Archive for April 2017


I don’t watch much television these days, being confined to the dialogue. But in noodling around the television, I ran into a program featuring an interview involving two homosexual men. From what I could gather, the two men have been together for more than 20 years and a crisis has now arisen. It seems that one of them has contracted AIDS and that the other one is subject to deportation by the Immigration authorities and seems likely to be deported.

While I grieve for the person who has the problem of AIDS and who has the problem of deportation, my interest went to another factor. Apparently they have become married out of love for each other. This is a development that I support. Straight people can marry; why should not there be a provision for marriage between homosexuals? During the interview, there were constant references to the other partner as being called “my husband.” This was a bit jarring to me, that each of them referred to the other partner as “my husband.”

Perhaps I have been influenced by those right-wingers who contend that marriage should be between one man and one woman. But the constant references to “my husband” were a bit jarring to me.

In a marriage between two heterosexuals, generally speaking the wife does the cooking, supports her husband, and provides him with sexual relief. In this long-standing homosexual arrangement, apparently there is no wife at all. I am quite certain, or it is my belief, that one or the other of the homosexual males provides those services to the other. As for the references, I suspect that I have been taken in or influenced by the right-wingers who contend that a marriage is between one man and one woman.

The references to “my husband” bring to mind the slip of the tongue by Condoleezza Rice who once referred to George W. Bush as “my husband.” I am sure that Mrs. Bush would lay a prior claim to George W. Bush and that she has the wedding certificate to prove it. In the long term, I support gay marriage even though I am as straight as a man can be, I believe. But my curious nature is aroused by two partners in a marriage, each one calling the other partner “my husband.” Clearly, perhaps what is needed is a new term combining the best aspects of “my wife” and/or “my husband.” If Condoleezza Rice can make a mistake by calling George Bush her husband, I see no reason why any new term applying to the homosexual community would be objectionable.

I have heard of the other partner being referred to as “my roommate” and “my partner.” These are not inspiring terms. Perhaps we should pay attention to the relationship between two lesbians as a clue as to what the other partner should be called, but at the moment, I will await to hear from my readers as to their suggestions. If a new term could be invented as a result of Ezra’s Essays, I would be more than happy to hear of it.

August 15, 2011


I don’t actually see the issue with “husband” — and I think the ‘generally speaking’ part of this essay is maybe a little dated. I guess some concessions have to me made for age, though. His heart was clearly in the right place with this one.


I have just finished dictating a small essayette on husbands in a homosexual arrangement referring to each other as my husband. From that point it is logical to proceed to the Mormon practice of polygamy. As a means of getting Utah into the United States, the Mormons were forbidden to take multiple wives in the practice of polygamy.

I have never understood the doctrine of polygamy. In the Muslim faith, I believe that each man is entitled to four wives. The issue of polygamy lives on. When Osama bin Laden was killed, he had at least two of his wives on the premises.

But in the interest of fair play, what is wrong with women having multiple husbands? Man has practiced polygamy for years, but, again, in the interest of fair play, one should believe that religion or some custom should dictate multiple husbands for each woman.

This is a suggestion which I believe will not be taken seriously by the powers that be, but I think it has a great deal of merit. I do not buy the argument on the right wing that marriage is between one man and one woman. We can accept the practice of homosexual relationships. What would be wrong with a woman having multiple husbands? I am not interested in a confrontation over this point but it seems to me that in the interest of fair play, females have a right to contend that they are being unfairly treated. For myself, I have one wife and she has one husband. It suits both of us pretty good. I believe that the idea of multiple husbands is a thought that is worthy of consideration. Significantly, I do not believe that any religious organization would take up the cause. Apparently, the idea that multiple wives or polygamy is practiced may draw some shame from the religious authorities. But in any case, the final analysis seems to be that one wife and one husband is the ideal arrangement. That is all well and good, but even here, my vocabulary is so limited that I would not be able to find a term for multiple husbands. And so I leave you there on this essayette, pondering whether the idea of multiple husbands is worthwhile.

August 15, 2011


Very egalitarian, per usual.

Worth noting: this essayette was not completely finalized, and I think that deserves a disclaimer. Pop may not have been happy with me for publishing something that wasn’t completely up to his standards, but I think it was worth putting on the site regardless, because the message is good. There are a lot of double standards out there, and the very fact that the word “polyamory” (just meaning ‘many loves’) generally will first bring to mind a one-man-multiple-women scenario means that it’s worth questioning this sort of thing.

Here’s the unfinished section in particular; I redacted the second sentence. If anyone can guess what he meant and could fill in the word in question, that’d be very appreciated!
I have never understood the doctrine of polygamy. I am certain that capsites (?) meaning multiple wives are legion. In the Muslim faith, I believe that each man is entitled to four wives. The issue of polygamy lives on. When Osama bin Laden was killed, he had at least two of his wives on the premises.




I know a man who speaks lovingly, respectfully, and admiringly about his own mother-in-law. Can you imagine that? His mother-in-law furnished the title for this essay. This woman was born in 1878 in the Sudetenland. There is considerable mystery about whether in 1878 the Sudetenland belonged to the German Confederation, Austria or was in the territory claimed by the Czechs. But that is beside the point. No matter how you cut it, Frau Fischer always considered herself to be a Czech, as did her family and her countrymen. At this late date, this essayist can only say to Frau Fischer, “How to go, Herta.”

We were honored to have Frau Fischer with us during her life, which extended until she was 87 years of age.

I came into the knowledge of the maxim that “old age is a disease” through a roundabout way. Frau Doktor Fischer, who had escaped from Czechoslovakia, had a daughter named Hana. During the Second World War in England, Hana married a friend of mine whom I did not know at the time. As it turns out, Hana married a preacher’s son from the great and luscious state of Missouri. Her husband managed to escape the confines of the “show me state” by joining the Eighth United States Army Air Force which took up residence in England for nearly all of the Second World War. After the war, Hana and her husband eventually wound up in New York City. Her husband is, of course, my old friend of more than 40 years named Howard Davis.

On several occasions, Howard has repeated to me the maxim that “old age is a disease” but he always attributes it to his mother-in-law. Not many men speak so respectfully and lovingly about their own mothers-in-law. But that is Howard’s style which may stem from his growing up in the sacred soil of eastern Missouri towns such as Defiance and Cape Girardeau.

Frau Doktor Fischer’s husband was a physician with offices in Olmütz, Czechoslovakia. Under the German formal system of language, the wife acquires her husband’s occupation upon marriage. Thus the proper form of address is Frau Doktor Herta Knopfmacher Fischer. The translation of Knopfmacher into English is button maker. The Knopfmacher-Fischer household was Jewish and when the Second World War was taking place, it developed that the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia were no places for Jewish people to reside.

