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God, I’m old

July 4, 1776 was not the birth of the U.S.A. It was the day that the colonists said, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.” After that, grab your guns ’cause war is a-comin’.

July 12, 1776 – The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union were underway, approved for ratification in 1777, and formally ratified March 1, 1781. THIS could be an official birthday of the United States of America, which, before this date, were a loose collection of 13 colonies.

September 3, 1783 – Nine years later, the Revolutionary War officially ended, the Treaty of Paris was signed, and England recognized the 13 colonies as independent. THIS would be the birthday of the United States, in my opinion. Now we were an independent entity, as recognized by the world.

June 21, 1788 – New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, which replaced the Articles of Confederation and formalized the central federal government of the Republic. This would be the birthday for the U.S. federal government, I suppose.

Dec. 15, 1791 – The first 10 amendments to the Constitution (collectively “the Bill of Rights”) was ratified, 15 years after a bunch of old fogies in Philadelphia decided to get uppity.

Ever since, it seems, the United States has been at war with one country, group, or other entity (primarily Native American tribes) over its entire lifetime, right up to the Korean War, which ended in 1953. For a brief time, we were at peace.

June, 1954 – I was born.

I have lived for more than a quarter of this country’s existence.

I have lived under 11 of the 44 presidents, soon 12 out of 45. I was named after the 34th president, in whose term I was born. Dwight Eisenhower, the first Pennsylvania Dutch president (look it up), had a long list of accomplishments, many impressive – from establishing the national system of highways to the creation of NASA. His vice president was Richard Nixon, and his nephew David would eventually marry Nixon’s daughter Julie. But I digress.

JFK, RFK, MLK, LBJ, Richard M. Nixon and Spiro Agnew… these are not historical figures to me; they were “current events” when I was in school. We researched the Cuban Missile Crisis in real time for class, using Time, Newsweek, and other magazines and newspapers printed on paper. The riots around the 1968 Democratic Convention, hippies, Viet Nam War protests, Kent State, Woodstock, the Cold War, all headlines in newspapers and network news of my youth.

Mine was the generation taught to cower underneath our school desks, in preparation for the day when a nuclear blast would vaporize us in about a tenth of a second. I remember exploring the fallout shelter in the basement of my junior high school, marvelling at all of the sealed drums of saltines and walls of toilet paper. (No, it would not have kept us safe from a nuclear strike OR fallout, but at least we could wipe our…uh…crackers.)

Although born in the 50s, I’ve always considered myself a “child of the 60s” (ages 6-16). These were formative years and an interesting time to be growing up in America. (White suburban America, I should point out.)

Television & Movies

The earliest movie I remember seeing was Babes in Toyland at the Lansdowne movie theater. Don’t remember anything about the movie, but IMDB tells me that it came out in 1961 (I was 7) and starred Annette Funicello, Ray Bolger, and somebody named Tommy Sands. Ed Wynn, great character actor, was the Toymaker, and a very young Ann Jillian (would have been 11 or so) played Bo Peep. I don’t remember any of the movie, the plot, or the actors that were in it, I only remember that it’s the first movie I went to see.

Lansdowne Movie Theater

Movies you see when you’re young and impressionable have a far greater impact than movies you see later in life. (“Get ’em while they’re young.”) Great movies of the 1960s include (in no particular order)
Psycho
2001: a space odyssey
Lawrence of Arabia
The Graduate
Rosemary’s Baby
The Sound of Music
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Birds
Cool Hand Luke
To Kill a Mockingbird
Mary Poppins
The Manchurian Candidate
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Planet of the Apes
The Dirty Dozen
Dr. No / Goldfinger / Thunderball / From Russia With Love
Cleopatra
The Village of the Damned
The Jungle Book
Easy Rider
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Original episodes of I Love Lucy aired during my lifetime, but I was two, almost three when the series ended and went into reruns. The Ed Sullivan Show owned Sunday nights, was the leading source of entertainment, and something we waited all week for. This was the show that introduced The Beatles to the U.S., showed Elvis Presley from the hips UP, and toward the end rocked the house with a 12 year old blind kid, Stevie Wonder. It would feature acrobats, spinning dishes on poles, dancers, and a haunting little sockpuppet, Topo Gigio.

One of my early TV favorites was (The Many Loves of) Dobie Gillis (1959-1963). (C’mon – Tuesday Weld was Dobie’s love interest.) My youth was a great time to be a young TV watcher – The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the original Star Trek, and a very young Robert Loggia in T.H.E. Cat (a series very few remember). Along with Star Trek, my other favorite series was I Spy, starring Robert Culp and Bill (before he was famous) Cosby. I loved Get Smart, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Avengers (when I could see it – Diana Rigg), My Favorite Martian, The Green Hornet, a very bad Batman (not a fan of the Adam West series, in hindsight). The 1960s was prime television time.

Comedies:
Bewitched
The Dick van Dyke Show
The Beverly Hillbillies
Gilligan’s Island
The Addams Family
Green Acres
Hogan’s Heroes (yes, Nazis were funny in the 60s)
The Munsters
Petticoat Junction
Leave It to Beaver
Get Smart
Mister Ed
I Dream of Jeannie
Make Room for Daddy
Father Knows Best
My Three Sons
McHale’s Navy
My Favorite Martian
That Girl
Dennis the Menace
The Monkees
Car 54 Where Are You?
Family Affair
Bachelor Father
Courtship of Eddie’s Father
The Patty Duke Show
The Flying Nun
Hazel
The Real McCoys
The Jackie Gleason Show
Gidget
My Mother the Car

Dramas:
Lost in Space (ick)
Perry Mason
Adam-12
The Twilight Zone
Dark Shadows
The Fugitive
Daniel Boone
Columbo (1968)
Ben Casey
Ironside
Burke’s Law
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
77 Sunset Strip
The Mod Squad (1968)
The Defenders

Westerns were big in the 60s:
Bonanza (No. 1 with a bullet)
Marshal Dillon
Maverick
The Rifleman
Rawhide
Cheyenne
The Virginian
Have Gun Will Travel
Sugarfoot
Death Valley Days
and, of course, The Wild Wild West
For laughs, let us not forget F Troop

In animation, we had Tobor, the 8th Man after school, Popeye, Mr. Magoo, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Yogi Bear, Astro Boy, Jonny Quest, Underdog, Space Ghost & Dino Boy, The Road Runner, Spiderman, the original Jetsons and Flintstones (before they got cheap and cheesy) in the evenings, and a whole host of other cartoon shows beneath mention.

The very first Law & Order episode was still decades away.

Jean points out that television broke out of the studio in the 1970s in favor of the great outdoors – Streets of San Francisco, Kojak, Baretta, Cannon (large man in a Lincoln, a Quinn Martin production), and the great Rockford Files.

We had four channels – NBC, CBS, ABC, and then WHYY (1963). I remember when networks would “sign off” at midnight, playing the Star Spangled Banner, before turning into a test pattern. Only Johnny Carson went a bit later. (Carson succeeded Jack Paar in 1962, so he was the first late show host I would remember.) When UHF was eventually added (along with circular antennae to augment the standard rabbit ears), we had several more channels (17, 29, 48, and later 57), even if reception was spotty at times. UHF was nothing more than reruns of broadcast series and old movies from the 30s, 40s, and 50s; very little original programming. Still, two of these channels would grow up to be Fox and the CW. Although most broadcast stations would continue to sign off for the night (or go to infomercials), it was soon possible to stay up all night watching old movies, and I did. I think I saw every film ever made by John Wayne, Dean Martin, Burt Lancaster, Glenn Ford (my favorite), etc. Yes, of course, I had a crush on Doris Day and I thought that Hedy Lamarr had to be the most incredibly beautiful woman ever on the face of this earth. (Okay… Grace Kelly, the exquisite Elizabeth Taylor, and the woman who personified SEX to a lot of young teenagers, Marilyn Monroe. Let us not forget them.) I spent many a late night watching old movies. All in black and white on a 17″ television screen in the kitchen.

I did not see The Wizard of Oz in color until well into my teen years. Before then, I had no idea what all the fuss was about when Dorothy first opened the door and looked out on Oz.

Music

When I was still very young (I want to say age 6), I appeared on a local WCAU-TV show as a pianist. The host would talk about classical music, and then I would play a short example. There was a script with the text and musical snippets, but it must be long gone by now. For my troubles, the station gave me a Sunoco-branded transistor radio, which was built to look like a miniature gas pump. No doubt, the TV station got them for free (promotional purposes), but I didn’t know or care. Loved it. (In retrospect, I’ve felt cheated ever since. Where’s the $$$? Shoulda joined the musician’s union.)

