Friday, January 19, 2018

Tribe's Thome, Vizquel Lead Class of 5 Into Hall

Tribe’s Thome, Vizquel Lead Class of 5 Into Hall
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
January 19, 2018

For the last several years I have devoted time and space in my annual Hall of Fame column to consistently rail against the evils of steroids and the potential allowance of players tainted by steroids to call Cooperstown their immortal home.

Either due to a lack of a prescient Hall of Fame policy or fear that too many members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) have short memories, as certain former players are inching closer to the 75 percent vote total required for enshrinement, Joe Morgan penned a letter to the BBWAA voters regarding the steroid issue.

Not a fan of the Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, or Oakland A’s, I nevertheless long admired Morgan the player, a Hall of Fame second baseman inducted in 1990, enjoyed his commentary on ESPN, and even more so now that he has taken his position public. Morgan continues to serve on the Hall of Fame’s board of directors, a position he has held since 1994. Much of the contents of Morgan’s letter were the subject of a December 4, 2017 Sports Illustrated article, “Letter of Intent,” written by Jay Jaffe.

Morgan, in his e-mailed letter, requested that the BBWAA voters “reject players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s [2007] investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report.”

“We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here,” wrote Morgan. 

Morgan signed his letter “Vice Chairman,” his title with the Hall’s board of directors since 2000, making it “an official position,” wrote Jaffe.

Jaffe further opined that Morgan was disingenuous with his letter for using “the term steroids and not performance-enhancing drugs” avoiding the fact that amphetamines were used for decades, long after their classification as controlled substances. Jaffe also criticized baseball as an industry for hypocrisy over splitting hairs regarding one set of substances versus the other. “Steroid use was due to a complete failure that implicated the commissioner, owners, players and media,” wrote Jaffe.

Former Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan “Bud” Selig is without a doubt complicit in the growth of the steroid era by refusing to address the larger than life elephant in the stadium. Following the baseball strike of 1994, Major League Baseball revived itself and grew its fan base with the accomplishments of Cal Ripken, Jr. and the home run battle waged between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

Career-long Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame shortstop, Ripken, one of the true class acts in the history of the game, who I had the privilege to meet in 2001, set the standard for durability eclipsing the consecutive games played streak of New York Yankees Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig. Gehrig’s streak of 2,130 consecutive games stood for 56 years until Ripken played in consecutive game number 2,131 on September 6, 1995. On that historic night, Ripken hit a home run, and the Orioles defeated the then California Angels in Baltimore at Camden Yards 4-2. Ripken’s streak would continue through game 2,632, a record I believe will not be broken due to the current climate of the game.

Three years later, the epic 1998 McGwire-Sosa home run behemoth was akin to Godzilla swallowing Tokyo. Back and forth the sluggers went trading places on the leaderboard until September 8 when McGwire hit home run number 62 at home in St. Louis in a game against Sosa’s Chicago Cubs with Sosa watching from the outfield. Also present were the children of the late Roger Maris, whose record McGwire broke, having initially been set in 1961 with the Yankees. The Cardinals defeated the Cubs at Busch Stadium that night 6-3. By the end of the 1998 season, McGwire won the home run title 70 to 66. 

Another three years later Barry Bonds of the Giants would pass McGwire with 73 home runs, but by that time the rumors of steroids had become more of a reality. In fact, both Bonds and McGwire admitted to steroid use while Sosa and others such as pitcher Roger Clemens and infielder Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez, known unaffectionately as A-Roid, have been linked to steroids with a preponderance of strong innuendo and overwhelming circumstantial evidence. But Selig did little if anything to thwart the use of steroids, instead enjoying the renewed popularity of America’s favorite pastime. Sadly, Selig himself was enshrined in Cooperstown last year.

The cloud of controversy has been dark and heavy, while initially eliminating others from Hall of Fame contention; yet in the cases of Bonds, Clemens, and even Sosa with his less than 10 percent support, have seen their numbers rise from 2016 to 2017. The BBWAA voters’ support of Sosa rose from seven percent in 2016 to 8.6 percent in 2017. Bonds’ support rose from 44.3 percent to 53.8 percent during that same time, and Clemens’ totals jumped from 45.2 in 2016 to 54.1 last year. Manny Ramirez, another accused steroid user received 23.8 percent of the vote in his first balloting opportunity last year. The voting results due to be released on January 24 will determine if a trend is looming or if the BBWAA voters have come to their senses and reverse course. What is not released are the ballots of the voting members of the BBWAA. I think they should be disclosed to the public. Let the BBWAA voters defend their votes as I have defended mine, even if not as a member of the BBWAA.

In the interim, in an effort to shrink the window of opportunity for tainted ball players to achieve Hall of Fame status, the board reduced the number of years of eligibility to reach the 75 percent promised land, from 15 to 10 in 2014. But Jaffe sees that as hypocritical. “Recognize the era’s best, while understanding the context in which they thrived, and move on,” he concluded. 

I disagree vehemently. The only way steroid users should enter Cooperstown is with a paid ticket for admission. Jaffe encourages rewarding bad behavior. It’s how they got there to be the best that should matter. Cal Ripken played a clean game, as did myriad others, including, but not limited to Hall of Famers Joe Morgan, Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Lou Brock, Brooks Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, and future hall of famer Jim Thome. It’s time to stop perpetuating the bad behavior. Many wrongs do not make anything right. Now is the time draw the baseline in the sand.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame has a so-called character clause. “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played.” So-called because it has existed since 1945 and more than a fair share of ne’er do wells have found their way to Cooperstown. (

With voting in mind, were I privileged to be charged with the task of electing the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2018, seven former major leaguers would earn my votes - four first ballot denizens and three holdovers. Of those seven, I expect three to be inducted on July 29, along with two others for whom I would not vote, but deserve induction. Candidates must receive at least five percent of the vote in order to remain on the ballot should they not attain 75 percent the previous year.

