LET’S BAN PENNIES – Marilyn Armstrong

I got an email from AT&T. It was alarming. I was overdue on my bill! They were going to report me to collection agencies, send it to all those companies that decide whether or not you deserve to have a credit card or a mortgage.

I was surprised because I paid the bill. On-time. Online. I know I did.

Obverse side of a 1990 issued US Penny. Pictur...

So, after resetting my password — it doesn’t matter how many times I set my password … the next time I go to AT&T’s website, I will have to do it again — I looked at my bill. Somehow, I had underpaid the bill by a penny.

One cent. $00.01

In retribution for my oversight, AT&T said they would sic the collection agencies on me. I deserve to pay heavily for this lapse in fiscal responsibility. Though I think it was their error, not mine, but let’s not quibble.

There are many battles to fight in life. One must pick amongst them lest one be overwhelmed. This giant corporation is going to destroy my credit for want of a penny. This is what happens when computers run the world and no people monitor what they are doing. I’m sure this was all automatically generated.

I am sure if I’d called them, they would have canceled the bill. but that would take even more time and effort. I fondly believe my time, even retired, is worth more than a penny.

So I paid the bill. I wasn’t actually sure my bank would let me pay a one-cent bill, but they did.

One cent. Just one cent. Mind-boggling.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! – Marilyn Armstrong, with Photos by Garry Armstrong

November 28, 2019 – Happy Thanksgiving


I couldn’t do this on Thanksgiving. The day was spent with family and chopping things for Waldorf Salad (https://wp.me/p2bT5l-1d8VE1), a roast leg of lamb, baked potatoes (which didn’t get eaten, still in the fridge), little potatoes cooked with the roast (they did get eaten), hot rolls, and green beans.

With fresh apple cider. There were apple pie and strawberry rhubarb pie for dessert — but we didn’t make it to dessert, either.


We passed along the apple pie and have been enjoying the strawberry-rhubarb pie. We sent leftovers, and today, with the last piece of lamb, I made a great little lamb curry. I have to admit, the curry is my favorite part of the lamb. All those yummy spices. Oh, and the salad went over very well.

I was too busy to take pictures, but Garry picked up the camera and here are a few. There were only four of us in the end. Sandy had to work. Healthcare workers often have to work on holidays. So do reporters, fire-fighters, police and, of course, retail workers.

Garry always worked on Thanksgiving until after we got married, but took Christmas off. Now we are both just plain OFF. All the time.

Gotta love retirement.

Deutsche Bank Executive Found Dead

Or, as Judy Dykstra-Brown said: “Curioser and curioser.”

A lot from Lydia

Thomas Bowers, identified as the former Deutsche Bank executive who signed off on loans to tRump at a time when no US bank would take the risk on the six-time bankruptcy filing scam artist, died at the age of 55.

Bowers was found dead, of an apparent suicide, ten days ago in California.

This is the second case of a potential witness in a position to offer damning information on tRump, found hanging. Pedophile sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was the first.

A similar tactic can be found in Putin’s playbook, although in that case, witnesses are typically thrown out of windows and are considered to be victims of the “Russian flew.”

I am reminded that we have never received answers to the following—

  • Why did Supreme Court Justice Kennedy retire so abruptly after meeting with Trump, Ivanka, and Kushner?
  • What role did SCOTUS Kennedy’s son, tRump’s contact at Deutsche Bank…

View original post 38 more words

GROWLING AT THE SQUIRRELS – Marilyn Armstrong

I’m sorry no one took pictures this morning before I decided that they’d already knocked off most of the seeds in two 4-1/2-pound feeders. No matter what they think, they are going to have to get at least some of their food somewhere else.

But it was funny. There were two squirrels clinging to each wired feeder and literally, a line of squirrels on the rail of the fence. There must have been at least ten squirrels on the deck and the feeders. There was also a tiny chipmunk on the deck and all the birds waiting in the nearby trees, waiting for me to do whatever I do so they could have a little bit of lunch.

I opened the top of the Dutch door and explained, in my best dulcet tones, that we had already discussed this business of endless eating. They dead-eyed me. I swear they did. They wouldn’t budge. I could hear their little squirrelly brains thinking: “She won’t do anything anyway. All she does is yell at us.” They kept eating while ignoring me.

I opened the screen door and starting growling. I’ve been practicing. Obviously talking to them hasn’t done the job. Growling works for the Duke. It worked pretty well for me except for that one big fat guy who would NOT leave feeder. Then, after dropping the few inches to the railing stared right back at me. For all I know he was growling too.

I finally went out onto the deck and chased him around until he finally gave up and leapt for the nearest tree. I went to get a cup of coffee while he and two of his best buds came back to the feeders. I wasn’t gone longer than a minute or two. Those guys are FAST.

I did some more running around the deck while growling — with a little background help from the Duke himself.

Oh, how much he’d like to join in the festivities. We never do anything really fun and he wanted to come outside and play too. My problem is I’m afraid he’ll try to jump the fence and that’s a long first step. The birds like to dive off the feeders, waiting until they are nearly on the ground before opening their wings, but I don’t think this would work out well for the Duke. It’s that whole “lack of wings” thing.


