Stupidity Hits Embarrassment Levels For Republican Party

A new Economist/YouGov poll finds 53% of Republicans said Donald Trump was a better president than Abraham Lincoln, while 47% chose the Civil War-era leader.  There is NO way that those who responded in the majority to this polling question read a single volume about Lincoln, or has any shred of knowledge about the time period in which Abe lived.  Stunningly stupid is the only conclusion one can make about the GOP.

Lincoln still overwhelmingly beats Trump among all Americans, 75 percent to 25 percent, with the vast majority of Democrats and independents choosing the former president.  That number is also a damning indictment of the educational level of this nation.  How can that 25% possibly be so ill-informed?

The Economist/YouGov weekly tracking poll surveyed 1,500 Americans from Nov. 24 to Nov. 26 and has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.


Winston Churchill Trivia

In the summer of 1910……Churchill sat on the cowcatcher of a special train the whole 260 miles of the British-built railway to Aydin in Turkeys’ Aegean region.   That nugget is found on page 142 of Churchill: Walking With Destiny. 

This was not the first time Andrew Roberts informs readers of this way to see the sights ‘the Churchill way’.  In the first example, we are told that he strapped a chair to the cowcatcher to ride the rails.  What would have happened had the cowcatcher needed to fulfill its role is left to the imagination.

To say I am totally taken by this book and the story of an epic life, would not sum up how I feel this weekend.   As I am turning the pages the quote from Harry Truman comes to mind.

“There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.”


William Ruckelshaus’s Death Makes Us Ponder Lack Of Integrity Today


Over this holiday period, I learned of the death of William Ruckelshaus.  He died on Wednesday at the age of 87.

I do wish to pay him honor at Caffeinated Politics for what he did in 1973.  He made for one of those moments in history which we all need to be aware of, and recognize as the way we should wish for all federal employees to act.

Ruckelshaus resigned as deputy attorney general rather than carry out President Richard Nixon’s illegal order to fire the independent special Watergate prosecutor in the constitutional crisis of 1973 known as the “Saturday Night Massacre.  Now I fully understand he had an amazing career and his part that night decades ago should not be his legacy.  But given how much I write on this blog about character, and the need for virtue in public servants means that stressing his role at that time needs to be underscored.

Readers of history will recall that by the time of that famed Saturday night Nixon had already lost many of his closest associates.  By that time Ruckelshaus had been named acting head of the F.B.I.. The reason for that placement was due to his predecessor having allowed Nixon aides to examine Watergate files and had even destroyed evidence in the case.  Then he was named the top deputy to the attorney general.

On the night of the massacre, Nixon ordered his top three Justice Department officials, one after another, to fire the Watergate prosecutor, Archibald Cox, rather than comply with his subpoena for nine incriminating Oval Office tape recordings.  Ruckelshaus refused to fire Cox and resigned, as it should be noted his own dismissal was being issued by the White House.  Attorney General Elliot Richardson also resigned that night and serves as another shining example of principle and adherence to law and order. 

We need more people like Ruckelshaus in the government today.  People who are experts in their field, doing their jobs with honor and mindful of the Constitution.   Consider the need to even write such lines, or use a blog post to make such a point.  Yes, he was a man of courage in harsh political times.  But is it not a sad statement, especially about our current crisis, that honesty, decency, and sound character is considered to be extraordinary, rather than the norm?

Integrity matters.  It did then.  It does now.

Pete Buttigieg Crafting Message For National Race

What creates a winning hand, with a diverse electorate, is always the key when it comes to waging a fight for the presidential nomination.  Pete Buttigieg has intrigued me, again and again, with his tone and ‘sales pitch’ as he works for a win in Iowa.  He is very intelligent and that impresses me greatly.  But he is also proving to have a skill set with campaigning which is most important to what will be required for a Democrat to prevail in 2020.  What he is doing in Iowa will play well for large swaths of the nation.  Watch his messaging in the next few weeks.

As Mr. Buttigieg, 37, looks to solidify his support in the remaining weeks before the Democratic primary season begins, he has found a wellspring of enthusiasm among a critical bloc of voters more frequently associated with Joseph Biden: older white Americans.”

“During a burst of campaign stops in Iowa this week, his first trip to the state since a Des Moines Register/CNN poll showed him with a commanding, nine-point lead here, Mr. Buttigieg repeatedly made appeals to older Iowans that were hardly subtle. ‘We’ve got to act not just to shore up Social Security but to make sure everybody can retire and live in dignity,’ he said at a rally on Monday evening in Council Bluffs, Iowa. ‘Call it my ‘Gray New Deal.’’

Trump’s Golf Sprees Cost Taxpayers $115 Million

It comes as no shock that Donald Trump will say anything, and his supporters will swallow hook, line, and sinker any words that he spews.  While a substantial share of his political base comes from the lower economic brackets one does wonder if they are aware of what the word hypocrisy means?  

