THE THIRD AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

1. It’s Tuesday, September 19, 2017.

2. It’s Roger Angell’s 97th birthday. He’s one of the few people who’d appreciate the fact that I’m seeing two Mets games – team current record, 65-85 – in the next eight days. From better days.

3. Talk like a pirate day is idiotic.

4. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s “The Vietnam War” on PBS is really good.

I’ve always been a fan of Burns’ work. I was wary of this one. Jazz and the Civil War and the Roosevelts are all great subjects. They weren’t as visceral to me, as much a part of my march through history, as the war in Vietnam.

So far, two of the 10 episodes have aired, taking the history through the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963. Just before that, earlier in November, was the coup and murder of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother.

The documentary – it’s weird to call it that, since it’s so long and episodic – is likely to revisit the divisions in this country that Vietnam created. The anti-war protests. The “love it for leave it” backlash on the right. The constant lie that the war was going well and would be over soon.

In some ways, Vietnam’s worst side effect was a second American civil war, a division of the nation so sharp that, in some ways, it never recovered.

Liberals were always perceived as anti-American and loathing of the military, in part because they protested what the military did in the name of the United States.

Conservatives were seen as willing to embrace scoundrels, thugs and worse if only they wrap themselves in the American flag and sing the National Anthem, respectfully.

The only time the country seemed to come together after that was on September 12, 2001, the day after real thugs, nihilists who slandered the religion they wrapped themselves in, attacked all of us. And, thanks to a subsequent war on a country that didn’t do anything to us, that unity didn’t last.

So now we’re here.

Two sides whose animus is almost tangible. One that sees a changing world and seeks to embrace it, and I’m proudly part of that side. Another that fears the change and seeks to overturn it.

We’re now caught up in a third American civil war. How this one ends will determine the future of our children and their heirs. So “The Vietnam War” is informative and, perhaps, a guide.

5. I attended a wonderful garlic festival in Mystic, Conn., this weekend, and should have picked up some cloves for the Democrats in Congress to use.

Because the vampires on the other side have not yet given up their quest to strip millions of Americans of their health care.

The latest effort, sponsored by Republican imbecile senators Lindsay Graham and Bill Cassidy, is really close to success. It just needs 50 votes, since another piece of cheese, Mike Pence, can cast the tiebreaker.

Cassidy-Graham would replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, by giving states more flexibility in determining who gets coverage.

By that measure, states could allow insurers to refuse coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. They could allow insurers to charge unpayable premiums for those with pre-existing conditions.

Because it rewards the states that did not use Medicaid to help its residents pay for health care coverage, and punishes those that did, it essentially eliminates the aid that Medicaid provided people under the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats are fighting. But the base is a little tired. It’s been fighting this since the spring, and it thought this battle was over.

However, being vampires, the Republicans weren’t finished with this. Gutting Obamacare is their holy grail, and they worship at the church of Obama-hating with every waking hour.

What they don’t respect is what’s best for the American people.

We can only hope reason prevails. Because the only reason these Republicans want to do this is to show they can. There’s no benefit for the country, and that’s a criminal shame.

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BAD MOOD DAY

1. It’s Friday, September 15, 2017.

2. It’s Norm Crosby’s 90th birthday. I hope the celebration is more than he expectorates.

3. Obviously, there are some angry people this particular Friday.

Some idiot set off an improvised explosive device in the Parsons Green station of the London Underground. As of now, mercifully, no one was killed. But 22 people who were just going about their business on what is still, technically, a summer Friday are instead hospitalized with injuries.

Kim Jong Un’s pissed off too. The entire world, including countries that keep him afloat, condemned his recent spate of provocations involving missile launchings and nuclear detonations.

So he launched another missile. This time, it flew over the Japanese island of Hokkaido. Nothing fell on the island, but the sirens disturbed the early morning peace and scared more than a few folks.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be Friday if Trump wasn’t stewing. He’s hot about ESPN, of all things, because one of its hosts – using her eyes, ears and brain – came to the conclusion that he’s a racist.

Trump wants an apology. I’d say there’s little chance, but it’s amazing how far a little petulance from a guy with brain-dead followers goes, especially when your network isn’t doing well.

There certainly should be some short tempers in Florida, as the first post-Irma week winds down. More than 1.5 million people are without electricity – and the temperature in Miami as I write this is 91.

And an awful lot of people are still sifting through the mess that they call home. It must be hellacious, and you can understand why they might be a little less civil right about now.

4. I’m not sure what cures all these bad moods.

I know I’m in one, for a bunch of reasons that I won’t burden you with, and I’m having a real hard time shaking it off.

I’ve done a 4-mile run today and I’m looking forward to a lovely weekend with my wife, who’s not in a great mood herself.