Since I was a classically-trained pianist until age 16, I was late coming to the popular music of the day. Missed the British Invasion by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, but leaned toward more complex music, rather than the 3-minute, one-idea radio tunes. For a variety show in high school, I performed my own piano solo version of Mason Williams’ Classical Gas. (YouTube) Someone tried to indoctrinate me into the masterworks of a young Bob Dylan, but it didn’t take (did not care for his voice). Not long after, I was heavily into Genesis (with peter gabriel), Loggins & Messina, The Doobie Brothers. Late 60s to mid 70s was a glorious time of growth in rock, but it’s all just tailed off since then (in my not humble opinion).

I was about 16 when I first heard music in STEREO. It was Emerson, Lake, and Palmer on an 8-track player in my brother’s old VW bug. The rotating drums at the end of Lucky Man was a revelation. The original Sony Walkman wouldn’t arrive until I was well into my 20s. My first car had an 8-track player (1972 Ford Pinto). Subsequent cars had cassette tape decks, and I made myself a million “driving mixes.” My son was born the same year the Compact Disc became widely available.

An older friend took me to the bar at the local Holiday Inn to hear a three-piece jazz combo. Like many a classically trained musician, I marvelled at how they could take a theme and then go off to heights unknown, without sheet music, without script, and then somehow manage to bring it all back to the beginning theme again. Ever since, I have made it my mission to be able to improvise freely, to “make it up as I played it.” Classical Gas may well have been the last piece of sheet music I ever used.

Pre-Tech


Needless to say, we did not have smartphones, CDs, VHS, or even computers. We had rotary phones (stick your finger in and rotate the dial). At the summer cottage in Maine, we had a party line – you could pick up the phone and hear your neighbor’s conversation.

Rotary Phone

For entertainment, we would actually “go outside and play.” This was unscheduled, uncoordinated, unstructured playtime with no parental or adult supervision or oversight, believe it or not. Two-hand-touch football was a standard. Roof ball (bouncing a tennis ball off of the eaves of the house) was a constant. My favorite toy was a stick – it could be anything, from a sword to a rifle. I climbed trees a lot and basically just roamed around.

For a time in the mid-60s, I would take the old Pennsylvania Railroad into Philadelphia each week for piano lessons. Noisy, windy old rail cars in an ugly dark red color, occasionally an equally ugly dark green. We lived about equidistant from both the Overbrook and Wynnewood stations on the old Main Line (now Paoli-Thorndale route), so I would walk to one or the other. Wynnewood had the stores, but Overbrook was a better walk.

Pennsylvania Railroad

When I first became aware of cars, most families had only one, and we would laugh today at what was considered a traffic jam back then. There was no trouble at all finding an open road, and “the country” started much closer to town than it does today. I was 10 years old when I was first captivated by the all-new Ford Mustang. The Mustang just celebrated its 50th anniversary year. (I think I learned about a new “rock ‘n’ roll” group called The Beatles in that same year.)

Cars in the early 1960s reflected the country as a whole – wide open spaces. There was plenty of sheet metal, with plenty of gaps. Plenty of wasted space under the hood and within the cabin. Aerodynamics and wind drag wouldn’t come into play until the late 1970s. Vinyl-covered bench seats up front (without seat belts) let you slide from side to side in the turns. This is when you could squeeze four across, with extra bodies in laps, if necessary. Safety was not a concern, and it’s a wonder that the species survived this era. More and more attention was paid to power and acceleration, while the technology of stopping would lag behind.

The Philadelphia Suburbs

King of Prussia Mall opened in 1963 in the middle of nowhere. This was only what we call the Plaza today, more of an open-air shopping center, but understand that the Plaza has since been expanded, itself. There was a J.C.Penney anchoring one end, a cheapo department store E.J. Korvette, and an Acme. Later, Gimbel’s and Wanamaker’s would come in, and the mall would be enclosed. For Philly-area folks, there was no Blue Route. The best way to get to King of Prussia was to drive out Route 352 and then take King of Prussia Road (the back way). Or take Montgomery Avenue/Gulph Road all the way out.

Exton Square Mall would open ten years later in 1973, Springfield and Granite Run Malls shortly thereafter. Malls would become THE place to be, for everything, and then fall out of fashion, all since the 1960s. Times change.

Granite Run Mall 1974-2015, R.I.P.
Granite Run Mall 1974-2015, R.I.P.

Pre-dating the King of Prussia Mall was the Bazaar of All Nations in Clifton Heights (Baltimore Pike). This was an early attempt at a mall – a collection of shops all under one roof. The shops were ultra-quirky, but so were the customers. You could get a custom t-shirt imprinted or find those special frames for wall mountings. Didn’t much like the place, but there were times when I HAD to go there, for something you couldn’t find anywhere else.

The local Blue Laws were in effect for all of my childhood. This meant that almost nothing was open on a Sunday. This grew out of misguided christian thinking, which assumed that everyone was christian and/or all christians kept the Sabbath holy. (For instance, even still, Pennsylvania car dealerships are closed on Sundays.)

One of the very few stores open on a Sunday was Wawa Food Markets (“Mama, I want my Wawa.”). Back when my weekly allowance was a quarter (that’s right, 25 cents), I would go to Wawa on Sunday and pick up the latest comic book (12¢) and a TastyKake (10¢) and three pretzel rods out of the container on the counter (1¢ each). When I was 18, I was working at that Wawa, still the only thing open on Sundays. We were busy with a constant line of customers, all buying their Sunday papers*, milk and eggs, and sliced deli. For sure, the staff had to kick it up a notch on Sundays, but it was actually fun. The only game in town.

* By papers, I mean newspapers. These were oddly shaped, folded, thin paper reading materials that we bought to find out what was happening locally and around the world (“news”). Philadelphia had two major papers – The Philadelphia Inquirer (morning) and The Philadelphia Bulletin (evening). This was before the internet, before 24-hour cable news networks. The news in these newspapers could be as much as a full day old, but this is how we consumed our “news media.” In particular, the Sunday edition (which always came out on Saturday) would be three to five times as thick as usual, crammed with articles of local interest, sections on entertainment, style, living, and all of the advertising circulars and the all-important Sunday comics in color.

The Route 104 Red Arrow line ran on tracks from 69th Street all the way out to West Chester. (Think: day trip.) The trollies were replaced by buses in the year I was born. Still, Route 3 has seen a LOT of construction over the past 60 years. But I remember when there was NOTHING between Newtown Square and West Chester, except the Dairy Queen in Edgemont. Civilization is slowly creeping westward out of Newtown Square, but it may be rethought. It seems that the young generation is rediscovering city life, leaving the suburbs/mortgages/yardwork/cummuting/cars behind.

The more things change…

Thank you, Hillary

When did I become radicalized?

I registered in 1972 as a Republican. I cannot remember how that happened; it may be because my own parents were Republicans, I don’t know. Certainly, my namesake was what would now be described as a “liberal Republican,” and so was I. In 1972 and in every presidential election since, I have never voted for a Republican candidate for president, but either a) it never occurred to me to change registration or b) I was too lazy to fill out the forms. So I remained a Republican.

If anyone wants to call me a RINO (Republican In Name Only), that’s fine. I was.

In the 1990s, I was a big fan of the Clintons. The president seemed to have it all – a brilliant mind, an attractive set of policies, and a speaking style that I could listen to for hours. But for one weakness, I believe he would have been considered one of the greatest presidents of the century (at least). But it was Hillary that really impressed me.

First LadyUnderstand – the traditional First Lady was Mamie Eisenhower, Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird, Pat Nixon, Nancy Reagan. All of these women were first and foremost the First Housewives, responsible for keeping the White House a model showcase, from draperies to dishware. We obsessed over their gowns, their hats, their movements. If they had adopted a cause, it was “cute,” but hardly earthmoving. Until Hillary.

Hillary Clinton took the role of First Lady, crumpled it up, and threw it out the window. She was very much her own person – Wellesley, Yale Law School, a law degree, a law career, an activist role as First Lady of Arkansas, etc. She wasn’t just a liberal, she was, at the time, The Most Radical Liberal Ever on the Face of the Earth. Republicans already didn’t like her, but what turned them forever against her?

Cookies.

