A New Democratic Superstar??

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (age 28) defeated long-time  stalwart Joseph Crowley in a Democratic primary race that includes parts of the Bronx and Queens. Crowley was considered a potential replacement for Nancy Pelosi, the beleaguered Democratic Leader.

Crowley, who has not been challenged in recent years, decided to ignore the brash young woman’s determined effort to take his seat. The press indicated that Crowley didn’t even attend a debate,  choosing to send an aide in his place. This apparently infuriated many of his constituents.

Almost immediately the liberal press picked up this Cinderella story.  A relatively unknown entity outside of her neighborhood, an attractive and articulate Hispanic woman, beats a well-connected political hack. It’s a perfect story for a movie script. But I think Hollywood moguls should wait to see whether Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has any staying power and can make a difference.

Votes are so hard-up to make changes that they sometimes vote for very inexperienced candidates. Consider Obama and Trump. Neither man had any substantive government credentials. You get what you pay for. Obama was an ineffectual president who botched health care reform,  destroyed America’s reputation abroad and left his political party in shambles.  And we all know how Trump, an equally inexperienced politician, is handling the affairs of state.

Why would the voters of a relatively poor section of lower New York State vote for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez? [Note: she is expected to easily defeat her Republican opponent in the election.] Certainly this woman has a promising future. It could not have gotten off to a better start. Or maybe not.

Did anyone who voted for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez read her resume? She’s worked as a bartender, waitress, children’s book publisher and a community activist, Additionally she is a member of the Democratic Socialists of American and supported Bernie Sanders (who is also a socialist). Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s experiences will do little to help her make wise votes in Congress relating to health care reform, immigration, terrorism, international foreign affairs, nuclear proliferation, etc.

It’s sort of like sending a promising baseball player to the major leagues directly out of high school. In more times than not it’s advisable to give the prospect an opportunity to learn the ropes. So it is with Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. She will receive no important assignments in Congress for an extended period of time. She will likely talk too much in an effort to gain notoriety, which will offend her colleagues who are also hungry to be in front of the cameras. Yet the media will be all over her until the fad wears off. She’s already appeared on Morning Joe.

I wish Ms. Ocasio-Cortez great success. But I believe first going to Harvard Law School and then working for an experienced politician for a few years would have been the preferred track. I would have advise her accordingly if she were my daughter.

The World Cup Runneth Over With Unsportsmanlike Behavior

The Group Stage of the World Cup soccer tournament is nearing an end. There have been some surprises and many close calls. In fact, South Korea defeated Germany yesterday, eliminating last year’s champion from the competition. The Knock Out Stage with the 16-quarter finalists will begin in a few days on June 30.

Many of the matches have been really exciting and undecided until the final moments. Not to rain on the World Cup parade, but there is one pervasive issue that has tainted the matches— the players are poor sports for the most part.

Professional soccer is a pretty rough sport even though there’s no blocking or tackling in the American football sense. But the contestants have been hitting new highs, literally. Unnecessary grabbing, pushing, tripping, elbowing and violent actions away from the ball are occurring constantly during the games.

Exacerbating the situation are players feigning injury trying to encourage yellow and red cards against opponents. How many times have you seen a player writhing on the field in pain until the referee makes a decision, and the offended jumps up like nothing has happened? So often a simple bump is dramatized by a “dive” making an observer think someone has been seriously injured. More than often it’s a ruse that detracts from the game. In some cases referees penalize players who are too effusive about being fouled.

Another annoying and unsportsmanlike activity is badgering referees. For some reason the refs are very lax responding to complaints, bad-mouthing and even physical contact. In almost all other sports, a player who accosts an official is ejected from the game. For some reason referees give too much latitude to the soccer crybabies.

Some of the teams have a huge chip on their shoulder. They clearly resent the most celebrated players on other teams. In fact super stars like Messi, Rinaldo and Neymar are abused from the beginning to the end of matches. In order to temper the far superior skills of the opposition, teams resort to aggression. In some cases this works, but not usually.

