Sunday, June 25, 2017

SHAMROCK NATION

It all began on Harper Avenue, just North of Downtown Detroit when, in 1928, Monsignor Van Antwerp invited the Congregation of Saint Basil, commonly known as the Basilian Fathers, to take over the Holy Rosary parish school and convert it into a boys’ high school. Above the door of that old school building was a statue of the Blessed Mother, and Mary was instantly recognized as the patron saint of the school.

The initial enrollment of 260 boys had more than doubled when, in 1934, the school was moved up Woodward Avenue to a site behind the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament at 60 Belmont Avenue. It then became known as Detroit Catholic Central High School.

The dream of a new building was fulfilled in 1951, when Catholic Central moved to 6565 West Outer Drive on the West Side of Detroit. It was there for 27 years, moving to Breakfast Drive in Redford Township in 1978, where it was often referred to as Redford Catholic Central.

But in 2005, the school moved again, reclaiming the name Detroit Catholic Central, honoring its roots in the motor city. This time, it is lodged in a spectacular academic and athletic campus in Novi, Michigan, on a street named after an Iconic Basilian teacher, Father Ned Donoher.

Last week, just 7 days after a radical nephrectomy, I prevailed on my dear wife to drive me to Novi, there to attend Mass and a luncheon and to mingle with other Catholic Central graduates of the Class of 1947, and of other years gone by.

There’s a certain sense of karma in a roomful of sixty, seventy and eighty year old men sharing memories, telling their stories and kvelling about the good old days when their voices changed and they sprouted into manhood.

One thing for sure. There were no losers in the room. Whether theirs was financial, professional, academic or personal, every alumnus had a similar story of success; fidelity to the code of Christian manhood instilled long ago by Basilian priests whose motto and goal was to teach goodness, discipline and knowledge.

Central to the occasion was the sixtieth anniversary of the priesthood of Father Richard Elmer. The man is a legend among the Shamrock community. With ebullient good humor, tireless perseverance, and genuine concern for young men and their families, Father Elmer has been the life line through which literally millions of dollars have flowed to Catholic Central High School.

The economics of private education have changed since I entered Catholic Central in 1943. Our tuition was $60 for the entire nine month academic year. In today’s dollars, that represents about $841.

Today, Catholic Central’s tuition is on the high end of private high school tuition in Michigan - $12,000 per year. To say that it is a sacrifice for working families, puts too small a tag on it.

It is a sacrifice, not only for parents, but also for alumni and friends of the school who recognize the importance of populating each new generation of Americans with Christian gentlemen, imbued with goodness, discipline and knowledge, and capable of assuming positions of leadership in every facet of American life.

Catholic Central has long been an athletic powerhouse. Many graduates went on to careers in professional sports. More importantly, the Shamrocks have posted winning records in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, wrestling, and golf, literally for generations.

But it is not just a school for “jocks.”

The Detroit Catholic Central Academic Team has been the model of excellence and consistency in the State of Michigan and on a national level since its founding in 1985. The team has won 19 Michigan State Championships and four National Championships and is the only program in the nation to have qualified for and attended every National Academic Quiz Tournament High School Championship and PACE National Scholastic Championship.

Are we proud of our high school? You’re damn right we are. And not the least bit embarrassed to tear up a little when the alumni choir sings ….

“Mary Alma Mater, your sons of Central honor, and trusting in your goodness, we hopefully implore; that by your grace we may every day prove that we are men of Mary Alma Mater; inspire us evermore.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

AFGHAN WAR



It was recently reported that President Trump has authorized the Department of Defense to determine the number of American troops to be committed to Afghanistan.

It strikes me as somewhat inordinate to expect Secretary Jim Mattis to set troop levels without first spelling out the military mission to be accomplished.

Just what are we doing in Afghanistan? Why are we there? What are we trying to accomplish?

Those are political, not military questions.

I had thought that fifteen years in Viet Nam with over 50,000 casualties would have taught us that trying to subjugate a hostile indigenous population is a fool’s errand.

