Family, friends and strangers I appreciate any comments or reactions you may have upon reading my blogs. A college friend, Rich Salandrea, wrote the following comment to my last blog, A Negative Universe:

There’s a New England based small supermarket chain, family-owned, with quite reasonable prices for these times as well as for several decades.

I’ve shopped at at least three, and at one of them I usually encounter the friendliest customers and workers.

At the others the customers and workers are usually far less positive in random encounters while shopping. While I once considered that poverty was a significant factor in negativity, the friendliest market is in fact in a demographic with a low-income population.

Interesting how friendly interaction makes life more positive.

His remark reminded me of an experience I had when I was about 18 years old.  I had a few weeks off after completing my first year at college until I was to start a job as a camp counselor.  Mike, a friend of my older brother, Benjy, had asked me if I would deliver the goods he had sold as a Fuller-Brush salesman to a neighborhood community, Hillside, not far from Elizabeth, New Jersey, where I was raised   Because I had about month free time and, as it involved only two or three weekends of work, I readily accepted.  Besides, because I had not been driving for that long a time, l thought it would offer me a certain amount of independence, being on my own in addition to earning some spare money before heading off to my camp job.

The details of the job were fairly straightforward:  I would deliver whatever accessories the family had ordered from Mike and collect the money.  He would pay me a percentage of the money, perhaps 10 or 20% of the gross amount of the sales that came to a pretty good sum, especially, for someone my age.  When I inquired what to do if a family member no longer desired the item they had selected from him, Mike told me not to force them to take it but did remind me that my pay from him was determined by the amount of money collected.  So, of course, he encouraged me to complete the sale by delivering the merchandise.

GPS obviously did not exist when I went on this mission back in the early ‘60’s.  But street maps were available and upon reviewing the best route to take, and, subsequently, loading my car with the fuller-brush paraphernalia, I was on my way.

I learned a life lesson when I discovered that done deals are not done until the money is in hand.  A number of the homes I visited either had changed their mind about the purchase, some acting as if they almost had forgotten, and others dissatisfied with what they had ordered.  But what most stands out in my mind was the way people behaved toward me.  It was evident how affluent the families were simply from looking at the homes and the surrounding environs.  In general, the people from poorer neighborhoods treated me kindlier and complained less about what I had delivered to them.  My sense was that they admired the fact that. though I was young, I appeared motivated to work at a low-level job to better myself. 

Whereas families that had much wealth frequently acted curt with me, those of lesser means actually would at times invite me in for a drink.  I do not mean to infer from both Rich and my experiences that poor people are kinder than rich people.  That would be an unfair generalization.  However, our mutual experience indicated that one’s social economic status has little effect on one’s negativity or friendliness.  I would be interested in hearing what you, my readers, have observed in others regarding the notion of negativity.

A Negative Universe 


My mother often said: “We criticize the living but eulogize the dead.”  Shakespeare, the bard himself, understood the power of negativity when he wrote the following lines for Mark Antony’s famous oration at Caesar’s funeral, in the play, Julius Caesar:

 The evil that men do lives after them;

 The good is oft interred in their bones;

The psychologist, John Gottman, after studying the interaction of hundreds of couples. has found that each partner, in a successful marriage, needs to give a ratio of 5 positive to 1 negative comments to her/his partner.  This ration means that five positive statements are needed to counteract the impact of the negative.

Society, in general, I’m afraid does not abide by this optimistic ratio set by Gottman in his criteria for a healthy loving marriage.  A concrete example of the ubiquitous nature of negativity recently occurred, when a CEO of an agency of which I am quite familiar, made a comment that offended certain individuals. Granted, the remark may have not shown the best of all discretion, but the response to it brought a torrent of criticism and ill will.  What surprised me was that this particular CEO had done an unusually skillful job in overseeing the integration of two separate entities to the liking of many of these same individuals, suddenly irate with him.  His error in judgment, acknowledged by him, had appeared to very quickly erase much of the good he had done previously.

Recently, I booked a round trip ticket with my wife.  After checking several flights, I decided to contact the airline directly because I had some questions about use of my mileage.  The employee, who took my call, explained everything clearly, going over all the details regarding best ways of using my mileage.  Furthermore, she did precisely what her job entailed, that is to locate the flight my wife and I most preferred vis-à-vis time of day, dates and our seat preferences.  At the end of the conversation with her, I told her I wanted to write a brief note citing the good service she had provided us.  When she directed me to the site where customers could give feedback about their experience with the airline personnel, the scroll down for comments only had a box for complaints but none for compliments.  I jokingly told her it was apparent the airline expected people to find fault with its service.  I thought to myself: “Woe be it that a customer has something good to say about an employee.”  She pointed me to the “other” category as a means of writing my good feelings about her useful assistance and, in saying good-bye, expressed her gratitude.

