Monday, February 13, 2017
Remembering Al Jarreau (1940-2017)
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
February 13, 2017
Long before I had the tremendous opportunity to interview Jazz, R&B, and Pop legend Al Jarreau, I was a fan of his musical genius. My favorite Al Jarreau albums are Jarreau (1983) and High Crime (1984). While maintaining a vigorous performing schedule through 2016, Jarreau left it all on stage for his fans. I attended two Al Jarreau concerts, the most recent, with my wife, in 2014 at the Palladium in Carmel, IN. It was after that performance where I last spoke with Al Jarreau. Between that and the interview, which was a three-part conversation over three separate days, Al Jarreau was a genuine delight – positive and upbeat, even when discussing challenges he faced. Al Jarreau died Sunday, February 12, exactly one month prior to his 77th birthday, in Los Angeles. What follows is my 2004 interview with the man with a mellifluous voice.
One on One with Al Jarreau
An Interview by Sanford D. Horn
August 30, 2004
Calling Al Jarreau versatile and energetic would be obvious and terribly understated. Yet triteness prevails when attempting to describe the 64-year-old, five time Grammy® winner who, even after surgery in 2000, airplane flights between both coasts, still exudes boundless energy whether discussing his charitable work with Verizon Reads, autographing his latest CD and posing for pictures with a seemingly endless line of fans and well-wishers, or reading to inner-city school children – all of which he accomplished on a recent visit to Washington, DC.
Getting Jarreau to sit down long enough for an interview proved challenging enough, but well worth the effort, following an appearance he made at a Borders bookstore in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, August 24. During his appearance, Jarreau, a crossover legend in the musical genres of Jazz, Rhythm & Blues, and Pop, entertained a group of nearly 100 with stories, impromptu scats, and his sense of humor.
Al Jarreau’s sense of humor proved evident before taking his seat at the front of the room when he introduced himself as “General Colin Powell,” referring to the current Secretary of State. But before long, the Milwaukee, WI native and classic car collector – owning a 1949 Cadillac, for example - talked about some of his early song challenges in the music business.
“Mornin’ was a challenge with the long held note in [the lyric] ‘Touching the face of G-d,’” said Jarreau of the popular hit on the 1983 album titled Jarreau. That line, about touching the face of G-d came from the poem High Flight written by World War II flying ace John Gillespie McGee, Jr., said Jarreau, providing a bit of a history lesson to his fans. McGee, an American airman flying for the British Royal Air Force, was killed in action on December 11, 1941 at age 19.
With the song “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” from the 1981 release Breakin’ Away “you have to remember to breathe. It’s a very difficult song to sing – I’ve never done it live,” said Jarreau, as he sang portions of that very song to the approval of the standing room only audience.
“You just did,” came from several audience members.
Jarreau also mentioned how the song “Alonzo,” from the 1980 album This Time “is so rangy. I’m not as high any more – I have more lows,” he said, referring to the range in his voice as he ages. Listening to the several scat offerings he provided that evening, it would be hard to say that Al Jarreau has lost a step in his upbeat lilt.
Jarreau comes by his musical talent honestly, via both parents. “My dad was a singing dude – a preacher with the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Alabama. He gave that throat to my two older brothers singing in the living room,” said Jarreau, who began singing at the age of four. “At age four or five people started smiling – that’s infectious – people pinching cheeks, slobbering over you. I was well into my teens before I began to really listen to the sound of my voice. I’m still getting accustomed to what I sound like as a singer. I’m still realizing what a wonderful instrument this is. I’m still reforming.”
“I sang every chance I had. In the ‘50s I sang with a dance band. I played parties, the Urban League, sororities. I was 15-years-old [earning] $7 for an evening. I was doo-wopping before it was doo-wop,” said Jarreau.
“My mother played piano and organ,” he said, explaining why he couldn’t play those instruments as a child. “You couldn’t get the baseball glove off my hand,” said the one-time aspiring shortstop. “We really thought I had promise. I had serious aspirations,” said Jarreau, a one-time teammate of the late Tommy Aaron at a Milwaukee Braves clinic for 15 to 18 year olds. Tommy Aaron ultimately played a seven-year Major League Baseball career for both the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, and was the younger brother of all-time home run king Hank Aaron.
Today, Al Jarreau is still a Braves fan. He also roots for the Dodgers, as he and his wife of 29 years, Susan, live in Southern California. “I like the Brewers in Milwaukee and I would like to see the Bucks do well,” he said, referring to the NBA team in Milwaukee. “I’m just a sentimental sap – I can’t help that.”
