everyone knew the UN arms embargo that applied to fighters on both sides was a joke.); his Green Book, Stalin-style purges, oil-industry machinations, propaganda campaigns and governmental policies; his contradictory stance on his nation’s female citizens; his providing of military training and arming of certain groups; and the reaction of certain countries of the world at his downfall.

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The Silent War

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The Book of the Week is “The Silent War, Inside the Global Business Battles Shaping America’s Future” by Ira Magaziner and Mark Patinkin, published in 1989. When Magaziner worked for Boston Consulting Group, he would conduct extensive research on industries, markets, businesses and people in order to generate reports that would presumably help his clients (consisting of big-name companies). He argued that America was economically falling behind the rest of the world because it was resisting global trade and because its federal government wasn’t financially assisting business and industry.

One time, in the mid-1970’s, Magaziner’s report’s conclusions contradicted those of his client, a big steel mill company. He asked where the executives got their information. Each one’s source material, “… was all the same– all based on one original study done a few years earlier by some professors.” The executives’ groupthink and herd mentality in relying on old, faulty data led to financial trouble for their industry.

In another case, in the late 1970’s, when General Electric partnered with Samsung to make microwave ovens, they struggled to arrive at the most profitable arrangement for both of them. One major cultural difference was that the South Koreans (unlike the Americans) worked sixty to eighty hour weeks because they believed in making sacrifices for future generations. Incidentally, they sent their children to universities in the United States to be educated, and taught them the value of hard work.

Obviously, Americans too, wanted better for their children, but their labor unions and a different mentality prevailed in their workforce. South Korea eventually became an economic powerhouse, not just with the help of American financial aid, but also through maximizing its exporting of goods.

In the 1960’s and thereafter, Singapore’s leader, Lee Kuan Yew, tried a few different territory-wide economic initiatives that failed. One included legislating a 10% wage increase for all workers. Foreign companies, with all the then-availability of sweatshop labor, simply moved their factories to Thailand and Malaysia, where workers were paid less so that goods could be produced more cheaply.

One successful economic program Yew executed was to train his citizens’ factory workers in connection with an Apple-Computer partnership in the 1980’s. The workers made the sacrifices to attend night-school (tuition-free) after a long day’s work two to three times a week, for two to three years. The benefit for the partnership was that the workers’ experience allowed them to submit innovative ideas to improve manufacturing efficiency. Again, in the United States at that time, labor unions discouraged new ideas lest workers automate themselves out of jobs. Which happened to them, anyway. But the non-unionized Singaporean workplace was such that workers weren’t laid off– they were retrained for higher-level positions.

Yet another reason the United States began to economically trail the rest of the world in the latter half of the twentieth century, was that its securities markets accelerated impatience in America’s corporate psyche. American industry became unwilling to finance and do the hard work of, continuing research and development and take a loss in bad times to keep pace technologically with Asian competitors. It wanted to prop up stock prices instead and make its executives rich quick. Still does.

One company that bucked the trend was Corning. In late 1983, (finally, after sixteen years of losses!) it had the cutting-edge technology in fiber-optics for telecommunications, ready to deliver finished products to its first big customer, MCI, to turn a profit. Corning did it on its own– receiving scant financial help from the United States government.

Times have changed little since the 1980’s, when photovoltaic scientist Paul Maycock remarked, “I hated the whole concept of buying oil from the Persian Gulf and spending $50 billion a year defending that part of the world.” He wasted a lot of time and effort on environmentally-friendly business initiatives. Sadly, those were incompatible with the United States’ strategic interests. The start of the Reagan Era saw the Department of Energy nix further funding for solar-technology research. The solar panels (installed during the Carter administration) on the White House roof were removed.

Further, since in the 1990’s (after the book’s writing) there has arisen an orgy of patent litigation in software and computer hardware. Technologically inexperienced patent clerks and court personnel have made legal decisions that have been economically damaging to the country. Additionally, the American government has a history of eagerly funding innovations that have military applications while denying funding for innovations that have commercial applications.