Actually, I wish someone had videoed me and the squirrels chasing around our 12-foot by 12-foot deck. It’s not a very big deck. It was like one of those 1920s cartoons with the mice and the farmer chasing each other around the kitchen table.

I was trying to figure out if there was a way I could put in a special squirrel feeding station and maybe they’d do their eating over there and let the birds eat … but then I realized they would eat everything in their feeder and when they were finished, they’d be back.

They aren’t going to leave. Ever. If there is food, they will be lining up, wearing their bibs. I hope they bring their own utensils. I wouldn’t want them to be stopped by not having the proper nutcracker!

BLUE BIRDS OF HAPPINESS – Marilyn Armstong

I kept wondering why I never saw a bluebird. Ever. Not here or in New York. And I know they live here. But this morning I got up and looked out my back windows and the deck was full of bluebirds!

A good sign for Thanksgiving, isn’t it? Here are some of them.

Two bluebirds

Bluebird and Chickadee

And the Chickadee is about to take off!

Bluebird on the fence rail

HAPPY 187TH BIRTHDAY LOUISA MAY ALCOTT – Marilyn Armstrong

women's suffrage-2In an alternate universe, Louisa May Alcott would be 187 today. In my alternate universe, we all live — as a matter of course — to at least 200. And because of our extended life span, we are better custodians of our earth recognizing that we will have to live in the mess we make of tomorrow when we despoil our world today.

Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888) was an American novelist and poet, best known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868) and its sequels Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886).

Raised by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott in New England, she also grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau.

Bronson Alcott was a dreamer, not an earner. The result was that her family went through extended periods of dire poverty and Louisa was required to work to help support the family from very early on.

louisa_may_alcott_5c_1940_stampPublished in 1868, Little Women is set in the Alcott family home, Orchard House, later renamed Hillside, then the Wayside, in Concord, Massachusetts and is loosely based on an idealized portrait of Alcott’s childhood experiences growing up with her three sisters. Real life was much harder than the life she lived in “Little Women.”

“Little Women” was high successful almost immediately.

As Joan Goodwin explains, “from this point on Louisa May Alcott was a victim of her own success. Though she yearned to do more serious fiction, children’s books flowed from her pen for the rest of her life because their sales supported her family. Louisa herself wrote, “Twenty years ago, I resolved to make the family independent if I could. At forty that is done. Debts all paid, even the outlawed ones, and we have enough to be comfortable. It has cost me my health, perhaps; but as I still live, there is more for me to do, I suppose.”

Following in her mother’s path, Alcott pursued women’s rights with fervor, enlisting the aid of famous colleagues such as Thoreau and Hawthorne to her cause.

Goodwin goes on to write that now “Alcott gave her energy to practical reforms, women’s rights, and temperance. She attended the Women’s Congress of 1875 in Syracuse, New York, where she was introduced by Mary Livermore. She contributed to Lucy Stone’s Woman’s Journal while organizing Concord women to vote in the school election. ‘

“I was the first woman to register my name as a voter,’ she wrote. “Drove about and drummed up women to my suffrage meeting. So hard to move people out of the old ruts.” And again, “Helped start a temperance society much-needed in Concord]. I was the secretary, and wrote records, letters, and sent pledges, etc.”

orchard-house-contemporary

Orchard House, Concord, Massachusetts

Louisa continued to publish children’s books, and in 1880, after her sister, May, died after childbirth, she adopted May’s baby who was named for Louisa, but called “Lulu.” In 1882, after her father suffered a stroke, Louisa settled the remaining members of her family at 10 Louisburg Square. Her own health was failing. It is generally believed from her pictures and other descriptions that she suffered from Lupus. There was little knowledge of Lupus at that time. No cure or medicine to lessen its impact. Louisa moved “from place to place in search of health and peace to write, settling at last in a Roxbury nursing home,” according to Joan Goodwin.

Jo March - By Madame Alexander

Jo March – By Madame Alexander

Her father, Bronson Alcott, who she faithfully tended even as her own health declined, died on March 4, 1888. Louisa outlived him by only two days. She passed away at age fifty-six.

She had known her death was near, despite her relative youth. She had adopted her widowed sister Anna’s son John Pratt to whom she willed her copyrights. Through him, all income from her books would be shared amongst her nieces and nephews — Anna, Lulu, John, and Anna’s other son Fred.

Louisa May Alcott never married, in part because the right person eluded her — but ultimately because she was unwilling to give up her freedom and personal power to a husband.

Louisa May Alcott was buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord on “Author’s Ridge” near Thoreau and Emerson. A Civil War veteran’s marker graces her gravestone. During her lifetime, she produced nearly three hundred books, but the one almost everyone remembers is “Little Women.”

PROVOCATIVE QUESTION #50: REDOING LIFE? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #50

So this week’s question is:

My answer is exceedingly simple.

Hell, no.