An offhand remark in which Hillary said she could have chosen to stay at home, baking cookies and having teas, but she had decided instead to pursue her career and her god-given potential (something she would later insist on for all women and children of the world). This caused Republican heads to explode all across the country. Nothing more than this. And this would lead to a 30-year obsession with bringing down the evil Hillary Clinton.

I thought it was amazing. Here was a strong, smart, independent woman who showed that being married didn’t just mean that “the two shall become one,” but that – even better – the two shall become a stronger two! A strong, smart woman with upside potential to do anything, be anything she wanted. I would have happily voted for her to be president in 2000.

Hillary would eventually run and win a seat in the Senate from New York, and I didn’t pay close attention to those years. I do know that (despite a national obsession with proving guilt – any guilt) she was able to work well with opposition Senators, some who would later praise her work in that body. I also know that she would cast a vote that I myself would have cast, because of false information (lies) fed to her and to us. This vote would be used to later cast her as a “warmonger,” even though 99.9% of all Americans would have cast the very same vote.

When she ran in 2008, I smiled as I voted for her in the Pennsylvania primary, and was saddened when a young Barack Obama denied her the nomination. But, just as Hillary timely turned her full attention and support to electing Obama, I did, too. When Obama tapped her to be Secretary of State, it was surprising but not – who better to fill that role? And Hillary did a masterful job, enjoying an impressive job approval rating across party lines. Even while Congressional Republicans were trying to vilify, investigate, and interrogate, the American public thought she was an excellent Secretary of State.

And this high approval rating remained until Hillary declared her intention to run again in 2015.

There is no question that Hillary Clinton was a lightning rod. Men who were somehow threatened by a strong, independent woman HATED her. She was held to a standard that no human being in history has had to match, but she not only matched it, she beat it. Every time.

Benghazi committeeFour men died in Benghazi. Republicans spent millions in taxpayer money and nine (?) Congressional hearings trying to prove Hillary was guilty of … something. But there was never anything. Many, many more people died during the Bush administration without a single word from Congress.

Hillary testifying Benghazi committee

Hillary sent emails. Again, millions in taxpayer dollars were spent in multiple investigations to find … nothing. In the end, FBI Director Comey would admit that there was no cause to pursue criminal charges against Clinton. Even so, Republicans and even Trump would repeat the refrain “33,000 emails deleted,” as if this meant anything. The Bush admnistration deleted MILLIONS of emails, but I don’t recall a single inquiry.

The Clinton Foundation, from which Hillary had removed herself during her stint as Secretary of State, was accused of taking money from despots in exchange for attention from the Secretary – pay for play. Again, an investigation revealed… nothing. There was no indication of anything improper in this Foundation, which was doing global good, particularly in fighting AIDS in Africa. There was no quid pro quo, there was no huge stream of funds leaving the Foundation for the Clintons’ personal checking account. Nothing. Meanwhile, the Trump Foundation was an absolute fraud, found to be illegally soliciting funds in New York, its funds used for questionable purposes by Trump, himself, but all of the news coverage was of the Clintons.

When Hillary began her campaign in 2015, she WAS the presumptive nominee. There was some talk of Joe Biden getting into the race, but that (under very unfortunate circumstances) would not happen. There were a couple of small players who committed to the race, but they would soon drop out. No, this was Hillary’s nomination until…

Bernie Jumps In

Bernie Sanders entered the race. Bernie Sanders took great pride in being an Independent. but when he wanted to launch a campaign, he admittedly switched party affiliation to Democrat in order to make use of the party’s capabilities. He had no problem USING the Democratic Party to sustain his campaign against Hillary Clinton, later to condemn that same party for showing favoritism for Hillary. The Party made no moves against Sanders, did nothing to overtly hurt his campaign, but his charges against the Party stuck with his faithful, who still to this day believe that the nomination was somehow stolen from him. (Stolen by millions and millions of voters, who were all in on the conspiracy.)

The other failing of Bernie Sanders was in not turning to support Clinton when it was obvious that his campaign would fall short. The entire world was aghast as Sanders continued his campaign right up to the convention, creating a divided party at just the time a nominee should be enjoying a public bump and a united launch into the general election.

Bernie Sanders hurt Hillary’s campaign as much as any other force against her. Without his interference, or even without his unusually long campaign into the convention, I contend that Hillary Clinton would have been the 45th President of the United States.

In the general election, Donald Trump tried his best to give the media things to focus on, but Wikileaks (that alleged rapist of Swedish women) was given some EMAILS from the DNC, which they made public little by little, so as to keep the media engaged over time. They would later also acquire emails from Hillary’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, to ensure that no one in the media would pay any attention to Trump’s ongoing list of fails.

The fact that these leaks (stolen emails, actually) would come from Russian sources, and that the Russians hacked the DNC, and that the Russians were in communication with the Trump campaign, would normally be a case-closer. But in 2016, this was treated as just another day in TrumpWorld. The staunchly anti-Putin GOP suddenly had no problems at all with any of this.

Through three debates, Hillary Clinton proved herself to be unquestionably more ready to be Commander in Chief. In fact, once the infamous Access Hollywood tape of Trump (the pussy grabber) on the bus hit the streets, it appeared Trump had finally reached the low bar that could not be crossed, and Hillary was on her way to the White House.

But…

Director Comey said he found some more emails.

Comey finds more emailsA week before the election, in violation of EVERYTHING WE HOLD SACRED, Comey dropped a letter claiming to have found more emails that “might” have something to do with the earlier investigation. Or not. We don’t know.

So. Despite Trump’s mob ties, his shady dealings and subsequent bankruptcy in Atlantic City, his use of imported Chinese steel, having his clothing and branded items manufactured overseas, his serial cheating on multiple wives, his ranking as The Biggest Liar of all 20 candidates in the 2016 campaign, his bragging about grabbing women’s pussies… Despite all of that AND the Trump campaign being in league with Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence, Hillary lost the election because she might have sent an email.

This would happen to NO ONE ELSE.

A strong, smart, independent woman ran for President of the United States of America and a unique set of forces rose to deny her that office.

Donald Trump, an obvious racist, took much of the white vote. Whites were driven by fear and hate to vote for Trump, who painted a picture of the future that was their worst nightmare – minority status (laughingly a.k.a. “white genocide”). Mexicans were streaming across the border to take their jobs and rape their wives. Muslims were streaming into the country to explode into random killing sprees. “The Blacks,” as always, were a threat because… uh… because they were black. (?) So whites cowered in the voting booths and voted Trump, even those who would never, ever have admitted that they would vote for Trump.

61,000,000 Americans voted for a racist or, at the very least, for racism. I won’t say that all 61,000,000 ARE racists, but I’d say that at least half of those basket cases are deplorable.

So. Hillary had to go up against:
Congress, Benghazi committees
State Department investigation of emails
Bernie and the BernieBros
FBI investigations of emails
Wikileaks
The Russians
and a whole, hell of a lot of racists. And still she ended up with almost 3,000,000 more votes than Trump, but a second place finish.

Thank you, Hillary Rodham Clinton, for all that you’ve done throughout a lifetime, on behalf of the people of the United States. I am sorry that we have treated you so poorly. You never deserved this. It saddens me greatly that I will not have the opportunity to see what you could do as President.

And America… Sometimes you really, really piss me off.

back to TOP

No. 5 Will Always Love You

Donovan McNabb has just been nominated for induction into the National Football League Hall of Fame.

As a fan of a certain age, I can break down Eagles history into three parts: pre-Andy Reid, Andy Reid, and post-Andy Reid.

Pre-Andy Reid

Jeffrey Lurie bought the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994, just in time for nobody’s favorite head coach Rich Kotite to decide it was time to negotiate a contract extension. Kotite had the bad luck of following Buddy Ryan, who WAS a fan favorite (although he never won squat), and his four seasons were lackluster at best. After the Eagles started the 1994 season at 7-2, Lurie said he wouldn’t renew Kotite’s contract, Kotite declared his intention to “explore his options,” and the team fell apart, losing all of the remaining seven games to finish 7-9. The chemistry between Kotite and the new owner (let alone the fans) was never good, and Lurie wasted no time in firing Kotite the day after the final game of 1994. It was Kotite’s only losing season.