A similar experience recently occurred when I had written a complimentary note to a medical staff assistant that had answered all the questions I had, about certain health issues, in a cordial and most precise way. Upon a return visit, I asked her if she had seen the positive comment I had written, and much to my surprise, she replied she had not.

The above illustrations are at the micro, if you will, individual level.  However, I fear that the degree of negativity has been magnified by social media.  The idea of sharing pieces of one’s life with friends suddenly became extended when Facebook developed the algorithm for the content that would get the most hits or “likes” with whomever saw your post.  The “share” button had moved one’s remarks from her/his friends into the public domain.  Unfortunately, due to revised algorithms, the posts that gained the most attention and engagement were those filled with rage an anger.   If what they said triggered others to push negative buttons of anger or hate, users could suffer great humiliation and hurt.  Angry hostile comments were more likely to go viral producing the most amount of hits on a website.  The more moderate majority, that includes most of us, tended to opt out of this warfare resulting in the very nasty comments so entrenched in social media.

How we combat the power of social media is no easy dilemma to solve.  Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University, has suggested raising the minimum age when teen-agers are allowed to indulge in social media from 13 to 16.  But I believe parents still will need to monitor the amount of time they allow their children to spend on social media.

On a more individual basis, I have made an effort to buck this negative trend by rewarding positive behavior directed at me.  I pointed out a few instances of this behavior in the above.  Another instance of this occurred most recently when I left my charger to my iPhone home. Although I had scheduled two clients for telehealth that required use of my phone, as the day progressed, my cellular had very little battery strength.  Fortunately, a woman from a neighboring office, with whom I had never spoken to, offered her charger for my phone that saved me from missing these clients.  Subsequently, I surprised her by giving her a gift certificate at Trader Joe’s that I had bought in return for her favor. 

I understand that my contribution to reversing the prevalence of negativity is small.  However, on the other hand, if others made an effort to reinforce good deeds, I’m quite sure it would be uplifting for all of us.  As I psychologist, I know that people who are grateful are likely to be happier, hopeful and energetic, and they possess positive emotions more frequently.  Willingness to share our gratitude with others is perhaps the greatest way to thwart the pervasive impact of negativity.  Let me conclude, by suggesting that you, my readers, make an effort to pass this attitude of gratitude or appreciation on to others, in work or outside of work, that have, in some way, made a positive contribution.

Valuing Fiction

Although currently I am reading more non-fiction books than fiction, reading a well written work of fiction often can be a treat.  A book club in Long Beach that I have attended the few years meets on a monthly basis.  The book discussed last month was a work by Iris Murdoch, titled The Sea the Sea, published in 1978, that won the Booker Prize.

There are different levels of fiction from sitting on the beach and reading pulp fiction for pure enjoyment and entertainment, to more scholarly works that compel one to contemplate ideas on a deeper level.  I found the latter to be true of Murdoch’s, The Sea to Sea.  The book is written through the view of the protagonist, Charles Arrowby, in the first person singular.  Unlike many novels, there is no omniscient narrator, but rather the entire content of the book is contained in Arrowby’s own point of view as he describes his earlier life going into the present.  This, in itself, is unusual given that a female author has chosen to project her thoughts through that of a male.  The reflections of Arrowby are real enough to afford the reader credence into Murdoch’s weaving of the plot.

For those that enjoy fiction and have the time, I will make an effort to avoid any spoilers that would come by virtue of my summarizing the plot. Suffice it to say, Murdoch examines many ideas through the actions and consequences of Arrowby.  The latter figure retires from his successful career in the theatre where he has achieved wealth and fame to a quiet removed place by the sea away from the roar of the crowd.  He will keep a journal of his life with the intention of becoming a better person, a good person.  But he cannot escape the past, and the characters that had once been a part of his life come back to haunt him.  That past is in one in which Charles has been seduced by power and its concomitant corrupting influences he holds over his peers and counterparts.

In contrast to Arrowby’s very materialistic, solipsist self, his cousin, James, is spiritual and a student of Buddhist ideals.  But ironically, the knowledge that James has taken from the practice of Buddhism seduces him into believing he can heal others with his “magic.” Although both Charles and his cousin, James, have followed very divergent paths in their lives, they both suffer from the need to control others.

Underlying the plight of these two characters, Murdoch, the author, who had studied Tibetan Buddhism, is asking the moral question of how one can better one-self.   In the 9th century, the Buddhist sage Lin Chi told a monk, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”  More recently, the late psychologist, Sheldon Kopp took up the same theme when he wrote a book with the same title referring to it as the Pilgrimage of Psychotherapy.  Implicit in his book is the provocative idea of “killing the Buddhist,” because the most important things that each man must learn, no one can teach him.

