Understanding Democrats on Taxes in an Election Year

Tax issues and positions are always used as rallying calls by both Liberals and Conservatives in the propaganda wars leading up to important elections. Taxes, the programs they would support, and who will make tax policy are usually central themes of both Democrat and Republican voter outreach.

I am no tax expert, not a financial analyst or consultant. But I know how much in taxes I pay … to Uncle Sam, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Montgomery County, Horsham Township, and the City of Philadelphia (for the “pleasure” of using roughly a mile-and-a-half of city roads twice-a-day in The Good Old Days, when we could actually go into work).

To help those who may have difficulty grasping the reality of election year tax claims of Democrats, this post will discuss my personal viewpoints on …

  1. Raising taxes “only on the Wealthy“.
  2. President Trump‘s tax record

Raising Taxes “only on the Wealthy”

Democrats, led by presidential candidate Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris, love to tell us how The Rich are not paying their fair share in taxes. They have no qualms claiming that taxing The Rich – and The Rich ONLY – will pay for their heavily-loaded Santa’s sleigh of social and environmental programs.

Here are the most expensive programs Democrats will tell you “taxing The Rich” would pay for:

  • Medicare For All
  • Free college education and the absolution of current college debt
  • Green New Deal

Now let’s look at the estimated costs for just those programs:

  • Medicare For All – $3.2 trillion per year (High estimate taken from the Bernie Sanders model)
  • Free college education – $75 billion per year add in one-time bill for $1.5 billion student-debt forgiveness
  • Green New Deal – $500 billion per year (A very conservative estimate, on which I place a very low level of confidence, used here just for argument simplicity.)

For those not keeping score, that’s a whopping $3.8 TRILLION dollars a year! Don’t forget that $1.5 billion in student loan forgiveness!

That’s a hefty tax bill. But The Rich will pay for it all, right?

Let’s see …

The Biden Plan calls for taxing The Rich only (i.e. those individuals and Corporations with revenues over $400,000 per year). The estimated additional revenue for such a change would be $3.67 billion per year.

That’s Billion with a B, not Trillion with a T! And I will add, the linked article supports the Biden-Harris claim that no one under the $400,000 annual salary/revenue will see increased taxes!

How is such a thing possible?

It’s not … quite obviously. Well, maybe if they are using Common Core mathematics.

Even if Democrats were to drastically cut the Department of Defense budget ($800 billion a year) and abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE … $7.6 billion per year), potential financing via US Budget cuts would NEVER get close to the annual $3.8 trillion Liberal Wish List Price Tag!

It doesn’t take a member of MENSA to figure out where the responsibility of the rest of the price tag falls. That is, YOU and ME!

The kicker? The inevitable increase in Taxes is only part of the nightmare!

Consider these points:

  • Corporations are responsible to Share Holders, and Share Holders like Profits! Where do you think Corporations are going to look to pay for their dramatically increasing tax burdens? Answer: Higher prices to Consumers (That is, YOU and ME!)
  • Remember that Democrats are huge proponents of raising the Minimum Wage across the Nation! Who gets to pay the costs of those increases to wages? Answer: Higher prices to Consumers (That is … Well, hopefully you get the message by now)
  • Democrats have also been strongly opposed to the Trump Tax Cuts, which widely fueled the pre-COVID economic resurgence. Certainly, add the loss of those tax cuts to your family’s budget.
  • Don’t think your State and Local taxes will be affected? If goods and services become more expensive to Mr. & Mrs. Consumer, they were certainly be more costly to our Governments! Who pays that? You know the answer!

Now my arguments may not be perfect. I may have missed a few items that might close the Cost-Revenue gap a bit; and I welcome any viewpoints that might provide a more accurate picture. I would be shocked if anyone can convince me that Democrats can sufficiently close that gap to the point where they can prove that the majority of The Non-Rich will not pay a lot in higher taxes if Democrats control all the levels of Government!

Prove me wrong!

President Trump does not pay his Taxes

No one likes paying more in taxes. Liberals will say they have no problem with paying higher taxes, but I would call bull shyte on such a claim. It goes against Human Nature!

Taxes are a part of Life. They pay for a lot of necessary and critical services. We all get that. But there is a fine line between reasonable tax burdens and economy-strangling tax debt. Just look at how the Trump Tax Reductions lit a fire under the pre-COVID U.S. Economy!

I doubt anyone looks at their annual tax returns and wonders, “Gee, how could I pay MORE to help the (federal, state, local) Government?” Yes, it goes against Human Nature!

I always look to lower my tax burden any way I can within The Rules provided.

In fact, I plan to submit a hefty Tax Rebate request to the good City of Philadelphia to reclaim the wage taxes I paid there while not actually working within the City (COVID-19 wise). The City in past years allowed such claims when Wage Tax Payers spend working hours outside the city (i.e. when traveling for work, normal pre-COVID work-from-home, conferences/training outside Philly, etc.

So, when Donald Trump looks to reduce his immense tax burdens, which he – and his corporations – will have already paid on levels and in amounts Working People could hardly imagine, is he really doing anything wrong?

