Now, with Iowa out of the way, we can begin the real campaign.

January 16th, 2024 by Tom Lynch

Last night, in an expected result in Iowa, Donald Trump swept to victory in the 2024 Republican caucuses for the right to represent the Party in this year’s presidential election. That’s one down and a whole lot to go.

In a sparse turnout (only 15% of voters slogged through the sub-zero temperatures), the former president, who is facing 91 charges of criminal conduct, won 98 of the 99 counties in the state and 51% of the 117,000 votes cast.

Networks called the result well before the polls closed, which did not sit well with the DeSantis or Haley camps. Actually, it didn’t sit well with the Trump camp either, because when it happened there was no one except a few staffers at his campaign celebration venue as the results splashed onto all three of the giant TVs behind the stage.

Long after the vote had been called, Tony Decoupil, reporting for CBS Evening News, was doing a stand-up at a high school gym turned into a voting precinct while voters were listening to campaign speeches by candidate surrogates prior to voting. Ouch.

Since 2000, only George W. Bush (in that year) and Donald Trump (in 2020, as an incumbent) have won the Iowa Caucuses, gone on to be the Republican nominee, and captured the presidency. In 2004, there were no Republican Iowa Caucuses. They deferred to Bush. In 2008, 2012, and 2016, the Iowa winners were Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Ted Cruz. None of them became the nominee, let alone the President. Why? Because Iowa is different. According to the Pew Research Center, 70% of Iowa’s Republicans call themselves conservative. PRRI (the Public Religion Research Institute) reports white evangelical and mainline protestants make up 48% of the state’s population, as opposed to 31% nationally. So, Iowa is conservative and deeply religious.

Moreover, except for Iowa, every other state conducts its primary the old fashioned way — voters go to a polling place, enter a voting booth, and cast a secret ballot. Iowans, on the other hand, meet in groups, discuss the candidates, caucus among themselves, and vote by secret ballot. Last night, about 1,600 caucus groups met in designated precinct locations across the state.

In its entrance and exit polling, the Wall Street Journal today reported that 62% of last night’s Republican caucus voters identify as members of the “MAGA Movement,” and 63% believe to this day that Joe Biden was not elected legitimately to the presidency in 2020. When asked to opine on the criminal charges facing Donald Trump, 80% of the respondents agreed with this statement: “They’re political attempts to undermine Trump.”

Next up, a week from today, is New Hampshire, where Pew reports 62% of Republicans identify as conservative, a full 8% fewer than Iowa.

White evangelical protestants make up only 9% of New Hampshire’s population, with white mainline protestants comprising 17%.

New Hampshire is far more representative of Republican voters across the country. Since 2000, every winner of New Hampshire’s Republican primary has gone on to be the Party’s nominee in the general election.

Last night, Trump wannabe Vivek Ramaswamy, after garnering 7.7% of the Iowa vote, dropped out of the race. The biotech entrepreneur, who loaned his campaign $10.5 million (the majority of what he raised), immediately endorsed his hero Trump. That leaves two still standing — barely: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and South Carolina former governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

As they move to New Hampshire, Haley seems to have more momentum and appears to be leaving DeSantis eating dust behind her. Her problem is she’s also eating some dust, a lot of it. Right now, it looks inevitable that come November it’ll be Biden versus Trump, or, as that great American philosopher Yogi Berra used to say, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

But in election year politics, anything can happen. You might consider the 1948 presidential election and a certain New York governor named Tom Dewey, and you’ll know what I mean.

Next Tuesday night should be enlightening.

Florida being Florida — Again

January 11th, 2024 by Tom Lynch

Dictionaries, Ron? Really? Well, yes, really.

Admit it, now. When you were a kid, blooming into puberty, did you and your friends ever sit down with a Merriam-Webster unabridged dictionary to look up words adults told you you weren’t supposed to say? Well, I don’t know about you, but my friends and I did, after which we had quite the laugh. “That’s a word in the dictionary?”

Fast forward to the present, specifically, the present in Escambria County, Florida, population 324,878. It’s the 22nd most populous of Florida’s 67 counties.

Like all Florida’s counties, Escambria has an elected school Board of Education, which has the final say on what happens in the county’s 69 schools with their 37,804 students.

The Escambria School Board is now in the middle of figuring out how to deal with Florida’s new law, HB 1069, the “Let kids be kids” bill, signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on 17 May 2023.

HB 1069 follows on the heels of SB148/ HB7, the “anti-woke” legislation much beloved by Governor DeSantis. This is the legislation called “positively dystopian” by Chief U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker, as he blocked key provisions of it in his 139-page decision in November 2022.

HB 1069 covers a lot of ground. For example, a few points emphasized by the Governor in a press release, dated the day of the signing, are that “HB 1069 protects students from having to declare their pronouns in school. Additionally, this bill expands parental rights in education by prohibiting classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in Pre-K through 8th grade.”

The bill also prohibits anyone from knowingly admitting a minor to “an adult performance” (Read—Drag Queen shows), prohibits gender reassignment surgery or puberty blockers for minors, and requires all public restrooms “to designate separate facilities based on biological sex or to provide one-person unisex facilities.”

Many people have taken issue with all this anti-woke stuff, but far more important to me is that HB 1069 gives residents the right to demand the removal of any library book that “depicts or describes sexual conduct,” as defined under Florida law, whether or not the book is pornographic.

Two things have happened consequent to the passage of HB 1069. First, a number of Floridians have stepped up to demand removal of a number of books because of perceived sexual content. These book-banning demands have been led by Moms For Liberty, a right-wing organization that gathered steam in early 2022, but has been declining lately, especially since the Tampa Bay Times scooped that one of the organization’s co-founders, Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler, and her husband, Christian Ziegler, Florida’s GOP chairman, admitted to a threesome sexual tryst. It didn’t help their case when the third member of the swinging threesome filed a complaint alleging Christian Ziegler had raped her.

The second thing that followed the passage of HB 1069 was County school boards becoming fearful about violating any of it, especially the “sexual content” part. They began worrying about all the raunchy stuff that might be between the covers of the thousands of books in their school libraries. So, each County hatched its own plan for what to do about it. In Escambria County, the School Board ordered the removal of more than 2,800 books from the shelves so they could be “reviewed” by “qualified media specialists.”