Fortunately Herta escaped with her daughter, son and at least one other sibling to the safety of England. Before the end of her life, she came to live in Philadelphia. She visited New York often, where she spent much of her time with Howard Davis and his wife, Hana Fischer Davis.

It was during these years that the maxim of “old age is a disease” was passed on to her son-in-law, an advertising executive with the N.W. Ayer organization in New York. My brain received the information about the maxim in the late 1970s. I’m sorry that it took so long for me to learn of what is in store for all of us as we go around the bend.

Before going further, I should point out that when Frau Doktor Fischer came to England, the Holocaust was taking place and her husband, Herr Doktor Fischer, the physician, tragically disappeared into it. This was the fate of many Jewish people who simply wanted to reside peacefully. But Adolf Hitler had other intentions.

This morning, I arose at 7 o’clock in order to keep an appointment with an orthopedic physician and surgeon. There had been pain for several weeks or months in my leg and shoulders. The physician, Michael Mirsky, who is of Russian or Polish ancestry, examined the X-rays and pronounced that I had “a bad case of arthritis.” My extensive research discloses that there is no such thing as a good case of arthritis. This diagnosis was not a major discovery in that from time to time over the past many years, arthritis has painfully descended upon my bone structure. It is not a welcome visitor but in time and with exercise, it has always seemed to pass.

The cold weather that we are now experiencing in New Jersey seems to prolong the effects of arthritis. But I trust that in time it will diminish or, if I am lucky, go away. Clearly, the problem is that I have lived so long that the maxim that “old age is a disease” has long since applied to me.

I am far from being alone as a sufferer of old age. The physician that I visited this morning has a full schedule of people suffering from arthritis and more serious diseases. But it is clear that old age produces all kinds of ailments.

I thought that it was important in this essay to point out that Howard Davis’s mother-in-law had it exactly right: old age is a disease. If there is any doubt on this subject, I would produce the testimony of Gregorio Russo who works in the produce department of the local Whole Foods Market. Gregorio Russo’s parents lived in a town south of Naples, Italy. His father, who was a bit of a philosopher, told Gregorio, who is now in his 60s, that as he made his way in life, he should avoid growing old. If he were to avoid growing old, there would be no great need for the doctrine that old age is a disease. But the alternative to growing old is not necessarily an attractive one.

Frau Doktor Herta Knopfmacher Fischer has contributed a major maxim to those of us who are involved with gerontology. And so it is that I am able to accept the problems of arthritis philosophically. It gives me great comfort to know that Frau Doktor Fischer has identified the source of my displeasure. On the other hand, I am comforted by the thought that she lived a long life and was able to receive such admiration on the part of her son-in-law. My only regret is that I did not know her because I would have been a Herta disciple much earlier in life.

January 29, 2011


I hope that most people get along with their Mothers in Law; I always figured that the alternative was more of a trope played up by the media than an actual phenomenon. That aside, Doctor Buttonmaker lived a full an interesting life; it’s a shame she doesn’t feature in more essays. Howard Davis certainly does, though! He’s in at least 34, at the current count.


My linguistic skills are limited. I speak the mother tongue of English in a generally acceptable form. I used to mutter a few words in Italian and some in German. A lack of use has tended to cause those skills to diminish. And then there are two derivatives of the English language which are worthy of note here. The first is “country speak” which is the language used by my parents and their rural counterparts. Secondly there is another language called “Washington speak.” As a general principle, I understand country speech and Washington speech perfectly. But I refuse to use them for speaking purposes. However, in the current case, there is a phrase in Washington speech which is worthy of our attention. That phrase is “the new normals.” Obviously the new normals are used to distinguish them from the old normals. A few examples come to mind immediately.

Formerly the countries in the Middle East such as Egypt and Libya were run by dictators. They offered us no great trouble. So it’s fair to say that they were the old normal view. Now that the dictator of Egypt is banished to live in a palace in the south of Egypt and now that Colonel Gaddafi appears to be headed for the ropes, we have a new normal. Throughout the Middle East, there are other examples of the old and the new normals.

It used to be at this time of year that the New York Mets, a baseball team, would be in search of the free agent market while offering astronomical sums to corral a star performer. Ahhh, but that was old normal. Since the owners of the New York Mets were subject to the magical wonders of the Bernie Madoff scheme, the owners, Mr. Wilpon and Mr. Katz, are out of money and are looking for somebody to buy their ball club. So the new normal is that the New York Mets will go in to the season with a tattered lineup and will hope to make it through September, when some new finances may occur. To put it succinctly, the old normal for the New York Mets was that they were the new kid in town trying to challenge the New York Yankees. But since Bernie Madoff has performed his miracle, the new normal for the New York Mets is that they hope to avoid a last-place finish.

A final example of the old and the new normals has to do with the US House of Representatives. The old normal was that the House was under Democratic control with Mrs. Pelosi being in charge. Since the elections of last fall when 57 new right-wing representatives were elected, the House has changed its speakers and the new normal for the Obama administration has been to get used to the change in ownership.

I hope at this juncture it is clear what I mean by the examples of the old normal and the new normal. I am fond of the new age in Washington speak because it is easily transferrable from the world of politics to the human condition. For example, during the days of our youth, we were not only carefree but pain free. The joints in our bodies were basically pain free and we thought that illness was never going to be our lot in life. That was the old normal. The new normal for older people is the scourge of arthritis and forgetfulness and a string of other failures that are now normal and plague the human condition. The carefree days of the rule of the old normal have been replaced by such things as ingrown toenails, loss of hearing, and diminished eyesight. This is the state of the new normal. Under the old normal, I used to mow our half acre of grass with a 22-inch lawnmower and think nothing of it. In the new normal for the past six years or so, I have asked a contractor to take care of the grass growth.

Under the old normal, I used to be amused by patients keeping track of their doctors’ appointments. That was the old normal. Under the new normal, I’ve got so many doctors’ appointments that it is quite confusing. So you see the new normal has universal appeal that will apply to virtually everything.

The new normal of Washington speak is also appropriate for the end of life. Fortunately, the new normal at the end of life also includes walkers, wheelchairs, and help to climb into bed. I do not mean to end this essay on a downer, but the facts are the facts. With that, it seems to me that life at its end results in more new normals than one new normal being replaced by a diminished other new normal. We can’t all be like my 55-year-old neighbor who was going full speed until he dropped dead. This fellow missed the new normals that go with the end-of-life process. But in any case, according to the hand that we are dealt, we see the end of life as one of diminishing prospects that we are obliged to accommodate. Rather than bemoaning our diminished lot in life, we should all rejoice because we have politicians in our capital city that have finally done something worth while. So let me say hallelujah while we rejoice in ecstasy.

March 11, 2011


Pop had such a funny way of ending his essays. It’s so often punchy, or humorous, or sarcastic, or powerful — I’d say that a strong closing statement is one of the hallmarks of a great Pop essay. I just picked out a random recent one and found this: “I suspect that when history is written, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney will be remembered for having taught us to hate. What a terrible epitaph.”