Bad moods can be consuming. You sometimes live for feeding the agitation. Yes, there’s a satisfaction in having made yourself more angry. But, in fact, you’re more angry – and that can’t be good.

But I’m trying to break it. I’m writing this. I’m listening to Yes’ “I’ve Seen All Good People,” whatever it means. There’s my wife’s wonderful egg plant parmigiana for lunch. I’ll get a hair – or two – cut.

So everybody chill. It’s the last weekend of summer 2017. Can’t change that. But we can try to embrace the good and reject the evil.

Therefore I will. Have a great weekend.

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SELF-EXPLANATORY

1. It’s Monday, September 11, 2017.

Still can’t write that date without thinking about that day.

2. As always, my thoughts are with the people who lost loved ones that day 16 years ago.

I don’t know how they’ve made it through to 2017, but I hope their strength is forged from the admiration anyone with a heart has for them – especially today.

3. Of course, September 10 now appears to be a quite awful date in history – especially if you are or know someone who is a Floridian.

It’s going to take some time for folks to assess the damage done by Irma. Here’s to hoping that people heeded all the warnings, and that keeps down the casualty count.

The damage from the wind and the water is certainly going to be huge. But it can be fixed. Lives can’t.

4. By the way, let’s hear it for the good people of Puerto Rico.

The island didn’t get as clobbered as feared from the storm. But its neighbors to the east – the U.S. and British Virgin Islands – suffered the impact of 185-mile-an-hour winds. The devastation in some areas is said to be total.

So Puerto Ricans are doing what decent people everywhere do. They’re offering a helping hand. Coming up with supplies and evacuating those left homeless.

The conduct of these folks are what makes America great.

5. By the way, do you remember Hurricane Jose?

That was the storm that was right behind Irma in the Caribbean.

Actually, it still is the storm right behind Irma in the Caribbean.

According to the National Weather Service, Jose is going in a loop-de-loop. After a slight turn north, it will get right back on the course it was on.

And while it’s too early to tell, that course is headed for the east coast of Florida.

Jose is not, at this point, as big a storm as Irma. Winds top out at 110 miles an hour – not the 185 of Irma.

But right now, Florida doesn’t look like it could use any more water or wind. And a second storm will further tax a stretched-to-the-limit first responder system.

So let’s keep a wary eye on Jose, and hope it enjoys circling so much that it keeps doing it until it tires itself out.

6. So why is this post self-explanatory?

Irma is the second Category 4 hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland in a month. Jose might be coming.

These storms are monsters. And while hurricanes are no new phenomenon, the consistent power of them are.

That, my friends, is climate change.

There are those who keep trying to deny this. Who say this isn’t the time to raise this issue.

Baloney. This IS the time to raise it. Because it’s not going to get any better. This area is still trying to recover from Sandy, a storm that hit five years ago.

How long will it take Texas to recover from Harvey, or Florida from Irma? And if storms are getting stronger, what dangers await the Atlantic coast and the Gulf States?

Only idiots deny climate change. The same idiots who thought Irma and Harvey were overblown threats.

Heed them at your peril.

 

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AN ILL WIND

1. It’s Friday, September 8, 2017.

2. It’s the 513th anniversary of the unveiling of the David, Michelangelo’s massive statue that now stands in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence.

It’s one of the world’s most impressive pieces of human creation – Italian, of course. Hopefully, on a day like this, it’s a reminder that there will be beauty in the world again, even beauty from the hands of creatures such as us.

3. There is no good thing to be said about a Category 4 hurricane striking the heart of Florida, other than perhaps at least it’s not a Category 5 anymore.

Unless something amazing happens in the next few hours, Irma will devastate cities such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. It threatens the national playground of Orlando. People will die. Structure of all kinds will be destroyed. There will be misery and hardship for days.

There will be lots to be angry about in the days ahead. Has our failure to address climate change triggered storms that are more powerful and frequent than those of the past? Have we overbuilt in places such as Houston and Miami that are prone to these freaks of nature?

Those are good questions that need to be asked and answered. Trump and his idiots will dodge them because they don’t suit their narrative.

So let’s just hope they’re as focused as the rest of us on the safety and wellbeing of Floridians over the next few days. We will be watching – another tip of the hat to former colleagues at CNN and other networks for their courage and diligence. And we will be hoping for the best.

4. When Sandy struck in 2012, my family was faced with two big problems.

One was that we had no power for eight days. In late October-early November, that really stinks. By the eighth night, we fled for a hotel in New Jersey.

The other problem was gas. The price skyrocketed to nearly $5 a gallon – if you could find it. We spent a whole Saturday afternoon lined up for an Upper Nyack Citgo station. Police monitored the line to stop cut-ins.