Al Jarreau also played basketball and ran cross country. When asked about his basketball prowess at his alma mater Ripon College in Ripon, WI, just west of Oshkosh, the three-year starting college player said, “these legs should not be shown. I never should have played basketball,” he said, despite the scholarship he earned for his hardwood skills. Taking pride in his undergraduate college, Jarreau pointed out that actor Harrison Ford was a classmate, and another actor, Spencer Tracy also claimed Ripon as his alma mater.
After earning his Bachelors of Arts in psychology at Ripon College, Jarreau went on to garner a Master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation at the University of Iowa before moving to San Francisco to practice rehabilitation counseling.
“I fell in love with social work and wanted to help other people – teach – we are responsible for one another – teachers, preachers, doctors, social workers – but I wanted a career in music,” he said.
“I left rehabilitation counseling in 1968 in part because I was not a great counselor. It was not the right setting – working for the state. I was not a quick study or quick with the bureaucratic stuff – good morning, good night in triplicate,” said Jarreau, who remained in San Francisco and met jazz legend George Duke.
In addition to naming Duke as an influence, Jarreau praised Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstein, and Sarah Vaughn. “Can’t leave out Stevie [Wonder], Aretha [Franklin], Sly Stone, Bill Evans on jazz piano, Miles Davis as influential who touch me. Singer, song writer, poet Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell – important lyricists. I’m a student of John Hendricks from way back. You can hear it in my jazz offerings – the lyrics for ‘Spain,’” said Jarreau, singing a few bars from the song from the This Time album. “Pound for pound the best jazz singer on the planet – bar none. He’s never gotten his due. The heyday, the golden day, is not now,” lamented Jarreau, who named Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, and Herbie Hancock as additional jazz influences.
As much as Al Jarreau has enjoyed performing R&B and Pop, citing “Boogie Down,” from Jarreau as an example, he referred to his latest production, Accentuate the Positive as “the music that taught me to be Al Jarreau. This is music that has personally come out of my heart and soul. I owed this album to the community at large. I promised for 20 years a project of this sort. This is a serious venture into Jazz land. These are jazzy songs in a jazzy kind of manner,” said Jarreau. He added there would be more jazz. “I’m not done – this is chapter one,” also projecting a Big Band album “within the next three years.” He even anticipates an album of Brazilian music.
A Big Band production would add to Jarreau’s versatility as his five American Grammy Awards fall under three categories – Jazz, Pop, and R&B. His first came in 1977 for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, followed a year later by winning the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocalist with his fourth album All Fly Home. Jarreau earned his third and fourth Grammy Awards in 1980 being named Best Male Pop Vocalist and Best Male Jazz Vocalist. In 1992 Jarreau took home Grammy number five – Best R&B Vocal Performance coming on the heels of that year’s release of Heaven and Earth.
Ironically, it was a nomination that did not turn into a Grammy victory for Jarreau that perhaps earned him the most recognition.
“Lee Holder, composer for TV and movies told me that Cybil Sheppard and Bruce Willis liked my music,” said Jarreau of the stars of the popular 1980s program Moonlighting. Jarreau wrote the title theme song specifically for the series. “Oslo, Norway and Djakarta, Indonesia found me because of that song. They never asked me to come on that show,” he said of the two co-stars while offering up one of his special facial expressions.
“I was nominated for a Grammy [for Moonlighting]? Was I? Where’s my nomination plaque,” quipped Jarreau in good humor.
With Al Jarreau’s continued success and recognition, he has become very vocal on the educational and literacy scene and since 2002 has been a Literacy Champion with Verizon Reads.
“Verizon does understand that they are part of the community,” said Jarreau. “We’re giving away 20,000 books to people and kids who wouldn’t ordinarily have them. Doing a good job is more than just having a great bottom line at the end of the fiscal year. We need to figure out how to feed everybody, clothe everybody, and house everybody,” said Jarreau, noting the 92 million Americans who are illiterate or “reading just barely at the sixth grade reading level or below. They can’t read a bedtime story to their kids. They can’t read a map to get cross town. They can’t fill out a job application. I’m spreading the word. Let’s get back to reading.”
Al Jarreau understands the benefits of reading from personal experience. “I had an academic scholarship, but I lost it. I was not ready for that setting – high standards. My basketball scholarship helped me get through. Some of my professors held my hand,” he said, adding that he had problems reading as a younger child. “My mother got me there. That’s part of why I’m with Verizon. I love teachers and educators,” said Jarreau, noting that he gives CDs to teachers at his concerts.
When Jarreau reminds people to “get back to reading,” he sets an example for them. “I love spy novels. If cosmology were written in as attractive a manner as they are for video, I would read more of that genre. I like reading about the universe – who we are, what we are – star stuff – not Hollywood star stuff,” said Al Jarreau, a man who has been entertaining people globally for decades, yet has his feet firmly planted on the ground.