Over the recent Christmas holidays, my daughter and her legally-wedded husband went to a movie which must have had to do with George VI of England who stuttered. Apparently my daughter was impressed by the film, which my mother would have called a “picture show.” Eva Baker and Frances Licht, who are associated with these essays, also saw the movie and were favorably impressed by it.

My mother’s belief has always been that picture shows are the consummate work of the devil, which accounts for the fact that I did not see a picture show until I was 13 years of age. At that point, “The Sign of the Cross” was being shown at the Shady Oak Theater in Clayton, Missouri. I persuaded my mother to permit me to see that show on the ground that it contained religious content. It was an atrocious film and for the rest of my life I have avoided movie theaters. Nonetheless, my daughter and her husband thought that the film about George VI was impressive and for that reason Suzanne, the daughter, made a request of me. Rather than interpreting her thoughts I simply offer her email for your consideration.

Suzanne’s email request for an essay January, 2011.

Pop and Judy –
Yesterday Carl and I went to see a movie. We rarely do this, but it was a holiday, so we did. We went to see “The King’s Speech” which is about the stuttering problem that King George VI had and his relationship with an unorthodox speech therapist. The relationship had to be kept hidden at first. It was actually well done as a movie.
What struck me about the movie that I thought would be of interest to Pop was the depiction of the importance of radio in the lead-up to WWII (George VI had to make speeches to rally England, of course, so being a “stammerer” was quite a problem), and the introduction of news reels in the late 30’s. In the movie, everyone in England was basically glued to their radio as George VI announced the declaration of war on Hitler, as Hitler refused to relinquish Poland.

I said to Carl on the way home that it was sad that in less than a century we’ve gone from radio/newsreel/TV broadcasts of major events that the whole country collectively sees and experiences together — to today, when the news is splintered into internet and cable TV news and everybody gets their news their own way at the time they choose. That led us to speculate about the news reels that were shown in theatres. Did everybody see them in the late 30’s? Once a news reel of Hitler came out as he invaded one country and then another, would most everybody be in a movie theatre in the next week or so to see it, or would just a few people in the US see it?

Pop, how about an essay about living in the US and the run-up to WWII – news reels, what you remember about it, what was the prevailing opinion in Missouri about what was happening in Europe and how did people get their news.

That is my request for 2011.


As a preliminary to my response to my daughter’s request, there are some points that need to be made. If there is any one else in this world who is less of an authority on movies and pictures shows, I would like to meet him. I believe that I own that title exclusively.

A second point that must be made at the outset is that the generation to which my daughter belongs is unacquainted with the thought that there was a time in this country when there was no television at all. None! Furthermore, there were no computers and ipso facto there was no such thing as email and internet. None! This may be hard to choke down, but as we used to say in the Army, “Them are the facts.” No television, no computers, no email, no internet.

Our means of communication were local radio, national radio, newspapers, and news magazines and the local and long distance telephone system. There was no such thing as saying, “I saw it on television last night.” Charles Osgood appears on a CBS television program on Sunday mornings and always uses his long term radio sign-off, “I’ll see you on the radio.” But Osgood was not around in the pre-war period that we are talking about. And so, let us proceed to parse Suzanne’s email with the hope that in the end it will make a bit of an essay.

At the outset, there seems to be a misconception that newsreels were a major source of information for the American public. While I was not a theater goer, I believe that is hardly the case. If I understand the concept of newsreels, they are short features of news reports shown between films. It must be remembered that in the pre-war period, those newsreels had to be shot by hand, developed, and then distributed. My guess is that the newsreels that you might have seen at your local theater reported events of perhaps two weeks prior. Also, it is my belief that newsreels had to show such things as successful bombings and the stance of our troops in victorious poses.

May I suggest that nowhere was the Bataan death march or any similar event shown on a newsreel. That would have been a downer and I suspect that downers were not the subject of newsreels. My belief is that newsreels were designed to give the audience a pumped-up feeling that everything was right in this world. For the first two years of World War II, there were very few things American audiences could feel encouraged about.

So the net result is that newsreels had their place in the theater between the major attractions as a source of information. They were not intended as a major source of news. I would have considered them unreliable and late in arrival.

Our main source of information came from the radio and from newspapers. Curiously, the news on the radio was usually confined to a fifteen-minute segment which had few commercials in it. What we got was 14½ minutes of news rather than the current situation where we cannot tell what is news and what is advertising. The news, in my recollection, came on at 6:00PM. It was often followed by orchestras such as Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.

There was no such thing as “all the news all the time” stations. We had entertainment and at 6 PM or thereabouts we had the news for 15 minutes. It is possible that there was national news on for 15 minutes followed by local news resulting in a half-hour news broadcast. But of that I am not quite so sure. The reader here must remember that in those days of 1942 until August of 1945, I was not a resident of this country. By enlisting in the United States Army, I found myself in Africa, Sicily, and Italy.

It was the custom of the broadcasting companies in this county to station correspondents in many of the major capitol cities where news events were to be anticipated. The foremost correspondent abroad belonged to CBS. He was Edward R. Murrow and was stationed in London throughout the war including the “blitzkriegs” of the German Luftwaffe. When correspondents could not get their reports to the United States, they would use Murrow to establish that link. Murrow was a jewel as it relates to the news during the war.

But during my overseas service, when noontime approached, we would search for a radio receiver that could pick up the news broadcast from the BBC in London. I can remember with great clarity that the programs usually started with a signal followed by an announcer saying, “London calling.” The BBC broadcast had almost no propaganda and no commercials. It told the news as it was, good or bad. As a result, the troops paid a great deal of attention to what the British Broadcasting Corporation had to say. If there are any kudos to be passed out for the run-up to the war in Europe, it must go to the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Now we advance to the question asked about the prevailing opinion in the great and glorious state of Missouri. For many years, probably starting in the 1920s, a major voice in the run-up to the war were the reports in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. When I was overseas, my mother read those dispatches faithfully in the hope that she would find my name in them. But that was not the case. The Post Dispatch had bureaus in Washington and published reliable news during the period when Hitler was invading several countries and when Tojo, the head man in Japan, was doing the same in the Far East. The Post Dispatch did not hide the facts from the people. In the early part of the war, we were losing. It was after this time in early 1942 that I joined the American Army. There was no good news during those days, and I suspect that my parents may have believed that their youngest son was going away for good. But the fact is that the mainstay we were able to rely upon were the newspapers such as the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

I gather that there were other newspapers, such as the Chicago Tribune run by Bertie McCormick, who published glowing reports of our successes or near successes. But that was not the style of the Post Dispatch or the New York Times. So in retrospect, I must conclude that the main source of news came from newspapers and radio.