At the time, I lamented our dependence on fossil fuels, shouting that there has to be a better way to power the world in the 21st century.

Since then, to the credit of the Obama administration and the governments of other nations, the world has moved closer to safer, cleaner alternatives.

I just spent a week in California, where you’re far more likely to see hybrid and electric vehicles than you are in greater New York. Driving through Ontario about four years ago, there were windmills for miles on end, and now you see them in places like New Haven and San Diego. There are solar panels everywhere.

Clearly, we haven’t come far enough. Proof is the line of traffic on Interstate 75 in Florida today. Not to mention the fact that a significant percentage of Florida gas stations are dry as millions try to flee this storm.

The fact that gas prices have tumbled in recent years, to below $2 a gallon at some times, actually hasn’t helped. People are again addicted to cheap gas – when they are, vehicles that get good mileage or don’t use gas at all tend to get passed over for the biggest honkin’ pick-up or SUV.

And, unfortunately, now that oil and coal are the toast of the Trump administration, continued progress toward making America more secure through alternative fuels can’t be expected.

So I’ll say it again. There’s gotta be something better than running the world on fossil fuels. Every time we have a storm, we’re reminded of that. Let’s see if Harvey, Irma and whatever else comes along this year helps more people get a brain.

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AMERICANS, TOO

1. It’s Wednesday, September 6, 2017.

2. It’s the 55th anniversary of the Munich Olympic massacre, when nine Israeli athletes were murdered by terrorists who had abducted them the previous day.

There are few events in history as disgusting. The only grace is the dignity with which the Israeli athletes conducted themselves in the final hours of their lives. They are the only heroes.

3. This is the day the United States begins to feel the impact of Hurricane Irma, one of the worst Atlantic storms ever.

No, it won’t hit Florida today. Florida won’t see this storm until Sunday, which it when it forecast to strike the Keys and then move on to the peninsula.

But the storm reaches our country when it either touches or skirts the United States Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico. Those people are Americans and we should be as worried about their safety and welfare as we were when Harvey was about to lash Texas nearly two weeks ago.

My fear is we won’t. Or, rather, our alleged government won’t.

This is especially true in Puerto Rico. It’s never good to get hit with a Category 5 hurricane, but it’s even worse when there’s a Category 5 financial crisis.

The commonwealth filed the nation’s largest-ever municipal bankruptcy this spring, reflecting years of economic decline that has reduced services and led to a flight of workers to the mainland.

There has been little indication that Washington is willing to help. You know Trump isn’t the least bit interested in it – especially since a golf course on the island that bore his name filed for bankruptcy two years ago.

Puerto Rico’s governor says the commonwealth has money to use to protect against the storm and begin a recovery. But a storm with winds of 155 miles an hour is going to do big-time damage to an infrastructure already crippled by a weak economy.

Coupled with a drain of talented people to help in the recovery, Puerto Rico is staring at some dismal days and weeks.

That’s something I hope we all remember when the time comes. We don’t know what damage Irma will do to Florida. But you can bet there will be massive efforts to raise funds to help akin to those that have – understandably – raised millions to help Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast.

That same effort, that same passion, is needed to help people of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands if, as feared, the worst comes to pass.

And we shouldn’t just need Carlos Beltran and Ricky Martin to tell us that. Puerto Ricans are our fellow Americans.

When they need help, they’re not foreigners.

They’re us.

4. It’s the day after Trump’s DACA Debacle and the fire is still burning. Now it’s one day less than six months until the Gestapo wannabes at ICE are unleashed on kids who’ve known no country other than the United States.

Again, it is a simple matter. There’s no crisis that warrants this abuse. There are no jobs that these people are stealing from others. There’s no rampant criminality among Dreamers, as some bubble brains spit out.

If anything, more than a few of those facing deportation are already out of the country – they’re in the uniform of the U.S. military in Afghanistan and around the world.

This is something we should at least complain about every single day, and do all we can to stop from happening on March 5, 2018.

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ALL ABOUT DREAMERS

1. It’s Tuesday, September 5, 2017.

2. It’s the 226th birthday of Anton Diabelli, an Austrian composer who probably would have been forgotten had it not been for the 33 variations of his waltz that Ludwig von Beethoven came up with.

3. In some ways, today is a lot like January 2.

The day after Labor Day seems like the working start of a new year. Vacations are done. The kids are back in school. The town pool closes. The museum’s winter hours kick in.

It’s always a little sad when summer ends. But the world goes on, and I suppose the darker months have their charms. Leaves turn, and apples and pumpkins are pretty OK. Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming into sight. There might finally be a decent movie in a theater.

