Iran Has Committed An Act Of War. Now What?

If any Americans don’t believe Iran poses an existential threat to the Middle East, they should immediately reconsider their perspective in light of current actions by the rogue state.

What other country in the region would destroy a critical oil facility? What other country would be so brazen to create an oil crisis by physically attacking oil assets of the largest producer in the world?

If you still think that Iran would be a responsible nation if it possessed a nuclear weapon, you are misguided. The ayatollahs would be that much more aggressive if they were able to threaten Israel and Sunni regimes with nuclear holocaust.

Trump’s decision to end Iran’s dream of Middle Eastern domination was a wise one. And aligning the US with Saudi Arabia was a brilliant diplomatic gambit. It forced Iran’s hand, and it has now proven that the country is bellicose, dangerous, radical and firmly driven by religious fanaticism. Now the US and its allies must rethink their current strategy to bring Iran to its knees economically. Military action is becoming a more viable alternative, as Iran becomes more desperate.

What are the US options at this time? Trump has repeatedly stated that another Middle East war is the least favorite path. Once an outsider becomes involved in a conflagration in the region, it’s difficult to escape. Hard times are a way of life for the residents of Islamic countries. Afghanistan and Iraq have taught us this lesson.

If we attack militarily we must consider the costs of rebuilding what we destroy. It’s the latter eventuality that is the nightmare of an American president. This in no way minimizes the carnage that would accompany a massive attack in which many thousands of innocents will be killed or displaced.

An actual conflict with bombs and missiles will be brief. It always is in this part of the world where despots overstate the fighting strength of their armies. America has the power and intelligence capabilities, not to mention the support of Israel, to end a war with any Middle East country in a few days, if not hours. Leaders will die instantly, military installations will be obliterated and command and control will end with the first wave of cruise missiles.

There will be no country of Iran after a very short time. But then the hard work begins as even more radical players, dangerous terrorists, swoop down on the devastation like vultures. Refugees, starving people and unsanitary conditions will abound.

Is there a possibility that diplomatic action can bring peace without violence? It seems doubtful if Iran continues to attack oil facilities and foments even greater unrest in the region.

Can significantly more economic sanctions bring the country down before the ayatollahs initiate a suicide mission to destroy as much of the Middle East as possible? Maybe, but it would be a risky plan. And it would need to happen swiftly to encourage regime change. Of course, who would take over after the ayatollahs is another important consideration.

And finally, how do Iran’s actions affect our presidential election? For one thing every candidate must state publicly how he or she would deal with Iran as president. Voters should disqualify any candidates that say they would reinstate the farcical Obama nuclear deal. It’s too late to rehash that inane possibility.

We need a strong person in the White House to manage this growing existential problem. The good news is that there are no nuclear weapons aimed at Israel or Sunni countries, yet.

Four Things That Will Hurt Democrats In 2020

Democrat candidates for president are saying quite a few things that are alienating voters. As discussed many times, presidential aspirants, in the primaries, must personify progressive ideologies to win. The theory goes that when the nomination is won, the candidate must then pivot to a more tolerant perspective to lure independents and moderate voters.

I’m going to give Democrats some free advice and outline four areas that will help Donald Trump win in 2020. Rest assured the most radical elements in the party will not listen. They certainly will try to win votes by denigrating Trump, calling him names and saying he is bad for America. These strategies will fail.

The four issues to be discussed are:

 

  • Russian collusion and obstruction of justice involving Donald Trump
  • The US relationship with Saudi Arabia
  • The US relationship with Israel
  • Trump’s terrible persona

 

  1. Russia and collusion. Nobody wants to rehash these issues any further except the liberal chairmen of several congressional committees in the House. The charges have been investigated by far too many politicians and investigators hired by them.

Mueller’s two-year odyssey was a colossal waste of time and money. The Special Counsel worked very hard along with his sycophants to dig up dirt that would be grounds to impeach, but he and his soldiers were unable to do so. Mueller even admitted this fact.