With his Thanksgiving vacation, President Donald Trump’s golf hobby has now cost Americans an estimated $115 million in travel and security expenses ― the equivalent of 287 years of the presidential salary he frequently boasts about not taking.

Of that amount, many hundreds of thousands ― perhaps millions ― of dollars have gone into his own cash registers, as Secret Service agents, White House staff and other administration officials stay and eat at his hotels and golf courses.

The exact amount cannot be determined because the White House refuses to reveal how many Trump aides have been staying at his properties when he visits them and will not turn over receipts for the charges incurred.

In response to a HuffPost query on Wednesday asking if she knew how many administration officials other than herself are staying at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, during his Thanksgiving stay, and how much it is all costing, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham responded with a one-word answer: “No.”

But lawsuits filed by news organizations and watchdog groups against other executive branch agencies ― the White House is exempt from Freedom of Information Act queries ― have revealed payments totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, arguably in violation of the Constitution’s domestic emoluments clause, which prohibits Trump from accepting benefits beyond his salary from the federal or any state government.

ProPublica, for example, found that Mar-a-Lago charged taxpayers $546 a night for rooms ― three times the per-diem rate and the maximum allowed by federal rules ― for 24 Trump administration officials who stayed there during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2017. Taxpayers also picked up a $1,006.60 bar tab for 54 top shelf drinks ordered by White House staff.

Letter From Home “Thankfulness Over Small Things” 11/26/19

With Thanksgiving just a couple days away it struck me several hours ago as to what continues to make me smile. And what I give thanks for as we reflect on life at this time of year.

James had a hair cut at the salon where Tina, a long-time friend, does more than clip and style.  She is a fount of laugher and endless conversations which often makes me wish that James had longer hair so to make his time in the chair last for just ‘one more story’.

While the two of them were laughing I noticed on my iPad that a homeowner in our neighborhood had inquired about assistance with a matter at a city office.  He and his wife both took jobs this year in Montana but needed to resolve a matter with their home on the isthmus.   I wrote back and told him to consider the matter resolved as we could deal with it.

When I was writing back and forth to our friend out west Tima asked why I did not just dictate my comment and send it.  I know befuddlement is often seen on my face, and there is no doubt that was registered again when I asked: “What are you talking about”?

She came over to me and pointed to the lower left side of the keyboard.  In all my years I had never noticed the microphone key or questioned what it could be used for.   Neither James nor I use cell phones and so the idea of just talking and have the text typed and then sent online was a smile making moment.   We are the ones who show up her home to set up a new computer and offer advice on anti-viral programs and the like.  So when she was able to show me something most useful with technology it made for a great smile on her face, too.

I am tech-savvy–really—though the above story might belie that comment.  For instance, I have poured myself into mastering the aspects of Audacity required for my upcoming podcasts.  I head to the third-floor recording studio of our home with cups of coffee and have thrilled, after hours of tutorials, when something ‘click’s and another turn of the wheel takes place for my projects.  (It was so much easier at the radio studio when in my 20’s to get the desired results!)

Those small victories in my life are what makes for genuine smiles. Smiling over the big things in life regarding homes and cars and a host of related topics is easy to achieve.  But when it comes to the day-to-day joy in life it always comes down to the simple things, the things which should not be taken for granted, or the ones that are right in front of our face every day!

Like a key with a microphone icon on it!

James might lament today’s discovery.  ‘Just another reason for Gregory to talk’.  At times James will say he has never known a time when I was not talking.  I banter back that is why there was never any ‘dead air’ at the radio station when I was behind the microphone.  Trust that will be the same for my podcasting.

As you think about what makes your list of reasons to be thankful I hope there are many small things that only you understand as to why you treasure them.

And Happy Thanksgiving!


Judge’s Ruling Requires White House Testimony–Checks And Balances Working

I wonder whose job it was at the White House yesterday to inform Donald Trump that he is not a king.  That his powers are limited to the laws of the United States.   That in spite of his claim that he can do whatever he likes there are brakes to be applied by the nation to reign in his actions.  Yes, I wonder who told him that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia handed him a blow to his autocratic dreams?

Following the ruling yesterday former White House counsel Donald McGahn must testify before House impeachment investigators about Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Mueller inquiry.  The rationale for the ruling comes down to the fact senior presidential aides must comply with congressional subpoenas.  Terming the administration’s arguments to severely limit and restrict such testimony as ‘fiction.’ and adding  ‘Presidents are not kings’ must have sent Orange Mussolini into a rage in the White House.

Meanwhile, citizens can take comfort in knowing another example of checks and balances is working for our republic, as the Founders desired.

There will be appeals, no doubt.  But the ruling nonetheless is weighty and correct.  The Trump administration has no sweeping claim that top presidential advisers are absolutely immune from being compelled to talk about their official duties.  And even more powerful was the judge making sure there was no doubt that also means the same for those who worked on national security issues.