And yet, astute perpetrators of American foreign policy have damaged other nations’ economies not only by waging war, but also through dispensing bad advice on “shock capitalism” and other subtle (“classified”) methods of indirectly causing mass destruction. So the United States remains the economically dominant nation in the world, despite suffering its share of financial crashes and certain sectors’ damaging policies that weaken it economically as a whole; sectors such as healthcare and education.

Anyway, read the book to learn: of additional business cases that related to the aforesaid themes, and the four major reasons the Japanese technology sector achieved great success in the past.

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Pity the Billionaire

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“It is as though the frightening news of recent years has driven them into a defensiveness so extreme that they feel they must either deify the system that failed or lose it altogether.”

No, not the Republican Party in connection with Donald Trump.

The Republican Party in connection with Republican voters’ gullibility in believing the Right’s propaganda machine that rationalized away Wall Street’s unmitigated hubris and unconscionable greed amid the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008-2009. As is well known, the rich were made richer and poor, poorer in the second half of the single-digit 2000’s. The GOP’s clever aftermath-messaging led to big wins for them in the 2010 midterm elections.

The Book of the Week is “Pity the Billionaire, The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right” by Thomas Frank, published in 2012. This short volume described how the political group called the Tea Party (“TP”), a subset of the GOP, whipped an alarmingly high number of Republican voters into a hysterical rage against the Obama administration’s handling of bailouts of financial institutions and foreclosed-upon ex-homeowners.

It appeared to be counterintuitive, that the TP raged against bailouts for bankers, brokers and lenders. After all, taxpayers were forced to reward these greedy perpetrators of the economic disaster. Through flawed reasoning, though, the TP propagandized that capitalism should be free of any and all economic intervention from the government, whether in the form of regulation or assistance. They pretended to be an enemy of big business, screaming “Socialism!!!” at the government’s every move. They did this because the resulting continued excessive deregulation would make Republicans wealthier and more powerful, and each trait would feed on the other ad infinitum. As ought to be well known– politics cannot be divorced from economics.

The TP was really pushing for 100% pure, capitalistic Libertarianism. Under the “you have two cows” scenario (look this up on the Web): you can do with the cows whatever you wish, whenever, wherever. Also, remove: ALL regulation from all aspects of American life, taxation and social safety nets. And to make the situation truly American, throw firearms into the mix and see what happens. Absent rule-of-law, sanity and civility, the resulting ruthlessness would evolve into (judging from the federal-level administrations’ gyrations of the most recent thirty years) a dictatorial kleptocracy (sort of like Zaire (aka Congo) in the 1980’s), and then anarchy, not unlike… Somalia (?)

Fortunately, a sufficient number of Americans– despite most politicians’ cronyism with big-money donors– clung to the country’s democratic underpinnings (reasonable regulation, taxation with representation, and social safety nets) to weather the storm. The author harshly criticized Obama and his Democratic party for not punishing the morally bankrupt financiers and enforcing the law in helping the bankrupted borrowers. It is possible the president felt it was worth selling his soul to those big-money donors; he wouldn’t have been reelected otherwise and wouldn’t have been able to accomplish more of his agenda. His Democratic party, too, was too nice to get down in the gutter and use the GOP’s sleazy propaganda techniques.

Anyway, read the book to learn of how the pronouncements of the TP and Glen Beck and the contents of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged influenced numerous voters in 2010, and other reasons the nation’s political history unfolded the way it did in the early 2000’s.

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Open Skies – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Open Skies, My Life as Afghanistan’s First Female Pilot” by Niloofar Rahmani with Adam Sikes, published in 2021.

Born in December 1991 in Afghanistan, the author deserves major bragging rights. For, she possessed the courage to serve as a liberated female role model (given her culture) by risking her own life and her family members’ lives in serving her beloved homeland. She joined the air force in December 2010. According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index) this was at a time when the Americans and NATO were running the show.