Because members of the BBWAA are permitted 10 votes, I’m throwing one to Jamie Moyer in his first year on the ballot, mostly for his longevity in the league - 25 years pitching in the Major Leagues, but also for some of the statistics. Let that sink in for a moment - Moyer toiled in the Bigs for a quarter century. Only five pitchers appeared in 25 or more seasons: Nolan Ryan (27), Tommy John (26), Jim Kaat (25), and Charlie Hough (25) - all having hurled since the 1960s. Five other non-pitchers have done likewise: Cap Anson (27), Deacon McGwire (26), Rickey Henderson (25), Bobby Wallace (25), and Eddie Collins (25) - interestingly, all  but Henderson had retired by 1930.

Moyer became the oldest player to win a game at age 49 years and five months, minus one day, on April 17, 2012. Moyer tossed seven innings, yielding two runs, neither earned, on six hits, picking up the win at Coors Field, as his Colorado Rockies defeated the San Diego Padres 5-3. His 269 wins ranks 35th - 23 of the top 24, sans Clemens, are in the Hall with 300 or more victories. Of the next 10, five are also in the Hall. With 2,441 strikeouts, Moyer ranks 40th. Moyer, having started 638 games, ranks 16th, and all but two of the top 15 are also in the Hall. While Moyer would get my vote, I don’t expect him to reach 75 percent.

Another freshman on my ballot not expecting to reach the magic number but would still earn my vote, is pitcher Johan Santana. His win-loss record of 139-78 and his 3,20 ERA are very good, but not great. He led the league in wins once and in ERA three times. Of his 12 seasons, eight are worthy of discussion, yet only four could be considered very good to excellent. My vote for Santana is mostly for the no-hitter he tossed while playing for my favorite team, the New York Mets, on June 1, 2012 versus the St. Louis Cardinals in an 8-0 victory at Citi Field in New York. This was the first no-hitter in the history of the Mets, but certainly not enough to warrant Hall entrance beyond this year’s symbolic vote.

The last two freshmen on my ballot were teammates for nine years with the Cleveland Indians - Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel, both of whom I expect to be enshrined in July. Both players suited up for six teams each, but are best known for their time with the Tribe.

With his 612 home runs, Thome is eighth on the all time list and 16 times in his 22 year career did Thome hit 20 or more homers. Six times he hit 40 or more. Nine times Thome batted in more than 100 runs and his career total of 1,699 RBI places him 26th on the all time list. Thome was five times an All Star and earned MVP votes in nine different seasons. Thome is one of only five players in MLB history to accumulate 500-plus home runs, 1,500-plus runs scored, 1,600-plus RBI, and 1,700-plus walks. Of the other four, three are Hall of Famers - Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, and Ted Williams, while one, Barry Bonds, should not be.

Thome’s teammate, Vizquel, was the quintessential shortstop of a generation, having won 11 Gold Glove awards during his 24 year career, second most at that position all time. Vizquel was also the oldest shortstop to win a Gold Glove, having done so at age 39 in 2006. After five years with the Seattle Mariners, Vizquel took his talents to Cleveland continuing to be the defensive gem that will vault him into Cooperstown.

Vizquel was three times an All Star, overshadowed by Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees. On the field, Vizquel led the league in Fielding Percentage six times as a shortstop and is the all time leader in Fielding Percentage at .985. Vizquel shares the season record with Cal Ripken, Jr. for committing the fewest errors by a shortstop playing in at least 150 games with a paltry three. Additionally, Vizquel is first all time in double plays turned by a shortstop, third all time in assists at shortstop, and 11th all time in putouts made by a shortstop.

At bat, Vizquel compares rather favorably to Hall of Fame shortstops Ozzie Smith, Luis Aparicio, and Luke Appling. Vizquel hit more home runs than Smith and Appling, trailing Aparicio by only three. Vizquel drove in more runs than Smith and Aparicio, stole more bases than Appling, hit for a higher batting average than Smith and Aparicio, while collecting more hits overall than all three. Vizquel and Thome should be inducted together, donning Indians caps.

Rounding out the ballot first timers who I believe will win the necessary votes for enshrinement is Chipper Jones, who played his entire 19 year career with the Atlanta Braves. Jones, with his 468 home runs, ranks 33rd, and his 1,623 RBI, ranks 34th to go along with his .303 career batting average is practically a lock for Cooperstown. Jones was selected for eight All Star games, garnered MVP votes in 13 seasons and won the award in 1999. Jones is one of nine players to accrue at least a .300 batting average, .400 on base percentage, .500 slugging percentage, while belting at least 400 homers. Seven of the other eight are already ensconced in Cooperstown: Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, Stan Musial, Babe Ruth, Frank Thomas, and Ted Williams. The eighth, Manny Ramirez, should be disqualified from the Hall of Fame for steroids.

While there is no doubt Jones deserves a plaque in Cooperstown, I would not vote for him. He single-handedly slaughtered the Mets for two decades. He enjoyed such success in Queens, he named a son Shea - home of the Mets from 1964 through 2008.

In addition to Jones, I am fairly secure in saying Vladimir Guerrero will also be elected into the Hall of Fame, but I would not be voting for him. In his first year of eligibility, Guerrero garnered 71.7 percent of the vote in 2017, falling 15 votes short of election. He has excellent credentials. In his 16 year career Guerrero batted .318, hit 449 homers, driving in 1,496 runs on 2,590 hits. He earned MVP votes in 12 seasons, winning the award in 2004.

