“Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance” – Samuel Johnson, British writer/thinker

Great minds think alike and poor ones think barely at all. Among the former are wartime American presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR was president when pre-World War Two totalitarian warmongers threatened all of the world’s democracies.

Among the worst thinkers to ever lead America is Donald J. Trump, who Wednesday speciously joined the ranks of brilliant wartime presidents by equating his lackluster leadership since the novel coronavirus emerged with the wartime trials of our most revered Americans.

Claiming himself a wartime president fighting an invisible enemy, Trump used a televised dog and pony show to announce he was invoking wartime emergency powers to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“I view it — in a sense as a wartime president,” Trump said before announcing he was invoking a 20th Century solution to a forgotten war. His authority is the 70-year-old Defense Production Act (DPA) that gives the federal government authority to steer production in the private sector to address shortages in face masks, ventilators, and other medical supplies.

President Harry S. Truman first invoked the tailor-made new law on September 8, 1950, to kickstart industrial production of war materials at the beginning of the Korean War. It was either create a law or be driven from the rimlands of Asia by Communist forces.

At the end of World War II, during September 1945, American production of arms literally ceased. When the proxy war in Korea erupted on June 25, 1950, between Soviet Union-supported North Korea and American-sponsored South Korea, the U.S. was woefully unprepared to fight

The DPA was tailor-made for the situation by authorizing Truman to use loans, direct purchases and other incentives to boost the production of critical goods and essential war materials. It includes specific provisions allowing the federal government to enter agreements with private industry and block foreign mergers and acquisitions harmful to national security.

“We had the best economy we ever had, and one day you have to close it down to defeat this enemy,” Trump declared.

Since 1950, the just-in-case DPA has been reauthorized over 50 times and used several times before Trump came along. Ironically, the last president to invoke the act was President Barack Obama in 2011 to force telecommunication companies including AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. to divulge confidential information during the government’s hunt for Chinese cyber-spies.

No sooner than Trump invoked the DPA than he said wasn’t prepared to actually do anything with that powerful tool.

“I only signed the Defense Production Act to combat the Chinese Virus should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future. Hopefully there will be no need, but we are all in this TOGETHER!,” Trump said yesterday in a racially charged tweet.

Trump’s legions of critics are skeptical, not because the DPA couldn’t help, but because it will upset his powerful industrial supporters who yearn to maintain their privileged status quo. Cynics argue his reluctance is likely to change when his minions realize the potential for abuse that exists in an environment where winking at federal law is considered good policy.

A very early observer of the American political scene was British Prime Minister William Pitt. He was British Secretary of State when the French-Indian War was fought from 1754 to 1763 over northern border disputes by British and allied colonial troops against France and its Native American proxies. Although Pitt never supported American independence, he is recognized as a brilliant wartime British leader who understood the difference between an inspired leader and a blithering idiot.

“An eagerness and zeal for dispute on every subject, and with every one, shows great self-sufficiency, that never-failing sign of great self-ignorance,” Pitt once opined.

Pitt’s prescient observation is still valid, perhaps never more so since Trump assumed the mantle of a wartime president when his proven ability to make war is on par with his ability to inspire the nation with insipid drivel.

Trump’s sudden remake as a wartime leader is not new. The tradition of claiming wartime leadership – particularly during election time — is embroidered everywhere in American history. The U.S. has only enjoyed 16 years of peace in its 243-year history.

Last April, former President Jimmy Carter revealed that Trump asked him for advice on what to do about China’s rapidly growing economy while Carter was teaching Sunday school in Plains, Georgia. Trump was worried that Beijing could overtake the U.S. as the world’s richest country.

The 94-year-old former president told him China was getting ahead of the U.S. because Washington has been at war with other countries for most of its history. He explained to Trump that China’s rapid economic expansion was facilitated by government investment and peaceful relations with the rest of the world. He told Trump he could learn what to do from that lesson in history. Considering that the U.S. spends more on military hardware than most of the world combined, it was easy for pacifist Carter to illustrate the problem.

The president who studiously avoided the Vietnam draft multiple times now says the country needs to prepare to fight a war against the “China virus,” a provocative term in this dangerous time. His pronouncement was a startling reversal of tactics and strategy to combat the looming pandemic.