As Judd Legum, at Popular Information, reported yesterday morning, these books included — get ready for it — dictionaries (you were wondering when I was going to get back to dictionaries, weren’t you?). Meriam-Webster now sits in storage waiting to be reviewed, along with eight different encyclopedias, two thesauruses, and five editions of The Guinness Book of World Records. Biographies of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, Nicki Minaj, and Thurgood Marshall are also locked away.

So far, only 67 of the more than 2,800 have been reviewed. Many school libraries are closed, because there are no books for students to read or take out.

As Legum write yesterday:

Classic texts like Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl, The Adventures and the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile are no longer available to Escambia County students. Twenty-three novels by Stephen King have been removed. The dragnet has also swept up books popular with the political right including Atlas Shrugged and two books by conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly.

And, in case you’re wondering, yes, the Bible was one of the books removed from Escambria County school libraries over concerns about accounts of sexism, sex, violence, genocide, slavery, rape and bestiality, all of which were grounds for removal. However, after ferocious blowback from the Christians of Escambria County, the school board ordered the book returned to the shelves.

Now, students have at least one place to get their shot of sex. They might check out the Song of Solomon 7. Perhaps these opening lines could get them started:

How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter! the joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman.

Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies.

Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins.

But wait. There’s more!

The Florida 2023 statutes contain another little item of interest, especially for the more prurient minded. Consider this.

Chapter 847
OBSCENITY

847.011 Prohibition of certain acts in connection with obscene, lewd, etc., materials;

(2) Except as provided in paragraph (1)(c), a person who knowingly has in his or her possession, custody, or control any obscene book, magazine, periodical, pamphlet, newspaper, comic book, story paper, written or printed story or article, writing, paper, card, picture, drawing, photograph, motion picture film, film, any sticker, decal, emblem or other device attached to a motor vehicle containing obscene descriptions, photographs, or depictions, any figure, image, phonograph record, or wire or tape or other recording, or any written, printed, or recorded matter of any such character which may or may not require mechanical or other means to be transmuted into auditory, visual, or sensory representations of such character, or any article or instrument for obscene use, or purporting to be for obscene use or purpose, without intent to sell, lend, give away, distribute, transmit, show, transmute, or advertise the same, commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

According to s.775.082, a “misdemeanor of the second degree” will get you 60 days in jail. 

What this means, of course, is that if you happen to subscribe to, oh, let’s see… Playboy Magazine, or, God forbid, Hustler, and peruse either in the alleged sanctity of your home, and if the cleaning lady happens to see either and turns you in, you can end up in the hoosgow — in Florida. Perhaps you should consider the Song of Solomon, instead.

I think Donald Trump was on to something when he labeled Florida’s Governor, “Ron DeSanctimonious.”

Is Liz Cheney a modern day Laocoön?

January 9th, 2024 by Tom Lynch

The story of the Trojan Horse appears in Book Four of Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. Written around 800-850 BCE, it was altered, adjusted and amended over the succeeding centuries, but the kernel of the story never changed.¹

As we all know, in the tenth year of the Trojan War, in order to trick the Trojans, the Greek Epeius builds a gigantic wooden horse, a “thing of guile,” in the belly of which the bravest Greek warriors conceal themselves under the command of Odysseus. The rest of the Greeks pretend to quit the fight. They burn their camp, board their ships, and pretend to sail away for home, only to hide in waiting behind a nearby island. The Trojans, streaming out of Troy, find the horse, but don’t know what to do with it. A Greek spy named Simon, a relative of Odysseus, convinces the Trojans that the horse is a gift to their brave warriors and urges them to bring it through the Gates and into the city of King Priam.

It is at this point that Laocoön, a Priest of Apollo, appears at the Gates with his two sons to tell the Trojans it’s all a trick. He comes rushing down from the citadel crying in alarm, “Are you mad? Do you think the foe has gone? Do not believe this horse, whatever it may be. I fear the Greeks, even when bearing gifts.”

Laocoön throws his spear with all his strength at the flank of the horse. It lands hard and pierces the shell, causing the Greek warriors inside to begin to whimper and the townspeople to begin to suspect a Greek trick.

But here, the gods intervene. Two serpents rise out of the sea, snake over land, wrap themselves around Laocoön and his sons, and choke the life out of them.

The Trojans take the death of Laocoön as a sign, drag the horse into the city, and that night, Troy falls.

According to the Roman writer Pliny, the sculptors Hagesandros, Athenodoros and Ploydoros, created this famous sculpture of Laocoön and his sons being attacked by the serpents in the later first century BCE. It has been housed in the Vatican Museum since its discovery in Rome in 1506.

The story of Laocoön and the Trojan Horse makes me think of Liz Cheney, a Republican leader from Wyoming, first elected to Congress in 2017 and exiled by the Party in 2021 for speaking truth in a House full of lies. Daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, she has always been steadfastly conservative. Following the insurrection of January 6th, she recognized  Donald Trump for the grifting, cunning, cancer-on-the- country he is, fully responsible for the death and mayhem that day brought. And she recognized the insurrection for what it was — a treasonous assault on the Republic.

As Chair of the House Republican Conference, Cheney was the third highest officer in Republican House leadership, a position now held by New York’s Elise Stefanik. More about her in a moment.

After agreeing to serve as Vice Chair on the House Committee investigating the events of January 6th, Cheney was stripped of her House leadership role by the Kevin McCarthy-led Republican House minority. This is the same Kevin McCarthy who, two days after the attempted insurrection said rioters “overtook” the Capitol. He said they broke a window in his office, could have kidnapped or even hung members of Congress, and called the mob attacking the Capitol “un-American.”

And whom did the former Speaker blame for the mayhem? Why, Donald Trump, of course. Here’s what he said on the House floor in the days following the attack.

This rational, reasonable, and, frankly, patriotic position is one McCarthy sped away from as soon as he realized the MAGA base and nearly all House Republicans disagreed with him. On 28 January, 17 days later, he was at Mar-a-Lago begging Trump’s forgiveness.