Of the three holdovers from 2017 I would have voted for last year and again this year, Trevor Hoffman seems the only one likely to gain admittance into the Hall of Fame, having earned 74 percent of the vote, falling a mere five votes short. Neither pitchers Mike Mussina nor Curt Schilling are likely to reach 75 percent this year, but I continue to support their candidacies. Mussina’s stock rose as he earned 51.8 percent of the vote in 2017, up nearly nine points from 43 percent in 2016, while Schilling lost some momentum slipping seven points to 45 percent last year from 52.3 percent in 2016.

Hoffman pitched his 18 years in the majors 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.

With 270 career wins, five-time ballot occupant Mussina 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 pinstripes. Mussina made five All Star teams and won seven Gold Gloves. While 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. 

Schilling, bloody sock and all, is a six-time All Star who pitched 20 seasons in the big leagues – three with the Orioles, one with the Astros, eight-plus with the 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 five years, and while he probably won’t reach 75 percent this year, Schilling still belongs among those earning a plaque in Cooperstown.

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 such as Jim Bunning and Bobby Doerr, who sadly left us in 2017 – Bunning at age 85, on May 26 and Doerr at age 99, on November 13. Bunning pitched a perfect game for the Phillies on Father’s Day 1964 against the Mets at Shea Stadium. He later went on to represent Kentucky in the United States Senate. Doerr, at the time of his death, was the oldest living former major leaguer, and the last living person to play in the 1930s. Doerr, a career Red Sox player, missed the entirety of the 1945 season serving his country during World War II. 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 National Baseball Hall of Fame since 2007.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Messer Polled Smartly

Messer Polled Smartly
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
January 13, 2018

In Tony Cook’s January 12, 2018 Indianapolis Star article “Messer accused of rigging straw poll,” the sounds of sour grapes and lost opportunities could be heard from several of the six Republicans vying to be the next US Senator from Indiana.

This was actually a smart move on the part of US Rep. Luke Messer and his campaign to cover the cost of college students wishing to attend and participate in the straw poll. Why should anyone pay to participate in the straw poll - especially students? The purpose of paying to play, as it were, is simply to raise funds for the state GOP - a common practice by both major parties nationwide.

Paying the students’ fees simply encourages them to become more engaged in the political process. It does not guarantee a vote for the candidate actually paying the fee. It also sounds like sour grapes on the part of US Rep. Todd Rokita for not motivating his base. That was demonstrative by the final tally, as Messer won handily, 147 to 82 over Rokita, or 45 percent to 25 percent of the 326 votes cast in a six-man field.

Messer clearly has a more motivated base and an ever-growing ground game that hopefully will propel him to garner the GOP nomination in the May 8 primary, and ultimately winning the the US Senate seat in November.

Mark Braun ironically noted that “the straw poll results should be the result of a free and open process.” Sounds like an indictment against the event itself, that had a $30 price tag attached to it for college students - not a small price for students on a budget. And, quite frankly, with an attendance figure of more than 500 people, college students or not, more than a few balked at the ticket price for casting a ballot in the straw poll.

Braun, mostly self-financing his campaign, finished a distant third in the poll with 36 votes, or 11 percent. Rounding out the bottom half of the polling were Mark Hurt, with 29 votes, or nine percent; Andrew Takami, with 20 votes, or six percent; and Andrew Horning with 12 votes, or just under four percent. Apparently so insignificant are the candidacies of the bottom three, that their names were not mentioned until the last paragraph of a 26 paragraph story.

Braun’s effort appears to be a vanity campaign in what is largely a Messer versus Rokita race, in which I am proud to support Messer. Having met several of the candidates, including Messer, I can attest that he is a genuine family man, pro-life, fiscally conservative, a solid supporter of Israel, and listens to the people, regardless of the district in which they reside. I look forward to casting my vote for free in the May 8 primary.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

Friday, January 12, 2018

DACA is a Dilemma

DACA is a Dilemma
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
January 12, 2018

DACA is a dilemma - a moral dilemma, a legal dilemma, and a sociological dilemma. And this assessment is coming from someone fervently in favor of deporting illegal aliens.

Illegal aliens are a drain on the American economy, particularly, what they are stealing from taxpaying Americans and legal residents; and by living in this country illegally, stealing is exactly what they are doing, a crime to be added to that of breaking and entering.

As there is no such animal as government money, those miscreants in the United States illegally are stealing from us - we the people - those of us who fund the government with our tax dollars. Illegals steal from us in the form of education by having children attend the public schools, older children being granted in-state tuition rates on the college and university level, free medical care and hospitalization, food stamps, welfare, as well as forcing legally licensed and insured drivers to pay increased rates for what is called uninsured motorist.

That is the tale of many of the at least 12 million people who reside in these United States illegally - people who made the willful decision to enter this country without permission or who overstayed their one-time legal welcome via a student visa, for example.

There is also the joint issue of jobs and employment. Illegals are taking jobs real Americans should be performing, thus keeping unemployment artificially inflated. The problem here is that both major political parties are complicit in this, and for different reasons. Democrats want illegals to be granted immunity, legalized, and ultimately given citizenship that will help bolster Democrat voter rolls. Naturally, the Democrats support illegals holding jobs in this country to strengthen their case. As for the Republicans, they turn a blind eye to illegals holding employment in this country because it improves their position with large companies hoping to keep costs down. Either way, this is a deleterious circumstance for lower income Americans forced to compete with illegals for limited employment positions.

This is part of the repercussion of the failed amnesty of 1986 granted by President Ronald Reagan, forced upon him by the overwhelmingly Democrat Congress. Roughly three million, three decades ago, ultimately swelled to more than four times that amount, although, to be sure, an accurate accounting of those in the US illegally may never be fully known or appreciated.The carrots were plentiful, while the sticks were in absentia. Those who willingly broke the law by entering the United States illegally, should be deported at a cost to their countries of origin.

However, with regard to the DACA, things are not so cut and dried. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) concerns the children of illegals who were unwittingly spirited out of their countries of origins at ages too young to either object or know any better. These are now young adults roughly in their mid-20s who more often than not, did not choose to sneak into the United States illegally, yet here they are, sans legal status or citizenship and they live and work among us.

