Category Archives: Current events and history

Yet another review of “past Trump-posts…”

The 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. Any connection to current events?

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”  (For his work on the Israelite.)

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

I just got back from a month in Portugal, hiking the Camino Portuguese from Porto to Santiago. Meanwhile, in the last few days since I got home, there’s been a lot of political hubbub in the news. As in Trump Impeachment Poll: Public Support Rises.

So before starting any posts on my recent adventure-pilgrimage, it might be good to review some posts I did in the past. About Donald Trump. Like the one predicting he’d “be impeached within two years.” (Which cited another past post, from before the election, asking if Trump might be the “new Maverick in town.” See April 2016’s “Is there a new ‘Maverick’ in town?”)

We missed that deadline, from November 2016. On the other hand we are coming up on three years into his first term. (Putting aside – “tabling*” – the question whether he’ll have a second term.) And yet many people still support him. Why? One possible answer might have come in last April’s On Oscar Wilde and our “criminal heroes.” It came in turn from an article in the Jan/Feb 2019 National Geographic History Magazine, “Jesse James: Rise of an American outlaw.”

It seems that Wilde was in America in 1882 – in St. Joseph, Missouri – the week after Jesse James was killed. Thus he witnessed “firsthand the mad clamor for relics of the outlaw at an auction of Jesse’s household belongings.” That led Wilde to observe: “Americans are certainly great hero-worshipers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes.”

Which – as I said – could explain the continuing support of Donald Trump from a large part of “the sovereign people.” Then too, Americans tend to admire “rebels” as well, as explored in the post-election (11/16) post, Donald Trump – The new Johnny Yuma? Which included this:

I have to admit I’ve been pretty much stymied since the election, last November 8. The best I could come up with since then was “Trump is like a box of chocolates.”  [11/13/16…]  It’s as if the Muses have abandoned me. On the one hand I want to be fair and not cranky. (Like so many other people my age.) But on the other hand I have this deep sense of foreboding

Which sense of foreboding could be coming to fruition “even as we speak.”

And which brings up a common phrase in this blog, “past Trump-posts.” It could be related to another new word, Trumpgret. See New Word: Trumpgret! – debatepolitics.com. (A word “bandied about by many voters that now ‘regret’ having voted for Trump in 2016.”)

But getting back to Trump as a rebel. The Yuma post noted that I “Googled the words ‘Donald Trump rebel’ and got 46,300,00 results.” And that one such link was the article, How the Rebel Flag Rose Again – and Is Helping Trump(“That title pretty much speaks for itself.”) 

Which I suppose means that the current Democratic House of Representative’s moves to impeach Trump can be seen – by some Americans anyway – as the functional equivalent of “the dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard,” as illustrated at right.* (If I’m being too subtle,  Trump is portrayed as the “heroic Jesse James.”)

Then there was another post from the past,  “I dreamed I saw Don Trump last night.” It asked the musical question:

50 years from now [could] that dulcet-toned lass [Joan Baez] be singing that ode to Donald Trump to the tune of “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night[?]” Joan Baez sang the original song – about Joe Hill – most memorably at Woodstock, back in the summer of 1969.

That post noted that “in some strange way Donald Trump – educated at the New York Military Academy, then the Wharton School” and worth over three billion dollars* – “has somehow become a hero to the (white) American working man.” It also noted that comparing Trump to famed labor activist and union organizer Joe Hill might not be such a good thing.

That is, like Jesse James and other noted “rebels,” Joe Hill died young. (At 36.) In one line from from “Joe Hill,” Baez sang, “‘The Copper Bosses killed you Joe, They shot you Joe’ says I.” That is, in 1914 Utah officials charged Hill with murder, resulting in a trial that became a sensation:

The case turned into a major media event. President Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller (the blind and deaf author and fellow-IWW member), the Swedish ambassador and the Swedish public all became involved in a bid for clemency. It generated international union attention, and critics charged that the trial and conviction were unfair. [One later organizer considered] Joe Hill to have been a political prisoner who was executed for his political agitation…

And again if I’m being too subtle, Joe Hill was executed by firing squad at Utah’s Sugar House Prison on November 19, 1915. (After a conviction arguably orchestrated by “the copper bosses.”)

Which could happen to Donald Trump, metaphorically anyway.

Even if impeached and convicted – and in all likelihood ever after he passes from the scene, possibly still in disgrace – he likely will still remain a hero to some members of “the American working man.” As the original “Joe Hill” song said, “Takes more than guns to kill a man…  Says Joe ‘I didn’t die.’” In the same way it may take more than an impeachment-and-conviction to tarnish the Donald’s reputation with some Americans.  

And so the final stanza of  “I dreamed I saw Don Trump last night” might go like this:

From San Diego up to Maine, In every mine and mill, Where working men defend their rights, It’s there you’ll find Don Trump, It’s there you’ll find Don Trump!

It could happen! Meanwhile, the question “How much of this will be ‘deja vu all over again?'”

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Will this be the scene if the House of Representatives impeaches Donald Trump?

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The upper image is courtesy of Impeachment in the U.S. – Wikipedia. The caption:Depiction of the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase presiding.”

Re: “Tabling.” The term in the United States for a rule of parliamentary procedure under which a topic or motion is put aside, possibly indefinitely; “to ‘table’ usually means to postpone or suspend consideration of a pending motion.” The term has different meanings in different countries; “the American meaning is based on the idea of leaving the topic on the table indefinitely and thereby disposing of it, i.e. killing its discussion.” See Table (parliamentary procedure) – Wikipedia.

Re: “Dirty little coward.” The caption of the photo: “A woodcut shows Robert Ford famously shooting Jesse James in the back while he hangs a picture in his house. Ford’s brother Charles looks on.” James was living under the assumed name, “Mr. Howard,” and apparently “Tom Howard.” See Wikipedia on Jesse James and Question about Jesse James & h – Genealogy.com. Wikipedia further noted:

While his “heroic outlaw” image is commonly portrayed in films, [some late 20th century historians] have classified him as a self-aware vigilante and terrorist who used local tensions to create his own myth among the widespread insurgent guerrillas and vigilantes following the American Civil War…  James remains a controversial symbol, one who can always be reinterpreted in various ways according to cultural tensions and needs. Some of the neo-Confederate movement regard him as a hero.

Which may well become the legacy of Donald Trump? 

The lower image was courtesy of Hard Hat Riot: Tea Party of yesteryear – Daily Kos.  (Which image has since been “removed.”)  The caption refers to two prior posts from this blog: Is this “deja vu all over again,” and a repriseAnother “deja vu all over again?”  See also Hard hat – Wikipedia, as to the literal meaning of the term, and the Collins Dictionary, as to its cultural implications; i.e., “characteristic of the presumed conservative attitudes and prejudices typified by construction workers.”  (See also, Hard Hat Riots.)

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Past posts on Trump and his future include Some thoughts on “the Donald,” from two years ago, On Hard hats, Hell’s Angels – and Inauguration Day 2017, and Trump – The new Johnny Yuma?

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 68year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – living in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”  Anyway, in Charlotte Harry wrote and published the “Israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made him special was his positive outlook on life.  He got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

A belated 4th of July meditation…

“American children of many ethnic backgrounds” celebrate July 4th.  (No “send her back” here…)

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United States Declaration of Independence.jpgWe celebrated July 4th over two weeks ago.

But any time is a good time to recall the reason why we celebrate that day.  (When the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.)

And to recall the Declaration’s “self-evident” truths:  1)  that all men (and women) are created equal,  2) that all Americans have a God-given right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,  3) that governments – especially American governments – get their power from and by “the consent of the governed,*” and 4)  that when any American administration tries to destroy those ends, the Sovereign People have the right – if not the duty – to alter or abolish that administration.

And “institute new Government,” in the form of a new administration.

Which brings up the 22d Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  And with it the subject of term limits for the president – the chief executive – of these ostensibly-united states:

Prior to the ratification of the amendment, the president had not been subject to term limits, but George Washington had established a two-term tradition that many other presidents had followed.  [However, in] the 1940 presidential election, Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first president to win a third (and later fourth) term, giving rise to concerns about the potential issues involved with a president serving an unlimited number of terms.