Notwithstanding the costs involved, Democrats investigate onward. My favorite comment was that Democrats stipulated that none of Trump’s specific actions, behavior and rhetoric were sufficient alone to justify impeachment, but taken as a whole, they do provide a path to oust the president. I didn’t know that you could add up crimes to make one big one.

I sincerely hope their constituencies will punish the diehards who are unable to give up their fruitless crusade, in 2020. Their sanctimonious attitude has resulted in very little action taken by Congress to “fix” the country. I’m referring to bridges and tunnels, schools, veteran affairs, bad treaties, health care, immigration, gun control and so on.

  1. The US relationship with Saudi Arabia. It was inevitable that a president would at some point choose to take the side of Saudi Arabia or Iran. Wisely, Trump selected the Saudis in spite of the unfortunate murder of a dissident that was allegedly orchestrated by the Crowned Prince.

Over the years Sunni radicals in Saudi Arabia have created havoc in the Middle East. These terrorists are blinded by their religious fervor. They have paid for and encouraged terrorism that has resulted in many deaths. Moreover, their country, notwithstanding its great wealth, is not interested in encouraging religious and personal freedom.

But Saudi Arabia is the sworn enemy of Iran and all states and groups that are Shiite. Iran is the most vicious member of this group and a fomenter of senseless, religious-driven, violence.

For some reason the Obama administration believed it could negotiate with Iran, make a deal to stem the tide of nuclear proliferation in the area and become buddies with the ayatollahs. All Obama accomplished was a delay in Iran’s dream to have nukes. It was an inane and dangerous legacy ploy by the former president. And, along with Obamacare, the deal fell flat on its face.

Most importantly, Obama disregarded the US policy of no nuclear armaments for Iran that was in place since the early 1980s. He thought Iran would act responsibly with a nuclear bomb in their arsenal. Iran does not act diplomatically without a WMD, why would anyone think it would do otherwise with much greater military power?

The world is safer, although tensions between Iran the US have escalated. Trump is trying to renegotiate the nuke deal by imposing greater sanctions on the Iran regime. It seems to be having great effect.

Democrats have turned against the regime in Saudi Arabia. For the stability of the region, Trump must continue to look away from the distasteful actions by the Saudis. American voters are beginning to understand the importance of Saudi Arabia as a close ally of the US, in spite of recent unfortunate events.

  1. The relationship with Israel. The State of Israel is the most important ally of the US. Israel serves as a watchdog and outpost for the US, as the region becomes more dangerous every day. Since the establishment of the nation, the US has unequivocally supported and protected Israel’s right to exist. This has become a more difficult endeavor every year.

Most Jews in the US, even those that believe the current regime is too aggressive towards Palestine, want Israel to persevere and be available to those that are persecuted. Democratic antagonism towards the Israelis will hurt their chances in the national election. In the end, many Jews will support Trump because of this issue alone.

  1. Trump’s lousy attitude. Many Americans detest Trump’s personality. Yet he’s been getting results. Perhaps this aggressive demeanor is what America needed to stop the unfair arrangements that past president agreed to for diplomatic reasons. Trade deals, nuclear pacts, etc. need renegotiation even if we hurt some feelings along the way. Our determination to protect others is recognized sooner or later when nations are under distress and need a friend. Democrats are wasting their time criticizing Trump personally because a. he doesn’t care what they say, b. Trump’s base is with him to the bitter end and c. criticizing Trump’s personality is not going to turn the election.

Democrats, I know you won’t heed my warnings. After the 2020 elections you will be licking your wounds and wondering why you lost the presidency and so many congressional seats.

 

Do You Empathize With Felicity’s Punishment?

The focus of the press and the liberal media is becoming more outlandish every day.

Why does the Felicity Huffman affair receive so much attention from the press? Presumably, it’s because the woman is a famous actress caught up in a sordid incident. But does it warrant front-page coverage by the NY Times along side terrorist attacks, genocide and other major issues affecting America and the world? She made a paltry $10,000 payment to illicitly help her daughter obtain a higher SAT score. No one was injured, and no property was damaged. Is this really important news?