The Taliban and other devout Muslims were less than thrilled that she was the first Afghan female ever to learn to fly a fixed-wing aircraft. Pursuant to the Koran, a female’s priorities were: submissive girlhood, wifehood, motherhood, and womanhood (and usually, the first three were forced on females simultaneously), and taking care of a household; only then, might she work outside the home if her oldest living male relative allowed her to.

The author spent her early childhood in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Anomalously, but fortunately for her, both of her parents believed in educating her and her siblings (mostly sisters), and encouraging them to pursue the career of their choice. The family eventually moved to Kabul. Unsurprisingly, the author’s career choice provoked angry reactions from the male-dominated air force and males in her country. The most fanatical ones began to smear, spy on, and threaten her and her family.

Nevertheless, the author’s parents martyred themselves in so many ways for their children’s futures. Her father continued to encourage the author to keep flying, even when her family was under siege and suffering many hardships due to her focusing on her dream job.

A barbaric incident that occurred in March 2015 was just one indicator that in Afghanistan, the tide was turning toward the dark side yet again: a huge flash-mob of outraged, radical Muslim men tortured and killed a devout Muslim woman wrongly accused of burning the Koran.

The victim was set upon because a mullah (a credible, influential religious leader) was her accuser. Just a few of the vicious untruths spread about her were that she was a prostitute, a blasphemer of Islam, and was an agitator sent by the Americans (perceived as the evil occupiers). The author herself was subjected to roughly equivalent, ugly utterances.

Read the book to learn how the author cheated death in this wordy, redundant yet suspenseful volume.

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Car Wars – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Car Wars, The Rise, the Fall, and the Resurgence of the Electric Car” by John J. Fialka, published in 2015. This volume provided a brief history of how manufacturing and sales of renewable-energy vehicles has been evolving in the last few decades. Clearly, the author wrote about relevant subjects from documents, and people to which he had easy access.

The (lazy?) author dismissed the electric cars of the late 1800’s in two sentences, saying they were obsolesced by 1920 via an innovation by engineer Charles Kettering; an electric ignition system replaced a burdensome hand crank in gas-powered cars, especially in the Cadillac of 1912, and then just like that, everyone started buying gas-powered cars. A propaganda war, profiteering and politics likely played a role in that major development in standard-setting in transportation, but the reader wouldn’t learn that from this book.

Anyway, in the 1980’s, previously competing automakers were initially compelled to form alliances to comply with car-emissions limits and meet deadlines set by U.S. laws, especially in the state of California. They shared info on electric vehicle (EV) technology. Over the years, when the deadlines were relaxed by pro-business politicians, the automakers parted ways, and independently pursued only the specific projects they felt would be profitable. Environment be damned.

In 1990, near the campus of the California Institute of Technology, when drivers tested the plug-in recharging feature of the General Motors Impact in their personal garages, their neighbors’ garage doors and TV sets went crazy, because the recharger was actually a huge radio transmitter.

In October 1995, Japan’s Toyota beat American carmakers to the punch when it showed off its hybrid Prius, that got 70 miles per gallon of gas. Of course Japan, of all the industrialized countries in the world, is significantly more motivated to seek efficient, renewable energy sources for its transportation modes– for the sake of its economic survival.

In the late 1990’s in a few select places in California and Arizona, super-rich males leased the first few models of EVs, because the cars had the attractive features of fast acceleration and high velocity; high gas mileage was a secondary benefit.

Meanwhile, in the single-digit 2000’s, a group named the California Fuel Cell Partnership was formed. It consisted of Geoffrey Ballard, Daimler, and Ford, who were working on a competing vehicle that uses fuel cells– whose mechanical components chemically alter water molecules. The selling points for those cars, once the technology’s commercial application is perfected, include: zero-emissions and the ability to fill up the car at existing gas stations. However, oil companies would supply hydrogen tanks.