Prior to our entry into the war, a group of senators led by Robert Taft of Ohio seemed determined to keep us from engaging in that conflict. Taft, for example, was wildly opposed to the “lend-lease” program which released destroyers from the United States to Great Britain to help in their defense. But I must conclude that the general outlook in Missouri was that there was a job to do in the war, and that we should set about doing it promptly.

On the other side of the ocean in Great Britain, the Prime Minister was a gentleman named Neville Chamberlain. Chamberlain and Taft were two of a kind. History will record that Chamberlain made a trip to Germany and came back with a document that he said would guaranteed “peace in our time.” The ink was hardly dry on that piece of paper when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia.

Finally we turn to the question about the generational divide. There is some debate as to whether we are better informed today than we were in the run-up to World War II. The recent disclosures in the private dispatches from our diplomats as demonstrated by Wikileaks would lead me to conclude that in many cases, we are being hoodwinked. But before the Second World War, most Americans could trust what appeared in reputable newspapers such as the New York Times and the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the broadcasts of Edward R. Murrow. I cannot say the same thing for the news that appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

In all likelihood, we must be better informed today than we were back then. On the other hand, if you want a biased opinion today, on the Republican side you must tune in to Fox News. If you wish to have a biased opinion in favor of Democrats, you must tune in to MSNBC.

St. Louis, which was a sophisticated town, had the Post Dispatch, as I have mentioned. We had the National Broadcasting Company appearing on the KSD station of the Post Dispatch. Then we also had the Columbia Broadcasting System outlet on station KMOX. If the American Broadcasting System (ABC) existed at that time, I am unaware of it. Mind you, I am speaking as a person who has long ago kissed the 80th birthday mark goodbye. It seems to me that between KSD, KMOX, and the Post Dispatch, we were reasonably well informed.

But if I massage this question a bit, does anyone believe that the Bataan death march would be included in the news broadcasts of the current era? And that was not the only example of thoroughly unpleasant news.

But again, I am a biased reporter. You realize that at this juncture in my life, I cannot see a damn thing. Accordingly, all of the information I receive has to come through my ears. May I assure you that the oral presentation ain’t so bad. This is precisely where I started in the years before television intruded on our lives. For a St. Louis native, that would have been around the period 1948 to 1950 when television came into being there.

With my sight being the way it is, I now receive my news orally and I am not here to complain about it. Now I do not recommend that all of you lose your sight so that you may enjoy oral presentations of baseball games and the news of the world. I am here to say that television has added a new dimension to our lives. But on the other hand we were getting along quite well without it.

In conclusion, my hope is that Suzanne’s email has been sufficiently parsed, and that you have some idea of the feelings of the American public as World War II approached.

Now as to the story about King George, I must add that the inspirational speeches were made by the Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The King often was found at flower shows and receiving Boy Scouts and wholesome things of that nature. The job of informing the British public and inspiring them was left almost exclusively to Winston Churchill. King George was regarded as a nice person but when compared to Churchill, he was clearly the second, or third or fourth banana. During that time, I was serving with British troops in Italy and Africa. I believe that I am correctly assessing their views on the Royal Family. The King’s job was to visit military hospitals and occasionally say a few words to the British public. Before and during World War II, George the Sixth was more of a bit player than a person of significant influence. And as for newsreels, my belief is that they had limited newsworthy qualities during that trying period.

Unfortunately, I dictated this essay on the same day when the killings were taking place in Tucson, Arizona. All of this accounts for my making hash of this essay. Next time, I will try to do a bit better, providing we don’t have more murders by deranged people with guns.

January 8, 2011


I don’t think this was a botched essay whatsoever. It’s interesting to encounter another medium that Pop was deliberately closed off to, though. No fiction, no movies, very little internet. Clearly his strategy worked for him, but it’s hard to imagine being isolated from so much content for no convincing reason.
I think the 24-hour news cycle probably does more harm than good. Presenting news only when newsworthy things happen, in my estimation, makes the news more reputable. As it is, it’s constantly full of meaningless fluff content, and news channels grow ever more indistinguishable from entertainment channels. Fox and CNN are the worst offenders. Fox is just a joke, whereas CNN pretends to be a news channel but is basically just theater; it hires talking heads to come say insane things, then reacts to those things.


About four miles south of this house is a major highway. It is called Highway 22. If one were to leave this house and turn left upon reaching Highway 22, it would eventually lead to the Holland Tunnel and New York City. If, on the other hand, the driver were to elect to make a right turn, he would find himself eventually in Pennsylvania and Ohio and environs further west. In recent years, a new highway has been constructed that leads to the Holland Tunnel which was supposed to relieve the high-density traffic on Highway 22. That to a large extent has been accomplished, but Highway 22 still carries a major amount of traffic and it proceeds at high speeds.

On each side of Highway 22, there are small business establishments, set back about 50 feet from the highway. Generally speaking, those business establishments have graveled driveways on which parked cars may be placed. As a general proposition, I believe it is fair to conclude that these are the places for mid-to-low-level retail commercial establishments. Along Highway 22 you will find none of the high class stores that are on Fifth Avenue or Park Avenue in New York City. Because of the speed of passing automobiles, when one wishes to enter Highway 22 from one of these business establishments, it is a matter of proceeding to 50 or 60 miles an hour in a very short period of time. Because of the graveled driveways, this results in gravel being strewn behind the departing cars.

The business establishments along Highway 22 on this stretch of New York City suburbs are not of an elite character. There are pawn shops, stores that deal in pornography, discount tire manufacturers, and stores of a similar nature. About the only saving grace is that Highway 22 is the home of one car dealership selling BMW cars. That dealership is the jewel of the Highway 22 business empire.

Now you realize that for better or worse, my eyesight is completely and irretrievably gone. Nonetheless, if I were to conclude – as I probably never will – that I needed a fire arm to protect myself and my loved ones, I would head for the business establishments along Highway 22 because that is where I am sure there are dealers who will sell guns and ammunition. Upon reaching the parking lot of such a dealer in guns and ammunition, my wife would park the car and I would alight wearing my sunglasses and using my sturdy white cane. The sunglasses and the white cane are used to announce to the world that there is a blind man in their midst. I do not do this as a means of seeking pity. Of course not. I do it as a courtesy to people who can see, so that they will know that there is a non-sighted person in their midst. If I wanted pity, I would not go to a gun dealership on Highway 22 to find it.

Once the car is parked, my wife would come to the right side and I would extend the walking cane into the walking position. We would then enter the place that sold ammunition and guns. When we reached the inside of the gun dealership, we would attempt to find a clerk to help us.

Now as a general proposition, very often the clerks ignore me and speak to my wife as though I did not exist. The clerk, seeing the sunglasses and the white cane, might very well say to my wife, “Is this man mentally sane?”