The Times and liberals would say yes. Actions by a wealthy family to enable a child to gain admission to a prestigious school are indicative of the inequality that pervades the country. Middle class families don’t have the resources to enlist proctors to change their kids’ answers on standardized tests.

Is it really necessary to toss Felicity in jail together with hardened criminals? Would significant community service together with a sizeable fine and the loss of acting opportunities be sufficient punishment? Nope. “Put the cheating woman in jail.” I hasten to point out that our prison system is actively freeing drug dealers and real, and honest-to-God, felons.

I understand the presiding judge wanted to set an example. But Felicity pleaded guilty, is remorseful and the crime is barely worth mentioning. Her plight is very different than other situations where wealthy families have given hundreds of thousands to greedy college employees and coaches to falsify their children’s participation in athletics to gain admission.

You say it’s the same as Huffman’s crime. I say the others are more conspiratorial involving bribes to a large group of participants.

The “tough on crime” readers are going to say “don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.” But the pendulum is swinging too far to the left as we incarcerate a misguided mom, who happens to be rich and famous, while we free many who have committed violent crimes.

Note: I do not know the Felicity Huffman.

Euthanasia Should Be Legal Throughout The US

I recently celebrated a birthday that officially puts me into the “old man” category. Frankly I’ve experienced a waterfall of emotions, some of which have been expressed on this blog.

I’ve returned to discuss a controversial topic of particular concern to the elderly. I’m not going to regurgitate data relating to the aging of America. Fact is Americans, on average, are getting older each year.

This phenomenon is a testament to superb efforts by doctors and researchers that ultimately enable us to more effectively fight disease. But there are some dark issues to this longevity bonanza.

You’ve heard the expression that most people spend more on medical care in their final years than they do during their early years. Instead of two or five years of intense medical attention, the older generation is now demanding five to ten years of intensive care.

The resulting impact on America is higher medical costs, greater insurance premiums and horrendous stress on our national health care infrastructure. If the country’s average life span increases every couple years, you can only imagine what will happen to medical costs (Medicare) and the stress on our hospitals and doctors. Wise politicians are already preparing their constituencies for some grim actions that will likely be necessary to avoid a more serious impact on our country’s financial resources.

Having a Medicare age of 65, when our average life expectancy is 70 is sensible. But does it make sense if our average life expectancy is greater than 80, and when most people work far beyond 65? The most obvious need is to delay Medicare a year or two or three, in the near future. Since this is one of the third rails of politics, making a change in Medicare age will be a monstrous undertaking.

But, what about our life styles? Is sitting in front of a TV a good life. Our nation needs to provide ways to keep our elderly intellectually active. It will necessitate great social change, including much more involvement of our adult children.

Having pains and increasingly more medical problems is the life the elderly face. Theoretically it’s better than the alternative. But, is it really? It would be interesting to measure the amount of pain and suffering that is acceptable to people of advanced age. To what degree will a person subject his or her self to pain to stay alive another year or two? Before you have a brush with significant discomfit, it’s natural to think you would always choose life. The opioid epidemic tells us otherwise. Americans take pills to avoid pain at an extremely high rate. In fact, the rate is so high that too many suffers become addicted and die from overdoses.

As a newly minted septuagenarian, I wake up every morning and stretch out all my aches and pain. They are a result of my age in conjunctions with playing contact sports when I was young, along with golf and skiing these days. At times the pain is significant, and I’m in the gym every day.

Others who are my age, more sedentary and suffering from debilitating issues such as arthritis have a very difficult time walking and getting through the day. These people are prime targets for opioid overuse.

The time may come when a serious ailment is too much to bear, or an amalgamation of pain is hard to live with. The choices are: 1. Suffer, 2. Take pain relievers such as opioids, 3. Commit suicide. There are no easy answers.

Let’s focus on the latter- euthanasia, a genteel way to describe ending one’s life. When we think about suicide, too often it results in thoughts about shooting or hanging oneself. But in reality many people move on to the afterlife in a relatively peaceful way in hospice, or with palliative care.