A new development is the replay available to referees, and sometimes imposed on them. I have mixed feelings about second-guessing officials. As an old school fan, I prefer as little high tech interference as possible. The game of soccer has persevered for hundreds of years without reconsideration of referee decisions. And besides it destroys the continuity of the game. The same thing has happened to football, baseball and even basketball. I find constant interruptions unappealing.

The World Cup is a gigantic party as most people around the world play soccer and/or are huge fans. Unfortunately fans can become rabid when things don’t go well for their teams. Soccer games are famous for huge melees between supporters of competing teams. They really don’t need encouragement from the players in this regard.

Nevertheless the nationalistic spirit is really fun to observe. Attendees root with their hearts and souls. During the World Cup everything is even more dramatic especially when the teams of rival countries meet on the pitch. Better to fight it out with a soccer ball and one’s feet than with guns and bombs.

The World Cup is a grand worldwide event. It would be even better with more sportsmanship for the benefit of the millions of young people who watch it and play the sport themselves.

The Immigration Debate Is Crazy

Every day competing political factions in the country find or manufacture new issues that tear America apart. In each case the stakes are very high, and the drama is turbocharged by the media. Both sides, usually liberal versus conservative, try to convince Americans that these issues have the potential to destroy our nation and besmirch our Constitution.

The latest controversy is immigration. For some reason our leaders, over the past several decades, have enabled, or turned a blind eye towards, millions of illegal immigrants that have entered the country. This group of 15 million or more has not been vetted, is very poor, has been encouraged by Mexican authorities and is subjected to cruel and vicious desperados who steal their money and treat them like chattel.

But most importantly the tsunami of humanity crossing our borders is changing the dynamics of our society and threatens our country’s financial security. It’s pitted American against American on yet another issue. Liberals believe that these destitute people have a divine right to escape whatever horrible conditions they faced at home, and that Americans have a divine obligation to assist them.

The results of this grand migration are financial issues of huge proportions for the states that have been forced to accept illegals, and a future dislocation of our social and political balance as the group grows. Our laws that provide automatic citizenship to anyone born in the US, even to children of illegals, have and will be a major issue moving forward.

All the mistakes, blind eyes and kicking the can down the road relating to immigration have now come to a head. On the one hand our borders are porous and the spigot of illegal immigration has not been turned off. On another hand these people are desperate in many regards and are seeking asylum from terrible conditions in Mexico and points south. And finally the 15 million plus immigrants already in the country will likely be given a path to citizenship. Our nation will be permanently changed because of this eventuality.

Ironically sensitivity towards innocent children of illegals has been the catalyst to stoke political jockeying by both parties. First it was the DACA kids who were brought to the country illegally and have now been here for several years. Most politicians believe this group should be protected even though they are just as illegal as their parents, although not responsible for their fate.

And now, existing laws require border agents to separate children from their families when officials apprehend them. The shame of this quirk of the law, enacted prior to the election of Trump, is the impetus of his efforts to make things right in our immigration practices. The whole issue of immigration has now totally dominated our government even while terrorism and nuclear proliferation, along with a plethora of other issues, are screaming for attention.

When one discusses human kindness and cruelty is seems inappropriate to consider financial ramifications. Yet, the cost of immigration to the American taxpayer to care for those already in the country is gargantuan. The annual net cost of illegals, after considering the benefits of their presence in the country, is at a minimum over $100 billion annually, and could be much higher according to experts. The situation is not improving as we look ahead. The spigot of immigration has not been closed because of delays to the president’s plan to secure the border.

How much will it cost in ten years to pay for the services needed by more than 20 or 25 million illegals? How much will it cost to end the continued surge of mankind over our southern borders?

It is true that illegal aliens have benefitted our country by working in the fields and doing manual labor that Americans shun. But many of these people don’t pay taxes, and they use government services extensively for health care and education.

Liberals scream xenophobia whenever anyone objects to illegal immigration. But it’s a fact that many people that cross our borders illegally are criminals, gang members and destitute. They bring very few skills to our country. In spite of this liberals insist that they deserve the same rights as Americans.

The ultimate rub is that certain municipalities throughout the country have established so called sanctuary states and cities. The leaders of these places are “protecting” immigrants who broke the law by entering our country illegally. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are prevented from accomplishing their mission to secure America.