Inevitably my wife would say to the man, “Talk to him. He can talk.” And so it would be that the clerk would ask me if I had ever been committed to a mental institution. I would tell him that of course that had not been part of my background. I would assure the clerk that I am not insane and that insanity is not a characteristic of the Carr family.

Then I would ask the clerk for a Glock automatic handgun and an extended ammunition clip of bullets to go with it. If I understand correctly, the Glock has ten bullets in the chamber plus one in the firing position. But the extended ammunition clip provides 20 or 30 more bullets to shoot. Now that we have established that I am not a recent graduate of a mental institution, the clerk and I might make a bit of small talk. He might ask me what use I intend to make of the Glock handgun. I would tell him that I intended to protect my wife and myself and more often than not would shoot at cans in the back yard for target practice. Now mind you, if I understand the law correctly, and I believe I do, that is the only question the gun dealership clerks can ask before selling a weapon and ammunition to customers. Whether the clerk believes that I can hit a can for target shooting is beside the point. I contend that I am not insane and the clerk is obliged to sell the gun as well as the extended ammunition clip to me.

That is the state of the record in every state in this great and glorious union. In the state of Virginia, which is not far from here, I conclude that people who sell guns with ammunition are not even obliged to ask the questions about insanity.

Obviously what precedes the subject of this essay is the ease with which Americans are able to buy guns. Some of those Americans are mentally incompetent. But that is not the concern of people who make ammunition and guns. Their intent is to sell as many guns as possible, even to the drug cartels in Mexico, because it looks a lot better on their bottom line.

As you are aware, last Saturday, January 8, there was a shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed and a number of others were gravely wounded. Among those killed was a nine-year-old girl named Christina Taylor Green as well as a federal judge. Among those wounded was an Arizona Congresswoman named Gabrielle Giffords. But this mentally unbalanced gunman was shooting without rhyme or reason and if he hit a nine-year-old girl or a 70-year-old jurist, so be it.

On Wednesday, January 12, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, went to Tucson to participate in a memorial service for those who were slain and those who were injured. Mr. Obama made a speech that was well received by observers covering the entire political spectrum. I listened to that speech and came away wondering why Obama did not mention the thought that an insane man or a mentally imbalanced person could buy a gun with an extended ammunition clip. As I have said, his speech was well received by all factions in the political spectrum but not so much by this old soldier.

The obvious fact is that a gunman used a Glock semi-automatic weapon to shoot his victims. But there was not a single mention of taking those guns away from the mentally incompetent, even from cowboys who love to “pack heat.” There is a very good reason why Obama left this out of his speech. He knows, as do most all other politicians, that to criticize gun ownership is to criticize the National Rifle Association. If such criticism occurs, the NRA strikes back and uses its enormous resources to defeat any such politician who has the intent to step out of line. Let me state this a little more clearly. The NRA is, in my estimation, a sinister force. According to the NRA, citizens may carry fire arms concealed or in the open. If the NRA had its way, every citizen of this country and perhaps the non-citizens as well would be armed. Any move by a politician to impose sensible limits on the use of guns arouses antagonism from the NRA. They will convert that antagonism into votes at the next election. To criticize the NRA is to jeopardize the source of your income.

Look at it this way. The past few years that the gun restrictions have been largely removed from legislation, there have been dozens of incidents in which people who are unbalanced mentally or who have a political agenda such as those who advocate jihadist thoughts, have committed mass killings. Here is a very very partial list.

You may remember Major Akbar at Fort Wood, Texas in 2005 who was blamed for the deaths of 13 killed and 31 wounded. In 2005 at a church service in Field, Wisconsin seven people were killed by a gunman. In Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania on October 2, 2006 a truck driver killed five school girls execution style in an Amish community. There were also six wounded in that attack. In Blacksburg, Virginia in April 2007 at Virginia Tech, there was a gunman who shot 47 people, killing 32. In Omaha, Nebraska in December 2007, there was a gunman who killed nine people and injured five during an attack at a shopping center in the mall.

This is only a tiny slice of the killings that have taken place in this country in recent years. Yet no politician known to me is willing to take on the NRA. This is left to a widow from Long Island named Carolyn McCarthy. Her husband was killed on the Long Island Railroad and her son was gravely wounded by an attack about ten years ago. Mrs. McCarthy has now become a Representative in Congress and has a bill that would make some very minor improvements in restricting the sale of extended ammunition clips. Peter King, a Representative also from Long Island, has proposed a bill barring the use of firearms within 1,000 feet of a federal official. As of this writing, the NRA had no comment. But when there is an election to be held, you may be sure that the NRA uses political muscle to defeat any politician who opposes its agenda.

And so it is that I mourn for the victims of the shootings in Tucson. But I must conclude that that is only the latest tragedy that we must deal with. We look at the killings in the United States and wonder what has happened to this democracy. And I too wonder. As a former soldier, I know a little bit about guns. I never owned one before I joined the army and I have never owned a firearm of any sort since leaving the army 65 years ago. There are those such as former Vice President Cheney and the Supreme Court Justice Scalia who consider it sport to murder an innocent bird. In this category, I have always been guided by the admonition of my father. When I was five or six years old, he told me that he would never kill a bird because “He loves his life as much as you love yours.”

Ah, but it will keep happening until a politician has the spine to oppose the NRA. Unfortunately the memorial speech at Tucson the other night by the President of the United States made no mention of the gun that killed Christina Taylor Green. We all knew that it was a gun that killed her but that was not mentioned in the tributes to the dead and injured. And so I conclude with four lines from the Australian composer Eric Bogel who wrote the anti-war song known as “The Green Fields of France.” It is also known as “No Man’s Land” and more popularly is called “Private Willie McBride.” Unfortunately these four lines summarize my view at this time.

Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame,
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain.
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

I suppose that I could play the recording of the song about Willie McBride to the fellow who wants to sell me a gun down on Highway 22. But I suspect that all he wants to do is ring up a sale in his cash register and not worry about what a blind person is going to do with the Glock semi-automatic that he sold me. And that, my friends, is the state of the record in this gorgeous country. Until we deal with the NRA, we will continue to find that the killings will go on, “Again and again, and again and again.”

January 15, 2011


Yeah, pretty much. I could date this essay as 2017 and freshen up the list of recent horrific shootings and nobody would be the wiser. Nothing meaningful has changed. Other first world countries do not struggle nearly so much with this.


It must be that springtime brings blossoms and the discovery of five horrid men. Why this is so is beyond me, but the facts are the facts.

First on the bad fellows list is Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was formerly the head of the IMF. He earned a superior salary of $450,000 a year with no income tax being attached to it. His treatment of a maid in a hotel I hope is well-known to everyone. He is the first of the horrid fellows that come to mind.

The second one is a fellow named Giovanni Ramirez who is a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Because another fellow attending the opening day game in Los Angeles wore a San Francisco Giant tee shirt, Ramirez thought it was appropriate to attempt to beat him to death. Opening day was March 31 and the San Francisco fan, Bryan Stow, is still in a coma. I hope that the authorities find a place for Strauss-Kahn and Ramirez somewhere in the deep jungle of our penitentiary system.

