VETERANS DAY OBSERVED

BY A VET OF THE ALMOST-FORGOTTEN KOREAN WAR

Portrait of Air Force Private Larry L. Meyer, Fall of 1951.

Portrait of Air Force Private Larry L. Meyer, Fall of 1951.

Decided to observe Veterans Day by remembering my own service for the first time.  (At my age, you never know if you’ll get another chance.)  Served in the United States Air Force from September 25, 1951, to June 8, 1956, as a rawinsonde operator in the Air Weather Service, providing hard data to forecasters.

Duty Stations: Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, for basic training; Chanute AFB in Rantoul, Illinois, for weather school; rawinsonde operator at Komaki AFB in Nagoya, Japan; weather records checker at FEAF (Far East Air Force) Headquarters, Tokyo, Japan; rawinsonde operator at Eglin AFB, Fort Walton Beach, Florida; rawinsonde operator at Wheelus Field, Tripoli, Libya; rawinsonde instructor for NATO at Lages Field, Azores (Portugal); temporary duty at Rhein-main Air Base, Frankfurt, Germany; rawinsonde instructor for NATO at Mikra Air Base, Salonika, Greece.

Honorably discharged at Manhattan Beach, New York with the lowly rank of Airman First Class.

Oh to be young and thin again!

THE CRIME THE IMPEACHERS MISSED

LET’S ADD AN ARTICLE

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The Democrats are on the record that President Donald J. Trump’s articles of impeachment will be narrowly focused, concentrating on just a few of his many crimes and misdemeanors: abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and obstruction of Congress.  That’s all?

Maybe they are right in their reasoning.  The American public—conditioned in this digital age to receive information in fleeting visual bits—can’t handle too many charges; you’ve got to keep it simple so they can understand.  (We are told the Mueller Report was too long for them to read, with too many big words; besides, they didn’t make a TV flick of it.)

I still demur.  I think at least one more article of impeachment begs to be added: witness tampering, a crime punishable by up to 20 years.  Our blustering bully of a president flaunts that crime before our eyes and ears almost daily.   Most recently he lashed out at the anonymous whistleblower who exposed his unconstitutional extortion of the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for dirt on Joe Biden, his presumed political rival.   

“He must be brought forward to testify,” thundered our would-be emperor, the “he” being the rightly fearful whistleblower.  “Written answers are not enough.”  Really?  Where does Trump get off using the imperial “must?”  He’s the target of the impeachment inquiry, not its chief prosecutor.  He has no control over what Congress “must” do.  It’s what is meant by a separation of powers, the system of checks and balances that is enshrined in our Constitution.  Though I’ve heard he won’t or can’t read more than a page at a time, he might at least have one of his literate subordinates read it to him over, say, a month of Big Mac lunches.

One more thing about the whistleblower’s “written answers” being not enough.  Wouldn’t the president admit that the same applies to him?  We all remember, during the Mueller probe, that he stalled the investigation for almost a year before submitting his own written answers that were so vague as to be useless.  Why didn’t he appear personally to answer Mr. Mueller’s questions, as he repeatedly claimed he wanted to do?  We all know what is now common knowledge: because his attorneys knew anyone who had told more than 12,000 lies in office (Washington Post figures, through August 5, 2019) would incriminate himself before you could say “no collusion.”

President Trump saved his most lethal venom for those “spies” who had “ratted” on him by informing the whistleblower of what Trump had said on his extortionary phone call of July 25 to Ukrainian President Zelensky.  In a private rant to U.S. UN staffers, Trump said, “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart?  Right?  The spies and treason, we used to handle a little differently than we do now.”  (Gotcha boss.  Like hang them!)

Trump’s chilling words just might explain why the whistleblower is so reluctant to reveal himself or herself, and why Republicans in the administration continue their clamor that he or she do so.  (Ever notice how few whistleblowers blow their whistles in a police state?)

More chilling words from Trump were aimed at former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, a career diplomat of sterling reputation who got the gate when she refused to go along with his extortion scheme.  She was ordered back from  Kyiv to the U.S. in a day without explanation.  Turns out Trump’s freelance hand grenade, Rudi Giuliani, put in some bad words about her with the boss.  “The woman was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news.  So I just wanted you to know that,” Trump explained (presumably to a grammar school audience).  “She’s going to go through some things.”