People are coming to your house, trying to break into your house, probably sodomize your wife and kids and you don’t do anything about it. –Ray Rhodes

After interviewing several top-level prospects (including the possible return to the NFL of Dick Vermeil), Lurie chose the defensive coordinator of the Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers, Ray Rhodes, to reconstruct the Eagles team. A large portion of Kotite’s team was cut and replaced with journeymen free agents, and Rhodes, with his bluster and bravado about rapists breaking into the house and sodomizing the players’ wives, would put together a pair of 10-6 seasons, taking the team back to the playoffs each time. Rhodes was hailed as a savior, NFL Coach of the Year, and could have successfully run for mayor of Philadelphia after his first season. His second season ended with a loss in the Wild Card playoff game, and the following two seasons continued a downward trend (6-9-1, then 3-13), and Rhodes soon wore out his own welcome.

Andy Reid

After the meteoric rise and just-as-meteoric fall of coach Rhodes, Lurie began again the search for a new coach to lead the Philadelphia Eagles. He had a chance this time to truly pick “his man” to finally take the team to the Promised Land. To everyone’s surprise, he chose the quarterbacks coach of the Green Bay Packers, Andy Reid, who was on no one’s radar as a possibility. Reid had apparently created a buzz within the NFL as “someone to watch,” but he was a virtual unknown outside the biz.

Eagles fans were stunned, not knowing what to think. In the end, we decided that we’d be patient with the new coach, just happy that Rhodes was gone. Patient, at least, until the NFL Draft in April.

Because of the 3-13 record in 1998, new coach Reid found himself holding the 2nd pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. Having worked so well with Brett Favre, Reid knew that the best foundation of an NFL team was a solid and talented quarterback, and he had several top picks in front of him. 1999 was supposedly extra deep in great young quarterbacks coming out of college. Reid decided on Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb. Tim Couch (KY) was chosen first by the Browns, Akili Smith (Oregon – remember him?) went as the 3rd pick to the Bengals. Daunte Culpepper and Cade McNown followed at picks 11 and 12 to Minnesota and Chicago, respectively, for a total of five quarterbacks taken in just the first round of the draft. Of all five, McNabb unquestionably had the longest and best career in the NFL.

Picked No. 2 overall, McNabb was infamously booed by Philly rowdies. They were not booing McNabb, per se, but rather the pick. These fans had fallen in love with the flash and sizzle of running back Ricky Williams and fully expected the Eagles to swoop him up. Coach Reid instead went for the meat and potatoes of a promising rookie quarterback, dashing those dreams. McNabb was not booed, the lack of Ricky Williams was. Still, the booing of McNabb is all that anyone would remember, especially Donovan McNabb.

Coach Reid also knew that a quarterback is only as good as the offensive line in front of him, and so spent two more high draft picks there: Doug Brzezinski (G) and John Welbourn (T).

At the Lehigh training camp that year, I remember watching the quarterbacks warming up. Doug Pederson was the named starter, brought out from Green Bay by new head coach Andy Reid. He was competent, threw a nice ball, certainly on target (given the lack of any defensive pass rush). Then the backup Ty Detmer warmed up, and was singularly unimpressive. Finally, it was the rookie’s turn. ZIP. He threw a bullet so fast that if you blinked, you missed it. As I watched him, I believed that I was watching a thoroughbred among the plodders, someone who was born to be an NFL quarterback. (I don’t overstate – I was amazed.)

The 1999 season saw Doug Pederson start out 0-4, with the rookie McNabb seeing limited action in the second half of the second game. After 0-4 became a 2-7 record, Coach Reid, deciding that the season was lost anyway, finally threw McNabb in as a starting quarterback in game 10 against the Washington Redskins. Even with a poor passing performance, McNabb would win the game 35-28, and the legend of Donovan McNabb was born.

After his rookie season, McNabb and the Eagles would put together a string of amazing years. In 2000, the Eagles went 11-5, won a Wild Card playoff game, then lost in the Divisional round. In 2001, another 11-5 record, and then all the way to the NFC Championship Game. They lost, but the fans didn’t really expect a win that year. 2002, 12-4, and another trip to the NFC Championship. This time, we fully expected the Eagles to go on to the Super Bowl, but the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who “never win in cold weather”) would surprise everyone. Okay, then in 2003 another 12-4 record, and another NFC Championship Game. This time, for sure. But no, the stinkin’ Carolina Panthers – the PANTHERS – would beat the Eagles and end their season. Great. Finally in 2004, the Eagles ran up a 13-3* record, FINALLY got over the NFC Championship Game by beating the Atlanta Falcons (with Michael Vick), and went on to a Super Bowl appearance. Of course, the AFC was represented by the New England Patriots, and although the Eagles were in the game the whole way, they could not steal a win. (*The Eagles could actually have gone 15-1 that year, but for resting starters in their final two games, once home field advantage had been sewn up. See “The Myth of Terrell Owens.”)

Super Bowl XXXIX

That five-year stretch, as historically amazing as it was, defined McNabb’s tenure in Philadelphia. The four NFC Championship appearances should have been joyful, but were actually very frustrating and defeating for the fans. It seemed we would never “get over the hump,” and then when we did, we couldn’t “seal the deal.” As Philadelphia fans, we could make fun of the Buffalo Bills fans – their team was in FOUR STRAIGHT Super Bowls, but could never win one of them. We would have traded places with them gladly, but that was until we tasted consecutive defeats, ourselves. The fans soured on McNabb.

Donovan McNabb would go on to break almost every record (if not every record) by Eagles quarterbacks. His four straight appearances at the NFC Championship Game was an historic achievement for the Eagles, however frustrating, and his trip to one Super Bowl put him in the pantheon with Ron “Jaws” Jaworski (both lost). His head coach, Andy Reid, should have been as beloved in Philadelphia as the previous coach to take an Eagles team to the Super Bowl, Dick Vermeil. (Both coaches have an “ei” combination in their last names. Coincidence? I don’t think so.)

For Eagles fans who hadn’t seen a championship team since the pre-merged-NFL 1960 game at Franklin Field (so long ago that Lambeau Field was still called City Stadium), just “getting to” a Super Bowl was legend. Ron Jaworski lost a Super Bowl, but probably still can’t buy a drink in Philly with his own money. Dick Vermeil burned out and left coaching to broadcast college football games for 15 years, before finally getting back into coaching with the St. Louis Rams (won a Super Bowl) and Kansas City Chiefs. Even so, he is beloved by Eagles fans and will always be known as an Eagles coach.

One wonders what McNabb’s legacy would have been, had he retired after the 2004 season.

2005 was the Year of the Terrible Terrell, in which wide receiver Terrell Owens threw a hissy fit and destroyed the chemistry of the team. In 2005 through 2007, McNabb suffered a series of injuries that put him on the sidelines for long stretches. During this time, his backup, Jeff Garcia, became a Philly folk hero, A.J. Feeley became the Next Great Hope, and even the upcoming rookie Kevin Kolb (NOT the “quarterback of the future”) saw some playing time. After three subpar seasons, McNabb returned to form in 2008, and the Eagles once again made it to an NFC Championship game. But that would prove to be the denouement to McNabb’s career in Philadelphia, and he would ultimately be traded to the Washington Redskins in 2010.

Andy Reid would play merry-go-round with quarterbacks Jeff Garcia, A.J. Feeley, Kevin Kolb, and then finally settle on a reconstituted Michael Vick going forward. But he could never recapture the gold of the early years, and the Eagles would suffer diminishing returns from 2009 through Reid’s last year 2012.

Hanging over McNabb always was the hurt of having been booed and the constant fan appraisal that he “didn’t have the fire,” didn’t burn to win. He was a more cerebral quarterback than we were used to, less emotional. Like his coach, McNabb’s press conferences were almost always a flat monotone, with hesitant, considered answers, and we related this to his style of play. Even though McNabb and the West Coast style of offense kept winning and winning, it was, in the final sum, boring. This was dry, technical football, devoid of the highs and lows, by comparison, of the Buddy Ryan teams that Philly loved. And when the team could no longer put together a drive toward the Super Bowl, the love affair was over.

Football is, after all, entertainment. If it’s not fun to watch, it stops being entertaining.

McNabb would move on, and Andy Reid would hang around a few more years too long.

Post-Andy Reid

Jeffrey Lurie always found one reason or another to keep Reid around for one more year, but eventually had to cut ties with him after the 2012 season.

That year, all of the talk was about the Greatest College Coach of All Time, Chip Kelly. Lurie entered the lottery of teams trying to sign him and eventually did. Unfortunately, over the course of three seasons, Kelly would completely dismantle and lay waste to the Eagles football team. His act wore thin quickly, and three years was enough for Lurie. The personnel moves and coaching style were far too questionable for the owner and the fans, and so Kelly had to go.