The ocean, the title and geographic essence of the book, represents a vastness that cannot be enclosed.  It can be unpredictable and uncontrollable in its vastness.  Human life, in some sense, mirrors the sea insofar as every aspect of one’s life cannot be enclosed and sealed off from the rest of the world.  Because he still treats others in the same manner than he had in the past, when Charles isolates himself to become a better person, he fails.  While he is caught in the illusive world he created in the past, his view of reality will remain distorted.

An unexpected event of tragic proportions impacts Charles in a way foreign to his nature.  This experience allows him to begin to release the reins he has had on his former social connections so he can let in others without the need to control them.  He is willing to accept life in its vastness, a mirror of the sea that Murdoch chose to use as a metaphor, that in its vastness, cannot be enclosed nor boxed in.

Murdoch has written a book that contains ancient subject matter still very much germane to contemporary life.  Her exploration into the thinking of the protagonist, Charles, causes the reader to stop and wonder at his illusory thinking that has shaped his life. Reading the novel and then discussing it with a group helped me gain a greater understanding of my reactions to it.  I highly recommend reading the book and, if you can, find a friend or friends that have the time to join you.  I’m quite sure sharing your vision of the book with others and hearing what they have to say, you will find enlightening.    


    Play Ball

The 2023 major league baseball season has just arrived.  When I grew up in the ‘50’s baseball dominated fan interest beyond any sport.  Sitting in the bleachers at the hefty price of 75 cents a seat at Yankee Stadium was a wonderful treat as a child, like myself, who both played and loved the sport.  Unfortunately, although I lived in Elizabeth, New Jersey, I had become a diehard Red Sox fan because my closest relative, an aunt, lived in Western Massachusetts.  The records reflect the unbeatable Yankees in the ‘50’s, a fate I had to endure as a child rooting for the underdog Sox.

Unlike other sports such as football, basketball or hockey baseball has never had time-imposed limits.  Innings are the measure of the game but these are not designated by time.  When I attended games during my childhood, the duration of a baseball game would rarely be much more than 2 hours.  Now the time of a baseball game from start to finish is invariably more than 3 hours.  The long pauses between each pitch thrown along with the batter taking his own time to ready himself for a pitch has resulted in less action, which I believe, has caused less fan interest.  And so, with the popularity of America’s pastime on the wane, management has decided to incorporate some changes with the hope of livening up the game.

The concept of time in baseball will no longer be limitless.  Now pitchers will have 15 seconds to deliver the ball when the bases are empty and 20 seconds when there are men on base.  Furthermore, a pitcher will only have two pick-off attempts per batter with a third, if unsuccessful, resulting in an automatic ball given to the batter’s count.  If the pitcher exceeds the above time limits in releasing the ball, once more he will be penalized by an automatic ball going to the hitter’s count.   Additionally, batters now can call only one time-out and must be ready for the pitch when the clock winds down to 8 seconds.  If they are not, batters will automatically be charged a strike.

Another change made has been to increase the size of each base to 18 inches square from 15 shortening the distance from first to second base by 4 ½ inches.  This will counteract the decline in base running by allowing more steals to occur.  More runners challenging pitchers will add excitement to the game.

The last big change will be to reverse the data brought on by the information revolution.  Through statistical analysis of how every ball player hits, defense positions have swung to the right when, for example, a left-handed pull hitter comes to the plate.  No longer will this shift be allowed insofar as teams must now have two infielders on either side of second base.  This particular shift was first instituted by Lou Boudreau in a July game in 1946 between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox as an attempt to contain the Sox star, Ted Williams. That same year when the Sox faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, the Cardinal manager, Eddie Dyer employed this same Boudreau shift that effectively stymied the hitting of Ted Williams.  Whereas I am in favor of the rules speeding up the game, this latter rule, mandating player positions, I do not favor.  I have argued in the past that good hitters have to learn to hit to the opposite field where there is little defense. 

The fans and sportswriters have all sent hardy boos to the Red Sox management for not extending shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, contract.  To set the record straight, the Sox management offered Bogaerts a 6-year contract worth $160 million.  He rejected that contract and signed on with the San Diego Padres who gave him $280 million on an 11-year contract.  On the other hand, the Red Sox did sign third baseman, Rafael Devers, for a 10-year contract worth $313,500,000.  One may ask why sign Devers and not Bogaerts?  I believe management passed on a long-term contract for Bogaerts because he was already 30 years old whereas Devers is only 26 years old. 