The third fellow who is in our hall of infamy is Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California. I am sure you have read that Schwarzenegger was the father of a child who was born to his housekeeper. For a bit more than twenty years, this woman tended to the needs of Schwarzenegger’s wife and family. When his wife found out about the affair, she moved out and took the children with her. Schwarzenegger’s time of trial has just started.

Then there is John Ensign, the former Senator from Nevada. He was engaged in a long-term relationship with the wife of his Chief of Staff. The wife claims that he forced his way into the relationship contending that if she did not agree, he would terminate the employment of her husband. How sordid.

I find that Ensign’s conduct was reprehensible in the extreme. He took advantage of his position. My guess is that the wife of his former Chief of Staff is speaking the truth when she said he forced his way into their marriage.

The last horrid person is John Edwards, the former vice-presidential candidate. He is accused of taking about a million dollars to cover up the affair he was having with a woman who was supposed to take his picture, then followed him from town to town in his presidential aspirations. This woman had a child by Edwards.

In the final analysis, it is the children who are being hurt. There is the Schwarzenegger case and the unfortunate episode involving John Edwards, the former Senator who was running for President.

The springtime of the year 2011 has brought us these five characters. I hope the courts will not show much mercy to Ramirez, who beat the San Francisco Giants fan into a coma. I have no respect at all for Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

I understand human failings, but in my estimation these five fellows went too far. They are beastly fellows and qualify for the title of this essay which is about five horrid men.

The case of Anthony Weiner, the Congressman from New York, who used his twitter account for unusual exchanges, looms potentially as a sixth horrid man. I suspect that when all is known, it may be that the five will have a sixth companion. We will have to see about that.

May 30, 2011


Ramirez turned out to be innocent — they had the wrong guy. Weiner though, man oh man. Maybe the craziest story of the lot; you should watch the documentary if you haven’t yet.

If I had to do a retrospective scumbag power ranking here:
1) Strauss-Kahn
2) Edwards
3) The dudes who weren’t Ramirez
4) Weiner
5) Ensign
6) Arnold


Before I get to the meat of this essay, I must introduce you to my sister Verna, who was the eldest person among the Carr siblings. Verna was proper in all respects. Perhaps she got this from her mother, who wore dresses that buttoned up to the neck. In any case, Verna, who was 15 years my elder, contended that she had assisted at my birth. I do not recall that incident but if Verna says so, you can take it to the bank.

Now, with respect to Verna, in the late 1920’s, she acquired a stenographer’s job with the Endicott Johnson shoe company in St. Louis. That was at the time when there was a slogan called “First in Booze, First in Shoes, and Last in the American League.” The reference of course was to the St. Louis Browns who were the paupers of the American Baseball League. There was no doubt that St. Louis, which had a plethora of breweries and shoe manufacturers, was first in shoes and booze.

In any event, Verna not only kept herself neat and proper, but insisted upon that conduct among her colleagues. For example, she would come home from work decrying that another stenographer who worked with Verna had her slip showing all day long. For Verna, this was a grave offence. A much graver offence had to do with the exposure of the bra straps. Somehow or other, every woman was expected to conceal the bra straps beneath her underclothing and never reveal them to the outside world. This was an anomaly of the first order in that Verna came from a rough and tumble family, but there was Verna, singing in the church choir without her bra straps or her slip showing, leading the righteous to their good deeds of the day.

Now let us turn to the main subject of this essay about hubcaps. I will try to marry Verna’s modesty somewhere along the line with hubcaps. The early model automobiles all had their wheels fastened to the brake drums of the car through the use of lug nuts. As I recall it – and I am an expert on the subject of changing tires – there were always five lug nuts that held the wheels in place. Sometime in the late 1930s but certainly in the post-war models of automobiles, it was considered a grave sin to have the lug nuts showing where the wheels were fastened to the brake drums. So the automobile manufacturers provided hubcaps to conceal where the lug nuts were attached to the wheels.

The hubcaps started out as small gadgets about ten inches in diameter but then proceeded quickly in the after-war years to great expanses of covering. They were held on, as I recall it, almost exclusively by tension between the hubcap and the wheel rim.

Let me point out that hubcaps were purely decorative devices. They served no other function except to conceal the lug nuts that held the wheels in place. Now if my elder sister Verna could have had a hand in this, she would have used hubcaps to cover the bra straps and/or the slips showing from under the dress.

As I dictate these lines, the image of Thelma DuPont comes to mind. Thelma is a long-time friend of mine who shares some of my views on the origin of the species. I suspect that Thelma and some of her compatriots such as Margaret Murphy would have welcomed a hubcap to cover up the exposure of bra straps and the under slip showing beneath the dress.

In former days, there was a large cottage industry, usually located on rough streets, that specialized in retrieving hubcaps that had been jarred loose by the ruts in the street. Remember the hubcaps were not held on by a nut but rather by the friction between the hubcap and the wheel rim. Sometimes the hubcaps would be collected by boys who took them to dealers. The boys could expect a return of four or five dollars for each hubcap. The hubcaps could be resold by the dealers who would expect perhaps as much as $20 for each errant hubcap.

But then in the 1980s a disaster struck hubcaps. From that time forward, hubcaps were deemed non-essential to the operation of the automobile and were disposed of. So it was that the cars that were purchased in the 1980s and subsequent models simply had the lug nuts attaching the wheels to the brake drums. The lug nuts were exposed for all the world to see. My sister and my mother would have been aghast at this development because everyone knows that under coverings should be concealed. But for the past 25 years, hubcaps have been a collector’s item. They were decorative devices that were deemed unessential to the operation of the automobile and which added to the cost.

During my long career as a filling station attendant, it was always my practice when changing a tire to put the lug nuts in the upturned hubcap. The new wheel was mounted upon the car brake drum. Five lug nuts would be retrieved and would be screwed on the lug. Then the hubcap would be replaced by putting it against the wheel cover and hitting it with the heel of the hand to force it into place. Hubcaps were not to be struck with rubber hammers because that might dent them. They were to be placed against the wheel cover and gently put in place by hitting them with the heel of the hand as the main enforcer.

Well, as you can see, hubcaps were simply decorative devices which toward the end of the game became quite elaborate. They served no useful purpose other than to conceal the lug nuts which held the wheels onto the brake drums. Now if Verna had found such a device to conceal bra straps and hanging slips, she would have whispered to her friends about the new concealment device. But hubcaps are one thing, and slips that show as well as bra straps are quite another. And if every woman concealed her bra straps and did not permit her slip to show beneath her dress, what would there be to gossip about?

