THE DEFLOWERING OF GEORGE W. BUSH

If you were looking by some chance for a laudatory piece about George W. Bush, you will have to read Bill Safire or George Will or some other right wing writer or perhaps the Wall Street Journal editorial page. My reading on Bush after following his career since he became the Governor of Texas is that he is ignorant, a bully, a frightened person, an inadequate man who is unaware of recent human history and a complete captive of the conservative right wing of his party which happens to be a sinister force in American politics. That is a very baleful assessment of the current occupant of the Oval Office. And nearly every American will come to realize what a sorry man George W. Bush is.

The events of the past two weeks with the tragedy in Israeli-Palestinian relations has brought an even clearer picture of Bush’s failures and short comings. Until April 4th, Bush ignored events in the Israeli crisis. When he could no longer ignore the conflict in the Occupied Zones of the Palestine Authority, Bush repeatedly called on the American public and indeed, upon the whole world, to support Sharon and to condemn Arafat. When he sent Cheney to the Mideast in an utterly forlorn hope to rally Arab nations for the planned war against Iraq, Arafat was ignored and the Cheney mission became a complete failure. But nonetheless Bush continued to belabor Arafat while he praised and urged support for Sharon. Incidentally, Bush will not even grant Arafat a handshake. Yitzhak Rabin shook Arafat’s hand but Bush puts his hand in his pocket when he sees Arafat. Bush’s support for the bully Sharon has backfired. Arafat’s popularity is now at an all time high. Students rally and carry his picture and shout slogans in support of Yasser. Bush’s venture into the politics of the Mideast is now in total ruins. Bush has mortgaged his “War on Terror” to Sharon, the Butcher of Beirut.

One of Bush’s failings is his ignorance of the English language, his native tongue. When Bush attempts to deal with the most awesome of weapons, the nuclear bombs and missiles, he always adds a useless syllable. Thus, in Bush-speak, nuclear becomes NU-CU-LEAR. Even the right wing commentator Bill Safire chided him on this aspect of his English. And Safire is no dummy. Remember it was Safire who wrote one of the most inspiring lines in the English language for Spiro Agnew to say – “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

But leaving nu-cu-lear aside – Bush has for some days been unable to mouth the English word “NOW”! After piddling away months, Bush was finally moved to make a Rose Garden speech on Thursday, April 4, 2002 in which he proposed to Sharon that his forces should be withdrawn as soon as possible. At the very least, Sharon interpreted that to mean he could clobber the Palestinians until Friday, April 12 when Colin Powell would make his belated appearance in Jerusalem. Later, Bush amended his “as soon as possible” to read “without delay.” Sharon saw no difference between the two statements so he kept on having his tanks knock down fragile Palestinian homes with people still in them.

Now comes Colin Powell who has no diplomatic experience, but is still the Secretary of State. In all of Powell’s previous jobs, he has been known for extreme caution. Why do we need to do this at all, is Powell’s dictum. Well, Powell said “withdraw as soon as possible” and “without delay” meant pretty much the same thing “depending upon the construction” you may want it to have. But Bush, Powell and Bush’s mouthpiece Ari Fleisher would not utter the dreaded word “Now”! It just depended on the construction according to Powell. Finally, four days later, Condolezza Rice responded to the fury of the press and foreign allies by saying that “without delay means now.” Well now, that is done – or is it?

Here we are a week after the Rose Garden speech and Sharon has not responded to: one – as soon as possible, or two – without delay, or three – now. So Powell is now touring Arab countries and Israel in the hope that Sharon will decide to accede to one of the three constructions or wondering whether he will continue to bully his Palestinian neighbors by shooting and bombing them and then permitting no ambulances or hearses to pick up the wounded and dead. So much for Sharon agreeing to act in a humane fashion. Is it any wonder that Palestinian suicide bombing continues? The only question one could ask in the circumstances is why the other feckless Arab governments have not been there to oppose Sharon. The answer is NO GUTS. I could use another part of the male anatomy to express my opinion of Arab governments. But this is a piece I intend to send to Cardinal Law in Boston so I must keep it clean. The Spanish word is cojones. You can look it up, as Casey Stengel used to say.

Let’s return to my opening thought that Bush is among other things an ignorant man. By this time, his ignorance has been well established with the possible exception of mossbacks in the far right wing of the Republican Party. He may be admired by the likes of Jesse Helms and Senator Brownback from Kansas but here we are talking about Neanderthals whose thinking never progressed beyond the 1890’s.

Now, I said he is also a bully. If his alignment with Sharon is not enough to convince anyone, I submit his carrying out the death sentence against a female who pled with him after she had become a Christian. That would be Karla Faye Tucker.

Let’s see what another conservative, born-again Christian had to say on the subject of bullying a condemned prisoner. This excerpt is from the August 10, 1999 Houston Chronicle, which is deep in the heart of Texas. Bush was Governor and planning to become his party’s presidential candidate.

Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer criticized Gov. George W. Bush Tuesday for making fun of an executed Texas woman in an interview Bush gave to Talk magazine.

“I think it is nothing short of unbelievable that the governor of a major state running for president thought it was acceptable to mock a woman he decided to put to death,” Bauer said of Bush.

Bush is portrayed in Talk as ridiculing pickax killer Karla Faye Tucker of Houston for an interview she did with CNN broadcaster Larry King shortly before she was executed last year. Just before her execution day, Tucker appealed for clemency on the grounds that she had become a born-again Christian.

“’Please,’ Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, ‘don’t kill me.’”
The Houston Chronicle, August 10, 1999

Does anyone need any more convincing on the bully score?

Bush became the President of the United States under the most inauspicious circumstances. Later, we’ll see what Jeffrey Toobin has to say about Bush’s ultimate selection by the right wing vote of the United States Supreme Court. But here we are stuck with the clearly inadequate and intellectually stunted man. On April 8th of this year,
Dan Rather interviewed King Abdullah of Jordan. Abdullah’s native tongue is Arabic. Rather gave the King a vigorous series of questions with plenty of opportunities for Abdullah to stumble or to retreat into slogans of the street. In the end, Abdullah handled Rather – not the other way around. His responses were completely unrehearsed, not scripted. His English was perfect. His answers reflected thoughtful consideration. There were no circumlocutions.

His answers were prompt, supported by logic and convincing. Now compare that with the alleged leader of the free world, who stumbles as he speaks and deals only in platitudes which he repeats as gospel truth.

In the first place, when Bush speaks he never permits a one-on-one interview with a first rate journalist. Not with Rather, not with Jennings, not with Brokaw and certainly not with Jim Lehrer. So what we have to go on are set pieces like the Rose Garden speech of April or addresses to Congress where questions are foreclosed. In short, Bush is simply reading some one else’s thoughts and words. Reading, I said. Even in these addresses, watch Bush’s eyes. Don’t worry about the wrinkled brow; just watch the eyes. Even with a script which he almost always uses, Bush is unsure of himself and that is reflected in his eyes. What we have as President of the United States is a frightened man, frightened by his own intellectual inadequacies.

Compare him with Bill Clinton. Clinton knew his subject and welcomed exchanges and challenges. Clinton’s eyes told the story. His eyes glistened because he knew what he was speaking about and that his thoughts were backed by logic. A lost script would mean nothing to Clinton. Bush’s wrinkled brow and the helplessness in his eyes make it clear that he is a frightened man beset by his own intellectual inadequacies.

Before he became the head of the U. S. Government, Bush could allay his inadequacies by appealing to his parents and influential friends of George H. W. and Barbara Bush. As my mother would say in her country style, “Bush was 40 years of age before he ever done a lick of work.” He got into Yale and Harvard on his parents’ reputations. While there as a student, Bush certainly did not distinguish himself. According to him, he was a goof off. Somewhere in his later 20’s, the Vietnam War took place. Old Bush tried to escape it but wound up in the Texas Air National Guard. The Texas Air National Guard was not federalized and, of course stayed in Texas and saw no service in Vietnam. Records show that Bush’s attendance at National Guard duties was sporadic at best. He let Al Gore and John McCain fight the war.

There followed a series of ventures into the oil business, largely under the sponsorship of his father. The record seems to support the thought that each venture was a failure. After the oil business fiasco, the wealthy backers of his father thought that the chances of Major League Baseball coming to Texas would be enhanced by the Bush name. So he became an executive of the Texas Ranger baseball team. The same backers who shepherded him on the baseball team excursion, then proposed him for Governor of Texas, and the rest is history.

The point is that in Bush’s work history, he has always—always relied on his parents or their wealthy friends to sponsor him. He has absolutely no record of accomplishments which would expel his feelings of inadequacies. He is a man of stunted mental achievement so he cannot rely on his brain to do away with his obvious feeling of inadequacy. In the words of my friends from the South and Southwest, Bush is a “sorry” example of what a leader of the free world ought to show. Lillie Carr was right. In all those years, Bush “never done a lick of work.”

Bush’s personal inadequacies are reflected in the “I” syndrome. As recently as the current Israeli crisis, Bush said “I” warned the Arab governments to stay out of the conflict. He says “I” told the Israelis what to do. When he sent General Zinni to attempt to handle things in Israel, although Zinni had no diplomatic experience, Bush always referred to him as “my personal representative.” When Cheney made his failed trip to moderate Arab countries to get them to back a war with Iraq, Bush claimed that “I” had the Vice President make that trip. The fact is that the United States Government speaks for the people of this country, not Bush. Zinni represents the United States Government, not as Bush says “My personal representative.” Cheney may have been sent on his fruitless trip to talk to the Arabs, but in doing so he represented the
U. S. Government, not George W. Bush.

When Bush employs the “I” technique, it is simply to inflate a man who badly needs help. Bright and generous men – which Bush is not – always suggest that other people have a hand in determining the outcome of events. Bright and generous men use the “we” symbol rather than the “I” designation.

The “I” complex causes Bush to be bitten in the backside, sort of a boomerang effect. Bush recently made it clear that “I” warned Sharon to pull back his troops. Bush said “I” did it, not Cheney, not Powell, not Congress, but “I” gave him the ultimatum. Remember the “as soon as possible” or “without delay”? Well Sharon had a surprise of his own. He told Bush in so many words what he could do with his “I” ultimatum.

If Bush had paid attention at Yale, I suspect that he would have been introduced to some history of the world. Nobody ever accused Bush during his Yale and Harvard years of taking a month off or a period when the school was on vacation or certainly not a leave of absence for six months or an academic year to study what other people do and to invest in the history of other nations or cultures. Clinton did that at Oxford but Clinton is a name to be expunged from the U. S. Government. Bush by his own admission was barely a “C” student just getting by. Bush was able to do that because he was lazy and he came from a family of great wealth and prestige.

Let us say that a poor kid from the Bronx in New York City or, as it was called when I grew up there, Dago Hill in St. Louis, had a scholarship to attend Yale University, as unlikely as that really is. Do you think that such a young student would squirt away his one and only chance of an Ivy League education by becoming a “C” student? And do you think that such a youngster would fail to take advantage of trips to other countries that are often available to college students? The obvious answer is a resounding “No.” But Bush wasted his years there in two of America’s most prestigious universities.

With respect to foreign travel, Bush is still a non-entity when it comes to our closest neighbor and ally, Canada. Early in his administration, he said Mexico was number one – the most important neighbor to the United States. Again, his lack of historical context is amazing. In World War II, Canada was our greatest ally. On more than one occasion I have shared meals and cigarettes with Canadian airmen and soldiers. The Canadians went to war when Hitler ran over Poland on September 1, 1939 – more than two years before the U. S. entered the war.

Bush would never recognize this fact. Mexico never entered the fight against the Axis. On the contrary, Germany was wooing Mexico as an eventual means of launching an attack against the United States. I’m sure Bush is unaware of this piece of history. He simply knows that Mexico adjoins Texas. Canada does not adjoin the Great State of Texas and hence, it will be visited after Uruguay or Swaziland.

This week the Mexican Senate declared that the President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, could not leave Mexico because he had been gone so much since his term began. Bush better send Carl Rove his political Guru to Mexico City to straighten the Mexican Senate out. So Mexico is our number one ally? So Mexico is our most important neighbor? Ole!

Now we turn to Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist who won a Pulitzer Prize which was announced only a day or two ago. As it turns out, Tom Friedman is a Jew. I don’t care what his ethnic background might be; he writes compelling stuff. I did want to point out his ethnicity because of the quote from the Times on April 3, 2002 that I am about to offer. Friedman said this:

“The other people who have not wanted to face facts are the feckless American Jewish leaders, fundamentalist Christians and neo-conservatives who together have helped make it impossible for anyone in the U. S. administration to talk seriously about halting Israeli settlement-building without being accused of being anti-Israel.”

Now to Friedman’s list we add Roman Catholics whose idea of good government only includes those who want to ruthlessly stamp out abortion and contraceptive advice. Bush just stopped a $38 million appropriation to improve the health of poor people around the world because Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican member of the House, wrote him that he suspected that some of the money might be used to support abortion clinics in China. Mind you, money had been voted on and the appropriation was made. But Bush responded to Smith’s letter with haste. He held up distribution of the funds which were intended to help poor people with health problems in various parts of the world. And they are still held up even now.