Note that not a single report suggests The President broke any tax laws, which certainly would have been revealed well before he ran for president the first time. (BTW … This massive IRS breach of private, personal information will be found illegal, and should rightfully concern every U.S. Tax Payer!) Even the lengthy, pre-informed, pre-planned New York Times article specifically states no tax laws were broken.

So what’s all the hubbub about, bud?

OMG! A billionaire looked to avoid paying taxes?!? What is the World coming to?!? Get out the rail, tar, and feathers!!

Please …

This is all about the attempt by Democrats to force a wedge between a very smart business man/President and Working Families, who also do everything they can – year-after-year – to reduce their Tax bite …

Don’t be fooled.

Consider the following:

  • In 2005 alone Donald Trump paid $38 million in taxes. That’s just one year in the life of a man largely responsible for hundreds of millions in real estate and casino developments, as well as his activity in television!
  • In 1995, Trump declared a loss of almost $916 million, largely the result of disastrous business losses in the early ’90s.

Some will look at that report and claim it proves Trump was no business genius. But there is always immense risk involved when conducting businesses all over the world in the financial stratosphere in which DJT operated. Huge losses and bankruptcies are part of the landscape where not all factors are under the control of any business.

So where does this leave us? If you have a problem with Citizen Trump paying only $750 in income taxes, blame the Tax Code, created with the help of many a rich Democrat.

To what extent should any U.S Tax Payer willfully pay more in Taxes than legally required? Trick question, I hope!

When Democrats tell you “only the Wealthy will pay more in taxes”, are they being honest? When “the rich and corporations” pass along the costs of additional tax burdens to their customers, are you OK with paying what is essentially an indirect tax?

The math doesn’t lie when it comes The Cost of Liberal Wishes and Dreams. So who is really trying to fool whom?

The Shame in Where We’re Headed

hqdefault

Shelby Foote

Today I finished the three volume Shelby Foote classic “The Civil War: A Narrative“, a years in the making goal developed from my mid-life interest in the American nation’s biggest challenge to defining its character and identity.  If one period can be recognized as the foundation for all the United States accomplished in the decades to follow, through two World Wars; a global depression; its period of international leadership following WWII; and the social upheavals still occurring to this day, it would be the sense of Nation that resulted through the challenges of The Civil War.

The reasons why the Civil War was necessary are readily apparent.  The men, who created the country from a collection of separate colonies and wrote our Constitution, were inherently human.  Which is to say, they were imperfect and eminently fallible.  Yes, they made mistakes … huge mistakes.  They made a terrible compromise in the name of creating a constitutional republic.

They allowed the possession of other human beings as property to hold the Southern states of the post-Revolution, pre-Constitution confederation.  And that was just their biggest mistake.  Early American politics were complicated, tenuous, and riddled with figurative minefields.  When examined through the lenses of history, humanity, and modern social consciousness, a lot of modern, current day Americans fail to grasp what the expression “grand experiment” means.

150408_LeeBookReview

It’s important to appreciate the extent to which these early American leaders knew they were imperfect and eminently fallible.  For that reason, they recognized that The People needed to be protected from the vagaries of Government, which in all practical matters is motivated and directed by imperfect and eminently fallible men.  The U.S. Constitution protected the States from the power and the potential for abuse from the National Government.

The Grand Experiment – as described by non-slave holder Alexander Hamilton (pre-Broadway version) – was hardly intended to be THE perfect solution to the many problems and challenges those early American leaders faced in creating a new nation.  The necessity of amending The Constitution almost immediately (i.e. two years after USC ratification) in 10 ways – The Bill of Rights – was proof that blind spots had existed when the US Constitution was written.  The Rights of the Individual – only the white male ones at the time – had to be protected as well from infringements by all levels of Government.

The Civil War was the inevitable solution for the most egregious shortcoming of those Founding Fathers.  Though not all were slaveholders, and an argument could be made that many who did opposed it as an acceptable practice, they were an insufficient number inadequately strong – in influence and political power – to exclude it.

All out war in the end was the only remedy.  And yet, slavery was not the ONLY reason the Civil War was fought.  It was however the BIGGEST reason and the impenetrable barrier to a peaceful solution to several issues!

1-Q4Vx5EgE9OyvIRPEbO7NPA

Foote’s “The Civil War: Epilogue” totaled the casualties of setting right the biggest mistake of The Founders:  640,000 Union, 450,000 Confederate casualties.  200,000 total killed in battle; 365,000 total dead for the Union; 256,000 dead Confederates when you include those who died from disease, unrelated crimes, drowning, suicide, etc.  That’s 620,000 military dead from all causes.  Add in another 470,000 wounded (total both sides) to almost reach 1.1 million total war-related casualties.  And that does not include civilian losses.

I would normally write a good bit more about the book in a blog, but my reading of the third and last volume coincided with the egregious death of George Floyd and the latest rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) to such events.  The Floyd death and calls for justice were traumatic enough and certainly understandable.

But then the movement morphed.

FRI.00_03_18_17.Still001

It morphed first into violence and vandalism.  Then avowed anarchist usurped a theretofore justifiable outrage.  It became more about hatred for and retaliation against law enforcement officers; disdain for modern social constructs and government; and a desire to gut American society in favor of certain not-so-grand experiments that have NEVER proved successful in past attempts (e.g. socialism, anarchy, elimination of law enforcement, the overthrow of systems of justice).

