Annual Rerun: Remembering My Father on Deer Lodge Day

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74 years ago today, my father Nat Engel was a U.S. Merchant Marine radio officer on the S.S. Deer Lodge.

At sea on the Indian Ocean, the ship was bombed to smithereens by a German u-boat. Several were killed and he was injured before making it to shore in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. From there, he was hospitalized and sidelined for several months. made lifelong friends, served out his time on other ships, came home, met my mother, raised my sisters and I, and lived a full, interesting and sometimes eccentric 84 years until 2007.

That’s why February 17, 1943 is always special in our family as Deer Lodge Day. I don’t have many examples of my father’s writings of that time except a diary he kept on the following ship, the S.S. Edward Burleson. Here are two passages:

“During the early portion of this outward lap, I came to know the second mate pretty well. I share with him the unhappy distinction of being the only other man on board who’s been sunk by the Germans. He’d been on the Morremac Rey when she was divebombed and sunk off Murmansk, and had the gray hair to prove it. He spoke freely and often of his experience, and knowing what it must have been, I felt for him. But despite his 15 years at sea, he spoke of little else. On the basis of that one trip, he tried to tell Lt. (JG) Ralph Boches how the gun crew should be run, the signalmen how to hoist their flags and me how to take a time tick.” Dad then goes on to say how bored he got with the fellow.

OF HIS LONG WAIT FOR A SHIP IN NEWPORT NEWS: “I won’t plunge into the well-worn theme of servicemen in southern towns. I’ll simply say that despite a three-week stay, my most pungent memory is of a loverly ballad that was beginning to sweep the country, and second best is my short stint as second fiddle to a discharged WAC who was waiting for a paratrooper from Topeka who’d promised to marry her. The song haunted us everywhere, from the jukeboxes in the beerless taverns to the groups of soldiers trying to drown their boredom in a sea of noise. I’ll think of the Hampton roads Port of Embarkation and its canteens and environs (visits to Norfolk included) whenever I hear “Pistol Packin’ Mama”…..

Should I Shut Up About Trump? No!

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I consider myself a realist. It’s easy to imagine that some of my oldest friends find my social media posts (OK, sometimes rants) annoying, antagonistic or just plain boring.

If they have tuned them out. I understand and that’s fine.

Tomorrow we get a new United States President and I am having a hard time considering him “legitimate.” Yes, I accept the outcome and the will of the people such as it is decided. But this is different.

When other Presidents I didn’t vote for were elected, I accepted “the People’s Voice” and moved on. Why? Because democracy spoke and prevailed. Even if I disagreed with the White House occupant’s views, I felt reasonably confident he would uphold and defend the Constitution.

In that regard, the President has always been deserving of respect, as is the office. And for most of my life, I have not been very “political.”

But tomorrow afternoon, the newly-inaugurated President will not be “legitimate” in my eyes because he is a moral sewer.

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This is a man who described “grabbing women by the pussy” at age 59. He criticizes women on their looks. He mimicked a disabled person, who also happens to be a damn good reporter. He hates a free press. He cannot handle legitimate criticism from anyone with a media profile and just shrug it off. In his business career, he has neither been all that successful, nor shown any regard for even basic ethical and moral standards.

Perhaps scariest of all, Vladimir Putin may well have him in a compromised situation.

I still hold out some hope that once Trump truly sees what he has gotten himself into, he will straighten up, fly right and behave like a leader. Until that happens though, he is not deserving of my respect.

As for those marching Saturday, be safe!

I Would Never Want A “Normal” President to Fail

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Like millions of others, I’ve been burning up social media in my disgust of our President-Elect.

This fake reality show is now a reality. Donald J. Trump — fake billionaire, Vladimir Putin puppet, supplicant to right-wing forces, failed casino owner, reality show star, Birther enthusiast, chief racist dog-whistle shouter, unsuccessful litigant, moral degenerate, hater of the free press, ADD-suffering narcissist who is too smart for intelligence briefings, and unrepentant braggart pussy grabber — assumes office in less than 30 days.