So it’s not all gloom. It’s just going to take a few days to shake it off.

4. I understand that not very many people got into “Twin Peaks: The Return” on Showtime this summer.

And that might be fortunate for the nation’s productivity. Because those of us who got into it have spent the day and a-half since the final two parts aired trying to figure it all out.

Explaining it only makes things more complicated.

So let me celebrate the most important thing about the show: The idea that some work of entertainment can make its viewers think about life itself and how we look at the world we live in.

You don’t have to agree with it. You don’t have to completely comprehend it. You just have to think a little bit about the vision of the creators, David Lynch and Mark Frost, and admire the craft involved in immersing viewers in this altered reality.

And to understand that the altered reality doesn’t forsake the one we share. It’s a world of real problems, but it’s also a world of real love and caring. Not to mention cherry pie (sorry, I’m not into the coffee fanaticism of the show).

It’s 18 hours long, and it helps to have watched the original 1990-91 series and its 1992 prequel. But it’s a worthwhile investment in art. I feel all the richer for it – if still a little befuddled.

5. Does anybody know what the crisis is that is precipitating Trump and his dolts to push this thing with the Dreamers?

Is there some havoc that these children are wreaking on society? It sounds like most of them are going to school, or working and paying taxes. Some of them serve in the military.

They came into this country, some fairly soon after birth, with their parents. So, no, they didn’t apply for immigrant status.

But they were kids. And, to be fair, this country has seemed perfectly happy for a long time letting their parents do jobs others don’t want – landscape work, field hands, elder care and so on.

That so many of these Dreamer kids have achieved or are on the path to achieving success should, for anyone who believes in this country’s promise, validate those beliefs.

We’re supposed to be a meritocracy, a place where those who work hard can get ahead. That is our national mantra, how we sell ourselves to the rest of the world as the greatest nation on earth.

The people who voted for Trump, who wrap themselves in the American flag and get upset when some quarterback kneels during the National Anthem, betrayed this country profoundly. You have to hand it to Putin that he understood this better than we did ourselves when he did everything he could to rig the 2016 election.

If Trump supporters want to throw these Dreamers out, their place in the annals of American treason is secure. Even Trump seems to have some inkling of that – he’s so afraid to actually do end DACA that he wants to stick Congress with the blame.

Showing, again, that he’s a coward as well as a demagogue.

The majority of people in this country will fight this. Or at least it should. This gets to our moral core.

If we don’t have the guts to stand for what’s right – and give these kids the freedom they deserve – we have given up on what made our country great. Shame on us if we let that happen.

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PAST TENSE

1. It’s Friday, September 1, 2017. Two-thirds of this year is over.

2. It’s the 364th birthday of Johann Pachabel and the 73rd birthday of Archie Bell. Go figure.

3. I donated money to help Houston hurricane victims at globalgiving.org.

It wasn’t much – I’m retired and watching my expenses. But like you and just about everyone else I know, I can’t watch the scenes on TV without feeling the need to do something to help.

Notice I used the word “donated.” That’s because I did it. I put my credit card number into a Web form and got an e-mail thanking me for my contribution.

I hope to do it again – but notice that’s a “to do.” I haven’t made a second donation yet. But if time stopped right now, I’d only have made one donation.

4. This is to point out that Trump and the news media made a big deal about how he was going to donate $1 million of his own money to Harvey relief.

To donate.

Why didn’t he just donate the money – and then say he donated $1 million? Why not just do it and report it after the fact? Why not just do it because, you know, it’s the right thing to do and then tell people what you did in an effort to influence them to help.

Wouldn’t having done it already given people you’re trying to inspire a little more impetus to act?

One of the problems here is that Trump has tried to make a reputation for himself as a philanthropist. But, as David Fahrenthold’s Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting in The Washington Post makes clear, he has rarely put up his own money. His foundation has sometimes made contributions in Trump’s name using money from other people. And sometimes those contributions have benefitted his businesses.

So one reason Trump didn’t say he donated $1 million is that there would have been records – some charitable agency or agencies would have said it or they got $1 million from him.

But if he said he did – and he didn’t – there would be a question as to whether he was just looking for approval without doing anything to deserve it.

The simple answer, of course, is to do it. Then say you did it, and let whoever gets it say, hey, we got some money from the president to help with rescue costs or rebuilding homes or feeding people or any of the other gazillion tasks that need to be done.

This is one of those rare times, as a journalism professor, that past sense seems preferable to present or future. Donated money is available to help. Money to be donated isn’t real yet.

But it also fits another rule of good writing – the active voice is better than the passive one. You donated money – active. Trump is going to donate money – passive.

Let’s see if he puts his money down. For real.

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