The stellar players get to sign long contracts that often don’t pay off for the acquiring team.  An example of this was when the Angels signed Albert Pujols at the age of 31 to a 10-year contract for $240 million.  Although he played magnificently for the Cardinals, he did not have one good year that compared with his days in St. Louis.  In fact, before his contract ended, the Angels had little use for him, and had to give him away at a minimum cost to the Los Angeles Dodgers. I am not a fan of long-term contracts.  Let us see how Aaron Judge performs this year for the Yankees now that his salary is $360 million for the next 9 years.  The sportscasters all have the Red Sox finishing last in their division as they had done in 2022.  Boston is currently 60 to 1 odds to win the World Series.  But guess what, in 2012 they finished last in their division, but when 2013 came around they surprised everyone to win the World Series.  True, Big Papi, David Ortiz, won’t be around in 2023, but still I wouldn’t rule the Sox out.  They might surprise us again.  And besides, I think Alex Cora understands his players and is a damn good manager.  So, let’s see if the Sox can beat the odds and prove the pundits wrong in the unpredictable world of baseball

President Biden’s Trip to the Ukraine

Many of those from the Republican party have questioned the legitimate value and purpose of the large amounts of money and weapons President Biden has funneled into the Ukraine in their war against the Russians.  A reminder to my friends on the right: In 1983, when the former president, Ronald Reagan, employed the term, The Evil Empire, he was not referring to a place in Star Wars, but rather to the then Soviet Union. 

I question Republican candor in opposing a war started by Mr. Putin when Russia invaded the Ukraine.  For example, Mr. DeSantis, a congressman in 2014, criticized then President Obama for failing to send weapons to Kyiv.  However, he has appeared to suddenly alter his view by stating that President Biden is currently sending Ukraine too much aid.  Fortunately, not all Republicans are against the principles of liberty and freedom that embody the struggle that Ukraine is presently experiencing.

This is not to say that I have been in agreement with all of Mr. Biden’s policies.  The shambolic exit of American troops in August, 2021 from Afghanistan, marking the rapid collapse of Kabul to the Taliban, rapidly erased whatever good America had done there.  Ironically, Mr. Biden has made an effort to reverse many of former President Trump’s policies with the exception of Afghanistan.  Mr. Trump, the co-author of The Art of the Deal, in his haste to have American troops leave Afghanistan, accepted the promise that the Taliban would continue to observe the rights of women, especially, allowing them to further their education.  We now know how that turned out: Not good for women and a lousy deal authored by Mr. Trump.

Rather than reversing Trump’s policies, our current president reinforced them by his abrupt withdrawal of American troops, against military advice.  Here, I would like to remind my friends on the left that this action by Biden, in conjunction with the general sense that American leadership has displayed little lasting power in long distance battles, may have influenced the subsequent Russian invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022.  Putin’s belief that the West was merely a paper tiger underestimated and misjudged both the American and European response to his incursion into the Ukraine. Contrary to Mr. Biden’s very flawed leadership in Afghanistan, he has united Europe and other countries in enforcing sanctions along with military aid so instrumental in Ukraine’s war effort against Russia.

Moreover, many Americans also may have underestimated President Biden’s grit and determination in his surprise trip to the Ukraine on Monday, February 20th.  The President quietly left Washington D.C. on an Air Force C-32 at 4 a.m. on Sunday, February 20, refueled in Germany and then landed in Poland at 7:57 p.m. on Sunday.  From the Polish border to Ukraine, he embarked on a 10-hour train trip to Kyiv.  The fact that Mr. Biden entered a conflict zone where the United States or its allies did not have control over the airspace was a rare and quite risky venture even granted that the president was surrounded by security.

According to news accounts, the president did not sleep well on the train.  Likewise, I have been on similar long train journeys and have had great difficulty with sleep.  The fact that Mr. Biden left Washington D.C. in the wee hours of the morning only must have added to this arduous and long expedition.  Mr. Biden has made his share of mistakes but on what I consider one of the more important decisions he has had to make, that is the current Russian-Ukraine war, he has been on the right side. On his recent trip to Warsaw, his said: “Appetites of the autocrat cannot be appeased, they must be opposed.”  Amen to that! 

The Missing Keys

As I approach the “golden years,” I have discovered that one of the hazards of aging is the growing tendency of forgetting or misplacing things with the concomitant time spent finding these very same items.  My father’s advice many years ago has helped me in my efforts to avoid this undesired inevitability.  When I moved to California, he suggested that I take my hat and put what I needed for the next day inside it such as keys, wallet, glasses and cell phone.  Place the hat in the same spot and retrieve all my valuables the next day when I’m ready to go to work. This simple advice undoubtedly has saved me time and reduced my frustration in trying to locate misplaced valuables.

But one’s life can go from the disorganized to the chaotic when the sequence described above is lost.  A few months ago, my wife, Lisa, and I returned from a two-week vacation back East, on a Sunday late afternoon.  After unpacking, doing some laundry, and eating I prepared myself for my next day with computer and patient files.  Keys, wallet and cell phone were all placed in the usual spot.  My ordinary routine was pretty much followed with one small exception, I took the hamper of clothes that were cleaned from the evening before into the bedroom.  This break in routine may have resulted in subsequent havoc insofar as I believed I had taken all of my essentials:  wallet, keys and cell from my hat.  However, upon opening the car trunk with my electronic keys and placing my patient files and computer there, I reached into my pocket and discovered I had not taken my wallet.  I automatically returned to my hat, picked up my wallet where it was safely laying and returned to my car. It was then that my thread of organization abruptly unraveled.