Let me add a thought on Christopher Smith before we go on. In his office, he keeps a large crucifix. It’s not one to be worn around the neck; it is standing or leans against the wall. It is a big piece of work. Cardinal Law would be happy to have it available to him when he next writes a letter to another diocese telling them that a convicted child molester would perform quite well if the new diocese would take him. Now let us suppose you are a Jew or a Muslim or even a hymn-shouting Protestant. And let us suppose that you are admitted to Smith’s office as one of Smith’s New Jersey constituents. What do you think your chances of success are with Representative Smith in whatever problem you bring to him? I now live in New Jersey and I would be forced to say something like from nothing ranging down to zero.

Let’s return to Tom Friedman’s quote. The feckless American Jewish leaders are personified by Norman Podhoretz who often speaks for the right wing Jewish community. He spoke a night or two ago and he supported Sharon’s efforts to eradicate the Palestinian people. He simply wanted war regardless of what it did to Israel’s long term chances of survival.

Now we turn to fundamentalist Christians and neo conservatives. The two are joined at the hip. They speak with one voice and that voice is anti-intellectual as personified by say Jesse Helms or the Jew hating Billy Graham. These people fervently back Bush not so much because he shares their values but because they see him as at war against the intellectuals who speak for universities and foundations and research entities. They are “againers.”

Now I said in the opening that Bush is a captive of the conservative right wing of the Republican Party which happens to be a sinister force in American politics. The fundamental Christians are well known to me as I had parents who attended a Nazarene Church. The hate that was preached was appalling. For example, fundamentalist preachers claim that Jesus Christ was crucified by Jews. That is an absolute lie. The man behind the crucifixion was an emperor in Rome named Pontius Pilate. When Billy Graham, who led Bush to the paths of Christian righteousness, spoke to Richard Nixon and voiced his hatred of Jews, the belief that Jews caused Jesus Christ to die more than likely was one of his bedrock beliefs. And the fundamentalists support Bush. And so does Billy Graham who now says he didn’t mean it and his son Franklin Graham, says it is immoral to tape a conversation between a preacher and one of his flock. Richard Nixon: some flock.

Friedman’s thoughts are particularly disturbing when it is applied to the conservative backing of Bush. You may recall a half pint born-again protestant presidential contender Gary Bauer, who now says that when Bush wants Sharon to stop intruding in the occupied territories, that “Attitudes are hardening on the right of the Republican Party about this.” “Attitudes are hardening” is a none-too-subtle threat aimed at Bush. As Friedman said, any criticism of Israel is taken by Bush’s conservative right wing as being anti-Israel in nature.

So much for the moment about Tom Friedman who is a prescient man. I have been pondering why in the week of Easter, Bush took a three day fund raising trip for Republican candidates for the Senate and House and that was followed by four days at the “Western White House.” While a war was going on in Israel, Bush treated himself to a taxpayer ride to Crawford, Texas but on the way he stopped at the infamous Bob Jones University in South Carolina. You will recall that Bob Jones University until recently banned interracial dating. Bush made such a rip-roaring speech during the campaign that he had to ask Cardinal O’Connor of New York to seek forgiveness for his intemperate remarks. His trip to the school on his way to Texas was largely uneventful, in any case, he did not ask O’Connor’s successor for forgiveness. Maybe he should have.

While we are on the subject of his being captured by the religious right of his party, consider this. When he signed the campaign reform bill, which he tried to defeat, he did it with only two witnesses. No press, no TV, no radio. In Washington, it was called the stealth signing. He did not invite the men who made it possible such as Russ Feingold and John McCain from the Senate and Chris Shays and Marty Meehan from the House. The word is that by inviting those people to see him sign the bill would have infuriated his right wing followers. We can’t have that.

When it was decided that the U. S. Government would transfer ownership of Governors Island in New York Harbor to the State of New York, he had only two Republicans, Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg, at the ceremony. The two New York Senators, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer were barred. How’s that for Chutzpah!

So I ask you. Is Bush the captive of the right wing of the Republican party? And by excluding the Republicans from attending the signing of the campaign reform bill, McCain and Shays, is he not showing you how small he can be? His inadequacies as a political leader are shown in big ways and in small ones.

Now today, April 10th, we had another example of Bush being the captive of the sinister wing of the Republican Party. Today Bush put on his doctor’s coat and announced with all of his background in medicine that he wants to “outlaw cloning,” so says the press. He squared off against 40 Nobel Prize winners who say the good to mankind is in cloning and stem cell research. Bush says it is a matter of science versus morality and he supports morality. Science can go soak its head in a bucket.

Previously, he had already limited stem cell research. Today he wants to “outlaw cloning” all together. While his religious followers may applaud this deplorable effort to thwart science, there are at least two things that make his decision disastrous. In the first place, almost every one knows of sufferers of Parkinson’s disease that could be helped by stem cell research. Many other diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, spinal cord injures, various cancers and neurological diseases and cardiovascular diseases could also yield to stem cell work. My brother and a neighbor died of Parkinson’s disease. But Bush comes down on what he calls “morality” and says cloning and stem cell research is not what his party is all about. I suppose it is “moral” to see people dying without the benefits that could flow from such work?

And secondly, it is absolutely clear that the United States will have lost the lead in this sort of work only to be replaced by foreign researchers who do not share Bush’s fake concern about “morality.”

If Bush had been concerned about morality, he would have permitted his handlers to see that all the votes were counted in Florida including the butterfly ones cast by elderly people in Palm Beach County who wanted to vote for Gore but who actually voted for Pat Buchanan due to a deeply flawed ballot. While you are at it see the New York Times of April 11 editorial entitled “The President’s Narrow Morality.” And when you read Jeffrey Toobin’s remarks at the end of the essay, let’s see who has the high ground on morality.

Well this is only a partial summary of Bush’s inadequacies and failings. As time goes on and other crises are brought to the Oval Office, I fear that Bush will bring this country closer and closer to the terror that he now campaigns against. By thumbing his nose at the Arab world, he makes it inevitable that Muslim people will always consider Israel and the United States as representing the things they hate. Under those circumstances, it becomes obvious that Muslim extremists will reach out to attack the United States and its citizens when traveling. Bush cannot cause the Arab people to disappear simply because they don’t share his fundamental Christian faith or because they are poor or because they use Friday as their Sabbath. Always remember the New York saying that “What goes around comes around.” Bush ought to remember that, even if New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly for Gore.

If Bush had not entered the Presidency with such visceral hatred of Bill Clinton, he could have built acceptable relations with people of brown skin such as Arabs. But Bush came to office and surrounded himself with complete jerks such as John Ashcroft and Spencer Abraham and Gail Norton. The conservative wing was in control. The anti-intellectual phenomenon pervaded the Bush administration. Now he is surrounded by war hawks such as Paul Wolfowitz and the Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld.

As a matter of interest, Ashcroft and Abraham were defeated in their bids to retain their Senate seats. Ashcroft is a hymn singing, born-again Christian that seems to have great appeal to Bush. Gail Norton is the protégé of the disgraced Secretary of the Interior, James Watt. Bush picks them right off the floor.

As I said, it need not have been this way but this is what happens when an inadequate man of very limited intellectual ability wins an election even though his opponents got a plurality of the vote. If I were a Christian, I might even be tempted to pray that the United States survives the term of Bush the Younger.

I want to close this essay with a thought by Jeffrey Toobin, a lawyer, author, and television guest on several shows and a leading commentator on the American political scene. As events unfolded in Florida after the 2000 election year, Toobin was a close observer. In his most recent book “Too Close to Call,” Toobin has these thoughts:

“(James) Baker’s cynical war on the recounts – which he fought in courtrooms, in television studios, and in the streets – was the best way to make sure that George W. Bush became president.”

“But still, the election of 2000 will not go away because in any real, moral, and democratic sense, Al Gore should have been declared the victor over George W. Bush – in the popular vote, in Florida, and in the Electoral College. No one seriously suggests that 3,407 people intended to vote for Patrick Buchanan in Palm Beach County; no one believes that thousands of black voters in Duval County had no preference in the race for President. The 680 questionable overseas absentee ballots identified in July 2001 by The New York Times assuredly, and improperly, went to Bush by a wide margin. If the simple preference of the voters behind their curtains was the rule – and it is supposed to be the rule in a democracy – then Gore probably won the state by several thousand votes, approximately the margin of the original network exit polls. Should Gore have won in a legal sense as well? He probably should have, and a Supreme Court opinion that is doomed to infamy denied him this opportunity, too.

In the cynical calculus of contemporary politics, it is easy to dismiss Gore’s putative victory. But if more people intended to vote for Gore than for Bush in Florida – as they surely did – then it is a crime against democracy that he did not win the state and thus the presidency. It isn’t that the Republicans ‘stole’ the election or that Bush is an ‘illegitimate’ president. But the fact remains: the wrong man was inaugurated on January 20, 2001, and this is no small thing in our nation’s history. The bell of this election can never by unrung, and the sound will haunt us for some time.”

Toobin’s account is pretty damning stuff for Bush. To all the things I said in the opening paragraph of this essay, one must add the “The wrong man was inaugurated on January 20, 2001” and the United States is paying heavily for that mistake.

If anyone contends that criticism of Bush is destructive of the “unity” we have found under his leadership since September 11th, consider these efforts by Bush that divide the American people:

1. The proposed war in Iraq that does not have popular support of American citizens and which may have a disastrous outcome for the United States.
2. Blindly backing Sharon when Palestinian camps are being cruelly destroyed. In this case, Arab hatred will be the outcome for hundreds of years.
3. Drilling in the restricted areas of Alaska – ANWR – which would yield a tiny amount of oil deliverable in no less than five years and more like ten years. Conservation in auto and truck construction alone could yield ten times the flow from Alaska and it would become available now. Bush sees political advantage because the least loved union in America, the Teamsters, might wind up being employed there.
4. Bush continues to insist on right wing ideologues to fill vacancies on high level court appointments. Pickering is now behind us; can Robert Bork or Kenneth Starr be right ahead of us.
5. Bush is pushing his concept of morality to the great detriment of the U. S. by opposition to stem cell research and the attempt to completely ban any form of cloning. People are going to continue to die while Bush is wrapped in the embraces of fundamentalist Christian churches and by his crude attempts to peel Catholic voters from the Democrats by contending that this is the new morality. It is nothing less than a return to the medieval practice of medicine.
6. In an attempt to attract Catholic voters, Bush backs “abstinence only” means to control teen-age emotions. This leads to banning all forms of abortion control which puts the United States back where remote areas of Africa now find themselves. Such cynicism. His own daughters would probably laugh at abstinence only programs among college kids.
7. This country suffered a grievous blow on September 11th. Bush has cynically advanced his “war on terror” which he thinks places him in the ranks of Lincoln and Roosevelt. While he makes great noises to promote his war, he personally takes off to his ranch in Texas and is seldom found “working” on Saturdays or Sundays. Over Easter with the Israeli crisis boiling, he took three days of Republican fund raising – all paid for by U. S. taxpayers – and four days at his home on the range. If he is going to have a war in his portfolio, he is failing to work at it. Sort of like he treated his educational experience at Yale.

8. In foreign relations, Bush has made it clear that the U. S. needs no allies or friends and will go it alone. Remember the Kyoto Treaty. Now about the effort to create an international system of justice. Sixty nations have joined. The United States stands alone; Bush refuses to sign. Think also of treaties governing missiles. In that case, Bush asked Putin of Russia to join him in a handshake without a written record of any new treaty. Putin told Bush to get lost. These are only a few of the instances where Bush says he needs no allies or friends.

There are other examples where Bush in his forlorn effort to become the Right Wing President of the World is leading the U.S. on a destructive path. Unity occurs only when Americans blindly yield to the intellectually stunted bully from Connecticut who now bills himself as a Texan. We have to do better than George W. The United States deserves better.