As one who admires our history with all its faults, mistakes, and injustices, it’s maddening to see the destruction of monuments to it.  Yes, you can understand the desire of many who want to tear down statues to slave holders; their sympathizers; and their military protectors … as much as I might disagree.  Such reactions are an insult to the our history, warts and all.

If humans cannot achieve perfection, what they create can never be perfect.  Change will ultimately be necessary; and some of that change will be bloody, violent, destructive. How does one learn from history, and prevent the reoccurrence of destructive change, by removing all monuments and remembrances?  How does that help to prevent history’s repetitive inclinations?

Foote’s epilogue contains a quote that appears surprisingly pertinent to recent events. Anaximander, an ancient Greek philosopher, once stated:

“It is necessary that things should pass away into that from which they are born.  For things must pay one another the penalty and compensation for the injustice according to the ordinance of time.”

Ea7Y0hwUYAAFdg7

U.S. Grant helped end the Confederacy threat

No stretch of consciousness should dismiss such a concept.  At some point all our acts will be subject to human judgment through the prism of time and the evolution of Man’s thinking as expressed through social mores and their behavioral expression.  Certainly slavery would fit that suggestion.  Judgment of it as one of the bleakest points in the American Experiment is undisputed.  Those that fought to preserve it as tradition, economic essential, or evolutionary dictate paid the physical price 160 years ago.  But we cannot ignore that the emotional scars and even some social behaviors (i.e. racism) remain to this day.

So I can see why removing Confederate statuary would be a comfort to some … or even a political/social imperative.  But there should be a process resulting from consensus and protected by local government for their removal, relocation, or destruction, providing no lesson for history continues to exist.

“… Providing no lesson for history continues to exist” is the crucial thought.  Can we honestly say American society is beyond its racist past?  Are there not still lessons to be learned about what transpired 160 years ago?  How would current and future generations learn from invisible legacy, if all reminders are swept from view?

There’s a difference in suggesting the statue of Bedford Forest, who was a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan, should be removed for its obvious racist symbolism; but quite another to suggest the statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, or James Longstreet offer nothing of value in the way of historical or military lessons.  What do we learn from the past, if we erase all physical evidence of its existence?

In this the anarchist, anti-American factions betrayed themselves.  They went far beyond righting the wrongs of racial suppression.  When you cannot tell the difference – or more accurately don’t care – between Robert E. Lee and U.S. Grant or Abraham Lincoln, you allow us to glimpse the true purpose of your “protest”.

800

Freedman’s Memorial:  On Lincoln’s first visit to Richmond after its fall in the Civil War, he told former slaves, who bent knees to pay homage to him, to stand up; to kneel before no man; and to kneel only before God.  It was paid for entirely by former slaves!

It’s easier to understand the visceral reaction of the black community to the death of Floyd.  But in essence that movement was usurped by those with broader motivations as we have seen before.  There is no interest there in making America a better example to the world at large.  They simply want America to die with no regard for all the good the country has accomplished since 1776.

This happens not because they cannot grasp the inherent fallibility of 18th century man or credit the foresight they displayed by even attempting such a Grand Experiment!  They simply hate the fact that the system created 230 years ago requires they appeal to The People to make a difference.  Not just some people, but all The People.  They hate that they have to work hard to convince us that their insight is superior, let alone whether such insight offers a better world.

They don’t want to work for it.  They want to convince you to destroy it.  They want to be able to convince you without offering even the remotest idea of what those changes would look like.

For those reasons alone, you know their ideas are bankrupt!

 

 

 

 

Memorial Day Remembrances

My Corona … Day 77: A Memorial Day tribute

I am guilty of complaining quite a bit lately about this interminable COVID-19 shutdown.  But such will not be the case on Day 77, as we enjoy a COVID19-stunted holiday celebration. At times like these, it is important to understand what real suffering and sacrifice looks like in the wake of some of the darkest times in our history.

Remember the following and all the rest of these Heroes for the last full measure they have given and what their loved ones have gone through and endured for decades.

image

Charles H. Grubb

Charles H. Grubb from War Eagle, West Virginia looked like a Boy Scout, not so much the soldier he was in his U.S. Army uniform.

Attribution: Aaron Kidd, Stars and Stripes(.com)

“Grubb — who served with Company M, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division — was declared dead a few months later, and his body was never found.

“The Chosin battle of Nov. 27-Dec. 13, 1950, pitted some 30,000 U.S.-led troops against a Chinese force of about 120,000 trying to prevent the allies from pushing north in a bid to unify the Korean Peninsula. Thousands were killed on both sides as troops engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Others perished from the bitter weather.

“Smith — who served with Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division — was reported missing Nov. 25, 1950, after his unit was attacked near Kujang-dong, North Korea. He died the following January at a temporary prisoner-of-war camp near Pukchin-Tarigol, according to several Americans who survived the war.

“In July 2018 — weeks after President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the first time in Singapore — the North handed over the 55 boxes purported to contain the remains of U.S. service members from the war. They were then flown to DPAA’s lab in Honolulu for identification.”