And what are those “potential issues?”  As Thomas Jefferson said over 200 years ago:  “If some termination to the services of the chief magistrate [the president] be not fixed by the Constitution, or supplied by practice, his office, nominally for years, will in fact, become for life; and history shows how easily that degenerates into an inheritance.”

James Madison.jpgWhich is another way of saying that limiting the number of presidential terms is a “vital check against any one person, or the presidency as a whole, accumulating too much power.”  Or as James Madison (at left) added, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judicial in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self–appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

Which brings up a 2009 attempt to repeal the 22d Amendment.  The effect was – according to conservatives – to allow “Barack Obama to serve as ‘President for life.'”  See FACT CHECK: Bill to Repeal the 22nd Amendment.  It was introduced by New York representative Jose Serrano, and was the same bill he’d introduced nine times since 1997.  The response from conservatives?

Is THIS really what America wants or needs?  If the just introduced H.J. Res 15 passes, Barack Obama will LEGALLY be able to be our dictator for the remainder of his life.  I surely hope that all liberty loving patriots speak up to their Congressmen and women that 4 years of Barack Obama has been bad enough, we surely don’t need him around running America into the ground for another 40 years.

Another comment compared the Democratic Party with “the Nazis, the Communists, and the Fascists,” because they were ostensibly “moving to posture the U.S. Presidency for succession by one President.”  (But see Trump hints U.S. should nix term limits.)  The writer added, “That’s how Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini became ‘Leaders for Life.’”  Then another voice added:

“Will George W. Bush end up being the last true U.S. President?” asked Sher Zieve…  ”As I warned you on multiple times prior to the 2008 General Election, ‘Once Obama is elected, we won’t be able to get rid of him.’  Tragically, this warning is now being realized.  Not only has Obama established his election-fraud organization ACORN nationwide*, his adherents have now begun the process to repeal the U.S. Constitution’s 22nd Amendment.”

Which brings up the irony of the same lawmakers [being] slow to reintroduce presidential term limit repeal under Trump (“Trump has joked about repealing the 22nd Amendment, including while humorously suggesting that he likes the idea of being ‘president for life,’ a term used to describe Chinese President Xi Jinping, who recently consolidated power in the authoritarian country.”) 

See also Do you think Trump will try to repeal the 22nd Amendment(The answer?  No, not effectively anyway.)  My point?  The shoe is on the other foot, metaphorically speaking.

TrumpConservatives wish – and liberals dread – that without the 22d Amendment Donald Trump might well end up “our dictator for the remainder of his life.”  (As he himself has “joked.”  See Trump Jokes About Being President for 16 Years. Or Googletrump joke president for life.”)

Which isn’t going to happen.  Whether by vote in 2020 or operation of law in 2024, Trump will end up leaving the White House.  What happens then?  Aside from the cheering, the dancing in  the streets, the fireworks and parades, a new nightmare will begin – for Donald Trump.

Aside from likely fraud prosecutions in states like New York and California, he will no longer automatically be the center of attention.  He will no longer be able to have his face on the “front pages” of American media.  Eventually he’ll simply be ignored, a harsh punishment – for him – in and of itself.  Then there is Trump’s desire to be a part of the “elite.”

Trump doesn’t just have a problem with those in the exclusive club of elites.  It sounds as if he’s expressing frustration that he is not a part of that select group.  His boasts about his residence, bank account and intelligence sound like someone who wants membership in a club that has repeatedly rejected him.

So by either 2021 or 2025, Donald Trump will no longer have the protection of the White House.  He will no longer be part of the “ruling elite.”  He will be – simply – just one more ex-president.  And he’ll then have to face the reality that a great many Americans loathe him.  More to the point, a great many Americans will no longer see him as “a winner.”

Trump and many of his supporters believe that winning isn’t all that matters.  It matters that you be viewed as a winner.  And for a president who has been quick to lob the label “loser” at those with whom he didn’t find favor, knowing that there are many Americans who don’t want him in their club is a great source of anger.

And that anger may well be returned by the very “deplorables” who ardently support him now.  Like, when they finally realize how little he has actually done for them.  “Trump and his family may be mining this anti-elite anger, but they … also aren’t proposing anything that could make life better for the people who actually live in small towns or in ‘flyover’ states.”

People might even say, “and great was the fall thereof.”  (But the Republic will live on…)

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The upper image is courtesy of Independence Day (United States) – Wikipedia.  I borrowed it from the 2017 post July 4th: “God save the Queen?”  It noted that Puck magazine was noted for its satire, “which is another way of saying that any real American will always retain his or her sense of humor, up to and including the ability to laugh at himself.  (Or herself.)  And that’s another way of saying that no real American will ever be too thin-skinned to do his job.  (Or hers.)

“Not that that observation applies to current events or anything…”  

The full text of the Preamble to the United States Declaration of Independence (Wikipedia):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [and women] are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,  That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation upon such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.  Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.  But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”  (E.A.)

Re:  “Consent of the governed.”  See also Popular sovereignty – Wikipedia.

Re:  “Chief executive.”  See SparkNotes: The Presidency: The President’s Roles:  The president is “head of the executive branch and is responsible for running the federal bureaucracy and enforcing the laws passed by Congress.”  He – or she, eventually – has the appointment power to nominate members of the cabinet, along with “heads of agencies, federal judges, and about 2,000 lesser jobs.  The Senate must approve these nominations.” 

Re:  Accumulation of power quote.  See Separation of Powers: A System of Checks and Balances.  See also, TOP 25 TYRANNY FOUNDING FATHERS QUOTES.  Another relevant quote from Madison:  “If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

Re:  “Acorn nationwide.”  See ACORN 2009 undercover videos controversy – Wikipedia.  In 2009, conservative activists Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe secretly recorded activities at the offices of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a non-profit which – for nearly 40 years – had been involved in “voter registration, community organizing and advocacy for low- and moderate-income people.”  After much media ballyhoo one federal investigation found ACORN hadn’t violated “any federal regulations in the past five years,” but that O’Keefe and Giles “may have violated Maryland and California laws banning the recording of face-to-face conversations without consent of both parties.”  In 2010 the Brooklyn District Attorney‘s office found the videos were “‘heavily edited’ to give a misleading impression,” and that there was no criminal wrongdoing by the ACORN Brooklyn staff.  A law enforcement source added, “They edited the tape to meet their agenda.”

Re:  “And great was the fall thereof.”  See Matthew 7:27, according to the Douay-Rheims and English Revised Version of the Bible.  Which leads to the lower image, courtesy of House Built On Sand – Image Results.  See also Parable of the Wise and the Foolish Builders – Wikipedia, which “illustrates the importance of building one’s life on obedience to the teachings and example of Jesus.”

A reminder: “I’m an INDEPENDENT (Voter…)”

Emanuel Leutze (American, Schwäbisch Gmünd 1816–1868 Washington, D.C.) - Washington Crossing the Delaware - Google Art Project.jpg

Washington Crossing the Delaware – before political parties could lift up “the unprincipled…”

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I had an interesting conversation last May 2d, at a Saturday-afternoon soccer game.  My Georgia niece’s husband – “nephew by marriage” – was sounding out my political views.

“There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian”: and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible by [Ford, James B.]He’d been goaded by having read – under protest no doubt – the paperback version of my just-published e-book, No such thing as a Conservative Christian(I’d given the two a copy of the paperback version for Christmas.)  He asked if I was conservative or liberal, and I gave him my standard answer – at the time.  I said I was a “Contrarian,” which translates to something like “pissed-off moderate.”

Then just the other day someone on Facebook called me a “liberal.”

Which again threw me for a loop, temporarily.  Being out of practice – away from home for three weeks in Israel, then two weeks on the road trip to Massachusetts – I was tempted to respond that I was a Moderate.  The problem is that these days that sounds wishy-washy.  I also thought of pointing out that I’m a fiscal conservative but a social liberal.  (“Like most real Americans,” I added.  It seems you have to be a bit “over the top” on Facebook these days.)  Then too – somewhere between last May and now – I toyed with the idea of calling myself a “seeker-after-truth.”  But that sounds a bit pompous.

So as it turns out, none of the three answers I toyed with sounded right, until I remembered a post that I did two years ago – for July 4th – called The Independent Voter.  That post noted the growing number of Independent Voters in this country.  That is, “those voters who don’t align with either major political party, Republican or Democrat:”

An independent is variously defined as a voter who votes for candidates and issues rather than on the basis of a political ideology or partisanship;  a voter who does not have long-standing loyalty to, or identification with, a political party;  a voter who does not usually vote for the same political party from election to election;  or a voter who self-describes as an independent.