Many Americans are wondering why sanctuary leaders are not allowing ICE agents to do their job and weed out the undesirables and criminals. And a growing number of Americans are asking why the Attorney General of the US has not issued warrants for the arrest of state and city leaders that are breaking the law, It’s becoming more obvious that Americans living in sanctuary municipalities are growing more unhappy every day, especially in California.

Many countries around the world are trying to deal with illegal immigration. The reason is that it is disruptive and costly to assimilate huge numbers of people. Making matters worse is that governments are having trouble differentiating between immigrants and refugees from tyranny.

The cost of illegal immigration has reached a point that politicians must be responsive and enact laws that honor legal immigration that has made our country strong and discourage those who enter our country illegally.

Americans At War With Other Americans

America is at war on many fronts. They are not violent, for the most part, and involve economics, social injustice, financial stress, trade, nuclear proliferation and political gamesmanship. We are also at war with ourselves, Republican vs. Democrat, conservative vs. liberal, wealthy vs. middle class, men vs. woman.

President Trump has a plan to engage with every world leader, country, religious group and ethnic group that poses a risk to the US. Frankly the president has had some success in these areas and more and more Americans are beginning to appreciate his modus operandi. At times, his actions are considered to be biased, racially provocative and heartless. Trump has also been attacking unfavorable arrangements with other countries that have been in place for many years, and demanding they be amended or abrogated because they have been and continue to be unfavorable to American interests.

China is one of the president’s most important targets. It steals our technology, invokes unfair tariffs on American goods and attacks us regularly with cyber warfare tactics. How can such a nation ever be a close ally of the US?

Similarly, Russia has interfered with our elections, supported our worst enemies (Iran and terrorist groups in the Middle East) and invaded a sovereign nation (Ukraine).

The Mexican government has turned a blind eye to the tsunami of illegal aliens that pass through its country into ours. These interlopers have created huge social, political and financial problems and pitted Americans against each other.

And now Europe has concluded that the US is no longer a trusted ally, and whose stance on trade, immigration and global warming are untenable. This is occurring even after the US saved Europe twice in the 20th Century from German aggression. And to make matters worse the US has entered into treaties in which we guarantee the security of Europe while US taxpayers pay most of the costs. Some NATO members are not even spending on defense what is required by agreement, assuming the US will always protect them.

Trump, rightly, has a lot of axes to grind in all the aforementioned situations. Notwithstanding his unsavory disposition and attitude, the president is making the world a better place even as many around the globe and in the US are hypercritical of him.

What is totally unacceptable, however, is the growing war between Americans, which has become a real tragedy. Americans have the best of everything- security, prosperity, freedom, opportunity, education, health care and so much more. So why do we fight with each other so vociferously about every issue. Our national strength has been diluted, and our enemies have been emboldened.

The immigration fiasco is a perfect example of the chasm between Republicans and Democrats, Trump and Democrats, Trump and fellow Republicans and Republicans and Republicans. We need new immigration laws and policies to stem the tide of illegal immigration and to give those in the country a fair and comprehensive path to citizenship.

It’s disconcerting to see Republicans that control the presidency, the Senate, the House and the Supreme Court (conservatives generally have a 5 to 4 advantage) bickering over policy and unable to compromise with each other. Given this advantage, our government is still in state of political and legislative paralysis.

Children of illegal immigrants are being separated from their parents at the border because of arcane laws and regulations. Under no circumstances is this situation acceptable or beneficial to anyone. Interesting, every American seems to agree that changes are in the best interests of America, the illegals and the children.

Yet the progress is slow and the president’s enemies have twisted the facts and his priorities. Conversely, Trump blames Democrats for the existing laws that force immigration officials to take hurtful action (separation of children from their parents). He’s calling for new legislation and reform to deal with the problem, rather than using presidential power to install changes. [Note: Democrats think new legislation will take to long too enact.] As I write this essay, the president appears to be willing to finally use his powers to stem the tide of outrage among Americans by calling for more humane treatment of illegal children.