E. E. CARR
April 10, 2002

~~~

The Trump comparisons make themselves too easy.
In other news I found it shocking now many of the people Pop talked about are still household names in politics. Schumer, McCain, Hillary — all of these politicians are still major players, fifteen years later. There’s gotta be a happier medium between “nobody has any experience” and “90% of incumbents get reelected.” Death or retirement shouldn’t be the default way to turn over the legislature; that’s always going to create a situation where the legislature is decades behind the times. Our current batch has zero idea how the internet works, for instance, and are more than happy to take Comcast’s money to fight against net neutrality because they literally couldn’t understand what implications that would have on the country even if they wanted to. I think term limits would solve this problem nicely, with the obvious catch being that the only body who could impose such limits would be the one which would directly suffer from it. So I’m not holding my breath.

THAT OLD TIME RELIGION

In ancient times, religious zealots such as myself would exile themselves to remote desert locations, away from secular and sinful cities, in the hope that a higher power would speak to them in an unmistakable voice of moral clarity. For the past few months, I have followed that ascetic trail blazed by our religious forebearers. I have attempted to avoid the temptations of Summit and Millburn, New Jersey. However, I did succumb, on only two occasions to the evil offerings of New York City where it is widely known that the Devil himself lives. His last known address was in Greenwich Village or on York Avenue at 87th Street. I have paid a heavy price for yielding to temptation by my visits to the Big Apple. And so I now find myself wringing my hands and staring at my shoes. I suppose this is the price of martyrdom.

When I emerged from my desert exile, I enjoyed an enormous belly laugh when that eminent theologian George W. Bush, said that Sharon was “a man of peace.” Jay Leno and David Letterman would pay enormous sums to have a joke writer supply them with lines that say Sharon is a “man of peace.” Always the comic, Bush uttered that line the day before he met the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia which greatly angered and offended his Saudi visitor. But he always does this. Remember his reference to his “crusade” in the Middle East? Well, old comedians never die it appears. When that line is repeated to survivors in Ramallah and in the Jenin Refugee Camp, I’m sure that Palestinians are rolling in the aisles with laughter.

Bush’s “Man of Peace” is matched by an ophthalmologist here in Short Hills. Last year, it is alleged, on solid grounds, that the ophthalmologist fondled the breasts of four women patients. The Essex County Prosecutor sent an undercover policewoman to him to have her eyes examined. She became the fifth woman he fondled. He contends that the fondling takes place in a search for future eye problems, so the five women ought to appreciate his concern for the future health of their eyes.

My belief is that the Short Hills ophthalmologist has as much chance of discovering future eye problems by his fondling as Sharon has of becoming a “Man of Peace.” It seems to me that their future achievements under these circumstances are exactly the same which is nada, nil, zero or something less than nothing. As a matter of interest, I am completely blind in my left eye as a result of the ministrations of this same Short Hills ophthalmologist. And he never looked at my chest for signs of upcoming eye trouble. That is a troubling oversight.

A further thought strikes me about Bush’s “Man of Peace.” Punishing the entire Palestinian people for resisting the occupation and for suicide bombing is a lot like wiping out the Catholic hierarchy because priestly abuse of children was wide spread. Bush may turn his “Man of Peace” loose on the Catholics when he is finished with the Palestinians.

Now while Bush’s faux pas is still current, we have Muslim apologists saying that in the Arabic language, Islam means peace. The Muslim translators should have gotten together with Bush on their definitions of peace. When the Palestinians invaded the Passover Seder meal in Natanya and killed 28 people, remember it was all done in the name of Islam, which means peace.

So you see between Bush and the Muslims, this old geezer is greatly confused. So far no unmistakable voice of moral clarity has spoken to me.

Not to be outdone in this duel of comedic endeavors, the Roman Catholic church had a meeting in Rome chaired by the Pope himself. The purpose of the meeting, which featured cardinals from the United States, was to determine what the Catholic stance should be with respect to priests sexually abusing children.

I am forced to ask you this question. The church has been around for perhaps 2000 years. Children have been attending school and mass at Catholic churches for the same period of time. An ordinary person would have to suspend belief to come to the conclusion that in the year 2002, the Pope would call a meeting to determine how the hierarchy of the Holy Roman Church should deal with priests who prey on children. And that’s only the beginning. There is no unanimity in the hierarchy on whether a priest should be chastised or punished if he is caught with a small boy in the priest’s rectory bed.

Some of the cardinals say if it happened a while ago, the church should forget all about it and wipe the slate clean. Others say if a priest slips his vows and makes only a pass at two or three children, and if he shows signs of redemption, he should be kept on. As my lawyer daughter who offers her theological thoughts under the signature of “The Attorney” says, “If a priest molests a whole choir full, then action probably ought to be taken”. Reading Archbishop Myers’ statement of April 29, 2002, it is far from clear that there is unanimity in the American Catholic view about punishment or chastisement. Myers is the Archbishop of Newark and is charged with drafting the statement to be offered to American bishops when they meet in Dallas in June of this year. Myers is an ultra right-winger who has made few friends here since arriving from Peoria, Illinois.

So you see that the great theologian Bush and Islamic leaders don’t come out at the same place when it comes to Peace. After 2000 years, Roman Catholics apparently don’t know which end is up and the Pope and his Curia are not giving the American branch of the church much help. I am using WD40 on my hands to try to prevent excessive chafing as the Catholic mess causes me to wring my hands even harder.

Late last week (April 26, 2002) Mike Barnicle, a well known columnist for the New York Daily News, appeared on Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” program. Both men are Catholics. In a spirited colloquy, both men denounced the statement coming from Rome after the American Cardinals meeting saying that the hierarchy was “covering up.” The cover up had to do with homosexuality according to these two Catholics. The fear is that high level members of the hierarchy of the church will be exposed as homosexuals.

This is a very real fear. Even Monsignor Wilton Gregory, Chairman of the American Bishops Conference, says that Catholic seminaries are filled by gay priests. Gay seminarians go on to become priests, bishops, cardinals and even popes. In several studies published by respected journals, it is estimated that between 35% and 50% of Catholic priests are homosexual. And no one from the hierarchy seeks to deny those figures. Not Egan, not Law, not the Pope and certainly not Archbishop Myers of Newark.

Mary Murphy is a long time television reporter and commentator now working for Channel 11 in New York City. She is greatly respected. Mary is a Catholic who spent part of her honeymoon in Rome to sit in the audience to hear the Pope and to receive his blessing. She is a product of New York City’s parochial schools. In short, she is not a latecomer to the Catholic faith.

Mary Murphy has been following the story of gay priests for a year or so. In two interviews last week (April 26) Murphy had extended discussions with an ordained priest who appeared without hiding his identity. He simply had two frank discussions with Mary Murphy about homosexual priests. His estimates ran higher than the 35% to 50% of priests who are homosexual. This priest says pretty flatly that at least 50% of the priests he knows around New York City are gay.

When asked what contributed to this surprising figure, the priest said homosexual men, who wished to conceal their gayness, joined the priesthood to avoid answering the question about why aren’t you married. The priesthood takes care of that question very neatly.

The gayness of the priesthood has been going on for many years, perhaps for centuries. It is quite likely that homosexual men are now serving as bishops, monsignor’s, cardinals and perhaps as popes. What baffles me completely is the unrelenting assault on gays in the priesthood by high level church authorities. On Sunday, April 28, 2002 the number two man at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, Monsignor Eugene V. Clark, delivered a long homily attacking gays in every direction. His homily was so vigorous that his boss, Cardinal Egan, said that Monsignor Clark spoke only for himself. Clark’s diatribe was roundly denounced as gay bashing.

But Clark was not alone. One of the cardinals spoke from Rome and said that the United States Church should not ordain any more homosexuals and should “root out” the ones it has. So you can see why this old grizzled religious zealot is both confused and amused. If we are going to “root out” 50% of the U. S. priesthood, who will be left to bless new fire houses and pizza parlors?

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee has for years banned gay men and women marching under their own sign which identifies them as gay Irish men and women. How curious that the priests and hierarchy of the church seem to support gayness in their clergy – but certainly not in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Mychal Judge was a bit of a hero who gave his life in the World Trade Center debacle on September 11th. He was a firehouse Chaplain and he was gay. He seemed to be an alright guy by any measurement. Should Mychal Judge have been “rooted out”? I don’t think so.

The Roman Church is horribly out of touch with the real world as it exists in the 21st Century. The bishops, and cardinals, and the pope wearing their funny hats and medieval costumes don’t play well in modern circumstances. In the old days, the priests and the hierarchy could wear their bizarre hats and costumes and speak in Latin which may have awed and impressed peasants in the year 1002. It doesn’t play well today – but the church hierarchy has not tumbled to that obvious fact.

The Protestants, particularly the Fundamentalists, are not about to give the world stage to the Jews, the Muslims and the Catholics. In their unschooled and boisterous manner, several Protestants are demanding their time in the spot light.

In the civilized world, or in the totalitarian world, the absolute worst situation comes about when religion and politics are meshed. That is exactly what Bush is trying to do to please his conservative supporters. Consider the governments of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait where Islam is part and parcel of the ruling parties. Consider Spain, Ireland and Italy where no government can survive without the blessings of the Roman Catholic Church. Consider the government of India and Bangladesh where Hindu acceptance is required. And I suppose no government of Israel would survive without the blessings of the Jewish faith.

This is exactly where Bush is taking the United States Government. He has appointed born again Christians to important posts in his administration. Consider that Assemblies of God Evangelist masquerading as U. S. Attorney General who had a significant announcement recently. In a February, 2002 speech, Ashcroft proclaimed: “We are a nation called to defend freedom – a freedom that is not the grant of any government or document, but is our endowment from God.”

Frank Rich, the New York Times writer, says, “So much, then, for that trifling document that defines our freedoms, a.k.a. the Constitution. By wrapping himself in sanctimony as surely as he wrapped the Justice Department’s statue of Justice in a blue curtain, our Attorney General is trying to superseded civil law on the grounds that he’s exercising the Lord’s Will what ever he does.”

The former Vice President of N. W. Ayer, Howard Davis, who directed AT&T’s advertising efforts, is another native Missourian. Howard and I regard Ashcroft as the ultimate embarrassment to the State of Missouri. But as Ashcroft said on other occasions, God is guiding him. And Bush picked him as U. S. Attorney General and is promoting him as a star of the Administration. This non-believer finds himself in great need of prayer.

An important theological thought intrudes here. For centuries, Christians and particularly evangelical and fundamentalist Christians believe that Jesus was crucified at the behest of Jews. Never mind that Emperor Pontius Pilate was calling the signals from Rome. An article of faith with Christians is that Jews killed Jesus and let’s not deal with conflicting opinions. They did it and the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians find solace in the King James Version of the New Testament.

Now if Ashcroft and Bush believe that Jews killed Jesus, as they have to do, do you think that they understand that Ariel Sharon is a Jew? As a non-believer, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I am an interested observer only. But I doubt that dim bulbs like Bush and Ashcroft and their political cronies have made this connection.

Howard Davis and your essayist are greatly embarrassed that Ashcroft hails from Missouri, which is generally believed to be the reincarnation of the Garden of Eden.

Bush has a stalwart in the House from that center of culture, Sugarland, Texas. Tom DeLay, one of the sponsors of Clinton’s impeachment, is the star performer. Here are two paragraphs from Alan Cooperman, a staff writer from the Washington Post. He says:

“House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex) told Evangelical Christians last week (April 20, 2002) that only Christianity offers a reasonable answer to basic questions about the purpose of life. Speaking to about 300 people at the First Baptist Church in Pearland, Texas, on April 12, DeLay said that God is using him to promote a ‘biblical world view’ in American politics, and that he pursued Bill Clinton’s impeachment in part because the Democratic President held ‘the wrong world view’.” (italics mine)

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Christianity offers the only viable, reasonable, definitive answer to the question of ‘Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Does life have any meaningful purpose?’ DeLay said, ‘Only Christianity offers a way to understand the physical and moral border. Only Christianity offers a comprehensive world view that covers all areas of life and thought, every aspect of creation. Only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world – only Christianity.”

So let us say you were a law-abiding Jew who lives in DeLay’s district in Texas. Do you think you would find a sympathetic listener in DeLay if you had a problem? Or, do you think he would inform you to drop your Jewishness and turn to Christianity? DeLay is the most important Republican figure in the United States House of Representatives. As I said in the case of Ashcroft, let us pray.

DeLay is joined by the Republican Majority Leader of the House, Dick Armey, who said on April 30, 2002 on the “Hardball” show, that Palestinians should leave the West Bank. He said that other Arab countries should give them some place in their deserts to establish their homeland. His apology later was unconvincing and demeaning. The Texans, Bush, Armey and DeLay, know how to fix all the problems of the Middle East.

Now we have a know-nothing clown from Oklahoma, Senator James Inhofe, a Republican, who took the floor of the Senate to announce that the September 11th attacks were retribution from God because God was not pleased with U. S. policy toward Israel. He said, “One of the reasons I believe the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the U. S. A. is that the policy of our government has been to ask the Israeli’s not to retaliate in a significant way against the terrorists…” Obviously, this is a slam at Bush the Omnipotent Theologian who is allegedly guiding our Republican Government.

Tom Paine’s Common Sense periodical says, “In other words, on September 11th, God allowed airlines to be piloted into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon because United States’s actions were not to His/Her liking. How else to interpret Inhofe’s words about a spiritual door being opened for the attack.”

When it comes to intellectual capacity, I am sure that Inhofe has a good future ahead of him as a rodeo clown who distracts bulls that want to gore thrown rough riders. Inhofe also claims that God (He or She) gave the West Bank to the Jewish people because Inhofe read it in the King James Version of the Bible. He is not a preacher; he is one of 100 Senators sitting at the top of the United States Government structure. So once again, let us pray.

Now we have Billy Graham who seems to have given us his twisted spiritual guidance for many, many years. After recordings of Nixon’s miserable thoughts came to light, the Right Reverend Billy Graham was recorded as saying some pretty prejudicial remarks about Jews. Billy at his advanced age offered sort of an apology. Doesn’t he know that the head man of the Christian faith was a Jew? Billy wasn’t up to a convincing apology so he turned the job over to Franklin Graham, his son and designated successor as the head of Billy Graham Enterprises. Now let us return to Frank Rich of The Times.

“His son and successor, Franklin Graham, soon rescinded his father’s mea culpa by asserting that the taped quotes had been taken out of context and meant to refer to ‘liberalism’, not Jews. The younger Mr. Graham’s disingenuousness is of a piece with Jerry Falwell’s and Pat Robertson’s pseudo apology for their televised remarks in which they tried to pin the September 11th attacks on the same all-purpose culprits (gays, feminists) whom some Catholic leaders now hope will take the fall for abusive priests and their enabling higher ups.”

This is probably enough to make my point that when politics are mixed with religion, democracy suffers. And it also suffers when religious matters are defended in legal terms rather than in moral terms. Religion has to do with faith; the lawyers have to deal with facts and reality. Let me give you an example of how legal practice clashes with moral concepts in our society of the 21st century.

We have here two young brothers, Robert and Phillip Young, who served as altar boys here in New Jersey. They contend – and nobody has denied their claim – that as “many as 15 priests and numerous church officials” abused them and forced them to engage in sexual acts between 1978 and 1983. At the time, the young brothers underwent this abuse, they were 12 to 17 year old boys. They were given two threats if they told about their treatment. They were told that no one would believe them if they implicated a priest, and they were told that the Church would excommunicate them. This last action carries several severe penalties. For example, an excommunicated member cannot be married by the Church. He may not receive communion. He may not be buried in so called “holy ground” at Catholic cemeteries. There are other penalties as well, but I suppose this is enough to give the reader an idea of the severity of excommunication.

All young children are intimidated by the threats of the clergy. The two young brothers had every reason to fear for their immortal soul. As a result, they failed to report the abuse to the authorities in time for legal punishment to follow. In New Jersey, where the Young brothers lived, the statute of limitation is two years, generally speaking. They were about six years late in filing their suit.

When the case was finally heard, the decision went against the young brothers on the grounds that they had not come in during the statute of limitations. In making this painful decision, which was delivered on
May 3, 2002, a Superior Court Judge had some searing words for the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever motivated the young brothers to file their suit – money or the exposure of a moral and legal wrong – the Church used “legal hard ball” to defend its interests, even though the “scourge of sexual abuse” was involved.

That is pretty strong language from a Superior Court Judge. The Judge went on to say, “Even though the Church was within its legal rights to defend itself, the Church’s position on this matter is at odds with its stance as a moral force in society. From where I sit, legal hardball doesn’t seem quite right.”

I think Superior Court Judge John Himmelbarger said it all. When religious matters are defended in legal terms rather than in moral terms, both the law and religion are demeaned.

Now if you want to read a little more about the Roman Catholic problems with moral issues, please read the Saturday May 4, 2002 Op-Ed piece by Bill Keller in the New York Times. It will be well worth your while.

So much for the transgressions of our religious establishment. Let us go back to the beginning. The United States Government started out as a secular government which wanted to do away with the excesses of King George the III. Well now we have a King George W. who wants to impose his own brand of bizarre Christianity upon the American people. And unbelievably, Jews by the thousands in the United States have cast their lot with him simply because he is backing a complete madman. Ariel Sharon is not called the “Butcher of Beirut” for nothing.

This is serious business. For many years, I have supported Barry Lynn who directs the efforts of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Curiously, Lynn is a preacher, but he runs a superb organization attempting to deal with the likes of Bush, Ashcroft, DeLay, Inhofe and their cronies who insist that this government reflect primitive Christian values. Any attempt to introduce multicultural values is rejected as unchristian. If it doesn’t fit with Tom DeLay’s “Christian World View,” it should be abolished and destroyed.

The main reason for my belief in non-belief has to do with Protestant preachers espousing their arrant nonsense, such as we find with the Texas politicians. As a child, I rejected their theology. As an adult, I simply hold them in contempt. How else would you deal with the likes of Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, George W. Bush, John Ashcroft and James Inhofe? They are dubious human beings.

(As I said, I have long supported Americans United for Separation of Church and State. If its efforts interest you, they can be reached at 518 “C” Street, N. E., Washington, D. C., 20002-5810.)

I know that religion provides a comfort to believers. I know that some who practice religion look forward to eternal life. And I know that many world figures, particularly politicians, believe that God has had a strong hand in their success.

For many years, I have come to the conclusion that in the field of human affairs, religion is not necessarily a unifying force at all. It is often a divisive force. Consider the Catholic-Protestant split in Ireland. Consider the case of Israel and the Palestinians where war is our current reward. Consider the situation in India where everyone has had a shot at war including the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Muslims, the Christians as well as the Animists. And if you give credence to Osama Bin Laden and some of his Arab followers, there is a Holy War going on against the largely Christian population of the United States. Religion has not unified any of these competing nationalities. On the contrary, it is often a divisive and a destructive force.

If I look in the Bibles of my parents for comfort on this score, I am rewarded by the words of Paul who seems to come out four square for good conduct and for slavery. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart as you would obey Christ.” Another Bible of my parents says, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ”. Both of these citations are from versions of the King James rendition of the New Testament. See Ephesians VI, Verse 5. (underlining mine)

When it comes to religious matters, I find myself convinced that my belief in non-belief is absolutely right for me. If it is alright with Paul, I hold that belief with fear and trembling. It sets me apart from clowns such as DeLay, Armey, Bush, Inhofe and Ashcroft. So let us pray.

E. E. CARR
May 2, 2002

