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Does The World Really Need Another Blog?

MY CAREER IN THE NEWSPAPER BUSINESS

A version of this essay appeard in the Buffalo News' "My View" column in December, 2013

 
     Seeing one's words in print is a thrill, and having mine appear in the Buffalo News was extra-special.  I saw it as vindication of sorts for a "career" in the newspaper business that has been as checkered as that tablecloth in your favorite Italian restaurant. 
 
     My first foray into the field, delivering the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch at age twelve, was hard work. It was an afternoon paper and mine was a fairly small route (60 customers), but one day a week I had to rise at 4:00 AM to get the Sunday edition on their doorsteps by dawn.  Even worse, when the holiday season came 'round the paper's weight quadrupled with sales inserts.  I did okay in that first job, or at least no harm because, unlike my next employer, the Dispatch is still in business today.
 
     My next job was with the now defunct Buffalo Courier-Express, one I can't claim to have gotten on my own merits—it was due to my high school buddy, Peter Thompson, whose father was head of distribution.  As you may have guessed, I wasn't writing for the paper, I was simply delivering it again, though not door-to-door this time. 
 
   My assignment was as a "hopper", so named because I rode shotgun on the trucks that delivered to stores and individual carriers, and hopped on and off with large bundles of papers.  Loading trucks and tossing around those heavy bundles was hard work, but what really drove me crazy were the hours.  Although the Courier-Express was a morning paper, its first edition actually came out the night before.  Thus, we had to show up at 9:00 PM, load and deliver that first edition, then leave, only to return again at 1:00 AM to deliver the final editions.  That weird split shift, combined with the overnight hours, played havoc with my body clock, and I resigned after only a few weeks on the job.   (Sorry, Pete. Thanks anyway!)
 
     After that last job I avoided the news business until I was a freshman at Niagara University. Feeling oppressed by dorm rules that included mandatory study hours and lights out at 11:00 PM, I put out my own paper—a mimeographed broadsheet titled, "The Underdog"—as a way to voice my discontent. 
 
     Either I was very persuasive or my timing was inordinately lucky, because after only two issues the administration began working to change those rules.  Then, in true oppressor fashion, they co-opted me by giving me a column in the official campus newspaper where, left with nothing much to complain about, I quickly lost my journalistic fervor and walked away.
 
     The lowest point of my newspaper "career" occurred, not because of something I did, but because of something I didn't do.  Right out of college I was working at the now defunct (is there a pattern here?) Circle Art movie house and became acquainted with Anthony Bannon, The Buffalo Evening News' film critic.  Hey, I says to myself, movie reviewing looks easy enough, so I asked him how one went about getting a job with the paper.  He advised me to write to the Managing Editor, which I did, and was soon told that I had an interview scheduled.  Bannon warned me, however, that my letter of introduction included numerous misspellings, a mortal sin in the newspaper business, and that I'd best be prepared for the worst.
 
     On the appointed day I went to the News building and paused outside the area where the interview was to occur.  With my hand on the doorknob I looked through glass at a large, open room.  People were dashing back and forth amidst a haze of cigarette smoke, and I could hear muffled sounds of clacking typewriters and shouted conversations.  It was a Capra-esque scene of barely controlled chaos, typical I suppose of any 1960s, pre-computerized city room, but to me it seemed overwhelming.  Intimidated, I nervously withdrew my hand from the doorknob, silently slipped down the stairs and went out the front door, never to return.
 
     Both the News and I survived my failure of nerve that day. The News, needless to say, is still publishing (though barely), and I went on to a satisfying career in another field. 

 

     Still, after experiencing the gratification of finally seeing my words printed in Buffalo's newspaper of record, I'll always wonder what might have happened had I walked through that door.

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A NEIGHBORLY AFFAIR

 
   "…Good fences make

       good neighbors," 


         - Robert Frost


 
     Mr. Frost had a point, but I suggest from personal experience that he could have added a corollary: "Thin walls make intimate neighbors." 
 
     Allow me to explain.
 
     Camille and I were living in a newly built apartment on Main St. situated directly above the Irish Classical Theatre. While noise from the productions and audiences was never an issue, for some reason the builder neglected to install enough insulation in the walls dividing the apartments. And it didn't take long for us to learn that the wall directly behind our bed separated our bedroom from that of a neighboring couple, one that rarely got along.
 