Conservatives believe that liberals want unencumbered acceptance of all who enter the country, for political reasons. This perspective has resulted in over 10 million illegals over the past few decades, which has damaged the certain states and facilitated the proliferation of undesirables in America including gangs, drug dealers and other felons.

So the problems persist along with life and death debates about every issue. The media has done everything possible to stir controversy and even creates “fake news” to stimulate the sale of their ideas in printed material and on TV.

So how can we change the attitudes of our politicians over time? The answer is obvious. The current leaders that dominate the political scene are both incompetent and unwilling to compromise on any issue. Most of the worst offenders have been in Washington too long. They exist in both parties and have consolidated their power in Congress with arcane laws that affect elections. Term limits are the answer. Over time Americans can recreate Congress and the presidency.

The president is not without fault, an understatement. His methods may be helpful with the worst of our enemies, but they are tearing our country apart. It’s inconceivable that the man does not recognize that name-calling and vicious tweets aren’t moving us forward. I’ve indicated that Trump will not be reelected, but his own successes may make my prediction wrong.

 

 

Shinnecock Brought The Pros To Their Knees, And I Loved It

Yesterday Brooks Koepka, an American, won the United States Open golf championship in a hotly contested and exciting competition. But the tournament had many sidebars that gave golf duffers like me some comfort about how tough it is to play the game of golf.

Suffice it to say I’m very unhappy with my game. I played competitive sports in high school and college, so I pride myself on being a pretty good athlete, even at my age.

But golf, which I stared playing over 50 years ago, has been my nemesis. In summary I’ve made little progress over the years. In recent times I began to play more and take lessons with little improvement.

What is my problem, you ask? It has nothing to do with athletic prowess and everything to do with what’s going on between my ears. In a nutshell I need a golf shrink, not a golf coach.

My wife is amazed with the self-loathing that my play evokes every time we are on a golf course. She is shocked when I lose my cool and start to whine over a silly game. But golf is not silly, and I want to play better. Yet I always return for more disappointment.

This year’s US Open was refreshing. I loved the fact that all the studs on the PGA Tour were struggling mightily. I didn’t have to witness final scores of 15 or 20 shots under par, drives over 350 yards in the middle of the fairway and spectacular up and downs from off the greens. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, the site of the US Open, brought the professionals to their knees, a place where I spend most of my time (on my knees, I mean).

Many of the pros were whining, just like me, about the wind, rain, high rough, fast greens, pin placements and tight lies. Alas, Mother Nature beat up the professionals, and bad. In the end the winning final score was over par.

It was cathartic to see these great players shanking from the two-foot high fescue grass and topping chips across lightning fast greens into more trouble. Double and triple bogies abounded. The players actually seemed human at times. The spread between my average score and theirs for a round actually decreased.

Of course I could never break 100 playing a course like Shinnecock, especially in those condition. But it made me feel better.

Frankly I was a little disappointed by some of the pros that complained about the course. Everyone knows the USGA (United States Golf Association) tries to increase the difficulty of the course for this championship. The usual tactics are to grow the rough, increase the speed of the greens by mowing and not watering and hoping the Mother Nature delivers some bad weather.

The fact is everyone is playing the same course, so the degree of difficulty is moot. The man who shoots the lowest score wins, plain and simple. If a hole is 490 yards long, uphill and against a 30 mile per hour wind, everybody plays it.

One golfer said the course was fine except the pin placements on two holes were unfair. To whom, I ask? For everybody, I respond.

I really enjoyed the US Open telecast. The young fellows are, at last, replacing the old timers like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Phil turned 48 years old over the weekend so he should start thinking about the Senior Tour where he will win every week. His behavior after making a bad putt was weird and unbecoming. I still like Phil.

The golf world is hoping that Tiger returns to his old self, but it’s unlikely. I appreciate that he’s good for the game of golf, but he doesn’t have it anymore. The fans screamed for him, and the TV announcers made excuses for his poor performance. But Shinnecock ate his lunch, and Tiger missed the cut. It’s not easy to get old as an athlete.

I’m trying to draw inspiration from the US Open. It hasn’t happened yet. Nevertheless I will continue to hack away.