We paid a terrible price to learn that Viet Nam belongs to the VietNamese. Why can’t we understand that Afghanistan belongs to the Afghans?

It took the Russians nine years to learn it. Acting under Leonid Breshnev in 1979, the Soviet Union sent more than 100,000 soldiers to Afghanistan. Nine years later, Mikhail Gorbachev brought them home, more in exhaustion and frustration than in victory. It was the end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Our soldiers in Korea and Viet Nam used the word ‘gooks’ to define the locals. They learned that it was too often impossible to distinguish the good gooks from the bad gooks.

When we take sides in someone else’s civil war, we redefine our allies as traitors and our enemies as patriots.

When we invaded Iraq in 2003, it was on the supposition that Saddam Hussein, the fifth President of that country, had weapons of mass destruction which he was expected to use for no good purpose. Our goal was to depose him, and we did.

Then candidate Barack Obama decried the Iraq War as “dumb” and promptly dubbed the invasion of Afghanistan as a ‘smart’ war. By the end of his first year in office, President Obama had authorized upwards of 38,000 troops in Afghanistan, without spelling out exactly what they were supposed to accomplish.

By the end of his second year in office, Obama’s administration had issued a an awkwardly titled report called  “An Overview of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review” which earned the comment from Yale Law Professsor, Stephen Carter, that it “actually leaves us with less information about the goals and plans for the Afghan War than we had before.”

The Obama administration made much of the assassination of Osama Ben Laden. The American people were convinced, through media reports and public statements, that Ben Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attack.

Did Obama suppose that the American people thought the Afghanistan War was being waged for the purpose of killing everyone responsible for terrorist attacks in the United States?

Indeed is there any statistical evidence or other proof that our military adventures in the Middle East have in any way reduced the threat of terrorism in our homeland?

Certainly no thinking patriot subscribes to the notion that it is better for our young men and women to be maimed and slaughtered on the Arabian sand than for fans of the Boston Marathon or patrons of an Orlando night club to die on our soil. Indeed, nobody has ever a seriously asserted that our Middle East efforts represent a sacrificial offering to the Islamic terrorist demons.

What then? Are we committed to capturing the entire nation of Afghanistan and turning it into another Guam or Puerto Rico? Do we really think it possible to subdue the Afghan people and install a Vichy type government that will be agreeable to the United States of America?

The experience of the French people during WWII with the impotent government headed by Marshall Petain ought to convince us that puppet governments don’t last.

History is a wonderful teacher, if only we will listen.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

THE RUSSIA THING

The world of computer mischief is arcane beyond comprehension. I got a taste of it trying to get to the bottom of the much touted Russian invasion of the 2016 Presidential election.

Here is a sample of what I found:

On September 1, 2011, the Laboratory of Cryptography and System Security of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics discovered a collection of computer malware which used the prefix “DQ” to identify its files. The Budapest scientists wrote a 60 page report describing the computer threat and nicknaming its users “The Duqu.”

The Duqu were so skilled that they actually compromised the internal workings of Kaspersky, the Russian cyber security giant.

U.S. cyber intelligence nerds Americanized “The Duqu” simply calling the malware mischief makers “The Dukes.” A December 13, 2016 New York Times story attributed the hacking of the Democratic National Committee computers to The Dukes, describing them as “ a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government.”

No authority for that statement was given.

In January of 2017, the CIA presented a “top secret” report to President Obama claiming that the DNC hack was the work of the Russian government. That report has never been made public, but the Russian government’s alleged participation was leaked to Reuters News by a source or sources who spoke “on condition of anonymity”.

The best explanation for the CIA opinion that the Dukes are Russian depends on such dubious indicia as the fact that the Dukes’ working day corresponds roughly with the normal work day in many parts of Russia. A similar analysis suggests that the Dukes are Israelis since, in addition to the normal work days and hours, the Dukes seem to take off work from Friday afternoon through Sunday.

The later proposition has further evidence; one of the Dukes’ first attacks was directed to Iran’s nuclear efforts.