     As we lay in bed we could hear their arguments coming through loud and clear, making out every spiteful word they snarled at each other.  We could only assume that they heard us just as clearly, so we acted accordingly.
 
     Until one night we, or rather I, didn't.
 
     An elderly friend of ours named Jack, for whom we provided support and personal care, would call us if he was in need of something. Late one night, just as we'd climbed into bed, the phone rang. I picked it up and on the other end of the line was Jack.
 
     Now having a phone conversation with Jack, who could barely hear even with his hearing aids turned up full blast, was always a frustrating task, and this night was no exception.
 
     "I need help, Pat!", he cried into the receiver. " I can't fall asleep.  Can you come over?"
 
     I held the phone out so Camille could hear Jack's shouting, and whispered to her, "I'm not even dressed and he wants me to drive over there. What does he think I can do for him?"
 
      "You've got to go," she whispered back, "he sounds really desperate."
 
     "Okay" I sighed, and put the phone back up to my ear.
 
     "Okay, Jack, I'm coming over," I said.
 
     "What?" he hollered. "What? Are you coming now?  I need help here!"
 
     "Yes, Jack," I repeated, louder this time, "I said ' I'M COMING!'"
 
     "What?"
 
     "I'M COMING, JACK!  I'M COMING!"
 
     Hearing giggling coming from my left, I turned to see Camille with a hand over her mouth trying to stifle her laughter. Oblivious to what she thought was so damned funny, I try one more time, even louder.
 
     "JACK, I'M COMING!  I'M COMING NOW!"
 
     I'm beside myself with frustration. On the one hand I've got a deaf man pleading with me to get dressed and go out in the middle of the night, and on the other, a wife who is snickering at some private joke of which I can only assume I am the butt.
 
     I hang up, turn to her, scowl and say, "What's so fucking funny?"
 
     Without answering, she points to the wall behind the bed, and it dawns on me. Our neighbors have heard my shouting, and have likely come to the conclusion that I must be cheating on my wife with some dude I picked up at the gay bar across the street.
 
     After calming down I did, of course, climb out of bed, get dressed and drive to Jack's apartment. Once there I tried my best to convince him that not only was insomnia common among people of his advanced age, it's also never been known to be fatal. I made him a cup of chamomile tea, wished him well, and headed back home to bed.
 
     While Jack continued to need help at odd hours, I learned to move to another room to take his calls.
 
     And forever after, anytime I shared an elevator with our now, newly intimate neighbors, I would simply nod a greeting, pull my collar up around my chin, and keep my eyes glued to the floor until we came to the bottom and the doors opened.
 

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TURMOIL IN THE MIDDLE EAST

  By Thomas Friedman, NY Times, October 14, 2023: 

 

    With the Middle East on the cusp of a full-blown ground war, I was thinking on Friday morning about how Israel's last two major wars have two very important things in common: They were both started by nonstate actors backed by Iran — Hezbollah from Lebanon in 2006 and Hamas from Gaza now — after Israel had withdrawn from their territories.


     And they both began with bold border-crossing assaults — Hezbollah killing three and kidnapping two Israeli soldiers in 2006 and Hamas brutally killing more than 1,300 and abducting some 150 Israeli civilians, including older people, babies and toddlers, in addition to soldiers.


     That similarity is not a coincidence. Both assaults were designed to challenge emerging trends in the Arab world of accepting Israel's existence in the region.


     And most critically, the result of these surprise, deadly attacks across relatively stable borders was that they drove Israel crazy.
 
     In 2006, Israel essentially responded to Hezbollah: "You think you can just do crazy stuff like kidnap our people and we will treat this as a little border dispute. We may look Western, but the modern Jewish state has survived as 'a villa in the jungle'" — which is how the former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak described it — "because if push comes to shove, we are willing to play by the local rules. Have no illusions about that. You will not outcrazy us out of this neighborhood."


     So the Israeli Air Force relentlessly pounded the homes and offices of Hezbollah's leadership in the southern suburbs of Beirut throughout the 34 days of the war, as well as key bridges into and out of the city and Beirut International Airport. Hezbollah's leaders and their families and neighbors paid a very personal price.


