Monday, April 24

After the first 100 days

The first 100 days of the President Trump administration has gone by. Nothing spectacular has been accomplished, although much was promised. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as its detractors like to call it, is still with us. 

Tax reform is promised for this week, although many in Congress are skeptical until President Trump releases his earlier tax returns and legislators can see how and if he will benefit from proposed tax code changes. And, everyone should be concerned about who will benefit from proposed changes - the top 1 or 2 percent, the middle class or even those lower on the economic ladder.

I had a discussion last week with a lady who is a Trump supporter and who believes the news media has been too critical of the new president. There is no doubt the media has been robust and reporting on the flaws and goofs coming out of the administration. But better a free and reliable media with its criticisms than a cheering section for ignorance and stupidity. 

One action, in particular, disturbs me: the Attorney General’s decision to stop looking at police departments across the country when citizens and groups file protests. AG Sessions tried to delay implementation of a continuing review of the Baltimore police but a court ordered it to go forward. The majority of American police departments are stacked with good men and women and conduct themselves in the ritual of Preserve and Protect. But when citizen complaints are made they need to be looked into, and this has been the responsibility of the Justice Department. This must continue.

It appears that Steve Bannon’s role as chief strategist to President Trump is a thing of the past. His “America first” ideas are ill-advised and out of touch with reality. Since World War II, America and the American President have been at the forefront of world leadership and we cannot neglect, ignore or discard that duty. The world is too big and volatile for the number one super power to step aside and let things sort themselves out. I told a friend a couple of weeks ago that Bannon will be gone by Labor Day. I stand by that statement. 

Global warming, terrorism around the world, security of nuclear weapons, world trade and finance, poverty, refugees, roads and bridges in America, are all calling for leadership and action. 

New jobs must be created and an aging workforce assisted with training to fill those jobs. Opening up the mines and other industries will not automatically result in more jobs. Robots and automation are always going to cut into what were once good jobs for men (and women). 

There is not much to show for the first 100 days of this Presidency, but we can hope that the administration ship will be righted to an even keel and sail on to better days for the U.S. and the world. 



Tuesday, April 4

Irritants

The one continuing thing that absolutely PMO is Donald Trump’s ignorance about how to carry out his role as President of the United States and leader of the free world. 

Then there are lesser, but still mind-warping, irritants - and this weekend I had two on the same day within hours of each other.

Mind you, these occurred while Trump is consistently PMO.

Driving from North Carolina to my home in South Carolina on a nice Sunday morning I  stopped for gas at a name brand station. The first pump had an out of order sign on it.  OK. No big deal. I pulled around to a second pump. I put my brand loyalty card in the slot. Did I want the cash reduction? Of course. I followed with a credit card and went through the usual litany of questions. Each one requiring me to punch an answer on the display panel, which, by the by, was almost too dirty to read, Is this a debit or credit card? Credit was the answer. So then I had to enter my ZIP code and did I want  a receipt. Yes, I want a receipt.

After all the bookkeeping was done I lifted the handle, pushed my choice and proceeded to fill up. When it finished, I put the pump back, screwed my gas cap on tight and closed the side panel. I turned for my receipt and instead got a message telling me to see the clerk

Irritant #1. No receipt paper in the pump is becoming an all too frequent occurrence. It happens at brand name stations, and the “Have a happy Trump day” gas station I used - out of necessity - in Florida a couple of weeks ago. The operator there gave me this greeting when I walked in to pay. (His pumps didn’t take credit cards.) He gave me the same greeting when I went back in to use the men’s room and when I (thank God) finally got out of there. 

Back to North Carolina. I walked to the store and opened the door. Eight people were standing in the one open line. At the head of the line, a customer was buying a candy bar and a soda pop with a debit card and having difficulty working the credit card machine. Smoke was coming out of the ears of the seven people behind him. I left. Eff the receipt.

Since this see the clerk is happening all too often, I believe failure to keep receipt paper in the pumps is a gimmick to lure customers into the store hoping they will make an impulse purchase. They must be some automatic way of knowing when a pump is out of receipt paper, or the first time someone walks in to ask for receipt ought to be enough of a clue. 

Number Two. I went back on the road and got home. No Sunday morning paper at my door. This is the fourth or fifth time since I subscribed in late January that my paper has not been delivered. I called the newspaper and was greeted, as on all other occasions, with recorded messages on about how important my call is to someone who is never available to answer the phone. I will spare the reader further details, but on Monday I canceled my subscription via email. A woman from the paper called and left a message, so I decided to be friendly and return her call. She was not available and her message box was full.


Friday, March 24

Big butts

 "The Chinese government responded to toilet-paper thieves in Beijing's public restrooms by installing dispensers with facial-recognition software, which allows each visitor only one sheet, approximately two feet in length, every nine minutes. 'The sheets are too short,' said one visitor." (Source: Harper's Weekly Review, Online, March 24, 1957)

Which raises the question: Why do Beijing residents steal toilet paper? China is where paper was invented, it ought to be cheaper than rice.






Wednesday, March 1

Defend Freedom of the Press


Last fall when the Green Bay Packers won and lost record was 4 and 6, their outstanding quarterback Arron Rodgers told everyone to relax and said the team could run the table. Under his leadership, they did exactly that. They won the final six games of the regular season and the first two games of the playoffs until they lost to Atlanta in the NFL championship game.

As thrilling as this epic sports story may be, it is not a guide as to how everyone should react to the threat facing freedom of the press at this moment in the history of our country.