The principal role of a “normal” President is to uphold and defend the United States Constitution. If I thought Trump were going to do that, I wouldn’t want him to fail.

But there is no way anyone can consider this a “normal” American transition of power, or blithely assume Trump will be a ‘normal” President. I abhor all efforts to “normalize” this pustule of a canker sore pretending to be a part of the human race.

My disgust is much less important though, than the things I want Trump and his masters/handlers/lackeys to fail at:

– efforts to go forward with his corrupt conflicts of interest
– reawakening the use of coal in this country
– efforts to destroy the EPA and end environmental regulations
– efforts to end banking regulations
– lowering taxes for the rich
– making abortion illegal
– heating up the climate
– his “jobs” efforts; while might succeed in improving our neglected infrastructure, lowering taxes for the rich will blow a huge hole in the budget and push inflationary pressures
– moving his equally greedy children into international relations, so they can make more money for his businesses
– getting inaugurated without setting up a blind trust
– having that buffoon racist Jeff Sessions running the Justice Department
– normalizing his Nazi/white supremacist followers to commit hate crimes against Muslims, African Americans and gay people

Do you think I am being a mite harsh? OK, I’ll relent a bit. Other than the above list, I wish the Trump Administration nothing but success.

For Me, Hillary is “More than Acceptable”

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For nearly 30 years I have been friends with a great guy — smart, informed, engaged and well-traveled. Politically, he calls himself an “independent” but I know he votes Republican whenever possible.

The HRC negative memes have clearly impacted him. He has a lot of problems with Trump and is considering Gary Johnson. This AM he wrote, “Let me ask you a question. Do you actually like Hillary as a candidate or is she just acceptable to you?”

If you have the time, here is my rather long-winded answer:

First of all, are you asking if I like her as a “candidate” or as a potential President? To me, there’s a huge difference.

As a candidate – No. She’s awful compared to Bill or Barry. That has been frustrating. It’s only now, having dispatched Sanders and finally taking on Trump with force (with nice “tomahawk hatchet” help from Liz Warren) that she’s finally getting on message.

If the question is, do I like her as someone to be President and is she more than acceptable, Goddamn Yes I Do! That is the short answer. If you’re pressed for time, please read the rest later.

Guess who I'm voting for?

Even her choice of beverage is “more than acceptable” to me.

 

Can we get past the horse race and silly-season stuff for a moment? Let’s not forget that on November 9th, we will wake up to the prospect of a new President. She or he will have a lot of power running the US and being leader of the free world. We are still The Superpower.

In that respect I see no viable alternative to Hillary Clinton. And just like in 2008, I’m happy with that. HRC is clearly smarter, more qualified, capable and well-versed for the job than anyone in recent memory.

To me, HRC is a much better candidate than her husband was in 1992. You yourself said a few months back that she is the most qualified, if not the most likeable. And that doesn’t bother me a whole lot.

I see HRC as Nixon without the obvious psychiatric baggage. I actually mean that as a compliment. I simply think she’ll come to work on 1/21/17 fully briefed, knowledgeable and in full command from Day One. Whatever her personal motives may or may not be, I am happy that someone with her talent wants to serve our country.

To me, that’s what we need. I share your anger with elected leaders in general. I understand why you hate the “business as usual” approach that you see an established politician like Hillary offering.

But while “Throw the Bums Out” is a fine sentiment against the backdrop of 2016, I ask you this – what’s left after the Revolution? No government? Let the current Federal and State legislators run around unchecked? We have seen what greedy and petty little children they are. The idea of having a President who is even more of a petulant child than Mitch McConnell upsets me.

Of course HRC has negatives. She has certainly made her share of mistakes. She took some stands and also got connected to some unnecessary shit in the White House. That will happen if you don’t spend your life hiding in a corner. She screwed up health care during the Contract with America year, though she got the ball rolling for Obama to pick up years later. The email thing is dumb and arrogant, but if it were criminal I think the FBI and DOJ would have let the White House know so Obama could back away from her.