     The Israeli response was so ferocious that Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said in a now famous interview on Aug. 27, 2006, with Lebanon's New TV station, shortly after the war ended: "We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture [of two Israeli soldiers] would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 … that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not."


     Indeed, since 2006, the Israel-Lebanon border has been relatively stable and quiet, with few casualties on both sides. And while Israel did take a hit in terms of its global image because of the carnage it inflicted in Beirut, it was not nearly as isolated in the world or the Middle East over the short term or long run as Hezbollah had hoped.


     Hamas must have missed that lesson when it decided to disrupt the status quo around Gaza with an all-out attack on Israel last weekend. This is in spite of the fact that over the past few years, Israel and Hamas developed a form of coexistence around Gaza that allowed thousands of Gazans to enter Israel daily for work, filled Hamas coffers with cash aid from Qatar and gave Gazans the ability to do business with Israel, with Gazan goods being exported through Israeli seaports and airports.


     Hamas's stated reasons for this war are that Benjamin Netanyahu's government has been provoking the Palestinians by the morning strolls that Israel's minister for national security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, was taking around Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and by the steps that he was taking to make imprisonment of Palestinians harsher. While these moves by Israel were widely seen as provocations, they are hardly issues that justify Hamas putting all its chips on the table the way it did last Saturday.


     The bigger reason it acted now, which Hamas won't admit, is that it saw how Israel was being more accepted by the Arab world and soon possibly by the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia. Iran was being cornered by President Biden's Middle East diplomacy, and Palestinians feared being left behind.


     So Hamas essentially said, "OK, Jews, we will go where we have never gone before. We will launch an all-out attack from Gaza that won't stop with soldiers but will murder your grandparents and slaughter your babies. We know it's crazy, but we are willing to risk it to force you to outcrazy us, with the hope that the fires will burn up all Arab-Israeli normalization in the process."


     Yes, if you think Israel is now crazy, it is because Hamas punched it in the face, humiliated it and then poked out one eye. So now Israel believes it must restore its deterrence by proving that it can outcrazy Hamas's latest craziness.


     Israel will apply Hama Rules — a term I coined years ago to describe the strategy deployed in 1982 by Syria's president, Hafez al-Assad, when Hamas's political forefathers, the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria, tried to topple Assad's secular regime by starting a rebellion in the city of Hamas.


     Assad pounded the Brotherhood's neighborhoods in Hama relentlessly for days, letting no one out, and brought in bulldozers and leveled it as flat as a parking lot, killing some 20,000 of his own people in the process. I walked on that rubble weeks later. An Arab leader I know told me privately how, afterward, Assad laconically shrugged when he was asked about it: "People live. People die."


     Welcome to the Middle East. This is not like a border dispute between Norway and Sweden or a heated debate in Harvard Yard. Lord, how I wish that it were, but it's not.


     This Israel-Hamas war is part of an evolving escalation of craziness that has been underway in this neighborhood but getting more and more dangerous every year as weapons get bigger, cheaper and more lethal.


     Like Biden, I stand 100 percent with Israel against Hamas, because Israel is an ally that shares many values with America, while Hamas and Iran are opposed to what America stands for. That math is quite simple for me.


     But what makes this war different for me from any war before is Israel's internal politics. In the past nine months, a group of Israeli far-right and ultra-Orthodox politicians led by Netanyahu tried to kidnap Israeli democracy in plain sight. The religious-nationalist-settler right, led by the prime minister, tried to take over Israel's judiciary and other key institutions by eliminating the power of Israel's Supreme Court to exercise judicial review. That attempt opened multiple fractures across Israeli society. Israel was recklessly being taken by its leadership to the brink of a civil war for an ideological flight of fancy. These fractures were seen by Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah and may have stirred their boldness.


     If you want to get just a little feel for those fractures — and the volcanic anger at Netanyahu for the way he divided the country before this war — watch the video that went viral in Israel two days ago when Idit Silman, a minister in Netanyahu's ruling Likud party, was tossed out of the Assaf Harofeh Hospital in Tzrifin when she went to visit some wounded.