For the overwhelming majority of the roughly 800,000 “DACA recipients,” a.k.a. DREAMers (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), the United States is the only country they know; English is their primary, if not only language; they have attended school in the United States, and in many cases only learned they are in this country illegally when attempting to apply to college or for employment and are required to demonstrate proof of citizenship.

Herein lies the dilemma. While it is easy to endorse the deportation of miscreant illegals for their willful lawbreaking, or deny them services or seats in classrooms, the DACA people fall into a different category. More than a fair number of conservatives believe the right thing to do is allow DACA people the right to remain in the United States and even become citizens. While I draw the line at citizenship, and ultimately voting rights, granting them permanent legal status is the moral path to be traversed. It would be morally wrong to deport these people to places that have not been their homes in possibly two decades to a world of the cultural and linguistic abyss.

From a legal standpoint, it is vital to remember that DACA is an illegal program established by Barack Obama via an executive order in 2012. Remember that anyone in this country illegally has broken the law whether civil or criminal, it matters not. It is up to the Congress to grant legal status upon the DACA people, or not. With Congressionally conferred legal status, they can then work legally, have legal status identification, and would no longer reside in legal limbo.

But as noted before, the failings of the 1986 amnesty must not be replicated, only in 2018 they would be four times worse. Carrots need be met with concomitant sticks, and those sticks must take the form of the wall across the southern border, as well as the end of chain migration and the visa lottery. Legal immigration based upon meritocracy must be adopted - just as is done in Australia and Canada. While I have long been a proponent of singular issue bills standing on their own merit, sans riders and pork, this is one time where the granting of legal status must be linked in the same legislation with the funding for the wall as well as the end on chain migration and the visa lottery. The art of compromise means there is something to aggravate everybody.

Historically, the Democrats have been weak on border security and strong on advocating for a path to citizenship for illegals. “There is not a Democrat that is not for a secure border,” said US Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), adding that “no Democrats want to make sure our military isn’t funded,” but that they are also concerned with domestic issues. In spite of his assertions, Hoyer still called for separate bills where DACA is adjudicated first, then border security. Seems Hoyer is being both disingenuous and recalcitrant about genuine immigration reform.

Additionally, Senator Richard “Dick” Durbin (D-IL) expressed his chief concern regarding the possibility of DACA recipients being deported, noting that 2,500 alone are school teachers in his state of Illinois. That statement is beyond daunting. How are these people actually teaching legally in the state of Illinois without proof of United States citizenship? Substitute teachers in practically every state, and certainly in each state where I have taught, are required to demonstrate American citizenship, let alone full time teachers. It’s not xenophobia to expect people to follow the rule of law.

It also isn’t racist to expect accuracy in reporting. Far too many defenders of DACA people aver that they are eager to serve in the United States military. Yet, according to CBS News, the Pentagon reports fewer than 900 DACA recipients are serving in the armed forces.

This is part of the dilemma referenced earlier - on the one hand, inaccurate information being bandied about, but simultaneously, hardworking people, albeit illegally, but dedicated to doing so. Most are attempting to live their “American” dream, and being brought to the United States typically beyond their control, should be able to live as legal residents - my form of compromise - neither deport nor grant citizenship - but legal residents out of the shadows.

No one has the right to become an American citizen. No one has the right to live in the United States. These are privileges determined and conferred by birth and observance of the rule of law. We welcome legal immigrants to the United States; legal immigrants who will contribute to the betterment of this country, and not attempt to recreate their country of origin, which, if that is their goal, we should ask ourselves why they left in the first place. Immigrants who join the United States as part of the melting pot it has become over the past three centuries, and not attempt to balkanize this nation into a conglomeration of ethnic enclaves determined to segregate themselves from the rest of society and then complain that the majority does not adhere to their cultural lifestyles.

If anything, many of the DACA people have become part of the fabric of America, the embodiment of what an American should strive to become, and in turn make America great again. Borrowing from one of my favorite American Indian adages, DACA immigrants should also endeavor to leave America better than they found it, as we all should - paying it forward to future generations of Americans.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

Friday, December 22, 2017

UN Condemns US - Bites Hand Feeding It

UN Condemns US - Bites Hand Feeding It
Commentary by Sanford D. HornDecember 22, 2017

The United Nations, on Thursday, December 21, cast what must only be interpreted as a symbolic vote condemning the United States for making the long overdue decision of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and announcing its intention to move the American embassy there, from Tel Aviv.

While symbolic to be sure, as it will not alter the decision made by the United States, it is the definition of that symbolism that speaks volumes. The UN, increasingly anti-American and always, historically, anti-Israel, demonstrated why, as an organization, it is less and less relevant.

News flash: Jerusalem, in fact, is actually the capital of Israel - of that there can be no disputing. Yet the vote, an overwhelming rebuke of the United States’ declaration, was rife with ignorance and hatred - again no surprise. The final tally looked like a pasting The Ohio State University football team would hand to a local Columbus high school: 128-9.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Only eight countries stood with the United States in support of an announcement declaring what is already a historical fact, while 128 nations condemned the United States, and by conjunction, Israel, again, for publicly stating what is factual data. It is akin for condemning the science teacher for declaring the world is round, or the math teacher for a pronouncement that one plus one equals two - a real flair for the obvious.

Standing with the United States: Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Togo. Thank you for having the courage to do the right thing.

Enter US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley who delivered a dynamite speech before the UN as she continues performing an excellent job in her appointed capacity. Haley said the United States exercised its right as a sovereign nation recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and for planning to move its embassy to that city.

“That is what the American people want us to do, and it is the right thing to do. America will put our embassy in Jerusalem. No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that. But this vote will make a difference on how America looks at the UN and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the UN. And this vote will be remembered,” said Haley.