I’ve enjoyed my life. Even the bad stuff was interesting. One of the things Garry and I love about getting old together is that we don’t feel like we missed anything. We did everything we could as often as we could. We didn’t get to every city or every historic site, but we did a lot and it was tons of fun.

It wasn’t great for our longterm financial future, but damn, we have wonderful memories. And because we’ve known each other so long, many of those memories are together — before we were married.

There are pieces of my life I wish I could fix, but life, as a whole, has been fascinating — good, bad, and in between!

THE POINT OF THE HOLIDAY IS GRATITUDE – Marilyn Armstrong

I know that theoretically “Thanksgiving” is about gratitude. Personally, I think it’s much more about overeating than gratitude, but call me skeptical. At age 72, I’ve can remember probably 50 to 60 Thanksgiving dinners and while none of them were particularly unpleasant or angry, (no hostile relatives and no arguments allowed), none of them celebrated anything except food and sometimes, getting to see people you only saw once or twice a year during holidays.


It’s really not my favorite holiday. Firstly, I’m not fond of turkey. The small ones taste better, but are hard to find unfrozen. The big ones take so long to cook, by the time they are done they taste like stuffed dust. So we usually have something else.

It used to be ham, but recently it has been lamb. This year, we aren’t sure. Owen says if they don’t have the right size piece of lamb, he’ll get some kind of beef roast. Garry pointed out that neither of us eats very much, so try not to get into a bankruptcy level of food. (NOTE: It’s lamb!)


We bought a couple of pies — a Dutch apple and a Strawberry-Rhubarb, plus little rolls that need to be baked and a gallon of apple cider. I’m thinking of getting some apples and celery and adding all my walnuts with a bit of sour cream and mayonnaise. Surprise the crowd with something different.

It’s not much of a crowd, but it’s the whole family.

Moving on to music, the hymn du jour is “We Gather Together.” Why do I like the song? Well, the words of the hymn were changed and it became my High School’s “song.” It always made me laugh every time I was supposed to be singing the hymn. Somehow, my high school’s song popped up.

So I’m not particularly sentimental about the holiday. It’s hard for me to celebrate eating when I eat so little, but it is a chance to actually get everyone together on the same day, same time, same station.


And I still say that anyone who wants to work on any holiday should feel okay about it. Not everyone has a family with whom to celebrate — or a family with whom they want to celebrate. For many people, it’s an opportunity to make a little extra money and in a many families, overtime is a big deal.

Stop warning me how I should care more about the holiday. I’m glad there IS a holiday, but as far as how one celebrates? I’m in favor of complete freedom. Complete personal freedom. I really believe in it. And frankly, as a non-Christian? I’m extremely tired of being ordered around by Christians who believe they own the road to god. Until God tells me him or herself, it’s just someone else’s opinion.

THE REST OF THE STORY – Garry Armstrong

The “LBJ IN VIETNAM” post triggered something I’d forgotten for maybe 45 years  — or more. You said: “There should be more to the story,” which was very gracious.  The story has been posted many times, leaving me wondering whether people are tired of hearing it. Quien sabe?

There IS more.  I realized this in my “thinking room” as I shaved. There is more but it doesn’t involve LBJ directly. It involves Tip O’Neil. This happened on the day we got a pic of Tip and me that’s been around the block myriad times.

This is how I recall it.

LBJ vietnam 1967

Tip and I were having liquid lunches at a bar we frequented near the Boston TV station where I worked and across the street from a funeral home run by the brother of a famous Boston mobster. That’s another story, as Lou Jacobi might’ve said.

Tip at Boston Statehouse

Tip and I were swapping tales between long slugs of lunch. I told him I had a LBJ story he’d love. Tip interrupted me, “Hold on, Garry. Betcha I know the story. LBJ, Vietnam and you”.  I stared at the venerable Speaker of the House and my fellow imbiber.  He just smiled as I stared.  I slowly nodded.

Tip began, savoring lunch and the story. “LJ told me about the night in Vietnam, the night he was pondering whether to run again in ’68. LJ told me he was very confused, torn at the decision he didn’t want to make”.

I nodded and Tip continued. “So LJ’s nipping at his bottle around the Vietnam campfire with you guys. He wasn’t pleased about the local civvies and the Washington coat-holders being there. He did like having the GIs, the Vietnamese, and our guys.”

Tip, who clearly was just warming up, a smile spreading over that big Irish “boy-o” face that intimated so many DC pols.

“Anyway, Garry, LJ told me about spinning stories, ragging on about the same bullshit I deal within the House and Senate.  It’s like dealing with hacks and amateurs, lemme tell ya, Garry. But you know this shit, Pal. I don’t hafta tell ya.”

I smiled and on he went. No stopping Tip now.

“Garry, Gar?  What the hell do the guys call you?  I heard some calling you “Ka-Ching” and “The Samoan”. What’s with that crap, Garry-O?”

“More stories, another time, Mr. Speaker,” I answered.

Tip commented, “Cut the Mr. Speaker, crap, here, Garr-ree”.

I smiled and saluted as he continued.