Grubb’s younger sister, Glenda Hatcher, waited 69 years for word of her brother’s fate.  Grubb’s mother passed away in 2001, never knowing what happened to her son.  Charles H. Grubb is now interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

10404121_10152078664097823_8863390345067128923_n

A somewhat uplifting storyline accompanied the return of COL Roy J. Knight, Jr., of Milsap, Texas.  In November 2019, 52 years after being declared MIA, then KIA when he was shot down over Laos, his remains were brought home.  His son, Bryan Knight had the honor of piloting the Southwest Airlines flight ( < Click on link for details.) that brought his father back to Texas.  He had last seen his father in January 1967, just four months before his loss over hostile territory.  Bryan was only five years old.

pilot-bryan-roy-knight

COL Roy A. Knight, Jr. in front of his A1-E Skyraider

In July 2019, the remains of 20 U.S. Marines, who lost their lives on the island of Tarawa during the island-hopping Pacific campaign of World War II, were returned to the United States after their makeshift graves were located.

Attribution: David Vergun, US Department of Defense website

“The battle of Tarawa took place from Nov. 20 to 23, 1943, on the heavily fortified island of Betio, which was held by 4,500 Japanese troops. More than 18,000 Marines and sailors were sent to secure the island. When the battle finally ended, more than 1,000 U.S. troops had been killed.

“Marines killed in action were buried where they fell or were buried in a large trench built during and after the battle. These graves were typically marked with improvised markers, such as crosses made from sticks or an upturned rifle. Grave sites ranged in size from single isolated burials to large trench burials of more than 100 individuals, according to DPAA officials.

“More than 3,000 Japanese soldiers were killed on the island, as well as an estimated 1,000 Korean laborers. These men were buried where they fell, or in bomb craters and existing trenches. Their remains are sometimes commingled with U.S. casualties, DPAA officials said.

“Immediately after the final day of battle, landing troops were replaced by Navy construction battalions, known as “SeaBees,” who had little knowledge of the burial locations.

“The Seabees engaged in construction projects requiring the movement or rearrangement of known burials or grave markers. Later recovery efforts found that multiple grave markers were relocated without moving the burials they marked. No record of these movements has been found, officials said, and it’s likely none was kept.”

190717-M-PO745-2033C

Repatriation ceremony for the Tarawa 20

My heart wants to believe their families knew they were killed-in-action; knew where it happened; knew where in general they were laid to rest.  But waiting so long for the ability to say goodbye and assuage their grief sounds marginally better than not knowing anything for decades and yearning for their physical return.

Closure for those still living is a comforting thought.  But you must empathize with those relatives … mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters … who passed away before their loved ones were returned home.  Remember those loved ones – still waiting or now gone – when commemorating those brave American souls who were lost in far flung battles.

american-flag-1

 

Campaign 2020 Prep

In a moment of rare disappointment, I just tossed a work of fiction in the trash as I found myself rolling my eyes at the hero’s exploits way too often. And no, the book is not worth sharing …

Instead, I will take this time to begin prepping for the upcoming 2020 Democrat Primary campaign season with a historical look into the ancestry of one Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator …

Next in line:

Kamala Harris

… followed by Cory Booker

The Irish Catholic Hajj Lived

The trek towards Middle America is daunting in an Econoline van, 700 miles and 11 hours long.  Yet the draw for a 17-strong contingent of Philadelphia area products from the Roman Catholic Church and school systems is irresistible, as witnessed by a core group that has made the South Bend trek to University of Notre Dame football games 17 times now.  

The underside of an obscure card table, inscribed with the names of past participants documents the participants from year-to-year.  Those making the Hajj for the first time dutifully add (R) to their names to signify their rookie status.  We also made habit of marveling at the precision organization, courtesy of Major General (Honarary) Edward Brady (Father Judge ’74), and execution.  Staying out of the way – unless called upon – for fear of ruining the mojo.

The group was not nearly as rowdy as might have been – and probably was – years ago.  Then again most of use are on the downhill side of 50 or below sea-level of 60!  It does seem to mute the wackiness.  The one exception being the call to “Huddle up!!” by Staff Sargeant (Hon) Lenny, a call to imbibe shots of intestinal fortitude.

You learn to celebrate Life more managably as you grow older.

Friday was for a tour of the Notre Dame campus, steeped in history not limited to football.  As a Philly guy, never quite bitten as badly by the ND bug, hearing the story of John Cardinal O’Hara (former Philadelphia Cardinal of the Archdiocese and President of Notre Dame) next to his marble crypt is one example.  The Battle of Gettysburg story of Reverend William Corey, steadying New York’s Irish Brigade in the hours before their date with Destiny at Little Round Top and the wheat field, is quite another.

As for the football experience, the pageantry and loyal following the Fighting Irish inspire is evident at every venue.  For me, the excitement generated by the Notre Dame Band of the Fighting Irish, on Friday particularly with the horn section warming up the crowd inside The Rotunda was simply spectacular!


.

Saturday, the focus was FOOTBALL … not to be overshadowed by perhaps the nicest stretch of weather shining down on the Best Tailgating Experience ever!  (OK … Honestly the guy with the satellite dish and 40+ inch screen might have an edge here.)  It’s difficult to imagine a better day.