It’s stunning that so many are not in favor of a quick end to a suffering person’s life, yet, for years hospices have deprived individuals of food and water over the course of a few days to hasten death. Is spite of what many defenders say, palliative care is euthanasia by any other name. Similarly “pulling the plug” on life support is not considered murder, but it is an overt act against another human that ends their life.

There are a number of states that have approved euthanasia, and more should be coming around to the same decision over time. We deal with sick animals in a civilized manner by ending their lives to avoid suffering. Why don’t humans deserve the same consideration?

Like any situation involving life and death, it’s a complicated matter to deal with. For one thing euthanasia works best when the sufferer makes the final decision, beforehand in a living will, or on the spot if they are lucid. If third parties become involved the process can get messy. Consider people in a coma for a long period of time, whose relatives can’t find consensus about whether to pull the plug.

Euthanasia is not something available for convenience. Some families are too anxious to end a life if the person is difficult to deal with or using too many resources. Then again financial concerns can be a huge issue for a family that cannot afford intensive care for an extended time. The point is a death decision must be made with great care.

And finally there are religious strictures and busy bodies, who are not shy about sticking their noses in other people’s business. Euthanasia is a family issue. Government should provide guidelines and holy men should become involved only by invitation.

Taking one’s life is not a sin, should not be crime and should be a socially acceptable alternative for people in severe pain and suffering, mental and physical. I hope our politicians recognize this and make euthanasia more accessible.

 

Tennis’ Screwy Scoring System

It’s that time again, around Labor Day, when the US Open Tennis tournament is contested in NYC. The finals are upon us.

I’m sure you’ve always wondered where the bizarre scoring system in tennis originated. This began to rake on me over the last couple of days, so I researched it.

A player receives a score of 15 if he wins a point, 15 more for another point (for a total of 30), and 10 for the next point (for a total of 40). With an additional point, the player wins the game if he has two points more than his opponent in total. So if a player has 40 and wins another point, he wins, if his opponent has 30 or less. Pretty strange, isn’t it?

If a player has 40 and wins a point and his opponent also has 40, the former does not win the game, but has an advantage. If he wins the next point, the game is his.

That was really exhausting. The question of the day is where did this screwy system come from? As a matter of fact it reverts all the way back to medieval days in France when a clock was used to keep score. For the first two points of a game, the score goes to 15 (or quarter past the hour), then to 30 (or half past the hour). To ensure that a player wins by two points the third point is rewarded 10 (taking the clock to 40 past the hour. The score stays at 40 until one player has two points more than the other. I’m not convinced this all makes sense, but it’s what I found.

If both players have a score of 40, it is called “deuce,” which originates from the French a deux le jeu, or anyone can win (with two points in row). The term love, which means a player has no points, is l’oeuf in French. It means egg, which is the shape of a zero.

I think enough time has passed that we should transition to a simpler system. How about one, two, three and four? You agree? Probably not, if you are a purist and fond of tradition. I’m not. But all the scoreboards would need to be adjusted costing a pretty penny.

It’s also interesting to consider a number of other idiosyncrasies of tennis. The first that comes to mind is the misbehavior that is prevalent in many matches. Like most sports some of the players are prima donnas who think they can say and do anything without consequence. Men like John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase were bad boys and notorious for creating a stir at times when things were not going well on the court. There are ten officials making calls at any moment (if I counted correctly), so there’s plenty of opportunity to blow a decision.

One of the most egregious moments occurred during the 2018 Ladies final pitting Serena Williams against Naomi Osaka. Serena lost her mind, and the match, after being penalized for allegedly receiving signals from a coach. She acted in an unsportsmanlike fashion. Even worse, the NYC crowd continued to support Serena, and actually booed when Naomi won points and the match. I was present and was mortified by the behavior of Serena and my fellow NYers.

Tennis has been able to garner huge purses for the major tournaments. And it’s one of the only sports that men and women receive the same compensation. For first place both receive $3.850 million if they win, notwithstanding the fact that the men must win 3 out 5 and the women 2 out of 3. It’s a tribute to those who manage the tournaments that equality has prevailed.