“Let them vote against us,” said President Donald Trump, adding, “we’ll save a lot [of money].” This is yet another example of Trump’s boldness to keep his word, his promise, and follow through on what previous American presidents - Democrat and Republican alike failed to do.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the vote on Thursday “preposterous…. Jerusalem has always been Israel’s capital, and Jerusalem will always be Israel’s capital.”

This condemnation is hardly new nor surprising where Israel is concerned. According to Jake Tapper, Chief Washington Correspondent for CNN, between 2012 and 2015, the United Nations General Assembly voted 97 times to condemn a specific nation - 83 of those condemnations targeted Israel. Israel, the one democracy in the Middle East, the sole Jewish state on the planet, has been the subject of 86 percent of the UN’s condemnations.

Sure, that makes sense, after all, Israel is guilty of human rights violations such as denying women the right to walk in public alone, beheadings, the slaughter of children, the rape of women, murdering Christians and homosexuals… oh, wait, that’s NOT Israel. That’s a cadre of Arab/Muslim states who are on the receiving end of nary a UN chastisement. Arabs and Muslims live more freely in Israel than in Arab/Muslim nations. Christians are not attacked for being Christian in Israel and Israel hosts one of the world’s largest gay pride parades on an annual basis.

How does this vote benefit those 128 countries? If anything it demonstrates their animus toward both the United States and Israel. It demonstrates they are in the pockets of the 57 Arab/Muslim countries and that those 128 nations fear the Arab/Muslim countries while disrespecting the United States. That is, until those nations come crying to the United States for funding or to use its influence for their benefit.

Regarding that funding, for 2017, the Regular Budget of the United Nations is $2.6 billion, of which the United States contributes 22 percent. Of the Peacekeeping Budget of $7.8 billion, the United States contributes 28.4 percent. That does not count the use of the hall, the local police and security in and around the UN headquarters in New York City.

It is high time the United States start talking with its dollars. First, pull and/or decrease the funding the United States provides any of the 128 nations that voted against the US. For many years I have called for countries voting against the United States in the UN 50 percent of the time or more should receive absolutely nothing - not one red cent. Clearly, those countries do not have the back of the United States. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), during his failed 2016 presidential campaign, put forth the notion of each country starting at zero dollars and then making the case for why they should receive any funding on an annual basis. Unless a nation provides some security benefit for the United States, such as a military base, or unless there is a humanitarian need, the funding should be curtailed. Those funds should revert back to the US for use on domestic programs such as national security or desperately needed infrastructure repair.

Second, kick the United Nations out of the United States. Most of these nations don’t like the United States, thus, they can set up shop in Brussels, Geneva, Paris, or even Moscow. Let one of their countries pay the mother lode of expenditures. Revoke the diplomatic immunity retroactively in order to require any UN miscreants and denizens to pay their parking tickets, be tried and serve time for the crimes of rape, murder, and human/sex trafficking.

Lastly, the United Nations building should be converted into housing - apartments or condominiums for homeless and/or disabled veterans. At least those expenses can be justified to the American people. The residents can live there rent/mortgage free under the proviso that they maintain the units and overall property to acceptable New York City standards. The building, designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, opened in 1952, and is located on First Avenue between 42nd Street and 48th Street.

Interestingly, Ambassador Haley announced a reception will be held for the 65 nations that did not vote to condemn the United States. This includes the aforementioned nine nations who voted no, the 35 countries that abstained, as well as the 21 who did not attend the vote at all. For the results of the vote, nation by nation, please visit:

May G-d continue to Bless the United States of America and Israel.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Tax Reform Lays an Egg

Tax Reform Lays an Egg
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
December 4, 2017

In an episode of Friends, which if you didn’t see first run decades ago, you can still see in its myriad reruns, the character of Joey, an actor, describes to his friends something called “smell the fart acting.” This is where the actor has a challenging line to recite and he gives a look of, well, smelling a fart, in order to buy the time necessary to recall the complicated line.

This, sadly, is how I have come to view the current tax reform debate, which, having passed the House and the Senate, two versions of the legislation have been sent to the Conference Committee to iron out the differences. Not only are the individual house’s bills complicated, and each longer than 400 pages (short in Congressional parlance), but both baffling and, I think, not serving the average American citizen as much as they could. Numerous business reporters admitted their own confusion with the bills. Were I in either house, I would be casting a nay vote for various reasons.

While I support strongly the call to reduce corporate taxes form the current 35 percent to the 20 percent agreed upon by both houses, and clearly it would encourage many companies to repatriate back to the United States - to the tune of $4 trillion according to President Donald Trump, thus giving rise to revenue, the cuts for the non-corporate entities, you know - people - do not go deep enough. In fact, there is discussion that President Trump, who has been the biggest cheerleader for the 20 percent corporate tax rate, might be willing to compromise to 22 percent if more permanent cuts were made for the people. I would also like to know, how, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), maintaining a corporate rate of 20 percent will bring $4,000 into each household. And even on the 20 percent there is a disagreement as to when to implement it. The House version says 2018, which I support, while the Senate version says 2019, which makes no sense to delay the cuts.

The key word there is “permanent.” The House bill calls for permanent cuts to both corporate and individual tax rates, which I support. The Senate bill has those individual cuts expire in 2025, which I do not support. Pay attention, folks, this is not a good thing. Ultimately, with an elimination of certain key deductions, and then the expiration of the individual tax cuts, citizens’ taxes would rise exponentially with little protection currently enjoyed with the deductibility of mortgage interest, school loan interest, medical expenses, charitable contributions, as well as the state and local taxes (SALT) that have pitted the two coasts against the middle of the country.