But Liz Cheney never wavered. Democrats may not agree with her conservative views — she voted with the Trump-led Republican Party positions 93% of the time² — but how can anyone question her patriotism? She sacrificed her entire political career and future for it. In her new book, Oath and Honor, published by Little, Brown & Company, she writes, “So strong is the lure of power that men and women who had once seemed reasonable and responsible were suddenly willing to violate their oath to the Constitution out of political expediency and loyalty to Donald Trump.”

Cheney’s Republican Party is gone, and so is she. How much has it changed? Well, consider her “replacement,” Elise Stefanik, now chair of the House Republican Conference since Cheney’s ouster in 2021.

On Sunday, appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, she was asked about her views on the many hundreds of people convicted and imprisoned  for crimes relating to their actions on January 6th, (convicted by juries of their peers, by the way). In reply, she said, “I have concerns about the treatment of January 6 hostages.”

“Hostages” is the exact word Trump has been using lately to describe the people who stormed the Capitol looking to “hang Mike Pence” and find Nancy Pelosi — “Where’s Nancy,” they called as they stormed her office while her staff hid silently behind locked doors.

And “hostages” is a word we’ve heard and read many times in media coverage since the Hamas deadly attack on Israel on 7 October, an attack that still leaves more than a hundred people languishing, as “hostages” somewhere in Gaza, an attack that tears at the soul of Israeli families who don’t know if their loved ones are alive or dead. I find it disgusting that Trump and Stefanik (probably to be followed by other Trump sycophants in the days ahead) conflate the two diametrically different groups.

Six days from now, Iowans will begin the process of picking someone to challenge Joe Biden. Every pollster on God’s green earth predicts that someone will be Donald Trump. Liz Cheney and other patriotic Republicans, the ones who still yearn for the Party of Abraham Lincoln, will do all they can to stop that from happening. Will they succeed? I have no idea, but the odds are heavily not in their favor.

But this much I do know. Liz Cheney and Laocoön have much in common. Serpents destroyed them both.

___________________

¹ The full story of the Trojan Horse that accomplished the fall of Troy took shape in Virgil’s Aeneid, completed in 20 BCE.

² FiveThirtyEight, a politics-focused website developed by statistician Nate Silver, said Cheney voted with Trump 92.9% of the time he was in office from 2017 to 2021. Her votes clashed with Trump’s positions 13 times, according to the website’s tally. These were mostly in the area of defense funding and Trump’s reluctance to impose sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

 

 

Remembering a modern day of infamy

January 5th, 2024 by Tom Lynch

Tomorrow is the third anniversary of one of the most horrific days in American history — the storming of the U.S. Capitol during an insurrection instigated by Donald Trump in a treasonous attempt to remain in power despite losing the 2020 presidential election by about seven million votes.

Like the September 11th attack in 2001, most of us were glued to our television screens as a riotous mob desecrated the building whose design President George Washington had commended for its “grandeur, simplicity and convenience,” on April 5, 1793. Five months later, Washington laid the cornerstone, with Masonic ceremonies. Since then, the  building has been built, burnt, rebuilt, extended and restored.

The Capitol’s construction was laborious and time-consuming: the sandstone used for it had to be ferried on boats from quarries in Virginia; funding for its construction was inadequate; and workers had to be persuaded to leave their homes to come to the relative wilderness of Capitol Hill with its mosquito-infested, malaria-producing, summertime tropical heat.

Over the next seven years, the entire work effort was concentrated on the building’s north wing, so at least it could be ready for government occupancy as scheduled in 1800. At the end of that year, Congress, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and the courts of the District of Columbia took up residence in the brand new U.S. Capitol. The circle was closed in November of that year when John and Abigail Adams began living in the not-yet-completed White House.

In 1851, Congress, realizing it was outgrowing the Capitol, decided to enlarge it. Under the direction of Philadelphia architect Thomas U. Walter, workers began a 14-year project to renovate the existing building and begin construction of the northeast corner of the House wing. The original sandstone had weathered badly, so Walter replaced it with marble, quarried from Lee, Massachusetts, 12 miles west of where I sit writing this panegyric to the center of our government.

Momentous events have happened beneath the Capitol’s dome, good laws, bad laws, triumphs, and  tragedies. Abraham Lincoln’s body lay in state in the center of the Capitol’s Rotunda after his assassination in April, 1865. He was the first to be so honored. Since then, 12 Commanders in Chief have done the same.

And three years ago, a rabid mob of insurrectionists broke its way into this hallowed symbol of America to defile and ravage it. They went looking for Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. If they had found either, God knows what would have happened. Republican Senators and Representatives, many of whom seem to have forgotten the profanity of the event, ran for their lives, hid under chairs, and blockaded doors.

Nine people eventually died because of what happened that day. Since then, the federal justice system has completed more than 725 prosecutions and in excess of 450 people have gone to prison for what they did, nearly 200 of them saying they did it because Donald Trump told them to.

And yet, although all of us watched the horror unfold while the mob violently assaulted heroic Capitol Police and built an actual gallows just outside the building, Donald Trump has continued spewing the lies that led to the terror in the first place. And the vulnerable among us have listened and believed.

A new  Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, released this week, should concern all of us. In the poll, twenty-five percent of Americans say it is “probably” or “definitely” true that the FBI instigated the January 6th attack on the Capitol. This, of course, is false. It is a lie promoted by Trump, his sycophants, and fawning right-wing media. The Department of Justice, law enforcement around the nation, and Trump’s own advisors, like former Attorney General William Barr, have repeatedly debunked and proven the claim wrong.

And yet, they believe.

It should be obvious to everyone that Donald Trump’s MAGA supporters will never change their minds about any of this. Any facts, any empirical evidence will be taken as false. Facts are only facts if they are the “facts” that conform to their ideology. This is terrifying.

Perhaps it is fitting to end this Letter from the Berkshires with the words John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail in 1800 at the end of his first day residing in the yet-to-be-completed new White House. Franklin Roosevelt had the words engraved onto the mantel of the White House State Dining Room in 1945. Adams wrote, “May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.” 

Adams would have wept at the thought of a Donald Trump ever ruling “under this roof.”

 

Prepare for a bumpy ride. 2024 is here.