Something Is Rotten At The F.B.I.

As my source, I used a New York Times front-page article to recapitulate the missteps of James Comey and the FBI. Things are truly rotten at the FBI.

It must have been difficult for the Gray Lady, aka the Times, to indict the FBI, a supposedly apolitical government organization, for breaking rules, distorting the truth, supporting Hillary Clinton, denigrating Donald Trump, leaking to the press and trying to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The comments you are about to read below are those made in the Times and were not subject to editorialization.

 

  • The FBI has a destructive culture and Comey, specifically, was insubordinate.
  • Senior officials of the FBI implicitly and explicitly backed Clinton.
  • Comey broke longstanding policies.
  • Comey publicly discussed an investigation of Clinton relating to her misuse of a private server handling classified information.
  • The Inspector General referred five FBI employees for possible discipline over pro-Clinton or anti-Trump commentary in electronic messages.
  • FBI agents were far too cozy with journalists.
  • There was a breakdown in the FBI chain of command, as the Attorney General acceded to Comey during the most controversial moments of the Clinton inquiry.
  • Public confidence in the FBI has been damaged.
  • There is doubt about the FBI’s mishandling of the Clinton investigation, and it remains politically divisive two years hence.
  • Two senior FBI officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, exchanged disparaging texts about Trump.
  • Christopher Wray, the current FBI head, said he took the IG report seriously but that “[The FBI’s] brand is doing just fine.”
  • Comey injected the FBI into presidential politics.
  • FBI officials have been reprimanded for injecting their opinions into legal conclusions.
  • Comey withheld his plans about future investigations from his Department of Justice superiors.
  • FBI agents wanted prosecutors to be more aggressive [with Clinton] creating tension between them and FBI leadership.
  • Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI was dishonest.
  • A large number of FBI personnel in constant contact with journalists impacted the FBI’s ability to identify the sources of leaks. [This comment makes no sense. In effect the number of leaks is preventing an investigation of leaks.]

 

The big question is: should Americans be disenchanted and disappointed with the FBI for its actions relating to the 2016 election? Absolutely yes. The FBI was biased towards one candidate, and it and tried to protect Clinton while simultaneously attempting to discredit Trump. Ironically, Comey and his people were so incompetent that they hurt Clinton’s chances for reelection.

What rubs many Americans is that Comey is still on the loose, lying and distorting events and denying his culpability while earning millions from his book. Since when does our country allow scoundrels to earn money from their misdeeds? It happens too often.

The FBI’s reputation has been besmirched whether anyone in Washington wants to admit it or not. It’s time that new leadership is installed that isn’t stained by the actions of Comey and will not give wrong doers a pass on their misbehavior.

FBI field agents are just as effective as ever. It’s management of the organization that needs to be revamped, starting with Wray who feels that everything is just fine.

 

 

A Kinder, Gentler and More Patient Trump

It’s very early in the game for Trump and Kim Jong-un. There are many potential pitfalls that could derail the summit meeting between these two impetuous leaders. But, there is also a possibility that the negotiations will lead to a lasting peace between the US and North Korea.

Very few situations during the past 100 years, as serious as this one, have ended without violent conflict. The Cuban missile crisis is the only substantive moment  that is comparable to what is taking place today. A potential nuclear confrontation was averted without firing a shot, even though the participants were not friends after it ended.

Personally I have been moved by the deft way that Trump has proceeded. Consider that just a few months ago, Trump and Kim were on a collision course. Name-calling, threats and the potential of a nuclear strike on the American homeland were a distinct possibility. Trump was relocating military assets to the region in preparation for an invasion. Today the volatile leaders are talking, negotiating and trying to find a path to peaceful co-existence.

At no time has Trump or his negotiators deviated from the primary objectives to demilitarize the Korean Peninsula and ensure it stays that way with uninhibited inspections. This may not all happen in the next week or two, but the president seems to understand that any concessions by the US should not be made until Kim progresses towards the aforementioned objectives.