Thursday, February 2, 2017
“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” – Evelyn Beatrice Hall (1868-1956) – not Voltaire, as is often incorrectly attributed
First Amendment Denied at Berkeley
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
February 2, 2017
Free speech and tolerance were in full bloom and on display at UC-Berkeley last night. Liberals, socialists, thugs, malcontents and miscreants utilized their First Amendment freedom of speech and expression while campus keystone cops tolerated the violence, destruction of private property, and overall criminal behavior.
Denizens at the self-pronounced “birth place of the free speech movement” demonstrated their antipathy toward the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by thwarting the efforts, and ultimately forcing the cancelation of a speech to be given by Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulos, 33, is a Greek-born British citizen and the senior editor for Breitbart News, a conservative operation.
Yiannopoulos, a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, is considered controversial by the left simply because they take issue with his conservative stances on numerous key issues. Regardless of his viewpoints and beliefs, he accepted an invitation to speak on the Berkeley campus, and should have been able to do so unfettered from violence and destruction. Peaceful demonstrations and non-violent protests should be welcome – after all they are the bellwether of the foundation of the United States. Don’t like the speaker’s perspectives, host a speaker of your own or write a letter to the editor.
Instead, more than 1,500 pedantic anarchists and left wing hooligans both from on campus and off, took to the streets in a tumultuous riot lobbing Molotov Cocktails, committing arson, throwing bricks at law enforcement, looting a Starbucks, and writing graffiti death threats on private property. One rioter pepper-sprayed a woman wearing a Trump hat, while another Trump supporter was beaten by other thugs exercising their expressiveness. At only one arrest, there is plenty of video from which to cull and identify the miscreant participants. Ultimately, the Yiannopoulos event required canceling. Yet it begs the question, where is the safe space for those people wishing to attend the speech – the same safe space liberals clamor about when they claim they can’t even listen to words with which they disagree?
The college campus, long the home of spirited debate, has in the past two generations deteriorated into a fascist den reenacting George Orwell’s 1984, rife with its so-called free speech zones. So-called, because to have a free speech zone, is to surrender the right of free speech on the remainder of the campus. In fact, most campuses with so-called free speech zones require appointments made weeks in advance to utilize the space and the topics need to be approved by the campus thought police masquerading as administrators.
The answer to objectionable speech, is more speech, not less. People, especially the younger generations, are barely able to communicate with one another anymore thanks to technology – people have their headphones on, and their eyes diverted to computers, phones, tablets, all living in their virtual world communicating with strangers, but not knowing how to talk to the people around them on campus or the workplace. This is not just sad, it is dangerous. It’s dangerous because less speech leads to less understanding of others and ultimately the violence and intolerance that was born of liberal odium of philosophy and ideas divergent from their own. Thus the signs reading “this is war,” and “Nazi scum,” in objection to Yiannopoulos, who apparently identifies as gay and Jewish.
Liberals and conservatives are at a linguistic crossroads. While conservatives are said to want to censor certain book lists seen as inappropriate for students of younger ages, it is liberals who want to censor the words and thoughts of anyone deigning to disagree with them. They seem to have a visceral fear and loathing of alternative viewpoints with an uncontrollable need to silence the masses. Liberals don’t like a television program, they want it removed from the airwaves, while conservatives simply change the channel.
A complete investigation into the myriad criminal activities must be undertaken to identify the guilty. They need be prosecuted to the limits of the law. Students involved in the chaos and bedlam should be suspended from school with the concomitant loss of scholarships if applicable. Regardless of whether students or not, all guilty parties must be held financially accountable and make restitution. This also means the police must do their jobs. Where is Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California system? Hearing crickets.
For a college campus whether UC Berkeley or any other bastion of so-called free speech and thought to demand the suspension of the First Amendment, perhaps President Donald Trump was right when he suggested denying the school federal funding. A war was fought to guarantee the people’s rights. It’s time to fight again to preserve those very rights.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.
Monday, January 30, 2017
Travel Ban Legal and Necessary
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
January 30, 2017
Lost in the shuffle of the over exaggerated, sack-cloth and ash, doom and gloom hysteria of the newly imposed travel ban by President Donald Trump is that it is perfectly legal and long overdue.
The constitutional rights of not one American citizen are being violated in this logical attempt to make America safe for Americans and those who wish to visit and do no harm while visiting. Not one American’s religious rights are being abridged or denied in the United States.