January 2nd, 2024 by Tom Lynch

The 118th Congress won’t return from recess for its second year until a week from today, 9 January. What can we expect?

Well, if it’s anything like its first year, not much. In 2023, our divided and very partisan government passed 27 pieces of legislation (the previous Congress passed 362), three of them major, and they were crisis-driven: two short-term extensions of funding to keep the government open and one to raise the U.S. government’s debt ceiling — essentially so the government could pay the bills Congress had already directed it to spend. Other than that, the fruits of our hard-working representatives were such things as naming some Veterans Affairs clinics and commissioning a commemorative coin for the 250th anniversary of the Marine Corps.

The major legislation passed during the Biden Administration, for example, 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act and 2021’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, were passed well before the current bunch arrived and busied themselves with taking 15 votes and five days to elect Kevin McCarthy Speaker, passing the aforementioned debt ceiling bill, kicking out Kevin McCarthy for passing the aforementioned debt ceiling bill, electing Louisiana’s Mike Johnson Speaker, repeatedly telling Americans how bad things are (they’re not), and stiffing Ukraine while making cat-on-the-hot-tin-roof demands about our southern border.

And who is this Johnson fellow, anyway? Why, he’s the very rookie Speaker of the House whom the National Association of Christian Lawmakers’ (NACL) asked to give the keynote address at its annual meeting and awards gala on 5 December, which was attended by the organization’s members and supporters across 33 states.

In his speech, Johnson compared himself first to Moses and then to Moses’s brother Aaron. Aaron, you may recall, is the man God told to speak to Pharaoh for Moses, because Moses stuttered. Johnson told the crowd, “This is a Red Sea moment. And so I work to get Steve Scalise elected Speaker, that didn’t happen. And then Jim Jordan, who is like another big brother of mine. No, that didn’t happen. Ultimately, 13 people ran for the vote. And the Lord had told me to wait, wait, wait. So I waited and waited and then, at the end, when it came to the end, the Lord said, ‘Now, step forward.'”

All that was missing was a burning bush.

Next week, when Congress returns, it will immediately face, once again, the debt ceiling issue it put off when McCarthy still ran the show. It will have ten days to act on the first of two spending bills that must be passed to avoid shutting down the government and defaulting on our debt. If the past is prologue, we’re in for a rough ride.

It will also face the urgent need of funding for Ukraine. Failure to do so could be globally catastrophic. Perhaps our new Moses, or Aaron, or whoever he is, will see that as a real Red Sea moment.

A Republic…if you can keep it

At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Secretary of War James McHenry recorded in the journal he kept during the Convention that politically and socially prominent Philadelphian Elizabeth Willing Powel had asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”  McHenry wrote that Franklin replied, “A republic . . . if you can keep it.”

A Republic is representative government without a monarchy. In a republic, a written constitution limits the majority and provides safeguards for individuals and minorities, which is what America’s Founders wanted.

As we enter 2024, the 236th anniversary of our Republic, representative rule is threatened. It’s been threatened before, most notably during the Civil War. At that time our “better angels” triumphed.

Today, we face a different kind of threat: authoritarian nationalism. Our 118th Congress is smack dab in the middle of this, and much of its membership has decided the preferred action is to throw more gasoline on the fire. Many seem to yearn for authoritarian nationalism, another name for Fascism.

We have faced Fascism before, of course. In the 1930s, the German American Bund dragged itself out of the muck to genuflect to Adolph Hitler. In 1939, twenty-thousand of them gathered in Madison Square Garden to hear Bundesfuhrer Fritz Kuhn wax eloquent about the benefits of Nazism. At this biggest Nazi rally ever held on American soil, he told them, “The Bund is open to you, provided you are sincere, of good character, of White Gentile Stock, and an American Citizen imbued with patriotic zeal. Therefore: Join!” The Garden crowd consistently booed President Franklin D. Roosevelt and chanted, “Heil Hitler.”

Fritz Kuhn proved to be a non-entity. The German American Bund imploded on itself, and after Pearl Harbor was heard no more. But other fascist groups consistently popped up over time. All of them lacked one important thing — a galvanizing, charismatic leader.

Enter Donald Trump.

“A Republic…if you can keep it.”

 

The rising tide in Florida

December 22nd, 2023 by Tom Lynch

Your name is Ron DeSantis, and you are the Governor of Florida. You are naked ambition personified, and you are running for President, but that hasn’t been going too well for you lately. I wonder why?

Could it be that you have shown yourself to be quite the heavy-handed bully, a cranky, “my way or the highway” kind of guy? After all, you’ve publicly fired elected prosecutors (twice), tried to kneecap the Walt Disney company for disagreeing with your demeaning approach to the LGBTQ+ community, insulted and intimidated high school kids (on broadcast television, no less) for wearing “ridiculous” masks during the pandemic (they kept them on, to their credit), and in your “anti-woke” campaign you personally took control  of public education in the state from kindergarten through college and dictated what could be taught and by whom. You have sown fear throughout state college faculty with the result many faculty have left the state or retired. And woe be to anyone who mentions the country’s history of racism.

But perhaps nothing is worse than your response to the defining issue of our times — the changing climate and its effect on the people of earth, especially those in your little corner of it — Florida.

The just-published Fifth National Climate Assessment suggests dire consequences if states do not make serious mitigation efforts to significantly reduce the burning of fossil fuels in order to forestall what is looking more and more like an approaching, inevitable, global warming catastrophe.

As the Assessment succinctly puts it:

The  observed over the industrial era is unequivocally caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activities—primarily burning fossil fuels. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2)—the primary greenhouse gas produced by human activities—and other greenhouse gases continue to rise due to ongoing global emissions.

The Assessment’s good news is that we are making progress toward reducing fossil fuel dependence. The bad news is it’s nowhere near enough, and if we don’t do better we will lose the battle with calamitous results by 2050. A terrible legacy for our children and their children. Here’s a snapshot to chew on from the Fifth Assessment:

Florida sits on a peninsula with ocean water on three sides. Since 1980, it has suffered 75 disasters, each costing more than a billion dollars. In 2022, at $113 billion, it was the victim of the worst hurricane disaster in U. S. history. That would be Hurricane Ian. According to the Assessment, since 2018 Florida has suffered more damages from billion dollar disasters than any other state.