~~~

I feel like the 2000s have been one case study after another in “obvious times that major powers are on the wrong side of history.” We just have seen this again with Trump pulling out of the Paris accord. We saw it plenty of other times with this shit in the early 2000s, with everyone who opposed gay marriage, last year for Trump voters generally, etc. Maybe it’s always like that; certainly pretty much all progress has had to come over the loud objections of the Delays and Inhofes of any era you choose. And it always seems to come from older generations, too — it seems like for every year you’re alive, the probably that you’re just utterly backwards with regard to social issues seems to skyrocket. That never seemed to impact Pop, though. Maybe when I get old enough I’ll remember writing this and stop being a stick in the mud about whatever clear progressive goal my generation is holding up at the time.

FOUR STARS OF DAVID

BUSH & SHARON – THE HAMHANDED EFFORT TO GET THINGS RIGHT
Jerusalem has been on my mind of late because of the bombings and other acts of warfare that have taken place there. At the outset, I must point out that I am not an active partisan in the dispute between the Israeli and Palestine sides. My instincts are to be with the Israelis. I know them better. They have welcomed me into their homes and offices. They have offered me the best food that Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Nablus and Tiberias have to offer. They are good people – tough people but good people.

Arabs, on the other hand, were a different kettle of fish. When I worked in the Overseas Department of AT&T, I had occasion to deal with Arabs from Dakar, Senegal and Rabat, Morocco in the western part of the North African continent all the way through to Egypt in the east. I had no occasion to deal with Iranians or Iraqis. The people in Dakar were wonderful. They offered us some of the best lobster that I have ever eaten. But Dakar is a seaport and they have long dealt with foreign nationals. In the East, Egypt is a squalid place, but its people often seem to be kind. In all the rest of the North African continent, there was grimness. Joy was not to be had. So I am not a big booster of the Arab people. One of the only gestures of kindness was found in Algiers. We met with high ranking government officials in the Algerian regime shortly

after 44 American prisoners were released from imprisonment by the Iranians. As soon as the meeting started, I thanked the ranking minister for Algeria’s efforts to secure the release of the Americans. He replied, “It was my duty to do that.” He didn’t draw me out or seek to be more friendly. He simply said that he did what he did as a matter of duty. This same sort of arms-length relationship was found in Morocco, Algerian, Libya and Tunisia.

I cheered when Golda Mier and Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak had the premiership in Israel. I must say I gagged when Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon had that job. I cannot ever forget the hovels that serve as homes to displaced Palestinians. Their living conditions are abominable. Now that Sharon is head of government in Israel, I have great concern that he will drag the United States into war against the Arab nations. In that job, Sharon is an undisciplined war hawk who could easily cause the U. S. to find itself at war. The Arab League said on 3-28-02 that all its members would regard a United States attack on Iraq as an attack on the members of the Arab League. I suppose that means war.

Our efforts have not been helped by Bush sending the retired Marine General Zinni to attempt to mediate between the two sides. Following that, Bush sent Vice President Cheney to deal with the Israelis but he had nothing to do with the Palestinians. And then Secretary of State Powell made his famous telephone call to Arafat telling him what he was to say to his own people. In short, the Zinni, Cheney and Powell combine simply buttressed Sharon’s hand and made him even more belligerent.

It goes without saying that I find suicide bombing and martyrdom totally repugnant concepts. On the other hand, dealing with Sharon would cause me to do some strong things. Finally, the Americans have shortchanged themselves. When George H. W. Bush was President, he appointed Dennis Ross as mediator for the Israeli crisis. When Clinton succeeded Bush, Ross served eight years in that administration. But this Bush wants to rid himself of anything having to do with Clinton. In the end he has made a grim mistake. Ross is a Jew and a nominal Republican who has more than 12 years experience in dealing with the Israeli – Palestinian problem. He is a pro. So instead of Ross, we have Zinni, Cheney and Powell. The pros aren’t welcome in this administration.

Now having said all that, it is time to proceed to more pleasant things, like my relationship with the Essay Director and the Jerusalem Israelis who became my dear friends.

DIRECTOR OF ESSAYS – SHIRLEY MORGANSTEIN
To deal with the effects of a stroke in 1997, Shirley Morganstein, a director at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, suggested that I try my hand at writing essays. The suggestion was outstanding as was nearly everything else Shirley suggested. Shirley scheduled a half hour session on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week. This schedule applied from about the middle of November, 1997 until the end of January, 1998.

Early in this arrangement, Shirley was occasionally impatient with me when I failed to grasp some of her instructions. It wasn’t that I was not paying attention or daydreaming. In point of fact, stroke victims often do not understand the latter part of two and three part instructions and give up. On other occasions, the stroke sufferer will have an idea or thought in his head, but will be unable to make it come out of his mouth or from his pen.

After we started on essays on December 8, 1997 I began to write about my travels on behalf of the United States Army and the AT&T Corporation. The description of foreign customs and cultures seemed to intrigue Shirley. I worked hard to supply her with three new essays every week. It was probably by far the best therapy that could have been provided. I think my breakthrough with Shirley occurred when I gave her an essay about Poland. The Soviets who built the Forum Hotel in Warsaw insisted that it be a world class hotel. It was far from that. But in any case the Russians provided shoeshine machines in the elevator lobby of every floor. What got my attention was a sign in Polish, French and English posted in a prominent place on each machine. The sign said “Do not attempt to shine both shoes at once!” Shirley thought the story about the shoe shine machines and the sign that went with them was pretty hilarious. I didn’t know it at the time, but half of Shirley’s ancestors came from Poland. Later, knowing nothing about the other half of Shirley’s ancestry, I wrote about Rumania. As it turned out, the other half of her traced its ancestry to Rumania. For years, I had a Rumanian doll in peasant finery on my shelf. It came from Bucharest. Also, there were two embroidered miniature Polish flags in a frame that had caught my eye many years earlier. I presented Shirley with one of the flags and the Rumanian doll. She put them on a shelf in a prominent place in her office where she said, she could see them often. I am delighted that Shirley has two objects that remind her of her ancestry.

Shirley, of course, was Jewish. She told me about sitting Shiva for one of her relatives. Our occasional discussions about religious matters were pleasant and informative to me. She never inquired about my faith or lack thereof. She was a live and let live sort of person. I did enjoy telling her in an essay about one of my experiences with John Solomon, an Australian who was loaned for two or three years to the telephone administration in Papua New Guinea. John was our escort while my colleague and I were in Port Moresby and surrounding territory.

John Solomon was named for an uncle who was born in 1922, the same year of my birth. When the elder John Solomon tried to enlist in the Australian Armed Forces in 1939 and 1940, he ran head on into institutional racism. Simply put, the Aussies did not want Jews in the Armed Forces and if the truth were known – they didn’t welcome them as fellow Aussies either.

John Solomon made three attempts to join the Australian Army and was rejected each time. From what his nephew said, the authorities did not use subterfuge to cover their religious discrimination. They simply said that Jews were not accepted as part of the Australian Army.

So John Solomon had a new thought. On his fourth attempt to enlist, he said his name was John Sullivan. Australia is full of Irishmen because after England lost the American colonies, they had no place to ship their long term prisoners. So in spite of the long sea voyage from England to Sydney, Australia, the prisoners were shipped to the land Down Under. Irishmen had a prominent place in English prisons. And in the 200 years since Irish prisoners were shipped to Australia, their rate of producing offspring has been prodigious.

So the recruiters said to the alleged Irishman (nee Solomon) that he would be welcomed into the Australian Army. As the war developed, heavy fighting came to what is now known as Papua New Guinea. American and Australians and New Zealanders who fought there remember that as a dreadful place. Along with many other soldiers, John Solomon was killed in 1944 at the tender age of 22. In accordance with the regulations of the Australian Army, he was reburied in a well-kept military cemetery along with the other dead from the battle for Papua New Guinea. His grave was marked by a stone cross with the name “John Sullivan.”

When Australia found that its all British Christian population was insufficient to carry them into the space age, they began to accept new immigrants. In the late 1950’s and 1960’s, it became possible to have, for example, an Italian meal prepared by an Italian chef in Sydney. The attitude of the Aussie officialdom started to change, I believe in the 1950’s. Jews were accepted as part of the new landscape in Australia although their numbers remain fairly small.

The surviving members of John Solomon’s family called upon the Australian Army to recognize that it had buried a soldier under an assumed name. This struggle started in the 1940’s and continued until the early 1980’s. Finally, the Aussies conceded that John Sullivan was indeed John Solomon. The nephew of John Solomon took me and my colleague, Ron Carr, to the cemetery and showed us his grave. It was now marked by a Star of David tombstone. We went to a maintenance shed and saw the former cross with the name Sullivan that had marked his grave for nearly 40 years. Ron Carr and I rejoiced with our guide, the younger John Solomon.

Shirley seemed to follow this story with considerable interest. Knowing Shirley, a mix-up like this would evoke her empathy regardless of the racial or religious affiliation of the principals. In this case, I believe she was cheering for the situation to turn out right. In the end, it did.