Make no mistake, this legal and necessary ban is about the safety of the American people and about national security. This is about putting America first, just as Trump promised during his campaign and reiterated during his inaugural address. No one – no one, has the right to enter the United States just because they want to, just because they are fleeing a despotic regime, just because they need better health care than can be provided in their country of origin, just because they want a superior education or job, or just because they are religiously persecuted.
The ban applies to the same seven countries named by Barack Obama in 2011, 2015, and 2016 as needing further travel restrictions. Those seven countries are Iran, whose government credo is “death to America,” Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. There seemed to be nary a tear shed, nor a protest, nor a lawsuit during the Obama administration, when during three years Obama called for further travel restrictions, yet there has been apoplectic and emotional response from people who clearly don’t comprehend why this has become necessary. In fact, not only necessary now, but protracted unsettled business.
Quite frankly, a complete global immigration moratorium for at least a year should be appropriate in an effort to clean up the crippled system. Extreme vetting is what Trump has called for, and at the very least anyone entering the United States for any reason should be subject to fingerprinting and photographing to be stored in a national data base. This would include, but not be limited to student visas, work visas, travel visas, fiancé visas, and all members of the diplomatic corps.
After all, a global moratorium could not be considered a religious ban as many are defining this one. If this were an all-out Muslim ban why were Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates not included? They are all majority Muslim nations, and many are serious trouble spots. Don’t forget, as if anyone could, Saudi Arabia was the country of origin of the majority of the September 11, 2001 terrorists.
Further, if this travel ban were faith based, why aren’t Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Pakistan on the list? And for that matter, why not Spain – home of the Madrid terror attack on March 11, 2004? Why not the United Kingdom – home of the London terror attack on July 7, 2005? Why not Norway – home of the Oslo and Utoya terror attacks on July 22, 2011? Why not France – home of the Paris, Paris, and Nice terror attacks on January 7, 2015, November 13, 2015, and July 14, 2016? Why not Belgium – home of the Brussels terror attack on March 22, 2016? And why not Germany – home of the Berlin terror attack on December 19, 2016?
George Washington University Law professor Jonathan Turley said the ACLU is wrong in their assertion that this is about religion. “This is not a Muslim ban,” said the typically left of center Turley.
Senator Elizabeth “Faux-cahontas” Warren (D-MA) led chants of protest calling the travel ban illegal and unconstitutional. While Warren has the right to her own opinion, she does not have the right to her own constitution, said Trump administration senior advisor Stephen Miller.
And for all the hand wringing and selective outrage, here’s a reminder that during his administration, President Jimmy Carter rescinded Iranian visas, while Obama signed a six month suspension of processing Iraqi refugee applications. Does anyone recall Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) or Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) getting all worked up at that time?
In fact, Schumer himself, in 2014, called for a cessation to Obama’s refugee program. It is the liberals that are making this political and emotional, instead of the necessity that it is. Schumer called this ban issuance “mean-spirited and un-American.” Isn’t it un-American to not follow the rule of law and protect our American citizens, Senator Schumer?
On Saturday, January 28 of the some 325,000 people who landed at American airports, a mere 109 people were detained, and even then, only temporarily. If detaining a few people and causing a minor inconvenience is the new next step in keeping America safe, we can live with it. Consider the alternative, where people may not live. And for those frenzied protesters comparing the transitory delay to the internment of Japanese-Americans around World War II (1942-46), they should be ashamed of themselves to make such an association. That is an affront to the lives and memories of more than 110,000 Issei and Nisei held for years, not hours.
The rantings of a bunch of Hollywood socialists who don’t know the rule of law, and the demonstrations of a few hundred protesters at various airports should not turn this into a case of emotional blackmail. They have used the temporarily detained as political pawns without concern for the safety and well-being of America. Trump must hold his ground in an effort to reach a positive change in the vetting system as well as a stronger ability to monitor the comings and goings of visitors to the United States.
My youngest daughter commented that we are a nation of immigrants. She is absolutely correct, but we are still a nation of laws, in spite of her quoting from the Emma Lazarus (1849-87) sonnet The New Colossus (1883). “…Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…”
I reminded her of the importance of the next four words “…yearning to breathe free…” Do terrorists adhere to those four words, I asked her? No; not so much. They seek to impose chaos, anarchy, and Sharia Law. We welcome legal immigrants into the United States, and while many terrorists have emerged from the muck and mire illegally, far too many have gained access to our shores legally, and thus the importance of the ban.
There is no constitutional right for the world’s population, over seven billion strong, to enter the United States, either legally or illegally. It is a privilege. The first responsibility of the government is to protect its citizenry and borders. No court can confer permission of entrance upon non-US citizens.