You would think that might be enough to convince Governor DeSantis there is no time to lose. However, as the Fifth Climate Assessment documents, while cities, such as Orlando, have taken actions to adapt to climate change and mitigate net greenhouse gas emissions, the state of Florida has taken no statewide mitigation efforts since the current governor and candidate for President took office in 2018.

In doing his best to convince Americans to install him at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Governor DeSantis’s coldly calculating character and personality have not lurked obscurely in the political background. Lately, he has put this on full, stark display in his reaction to two pieces of federal legislation: 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act and 2021’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The two Acts complement each other. The Environmental Energy and Study Institute published a detailed analysis of these two mammoth pieces of legislation. Taken together, they total nearly two-trillion dollars. The Infrastructure Act, itself, is the largest infrastructure undertaking since the Eisenhower Administration in the 1950s. The Institute prepared a chart showing how the two Acts work together in a whole-being-bigger-than-the-sum-of-the-parts manner.

The Inflation Reduction Act would have provided $6.4 billion to states to curb tailpipe emissions and reduce the effects of climate change. Florida was set to receive $346 million of that, the third most of any state.

When the Biden Administration announced the funding, the Governor’s Transportation and Environmental Energy departments prepared detailed plans addressing how they would use it and put the plans on their websites. Their focus was on adding trucker parking at rest stops, which staff said could fix the statewide shortage that kept drivers on the road longer, polluting more, as they searched for a place to stop. In 2019, 682 million tons of freight were hauled in Florida, the Transportation department noted. Nationwide, 98% of drivers reported nearly an extra hour of drive time looking for parking. The more time truckers search for parking, the more they burn fossil fuels.

The plans also suggested spending the money on things like electric buses and roundabouts, which reduce the amount of time idling cars spew out climate-warming emissions at traffic lights.

And then,  Ron DeSantis said, “No.” Florida would not accept the money. He had his Secretary of Transportation, Jared Perdue, send a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation declining participation in the federal program. Perdue said in the letter that the program was an example of government overreach that was “the continued politicization of our roadways.” He was echoing DeSantis, who has said that climate change is “politicization of the weather,” whatever that means. The real reason for rejecting the free cash? It came from the Biden Administration and the DeSantis candidacy could not accept federal largesse from the man he wanted to replace.

DeSantis’s Florida now stands alone as the only state to say it would turn down the money, federal officials told the Tampa Bay Times. Any mention of the plans was wiped from the state’s website.

Even Texas, whose governor often tries to outshine DeSantis on conservative credentials, plans to take its share of $641 million, federal officials told the Times.

In reporting about this, the Tampa Bay Times wrote:

Rather than accepting the federal money, Perdue wrote in the letter that Florida would focus on building roads and bridges, “not reducing carbon emissions.”

While Perdue downplayed climate risks in his letter, the now-deleted documents from within his own agency emphasized bracing “for current and future impacts of climate change.”

Perdue cited state data when he claimed Florida has the cleanest air on record, “with emissions continuing to fall as fast as our state grows.” Yet according to the department he oversees, Florida ranks among the 15 states with the highest levels of diesel emissions. The report with that statistic also appears to have been removed from the department’s website.

To me, there is one particularly heartless aspect of DeSantis rejecting $346 million to help the citizens of Florida. The funding contained provisions to allow Floridians to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes and receive substantial rebates for doing so. An example is installing split unit heat pumps, which can reduce electricity costs by about 30%. In Massachusetts we already have a similar program, and I have taken advantage of it by installing heat pumps and a new furnace and water heaters in two homes. The rebates from these projects reduced the total costs by about 40%, and I’m grateful. Now, Florida homeowners will not have the chance I had, because their Governor wants to be President more than he wants to give Floridians opportunities others enjoy.

Where he was once the preferred candidate of major Republican constituencies, it now appears Ron DeSantis has about as much chance of becoming President as I do, maybe less. Florida might have taken to his bullying in your face attitude, but the country knows better. Americans seem to be rejecting him with the decisiveness with which he rejected the hundreds of millions of dollars that would have helped Floridians improve the quality of their lives.

A personal note

First, I’ll be taking a short break from writing the Insider to share what I’m sure will be a marvelous holiday season with my family. See you shortly.

Second, I send my very best wishes that you, the readers who continue to accept my screed into your lives, have a wonderful holiday season, as well as the happiest of New Years and a 2024 that brings all of us something we desperately need: peace in our world.

Finally, a heartfelt wish that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recovers from his broken-hip-fall suffered as he was set to participate in the celebration of the final performance of the Manhattan Transfer at Disney Hall this past week. As he put it in his must-read Substack column, “I’d like to say I fell while trying to save a child from plunging over a balcony, but I just tripped. Hard for me to accept that a once world-class athlete just stumbled. But age is the great equalizer and humbles us all.”

Humbled or not, Kareem is an inspiration in his dedication to telling many truths twice a week. If you don’t subscribe to his column, I strongly urge you to do so. You’ll be glad you did.

Get well soon, Kareem.

Happy holidays!

 

 

 

The war in Gaza: Israel’s high wire act with not a net in sight

December 15th, 2023 by Tom Lynch

We are all trying to make some sense, where sense cannot be made, but still we try, out of the deepening tragedy in the Gaza Strip, which is more and more reduced to rubble, and where today the Israeli Defense Forces admitted accidentally killing three of the many hostages it had been determined to rescue. IDF soldiers mistook them for Hamas militants.

After the Hamas barbarity of 7 October, we have seen pro-Palestinian demonstrations praising Hamas on our college campuses and around the world, and, in a weird juxtaposition, we have watched patriotic preening in the U.S. Congress where Members of the House of Representatives have suddenly discovered it pays to condemn antisemitism.

Meanwhile, those same Members let Ukraine twist in the wind, a veritable Russian piñata. Doesn’t matter a Ukrainian defeat would upset the international balance of power and convince a Moscow madman he really is the second coming of Peter the Great. No, it’s more important to exact draconian southern border concessions from Joe Biden. I don’t know why, but I’m still surprised that a bunch of congressional amateurs are having the time of their lives lining up to throw muck into the gears of international diplomacy.