To me, the problem with both Conservatives and Liberals is that they both have a “one size fits all” set of standard answers for all of life’s problems.  They each have a preconceived notion of “What is Truth.”  And so – rather than digging out the real Truth – they try ever so hard to find answers to all of life’s problems in a pre-boxed set of canned answers. 

On the other hand, there is that quote from Virgil, “Fortunate is he who understands the cause of things.”  In other words, the one who understands why things happen.  In that way he is much better prepared to keep Reality from coming up and biting him on the ass!  (Metaphorically or otherwise.)  And that – to me – is the big difference between an Independent and either a Conservative or Liberal.  An Independent wants to find the real truth…

Then too there was my post from June 2017, Last year at this time.  It noted that Independent Voters –  “who don’t align with either major political party” – could well have taken their cue from Ralph Waldo Emerson:  “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”

Which also makes for the biggest problem we Independents Voters always face:

“One must always choose the lesser of two weevils!”

The point is:  Life isn’t “black and white,” the way ardent liberals and conservatives alike believe.  Everyday life is full or gray areas, as noted in Learning to see things grey:

Turns out that life is full of grey situations.  Life is full of uncertainty.  Full of situations that are neither “Yes” nor “No,” but subject to one of the endless variables in that grey area between black and white.  As humans, we are limited by our subjective perspectives…  Given this limitation, not everything can fit into one of our neat little boxes that we have in our minds and with which we would like to interpret all the situations we encounter in our lives.

And it’s those “neat little boxes” that Conservatives and Liberals alike turn to, for solutions to all of life’s problems.  Or maybe I just don’t trust canned responses, “predetermined responses to common questions.”  Which is why – at one point over the past few years – I considered “Contrarian” to be the best label for me and what I believe.

See for example, ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian:

I think I was pre-disposed to become a Contrarian.  For one thing, I was a public defender for 24 years – before I retired – so I got used to saying things people didn’t like to hear.  For another, I like the idea of a “Devil’s advocate,” which is one of the “see alsos” in the Wikipedia article on Contrarians

But as I found out, in its original meaning a “Devil’s advocate” did holy work.  He too was a “seeker after truth,” albeit with a much more memorable title.  See for example Contrarian – Wikipedia, with a link included therein on “Devil’s advocate:”

The Advocatus Diaboli … was formerly an official position within the Catholic Church;  one who “argued against the canonization (sainthood) of a candidate in order to uncover any character flaws or misrepresentation evidence favoring canonization.”

In other words, the job of the Advocatus Diaboli was to find the truth, which was the same thing Superman came to stand for.  (See Truth, Justice, and the American Way – Wikipedia.)

The problem is, going after the real truth – the “whole truth and nothing but the truth” – can often get you into a lot of trouble.  For example, there’s the Social gadfly concept.  That term refers to a person “who interferes with the status quo of a society or community by posing novel, potentially upsetting questions, usually directed at authorities.”

Then too finding the truth is just half the problem.  Then you have to make it comprehensible.  There’s a lot of “truth” that’s largely beyond the comprehension of many Americans.  (Especially those who need persuading that Donald Trump is “less than meets the eye.”)

Which is – as it turns out – just the problem that Moses, Paul and Jesus all had to face.  (And Socrates as well, as shown at right.)  They all had to “dumb it down” and – in my view – do so mostly for the more conservative among us, then and now.  Or as Colin Powell put it:  “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.”

Even conservatives…

So anyway, Plato used the term “gadfly” to describe Socrates‘s relationship with the people around him and of his time.  He was an “uncomfortable goad* to the Athenian political scene, which he compared to a slow and dimwitted horse.”

Which sounds pretty appropriate these days as well.

And that brings up another problem.  We know what happened to Socrates, “in his defense when on trial for his life.*”  For that matter, something similar happened to Jesus when He too tried to “shake things up” and help His disciples resist the ongoing temptation to turn too conservative.  The point is, if you are neither a conservative nor a liberal, you don’t have a ready-made set of allies to back you up in a bar fight, metaphoric or otherwise.

“It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.”

But at the very least I have this:  If anybody asks, I now know what to call myself…

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Daniel Webster argues against the Devil…

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The upper image is courtesy of Washington Crossing the Delaware – Wikipedia.  The quote is from Quote by Washington “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely … to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”  (Can you say prescient?)  Then too, Washington could well be the first “independent voter.”

The “No conservative Christian” image is from Amazon.com: Kindle eBooks: Kindle Store.  The link in the text will take you to the paperback version.

Re: The Virgil quote.  See Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas – Wikipedia.  From Verse 490 of Book 2 of the “Georgics” (29 BC), by the Latin poet Virgil (70 – 19 BC), the phrase is variously translated.  For example, John Dryden – (1631-1700) the English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who became England’s first Poet Laureate – translated it: “Happy the Man, who, studying Nature’s Laws, / Thro’ known Effects can trace the secret Cause.”  (In other words, the direct opposite of the person who says “fake news” at every bit of information he or she can’t handle…) 

The “lesser of two weevils” image is courtesy of pinterest.com.  See also Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – YouTubeLesser of Two Evils – TV TropesReader Opinion: Clinton v Trump and “the lesser of two weevils, Master and Commander: A Movie Review – Maccabee Society, and/or Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – Wikipedia.

Re:  “Mi Dulce” and me being a Contrarian.  I must admit that there was also a bit of “getting her goat” with such a label, as explained in Phrase Finder:

A commonly repeated story … is that goats were placed with racehorses to keep them calm. When ne’er-do-wells who wanted the horse to race badly removed it, that is, they ‘got someone’s goat,’ [and] the horse became unsettled and ran badly.

For an alternate theory, see Definition of get (one’s) goat – Online Slang Dictionary.

As to the grey – or gray – areas in life, I Googled “real life gray areas” and got almost 11 million results.  Of related interest see Debate Quotes – BrainyQuote, and/or Quote by René Descartes: “If you would be a real seeker:  “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”

Re:  Truth, justice and the American way.  An opposing view, Truth, Justice, or the American Way – LELA.  Or for a very long and convoluted – but intriguing – analysis, Truth, Justice, and the American Way | Alternative to AARPAmong other things, it noted, “After World War II, Superman’s foster Dad reminded his son that he must use his super powers ‘in the interest of truth, tolerance, and justice,’ and also that “personal liberty demands personal responsibility.  Liberty and Responsibility go hand in hand.”  From a rough reading I’d say that author too is a bit of Contrarian…

The Cambridge English Dictionary says that to “goad” someone is to “make a person or an animal react or do something by continuously annoying or upsetting them.”

Re: Socrates, and how he ended up.  He was tried and convicted of “both corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens and of impiety (asebeia, ‘not believing in the gods of the state’), and as a punishment sentenced to death, caused by the drinking of a mixture containing poison hemlock.”

One of Socrates’s purported offenses to the city was his position as a social and moral critic. Rather than upholding a status quo and accepting the development of what he perceived as immorality … Socrates questioned the collective notion of “might makes right…”  Plato refers to Socrates as the “gadfly” of the state (as the gadfly stings the horse into action, so Socrates stung various Athenians), insofar as he irritated some people with considerations of justice and the pursuit of goodness.  His attempts to improve the Athenians’s sense of justice may have been the cause of his execution.

The lower image is courtesy of Lawsuits against the Devil – Wikipedia.  The full caption, “Daniel Webster argues on behalf of a plaintiff while the Devil whispers into the judge’s ear.”

An update on “why I don’t like Donald Trump…”

Reason # 1:  Trump thinks he’s above the law.  (Another thing:  he’s not Winston Churchill…)

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”  (For his work on the Israelite.)

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

Back on March 20, I wrote about the beginning of Lent, 2019.  And about Lent’s generally including – as preparation for Easter – giving up things, and with doing things like penance, “repentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial.”  (See Early kayaking adventure.)

But while for many people Lent means giving up something, “some people choose to add a discipline ‘that would add to my spiritual life.’  (See Lenten disciplines: spiritual exercises or ego trip?)