The dress code of tennis is bifurcated between Wimbledon and the French Open, and the US Open and the Australian Open. Whites are required at Wimbledon, and the French are not going to allow certain types of dress prospectively, inspired by Serena Williams’ cat suit incident. The latter tournaments have no strict dress code. Serena this year sported a black onesie that looked like a wrestler’s outfit.

There are other great issues surrounding tennis, but I’ll stop here. The next time, I will reconstruct Rafa Nadal’s routine before he serves and returns a serve that includes a very unattractive underwear pull.

Organized Religions Have Not Been A Positive Influence

Since the beginning of time, man has looked to the sky and considered whether there is a greater power. Religions around the world flourished, each with their own personification of God. It’s estimated that there are 4,200 religions, 12 of which account for 83% of the global population.

The question is, do organized religions actually make the world more peaceful and secure? In recent centuries religious fervor has not been a positive influence. Millions of innocent people have been slaughtered in the name of one god or another.

Too often, evildoers justify their nefarious actions with their religious beliefs. There are many different opinions about the applicability and true intent of religion. It is indisputable that “holy men” have played a great part in disrupting our lives.

Between 1045 and 1492 Catholics went on a rampage and attempted to convert or exterminate those who worshipped God in a different way.

Radical Islamists in the Middle East, to this day, target those that do not bow to Allah. They refer to their sacred scriptures in justifying violent actions.

The Catholic Church has let its followers down many times over the centuries since Jesus Christ walked on this Earth. And today we know that sinful and misguided priests abused many of those that depended upon them for spiritual guidance. The disclosures began with sexual assault of boys. Then we found out priests were violating female members of their flocks. Nuns were assaulted. Even rampant priest on priest abuse has occurred.

The most horrible aspect of these revelations is that priests represent God to their followers. And, they used their positions of power to sate their most salacious obsessions.

Equally distressing is the fact that leaders of the Church have protected known abusers and relocated them from parish to parish in a cover-up that endangered even more innocents. In the meantime priests were telling us that eating meat on Friday, missing mass on Sunday and using birth control were mortal sins punishable by eternal damnation.

The current pope, Francis, was advertised as a man of change and action, but he has been a horrible disappointment. Francis has been slow to respond to accusations of abuse, cover-ups and other atrocities mentioned earlier. His objective, and those of his predecessors, is clear: protect the Church at all costs.

Similar to his predecessors, Frances has not been moved by the need for global birth control to stabilize population growth and foster disease prevention. It’s continues to be a mortal sin to use birth control.

And he has broken his promise to be more tolerant by not overtly recognizing gay and lesbian marriage. The Church continues to proclaim these relationships are sinful and unnatural. It’s crystal clear that the pope was cut out of the same cloth as the conservatives who elevated him to pope.

In the Middle East, Shiites and Sunnis fight for dominance of Islam. Holy men instruct their followers to terrorize, disrupt and kill fellow Muslims, who pray to the same Allah. Instead of bringing Muslims around the world together in peace, officials of Islam are endorsing brother versus brother violence.

Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are in a death struggle to overtake the Middle East and then the entire world. The US has reluctantly sided with Sunnis rather than trying to find a path to peace with Iran.

Evangelists have been unwilling to support the domestic tidal wave that endorses equal rights for the L,G,B,T,Q,I,A community. There is no conceivable societal benefit to be derived from the prohibition of same sex marriages. Every American, in fact, every citizen of the world, should be free to find and marry the one that they love. To fight this tsunami of tolerance and good faith is doing nothing more than making our world a more hostile place.

Frankly I couldn’t be less interested in the opinions of religious leaders relating to politics. I don’t care what Pope Francis thinks about Donald Trump. The pope should be focusing on his own problems and not others. Holy men around the world must work more diligently to clean their own houses and preach love, respect and comity to their followers.