Read the book to learn some of the politics, economics, entrepreneurs and technologies involved in developing cars that ran on renewable-energy sources, up until the book’s writing.

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The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree / The Last Nomad

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The first Book of the Week is “The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree, How I Fought to Save Myself, My Sister, and Thousands of Girls Worldwide” by Nice Leng’ete, published in 2021.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the following is still an all-too-common scenario in a poor village in Kenya: “… it is unlikely she will finish her education [meaning– graduating what would be equivalent to grammar school in the United States]. Her father married her [off when she was] young to get a dowry. Her husband wants her home to work and raise the children.” She is fifteen years old and already has two babies.

The author’s passion is to replace the tradition of female genital mutilation (FGM) practiced by certain Kenyan tribes, with Alternative Rites of Passage. For, the culturally entrenched FGM is one major reason females in her society have been so sheltered, limited and resigned to their fate for so long.

The author grew up in a Maasai village in Kenya, near the Tanzanian border. When she was about five years old, her mother took her to witness a FGM ceremony in her community. Maasai culture dictated that when girls showed signs of puberty, they underwent the ceremony. “The cut” (of the clitoris) was extremely painful, and the presence of complications such as infection or hemorrhage could lead to chronic medical problems or even death. There were no drugs administered.

But the cut, even in the absence of physical complications, signaled the next steps of arranged marriage, childbearing and servitude for the rest of a girl’s life, usually beginning in her early teen years. Even when a girl’s mother wanted to honor her daughter’s wish to finish school and have a different lifestyle, she had no power to persuade her husband or any other male relatives to allow that to happen. The males ruled the roost.

Read the book to learn how the author escaped her almost certain dismal fate, and how she is helping other females to do the same, without their having to endure all the traumas she did.

The second Book of the Week is “The Last Nomad, Coming of Age in the Somali Desert, by Shugri Said Salh, published in 2021.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the author’s Muslim family was somewhat anomalous, in that her father was a multi-lingual scholar who believed in education for both genders, and her grandmother was an authoritative figure. The author was born around 1974. Her culture also still practiced female genital mutilation.

The sprawling family’s tribe was nomadic– they herded camels and goats, and seasonally migrated around the desert in Somalia, looking for water. Their religion allowed polygamy among the men. The author’s father’s biological children numbered 23 among 7 wives, 5 of whom he divorced; the author’s mother gave birth to 10 children before she passed away of malaria when the the author was six years old.

In 1988, Somalia’s government and tribes devolved into civil war. “Killing, looting, destruction, and chaos was now our norm.” The people had a complicated system of relationships in which they took care of their own family and tribe, and if their brains were poisoned by war, they became hostile to all others.

The author’s sister possessed a key survival skill– thorough knowledge of her family’s lineage so that, when questioned, she knew which tribal name to utter to quell sociopathic, armed-and-dangerous child-soldiers in the streets. When the family finally fled Mogadishu in 1991, their black-market connections allowed them to obtain provisions that kept them alive– fuel for a truck, food and ammunition. However, they braved many other life-threatening dangers, including atrocities (committed by people), harm from lions, poisonous snakes and baboons, disease and dehydration; not to mention lice and scabies.

The author and several relatives were able to cross the border and stay in Kenya temporarily. Even so, law enforcement officers in Nairobi were corrupt– arresting refugees and hitting them up for bribes just before they knew the refugees were due to legally leave the country.

Read the book to learn much, much more about the author’s checkered story.

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Flipped

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The Book of the Week is “Flipped, How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican Power” by Greg Bluestein, published in 2022.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography), in the 2010’s, a Republican candidate in Georgia would better their chances of getting elected when they were on Fox News all the time and became a darling of hard-right conservatives.