Much to my surprise upon returning to my car, I no longer had my keys.  Still early before my first patient appointment that morning, I felt no need for alarm assuring myself my keys had to be nearby.  Whereupon I pulled my car out of the garage with my spare car key, and proceeded to search the floor of the garage with no luck.  Following Lisa’s advice, I looked in the container for discarded papers with no avail.  Perhaps the keys had fallen into the car trunk upon placing my computer and files there and so, I thoroughly combed all niches of the trunk emptying my gym bag of its contents with no success.  Checking underneath the seats of my car on the floor and in between the seats likewise was without benefit.

Because I did not have a duplicate office key, I had to contact my clients and switch all the sessions to online telehealth.  Fortunately, I had duplicates (and triplicates) of all of my keys with the exception of my office key.  When my office mate gave me a new office key, I immediately made a duplicate.

With the distancing of an event caused by the passage of time, the mind begins to play tricks on us.  After completing my work day along with Lisa reporting that she had not found my keys anywhere in the garage, I began to suspect that I had left them somewhere else in the house. So, I looked in spots such as under my papers in my home office, between couch seats and other locations where in the past I had found missing items.  My belief that the keys were not in the garage was further reinforced by the fact that Lisa had looked through the shelves next to my car with no results.  Furthermore, I again looked at  all the shelves in the garage and, I made a mental effort in retracing all my steps that morning with little gain.

A patient of mine and a friend both indicated that perhaps they had disappeared into what can best be described as a “fourth dimension.”  After several days of on and off searching, I began to think the keys might not be found at all and so, I took the precautionary measure of duplicating my car key to my Porsche knowing that if I lost the duplicate, it would cost upward of $500 to replace.  I located a hardware store that duplicated foreign car keys, for $95, but without the electronic features, that would allow me to open the car manually.   

Lisa and I continued to look in places in and outside the garage.  Granted our searches were of a perfunctory nature but I wondered why wouldn’t an object such as keys be easily seen, after all I was looking for a set of keys and not just one.  About 6 weeks later, my wife found them. They were in an inconspicuous corner on a shelf next to my car.

Similar to a witness to a crime, with the passage of tine the mind, in reworking scenes, can confuse rather than clarify reality.  What had actually happened was the following:  In my haste to retrieve my wallet, I never put the keys in my pocket and they had slipped out of my hands but rather landing on the floor they had perched themselves hidden on the shelf leading to the doorway exiting the garage. 

When I had returned to my car, I recognized immediately that my keys were missing.  Acceptance of this realization should have led me to believe that the keys had to be somewhere in the garage inasmuch as they were not to be found anywhere in my car.  But, after not finding them in any obvious location, my mind extrapolated beyond the event itself, thereby obfuscating my search.  In my defense, the fact that my keys landed where they did, in the corner of a shelf, not in eyesight, was most unlikely. 

Ironically, Lisa was looking for something that she had misplaced in the garage when she discovered my keys.  Shortly after, she found what she had been originally in search of.  Rather than the fourth dimension, perhaps it was my sudden disorientation causing the my keys to drop and, my subsequent stress–knowing that I had to get to my office—that caused the enigma of my missing keys.


Although there are few movies that I bother to see more than once, around this time of year my wife, Lisa, and I have seen, on many occasions, the Frank Capra movie:  It’s a Wonderful Life.  In the movie, George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, has a run on the bank he owns due to a large sum of money that had been stolen from his uncle.  He is in a state of despair and angrily leaves his wife (Donna Reed) and his children at home as he storms out of his house.

At the brink of ending his life, his guardian angel, Clarence, appears.  George cries out that his life is worthless wishing he had never lived.  Clarence grants his wish of never having been born. George then discovers what the town he grew up in, Bedford Falls, would have looked like without the good deeds he had done throughout his life.  This is the essence of this film:  The influences of one good soul instrumental to the well-being of the town and its people.

Counterfactual #1: Now let me apply this counterfactual to the existence or non-existence to America.  I sometimes believe many of my fellow Americans believe the world would have been better if our country didn’t exist or existed in a different way.  Let’s take the latter:  Would the world have been better if the Spaniards and not the English settled in North America.  I doubt it. 

The Spanish civilization, at the top of the world in the 15th and start of the 16th century, never fully comprehended the banking system, introduced by the Medici Family, that spread to Northern Europe.  The Spanish conquistadors fell in love with the metal, gold, they had plundered in what is today Latin America, not credit.  Niall Ferguson, in his book the Ascent of Money, describes this by writing: “Now money represented the sum total of specific liabilities (deposits and reserves) incurred by banks.  Credit was the total of banks’ assets (loans).”  This allowed money to circulate on a much broader scale than previously.