“So, where was I? Oh, yeah.  LJ is regaling you guys with the beans, that ‘Nam meat crap and his hooch. LJ sez he was really rolling, having his jollies and you were — maybe — the only guy listening to him. He sez cut loose with a couple of BIG farts — those beans will kill ya. LJ sez it felt so good to fart, but you were almost holdin’ your nose. He figured to have fun.  He remembered you as that polite, young colored reporter. No disrespect, Garry, that’s how LJ described you.”

“Did he call me SHORT”  I interrupted.

Tip guffawed. “No, he said you had nice hair with a silly part in the middle — old fashioned. Nothing about being short.  But, hey, kid — you’re not exactly a John Henning (a local, respected journalist, probably 6’5″ and a helluva good guy). No disrespect, Garry. Hey — Billy Bulger? (Senate President and brother of the noted mobster Whitey Bulger).

Billy’s a little guy but talks big.  Okay, where wuz I? Oh, yeah. LJ tells me about facing you up about your stinko look.  You apparently backed down and LJ loved it. You, I believe, got him with stuff about cowboy movies?”

I nodded, trying to remember.

Tip: “LJ sez he told you that cowboy campfires didn’t smell pretty. LJ liked that ol’ Gregory Peck “Gunfighter” sweatshirt you wore. You impressed him with your interview with Peck (I’d interviewed the star a few years earlier at my alma mater, Hofstra University. Peck gave me the sweatshirt).”

Tip continued, “Garry, you told LJ that Gregory Peck turned down “High Noon” because he’d just done “The Gunfighter” and didn’t want to do another western so quickly.”

I nodded and Tip went on. “LJ was really fascinated about that little piece of Hollywood info. He loved westerns and, boy, I got to tell ya, LJ was impressed with your knowledge of westerns, good and bad ones which he remembered from his days growing up in Texas. LJ was looking forward to seeing you again to talk about cowboy movies. Dammit, Garry, you had a fan in LJ”.

Garry with Tip O’Neill

I just sat there stunned as Tip O’Neill rambled on, his smile getting bigger and bigger. We stared at our now empty glasses. Tip sighed heavily, shoving my hand aside as he paid the tab.

He got up slowly, Tip patting me on the shoulder, “Garry, I love these chats. Better than the crap I gotta listen to most of the day”. We walked out into the sunlight, cursing its brightness after our time inside the darkened bar.

Tip looked down at me, “See ya, Pal. Have a good day. Don’t let the bastards get ya”.

Before parting company, Tip and I were photographed. I was showing him my new wristwatch. It looked like I was selling him some hot merchandise.

DEATH OF A PRESIDENT – Marilyn Armstrong

THE END OF INNOCENCE, THE BEGINNING OF THE NIGHTMARE

Last Friday was the day. Now, fifty-six years later, I feel like that was the beginning of our national nightmare. At the time, everyone remembered exactly where they were and what they were doing when President Kennedy was assassinated. Then came 9/11 and now, 18 years afterward, kids don’t remember it and their parents don’t tell them. And of course, we’re grandparents and no one listens to us.

That day in November was the beginning of a nightmare. We didn’t see it then. We thought things were looking good, but really, they were getting worse. We didn’t know that the little scuffle that started while Kennedy was President and continued through Lyndon Baines Johnson who, had he avoided Vietnam, might have been one of our best presidents.

Then there was Nixon. All of this has coiled around and begun to choke us.

I was 13 when Kennedy was elected. I watched the inauguration on television, the first of many inaugurations I would watch. It was the greatest inaugural speech. I was naïve enough to believe he wrote it himself. I was impressed by his hair, the best hair of any President before or since. Especially after 8 years of President Dwight D. Eisenhower — who was very bald.

John-F.-Kennedy

In 1963 I turned 16. I started college. Kennedy was shot in November and somehow, the world tilted slightly and it all changed. I’m sure every person old enough to know anything would remember where they were when they heard the news. It was a landmark event, a turning point in American history. For many of us, it was as if we’d bungee jumped and the elastic snapped. Then there was a long fall downward. I think it was the beginning of our national depression. Note that now we have a national case of high blood pressure. No, really. It’s true.

I was in the cafeteria at Hofstra University. I had a cup of tea in my hand and was about to sit. The public address system in the cafeteria went on. There was a lot of noise, but gradually it grew quiet. It was a news report and it took a few minutes to recognize what they were saying, to form a context and understand that this was real. Someone had shot our President.

A few minutes later, everyone fell silent. Hundreds of students, sitting or standing. No one moving, no one talking. I stood at the table. Frozen. I never sat. I stood in the same spot for over an hour, holding that cup of tea, cooling in my hand. Until the voice on the loudspeaker said “President Kennedy is dead. The President is dead.”

Gradually, everyone drifted away. Subdued. Silent.

I found my boyfriend. We wandered around for a few hours. We didn’t do anything. Just roamed the campus, dazed. This kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen, not in the United States. Eventually, when it was dark, I went home. My mother wanted to know where I’d been and I said, “Just wandering around.” She didn’t believe me but after a few hours of news, she did.