Keep in mind, the loss of the aforementioned deductions is supposed to be offset by the nearly doubling of the personal exemptions and thus eliminating the need to itemize when filing taxes. Naturally, I applaud the doubling of the personal exemptions, but decry the loss of those deductions that drive people to contribute to some charitable organizations over others, not to mention the loss of SALT that smacks of double taxation. If practically doubling the standard deduction to $12,000 for single people and $24,000 for married couples is designed to offset the loss of certain deductions, say so, so people understand that. Supposedly the average family of four with an income of just under $60,000 annually, will “enjoy” a tax windfall of $1,182 or $22.73 per week.

It is shocking to me, as a conservative, and certainly a fiscal conservative, that the Republican Party, the party that espouses fiscal conservatism from high atop the  mountain, is glad handing, back slapping and congratulating each other for bills that will raise the deficit an additional $1.4 trillion while cutting the legs out from under middle-class taxpayers. Make no mistake, the Obama administration was far more egregious in raising deficits more than $10 trillion in eight years, but two trillion wrongs do not a right make.

This is a bad tax reform bill by both houses. For while I support the House version pertaining to corporate rates and start time as well as permanent cuts for individuals, I do not support the House bill keeping the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) mandate alive. It is the Senate bill repealing that mandate, which I fully support. No longer should people be taxed for not purchasing a product they did not want to begin with. By removing the mandate, the people can make that decision for themselves - whether or not to procure health insurance.

I support the Senate bill again in raising the Child Tax Credit up to $2,000 per child, while the House only calls for raising it to $1,600. I also support the Senate version on the highest tax bracket being 38.5 percent versus the House version at 39.6 percent. This is negligible - split the difference, make it 39 percent and call it a day. Although, quite frankly, why it should be any higher than 25 percent for individuals in the first place is beyond me. Oh, right, the pork barrel spending and riders glomming onto what should be straightforward bills in the first place.

As an aside, these riders should all be eliminated. If a bill can’t pass muster on its own, then perhaps it is not very good legislation in the first place and should not become law. Bills with giant price tags and murky, bloviating language only confuse the citizenry, which many members of Congress actually prefer. Members like this because they can then explain the language to their constituents telling them why it is good for their district and secure their own reelection. I’m starting to think term limits are not a bad idea, but that’s a different column for another day.

And let’s not forget that the tax bracket figures are merely the federal rates. There’s still the issue of SALT. The Senate bill, which I have supported heretofore, loses me on SALT because it wants to eliminate the deductibility of state and local taxes as well as mortgage interest. This will definitely impact those people living in high tax states - the coasts, as well as Illinois - causing their taxes to rise unnecessarily. Of course those voters could take matters into their own hands and start voting for supposedly more fiscally conservative candidates. I know, never going to happen. The House version isn’t much better, preserving for property taxes up to $10,000.

Back to supporting the Senate bill for its preservation of the medical expense deduction and the student loan interest deduction, as the House bill eliminates both. The loss of these deductions will impact those on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Then it gets worse for graduate students who are slated to have their tuition waivers taxed, according to the House bill. This is money graduate students never see. For example it cuts the tuition bill in some cases for an out of state student to an in-state rate for work the student performs as a teaching assistant or a research assistant, it also lowers the tuition in-state students pay and private school students pay for those same jobs.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), an architect of the House plan, said the provision would put graduate students on the same playing field as part-time college students.” (12/01/17)

That is an absurdly punitive “provision” in the House tax plan. The use of the word provision, initially employed by Brady, would intimate that taxpayers were going to be provided with something, when in fact this is a deleterious proviso that will hurt graduate students. When I was a graduate student, I remember what it was like living on less than $1,000 a month in the late 1980s.

And while graduate students may feel the heavy boot of the tax man, teachers are also facing their own pain. Another proposal would no longer allow teachers to write off the supplies they purchase out of pocket. This would be a terrible blow for teachers, most of whom are already underpaid. I know, as a teacher in both public and charter schools, I spent a small fortune on both classroom supplies as well as things students needed.

There are so many other aspects of both bills that the average American will never know about unless they dig into the weeds - even I have not read the nearly 1,000 pages of proposed legislation. Nine economists and/or economics professors who served one GOP administration or another had a letter sent to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin printed in The Wall Street Journal. Their letter was riddled with ambiguities, guesswork, and assumptions from so-called experts.

And while members of both houses claim they want fairer and flatter tax structure there is still plenty of pork to go around and favors for special interests. There are special deductions for microbreweries, orange growers, even private jet companies, as well as $10 million for a South Korean tuna canning company located in American Samoa.

For those keeping score at home, that’s three points for the House bill, five points for the Senate bill, and zero points for the tax paying people of the United States. While no bill is perfect, these aren’t even close. With a self-imposed Christmas deadline looming, the conference committee must hammer out a compromise, which quite frankly should take all the points I support from both bills, keep the deductions, double the personal standard deduction, drop the corporate tax rate to 22 percent and every tax paying American wins.

Failing that, once the calendar reads 2018, all significant work ceases. Fear sets in. Next year, 2018, is an election year for the whole House and one-third of the Senate. How will voters perceive this vote or that vote by their representative or senator? Any member unwilling to do their job for fear of losing it, should not have it in the first place. Do your jobs. Serve the American people. Return to us our money with the deepest possible tax cuts. And when the Democrats ask, as is their mantra, how will these tax cuts be paid for? Simple - cut spending. Cut out the pork, eliminate bills with riders that couldn’t stand on their own, strip illegals of every penny they are stealing from the United States people via government largesse, and actually follow the Constitution.

By the way, what will you do with an extra $22.73 per week?