Haven’t we heard that kind of talk in movies about the mob?  Kinda makes you reconsider a career in the Foreign Service, doesn’t it?

Of course witness tampering, witness intimidation, isn’t a recent practice in the Trump Administration.  We all remember Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer now in prison, who, among other things, paid off a porn star and Playboy bunny for services rendered with campaign funds for his client.  When Cohen turned on his capo dei capi and blabbed to Congress about the evils his boss had done, Trump more than once told the world that Cohen’s family had ties to the mob.  No one really called him on it.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen enough Godfather and Good Fellas movies to last me two lifetimes; and I certainly don’t want to live in this real-life sequel we share.  So how many more crimes do we let this gangster get away with before someone takes the nuclear football away from him?

NOBODY’S PERFECT

FIRING MY ALIBIS

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First, I take personal responsibility for your sudden plunge in fortune.  I can’t begin to guess the millions you folks lost betting on the Houston Astros, my choice to win the World Series.  Yes, your own trusted baseball guru failed you for the first time to give you winners in October’s playoffs.  (I’m letting the hoots and boos die down…awaiting the applause for my being so honest and forthright to drown them out.)

Know that I was not alone among the failed oracles who knew the Houston Astros were the best team.  The Washington Nationals?  Lucky.  A fluke…one of those cases where one team gets hot and the other can’t score after the sixth inning.  (In a universe governed by chance, all things that can happen will happen.)

Here I add another mea culpa for picking the Dodgers to win the National League pennant.  They let me down again, they let you down again, just as the Dodgers always let everybody down.  When will we learn?

Not to be too defensive, but it was a tough year for handicappers.  And I think my picks held up rather well, overall.  Review my final-six in each league (correct picks are in bold face).

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I continued my winning ways by picking New York over Minnesota and Houston over Tampa Bay, then completed my mastery of the American League by taking Houston over New York.  Why, that’s downright perfect.

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Make that five out of six in the final six in the Senior Circuit, with the feckless Cubbies folding first, followed by the Braves and Dodgers bowing out early.  Then the Braves and Dodgers betrayed me big-time, and the rest is sad history.

(Note though, I did have the newly crowned champion Washington Nationals among my teams in contention.)

OK, I’ve fired my last alibi.  Wait ’til next year!

To ease your financial pain, just remember my guarantee is still in force.  My picks for next year’s baseball season will come to you absolutely free!



P.S.  Houston’s departing pitching ace Gerrit Cole, the former Orange Lutheran High School and UCLA Bruin star, is now a free agent and in the Scott Boras fold.  Rumor has it that he wants to move west.  If true, the Dodger and Angel owners might want to dust off their checkbooks.

THE CRAZIES HAVING A CRAZY TIME IN CRAZYTOWN

TWO ROTTEN TOMATOES

A mugshot of Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, taken in 2008, after his arrest on a DUI. Representing Florida’s First District, this young Republican, a student of Roger Stone and devotee of Donald Trump, led last Wednesday’s Republican assault on Congressman’s Adam Schiff’s closed-door impeachment hearing. Such leadership and derring-do added to his growing reputation among the GOP as “a guy with balls.”

A mugshot of Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, taken in 2008, after his arrest on a DUI. Representing Florida’s First District, this young Republican, a student of Roger Stone and devotee of Donald Trump, led last Wednesday’s Republican assault on Congressman’s Adam Schiff’s closed-door impeachment hearing. Such leadership and derring-do added to his growing reputation among the GOP as “a guy with balls.”

What a Double Feature for Impeachment Week!  True, I would have preferred the High Drama first, on Wednesday, and seen the Low Comedy second, on Thursday…you know, as a bit of comic relief.  But that was not to be.

Led by the eternal frat boy Matt Gaetz, the GOP House Rep from the Florida Panhandle (known to some as “Trump’s protégé”), 47 or so Republican members of the House on Wednesday morning crashed a closed-door meeting.  Inside Chairman Adam Schiff’s three committees were considering the president’s impeachment; the Storm Troopers burst through security, shouting and brandishing their cell phones—a violation of security rules that possibly opened the proceeding to foreign ears.  And with their juvenile antics delayed the deposing of a witness by five hours.