Kennedy was “our” president. He was young, attractive. So different from who we’d had before. I hadn’t been old enough to vote for him, but I was old enough to know what was happening. I watched the debates — the first ones on television. My friends and I discussed it. It was exciting. My mother kept referring to him as “such a young man.”

At thirteen, a 43-year old guy didn’t seem young. Those were the days, eh?

For the better part of the next week, all the channels on television — there were only seven — 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 — had wall-to-wall coverage of the funeral. Endless replays of the assassination. The subsequent shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald. The beginning of the conspiracy theories that still swirl around this piece of history, though at this point I don’t care whodunnit 50 years ago. There are many unsolved crimes in history. Just add this to the long list.

I went to hang out with a friend. We took long walks to get away from the endless, morbid reiteration of the life and death of John F. Kennedy.

The assassination

Gradually, life returned to normal, whatever that is. Lyndon Baines Johnson was in office. It was all about civil rights and Vietnam. I finished college, got married, wound up in the hospital and had my first near-death experience. There would be a lot more assassinations in the near future. Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X. I never got used to them, but I stopped being shocked. Which is shocking. It’s like getting used to people shooting children at schools. You get numb after a while.

The 1960s were not about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. This was the decade of war, the draft, anti-war protests, and civil rights. This is when flunking out of college meant you were going to Vietnam and maybe wouldn’t come back. Strange how quickly we forget and replace history with mythology.

November 22, 1963, was the end of our political innocence, Democrats, Republicans, everyone. An abrupt turning point. The beginning of the road we find ourselves on today.

A president — our president — had been assassinated. Kennedy wasn’t the only U.S. President to be assassinated, but he was the first in modern times. The first TV president. A young, handsome guy. Especially important to my generation, a symbol that the torch really had passed to a new generation. We took that call to arms seriously.

LBJ Sworn In As PresidentIt’s hard for me to look at politics today, see how petty we’ve become. Kennedy’s assassination was an end and a beginning. He was the last President to get a pass on his personal life. The first president to use electronic media to win an election. It was the beginning of a political divide that keeps getting deeper.

Politics isn’t about real issues anymore. It’s all about character assassination, insinuation, innuendo, lies, and rumors. How narrow-minded and hateful we’ve become. I want to believe it will pass. Supposedly, all things do. But when? Will I be alive when it does?


POSTSCRIPT: HOW LBJ INHERITED VIETNAM BUT GOT ALL THE BLAME

The history of Vietnam is enormously complicated. It actually began with the French who invaded it and were tossed out. At that point, Eisenhower was president and he sent “advisors” in and then came Kennedy who sent in a lot more advisors who were more like troops, but it wasn’t officially a war. Actually, it was never officially a war.

It was a military “intervention” which is a war without the title. LBJ inherited the war from Kennedy and he didn’t like it, didn’t want it, wanted to get out, but all the military guys told him he couldn’t do that, so he stayed and politically, it destroyed him. Which was a pity because he was a brilliant president — everything our current Bloated Orangehead isn’t. But the good stuff – Medicare and Medicaid and the Civil Rights amendment — got lost under the gigantic mess in Vietnam.

Nixon basically won the next election by telling everyone HE would end the war, but he didn’t. In the end, he did exactly what Trump did in Syria: he declared a victory and pulled our troops out leaving thousands of Vietnamese who had fought with us to be slaughtered by the North Vietnamese — which was exactly what my mother had predicted would happen. She said that’s what we always do. We go in, and when it’s obvious we can’t “win,” we declare a victory and leave. The difference between what Nixon did and what Trump did is that there were years of pointless negotiations before we pulled out the troops and left. Otherwise, it was the same story.


There were many thousands of refugees desperate to get out of there. Israel took in a few thousand and we got our first really good Asian restaurants as a result. They were such nice people. I’m sure they still are.

I remember when we first went into Vietnam and my mother, who was politically very sharp, said “The French just got whipped there and left. What the Hell do we think WE are doing there?”

Garry actually talked to LBJ about this when he was in Vietnam. See these two stories:

https://teepee12.com/2019/11/27/the-rest-of-the-story-garry-armstrong/

https://teepee12.com/2016/02/18/1967-campfire-with-lbj-in-vietnam-garry-armstrong/

He was a great president, but he buried himself in a war in which he didn’t believe. He was right. We didn’t win it or even come close to winning — and used up every bit of political clout he had to get the Civil Rights Amendment, Medicare and Medicaid passed through congress. Other than Vietnam, he was probably the first really great president since FDR. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. No one was noticing the good stuff he was doing … just Vietnam. Since then, we’ve had endless pointless unwinnable wars and I swear, no one really cares anymore except for the guys who have to fight them and the parents who get to bury their kids. There’s much more to it.

Ken Burns did what I’ve heard is a brilliant documentary about Vietnam (PBS). I have not watched it. Too close to the reality I lived. Maybe one day I will, but not right now. I think it would just remind me of how we turned into the disaster we’ve become.