So now we return to the Andy Reid school, and his offensive coordinator (and former Eagles quarterback) Doug Pederson is now strolling the sidelines in Philadelphia. In a bit of deja vu, Pederson maneuvered his way to the 2nd pick overall in the draft and chose his own quarterback, Carson Wentz. The pick made Eagles fandom say “huh?” as Wentz comes out of a Division I (FCS) school, not even the FBS level division, but I don’t think it was booed. Luckily, Wentz starts out with a fairly good offensive line in front of him. He played so unexpectedly well in his first game that his No. 11 jersey became the best-selling NFL jersey over the following week and the Monday Night Football crew in Game 2 couldn’t stop praising his name to the heavens. (Thankfully, he played just as well on MNF!)

Time will tell whether Pederson and Wentz can come close to duplicating what Reid and McNabb accomplished in Philadelphia, but they’re off to a good start. Mighty big shoes to fill.

Donovan McNabb compiled 16 playoff games, including (5) NFC East division titles, the (5) NFC Championship appearances (1 win), and a Super Bowl appearance. His career stats and achievements, including Eagles records held, are at Wikipedia.

McNabb was inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame and his No. 5 jersey was officially retired.

New England’s Tom Brady, no matter what he may or may not have done, will go into the Hall of Fame the day after he finally hangs up his cleats. He is arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game. A case can be made either way as to whether Donovan McNabb, without a Super Bowl win, deserves to be inducted. But I keep saying that McNabb had better make it into the Hall of Fame, because if he doesn’t, then Tony Romo, the greatest quarterback to never win a damn thing, has NO shot.

(I should also point out that another nominee for the Hall this year is our old friend, No. 12 Randall Cunningham. I’d like to see him in there, as he defined the “entertainment” of football.)

The Eagles players nominated for induction into the Hall in 2017 include 1st-time nominees Brian Dawkins (a shoe-in) and Donovan McNabb. Also includes previously nominated and instantly recognizable players Terrell Owens (finalist in 2016), Eric Allen, Seth Joyner, Ricky Watters, Troy Vincent, Sean Landeta, and Brian Mitchell.

Year Record Result   Division Winner
1999 5-11   McNabb named starter Game 10 Redskins
2000 11-5 Playoffs Wild Card
Divisional (L, Giants)
Giants
2001 11-5 NFC East Wild Card
Divisional
NFC Championship (L, St. Louis)
Eagles
2002 12-4 NFC East Divisional
NFC Championship (L, Tampa Bay)
Eagles
2003 12-4 NFC East Divisional
NFC Championship (L, Carolina)
Eagles
2004 13-3 NFC East Divisional
NFC Championship (W, Atlanta)
Super Bowl (L, New England)
Eagles
2005 6-10     Giants
2006 10-6 NFC East Wild Card
Divisional (L, New Orleans)
Eagles
2007 8-8     Giants
2008 9-6-1 Playoffs Wild Card
Divisional
NFC Championship (L, Arizona)
Giants
2009 11-5 Playoffs Wild Card (L, Dallas)
Goodbye, Donovan
Cowboys
2010 10-6 NFC East Wild Card (L, Green Bay) Eagles
2011 8-8     Giants
2012 4-12   Goodbye, Andy Reid.
Hello, Chip Kelly
Redskins
2013 10-6 NFC East Wild Card (L, New Orleans) Eagles
2014 10-6     Cowboys
2015 7-9   Goodbye Chip Kelly.
Hello, Doug Pederson
Redskins

VOTE, dammit (part 2)

Donald Trump thinks he’s going to carry Pennsylvania.

Democrats in Pennsylvania think of the state as a Blue State. Republicans think of it as Purple. The Republicans are correct. Although Pennsylvania tends to “lean Democratic,” Republicans can and have won the state.

The last time a presidential election ended up with Pennsylvania’s electoral votes in the Republican column was in 1988 – George H.W. Bush against a weak Michael Dukakis. Any Pennsylvanian who is 28 or younger today might assume that the state always votes Democratic. Don’t be so sure.

Looking at the six presidential elections since, the Democrat/Republican split in the Pennsylvania vote is far closer than we’d think. No Republican has won Pennsylvania in these contests, but the margin of victory is as little as 150,000 votes. Pennsylvania is about to be swamped with political ads, robocalls, door knockers, and blog posts (like this one), because the state would be an absolute plum for the Trumpers and a must-win for Clinton.

…The Democrats…for whatever reason, stayed home in 2010. The Republicans didn’t.

The Democrats can usually count on winning the cities – Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie, and perhaps Scranton, while the Republicans are left with all of the rest. The quote attributed to James Carville, “Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between,” is not far off. Pennsyltucky. Journalist Tom Ferrick wrote an excellent breakdown of just how Trump could (but probably won’t) win Pennsylvania.

Purple State

After Obama was first elected in 2008, the Democrats seemed to think “mission accomplished” and, for whatever reason, stayed home in 2010. The Republicans didn’t. The State House and Senate turned BRIGHT RED, along with a Republican governor to succeed Ed Rendell. Immediately, when not chipping away at abortion rights or giving tax breaks and subsidies to their wealthy patrons, the Republicans thought of how they might suppress the Democratic vote to ensure continued Republican wins. Witness Voter ID requirements and similar new burdens enacted throughout the Republican-controlled states. (Alternately, Democratic-controlled states are looking at increasing voter registration through Motor/Voter laws, even automatic registration on 18th birthday.)

In 2010, Corbett beat a Democrat no one remembers by about 350,000 votes. In that same election, the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate seat went to Pat Toomey (over Joe Sestak) by a margin of only 80,200 votes – out of almost 4,000,000 cast. That’s close! (Toomey was formerly president of the ironically named Club for Growth, an organization which opposed every measure put forth by both Bush and Obama to help recover the economy. Club for Growth’s answer to the Great Recession: “I’ve got mine and I’m keeping it. You’re all on your own.”)

Gerrymandering

Whichever party controls the State General Assembly in the beginning of a decade (a la 2010) gets to redraw Congressional districts. The Republicans swept into office in the 2010 elections were the ones who got to control who gets to vote in which district, thereby ensuring their own re-election in years to come and keeping Democratic voters to a majority in as few districts as possible. This PDF map shows the pure art form that is Republican district mapping. Take special note of the districts around the major urban areas of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. This accounts for the fact that Pennsylvania’s contingent to the U. S. House of Representatives is made up of only 5 Democrats but 13 Republicans, despite being a majority Democratic state. The fix is in, and will be for many years to come. Unless the Democratic Party can reclaim the General Assembly by 2020 (improbable), the Republicans will continue to control the state government for at least another decade.

District 6

The Sixth District (above) is a work of art. Spans four counties to ensure a majority Republican vote for the next several centuries.

If you don’t know whether you are eligible to vote in Pennsylvania, click here for the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Voter Registration services. It’s quick and easy.

Blue Since ’92

Here are the results from Pennsylvania over the last six presidential contests compared to national votes.

Bill Clinton won his 1992 race, but benefitted in large part from the insurgent campaign of Ross Perot. George H.W. Bush might easily have won re-election but for Perot.

1992 Total U.S. Percentage Electoral Votes Total PA Percentage
Clinton 44,909,806 43.0% 370 2,239,164 45.15%
Bush 39,104,550 37.4% 168 1,791,841 36.13%
Perot 19,743,821 18.9% 0 902,667 18.20%

In 1996, Clinton increased his vote total, while the Republican total remained flat. Insurgent voters seem to have cooled on Perot, with perhaps some of them ending up in Clinton’s column. Still, Clinton was re-elected easily.

1996 Total U.S. Percentage Electoral Votes Total PA Percentage
Clinton 47,401,185 49.2% 379 2,215,819 49.17%
Dole 39,197,469 40.7% 159 1,801,169 39.97%
Perot 8,085,294 8.4% 0 430,984 9.56%

The 2000 election was the one that went all the way to the Supreme Court. While Al Gore did compile a larger number of national votes, the all-important Electoral vote came down to the state of Florida (hanging chads). Whoever won this last state would win the presidency.