Former president Barack Obama said manufacturing and mining jobs weren’t coming back. Former president Donald Trump contradicted him, saying the coal industry would be returning (but he was wrong). Similarly, in 2017, Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams told her opponent Stacey Evans, that a certain scholarship program wasn’t coming back. Significant funding that would assist financially challenged students was part of a bygone era in Georgia. Sadly, she was right. Nevertheless, a new Democrat political coalition in the state was on the rise.

For decades and decades well into the twentieth century, the Democrats, via gerrymandering, maintained a stranglehold on Georgia politics. The GOP implemented voter-suppression tricks in order to turn the tide, beginning in the 1990’s. In 2018, state election officials sent a postcard to voters telling them they were required to re-register to vote even if they changed residences within the same county in Georgia, or else they’d be ineligible to vote come election time. The ACLU put the kibosh on that with a lawsuit.

As is well known, the most recent decade saw especially vicious feuding between Democrats and Republicans in Georgia. A bunch of cliches apply to the campaigning environment:

Turnabout is fair play, but–two wrongs don’t make a right. And a pox on everyone’s house– because an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Two other cliches apply in politics, too: A man is known by the company he keeps, and when you lie down with dogs, you get fleas.

When former vice-president Al Gore was campaigning for president in 2000, he cringed when former president Bill Clinton insisted on helping him campaign by making appearances and endorsing him. Gore’s association with Clinton was not a good look anymore. Similarly, messaging of former president Trump was unwelcome during the Georgia runoff campaigns between Democrat and Republican senate candidates at the end of 2020. The Democrats enjoyed the delicious irony that their side was helped when voters (who would have voted for the GOP candidates) were told by Trump to stay home and not vote in revenge for the “rigged” presidential election.

One theme the author also could not help but mention that involved the state of Georgia, was the recently concluded but contested, presidential election. Lieutenant governor Geoff Duncan appeared on CNN and Fox News shortly after election day in November 2020 to “… invite Georgians who had evidence of legitimate voter fraud to come forward. None could do so.” Governor Brian Kemp also stood pat and did the right thing, because the fact was, “State lawmakers can’t retroactively change election law after a vote to help a candidate [such as Trump].”

Read the book to learn of: the candidates’ campaigns, conflicts and confrontations, and their many attendant issues, such as GOP senate candidate Kelly Loeffler’s part ownership of a WNBA team and the suspicious timing of her stock transactions; the ambivalence of most GOP candidates in uttering anything negative about Trump lest they lose votes; and much more.

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Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds

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The Book of the Week is “Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds, A Refugee’s Search for Home” by Mondiant Dogon with Jenna Krajeski, published in 2021.

Born in February 1992, the author began his childhood on a cattle ranch in Bikenke, a village in Rwanda. His family was of the Bagogwe tribe, a subcategory of Tutsi. His ancestors had migrated between Rwanda and Zaire (aka Congo; the author was unclear as to which current country– “Democratic Republic of Congo” or “Republic of the Congo”– he and his family lived in and when; so the area will hereinafter be referred to as Congo.).

In the mid-1990’s, the genocide in Rwanda forced the family to flee their Congo home mostly on foot with little more than the clothes on their backs. They had previously lived harmoniously side-by-side with their Hutu neighbors in the Congo. But contagious hatred reared its ugly head. The family hid in a cave, at a school, in the woods and other places prior to trying to stay alive at less dangerous places (i.e., refugee camps).

By spring 1996, the family had finally made its way to a refugee camp in Rwanda, where the Red Cross provided humanitarian assistance. The author and others lived in a tent city on grounds formed by the eruption of the volcano, Nyiragongo. A refugee was shot by a sniper, so the UN moved them to another camp, guarded by the Rwandan Patriotic Army. That did not end well either, as child-soldiers in the terrorist group called Interahamwe killed hundreds of Tutsis with machetes.