Moreover, the corruption of the leaders in Latin America not only have helped destroy many natural resources, but has also led to rampant poverty.  Americans are not crossing the border in hope of a better life, but rather foreigners from Latin America and many other parts of the world cross our borders in hope of a better life.

Counterfactual #2:  If there had never been English colonists and explorers coming to America, how would the world look?  I will not deny that the founders of this country treated neither Native Americans nor Blacks from Africa well.  On the latter point, however, America’s forefathers did not create slavery.  Since the beginning of recorded history, slavery has been an ugly part of humanity.  What the founders did create was the concept of freedom and liberty where the people had the power to decide their fate rather than follow an autocratic leader.  This system of governing was described by the visiting French Foreign Minister, Alex de Tocqueville, to America in 1835 and 1840.  He saw in America a system of governing where individuals were able to act freely while respecting others’ rights in contrast to the French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic rule.

George Washington, the first president of the United States, had no desire to retain his powers as head of the government, but he rather happily passed them on to John Adams.  On the contrary, Washington eagerly returned to his life on his farm where he spent the rest of his days. The idea of authority being passed on through nepotism, that is one’s children or descendants, was never a part of America’s origins.  Given the underlying foundation of a democracy (from the Greek word demos where the people elect their rulers), the accoutrements of power such as wealth and land, would reside not only in the hands of those elected to govern, but also in the people themselves.  It was this feature of America that has attracted so many from different lands whose form of government did not permit upward mobility.

Counterfactual #3:  I can’t imagine the world faring better in both World Wars without the participation of America.  Moreover, the Marshall Plan, after WWII, allowed Europe, and, especially, Germany to rebuild in a much more peaceful milieu than ever previously.  America has provided the much-needed cohesion that Europe and the rest of the world has needed.

As I mentioned, I do not wish to say that America has been perfect. The template of American governance has helped us maintain our country for almost 250 years.  Let us hope that this grand experiment that had its birth in 1776 does not sink from the internal tensions that we presently encounter.  It would be a great loss to the world if America drowned itself in the heated passions of its extremists.  Let us not forget that although America has experienced brutal partisan battles in the past (e.g., Hamilton’s time), we have created new political parties and changed enough to maintain our democracy.  I believe we can learn from the past, and still move forward, perhaps even as a stronger nation, in the future.

 Zelenskyy Comes to Washington


Inflation, increase in crime, increase in drug related deaths and the ongoing problem at the border with an explosion of new immigrants attempting to enter the United States have cast a pall over much of our lives.  And now this week over 200 million Americans have been affected by blizzards and unusually cold weather causing a multiple of flight cancelations or delays.  Amidst all this mayhem, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, current president of the Ukraine, made a surprise trip to America to visit with President Biden and address the Congress in Washington D.C.  He did this at great personal risk insofar as he had a take a train from Kyiv, and the war-torn Ukraine, to Poland, before boarding a plane to the United States.   

The battles between Republicans and Democrats in both Houses of Congress have been relentless with neither parties’ members mincing, in any way, their harsh language toward the other.  This made the Ukrainian President to Washington D.C. that much more outstanding.  When Zelenskyy pleaded his case, it was a sight to see both sides of the aisle applauding him.  Granted there were a few Republicans that did not stand up and applaud, but they were not in the majority.  President Zelenskyy’s visit appeared to unite both sides, the left and the right, to his cause.  Moreover, the President has boldly stayed in Kyiv, not fleeing for his own safety under Russian attack, exhorting his fellow Ukrainians to face the enemy in their fight for freedom.  

Speaking in fluent English, he knew that he needed to speak in such a way to compel the American people to hear the urgency of his requests. He made sure to let the Congress know that the aid received should not be considered as charity, but rather the weapons are so crucial in helping defend the Ukraine from the tyranny of Russia.  The assistance in helping Ukraine would be instrumental in telling the rest of the world that America is behind sovereign nations that are striving for liberty and freedom.  Furthermore, he made it clear that he didn’t want Americans to risk their lives and fight his country’s war, but instead provide him with the weapons essential in defending Ukraine from the brutal Russian forces.

Zelenskyy has been compared to Churchill coming to America in December of 1941 when the latter came to America to underline the importance of America’s joining in with the allied forces.  Moreover, he evoked the American Revolution when he stated: “We will go though our war of independence and freedom with dignity and success.”