Since yesterday, Trump has “always” believed the coronavirus outbreak was “a pandemic, long before it was called a pandemic.” Forget that last January when the coronavirus pandemic was still just a dire warning.

“We have it totally under control,” happy talking Trump declared.

Now that his economic engine has expired in the face of the growing pandemic and its horrific impact on travel, schools, restaurants, and retailers, he is suddenly singing another tune. Whether or not it has anything to do with getting re-elected after dropping the ball so many times, the fact that Trump looks like he is dribbling is apparently of no consequence.

“Every generation of Americans has been called to make shared sacrifices for the good of the nation,” Trump now says.

“Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my lords, that where laws end, tyranny begins,” Pitt once observed.

The brilliant Britisher’s sage advice has never been more relevant to Americans than it is now that Trump has laid claim to great responsibilities he has so far failed to even comprehend, much less come to grips with.


The panic buying spurred by the Coronavirus has highlighted the products that Americans feel are most essential to their wellbeing. Apparently toilet paper leads the pack since most stores initially reported that they were completely out of toilet paper.

Toilet paper hoarding has become a national joke, with people buying carts full of the stuff in anticipation of long periods of ‘sheltering in place.’

I was surprised to discover that toilet paper has only been around since 1857, which means that humans spent centuries and centuries without this basic item of civilized life. So what did people do before this life-changing invention? Sailors used the frayed end of a rope dipped in saltwater. The Romans used a sponge on the end of a stick. Rural areas used corn cobs hung in outhouses.

Stones and moss were also used as were all kinds of printed paper, which were put to double use. People wiped indiscriminately with everything from newspapers and catalogs to almanacs and literature and even government proclamations.

Then around 1857, Joseph C. Gayetty invented the first commercial toilet paper called “Gayettey’s Medicated Paper.” It was made of hemp, had the inventor’s name watermarked on each sheet and claimed that its four medications combined with the paper pulp prevented and cured hemorrhoids. It was clearly a luxury item only for the rich because it sold for $30 in today’s money for 1000 sheets.

Gayettey’s product was sold only in sheets, as were the other brands that popped up, but it continued to be sold into the 1920s. It wasn’t until 1890 that Irvin and Clarence Scott of Philadelphia’s Scott Paper Company revolutionized the world of toilet paper by selling it on rolls. If you look at the original patent, you can see that the roll was designed to be placed with the sheets coming OVER the roll, NOT UNDER!

Original patent showing OVER was the intended way to position each roll

A later patent tried to address the problem of finding the ‘end’ sheet if it’s not hanging down. It was not successful, nor were the others that subsequently tried to tackle that pressing issue. Later improvements on the toilet paper roll addressed the problem of waste – too many sheets unraveled with each use. In 1891 a patent was granted for a roll of toilet paper with perforations to separate sheets so that only one sheet of paper came off the roll at a time.

Another welcome improvement in quality came in the early 1900s when a company boasted of its super-refined, “splinter-free” toilet paper. Ouch! Before this time, minute wood pulp splinters were a common residue from the papermaking process. By 1943, toilet paper was advertised as “soft and oh so gentle” for the first time!

Toilet paper has also been used as a political tool and numerous American politicians have appeared on rolls, including George Bush and Donald Trump. Prior to World War II, some British toilet paper was made with pictures of Adolph Hitler and other Nazi leaders printed on the sheets. One such roll from the 1930s was recently found in a barn in England. It was thin, war issue paper and was only twenty sheets, but it showed Hitler giving the Nazi salute. It sold for $240!

Are we going to face prices like that for Charmin in the near future? If it had pictures of Donald Trump on it, it might be worth it.

The toilet paper of my childhood came in colors and colorful patterns


FOTD – March 23 –ORCHIDS

It’s very quiet here. It’s quiet everywhere except, I suppose in the hospitals. Because we have a guy as the president who cannot tell the truth and I think isn’t entirely sure what the truth IS, trying to find out what is happening is very hard. They make decisions, then the congress gets to brawling again. While they are busy politicking, the rest of us are wondering how we are going to pay the mortgage. All across this country, the unemployment rate is rising like crazy … and they are STILL arguing.

The table garden …

All the orchids on the branch

But before the flower, the bud


Five Orchids