Part of the oath of office calls for the president to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” With this legal and necessary ban, President Trump is doing just that. Just as he promised.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator in Westfield, IN.
Friday, January 27, 2017
Media Needs Trump More than Trump Needs Media
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
January 27, 2017
Prior to unleashing the onslaught of executive orders, Barack Obama reminded the Republicans in Congress and the American people, that he was armed with a pen. Actually it seemed more like a threat. Now that there’s a new sheriff in town, President Donald Trump is armed with Twitter. It is fair to suggest the media needs Trump more than Trump needs the media.
While the war of words continues to be waged between the White House and the Fourth Estate, there is something to Trump’s oft-asserted view that the media is generally dishonest. Include overwhelming left wing bias and overt hostility along with the dishonesty.
One of Thomas Jefferson’s more frequently cited quotes is: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
That was prior to Jefferson ascending to the White House. Six years into his administration he said: “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”
The media consists of reporters, editors, producers, photographers, and editorialists. Regardless of the medium – print, electronic, audio, or video, journalists have an obligation and onus to provide truthful information to the people they serve. Yes, they provide a service, a service than can be acquired in many forms and venues should one source prove irresponsible or incapable of delivering an honest product to its consumers. Reporters report. They should not submit creative writing for public consumption.
Unless stated as an opinion journalist, the reporter has an obligation to provide factual data, not opine, or serve as an activist entity. Opinion should not appear on page one of a newspaper – that’s the purpose of editorial pages. When a Sean Hannity or a Rachel Maddow go on the air, it is to opine about the events of the day, week, or administration. The same is true of talk radio, whether from the left or the right, as well as editorial pages of newspapers. More and more news magazines are typically known for their bent, be it a conservative The Weekly Standard or a liberal The Nation, but its readers are more often than not aware of the leanings and know what they are getting into.
When it comes to reporting on the affairs of state, the business of the American government, whether from the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court, or the White House, not only should reporters play it strictly straight, but places like the White House have the right to vet any and all media outlets. The White House press corps should no more have given Barack Obama as many passes as it did during the last eight years as it should not stray from facts when covering the Trump administration.
Having a seat among the White House pool of reporters is not a birth right. If the White House determines a particular media outlet is not honest or fair, that outlet should be punished by losing its White House press credentials and it can then be given to another outlet. If there is a minor infraction, perhaps a suspension. The White House, under any administration, has the right to determine who has access and who does not. Who decided The New York Times should always be front and center in the White House press room? The Gray Lady is most certainly not the reliable media icon the mainstream media purports it to be.
The New York Times is not the only media outlet treading troubled waters. Zeke Miller, the White House pool reporter for Time falsely reported on Trump’s Inauguration Day that the new president had the bust of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. removed from the Oval Office. That report spread like wildfire and picked up by roughly 3,000 other media outlets before it was determined to be inaccurately reported. The correction was so small it required a microscope to see. Intentional or unintentional, the Miller report could only damage Trump’s reputation, and worse, his relationship with African-Americans, which could best be described as tenuous at the outset. While Miller later apologized for the miscue, the damage had been done. For this infraction, Miller’s and for that matter, Time’s press credentials to the White House should be pulled – at least temporarily.
Perhaps more egregious was CNN’s Jim Acosta who was over the top rude during one of Trump’s earliest media sessions with his constant haranguing, interrupting, and hectoring Trump for a question, as well as rude to NPR reporter and Fox News contributor Mara Liasson during that same tirade. The Trump White House should have made an example of Acosta by pulling his White House press credentials and barring CNN for a couple weeks. Put the rest of the media on notice – their seats are not permanent and incorrigible behavior will not be tolerated.
Make room for members of the media who might not ordinarily get the opportunity to be a part of the White House press pool. For every New York Times there’s an El Paso Times on the outside looking in. The idea posed by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to have satellite pool members is a dandy notion. This gives opportunities to those who are from smaller media outlets and can’t afford to travel to Washington to participate in the press process.
Former New York Times Washington bureau and investigative reporter Judith Miller summed it up well on Fox News, Friday, January 27. There should be “fewer tweets, more reporting, ramp back the ego, and get on with our work,” Miller chided the media in general. “We benefit no one getting into a spitting contest with the White House. We should concentrate on better reporting, more accurate reporting, fewer instances of spin and opinion,” said the Pulitzer Prize winner.