If that’s not enough, this week we were treated to an American President strongly telling our long-time ally to pull back, slow down, end the bloodshed, only to get a sharp stick in the eye for his trouble from Israel’s Prime Minister, who is happy to keep taking boatloads of money from U.S. taxpayers, because he knows we’re not about to turn off the spigot. We seem to need him as much as he needs us.

Friends, this is like parachuting into prime time at a humongous Rap music free-for-all; it’ll make your head spin.

I think it is impossible to appreciate this all-out horrendoma if one does not examine the history that got us here — and I’m not talking about “recent” history.

Jews and Arabs have lived in Palestine more or less collegially for more than 2,000 years. At the time of Jesus, Palestine, then Judea, was part of the Roman Empire, although Rome left governance of the area to its “client kings,” who were Jewish. Herod the Great is a good example. He ruled a stable Judea, as did his sons following him.

Then, in CE66, the Jews revolted and drove the Romans out from Jerusalem. They set up a new government and stabilized the country. In 69, the Roman Emperor Vespasian sent his son Titus, himself to become Emperor following his father, to quell the revolt and destroy Jewish opposition. In the year 70 Titus captured Jerusalem, burned the Temple, and the Jewish state collapsed, although the fortress of Masada was not conquered by the Roman general Flavius Silva until April 73.

Titus returned to Rome, a bona fide hero. His father gave him a victory celebration through the city, where Titus paraded the spoils from his conquest, including captured Jews, now Roman slaves, and the Temple’s Holy Menorah. If you visit the Roman Forum you will see the Arch of Titus, one of the three major surviving arches. The interior of this arch shows the humiliation of the Jews. The Jewish defeat of 70 begins the Jewish diaspora that lasted until 1948 and the creation of the state of Israel.

The Middle East, and Palestine, was relatively stable until the end of the first World War.

As part of negotiations to divide up the spoils of that war, the League of Nations created the British Mandate, and Britain assumed control of Palestine.

Looking back, you could be forgiven for thinking Britain was the dog that caught the bus. Arabs who had helped win the war (remember Lawrence of Arabia?), had been promised the land by double-talking British generals. However, in 1923 Britain and the League of Nations moved the goalposts.

A crucial piece of the British Mandate was its incorporation of the Balfour Declaration of 1917,  in which the British government committed itself to a “national home” for the Jewish people. In part, the Balfour Declaration also states, “… it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”  

The British left in 1948, and Israel became an independent state, whereupon, under the agreement that created Israel, Egypt took control of Gaza and Jordan got the West Bank. However, Palestinians in what was the new State of Israel revolted, and a civil war, the first of many such battles, ensued. Many Palestinians, 750,00 of them, made the long march to Gaza, under the protection of Egypt. And there they stayed. But they never forgot.

From the Balfour Declaration until 1948, Israelis and Arabs had been fighting. The University of Central Arkansas has compiled a chronology of the hundreds of attacks by both sides, which shows how turbulent and vicious the fight was for the land that is now Israel.

If you study the history carefully, you will not be the least surprised at the ferocity of the current war. It is an extension of the long, dark night that is Judea, Palestine, and now Israel.

The only way out of this calamity is for Palestinians and Israelis to stop fighting and negotiate a two state agreement. Both sides have to give, but we seemed to have reached the point where the immovable object has encountered the irresistible force.

Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu says he will not stop until total victory. This, by the way, is the same Netanyahu who has done all in his power over the last 15 years, both publicly and privately, to ensure there will never be an independent state of Palestine.  This is the same Netanyahu who cut a deal with Qatar to send hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas to use in its governance of the Strip, thereby weakening the Palestinian Authority. Much of the money that reached Hamas went to its military wing and led to the horror of October 7th.

If any of you think this can ever end well, I want some of whatever it is you’re smoking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems to me that one can neither appreciate nor understand the current ongoing tragedy without considering the history that led to it, and I’m not talking about “recent” history.

What we now know as Israel was called Palestine and was part of the Roman Empire during the time of Jesus, although the Romans exercised more of an oversight role, leaving governance to its “client” kings who were Jewish. As long as kings like Herod and his sons after him kept stability in the region, Rome took a hands-off approach.

But that all changed in CE66 with the First Jewish Revolt during which the Jews expelled the Romans from Jerusalem, defeated a Roman punitive force under Gallus, the imperial legate in Syria, and set up a revolutionary government throughout Palestine. However, the Roman Emperor Vespasian sent his son Titus to put down the revolt, and in CE70, Jerusalem fell, the Temple was burned, and the Jewish state collapsed.

Titus returned to Rome to a hero’s welcome and a grand parade, in which captured Jews and the spoils from Solomon’s Temple were displayed. If you visit the Roman Forum you will see the Arch of Titus, one of three great arches still existing. Titus’s triumph over Jerusalem are depicted on the inner side of the arch, as well as his parade’s captives and the Temple’s Menorah.

 

 

Earlier this week, I described the political misjudgments and misguided priorities that led to Great Britain losing her American colonies over the course of the 18th century. In setting out this tale of missed British opportunities, I sought to show how our Republican-controlled Congress, like the British Monarchy and Parliament in the 18th century, is now sleepwalking its way to losing Ukraine to Russia in order to score a short-term political win while simultaneously embarrassing the Biden administration.

We are repeating a colossal mistake made more than 260 years ago.

December 13th, 2023 by Tom Lynch

The year was 1763. Britain had just defeated France in the Seven Years War, what we in America call the French and Indian War. During the war, the British national debt had nearly doubled, going from £72 million to more than £130 million. Its budget had risen tenfold from £14.5 million to £145 million.

The 1763 Treaty of Paris, which ended the war and gave Britain triumph over France ceded to Britain all of Canada and the great trans-Allegheny plains in the valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi, which were populated by unruly Indian tribes and more than 8,000 French-Canadian Catholics. Not  completely expelled from the continent, the French still held Louisiana and the mouth of the Mississippi, from which the British feared they might stage a comeback.

To defend this territory the British thought they would need a force of about 10,000 soldiers. How to pay for this expense became the question of the day.

The logical answer was to raise revenue from the colonies, revenue that would contribute to their defense. How to raise the needed revenue? Taxation, of course.