ARYEH RON NEE LEO RITTER OF VIENNA
When I started this essay, it was my intention to write about three Israelis who contributed much to the enjoyment of my life for the 15 or 20 years prior to 1985. But I got sidetracked a little with Shirley Morganstein, but what the hell, Shirley and the three Israeli’s share the same Jewish faith and I am absolutely positive that they would welcome her into their ranks. They might even elect her Queen of Jerusalem.
So now we will start with Aryeh Ron, Gideon Lev, and Jake Haberfeld, all residents of Jerusalem.

Aryeh Ron is the Israeli name that the former Leo Ritter of Vienna assumed when he came to what was then called Palestine. He arrived in Palestine not long after the Nazis took over in Austria.

In the Israeli telephone administration, when I knew them, they were all workers. They did not have squadrons of employees attending to every specialized task. As it turned out, Aryeh would leave his other duties and come to meet me every time I showed up at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. The two of us became good friends. He saved my professional life on one occasion.

The Israeli Administration was the first to join in promoting Teleplan, the American venture to cut surcharges when calling back to the United States. They had invited the General Managers of all the leading hotels in Israel to hear me make my pitch. The sign in the hall of the hotel said that Mr. Carr was going to present a “lecture” that afternoon. About 30 hotel General Managers showed up in one of the large meeting rooms of the Jerusalem Hilton.

In anticipation of the meeting, I had sent a large collection of graphs and handouts to Jerusalem for the participants. This was an important meeting because we hoped that Israel would become the first Teleplan country. But as the time for the meeting drew near, there were no graphs and handouts so I prepared to do without them. Actually, we started the meeting when the door to the meeting room burst open and in came a sweating Aryeh Ron carrying this enormous load of material. Well, the long and the short of it is that Israeli customs had decided that the packages posed a security risk. All that morning of the meeting, Aryeh Ron had been in battle with Israeli bureaucrats trying to get the shipment released. Finally, he threatened to go to the Minister of the Israeli government for customs with the thought that the Americans would not be very happy to lose this material, particularly when the hotel industry in Israel would stand to lose if the American failed to make a deal. That did the trick and he arrived at the Hilton Hotel at the final moment. We got the contract with the Israeli Hotel Association, the first Teleplan contract. And my friend Aryeh Ron had made it all possible.

There were several occasions when Aryeh and I had a chance to spend perhaps an hour or two together. On one such occasion, Aryeh told me about how the Nazis acted when they came to Vienna, his hometown, in the latter half of the 1930’s. His name then was Leo Ritter and he was identified as a Jew. I believe he and I are about the same age so from age 14 to perhaps 18 or 19, he had to contend with the Nazis. On two or three occasions, the Nazis had residents bring toothbrushes to a meeting point in their district. They were then instructed to use the toothbrushes to scrub the sidewalk.

At that point, the Nazis wanted to be rid of the Jews. Concentration camps came a year or two later. In any case, Aryeh took the hint and decided to leave Austria. He lent his support to Zionist causes so it was natural for him to go to Palestine. Hebrew was a new language for Aryeh but he said he soon mastered it. And he changed his name from Leo Ritter to Aryeh Ron.

Before long, a beautiful young lady showed up in Palestine. She spoke German. She told Aryeh of her trepidation about learning the Hebrew language – which is not easy. Old Aryeh told the fair young maiden that if she went out with him, she would learn Hebrew in record time. I don’t know if that was true, but I know that they married and had a family. I went out with them for a Sabbath meal, and after 35 years or so, they seemed like a very happy couple.

There is another occasion when we spent a whole day in Aryeh’s company. We started early in the morning in Jerusalem and drove east to the Dead Sea, then north to Jericho, along the border with Jordan to the Sea of Galilee where we saw the Golan Heights which Israel and Syria had fought over. Aryeh seemed to keep close tabs on his watch. So that afternoon, we headed west to Haifa where Aryeh knew a man who permitted us to enter the University of Haifa canteen where we shared Israeli orange juice. As we left, Aryeh said that if anybody in the United States asked where I had gone to school, I should say the University of Haifa. For twenty years I have been waiting to use that line, but so far no one has asked.

After the orange juice, it became clear why Aryeh was keeping close tabs on his watch. As I soon found out, his daughter lived in Haifa and she had a six year old daughter who got out of school at 5 PM. Aryeh parked the car and sort of trotted toward a group of people standing on the sidewalk. In an instant his granddaughter left the people on the sidewalk and sprinted toward him. The hugs and kisses started to flow with great abandon. That encounter was worth the long trip to Israel.

I haven’t seen Aryeh in perhaps 18 years. His company has changed hands and of course, it is largely impossible to find out anything from the current administration of AT&T. Aryeh Ron is one of my closest friends. I admire him and maybe someday I will see him if not in Jerusalem, perhaps in Vienna.

MAN MOUNTAIN GIDEON LEV
Now we turn to Gideon Lev. Gideon became the President of the Israeli International Communications Corporation. He was a big man, perhaps six feet two inches weighing somewhere around 250 pounds. When Gideon talked, other people listened. When he walked, other people got out of his way. He was not mean or mean spirited. He was just a big man, clumsy at times, but a person who wanted to advance Israeli causes. I believe Gideon came from Poland. He was an early devotee of Zionism and as a result, he emigrated to Palestine. For all his pluses and minuses, I liked Gideon and count him as a good friend.

On one occasion, I had been in Rome and planned to leave early on Friday morning for Tel Aviv. At the time, the Israeli people I dealt with were in negotiations with the Italians. It was headed toward great unpleasantness. I had certain information that I had gathered in Rome that could be helpful to the Israelis. Well to start with, there is a two hour difference in time between Italy and Israel. The plane was slightly delayed so when I left the plane and found Aryeh Ron at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, he said that we had to make tracks to get to Jerusalem. Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, of course. So Israelis knock off work at noon on Friday and return Sunday morning.

I found Gideon and Jake Haberfeld in the dining room of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. It may have been 1:30 PM when I finally arrived. Friday luncheon was largely over but that did not deter Gideon. While the waiter was reluctant to take our order, Brother Lev found the head waiter and one of the hotel’s administrators, and made it pretty simple. Meeting with me was important to the Government of Israel and if the King David’s management became an obstacle, old Gideon was prepared to roll all over it.

We had a lengthy meeting. The food was served by the headwaiter himself. The food in Jerusalem was never something to brag about, but as I recall it, we enjoyed what the headwaiter served us. The fact that the hotel dining staff lost part of their weekend was sort of a patriotic contribution, if you believe Gideon.

Gideon distinguished himself in the eating department on one other occasion in Paris. As the English say, at table, Gideon left a lot to be desired. When the food was set in front of Brother Lev, he seemed to want to make it disappear as quickly as possible. Forget this business of chewing your food 15 or 30 times. That wasted time. I suppose that given the speed at which he ate, his food may have been chewed one or two times at best.

In Paris we were about eight at breakfast. Gideon and Jake Haberfeld represented Israel. There were perhaps two French men with the rest being Americans. I sat next to Gideon. He ordered two poached eggs along with whatever the Paris Hilton put around eggs. But no ham or bacon. When the poached eggs were set in front of Gideon, he lifted each one on the toast and stuffed the egg in his mouth. He didn’t eat the toast – just the eggs. I was astounded but I should not have been because I had seen him eat before. Needless to say, Gideon finished long before any of the rest of us did.

Gideon Lev may not have conformed to good social behavior, but he was a fine negotiator who was like Jake Haberfeld, always fair. I found a lot to like about Gideon. He had a good sense of humor. But most of all, if for some reason I needed someone to share a foxhole with me, I would be delighted to jump into that hole with my good friend Gideon Lev. Provided there was any room.

Now that we have spoken about Shirley Morganstein, Aryeh Ron and Gideon Lev, there is only one more Star of David to account for. That missing Star of David is Jacob Haberfeld who is remembered by me as one of my best friends ever.

GENTLEMAN JAKE HABERFELD
I’m guessing but it appeared to me that Jake may have been my senior by eight to ten years. He started life in Warsaw, Poland and seemed to have developed a keen interest in the Zionist movement among Europe’s Jews. So in 1936 or 1937 he pulled up his stakes in Poland and cast his lot with the Zionists in Palestine. Jake never talked about himself but from his friends, I gather that he played a prominent role in establishing Israel as the Jewish homeland.

As one approaches Jerusalem from the west and southwest, the roads run uphill. On either side of the road are dozens of tanks, all destroyed. The tanks were used by the Muslim defenders of Jerusalem in 1948 and in subsequent years.

Each one had to have been destroyed by Israeli infantrymen. The old tanks are still parked along the sides of the highway as reminders of the price that Israel paid for its existence. Independent observers have told me that Jake Haberfeld had much to do with the establishment of the State of Israel. I never heard about that from Jake. He always took the view that we’ve got enough to deal with in the here and now without retrieving past history.

I had formal and informal dealings with Jake for more than eleven years. There were occasions when he was required to reply negatively to an AT&T proposal. When he finished his explanation for declining our proposal, I would often say that old Jake was right again. He was never belligerent because logic was often on his side. He was a very skilled defender of Israeli interests. When I encountered a refusal from Jake, which happened rarely, I was never offended. Jake’s explanations always made sense.

Late in the 1970’s, Israel and Italy reached an agreement to build a cable between a location in Italy named Palo and Tel Aviv which came to be known as the Tel-Pal Cable. Not long after the inauguration of that cable, the Italian administration was taken over for a time by very unreasonable people. The people that we had dealt with for years were thrown out. The Israelis felt that the newcomers were deliberately excluding them, and they were right. AT&T had a lot more clout with the Italians than the Israelis did. On several occasions we used our influence with the Italians to extract information that was helpful or vital to the Israelis. One of those occasions occurred when I was late in arriving from Rome to Jerusalem. I have earlier recounted that episode when Gideon Lev held the dining room open on a Friday afternoon, the start of the weekend, to serve us.

In a different conversation with Jake some months later, again at the King David Hotel together with Mrs. Haberfeld, Jake seemed puzzled by my description of what had recently occurred in Rome. Finally, Jake turned to his wife and the discussion that ensued had to do with the new Italian director having a Jewish name. Both agreed that the Italian I had questioned was a Jew. All ethnic considerations aside, I told the Haberfelds that the Italian in question was crude, bombastic and wanted to take revenge upon everyone who had worked with the Italian administration prior to his arrival. That included me. Unfortunately, I have long since forgotten that man’s name but in any case, Jake and Sarah Haberfeld said he was a Jew in an Italian suit. I took their word for it.

On another occasion, John Wieters, the Israeli country manager and I were in Jerusalem. As we were taking our leave from Jake and his staff, Jake said privately to me, that we should save room for some desert after our evening meal because he wanted me to come to his apartment. He said also that I should bring John Wieters with me.

As I’ve said many times over, the food in Jerusalem leaves much to be desired so it was no trouble for John and me to skip desert. Now we come to a slight difference in the way things are done in Israel as opposed to Europe, for example. Most telephone administrations in Europe maintain fairly large motor pools. There would be well dressed chauffeurs to drive you to your destination. Chauffeurs and waiters are accorded professional status in Europe, a quite different distinction from this country. But the Israelis have no motor pool and no chauffeurs – and they get along quite well.

Before Jake picked us up, John Wieters had managed to get some flowers for Sarah Haberfeld. At the appointed hour, Jake drove up in his car at the King David Hotel and we started to his home. His car was not a new one but it got the job done. When we arrived at Jake’s apartment I was happy that I had elected, at the last minute, to wear a sweater under my jacket. The reason was that it was a cool night and Jake’s apartment was unheated. I suppose most of the apartments of that time were also unheated so the Israelis simply put on more sweaters.

The evening passed very pleasantly with the Haberfelds telling us about how Israel was doing. They told us a little about how they had come to abandon Poland and set out for Palestine. Jake drove us back to our hotel. When we were alone, John said that he had looked back at the history of the dealings with the Israeli administration and that our visit to the Haberfelds home had never happened before. I was flattered.

On another occasion, I was accompanied by Howard Davis, the account executive of N. W. Ayer Agency who did our advertising. Jake came to Tel Aviv to meet us. Howard is the son of a circuit riding Methodist preacher in Missouri. I’m not sure that Jake was aware of Howard’s relation to the hierarchy of the Methodist Church, but he took us to a restaurant that offered seafood, which is sort of a rarity in Israel. Not only did they offer seafood, but the main item featured on the menu was St. Peter’s fish, which comes, if my memory is half way right, from the Sea of Galilee. According to Christian tradition, Jesus Christ caught St. Peter’s fish in that sea. In latter days that fish is called tilapia. Now having said all that, I have exhausted my knowledge about ecclesiastical matters having to do with Israeli fish. But Howard said the fish was delicious. I agreed.

When I retired on September 1, 1984 I was awakened at about 7AM by a call from Jake to wish me a happy first day of retirement. This was in addition to a note he had written. I was very touched by his wishes for a happy retirement.

As the 1980’s turned into the 1990’s, Jake continued to work as an advisor to the Israeli submarine cable company. I’m not sure that the Israeli administration has a pension plan so people work well into what would normally be retirement years. One day, probably in 1995, I heard from a round about way, that Jake had died. I called Jerusalem for details but didn’t seem to get anywhere. Perhaps a month after Jake’s death, I got a call from Yitzhak Haberfeld, Jake’s son, who was studying for an advanced degree at the University of Wisconsin. Sarah Haberfeld had unfortunately been debilitated by Alzheimers Disease. Rather than institutionalize her, Jake tried to take care of her himself. I suppose it was more than Jake could handle. He died of a heart attack. Speaking to Yitzhak was a lot like speaking to Jake. I was delighted to receive that call.