By treating Kim respectfully, Trump seems to be making progress. He and his capable advisors (Pompeo and Bolton) must educate the young leader of North Korea and make him understand that the best deal he can obtain is one that secures his regime and opens up trade for his country. The possession of nuclear weapons and the prospective costs of maintaining them are not as valuable to Kim as improved economic conditions. Trump and company must convince Kim that he will insure his longevity as leader of North Korea by giving up the nukes, not by threatening to use them.

It has been rare to see a kinder and gentler Donald Trump. His relationship with his political opponents, insubordinate aides and other world leaders has been turbulent to say the least. His recent brouhaha with Europe and Canada over trade imbalances is an example of vintage Trump. He thinks he can bully his way to favorable relations.

But now, inspired by the gravity of the problem posed by North Korea, Trump has taken the high road. He must become an advisor to the young leader of North Korea. He must make him understand that isolation, threats and dependence on only China are not going to bring tranquility to his country.

It is very weird to see Donald Trump employ such diplomatic acumen to the North Korean crisis. But he’s doing it, and all Americans should applaud and support him. After all we are talking about the elimination of a credible nuclear threat.

A Kinder, Gentler and More Patient Trump

It’s very early in the game for Trump and Kim Jong-un. There are many potential pitfalls that could derail the summit meeting between these two impetuous leaders. But, there is also a possibility that the negotiations will lead to a lasting peace between the US and North Korea.

Very few situations during the past 100 years, as serious as this one, have ended without violent conflict. The Cuban missile crisis is the only substantive moment  that is comparable to what is taking place today. A potential nuclear confrontation was averted without firing a shot, even though the participants were not friends after it ended.

Personally I have been moved by the deft way that Trump has proceeded. Consider that just a few months ago, Trump and Kim were on a collision course. Name-calling, threats and the potential of a nuclear strike on the American homeland were a distinct possibility. Trump was relocating military assets to the region in preparation for an invasion. Today the volatile leaders are talking, negotiating and trying to find a path to peaceful co-existence.

At no time has Trump or his negotiators deviated from the primary objectives to demilitarize the Korean Peninsula and ensure it stays that way with uninhibited inspections. This may not all happen in the next week or two, but the president seems to understand that any concessions by the US should not be made until Kim progresses towards the aforementioned objectives.

By treating Kim respectfully, Trump seems to be making progress. He and his capable advisors (Pompeo and Bolton) must educate the young leader of North Korea and make him understand that the best deal he can obtain is one that secures his regime and opens up trade for his country. The possession of nuclear weapons and the prospective costs of maintaining them are not as valuable to Kim as improved economic conditions. Trump and company must convince Kim that he will insure his longevity as leader of North Korea by giving up the nukes, not by threatening to use them.

It has been rare to see a kinder and gentler Donald Trump. His relationship with his political opponents, insubordinate aides and other world leaders has been turbulent to say the least. His recent brouhaha with Europe and Canada over trade imbalances is an example of vintage Trump. He thinks he can bully his way to favorable relations.

But now, inspired by the gravity of the problem posed by North Korea, Trump has taken the high road. He must become an advisor to the young leader of North Korea. He must make him understand that isolation, threats and dependence on only China are not going to bring tranquility to his country.

It is very weird to see Donald Trump employ such diplomatic acumen to the North Korean crisis. But he’s doing it, and all Americans should applaud and support him. After all we are talking about the elimination of a credible nuclear threat.

Reconnecting With Old Friends Was A Rewarding Experience

During the past weekend, five of my high school classmates and I participated in a mini reunion in Florida. We graduated in 1966, 52 years ago. It was a trip down memory lane, and the gathering was tinged with bittersweet sentimentality.

The last time we spent significant time together was just after graduation, over a half century ago. A lot of history has taken place since then. Four of us are retired, two still work, but at a much slower pace.

The fact is each man is now in the twilight of his life, striving to enjoy each day and stay healthy. But old age plagues us all to an extent. We had many conversations about medical issues including blood pressure, prostates and doctor performance.

Everyone fondly spoke about his extended family. At times it seemed the guys were rehashing glory days through thier children and grandchildren’s experiences.

Sad memories surfaced, as we encountered challenges over the course of our lives. To a man, all have had crosses to bear. Sadly, two attendees had children who passed away, and most, if not all, of our wonderful parents are now gone.