Like last year I gave up yelling “Hang the sonofabitch!” at every mention of Donald Trump.  This year I did the same thing – for one thing, it netted the UTO some $25 in penalties, at 25 cents a pop.  But this year I felt the need to add something else.

To “add a discipline,” etc.  So for this Lent I’ll be trying mightily to add – i.e., to prepare – a reasoned, careful, logical treatise on precisely why I think Donald Trump’s presidency is a constitutional crisis on par with Watergate, though not yet on par with the Civil War.  (Not yet.)  But beyond that, for my Lenten discipline I will try mightily to understand why some Americans still support him, without saying, “What are you, a bunch of dumbasses?”

That’s going to be the hard part…

So for this year’s Lenten period I added – as I have done before – some serious contemplating (As illustrated at left.)  

And as Wikipedia explained, contemplation means “profound thinking about something…  In a religious sense, contemplation is usually a type of prayer or meditation.”  And there’s this:

Within Western Christianity contemplation is often related to mysticism as expressed in the works of mystical theologians such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross as well as the writings of Margery KempeAugustine Baker and Thomas Merton.

So in so “contemplating” why I despise the current president so much, I’d be in pretty good company.  (In good company while contemplating like Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross.)

To that end, on March 20 I “dedicated myself to write at least one blog-post on why I don’t like DT” for Lent, although “it may well take more than one such post.”  The problem is that I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to garner much on the subject.  Plus the fact that Trump himself is daily providing such ample fodder that the question becomes, “Where to I begin?”

I did note these thoughts, before March 20; that is, on March 6:

Just this morning (3/6/19) I started listening to the audio version of The Restless Wave:  Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights and Other Appreciations, by John McCain.  And it’s given me some good starting insights.  For example, I don’t mind that Donald Trump never served in the armed forces.  But I do mind that he routinely insults the brave men and women who have served, including but not limited to John McCain himself.

Which is another way of saying Trump has never served “anything greater than himself.”

As time went on I started running out of time.  Then one sleepless night about a week ago, I got up about 3:30 in the morning, got one more beer and started reading the Kindle version of the first volume of Winston Churchill‘s four-volume History of the English-Speaking Peoples.

That put it all together.  It gave me the main reason I don’t like “the Donald.”  The reason?  He think’s he’s above the law.  But the idea that he is not above the law goes way back.

Back to at least the time of the Magna Carta, or 1215.  (Over 800 years ago.)  That is, in his Preface to that first volume – THE BIRTH OF BRITAIN – Churchill wrote about the Magna Carta, the “Great Charter.”  And mostly – he said – the Great Charter was an “agreed statement of what the law is.”  Further, that Charter’s main point was a “broad affirmation of the principle that there is a law to which the Crown itself is subject.”  To which “the Crown itself is subject.”

Which is another way of saying that no man is above the law, or more precisely, No Donald, you CAN’T pardon yourself.  So if there is a law to which “the Crown itself” is subject, how much more does that long-established principle apply to a president who is limited by the Constitution to no more than two four-year terms.  Which is another way of saying that no matter how bad a president he may be, Donald Trump is only temporary.

There will again be a time when Donald Trump is not president…

(And as noted in CAN’T pardon – and aside from the maxim that no man is above the law, also known as the rule of law – there is also the long-established legal maxim that “no man can be a judge in his own case.”  In the original Latin:  “Nemo iudex in causa sua.”  Thus the “no pardon.”)

Getting back to Churchill, he said the Magna Carta affirmed the idea that the “king” is and always should be below both “God and the law.”  In other words, he has his “sphere of action,” but if he “steps outside it he must be brought back.”  And he steps outside the law if he ignores the “ancient Council of the kingdom,” or refuses to take the advice of his “wise men.”  And he steps outside the law if he tries to rule through his “Household” or his favorites;

In other words, personal government, with all its latent possibilities of oppression and caprice, is not to be endured.  But it is not easy to prevent.  The king is strong …  If the Crown is to be kept within its due limits some broader basis of resistance must be found…

For Great Britain, after the Magna Carta one “basis of resistance” became Parliament.  In America, that broad basis of resistance to a “King’s” personal caprice includes – but is not limited to – Congress.  (Which in turn includes but is not limited to the House of Representatives, which alone has the power to impeach.)  Another broad basis of resistance – to “kingly” attempts at personal rule and tyranny – is the Fourth Estate of the Realm; that is, the media.

And contrary to what Trump has said repeatedly, the free press is not the enemy of the people.  Instead it is – and should continue to be – the Fourth branch of government.  As Wikipedia noted, “The derivation of the term fourth estate arises from the traditional European concept of the three estates of the realm: the clergy, the nobility and the commoners.”

Which now brings up two good reasons I don’t like Trump as president.  First and contrary to centuries of ongoing law and tradition, he thinks he is above the law.  And second, despite how the Founding Fathers took such care establishing and protecting the Fourth branch of government, Trump thinks he is too good for probing scrutiny from the press.  See Donald Trump Thinks the Freedom of the Press Is ‘Disgusting.'”  (Except Fox News of course…)  And also All presidents (and candidates) deserve Trump-level scrutiny from the press:

No modern president, save perhaps Richard Nixon, who waged an outright war on the press, earned the scorn and suspicion that Trump has since the day he took office.  Let’s be crystal clear:  Trump deserves scorn and suspicion.  He is a liar and a huckster.  But so too does every person in a position of immense power, because power is inherently corrupting, and because the decisions presidents make impact so many people’s lives.

And speaking of Richard Nixon, he was perhaps most famous for his Enemies List.

The official purpose of that list was to “‘screw’ Nixon’s political enemies, by means of tax audits from the Internal Revenue Service,” and through “litigation, prosecution, etc,”  In further words, it was made to “maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration;  stated a bit more bluntly – how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”

One noteworthy point:  “The IRS commissioner, Donald C. Alexander, refused to launch audits of the people on the list.”  So here’s to that unsung “Hero of the Realm,” who died in 2009 but kept his honor and integrity.  That is, his opposition resulted in a “string of attempts by Nixon to fire him.  Early on in his tenure as Commissioner, he dismantled the IRS Special Service Staff, which had been used to pursue detractors of the administration and its policies in Vietnam.”  Another noteworthy point, people justly too pride in being on the list:

Newsman Daniel Schorr and actor Paul Newman stated, separately, that inclusion on the list was their greatest accomplishment.  When this list was released, Schorr read it live on television, not realizing that he was on the list until he came to his own name.  Author Hunter S. Thompson remarked he was disappointed he was not on it.

Which brings us back to Winston Churchill, and another noteworthy point he made:

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The upper and lower images are courtesy of Winston Churchill – Image Results.  The lower image accompanies an article, “World war II in Pictures” (World War II in Pictures – Filminspector), on “Churchill, a Man of All Seasons.”  The article noted mainly that Churchill “did more with less.  He bounced back from adversity more often, and to greater effect than anyone else during the 20th Century.  Just for starters, Churchill was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.”  Trump on the other hand has done less with more, has never experienced true adversity, and I doubt any country will make him an “honorary citizen.”  (An “honorary comrade,” perhaps…)

Re:  Lent.  See also My Lenten meditation, from my companion blog.

The image “contemplating” is courtesy of Wikipedia on contemplation.  Caption:  “A woman places rosary beads on a devotional image mounted on the wall beside her bed.” Walters Museum.

The Magna Carta image is courtesy of King John Signing Magna Carta – Image ResultsIt is accompanied by an article, “Magna Carta, signed by King John of England:”

The charter was an important part of the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law in the English speaking world.  Magna Carta was important in the colonization of American colonies as England’s legal system was used as a model for many of the colonies as they were developing their own legal systems.

In practice, Magna Carta in the medieval period did not generally limit the power of kings, but by the time of the English Civil War it had become an important symbol for those who wished to show that the King was bound by the law.  It influenced the early settlers in New England and inspired later constitutional documents, including the United States Constitution.

Re:  The “king” and his caprice.  Such rule by “personal government” – as Trump seeks to create – could also be called as a Banana republic, a “pejorative descriptor for a servile dictatorship that abets and supports, for kickbacks, the exploitation of large-scale plantation agriculture.”