In short, my study persuades me that the hacking of the DNC last year was not the work of the Russian government. That conclusion is backed up by the assertion of Julian Assange, owner of Wikileaks, who insists that his source was not any government.

My modest excursion into World Wide Web wickedness reveals that the Web, sometimes called “the wild” by its inhabitants, is much like the open seas or outer space; it is a place that is owned by no one, but belongs to everyone. Out there, everyone is pretty much on their own and free to do whatever they are able to do.

When you entrust your personal secrets to the Web, your only protection from having them purloined and broadcast is your password. That’s pretty good protection. Your Social Security number for example, consists of nine digits, enough to provide a billion unique numbers.

Still, emails are out there in the wild. Like ships at sea or rockets in space, they can be seen and examined by anyone who can find them. They get hacked by people who know how to hack.
So the real question that needs to be addressed by the American People is not whether internal emails of the Democratic National Committee were hacked, or by whom, but whether the information that came out was true and whether it made a difference or should have made a difference in the outcome of the election.

Candidly, I cannot recall anyone denying the reported contents of the DNC emails or internal communications that were revealed by Wikileaks and thereafter widely broadcast by all the mainstream media.

Did the Democratic National Committee favor Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders? Of course they did. Nobody denied it. Did that favoritism hurt the Party? Of course it did. Primary elections are conducted to give the people an avenue to participate in the democratic process. A political party controlled by insiders or bosses will not be popular with the average voter.

The vast basket of deplorable Americans who work with their hands, who build and buy, and grow and sell, who clean and carry and fix and install and who serve other people in a million ways don’t like closed door, boss-ruled political parties.

Did the hackers hurt Hillary and help Trump?

Of course they did. Did it matter whether the hackers were Russian or Israeli or just naughty college kids having fun with their computers?

Certainly not. The only thing that mattered to the American people was the truth. And the truth was that the DNC was in the pocket of the Clinton campaign.

Nobody denied it. Not then. Not now.

The current Congressional and News media flap over foreign influence in American politics is a false narrative. Other countries have always taken sides in American politics. In the 2016 election, for example, eighteen of twenty-three foreign newspapers endorsed Hillary Clinton, one favored Trump, and four simply opposed Trump.

As a private businessman, Donald Trump took his Miss Universe Beauty Pageant to Russia in 2013.  No one criticized him for doing so. Indeed, it was exactly the kind of private business interchange that was promoted by our national government from the time of Richard Nixon in pursuit of d├ętente, which led to the decline of the Soviet Union.

While in Moscow, Trump met more than a dozen top Russian businessmen, including Herman Gref, CEO of Russia's largest bank.

All of which makes me wonder whether the shrill accusations coming from the Swamp are not motivated by the fear that our new President may just be inclined to find common ground with our cold war adversary and lead us to an era of actual peace in every part of the world.

It would certainly be a disappointment to the Military-Industrial Complex that is responsible for so much of the Swamp.



Friday, June 2, 2017

SPEAKING ENGLISH

I just returned from Mayo Clinic where I was treated to another Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiapancreatography. Compliments of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Arriving home, I emptied the mail box. There, among the usual inane offerings of the advertising industry, was an official looking communication from something called the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

After announcing in large letters at the top of the page that “THIS IS NOT A BILL” the letter goes on to recite that 20 services for which I am supposed to have made claim, have been denied by Medicare and that I may be billed for $1,824.00. All of which is detailed in eight pages of printed forms.

What really got my attention, however, was not the eight page letter about my denied claims, but an unnumbered, extra page titled “Nondiscrimination Notice.

It avers that the CMMS does not exclude or deny benefits or otherwise discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, sex, or age.

It then proceeds to repeat this comforting news in fifteen different languages including Arabic, Farsi, Kreyol and Tagalog, telling all and sundry that they have a right to get help and information in their own language at no cost and that they may talk to an interpreter by calling 1-800-MEDICARE.

In almost every session of Congress one or more bills and/or proposed constitutional amendments are introduced for the purpose of declaring that English is the official language of the United States.