     "You've ruined this country. Get out of here," an Israeli doctor yelled at her. "How are you not ashamed to wage another war?" another person told her. "Now it's our turn," the doctor can be heard screaming in a video published on X, formerly known as Twitter, and reported by The Forward.  "We are in charge. We will govern here — right, left, a nation united — without you. You've ruined everything!"


     Israel has suffered a staggering blow and is now forced into a morally impossible war to outcrazy Hamas and deter Iran and Hezbollah at the same time. I weep for the terrible deaths that now await so many good Israelis and Palestinians. And I also worry deeply about the Israeli war plan. It is one thing to deter Hezbollah and deter Hamas. It is quite another to replace Hamas and leave behind something more stable and decent. But what to do?


     Finally, though, just as I stand today with Israel's new unity government in its fight against Hamas to save Israel's body, I will stand after this war with Israel's democracy defenders against those who tried to abduct Israel's soul.
 
 
 

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IS COVID MAKING A COMEBACK?

               Nope. It never really left.
 
     

     Moving about the country these days might lead you to believe that COVID is a thing of the past. No more masks, no social distancing, and big crowds everywhere you look. But, unfortunately, COVID remains with us, and continues to plague (sad pun intended) the elderly, organ transplant recipients and others who are significantly immune suppressed.
 
   Here's the long and short of it, albeit in reverse order.
 
   The Short of It:
 
     According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), since the pandemic began in the late winter of 2020, there have been a total of 1.5 million deaths, and 6.4 million hospitalizations due to COVID in the US. And now, by all measures, it appears that COVID infections are on the increase.
 
     Also, as reported by the EPA, hospitalization rates due to COVID hit their bottom in June, 2023 at six thousand/week. Since then, they have tripled, reaching an average of 19 thousand/week.
 
     The highest rates of hospitalization were in the fall & winter of both 2020-21 and 2021- 22, when people spent more time indoors. Thus, it's reasonable to expect that we'll see even higher rates this fall and winter.
 
     Meanwhile, the use of masks has seemingly disappeared, and the rate of vaccinations has dropped from a high of 3 million/day in March, 2021 to a low of 62 thousand/day in May, 2023. This despite the availability of new versions designed to thwart the latest mutations of COVID.
 
     As of today, only 17% of us have received a new bi-valent vaccine. Although the figure is higher (43%) among those older than 65, this percentage may or may not be high enough to protect vulnerable populations against an outbreak this coming winter season.
 
    The Long of It:
 
     Many believe that once you've contracted COVID, you're home free—that is, you can't get it a second time, and your complete recovery is assured. Neither assumption is true, even for those who are up to date on their vaccinations.
 
     According to a February 15, 2023 article in  "Scientific American", a team of researchers at Washington University in St. Louis concluded that reinfected people are twice as likely to die and three times as likely to be hospitalized with COVID than those infected only once, regardless of their vaccination status.
 
    Their data, drawn from from half a million COVID patients treated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, showed that 10% had been infected with COVID between two and four times. And some patients continued to have symptoms during the six months of follow-up, what scientists have come to term, "Long COVID."
 
     The most commonly reported symptoms of Long COVID include:


        -       Fatigue
        -       Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort
        -       Fever
        -       Respiratory symptoms, including difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and cough
 
     The prevalence of Long COVID in my area (Western New York) has been such that the University of Buffalo's Internal Medicine Dept recently opened a special "Long COVID Treatment Center". Funded by a grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, with support from UB, the center is accepting all patients, regardless of whether they have insurance.


    So, What's To Be Done?


     The appropriate responses to a heightened threat from COVID are simple things we all know: mask up, social distance where possible, and, with your  physician's permission, get any dose of an updated COVID vaccine as soon as it become available.


     COVID will continue to mutate, and it's up to us to protect ourselves and our loved ones by doing what we can to ward off these latest variants.
 
 
 
 

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(An almost) "TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART"

     (With apologies to Bonnie Tyler…)
 
     Funny thing happened as I was half-way through my dinner a week ago Tuesday.
 
     "Why am I so full all of a sudden?"  (I swear I couldn't take another bite.)
 
      "Why is it hard to breathe?  And why does my chest feel so heavy?"
 