President Donald J. Trump labels the press the enemy of the people. His outrageous and inaccurate public statements, ridiculous and sometimes insulting late night twits, along with denying accredited reporters access to press conferences in the White House are all part of the same objective: to weaken the confidence of the American people in the press and news media. The goal is to manipulate public opinion to his interests. Throughout history, people like President Trump and members of his White House staff believe if a statement, “alternative fact” or absolutely stupid utterance, whether true or not, is said frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.

As Americans, regardless of how we voted, we cannot just sit back and hope the U.S. Supreme Court will come to the aid of freedom of the press as they did on June 30, 1971, when it overturned the Nixon administration’s effort to restrain The New York Times and The Washington Post from publishing a top-secret history of the Vietnam War called the Pentagon Papers.

We must be proactive. Freedom of the press depends on every citizen in every walk of life, What can Mr. & Mrs. Average America do? First and foremost: stay informed. Subscribe and read a variety of news publications, e.g. dailies, weeklies, and monthly magazines. Another good way is to watch a variety of news broadcasts and talk shows as time permits. Do not be taken in by glib statements about promises kept.

Thomas Jefferson said a lot of things; the one I remember the most is that given a choice of government without a free press or a free press without government, he would choose the latter. I side with Jefferson. 




Friday, February 10

Lost appetite

As Published in The Post and Courier, Charleston, SC, 
Feb. 10, 2017


Dear Editor:

It is Sunday morning. I am enjoying my coffee and have finished the front and Opinion sections of the newspaper. As I start on my second cup, I pause to express my dismay to learn from Steve Bailey’s “S.C.’s poverty wage trap.” a  worker at Church’s Chicken in North Charleston is paid $8 an hour. In this day and age? In this community? In an environment where food workers have minimum opportunity for tips this is unsatisfactory to this reader who enjoys fried chicken occasionally. But not anymore from Church’s.
Sincerely,

/s/ Francis X. Archibald

Sunday, February 5

The horrific cost of racial prejudice

A reminder...

Years ago, I wrote book reviews for The State, Columbia, S.C. These were of new books thought to be of interest to eclectic readers of the newspaper. It isn’t necessary, however, for a book to be fresh off the publisher’s presses to warrant a review.

If a stimulating book hasn’t been read earlier a review is still justified in spite of its having been published more than 15 years ago. I finished such a book this week.

In 2000, David Lehr, M.D., published “Austria Before and After the Anschluss,” sub-titled, “Personal Experiences, Observations, and Comments.”  (Dorrance Publishing Co., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222, 361 pp.)

In this memoir, Dr. Lehr, the Professor Emeritus at New York Medical College, whose research work has been published worldwide, succeeded in reminding us of the horrific cost of racial prejudice.

Dr. Lehr was born in Austria and had completed his studies as a doctor when the Germans took over Austria in March 1938. Rather than being the first victim of Hitler’s Germany, as some Austrians claim, Austria welcomed the Nazis, according to Dr. Lehr. In many instances, Austrian Nazis outdid their German counterparts in hostile actions against Jews and other minorities. Antisemitism was the order of the day. 

(Germany began some material compensation of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution around 1951, while it took Austria more than another 40 years to follow suit.)

In Vienna, Dr. Lehr writes, Jewish-owned automobiles were confiscated, homes and businesses looted and taken over, bank accounts seized, students kicked out of school, and men, women. and children were assaulted in the streets, all simply because they were Jews. 

Jews who wanted to emigrate while it was still possible were unable to take any money with them and had to sign over all their possessions before they could obtain an exit visa. Without a friend or relative in a foreign country willing to help people were stranded without recourse. Eventually, most of these same people were rounded up, sent to concentration camps, and ultimately killed.

(Holocaust victims are estimated to number 11 million, six million of which were victims simply because they were Jews.)

In his 90th year, Dr. Lehr wrote of his struggle throughout the 1930’s with his medical studies, some eventful incidents in his practice, and the personal tragedy of his family, which miraculously managed to be united years later in the United States. When the Anschluss occurred on March 13, 1938, life for Jews took the most unimaginable and dreadful turn. The horror which awaited them (and the other Jews of Europe) was unknown, unprecedented and terrible in its outcome. 

There were isolated positive encounters with “the very best and noble in Austria’s truly patrician stock,” but these were few and far between before and after the Anschluss. Dr. Lehr makes the point that remembering a positive act by a caring person stands out forever in a maelstrom of horror. 

Dr. Lehr felt a responsibility “to lay bare the tragic truth of the Austrian Holocaust.” He felt it was owed to the fallen Jews of Austria and to history. I believe he has done a good job of it. 




Monday, January 16

Hidden Figures

When the credits began to roll at the end of Hidden Figures I sat in my seat and then began to clap my hands and slowly other customers joined in and applauded the film and the captivating story based on actual events it portrays. The applause continued for a minute or so and then we began to file out of the theater.

Variety's chief film critic Peter Debruge has nailed a detailed review of this film spot on. If you think a story about three talented, capable, strong and determined African-American women and the race to put Americans in space and on the moon is some sort of fantasy, then read his review and better yet go see the movie. 

It is a wonderful film, suitable for all ages and makes me proud to be an American. Not proud of race relations in the last century, but proud that an overwhelming majority of Americans overcame prejudice and recognized the talents of people whose skin color was different from ours. 

In these, the early years of the 21st Century we still have a long road to travel to truly be "one nation under God," but the story of these three women should help us travel that road.