They are consistently opposed by the ACLU and with equal consistency they are never brought up for a vote. This despite the fact that more than 80 percent of the American people support the idea that English should be declared the official language of the nation and in fact, thirty-three of the States have laws making English their official language.

Of course, English is the de facto language throughout the United States, even in Illinois, where the official State language is “American.”

Making English official certainly wouldn’t prevent people from speaking in other languages. Much of the charm of our great nation comes from the diverse languages and customs of our people.

But the idea of an official language in which laws are written, courts are convened, taxes computed, benefits defined, and elections conducted is so obviously necessary and practical that it is hard to fathom why anyone would oppose it.

The mischief of the CMMS memo it simply that the government is requiring its agencies to be multi lingual. That idea is not only expensive and cumbersome, it contributes to the isolation of non English speaking Americans and reinforces the idea that we are a divided nation.

Let’s face it; citizens are presumed to know the law. The corollary of that axiom is that the government has the obligation to promulgate the law; that is, to tell the people - who are expected to obey the law - precisely what the law says.

For more than 200 years, English has been the defacto language used by the federal government. Unfortunately, as the CMMS memo demonstrates, even that status is now being challenged. Where does it stop? If people have the right to read about Medicare in their native language, should they not also have the right to read the tax laws in the same manner? And every other one of the myriad statutes and regulations published by the United States of America?

That idea, of course is absurd, preposterous, ridiculous. The Affordable Care Act, for example, consists of 365,086 English words and the rules and regulations it has spawned amount to an additional eleven million words. To publish 15 translations of those words would be an enormous and expensive task.

That would be only the beginning. Wouldn’t citizens be entitled to insist that litigation growing out of the law be conducted in their native tongue?

Unfortunately, words like expensive, foolish and impractical do not sit well with the activist Left. The same people who annually debunk making English the official language of the United States can be expected to support legislation requiring the national government to be multi-lingual.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

MY TEACHER

My darling wife is the master of the imperative sentence. Indeed, there are days when I worry that unless she tells me what to do, I might just descend into a motionless trance, doing nothing whatsoever.

Change your shirt. Or tie. Or shoes. Buckle up. Use the turn indicator. Brush your teeth. Wash your hands. Comb your hair. Close the garage door. Take out the trash. Call your sister. Write the check. Turn down the thermostat.

I usually make an effort to comply cheerfully. After all, the woman is a teacher. That’s the profession for which she was educated. Teachers are instructors. That is what they do when they teach. They instruct. They give instructions. Do this. Do that. Read this. Study that.

From my earliest days, my parents taught me obedience. I never resented it. Indeed, I loved them without reservation; whether in spite of being obedient or because of it.

I feel the same way about Polly’s imperatives. Father Norbert Clemens always taught that love is desiring what is good for the person we love.

Elementary and secondary school teachers are almost universally remembered by their students with good will if not actual affection. That’s because as we mature – indeed if we mature at all – we realize that what they told us to do was for our own good.

And so it is with the wonderful teacher who has shared my life and my fortunes for more than two thirds of a century. I never tire of her instructions. She is, as I often say, the best person in the whole world, and she wants me to be my best self … all the time.

I don’t think that my wife is a whole lot smarter than I am. I would guess that our IQ scores are about the same. But the fact is that she knows a lot of things that I do not know. She notices things and she remembers things. And she has instincts about things that never occur to me.

Example. Some years ago we were visiting friends in a house they had rented. Early one morning Dave and I were planning to play golf and leave the girls to sleep in.

Unhappily, I could not figure out how to redirect the flow of water from the tub to the shower. Neither could Dave. Try as we might, pushing, pulling, poking and prying the fixture every which way, the shower wouldn’t work.

Finally, in exasperation, I told Dave that I would have to wake Polly and ask her how to do it. I knew she would know instinctively how to work the thing, and I dreaded the embarrassment our ineptitude would demonstrate.

Still, I had to take a shower. So I woke her up. She stumbled into the bathroom still half asleep, and turned on the shower. How does she know these things?