Call it a farce that fell flat on its face, and might have been written by Aristophanes drunk on ouzo.  But it proved a point, I suppose: there are no boundaries that the GOP Pocket Protector Brigade won’t go to disrupt the orderly conduct of governance and save their Chosen One, He of the Great and Matchless Wisdom. 

I wish I could speak better of the “high drama” that followed on Thursday.  Nope.  Can’t.  Lickspittle Lindsay Graham got his Clown Show rolling early by lobbing a two megaton smoke bomb at the House of Representatives on behalf of his golfing chum, Donald J. Trump.

How?  Specifics?  Well, the Senator from South Carolina introduced a non-binding Senate resolution condemning the House’s Democrat-controlled committees for denying Trump his constitutional rights to a fair trial, denying him the right to confront his accusers, holding their investigation “in secret,” and even failing to vote on whether or not to launch an impeachment investigation.

A quick barrage of incoming fire from the savvy dispersed the smoke, and  Graham’s canard lay there, naked and dead.  The particulars?

First off, since when does the Senate dictate to the House how it conducts its business?  Toothless blather meant to mislead and obscure. 

Second, there is no House rule requiring a vote to begin an impeachment inquiry.  Period.

Third, inquiries are held behind closed doors for very good reasons.  That way future witnesses do not know what previous witnesses have testified to, and cannot tailor their testimony to “get their stories aligned.”  The non-public nature of the hearing also discourages congressional questioners from “showboating” to impress their constituents back home with their mastery of performance art; more committee work gets done in less time.  Last, closed-door questioning protects witnesses’ privacy and reputation should the case not go forward.

Fourth, Trump should be denied the “right” to confront his accusers.  He has made it clear, on film no less, how he thinks “spies” (read whistleblowers) should be treated: you know, the old fashioned way…hint, hint.  Without protection of those brave souls who speak out against government wrongs, they would be…uh, dispatched, and we would in time become just one more Banana Republic. 

Fifth, every impeachment in American history (Trump’s would be the fourth) has differed in how it was handled; there is no settled procedure, no precedent that must be followed.  Each case brings its own circumstances, begging ad hoc actions and solutions.

Finally, Donald J. Trump is not being denied “due process.”  Constitutional law is not statute law.  And as Fox News (yes, Fox News!) commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano opined, “Democrats are following the rules.”

My DC Drama review?  A clinker followed by a clunker.  Or a bummer followed by a bust.  Put another way, neither the Storm Troopers nor Trump’s Tee-Time Pal did anything but prove again that our government is badly broken.

To finish on a brighter note, did you know that no Kurds were slaughtered by Turks while Bill Clinton got his nine blow jobs in the White House?

DON’T BE A BARNEY, NANCY…

CATCH THE IMPEACHMENT WAVE WITH US!

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Madam Speaker: how many crimes must The Chosen One commit before he is held accountable?  We now add  attempted extortion of a foreign nation (Ukraine) to a lengthy list of unpunished offenses.  Purpose?  To get political dirt on a domestic rival.  Pile that on routine abuses of power, a conspiracy to collude with Russia in fixing the 2016 election, witness tampering, money laundering, tax evasion, continuous violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, stealing from a charitable fund, sexual assault, campaign funding violations, paying off sexual partners for their silence…and no doubt many high crimes and misdemeanors not yet revealed.

If you quibble that he hasn’t been convicted of some of these charges, I remind you that he obstructs justice almost daily to prevent their investigations and near-certain convictions.  Further clouding the picture, he has told 12,019 public lies, as of August 12, 2019 (according to The Washington Post).

Even the ever-cautious and wary Congressman Adam Schiff says we have now crossed the Rubicon.  Yes, Nancy, that’s your cue to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of impeachment on this surviving Orange Crested Thecodont from the Triassic.  Don’t play the political card that being so bold would jeopardize competitive House seats in the upcoming presidential election, which you correctly believe the Dems will win.  Sometimes you must rise above politics…say, when the Constitution is at stake.  Do the right thing, even if it is risky.