Re:  The quote in the lower image.  According to some sources, it came from Victor HugoSee 9 Quotes From Winston Churchill That Are Totally Fake, and also Victor Hugo: “You have enemies?:

You have enemies?  Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea.  It is the cloud which thunders around everything that shines.  Fame must have enemies, as light must have gnats.  Do not bother yourself about it; disdain.  Keep your mind serene as you keep your life clear.

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 67-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

Anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

On Oscar Wilde and our “criminal heroes…”

Oscar Wilde Sarony.jpg

As far was we know, nobody yelled out “Shut up, you filthy sodomite” to Oscar Wilde

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I just finished reading the January/February 2019 National Geographic magazine.  I came across this comment from Oscar Wilde, about Americans – and their unique hero-worship.

Wilde was visiting America – specifically, St. Joseph, Missouri – a week after Jesse James was killed.  (By the “coward Robert Ford,” illustrated at right.)  Wilde thus “witnessed firsthand the mad clamor for relics of the outlaw at an auction of Jesse’s household belongings.”  That led him to observe: “Americans are certainly great hero-worshipers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes.”

(Not that has anything to do with current events…)  

That led me to Oscar Wilde in America – Breaking Character.  I wanted to verify the National Geographic quote, and maybe get some additional background.  Which led me to this:

In Leadville, Colorado he was winched down into the depths of a silver mine and delivered a lecture to the miners on the ethics of art.  “I read them passages from the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini and they seemed much delighted,” he said.  “[But] I was reproved by my hearers for not having brought [Cellini] with me.  I explained that he had been dead for some little time which elicited the enquiry, ‘Who shot him?’

It turns out that “some little time” was over 300 years.  That is, Cellini (1500-1571) was an “Italian goldsmith, sculptor, draftsman, soldier, musician, and artist.”  (He also wrote the “famous autobiography” that Wilde read to the Colorado miners.) 

And in turns out that nobody shot Cellini…  That is, despite his various escapades – sexual and otherwise, described further below – he lived to a “ripe old age.”

I’ve written about Wilde before in Oscar Wilde and “gross indecencies,” On Roy Moore – and Oscar Wilde, and Imitation Game” – Revisited.  And when I started work on this blog-post, I planned to review those past posts on Wilde.  I also planned to write more about Americans today, VIS-À-VIS their habit of “always tak[ing] their heroes from the criminal classes.”

But as it turns out, Cellini was way more interesting…

For one thing, he was “one of the most important artists of Mannerism.”  (Which includes a variety of approaches “associated with artists such as Leonardo da VinciRaphael, and early Michelangelo.  Where High Renaissance art emphasizes proportion, balance, and ideal beauty, Mannerism exaggerates such qualities, often resulting in compositions that are asymmetrical or unnaturally elegant.”)  And he’s “remembered for his skill in making pieces such as the Cellini Salt Cellar and Perseus with the Head of Medusa.”  (Seen at left.)

But that’s not the interesting part.  The interesting part involved Cellini’s “active social life,” if not his frequent run-ins.

For example, he boasted in his memoirs of killing five people.  There may have been more but no one knows for sure:  He never got convicted.  (He got pardons from various church officials, including popes.)  But he did have to bounce around a lot:  From Rome to Florence to France, back to Florence, then to Venice, and so on.

For an example of that (and other things):  In 1548 – he was 48 or so (being born in 1500 helps) – a woman in Florence accused Cellini of sodomizing her son, Vincenzo.  To escape the charge he fled to Venice.  “This was not the first, nor the last time, that Cellini was implicated for sodomy.”

And this – Wikipedia noted – illustrated his strong homosexual or bisexual tendencies; (“once with a woman and at least three times with men during his life”).  As for penalties:  As a young man “he was sentenced to pay 12 staia (bushels) of flour in 1523 for relations with another young man…  Meanwhile, in Paris a former model and lover brought charges against him of using her ‘after the Italian fashion’ (i.e. sodomy).”  Later still, in 1556 (at age 56):

Cellini’s apprentice … Montepulciano accused his mentor of having sodomised him many times while “keeping him for five years in his bed as a wife.  This time the penalty was a hefty fifty golden scudi fine, and four years of prison, remitted to four years of house arrest thanks to the intercession of the Medicis.  In a public altercation before Duke CosimoBandinelli* had called out to him Sta cheto, soddomitaccio!  (Shut up, you filthy sodomite!)

Cellini described this as an “atrocious insult,” and tried to laugh it off.

But he wasn’t done.  (For one thing, he outlived Bandinelli by 11 years.)  In 1562 – after briefly trying a “clerical career” – he married a servant, with whom he claimed to have five children.  In 1563 he was named a member of the “prestigious Accademia delle Arti del Disegno of Florence, founded by the Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici … under the influence of the architect Giorgio Vasari.”

So aside from being a talented artist, he knew how to make some pretty influential friends.

And finally, when he died in Florence in 1571 he was “buried with great pomp in the church of the Santissima Annunziata.”  As to what caused his death, some modern readers may think that was a result of his lifelong various escapades, sexual and otherwise.

But the fact is that despite all those turmoils, run-ins and escapades, he lived to the ripe old age of 71.  And this was at a time when the average life expectancy was 30 to 40 years(See for example What was life expectancy in the 1500s – answers.com, and/or Life Expectancy From Prehistory to Today.)  And from all this we might glean two points of note:  For one thing, “I’m sure there’s an object lesson here, but darned if I can figure out what.”  For another:

Who says history can’t be fascinating?

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On the other hand – as far as we know – Cellini never got tried for “gross indecency.”

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 I borrowed the upper image from Oscar Wilde and “gross indecencies.”  In turn, the image is courtesy of Oscar Wilde – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “Photograph taken in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony.”  Here’s what Oscar Wilde in America – Breaking Character said about the photo:  

The most iconic images of Wilde we have today [including the image at the top of the post] were actually taken in New York at the studio of Napoleon Sarony at 37 Union Square.  It was in America that Wilde perfected his image, and it’s ironic that this image was the subject of a lawsuit that changed US copyright law forever.  Sarony successfully sued a company that had reproduced 85,000 copies of this picture of Wilde, claiming ownership over the copyright of a photograph for the first time in legal history.

And re:  Wilde’s comment on American hero-worship.  It was on page 88 of the paper edition of the “January/February 2019 edition of National Geographic magazine.”  See National Geographic History – January 2019 Free PDF, for an electronic version, and/or National Geographic (Ebay) for an image of the paperback cover.  Also, the web article Breaking Character” did in fact verify the quote:

Wilde lectured in Saint Joseph, Missouri two weeks after Jesse James had been murdered there and found the whole town in mourning.  “Americans are certainly great hero-worshippers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes,” he observed.

For more on Cellini, see 13 surprising facts about Cellini – DorotheumArt, How many people did benvenuto cellini kill? | Yahoo Answers, and The Bedevilment of Benvenuto Cellini – EsoterX.

Re:  The “Bandinelli” who called out to Cellini, “Sta cheto, soddomitaccio!”  He was a “Renaissance Italian sculptor, draughtsman and painter” (1488-1560).  He had a “lifelong obsession with Michelangelo,” but was also – according to Giorgio Vasari, “a former pupil in Bandinelli’s workshop” – he (Bandinelli) “was driven by jealousy of Benvenuto Cellini and Michelangelo.”

The lower image is courtesy of Sodomy Trial Oscar Wilde – Image Results.

Didn’t we try this “Wall” thing before?

“Memorial to the Victims of the [Berlin] Wall, with graffiti, 1982….”

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1953 Bowman Yogi Berra.jpgThere’s been a lot of talk – lately and for the last two years – about Donald Trump’s wall(The “colloquial name for a proposed expansion of the fence that makes up the Mexico–United States barrier during the presidency of Donald Trump.”)  Which led me to wonder:

“Isn’t this like ‘deja vu all over again?'”

Which brings us to the Berlin Wall:

[The] guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989…  [S]tarting on 13 August 1961, the Wall cut off (by land) West Berlin from virtually all of surrounding East Germany and East Berlin…  The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, accompanied by a wide area (later known as the “death strip”) … and other defenses.  The Eastern Bloc portrayed the Wall as protecting its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in building a socialist state

East Germany also called the Wall its “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart,” while the West Berlin city government referred to it as the “Wall of Shame.”  Wikipedia also noted that the East German government took the action because of its “brain drain problem.”