     I call to Camille, who's in the kitchen cleaning up, and say, "I think we have a 'situation'."  I tell her what's up and suggest she drive me to the ER.  She immediately dismisses the idea and calls 911.
 
     As usual, she's smarter than me, especially in situations like this.
 
     A team of Orchard Park EMTs arrive, surround me as I sit on the couch, and do an EKG.  The lead guy looks at the printout and says, as if this were routine, "Yeah, you're having a heart attack."
 
     Now I have to back the story up a bit.
 
     The previous Sunday night, as I'm getting ready for bed, I feel some soreness across the top of my chest.  Pain from shoulder to shoulder that I've not experienced before. It worries me enough that we go to the nearby Mercy Immediate Care, where they do a thorough exam—EKG, Cat Scan, blood work—and rule out a heart attack. A nurse asks if I've done any weightlifting recently, and I say yes, two days before, a lot of upper body work. She claims that it's not unusual for soreness like this to be delayed.  They give me an intravenous dose of Motrin and I feel better. I accept her theory (which turns out to be wrong) and we head home around 4 AM to get some sleep.
 
    The next two days I go about my business. There is still some soreness in that area, especially notable when I take a deep breath or lay on my side in bed, but nothing to worry about, I assume. Just a muscle pull.
 
     I even spent four hours Tuesday morning doing a USGA golf course rating (walking around taking measurements), but then declined to play the course in the afternoon as we would usually do.  I still feel okay, but don't want to aggravate the "muscle" soreness in my chest.
 
     And then came dinner that night.
 
    The EMTs loaded me into an ambulance and we sped off to South Buffalo Mercy, siren blaring. They rolled me into a big room, where I'm surrounded by hospital staff. Within 30 minutes or so I'm in an operating room being prepped for an angiogram to see what's going on inside my chest.
 
     As things proceed, half-dazed from the sedative, I hear the doctor say something to a nurse. I turn and ask the doc, "Did I just hear the word S-T-E-N-T?"
 
     "Yes you did," she says, "I'm putting a stent in. Your main coronary artery is 90% blocked."
 
     "Well, that's interesting," I say, and doze off.
 
     Long story short, I spend the night in Mercy and, after an echo cardiogram that showed no damage to the heart, I'm released the next afternoon. I learn that the incident Sunday night was, indeed, a precursor to this heart attack.

 

     Still, I'm feeling good (relieved) now, and go home with a passel of new meds to add to the two dozen I already take daily to protect my eight year-old lung transplant.
 
     The next two days seem fairly ordinary. I'm in no pain, but am having trouble adjusting to a new blood thinner that causes breathlessness. A call to the cardiology nurse results in a change to a new med, and things settle down again. I begin to feel so normal that I toy with the idea of keeping a previously scheduled golf date for Friday. When she hears this, Camille rolls her eyes. Her expression says she can't believe I'm serious.
 
     But I am.
 
     To be safe (and to, hopefully, assuage Camille's doubts) I check in with my primary, who says as long as I'm not walking the course (haven't done that for the last 10+ years), I should be fine.
 
     The next day I arrive at the course, and it's a beautiful, cool fall morning. I and three good friends head out to play. Although I do feel a slight wooziness from the new blood thinner, it quickly disappears as we move along in the bright sunshine. I play pretty well, taking a mere 13 putts on the front nine. Alas, things turn sour on the back nine, and I take 20 putts there, but still manage to finish with a 94, a decent score for me on a fairly difficult course. I come home, no worse for wear, and fix dinner.  
 
    As of today I'm still adjusting to the new meds, but otherwise all is well.
 
     And so, there you have it, my "heartfelt" tale.
 
     But wait. Shouldn't there be a moral to the story? Something to learn from the craziness of the past ten days?
 
     Well, how about, "Hey, it's not good enough to play well on the front nine, you gotta keep your focus and finish the job!" 
 
     Seriously though, the lessons to take away from this episode are clear:
 
     1) Pay attention to your body—listen when it's trying to tell you something.
 
     2) Better yet, listen to your spouse!  You must've realized by now that they know you better than you know yourself!
 

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SECOND CHANCES?

 
     Let's assume, for the sake of argument (and I'm not trying to start one), that you could be anyone else in the world than who you are, living or dead.
 
     Who would it be?
 