The Miami of Ohio – Notre Dame game was anticlimactic, given the obvious talent gap and the Irish’s ability to step on Miami’ s throat in the 1st Quarter (Final: ND 52 – Miami 17).  But the highlight truly is that there’s much, much more to enjoy at the Notre Dame Football experience than just a lopsided victory!

.

View of our rental’s backyard in the vicinity of the University of Notre Dame

So many never came home …

(This blog post is not intended to damper your Memorial Day weekend or the enjoyment of beaches, barbecues, parties, and activities.  Cranky Man’s sincerest wish is simply to take a few minutes this holiday weekend to reflect on the ultimate sacrifices made on our behalf!)

4483264_origAs is my challenge, Cranky Man will prod his readers into reflecting on the REAL meaning of our more sacred National Holidays.  This weekend kicks off the official start of Summer 2017.  But the true reasons for celebrating the coming three months of Summer – Memorial Day – has a much, much deeper meaning than beaches, water sports, vacation travel, and the wonders of the National Parks system.

That Meaning is the recognition of those thousands upon thousands, who left the safety of Homeland and Family to preserve and protect both, and in that Service gave the Last Full Measure of Devotion.  In many cases, they did so not for the People they left back home, as they did for those in foreign lands unable to preserve and protect those concepts of Homeland and Family without our help.

The Meaning is recognition of those sacrifices and appreciation for the loss pressed upon those who loved them.  Such meaning can be severely clouded with emotion when a Loved One never comes home from War.  The “more fortunate” families might wait for DECADES to recover the remains of fathers, sons, uncles, and brothers.  The truly Unfortunate never know the peace of bringing them Home.

As of 19 May 2017 the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) lists 82,547 Americans still missing just since World War II.  Here are a few of their stories …

10404121_10152078664097823_8863390345067128923_n

a Christian, a Jew, and a Muslim went off to War …

On May 11, 1969 – the before his son’s 1st birthday – LT William C. Ryan climbed aboard his F-4 Phantom as Radio Intercept Officer (RIO).  His aircraft was on a bombing run along the Laos-Vietnam border when it was hit by ground fire and crashed.  The pilot ejected, but Ryan did not make it out.

Rhino

LT William “Billy” C. Ryan

Luck in the form of Ryan’s aircraft seat was found in 1990, but the politics of searching a border region; being limited to 45 days of searching at any one stretch; and the treacherous terrain prevented finding LT Ryan’s remains and positively identifying them until 2016.  Billy Ryan’s son was now 48 years old!  And in a strange, unforgiving twist of fate, Ryans’ wife, Judith, was informed of her husband’s positive identification on the very same day she was diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer.

LT William C. Ryan was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on 10 May 2017.

1611 Americans are still listed as MIA from the Vietnam War.  Over 58,000 Americans perished.

IWO JIMA

CPL Freddie Lee Henson enlisted in the U.S. Army on 19 January 1949 at 18 years old out of Klamath Falls, AR.  Serving in the 57th Field Artillery, 7th Infantry Division Henson was deployed to South Korea in 1950.

In November 1950, as U.S. and South Korean forces came painfully close to pushing the North Korean forces across the Yalu River into China, 1 million Chinese troops jumped the river and overwhelmed the Allied forces.  By December the largely American United Nations force was pinned down at the Chosin Reservoir, deep in North Korean territory.

Freddie-Lee-Henson

CPL Freddie Lee Henson

On December 6, 1950 CPL Henson was declared missing-in-action.  Very little was known as to the details of Henson’s death in the confusion and suffering that was the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.  Henson’s unit was one of many suffering from shortage of supplies and sub-zero temperatures.

Despite long-term tensions over a war that was never officially a “war”, which also meant that peace was never declared, several collaborative efforts between North and South Koreas and the U.S. began to yield the remains of soldiers long dead but never returned home.  In 2004 CPL Henson’s remains were among 5 sets recovered on the east side of the Chosin battlefield.

On 3 April 2017, CPL Freddie Lee Henson’s remained were officially identified after 67 years.  His family never found out he was brought home.  Freddie’s brother, Kenneth – his last known familial survivor – had died in 1980.  Henson was interred with full military honors on 4 May 2017 at Fort Sam Houston in Houston, TX.

Over 33,000 Americans died during the Korean War.  The DPAA lists 7,747 still missing.

memorial-day.

Sometimes the tragedy of never seeing a loved one return from war is worsened by the circumstances of their forever absence.  One such example was resolved in July 2015 with the return of 40 U.S. Marines, who perished on Tarawa Atoll during the Allies World War II island-hopping campaign.

Tarawa was mistakenly viewed as a push-over outpost among the many occupied by Japanese troops in the Pacific.  The invading Marines came ashore on November 20, 1943 in rubber boats and amphibious tractors.  Little did the invaders know, the Japanese had an extensive network of concrete bunkers, proudly proclaimed by the Japanese commander as requiring a million man a hundred years to overcome, that survived the intense aerial and naval bombardments.