In other words, people who wanted the promise of freedom were kept in virtual prison:

In the West, the Berlin Wall was regarded as a major symbol of communist oppression.  About 5,000 East Germans managed to escape across the Berlin Wall to the West, but the frequency of successful escapes dwindled as the wall was increasingly fortified.  Thousands of East Germans were captured during attempted crossings and 191 were killed.

(Berlin Wall built – HISTORY.)    Which brings up the question:  “Do we really want to be like East Germany?  Do we really want to build a ‘major symbol of oppression?'”

Ronald Reagan – for one – said no.  He – like most if not all presidents before him – bought into the idea of America as a unique “city upon a hill.”  That idea in turn is based on what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world.  You cannot hide a city that has been built upon a mountain.”  (From His parable of Salt and Light in the Sermon on the Mount, seen at right.) 

To give you some background on the American take on that idea:  In 1630, the Puritan “father” John Winthrop cited Matthew 5:14 at the end of his lecture or treatise, “A Model of Christian Charity.”  That sermon (lecture, or treatise) languished in obscurity for over 300 years.  That is, until the beginning of the Cold War – which included the building of the Berlin Wall.  That’s when “Cold War era historians and political leaders made it relevant to their time, crediting Winthrop’s text as the foundational document of the idea of American exceptionalism.”  (Which included Thomas Jefferson’s seeing America as the world’s great “Empire of Liberty.”)

President-Elect John F. Kennedy quoted the phrase during an address in January 1961:

We are committing ourselves to tasks of statecraft no less awesome than that of governing the Massachusetts Bay Colony, beset as it was then by terror without and disorder within. History will not judge our endeavors—and a government cannot be selected—merely on the basis of color or creed or even party affiliation.  Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these.  For of those to whom much is given, much is required.

(Which itself is from Luke 12:48.)  In other words, America is special, and because it’s special, all Americans have unique and special responsibilities.  For one thing, we have a special responsibility not to be “just like other countries.”  We don’t want to build walls, either to keep freedom-seeking people out, or to keep smart people from leaving the country.

Which is pretty much what Ronald Reagan said, over and over again.  And this even though, politically, he was the exact opposite of John F. Kennedy.  But they both agreed on the idea of the United States as a “city upon a hill.”

For example, in his Election Eve address (November 3, 1980), Reagan spoke of his Vision for America:  “I have quoted John Winthrop’s words more than once on the campaign trail.”  Reagan added that Americans – at least in 1980 – were still “every bit as committed to that vision of a shining ‘city on a hill'” as the long-ago people who settled this country.

Finally – in that speech – he said Americans weren’t “white or black, red or yellow;  they are not Jews or Christians;  conservatives or liberals;  or Democrats or Republicans.  They are Americans awed by what has gone before, proud of what for them is still… a shining city on a hill.”

And Reagan repeated the theme yet again in his 1989 Farewell speech to the nation:

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life … a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace;  a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity.  And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.

Which – in its way – mirrored just what Jesus said in John 6:37:  “I will never turn away anyone who comes to me.”  So whose side are you on?  Hopefully, Jesus and Ronald Reagan…

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The upper image is courtesy of Berlin Wall – Wikipedia.

The “farewell speech” link is to Opinion | Ronald Reagan’s Hopeful Farewell – The New York Times, by John Meacham.  Dated January 10, 2019, the piece was sub-titled:  “His last speech as president was about his faith in America and its people.  Our current president could not be more different.”

The lower image is courtesy of Mr Gorbachev Tear Down This Wall – Image ResultsSee also Tear down this wall! – Wikipedia, which included this from the 1987 speech:  “We welcome change and openness;  for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.” 

On the THREE days of Hallowe’en…

“A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows…”

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Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31.jpgMost people think Halloween is one day, October 31st.  But there are actually three days of “Hallowe’en.”  Or more precisely, Halloween is the first day of the Halloween “Triduum.”  (In the alternative Allhallowtide.) 

And Triduum is just a fancy Latin word for “three days.”

In turn the word “hallow” – in both “Hallowe’en” and “Allhallowtide” – came from the Old English word for “saint,” halig.  That eventually became “hallow.”  (Maybe because it was easier to say.)  Which led to November 1 now being called All Saints’ Day.  But to the Old English, “All Haligs’ Day” – November 1 – eventually became “All Hallows Day.”  Then the “eve” before that Feast Day – October 31 – became “All Hallows Evening.”  In time that shortened to “All Hallows E’en.”  And later still it shortened to “Hallowe’en,” then just plain Halloween.

Wikipedia said this three-day period is a “time to remember the dead, including martyrssaints, and all faithful departed Christians.”  The main day of the three is November 1, now called All Saints Day, but previously referred to as Hallowmas.  It was established sometime between 731 and 741 – over 1,300 years ago – “perhaps by Pope Gregory III.”

Put another way, November 1 honors “all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown.”  In other words, special people in the Church.  (A saint is defined as having “having an exceptional degree of holiness,” while a martyr is someone “killed because of their testimony of Jesus.”)  On the other hand, November 2 – All Souls’ Day – was designed to honor “all faithful Christians … unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.’”  In other words, the rest of us poor schmucks (Those of us who have died, that is.)

So back to Halloween:  It all started with an old-time belief that evil spirits were most prevalent during the long nights of winter.  The “old-timers” also thought the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were at their its lowest and most permeable the night of October 31:

So, those old-time people would wear masks or put on costumes in order to disguise their identities.  The idea was to keep the afterlife “hallows” – ghosts or spirits – from recognizing the people in this, the “material world.”

Another thing they did was build bonfires, literally bonefires.  (That is, “bonfires were originally fires in which bones were burned.”)  The original idea was that evil spirits had to be driven away with noise and fire.  But that evolved into this:  The “fires were thought to bring comfort to the souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they held burning straw up high.”

There was another old-time custom, that if you had to travel on All Hallows E’en – like from 11:00 p.m. until midnight – your had to be careful.  If your candle kept burning, that was a good omen.  (The person holding the candle would be safe in the upcoming winter “season of darkness.”)  But if your candle went out, “the omen was bad indeed.”

The thought was that the candle had been blown out by witches

Then there were the pumpkins.  Apparently some other old-time people set out carved pumpkins on their windowsills, to keep “harmful spirits” out of their home.   But yet another tradition said  jack-o’-lanterns “represented Christian souls in purgatory.”  And while today jack-o’-lanterns are made from pumpkins, but were originally carved from large turnips.

In turn, both the jack-o’-lantern and Will-o’-the-wisp – at right, in a Japanese interpretation – are tied in with the strange ghostly light known as ignis fatuus.  (From the Medieval Latin for “foolish fire.”)  That refers to the “atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes.  It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached:”

Tradition had it that this ghostly light – seen by travelers at night and “especially over bogs, swamps or marshes – resembled a flickering lamp.  The flickering lamp then receded if you approached it, and so it “drew travelers from their safe paths,” to their doom…

Finally we get to the third of the three-day holiday – November 2 – All Souls’ Day.  The original idea was to remember the souls of “the dear departed,” illustrated by the painting below.

“Observing Christians typically remember deceased relatives” on November 2.  The custom began in the sixth century with a Benedictine custom of commemorating deceased members of a given monastery at Whitsuntide.  (Or “Whit(e) Sunday,” also known as Pentecost, held 50 days after Easter Sunday.)  That changed in the 11th century when Saint Odilo of Cluny chose the day after All Souls Day to commemorate “all the faithful departed … with alms, prayers, and sacrifices for the relief of the suffering souls in purgatory.”

So there you have it.  In closing, here’s wishing you a happy three days of Hallowe’en. 

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William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Day of the Dead (1859).jpg

The “Three Days of Halloween” end on November 2, with All Souls’ Day …

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The upper image is courtesy of Allhallowtide – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows.  Flowers and lighted candles are placed by relatives on the graves of their deceased loved ones.”

The image of the jack-o’lantern is courtesy of Halloween – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “A jack-o’-lantern, one of the symbols of Halloween representing the souls of the dead.”

The lower image is courtesy of All Souls’ Day – Wikipedia.  The caption: “All Souls’ Day by William Bouguereau.”   See also Allhallowtide, and All Saints’ Day – Wikipedia.

On Billy Graham – noted “Liberal?”