2000 Total U.S. Percentage Electoral Votes Total PA Percentage
Gore 50,999,897 48.38% 266 2,485,967 50.60%
Bush 50,456,002 47.87% 271 2,281,127 46.43%

Having endured the questionable 2000 election and the questionable invasion of Iraq, suddenly over 20,000,000 more voters came out of the woodwork for the 2004 race. Even so, the results were very close in the total of votes. Notice also that W won both times with a narrow victory in electoral votes.

2004 Total U.S. Percentage Electoral Votes Total PA Percentage
Bush 62,039,572 50.73% 286 2,793,847 48.42%
Kerry 59,027,115 48.26% 251 2,938,095 50.92%

The miracle of Obama’s first campaign was in getting millions more voters registered and getting them to the polls. Note that the Republican votes are down 2,000,000, while the Democrats total was UP by over 10,000,000.

2008 Total U.S. Percentage Electoral Votes Total PA Percentage
Obama 69,498,516 52.9% 365 3,276,363 54.47%
McCain 59,948,323 45.7% 173 2,655,885 44.15%

In 2012, Obama suffered voter disaffection, largely because of the historic Republican obstruction in Congress and the blowout Republican wins in the 2010 midterm elections. Even so, he was able to overcome a Romney challenge – but note how close the vote totals were. Even though Republicans were generally dissatisfied with Mitt Romney, they turned out in large numbers to pull the Republican lever.

2012 Total U.S. Percentage Electoral Votes Total PA Percentage
Obama 65,915,796 51.1% 332 2,990,274 51.97%
Romney 60,933,500 47.2% 206 2,680,434 46.59%

More dry numbers: As of the 2012 presidential election, Pennsylvania had 9,910,224 citizens of voting age. Of those, 8,508,015 were registered to vote (a healthy percentage), yet only 5,753,670 of us actually turned out.

As of this week, the breakdown of voter registration:
4,072,826 Democrat
3,155,935 Republican
674.460 Unaffiliated
427,374 All others

I SUSPECT (and I have no data to back this up) that a large portion of the unaffiliated are disaffected Republicans (like myself) who left the party because of recent events. This would be BEFORE the campaign of Donald Trump. So if they were disaffected before, they should be even more so now.

Donald Trump has managed to offend and antagonize virtually all groups of people except undereducated, older, white men. Yes, there are the exceptions that prove the rule, but by and large his base is what it is. The Democrats, seeing this, are fashioning an even larger tent to include Republicans unwilling to vote for Trump. More and more top-level Republicans are indicating that they may, just this once, vote for a Democrat, rather than allow Trump to embarrass us all for the next four years. I would suggest that this is exactly the way to go.

A sample of conservative columnists who agree:
Daniel Payne, The Federalist
Andrew Weinstein, Wall Street Journal
Donald Brand, Fortune

Two of the most common gerrymandering techniques are “packing” and “cracking.” In the first, the party in charge of redistricting tries to “pack” voters from the rival party into as few districts as possible, to minimize the number of seats the opposition is likely to win. In the second, blocs of opposition voters are parcelled out among several districts, to achieve the same goal.

Both techniques were brought to bear in Pennsylvania. The new Republican majority “packed” blue-leaning voters into a handful of districts around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Then it “cracked” the rest into districts that tilted red.

Drawing the Line
How redistricting turned America from blue to red.

By Elizabeth Kolbert

Lipstick

​The Republican Party (i.e.: the people who run the party) are about to try “putting lipstick on a pig,” if I can borrow from Half-Governor Palin. Throughout the convention and the 3½ months until November, they are going to try their hardest to get you to forget the entire last year. They will succeed with a large portion of Americans, whose collective memory is at best two months and those who will vote Republican no matter what.

The main-stream, lame-stream, liberal/conversative media is going to try to get you to forget, too. The storyline they want to push is that this race is extremely tight, could go either way. They’re going to point out every instance when Trump is “presidential,” while using code words for Hillary Clinton (you know, the bitchy words). Pay attention. Nobody is going to consume media if this becomes a lopsided, obvious-outcome race, so they will perpetuate the notion that it’s “coming down to the wire.” (It’s coming down to the wire.)

WE remember. WE don’t forget.

If your impression of Donald Trump is that he is a pig, a xenophobe, a misogynist, a racist, a fraud, a liar, a pig (did I say pig?), ignorant of the U.S. Constitution and federal laws and treaties, a cheat, a deadbeat, and on and on, you are correct.

From the day he descended the escalator into the realm of politics, he declared himself a bigot. With his very announcement speech (Mexicans, rapists, and some of them, I’m sure, are good), he rang a bell that the Pale Skin Militia could hear 3,000 miles away. Since then, he has managed to target one segment of the population after another, with the exception of stupid, older, white men (of which, ironically, I am one) and all who believe that a lack of melanin somehow conveys an innate biological superiority.

These men have no scruples, no honor, no self-respect, no dignity. And these are the men who want to choose as your next president the unstomachable Donald Trump.

This article (by Chris Kirk, Ian Prasad Philbrick, and Gabriel Roth at Slate.com) lists a STAGGERING number of missteps made by Trump over the last year. A mere 10 years ago, any one of these might have forced him out of the race. Today, all of these are absolutely acceptable to Republicans, as they now work their asses off to get this man into the White House.

And now the Party People think they can wrangle Trump, bend him to their will, and make him a much more appealing candidate for the general election. As disgusted as they’ve been, as #neverTrump as they’ve been, as humiliated as they’ve been, it’s all in the past and their one goal now is to DEFEAT HILLARY CLINTON. These men have no scruples, no honor, no self-respect, no dignity. And these are the men who want to choose as your next president the unstomachable Donald Trump. The guy with the tiny hands.

When you see Trump looking down and reading his speech, he’s reading the words that his handlers have written out for him. When he uses a teleprompter, he’s reading prepared text not his own. When he goes off script and begins to extemporize, his handlers cringe and we can all look forward to yet another newsworthy verbal faux pas that offends a whole lot of folks.

His chosen vice presidential candidate was not a Trump pick. Pence was put forward by the Party People in a deal for their support of Trump. Trump didn’t pick Pence, Trump doesn’t even like Pence. Trump’s introduction of his new “partner” showed that about as clearly as possible. The King of the Deal got outdealt by the political hacks. But Trump doesn’t give an orange crap about who the VP candidate is, since that’s outside of the scope of his attention – himself. VP is irrelevant. Trump is All.

(And if he wanted to assure that women would not vote Republican, the only candidate worse than Trump himself would be Pence. His record on women’s issues is a disaster.)

This might all just work.

When I see a poll that says that more Americans think Trump is more “honest” or “trustworthy” than Clinton, I know that I’ve given the American public too much credit. The fact-checkers (the people who check “facts”) rate Hillary the MOST truthful of all 20 candidates, far above “Lyin’ Donald” (also above Bernie, but that’s no longer relevant). The Republicans have spent 25 years painting Hillary as the Devil Incarnate, and it seems to have stuck with the majority of idiots – I mean, Americans. There are “articles” and videos all over the internet proclaiming Hillary to be a liar, an incompetent, ineffective, even a murderer. And yet, even after 128 Congressional inquiries and investigations, she’s still walking around free. And it drives them crazy. With every Republican attack, Hillary just gets stronger. Hillary Hulk.

Christian evangelists are voting for Trump, because they’re completely screwed up to begin with. These Christian evangelists are neither Christian nor evangelists. They are hate-filled radicals who cheer every insult of “others” and readily believe that Trump’s favorite book actually is The Bible, a book he’s never read (or owned, probably, before it was brought to his attention that he should oughta maybe have one). Every time he talks about how religious he is and always has been, he embarrasses himself. It is obvious how NOT religious he is.

The good news is that Christian evangelicals are not the major religious voting bloc. That award goes to the Unaffiliated (atheists, agnostics, people who choose not to pick one religion out of many). And the Unaffiliated are leaning heavily Democratic. While Christians profess to believe in an ancient alien (by definition) who hates all things Democratic, more and more are coming to see that that’s a whole lotta garbage that they can live without and that we all have more in common than we thought.

Gun worshippers think voting Trump is the way to go. May be, since he really doesn’t care about that, either, while the Democrats want sensical, popular restrictions. They love their guns above all else. Any side-eye is enough to get them riled up, as if the jack-booted thugs are comin’ to git their guns! I’m convinced that the gun worshippers, as a class, are among the stupidest, low-information voters there are. We’re all agreed that universal background checks should be routine, but if you try to pass that law, even the gun worshippers who SUPPORT that start screaming about chipping away at their 2nd Amendment rights and hug their guns even tighter.