Now let us turn to neckties, which are the other subject of this essay. In my retirement, I have been necktieless for several years. On ceremonial occasions day and night I submit to having my neck adorned by a colorful tie. On retirement, the necktie count on my dresser wardrobe door had at least 80 neckties. Time has gone on and I have given them away, assuming that anyone who took the ties would have some use for them. Like hubcaps, neckties are, in my estimation, merely decorative devices. They do no harm except when they get caught in a squeezing machine. For a good many years I avoided the four-in-hand neckties, favoring bowties. But the bowties were a thing of the past when the war ended in 1945.

So in substance, neckties and hubcaps are simply decorative devices. They do no great harm. They might bring pleasure to the owner of the hubcaps or neckties. And there are occasions which I suppose a male on the make may use neckties to entice a female into conversation. But all things considered, it was nice while we had hubcaps and I suppose neckties are still with us. They do no harm and so I am happy to have them. They give pleasure to those who wear them and to those who in the case of hubcaps still own them.

So this is my story about Verna, hubcaps, and neckties. Verna is gone now for many years but the same may be said about hubcaps. From what I hear, neckties are following the same path to oblivion but it will take longer. Hubcaps and neckties were harmless devices which would not violate the oath of Hippocrates who said to physicians, “Do no harm.” I enjoyed hubcaps and neckties and now that Verna is gone, I must say that I might have enjoyed her too.

April 4, 2011


I just wish that Pop had encountered spinners when he still had sight. Hubcaps didn’t disappear, they just evolved into something even sillier.


From time to time I find myself pondering about events of long-forgotten years. Perhaps this is the mark of an aged mind but I tend to view it in a positive sense in that I apparently still have a mind that is capable of pondering.

One of my recent essays had to do with ponderings of the sort that I am attempting to wrestle with today. And so here are some subsequent ponderings that are absolutely innocent in purpose and which will not affect the outcome of world events.

For example, I often wonder about what has happened to words in the English language which have tended to fall into disuse. One word in particular comes to mind, which is “hussy.” As far as I know, “hussies” refers to females and is usually accompanied by an adjective called old or brazen. I don’t believe that in my study of the English language I have ever heard somebody refer to another female as a young hussy but perhaps Ann Coulter would qualify. Generally speaking, it seems to me that all hussies are old or brazen. They are not desirable people who seem to be poking their fingers into other people’s business. On the other hand, I have heard some people refer to other women as hussies who don’t deserve that appellation. But that is really beside the point. My question is why the term hussy is falling into disuse these days. It may be a case where the world has moved on and has found new terms to define females who have objectionable traits. But my question is innocent. I simply want to know whatever happened to the word hussy.

As you can tell, none of these ponderings are connected one with another. They are all independent ponderings. In that spirit, I now turn to the sport of badminton. My foggy memory tells me that at one time the Olympic games included competition for badminton metals.

During the 1930s and 40s and even into the 50s, many homes were equipped to play badminton with a set of small rackets together with a shuttlecock. The shuttlecock looks like half a small rubber ball with feathers attached to the flat part. When the ball was struck, the shuttlecock would fly quickly until it lost its momentum, with which it would then attempt to float to the ground, using the feathers that it came equipped with. Aside from the rackets and the shuttlecock, there was a small net and in many cases people would simply bat the shuttlecock back and forth without worrying about who was ahead or behind. But again if my memory serves me correctly, Asian players such as the Japanese excelled at badminton. Again I am left to ponder whatever happened to the game of badminton. It was a game that could be played by young and old, and I still remember the joy of watching the shuttlecock when, struck firmly with the racket, it went floating into the sky and then floated gently to the ground.

There is a further matter of pondering about why dentists and barbers traditionally take Wednesdays off. I know that they have demanding jobs but people would like to get their teeth fixed on a Wednesday just as people would to get their hair cut as well. It seems to me that the dentists and the barbers could operate short-handed on that particular day, simply to cover the office. But that is not the case. When barbers attend barber’s college and dentists attend dentistry schools, are they instructed that they should take Wednesdays off? I have no idea why barbers and dentists take a day off on Wednesdays. If any of you can help me with my work on this monumental subject, I will appreciate your assistance.

Now we come to my ponderings on male facial hair. Specifically, my pondering leads me to wonder how men decide what kind of a mustache they will produce. One of the most famous mustaches in the world was the one worn by Adolph Hitler, which was sort of a rectangle beneath his nostrils. I did not care for Adolph Hitler, and I cared even less for his mustache. But my pondering leads me to wonder why a man would have this small block of hair below his nostrils on his upper lip.

If I could grow a mustache, which I can’t, I think I would favor a small line above my upper lip. That used to be favored by Spanish movie actors. I stand in awe of how the razor is manipulated on the upper lip to avoid cutting the nose and the mouth and yet produce a nice-looking mustache. But the Carr family was always fair haired and could produce no mustaches of any kind, and so I let that subject pass out of my realm
of thought.

Why men grow muttonchops and handlebar mustaches is something that I really do not understand. Neither do I understand men such as my Uncle George Carr, who grew a brush mustache on his upper lip which was untrimmed. When a liquid is drunk, the hairs on the mustache become soaked and must be dried by putting the lower lip over the top lip to suck them dry. This is a fascinating sight for children to watch but I am now of the belief that it is unsanitary and not very pretty.

A pondering that goes back to World War II has to do with the use by GIs of addressing each other as “Joe” or alternatively as “Mac.” When a GI would approach another person to whom he had not been introduced, but to whom he needed to speak, he would almost inevitably address him as “Joe” or “Mac.” For example, if I were working on an airplane, particularly in a location foreign to my home field, and I needed to borrow a tool from the tool-crib, I would address the GI who ran the tool-crib as “Joe” or “Mac.” I have no idea where these names came from, nor do I know where the term “tool-crib” came from either, but those terms were in common usage during the 1940s when World War II took place. I want to emphasize that there was no hint of condescension when a man referred to another GI as “Joe” or “Mac”; it just meant that the two had not been introduced. In any case, it seems to me considerably better than “Hey you.” A GI who would say “Hey you” might soon find himself flat on the floor with some of his teeth missing. But again if there are any lexicographers out there in this vast audience of mine who recall the words “Joe” or “Mac” or “tool-crib,” I would be glad to hear from them.

My ponderings have led me to wonder about why women wear black dresses on festive occasions as well as in a time of gloom. When I worked, if one woman saw another woman wearing a black dress during the daytime, she would often say something like, “Do you have a heavy date tonight?” At perhaps 70 or 80% of the cocktail parties I ever attended, the women usually showed up in black dresses, which they would describe as “simple.” Cocktail parties were happy occasions.

At the same time, when a woman would attend a wake or a funeral, she would find that the black dress was a requirement. Perhaps there are those who will argue that the black dress that could be worn to the cocktail party as well as to the funeral parlor was a matter of good economics. On the other hand, I can understand a black dress at a funeral or the viewing, as it is sometimes called, but on a joyous occasion such as a cocktail party, I am at a loss to know why the women appear in black dresses.