It would be possible to go on even further about things big and small about Jake Haberfeld. I think it is fair to say that I admired him greatly and I am proud to say that he was one of my best friends ever.

I am glad that I finally got around to writing about the Four Stars of David. The three men in Jerusalem became very close friends. I learned a lot from all of the Stars of David.

A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS
This is a particularly poignant time in the history of Israel. History can’t be changed now but I greatly wish that Yitzak Rabin was the Premier instead of Ariel Sharon. And I wish that the George W. Bush administration had not let things progress to the perilous point at which we find them today. And indeed I wish that Dennis Ross would be restored to guide the United States interests instead of war hawks who now surround the U. S. presidency. If nothing else makes sense, Sharon’s statement of yesterday puts things in crystal clear perspective. Sharon said Israel would have to take leave of the position of the United States having to do with the Middle East. Sharon said that the U. S. is interested only in its projected war with Iraq whereas Israel is interested in dealing with the Palestinian issue. Bush has the facts exactly backwards. I don’t admire Sharon, but that statement makes it clear that Israel comes in second best after Iraq with the Bush presidency. Unfortunately, the American people will have to pay for this most unfortunate mistake.

E. E. CARR
3-28-02

AN AFTER THOUGHT OR TWO

I am not a Jew although I hope you have seen where my strong sentiments lie. My ancestors fled the Great Hunger in Ireland in the 1840’s and 1850’s. Some people refer to that period as the Potato Famine. It was more than just potatoes; it involved hunger by a large part of the Irish population. My parents never met a Jew before they came to St. Louis shortly after the 20th century began. Growing up, I had no preconceptions or prejudices about the Jewish faith. I’m very glad about that because it saved me a lot of wasted time disliking or hating the Jewish people. My mother had two overwhelming dislikes. The first was the German Army because they had gassed two of her brothers in the First World War. The second was the English. A lot of the resentment against the British came directly from the Great Hunger in Ireland.

But I had a shot at becoming a Jew. When I enlisted in the United States Army in the summer of 1942, each soldier was issued dog tags which became useful when a body had to be identified. The tags were worn around the neck, hence the name dog tags, and had to be worn at all times. If the owner of the dog tags died, one of the tags was attached to his coffin. Some bodies, such as in the Air Force, were never recovered so the tags more or less went to waste.

As part of the enlistment process, we were asked by the soldier who was in charge of making the indentation on the tags what our religious preferences might be. The Army offered three designations: P for Protestant; RC for Roman Catholic; and J for Jew. I told that soldier who was charged with making the dog tags that I was not identified with any of the choices he had offered. I more or less suggested “None of the above” for my dog tags. The maker of the dog tags was a big man and he was a Buck Sergeant. He looked at his imprint device and the next letter was “P.” He informed me, “Soldier, you are a Protestant.” And so I missed my opportunity to claim Jewish identity. That’s what happens when you are a slow thinker.

Now a final-final thought about the crisis that has struck the Israeli-Palestinian situation this week of Passover and of Easter. I am largely convinced that all the bloodshed might have been avoided had Sharon not pushed Israeli settlements into Gaza and the West Bank. There are now some 250,000 to 300,000 Israeli inhabitants in settlements in Palestinian Territory. Those settlements rub salt in the wounds of the Palestinians. It tells them they are impotent and are not to be regarded as full human beings. Sharon’s people say God gave all of Palestine to the Jews. I don’t buy that. If God or Allah or whatever gave the land to the Jews, I am sure he would have chased the Palestinians into the sea, even though they have lived on that land for 2000 years. Of course, that did not happen.

But I despair of making headway for my thoughts. I am sobered by the thought that my belief is in non-belief. Neither fish nor fowl. So I suppose my views probably count for nothing. Maybe next year, but not now.

After all these years, it never dawned on me to point out to Jacob, Aryeh and Gideon that my first given name is a Hebrew one. Ezra has a full book in what Christians call the Old Testament. It can be found between II Chronicles and Nehemiah. The fact that I failed to point this out to my friends in Jerusalem simply confirms that I must be a mighty slow thinker.

E. E. CARR
March 28, 2002

ADDENDUM

After I wrote the Four Stars of David essay, three thoughts about Jake Haberfeld occurred to me, which I would now like to add to the record.

In the essay, I labeled the section having to do with Jake as “Gentleman Jake Haberfeld.” He was all of that. On one occasion in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, I was joined by a woman who was a Director in the AT&T Long Lines Advertising Department. I was simply trying to educate the advertisers about Israel. When the time came for lunch, Jake gently inquired of the woman, “Would you like to go to that certain place?” She barely knew what to say to this very polite request. In the first place, the female in question was on her third husband. She had been around the block more than once. Secondly, in the United States, someone would have said the John is down this hallway – find it yourself. Ah, but Jake was all gentleman with his inquiry about that “certain place.”

Before all the troubles started in Israel, we met Jake for another meeting in the early 1980’s. In opening the meeting for the U. S. side, I jokingly said to Jake that it would be fine with us if Israel took over in Gaza, the West Bank, Sinai, Syria and Lebanon so long as Miami Beach would be returned to American hands. I am assuming that everyone knows that Miami Beach is populated primarily by Jewish residents. Jake immediately replied, “That’s one of the problems with the Americans. They always want a package deal.” I was laughing so hard that it was impossible for me to respond. Touché Jake.

At another meeting with just Jake and myself, Jake presented me with a small oil lamp. Before candles and electricity came along, the ancient people in the Middle East used oil lamps. The oil lamp he gave me had been used in Palestine in ancient times. It came with a certificate of antiquity from the Israel government. Jake insisted that his gift was nothing, really. That oil lamp was as far from nothing – as Jake said it was – as it could be. It is a treasure and for the past 25 years, it has had an honored place in this house on the mantel in the living room. Nothing indeed – my foot.

These three foregoing thoughts came to me a day or two after I finished the Stars of David essay. I thought it would be well to add them to give the reader a fuller picture of Jake Haberfeld. He was some kind of guy.

E. E. CARR
4-2-02

~~~

The phrase “whatever the Paris Hilton put around eggs” threw me for a loop, because “Paris Hilton” generally refers to a person instead of a place.  I was briefly forced to consider what egg garnish the celebutante would favor so strongly that Pop would refer to it while reminiscing about old friends.

“I have exhausted my knowledge about ecclesiastical matters having to do with Israeli fish” made me smile. I hadn’t heard about any of this before, so now I suppose this particular piscine knowledge has now been transferred. Thanks, Pop.

All the talk about “I had certain information that I had gathered in Rome that could be helpful to the Israelis” and similar statements sounds so spy-like to me. I know they’re probably not, and that the information was probably just related to telephony, but I guess there’s not really a way to be sure. I wish he had gone into it more! I regret not asking him if he had more contact with the FBI than he brought up in his essays.

Placeholder

Spent tonight trying to take inventory of how many unpublished essays there are left!
Answer: Not many. Thankfully, some of the ones that are left are REALLY hefty — so even if there aren’t lots left, there’s still a good bit of content remaining!

FURTHER THOUGHTS IN PRAISE OF NON

Recently I dictated an essay in praise of what I believe is a prefix in the English language. That prefix had to do with the word “non.” You will remember – or I hope you will remember – that I wrote in that essay that I was asked many years ago to identify my daughters. As a general rule, I said that this is “the non-adopted daughter.” I had no idea whether we had made my other child feel special but I hope that that was the case.

Since that time, I have given a bit more thought to the use of what I believe to be the prefix of “non.” In my estimation this word has been overlooked. All things considered, we should praise the use of the word “non.”

And so in my ruminations I have thought of a few other words that incorporate the prefix “non.”

I have already told you about my daughters and perhaps the place to start is to say “non-adopted.” This provides an even playing field.

In this great state of New Jersey, I used to have a driver’s license. I thought that when my driving career came to an end in 2004, I could simply remove that card from my wallet. Here in the great state of New Jersey that is not the case. You may find this hard to believe but I am required to carry a “non-driver’s” driver’s license. My old driver’s license was taken from me and had holes punched in it. My new driver’s license, or I should say non-driver’s license, was issued to me for the purpose of getting on airplanes, cashing checks, and in other instances where identification is demanded. If I may say so, this is the single biggest rip-off by the state government in the history of New Jersey. Currently my non-driver’s driver’s license has expired. As a means of protest, I do not intend to renew it at the price of $26. I suppose the idea is to prove that I am the person that I say that I am in the issuance of the non-driver’s driver’s license. But I have told the great fat man who is the governor of New Jersey, Mr. Chris Christie, what he can do with his non-driver’s driver’s license.

The third word involving the use of the prefix “non” is the word “non-sighted.” I am fully aware that non-sighted means blind. But it seems to me that the word blind is unforgiving and I hope that you will find it within your heart to make use of the word non-sighted.

There is one other word that is non-partisan. It is “non-essential.”

Then there is the word “non-fiction,” which I should have thought about long ago. In my case, I believe that it has been nearly 70 years since I have read a book of fiction. So the word “non-fiction” describes me very accurately.

There are other words such as “non-unique” which I find do not have many uses. But there is also the word “non-gay” which would have applicability here in the eastern provinces of the great and glorious United States. The word “non-gay” seems to strike a chord in my soul.

Then we come to the story of my life which could be called “non-rich.” I have never been a wealthy man such as Mitt Romney has been and I have never been a politician. But I believe the word “non-rich” is a lovely addition to the English language. There is also the word “non-existent.” I am not quite sure where that word would be used but I include it here because of my efforts to be all inclusive. I am sure there are one or two other words that fit into the “non” category.

Well, these are just transient thoughts about the great word “non.” It seems to me as an interested observer of the language of the Anglo-Saxons that the prefix “non” needs to be celebrated a bit more than it has been in the past. And so in this essay I have sought to praise the existence of the word “non.” I realize that there is some redundancy, but the word “non” is a significant word and should receive its full due.

It may not be the most exciting word in the English language but think of it in these terms. Where would we be if we did not have the word “non?” I shudder to think what would happen to our civilization if we were forced to try to find a substitute for the prefix “non.”

E. E. CARR
January 27, 2012

~~~

For the record, the word “nonexistent” gets used in fourteen essays, not counting this one, so he definitely can think of how that word might be used.

“Non” gets me thinking about language a little bit. Specifically I remember the (fictional!) novel 1984, where “newspeak” reduced the English lexicon dramatically. One of the biggest changes was halving the amount of adjectives by use of the prefix “un” — so instead of “good” and “bad” you had “good” and “ungood.” “Fat” and “Skinny” became “Fat” and “Unfat.” The prefix “non” can work sort of the same way — instead of Biological and Adopted daughters, for instance, you can have adopted and non-adopted ones, or biological and non-biological ones. Either way would make the language a little easier to learn, if perhaps in exchange for being a little less poetic. Dystopian connotations aside, I wonder if it’s such a bad idea.

In Chinese, for instance, each type of noun gets what’s called a “measure word.” If I’m trying to buy two bananas and three jackets from a department store, I’d need to tell the clerk not just that I want two bananas and three jackets, but two “slender objects” worth of bananas, and three “clothes pieces” worth of jackets. Papers are measured by the flat thing; chopsticks are measured by the special measure word for things that come in pairs. English has a few of these, of course — for example I might use measure words if I want to talk about a pride of lions or a murder of crows. But I don’t HAVE to — the phrase “I saw a few lions” wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. More commonly, I might use “pieces” of paper or “pairs” of jeans. By and large, though, the language either doesn’t use measure words or vastly consolidates them into a small number of very general purpose words like “some.”

All this to say that maybe simplification of language isn’t so bad — I don’t think we lose out on anything in English by not having a specific measure word for “belts”; I can just say I have three belts at home and everyone knows what I mean. In Chinese I have to let them know that I have three long-things worth of belts at home, and the “long things” measure word of course isn’t the same one that I’d use for counting bananas. Other languages like Spanish will add a gender to every single noun in the language, so in addition to learning that “papel” means “paper,” you also have to remember if it’s “EL papel” or “LA papel” and if you use the wrong one you sound like an idiot. Complications like gendering your nouns or assigning every type of noun its own special measure word serve no purpose other than to frustrate language learners. They contribute basically zero extra meaning.

English of course is a nightmare of exceptions, so standardizing those would probably be of a lot more use than just adding “non” to our adjectives, but any step in the right direction is okay by me.

The prior essay he mentions is here.

ONE OF THOSE MUSICAL MEMORIES

This essay is an exercise in my own personal nostalgia. It may well be that it will not resonate with many of my readers. But if you will stick with me for a few minutes, you may be enthralled and entertained. Or you may just be bored.

The Carr family had three of us who were inclined toward music. My two elder brothers showed no signs of ever appreciating music in any form. My elder sister of about 15 years my senior sang in the grand opera choruses in St. Louis. She took lessons from a woman named Mrs. Ettinger who loved German music. At a recital given by Verna, my sister, the whole program was devoted to German lieder or German music. I felt they were frightful. My sister Verna had a decent voice. It was wasted on German music.