Memorable moments were analyzed and perhaps exaggerated just a bit. Former love interest dramas along with great athletic achievements abounded. Boys will be boys.

It’s fun to recollect about how my friends acted way back when, and whether these tendencies are now prevalent in their golden years. Who is/was effusive? Who is/was shy? I think most of us are, pretty much, the same, personality-wise.

It was confusing to analyze five other men during such a short period of time. Are they people I could have as close friends now? I think yes, although our worlds are very different. We have a plethora of common interests including family, food, travel and exercise.

Regarding the later, I anticipated all the men would be fairly vibrant athletically. Their athletic prowess when they were young ranged from excellent to great. In fact, the group represented six starters on the high school football team. All six played intercollegiate sports, five football and one rugby.

As proof of these exploits, we have our fair share of lingering injuries after years of physical punishment. Scars on knees and chronic aches and pains are plentiful. Limping was prevalent, especially after a few rounds of golf. We really needed a hot tub soak and massages.

Not surprising, we managed to find a baseball game to attend, a single A contest. We managed to stay for about six innings. Most admitted that they never stay to the end of any sporting contest because of the traffic. Being hungry was our excuse to leave early. No one objected.

The dinners were particularly interesting. There was a minimal amount of alcohol consumed. This is in marked contrast to the old days when we drank to great excess, ate too much and behaved up to the limits of the law. Not one of the attendees was intoxicated during the weekend. Some said they couldn’t drink because of doctors’ orders. Other said their prescription pills wouldn’t mix well with alcohol.

We laughed a lot and reminisced. It was great fun. Of course we talked about our former classmates and their idiosyncrasies, and about those who passed away.

Of note was the absence of one member of our gang, who was unable to make the trip because of a health issue. We were in constant communication with him via social media.

And the photo ops were endless. At every meal, tourist event and round of golf, we took pictures and asked strangers to snap a few photos on our IPhones. They were then immediately posted on Facebook or Instagram for family and friends to enjoy.

For some time I’ve been concerned about my growing inability to remember names and facts, and some occasional forgetfulness. My buddies made me feel much better about myself. None of us could effectively recall facts, so we constantly called upon “Siri” for assistance. And, the boys were constantly misplacing personal items. It’s not easy to be old.

But the most humorous thing was the utter inability of some members to drive from one location to another, find cars in parking lots and obtain directions to restaurants, golf courses and the airport from their IPhones. It was hysterical and offenders were lampooned accordingly.

Is it important to keep in touch with old friends? Absolutely. I heard things about myself that I haven’t thought of in years. It was like being in a time machine.

I really wanted to be a team player and so I went with the flow, for the most part. And, I should point out that every other buddy did the same. We recognized that six old guys, who are set in their ways, could not get along if everybody was trying to be the boss. I give the group an A+ in this area.

Even though I haven’t seen these guys for many years, I feel very attached to them. I empathize with their issues, be they physical or any other facet of their lives. And they feel the same way about me.

Occasionally it got a bit melodramatic. We were constantly hugging each other and saying we were glad to be together. Even though I have not been a part of their lives for half a century, they acted like they missed me and really wanted to keep in tough prospectively.

Of course there was an eight hundred pound gorilla in the room. If we were so close in 1966, why the hell weren’t we close in subsequent years? I pondered this question all weekend.

The Vietnam War and its derivative impact on us was one factor. We were all living for today while in college expecting that we would be headed to Southeast Asia after graduation and a violent death. Ultimately some of us joined reserve units to avoid fighting the yellow man (to quote Bruce Springsteen). Some lucked out and had high numbers in the first draft lottery. And some had physical ailments that disqualified them for military service.

Another factor is we all were trying to make a life, find a bride, build a family and get a job with great potential. Some went to graduate school. Some moved to other places. When high school ended, we merely disbanded to live our lives.

In any case, phone calls were not made until recently. I’m very happy they were. The trip to Florida was highly emotional. As we departed, I fought back tears. I really love these guys, and my relationship with them affected my life. I wish Chuck, Keith, Billy, Larry, Joe and George happiness, and more happiness on top of that.