 Billy Graham (at right):  To some “rightist” Christians, Graham was way too “ecumenical…”

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Graham in a suit with his fist clenchedI learned something new about Billy Graham.  I learned that some far-right preachers compared him to the Antichrist

That is, lately I’ve been listening to the book-on-CD version of The Preacher and the Presidents:  Billy Graham in the White House(Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy.)  I skipped over the early parts, about Graham when he was young and full of himself.  And way more conservative than he was in later life. 

Which is another way of saying that  – as he grew in age – Billy Graham “also grew in grace.”  (See 2d Peter 3:18.)

Graham eventually grew in grace so much that he came to believe that God loves all people – even Liberals.  Which led some fundamentalist Christians to criticize him “for his ecumenism, even calling him ‘Antichrist.’”  On that note, see Deuteronomy 19:16-19.

(Deuteronomy 19:16-19 says that if you accuse someone of a crime and he’s not guilty of it, you are punished as if you committed the crime yourself.  So if you accuse someone of being “Antichrist” and he’s not, you get punished as if you were the Antichrist.)   

But we digress…

That is, on the other hand Graham started out as a Biblical literalist.  That led to an early confrontation with fellow evangelist Charles Templeton.  It’s described at pages 2-4 of the “book book,” but you can see an Oniine version at Billy Graham and Charles Templeton:  The Sad Tale of Two Evangelists (See also Heresy in the Heartland: Charles Templeton.)   

In essence, it started with Templeton telling Graham:

Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation.  The world was not created over a period of days a few thousand years ago;  it has evolved over millions of years.  It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s a demonstrable fact.

Graham responded, “I don’t accept that…  I believe the Genesis [account and] I’ve discovered something in my ministry:  When I take the Bible literally …  my preaching has power.”

Nevertheless, this was the man some Christians called “Antichrist.”  It started as early as 1957, when – after a crusade in New York – some fundamentalist Protestant Christians criticized Graham for his “ecumenism.”

40 years later he continued to express inclusivist views.

That is, he dared suggest that some people without explicit faith in Jesus can be saved.  For example, in a 1997 interview with Robert Schuller, Graham said:

I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ … [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. 

In response, Iain Murray – writing from a conservative Protestant standpoint – said “Graham’s concessions are sad words from one who once spoke on the basis of biblical certainties.”

2013-02-18-Graham.King.jpgBut see Why Do Liberals Love Billy Graham(HuffPost.)  An example:  He was asked about two candidates for president, one “more learned and qualified,” the other a devout Christian.  How would he vote?

I’d pick the experienced and confident one…  I don’t think that we should vote for a person just simply because he says he’s a Christian.  I think we need confident men of integrity in places of responsibility.  We are living in a secular society.  We have a separation of church and state in this country.

Graham added that he doesn’t “play God,” saying who is saved and who isn’t.  The article concluded that Graham “managed to achieve that rare balance of fierce conviction and humane humility…  He would not condemn.  His mission was to comfort and inspire.”

Which brings us back to Ecumenism.  It’s the effort “by Christians of different Church traditions to develop closer relationships and better understandings.”  (See also Is ecumenism biblical “Gotquestsions.org.”)  Which means we could use a good dose of “Billy Graham” today.

We could use a popular preacher who “doesn’t play God.”  We could use a popular preacher with “humane humility.”  We could use a popular preacher whom does not condemn, but rather focuses exclusively on comforting and inspiring.  We could use a popular preacher who wouldn’t vote for a man “just because he says he’s a Christian.”

That is, for another – broader – view more you could check Ecumenical Synonyms … Thesaurus.com.  Synonyms for “ecumenical” include open-mindedreceptivetolerantbroad-minded, unbigoted, charitableinclusiveand/or unprejudiced.  And they are good.

Because without such principles – without, for example, developing “closer relationships and better understandings” – you could end up with something like this:

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Donald Trump

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The upper image is courtesy of Billy Graham Bill Clinton – Image Results.  The photo is in “Billy Graham: Pastor to the Presidents – True Christian or FreeMason ‘Christian.'”  (From the “Orthodox Christian Channel.”)  The gist of the article was that Graham was a Mason.  Among the quotes:  

Billy Graham called Bill and Hillary “wonderful friends” and a “great couple.”  Billy Graham also had former country and western superstar Johnny Cash, known to be a Mason, perform at his crusades on numerous occasions.  

The images in the main text are courtesy of the linked-articles in the adjacent paragraph.

The lower image is courtesy of Donald Trump – Image Results.  See also ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian, which featured the image.

Are we trying another “Noble Experiment?”

Maybe Americans voted for Prohibition – in 1920 – thinking,  What have we got to lose???”

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Republican president-elect Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown early Wednesday.I first drafted this post just after Tuesday, November 8, 2016.  Here’s the opening line:

Looking for a breath of fresh air after Election Day – around 4:00 a.m. Wednesday morning – I found Trump’s presidential election victory means America must hope for the best.

Today – May 3, 2018 – I just re-read that article, and it was most interesting.

And speaking of November 8, 2016, it seemed to me then – and even more so now – that Trump’s election was and is an “experiment.”  An experiment in electing a man totally unqualified by training, experience or temperament to be Leader of the Free World.

That in turn led me to an earlier such experiment in our history.  (Which, as it turned out, failed.)  In that experiment, American voters tried to outlaw drinking.  (As in the drinking of alcoholic beverages.)  See The Prohibition Experiment of the 1920’s, which said the period of 13 years when America outlawed liquor “is often referred to as an ‘experiment.’”

Now about that poster at the top of the page:  Back before 1920, America was in the grip of blue laws.  They prohibited – among other things – selling alcohol “on Sundays … under the idea that people should be in church on Sunday morning, or at least not drinking.”  Thus the idea that “every day will be Sunday” was depressing to many Americans.  See Songs about Prohibition Expressed Opposition & Occasional Support, which included the “Prohibition Blues:”

‘Scuse me while I shed a tear,
For good old whiskey, gin and beer.
Goodbye forever, Goodbye forever.
Ah got de Prohibition, Prohibition, Prohibition blues.

And speaking of “strange bedfellows,” one of the strongest supporters of Prohibition was the Ku Klux Klan, as shown at left.  (Not that there’s any connection to current events or anything…)

So anyway, the Prohibition Experiment article said that word alone – experiment – “implies that it was a futile period within America’s history.”  As to the reasons, see U.S. Prohibition – Wikipedia:

In a backlash to the emerging reality of a changing American demographic, many prohibitionists subscribed to the doctrine of nativism, in which they endorsed the notion that America was made great as a result of its white Anglo-Saxon ancestry.  This belief fostered resentments towards urban immigrant communities…

Which sounded eerily similar somehow…

As to nativism, see Lonely and unhappy people elected Donald Trump:  “We know that racism, nativism and white victimology were crucial motivations for Trump’s voters.  We [also] know that white identity politics disguised as anger … propelled Trump’s victory.”

But the triumph of nativism – at least in terms of Prohibition – was short-lived.  It was short-lived because of two traits inherent in the American character:  We are creative, and we hate being told what to do by “higher ups.”  (Especially higher-ups in the federal government.) 

So here’s how some Americans got around the “orders from above” during Prohibition:

Making alcohol at home was very common during Prohibition.  Stores sold grape concentrate with warning labels that listed the steps that should be avoided to prevent the juice from fermenting into wine…  The grape concentrate was sold with a warning: “After dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, do not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days, because then it would turn into wine.”

You have to love a country where that happens.  (See too Irony, a “statement that, when taken in context, may actually mean something different from, or the opposite of, what is written literally.”)

And as to the “noble” part of the post-title, see Prohibition: America’s failed “noble experiment” – CBS News.  (“Prohibition was the so-called ‘noble experiment’ which had some rather ignoble consequences.”)  The article was based in large part on the book, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.  And asked why he loved writing about Prohibition, author Daniel Okrent said:

“It’s the answer to that question, how the hell did that happen?” 

How did it happen, indeed.  Prohibition did happen, but then we wised up.

So one point of this post is that Americans are industrious, creative and adaptive.  That is, we generally learn from our mistakes.  All of which means that anything really weird that “The Donald” tries to do will likely be leavened – as in an “altering or transforming influence” – by the very characteristics of American democracy that Donald Trump seems to loathe.  (Including but not limited to the ideas of a free press and that we are a nation of laws, not men.)  