WHEN we come to take away their guns (uh-huh), we should start with those who insist on Open Carry. Open Carry means that I can wear a holster, like in the Wild West, or sling a long gun over my shoulder while wearing my paramilitary gear or camo and go grocery shopping. But let’s think about this… Why would anyone want to carry a firearm out in the open in public?

1) They’re very afraid. Or
2) They’re looking for an excuse to use it.

If you’re not afraid, you don’t need to walk around with a gun. But, just like drawing a sword, if you carry it, you better be ready to use it. And look forward to it.

If there’s another reason, I don’t know it. But our collective insanity over guns is a topic for another day.

Economic conservatives are voting for Trump, thinking that he’s the answer to our sluggish economy. Yes, the man who exemplifies the flow of all money to the top is the very man who’s going to solve the problem of income inequality. In a lipstick-covered pig’s eye. He has no real plan (other than everything’s going to be great) and he’ll be surrounded by the same Republicans who’ve sabotaged the U.S. economy for the last 16 years. So what’s going to change? “He’s a great businessman.” He’s great at declaring bankruptcy, extracting millions for himself, and leaving thousands of workers holding an empty bag. This is the very picture of Wall Street greed that even rank-and-file Republicans are supposed to despise, but now they’ve nominated him as their candidate. Crazy.

Sentients will not be voting for Trump.

Women will not be voting for Trump. Aside from his piggishness (and tiny hands), Trump is not exactly an advocate for women’s causes. His new running mate is exactly OPPOSED to women’s causes. The Democratic candidate, on the other hand, has long been a voice for women, at home and around the globe. Hillary Clinton is famously a warrior for women’s health, education, workplace respect and dignity, and, of course, pay equity.

Educated people are not voting for Trump. Apparently, the least little bit of higher education imparts enough sense to avoid political candidates like Trump. Even college-educated white men are leaning Democratic. It’s obvious that colleges are teaching reading skills and, maybe, How to Use The Google 101.

Minorities are not voting for Trump. With only the rare exception, people of color are smarter than to vote for a man who has flat-out insulted them, threatened them, denigrated them. A recent poll showed that Trump’s share of black voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania was 0%. That’s a zero. Okay, it was rounded DOWN to zero, but that’s still really close to zero. (Psst – the very concept of zero came from the Arabic peoples, by the way.) Minorities are not just knee-jerk Democrats, they are among the most discerning of voters, fully aware of issues that matter to them, and they know full well that today’s Republicans are actively attacking them.

Basically, Trump gets stupid, old, white guys

This is what it comes down to – the largest bloc of voters for Trump are “working class” (read: no college) Caucasian men over a certain age. That’s the one reliable group that he can count on, and that’s the group that all of his attention has been on for the past year. He had them from “Mexican rapists,” so he really should have spent his time courting other demographics. His loss. But he gets the Klan, obviously, and all of the right-fringe radicals hiding throughout the 50 states, waiting for the White Nation to rise again. Notice now how often these fringe elements are beginning to come out into the daylight. The Trump candidacy emboldens them. David Duke chose NOW to run for the Senate from Louisiana. No coincidence.

Vote, dammit

But it is not enough to win the election and install Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office. That’s just asking for another 8 years of obstruction, hate, threats. We need the proverbial landslide – the STATEMENT election that says, “Crawl back under your rock.” The message has to be loud and clear that we will not tolerate racism, xenophobia, or misogyny in our politicians. We will not tolerate this from the people who support such politicians.

The message has to be loud and clear that we will not tolerate racism, xenophobia, or misogyny in our politicians.

And we need to take back the Senate (well within reach) and as many seats in the House as we can manage.

We need to reclaim State houses, so the Republican-gerrymandered districts can be redrawn (this one is much harder; the damage was done in 2010 and may take decades to undo).

The Republicans have cheated their way into a large majority in State Houses across the nation. They’ve passed hundreds and hundreds of anti-abortion bills across the country, ruined state budgets by giving tax breaks and subsidies to corporations and the wealthy, while simultaneously attacking our very right to vote. They are determined to hold onto power, despite being a minority party.

If every eligible Democratic voter would vote twice each year for the next four years, we could put an end to a lot of the Republican nonsense. That’s all it would take. Ten minutes of your time, twice each year, for the next four years. DO IT.

“He lies so constantly and so fluently that it’s hard to know if he even realizes he’s lying.” — Ezra Klein (read this)

HTC 10

There can be no doubt that the all-new HTC 10 is the finest smartphone available on the market today. (Go ahead, argue with me.)

It is an absolute beauty, from its chamfered all-metal body to the edge-to-edge glass on the front.

Edge to edge gorilla glass, but where did the speakers go?
Edge to edge gorilla glass, but where did the speakers go?

HTC touts the “24-bit high resolution audio.” It’s like there’s a bottom-firing woofer and a top-firing tweeter. The older HTC One line used to have two front-facing speakers built in, for what many believed was the best-sounding smartphone. But how many of us listen to smartphones through the speakers? When I first plugged a headset into the 10, it asked if I wanted to set up a personal audio profile (well, YEAH, duh). After taking a short test of various frequency levels, the 10 now adjusts the audio for MY EARS. (And with hearing loss in the upper reaches and a constant tinnitus, that ain’t easy.) It also recommends that I create a separate audio profile for each pair of earbuds/headsets that I use. SWEET.

HTC One M7 and HTC 10
The old One M7 with the new 10. Now that’s different.

The One M7 was a groundbreaking smartphone from a respected manufacturer. It had an all-metal chassis, dual front-facing speakers, and was crammed with goodies as befits a “flagship.” The One M7 was a class leader. The succeeding One M8 and One M9 would carry the same look and feel onward, and reviewers would complain that HTC was getting stale. Well, the HTC 10 puts all of that behind. Still, what was important to me was that this new HTC would carry class-leading cameras, above all else. And it does.

HTC 10 sample
Sample photo on AUTO using available lighting

I’ve set up a Flickr album for the HTC 10, to show actual untouched photos straight from the camera (other than downsizing, of course). As with the TFrog.com philosophy, I will show exactly what this device can do, without any help from me, so that everyone thinking of investing in the 10 will know what they can expect.

Right off the bat, I’m amazed. The f/1.8 lens seems to be up to every situation, from full sun to low light. I took the phone on a grocery shopping trip, and it came back with photos good enough to eat. One reviewer pointed out that the photos from the HTC 10 lacked the oversaturated colors, the “punch,” of other smartphones. As a dedicated amateur photographer who has spent thousands of dollars on cameras and lenses, I will point out that the images from the HTC 10 are exactly what the eye sees. Others pump up the colors to make them attractive on social media sites, but I’m not interested. Reminds me of those tourist postcards sold in gift shops.

HTC 10 PRO mode
PRO mode in the HTC 10

I can always adjust saturation and sharpening in post-processing, especially because the 10 also has a PRO mode and RAW format! In PRO, I can control many of the functions (read: screw up), from ISO to shutter speed to focal points. But my early results tell me to just keep it on AUTO. I like the 16:9 format, which spits out a 9MP JPG (4000 x 2240). The buffet above was at 4:3, and was exactly a 4000 x 3000 JPG (you’re looking at an 800 pixel version). So output from the camera is more than enough for most occasions (think a printed copy at 13″ by 10″).

The phone arrived Saturday and I write this on Monday, so I’ve only had it for a few days. But everything about the phone so far has been amazing. I’m thrilled and convinced that I made the right decision.

The back story

Back in 2013, I bought the best available smartphone on the market, the HTC One M7. Not thrilled with my iPhone 4S, I moved to Android, read up on available phones, and chose the HTC – the right decision. The display was sharp, clear, and vivid. HTC Newsfeed was a great home screen, offering news, social media, fully customizable content. The camera/selfie combo was just fine, until my main camera zotzed in year two, putting out purple garbage in other than outdoor sunny shots. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed that phone for its three years.

2014 – HTC released the One M8, also to excellent reviews.

2015 – HTC took a step backwards in the One M9, generally viewed as a disappointment.

I knew that the successor to the M9 had to be a major hit. HTC couldn’t simply “return to form,” they had to create a masterpiece to reclaim the top spot among smartphone manufacturers. And whatever was coming would be out in time for me to upgrade! I set up a Google alert and started scouring the net for any information.