This piece started as a comment, but I’ve always felt that Vietnam is presented without any context. I don’t think most people realize LBJ didn’t start the war. No one reads history. We think everything we do is unique. Which is what happens when you don’t know the history.

SHARE MY WORLD: ALMOST THANKSGIVING — Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World –11-26-19


What did you have for dinner last night?

Baked chicken in lemon sauce with rice.

Would you rather go out on a Saturday night or stay in?

We are retired. If we go out, we’ll do it any night we feel well enough to go. Also, less traffic during the week.

How are you, truthfully?

Better than I was and I hope even better tomorrow.

What’s the best topping/ice cream combination?  If you don’t eat ice cream, what’s your favorite combination dessert?  

I like ice cream. Plain or in a cone, though my favorite is a vanilla ice cream sandwich. Pretty simple I guess.

Share Your Gratitude with a thought (quote), a picture or a short paragraph. 

Under repair

Through the generosity of beloved friends, we were able to get rid of a badly rotted door, insulate and seal the front door, and put up gutters so that next year we will still have a roof. I will never stop being grateful. Without their help, we’d be in big trouble. And there was enough to pay for at least a quarter of the price of the gutters.

I have the best friends in the whole world.

sywautumn

WHITE IS WONDERFUL BUT PLEASE, NOT YET! – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: White

We know the big storm is on the way because the news has been full of it. What is funny is that they are talking about huge amounts of snow. Like … nine inches to a foot. We consider that a dusting. It doesn’t get serious until it tops 14 inches and really serious starts at about 18 inches.

I suppose that’s the difference between living in snow country and living in “sometimes it snows” country. I grew up in “sometimes it snows” (New York city and Long Island) as opposed to upstate New York which is like here. Although to be fair, we live in one of the heaviest snow areas in the country. Something about the way the snow goes up over the Worcester hills and when the ground drops away, the clouds just dump a ton of snow. Usually right on top of us. Unless the storm is coming in from the ocean, in which case Boston gets clobbered and we snicker … until the next storm.

WHAT THE DOES THE FEDERAL JUDGE’S RULING ABOUT MCGAHN MEAN? Reblog – Washington Post

This is one of the contextual posts The Washington Post sends out to help us understand complicated rulings from courts and congress. This one is important insofar as it says what many of us have been thinking.

In America, we do not have Kings. We do not have monarchs with unlimited powers. That is what the Revolutionary War was about. In all of our history, this is the one thing the U.S. has always stood against: allowing unlimited power by one person over all others. We are not Trump’s subjects. He is our subject. We elected him — and he is not in any way the absolute ruler here.


The Daily 202: In ordering McGahn to testify, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson broadly rejects Trump’s absolutist claims

November 26 at 11:32 AM

With Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: In her ruling that Don McGahn must comply with a congressional subpoena, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of Washington goes to great lengths to illustrate how far out on a constitutional limb President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr have crawled with their absolutist claims of executive power.

Jackson invokes “Animal Farm” as she dismisses the Justice Department’s position that the president alone has the authority to make unilateral determinations regarding whether he and his senior aides, current and former, will respond to, or defy, subpoenas from House committees during investigations of potential wrongdoing by his own administration.

“For a similar vantage point, see the circumstances described by George Orwell,” the judge writes in her 118-page decision. “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

House Democrats want the former White House counsel, who left his position in October 2018, to testify about the episodes of possible obstruction of justice that former special counsel Bob Mueller outlined in his report. They are debating whether to proceed with articles of impeachment related to the president’s alleged efforts to undermine that investigation. Jackson said McGahn can assert executive privilege when asked specific questions, but Trump cannot issue a blanket order to stop his former aide from showing up to testify.

“Compulsory appearance by dint of a subpoena is a legal construct, not a political one, and per the Constitution, no one is above the law,” she concludes.

— The Justice Department, which is representing the former White House counsel in the case, quickly announced plans to appeal, and the White House decried the ruling in a statement. McGahn’s lawyer said his client will comply with Jackson’s order to appear unless a court issues a stay pending appeal.

— Jackson accuses the Trump administration of “emasculating” the House by trying to thwart its ability to seek redress from the courts when subpoenas are ignored. The judge quotes from “The Federalist Papers,” specifically No. 51 by James Madison and No. 69 by Alexander Hamilton, along with Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” as she rejects the administration’s argument that White House senior staff are “absolutely immune.”

— Trump has cottoned to describing his authority as “absolute.” He has publicly declared his intention to stonewall and ignore all subpoenas. White House counsel Pat Cipollone said in an Oct. 8 letter that the administration would not cooperate in any way with the House’s inquiry into whether the president abused his power vis-a-vis Ukraine.

— Some variant of the word “absolute” appears 124 times in Jackson’s opinion. She picks apart each of the Justice Department’s arguments with often elegant prose and lays out a standard for compliance that would apply just as much to, say, former national security adviser John Bolton as McGahn. She apparently wrote this opinion knowing that her decision would be appealed, and the case could eventually wind up before the Supreme Court. Some Democrats hope that her ruling, in the meantime, could embolden other current or former Trump administration officials to comply with subpoenas and appear for depositions.

“Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings,” Jackson writes. “This means that they do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control. Rather, in this land of liberty, it is indisputable that current and former employees of the White House work for the People of the United States, and that they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Moreover, as citizens of the United States, current and former senior-level presidential aides have constitutional rights, including the right to free speech, and they retain these rights even after they have transitioned back into private life.”

— Jackson, nominated by Barack Obama, has been a district court judge since 2013. Still only 49, she’s often mentioned in elite legal circles as a possible nominee for the Supreme Court by a future Democratic president, which could make her the first black woman to join the high court. The judge studied government as an undergraduate at Harvard and stayed for law school, like Chief Justice John Roberts, where she was a supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review. Jackson clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer, served as a federal public defender and spent a few years in private practice.

— The judge blasts the Justice Department for arguing in the McGahn case that courts don’t have the jurisdiction to adjudicate disputes between the legislative and executive branches while the president’s personal lawyers simultaneously ask courts to block subpoenas for his tax records. “A lawsuit that asserts that a legislative subpoena should be quashed as unlawful is merely the flip side of a lawsuit that argues that a legislative subpoena should be enforced,” she explains. “DOJ implicitly suggests that (much like absolute testimonial immunity) the subject-matter jurisdiction of the federal courts is properly invoked only at the pleasure of the President.”

Jackson emphasizes that a 1971 memo from Richard Nixon’s Office of Legal Counsel asserting that senior White House aides do not need to appear before Congress is “neither precedential nor persuasive.” She argues that the executive cannot be the judge of its own privilege. “Fifty years of say so within the Executive branch does not change that fundamental truth,” she adds.

The judge notes that Ronald Reagan, during the Iran-Contra affair, declined to assert executive privilege and even furnished relevant excerpts of his personal diaries to Congress for review. She recalls how George Washington turned over records so that Congress could investigate a military operation that went awry. She also notes how legislative and executive branches have often reached accommodations to prevent courts from getting involved and points out that Trump has rejected this approach.

— Jackson repeatedly cites a 2008 decision in which U.S. District Judge John Bates, also of Washington, rejected President George W. Bush’s bid to block testimony by his former counsel Harriet Miers to the House Judiciary Committee on the firings of U.S. attorneys. An appeals court never ruled on the case because the White House and Congress reached an accommodation. But Bates, a Bush appointee, concluded that the Bush administration’s claim of “absolute immunity from compelled congressional process for senior presidential aides is without any support in the case law.”

Jackson cites or refers to Bates’s ruling more than 40 times. “Just as with Harriet Miers before him,” Jackson writes, “Donald McGahn must appear.”

— She explains how legislative subpoenas are older than the country itself. Citing a 1926 law review article, Jackson notes that, even before the ratification of the Constitution in 1787, the colonial assemblies, like the House of Commons, assumed, usually without question, the right to investigate. She shows how the historical roots of the concept of a “subpoena” go back to the times of ancient Rome and Athens. Jackson traces how the concept evolved in English common law. Jackson quotes an opinion from Chief Justice John Marshall in 1807 that concluded “the obligation [to comply with a subpoena] is general, and it would seem that no person could claim an exemption” from it.

“As far as this Court can tell, no federal judge has ever held that defiance of a valid subpoena does not amount to concrete and particularized injury in fact; indeed, it appears that no court has ever even considered this proposition,” Jackson writes. “And perhaps for good reason: if defiance of duly issued subpoenas does not create Article III standing and does not open the doors of the court for enforcement purposes, it is hard to see how the wheels of our system of civil and criminal justice could keep turning.”

— Judges always cite precedents, of course. That’s their job. But it reveals something deeper about the present political moment that so many federal judges, appointed by previous presidents of both parties, feel compelled to offer what read like increasingly discursive and detailed, history lessons in their rulings to illustrate why Trump’s conception of his power is so at odds with the American tradition. In May, for example, another judge at the same courthouse likened Trump to James Buchanan, who also whined about “harassment” from Congress. Perhaps part of the impulse is the incumbent’s clear disinterest in U.S. history or his demonstrated lack of basic historical knowledge.

— For his part, Barr has been accusing “the left” of trying to “incapacitate” Trump by conducting oversight, which he likens to a “war” on the president. “The fact of the matter is that, in waging a scorched earth, no-holds-barred war of resistance against this administration, it is the left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law,” the attorney general said at the Federalist Society’s annual meeting earlier this month. “I don’t deny that Congress has some implied authority. But the sheer volume of what we see today, the pursuit of scores of parallel investigations through an avalanche of subpoenas, is plainly designed to incapacitate the executive branch and indeed is touted as such.”

— This case could certainly end up on the Supreme Court’s docket. The justices, including two appointed by Trump, may soon weigh in on other major cases revolving around the separation of powers.  Last night, for instance, the Supreme Court blocked a House committee from immediately reviewing Trump’s financial records after the president’s lawyers agreed to an expedited review of a lower court ruling granting access.