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Land of Dead Immigrants

The Land of Dead Immigrants
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
November 1, 2017

Yet another foreign-born import to the United States struck hard at his supposed country of choice on Tuesday, October 31, in New York City, just blocks from the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

And while two people were shot, the weapon of choice from this Uzbekistani-born terrorist was a truck rented from Home Depot on October 22. This truck sat at his home in Paterson, NJ and was used for a test run before the actual murderous act was carried out, specifically on Hallowe’en in an effort to maximize the carnage. Sadly, eight people were slaughtered, with another dozen injured, in the worst terror attack on New York City since that fateful clear, crisp, Tuesday morning, September 11.

But it could have been far worse as this Muslim extremist, who shouted Allahu akbar during his craven, wanton disregard for human life. His plan had been to continue his reign of terror to and on the Brooklyn Bridge, to bring the city to its knees. His name need not be mentioned - he will not be martyred here; and fortunately, he is still alive to answer for his crimes against humanity. He has been charged with terrorism, committing violence with a motor vehicle, and for providing material support to ISIS - the terrorist organization to which he said he took his proverbial marching orders, pledges his allegiance, thus debunking any nonsensical "lone wolf" theories, and requested a flag of to be hung in his hospital room following his surgery. He expressed no remorse, took pride in his acts of terror, adding he wished he could have created greater destruction of life.

A product of the Diversity Visa Lottery, sadly signed into law in 1990, this murderer is a legal permanent resident of the United States, with all the rights afforded an American citizen, save for voting and running for public office, including Miranda rights, according to Judge Andrew Napolitano of the Fox News Channel.

This Diversity Visa Lottery selects roughly 50,000 people from countries of slight representation in the United States for permanent resident status prior to their being vetted. This is an absolutely insane concept. There is a reason the countries of origin of these people are represented with such small numbers in the United States - they are, for the most part, hostile to the United States, have such weak controls over their own people that to vet them properly, would be a virtual impossibility. Ostensibly, this is an open door for radical Islamic extremists.

Upon hearing this miscreant, this vermin, was a product of this ridiculous, anti-American Diversity Visa Lottery, President Donald Trump called for its immediate dissolution - post-haste, calling it “a Chuck Schumer beauty.”

Schumer (D-NY) immediately took to the Senate floor to berate Trump, not the terrorist, nor the faulty legislation he supported. Schumer whined that Trump was politicizing this tragedy. In the dictionary, under hypocrite, there is a picture of Senator Schumer, who a mere five hours following the tragic horrors that befell Las Vegas on October 1, was standing in the well of the Senate Chamber calling for greater gun control and more restrictions against honest gun owners.

President Trump did not politicize this issue, first because it had been signed into law by President George H. W. Bush - a fellow Republican; nor is it political to demand more stringent vetting of those seeking to enter this country for any reason, from any country. Any member of Congress not seeking the most strict possible vetting of potential immigrants is clearly not looking out for the best interest of the United States or its citizens.

It is painful to listen to liberal politicians supporting the legalization of the more than 12 million illegals in the United States, and ultimately a path to citizenship. It is just as painful to hear those same elected so-called leaders talk about how this country is a nation of immigrants and we should be more welcoming of all who seek refuge here. It is painful because these elected officials have forgotten the history of the United States.

They seem to have forgotten the millions of immigrants ushered in via Ellis Island from Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Russia, and numerous other Eastern and Southern European countries wanting to become American, learn English, serve their new country in myriad ways, open businesses, raise the American flag, and have their children educated in American schools. Sure, there were those who participated in the seamier side of life, and yes, there are those who have immigrated today with the best of intentions and are successful Americans. However, far too many are monsters who would do harm to their adopted country, segregate themselves from the rest of American society while plotting against the nation that opened its doors to them, and do not pledge allegiance to the Stars and Stripes.

This is why it makes perfect sense to terminate this Diversity Visa Lottery immediately, and President Trump agreed. “I am today, starting the process to end the Diversity Visa Lottery,” said Trump. At the same time, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), who, to be fair, did call the murdering terrorist’s actions, those of “a depraved coward,” then called for greater gun control. How about banning rental trucks, Mr. Cuomo?

How difficult is it to understand that the more strict the vetting of all who wish to enter our borders the more safe everyone will be - so we should not be the land of dead immigrants.

“We have to get much tougher, much smarter, and much less politically correct and do what’s right to protect our citizens,” said Trump, who also called, and rightfully so, for the ending of “chain migration. We’ve been waiting to do this for a long time. This person brought other people with him, and that’s not acceptable. We need strength; we need resolve; not Democrats who are obstructionist,” continued Trump.

“What we want is merit-based immigration. We want people who are going to help our country, keep our country safe. These animals get away with so much,” said Trump, calling for the death penalty for this terrorist.

Should he be tried by the State of New York, he will not face the death penalty, as one no longer exists in the Empire State. It would be preferable for him to be tried in federal court, where he would, in fact, be exposed to the death penalty.

This 29 year old piece of human debris deserves nothing but life in front of a firing squad for the calamity he caused and encourages others to perpetrate in the future. Governor Cuomo indicated this murderer was “radicalized domestically,” yet another reason for concern about who is slithering into this country under the guise of being faithful to America. To those liberals who oppose the death penalty, just tell them it is a 261 month abortion.

Justice needs to be meted out quickly and swiftly so this terrorist is not forgotten in a dank cell eating up American resources for the next 25 years before being given the needle. Executing terrorists for killing people on American soil whether citizen or tourist as six of the eight killed in New York City were, should be a no-brainer, but left in the hands of those in Washington, DC, no brains are often what we are stuck with.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, in the shadows of the World Trade Center, Horn was a working journalist 10 minutes from the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hollywood Hypocrites Harbor Handsy Harvey

Hollywood Hypocrites Harbor Handsy Harvey
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
October 11, 2017

Normally this is not my bailiwick - Hollywood and its machinations, because, quite frankly, I don’t give a rat’s tuchus what happens in the Gomorrah of the 21 Century.