Just yesterday, in a state of frustration, I wanted to demonstrate how stupid the manufacturers of hanging files are. As evidence, I showed her a little plastic thingamagig that is supposed to identify the contents of the file and I defied her to explain how it could possibly be affixed to the file.

In about thirty seconds she had it attached, leaving me feeling like a complete oaf. No wonder she doesn’t want me loading the dish washer.

Truth is, I just don’t notice things. What’s hanging over the fireplace?
I don’t know. Something. A Picture? A Mirror? She shakes her head in disbelief. It has been there for twenty-five years.

That’s a pretty blouse. Is it new?

I’ve had it since 2009.

You should wear it more often.

I wore it last week.

Oh.

She never gives up. Last night she hosted a fabulous dinner party at a beautiful restaurant at which my 88th birthday was celebrated with the four of our six children who live in Michigan and their spouses.

Even for me, it was an unforgettable celebration.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

MEMORIAL DAY

Next Monday is Memorial Day. I will offer special prayers in memory of a man I never met, but who, had he survived WWII, would have been my brother in law.

Polly’s brother, Emanuel Weinberger, was a paratrooper of the 82nd Airborne. He was killed by enemy fire on the beach at Salerno in 1943. He was 26 years old.

World War Two affected millions of lives and in many ways revised the map of Planet Earth.

It was in name and in fact a “world” war. In Europe, it began in 1939 when Hitler’s armies invaded Poland. In Asia it began when the Japanese invaded Manchuria on September 18, 1931.

To an unschooled historian, like me, the idea that a little country like Japan could invade and subjugate a massive nation like China seems preposterous.

In truth, the Japanese had much in common with Great Britain, another tiny island nation which managed to assemble a world wide empire, upon which, it was asserted, the sun never set.

The Japanese, like the British, were an industrial people. They made things and they sold things. They imported raw materials and exported manufactured products. They were much in the vanguard of the Industrial Revolution.

Folks of my generation well remember the products of Japanese manufacturing. We considered anything that bore the stamp “Made in Japan” to be inferior. That was long before the descendants of Henry Ford and William Durant were driving Toyotas and Hondas.

In the ten years between 1931 and 1941, Japan assembled a massive Pacific Empire, at its pinnacle incorporating Korea, Manchuria (about a third of China) Burma, Thailand, French Indo China, which included Viet Nam, the Philippine Islands, and the Dutch West Indies, stretching nearly to the shores of Australia.

By the waning days of 1941, Japan considered the Pacific Ocean as an integral part of its Asian hegemony. Hawaii was considered to be under foreign occupation.

Historians have rather conclusively proven that Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted the United States to enter the European war in aid of Great Britain, but he realized that the American people were opposed to the idea.

FDR was, of course, aware that Japan had a mutual defense pact with Germany and Italy, and it was quite obvious that if America found itself at war with Japan, Germany and Italy would immediately declare war against us as well. So much for U.S. public opinion.

The idea of populating Hawaii as a forward naval base came directly from the White House. One voice raised in opposition was that of Admiral James Otto Richardson.

Born in Paris, Texas on September 18, 1879, Richardson graduated fifth in his class at the Naval Academy and rose to the rank of Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet by 1940, when he was given the task of moving the fleet’s base of operations from the West Coast to Hawaii.

Richardson balked at the idea. He believed that Hawaii was basically indefensible, too far from reinforcement, and poorly configured to defend itself.

Richardson pleaded with Roosevelt to reconsider the move, making the unusual effort as a naval officer to travel to Washington to present a personal plea to the President as well as to members of Congress. Not only did FDR ignore the Admiral’s warnings, he rewarded Richardson by removing him from command of the fleet.

As we honor the heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion for their country on this Memorial Day, it is perhaps appropriate to give a tip of the hat to those whose service and counsel were generously offered but unhappily ignored by the political powers.

Admiral Richardson might have prevented the Pearl Harbor debacle. For that, he deserves recognition which I gladly proffer to him. And besides, he is, according to my brother, Ray, a distant relative of mine.