Finally, whatever happened to women’s hats? There was a time when any woman who wished to go to a function of one kind or another in the evening would wear a hat. Some were very small bonnets that had to be held on with hairpins and there were others that were wide brimmed in the fashion worn by Mexican bolero players. Ordinarily when women came to work, at least with AT&T, they tended not to wear a hat but when evening came, if they had a date or if there were a cocktail party to be attended, the women would retire to their lockers and don their hats. I wonder about whether that custom still exists. But like it or not, that does not keep me from pondering.

There is one additional final thought that I wish to ponder about. That is: when people who live absolutely alone and visit their own bathrooms, do they always close the door? As far as I can tell, there has never been a survey of this subject and I suspect that perhaps there will never be such a survey. But that fact does not keep me from pondering about it.

Well, there you have my set of ponderings for the moment. All of them are innocent ponderings and will not have any effect whatsoever on the fortunes of this once great country. There are those who would argue that ponderings such as the foregoing ones are evidence of advancing age and perhaps losing one’s mind to dementia. On the other hand, I would argue with some vehemence that they are the products of a curious mind which has a period to go before the closing bell is rung. I have been pondering such as those reflected in this essay for most of my life, and unfortunately it has turned out that my ponderings have produced very few answers. But if my current ponderings form the basis for an essay here and there, I would conclude that that is a reward in itself.

November 29, 2008


This is probably one of my favorite multi-essays on the site. I enjoy how much it reveals about how things were, and how they changed.

Anyway, now for some answers based off of a few minutes of internet research:
First, the “closing on Wednesday” thing seems to have a number of causes. Apparently in much of the South, for instance, Wednesdays were popular days for Bible study and big community events like auctions. More broadly, many merchants worked very long days on Saturdays, so they all chose to take half-days on Wednesdays to even out the work week, which makes sense. It’s kind of like just transferring your Saturday afternoon to a more financially appropriate part of the week. That said, in a town of 3 dentists, if two 2 dentists takes Wendesdays off, the third becomes very incentivized to stay open on Wednesdays. Unless you have some sort of collusive agreement, it seems like the market has evened out this trend quite a bit — I’ve actually never encountered a doctor or dentist closed on a Wednesday in my life, as fas as I know.

Second, badminton is definitely still a thing. It’s an Olympic sport!

Third, I think black dresses are reliable and always acceptable, so they’re a good default in the same way that men default to suits. We wear suits to both funerals and cocktail parties, too!

Fourth, I for one don’t see the point in closing the bathroom door if you’re home alone. Why bother?


These days I get my news via my ears. My wife reads the headlines and stories from The New York Times, as well as from the New Jersey Star Ledger and Newsweek. Then I listen to an audio version of the Times. Today is August 4, which marks a milestone in my lifetime, as it is my birthday. The birthday news in The New York Times this year is uniformly glum.

There is a story about the subprime mortgage business only being the tip of the iceberg. It appears that not only are General Motors and Ford suffering from lack of sales, but even the Japanese cars are suffering the same fate to a lesser degree. There are home foreclosures in record numbers and Starbucks has identified more stores to close. I do not pretend to be an economist but it seems clear to me, having survived the Depression of the 1930s, that we are again in a depressed state in our economy. Anyone who tells you that this is only a mild recession is misleading you and is also very much wide of the mark. We are suffering from a depressed economy and there is no gainsaying that conclusion.

On top of all the glum news about the rest of the economy, we find that gasoline prices have more or less stabilized around $4 per gallon. Motorists have responded by driving less and by trading downward. With the economic news being such as it is, there are fewer sales of cars which means that those of us with automobiles of more ancient vintage are holding on to see if they will last one more year. The point I am attempting to make is that in these difficult times, people respond by spending less rather than making commitments to spend more for mortgages, jewelry, casinos etc. If I may have the temerity to make a suggestion to the Honorable George Bush, it would be for the United States government to spend a hell of a lot less than is now being squandered on our efforts in Iraq.

Iraq is costing us, every single month, on the order of $12 billion. At the same time, the Iraqis are building enormous bank accounts from their sale of oil, but we seem to realize none of those profits. We are supporting a force of more than 130,000 men and women in Iraq, which is an enormously costly venture. Simply put, after five years of squandering away our manpower and our resources, we cannot afford the luxury of trying to impose our will on the Iraqi people. That war should never have been started in the first place and when we end it, there will be inevitable consequences to this country, most of them being unpleasant.

On the other hand, if that $12 billion per month were spent here at home, the bridge in Minneapolis might be repaired and the states, which have been deprived of revenue, would now offer full service. In California, the Governor, in response to depleted resources, is threatening to pay his workers only the federal minimum wage. In New Jersey, the state government is examining the question of whether it would be feasible to turn over our roads to individual entrepreneurs.

I know that the Bush administration is completely paralyzed with respect to offering any hope to the bad news that pervades us. But I will try to offer you one shred of hope. During the darkest days of the Depression, when the rich men had all the money and the poor people had none, we pinned our hopes on the election of Franklin Roosevelt. He promised us at the beginning that he would lift the restriction on the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, which was then called Prohibition. From that point on, there came the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as well as Social Security. Even with the obstruction of Robert Taft, the leader of the Republican party in the United States Senate, Roosevelt fashioned programs that overcame obstructionists and prepared us for the entry into the Second World War. Roosevelt was an aristocrat but he understood the feelings and the agonies of the working class who had no work to do.

My thought is that the expenditure in lives and money in Iraq is the root cause of our economic problems here at home. I am a realist, and I know that the George Bush administration is thoroughly paralyzed with respect to any constructive suggestions. I hope that the election that will take place this November will provide us with the 21st century version of Franklin Roosevelt. If the new president and the congress have the will to do it, many changes can be made to right the American economy. But the first move has to be to stop the squandering of our resources in Iraq to the tune of $12 billion per month.

I know that the recovery may take a painfully long time but it must be done. The idea of “staying the course” should be obliterated from the American discourse. In all likelihood, I will not be around when there is a happier day in the fortunes of this country. But I remind my fellow Americans that we pinned our hopes on the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, and eventually those hopes were realized. Perhaps in ten years or so the news will be much more favorable than it is today and, if that is the case, I can assure you that my ghost will be pleased.

August 4, 2008


Well, in August 2016 I think it’s a good bet that Pop’s ghost was pleased. Obama wasn’t a silver bullet but the country came a hell of a long way in three years. We of course have an enormous deficit now, which only becomes a problem if there’s a massive crisis of trust with regard to how dependable the US is when it comes to paying back debts. If we lose that, I think a lot of other things will come crashing down. Good thing our current leader is an emotionally unstable manchild! He’ll really inspire confidence in the future of the country, I bet.