In the next several years, the refugees were moved from one camp to another, as life-threatening dangers (mostly from human violence) presented themselves around every corner. They nearly starved to death many, many times, and suffered from malnutrition all the time.

Nevertheless, the author, at eight years old, was finally able to start first grade at school. According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), there were no: chalkboard, desks, pens and books. He passionately took to learning, anyway. At recess time, he and his friends also played soccer with a makeshift ball– made with whatever material was at hand. The refugees continued to eat only tiny portions of beans and corn every two or three days.

In 2001, Kabila, the new dictator of the Democratic Republic of Congo, wanted to give the (false) impression that peace had been restored in his country, so he had officials from Kivu go to the region’s refugee camps, including those in Rwanda, and propagandize that refugees could come home and live as they had prior to the unrest.

However, unaware of the full extent of Congo’s then-civil war, the author, his brother and father endured a stressful, multi-day journey via on foot and bus to see whether conditions were sufficiently safe for their family to return to their pre-war property. They were unable to reach their home, but in a village many miles away, the father found work from a Hutu employer who showed no tribal hatreds. For a change. The author resumed attending school and achieved fluency in Swahili, giving him a survival skill when he was confronted by haters. Bullets flew around outside the school from all different rebel groups in Kivu.

Read the book to learn: of the numerous times the author cheated death; the many hardships he suffered; and how he parlayed his passion for school into various positive developments, including receiving recognition from a philanthropist who helped him rise above discrimination against his refugee status.

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Inside the Kingdom

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The Book of the Week is “Inside the Kingdom, My Life in Saudi Arabia” by Carmen Bin Ladin, published in 2004.

Born in the early 1950’s, the author grew up in Switzerland. Her mother was Persian. When she married into the Bin Laden family (of Osama fame; a sprawling, super-wealthy and powerful family), her husband had tens of siblings. She, her husband and baby daughter moved to Saudi Arabia in 1975. According to the author’s account (which appeared credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), four years later, Iran’s religious craziness spread to Saudi Arabia, so that fanatical Muslim males began to abusively rule every detail of females’ lives.

The author described many other aspects of Saudi Arabian culture (whose religious extremism has increased in recent decades), and how it compared to the values and beliefs of Western culture. She learned Muslim culture from her mother, but was partial to the freedoms and opportunities females enjoyed in Europe and the United States. She wanted to expose her daughters to her husband’s Saudi lifestyle (which was mildly religious compared to many of his siblings’ and contacts’), but also have the same chances to succeed that she did.

The author observed that, in the late twentieth century, Western mentality encouraged entrepreneurship; on the other hand, traditionally, Saudi Arabia’s sons had hierarchically inherited their wealth pursuant to birth order, and were expected to stay in their lane– work in their existing family businesses, and not start their own. The author’s husband bucked the trend and despite his success, his older brothers professionally and socially ostracized him for it.

In the early 1980’s, the author’s oldest daughter started school (at the time, a rare opportunity for females). The education system was all rote learning– of Arabic, arithmetic, history, and most importantly, the Koran. Her daughter wrote in her exercise book, “I hate Jews. I love Palestine.” The author was powerless to change the school’s curriculum, but at home, tried to foster critical thinking in her daughters. Even so, “… her teacher would always give a Bin Laden the best marks, whether she deserved it or not.” One other interesting factoid: the female teacher was allowed to slap a student’s face for the purpose of discipline.

Read the book to learn a lot more about how the author, her family and her (super-rich) in-laws lived in Saudi Arabia, and about her and her daughters’ fate at the book’s writing.

ENDNOTE: As is well known, the Muslim religion fosters gender inequality. And even in the United States, certain cultures of peoples have more gender inequality than others. The overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Roe V. Wade is not just about female reproductive rights or religion or rich or poor. The demographic groups who think of females as property are most affected by the changing of the law. They need to change their own cultures themselves before they trot out excuses as to why they are oppressed by society at large. They need to stop oppressing themselves!