Apathy, One Issue Voters And Teachers Hamper Our Voter System

Americans are among the worst voters in the democratic world. The vast majority are either apathetic and do not vote, or they vote based upon one issue.

Both of these phenomena are problematic, and frankly shocking, especially when you compare Americans to voters in other democratic countries.

There are about 325 million people in the US, 235 million of which are eligible to vote. In 2012 54.9% voted. During midterm elections the voting rate is even lower at about 40%. The US ranks 26th in voter turnout among countries that have democratic elections. The first five are Belgium (87%), Sweden (82%), Denmark (80%), Australia (78%) and South Korea (77%). Also, Germany has 69%; France has 63%; and the UK has 63%.

Apathy arises for several different reasons, all of which are unacceptable. Beginning in elementary school, children are taught that voting is a privilege and a civic duty. So, why do so many voters shun their responsibility, which incidentally should take away their right to complain about government?

The most common excuse for not voting is “I’m only one of so many people, so it doesn’t matter if I vote.” This perspective is illogical as every citizen has one vote, so each is equally important. It’s true that in some states, like California and New York, Democrats campaigning for national offices, including the presidency, senate seats and congressional spots, will likely win in this day and age.

Yet, for the House in particular, votes are greatly influenced by local issues where Republicans have a strong following. Even a few victories in these places could have a significant impact on the majority in the House. Even though Democrats hold most of the positions in California and New York, Republicans have had (and currently hold) gubernatorial seats, mayoral offices and scattered House seats. Further, if Republicans do not contest these positions, Democrats will reign in them in perpetuity.

But the real rub is that in America, a country with very high educational standards and extremely comprehensive political reporting, most people vote for candidates because of one issue. The implications of this are significant.

For instance, a person who is passionate about more gun control, accessible abortions, greater woman’s rights and influential unions would likely vote for Democrats. Conversely anyone who is fervent about gun ownership and the right to life would likely vote for Republicans.

This suggests that most elections are greatly affected by social issues, and not on a broad-based assessment of the candidates intellect, government experience, foreign policy background, military service, integrity, etc.

What is the result of this? It means that a candidate who is a National Rifle Association member will not receive many votes from liberals even if he or she is socially liberal on other issues and is highly qualified. This could be one reason why our nation and elected officials are so partisan and unable to compromise for the benefit of good government.

A final point relates to the insular education of our young people. It comes as no surprise that children of liberal parents usually are liberal. The same holds true for the other persuasion. A child that constantly hears from his or her father that gun ownership is the most important right of an American will probably be a loyal Republican.

Hampering efforts to give our children broad exposure to political issues is the vast majority of educational institutions and teachers that tilt towards the left. Some of the reasons why teachers are liberal as indicated by “The Educator’s Room”**** are that: they pursue happiness, not money- they are more tolerant than conservatives- they are frustrated about the number of prison inmates in the country- they are unionized- they want to sustain democracy- they are concerned that conservatives want to dismantle the public school system. [Note: the author does not subscribe to this assessment.]

Teachers have a great impact on their students’ political beliefs, if not quite to the extent of their parents. Sometimes, in their zeal to impose liberal ideals, teachers knowingly refuse to expose their students to both sides of important issues. This is tantamount to an attack on free speech. Berkeley most notably exhibited this last year. The students and faculty rioted and destroyed property to prevent a conservative speaker from expressing personal opinions in a speech.

The chasm that has grown between political opponents has never been greater. And it’s spread to Washington where government has been in a constant state of atrophy in recent years.

Disagreement with other’s political perspectives is healthy so long as both sides have an opportunity to express their views without fear of violence. Free speech is not one side being given a platform while the other side has no chance to respond.

The political process is the method by which we elect leaders. All Americans should be part of the process. At this point in time our participation has been unsatisfactory. Yet more people who do not vote have the audacity to complain about government.

It’s time for all Americans to consider more than their most immediate needs when they pick a candidate. There is ample opportunity to do so with so much media attention being directed at politics. Of course you must recognize that this information is sometimes tainted and “fake.”