If the Constitution is worth saving, it’s worth obeying.

Surf’s up, Nancy.  Let’s hang ten*.



(*A pseudonym.)

ESCAPE FROM SCAMDOM

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

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The phone rang at 10:10 a.m., and I figured it was probably another robo-call, making it the third of the day, which was right on time; I average 15 such nuisance calls a day.  Usually I check the origin of the call—Anaheim, Brea, Dendron (wherever that may be)—and hang up, before the seven seconds of silence ends with a dial tone.

“Private caller,” it read.

I didn’t hang up.  It might be someone I knew.

“Hello?”

“Grandpa, it’s Steve,*  I’m in trouble, and I really have to talk to you.  Pardon the voice.  I’m fighting a cold.”

I was surprised to hear from my grandson, a college senior due to graduate next June, so early in the morning…and in trouble.  “What’s wrong?”

“I want to keep this between us.  Don’t get my Mom or Dad involved….  You know my friend Michael?”

“I don’t think so, why?”

“Well I was in Mike’s car this morning, and he was high and drove through a stop sign.  A cop pulled us over and Mike got in argument with him, so they searched the car and found cocaine under my seat.  It wasn’t mine…I didn’t know it was there, but they’ve taken us to the Burbank police station.”

I was confused, tongue-tied, slow to respond.  My wife, sensing something wrong, joined me to listen in. 

“What can I do, Steve?” I finally asked.

“I’ve got to go now,” he said in a rushed and hushed tone.  “Here’s my public defender—he’ll fill you in.”

My wife wrote out a note for me: Doesn’t sound like Steve.  That’s a Midwestern accent.

“Mr. Meyer?  I’m Nicholas Keca.  I’m defending Steve.  As he told you, he’s innocent.  He took a drug test and passed.  Now we’ve got to get him out of jail.  Can you post bail?  It’s $5000.”  

“I don’t have that kind of ready cash,” I said, feeling utterly lost.  My wife scribbled me a note: Lawyer?  Sounds like a bail bondsman to me.

“Have you contacted his father?” I asked.

“Steve doesn’t want to do that, as he told you.  He had one call to make and you were his choice.  Besides, the judge has issued a gag order.  And he can’t make another call for 12 hours.  That means he’ll have to spend the night in jail.”

Gag order?  Denied another phone call?  It didn’t make sense to me, but I’ve never been in jail and know next to nothing about jailhouse procedures.  My wife wrote another note to me: He’s trying to scare you.

“I have a credit card, but I don’t know how to—”

“You can wire the money,” said Mr. Keca, “It’s very easy to do.  And by law, you are guaranteed to get your money back.  Here’s how you….”  There followed directions for fund-transfer directions that I couldn’t begin to follow.  

Before I could ask him to explain the process more slowly, in more detail, my wife slipped me another note: Get his name, company, phone number

Good advice.  “What’s your name again?  Nicholas…last name?”

“Ketcha.”

“How do you spell that?”

“K-e-c-a.”

“And your phone number?”

Hesitation on the other end.  “Are you asking me for it because you’re going to call me back?” 

“No” came out of my mouth on its own.

Click.  Hang-up.

What?  Why?  Was it all bogus?  A scam?

I couldn’t be sure, and my grandson still might be in the Burbank jail for days, waiting for bail to be posted.

So I broke a confidence and phoned his dad, my son Ken, and repeated the story I’d been told by the mysterious public defender with the odd name of Keca.

I didn’t get to finish.  He burst into emotional concern, cut me off, left work in a rush, and headed for the Burbank hoosegow.

About an hour later my son phoned me back, his voice teeming with relief and jollity.  The Burbank police had laughed when he came to claim his son.  It had even happened to one of the officer’s parents.  Yes, it was an everyday scam, perpetrated mainly on the aged.

“But how did they know Steve’s name and my name and the relationship?” I asked.

My son chuckled.  “Dad, this is the digital age: Facebook, Twitter…there’s any number of ways they could have figured it out.  There’s no privacy anymore.  You’re from a different time.”

Apparently so, based on the day’s evidence.  I had been gullible.  Had shown myself an easy mark.  And I felt a lot older than I had the day before.