So yes, some of what stuck to her she deserved. It has often made me angry at both Bill and Hillary. But when has anyone proven anything criminal? I really have no tolerance for Hillary Derangement Syndrome (HDS) anymore. Disagree with her on policy and outlook? Fine. But just about every characterization the Right has made about her — now co-opted by the Berners — are lies.

There is a lot of vitriol spewed at HRC. Most seems to emanate from her having a vulva instead of a penis. I grew up with a much more involved mother than father. I watched my mother try to make it professionally in a man’s world. I’ve been married to a feminist for nearly 10 years, which I guess makes me one. I am raising a girl to believe she can be anything she wants. I simply don’t have the patience to care about sexist stupidity anymore.

I will let you in on a little secret. I admit that I love watching them trying to “get” the Clintons. It’s like laughing at Wile E. Coyote realizing there’s no ground under him at 3,000 feet. Or when Sheriff Roscoe on the “Dukes of Hazzard” crashes his car into a creek the Duke boys just jumped the Charger over. It was terrific to watch her stare down those GOP congressmen on Benghazi. She sent them away sheepishly. Seeing her brush her suitcoat, walk out, get ahead of that bullshit and sail on feels good. It’s an indication of discipline – much greater than Bill’s – and of how she’d approach the job. So there’s that.

The fact is that Hillary spent most of the first 25 years of her career focused on women and children’s rights here and abroad. She worked on Nixon’s impeachment committee. She dedicated herself to literacy and healthcare campaigns. She got NY the Federal support it needed after 9/11. She studies the issues and learns. She knows and cares how the military functions. She repaired many of our fractured relationships after the Dubya/Cheney/Rummy “bull in a china shop” global routine alienated our allies. She supported Robert Gates in pushing the go button to get Bin Laden. And she has not been lying on the campaign trail – PolitiFacts gives her close to an 80% truthfulness rating. Her worst lie as far as I can tell was saying Nancy Reagan helped raise AIDS awareness.

Hillary has demonstrated both results and professional behavior. She is whip-smart and does the work. I admire that. She has shown huge endurance being subject to the kind of scrutiny that Trump is only now beginning to feel. Seriously, most people would just say “Eff it” and go back to speeches, books and sitting on corporate boards. She doesn’t. That is determination. As they humor Trump, I really think both Putin and Kim Jong-Un are genuinely scared of HRC. I don’t consider her pro-war, but like Teddy Roosevelt — an environmentalist and fighter for worker’s rights — she isn’t afraid to use the military when she feels its necessary. The Joint Chiefs know she has their back. That’s important to me.

It’s hard to contrast her to Trump. I used to admire him as a guy who got stuff done. Today he’s not fit to shine her shoes, much less inhabit the White House. And when the heat turns up, Trump screams like a child and just tries to shut people up. He doesn’t have the guts, determination or confidence in his own intellect to hold up to scrutiny and criticism as she can. He always just runs and hides, yelling “nyah-nyah-nyah” and claiming victory.

I simply cannot understand how anyone can’t see past what a fraud, phony and superficial person Trump is. He doesn’t think, he just talks. Like the Mafia, he robs his own companies for cash and then torches them for the insurance. Someone else — investors, employees, contractors — always get stuck with the bill.

I suppose Trump is fine for putting his name on golf courses, hotels, condos, neckties, being on reality shows, or running “education” scams. I don’t care whether he goes to jail or pays a fine over that. As far as I’m concerned, Caveat Emptor — those people got screwed because of their own greed, stupidity and insecurity.

BUT… in Trump’s case, he clearly has no idea of what’s involved in this kind of leadership. He lies all the time and doesn’t back down. He just shouts over the accuser or has someone throw them out of the room. His rhetoric is self-serving and disgusting. He uses violent imagery to encourage same. He has shown no interest in learning about policy. He refuses to be challenged. And at 70, does anyone expect a leopard to change its spots? Especially one who surrounds himself with Yes People? I don’t think so.