Since 1732, when Sir Robert Walpole was Prime Minister, Britain had tried, often in vain, to tax the Americans as a means of providing revenue to the Crown. This came to a head in 1760 when Parliament Passed the Writs of Assistance, which were search warrants allowing tax collectors to enter any home, business or sailing ship to look for contraband. Because the British Navigation Act forbade the colonists from  manufacturing anything, “even a horseshoe nail,” they had taken to smuggling forbidden items out of the country to Caribbean and European ports, which diminished British tax revenue in the Americas to the paltry sum of £1,800 pounds in the late 1750s.

The Writs of Assistance were the first of many British attempts to suck money out of her American colonies. James Otis, a lawyer whom John Adams considered America’s finest orator, challenged the Writs in 1761. The trial was held at the Old Boston Statehouse. His argument lasted five hours, and during it he uttered the phrase which was to become the American slogan leading up to the Revolution: “Taxation without representation is tyranny.”

Otis lost his case, but the Writs were ineffective. In subsequent years, Britain tried the Cider Tax, the Stamp Act, the Townshend Acts, and more, all of which led to greater and greater resentment throughout the colonies.

I bring this important history up to make two points.

First, and this may surprise you, from the end of the Seven Years War in 1763 until the firing of “the shot heard round the world,” the British never sent a single Minister to America to investigate the profound discontent of the colonists. During the entire 12-year period, British leaders consumed themselves in factionalism and internal, petty squabbles, while America slipped away. The colonists had non-voting, non-speaking representatives in Parliament, but they were ignored, and the Crown had appointed governors in each of the colonies, but they had little power back in Britain.  No one of any serious standing had ever crossed the sea to analyze anything. This pattern continued throughout the entirety of the Revolution. Britain sent generals, but never a statesman. And as a result, King George lost his colonies.

This was a vivid example of a great power, arguably the greatest in the world at the time, acting resolutely against its best interests.

Second, as of the moment I am writing this, it appears the United States Congress is mimicking the British Parliament of 1763 in acting resolutely against America’s best interests. As  Britain remained laser-focused on taxing her colonies, rather than trying to understand them, rather than trying to negotiate a mutually profitable future with them, so is our Congress laser-focused on extorting draconian  concessions  from the Biden administration, rather than doing what is in the country’s best interests by funding and sending desperately needed arms to Ukraine.

Our Congress is demonstrating the same type of power-hungry factionalism and petty squabbling that lost Britain America 234 years ago. If we lose Ukraine — and that is entirely possible given current circumstances — we will set the stage for a potential worldwide conflagration, because Vladimir Putin has demonstrated time and time again that he will not stop until he is beaten soundly.

If you want easy answers, don’t look here

December 8th, 2023 by Tom Lynch

“Give us the farm, or you get nothing!”

Once more, down the rabbit hole we go.

This week, congressional Republicans made good on their threat to hold up military aid to key allies — Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan — unless President Biden agrees to draconian changes to policies on the southern border. Never mind that holding up that aid runs the serious risk of costing myriad Ukrainian lives, or that cavalierly denying it demonstrates to the world they have no problem throwing American foreign policy priorities under the bus — priorities that are squarely in America’s self-interest — in order to continue feeding political red meat to their base. Perhaps worst of all, Republicans, who seem to really love this game of chicken, fail to acknowledge that the Biden administration has already gone a good way toward satisfying many of their demands.

Writing in the New York Times today about the Republican demands, Editorial Board member Farah Stockman points out:

They want the resumption of the construction of the border wall. The Biden administration already conceded to resuming construction this fall when it agreed to spend money that Congress allocated for that purpose in 2019.

They want to deny asylum to those who have passed through a third country en route to the United States. That’s an expansion of a rule that the administration has already instituted.

And they are insisting that asylum seekers meet a higher standard during screenings at which migrants have to demonstrate a “credible fear of persecution,” to make sure that fewer claims are granted. The Biden administration has already done that for people who have been apprehended between ports of entry — in the desert, for instance, or crossing the Rio Grande.

The icing on this concessionary cake is this: The administration requested almost $14 billion for border security — an amount much higher than the numbers discussed with congressional leaders over the summer. The funding request includes hiring an additional 1,300 Border Patrol agents — a key Republican demand — as well as 1,000 Customs and Border Protection officers, 1,600 asylum officers and support staff members, and 1,470 Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorneys. To anyone paying attention, it is obvious the Biden administration has already come a long way toward the Republican position that something big must be done.

But none of that seems to matter, because the House wants more. New Speaker Mike Johnson is insisting the Administration agree to a bill that passed the House this year, but not the Senate. That bill would make it easier for families to be held in detention indefinitely and make it a federal crime to overstay a visa, among other things.

“The House is saying, ‘Give us the farm or you get nothing,’” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council. That’s not compromise; that’s political tyranny.

Immigration policy is something both sides agree needs fixing. The Biden administration calls it “broken.” It’s a serious issue with verifiable roots, not some made up craziness politicians often spout to get a few minutes of fame and airtime on Fox News. Consequently, the Republican Party, the Party in opposition, wants to run with it like greyhounds chasing the rabbit at the racecourse. They have spent years fostering and channeling public anger over immigration, and they’re not about to stop, regardless of what it means for Ukraine.

So, who will blink first?

This political extortion, of course, bears an ironic similarity to Donald Trump’s 2019 attempt to withhold congressionally-appropriated money from Ukraine unless then-newly-elected President Volodymyr Zelenskyy open an investigation into his presidential opponent Joe Biden.

Different subject; same tactic.

Speaking of rabbit holes

Ever dream of being a college president? Well, now is not the best time to have that dream come true. Here’s why.

When Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October in an act of profound barbarism, the entire world was shocked, horrified, and completely sympathetic to the devastation inflicted on Israeli men, women, and children, more than 1,200 of whom Hamas terrorists killed with unspeakable atrocity. Around 250 people were taken hostage and ignominiously dragged off to Gaza. The world’s sympathy lasted about four nanoseconds, because the Israeli Defense Forces, vowing to exterminate Hamas once and for all, unleashed the dogs of war on the Hamas citadel — densely populated Gaza. Innocent Gazans, whom Hamas used as human shields, started dying. According to the Hamas Medical Ministry, the death toll has now passed 16,000,  a number that may be exaggerated, but even if it is….