Aerial

Tarawa Atoll

It took U.S. Marines all of three days to subdue the atoll’s defenders, but at the cost of heavy casualties.  1200 Marines died on Tarawa; many of them hastily buried as the Allies persistently worked to push the Japanese out of the central and western Pacific.  Hundreds of the dead still lay buried there, some of them buried under yards, trash pits, even pigsties.  They may well have remained there if not for the efforts of Mark Noah, founder of History Flight, a non-profit dedicated to bringing the remains of lost Americans home.

Thanks to these efforts a long-forgotten burial ground, containing the remains of 40 U.S. Marines, was discovered on the atoll.  After 70 years laying in an inconspicuous plot thousands of miles away from Home and family, 40 Americans were disinterred and returned to Hawaii for potential identification and return to families long resigned to never gaining closure to unspeakable loss.

Among those 40 American heroes was 1st LT Alexander Bonnyman, Jr., a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor.  In no way to diminish the sacrifice of all 40 of those men, below lies the MOH citation for LT Bonnyman, Jr., provided here as a tribute to all 40.

180px-Alex_BonnymanFor conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Executive Officer of the 2d Battalion Shore Party, 8th Marines, 2d Marine Division, during the assault against enemy Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, 20-22 November 1943. Acting on his own initiative when assault troops were pinned down at the far end of Betio Pier by the overwhelming fire of Japanese shore batteries, 1st Lt. Bonnyman repeatedly defied the blasting fury of the enemy bombardment to organize and lead the besieged men over the long, open pier to the beach and then, voluntarily obtaining flame throwers and demolitions, organized his pioneer shore party into assault demolitionists and directed the blowing of several hostile installations before the close of D-day. Determined to effect an opening in the enemy’s strongly organized defense line the following day, he voluntarily crawled approximately 40 yards forward of our lines and placed demolitions in the entrance of a large Japanese emplacement as the initial move in his planned attack against the heavily garrisoned, bombproof installation which was stubbornly resisting despite the destruction early in the action of a large number of Japanese who had been inflicting heavy casualties on our forces and holding up our advance. Withdrawing only to replenish his ammunition, he led his men in a renewed assault, fearlessly exposing himself to the merciless slash of hostile fire as he stormed the formidable bastion, directed the placement of demolition charges in both entrances and seized the top of the bombproof position, flushing more than 100 of the enemy who were instantly cut down, and effecting the annihilation of approximately 150 troops inside the emplacement. Assailed by additional Japanese after he had gained his objective, he made a heroic stand on the edge of the structure, defending his strategic position with indomitable determination in the face of the desperate charge and killing 3 of the enemy before he fell, mortally wounded. By his dauntless fighting spirit, unrelenting aggressiveness and forceful leadership throughout 3 days of unremitting, violent battle, 1st Lt. Bonnyman had inspired his men to heroic effort, enabling them to beat off the counterattack and break the back of hostile resistance in that sector for an immediate gain of 400 yards with no further casualties to our forces in this zone. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Over 405,000 American soldiers, sailors, and pilots died during World War II.  The DFAA still lists over 73,000 Americans as missing-in-action.

Again … These stories are not intended to damper a glorious pre-Summer weekend, so much as to encourage a moment or two of reflection on the true meaning of Memorial Day.

“Hidden Figures”, unexpected lesson

hidden-figures-posterYour typical Saturday night … a reason to make plans a few days previous with friends for dinner and a movie … so why not combine the two?

That’s how a few hours of entertainment morphed into unexpected perspectives on one of the unnoticed parts of American history and the race into space.

Hidden Figures“, nominee for Best Picture at the 2017 Oscars, is the story of three African-American women who played important roles in the United States race to get man into space.  The movie plays out at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA in 1961.

The three women – a mathematical genius (called “computers” long before the electronic versions), an aspiring engineer, and the de facto supervisor of a group of a pool of data transcribers – struggle to gain respect and recognition in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration‘s (NASA) space program in the Jim Crow South.

The twist – both interesting and discomforting – came in the form of WHERE we decided to partake of food and adult beverages while catching a good movie.

Carol had arranged for us to see a movie Saturday night with friends.  We decided to try a local franchise of the Studio Movie Grill in Upper Darby, PA .. a township, seamlessly fused to the west side of Philadelphia.

images-2 The immediate western suburbs of Philadelphia – like West Philadelphia itself is largely African-American.  No surprise that the audience was almost entirely black.

And not a problem …

But it had not occurred to me what would result from the intersection of movie and audience demographics.  That realization came shortly after the movie started.  We had made a fascinating choice in movie, given the makeup of the audience. It would be an interesting evening, enjoying “Hidden Figures” (a firm recommendation, dear Reader) and noting the differences in perspective.

Perspective was easily observed.

Four African-American women, roughly my age and dressed for a night out, were seated next to me.  As the evening war on, between a flatbread pizza and mac ‘n cheese (a firm NO, dear Reader), we watched a great story.  While I enjoyed the history of the story, they were connecting with Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary on an entirely different level.

There was a bit of verbal audience participation … encouraging advice, pleas to speak out, silent but deep disgust.  I could feel it, but I couldn’t really.

At one point in the film, I laughed when Katherine (Taraji P. Henson) scurried frantically across the Langley campus.  Then I realized she was on a one-mile round trip to use a “colored only” ladies room because one wasn’t available in the building to which she had been assigned.  I stopped myself short and listened.  There was no laughter, only the murmurs of those who grew up knowing such things as intimate history.