“At several papers, reporters have had to be admonished to keep their opinions to themselves when they are doing, quote, straight journalism. I’m an opinion journalist – so I can have an opinion openly – but if you are a reporter covering the White House, I don’t want to see snarky stuff from you on Twitter. The White House has a point. We ought to listen more. If we listen more, we’re going to learn more and we’re going to do a better job at bringing the facts that the American people are going to need to be able to make a judgment about how the White House and Donald Trump are doing,” said Miller. This is the same Judith Miller who spent 85 days in jail in 2005 on contempt of court charges protecting the identity of a source. (There is no relation between Judith Miller and Zeke Miller.)
A good journalist does not inject him or herself into the story. A good journalist does not opine within a news report. A good journalist is honest and accurate in all reports. A good journalist abides by a source’s request to remain off the record. Having been a part of the media in one manner or another for 20 years, there is a fast learning curve. A trust relationship must be nurtured for it can be lost in an instant and is virtually impossible to rebuild. If the people can’t trust you, your career will flounder and flounder fast. Whether writing a blog, reporting for a local newspaper, the Associated Press, or part of the White House press corps for a major outlet like The Washington Post or Fox News, you are only as trustworthy as your words say you are. There is nothing wrong with the White House holding the media as accountable as the general public holds the White House.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Swamp Draining Must Include VA, FBI
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
January 24, 2017
During the 2016 presidential campaign GOP candidate and ultimate winner Donald Trump oft-repeated he would “drain the swamp,” meaning he would rid Washington, DC of the dead weight, hangers-on, and generally useless bureaucrats taking up time, space, and taxpayer dollars.
Two of the swamp denizens needing liberating from their government homes are within the Department of Veterans Affairs and the FBI. President Trump’s nominee to head the VA, David Shulkin, should not be confirmed by the US Senate, and Trump should rescind the vote of confidence given FBI Director James Comey and request his resignation.
Comey, 56, a Yonkers, NY native, earned his JD from the University of Chicago Law School and is a 2013 appointee of Barack Obama. Prior government experience includes his work as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, followed by serving as US Deputy Attorney General.
Comey demonstrated a level of incompetence in the manner in which he handled Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal and server investigation. Despite having enough evidence to call for the indictment of the former Democrat candidate for president, Comey presented reasons why he could, but then pivoted by giving her a pass. Comey claimed such an indictment would derail the 2016 presidential election. It seems if someone is indictable, he or she should actually be indicted, regardless of its impact. Comey should go.
Shulkin, currently the VA’s Undersecretary of Health, is a 57-year-old Bala Cynwyd, PA native, and another Obama appointee since 2015, has a strong background in hospital administration as the chief executive of numerous hospital systems, including the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. The board certified internist earned his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania (since merged with Drexel University). Were he to garner Senate confirmation, Shulkin would become the first non-veteran to head the VA.
On paper, Shulkin seems to be an acceptable nominee for this cabinet post. However, he is mired deep in the swamp to the point where he is more of the problem than the solution. It’s not even his fault as much as he is simply a cog in an old wheel rife with such bureaucratic chaos that in Congressional hearings Shulkin provided false information on issues he should have been more aware.
Testifying before a Congressional committee regarding the continuing employment of criminals at the VA, Shulkin claimed the miscreants had been fired, when in reality, they had not. Shulkin did not know this, yet an aide, who did, had to inform Shulkin of the truth. Later on that same day, Shulkin informed the House members that a particular chief of staff who had been doling out controlled substances to friends had been relieved of her authoritative position. This time Shulkin was not misinformed, but he simply lied, as this VA employee was not only still on the job, but had been promoted to oversee quality control. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house.
It’s time to hear President Trump utter those words he made so famous – “You’re fired!”
While Washington, DC may have been built on a swamp, it need not continue to be filled with creatures from the black lagoon. Although I don’t have a replacement to recommend in Comey’s stead, I would offer to President Trump the name of US Representative Tulsi Gabbard for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Gabbard, 35, is a native of American Samoa, currently representing Hawaii’s Second District. The Democrat is the first American Samoan and Hindu member of Congress and is serving in her second term after serving in the Hawaii state legislature, first elected at age 21, the youngest to serve in that body. Gabbard is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University with a BS in Business Administration.
In addition to her business degree, Gabbard is more than qualified to serve as the head of the VA due to her military and medical backgrounds as well. An Army veteran since 2004, Gabbard has earned the rank of Major. She served in an Iraqi combat zone in a field medical unit as a specialist for a 12 month tour of duty. She continues her military service in the Hawaii Army National Guard. In fact, Gabbard opted out of a reelection campaign to her Hawaii legislative seat, choosing instead to continue her then full time military service.
Although Gabbard is a social liberal, she has solid armed forces bona fides, and serves on both the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees. Gabbard previously opposed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia calling for the US to hold that country accountable for its overt and covert involvement in global terrorism. Gabbard also opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement that Trump opposed and withdrew from on January 24.