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Americanized / The Dilbert Future – BONUS POST

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The first Bonus Book of the Week is “Americanized, Rebel Without A Green Card” by Sara Saedi, originally published in 2018.

According to this slim volume (which appeared credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the author’s family had a difficult time getting permission to live permanently in the United States, after fleeing the Iranian Revolution in the early 1980’s.

The author, born in 1980, provided a host of details on her family’s immigration ordeal, and her own life’s trials and tribulations (mostly First-World problems). Incidentally, she unwittingly wrote a line that would have subjected her to cancel-culture [In 1992]:

“…I’d personally reached peak frustration levels at our country’s complex and seemingly arbitrary immigration laws. I wanted to get on the first flight to Washington, DC, and storm the Capitol, but I didn’t, because any form of criminal activity would get me deported.”

Read the book to learn more.

The second Bonus Book of the Week is “The Dilbert Future, Thriving on Stupidity in the 21st Century” by Scott Adams, published in 1997.

The author discussed his predictions, obviously at the book’s writing. One of them was particularly accurate:

“As dense as they [the children] might be, they will eventually notice that adults have spent all the money, spread disease, and turned the planet into a smoky, filthy ball of death. We’re raising an entire generation of dumb, pissed-off kids who know where the handguns are kept.”

(!!!)

Read the book to learn more of the author’s insights.

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Ghosts from the Nursery

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The Book of the Week is “Ghosts from the Nursery, Tracing the Roots of Violence” by Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley, published in 1997. The authors cited scientific studies to support their assertions about the links between the increasingly younger ages at which Americans are committing increasingly more frequent horrific crimes, and the social and cultural trends that are driving this alarming revelation.

At the book’s writing, in the United States, criminal justice system spending was three times (!) the entire healthcare budget. The authors argued that the seeds of criminality in humans are planted in the womb rather than in early childhood, as previously thought.

Environmental factors, such as a future mother’s or father’s consumption or inhalation of toxic substances, alters the reproductive mechanisms in a fetus’ brain cells. If the fetus’ environment is neglectful, chaotic or hostile– people are raucous, or physically abusing the mother-to-be– it stands to reason that the child might have behavioral problems later on. These problems could range from hyperactivity, impulsivity, attention deficits and learning disabilities to criminality.

The range and extent of damage done varies with the time frame in which the abuses occur. It has been found that any amount of alcohol drunk by a potential father or mother can adversely affect: spermatozoa and ova weeks before conception, the zygote, embryo, fetus and then the child’s health thereafter. Maximum visual damage is done to the brain of a fetus, when the abuses occur during the limited time, for instance, in which the neural connection from the retina to the visual cortex is made. Language skills develop or fail to develop, similarly.

The opposite is true, too: a nurturing environment will maximize benefits for the child (even in the womb!) when parents’ soothing or happy voices are heard by the fetus during his or her audiological development. After emergence from the womb, the baby can recognize his or her mother’s, father’s or others’ voices. Preverbal memory (an emotional vibe emitted by parents and others– a mood felt by the fetus and then infant and then child) stays with everyone through their entire lives. Parents have been shown to display the same behaviors their parents did with their own babies and children.

The authors mentioned several European studies that showed the incidences of juvenile criminality and suicide increased with an increase in unwanted pregnancies. That’s obviously a can of worms. But, since reams and reams of data have been collected from decades and decades of sociological, psychological, medical and legal studies worldwide, perhaps a multi-pronged approach applied locally would help– instead of commissioning more, additional expensive studies for the purposes of procrastination and patronage.

HOWEVER, one particularly rich vein of data on how to invite failure of the multi-pronged approach at the federal level of poverty-fighting (and on a related topic, crime-prevention), can be found in the administration archives of the late president Lyndon B. Johnson. A 20/20 hindsight look at the enduring actions he did take, are unfairly omitted from the history books that show an anti-liberal bias. His administration saw the start of Medicare and Medicaid and the passing of landmark civil rights legislation. BUT, these great accomplishments were overshadowed by conspiracy theories that he plotted the assassination of JFK and of course, his role in a needless war.