The evidence is emerging from FEC filings that Trump is using the campaign as another scam. Whether he wants to be President or not, he has used it financially as a means to line the pockets of various Trump enterprises at taxpayer expense. Sounds a lot like a corrupt politician. Yet there are people who like/admire that because it shows he’s a “good business man” or some such nonsense.

I sense that you’re looking for reasons not to vote for Hillary Clinton. And that’s fine. So are a lot of people. You won’t get any strong-arm tactics from me. If you decide to vote Gary Johnson, go for it! All I ask is that you look through the Trump mask, if you haven’t already, with the same cynicism and distrust you have for her.

That is my story and I’m sticking to it. Writing this has made me want to order a copy of “Living History” from the Brooklyn Public Library. So thank you!

Best,
Peter

Barry O: You’re Gonna Miss Me

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You're Gonna Miss Me
Crooks & Liars has run a great reminder of how much we’re gonna miss President Obama when he leaves office next January.
Despite a recalcitrant Congress, Obama has done a lot for a country that stood on the brink of economic collapse when he took office in 2009.
Under his leadership, the Federal Government some say we don’t need has changed health care, education standards, legislated pay parity for women, revolutionized how energy is produced through renewable resources, fought back against global warming, provided deportation relief to young immigrants, legalized same-sex marriage and opened new opportunities for women and gays in the military, and tackled childhood obesity.
On the economic front, the Obama White House took actions that saved the domestic auto industry, has added nearly 4 million jobs, reduced unemployment to 5 percent and the deficit by two-thirds. It’s now a puny 2.5 percent of the United States’ GDP.
Under Obama, there has also been a new engineering of egalitarian tax reforms. The most usurious strong-arm tactics of the credit card lenders have mostly been eliminated.
The world is a scary and tenuous place. But for all our complaining, the United States is an island of relative calm. Why else is so much of our real estate being bought up from other continents? They want a foothold and safe haven here.
As for those who love calling Obama “lily-livered,” a “namby-pamby” and much less savory names, I’ll say that for 8 years Bush/Cheney did nothing about Osama bin Laden. Instead they diverted resources, along with our attention and patriotism into pointless, ugly, violent and expensive regime change. Period, end of story. If he’d done nothing else, that would almost have been enough. Obama also has isolated Vladimir Putin, ended the war in Iraq, reduced our involvement in Afghanistan, normalized relations with Cuba, and stabilized relations with Iran.
Do I agree with all of the things above, or the way the Obama Administration went about them? No, not at all. In particular, I think Kerry gave up way too easily on Iran. But even Israelis I have spoken to say some variation of “keep your enemies closer,” i.e. it’s better that we have Iran close enough to know what they’re up to. Keeping them isolated and knowing nothing is never an effective strategy, in spite of what deliberate know-nothings like to say.
Haters are going to focus on all the mistakes Obama has made. That’s their right. But please, can anyone name a perfect President? All I can say is that this is the first President in my lifetime (and I’m 53) that I respect enormously while he is in office. Obama is perhaps the first President since FDR who truly talked with us, not down to us. Obama hasn’t tried to scare us with 9/11 reminders or told us to go shopping.
Obama hasn’t been afraid to ask us to get involved and be courageous again. All the passion that young people feel for Bernie Sanders did not occur in a vacuum.
Many of them were young in 2008. They wanted more from this President, and were disappointed in several ways. They still don’t have the opportunities they’d hoped for, nor have they seen the recovery affect them. As much as I disagree with Trump supporters for their choice of candidate, they are looking for the same thing. Now they’re hoping for their candidate to do it better.
Some of my contemporaries see the contentiousness of the 2016 Election as End of Times. Others say The Revolution is being usurped by Wall Street or special interests. I disagree. When Engagement triumphs over the massive Apathy that I knew growing up, it gives me faith that the United States will be a better place.
ObamaWalks

 

We are in the middle of silly season. Both Republicans and Democrats are behaving like the rear ends of horses. Obama’s two terms may not have been Camelot, but they certainly showed what can be done amidst trying circumstances, limited expectations and while he had to fight off virulent enemies from within.