“The court’s action signals that, even as Congress considers impeaching Trump, the court will undertake a more complete consideration of the legal powers of Congress and state prosecutors to investigate the president while he is in office,” Robert Barnes reports. “The court instructed Trump’s lawyers to file a petition by Dec. 5 stating why the court should accept the case for full briefing and oral argument. If the petition is eventually denied, the lower-court ruling will go into effect. If accepted, the case probably will be heard this term, with a decision before the court adjourns at the end of June.”

— In the meantime, Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the House investigations is likely to emerge as the basis for its own article of impeachment. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a letter to his colleagues on Monday that he plans to send a report summarizing the conclusions of his investigations to the House Judiciary Committee soon after Congress returns from Thanksgiving break next week. “We will catalogue the instances of noncompliance with lawful subpoenas as part of our report to the Judiciary Committee,” Schiff wrote, “which will allow that Committee to consider whether an article of impeachment based on obstruction of Congress is warranted along with an article or articles based on this underlying conduct or other presidential misconduct.”


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I’M STILL UNDER DEVELOPMENT – Marilyn Armstrong

One of the many things I learned while working for a living was “never let them know how good you really are.”

It sounds like a joke, but it isn’t. Moreover, I’ve always been more fond of family and friends than my work, except for the year I ran a newspaper in Israel. I totally loved running a newspaper. I was busy all the time, either editing, writing, looking for material, helping design the physical paper.  This was before they had software to design magazines and newspapers, so you had to literally cut and paste the pieces into place.

I wrote three regular columns under three names: the lead story as me, a cooking column, and an astrology column under various names. And if we were needed another article, I wrote that, too.


I got to interview the big guns in 1980s Israeli politics including Netanyahu who I think was Education Minister. Pretty sure. We did a very long interview about how important it was to stop using the money for “other stuff” (settlements, for example) and spend it on education. He certainly has changed a lot since the mid-80s.

Other than that, I did what I could with the skills that I had. There was only one English-language newspaper and everyone who wrote in English wanted to work there. On the other hand, there were dozens of advertisements for technical writers.

I wasn’t a technical writer, but if that was what they were hiring? I was one.

And so I got my first got a job as a technical writer working with the group at the Weizmann Institution who were designing DB-1, the predecessor to all DBs since. The first real, multi-lingual database. Except I didn’t know anything about databases. In fact, when I got the job, it was the first time I’d heard of one. I hung around the office for a few days, realized I was useless unless I got some training and ‘fessed up.

After six weeks of having database design force-fed into my brain, I could use the database and design something simple that worked. Sort of.

I learned system analysis rather than computer programming, so I never knew how to write programming though I could read it. I learned how software is designed and understood why and how it works. During my three years there — until they sold the product to IBM — I found my technical writing legs.

I was a bit of a pioneer. Breaking new ground was exciting and professionally risky. I was known, by the time I left Israel, as its best tech writer in the country. Israel was a very small market and when I went back to the States, I was a little twitchy about testing my skills in “the big time.” But it was fine. Maybe better than fine.

Except for one thing: I discovered the reward you got for being very good and very fast was more work. Not a raise or a promotion. Just work. Not even overtime.

In my first job in the U.S., I started as “the junior writer.” Eventually, the other 5 members of the department were let go or moved on until finally, there was only me. Doing the whole thing that had previously needed (?) six people.

I was handling the “work” four writers and an editor had done before me. I finally asked how come I didn’t at least get the title of “manager” and was told I was too good a writer to be promoted. Too good to be promoted? Okay, how about a raise?

I got 6%. I changed jobs and made more money. That was when I realized that I should never have let them know just how good — and fast — I was because there was nothing in it for me except more work.

I eventually got really good and ultimately got a good salary. This is exactly when the dot com market blew up. The company for which I was working went out of business between Monday (when we got the news that our backers had lost all their money and thus we had lost all of our) and Friday. A lot of small investment companies disappeared that year.

It was also the same time when big companies decided \they didn’t need tech support departments that knew enough to offer tech support. Simultaneously, they concluded no one needed a manual since customers could call Pakistan and ask questions … and get the wrong answers.

I was already getting sick and working was difficult. Garry had lost his job and Owen’s company blew up on 9/11. My income mattered. But the industry decided I and the work I did was obsolete. Ironically today, the tech writing business is resurging. It turns out that people who buy expensive stuff — like cameras — feel they are entitled to a manual. Sadly for me, I’m 20 years out of date, lack the ability to work a full-time job, and live in the middle of nowhere.


Why am I writing all this? Because Garry and I were talking last night. He said he had a burning need to succeed. Virtually nothing else mattered to him. How did I feel about work?

I said no one has a burning need to succeed as a technical writer. It’s just not that kind of job. So what DID I have? I was an incredibly good writer and insanely fast. I was a better writer than anyone else I had worked with and at least twice as fast. They got paid more, but they were men.

If I’d had the drive and business sense to move out into the big wide world and build my own company? Could I have “made it big”? I don’t know, but I didn’t do it so I’ll never know. I never liked the business side of the business world.

But damn, I was good.

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