Johnson had grand plans to eliminate poverty at home, but shortly after he came to power, he decided to send Americans abroad to fight a war that led to countless deaths and ruined lives. And continued to rationalize why it needed to continue. Johnson’s anti-poverty programs weren’t given sufficient time to succeed because they became starved for funds.

That is why this country has regressed on the social-programs front: Every American president has sold his soul to the MILITARY [Currently, that military is fighting a war at the Mexican border instead of overseas; a future post of this blog will elaborate on this].

The only president fully justified in diverting significant taxpayer monies from improving conditions at home, toward fighting a war, was FDR. Since WWII, alpha males with hubris syndrome have been funding military actions whose long-term costs outweigh the benefits.

As a final insult that indicated that Johnson had major control issues, was the fact that he cruelly teased his own Democratic party by withdrawing from a 1968 reelection bid at the last minute, leaving the field to a few other candidates, and uncertainty in his wake. He also gave his political opponents a golden invitation to smear him in so many ways.

Granted, there are countless other vicissitudes of history that come into play with any president’s actions, but as is well known, campaign-finance regulation in America has become horribly eviscerated in recent decades, so the increase in financial influence of special-interest groups other than the military, has also played a role in this nation’s shifting priorities.

Be that as it may, the United States’ practices fly in the face of reason by bringing in a “pound of cure” (after the fact!) via a complicated, expensive bunch of bloated, bureaucratic government services (special-education, welfare, foster care, criminal justice, etc.). Instead of an “ounce of prevention.” One specific program has been found to be the most effective solution thus far in preventing crime in the long run: infant home-visitation programs, because the problems are dealt with early! This was the conclusion of a criminology team who submitted a report to the U.S. Congress in April 1997.

Clearly, different levels of government can implement more of a combination of social programs and legislation in order of what works best pursuant to all those scientific studies (preferably longitudinal ones), regardless of costs, limited by whatever the budget will reasonably bear; instead of going the easy, greedy, or power-hungry, politically expedient (and fraught military) route.

A grass-roots movement would have to hold officials’ feet to the fire on that– perhaps appealing to their egos by giving them a legacy via a footnote in the history books crediting them for getting it done. This, while keeping political patronage to a minimum (It used to be called “honest graft” but has reached excessive levels in certain regions; time will tell whether upcoming elections oust the “Tammany Hall/Boss Tweed” contingents.).

So, for instance, a hypothetical mandate for a large, diversely-populated city might consist of:

First, an infant home-visitation program;

Second, no-charge universal pre-kindergarten program;

Third, stricter background checks and bans on specific firearms and loophole-closing;

Fourth, a community-policing program (that does not involve military hardware) like those mentioned in this blog’s posts, “L.A. Justice” and “Riverkeepers”; and

Fifth, imposing and enforcing a legal maximum to class sizes in early-childhood education.

If additional funding is found (for whatever reasons), there could be other kinds of education programs that deal with issues such as: teen pregnancy, sex education, contraception, substance abuse prevention (all possibly as a part of the high school health-class curriculum), parenting classes, family planning, welfare-to-work, at-risk youth centers, and job training– again, prioritized from the most to the least effective outcomes.

Anyway, read the book to learn much more about research results on this topic, and the authors’ suggestions on crime prevention via focusing on ways to improve outcomes in connection with pregnancy and child care.

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Maverick

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The Book of the Week is “Maverick, The Personal War of A Vietnam Cobra Pilot” by Dennis J. Marvicsin and Jerold A. Greenfield, published in 1990. Marvicsin nicknamed himself “Maverick.”

Born in 1940 in Mansfield in Ohio, Maverick had a burning desire to become a helicopter pilot. He joined the Navy right