A Remake of “The Sting” – with Orangutan Hair

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In the past week, Donald Trump has met with the editorial boards of the Washington Post and The New York Times. As predicted, he showed himself to be dangerously shallow and out of his depth on what a President does, particular in global affairs.

Just as predictably, all those scared, angry and disheartened about Donald Trump are screaming and yelling.

But you know what? Maybe we all should all just take a deep breath and realize that this is not the 2nd coming of the Third Reich.

I say with some ease and confidence that Donald Trump is not running to actually be President. Trump is only running to win. He set out to show the uptight GOP losers that he is better than them, more in touch with voter sentiment and that he COULD win if he wanted to. He also set out to scare the Bejeesus out of Democrats.

Trump has proven his point, succeeding on both counts even beyond his wildest dreams. The problem? The game was never meant to get this far or be this successful. He has no exit strategy and his ego won’t let him back away.

This may be the part where it’s less fun for Trump. The media is starting to emerge from its lazy fog and ask real questions. They’re tired of the grandstanding and bragging from Trump. They know they haven’t done their jobs, and it’s time to pretend otherwise. Sunday’s “Meet The Press” — which has been a Trump smooch-fest all year — turned on him Sunday.

If the tide is turning, Trump’s team isn’t prepared to think strategically. They’re going day-by-day, scrambling and stumbling along as they ride the greatest run of good fortune since the Irish Sweepstakes. But the boss is mercurial and cruel, which makes them overworked. He’s gotten so personal with Ted Cruz, an even nastier piece of work, that it’s starting to ricochet back. Trump fans may give him more primary wins, but it’s going to take a heavy toll. And cost money that he probably never planned to spend.

NYT and WaPost can play “gotcha” about Trump’s idiocy in foreign affairs all they want, but it’s pointless. This man has serious ADD and no interest in running the United States.

What he is running is a shell game that will end. His marks? Trump supporters and the breathless media. All of us, actually.

It’ll end eventually, probably in Cleveland — the GOP will give Trump a deal so he can say “I Win!” Trump always says that when he loses, whether it’s his trophy properties in bankruptcy, USFL football, casinos in receivership, Trump Steaks, Trump University and others I’ve lost count of.

He’ll go away for awhile later this summer, but not until he breaks the GOP’s back and makes them beckon at his feet first.  Look at what he got Chris  Christie to do.

Trump will give the GOP his delegates. First they will all have to pay heed like Christie!

Trump will give the GOP his delegates. First they will all have to pay heed like Christie!

Christie: More Than Tardy?

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New_Jersey_state_seal

March 2, 2016

The Honorable Mary Pat Christie
First Lady, State of New Jersey

Dear Mrs. Christie:

Your husband Chris has not returned to work in his capacity as Governor of the State of New Jersey since ending his Presidential bid earlier in February. He has not reported to his office at the State House in Trenton as promised.

This creates an unfortunate power vacuum. Worse, our efforts to reach your husband have been unsuccessful. He has no more leave time allowed.

Unfortunately, Governor Christie is now considered derelict in his duties. Since he has not responded to our many calls, texts and emails, please inform him that Kim Guadajnos is now Governor of the State of New Jersey until further notice.

Sincerely,

James A.Gallagher, Official Timekeeper
Governor’s Office, State Of New Jersey

Trenton, NJ
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Attempts by the state of New Jersey to locate Governor Christie in recent days have been futile. Kim Guadajnos is now acting Governor.

People trying to understand why Governor Christie would defect to the Trump campaign might want to view this.

 

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