And there’s yet another bright note:

Thanks to the 22d Amendment. this “experiment” won’t last 13 years…

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Prohibition Ends Celebrate Poster by Jon Neidert. All posters are professionally printed, packaged, and shipped within 3 - 4 business days. Choose from multiple sizes and hundreds of frame and mat options.

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The upper image is courtesy of Prohibition in the U.S. – Wikipedia.  The caption to the poster shown:  “Every Day Will Be Sunday When the Town Goes Dry (1918–1919).  Wikipedia added this:

Prohibition represented a conflict between urban and rural values emerging in the United States.  Given the mass influx of migrants to the urban centers of the United States, many individuals within the prohibition movement associated the crime and morally corrupt behavior of American cities with their large, immigrant populations.

Which also sounds eerily familiar…  For another take, see What we didn’t know about Trump on Election Day 2016. (May 2, 2018.)

Re:  “Our” president as Leader of the Free World.  But see Merkel is now the leader of the free world.

Re:  The KKK and Prohibition.  See Wikipedia, and The KKK Supported Prohibition and Defended It.  The “KKK” image courtesy of Prohibition in the U.S. – Wikipedia.  Caption:  “Defender Of The 18th Amendment.  From Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty published by the Pillar of Fire Church.”

Re:  Irony.  See Irony – Wikipedia and/or irony – Wiktionary

Re:  Trump’s campaign promises.  See Donald Trump’s top 10 campaign promises | PolitiFact.

The “Happy Days” image is courtesy of Happy Days Are Here Again 1932 Convention – Image Results“pinimg.com … eddfe33922d14ea84e130–prohibition-ends-canvas-prints.jpg.”

See also the lower image at Happy Days Are Here Again … Image Results“pinimg.com … eddfe33922d14ea84e130–prohibition-ends-canvas-prints.jpg.”

“Oh, but for an hour” … of ALMOST ANYBODY!

Oh, but for an hour” … of a president who doesn’t just “curse the stupid darkness!

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Two years ago – on April 4, 2016 – I posted On Reagan, Kennedy – and “Dick the Butcher.”  The post had over 2,000 words, while the “ideal” word-count for a blog post is half that.  (1,000 words or less.*)   That post in turn was a review of June 2015’s “Great politicians sell hope.”

That post came in just under 1,800 words.

Since then I’ve tried to shorten my posts.  That’s under the theory that the average blog-reader has the “attention span of a gerbil.”  So here’s a short-and-sweet version of those longer, long-ago posts.

To begin with, Dick the Butcher was a character in William Shakespeare‘s play, Henry The Sixth, Part 2.  (Who was in turn “a killer as evil as his name implies.”)  He’s the guy who famously said:

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers…

To that I responded:  The real reason Americans don’t like lawyers – or politicians for that matter – is that they “accurately reflect our own dark side.”  Thus my thought was that the better rule would be:  “The first thing we do is kill all the clients!

The problem with lawyers is – after all – that they’re only doing what their clients want them to do…  Which seems pretty much true of politicians as well.

But the general tenor of both “Dick the Butcher” and “Great politicians” was more positive.

Or at least it was to the point of reminiscing, back to a time when political arch-enemies -like Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill – could and did sup with each other.  And this was true even though they were political arch-enemies, but not when the day’s work was done. 

(In other words, we didn’t have all the political hostility so prevalent these days.)

030618 - Justice Bush on Trump Comparison-picWhich led to this thought:  Donald Trump has done one thing positive.  He’s made  real politicians look better and  better.  (See George W. Bush Reportedly Sounds Off On Trump: ‘Sorta Makes Me Look Pretty Good.’)  Which was pretty much the point of  “Great politicians.”

That post noted that our best presidents – including JFK and Ronald Reagan – were able to “sell themselves” by giving Americans some hope for the future.  It also noted that maybe today’s current crop of nasty, negative politicians simply reflect the nasty, negative voters who make up way too large a part of our population.  

(“The first thing we do is kill all the voters!”)

Which brings us to the idea that it’s better to light a single candle than curse the darkness (See also Better to Light a Candle Than to Curse the Darkness.) 

The quote itself is “often misattributed,” generally to Eleanor Roosevelt or “claimed to be an ancient Chinese proverb.”  But in 1960 John F. Kennedy alluded to the quote in his acceptance speech, after receiving the Presidential nomination of the Democratic Party:

We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us thru that darkness to a safe and sane future.

(“Oh, for a safe and sane future…”)  Which brings up the sentiment alluded to in the post-title.

It was first noted in “Oh, for an hour of Truman.”  (From April 2015.)  That post pointed out that the first “Oh, for an hour” harkened back to Andrew Jackson.   And that sentiment was said between the time Abraham Lincoln was elected and when he actually took office.  (On March 4, 1861, not the January 20th swearing-in day of today.  I.e., some 118 days after the election.) 

So anyway, that sentiment was expressed by Democrats, members of the incumbent president’s own party.  (That incumbent president was James Buchanan.  And, “Do you see the irony?)  So here’s the quote on the quote, from “Oh, for an hour of Truman:”

Lincoln found himself armed with nothing but words to stop the South from seceding before he could even take office…   President James Buchanan, nearing 70 … looked at the Constitution and saw his hands being tied by a lack of specific instruction.  The cry went up from frustrated members of his own party: “Oh, but for an hour of Jackson!

Which is a sentiment I find myself alluding to myself, more and more these days.  But now I’m up to about 1,300 words for this post, so it’s time to wrap things up.  (Keeping in mind the average blog-reader’s “attention span of a gerbil.”  And I wonder if Moses had a similar problem?)

One point of “An hour of Truman” was that Harry was open-minded.  (“Willing to listen to ‘what the other fella has to say.’”)  Another was that he was an avid student of history.  As he said:

There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know…   [G]o back to old Hammurabi, the Babyonian emperor…   Why, he had laws that covered everything, adultery and murder and divorce, everything…  Those people had the same problems as we have now.  Men don’t change.

Which is probably true.  (Sometimes unfortunately so.)  And Harry also used to say, “The buck stops here.”  But it seems we now have a president better known for passing the buck(Attributing to “another person or group one’s own responsibility.”)  Which leads us back to:

Oh, but for an hour of Truman (or almost anybody else)…

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President Harry Truman, and the sign he made famous…

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For the upper image I Googled “peanuts cartoon you stupid darkness.”  I found the featured image under Peanuts Cartoon You Stupid Darkness – Image Results, and specifically at and courtesy of Beings Akin.wordpress.com.  See also “You stupid darkness!” and 29 other Peanuts quotes for everyday use.”  It shows the “stupid darkness” cartoon in strip form, rather than “two-tiered.” 

Re: Ideal length of blog posts.  See How long should a post be … YoastWhat is the Ideal Word Count for the Perfect Blog Post?, and/or Blog Post Word Count: Is There a Magical Number?

The Reagan-Kennedy image is courtesy of www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/08/senator_ted_kennedy. The caption:  “Senator Edward Kennedy talks with President Ronald Reagan, left, on June 24, 1985, as they look over an American Eagle that graced President John F. Kennedy’s desk during a fund raising event for the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library at McLean, Virginia.  (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi).” 

The “W … real politicians” image is courtesy of the Washington Examiner’s April 11, 2018 article:  George W. Bush: Trump ‘makes me look pretty good.’

Re  Passing the buck.  One theory says the term came from poker.  Or consider this:

Another less common but arguably less fanciful attribution is to the French expression bouc émissaire, meaning “scapegoat,” whereby passing the bouc is equivalent to passing the blame or onus.  The terms bouc émissaire and scapegoat both originate from an Old Testament (Lev. 16:6–10) reference to an animal that was ritually made to carry the burden of sins, after which the “buck” was sent or “passed” into the wilderness to expiate them.  

Which sound more like our current “president…”  

The lower image is courtesy of Everyone Is Butchering ‘the Buck Stops Here,’ which said the phrase did not mean a president can be blamed for everything bad that happens on his watch, as used today.  Instead it was aimed at “Monday morning quarterbacking” (also known as “whining“): 

“You know, it’s easy for the Monday morning quarterback to say what the coach should have done, after the game is over.  But when the decision is up before you – and on my desk I have a motto which says The Buck Stops Here’ – the decision has to be made.”