I find this ruling most appropriate as it sums up the basic ‘contract’ we have as citizens to society so to make sure law and order is maintained.  Subpoenas relating to presidential misconduct must have a recognition they can not be just tossed aside.  If I were to be subpoenaed it would require me to appear or face the justified consequences.  No one at the White House is protected from this obligation.  There is no “get out of jail free” card that comes with a White House pass.

Laws and order matter.

And so it goes.

International Students At Our Dinner Table, “Too Many Who Hold A Rifle Never Have Held A Pen”

I have long contended the best way to spend time is with a great meal and leisurely conversation.  The only way to improve on that is to add some international flavor to the faces around the table.   Such was the case at our home.

Two international students, Manzoor from Pakistan, and Ferit from Turkey found out how some of the traditional Thanksgiving foods are served and tasted.  As they enjoyed the flavor of an early holiday the remarkable dinner conversation will go down as one of the best that has taken place this year around our table.

Both of the men are in college and are also immersing themselves in American culture when they are not cracking the books.  They are older than the traditional students so their level of maturity and seriousness was already known to us.  After all, they had been invited to our home weeks ago but felt they could not take the time away from studying.   They wanted to keep pace with others in the class. There are certainly relatives on the other side of the globe that can be mighty proud.

What struck me about both of these people is the insightful way they view the world.  Traveling to other lands does provide that larger clue to how all the international pieces can fit together.

Both Manzoor and Ferit connected the dots from viewing our news coverage that much of the real story is never told about international events.  The old saying ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ when speaking of what gets press attention was not lost on our dinner guests.   They each found that troubling as the real story of nations far from our shores is not really known to Americans.

Manzoor lamented that too many people think that all of Pakistan is in disarray and turmoil.  In fact, it is not.  He spoke of most Pakistanis not being embroiled in the tensions that make the front pages of the newspapers.  Islamic extremists are a small minority of his country.   Manzoor says he would estimate that apart from the region near Afghanistan only 1% of  Pakistan is made up of Islamic fundamentalists.

As a tour guide in the mountain regions near China Manzoor spoke of the 20 languages that one can find in his country.  He speaks three of them, and also English.  I reminded him that some Americans can barely speak one.

Both of the men follow Islam and resembled every other person of that faith I have ever met.  In other words, the average every-day people.  I wished that all those who have grabbed headlines this year for anti-Muslim remarks could have eaves-dropped into our kitchen.

After all, it is all about education.

When I asked about the clerics who foment divisiveness in Pakistan Manzoor said: “Too many who hold a rifle never have held a pen.”   The line was direct and perfect.  All the ills of the world boil down to a lack of education.

Manzoor spoke fondly of Greg Mortenson and the work he does in the region by building schools.  The book “Three Cups Of Tea” and the work behind it is the source of hope for many.  Educating children and changing realities is where we should be spending our money and time when it comes to foreign aid dollars.

Both of these guys were more in touch with life and priorities than many men their age I know in America.  I am sure it has everything to do with how they were raised, and the culture they carry with them.  It was so refreshing.  So noticeable.  There was no macho type of language or attitude.  It was a level of genuineness that made for easy laughs and deeper thoughts to be voiced.

Ferit spoke about the need for traditions to be honored.  He asked about how Thanksgiving and Christmas were spent, and James and I told of our childhoods.  We spoke of the old ornaments that hang on the Christmas tree, and special foods that transport us back to childhood memories.  We told of the stockings and how Santa visited.  Ferit spoke of watching American films about Christmas when he was younger and wanting Santa to stop at his home.

Several times Ferit made note of the importance of honoring one’s heritage.  That to me was wonderful to hear from someone of an age where that type of sentiment is rarely heard.  He spoke of values and used the word over and over.  That was not lost on me.  It made me aware again that good parenting is priceless.

The taste of apple pie has made quite an impact on Ferit during his time in Madison.  With the promise that we would get him the recipe for his mom back home, we, in turn, served homemade pumpkin pie.  With a smile, I told him he needed to learn how to put on whipped cream topping.  “You need more!” I told him after he had only added a small spoonful.

At the end of our meal and conversation, Ferit looked at me and stated he needed to ask for permission.  I thought he wanted to use the bathroom and was about to say ‘down the hallway’.  But he quickly added that it was a custom to ask permission to end the meal and leave.  I looked at Manzoor and he added it was also customary in Pakistan as well.  It was perhaps the most polite ending to a meal I have ever encountered.

I wanted to ask, “what happens if people say no”  but left that joke for another day and another meal.

As they left our home I thought of how big the world is, and how little of it I come in real contact with.  I also was left with the wonderful sense of something I have long felt.

People are so much more alike than we are different.  That fact was again made clear thanks to Ferit and Manzoor.

I thought this blog post above from 2010 needed to be posted again given the tone of too many of our national political discussions and xenophobia which continues across the land.  Many a night over the years at our home in Madison James has invited people from the college who had grown up in places as far away as Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, or Russia to have a meal and share in conversations.  To talk about culture and history and ideas over a long evening with someone with differing perspectives remains among some of the most memorable times at our dinner table.