There are good reasons why the US adopted a policy of separation of church and state at the outset of our nation. America is great today because we know that religion does not mix well with politics.

 

 

Did The Stones Perform For The Last Time?

While most Floridians were tying to avoid Dorian last Friday, Ali and I tempted fate and flew directly into the teeth of the storm to see the Rolling Stones perform their version of geriatric rock and roll in Miami.

 

I was born in a cross-fire hurricane
And I howled at the morning driving rain
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas
But it’s all right. I’m Jumpin’ Jack Flash
It’s a gas, gas, gas.

 

Hard Rock Stadium was filled to the rafters with young and old rockers wearing tee shirts with red tongues. The average age of attendees has been going down in recent years even as Mick and company (and the writer) get older.

I saw my first Stones concert in 1969 while I was in college. Jagger was in his Omega Man mode. I was flabbergasted 50 years ago and have continued to be blown away at each of the 12 (or so) subsequent concerts I attended. Note: I’ve seen the band play in every decade since the 1960s.

What’s most incredible is that Jqgger is 76 years young and the other three Stones are in their mid to late 70s. And, Mick had to delay this concert tour to have a stent inserted into his aorta. It didn’t stop the old rocker from bringing down the house on every concert date.

My wife and I risked life and limb because this may very well be the last time the Stones perform. We didn’t want to take any chances, so we had to attend this last stop on the current tour. How long can the band rock on? The Stones seem intent on pushing the boundaries. Note: Last night Ali and I attended a Who concert. It’s been a rocking weekend. Don’t even ask me which band reined supreme.

What drives these old guys? It can’t be money. Jagger and Richards are purportedly worth in the hundreds of millions. An extra million or five certainly isn’t going to change their lifestyles.

No, it’s something else. For Jagger it’s got to be playing to and receiving the adulation of 50-100,000 rabid fans. And they are not all 60 year-old coots. There were many young people in attendance at the stadium. Keep in mind “Satisfaction” was released in 1965. That’s 54 years ago. It’s still a popular denouement to every performance along with “Gimme Shelter,” which was released in 1969.

So long as people around the world are willing to pay hundreds of dollars to see the Stones perform, and pay exorbitant prices for tee shirts and other paraphernalia, the Stones will persevere.

Back to the concert. Jagger (age 76) was not as spry as in other concerts I’ve attended. He still undulates and dances across the stage, but it’s with a tad less athleticism. Note: For an older guy, he is in remarkable physical condition. He still gets high marks for turning on the crowd. The more he gyrates sexually, the more the fans respond. Mick always seems to get particularly sexual during his duet during “Gimme Shelter.” Unfortunately I don’t have the name of the woman who performed last Friday. But ever since Merry Clayton played Jagger’s foil, it’s been a great moment at every concert. Guest singers have been numerous including Fergie a few years ago. Check it out on YouTube. It’s amazing.

Keith Richards (age 75) was solid as a rock, or should I say a stone. He was in the background most of the time, but he continues to be one of the all-time great rock guitarists. In the past concerts there was tension between Jagger and Richards. I saw none in this performance. After about 60 years the two mega stars have learned to live with and appreciate each other. One thing is that Richards is still trying to prove he can sing. Every concert has him doing a couple of songs. I think he should stick to his forte, just play guitar, Keith.

Ron Wood is the youngest Stone at 72. I met Ron and chatted with him at a New York restaurant a while back. He was very cordial and polite. Wood is still trying to live up to being a Stone. He’s been awarded a few songs where he is lead guitarist. It’s a futile mission playing second fiddle (I mean guitar) to the best rock showman of all time and a man who is one of the greatest guitarists in the world.

Charlie Watts, at 78, is the old man of the group. He’s quiet and content in his role as drummer. There seems to be great affection towards this excellent musician by the band.

In a nutshell, Ali and I had an amazing journey. We took a chance and everything worked out. The Stones changed the performance date from Saturday to Friday because of Dorian. I’ll bet not many of the original ticketholders missed the show.

Will the Stones play again? I hope so. If they do, be sure to attend.