What attracted me to this story, being labeled a scandal across the press, is the hubris with which Hollywood behaves in protecting its own, and in the case of Harvey Weinstein, the feigned outrage over what clearly has been the worst keep secret since Bill Clinton’s marital peccadilloes.

The feigned outrage comes from, for starters, both the Clintons and the Obamas who count Weinstein as dear friend, an individual who contributed many tens thousands of dollars to all of their collective campaigns over the years. It took them more than five days to condemn Weinstein, a financial donor, yet called for increased gun control about five hours following the horrific Las Vegas slaughter of October 1 that claimed the lives of 58 innocents. This is the same Hillary Clinton claiming to be “shocked and appalled” by Weinstein’s actions, yet threatened to destroy the cadre of women her own husband harassed, or worse, for decades.

The entertainment industry, as a whole, has harbored Weinstein, a known serial sexual predator accused of misconduct, molesting, fondling, harassing, and even raping numerous women from within and even outside the vaunted walls of Central Casting.

Only now that the plethora of his dirty deeds has become overtly public, as opposed to the decades-long covertly public with a wink-wink offered at every turn when so-called comedians would reference Weinstein in their award show monologues, are those who became famous under his label speaking up and out. By the way, these comedic lemmings, men, should not be given a pass - implicit by clearly knowing what they knew and for as long as they knew it. When, in ultra-liberal Hollywood did rape jokes, or at the very least, sexual harassment jokes become acceptable? Oh, right, when protecting one of their liberal own - it’s all so incestuous in La La Land - makes my skin crawl.

Apparently it did not make the skin of the Obamas crawl, as their daughter Malia enjoyed an internship under Harvey the Harasser. “Harvey Weinstein is a wonderful human being and a good friend,” said Michelle Obama, only proud of her country since 2008.

Many in the Fourth Estate are calling Weinstein’s victims brave and heroic for coming forward and speaking out. My question is, what took them so long? Make no mistake, not one of these women should have been victimized, and they are victims, yet they remained silent for years, and even decades for the benefit of lavish Hollywood lifestyles and the roles of a lifetime. More than three dozen women, actresses mostly, have announced their victimhood in recent days, including, but not limited to Rosanna Arquette, Dawn Dunning, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Mira Sorvino.

Some of these women did attempt to come forward and were either silenced or not believed, such as Rose McGowan, for example, declaring Weinstein raped her years ago. Twitter even suspended her account for roughly 12 hours after McGowan posted her accusations. British actress Lysette Anthony also levied the same accusation. Some, like television reporter Lauren Sivan, then a local reporter in New York City, were not even in the industry, and subject to Weinstein’s perversions in ways that decorum prohibits mentioning here.

Yet others covered up Weinstein’s criminal behavior while publicly lauding him, much akin to the accolades heaped upon film director Roman Polanski, accused for years of raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Meryl Streep called Weinstein her “god” while pontificating about Hollywood virtues, while condemning President Donald Trump vehemently with vim and vigor. “Hanoi” Jane Fonda, knowing of Weinstein’s criminal history, said she was “ashamed I didn’t say anything.” By the way, where was Fonda’s shame over her traitorous actions toward our troops in Vietnam? At least she is consistently terrible.

Still others prostituted themselves in defense of Weinstein - and in one particular case, literal defense of Weinstein. While in accordance with American jurisprudence, everyone is entitled to a defense, yet taking up for Weinstein has been Lisa Bloom. Bloom, daughter of famed feminist attorney Gloria Allred, is herself a feminist jurist, defending accusers of actor Bill Cosby and former Fox News commentator Bill O’ Reilly. It seems counterintuitive for Bloom to defend Weinstein and his actions, which are damned indefensible, but she herself has been accused of offering hush money to several of Weinstein’s victims. Hypocrisy at its level worst.

Bloom is not the only one to receive a payday from Weinstein. As indicated before, he contributed heavily to both Clintons’ campaigns over the years, including $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary Clinton had the audacity to say she contributes 10 percent of her income every year to charity, and that ill-gotten money would be part of it. First of all, money contributed to the Clinton Foundation is neither earned, nor is it part of her income. Additionally, she said the money was spent, so it could neither be returned nor contributed elsewhere. Clinton should keep her word, for once, chisel open her wallet, and after the moths fly out, actually make the charitable donation on her own, and not from the pockets of donors.

Harvey Weinstein is a loathsome, obsequious weasel who preys on underlings who believe they are powerless. We have given Hollywood the power of preening self-importance by putting billions of dollars into the pockets of those living immoral lives preaching one set of values, and then selling yet another set of values on screen. This is not, or it should not just be about Weinstein. He is simply an amalgamation of the pandemic of the unholy culture that is Hollywood hypocrisy.

Another example of that hypocrisy is the preaching of anti-Second Amendment rhetoric, yet surrounding themselves with armed guards and security teams. They have the right to have such security, but should not call for the rest of society to abandon their Second Amendment rights, while simultaneously producing the most gun-laden, violence-themed films possible.

Additionally, Hollywood’s hypocrites are busy condemning President Trump, while knowing all along what kind of predator lurks amongst them in plain sight - see the self-congratulatory award shows and Saturday Night Live skits mocking Weinstein and his blatantly less than secret criminal behavior. Let’s not forget a casting couch so stained with tears and other bodily fluids, if it could talk, would scream volumes. Weinstein claims he needs rehabilitation. What Weinstein needs is a prison cell with other reprobates. If rehab is available behind bars, fine.

Those days are over. Hopefully victims of other abusers and rapists will come forward without fear of retribution, whether Hollywood hopefuls, students, men and women from all walks of life - our mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters who don’t have a public forum from which to seek solace or legal recourse. No one should be forced to live in fear, and no bully should be permitted to impose that fear upon anyone, anywhere.

Sanford D.. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.