Clearly, Zelenskyy showed the diplomatic skills and understanding of American politics to deliver to the Congress a very moving plea for assistance.  Apparently, he was most successful in his visit here inasmuch as U.S. lawmakers have approved 45 billion dollars in additional aid with total aid coming to nearly 100 billion of war aid to the Ukraine.  It was ironic that the only ones that showed some grievances toward this package are some Republicans who believe this money would be best spent on the current immigration crisis at our borders.  It was not that long ago when the late President Reagan referred to the U.S.S.R. as the “evil empire.”  True Russia is not as powerful as it once was, but Mr. Putin is far more dangerous a leader than Mr. Gorbachev ever was. To the protestations of the Republicans, I would agree with a recent Wall Street Journal editorial affirming that support for the border should not preclude helping Ukraine in their struggle for freedom.  The underlying point of this article is that both situations deserve the utmost of American intention.  Rest assured, the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, along with other dictators, are waiting to see how successful Russia will be in an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation.  Let us not give them give them any assurance that America and the West will not stand up and put down such invasions.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

After the U.S. fiasco led by the late President Kennedy to overthrow Castro in 1961, in what is commonly referred to the Bay of Pigs crisis, Kennedy understood that he needed to have both foreign and military policy advisors that did not necessarily agree with him.  This way he would be able to be more objective in his ability to more accurately make the strategic decisions essential to America’s well-being.  These changes helped buoy up Kennedy’s actions vis-a-vis foreign policy.

Former President Trump chose a much different path in the selection of his advisors.  The manner in which Trump governed reminds me of the parable created in 1837 by Hans Christian Andersen about the emperor’s clothes.  In this tale, he emperor has chosen two swindlers to weave him a magnificent garment that would appear invisible to those who are stupid or incompetent.  When the outfit was not delivered in a timely fashion, he sent one of his courtiers to check on the progress.  Much to his surprise, the loom from which these two weavers worked had no thread, so, naturally, he inquired where the thread was.  The tailors assured him that they were making good progress and not to worry inasmuch as they were creating an invisible suit for the emperor.  Not wishing to give the emperor bad news, the courtier reported to the emperor that what he saw matched the emperor’s expectations.

Because after some time the two charlatans still had not completed their work, the emperor sent other officials to give him a report on the making of his royal attire.  When each official sent saw the two men sitting at an empty loom with no thread, neither wished to upset the emperor by appearing ignorant or stupid.  When the garment was finally completed, the two counterfeit weavers called the emperor in to try on his new clothes.  They continued to perpetuate the hoax when they pretended to dress him with his “invisible” raiment.

The emperor, in believing the two swindlers, proceeded to parade his new clothes to the townsfolk.  Insofar as the followers of his regime do not want to appear inept or stupid, they praised the outfit of their king.  But suddenly a child cried out that the emperor was wearing nothing at all, and the others immediately realized that they had been fooled by what they had believed was an authentic garment.  All came to the understanding that the emperor had been tricked and that their leader was the most foolish of them all.

In retrospect, we know how the former President Trump made decisions.  He would only listen to those who shared his opinion on strategic issues of the day.  If he disagreed with his advisor’s ideas, he often would terminate and replace them with officials that agreed with his ideas, though they may have been impulsive rather than thoughtfully deliberated.  Although there were a few “children” ( such as Liz Cheney) that challenged Trump’s leadership, many Republicans feared his power with the American public and did not voice any dissent they may have had.

Republican candidates maintained their support of Trump to a preposterous degree.  An example of this was Trump’s insistence that the election results in 2020, determining that Biden had won the election, had been rigged.  However, Attorney General William Barr, a man of conservative bent, and officials in each of the 50 states found no evidence of widespread fraud in the election.  Furthermore, Federal agencies overseeing election security said it was the most secure in American history.  Whether Trump’s supporters believed in Trump’s assertions or whether they didn’t believe in them and were afraid of alienating Trump’s voter base, did not matter.  The Republican candidates that supported Trump’s distortions were soundly defeated in their election bids across the boards.  The final straw occurred when Raphael Warnock defeated Herschel Walker, who Trump had backed, in the runoff of the senatorial election in Georgia.

I believe that many on the Left, as well as the Right, underestimate their fellow Americans.  Trump, like the emperor, refused to believe that under no condition, his flock of followers would sever their ties with him.  Just like the emperor, the more that Trump paraded around speaking obvious falsehoods, his loyal adherents began to see through the nakedness of his rhetoric.  The public eye had reached a point where it no longer could accept the alternate truths that Trump had put forth.

  Fighting Antisemitism


The overt antisemitic comments by rapper, Kanye West and Net basketball player, Kyrie Irving flashed danger signals to such Jewish organizations as the American Defamation League.  Because these two Black performers are so well known their comments that support antisemitic tropes, such as Jews controlling the banks and Hollywood, it can cause their huge numbers of followers to accept these tropes as a truth.  But what I found even more annoying and perhaps even more dangerous was the fact that David Chappelle went on to both normalize and reinforce these beliefs in his monologue on Saturday Night Live (S.N.L).