     I'm not suggesting that you would abandon the family that raised you, or the loves and friendships you currently enjoy. I'm simply curious: could you imagine yourself as somebody else, rather than who you are right now, someone you admire, respect, envy, whatever, even if only for a day?
 
     In short, if you could be somebody else, who would it be?
 
     I know how I'd answer that question, both in the positive and the negative.
 
     On the positive side, if given the choice (and I know this is cheating), I'd come back in the next life as some combination of two people: Levon Helm and Ryan Sandberg.
 
     First, Levon.
 
     Born in Arkansas, he brought a southern sensibility to The Band, a group made up of mostly Canadians. As the drummer and one of the main vocalists, Levon's rhythm and southern accent gave The Band the rural/rock/folk sound (they call it "Americana" now) that made them, in my mind, the greatest North American band of all time. And, as someone whose people on my mother's side came from West Virginia, I felt a certain kinship with Levon, and would've relished trading places with him.
 
     Okay, so I'm greedy. I'd also want to squeeze in a baseball career as Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Fame, power hitting second basemen for the Chicago Cubs. Not only did he play the same position I did as a Little Leaguer, the man is drop dead gorgeous!
 
    But wait. Is there any downside to this thought experiment? If you were to be reborn as someone else, who would you NOT want to be.
 
     I won't name names—the list would be too long—but there are certain groups of people whose lives, if it were up to me, I might not wish to exchange for mine.
 
     They might include, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone following the ongoing Republican/Evangelical/White Nationalist attempts to deny history and change the future: Persons of Color, Women, Jews, Muslims and anyone who self-identifies as LGBTQ+.
 
     It's not that the lives of these folks are in any way lacking in meaning, love, creativity, or any other attribute we might associate with a positive experience. It's simply a rational (perhaps cowardly?) decision on my part not to put myself in their shoes, not to face the daily struggles they do to simply exist, to live the life of freedom that we, their family and friends, take for granted.
 
     So, that's my take on the possibility of a second chance at life.
 
     Think it over and tell me, who would you be if you could change places with anyone in the world?

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ISRAEL DIVIDED: AMERICA'S FUTURE?

     If you've been following recent events in Israel, in which a religious right wing has taken control of the government, relying on an indicted and desperate Prime Minister to further its anti-democratic aims, one can't avoid comparing it to the current situation in the U.S.
 
     Bibi Netanyahu, the longest serving Prime Minister in Israel's history, was indicted on a variety of corruption charges and then struck a deal with the hard right, religious fanatics in the Knesset, Israel's equivalent of a parliament. In exchange for assuring that religious Jews would not be subject to taxes or mandatory military service, and that Jewish settlers could continue to occupy Palestinian lands, he is seeking to limit the judiciary's power to prosecute him.  In doing so, he is turning Israel from a secular, democratic society into a religious, autocratic one, not unlike its Middle Eastern neighbors: Iran, Saudi Arabia and others.
 
     Looking at current events in the U.S., one cannot help but be struck by how much what hard right, religious Trump/DeSantis supporters are seeking to do matches what is happening in Israel.
 
     I continue to place my faith in the democratic protestors in Israel to save their country from this right wing coup.  Unfortunately, I don't have the same confidence that our situation will be resolved in favor of democracy.
 
     Unlike the 1960s, when I and my contemporaries tried our best to stop an immoral war, one that took the lives of a million Vietnamese and 50,000 mostly poor and uneducated U.S. soldiers (the rich & middle class did not pay much of a price), I doubt that citizens of this country have the balls to stand up to the religious, white nationalists, and protect us from the autocratic government that the Trump/DeSantis coalition is seeking to create.  

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WHO SAID THAT?

     "This was not just extreme carelessness with classified material, this is calculated, deliberate, premeditated misconduct, followed by a cover-up that included false statements and lies to Congress, the media, and the American people.


     "Putting classified information in the reach of our enemies, disqualifies (anyone) from the presidency."

 

     That, of course, was the former Prez, accusing Hillary Clinton of mishandling classified documents. He then stood by, grinning, as the crowd at his rally, led by convicted felon Michael Quinn, chanted "Lock Her Up".

 

     Finally, the Don said something we can agree on.