I learned what I thought I knew I could never ever really know.

FWIW …. I thought the movie was very good, the story compelling.  Although I have only seen Hidden Figures and La La Land (also very good) on the Best Picture nominee list, I would have thought Taraji Henson deserved a nomination.  Octavia Spencer was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and should receive strong consideration.

The First Amendment: A Double-Edged Sword

american-flag-1It’s been awhile since last we spoke.  Personally, I have been having a hard time finding subjects on which I feel strongly enough to write.  My writer’s block has however been finally been broken by a flood of Facebook posts deriding the recent trend of National Football League (NFL) players refusing to stand; kneeling through; or raising black fists in protest of varying social conditions during The National Anthem.

The Facebook pleas encourage me to stop watching the NFL; to boycott league-sponsored merchandise and broadcast sponsors; and demand corrective action, even laws to punish the offenders.

Now most people, who know me, will expect me to come down hard and fast on the side of showing our National Emblem the deference and respect we believe it deserves without fail … ever.  And certainly I believe that …

What nags at me however is the thought that Respect for national symbolism – be it The Anthem or The Flag – trumps the Rights of the First Amendment, particularly that of Free Speech.  While I do not appreciate disrespectful displays or treatments of The Flag, what I choose to cherish most are the Freedoms that allow such behaviors as an expression of perceived failures or injustices.

Unfortunately for our various sensibilities, Respect for the First Amendment requires a higher level of tolerance for the ways in which our Freedoms are expressed.  Accommodating the freedom to express oneself requires an Advanced Degree in American Citizenship, particularly when its display encroaches on the symbols, institutions, and rituals for which we wear our Hearts on our sleeves.

This is not easy.  But then again, it was never intended to be easy.

Certainly we can express our scorn and anger at what we interpret to be unconscionable violations of national heritage and symbolism.  That freedom to express one’s disdain is covered in the same protections that allow the type of demonstrations that annoy the bejesus out of us.

We can publicly judge those who burn The Flag or choose not to stand for The National Anthem is the best – or only way – they can express their own anger and frustration.  But punishment and retribution?!?

No, those reactions are the purview of authoritarians, dictators, and oppressors who look to preserve their own peculiar claim to rule by denying Voice to the People!  This is not what Americans do.  It is not how we roll!

No matter how maddening the behavior …

Allow me please to reiterate, since I am sure some will take this message as endorsement of the practices.  I do NOT agree with flagrant displays of disrespect for my Country, its cherished symbols, or the Principles for which it stands.  What I do recognize is that there are degrees of disrespect I can live with, in the knowledge that our Founding Fathers no doubt intended for The Bill of Rights to be a challenge to both the Government and its citizens!

And I have had my moments in celebrating the actions inherent in those who Advanced Degrees in Citizenship spurred them to action!

I applauded – wildly, I might add – the Chicago Cubs’ Rick Monday, when on April 25, 1976 he ran from his outfield position to arrest the flag-burning attempts of two supposed war protesters.

.

Those of us who would appreciate Mondays’ quick actions should also recognize that demonstrations of national disrespect sometimes accomplish nothing more than to illustrate a protestor’s failure of perspective, particularly when they simply draw negative attention to the person or position they claim to support by physically mistreating or burning The Flag.  In my opinion, your cause, your candidate – even the people who support them – will suffer in our view.  When they fail to recognize or value the Sacrifices made by others, whose sacrifice allows them to express themselves so freely, they cheapen whatever message they are pushing.

There’s the rub really that protesters of this sort fail to appreciate.  You might attract limited, short-lived attention for your cause or position ; but that transient recognition will fade faster than the headshakes and mental “F— you!”s tossed your way by those drawn serendipitously into your protest.  For those whom your message is intended, you run the greater risk of alienating them rather than changing minds or opening a discussion.

The story is quite different when it comes to the quiet, almost reverential protests we have witnessed recently at football games … at least in my opinion.  These passive demonstrations, inspired by a back-up quarterback no less, where sitting or taking a knee as the National Anthem is played or the slightly more active stance of raised black fists is – if nothing else – much easier to manage emotionally.

We may not like such displays.  But we should also wonder why they are considered necessary by those protesting.

I may not understand the need to turn one’s back to The Anthem or to embellish one’s seemingly reluctant participation with a raised fist.  But many people do understand the need to take such action.  If they did not, we would not be having these conversations today.

And that’s really what that pesky, sometimes irritating Freedom of Speech is intended to do … Give voice to those who feel isolated or left behind, whether or not we can appreciate their position!

So no … Do not ask me to boycott the NFL or Pepsi or Hyundai or Papa John’s pizza simply because your sensibilities were offended by a kneel or a clenched fist at an inappropriate time.  Because I have news for you …

The emotions you feel, the reactions you have to such displays are exactly what the Founding Fathers were likely hoping might occur when one group or another feels the need to draw attention to their perceived plight in any way that stirs our emotions.  The Stars and Stripes is a collection of fabric to which we attach a great deal of pride and symbolism; but it’s the Fabric of our Nation, expressed in the Freedoms passed down to us, that makes all things possible.