In an earlier blog I posted, I had complimented David Chappelle for pointing out how Jussie Smollett, a Black American actor, had hoodwinked the media and the police department in believing that he had been mugged by three whites wearing MAGA (Make America Great Again) in downtown, Chicago in the wee hours of the morning.  I lauded the fact, that as a Black comedian, he did not pull any punches when satirizing the actions of another Black.  This has rarely been done by other Black comics. 

Mr. Chappelle, however, disappointed me in his recent routine on SNL, when he audaciously stated many negative stereotypes about Jews. To illustrate one:  He pointed out when he first came to Hollywood, he learned never to say the following two words together: “The Jews.”  The underlying stereotype is that there are so many powerful Jews in Hollywood that you must be careful what you say.  In an attempt to dismiss this statement, he said there are also a lot of Blacks in Ferguson, Missouri.  But although this was meant to be funny insofar as he is alluding to the fact that Blacks have little power or influence in Ferguson, it does not lessen the implication of his basic message that Jews control Hollywood so beware!  He concluded his riff by saying:  “It’s not a crazy thing to think Jews own Hollywood, but it’s a crazy thing to say it out loud.”

In the past, Jewish comedians have dealt with ethnic humor.  Here I am specifically thinking of Jackie Mason.   But when Mason satirized any other group, he would be sure to start his routine by pointing out the foibles of his fellow Jews.  So first it would be Jews that were satirized before he would hit on non-Jews or Gentiles.  Moreover, even in today’s politically correct society, it is deemed appropriate to criticize your own ethnic group rather than other groups.  Imagine a Jewish comedian putting down Afro-Americans as part of his/her routine.  I don’t think that individual would last too long on the comic circuit.  And heaven help any non-Black who utters the “N” word, a word that has become sacrosanct in the English language, where only Blacks can say it in vain.     

Now we come to the interview that Jon Stewart (nee Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz had with Stephen Colbert, late night show host.   Previously the two of them had hosted The Daily Show in which leftist political satire became the core of their comedic content.  This show actually set a milestone of sorts inasmuch as earlier T.V. hosts, and here I am thinking of Johnny Carson (one of the all-time best comedians in my opinion), avoided any kind of political commentary.  Stewart’s dialogue with Colbert focused on the recent rants of antisemitism by Kanye West (now called Ye), Kyrie Irving, and David Chappelle.  In an effort to satirize the idea of Jewish control of Hollywood and banks, he said: “I hope to see a Christian president in America.”  Stewart’s underlying satire reflects the irony that if Jews are so powerful why hasn’t a Jew ever been elected president.

Rather, than censoring Ye and Irving for their antisemitic diatribe, Stewart thought a better approach would be to understand the Black perspective.  Furthermore, he mentioned the censoring of someone’s thoughts will not erase these thoughts.  However, the obvious problem with this is that both Ye and Irving, who may carry a huge amount of influence on others, let their thoughts go public.  And yes, it’s a free country, but people in a free country also have a right to react negatively to such comments.

Stewart pointed out the importance of reacting to antisemitic tropes by denouncing their invidious fallacious roots. But in admitting that Chappelle, in his routine, normalized the antisemitic tropes of both Ye and Irving, he made no comment.  In the past, when Stewart received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, Chappelle told the audience how Stewart had mentored and inspired him when he first started out.  What a chance this would have been for Stewart to set the record straight, and criticize the ugly stereotypes of Jews that Chappelle had normalized in his routine.  Coming from a person he highly admired, I believe Chappelle may have reconsidered and even apologized for his “bad humor.” 

Censoring and penalizing individuals that have a huge public following is one way of handling hateful speech.  However, I have a better idea.  Clint Smith, a Black journalist, recently published an article in the Atlantic Magazine titled:  Monuments to the Unthinkable.  The article refers to the plaques and central city monuments that have been built in Germany to memorialize that were murdered in the Holocaust. Rather than censor Ye, Irving and Chappelle (the latter, who, to date, has not been censored), why not have them take a trip with Mr. Smith, as their guide, to the places (i.e., concentration camps etc.) where the Holocaust took place.  I would add Donald Trump to that tour, who recently hosted two virulent antisemites, Ye and Nick Fuentes, for dinner at Mar-a-Lago.

Stewart concluded his interview with Colbert by saying he has been called an antisemite because he’s against certain policies of Israel toward the Palestinian movement.  No, Jon, I don’t consider you an antisemite if you disagree with certain Israeli policies as many American Jews, including myself, feel the same way. One can only wish that Mr. Stewart would speak out as vociferously against antisemitic comments, even if made, by friends of his. Mr. Stewart was asked why he changed his birth name with one response being that “it sounded too Hollywood.”  Rather than hiding from his Jewish roots, I think Mr. Stewart might revert back to his birth name of Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz for the next month as his penalty for shying away from defending his people.