 

     

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ENOUGH BLOOD MONEY TO GO AROUND?

 
     For those following the Saudi's attempt at sportswashing via the LIV golf tour, today's news of their merger with the PGA and DP (European) Tours was an obscene turn of events.
 
     It was only a year ago that Jay Monahan, CEO of the PGA Tour, said on national TV (concerning members who jumped to the Saudi tour), "I would ask any player who has left or any player who is considering leaving, have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?"
 
    Good question, Jay.

 

                                                                     When should golf fans expect your apology?

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NOTES FROM INSIDE THE ROPES

 
     My assignment at the PGA was on Hole # 8 Saturday afternoon & Sunday morning.  That meant that on Saturday I saw all of the leaders go by, and on Sunday I saw players at the bottom of the leader board (though that included some big names).
 
     Of course, the biggest story of the tournament was the play of Michael Block, a club professional (i.e., a teaching pro) who was near the top of the leaderboard most of the time.  He fell back on Sunday, but wowed the crowd with a hole-in-one.  I watched his approach shot that put him close to the hole, and the cheers for him were some of the loudest I heard.
 
     As for me, it was an interesting and fun couple of days, despite Saturday's never ending rain.  A few notes from my time there:
 
       - Being a Hole Marshal has a number of dos and don'ts, the most important of which is to simply stay out of the players' way as they struggle their way around a very difficult course. For example, when I was doing crowd control around the green, I had to make sure to position myself so that I wasn't directly in the player's line of sight.  Then, as soon as a player lines up his putt, I would raise my arms  and face the crowd, sending them a message to keep silent.  Thus, I never got to see if the putt went in, but merely waited to hear the crowd's reaction.
 
       - Our Hole Captain very kindly made sure that we rotated through the 8 or 10 different positions around the hole. Thus, sometimes I was on the tee box or green, sometimes standing at the expected fairway landing zones, or handling the ropes at areas where spectators were allowed to cross the fairway when the coast was clear.
 
       - It was this last assignment that gave me the best chance to eyeball some of the most famous (and infamous) players as they walked right by me after teeing off.  There and elsewhere I was within yards of players like Jordan Speith, Justin Thomas, Adam Scott, Jon Rahm and Tony Finau (a favorite of mine), as well as the infamous (i.e., LIV) golfers like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka (the ultimate winner).
 
        - I had an especially close encounter with DeChambeau, whose drive went into the left rough where I was stationed.  He looked to me for help and I pointed out where his ball had landed.  I then stood directly behind him, arms raised, to quiet the crowd while he set up and swung. The force of his clubhead going through the thick rough was amazing, but his shot landed short of the green and trickled into a bunker.
 
       - The shot of the day for me came as I stood behind the green when Zack Johnson's approach landed 10 inches from the hole.  That's an automatic "gimmee" when I and my friends play, but Zach had to walk up and calmy tap it in for a birdie.
 
       - A note about Saturday's weather. It rained heavily as I drove the 90 miles from home to Rochester, and while it eventually lightened up, the rain didn't stop until near the end of my afternoon shift. I had my rainsuit on and an umbrella, so I was usually comfortable. There were times when I had to drop the umbrella to do my job, and to avoid blocking the view of the fans, but overall I stayed dry.  The amazing thing was how well these professionals perform in a steady rain, with drives still routinely passing the 300 yard mark.
 
       - I'd imagined that there might be times when yours truly would appear on national TV, but that never happened.  It's rare for a Marshal to appear in a shot, as the close ups are focused on the players. The one instance where this can happen is if a shot carries into the crowd and the Marshal has to take down the ropes and clear a space for the player to hit his shot.  That did happen to me once on Saturday, but the player (Min Woo Lee) was so far out of it that the TV cameras weren't on him. So…my chance at world-wide fame eluded me.
 
       - The PGA took wonderful care of all us volunteers. In addition to our credentials getting us into every day of the tournament, even when not working, there was a huge, air-conditioned tent with free breakfast, coffee, snacks and soft drinks available just for us.  That included private bathrooms, not a small thing with crowds nearing 200,000 people wandered about.
 
     It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity, and despite the long drives there and back, and the sketchy weather on Saturday, I wouldn't hesitate to do it again.
        

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