After Israel began shelling Gaza in preparation for a ground invasion, the tide of public opinion started to turn. We now have two warring camps in America. Camp One sides with Israel, maintaining that the small country of 9 million, 21% of whom are Arab, will never be safe so long as Hamas exists. Camp Two, without acknowledging the horror of 7 October, decries the civilian loss of life in Gaza and demands that Israel stop. Camp One points to Hamas’s stated goal of annihilating the state of Israel and all the Jews within it, which is the very definition of genocide. Camp Two claims loudly that Israel is right now committing genocide on the Palestinian population of Gaza.

Although, as I have written previously, this is a terribly complex and complicated issue, it has now been reduced to the binary. If you’re sympathetic to Israel, you obviously hate innocent Palestinian Gazans; if you’re sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, you’re against Israel. In other words, you’re Anti-Semitic.

On college campuses, Camp Two is winning, as large groups of protesters march through Harvard Yard chanting “Intifada now,” and students at Penn do the same and spray paint Anti Semitic slogans on campus buildings. Jewish students at both schools are now living in fear.

This puts college presidents in a no-win position. They don’t want to stifle free speech, but where do they draw the line between free speech and speech that puts people in danger? Is there any room for “context” in this horrid situation?

But “context” is what college presidents are wrestling with right now, which was on vivid display this week as the presidents of three elite schools, Harvard, MIT, and Penn, were grilled by Republican and Democratic  members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Committee members, particularly Elise Stefanik (R-NY), wanted a “simple yes or no” to a question. “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules on bullying and harassment? Yes or no?” she demanded of Claudine Gay, the new president of Harvard University.

“It can be, depending on the context,” Dr. Gay responded.

“What’s the context?” Stefanik shot back.

“Targeted at an individual,” Dr. Gay said.

“It’s targeted at Jewish students, Jewish individuals,” Stefanik said.

Representative Stefanik, the Number 4 Republican in the House, asked the same question to the other two presidents testifying. To Stefanik, as well as to the other members of the  Committee, the three presidents did nothing but equivocate. Even Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, after the Hearing, said the three were “lacking in moral clarity.”

Following their testimony, judged inadequate by just about everyone, the three presidents now face serious calls for their terminations. At Harvard, President Gay apologized for her testimony in an interview with the Harvard Crimson, saying she “got caught up in what had become at that point, an extended, combative exchange about policies and procedures.”

“What I should have had the presence of mind to do in that moment was return to my guiding truth, which is that calls for violence against our Jewish community — threats to our Jewish students — have no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged,” Gay said.

At Penn, lawyers for a major donor, Ross Stevens, wrote to Penn’s general counsel yesterday threatening to withdraw a gift valued at $100 million because of the university’s “stance on antisemitism on campus,” unless Penn President Liz Magill is replaced.

However, notwithstanding the thin ice beneath the feet of college presidents, on college campuses opprobrium continues to rain down on Israel. With that in mind, let me ask you a question.

Following the atrocities of 7 October, what was Israel supposed to do? Ignore it? Tell Hamas never to do it again, or else? What’s “else?” Plead with the United Nations to intervene? Ask the Palestinian Authority to use its non-existent muscle to stifle Hamas? Lob a few shells into Gaza and say, “That’ll teach ’em?” What?

We, here in America, were twice in that position. First, on 7 December 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2,400. Today is the 82nd anniversary of the day after, when FDR asked Congress for a Declaration of War in his “Day of infamy” speech. That war ended with two atomic bombs that killed somewhere between 129,000 and 226,000 Japanese, no one actually knows the right number. Not many college students marched in protest after that.

The second time we faced an existential crises was on 11 September 2001, 9/11. We marshalled our forces and with a NATO coalition attacked Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. During that conflict, Afghan civilians were also used as human shields by the Taliban in a US-led attack on Marjah, and, unfortunately, many died.

Helping Ukraine survive, doing the same for Israel while striving to create a viable and safe two-state solution, fixing a “broken” immigration system, combating Anti-Semitism — these are questions that do not lend themselves to easy sound-bite solutions. But solutions they must eventually have.

If not, our ever-darkening rabbit hole will get only deeper.

I hope you have a good weekend. I’ll be back Monday.

 

A Thanksgiving Offering

November 21st, 2023 by Tom Lynch

This is Thanksgiving week. As we all know, the first Thanksgiving happened in 1621 when the English Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people shared a three-day harvest feast in mutual harmony. As we also all know, the harmony wouldn’t last much longer.

Following the writing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, the Continental Congress proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving. After that, various states sometimes celebrated days of Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t until the editor of the popular magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book, Sarah Josepha Hale, campaigned for a national Thanksgiving Day to promote unity that the holiday began to gather steam. She won the support of President Abraham Lincoln, and on 3 October 1863, during the Civil War, Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26.

The holiday was annually proclaimed by every president thereafter, and the date chosen, with few exceptions, was the last Thursday in November. President Franklin Roosevelt, following a joint resolution of Congress, issued a proclamation in 1942 designating the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. And that’s the way it’s been ever since.

I love Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday (Veterans Day is right up there with it, though). All about family and friends, Thanksgiving is the least commercial holiday in our highly commercial society.

At our Thanksgiving dinner, each member of my family, like so many others, takes a moment to describe what they are most thankful for. It’s always a touching and loving moment.

But Thanksgiving is also about giving, and in this week of Thanksgiving, 2023, I have a gift for you.

Following the horrific September 11, 2001, attack on America, I, like everyone else, wanted to do something, anything that might help. So, I did what I could. I wrote an anthem.

Recorded at Worcester’s renowned Mechanics Hall with classical guitarist Peter Clemente accompanying, I used the piece to help raise money for New York City firefighters who had suffered tremendous losses that day trying to rescue and save whoever they could.

Now, thinking about the awful battle unfolding between Israel and Hamas following Hamas’s barbaric invasion, it occurred to me that my anthem might once again be helpful, and so I offer it to all who are hurting, even despairing, over the terrible situation in which so many innocents have died or been forever changed.

Peace be with you.