US Rep. Gabbard would be a breath of fresh air at the helm of the VA and President Trump would do well to appoint her – not because he could “check some boxes” due to her demographics, but because of her clearly desirable qualifications. She understands the needs of veterans, has a military, medical, and business background as well as a desire to not just serve, but accomplish.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Lewis Leads Dem Boycott of Trump Inaugural
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
January 18, 2017
Congressman John L. Lewis (D-GA) is a civil rights icon. Of that there is no denying. He not only talked the talk, he walked the walk – literally from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and he has the battle scars as proof.
All that said, Congressman Lewis is a mortal man. He does not walk on water. He is not immune to criticism, and leveeing criticism on Lewis does not make the critic a racist. Yet, a war of words has erupted between the Congressman and the President-elect.
“I do not see President-elect Trump as a legitimate president,” said Lewis, in declaring he will boycott the inauguration of Donald Trump as he is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, January 20. Lewis is of the belief that the Russians had a hand in Trump’s victory, yet not one scintilla of proof has been unearthed to support that claim.
Nevertheless, Trump fired back via Twitter saying Lewis is all talk and no action and that he should work on fixing his district in Georgia, which Trump says needs help. While it is true that Lewis’ district is poor – encompassing the City of Atlanta and surrounding counties – and does desperately need the help Trump recommended, Trump was wrong to say Lewis is all talk and no action. Trump explained that he was not referring to Lewis’ long history as a civil rights activist, but his mostly unremarkable Congressional career. Therein lies one of the downsides and limits of Twitter.
The battle waged on.
Calling Trump an illegitimate president is not just wrong it is false. By a margin of 306-232, Trump won the Electoral College vote over Hillary Clinton, which according to the 12th Amendment to the United States Constitution is what declares a presidential winner. It is due to this claim of illegitimacy that Lewis has decided not to attend the inauguration of Trump and his Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
And that is Lewis’ right – just as it was his right to decline to attend the inauguration of the 2001 swearing in of President George W. Bush following a 37 day recount.
But Lewis is not alone in sitting out the inaugural. As of 4 PM on Wednesday, January 18, 64 Democrat members of Congress are boycotting the quadrennial event. And while that is their right, it is bad form, very petty, and makes those members look small. They are also declining to represent all their constituents – those who voted against and for Trump. More importantly, it is disrespectful of the office of the president.
Former 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain said on Fox News, the Democrats opting out of attending the inaugural “represent the voice of the black plantation. Yes, I said it. They want people to be kept uninformed.”
Unfortunately, vilifying Trump has managed to claim civilian victims. Marc Lamont Hill, a professor of African American Studies at Morehouse College in Atlanta and an analyst on CNN demonized black visitors to Trump Tower as well as Trump’s “Diversity Coalition.” Hill called Trump visitors such as Steve Harvey, Martin Luther King III, BET founder Robert Johnson, and NFL hall of famer Jim Brown “mediocre Negroes.”
This is precisely the brand of enmity that continues to divide America. Castigating people simply for visiting Trump, for merely keeping an open mind – not even an endorsement – about his future administration is yet another off-ramp on the low road. This black-on-black racial divisiveness serves no one but the race hustlers – people like Al Sharpton who makes a living fueling the fire of racial animus.
I am no fan of Barack Obama. However, were I invited to his inaugurals I would have attended – history was made. Had I the offer to meet with him and share my thoughts on key issues, I would readily have taken the opportunity. There were no mass boycotts of Obama’s inaugurals by a cadre of GOP lawmakers. Yes, debate was lively, as I expect it to be during the Trump administration, but in order for genuine progress to be accomplished, those lively debates must include those on all sides of the aisle – the pro, the con, and the uncommitted.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.
Monday, January 16, 2017
“Baseball is a game you’d play for nothing. I am so happy the Lord gave me a little ability, because it allowed me to meet a lot of good people and see so many exciting places.” – 1973 Hall of Fame inductee Monte Irvin (02/25/19 – 01/11/16)
“Baseball is an endless drama with an ever-changing cast.” – 1991 Ford C. Frick Award Winner (broadcaster’s wing of the Hall of Fame) Joe Garagiola (02/12/26 – 03/23/16)
Ivan the Great, Bagwell, and Raines to Reign in Hall Balloting
Sanford D. Horn
January 16, 2017
We managed to survive the 2016 presidential campaign and election leading to the inevitable January links between baseball and politics – this week a new president will be inaugurated just two days after the Baseball Hall of Fame announces its new inductees on Wednesday. Hopefully, the bitter temperatures, a reminder that pitchers and catchers don’t report for duty for another month, will also serve notice that the Russians did not hack into the Hall of Fame voting process.
“Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” (http://baseballhall.org/hall-famers/rules-election/bbwaa) This is the standard by which the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) is to do their jobs.
The crux is character and integrity – neither of which was exhibited by Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, or Sammy Sosa, each accused of using steroids during their playing careers. These players’ bad behavior should not be rewarded. They only way they should be allowed into Cooperstown is with a paid ticket for admission. For as many years as these miscreants have been on the ballot, I remain steadfastly opposed to their entry, and will continue to be so in the future until their eligibility is exhausted and beyond. And this year, the name of Manny Ramirez can be added to the naughty list.
Candidates are required to earn five percent of the vote in order to remain on the ballot for the next year. Should a few more voters shun Sosa, his seven percent from 2016 could drop enough to bounce him from future consideration. More BBWAA members would be needed to withhold votes from Clemens – 45.2 percent, and Bonds – 44.3 percent, to remove them from the ballot, if not from our collective memories. While the vote percentages increased for Clemens and Bonds, demonstrating a lack of character by those supporting their entry into Cooperstown, enough did the right thing by eliminating Mark McGwire from future consideration.
Were I privileged with casting votes to determine the Class of 2017 into the Baseball Hall of Fame, four retired players would appear on my ballot – one freshman candidate, and three holdovers from 2016.
Moving from the malevolent to the magnificent, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez spent 21 years as a major league backstop catching pitchers for the Texas Rangers, Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Houston Astros, and Washington Nationals doing it right and avoiding scandal. Rodriguez should be a first ballot entrant into Cooperstown having caught 2,427 games – most ever for a backstop while batting .296 with 2,844 hits, 311 home runs, and 1,332 runs batted in. While a member of the 2003 Marlins World Series winning team, Rodriguez played mostly for average teams while often helping to tutor young pitchers.
Trevor Hoffman pitched his 18 years in the major leagues with the then Florida Marlins, San Diego Padres, and Milwaukee Brewers racking up 601 saves while hurling mostly for mediocre teams where save opportunities were not as prevalent as for sure-fire Hall of Famer to be in 2019 Mariano Rivera. Known as a Padre the majority of his career, Hoffman represented the team as a six-time All Star, and one additional selection as a Brewer. The first pitcher to reach both the 500 and 600 save threshold, Hoffman was four times in the top 10 voting for the Cy Young award and five times received votes for MVP. In 1998 Hoffman converted 41 consecutive save opportunities – a record at the time.
Checking in with 270 career wins is four-time ballot occupant Mike Mussina, who spent 10 years with the Baltimore Orioles and eight with the New York Yankees. A big fan of “Moose,” an economics graduate from Stanford University as an Oriole, it hurt my eyes to see him donning the pinstripes. Mussina was selected to five All Star teams and won seven Gold Gloves. While he was overshadowed by Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz in 2015, Mussina garnered more victories than Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal – with whom Mussina was compared, and Whitey Ford. Mussina ended his career at age 39, the oldest to record his lone 20-win season, going 20-9 with a 3.37 ERA. While a jump from his 2016 43 percent to the necessary 75 seems more than unlikely (up 18 from 2015), Mussina remains on my ballot.
Curt Schilling, bloody sock and all, is on my ballot. The six-time all-star pitched 20 seasons in the big leagues – three with the Orioles, one with the Astros, eight-plus with the Philadelphia Phillies, three-plus with the Arizona Diamondbacks, then calling it a career with the Boston Red Sox. Schilling tossed 83 complete games, appeared in three World Series, and had three 20-plus win seasons within a four year span at ages 36, 38, and 39. Schilling should have his ticket stamped this summer – was my mistaken prediction the last four years, and perhaps he may not be able to leap to 75 percent from his 52.3 percent from 2016 (up 13 from 2015), Schilling still belongs among those earning a plaque in Cooperstown.
Although they would not make my ballot, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines seem to be assured of election this year. Bagwell fell 15 votes short in 2016 and Raines is in his 10th and final year of eligibility having earned 67.3 percent of the vote last year.
While it is important to not sully the Baseball Hall of Fame with the likes of Bonds, Clemens, Ramirez, and Sosa, the focus must be on the greats who will be enshrined this July and how they will continue to be the true ambassadors to the community as so many before them have been. Ambassadors and class acts such as Monte Irvin and Joe Garagiola, who sadly left us in 2016 – Irvin at age 96, on January 11 and Garagiola at age 90, on March 23 – six months after his best friend Yogi Berra. May their memories always be for a Blessing.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. He has been a Patron-level member of the Baseball Hall of Fame since 2007.