Rumors abound in the electronics world, especially in mobile electronics. Even so, nothing was known as the big Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show came around in January. Perhaps we’d find out something at the big Mobile World Electronics show in Barcelona in February. No, what we found out was that HTC was not going to announce there, either, but stand by for a release from HTC in April.

The early rumors indicated that the new phone (as yet unnamed) would feature a Qualcomm chipset that hadn’t yet been invented. It would also run on a new version of Android that hadn’t yet been written. I wasn’t the only one anticipating something very special.

Enter @evleaks, Evan Blass (now of venturebeat.com), a leaker of information famous around the globe for accuracy. He pointed to a performance test that showed the new 10 as faster than all of its competition. He pointed to a third-party test of the camera, which scored the highest marks ever (tied with the new Samsung). He leaked things like the processor, the camera sensor, and ultimately pictures of the upcoming phone.

Finally, on April 12, 2016, HTC had the big reveal of the new 10. It was beautiful. Just seeing it, I wanted it. Knowing that it had the best camera available today, I wanted it. Knowing that it was the fastest, most capable smartphone available today, I wanted it. It would begin shipping on or about May 4th. But there was a catch.

AT&T LilyI’ve been with AT&T since back in the Bell Atlantic Mobile days. And AT&T, for whatever reason, was not going to offer the HTC 10. It was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to Lily (left) and set up an account for three with Verizon. But it was a celebratory moment when the FedEx man came up my front walk with a package containing two shiny new HTC 10s! “It’s Christmas,” somebody yelled.

The First Woman President

I was saying on Twitter last night that Hillary’s campaign is like a crash course in misogyny.

I am married to a strong (and often opinionated) woman, and I have a grown daughter who is one of the finest people you’re ever likely to meet. I thought I was attuned to the troubles that women face in everyday life, but my eyes are being opened wide these days and it’s exceedingly ugly.

When I scan the replies to Secretary Clinton’s tweets or even to tweets of people who just express an interest in voting for her, I see nasty, nasty, nasty people out there with a profound hatred of everything woman. I don’t get it.

There was much to-do recently over a segment on Morning Joe (MSNBC) where host Joe Scarborough and journalist Bob Woodward waxed poetic about Hillary’s speaking style – “she shouts too much.” Shrieks, too. They went on and on about her shrill voice turning off potential voters and how the great Ronald Reagan knew how to hold a mic and keep his voice down (’cause, you know, “man”).

Hillary shouts

Someone put together a video mix in response, showing some of the male candidates shouting and yelling, and at the end was Hillary just quietly answering a serious question. Now which talk show hosts are complaining about all of these men shouting? At best, they get made fun of on SNL or The Daily Show.

In my humble opinion, the real shrieker – the voice I can’t stand hearing – is Ted Cruz. There’s almost a cartoonish quality to his voice, a “regional theater” practiced style (as one writer put it), that I cannot abide. And listening to Donald Trump on the stump is like having a conversation with a gangster.

Hillary Clinton has been hounded, investigated, interrogated, called before Congressional committees, slandered, insulted, held up as Satan’s spawn or the ultimate expression of the Evil That is Woman

One of the questions that folks love to keep asking is why Hillary made $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman-Sachs over the course of a year. I thought she answered it very well during a recent town hall event: “Well, that’s what they offered me.” Fact is, Hillary is very much in demand as a speaker, and her average fee per event is $225,000, ranging up to as much as $400,000 for a single appearance. She can get that because she has earned that. She was, after all, The Most Admired Woman in the World for 20 of the 23 years 1993 through 2015. But ONLY HILLARY is asked to make public transcriptions of her speeches, whether to Goldman-Sachs and clients or whomever. Who else has EVER been asked for this?

I wonder if anyone has ever asked any of the male candidates (of which there are many) about their own speaking fees. I know that some of W’s post-presidential appearances were criticized because of WHO he was talking to, but no one ever thought he was being overpaid. In fact, I just Googled “Ted Cruz speaking fees,” and I got an article about his loans from Goldman-Sachs, a link to his agency, a couple more articles about questionable dealings, and then a WHOLE BUNCH of articles about Hillary Clinton and Goldman-Sachs. So if Ted Cruz is speechifying and collecting fees, nobody is talking about it.

Women who support Hillary are accused of “voting with their vagina” (yes, really), as if the only reason a woman would vote for Hillary is because she is a woman. No man is ever accused of voting with his penis, if he supports any of the male candidates. (This might also have something to do with the fact that, other than Shirley Chisholm, we’ve only EVER had old white men to vote for.)

“Bernie Bros” have all kinds of reasons why they are voting for Bernie Sanders, thereby codifying their intellectual superiority. They must think that if you are going to vote for Hillary Clinton, it’s only because you haven’t done any research and you’re voting with your heart, not your head. (In other words, you’re WRONG and probably a woman.)

Since Bill Clinton was elected President in 1992, Hillary Clinton has been hounded, investigated, interrogated, called before Congressional committees, slandered, insulted, held up as Satan’s spawn or the ultimate expression of the Evil That is Woman. And still, today, she handles it with aplomb, with quiet strength. Watching her testify before the Benghazi committee (STILL ongoing) and the stark vision of this competent woman versus a host of Republican men dying to make their bones by bringing her (finally) down, I couldn’t help but be mightily impressed.

Clinton at Congress

Most of the candidates running for president this year are a joke, of one kind or another. But of all of the candidates on either side, the strongest is a woman, and Hillary Clinton is the one I want to see in the Oval Office.

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I’m on vacation this week. There’s vacation, and then there’s vacation, as most of us fully understand. When someone says they’re going off on vacation, it was usually understood that they were packing up and going somewhere special for the week (with or without kids). In the modern usage, vacation can just as easily mean taking a little time off and puttering about the house for a week.

The latter is my vacation this time.

I’m trying to remember the last vacation of the former sort. My wife has taken me to D.C. for a long weekend, we flew out to San Francisco and drove to Lake Tahoe some years ago, but that, too, was more of a long (albeit much too short) weekend. There was a time that we went up to the Finger Lakes for four (or five?) years running, with mixed results. Again, my wife asked me to meet her in Phoenix one year (she was on a business trip), and we stayed in Sedona and made the obligatory trek to the Grand Canyon. She lured me out there with the promise of a Mustang convertible rental – how could I refuse? And there was a short trip out to Seattle and Mount Ranier in there, somewhere.

But, of late, it’s been the stay at home type of vacation.

It is said that Americans don’t take (or get) nearly enough vacation time, when compared to the rest of the industrialized world (read: Europe). I suppose that if I only had one or two weeks each year, I’d want to make them something special. Fact is, as we get older, we find that we have more and more vacation time, so that doesn’t translate into a vacation-prime every time we take off. Personally, I’ve come to schedule a week off in the Spring for yard clean-up, and another week in the Fall for the annual raking of leaves and (again) clean-up. Then there’s the ‘Tween Week (Christmas to New Year’s), when it’s just “silly” to work. All of these are, by definition, staycations.

Star Trek quote:
Kirk: Ah, Mr. Scott. You’re looking well.
Scott: Aye, sir. Had a wee bout, but Dr. McCoy pulled me through.
Kirk: Were you ill?
McCoy (whispered to Kirk): Shore leave.

I think that I, too, am allergic to shore leave. When I go to work, I know what I’m doing, I’m pretty good at it, and there’s a sense that I’ve accomplished something. Left to my own devices (vacation), I have no idea what I’m doing. I wake up each day, and my first question is, “What do I want to do today?” And I’m no good at coming up with things to do. By Thursday, the week will have almost passed, and I will have done nothing – nothing to write home about, as they say. Then I’ll be overcome with wasted-vacation-guilt and force myself to go somewhere, do something, just so I can say I did.

So far, it’s Monday afternoon, and I’ve worked on my website a bit. I’m waiting for Mr. UPS to drop off a package of parts, so I can get TFrog‘s door handle replaced. I’m going to schedule a tune-up for the furnace. And I have to cut the grass, since I put it off this weekend (knowing I had nothing planned for today).

But I was reminded of the last vacation that was painful to end. We spent a glorious week in a rented shore house on Lake George, just south of Ticonderoga (the much preferred end of the lake). We had two channels on the TV, and a 1,600 foot hill behind us, which we climbed so that we could have a cellphone signal. The rest of the week was spent exploring, relaxing, hiking, etc etc etc, and the day we packed up to come home hurt. One of my last photos of the trip has haunted me ever since, a reminder of what vacation should be – a place you just don’t want to leave.

Lake George good-bye

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