I leave you with this

 

 

 

 

 

The Inconspicuous News

American Board of Thoracic SurgeryDr. Achintya MoulickDylan PurcellTom Avril Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Children’s Hospital of PhiladelphiaDiscussion and comment on selected articles from The Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, March 20, 2016.

(Jeff Gamage) printed an article, Those Kids Never Got to Go Home about a small, sad cemetery located within the confines of the U.S. Army base in Carlisle, PA. … about 125 miles west of Philadelphia.

The U.S. Army base in Carlisle, PA is the object of an unusual request from the Rosebud Sioux Indian tribe of South Dakota.  Long before the army base existed, the site was home to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the flagship of federally-funded, off-reservation boarding schools where the motto was “Kill the Indian, save the Man.”

PRETURN20P

A photo of the student body of the Carlilsle Indian School from March, 1892, is photographed on the school grounds where it was taken. The Rosebud Sioux in South Dakota have begun efforts to repatriate the remains of the 10 Rosebud students buried on the Carlisle school grounds. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Within the Army’s current home 186 graves of Indian children from numerous Native American tribes.  The children victim of disease, abuse, and inadequate care at the industrial school intended to assimilate Indian populations with white culture and society.  The children were largely the offspring of Indian chiefs, who were convinced by the program’s agents that the children would be properly educated and better prepared to lead their scattered tribes to relationships on more equal footing with their white counterparts.

The intent of the program might be looked upon today as simply one of those backward thinking, even “progressive” attempts to help a defeated and exiled people to adapt and even prosper within the dominant society.  Maybe even a noble cause to promote better relations with the Europeans, who were spreading westward like ants.

However the abuses, including forced labor, beatings for refusal to speak English, physical and sexual abuse, and inadequate care, exposed the program as an attempt to expunge Indian cultures.  These 186 children never made it Home.

The Rosebud children were sent 1400 miles away from home. Some were pried away from parents forced with the choice of giving up their children or their food rations.  Many of the children died from diseases and malnutrition, some due to abuse.

675abb611e806736640cba306701eeb7Leaders of the Rosebud Sioux tribe had forgotten about the spirits of their dead children buried (some without parents even knowing they were dead) so far from home.  The issue was raised after a group of young Rosebud students visited the cemetery after a trip to Washington, D.C. last Summer for the Tribal Youth Gathering.

Now I never understood the motivations and mindset of our earlier American ancestors as they set upon a vanquished Nation, taking advantage of Position and Power to denude Indian cultures and then to exploit them in their imposed poverty.  This example seems to be one of the more egregious ones, although the effort does reflect much of the social and cultural thinking of the time.

I hope we have evolved beyond that kind of social engineering think.

As for the Spirits the Rosebud Sioux insist are restless to return home, demonstrated – they say – by the swarm of fireflies that visited the cemetery after a traditional Sioux ceremony, the Army should simply allow the Rosebud Sioux to take their children home.

***********************************************************************

Next up is a rather disturbing article about the length of post-operative stays at Philadelphia’s St. Christopher’s Hospital for complicated newborn cardiac surgery vs. stays for similar procedures at regional counterpart, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).  The article, Recovery Times for Newborns Lengthy, written by Tom Avril and Dylan Purcell, suggests the extended stays at St. Chris’ have much to do with the quality of post-operative care.

6e1c643a636c67f002280f826731ae3e.jpgThe Inquirer’s study, based on a review of insurance claim forms, follows another study that found St. Christopher newborn cardiac patients were also much more likely to die than similar patients at CHOP.  St. Christopher’s recently stopped all non-emergency heart procedures as it conducts an internal review of its heart surgery program.

As bad as all that is, one also learns that Dr. Achintya Moulick, head of the heart surgery at St. Chris’ is not certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery!  This in contrast to the other five heads of pediatric heart-surgery program in Pennsylvania and Delaware.  Dr. Moulick does possess certification in thoracic surgery from the University of Bombay (Mumbai) in India … from 1995!

Now, I’m no medical professional, but I would presume that in the 21 years since Dr. Moulick attended the University of Bombay, there have been a few changes in the ways thoracic surgery is performed, particularly for infants.  When you consider that the Head of Thoracic Surgery also sets the tone for those performing under him, you get the idea that maybe it’s time for Dr. Moulick to break out his “How to …” books and seek an American-style recertification from this particular century!

***************************************************************************

Finally a story, Bringing Down Blumberg, by Aubrey Whelan on the history and destructive end on the Norman Blumberg Apartments at 22nd and Sharswood Streets in North Philadelphia.  Blumberg was built in the late 1960s as a high-rise apartment complex dedicated to low-income residents.

l_phabuildings-3“But within a few short years, the towers came to typify all that had gone wrong with the public-housing policies of the 1960s – a symbol of misguided urban planning, concentrated poverty, and official neglect writ large.”

Two intricately related resident reactions – just seven years apart underscores the kind of hopelessness that permeated mass low-income urban housing in many parts of the country.  In 1967, the day Blumberg opened to its brand new residents, one gushes how “Each resident helps out the other.”.  Just seven years later after a gang-rape at Blumberg, a resident told The Inquirer, “The amazing thing is that no one helps anybody out.”