“All’s well that ends well,” the wise Bard wrote.  It did for my son, who after the jailhouse stop drove directly to Steve’s apartment, woke him from sleep, and hugged him with elation.

As for me, I’m starting to feel there is no guarantee of it ending well.  Without my wife’s guardianship, I’d already be dubbed the Duke of Dupedom.

*Names changed for reasons of privacy.

STRANGE STIRRINGS IN OC POLITICS

Meet Our Leading Ladies…

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The latest big surprise in California politics is that Democratic Party membership in Orange County topped Republican Party membership for the first time in living memory for most of us.  Proving?  That donkeys can fly and the political climate is changing along with the weather in California’s mighty fortress of ultra-conservatism—changing dramatically.  How else explain the 2018 election in which all six of the county’s Congressional districts went blue?

A harbinger of that shocking shift showed itself in the 2016 presidential contest when Hilary Clinton edged Donald Trump by 102,813 votes.  Zounds! That was the first time a Democrat won Orange County in a presidential election since Franklin Delano Roosevelt defeated Alf Landon during the Depression days of 1936.  Wow!  That’s a long wait.  So what’s going on?  Are there major changes in the zeitgeist of what I use to consider our state’s smug Babbitt hutch?  To find out I decided to do some political polling myself and compare the results with professional pollsters, using this year’s Democratic Party’s primary race for its 2020 nominee.

Yes, yes, I know the limitations of early polls and have listened to the wise counsel not to take them too seriously... that they capture but a brief moment in time…that they all have their own margins of error…that some are for public consumption and others for the private use of the sponsoring political party…that even in this age of refined analytics, there is always the occasional outlier—the poll that somehow drifts into the twilight zone.  

I have heard all these caveats and more, and yet I will proceed in my three-way comparison in which I compare National Sentiment, where I take the last ten national polls* and average them out.  Compare that with California Sentiment, from the KGTV-TV/SurveyUSA poll of the state taken on August 8.  Compare both with Orange County Sentiment, specifically of the Huntington Beach Chapter of Drinking Liberally, a politically active group that, not surprisingly, leans to the left of the Democratic Party.  Here are the results:

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My overall, hesitant conclusions?  Even Orange County, the most conservative redoubt in the Golden State, is loosening up, joining the progressive rest of California, leaving Trump worship behind to the benighted folks in Southern and Midwestern climes.

Some real, specific surprises here.  Warren is surging out west, the more so in our sample of Orange County voters.  And note who’s second there…not explained completely by Harris being a native daughter.  At the very least, the results show that Golden Staters have no reservations about having a woman head the Democratic ticket in 2020.

Perhaps the most significant surprise is Bernie’s diminished appeal, both nationally in his numbers now compared to those of 2016, but most tellingly in the Orange County results; the flame seems to have passed on to members of another gender. 

Texans have little support west of the West—that is to say, Calfornia—if O’Rourke’s numbers tell the truth.  And the mentally formidable Buttigieg’s numbers flag in our open-minded Golden State.  What gives?  The same might be asked of the polished Julian Castro’s disappointing showing.

OK, you want to trash my tyro’s try at polling.  Yes, I admit my OC sample size is small, and I am new to polling.  Add, as well,  that not much can be made of any political poll this far off from the event being tested.   

Still, could these be straws in the wind of an approaching, cleansing tornado?  The answer might well determine whether the last and best hope for democracy survives.

*Methodology:  I averaged the ten most recent national polls for the Democratic nomination for president moving from the most recent in August back to the beginning of the month.   I considered the Fox News poll of August 16; the HarrisX poll of August 15; the Economist poll of August 14; the Politico/Morning Consult poll of August 13; the Survey USA poll of August 9; the You Gov poll of August 7; the, Quinnipiac, the Politico/Morning Consult and the IBD/YIPP polls of August 7.

LONG YEARS' JOURNEY INTO NIGHT

Our Presidents Speak

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“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.”

-John Adams

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“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free it expects what never was and never will be.”

-Thomas Jefferson

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“A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

-James Madison

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“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.  Why don’t they go back and fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.  Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.  I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!” 

-Donald J. Trump

How far we have fallen.   Sad.