My second sister, about seven years my senior, named Opal, wound up singing in Joe Donella’s saloon in Brentwood, Missouri. She learned a few chords on the piano, then more or less accompanied herself. Opal was a free spirit who wound up owning some racing greyhounds in Florida and Arizona.

In my own case, I would judge my musical talents as a singer as being mostly ordinary. I never had a solo part, but in retrospect the teachers at Clayton High School had no solo parts to offer. I was happy to sing a baritone part in an octet one time.

All of that brings me to Georgia Walker, a very attractive woman who was ten or twelve years my senior when I attended high school. That would mean that she was probably in her late 20s or early 30s during my career as a high school student. Miss Walker was devoted to her music and disliked anyone who sang off key. One of the reasons for this was that she taught us to sing a cappella, meaning without accompaniment. Singing in this fashion means that if one strays somewhat off key, it will soon be detected. It was about 75 years ago that Miss Walker was my musical teacher. I still remember her devotion to a cappella music and to this day I appreciate that musical form. We sang at various events and there was a spring concert.

At one point during my senior year, Miss Walker greatly embarrassed me – not intentionally. Miss Walker said that I always sang on key and that I was helpful in every respect or some such thing. She said this in front of the whole choir or chorus and at age 16 or 17, I was embarrassed. Actually she meant it as great praise. If I had been 10 or 15 years older, I might have asked Georgia Walker to marry me. I would probably have been turned down, but Miss Walker being unmarried, I believe she would have appreciated the compliment.

Clayton High School is located in a suburb of St. Louis and also employed a musical director for the band. This man was George Best. He made every attempt to demonstrate his superiority to Miss Walker. Most of the chorus or choir members in my class detested George Best. But he was a man and he seemed to have the hierarchy of the school in his corner.

Now there is a third person in this panorama who played in the band and was a disciple of George Best. He was a likeable fellow named Jack Martz. Jack did not play the trombone or the tuba. His specialty was drums. You may find this hard to believe but in one spring concert, perhaps in my last year of attendance, George Best designated Jack Martz to play a drum solo.

On this occasion all the parents were invited, so it was a full house. Jack started his drum solo temperately. But before long, old Martz began to flail away at his drums. My guess is that it took Jack somewhere between eight and ten minutes to finish the drum solo. The chorus, including myself, stood around on the raised platforms, not realizing that Jack Martz would go on so long in his solo rendition of drum work.

The fact of the matter is that I am getting a bit older and recently the thought of Georgia Walker flashed into my mind. She was a lovely woman, who would now be over 100 years old if she is still alive. With this being an exercise in nostalgia, I wanted to recall that wonderful woman.

At the same time my exercise in nostalgia also wanted to recall George Best. Mr. Best was an arrogant sort of person, particularly with respect to Miss Walker. George Best may have been an excellent teacher of the band but for my part, I detested him for his treatment of Miss Walker.

Similarly, there was Jack Martz, the drum soloist. Jack was a modest fellow who somehow attracted the attention of George Best. On the spring recital, Jack flailed his drums for the better part of ten minutes. There was no theme to the drum solo. It was just a matter of Jack using every ounce of energy including an intermittent ring of cowbells and triangles while the solo took place.

As I told you in the beginning, this was an exercise in nostalgia on my behalf. If you have stuck with me through this recital, you will recall my affection for Miss Walker, my distaste for George Best, and the amazement with which I watched Jack Martz play his drum solo. I hope that you will excuse me for yielding to my temptation to engage in this exercise in nostalgia. But if nothing else, it was Miss Walker who encouraged my love of music that has pleased and consoled me for the past 75 years.

At this late date, I am pleased to recognize her with these lines. She was a lovely woman. And as for George Best and Jack Martz, they are also a part of this old geezer’s nostalgia.

E. E. CARR
January 16, 2012

~~~

I wonder what memories will stick with me for that long. It’s hard to predict what your brain will choose to hold onto.

HOW COLOSSALY DUMB CAN YOU GET?

I have never been a member of the Roman Catholic Church. In whatever is left in my life, I do not expect to ever become a member of that faith. The leader of that faith calls himself a pope

When it comes to doctrine, I must cite my profound belief in principles. For example, I do not believe that there is any such thing as eternal life. I also do not believe that there is a heaven up there in the sky, nor do I believe that Satan presides over a realm wherein people like myself are condemned to spend eternity in torment. It is my view that when we live out our life span, death will occur and that basically is the end of it all.

Joseph Ratzinger, formerly of Munich, is the head man of the Roman Catholic faith. The views of Herr Ratzinger and myself, both veterans of WWII, cannot be reconciled. I would view Herr Ratzinger with more understanding if he were to provide a cogent and convincing account of why, during World War II, he joined the SS during his tour in Hitler’s German Army. As you may recall, the SS (Schutzstaffel) was in charge of wiping out Jews from the lands that Hitler’s Nazi’s had conquered.

During his years as Pope, Herr Ratzinger has not provided any explanation but has tended to glide over this significant fact as though it never happened.

Now we find that the Vatican has announced a crackdown on American nuns. The crackdown does not apply to Norwegian nuns, Costa Rican nuns, etc., but it is aimed solely at American nuns. It is for this reason that the title of this essay, “How Colossally Dumb Can You Get?” is applicable.

According to an announcement from the Vatican, it has launched a crackdown on American nuns. If my understanding is correct, when nuns enter their vocation, they take an oath of poverty, chastity, and obedience, which accounts for the title of this essay. But now this business of obedience comes into play.

The news says that the Vatican has launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of the 57,000 American nuns. This group is the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The Vatican sources say that the group is not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion, and women’s ordination in the Catholic faith. The eight-page statement was issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the same organization that has survived all of these years since the Inquisition. It was led for 25 years by none other than Joseph Ratzinger, who now styles himself as Pope Benedict XVI. He says that the American nuns are being led astray and must return to Catholic orthodoxy.

May I make this point eminently clear? If the Catholics or any other religious group wishes to have an internal squabble, that is quite all right with me. In all of the years when I have been a non-believer, I have never ever attempted to convert someone to my beliefs or lack thereof. But this squabble is different because it involves nuns.

In the actions of the Vatican, Ratzinger is attacking the most noteworthy practitioners of the Catholic faith, which brings to mind the question, “How colossally dumb can you get?” Ratzinger has pitted the nuns and his idea of Catholic orthodoxy in a battle which he seems to think he will win. My own view is that Ratzinger is thoroughly out of date in that in the long run the nuns will prevail. Justice is on their side.

I am not given to religious disputes on either one side or the other. But in this case, the ham-handed Ratzinger is attempting to destroy the nuns and their good works. I repeat, how dumb can you get? In 1965, there were 185,000 nuns in the United States. Today that number is down to 57,000. Who would enter a vocation in which the likes of Herr Ratzinger is in charge?

I have located the headquarters for the Women’s Religious group and have written them offering my support. If they need a few dollars, I will provide that as well. As far as Herr Ratzinger goes, I must say that the Second World War has not ended. If I were to give Herr Ratzinger any advice at all, it would be to lay off the nuns who are doing a wonderful job. Secondly, he should concentrate on trying to straighten out the pedophile priests in his ranks. And with that, my sermon from the mount is herewith ended.

E. E. CARR
April 20, 2012

~~~

I like that Pop defends the nuns — reminds me of the woman in the lobby of his old AT&T building that Killingsworth threw out. Gotta stand up for the nuns.

Anyway yes, it’s incredibly dumb to target the people who are really at the front lines of your organization, especially when everyone else (aside from the preachers) is basically just management. Sometimes, church leadership should align with the people who are actually spreading your faith, instead of trying to push everything from the top down.

A TREATISE ON WHILES AND WHENS

This essay has to do with while I am here and secondly, when I am gone.

An Australian composer of great note recently produced a memorable work which he called, “While I Am Here.” His name is John Munro. He is originally from Scotland and has long since assumed Australian citizenship. After listening to John Munro’s epic piece about “While I Am Here,” my thoughts ran to a prose piece which for want of a better title is called “When I Am Gone.” John Munro’s piece is written in poetic form while my piece is in my own pedestrian prose. Needless to say, it may be more interesting to listen to the Munro piece than to my story of “When I Am Gone.”

In the Munro piece, along about the fourth line from the top, there is a reference to doing “the best you can.” My mother did not have a copyright on doing the best you can but she claimed authorship of that title in my estimation in August of 1942 when her youngest child departed for the American Army. So let us deal first with the Munro piece. As I said, near the beginning of John Munro’s lyrics appears the line about doing the best you can. This triggered a thought that has been with me for more than 70 years.

On the morning that I left to join the American Army in August of 1942, there was a memorable exchange between Lillie Carr, my mother, and myself. I knew that my mother harbored ill feelings about the way that the English treated the Irish during their 800 years of occupation. But there was an uprising by the Irish on Easter Day in Dublin in 1916. As usual, the Irish were decimated and their leader, James Connolly, was so wounded that he could not stand. The Brits ordered Connolly’s execution. He could not stand so they shot him in the chair where he was sitting. Or if you believe another story, Connolly was shot while lying down.

My mother and her sisters felt very strongly about their Irish ancestry. One of them, Aunt Nora, used to play a game with me when I was a small child. As soon as she came into the house, Aunt Nora would say, “Boy, what would you be if you were not Irish?” I knew the answer. It was, “I would be ashamed.” But from James Connolly’s execution in 1916 until her death in 1961, the feeling my mother had for the British Empire could be categorized largely as hatred.

Our home in Richmond Heights, Missouri was constructed largely through the efforts of my father. The two-car garage was separated from the house by about 25 feet. This was the custom in those days, having to do with engine fires. In front of the garage was a concrete slab which was for maneuvering to get the cars into the garage. As I was leaving for the Army, my mother accompanied me to this concrete driveway. At that point, when it came time to say goodbye, my mother issued the usual warnings about writing home often. Then she began to talk about the dangers I would face. Her four brothers were in the First World War and were subjected to gas attacks by the Germans.

I attempted to soothe my mother’s fears by telling her how much help we would have in fighting the war. I told her about the Canadians and the Frenchmen. I told her about the Norwegians and the Danes, and mostly about the Poles. She had warm feelings for the Poles because their help was greatly appreciated by my parents when they were running the Lilac Roost Dairy Farm. And then inexplicably I said that we would have the help of Great Britain. My mother would have none of this “Great Britain” stuff. Immediately, she said, “You mean the English?” I must have shrugged my confirmation of her thoughts about the English. Immediately, she said to me, “Son, in that case you will have to do the best you can.” With that, she turned on her heel and retired to her kitchen. I knew at that point that the interview was ended.

I could not figure out how I could have made such a blunder. But there was only one thing to do, which was to walk the half mile to the streetcar stop where I would board the Kirkwood-Ferguson streetcar. It took about two hours for the streetcar to reach Jefferson Barracks after about three transfers. All the way from beginning to end, I was cursing myself for mentioning England to my mother. She came to see me at Jefferson Barracks before I was shipped to basic training. It was the last time I saw her for nearly two and a half years.

So aside from the Munro piece having to do with “While I Am Here,” when I play that piece I always have a feeling of poignancy about the phrase “doing the best you can.” My mother did not invent those lines about doing the best you can, but she used them with great effectiveness on the day that I departed our home to join the American Army.

Now that we have tended to the “While I Am Here” story, I am ready to turn to my thoughts about what I would miss when I am gone. It is obvious that I will miss my friends and my relatives. There are my wife, two daughters and their husbands, and five grandchildren. One of my essays, called “Love Her, Love Her, Love Her,” was written as a tribute to my wife. But I am determined not to fall into the trap of identifying which friend or which relative I will miss the most.

Quite to the contrary, I believe that what I will miss the most will be music. Reviewing these thoughts that accompany this essay, it seems to me that music that tells a story with a good melody and harmony is essential to producing a good song. I suspect that Miss Ashbaugh, our grade school choral director, and Georgia Walker, our high school director of music, must have made a bigger impression upon me than I had thought before.

In the early days, I used to escort my elder sister when she sang in the chorus in the St. Louis Grand Opera. From attending the Grand Opera, I learned to appreciate a piece of music. I do not consider the music of the rock and roll variety to be good music. There is a performer here named Bruce Springsteen who shouts the lyrics to all his music. I do not consider that music acceptable. Naturally I have a soft spot in my heart for tunes with an Irish background, another soft spot for spirituals and a further soft spot for opera arias.

There is an accompanying CD to this essay which includes a small sample of some of the songs that I will miss. When I joined the Army, I was probably humming “Whispering Grass” which is included in this very limited selection of tunes. If I were to send you every song that I will miss, the list would be endless. The songs included here have been chosen selectively to give you a flavor of what I will miss.

The point I am attempting to make is that when I am gone, I will miss good music tremendously.

So this essay has two unrelated points to it. The first is the inspiration of John Munro when he wrote his song “While I Am Here” with reference to the old phrase of doing the best you can. The second part would be what I will miss when I am gone.

I saw my cardiologist a few days ago and he assured me that I will be around for a while in spite of my Methuselah-like age. Well, there you have it about the whiles and the whens. I am delighted that John Munro has composed this piece and I am also delighted that his efforts have led me to this period of contemplation about what I will miss when I am gone.

It has been a great pleasure to dictate this essay because it deals with music. If there is a higher calling than producing a great piece of music, it remains for me to discover it. And so I hope that you have enjoyed this essay about music as much as I have.

E. E. CARR
July 16, 2012

~~~

I wonder if Judy could get me a tracklist for that essay — I’d post it here!

Here’s a song by Munro on Campbell, who indeed was shot in a chair at Kilmainham Gaol. I visited recently and saw the grounds where it happened!

AMAZING GRACE

As I sit down to dictate these lines, it is a cold morning in January. With a prayerful thought, January will soon be over. This essay will not be a religious one. Worse than that, it will combine the third rail of all essays in that it will comment upon politics and religion.

The title was carefully chosen by the author, namely me, to illustrate a point which will pervade this whole essay. I suspect that a good many of my readers are aware of the old Protestant hymn called “Amazing Grace.” It was written by John Newton, who was engaged in the slave trade until a storm wrecked his ship and he survived. He evidently believed that it was a miracle that he survived, which he attributed to the intervention of God. There is no evidence about the slaves who were presumably enchained below decks. Their fate is unknown. But before his life was done, Newton gave up sailing in the slave trade business and became an Anglican bishop.

The name of Newton has a special significance tied to this essay. After Mr. Newton reached dry land and was toweled off, he set about becoming a preacher. In time, he reached the exalted title of bishop in the Anglican Church. At some point or other, Bishop Newton took a Scottish tune and penned the lyrics to his now famous hymn of “Amazing Grace.”

The first lines are instructive as they relate to this essay. Those lines are:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

The significance of these lines is that Newton referred to himself as a wretch. Newton wrote the lyrics almost 300 years ago. In so doing, he may have foreseen the events that have taken place in the Republican primary elections this year. In this case, a fellow named Newton has fulfilled all of the requirements of wretchedness that could be asked for.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would hardly ever listen to the Republican debates in a primary election. My heart is not with the Republican Party. During the Republican debates, my thoughts are on such matters as those of celestial ones. But they would hardly ever qualify as the subject of another essay. But the current Newton richly deserves an essay not only about his politics but about his philandering.

As I said earlier, I am not given to listening to Republican debates. Even at my advanced age with all my disabilities, I have better things to do. But in this case I am struck or I should say thunderstruck by the temerity of the latter-day Newton (Gingrich) to claim that God has laid his hand on him and has forgiven him.

The current-day Newton Gingrich has a long history, including being asked to leave the speaker’s role in the American House of Representatives. But in the meantime the current Newton has been engaged in other extracurricular activities. Simply put, he is a philanderer par excellence. This current Newton has been married on three occasions. On one occasion, we are told that he told his wife that he intended to divorce her while she was in the hospital recovering from a serious illness. His current wife, who is 22 years his junior, spent six years in an affair with Mr. Gingrich. This made his second wife very angry and at the moment she is lashing out at Gingrich.

Now here is what attracts my attention. As you might say, it also disturbs me. Newton Gingrich proclaims that he has apologized to God and that God has forgiven him. There is no correspondence on this subject because we presume that God does not ever write letters or emails. All we have to go on is that Newton claims that he has been forgiven. There is no third party to verify such events.

In the recent past, there have been occasions when the pastors of mega-churches have strayed into homosexuality. In the recent case of Bishop Eddie Long, it appears that he is being divorced because his wife contends that he has become involved with young boys. I suspect that in the case of Mr. Long and Ted Haggard, also the proprietor of a mega-church, there will be a period of disappearance from the public scene. At the end of that disappearance, the preachers will apparently return to the limelight and contend that God has forgiven them and that they are ready to resume their preacher duties.

Perhaps it is unseemly for a non-believer like myself to comment on celestial matters. But I am thoroughly curious about how Newt Gingrich learned that he was forgiven by God. Do you really think that a person as busy as God would take time to review a philanderer’s case simply because he has been Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States? I don’t know.

Somehow or other, preachers and politicians stray from their marital bonds. In almost all cases, they take a bit of time off and return to the public scene claiming that God has forgiven them. I realize that in some instances I am a disputatious individual. But in the Gingrich affair,
Newt proclaims that God has forgiven him and has apparently extracted no penalties.

You can mark me down as a doubter of the first order. Newton claims that the pressures of life in Washington were so great that as a patriotic duty he strayed from his first two wives. Now I know that the preceding sentence doesn’t make sense, but it is all that we have.

As things now stand, Newt Gingrich claims that he has been forgiven by God. Would it be sacrilegious to question those forgivenesses? My bafflement is quite sincere. But until I can see some more proof of God’s forgiveness, I will remain a full-fledged skeptic. I believe that in the case of Newton Gingrich, he has been a wretched man since he appeared on the American political scene. And it will take a lot more than Newt’s own testimony that he has been forgiven to convince me.

So now we see that some three hundred years apart, we have examples of wretchedness. I suppose now that the latter day Newton, given his political ambitions, may very well run for Pope. Upon his election to Pope, I will find time to praise his thoroughgoing wretchedness.

E. E. CARR
January 27, 2012

~~~

Was not expecting a Newt essay when I opened this one tonight. Well executed, though.

FROM THE FRIENDLY WHITE HOUSE TO YOUR HOUSE

If you were alive in January of 2001, you may recall that George W. Bush ascended to the Presidency of this country. He got there by virtue of the ugly fact that the Supreme Court was counting the ballots. At the conclusion of the ballot count, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia issued his ruling that George W. Bush was the supreme leader of this sweet-smelling country and was free to proceed to his inauguration. He also stipulated that this ruling would not be a precedent for future rulings. This is preposterous because the Supreme Court issues rulings that are supposed to be precedents for every case that follows. But not in this case which led to George W. Bush assuming the presidency of this country.

Shortly after George W. Bush assumed the Presidency, he discovered much to his horror that there was a surplus in the Treasury of this country. This mortified Mr. Bush. He instructed the Treasury Secretary and the rest of his Cabinet that such a situation was intolerable, and that the surplus in the Treasury was to be pissed away at the earliest opportunity. So the tax rates of this country were immediately reduced with the provision that in ten years’ time they would revert to the levels under the Clinton administration and the Bush tax decrease would go away. That was the proposition. It was to be a temporary tax decrease resulting in less money coming into the Treasury for a period of ten years.

To do his part in disposing of the Treasury surplus, Mr. Bush first declared war in Afghanistan and secondly, he decided that it was time to invade Iraq. So here we were, early in the last decade, with two wars on our hands and all of this was to be accomplished with the decreased revenue from the income tax. As Mr. Bush correctly concluded, at the end of ten years, this matter would have to be settled by his successor, thereby leaving Mr. Bush largely blameless.

In December of 2010, the Bush tax cuts were set to expire. At that point, Mr. Obama was our President. Because of the great depression that had occurred in this country starting in 2008, Mr. Obama did not want to impose any new taxes on the middle class. Accordingly, he proposed that those with incomes of $250,000 or less could keep the Bush tax rates. For those with incomes in excess of $250,000, the tax rates would simply revert to the tax structure that applied under Mr. Bush’s predecessor, Mr. Clinton.

But the Republicans claimed that this was a tax increase on the millionaires and proceeded to fight Mr. Obama. There was even a proposal put forward by Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York that the Clinton tax rates would apply only to those with incomes of $1 million or more. That of course was unsatisfactory to the Republicans. As everyone knows, there are a lot more middle- and lower-income people in this country than there are those who have incomes of $1 million or more. But as we are finding out, much to our dismay, Mr. Obama had no wish to take on these wealthy Republicans. The proper term for Mr. Obama was that he caved. In spite of the lost revenue that should have been collected from those in the upper brackets, Mr. Obama let the millionaires keep their lower Bush tax rates and he threw in a sweetener. The estate tax exclusion would change from $2 million to $5 million, which means that wealthy individuals can pass on more of their wealth to their heirs.

The developments on the tax rate structure set my heart aflutter. I thought that Obama had the right instincts when he proposed that people with incomes of $250,000 or less could keep the Bush tax rates and that those with larger incomes would simply revert to the tax rates that applied during the Clinton administration. This would have been a pushover because there are so many more middle- and lower-income people than there are millionaires. But Obama did not wish to take on this fight which could have been so easily won. As I said earlier, Obama caved.

On December 9, 2010, I managed to still my heart flutters and compose a letter to Mr. Obama which was delivered by email. I had chosen email because it is faster than the so-called “snail mail.” I made all of the arguments as to why Obama should have fought this one out, and I concluded with the phrase, “Mr. Obama, in view of your capitulation, it would seem appropriate for you to resign.” I thought that by asking for Obama’s resignation, I would arouse a bit of interest in White House circles. But it didn’t even cause a ripple.

The email was sent on December 9 and I heard nothing for three months. Finally, on March 16, a gap of three months, an email arrived at our house which constituted a reply to my letter. The email from Washington that addressed me as “Dear Friend” rather than “Dear Mr. Carr,” thanked me for writing. There was a statement about why Mr. Obama had chosen this course of action and the kicker was that in the year 2012, Mr. Obama would make a valiant effort to re-establish the tax rates that applied during the Clinton years. That, of course, is unadulterated hogwash. In a Presidential election year, which would be 2012, I will be astounded if Obama ever approaches this subject of restoring the Clinton tax rates. But the main thing that I took away from the beginning and the body of the letter had to do with people in Washington referring to me as “Dear Friend” and saying, “Thank you for writing.”

But now we come to the most interesting part. Instead of including a complimentary close at the end of the letter, the letter was simply signed, “Sincerely, The White House.”

Since my retirement more than a quarter of a century ago, I have been absent from the business world. I was astounded to find that so many changes had taken place during my absence. During my long years in the telephone business, I was careful to address answers to the person who had written to me. That no longer seems to be desirable. In this case the words “Dear Friend” seem to suffice. What if I were a tea party type who hated the Democratic Party and all that it stands for? Do you think those people in Washington would have replied to me calling me a dear friend? But I was most impressed by the fact that at the end of the letter it said, “Sincerely, The White House.”

From this time forward, I intend to imitate what the White House has taught me. My next letter, if there is one, may be addressed to “Dear Friends in the White House.” This will save me from trying to determine which person is currently the President.

Now, when it comes to the complimentary close, it is my intention to sign the letter, “Yours truly, from The Blue-Gray House on Long Hill Drive.” As you can see, those people in Washington have taught me a brilliant lesson about letter-writing. How out-of-date it would be to sign my future correspondence, “Yours truly, Ed Carr.” The proper form, as I now understand it, is to say, “Yours truly, The Blue-Gray House on Long Hill Drive.”

Corresponding with the President, it would be presumptuous of me to refer to him as a “dear friend.” If the administration sends a letter that ends with the complimentary close of “Sincerely, The White House” I am obliged to use that form of address in future correspondence. Any future correspondence from me will be addressed to the White House rather than to an individual. I now know that addressing a letter to an individual is completely out of date. Now if I were to take the “Dear Friends” quote seriously, I might find the form of address that suggested a great friendship. In formal correspondence, I might refer to “Dear White House.” Once the dear friendship had been established and matured, I might forget the “House” part and refer to those in Washington as “White” or, better still, “Dear Whitey.” I suspect that the latter point leaves much to be desired.

But I am enamored with the idea of signing my letters, “Yours truly, The Blue-Gray House on Long Hill Drive.” If those people in Washington can sign their correspondence as “Sincerely, The White House,” I see no reason why I should not adopt that form of complimentary close. As a means of identifying the house from which the letter originated, I could say, “Sincerely, from the Blue Gray House on Long Hill Drive, right next to the house that was advertised on the For Sale sign as ‘I’m gorgeous inside’.” As a further means of identifying the house that originated this letter, for the last year I might also have specified that it came “From the house across the street from the Johnny-on-the-Spot in the front yard.” I offer these geographic references so that there is no mistake about the house that originated the letter.

So you see that a gristled old reprobate like myself can really learn something at this late stage in my life. I had not realized that I was so far out of compliance with basic standards in letter writing. But there are some things that must be taken into account as I become more accustomed to the new rules.

Suppose that love should strike my heart and I were to write a love letter to a young woman of 75 or so. I could not address her as “Dear Friend” nor could I use the complimentary close as dictated by the White House of “Sincerely, The Blue-Gray House on Long Hill Drive.” So you see, there are many things to be worked out but I am confident that they can be overcome. I am deeply grateful for this discovery of the “Dear Friends” and “Sincerely, The White House” lessons that have come to my attention before I cash in all my chips. So boys and girls, always remember you’re never too old to learn a little something.

E. E. CARR
March 19, 2011

~~~

The point is taken, but I’m not sure there’s any better way for them to have signed it. Clearly Barack wasn’t responding himself, and he’s the one you wrote the letter to. They could have signed it “Doug Smith, Mail Room Staff” or even “Form Letter G” but I think “The White House” is a better alternative. By same token, “yours truly, The Blue-Gray House on Long Hill Drive” is a perfectly acceptable closure and should be leveraged frequently, even if that particular house is no longer in play.

Many people often confuse national debt and the budget deficit. Clinton was running surpluses to budget, which of course Bush vigorously reversed. Occasionally people hear about that and think that somehow under Clinton, the USA didn’t owe any other countries any money, which naturally wasn’t the case; I’m positive Pop knew this, but future readers might not, so it seems like it’s worth clarifying.

Also odd: I could SWEAR I’ve already published this one. But all my searches for terms it in don’t turn up any results. Somehow if both WordPress and Google’s searches are failing me, apologies for the double post. More likely I just read it but never published, but man. Feels strange.